Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
In the late 1990s, not long after pro-reform politician Mohammad Khatami swept to a landslide victory in the Iranian presidential elections, some Western observers started wondering if this was the step that would herald a collapse of the Islamic Republic — rather like the Soviet Union tumbled on Mikhail Gorbachev’s watch a decade earlier.
It was early days for me observing Iran. But an acquaintance of mine offered some analysis. Iran is not communist Europe. It is still a young revolution, he told me (at a time when it was
turning 20). There are still plenty of Iranians willing to die for the cause. Don’t expect it to come crashing down, he said.
It turns out he was right. After Khatami’s two terms, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected to office in 2005. It is hard to think of a man more dedicated to Iran’s revolutionary cause. To be fair, it may have been his extravagant economic promises that played a bigger part in winning him the vote than his ideological credentials. But whatever the reason for swinging the election in his favour, the result is very much with us.
Why does this matter now? Well, there are people apparently working to try and drive the Islamic Republic into oblivion. According to Seymour Hersh writing in the New Yorker, those in the White House are at the top of the list.
There is a running joke among Western journalists, diplomats and other foreigners based in Iran who have the task of trying to understand what is going on behind the scenes: the longer you stay here, the more opaque Iranian policy making becomes.
It may be said lightheartedly, but it contains more than a grain of truth. The longer you spend trying to peel back the layers of the Iranian establishment to understand what the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is thinking, the more layers you discover.
George W Bush’s final tour of Europe as president of the United States has so far been curiously uneventful and curiously familiar. More discussion of Iran, more talk of tougher sanctions if the Islamic republic refuses to stop enriching uranium and another warning that ‘all options’ are on the table to ensure it falls into line.
But despite three rounds of sanctions by the U.N. Security Council, Iran has refused to cooperate. Instead it has set about protecting assets at risk from such measures, for example by withdrawing funds from European banks.