Nader Hashemi: While Iran's democratic movement tries to discourage US military
intervention, Ahmadinejad gives fuel to the fire.
Nader Hashemiis Assistant
Professor of Middle East and Islamic Politics, Josef Korbel School of
International Studies, University of Denver He has a PhD from the University of
Toronto. He is the author of "Islam, Secularism and Liberal Democracy: Toward a
Democratic Theory for Muslim Societies". Nader is also co-editor of The People
Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Democracy in Iran, to be
published in early 2011.
Oct. 12 - TRNNOn
September 21, Iranian President Ahmadinejad called a conference with
representatives of American anti-war organizations and Iranian activists to
discuss the situation in Iran, and facilitate peace between the two countries.
At the conference President Ahmadinejad expressed anti-capitalist sentiments,
saying the system forces countries to start wars to support their military
industries, according to conference attendee Fight Back News. Ahmadinejad
denounced capitalism saying "Capitalism has come to an end. It's reached a
deadlock. Its historical moment has ended and efforts to restore it won't go
In an interview with The Real News, Nader Hashemi, author and Assistant
Professor of Middle East and Islamic Politics at the University of Denver, said
that the anti-capitalist rhetoric is only a strategy to win sympathy and
invalidate the the US and Israeli cause to exert military power over Iran's
"I think it's an exercise in hypocrisy. I mean, one has to understand that
within authoritarian societies in the Middle East, the fundamental issue that
matters for ruling elites is maintaining political power. And so they will
invoke any argument, whether it's in favor of capitalism or socialism, to rally
opinion, whether globally or internally, in order that these ruling elites
remain in power," he said.
Hashemi said Ahmadinejad is currently trying to remove subsidies from basic
commodities such as bread and gasoline, that insulate the working class, in
order to free up government money for uses that will entrench its power.
For example, Hashemi explained that a huge portion of Iran's economy has been
given by the ruling clerics to the Revolutionary Guard "...so that they will
feel invested in the ruling regime and not decide to switch sides to the green
He said those sections of the economy are run as private businesses, for the
private benefit of the Revolutionary Guard.
"Yeah, it's moving in the direction of a sort of a Pakistani sort of military
model where, to the extent that you are allied with the military forces, in this
case the Revolutionary Guard, the more that you'll have access to economic
opportunity without any checks and balances," he said.
Hashemi said Ahmadinejad also has no interest in supporting Iran's workers with
trade unions. "As I speak, one of the most famous and prestigious union leaders
in Iran, Mansour Osanlou, has been put in jail, severely tortured. And there's
no such thing as an independent trade union in Iran."
However, despite discussion by Israel, the US, and recently Canada's former
minister of justice Irwin Cotler about the need for human rights and democracy
within Iran, Hashemi said it is primarily to build a case for regime change, and
for military action by Israel and United States.
He said the pro-democratic movement in Iran is strongly opposed to "the language
of force" and say a military attack on Iran would undermine the internal
struggle for democracy. He said that Irwin Cotler, and those that advocate for
regime change and military intervention are not serious about human rights, but
are motivated by bias toward the state of Israel and the desire to keep Iran
from weaponizing their nuclear program.
Rather than creating an opening for democracy, he said, destabilizing the regime
with military action would give Ahmadinejad an excuse to take extreme
protectionist measures, and extinguish the pro-democracy movement.
"The regime in Iran would be strengthened. They will be able to declare a state
of emergency, arrest thousands of people, perhaps execute thousands more, and
completely crush and eradicate the pro-democracy movement. And if you're serious
about human rights and democracy in Iran, you have to listen to the internal
leaders within Iran, who completely repudiate the politics of people like Irwin
Cotler and those people who are in favor of military action against Iran here."
He said the democratic movement within Iran would seek sanctions that put
pressure on the ruling elite without starving the average Iranian.
"[The democratic movement's] view is that they oppose broad-based sanctions that
affect the average citizen in Iran, but they are supportive of carefully
calibrated and targeted sanctions that focus on specific individuals who've been
guilty of human rights violations," he said.
Senior Editor of The Real New, Paul Jay, got the chance to speak with peace
activists who had attended the conference. They told him that their intention in
meeting with President Ahmadinejad was to reduce the justification for military
intervention in Iran by facilitating an effort by the president to discuss the
issues. They emphasized that their main strategy to support the democratic
movement in Iran was to discourage US and Israeli military intervention.
"Iran's pro-democracy movement," said Hashemi, "is no way in favor of US-style
sort of military strike, violence, turning Iran into some sort of satellite
regime. The pro-democracy [movement in Iran] is very nationalistic."
Unfortunately, Hameshi said, Ahmadinejad's defiant rhetoric is actually making
it much easier for the United States and Israel to make a case for attacking