Powered by WebAds

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Nothing new in Iran?

In Sunday's Los Angeles Times, Alistair Crooke argues that what the West sees as a revolution in Iran is really nothing more than two factions of the 'old guard' fighting it out.
What we are witnessing is not a frustrated East European-style "color revolution"; nor is presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi's [pictured CiJ] movement an uprising of liberal, Westernized sympathizers against the principles of the Iranian Revolution -- although there are surely some who are hostile to the revolution among his supporters.

Rather, what we have been seeing is a power struggle -- between factions of the "Old Guard" clergy who all initially assumed power in 1979 -- that erupted into public view in the recent presidential election campaign. As that dispute is settled over the coming months, we can expect big changes in the top ranks of the power elite. But the revolution is not about to implode.


Mousavi's casting of his mission as one of restoring the revolution to its original ideals was not only an internal message; it was also replayed widely in the Arab media. But the West seemed to be hearing and hoping for something else: that he was challenging the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and would seek to flout the institutions of the revolution. In other words, that he was seeking to ignite a "color revolution" -- such as Ukraine's Orange Revolution -- to change the system.

The extent to which Mousavi intended to send this signal and benefit by leveraging Western support is unclear. But that perception has opened Mousavi and his prominent backers to the risk of severe repercussions internally in the wake of the postelection turmoil.

Indeed, it is on the basis of such allegations that Hossein Shariatmadari, the influential editor of the conservative Kayhan newspaper, has called for both Mousavi and Khatami to face trial for "frightful crimes and overt acts of treason."

Paradoxically, the Western understanding that Ahmadinejad is a tool of the clerical leadership who stands with the repressive Revolutionary Guard and Basij (the popular militia) against reform could not be more wrong. It was Ahmadinejad who campaigned against the wealth and self-interest of some of the clerical elite. Mousavi was more closely allied to those interests.

The West should also understand that there are clerics in both Qom and Tehran, some of whom despise Ahmadinejad, who nonetheless share his view that some senior clerics have failed to actualize the spirit of the revolution in their lifestyles. The Revolutionary Guard too is probably much more radical in wanting genuine reform than is generally understood.

What we are dealing with is a complex struggle over the future course of the revolution. It is a struggle for the future vision of Iran that is overlaid by deep personality differences that in turn arouse deep passions.

For now, it is clear that a powerful determination has emerged in the wake of the election to exorcise the Rafsanjani-Khatami circles from the establishment, fueled by a growing popular anger as the evidence of their external links to the West is being carefully examined. Rafsanjani, who is well aware of the dangers of becoming isolated and excluded from the circles of power, is now walking a tightrope.
During the week, Mehdi Khalaji, who trained as a cleric in Qom, Iran for fourteen years, and who is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on Iranian politics and the politics of Shiite groups in the Middle East, argued that the Shiite clerics are all behind Khameni - and by implication, Ahmadinejad:
The Shiite clerical establishment, which stretches across the Middle East, is highly unlikely to initiate any sort of opposition to Khamenei's authority. Various Shiite leaders may not be happy with the Iranian government's policies, but publicizing their differences might jeopardize the social, political, and financial advantages they now receive from Iran. For example, during his Friday sermon immediately after the Iranian election, Seyyed Mohammad Hossein Fazlallah, a prominent Shiite ayatollah in Lebanon, stated his support for the government's official result and voiced his admiration of the Iranian people for their participation in the election. In Iraq, al-Sistani kept silent about the election result and has not reacted to the postelection crisis. Both ayatollahs have offices in Qom and benefit from the support of the Iranian government.

Inside Iran, support for Khamenei, although mostly silent, is also evident. Morteza Moqtadai, the head of Center for Seminary Management, announced that the election result was approved by "God and the Hidden Imam," and stated that Khamenei's words are the "Hidden Imam's words; when he says there was no manipulation in the election, he should be heard as the ultimate arbiter."

Khamenei -- for the moment -- is in a strong position. The clerical establishment's prevailing silence, however, could eventually work against him. If the political tide begins to turn, the establishment could be rendered powerless and its support ineffective, leaving Khamenei and his followers in a vulnerable position.
The people in the streets - the ones who are absorbing the brunt of the blows from the Basij and who have elicited so much sympathy in the West - seem generally opposed to Iran's clerical regime. Unfortunately (and I am well aware of Crooke's biases - look at his biography at the end of his article), it seems likely that Moussavi is not looking to go anywhere near as far as they are in seeking change. Unfortunately also, they are unlikely to get the support they deserve from the Hopenchange administration in the White House - which limits hope and change to radical Leftists, Muslim terrorists and indigenous people of color. I would bet that the Iranian revolution is going to be suppressed for the time being (although I hope and pray it won't be). But once a genie like that is let out of the bottle, it can't be completely stuffed back in. Look for more frequent uprisings against the Iranian government in the future.


At 4:52 PM, Blogger R-MEW Editors said...

Crooke is more than simply biased. He is Director of the Conflicts Forum, on organization committed to engagement with Hamas, Hizbullah, and other Islamic terror groups which it scrupulously refers to as "resistance movements". See Daniel Pipes and Melanie Phillips expose's on Crooke here:



Crooke has built his career on embracing Islamic revolution as a fait accompli and is deeply invested in seeing the West ingratiate itself to Iran and its proxies. If the Iranian people were to compel a different leadership with a more moderate mission, Crooke would be out of a job. Imagine his sense of lost prestige and wasted time associated with all of those outreaches to Hizbullah and Hamas if these groups were to suddenly wither absent Iranian financial and military support.

Mousavi may not be an angel but the counter-revolution is about more than a simple power struggle between "two factions of the old guard". By demanding free elections, freedom to assemble and protest; by pleading with the West to intervene, the Iranian people are demonstrating that they are fed up with the iron-fisted fascism of the current government and its puppet-masters amongst the clerics. Even naifs like Roger Cohen get this and its implications for beneficial change in Iran.

At 10:37 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Roger Cohen woke up. The Obama Administration hasn't and still continues to believe in the face of all the evidence, that a meeting of the minds is still possible with the Khamenei/Ahmedinejad regime. Alistair Crooke may be correct in noting the current conflict involves two Khomeinist factions fighting it out over the course of the Islamic revolution. Still, there is the sense in Iran it has outworn its welcome. It is true the regime has succeeded in repressing the challenge to its power but it has so at a significant cost to its own legitimacy. The final chapter in Iran's politics has not yet been written, the events of the past month notwithstanding.


Post a Comment

<< Home