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July 17, 2005

One Dilemma Too Many
Arash Jalali  [info|posts]

whichone.gifOne month might be long enough to allow one to reflect on a past event rationally, if not objectively. In less than three weeks the next president (yes I deliberately refuse to use his name or call him president-elect) and his yet to be known gang of cabinet members will take control of the government. I have tried to work out all the eventualities that could result from the policies this new government is suspected of adopting in the future. Minor differences apart, these outcomes all boiled down to two broad choices: going on more or less the same way it has been going for the past 16 years, or taking the country along a completely different, and most probably risky, path. This post is not about analysing which outcome is more probable. Let us for a moment assume that a risky future is in fact awaiting us; And a not so far away one too.

During the elections, the hottest debate, which I believe was one of the main reasons behind the dividedness of the anti-totalitarianism camp (comprising the so-called reformists, as well as the Islamic regime's opposition), was on whether or not to participate in the elections. One group said let's vote to stop the worst from happening even though the alternative is not that promising either, while the other group argued that boycotting the elections is the only way to not let the regime launch the usual "historic epic by the ever present populace" propaganda. While we were fighting to convince each other (not) to vote, the hardliners implemented their own successful version of operation "Market Garden." The vigilante-manufactured votes parachuted into the ballot boxes from one side and the economically challenged and deceived masses on the ground, rushing to "reject a corrupt Mullah in favor of someone without a turban," from the other, decided the outcome of the election. The question that has been bothering me ever since is whether the dilemma will always be on "whether or not to vote." With this new president, I am seriously concerned that the next choice would be "whether or not to go fight."

At the cost of sounding too melodramatic, let us assume this president and the hardliners behind him bring the country to the brink of a war. I am almost certain (and at the same time affraid) that while the same misinformed masses are being rallied to "defend Islam," we would still be biting eachother's head off over whether to welcome the war as a quick way of ridding Iran of Mullahs (by encouraging the attack from outside and "not participating" from inside), or to join up to defend the country and help prevent Iran from turning into yet another torn-apart piece of real estate. And at that very moment, if some divine hand offerred to turn the clock back to one day before the first round of the elections, would we still have any doubt about whether to boycott or whether to vote? There is still time to think, before our lovely new president and his hardliner friends bring us the Armageddon. Let us discuss this more rationally this time, shall we.

Parthisan at July 17, 2005 07:45 PM [permalink]:

I don't see why this new president would change the post-war policies dramatically. His election was the direct result of the huge gap between poor and rich, and the immature behaviour of many of us who thought not voting would cause the system to collapse overnight. huh!

Moreover, in his first public speech after his victory, he sounded very moderate and logical, to the surprise of myself and many other Iranians who were expecting harsh, threatening, and Mesbah-type words from him.

Don't forget that he is the first non-mulla president of Iran in 20 years (? after Rajaee). That by itself is a step forward. The fact that a terribly corrupt murderer like Rafsanjani was kicked out of the political scene was another important step. This election was his expiration date. These are all signs of cracks in the mullas' dominance on the Iranian politics.

I don't see why he or anyone else could drag us into a war. War with whom? Iraq? Afghanistan? Emirates? Turkmanistan? If you're talking about the nuclear programme, I don't see any war happening. The Iranian government has mastered the technique of bluffing, and they will squeeze the west as much as possible for benefits and credits before they come to a final agreement on the nuclear energy issue, and why shouldn't they?

Last but not least, you seem to be very sure of yourself as a well-informed person: "while the same misinformed masses are being rallied to defend Islam". This very sentence is the sign that it's you yourself who needs to be well informed before you can make judgements about the decision of a huge number of people.

Arash Jalali at July 18, 2005 02:39 AM [permalink]:

I prefer not to argue for or against your idea on what lies ahead after he takes office, because I clearly emphasized that the intent of this post was not to weigh the likelihood of a worstcase senario like war. It was about what stance is rational to take IF it happens.

