Friday, February 13, 2009

Inside the Islamic republc of Iran: Faud

My guess is that fraud - of all kinds, is far more widespread than Muhammadi has been able to document. The pattern of fraudulent manipulation of both information and finances is familiar from the former USSR.
Fraud in the Islamic Republic Regime

Majid Mohammadi
February 11th, 2009 
The totalitarian rule of the Shiite Clergy in Iran has survived in the past three decades through pretensions to sacredness and by creating enemies, playing the role of the victim, making embarrassing scenes, psychological projection, fraud, mendacity, corruption, suppression, and terror. These fraudulent behaviors are an inseparable part of the rule of the clergy because this regime, which is not in power through the votes of the people but which holds itself out to be the representative of God on earth, has no choice but to resort to fraud in order to survive. Although the history of the fraudulent ways of authoritarian regimes is as old as the social life of humanity and, despite the fact that the literature of political opposition is replete with references to the regime's lies, the fraudulent methods and tactics of those at the very summit of power in the Islamic Republic have rarely been discussed.
The unspoken ideological Machiavellism of the totalitarian "Rule of the Jursiprudent," falls somewhere in the area between morality and politics. In the final analysis, in this regime, all principles have been reduced to one: the preservation of the interests and preferences of the ruling clergy within the framework of a totalitarian regime. In this way, nothing will be beneath the clergy's standards of conduct and any principle or rule will be open to violation. Law, morality, and even Shiite religious law would not curb the clergy's fraudulent ways. The ruling clerics have even used the survival instinct and external threats as an excuse for continuing their rule.
In Iran, fraud is not committed by the clergy alone; it is, in fact, an inseparable part of the social fabric of Iranians' lives. Among Iranians, those who have or desire a larger share of power, wealth, and social standing, naturally commit more fraud, especially through shutting down or undermining establishments or apparatuses that can measure fraud, such as the independent media, institutions with oversight, or civil institutions. Tolerance, on a daily basis, of the clergy's fraudulent ways itself results from the people's awareness that they themselves behave in the same way in their daily lives. However, the ruling clergy has raised the commitment or incidence of fraud to unexpected, complex, and unbelievable proportions. That is why it is necessary to analyze this phenomenon.
There are two questions we must ask. First, is this fraudulent modus operandi of the clerical establishment and others dependent upon a time-limited phenomenon that is part and parcel of the period of rule of the Islamic Republic, or is it related to the culture and tradition of Shiite clergy? And second, how do these fraudulent deeds take place and how new and innovative are the methods used in perpetrating them?
Institutionalized Fraud
Fraud consists of hiding the truth or turning it upside down with the goal of misleading the people, trickery, hypocrisy, deception, entrapment, and cheating. The Shiite clergy has never announced that it is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The clergy's goal has been to carry out Islamic religious orders, and it considers every tool that can be used to do that as acceptable. On the basis of fundamental principles in Shiite jurisprudence and religious teachings such as taqiyeh,[1] expediency, hardship, and distress, any action is acceptable in self-preservation as well as in preservation of the "realm of Islam." Thus fraud, in all its dimensions and variety, is extremely prevalent in the Shiite culture.
The main occupation of the Shiite clergy is "propagation" or the production and dissemination of propaganda. When, propaganda tools are combined with the goal of gaining absolute power, wealth, and high social standing in society, and with the claim of possession of absolute truth, then propaganda will be directed toward hiding the truth, spinning lies, and committing fraud. In reality, altering the truth by putting emphasis on desired goals, remaining silent on unpleasant points, choosing information or news for dissemination on the basis of ideological considerations and with the goal of provoking certain feelings among the people; these are among the principles of any type of propaganda, be it political, commercial, or religious. When rumors are combined with turning a blind eye to the truth or actively hiding it, then fraud comes about.
The difficulty of discerning what is pure from what is impure by a large sector of the public, the necessity of trusting one another for the purpose of survival of social life, the inclination of many human beings to being taken in or duped, especially under difficult living conditions (when a blind eye is turned to lies), prepare the necessary social and psychological grounds for fraud by the rulers. In Iranian society, the trust placed by the religious public in the clerical leaders has made the ground even more fertile for the commission of fraud by the ruling clergy.
Manifestations or Models of Fraud

