“I heard the voice of your revolution … Let all of us work together to establish real democracy in Iran … I make a commitment to be with you and your revolution against corruption and injustice in Iran…”
These were the unforgettable words from the last speech of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to his compatriots. Not long after this appeal monarchy was overthrown and Iran was plunged into a crisis that has not abated for the past twenty-six years. No nation has ever paid such a dear price for not heeding a call to follow the path of reason. No Imperial Majesty has ever humbled himself to such a degree in the interest of saving his people from destruction. If Iranians – due to the poisonous political atmosphere of the time – could not in 1979 muster enough common sense to see the depth of the Shah's sincerity, today after the passage of a quarter of a century, they definitely have no excuse not to.
On Friday 24 June, another voice of revolution shook the foundation of the Iranian political structure. Iranians went to the polls, not so much to elect a president of their choice – they weren't given that chance – but to reject the status quo and say no to the hated establishment. This cry of collective repugnance not only did not register on the closed mind of the supreme ruler of the Islamic Republic, he moreover took the election results as a token of appreciation and a compliment paid to his dictatorship. Even if he might have been privately shaken, publicly he stayed on his high horse, imagining that by doing so he would make himself invulnerable to reality. Ali Khamenei has declared the election of Mr. Ahmadinejad as a sign that:
“The Islamic Revolution is pressing ahead with its lofty goals by the grace of God and based on national resolve.”
It is not surprising that the leader of the Islamic Republic lacks the courage to admit that the poor and unemployed have decided that they have no hope under the plutocracy of the mullahs such as Rafsanjani or hornswoggling clergies such as Khatami. It is very much in keeping with the character of the supreme dictator of the clerical regime that instead of squarely facing the fact that Iranian citizens desire a real transformation of the domestic scene, he clings to his tired swashbuckling rhetoric against the supposed foreign enemies. He ignores the judgment of the nation and cuddles up to what people have rejected with all the electoral power they could get their hands on.
In a speech yesterday, 28 June, Khamenei laments “the unjust and unfair defamation of some candidates such as the reputable and experienced character of Mr Rafsanjani.” Although there can be no doubt that Khamenei would not think twice about throwing Rafsanjani overboard to save his own skin, he nevertheless realizes that the umbilical cord connecting him to the shrewd billionaire mullah is too dangerous to cut. He well knows that he cannot sacrifice Rafsanjani without also endangering his own survival.
Khamenei owes who he is to a large degree, to the machination of this Machiavellian mullah popularly known as “Expedient Akbar”. After the death of Khomeini, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani played a crucial part in creating for Khamenei the factitious and theologically untenable position of Supreme Religious Guide. Rafsanjani will not leave the scene without letting the cat out of the bag and spilling the beans.
This recent clarion call of the new revolution in Iran expressing itself in an electoral plunge into anything-but-the-current-situation, and a vote for a totally unknown character, was the exact opposite of what Khamenei claimed it to be, i.e. an endorsement of the Islamic Republic. By rejecting the whole kit and caboodle of Khatami's reform movement, the Iranian people pronounced an unequivocal death sentence on the whole regime and gave a vote of no confidence to any possibility of amelioration and dynamism for the present political system.
The wake up call of the voting results also carried a few messages for the opposition that had vehemently boycotted the polls. The opposition will either hearken to these messages, or it will lose the sympathy of the future generations of Iranians who will be able to look at the current situation from an unbiased and objective historical vantage point.
Iranian citizens today are looking for clearly articulated national alternatives and a viable political agenda. The opposition does not seem to be able to propose such an alternative. It needs to sit down and carefully consider what it is doing wrong. Either the message it is putting forward is flawed, or the fault lies in the manner of its delivery. The unfortunate fact is that it has not made the needed impact within the Iranian population.
The opposition, especially those in exile who are sincerely fighting to take the civilized diet of freedom, tolerance and democracy to their politically starved compatriots have failed to turn those essential nutrients into an Iranian political cuisine. The highly independent character of Iranians shaped by a civilization that for centuries has been a significant cultural and political influence throughout the world resists being patronized or lectured to by superpowers.
Michael Slackman, New York Times correspondent covering the recent presidential election, writes that almost everyone he spoke to in the streets of Tehran wanted improved relations with America, provided that the United States would treat Iran “as an equal, not a second class country”.
At election headquarters, a spokesperson for Ahmadinejad's campaign Hasan Khalili with angrily remarks: “When foreigners talk about this country, they laugh and make fun of us.” When he is asked by the reporter whether he thinks all Americans have this attitude, Khalili looks shocked and says “No, we like the American people,” then leans over and kisses an American reporter on the cheek. What he, like many other Iranians find objectionable, is not the American civilization or people, but a kind of supercilious triumphalism that can spoil even the most hopeful political agenda.
What the Shah had the generosity and humility to recognize, is part of a rightful political demand that Iranians have made since their constitutional Revolution in late1900s, and will not desist from making in the future. Liberty, patriotism, progress and political independence top the list of these aspirations. For the past quarter of a century, the dictators of the Islamic Republic have turned a deaf ear to these aspirations. If they are given a chance they will ignore it for the quarter of a century to come.