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Letters from Tokyo
IRAN Enters a Political Minefield alongside Obama
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent
U.S President Barrak Obama and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The Islamic Republic of Iran is hoping that the current political unrest will die down in order to maintain strict control over society. Yet clearly, millions of people in Iran and in the Iranian diaspora are worried about recent events. After all, people have been killed by government forces and tensions remain high. So is this the start of a fresh challenge against the higher echelons in Iran or will the crisis blow over when religious leaders get involved?

Before focusing on this, it is clear that the American leader, President Obama, is reluctant to get involved in the current crisis. This may or may not be understandable, depending on your point of view, however, I am bewildered by his statement about Mir Hossein Mousavi and President Ahmadinejad.

Obama stated that "there might not be much difference between the policies of President Ahmadinejad and rival Mir Hossein Mousavi." However, given the severity of the crisis and with several people being killed, then Obama is clearly missing the main point.

After all, people do not willingly challenge a strong state which can use the state apparatus to crush any genuine opposition. It takes bravery to challenge the state apparatus and clearly it would appear that the election result was manipulated. However, for now nobody knows by how much and to what extent the real result was because it is feasible that Ahmadinejad won but by the margin given, then this is clearly debatable, surely?

However, we must remember that Obama visited the House of Saudi Arabia, the most despotic nation in the world which crushes all forms of genuine freedom, this especially applies to female emancipation and religious freedom. Given this, the same Obama was bound to remain aloof when people were dying for "democracy." Therefore, is this the "new history" that Obama talked about? If so, it is hollow to the core and it would have been better if he had said nothing.

Turning back to Iran, then clearly the vote is hard to believe with regards to the final result. For Ali Sina, author of Understanding Muhammad, a Psychobiography, and founder of Faith Freedom International (FFI), he states that "Elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran have never been free. Candidates are screened and only those with proven loyalty to the regime are allowed to run."

Despite this, it is clear that Mousavi may have been underestimated by the establishment in Iran. After all, Mousavi is clearly not bowing down to internal pressure, on the contrary, he is challenging the result of the election and in this sense, the ruling elite. You may deem Mousavi to be too close to the clerics or the higher echelons in Iran but sometimes people "do not play the intended game" and maybe Mousavi and other Iranians desire "real change"

Ali Sina also states that "….Iranians were surprised when the official news reported that Ahmadinejad was the winner" and he further continues that "Karroubi and Rezai received a humiliating 1%, or less." Yet it seems most unlikely that Karroubi and Rezai would have done so badly, and the same applies to Mousavi who apparently obtained 33.7% of the vote, compared with Ahmadinejad who obtained 62.6% of the vote.

Therefore, many people find the result to be based on fraud. According to Ali Sina "The evidence of massive fraud was overwhelming. Not only had the result grossly contradicted the polls, neither of the challenging candidates won even in their hometown. Rezai observed that he had more campaign workers than votes."

Mousavi himself states that "We are after a peaceful rally to protest the unhealthy trend of the elections and realize our goal of annulling the election results." Mousavi also called for "a new presidential election that will not repeat the shameful fraud from the previous election."

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri also condemned the results of the election. He stated that "A government that is based on intervening in the vote has no political or religious legitimacy." Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri also commented that "no sound mind" would accept the result.

After the death of Ayatollah Khomeini it appeared that Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri was well placed to become the next supreme leader. However, conservative Islamic leaders ousted him on the grounds that he rebuked aspects of the revolution. So it is clear that important conservative Islamic leaders and institutions know how to protect their power bases and Mousavi and his supporters face a major uphill struggle.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful person in Iran appears to be at a loss. After all, initially Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had welcomed the victory of Ahmadinejad but now he appears to be wavering because of the need to "buy time" and preserve the Islamic Revolution. So the Supreme Leader is caught "in a political minefield" because his loyalty is towards maintaining conservative Islamic power and maintaining the current status quo whereby society can be ruled by indoctrination and the ruling elites.

Turning back to Obama, then he is correct when he states that "The easiest way for reactionary forces inside Iran to crush reformers is to say it's the U.S. that is encouraging those reformers," he told CNBC. However, nobody is asking for America to openly get involved in Iranian politics because Iran is a nation of great richness and it is up to Iranian nationals to solve their own internal crisis.

Yet, Iran, and the leaders of this nation, must be made accountable for crushing genuine opposition and if the regime turns on the people then this is a different matter. After all, you have a big difference between containing political discontent and killing people via the means of state controlled power.

So when Obama stated that "I think it's important to understand that although there is amazing ferment taking place in Iran, the difference in actual policies between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as advertised;" he appears to be saying that the result of the current situation is not important. Yet to the loved ones of people who have been killed, then clearly this current political crisis is serious.

Obama also voiced hope that leaders in Iran would respond "not with violence, but with a recognition that the universal principles of peaceful expression and democracy are ones that should be affirmed." So is the new leader of America so naïve?

Does Obama believe that universal rights are being upheld in Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia? Where does this comment fit in with the current reality in Iran? At best, Obama is being extremely naïve or playing the "Cairo Muslim card" and letting the so-called Islamic world know that America does not care about human rights.
Or at worse, this statement by Obama is based on covering himself via deceit and can Obama state when Iran upheld "the universal principles of peaceful expression?"

Some people are hoping that fresh changes will arise from the current political crisis or that a "movement of freedom" will challenge the ruling conservative clerics and elites. However, many analysts believe that the current crisis will either peter out by itself or that opposition forces will be crushed.

I myself believe that nothing is predictable because history tells us this. However, it is clear that many Iranian people "are thirsty for democracy" and the next few weeks and months will be fraught with danger. Yet we do not need a world leader like Obama to belittle the current crisis in Iran because this issue is very important.

Ali Sina states that "The Iranian people have not had a candidate of their own since the Islamists took power. Candidates are screened and selected by the regime. Even through these ersatz elections people have tried to vote for the candidate that is less Islamist. Mousavi is not a democrat, but he represents a glimmer of hope. It is much easier to overthrow a moderate Islamic regime that is willing (to) give some freedom to people to voice their dissent than one that represses people, imprisons its opponents and kills its critics. The Iranians are looking for their Gorbachev, not to reform the Islamic regime, but to eventually get rid of it."

Only time will tell what the final outcome will be but it is disconcerting to me when Obama is equating Mousavi with Ahmadinejad. Also, it is sometimes better to say nothing rather than say something, and maybe Obama should have remained silent on this issue because obviously he is thinking about the need to appease Islamic regimes.



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Lee Jay Walker serves as Tokyo Correspondent of The Seoul Times. He specializes in int'l relations and geopolitics. He is also involved in analyst work and research on business. After finishing BA degree in East European Studies at the University of London, he earned MA degree in Asia Pacific Studies at Nottingham Trent University. Website at http://www.leejaywalker.wordpress.com where work is published.

 

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