A Look At Iran: The Latest

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on August 17, 2009

There have been some important developments in Iran.

1. This development would appear to be the biggest:

In a daring move, a group of former reformist lawmakers, now supporters of the opposition, have challenged whether the Islamic Republic’s top man in power is fit to rule.

The unprecedented complaint against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came in a letter to one of Iran’s highest clerical bodies, the Assembly of Experts, which has the power to name people to the leadership post — and to remove them. The letter marks the first time a political group has questioned the authority of the supreme leader.

The letter was addressed to Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who now heads the assembly and is a critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. Rafsanjani shunned the inauguration ceremony of the president on Aug. 5, as well as Mr. Khamenei’s endorsement ceremony.

The letter states that according to Iran’s constitution, the supreme leader isn’t above the law and that the assembly has the right to review his performance as a religious and political leader.

“We demand a legal probe on the basis of Article 111 of the Constitution, which is a responsibility of the Experts Assembly,” stated the letter, which was written by the head of the organization of former reformist lawmakers. Article 111 says if the supreme leader “becomes incapable of fulfilling his constitutional duties,” he will be dismissed.

The letter likely won’t result in any action from the Assembly because the hard-liners have marginalized the reformists. But it signals an important turning point for the reform movement. Analysts say the reform movement has become more radical and is placing itself squarely against the regime and its top authority.

The article goes on to point out that while in the past, it was considered inconceivable to criticize Ali Khamene’i, doing so nowadays is par for the course as far as political dialogue goes in Iran. I know that there is a long way to go before the Assembly of Experts ever decides to get rid of Khamene’i, but matters have proceeded further than anyone ever thought possible.

2. Meanwhile, by continuing to shut down reformist newspapers, the regime makes clear that it deserves to be toppled.

3. Unsurprisingly, Iranians on trial are coerced into blaming Mir Hossein Mousavi for the unrest in Iran. Stealing votes, you see, had nothing to do with the unrest at hand. Oh, and the defendants are forced into claiming that they were “fooled” into protesting by the opposition. As though a desecration of democracy, the implementation of political violence, and the violation of basic human freedoms are not enough to have to tolerate, the regime now compels the Iranian people to state that they are idiots, just so that it can remain in power.

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