Iran: the new elite By Vladimir YURTAYEV

2 July, 2009 — Strategic Culture Foundation

The early days of summer of 2009 proved quite stormy in the Islamic Republic of Iran in terms of politics. Almost the entire politically vocal population of the 70-million strong Iran, that’s 40 million people, took part in the election of a new president. It is for the first time in Iran’s history that a fully-fledged election campaign has been launched in the country, with the main opponents, old rivals in the struggle for power since the 1980s, namely the incumbent leader (rahbar) Ali Khamenei and Mir Hossein Mousavi, then Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, had an opportunity to rally their supporters.

Following his secure win of the presidential election of the 12th of June 2009, the incumbent president M. Ahmadinejad had a chance of getting in the lead of a united country after a dynamic election and his win in the first round. But this failed to prove the case. The proclaimed loser Mir Hossein Mousavi of the Islamic Revolution ‘Old Guards’ urged his supporters to energetically contest the election returns and to take to the streets. The ensuing clashes in Tehran resulted in spilt blood and loss of human life on both sides. Judging by reports in western news media, the standoff was expected to spiral up, but it has grown clear that a repetition of the 1978 anti-Shah boat-rocking scenario will fail to become a reality. Back in 1978 the Islamic revolution in Iran began precisely with mass-scale street protests during the ceremonies of remembering the victims of the Shah’s repressions. Today the opposition is still weak and unprepared to go it too far. Of no minor importance was the determination that the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps displayed by saying it was prepared to make short shrift of protests to enforce law and order.

Understandably, just one candidate was to win. It seems strange that the opposition has elected for their leader someone who is, true, a political heavyweight, but who’s unable to win from a younger candidate. But then the decision may well have been due to an over-assessment by the opposition of their resources and positions in Iranian society, where western election technologies will still misfire.

On the 27th of June 2009 M. Ahmadinejad addressed an all-Iranian meeting of Iran’s judiciary to sum up the first results of the election and formulate the key points of his new programme. First, Iran’s president feels that a mass-scale turnout in the election of the 22d of Hordad 1388 (12th of June 2009, according to the Gregorian calendar) makes it safe to assume that the recent presidential election was a referendum during which the people of Iran reiterated their choice of the Islamic republic as a form of political power. Secondly, by making this choice the people of Iran ‘said liberal democracy was over’. Ahmadinejad believes the West has a ‘controlled’ and limited democracy, when the people have their will mediated by political parties and are not immediately involved in the election process, whereas in Iran ‘the people were organizers, monitors and electors in the election process’, which is evidence of freedom and democracy.

When elaborating on his programme, Ahamdinejad focused on the notion of ‘fairness’ (‘adalyat’, which is also used to denote ‘justice’), the lack of which is the main reason for ‘strife in the world’. Iran’s president feels that a fair treatment of one and all is the solution for world peace. When addressing foreign reporters in what proved a most important election meeting on the 25th of May 2009, M. Ahmadinejad also spoke of ‘orientation towards God, adherence to fairness, promotion of love and kindness’ and urged the dominant forces to return in international relations to ‘fairness and kindness’, something the entire world was craving. Ahmadinejad said that fairness that’s been established in Iran is ‘a harbinger of fairness around the world’ and pointed out that ‘ministering to fairness is the highest form of service of Allah’. It is thus safe to point out that the new regime has shaped a stable set of ideologemes it addresses both to the people and government of Iran and the entire world community.

Of basic importance was M. Ahmadinejad’s indication of the inviolability in Iran of the principle of ‘velayat-eh fakikh’, that is rule by a Shia jurist on the basis of fairness, which is a concept of Imam Khomeini.

On western countries’ reaction to the presidential election in Iran M. Ahmadinejad said Iranians were surprised that ‘Mr. Obama interferes in Iran’s affairs and allows statements that go beyond the bounds of decency (‘adab’). Perhaps, the US president is trying to find a pretext to prolong or even disavow his pledge of holding direct talks with the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Barack Obama and Angela Merkel have spoken in concert to denounce acts of violence in Iran in the wake of the presidential election in the Islamic Republic. Obama said he admired the courage displayed by the people of Iran ‘in the face of cruelty’, adding that the United States would always support the Iranians’ right to the freedom of choice and freedom of expression.

