Waiting for Iran to Open Up
09 March 2016
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
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
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.
Al Rashed is the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. He is also the
former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly
magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers
of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass
communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He
is currently based in Dubai.