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How the Iranian Revolution Changed the Role of the Shia Clergy

How the Iranian Revolution Changed the Role of the Shia Clergy
(Mehdi Khalaji, May 31, 2017)

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About the event

Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the Islamic Republic has modernized and bureaucratized the clerical establishment, redefined religion and created institutions to enforce this new definition. The effect has been a transformation of religion into a symbolic form of capital. By monopolizing religious affairs, the political system has become a regime of religion in which the state plays the role of central banker for symbolic religious capital. Consequently, the expansion and monopolization of the religious market have helped the Islamic Republic increase the ranks of its supporters and beneficiaries significantly, even among critics of the government. This presentation demonstrated how the accumulation of religious capital in the hands of the government mutually influences the nature of the state and the clerical establishment and will continue to do so in Iran’s uncertain future.

About the speaker

Mehdi Khalaji is the Libitzky Family fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on the politics of Iran and Shiite groups in the Middle East. A Shiite theologian by training, Mr. Khalaji has also served on the editorial boards of two prominent Iranian periodicals and produced for the BBC as well as the U.S. government’s Persian news service.

From 1986 to 2000, Mr. Khalaji trained in the seminaries of Qom, the traditional center of Iran’s clerical establishment. There he studied theology and jurisprudence, earning a doctorate and researching widely on modern intellectual and philosophical-political developments in Iran and the wider Islamic and Western worlds. In Qom, and later in Tehran, Mr. Khalaji launched a career in journalism, first serving on the editorial board of a theological journal, Naqd va Nazar, and then the daily Entekhab. In addition to his own writing, he has translated the works of the humanist Islamic scholar Muhammad Arkoun.

In 2000, Mr. Khalaji moved Paris where he studied Shiite theology and exegesis in the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. He also worked for BBC Persian as a political analyst on Iranian affairs, eventually becoming a broadcaster for the Prague-based Radio Farda, the Persian-language service of the U.S. government’s Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. At Radio Farda, he produced news, features, and analysis on a range of Middle Eastern, Iranian, and Islamic issues.

Mr. Khalaji writes a bilingual English and Persian blog, MehdiKhalaji.com.


Robert R. Reilly:

Well, tonight as you know our speaker is Mehdi Khalaji, emphasis on the first syllable, who is the Levitsky family fellow at the Washington Institute focusing on the politics of Iran and Shiite groups in the Middle East. Mehdi is a Shia theologian by training and appropriately enough without occupation he studied in Pune for quite some time I think and they’re gained your doctorate in theology he went on later to study in Paris. Let me find at the equal party faisal etude where again he focused on shiite theology he has worked in the world of broadcasting and the U.S. government’s Persian news service he was a broadcaster for the Prague0based Radio Farda, which is the Persian language service of the U,S, government’s Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and there he produced news features and analyses on a range of middle eastern Iranian and Islamic features today he’s going to talk about the very important transformation of the Iranian clergy as a result of the Revolution in 1979 please join me in welcoming Mehdi Khalaji.

Mehdi Khalaji:

Good evening everyone. Thank you so much for having me here. Thank you today with Westminster Institute for inviting me. This is a great honor for me to here speaking to you about one of the most enigmatic issues in the history of Islam and history of Iran, which I’m struggling a lot to understand really since long time ago.

As Rob told you, I was born in Qom. Qom is the Vatican of the Shia Islam and I was born to a very traditional family my father is an Ayatollah so we sent me to the seminary when I was 11 years old his dream was to see me as you know an Ayatollah but I studied for 14 years and I described myself as a recovering Lightoller now and then I studied Western philosophy and you know I did journalism and so on but clerical establishments was for me and not some personal preoccupation but also a enduring intellectual preoccupation on which I have written a lot in Persian and in English and I think the clerical establishment in Islam in general is still one of the darkest corner of the Islamic history.

It’s very hard for good works, academic works, on this issue, whether Sunni Islam or Shia Islam. Obviously, there are much less books and researchers on for different reasons. Let’s start with a few basic facts. I liked the term basic, you know, I was not born English-speaking person, so English is my fourth language but I left some words in English like basics basically for me it means simple but essential. And sometimes, many people who talk about the subject miss the basic facts or the basic principles.

