Iran and the Bomb 2
A New Hope
Who Is Ali Khamenei?
The Worldview of Iran’s Supreme Leader
Why Rouhani Won -- And Why Khamenei Let Him
The Ahmadinejad Era Comes to an Auspicious End
Rouhani's Gorbachev Moment
What Makes a Genuine Reformer?
Getting to Yes With Iran
The Challenges of Coercive Diplomacy
On the Road to Yes With Iran
How to Read the Nuclear Deal
Talk Is Cheap
Sanctions Might Have Brought Rouhani to The Table, But They Won't Keep Him There
Saved by the Deal
How Rouhani Won the Negotiations and Rescued His Regime
Don’t Get Suckered by Iran
Fix the Problems With the Interim Accord
The Nuclear Deal With Iran Was About Trust, Not Verification
Still Time to Attack Iran
The Illusion of a Comprehensive Nuclear Deal
Still Not Time to Attack Iran
Why the U.S. Shouldn't Play Chicken with Tehran
Befriend the Scientists
How to Bring Iran's Nuclear Program Into the Fold
How Israel Can Help the United States Strike a Deal With Iran -- And Why It Should
Bibi the Bad Cop
Can Israel Prevent a Deal With Iran?
Why Israel Is So Afraid
Iran, the United States, and the Bomb
Could Iranian President Hassan Rouhani be another Mikhail Gorbachev -- a real reformer who opens his country’s political system and creates the space for détente with the United States and Europe?
Historical analogies are always fraught, of course, and leaders who are championed as reformers almost always leave disillusionment in their wakes. In addition, the jury is still out on whether a nuclear deal between the United States and Iran, which would open the door for a relaxation of painful sanctions, is even a good idea -- the specifics of the agreement matter greatly.
But whichever side one comes down on, it is worth considering where the Islamic Republic might be headed. In that regard, there are a few areas to watch.
NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE
Gorbachev was unique, a true believer in Soviet renewal who sat at the very top of a profoundly centralized political system.
Rouhani is nothing like him. In fact, Rouhani came to power precisely because of Tehran’s deep fragmentation, particularly within its right-wing establishment. The fracturing created an opening that Rouhani burst through in a surprise electoral victory in June 2013. But it also means that he cannot impose far-reaching reform. No one in Iran could, not even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. (If anything, the ceaseless invocations of Khamenei’s “supreme” authority testify to its absence, as well as his desire to have it.)
That said, the Iran state structure is similar to that of the former Soviet Union in some respects. Namely, both were born of revolution, which created a theocracy -- in one case with a clerical establishment, in the other with a Communist party -- that overrode the formal institutions of the state, such as parliaments, judiciaries, and civil service. In Iran, as in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the revolution is aging, with far-reaching consequences. An official ideology, whether Marxism-Leninism or political Islam, can give a regime great power. But it can also destabilize the theocratic system if the
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