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Where is Iran headed?

08 Sep 2009 13:5228 Comments

Living in a bubble, increasingly out of touch. Archive photo.

By MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles | 8 Sept 2009

[TEHRAN BUREAU] Comment The crackdown on peaceful demonstrators protesting the massively fraudulent June 12 presidential election attracted world-wide attention and unified the opposition to a large extent. It created deep fissures, not only between the people and the political establishment, but also within the conservative camp. A significant number of the leading clerics, including the conservative ones, criticized the aftermath of the rigged election.

The violent crackdown has backfired, as have the atrocious crimes carried out in jails, detention centers (and other locations) ever since: torturing, murdering and raping detainees; arresting reformist leaders, subjecting them to solidarity confinement and applying physical and psychological pressure to get them to "confess" to absurd scenarios that the hardliners dreamed up for them, then putting them on display at Stalinesque show trials; kidnapping innocent people, such as Atefeh Emam, the 18-year-old daughter of Javad Emam, a leading member of the Islamic Revolution Mojahedin Organization (IRMO), one of the two top reformist political groups.

The show trials are no longer public, as the so-called confessions failed to convince anyone -- including apparently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- of the "guilt" of the reformist leaders. Instead they generated considerable sympathies toward them, even among a faction in the conservative camp.

In addition to all this, the country is in a highly agitated state. People jump at any opportunity to express their anger and opposition to the hardliners. The best evidence of this is that the hardliners do not even allow any public gathering, even on important religious occasions during the fasting month of Ramadan, which is in process.

It is true that the hardliners are in control, but the control has been achieved by guns and brutal force, and has thus come at a very heavy price: a complete loss of the legitimacy of the government in the eyes of a significant majority of Iranians. Under the leadership of right-wing extremist commanders, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which defended the country during the Iran-Iraq war, has transformed itself into the instrument of oppression and repression; on top of that, its spider-like web of companies have taken control of most of Iran's economy.

Due to the revelation of crimes that have taken place in the jails and detention centers, it appeared for a brief time that the hardliners were in retreat:

First, they acknowledged some crimes have been committed in the detention centers. They were forced to do so when a son of a prominent conservative, Mohsen Rouholamini, a 25-year-old Tehran University graduate student, was murdered in Kahrizak detention center.

Second, Ayatollah Khamenei retreated from linking the reformist leaders to foreign powers, although Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his IRGC supporters still repeat the accusations.

Third, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the former judiciary chief, was appointed by Ayatollah Khamenei to the powerful Guardian Council (a Constitutional body the vets candidates for most elections) as a member. Many have interpreted the appointment as the first step for the departure of Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the ultra-conservative secretary-general of the Council, and an ardent supporter of Ahmadinejad.

Fourth, some of the detained reformists and their supporters, as well as some of the arrested journalists, were released, but the most important reformist leaders remain detained.

Fifth, Saeed Mortazavi, the notorious Tehran Prosecutor-General and the Revolutionary Court Prosecutor, was removed from his positions by Hojjatoleslam Sadegh Larijani, the new judiciary chief. He was appointed as the deputy Prosecutor-General of the country. Some (such as the author) interpret these moves as a promotion for Mortazavi, who is known to have the strong backing of Ayatollah Khamenei. Others, such as Shirin Ebadi, the human rights advocate and the 2003 Nobel Laureate for Peace, believe that the moves represent a demotion for Mortazavi.

For a while these were all minor, but still hopeful signs that the hardliners might be retreating. But now it appears that even if they are, the retreat is tactical not strategic. Over the past week the evidence for the strategic resistance against the Green Movement has emerged:

First, Ayatollah Khamenei began talking about the need for "Islamization" of the universities, particularly revising the curriculum for the social and political sciences. In a meeting with hard-line students, as well as conservative academics, he indicated his displeasure with what he believes is the influence of Western thinking and philosophy on the Iranian educational system. In particular, he expressed alarm over the fact that nearly two-third of Iranian university students sought education in the fields of social and political science.

