Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 21/06/13


Udo von Massenbach

Guten Morgen.

Wir begrüßen eine neue Kollegin beim Letter:

Edith Suter.

Sie wird den Bereich “Bildung”
im Zuge unserer verstärkten Ausrichtung
zum TTIP (Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership)
Edith hat eine langjährige Erfahrung auf dem Gebiet
der Ökonomie & Bildung.
Wir freuen uns, dass wir sie haben gewinnen können.

Seit Mai 2012:
Auch an die
Mitglieder des Verteidigungsausschusses
des Deutschen Bundestages.

Massenbach The Forgotten Uprising in Eastern Saudi Arabia
June 14, 2013


The predominantly Shia eastern region of Saudi Arabia has witnessed a deadly cycle of demonstrations, shootings, and detentions for more than two
years. While easterners share grievances with the rest of the country, simmering discontent is aggravated in the east by a history of regime discrimination against the Shia and provincial neglect. To stabilize the region, the regime must address the roots of dissent at both the local and the national levels.

Eastern Turmoil

• Dissent in the Eastern Province traditionally stems from the regime’s sectarian discrimination against Shia and economic neglect and political
marginalization of the region.
• Shia activists in the east call for truly participatory governance, the release of political prisoners, the establishment of an elected consultative council,
and the writing of a constitution, among other demands.
• The regime has responded with a timeworn strategy of handing out economic subsidies, co-opting Shia clerics to dampen the protests, launching
a media counteroffensive that inflames sectarianism, and undertaking a campaign of arrests and detentions.
• The regime’s crackdown has deepened divisions between its traditional interlocutors among older Shia activists and clerics, and networks of
impatient youth who have soured on the pace of reform. While the goals of these youth activists are similar to those of their older counterparts, they
prefer street protests to petitions.

Recommendations for the Saudi Government

Implement the 2012 findings of a Riyadh-based think tank, the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. These include removing
Saudi troops from Bahrain, releasing all political prisoners, and establishing a commission to investigate the Ministry of Interior’s actions in al-Awamiya,
an impoverished town that has been a focal point for Shia dissent and the regime’s crackdown.
End the practice of arbitrary arrests and repeal sweeping laws against “sedition.” These excesses have fueled much of the youth-driven anger in the
east and elsewhere in the country.

Empower elected municipal councils across the country to exert greater oversight and executive authority over their budgets. In the east, these
powers will help bolster infrastructure, improve educational facilities, and diversify the economy—all of which are crucial to staving off youth dissent.

Recognize the Shia Jafari legal code and give Shia representation in the Senior Ulema Council. In the long term, increasing the diversity of these
institutions will help reduce sectarianism in Saudi society.

Refrain from tolerating portrayals of eastern dissent as evidence of Iranian subversion. Such depictions fuel a toxic political environment and
contribute to the alienation of the younger generation of Shia.


Policy = res publica

Bärbel Freudenberg-PilsterFreudenberg-Pilster Offshore-Leaks: Journalisten-Vereinigung ICIJ stellt Daten online



Politics: from Vision to Action

Barandat The Future of the Arab Gulf Monarchies in the Age of Uncertainties
Strategic Studies Institute and U.S. Army War College Press

Seismic cultural and political shifts are under way in the Arab Gulf monarchies. The political upheavals and transitions that have swept through the Arab world over the last 2 years have not toppled the Arab Gulf rulers, but did not leave them untouched, either. Rulers of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states face heightened internal and external challenges and uncertainties. Pro-democracy protests and calls are extending from Bahrain to other oil-rich countries of the Arabian Peninsula. The expectations of GCC citizens, particularly the educated youth, are increasingly moving from socio-economic demands to political ones. They are now not only asking for jobs or wage increases, but also for more political participation and accountability. Chief among internal challenges is the resurgence in several GCC countries, particularly Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, of a decades-long sectarian rift between the Sunni regimes and their Shia subjects. The Gulf regimes’ already tense relations with Iran have worsened on the basis of alleged Iranian interference inflaming sectarian tensions in Bahrain and across the broader region.

