23 July 2011

You can’t have your Moussavi and eat it too.

First, a foreword

Before I start where I meant to begin, in the next paragraph, I must say I am outraged by the death today of Haleh Sahabi at the hands of the Basiji at her father’s funeral. And my sadness…I am very tired of adding names to the list of the movement’s dead.

I am also disgusted and angry at the simultaneous calls by the Association of Combatant Clergy and the Coordinating Council of the Green Path of Hope for a demonstration that is (1) silent, so that no “unapproved” slogans will be heard, ones which contradict their very narrow goals against their rivals within the regime, (2) in direct conflict with an action already decided upon and announced by members of the actual movement, and (3) focused on the two leaders whom both want to hold up as leaders of the opposition.

In addition, both are utterly lacking in any expression of sorrow or sympathy for Ms. Sahabi’s death.

So, do you really want your Moussavi?

The argument I mentioned in my previous essay (“The Threat of Violence in Iran: Perception vs. Reality”) began when my opposite condemned me for being “divisive” for pointing out that the oft-stated goals of Mr. Mir Hossein Moussavi Khamenei and Hojat al-Islam Mehdi Karroubi were to return Iran to the “ideals of Imam Khomeini” and the “Golden Age of the Islamic Republic”, as they themselves have explicitly stated in those exact words. I suggested that neither of these two (nor Hojat al-Islam Khatami, with whom they have demonstrably coordinated their statements and announcements) should be held up as leaders of the Green Movement.

While it is correct that both have consistently denied being leaders of the movement, it is likewise true that they have continuously attempted to dominate it from above by issuing statements in its name, cancelling demonstrations its members in the streets have called for, recommending or condemning slogans, etc. The two have even issued a “Charter for the Green Movement” in its name, as if their interests, desires, and ambitions were even remotely similar to those of the people in the streets.

It’s like Mark Anthony at Caesar’s funeral decrying Caesar’s ambition while emphasizing the honour of Brutus, who led the assassination. According to Shakespeare, at least.

Moussavi Khamenei established the Green Path of Hope as a vehicle for his own political ambitions and to undercut and undermine the goals and ambitions of the real members of the Green Movement. By doing so, he is merely following in the footsteps of Khatami before him, who founded the Islamic Iran Participation Front for the very same reason, to thwart the 2nd of Khordad Movement.

The Central Committee of the Green Path of Hope has four members: Moussavi Khamenei, Karroubi, Ms. Zahra Rahnavard (Moussavi Khamenei’s wife), and Fatemeh Karroubi, (Karroubi’s wife). No one elected them, just as no one voted on the “Charter for the Green Movement” nor the earlier tepid “Demands of the Green Movement” which Moussavi Khamenei issued himself alone as part of Statement 17.

Neither did anyone elect the Coordinating Council of the Green Path of Hope, which mysteriously appeared at the time of the 25 Bahman (15 February) 1389/2011 protests, either, nor has anyone publicly acknowledged its composition. I think it is safe to assume, however, that its membership consists, at least primarily, of two persons: Moussavi legal advisor Ardeshir Amir Arjomand and Karroubi senior advisor Mojtaba Vahedi.

I know, I know, “stay away from behind the curtain”. That’s what the “great and powerful” Wizard of Oz told Dorothy too. It didn’t work on her either.

Today’s announcement is not the first time the self-appointed leaders of the Green Movement and reformist organizations have coordinated their actions and issued simultaneous announcements. The first was, perhaps, after Quds Day 1388 (2009), when Mr, Moussavi Khamenei, Hojat al-Islam Karroubi, and Hojat al-Islam Khatami all condemned “adventurous” or “extremist” slogans, such as “Not for Gaza, not for Lebanon, I give my life for Iran”.

In the next months that followed, they limited their damage to weak suggestions about slogans and methods of protest. Then after Ashura 1388 (2009), they once again condemned the actions of the members of the movement they are supposedly leading (or “not leading”), and issued tepid “demands” in its name.

