From Islamic Republic to Iranian Caliphate
In effect the right wing is appointing a consultative
Shura in place of an elected parliament
February 2, 2004
Maturity, ecstasy and
death come in quick succession in nature, and sometimes in politics.
After years of earnest but incoherent struggle under an unimaginative
and timid leadership, Iran's political reform finally balked
at the disqualification of most of its parliamentary candidates
by the right wing Guardian Council.
It flew high on three heady
weeks of defiant liberation rhetoric, hunger strikes and audacious
threats of boycott and resignation. The star of Iran's reform
went supernova before turning into what it will be for the foreseeable
future: a political red dwarf.
The American administration that
has abandoned Afghanistan to warlordism and is resigned to tribalism
and fragmentation in Iraq has opted for the exact opposite of "regime
change" in Iran. As the minions of Senator Arlen Specter
prepare to embrace the entourage of Ayatollah Hassan Rouhani one
can almost hear the podium pounding election speeches of President
This administration's capitulation to the right wing
mullahs at the moment of the reversal of American fortunes in the
Middle East will be spun as Iran's capitulation in the wake
of a proper show of force in Iraq. There is no surprise as Americans
once more put the rhetoric of spreading democracy in the Middle
East on the backburner -- especially in an election year. The real
news is that the Iranian reformers put on a grand show of defying
the widely hated Islamic troglodytes and Iranians didn't
The majority of Iranians didn't care about the spectacle
of the reformist resistance on the floor of their parliament because
they had no confidence in a movement that had once embodied their
political aspirations. The reform mint had lost its luster and
much of its currency when Iranians went to the polls in 2001 to
reelect a do-nothing reform president.
President Khatami quickly
confirmed people's misgivings by appointing a right wing
cabinet and appearing to support the dastardly measures of the
right wing judiciary against reform journalists. Khatami's
public betrayal of reform occurred against the backdrop of the
emasculation of reform parliament that was elected in 1999.
the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenie snipped the blossom of the nascent
reform parliament by forbidding their revision of Iran's
draconian press laws, very few reformers evinced the kind of
defiance that their constituents (and even their right wing enemies)
It is true that the reform parliament acted as a check
against further erosion of liberties and more than once blew the
whistle on the right wing's abuses of human rights. It is
also true that this parliament passed more than a hundred progressive
laws that were blocked by the right wing. But all these were seen
as proof for the imperviousness of the Islamic regime to reform
rather than evidence for the resilience of the reform parliament.
News of the death of political reform in the wake of the
popular boycott of last spring's City and Village Councils' elections
have not been exaggerated. That event portended
the present public nonchalance toward the reformers' unlikely
rebellion. It also foreshadowed the coming boycott of the February
20th parliamentary elections (and almost certainly that of the
next year's presidential elections) by about 80% of the electorate.
right wing didn't care about the demise of democratic politics
in the Islamic republic because that game's domestic
costs had surpassed its international benefits. By barring the
bulk the reform contenders (including all but five of the present
reform majority in the parliament) from standing for office the
right wing has transformed the Islamic Republic of Iran into an
Islamic Caliphate with an appointed consultative Shura in place
of an elected parliament.
The right wing is well aware that it
is swimming against the universal tide of democratization but it
has too much at stake to worry about international perceptions.
Democratic politics and perestroika of the spring of Tehran (1997-99)
could not be tolerated by the old revolutionary power elite. Their
two decades of secrecy, political oppression and economic malfeasance
could not stand the searchlight of the reform press. Revolutionary
holy cows such as the "second revolution" (the taking
of American hostages) and the "holy defense" (the eight
years of ghastly war with Iraq) would not be gored in the public
The right wing's self-serving interpretation of Islamic
law and their ideological foreign policy could not take many jabs.
And hence, years of sabotaging reform's piecemeal advances
had to lead to a final counterattack: the reform had to be buried
once and for all.
But winning this battle may prove a pyrrhic victory for the theocrats.
They may have just pushed the legitimacy crisis of the Islamic
Republic's into dangerous depths. What populist regime can
rely for long on ten to twelve percent of popular support? They
still have plenty of brute force but a bayonet makes for a notoriously
Nor are these dark days devoid of blessings for the reform politicians.
The moderate reformers who promised to resolve the crisis through
lobbying and negotiations are discredited while mass resignations
of the reform MPs and government officials will be seen as an
impressive exit. Optimists hope that this conspicuous turning away
system shall galvanize the dormant support for the reform and
make for a future resurrection.
The only complete loser of the
Mohammad Khatami whose pusillanimous presidency was crowned
by dereliction of duty at these dark hours of the nation. He
will secure the distinction of the most cowardly leader in Iran's
long history, his doctor's note notwithstanding.>>> News & politics
Ahmad Sadri is Professor and Chairman of the Department
of Sociology and Anthropology
at Lake Forest
College, IL, USA. See
this page to your friends