Bruce Bueno de Mesquita Predictions on Iran

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita predictions from February 2009 on Iran. The above is a 20 minute TED presentation.

– Prediction based on self-interest
– Need to look at all of the influencers on the key decision maker
– 5 people is 120 interactions, 10 people is 3.6 million interactions
– CIA notes that the computer model is right 90% of the time when the experts who provide the inputs are wrong
– Inputs are what what people have a stake in a decision, people say they want, how focused are they on the issue, how much influence do they have

Predictions on Iran

1. Iranian government will tone down its nuclear ambitions to the point where it will develop weapons-grade nuclear material only for research purposes

2. Real power rests not with the mullahs or even with the Supreme Leader, but with what he calls the “moneyed interests” of Iranian society: “the banker, the oil people, the bazaris”. Currently quiet and moderate mullahs will become more vocal.

3. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad influence will decline and has been in decline.

UPDATE: Current situational analysis:
A backstage struggle among Iran’s ruling clerics burst into the open Sunday when the government said it had arrested the daughter and other relatives of an ayatollah who is one of the country’s most powerful men.

Rafsanjani heads the cleric-run Assembly of Experts, which can remove the supreme leader, the country’s most powerful figure. He also chairs the Expediency Council, a body that arbitrates disputes between parliament and the unelected Guardian Council.

H. Richard Sindelar, a professor of foreign policy at the University of St. Thomas, served as the State Department’s deputy director of the Office of Near East & South Asia Analysis, which included the Iran portfolio.

The mullahs have miscalculated, and the fascinating panorama that is Iran now seems destined for a severe, long-term and possibly regime-changing crisis. The question will be whether protesters are willing to become martyrs.

there is the 18th of Tir factor, the anniversary of violent student protests in 1999 that arrives July 8-9. A declaration confirming Ahmadinejad as victor would almost certainly inspire more protests and a predictably harsh regime response, and this new round of violence could then segue into renewed anniversary rioting “honoring” the 18th of Tir protests.

Iran faces potentially a month or more of leadership fracturing, popular discontent, crackdowns and thuggery, all vectoring toward regime instability. Whether the protesters have the will to persist over many days in these wide-ranging and massive demonstrations — and publicly risk death in the streets as their brethren did in 1978-79 — remains uncertain; time and lack of success in the shorter term have a way of dissipating interest.

The final ingredient in the stew, in the eyes of those in the street, is presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi himself. He possesses a quiet charisma and is well-respected as a former prime minister who exhibited solid leadership during the troubling 1980s. Protesters from all walks of life, faced with accepting Ahmadinejad’s flailing leadership, may prove tenacious in supporting a change to Mousavi.

In the end, the protests may not bring the fall of the Islamic regime itself, but they might cost Khamenei his role, and could bring to power a president with the ability to stabilize Iran economically and politically. A reformer in the Iran context, Mousavi is still a very conservative leader by Western standards. He is also a pragmatist willing to engage the West.

One of Iran’s shrewdest political operators, Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, is the country’s perennial political bellwether. Ali Larijani could be the kingmaker who decides how events in Iran turn. Uniquely and deeply loyal to the Supreme Leader, Larijani is a bedrock conservative, and a former member of the Revolutionary Guard. But he also has a PhD in Western Philosophy and has written four books on Kant, and is generally seen as someone open to better ties with the West.

What began as groundswell protest of alleged vote fraud increasingly appears to be splintering into random acts of rage and frustration against emboldened and well-armed security forces determined to hold their ground.

Many experts in Iranian affairs do not believe the dwindling street protests signal an end for the challenges to Khamenei and the regime. Many foresee lower-risk but still potent acts of dissent such as general strikes, blocking traffic with sit-ins, and the nightly cries of protest from rooftops and balconies.

“It will carry on until the regime changes: Weeks, months, years. You’d be a fool to predict,” said Robert Hunter, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and head of Middle East Affairs in the Carter administration. “But the beast of the desire for something different is on the prowl.”

Senior Israeli Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad said that he sees no “signs of Ahmadinejad’s regime collapsing any time soon.”

“The intelligence community worldwide were surprised by the protests,” he said.

There are still signs of life in the protest movement. Small groups battled police Wednesday and there were calls on reformist Web sites for a gathering Thursday at the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

An analysis of the Iranian situation from the point of view of Israel.


Previous article discusses Bruce Bueno de Mesquita game theory political and global predictions.

Time Magazine: In Iran, One Woman’s Death May Have Many Consequences

Although it is not yet clear who shot Neda (a soldier? a pro-government militant? an accidental misfiring?), her death may have changed everything. The cycles of mourning in Shi’ite Islam actually provide a schedule for political combat — a way to generate or revive momentum. Shi’ite Muslims mourn their dead on the third, seventh and 40th days after a death, and these commemorations are a pivotal part of Iran’s rich history. During the revolution, the pattern of confrontations between the Shah’s security forces and the revolutionaries often played out in 40-day cycles.

Neda is already being hailed as a martyr, a second important concept in Shi’ism. With the reported deaths of 19 people on June 20, martyrdom provides a potent force that could further deepen public anger at Iran’s regime.

The revolutionaries exploited the deep passion of martyrdom as well as the timetable of Shi’ite mourning in whipping up greater opposition to Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. With the deaths of Neda and others, they may now find the same phenomena used against them.

Here is a 17 page look chapter by chapter at Bueno de Mesquita’s book Principles of International Politics, 2nd Edition.

De Mequita book Predictioners Game is coming out Sept 2009