ANALYSIS: As election nears, mullahs repeat their old mistakes


by FG

Have you noticed how the regime has a tendency to follow the same tactics inflexibly with disasterous consequences? The latest election developments demonstrate that things haven't changed.

In making decisons, the refime always seems to look only at the potential advantages of every move while vastly underestimating any potential downsides.

The Japanese experimented with wargames to predict the consequences of their move toward Midway. Every game suggested disasterous results. Yet admirals scoffed and stuck to the chosen course. The latest election news shows ruling mullahs doing the same.

Incompatible regime goals produce clashing regime tactics.

Example 1: While regime diplomats court neighbors to escape local isolation, the regime persists in covert actions that threaten those same neighbors to fulfill regional ambitions. Example #2: The regime continues to oppress ex-reformers even while courting their participation in upcoming elections. I'll bet any reader can think of many other examples, starting with the 2009 election.

Grand strategy determines tactis and Khamenei relies on Machiavelli's advice even where it fits badly.

Machiavelli: "It is better for a ruler to be feared than loved."

Old idiom: " You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

From Day One Khamenei has followed Machiavelli's adage consistently. Unfortunately he relies on a historical analogy that was only half right and ignores historical evolution. Khamenei believes that the Shah might have survived if not for concessions to protestors that put a leash on his security forces.

I'd argue that the Shah's problem did not come from making such concessions but from making them far too late (once the protests started). Khamenei underestimated the power of important and irreversible historical trends, especially certain "universal" ideas about human rights and popular sovereignty that did not show much signs of blossoming outside the West until the internet generation came of age.

Machiavelli and the internet are a bad fit. In one decade the latter managed to spread Enlightenment ideas worldwide more effectively than all advocates of human rights did over the last two centuries. By its nature the internet encourages individual exploration, access to unfamiliar ideas and news that would otherwise be unavailable or unknown, exchanges of thinking among the like-minded and cross-cultural borrowing. No government or CIA agents are needed. It just happens inevitably and spontaneously.

American policy makers misapplied a historical analogy (Munich) to where it didn't fit (Viet Nam) in the sixties. Khamenei does the same now. Like Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara, Khamenei consistently too played unbudging Hard Ass. Relying on death squads, the Guardian Council and outright election rigging, he has thwarted reform on every occasion. Now the Islamic Republic is too discredited to salvage.

Khemenei's grand strategy "worked" if you assume what is implausible--that his two original goals were to alienate most of the population permanently and to shrink his base of support to as small as possible. Once any ruler reaches a point of no return, honey is no longer an option. A regime must turn to vinegar exclusively. While it may prolong the regime briefly it also ensurres its death.

Neither Assad, nor Khamenei, nor Czar Nicholas II nor the Shah had any prospect of retained the old regime rigidly in its existing form. Their common mistake was to assume otherwise. Each might have saved himselves and prolonged his regime in much modified form by offering timely concessions to popular sovereignty prior to the tsunami. In retrospect they only had two realistic choices but avoided both: Either give up most real power and moved toward ceremonial monarchy or its equivalent or resign before committing too many crimes as Gorbachev did.

ELECTION NEWS & ANALYSIS (items are from Enduring America)

ITEM: it appears that someone has put out a false claim in the name of leading reformist Ayatollah Mousavi Khoeiniha that the reformists would be participating. Mousavi Khoeiniha has said that the Assembly of Combatant Clerics website, filtered for two years, was hacked so the fake announcement could be posted.

MY OBSERVATION: Such tactics simply show how badly the regime needs ex-reformers to participate while adding more reasons for not doing so. Behavior of this sort reinforce perceptions that the regime can't be trusted in any concessions it makes. My earlier conclusion stands: I cannot see a single advantage ex-reformers get in participating. The sole beneficiary would be the thugocracy.


ITEMS: The reformist party Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution has said that it will not put forward candidates in March's Parliamentary elections.

The Mojahedin announcement follows a similar declaration by another leading reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front.

Faezeh Hashemi, prominent women's rights activist and the daughter of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, has gone on trial on charges of spreading anti-regime propaganda.

In what appears to be a continuing campaign against Grand Ayatollah Sane'i, a prominent critic of the Government's crackdown on dissent, his new offices in Kashan, Aran, and Bidgol have been attacked, with phone lines cut. Earlier this month, Sane'i's office in Gorgan in northern Iran was shut.

OBSERVATION: Why do the hardline mullahs continue to alienate members of their own faction as the election approaches? Bullying tendencies seem compulsive. Rafsanjani may have fewer supporters today but he the regime needs every vote it can get. Attacking Sanei will simply give other "human rights" mullahs further encouragement to stay home on Election Day.


ITEMS: Leading MP Ahmad Tavakoli...made a far-from-subtle contribution to the strategy of anti-Ahmadinejad conservatives to bring reformists into the Parliamentary elections. The MP said that as "a huge entity", reformists should participate. At the same time, he appeared to dismiss former President Mohammad Khatami as beyond redemption --- "not all reformists follow" Khatami, he maintained, and those faithful to the Iranian system should be involved.

...Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, one of the leading forces in the Islamic Constancy Front, sets up the group's approach for the Parliamentary elections in March --- total obedience to the Supreme Leader, with a fight against the seditious current and "intrusive elements", but also a tip of support to the President: "After the rule of the reformists, Ahmadinejad was the best choice in 2005)."

OBSERVATION: You'd think the ex-reformers were dying to participate (a reversal of reality) when you look at some of the demands ruling mullahs make in return for "allowing" it. Thus, one hilarious condition often put forth as a requirement for being allowed to run is that ex-reformers must "repudiate past sedition" meaning complaints about the rigged 2009 behavior and subsequent thuggery.

Do the mullahs really think that's going to happen? Who needs who? The ex-reformists have all the cards and mullahs have nothing at all to offer. Anything the ruling thugs do offer at this point, no matter how dazzling, will be perceived as bogus thanks to historical "snatch-back" tendencies. The mullahs have becomevictims to their own past dishonesty. What paid of then backfires now.

Tavakoli is correct is saying: "not all reformists follow" Khatami. The majority no longer want reform. The bad news is that the majority of one-time reformers have totally given up on the regime and want it gone entirely. Hence, the term "ex-reformists," as used in this post, does not mean people has switched to the regime's side in appreciation for its brutality.

For further election analysis see my earlier post:





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