Moin is the man
The popular accusation that a reformist president would be
ineffective and powerless should be put to rest
May 24, 2005
The Guardian Council made a dangerous move by
disqualifying reformist candidate Dr. Mostafa Moin from participating
election. It set in motion an explosive chain reaction
that will benefit both U.S. hawks and the Islamic hardliners in the
short term. It will, however, damage Iran and Democracy, perhaps
irreparably. We will have to wait and see if Leader
Khamenei's "request" for Moin's reinstatement will diffuse
to review their decision to block reformists from standing in next month's presidential
polls, fearing the disqualifications could result in an election
The game plan is to force an international confrontation
between the United States and Iran. This will boost nationalistic
in both countries and allow for hostile measures to be justified
within both governments. As a nice side effect, it would legitimize
the Iranian Mullahs by proving everything they've been saying
about America to their followers. Similarly it would empower the
in the Bush administration to silence their dovish counter parts
and paint Iran as a dictatorship badly in need of U.S. liberation
and ultimately justify more defense spending in the region.
thing neither group wants is peaceful internal transition. The
obviously want to stay in power and the Americans want to have
control over the next regime. So independent internal transition
and thus out of the question. And that's precisely what
Eliminating Moin would have erased the crucial distinction
between two important Iranian dissident groups. The reform-minded
peaceful change by Iranians and for Iranians are in the first group.
The second group is the tiny but influential minority of the exiled
opposition seeking to bring foreign-influenced regime change facilitated
by the West.
By erasing the distinction, the Iranian hard-liners could
have effectively cast all domestic opposition as equal to extremist
an invasion by the U.S. or an "Operation Ajax" style foreign
funded regime change. The same scenario will be used by the U.S.
Neoconservative to cast the pro-intervention expatriates as being
legitimate representatives of all Iranian opposition.
The Khatami revolution was an outgrowth of the native
popular movement. Fed up with the hard-line Islamic Regime and
given some breathing room by favorable
external events (i.e. lack of immediate military threats and expanding trade
relations), these Iranians launched a peaceful movement and achieved important
changes in Iran in
a relatively short time.
There was significant opposition, to be sure, by the
increasingly irrelevant ideologues of the old guard. There were
arrests and beatings by the judiciary.
But there were also popular demonstrations and pressure to reverse judicial
decisions (and many were.) There was a flourishing of independent
newspapers, the Internet
and women's rights. There was productive dialogue and scientific exchange with
Europe and there was, for the first time ever, organized native opposition
to hard-line Islamic rule.
The young and anxious population of
Iran, having tasted some of these freedoms for the first time
ever, was hungry for more and was at times frustrated with
the pace of improvements. But there's no doubt there were improvements. No
doubt that the reformists were gradually
After 9/11/2001, however, things began to change. The heated
rhetoric and the military posture of the Bush administration put
frivolous and arrogant grandstanding of the neoconservatives gave the hardliners
another lifeline in their political careers.
All of a sudden, liberalization
and "dialogue among
civilizations," became a bad idea, a dangerous idea, and an idea that
could put Iran's security in jeopardy. Many ordinary Iranians flocked back
to the original
leaders of the revolution whose firebrand zealotry was most responsible
for protecting Iran against foreign aggressors in the 8 year bloodbath
In other words the state of permanent revolution had once again found relevancy.
Under the legitimate guise of national security, the
hard-liners clung to power.
These are the facts that had most to do with
the so-called failure of the reform movement. George W. Bush is a dream
come true for Khamenei and Rafsanjani. The
nuclear issue is simply the latest tool the hard-liners use to force a security
oriented national agenda thus making themselves more relevant. The popularity
of nuclear sovereignty among a broad spectrum of Iranians shows this strategy
is working. But make no mistake about it; none of this would've been possible
Bush's "Axis of Evil" mentality.
So once again, thank You America!
To those who dismiss President Khatami as
a disingenuous stooge or puppet, I have one question for you. Would you rather
live in Iran now or 10 years ago?
Was life better in 2001 or 1991? If there's even a slight sense of intellectual
honesty present, one has to admit that things have seriously improved under
the Reformists, despite their failures. Ask anyone who has direct
this and you'll hear there is no comparison. Khatami brought much more freedom
and tolerance than ever existed before in the Islamic Republic. We must conclude
that peaceful reform is possible.
The Exiled Opposition
The second group is the small minority of dissidents seeking
to bring either violent change by direct U.S. military aggression
or some other form of foreign
influence resembling the 1953 coup that toppled Prime Minister Mossadegh. Broadly
speaking this minority consists of Iranian Monarchists, and the MKO or Mojahedin
Khalgh Organization. Both groups are influential in the Unites States and have
direct access to sympathetic members of congress and the Administration. Even
though they couldn't be further apart ideologically, they've decided to temporarily
tolerate each other for the greater cause.
