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Iranian Alert - July 16, 2005 - The Strange Death of Iranian Islamism
Regime Change Iran ^ | 7.16.2005 | DoctorZin

Posted on 07/16/2005 9:46:23 PM PDT by DoctorZIn

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The Strange Death of Iranian Islamism

Nehzat4Political Islam, at least in its contemporary form and content, was born in Iran, under the auspices of Khomeini, Ali Shariati, and a 1960s-intelligentsia (1). "To make communist rule secure in the USSR for the indefinite future", Soviet leadership under Gorbachev made "a strategic decision". However, operating in a world of increasing openness, glasnost and perestroika, from within a system designed to be closed, "set the ball rolling toward the system's collapse" (2). Pursuing the same objective of lasting rule and learning maybe from their defunct Soviet predecessors, the revolutionary junta controlling Iran since 1979 made, on June 24, their own strategic decision: rolling back on the system's backbone.

As the Lebanese Hezbollah is consolidating its political and military positions in anticipation for stormy times ahead, their Iranian masters in Tehran, who have continually maintained Hezbollah's arms procurement chain active through Damascus airport (3), decided, through a fabricated plebiscite, to consolidate their positions in preparation of an inevitable zero-sum showdown with anything that is not them: their own people and the world. Streamlining power was a necessary strategic decision.

In a postmortem analysis of the factors involved in the Strange Death of Soviet Communism, Charles H. Fairbanks Jr. sums up the most important ones as: a) long-term social and intellectual modernization; b) economic stagnation; c) the accident of Gorbachev's leadership; d) the regime's political culture and tradition; e) western and public pressures (4).

Are these factors at play in the inescapable death of political Islam in Iran?

a) Long-term social and intellectual modernization

On September 23, 1978, in an interview with my father, Baqer Parham, Michel Foucault lashes out at the western model of society, as the "harshest, most savage, most selfish, most dishonest, oppressive society one could possibly imagine", greeting Khomeini's revolution as an "alternative based on Islamic teachings" (5). Foucault is an emblematic figure. In Iran's aging numerus clausus circle of intellectuals, Mahmood Dowlat-Abadi is another emblematic figure. Describing himself as a "socialist ... who, from month to month, never steps out of his house" (1), Dowlat-Abadi has, turn in turn, supported Khomeini in 1979, Khatami in 1997, and Rafsanjani in 2005. Justifying his and other Iranian intellectuals' recent support for Rafsanjani, Dowlat-Abadi speaks of his brethren and himself as those "who have abandoned unreachable ideals and settled instead on a minimal average", hoping "for the emergence of an opposition within the opposition within the framework of the political-ideological system of the Islamic Republic". Foucault is dead and Dowlat-Abadi is, just as his "minimal average" Rafsanjani, a man of the past, a very old past indeed. Today, what provides the gravitational force of Iran's long-term social and intellectual modernization is a demographically young country that ranks number one worldwide for its 15-29 years-old population, which, culturally, recognizes itself, with an overwhelming 80% majority, in "its Iranian identity" (6). Representative of the socially and intellectually modernized constellation of Iranian political thought are the views, expressed by such varying figures as Mohsen Sazgara, Akbar Ganji, Mehrangiz Kar, and Reza Pahlavi. Far from this gravitational center, Rafsanjani's political Islam and Dowlat-Abadi's socialism are dust circling in platitude on a vain orbit.

Forged in destinies light-years apart from each other, Sazgara, a close Khomeini collaborator and co-founder of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, now living in exile in the US; Ganji, another founding figure of the islamic regime who also took part in the hostage taking disaster at the US Embassy in Tehran, now turned a voiceful dissident and dying of a hunger strike in Iran's Evin prison; Kar, one of Iran's most outspoken Human Rights activists and prolific woman writers, arrested on April 29, 2000, now in exile in the US; and Pahlavi, heir to the throne of Cyrus the Great, who, in forty four years, has experienced the highest of all heights and walked the dark valleys of exile as the son of a persecuted Shah; they all speak the same language, not that of a "minimal average" but one of the high moral grounds of the common good, of a resolutely modern Iran that must be built upon Human Rights and the principle of the sovereignty of the people.