Your approach to predicting the man's policies is however quite interesting. You think he is moderate because he "sounded" so on TV? If I am not mistaken the supreme leader himself once said that he is a staunch supporter of reform! Now should we believe that too? I think, the rational approch to assess someone's policies, when he is yet to show his true colors, is through the people he is supported by and the mentality that he represents, but again this discussion is besides the point of my post. If it sounds too far fetched to you that he would bring the country close if not into a serious confrontation then just think of it as a hypothetical question. What do you think would be rational to do? To help support the military threat against Iran with the hope of toppling the Mullahs or to oppose military action (at least in words if you can't leave UK to come here and join-up)?

Last, what I think of myself is again beside the point. I do live in Iran and have talked to a lot of people, ordinary people from all social classes including the educated class who voted for this new president, and their answers as to why they voted for him were mostly in these lines:

1- I just didn't want a guy with a turban to become president. We have had enough of Mullahs.

2- Rafsanjani is so corrupt. Let's vote for someone else.

3- He looks like a simple honest man. I just wanted to kick the billionaire's behind.

4- He is a good man because he has paid the youth marriage stipends. He really wants to help people.

5- He is at least educated. He is a university professor! He ought to be better than a Mullah!

These are in fact the majority but certainly not the only answers I got from people. I occasionally heard some really bizarre answers too, like: "I voted for him because I knew if he became president my boss would be kicked out and replaced by someone else. And I just hate my boss's guts."

Call me arrogant, call me narcissistic, but I just cannot call these people anything but misinformed, if not uninformed.

Parthisan at July 18, 2005 08:00 AM [permalink]:

I was in Iran during both rounds of the elections, and also spoke to many different people including Ahmadinejad supporters. In fact those 5 items you listed are good examples of what his supporters thought. I realised that he was the most successful candidate when it came to communicating with the masses of voters. None of the other candidates could convince people that they had enough power and will to make positive changes happen in people's lives. Ahmadinejad did.

Cheating and fake ballots aside, the number of votes he got during the second round is not small.

Yes I agree with you that "the rational approach to assess someone's policies, ... is through the people he is supported by and the mentality that he represents". But did those people vote for Ahmadinejad because of his supporters, or because he managed to communicate successfully and convince them that he's the man who could bring on real changes in the lives of the unprivileged? I'd go for the latter, and your list of 5 reasons support my view. I didn't come across anyone who voted for Ahmadinejad because of Mesbah Yazdi's or Jannati's call (maybe there were such people, but they must have been a small minority).

Our new handsome president's association with the traditionalist hardliners is more due to his routes and family background, rather than any ultra conservative policy during him times as province governor and mayor. Look at Khatami or Abtahi for instance, they come from very very religious and conservative mulla-based backgrounds.

Anyway these are all speculations before he takes over the office and shows his real face.

Rancher at July 19, 2005 01:34 PM [permalink]:

Does it matter what his policies are? Does he have any power to make changes?

OT- Ms. Shafieh, Ganji's wife, is quoted as saying "The minute Akbar Ganji dies, you will see what a revolution looks like here." Could this be the spark, as Hariri's was in Lebanon?

JFTDMaster at July 19, 2005 03:48 PM [permalink]:

The founder of the Quds division (a.k.a. terrorist division) of the military is going to be the president. What do you think it means? The basij and more "fundamentalist" wing of the military are the ones who backed him, what do you think it means? Mullahs getting weaker and the Basij and Quds division of the military are getting stronger, do you think that means there would be no change in Iran's policies?

"If you're talking about the nuclear programme, I don't see any war happening."
- If it is found that Iran helped terrorist acquire and use nukes in the US or Israel, (which is likely if you believe him and his direct supporters), then expect Iran to be totally destroyed. This is not a game.

Chichak at July 19, 2005 11:25 PM [permalink]:

violance brings violance. the majority of those divisions such as quds or badr etc were created during the war with iraq, each had special tasks (military intelligence, partisan style war etc). that's the war that thretened the existance of our country, in which saddam was supported by the US, indirectly first, and directly later. basij was a volunteer force created to stop the invaders and i dare to say without it most of us would not have been here to write these things.

war with iraq was our biggest misery in the past century, destroyed a huge part of our infrastructure, paved the way for violance and corruption to come to power in iran.

similarly, taliban was created by americans (and supported by saudis) to fight the soviets.

now the US is afraid that both the iranian hardliners (who are in power now) and the scattered decentralized taliban-style terrorist groups would hit them back. when are american politicians going to learn not to be so short sighted in their planning? in both these cases the product of their own policies have started to threaten them!! how weird is that?

now this history aside, there's no need to panic about the result of this election. did you prefer rafsanjani to ahmadinejad? iran was in total political isolation from the world during rafsanjani. many terrorist activities outside iran were undertaken during his term, including the mikonus. he's the master evil. you speak as if the alternative candidate was much better and ahmadinejad is 180 degrees different. almost all candidates except moeen were more or less in the same side. and then everyone argues that the real power is not in the hands of the president, so even if moeen was elected things wouldn't have been much different.

at least during the past 20+ years, through all the wars, attempts to reform etc, all these war lords and basijis and hardliners have realised that there is something called diplomacy, something called dialogue, something called negotiations. this is a difference. a gorilla who speaks human language or plays chess is one level above other gorillas!!

instead of panicing and showing teath and guns, bring on a couple of bananas and the gorilla might sit down and listen to you, otherwise if threatened from the very beginning it would certainly break the chess board right away!


Rancher at July 20, 2005 01:20 PM [permalink]:


I have to agree with much of what you say but feel I should correct you on your history of the Taliban. You said “…taliban was created by americans (and supported by saudis) to fight the soviets.” The Americans supported the mujahideen, of which the taliban or “religious students” were one group. The Taliban or “Students of Islamic Knowledge Movement” originated out of Madrassas in Pakistani refugee camps. This was with the support of Pakistan's Jami'at-e 'Ulema-e Islam party and generous funding by the Saudis. So Pakistan created them, Saudis supported the Madrassas that trained them in fighting and Wahabbism, and America gave them weapons as part of the resistance to Soviet occupation.

The Bass Vioce at July 23, 2005 10:41 PM [permalink]:

Chichak: "violence brings violence".

Which one brings which? And when you answered that, answer this: what brings the violence that brings that one?

IranLive at July 24, 2005 05:03 PM [permalink]:

The hardest thing to accept sometimes is that our views are in the minority. Iran is a developing country and the city migrants, who are still in the process of losing their rural conservatism, remain in the majority. Quite frankly, if they had voted for a liberal candidate after the novelty of Khatami's reforms, that would be unbelievable.

My advice to any budding 'freedom-lovers' or whatever activists call themselves these days is: sleep on Reform's failures for 10 years and when you wake up Iran might be ready for the liberal revolution you advocate (that is unless the conservatives outmanoeuver the 'Great Satan' yet again and a string of Islamic Republics stretches from morocco to bali, in which case you needn't wake up at all, lol).

heydarbaba at July 25, 2005 11:42 AM [permalink]:

1. In the first Iranian presidential election after the triumph of Islamic Revolution , Bani Sadr won the election. His opponents were bickering about him being the president and the usual attitude among them was:"he is not my president". In midst of all this, Imam Khomeini in one of his speeches told his audience:" you should learn from Americans, when one candidate wins, the other congratulates him.." I think this advice is still very valid and it still applies to the "loser" camp in the recent Iranian election.
2. Referring to those who voted for the opposite candidate as "misinformed" is nothing new but lets not forget that "misinform" is a term that applies to both sides and all sides and no body has a monopoly over it. To suggest that those who voted for Ahmadinejad were misinformed and those who voted for , say, Moein, or Rafsanjani were informed is naive and a bit self serving born out of being "self righteous" but as long as there are "elections" you will hear these terms being tossed around by one side or another. I can tell you there are quite a few people in America who were totally misinformed about the elections and other issues but America is run more by "corporotocracy" than "democracy". "corporotocracy" does not exist in Iran , maybe in the future it will ...and lets not forget that unlike "Bush" and "Kerry", some of the main candidates in the recent Iranian elections were nationally known to many for many years and Ahmadinejad was just a new player who spent the least amount of money for campaigning.
Ahmadinejad was a true "underdog" candidate and it was the "grass roots" movement that helped him get elected. In general I think Iranian voters have become lot more sophisticated than some of us are willing to give them credit for. I was shocked when my brother , a die hard "Forouharist" said he was going to vote for Rafsanjani with some reservations.
3. Iranians from all walks of life owe their freedom, independence, national pride and the ownership of our natural resources to the "Basijis" who fought Saddam's invasion of Iran. There were others who fought the war but lets face it without Basij, Iran didn't have a chance other than agree to Saddam's terms and let him keep the Iranian lands and natural resources. Saddam was teaching Iraqi's history in the schools of Ghasre Shirin when it was under Saddam's occupation. He would love to expand that curriculum to the rest of Iran but he failed. Iranians owe it to the "Basij".
4. As for the main question in this article, even though it is not made clear who the other side of the war would be but I take it to be Americans. Regardless of the probability of the actual war happening, if it did ever happen the answer is quite clear to many Iranians given the contemporary Iranian history. Majority of the Iranians will join the fight against invaders and against those "passive" and "active" locals who decide to "carry water" for the invaders. When Saddam invaded Iran he had a 72 hour plan of victory because he was sure that Iranian Arabs in the Khoosistan province and other places would join his army and support him. Iranian Arabs put up some of the FIERCEST" fighting against Saddam. Out of 16000 martyrs of the Khoosistan Province, 12000 were Iranian Arabs. Is should come as no surprise that Iranian defense minister is an Iranian Arab.

