Iranian Mullahs Under Fire - By Rauf Naqishbendi

The Iranian post-presidential election turmoil has been rocking the ruling clergy government in Iran, and posing the most threatening challenge to their authority since its inception in 1979. This turmoil is a confrontation between theocracy and democracy, fundamentalist Islamic ruling class vs. western civilization. However, the unorganized opposition in Iran has been following the wrong man, one of the clerics of the Ayatollah’s inner circle.  The world media, by focusing on what is perceived to be a disappointing outcome for the presidential election, has made too much out of what is in truth nothing.

The reformist protest is led by the opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.  Mousavi is one of the high ranking members of the Iranian  Ayatollah’s apparatus. He had promised some changes, but these changes were merely cosmetic and would not warrant the people’s rights or render any transformation in foreign policy. He had full endorsement from the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, otherwise he would have been rejected like the 400 other candidates for the presidential post.  Even if Mr. Mousavi would have replaced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he wouldn’t have made a dent in Iranian domestic or foreign policy. In essence, if Mousavi had won, the same crowd who are shouting and chanting freedom would be dumfounded to realize that there is not much difference between the two.  The reason is that all essential foreign policies are outlined by the higher Iranian authorities and Islamic law is the constitution of the land.

In 1953, the United States installed the Shah’s regime against the will of the Iranian people. The Shah ruled Iran for more than two decades. In 1979, the Iranian clergies, headed by Ayatollah Khomeini, ousted the Shah of Iran, and have since remained in power.  The U. S. has been an opponent to the regime and has been seeking to change it for some time to no avail. In fact, the U. S. will not succeed in replacing the Iranian regime with a pro-western democratic system because the Islamic world is not yet ready for western democracy. The failure of the Shah’s regime and its adverse aftermath stand as a clear example of the failure of western democracy in that country.  

During the era of the Shah of Iran, there wasn’t genuine democracy. One could only experience the alleged democracy if one cherished the Shah’s regime and agree with whatever he said and did. But with the ruling mullahs there is an extreme degree of political and moral oppression. This oppression does not only force one to watch what one says but also what one eats, drinks, and what one wears, particularly in the case of women. Another variance between the Shah’s regime and the mullahs’ system is that the Shah’s proponents were upper-middle class, pro-western and well-educated. Many of his proponents were also those who benefitted monetarily from the Pahlavi dynasty.  On the other hand, the advocates of the mullahs are the populous, the majority of the Iranian public who are lower-middle-class or impoverished. These sectors of the populous are managing better economically under the rule of the mullahs relative to how they fared under the former regime of the Shah. In terms of freedom, the people did not fare well under the Shah nor do they under the mullahs. 

The media coverage of the recent riots experienced in Tehran and other major cities was one-sided and misleading. These riots were propelled by an unorganized, well-educated, pro-western crowd. However, the media only showed the noisy opposition, causing one to believe that all Iranians were participating in the protest. Furthermore, not only were the accusations of election cheating and fraud not confirmed, but also, according to Reuter’s news agency, a survey taken prior to the election gave Ahmedinajedi the majority of the vote. The underlying, daunting problem that the media ignores is that the demonstrators are leaderless and unorganized. They will follow anyone. The so-called political change they have been clamoring for is really led by a leader of the regime and would therefore have a trivial impact for social justice.  It would merely replace one president from the clergy’s ruling with another.  Clearly any meaningful change in Iran will require a regime change, and that depth of change has to begin as a grassroots movement with a solid foundation of populous support.

President Barak Obama’s reaction was measured and wise, denouncing violence and human rights abuse. It is not for the U. S. to tell Iran what  should or should not do. The U. S. must realize that external intervention in Iranian affairs will backfire and could cause useless and tragic bloodshed. In addition, Iranian mullahs are autonomous creatures who have complete disregard for any labels by which other might judge them.  Many sanctions have been on Iran with no avail. Additional sanctions will not produce any better results.

The solution for Iran’s problems is not an allegedly moderate president because there isn’t a genuine moderate person among the ruling Iranian mullahs. The Iranian regime is religion based and as such, uncompromising; the tenants of all religions are inflexible to their followers. By the same token, western democracy is not suitable for an unprepared Islamic nation, and for that matter, the entire Islamic world. To this end, Iran should be left to do what is right for its people. Outsiders cannot do their thinking for them. It’s not what others want for Iranians, but what Iranians want for themselves. 

Rauf Naqishbendi’s memoirs The Garden Of The Poets recently published(Unedited).
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July 1, 2009
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