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Iran: Between U.S. and a Hard Place (Page 2 of 2)

A good example is a recent opinion piece by Adm. Hossein Alaei, the founding father of the Revolutionary Guards Navy and former IRGC Joint Force chief. In his article, he mentioned some of the Shah’s regrets after he lost power, such as not allowing people to demonstrate peacefully and shooting demonstrators. Hardliners saw this as an indirect criticism of Khamenei and a warning against him that he’s making some of the same mistakes.

Alaei’s opinion piece was condemned in the press (including the IRGC’s publication Sobh-e Sadegh), and demonstrations took place outside his home. But this op-ed was followed by further criticism of Khamenei’s position by Emad Afrugh, a former member of parliament who is believed to be close to the “principalist” faction. During a live interview he criticized the fact that the position of the supreme leader can’t be challenged by the public.

For decades Khamenei has portrayed the United States as Iran’s enemy. So how can a leader whose regime is apparently scared of Barbie dolls (having banned them over fears of a Western cultural invasion) reach any kind of deal with Obama that could end up helping him win the 2012 presidential election?

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Iranian hard line revolutionaries take pride in arguing that Ayatollah Khomeini destroyed Jimmy Carter’s reelection chances with the U.S Embassy hostage crisis in 1979. Will Khamenei want to go down in history as the man who helped Obama stay in office? How could he justify this to his hardline supporters without creating even more infighting?

For years, Khamenei has stonewalled efforts by presidents Rafsanjani  and Khatami(and to a lesser extent Ahmadinejad) to improve relations with the U.S., even by reportedly rejecting a recent U.S offer to set up a hotline in October 2011. Khamenei’s ideologically driven animosity and hostility toward any improvement in relations with the United States has been a major factor in his calculations. And the anti-U.S. card has also, until now, served him well as a way of securing legitimacy at home, a necessity given that Khamenei had weaker religious credentials than his predecessor.  

All this means that Khamenei isn’t in a particularly enviable position. He’s stuck between Obama and a hard place – with very little room to maneuver in between. 

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