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Amir Taheri: End of Discussion - In Iran, there is a growing consensus that it is time to...
National Review Online ^ | July 27, 2009 | Amir Taheri

Posted on 07/27/2009 11:46:30 PM PDT by neverdem

End of Discussion
In Iran, there is a growing consensus that it is time to move beyond Khomeinism.

By Amir Taheri

No one knows how the current Iranian insurrection, triggered by last month’s disputed presidential election, will end. However, one thing is already clear: The doctrine of walayat faqih (“government of the theologian”), the cornerstone of the Khomeinist system, is dead.

The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini invented the doctrine to justify the claim that he drew his legitimacy from Allah and was accountable solely to Him. In practice, walayat faqih was supposed to work the same way that Lenin’s “democratic centralism” did in the early days of Bolshevism. Issues could be debated, even disputed, within the regime — but once the “Supreme Guide” pronounced the “final word,” everyone had to fall in line.

The “Supreme Guide” (also called rahbar, the Persian equivalent of “Führer”) would announce the ultimate decision in a special sermon. Such sermons were described as fasl el-khitab, an archaic term meaning “the end of discussion.” Anyone who opposed the end of discussion would be regarded as a “miscreant, waging war on Allah.” For almost 30 years, this system worked in Iran, at least as far as the Khomeinist elite was concerned. On most issues, there was enough debate to hoodwink the likes of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Barack Obama into believing that Khomeinism contained “a measure of democracy” (as the New York Times put it).

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current “Supreme Leader” of Iran, attained that position in 1989, but until recently he had used the fasl el-khitab card in public only once — in 1991, to crush a student revolt in Tehran. Over two decades, he presented himself as a pious recluse who cultivated taciturnity as an art. The idea was that, while others fought for personal or partisan motives, the Führer, living an ascetic life devoted to prayer and introspection, intervened only to close debate and unite the ummah (the community of the faithful).

Nonetheless, the doctrine of walayat faqih has remained at the center of Iranian political debate (indeed, it has been debated ever since the mullahs seized power in 1979). The Khomeinist elite has defended it by claiming that the Führer’s function is to stand above factions, prevent extremism, and arbitrate divisive issues in the broader interest of the ummah. Supporters of pluralism and democracy, on the other hand, have seen the doctrine as a façade for religious despotism.

As often happens, events rather than rhetorical pirouettes appear to have ended the debate. In the past few weeks, it has become clear that walayat faqih no longer works. Since the presidential election, Khamenei has held more fasl el-khitab events than Frank Sinatra held farewell concerts. His message is always the same: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s landslide reelection should be hailed as an “Islamic miracle” rather than a crude fraud worthy of a banana republic.

In emerging from his reclusion and so pronouncing, Khamenei has demonstrated his own irrelevance. Rather than calming spirits and fostering consensus, his interventions have deepened divisions and fanned the fires of opposition to the regime. The “Supreme Guide” has become just another character in a political soap opera, and each appearance chips off more of his mystique. Simultaneously, the number of those who doubt the “Islamic miracle” seems to be growing by the day.

“The Leader may no longer be an asset to the regime,” says Yussefi Eshkaveri, a mullah who fought for Khomeinism before becoming a dissident and being defrocked on Khamenei’s orders. “He has jumped into the mud pit alongside many others and is unlikely to reemerge with much dignity.”

The question many ask in Tehran is: Why did Khamenei abandon his role as supreme arbiter to become a hatchet man for Ahmadinejad?

There is no satisfactory answer. One theory is that, when endorsing Ahmadinejad’s reelection, he had an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) gun pointed at his temple. Another is that the he was terrified by the prospect of a “velvet revolution” that could send him to the gallows or into exile.

In 2005, Khamenei tacitly supported Muhammad-Baqer Qalibaf, a former police chief, as presidential candidate, rather than Ahmadinejad. When Ahmadinejad won, Khamenei congratulated him in brief, even cold, terms. At the time, many suspected that the IRGC had propelled Ahmadinejad into the presidency against the wishes of Khamenei’s entourage. (Khamenei’s ambitious son Mujtaba had been chief campaign manager for Qalibaf and an outspoken critic of Ahmadinejad.)

This time, however, Khamenei rooted for Ahmadinejad and made no secret of it. A year before the election, he told Ahmadinejad to “work as if you have five more years, not just one,” clearly indicating his hope that the incumbent would secure a second term.

In June, Khamenei did not even wait for the publication of official election results to congratulate Ahmadinejad on his “miraculous victory.” When the opposition disputed the results, Khamenei cast himself in the role of chief spokesman for the Ahmadinejad camp. For almost a week, the reelected president was nowhere to be seen while the Führer was everywhere fighting in his behalf.

