Saturday, November 26, 2011

RAND: "Iran is stable & seeks stability in the Region!"

Excerpts from RAND's report: "Forecasting the Future of Iran:  Implications for U.S. Strategy and Policy"
Political Issues
• President Ahmadinejad will remain influential in Iran and will see only a slight reduction in power prior until his second Presidential term ends naturally in 2013.
• Iran’s next Supreme Leader is likely to be only slightly more moderate than Supreme Leader Khamenei.  Ayatollahs Rafsanjani and Shahroudi are currently the stongest candidates, with Shahroudi being favored over Rafsanjani.   
• The current system of velayat‐e faqih appears stable, and further conservative shifts in the system as seen in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election are unlikely.
Economic and Civil Society Issues
• There is substantial pressure for economic reform in Iran, which has only been partially met by the reforms introduced in January 2011 (which occurred after data collection for this study
• The IRGC’s influence appears unlikely to grow significantly in the next few years, and may even diminish.
• The influence of Iran’s bonyads will likely hold constant or grow slightly in the coming years.
• Recent setbacks experienced by the women’s movement in Iran are likely to be short‐lived and completely reversed within the next few years.
Foreign Policy and National Security Issues
• US‐Iran relations will continue to remain primarily informal and halting
• Iran will not submit to full IAEA compliance, but is unlikely to restart its nuclear weapons program unless there are significant changes to Iran’s internal calculus.
• Iran will develop a strategic relationship with Iraq that will not be destabilizing to or compromise the new Iraq government.  Domestic and international pressure will prevent the nations from developing the closer alliance sought by Iran’s leaders.   
• In Afghanistan, Iran’s relations will be less influential than in Iraq, and will be focused on stability
and economic opportunities.
• Iran’s relations towards Israel are unlikely to change.  Iran will continue its calculated rhetoric, antagonizing Israel and supporting the Palestinians while avoiding direct confrontation.   
The conclusions from the sensitivity analysis that explored the influence of the US, the Supreme Leader, Iran’s President, and the IRGC are:
• Waiting for a turnover in leadership is a game both the US and Iran are playing to lose. Both nations need to realize and accept that national outlooks are evolving gradually and are not dictated solely by the personalities of their incumbent leaders.  Neither nation benefits from maintaining strained relations, nor remaining staunchly entrenched in its own position vis‐à‐vis the other.  
• A new Supreme Leader coming to power probably will be a fortuitous event for the US, likely leading to modest improvements across a broad range of issues, but the differences between Iran’s next Supreme Leader and Khamenei are likely to be subtle.  However, the fate of Iran’s nuclear program lies with the Supreme Leader, and a new Supreme Leader, even if he half as influential as Khamenei, could restart Iran’s weapons program.  
• Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric colors Iran’s foreign relations, but his influence does not weigh heavily on the course of Iran’s foreign policy.  A new president with a more pragmatic outlook could lead to slight improvements on many issues, but the biggest benefit would be the opportunity to engage with a less strident personality.
• The IRGC is not dominating Iranian policy decisions.  Even significant growth in the organization’s power and conservatism would do little to affect the current character of Iran.  
Thus, US fears of a radicalizing religious and militant Iran are likely misplaced.  Moreover, the IRGC is a key element of the conservative block, and if the IRGC’s influence diminished, it could enable Iran’s more progressive elements to begin making inroads..."

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