Mahmood Monshipouri, Ali Assareh
Dr. Monshipouri is an associate professor of international relations at San Francisco State University. He is the author, most recently, of Muslims in Global Politics: Identities, Interests, and Human Rights (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009). Mr. Assareh is specializing in international law at New York University School of Law.
The post-presidential election protests in Iran have done more to rock the foundation of the Islamic Republic than three decades of sanctions and containment imposed by the United States and the United Nations. Since its inception, the Islamic Republic has almost always guaranteed its political longevity by defending itself against “real” or “imagined” enemies. The popular appeal of this anti-imperialist narrative has been facilitated historically by nationalist sentiments as well as reactions to neocolonialism, which have been integral parts of Iran’s intricate political culture. This time, however, the government is facing a new challenge. The green wave reminiscent of the “color revolutions” in Ukraine and Georgia has posed a homegrown and popular threat to the country’s power structure. The reach of social networking services and digital interactions has enormously diminished the effectiveness of the external-enemy argument as recourse to avoiding intractable internal problems. Just as the show of popular will and resistance through street protests brought down the shah’s regime in 1979, so the green movement in the protests’ aftermath is likely to cast the divine authority of the Islamic Republic under the shadow of perpetual doubt.
History has shown that revolutions tend to destroy their own ideals and descend into chaos where recourse to violence becomes their sole method of governing. The Islamic revolutionaries of 1979 attacked the post-World War II zeitgeist: the deeply held conviction that the secular political order was progressive, rational, egalitarian and just. Instead, they established a semi-democratic, semi-divine form of government as the solution. “Islamic Republic, not a word less [in this designation] nor a word more,” Ayatollah Khomeini once famously declared.1 Some experts argue that modern theocracy has not, however, “solved the problems that brought it to power. It has increased inequalities between genders and among religious communities and has brought about its own backlash and countermobilization.”2 Along the same lines, Christian Caryl writes, the regime of the Islamic jurists in Iran “increasingly resembles the one they aspired to destroy: corrupt, cynical, starkly at odds with popular yearnings for reform, concerned primarily with the maintenance of power.”3 Thirty years after the Iranian Revolution, Caryl notes, the Islamic Republic has grown into a decadent order, the excesses of which have now inspired a counterrevolutionary march toward a new Iran. 4
Others argue that the record of post-revolutionary regimes (Bolivia, Cuba, Iran and Nicaragua) in the developing world serves as a grim reminder that typically these regimes have vacillated between repression and accommodation, while failing to attain internal cohesion.5 Still others sanguinely observe that uprisings have occurred with some regularity in Iran since 1890, when unpopular concessions on tobacco to the British led to nationwide strikes that forced the government to nullify the concession in 1892. Subsequent uprisings happened in 1905 (a constitutional revolution), 1953 (anti-shah uprisings), 1979 (the Iranian Revolution), 1999 and 2003 (student protests), and 2009 (a disputed presidential election). Some of these uprisings failed because of a government crackdown and others succeeded in spite of it.6 Since the contested 2009 presidential election, disillusionment has begun to set in, with the growing realization among many Iranians that the Islamic Republic has inflicted an inept and archaic political and ideological system on them. How did this happen? Why has a government crackdown failed to squash the uprising? And, how is this different from previous unrest in Iran?
As with many other regimes, the Islamic Republic owes its political survival to constructing enemies and imagining an external threat. Indeed, the suspicion of meddling by outside powers — Great Britain, Russia and the United States, in particular — is deeply ingrained in the minds of many Iranians. The country’s revolutionary power structure, however, is threatened this time by a homegrown and popular movement. As a result, splits among the clerical establishment, the military and the Revolutionary Guards have deepened. Additionally, significant ruptures that are bound to affect Iran’s political landscape have emerged within the clerical establishment. Several resignations and dismissals in Ahmadinejad’s inner circle early in his second-term have complicated efforts to form a new government. Discontent among the clerics and their opposition to the way in which the elections were manipulated highlight a shift in power away from the clerical establishment and toward the Revolutionary Guards and the military.7
On the street, the use of brute force to quell spiraling unrest has continued, rendering the Ahmadinejad administration “fragile, contested, fissured and militaristic.”8 Leaving aside the issue of elite fragmentation, the clerical superstructure has ruled a society that has in many respects grown even more secular and globalized.9 On the domestic front, poor economic performance, a gender conundrum, social restrictions, and a growing educated and globalized middle class have combined to pave the way for an internal movement for change as the 2009 elections approached.
WARS AND SANCTIONS
Shortly after the 1979 revolution, the Iran-Iraq war — known as the “imposed war” — helped the political survival of the regime for nearly a decade (1980-88), with the ruling elite portraying Saddam Hussein as a U.S. lackey bent on containing the spread of the Islamic revolution to the rest of the region. During that time, U.S. strategic goals in the region were twofold: isolating and punishing the Islamic Republic and propping up the mujahedeen resistance movement in Afghanistan to dislodge Soviet troops. The pro-West monarchies of the Persian Gulf supported these two strategic goals, which had far-reaching implications that complicated the U.S. presence in the region for decades.
In 1988, Ayatollah Khomeini conceded that a ceasefire was a harsh reality with which the Iranian regime had to come to grips. Khomeini’s concession ended the Iran-Iraq War. In the post-Khomeini era (1989-present), Iran has encountered continued sanctions, boycotts and political isolation by the United States and some of its Western allies, policies that have enabled the Islamic Republic’s recourse to violence, while exploiting the narrative of an ongoing conspiracy to prolong its political longevity. The ensuing Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which was in a way the result of U.S. unconditional support for Saddam’s regime in its war with Iran in the preceding decade, led to temporary U.S.-Iran tactical cooperation to defeat the Baathist regime and liberate Kuwait.
This politically expedient collaboration was terminated in 1996, when the Clinton administration adopted a “dual containment” policy toward Iran and Iraq. The Iranian half of dual containment was based on a “five part challenge” that Iran posed to the United States and the international community: support for “terrorism and assassination across the globe,” opposition to the Arab-Israeli peace process, efforts to subvert pro-West governments, a military buildup aimed at dominating the Persian Gulf region, and the quest to acquire nuclear weapons.10 Although dual containment drove a wedge into the U.S. foreign-policy consensus with Europe and Japan, unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran continued. In August 1996, President Clinton signed the Iran-Libya Sanction Act (ILSA) to punish Iran and Libya for alleged state-sponsored terrorism. ILSA required the U.S. president to impose sanctions against any foreign or domestic company that invests $40 million or more annually in oil and gas projects in either Iran or Libya. The law was questioned by U.S. allies Canada, the European Union, Australia and Japan on the grounds that it violated international law.11
At around the same time, the Taliban regime took over a good portion of Afghanistan with the military assistance of Pakistan, a long-time U.S. ally in the region, and the financial backing of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The core contradiction in this flawed policy was that, while the United States contained one Islamic movement in Iran, it chose to turn its back on another in Afghanistan, where a far more fundamentalist regime than the one in Iran was taking over the country.