When we talk about Shia clergy, we are talking, actually, about a modern phenomenon because when you hear clergy, you think about the Christian clergy. That’s very obvious, you know, clergy in the Latin languages refers mostly to Christianity and the Christian clerical establishment but in the weather in Catholicism or any Protestantism clerical establishment or clergy, they have a very special and important theological place, theological definition, theological function, but in Islam don’t have that kind of function for clerics.

Actually, if in Christianity clergy was born out of a theological need. In Islam, it was born out of a totally historical need. In other words, in Islam in order to be a Muslim, in order to understand Islam, in order to understand a message or Qur’an, in order to practice religion, you don’t need to go to any clinic. You don’t need any clerk’s advice, you can understand and in practice is norm-based on your own intellectual capabilities. In other words, is not was born as the Protestant religion but historically, it became Catholic and especially in schism, you see them, you know, see them.

This division between Shiia Islam and onion know one of the expression I can like in English is political Islam you know that it doesn’t exist in any modern languages if you translate this political Islam to Persian or Arabic or any other language it’s not familiar expression to a Muslim ears the the main division in Islam which is the division between Sunnis and Shia it has happen out of a political dispute when Mohammed died what even before his funeral families Muslims started to fight over his successor some people say that Ali his son-in-law is his successor the majority of people say that we have to follow the pre-Islamic model which is tribal model for appointing a successor. The majority of Muslims appointed Abu back and then Omar and then you know of man as first and second concert caliph or the successor of the Prophet but she arranged minor or a thousand years shall remain and every opposition protests on minority everywhere on anomic territories one of the biggest gift that Adam a God or nature or whatever history has given to share was the Mongol invasion Mongol invasion has destroyed the central government and Islam Empire in Baghdad and somehow freed this minority here and there and it took share two centuries to recover and construct itself and actually I said itself as a serious religious political power by creating satellite Empire for centuries ago so four centuries ago in Iran we have a dynasty who is trying to claim legitimacy religious or Islamic legitimacy by making see them as as its official religion and on the other hand by differentiating itself from the rest of the Muslim world not only by religious element but also by Persian language elements bilingual element so it will start to create a notion of national Iranian nationalism based on the Islamic religion mythology Persian language and somehow criticizing Islam and offering this kind of version as a running exam when in Islam is the pressurized Islam Iranian schism is the Persian eyes schism which is different from Lebanese schism different some are Chisolm different from Turkish isn’t to any kind of you know because in Iranian schism you see all this the trace of the pre-islamic creation mythology draw a strain elements little ism and all this you know the regions and a myth and history so interestingly since four centuries ago Iranians in Iran in order to maintain the power equation they needed to make an alliance with the towers outside the region because Iranian Islam has defined itself in spite of the majority of in the majority in the majority of Muslims Ottoman Empire Islam you know the main rivalry was between set of it Iran and Ottoman Empire so in order to maintain the power equation they needed to make an alliance with Europeans with Portugal with touch with French and inside the country they needed to create a very powerful clerical establishment so they started to gather she Jewish from different part of the Muslim world including from Lebanon or Iraq or India so they started to create this establishment they allocate the lots of money to make you know religious endowments for them built medicine and so on but the very important turning point was the Adventist Telegraph’s in Iran about 200 roughly 250 years ago or 200 years ago 200 years ago when Telegraph was introduced to the audience so clicks became able to connect with their followers who are not in their city who are not in their region so for example we had a cleric sitting in measures in Iraq issuing a fatwa and sending this network by telegraph to his followers in Tehran one of the most famous even is the first robot by Ayatollah she revealed who issued a fatwa against the government’s decision to sign a contract with a British company on the tobacco so it was in yeah Thank You tunnels what is 18 six yeah it was under coach are done so and you know this fatso is but it’s not more than I think fifteen would very short well grief but it just destroyed government’s you know effort to cut this bill and mobilize the whole people against the government and some people some historians call this destructive added tobacco revolution so and then we come to you know by telegraph intake into the modern era and actually modernism was a double-edged sword on one hand modernism introduced to Iranian modern ideas but Constitution they have constitutional movement about over 100 years ago in Iran the first constitution movement ever Muslim world freedom individuality privacy all the scandals equality all these kind of modern ideas and values but at the same time modern technology helped the