Unconfirmed reports are circulating that Iran’s former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rasfanjani is in the city of Qom trying to convince the Assembly of Experts to remove “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei, the man who has been Iran’s real tyrant since the death of Ruhollah Khomeini. The clerics in the Assembly have the constitutional power to remove Khamenei, though it’s impossible to say if much would change if they did. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad’s men in the Revolutionary Guards, Basij militia, and Ansar Hezbollah have most of the firepower.
Then again, there is only so much the security forces can do if most of the country is against them. “If the clergy become Khamenei’s enemy, just think about it,” Shahram Kholdi at University of Manchester said to Neil MacFarquhar at the New York Times. “The shah made Qum his enemy, and they did not cease to plot against him until he was overthrown.”
It will be far better for the people of Iran and the rest of the world if the entire system is scrapped and replaced with a properly functioning democracy. Not even a “moderate” Khomeinist like Mir Hossein Mousavi would likely win an election in Iran if every political faction in the country could nominate its own candidates.
It’s possible, though, that an Iran with Mousavi as president and without Khamenei as “Supreme Guide” will tread more lightly on its citizens and its neighbors in Israel, Lebanon, and Iraq. Even founders and co-founders of ideological regimes sometimes mellow with age. Deng Xiaoping steered China out of Maoism, though not to democracy. China has not been a dangerous ideological power since.
Deng was no friend of Chinese democrats, though, and the idealistic young people in the streets of Iran rallying around Mousavi would be wise to remember that. It was Deng’s China, not Mao’s, that murdered the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square.