Iran News ...


With Friends Like This, Who Needs Enemies?

By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse

Alligator tears seem to be drowning out many sincerely heartfelt tears shed over the post-election events in Iran. The agenda-driven outcries of accusation and condemnation against the Iranian regime for the handling of the recent presidential elections and the confirmation of Mr. Ahmadinejad for a second term have been receiving such a frenzied coverage in the Western media that there remains hardly any room for an objective, non emotional analysis of the issues.

Iranian expatriates, groups, organizations and web sites have now joined in with the various non Iranian activist movements, which seem to love Iran more than do the Iranians themselves, and whose aim is supposedly to promote freedom and democracy or to defend human rights in Iran. Most expatriate Iranians have started petitions asking the Obama administration to abandon soft diplomacy and to get tough with the Islamic Republic; in other words, to strengthen what they perceive to be a gathering momentum for an impending regime change in Tehran. Even the former prince, Reza Pahlavi has, once again, appealed to the Israeli regime to support the opposition movement in Iran. Of course, he and everybody else know why!

Meanwhile, the English speaking media and our official pronouncements about Iran employ a highly crafted language with powerful subliminal messages for the unwary. The BBC, for example, refers to the Bsiji militia as the "loyalists"! This is like calling the volunteer National Guard here a "loyalist" group. Mrs. Clinton misses no opportunity to sound insultingly acrimonious when warning Iran that the Islamic Republic better not test America's patience in complying with the demands of a superior. And the Israeli regime makes sure that everyone, particularly the Iranian regime, sees its naval fleet approaching within striking distance of Iran's sensitive strategic targets.

Regarding Iran's alleged breech of the Non Proliferation Treaty, for which no one, including the IAEA, has been able to show a shred of evidence, the media and the Administration officials, even Mr. Obama, continue to refer to Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions as an established fact! Naturally, if one is to accept the allegation as a statement of fact, and if one also prefers to believe that the Iranian regime consists of a bunch of crazies or suicidal maniacs, the world should indeed be concerned about a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic. 

Let us be realistic. A great majority of Iranians who live abroad do so because what they have left behind was worth abandoning for the gains in lifestyle - call it love for freedom or Western democracy, economic opportunity, etc. - elsewhere. On average, they are relatively well educated, culturally integrated and acclimated to the modern, Western lifestyles. They share much in tastes and preferences with many upper/middle class and elitist populations in Iran's larger metropolitan areas who also find the social and economic conditions in Iran regressive, restrictive and increasingly unbearable. For most foreign based Iranians, as well as for the upper echelon Iranians inside Iran, the concept of a theocratic Islamic governance is a dark anachronism, a setback for modernity and integration into the progressive world as they know it. And they are right.

Of course they are right, that is if we revert back to the old and well established philosophy that, since a strategically located country with highly desirable natural resources will not be allowed to tread its own independent course, it is better to follow the path of, and be subservient to, the big and the powerful.

Kam Zarrabi is the author of
In Zarathushtra's Shadow

The 1978 chants in the streets of Tehran and other major cities, Independence, Freedom; Islamic Republic, have now faded away and, as we have witnessed in recent street demonstrations, have been replaced by Death to the Dictator. What does not seem to be understood or acknowledged is that the pre Islamic Revolution Iran was, in fact, a committed subservient to the superpower mandates under a superficially progressive but factually oppressive dictatorial monarchy. The Monarch at the time also believed the axiom that, since Iran was too strategic a country to be allowed to remain nonaligned, it was wiser, pragmatically speaking, to follow the dictates of the dominant global economic and military power, not just to survive, but to prosper as well.

One could easily argue that there is quite a bit of merit to that philosophy. But is this what the progressive, freedom-loving and placard-carrying folks demonstrating in the streets of Tehran want? The answer seems to be Yes; although few if any among them would be willing or brave enough to admit it as such. They claim, instead, that the Iranian nation is ready, willing and capable to shed the bonds of dictatorial, theocratic oppression and join the league of progressive nations as a coequal partner. If this means abandoning certain cherished traditions or national identity and pride, the prize is well worth the price. In time, they also maintain, all that is lost could be regained, and the large silent majority that seemed eternally content with the traditional lifestyles of the ages past will also welcome the economic improvements and the elevated standards of living afforded them by this involuntary emancipating process.

The problems with this mindset are twofold: A- Is the opposition movement currently underway able to achieve the desired results as the protesters and their leaders hope? To put it in a simpler sense; is some "velvet" revolution under way, which might result in a reasonably peaceful transition to an open secular democracy in Iran? B- Is a change of direction or a total regime-change what would benefit the Iranian nation in the 21st century world?

A-It is no surprise that the pro Israel organizations actively involved in steering America's policies in the Middle East couldn't be happier that Mr. Ahmadinejad has been reelected for a second term as Iran's president. Opponents of any opening toward Iran by the Obama administration are also overjoyed and have spared no effort in sensationalizing the news of the unrest in the streets of Tehran and capitalizing on the regime's crackdown on the demonstrators. President Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, have already condemned the Iranian regime for its "unacceptable" treatment of "peaceful" demonstrations in Iran.