j siavoshy at July 25, 2005 06:49 PM [permalink]:

Hello, I wanted to bring to your attention the knock on effect recent elections have had to fellow Iranians around the world! My husband has suffered terribly at the hands of the regime and not Britain is trying to send him back. Please can as many of you as possible view my own blogsite and email me your comments or support my campaign. I realise that some of you may not feel safe to sign my petition etc. many thanks!

Alborz at July 26, 2005 08:39 AM [permalink]:

people read these articles about american imperialism and ambitions please read carefully:

US wages war from within Iran

The American hand in Iran

Stirring the ethnic pot

American Imperialism

American Imperialism and Politics of Fear

American imperialism and the looming failure in Iraq

Towards a New Century of American imperialism

American Imperialism in Latin America

Bush's inaugural Address and the Global Strategy of American Imperialism

Bases, bases everywhere

and i can mention alot more believe me, now you be the judge, we got all the american propaganda, and here is the anti-american vieww.

IranLive at July 27, 2005 08:33 AM [permalink]:

heydarbaba: spot on. we have to respect the memory of the million basij who gave up their lives.

Just to address though the other main point of the article - what Ahmednejad will do once in power. My guess is he won't change much. No one in Iran (apart from the usual suspects) seems to have the stomach for more conflict. The last seven years of struggle over reform have really taken a lot out of people. It will I think be a very quiet conservative presidency - at least on the domestic front.


It's h pylori

heydarbaba at July 30, 2005 01:31 PM [permalink]:
To IranLive, I hate to engage in reading the future , of a complex society such as Iran right after a political Tsunami that made the super intelligent political scientists and analysts look more like bunch of immature fortune tellers than anything else. In what comes next I will simply talk about a measuring rod of the trends, level of success or failure of the Ahmadinjead and future governments. One of the signs of any government to be successful in Iran, now and in future will be measured, in my humble opinion, by how and to what extent that government will empower and integrate the female population in the small, midsize and top management. (I hope Iranian women are not reading this post..:) ) It is fair to say that Islamic Revolution of Iran would NOT have succeeded the way it did without the direct and more importantly the indirect participation of Iranian women. In fact for the strategy of the leadership of the revolution to work , participation of women was DETRIMENTAL. A lot can be said on this but in brief these are facts: Islamic Revolution was a Non Violent revolution. Imam Khomeini was vehemently against an armed uprising (then advocated by Mojahedine Khalgh (before they went commercial), Communists, and some other radical Islamic groups). The only violence and bloodshed was coming from Shah, encouraged by Carter and their local thugs. In this non violent revolution Imam Khomeini needed the entire population to participate but that would not be enough. He needed to pull the armed forces away from Shah and toward the people. He was clever enough to see that this could only be done by Iranian Women. While Shah was busy telling Barbara Walter that women are only good for play and women have never produced even a good cook in the history of mankind, that he does not understand this Women Liberation thing...Imam Khomeini was busy winning the same women's hearts and minds. The armed forces personnel had daughters, wives, sisters, mothers. So how could you mobilize these important figures in the lives of those Military men to talk them out of violence, murder, running away from Shah and joining the revolution. The picture was simple enough to be missed by many except him. While many in the leadership circle or close to it from Rafsanjani, Khamanei, Beheshti, Motahhari, Bazargan, Sahabi, Yazdi, Bani Sadr, Montazeri and some others were advising Imam Khomeini to reconsider his position on regime change, his tactics and strategy, his answer was : I know how to sink this ship. He relied heavily on Iranian women. As they say you don't put all your eggs in one basket. But he did. He put all his eggs in women's basket and Iranian women did not disappoint him and the nation. The rest is history. He himself had said Women have contributed more to this revolution than men. Khamanei recently talked about this. ( This is one reason I say the success or sign of the things to come of the next government will be measured in how they empower women in different levels of the management. I think the role of women are as crucial now as it was at the time of the revolution and this is for certain Character quality among Iranian women not t ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
IranLive at July 31, 2005 03:53 PM [permalink]:

