Iran discussion

Salt USMC

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This is a thread for discussing Iranian news and issues.



SUPREME LEADER: Ali Khamenei

In office since 1989. Currently 76 years old, and rumored to have prostate cancer. He is not as much of a firebrand as Khomeini, his predecessor, but he is known to consciously pit one governmental group against another in order to prevent either from gaining too much power. Ultimately, the supreme leader wields all of the power within the Iranian government.


PRESIDENT: Hassan Rouhani

Elected by a large majority in 2013. A career politician, Rouhani has held positions at nearly every level of government, including the Expediency Council, Assembly of Experts, and senior leadership positions within the Army. He is not necessarily considered a “reformer” as much as, say, Mirhossein Mousavi (another popular candidate during the 2013 election), but he is quite notably a centrist and his election victory was seen as a rebuke of Ahmadinejad-era policies. His principle focuses are long-term economic development, and improving Iran’s relations abroad. Most notably, his administration presided over the negotiations and implementation of the JCPOA (a.k.a. the “Nuclear Deal”). He has been criticized by his supporters for being notably silent on various human rights issues.


GUARDIAN COUNCIL, Chief Justice: Ahmad Jannati.

The Guardian Council, in short, functions as rough equivalent to the US Supreme Court. It interprets and determines whether legislative measures from Parliament are not only constitutional, but also Shariah-compliant. It also approves nominations to the parliament, Assembly of Experts (more on that next), and oversees the Presidential election. It is made up of 12 members who serve six-year appointments Six members are experts in Islamic jurisprudence, and are appointed by the Supreme Leader. The other six are law experts, are appointed by the Head of the Judiciary.

The current Chief Justice, Ahmad Jannati, is the longest-serving justice on the council. He is an old-school conservative, and one of the major obstacles to reform in Iran.


ASSEMBLY OF EXPERTS, Speaker: Ahmad Jannati.

The Assembly has a rather unique function within the government, in that it is tasked with advising the Supreme Leader in legal matters, overseeing the activities of the Supreme Leader, and dismissing him if they determine him to be unfit of performing his duties. The Supreme Leader is also elected from the 88-member consultative body of the Assembly, which is one of the reasons why it is such an important body. Elections occur every eight years, and during every election cycle hundreds of candidates apply to run for the Assembly. Most are denied by the Guardian Council on the basis of “Insufficient Islamic credentials.” The term of the most recent Assembly was extended to 10 years (2008 to 2016) in order to land on the same year as elections for Parliament.

Controversy erupted in the latest election cycle when the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, Hassan Khomeini, was disqualified from running for the Assembly of Experts on the grounds of his Islamic credentials. Khomeini currently teaches at the most prestigious seminary in Qom and is known as a strident reformer, so his disqualification was seen by many as a blatant power play by conservatives to prevent a reformer from being consideration for the position.


Iran Consultative Assembly, or Parliament, Speaker: Ali Larijani

The Parliament effectively functions like the US House of Representatives. It is tasked with the construction and passing of national laws. One interesting feature of Parliament is that it has 5 constitutionally-mandated seats for religious and ethnic minorities: two for Armenians, and one each for Assyrians, Zoroastrians, and Jews. Like the Assembly of Experts, candidates are qualified or disqualified by the Guardian Council, though the requirements for Parliament are not as stringent. Members of Parliament serve four year terms, and there are no term limits. In the most recent Parliamentary elections, over 12,000 candidates applied for Parliamentary candidacy, but only about half were approved prior to the election. In the 2016 election, reformist won a plurality of seats, marking the first time since the Islamic revolution that conservatives had not been the driving force in Parliament.

The current Speaker, Ali Larijani, is a former academic and straddles the line between conservative and reformer. He is the current head of the “Followers of Velayat” party, whom are considered principalists, but are also part of a larger reformist coalition called “List of Hope”, which currently controls the majority of seats within Parliament.

----------------------------------------------

Good info and news sources about Iran:

Iran Primer (Start here) - The Iran Primer

Majlis Monitor, a great in-depth look at the most recent Parliament and Assembly of Experts election – Majlis Monitor

Al-Monitor, a good general news source for Iran – Iran Pulse
 
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Salt USMC

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The reformist coalition deserves its own post, so I'll let Majlis Monitor handle this one

Spotlight on Political Currents: The Reformists
The reformists are among the Islamic Republic of Iran’s most important political currents. They burst onto the political stage in 1997 with Mohammad Khatami’s landslide presidential election victory and 2000 parliamentary election sweep, were pushed out of Iran’s elected centres of power by 2005, and found themselves completely outside of mainstream politics following their leadership of the Green Movement demonstrations in 2009. Although their popularity is thought to have facilitated Hassan Rouhani’s 2013 presidential election win, their systematic disqualification from national elections by the Council of Guardians and continued suppression by security forces is likely to mean they will not form a powerful bloc in this year’s Islamic Consultative Assembly (or parliamentary) elections.

