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Let's give Rowhani a benefit of doubt

Reader comment on item: Rooting for Jalili

Submitted by Zar (Croatia), Jun 16, 2013 at 00:30

There ought be a third path between status quo (or worse) and the complete overthrow of the regime - evolution, not revolution.

Many of those who initially supported the change in 1979 were not so much in favour of Khomeini's concept of the religious supremo's jurisprudence above the three branches of government in the Islamic Republic, but rather were interested in more social justice, less archaic form of national pride (including the fact that Pehlavi "dynasty", so pompous in celebrating Persia's past, was imposed on them between two world wars), ending the corruption and the secret police terror, more rights for women and various minorities (Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis...), etc. They were heavily disappointed with what followed (though in some details the success has been real, e.g. in curbing high fertility or in high percentage of girls among students), but those hope are still alive.

Khatami offered a chance that was not taken by the Clinton and W's administration (albeit, admittedly, those efforts could have been futile). For instance, he changed the tone towards the Israeli-Arab peace process, telling Christiane Amanpour and others that if the legitimate Palestinian representatives recognise the Jewish state it is not for Iran to oppose it. The lack of West's response diminished hopes of reformers, moderates and liberals, reflected in their slowdown first in the parliament and then in presidential elections that produced Ahmedinejad's triumph (the first one, whilst the second was suspicious).

It is true that the "moderate Islamism" of current Turkey's government has been troubling as of lately both within that country and abroad. It is also yet to be seen how much will Morsi's and Islamic Brotherhood's government in Egypt be different from Salafi and other extremists. But if the moderate islamists in Somalia or western Africa or Indonesia or Afghanistan (and nuclear Pakistan) can succesfully curb the radical ones, let it be so. Iran should not be an exception to that

And even Khamenei is neither almighty nor immortal - his son Mojtaba is alleged to be a corrupt billionaire (unlike for instance the Khomeini family, also disillusioned with the legacy of their grandpa's), and it is very hard to find a single relevant grand ayatollah either in Iran or elsewhere among shia ulama who is supporter of this concept of too much mixing their ranks and civil affairs (the only one who backed that in the beginning, Montazeri, changed his opinion while Khomeini was still alive, therefore was replaced by lower-rank Khamenei, and later supported the reformers, spending the final years in house prison).

Ahmedinejad was not personally corrupt, but if he indeed believed his own armageddonian stories, he and his men (until they were pushed aside in recent months and years) were a potential very serious security threat (as warned by some Israeli and American analysts) in case those radicals ovethrow the conservative camp around Khamenei and simultaneously their allies (possibly Muqtada Sadr) overthrow more moderate shia islamists in Baghdad (around "Supreme islamic council"). It's good to get rid of "mad Mahmoud" and it could be step towards slow limiting the power of those who would replace ailing Khamenei with his type (or worse) once he dies.

Maybe the third path does not actually exist - perhaps Gorbachev's perestroika and glassnost could never have finished in some "improvement" of the system but only in either its rebirth (like after Khrushcev) or, as it happened this time, in its complete collapse. Or the opposite example from the same period, perhaps the Chinese stable global growth would not have happened without this peculiar combination of economic liberalisation and political only slightly eased totalitarism.

So maybe also in Iran the "green revolution" will be either green or revolution, but if it could succeed this time, and lead to some grand bargain with the USA and the world (Israel included), keeping Iran's right for civilian use of nuclear energy but giving up its covert military nuclear programme, and with somewhat higher degree of human and minorities' rights in that country, it could turn into an excellent outcome, with Tehran being the obstacle to pan-islamic extremism and to Russia's southern ambitions, and still not being perceived in the region and elsewhere as America's or anyone's puppet (as the national dignity and pride is important factor there, due to rich history etc.).

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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