Political Repression and Resistance
If the story of Narges Mohammadi is any indication of Iran’s view on communicating with foreigners, it is very easy to understand why the international negotiations would have dim prospects. The prominent human rights activist, who previously spent four years in prison for her role as the deputy head of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, is being brought up on new charges of “propaganda against the state” and “collusion against national security” because she met with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in March, sparking criticisms of “foreign interference in Iranian domestic affairs.”
Remarkably, the suppression of filmmakers does not always succeed in silencing them. As a case in point, New York Times movie reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis has just reviewed a new Iranian film by Mohammad Rasoulof, who made it in defiance of a twenty year ban on his filmmaking. The picture, titled “Manuscripts Don’t Burn,” takes on the topic of government repression, and Catsoulis describes it as a “slow-motion explosion of anti-authoritarian rage.”
Analysis of Saudi-Iranian Relations
Coincidentally, Ahmadinejad’s speech came on the occasion of Hassan Rouhani’s first anniversary as president. The current administration has not exactly done anything to scale back the Islamic extremism that rules the Iranian system, although it has been more pragmatic about spreading that extremism abroad. This has compelled some adversarial regional powers to make or accept diplomatic overtures between themselves and Iran.
Saudi Arabia has been more resistant to this than most, but has lately contributed to a perceived thaw in relations. At Eurasia Review, Kanchi Gupta of the Observer Research Foundation offers an analysis of the persistent animosities between Iran and Saudi Arabia. He argues that they are more attributable to the ideological components of the Iranian system than any direct military threat.
Gupta finds that Iran’s ideological influence in the Middle East has always been the greatest threat to Saudi Arabia, and that historically when that rhetoric was at its height, relations between the two countries were at their worst, regardless of the military situation.
“Saudi Arabia has always feared Iran’s ability to export the revolution to its borders, particularly by inciting the Saudi Shia community,” Gupta writes. Iran’s contribution to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq showcase this influence, but it is an influence that doesn’t necessarily require the current military interventions. Gupta seems to suggest that Iran poses a danger just by virtue of the ideological bent of its ayatollahs.