Monday, February 29, 2016

An Early Tentative Vindication of the Iran Deal?

Women voters during Iran elections
City of Share-Ray/ EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH
In the bleakness of Middle East politics, the elections held in Iran this past weekend has brought a bit of good news. Iran is a place with established politics, even if those politics have not been to our liking since Jimmy Carter was president. But this past Saturday moderates seemed to gain the upper hand in Iran in an endorsement of the nuclear deal reached by Iran and the P5 + 1 (the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China, plus Germany). It provides a ray of hope. 

Thomas Erdbrink reports from Teheran for the NYT:
Nearly three years after Iran’s reform-minded president was elected, the most reactionary voices in Iranian politics are losing ground to moderates buoyed by the sweeping nuclear deal with big powers, including the United States. 
Though hard-liners still control the most powerful positions and institutions of the state, two national elections last week appeared to build on the slow but unmistakable evolution toward a more moderate political landscape — now and into the future.
Allies of President Hassan Rouhani made strong gains in parliamentary elections, controlling the entire 30-seat delegation representing the capital, Tehran, and carving out an influential minority bloc. At the same time, the two most radical clerics were ousted from the Assembly of Experts, a panel with the constitutional duty to select the nation’s next supreme leader, should that position become vacant.
The results also gave some weight to President Obama’s carefully couched hopes that the nuclear deal — which was heavily criticized by his American political adversaries — might introduce changes that could gradually bring Iran out of its confrontational posture with the West and, most pointedly, with the United States. 
The election’s final results, which have not yet been made public, are not about to fundamentally alter Iran’s domestic or foreign policy, at least in the short term. But they do give momentum to a turn away from the most confrontational politics of the last president — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — amid an electorate eager for Iran to emerge from decades of isolation. ...
The result would seem to be an early vindication of President Obama's policy in pushing hard to conclude the Iran deal, and an early rebuke to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Republican supporters who fought so frantically to sabotage the deal.

It's early days, but an indigenous politics that can move left and right and that has the potential to move the country towards more engagement with the West and gradually a more moderate foreign policy is a welcome sight in this region of the world.

A fun confluence of numbers: this Sunday was the 88th Academy Awards, there are 88 keys on a piano, and there are 88  members in Iran's Assembly of Experts which will choose a successor to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ayatollah Khamenei has had health problems.

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