The new dictator of Iran?
President Ahmadinejad is putting the mullahs out to pasture....an important analysis by Amir Taheri.
But rich mullahs also hate Ahmadinejad because he is reviving the original revolutionary discourse of Khomeinism without dissimulation.
The concepts and ideas that Rafsanjani and Khatami treated as mere metaphors are being redefined as literal truths under Ahmadinejad. One key concept is that of the Hidden Imam, the awaited Mahdi of the Twelver Shi'ites. To Rafsanjani and Khatami, this has little immediate relevance to the actual life of society. Ahmadinejad, however, has restored it as the central truth of Iran's political, cultural, economic and social life.
The new president has written and signed a pact with the Hidden Imam — and has asked all officials to do so. Taken to its logical conclusion, this move dispenses with the need for any mullahs — including the "Supreme Guide."
This reinterpretation of Twelver Shi'ism excludes not only any form of rule by the mullahs but also any form of electoral democracy. In this way, Ahmadinejad hopes to outflank the two principal political forces that have been fighting for power in Iran since the middle of the 19th century. His message is: Neither mullahrchy, nor democracy.
Ahmadinejad has also changed the Islamic Republic's international profile. Rafsanjani and Khatami spoke one way inside Iran and another way outside; Ahmadinejad uses the same discourse everywhere. He addressed the United Nations just as he does a gathering of Jihadists in a Tehran suicide-bomber training camp.
Where Rafsanjani and Khatami tried to redefine Islam to please the modern world, a world that is shaped and dominated by Western ideas, Ahmadinejad is trying to revive the purest definition of the faith. He asserts that Islam is an alternative to the current global system, not a candidate for becoming a small part of it.
Those who have tried to build a life on the basis of a little bit of Islam and a little bit of Western modernism are made uncomfortable by Ahmadinejad — who is forcing everyone to take sides.
Seen in that context, his pledge to wipe Israel off the map like "a stain of shame" is an attempt to force everyone to take sides. He is asking everyone to decide the nature of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Is it only about statehood, borders, security, sharing of water, settlements and diplomatic relations? If so, it cannot, should not, be treated as a religious conflict, Muslim vs. Jew. It would be a political conflict, one of countless such throughout history — and all the religious energy injected into it over the past half-century must be regarded as misplaced.
But if we face something other than a political conflict, there can be no question of ever accepting the existence of Israel as a state within any frontiers. Treaties signed with Israel become documents not of political expediency but of apostasy.
In 100 days, Ahmadinejad has shaken many mullahs on their pulpits and more monkeys up their trees — by asking everyone to be honest with themselves. He believes the world is heading for a clash of civilizations in which Islam is the only credible alternative to Western domination. And he is convinced that Islam will win.