Wishful thinking, manipulation, blatant propaganda, the western mainstream press holds no real surprises any more. News from American and British newspapers concerning Iran’s elections depicts a fantasy liberalized Iran today. Reading the news, it’s as if the neocons are in some kind of tantric trance. Iran is fundamentally Iranian still; a different kind of democracy from the one Obama has beaten the world over the head with. So for those of you interested in a simplified Iranian election analysis, here’s a look at what really happened during last Friday’s elections.
You can read the disparate opinions and views in the mainstream, form the Atlantic to The New Yorker, and very quickly you’ll glean just how little western writers know about Iran. Tehran may as well be on Pluto, for all the misinformation and stigmatic BS cast out to news consumers the last few days. The New Yorker headline reveals the ultra-liberal dream, “Iran’s Voters Sent a Message to the Hard-Liners”. No, Robin Wright, Obama is not fighting Ronald Reagan in Persia! Yes, the turnout and the vote was a booster shot for President Rouhani. But no, no and triple no, Iran’s President is not ready to become the Angela Merkel of the Middle East. Of course the billionaires who own western news media would love a surrogate with trillions in energy reserves, but Iranians simply replaced some members of the so-called Majles. The people did not dive into the waiting arms of Washington and London.
The “reformists” surrounding President Hassan Rouhani are just that, and nothing more. Iran is changing, to be sure, but the country is headed to a more progressive strategy than joining the hegemony hell bent on the country’s destruction for decades. Proof of Iranians’ attitudes toward the west can be found in studies like this one from the University of Maryland via IranPoll.com in between December 29, 2015 and January 15, 2016. One gripping fact from the study is a damning bit of data where media insistence Iranian’s are unhappy with the current government is concerned. Only a very small minority of Iranian’s believe they have too little freedom. The overwhelming majority point to new Majlis to tackling unemployment and Iran’s low performing economy as the most important issues just before this election. Furthermore, this and other studies tell us that Iranians greatly favor Iran’s role in helping Syria and Russia defeat ISIL and other factions inside war torn Syria. Even more importantly, the people surveyed overwhelmingly believed US involvement in Syria is only designed to topple Assad.
While Iran is moving forward very fast to take its place among truly progressive nations, the country is decidedly focused on its own best interests, and this is as it should be. Iranians’ views of Russia and China are highly favorable and have improved considerably over time, at least according to most polls taken in the last couple of years. Meanwhile, the clear mistrust of Western countries, with the exception of Germany, is evident without taking performing any surveys. My own communications with key Iranian business people confirm another interesting fact too, Iranians are not at all suspicious of American people, only the government. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif have very high levels of support within Iran, but their favorable ratings have almost nothing to do with any make-believe desire on their part to get rid of fundamentalist clerics. Instead, Rouhani is revered for his ability to strive for change without upheaval. And the so-called “hard liners” in Iran are softening their line for much more simplistic reasons.
Iran did not just have a peaceful version of Arab Spring people. The typical Iranian is far more level headed and capable of understanding the current world economic situation than most people in America or Britain may think. For one thing, even with the nuclear deal in place, half of the people in Iran believe the United States leadership will use pressure and sanctions to try and seek concessions from Iran. Here are some other figures on Iran’s real position where the “hard line” is concerned.
- 84% of those polled support reducing Saudi Arabia’s influence in the region
- Increasing Iran’s influence in the region is supported by the same 84%
- 80% of those polled said preventing the Syria conflict from spreading is crucial
- Fully 77% of Iranians believe countering US and Israeli policies in the region is necessary
As you can see, the term “hard liner” is misused in almost all the western press’ analysis of Iranian politics. The “idea” Washington think thanks and corporate media try and perpetuate is the same Iran that existed for Americans in 1979 when then President Jimmy Carter issue Executive Order 12170. The hostage crisis in Tehran ended 37 years ago, but failed policies actually got worse in the ensuing years. When Iraq invaded Iran, the US toughened sanctions. Bill Clinton toughened sanctions on Iran during his term. Congress upped the pressure again in 1995, then George W. Bush upped the game in 2005, followed by more sanctions by Barack Obama. Now suddenly, American democracy is taking hold in Tehran!
A few years back, when Washington was considering so-called “crippling sanctions” against Iran, some world leaders were reticent to go along with the Obama led initiatives. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned in 2012, “strangling the economy of Iran and would create much discontent toward Western nations, and potentially provoke a negative recourse.” Laura Secor at the New York Times calls the event of Iran’s progress a “revolution”, a “work in progress” that the author wields like a journalistic scepter of intelligence. Condescending as idiotic, American journalists can be. The “centrists” that the author of “Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran” canonizes, they are at least a kind of reality. I just don’t understand why westerners cannot discern reshaped Iranian strategies and synergy, from some kind of churning political ecosystem, a democratic terrarium where the “right way” is the western way? The whole western concept of Iran is a do-or-die discord. Either Ayatollah Khomeini is Satan and hell bent to destroy the United States, or a new breed of political philosophers has to be morphing the country into a place Iowans and Californians can tolerate.
The reality is, not one of these learned academia or well paid newspaper writers has conjured up the truth of Iran. The country literally strangled by the US and her allies has been affected by the law of diminishing returns – lost opportunity costs – and a potential for generations no one today can even discern. Israel can wipe the Earth up with Palestinians and possess nuclear weapons, America can invade any place on this world and justify it – but Iranians cannot cast out a dictator like the Shah and get away with it. And building a nuclear reactor, selling some natural gas to Europe, daring to have different customs than Boston! Well, emerging from an imprisoned economy, it’s bound to reveal some voting day surprises. Maybe Iranians those “hard liners” no longer have to be so hard, I mean Iran as a BRICS nation for instance, won’t need such bitter conservatism, now will it?
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.