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Friday, June 26, 2009

Iran: Possible Scenarios

First, where do things stand with the protests? The government's repressive measures appear to be increasingly effective in suppressing the movement to the streets. At the same time, however, there is word that Rafsanjani may have collected enough anti-Khamenei votes in the Assembly of Experts to force a compromise, possibly in the form of a run-off election between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. At the same time, it seems unlikely that Rafsanjani has the votes to have Khamenei removed outright. The outcome, in other words, looks increasingly like something like a power-sharing agreement between the clerics allied around Rafsanjani and the militarist/nationalists (including plenty of clerics) around Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, in which Khamenei will remain Supreme Leader but the orthodox clerics will get some concessions - possibly starting with the rumored run-off election - and will insist on a greater say in how things are done from here on out.

Understanding the fact that Khamenei and Ahmadinejad are political rather than religious figures -- and that their opponents, led by Ayatollah Rafsanjani, speak for the religious voice in Iran's leadership -- is directly relevant to thinking about Iran's nuclear program. The fact that Ahmadinejad is on the less religious end of the spectrum helps explain why his government might be pursuing a nuclear weapons program despite years of statements by Iran's leading religious authorities that nuclear weapons are an offense against God. One positive outcome of a power-sharing arrangement might be a government that is more willing to bend on issues relating to its nuclear program.

link: Howard Schweber: Iran and the Syrian Gambit


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