NewsSpecial WireAre moderates really gaining in Iran?

Are moderates really gaining in Iran?

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Iran Focus Analysis: London, Sep. 09 – The ascent of the Machiavellian Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to the chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts – a constitutional body comprised of 86 troglodyte clerics entrusted with the task of choosing the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader if and when Ali Khamenei dies or becomes incapacitated – has once again prompted the ever-unscrupulous spin-doctors of Iranian affairs to hail the development as a victory of moderates over the hardliners. Iran Focus Analysis

London, Sep. 09 – The ascent of the Machiavellian Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to the chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts – a constitutional body comprised of 86 troglodyte clerics entrusted with the task of choosing the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader if and when Ali Khamenei dies or becomes incapacitated – has once again prompted the ever-unscrupulous spin-doctors of Iranian affairs to hail the development as a victory of moderates over the hardliners.

Some have gone as far as suggesting that the development could change the course of Iran’s future political leadership while others have claimed that the election signalled the renewed prominence of more “moderate conservatives” within the political hierarchy.

Such hopes for change through one of the ruling theocracy’s most loyal custodians, however, are as much misplaced as they were in 1989, when Rafsanjani became president. At that time, too, Tehran’s proponents crowned Rafsanjani as the future champion of reforms and moderation within the fundamentalist elite.

Not only did the much-promised liberalisation failed to materialise, but more political opponents were assassinated abroad during Rafsanjani’s tenure than under the arch-patriarch himself, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. And it was Rafsanjani who put in place Tehran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

If anything, the remarks by Supreme Leader Khamenei put a damper on hopes of any change for the better from within Iran’s ruling theocracy. “Owing to its heavy responsibilities vis-à-vis the leadership issue, the Assembly of Experts cannot in principle be a forum for dispute and power struggle. I warn those who worked hand in hand with the propaganda of foreign enemies not to encroach the sanctity of the Assembly of Experts”, he was quoted as saying by state-run media on September 6.

Just as domestic suppression in the face of continuing dissent at home is absolutely vital for a regime that cannot answer the society’s mounting needs and challenges, its refusal to abide by international norms and regulations, its disregard for global calls to suspend its nuclear activities, and its continuing sponsorship of terrorism, as well as its meddling in Iraq and wreaking havoc elsewhere in the Middle East are not mere choices capable of substantial modification, but rather stringent necessities.

Geopolitical imperatives do not so much hinge on the type of people in power. Rather, they impose certain constraints on a political system to devise strategies in ways which satisfy conditions for its survival. Therefore, those who long for real change in Iran’s policies, must not extend a welcoming hand to individuals interested to preserve the status quo.

For many years, there was talk of a Tehran spring when Mohammad Khatami won the presidency over three others who had been vetted out of a field of some 2,000 candidates in 1997. After 8 years of Khatami, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory over Hashemi Rafsanjani in 2005 demonstrated how little these pundits knew about the incapacity of the clerical regime to reform itself. But even then, many of them welcomed Ahmadinejad as a populist who would rectify the economy wrought with years of neglect and corruption that began ironically with Rafsanjani’s presidency.

The indisputable realities of the crises the regime is currently faced with notwithstanding, the Assembly of Experts in particular, contrary to the weight given to it, simply does not have a mandate for policy making and has been on the sidelines within the ruling apparatus on such matters. Moreover, Rafsanjani received only 41 votes, which is at least 24 fewer than the number of his votes when selected as the Vice Chair of the Assembly, meaning that his position is rather fragile at best.

His selection does indeed signal a development, albeit not the one Tehran’s apologists desperately try to portray. It speaks volumes about the rapidly diminishing power of Khamenei who failed to dissuade members from voting for Rafsanjani. And, a weakened Supreme Leader has necessarily translated into a weakened regime as a whole, and vice versa. This is an outcome that is certainly not in Rafsanjani’s interests, as it would lead to the system’s implosion.

No wonder that immediately after his selection, Rafsanjani gave assurances that he is not about to rock the boat. “Because of the dangers which threaten us, we should pay attention to the Supreme Leader’s decree for national unity and cohesion”, the French news agency Agence France Presse quoted him as saying on September 4.

The West’s fundamental policy blunder vis-à-vis Iran through the past 28 years has been its continuous but unrewarding efforts to seek a “moderate” within a corrupt ruling elite in the hopes of changing its behaviour on certain matters of dispute. The regime’s fundamental inability to reform, however, has shunned these efforts from the outset.

Genuine change in Iran, therefore, will not stem from within a rigid religious dictatorship. Rather, it would seem that the Iranian people and their democratic resistance are the real actors for change.

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