Second, many university students around the country have been summoned either to court or the Ministry of Intelligence and threatened. Some have been expelled from their universities; others have been suspended. Taken together with what Ayatollah Khamenei said, they represent evidence that the hardliners are prepared to close the universities indefinitely, as they have always been the hotbed of anti-government activities.

Third, Major General Mohammad Ali (Aziz) Jafari, the top IRGC commander, attacked the reformist leaders, and in particular former president Mohammad Khatami and Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha, head of the leftist Association of Combatant Clerics (ACC), accusing them of plotting to overthrow the Islamic Republic by weakening the Supreme Leader.

But the tough rhetoric of General Jafari and other hardliners was met by equally tough responses from the reformist leaders, who did not retreat in the face of the hardliners' threats. Mir Hossein Mousavi issued his 11th statement since the election, in which he accused Ayatollah Khamenei [without naming him] and the hardliners of distorting Islam and violating the Constitution, among other illegal acts, and acting according to their own personal views and whims. Mousavi also said they were turning their backs on the ideals of the 1979 Revolution and eroding morality in society. By quoting a verse from the Quran, he likened Ayatollah Khamenei to the Pharaohs, a most serious religious accusation.

Khatami in turn responded by accusing the hardliners of using tactics used by fascists and those who believe in totalitarian political systems to put down the protests and take control of the country. The language used by Khatami was particularly tough, given the mild manner in which he always speaks. The ACC -- Khatami is the head of its general council and Khoeiniha is its leader -- threatened to take General Jafari to court.

The Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), the largest reformist group, issued a toughly-worded statement (even though most its important leaders are in jail), declaring, "Due to the fraud in the election and the crimes in its aftermath, the IRGC is trying to escape prosecution by making accusations." The IRMO (many of its leaders are also imprisoned) issued another tough statement, declaring that, "What [General] Jafari said is sufficient proof that changes in the vote had [indeed] been engineered."

The Association of Teachers and Researchers of Qom's Theological Schools, a leftist clerical group, declared that, "Preserving the political system cannot be accomplished by the militarization of the country, displaying [sharp] teeth [meaning attempting to frighten people], arresting people, and resorting to inhumane and un-Islamic violence."

Hossein Hashemian, a Majles [parliament] deputy from Rafsanjan (in southern Iran) and head of its Imam Line faction [a reformist faction], used especially tough language to denounce General Jafari: "Due to his military rank, General Jafari has become too arrogant. I regret his rude manner of speaking. As a military man he has no right to intervene in politics. He should be persecuted." He also said that he had received reports that many had resigned from the IRGC over its actions in the aftermath of the election.

It is clear that the reformist leaders and the Green Movement have no intention of retreating. The question is therefore where is the Islamic Republic headed? To answer the question, both sides are confronted by several hard facts.

The hardliners -- or at least those of them who think more rationally -- must consider the following facts:

One is that the Green Movement is like a large tent. It is not a feminist, or labor, or student movement, but encompasses all of them and more. It was not formed based on the charisma of its leaders. In fact, Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have very little, if any, personal charisma. Neither is the Green Movement an ideological movement. Rather it is based and built on the accumulated demands of the people ever since the 1979 Revolution, and particularly over the past four years, stemming from demands for a better quality of life, and greater social and political freedom. That is frightening to the hardliners, because it is not easy to suppress such an encompassing movement.

Second, the leaders of the Green Movement -- or at least those who play the most important leadership roles -- have been part of the political system for the past 30 years. It is impossible, despite all the rhetoric and accusations, to convince people that men such as Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami, or those who have been locked up, are somehow puppets of foreign powers.

The third important fact is that those who have shaped the movement are mostly young people. In fact they represent the third generation of the 1979 Revolution. The fact that 70% of the population is under the age of 35, and that the young people of Iran are highly educated, quite sophisticated and well-informed of world-wide developments, only add to the complexity and difficulty of suppressing the Green Movement.

Mehdi Bazargan, the nationalist first Prime Minister after the 1979 Revolution, once said, "This revolution [the 1979 one] was a revolution of the young and very young." Although Iran is not in a revolutionary state, the Green Movement is definitely a movement of the young, even if its de facto leaders -- Mousavi, Karroubi, and Khtami -- are in their 60s and 70s.

