Trita Parsi on the Iranian Opposition: Nothing Is Over

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Thursday, July 02, 2009 at 3:09 pm

The regime crackdown has broken up the large demonstrations and the international media has largely moved on — enabled unintentionally by Michael Jackson’s death — but don’t think the Iranian opposition is done for, according to Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council. Parsi just held a conference call to reinforce the point. “The is not one-trick pony … and it’s not just street demonstrations,” Parsi said. While the crackdown has left the opposition with the sensible calculation that assembling in the streets would be tantamount to a suicide wish, the opposition still has a potent weapon: “Ahmadinejad and Khamenei himself have lost a significant amount of legitimacy in the eyes of average Iranians.”

Well, OK, sure. But what good is that if the regime can withstand legitimacy-based challenges through the use of brute force? I asked Parsi if the opposition’s goal was still to overturn the election, given that its legal recourses are few, and if not, what a new goal might be. “The goal at this stage remains” a fair election result, he replied, since the “wiggle room is still extensive” for overturning the election. Contingencies could emerge, compelling an overturn of the results, such as “a large number of senior ayatollahs com[ing] out to criticize the legitimacy of the electoral results” or if the opposition could “get a majority of 86 people on the Assembly of Experts to come out, that can really threaten Khamenei and his institutions.”

Parsi further explained, in response to Matt Duss of the Center for American Progress, that the critical constituency would be conservative clerics who feel threatened by Ahmadinejad’s consolidation of power. In an irony from the perspective of the American debate about Iran — which conflates reformism with secularism — the clerics see Ahmadinejad “as a dangerous element, quite correctly, who tries to undermine the clergy as a whole.” That might compel some of them to resist Ahmadinejad, or to place pressure on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to find some compromise with the opposition.

But if a compromise can’t be found, then the opposition enters a new phase, having to face a choice between accepting Ahmadinejad and moving to a more radical position. “There are people loyal to the system, who don’t want to bring the system down but at the same time believe the system is quite imperfect [and wish to] ensure the system changes through peaceful means,” Parsi said. If they fail, “then we face a significantly more radical movement in Iran, with more bloodshed than we’ve seen.”

The important criterion for American policy right now has to be to reject Ahmadinejad’s attempts at portraying his victory as final. That means no negotiations, which is “creating some problems with the Obama administration, which is so very dedicated to the process of diplomacy,” Parsi said. While the administration has placed the onus for any diplomacy on Iran, if Iran calls the U.S.’s bluff and talks renew, it will send the message that the international community views the opposition’s efforts as futile.

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Jame
Comment posted September 2, 2009 @ 9:17 pm

Trita Parsi is a mullah lobbyist and hardly qualifies to provide an unbiased picture of what is happening in Iran. Despite the shameless torture, rape and killing of inncoent Iranians he and Akbar Ganji and Sazgara types (NIAC, PAAIA, AIC) believe that this regime can be reformed. And just who they are pushing to implement such a reform? Well, their beloved funder Mousavi, who is not better than anyone in the office now. Mousavi is a murderer himself.


hassandai
Comment posted September 2, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

