Author Archives: Gareth Smyth

After Ahmadinejad

After Ahmadinejad

As president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been nothing if not controversial. Internationally, he has goaded the Israelis and their American allies with his views about the Jewish holocaust, while his government’s populist economic policies have stirred domestic controversy unknown since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But with a presidential election due next June, Ahmadinejad is

Admitting it hurts

After months of denial that this year’s new United States and European Union sanctions were having any effect, Iran’s leaders have changed their tune and are acknowledging that moves to stifle oil exports are biting. In August, state media reported rahbar (‘leader’) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for an “economy of resistance” to use “the nation’s

Hope of compromise in Iran

Talks between Iran and the leading world powers, including the United States, in mid-April have revived hopes of compromise on Tehran’s nuclear program. Essentially the two sides agreed that the basis for agreement would be the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT) and so respect Iran’s right to peaceful use of nuclear energy, with specialists preparing in

A clear and present solution

Tensions between Iran and the world powers should prompt reconsideration of Iran’s 2003 letter to the United States proposing a ‘grand bargain’.  Drafted by Sadegh Kharrazi, then ambassador to France, it had been discussed by a small group including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the rahbar (‘leader’). Iran offered intrusive inspection of its nuclear facilities, recognition of

After the brinkmanship

The failure of Iran and the United States to negotiate risks all out conflict. Western advocates of sanctions against Tehran argue they will pressure the Iranian people to lean on their government to abandon its nuclear program. “Intelligence sources” are claiming that covert operations can do the same. Many Iranians question this belief. Farideh Farhi

The idle hands of youth

Nearly three years ago, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s rahbar (leader), announced a five-year plan for 2010-15 with a target of 8 percent annual economic growth. But while the International Monetary Fund projects growth of 2.5 percent in 2011 and 3.4 percent in 2012 — arguably reasonable given international sanctions — this is well below enough

Ditching diplomacy in Iran

The historical parallels are dismal. Iran’s display of a captured United States Sentinel drone sparked painful memories, both of the shooting down of Gary Powers’ U2 spy plane over the Soviet Union in 1960 and of two American helicopters abandoned in an Iranian desert in 1980 while trying to free US hostages held in the

Iran can only plan for uncertainty

Iran’s rulers, since Pahlavi times, have been attracted by the ‘Big Plan’, and in modern days this is as true as ever. The Islamic Republic’s five-year plans guide its governments, and the current one, for 2010 to 2015, sets an ambitious 8 percent target for annual economic growth and envisaged “eliminating the government’s dependence on

Lost in translation

Admiral Michael G. Mullen, outgoing chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, in September warned of a lack of communication with Tehran. “We are not talking… so we don’t understand each other,” he said. “If something happens… it’s virtually assured we won’t get it right.” Admiral Mullen’s idea of a “hotline” to avoid

Nuclear negotiations from fusion to fission

In the fall of 2004 I went twice to the Supreme Council for National Security in Tehran for long interviews with Hossein Mousavian, a senior negotiator in talks with Britain, France and Germany over Iran’s nuclear program. The transcripts make sharp reading seven years later, for two reasons. Firstly, leading Iranian diplomats or security officials