another riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma
June 28, 2009 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Iran's debate over theocracy took an interesting turn when Ayatollah Sistani the preeminent Shi'a cleric in Iraq made a recent visit. Sistani has stated that in order to be legitimate a ruler should win acceptance from a majority of believers. Threats Watch has analysis on this as the so called Battle for Iran shifts from the streets to the heart of power. How Iran is ruled is both different and complicated. The crisis is far from over; we are now probably at the end of the beginning. Here is a round up of analysis from dianaswednesday.

Wiki links to some of the principal players both centre stage and behind the curtain
Khameni; Yazdi; Rafsanjani; Larijani Ahmadinejad Mousavi
Overview 2009 elections.
Metafilter previous recent posts June 4th;
June 13th; June 16th; June 19th; June 22nd, 1 + II
posted by adamvasco (35 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
This is very, very interesting. Thanks, adamvasco.
posted by koeselitz at 11:33 AM on June 28, 2009

God will prevail
posted by Postroad at 11:46 AM on June 28, 2009

Probably not.
posted by geekhorde at 12:08 PM on June 28, 2009

Nicely done! Thanks.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 12:11 PM on June 28, 2009

God will prevail

Geesh. Let's hope not.

If anyone is interested, Hooman Majd's The Ayatollah Begs to Differ is a great book that describes the paradox of modern Iran. Many of the players we have come to know since the election are referred to and discussed in length in the book. Oh and hey, lookee - it's on Google Books.
posted by billysumday at 12:23 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for playing Postroad. I hope you took your gun with you this morning. I thought you were going to post something insightful about Sistani's visit possibly laying the ground for a greater Shiite nation absorbing the oil resources of S. Iraq. But I was wrong.
posted by adamvasco at 12:46 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

With the "big" news of Billy Mays and Michael Jackson, I thought this whole Iran thing was behind us.
posted by tomplus2 at 1:00 PM on June 28, 2009

Where is Hugo Chavez in all of this? Anyone with any clout in Venezuela should do all they can to get Chavez to withdraw his support for the fascists of Iran.
posted by Anything at 1:20 PM on June 28, 2009

And there are a lot of lefties around the world he's relied on for moral support.
posted by Anything at 1:32 PM on June 28, 2009

Why would Chavez withdraw his support for one of the few non-American heads of state who supports him?
posted by gman at 1:35 PM on June 28, 2009

Venezuela has a lot of embassies and open trade relations around the world. It should be made clear to Chavez that he can't take that for granted.
posted by Anything at 1:42 PM on June 28, 2009

Everybody knows we engineered the 1953 coup in Iran which overthrew a popular government and led ultimately to the disastrous dictatorship of the mullahs with which we are now faced.

What is less appreciated is that Iran returned the favor in 1980, with the election of Ronald Reagan:

[Kevin] Phillips finds the not-so-fine hand of the Bush family and what it represents: "the apotheosis of that unwarranted influence ... by the military-industrial complex" that President Eisenhower warned against in his 1961 farewell address. Bush-o-phobes will find virtually every one of their fondest (worst) assumptions here. Did the Reagan-Bush campaign conspire with the Iranian government to keep American hostages captive until after the 1980 election? While not embracing the more colorful allegations (Bush flying off to Paris in a supersonic jet), he clearly believes that the campaign did indeed deal with agents of the Iranian government.

Leading ultimately to the disastrous (and partially undemocratic) reign of the far right in the US for most of the last 29 years.

Iran now finds itself in a position where it might be in their interests to try it again, because there is really no question that Obama's election led to a surge in a hope for a less confrontational relationship with the West, and that is what fueled the wave of popular support for Mousavi.

Nothing would stabilize the current regime in Iran like returning the Republicans to power in the US, and I think we must expect Iran to do whatever it can to bring that about.
posted by jamjam at 2:01 PM on June 28, 2009

jamjam: What is less appreciated is that Iran returned the favor in 1980, with the election of Ronald Reagan.

...and a prominent player in said surprise? Mousavi.
posted by mwhybark at 2:57 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Where is Hugo Chavez in all of this? Anyone with any clout in Venezuela should do all they can to get Chavez to withdraw his support for the fascists of Iran.

like that has anything to do with the price of tea in China.
posted by @troy at 5:19 PM on June 28, 2009

Anyone with any clout in Venezuela should do all they can to get Chavez to withdraw his support for the fascists of Iran.

A wannabe dictator withdraw his support for a real dictator?
posted by Krrrlson at 9:56 PM on June 28, 2009

There has never been a clerical consensus on the way Iran should be ruled.

This Wikipedia article about Mohsen Kadivar (former student of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri) does a nice job of outlining the different approaches (mixes of secular and religious authority). Ayaollah Boroujerdi (currently imprisoned in Evin prison) comes from the long line of quietist clerics arguing for a non-religious state.