b) Economic stagnation

Much has been said about this stagnation. Neither the collectivization and islamization of the economy under the islamic socialist brand of Mir Hossein Musavi, in what Sazgara calls the [first] republic of revolution and war; nor the import-substitution economy of Rafsanjani, with its plethora of nepotism and plutocracy of the bazaar and the merchant-clerics; nor Khatami's 150 billion dollar oil revenue, the fourth oil income in OPEC over the past 8 years; nor the projected militarization of the existing islamic economy under a Ahmadinejad government; none of the above would bring the slightest remedy to Iran's ailing economy. What political Islam has brought to Iran is an absolute poverty that engulfs at least40% of the total population  (7); a per capita income that has fallen from a pre-revolutionary $4,000 to less than $1,500 (8); in excess of $10 billion of smuggled goods each year; 3 million drug addicts; and a job market that inflates by an influx of 800,000 job seekers every year. August Comte analyzed the French Revolution as "destructive" resulting into a [French] society that was "essentially economic without founding [religious] believes". "No society, he said, could live without his members having a shared system of values" (9). The destructive Islamic Revolution in Iran, far from having filled the gap that separates the State from the People, far from having strenghtened religious faith, has had similar effects on the Iranian society: an anomie, in terms of moral and religious values, coupled with managerial chaos and economic pauperization.

c) The accident of Khatami's leadership

This point too has been the subject of much writing. Far from being the adulated "teacher of moral, knowledge, and patience" painted by his followers (10), Khatami was neither a Gorbachev, nor a Khrushchev, nor even a Yuri Andropov who, in his campaign against the era of stagnation, and as the head of the KGB, "used his organization to blackmail and weaken the Brezhnevite faction ... and secure the most powerful position for his chosen heir, Michail Gorbachev". Khatami's designated heir, in the latest round of presidential elections in Iran, was Mostafa Moiin. The fabricated plebiscite of June 24 was a slap in the face of Khatami's heir and political faction. Both Moiin and Khatami are the acceptable faces of a political family, the melli-mazhabi or religious-nationalists with a dissident

figure embodied by Ebrahim Yazdi, tolerated by the revolutionary junta. The recent electoral episode proved it once again: the more they are "slapped in the face", a central expression in Khomeinist political culture, the more subservient they become. If decision, to paraphrase a western playwright, is the art of being cruel at the right time, Khatami proved to be neither an artist nor a decision maker. His leadership was as hollow as it is supposed to be according to the islamic Constitution. Some saw in Khatami an accident of the theocracy; others, saw in him the omen of an age of postmodern politics burgeoning in the spring of Tehran; others yet, saw in his presidency an expedient designed as a tactical move to evade violent and imminent collapse. If accident there were in Khatami's experience it ought to be sought in the fact that Khatami's governments, think tanks, scholars, editorials and intellectuals, ... demonstrated, better than any outside enemy of the Islamic Republic could have dreamed of, the essential inadaptability of the regime to demands of modernity. Now, as Sazgara argues in his latest article, there is one line and two camps: the people against the Supreme Leader, as the constitutional and effectual embodiment of power in Iran. No more cubism!

d) The regime's political culture and tradition

It is impossible to understand anything about the strange death of the soviet regime without seriously considering its Utopian origins. It was the Utopian origin that led the communist regime to "its extraordinary pretensions, pageantry and bombast" says Fairbanks. "The revolutionary spirit, says the American sovietologist, may have been at work continually throughout Soviet history ... [a system that] can be compared to something run by an internal combustion engine, with its controlled explosions. These explosions set up enormous stresses." There is a relation, Fairbanks says, between the original Bolshevik revolutionary project and the instability of Soviet politics (4). At the end, the stresses killed the Soviet regime.

The islamic political regime in Iran is also the translation of a founding revolutionary idea, the emanation of a "Utopian origin". From the pretension of a classless towhidi society, where, quite understandably, the economy would be the basis for donkeys who aspire to nothing but melons; to the pageantry of Mir Hossein Musavi and Rafsanjani's Chinese and born-dead Malaysian models; to the hollowness of religious democracy and bombast of Khatami; to a Karrubi's electoral promise of $50 monthly payments to every Iranian aged 16 and above; to the now debated handouts of cash subsidies to all the neediest in the poverty-stricken islamic utopia, the history of political Islam ruling Iran is littered with pretensions, pageantry and bombast. Feeling the heat, the regime's June 24 Eintopfgericht, as Ganji argues in reference to Hitler's streamlining of Nazi power, with Ahmadinejad as the embodiment of the "Utopian origins", is the continuation of the original project of the de-westernization of Iran, its de-modernization, its palestinization, and its pauperization to the extent where every single Iranian would be in need for $50 monthly handouts from the islamic State. Could the regime's Eintopfgericht

prove to be its last "controlled explosion" which could well set up a social and political implosion? The answer is probably yes, pending other factors.