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Suter Opinionator - A Gathering of Opinion From Around the Web

June 16, 2013, 9:07 pm

Schooling Ourselves in an Unequal America


Averages can be misleading. The familiar, one-dimensional story told about American education is that it was once the best system in the world but that now it’s headed down the drain, with piles of money thrown down after it.

The truth is that there are two very different education stories in America. The children of the wealthiest 10 percent or so do receive some of the best education in the world, and the quality keeps getting better. For most everyone else, this is not the case. America’s average standing in global education rankings has tumbled not because everyone is falling, but because of the country’s deep, still-widening achievement gap between socioeconomic groups.

And while America does spend plenty on education, it funnels a disproportionate share into educating wealthier students, worsening that gap. The majority of other advanced countries do things differently, at least at the K-12 level, tilting resources in favor of poorer students.

Historically, the role of the federal government, which takes a back seat to the states in education, has been to try to close achievement gaps, but they have continued to widen. Several changes in federal education policy under President Obama have actually increased the flow of scarce federal dollars toward those students who need it less, reinforcing inequities and further weakening overall educational performance. Reversing America’s slide in international education rankings will require turning that record on its head.

America’s relative fall in educational attainment is striking in several dimensions. American baby boomers ages 55 to 64 rank first in their age group in high school completion and third in college completion after Israel and Canada. But jump ahead 30 years to millennials ages 25 to 34, and the United States slips to 10th in high school completion and 13th in college completion. America is one of only a handful of countries whose work force today has no more years of schooling than those who are retiring do.

On international tests, American students consistently score in the middle of the pack among advanced countries, but America underperforms most on two measures — preschool enrollment and college on-time completion. Nearly all 4-year-olds in Japan, France, Britain and Germany are enrolled in preschool, compared with 69 percent in the United States. And although the United States is relatively good at getting high school graduates into college, it is horrible at getting them to graduate on time with a college degree. With more than half of those who start college failing to earn a degree, the United States has the highest college dropout rate in the developed world.

On average, money is not the problem. Given the country’s relative wealth, per-pupil spending on elementary and high school is roughly on track with other advanced countries. At the college level, the United States spends lavishly, far more than any other country.

The problem is that the United States is not spending its education dollars effectively. At every point along the education track, from preschool to college, resources are skewed to wealthier students.

The wealthy inhabit an educational realm very different from what national averages suggest. Consider these examples. If ranked internationally as nations, low-poverty Massachusetts and Minnesota would be among the top 6 performers worldwide in fourth-grade math and science. Among 15-year-olds, Asian-Americans, who also tend to be more affluent, are the world’s best readers; white Americans are third only to Finns and New Zealanders. In a 2012 Harvard Business School survey, high-quality universities were rated the country’s chief competitive advantage. The world’s brightest students clamor to attend them.

But educational excellence is increasingly the preserve of the rich. Everyone — black, white, rich, middle class and poor — is testing better and enrolling more in college than the previous generation. But rich students, and particularly rich girls, are making bigger gains than everyone else. Strikingly, these achievement gaps exist when children first begin elementary school and are locked in place all the way through to college.

Wealthy Americans have an advantage in the admission process for elite colleges, and despite the few who may slip in on family legacy, the advantage is largely based on academic merit. Students from families in the highest income quintile are now eight times more likely than students in the bottom quintile to enroll in a “highly selective” college, one that requires a high school transcript filled with As in advanced placement courses, SAT scores in the 700s and a range of enriching extracurricular activities.

Those who get in are doing better than ever. The best colleges are seeing their dropout rates fall to near-zero levels, especially for women. The education they offer is generally better than what students get at less selective schools, too. One very revealing fact is that even for equally qualified students, academic outcomes at selective colleges are better across the board and their graduates earn more and are more likely to progress toward an advanced degree.

The real quality crisis in American higher education — where the dropout rate is sky high and climbing — is in community colleges and lower-tier public universities. They have also absorbed most of the historic increase in college enrollment and disproportionately serve minority and low-income students. Money is a big reason for their worse performance.

At the college level, the divergence in per-pupil spending is staggering. Since the 1960s, annual per-pupil spending at the most selective public and private colleges has increased at twice the rate of the least selective colleges. By 2006, the funding chasm in spending per student between the most and the least selective colleges was six times larger than in the late 1960s.

In short, more money is being spent on wealthy students who have never been more prepared to excel in college. Meanwhile, poorer students who are less prepared — those who a generation ago would not have even enrolled in college — are getting a smaller slice of higher education spending. According to a study by the demographer John Bound and his colleagues, lack of institutional resources explains up to two-thirds of the increase in dropout rates at lower-tier colleges.

Of course, this divergence in educational investments begins long before college. Wealthy parents are piling on cognitive enrichment activities outside of school from preschool on up, and at a rate that is leaving everyone else in the dust. Schools could make up some of the difference by intensively investing in poor children, and the majority of richer countries do just that — spending more per pupil in lower-income districts than in higher-income districts. But it is the reverse in the United States, in large part because, unlike most other advanced countries, revenues for public schools continue to be raised mostly from local property taxes.

This record is a harsh indictment of the federal government’s efforts to promote greater educational equality. Out of the civil rights era of the 1960s and early 1970s sprang a host of federal programs whose sole objective was to close achievement gaps. One is Head Start, which now serves close to one million low-income 3- and 4-year-olds and has tried for many years, with modest success, to make sure they’re ready for kindergarten. For K-12 public schools, the federal government apportions money, called Title I and IDEA grants, to school districts based on the number of low-income or special-needs students they serve. Then there is the huge Pell grant program to help low-income students pay for college, which is the single largest component of the Department of Education’s budget.

Reversing the long-term trend toward education inequality would be an impressive feat for the Obama administration, which has tried to intelligently reform federal programs that serve low-income students. Nonetheless, some of the biggest changes in federal funding priorities have favored wealthy students.

On the plus side, the Obama administration has pushed for more cost and quality accountability for education providers who cater to low-income children, while also developing better ways to measure and evaluate quality. The worst Head Start preschools are being forced to re-compete for federal funding under a more rigorous set of standards. States are being encouraged, through No Child Left Behind waivers and the Race to the Top competitive grant program, to improve teacher evaluation techniques, to invest in data systems for tracking teacher performance and student achievement, and to refocus reform efforts squarely on the worst-performing K-12 schools.

At the postsecondary level, for the first time vocational college programs could soon be held directly accountable for a “gainful employment rule,” where they will lose federal accreditation if the programs’ costs outweigh labor market benefits for their graduates. In other words, programs would shut down if their graduates don’t land good jobs. There are also new initiatives promoting more transparency at all postsecondary institutions. The hope is that parents and students armed with better information will be better consumers and will punish schools with a record of charging too much or delivering too little.

Yet some of the administration’s most ambitious ideas for reducing education inequality have not been implemented. In spite of research that shows that high-quality preschool can make a positive — and ultimately cost-effective — impact on children’s cognitive development, President Obama’s call for universal preschool is going nowhere in Congress, mostly because it would be extremely expensive. The Obama administration has made no attempt to expand Head Start enrollment, even though half of all impoverished children are not enrolled in any preschool program.

At the college level, while Mr. Obama has placed community colleges higher on the federal agenda than any of his predecessors, his funding promises have gone unfulfilled. In his first term, he proposed three new community college funds totaling $25 billion and then a further $12 billion in stimulus. But in the end only $2 billion in direct aid for community colleges was appropriated.

What is most disappointing about the Obama administration’s oversight of educational programs, though, is the way the administration has arranged its funding priorities. Real baseline funding has been flat for Head Start, Title I and IDEA grants, and their financing will be cut by 5 percent under sequestration. It’s true that the number of Pell grant recipients has surged recently because more students are opting for college in the tough labor market, but Pell grant eligibility has been rolled back, with stricter limits put in place on income and lifetime eligibility. And even after a recent increase in the maximum Pell grant size, it still covers a much smaller share of a student’s college expenses than in the 1970s. The Pell grant program is also chronically underfinanced; it faces a $7 billion budget shortfall in 2014.

