Twenty-five years of uninterrupted Iranian autocratic theocracy confront us with a basic question: How a group of incompetent and often corrupt lower ranking clerics were able to survive the demise of their charismatic "Imam" and keep the Iranian people under their thumbs for such a long period of time?
Indeed , the IRI accumulated miseries upon miseries all over these years: Eight years of bloody war; more than 40.000 political executions in its two first years; political and economic mismanagement; quasi-isolation of the country ; millions unemployed; population doubled; annual double-digit inflation; numerous citizens forced to have more than one job in order to make ends meet; women discriminated against; extensive corruption at every level of society; gross violations of human rights; assassination of opponents both within and without; students unrest and revolt; soaring crime; wide drug use; helping terrorist organizations; and so on.
For years specialists have predicted the IRI's imminent end. Yet it is still alive (if not totally well ) and functioning . It is true that Islamic law is not anymore enforced with Khomeini's strictness . But it still is the law of the country and the thugs employed by the regime go from time to time on rampage in order to enforce it . Many travelers tell that revolt is brewing and the regime is poised on the threshold of collapse.
Then what is it that keeps it in place? Resignation of the poverty-stricken people? Formidable secret police? Special security groups such as Pasdaran (guardians of the revolution) or Bassiji ( armed volunteers)? Will of Allah? Ability of the mullahs to pit lesser satans against the great one? Etc. Etc.
To be sure, some of these elements have played in favor of the mullahs. But they cannot account for the long survival of their failed regime.
Who is the culprit in this mystery?
I think I have found the real "saviors" of the IRI.
They are a quartet of European nations, namely: England, France, Germany and Russia. The governments of these countries have invented a new diplomatic fiction dubbed "constructive dialogue" in order to isolate not the IRI but the U.S. and to conduct profitable business with the mullahs.
They have encouraged fanciful analyzes of the political situation according to which the "smiling" president Khatami is a "reformer" opposed to the "stern" conservative Khamenei. Their most recent "redeeming" intervention happened on october 21 , 2003, when the British, German and French foreign ministers flew to Tehran and convinced Khamenei to allow IAEA to inspect Iranian nuclear sites.
On February 11, 2004, the Iranian regime handed out hundreds of placards of its leaders and friends to the hired demonstrators in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Khomeini's ascent to power. I was amazed not to find among them the portraits of Blair, Chirac, Schroeder and Putin.
O, ungrateful mullahs!
Fereydoun Hoveyda was Iran's ambassador to the United Nations from 1971 to 1978.