Moaddel Guest Op-Ed: Iran’s Crisis and the U.S. Option: Support Mousavi now or fight Ahmadinejad tomorrow

Mansoor Moaddel writes in a guest editorial for IC:

The current civil uprising in Iran reflects not just a protest against a rigged election. Nor is it primarily a symptom of contentions for power or clashes between opposing perspectives on the nature of the Islamic regime. It is, rather, resistance against a political coup, whose engineers plan to impose a Taliban-style Islamic government on Iran. The coup has been organized by an alliance between the supreme leader and the most militant and fundamentalist faction within the ruling establishment, backed by the Revolutionary Guard.

The political attitudes of one of its most notorious ideologues, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, demonstrates the danger Iranians and the world would be facing should this militant faction get its way. Mesbah Yazdi does not believe in the republican aspects of the Islamic regime, but rather views Islamic law as supreme and must be unquestionably followed. The supreme leader, he says, is not elected but rather discovered by the clerics. For him, Ayatollah Khamenei is the exemplar of such a leader. He has characterized the ideas of representative government and legislative functions as belong to the decadent system of Western liberalism. He has likened reformist ideas to the AIDS virus. He has publically endorsed the construction of a nuclear bomb.

These ideas have much appeal for Ahmadinejad, who claims that the past governments were corrupt and deviated from the Islamic path. Some of the former leaders, people like Rafsanjani and Natiq Nouri, have abandoned the ideals of the revolution. Ahmadinejad argues that for the sake of Islam, such individuals must be sacrificed and the society must be restored to the principles of the Islamic revolution. Under his presidency, be claims, this restoration has been launched, ushering a new beginning for a truly Islamic state in Iran.

Ahmadinejad’s deeds are Islamic extremism in action. He has already restricted the freedom of Iranian citizens, expanded men’s authority over women, increased political persecution, undermined the rights of religious and ethnic minorities, and supported terrorism and political adventurism abroad. He has also recruited members of the Revolutionary Guard to fill key governmental positions and awarded them lucrative government-sponsored projects. These actions, and his administration’s economic mismanagement, promoted the formation of a broad coalition in Iran comprised of reformist politicians, conservative pragmatists, and ordinary citizens representing the majority of the Iranian public.

Realizing the growing strength of this coalition in the run up to the election, the Revolutionary Guard acted to stifle the movement and the ruling party awarded itself a landslide victory – an uncontestable mandate for four more years of growing religious extremism and global isolationism.

The outcome of the current civil uprising is certainly consequential for the development of democracy in Iran. It has also far reaching implications for regional stability, international peace efforts, and the security of the United States. At this point, the regime cannot secure its rule without unleashing a reign of terror. And if this coup succeeds, the regime will forge ahead with its expressed plans for nuclear development and support for religious extremism abroad.
It would be a mistake to think that people like Ahmadinejad are reasonable. It is counter productive to base policy on the untenable premise that he would be amenable to a cost-benefit analysis on the nuclear issue. Time and again he has announced that the nuclear issue is off the table. To believe or hope otherwise would be a profound and resonant error.

The option that is left for the United States is either to effectively support Mousavi’s camp today or risk a military confrontation with Ahmadinejad tomorrow.

Mansoor Moaddel, Professor of Sociology, Eastern Michigan University
Research Affiliate, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan

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