traditional forces especially clerks to reconstruct themselves in a more effective and assertive way so as I told you by telegraph and there by telephone and then by castle part and then even clay by Internet these people can connect to their followers no matter where and when it’s interesting if you go to the website of some of the clerics in chrome you find their website in about 16 languages and they say that we receive the religious religious donations or religious taxes or credit card so somebody’s new in New York following Islam and non-important Ayatollah in an important place but you can first get advice from him on the Internet and to him his religious taxes and actually empower him financially religiously socially let me explain the nature of the clerk elects clerk old establishment by comparing to the Catholic clinical system in Catholicism you have a very well-defined hard hierarchy on the top you have poor 2005 Cardinals in a very well-defined procedure get together and appoint the successor the successor would have the same authority as his predecessor and all the assets all the networks for the money or everything will be transferred to him so him as an individual sits in a in a religious seat and everything that no matter who was the predecessor everything the producer producer has between authority money everything it would be for him in schism I’m not talking about Sunni Islam which is totally different in schism there is no hierarchy in this way which means that she is not recognizes the pluralism of the ayatollahs there might be 10 100 500 Ayatollah Ayatollah means the highest clerical level who and every individual every share is free to choose his own Ayatollah to follow him and religious issues and pain in his religious taxes and financial duties so for example I’ve written unclenox a lot if you go to the Washington Institute website one of the paper I have written was about the recent developments in the in the Iranian Shia political establishment you would find there that you know I gave some numbers I don’t remember all this number but he has something like 500 I tolas and shower some of them have thousand followers some of them have hundreds of millions of photos for example idealistic stunning that’s a very interesting question to become an Ayatollah Ayatollah has two aspects one is educational now you’ll have to start to go to the seminary is tugging you know certain textbook pass some exams go to some courses usually it takes at least ten years so ten years of serious study may make you an aunt a lot but yes to kind of Ayatollah we have one a certain people who are Ayatollah which means that they are lucky doctor doctor in theology hmm they have a study and they got the degree on on theology so they are ill able to teach they are able to write they are able to offer original studies they are offered to you critical up with opinions but we have grand ayatollahs grand iPhone as are most people who are Ayatollah but they were able to create a social and financial networks and in the business hmm not just an Ayatollah and a business as an institution he has an office so he is able to attract people to follow him and to pay him the religious taxes they are told Grand Ayatollah so for example my father is an Ayatollah but he doesn’t have any follower on the earth if teachings is writing and that’s it it’s just an academic prestige that’s it but there are people who are Grand Ayatollah which means that they have institution they have organization they have many people working for him many clerics working for him they are going to different cities different villages to you know at me you know promote his religious leadership and so on and you know gather collect the religious taxes so if they talking about Ayatollah it means which means those people who are theologically are eligible to be followed neurologically eligible to be followed you have something about five hundred auto laws in Iran in Iraq in Queens in Lebanon and elsewhere but among these people we have less than 50 people who have been able to claim themselves as a granddaughter under different levels for example we have Ayatollah a little study in Iran who has a very large portion of chef’s community as his followers millions of people’s he has an office in New York in Chicago in London in Paris in different places in the world so people go there to you know perform the religious ceremonies to pay the taxes to get introduced to religious people to mingle with the religious community to have a salon determining the supreme leader of Islamic Republic who has millions of followers inside Iran and our secular and we have some Grand Ayatollah who have you know one in two million three million and if you go to the Washington Institute website I explain how you can because there’s there’s no transparent system that you can go there and say okay what’s the data or the I who love and how many followers each one has and how many money they collect and how they turn out there is no such official but there are some ways that help you to you know have a rough estimate about the number of people who follow them about the very income sources about the way they explain it and so on so one of the main differences between sheer Islam and the Catholic Christianity is that it ensures love there is no such as higher hierarchy in the clerk establishment so you have many people and you are religiously free to follow any of them there are some criteria criteria but all of them are subjective all of them are subjective for example you have to follow the most pious Ayatollah you have to follow the most knowledgeable either life now it’s very subjective people have different opening