The Associated Press: ML APNewsAlert AP is reporting that Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri of Iran is dead, according to his grandson.
Montazeri, 87, had been a close associate of Imam Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. He then became Khomeini’s hand-picked successor, but broke with him in 1988 over the massacres of political dissidents then being carried out by the regime. He immediately became a non-person, and was put under house arrest for a while but ultimately was released. He went on to construct the most extensive theological and juridical challenge to the revolutionary doctrine of Khomeinism, which turned the leading Shiite cleric into a sort of dictator or ‘Guardian.’ Montazeri became an Islamist democrat, putting more emphasis on popular sovereignty, without denying a role for learned clerics in guiding society.
Although Montazeri has often been lionized by critics of the regime abroad, he had little influence inside Iran. He did lend his voice in support of the Green Movement for greater democracy that began in June.
His attempt to reform the regime and its ideology so as to be more humane faltered in the face of the creeping coup conducted since the early zeroes by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and its former officers who gained high political positions. Deeply committed to clerical dictatorship as the underpinning of their own control of a third of Iran’s economy, the IRGC elite relentlessly marginalized, exiled or murdered those with democratic tendencies in the system. Montazeri aspired to be the Gorbachev of the Khomeinist regime, but although he died in his own bed, he was more analogous to its Trotsky, a road not taken.
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