End of Discussion
National review

No one knows how the current Iranian insurrection, triggered by last month’s disputed presidential election, will end. However, one thing is already clear: The doctrine of walayat faqih (“government of the theologian”), the cornerstone of the Khomeinist system, is dead.

The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini invented the doctrine to justify the claim that he drew his legitimacy from Allah and was accountable solely to Him. In practice, walayat faqih was supposed to work the same way that Lenin’s “democratic centralism” did in the early days of Bolshevism. Issues could be debated, even disputed, within the regime — but once the “Supreme Guide” pronounced the “final word,” everyone had to fall in line.

The “Supreme Guide” (also called rahbar, the Persian equivalent of “Führer”) would announce the ultimate decision in a special sermon. Such sermons were described as fasl el-khitab, an archaic term meaning “the end of discussion.” Anyone who opposed the end of discussion would be regarded as a “miscreant, waging war on Allah.” For almost 30 years, this system worked in Iran, at least as far as the Khomeinist elite was concerned. On most issues, there was enough debate to hoodwink the likes of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Barack Obama into believing that Khomeinism contained “a measure of democracy”

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