Far away from the corporate course of managed information and at a distance from the bromide cliches being spouted by a network of America-centered Iranians who lost in Iran 30 years ago and will lose again today, take a look at Islamic Iran from another, quite different angle.
Independent Islamic Iran, decades ahead of vassal American nation states in the region like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, has had many free and fair elections in the past 30 years: local and national. The presidential elections, that are held every four years, however carry with them a particular domestic and international weight, mainly because the president’s office, to a certain extent, may probe foreign policy potentials and may effectuate certain economic and businesslike policies.
During this recent election the two principal contenders for the coming four years of foreign and economic policies were Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi. Both are loyal to the concept of an Islamic government, yet have different outlooks regarding the day-to-day operations of such a government — and it is here that they split the electoral vote: about 24 million going to Ahmadinejad and 14 million to Mousavi.
Here are some observations about this historical election. It appeared that the other three candidates — Mousavi, Mehdi Karoubi, and Mohsen Reza’ie — teamed up against Ahmadinejad. It appeared like there was no competition among those three as much as there was between them and Ahmadinejad. Those that reviewed the election debates and the challengers’ information sites would have sensed this anti-Ahmadinejad political campaign by erstwhile conservatives and newfangled reformers. At times it appeared that Ahmadinejad was “cornered” and he lashed back at his accusers in a manner that was deemed “out of character.” To some observers, the televised debates seemed as though they were attempts to put Ahmadinejad on public trial for his policies of the past four years.
This media scenario of a seemingly beleaguered Ahmadinejad went down very well with the anticipations of the urban, educated class of “social scientists” whose degrees hail from American and European universities. Even a good number of students from Iran’s universities were comfortable with the “ganging up” against President Ahmadinejad. Little was it noticed or highlighted that the silent majority of people in the countryside, in the lower classes, and in certain trends within the Hawzah were identifying with a victimized Ahmadinejad. The ordinary person in Islamic Iran — and they constitute the majority of the population — considered Ahmadinejad to be one of their own. And he pretty much said what was on their minds. Ahmadinejad comes across to the average person in the Republic as honest, modest, and free of artificiality. His body is slim just like theirs; his face is not puffed up with the layers of affluence that come from being a “president.” One could easily confuse Ahmadinejad with any worker or craftsman in a field or in a shop.
The majority of people in Islamic Iran know Ahmadinejad’s simple lifestyle well. He comes from a blacksmith family in the small town of Aradan — which has about forty families — a place so vague and remote that it barely appears on the map!
Like all country people, Ahmadinejad is very meek and “religious.” He is not known for being ostentatious — he is not a man who likes to attract notice and impress others. And during the past four years when all his citizens were watching he was not contaminated by the disease of aristocracy and of the ruling class: vanity. On the people’s watch — during these past four years — he was working long hours (even his adversaries and political enemies confess) 16 to 18 hours a day. He was doing all this to improve the lot of the poor people; he wanted to improve their condition. His aim was to alleviate their hardships and be their public servant. He raised the minimum wage as well as retirement pensions. Does it come as surprise to anyone that poor people all over the country would vote for him as president for the next four years? Is anyone surprised to see the elites, the upper classes of society, and the power-hungry annoyed by such a humble person and his populist policies?
On the other hand, the other candidates were, in the eyes of the majority, saddled with a lifetime of bureaucratic images. In the public mind, Mir Hossein Mousavi cannot escape his close ties with Mohammad Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani, both of whom had their opportunity as president to formulate foreign and economic policies. One brought us “Iran first” and the other the “Dialogue of Civilizations” neither of which could be used as “selling points” in this election.
To reiterate, the lower classes of people are the majority in Iran. And since his election four years ago, Ahmadinejad made it a point to go every month for one week to a different region of the country along with some of his advisers and listen to what the people had to say to him directly, and to contribute to solving their problems and improving their well being. Going into this election, Ahmadinejad had established himself as the people’s president, a populist by any definition. Can anyone dispute the fact that Ahmadinejad won the hearts and the votes of the laborers, the farmers, the working classes and the under classes? And who are these, if they are not at least two thirds of the population?
