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PostUS Missile Strike on Syria and the Iran Factor (A. J. Cave, USA, 04/11/17 4:09 am)
It is interesting to thumb through some of the posts on the US airstrike on one of the Syrian airbases. Without getting knee-deep into the analytical and political swamp, I'll tiptoe by saying that buried among the hot and heavy rhetoric coming out of the Islamic Republic of Iran about US-Syria is a bit from the Iranian President Rouhani that "Syria could use some reform."
I should unpack the significance of this bit for those who are not familiar with the regional geopolitics.
Islamic Republic's presidential elections are in May (2017) and President Rouhani, who is running for a second term, is staying with his platform of moderation (vs the typical hardliners playbook). Islamic Republic is one of the key players in the six-year old proxy Syrian's civil war (along with Russia). However, with the military entry of US into the mix, all bets are off and they have to re-think their strategy and priority and re-set their tactics. It is one thing to huff and puff, but they simply can't fight real wars on multiple fronts (internal and historical conflicts, plus ISIS, Syria and now US). So, they are subtly signaling a willingness to cut a deal as long as they are seen as the key regional player keeping peace between US and Russia. Syria, for all practical purposes, is just a ghost in the shell.
The biggest challenge of the Iranians is to get us (United States) to the bargaining table--front and center, not via other regional proxies. I don't know if it is a game President Trump is willing to play--yet.
JE comments: Sifting through the tea leaves of "Syria could use some reform" yields a significant message. To use the new buzzword of geopolitics, are we seeing an Iranian "pivot" on Assad? Wouldn't that be giving a victory of sorts to Trump? Granted, the fledgling IRI did the same for Reagan in 1980-'81.
A. J.: When time allows, could you send us a primer on Iran's upcoming elections?
Iran's Presidential Elections, May 19
(A. J. Cave, USA
04/13/17 4:32 AM)
I used to say that [fill-in the blank] in the Islamic Republic is complicated. But it actually isn't.
Here is the easy button: Islamic Republic is the new absolute monarchy, and the supreme leader is the new tyrant.
In a nutshell, during the week of 11-15 April, Muslim Iranian men enter the presidential race by registering with the presidential election office. A few brave women throw their headscarfs into the race too, but they have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than remaining in the race.
Some important-sounding committee narrows the long list of presidential hopefuls to a handful based on guidelines from the supreme leader. Then there are public campaigns and TV debates by the approved candidates. Some of the Iranians who are eligible to vote, vote. Then the president is elected by the election committee according to the preferences of the supreme leader, based on direct communique from God.
The president is responsible for the humdrum business of running the country, while the supreme leader is in charge of talking to God, as the representative of the Prophet on earth. The rest of the ruling class is more pragmatically focused on pocketing the oil profits.
The top 3 strategic imperatives of the current supreme leader are:
1) global activation of political Islam
2) destruction of ISIS, after which, they can go back to beating up on Israel and US
3) marginalization of Saudi Arabia
Yesterday, former two-term IRI president, the infamous Mahmood Ahmadi-nejad, and (almost) all of his old gang signed up for the gig too, even though they were told by the supreme leader that was a bad idea.
That's about it.
Islamic Republic's presidential election process trumps our democratic system by putting a supreme leader, who communicates directly with God, in charge of the president.
JE comments: Ahmadinejad looks rested and ready. I know nothing about Iranian public opinion, but there must be some sentiment that the IRI needs a tough guy to stand up to the American Tough Guy.
One thing to admire about Iranian politics: elections lasting one month. Wouldn't that be nice?