Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - December 17, 2004 [EST] - Analysis: Rafsanjani Plots Iran Comeback
Posted on 12/16/2004 11:04:26 PM PST by DoctorZIn
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Analysis: Rafsanjani Plots Iran ComebackThu Dec 16, 2004 11:35 AM ET
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Fears that Islamic hard-liners could exacerbate Iran's nuclear standoff with the West, scare foreign investors and worsen social tensions may pave the way for a comeback by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Humiliated by reformists in parliamentary polls in 2000 when he failed to gain a seat, the mid-ranking cleric has set his sights on presidential elections in mid-2005.
But Rafsanjani, 70, who has yet to declare he will run, must overcome stern opposition from reformists and hard-liners alike, as well as deep public skepticism if he is to return to the job he held from 1989 to 1997.
"The worse things go internationally and domestically for Iran over the next few months, the more that plays into Rafsanjani's hands,"said a senior political analyst in Tehran.
"What he and his backers are saying is that he is the man for a crisis," said the analyst, who declined to be named.
Conservatives are poised to take back the presidency in elections set for May or June as President Mohammad Khatami's eight-year reform experiment peters out amid public disillusionment with his failure to deliver promised improvements in political, economic and social freedoms.
But increasingly vociferous and confident hard-liners, who reversed the reformist majority in parliament in February polls, may be giving Iran's clerical establishment cause for concern.
Driven by strong Islamic beliefs, anti-Western sentiment and emphasis on social justice, the new deputies have questioned major foreign investment projects, backed clampdowns on social freedoms and criticized officials for negotiating with the European Union over Iran's atomic program.
"The question facing the Iranian regime is whether the interest of the state lies in having a radical president who would fall in line with radical forces in the parliament," Amir Ali Nourbakhsh, a director at business consultants Atieh Bahar Consulting, wrote in a recent opinion piece.
The alternative, he says, may be "a more pragmatic president who could continue the current detente with the international community, that even the conservative leaders of the Islamic Republic finds necessary for the preservation of the regime."
As head of a top policy body known as the Expediency Council, Rafsanjani recently outmaneuvered parliamentarians' efforts to stifle economic reform by pushing through a constitutional amendment opening up vast sectors of the state-dominated economy to privatization.
Unlike hard-liners, Rafsanjani is also seen as a pragmatist on social issues who, when president, started the process toward more relaxed dress codes for women and increased cultural activities which later flourished under Khatami.
Supporters say the man who brokered U.S. arms shipments to Iran in the 1980s has the experience and guile to handle the international pressures facing Tehran.
But Rafsanjani would have to win over a public deeply mistrustful of the former president, who, despite his denials, is perceived as having used political influence to amass a business fortune for himself and relatives.
NUCLEAR ISSUE KEY
Just by announcing his candidacy "the problems surrounding Iran's nuclear case and the foreign threats it faces, especially from America, will be lessened," said Mohammad Reza Turani, an official at the Experts Assembly, a top decision-making body.
For the senior political analyst, "the key to Rafsanjani's campaign is the nuclear case. If the nuclear issue is going badly, and pressure from the West is high, that favors him."
The nuclear timetable appears to be in Rafsanjani's favor.
Tensions which have lulled while Iran discusses a long-term nuclear solution with the EU are pre-programmed to flare up again in about three months, with Iran warning it will resume sensitive atomic work like uranium enrichment soon after.
"Given the radical political slant of parliament and the Islamic state's genetic inclination toward 'good cop, bad cop' policies, the likelihood that Iran's next president would be a moderate is not all that minute," says Nourbakhsh.
Backers say more than 20 small political parties have endorsed Rafsanjani's candidacy. But opposition toward a man who arouses divided feelings in Iran is also strong.
Deputies this month reluctantly dropped a proposed bill that would have made the maximum age for presidential candidates 70, a move clearly aimed at Rafsanjani who turns 71 next year.
Several more hardline conservatives are ready to challenge Rafsanjani, including Ali Akbar Valayati and Ali Larijani, both top advisers to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Reformists, though struggling to find a candidate of their own, are reluctant to back a man they see as partly responsible for Khatami's failure to push through reforms.
