Get Behind Mashaei
by COLUMNIST in Tehran
14 Sep 2010 20:34
[ satire ] For almost every ailment, there is a cure. Ailments, and thus cures, vary in degree. Some serious ailments require drastic measures in pursuit of a possible cure that risk life itself. A few ailments don't have cures at all -- but I'm sure we can agree to ignore those.
For our homeland's many ailments, there are many cures -- some radical and some not so radical.
The voices and actions of Iranian expats in the diaspora convey the anguish and frustrations of three decades of seeing the fabric of their homeland torn and the lives of so many of their country people destroyed by a regime that brutally honest types sometimes insist on describing as fascist.
Of course, we are no exceptions when it comes to feeling powerless in the face of tyranny. Most human beings throughout the ages have felt the same. The reach of new media allows us to show off this frustration and hatred to all who wish to see it around the world. But in truth, the end result is the same for us as it was for our compatriots 90 years ago and more who fought the tyranny of their times -- those who from their bases in Europe, Istanbul, and Cairo published newspapers and periodicals articulating the plight of the people and urging the masses to support the constitutionalists. Although they were very influential in bringing enlightenment to the language and culture of the movement, that did not stop the despots then and it will not do so now.
I must ask this question of you as I have been asking it of myself: What can be done? To draw up a master plan for the fall of the regime through political action, even revolution, is beyond the realm of my abilities. To raise an insurrection or start a guerrilla war is also not within my capacity. Here, I believe, I can substitute "our" for "my" because, with the exception of those who betrayed the motherland by allying themselves with Saddam during the war years, no one has been able to assemble an army or spark an insurgency at a large enough scale to bring change.
So what are the alternatives? Peaceful marches and civil disobedience are very appealing, but the regime has responded to such actions so ruthlessly that, to put it mildly, they entail the same risks as starting a guerrilla campaign. For taking part in the latter, they will kill you without hesitation, and as they have demonstrated in the case of the Green Movement, they will also kill you for taking part in the former -- with maybe a little hesitation...or not.
So what are the other alternatives? I believe that there are no short-term options. The good opposition camp folks on satellite TV and the Internet can't be serious if they think our youth and the few enlightened oldsters here in the country should continue to march and die so that freedom can rise from their blood. Here's a rule: Don't back the blood theory unless you're prepared to be a donor.
The fact is that the regime is shaking but not breaking. The mad rush to rip off the treasury through manipulating control of almost all economic enterprises owned or run by the government (the country, in other words!) by the newcomers -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's gang, under the guise of the Revolutionary Guard -- is now in direct competition with the mad grip of the old team -- Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, under the guise of the mullahs -- who are trying to keep their economic fiefdoms intact.
Yes, I too am happy about how the infighting is "making them weak," but when you stay here in the country for a while you can see what a false impression that is. The regime as a whole maintains an iron hold on the system, as well as large portions of the population.
Without any doubt it is shaking, but only from the foot stumping of the oligarchs threatening each other -- not much more than that. It still prosecutes ruthlessly and rewards submission generously, and so it will keep on going as long as there is oil, and gas coming out of the ground, and mineral riches to reap and pay off its supporters with. The regime has created a mafia in the purest and most effective sense: the gang is all in, just like Chicago in the Al Capone days. But there is no Eliot Ness here. And anyway, the majority of non-government workers and businesses don't pay taxes, so catching the thugs on tax evasion won't work.
With this perspective, I do think there is a little crack that if explored and properly exploited could in fact create great momentum for change. The little crack is simply the Ahmadinejad apparatus, which is desperately seeking to find a successor to the president. And from everything I see and hear, it is Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei who is in the lead. Yes, he is the little crack that can become the big hole and in fact cause phenomenal change not by his enlightened ways but by his mere presence at this time and at this juncture in the history of the regime. I am sure you all have heard similar talk and may hold similar views. But all the talk does not explain how we as Iranians can take advantage of this opportunity, contribute to it. I believe every one of us can, should, must help. How you ask? By coming back! Yes! By coming back and supporting Mashaei's candidacy and giving him legitimacy over all others.
It sounds radical, I know. To most of you outside Iran, it may seem at first unacceptable, to think of supporting anyone who has risen from within this regime. But think of the alternatives!
Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, is certainly positioning himself to make a run. Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Majles (parliament) is another potential candidate. These two will extend the life of the Islamic regime by potentially another 20 to 30 years through remedial work that they know can restore much of its power through the mullah-cracy. Fanatics each, they support the belief that the Supreme Leader is truly a supreme human being and must be adhered to at all cost -- especially insofar as that boosts their own power grabs, of course.
They will do for the regime what Khatami did during his eight years: buy it more time to find more ways of suppressing the people and build a stronger position for the mullahs.
But Mashaei is cut from a different cloth. To him, the ideology of power is just that -- power! He is cunning to the max. He is an ex-spy with deep roots in the regime's security apparatus (as part of the Intelligence Ministry, he worked undercover, using an alias, in Kurdistan). He is clearly interested in getting the attention, support, and votes of the young people who want to be rid of the mullahs and their oppressive religious order. All you need to do is go over his public statements for the past year to see what he is aiming at. He is going to be more of a populist than Ahmadinejad -- with a twist. And here is the rub for you and me: He knows that without the support of more than six million educated Iranians who live and work outside of the country that he can not run the nation the way he wants to. He wants us back in a bad way. He does not care about our politics, as long as we don't advocate armed insurrection. He does not care about our religion, as long as we don't proselytize. And he certainly does not mind our hatred of the mullahs, since he thinks their era is over.
