Iran: power and the people

To accompany this week's Iran special, we look at the country from two angles -- the power and the p

Amid claims that the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is trying to "drive a wedge" between the Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian people, we suggest that the picture is far more complicated than this simple split.

First, we break down the power groups in the Islamic Republic and try to answer the simple question: Who rules Iran? Hillary Clinton this week said that "Iran is moving towards a military dictatorship", a claim rebuffed by Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki. We take a look at the power relationships that inform Iranian politics.

Second, we look at the composition of Iranian society. In the wake of recent demonstrations, many articles in the western press have referred to "the Iranian people" and "Iranian society". Here we identify the heterogeneous groups among the 74 million people who inhabit Iran and the socio-economic situations in which they live.

The future of Iran, from the reform movement to the country's nuclear programme, will be played out in relationships between the power and the people. The international community would do well to take these relationships into account.

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.