October 19, 2005


The return of Rafsanjani (Saloumeh Peyman, 10/20/05, Asia Times)

The fact it was the former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who announced Iran's readiness to talk on the "country's nuclear dossier without any pre-condition" rather than his hardline successor, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, offers a glimmer of hope for reconciliation with the West on the key nuclear and oil issues.

When Rafsanjani, who now wears the hat of chairman of the shadowy, but powerful State Expedience Council (SEC), announced Saturday that "Tehran is ready to begin dialogues for transparency on the nuclear dossier," it was a sign that the reformists were once again calling the shots in Iran despite their shock defeat in the June presidential elections. [...]

[T]he unexpected intervention by Rafsanjani, regarded as a pro-Western politician who also has the ear of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is a sign that the days ahead may see a softening of Tehran's approach and a dilution of Ahmadinejad's authority.

Iran won't be a full and functional liberal democracy until the ayatollahs yield that sort of power to elected leaders, but, in the meantime, it becomes increasingly obvious that Mr. Khamenei realizes that they can't afford war with the West nor grow their economy as the state is currently structured. He looks to be a closet Reformer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 19, 2005 9:41 AM

And Andropov listened to Jazz.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 19, 2005 10:32 AM

Yesterday I read that the Iranian Republic was cracking down hard on the womens' dress code. Such an announcement indicates that the regime is losing ground when they have to take such draconian steps on such a small thing (and yes, it really is a small thing - "She showed too much wrist! Flog her!")

I don't know when the crack-up will be, but it will surprise everyone by its speed and viciousness. Dictatorships look strong, but tend to be brittle, and they don't fail gracefully but tend to shatter catastrophically.

When it does it will surprise the CIA, NSA, and every other intelligence agency in the world. And it will be a cause for great wailing and gnashing of teeth in the salons of the authoritarian left. And my heart will be overrun by joy.

Posted by: Mikey at October 19, 2005 10:40 AM

I think OJ is way too optimistic about the Mullah's reforming. They are benefitting from the corruption in the regime, truly despise the West and can effectively harness nationalism and a robust police state to keep themselves in power past the point where aggressive US action will become necessary (i.e. when they develop a true nuclear capability to go with their support for terrorists).

Still, this is interesting. The fact that Ahmadinejad's authority can be clipped by the mullahs just as easily as the authority of his predecessors may lead to greater reform than if somebody more liberal had been elected. Instead of reigning in President attempting popular reforms they could be reigning in one who is pursuing an unpopular foreign policy. Politically, this may be smart for the Mullahs as it can be seen to legitimize the concept of a 'guardian' council by demonstrating that their guidance does not always lead to a harder line.

I'm no expert, but worth reading the tea leaves.

Posted by: JAB at October 19, 2005 11:00 AM

Andropov never had elections.

Posted by: oj at October 19, 2005 11:31 AM


What if they love Persians more than they hate us?

Posted by: oj at October 19, 2005 11:32 AM

Sure he did. He chose the candidates and then ignored them. Hey, sounds familiar...

Posted by: David Cohen at October 19, 2005 11:35 AM


Posted by: oj at October 19, 2005 11:44 AM

From the Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics:

Article 1
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a socialist state of the whole people, expressing the will and interests of the workers, peasants, and intelligentsia, the working people of all the nations and nationalities of the country.

Article 2

(1) All power in the USSR belongs to the people.
(2) The people exercise state power through Soviets of People's Deputies, which constitute the political foundation of the USSR.
(3) All other state bodies are under the control of, and accountable to, the Soviets of People's Deputies.

Article 3
The Soviet state is organized and functions on the principle of democratic centralism, namely the electiveness of all bodies of state authority from the lowest to the highest, their accountability to the people, and the obligation of lower bodies to observe the decisions of higher ones. Democratic centralism combines central leadership with local initiative and creative activity and with the responsibility of the each state body and official for the work entrusted to them.

Article 5
Major matters of state shall be submitted to nationwide discussion and put to a popular vote (referendum).

Chapter 13 Electoral System

Article 95
Deputies to all Soviets shall be elected on the basis of universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot.

Article 96

(1) Elections shall be universal: all citizens of the USSR who have reached the age of 18 shall have the right to vote and to be elected, with the exception of persons who have been certified insane.
(2) To be eligible for election to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR a citizen of the USSR must have reached the age of 21.

