Iranian “Reform” Charades
by Professor Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker
Front Page Magazine, May 16, 2007
Simon Tisdall’s report from Tehran, entitled “Inside the struggle for Iran”, published in The Guardian on April 30, 2007, describing the formation of a new coalition of anti-Ahmadinejad (anti-hardliner) reform-minded “moderates” from within current Iranian society, might suggest that Iranian political society is about to make a dramatic lurch toward moderation. Quoting Grand Ayatollah Yusef Sa'anei of Qom, one of Iran's more senior Islamic scholars, as being diametrically opposed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hardline approach to internal and external affairs, Tisdall informs us that immediate past-president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, last month called together “opposition factions, democracy activists, and pro-reform clerics (the so-called progressive parties loyal to Khatami) to join with the so-called pragmatic conservatives led by his predecessor, Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to form a coalition to rescue Iran from the hardline approach of Mahmoud (“the Terrible”) Ahmadinejad and his IRGC cronies. Tisdall says this group includes members of the Majlis (parliament) and other “reformers”.
In a free society, such an announcement would indeed auger well for the future of Iran and its relations with the outside world. However, Iran--for anyone who doesn’t yet realize--is anything but a free society! In Iran, whether the “progressive” Mohammed Khatami, the “pragmatic-conservative” Hashemi Rafsanjani, or the “hardline” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is president, the same man stands at the top of the ladder, and as Supreme Leader (vali-e faqih) it is Ali Khamenei who has the very last word on everything, from nuclear power to dress codes and anything in between. Let us not forget that Iran’s clandestine nuclear program spans the terms of all three of these men and that brutal suppression of all dissidents marks each of their terms in office. All three presidents are Islamist fundamentalists, dedicated to the worldwide spread of the Khomeinist Islamic revolution’s misogynist concept of Islam. Their styles may differ, but not the substance of their ultimate objective: a worldwide Islamic fundamentalist empire led by Iran.
What we have here is not the beginning of a new liberal trend in Iranian politics but rather an elaborate charade--timed perfectly as it was--to air a few days before the important Sharm el-Sheikh conference on Iraq. Look and see how Iran is about to become moderate! Only in our dreams!
That is not to say that there aren’t genuine desires in parts of Iranian society for reforms. President Ahmadinejad has done a spectacular job of making the average Iranian’s life much more difficult, especially in the area of economics. Pious Brother Mahmoud hasn’t done anything to produce his promised economic and anti-corruption reforms. In fact, things clearly are worse now than before he took office. But as long as Khamenei stands at the top of the ladder, Khatami and Rafsanjani can spit into the wind for all the success that they will have in creating even the appearance of “reform”. As long as Khamenei wants a hardline approach with Ahmadinejad and the IRGC to run the Iranian show, that’s exactly who will be on stage. As it was Khamenei who chose Ahmadinejad to “win” the presidency in 2005—a political move to cement his seventeen year drive to acquire absolute power—we should not hold our collective breath expecting Ayatollah Khamenei to change his mind. Absolute rulers rarely give up power, and Khamenei is not likely to break out of the mold.
There is a Persian proverb that says: “A snake never will give birth to a dove.”
We in the West had better realize quickly that this proverb could not be more apt when referring to the collective leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Islamic Iran is absolutist and although a theocracy rather than a monarchy, it remains on a cultural and political collision course with the West. Only a change of regime to a secular democracy will bring Iran back into a civil relationship with her neighbors and the council of nations. That change will not take place as long as Ali Khamenei stands at the helm of the Iranian ship, no matter which of his lieutenants accompanies him on the bridge.
Professor Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker is the founder and Chairman of the Board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East, a grassroots organization dedicated to teaching our elected officials and the public of the dangers posed by Islamic fundamentalism and the need to establish genuine democratic institutions in the Middle-East as an antidote to fundamentalism.