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17 Jun, 2009 10:42

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, June 17

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, June 17

This Wednesday ROAR presents opinions on Iranian domestic politics and foreign policy.

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA writes that the participation of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in the summit of the SCO, signals that Iran is eager to join the organization as a full member at the first available opportunity. At the moment, the SCO is ‘frozen’ by a moratorium on acceptance of new members. However, a commission on membership rules and regulations is at work defining the criteria for joining and membership categories. At the moment Iran is an observer.

The paper says that some Russian experts claim that admitting Iran could contribute significantly to the work of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. They conclude that for Iran, SCO membership could be instrumental in achieving security (attacking an SCO member calls for a swift response from the other members). In the resolution of Iran’s differences with the West, especially the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, admitting Iran to membership would give Russia additional channels of influence, including influence on the nuclear program. Still, the same experts say that accepting Iran as a full member today would mean the risk of adopting an unstable partner (in the middle of a domestic conflict over the election results) who is also under threat of a military attack (from Israel).

On the election results, the paper says that the Iranian opposition will most probably have to withdraw from the streets and wait for another opportunity – at the next election. For now, says the article, Ahmadinejad is back in control, and the re-count of the vote in several districts cannot harm his position as elected president.

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA quotes Senator Mikhail Margelov, Chairman of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Commission, who says that Mahmud Ahmadinejad must be absolutely sure about his victory if he decided to join the SCO summit when there are street protests against him in Tehran. The Senator also says that Iran wants SCO full membership not only to spite its American adversary: Iran has a long-standing interest in strengthening its political influence in Central Asia, as well as economic interest in energy, transport and commerce.

The paper quotes other experts as saying that the SCO members have so far been quite reluctant about Iran’s membership, because admitting Iran into the organization may cause it to get involved in an unnecessary confrontation with the West. The same experts say that it seems the world will have to deal with Ahmadinejad for another term, as the opposition’s chances of reversing the results of the election are quite slim. In that case, says the paper, Russia should continue its active participation in the process of solving the whole range of issues related to Iran’s nuclear program.

KOMMERSANT says some experts are comparing the street protests in Tehran with the original Islamic revolution of 1979, and say that the Iranian higher authorities may yield to the demands of the crowds and dismiss Ahmadinejad. The paper says that the opponents of the incumbent president present no danger to the regime, or to the ideology of the Islamic Revolution, as they are moderate conservatives who share the same ideological background.

IZVESTIA says that the events in Tehran look very much like a ‘color revolution’, akin to the ones that happened in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. However, says the paper, the main element – foreign material support of the street protests – is missing in this case. The paper quotes high officials of the CIA as saying that they have very few tools that can be used to influence the Iranian election.

The paper says, if the current Iranian ‘revolution’ has a color, that would be the green color of Islam. There is no ideological difference between the incumbent president and the leaders of the opposition. No one is planning to overthrow the political system, which was set up by the Islamic revolution, says the article. It is a conflict between the interests of the rural and urban poor (a majority) who support Ahmadinejad for his ‘populist’ policies – said to be making a real difference in their lives- and the city-dwelling middle class, who support the opposition and its ideas of very mild reform.

To illustrate the fact that the difference between the incumbent president and his opponent is slight, the paper reminds the readers that it was not Ahmadinejad, but his chief opponent ‘liberal’ Mousavi who, as prime minister, initiated the nuclear program which is in the center of the conflict today.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT.