The Iranians Will One Day Be Free

 

I find the results of the recent Presidential election in Iran heartening. I do not mean to say that I am convinced that Hassan Rouhani will abandon Ayatollah Khamenei’s quest to turn the Islamic Republic into a nuclear power. Nor do I mean that he will bring to an end the petty and not so petty tyranny of the mullahs and usher in genuinely free elections. I have no idea what he will do. He was among a group of candidates handpicked by Khamenei, and he may take direction from the old theocrat. Then, again, he may take seriously the promises he has made — if for no other reason than that he was the one who made them.

What I find heartening is that there were contested elections, that the issues were actually debated, and that the Iranian people opted to choose by a landslide — more than 50% of the vote in a race involving a host of contenders — the man that echoed the thinking voiced in June 2009, in the last election by the candidates who promised reform.

What I have in mind is this. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a mixed regime. It gives lip service and more than lip service to two principles — the rule of God’s chosen representative on earth, and popular sovereignty. Those two principles are at odds with one another, and for the most part it has been the case that the theocrats rule. But the holding of elections, the fact that they are contested, and the fact that time and again one of the candidates chooses to differentiate himself from his rivals by proposing, in effect, that the revolution be set aside and Iran become a normal country — this means that every so often the Iranian people are reminded that, in the final analysis, the country belongs to them.

One of the two principles will emerge victorious in the end. The holding of contested elections with serious debates virtually guarantees that the day will come when no one defers to the mullahs. It is in the nature of things that Hassan Rouhani will want to make his mark. He has been elected President; he has a mandate for action; and, if he has any self-respect, he will make the attempt. He may, of course, be a man without self-regard. He may be servile to the tips of his toes. He may knuckle under. But there will come a time when he has a successor who does not fit that bill — and then, suddenly, when no one expects it, the theocratic structure will collapse like a house of cards. Such a development is baked in the cake. It is inherent in the constitution of the Islamic Republic that, as a theocracy, it cannot last.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @Zafar

    I very much hope it’s a step in the right direction. But let’s not forget that Rouhani is an Ayatollah, and was the only Ayatollah in the running. 

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe
    Zafar: I very much hope it’s a step in the right direction. But let’s not forget that Rouhani is an Ayatollah, and was the only Ayatollah in the running.  · 1 hour ago

    The reform faction last time was also led by mullahs. Among the Ayatollahs, Khomeinei was a man of great respect. Khamenei is not. He is a hack, and he is at odds with Qom.

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe
    kohana: There will be no change in policy. Please read Dr. Barry Rubin’s report, the new president is a glib puppet or he would not have been allowed on the ballet.

    http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/

    If you don’t know about Dr. Rubin, his bio is here:

    http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/bio/ · 7 hours ago

    Rubin is probably right. But give a man who seems a puppet a high office, and he may surprise you. What I was writing about was not the men, but the influence of institutions. They shape opinion and expectations, and they often shape those who hold office under them.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe
    Simon Templar: Yes they will but not before the Second Coming of Christ. · 5 hours ago

    I do not know how long it will take, but the place nearly came apart in 2009 when the election was stolen. You underestimate the influence of institutions and practices on outcomes. Genuine public debate shapes popular expectations, and high offices to which one has to be elected in genuine contests puff up the officeholders. Their pride is our hope.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe
    Scott Reusser: The Arab Spring is demonstrating that in the Muslim world, their passions might very well always forge their fetters — of one sort or another. Are the Iranians different? Hope so, but I’m just not sure. · 8 hours ago

    The Iranians are different. They have a pre-Islamic culture of which they are proud. Many Iranians are highly educated, and there is a very large, sophisticated middle class. Furthermore, unlike, say, the Egyptians, they have lived under a religious dictatorship that they deeply resent. When the counter-revolution comes (and it may be like perestroika in the Soviet Union), what will emerge will look something like Restoration England (compared with Cromwellian England). Asceticism will be followed by libertinism.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Member
    @Zafar

    I really hope it turns out well – but I’m trying to manage my expectations.

