Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Islamic Republic is counting on high oil prices and its lucrative deals with China and Russia to create impasse over its nuclear activities. It is not clear how far away the regime is from the bomb but one thing is clear: the regime in Tehran is playing the nuclear game to raise nationalist sentiments at home and the Holocaust denial nonsense to create sympathy for its cause in the region among Arab masses. Seeing an inevitable conflict looming in the horizon, the regime would like to define the fight on its own terms against its favorite regional opponent Israel. So here is the question: what is the real conflict the regime sees as inevitable? Does it have ethnic flavor? Is it internal opposition, economic plight, or factional dispute? Or is it the fear over US active involvement in regime change which has prompted the regime to raise the stakes in pursuit of a grand bargain that would include security guarantees and nonagression treaty? Unfortunately, the political system is so opaque that it is nearly impossible to answer these questions with any degree of certainty. It is not even clear who really rules in Iran and what the economic interests of this group are. The stories on the influence of Mesbah-Yazdi or Samare Hashemi, narrated by the London circle (Masoud Behnoud and the company) among others, are for entertainment purpose only.

A final comment: one thing that is always overlooked in all analyses is the role of the army (artesh). The army will stay politically neutral as it has during the past 27 years. However if the more ideologically oriented armed forces crumble for any reason (including strikes by the US) the army has the potential to step in and end the conflict. That could be our winning card.

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