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Slovak Commentary Warns Against Excessive Western Expectations From New Iranian President-Elect
June 25, 2013

Iranian President elect Hasan Rowhani, second left in first row, attends a prayer during his visit of the shrine of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, Sunday, June 16, 2013. Hasan Khomeini, the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini leads the prayer in foreground. Iran`s newly elected reformist-backed president Hasan Rowhani said Sunday that the country`s dire economic problems cannot be solved "overnight," as he took his first steps in consulting with members of the clerically dominated establishment on his new policies. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Commentary by Marek Cejka, expert on Middle East: “Brains Under Turbans”

Just like practically no one was able to predict neither the Arab Spring nor that the peaceful Syria would quickly turn into a quagmire of blood, the (outcome of) recent presidential election in the Islamic Republic of Iran also came as a major surprise to most analysts.

It has thus been confirmed once again that too much theorizing and making prognoses about the future of the Middle East can often be very misleading.

It is true that, after the eight years during which the office has been held by Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, probably any successor to him should represent an improvement of Iran`s image. Ahmadinezhad has indeed used his presidencies more than amply for making foreign-policy provocations of all kinds. And yet it is interesting that, out of the six candidates who eventually ran for the presidential seat, it was the most moderate one -- cleric Hasan Rowhani -- who became elected.

This is because, ahead of the 2009 election, when Ahmadinezhad was again -- for a second time -- running for the state post, the country experienced mass unrest, which began to be described as the Green Revolution. This subsequently caused the regime to start large-scale repression and radically suppress the opposition movement. However, Rowhani has relatively close links to the “Greens” and he is also a protege of two former presidents who have generally and for a long time been seen as reformists: Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.

While the office of president is an influential post in Iran, it should not be overestimated. This is because the one who calls the tune in politics in the Islamic republic is not him, but the person who has the title of rahbar -- Iran`s supreme spiritual leader. In the country`s complex political system, the latter stands above all institutions, including the directly elected president.

Iranian President elect Hasan Rowhani, stands in front of a portrait of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, during visit of his shrine, just outside Tehran, Iran, Sunday, June 16, 2013. Iran`s newly elected reformist-backed president Hasan Rowhani said Sunday that the country`s dire economic problems cannot be solved "overnight," as he took his first steps in consulting with members of the clerically dominated establishment on his new policies.(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

This fact is often ignored by Western analysts, as they ascribe too much importance to the office of Iranian president. This has also been the case in their assessments of Ahmadinezhad and it is equally possible that the hopes being pinned on Rowhani these days are also a little too high. One fact that must be rather surprising to many Europeans and Americans is that even a Shiite clergyman can be considered a “reformist” in Iran. According to the Western way of thinking, it is obviously much more logical for a secular politician and not a Muslim cleric to be a bearer of ideas such as freedom and human rights...

Nevertheless, as (name of US person redacted), the most experienced CIA agent that the Americans have ever had in the Middle East, writes in one of his books: “Too often do Westerners have a tendency to see only the turban and not also the brain hidden underneath it.”

Iran is an extremely complicated country and even Iranians themselves often find it difficult to understand, for instance, the logic of how the domestic politics works. Let us just recall that, for example, one of the most renowned Iranian ayatollahs -- Hoseyn Ali Montazeri, whom Ayatollah Khomeyni, the leader of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, himself chose to be his successor, was deprived of the succession (again by Khomeyni) and placed in home confinement owing to his criticism of the Islamic republic. He, in fact, became a dissenter and some of his followers were even executed.

While there have also been other clerics who have adopted a critical attitude toward the regime, they have acted more diplomatically and so have been able to stay in politics and achieve important positions in it. The group includes personalities such as Khatami, Rafsanjani, and apparently also Rowhani.

All that remains now is to wait until the new president takes office in August and see whether or not he will find enough courage and support for moving from words to actions.

(Description of Source: Bratislava in Slovak -- Website of high-circulation, influential center-left daily; URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Slovak Commentary Argues Military Attack on Iran `Does Not Make Sense`
Sme Online
January 27, 2013

Commentary by Michal Onderco, visiting researcher at Columbia University in New York: “Thrilling Story From Tehran”

The outcome of the Israeli (parliamentary) election could also have an influence on developments in Iran. Israel knows that war is the last thing that it needs. However, mutual provocations could get out of control.

The story of Iran`s nuclear program remains a thriller even in the year 2013. It may no longer be the riveting whodunit from the first decade of this millennium, but we will not be bored for sure.

A military attack still does not make sense and this is now clear to all sides. Israel must be aware that it is probably not capable of destroying Iran`s nuclear program militarily. This may be hard to digest for the leaders in Jerusalem, for whom the basis of Israel`s defense policy is absolute military supremacy over all the regional powers. Today, in order to penetrate to the depths of Iran`s nuclear laboratories, one would need equipment that only the United States has in its arsenal.

And so, despite all the discussions about a “red line” and leaving “all options on the table,” there will most probably be no military attack. Even if incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu forms a new government after this week`s election, he will not launch a military attack without a palpable corpus delicti. Which he surely will not have. World Would Lose Eyes

Military confrontation in Iran is the last thing that Israel and the United States need at the moment. In Egypt, there is a constitutional transformation going on whose outcome and implications are unclear, while Syria is experiencing the collapse of its regime, which still has several chemical and reportedly also uranium trumps up its sleeve and whose place is being scrambled for by young men from the jihadist group Al-Nusra Front. Iraq, about which we may have forgotten a little by now, is turning into a failing state.

