Abdulrahman [David Belfield] shook his head in dismay and told me that, after thirty years in Iran, he was not surprised by much. He paraphrased Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (1968): “If you undertake a revolution and it is not taken for the sake of humanity, then you will end up imitating the people you succeed.” Abdulrahman said that, in his opinion, Khomeini had been uniquely gifted as a leader, but he does not think much of his successor, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. “Khomeini could get away with whatever he wanted, because he was something else, but his wilayat-e-faquih“—literally, “the guardianship of the jurisconsult,” the term for Khomeini’s theoretical argument for clerical rule, which is derived from a Shiite interpretation of Islamic law—”has evolved into the concept of King of Kings. This is something that is laid out in Plato’s Republic, but you won’t find it in the Koran.”
He went on, scathingly:
The mullahs have industrialized the religion and turned it into a money-making venture, and they are the main beneficiaries. The mullahs’ corruption is what has undermined people’s religious faith. This is unsustainable, but if the “Californian” Iranians of north Tehran think they’re going to replace it with something else, it’s a fairy tale. Demographics are what will change this. Time and demographics.
I asked Abdulrahman what he thought about the ongoing standoff between Iran and the United States. “I don’t personally like Ali Khamenei,” he said, “but I appreciate his anti-Americanism, and if Israel attacks Iran all bets are off.” Such an attack “would not be a local thing—it would be catastrophic. The thing is that the Iranians will treat an Israeli attack as an American attack, and they will hit them in the region—in Iraq, and in Afghanistan, too”—wherever they are.
Unsolicited, Abdulrahman told me that he was planning to leave Iran. I asked him where he intended to go. He shook his head, laughing: “The first law of a fugitive is not to tell anyone where you’re headed.” [continued…]