The farcical Islamic Republic is a failed state; Long live Persia!
ALG Editor's Note: In the following featured commentary, Sol Sanders notes how the total state eventually can undo itself: “The farcically fraudulent election process of the Tehran mock-clerics was the proof that the claptrap pseudo-republican organization that Khomeini put in place in 1979 is self-destructive. It would be impossible to map the lines of authority that are supposed to give the regime balance and stability.”
The farcical Islamic Republic is a failed state; Long live Persia!
By Sol Sanders
Tehran's experiment with theocracy in the modern world is dead.
Were the Muslim fanatics in their holes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gaza and South Beirut listening with more than a tin ear, they would have heard their eventual deathknell as well.
Historians in the future will quibble for centuries about whether the mullahs' regime failed at the hands of the fundamental schism that has rocked Persian society since the Arab conquest in 644 — a conflict between universalism and narrow-minded religious orthodoxy. Or was it rather simply that a totally inefficient and corrupt group of adventurers using religion as subterfuge were overtaken by the outside world and its promise of modern secularized society with its promise of societal benefits they pretended to reject.
Unfortunately, given the almost unequaled brutality of the dying regime and the immaturity of most of its young opponents, there is likely to be a long period of conflict and transformation to something new and, hopefully, more stable.
Furthermore, the intellectual confusion will continue to be rife — not least because of the attempted contributions of President Barack Hussein Obama and his speechwriters with their abysmal ignorance of cultural history coupled with what Lenin would have called “infantile leftism”. Unlike the dying years of both European reactionary movements of the 20th century, fascism and communism, Washington's voice is muted in what has come to be its expected call for leadership for morality in international affairs.
As this is written there appears to be a lull in Iran's internal struggle, and a temporary victory by the forces of evil that bolster the regime. That tainted strength is supplied by the kind of hoods the world has known in Hitler's SS who kept the Nazi bloodbath going for two generations and Stalin's [and Vladimir Putin's] KGB that saw that an even more monstrous regime through the earlier struggles of The Cold War.
But the mullahs have failed the test of all regimes — totalitarian, authoritarian, and democratic: the ability to solve the problem of succession.
All regimes must be staffed by mortals and an ageing generation which accompanied Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power is reaching its dotage. The farcically fraudulent election process of the Tehran mock-clerics was the proof that the claptrap pseudo-republican organization that Khomeini put in place in 1979 is self-destructive. It would be impossible to map the lines of authority that are supposed to give the regime balance and stability.
The relationship of the Supreme Leader to the Council of Guardians to the Assembly of Experts to the President of the Islamic Republic to the Constitution to the Council of Ministers is a juridical joke. There's been no charade like it since Stalin's 1937 Soviet Constitution.
Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hoseyni Khamene'i — whom the protesters increasingly have named by his rightful title, The Dictator, and called for his death — has been in fact at 70 trying to patch together his eroding power with a new generation of opportunists posing as fanatics. But in the process he has deflated his candidate, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and spread disunity through the upper reaches of the regime's leadership which at best can only be patched up temporarily.
Behind this failure to establish leadership is the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the regime and its original promises when it toppled the more traditional absolutist rule of the Shah in 1979.
The mullahs promised, above all, else to provide the people of Iran with a moral society. In this they have failed spectacularly.
Resort to social codes which the modern world cannot accept for utilitarian as well as moral standards has put all their sanctimonious pronouncements in jeopardy. The attempt to subordinate women in a modern world which demands their participation if for no other reason than the need for their talents cripples a society. And this was done in an ancient Persian society which has a lengthy history of toleration. The fact that the regime had to cater to a small technological elite to maintain and expand its ambitious for regional leadership have run squarely into their 6th century forms of governance and appeals to traditional Islamic law.
Foremost among the regime's promises was an antidote to the traditional corruption of a pre-industrial society — and one, ironically, aggravated by the Shah's “White Revolution” and a rapidly developing economy, powered by its huge natural resources including, of course, oil.
