Thursday, June 29, 2006
I'm coming home. Herewith, some Iran reading in my absence.
Glenn Reynolds put up a bunch o' Iran links earlier today, all of which are worth reading. Iran, being in one sense a bureaucratic creature, remains a puzzle to the West, and part of that puzzle involves figuring out who really calls the shots. This Strategypage post touches on that question.
Stratfor digested all of this into a single analysis yesterday, and it was so good I pass it along in substantial part (hoping, as always, that Stratfor will accept my recommendation to subscribe in lieu of a license):
Supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that Iran does not need to talk with the United States about its nuclear program because there is nothing to be gained from the negotiations. State television quoted Khamenei as saying, "We do not negotiate with anybody on achieving and exploiting nuclear technology ... But if they recognize our nuclear rights, we are ready to negotiate about controls, supervisions and international guarantees."
Western media jumped on Khamenei's remark and began flooding the airwaves with reports that Iran had categorically rejected talks with the United States, feeding the popular perception that the world is headed toward a major crisis on the Iranian nuclear issue. But the reality is the opposite. Khamenei's remarks are to be expected: Iran has intensified its preparations on the home front as well as on the international level to move toward public dialogue with the United States.
One of the most glaring examples of such developments is the report from the Iranian news agency Fars that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will soon make a trip to Baghdad. This would not be happening if Iran was not close to consolidating its geopolitical interests in Iraq. What's more, the U.S. State Department gave a cautious nod of approval to this visit.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Shiite leaders have been traveling to Iran, as did Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul over the weekend. Syrian President Bashar al Assad, in an interview published June 26 in the Arabic-language daily Al Hayat, said that Syrian interests would be best served through an understanding between the United States and Iran, and that he finds Arab fears over Iran's growing role in the region irrational.
The Iranians have also been engaged in some significant changes internally, trying to get all the factions of the clerical-led conservative establishment on the same page in order to move toward a dialogue with the Bush administration. The most important event in this regard is the creation of a new body that will be shaping Iranian foreign policy: the Strategic Council for Foreign Affairs (SCFA), meant to serve as an advisory group to improve the country's capabilities in making major foreign policy decisions. It is not an executive body and is not supposed to interfere with the function of the Foreign Ministry or the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). The creation of the SCFA is part of Khamenei's effort to have greater oversight over the foreign-policymaking process in the hawkish Ahmedinejad administration.
It should be noted that this move follows several similar initiatives by the supreme leader. What Khamenei has done is retain key pragmatic conservatives from the previous government in positions that allow him to exercise greater control over the ultraconservatives who emerged with the election of Ahmadinejad. Senior officials of the three branches of the Iranian government called June 25 for the need to show greater solidarity and cooperation in order to achieve the aspirations of the Islamic Revolution and the supreme leader.
Signs of progress are also visible inside Iraq. Deputy Prime Minister Salam Zikam Ali al-Zubaie held meetings over the weekend with several tribal leaders from Anbar province, where the insurgency has been strong, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unveiled a 24-point national reconciliation plan early this week. It is quite possible the seven groups that responded favorably to the government's amnesty offer came forward as a result of these meetings. Under the amnesty plan, several hundred Sunni prisoners were released on Tuesday. As a result of all this, there was a noticeable drop in violence.
All of these developments indicate that Tehran and Washington are moving to finalize their deal on Iraq. What remains to be seen is how this will filter into Tehran's role in Lebanon and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- and, of course, the nuclear issue.
You can just see it coming. The New York Times will blow this deal because it will vindicate their arch enemy GW Bush, who if this comes off will be the greatest peacemaker the Middle East has ever seen.
Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are certainly a bit at odds with each other. Khamenei engineered Ahmadinejad's Presidency and certainly pulls the strings but now that Ahmadinejad has tasted power and media glory, he has probably irrated Khamenei somewhat and acted on his own in a few instances.
However in the end it all boils down to this: ALL players in the Iranian regime wish to see the West toppled and have delusions of a greater Muslim Caliphate implemented worldwide. They probably only disagree with the method and strategy employed, hence your post.
In light of that, it is indeed fascinating how it will all playout. But one thing is certain: Iran wants you and I either dead or enslaved and that cannot be squared with any wishful thinking no matter how much we wish things to be different.