After 30 years of dealing with the United States and Europe, the Iranian regime has mastered two qualities: How to achieve objectives by bullying and blackmail; and, how to recycle its political refuse and reuse it in the US.
There is not much new to comment on regarding three decades of blackmail. The history is speaks for itself: The US embassy hostage taking, a decade of hostage trading in Lebanon, kidnapping the Middle East peace process in the 1990s and finally, with the fall of Saddam Hussein and the weakening of Palestinian authority, using the regional stability as a bargain chip.
Mohammad Khatami's recent candidacy for presidency illustrates Mullahs masterful art in selling an archaic political system as an example of good governance and indigenous democracy. The United States has been so far one of the prime consumers of this Iranian "democratic" masquerade. In their endeavor to sell their mockery, the Mullahs have enjoyed the support of some American friends. Let's have a look at some comments by the Iran-experts:
Suzanne Maloney (Brookings Institution): "Iran has been a functioning democracy - albeit very limited - since the revolution in 1979. There have been something along the lines of 21 national elections in 22 years, and they have taken place even at times of great tension." (Brookings Institution, June 11, 2001)
Ray Takeyh (senior expert at CFR): "Iran's Islamic polity largely reflects fundamental features of democracy: free elections, separation of powers, freedom of assembly and a vibrant press." (MEPC October 2000)
Ambassador Robert H. Pelletreau: "There are many who find the Iranian electoral system imperfect, especially the vetting role of the Council of Guardians, but we should also recognize the elements of democracy which are present: choice among candidates, public debate over programs and positions, and the secret ballot." 1
In addition to legitimizing the Theocratic regime, these Iran experts have also tried to fuel a permanent hope that the Iranian power structure is experiencing a self-transformation to a more pragmatic regime that will eventually accommodate international norms. For these experts, whatever happens in Iran, there would be an emerging pragmatic leader ready to have a deal with the U.S! It suffices to be "expert" and discover these genuine leaders with hidden qualities.
After 15 years of presenting Rafsanjani as a moderate and Khatami as a reformist, it was Ahmadinejad's turn. Ray Takeyh found an original designation for Ahmadinejad and called him the "assertive nationalists."2 Gary Sick called him a prideful man with a sense of Iranian pride.3
When this pridful and assertive nationalist started to disgust the public opinion, it was time to find a new window of hope. It was Commander Ali Larijani's turn. Once again, the prize goes to Ray Takeyh who holds the record in discovering moderates in Tehran. In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 19, 2006, Takeyh called Larijani the leader of new generation of realists in Tehran:
“Realists: One of the most important actors in Iran today is the powerful Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani. As the leader of a new generation of realists that evolved in the intelligence community in the 1990s, this cohort’s has predominant influence over the direction of Iran’s international relations.”
Then, Trita Parsi, the president of NIAC called Larijani a "former hawk-turned-relative pragmatist":4 This masterful art of recycling the former commanders of the Revolutionary Guards reached new summits of imagination when it was Tehran mayor Ghalibaf's turn. New York Times writer Alan Cowell called him an "authoritarian modernizer"!5
"Among the contenders in attendance this year is Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf, the 46-year-old mayor of Tehran who is being urged by some to run for the presidency of Iran next year as an “authoritarian modernizer.”
Maziar bahari went further and wrote in Newsweek about Ghalibaf's unheard qualities:6
"But where Ahmadinejad is confrontational and "showboaty," Ghalibaf is a pragmatist with a reputation for getting things done. The president spent much of his previous career as a junior bureaucrat, while the mayor's résumé lists one overachievement after another.
As top cop he won yet more fans. In 2003 he did something virtually unheard of: he quelled a student protest without bloodshed by holding talks with student leaders and ordering his men not to use batons or guns in dispersing the crowds."
Here we are. The Iranian regime's new spring electoral circus has been launched. No doubt, some American journalist will compete to have a front seat for the show in Tehran. Expect that they will do their best to recycle the Iranian regime's political refuse and sell it to the American public again.
1. Ambassador Robert H. Pelletreau, Remarks to the American-Iranian Council-Iranian Trade Association. February 4, 2000, Washington DC
2. Ray Takeyh, Christian Science Monitor, 9.29.2005
3. Gary Sick's Interviewer with Bernard Gwertzman, CFR, September 22, 2005
4. Trita Parsi, "Larijani's Election can Boost Congressional Diplomacy", 5.5.2008 http://www.niacouncil.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1135&Itemid=29
5. Alan Cowell, "Tehran’s Mayor Speaks of Making Iran Less Isolated". New York Times, January 27, 2008
6. Maziar Bahari, "Iran: A Brewing Battle of Heavyweights in Tehran", Newsweek, 1.8.2007 http://www.newsweek.com/id/56692