Where federal education policies have become much more generous, the benefits have disproportionately flowed to the wealthy. The administration has eased repayment terms for student debt, and the biggest gains will go to borrowers with the largest debt, who tend to be graduate or professional students with more earning potential. These already well-off graduates could end up receiving a federal subsidy that is four times larger than that provided to low-income students through Pell grants. Meanwhile, a new, more generous college tax credit also extended tax write-offs to families earning between $120,000 and $180,000. They reap most of the credit’s $10 billion in annual benefits.

These education-spending decisions are hard to justify. The politics are understandably tricky; middle- and upper-class families want relief from skyrocketing tuition bills, and poor families have a small fraction of their political clout. But a smarter allocation of scarce resources would focus on boosting lower achievers. Because sometimes averages don’t lie. Historically, broad educational gains have been the biggest driver of American economic success; hence the economist’s rule of thumb that an increase of one year in a country’s average schooling level corresponds to an increase of 3 to 4 percent in long-term economic growth.

In his first State of the Union address, in 2009, President Obama set a goal: America would regain the top spot internationally in the percentage of students graduating from college. No matter how much wealthier children keep gaining, there are not enough of them to raise that number. The only way America will again rise to the top in education is by lifting every student up.

Rebecca Strauss is associate director of publications for the Renewing America initiative at the Council on Foreign Relations. This article draws on research in a new council report, “Remedial Education: Federal Education Policy,” part of a series on restoring American economic competitiveness.


Middle East

Iran’s new, democratically elected president
faces battle with Guards on nuclear issue

Hassan Rouhani is elected Iranian PresidentHassan Rouhani, 64, will take office as President of Iran on August 3 with the endorsement of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who Saturday congratulated him as the winner of Friday’s election by 50.7 percent in the first round of voting. Rouhani garnered 18 million ballots out of the 72 percent turnout of 50 million eligible voters, with the help of “reformist’ sympathizers and minority communities. With the news,

spontaneous celebrations spread across Iran. The president-elect told the people that his success was “a victory of moderation over extremism.”
debkafile attributes Rouhani’s upset victory to an unprecedented combination of circumstances:

1. The hard-line camp couldn’t get its act together. Khamenei failed to persuade the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) chiefs to withdraw their candidate, Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf’s, in favor of his favorite, National Security Adviser, Saeed Jalili. So the ayatollah turned to Rouhani.

Although a solid member of the Islamic Revolutionary establishment, Rouhani looked capable of inspiring hope in the Iranian people, and using his mild personality to persuade the international community to relax some of the sanctions strangling the Iranian economy over Iran’s nuclear program.

2. Outgoing president, Mahmoud Ahmaninejad took his revenge on the extremists who had ostracized him for nearly four years. Familiar as no one else with the tricks used by the regime to rig elections, he stood watch to make sure that this vote was clean.
3. Khamenei and the clerics devoted enormous efforts to blocking the candidacy of Ahmadinejad’s crony, Esfandyar Rahim Mashee, and pragmatists like former president Hashemi Rafsanjani. They were so wrapped up in their factional struggles that they failed to notice Rouhani, the only clerical candidate, creeping up behind them. He stole the hearts of the Iranian street by promises they were longing to hear, to free political prisoners, guarantee civil rights, return „dignity to the nation,” address the dire state of the economy and embark on “constructive interaction with the world.”
The infighting between Khamenei’s henchmen and the Guards was still going on early Saturday morning. Rouhani, concerned about a plot to falsify the election, turned up at the Interior Ministry and demanded an early tally of ballots and publication of first partial results.

They were accordingly released at 6.45 a.m. local time, less than seven hours after the last polls closed – but only after the Guards general Mohammad Reza Naqi was told to leave the building.
4. Khamenei tends to alternate hard-line presidents with less pugnacious successors, say debkafile’s Iranian sources. Rouhani is generally portrayed hopefully by Western and Israeli media as a moderate. But when the supreme leader struck a quiet deal with him as successor to Ahmadinejad, he knew his record as a loyal product of Iran’s clerical elite who, a decade ago, served as Iran’s National Security Adviser, and is at one with the Islamic Republic’s missions and goals.
At the same time, his style is conciliatory and sublte and he has gone out of his way to save Iran from confrontation with bigger and stronger opponents. For instance, as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005, Rouani ordered the temporary suspension of uranium enrichment activities when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 so as not to give the Americans a pretext for attacking Iran as well.

