So-called “conservatives” in Iran appear to be likely to come out on top of the first parliamentary elections since the end of the Obama-era nuclear deal. Media reports use the word “conservatives” to refer to Iranians who are pleased by the religious regime’s continued domination of the political branches, a practice called Velâyat-e Faqih (usually translated “Guardianship of Islamic Jurists”). The Iranian government is really two governments, an elected political government that is overseen by, and integrated below, a set of religious “guardians” whose job is to ensure that the elected government remains true to the principles of the Iranian religious revolution of 1979. The current elections are for the lower, political government’s parliament. However, supporters of the religious government are expected to come out stronger even within the elected parliament than they were before the election.
Officially the story that the Iranian conservatives would like believed is that this success is America’s fault. The official story goes like this: Their opposition, who are often called “reformers” in the Western press, pushed the Iranian regime into the foolish position of trusting the United States by making the nuclear deal. The nuclear deal was ill-advised and against Iran’s interests, as they tell the story, but the reformists persuaded the religious guardians to go along with it. Then America broke its word by electing Donald J. Trump, who walked away from the deal. As a result the “reformists” are discredited, so the story goes, and the conservatives are set to sweep the elections.
That story is the one being told by ‘experts’ featured on Al Jazeera, for example:
“[The election results] will tell whether people want more cooperation with West, or with Russia, China and tapping into domestic potentials instead,” Mohammad Eslami, a Tehran-based political analyst, told Al Jazeera, saying Friday’s vote will “reflect the way people want the government to approach the West” after U.S. President Donald Trump backed out of the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.
“Elections neutralize many of the evil intentions that the Americans and the Zionists have in mind against Iran,” he said. “These elections are the response to the chicanery and deception of Iran’s enemies.”
As Tan Fen Qing of Singapore’s Middle East Institute points out, however, that explanation is not very plausible. The so-called conservatives are if anything even less popular than the so-called reformists. However, the religious government barred almost half of all candidates — including 90 sitting parliamentarians running for re-election. These were mostly from the ‘reformist’ or ‘moderate’ factions, leaving voters with little choice. Turnout is consequently expected to be very low.
Sadly for the ordinary citizens of Iran, things are only likely to get worse under the newly-elected parliament. International dirty money watchdog group Financial Action Taskforce is blacklisting Iran due to its continuing violation of terror-funding rules. Iran is also likely to face international action for providing weapons to terror groups. Both the United Nations and a nonprofit research firm, Conflict Armament Research, found Iranian gyroscopes in drones and missiles used in recent attacks. Houthi rebels in Yemen have used weapons with these Iranian gyroscopes, and the weapons used to attack Saudi oil facilities also contained them. Another shipment of weapons apparently bound for the Houthis was intercepted by USNAVCENT forces at sea. Arms transfers to the Houthis are barred by UN Security Council resolution.
In addition Iran’s already-beleaguered economy is facing new challenges from the coronavirus plague, which has spread to Iran’s holy city of Qom. Iraq has closed its border with Iran over concerns about the plague spreading into Iraq.