Close

Forgot your password?

Choose a newsletter




Premium access provided by ENSTA

Your premium access provided by ENSTA

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by NRC Q

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to NRC Q.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by EM-LYON

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to EM-LYON.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by Goldsmiths

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to Goldsmiths.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by Worldcrunch HQ

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to Worldcrunch HQ.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by MINES Alès Alumni

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to MINES Alès Alumni.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by ESCP Europe Alumni

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to ESCP Europe Alumni.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by IONIS Education Group

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to IONIS Education Group.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by SOAS University of London

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to SOAS University of London.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by Contact Expats

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 8 weeks thanks to Contact Expats.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by MinnPost

You have been given free premium access to Worldcrunch for 6 months thanks to MinnPost.

Enter your email to begin

Premium access granted to you by Expatica

You've been given FREE premium access to Worldcrunch

Enter your email to begin

Worldcrunch

For Iran, Western Values Are The True Threat To Power

More than an Israeli or American air strike, or the economic effects of sanctions, the powers-that-be in Tehran face a deeper risk rising from within Iranian society.

Article illustrative image Partner logo Girls in western jeans walking past a picture of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran

-Analysis-

BERLIN - In Teheran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last word. But is the “No” of Iran’s spiritual leader really his last word when it comes to negotiating directly with the U.S. in the conflict over his country’s nuclear program?

Maybe not. His position must be seen in the context of Iran’s domestic politics – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is not in Khamenei’s good books, only has four more months in office. Taking such a huge step as starting to reconcile with the U.S. – something most Iranians want – is not going to take place while Ahmadinejad is in office.

In this conflict, now over a decade old, so many red lines have been crossed, so many opportunities wasted, so many deadlines frittered away, that there is no longer such a thing as “never.” Israeli leaders have been seeing the imminent advent of an Iranian bomb since the mid-1990s.

On the other hand, a few years ago Khamenei himself said that if it served Iran to cultivate relations with the U.S., he would be the first to do so. And if things get that far he wants the credit to go to him, not to reformers or populists. Now however, the Americans have tightened sanctions against Teheran so from his standpoint talk is useless. "I’m not a diplomat, I’m a revolutionary," he says.

A solution to the conflict is possible despite Khamenei’s deep-rooted mistrust of the Americans. Settling the exasperating dispute about uranium and centrifuges would end economic sanctions – and then nothing more would stand in the way of broader reconciliation between the two countries. But here’s the rub – the spiritual leader fears nothing as much as he fears free exchange between people, free exchange of thought and goods. Every chance he gets, he warns of “cultural invasion.”

In Khamenei’s view, the spread of cultural values would lead to moral corruption, promiscuity and the destruction of social fabric. In that sense such values are far more dangerous to him than military attack. Washington pundits are credited with saying that mini-skirts would be more effective than bombs in Iran. This fear is what has led to the recent increase of pressure on Iranian journalists, artists and intellectuals, and the demonization of opposition leaders as “deviants.” For Khamenei, economic sanctions are the lesser of two evils.

When the Ayatollah speaks

Khamenei himself does not feel the consequences of such sanctions. For over three decades he has been either president or supreme leader, separated from the reality of everyday Iranians by the security measures and personality cult that surround him. He doesn’t believe that the sanctions can hurt the country in the long-term. On the contrary, he says: the sanctions foster independence, the development of Iran’s own potential, and a sense of self-determination.

The reality is a little less rosy. For followers of the spiritual leader, Iran’s independence and national dignity may be a fetish, but the truth is that nearly all Iranians suffer from the sanctions. But Khamenei has the last word.

The Western media doesn’t seem to have picked up on the fact that Khamenei recently read Iran’s political classes the riot act. Never have the president, parliament, high-ranking clerics, revolutionary guard and business leaders been so divided. Never have there been so many accusations of corruption, protection and despotism.

The most recent conflict between Ahmadinejad and the powerful clan of parliamentary chairman Ali Larijani was only stopped because Khamenei ordered a stop to it. Until the presidential elections, all critical discussion in public is forbidden. To Khamenei, anyone who disregards this is a “traitor.”

Various institutions will be making sure that Khamenei has the June presidential elections well under control – first and foremost the Guardian Council that vets all candidates and weeds out the ones deemed unsuitable.

For President Ahmadinejad it will be difficult in the time he has remaining to find puppet candidate – someone to carry on his policies – through all the hurdles. Among conservatives, it’s not yet clear who of the many contenders will get Khamenei’s seal of approval. And whether former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, the big outsider in the Iranian power tussle, gets into the race again is presently unclear. Meanwhile, moderate reformers appear to be betting on Hassan Rowhani, a former Iranian nuclear program negotiator.

Sign up for our Worldcrunch Weekly newsletter now


Be a part of the conversation. Click to show comments
About this article source Website: http://www.sueddeutsche.de/

Suddeutsche Zeitung is one of Germany's premiere daily quality newspapers. It was founded on 6 October 1945, and has been called "The New York Times of Munich".

Load More Stories

Unlimited access to exclusive journalism, the best world news source across all your devices

Subscribe Now Photo of Worldcrunch on different devices

Your premium access to Worldcrunch is provided by

University of Central Lancashire

Please register to begin


By registering you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.