Iran and Turkey Detente

The Guardian is reporting about the recent diplomatic flurry between Iran and Turkey. The question I have is the following: what does this mean for the landlocked Armenia? Is Iran, after so many years of staying neutral in the Armenian-Azeri conflict finally going to be un-neutralled, thereby entering a coalition with Azerbaijan and Turkey who have no qualms about their wish to see Armenia cornered into a neo-dhimmitude? The first salvo in this direction, or at least the warning shot of an impending deterioration in relations between Armenia and Iran could have been the reports coming out of Iran this past week that Armenia is not keeping its end of the bargain vis-a-vis Iranian gas deliveries into the the country. Or am I being an alarmist? Report can be accessed here.

Is Iran dropping Russia for Turkey?

The famous Chinese strategist, Sun Tzu, wrote in his book, The Art of War: “If an enemy has alliances, the problem is grave and the enemy’s position strong; if he has no alliances, the problem is minor and the enemy’s position weak.”

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is currently witnessing how the US, which he sees as the enemy for his nuclear ambitions, is working hard on building alliances, including with Russia. Khamenei is not happy.

So much so that Iran recently cancelled a deal with Russia to launch its communication satellite, and turned to Italy instead. This is in addition to recent complaints from Tehran regarding delays from Russia in the delivery of the S-300 anti-aircraft system. Until recently, Tehran kept its complaints away from the cameras and behind closed doors. But now that Khamenei sees the Russians as disloyal, his regime is not shy about airing its criticism publicly.

The Iranian government has decided to take the initiative and to look for a new partner to replace the Russians. Judging by the recent flurry of visits between Tehran and Ankara, it seems that Khamenei has found a willing partner in Turkey.

Unlike Russia, Turkey does not have a veto in the UN security council. However, its stock in the Middle East and the Islamic world is certainly rising. Its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is being seen more and more as a credible defender of Islamic and Arab issues. Many people on the Arab street respect his leadership, as he was elected in a genuinely democratic elections. The same can not be said about Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, or King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who received their posts undemocratically.

Published in: on November 18, 2009 at 11:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Ahmed Dabashi’s take on Iran

Ahmed Dabashi, the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, and the author of the definitive work on the Islamic Revolution in Iran (Theology of Discontent) has written a perceptive article on the current crisis in Iran.

In a short essay that Abbas Amanat, a scholar of 19th-century Iran at Yale University, was asked to write for The New York Times on the current crisis in Iran, he asserted that what we are witnessing is “the rise of a new middle class whose demands stand in contrast to the radicalism of the incumbent President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and the core conservative values of the clerical elite, which no doubt has the backing of a religiously conservative sector of the population.”

This learned position of a leading scholar very much sums up the common wisdom that Iranian expatriate academics are offering an excited public mesmerized by the massive demonstrations they witness on their television sets or computer screens and eager to have someone make sense of them.

In part because of these hurried interpretations, the movement that is unfolding in front of our eyes is seen as basically a middle-class uprising against a retrograde theocracy that is banking on backward, conservative and uneducated masses who do not know any better. While the illiterate and “uncouth” masses provide the populist basis of Ahmadinejad’s support, the middle class is demanding an open-market civil society.

Highly educated, pro-Western and progressive Iranians are thus placed on Mir Hossein Moussavi’s side, while backward villagers and urban poor are on Ahmadinejad’s. The fact that in North America and Western Europe, usually unveiled and fluently English-speaking women are brought to speak on behalf of the women demonstrators further intensifies the impression that if women are veiled or do not speak English fluently then they must be Ahmadinejad supporters.

This is a deeply false dichotomy that projects a flawed picture to the outside world. It is predicated on the spin that a very limited pool of expatriate academics are putting on a movement that is quite extraordinary in Iranian political culture, one whose full dimensions have yet to be unpacked.

Published in: on June 23, 2009 at 9:22 pm  Leave a Comment