WASHINGTON – With tensions increasing between Iran and the West, the Atlantic Council’s Iran Task Force is releasing a new Issue Brief highlighting growing political turmoil within the country, and recommending steps the United States can take to boost Iranian political rights while containing advances toward nuclear weapons.

Published today, "Iran’s Internal Politics: The Supreme Leader Grows Ever Lonelier at the Top" comes on the heels of Iran’s March 2 elections, when Iranians went to the polls for the first time since the disputed elections of 2009. Conservative opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won an overwhelming majority of parliamentary seats, further weakening the institution of the presidency and boosting the power of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. With the elections safely behind him, Khamenei may be able to show more flexibility in upcoming nuclear negotiations.

Because of his apparent consolidation of power, however, Khamenei must take responsibility for Iran’s growing diplomatic isolation and economic crisis. The report argues that responsibility for altering the system should and must remain with the Iranian people. The United States can help by improving Internet access for Iranians, by accepting more Iranian students, and by restraining Israel from attacking Iran. Such steps can “help reopen Iran’s political space so that eventually, Iranians can find a way to change their political system by themselves.”

About the Authors and the Iran Task Force

Yasmin Alem is an independent Iran analyst and the author of “Duality by Design: the Iranian Electoral System.” She has served as a consultant to international organizations and NGOs, including the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United States Institute of Peace, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

Barbara Slavin is a Senior Fellow of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, a journalist and author of a 2007 book on Iran entitled Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S. and the Twisted Path to Confrontation (St. Martin’s Press, 2007). She is a Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor.com, a new website on the Middle East. Ms. Slavin is also a former assistant managing editor of The Washington Times, senior diplomatic reporter for USA TODAY, and Middle East correspondent for The Economist.

The Iran Task Force, co-chaired by Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat and Senator Chuck Hagel, seeks to perform a comprehensive analysis of Iran’s internal political landscape, as well as its role in the region and globally, to answer the question of whether there are elements within the country and region that can build the basis for an improved relationship with the West and how these elements, if they exist, could be utilized by US policymakers. Launched in February 2010, the Iran Task Force is a project of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, and is supported by a grant from the Ploughshares Fund.