World View: Iran’s Younger Generations Propel Rouhani to Decisive Presidential Win

President Hassan Rouhani says Iran would be willing not to abandon the nuclear deal even if the United States pulls out, providing the European Union offers guarantees that Iran would keep benefiting from the accord.
JOHN J. XENAKIS

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Iran’s younger generations propel Rouhani to decisive presidential win
  • Brief generational history of Iran and Saudi Arabia
  • Donald Trump gets royal treatment visiting Saudi Arabia

Iran’s younger generations propel Rouhani to decisive presidential win

Young woman voting in Iran on Friday
Young woman voting in Iran on Friday

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani won an election battle to be decisively re-elected for a second four-year term as president. Rouhani is considered a moderate, and was not favored by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei. Rouhani won 57 percent of the vote in a large turnout, a huge margin against Khamenei’s favored candidate, hardline cleric Ebrahim Raissi, who got only 38 percent of the votes.

In his victory speech, Rouhani said:

Honorable Iranian nation, you are the winners of the election. I humbly bow to you. I will remain faithful to my vow to you…

Prouder than ever before, Iran is today ready to step up its relations with the world on the basis of mutual respect and national interests.

Our nation’s message (of peace and friendship) was explicitly departed to the world … and the nation expects this most important message to be correctly heard by all governments, neighbors, and specifically, by great powers. …

“Our elections indicated to the neighbors and the region that the way to restore security to the region is to shore up democracy and honor the people’s votes rather than to rely on foreign powers. …

Today, the world is well aware that the Iranian nation has chosen the path of interaction with the world, a path which is distant from extremism and violence. Our nation seeks to live in peace and friendship with the world. However, it is not ready to accept any disrespect or threat. This is our nation’s most important message, and our nation expects the message to be appropriately heard by all states, neighboring countries and, particularly, world powers.

It is an interesting observation that Iran comes second only behind Israel as the most democratic countries in the Mideast.

Analysts indicate the decisive victory comes from the overwhelming support of young people, who came out in large numbers because of opposition to the hardline restrictions on dress, free speech, and gender relations, and because of the widespread belief that Khamenei and the hardliners were using illegal tactics to win the election. Some analysts say that the election was about the economy, but since Rouhani has failed to meet his election promises in the economy, that does not seem to be the reason that Rouhani won. Instead, it appears that young people ignored the economic issues just to vote against the hardline clerics.

As I’ve written many, many times, Iran is in a generational Awakening era, just one generation past the Great Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the Iran/Iraq war that climaxed in 1988 with Saddam’s use of chemical weapons. A generational Awakening era is always about a “generation gap,” a political conflict between the generations of traumatized survivors of the preceding generational crisis war and the generations of young people who grew up after the war, and have no personal memory of it. The older and younger generations have completely different world views, and the political conflict continues until there is an Awakening era climax that settles the disputed. America’s last Awakening era was the 1960s-70s, marked by the “Summer of Love,” as well as widespread political and racial riots, until the Awakening era climax occurred in 1974 with the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Iran is also headed for some kind of Awakening era climax, pitting the younger generations, current represented by Hassan Rouhani, versus the traumatized Great Islamic Revolution survivors, currently represented by Ebrahim Raissi and Ayatollah Khamenei.

Rouhani’s decisive electoral victory is not enough to be called an Awakening era climax, but it could trigger events that could lead to such a climax. During the campaign, Rouhani bitterly criticized his political opponents, including Raisi’s supporters and the powerful Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) which enforces many of the hardline laws. Now that the election is over, hardliners are expected to “settle scores,” and this could result in a major political battle of a kind similar to the one that led to Nixon’s resignation.

In fact, there is a particularly bitter battle on the horizon. Khamenei has been Supreme Leader since 1989, but he’s 77 years old, and is in poor health, so there’s a succession battle approaching. This succession battle may trigger the Awakening era climax that we’ve been describing. Tehran Times and Reuters and The Hindu

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Brief generational history of Iran and Saudi Arabia

As I’ve been writing for over ten years, Generational Dynamics predicts that Iran will be an American ally in the approaching Clash of Civilizations world war, which will pit the US, India, Russia, Iran and the west against China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries.

Now would be a good time to briefly reprise the reasons for the prediction that Iran will be an American ally. There are two major categories of reasons.

  • First, Hindus and Shia Muslims have allied against Sunni Muslims at least as far back as the seminal Battle of Karbala in 680, which was the battle that firmly created what became the Shia-Sunni split. India is also very closely allied with Russia. America will be allied with India, and so with Russia and Iran.
  • Second, college students in Iran started holding pro-Western and pro-American protests in the late 1990s, at the beginning of Iran’s generational Awakening era. The Iran hardliners brutally suppressed those protests, but doing so did not change minds. Today, those students are 30-40 years old and have risen to positions of power, ready to take over when the current hardline leadership dies off. They are generally pro-Western and pro-American, and consider Saudi Arabia to be an existential threat.

