06.21.09

Mousavi's New Revolutionary Manifesto

The Iranian protest movement reached a tipping point today, writes Gary Sick, the key White House official during the 1979 hostage crisis, and what has emerged is nothing short of a platform for a true Islamic democracy.

Plus, read more insight on Iran's election from other Daily Beast writers.

Today, Mir Hossein Mousavi, the presidential candidate who has come to represent the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people, issued a formal statement. 

Although he denounces the "lies and fraud" of the leadership, particularly in the recent election, he views the fraudulent election as only as the symptom of something far more serious. He describes a revolution gone wrong, a revolution that was originally based on attention to the voice of the people but has resulted in "forcing an unwanted government on the nation."

It is apparent from this statement that Mousavi's movement—and Mousavi himself—have evolved enormously in the past week.

This moment is "a turning point," he says, and he defines the movement that is forming around him as having a "historical mission" to accomplish nothing less than "renewing the life of the nation" according to its own ideals.

He acknowledges, interestingly, that his own voice at the beginning was less “eloquent” than he would have wished and that the people were ahead of him in turning the movement green. But now he accepts the "burden of duty put on our shoulders by the destiny of generations and ages."

He denounces both extremes of the political spectrum: on one hand those who believe that "Islamic government is the same as Tyranny of the Rightful;" and on the other, those who "consider religion and Islam to be blockers for realization of republicanism," i.e. those who believe that democracy is incompatible with Islam.

Mousavi says his call for annulment of the election and a revote, supervised by an impartial national body, "is a given right." The objective is nothing less than "to achieve a new type of political life in the country."

That is truly a revolutionary statement. He says he will stand by the side of all those seeking "new solutions" in a nonviolent way. He accepts the principles and the institutions of the Islamic republic, including the Revolutionary Guard and the basij, but denounces "deviations and deceptions." He demands reform "that returns us to the pure principles of the Islamic Revolution."

He calls for freedom of expression in all its forms, and says that if the government permits people to express their views freely, "there won't be a need for the presence of military and regulatory forces in the streets."

It is apparent from this statement that Mousavi's movement—and Mousavi himself—has evolved enormously in the past week. The candidate started as a mild-mannered reformer. After the searing events of the past several days, he has dared to preach a counter sermon to Khameni's lecture on Islamic government. Although he never mentions the leader by name, there is no overlooking the direct contradiction of his arguments. This open opposition to the leader by a political figure is unprecedented.

Mousavi has in fact issued a manifesto for a new vision of the Islamic republic. The repression and disdain of the government has brought the opposition to a place they probably never dreamed of going. And no one knows where any of the parties are likely to go next.

But for outside observers, it is like standing on the edge of a glacier and feeling the ice begin to crack under your feet.

Gary Sick served on the National Security Council staff under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan. He was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis and is the author of two books on U.S.-Iranian relations. Mr. Sick has a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University, where he is senior research scholar, adjunct professor of international affairs and former director of the Middle East Institute (2000-2003).