Some experts have systematically traced the roots of the policy of dual containment of Iran and Iraq, the problems with the exact aims of this policy, as well as its measurable negative and contradictory effects. They have argued that the policy has been in existence for over a quarter-century without much in the way of accomplishing expected goals. In the 1980s, for both the United States and Israel, dual containment meant helping Iran and Iraq destroy one another in a long, costly, drawn-out war of attrition.12 After the war, and particularly during the Clinton administration, attention shifted toward imposing sanctions on the two countries. Dual containment thus became synonymous with imposing economic hardship on these countries in the hopes of overthrowing their hostile regimes. During the George W. Bush administration, neoconservatives framed the 9/11 attacks to launch a destructive war against Iraq and pursue subsequent regime change in Iran. So far, however, neither the pain of sanctions nor the death and destruction of two wars in the region have been able to bring about the desired changes.13
9/11 AND THE AFGHAN WAR
The attacks of September 11, 2001, on New York and Washington prompted the United States to seek regional allies to defeat al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime. More than seven years after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Rory Stewart notes, there is still no plausible alternative to Hamid Karzai and no recognizable national political parties in Afghanistan.14 “It is impossible,” Stewart continues, “for Britain and its allies to build an Afghan state; they have no clear view of this promised ‘state,’ and such a thing could come only from an Afghan national movement, not as a gift from foreigners.”15 In short, the power, commitment, knowledge and will of the United States and its allies have proven to be limited in shaping desired developments in Afghanistan.16 This realization has forced the United States to seek other regional actors that can be part of the solution.
Despite some differences over the creation of political and economic spheres of influence, the convergence between U.S. and Iranian interests in Afghanistan continues to this day. Both seek stability in and reconstruction of Afghanistan while preventing the Taliban’s resurgence, and both are against the spread of terrorism and illicit drug trade in the region.17 Many experts saw in Afghanistan an opening for mending fences with the Islamic Republic. But George W. Bush’s notorious Axis of Evil speech in January 2002, labeling Iran — along with Iraq and North Korea — a dangerous rogue state, shortly after dislodging the Taliban regime from Afghanistan, undermined many of President Khatami’s achievements in improving the country’s international image. This convinced Iran’s hardliners that the Islamic Republic would become the next target in Bush’s “war on terror.”18 The threat of outside intervention, too often echoed by the Bush administration’s rhetoric of regime change, kept Iran’s Islamic radicals in business. Under such circumstances, layers of mistrust between Iran and the United States deepened. Subsequently, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, along with Washington’s threat of military attack against Iran, pushed hardliners and populists to the forefront of Iran’s 2005 presidential election.
As for the failure of the reform movement during the Khatami presidency (1997-2005), the impact of reforms remained uncertain. The practical failures of the Khatami era, together with economic insecurity, concealed the fact that his liberal victory and moment had penetrated the popular consciousness and imagination.19 Yet if there was a lesson in Iran’s 2005 presidential election, it was that there were ethical problems with pushing for pro-market — so-called “neoliberal” — policies within the context of Iranian politics. Whom did privatization or an unbridled free market serve, and who should have shaped its development? The 2005 runoff-election, in which both poor and middle-class voters rejected Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as the embodiment of a privileged political class and the ultimate insider, vividly illustrated that there were enormous cultural and economic gaps in Iranian society.
Despite its flaws, the 2005 election demonstrated that reformists have failed to come to grips with realities on the ground. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory was equivalent to another revolution within the Islamic Republic, one in which a new generation of hardliners were keen on returning Iran to the fundamentals of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when the dispossessed and underprivileged were given hope for a better life. Ahmadinejad argued that the revolution had gone awry, privileging clerical rulers who had become far removed from the struggles of average Iranians suffering from double-digit unemployment rates and rampant inflation.
The 2005 election results also exposed an anti-liberalization and anti-free-market bias in the political culture of those Iranians who voted. In Washington, State Department spokespersons kept comparing the emerging but limited democratic inroads made in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, while missing the point that the Bush doctrine of democracy promotion in the Greater Middle East faced formidable challenges and proved to be deeply problematic, given the region’s unique political history and culture, structural predicaments and economic realities.
Iranian voters in 2005 sent a strong signal to the religio-political establishment that there were serious cultural and economic gaps in society, and that some civil and political issues must take a backseat to the people’s overall economic security. As in the rest of the world, the economy proved to be a decisive factor. Some experts even argue that “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005 by promising to ‘bring the oil money to the tables of the people.’”20 Insofar as a cultural gap was concerned, the break stemmed from the fact that Islamic traditions placed social justice above civil/political rights. The message was clear: religion is not about human rights but about ethical teachings, duties and social justice — hence Ahmadinejad’s key slogan, “Islam without justice is not Islam.”
Ahmadinejad’s populist message of economic equality won over the promises of neoliberal economic projects espoused by other candidates, even those running under the conservative banner. Populism and resistance against the ruling elite once again returned to the forefront of Iranian politics. This was a reversion to the Islamic revolution à la Ayatollah Khomenei. The notion of liberal democracy and its related economic reforms failed to resonate deeply with the masses in Iran, where nearly 30 percent of the population lived below the poverty line and 80 percent of the economy was state-controlled.21 All presidential candidates (except Ahmadinejad) talked about privatization without even mentioning the process of the corrupting influences of oil revenues on the management of the country’s resources. Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, promised in plain language to bring oil revenues to people’s tables and privatize state-owned firms by handing out “justice shares” directly to Iranian families.22
President Ahmadinejad soon faced many challenges, but none more formidable than the domestic economy and Iran’s nuclear program. One key economic question persisted: how to promote the privatization of state-owned industries, redistributing the wealth in shares of stock to each Iranian family, while at the same time pushing for subsidies and welfare packages such as health insurance and low-interest loans? His protectionist policies proved to be costly, if not disastrous, for an economy hungry to join the globalizing world. Quite understandably, the same populist campaign platform that brought him to power spelled trouble for him in the 2009 presidential election, in large part because his policies had failed to narrow Iran’s existing economic divide — a daunting task that no president has ever successfully undertaken in the short history of the Islamic Republic.
IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran’s nuclear program presented a deeper challenge, however. Unlike Khatami, Ahmadinejad was part of a system that has a complete monopoly over all levers of power, including the executive, judicial and legislative branches, all of which are now practically controlled by the hardliners. This monopoly gave him more maneuverability vis-à-vis the West. But there were limits to it, and he could not overplay his hand. While emphasizing Iran’s fundamental right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and technology, he frequently made a case before the country’s Supreme Security Council for resolving the nuclear standoff with the West. Nevertheless, he failed to convince the West, and the Iranian case was referred to the UN Security Council, pitting Iran against an international consensus hard to ignore or defeat. The resultant UN resolutions led to the imposition of harsh economic sanctions against Iran, with grave diplomatic costs to follow. In the meantime, the United States and the European Union member states offered several gestures to Iran in an effort to alter its nuclear policy: supporting Iran’s entry into the WTO, giving Iran aircraft spare-parts, and agreeing that Iran could develop the capacity to enrich limited amounts of uranium.