yes that’s very good question in in share Islam you have to eat it be an Ayatollah which means you have studied enough to be able to understand the religious and sacred texts for yourself so it’s like very doctor now you don’t need to go to a doctor so you diagnose your problem yourself and you prescribe for yourself but if you are not a nice Allah you have to follow Ayatollah and among those I will learn you have to choose the most points the most knowledgeable Ayatollah who is well aware of the contemporary problems of the Muslim community so actually he is able to apply the legal system to the current cases this is one difference the second difference is that when Pope dies as it was every Pope is the title it’s not an individual but in share Islam when an Ayatollah dies it’s an individual is not a title which means that if I to last Stanley for example times now is one of the richest Ayatollah under when he dies there is no technically where we cannot pick up any successor because they’re all and when I do not out there you know the followers have two choices one to continue to follow him as they did before but if there was a new case they can go to another item and the other choice is to choose another Ayatollah but there is no successor of this specific item that one of the consequences is that everything he had the Financial Network the money the assets the organization the madrassah institutions the library for example a solar system has an observatory observed that’s really yeah in home because of you know they need to know what the the real time for the fasting you know for the for praying and so on so they he has a huge Observatory facility in Qom so we have millions of dollars as access savings and sighs so but if he dies this money is accessed this network would not transferred automatically to anyone else it remains in the family which is very strange because the family neither I told ah nor the three are accountable before any authority they are not accountable before any government they are not accountable for any social or political authority so nobody knows how much money they have and how they would spend it so they continue the children of the Ayatollah the sons in law or the relatives continue to run those organization for you know unlimited time so when before revolution we have such a system until 1979 the Iranian Revolution what happened in running revolution what was the only revolution this is one of the ways to describe Iranian Revolution four centuries ago Safavid dynasty we started to design a very specific essential relation between sheer Authority and political authority we said I’m the king I am the country but you as an author love provided the legitimacy in 1979 until the harmony Khomeini the founder of Islamic Republic thought that actually we don’t need a king we can be the king for ourselves if we are the one we’re supposed to provide the legitimacy to the probe to the political system to the political authority why would we need urgent so I can become an alpha last rule the country I replace the Kings and we see this confluence of political and religious authorities in 1979 okay before 1979 the financial resources of their clerks were very limited to religious resources like the court forms those of you who are familiar with these terms know even kind of you know in the Reese’s endowment which was huge actually can you believe that one-third of Iran is the largest country in the Middle East but one fifth of Iran land is religious in that word one third so it’s a huge money huge money and when we talk about one set we are not talking about desert star talking about those kind of land for you know like for agriculture you know with my weeks money but after evolution the Ayatollah became the ruler of that changed everything one because he had access to the government resources so that changed clerks relation with people because people revolution clerks had to yet people follow cleric but people have to care about people because people were providing them mind so you all have to care about people concerns and problems in order to attract attention and motivate them to pay you the religious taxes after Revolution the religious resources became a very tiny small portion of their resources so they were able to have access to this oil money or revenue export import and all kind of monopolies which was based on the discrimination or system of the Islamic Republic of Iran so if you are not allowed you have the monopoly of importing sugar to the customer that’s enough for you so your relation with people changes you don’t care about people because you became a businessman so you make money without any need to convince people about your legitimacy or your superiority over other auto loans or over other religious social cultural authorities there if you read the constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran it’s based on the very clear heavy this can make discrimination in favor of clothes now on many ways first the ruler of the country should be another so elite people a lego individual cannot be valued sake or the truest ruler of the country on the other hand it’s not about the ruler but also the many key positions and the political and legal system of the country are exclusively given to clerks for example the chief of the judiciary should be anointed the general person there should be another the Minister of Intelligence should be an item we have a political body called Guardian Council it consists of 12 people sixth people are lawyers they are not important at all six people are I told us this six people should be an Ayatollah each of them and should be appointed by the ruling Idol The Guardian