Thanks for that interesting post, heydarbaba. I agree with you on the essentials. Iranian women played a key role both in the revolution and the later reform movement (who can forget the pictures of Khatami surrounded by crowds of black-clad women in the days before the election in May, 1997? They swung the election for him).

But I disagree with you in one respect. While the details of the next government's policy cannot be predicted with any accuracy the broad sweep of history has many repeating patterns and a careful look at these can give you a good idea of what is to come. So no one could have predicted that Ahmadnejad would win but there were those who nevertheless expected a conservative backlash at this election. The victory of the conservatives in the parliamentary elections as well as Moinís low share of the vote in the first round should have been sufficient warning that the mood was changing. But just because the mood has turned against reformists doesnít necessarily mean that womenís rights issues are going to be placed on the backburner. We should remember that it was the conservatives who built up the infrastructure in the 1980s and encouraged rural women to participate through women-only colleges. Something the liberals would have opposed on the basis of ideology.

Personally I think the problem with womenís representation has a lot to do with the failure to build upon those women-only institutions. The recent Reform movement in my view only served to show up these failings. Reform had a huge following among Iranian women; yet it was quickly hijacked by the student and exile populations as a vehicle for their own demands. The heat and violence these groups generated ultimately contributed to its failure. The lack of institutionalisation - women were unable to sustain their demands through political channels - allowed other smaller activist groups to take control. Over time this may unfortunately become the trend with smaller but more organised constituencies (mercantile groups, minorities, corporations, etc) beginning to exercise a greater influence on the destiny of the nation. Iranian politics will then begin to look like that of all other nations.


A permanent revolution means permanent conflict: who wants that?

It's h pylori

An Iranian student (AIS) at August 1, 2005 01:58 AM [permalink]:

Who let the islamic animals in here again? ;)

IranLive at August 1, 2005 04:47 PM [permalink]:

"An Iranian student (AIS) at August 1, 2005 01:58 AM [permalink]:
Who let the islamic animals in here again? ;)"

What a lovely rational contribution to the discussion.

Now, remind us once again: why are the non-islamic elements out of power in iran? :))


They are making golems of us.

Golems are righthand-brain dominant.

johnnycrash at August 2, 2005 08:37 PM [permalink]:

You will never have a real election or have real democracy until you stop blaming america for all your woes and start blaming your own leadership. We never think about iran over here. The last thing on the average american's mind is iran. However, all the iranian leadership talks about is killing the infidel americans and the rest of the westerners. You have people burning our flag all the time. Its a joke over here: oh look another group of screaming muslims holding pictures of their totaltarian mullah leaders complaining about US! The fact is, you are controlled by a bunch of power hungry dictators in league with money hungry mullahs. They are doing a great job of staying in power because they blame everything on us. WAKE UP..YOU ARE BEING USED!

