Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iran: An Aroused Electorate

A strange fire is being kindled in Iran; a fire that has the enormous potential of erupting out of its chamber and consuming all who stand before it. The growing protests in Iran led by supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi over the results of the Presidential election are reaching critical mass. Despite Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s affirmation of the election results and his threats of a brutal crackdown the simmering fury of an aroused electorate continue to grow. Khamenei’s reaction was not surprising. After all the repudiation of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s electoral “victory” is also a repudiation of Khamenei (and his ilk) as well.

The protest movement in Iran raises more questions than it answers. Does Mousavi know that to overthrow Ahmadinejad he must also overthrow Khamenei, the mullahs, the Revolutionary Guard, and the militias that do the filthy work of the present regime? If Mousavi succeeds in overthrowing the present regime and its associates what will he create in its place? A more socially liberal regime or will this is be a repeat of 1979 when the Shah of Iran (a brutal dictator who ruled in the Western-style) was overthrown by another brutal dictator who ruled in accordance with the tenets of Islamic fundamentalism? Is Mousavi truly motivated to achieve true reform in Iranian society or this is another mad quest for power by a self-seeking adventurer (which one could say the late Ayatollah Khomeini was when he ruled Iran). Another question is this: is it truly possible to reconcile democratic socio-political values with the Shiite Islamic faith? Indeed this leads to further questions: if Mousavi’s revolt (and that is the proper word for what is going on right now in Iran) succeeds what will happen to Khamenei and his fundamentalist mullahs who have held great power in Iranian society since 1979? Does Mousavi send them all into exile (which allows the surviving mullahs to foment potential counter-revolution like Khomeini did when the Shah exiled him?) Or does Mousavi have them all killed which would lead to the mullahs being declared martyrs by their adherents and which would then spark even great counter-revolution? Given a cursory look at their records there is no way that Khamenei and the mullahs would ever peacefully accept being reduced to socio-political impotence. Even if Mousavi’s revolt succeeds there is a distinct possibility that Iran can and will disintegrate into a costly and prolonged civil war; perhaps even fragmenting the country geographically as well as politically. If such a civil war does take place how will that impact the Middle East and the world? If a civil war erupts and it disrupts Iran’s considerable presence in the oil-producing market than one much expect an even greater spike in gasoline prices than what we’ve seen during the past year.

And what can America to do while all this goes on? As it stands right now we can do nothing. This is an Iranian matter and must remain so. For all our loathing of the present Iranian regime, we must remain silent. It’s no accident that Ayatollah Khamenei tries to portray Mousavi as an American stooge (please remember one of the prime motivating factors in the overthrow of the Shah of Iran was that the Shah was very much a client king of the U.S. during his reign from 1941 to 1979). Indeed there is no guarantee that Mousavi will be more friendlier to the U.S. than Ahmadinejad is right now.

No, all we can do is sit and watch this revolutionary tennis match which will have seismic socio-political ramifications for the world at large.

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