Saturday, April 7, 2007

What Now Inside Khomeinist Iran?

Walid Phares, the Middle East scholar and terrorism expert, argued at the start of the UK-hostage crisis that the Mullah's purpose in taking the hostages was mostly aimed inward, at providing justification for a tightening of the screws on a restive population and also an attempt at reigniting revolutionary zeal. See here and here. That assessment is borne out by Iranian author Amir Taheri, who gives us a view of the crackdown that is going on today in the wake of the hostage crisis.

. . . The crackdown is beginning to gather pace. Several publications critical of government have been shut down, and numerous officials regarded as "not revolutionary enough" elbowed out, especially in the provinces. And now the regime seems to be setting the stage for show trials that recall the worst days of Stalinism in the Soviet Union.

Last month, a member of the Majlis, the regime's ersatz parliament, was sent to prison for six years on trumped-up charges. The real "crime" of Salaheddin Ala'i: He had criticized the killing of dissidents in Iran's Kurdistan province.

Next week, it will be the turn of former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh, who'll stand trial on charges of undermining the security of the Khomeinist state.

Tajzadeh is one of the establishment's most interesting figures. A man with impeccable revolutionary credentials, he has always insisted that the regime cannot ensure its future by silencing or murdering critics.
The next on the block is expected to be Muhammad Reza Khatami - a brother of former President Muhammad Khatami - who also has an impressive revolutionary resume.

In 1979, he was one of the two dozen or so "students" who raided the United States' Embassy in Tehran and seized its diplomats hostage. Later, he built a career in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and solidified his revolutionary credentials by marrying a granddaughter of Ruhallah Khomeini, the ayatollah who created the Islamic Republic. During his brother's presidency, Muhammad Reza acted as deputy speaker of the Majlis.

Yet, he too, is targeted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's new radical administration - charged with "activities that undermine the Islamic system."

Ahmadinejad believes that people like these three represent dangers for the system - if only because they insist that the authorities should obey the laws set by their own regime. In his view, a revolutionary regime, because it stands outside the normal framework of history, simply cannot be bound by any law.

According to dissident sources in Tehran, the regime's security apparatus is preparing show trials for scores of others. The chief targets: thousands of middle-class elements who joined the Khomeinist revolution because of a misunderstanding. Ahmadinejad calls them "the half-pregnant ones" - people who dream of being revolutionaries but also crave for a comfortable, Western-style bourgeois life.

Ahmadinejad's supporters speak of a "third revolution" - which, in practice, would amount to a purge of dissidents within the establishment.

Many actual or would-be dissidents have already left Iran for what they hope will be temporary exile in Europe or America. They include a dozen former Cabinet ministers and hundreds of lesser functionaries and apologists. If the looming crackdown gathers pace, thousands more may join them.

To prepare the ground for his "third revolution," Ahmadinejad has worked on three schemes.

* First, he has radicalized political discourse.

Under his two predecessors, Presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Muhammad Khatami, the regime had gradually changed its vocabulary by abandoning the revolutionary terminology and borrowing terms of ordinary politics.

Those two mullah-presidents spoke of economic development, civil society and a dialogue of civilizations. They also allowed some space for non-revolutionary (though not overtly counter-revolutionary) expression in such fields as art, cinema and literature.

. . . * Second, Ahmadinejad aims to link any criticism of the system with foreign powers.

In the decisions to close newspapers or put "khodi" figures on trial, the authorities drop hints about illicit relations with "foreign enemies of Islam." This amounts to a return to classical revolutionary lore in which anyone who criticizes the regime must be an agent of a foreign enemy.

* Ahmadinejad's third and perhaps most important scheme is to revive the regime's pretension of sacredness. He claims to receive periodic instructions from the Hidden Imam - a Mahdi-figure who, according to Shiite lore, went into hiding in 940 A.D. and will someday return to preside over the end of the world. He has thus restored the concept of the Hidden Imam to a central position within the Khomeinist doctrine.

The concept was pure fiction from the start, and most leaders of the Islamic Republic realized that retaining it posed insurmountable theo-political problems. This is why the Hidden Imam was given a back seat under Rafsanjani and Khatami, although both are Shiite clerics.

By restoring the Hidden Imam, Ahmadinejad makes it impossible for anyone to claim that Shiism, let alone Islam, admits of a range of interpretations. In this version of the Khomeinist doctrine, Islam is equated with Shiism, Shiism with the Hidden Imam - and the Hidden Imam with the Khomeinist regime.

THE "half pregnant" had hoped that "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi might, would, at some point, restrain Ahmadinejad. Earlier this month, however, Khamenehi, in his Iranian New Year message, paid glowing tribute to Ahmadinejad, and endorsed his strategy.

The "half-pregnant" are now forced to choose between becoming full-blown revolutionaries - or joining the counter-revolution.

Read the entire article here. There has also been a return to public punishents under Sharia law:
The reformist website Rooz reported on April 5, 2007 that the Friday prayer leader of Shiraz, a city in the heart of Iran, had called for more public punishments, as prescribed by "hodud," Islamic penal law.

After a convicted thief’s hand was amputated in public in Kermanshah, Ayatollah Mohiyeddin Shirazi, an appointee of the supreme leader of Iran, criticized the halting of public punishments, and added, "Those who say that practices like amputating hands belong to the past are themselves part of the past." He also claimed that imprisonment had no effect "on educating criminals and reducing crime."

At a meeting with judges from Fars province, Shirazi argued that public punishments are more effective that imprisonment: "Prison and imprisoning individuals do not have an effect on educating criminals and reducing crime. They also add to corruption." He also called for using criminals convicted for drug-related charges as forced labor.

Kermanshah judiciary head Allahyar Malekshahi promised more amputations in the future and said that citizens had requested the public amputation.

Contine reading here. (h/t LGF)

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