Origins

The reformist current originated from the radical leftist Islamist current that supported Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s leadership of the Islamic Revolution and establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Four of the main leftist current groups and their key figures during Iran’s decade of revolution and war from 1979 to 1989 are seen as laying the foundation for reformism in the 1990s. The first was the Islamic Republican Party’s (IRP) leftist faction, which dominated parliament and was led by then Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi in the 1980s. The second was the Assembly of Combatant Clerics, which split from the rightist Society of Combatant Clergy before the 1988 parliamentary elections and constituted the clerical wing of the leftist current in the 1980s and reformists today. Its key figures included Mohammad Khatami, Mehdi Karroubi, Mohammad Mousavi-Khoeiniha, Hassan Saanei, and Sadegh Khalkhali, among others.

Next was the Mujahedeen of the Islamic Revolution Organisation, a militant group which supported the Ayatollah Khomeini and the IRP’s ascent to power. Its key figures include Saeed Hajjarian, Behzadi Navabi, Mohsen Armin, Mostafa Tajzadeh, and Morteza Ghadiyani. Finally, the Students of the Line of the Imam, who were behind the seizure of the United States’ embassy in Tehran in 1979, formed the militant youth wing of the leftist current in universities. Its key figures included Massoumeh Ebtekar, Mohsen Mirdamadi, Habibollah Bitaraf, Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, Abbas Abdi, and Mohammad-Reza Khatami, among others. The politically authoritarian, socially conservative, economically statist, and radically anti-imperialist current managed Iran’s war economy and dominated much of political life in Iran during the 1980s with the nearly unwavering backing of Ayatollah Khomeini. But with the latter’s death in 1989 and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which had furnished them with a statist and anti-imperialist model, as well as ascension of rightists like Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the basis of their power collapsed and they found themselves in the political wilderness.

Mohammad Khatami and the Rise of Reformism

This kicked off a process of reflection which resulted in their transformation during the 1990s. These former leftists now called for reform of the Islamic Republic in line with changes taking shape globally. They forsook authoritarianism, social conservatism, statism, and anti-imperialism, instead advocating democracy, social freedom, economic liberalisation, and engagement with the West. Their promise of reforming the Islamic Republic proved extremely popular, especially with university students and women. This resulted in their 1997 presidential candidate Mohammad Khatami winning over 70 percent of the popular vote and reformist factions forming a legislative majority following the 2000 parliamentary elections. Khatami and his allies in the newly founded Islamic Iran Participation Front set about trying to fulfil their promises by loosening media restrictions, reducing state intervention in society, continuing Hashemi-Rafsanjani’s liberalisation, and engaging the West in a “dialogue of civilizations”.

Yet even before the reformist project had gotten fully underway, opposition and obstacles emerged. The closure of the reformist Salaam newspaper triggered the 18 Tir student protests in summer 1999, which was followed by a crackdown and letter by 24 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders implicitly threatening action if Khatami did not regain control of the situation. Elements of the rightist current of the 1980s, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khemenei, joined with new forces, exemplified by the IRGC, in a reaction to what they saw as the reformists threat to the Islamic Republic. This new conservative, or as it has become known “principalist”, current moved to block the expansion of social and political freedoms. Guardian Council mass disqualification of reformist candidates in the 2004 parliamentary election, including of sitting parliamentarians, saw them lose their foothold in the legislature. In the face of growing conservative mobilisation, reformist disunity, and social apathy towards reformists for their inability to significantly advance reforms, the current lost the 2005 presidential election. They were once again back in the political wilderness.

The Green Movement and Hassan Rouhani

By the time of the 2009 presidential election, reformists had managed to regain some of their unity under candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, in part as a result of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s divisive governance. But when Ahmadinejad was quickly declared the winner of the June vote, the reformists alleged fraud and joined their social base on the streets of Iran. This precipitated a harsh response from Iranian conservatives, and the subsequent crackdown against reformists saw Mousavi and Karroubi placed under house arrest, many of their figures and activists imprisoned, exiled, or retired from politics within Iran. The 2012 parliamentary election saw the reformist presence diminished even further due to Guardian Council mass disqualification and many reformists’ boycott of the vote. But by the 2013 presidential election, with Ahmadinejad and conservatives divided, a deepening of the Islamic Republic’s economic crisis through mismanagement and sanctions, and the crackdown on reformists having relented somewhat, reformists consented to throwing their electoral weight behind centrist current figure Hassan Rouhani who won.

