A reader at The Optimistic Conservative pointed out that the media outlets hailing the election of Hassan Rohani, a so-called “moderate,” as the next president of Iran are the same outlets that consider the Tea Parties in America to be “radical.”
Given that most of these media outlets would agree that the clerical mullahs of Iran’s Guardian Council are radicals, the task for the Tea Parties seems clear: simply proclaim some among their membership to be “moderate.” Send the moderate members to talk to the media and negotiate political issues. The moderate Tea Partiers need never make a concession or give any ground; their only requirement is to serve as the self-proclaimed moderates of the Tea Party movement. A few tweets would help too. The media outlets should greet the Tea Party moderates with acclaim and be excited to see them elected to public office.
Election of a ringer?
If it works for the Iranian government, it should certainly work for the Tea Parties. The fertile TOC comments section provided a preview for another significant point, which is that the clerical council effectively positioned Rohani as a “moderate,” in the hope that doing so would give him an electoral victory with a reform-hungry people. What I said on the topic was this:
We could even suggest that Khamenei suffered [Rohani] to be talked up as a reformer in order to pacify the people with his win.
At The Tower, Avi Issacharoff quotes Dr. Soli Shahvar of Haifa University:
“[Rohani] never called himself a reformist … But he uses rhetoric that is less blustery than that of Ahmedinejad, and speaks more moderately, including on the subject of nuclear negotiations.” Shahvar’s conclusion with respect to Rouhani’s win is unambiguous. “I interpret his election in one way only: The regime wanted him to win. If they had wanted one of the conservatives to win, they would have gotten four of the five conservatives to drop out of the race, paving the way for [eventual runner-up, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Bagher] Ghalibaf to win. But they didn’t do that. Moreover, it was the regime that approved the candidacy of Rouhani [sic] alongside only seven others. This is striking evidence that Khamenei wanted Rouhani to win, both internally and externally.”
Shahvar goes on to basically outline my theory from the comments at the link above:
“Victory for a candidate who is perceived as more moderate yet still has the confidence of Khamenei, serves the regime in the best way. Externally, Iran today is in a very difficult situation with regard to sanctions and its international standing. A conservative president would only have increased Tehran’s isolation in the world. A victory for someone from the ‘moderate stream,’ however, will immediately bring certain countries in the international community to call for ‘giving a chance to dialogue with the Iranian moderates.’ They will ask for more time in order to encourage this stream, and it will take pressure off the regime. And so we see that in the non-disqualification of Rouhani and especially in the non-dropping-out of four of the five conservative candidates there is more than just an indication that this is the result the regime desired.”
(See here for a separate, very worthwhile summary of Rohani’s victory.)
Rohani’s election positions the regime to cater – superficially – to reform-minded voters in Iran, while improving Iran’s prospects in international negotiations. There is no doubt that the international media will provide governments with a cover story about Rohani and “reform” in Iran. They are already doing it. With Rohani depicted as a moderate and a reformer, nations like Germany, India, Japan, and Brazil – nations which have been conflicted on the sanctions against Iran, and have trod a convoluted course to both honor and circumvent them – will see a handy justification for modifying their stances.
Iran can expect a rush of trade relaxations some time after Rohani takes office. It is worth taking a moment to reflect on how robust Iran’s trade relations already are, in spite of the sanctions: economic powerhouses like Germany, China, and India have continued to do robust trade with Iran, even when that trade is clearly boosting Iran’s nuclear program (see here for more on the story, the latest in a list of such stories coming from Germany. Here’s another one, albeit with – apparently – a happier ending).