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Iran’s costly fake ‘democracy’

The real regional problem is that the current US administration trusts the Tehran regime more than the Iranians do...

Eyad Abu Shakra

Published: Updated:

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 ended 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 Rowhani’s presidential elections’ ‘victory’ through Ali Khamenei’s (the Supreme Guide) democratic process in 2013, and Khamenei’s “fatwas” against the development of nuclear weapons.

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.

The current Iranian regime is underpinned on a solid theocratic – security base that monopolizes the right to choose who runs for the Majlis

Eyad Abu Shakra

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 issue of Kurdish “independence”, 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. This was exactly what both Washington and Moscow desired to justify giving Iran a greater regional role at the expense of the Arabs.

Imminent threat

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 outlets.

This is exactly what has happened in Maliki’s Iraq, Assad’s Syria, Hezbollah’s Lebanon and the Houthis’ Yemen. Tehran plans to 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, 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 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-state 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, forgetting the “incubator” of the ISIS discourse, and the simple fact that extremism begets extremism.

O Democracy! What crimes are committed in thy name!”

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Mar. 02, 2016.

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Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.