Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Why Did Protests Erupt In Iran?


aljazeera |  The Islamic Republic of Iran is the platypus of humanity's political evolution.

Episodic Iranian unrest, from the focused, reformist uprising of 2009 (led by middle-class protesters of Tehran) to the current, wildly rejectionist riots (spearheaded by the underclass and the unemployed in the poor neighborhoods of provincial towns) cannot be understood in isolation from that melange of procedural democracy and obscurantist theocracy that was crammed into the constitution of revolutionary Iran, four decades ago.

Deep within Iran's authoritarian system there is a tiny democratic heart, complete with elective, presidential and parliamentary chambers, desperately beating against an unyielding, theocratic exoskeleton. That palpitating democratic heart has prolonged the life of the system - despite massive mismanagement of the domestic and international affairs by the revolutionary elites.

But it has failed to soften the authoritarian carapace. The reform movement has failed in its mission because the constitution grants three quarters of the political power to the office of the "Supreme Leader": an unelected, permanent appointment whereby a "religious jurist" gains enormous powers, including command of the armed forces and foreign policy, veto power over presidential cabinets and parliamentary initiatives, and the world's most formidable Pretorian Guard (IRGC), with military, paramilitary, intelligence, judicial and extrajudicial powers to enforce the will of its master.

The democratically-elected president and parliament (let alone the media and ordinary citizens) have no prayer of checking the powers of the Supreme Leader. As a result, the system has remained opaque, blind to its own flaws, resistant to growth and incapable of adaptation to its evolving internal and external environments.