Reforming the reformer

Reforming the reformer
: I’m waiting for Iranian bloggers to explain the latest news from Tehran:

President Mohammad Khatami said in a speech he would resign if people wish it amid growing public dissatisfaction over his failure to meet promises of democratic reform, a newspaper reported Saturday.

It was the first time Khatami has publicly offered to resign. Iran’s formerly popular president has come under increasing pressure in recent months to stand firm against unelected hardline clerics and fulfill election promises of freedoms and democratic change in Iran….

Khatami made the comments in a speech in Karaj, west of the capital Tehran, on Thursday. State-run television and radio censored the part that discussed a possible resignation.

Khatami’s hopes for a compromise with hard-liners have been thwarted in recent weeks after the Guardian Council, which vets all parliamentary legislation, rejected two key reform bills presented by the president.

Those bills would have given Khatami greater power to stop constitutional violations by his hardline opponents and bar the Guardian Council from arbitrarily disqualifying candidates in legislative and presidential elections.

NRO’s Joel Mowbray gives further background:

To listen to the diplomats at Foggy Bottom, Iran is a country divided between the religious “hardliners” and the moderate “reformers.” State’s No. 2 official actually called Iran a “democracy” in an interview with the Los Angeles Times this February. Give the ruling mullahs credit for this much – they managed to dupe the U.S. State Department.

The Iranian mullahs pulled off an impressive marketing job by holding two consecutive elections in which a “reformer” won the presidency and then allowing the “reformers” to win a majority of parliament in the 2000 election. Beneath the surface, though, the story is much different. The Council of Guardians, a panel of 12 mullahs that controls most of Iran, vetted all candidates for president and Parliament. Even if the “reformers” who control the Parliament are actual reformers, they have little power to change anything. The Council of Guardians can veto any bill it chooses.

But the greatest – and most dangerous – myth that the mullahs have managed to perpetuate is that President Mohammad Khatami is a “reformer.” What most don’t realize is that he spent a decade as Iran’s chief censor, from 1982 to 1992, where he censored more than 600 publications. He was one of 238 people who placed their hats in the ring – and 234 were declared ineligible by the Council of Guardians. In other words, Khatami was only of four candidates deemed acceptable by the mullahs.