The Secret Police

The recent New Yorker article on Iranian exile groups isn’t online, but Jackmormon has a very good summary. The motivations of both the US and Iran are hard to read, but there’s one point that everyone should keep in mind.

The Iranians in Iran–the ones who are speaking out, going to jail, and sometimes being murdered, the ones who have fought for two decades for every bit of democracy they have today–are the ones who should choose and run any “post mullah” government, if there is to be such a thing. You’d be hard-pressed to find a population anywhere that had shown a greater commitment to democracy, and that had so clearly earned the right to self-determination.

The exile groups are opportunists, hoping to be installed by force in case the mullahs are removed from power. You can ignore the MEK, which is quite literally a cult, and to which most Iranians are hostile. Reza Pahlavi’s threat to Iranian self-determination is more real, if only because he’s playing the political game in here in the States, and just enough people in the administration might be credulous enough to think that he’s a viable leader, or cynical enough to hope to install a puppet. There’s a priceless moment in the New Yorker article when the reporter tells him that people would take his talk of democracy more seriously if he would just renounce any desire to become king. His response is that it’s not for him to tell the monarchists that he shouldn’t be king.

Even more to the point, Americans should review what they know about SAVAK. SAVAK was the Shah’s secret police, responsible for spying on, silencing, torturing, and murdering the opposition. This is relevant because Pahlavi’s organization is stocked with former members of SAVAK. For all his talk of “looking toward the future” and not “reliving the past,” Pahlavi is dragging the most evil parts of Iran’s past with him, and relying on them to bring him to power. Every time he’s interviewed, he should be asked what he’s done to purge SAVAK from his inner circle, and whether he can guarantee that no former member of SAVAK holds a position of influence in his organization. He hasn’t done a thing, of course, and he can’t guarantee any such thing. He just hopes no one will ask.