Saturday, June 20, 2009

Irate In Iran: The Election That Exposed The Emperor

I'll cut to the chase: it's now evident that the Emperor has no clothes.

Not the apparently falsely-elected Ahmadinejad -- the ideology behind his religious state. As Eloquently encapsulated by Fareed Zakaria in a CNN interview:

Fareed Zakaria: One of the first things that strikes me is we are watching the fall of Islamic theocracy.

CNN: Do you mean you think the regime will fall?

Zakaria: No, I don't mean the Iranian regime will fall soon. It may -- I certainly hope it will -- but repressive regimes can stick around for a long time. I mean that this is the end of the ideology that lay at the basis of the Iranian regime.

The regime's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, laid out his special interpretation of political Islam in a series of lectures in 1970. In this interpretation of Shia Islam, Islamic jurists had divinely ordained powers to rule as guardians of the society, supreme arbiters not only on matters of morality but politics as well. When Khomeini established the Islamic Republic of Iran, this idea was at its heart. Last week, that ideology suffered a fatal wound.

CNN: How so?

Zakaria: When the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a "divine assessment," he was indicating it was divinely sanctioned. But no one bought it. He was forced to accept the need for an inquiry into the election. The Guardian Council, Iran's supreme constitutional body, met with the candidates and promised to investigate and perhaps recount some votes. Khamenei has subsequently hardened his position but that is now irrelevant. Something very important has been laid bare in Iran today --- legitimacy does not flow from divine authority but from popular support.
The idea that the state does not act from divine authorization that is clear to the competent cleric undermines not the power of the state -- it has still got its guns, for example -- but it undermines the political philosophy and the religious justifications that have given the state its heretofore-unchallenged power. Now that it's obvious that political insiders are manipulating government for their own ends and not in keeping with divinely-ordained purpose, the legitimacy of the government and its activities will erode until the country is understood by all its neighbors and inhabitants as a naked police state -- or its inhabitants will succeed in reforming the government (I don't speculate as to whether this is largely by reform or mainly by violence; I simply see only two routes).

The fact that neighbors understand Iran as a fascist regime might not seem to help anything -- residents will still live in increasingly unvarnished oppression -- but it will likely impact Iran's capacity to recruit supporters with purely religious motivations. Dividing Islamists from the Iranian state will have a beneficial impact on the state of the propaganda battle being waged in the Middle East. When the word "martyrdom" takes on the connotation of self-sacrifice by pro-democracy advocates resisting the tyranny of dictators who fix elections with blatantly illegal vote fraud, we will have improved the language with which we discuss conflict in the Middle East.

Who knows: instead of Iraq importing Iranian enemies to undermine democracy and stability, Iran may start exporting freedom-loving Shia whose bitter experience with Iran's oppressive state leave them ardent supporters of a state committed to counting votes.


johnrj08 said...

Zakaria is a brilliant, knowledgeable man, and he is right on the money about this issue. We can only hope that what we're seeing in Iran is the beginning of the end for so-called Islamic Republics (an oxymoron), where democratically elected officials have to answer to divinely ordained Supreme Leaders. As long as a theocratic dictator can forbid people from discussing and criticizing prevailing beliefs and policies, there will be no search for truth and no real freedom of thought. Surely, the Iranian people demonstrating in the streets of Tehran know that whoever won the recent election, be he Ahmadinejad or Mousavi, would have to submit to Khamenei, the man who rules the brutal Revolutionary Guard. When George Orwell wrote 1984, he must have been visualizing a state like Iran. The only way a modern state can be truly free is to have a democratically elected, secular government which answers to no one but the people.

David Settino Scott, II said...

Although, I personally am so far to the left that even the democrats appear to me to be "right-wing," I consider myself to be a strict constitutionalist. It is my opinion that since its inception there has been an organized and systematic assault by the conservatives in the United States on the civil liberties written into the US Constitution. The “War on Drugs”; “War on Terror”; “War on Communism” and a host of other wars waged by the right wing are really nothing more than a War on People--an excuse to erode civil rights to the point of non-existence. I invite you to my website devoted to raising awareness on this puritan attack on freedom: