Reading sacred tea leaves in Iran

ruhollah-khomeiniThe two voices that matter the most right now in Iran are using words that will be very hard to take back. Here's the latest from the New York Times:

Separately, state-run media reported that three people were wounded when a suicide bomber attacked at the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the southern part of the city, several miles from the scheduled protests. The report of the blast could not be independently confirmed.

The violence unfolded on a day of extraordinary tension across Iran. The opposition leader, Mir Hussein Moussavi, appeared at a demonstration in southern Tehran and called for a general strike if he were to be arrested. "I am ready for martyrdom," he told supporters.

And there's the problem. Moussavi is not, in the context of a theocracy, the man who is in charge of declaring whether or not his death would be a martyrdom.

On one level, the Iranian people will decide. But on another, everyone knows who is in charge of making that kind of ruling. That, of course, would be the nation's ultimate and supreme leader -- Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. However, it is hard to cover a religious leader using the same news template as one uses while covering a politician. The connection between Khamenei and his followers is not the same as a president and his people. Then again, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has always been willing to state his ultimate goals in religious language, as well.

Do you remember Ahmadinejad's famous speech at the United Nations? That's the one that ended with these interesting thoughts:

"I emphatically declare that today's world, more than ever before, longs for just and righteous people with love for all humanity; and above all longs for the perfect righteous human being and the real savior who has been promised to all peoples and who will establish justice, peace and brotherhood on the planet.

"O, Almighty God, all men and women are your creatures and you have ordained their guidance and salvation. Bestow upon humanity that thirsts for justice, the perfect human being promised to all by you, and make us among his followers and among those who strive for his return and his cause."

You could hunt and hunt and not find media coverage of this section of the speech. Yet, at the time, I wondered how the press would have reacted if President George W. Bush had spoken in the same venue, in the context of growing global tensions about nuclear weapons, and closed his address by expressing his "yearning for the triumphant second coming of Jesus Christ" and offering his prayers that "this apocalyptic event will unify the world -- sooner rather than later."

I would imagine that such a remark would have created a global firestorm, starting with America's elite media. Let's be clear: It should draw coverage, if a president in charge of nuclear weapons makes this kind of statement.

However, Ahmadinejad's yearning for the return of the Madhi -- the "perfect righteous human being" -- and unity of the world under Islam was, for our media, spoken in a foreign language, using images not understood by many reporters, editors and, thus, readers.

So what is Khamenei saying, as he attempts to pull his nation back from the brink? On what authority is he acting, as he warns of blood being on the hands of those who believe the recent elections were rigged? Partial transcripts of the speech are emerging -- keep watching here and here -- and they include plenty of religious images, including talk about the Madhi.

It's clear that the standoff can be discussed in political terms. Click here for a week-in-review New York Times piece that does exactly that. Obviously, politics and economics matter, in this battle for the soul of the Iranian revolution. And Khamenei and Ahmadinejad will do everything they can to discuss this in terms of a battle between their sacred Iranian revolution and the powers of the West, including the Zionist media (check the transcripts). At the end of one report on the Friday prayer sermon, the Washington Post noted this unique shot at President Barack Obama (while the actual target was President Bill Clinton):

Khamenei on Friday compared Obama's comments about Iran to the tragic conclusion of the Branch Davidian standoff with federal agents in Waco, Tex., during President Bill Clinton's administration. The leader of that group, David Koresh, and at least 74 supporters died in a fire at their compound. A federal probe concluded that the Davidians committed suicide, but survivors said it was started by tear gas rounds fired by government agents into the buildings.

"People affiliated with the Davidians were burned alive," Khamenei said. "You were responsible -- the Democrats. The administration was angered and 80 were burned. And do you know the true meaning of human rights? The Islamic Republic of Iran is the flag-bearer of human rights. We defend the oppressed."

ahmadinejad2009That's an interesting quote and one that, with the reference to Obama and to Waco, obviously jumps out at writers, editors and readers in America.

But the crucial question to me remains this one: How does Allah make his will known in a street fight for control of a theocracy? How do those trying to overturn the results of the election do so -- in the name of God -- when the official voice of God is saying that the election results were a tremendous victory for Allah and a sacred revolution and, thus, government?

After all, as Khamenei proclaimed:

The June 12 election was a great show of the people's sense of responsibility, their will to participate, and their dedication to the system. Truly, I have never heard of anything similar to what you have accomplished taking place in any of the democratic systems around the world, whether they are false democracies or truly built on their people's vote.

In the Islamic Republic, aside from the 1979 referendum, there has no election like the one held last Friday with a turnout of almost 85 percent. This means almost 40 million voters. You can see the presence of the 12 and last Shia Imam behind this. This is a sign of God's blessing to us.

And who are the 12? And who is the "last Shia Imam"? What does it mean that the this apocalyptic figure has placed his blessing on the election?

I don't know. I want to know.

Please respect our Commenting Policy