The Tragedy of Great Power Politics in Iran

Iran ProtestFor the past thirty years Friday prayers in Tehran have included chants of “Death to America”.  The past month some of these death wishes have been transferred to other great powers.

Reports claim that demonstrators for the Iranian opposition are now replying to the tried and true anti-Yankee slogan with chants of “Death to China” and “Death to Russia”. These two autocratic regimes are widely seen as Iran’s guardians on the UN Security Council and both quickly recognized Ahmadinejad’s re-election. In fact the Iranian president visited Russia in the first few days after the disputed election.

From the perspective of domestic politics, linking the regime to outside powers is, as Nico Pitney (via Andrew Sullivan) points out, quite astute in light of the regime attempting similar tactics with the opposition and the West. Russia, like the US and Great Britain, has a history of interfering in Iranian affairs having invaded the country twice.

The anger of the opposition towards China and Russia brings up an interesting question: what will happen to Iranian relations with these regimes if the opposition is eventually successful? Dan Drezner offers an interesting parallel with the 1953 coup. The current Iranian regime may prevail but Russian and Chinese support for the Ahmadinejad – Khamenei coalition could come back to haunt the outside powers. Backing any autocratic regime is essentially placing a bet that the regime can hold up for long enough to achieve the outside power’s goal and that the population will not resent the supporting government for too long. The United States lost this bet in Iran; China and Russia might as well

Photo from presidential candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi’s Flickr stream

One Response to “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics in Iran”
  1. sharbourt says:

    That’s really a great point.

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