SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
Several readers have asked what I meant in saying that “The myth of the Islamic Republic has been shaken by its roots.” Let me unpack this a bit. At the core of the state created following the 1979 revolution was an attempt to update the political theology of Shi’a Islam. A theocratic model in which a religious figure was to be installed as Supreme Leader with ultimate political authority was balanced in two ways. First, the
Expediency Council was created as a body of religious experts to select the Supreme Leader and potentially also remove him or check his exercise of power. Second, an elected presidency and parliament were also created. The president exercises the executive powers not given to the Supreme Leader, and the parliament is the legislative body. The whole concept of the system involves a democratic model which is subject to theocratic limits, with the balance being struck consistently in favor of the theocracy. The myth of the Islamic Republic—and I am using the term myth in the sense of political philosophy, not necessarily as a disparaging term–is that this is an updating of the medieval models, serving to imbue the government with the legitimacy of popular consent. But current events point to the system’s inherent fault line: what happens when the democratic mandate cannot be reconciled with the theocratic leadership? Moreover, what happens when the theocratic leaders attempt a coup d’état to remove the democratic component of the government and install their own puppet? We’re witnessing a severe stressing of this system now, and it reveals a real allocation of power which is at odds with the theoretical one. The radical clerical party appears to hold all the cards, and the constitutional checks on their power so far appear ineffective.
Reza Aslan is reporting now that maneuvers are underway within the
Expediency Council—that its chair, Rafsanjani, has convened a meeting in the city of Qom. This could be a momentous event, and in any event, it is threatening to Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader. But together with the strong and rather underappreciated statement against the elections issued by the most senior of the ayatollahs, Montazeri, it also shows that the fissure lines are not simply between the reformers and the clerical party, but even within the clerical party. Reza Aslan discusses these developments with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow here:
Also note that the Ahmadinejad government has been caught photoshopping again. It took photographs of yesterday’s pro-Ahmadinejad rally and manipulated them to make the crowds look as big as those which swelled Tehran at the anti-government rally. It’s now clear that notwithstanding all the blandishments his government could offer, Ahmadinejad is not as strong a draw as his opponents. And this fact is extremely telling in terms of the legitimacy of the claimed voting results.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Minutes after a tornado hit Shiloh, Illinois, in April that the town’s warning siren sounded:
A bowl of 4,000-year-old noodles was found in northwestern China; and a spokesman for the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that “this is the earliest empirical evidence of noodles ever found.”
Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, announced that he has ordered the country’s navy and coast guard to bomb the ships of kidnappers even if civilian hostages are on board.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."