Not too late

Iran’s leaders can show maturity by adopting a less fearful approach


Not too late
by Niloufar Parsi

The recent presidential elections turmoil in Iran, regardless of the ‘truth’ behind the events, will undoubtedly have serious ramifications for the Islamic Republic on several fronts.

Chief among these is an inevitable blow to the Islamic Regime’s legitimacy, and its regional and global standing in the eyes of Iranians, the region’s population, and that of the world at large.

Within Iran, it is clear that a major rift among the population has manifested itself both on the streets and within the political and religious elite. On the one hand, millions of Iranian women and men have confirmed their frustration with the Regime and Mr. Ahmadinejad’s presidency through street demonstrations and direct action.

On the other, the handpicked candidates who were actually allowed the privilege of participating in the presidential elections by the ‘Supreme Leader’ together with their more powerful backers behind the scenes have turned on each other in a surprisingly public and vitriolic manner.

What began as a positive and welcome show of openness in televised live debates among the candidates quickly turned into allegations of election fraud by the losing side almost as soon as the poles closed. This was swiftly followed by a fierce crackdown against public dissent – ironically, just over a week after the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square.

Implications inside Iran

While the street demonstrations have predictably fizzled out in the face of a Basiji militia onslaught, a new government headed by Mr. Ahmadinejad is likely to face enormous challenges ahead. The powerful Speaker of Parliament, Ali Larijani, has already made his misgivings known to the President Elect. A number of deputies have also raised their voices, and it will certainly be difficult for the president-elect to establish a strong Cabinet supported by the Majles. Much less is he able to portray his presidency as one for the entire nation.

The new government will likely spend much of its time tied up in dealing with internal squabbles, which in turn would lead to a slow-down in economic and social progress. A government that is seen as being short on legitimacy will not enjoy the support of a dedicated and cooperative civil service – quite the opposite. National development planning and executive leadership are likely to be heavily compromised for the next four years.

If anything, Mr. Rafsanjani, who is the second most powerful regime figure after Mr. Khamenei, and whose integrity and power were singularly targeted by Mr. Ahmadinejad during his campaign, will ensure that internal opposition to the new government will be strong and effective. Mr. Rafsanjani’s own political and economic survival depends on it, particularly as the Supreme Leader appeared to acquiesce with Mr. Ahmadinejad’s surprise attack.

Regional consequences

On the regional level too, the Islamic Republic has dealt itself a major blow. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s standing has been compromised, as has that of the Mr. Khamenei, who has clearly failed to show impartiality in the affair.

The Islamic Republic’s winning card has been its claim to public support both inside and outside the country. But its constant flow of tears for the downtrodden Palestinians will remind many of crocodiles when it is so willing to shoot unarmed demonstrators among its own population.

Moreover, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s intransigent style and perceived Anti-Semitism is just what the doctor ordered for an isolated, extremist and increasingly desperate Israel.

The Islamic Regime’s influence among the public in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Iraq will suffer, as they have witnessed a previously respected and independent ally being so clearly unwilling to accommodate cries for greater freedom and openness at home. As the Americans and Israelis have found, a naked projection of power devoid of any moral standing does not go down well with the region’s population.

The region’s foremost democracy, Turkey, will have little incentive for being associated with the Islamic Regime’s new president-elect for the next four years at least. If anything, Turkey’s bid for regional leadership has been boosted by the Islamic Republic’s own goal in the game.

Iran’s plans for leading the drive toward enhanced regional economic cooperation and development, and her hitherto successful attempts at greater influence in Central Asia and among member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council would be hindered by internal friction.

In the eyes of the world

In the global arena too, Mr. Ahmadinejad is unlikely to experience the divine halo over himself at the UN General Assembly any longer. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and the Iranians’ love for the Internet, Mr. Khamenei will not any longer be able to boast about Iran’s popular Islamic Revolution without sounding overtly Orwellian, or, more pertinently, Shah-like. The distance between reality and the theocracy’s claims has grown significantly.

The Islamic Republic’s relations with democratic emerging powerhouses like India and Brazil have been jeopardized too, and Mr. Chavez’ unequivocal and rather rash support for Mr. Ahmadinejad only serves to isolate him more quickly.

In the current climate of global economic uncertainty and a general consensus for the need for solutions, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s presidency would lower Iran’s place on the list of invitees to important forums. This has already manifested itself in the case of the G8’s recent withdrawal of invitation to the Iranian Foreign Minister to discuss Afghanistan at last weekend’s meeting in Trieste.

In terms of nuclear negotiations, Mr. Ahmadinejad is a spent force. Though highly useful in this regard in the past against a belligerent Bush administration, his confrontational approach only weakens Iran’s stance at a time when the US has emerged as a willing partner for peace.

Along with the IAEA’s findings and recommendations together with known assessments by US intelligence services, most powers are already ready to live with Iran having nuclear technology so long as international bodies monitor this. This has also been Iran’s consistent position on the matter since the dispute began.