But both, combined don't represent
even the majority of Iranians living abroad, and have extremely
negligible influence inside the country. That's why they are
incapable of doing anything themselves and need foreign powers to finance them
or fight their wars.
Of course, that's not what they're saying to Congress and
the Pentagon. Hoping to be the next Chalabi's and Allawi's of
Iran, many of their lesser figures are
frantically competing with each in order to gain favors with important U.S.
The Election Boycott
No autocratic regime has ever been toppled because not
enough people voted in an election. No tyrant has ever lost sleep
because his subjects didn't
participate politically. A boycott by itself is useless. It only benefits those
The previous boycott by the Iranian reformists did not only accomplish
nothing, it in fact legitimized the regime by giving the hard-liners
the majority. This
is not to say that we should "settle" for a reformist candidate
many of whom have been discredited. We simply need someone we can work with.
not important what he is now, what's
important is how responsive he will be later.
True democracy is not about
choosing a candidate and then washing your hands of the process for another
4 years. What we need is to choose a follower,
not a leader. We ourselves need to be the leaders and then pressure the
elected officials to follow what we say, not the other way around.
This of course
involved in the process, rigorously reading and debating every decision,
to the streets and supporting the elected official when he does something
right and demonstrating against him If he doesn't. Put so much pressure
that we could
not be ignored.
Of course we need to become politically sophisticated
and understand political tradeoffs and power plays. We can't
have everything we want overnight, but
we can make the best decision given the choices we do
If a boycott is decided upon, it must be serious, widespread
and it must be owned by the people. It must be accompanied by
movement, complete with press
offices, reporters and clear public messages. It must be present all over Iran,
not just in Tehran and Esfehan. There must be regional organizations all over
for it to work. Otherwise, it will simply be a low turnout and forgotten in history.
Right now, there's a guy named Jerome Corsi, a rabidly anti-Kerry Republican,
founder of the dubious "Iranian Freedom Foundation," and author of
the scary looking book "Nuclear Iran." He comes from a long line of
American "patriots," who have adopted Iran as their pet
Dr. Corsi and his single-digit cabal of Monarchists are marching
to Washington D.C. in support of "Iranian freedom." They're rallying cry? They
want Iranians to boycott the election. If this were to happen anyway as a result
Moin disqualification, or some other reason, who do you think Fox News will
give the credit to in the United
States? "Corsi and 5 Iranians stand up to the Ayatollah's."
kind of nonsense has been printed before. The Neoconservatives are very
good at taking
credit for other people's work. They've already attributed Libyan nuclear
disarmament, Ukraine's Orange Revolution, Syrian troop pullout and Israel's
to George Bush. The last thing we need for any kind of freedom movement
is for it to be associated with America. At best such an association will
take away credit from Iranians who took the actual risks and at worst destroy
democratic movement because the hard-liners can successfully blame it on
a foreign plot.
That's why it's important to have a meaningful PR program
along with a
The June elections
The popular accusation that the Reform movement in general and Mostafa
Moin in particular would be ineffective and powerless should be put to rest
Moin was no threat to the Khamenei backed hard-liners and Rafsanjani, he would
not have been initially disqualified. It's
clear the hard-liners want to eliminate their rivals for power. But some may
question the long term wisdom of such moves and opt for legitimacy in these
Iranian democrats must support Moin. Without a boycott he
would likely win, and with an engaged constituency he can be constantly
pressure the hard-liners for greater freedom and participation. In addition,
his election would undermine the "regime change" crowd in Washington
and Los Angeles. It is not a hopeless situation. Iranians will only lose
if they give up and resign
themselves to the hard-liners.
Either way, externally, care must be taken to distinguish the desire of the
majority Iranians for peaceful change from the few who would welcome
Iranians in the United States must be especially
vocal about this. If we're
not careful our entire identity will be hijacked by the few influential Monarchists,
the MKO or the Neoconservatives. All of them have other agendas and none
represent us. In the coming months, the U.S. will seriously consider
its options against
Words have vague and twisted meanings under this administration.
They can twist
any word to mean anything else they want. That's why we must say no to all
U.S. backed action for it never has never will be for the benefit of Iranians.
who think they can sucker the U.S. into doing their dirty work are of course
We must say no to "war of liberation," no to "regime change," no
to " support dissidents," no to "funding opposition." Our
be " Hands Off Iran," plain and simple.