Talking to Iran’s hard-liners

Talking to Iran’s hard-liners

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a gathering in Tehran, Iran. (Reuters)

Parliamentary elections were held in Iran last month. However, as the low turnout suggests, the 11th Iranian parliamentary elections were the most uncompetitive in years. The outcome came as no surprise to me, as I already expected the next Iranian parliament to be a conservative one.

My analysis will not receive strong support from Western leftists, who for years have been calling for the so-called moderate current in Iran to be supported in order to weaken Iran’s hard-liners. They believe that, if Iranian hard-liners have enough power, it will be impossible to negotiate another nuclear deal with Tehran. Thus, only moderate governments should lead Iran. Such analysis reflects a lack of understanding about Iran and the nature of its political system. Iran has successfully deceived the West for decades concerning its “moderate” current. Iranian lobbyists in Western capitals have been working to reinforce such a narrative. 

Therefore, Western leftists have naively fallen into the trap of fiercely supporting Iranian moderates. Iran’s growing influence and escalation in the Middle East, along with its support for terrorist groups, violation of all international treaties and conventions and the principles of good neighborliness, have all taken place under a supposedly moderate government. Middle Eastern experts and analysts have, for years, warned against Iran’s destabilizing activities and expansionist project in the region. Confronted by the harsh realities of the Middle East, some Western analysts have finally come to the same disconcerting conclusion.

We, the people of the region, think we understand the realities on the ground and neighboring Iran — with which we have had direct interactions for centuries — better than anyone else. Accordingly, the difference between Iranian political factions is clear-cut and evident to us. For us, Ali Khamenei’s Iran hides under the mask of the moderate (reformist) and conservative (hard-liner) factions. Nevertheless, the principles, objectives and strategies of Iran’s political system are well established. A moderate government or parliament in Iran has no power to change the regime’s nature or strategic plans without the permission of the supreme leader. We are merely stating facts, not spreading hatred toward Iran, as we only seek peace with our neighboring country. 

A moderate government or parliament in Iran has no power to change the regime’s nature or strategic plans.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami

In my view, the next conservative Iranian parliament, along with the next Iranian president, who is also likely to be conservative, will unveil the true face of Iran. As leftists in the West are now aware of such facts, efforts should be made to push Iran to change its behavior and give up its expansionist ambitions. Iran should stop its support for terrorism and sectarianism and behave like a normal state with a constructive role in the region and the world. Such a goal can never be achieved by negotiating with the so-called moderate faction. Iranian moderates do not have a say in the decision-making process; therefore, to save time and effort, negotiations should only be held with the man who has ultimate authority in Iran: Khamenei.

  • Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is Head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami
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