It's a fair point that made me think. The obvious response is "well, that's what I do", whether the government in the analytic crosshairs is in Tehran or Washington or London. But, after 5 1/2 months of watching and trying to assess the state of play inside Iran's corridors of power, the inevitable question is whether that attention makes any difference.
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So here's my answer, beyond that of academia or journalism: if this Government had established legitimacy amongst most Iranians, we could probably pack up and go home, at least on the issue of whether there would be significant change within the Islamic Republic.
In my opinion, however, it hasn't. That's not only the case with respect to the Green movement and its well of silent supporters, it's also the case within the Iranian establishment. It's precisely because a lot of those "every words" point to dysfunction, in the sense of establishing and maintaining power, that they deserve attention.
Ironically, where this government continues to function, haphazardly but still with consequences, is in the attempt to crush the challenge from outside. The arrests of students, the continued display of the "foreign intrigue" banner, and the disruption of communications both point to a regime which is far from impotent and one which is far from settled.
Perhaps more importantly, even the swinging of the fist brings further tensions. So Iran's ministries fight over whether to maintain indefinite punishment or offer a sign of "legal" process, compromising on the prison sentences plus heavy bail for reformist leaders.
Meanwhile, with legitimacy far from established, the President faces challenges that walk hand-in-hand with "dysfunction". This morning, we are already picking up on a running battle between Ali Reza Zamani, the member of Parliament who decided to offer "revelations" about possible manipulations of the election and to trash the National Unity Plan, and the former Tehran Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi. Seems that Zamani is arguing that the Kahrizak Prison scandal is due to Mortazavi's policy of shipping troublemakers to a facility which would become notorious for detainee abuse. And Mortazavi, perceiving --- with some justification --- that someone beyond Zamani may be lining him up as the "scapegoat" for post-election injustices --- is responding that he is not responsible. The bigger question is whether he tries to name those who he thinks are to blame.
Because Mortazavi is still nominally a Deputy Prosecutor General in Iran's judiciary. That's a judiciary which is in a running battle with the Revolutionary Guard over who administers justice in Iran. It's a judiciary headed by Sadegh Larijani, who is also the brother of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani. The same Ali Larijani who now appears to be making another run at curbing, if not toppling, President Ahmadinejad. The Ali Larijani who may or may not represent the Supreme Leader in his statements but who definitely is now offering political cover to former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. The same Hashemi Rafsanjani who may now be calculating his own re-emergence on the political scene, whether or not that is linked to a National Unity Plan.
Another reader writes, "Those mixed messages....It's gotta wear ya down after a while." I appreciate the concern but the danger is not that I'm worn down --- I'll keep on keeping on.
The issue instead is whether the Iranian Government is being worn down by months of not only mixed messages but of scheming, bickering, and of course facing the unending challenge on the streets and in the universities. That's not to say that, if dysfunction turns to crumbling, it will be a Green victory. Take your choice: the Revolutionary Guard moving into the political turmoil to lead from the front, rather than stand alongside the President. A show of "unity" which brings a Larijani or a Rafsanjani to centre stage. A Supreme Leader making new alliances to maintain his own hold on velayat-e-faqih.
So it's a range of possibilities rather than a certainty, either that President Ahmadinejad's legitimacy has been secured or that his demise has been confirmed. Those possibilities lie not only in the dramatic shows of resistance but inside the mixed signals that rise up from the supposed seats of power in Iran.
And so I keep on analysing....