Several questions have shaped the political debate over Iran’s nuclear program: Are Iran’s nuclear ambitions economic/energy-related or strategic/security-related? Does it matter? What are the probabilities? With conservative forces in control of the Iranian parliament (majles) and presidency, Iran’s leaders seem to have equated promoting the nuclear program with national security. After a long period of negotiation with the three European countries (EU-3: Great Britain, Germany and France), Iran chose to restart enriching uranium, an eventuality that the EU-3 had intended to avoid.
The Iranian government has claimed that it has suspended its activities on a voluntary basis and that it has a legal right to develop its nuclear program for peaceful purposes according to Article 4 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).23 Article 4 stipulates that member states pledge not to seek a weapons capability and that they are entitled to acquire the means of generating nuclear power for civilian purposes. It should be noted, however, that the NPT contains ambiguous language. For example, it does not guarantee signatories the “right” to enrich uranium. It only supports “the benefit of nuclear technology” for peaceful purposes.
Beyond legal justification, Iranian officials point to pure and simple economics, arguing that, while Iran’s GDP is likely to grow by 6 percent next year, its young population’s demand for power is projected to grow at 7 percent annually. Iran’s capacity, experts note, must nearly triple over the next 15 years to meet projected demand.24 At the same time, Iran’s daily consumption of 1.5 million barrels of oil means the country loses $75 million a day.25 Moreover, Iran has argued that, with diminishing water resources, the use of hydroelectric power has become less viable. Nuclear energy, Iranian officials have insisted, seems to be the most economically viable method of energy production. Hence, Iran plans to generate 7,000 megawatts of power by 2020 through the construction of 20 nuclear power plants.26
Many experts argue that Iran has lost its flexibility to negotiate a way out of its nuclear ambitions, simply because conservatives currently control the three branches of power and thus present a coherent position never seen in the past. The latest technical proposals and counterproposals — made through the International Atomic Energy Agency — regarding an agreement reached in Geneva on October 1, 2009, whereby Iran would export its enriched uranium to Russia in exchange for importing nuclear energy for medical and cancer-related cures, reveal the opposing views in Iranian domestic politics. While Iranians have failed to forge a national consensus on the deal that their own negotiators reached, they have yet to publicly denounce the deal altogether. Unless Iran’s politics change, some experts assert, President Obama’s policy of engagement will fail, and he will likely seek a new policy of increasingly severe sanctions under the looming threat of military attacks — precisely the same policy pursued by President Bush.27 This argument begs the question of how to alter Iran’s foreign-policy stance. In her speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on July 15, 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that engagement is aimed at both problematic regimes and the international community. Leading with diplomacy, Clinton pointed out, advances U.S. interests and values, while placing U.S. diplomats and policy makers in a far better position to lead with its other partners. “Negotiations,” Secretary Clinton emphasized, “can provide insight into regimes’ calculations and the possibility — even if it seems remote — that a regime will eventually alter its behavior in exchange for the benefits of acceptance into the international community. Libya is one such example. Exhausting the option for dialogue is also more likely to make our partners more willing to exert pressure should persuasion fail.” 28 Testing the diplomatic option, at the very least, makes possible the formation of a cohesive international coalition — the absence of which was conspicuously felt in the case of Iraq — to exert pressure on Iran should more severe actions be necessary to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions. At the very most, it can prompt its ruling elite to seriously consider halting or downsizing the nuclear program in exchange for security and economic incentives.
In fact, some argue that the issue of the fuel cycle is not an absolute position but is open to bargaining. Iranians are bargaining to get a better deal, and in the end they will turn out to be flexible and accommodating. Still others argue that, according to a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE),29 Iran had halted its program to develop a nuclear weapon in 2003 and that it is far from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon.30 Thus, they contend, the threat of Iran’s nuclear program has been exaggerated. Ex-CIA operative Robert Baer, for instance, argues that Iran’s highest priority, as agreed upon by all of its multiple power centers, is not to become a nuclear player. Instead, he argues, Iran’s most important ambition is to take control of the Persian Gulf region, a region that he argues is running out of oil,31 and then to export its soft-power of Islamism and anti-colonialism throughout the region.32
From an entirely different perspective, other observers have argued that an Iranian bomb would not be good news. But it wouldn’t be cataclysmic, either, especially when compared to Pakistan’s 60 nuclear weapons and the possibility that al-Qaeda sympathizers might gain access to them. For the time being, a coup led by Islamist, Taliban-inspired or sympathetic elements of the Pakistani army remains far more important than anything happening in Iran.33
Compounding the picture is the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the so-called “UN nuclear watchdog,” has been caught in the middle of this controversy, unable either to issue Tehran a clean bill of health or to confirm the suspicions of the United States and the EU.34 With their continued dependence on Iran’s oil and gas, Europeans are reluctant — their rhetoric notwithstanding — to press for much harsher UN sanctions against Iran and deprive the international market of the 3.5 million barrels of oil a day produced by the Iranian oil industry.
The U.S. occupation of Iraq and its policy blunders have all exacerbated Iranian intransigence. The Bush and Obama administrations’ central message that they would not tolerate Iran’s growing ability to develop a nuclear weapon fell by the wayside, in large part because Washington’s hands are tied in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the fact of the matter remains that “U.S. and Israeli claims that Iran is assembling an atomic bomb are unproven.”35 For its part, Iran signed an Additional Protocol on December 18, 2003, which gave IAEA inspectors access to suspected nuclear research sites. Still, much remains subject to negotiations, and it is too soon to call the diplomatic pursuit an exercise in futility.
THE IRAQ WAR
In a meeting in Cairo on September 16, 2004, Arab League head Amr Moussa stated that “the gates of hell are open” in Iraq, urging Arab foreign ministers to seek the right decisions to help their neighbor overcome the crisis. The pronouncement was made within days of the 1000th American life being claimed in Iraq. Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sounded an alarm over U.S. efforts in Iraq as being “in trouble.”
Confusion and concern about the U.S. invasion of Iraq (2003) grew at home, particularly regarding the lack of any apparent endgame. There were good reasons to be concerned. Building an indigenous Iraqi army had not undercut the guerrilla insurgency there. Occupation bred insurgency, and the latter, in turn, made any reasonable assessment of the war impossible. Preventive-war doctrine as applied to Iraq was a failure, as the Bush administration’s poorly calculated campaign demonstrated. The continuing insurgency and the so-called “war on terror” merely made American troops more vulnerable. The United States had turned a contained dictator, Saddam Hussein, and his secular country into an epicenter of a hard-to-control fundamentalist-inspired insurgency.
Moreover, the Iraqi war damaged the U.S. image immensely in the Arab and Muslim worlds, both of which tended to see U.S. intervention as “perverse” and more often than not called into question the Bush administration’s motives to civilize and democratize, if not Christianize, the rest of the world. Increasingly, the U.S. vision of remaking the world in the image of America stood in sharp contrast to that of its European allies, who tend to put their faith in international institutions and law. The importance of the Iraqi war in relation to combating global terrorism also came under heavy criticism as U.S. intelligence utterly failed to break into the insurgent networks. Under such circumstances, the Iraqi 2005 elections were a step in the right direction, but their effectiveness was difficult to gauge. Some intelligence reports warned that building democracy in Iraq would be a long, drawn out and uncertain process that could very well entail civil war.
