Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iranian Politics, Religion, and Israel

A word about the Iranian elections.

Yesterday President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the victor in the Iranian elections. That was immediately disputed by by rival candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi. He claims the results were rigged. The Obama administration obviously would refer that current President Ahmadinejad be replaced by the more moderate Moussavi. They therefore do not yet recognize those results.

Mosussavi is seen as a man that the west can talk to and reason with. He is also seen as a moderate who wants to loosen the reins of theocratic control on the Iranian people. That he is a moderate is not in question. But it is the type of moderation that is in question. He is only a moderate in style, not in substance. At least where it concerns Israel.

That’s because policy on that issue is not determined by the president. It is determined by the Ayatollahs. They set policy on all religious matters. Presidents have no say on it. All they can do is ‘moderate’ how they present the issue to the world. Israel’s existence is not up for discussion in Iran. It is to be destroyed.

The danger in having Mosussavi win is that the rest of the world including what I believe to be a naive Obama administration will see this as a step away form the radical form of Islam that Ahmadinejad preaches.

The Obama administration probably believes that Mosussavi may be more open to dialogue and change in their attitude about Israel’s existence. But that will almost certainly not be the case. It will only seem that way. Israel’s existence is a theological impossibility for them. That Ahmadinejad is upfront with that is a plus as far as I am concerned. He speaks his mind and does not mince words.

Moussavi’s less confrontational demeanor and perceived more pro western attitude will lull the world into believing there is real change when in fact there won’t be any.

As far as US policy towards Israel goes I think it is better to know exactly where Iran stands with an Ahmadinejad than being led down a false path of hope with a Moussavi.

But I do see a ray of hope here. The youth in Iran are clearly fed up with the theocratic rule of the Mullahs - and the confrontational style of Ahmadinejad. Their participation in the election was at record levels and they overwhelmingly supported the more liberal Moussavi. It is also seems that the election results were rigged. Ahmadinejad declared a victory by a virtually impossible margin. That has led to sporadic and violent protests in the streets:

“Death to the coup d’état!” chanted a surging crowd of several thousand protesters, many of whom wore Mr. Moussavi’s signature bright green campaign colors, as they marched in central Tehran on Saturday afternoon. “Death to the dictator!”

I don’t know how all this will be sorted out – although if I had to guess I would say that Ahmadinejad will remain in office. This protest will no doubt wane and life will go on as before. Iran will still seek to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. And they will still retain it’s most vocal proponent of that in President Ahmadinejad.

But it was an uprising by an inspired religious youth that had to the ouster of Shah in the late seventies. The Shah tried to bring Iran into the 20th century by introducing western culture. And he suppressed dissent with very harsh means. He was toppled by a committed and determined religious young populace that overthrew him - and any attempt at a real democracy. That led to the triumphant return of exiled (by the Shah) religious leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini (pictured above) who was seen as the true leader of the Muslims of Iran. He was in effect their undisputed ‘Gadol HaDor’.

His word to the young religious fanatics that led the revolution was law. That eventually led to the Islamic republic that Iran has today - a theocracy that is ruled by Sharia Law as interpreted by their religious leadership. Iran’s president and leaders are elected only to implement and enforce it. The destruction of the Jewish state is therefore not up for discussion. It's existence contradicts their religious beliefs.

It is now 30 year later after the Islamic revolution in Iran. It’s time for another revolution. We might just be seeing the beginnings of that now. At some point perhaps there will be an uprising that will oust religious rule and establish a true democracy.

But until that happens we need to know exactly where they stand with Israel. And on that level I would much rather see Ahmadinejad telling it like it is than a so-called moderate Moussavi who will hide it in order to gain more respectability in the world.