The latter’s victory in 2013 has seen the reformist currents gradual rehabilitation in the Islamic Republic, and they have thrown their weight behind new groups such as the Union of Islamic Iran People Party, and to a lesser extent the Second Generation of Reformists (NEDA), to compete in the 2016 parliamentary elections. Despite a strategy of mass registering candidates to have a strong presence in the elections, however, the Guardian Council’s ax is likely to keep them at bay or at least significantly limit their presence in the next parliament.
 

Salt USMC

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The JCPOA just had its first birthday this month, but Iranians are not as jubilant about it today as they were in those first few weeks.

New poll underlines Iranian disappointment with US, nuclear deal
A year after their government signed a landmark nuclear agreement, many Iranians are disappointed by lackluster economic progress, doubt that the United States will fulfill its part of the bargain and are more favorably disposed toward a controversial former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a new poll shows.


The survey of 1,007 Iranians — conducted by telephone from June 17-27 by IranPoll.com, an independent Toronto-based firm, for the University of Maryland — confirms anecdotal information that Iranians had overly high expectations for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and failed to appreciate the obstacles Iran would still face in attracting foreign investment, reconnecting with foreign banks and increasing employment.

Among the findings, shared with Al-Monitor in advance, is a dramatic rise in popular understanding of what the JCPOA actually entailed. A year ago, a majority of Iranians (62.2%) thought all US sanctions on Iran would eventually be lifted under the agreement; now only 23.4% does. (The United States agreed to lift so-called secondary nuclear-related sanctions, affecting foreign companies, but left in place most restrictions on American economic interaction with Iran.)

Among the most concerning results of the poll was that a large majority (72%) say they have little or no confidence that the United States will meet its obligations under the deal. This compares to 41% who felt that way last September.
Rouhani is up for re-election next year, and is likely to use the success of the JCPOA as one of the planks of his campaign. However, the above-mentioned dissatisfaction with the deal could torpedo his candidacy. As of now, he has no serious contenders for the election.

5 reasons Rouhani may not win second term
TEHRAN, Iran — As the faction most opposed to the government, Iran's hard-liners have made it their goal to make Hassan Rouhani the first Iranian president not to be re-elected for a second term. In fact, this objective was sought since their loss of the executive branch back in 2013. They simply cannot fathom being barred from the presidency for another five years until the 2021 presidential election. Thus, they're determined to seize back control of the executive branch as soon as possible. Their latest move, the war over pay stubs, is considered to be in this line.

As has been the case with previous Iranian presidents, Rouhani's political fortunes are hard to predict. Numerous members of the ruling elite believe that he will be serving a second term. For instance, Speaker Ali Larijani, a Principlist, has emphasized that Rouhani is "on the whole moving in the right direction," adding that "some people believe Dr. Rouhani will serve for only one term. I would say 'no' since I don't think that is very likely." Meanwhile, former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani believes that "given Rouhani’s popularity and his performance with the [conclusion] of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA], he is without a serious rival in the 2017 presidential election."
 

AWP

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#4
The JCPOA just had its first birthday this month, but Iranians are not as jubilant about it today as they were in those first few weeks.
I can spell Iran and find it on a map. We've now exhausted most of my knowledge on the topic.

If there are moderates, enough to win an election, then why is the country still a bunch of d-bags? The military and mullahs hold the real power and moderates are kept around for show? Figureheads?
 
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#6
The green movement leaders are in house arrest currently and indefinitely. Even Khatemi, who was the president for 8 years before Ahmedinezhad is banned from public forums. The Supreme Leader's followers are pretty good at oppressing any opinion that isn't in line with theirs specially in the long run. Usually he allows for something to go on for a short amount of time to give the illusion that he is for semi-free speech and political oppositions but in the end, the progressive are imprisoned.
 

Salt USMC

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In January of this year, the Obama administration reportedly paid $400 million (as part of a $1.7 billion settlement) to Iran around the time that four American hostages were released. Just to clear up confusion, these hostages were civilian Americans, not the Sailors that were captured a week or two earlier.

