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IRAN: The next Paradigm of the Middle East

By Pirouz Azadi, Ph.D.



Iran is once again preparing to hold a presidential election in June 2005. The populace has participated in several recent presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections with a massive turnout seeking fundamental reform. After this did not materialize, voter turnout plummeted at the parliamentary election last year; this in turn led to a far right conservative majority parliament. The public, disillusioned with lack of any substantive reform, feels marginalized, ostracized, disenfranchised, disillusioned and frustrated.  People have concluded that these elections are simply make believe in nature and not substantive. Every indication shows an extremely low turnout is anticipated for the June election. That does not mean that the establishment, a parallel over-shadow government run by the Supreme Guardian Ali Khamenei, would not resort to the old tactic of stuffing ballot boxes by "millions" of fabricated votes.  The claim will once again be made that the [people with the yearning for martyrdom] will have reaffirmed its commitment to the Islamic Republic and its new president, a strategy that was used but failed in the Soviet Union, Egypt or Saddam's Iraq. Regardless of the Iranian presidential outcome, the new cabinet headed by the president-to-be will face the lingering problems of violation of human rights and suppression of ideas and freedom, stagnant economic outlook, corruption and waste of resources, nepotism and cronyism, unemployment and inflation, and brain drain.


The current self-acclaimed front-runner and the most likely candidate for the presidency is Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani pre-certified by the sole decision-maker in the country, Ali Khamenei.  Rafsanjani who has served a somewhat ineffective two-term presidency before, remains practically the only contender for this, by and large, ceremonial Office. The irony is that he barely ranked 31st in a 30-seat parliamentary election for Tehran at the last national election, and all efforts failed to push him up to 30th rank to be included in the slate. Instead, The Guardian Khamenei created yet another "watch-dog" called The Expediency Council to be headed by Rafsanjani. No wonder the clergy and the extensive shadow organizational network they have set up have all but lost their historical stature among the masses since they took over in 1979, being viewed with increasing cynicism and skepticism, if not ridicule.  Rafsanjani's vast network of businesses is one of the world's richest, having risen from nothing to billions of dollars in just 25 years, for instance.


Notwithstanding the lack of proof of any direct terrorist role assumed by Iranians in Europe or the U.S., nevertheless, the spiritual support or participation of the Iranian Government or its elements in the training and operation of terrorist organizations against western interests cannot be refuted. On September 11, that unprecedented despicable act against the U.S. by non-Iranian nationals, has impelled that country to set a new foreign policy, the ramifications of which will reverberate for decades to follow, especially in the Middle East and including Iran. Through a doctrine of unilateral pre-emptive or preventive strikes against anyone anywhere, who is deemed to have the possible potential to act in an adversarial position against it, the U.S. is staunchly determined to strike against any real, perceived, or potential target that may undermine its national or international interests; the Afghanistan and Iraqi invasions typify such moves. The fact that the U.S. still has not been capable of tracking down the Al-Ghaedeh leadership, albeit Ben-Ladeen in the Afghanistan-Pakistan corridor, or has not found any evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (the pretext to occupy that country), is no longer an issue. The precedent of military occupation and socio-economic hegemony under the banner of democracy and freedom is now accepted, perhaps reluctantly, worldwide. Upon closer examination of the Middle East and Central and South Asia, every country is under U.S. military or econo-political influence, except Iran. Paradoxically, [undesirable] evidence supports the argument that terrorism continues to propagate itself, so long as the U.S. does not equitably address the deep root causes of the regional conflicts especially the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. The American, European, and South Asian allies are more interested in retaining economic benefits. In fact, standing for the true principle of idealism, as it applies to equal treatment, justice, freedom and democracy for all nations, has taken a back seat for too long. There are many in the global community who still hear the term, "Crusade" used by President Bush in one of his early speeches, as the driving force behind U.S. military expansion.


The new-world order has certainly given a short-term competitive edge to the U.S. However, for the U.S. to remain a viable competitive superpower accepted by other nations, it must include in its foreign policy the pillars from its Constitution, namely, freedom, justice, equity and equality for all. There is a delicate balance to be reckoned with, to ensure that the people in Iran, despite their government anti-western rhetoric, and other nations develop a mutual respected understanding and appreciation for the principles that America stands for. Let us bear in mind that the Iranian people spontaneously held a candle vigil in honor of those Americans who fell on September 11, against the government's desire.


If the past half-dozen elections since 1979, when the 2500 year-long Persian monarchy was overthrown, is any indication, the nation expects little improvement, if certain fundamental changes do not occur. This may undermine the legitimacy of the current system, but if pursued peacefully, it would safeguard the integrity of the country and the aspirations of her people.  Iran has a very long tradition of tolerance and culture that spans over millennia. A Constitutional monarchy was ratified in 1906. One should not view Iran with its continuous historical presence in the region, as the same as its neighbors that were carved out of the Ottoman Empire by the British and the French as late as the 1960's. It is true that the theological establishment in Iran considers the loss of power as a threat to their existence as a ruling class. Nonetheless, the idea of an all out referendum to seek substantive input from the seventy million Iranians (plus the three million patriots abroad), might serve as a last resort to avoid civil war, a chaotic bloody revolution as in 1979, or external military confrontation with the United States. If the voices of the Iranian peoples were heard and they were truly empowered in a democratic federal system, there might be a peaceful passage to modernity that would preserve the noble aspirations of the diverse Iranian culture, including a reformed religion. This might facilitate Islamic Protestantism based on separation of the Mosque and a democratic State, a model for the rest of the Islamic world to emulate. The alternative is too costly, not only for the country as a whole, but also for the clergy and their cronies entrenched in the layers of shadow government that can only lead to self-destruction and political annihilation.


A national referendum, overseen by international observers, to determine the form of the constitution and government that the majority of the people yearn for, is the only possible solution for the current impasse, or to borrow a contemporary expression "all hell might break loose for the worse." The heated discussion of referendum, as spread out in every segment of the society and evidenced by close to fifty thousands who have thus far signed a petition online advocating it, can not any longer be neglected by the powerhouses in Iran. The referendum will set in motion an independent, home grown and peaceful transition toward the institutionalization of the rule of law, order, security and development for all Iranian nationals anchored on democracy. Regardless of the outcome, there is merit and the need to investigate long laundry list of human rights violations, mass executions and torture of political prisoners of conscience, and mysterious disappearances and improprieties, through tribunals verified by international NGOs. Just as the rest of the Islamic world, the Iranian populace may conclude that a superior class of clergy is no longer needed for its society to remain ethical, healthy and progressive. The three million Iranians in Diaspora, including the one million in the US alone, who are deemed among the most affluent and most educated, will undoubtedly play a crucial role in the realization of the dream for their ancestral homeland through trade and intellectual interchange.

... Payvand News - 4/21/05 ... --

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