In my beginning is my end - T.S. Eliot.
When it comes to the Iranian Presidency, Mohammad Khatami's surname has a special significance. In one of its senses, the Arabic name means: the last one, the finisher or the concluder. It is an apt designation for a president whose second term of office looks increasingly like the death convulsion of a diseased and infected political system.
Signs of this painful death are everywhere. The country is in a state of crisis and the ruling establishment is taking oppressive measures in desperation. A famous Iranian satirist addressing Mohammad Khatami in an open letter illustrates the shear fear experienced by any Iranian who dares to think and question the unbearable violations of basic human rights in his or her country. Asking for the release of a fellow writer from prison, Ebrahim Nabavi writes of how he would prefer an American occupation, to a government which in the name of national independence tramples upon the rights of its citizens.
Yet in spite of all the death threats, tortures and imprisonments the population shows no sign of being cowed or silenced. The Islamic Republic is moving towards its demise with a velocity commensurate with the unrelenting speed of our nation's civic awakening and political confidence.
For scholars who will study the history of the post-revolutionary Iran, it will be a point of significant interest to draw an analogy between the present critical period and the uncertain early stages of the revolution. There are numerous similarities for instance between Mohammad Khatami and Mehdi Bazargan, two cosmetic heads of state since the 1979 revolution. They both enjoyed popular support, but failed to translate that support into political power. They both cultivated the public image of a suave, mild mannered family man, not tough enough to stand up to the crude and unscrupulous hardliners. The two men also served as a camouflage to divert the attention of the world and the Iranian public from the true nature of the Islamic Republic as a flagrant violator of human rights and international law.
As Bazargan appeared in his sweet and avuncular style welcoming Iranians and the world into an era of peace and democracy based on a tolerant interpretation of Islam, the revolutionary henchmen were working against the clock pursuing their lethal policy of mass murder and planning the take over of foreign embassies.
It is significant that in its moribund condition, the Islamic Republic is putting on the same Janus mask it wore at its inception. To prolong its survival and hang on to power as long as possible the clerical dictatorship is following a bifurcated agenda. This agenda consists on the one hand of turning on the diplomatic charm, and on the other pursuing a virulent plan for exacerbating regional destabilization and intensifying global terrorism.
Today the smiling face of the Islamic Republic is represented by Mohammad Khatami who has painted himself as the promoter of dialogue among civilizations. His emissaries of trade and expansion of friendly cooperation seem to be everywhere from Jordan to Armenia, from the European Union to Lebanon and Syria. They are shaking hands with everything that sticks out horizontally and offer blank checks to friends and foes. In the meanwhile the Mr Jekyll face of the regime is busy implementing its covert plans for arming terrorist groups, beefing up extremist elements and promoting regional instability. An article by Michael Gordon published in The International Herald Tribune dated April 30th 2003 indicates that "According to U.S. reports, between 1,500 and 5,000 Badr fighters have left Iran for northern Iraq in recent months. Iranian agents are believed to be among them... In addition to the Badr group, U.S. officials are concerned that officials from Iran's intelligence service and its Revolutionary Guard are meddling in Iraq."
Taken aback and increasingly worried by the quick victory of the Americans over Saddam Hussein the government in Tehran, seeks to gain as much clout as possible to use at the bargaining table. History has shown that the only way it knows to gain clout is by sabotaging peace and creating international insecurity. The alpha and omega of the Islamic Republic is violence.
What worked in favor of the regime in 1979, however is not going to work two and a half decades later. In spite of sharing many traits with Mehdi Bazargan, Mohammad Khatami today is facing a totally different set of circumstances. What kept the revolutionary government afloat during Bazargan's chaotic and ineffective prime ministership was Khomeini's overwhelming charisma and undeniable power. Today Khatami cannot count on that factor to come to the rescue of the Islamic Republic. Not for the obvious reason of Khomeini being no longer alive, but because our nation during the past twenty-four years has gained a political maturity that will act as a proof against that kind of demagoguery.
Secondly, the Islamic Republic today does not have the luxury of dealing with a naive U.S. administration as it did during the Presidency of Jimmy Carter. American Foreign policy today is informed by the valuable lesson that the cancer of terrorism can be eradicated only by strong resolve and not by pampering the malignant tumors. President Bush's selection on May 1, 2003 of L. Paul Bremer, a former counterterrorism director in the Reagan administration, as a civilian administrator for Iraq reveals how clearly the Americans have understood the depth and nature of the danger posed to their national interest and the international security. As the Chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism, Bremer addressing the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June 2000, said that "Iran is still the most egregious state-sponsor of terrorism, despite the election of a reformist president"
This is the preponderant view in Washington of our country's so called reform movement. Moreover it is of great importance that this is the view of a person who is going to preside over civil administration in neighboring Iraq. We do not however need to hear this from Mr Bremer or President Bush to believe it is true. We have seen and experienced it every day that Mohammad Khatami and his reform movement are a tall tale. A tale as tall as it was told our nation about imminent victory over Iraq and the promise of our troops capturing Najaf and Karbala during a war that was responsible for the slaughtering of half a million of our sons and daughters. No Mephistophelian professor or conniving Dr Faustus today rooting for President Khatami will be able to deceive us into forgoing our common sense and losing time and energy on reforming and mending a ship that is sailing our country closer and closer to the edge of doom.
Moreover what has dramatically changed since Bazargan's era is that the Islamic Republic is not facing a group of divided and dispirited political foes. It is not dealing with a miscellany of Maoists, Trotskyites or Islamic Marxists that enjoy no affinity with the indigenous Iranian tradition. Instead it is confronted with an increasingly unified, and confident opposition gathered around a pillar with even deeper roots within our civilization than the Islamic faith itself.
Monarchy, whatever our people may decide to do with it in the future, at present has become a halfway house in our national journey to democracy and a fertile ground for cultivation and promotion of 'people's power'. While twenty-four years ago it was outré to seek it as a political platform, today it has been able to transform itself into a genuine grassroots movement.
We can only gather under our national flag with colors and the emblem we love as we say goodbye to terrorism, goodbye to human rights violations, good bye to international isolation, goodbye to poverty, goodbye to religious persecution, and yes, goodbye to Mr. the End.
Iran Va Jahan offers updated news and commentary on Iran in 4 languages: Farsi, English, German and French. Visit the website at http://iranvajahan.net/english/