A readiness for a more flexible approach to Iran’s nuclear controversy with the West was hinted at by the supreme leader. In his message of congratulation to the new president Saturday night, Khamenei wrote: „I urge everyone to help the president-elect and his colleagues in the government, as he is the president of the whole nation.”

Rouhani’s first task will be to draft a detailed plan marking out the boundaries of Iranian concessions for obtaining the partial lifting of sanctions to restore the flow of frozen oil revenues to the country’s empty coffers.
This will entail the new president going head on head against the Revolutionary Guards on two scores. He must fight the powerful corps first over their refusal to consider nuclear concessions and, second, to start breaking up the Pasdaran’s vast monopolistic empire which, no less than international sanctions, stifles the country’s economic life.

The Guards are already spoiling for this fight and may not wait for the new president to take office in August. Saturday night, shortly after Rouhani was proclaimed victor, rumors were flying around Tehran of a Revolutionary Guards military coup conspiracy to prevent him from taking office. Gen. Reza Naqi, who tried to interfere in the counting of ballots, was heard commenting two days before the vote: “Never mind who is elected, or how, we consider it our duty to get rid of any undesirable president.”

President-elect Rouhani would do well to heed this remark.


Apprenticeships could help U.S. workers gain a competitive edge

The United States is on the verge of a manufacturing comeback. The domestic energy boom and low natural gas prices, together with competitive wage rates, can lead to a resurgence and the potential revival of goods-producing industries that could provide a great opportunity to increase middle-class wages, reduce income inequality and expand social mobility. But we also risk squandering this historic opportunity — mainly because firms interested in investing in the United States are finding too few workers with the skills needed to achieve the productivity and quality required in today’s globally competitive industries.

The skills gap is real. U.S. unemployment remains at 7.5 percent, and only one out of two African American men in their early 20s has a job. A survey of employers published last year revealed that about 600,000 jobs go unfilled because of a lack of skilled labor. Meanwhile, German companies’ top complaint about expanding operations in the United States is an inadequate number of skilled workers for intermediate-level technical occupations. Swiss companies have the same complaint. The problems lie not with college-educated engineers or graduates with general bachelor’s degrees but in the dearth of skilled machinists, welders, robotics programmers and those who maintain equipment.

The central answer to the mismatch between jobs and employment is a 21st-century apprenticeship program. In Austria, Germany and Switzerland — countries with long histories of guilds and craftwork — 55 to 70 percent of all young people enter apprenticeships. Apprenticeships have grown rapidly in other countries, tripling in Australia since 1996 and jumping tenfold — to more than 500,000 entrants last year — in England since 1990. The Group of 20 ministers of labor, the International Labor Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development strongly recommend expanding apprenticeship programs.

Apprenticeships could help reduce youth unemployment, widen opportunities for young people who do not want to sit in class all day and help ensure that the potential resurgence in manufacturing is not thwarted by a mismatch of skills. With effective apprenticeship systems, highly developed economies sustain jobs in manufacturing. Employment in manufacturing accounts for 20 percent of jobs in Germany and 16 percent in Switzerland but only 10 percent in the United States.

Although apprenticeships yield significant earnings gains for workers, this country has too few programs, partly because of the massive bias in public spending toward a college-only approach. Government spending on colleges and universities tops $300 billion per year; outlays to apprenticeship programs total less than $40 million annually. A public-private initiative could increase competitiveness and youth employment, upgrade skills and wages, achieve positive returns for employers and workers, and reduce government spending if companies played a larger role in skills development. A well-tested method in other countries involves building apprenticeship training so that it becomes a rewarding alternative for young people who are not bound for a traditional four-year university degree and a recruitment and training method for employers.

Apprenticeships train youths and adults by combining work-based learning with classroom instruction in a unified program that leads to a recognized and valued occupational credential. Trainees earn money and contribute to production while they learn, often in a plant where they can be employed full time. They graduate with a sense of pride and identity as a member of an occupational group. Employers bear most of the training costs, but the value added by apprentices often exceeds their wages; employers also save recruitment and training costs and can be confident that apprentices who complete their programs have job-relevant skills. U.S. apprenticeships are concentrated in construction and manufacturing, but in many countries include such jobs as chefs and bakers, computer network administrators, commercial sales representatives and health technicians. Levels in other countries suggest the United States could increase its number of civilian workers entering apprenticeships each year from 100,000 to more than 400,000.

