The Iranian government, through its actions time and time again, has shown that it does not believe in Iranians for its ideological survival. This has been seen again by banning thousands of Iranians from candidacy in the March 2008 Parliamentary (Majlis) elections. The Iranian regime is a very complex one and whether we accept or not there is also some democratic side to it. People do change in Iranian political arena, and they have done so very often.
For instance Rafsanjani who was often called Akbar Shah (reflecting his extreme king-like powers) was defeated by a relatively unknown figure, Ahmadinejad. The only person who has not been challenged is Khamenei, who is also given special powers by the Iranian post-revolutionary Constitution. Although Khamenei is the most powerful figure in Iranian politics he IS NOT a dictator. He does not have enough duties to make him a dictator. He is something like a powerful arbiter who has since used his authority in its reasonable limits, not showing truly dictatorial tendencies. He has just respected the constitution! And he has not written, or ever changed it.
The whole Islamic regime of Iran is a truly complex creature but knowing how it works has not exactly been the preoccupation of anti-IRI people. It is indeed useful to take an objective look and see how this monster actually functions. It functions quite well, but it is NOT a dictatorship, and it is not a democracy. It is something in between. However it is much more democratic than many other countries out there. This shows the regime’s degree of confidence. It is able to let people release their anger once in a while in various elections, without the need to become truly democratic. And the regime itself actually acknowledges that it is not a democracy, but an ISLAMIC democracy. How this Islamic democracy works? Take a look at this: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/94… It is too complicated from an arithmetic point of view, and too worthless actually, to remember each and every bit of it.
The regime does not have a powerful security apparatus like the ones used in many dictatorial regimes such as Syria today or many Communist countries in the past. Although the regime does have means to suppress occasional popular uprisings it is confident enough to let people enjoy quite a bit of freedom of speech, not just in private but also in public. Iranians are not usually jailed, or bothered in any way, for criticising the regime or its personalities in private or in small gatherings. Dictatorial regimes often do not tolerate even private criticism but the Iranian regime is so confident it even allows some sort of public criticism as long as the criticism does not go as far as questioning the whole fundamentals of the regime.
So, the regime is indeed a confident one. It has been so for quite a while now and successfully. But it was not exactly the same during the first years of revolutions when you could even get executed because of some rumours of belonging to some opposition group.
How does this regime handle itself so well? The answer is quite simple actually. There are so many, incredibly many, individuals who enjoy the regime’s existence that they constitute a powerful and large enough base for it to be perfectly functional (for its survival), confident, and at the same time partially democratic so that no powerful figure or grouping of the same base itself does not feel left outside the bigger slice of the enjoyment of power. Although many of the clique members may not ideologically agree with the regime, they do understand that their good times depend on the survival of the regime. Nevertheless we shall not under-estimate the power of the ideological base. There is indeed an ideological, conservative, base which is extremely powerful. But no matter what it is mainly the comfort of power (not ideology) that keeps the ruling clique attached to the regime.
Most of Iran’s clergy support the regime because it gives them many advantages that they could not have during Shah’s time. Most of them know this and they have seen and felt it. Beside the clergy there are also the Basij and others who are linked to powerful clerics. Most of the clerics believe in the Islamic regime. It is not just Khamenei. The regime can do very well without Khamenei or any other powerful figure. There are so many to replace every and each one of them. The regime has been built by Khomeini in such a beautiful (or sinister), practical and functional manner that it actually perpetuates and reproduces with relative ease and harmony.
The Islamic regime of Iran is perfectly aware of its lack of popularity and that is the reason it does not let the people choose whoever they want in elections. But there is democracy among the Islamists themselves so that they do not feel estranged by the system. Therefore the system works so well because it provides the best platform through which Islamists, just the true Islamists who have been blessed by some of the highest-ranking clerics, can quite fairly compete among each other and stay happy with the system, its competitive and functional structures, and the ever-existing promise of becoming someone some day.
This is not a regime for all Iranians. It doesn’t even pretend to be one. But we need to acknowledge its merits too. It is a system that works so well. Don’t be surprised to find the same old regime in power for decades to come! I won’t be surprised. Especially knowing the FACT how irrational, emotional, disunited and weak the opposition is. We all know that the economy is doing poorly, because it is quite simple, the Islamists seem not to be good economists! They also know that having a good economy implies completely opening the doors to American and other democratic powers’ investments inside Iran and this might create more sympathy among Iranians for the West, and its DEMOCRATIC values. Human rights record is horrible.
Well, Islamists apply fundamentalist Islam. What can we expect? The regime has been quite successful in finding ways to distance people from the West and its democratic values by finding scapegoats one after another. It has been quite a successful process and most Iranians are not very pro-West and have deep suspicions. There is also some historical ground to this popular suspicion of the West. It is useless to remind the readers about Mossaddegh, let alone others! But the IRI regime does not feel history is quite enough, and it is actually quite right about it.
Watch IRI TV and read the Iranian press (Iran has one of the lowest press readership rate in the whole world) and you will see headlines one after another blaming the West for everything imaginable and unimaginable, from not letting the Iranians to have access to nuclear energy, to oppressing Palestinians, Iraqis and so on. Although the version offered by the IRI is inaccurate, in the absence of the opposing view, it finds its way to be seen as the only version out there. At least this is very often the case for the vast majority of the people. And all these tricks do give some results. The West represents democracy and the IRI represents Islamic democracy and Iranians thinking that the West is far worse than the IRI actually prefer the less evil.
Is the IRI a humane, normal or acceptable system? No. But it is one of the most formidable systems out there. I have written about this before, though not exactly the same format, but it is useful to stress the realities every now and then in light of various news events. To fight this undemocratic and unpopular regime it is necessary to know how it works. Unfortunately many Iranians opposing the regime have little idea about the strength of the Iranian regime. And they do not want to open their minds to see where the facts lie. Let’s not forget the vast amount of money that the IRI receives from selling crude oil. We may actually need to get used to this regime as long as it has oil. As long as oil flows the regime does not need so much popular support and by feeding the Islamic clique reasonably it can do quite well. It is actually not that complicated afterall. And what if the whole world stopped buying oil from Iran?
The Iranians, inside and outside the country, would blame the rest of the world for starving simple Iranians to death. This is not exactly the best solution. However we shall not go easy with this regime and hope for a good behaviour. Either one wants Islamic democracy where you have democracy for probably 1 million out of 70 million, or true democracy where you have democracy for all (okay, excluding children). We cannot have both ways. Islamic democracy fails to address the needs of the people because it has little to do with most of the people and what they want, and the results are out there for all to see in Iran. A rich country in ruins!
And by the way, let’s hope that Iranians will do the least they can and ignore this whole mockery of inviting the people to vote one long-bearded fundamentalis over a more youthful but sinister-looking Antari-something fundamentalist!