So, Iran’s leaders have tested a model of holding presidential elections, the one that energetically involved the population into the political process. Just how the opposition will act now will determine the degree of severity, to which this freedom of expression will be restricted. In general, the presidential campaign that’s drawn to a close has shown a higher degree of development of the Iranian society’s political system, and this will inevitably affect the election technologies to be used in future. It is safe to claim that now the Iranians are through a course of training in a higher-level political struggle, with a growing threat of using the election-related technologies from the ‘colour revolution’ arsenals against the existing political regime.

But then, Iran remains Iran, which was borne out by the election returns, – we have already pointed out in a forecast on the Website of the Strategic Culture Foundation on the 5th of June 2009 that ‘Iran’s new president will be a person who should be M. Ahmadinejad’s coeval. Iran’s incumbent president has no competitors in this age group’. I personally took as indicative of whether the presidential election returns would or would not be recognized as legitimate the congratulations to M. Ahmadinejad on his re-election for a second term in office that the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II extended on the 27th of June 2009. The Armenian community in Iran is quite strong, so their recognition of and support for the election returns means a lot.

Meanwhile things in and around Iran are moving in groove, with the partisan media are working off what money they got to (what some quarters thought) spin-doctor a new president, although the previous one has been re-elected. 200 protesters are presented as if they were 200,000. Almost 13 million people make their home in Tehran, so even one million is just one sixth of the city’s grown-up population. The others voted against the protesters. The whole thing boils down to the following: part of the old revolutionary elite that’s taken possession of economic profits gave way to the new elite following M. Ahmadinejad’s win in 2005, an elite that’s emerged on the basis of the Army and that’s relying on the other part of the old revolutionary elite, related to rahbar Ali Khamenei. The problem is whether the new old elite will manage to persuade the opponents not to take all of their money out of the country or not.

Mass-scale money transfers from Iran came to everyone’s knowledge when La Stampa reported the news that banks Saderat, Bank-e Melli, Bank-e Sepah and Melat had begun remitting their clients’ currencies to Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.

It is deplorable, of course, if another segment of the formed Iranian society moves away, but then the Islamic Republic may stand to gain in the long run, since if all one knows is Islam, there’s nothing they could compare it with.

One of the US leading foreign policy ideologists Zbigniew Brzezinski sizes up the situation in Iran as explosive. Z. Brzezinski warns that the situation is likely to be aggravated in the wake of the disputable presidential election, but one shouldn’t rule out that the regime will stand out. Anyway, he says, today Iran is at the start of a deadly crisis. But the West cannot afford to ignore any regime in Iran. Brzezinski goes on to say that there are a number of issues that one just has to negotiate with the current Iranian regime, namely the nuclear programme, regional security and economy-related problems. Sanctions alone will fail to keep Iran away from its nuclear programme. Nor does Brzezinski rule out that Iran’s nuclear weapons might prove conducive to regional stability. When elaborating on Iran’s future, Brzezinski claims that the country boasts a social potential to become some time in future the West’s important partner in the region, and even a partner of Israel, which supported Iran in the war against Iraq back in the 1980s. If only because, Zbigniew Brzezinski says in conclusion, Iran is more ‘pro-western’ than the neighbouring countries.

On the 29th of June 2009 President M. Ahmadinejad told the head of the national judiciary Ayatollah Hashemi Shahrudi to launch an investigation into the murder of a young Iranian girl called Neda, who was shot at and killed by unknown people during a demonstration in Tehran. The opposition tried to use the murder as a banner of their struggle. President said the political defeat should not separate Iranians form one another, since all of them were under his protection as their country’s citizens.

It is obvious that keeping the situation stable in Iran is of paramount importance. Meanwhile some new scenarios for Iran’s destruction start looming, the ones that have to do with the weakening of the proper Persian component of the Iranian elite as a result of emigration or its physical destruction. Russia has long-term interests in Central Eurasia and it needs peace in the region to advance them. The situation perfectly suits Russia and Iran to promote their interaction at all levels, while Russian businesses are prepared to carry out joint large-scale economic projects as indicated in the framework of strategic partnership proposals. But the expediency of separating economics from politics in Russian-Iranian relations should not mean ignoring change in Iran’s foreign policy concepts, as well as the promotion in practical terms of the ‘diplomacy of fairness and dialogue’.”

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