by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will not be dismantled, Iran’s break-time to become a nuclear state will shrink from one year to zero in the next few years, Iran’s economy will be strengthened, and the US will likely ignore Iran’s increasing influence and their proxy wars in the region because of the nuclear deal.
Iran’s paramount religious leader can be described as one of the longest-ruling dictators in the Middle East who still enjoys the throne. An ideologue and a Shiite Islamist, he is also a shrewd Machiavellian politician.
Although he attempts to project himself to the Muslim world as a united religious leader who pursues truth, faith, and honesty, his double-faced character can easily be detected in the discrepancies among his statements and policies.
When Khamenei came to power, he lacked the charisma of his predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. To rule, he continued the major policies of his predecessor, relying on hard power and hardliners to suppress domestic opposition, making different statements to the public than in private, and funding Shiite or non-Shiite extremists groups in the region such as Hezbollah and the Houthis.
In addition, he created the Office of the Supreme Leader, comprised of close advisors and excluding the presidential and other major offices in order to further consolidate his power and prevent the leaking of information. The Islamic Republic’s major domestic and foreign policy decisions are made in the small gilded circle of his office and he is the final decision-maker of the country.
To rule, the ayatollah began wielding power without being held accountable. In order to do so, his government pre-select a handful of candidates to become president. Presidents do not have any actual power, but would be held accountable, blamed for any gaffes such as economic mismanagements and failure in nuclear talks, among other things. This system has so far worked for the ayatollah.
His predecessor and founder of the Islamic Republic came to power by promising people that oil revenues will be distributed among the population and that people do not have to pay for major bills such as electricity or water (in a speech that he gave in Behesht e Zahra). The videos and audios of that speech were removed from public access. Now, one can even be punished or executed by the Islamic Republic if the government finds that particular speech in one’s possession. Ayatollah Khamenei also continued this dual policy of deceiving the public.
Most recently, with regards to the marathon nuclear negotiations, Mr. Khamenei’s double standards have become more obvious due to leaked information.
In less than a month, the six world powers (known as the P5+1; the United States, China, Germany, United Kingdom, France, and Russia) and the Islamic Republic will be reaching the deadline for their marathon nuclear talks, marking one the lengthiest international negotiations of our generation.
The position and opinion of the Islamic Republic’s paramount leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on the nuclear negotiations and the terms of the final nuclear deal can be characterized as the most crucial factor in determining whether a final deal will be reached by the end of June or not.
Khamenei recently stated, “We will never yield to pressure… We will not accept unreasonable demands… Iran will not give access to its (nuclear) scientists,” he added, “They say we should let them interview our nuclear scientists. This means interrogation… I will not let foreigners talk to our scientists and to interrogate our dear children… who brought us this extensive (nuclear) knowledge… We will not allow the privacy of our nuclear scientists or any other important issue to be violated.”
The Supreme Leader’s double-standards and the difference in what he states publicly and what he instructs behind the scenes, indicate that he indeed needs the final nuclear deal and he will be more likely willing to allow inspections in order to obtain the deal. Ayatollah Khamenei is cognizant of the fact that the final nuclear deal is geopolitically, economically, and ideologically a win for him. Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will not be dismantled, Iran’s break-time to become a nuclear state will shrink from one year to zero in the next few years, Iran’s economy will be strengthened, and the US will likely ignore Iran’s increasing influence and their proxy wars in the region because of the nuclear deal.
Khamenei is being disingenuous with the public and other nations for several reasons. First of all, The fact that Iran’s negotiating team are continuing with the talks, sitting at the same table with Obama administration’s diplomats, and the fact that there is contradiction between what the Supreme Leader and his advisors stated publicly and behind the scenes indicates that Khamenei is giving a green light to the nuclear team to get a nuclear agreement from the White House, the major player in the talks. Secondly, by showing that Iran is not in need of such a deal, Khamenei is giving leverage to the Iranian negotiating team to obtain more concessions from the West.
Khamenei attempts to publicly show that he is a strong religious and nationalistic leader who is totally against foreign inspection and monitoring of his country. Finally, he desires to project the picture that he is not desperate for the final nuclear deal in order to get as many concessions as he can from the Obama’s administration. And so far, his tactics and dual policies have worked for him in further strengthening his throne and power.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a former senior fellow at the Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington, DC and is a member of the Gulf Project at Columbia University. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@post.harvard.edu. Follow Rafizadeh at @majidrafizadeh.
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