Council controls all elections in the countries from the step one to the last step and it’s in charge of verifying all bills adopted by the Parliament whether it is compatible with Islam or Islamic law or not so they are the final arbiter in approving or adopting any law in Iran and you have another body which is important called Assembly of Experts now it consists of 86 Ayatollahs. All of them should be eligible. The Assembly of Experts is in charge of supervising the ruling ayatollahs records and see whether is in right whether he is respecting countries national security interest or not as intensity’s disability disability or dysfunction or his death they can appoint another Supreme Leader and replacing money in practice all these people are elected through an election it means through the Guardian Council it means to the ruling jurisconsults which means that all these people are indirectly elected by the supreme leader to supervise him you know that it’s not possible and they have nothing to do except to provide legitimacy to the supreme leader this is very important so the legitimacy of the supreme leader in other words the whole system comes from this body which is created and maintained by the Supreme Leader you have many other key positions in different bodies of the government which are allocated exclusively to clip and the rule injuries who is religious okay am I an arsonist but this part is very important because they fear the flood political philosophy of Islamic Republic is called the Loretto sake the guardianship of the truth which means that as I said you have many other life but one of them through a very sophisticated procedure because the ruling truth okay he becomes the rule engines one because I feel not communist I said we are Muslims everyone on the planet needs law every society needs law but we call because we are Muslim we have the best laws which is internal clock which is sherrilyn and as a modern we have to implement Islamic law not in our prior life but also in the public sphere but who is able to implement Islamic law in the private sphere better than expert in Islamic which means and I told us okay the question is okay we have many isoline how we can choose as I said they they have a very sophisticated crazy system it believe me no one even running after 40 years are not able to understand that you know how the system can be reasonable this body elect one night a lot okay and not all citizens lay individuals but also other ayatollah should follow him on every matter related to the public sphere I give you an example it is in Islamic law pain and receiving interest for the savings is illegal okay that was the custom that was the practice for many centuries but in Islamic Republic they created some justification for it and it was approved by this supreme leader so other Auto laws cannot say cannot ask their followers not to put their money in the past their followers despite the fact that we’re I to love is not happy with this does not legitimize religiously this banking system is not allowed to say anything because everyone in the society that’s natural you know the otherwise it would be chaos so everyone as the citizen would follow government’s guidance on anything related to the public sphere from economy culture and now there are linking them so which means that become being and becoming a knight not becomes minimus so me as an ekala should follow the ruling either law exactly the same way as al a individual shoe polish the Institute the Islamic Republic has destroyed the institution of Sharia in this way so that’s why it’s very difficult technically to talk about this theocracy in describing Islamic Republic’s political system I think it’s better to describe it as a religious autocracy an autocracy which is justified by religion but it’s not the opposite because the institution of clergy is totally irrelevant has no say in the legal system judicial and the propaganda in running governments you know country’s economy in defining the government’s policies with a domestic or foreign policy so the clergy interestingly became Richard economically but Richard politically and socially so that’s the product of the clergy clergy has traded with the government got lots of money lots of economic privileges from the government but in return it’s lost its in the manuals so it is unable to challenge the government on any issues with a cultural economy political and that’s why for example tradition you see you don’t hear from circular g8 award on the nuclear program on the insurance policy in Syria and Iran policy in Iraq and you want quality in Lebanon and Iran attitude toward Israel and Iran’s attitude toward the west happy total silence because they know that it is if they speak out with opinions they will be easily cracked down or deprived from the privileges they have this is the result of 40 years of religious governments in Iran and at the end Islamic Republic has related the disk spinning of the clerk of establishment to its own listing this is something that many clerks in court in nature are aware of and are extremely unhappy about it but cannot do much about it we have the government has transformed the clerk establishment from a religious body to a government body which is in charge of training cattle for the government so the mapping study or not or what is your opinion our religion really relevant but then you are not able to apply it now you don’t you’re not able to attract people with different opinion what matters is that go there study for two years instead of 10 15 years two years three years four years every you know superficial study and then wear the uniform and go forth in the cup one of the