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An Iranian Challenge

by Hooman Majd

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-393-07259-4
Publisher: Norton

Iranian-born journalist Majd (The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran, 2008) offers a nimble take on Iran’s fraught political landscape.

“Massive fraud,” writes the author, accompanied the official announcement of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “landslide re-election” against rival Mir Hossein Mousavi in June 2009, giving the lie to the so-called Green Movement of reform. The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, validated the results shortly thereafter by declaring a triumph of “religious democracy on display for the whole world to witness.” People were stunned, yet the Islamic Republic has survived for 30 years and is “not a form of government to write off just yet.” How to account for its resiliency and even public support? Majd, an Iranian diplomat’s son who was largely educated in America, has impeccable connections and is able to infiltrate the official and nonofficial camps fluidly. In somewhat erratically organized but readable essays, he is determined to get at the oghdeh, or complexes, that underscore the Iranian psyche. When angry Iranians took to the street to protest the election results, the delighted Western media proclaimed the uprising “a rejection of the Islamic regime altogether,” thus playing into the hands of Ahmadinejad’s supporters, who depicted the movement as a foreign-inspired plot to overthrow the government. First and foremost, the Iranians reject foreign influence and deeply revere democratic ideals. Abrasive and irreverent, with humble provincial roots as the son of a blacksmith, Ahmadinejad has endeared himself to the masses by his muscling of the elite. Majd looks at Iran’s grandiose aspirations abroad, as well its as pernicious support of Hezbollah; the evolving relationship with President Obama; the tenacity of Iranian Jews who insist on staying despite Ahmadinejad’s poisonous anti-Semitic statements; and the power of the mullahs.

Useful survey of the roiling state of recent Iranian affairs.