I normally enjoy Juan Cole’s blog Informed Comment for his often brilliant insights into the Middle East. But today, he’s frothing in an over-the-top attack on the Iranian government for the Guardian Council’s rejection of Hashemi Rafsanjani (pictured above) as a potential presidential candidate in the June 14 election. His comments seem anything but informed:
Their exclusion is a further step toward authoritarianism and perhaps totalitarianism in Iran…
A major challenge for the remaining 8 presidential candidates will to get anyone to care about an election conducted on a vary narrow basis, which might well be fixed anyway.
OK, let’s deconstruct this.
Anyone with a passing familiarity with Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism will realize that the current Iranian government falls pretty far from the two traditional examples of 20th century totalitarianism — Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union. To throw around the term ‘totalitarianism’ this way only serves to disrespect the memory of those who suffered under the truly horrific Nazi and Stalinist regimes and to amplify the heated rhetoric over Iran.
No one disputes that the rejection of Rafsanjani’s candidacy is pretty far afield from what we’d expect from a free and fair democratic election. It’s obviously, as far as most observers can tell, a reaction from the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to reject a potential president who might challenge his primacy as the Supreme Leader. That’s an institutional fight that Khamenei has been waging for some time — it’s in many ways not so dissimilar to the ways that the American system spent its first decades settling. Continue reading Why Iran is not a totalitarian state