May 11, 2006


Don't underestimate the weakness of Iran's theocracy (Simon Scott Plummer, 10/05/2006, Daily Telegraph)

[I]n assessing these risks, insufficient attention is paid to the fundamental weaknesses of the opponent. The first is ideological. In the 27 years since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has come full circle. The religious fervour of Khomeini gave way to Rafsanjani's economic pragmatism, which was in turn succeeded by mild liberalisation under Khatami.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who became president last August, is attempting to turn the clock back to 1979 at a time when the ayatollah's fanaticism is discredited and the population, two thirds of which was born since the revolution, hates its leaders for their oppression, corruption and incompetence.

The second weakness has to do with political legitimacy. Loss of faith in the revolution calls into question the system of velayat-e faqih, or guardianship of the religious jurist, by which ultimate power lies not with elected representatives, but with the clergy. The mullahs' dominance seriously compromises Iran's democracy. For example, in parliamentary elections in 2004, the Council of Guardians, a clerically appointed body, barred about 2,500 reformist candidates from participating. A year later, the second round of the presidential poll was marred by widespread accusations of fraud.

The third weakness, veiled by the near-doubling of oil revenues over the past two years, is economic. The revolution has failed to provide work for an overwhelmingly youthful population; unemployment is running at about 30 per cent. The regime clings to an outmoded model of import substitution through industrialisation, and things are likely to get worse under Ahmadinejad. Members of a supposedly pliant parliament have criticised the current budget as likely to bring higher inflation and joblessness and slower growth.

The defiant rhetoric of Iran's leaders thus belies manifold fragility.

As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn asked of a similarly decrepit regime that folks were needlessly scared of: "Yes, yes, of course, we all know you cannot poke a stick through the walls of a concrete tower, but here's something to think about: what if the walls are only a painted backdrop?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 11, 2006 7:51 PM

The counter revolution is always harder then the revolution. The proactive people have been killed or co-oped by the monsters they unleased. The gift at the bottom of Pandora's box is a dangeous one.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 11, 2006 11:41 PM

Kahmeini's dying - and they've just declared war against us.

Posted by: Sandy P at May 12, 2006 1:04 AM

You can see the flop sweat on the Iranian leaders now.

They're running scared, e boxed in between 2 successful US-friendly gvts now, with Israel and India behind these.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 12, 2006 2:59 AM

They haven't killed many people--not nearly enough to hold power.

Posted by: oj at May 12, 2006 7:33 AM