Therefore, Iran has no need for an antagonistic approach any longer, and the language of Mr. Ahmadinejad will only undermine the Islamic Regime’s position over the coming period. His continuing leadership will ironically bolster the position of those seeking stronger sanctions and economic isolation of the Islamic Regime.

As the rhetorical confrontation between Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Obama continues to escalate, the Islamic Regime appears to have lost a valuable opportunity to grow in stature and even look like the ‘winner’ while at the same time ending decades of international isolation imposed by the West. Despite claims to the contrary, the Iranian economy is in desperate need of foreign investment.

It has also foregone the chance to lead the ‘Islamic world’ as a beacon of independence, tolerance and democracy in a new world order brought on by the global economic crisis. For now, Iran’s ship appears to be heading back toward more isolated and turbulent waters.

Nevertheless, the window of opportunity still remains open for Iran’s leaders to show maturity and foresight by adopting a softer, more conciliatory and less fearful approach. This was evident among the American public and elite in their latest elections. Iran’s leaders too need to recognize that times have changed.

Concessions to the opposition at this crucial juncture would elevate the leadership’s position and palatability both at home and abroad. Freedom of the press; removing repressive social and cultural restrictions, particularly on women; ceasing the jingoistic and self-defeating death chants against other countries; and disarming and disbanding the fascistic Basiji militias are among relatively simple and effective measures that could be taken.

The Islamic Republic needs to seize the moment to respond to Iranians and the wider world before it traps itself into becoming the Islamic Republic of the Revolutionary Guards of Iran – an isolated military dictatorship akin to North Korea or Myanmar.


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Niloufar Parsi

Roshanbeen, David

by Niloufar Parsi on

Thank you both for your comments. We all have very strong emotions about recent events and IRI's excesses in the past 3 decades, but real 'change' requires all sides to commit to the values we would wish Iran's leaders to adopt today and tomorrow.

The question of a boycott wil of course come up again at the next elections (assuming Ahmadinejad manages to continue for the full term, which is not a given), and if there is a similar situation to what has just happened, then there might be a large scale boycott inside Iran. We will have to wait and see how things develop and how the Guardian Council handles the affair. It will be quite a dilemma for the reformists. I guess events over the coming few months and the fate of Moussavi and Karroubi will clarify the situation.



David ET and Niloufar

by Roshanbeen (not verified) on

Agree with both of you, I do not see any biased toward IRI in your comments, your observations are correct and much closer to realities on the ground. There are few people who think few days or even weeks of street demonstrations will get rid of this brutal regime and bring back the monarch or MEK to initiate yet another campaign of hate and killing. If Iranians actually listned to these bozoos and boycutted the election none of these demonstration would have taken place and Ahmadinejad would have been elected without serious challenge.

David ET


by David ET on

You asked: "do the majority of Iranians inside the country want a regime change or a change within the regime?"

What is most important is that both questions have the word CHANGE in common.

Iranians want CHANGE period. Their slogans showed they want changes such as : Having a role in their destiny, gender equality, freedom of expression, justice , open media , better economy, jobs, accountability....and the list continues.

These are NOT my words or demands but what we heard and saw from people, candiadates, street etc...

Now whatever system or whoever can fundamentaly offer such changes Iranians seem to be open to it as long as they maintain the right to have the say in their affairs.

The message of people IN the scene was obvious. They are in fact ahead of us and not stuck in forms at this stage and that is what let them be united.

For the first time I dont hear much about groups, partiesm ideologies etc from inside

and it is the oppositions outside whom continue being stuck in their old and rotten ideologies, fantasies, groups and cults and are still caught by surprise!

The ones that majority of Iranians even outside country left behind by joining those inside by VOTING and then COMMUNICATING WITH INSIDE AND EXPOSING IR.

The movement surprised both regime and the so called opposition outside Iran . This was good for the people and that is what matters.   

Niloufar Parsi


by Niloufar Parsi on

Yes i agree with most of what you say. the big question that remains is: do the majority of Iranians inside the country want a regime change or a change within the regime? I don't presume to know the answer, but my guess is that the latter is more correct in terms of the numbers of people willing to put up a real fight for the cause.

Here is a slightly improved version of the same article:

Ahmadinejad's 'victory' saps the Islamic Republic 


David ET

good start, wrong presumptions at end

by David ET on

Thank you for the article. I know you didnt pick the title but I think the title was properly picked as it was the core of your conclusion which caught most attention among readers too.

The if factor is history  : They had their chance, People tried to give a chance to the SYSTEM to improve itself and due to its nature and AS USUAL did not take that chance and took the path of friction but drunk from their victories of the past 30 years over the reformist and opposition they made a huge but non-avoidable miscalculation.  By un-avoidable I mean, sooner or later such repressive regimes get to that point.