It is now clear that, in just three weeks, Khamenei squandered three decades’ worth of political capital. Although he remains a powerful player in the Iranian political game thanks to the vast financial and security assets at his disposal, he is no longer above the melee. The regime he heads has become a typical Third World dictatorship relying on violence and bribery to remain in power. With the mystique gone, the reality of a brutal regime that kills unarmed protestors in the streets is increasingly noticed, even by people like Brzezinski and Obama.

In the past week alone, two former presidents of Iran, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Muhammad Khatami — both of them mullahs with impressive Khomeinist credentials — have made it clear that they no longer believe in walayat faqih. Both have refused to obey Khamenei by recognizing Ahmadinejad’s reelection. They have also boycotted events organized by Khamenei himself.

Mir-Hussein Mussavi, Mehdi Karrubi, and Mohsen Rezai Mir-Qa’ed, the three candidates supposedly defeated by Ahmadinejad, have also made it clear that they no longer believe in walayat faqih, by refusing to join Khamenei in his claim that the June election was “a boon from Allah.” Scores of other mullahs (perhaps even a majority of Shiite clerics in Iran) and numerous senior officials who believe that Ahmadinejad “stole” the election have followed this example.

More important, daily demonstrations in Tehran and at least a dozen other major cities continue to challenge Khamenei’s fasl el-khitab. The regime still controls these cities — but thanks only to the IRGC and the government-controlled Bassij militia, not to the prestige and authority of the Führer.

Until the current crisis exposed the fundamental contradictions of the Khomeinist system, the function of the “Supreme Guide” appeared to have at least one justification: It prevented civil war within the ruling elite. With Khamenei now adopting a clearly partisan position, that justification is gone. The Khomeinist elite are in a state of civil war, and risk dragging the whole nation into a period of strife.

For 30 years, walayat faqih was a barrier to creating a broad coalition for genuine reform and change. But now, Khamenei’s rash behavior has fostered a growing consensus that it is time for Iran to move beyond Khomeinism, as both an ideology and a governing arrangement. Only a shrinking segment of the Khomeinist constituency still clings to the bizarre and unworkable walayat faqih concept. And that is perhaps the true miracle that happened last month.

— Amir Taheri is an Iranian-born journalist based in Europe and author of The Persian Night: Iran under the Khomeinist Revolution.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: amirtaheri; iran; iranviolence2009; khomeini; khomeinism; mrtaheri; regime; taheri; walayatfaqih
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1 posted on 07/27/2009 11:46:36 PM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem
The regime he heads has become a typical Third World dictatorship relying on violence and bribery to remain in power.

Doh! Islam went and did it again.

Perhaps if they try again the outcome will be different.

2 posted on 07/27/2009 11:55:32 PM PDT by coconutt2000 (NO MORE PEACE FOR OIL!!! DOWN WITH TYRANTS, TERRORISTS, AND TIMIDCRATS!!!! (3-T's For World Peace))
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To: neverdem

this is rubbish.

once the thugs are in place.
revolutionary guards
Mugabe’s war veterans

a revolution is very difficult

3 posted on 07/28/2009 1:01:24 AM PDT by element92
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To: neverdem; element92; sionnsar
Good article. Once the people have a general and shared attitude that the ruling party is corrupt and illegitimate, control becomes more difficult and tenuous. This attitude is the equivalent of having a declaration of independence.

Of course, a mere declaration won't do it; you have to force a new balance of power. It won't be pretty.

4 posted on 07/28/2009 4:29:54 AM PDT by NicknamedBob (Oh well. Forewarned is forearmed. I'm up to my elbows in forearms.)
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To: neverdem; SunkenCiv; SolidWood; nuconvert; gandalftb; TigerLikesRooster
Bob Baer:

Iran is locked in a classic power struggle, pitting the house of Khamenei against the house of Khomeini. It has been simmering since Khamenei was appointed Supreme Leader in 1989, but it is only now that Khomeini's heirs have chosen to finally fight back against a complete takeover of the regime by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards. The Khomeinists were mistakenly convinced that if they could muster a 70% turnout and win the elections, Khamenei would not dare throw out the results.

Now that Khamenei has refused new elections, the opposition has switched from challenging the June 12 election results to attacking the legitimacy of Khamenei himself. They are counting on Khamenei to continue cracking down on demonstrators, arresting larger numbers of opposition supporters and eventually jailing the leaders. In the end, they believe, Khamenei will so antagonize Qom's ayatullahs that the country's clerical leadership will issue a fatwa condemning Khamenei and the June 12 election. Such a fatwa would strip Khamenei of any legitimacy as Iran's clerical Supreme Leader, eroding his support in the Revolutionary Guards. Already, the enlisted men in the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards are uneasy about suppressing the demonstrations. Its rank and file, like other Iranians, have suffered from the poor economy under Ahmadinejad. Reportedly, there have also been arrests inside the regular army. If true, it's a dark omen for Khamenei. A countercoup may just be on the cards.,8599,1912970,00.html

5 posted on 07/28/2009 4:39:55 AM PDT by AdmSmith
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To: neverdem
Amir Taheri is a good read as always. I think there is however a difference between what Iranians want and what they can. Wanting Khomeinism to be gone is one thing, having the capabilities to remove is another thing.

