Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Iran, the US, and Us

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan (I am big fans) writes thus:
We all know the imminent Iranian elections are circumscribed and do not mean a real transition of power. But they are an expression of popular sentiment and thereby have some impact on Iran's government, economy and foreign policy.

I am no fan of Islamist states (and I am especially upset by Iran's anti gay measures), but I do think Iran has a real polity, and I cannot really distinguish how politics in the West are different from politics in Iran, given the above description.

Certainly, there is NO rational reason to support bombing Tehran.

We in the UK seem to simply be avoiding that this might become the story of the year if Obama does not manage to restrain Netanyahu.

PS: I was not going to steal Andrew's YouTube link as well, until i realised it was set to "Meadowland", once my favourite tune!


Living under clergy rule said...

Mr Halsall you say that because you do not know life. Iran is quite simply a diarchy. It has a western style visible constitutional system headed by an elected president. But that has to work under the shadow and often the supervision of the Supreme Leader, Ayetollah Ali Khamenei and his council of 86 Islamic scholars. In other words, this is a bit like the medieval Christian system but with the Church as the senior and actively more powerful partner. In other Islamic states the clergy are less powerful and tend to use background social power to contain the non-clerical political leadership. This is probably one of the main reasons why there is so little democracy in the Sunni Arab world. In Iran where the clergy rule the country, they seem to have found it easier to set up a kind of tutelary democracy. There are occasional signs of a contest between the Mollahs and the politicians and voters but so far the clergy have been able to see them off easily.

Perhaps your own religious views make you a bit tender to theocracies? Is that unfair?

Paul Halsall said...

Yes, the comment is unfair, if you are suggesting that because I am Catholic I support theocracy.

All I observed is that Iran is a polity.

Nothing you wrote really challenged that.

Perhaps you don't know the meaning of the word "polity"?

Groaning under clerical rule said...

To suggest that someone does not know the meaning of the word "polity" is gnomic at one level and uncharitable at another.

I could of course be wrong about the structure of power politics in Iran. If so please indicate. But since you yourself are now living very close to places where Islamist clergy do actually rule the roost, it might be worth seeing whether what I am saying (based on daily personal experience) doesn't have something it.

Tenderness to theocracy is not peculiar to Catholics but to anyone who believes that clergy enjoy access to prescriptive truths which apply to the whole of society, but which depend on revelation rather than reason.

Paul Halsall said...

I live in England. Islamist clergy hold no sway here.

Iran and civil liberties said...

I am not in the UK but I do know a certain amount about it. I think you will find that in some parts of the UK -- possibly some parts of Manchester, certainly in Bradford, Islamic clergy hold quite a lot of sway. And through their various representative bodies they also have quite in imput into government. Anyhow I shall not abuse the hospitality of your blog by writing again.

Paul Halsall said...

The question of who count's a clergy is complicated in Islam, and in a area with a lot of people of West Pakistan and Indian Muslim origin there are all sorts if different Muslim groups. Where they have what may count as "clergy", these are properly "Muslim clergy."

Islamist is political term, and while some Muslim clergy may be Islamist (or even Islamicist), they have very little influence, and are probably kept an eye on my internal intelligence services.