[DEHAI] Zakaria: 'Fatal wound' inflicted on Iranian regime's ideology

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From: Zeyhilel@aol.com
Date: Sun Jun 21 2009 - 12:07:38 EDT

June 21, 2009
Zakaria: 'Fatal wound' inflicted on Iranian regime's ideology
Fareed Zakaria says "no one bought" Khamenei's "divine assessment" of the
official election result.


(CNN) -- The decisive margin of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's
victory in the June 12 election stunned many observers and angered his
opponents' supporters, who in the ensuing days took to the streets in protest by
the hundreds of thousands.
Some experts have called the effect unprecedented: Several powerful
figures have openly supported the top challenger, Mir Hossein Moussavi, even as
the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has endorsed the official
results favoring Ahmadinejad.
In the meantime, using online social networking sites such as Twitter,
Iranians have been able to get around the government's efforts to restrict
media coverage, and the outcry against the election result has intensified.
At Friday prayers in Tehran, Khamenei told a partisan audience the "ruling
elites" would be "held accountable for all violence and blood and
rioting." CNN spoke with Fareed Zakaria about the significance of the recent
protests and the leadership's response:
CNN: As you've seen the situation in Iran develop over the last week, what
are your thoughts?
Fareed Zakaria: One of the first things that strikes me is we are watching
the fall of Islamic theocracy.

CNN: Do you mean you think the regime will fall?
Zakaria: No, I don't mean the Iranian regime will fall soon. It may -- I
certainly hope it will -- but repressive regimes can stick around for a long
time. I mean that this is the end of the ideology that lay at the basis of
the Iranian regime.
The regime's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, laid out his special
interpretation of political Islam in a series of lectures in 1970. In this
interpretation of Shia Islam, Islamic jurists had divinely ordained powers to
rule as guardians of the society, supreme arbiters not only on matters of
morality but politics as well. When Khomeini established the Islamic
Republic of Iran, this idea was at its heart. Last week, that ideology suffered a
fatal wound.
CNN: How so?
Zakaria: When the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared the
election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a "divine assessment," he was indicating it
was divinely sanctioned. But no one bought it. He was forced to accept the
need for an inquiry into the election. The Guardian Council, Iran's supreme
constitutional body, met with the candidates and promised to investigate and
perhaps recount some votes. Khamenei has subsequently hardened his
position but that is now irrelevant. Something very important has been laid bare
in Iran today --- legitimacy does not flow from divine authority but from
popular support.
CNN: There have been protests in Iran before. What makes this different?
Zakaria: In the past the protests were always the street against the
state, and the clerics all sided with the state. When the reformist president,
Mohammed Khatami, was in power, he entertained the possibility of siding
with the street, but eventually stuck with the establishment. The street and
state are at odds again but this time the clerics are divided. Khatami has
openly sided with the challenger, Mir Hossein Moussavi, as has the reformist
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. So has Ali Larijani, the speaker of the
parliament and a man with strong family connections to the highest levels of the
religious hierarchy. Behind the scenes, the former president, Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani, now head of the Assembly of Experts, another important
constitutional body, is waging a campaign against Ahmadinejad and even the supreme
leader himself. If senior clerics dispute Khamenei's divine assessment and
argue that the Guardian Council is wrong, it is a death blow to the basic
premise behind the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is as if a senior Soviet
leader had said in 1980 that Karl Marx was not the right guide to economic
CNN: What should the United States do?
Zakaria: I would say continue what we have been doing. By reaching out to
Iran, publicly and repeatedly, President Obama has made it extremely
difficult for the Iranian regime to claim that they are battling an aggressive
America bent on attacking Iran. In his inaugural address, his New Year
greetings, and his Cairo speech, there is a consistent effort to convey respect
and friendship for Iranians. That is why Khamenei reacted so angrily to the
New Year greeting. It undermined the image of the Great Satan that he
routinely paints in his sermons. In his Friday sermon, Khamenei said that the
United States, Israel, and especially the United Kingdom were behind the
street protests, an accusation that will surely sound ridiculous to most
Iranians. The fact that Obama has been cautious in his reaction makes it all the
harder for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to wrap themselves in a nationalist
CNN: But shouldn't the U.S. be more vocal in support for the Iranian
Zakaria: I think a good historic analogy is President George H.W. Bush's
cautious response to the cracks in the Soviet empire in 1989. Then, many
neo-conservatives were livid with Bush for not loudly supporting those trying
to topple the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. But Bush's concern was
that the situation was fragile. Those regimes could easily crack down on the
protestors and the Soviet Union could send in tanks. Handing the
communists reasons to react forcefully would help no one, least of all the
protesters. Bush's basic approach was correct and has been vindicated by history.
CNN: Finally, do you think the regime will survive?
Zakaria: As I said before, repressive regimes can last a long time, and
this regime can definitely endure if they are willing to use force, impose a
strict crackdown on protests, and arrest the leaders of the opposition.
Only time will tell, so we will have see what develops.
_E-mail to a friend_


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