The uprising in Iran has taken many by surprise. However, for Trita Parsi, it supersedes surprise and borders on total disarray. He is the president of NIAC (National Iranian American Council). The governmental press in Tehran labeled NIAC the Iranian lobby in the US.1
To understand Mr. Parsi’s true state of mind, let’s revisit the post election days when millions of Iranians poured to the street braving bullets, batons, torture and rape. With millions shouting anti regime slogans, government’s ruthless repression and a fractured regime, the absolute majority of Iran experts concluded that this time around, the movement is irreversible and the regime’s future is uncertain. As a result, they concluded that the Iranian regime can not and will not enter any serious engagement with the West over its nuclear program. But, Trita Parsi, refusing to come in terms with the failure of his decade long pro-Iranian advocacy, found a genuine bizarre explanation. In an interview with Laura Rozen of “Cable” news website he declared2: “A possible motive for the alleged vote fix was to preserve a united hard line regime that could engage with the U.S., without the internal rifts that plagued Iran the last time it had a Reformist president split from the harder-line clerical establishment”.
How could someone possibly present this fractured regime as a united power? Parsi’s outlandish imagination did not stop here. He has also discovered that the uprising is approaching an early demise. In a peculiar article titled: “The end of the beginning” (making a mockery of the commonly used term “the beginning of the end” of mullah’s theocracy) he wrote:3
“Iran's popular uprising, which began after the June 12 election, may be heading for a premature ending. In many ways, the Ahmadinejad government has succeeded in transforming what was a mass movement into dispersed pockets of unrest. Whatever is now left of this mass movement is now leaderless, unorganized — and under the risk of being hijacked by groups outside Iran in pursuit of their own political agendas.”
Several weeks have passed and the uprising has not died yet. Moreover, it became clear that the regime is far from the “united power” that Parsi proclaimed. It was time for a 180-degree reversal; this time he discovered the risk of engagement with Iran. In an article titled “The case for a tactical pause with Iran” he explains the reason of his anguish: 4
“No one said diplomacy with Iran would be easy. And now, before it even started, the Iranian election crisis has left Tehran politically paralyzed and Washington without a clear diplomatic path ahead… Opening talks with Iran's current government at this decisive moment could backfire severely. Indeed, now is the time for a tactical pause with Iran.
Iran currently is not in a position to negotiate. Some in Washington believe that the paralysis in Tehran has weakened Iran and made it more prone to compromise. But rather than delivering more, Iran's government currently couldn't deliver anything at all. The infighting has simply incapacitated Iranian decision makers.
The worst scenario is another one: where the parties begin talks according to the set timetable, but fail to reach an agreement due to an inability to deliver. If talks fail, U.S. policymakers will be left with increasingly unpalatable options as a result.”
What a reversal! For more than a decade, Parsi has led a campaign presenting the Iranian regime as the victim of a hostile US policy that refuses to have a civil dialogue with Tehran. In 2006, he and a group of peace organizations and their affiliates claimed that the US has refused to engage in a dialogue with Iran for the past 26 years.5 According to Parsi, Israel is responsible for US-Iran impasse: “Israel is playing hardball to prevent Washington from cutting a deal with Tehran that could benefit America, but deprive Israel of its military and strategic supremacy.” 6
Now, a baffled Trita Parsi is telling that the US should not to go to the negotiation table because the Iranian regime is unable to deliver and this failure could lead the US to the “wrong” conclusion that engaging Iran is useless.
Could it be that the reason for Mr. Parsi’s peculiar and confused prophecies is the fear that the spirally downward fate of Khamenei’s regime is accelerated? Or probably the US would finally realize that engaging Iran has been merely a mirage, fabricated and made up by the pro-Tehran lobby?

Notes:
1. Ghuds Daily, April 21, 2007 http://www.qudsdaily.com/archive/1386/html/2/13…
2. Laura Rozen Blog, June 26, 2009 http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/06…
3. Foreign Policy, June 26, 2009 http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/06/2…
4. Foreign Policy, July 39, 2009, Make them wait, Case for a tactical pause http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/07/3…
5. Statement signed by Parsi and several anti-war groups, 3.8.2007 http://www.downsizedc.org/blog/no_war_with_iran…
6. Parsi: “A challenge to Israel's strategic primacy” at: http://www.bitterlemons-international.org/insid…


Jaleh
Comment posted September 2, 2009 @ 11:25 pm

Traitor Parsi does not represent us, he is a lobbyist and is pushing for a change within the regime. As if Mousavi is the person who can reform this regime. Mousavi is another murder and strict supporter of the Islamic Republic. Islamic republic can not be reformed! 30 years of corrupt rule has proven that!


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