TEHRAN DEBATES SCIRI'S ROLE IN IRAQ.
Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) Chairman Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim had a very busy schedule during his 5-10 October trip to Tehran. He met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi; participated in the third conference of the Ahl al-Bayt (the Household of the Prophet) organization; and gave the pre-sermon speech at the 10 October Friday prayers. Like his hosts, he repeatedly expressed his interest in seeing an end to the occupation of Iraq, according to Iranian news agencies. Behind the scenes, however, everything was not so united. Al-Hakim's visit comes at a sensitive time for Tehran-SCIRI relations.
When al-Hakim arrived in Tehran on 5 October he told reporters that the main reason for his visit is to thank Iran for its years of support for the Iraqi nation, ISNA reported. Al-Hakim said he has received invitations from "many countries," but, "because of Iran's principled policies toward Iraq over the years, I preferred to visit Iran before visiting other countries." While it is true that SCIRI was the main recipient of Iranian backing for the Iraqi opposition during Saddam Hussein's reign, the situation has changed since the U.S.-led international coalition destroyed the Iraqi dictator's military. Tehran now finds itself surrounded on all sides by the U.S. and it does not like what it sees. This could explain its new relationship with the upstart Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a relationship that may have been cemented when al-Sadr visited Iran in early June (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 9 June 2003). Outspoken in his opposition to the coalition and in his hostility to the U.S., al-Sadr declared during the 10 October Friday prayers in Kufa that he is forming his own cabinet, and one of his associates said it would include a ministry for the promotion of virtue and prohibition of vice. "Although this might entail some danger to my person, I have created some cabinet posts in our government," al-Sadr said, according to "The Washington Post" on 12 October.
Al-Hakim resents the support given to al-Sadr by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and the supreme leader's office, "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 8 October. Alireza Nurizadeh writes in the Arabic-language London daily that al-Hakim has been under pressure to declare his fealty to Supreme Leader Khamenei ever since the late-August assassination of his brother, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim. Moreover, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim does not have sufficient standing to fill the religious vacuum in SCIRI left by the killing of the ayatollah, and Tehran does not want SCIRI to become a wholly political organization. Some Iranian officials, therefore, are backing Ayatollah Ali al-Haeri as SCIRI's religious leader.
"Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported that al-Hakim came to Iran in response to President Khatami's invitation, and Khatami and other reformists had refused to meet with al-Sadr. Other news reports did not include such information or place the visit in the context of Iranian power politics. Al-Hakim met with Khatami on 6 October, IRNA reported, and they discussed Tehran-Baghdad relations. "Jane's Foreign Report" reported on 9 October, three days later, that it had "learned" that al-Hakim was in Tehran on 6 October and had met with Khatami to discuss the Iraqi Governing Council. Al-Hakim met with Foreign Minister Kharrazi on 6 October, ISNA reported. Kharrazi said: "The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the sovereignty of Iraq must be handed over to its people as soon as possible under the supervision of the UN. The occupiers have no choice other than handing over the management and political destiny of Iraq to leaders chosen by its people." Judiciary chief Hashemi-Shahrudi called for an end to the occupation when he met with al-Hakim on 6 October, IRNA reported the next day. "By continuing the occupation of Iraq, the Americans are ruining their reputation before the world public opinion more than ever."
Al-Hakim met with Supreme Leader Khamenei on 7 October, IRNA reported. Khamenei described the end of the occupation as one of the Iraqis' main demands. During the Ahl al-Bayt conference on 9 October, Khamenei said that the occupation is the main problem facing Iraqis.
Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told al-Hakim on 7 October that free elections under the aegis of the United Nations would pave the way for the withdrawal of occupation forces, IRNA reported. Al-Hakim told his host that the U.S. is incapable of establishing security. Al-Hakim said at an 8 October memorial ceremony in Tehran for his assassinated brother that there is international pressure on the U.S. to withdraw its troops and for it to specify a withdrawal date. "Of course, we support the international community in this demand and for the U.S. to limit the duration of its occupation of Iraq." He said on 9 October during the Ahl al-Bayt event that the Iraqi people have started a major battle to liberate their country from the occupation and the remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime, Tehran radio reported on 10 October.
Al-Hakim also discussed the assassination of his brother. He told reporters on 5 October that the investigation is continuing and there is no definitive conclusion yet, ISNA reported. "What is clear, however, is that the former Iraqi regime and its supporters had a hand in this crime." Al-Hakim added, "Of course, there are people who have argued that foreign groups were also involved in committing this serious crime." (Bill Samii)
Source: RFE/RL Iran Report Vol. 6, No. 41, 13 October 2003
comment: Will Al-Hakim resist the pressure from RICO-Rafsanjani/Khamenei and say NO to follow Qom and instead seek assistance from the clerics in Najaf?
Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told al-Hakim on 7 October that free elections under the aegis of the United Nations would pave the way for the withdrawal of occupation force.
We should ask RICO-Rafsanjani why he is not supporting free elections without Guardian Council vetting of candidates on the aegis of the United Nations in Iran?
posted on 10/14/2003 4:01:18 AM PDT
SURVEY FINDS HIGH RATE OF CORRUPTION IN IRAN.
Iran placed poorly in Transparency International's "Corruption Perceptions Index 2003," which was released on 7 October (http://www.transparency.org/pressreleases_archive/2003/2003.10.07.cp i.en.html). In its debut in the annual corruption ranking, Iran was listed in 78th place, along with Armenia, Lebanon, Mali, and Palestine, out of 133 countries and administrative territories. Iran had a score of 3.0 on a scale of 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt), which, according to Transparency International, "relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people, academics, and risk analysts" in and out of the country. Iran's score was based on four other surveys, and its scores in those surveys ranged from 1.5-3.6. BS
ANOTHER NORWAY-IRAN CORRUPTION CASE?
The Umoe Schat-Harding company (http://www.schat-harding.com)
sent approximately $172,000 in 1997 to an Iranian-owned consulting company as a "return commission" in order to resolve a dispute about the sale of nine lifeboats to a state-owned Iranian company, TV2 from Norway reported on 8 October (http://pub.tv2.no/nettavisen/english/article143808.ece)
and "Aftenposten" reported on 9 October (http://www.aftenposten.no/english/business/article.jhtml?articleID=643786)
, both citing Norway's "VG" newspaper. The lifeboats, purchased by the Iranian Offshore Engineering and Construction Company (IOEC), were damaged when they were being transported, so the Iranian company refused to pay the remaining costs of approximately $1 million. The National Iranian Oil Company and the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization are the shareholders in IOEC. Umoe Schat-Harding paid an unnamed Iranian-owned consulting company in 1997 and subsequently received about $718,504 from IOEC, according to "VG." A document signed by Jarle Roth, who was the Norwegian firm's top manager at the time, said that the money "took care of people who needed special attention in this case." "VG" reported that Mehdi Hashemi, the son of former president and current Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, was involved in the 1997 deal. At the time, Mehdi Hashemi headed IOEC, an energy-sector expert told "RFE/RL Iran Report." Mehdi Hashemi's name has been mentioned in connection with a recent corruption scandal involving Norway's Statoil (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 22 and 29 September and 6 October 2003). (Bill Samii)
Comment: Time for a RICO investigation of Rafsanjani Inc?
posted on 10/14/2003 4:14:51 AM PDT
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