Democracy a myth in Iran

The government in Iran has announced that it has banned the country’s two remaining official opposition parties. With this move, the prospect of political change through elections is over — Iran no longer has a legal opposition. This completes the consolidation of power in the hands of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Islamic Revolution Mujahedeen Organization were banned after leaders from the parties were sentenced to prison. Mr. Mohsen Mirdamadi and Mr. Davood Soleimani of the Islamic Iran Participation Front and Mr. Mostafa Tajzadeh of the Islamic Revolution Mujahedeen Organization were found guilty of illegal assembly, conspiring against national security and propagating falsehoods against the state.

The men had excellent revolutionary pedigrees. They were among the militants who seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 53 Americans hostage for more than a year. But they grew disillusioned with the Islamic Revolution and called for more civil liberties and a relaxation of the Shiite religious authorities’ grip on their country. In last year’s election, they backed challengers to Mr. Ahmadinejad.

In addition, the government announced that it was banning the newspaper, Bahar, an outlet for reformers, which had only begun publication three months ago when a similarly inclined newspaper was closed. Behar was accused of spreading doubts about the outcome of last summer’s elections.

The defendants had been arrested soon after the protests that followed that ballot. The decision to sentence them was, for many, just a matter of time. But the move could signal the beginning of yet another crackdown in Iran, one designed to ensure that the anniversary of the ballot does not trigger another round of protests.

One thing is sure: The decision confirms that talk of democracy in Iran is empty rhetoric.