Talking to myself about foreign policy, US politics, technology, &c.

Partial Democracy as Ice Cream Cone

The NYT has a great piece on ongoing dissent in Iran. While Ahmadinejad has bloodily quieted the streets, within the government struggles continue.

The most powerful quote:

A dissident senior cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, once in line to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic, released a letter on his Web site that struck at the moral and religious credentials of the leadership, saying it had chosen a “deviant path.”

“I hope they will compensate for their damages and not hold innocents in prison any longer,” he wrote, “and end the legal trials and the broadcasting of confessions, so that they no longer mock the Islamic judiciary; or at least have the courage to announce that this government is neither a republic nor is it Islamic.”

Oooh, snap! A bit of the power of constitutional democracy on display. While authoritarian, Iran’s always had something of a liberal mask; after all, apart from Israel & Turkey they were the most democratic system in the Middle East. But that has been ripped away. On the same principle that you don’t take an ice cream cone away from a toddler, this may have been a significant strategic error.

There’s a lot of smart, educated middle-class people in Iran who were already chafing under the religious thuggishness. Not that it is clear they are living under a dictatorship, who knows what the long-term consequences might be.

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