2003 May 08 Thursday
Over Half Of Iranian Legislature Call For Reforms

Iran's elected deputies of their Majlis legislature have written a letter calling for reform of the Iranian government.

An open letter, signed by 153 deputies in the 290-seat Majlis and read out in the chamber on Wednesday, said Iran was in "a critical situation" and the ruling establishment risked losing the support of the people, who had overwhelmingly voted for reform.

The US invasion of Iraq has emboldened the elected deputies of Iran's Majlis legislature. These deputies are toothless since any legislation they pass that the ruling Mullahs disagree with can be cancelled by the Mullahs.

The American presence on both borders is emboldening the reformers.

"Following the installation of American forces in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq, the threat has arrived at our borders," it said. "We, the reformist parliamentary deputies, have seen these conditions and are of the opinion that to escape from this situation the solution is to push forward reforms and attract confidence at home and abroad," the MPs wrote.

The Majlis deputies may be motivated as much by fear of being voted out of office in the next election.

"The majority of Iranians are waiting for reforms, but have reached the conclusion that their votes are meaningless," the MPs wrote, citing the low turnout in February's municipal elections that saw backers of embattled moderate President Mohammad Khatami suffer an unprecedented defeat.

If only the Islamists are motivated to get out and vote then the reformists are going to be voted out of office in large numbers. You can therefore read their letter as a desperate attempt to improve their chances in the next election.

From that previous passage and this passage here and it is clear that the deputies are telling the Mullahs that unless they do reforms to get more popular support for the government the people of Iran will be unwilling to defend Iran against an American invasion.

The reference to voter apathy was coupled with an observation of the course of the US-led invasion of Iraq, during which "the Iraqi people stood by without any reaction during the occupation of their country".

This is the most powerful argument they can make. Whether the argument will have enough impact on the Mullahs to loosen up their reigns of control any and to give up some power to democratically elected officials remains to be seen. Count me skeptical.

On a related note Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi says Iran wants to have normalized relations with the United States

"Iran wants to expand its relations with all countries, even with the United States," he said after meeting in Luxembourg Wednesday with Lydie Polfer.

He can say that but there are two problems with this statement: First, the ruling Mullahs have to give permission to the elected government to normalize relations. Second, the US has to have some reason to want to agree. Iran is about to become a nuclear power and is in Bush's Axis Of Evil. Unless the Mullahs want to abandon their nuclear program what would be the point of normalizing relations with them?

Update: Some analysts see the US invasion of Iraq and establishment of a democracy there as having an effect mainly in the longer term as the example of the democracy becomes seen by the people in the region.

Bernard Lewis, an emeritus professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University and a well-known expert on Islam and the Middle East, said that a major fear among the ruling theocratic regimes in the Middle East, such as Iran, is that the American effort to bring democracy to Iraq will be successful and spread liberal ideas to their countries.

"A secular democracy in Iraq will be threat to the governments of Syria, Iran and other countries in the region. It is in Iran that this fear of secular democracy in Iraq is most strongly felt and with a variety of reasons," Lewis said at the conference.

Development of a secular democracy in Iraq will take years. Therefore the full impact it will have on people in neighboring countries still lies years into the future. This does little to help the US today deal with Iran's fairly advanced nuclear weapons development program.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 May 08 11:08 AM  Axis Of Evil


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