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:
- At The Daily Mail, find a stunning photo essay of scenes from across Iran.
- At NPR, enjoy a master performance by one of Iran’s most renowned musicians, Mohammad Reza Shajarian.
- And via Tehran Bureau at The Guardian, find a recipe— and the story behind it— for a traditional Iranian dish, as relayed by an Iranian student living in Italy. Nush-e jan!
Among those in the current US administration, President Macron is perceived to be a solid partner. Not only do Macron and President Trump have personal chemistry, which was seen by all during Trump’s trip to France last summer, but Macron’s decision to team with the US and UK in striking Syrian chemical weapons facilities recently demonstrated solidarity on a key security priority… Getting the United States to stick with the Iran nuclear accord will be Macron’s top priority during his visit to Washington but the prospects for a major breakthrough are unclear… It’s helpful that Macron and President Trump have personal rapport. It’s uncertain, however, if this will be enough to overcome the hardline posture Trump has taken towards Iran.