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The coup in Iran must not stand

By Jalal Alavi


Much of what has transpired over the past couple of weeks in Iran was anticipated in my commentary published about a month in advance of the June 12 presidential election [1], which goes to show how predictable the Islamic Republic can be to those who are familiar with factional politics in Iran.



Accordingly, a chronology of major conspiratorial events in the history of the Islamic Republic and a review of some of the possible reasons behind the electoral coup that prevented reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi from being declared the winner of the June 12 presidential election may prove useful to those who have been following the events.


While a coup is seldom a feature of factional politics in most Middle Eastern countries, the conspiracy against Mousavi is only the latest in a series of plots historically directed against reformist elements in Iran.


Thus, it may be said that the hardliners' consolidation of power in Iran began with the plot against the provisional government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, which led to his resignation in late 1979.


The next plot or rather coup was directed against the Islamic Republic's first popularly elected president, Abolhassan Banisadr, which led to his tumultuous impeachment in 1981 and the execution of some of his close associates soon after.


The third of these plots brought about former President Mohammad Khatami's failure to deliver on his promises of reform and rapprochement with the West, as well as the brutal silencing of some of Iran's most fervent advocates of freedom and democracy [2].


Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's failure to secure a third, though not consecutive, term in office in 2005 was the result of a fourth plot within the fragmented structure of the Islamic Republic [3], as a result of which hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad first became president. 


Of course, one must also add to the above the Guardian Council's post-Khomeini vetting of presidential and parliamentary candidates as a way of further consolidating hardliner power in Iran.


Clearly, then, this latest plot against a moderate or reformist element in Iran cannot be considered as anything new, though the extent to which the hardliners have been willing to use deceit and force this time to secure their continuous hold on power is truly surprising.


Now, let us consider some of the possible motives for the gruesome conspiracy against Mousavi and his camp.


To begin, a Mousavi landslide victory, coupled with Barack Obama's friendly overtures to Iran, would surely have paved the way for an end to years of hostility towards the United States, thereby making it extremely difficult for the hardliners to maintain their traditional positions vis--vis the United States, Israel, Hezbollah, and Hamas.


Clear indications of this were Mousavi's positive reception of President Obama's somewhat veiled apology for the 1953 CIA coup in Iran; explicit criticism of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's approach to the nuclear standoff with the West; recognition of the Holocaust as a true human catastrophe; and tacit support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the run-up to the tenth presidential election.


Second, a Mousavi victory would have carried the democratic potential of putting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the difficult position of having to personally answer for his past support of Ahmadinejad's flawed approach to international relations and mismanagement of the Iranian economy, thereby subjecting him to the will of the majority.


Third, a Mousavi victory would have meant a more protectionist approach to economic management in Iran, thus robbing the merchant networks and special interests of the opportunity to continue to amass wealth at the expense of the national economy.


Fourth, a landslide victory for Mousavi would have eventually meant a more independent judiciary, a more restrained security apparatus, and thus a more empowered civil society, issues to which Mousavi had either referred or alluded during his heated presidential debate with Ahmadinejad.


Thus, it seems the hardliners had no choice but to assume that a Mousavi presidency, backed by a huge electoral base, would run the risk of effectively consigning them to the dustbin of history; hence their engagement in a coup that has grossly backfired.


The above being the case, the question arises as to what the world can expect to happen next in Iran as a result of the current crisis.


The fact of the matter is that the hardliners, backed by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards, are now engaged in a relentless campaign of factional cleansing and, as such, are determined not to let Mousavi become president.


Consequently, any attempt on the part of the Mousavi camp to secure a rerun of the June 12 presidential election will most likely fail, unless it is backed by massive grassroots action, of the sort the world witnessed on the streets of Tehran and other major Iranian cities just a few days ago.


This, of course, presupposes the existence of an open and active line of communication between Mousavi and his electoral base.


Should Mousavi fail to establish such a line of communication fairly soon, he will risk alienating his supporters and thus paving the way for the onset of a reign of terror the consequences of which will be drastic for the entire country and indeed the whole region.


In a sense, Mousavi must nowadays envision his role as that of a reformist leader rather than a defeated presidential candidate, for the present crisis is more about the future of democracy in Iran than anything else.


As to the future of US-Iran relations, the assessment above makes it clear that the conspiracy against Mousavi was designed with the thought, first and foremost, of blocking normalization of relations with the United States.


Thus, it would be in the national interest of the United States to refuse to recognize Ahmadinejad as Iran's legitimate president, until such time as the opposition is allowed to present its case to the public in a fair and free manner and a just settlement has therefore been reached.


As to whether or not this would amount to interference in Iran's internal affairs, one must take note of the fact that recognizing Ahmadinejad as the legitimate president of Iran amid the current national crisis can also be construed as interference in the country's internal affairs; hence the validity of the above recommendation.


Jalal Alavi is a sociologist and political commentator based in Britain.




1.  'Iran: Mousavi's Difficult Path Ahead', Payvand, May 14.


2.  Khatami later admitted that he should have acted more firmly against the plotters, presumably by tapping the support of his electoral base.  Let us hope he will do so now.


3.  See 'Iran loser blasts "illegal" poll', BBC News, 25 June 2005.  Of course, Mehdi Karroubi, one of the defeated candidates in the 2009 presidential election, was a victim of this fourth plot as well.  Also, one must note that some of Iran's current moderates or reformists (e.g., Rafsanjani) did have a hand in the plots carried out earlier.

... Payvand News - 07/05/09 ... --

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