Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A different take on Iran

It all starts in the pages of the Guardian UK. It is a sad fact but if you want to become truly informed on foreign affairs you have to read a foreign news source. The Guardian is a great go-to source along with the BBC.

Here is the lead:

“The son of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has taken control of the militia being used to crush the protest movement, according to a senior Iranian source.

The source, a politician with strong connections to the security apparatus, said that the leading role being played by Mojtaba Khamenei had dismayed many of the country's senior clerics, conservative politicians and Revolutionary Guard generals.”

Now this is were it gets interesting. Another scribbler wrote about how the Supreme Leader in Iran the very same Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was actually acting not as a cleric but more like a Sultan. Khamenei’s rule was likened to the absolute power of a monarch. Let us investigate that idea and see where it leads us.

The Supreme Leader gets his power via the structures of the Iranian Government. Khamenei at least on the surface controls all the important levers of power and oversight. Name an organ of governance and he either helps name the individuals or has veto power over its decision.

The real base of Khamenei’s power though has been the ultra-hardliners. Through their control of the Republican Guard, and the security apparatus the Supreme leader has been able to concentrate political power.

It was with Ahmadinejad that Khamenei was able to seize the executive power of Iran. Ahmadinejad was the mullah’s eager helpmate and cloak of electoral respectability. The two men formed a symbiotic relationship with the President of Iran serving as a front-man and populist face while the Supreme Leader operated in the shadows.

But the mask was ripped off in the election. The Supreme Leader became a political partisan for Ahmadinejad. Why? Maybe Khamenei rigged the election to turn his Islamic Sultanate in to a true dynastic Sultanate. Maybe he wanted to hand over to the rule of Iran over to his progeny. His son may have been instrumental in rigging the vote in the first place. His son may also be in control of the bully boys of the basiji "Mojtaba is the commander of this coup d'etat. The basiji are operating on Mojtaba's orders, but his name is always hidden in all of this. The government never mentions him,"

This also may explain why huge chunks of the ruling elite are starting to break loose from the fa├žade of government. It is not about Democracy or even reform per se. It is about saving the Islamic Republic as a republic. If Khamenei gets his way Iran becomes a dynastic dictatorship. It becomes a fun-house reflection of Syria or worse yet North Korea. An Iran with Mojtaba Khamenei at its head becomes a governing philosophy of shards and patches. It would be neither Islamic nor a republic.

The ideals of Islamic Republic may be facing an existential threat from the very man who was supposed to uphold them. Politics and History can be ironic that way. The Islamic faithful will see an eerie echo of Muawiyah I, the first of the Umayyad Caliph. Muawiyah was the first Caliph to pass the succession to his son ending the previous selection process via a council of elders. The Shia branch of Islam despises him and the Sunni branch is at best ambivalent to his rise to power. Both agree that Muawiyah was probably responsible for the assassination of the last “rightly guided” Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib.

Thus the fight against Khamenei and son’s coup d'etat may be especially bitter. It will be fought in the halls of government and the institutions of Iran. Many power centers may contend with even the military fracturing; the Army going one way, the Republican Guard going another way and the police force and judiciary going yet another way. Already the clergy has revolted with the scholars of Qom declaring the election a fraud. Khamenei has lost support even among his ultra-conservative base. He still has the raw force of the basiji and the cloak of status quo respectability. Many in the elite are fearful of any kind of change and crave stability above all else.

One last point, this is not and never was about us. As much as the idiot Elephants would love to make this about domestic politics or speaking out for freedom, it is something completely different. It is about Iran. We are at best spectators, and silent ones at that. The fate of Iran rests with the Iranians.

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