Perhaps the most effective weapon in the war against terror was establishing global police networks and law-enforcement cooperation with allies. The key to security and the promotion of democracy in Iraq was to work toward forging a new international bargain over Iraq that included, among other things, a vital role for its European partners. The risks of unilateral military intervention were simply too high and rewards too uncertain to treat preventive war as a cure-all for the campaign against global terror.
Like Afghanistan, Iraq became center stage for both cooperation and competition between Iran and the United States. There were, and are still some common goals (order and stability, support for the country’s constitution and the elimination of al-Qaeda) but also many more diverging objectives. Iran is also vehemently opposed to the establishment of permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. But perhaps the major difference stems from the fact that Iran seems to operate from the assumption that with its influence in southern Iraq — the country’s predominantly Shiite zone — including close ties to the major Shiite seminaries in Najaf, it can transform the region into a kind of proxy area like southern Lebanon, creating a mini-state within a state.36 That the administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a close ally of both Tehran and Washington offers a unique opportunity for those two governments to secure their interests in Iraq.37
Given that regime change through military intervention has been discredited, it is not, at least for now, seriously being contemplated for use against Iran. With this option off the table, Iranian hardliners were basking in glory and planning to further secure their grip on power. But a shifting of the layers of Iranian society, as indicated by the gender conundrum and growing Internet connectivity, soon erupted in the form of a homegrown challenge to the regime.
THE GENDER CONUNDRUM
In 2003, the granting of the Nobel Peace Prize to Shirin Ebadi, a female Iranian lawyer, opened a new chapter in Iran’s continuing political drama. Hardline conservatives felt threatened and shunted aside by the lasting echoes of this recognition. Their immediate reaction to this prize as interference in Iran’s internal affairs was emblematic of the fear of losing ground as the 2005 presidential election approached. In the long run, however, they were concerned about losing their grip on power.
This prize was the harbinger of future gender problems. With its many uncertain and paradoxical social features, Iranian society is fast approaching a gender conundrum. Iranian women constitute 64 percent of university graduates, and the female literacy rate exceeds 80 percent. It has become more difficult for educated women to find suitable marriage partners given the custom for women to marry at their status or higher. Despite these achievements, no woman held any key position in President Khatami’s or President Ahmadinejad’s first cabinets; women’s court testimony is worth half that of men; women cannot travel abroad on their own without the permission of their husbands; a woman’s life is worth half that of a man under Iran’s blood-money law; and men continue to have a unilateral right to divorce.
Worse yet, experts remind us, the official unemployment rate among those 15-29 years of age is 20 percent.38 Iran continues to suffer from double-digit unemployment and inflation. The latter climbed to a 28 percent annual rate in 2008.39 Underemployment among Iran’s educated youth has convinced many to seek jobs overseas, resulting in a significant “brain drain.”40 The figures released by Iran’s Central Bank for November 2008 showed prices of basic commodities and services were rising at a 19 percent rate while overall inflation was running at 16.8 percent annually, double the pace when Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. But independent economists and experts put the inflation rate well above 30 percent.41 The overall unemployment rate is estimated to exceed 16 percent this year, as more than four million young Iranians remain unemployed.
A report by Tehran University’s Center for Women’s Studies noted that the women’s unemployment rate in 2004 was 17.80 percent compared to that of men at 11.30 percent.42 Even though women outnumber men in the entering classes of universities by two to one, when they graduate, women are one-third less likely to obtain a job. This is because a large number of women are enrolled in humanities and social-science programs, which do not provide marketable skills. Men prefer, for example, engineering: in 2006, 40 percent of men were engineering students compared to 13 percent of women.43 The unemployment rate among female university graduates has risen in the past five years. According to a UK-based feminist organization, poverty is the explanation cited by nine out of every 10 women who are drawn into prostitution in Iran.44 The second-most-cited reason is unemployment. Job creation may mean abandoning other projects, including Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.
Some Iranian analysts insist that in Iran there is no such thing as a “women’s movement,” in the classic sense of the term, largely because women have failed to create a movement capable of initiating a political conflict with the Iranian government. There is no active institution that pursues gender equality or fights discrimination against women. They see a phenomenon called “feminism” and a “woman’s problem” in society, in that there is discrimination against women and that it is widely felt by them, but nothing like a “women’s movement” capable of fighting the state.45 This view, however, ignores the fact that, as support for women’s rights reaches a critical mass, their demands can no longer be marginalized.
Others note that Iranian leaders have adopted a wrong approach toward women’s social demands in the past, intensifying the feminist problem. A more progressive attitude could have had a moderating influence on feminism in Iran. With no social institutions to translate women’s frustration into organized resistance, the likelihood of a social upheaval may be weak in the short run. But discontent will grow and is bound to be a source of tension in years to come.46
Still others point out that during the first decade of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the women’s struggle was spearheaded by “revolutionary women.” These women were primarily concerned with the question of identity: “Who am I?” The second generation of feminists in the late 1980s, known as “religious reformists,” was deeply concerned with addressing the question of “What is my duty?” By the 1990s, the third generation of feminists, which had advocated universal rights, represented “Islamic feminists.” They were largely concerned with the question of “What are my rights?” and emphasized rationality over sacred texts and Islamic jurisprudence.47
As a female lawyer who for the past quarter century has fought the Islamic penal code and other archaic laws while defending the rights of women and children, Shireen Ebadi epitomizes the third-generation Muslim feminist. Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to her has already exposed the inherent contradictions in Iran’s conservative ideology. It has also fostered convergence between certain elements of both Muslim and secular feminists.48 What is perhaps most noteworthy is the increasing range of Iranian women who have embraced human rights as an empowering tool. Many Iranian women feel vindicated and emboldened, even as the risks of staking their claims have not been significantly reduced. This unique opportunity revitalized Iranian civil society, posing new challenges to the control of the dysfunctional theological state, held together by coercion and intimidation. The clerical regime is in a race against time. Many Iranian women, regardless of their ideological bent, saw a rare opportunity in the 2009 elections to advance their struggle.
THE OBAMA EFFECT
Barack Obama in his Cairo speech (June 4, 2009) struck a positive tone around the world, especially in the Muslim world. The speech put the issue of democratic reform back on the agenda. While many experts point to the enormity of Obama’s challenge, others insist that his idealism must not be summarily dismissed.49 With respect to Iran, for instance, Obama’s reversal of the positions — that is, dialogue and negotiation, not intervention under the rubric of democracy promotion — gave the Iranian people tremendous hope that the June 12, 2009, presidential election was their rendezvous with history.
Evidence suggests that from texting to Twitter, and from blogs to Facebook pages, Obama’s strategies and tools have shaped campaigns all over the world. Web outreach is becoming critical in elections in many countries such as South Africa, Israel, India, Ecuador, and Iran, to name a few.50 There can be no doubt that in Iran the revolution in online campaigning played an instrumental role in shaping presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s “green movement.” Crystallized in Mousavi’s slogan, “Every person is a campaign office,” the so-called “green wave” of pre- and post-election days made it very difficult for the Islamic Republic to stuff the genie back into the bottle. More importantly, the homegrown, popular green movement in Iran revealed the Islamic Republic’s hand and made it immensely difficult, if not impossible, for the regime to hide behind the mask of enemy construction.
Far from buying into the state-sanctioned narrative of Western interference in the election, and relying on the reach of online communication and social networking sites, the Iranian population constructed an alternative narrative that accused Russia, not the United States and EU member states, of interfering in the Iranian election. In the early days following the election and the declaration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory, rumors abounded on Iranian websites condeming Russia and, to some degree, China, of assisting the Islamic Republic in orchestrating a military coup against the true winner, Mir-Hossein Mousavi. The rumors eventually evolved into a coherent popular narrative accusing the Islamic Republic of providing energy and security concessions to Russia and China in exchange for their practical and diplomatic support for the military coup in Iran. The fact that, despite canceling all other foreign trips and receptions, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had visited Russia only hours after being declared the winner of the presidential election, gave credence to claims of Russian interference.
In spite of the Islamic Republic’s intense efforts to portray the movement as a “velvet revolution” financed by and directed from the West, evidence suggests that the Iranian people are well aware of the movement’s homegrown origin. The disconnect between the regime’s narrative and the one constructed by the people was most aptly captured in a video clip posted on YouTube on July 17, 2009, the day on which Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani’s Friday prayer speech drew thousands of protesters into the streets.51 The video clip captures the voice of the “chant leader,” a person appointed by the Friday prayers committee. As the chant leader is marching, he shouts into the loud speaker, “The blood in our veins, is a gift to our leader!” The people, however, chant back, “The blood in our veins, is a gift to our nation!” Surprised and baffled, the chant leader shouts into the loudspeaker, “Death to America!” The people respond, “Death to Russia!” He shouts, “Death to hypocrites!” The people shout back, “Death to Russia,” a chant that has become emblematic of the Iranian public’s construction of an alternative narrative to the one propagated by the state.
The Iranian public’s passionate response to the conduct and outcome of the election revived the age-old accusation of foreign interference. This time, however, the public had constructed its own unique narrative, one diametrically opposed to the one promoted by the state. A quick examination of Iran’s contemporary history reveals the historical significance of this break with the state and shift in public attitude. In 1953, the official narrative of the Soviet Union’s interference in Iranian affairs through manipulating the communist Toudeh party seriously weakened Prime Minister Mossadegh’s base of popular support, especially among the clerical establishment, which led a significant portion of the population.
In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini’s endorsement of the overtaking of the American embassy proved to be hugely popular, despite opposition by members of the provisional government who argued that the act would isolate Iran and severely damage the country’s international standing. During the 1980s, the state’s narrative of a global attack on the Iranian Revolution united even the most disparate elements of the population. Even as recently as 1999 and 2003, the state’s narrative of foreign intervention played a role in preventing student protests from spilling outside university campuses. Most significantly, Ahmadinejad himself had managed to prop up his popular support during the 2005 presidential election and throughout his first term by portraying himself as a nationalist hero willing to stand up to the United States and its Western allies, which seek to deprive Iran of its inherent rights as well as deserved privileges.
What separated the 2009 green movement from the previous protests mentioned above was that, this time, a significant portion of the populace rejected the state-sanctioned enemy and replaced it with its own. That the Islamic Republic, with its hardened monopoly over the means of mass communication — including all six nationally televised channels, dozens of radio networks and all but a few newspapers and magazines — is unable to sell its narrative to the public is a testament to the reach of digital communication networks in Iran. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, Iran ranked fourteenth globally in the number of Internet users in 2008, topping 23 percent of the population52 (Iran ranks twentieth in the world in terms of population). Iran boasts even more impressive statistics when it comes to mobile-phone penetration. By the first quarter of 2009, nearly 50 million Iranians — over 70 percent — owned mobile phones.53 Not surprisingly, the Iranian government shut down SMS communication networks for several weeks beginning on June 12, election day. In fact, immediately after the election, the Iranian government stepped up its cyber-censorship efforts, unleashing a massive campaign to prevent online access by filtering opposition websites, reducing Internet bandwidth to the lowest possible levels and setting up fake opposition websites.
Nevertheless, the 2009 green movement in Iran will be remembered around the world by the varied images transmitted amidst the protests. These images documented not only the oppression and violence the Iranian protesters faced but also the Iranian people’s yearning for democracy and human rights.54 Further, as Robin Wright rightfully notes, these uprisings are not a passing phenomenon like the student protests of 1999, which were quickly and forcibly put down. This time, Iranian popular resolve is firm, reminiscent of civil disobedience in colonial India before its independence in 1947 or in the American deep South in the 1960s. Although the current uprising is not as widespread as that of 1979, which ushered in the Islamic Republic, the activism is creating a new political space in Iran. What is original in this movement is that opposition figures such as Ayatollah Rafsanjani and Mir-Hussein Mousavi are responding to sentiment on the street rather than directing it.55
The green wave that engulfed the country during the 2009 election highlighted the political and social energies of the resistance and suggested a new movement that will not settle for anything short of a just and democratic order. The continuing images of resistance that now emerge on a daily basis in Iran are symbols of the strength of the green wave. Facilitated by constant digital interaction via instant messaging and social-network services such as Twitter and YouTube, the green wave drew immediate attention to human-rights violations and political violence in Iran. Many observers have cautioned that on their own, digital technologies and devices cannot produce revolutions. “To generate fundamental change,” Darrell West argues, “it still takes strong leadership, powerful ideas, and people willing to risk arrest and imprisonment.”56
If there is a teachable moment in this episode, it is that the days of enemy construction that used to confer legitimacy on the Islamic Republic are over. Under the watchful eyes of the international community and the Iranian people, it has become obvious that the Islamic Republic train has slipped off track. The Ahmadinejad administration must recognize that without internal legitimacy and credibility, Iran will not be able to remain a dominant regional power. Although one should not underestimate the ability of the Islamic Republic to lead proxy powers in the region, it would be immensely difficult for Iran’s ruling elite to pursue formidable foreign policies in the region and beyond at a time when their credibility is questioned internally. There is a poetic justice, if not irony, here perhaps. The Islamic Republic, which came to power on a platform of fighting against the decay, corruption and suffocation resulting from decades of the autocratic policies of the shah, now finds itself undermined by decadence. History has a way of coming full circle, and it has eventually caught up with Iran.
When Supreme Leader Khamenei declared the election of Ahmadinejad a “divine assessment,” he clearly chose the state over the people, whereas Ayatollah Khomeini had chosen to be on the side of the Iranian people to topple the shah. The idea of velayet-e faqih, rule by the supreme jurist, has now assumed a different meaning, but it cannot escape the reality that the struggle between secular and religious faiths and ideologies is far from over. This accounts for how insecure the ruling elite of Iran have become. One observer notes that a totalitarian regime can be overthrown by war, as Hitler’s Germany was, but in the case of Iran, this option is almost inconceivable. A more realistic alternative is collapse from within, as happened in the Soviet Union.57 This poses the greatest danger to the regime and explains why the government restricted the alternative media and shut down other means of communication shortly after the election.
