Iranian theocracy is on threshold of change: program director at Stanford University

United States, Washington, June 29/ Trend , N.Bogdanova /

Trend interview with the director of Iranian studies program at Stanford University, co-director of Iranian democracy development project, writer Abbas Milani

Trend : Events in Iran are rapidly developing. According to some experts, there is a split between law-enforcement agencies and ruling regime of Iran. Is it possible that the changed situation in the country leads to the establishment of a military regime?

Abbas Milani: Firstly, let us look at the situation in Iran. There is an impression that the pressure from the government and security measures are used as opposed to the current actions of protest. But this is only impression. Even I think that the hate of people towards the government is growing every day. Just using arms and other means to disperse demonstrators resulted in the dispersion of the masses and their fragmentation. In doing so, police facilitated its work. It needs to take into account the fact that in the political system in Iran and amongst the general population, there are people who do not interfere in the current process. For example, religious people have not joined the protesters, although they make up large part of the Iranian nation.

Q: Do You think that possibly for this reason, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei called on people to calm?

A: No, I do not think that people continue to listen to Khamenei, just against, violating his neutrality, openly supporting one political force, he lost very much. In my opinion, Khamenei's appeal during Friday prayer was the biggest mistake in his political life. The image of "religious leader" was harmed. He can stay in power, but if people are against his decision, he can no longer be a religious leader.

Regarding establishment of a military regime, the political scene in Iran is now changing. Now domination over the opposition is moving from the main rival of Ahmadinejad - Mousavi - to the former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. This division makes possible the changes in Iran. Therefore, now there is no need to establish military regime. Iran's political system has never divided so.

Q: During Shah regime, due to protests, You were in prison with the mullahs who now govern the country. How is it to see how a new generation seize the streets?

A: This is gladness because it demonstrates that a century demand for democracy is able to regenerate, and even strengthen, since this generation has more common sense and experience, it is less dogmatic and more cosmopolitan. And this is the generation, which carried out the revolution of 1979.

Q: How significant is the threat to the Iranian theocracy currently?

A: I think that the Iranian theocracy is now on the threshold of change. I have already told that Khamenei has lost his influence. For such a theocratic country like Iran, these changes are meaningful. I think that the "status quo ante" is no longer reliable. Therefore, today's events are a serious threat to the Iranian theocracy.

Q: Leaders of Western countries, as well as clergy of Iran did not congratulate Ahmadinejad on his re-election. How will this affect Ahmadinejad's credibility inside and outside the country?

A: Attitude of the Western countries, including Obama administration, towards the current situation must be perceived as a continuation of offer of dialogue to Iran, despite that eight local employees of the British Embassy were arrested in Iran. I think this is one of the reasons why the statements by Obama on Iran have been so loyal. In the same vein, there are his message to the Iranian people on Novruz holiday and his previous statements. I think that they are very well aware of what really happens in Iran, and that sitting in Washington, there can be no changes in Iran. 

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