The fraudulent activities of the Islamic Republic regime can be observed clearly in several of its behavioral models or manifestations. The first such model or manifestation is the "doctoring" and alteration of numbers, statistics, and indices. For example, the Ahmadinejad government first tried to announce the unemployment statistics to be lower than it truly was. When it was criticized by experts, his government then sought to make the level of unemployment lower by altering the very definition of unemployment. Based on the new definition of unemployment put forth by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in connection with the fall in unemployment statistics, every person who works even only one hour per week is considered employed.[2] In the course of every election, based on their different ideals and goals, the concerned organizations within the Islamic Republic have presented contradictory information about the country's population. The statistics on the country's population are increased and decreased in accordance with the need, respectively, of making the number of participants in elections and the votes cast by supporters of authoritarianism appear higher, and the votes cast by the regime's critic—if their candidates are approved by the Council of Guardians—lower. During the rule of Khamenei/Ahmadinejad, on a monthly, as well as annual basis, every governmental organization announces a specific inflation rate, based on its own specific definition of inflation. For example, the statistics presented by the Central Bank are different from those announced by the Ministry of Economy and Finance as well as from those announced by the speaker of the government. Instead of striving to lower inflation itself, the responsible government officials lower the inflation "rate" by altering and eliminating from the equation certain goods and then present the "doctored" rate as the official rate to the public.
The debate on privatization is another such example. From 2005 through 2008, officials in the Ahmadinejad government have presented three different sets of numbers of transfers from the public to the private sector in the Hashemi and Khatami governments. The first such occasion was on February 24, 2007, when the newspaper Iran, quoting the president, announced the total amount of transfers in the years 1991-2005 to have been 3,500 billion Toumans ($3.6 Billion USD) and compared it with the amount of transfers during the first two years of his own administration. Less than two years after these clear statements from the president, on December 21, 2008, Ahmadinejad's Minister of Economy and Finance announced the total amount of transfers by the "construction and reform governments" in the years 1991-2005 to have been 2,750 billion Toumans ($2.8 Billion USD). Only four days later, in Qom, by deducting 2,000 billion Toumans ($206 Million USD), Ahmadinejad claimed that, in the previous governments, as announced by himself in the period from February 24 through March 20, only 52,500 Billion Toumans ($54.25 Million USD) were transferred from the public sector to the private sector.[3]
The second such manifestation or model concerns the engineering of information and news. On the one hand, the regime has monopolized the media. On the other hand, the information and the news it presents are only items and matters that confirm the regime's ideology and suppress its opponents. The Islamic Republic regime has reduced the dissemination of news and information to propaganda and this propaganda system is used in all print and electronic media. In the regime's policy toward the media, based not on belief but on a set of directives, news or reports are not presented to society without major structural, expressive, and even grammatical alterations. For example, one of these directives is that all negative news related to the West, especially the United States, and all positive news about Iranian society should be presented in every news segment. Thus, Iranian citizens are not to become familiar with the positive achievements of Western societies in the social, cultural, and scientific arena.
Yet another such manifestation or model is labeling or choosing names. In choosing names, all positive titles belong to the regime and all negative titles belong to the regime's opponents. Those who support the regime and the ruling clergy are called Fundamentalists, even though they do not believe in any principle and there is no law or rule in the country which they have not violated. However, the regime's opponents are labeled hooligans and extremists. Keyhan newspaper, considered the mouthpiece of the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Khamenei) and his establishment, portrays all persons who do not directly follow Khamanei's orders, as well as those issued by those around him, as anti-revolutionaries, spies, hypocrites, drug addicts, womanizers, fearful, cowardly, and materialistic.
The fourth manifestation or model involves the re-making of existing concepts and the use of new and misleading concepts that legitimize repression and denigrate democracy. Examples of these, as used in the Iranian leaders' speech and literature, are: ta'zir[4], the new name for torture; confession, the new name for "admission" under duress; the leadership of the world of Islam, as the new title for the leaders of the Islamic Republic regime; "parliamentary coup d'état," as a new title for winning an election inside the country; and "overthrowing" as a new title for any type of domestic political opposition. The clerical leaders consider the regime's capital, Tehran, the most important metropolis in the entire Islamic world and their own rule as the rule of justice. From their perspective, Iran under the absolute rule of the clergy is the freest country and the best democracy in the world at the same time that this regime ranks at the top of every chart in violating human rights and the fundamental tenets of democracy.
Plagiarism constitutes the fifth manifestation or model of this fraud. This means that the leaders of the Islamic Republic give themselves and their rule credit for all national achievements, even if they played no role in achieving them. It is not enough for the political leaders to hold on to absolute power and a large part of society's wealth. They want to get credit for all scientific and cultural achievements and terminology as well. For example Gholam-'Ali Haddad-'Adel, the former leader of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, referred to Khamenei as the "Father of Encyclopedias" in Iran, solely because, in that year, Khamenei had noted the importance of encyclopedias.[5] In this process, the leaders appear to have completely ignored the fact that, in addition to Avicenna's Daneshnameh 'Alaï (Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences), Imam Fakhr Razi's Jame'-ol-'Olum (Compendium of Sciences), Ghotboddin Shirazi's Dorrat-o-Taj (Pearl of the Crown), and the encyclopedias produced during the rule of Nassereddin Shah Qajar, that such encyclopedias were produced in the period immediately preceding the revolution as well. The Encyclopedia Iranica and Encyclopedia Islamica projects began in 1975 under the direction of Dr. Ehsan Yarshater and a major Persian Dictionary project began in 1966 under the direction of Gholam-Hossein Mossaheb and Reza Aghsa. Normally, a title such as the "Father of Encyclopedias" is bestowed upon those who have dedicated their lives to science, not upon a political leader who, in his meetings with various groups makes do with some general comments.

