Nov 19, 2010

Taliban style in Iran

The current civil uprising in Iran reflects not just a protest against a rigged election. Nor is it primarily a symptom of contentions for power or clashes between opposing perspectives on the nature of the Islamic regime. It is, rather, resistance against a political coup, whose engineers plan to impose a Taliban-style Islamic government on Iran. The coup has been organized by an alliance between the supreme leader and the most militant and fundamentalist faction within the ruling establishment, backed by the Revolutionary Guard.

The political attitudes of one of its most notorious ideologues, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, demonstrate the danger Iranians and the world would be facing should this militant faction get its way. Mesbah Yazdi does not believe in the republican aspects of the Islamic regime, but rather views Islamic law as supreme and must be unquestionably followed. The supreme leader, he says, is not elected but rather discovered by the clerics. For him, Ayatollah Khamenei is the exemplar of such a leader. He has characterized the ideas of representative government and legislative functions as belong to the decadent system of Western liberalism. He has likened reformist ideas to the AIDS virus. He has publically endorsed the construction of a nuclear bomb.

These ideas have much appeal for Ahmadinejad, who claims that the past governments were corrupt and deviated from the Islamic path.

The outcome of the current civil uprising is certainly consequential for the development of democracy in Iran. It has also far reaching implications for regional stability, international peace efforts, and the security of the United States. At this point, the regime cannot secure its rule without unleashing a reign of terror. And if this coup succeeds, the regime will forge ahead with its expressed plans for nuclear development and support for religious extremism abroad.

It would be a mistake to think that people like Ahmadinejad are reasonable. It is counter productive to base policy on the untenable premise that he would be amenable to a cost-benefit analysis on the nuclear issue. Time and again he has announced that the nuclear issue is off the table. To believe or hope otherwise would be a profound and resonant error. 

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