Fourth, the hardliners totally miscalculated the response of the people to the election fraud. They did not believe that the fraud would spark such large-scale demonstrations or that the ongoing resistance would be so stiff and lasting. They failed to take into account that Iranians have more than 100 years of historical experience in their struggle for democracy. In particular, they experienced the eight-year presidency of Khatami, and the fact that as he put it, the hardliners "created a crisis for the country every nine days." Thus, they recognize that without putting up a stiff resistance, there may not be a realistic opportunity for deep changes for a decade or two to come.

Fifth is the fact that on many occasions Ahmadinejad and his administration have been totally insulting to people, and in particular the opposition. Since his "re-election" in particular, Ahmadinejad has insulted the Green Movement repeatedly, provoking protests even by the conservatives. Iranian people do not take to such insults kindly; these insults have injured their pride.

Sixth, the Green Movement was formed based on the accumulated demands of the people. But after it failed to force a new election, it developed a new dimension, one that is stripping the government of its legitimacy. This is why the Green Movement has concentrated on making revelations about the crimes that have occurred. This has been recognized even by the hardliners. Ayatollah Khamenei said last week that in his view the problem with the present situation was not the crimes that occurred in the detention centers, but the fact that the credibility of the political system has been hurt.

On the other hand, to be realistic about the potential and chances of success of the Green Movement, its leaders are keenly aware of a few facts:

One is that the most powerful part of the opposition to the Green Movement is made up mostly of the IRGC and the Basij militia. They are armed to the teeth. The IRGC commanders -- at least those who ardently support Ahmadinejad -- are not afraid of bloodshed, having fought in the Iran-Iraq war for eight years. Being military men, they also think of violence as the first solution to any crisis.

Second, the hardliners control Iran's vast oil reserves. The proceeds from oil exports enable the hardliners to be financially independent of the people. The oil also gives the hardliners some international leverage.

Third, in addition to the oil income, the IRGC controls not only a significant part of Iran's official economy, but its underground economy as well. It has become practically impossible for the middle class in Iran to be involved in any major economic activity without having some ties with the IRGC.

But, at the same time, there are also factors that favor the Green Movement:

One is that those hardliners represented by Ahmadinejad have proven totally incompetent in running the country. No major index of economic activity showed improvement during the last four years. To the contrary, inflation and unemployment are at record levels; corruption is rampant; the IRGC and the Basij militia have been given the control of most of the economy; the economy is stagnant; and due to the intervention of the IRGC in all aspects of Iran's economy, not only are the domestic investors afraid of investing in major industrial projects that can lead to employment, foreign investors have stayed away as well.

Secondly, the Ahmadinejad group is totally devoid of intellectuals and deep thinkers who can lead or even show the way to improving the economy. Most moderate conservative experts have fled the Ahmadinejad camp. The composition of his new government, which is totally devoid of any "heavy weight" expert, is highly illustrative of that fact.

Third, within the conservative camp, the Ahmadinejad group is the most extremist. That has alienated even many of the conservative clerics. In fact, with the exception of the followers of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, the ultra-reactionary cleric and ardent supporter of Ahmadinejad, the government has managed to insult or upset most of the conservative clerics.

Fourth, even within the very narrow definition of what the conservatives deem as legal actions, the Ahmadinejad group has managed to violate most laws. It ignores legislation approved by the Majles, particularly regarding the national budget; it has dissolved many of the well-established institutions of the bureaucracy, and it has used the budget illegally many times.

Even when it comes to the arrest and imprisonment of protesters and reformist leaders, the hardliners represented by the pro-Ahmadinejad faction act illegally. They have their own jail within notorious Evin prison, whose jurisdiction falls totally outside the judiciary -- even though the judiciary is controlled by the conservatives. So while political figures jailed by the judiciary are held in section 209 of Evin, those who are targeted by the hardliners are jailed in 2-A (2-Alef in Persian), which is controlled by the IRGC. In fact, if a person is jailed in section 2-A, his or her name does not even enter the official prison log.

