Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Iran, Beating the War Drums!

Iran: Beating the War Drums!

Ali Asghar Kazemi

November 24, 2009


In the midst of a confusing stalemate in the nuclear negotiation with the 5+1 powers, Islamic hardliners are engaging in an unprecedented military exercise with the objective to show a deterrent air defense umbrella for Iran’s nuclear sites and strategic points. The Islamic government has so far shown reluctance to go along with the West on the matters concerning its nuclear undertaking and the proposed confidence-building measures. Instead, it is aggravating the situation by organizing maneuvers that would eventually create further suspicions and hostility.

How far the major challengers of the controversial projects are susceptible to be deterred from this and similar military exercises? Is really military confrontation a rational solution to the problem? What are eventual scenarios in this conflict? Is a military clash between Iran and its main nuclear contenders inevitable?

It is normal that countries plan in peacetime for regular military maneuvers in order to keep forces in a state of readiness and efficient condition to confront potential foreign threats. Also, it is quite understandable that such exercises be made known to public with a view to deter those who may have ill intentions about the security, independence and territorial integrity of another state. But, the odd thing about the recent air defense exercise in Iran is its timing and configuration.

At the outset, the exercise was supposed to cover almost the whole space of the country for the purpose of the air defense protection of nuclear sites and other strategic targets exposed to eventual hostile air raids. This has included both active as well as passive defense. But, one missing important element in this defense puzzle was the promised Russian S300 which so far was not delivered to Iran. Eventually, the lack of this vital weapon system pushed the Islamic Guard Corps- Pasdaran- to stay away from this particular operation. Since, without this air defense system, the chances for an effective active defense would be highly diminished. Understandably, Pasdaran, who are now in control of almost everything in the country, do not want to enter into a contest whose outcome is unclear.

Thus, unlike most other exercises, this time the regular military forces (and not the Pasdaran) have been tasked for carrying out operation. This is indeed a significant change from the past when the Guardian Corps assumed the responsibility of all show of forces in similar cases. In the central command post, a clergy with black turban and army uniform was sitting next to the commanding flag officer of the maneuver; implying that everything is under the control of the clerical hierarchy. It is interesting to notice that we seldom saw similar situations when a high profile “Pasdar” assumed the responsibility of an operation.

As for military and political implications of this untimely exercise, the following points can be observed:

· Considering the timing of this exercise, the Islamic government seems to be losing hope in diplomatic negotiations with the 5+1 powers and is trying to put more pressure to them for further concessions;

· Despite wide publicity in the domestic media, while public at large might be impressed by the extent and scope of the exercise, Iran’s potential hostiles, namely the United States and its ally in the region (Israel) appear not be deterred by the show of forces. Since, they have a practical estimate of Iran’s actual defense potentials and state of technology ;

· While a clash seems to be still remote under present circumstances, in an unfortunate worst case scenario, the conflict would be fast (blitzkrieg) and decisive leaving no option for Iran to project power beyond its borders;

· Should the worst case scenario occurs, the extent of damages to strategic points will be beyond calculation and the result of the last 50 years investment in infrastructure and economic resources will be put to nil.

· In case of a quick round up of the conflict, the blame of the defeat will be put on the regular armed forces and a number of outside factors beyond incumbent government control.

Given that the Islamic government has partially lost public support in the wake of the controversial presidential elections, it seems rather hard that the regime could mobilize a long-run attrition war against its enemies. This means that the ruling clergies might not be able to count on people’s religious or patriotic fervor for effective support. However, should the conflict drags on for more than a few days after the first rounds of strikes, then, Pasdaran might try to organize retaliatory brushfire strikes against the invaders or American allies in the region.

On the rationality and logic of Islamic hardliners to organize such costly exercises for the purpose of deterring their potential adversaries, one should realize that defending national interests of a country is no longer possible with mere hard power and weapon system. No matter how powerful a state might be, it needs to use diplomacy and negotiation for the purpose of protecting its security and sovereignty.

There is no doubt that the West and their allies in the region have a good grasp and assessment of Iran’s defense capacity and potentials. They know well its vulnerabilities and weak points as well as the technological state of its defense system. Hundreds of research centers and institutes permanently follow every bits of defense development or procurement in the world. Therefore, one ought to be realistic enough not to engage in a confrontation whose outcome is at least unclear if not totally adverse to its national interests.

Let’s hope that politicians involved in this critical situation act vigilantly in their decisions and actions. The Middle East has enough problems and bottlenecks that we need not another new situation that could engulf the whole region into a new crisis and bloodshed. /


Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and International Relations in Tehran, Iran. See: www.aakazemi.blogspot.com

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Iran, US and the Russian Connection

Iran, US and the Russian Connection

Ali Asghar Kazemi

November 16, 2009


Iran and the United States have been competing hard to gain Russian support for their mutually antagonistic nuclear policies. Russians as usual are playing a villain opportunist who tries to get the most benefit out of this tripartite connection. How far this game can continue and how long Iranians should pay ransom to the Kremlin in order to put into operation Bushehr nuclear power plant that has become a source of prestige and the symbol Iran-Russia cooperation after the revolution in Iran?

