March 10, 2006

WHY DEMOCRACY MATTERS:

In Iran, revolution is a presidential priority (Barbara Slavin, 3/09/06, USA TODAY)

Some in Iran's political elite have responded to the country's deepening isolation by trying to curb the president's powers. Khamenei announced last fall that a top-level council would supervise both the executive and legislative branches. The council is headed by Akbhar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a cleric, former president and skilled political infighter who was Ahmadinejad's chief rival in last year's presidential election.

Iran's parliament rejected Ahmadinejad's first three choices for oil minister. Key members have signaled that they will try to block his budget, which assumes continued high oil prices and allocates big sums for handouts to the poor.

The firebrand president has vowed to roll back the social relaxation that took place during the eight-year tenure of his predecessor, moderate cleric Mohammad Khatami. So far, however, he has had only mixed results.

Young women in Tehran continue to wear Western fashions and flout the law by allowing their hair to peek from beneath headscarves they are required to wear. But book publishing in literature and human sciences "has practically ground to a halt," says Mehdi Khalaji, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The government has also blocked several popular websites, including the Farsi-language service of the BBC.

The threat of new sanctions has dampened investment and the willingness of professionals to stay in the country, says Yahyia Fiuzi, a U.S.-educated architect who returned to Iran eight years ago.

The skyline in Tehran's wealthier north end is dotted with half-finished buildings. Billions of dollars in private funds and potential foreign investment are flowing instead to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, says Bijan Khajepour, a business consultant.


Iranians are paying a high price for the reformist boycott of the last elections, but Ahmadinejad will pay the price at the next.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 10, 2006 8:23 AM
Comments

I agree that democracy matters but in Iran it's not going to matter soon enough.

Posted by: Rick T. at March 10, 2006 9:09 AM

Rick:

It matters right now. Ahmadinejad won a democratic vote because Khanenei, W and the Reformists were short-sighted.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 9:24 AM

Ahmadinejad is the barker at the front of the bar. The real action is in the back room.

Khatami was a shield, a different kind of barker. He kept the cops away from the back rooms. Now, they don't seem to care.

Of course the "reformers" in Iran are short-sighted; their backs are bent and their necks ache. They tried "reform" with Khatami and got nothing. Perhaps the passive route, and the ascension of Ahmadinejad, was what was needed to bring the spotlight to Iran like never before.

Your prediction assumes there will be a 'next'. I'm not so sure. The mullahs can use elections as a dodge (or as theater); Ahmadinejad certainly won't. But, who's to say that appealing to the baser instincts won't work for him again? After all, there is no active opposition, no alternative to coalesce around. The people have been neutered, step by step by step.

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 10, 2006 10:16 AM

Khamenei wants reformers, not Ahmadinejad

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 10:22 AM

We've got a score to settle with Ahmadinejad. Experience says that Pres. Bush won't make his successor deal with this problem...

Posted by: b at March 10, 2006 11:33 AM

He's chattered a lot but done nothing. The electorate will dispose of him.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 11:40 AM

Khameini wants Potemkin reformers. The real thing would kill him, no?

And Ahmadinejad considers himself a 'reformer', now doesn't he? Perhaps the Grand Ayatollah does, too.

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 10, 2006 11:55 AM

jim:

Yes, eventually the reform unseats the ayatollahs, but Khamenei understands that Islamicism can't grow the economy. Khomeneism has failed.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 11:59 AM

"Billions of dollars in private funds and potential foreign investment are flowing instead to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates"

What?!? Don't those investors know that Dubai is full of dirty Arabs who can't be trusted?

Posted by: b at March 10, 2006 12:26 PM

OJ:

It will matter eventually but not before something has to be done about the nuclear issue. I know you think that is years away but I, and many others, respectfully disagree with you on that.

Posted by: Rick T. at March 10, 2006 12:44 PM

Nukes are a minor issue because so far off. Internal governance is major and because they're a democracy it's self-correcting, which will take care of the nukes. If they get far along we just bomb them.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 12:47 PM

oj: How do we know their nukes are "so far off" and how do we know "if they get far along"? We don't have dependable enough intelligence agencies to be certain, as has been consistently shown for decades.

Posted by: b at March 10, 2006 1:02 PM

They aren't useful if they're hidden.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 2:09 PM

If the worst comes to pass, and Iran acquires nukes, we can live with that - or we can bomb them even if they do have a few nukes, whatever.

Iran can't deliver nukes to America except by stealth, and that method can't bring in enough nukes to do a critical amount of damage.

All they'd accomplish would be to drive the most powerful nation on Earth into a berserker fury.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 10, 2006 2:14 PM

Michael:

But they appear to have to missiles to deliver them to Israel and Europe.

How many nuclear bombs do you think it would take to do a critical amount of damage? Look what damage taking down a couple of buildings did.

Posted by: Rick T. at March 10, 2006 2:19 PM

If Khamenei didn't want Ahmadinejad, he wouldn't have him.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 10, 2006 3:43 PM

Rick:

It did none.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 3:47 PM

David:

That would only be true if it weren't a democracy

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 3:48 PM

It isn't.

It may be soon, but it isn't today.

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 10, 2006 3:54 PM

isn't not

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 4:00 PM

if iran had working nukes they would have lit one off by now. they are in a panic to avoid the pulping we are preparing for them. it won't be pretty, but it will be beautiful.

Posted by: toe at March 10, 2006 5:56 PM

Nah, the kooks don't control the military.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 6:06 PM

Did anyone else wonder about the story last week (Friday afternoon?) that several AC-130 gunships were being deployed to Iraq? No operations that have happened there for some time, or that can be imagined happening anytime soon, would possibly need gunships...

Posted by: b at March 10, 2006 6:24 PM

A "democracy" where only candidates acceptable to Khameini are allowed to run.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 10, 2006 7:35 PM

David:

Yes, but he allowed Moin to run hoping to set up Moinvs Rafsanjani, a win/win for him. He underestimated how disaffected the Reformers had become. That's a tragic error on his part, theirs, and ours--since W encouraged the boycott.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 9:11 PM

b:

If Sunni tribes are turning on the Qaedisdts then they can declare free-fire zones for us, where we can shoot anything that moves.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 9:13 PM

my bet is that they are their in case the iranians swarm basara, in response to our attacking them. i wouldn't be surprised if some aren't carrying a new type of weapon, that excels at mowing down human waves.

Posted by: toe at March 10, 2006 10:58 PM

Rick T.:

Iran or any other nuclear power that wanted to smuggle in a few nukes could completely destroy one or two cities, or damage a half-dozen, but none of that would decapitate the American military.

It wouldn't even set back the economy that much.
New Orleans was mostly destroyed, along with the Miss. coastal towns, and that was a small problem for two months, with regards to the nat'l economy.

While a nuclear terror attack would be tragic and horrifying, it wouldn't in any way threaten the survival of the American nation or society.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2006 12:44 AM
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