Article 97
Elections shall be equal: each citizen shall have one vote; all voters shall exercise the franchise on an equal footing.

Article 98
Elections shall be direct: deputies to all Soviets of People's Deputies shall be elected by direct vote.

Article 99
Voting at elections shall be secret: control over voters' exercise of the franchise is inadmissible.

Article 100

(1) The following shall have the right to nominate candidates: branches and organizations of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, trade unions, and the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League; cooperatives and other public organizations; work collectives, and meetings of servicemen in their military units.
(2) Citizens of the USSR and public organizations are guaranteed the right to free and all-round discussion of the political and personal qualities and competence of candidates, and the right to campaign for them at meetings, in the press, and on television and radio.
(3) The expenses involved in holding elections to Soviets of People's Deputies shall be met by the state.

Article 101

(1) Deputies to Soviets of People's Deputies shall be elected by constituencies.
(2) A citizen of the USSR may not, as a rule, be elected to more than two Soviets of People's Deputies.
(3) Elections to the Soviets shall be conducted by electoral commissions consisting of representatives, and of meetings of servicemen in military units.
(4) The procedure for holding elections to Soviets of People's Deputies shall be defined by the laws of the USSR, and of Union and Autonomous Republics.

Article 102

(1) Electors give mandates to their Deputies.
(2) The appropriate Soviets of People's Deputies shall examine electors' mandates, take them into account in drafting economic and social development plans and in drawing up the budget, organize implementation of the mandates, and inform citizens about it.

Article 110 [Elections]

(1) The Soviet of the Union and the Soviet of Nationalities shall have equal numbers of deputies.
(2) The Soviet of the Union shall be elected by constituencies with equal populations.
(3) The Soviet of Nationalities shall be elected on the basis of the following representation: 32 deputies from each Union Republic, 11 deputies from each Autonomous Republic, five deputies from each Autonomous Region, and one deputy from each Autonomous Area.
(4) The Soviet of the Union and the Soviet of Nationalities, upon submission by the credentials commissions elected by them, shall decide on the validity of Deputies' credentials, and, in cases in which the election law has been violated, shall declare the election of the Deputies concerned null and void.

It's almost Iranian in its respect for democracy and the voice of the people.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 19, 2005 1:09 PM

Except that they didn't actually follow it. Iran is in fact a democracy.

Posted by: oj at October 19, 2005 1:12 PM

Yeah, except for that unelected theocrats choosing the candidates and then ignoring them thing, which is pretty much exactly the same.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 19, 2005 1:26 PM

They do need to transition to a system where candidacy isn't subject to the ayatollahs and ultimate power doesn't rest with them, but it's more like 17th/18th Century Britain than the USSR, with the ayatollahs in the place of the monarchs.

Posted by: oj at October 19, 2005 1:34 PM

I agree that when the parliment takes Khameini's head, it will be glorious.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 19, 2005 1:57 PM

You're confusing your Revolutions, but yes that's the direction in which it will develop, with the Ayatollahs being made to obey the law too.

Posted by: oj at October 19, 2005 2:02 PM

OJ, hope you're right that they love Persians more than they hate us. Certainly it's possible, but I think they love power more than anything and this hatred coupled with Persian nationalism will be used by the mullahs to preserve their political power as they nuke up, which is bad for those of us who hope this can be handled peacably.

It had not occurred to me until your post today that maybe having a hardline president will potentially make it easier to get things moving in the right direction.

Posted by: JAB at October 19, 2005 7:31 PM

BTW, I do not claim to be an expert on Iran, but I think OJ is right that they are a democracy. Their elections were probably cleaner than most. The guardian council makes them less important than most, however, but at least they've already loaded the software for liberty. They just need to re-boot. A lot of other places are worse off in this sense.

Just had a persian guy in to quote some work on the house. We chatted a bit about our backgrounds and he quickly brought up the subject of George Bush. He assumed I was a pinko like most of my neighbors so he couched his praise of the President so as not to offend me until he realized I agreed. He definitely thinks we're pushing the old country in the right direction to the point that he expressed hope that Jeb would run in 2008. It was an interesting perspective.

Posted by: JAB at October 19, 2005 7:35 PM

It used to be possible to say sensibly that Iran was the most nearly democratic muslim nation in the middle-east. Now it's not.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 19, 2005 8:08 PM

Yes, Britain got lapped too.

Posted by: oj at October 19, 2005 8:53 PM