Whether or Not Ahmadinejad Weathers the Iran Election Probe, Khamenei Is Still in Charge

It's nice that they have to go through the motions, but the mullahs remain in charge.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

In a perverse way, the alleged Iranian vote-rigging is reassuring and a bit gratifying: It's a concession on the part of the country's unelected leaders—starting with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—that they require at least a patina of legitimacy that neither Allah nor the Koran can grant them. And once they start seeking that earthly legitimacy, they are obliged to continue to make nods and efforts in that direction. And that ain't beans.

As Steve Clemons notes:

Whether the outside world believes Iran had a genuine democracy or not, the Iranian people for the most part strongly believe that they had a democracy with a theocratic foundation.

In fact, in the Iranian narrative, the United States robbed Iran of its real chance at democracy in 1953, when Prime Minister Mohammed Massadegh was overthrown in a coup with American support.

Now there is a strong possibility that a large number of Iranians feel that the current villain in robbing them of their democratic voice is a wing of their own government, including the Supreme Leader himself, and thus true believers in Iran's Islamic revolution are now deeply divided and angry that a legitimacy that they believe they acquired has now been undermined.

So given the backlash against the notion that the election was stolen, Khamenei announced that he has asked the Guardian Council ( composed of clerics and lay member allies) to examine the notion that last week's elections might have been something less than legitimate. I don't mean to sound too taken with the innate power of democracy. Iranian authorities are using a favored tool of all repressive regimes in the face of reformist protest: Violence. And even if the backlash is such that Ahmadinejad ( A-Jad to his friends) finds himself out of a job, we should not forget who runs Iran.

As Hot Air's Ed Morrissey opined this morning:

Of course, that's why they have Ahmadinejad in the first place. The mullahs use the president and the assembly for two reasons. It gives the illusion of participatory democracy in a country strictly run by a panel of theocrats, which keeps the pressure off of the mullahs most of the time. When the pressure becomes too intense, as it appears to be getting at the moment, this mechanism also provides handy patsies to toss to the crowds.

Don't forget that the mullahs hand-picked these candidates from the beginning, including Mirhossein Mousavi, who apparently was meant to be a credibility-boosting loser for the Guardian Council but won a lot more votes than they had guessed he would. The mullahs can put Mousavi in the office and still run the country just as they have done since 1979...

So regardless of how this turns out Iran's leadership will remain fundamentally in place. But it's gratifying to see them at least squirm with having to deal with the rights of their citizens.

Exit question: Remember during the presidential campaign when McCain and the Republicans kept saying that Obama wanted to negotiate with A-Jad without preconditions? Some critics snickered when Obama pointed out that Ahmadinejad was not actually in charge in Iran. Just goes to show...

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