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Friday, December 04, 2009

No more blank checks for Iran's Green revolution

One of the reasons that the Ahmadinejad - Khameni regime has not purged its enemies in Iran over the last six months is that Ayatollah Khameni fears the man pictured in the top left of this post: Mir Hossein Mousavi. Mousavi is a consummate insider in Iran, and is no less ruthless than Ahamdinejad and Khameni.
While a purge to uproot supporters of Mir Hussein Moussavi, Ahmadinejad’s main challenger in the June 12 election, could restore a semblance of stability, it might also damage the regime’s viability. For as much as they portray Moussavi as a sore loser and a saboteur trying to destabilize the Iranian state, he is a regime insider, with supporters throughout the religious and educational establishments and within Iran’s most dangerous programs.

Moussavi’s background is at odds with his new reformist stance. He pretends to have been out of politics for 20 years, returning now as an Iranian Cincinnatus to save the country from the “irrational and superstitious” Ahmadinejad. This is an affectation. Moussavi has retained his regime credentials and connections while carefully avoiding the entanglements of daily politics. For the last 20 years, he has been a member of the powerful Expediency Council, an unelected body designed to prevent the Iranian parliament from exercising any real power, though he has chosen not to attend its meetings. Like Hashemi Rafsanjani, the hardy perennial of Iranian politics, Moussavi represents the “deep state,” a network of personal, family, and professional relationships that cuts across Iran’s institutions. Unlike Rafsanjani, Moussavi has avoided conspicuous corruption.

During the election campaign, Moussavi ran on his record as a competent economic manager during the Iran-Iraq war. This dull technocratic persona masked a prime ministership from 1981 to 1989 characterized by repression. The human-rights abuses of the Moussavi era relegate Ahmadinejad’s to historical footnotes. Religious and ethnic minorities suffered particularly harsh treatment; for example, more than 200 Baha’is were executed, all Baha’i organizations were declared to be criminal in August 1983, three-quarters of Iran’s remaining Jews fled the country, and thousands were killed in a “counterinsurgency” campaign in Iran’s Kurdish regions. The cultural scene was devastated by a “cultural revolution” in which the regime violently seized control of universities, “Islamized” courses, informally barred all Baha’is from universities, threw academics out of their jobs, banned books, and rejoiced in the flight of dissident intellectuals. Indeed, Moussavi still sits on the Supreme Council for the Cultural Revolution, another membership he retains but doesn’t use. His record worries dissidents and democrats. Yet it’s precisely that bleak past that makes Moussavi a greater challenge to the state than former president Mohammad Khatami, who had once been the national librarian.
Read the whole thing.

This article confirms that having Mousavi as President would be very little improvement over Ahmadinejad.

In a post on Thursday, I argued that it is too late for regime change to stop Iran's drive toward nuclear weapons. It's actually worse than that. The kind of regime change that is currently in the offing will accelerate or at least maintain that drive - possibly even with the same goals. The world has to confront Iran's nuclear program on the assumption that we will be dealing with nothing better than Ahmadinejad and Khameni.

Over the course of the last six months, we have been urged to support the Green revolution in Iran. Watching the brutal crackdown on the streets of Iran, it's very difficult not to support them. But every time anyone has raised the question of Mousavi not being any improvement over Ahmadinejad, we are brushed off with assertions that his record should be ignored, that Mousavi is just a tool for a better change to come, that the idea is to get rid of Ahmadinejad and Khameni, because anyone would be better than they are, and a host of other excuses.

While I would be thrilled to see Ahamdinejad and Khameni deposed, the questions need to be asked and answers need to be given: Who would replace them? What sort of government would the replacement set up? What would the human rights situation be in a post-Khomenist Iran? How would Iran's existing disagreements with the 'international community' - particularly regarding its nuclear weapons program - be resolved by that replacement government? Iran is still the world's fourth largest oil producer and given Iran's oil production, having a nuclear capability cannot be explained away as simply a matter of national pride. Blank checks just don't cut it anymore. It's time to start answering the questions.


At 1:23 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Iranian opposition is led by Islamists just as radical as the regime in power. They are not democrats. We have to be careful to make sure the cure isn't worse than the disease. The Green Revolution as Debbie Schlussel has written, is a fraud. There is nothing liberal or pro-Western about it.

At 2:13 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I see people like Mousavi as the Mikhail Gorbachev's of Iran. They might have dodgy past but they have mellowed out since and are attempting to reform.

At the end of the day however, based on what I've seen, these figures are merely a tool for people to continue their activism. I'm pretty sure they are going to see past Mousavi or other reformist leaders once they reach that end.


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