A Moderate Iranian Purge

Editorial

Wall Street Journal

January 26, 2016

Tehran on Monday barred 635 of the 801 candidates who had intended to run next month for seats in Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the body that will select and nominally oversee the country’s next Supreme Leader. That comes on the heels of last week’s disqualification of some 7,000 candidates for next month’s elections to the Iranian Majlis, or Parliament. So much for the nuclear deal’s promise of empowering Iranian reformers.

The disqualifications were the work of the Guardian Council, an unelected body that vets candidates for ideological purity. The system allows the mullahs to hold popular “elections” while ensuring no one who might challenge Islamist rule could ever be in a position to win a seat.

Monday’s purge of candidates betrayed an especially hard-line approach. Among the disqualified is 43-year-old Hassan Khomeini—grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 revolution that created the Islamic Republic. Officially, the younger Khomeini is insufficiently versed in Shariah law. The real reason is that he is reform-minded and popular with young Iranians.

Meantime, the leaders of the pro-democracy Green Movement, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, are still under house arrest. Ayatollah Hossein Boroujerdi, the country’s most prominent advocate for the separation of mosque and state, remains imprisoned. So do Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, Azar Masouleh, Atena Farghadani and other imprisoned rights activists who have been forsaken by the West in its rush to improve relations with their jailers.

All of this will ensure that whoever replaces Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will be another ideological purist close to the country’s security establishment. Iranians hoping for greater freedom under a real democracy will have to wait for a more revolutionary form of change than fake elections and sweetheart nuclear deals.