An Iranian Student (AIS) at August 3, 2005 05:55 AM [permalink]:

I have decided not to respond to islamo-vermis. So IranLive cherish this one exception for you ain't gonna get any attention afterwards:

The nausiating noises a bunch of islamic maggots do when they meet each other, on the web or elsewhere is not discussion and needs no rational contribution.
Now shut the f*** up. (or you know, don't)

heydarbaba at August 3, 2005 05:08 PM [permalink]:

To AIS, A typical monarchist, A Shah worshipping fossil,
oh...never mind.....

heydarbaba at August 4, 2005 12:43 AM [permalink]:

To IranLive,
I tried to stay away from policy details of the next government(s) in Iran. Lack of my knowledge about many factors involved would not allow me to do that. However I was and still am looking forward to see how this and the future governments in Iran will empower women to obtain their well deserved place in all levels of the management. For any society specially Iran with such a large number of educated women it is hard and irrational to walk on one foot only. This kind of limping has become so entrenched in many of the cultures that has almost become part of normalcy. But this normalcy has to be disrupted at least in the case of Iranian women. (by the way results of the University Entrance Exam ,Konkoor, just came out and the first and second spots in the Math and Sciences go to Women. ooopss...sorry guys.. ... ) It is obvious that women in Iran and in many other places do not have their fair share of the leadership and management. But I am more interested about Iranian women because they have gone against huge odds and have come out shining. This plus what I argued in my earlier post regarding the contrast and differences between character qualities of Iranian women and Iranian men makes me a stronger believer in bigger, more just and fair women's share in the future leadership and management levels. (I must admit that it is not so easy for me to write these words right now because as it is I am fighting with my sister and four of my nieces .We are fighting like cats and is a big mess..but I am hoping they are not reading these posts.....:) )You said something interesting :"Personally I think the problem with womenís representation has a lot to do with the failure to build upon those women-only institutions. " I am sure you know that there could be a wide range of interpretation to this comment but more out of curiosity I wish you elaborate on this a bit more.
You also wrote : "A permanent revolution means permanent conflict: who wants that?"..
Usually revolutions , as understood in todays literature, come about when a large portion of the population are denied their rights, dignity, proper share of the wealth, proper place in the society, a good and fair share of their role in determining their destiny and when these people are stepped on, kept behind and when these very people become aware of this situation and want improvements, can not find any normal channels to improve their situation ..this kind of revolution does not depend on who wants it or not. It will take place. However that is not what I see in Iran today. What I have in mind is more of a continuous, perpetual movement from "sourcES" of "darkness" and "ignorance" towards "wisdom" and "enlightenment". When this movement slows down, stops or even is reversed then expect rouble ...rise of Taliban in Afghanistan, current status of Muslims in the world (who once were the pillars of the civilization in the world), general status of many Christian communities in the world, rise of Stalin, Hitler, rise of Neo Conservatives in America and Zionism among the Jews all prove my point.

IranLive at August 4, 2005 11:31 AM [permalink]:

johnnycrash: Iranian government is representative (I prefer not to use the word 'democracy': it means too many things to too many people). It's a philosopher's republic where the Ayatollahs have oversight powers over the elected officials - a bit like the philosophers in Plato's 'Republic'. It prevents the elected politicians from being bought by media corporations (Blair in UK) or oil companies (Bush in US).

heydarbaba: I will answer your post another time as I don't have time to do it justice now.


So, you doubt GOLEMS exist? What do you think Bush is? :)

IranLive at August 12, 2005 11:54 AM [permalink]:

heydarbaba: my apologies taking so long to respond - my pc died on me :(

Btw my point about women-only institutions was that they gave women an independent base in society; I wasn't suggesting that they should be confined to them, lol.

'..this kind of revolution does not depend on who wants it or not. It will take place. However that is not what I see in Iran today.'

Nor do I. Iran won't have another political earthquake on that scale. A pity in some ways because it sometimes takes a major shock for people to open their eyes and recognise an existential threat...


Thre are societies full of GOLEMs. Do you know what a GOLEM is?

No? Maybe it's time you found out.

A Reader at October 25, 2005 08:02 PM [permalink]:

Backward socities prodcue backward people.
Education helps but you must not cheat.
Would you go to an Iranian doctor knowing fully well that there is 90% chance he/she cheated in
med school, well for she make it 50%.