Sunday, March 16, 2003

Three Choices of Islamic leaders

A great event occurred in Iran on February People turned their backs to all political groups, including the reformists and in big cities, 88% didn't vote and this was a very sad news for Islamic Regime of Iran which always had a great crowd of people participating in elections and demonstrations and showed it to the world as a sign of its popularity.
After the results of the election which was the most insipid election of the past twenty four years of the life of Islamic Republic, the leaders of the regime faced three opposite analysis of this event that will determine the future fate of the regime depending on the one finally adopted.
The reformists, conservatives and traditionalists with each group having their own concerns for the future of Islamic Republic, have their own analysis of this event and each is trying to transfer their analysis to the decision-makers on top in the quickest possible way.
The reformists who confessed their defeat after five years of continuous struggle with their two opponents in wining the votes, with a hope still alive in their minds try to show that peoples' indifference should make the leaders to pay more attention to people and give up their insistence on Islamization of the regime.
According to the reformists, in order to find a way out of the present crisis, the religious regime of Iran has no other alternative than yielding to the demands of people that include western types of freedoms, that is the very thing that traditionalist clergy fear most and have called it Western Cultural Invasion.
The conservatives look at the results of the recent election with one eye laughing and the other crying. The defeat of their reformist rival was the very event they were waiting for and were actively preparing its grounds in the past five years, but not at such a price. While realizing the danger of the present situation, they believe that the reformists' rush in implementing reformation and their inefficiency in responding to peoples' demands is the main cause of this tragic event.
A part of the conservatives see themselves ready to accept reformation and change that part of their behavior that has made people particularly the young generation to turn their back to the regime and they thus invite leaders to choose middle ways and cooperation with reformists. They believe that with such a policy they can save the regime from the present crisis of legitimacy.Before the announcement of the result of the election of Islamic councils, Kargozaran Sazandegi, (operators of progressive construction) the party led by Hashemi Rafsanjani, the moderate clergy, thought that they will finally seize power and public popularity because they fundamentally aim to improve the standards of life and economic prosperity. But the election showed that they too are no longer in the public field of vision.
From the view of the fundamentalists whose difference with the conservatives comes to light mainly under critical circumstances, the result of the election is not a catastrophe as the President Khatami has said, but a great victory that prepares the scene for the emergence of a regime based on holy guidance of the high ecclesiastics. They believe that such a government like that of Taliban in Afghanistan can shape Islamic society of Iran much more efficiently.
Objecting both political fronts, the traditionalists believe that only by the formation of a powerful government based on Shiite principles can lead to the survival of Islamic Republic. In contrast to the conservatives, they believe in market economy and thus welcome the extension of economic relations with the world. Traditionalists see the world as a cultural battlefield and hold anti-exoticism as one of their favorite values.
This group of clerics and their peers in theological schools, the juridical power, Guardian Council and the Assembly of Khobregan (elites) see themselves as the crème of the society and see people's votes only secondary and as a kind of amusement and ornament of a religious regime and believe in a two-staged election with candidates being first selected by the clerics and in a fair distribution of wealth and prevention of the outspread of the world culture – including democracy.
That the people turned their backs to the election in which all the legitimate political groups were actively participating showed that after five years of Khatami's Presidency, people are tired of the existing antagonisms between Fundamentalists and Traditionalists with the Reformists and there is no longer the possibility of adopting a middle eclectic way and the Islamic Republic should choose between the continuation of the same policy or putting an end to the reformist movement. And this is while the easy, but futureless policy of Traditionalists has still some advocates and supporters.
What makes it difficult for the decision-makers of Islamic Republic to find a new way is that the reformist solution – tested already by election of Khatami – inevitably need to limit the traditionalists' power and praxis that is the main power source of Islamic Republic.
The middle way necessitates the exclusion of the reformists' active figures, but this is not a remedy in the present affairs of the world. The experience of the past five years shows that the continuation of the inner struggle between reformists and the other two groups will only lead to further weakening of the government and it is not accompanied by people's support.
The alternative that the traditionalists suggest necessitates the exclusion of all the reformists and also public opinion while at the same time yielding to the accompanying isolation on the international plane.
The existing situation in the world is far more difficult than it was during the early years of the establishment of Islamic Republic. Even then Ayatollah Khomeini discouraged the traditionalists by his emphasis on election and establishment of some institutes such as the Assembly of Discernment of the interests of the regime.
The alternatives that the leaders of Iran after February 28th are facing, require painful operations that the decision makers of Islamic Republic have been avoiding in the past and have always managed to escape the impasse by finding middle ways, but Ayatollah Khomeini, the charismatic leader of the revolution who had a great mastery in difficult and even violent operations is no longer among them.
Five years after the last innovative middle way of accepting Khatami's candidacy in the presidency election in 1988, accumulation of general demands and unresolved economic and social crises show that avoiding painful operations that governments sometimes carry out in order to stay in power is not any cure, but will only prolong the pain and make it chronic.
Under the world's present difficult situation and Iran's neighborhood with Afghanistan and Iraq and middle Asian countries, in fact all the regimes of the Middle East are facing a great challenge. The reformists believe that there is no way to avoid a tragic end except by gaining the support of the people.
In the message that President Khatami delivered the day after the election of Islamic Councils, he acknowledged their defeat and has said that Islamic Republic is facing a great danger, but there is still a chance. However, there are many people who believe that extremists have no longer left any chance for the survival of Islamic Republic.