Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

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A quick cheat sheet to the Iranian Soap Opera (I have seen news organisations get much of this terribly wrong in the last few days):Governmental Bodies and Positions:

  • Supreme Leader - Theoretically the most powerful government figure in Iran, operates primarily through reserve powers on rare occasion, appointments, etc. The Supreme Leader is directly responsible for the welfare of the nation. The best analogy in western governmental terms would be that of a constitutional monarch not long after the Magna Carta. Theoretically one must hold the highest religious qualifications to hold this office, although this rule has been bent for the second (and current) Supreme Leader.
  • Council of Leadership (sometimes translated as Assembly of Experts of the Leadership) - A not-very-active body that elects the supreme leader (has happened once), dismisses them (has never happened), and monitors their conformance with the duties of the office. Members must be religious/legal scholars, having internally-created regulations on eligibility (and having eligible candidates vetted by the Guardian Council) but otherwise directly elected.
  • Guardian Council - A small, active, powerful government body with the task of keeping society conformant with Islamic norms. They vet candidates for a number of positions all across the government, have the power to block or annull legislation, and call people to judgement. They are appointed in a complex way that largely derives from bodies controlled by the Supreme Leader.
  • Majlis - Parliament elected by the people (vetted by the GC). This is the oldest part of the government, predating the revolution.
  • Expediency Council - Mediates disputes between the GC and Majlis. Appointed by the Supreme Leader. Doesn't play a major role in this.
  • Judiciary - Largely independent (but vetted by the GC). Doesn't play a major role in this, as it's inferior to any of the relevant bodies and largely concerned with the Shi'a version of Sharia (which does not specify details of how an Islamic Republic works).
  • Revolutionary Guards - A separate military force commanded by the Supreme Leader, responsible for security and special operations of the state along with its Islamic character
  • Morality Police (Basij) - A volunteer civilian force (most members are very young, e.g. 18-20) responsible for policing society for violations of Islamic norms. Participation in this lightens the mandatory military service, its members enjoy significantly less legal liabilities for their actions than regular police or military, and for conservative females in Iran participation aids them in social and economic mobility. They are mistrusted and disliked by large portions of society.
The current state was formed in 1979 as a result of the Islamic Revolution, incorporating aspects of traditional Shari'a into a western constitutional republic (replacing a corrupt constitutional monarchy). Due to long (and often violent and outrageous) meddling in their affairs by external powers, Iranians have a mistrust of western governments, particularly Britain and the United States.

Islamic authorities are significantly different than Christian religious authorities in that there is a higher demand for scholarship and legalistic/philosophic reasoning in their roles. For most intents and purposes, a high islamic scholar is a combined lawyer/religious/philosophic figure, requiring reasonably full qualifications in each.

Presidents of Iran can serve only two terms in a row.


  • Ali Khamenei - (current and second) Supreme Leader of Iran. A conservative, traditionalist member of the clergy. Served two terms as president early in the nation's history. Initially he did not qualify for the position of Supreme Leader, and recieved the needed titles without proper examination immediately before taking the role. Prefers to act as a quiet manager.
  • Ali Rafsanjani - Chairman of the Expediency Council, Chairman of the Council of Leadership. Former President. A centrist, technocratic businessman. Corrupt, very wealthy, follows his and the nation's business interests. Strongly interested in ending economic sanctions from the west and stabilising neighbouring countries (Iraq, Pakistan, Afghenistan). Opposes Ahmadinejad primarily for not pursuing peace and normalisation with the west.
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - President of Iran (second election disputed). Former mayor of Tehran. University professor (Civil Engineering) and former Basji. A right-leaning centrist with a populist leaning and theological views that, alongside his lack of clerical involvement, have been of concern to the clergy. His relationship with Khamenei has not been stable over the years, particularly his handling of the economy and his attempt to build political/religious ties to the people threatening to undermine the rest of government. His foreign policy views fit into these, rallying the Basij and some portions of the people directly against the west in a way that damaged the country, earning him rebukes from much of the rest of government.
  • Mohammad Khatami - Former President of Iran, clergy, liberal reformer. Served in Rafsanjani's administration. Made a number of speeches (including one at Columbia University in the US) stressing mutual respect and dialogue between Islam and the West. Known as "The Man in the Chocolate Robes", enjoys fair popularity outside of Iran. His victory in the elections were a surprise to everyone. His 2 terms in office were fairly successful in helping to soften Iran's image internationally, but his attempts at reform were almost uniformly blocked by the GC and Supreme Leader. Was in the running for the 2009 presidential elections but chose to withdraw a few months before.
  • Mohammad Ali Abtahi - A former vice president of Iran, clergy, liberal reformer, served under Khatami. Prolific blogger.
  • Mir-Hussein Mousavi - Former Prime Minister of Iran (position no longer exists), architect and artist, centrist (left-leaning) politician. Had longstanding personal and political emnity with Khamenei during Khamenei's presidency that was kept in check by the first Supreme Leader.
Other relevant names:
  • Ruhollah Khomeini - First Supreme Leader of Iran, major player during the revolution, religious scholar. Strongly anti-American and anti-British, but in domestic politics known for forcing disparate elements to work together. Much loved by the people. Fatwah for death of Salman Rushdie.
  • Reza Pahlavi - Former Shah (Monarch) of Iran, paranoid dictator. Pro-western business interests, heavily manipulated by Henry Kissinger, allowed Britain and the United States significant political and economic ownership of his country's resources and sovereignty.
  • Mohammad Mossadegh - Prerevolutionary prime minister of Iran, nationalist who in response to increasing western domination of the country and Shah's lack of care for the welfare of his people, forced the Shah into exile and nationalised the oil fields. Deposed by CIA and MI5 agents organised in American and British embassies. Remains a national hero to both Iranians and Iranians-in-exile
Snap judgements:
  • Khamenei - Neutral
  • Rafsanjani - Dislike
  • Ahmadinejad - Loathe
  • Khatami - Like and respect
  • Abtahi - Like
  • Mousavi - Neutral
  • Khomeini - Loathe
  • Pahlavi - Loathe
  • Mossadegh - Strongly like and respect
  • Supreme Leaders
    • Khomeini - 1979-1989
    • Khamenei - 1989-current
  • Presidents
    • (2 unimportant and short-lived)
    • Ali Khamenei - 1981-1989 (2 terms)
    • Ali Rafsanjani - 1989-1997 (2 terms)
    • Mohammad Khatami - 1997-2005 (2 terms)
    • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - 2005-current (1 term?)
Elections timeline
  • June 2009 - Ahmadinejad, in debates and rallies leading to election, refers (correctly) to Rafsanjani as corrupt
  • 9 June 2009 - Rafsanjani calls Khamenei to scold Ahmadinejad for the insult to his image.
  • 11 June 2009 - Mousavi writes letter to Supreme Leader outlining concerns about improprieties in run-up to election
  • 12 June 2009 - Election. Results are called for Ahmadinejad before they could possibly be counted in most regions, and a run-off election (regular in Iran) is not to be held. Supreme Leader calls election results a miracle of god. Mousavi and Ahmadinejad announce victory.
  • 13 June 2009 - Rafsanjani meets with Council of Leadership, presumably to consider removing Supreme Leader
  • Riots
  • News media enter heavy control, foreign journalists banned, Twitter and other public sites become primary means of control, proxynets established in other nations
  • Incidents where Basij beat and kill protesters begin
  • 16 June 2009 - Mohammad Ali Abtahi arrested, several other protesting public figures begin to be arrested
  • 19 June 2009 - Guardian Council meets presidential candidates
  • 20 June 2009 - Massive demonstrations against supreme leader, Basjis under threat in some cities
  • 20 June 2009 - Several members of Rafsanjani's family arrested
  • 21 June 2009 - Al Arabiya, other external news media formally expelled and banned
  • 21 June 2009 - Several members of Rafsanjani's family released (excluding his daughter)
That was quick, right?

(I should note that while I know more than this about the mess and Iran in general, I had to do a bit of research, particularly for the dates, to put this together). See also here, which has a nice chart and some decent enough analysis that I don't feel as much of a need to go into mine.

This has turned into a particularly difficult and lonely weekend. I keep facing that there really isn't much I want out of life, my material needs are more than met, and my most important needs probably never will be met because of my flaws. I had a really hard time getting out of bed yesterday. Putting it between there not being many people in the world with whom I could relate well and my not being suitable for much of everyone, I'd say it's more of the latter. I really miss and wish I had had more with L, and regret that I didn't have much of anything with other people who looked like good potential friends or more. I think it's been weeks(months? I don't remember) since I've hung out with anyone.. This lonliness is the one constant in my life - looking back over the years, ever since high school it's been here except for during the relationships. It's still not a good companion.

However, I did manage to make some Paneer Tikka Makhni that was pretty good. Paneer is in fact very easy to cook with, and there are some wonderful canned sauces (like tomato sauce in preparedness) at Whole Foods. I am not sure what it would take to actually make those sauces from their sources, but it might be good to learn - the sauces are not quite right (India Garden's version at spiciness level 8/10 is reasonably close to the way they should be but also not quite there). Whole Foods has a number of other canned indian sauces that look promising for other meals. I need to get some wild rice, as I like its taste better than white rice in almost all dishes. Apart from puffed rice, I really like most types of rice. I hope it's healthy for a vegetarian diet.

I really don't like father's day very much, a bit beyond not liking most holidays. I don't really know if I would've been better off being raised without a father or not - as distant and busy (we thought with work) as he was, he was generally kinder and felt more levelheaded than my mum. I bitterly resent the actual reasoning behind some of his distance, and his deception on that matter is behind why I expect never to speak with him again. I don't think a lot about family honestly - I've become a very different person from what I was in youth and don't have a lot left in common with them. I had a special closeness to my father when he was around, to the extent that he sometimes said that I was the only one who understood him. I still think I do, and I have some pretty good intuitions as to why he did what he did. I don't intend to ever forgive him though - I am not bothered that the marriage failed, but the prolonged dishonesty to all of us, particularly to my mother, is ugly beyond what I allow of people with whom I consider kin. All of this is despite us being very alike in a lot of ways - I saw in him this lonliness and pain that has slowly been maturing in me, and despite his distraction in pursuit of wealth and power he showed himself to be an eclectic intellectual. I think a lot of the ways in which my personality is very flawed are inherent in him but were mediated by him having younger and older brothers - my Uncle Mark and Uncle David didn't seem to have as much of this as my father did (despite all three of them having had complex marital relations, iirc).

Rereading Murakami's 「Wind-Up Bird Chronicle」, recently re-watched 「Pollock」 and 「Naked Lunch」. All three are among the best cultural products of recent times, I think.

It's also a little bit weird to be getting pseudopersonal email from Michelle Obama. Everything this administration does makes me wonder what's going to become precedent.


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