Given these factors, in the view of many, the political establishment is neither Islamic nor a republic. This was recently expressed most clearly and eloquently by Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. In addition to rejecting what the hardliners have done as Islamic or in accordance with the republican side of the political establishment, Montazeri declared that, "Why don't you just declare that the view of only one person is important?" He was of course clearly referring to Ayatollah Khamenei.

The factors that favor the Green Movement have also given rise to the deepest fissures within the conservative camps. These fissures are, in the author's opinion, one of the most important sources of hope and strength for the Green Movement. The hardliners have made it increasingly difficult for many of the conservatives to support them.

So, in summary, here is where the author believes the Islamic Republic is headed: A situation in which the fissures at the top become even deeper, as the hardliners' circle of 'insiders' become increasingly smaller, while at the same time, the anger and frustration of the people rapidly grows.

Unless the hardliners somehow decide to retreat and undertake deep and lasting reforms, the nation is moving toward a confrontation between the unarmed, but determined majority of the people, and the highly armed small minority that the hardliners represent.

It is frightening to even imagine what the result of such a confrontation might be. At a minimum, it would mean incredible bloodshed. But the most frightening possibility would be the disintegration of the country, given the composition of Iran's diverse population.

Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau

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Look at Zimbabwe to see where Iran is headed. The parallels are remarkably close.

Where Iran has oil, Zimbabwe has Platinum, diamonds, gold, etc. Both regimes claim to be "revolutionary". Both are incompetent. Both are well armed, while the majority of citizens is unarmed.

Both are allied to North Korea, Burma and Chavez.

So I think you can expect runaway inflation, mass unemployment, and large numbers of deaths.

It is possible that the Iranians are more determined than the Zimbabweans, who tend to look for someone in authority to solve their problems.

Don Cox / September 8, 2009 12:50 PM

Thank you for this great & thorough article !

Let's pray to God (and actively work towards that end) that we will have neither bloodshed nor the disintegration of our beautiful country.

dast be dast dahim dar rah-e eshgh...

anon / September 8, 2009 1:19 PM

Dr Sahimi, it looks to me that that this site is becoming your personal weblog. Some of your remarks are solely based on your own perception with few facts backing them up. I would suggest that you add references for some of your comments.

Here is an example "Taken together with what Ayatollah Khamenei said, they represent evidence that the hardliners are prepared to close the universities indefinitely, as they have always been the hotbed of anti-government activities.", Indefinetly close the universities???!!

Your paranoid ending is another example, "At a minimum, it would mean incredible bloodshed. But the most frightening possibility would be the disintegration of the country, given the composition of Iran's diverse population."

Sometimes I think most of members of Iranian diaspora are so alienated from the realities in Iran that they start to believe their own story about Iran. I think you are falling in the same trap Dr. Sahimi.

Anna / September 8, 2009 2:57 PM

Dear Anna:

I do not know whether you can read Persian, but if you can, I suggest that you take a look at as many Persian sites as you can to see whether they alarmed over the possibility of closure of Iranian universities. Then, you will see that it is not just my opinion.

In addition, the danger to Iran's territorial integrity has been discussed by many many people, which indicates that I am just one out of many with such opinion. Perhaps you are disconnected from such analyses.

Tehran Bureau is not my personal site. There are many fine contributors to TB. True, I probably contribute more than some others, but I am not the only one. TB is also not my site. If the editor-in-chief does not want to post my pieces, that would be just fine with me. It is her decision.

What realities of Iran am I disconnected from? Which paragraph that I have stated do you dispute? A large portion of the article is just direct quotes from various people. A small part of it is just my analysis. My analysis might not be what you like to read, but, then, again, I must write about what I believe in, not what others like to see.

And, do you know about today's developments? The hardliners just closed office of Mehdi Karroubi, and arrested Morteza Alviri and Alireza Beheshti, two key aids to Karroubi and Mousavi. Is this not along the lines that I suggested in the article, namely, that the hardliners are not retreating, but ratcheting up their pressure? You be the judge.

