MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In Iran, the polls are just closing in the national election for two governing bodies: the parliament and the "Assembly of Experts." The former is nominally the secular governing body, but it is secondary in power to the theological "Assembly of Experts," which is composed of religious figures. The Assembly elects the Supreme Leader (an ayatollah), currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is described in Western media as a pragmatist who wants to integrate Iran into the international community.
Reuters reports that a large number of moderate or relatively liberal candidates to both elective bodies were "disqualified" from running, leaving mostly "hardline" conservatives on the ballot:
The Guardian Council, appointed half by Khamenei and half by the ultra-conservative judiciary, disqualified thousands of candidates for the legislature and vetoed 80 per cent of those seeking election to the Assembly of Experts. They included Hassan Khomeini, the moderate grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and Khamenei’s predecessor.
Yet, there was an overwhelming turnout for the Iranian election - albeit an election with pre-limited choices. (Of course, we should bear in mind that in the United States, democracy is also compromised by pre-limited voting, the influence of billionaires and suspect vote-tallying practices, among other factors.) Reuters details the day of voting in Iran:
Millions of Iranians voted in high-stake elections on Friday that could shift the balance of power within the hardline-controlled Islamic elite by ushering in a reformist comeback or help conservatives tighten their grip on power.
Participation appeared enthusiastic and relaxed in the first polls since a nuclear deal last year led to a lifting of sanctions and deeper diplomatic engagement abroad.
Authorities extended voting by two hours to 8 p.m. (1630 GMT), citing a rush of people wanting to cast their ballot.
An hour before the original 6 p.m. expiration of voting, there were still long queues outside polling stations in the capital, and state television showed throngs of voters in Ahvaz and Shiraz. It was unclear how the turnout might shape the outcome.
Even if many moderates and secularists were pre-disqualified, the exercise of democracy should be welcomed by the US. After all, do people vote for the reigning monarchy in Saudi Arabia, the US's closest Arab ally in the Middle East - the Saudi Arabia that shares with ISIS the practice of beheading its political opponents?
It is extremely possible that - given a ballot vetted to favor conservative theological leaders - Iran will continue with a government where a theocracy has veto power. However, it is vital to remember that over time, nations and governmental policies changes. After all, in 2009 and 2010, Iranian efforts toward a transparent democracy, called the Green Revolution, were only suppressed after the use of brutal force by the Revolutionary Guard and paramilitary police forces.
The recent nuclear agreement with Iran is itself an example of an evolving Iran, with the pragmatists managing to arrive at an understanding with Western nations that precluded war. This peaceful settlement was a grave blow to the US and Israeli war hawks who see nations as immutable entities, and hold that those that are perceived as "evil" need to be militarily decimated. Of course, that sometimes results - as in Iraq and Vietnam - in hundreds of thousands of people being killed.
This kind of obtuse militaristic and bloodthirsty outlook leads to paradoxical and hypocritical proposals from neoconservatives. For instance, some hawks propose the US should align itself even more closely with Saudi Arabia - a misogynist country with pretty solid evidence of funding Al Qaeda prior to 9/11 (and perhaps after that date) - to "counter" Iran. Journalist Ali Gharib recently wrote on Lobe Log:
So desperate to punish Iran are the hawks of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that they’re willing to partner with one of the least democratic countries on earth to get it done. In an op-ed in the neoconservative opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal, FDD’s executive director Mark Dubowitz and senior fellow David Weinberg are positively giddy about what Saudi Arabia has to offer in the way of defending democracies. It’s, at first blush, a strange alliance, but not when one considers either FDD’s monomania and the geopolitics surrounding Iran.
Given the bloody maelstrom that the Middle East has become in the wake of the trumped-up and deadly war in Iraq, one can only remain aghast at the indefatigable war lust of the neocons - and their choice of geopolitical partners that are the antithesis of democracy.
Iran, not unlike the US, is going through a cultural upheaval, in which two radically different perspectives on democracy are clashing with prodigious force. The outcomes are as yet unknown, as internal forces compete to steer the direction of each nation.
The lust of US war hawks for dominance of nations that resist US imperialism results in perpetual wars and death – solidifying nationalistic opposition to the United States. After all, in 1953, the CIA overthrew democratically elected secularist Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed the Shah in his place. This was the first domino that led to eventual Iranian revolution and the ongoing reign of a supreme ayatollah. Yet, the power of the Shi’ite theocracy in Tehran has been eroding over the years. The nuclear accord is just one example of that trend.
Enemies today are frequently allies tomorrow; just take a look at Vietnam and China.
American Thinker, a right-wing website, posted an article by Rick Moran on February 26th that excoriates the notion that Iran may be experiencing a social and political evolution, albeit it fractious:
"Moderate candidates"? What does an Iranian "moderate" look like? Western media tosses around that word as if it means the same thing in the West as it means in Iran. But in truth, there are no "moderates" in Iran. They all want to destroy Israel. They all believe that sharia law should be the law of the land. They all believe in the supremacy of the clergy. And they all want "Death to America."
Notice the use of the sweeping exclusionary word "all," as if Moran knows the thinking of every Iranian, as if he is omniscient about the possibilities of peaceful transformation. This kind of language represents the belligerent rigidity of the war hawk mindset.
The Washington Post, in its article on the Iranian elections on Friday, includes a fascinating quotation by Farideh Farhi, a Middle East scholar at the University of Hawai'i:
If [conservatives] win, having been given a leg up by the unfair electoral system, it will also be a powerful message that they have the means and instruments to create obstacles for [President] Rouhani’s redirection of the country.
Think of Republican control of the US Congress and the presidency of Barack Obama in place of Iranian conservatives in the parliament and the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, and this statement sounds like an analysis of the 2012 election in the United States. Did the neocons propose then that we bomb ourselves?
Not to be reposted without permission of Truthout.