COMING FULL CIRCLE
With the 2009 presidential election, nearly 30 years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, protests and demonstrations came back to Iran’s streets with a vengeance. The Iranian people, who were chanting “Death to America” three decades ago, have turned inward, shouting “Death to dictator.” By adopting the policies that it once defied as the justification for its rise to power, the Islamic Republic has shot itself in the foot. Is the current situation the beginning of the end for a regime that has itself provoked a “velvet” or “cultural” revolution of the sort that it accuses outsiders of fomenting? Or is this social uproar, as Iran’s ruling elite want us to believe, a tempest in a teapot that will wind up in the dustbin of history?
All indications point to the fact that lingering tensions may not go away anytime soon. The difficulties facing the Islamic Republic are mounting. Many Iranian youth have for a long time felt alienated from the Islamic Republic, and recent electoral fraud has decreased their faith in change through democratic means. Yet the movement is still largely nonviolent. The Islamic Republic has nothing but coercive tools in its arsenal to contain uprisings, even as some of its own advocates question their effectiveness.
For Iranian youth, a bitter irony is that the Islamic Republic supports such regional causes as the Palestinian Intifada (uprising), while at the same time brutally suppressing its own. How could the Islamic Republic advocate democracy for the Iraqis, the Afghans and the Palestinians, yet deny it to its own people? The deepening rifts within the clerical establishment over how to deal with the post-election turmoil point to a crisis of authority that is potentially a far greater menace to the regime’s survival than the crisis among the youth.
But perhaps the most difficult challenge facing the Islamic Republic is the crisis of legitimacy — both internal and external — which renders it an unfit negotiating partner for the West. For Mousavi supporters, the prospects for a new election might be painfully fading away. But no matter what happens next in Iran, there will be no returning back to business as usual. Street movements are hard to contain or suppress, as politicians and the military officers in Poland, Ukraine, Georgia and Romania came to learn in the not-too-distant past. The fall of Franco (Spain), Marcos (the Philippines), Pahlavi (Iran), Somoza (Nicaragua), Pinochet (Chile), and Saddam Hussein (Iraq) all had one thing in common: the militarization of their regimes and the neglect of civilian politics. Although some fell gradually, others collapsed with dramatic speed. In most cases, however, the battle against these dictatorships was fought and won by social — not military — power.
Obama’s policy of “talking with the enemy” has improved the international image of an America that is more willing to engage in dialogue than conflict, in keeping with the position taken by U.S. allies across Europe. Some experts have begun to challenge the wisdom of this approach, arguing that violent repression of street demonstrations since the contested June 12 election has complicated prospects for talks with Iran.58 Others, such as Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs in the Bush administration, who now teaches at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, have made a compelling argument that Obama’s “outstretched hand” not only put an aggressive President Ahmadinejad on the defensive, “but it also denied the Iranian government the ‘easy excuse’ of a hostile U.S. to explain its postelection crackdown.”59
Iran is far more educated, globalized and wired than many of its Middle Eastern neighbors, and the inheritor of a century-old movement for the institutionalization of popular sovereignty and the rule of law (going back to the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-11). The United States should aim at further engaging, rather than isolating or threatening Iran. The present travails of the United States in Iraq have amply demonstrated the absurdity of establishing democracy through conquest. By contrast, greater economic interaction and engagement with Iran as well as its integration into the global economy and communication networks can help to foster a propertied middle class. This middle class, in turn, can empower the modernist segments of the Iranian civil society and thereby set the stage for a transition to liberal democracy.
In light of the massive role that social networking websites played in facilitating and promoting the 2009 green movement, it would seem imperative for the United States to promote digital communication in Iran. Sample measures may include establishing television networks accessible without satellite dishes, providing easy-to-use anti-filtering software and proxy servers, pressuring the Iranian government to join the global communication network, and imposing sanctions on companies that sell the Iranian government sophisticated software to control and censor individual online communication — as Nokia and Siemens have done.60
More important, the United States should facilitate Iran’s integration into the global economy. Joining the WTO, for instance, would help to revive Iran’s struggling private sector. It would also help to reduce the role of the state in managing the country’s economic affairs. Furthermore, Iran’s integration into the global economy would generate employment opportunities for vast numbers of Iran’s youth, who are, for the most part, educated but unable to find jobs. This, in turn, would result in the further growth of Iran’s middle class.
The Obama administration would do well to focus its attention on improving the human-rights conditions in Iran, irrespective of whether the government has retained its power legitimately or otherwise. This approach at least ensures that U.S. human-rights policy can rely on many diplomatic tools and mechanisms, not just sanctions. Better and more comprehensive use should be made of diverse policy instruments, including the political skills of American diplomats and the opportunities provided through international human-rights institutions.61 Along the same lines, others have supported the idea that a “grand bargain” with Iran is a tenable strategy and would support most U.S. objectives in the region. Such a bargain would serve the interests of all. It could be, writes Thomas R. Mattair, very advantageous for GCC states to encourage the U.S. government to engage Iran. Working toward a gradual political evolution in Iran, a grand bargain is the best way for the United States to reverse the growing trend of anti-Americanism among both Shiites and Sunnis in the region.62
The talk of “regime change” in Tehran via the military option is not practical, given the country’s vast terrain and Iranians’ nationalistic sentiments. An Osiraq-style attack, like the Israeli 1981 bombing of Iraq’s reactor, stands little chance of success in a huge country like Iran that has dispersed its nuclear power plants across its territory. This option would undermine any confidence-building measures for securing an eventual compromise. National policy regarding the nuclear program rests with Iran’s supreme leader, who reflects the desires of the conservative religio-political establishment and the military high command. Ironically, the U.S. presence in the region has enhanced Iran’s sense of urgency “for acquiring some form of strategic deterrence.”63 Although the hardliners maintain a tenuous hold at this point, as one expert reminds us, “[The] one way they will lock it in for a long time would be if bombs fell on Iran. Offers of engagement have unsettled the regime. Military confrontation would cement it.”64
To keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, some experts have suggested, key nations should stop buying Iran’s oil and selling it much-needed gasoline.65 But economic sanctions have their own limits, in part because not everyone is willing to participate in enforcing them and also because it would deprive international markets of about 3.5 million barrels of oil per day. Moreover, sanctions, some experts believe, would only retard a nuclear assembly line, should Iran’s ruling elites decide to proceed.66 Iranian officials have raised the question all along concerning why other nuclear countries are not subject to such sanction threats. They have said that they would withdraw from the NPT if faced with military and economic threats.
Withdrawal from the NPT is, however, unlikely; it is too costly for a country where the industrial infrastructure is heavily dependent on production machinery and spare parts from EU countries. More significant, the EU is Iran’s biggest supplier of food, its major import. Sanctions would hurt Iran’s booming trade with the UAE, totaling $8 billion a year. Nearly 4,500 Iranian companies have invested in the UAE.67 The possibility of trade sanctions is arguably a strong deterrent, more than a reasonable risk for the conservative government to take.
