Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Iran and democracy

Bush on Iran in the State of the Union speech:
a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people. The regime in that country sponsors terrorists in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon - and that must come to an end.  The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions - and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons.

America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats. And tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our Nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran.
But just how undemocratic is Iran now? More detail on something I mentioned a couple of months ago (via Greg):
Tehran, Iran, Dec. 02 – Several hundred officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the military force that has served as the main pillar of support for Iran’s clerical rulers, have been appointed to senior government positions by the hard-line administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [...]. President Ahmadinejad is spearheading an unprecedented purge of officials appointed by his two predecessors, Mohammad Khatami and Ali-Akbar Rafsanjani [...]

“He [Ahmadinejad] is virtually handing over the bureaucracy to Sepah (IRGC) and the consequences are going to be huge”, a former official with close ties to Hashemi Rafsanjani told Iran Focus. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he said, “Anyone seen as a protégé of Hashemi [Rafsanjani] is being booted out without any hesitation”.

The official explained that certain domains of the economy and foreign policy, including the oil and banking sectors, have been under Rafsanjani’s control on the basis of an unwritten agreement between the former president and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The latest purges have wrested control of the most important economic sectors from Rafsanjani’s entourage, including his sons.

Ahmadinejad’s Foreign Ministry has already announced the recall of around 40 ambassadors and senior diplomats. The Interior Ministry has been changing provincial governors and security officials and other ministries have witnessed similar purges. Culture Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi criticised the former government for allowing un-Islamic works to be published and performed and said he was replacing most key officials in the ministry.
[...]
The former official [...] said the Supreme Leader was the driving force behind the purges. “They planned the purges well before the [presidential] elections in June.[...] First they seriously undermined Hashemi [Rafsanjani] by handing him an embarrassing defeat in the elections. Then they mounted a huge ‘anti-corruption’ media campaign, targeting Hashemi’s sons and friends. Next, they purged all his protégés. Now they are prodding the judiciary to publish the ‘list of corrupt officials’ that they have prepared as another blow to Hashemi”.

Rafsanjani publicly rebuked the massive purges last month, saying that the purge was “damaging unity in the country and could exacerbate foreign pressure on the Islamic Republic”. "A current in Iran is trying to banish competent officials and it is harming the country like a plague," Rafsanjani told a gathering of Friday Prayer leaders on November 16.
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