government bureaus whether in the army IRG see in the state TV and radio and there in the educational system and the juridical system doesn’t matter go out work this is totally different from people motivations to come to study in the seminary be for evolution so I stop here thank you for tolerating my horrible English from where did the religious authority of the belly belly party doctrine arrived as I understand it is a heterodox teaching and Shia Islam so how did that teaching English in the sea and how broadly within your onion people is its legitimacy recognized just actually this is one of the main issues for anyone who study consume for any reason because many people think that the notion of the guardianship of tourists came from a lot of jurisprudence or schedule students wine you can find its origin mostly not a game Islamic to students but in Islamic mysticism so if you look at auto-lock Iranian writing he refers to a very famous mystics figures like Abner V laxative in Laguna Beach those people more than just in other word Ayatollah Khomeini did not believe in Sharia only it is not to me in the religious and legal system and that’s why I wanted let me explain to you because I just you know after many years of study I just find this out and it’s really interesting because when I to know before revolution internal Khamenei was advocating for implementation of the Shia okay so it’s very simple you are Muslims we have Sharia I’m an eyeful of extra and Sharia so I have the religious legitimacy to rule the community in order to implement the law okay he came to power came to power for the first time in the history of schism a Shia Ayatollah took the government but Iranian society and Iranian government was so modernized you know we had modern universities mother economy modern judiciary everything was modern what a TV and where you had fun she found out you were smart enough to realize that you cannot apply Sharia and want the country at the same time these are not going to work one for example Sharia says you cannot take interest of your savings in the banking what are the things I’d rather shut down the whole banking system the modern banking system is not justified in the Shilin okay and you as the ruler of the government want to have a TV and radio while Sharia says that women are not allowed to go to radio at CD burners allowed to nobody is allowed to hear the voice of women who are not his close relatives so what does it mean it means that you have no cinema you have known with the famous that mapping Sharia says that music is illegal absolutely legal so how can you know when you are chilling with also in a country it was not Afghanistan it was not Saudi Arabia it was not human it was Iran in which I’m not showing it you know but there’s a big difference between your honor you know so I don’t know how many how many found out that everything Sharia face is alien to the society you know look at women for example hijab if you go to Tehran now I’ve traveled to many cities in the world it is the capital especially in the Muslim world if you go to Tara today you would find Tara and I bet Alice the most erotic city in the Muslim world it doesn’t look like a monoamine city you know I was in Dubai I was me Ankara I was in Istanbul I was in Beijing I was different places in the mornings you hear the voice of a van is calling for prayer you would hear this calling for prayer wherever you are in the capital nothing that are not in the wrong and go this movie which you know many of those of you who are you know following the new movies especially you know independent movies you know that this year asked Arthur Hagen Iranian director won the Oscar Prize for the second time and if you go and watch his first movie which one Oscar few years ago it’s called separation go and see this movie in order to see the middle-class ordinary life in terror forget about the stories we have stories as much Iranians are the most similar people to emergence if you go to tear out architecture the laws of music you know Iranians do not know what’s going on in Istanbul they know don’t know they hardly know any Afghan-Pakistani Arab writers or artists but every movie watch in the in the cinema they receive the CD or the DVD in the underground network just two weeks up after use watch it here so I think under the underground culture Iran in Iran it’s not that on the ground with all the grounds you know so everything is available everything you and they know what exactly happened today in the Fifth Avenue in needles they are not just crazy about you’re not United States and they think that you know they don’t belong to this region they don’t define themselves as middle-eastern so they think that it was it just an historical bad lot that they were in this place they had to be next to the Switzerland you know something like that now they are next to Afghanistan or derogatory so this is the society Las Familias a few years after revolution he introduced a new theory which is the Expediency of the government what is this notion what is this theory he said that based on the experience of the government in case of any conflict between Sharia and the interests of the country interest of the nation the interest of the country France chase so it gave priority to the interest of the regime or what you know political science is called red on the table and expediency of the regime is more important that the Constitution is more important than the Sharia law in other words surely Allah is valid until further notice and it reminds me this amazing phrase of the approach Mars he said once that these are my principles if you do not get my love others so this is it has become the official