Muhammad Sahimi / September 8, 2009 9:06 PM

I agree with author on some possibilities for closing universities if condition gets worse.

However, author's prediction for Iran disintegration seems pretty naive.

How a country like Iraq with very little national harmony and history of independence didn't disintegrate and how you predict this happens to an independent country with a long history and proud nation!!!! Who is going to disintegrate Iran? Hardliners or green movement?

Although you are free to predict whatever you want, but you need to back it up!! Nothing in this article leads to this conclusion.

Irani, / September 8, 2009 9:47 PM

dear dr sahimi,thanks again for such a great article,please let me know what is your educational back ground,and when did you leave iran?

i always learn so much when i read your articles,and i have to somtimes read twice to remember all the names.you are very well informed and could be a great teacher.


fahimeh moghtader

fay moghtader / September 8, 2009 11:21 PM

Dear Irani:

Thank you for your comment. I did not say that disintegration will happen, and as a fiercely nationalist Iranian I'll do what I can - as little as it may be - to prevent it from happening. I only talked about what the possibilities.

But, remember that there is a lot of discontent among the ethnic minorities, due to the totally wrong policies of the past several decades, but particularly in the last 4 years. Khatami did improve the situation, but AN ruined everything.

Muhammad Sahimi / September 8, 2009 11:22 PM

Thanks for the analysis - good stuff.

You lay the facts out very clearly, but I believe there is another more likely conclusion - the hardliners will simply try to wait out the opposition while they try to chip away at the leaders and proponents of reform. Their retreat from the show trials and lip-service to investigating the crimes in the detention centers is merely a shift in tactics. The hardliners are in control of the military, the IRGC (who controls large portions of the economy), the Basij militia, and the judiciary - though there has been some suggestion of differences of opinion, there's been no suggestion of major fragmentation in any of those groups. The reformists cannot touch the source of the hardliners power from an internal perspective and the hardliners know that there is little immediate external threat - the West can do little more than give verbal protests, lest the hardliners accusations of the reform movement being traitors sponsored by the West be shown to be true. (Though the hardliners and the Iranian people know it is not true, the hardliners accusations that the reformists are pawns of the West is really to freeze the Western governments from taking action - or inviting it, depending on your viewpoint on whether they see external action as beneficial). However, the hardliners know they must use caution in acting against the reform movement - taking care not to take any dramatic action that might provoke a direct confrontation. I believe that Karroubi, Mousavi and Khatami will probably end up under house arrest or silenced by threats and actions take against friends, colleagues, and loved ones. This, however, will take time.

Time is not entirely against the reform movement, though - the loss of confidence in the government and the largely youthful population that is the backbone of the reformist movement favor the reformists in the long run. It is doubtful that change can be postponed indefinitely without a continued slide toward authoritarianism. For the moment, Khamenei seems to be pulling back from that step, lest the sham of divine and just rule by clerics be exposed as a fraud.

So, in the end, you have the impasse we are at now. The reform movement can't touch of power of the hardliners and yet the hardliners aren't willing to rule by any means necessary even if that meant silencing all clerics uncomfortable with the election and the aftermath. Hence, the best hardliner strategy is to play for time and hope the election related anger fades (or that public apathy increases). The longer term question is what happens with the makeup of the Guardian Council, and what Rafsanjani and the Assembly of Experts do. The next parliamentary election is still a few years away and barring a dramatic arrest or show trial of one of the main reformist leaders, that would probably be the next major flash point.

Scotland / September 9, 2009 12:57 AM

I can read persian, but if a site in persian writes that "they are going to close down the universities" it doesnt mean that they are.

I still insist that you back your claims with naming your sources and adding references.

I think of you as a scientist, so I expect your writings to be closer to a scientific article with references and hard solid facts, instead they are more like simple journalistic stories aimed at attracting an audience, an audience who may have very little knowledge about Iran to argue about your statements.