After the debacle of 22 Bahman (11 February), Revolution Day, 1388, they fell silent again, but it should be noted that not only the “Green Path of Hope” reformist political party (Moussavi Khamenei’s words, not mine), but the Association of Combatant Clerics, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution, and the National Trust, as well as Jaras, Kaleme, Saham, and other news/propaganda outlets all greatly contributed, very likely intentionally, to the confusion that prevented the event from being the supreme cap on the events of the previous Ashura that it should have been.

Do I really need to get into how Moussavi Khamenei, along with Hojat al-Islam Karroubi, wound everyone up with expectation for an event called for by other parties, only to announce cancellation of the protest called for on 12 June 2010, one which, since he never really had anything to do with its initiation, he had no right to cancel?

Do you know the kitchen where the Moussavi was baked?

As many have pointed out, myself included on numerous occasions, the people of Iran do not want reform, they want change. However, the so-called reform movement is not even about reform, just getting themselves back into the position of power they held previously in the “early days of the Islamic Republic” to which Mr. Moussavi Khamenei, Hojat al-Islam Karroubi, and Hojat al-Islam so often refer to with such fondness.

Those whom in Iran are referred to as “reformists” were in the early days of the Islamic Republic, its “Golden Age” according to Mr. Moussavi Khamenei, were the radicals, the hardliners, the “Followers of the Line of the Imam” faction in the Islamic Republican Party, which held the same sort of absolute power enjoyed by the Bolshevik Party in the early Soviet Union. Their leader was Ayatollah Ahmad Moussavi Khomeini, son of the “Leader of the Revolution”, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Moussavi Khomeini.

In other words, these are the same people who brought Iran sharia, forced hijab, cleansing of komitehs from any but Khomeinist influence, crushing of the workers movement, the Cultural Revolution, the Reign of Terror, the extension of the Iran-Iraq War beyond 1982, stoning, the law of retribution, temporary marriage, and the Prison Massacres of leftist prisoners July 1988 thru April 1989.

As Speaker of the Majlis and commander-in-chief of the armed forces later in the Iran-Iraq War, Hojat al-Islam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani managed to carve out his own fiefdom and step away to form his own power base, eventually drawing Ahmad Moussavi Khomeini to his side, probably over the appointment of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri Najafabadi as Deputy Leader. His faction became known as the Hezbollah, or Party of God, though not to be confused with the armed thugs in the streets known by the same name.

By 1987, tensions in the Islamic Republican Party between the Hezbollah, led by Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ahmad Moussavi Khomeini, and the Followers of the Line of the Imam, became so great that the former two recommended to Leader Ruhollah Moussavi Khomeini that the party be dissolved, a recommendation which gained his consent.

The clergy Followers of the Line of the Imam also seceded from the Combatant Clergy Association now dominated by Hashemi Rafsanjani allies to form another group, the Association of Combatant Clerics.

After the Leader’s death in 1989, Hashemi Rafasanjani engineered the election of Hojat al-Islam Ali Hosseini Khamenei as the new “Leader of the Revolution”, later himself as President, and his allies and followers into a Majlis majority, throwing the Followers of the Line of the Imam out into the cold. Mr. Moussavi Khamenei himself lost his position as prime minister because the assembly to revise the constitution, controlled by Hashemi Rafsanjani, eliminated the office.

There were some ideological differences between the two factions: the Line of Islam clique favored an activist clergy (if they followed Khomeinist ideology, that is) and a statist economy, while the Party of God clique favored somewhat less activist clergy and a free enterprise economy. Many therefore, especially outside Iran looking in, hailed the new order as a good sign, with the “radicals” being replaced by the “moderates”.

In truth, at least in economic policy, Hashemi Rafsanjani was merely the first of the neoliberals to govern the Islamic Republic as president; both Hojat al-Islam Khatami and Dr. Ahmadinejad have followed the same overall economic direction.

During the Rafsanjani presidency, the Followers of the Line of the Imam, the radicals, managed to rebrand themselves as “reformists”, but only because they were the only viable political opposition under the highly undemocratic system of the Islamic Republic. Their ideology has never changed, except for the fact they now accept the neoliberal principle of as much privatization as possible, even though their rhetoric became slightly more polished and slightly more oppositionist.

Be careful before you bite that Moussavi

One of my favorite stories is of Frog and Scorpion.

