Tomorrow is the Iranian parliamentary election that I have suggested might lead to lowering of tensions with possible renewed talks on the nuclear issue and a possible drop in the price of oil. Maybe, but before the election I want to note how garbled and misleading discussion in the US media of internal Iranian politics is and has been pretty much consistently. This generally arises from a combination of ignorance and a desire to have simple stories told about good guys vs bad guys. This has been going on basically since 1979.
So, the discussion has always been put in terms of "moderates," supposedly the good guys likelier to be more amenable to US policy interests, and "hardliners," supposedly the bad guys less likely to be so. In the years immediately following 1979, the focus seemed to be on economic policy attitudes. So, the "moderates" were the supposedly more pro-free market types while the "hardliners" were the supposedly more socialist types. Funny thing was that for what probably mattered in terms of attitudes to the US, the free market types based in the bazaars were much more hardline on theological issues compared to the socialists. Indeed, when the social reforming Khatami was surprisingly elected in 2001 over Rafsanjani, he brought back some of the pro-socialist types into economic policymaking over the more pro-free market types that the more socially and theologically conservative Rafsanjani had in place.
Now we come to today's discussion. One reads that the current race is between two sets of "arch-conservatives." However, one is viewed as more "moderate," the other less so. The supposedly more moderate group is led by President Ahmadinejad, whose supporters are currently a minority in the Majlis. The majority "hard(er)liners" are supposedly the supporters of Supreme Leader Khamene'i. Frankly, I think this is junk fed to dumb western media types by Ahmadinejad supporters.
After all, it is Ahmadinejad who is a Holocaust denier, not Khamene'i. The latter has called for the Israeli government to disappear, but he has never called for "eliminating Israel" as claimed by many commentators. Ahmadinejad is regularly identified as being more willing to negotiate with the US about nuclear weapons, but it is Khamene'i who has issued the fatwa against nuclear weapons.
We all worry that factions of the Revolutionary Guards are for nuclear weapons and that one of their hotheads will initiate an attack on US naval forces in the Persian Gulf. But it is Ahmadinejad who came out of the Revolutionary Guards, not Khamene'i, so frankly, this entire discussion has been an embarrassingly muddled mess.