Israel and the United States both know that any attack would not lead to the destruction of the nuclear program, but would make the Iranians begin to think about a nuclear weapon even more actively. And an attack would, in any case, lead to the end of cooperation between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency and its inspectors. This would mean that the world would lose its “official eyes” in Iran, as well as the only generally accepted platform for technical discussions about the Iranian program. This is a price not worth paying for now. And this calculation is unlikely to change even in 2013.

The coming weeks are expected to see negotiations between the West and Iran, whose success is not guaranteed. There is an (presidential) election coming in Iran and if the year 2009 taught us anything about Iranian elections and the country`s nuclear program, it is that rivals accuse one another of being too soft toward the West. A grand agreement with the United States does not play into the Iranian regime`s hands at the moment. This calculation could change if the Revolutionary Guards were to begin seriously losing ground -- politically or financially. It is uncertain whether or not the situation has now reached this point. Silent War

This does not mean, however, that things will not escalate in Iran. The endeavor to derail the program will continue and will probably translate into new attempts at sabotage, uncanny deaths of scientists, mysterious fires in laboratories, or viruses making the centrifuges spin at speeds too high.

On the other hand, the Iranian regime, cornered and fighting with the domestic public opinion and the collapsing currency, but armed with a strong determination to carry on with the nuclear program, has a wide range of possible responses. A silent war against banks and oil companies in cyberspace, making life difficult for US ships in the Persian Gulf, and the supply of weapons to armed groups in other parts of the world are just some of the possibilities. Provocations on both sides will create opportunities for unexpected rapid escalation.

There is nothing indicating that the author of this commentary will not be able to recycle it, with minor modifications, in the year 2014. If it is true that, with a good constellation and very good luck, there may occur progress toward resolving the issue, it is also true that even a small slip could have unforeseeable consequences. Miscalculation over Iran`s nuclear program will still not pay in 2013.

(Description of Source: Bratislava Sme Online in Slovak -- Website of leading daily with a center-right, pro-Western orientation; targets affluent, college-educated readers in mid-size to large cities; URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Slovak Commentary Presents Arguments Against Israel`s Plans for Attack on Iran
August 23, 2012

Commentary by Slovak Atlantic Commission security analyst Tomas A. Nagy: “Attack on Iran Would Be Blind Alley”

After one and half years of revolutionary events, collectively known as the Arab Spring, the world has once again turned its attention to Iran as the major puzzle for establishing security on our planet. The latest reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency indicate demonstrable progress in the Iranian nuclear program, including the suspicion that it may be used for military purposes.

The international community has offered divergent responses. EU member countries, the United States, and Arab governments have opted for consensus formed by diplomacy and the application of a sanction procedure, which represents the fifth package of trade and economic restriction mechanisms. The positions of Russia and China are marked by permanent skepticism about the need for a new wave of expansion of sanctions. They think that sanctions are reducing space for a stronger entry of the Iranian regime into the process of negotiations.

As usual, the Israeli Government has gone the furthest in its endeavor to convince others that there is a real threat. The prime minister and the defense minister have indicated several times that another alternative solution offers itself as well: selected armed interventions in the locations where the military part of the Iranian nuclear program is believed to be developed.

Tel Aviv is evidently trying to focus attention on this problem, even though it has been known for a long time that a military solution has limited chances of success. This is because Israel does not have military predominance over Iran and it is also assumed that Tehran has moved the main parts of its nuclear program to secure locations. It is quite evident today that an isolated approach in the form of a preventative intervention by a single country would not have an adequate effect, because if fatal damage were caused, this would lead to the collapse of the entire nuclear development in Iran.

There are several reasons why even a partially effective military solution to the problem would only be a painful step nowhere in practice.

A solution based on using military force would quite certainly undermine the fragile balance of power that currently exists in the region and, in all probability, would also strengthen anti-Western sentiments in some Middle East countries favoring the Iranian regime. At the same time, this would weaken the growing consensus of opinions on the need for a certain constructive isolation of Tehran. There would be a threat of a massive increase in oil prices if Iran tried to retaliate by blocking the Strait of Hormuz. Another immediate consequence would apparently be the termination of communication between Tehran and the international community, with critical consequences for the further monitoring of the development of its nuclear program.

This scenario would apparently increase the potential for the “North Korean road” to be repeated, that is, Iran would exit from the procedure regulated by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the subsequent defense doctrine and keep its nuclear arsenal on a permanent basis. Even if the aforementioned events developed only partially, this would only lead to the strengthening of the position of the regime and completely eliminate the possibility of an internal process of political and social “recovery” in the country.

This means that a military attack would not only represent a desperate attempt with poor chances of a productive result and a gamble with security and economic stability in the broader region, but it would also practically write off the most desired alternative -- gradual integration and legitimization of the Iranian regime through internal political reform.

Sanctions, no matter how targeted and comprehensive, always carry a certain risk as to whether they will be fully enforceable and whether they will produce results quickly. In spite of this, practice has shown that the application of sanctions does not exclude the m from being combined with other components of diplomacy, so that they do not become a breeding ground for long-term geopolitical and economic chaos and, at the same time, leave the door open for future -- hopefully more productive -- solutions.

This is why the persistence of the international community sticking to its current position, with the examination and possible application of the possibilities of further expansion of sanctions, is the only reasonable solution -- both from a global perspective and in terms of regional security.

(Description of Source: Bratislava in Slovak -- Website of high-circulation, influential center-left daily; URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.





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