The Aftermath of Iran’s Election
Freeman Ure Ph.D. New York
The post presidential election saga only intensifies in the streets, the mosques and universities of Tehran and other major cities in Iran, as disgruntled protesters in the millions, advocating for major contenders Mousavi and Karubi and socio-political reform register their sentiments on the outcome since June 12. Although the populace has by and large utilized the vote rigging and the loss of Mousavi in the election as the pretext for demonstrations, one should hasten to point out that Mousavi served as the Prime Minister for 1980-88 and during the war with Iraq which led to nearly a million dead, and when he suppressed political dissidents, and “cleansed” universities and the educational system of their ideologically charged impurities. In fact, Moussavi, who has now expressed his willingness for martyrdom if necessary, has become the accidental leader of a massive protest to the regime and its legitimacy as led by the populace themselves. The unrest has thus far led to the killing of up to a few dozen demonstrators by the police and para-military mercenaries, beating and injuring of thousands, arrests and intimidations, imprisonment and torture, and intense interrogations of many, and restrictions imposed on foreign and domestic press, media, the Internet and communications. It has also led Khamenei, the supreme leader, once portrayed as invincibly sacred, to act more like a biased ‘earthly' politician, when he took sides with the incumbent president before the election and congratulated him boast- fully after the election.
With the recent massive demonstrations, however, and after Khamenei caught off guard “heard the concerns of the people” and reluctantly realized he could no longer misconstrue it as the work of "isolated" thugs and fifth columns paid by external agents, he has struggled to back-paddle, in essence under intense pressure, conceding to a partial re-counting of the contested ballots and investigation of the vote rigging allegations. His dire hope was to buy time, while giving directives to the security forces to quench dissent and pave the way for sustaining the Islamic republic form of this government (i.e., clergy dominance) for years to come. On June 19, Khamenei used the Tehran Friday prayer to warn the ‘defeated’ oppositions and the demonstrators of grave fatal consequences if they do not halt their grievances . Déjà vu all over again. This vividly conjures up the short speech on national TV by the deposed Shah just a few months before the 1979 revolution when he somberly confessed, “I head the resounding message of your revolution and would now pledge for fundamental reforms.” It was then, as it is now a little too little and too late. That said, however, there are distinct differences between the 1979 revolution that occurred during the “checks and balances "of the cold war era, and now, a far more dangerous juncture when there is practically only one giant super power in place.
In retrospect, the election dispute is like “the straw that broke the back of the camel”, per se. Iran has increasingly suffered from a number of socio-economic shortcomings and political predicaments that have in turn polarized the nation with much dismay. What the nation of Iran has been increasingly concerned about, and for which it demands resolution for are as follows: the removal of the position of the supreme leader and the various political-driven guardian and expediency councils overshadowing the parliament of the people, elimination of duplications, overlap and redundancy of government and shadow government organs and institutions, and the end of extortions, embezzlement, cronyism and nepotism in government and society. The Iranian populace has reached consensus on the need and merit to uphold an orderly national referendum, respect for human rights, Habeas corpus and due process, freedom of expression and democratic rights, civil liberties and the rule of law, justice and equity, transparency, assessment and accountability of its institutions and their officers. Only in this way can it safeguard the sovereignty of Iran and duly earn respected stature in the family of nations.
In fact, the current election fiasco and the skirmishes following are, in essence, a power struggle between two polarized internal poles within the Islamic Republic establishment. The two groups are the primarily conservative and secretive economic powerhouses as led by the Rafsanjani clan on the one hand, and the "always present on the scene" hard-nosed puritans as represented by the Ahmadinejad and Khamanei camp, on the other. The latter are supported by a few million revolutionary guards and Basijis (a para-military mercenary force) and their families, acting to expedite the return of Mehdi, the Shiite messiah, who will establish the kingdom of God on earth. Some Iranians, mostly sitting outside the country of Iran, may prescribe for yet another revolution which will inevitably lead to massive bloodshed and a mass exodus of intellectuals and capital. However, the savvy but spontaneously growing grassroots opposition with no leadership is seeking a national referendum and complete overhaul of the current system, eliminating the position of the supreme leader and the guardian and expediency councils-just to name the main objectives.
Paradoxically, the above impasse is exactly the same fundamental shortcoming that led to the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1979. The multi-lateral opposition forces from across the political spectrum then, many of which had remained active for decades, were soon suppressed and/or eliminated by the monolithic Islamists. The Islamists establishing the Islamic Republic led by Ayatollah Khomeini has over time stratified into two major platforms and a number of other party lines. In fact, the struggle of the nation of Iran for freedom, democracy and modernization began well over a hundred years ago, when the absolute monarchy, in existence for nearly 2500 years, was replaced with the modern constitutional monarchy of 1906. This awakening led to rapid modernization of infrastructure first by Reza Shah and then by his son Mohammad Reza, who crowned himself and his Queen and placed himself on the Peacock Throne as the “shadow to God”. He then proclaimed his succession to Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Dynasty in an extravagant and expensive regal ceremony partaken by over a 100 presidents and heads of states. The Shah had been forced back to Iran by the CIA after he had fled, when the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mosadegh, who had nationalized Iran’s oil and gas (removing the control of the British consortium), was overthrown by Operation Ajax, the CIA sponsored coup. Afterwards, the Shah, like the current government, acted more in an absolutist manner.
Like water in an overflowing pond which will ultimately find its way out to carve a path downstream through rock beds to liberation, so too will the aspiration of the people of Iran. They will continue in their homegrown and independent stride for reform, democracy, freedom, transparency, justice and peace. Meanwhile, any possible overt or covert action by outsiders (militarily, sanctions or instigation) by other governments and NGOs or even Iranians in Diaspora, would be counterproductive. It could be easily exploited by the regime to again proclaim legitimacy while labeling the indigenous dissent as having been orchestrated by outsiders and thus repress it severely.
Iran is an ancient country with nearly 10,000 years of rich history and with 2,500 years of continuous government. With a current population of over 70 million three quarter of whom were born after 1979, Iran literacy rate is approaching 90% and ranks among the most educated skilled nations among the developing countries. 65% of its two million college students are women. Its multi-ethnic and multi-religious people have contributed immensely toward world civilization, both in the past as well as the present. Four million Iranians now reside in the west. The Iranian-American community of nearly a million strong, which is concentrated mostly in southern California, San Francisco, San Jose, New York and Washington, D.C., is recognized as among the most educated, most affluent and vibrant immigrant communities in the U.S.. Due to rapid development in Iran that has now led to a growing daily demonstrations and killing of the innocents in major cities a national reconciliation among all Iranians has spontaneously begun. Such an intellectual and capital resource pool will ultimately be an exemplar to bring Iran into the 21st century, but only after the realization of independently, homegrown ideals of democracy and freedom back in the motherland. For now, the Iranians in Diaspora could only serve as the centers of communications, while leveraging their purgatives on their newly adopted countries government to severe diplomatic ties and trades with Iran while demanding respect to international conventions including human rights and safety of citizens Iran is also a signatory to. That said, Iran has no choice but to move forward in its yearning quest for its deserving place in the family of nation. The dire hope is to ensure this is achieved peacefully and without any outside intervention.