Masquerade In Iran
Are Mousavi and his followers in Iran an actual reform movement and a positive democratic change in Iran? The pictures of student demonstrators in Tehran being brutalized by the basij and Iranian security forces present a heart-rending spectacle. But there is very little evidence that the label of "democratic reform," attached to Mousavi and many of his followers, is anything but a masquerade.
Mousavi is not some democracy-minded reformer. All candidates for elective office in Iran are handpicked and only allowed to run for office by the express permission of the Supreme Council of Guardians and its leader Ayatollah Khamenei. All candidates agree to follow orders. On issues that matter to the West -- Iran's quest for nuclear weapons, threats of genocide aimed at Israel, interference in Iraq and Afghanistan, support for Islamist terrorism and any reasonable compromises with the West on these issues -- the two candidates were virtually the same.
Mousavi is a longtime proponent of Islamist triumphalism and terrorism, a hardliner on Iran's illegal nuclear weapons program and an anti-Semite who has called for Israel to be destroyed. He was a key aide to Ayatollah Khomeini during the Islamic revolution in 1979 and played a part in the decision to overrun our embassy and take American diplomats hostage. As Iran's prime minister between 1981-89, Mousavi was vociferously anti-Western and anti-American. He had a major hand in the creation of Hezbollah in Lebanon. His handpicked interior minister, Ali Akbar Mohtashami, was Mousavi's liaison when the Iranian government formed and funded that terrorist group. One of Mohtashami's first major operations was the murder of 240 US Marines in Lebanon.
The reason Mousavi was on the ballot in the recent Iranian "election" was not because he is a reformer. He was there because of political differences between groups centered on Mousavi's chief patron in the Iranian government, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani -- and loyalists to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. All sides have a long history of political rivalry. Aside from the simple jousting of who's in and who's out, the main point of contention was whether it would be advantageous to dump Ahmadinejad in favor of a new more "moderate" seeming face to buy more time to complete Iran's nuclear weapons program.
After President Obama's self-abasing speech in Cairo and his clear signals that he had no problem with a nuclear Iran, any changes were seen to be simply unnecessary by the Mullahs. Khamenei was able to swing the majority of the Supreme Council in his favor and get his man, Ahmadinejad, back in office.
If Obama's speech had been hard line and Mousavi -- or more accurately Rafsanjani, his patron -- had taken power, absolutely nothing of importance would have changed in Iran.
There is nothing about Mousavi or his supporters that particularly merits being championed by Americans. We simply don't have a dog in this fight. And in any case, Ahmadinejad is in and he will stay in as long as he does what the mullahs tell him to.
Is Iran ready for a truly democratic revolution? One indicator may be to compare what's going on in Iran with what happens next door in Iraq. In fact, the situation in Iraq might be fueling some of the unrest in Iran. Iraq is a Shiite dominated Islamic Republic with a constitution based on Sharia and the same emphasis on tribalism and Islam found throughout the Arab Middle East, but with important differences.
Largely because of the US occupation, the various factions in Iraq were able to conduct relatively open elections. Even though those elections broke down on the normal tribal lines, the US was able to grease the various players with enough money so that America was able to midwife a federation agreement between the various factions. Our money and military presence saw to it that the Sunnis and the Kurds were never pushed to the point of violence and the ensuing break up of the country. In many ways, what the US did in Iraq was similar to what the French did in multi-ethnic Lebanon before they left. The French put together a governmental framework that constitutionally shared power among various ethnic groups. That arrangement worked quite well before Yasir Arafat and the PLO arrived to wreck the system and spark a civil war.
How long the balance between Iraq's factions will survive after we leave is an open question. But what many Iranians see when they look at Iraq is what they might want in Iran: a government that has a huge dose of Islam but is run by secular politicians, has transparent elections, and doesn't require the Iraqis to give up some of their quaint prejudices against Jews, stop persecuting Christians, and homosexuals or other "undesirables," and actually be a western style democracy.
President Bush spent over a trillion dollars and over 4,000 American lives to build what exists in Iraq today with the idea of creating a model for Muslim democracy that would spill over into the rest of the region. What happens ultimately in Iran could very well be a referendum on how well his idea actually worked.
Rob Miller blogs at Joshuapundit