Anna / September 9, 2009 1:21 AM

Ann thank you, i will comment in a minte for your target on Sahimi's account.

but first Dan Cox.. why have you chosen Zimbabwe.. yes, There are problems in Zimbabwe, like that in Iran.. but you are out of touch, Zimbabwe had resisted the western pressure ( british In Particular)( the same, the Iraninas) to the point that they acknowledged now the reality.. That root cause is not in politics in Zimbabwe.. it is economicall, all knows the small white people's injustice to controll the 70% of the Land in Zimbabwe - something that zimbabweans refuesed and since then the pressure was continuing in zimbabwe.

the same is Latin america ( can you think upon what united Nejad and Chavez.. Nothing else ( western neo-economic imperialism).. and the iranians have encoutred this in the 50th ( it is fresh as yesterday)..

But the Zimbabweans are not allone, if anyone else, they are following the russian path under Prsident Putin ( the west talked about russia dictatorshship because they want to control the russian economy ) but russia has resisted .. you see ..Russia today is an indepedent Country, fully controll in its own affairs..

You see the British are so greedy, dont have enough resources, exploit the natural resources of other nations..

finally, the author not only belief his own views, but rather seems to follw strategy borrowed from american mainstream media " tell lies, then repeat, and repeat to the point people belive you.."

abdikadir / September 9, 2009 2:44 AM


Most of my sources are in Iran. I cannot name them due to the obvious reason: They will be arrested. It is dangerous as it is.

True, just because someone says something, it does not mean it is so. But, when a large number of people with distinct political thinking say the same, then there must be something to it.

You seem not to read what I said in response to you. You just repeat your own previous comments. In an exchange like this people must respond. Otherwise, there is no debate.

If you believe that I write articles to attract attention, stop reading them. They are no good.

Muhammad Sahimi / September 9, 2009 8:38 AM

The arrests of opposition leaders have begun. They will make 1988 (1367) massacre of political prisoners a walk in the park.

Muslims solution to any problem is bloodshed. Hey, their prophet encouraged his son in law to behead the injured in war with no mercy.

Go back to your roots and get rid of this Arab savagery.

Gooya / September 9, 2009 9:20 AM

Dr Sahimi!! your reactionary responses are like those of the criminals in Iran!! neither of your responses did answer any of the points I made.

Your sources are in Iran and you can't name them!! huh!! for a person who has been out of Iran for years you seem too well connected!! well I read your articles because I believe that tehran bureau is worth reading, but recently I must admit that it is not tehran bureau, it is Dr. Sahimi's blog, a huge mistake on the part of the editor. out of the last 6 articles of the site 4 of them are yours! yet you say that it is not becoming your personal blog! come on!!

Anna / September 9, 2009 10:11 AM

Commentaries are based on personal opinion. That is why it's tagged as such.

Most authors don't take the time to respond to any of their comments. Why you hurl such insults at an author who takes time to do so incomprehensible.

Dr. Sahimi is Tehran Bureau's most widely read and loved columnist. It's an honor he continues to offer his articles to Tehran Bureau and I will continue to publish them.


tehranbureau / September 9, 2009 10:20 AM

Wow, this has got to be the biggest guide I've seen distilled in a post anywhere!

david hausdorff / September 9, 2009 10:34 AM

Dear Anna:

I will not comment on your impolite manner.

"But, you still did not answer my question."

To which paragraph, sentence, or part of the analysis do you object?

As I said in my original response to you, a large part of the article are direct quotes. Are you implying that I am making them up? The quotes are all over the internet (you said you know Persian).

Do you object to my saying the hardliners may close the universities? Go to Gooya, Akbar-e rooz (you said you know Persian), and read about what Brigadier General Fazli, the commander of Sayyed-o-shohada division said about what to do with universities. He said it AFTER I had finished writing my article.

What are "the realities" in Iran that the Iranians in Diaspora are disconnected from? Enlighten me. Do not respond in a "reactionary way" like me. Where do you live yourself that you think makes you distinct from me?

When was it that I claimed that I am neutral? I am not. Anyone who writes about politics cannot be neutral. This is true everywhere. Are Hossein Shariatmadari, or Mohammad Guchani, or Mohammad Kazem Anbar Louei, or Morteza Kazemian (two reformists, two hardliners), who write in Iran neutral? Are William Kristol, Paul Krugman, Nick Kristoff, and others that write in the U.S., neutral? No, they are not.

