Saturday, June 25, 2005

Hardliner wins in Iran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hard-line mayor of Tehran, has won the runoff election for president of Iran. Based on all the reading I've been doing about the Iran situation, I believe the most likely meaning of this is that the mullahs (who are really the rulers of Iran, both in practical terms and in legal terms) have had enough of "placating" the West with reformist politicians, and have decided to go back to basics (as they see them).

At first blush, this may sound like a terrible development, a big setback for reform in Iran. Now some may accuse me of being cynical, but...I suspect this is actually the best thing that could have happened for the reformist cause. Think about it...all those people, frustrated with the slow pace of reform in Iran, now being told that even that was too much! I think the mullahs have most likely overplayed their hand. If they don't fear dissension, they certainly should — they and their hardline supporters are vastly outnumbered by the more reform-minded and secular-leaning public...

Update:It seems that Ed Morrisey at Captain's Quarters is having similar thoughts:

The mullahs fear dissension more than anything else. Unfortunately for them, they have chosen the course that almost guarantees a revolution, and probably sooner rather than later.

Update 2:Robert Mayer at Publius Pundit weighs in, and he's not optimistic at all:

To those of us who know Rafsanjani’s background, we know that he isn’t the “centrist” that he has been portrayed as being. But because of the mass coverage to the rest of the world, Rafsanjani was the pragmatic, “moderate” face of the Iranian regime. What is so scary is that Khamenei, realizing that the gravest and closest threat to the regime is coming from the inside, is ready to pull off the mask and take off the gloves by choosing Ahmadinejad. You want pragmatic? Khamenei now openly controls all elected functions of the government; headed by the most extreme, fascistic few in Iranian society. This is a battle for all-out totalitarian survival, and it is beginning anew with the revival of the Islamic revolution.

It’s only a matter of time now before the liberal forces inside of Iran are cut off at the knees and shot in the head. This election alone has determined the future of hundreds of thousands of families; willingly escape, or unwillingly be trapped.

But make no mistake. Ahmadinejad was not selected by accident.

Update 2:TigerHawk has some interesting thoughts on the same topic:

In many cases, a defeat in a context like this could lead to rejectionism and even insurgency by the defeated. Unfortunately, it may well be that the hard-line position in Iraq is the populist one, even if its election victory is built on an entirely unreprepresentative foundation. Populists are particularly good at fending off civil resistance to their rule.

This election also forecloses Western options in its dealings with Iran. The problem with Iran's nuclear weapons programs is not that Iranians or even Muslims per se will control the launch codes, but that people who specifically advocate war with the United States and Israel by suicidal means will control the launch codes. A moderate government bent on rolling back the power of the mullahs and building a consumerist economy in Iran would have been deterrable as all governments who look to the future are. Unfortunately, our enemies inside Iran have consolidated their control. Any failure of the new government will morph into rage at the United States, and pressure will increase on the West to do something about it.

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