    Paul A. Rahe

    Zafar: I very much hope it’s a step in the right direction. But let’s not forget that Rouhani is an Ayatollah, and was the only Ayatollah in the running.  · 1 hour ago

    The reform faction last time was also led by mullahs. Among the Ayatollahs, Khomeinei was a man of great respect. Khamenei is not. He is a hack, and he is at odds with Qom. 

    I agree with you that the whole ‘civilisational state’ thing will be what brings Iran back from theocracy.  It’s also, however, what will keep driving that nuclear thing well after the Ayatollahs have lost power.

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Inactive
    @ScarletPimpernel

    Meanwhile, in the U.S., the tension between rule by the people we elect and rule by tenured administrators is also working itself out. 

    But there’s also the tension between the goal of helping everyone lead a fulfiling life, and the reality that life without consequences does not make us happy.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @Sisyphus

    Given that the last Iranian Presidential election was a rigged game to avoid a similar result that included murder and mayhem on the part of the “victors”, this is cheerful news indeed. Meet you back here in a year to assess the aftermath.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Inactive
    @StarvetheBeast
    Paul A. Rahe

    Then, again, he may take seriously the promises he has made — if for no other reason than that he was the one who made them.

    That certainly would be a refreshing change, but I’m guessing that Rouhani will turn out to be exactly like Ahmadinejad.

    I put the over/under at two weeks. Any takers?

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Member
    @ScottR

    The Arab Spring is demonstrating that in the Muslim world, their passions might very well always forge their fetters — of one sort or another. Are the Iranians different? Hope so, but I’m just not sure.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Member
    @KayofMT

    There will be no change in policy. Please read Dr. Barry Rubin’s report, the new president is a glib puppet or he would not have been allowed on the ballet.

    http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/

    If you don’t know about Dr. Rubin, his bio is here:

    http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/bio/

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe

    Zafar, you are right about the nuclear ambitions. Even the Shah entertained them. The alternative to the theocracy is nationalism — and, in his own strange way, Ahmadinejad stood for that. He was not a mullah. He resented their rule, and he made no bones about his stance.

    In Iran, there are wheels within wheels, and the faction-fighting within the regime is extremely bitter. The fact that there are contested elections causes these divisions to spill over into public disputation. Some day — and that day will come when we least expect it — the old clerical order will suddenly vanish.

    It is worth adding that many of the Ayatollahs and mullahs in the Shiite world look upon Khomeini as a heretic. There is no tradition with Shiism of clerical rule.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Inactive
    @SimonTemplar

    Yes they will but not before the Second Coming of Christ.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Nealfred

    Snore

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Douglas

    I think you’re too optimistic here, and that any “reform” in Iran will always be relative. These people chose this life in 1979, and while the youth may be chaffing somewhat, ultimately, if I had to put money on it, I’d put money on them eventually sticking with the system.

    What I despair of is our ever learning. Carter supported Khomeini early on. Dubya backed Lebanese revolutionaries. Obama backed the “democracy movements in Egypt and Libya.

    And what kind of governments did these countries wind up with, every single time?

    Reagan supported the Mujaheddin in the 80’s (for good strategic reasons, necessary at the time) but the results were the same: Islamic governments.

    Even Turkey… the quintessential “secular state of the Muslim world”… is re-embracing it’s Islamic identity more every day.

    As Islam…what the peoples of these areas put their hopes and trust in… sees no legitimate separation of authority between religious and state rulers, what makes you think anything is going to change?

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Inactive
    @StarvetheBeast

    Expecting that replacing Ahmadinejad with  Rouhani will change Iranian policy is like thinking that replacing the hood ornament on your car will make it go faster.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Inactive
    @UmbraFractus

    There will be no reform in Iran until the Ayatollahs go the way of the Soviets.

    • #17

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