Finally, at least I write with my own full name. That cannot be said about you, whose commenting, and even the phrases that are used, are extremely familiar to someone that I know.

Muhammad Sahimi / September 9, 2009 12:02 PM

I read the articles on this site as Op-Ed pieces. Just like reading for instance Roger Cohen or Thomas Friedman on the NY Times.

If you want news without the Op-ED, there is the press section of the site. There are also many other websites that are delivering news without the opinion part.

Maziar / September 9, 2009 5:22 PM

Dr. Sahimi,

My point is that your analysis of possibilities should be based upon some reasoning. In this article you emotionally concluded something (Iran disintegration) without providing any reason. Now, in your comment you mentioned A.N.'s policies imposed some restrictions and dissatisfaction on minorities. You know that is not going to be a strong point for disintegration of a country like Iran. Such policies are not new in the modern history of Iran, as it was in place after revolution and even in Mohamad Reza Shah's era.

By the way I fully support Editor's decision for letting you write. I do not think this is your blog rather it shows your commitment to write.

Irani, / September 9, 2009 5:28 PM

Muhammad Sahimi, I think your prediction for Iran and fears are not too far from the truth.

Those in disbelief; such as Anna (who is also naive and rude, calling Mr.Sahimi criminal) are not following Iran news closely. The ethnic groups' discontent is not anything new. The Kurds and Azeries have been wanting their own states for some time. I have not been following the rest of ethnic minorities so I can't speak for them.

In June, one of the TB's contributing authors voiced his anger at Tehrani's bigotry and prejudice against Iran's Arab pouplation. He also talked about his pride in his Arab roots. (This article was aimed at those who believed some of the Basiji forces are Hezboleh and Hamas imports; he attributed these rumors to prejudice against Iranian Arabs.)

Moreover, not too long ago, an American senator forwarded an opinion about an effective strategy of dealing with Iran, which promoted inciting its ethnic minorities.

I think people like Anna, should wake up and see that despite the courage of Iranians, Western powers are not going to come to their rescue. With rulers who are motivated by greed and power; Iran is in a very dangerous spot. I fear that the IRGC mask will come off eventually and they will officially run Iran under Ahmadinejad leadership who foolishly has allied himself with Russia who wants access to Persian gulf.

Majnoon / September 9, 2009 7:34 PM

To Anna:

You are extremely rude and reading your impolite comments are frustrating. Actually you proved yourself to be the reactionary by the kind of comments you made above. You are missing a big point here and that is:

People read Tehran Bureau articles because most of them are good and interesting and the ones that interest/attract them more might be the ones by Mr. Sahimi. I know that's the case with me. What don't you look at it from a different angle? He doesn't write to attract more readers/audience but his writing is attractive to read because it can be historical and analytical, it is always very clear and thorough, and it is also always very related to what is happening in Iran. I have personally learned a lot from his articles and that is the reason I am one of his readers or audience as you put it.


What an arrogance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! By that statement you are telling the rest of us that you have the knowledge of Iran therefore you are qualified to argue the author's statements and you know that you are the one to question his statements or articles.

Mr Sahimi,

I have one criticism of you and that is although you take the time to answer the comments and I am sure that is appreciated by your readers, but some of the readers comments do not deserve an answer. Please think about this.

Minoo / September 9, 2009 10:53 PM

Excellent analysis.

Anna, you underestimate the revolutionaries mind. The people in charge of Iran are in a constant revolutionary state of mind, irrationality is their middle them.

Ali / September 10, 2009 2:01 AM

Huh!! Some of you Iranians are so easy to manipulate!! It is just so easy to play with you!! every little thing is a personal crusade for you lot!! boohoo someone criticised your article!! Deep down you know I am right otherwise you wouldnt have argued so much to the contrary!! and yet after all of this, you are yet to name a credible source for your statements!! even khomeini couldnt close the universities indefinitely!! but now they will do it because you said so or a few other paranoid experts said so!! I am so enjoying this!!!

