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.

Photo: Getty
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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.