Failure to reach an agreement with the Europeans has placed Iran’s European allies in a very awkward position, making it virtually impossible to support its security and economic needs. The fear is that if Iran becomes a nuclear power, then Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt may want to follow suit. This proliferation would widen and deepen U.S. involvement in the region as a step toward containing the further spread of such weapons. Europeans would certainly regard this development with foreboding. France, for example, has made it abundantly clear to Iranian officials that it will not stand up to the United States if Iranian-U.S. disagreements reach a crisis level.
Thus far, the EU has been unable to agree on tougher sanctions for Iran, despite persistent pressure from both Britain and France. Having failed to enlist a broader consensus, Britain and France have recently shifted to a more modest immediate objective: barring two more Iranian banks — Saderat and Melli — from operating on European territory.68 Further economic pressure on Iran’s economy will not bring about a solution. Iranians today are less inclined to support religious nationalism and show very few signs of anti-Americanism. On the nuclear dispute, the key question is why Iranians consider the nuclear program imperative to their future security rather than how the United States or the EU can stop it.
Although we now face an unprecedented opportunity for diplomacy, employing diplomatic means must not be equated with appeasement. This has the potential of antagonizing Iran’s Arab neighbors, who might suspect that U.S. diplomatic concessions to Iran could ultimately help bolster Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the region. The only way to put the minds of Iran’s Arab neighbors at ease and to address Arab concerns about emerging sectarian tensions is to end regional ideological and military competition between Iran and its Arab neighbors. The fact remains that without the cooperation of such central regional players as Iran and Syria, the United States may utterly fail to stop terrorism in the region. That could be managed, as President Obama has noted, by “tough and principled diplomacy.” There is no wiser or more prudent option than “diplomacy” with Iran.69
The longer-than-expected and tremendously expensive engagement in Iraq awakened the Bush administration to the fact that a military approach toward Iran was hazardous, especially at a time when the United States was largely preoccupied with reconstructing Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran could play a positive role in stabilizing U.S. efforts in war-torn Iraq, as was the case in Afghanistan. If Iran’s true intention is to attain energy security for the long term, then the current standoff with the West is likely to be brief; Iran will eventually reach a mutual accommodation that will allow it to develop nuclear energy locally in a way that satisfies all parties. On the other hand, if Iranian ambitions truly are also military in nature, the current consolidation of power in conservatives’ hands — especially in President Ahmadinejad’s second term — bodes ill for a reasonable accommodation with the West. In that case, the United States should pursue policies that strengthen Iran’s opposition movement, as discussed above.
Just as the 1979 Iranian Revolution was regarded as a model in some parts of the Muslim world, so might Iranian reformism and activist opposition to autocratic rule serve as a regional model.70 As the example of Iran suggests, anti-establishment sentiments provide a rich reservoir of energy that needs to be exploited and directed in the interest of change or progress. The “green movement” in Iran has posed more existential threats to the Islamic Republic than the combined pressures of U.S. and UN sanctions in the past 30 years. These sanctions have heightened the sense of threat to the regime, enabling it to rally the people around the flag. The green movement, in contrast, has posed thorny political problems and even threats to the establishment, putting the regime in an unenviable position of resorting to violence. By permitting the use of force to impose Ahmadinejad, as one journalist put it, Khamenei has weakened not only his own position but also that of a future velayet-e faqih.71 Moreover, the credibility of the Ahmadinejad administration has sunk so low that the ability of his government to effectively function remains in doubt.
Electronic communication has made it extremely difficult for repressive regimes to hide behind an alleged threat emanating from an externally-directed conspiracy. Modern communication technologies have rendered obsolete the application of the familiar method of constructing potential or real enemies that has historically enabled ruling elites to clamp down on their people in the name of national security, unity and independence. Despite the fact that the street protests in Iran have faded away in the face of the government’s crackdown, the political cleavages within the government continue. Many within the clerical establishment have spoken against putting dissidents on trial and charging them with conspiring with foreign powers and trying to foment social unrest against the Islamic Republic. Iran’s defeated presidential candidate, Mehdi Karoubi, for example, has vociferously complained that some of those arrested after the election were tortured to death and that some had been raped in detention.72
Internal feuds that were once kept behind the scenes have increasingly come to the surface, exposing major political rifts among Iran’s ruling elites. It is apparent that the Islamic Republic lacks the political institutions and resilient constitutional structure necessary for carrying out reform from within. The Islamic Republic, which came to power in 1979 with the goal of restoring the mantle of moral leadership by combating tyranny and decadence, has increasingly found itself faced with the same charges. Iranian history has come full circle.
2 Nikki R. Keddie, “Secularism and Its Discontents,” Daedalus, Vol. 132, No. 3, Summer 2003, pp. 14-30; see especially p. 25.
3 Christian Caryl, “The Great Backlash: 1979,” Foreign Policy, No. 173, July/August 2009, pp. 50-56; see especially p. 52. In this essay, Caryl refers to movements by Ayatollah Khomeini, Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II and Deng Xiaoping as part of the counterrevolutionaries of 1979, p. 56.
4 Ibid., p. 52.
5 Mathew Krain, Repression and Accommodation in Post-Revolutionary States (St. Martin’s Press, 2000).
6 For an illuminating account of the history of uprisings in Iran, see Stephen Zunes, “Iran’s History of Civil Insurrections,” The Huffington Post, August, 4, 2009 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-zunes/irans-history-of-civil-in_b…).
7 Fareed Zakaria, “On Iran, Do Nothing. Yet,” Newsweek, August 3, 2009, p. 26.
8 Roger Cohen, “Iran: The Tragedy and the Future,” The New York Review of Books, Vol. 56, No. 13, August 13, 2009, pp. 7-10; see especially p. 8.
9 Ibid., p. 8.
10 Mahmood Monshipouri, “Iran’s Search for the New Pragmatism,” Middle East Policy, Vol. 6, No. 2, October 1998, pp. 95-112; see especially pp. 105-106.
11 Ibid., p. 105.
12 Sasan Fayazmanesh, The United States and Iran: Sanctions, Wars and the Policy of Dual Containment (Routledge, 2008), p. 229.
13 Ibid., pp. 230-231.
14 Rory Stewart, “The Irresistible Illusion,” London Review of Books, July 9, 2009 (www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n13/stew01_html).
17 Mohsen M. Milani, “Tehran’s Take: Understanding Iran’s U.S. Policy,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 88, No. 4, July/August, 2009, pp. 46-62; see especially pp. 57-58.
18 Ray Takeyh, Guardians of the Revolution: Iran and the World in the Age of the Ayatollahs (Oxford University Press, 2007).
19 Ali Ansari, “Monumental Miscalculation,” The World Today, July 2009, pp. 4-6; see especially p. 5.
20 Ali Alfoneh, “Ahmadinejad versus the Technocrats,” Middle Eastern Outlook, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, No. 4, May 2008.
