Jun 15, 2009 8:22 pm


Sheema Kalbasi provides an Iranian dissident view of the stakes:

It was supposed to be the perfect script. Mousavi’s victory was supposed to be hailed as the indication of Iranian rulers having “unclenched their fist”. It was supposed to be the perfect time for reconciliation with Mullahs. It was supposed to be the clearest sign yet of the success of Obama administration’s soft spoken approach towards the Muslim world. It was supposed to be the time for celebration of the Obama effect.

Ahmadinejad’s coup d'état changed the game altogether. It sent all the deal-makers and rapprochement enthusiasts of Washington think-tanks back to the drawing board.

The most important foreign policy implication is that the coup d'état government is dead serious about going nuclear. Any “grand-bargain” between Washington and Tehran under Mousavi would have led to concessions on Iran’s nuclear program. This would have been unacceptable for the Pasdaran commanders who will not be content with any less position than the one enjoyed by their Pakistani counterparts.

As the western governments and in particular US will be wrestling with the question of legitimacy versus negotiations, the coup d'état government will use the time to make as much progress as possible in its nuclear program. Unlike what many might think, the coup d'état government will in fact embrace doubts on its legitimacy to further complicate the issue and seize on it as an opportunity to blame the West for interference in Iranian domestic affairs. As the game continues, Israel will see no choice but to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. What will happen next is anyone’s guess.

This is all obviously conditioned on the success of the coup d'état which by no means is a given at this time. The arrests made by the coup d'état government yesterday has no significance other than a show of force. Rafsanjani is the only person who, as the head of the assembly of experts, has the authority to remove Khamenei from power. He has the will but the question is whether he has enough number of votes (i.e. enough support among clerics). Many believe that he is in Qom to make such assessment. Additionally, such high risk move has a chance of success only against the backdrop of mass dissatisfaction with the election results and at least some support from the armed and security forces.

A velvet change is underway. Whether it turns out to be a velvet revolution or velvet coup d'état remains to be seen.

Must read: Michael ledeen, The Iranian Circus

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