Iran’s house of cards teeters on the brink
Iran’s clerics are facing a crisis of legitimacy that could see the end of the Islamic Republic in its current form, says Trends magazine.
March 8, 2010 5:18 by Iason Athanasiadis
Ramenzadeh may be committed to the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, but the endgame to this political crisis is more likely to be internal reform. Perhaps the controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be dismissed, new elections held, and the post of the Supreme Leader toned down in stature and given a more symbolic, and less powerful, significance.
This would mark a sharp transition from an Islamic Republic dominated by a figure according himself caliph-like attributes as the direct vessel of divine wisdom upon the Earth, into a country practicing a more participatory religious democracy.
Walter Posch, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin says that the religious far right [Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his supporters] want to follow very traditionalist interpretations [of Islamic rule] and not have the kind of council-based consultative government promoted by the pro-Khomeini Islamic leftists.”
“These are forums which allow people a modicum of participation in some issues through elections and they’re the Islamic Republic’s way of embracing the secular element in society,” he says.
Bringing the secularists on board may be more necessary now than ever before, as the Islamic Republic continues bleeding legitimacy. After this year’s bloody Ashura, opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, himself a cleric, pointed out that not even the Shah had had demonstrators shot on Ashura.
More than anything else, the lethal violence earned the sympathy of traditionalist segments of society for the opposition Green Movement, earning it a crucial crust of support. “It was a turning point,” says Thierry Coville, an associated research fellow at the Paris-based IRIS (Research Center for International and Strategic Studies). “The violence of the riots has stricken the imagination of the people and the conservatives and reformists now know that the situation could take a very dangerous turn.”
On this occasion, as in 1979, the majority of the clerics have sided with the people. But unlike then, they are maintaining a politic silence.
“With the exception of Ayatollah Nuri Hamedani who is strongly in favour of the regime, all the marajeh [Grand Ayatollahs chosen by pious Shiites as sources of doctrinal emulation] are unhappy,” said an Iranian political analyst speaking on the phone from Qom.
“With the exception of Ayatollahs Sanei and Mousavi-Ardebili who issue anti-regime proclamations, the conservative clerics remain silent, even though they oppose the regime.”