Anna / September 10, 2009 5:56 AM

anna is what we in the internet refer to as a 'troll' and one very important fact to keep in mind - don't feed the troll. every time anyone responds simply feeds that person to spout more contentious drivel. less said directly to this person the better - they feed on the negative attention.

mr sahimi is in my opinion a very decent writer, probably one of the best and most informative on this site, and his articles are clearly coming from his perspective and that of his other like minded journalists and bloggers. there is nothing wrong at all with this. the fact he responds to comments at all is quite rare and should be valued by visitors of this site. anna is obviously free to read keyhan and the Fars news agency to find out what the government says is really going on, complete with reliable 'sources' who won't get jailed, but everyone knows you can make facts be slanted or presented to make things as distateful as human slavery seem justified if there's a politcal agenda behind it.

in the end it comes down to whether what someone says sounds credible to you and your worldview.. by exposing yourself to a variety of worldviews you start to get a more clear picture of what might be going on.

i only have one comment for mr sahimi that is slightly critical. a while back he wrote about Bazargan from his personal experience with his father and mother. for the entire article he kept referring to 'the author' which after a while seemed clearly to be him. the article was great but very personal in nature, and so i really wished he had used personal terms like 'my' since it obviously came from his own experience. it seemed somehow a bit disengenuous to imply a third person narrative to a personal story of growing up in iran.

anyway that's my only negative comment. regardless of this he is a good and informative writer and kudos to the editor for defending him.

scott / September 10, 2009 3:55 PM

I have to say that I am very grateful to Mr. Sahimi for the scope and content of his work published here on TB. There may be instances where I disagree with him (such as the contention of Iran possibly breaking up), but this is nothing compared to what I have learned from his efforts. The net effect is, intellectually, very stimulating.

Please, sir. Continue.

Pirouz / September 10, 2009 5:16 PM


I found this article interesting and very informative. You do not have to agree with every single comment that the author has made to consider it a good article. You have all the right to disagree, but as you want the author to give you references you should give your references on why exactly you disagree with him on certain matters too. Closing the universities for a while or a wide range of reform on education is a big concern now. All you have to do is to read the recent article on Fars news and see how the education minister is actually planning the reforms, also read upon the recent confession and see how they match the recent khameneie's agenda for universities. Basically all the news site whether it be, lets say right or left have covered this issue. Also, since i remember the minority issues has always been a concern. I do not know if it will happen lets hope it wont but it is a possibility if the country falls into a chaotic situation under an illegitimate government.

sandy / September 10, 2009 6:52 PM

Dr. Sahimi is 100 years ahead of his time. His invaluable analysis will prove to be right in the future. He is unfortunately, the most under-rated Iran expert.

His are most original, informative and unbiased. Perhpas that's why his interlocatour are so envious.

vildemose / September 11, 2009 3:30 PM

Note to Dr. Sahimi, the new school year has started in Amir Kabir the most politicized university of Tehran!! perhaps they will close down the universities indefinitely next year!

Anna / September 15, 2009 9:05 AM


You have difficulty understanding English. This is what I said in the article:

"the hardliners are prepared to close the universities indefinitely, as they have always been the hotbed of anti-government activities."

In normal English, or at least in the English that I know, "prepared to close" means "to close if necessary." I never said that they would, but that they would do it if the anti-government activities becomes too much for the hardliners to handle.

The fact that Amir Kabir University has openned means nothing. I have several friends on the faculty at Amir Kabir University and they tell me that the university is on the verge of explosion in anger. What did you expect? Close it before anything has happened?

Just wait. "Gar sabr koni zeh ghooreh halvaa saazam!"

Do not be so impatient. As someone else told you, if you are interested in only reading articles that agree with your views which seems to me are supportive of an outlaw like Ahmadinejad, then TB is not for you. Yet, you keep coming back here. Why?

Nothing is going to change in this site in the direction you desire, least of all my views. Your impolite and sarcasm won't have any effect on me, I assure you.

Muhammad Sahimi / September 16, 2009 12:30 AM