Iran's Costly Fake ‘Democracy'
26 March 2016
By Eyad Abu Shakra
Iranians are, of course, free to accept the Vali- e- Faqih brand of
‘democracy' or reject it. But such exceptional ‘democracy' is proving
extremely costly to the Arab world.
What the ruling authorities in Tehran regard as ‘democracy' or ''shura'' is
beyond the scope of this argument, it is enough to say that the current
Iranian regime is underpinned on a solid theocratic – security base that
monopolizes the right to choose who runs for the ‘Majlis' (The Lower House of
Parliament) and the ‘Assembly of Experts', and who are branded as traitors.
Such ‘democracy' in practice takes place against a background of hallows
reserved to unacceptable political opponents and is distrusted by a large
section of Iranian society; including once prominent symbols and figures in
Khomeini's Islamic Revolution before they ending up marginalized, exiled or
placed under house arrest.
Be it as it may, this is the Iranians' problem and nobody else's. The people
of Iran alone must decide whether the Mullah's regime, supported by the
Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its security and intelligence apparatus,
reflects its aspirations or not. The real regional problem is that the current
US administration trusts the Tehran regime more than the Iranians do. Such a
situation has cost the Arab world dearly.
Indeed, the Arabs have paid a heavy price in terms of politics, security, and
future development, for Barack Obama's gamble on Hassan Rouhani's presidential
elections' ‘victory' through Ali Khamenei's (The Supreme Guide) democratic
process in 2013, and Khamenei's ‘fatwas' against the development of nuclear
Given the above I venture to say that it would be too naïve to separate
Washington's negative position towards the Syrian Uprising from the nuclear
negotiations conducted by the US and Iran in Oman behind the backs of the
former's Arab allies; and later, separate the said negotiations from
Washington's decision to concentrate all its efforts in the Middle East on
fighting ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and even ‘moderate' political Sunni Islam as well.
If Washington's ‘unsympathetic' attitude towards Turkey – a fellow NATO member
– in its first confrontation with an aggressive Putin's Russia in the Middle
East arena, then in the Kurdish ‘independence' file, it was truly shameful
that Secretary of State John Kerry would volunteer to tell the Congress that
Iran ''has withdrawn its fighters in Syria'' only for this to be denied by
Tehran! This worrying episode points clearly to Washington's huge bet on the
‘friendship' of Iran under the pretext that it is embarking on an unflinching
‘democratic' march, and is committed to moderation, reform and openness.
Meanwhile, Iran's ‘state' media machine which has been quite successful in
penetrating the Arab world has smartly highlighted during the last few weeks
the ‘significance' of the elections. Later, despite being ‘doctored' through
partisan selectivity and exclusion, the same machine was underlining the
elections' ‘high turnout', meaning a big popular endorsement, which was
exactly what both Washington and Moscow desired to justify giving Iran a
greater regional role at the expense of the Arabs.
Alas, the Arabs thus far have failed to confront such an imminent threat –
backed by international collusion – with the required awareness and
solidarity. Worse still, some Arab countries refuse to see the existential
danger posed by this Iranian onslaught on the internal order and sectarian
co-existence, although what is taking place in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen
is clear for all to see.
The four above-mentioned countries, which Tehran proudly boasts of
controlling, is practically in various stages of Iranian ‘control'; from de
facto occupation like Iraq and Lebanon to open civil war such as Syria and
Yemen. For its part, Iran has only provided these countries with means of
sedition, division and destruction of state institutions, from money and arms
shipments sent exclusively to certain subservient religious sects, political
assassinations, car bombs, creation of ‘puppet' leaderships, and sectarian
media agitation and incitement through pulpits and financed and hired media
This is exactly what has happened in Al-Maliki's Iraq, Al-Assad's Syria,
Hezbollah's Lebanon and the Houthis' Yemen. Tehran's plans go on and on,
without any sign of change soon, especially, because some in the West, namely
in Washington, insist on believing the lies of ‘democracy' and ‘moderation'.
Ironically, with this said, the only encouraging sign a few days ago has been
the arrest in Tehran of Baquer Namazi, an 80 year old American citizen with
links to the pro-Tehran lobby group the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
NIAC has a very loud voice in promoting the fake ‘democracy' and ‘moderation'
of the Mullahs' regime in the corridors of powers in the US capital during the
last few years, and has been infrequently alleged to be linked to the plans of
the present Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to found an
effective lobby in Washington.
The sad story of Mr Namazi proves that a leopard can't change its spots. And
that a fascist regime like Tehran's may be dangerous even to those helping it.
It may also tell us that the security-intelligence apparatus in Tehran,
embodied by the IRGC, is growing intolerant even with those promoting Iran's
interests in a way they feel is more persuasive in the West where freedoms are
understood, and democracy properly practiced.
Since 1948, major Western powers have resisted the recognition of
Palestinians' right of self-determination because they've always claimed that
Israel was the ‘only democracy in the Middle East'. The result as we see now,
is a progressively more ‘militant' Israeli society that has been led away by
settlers and the religious right-wingers from peace to extremism, and
frustrated Palestinian reaction engendered counter religious extremism at the
expense of ‘a secular state' or ‘two states solution'.
Today the West, at the helm of the international community, is committing the
same mistake again. In concentrating exclusively on fighting ISIS, it is
ignoring the extremism of Tehran's Mullahs and their IRGC, and forgetting the
‘incubator' of the ISIS discourse, and the simple fact that ‘extremism begets
O Democracy! What crimes are committed in thy name!''
Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat.
He has been with the newspaper since 1978.