Think of the approach as “college-plus.” The classroom courses that apprentices take are at least equal to community college offerings in their occupational tracks. But apprentices can immediately apply what they learn, benefit from employment-based advising and mentoring, and have a chance to gain and demonstrate skills such as reliability, teamwork and problem-solving — all while earning money instead of borrowing it.

Expanded apprenticeship programs could meet the needs of a competitive global economy at a time of budget austerity. South Carolina’s Republican legislature provides modest funding for an initiative that has increased apprenticeships in the state six-fold since 2009. Government costs for apprenticeships are low, with only modest sums needed to jump-start the system; most of the investment comes from the company offering the apprenticeship.

The United States’ academic-only strategy is ill-suited for a diverse population and for the multiple needs of the 21st-century labor market. A robust apprenticeship system would ensure that the impending manufacturing expansion succeeds in macroeconomic terms and widen the routes to rewarding careers for millions of workers.

This post also appeared on WP Opinions. The column is co-authored with Stuart E. Eizenstat who was chief White House domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter and undersecretary of commerce for international trade in the Clinton administration. For further research on apprenticeships, see Robert’s IZA Policy Papers Skill Development in Middle Level Occupations: The Role of Apprenticeship Trainingand “Can the United States Expand Apprenticeship? Lessons from Experience“.

The Foreign Policy Impact of Iran’s Presidential Election

Iranians went to the polls Friday to elect outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s successor. Candidates reported few serious problems with the process, and the losers sent congratulations to the eventual winner, Hassan Rouhani.

Compared to the political instability that followed Ahmadinejad’s 2009 re-election, this process was relatively boring. But however the news media felt about the election, Iran needs domestic stability if it is going to change its foreign policy in a very challenging geopolitical environment.

Domestic Stability

Domestic stability has been the first goal for any regime that would project power from Iran’s central highlands. The Persian Empire first emerged only after a central power subjugated the various groups of Indo-Iranian, Turkic and Semitic peoples within its borders. The suppression of 2009’s Green Movement is only a recent example of a strong state apparatus quelling internal dissent. For millennia, various Persian regimes have sought to keep such domestic pressures at bay while foreign powers have sought to exacerbate these tensions to distract Iran or make it vulnerable to invasion.

In today’s Iran, structural economic stresses that have persisted under decades of sanctions are coming to a head while sectarian competition in the region has halted the expansion of Tehran’s regional influence. The clerical regime that currently rules the Iranian mountain fortress understands the threats from beyond its borders, but like its predecessors, it must make peace at home before it can address external challenges.

Much of the Western, and especially U.S., coverage of the Iranian elections centered on Rouhani, a figure known to many in the West. He took part in the Islamic Revolution and had ties to Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic. He also has ties to Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s second clerical president, and is a representative of the current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, on the Supreme National Security Council. Rouhani served as secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council for 16 years. As an extension of this position, he was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005. It was during this period when Rouhani’s foreign policy credentials became best known in the United States and Europe. It was also during this period when Western and Iranian nuclear negotiators came closest to reaching a deal.

Paradoxically, Rouhani combines conservative and reformist tendencies. As a cleric, he does not seek fundamental changes in Iran’s power structure of the sort Ahmadinejad sought, but he also advocates cooperation with, and outreach to, other branches of Iran’s power structure such as the military and civilian politicians. While defending Iran’s nuclear program and regional agenda, he understands that simply issuing ultimatums to the West and escalating tensions rather than striking compromises will not win relief from sanctions. In this regard, he resembles the reformist former President Mohammed Khatami, under whom Rouhani served as chief nuclear negotiator. Rouhani can be expected to adopt a less incendiary tone in foreign policy than Ahmadinejad and to cooperate with other domestic power centers, like those of the supreme leader and the military and security forces.

