December 22, 2006

Ahmadinejad and the Rope: A Lad Insane

Hatched by Dafydd

This is our last word about the Iranian elections -- but with a swing (no pun intended; and if you believe that....) Our previous two posts on the Iranian local elections and the elections for members of the "Assembly of Experts" are here:

So which do you want first -- the good news, or the better news? The good news? All right, we'll save the better for later in the post.

There was no sudden reversal at the end. In other words, the ruling mullahs (via the Council of Guardians -- wasn't Rupert Giles a member of that?) did not abruptly yank the rug out from under the "moderate conservatives" or even the "reformers" (bear in mind that those words have entirely different meanings in Iran than in any other country). Ahmadinejad's allies, his "self sacrificers," deserted him in his hour of need. This led to a very significant loss of power for his faction at the local level and denied him his anticipated power boost in the Assembly of Experts:

Moderate conservatives opposed to Ahmadinejad won a majority of the seats in Friday's elections followed by reformists who were suppressed by hard-liners in 2004, according to final results announced by the Interior Ministry.

The final results also represented a partial comeback for reformists, who were crushed over the past five years by hard-liners who drove them out of the local councils, parliament and the presidency. The reformists favor closer ties with the West and further loosening of social and political restrictions under the Islamic government.

In Tehran, the capital, candidates supporting Mayor Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf, a moderate conservative, won seven of the 15 council seats. Reformists won four, while Ahmadinejad's allies won three. The last seat went to wrestling champion Ali Reza Dabir, who won a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and is considered an independent.

Final results for the rest of the country also showed a heavy defeat for Ahmadinejad supporters, and analysts said his allies won less than 20 percent of local council seats nationwide. None of his candidates won seats on the councils in the cities of Shiraz, Bandar Abbas, Sari, Zanjan, Rasht, Ilam, Sanandaj and Kerman. Many councils in other cities were divided along similar proportions as Tehran's.

His faction was likewise pretty roughed up in the election for the Assembly of Experts -- which, while less important over the long haul, is of more immediate moment:

Similar anti-Ahmadinejad sentiment was visible in the final results of a parallel election held to select members of the Assembly of Experts, a conservative body of 86 senior clerics that monitors Iran's supreme leader and chooses his successor....

[Former President Hashemi] Rafsanjani, who supports dialogue with the United States, received the most votes of any Tehran candidate to win re-election to the assembly. Also re-elected was Hasan Rowhani, Iran's former top nuclear negotiator whom Ahmadinejad has repeatedly accused of making too many concessions to the Europeans.

(AP doesn't report whether Ahmadinejad's "religious guru," Ayatollah Muhamad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi was reelected, but we must assume he was.)

So the original prediction from the Saudi government's house newspaper, the Arab Times, turned out to be incorrect in only one detail: they failed to predict the sheer magnitude of Ahmadinejad's failure at the polls. While none of this affects the occult gnome's de facto and de jure power as President of Iran, it shows something that is far more important for long-term prospects in the war on jihadism: the "people" on whom Mahmoud Ahmadinejad relies for his power (he is a Socialst as well as a Shiite jihadi) now recoil from his belligerence, his monomania, and his utter incompetence in the nuts-and-berries aspects of the presidency:

  • His challenges to America have become increasingly hysterical and insistent, and most Iranians (a very well educated group) are well aware that a war with the "Great Satan" would be catastrophic for Iran;
  • I believe many Iranians must be terrified of Ahmadinejad's obsession with both the destruction of Israel and getting nuclear weapons... put the two together, and anybody with two rials of rationality to rub together must know that if Ahmadinejad manages to frighten Israel enough -- Israel will respond with its own nukes, which everybody has long known it has (I do not believe for one second that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's "slip of the tongue" about nuclear weapons was any sort of mistake... it was a calculated and deliberate act, a threat that cannot be ignored);
  • The Iranian economy is in a shambles, since they made the mistake of embracing the idiotic ecnomic system that has never failed to fail wherever it has been tried. Mohammed may have been a general and a prophet, but he certainly was not a market economist.

