The Littlest Ayatollah
‘Times’ says even the clerics never liked him
Argue all you want that the so-called Twitter Revolution in Iran has supplanted classical news reporting; the best piece of analysis on the post-election furor was published today in The New York Times. Neil MacFarquhar profiles Ayatollah Khamenei, who appoints both half of the 12-member Council of Guardians—the ruling clerical body of Iran—and the judiciary that appoints the other half. That makes him, in the long view, almost solely responsible for cooked election results last week as well for the blood-brutal acts his assorted goon squads have committed since then. The most fascinating disclosure about a seldom-scrutinized tyrant was the fact that Khamenei didn’t really have the metaphysical chops to become ayatollah, and thus he lacks credibility among even hardline clerics. “Ayatollah Khamenei was elevated from the middle clerical rank, hojatolislam, to ayatollah overnight,” MacFarquhar writes, “in what was essentially a political rather than a religious decision. He earned undying scorn from many keepers of Shiite tradition, even though Iran’s myth-making machinery cranked up, with a witness professing he saw a light pass from Ayatollah Khomeini to Ayatollah Khamenei much the way the imams of centuries past were anointed.”
One reason Joseph Stalin felt the need to liquidate all of the Old Bolsheviks in the mid-1930s was that he knew that so many of them were his intellectual—and revolutionary—superiors. His usefulness to Lenin before 1917 was as a murderer and bank robber, not as a Marxist, and certainly not as a war strategist. There are myriad ways in which Stalin’s enemies might have bucked his consolidation of power had they been as opportunistic and merciless as he. Resentment and inadequacy have long shelf lives in dictatorships, and so a minor biographical detail about the man now unleashing hell in Tehran helps explain why presumptions of Khamenei’s core “rationality”—presumptions now being scuttled by formerly gullible observers such as Ezra Klein and Roger Cohen—were so misguided to begin with.
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.