A reader writes:

It is true Mousavi has presented his campaign and movement as trying to restore and not unravel the Islamic revolution. This is an effective and necessary trope within Iran--Mousavi would have been prohibited from running, had he presented himself as opposed to the Islamic Republic. But efforts to reform the Islamic revolution in a meaningful sense have been exhausted. This is why Mousavi, insofar as he is a vessel of Iranian contempt for and rage at Khamenei, is the undoing of the 1979 revolution, not its restoration.


The Islamic revolution, if it is to mean anything, it is the institutions created after 1979 that guard a regular democracy from deviating from Islam. It is the office of a supreme leader, the assembly of experts, the guardian council etc.. These institutions have at every turn blocked the reformers, to the point that the reformers tried and failed in 2003--through constitutional amendment--to limit the powers of supreme leader, in order to pass the kinds of social and cultural reforms demanded by the vast majority of Iranians. And the reformers that sought to limit and modify the institutions of the Iranian state were met with something of a coup--all of those reformers were barred from running for re-election in the Majlis, many reformers were arrested, and any coordinated effort to reform the Islamic Republic since 2003 ran up against the hardliners in the state, whose job was to guard the revolution, a major subset of this group is the revolutionary guard. 

In this contest, there is a claim on both sides for the spirit of the 1979 revolution. But there is also a recognition, I think for Mousavi, that the Islamicness of the Islamic Republic has led Iran to this depraved state of affairs. I find it very hard to believe that if Mousavi's movement succeeds there will still be a supreme leader. He has talked about returning Iran's government to its people, and he is openly defying now Khamenei. In Persian thought there is a concept called Farr, the aura around the emperor. Roger Cohen wrote about this idea yesterday. Well it's gone. And that aura, this notion that the people's institutions, the presidency and the majlis must be checked by clerics, is gone too. None of this means that Islam will not thrive in Iran, but it will be a quietist Islam, the kind advocated by Montazeri and Sistani. Khomeinism, if Mousavi succeeds, is finished.

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