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Mahmoud Abbas Purges His Party of Enemies

Fatah—the ruling faction of the PLO that controls the Palestinian Authority—is holding its seventh party congress this week. According to Grant Rumley, Mahmoud Abbas likely sees the occasion as a capstone to his ongoing purge of the party ranks:

In recent years, Abbas has launched an all-out inquisition into dissenters within his own party. He’s fired rival Palestinian officials, stripped his rivals in parliament of their immunity, and even sent his Palestinian Authority security forces into unruly refugee camps to quash dissent. He has fueled his consolidation of power by summarily excommunicating party members. . . .

A bloc of Fatah dissenters met last month in the al-Amari refugee camp in Ramallah to discuss how they would react to the upcoming party congress. When Abbas got wind of the meeting, he ordered the PA security forces into the camp to break up the meeting. . . .

Abbas has taken unprecedented steps to silence dissent [at the congress itself]. . . For one, he has reduced the number of delegates attending from over 2,000 [at the last congress] in 2009 to 1,400. For another, he has changed the location from a hotel in Bethlehem at the last conference to his headquarters in Ramallah, [where security forces loyal to him can keep watch].

The congress this week will allow Abbas to solidify his purges of dissenters within his own party. At the last congress, members of Abbas’ presidential guard roamed the balloting areas and in one instance instructed a delegate on who was “the president’s man.” This time, . . . Abbas will be able to reward his loyalists and sideline his rivals. As Dimitri Diliani, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, told me: “We used to call Arafat a dictator, but compared with [Abbas], Arafat was a champion of democracy.”

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Politics & Current Affairs

The Future of a Free Iran May Lie with a Restoration of the Shah

June 25 2018

Examining the recent waves of protest and political unrest in the Islamic Republic—from women shunning the hijab to truckers going out on strike—Sohrab Ahmari considers what would happen in the event of an actual collapse of the regime. Through an analysis of Iranian history, he concludes that the country would best be served by placing Reza Pahlavi, the son and heir of its last shah, at the head of a constitutional monarchy:

The end of Islamist rule in Iran would be a world-historical event and an unalloyed good for the country and its neighbors, marking a return to normalcy four decades after the Ayatollah Khomeini founded his regime. . . . But what exactly is that normalcy? . . .

First, Iranian political culture demands a living source of authority to embody the will of the nation and stand above a fractious and ethnically heterogenous society. Put another way, Iranians need a “shah” of some sort. They have never lived collectively without one, and their political imagination has always been directed toward a throne. The constitutionalist experiment of the early 20th century coexisted (badly) with monarchic authority, and the current Islamic Republic has a supreme leader—which is to say, a shah by another name. It is the height of utopianism to imagine that a 2,500-year-old tradition can be wiped away. The presence of a shah, [however], needn’t mean the absence of rule of law, deliberative politics, or any of the other elements of ordered liberty that the West cherishes in its own systems. . . .

Second, Iranian political culture demands a source of continuity with Persian history. The anxieties associated with modernity and centuries of historical discontinuity drove Iranians into the arms of Khomeini and his bearded minions, who promised a connection to Shiite tradition. Khomeinism turned out to be a bloody failure, but there is scant reason to imagine the thirst for continuity has been quenched. . . . Iranian nationalism . . . could be the answer, and, to judge by the nationalist tone of the current upheaval, it is the one the people have already hit upon.

When protestors chant “We Will Die to Get Iran Back,” “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, My Life Only for Iran,” and “Let Syria Be, Do Something for Me,” they are expressing a positive vision of Iranian nationhood: no longer do they wish to pay the price for the regime’s Shiite hegemonic ambitions. Iranian blood should be spilled for Iran, not Gaza, which for most Iranians is little more than a geographical abstraction. It is precisely its nationalist dimension that makes the current revolt the most potent the mullahs have yet faced. Nationalism, after all, is a much stronger force and in Iran the longing for historical continuity runs much deeper than liberal-democratic aspiration. Westerners who wish to see a replay of Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 in today’s Iran will find the lessons of Iranian history hard and distasteful, but Iranians and their friends who wish to see past the Islamic Republic must pay heed.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Iran, Nationalism, Politics & Current Affairs, Shah