Saturday, January 2, 2010

Muslim World: Iran: The End is Not Nigh

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The Jerusalem Post / Jonathan Spyer

The ongoing demonstrations in Iran are testimony to the continued strength and resilience of Iranian civil society. They make a mockery of the Islamic Republic's ambition of offering a model for successful Muslim governance to the world. The next major manifestation of the protests is likely to be February 11 - the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution. The seventh and 40th days following the deaths of those killed this week are also likely to witness dramatic scenes. Still, the overheated punditry of the last week predicting the imminent demise of the regime, claiming that this is the beginning of the end for the Islamists in Teheran and that a "tipping point" has been passed is misleading and should be questioned. Two parallel movements exist in Iran, each of which seeks to change the nature of the Islamic Republic as it has existed since 1979. The first of these has been much in evidence this week, in the protests and demonstrations that have rocked Teheran and other cities. This is the so-called "Green movement." It has no clear ideology beyond a deep dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. Within its ranks, one may find supporters of the reformist wing of the current regime, including former presidential candidates Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, and reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami. The protest movement also undoubtedly includes individuals and groups with a far more determined and radical agenda, who would like to see the end of the regime established in 1979. But no credible, organized revolutionary leadership with a clear program for toppling the regime can yet be identified from within the broad mass of this movement.

THE SECOND "movement" exists within the regime itself. This is the trend whose most visible representative is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The coalition of hard-line conservative political associations which produced Ahmadinejad, along with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, have been steadily advancing in the institutions of the Islamic Republic over the last half-decade. Unlike their opponents in the Green movement, this group has a clear and unifying set of ideas and goals. Their aim is a "second Islamic revolution," which will revive the original fire of 1979. What they are aiming at is the replacement of clerical rule with a streamlined, brutal police-security state, under the banner of Islam. This state will be committed to a goal of building regional hegemony - through possession of a nuclear option and the backing of radical and terrorist movements. This year has been mixed for the Iranian hard-line conservatives. On the one hand, the electoral "victory" of Ahmadinejad and the subsequent backing given to him by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei represented their biggest advance yet. Ahmadinejad later reinforced his victory by forming a cabinet packed with hard-line conservatives and Revolutionary Guardsmen. This cabinet is currently administering Iran. There were gains further afield, too. The closest regional allies of the hard-line conservatives - Hizbullah - have become the effective governing force in Lebanon. Iran's Palestinian clients, Hamas, are maintaining power in Gaza, as well. (Read more...)