Now the American public knows what the civilized world is dealing with regarding the Iranian regime and the danger it poses to the world, should it be allowed to proceed with its nuclear weapons development!

Israel can now be assured that no rapprochement with the Islamic Republic of Iran is in the making, and the enemy state whose leader, Ahmadinejad, plans to wipe Israel off the face of the map, would be further isolated under economic restriction, even a blockade if necessary, for the foreseeable future.

With Iran thus portrayed as the evil on the block and deserving of the highest priority for containment, Israel can continue with unprecedented impunity to carry out its perennial mandate of ethnic cleansing and territorial expansion.

In short, a destabilized Iran under increasing economic pressures, internal unrest, sabotage, and constant threat of invasion, all perpetuating and legitimizing further oppressive measures by the government (in the name of national security), seems to serve the interests of the real regional power brokers.

But what are the chances that the dissent movement currently underway could gather momentum and snowball into a full fledged national uprising against the current regime?

There are two parts to this question: 1- Would such a potential eventuality bring about the kind of change foreseen by the restless, oppressed, reform-minded hopefuls? 2- Could the destabilization and chaos bring about the collapse of the current regime and lead to a blood bath, a catastrophic disintegration of the Iranian society and the fragmentation of the country as predicted by many so-called Orientalist prognosticators?

The answer to the first question is, to my opinion, No!

The opposition forces who are vying for power against the current establishment consist of several disparate groups.

a-The conservative clerical establishment opposed to the legitimacy of the very concept of "Velayat-e-Fagih" or a Supreme Islamic Jurisprudent (similar to an infallible pope in Catholicism), but believe in a national constitution which, although not in conflict with Islamic fundamentals, would not provide for an authoritarian religious dictatorship. Opinions expressed by the Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, for which he has lost favor with the regime since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the father of the Islamic Revolution, best exemplifies this ideology.

b-The clerical establishment whose most visible figure is the former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, are the pragmatic, business oriented realists who may or may not use the religious cloak while leading the country toward a more conciliatory or cooperative path with Iran's current antagonists. The Iranian intelligentsia and the more educated and enlightened urbanites regard Mr. Rafsanjani, a known multi millionaire businessman, with great suspicion as to his personal motives and agendas.

c-The ultraconservative clerics, best exemplified by ayatollah Yazdi, who would like their turn in running the Islamic Republic of Iran by further radicalizing the government to create a true theocratic Islamic State!

d-The secularist intelligentsia and the elitist urbanites who view the theocratic establishment in any shape or color as a historical anachronism and prefer a modernized non religious form of democratic government along the Western European and American lines, no matter what the effects of the shock might prove to be physically or culturally to the masses who, so they believe, don't know what is good for them.

e-The politically neutral or ideologically indifferent populations that are facing increasing economic pressure, inflation and rampant unemployment, looking for change, any change in any direction that might improve their lot.

f-And finally, the increasingly more educated and integrated professional women who, like their counterparts in the West, aspire greater parity with men in all aspects of social life, and demand a break from the imposition of dress code and other restrictions mandated by the religious orthodoxy.

Clearly, the one common denominator among groups "a" through "f" is their disdain for the government headed by ayatollah Khamene'i and President Ahmadinejad.

It would help to recall similar dynamics at work that led to the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran over thirty years ago.

Once the evidence became overpowering that the grass roots movement inspired by ayatollah Khomeini was going to succeed in toppling the Pahlavi regime, dissident groups from near and far began to crawl out of their foxholes and join the uprising. These were also disparate groups, each hoping to play a consequential role in channeling the flood in their desired direction. There were Marxists, communists, leftist and liberal intellectuals, academics, as well as operatives of certain foreign agencies, all intending to steer the movement in a direction that would serve their respective purpose.

It is also interesting to recall that the failure of the "progressive" forces to alter the course of the flood, which led to the ultimate success of the Islamic movement, was, and is to this day, blamed on foreign intrigue and direct involvement for various Machiavellian reasons. BBC radio broadcasts in Farsi were blamed for encouraging, directing and providing strategic information to the revolutionary forces at every step of the way. Cassette tapes were being distributed clandestinely throughout the country, believed by many to have been produced by the American CIA, Israeli Mossad or the British MI6, to destabilize Shah's regime and to encourage the mass movement behind Khomeini's banner.  At the time, many "intellectuals" believed that the whole thing was a master plan by the Imperialist West to, once and for all, create a solid barrier against the Soviet Union, and to control Iran's oil wealth, lock, stock and barrel!

How soon do we forget!

My answer to the question "A" above, is:

1-      There is absolutely no reason to believe that any possible or probable substitute regime would be able to bring about the kind of changes, and at a rate, that would satisfy the demands of all the various opposition groups which today speak with a common voice against a common foe. Any substitute regime would inevitably face challenges by rival camps demanding their fair share in managing the affairs of the country. This was exactly the case after the Khomeini regime took power in 1979. We all know what happened to all those "hopefuls"! The serious non religious ideologues died out, went into their underground dormancy or fled the country. Most intellectuals, the moneyed elite and the modernized bourgeoisie, at least those among them who could, abandoned ship and sought refuge and comfort abroad, where most of them still are!