Short of an armed insurrection, either through outside help (not going to happen under Obama) or ideally the Army staging a coup (which likely will trigger a civil war with the Guards), the entire regime won't go away with a wimper. Short of a miracle. I think the most promising prospect would be an Army coup hand-in-hand with civilian riots, protests and strikes.

6 posted on 07/28/2009 4:45:25 AM PDT by SolidWood (Sarah Palin: "Only dead fish go with the flow!")
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To: neverdem

.......fasl el-khitab, an archaic term meaning “the end of discussion.......

That is the ultimate tag line

7 posted on 07/28/2009 4:50:20 AM PDT by bert (K.E. N.P. +12 . fasl el-khitab)
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To: element92

Not that difficult.

If there really is as strong majority all they have to do is refuse to go to work - all of them. A country cannot function long with no one producing anything.

8 posted on 07/28/2009 5:14:13 AM PDT by DB
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To: SolidWood
A full fledged strike brings things to a halt quickly.

It is pretty darn difficult to force people to work productively in technical jobs. They can't all be supervised and sabotage is often easy under those circumstances. The real issue is do they really have a commanding majority. If they do, then it is really only a matter of organization and will.

9 posted on 07/28/2009 5:18:52 AM PDT by DB
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To: DB

I have thought all along that is the best way to end this political standoff. I can’t understand why they haven’t deployed it unless the support is not there.

10 posted on 07/28/2009 5:22:18 AM PDT by johniegrad
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To: FARS; AdmSmith; Berosus; bigheadfred; Convert from ECUSA; dervish; Ernest_at_the_Beach; ...

Thanks neverdem.

11 posted on 07/28/2009 6:48:23 AM PDT by SunkenCiv ( Jan 3, 2004__Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: AdmSmith

All it will take is one bullet.

12 posted on 07/28/2009 7:11:13 AM PDT by SunkenCiv ( Jan 3, 2004__Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: SunkenCiv
Khamenei has cancer and is planning that his son Mojtaba will be the new Dear Leader so it takes more than one piece of lead.
13 posted on 07/28/2009 7:48:26 AM PDT by AdmSmith
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To: neverdem

“Now we have had 25 years of a failed Islamic revolution in Iran, and the people do not want an Islamic regime anymore.” —Hussein Khomeini, grandson of Ruhollah Khomeini

Ah, the irony....

14 posted on 07/28/2009 8:34:18 AM PDT by G8 Diplomat
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To: neverdem; NormsRevenge; Grampa Dave; SierraWasp; Marine_Uncle; SunkenCiv; blam; Fred Nerks; ...
And we have this :

Mousavi: Protests will continue until regime backs down


Iran: There Will Be Blood

15 posted on 07/28/2009 8:41:49 AM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach (Support Geert Wilders)
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To: Nachum; brianhumeck; TigerLikesRooster; SeekAndFind; edpc; Texas Fossil; nuconvert; SE Mom; ...

Major background story ping!

16 posted on 07/28/2009 8:51:46 AM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach (Support Geert Wilders)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach; AdmSmith

Thanks for the links.

17 posted on 07/28/2009 11:39:36 AM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach

Meanwhile they work on uranium enrichment. For all we know Mir-Hussein Mussavi, Mehdi Karrubi, and Mohsen Rezai Mir-Qa’ed, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Muhammad Khatami, and other close associates may have set up a clever smoke screen that would keep the country in a very unstable state, with the goal being, the West at the USA’s lead would have no one in particular to enter into suggested dialog within the Iranian government regarding their being sponsors of terrorism and development of an atomic bomb. It seems to me they do as good a job as the North Koreans to stay isolated, and not feel obligated to follow international laws etc..

18 posted on 07/28/2009 12:21:26 PM PDT by Marine_Uncle
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To: neverdem
This is the reason that Iraq's Sistani pretty-much tried to stay out of direct politics.

When Islam runs the government, people's anger against the government will translate into anger against Islam itself.

19 posted on 07/28/2009 12:31:15 PM PDT by PapaBear3625 (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money -- Thatcher)
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To: odds; nuconvert; FARS; LibreOuMort

Folks, I know neither Arabic nor Parsi though I’ve been around both a little. A very little. Still many of the terms here somehow sound to me like they are Arabic and not Parsi. Are they, or are they not?

20 posted on 07/28/2009 6:30:21 PM PDT by sionnsar (IranAzadi|5yst3m 0wn3d-it's N0t Y0ur5:SONY|Neda Agha-Soltan - murdered by regime of murder)
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