What To Read On Iran This Week

May 31, 2013

Iran has been much in the news this week, with more coverage of the presidential campaign as well as developments on the sanctions and regional security fronts. Allow us to suggest a few pieces below that get behind the headlines on some of the big issues of the day to round out your weekend reading list.

Several of the earliest and most strident criticisms of the decision last week by Iran’s Guardians’ Council to disqualify former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from running in the upcoming elections were voiced by relatives of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Helia Ighani and Garrett Nada provide a snapshot of surprising political legacy of the founder of the Islamic Republic in “Khomeini’s Rebel Grandchildren,” at the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Iran Primer site.

The much-respected Iran scholar Farideh Farhi takes on the aftermath of Rafsanjani’s controversial poll rejection in “Decision Time in Tehran.” Farhi analyzes the state of play in the election, highlighting the thorny dilemmas confronting two of Iran’s most influential politicians, Hashemi Rafsanjani and his successor Mohammad Khatami. Their next moves, and the response of their political base within Iran, will shape the outcome of the election, as well as the future prospects for reviving the process of gradual reform of the Islamic Republic. 

The election also serves as the focus of a new issue brief by the Atlantic Council,“The Political Kaleidoscope Turns Again in Crisis-Challenged Iran”. The brief, co-authored by Iran analysts Yasmin Alem and Barbara Slavin, places the upcoming election in the context of prior campaigns in Iran and argues persuasively that “the vote will be an important barometer of the stability and durability of an embattled regime.” I had a chance to join Yasmin and Barbara for a great discussion on the twists and turns of the election season so far.

Dennis Ross, who most recently served as the senior Middle East advisor in the Obama White House, and David Makovsky called for a new American negotiating strategy toward Tehran in this Washington Post oped. The piece, which called for “offering a credible endgame proposal” to Tehran, prompted a renewed debate on the blogosphere and among pundits. Among the many articulate responses, I want to commend one by Paul Pillar, a veteran senior intelligence official and Georgetown University professor who also serves as a Nonresident Senior Fellow in Brookings’ Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence. Pillar offers a timely reminder about the limitations of analytical clairvoyance with respect to Iran in “Reading Iranian Minds” for The National Interest.

If you’re concerned about the threats posed by Iran to American interests and international security, a new article in Mother Jones on Iran’s cyberwar capabilities should be a must-read. Dana Liebelson makes the case for “Why Iran’s Hackers Might Be Scarier Than China’s”.

And finally, since it is the weekend here in Washington, let us end on a lighter note. If you have never had the opportunity to visit Iran, I strongly recommend a each quick look at the three following links, which combined may offer some approximation to the sensory experience of Iran: