Opinion article by Farhad Fauhaum
In July of 2013 in an article titled “Iran At a Crossroad with Hassan Rohani”, I had argued that the Shia clergy in Iran are not a monolithic group and have historically been significant political difference makers in the country.
The outcome of Rohani’s UN performance is an indication of the political ability and leadership of the Iranian clergy. Rohani’s approach towards resolution of the nuclear issue has optimally placed the issue on a new and constructive track. His objective thesis on the Iranian nuclear issue was a strong antithesis to the Neocons high schoolish and subjective narrative propagated by the Western media.
“Iran is enriching uranium. Once they have enough uranium they will build a bomb. As soon as a bomb is built Iranians in a hurry will drop it on Israel. Meanwhile they will give some nuclear stuff to terrorists who would drop it on the western world. Knowing that the following day the U.S. would obliterate their country. Iranians would do it anyway because stupid is as stupid does”.
“Iran must prove that its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes. Developing nuclear bombs is a strategic mistake for Iran. It is the responsibility of Iran to affirmatively convince the International community of the peaceful nature of its nuclear activities. Iran’s activities must be transparent and verifiable. Rohani has been given full authority to negotiate the issue”.
Rohani’s objective antithesis has changed the politics of nuclear enrichment and has opened a new track for dealing with this issue. As Margaret Thatcher once said “once you sell the policy, the politics will take care of itself”. Rohani has effectively sold a rational policy and Western governments have no choice but to re-conceptualize their politics in this regard.
Rohani’s presentation has been satisfactory to his constituents at home and many countries and leaders in the international community. Rohani has strengthened the position of the Brzezinski side of the American foreign policy establishment and has marginally weakened the Neocons.
The Brzezinski side believes in keeping Iran in one piece and integrating the country in the direction of the European economies, etc. The Neocons believe in total destruction and disintegration of Iran. But ,as compared to Neocons,the political power of the Brzezinski side is like a corner grocery store against a national chain. Rohani’s performance has marginally tilted the U.S. foreign policy in the direction of Bresenski.
Another driver of change in U.S. foreign policy is the widening of the gap between European and American positions regarding resolution of Iranian issues. Recent dismissal of the cases against two Iranian banks by the EU general court is a material indication of this theory. Reduction of European support for the U.S. position reduces the countervailing power (Overall negotiating position) of the U.S. side and Neocons and increases the countervailing power of the Iranian side.
Still further changes in U.S. policies will be induced by a number of changes that have been on their way in the repositioning of the European policies towards Iran. As a minimum, the economic and political cost of following the U.S. policies has become too high for many countries including a few European countries. A number of European companies including French car maker Puget are suffering loss of revenues and profitability as a result of loss of Iranian business.
The outcome of a bilateral negotiation usually tilts towards the party with larger countervailing power. European tilt away from the U.S. position will incrementally reduce the U.S. position and force additional changes in the U.S. policies towards Iran. Changes In the U.S. behavior towards Iran shall be incremental and will be depend on a number of changes in the International behavior towards the U.S. global policies as well. Currently The U.S. standing in the world is diminishing with a massive speed.
Iranians’ understanding of the dimensions of the nuclear issue is flawless and intelligent. Yet Iranian understanding of the U.S. foreign policy is incorrectly Zionist centric and incomplete.
It is true that The U.S. foreign policy is Zionist infiltrated, yet it is erroneous to assume that it is Zionist driven or controlled. The fake Golf of Tonkin incident to start the Vietnam war was not for the benefit of Israel or the Zionists. The object of the false flag incident was to sell an enemy to the American people and start a war. Once the war began it developed its own life.
Just like defusing the nuclear Issue. Iranians could use their outmost intellectual abilities to conceptualize policies that would defuse a war with the U.S. as well. Iranians’ current approach regarding this issue is not optimal.
Significant changes in domestic policies of Iran can further contribute to the countervailing power of Iran. Successful efforts in enhancing the legitimacy (representing the will of the population) of the Iranian government shall be additional contributing factor to improve the countervailing power of Iran.
Rohani’s domestic issues are much more challenging than the International issues. Rohani has mistakenly prioritized economic issues as the highest priority for his administration and has suggested a 90 day turnaround in the economy. Misplaced political priorities have severe consequences.
Dr. Mosadegh is a popular political figure in Iranian politics due to his nationalization of the oil Industry. Yet this priority was misguided with adverse consequences. At the time of oil nationalization in 1951, Iranians did not know how to operate or market the oil. Nationalization placed the government in budgetary despair and political disunity and subsequent coup d’etat sponsored by the CIA placing the country under another 25 years of absolute dictatorship under Mohamad Reza Pahlavi.