None of the above-mentioned manifestations or models can be considered "innovations". Rather, through some novel ideas and doctoring, they have been Islamicized and Iranianized. All these models have been used by previous authoritarian and totalitarian regimes and Iran's current leaders have learned much from those who came before them. The new struggle against imperialism and political liberalism has quickly placed Iran's ruling clergy among the ranks of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, such as those in Eastern Europe before the fall of Communism. Iran's leading clerics imitated the Eastern European leaders' ways, adding to them Iranian techniques with an Islamic bend.
In re-making these models, good use has been made of Islamic ideology, political literature of Fascists, Communist, and military ("Junta"-style) regimes throughout the world as well as of psychology of political and commercial propaganda in the West, all of which have been presented within a "native" (Iranian) and religious framework. The clergy's ideological apparatus, which, after the Revolution, could not justify the revolutionary movement and the negation of the monarchic rule, has been utilized to justify the absolute rule of the clergy and come up with tactics for ensuring its survival. The Islamic regime's propaganda machine has been constantly forming and updating the listed models, which have been rendered more complex with the aid of social changes.
Portraying imperialism as the "Satan" and "global dominance" and applying Quranic concepts on the basis of such ideas, the theory of "cultural raid," calling the "cleansing" of university professors and students a "cultural revolution," using Islamic legal concepts, such as ta'zir and "confession" to refer to torture and admission to facts under duress, applying all the qualities of a sultan to the "Jurisprudent" in Iranian political literature, and using negative Quranic interpretations for labeling opponents and critics are among the important innovations of the Islamic Republic's propaganda machine.
[1]According to the principle of taqiyeh, when expedient, dissimulation and lying is allowed. For example, when admitting to an enemy that one is a Shiite Muslim would mean that one could be killed, in such a circumstance, it is acceptable to lie.
[2] Tabnak, December 21, 2008.
[3] Aftab-e Yazd Daily, December 27, 2008.
[4] Punishment
[5] Keyhan [newspaper], December 25, 2008.

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