After the revolution, the state took over control of the economy and parastatal organizations [bonyad] were created to promote social welfare and restore economic justice. But these foundations, as well as other state institutions, became in fact, simply instruments for greedy aggrandizement of the leading mullahs — even to the point where they have pointed accusing fingers at each other as the electioneering got underway. The foundations do not answer to the government or to shareholders, and a parliamentary investigation of the Oppressed and Disabled Foundation (Bonyad-i Mostazafan va Janbazan) in the 1990s was never released. One of the populist appeals of Ahmadinejad to an increasingly frustrated and impoverished lower economic class has been against this obvious plunder at the public trough.
The corruption and obscurantism has not only failed to produce a sufficiently growing economy in the face of an exploding population [which Khomeini cheered on], but it has crippled the country's existing industry. Iran's faltering oil industry while still the world's fourth largest exporter is unable to develop new fields with technology it must import. Disastrous domestic subsidies have aggravated its need to import half its own petroleum product consumption because of an absence of technology and reinvestment in domestic refining capacity.
Iran sits on the world's second-largest oil and gas reserves. But Tehran has not signed a major deal with a large western oil company for years as political pressure over its nuclear program and resultant sanctions have blocked them. Its critical geographic keystone for access to the reserves of central and west Asia to world markets has also been sacrificed by the regime to its pursuit of state terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
There is virtually no public accounting for some $250 billion of oil revenues since 2005 during the period of increasing crude prices which managed to see the mullahs through what would otherwise have been a total collapse. Nor unlike the Persian Gulf Arab states, Iran does not have extensive financial reserves to meet the falling crude prices incurred by the worldwide recession. Nor is it likely to be able to borrow in international markets given the instability of the regime and the worldwide credit crunch.
The government had to withdraw a proposed 3 percent VAT tax to cover its deficits after a strike of the merchants. The falling price of crude oil meant that the government could not overcome sanctions by paying higher prices to Persian Gulf Arab sheikhdom middlemen for imports. The Iranian economy has shifted from a net exporter of food products to a large importer of food as international prices of food have only gone up by about 65 to 70 percent while during the last three years, as the elections were held, inflation was running at well above 25 percent annually. Unemployment and underemployment was rampant, certainly well beyond any official figures, particularly among the young.
The Persians who have historically been some of the world most astute traders find themselves facing a complete muddle created in no small part by the regime. . Until 1997 Iran imported about $12 billion worth of goods but in 2008 the imports bill rose to between $70 and $75 billion for products and services. Neither the government — nor the private sector to the extent it exists — had the capacity to handle this increase in traffic. The sharp rise in imports led to astronomical rates of inflation. Thousands of cargo containers wait for months to unload their contents in Iranian ports. The transportation, customs, and ports infrastructure cannot handle the traffic. Demurrage on imports is in addition to the 2 percent per month damage that is charged
Unlike the earlier downturns in world oil prices, Iran's demographics have caught up with the regime as the population doubled in the past 30 years. In the 1990s the youth [ages 15 to 29] comprised 26.4 percent and 28.4 percent of the population respectively, in 2006 they accounted for 35.4 percent of the population and 70 percent of the unemployed, both ratios being the highest in the generally depressed Middle East and among the highest globally.
It would be an exaggeration, of course, to repeat the mantra of the Clinton apparatchiks that it is the economy which dictates the developments in Iran. There is a much more important moral bankruptcy which the young demonstrators reflect even if they cannot yet define it. But economic conditions certainly underlie the hopes and aspirations of a predominantly youthful population which sees no future in the rhetoric of their hypocritical religious elders.
Ancient Persia valued the concept of truth-telling even more, perhaps, than other classical civilizations. To the extent these young demonstrators reflect the values handed down over generations in one of the world's oldest civilizations, that certainly has meaning in the coming increasingly rapid developments that will evolve out of the debris of the mullah's failed experiment.
Sol W. Sanders, (email@example.com), is an Asian specialist with more than 25 years in the region, and a former correspondent for Business Week, U.S. News & World Report and United Press International. He writes weekly for World Tribune.com and East-Asia-Intel.com.