Political Islam Is Dead

By Amir Fakhravar and G. William Heiser

Four days after the events that ended Mohammed Morsi's presidency on July 3, 2013, the Islamic Republic's Foreign Ministry finally announced the regime's official stance on this development. "We do not consider proper the intervention by military forces in politics to replace a democratically elected administration," said Ministry spokesman Abbas Araghchi.

The Islamic Republic ruling class was at first elated when Morsi was elected president and was hoping that a Muslim Brotherhood member would help establish political and economic ties with Egypt that had been all but non-existent since the advent of the Islamic Republic in 1979. They praised the "Arab Spring" and even Supreme Leader Khamenei claimed that it was inspired by the Islamic Revolution in Iran. While all overtures were being turned down by Cairo, the surprising acceptance of Morsi to attend the Non-Aligned Summit Movement in Tehran in August 2012 once again raised the hopes of the officials in Tehran and became the leading news story in the Iranian media. Morsi, in his one-day trip to Tehran, shocked his hosts in his speech at the opening session of the summit. Ironically, he spoke of the struggle for freedom by the Palestinian and Syrian peoples and said that the Assad regime had lost all legitimacy.

Morsi's statements a year ago infuriated and publicly embarassed the Islamic Republic officials. After all, supporting Syria financially, politically and militarily is the hallmark of the Islamic Republic's foreign policy. Logically, its Foreign Ministry should have taken a stance like Assad himself and rejoiced in the removal of Morsi from power. The four day delay in an official reaction to the developments in Egypt today indicates the public statements released by the Foreign Ministry were carefully considered.

Less than a month ago, the Islamic Republic held its presidential election during which Iranians had a choice of eight candidates each selected by the Guardian Council. Frustrated by the detrimental policies of the past eight years during which hardliners dominated Iranian politics and hoping for at least some possibility of change, 36% of Iran's eligible voters voted for the least worst candidate, Hassan Rouhani. Interestingly, the second tier of eligible voters (27%) did not vote at all, and was followed by a distant 12% for the next leading candidate. While 63% of Iranians, according to official results announced by the Islamic Republic, desperately cried out for change in their own way, Khamenei hailed this election as a "political epic." Like all of the hand-selected candidates, Rouhani was a trusted underling who posed no threat to the seat of the Supreme leader or his policies.

The inevitable failure of Rouhani in meeting the demands of Iranian voters is becoming more obvious even to his staunchest supporters. Former "reformist" president, Khatami, who stood behind Rouhani during the elections, has already started a soft campaign asking Iranian voters to lower their expectations. Rouhani who promised the voters a hundred-day plan to improve the economic situation, now has declared that the situation is worse than the years of war (Iran/Iraq), implying that his campaign promises would not be fulfilled once he takes office.

Iranian youth were the first in the region to voice their protest to their government four years ago. Millions of Iranians marched on the streets of Tehran and other major cities. What began as a mass protest against rigged elections quickly turned into a protest against the Islamic Republic, its Supreme Leader and his destructive policies. Brave young Iranians did the unthinkable and stood against the brutal forces of the regime. But with the regime's violent crackdown and lack of international support, their confidence dwindled and the freedom movement became less visible.

Today, the events in Egypt, are more than signs that political Islam has failed. They remind us all of the principles enshrined in America's Declaration of Independence, especially that when confronted by despotism, it is the right and duty of the prople to throw off such a government. Furthermore, those seeking a free, democratic and secular Egypt prevailed without international and the current U.S. administration's support.

When the Islamic Republic's Foreign Ministry asserts that replacing a democratically elected administration is improper and that elections and not "the streets" should decide who is president of Egypt, it is not just defending Morsi. The Tehran regime sees in Morsi's removal at the hands of the Egyptian people a glimpse of its own fate.

Khamenei, the hardliners and the reformers all know that Khamenei's "political epic" presidential election has only postponed the inevitable. Even the most optimistic and least demanding Iranian voters will soon realize that the new Iranian president will not and cannot relieve the oppression they suffer under Khamenei's tyranny.

It is at that moment when a public declaration of freedom will be sounded and "the streets" of Tehran will decide on a new leader for Iran.

Amir Fakhravar is President of the Iranian Freedom Institute, Secretary General of the Confederation of Iranian Students, and a former political prisoner of the Islamic Republic. He is presently a Research Fellow and Visiting Lecturer at the Institute of World Politics. G. William Heiser is a former official in the Reagan National Security Council Staff and is an Advisor to the Iranian Freedom Institute and the Confederation of Iranian Students.

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