Iran’s domestic woes give it an incentive to pursue the kind of pragmatic engagement and dialogue with the West Rouhani was known for, especially on issues such as Iran’s nuclear program and Tehran’s interests in the Levant, Iraq and Afghanistan. This means Friday’s election represents a relative success for the Islamic republic, though it denied the West’s desire for a disruptive election that would see Iran’s clerical regime fall.

Ahead of any meaningful traction on its foreign policy agenda, the Iranian government had to re-engage its electorate, something it has accomplished with this election. Tellingly, aside from current nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, seven of the eight candidates approved to run in this election campaigned on moderate or even reformist platforms, in stark contrast to the nationalist rhetoric of the firebrand Ahmadinejad.

Although largely unaffected by the regional unrest in 2011, the clerical regime needed to demonstrate both to its citizens and foreign capitals that the Iranian people could still bring about change at the ballot box, not just through the streets. Given the choice, the Iranian people chose pragmatism in relatively free and fair elections.

Though the Islamic republic cannot be changed overnight — long-term structural changes are needed to revive the Iranian economy — Rouhani’s campaign and election have provided a relatively immediate, low-cost way to lessen some of the domestic pressures on the regime. Large-scale demonstrations in support of the president-elect following the announcement of his victory took place in Tehran and throughout many of Iran’s urban centers, without the involvement of state security forces. For now at least, this suggests Iran’s large and increasingly frustrated electorate seems to have been appeased.

While it is, of course, too early to know how his presidency will play out, the Rouhani administration at the very least will not begin its tenure plagued with doubts regarding its legitimacy of the sort that greeted Ahmadinejad’s second term. Also unlike Ahmadinejad, the president-elect has the opportunity to bridge deep divisions within the clerical elite. With clerical authority and the supreme leader no longer under attack from the presidency, and with convincing electoral support behind him, Rouhani has already overcome the largest hurdles to amending Iranian policy at home and abroad.

Foreign Policy Shifts

It is in this framework that the West hopes to eventually re-engage Rouhani and Iran. Fiery rhetoric aside, Ahmadinejad also sought a strategic dialogue with the West, especially as his competition with the supreme leader prompted him to seek foreign policy wins. But the infighting that resulted from Ahmadinejad’s attempts to undermine the pro-clerical structure of the republic impeded any progress in this arena.

If Rouhani can get the clerics behind him and accommodate the interests of Iran’s military and security forces and the broader electorate, his chances of reaching a dialogue or negotiated settlement with the West will be much improved.

Guiding much of this will not be just the change in personalities but Iran’s shifting geopolitical environment. Since it is no longer on the regional offensive, Tehran’s previous defiant rejection of American interests is now incompatible with long-term Iranian goals in the region.

There is still much work to be done at home before Iran can switch gears, and Iran’s president-elect still faces considerable challenges to enacting any major shifts in policy. Rouhani must still convince many of the stakeholders within the regime that he can be trusted. He must protect the economic interests of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps while building a relationship with Iran’s larger and often overlooked regular army. He must also manage his relationships with Rafsanjani, his most influential political backer, and with the supreme leader. Rafsanjani and Khamenei are competitors, and although the approval and eventual success of Rouhani’s candidacy may hint at a broader clerical rapprochement, the supreme leader will not take kindly to attempts by Rafsanjani to rule through Rouhani. Rafsanjani, however, is unlikely to stop trying to capitalize on the successes of his protege.

Against a backdrop of domestic political reconfiguration, gradual diplomatic outreach to and from Iran can be expected. Parliamentary elections in 2015 will provide greater insight into how much change Rouhani can attempt, and it is along this timeline we should expect to see Iran seriously re-engage in negotiations with the West. In the meantime, little substantive change will occur beyond more careful rhetoric regarding both Iran’s nuclear program and Tehran’s support for the embattled Syrian regime. While challenges to both Iran’s domestic policy realignment and outreach to the United States thus remain, Western and regional hopes for such change endure.

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Desert Leopards_ Germany Selling Heavy Armor to the Saudis_.pdf


The Future of the Arab Gulf Monarchies in the Age of Uncertainties-US Army War College.pdf

Schooling Ourselves in an Unequal America –