2-      Reform can and should take place, and it will. Why steps toward moderation, liberalization or reform have been delayed can only be partly attributed to the religious zealotry and hunger for power. There are other influences at work that cannot be brushed aside and ignored. Iran has been under the threat of fragmentation, military attack and severe economic sanctions. Its internal security and territorial integrity have remained in jeopardy since the Islamic Revolution thirty years ago. While we could blame all of that to the ineptitude of the clerical regime and its inability or, better put, unwillingness, to play ball with the global powers, I do not believe any red-blooded Iranian would have preferred an Egyptification or a Saudification of Iran in order to be spared all the hardships incurred for insisting on Iran's sovereignty and national independence.  Yes, this national pride - call it stubbornness - has cost the nation dearly. While Iran's prestige has been escalating throughout the nonaligned world, to where even the firebrand President Ahmadinejad is a popular figure among global populations that are not affected by Western propaganda, economic blowbacks and diplomatic isolation have done tremendous damage to the Iranian people.

3-      No doubt, many Iranians would proclaim: Enough is enough. Many proclaim that the regime's rationale to maintain its stranglehold over the nation in the name of solidarity and national security is not only highly exaggerated, it has stymied growth and development and is sure to bring the nation to its knees. What they are proclaiming is that it is time to capitulate and throw in the towel, come what may. Their hope is that throwing the nation at the mercy of the global superpowers would reopen the doors to international integration, trade and economic development. I would call this wishful thinking out of a combination of desperation and naivetÚ.

4-      Any meaningful and sustainable reform has to take place in gradual steps and in carefully gauged measures to prevent a national breakdown and catastrophic bloodshed. Chaos, disharmony and violence may weaken the fabric that has been holding the nation together to a point that it could fall prey to predatory exploiters waiting on the flanks.

5-      Gestures of sympathy and support to encourage and add momentum to the dissent movement in Iran by Iran's detractors and foreign based non governmental organizations can only serve two purposes: One is to taint a genuine movement and its leaders as either na´ve or as victims of foreign intrigue, or even worse! The other is to turn the table around to serve a more diabolical purpose: that is to force the regime to employ ever harsher measures to quell the protests, thus not only adding to, but perpetuating the negative imagery so carefully created for the Islamic Republic in Western spheres.

6-      Here I would like to repeat what I have been maintaining all along as reflected in my previous articles, that a negatively portrayed Iran serves the purposes of the real power brokers in the region much better than would a peaceful, friendly and progressive Iran. An Iran that is viewed as a potential existential threat to Israel and as a danger to the Arab states, Europe and even the United States, creates sufficient rationale for all parties to this charade to pursue their respective regional agendas. I invite the reader to refer to my previous writings covering this issue in more detail.

7-      I personally predict a gradual trend toward moderation and reform that should become more visible before Iran's next presidential elections. Whether ayatollah Khamene'i retains his position as the nation's highest authority, or he is replaced by Mr. Rafsanjani or another challenger, the nature of the regime as an Islamic Republic will remain intact for the foreseeable future. Iran's nuclear issue and support for extra territorial groups (referred to as terrorist groups here) will remain objects of debate, accusation and as the rationale for threats of armed conflict for reasons mentioned above. If the scenario is followed properly, none of these threats will reach a flashpoint. Iran, meantime, will be trying to play devil's advocate by reaching out to China and Russia to hedge against economic sanctions by the Western powers.

8-      Finally, as long as Iran remains portrayed as an existential threat to the Jewish state, the Israeli regime can, as it already has, use that pretext as a real issue deserving of the highest priority, in order to sidestep any negotiation with the Palestinians, and to continue with total impunity its long-term agenda of territorial expansion and the marginalization of the Palestinian people. The Iranian regime, especially with a vociferous, diplomatically challenged, President Ahmadinejad, has been playing the role of the proverbial goose that laid golden eggs. One does not kill the goose that lays golden eggs. In short, it deserves repeating once again, the road to any progress in Iran goes through Israel, my friends.

Issue "B", "Is a change of direction or a total regime-change what would benefit the Iranian nation in the 21st century world?" deserves its own expanded discussion at another time.

Kam Zarrabi

Kam Zarrabi is the author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion. He is available to conduct lectures and seminars on international affairs, particularly in relation to Iran, with focus on US/Iran issues, at formal and informal gatherings or academic centers anywhere in the country. To make the necessary arrangements, please contact him at More information about Mr. Zarrabi and his work is available at:

... Payvand News - 07/20/09 ... --

comments powered by Disqus

Home | ArchiveContact | About |  Web Sites | Bookstore | Persian Calendar | twitter | facebook | RSS Feed

© Copyright 2009 NetNative (All Rights Reserved)