Now would also be a good time to reprise the three events of 1979 that shook the Muslim world in the Mideast and beyond, and how they affect events today:

  • Prior to 1979, Iran had been an important ally of the US and UK in the Mideast. However, Iran’s Great Islamic Revolution brought a radical theocratic Shia government to Iran, threatening to take over the leadership of the Islamic world from Saudi Arabia, turning the entire political infrastructure around.
  • In November 1979, 500 young Salafist terrorists took over Saudi Arabia’s Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque. It took two weeks for a massive Saudi army effort to retake the Mosque. By the end, the official death toll was 127 soldiers and 117 militants. Unconfirmed reports indicate that over 1,000 civilians lost their lives. The Jihadists were re-fighting a crisis war that had occurred in the 1920s between the al-Saud family and a Salafist group known as the Wahhabis. At that time, the crisis war was resolved with an agreement that the al-Saud family would rule Saudi Arabia, but would follow the strict, austere demands of the Wahhabis. The attack on the Grand Mosque destroyed that agreement, and let the fuse for 9/11.
  • The third epochal event of 1979 was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which was seen by Saudi Arabia’s Salafists as a Christian invasion of a Muslim country. After the violent takeover of the Grand Mosque, the al-Saud government started encouraging Salafists in Saudi Arabia to travel to Afghanistan to fight the Russians. The Russians were mainly fighting the Pashtun tribes that later formed the Sunni Muslim Taliban, and they were mainly fighting against what became the Northern Alliance of Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks in northern Afghanistan, many of whom were Shias allied with Iran. At that time, the U.S. considered both Russia and Iran to be enemies, the latter because of the Iranian hostage crisis, and so the Americans supported the Pashtuns in Afghanistan (and Iraq in the Iran/Iraq war). The Afghan war led to the rise of Osama bin Laden, 9/11, and the Taliban.

Needless to say, Americans today are totally oblivious to the events described here, but these were epochal events in the history of the Arab, Persian and Muslim worlds in the Mideast and beyond, and they define what’s happening in the Mideast today.

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Donald Trump gets royal treatment visiting Saudi Arabia

President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia on Saturday, on the first leg of his five-nation tour. The first three visits will be to the centers of the Abrahamic religions – Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem, and the Vatican. After that, he will visit Brussels, the capital of the European Union, and then Taormina Italy for the G-7 meeting.

Trump was received like visiting royalty in Saudi Arabia. Trump, his wife Melania, and his senior White House staff were serenaded by military bands, treated to a flyover of Saudi jets, feted in opulent palaces and given the undivided attention of Saudi’s 81-year-old King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.

Trump and Salman signed an agreement for the sale of $110 billion of military equipment to Saudi Arabia over several years. The deal includes tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar and communications, and cybersecurity technology. Trump was joined on the trip by the CEOs of several major U.S. companies, which announced their own agreements with the Saudis. Among them was a $15 billion arrangement with GE focused on power, oil and gas, and health care.

What is most interesting about Trump’s visit is the symbolic flip-flop from the previous administration to the current one in attitudes towards Iran and Saudi Arabia.

President Barack Obama repeatedly showed his contempt, in one way or another, for the Saudis, and the feeling was mutual. However Obama, through his Secretary of State John Kerry who believes that America’s soldiers are terrorists, repeatedly sucked up to the Iranians, making one humiliating concession after another to close the nuclear deal. However, the feeling was not mutual, as Iran repeatedly insulted Kerry, Obama, and the American people, and still does.

So now President Trump has made a symbolic reversal. Trump is contemptuous of the Iranians, and the Iranians are contemptuous of him. Trump loves the Saudis, and the Saudis love him.

This is a good time to remind readers that it is a core principle of Generational Dynamics that, even in a dictatorship, major decisions are made by masses of people, by generations of people. The attitudes of politicians are irrelevant, except insofar as they represent the attitudes of the people. So the relations between American, Iranian and Saudi leaders is much less important than the attitudes that the masses of Americans, Saudis, and Iranians have for one another.

So we note the following:

  • Although the Supreme Leader and other Iranian politicians say they hate the United States, their attitudes are not shared by the younger generations, who are generally pro-Western and pro-American. So it really makes little difference what Obama and Trump think of Khamenei.
  • As illustrated by the 1979 terrorist attack on Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mosque, there’s a major split in Saudi Arabia between those who support the al-Saud government and the Salafists. How this split plays out in the approaching Clash of Civilizations world war remains to be seen.

I believe that a great deal of information can be determined by detailed generational analyses of the various tribes and ethnic groups in the Mideast. I believe that this analysis could be used to predict how events will unfold in the coming years. I certainly don’t have anything like the resources to perform such an analysis, but any college student interested in this kind of analysis could make an invaluable contribution to understanding what’s going on in the world today by taking on, as a thesis topic, a generational analysis of the tribes and ethnic groups in the Mideast. AP and Arab News

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Iran, Hassan Rouhani Ebrahim Raissi, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Great Islamic Revolution, Iran/Iraq war, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, IRGC, Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, India, Russia, China, Pakistan, Battle of Karbala, Grand Mosque, Afghanistan, Pashtuns, Taliban
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