Iran Hopes

A Weblog on Iranian Affairs (Formerly Iran Votes 2005)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Iran will not be the same after June 24, regardless of who will come out victorious from the run-off on Friday. If we agree that the hardliners have been planning how to win this election since 1997, then we must agree they have also been planning how to lose it. These days there are widespread rumours that if Rafsanjani happens to win the election, a coup by pro-Ahmadi Nejad (or in fact pro-Khameneni) factions within Sepah and Basij will be imminent. I wrote about this possibility before (see my post on June 12). But would Khamenei be so witless to give in or exhort such a coup at this time of crisis when Iran is closely monitored by international community, and particularly the US who is impatiently looking for an excuse (more convincing than the worn out WMD one) to invade Iran? We know, of course, that since its establishment, the Islamic Republic has always paid minimal attention to pressures from outside or to judgements as to its legitimacy, but the situation is totally different this time. Previously, the regime could argue for its legitimacy relying on its own people support. And the international community had to submit to this argument. I was present at a conference on the Middle East in 2004, where a panelist, in answering a question on the possibility of a Coalition invasion of Iran, said "we cannot attack a sovereign state on any grounds when the president of that state was elected with more than 20 million of free votes". Thus, the public support for Khatami acted as the most important deterrent to a possible invasion. His popularity was a significant unifying factor within the society as well. An imposed government, on the other hand, will undermine the legitimacy of the regime both inside and outside the country.
Bringing Ahmadi Nejad into power, be it through a shambolic election or a coup, will certainly raise Khamenei to the peak of his power, while hugely damaging the already fading legitimacy of the Islamic Republic. And history tells us that all dictators were bogged down at the peak of their power. Is Khamenei be so naive to gamble legitimacy for power? Recent development suggest the answer to this question is positive and thus Iran will not be the same next week. It may be the final day for the so called reform that began in 1997, but it will be the first day of a wholly new era.

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