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Chatham House: The Challenge of Uncertainty: Iran’s Ambitions and Choices

Chatham House: The Challenge of Uncertainty: Iran’s Ambitions and Choices

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Published by plateaux
Chatham House: The Challenge of Uncertainty: Iran’s Ambitions and Choices
Chatham House: The Challenge of Uncertainty: Iran’s Ambitions and Choices

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Published by: plateaux on Apr 08, 2012
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The views expressed in this document are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do notnecessarily reflect the view of Chatham House, its staff, associates or Council. Chatham Houseis independent and owes no allegiance to any government or to any political body. It does nottake institutional positions on policy issues. This document is issued on the understanding that ifany extract is used, the author(s)/ speaker(s) and Chatham House should be credited,preferably with the date of the publication or details of the event. Where this document refers toor reports statements made by speakers at an event every effort has been made to provide a fairrepresentation of their views and opinions, but the ultimate responsibility for accuracy lies withthis document’s author(s). The published text of speeches and presentations may differ fromdelivery.
The Challenge ofUncertainty: Iran’sAmbitions and Choices
Professor Ali Ansari
Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House
Dr Shahram Chubin
Non-resident Senior Associate, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment forInternational Peace
Dr Hassan Hakimian
The London Middle East Institute; Reader, Economics Department, School of Oriental andAfrican Studies
Chair: Robin Niblett
Director, Chatham House29 March 2012
Transcript: Iran’s Ambitions and Choiceswww.chathamhouse.org 2
Robin Niblett:
We have three distinguished speakers very well placed to be able to addressthis topic. I’m going to kick off in the order in which they will be addressing us.Professor Ali Ansari is known to, I think, all here. He is a professor at StAndrews, director of the Institute for Iranian Studies there but also a longstanding associate fellow of our Middle East and North Africa Programme. Wehave shared this stage before. You were just noting not when the room lookedlike this so it must have been a while ago. He has published widely on thistopic including his more recent book ‘Crisis of Authority: Iran’s 2009Presidential Election’ where he really dug under the surface of that moredramatic period of Iran’s recent internal development. So I’ll be kicking off withAli in a minute on the domestic politics.Then we’ll be turning to Dr Shahram Chubin who is now a non-residentscholar on the Carnegie Nuclear Policy Program based in Geneva where heserved for eight years as Director of Studies at the Geneva Centre for SecurityPolicy. And again a long-standing expert not just on Iran but on the MiddleEast in general and he will be tackling more the foreign policy dimensions ofIran’s choices and how that is developing.We will then move to Dr Hassam Hakimian who is now director of the LondonMiddle East Institute at SOAS [School of Oriental and African Studies], readerof economics there. He has been associate director of the Cass BusinessSchool. He’s affiliated with a number of other research institutes andfellowships and I would note in particular his role in the Economic ResearchForum which I see here is a network of Middle East economists based inCairo. So somebody who is looking at the Middle East not just from theoutside but very much from the inside as well and I think that is what we’retrying to provide here; at a moment of extensive commentary about Iran, anopportunity from three experts to try and get under the hood to get inside intosome of the drivers within the country as opposed to treating it as thisunpredictable player that is often not disaggregated, let’s say, in terms of thechoices and ambitions that it has.So with that introduction and trying to then hold everyone to five minutes, if Ican, having taken up at least five myself with that introduction, let me turn firstto Ali and try and leave a good 35 minutes if we can for Q&A. Ali kick off, giveus your thoughts.
Transcript: Iran’s Ambitions and Choiceswww.chathamhouse.org 3
Professor Ansari:
Thank you very much Robin. Before I start if Robin would just allow me tohave 30 seconds extra because I just wanted to say that this whole day today,this Iran day that we’ve had and we a bit of a roundtable today, is largelyinstigated as it happened by a very good friend of mine, Chris Rundle, whosadly passed away last Saturday. He was meant to have been here. He was avery good friend and very close, and in both a personal and professionalsense he was a great sport. He will be sorely missed. It was a great shock toall of us who knew him.I’m going to be talking, giving some thoughts on the domestic politics in Iran. Ishould say at the outside that to my mind the dominant theme as far as thedomestic political situation is concerned is the state of the economy and Iwanted just to stress that, just to emphasise that if I didn’t mention it isbecause Hassan will be talking about it more in the final section. But clearly inthe last two years there has been degradation in the state of the economy, nothelped obviously by the sanctions being imposed, sanctions that, I think, havesurprised many in Iran, but also a reflection of the lack of accountability andtransparency in the country.Many of the crises, many of the problems that led to the crisis in 2009, theelection crisis in 2009, I think, persist. I think it’s a gaping wound, and a woundthat has yet to be properly healed. And by that I mean really that the elitefractures continue. We have a situation where many particularly in the Ulamacontinue to resist the temptation, shall we say, to come on board at least in apublic way in supporting the post-2009 events and also the developments thathave taken place since that time, both in an overtly political sense but alsoperhaps more interestingly in a theological sense. I think post-2009 many ofthe aspects of the theological development of the Islamic Republic – and I usethat term very loosely by the way because in terms of a republic I don’t think arepublic exists anymore – what you are seeing is a continuing consolidationand centralisation of power within the Supreme Leader’s office. I want toclarify that and say it’s not necessarily with the Supreme Leader himself butwith his office and the cohort around him which is becoming tighter andtighter. So where as previously where you may have had a broader range ofpeople basically sitting at the top table providing advice, providing differentopinions [and] this is becoming narrower and narrower.What we saw really in the recent parliamentary elections, and somethingagain that I use very loosely, was essentially a clash of personalities ratherthan a clash of policies. So if you look at what the result of that election will be,

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