Report: US airlifted $400 million to Iran as detained Americans were released | Fox News
The U.S. government airlifted the equivalent of $400 million to Iran this past January, which occurred as four detained Americans were released by Tehran, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

The cash transfer was the first installment paid in a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a failed 1979 arms deal dating from just before the Iranian Revolution.

State Department spokesman John Kirby denied the cash transfer was done to secure the release of the four Americans -- Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian; Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine; Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, whose case had not been publicized before the release.

"The negotiations over the [arms deal] settlement ... were completely separate from the discussions about returning our American citizens home," Kirby said in a statement. "Not only were the two negotiations separate, they were conducted by different teams on each side."

"The funds that were transferred to Iran were related solely to the settlement of a long-standing claim at the U.S.-Iran Claims Tribunal at The Hague," Kirby's statement concluded.
It's pretty hard to see a positive in this. I mean, we did need to pay out the $1.7B settlement eventually if we still want to pretend we care about international law and order and such. It's really hard to buy that statement about the payment not being linked to the hostage negotiations, although the WSJ version of the article (which I didn't link because it's behind a paywall) had a slightly longer version of the quote by John Kirby:

“As we’ve made clear, the negotiations over the settlement of an outstanding claim…were completely separate from the discussions about returning our American citizens home,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said. “Not only were the two negotiations separate, they were conducted by different teams on each side, including, in the case of The Hague claims, by technical experts involved in these negotiations for many years.”

While I'm sure that the negotiations were conducted separately, it would be asinine to assume that the negotiating teams weren't talking to each other and at least doing a small amount of coordination. The Iranians wanted to see some cash to make sure the Americans were going to deal seriously. I suppose one small positive to take away from this is that the Iranians didn't immediately turn around and blast this to their domestic media since they got concessions from Big Bad America. Also, if you're like me and want to see a normalization of relations between around the US, it's a small positive as it shows that both countries are willing to deal in good faith. However, this is a pretty boneheaded way to demonstrate that.

It also appears that the payment demand was likely not related to the incident with the detained sailors and the IRGC Navy, which occurred a little less than a week prior to the settlement of this hostage issue. Initially, the negotiations focused on a 1-for-1 prisoner swap; the detained Americans being traded for jailed Iranian nationals as well. It was around Christmas that the arms settlement became involved in the negotiations. There's a paragraph in the WSJ article that addresses this:

U.S. Sent Cash to Iran as Americans Were Freed
The U.S. delegation was led by a special State Department envoy, Brett McGurk, and included representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to U.S. and European officials. The Iranian team was largely staffed by members of its domestic spy service, according to U.S. officials.

The discussions, held at the InterContinental Hotel, initially focused solely on a formula whereby Iran would swap the Americans detained in Tehran for Iranian nationals held in U.S. jails, U.S. officials said. But around Christmas, the discussions dovetailed with the arbitration in The Hague concerning the old arms deal.

The Iranians were demanding the return of $400 million the Shah’s regime deposited into a Pentagon trust fund in 1979 to purchase U.S. fighter jets, U.S. officials said. They also wanted billions of dollars as interest accrued since then.
I'm curious as to why that item would suddenly be included in the negotiations. Even though Iran was going to have parliamentary elections about a month after this deal was finalized, it appears as though Iranian lawmakers were not especially involved in these negotiations. Likewise, Rouhani is not up for re-election until next year, so it's a little early to begin scoring political points.
 

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One of my buddies informed me that it was actually reported on back in January, but didn't have the exact details about $400 million in currency. That bit is new.
U.S. Payment of $1.7 Billion to Iran Raises Questions of Ransom <---From Jan. 21
I guess it's the association of the money and the hostages. I did read that some USPs successfully sued Iran for terrorism and were awarded $400 mil...which ended up being paid by taxpayer dollars.

Regardless, foreign press outlets (Russia, Iran, Isreal, etc) are having a field day with this.
 

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The detainees were probably leveraged to help close the settlement. The administration is no stranger to poor trades having freed 5 TB terrorists for an American deserter.

I wonder what we'd have to give up to get Robert Levinson back?
 

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#13
I'm bipartisan on this and just throwing it out there as I'm curious to what you think; does anyone think that this general arrangement with Iran is similar to Nixon opening China? It's not completely identical, I know but it opens up the country at a time when its' regional power is growing.
 