When quality of life plummets at the same time that national fear and uncertainty rises, and both are attributable to the powers that be; when expectations rise at the same time that results crash; when the middle class, on whose shoulders every country ultimately rides, begins to fear for its very existence... that is the season when revolution ripens.

And in Persia, the vanguard of revolution in all directions, since at least the early 1960s, has been the student class. Certainly, they helped overthrow Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran in 1979; students were the backbone of the Khomeinist revolution and the most ardent and fanatic proponents of Ayatollah Khomeini's Shiite Islamist revolution. The seizure of the U.S. embassy, though ultimately embraced (and taken over) by Teheran, began with students.

Of all people in Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must understand that; he was one of them that day in November 1979. Thus, the new Shah Mahmoud must feel the icy finger of destiny clutching his bowels, now that violent student protests against Ahmadinejad himself have surged (this is the "better news" I warned about uppost):

The student movement, which planned the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy from the same university, Amir Kabir, is reawakening from its recent slumber and may even be spearheading a widespread resistance against Mr. Ahmadinejad. This time the catalysts were academic and personal freedom.

“It is not that simple to break up a president’s speech,” said Alireza Siassirad, a former student political organizer, explaining that an event of that magnitude takes meticulous planning. “I think what happened at Amir Kabir is a very important and a dangerous sign. Students are definitely becoming active again.”

The New York Times article by Nazila Fathi makes the same basic points that Big Lizards has made since before the elections:

The protest, punctuated by shouts of “Death to the dictator,” was the first widely publicized outcry against Mr. Ahmadinejad, one that was reflected Friday in local elections, where voters turned out in droves to vote for his opponents.

The students’ complaints largely mirrored public frustrations over the president’s crackdown on civil liberties, his blundering economic policies and his harsh oratory against the West, which they fear will isolate the country....

The students also complain about the president’s failure to deliver economic growth and jobs. At last week’s protest, which coincided with a now infamous Holocaust conference held by the Foreign Ministry, students chanted, “Forget the Holocaust — do something for us.”

The reaction of Ahmadinejad was equally enlightening: he panicked and fled. He was in such a rush that his convoy "collided several times as they tried to leave." All the while, enraged students were attacking the cars, calling him a Fascist, and trying to smash the windows.

I don't believe most people realize just how serious this combination of loss of political face and a rising anti-government student movement can be. Bear in mind, half of the population of Iran is below the age of 25. (By contrast, the median age in America is almost 37.)

I hope President Bush is paying attention: the time is riper now than ever before for us to make overtures to the "radicals" in Iran... radicals now rebelling against the peculiarly totalitarian brand of Shiite fundamentalism practiced in that country since the 1979 revolution. Were we to make common cause with the students and the populace who are bloody sick and tired of being told what to do and how to do it every second of every day, and watching their economy tank while a devastating war with America and Israel becomes every likelier, we could give not just Ahmadinejad but also the ayatollahs a lot more personally important things to concern them than mucking about in Iraq.

  • We could start by openly asking the Iranian leaders -- in some forum where the people of Iran were sure to see it -- why they believe that Persians, one of the oldest and greatest cultures in the world, are too stupid to be trusted with the democracy that their next-door neighbors in Iraq and Afghanistan now enjoy, and which their near neighbor Turkey has successfully exercised for decades.
  • Ask why the Iranian people cannot choose to run their own lives.
  • Ask why university freedoms granted under President Mohammad Khatami have been revoked by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- the ruling mullahs' own choice.
  • And ask why the presidential election was rigged by systematically excluding all reformers from the contest. Are the ayatollahs afraid of their own people?

America should pointedly announce that we support freedom and democracy everywhere, even when the democratic vote goes against our interests -- and point to the Palestinian Authority as proof of that. Announce that our support is not only moral but also practical: we will move swiftly to recognize and economically help via trade agreements any new, more democratic government in Iran that takes the place of the undemocratic theocracy.

And say it all in Farsi and Arabic as well as English.

The ayatollahs do well to fear their own subjects: the expression "government by the consent of the governed" is not just a good idea; it's natural law. All governments rule only by the consent of the governed, because every government is vastly outnumbered: Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci's idea of "hegemony," which I define as "perceived fitness to rule," holds precisely that without such overt or covert consent (silence signifies that consent in totalitarian regimes), any government would fall.

The ruler's only inalienable right is the right to issue orders; but with every order, the order-hearer must decide anew whether to be an order-obeyer. If enough choose not to do so... well, you have Romania, Poland, and East Germany in 1989, the USSR in 1991, and of course Iran in 1979.

If indeed we decide (as I think we should) to bomb all of Iran's terrorist training camps, the factories where they make the inappropriately named "IEDs" that are now being used against us in Iraq by Shiite terrorists, and all the nuclear sites (especially Natanz, which should be bombed many times to get at the mass field of Uranium-enriching centrifuges buried deep underground) -- we should first alert the anti-government forces in Iran so they will be ready. Nothing specific, for there will be many government spies within that group. But we should at least ensure that the forces for "democracy" -- not Jeffersonian but at least Ataturkian -- will be ready to strike when the government forces are at their weakest. Especially if Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has died, as he is expected to do sooner rather than later.

At that moment, we must actually aid them, rather than abandon them to defeat, as George H.W. Bush did to the Kurds and Shia when they rebelled against Saddam... and as President John F. Kennedy did to the brave freedom fighters who landed at the Bay of Pigs and tried to overthrow Stalinist dictator Fidel Castro in 1961.

We must understand that Iran is an origami tiger: we cannot make the mistake of agreeing with Ahmadinejad that Iran's rise and the West's decline is inevitable, irreversible, and ordained by Fate. They are far weaker than they let on -- and far weaker than the antique media will let us believe. These elections and student protests prove it.

Let us strike while the nail is hot, not sit around fiddling while freedom-fervor cools.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 22, 2006, at the time of 4:30 PM

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Most folks see the rioting throughout Iran as a revolution brewing, as if 1979 met 1776. But I'm very skeptical... mainly because in my opinion, and despite the take of most commentators, the two major players are not actually current... [Read More]

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The following hissed in response by: Geoman

Dead on correct. But I say that a lot while reading your posts. That and a few punches to the air with my fist.

How do we get so lucky, that every two-bit dictator that wants to challenge the west always picks the worst possibe economic system to support his rule, namely socialism? I think Socialism breeds dictatorships, and visa versa. Free and open capitolism promotes, nay, demands, free and open societies. Like night follows day, crappy economic performance creates strongman led goverments.

Makes you wonder about the Democrats.

Iran has about 15 years of oil left, after that the're going to have to get by on their good looks alone.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 23, 2006 5:24 AM

The following hissed in response by: TBinSTL

My big concern over any support for the student movement is that our support of them will be used to indict them as "traitors" and "pawns" of the "Great Shaitan".
We must tread very carefully and work as covertly as possible for as.

The above hissed in response by: TBinSTL [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 23, 2006 2:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: Mulletocracy

Dafydd, you have once again rocked the casbah. I had read that most Iranians have a greater affinity for their Persian heritage than the for the Islam invaders that ruined a rich culture. As you have alluded to, much of the youth in Iran resent their heritage being hijacked by a madman with a grudge and just want their groove back. Keep up the good work, O Wise...

The above hissed in response by: Mulletocracy [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 23, 2006 5:35 PM

The following hissed in response by: nk

Off topic but defensible since you don't have a Christmas thread: Merry Christmas, Dafydd, and Best Wishes to you and yours. (I know, I know, but you did not have a Chanukkah thread either.)

The above hissed in response by: nk [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 24, 2006 4:29 PM

The following hissed in response by: Eg

A very good piece by Amir Taheri, Wounded but Alive: Could Ahmadinejad Become More Dangerous? I might be a little more inclined to ask, could Iran become any more dangerous, if only that there remains one very obvious answer.

A very Merry Christmas to all!!!!

The above hissed in response by: Eg [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 25, 2006 1:45 AM

The following hissed in response by: Rovin

Ex-ssss-cellant essssay Dafydd.

NK, if you check the date of the post here (22nd), you will understand that some California folks tend to savor ingested info before shedding.

Dafydd may even get around to posting a holiday greeting before next year.

In the meantime....the very best to all here at Big Lizzards, and a safe and happy New Year.

The above hissed in response by: Rovin [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 25, 2006 6:57 AM

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