So you may ask: Why come back? We can vote for him, even contribute to his campaign, from anywhere. But then you would be missing the point. Let me present a simple overview of the basic components of a classic system. There are five such components: Input-Process-Output-Feedback-Control. In the simplest form of system theory, there is a lot of data to support the garbage-in, garbage-out model. System theorists and experts more elaborately define the impact of "input" on "output" through the effects of "feedback" on the "process." Politicians in dictatorships typically set "controls" to make sure the input is of their choosing, so the output will be as they desire.
The mullahs have been doing this with great success. They have been building mosques and feeding the villagers -- those in the countryside and those recently transplanted to the cities -- and brainwashing them to believe in every nonsense that one can imagine through manipulation of religious dogma and beliefs. They have been putting these folks through the system as inputs, consenting and ready to do as the regime wants them to.
Now there is an opportunity to change the input. When you become the uncontrolled input of a different quality into a system that has been brainwashing its people into mediocrity and blind submission, the output will not be what the regime has been relying on. Khatami knew this and tried to get you and me to come back -- but not hard enough. Mashaei too has been trying, and most recently had a few hundred "controlled" expats come for a trip full of controversy. He too knows that the expat input can potentially change the output for the mullahs. The output in the long run will change Iran for the better no matter what control the system tries this time, because the mullahs will be worried about Mashaei -- our very special "crack."
The regime knows how dangerous Mashaei can be, and everyone is already saying he will never pass the Guardian Council vetting that determines who is allowed to be a candidate. They may be right, but on September 7, there was a big gathering in Tehran of influential politicians, mostly parliamentarians, who spoke about how unfairly Mashaei has been presented and how he should be understood. Of the several committees that have been formed to support him, one is of religious experts of the supreme leadership system (ozameh velaie). These mullahs want everyone to know of Mashaei's heartfelt and unsurpassed devotion to the Supreme Leader.
So come back! Let us take this opportunity, which I believe will be the only one for a long while to come. Come back! At worst, you will help change an alley by practicing good citizenship and maybe even a street or an entire neighborhood. You will create jobs and thereby influence a whole lot of people to be good to each other and create value for themselves and others without envy, hate, or jealousy. You will serve as an example of how a person can live in society without harming or wishing harm on others, of how a person can be honest and decent without pretense. You will serve as an example of how you can be polite, clean, decisive, and yet gentle to so many here who have no such example and are in desperate need. You will be a symbol of a bygone era that everyone will sigh in remembrance of and yearn to return to.
Yes, all of these thing you can do. You know you can! Because you are already doing them in L.A., New York, Boston, D.C., London, Paris, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and all the other cities in which you live and work.
At best, you will provide the needed force to make Mashaei adhere to the rule of law and safeguard human rights the way he surely wants to. There will be a large number of us who will be given privileged access in the early days, because the regime desperately needs people who possess actual skills and can transfer that knowledge. You will have the ability to set up businesses and create opportunities in all domains of economic activity here. You will find open arms and minds among our fellow countrypeople, who appreciate the value of knowledge and will feel privileged to work with you as an expert. You can come and help change the perception that expats hate Iran and the Iranians they left behind. You can come and help guide the many young people who want to leave Iran to make better choices about where to go and what to do. And, yes, if you come back with some capital, you can create jobs for the many young people here who have no alternatives or hope.
The regime has brainwashed so many people here into compliance and submission, but you and I have been far away and thus are free of those chains. We can provide a balanced view for others to consider. We can talk about reconciliation among various classes without indulging in reactionary and emotional stands. We can, one at a time, bring change, starting at the individual level and expanding to the entire society...and beyond?
I am sure many of you think about Evin Prison and the potential harm that may befall you if you make the right choice and come home. Sure, it might happen to some, but there are not enough prisons to put us all in. And that's why the time to come is now! If you wait long enough there will be sufficient prison room for everyone, but for the moment there's just not enough. Your odds are terrific.
The key is to come back apolitical. I know it sounds hypocritical to deny one's beliefs, but in these hours of pain and despair, you ought not exacerbate the misery of the motherland with political honesty. Just come. Take care of her the best you can and later, when the time is right, you can be as political as you wish. But for now, simply come and embrace your roots without hate and anger.
"National reconciliation." It's a common and unfortunate label, irksome to many both inside and outside Iran. But "people reconciliation" is not talked about nearly enough. And that's exactly what you'll be promoting. Outside of all the politics, the machinations of the mullahs and the opposition, but inside the hearts and minds of the real people, the little people, with whom you will come in contact.
Please come back so that hope can glow again in the eyes of the young people of our homeland. Please come back so that the deprivation so disastrously created by the mullahs will cease. Please come back so that this old land with all of its scars can be healed a bit by knowing that her children love and care for her and have returned in these hours of despair to give back some little something and let her rest a bit in the knowledge of the love and care that I know you all feel for Iran.
The crack is a true invitation for all of us to consider and I can only hope and ask the universe to guide you to see this invitation and act upon it for the love of the country and the peace of mind and heart that we all deserve. Please come back!
Cartoon (above) carried by hardline Fars, a semi-official news agency, depicts scene of a recent junket organized by Ahmadinejad's office for accomplished Iranian expats. (This is not the first time the President's chief of staff has reached out to Iranians abroad.)
Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau