Vanguard Magazine

Aug/Sept 2014

Preserving capacity, General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, Keys to Canadian SAR

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T The laST WORD 46 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014 peter Jones is a Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. Previously, he served as a senior analyst for the Security and Intelligence Secretariat of the Privy Council of Canada. One of the most frustrating aspects of any attempt to negotiate with Iran, be it on the nuclear issue or anything else, is trying to determine who actually holds the power to make and enforce decisions. While the country has a written constitution, its real power structure is maddeningly opaque. On paper, Iran has two, parallel, governing systems. The day- to-day government is headed by a President, and also contains a Parliament, both of which are elected. The normal organs of state are present in terms of the various Ministries and Depart- ments one would find in any country. The religious government structure is headed by a Supreme Leader, and contains various advisory and other bodies whose purpose is to oversee the state to make sure that it conducts itself in accordance with religious precepts and missions laid out in the Constitution adopted af- ter the 1979 Revolution. The third branch of government, the Judiciary, overlaps be- tween the two, with judges at various levels appointed through a process in which both elements of government have a say, though the religious side of government has the bulk of the power here. In theory, the President, Parliament and the organs which surround them are sup- posed to run the country. The Supreme Leader, and the rest of the religious estab- lishment are supposed to remain out of day- to-day politics, acting as guides. In reality, of course, that does not happen. Instead, through manipulation of various bodies, the use of outright and large-scale corruption to buy-off various cen- tres, and backed by a powerful Praetorian Guard which reports to him only (the Revolutionary Guards), the Supreme Leader is actually the most powerful figure in Iran. But, and this is a mistake commonly made, he is not all-power- ful. Though it has been eroded in the years since the Revolution, Iran does have a robust political system. Elections happen and matter (though the Supreme Leader has moved to restrict the candidates who can run in them). There is a press, which, if not entirely free, does feature a significant amount of debate. Parlia- ment can impede the religious establishment, if it wants to. Beyond this, there are genuine political debates in Iran. While political parties as we understand them are banned, there are well- established factions who vie for power and for influence in the myriad of appointed bodies across the government. In short, the Supreme Leader can be thought of as more some- one who juggles the components of a chaotic and ever-changing system, than a dictator. He holds the most powerful cards, but not all of them and has to rely on coalitions and institutions to back him up – which have their own needs and wants, both tem- poral and ideological. This situation makes it difficult to know where one stands when dealing with Iran. It is true that the imprimatur of the Su- preme Leader is required to effect any change, but what might bring the Leader around to support new policies or directions is a complex and ever-shifting business. Historically, this situation has favoured those in Iran who oppose significant change; it is easier to mount resistance to change – to be a spoiler – than it is to assemble a coalition capable of a sustained effort to bring about reform. In theory this could go on for many years. But there are pres- sures for change. Most notably, the Iranian economy is in dire need of root-and-branch reform. It is difficult to tell if large-scale, endemic corruption or the economic sanc- tions which have been meted out against Iran have had the most damaging impact, but the combination of the two has left the country in significant pain. It is in this context that such things as the current nuclear negotiations must be as- sessed. The Supreme Leader will ultimately decide whether a deal is possible, but he has different considerations to balance. On the one hand, moderates and reformers (such as recently-elected President Rouhani) recog- nize the need for the economic breathing space which a reduction in sanctions would bring about as a prelude to larger reform. The Supreme Leader cannot be indifferent to the clear desire of the people for improvement in their daily lives. On the other hand, powerful conservative forces will oppose a deal because they are loath to 'give in' to the international community and because they fear precisely the kind of political and economic reform which the pragmatists and the reformers would like to launch in Iran and which would usurp their place. However hard life may be for ordinary Iranians, there are powerful interests who benefit from the status quo. Ultimately, the Supreme Leaders' most critical interest is the continuation of the system. It is likely he would move to change policies in significant ways if he felt this was necessary to secure the survival of the Islamic Republic. But the balance of interests that might lead him to the conclusion is likely to be primarily af- fected by factors far beyond the negotiating table in Geneva. Who holds power in iran? While political parties as we understand them are banned, there are well-established factions who vie for power and for influence in the myriad of appointed bodies across the government. 11.125 in. Bleed 10.875 in. Trim 9.5 in. Live

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