e) Western and public pressures

Since June 24, facing the inescapable realities of the essentials of the islamic regime, the West is showing renewed signs of a political will needed to put effective pressure upon the regime. President Bush reiterated his belief on the undemocratic nature of the regime, on the eve of the first round of elections in Iran. Prime Minister Tony Blair, reinvigorated by a second British mandate, a strong economy, and a near European-wide acceptance of the soundness of his model, and now assuming the Presidency of the EU for the next six months, seems to be in no mood for further fruitless talks with the mullahs. Germany's Schroeder, facing a looming defeat in September, is in no position to pursue "critical" or "constructive" dialogues with the theocracy. The French are dubious. But, weakened in Europe, desperately sunk in a gray economy, and, with the blatant defeat of Khatami and his intellectuals and think tanks, France, as a recent analyst pointed out in Le Figaro on the aftermath of Ahmadinejad's victory, has less and less leverage to weigh in on Iranian affairs. One could hope that the French civil society, or at least a minority part of it, would stand up where French politics fail. Bernard-Henry Levi's latest article in Le Point, as well as courageous positions upheld by Andre Glucksmann, Pierre Lelouche, Alain Madelein, Jean-Francois Revel, Pascal Bruckner, or Alain Fincklekraut, all highlight this hope in some enlightened corners of the French civil society, as opposed to the worn-out insipidity of its politics. Western pressure, as Pahlavi and Sazgara and many others have repeatedly said, must be put on the regime's terrorist record, regional connections, and the murder cases that were once hastily buried by western tribunals reactivated. Human Rights should be back on the table as the central piece of any talks with Iranian diplomatic envoys.

Public pressure in Iran exists in sporadic forms. It must be given content and organization. In doing so, one essential element should be the focus of all political actors united behind the tactics of civil disobedience and a free referendum: the demographic composition of today's Iran and its political dynamics. Iran, as we said earlier in this column, is overwhelmingly young. Its political dynamics are overwhelmingly female. Political Islam has brought nothing to Iranian young men and women except jagged souls and bodies, millions of amputated lives, millions of addicted lungs, millions of scarfed and veiled heads and faces that see no joy and no hope, day after day, year after year (11). The Utopian project of political Islam wrecked havoc upon Iran in grand part thanks to the intellectual secretions of a certain elite, best exemplified, but not restricted to, by Mahmood Dowlat-Abadi. No real change will come to Iran, no effective public pressure would take form and content, until the alternative political voice in Iran is given its demographically and dynamically relevant new face: a rejuvenated Iran where Zan, woman, is the source of Zendegi, Life.

Notes and References:

(1) Mahmood Dowlat-Abadi in an interview with Shargh daily, Tehran, July 14, 2005

(2) The Role of Popular Discontent, in The Strange Death of Soviet Communism. The National Interest, Special Issue, spring 1993.

(3) Les conservateurs iraniens renforcent leur emprise sur le Hezbollah. By Georges Malbrunot, in Le Figaro, Paris July 13, 2005.

(4) The Nature of the Beast. By Charles H. Fairbanks Jr. in The Strange Death of Soviet Communism. The National Interest, Special Issue, spring 1993.

(5) Dialogue Between Michel Foucault and Baqer Parham: on Marx, Islam, Christianity, and Revolution. in Doedalus, winter 2005.

Download Foucault_Parham_Interview_23Sept1978.pdf

(6) Head of Iran's Youth Organization in an interview with ISNA, Tehran, August 18, 2004.

(7) Head of the Economics Department of Tarbiat Moallem University, in an interview with FARS News Agency, Tehran, June 20, 2005.

(8) The Ninth Presidential Elections and Us, by Mohammad-Mohsen Sazgara, in

(9) Tocqueville et Marx, in Dix-huit lecons sur la societe industrielle. By Raymond Aron, Paris 1962.

(10) cf. ISNA's dedicated pages to Khatami at

(11) Others may argue that, thanks to political Islam and "islamic universities", millions have been educated, especially among the female population. The bombasters however forget to mention the cost of such accomplishments for there would have been a far more cost-effective way to achieve the same result under different circumstances. In Europe, World War I and II precipitated many social reforms, such as women's right to vote, but it would be absurd to argue that European systems needed, as if by necessity, over 50 million dead and many more injured, in order to achieve those reforms.

* Photography showing Ebrahim Yazdi, as member of the Islamic Revolutionary Council, and Arafat. Iran, 1979.

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"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin

1 posted on 07/16/2005 9:46:25 PM PDT by DoctorZIn
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To: Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; McGavin999; Hinoki Cypress; ...
Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

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2 posted on 07/16/2005 9:47:46 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn

Very Good Read!

3 posted on 07/16/2005 10:40:42 PM PDT by F14 Pilot (Democracy is a process not a product)
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To: DoctorZIn


4 posted on 07/17/2005 4:35:33 AM PDT by Gritty ("There are no 'civilians'. You are either the House Of War or the House Of Islam - Hani Al-Siba’i)
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To: DoctorZIn
To read today’s thread click here.

Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin”

5 posted on 07/17/2005 6:28:14 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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