The 1907 revolution in Iran against the Quajar Dynasty had yielded a written constitution and establishment of parliament in the country. For the first time in 2500 years Iranians, were being ruled by law and not by arbitrary force of the kings or governments. Iranians began to develop political parties and leaders and a complete political infrastructure for a democratic society. Yet the 1921 coup d’ etat by Reza Khan made him a king who subsequently dismantled the entire democratic infrastructure of Iran, until Reza Shah’s abdication and exile in 1941.
After departure of Reza Shah, once again Iranian politicians began to reestablish the lost democratic political infrastructure of Iran and by 1953 the democratic system still needed more time to mature, etc. Nationalization of the oil industry had short run political success for Mosadegh, but long run defeat for development of democratic infrastructure in the country.
The Iranian economy has always been an inefficient mess and cannot be corrected in 90 days or 90 months or 90 years. Without significant social and political reforms, the economy will never have an optimum performance. Rohani cannot deliver massive economic recovery and should not need to feel obligated to do so.
Rohani’s highest priority could be to maintain and expand the legitimacy (representing the will of the population) of the government. Efforts to establish legitimacy will have a positive effect on all socio- economic problems of Iran ‘and’ like the nuclear issue will place the country on the right track. People who like their governments do not revolt because of a downturn in their economy.
Domestically, Iran is in social, political and economic disequilibrium. Equilibrium is a state of rest. Disequilibrium is a state of unrest. Imposition of Shia principles and principles of Sharia law on the entire population is the most significant cause of unrest in the country.
In 2500 BC. Iranian king Cyrus, out of religious principles and political pragmatism had adopted a laissez faire (Hands off) policy towards the social and religious differences of his multicultural and multi religious empire. A later dynasty, the Sassanied dynasty ( 224CE-651CE ), on the other hand declared the Zoroastrian religion as the official religion of the country. Adoption of this policy placed the government in constant conflict with many segments of its population and was a contributing factor in the weakening of the government and defeat of the dynasty by Arab invaders in 7th century.
The Sassanied massacre of the Mazdakie population who were religious communists and other groups is no different than the current senseless abuse of the Bahais by the Shia fanatics and infringement on other religious groups’ rights and freedoms.
Iranian Jews, Bahia’s, Christians and Zoroastrians are highly entrepreneurial with access to domestic and international sources of power and capital etc... Re-equilibration of the Iranian society has numerous benefits including economic benefits.
In the early 19th century many Iranian politicians who had traveled to European countries had concluded that the major reason for the backwardness of Iran was the arbitrary power of the monarchy and the government to deprive the population of their lives and property.
Amir Kabir (1848-1851) who was the prime minister of the Quajar Dynasty king Naser Al din Shah had begun major reforms to reduce the arbitrary power of the king to deprive the citizens of their lives and property . He was dismissed by his brother in law, the king, and was subsequently assassinated.
Quaem Magham the reformist prime minister to Mohammad Ali Shah, the last Quajar dynasty king was assassinated by the order of the king as well.
Reform movements in Iran are dynamic and have subsequent consequences. Naser Al Din Shah who opposed the reform movement caused intensification of social discontent and the start of the Mashrooteh revolution under his son Mozafar Al din Shah. Naser Al Din Shah himself was assassinated in an earlier incident.
Mohammad Ali Shah’s rejection of reforms caused the ultimate demise of the Quajar Dynasty.
Iranian reform movements have not been a cocktail party. Political miscalculations and pressures against political dynamics of Iran have had serious consequences. Politicians who derailed reform movements were subsequently destroyed as well. Abuse of power by the government prohibits Iranian participation in growth and development of their country.
Among the Abrahamic religions, Islam has the most restrictions on consumption and Investment hindering socioeconomic development of a country. Islamic countries with significant economic development are those with more secular rules and laws. Massive relaxation of Sharia mandates will go a long way to place the socioeconomics of the country on the right track.
The Inefficient Iranian economy cannot be saved by lifting of the current sanctions. Meanwhile complete lifting of the American sanctions is not a realistic expectation either.
For thirty consecutive years the economies of Japan, china and South Korea grew 10% per year on the average and became economic powers without revenues from oil or other minerals etc.
Given proper social and political changes, Iran with massive domestic human capital and expatriate population can become an economic power in less than 15 years.
Due to the length of this article I defer full discussion of Iranian economic possibilities and solutions to a later article solely focused on Iranian economy.
About the author: Farhad Fauhaum is a retired economist; BA in economics from Northern Illinois University and MA in Economics from university of Illinois. Post graduate studies in Economics, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Branch. Formerly lecturer in economics in Harper college of Illinois and Northern Illinois University.
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