Western coverage of Iran election shows predictable wishful thinking
The Iranian elections are over and resulted in a huge victory for the "moderates" or "reformers." A new era has dawned in Iran. Gone is the paranoid, inward-looking, oppressive, fanatically religious, extremist, violent, terror-supporting conservative regime to be replaced by an almost Western-style government of tolerance and light.
Well...that's the media narrative, and they're sticking to it.
Indeed, this sort of wishful thinking occurs every five years when Iranians go to the polls to elect a new president. The reality is a little different.
"We won. We've done what we should have for our country. Now it's Rouhani's turn to keep his promises," said coffee shop owner Arash Geranmayeh, 29, reached by telephone in Tehran.
Videos from the cities of Kermanshah, Tabriz and the holy city of Mashhad showed hundreds of people in the streets, cheering and dancing.
Rouhani, 68, faces the same limits on his power to transform Iran that prevented him from delivering social change in his first term, and that thwarted Khatami, who failed to deliver on a reform agenda as president from 1997-2005.
But by publicly thanking "my dear brother, Mohammad Khatami" in his victory speech, Rouhani seemed to take up that mantle. It was a remarkable challenge to the Shi'ite Muslim religious judicial authorities, who have blacklisted Khatami from public life for his support for other reformists under house arrest.
Many experts are skeptical that a president can change much in Iran, as long as the supreme leader has veto power over all policies and control over the security forces. Some said the pattern was all too familiar from Rouhani's first victory four years ago and Khatami's victories the previous decade.
"The last two decades of presidential elections have been short days of euphoria followed by long years of disillusionment," said Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment who focuses on Iran.
"Democracy in Iran is allowed to bloom only a few days every four years, while autocracy is evergreen."
The re-elected president will also have to navigate a tricky relationship with Washington, which appears at best ambivalent about the nuclear accord agreed by former U.S. President Barack Obama. Trump has repeatedly described it as "one of the worst deals ever signed", although his administration re-authorized waivers from sanctions this week.
The hopeful headlines in the Western press are pathetic examples of how the left is able to fool itself about Iranian "democracy."
There's only one problem with this narrative: it's not even close to being true.
In fact, there is an element of dishonesty in this coverage, as evidenced by this NPR headline:
The story informs us that "reformers" swept all 30 parliamentary seats in the Iranian majlis, or parliament. Except those 30 seats represent not even 10% of the 490-member majlis. So much for "big wins."
Outside Tehran, life in Iran will continue as before. The religious police will still be riding around on their cute little motor scooters, beating women who dare disobey the Islamic dress code. The government will still send Hezb'allah militia fighters to Syria to do the Assad regime's dirty work and support terror throughout the world. They will still chant "Death ot America" after prayers in the mosques on Friday. They will still implement the strictest version of sharia law, stoning adulterous women, hanging homosexuals, cutting off limbs, and generally making life miserable for everyone.
So what is it that is so "moderate" about President Rouhani and his brave band of "reformers"? Do they hate Israel any less? Will they relax the dress code? Do they consider America anything less than "The Great Satan" that needs to be destroyed? Will they open a bar at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tehran?
No, no, no, and no. For all of Rouhani's rhetoric about "change," the fact is, he has very little power to stand up to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards. And make no mistake: Khamenei is as much an anti-American, anti-Western fanatic as his predecessor, Ayatollah Khomeini. As long as he, and his allies in the fundamentalist whack-job clergy, is in power, nothing will change.
You would think Western reporters would get it right after nearly 40 years of hopeful but misleading coverage. But in the leftist breast, hope springs eternal, and every "reformist" victory is a chance to engage in another round of wishful thinking.