They starts as part of a progressive movement , then they get ride of one group after another, filter after filter as they have from early days of cleaning up and mass executions to getting rid of left , jebheh Melli, MEK, Nehzat Azadi, liberals, Ghotbzadeh, banisdar, madani , montazeri, Ganji, Khatami , rafsanjani, karoubi, Mousavi you see the population of excluded kept growing and growing and the number of core of those who started reduced....

... If they wanted to be inclusive they would have done it from day one. But they cant, they know including others especially at this point is the kiss of death to them as their numbers is much less than the image they try to present. 

They have the guns and access to assts but not hard core public support not even among the typical supporters,

people have to live, eat, work, go to school....noone wants this and at the end of the day no matter whayt, the responsibility is on the ones who run the country ....

So even if there will be a compromsie it will be at demise of the top dogs .

You can not say, If the scorpio did not sting......

Scorpio doesnt knw any better and can not do otherwise and its survival is dependent on the poison that it carries

That is why it was so important to vote this time, because no matter what those in power were going to be the loosers, it is just that they chose option II which most totalitarians end up doing sooner or later: resort to force 

This was just one of the few possible scenarios 

agar taghalob nashe.....

(remember the pre-election people slogan?) 


ps: sorry for typos...good night! 

Niloufar Parsi

Actually the title was not chosen by me

by Niloufar Parsi on

It should have been: 'Ahmadinejad's 'victory' saps the Islamic Republic'.

By giving the heading 'not too late', the IC editors have given the wrong slant to the article. It made my heart sink when I first saw the title.

looking at the issue from a different perspective: had there been no fraud, had the election gone to a second round - as I believe would have been the case in the absence of fraud - and had Moussavi won in a second round, the Regime would not be under any threat at all right now. If one is going to write about the regime in a realistic manner, personal preferences (including my own) for regime change would have be set aside in favour of what is likely to happen, and how things may turn out if the regime continues in its current path. That is what I have tried to write about. It is not a reflection of what would be 'ideal' in my own mind.

From this point on, and given where we are at, the outside world has to find an appropriate approach toward the regime. It needs to find a set of realistic demands that sets the tone of engagement with Iran in the coming period. The 'recommendations' to the leaders of Iran toward the end of the article are designed to influence that debate.

I hope this clarifies.



Exercise in futility

by Fred on

The Islamist says:

 "These people still can't stand being brutally marginalized by the 85% turnout of Iranians who believe in the system and consider Mir Hossein Mousavi the true opposition in Iran."

They "believe in the system" and "the true opposition" at the same time and place? isn't that the definition of exercise in futility? And how does the Islamist know they all "believe in the system"? another devine revelation? And by "brutally marginalized" is the Islamist reliving the handiwork of his Islamist cutthroats' republic?


I agree, it is still not too late

by Q on

IRI would be wise to compromise now because even if they don't they will be weaker as a result of this rift. Something like that might still happen.

Don't worry about the hateful negative comments by the usual blowhards and paid consultants. These people still can't stand being brutally marginalized by the 85% turnout of Iranians who believe in the system and consider Mir Hossein Mousavi the true opposition in Iran.



by Anonymous 111 (not verified) on

Same old fantasy of IRI "reform", different day. As if a regime that shoots innocent civilians from roof tops can suddenly turn into an overnight democtratic utopia.

Nice try. But like Fred said Niloufar Jaan: Khodeti!


Nice try, no cigar

by Fred on

Whenever you get Islamists and their lefty allies wanting Islamist cutthroats’ republic to learn a thing from America as if they were comparable in any shape or form, you know you've been hoodwinked to read a nonsensical write-up.  The lefty says:


“Nevertheless, the window of opportunity still remains open for Iran’s leaders to show maturity and foresight by adopting a softer, more conciliatory and less fearful approach. This was evident among the American public and elite in their latest elections. Iran’s leaders too need to recognize that times have changed.”


Trying to hang it all on Ahmadinejad and Talking about window of opportunity after Islamist cutthroats’ republic machine-gunned and used rooftop snipers to kill peaceful demonstrators is the height of, there is no word to describe it adequately, lets just say khodeti!   


Bijan A M

What a bunch of...

by Bijan A M on

indirect crap in support of Islamic rule. You say IRI should not have slaughtered the freedom seekers, it weakens their position regionally and worldwide. According to you, the regime could prolong its rule of Sharia law and oppression of Iranians, specially iranian women, by not acting in fear and allowing the dissent to Vaagh-vagah a little longer. Abolish Basiji, but never touch Velayate-vaghih.

Ahmadinejad is a vonarability (according to you), the powerful Islamic regime should dump this monkey if they want to continue to keep their reign on Iranian. Let them come and inspect your nuclear facility, you know how to conseal your illegal activities. Why turn the whole world against you, you morons. Be smart, pretend like you are a democracy and then screw the world.

You are so artful Ms. Parsa, but your argument would nold any water.