Iran in a New Light

Only a couple days after being “elected” as the new President of Iran, hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stops the charade and announces that his country plans to reconstitute its nuclear program.

The reliable and knowledgeable Amir Taheri answers the question of whether the rest of us (especially, the West) should be worried by this development:

Should the outside world be frightened? Not necessarily. Paradoxically, the clarity created by this election may prove useful. Khatami went around the world speaking about Hegel and Nietzsche to ruling elites and creating the illusion that the Islamic Republic was part of the global system symbolised by the World Trade Organisation, the Davos forum, and the Western non-governmental organisations of do-gooders.

Ahmadinejad’s victory reveals the true face of the Islamic Republic as a regional power with its own world vision that challenges the so-called “global consensus”. It reminds the world that the mini-Cold War that started between the Islamic Republic and the West, notably the US, is far from over.

How much clarity will we need before we’re convinced that something more aggressively needs to be done about this terrible regime, the locus of anti-American Islamicism? Taheri further spells out the implications of Ahmadinejad’s ascent to power (while inserting a little poke against a former American president’s internationalist pretensions):

Ahmadinejad’s election shows that the Khomeinist regime cannot be reformed from within. It also shows that there is still a strong constituency in Iran for the populist message of the ayatollah. True, far fewer people voted than the regime claims. But those who did vote preferred Ahmadinejad’s “pure Islam” to Rafsanjani’s attempt at perpetuating the myth that Iran today is, in the words of the former US president Bill Clinton, “a progressist democracy”.

Ahmadinejad describes himself as a fundamentalist, has no qualms about asserting that there can be no democracy in Islam, rejects free-market economics, and insists on “religious duties” rather than human rights. This clarity will, in the medium term, help the people of Iran understand the choices involved. They will learn that they cannot have an Islamist system together with the goodies that the modern world offers in both material and spiritual terms.

Preliminary judgments of Iran’s recent election results seem to indicate that a crisis there is quickly coming to a head, and the fallout isn’t going to be pretty. What role should the United States play in these developments? Is there anything we can do to lessen the damage? To help bring hope?

I confess I have been lax in paying attention to this issue like I ought to have been doing. Now is the time to engage in the debate – we can’t stick our collective head in the sand on this one.


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