Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani Was No Moderate

Jan. 10 2017

Reports of the former Iranian president’s death have almost unanimously described him as the leader of a “moderate” faction within the Islamic Republic—one who wished for better relations with the West, paid only lip service to religious fanaticism, and could be induced through skillful diplomacy to move Tehran away from terrorism and anti-Americanism. None of this is true, writes Michael Rubin:

Rafsanjani signed off on attacks like the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires and assassinations of Iranian dissidents worldwide. He not only helped birth Iran’s covert nuclear-weapons program but, on December 14, 2001, speculated that it could be for offense rather than defense since, unlike Israel, Iran had strategic depth to absorb a retaliatory strike. While he was willing to talk to Americans and Europeans, this had less to do with a desire for rapprochement than with his recognition that dialogue could relieve economic pressure on the Islamic Republic and win it what it needed for the fulfillment of its indigenous military programs.

Was Rafsanjani a moderate or even reformer? . . . In reality, it is useful to think about the Islamic Republic’s politicians as falling between two axes: one with regard to social attitudes and tolerance and the other with regard to a belief in state-centered economies versus economic liberalism. Rafsanjani sought to reduce the centralized command structure of Iran’s economy, [and in that respect he] leaned toward economic pragmatism. Even during his presidency, though, he was unsuccessful in implementing significant economic reform. When it came to social reform, however, Rafsanjani’s more moderate rhetoric did not translate into any desire or real effort to blunt the edge or fervor of the Islamic Revolution. . . . Another way to think about that is that if Rafsanjani was a moderate, . . . then moderation in the Islamic Republic includes an embrace of incitement to genocide, assassination, torture, and terrorism. . . .

[Western diplomats’] desire to [misapprehend] factional struggles expands beyond just Iran. Talk to European or even American diplomats who work in the Middle East about Hizballah or Hamas, and they will describe a nuanced view that divides the movements into hardline and more pragmatic factions. The fact that those moderate Hamas factions still embrace a covenant that calls for genocide against Jews is left unsaid.

Read more at Commentary

More about: AMIA bombing, Iran, Iran nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Must Make the Best of a Bad Deal

Jan. 23 2017

Were Donald Trump to tear up the nuclear deal with Tehran, Washington would gain little leverage while Iran would still have pocketed enormous sums of money, would continue to benefit from the lifting of international sanctions, and could continue work on its nuclear program unimpeded. Therefore, argue Emily Landau and Shimon Stein, U.S. interests would best be served by working to constrain the Islamic Republic within the parameters of the agreement:

[M]uch can be achieved simply by changing the U.S. approach to the deal and to Iran, and by altering the rhetoric. Given the strong reservations voiced by Donald Trump and his administration toward Iran, the new president should send an unequivocal message, . . . warning it against any erosion of the deal and the consequences that will follow from any violation. The next step will be to work with the [the other parties to the deal] to clear up [its] ambiguities—especially regarding inspections at suspicious military facilities and looking for unknown facilities—and set clear guidelines for responding to every type of Iranian violation.

The Trump administration should press to end the secrecy surrounding many of Iran’s nuclear activities and plans. . . . But the Trump administration must also carve out a more comprehensive approach to the Islamic Republic, taking into account the dynamics between the United States and Iran that have unfolded over the past eighteen months since the nuclear deal was presented and that underscore the absence of any convergence of interests between the two states. . . .

New policies that reflect the Trump administration’s determination to pursue an uncompromising course in dealing with Iran—both on the nuclear front and with regard to its regional behavior—could in the long run help to reduce the likelihood of an Iranian breakout, and contain Iran from further destabilizing the region in its drive to realize its hegemonic ambitions.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Donald Trump, Iran nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy