Stories On Iran: A Roundup

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on July 21, 2009

Let’s consider some of the latest bulletins from Iran, as the political turmoil there continues.

1. Mohammad Khatami, the former president, now wants a referendum on whether the government is legitimate. The significance of this move is described rather well in the following excerpt:

It is unlikely that Iran’s hard-line leaders will accept the referendum proposal. But the fact that Mr. Khatami proposed it at all suggests a renewed confidence within the opposition movement.

That movement received a powerful boost on Friday when an influential former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, told a gathering at Tehran that the government had lost the trust of many Iranians, and he called for the release of the protesters arrested since the election.

His speech at Tehran University brought vast crowds of opposition supporters into the streets of the capital, where they chanted antigovernment slogans and clashed with police officers in the largest demonstration in weeks.

2. Khamene’i, meanwhile, continues to be defiant:

Iran’s supreme leader on Monday sternly warned government opponents to end a campaign of civil disobedience while defiant reformists provocatively proposed a nationwide referendum to resolve the ongoing dispute over the country’s recent presidential election.

Meanwhile, the elite Revolutionary Guard sought to consolidate its power by moving to take control of the oil industry and calling for a change in higher education curriculum.

[. . .]

In pointed comments aimed at the reformist camp, Khamenei warned the country’s political class that “any words they utter, any action they take, any analysis they express” could help the nation’s international rivals.

“It is examination day,” he said. “But anyone who flunks the exam cannot retake it the next year. Failing in this exam is not flunking, it is collapse.”

One hopes, for Khamene’i's sake, that something just got lost in the translation. In any event, it is ever so charming to see that the Revolutionary Guard is now involved in keeping students in line, and wrecking the Iranian economy still further. I keep thinking that the regime cannot disappoint and/or appall me any further, and yet, it keeps finding ways to do so. Either it ought to be applauded for its ingenuity in outraging me, or it just needs to go. One can likely guess my opinion by now.

3. Those who want more information concerning the Revolutionary Guard can read this. The following, quite frankly, is frightening:

From its origin 30 years ago as an ideologically driven militia force serving Islamic revolutionary leaders, the corps has grown to assume an increasingly assertive role in virtually every aspect of Iranian society.

And its aggressive drive to silence dissenting views has led many political analysts to describe the events surrounding the June 12 presidential election as a military coup.

“It is not a theocracy anymore,” said Rasool Nafisi, an expert in Iranian affairs and a co-author of an exhaustive study of the corps for the RAND Corporation. “It is a regular military security government with a facade of a Shiite clerical system.”

The corps has become a vast military-based conglomerate, with control of Iran’s missile batteries, oversight of its nuclear program and a multibillion-dollar business empire reaching into nearly every sector of the economy. It runs laser eye-surgery clinics, manufactures cars, builds roads and bridges, develops gas and oil fields and controls black-market smuggling, experts say.

Its fortune and its sense of entitlement have reportedly grown under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Since 2005, when he took office, companies affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards have been awarded more than 750 government contracts in construction and oil and gas projects, Iranian press reports document. And all of its finances stay off the budget, free from any state oversight or need to provide an accounting to Parliament.

There is some indication that certain members of the Revolutionary Guard are concerned about the recent actions of the regime, and that as a consequence, there are internal divisions within the organization. That may be somewhat reassuring, but I would hate to have the future of Iran in the hands of the Revolutionary Guard. At the end of the day, it simply cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

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