philosophy of Islamic Republic okay she is there but if I pinch that the interest of routine it tells me to do something else I have to go for time in other words I do not come anything to power by his claim that I want to implement the Shia and you have to follow me because an expert in law but in after he came to power he changed his mind he’d not realize the legitimacy of the Shia and he says that I’m ruled over this country not only because I’m an idler not only because I’m an expert in religion but because I know the Expediency of this country better than all of you and this is why I said this notion did not exist in the jurisprudence now this is absolutely the is autocracy was something that was created by Khomeini based on his background in mysticism you know I know the truth I know the absolute truth and you have to follow me and you have no right to ask you have no right to challenge me you just have to follow me blindly so now you’re facing with so I think you are right there are lots of similarities between Islamic Republic and the historical types of totalitarianism you know how many of them fascism or medieval villages but there are lots of differences too and that’s what makes it difficult to describe these new political creatures you know you’re talking about you know there are new regimes in the world which are described by political scientists innovators I mean as semi-totalitarianism or electoral authoritarian regimes which means that you see these competitive elections you know we just had a presidential election which was you know as my friend described it describes elections in Iran maximum drama minimum change so this is this is exactly what is going on in these kind of regimes you know you have a competition between between different matches and they are really fighting against each other it’s not such a filter no they are really wanting but at the end they the framework is elected people to go out of this framework which makes it different from traditional dictatorship traditional classic conventional services so we are in case of Iran yes you see the President of Iran in the clerk but he had no power base in the clerk of community where his power base come from military you see an article it’s very interesting if I had a picture you can go and Google sometimes in my speeches I show these pictures which is very telling look at some of pieces of item of Romania when you look at our to look for many the people around him are laypeople engineers doctors clerks and typical army but Google are two not family pictures all of those people are coming from delivering energy whether with uniform or without it even those people who are you know presumably they are cleric but they are not cleric we just have the turbulent role but they come from intelligence and meeting the real power in Iran now is not in the hands of clearance between the hand of military and especially IRGC and these are people who are determining Iran’s key policies whether in economy in politics semester politics in the foreign policy and in the cultural arena and so on and if Allah Khomeini harmony dies these are not great who get together and think about all the best person to successfully pass title to succeed on a family no these are IRGC these are military these are intelligence people who are going to decide who the next Ayatollah who can obey them and protect their interests so Iranian regime is a military regime with the religious facade that’s the very top question look you know some people for example the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has six several times that presentative hair statement like Iranian regime is not separately is Subba Christine it means that there’s a rule of talks and which which is true anyway so we had some people in you know each administration who were well informed about all these complexities and so on the issue there is not about in your eyes I do believe in Long Island Joint Institute in 2005 I came to the Washington I came to Washington on February 17th 5:20 in the afternoon in Dulles Airport that’s when I landed in the United States and three months later I joined the Institute since then I’m in the pink tank community I do believe that we have great people who understand you know Iran who understand released the the issue is the policies that each government is decided to follow not understanding so for example under Walmart we had a totally different policy you know they intentionally decided to ignore fun you know some issues like human rights democracy a large you know to civil society they decided to negotiate with those people who are apparent on a very specific issue which was in Croatia now we have a different placement with different priorities I don’t see that the problem is I think mr. Kissinger has responded to this question by saying that as long as Iran has not decided whether it’s the consumer cause it’s a Revolutionary Government okay when Iran decides to protect the national interest do not disturb lies the government in the region do not make a threat to Israel because I do believe that Iran and Israel are similar in many ways and they can be you know they are natural allies and this situation is unnatural this situation is not normal we have to go back to the short policy why’s that because both Iran and Israel they are surrounded by enemies and they hate Israel as much as they hate you run so historically as I told you this for centuries for its forces physical Iran was trying to maintain the power equation by making alliances with the fire but the outsider with European so this is what shock did in a shaft was us-ally at bar by this alliance was able to maintain its karma in