Don’t Get Too Optimistic About Iran
Fareed Zakaria: One of the first things that strikes me is we are watching the fall of Islamic theocracy.
CNN: Do you mean you think the regime will fall?
Zakaria: No, I don’t mean the Iranian regime will fall soon. It may — I certainly hope it will — but repressive regimes can stick around for a long time. I mean that this is the end of the ideology that lay at the basis of the Iranian regime.
The regime’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, laid out his special interpretation of political Islam in a series of lectures in 1970. In this interpretation of Shia Islam, Islamic jurists had divinely ordained powers to rule as guardians of the society, supreme arbiters not only on matters of morality but politics as well. When Khomeini established the Islamic Republic of Iran, this idea was at its heart. Last week, that ideology suffered a fatal wound.
Was it a fatal wound, or simply one visible to the outside world? One could argue as well that the regime died from tens of millions of pinpricks, as the people of Iran lost faith in the regime over the past three decades. In some respects, what happened last week was only possible because Khomeini’s ideology was already dying.
On a related note, Zakaria may have meant to say that Shi’ite theocracy, not Islamic theocracy, is breathing its last. In the Sunni world, from Gaza to Islamabad, religious extremists are gaining ground.
Anyhow, I think Zakaria is very right to say that the Iranian regime may survive for a very long time.