What are the latest thoughts of our infallible Leader, our Führer, Ali Khamenei? What is the The Second Phase – گام دوم?
On the 13th of February 2019, he made a statement aimed at the young generation. For him, the past forty years have been the First Phase of the Glorious Islamic Revolution.
Now it is time to start the Second Phase, which will last another forty years, and work harder toward the ideals of the Iranian Islamic Revolution.
The full 6,000 word statement can be read on this website.
In his best cleric’s mumbo jumbo in Farsi-Arabic, with interminable sentences, he addressed [his] dear young people, describing a triumphant Iran, defeating its enemies and overcoming the difficulties with panache and gusto thanks to the teaching of Islam, (read the Shiite clergy).
However, before outlining his plan for the Second Phase, he made it clear: The Islamic revolution, a living and resolute phenomenon, is always flexible and ready to correct its mistakes, however, on its unwavering base, it cannot be revised.
He sketched out the seven points in economy, science, ethics, freedom, international relations, Justice and lifestyle to be conducted in the straitjacket of Shiism as interpreted by the Velayat-e faqih.
You wanted change? Forget it!
The next day, the first page of all media was dedicated to Ali Djoun’s concept, گام دوم انقلاب, the Revolution’s Second Phase.
Most pages carried the same poster reproduced above, and a slogan. Some others contented themselves with a sober picture of him and a caption out of context.
Remember Khamenei’s sentence: The Islamic revolution, a living and resolute phenomenon, is always flexible and ready to correct its mistakes, however, on its unwavering base, it cannot be revised.
Many media highlighted an abridged version of the first sentence: The Islamic revolution is ready to correct its mistakes.
The second part, on its unwavering base [the Islamic revolution], it cannot be revised, was omitted.
In the paradoxical Iranian politics … the dictator is censored … or the biter bitten.
An unknown word caught our attention تبیین. Even after forty years of hearing strange Arabic words, we still need an old dictionary to translate these Arabic nouns, rarely used in Farsi, to us.
تبیین means “explaining”. In fact the propagandist journalists outdid themselves by trying to explain the points made by Khamenei from a new statement. These points have been repeated over four decades and totally hermetic to people’s demands.
The worst of the howling propaganda came with a few infographics, a simplistic image that in our times of visuals seems to accompany facile slogans so essential to the Iranian political paradigm.
In the following days, long editorials, op-eds, authorities’ peremptory statements from ministers and IRGC commanders, and sermons of the Friday-preachers filled the gaps, embellished, embroidered … exaggerated the points of the Second Phase.
Since no one, even the most experienced propagandist, could boast about a thriving economy or anything else that makes living in a country sweet to most, they emphasised the enemies of the people and the development of “defence” hardware and producing longer-range missiles:
As the Islamic Revolution comes to its fifth decade, the defence industry of the country with a unique effort over the past forty years can parade and rub the nose of the world in the might and abilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
اقتدار نظام جمهوری اسلامی ایران را به رخ جهانیان بکشد
The Poster Maniacs
Demagogues, despots and control freaks love to have their posters and images to underline their love for their people and vice versa.
With a sense of déjà vu, the images below convey a subliminal message: No matter what you see, read, feel or hear, I am really a very nice man to love. I will turn your dull lives into epic tales.
Second Phase: The Snake Oil for Iran’s Ills
The Second Phase, after the Economy of Resistance, is another manoeuvre to cover up the failures of the theocracy and the corrupt system that spares no one, from the richest to the poorest, all in a spiderweb of givers and receivers of under-the-table deals and baksheesh. Corruption in Iran is not the deeds of some that could be isolated and neutralised. It is the corruption itself that people are resigned to and they abide by its unwritten rules.
In the event, the chaotic jumble made of both concepts is about no change to keep alive a twisted Islam, thanks to an Islamic despot and a herd of reactionary clerics fed by him and ready to explain away the hell on earth as Allah’s will.
They are all deaf to the idea that the balance of power is against them: they have made the Iranians poorer than they should be.
However, the clerics have a few unexpected accessories to help them maintain themselves.
Apathy is the Ally of the Regime
Blasé, lacking the guidance and the curiosity necessary to achieve their dreams, the younger generation gets going in life with apathy and unadventurous consumerist ideas that the JCPOA might have realised. They either daydream at home, or, refusing to adjust to the conditions, they hit the road to exile. Fleeing the country has created a massive brain-drain that the ayatollahs beautifully ignore, since it works for them in reducing the number of protesters.
Even if the social fabric is moth-eaten and discontent grows – disputes and quarrel scenes are recorded and published via mobile phones – nothing shakes the certainty of the clerics in having the upper hand.
Up to now, there has been no sense of consensus on a collective vision as to how to run the political life in replacement of the ayatollah’s rule.
For the young, blaming their elders for letting the Islamic Revolution take shape is an easy solution, but it thrusts them in the past as their elders do.
Moreover, the expressions of one’s defiance for the clerics in private or semi-private circles are faintly daring and even acceptable to the pragmatic ayatollahs. Letting a little steam out is better than obstructing all the apertures and waiting for a major explosion.
When the discontent will find its expression in concrete and organised actions of bold disobedience is anybody’s guess. What people are demanding now is money in their pocket and acceptable economic conditions. If minimal financial security and comfort were to be provided, the protests would die down faster.
For the ayatollahs, the smoke screens that the Second Phase and the Economy of Resistance create on the domestic scene are enough to hold the country together with the successive waves of crackdowns.
The Ambivalent Attitude of Europe
Europe has turned out to be no one’s ally. The elections of the unpleasant characters in Europe at all levels bear witness to the fact that the citizens have forgotten the values that brought them together in the 1950-1970s. The governments of the countries that joined the EU at a later stage could not care less about those values and have a self-centred conception of them. As the rivalries among the European countries grow, their individual and combined strength diminish.
The population left unsatisfied by their greedy elite believe in simplistic solutions and are deluded by the reverie of returning to a cosy and protecting national shell. The governments are ready to sacrifice human rights to noxious financial and economic ties, and ducking from their responsibilities in the process.
Europe is sleepwalking into oblivion, wrote George Soros.
As seen from Tehran, the Europeans are ambivalent and cannot be trusted either (as is the case with the USA). The Leader, Ali Khamenei, overconfident, calls Europeans names: ترسو, spineless. (Americans will be slapped in their faces.)
However, the Supreme Guide is certainly not looking for an ally that in the future will ask him for favours in return. He is looking to make the most of a murky situation in which wealthy countries are entangled in factional politics and fail to monitor and understand Iranian politics as they should.
European ambivalence gives him a blank cheque to pursue his politics, repressive and ruinous for the country and nefarious for the Middle East they may be.
In reply to Donald Trump’s withdrawal from JCPOA and the reimposition of the secondary sanctions, Europe puts its efforts into developing the European SPV, a special purpose vehicle, known also as INSTEX, a barter system to bypass the international transactions in US dollars.
However, despite the readiness of the Europeans, the Iranians have yet to set up a dedicated bureau in Tehran. The very short list of exports that the Iranians can muster, together with the corruption in which Tehran wallows (to which their EU partners may not object as long as it helps their own business), and the limited scope of INSTEX (oil is not a part of the plan) leave little hope for this being a robust mechanism that may survive in the long run.
Unexpectedly, the ayatollahs could not dream of a better gift than the one bestowed on them from the US president, Donald Trump.
By withdrawing from JCPOA mindlessly and unilaterally, Trump gave Ali Khamenei the satisfaction of the truth in his recurring statement: Americans cannot be trusted.
The inanities of Donald Trump and his bigoted entourage, Pence, Bolton, Pompeo to name some, have galvanised the world against themselves. Moreover, the unsavoury alliances with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Benjamin Netanyahu are time-bombs. The US attitudes polarise the Middle East and contribute to sullying the concept of democracy in the minds.
Despite all this, in Iran, the US administration could have caught more flies with honey than with vinegar. It missed the point.
Tehran is terrified of potential US generosities and openness that could inflame the protesters.
However, the US antagonism gives the regime wings to debase its enemies, real or imaginary, flex its muscles, and pump up its rhetoric. Presently, the Leader can blame the Americans for any unrest in Iran and arrest thousands freely, no one will blink, unless one supports Donald Trump in his rants. His hostility cements the regime in its raison d’être.
Zilch Opposes the Theocracy
In 1970s, the secular Iranians who criticised the regime were no threat to the Shah. They were men capable of fine words, but not political pragmatists.
When the Islamic revolutionaries grew in number and in the organisation, being opportunists they attached their little wagons to the Islamic locomotive, not thinking ahead, in the delusion of gaining power at a later stage.
Because they could not typically explain issues in simplistic terms, and had no vision, they were easily painted as wafflers, hopeless compromisers, and, to the fervent supporters of Khomeini, a bunch of sell-outs to Western values. They disappeared fast from the political and social scene.
After four decades, even some of the signs from the past are clearer with hindsight, no healthy secular opposition exists, either in the country or outside it. No lessons are learned from the multiple Iranian revolutions of the 20th century. There is no comprehensive declaration to counter the Leader’s blueprint, the Second Phase.
Of course, the activists, mostly in human rights, are doing what they can. Though, on the domestic scene, the issues addressed seem to be affecting a trivial number of people who effectively choose to be affected.
These trickles of enthusiasm cannot replace the steam power necessary to topple the clerics. Commitment, consensus, discipline, and organisational abilities are needed. Sadly, they are viscerally missing.
Over the years, the differing and bickering tiny groups of opposition have squashed a number of pathfinders in their souls. The silence of the diaspora, with its innate practices of ostracism and self-censorship, has let the apologists, who wanted to defend their country and explain away its embarrassing ingredients, be vocal. The physical elimination of critics in Iran with imprisonment and gallows has done the rest to create a barren land in which healthy political debates cannot grow.
Given the unsatisfactoriness of today’s domestic situation, the feeling of we-need-to-do-something grows among the activists.
However, despite the urgency, an opposition that has failed to take shape in forty years cannot materialise overnight.
The men in Trump’s administration, headed by Pompeo, have opted for an open door policy toward the Iranian activists. Unfortunately, the latter lack political sense, ingenuity and experience. All in all, they are poorly armed facing Washington’s slick devices.
The noble cause they defend on social media, the one that has brought them eye-catching likes and followers, will not constitute the political credits that the Iranians need in every nook and cranny of the country to convince them in demanding a regime change.
The soothing or flattering words of the American administration in building “dialogue” with Iranian opposition activists are hot air that can change direction with a ranting tweet by @realDonaldTrump loaded with alternative facts.
The hatred for the ayatollahs is no warranty for a better world. It can be galvanised into a destructive force if a politically and socially acceptable consensus on what to do after is not found.
The drama lies not only in what we have, the Velayat-e Faqih, but in what we have not and the contours we cannot imagine: the replacement of the dictatorship.
Till we find a solution, the Second Phase blueprint will keep things going in the country. How long before things collapse, no one knows. Things can crumble down all alone before a consensus is found or, for the worse, somebody attempts to concoct a cunning plan.