Saturday, July 08, 2006

Iran's "Private Sector" = The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp

Mehrdad Sheibani, Rooz Online:
The first month of summer is half way through. A summer in which Iran’s constitutional movement celebrates is centenary. This revolution was the first democratic movement in the Middle East so that even today the reformist leaders inside Iran’s current regime are meeting on its pretext. Everything revolves around the key source: battling despotism, and freedom which in the words of Hamid Reza Jalaipour, the prominent sociologist, have now come to their “pre-democratic” phase but continues to face the symbols of power.

Power in Iran has always come about through both the union of and confrontation between the king and the cleric, and through the mixture of Sharia (Islamic law) and politics, which has produced a unique Oriental Despotism in Iran that recently-released journalist Akbar Ganji calls the “Monarchial regime” and others in the West call it totalitarianism.

In this unique system, kings who viewed themselves as promoters of the Sharia included cleric leaders in the power structure in such a manner that it is almost impossible to distinguish the religious from the political.

And while Europe was clearly separating church from government, in Iran, this system was being theorized by cleric Molla Ali Naraghi who advanced the notion of the “velayate-e faghih” (the rule of the cleric) which meant the consolidating politics and religion in the hands of the clerics, thus ending forever the two unity - confrontation sources of power.

So the Constitutional Movement in Iran, which was a product of the Age of Enlightenment, and had chosen the opposing path and had incited those supporting the idea of ruling clerics, was aborted and ended up in a king despot.

Under the unique conditions of the late 70s, the Islamic revolution plucked the fruit of that despotism and solidified the religious leadership in the cloaks of republicanism. This is the only republic that is led by a velayate-e faghih, i.e. a cleric. Now after three decades, the complete establishment of the “monarchial system” is on its way. Power is completely centralized and the religious leader of the time holds absolute power, even though the form of the system remains a republic.

The power structure in Iran, which has been given different names, has used the experience of taking over provincial councils through constitutional means to demonstrate that under the current circumstances it can solve the issue of the form by determining its contents. After the conquest of the councils, the government and the Majlis, it is now the turn of other remaining institutions of power. This week, Tehran’s military prosecutor tried through an interview to deflect fears from the domination of the Experts Assembly on Leadership by the Passdaran Revolutionary Guards Corps. But this is precisely what is expected to happen. A bill before the Majlis (Iran’s Parliament) provides for changing the elections process. Mohsen Armin, the spokesperson for the Sazeman Mojahedin Engelab Eslami spoke of the imminent dangers last week and without expressly naming ayatollah Khamenei spoke of a directive that turned overnight the opposition of some political institutions in the country to the bill, into its supporters.

News from the Anjomane Senfi Matbuat (the Professional Organization of the Press), the only half independent civil organization of Iranian journalists indicated that the measures to conquer this organization which continues to be in the hands of reformers are almost complete.

The conquest of social institutions continued during last week and now entered the economic ones as well. The “decree of the leader” which provided for relegating a significant part of the country’s economy into the private sector has no other meaning than giving this domain to the Passdaran Revolutionary Guards Corps. Iranian economists have repeatedly shown in their writings that the private sector” in Iran is nothing but a pseudo-name for the key agency that exercises power and wealth, i.e. the Passdaran Revolutionary Guards Corps. And since Ahmadinejad’s hardliners conquered the presidency last year, the Passdaran has revealed its underground activities to take over and dominate economic life of the nation: an economy that is going through the most critical crises.

The right-wing press in Iran has tried to present ayatollah Khamenei’s privatization decree as a solution to the serious problems of the economy, which president Ahmadinejad had promised to resolve. Independent analysts believe that this privatization which amounts to nothing other than surrendering the domestic economy to the Passdaran, is also a green light to the United States which as the leader of the new world order calls for privatization and economic liberalism. READ MORE

So events inside Iran again tie closely to what is going on outside the country. Mostafa Tajzadeh who is one of the leaders of the reformists in Iran believes that a confrontation with the US is unavoidable and notes that this is the focal point of all policies of the hardliners.

The battles of this conflict continued last week as well, and mostly underground and they were highlighted by the visit of Turkish foreign minister to Iran. Carrying a “special message” for Iran, he also took a message for the US. This was implicitly acknowledged by no other than Ali Larijani in his joint press conference.

This week, like the previous one, the policy of killing time also continued on both sides regarding the nuclear standoff and the G8 leaders finally agreed on July 12 as the deadline for a response from Iran regarding the package of incentives that the West has offered Iran in an effort to entice it to forego its uranium enrichment activities. On Wednesday, Ali Larijani was supposed to go to Brussels to give EU’s foreign minister Javier Solana his reply to the incentives package, thus fulfilling the call by Washington which acknowledged him as the responsible party in Iran for the nuclear talks, negating ayatollah Khamenei’s remarks. It is still not clear what message Abdullah Gol, Turkey’s foreign minister to the US from Larijani to put him at the center of events again. But whatever it was, he was connected to Washington through Solanas. Will this connection be the link that will take the Islamic Republic to its final destination? Will Iran’s Monarchial system complete the Turkey – Iran – Pakistan crescent in republics where Islam plays the decisive role while the military says the final word? Each of these republics is a form of Eastern despotism.

But the completion of this crescent does not just mean that the Islamic republic has circumvented its foreign enemy, i.e. the US. It also indicates its victory over a historic rival, i.e. the monarchy. Iranian leaders view the return of the monarchy is the manifestation of being defeated by the US which in the words of the leader of the regime is trying to instill a “soft revolution”, something that the minister of intelligence calls “the velvet revolution.” This is something that interrogators of Mohsen Ejheyi, the intelligence minister continue to search for in their detention of Ramin Jahanbegloo.

Perhaps it is not clear what research and investigations are continuing from the Iranian researcher Jahanbegloo at this time. But the history of the last three decades shows that every political and even cultural personality in Iran who has been under “investigation - which is nothing but a pseudo name for torture eventually appears “voluntarily” on national television to reveal his “findings.”

Some of the victims of these “investigations” who have survived gathered in Tehran last week and reminisced. Taghi Rahmani from the national-religious grouping, who spent six years in prison said, “I was lucky to have had my skin peeled off, but not beheaded.” And Mohammad Ali Amooyi one of the leftist leaders in Iran who spent 12 years in prison, and even participated in a televised interview, announced that the “researchers” of today were the very same individuals who turned the Iran of the 1980s (when dissidents were killed by government agents) into the great years of terror.

Mehrdad Sheibani is a veteran Iranian journalist living in exile.