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Iran’s Supreme Leader Faces Two Huge Decisions

John Allen Gay, The National Interest 

July 1, 2015

Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, faces two momentous decisions in the coming months, decisions which could shape his country for a generation. The first decision will likely come in the next week: Will he allow his nuclear negotiators to make a deal? The second will be made in the next six months or so: Will he allow Iran to move toward transparency and reform, particularly with relatively open elections for the Assembly of Experts and the Islamic Consultative Assembly—the Majles—in February 2016? On both questions, Khamenei can say yes or no. He is choosing, in other words, between four possible futures:

  • A nuclear deal and a domestic opening
  • A nuclear deal without a domestic opening
  • No nuclear deal, but a domestic opening
  • No deal and no opening

Each future has a unique set of dangers and benefits for the supreme leader and his regime. Each future will also shape Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s place within the political system, and Iran’s role in the region. We’ll examine each path to see which one Khamenei is likely to find most promising. But first, let’s set the scene.

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