the region so we I’m Israel we have lots of things in common and this is not natural as long as Iran is practically and actively pursuing an empty Israeli policies but by providing different kind of health to help Allah Hamas and all these groups we can describe it as a revolutionary government which means that there is no reasonable justification for Iran to be Israel’s enemy but it’s an ideology so as long as this ideology shape the decision-making in Tehran it’s a revolutionary government yet if Iran decided to normalize its relationship with the United States I do believe that settled with the Islamic Republic but I think exactly for the same reason it would not happen under antilock harmony at least if he dies okay let’s see what happens but uh national harmony because I can economies aware of this there’s any serious a freshman with the United States would be not only the death of Islamic Republic but the political death for himself and he that would be done and an act of suicide so it wouldn’t happen under him but let’s see what happens after he dies by the way because I’m writing his biography political biography I think an official I’m one of the few people in the Washington who wakes up every morning and praise God keep him life because I mean slow writer and I complain that he dies before I finished my biography and that would be an economic disaster for me yes I think the last question I have guests at home so I have to go yeah take the lady look I have no doubt that you know China better than me I just read two books under Chinese the political system and I’m sure that there are lots of similarities but you know I’m by training I am a theologian and I’m a philosopher and you know frankly she–she one of the German philosopher says that not seeing the differences is a sign of which eyes so I try to see the differences because there are lots of similarities no doubt you know not only with the contemporary political systems but also that water locked I’m like you know North Korea not many many other places but I am looking for a specifics about the Iranian regime because we are dealing with a clerical establishment which is extremely unorganized you know in Communism everything was organized at least not anymore yeah what was organized in Iran it was me recognized so out of this kind of organizational in which system you have a sentence indicated interaction between all the new actors and factors so you have totally you know let me give you an example before nuclear negotiation we could speak of Iranian opposition both inside Iran and outside it at least inside Iran after the 2000 election which was reached and there was the crisis after that you could talk about you know affiliate opposition group inside Iran an octagon has different kind of groups which you know fled Iran at the revolution or after war as I but when Rouhani the prayer started in the nuclear negotiations the way government put portrayed his negotiation is that his nuclear program is all right and noiselessness and West are trying to deprive us from this right so now we are fighting over a right so this is us versus West and all of a sudden these lines is borders between government people and opposition would learn so we saw all these people who were criticizing governments foreign policy domestic policy economics they kept silence and they started to support government why because we are fighting over right with not affect and this has increased anti-American sentiment anyone and let me tell you something out before this nuclear negotiation people were thinking of depressing and human rights as you know their ultimate priority for failing Iran after this negotiation people say cheers Human Rights and printable who cares about human rights and democracy why for 2001 first unprecedented sanctions caused by Iran’s nuclear program has made the life very difficult for people these people say that okay war priority should be listing intention so negotiating with West supporting two regime supporting the regime to negotiate a lifted sanctions because you cannot motivate people to pursue democracy and human rights if they are hungry first you have to give them bread and then after the fight for Human Rights so economy and second the experience of the Arab so-called Arab Spring was so disappointing for you and the government this is this is government scientist which is according to me totally untrue but the government told people that you see what’s happening in Syria you see what’s happening in behind in Yemen this was Israel and United States plot in 2009 to which Iran as chaotic as Syria and we fought for it so we cracked down all this political activists all these journalists all this human rights activists for a good reason and unfortunately all those people who’ve been crackdown many of them happy they bought this thing but this argument so now before 2009 you had human rights and- and democracy now nobody talks about that everyone has what economy and security so the security of the country an economy became some more Asian community that is not Republic is very good in protecting government the country’s integrity security and fighting for lifting sanctions so there’s no opposition anymore so what does it one of the things about Iran is this this gap between government and people I’m not talking about earlier I’m talking what I need I’m talking what intellectuals they are not complaining about the violation of human rights anymore as the way they did before 2009 and this is a real tragedy thank you so much for your thank you very much for coming ladies and gentlemen please join us for Bill Gertz on July 14th.

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