On the competing side is Mir Hossein Mousavi, a prime minister during eight years of the imposed war on the Islamic Republic but he has been in political occultation for the past 20 years. His last political appearances left many with the impression that he was on the political left yet firmly within the “conservative” circles at that time. Now he has emerged from his political absence on the side of the “reformers,” or at least within their crowds. From what is known, two ex-presidents, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, back him. The latter occasionally joined him on his campaign trail taking the field and pushing for Mousavi. Khatami may have been compensating for Mousavi’s lack of oratorical skills. Some observers and analysts who compared the Mousavi of 20 or 30 years ago with the one they saw in this campaign noticed a character makeover. He is not the same Mousavi they knew from the earlier days.
Mousavi’s campaign presented him as a “moderate” — without any apologies and in the full sense of the word! His campaign was interspersed with talk about public freedoms, women’s rights, the youth, and political plurality. But what raised many eyebrows was his call for rapprochement with the West and a flexible policy toward the United States of America. His rationale was to extricate Iran from political isolation in which Ahmadinejad had placed it with his harsh words, fierce rhetoric, and controversial statements!
Mousavi maintained Iran’s right to continue with its nuclear program — a point common to all candidates — the only difference being the degree of flexibility or intransigence towards that end by the Iranian negotiator.
Mousavi painted Ahmadinejad as being an extremist and someone who provoked Western fears when discussing Iran’s nuclear program. He promised to assuage the West’s fears and gain the confidence of the Euro-American team of nations that are opposed to Iran’s nuclear program through a new combination of alternate language and programs.
Another eye-popping remark by Mousavi at a conference at Tehran University was his motto of “Iran First.” On another occasion, he expressed his reservations about the support going from the Islamic Republic to Hizbullah and Hamas. In this context Mousavi said that our government speaks about the dignity of the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples while ignoring the dignity of the Iranian people, in a bleak reference to inflation and unemployment.
Some of Mousavi’s supporters said he will put an end to the looting of the Iranian treasury — money that is going to “foreign causes.” To use a cliche, when your house needs heating fuel, you are not permitted to take it to the masjid. Ahmadinejad’s camp countered: how can Mousavi be a promoter of the revolution and a follower of Imam Khomeini when he is promoting such ideas? Imam Khomeini in his defense of the people of Iran was simultaneously keen on folding back imperialism and Zionism. The Imam was not hesitant when it came to full liberation from the evil schemes of imperialism and Zionism.
Mousavi’s political rivals could not resist commenting on the color green which is his campaign’s official color by saying green here means a green light for American imperialism to crash the Islamic government in Iran.
After knowing all this, does it surprise anyone that the upper classes voted for Mousavi? And is anyone surprised that upper class Tehran took to the streets when their numbers fell short of the lower classes that voted for Ahmadinejad?
Finally, the remarks that follow may strain some people’s memory but they need stating. During the first political generations of Islam after the Prophet (s) there were credentialed Muslims who believed in an Islamic government. Some of them spent their lives fighting for an Islamic government. But they differed on methods and priorities. Some of them wanted an “Arab First” government. Some of them wanted to be relieved of the “global burdens” of an Islamic government; others wanted to get on with life and improve their standard of living. And for 1,400 years we have been suffering from that political deviation. President Ahmadinejad brings back to the Muslims the voices that were crowded out by nationalism and class interests in the early generations of Islam. A vote for him is not simply a vote for the president of Iran, it is a vote for Imam ‘Ali against Mu‘wiyah, a vote for Imam Hussein against Yazid, a vote for the underclasses of Madinah against the elites of Makkah, a vote for the Imams against monarchy, a vote for Che Guevara against his executioners, a vote for Hugo Chavez against US imperialism, a vote for the Palestinians against their Sionist murderers, and a vote for the mustad‘afin against the mustakbirin.
This should explain why the US is more interested in the elections in Iran than they were in their own. This explains why CNN, the BBC and other mouthpieces of imperialism are championing the wrong side of history.
Ahmadinejad’s political enemies, as fervent as their Shi‘i rituals are, were they to win would have in their own ways put us back on the slippery slope of the post-khilafah era.