Persian Subversion

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on July 7, 2009

Let’s run down some of the latest from Iran.

1. Assuming that there was any doubt about where he stood, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president and the current head of both the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Council, has come out and called the presidential election results fraudulent:

A day after commanders of the Revolutionary Guard warned there was no middle ground in the dispute over the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the political party of one of Iran’s most powerful clerics Monday defiantly issued a statement dismissing the vote.

The statement by the Kargozaran party all but cleared away weeks of ambiguity about the stance of the cleric, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Rafsanjani, who heads two government councils that oversee the supreme leader and mediate disputes between branches, openly backed presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

But he has not spoken definitively about the June 12 vote, which was validated after a partial recount by the powerful Guardian Council.

“We declare that the result is unacceptable due to the unhealthy voting process, massive electoral fraud and the siding of the majority of the Guardian Council with a specific candidate,” the party’s statement said.

[. . .]

The statement by Rafsanjani’s party, posted on reformist websites, demanded a restoration of public confidence after the vote count, an investigation into alleged violence against protesters, the release of political prisoners and the lifting of restrictions on media.

Over the weekend, Grand Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani criticized the mass arrest of reformist activists and protesters.

“Every healthy mind casts doubt on the way the election was held,” the high-ranking cleric said in a statement published online.

“More regrettable are postelection large-scale arrests, newspaper censorship and website filtering and, above all, the martyrdom of our countrymen whom they describe as rioters,” he said.

The families of detainees also spoke out harshly against the government.

“My father is a defender of pure Islam,” Mehdi Saharkhiz, the son of imprisoned journalist Issa Saharkhiz, wrote Monday — Father’s Day in Iran — in a letter posted on various websites.

“My father has done his utmost to defend the republican nature of the regime,” he wrote. “He wants to establish religious democracy, but you and your accomplices prefer your mundane interests to anything else,” he wrote, insultingly referring to Ahmadinejad with the informal “you.”

It is genuinely impressive how many Iranians are finding the courage to speak out against an oppressive regime. Of course, that becomes easier thanks to the fact that so many high-ranking politicians are condemning the fraud that took place, but it is no less impressive that this kind of dissent is taking place.

2. Send in the thugs:

The top leaders of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard publicly acknowledged they had taken over the nation’s security during the post-election unrest and warned late Sunday, in a threat against a reformist wave led by Mir-Hossein Mousavi, that there was no middle ground in the ongoing dispute over the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the elite military branch, said the guard’s takeover of the nation’s security had led to “a revival of the revolution.”

It is because of the intervention of the Revolutionary Guard that Mir Hossein Mousavi, in his most recent public appearance, basically stated that the protests would move from the streets to a more generalized form of political action. I assume that he means that general strikes are in the offing–something that will be more difficult for the Revolutionary Guard to shut down.

3. As always, Reuel Marc Gerecht is worth reading, and his article on the clerical class in Iran, and their revolt against the perpetrators of electoral fraud in Iran is tremendously informative. Especially revelatory is the degree of backroom politicking that is going on in Iran, the opportunity the divisions in the clergy presents for the West, and the degree to which the Obama Administration is not taking advantage of the opportunity afforded to it. Key passage:

In the West, what’s particularly distressing is that the Obama White House still seems to have little idea of the magnitude and nature of what is transpiring inside Iran. Tied to a fruitless policy of engagement (there’s nothing wrong with “engaging” Khamenei so long as you use force as a medium of dialogue, i.e., you do unto them as they have consistently done unto you), President Obama appears to be blind to the most amazing time in the Middle East since the Islamic revolution. The future of the region is in play. We do–even after apologizing for the 1953 coup–have a few equities involved and can helpfully “meddle.”

As Iran’s unfolding battle between the children of the revolution is likely to last awhile, President Obama will get a chance to change course. Administrations often endeavor for three years on failed foreign policies before they can admit, at least internally, that there is a severe disconnect between their objectives and reality. Ali Khamenei has demolished President Obama’s Iran policy in only five months. As a “student of history,” the president may yet grow to appreciate the favor.

Let’s hope so. There is a lot happening in Iran. Time grows short for the President to take advantage of it.

Previous post:

Next post: