Iran’s Democrats And Those Who Exploit Them

A year after the Green movement took to the streets in protest of Iran’s controversial presidential election, former presidential candidate and nominal Green movement leader Mir Hossein Moussavi has issued a set of demands for specific political reforms. While sounding many of the key points that Moussavi has made over the last year, InsideIran reports that “the charter consists of numerous subsections addressing the intent, identity, ethics, and strategies for the movement”:

The statement emphasizes repeatedly that the Green Movement must be based upon certain fundamental values in order to be a coherent force for progress. The most oft-repeated value is the equality of all citizens regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, or any other differences. Moussavi describes the primacy of human dignity as the Green Movement’s guiding ideal.

Also in accordance with Moussavi’s previous statements, the opposition leader described the various grievances of the Green Movement, decrying the “totalitarian tendencies” of the government, saying they “violate the fundamental rights of citizens, disrespect human dignity, mismanage public assets, exacerbate class differences with economic and social deprivation, illegally utilize law enforcement, sacrifice national interests for international demagoguery,” and so on. Also as per Moussavi’s previous statements, he called for the opening of civil society and the cessation of all censorship and persecution of dissident voices.

Interestingly, the LA Times’ Babylon and Beyond blog reports that “the PDF version of the statement includes a vital paragraph not published in the version that went up on Mousavi’s website in which the former pillar of the regime calls for the separation of religion and state”:

“Maintaining the independence of religious and clerical bodies from the regime is the only option to preserve the exalted status of religion in the Iranian society and it will be one of the main principles hitting high on the agenda of the Green Movement,” it read.

The rest of the statement, while leveling harsh accusations of corruption and brutality at the government, leaves the impression that Mousavi merely wants to reform the Islamic political system, not undermine its premise.

The question of whether the Green movement wants to overturn the Islamic Republic or reform it remains a key source of tension among pro-democracy activists. While many exiled Iranian activists tend toward the former view, there’s little evidence that those inside Iran have much enthusiasm for completely disestablishing the current system. One Iranian analyst that I spoke to some months ago told me of research that he’d conducted in Iran that suggested that more religiously conservative Iranians who had taken in part in pro-Moussavi demonstrations had become steadily alienated by what they perceived as the extreme “regime change” secularism of some of the Green movement’s younger activists. These conservatives are precisely to whom the Greens will need to appeal if the movement is to regain the vitality and momentum of its earlier days and grow into a credible alternative to the current regime.

Real Clear World’s Kevin Sullivan has a great post analyzing the disingenuous and contradictory charges being leveled at President Obama for his posture toward Iran’s Greens. Sullivan notes that, to the president’s conservative critics, his actual statements and policies in support of Iran’s pro-democracy movement “don’t matter, not because they are, admittedly, modest and inconclusive, but because the objective isn’t to get Obama to do ‘more,’ but to get him out of the White House”:

This means attacking everything the administration does or doesn’t do about Iran, no matter the inconsistency. One minute, Bill Kristol is scolding Obama for not aiding the Greens in regime change, the next he’s arguing that an American attack on Iran would result in a more inward-looking, cautious Iranian regime — in other words, diminishing the likelihood of revolution and regime change.

Are these arguments consistent? No. Must they be? Of course not. So long as they can be used to raise Obama’s negatives here in the States, they needn’t mean a thing for actual Iranians.

This really can’t be said enough: Kristol and his gang aren’t interested in helping Iranian democrats any more than they’re interested in “keeping America safe.” They’re interested in helping conservatives take and hold power.