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Sanctions, assassinations, threats by US... Who’s surprised by hardliners winning Iran’s elections?

Darius Shahtahmasebi
Darius Shahtahmasebi
is a New Zealand-based legal and political analyst who focuses on US foreign policy in the Middle East, Asia and Pacific region. He is fully qualified as a lawyer in two international jurisdictions.
is a New Zealand-based legal and political analyst who focuses on US foreign policy in the Middle East, Asia and Pacific region. He is fully qualified as a lawyer in two international jurisdictions.
Sanctions, assassinations, threats by US... Who’s surprised by hardliners winning Iran’s elections?
The Iranian parliamentary elections have been marred with low voter turnout and a pending victory for Iran’s conservatives. Are the media right to lay the blame squarely on the government, or does the US share some culpability?

The mainstream media has been holding back no punches in its assessment of the recent elections in Iran. According to Iran’s official Fars News Agency, only 42 percent of Iranians took to vote in the country’s parliamentary elections last Friday — the lowest ever percentage since the Islamic Republic’s inception 41 years ago. The low turnout was not surprising to Iran, or even the world, after approximately half of the 16,000 candidates were disqualified.

From what one can ascertain, the media’s main concern appears to be the benefactor of this record low turnout: Iran’s conservatives and hardliners. As thousands of moderates and reformists were disqualified from running for election, the natural consequence is that Iran’s hardliners have claimed an epic (but ultimately somewhat hollow) victory.

Also on rt.com Foreign media ‘didn’t miss the slightest opportunity’ to keep people from voting in nationwide election – Iran’s supreme leader

What is surprising to me, however, is that the corporate media has accepted this as being a likely result of Iran’s elections while laying the blame firmly on Iran. As the Washington Post has written, “the government has only itself to blame.”

Well, that’s not strictly true, is it? Of course, we all know that the US-led “maximum pressure” campaign, spearheaded through effective crippling sanctions, has wounded Iran’s economy to the point of a potential collapse. Anyone with a brain knows that this in turn will create unnecessary strife and hardship on the Iranian people, who will feel overwhelmingly aggrieved as a result.

Take the recent outbreak of coronavirus as an example. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) already ruled that restrictions caused by US sanctions on the importation and purchase of goods for humanitarian needs, including medicine, has a serious detrimental effect on the health and lives of the Iranian people. In the face of Washington’s egregious sanctions regime, will the country be able to weather the storm of coronavirus?

Also on rt.com Iranian parliament suspends work over coronavirus spread

Still, for the Post to insist that once the election is over, Tehran will “go on mismanaging the economy and showing its contempt for the well-being of Iranian citizens” is to disregard everything we know about US foreign policy, both past and current. This is the same Washington Post that wrote an article last month entitled “How U.S. sanctions are paralyzing the Iranian economy.”

I would advance a different argument therefore, that the outcome in Iran’s elections has been completely designed and shaped by the actions of US foreign policy. It is up to the Iranian leadership how to respond to a crisis, and by all means, it could have easily responded to the facts at hand by allowing the moderates and reformists to continue to participate to the extent that they have been.

However, the United States knows that this exactly how the hardliners in Iran would respond. You can’t do something as violent and concrete as assassinate one of the country’s top military officials and expect the nation to bend to its knees in submission. Like a wounded snake trapped in a corner, the US has potentially created a dangerous situation where there was likely never one to begin with.

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You know how I know this? Because the US government says so on a regular basis. For example, the US Department of Defense’s Iran Military Power Report Statement released at the end of last year repeatedly states that Iran’s military strategy is “focused on deterrence” and that this “is unlikely to change considerably in the near term.” This has been the case for years, yet the US government and the media has never framed the “threat” that Iran poses quite in those terms.

Because the real threat is that a deterrence strategy interferes with Washington’s self-proclaimed right to do in the region as it pleases. Specifically, the true nature of the Iranian threat is that Tehran could claw itself into a position where it could adequately defend itself against an invasion — a terrifying thought for the war hawks masquerading as US politicians.

The actions of the US government are making a threat out of Iran where there was no real military threat to begin with. Now, Iran’s hardliners are taking the opportunity to wrest back control of the country, proving to themselves and to anyone who’s listening, that the US should never have been trusted to begin with.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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