This podcast from the UCLA Centre for Near East Studies by Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi talks about how the formation of the Islamic Republic secularised Islam in Iran.

And finally, today we have Hadi Ghaffari criticising Khameni openly in a 'I'll say what I want, come and get me' outburst.
posted by xpermanentx at 5:37 AM on June 29, 2009

xpermanentx I believe this to be a translation of the speech you linked to. Maybe you could elaborate a bit about who Hadi Ghaffari is and why his particular criticism is so important.
posted by adamvasco at 11:34 AM on June 29, 2009

thanks for the post, adamvasco. I especially liked the bbc article on the structure of Iran's government.
posted by episteborg at 2:03 PM on June 29, 2009

"I remember September 11, 2001. I remember watching TV all day worried and sad. I remember holding candlelight vigils with my friends for the victims. Then George W. Bush went on to declare us as one of the “Axis of Evil.” I remember asking myself, “Why?” Not a single one of the terrorists was Iranian, and I wondered why he didn’t bother to make a distinction between the government and the people. In fact, in all of the Middle East I don’t think there is a more pro-American nation than Iran, but no one made such a distinction. Consequently, the Iranian people were viewed with an aura of suspicion in every airport and embassy around the world for the rest of the Bush administration.

But all of that unfounded negative stereotyping came to an end when, in the aftermath of the elections, the nation stood up to the manipulative authorities and separated its account from that of the government. We shattered the stereotype with the amateur photos and videos taken with our own mobile phones. We captured the true picture of the Iranian nation and relayed it to the world, a picture of a young and highly educated nation yearning to be free."
Tehran Bureau Dispatch
posted by netbros at 7:57 PM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Hadi Ghaffari is a hardline cleric and not a part of the reformist-pragmatist nexus formed to oppose the radical Ahmadinejad faction in this recent election.

Khatami and those that helped him win two presidential terms are the main reformist grouping. They more-or-less boycotted the 2005 election and in this election, they didn't run a candidate (many in radical factions consider Khatami to be too liberal and would have mounted a very aggressive campaign against him) but threw their weight behind Mir Hussein Mousavi, a moderate/pragmatist (Rafsanjani's faction - those who were brought to power by the founding of the Islamic Republic and ruled the country roughly 1980 - 1989).

As an aside, Ahmadinejad's faction are not the architects of the Islamic Republic. That credit goes to men like Rafsanjani, Khamenei, Khomenei, etc. Ahmadinejad's faction is made up of men who fought on the streets, in the Iran-Iraq war, etc. and really took the values of the early years of the Islamic Republic into their hearts. Their ascendency, and support of/from Khamanei against Rafsanjani's pragmatist (i.e., get rich) faction seems to be one of the main themes of the election unrest.

Why is Ghaffari's intervention an interesting development?
  • on the surface of it, he's got nothing to gain from it
  • he's critical of Khamenei and implies he doesn't have the religious credentials to be the Supreme Leader
  • he's essentially attacking Khamenei from 'the right' (if that makes sense in Iranian politics - for Americans it's like Fred Phelps attacking Rush Limbaugh or something)
  • it further highlights the disunity amongst Iran's clerical class
And today we've reports that Ayatollah Taheri (certainly no friend of Khamanei) saying that Khamanei's actions in this recent election will send the Islamic Republic "to the museum".
posted by xpermanentx at 9:29 AM on June 30, 2009

Torture, confessions and public recantations are nothing new in Iran. From the Shah's spectacularly ill-advised televised trial of Khorsrow Golsorkhi (which turned Golsorkhi into a martyr) and the Islamic Republic's suppression of the Tudeh party (accompanied by televised confessions) to televised 'apologies' from captured British Royal Navy crew.

Ervand Abrahamian's book Tortured Confessions: Prisons and public recantations in modern Iran although not fully up to date covers a lot of this.

I don't really know how these things play out on the ground in Iran. Are they to rally support from religious hardliners, to put fear into opponents, etc.? Anyone with info, please respond!
posted by xpermanentx at 6:36 AM on July 1, 2009

Updates & Analysis from Juan Cole.
posted by adamvasco at 1:03 AM on July 2, 2009

Listened to a fascinating documentary by John Simpson (the veteran BBC foreign correspondent, who was on the plane that returned Ayatollah Khomeini to Iran in 1979 and was recently ejected by the Iranian government for... well, reporting what was going on, basically). On the streets with the crowds recently, is of the opinion that this marks a significant turning point away from the rule of the Ayatollahs, in the same way that similar scenes marked the end of the rule of the Shah.

Anyway, it seems to be here I have no idea for whom it will work, and for how long, but if it works for you, have a listen.
posted by Grangousier at 3:53 PM on July 4, 2009

Biden's gift to Ahmadinejad
posted by homunculus at 8:25 AM on July 6, 2009

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