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I'm bipartisan on this and just throwing it out there as I'm curious to what you think; does anyone think that this general arrangement with Iran is similar to Nixon opening China? It's not completely identical, I know but it opens up the country at a time when its' regional power is growing.
His Admin has yet to demonstrate that high level strategic thinker about international affairs. It sure seems that his primary concern has long been what history books will write about his Presidency. He wants "wins" at any cost.

Health care, immigration, war against terror, cyber crap with China and Russia, Iran, etc.
 

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I'm bipartisan on this and just throwing it out there as I'm curious to what you think; does anyone think that this general arrangement with Iran is similar to Nixon opening China? It's not completely identical, I know but it opens up the country at a time when its' regional power is growing.

I agree with @lindy. I don't think there's much comparison to be made between Obama/Kerry and Nixon/Kissinger in the astuteness-in-foreign-affairs department. For all his faults, Nixon was a master in that field. The current administration by contrast, rather than riding the horse seems to be grabbing at the tail as it flies by and trying to make the most out of it. They seem almost naive in an art that requires a devious finesse and chess-game strategy. Putin, the Iranians, the Chinese and god knows who else will only take advantage of this.
 

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#16
Thanks for your replies, I was thinking more geopolitics and longer term, not so much comparing presidencial styles. As a buttress to Russia in the region it makes sense to have someone as an allie, even a tentative one and where that leads to will be interesting.
 

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Thanks for your replies, I was thinking more geopolitics and longer term, not so much comparing presidencial styles. As a buttress to Russia in the region it makes sense to have someone as an allie, even a tentative one and where that leads to will be interesting.
Honestly, I wonder how much Israel is able to influence our stance towards Iran. From their standpoint, I'm sure they feel surrounded by US-friendly governments: Azerbaijan, Iraq, Afghanistan. I wonder how close Iran wants to get?
 

Salt USMC

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Thanks for your replies, I was thinking more geopolitics and longer term, not so much comparing presidencial styles. As a buttress to Russia in the region it makes sense to have someone as an allie, even a tentative one and where that leads to will be interesting.
As nice as that would be, Iran has already cast their lot with Russia and China. To the former, they've made significant arms deals, including the long-delayed purchase of S-300 ballistic missiles (which were delivered only recently). I would suspect that there's probably a degree of intelligence sharing going on between the two as well. To the latter, they've signed a little over a dozen economic and trade deals, including a pretty sizable deal for a modern railroad system. Granted, they've signed deals with a bunch of regional partners (as well as Venezuela for some strange reason), but Iran has clearly identified who they want their dance partner to be as they re-enter the world stage.

Could that change? It's possible, but it would first require significant political and cultural shifts within both Iran and the United States. The US was a historical ally of Iran, and Czarist Russia (and later the USSR) was an enemy, so it's strange to see the switch there. Hell, Iran and Israel were the best of buddies prior to the revolution!
 

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Interesting regarding your last point, as Sadat switched sides. but that is a sideshow compared with the main thrust of your post. There is a projected navy exercise in the South China Sea which combine the Sino-Russian navies. I was idly speculating that the US could engage China more intensively and come to a bilateral arrangement as has been mooted here by Hugh White, a strategic thinker. But it looks like the Chinese have other ideas.
 

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#20
I'm bipartisan on this and just throwing it out there as I'm curious to what you think; does anyone think that this general arrangement with Iran is similar to Nixon opening China? It's not completely identical, I know but it opens up the country at a time when its' regional power is growing.
Nixon was also leveraging China against Russia (USSR).
This also allowed us to start talking with Russia on other issues.

As nice as that would be, Iran has already cast their lot with Russia and China. To the former, they've made significant arms deals, including the long-delayed purchase of S-300 ballistic missiles (which were delivered only recently). I would suspect that there's probably a degree of intelligence sharing going on between the two as well. To the latter, they've signed a little over a dozen economic and trade deals, including a pretty sizable deal for a modern railroad system. Granted, they've signed deals with a bunch of regional partners (as well as Venezuela for some strange reason), but Iran has clearly identified who they want their dance partner to be as they re-enter the world stage.

Could that change? It's possible, but it would first require significant political and cultural shifts within both Iran and the United States. The US was a historical ally of Iran, and Czarist Russia (and later the USSR) was an enemy, so it's strange to see the switch there. Hell, Iran and Israel were the best of buddies prior to the revolution!
Interesting that we are considered a greater threat than a Communist (i.e. godless ) country (China) or countries that are actively at war with islam (Russia and China).
One benefit is the Israelis will be able to provide a lot of good intel on modern Russian/Chinese systems.
 
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