Alex Massie Alex Massie

The Cynical Case Arguing that Mousavi Doesn’t Matter At All

Beneath the headline Iran’s Brave Revolutionaries Can Change Nothing But the Faces Con Coughlin sighs, lights a cigar, pours himself another brandy and explains to those folk foolish enough to believe that anything can change for the better in Iran just why they’re not much more than a bunch of naive, though charmingly well-intentioned, fools:

For the past 30 years, Mr Mousavi and his supporters have demonstrated their unswerving dedication to the cause of revolutionary Islam. Under his premiership in the late 1980s, Iran came close to all-out war with the US and its allies during the death throes of the Iran-Iraq war. The greatest advances in the country’s nuclear programme, including the regime’s attempts to build an atom bomb, were undertaken during the presidencies of Rafsanjani and Khatami. Their primary aim in opposing Mr Ahmadinejad’s election victory, therefore, is to reclaim some of the power and influence they once enjoyed, rather than to effect a radical change in the way Iran is run. It is for this reason that the democratic hopes of all those brave Iranians who have taken to the streets will ultimately be in vain. Even if Mr Khatami were to sacrifice Mr Ahmadinejad in the interests of preserving the regime, the president would simply be replaced by another Iranian leader whose first priority would be to protect the ideological foundations of Khomeini’s Islamic revolution.

There is, doubtless, something to this. I suspect that there are plenty of Mousavi’s own supporters who hold no illusions about his past, nor, at least until now, about what a Mousavi Presidency might look like. And, for sure, I don’t think anone is claiming that Mousavi would be the kind of liberal some folk dream of seeing come to power in Tehran. Iran is, in any case, going to want to be a regional power and, most probably, a nuclear-armed one regardless of who is President or, for that matter, Supreme Leader.

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