Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Potential Political Violence in Iran


With new elections to take place in Iran in June, there is the potential for political violence or maybe even revolution.  Iran's current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is nearing the completion of his second term and due to constitutional constraints cannot run again.  But Ahmadinejad is trying to remain influential on Iranian politics after the election, hoping that his protege Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei will be on the ballot box this June.  There is also some political infighting between Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Peterson). The current political situation is further complicated by the sanctions imposed by the U.S. that is hurting the Iranian economy.  These sanctions are a result of Iranian refusal to fully disclose the purpose of its nuclear program.  Khameni has refused to hold one on one talks with the U.S. over its nuclear program.

The world should pay attention to how the elections in Iran turn because the infighting in Iran could possibly lead to political violence and political change.  If the Iranian people feel that the election was rigged again they might go into the street to protest like they did in 2009.  With the other revolutions around the middle east overthrowing governments, the Iranian people may feel that now is the time to demand change or even conduct a full scale revolution.  The Iran people may also feel further agitated by the sanctions imposed on their country.  The sanctions are affecting average Iranians while they are not affecting the government, which may further anger them(Casey,Parker).  The newest sanctions have attempted to curb the ability of the Iranian government to control information in Iran by targeting the Iranian electronics industry and communication ministries(Casey, Parker).

Given the current situation there are many things that could happen in the next several months.  With political infighting between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, there is the possibility of political violence.  There are two ways that political violence could occur in Iran, either fighting between the elites of Iranian society with Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei clashing for control over Iran, or a bottom up approach with the Iranian people demanding that the government be more accountable to the people.  With the sanctions being imposed on Iran and this having an affect on the Iranian economy, I feel that political violence from the people is more likely as middle class Iranians are the ones who are losing the most from the sanctions and the political infighting.

Policy makers should pay very close attention to Iran over the next several months.  With Iran in political turmoil, the Iranian nuclear program can be stalled.  Political violence or a revolution may result in a Iranian government more friendly with the West, which may allow us to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  If the opportunity arises we should support an Iranian opposition against the current regime.  


Casey, Mary, and Jessica Parker. "Iran’s Supreme Leader Rejects Direct Talks as the U.S. Increases Sanctions." Foreign Policy. N.p., 7 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 Feb. 2013.

Peterson, Scott. "Is Iran's Ahmadinejad Going Rogue as His Term Ends?" The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 12 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 Feb. 2013.


  1. From the outside looking in, it is easy to get caught up in the revolutionary atmosphere ushered in by the Arab Spring--if we can even call it revolutionary yet.

    While I tend to think the coming presidential elections will elicit some sort of public mobilization, I doubt a "revolution" is on the horizon.

    There are two distinct reasons for my pessimism.

    First, according to Ali Mirsepassi, a leading scholar on modern Iran, history has shown that Iranians tend to prefer reform over total revolutionary change. They are, however, frequently viewed as the harbingers of revolution because theirs was unarguably an actual "revolution;" but, Mirsepassi argues that 1979 was merely a "culmination of many decades of unfulfilled struggle to reform."

    The Green Movement of 2009 expressed no such interest in engaging in a 1979-style revolution, but rather, sought to reform the presidential elections that were obviously in a state of disrepair. It was a call for reform among many sure to come as will be the imminent post-election mobilizations in June in my estimation.

    The second reason for my pessimism is that the Iranian people are not Arab. They do not share a "united public sphere," as Marc Lynch describes it, with the restive Arab communities. They are ethnically separate and any notion of indirect revolutionary diffusion should be taken with a grain of salt.





  2. Given the history of the Arab Spring, it is easy to usher in this hypothesis that a revolution is on its way. I don't think it can be classified as that just yet, though.

    Being that Iran is four months out of these elections and having the fear of repeating the post-election violence that occurred in 2009, I believe they are attempting to take the necessary steps and precautions to help aid political violence from reoccurring.

    This time around, it seems there is a big push to engineer the elections in a way that fixes them and although Iran is trying to conduct elections in a more peaceful manner by doing this, I'm not sure the people will agree with these tactics, in turn leading to a revolution.

    Although Iran is acting on this matter, I'm not totally convinced it will be the "save all" type of election. It seems that Ahmadinejad is currently acting as a catalyst to this already heated battle between his allies and the conservatives by reminding the people of their rights to pick their rulers and later declaring that no one should think they can decide.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months as the battle between sides heats up.