Upon the conclusion of a meeting between Obama and Medvediev during the November 15, 2009 APEC conference in Singapore, Russian have announced that Iran’s nuclear power plant at Bushehr will not be operational at the end of this year for technical matters. This is the fifth or sixth time that Russians have postponed the inauguration of the plant during the past years; whilst it has become a matter of pride and prestige for the Islamic regime. Despite Russian claim to the contrary, Iranians firmly believe that this action has a political motivation and is a direct result of American pressure on the Russians with respect to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Opposition groups blame the incumbent government for the mismanagement of the project and accuse Russians as unreliable and erratic party who should not be trusted for major undertakings.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Obama: Between Idealism and Realism

Obama: Between Idealism and Realism
Ali Asghar Kazemi
November 2009
Less than a year in the White House, Obama is caught in a perplex situation: the Wilsonian ideals of peace, democracy, self-determination etc on the one hand; and American prestige, power and hegemony in the world on the other. There is no doubt that Obama is personally and by nature a decent man with many good human traits. But, as president of the United States, he is supposed to follow the Machiavellian advices in order to preserve “Prince’s” power and interests.
Perhaps, it is normal that when one begins to exercise in some fresh field, at initial steps the element of wish and purpose is overwhelming strong and the inclination to ponder upon facts and means are weak or non-existent. Realism is based on the assumption that the key concept in politics is interest defined as power; and everything else in the realm of ethics and morality is at the service of those interests.
Obama’s idealistic stand during his presidential campaign with respect to foreign policy and defense strategy was a natural position of a democrat candidate vis-a-vis a republican president who became the most detested leader in US history. But, he was enough conscious not to let him-self mired by illusion. Thus, in his initial speech after the election he touched to concrete facts on the way of the United States when he said: “the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime, two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.” In fact, the troubles that Obama inherited from his predecessors were so profound and beyond reach that nobody could deny their existence and complexities.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Towards “Secular Nationalism” in Iran

Towards “Secular Nationalism” in Iran

Ali Asghar Kazemi

November 2009


While nationalism in the Moslem world is commonly considered as an alien ideology imported from the West, Persian nationalism has been emerged from a religious ground. Shi’ism is an outgrowth of this phenomenon that distinguishes Iranian from other Arab and non-Arab Moslems in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.

Up until the advent of the Islamic regime in Iran, national consciousness has been with Iranians parallel to their religious traditions. In other words, religious nationalism formed an inherent trait of the Persian identity for a long period of time[i]. This feature helped Iranians to consolidate, fight against their enemies and secure the country from disintegration and collapse. However, this trend has changed its course during the past several years. A new generation of Iranian intellectuals, academics and educated people is gradually moving away from the political Islam and traditional religious values toward a more universal and secular approach to various issues of society and the nation.

The progressive “Green Movement,” that emerged amidst the controversial presidential elections of June 2009, can be considered as the social and political manifestations of this new tendency. Upon a series of bloody clashes with the regime during the post-elections turmoil of June 2009, the movement has turned to radical and secular nationalistic slogans that aim at the very foundation of the religious system.

What is the substance of this new nationalistic awareness? How far this movement is capable to pressure the regime for fundamental changes? What are the implications of changes for the domestic and foreign affairs of the nation?

Read More....

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Iran: Islamization vs. Secularization

Iran: Islamization vs. Secularization
Ali Asghar Kazemi
November 2009


The controversial presidential elections of June 2009, which ignited a social crisis in Iran, had a definite impact on the society and truly polarized the nation in two antagonistic camps: pro-government conservative hard-liners on one side and reformist opposition groups on the other. At first the quarrel was limited to the results of the elections which were alleged to be performed with widespread frauds. Ruthless reaction of the government to peaceful manifestations of the unconvinced people pushed the opposition to take a much more radical stand against the whole Islamic regime. This prompted the religious leader to find about the cause and origin of this prolonged crisis which is still threatening the very foundation of the system.

Radical conservatives, while claiming foreign involvement in this turmoil, believe that the Islamization process should continue with much stronger vigor until the nation has converted to zealous followers and supporters of the religious regime. Reformists on the other hand contest that the crisis is a natural response of the people to years of repressive rule, deception and injustice. They express the opinion that as long as the country is under a backward system of government, democratic changes are almost impossible. They believe that Islam has limited capacity for transformation and adaptation to the needs of our time. Therefore, they suggest that secularization is an inevitable and necessary trend of the future of Iran.

Despite earnest attempts of the ruling regime in Iran to impose the strict law of Shari’a, as interpreted by the Shiite doctrine, the result was frustrating. Thus seemingly, the process of Islamization of all vital sectors of the society during the past three decades was quite unsuccessful. We have said that some political elites have singled out Western “social Sciences” taught at the higher education, as the main cause for this failure. Some others are still trying to put the blame on “Western imperialism” and enemies of Islam, who are incessantly conspiring to topple the Islamic regime.

To what extent these arguments hold true in present Iran? What are the main causes of the young generation distancing from Islamic traditional principles and leaning towards secular values? Why those who were brought up in the Islamic environment are now rising up against the ruling system and reject the Islamization process under the guise of what we may label “national secularism”? Read More....