My latest opinion piece for Al-Monitor discusses a series of domestic political and bureaucratic challenges faced by Rouhani’s administration. Iran’s domestic political system is not monolithic and cannot be painted with broad brushstrokes. A more nuanced view of the political intricacies of the country presents a more realistic picture of the issues that lie ahead.
By reaching a framework agreement with the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany (P5+1), President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has come closer to resolving Iran’s nuclear saga than any of his predecessors, regardless of the final outcome. However, the nuclear negotiations have caused another big part of Rouhani’s agenda to be neglected — a long list of domestic, social and political demands made by the Iranian people and the Reformist camp. To keep his critics at bay and his support base intact, Rouhani needs to shift his focus toward rebalancing the government. Given the intricate domestic political considerations and the country’s vast bureaucratic machinery, the task at hand is a challenging one.
Backed by different interests and ideologies, which result in varying domestic political calculations, each incoming faction adopts a domestic policy agenda best suited for its constituents. Such factors are often underweighted or absent in mainstream analyses of a president’s performance. The elected government needs to keep the domestic political factions and the constituents content to operate with relative ease. If an administration neglects this delicate balancing act, it is bound to face a tremendous amount of opposition from competing groups. Read more…
My latest opinion piece for Al-Monitor discusses the formation of a new Reformist faction called Neda. The faction could be the much-needed impetus for the Reformists’ return to the political arena; however, ranking Reformists remain skeptical. By vowing to get closer to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the group could open some breathing room for Reformists, while at the same time disenfranchising the more radical elements of the Reformist camp.
The nascent group, which announced its decision to officially become a political faction by submitting a request to Iran’s Interior Ministry, consists of a 12-member founding board, under the leadership of Sadegh Kharazi, a seasoned diplomat and adviser to former Reformist President Mohammad Khatami. The majority of members belong to the youth wings of banned Reformist groups such as the Islamic Iran Participation Front, a political faction credited as the most dominant force within the 1997 Iranian Reform Movement, and the Organization of the Mujahedeen of the Islamic Revolution, a small, influential political faction. The prominent members of these groups were arrested and the factions were banned following the disputed 2009 presidential election.
There are many uncertainties surrounding the nature, ideology and ultimate objective of the new political faction. However, Kharazi has made it clear that one of their major objectives is to “play an effective role” in upcoming elections. Tired of the first generation of Reformists’ inaction following the 2009 presidential election, Neda has taken it upon itself to pave the way for the political participation of younger, second-generation Reformists. Read more…
Iran’s former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, delivered his annual Nowruz message via YouTube on Thursday, during which he cautiously criticized the achievements of President Rouhani’s administration thus far.
In his message Khatami highlights that the new government’s promises regarding political and social freedoms have not been fulfilled and that a large gap still exists between the ideals expected by voters and the delivered campaign promises by Iran’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani.
The video appears to have been produced by the Baran Foundation, an NGO founded by Khatami after his presidential tenure (1997-2005) that mainly focuses on the promotion of social justice and the improvement of welfare programs.
The former president invited the Iranian citizens, especially the youth, to remain hopeful and continue to demand their rights, all while keeping their expectations realistic.
Khatami concluded his remarks with a poem from the beloved fourteenth century Persian poet, Hafez that seems to highlight his message of hope and perseverance.
The Persian text of the speech was published on Baran Foundation’s official website. The translation of the message is provided below.
In the name of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful.
In the name of God who is beautiful and likes beauty.
In the name of God, the most gracious, the most kind.
In the name of the God of spring, the God of human beings, the God of life.
The God who perfects his creation.
The God who wants humans to be alive, dynamic, and sophisticated.
The God who wants a beautiful life for all humans.
The past year, like many years before, consisted of a number of bitter and sweet events. Our nation has consistently tried to get past and tolerate hardships with grace, patience, and a sense for recognizing opportunities. In this manner, we have tried to improve our lives. This past year we witnessed an election that increased the hope in people; an election that should rightly be labeled as political heroism. The creation of a free and safe environment for all groups and factions was what the society expected and demanded. The [election] increased the hope of achieving such dreams. This amazing political achievement [2013 Presidential Election] could have become more glorious if the political environment would have opened up, if the environment of the country had transitioned from a security state to a political one, if political prisoners would have been freed, and if various restrictions and limitations on many individuals had lifted.
Unfortunately, however, such expectations did not come to fruition. Some attempts have been made, but they are not close to ideals. There is still hope for us to create an environment in which hearts are closer to each other. Such an environment would be beneficial for the people, the country, and the regime. It can increase passion and enthusiasm for the country’s development and cooperation in enhancing the state affairs.
We have many issues in many areas. Without a doubt, life is difficult for the majority of our people. Especially for the lower classes of our society, who are significant in numbers. Fortunately, in this regard, the plans and policies of the new administration are good. I hope that various departments and organizations support them. As witnessed, relative openings have been experienced in the foreign policy and economic arenas. However, these openings have to increase. While keeping in mind the national interests of the country, determined and solid steps forward should be taken. The beautiful side of Iran and the divine face of Islam should be demonstrated to the world. Commitment to ensuring the rights and welfare of a nation is a heavy responsibility for the administration and the regime. Of course, by keeping in mind the limitations and the available resources, [people] should keep their expectations at a realistic and logical level. However, we should never lose hope for the future.
Now, I would like to address the dear youth who are the country’s main asset. If there is freedom and prosperity, it is the youth who first experience it, and if there is restriction, unfortunately, it is also the youth who first experience it. But, the youth should never lose hope. They should continue to try. The regime should prepare the environment for the free, active, and enthusiastic presence of the youth in various sectors. All entrepreneurs, laborers, and all who are active should work together to advance the affairs of the country. The esteemed administration should prepare the background for the free presence of all factions, groups, organizations, and the private sector. The administration should utilize all internal and external talents in order to improve the situation. Fortunately, this intention exists and I hope to witness the realization of even bigger steps.
We have hope for the future. We are attached to this land and country. We count on our revolution. We want our regime to be prosperous and proud. In the foundation of this regime, we protect the honor, respect, and dignity of all humans. We hope to witness comprehensive reforms within the regime in the upcoming year–in order to strengthen the regime and to strengthen the foundations of national security and social prosperity. We also hope to witness the building of an environment that allows the use of internal and external recourses for improving the political, economical, and cultural situation of the country.
I wish for prosperity and happiness for all our dear people and for all who like Iran and Iranians. I hope to God, who has the power to change hearts, who controls the affairs, the God who creates days and nights, and the God who has the power to change all conditions and situations, to change our condition for the better. I hope it happens in a way that we are all happy with our daily lives. I hope that the people and the government step side by side towards a better future.
[Hafez – Ghazal #164]
Morning breeze, its fragrance will exhale
The old world will once again youthfully sail.
Tulip will bring a red cup to the meadows
Narcissus’ eyes from poppy will grow pale.
When would nightingale put up with such abuse
Leave not joy of the now till the morrow
Who can vouch that the morrow, the now shall trail?
Hold dear all the flowers and commune
Came to be and will whither with a breeze or a gale.
This feast is for friends, O minstrel, play and sing
Sing again, it came thus and went thus, to what avail?
Hafez, for your sake, entered this tale
Walk with him, say farewell, he’ll tear the veil