Some sense that change is occurring in Iran and they infer this from the fact that some extremist leaders were defeated in the latest legislative elections. They consider the cause of this to be the nuclear agreement with the west. When examining what occurred under a microscope lens, for they are small changes, we will find that the grip of militants has become stronger, not vice versa. We have yet to see the awaited political, governmental, economic or social effects of the agreement. The exit of two senior conservative militants on the domestic front does not mean anything because there is a large number of them leading the state and some of them have already left, and this did not change behaviour or policies.
This was confirmed by a number of specialists in Iranian affairs who held meetings in Abu Dhabi and participated in recent round table talks held by the Emirates Policy Centre this week about “shifts in the political scene in Iran in light of the nuclear deal and the legislative elections”. There is a great popular desire to open up and deal with the world and end the state of self-imposed blockade exercised by the Iranian regime against its people since it came to power more than three decades ago. However, the extremist regime fears that opening up will be the end of it and therefore will fight to remain in its old situation with an improvement in living conditions. The regime issues all decisions and controls all the funds and market activity and there is no longer a “bazar” as there was during the reign of the Shah.
As one speaker noted, the Revolutionary Guards control 69 ports and maritime centres, all of which are used to import and export and no fees or taxes are paid to the state. Many economic institutions have been controlled by the Revolutionary Guards and these include oil refineries and major government companies. Consequently, the economic opening up will not be with the real private or public economy but with government institutions unrelated to the market.
By reviewing a number of previous experiments to open up, the luckiest of them took a long time to bear economic or political fruit. In China, where an open door policy was adopted after it signed a historical agreement with the United States in the seventies, the door remained closed for nearly twenty years until the world sensed real internal economic changes. In Moscow, which opened up in the mid-eighties with the arrival of Gorbachev’s rule, the old regime collapsed six years later when the Soviet Union was split into 15 republics.
It is too early to sense change in the Iranian capital and there are apprehensions about the idea of reconciliation with the west and opening up to the world. Many high ranking individuals have expressed their intention to oppose any internal change. It is expected, as is the case with totalitarian regimes, that only the ruling class will receive economic benefits and strengthen its capacity in the community to resist earthquakes that may occur under its feet.