January 16, 2004

Iranian 'Democracy'


This Guardian article is typical of the major media's take on this issue: Reformists scent victory in Iranian parliament row.

Reformists in Iran's parliament said yesterday that they were encouraged by "positive" signs from the theocracy's supreme leader [Ali Khamenei], but would continue their daily sit-ins in the parliament building until a sweeping ban on moderate electoral candidates was lifted. [...]

Adopting a more subdued tone after several days of angry speeches, the [reformist Members of Parliament] are waiting to see how the conservative Guardian Council carries out the supreme leader's orders.

But is it really some kind of epic battle of democracy between moderate "reformists" and extremist "conservatives"? Amir Taheri, writing in the National Post, says that it isn't: Iran: A "Sort" of Democracy.

[W]hat are the key points of difference between the two sides? The short answer is: not much.

For purposes of simplification, the Western media refer to the two sides in Iran as "reformists," supposedly led by President Mohammad Khatami, and "conservatives" whose leader is identified as another mullah, Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Republic's "Supreme Guide."

The terms "reformist" and "conservative," however, mean little, if anything, in the current context of Iranian politics.

The supposedly "reformist" bloc has controlled the presidency for the past six years and the parliament for the past four years. And yet, it has implemented absolutely no reforms of any significance. Nor has it even proposed such reform.

For its part the "conservative" faction bases its ideology not on the need to conserve anything, but on the necessity of exporting the Khomeinist revolution first to other Muslim countries, and then to the entire world. [...]

What is happening in Iran today is a power struggle between two factions within the same Khomeinist establishment.

The so-called "reformist" faction is not objecting to the principle of vetoing candidacies by the "guardian angels" [i.e., the Council of the Guardians of the Constitution, which is a 12-man, mullah-dominated organ appointed by the "Supreme Guide" and answerable to him.] It is objecting to the fact that its own members are vetoed.

A Wall Street Journal editorial identified Iran's Real Reformers.

Beyond this scrum between competing factions, it's worth noting that the ground under the feet of Iran's ruling mullahs appears increasingly unstable. In June they faced student demonstrations demanding reforms to separate mosque and state, and in November the world discovered the mullahs had been lying about their nuclear program for 18 years. Last month the Bam earthquake took thousands of lives, and left the country's backwardness and the slowness of relief exposed for all to see.

Iran's under-30-year-olds -- who comprise a majority of the population -- have been leading the calls for a more liberal Muslim society. These are Iran's real reformers. But there is as yet no sign that their voices are being heard.

If we want to protect ourselves from future 9/11s, the U.S. should at least help the dissidents to render harmless the world's worst sponsor of terrorism.

(Thanks to 'Free Iran' News for the heads-up on both articles. Be sure to check out their site and their merchandise.)

Posted by Forkum at January 16, 2004 07:42 AM