21 Christopher de Bellaigue, “Iran,” Foreign Policy, No. 148, May-June 2005, pp. 18-24; see especially p. 19.
22 Jahangir Amuzegar, “Islamic Social Justice, Iranian Style,” Middle East Policy, Vol. 14, No. 3, September 2007, pp. 60-78.
23 It should be noted that Iran’s nuclear program has not been built since the 1979 Iranian Revolution; rather, it was built in the shah’s era with the assistance of Europe and the United States.
24 Christopher de Bellaigue, “Iran,” Foreign Policy, No. 148, May-June 2005, pp. 18-24; see especially p. 19.
25 Meir Javedanfar, “Difficult Customers,” Iranian.com, July 31, 2005.
27 Edward N. Luttwak, “Why Diplomacy Will Fail with Iran,” The Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2009.
28 Matt Duss, “Gerson: How Does This Engagement Thing Work?” National Security, July 29, 2009 (http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2009/07/29/gerson-how-does-this-engag…).
29National Intelligence Estimate, “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities,” November 2007 (http://www.dni.gov/press_releases/20071203_release.pdf).
30 Dafna Linzer, “Iran Is Judged 19 Years from Nuclear Bomb,” The Washington Post, August 2, 2005, p. A1.
31 Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (Crown Publishers, 2008), p. 140.
32 Ibid., p. 168.
33 Joe Klein, “Who’s Afraid of Iran,” Time, August 3, 2009, p. 23.
34 Kaveh Ehsani and Chris Toensing, “Neo-Conservatives, Hardline Clerics and the Bomb,” Middle East Report, No. 233, Vol. 34, No. 4, Winter 2004, pp. 10-15; see especially p. 12.
35 Ibid., p. 10.
36 Ibid., p. 59.
37 Ibid., p. 60.
38 Thierry Coville, “An Economic Crisis after the Political Crisis in Iran,” Affairs-Strategiques.info, July 27, 2009 (http://www.affaires-strategiques.info/spip.php?article1735).
39 Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook (https://www.cia.gov/library/
41 Morteza Aminmansor, “Iran, Inflation, and the Future of the Country,” News Central Asia, January 16, 2008 (http://www.newscentralasia.net/Articles-and-Reports/208.html).
42 Ali Mollahsseini, “Gender and Employment in Iran,” Indian Journal of Gender Studies, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2008, pp 159-162; see especially p. 161.
43 Christina Prifti, “Education in Iran: Towards a Second Islamization?” Middle East Bulletin, July 2008, Issue 12, pp. 9-11; see especially p. 10.
44 “Memorandum from the Association of Iranian Women in the UK,” Association of Iranian Women in the UK (www.parliament.the-stationeryoffice.co.uk.pa/cm200203/ cmselect/cmfaff/405/405we15.htm).
45 Hamid Jalipour, a sociologist at Tehran University, made this point in an interview in Tehran in 2005.
46 Mostafa Tajzadeh made this remark during an interview in Tehran in 2005.
47 Mahmood Monshipouri interviewed Mahboobeh Abbasgolizadeh, who directs an NGO training center in Tehran, in Tehran in 2005.
48 Mahmood Monshipouri, “The Road to Globalization Runs through Women’s Struggle: Iran and the Impact of Nobel Peace Prize,” World Affairs, Vol. 167, No. 1, Summer 2004, pp. 3-14.
49 Richard Youngs, “Dicing with Democracy,” The World Today, July 2009, pp. 7-9; see especially p. 9.
50 Shane D’Aprile, “Operation New Media,” Politics, April 2009, pp. 26-37; see especially pp. 28-37.
51 Watch the clip titled “2009-07-17_Tehran_Part 107” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InKo75c-l1A.
52 Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html).
53 “ICT Statistics Newslog – Iran Subscriber Growth Still Going Strong But Signs of a Slowdown,” International Telecommunications Union, July 27, 2009 (http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/newslog/Iran+Subscriber+Growth+Still+Going…).
54 See the reactions to Darrell West, “The Two Faces of Twitter: Revolution in a Digital Age,” The Huffing ton Post, June 22, 2009; Nicola Colbran, “Twitter and YouTube: Positive Developments for Human Rights Protection?” Shareen Hertel, “Protest, Iranian Style: A Two-Way Conversation?” and Anja Mihr, “Iran: Who Is Quicker—the Hacker or the Twitter?” Human Rights & Human Welfare, August 2009 (http://www.du.edu/korbel/hrhw/news/index.html).
55 Robin Wright, “Fighting Back,” Time, August 10, 2009, p. 43.
56 Darrell West, “The Two Faces of Twitter: Revolution in a Digital Age,” The Huffington Post, June 22, 2009 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/darrell-west/the-two-faces-of-twitter_b_2…).
57 David Pryce-Jones, “Green Flags and Brown Shirts,” National Review, July 6, 2009, pp. 16-17.
58 Howard Lafranchi, “Is ‘Let’s Talk’ Diplomacy Failing?” The Christian Science Monitor, August 9, 2009, pp. 19-20.
59 Nicholas Burns is cited in Howard Lafranchi, “Is ‘Let’s Talk’ Diplomacy Failing?” The Christian Science Monitor, August 9, 2009, pp. 19-20.
60 Christopher Rhoads and Loretta Chao, “Iran’s Web Spying Aided by Western Technology,” The Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2009.
61 Felice D. Gaer, “ Echoes of the Future? Religious Repression as a Challenge to U.S. Human Rights Policy,” in William F. Schulz, ed., The Future of Human Rights: U.S. Policy for a New Era (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), pp. 193-214; see especially p. 214.
62 Thomas R. Mattair, Global Security Watch: Iran, A Reference Handbook (Praeger Security International, 2008), pp. 145-146.
63 Mahmood Monshipouri, “The Road to Globalization Runs thorough Women’s Struggle,” p. 13.
64 Roger Cohen, op. cit., p. 10.
65 These policy recommendations are two elements of a 12-point Iran policy proposed by Jennifer Mizrahi, head of the pro-Israel nonprofit organization, The Israel Project. This is cited in David P. Francis, “Sanctions on Iran and Israel Could Defuse Middle East,” The Christian Science Monitor, August 2, 2009, p. 32.
66 Kaveh Ehsani and Chris Toensing, op. cit., p.14.
67 Meir Javedanfar, “Difficult Customers,” Iranian.com, July 31, 2005.
68 “EU Members Cannot Agree on More Sanctions,” a report from the Paris daily Le Monde cited by Iran Times, January 23, 2009, p. 5.
69 Mahmood Monshipouri, “U.S.-Iran Relations: Embracing a New Realism,” Emirates Lecture Series, No. 77, The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, Abu Dhabi, UAE, 2009, pp. 33-35.
70 Nikki R. Keddie, op. cit., p. 25.
71 Michael Jansen, “Strategic Folly,” Gulf Today: Panorama, August 7-13, 2009, pp. 46-47.
72 Simon Tisdall, “Iran Admits Election Demonstrators Were Tortured,” The Guardian, August 10, 2009 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/aug/09/iran-protesters-torture-ele…).