Tenth Administration and the Problem of Insufficient International Weight

28 July 2009 | 22:59 Code : 5124 General category
The elections failed to give the establishment what it wanted. By Javad Mahzadeh.
Tenth Administration and the Problem of Insufficient International Weight
In the past years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has advanced its nuclear agenda relying on popular support. In this course, the establishment also enjoyed the backing of all political parties and groups.
Although many countries are against Iran’s nuclear program and try to show it as having military purposes, relying on the Iranian nation and popular governments, the Islamic Republic has stood against West and claims that its nuclear program is a national achievement, and a national demand.
No doubt that a key outcome of Iran’s quasi-democracy, and its key merit for the Islamic establishment was Iranians’ high level of participation which lent legitimacy to every administration and reinforced Iran’s maneuverability and power of bargain to advance national interests in international affairs. Whether it was Khatami’s or Ahmadinejad’s, every government had succeeded in gaining high popular vote, though differences between these two presidents have been so profound that they may appear as presidents of two different countries.
U-turns in people’s choice are the result of the unique modus operandi of democracy in Iran. However, what has benefited the Islamic Republic, and is used as a necessary, but not adequate, support in negotiations on the nuclear impasse, has been this popular turnout and formation of administration with overwhelming vote.
On the verge of tenth presidential election, the Islamic Republic was in dire need of such an administration; one with the highest popularity and with the widest margin against its opponents. This would set up a powerful administration which could battle West on the nuclear program, continue the anti-holocaust discourse, play the game in Israel’s court, and flex muscles relying on maximum domestic support.
The course of events in presidential developed in a way that led to Ahmadinejad’s reelection with a wide margin against rivals. This could give his administration added credit to deal with foreign countries and advance Iran’s national interests.
Ahmadinejad defeated his closest rival with a 2 to 1 lead, but the unexpected came up when the legitimacy of elections, and consequently the administration, were questioned by forces inside and outside the country. Popular protests started after the initial vote-counting. Objecting candidates did not put one step back and talked of widespread rigging and vote manipulation. With the culmination of protests West became happier and happier, feeling itself closer to what it wanted to achieve. This does not mean that the demonstrators are hand in hand with West. It refers to domestic problems formed through a natural process but leading to results which were completely against the anticipation of those who held the election.
Both people and objecting candidates protested to regain their rights. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad’s high vote was a definite necessity which, if shown as untrue or questionable, would fetter the administration in foreign relations and confrontation with West. The first phase of the project was realized and Ahmadinejad received a resounding vote. The second phase failed however, i.e. reviving legitimacy and intimidating enemies. In the first two weeks after the elections, Iran was flooded with remarks from West criticizing Iran for its handling of the elections and post-election developments.
Extension of popular protests from Iran to other countries, and pressures from human rights groups, even emboldened Swedish FM Carl Bildt to say that Iran has lost a lot of its legitimacy at home as well as abroad. His remarks, though objectionable, need to be closely examined to understand EU’s next steps against Iran:" Obviously the regime is trying to preserve its position by very harsh repression. But that cannot hide the fact that this is a weakened regime. It has lost legitimacy both internally and externally ".
The comments seem to have been made to give Iran the feeling of having insufficient weight. Following these were Berlusconi’s remarks which aimed to restrict Iran’s maneuverability. Berlusconi bluntly talked of possible sanctions against Iran by G8. Even if imposition of further sanctions fails due to Russia and China’s opposition, what has been mentioned by two senior European officials is itself a threat to make Iran understand that any decision is possible and the Iranian regime which lacks internal legitimacy can not respond.
Iran meanwhile tried to retaliate by pressuring the British embassy and denouncing its UK’s intervention in its domestic affairs. But as one illustrative cartoon has shown, the genie in the jar can only make three wishes come true. The fourth wish –that everything goes back to pre-election situation- is not possible.
Besides attacking Iran’s suppression of demonstrations, EU gave a strong response after Iran detained 9 British employees and stressed that "Harassment or intimidation of foreign or Iranian staff working in embassies will be met with a strong and collective EU response". Iran got the message and the detainees were released one by one.
It seems that Iran is not in a situation to wield power in the international arena, and West has the upper hand in dealing with Iran. Even if China and Russia bring a gap to G8, they will ask Iran for a reward. Meanwhile, they have to face the responses in case of expressing opposition to further pressures on Iran.
At any rate, the course of elections developed such that failed to fulfill the desired result, i.e. Ahmadinejad’s re-election with broad domestic support and gaining credit to act more powerfully in nuclear negotiations. Iran has to be happy with one or two things the genie has given.

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