The L.A. Times examines the significance of Iran’s mass trials:

Not only have they [the trails] failed to silence the opposition or quell protests, including one that erupted outside the court building as the proceedings were underway Saturday, analysts said, but they appear to be badly damaging the international credibility of the Iranian judiciary and political systems.
Even among five supporters of Ahmadinejad approached in Tehran on Saturday, all but one said they believed the stilted confessions being read by the defendants were forced, especially those of prominent figures such as former reformist Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi.
The trial, observers said, may be the symptom of fierce fighting within the country’s institutions, an attempt to build a case against the opposition by hard-line political novices loyal to Ahmadinejad.

By provocatively showcasing confessions by the French citizen, Iranian American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh and Iranian Canadian Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, as well as by British and French embassy staff, the trials will almost certainly further Iran’s diplomatic isolation, highlight its sometimes erratic political system and lower its leverage just as the West and Tehran are considering diplomatic talks as a way to resolve differences over the Iranian nuclear program.

Many wonder about the ultimate goal of the trial. Some analysts suspect that the proceedings, which even some Iranian conservatives have criticized, highlighted a hurried and botched attempt by hard-liners to build a legal case against Mousavi and his powerful allies, former President Mohammad Khatami and Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
“It could be that they’re trying to frame one specific person, potentially Rafsanjani, which could explain why he’s been so quiet lately,” said one analyst in Tehran, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He’s probably lobbying and working to ensure that they don’t succeed. But failing that, which appears to be the case, they’ll go for another scenario.”
Factional battles have long shaken the country’s political establishment, foiling its attempts at achieving consensus on big issues, such as relations with the West.
In the past, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was able to impose such consensus. But it appears this time he is unable to paper over the differences between various camps. Analysts fear the trial is symptomatic of a far deeper fissure that could make it difficult for the Obama administration to engage with Iran diplomatically, as it has vowed to do.

The last point reinforces the notion that the U.S. government should consider a tactical pause before engaging in high-level diplomacy with Iran.

Back to top