Leslie Gelb is feeling nearly amorous about Iran, having observed the run up to Friday’s elections:
Whatever happens this time, Americans will finally be able to see clearly that Iran is not a monolith totally dominated by crazy clerics dedicated to Western destruction. They’ll see an Iran split between the familiar Islamic revolutionaries uniting clerics and the poor, on the one hand, and the commercial classes now allied with the educated, women and youth, on the other. They’ll see that the crazies, even if they hold on to power this time, are losing their grip. They’ll see other Iranian leaders who want to rejoin the world and will adjust their nation’s policies accordingly.
Mr. Gelb’s evidence?
[T]hese elections have been so free and robust. There is nothing these candidates can’t do, except attack the supreme leader and Islam itself. The contenders have seized the opportunity to call one another liars and purveyors of corruption and worse.
According to news reports, the public feels that this election is different. The campaign this time around is palpably tenser and the atmosphere is hotter. Protesters are more numerous and vocal, perhaps because they sense the stakes are higher than ever.
Sorry if I’m less than moved by this alleged milestone in Iranian consensual governance, but it is rather hard to ignore a certain salient detail about the candidates. Here’s Con Coughlin, in the Wall Street Journal:
Thus, for the past two elections to the Majlis (the Iranian parliament) the Revolutionary Guards — who are controlled directly by Mr. Khamanei — have carefully vetted all the candidates to ensure only those with the right revolutionary credentials are allowed to stand.
Now the regime, in the form of the Guardian Council, which is charged with upholding the tenets of Khomeini’s revolution, has employed the same tactic ahead of the presidential election: Of the original 475 applicants only four candidates have survived the cull. All of them have revolutionary credentials beyond reproach.
So if Leslie Gelb is even half right and “the public feels that this election is different,” this merely means that the mullahs have successfully hoodwinked Iranians into thinking they’re part of a new and fair process that is identical to the same sham elections of previous years. The perpetration of such a ruse is a step forward for the forces of autocracy — not democracy. Or were the discarded 471 actually too fanatical for the Guardian Council’s newfound insouciance?