Scorpion comes to the edge of a creek he needs to cross to get to where he’s going, and wonders how he’s going to accomplish that.

“Hey, Frog,” he says to Frog, whom he sees resting by the creek-side, “how about giving me a lift across the water?”

“No way, Scorpion,” said Frog. “If I put you on my back, you’ll sting me as we cross the water, and I’ll die.”

“Do you think I’m an idiot?” asked Scorpion. “If I do that, I’ll drown and die too.”

Frog thought for a minute. “Ok,” he said, “I guess that makes sense”.

So Scorpion climbed on Frog’s back and began swimming across the creek.

At about the halfway point, Scorpion’s stinger whipped forward, sticking Frog in the back of his neck.

“But Scorpion,” Frog said miserably as he began to weaken and sink, “why? Now you’ll die too.”

Scorpion smiled sadly. “It’s in my nature.”

In spite of his decades of proclamation otherwise, many of the citizens of Iran who took part in and actively supported the Revolution, of which only a minority was “Islamic”, trusted that Moussavi Khomeini’s new regime would bring enlightenment (Moussavi Khamenei still insists that it did), social justice, democracy, independence, and freedom.

Part of the reason was that after his exile to a villa just outside Paris, he did his best to give that appearance. He appointed Abolhassan Banisadr, an well-known former student leader who had become one of the most prominent theorists of liberal Islamic government, as his press relations officer, Sadeq Qobtzadeh as his assistant for routine matters, and Ebrahim Yazdi as his political affairs assistant. None of them, of course, were clergy.

He also gave interviews to various Western newspapers indicating tales of his intention to set up autocratic Islamism were greatly exaggerated.

To Italy’s Paese Sera, he said, “In Iran’s Islamic government the media have the freedom to express all Iran’s realities and events and people have the freedom to form any form of political party and gathering that they like.” (2 November 1978)

To the United Kingdom’s Guardian, he said, “Women are free in Islamic Republic in the selection of their activities, future and their clothing.” (6 November 1978)

To United Press International, he declared, “I have repeatedly said the neither my desire nor my age nor position allow me to govern.” (8 November 1978)

On 1 March 1979, Moussavi Khomeini “retired” to his private home near the holy city of Qom, and many in Iran breathed a sigh of relief.

Of course, they had forgotten they were the frog carrying the scorpion on their back.

Have your Moussavi, eat your Moussavi, or throw your Moussavi away?

I pick option number three.

Keeping Moussavi Khamenei, or any of the other reformists, as a focus for the movement, in the name of the oh-so-sacred unity principle in the hopes that the regime will be distracted long enough for the movement to make a move, at which time the scorpion on the green frog’s back can be tossed aside, will be merely repeating several of the same mistakes the movement of the late 1970’s made.

In other words, Hey, Frog, you have a scorpion on your back! Not a good idea.

Eating the cake, or putting into power Mr. Moussavi Khamenei, Hojat al-Islam Karrobi, Hojat al-Islam Khatami, Ayatollah Abdolkarim Moussavi Ardebili, Ayatollah Mohammad Moussavi Khoeiniha, Dr. Bezhad Nabavi, Dr. Mohammad Moin, Dr. Saeed Hajjarian, or any of their “reformist”/maktabi/Follower of the Line of the Imam ilk, would be like eating a live poisonous scorpion and excepting no indigestion.

Which leaves the third option.

Putting the scorpion down NOW (he’s already on your back) and walking away is the only safe option. Given the undeniable fact that the values and goals and interests of the scorpion are so far diverged from that of the frog, the only honorable and honest thing for the scorpion to do would be to get off the frog’s back on its own. But the scorpion is a predator without any honour at all.

If the reformist parties and politicians of Iran, within and without the Islamic Republic, including the “Coordinating Council” of the Green Path of Hope’s Ardeshir Amir Arjomand and Mojtaba Vahedi, do not have the honour not to pretend to lead a movement whose values they clearly do not share, then the movement needs to throw off the scorpion itself, or it will be stung.

But the scorpion can't help itself. It’s just its nature.

Rooze ma khahad amad.

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