DoctorZin Note: Rafsanjani reinvents himself as a moderate? The main stream media is incredible. The Europeans have invented a new reason not to deal with Iran.
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Lot of good that will do. They need to take back the Mullah-dency.
Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!
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Irans 9th Presidential Election: A Shimmer in the Haze
Amir Ali Nourbakhsh December 13, 2004.
This article intends to present a macro-political perspective to Irans next year presidential election slated for May or June 2005. Many argue that after the Khatami experience, the conservatives in Iran will not allow another moderate president to be elected. These observers base their claim on last years parliamentary elections where major reformist candidates were banned from running. But, coincidently or not, the clamp down on moderate forces in Iran was simultaneous to the emergence of Irans nuclear crisis. Hence, other analysts argue that Irans shaky international reputation may even encourage the state to opt for a moderate president who could cope with Irans international crises. There are also numerous domestic and economic factors that are at play here as well that would influence the election process. The following article seeks to explain and assess the potential impact that each of these factors could have on the results of the upcoming presidential elections in Iran.
When moderate cleric Mohammad Khatami was announced the winner of the Islamic Republics 7th presidential election on 23 May 1997, most of observers were not as much surprised by his landslide victory over his three conservative contesters, as by the fact that the results had been made known.
Rumor had it that the former pragmatist President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had patrolled the ministry of interior in person making sure that the ballots were not removed for the final counts. Back then Rafsanjani, Irans second most powerful man after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was considered Khatamis chief supporter and Khatami counted a daring successor to Rafsanjanis unfinished social and economic reforms.
The over 20 million ballots that went to Khatami showed that some 70% of the eligible voters supported the new president. Rumor had it that his share of the votes was even larger, but the state had decided to announce some in favor of his strongest rival Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri for the sake of his prestige as the Supreme Leaders favored candidate. Whatever the truth may be, Khatamis strong public support, his ability to bring to the polls the dormant secular opposition, the defiant youth and disillusioned women counted as his source of domestic legitimacy.
Many argued that this public backing was enough to end the rule of the conservatives who after the death of Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini in 1989 had taken over power in Iran. However, Khatami and his teams public standing also served to deal with the accusations of illegitimacy that the Iranian regime was facing over the years as a result of its authoritarian predilections and its hostile foreign policy vis-à-vis the West. So, although Khatamis victory was regarded initially as a move against the conservatives, it actually served to consolidate the Islamic Republic which was ruled by these groups.
Nevertheless, the political situation was at that moment in favor of the reformists, despite all attempts by the conservatives to oppose them, and the reformist ended up winning two more elections: the local council elections in 1999 and the parliamentary elections in 2000. The fact that these successive elections seemed to strengthen the reformists hand, despite their rivals active opposition, threw the conservatives into a wave of hysteria and panic that deepened with every single vote that went to Khatamis team. But fortunes of the reformists were soon to witness a drastic reversal.
Two political incidents marked the turning point in this regard: after the reformists electoral victory in 2000, Khatamis right-hand-man, Saeed Hajarian, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt that, nonetheless crippled him for life. This incident seems to have shown Khatami the kind of price he might have to pay should he proceed with his reform agenda. Obviously, he was not prepared to pay this price.
The other incident was the successful campaign meant to prevent the election of Rafsanjani to the Majles. The campaign was led by the old leftist activists, who constituted an important segment of Khatamis supporters, but who were effectively muzzled during Rafsanjanis presidency in 1989-1997. To these leftists, and despite some similarities between the two mens predispositions, Khatami was considered more democratic and transparent. Rafsanjani, on the other hand, was famous for his proclivity to change sides, monopolize power and his commiserate with the conservatives, with whom he had a strategic honeymoon during his presidency.
Nonetheless, and despite the conservatives confrontations with the reform camp, and as a moderate president, Khatami managed to improve Irans international standing in 1997. Indeed, Irans relations with the EU had hit rock bottom by the end of Rafsanjanis second term. The Iranian regimes legitimacy was seriously shaken as a result of the accusations leveled against it in connection with a so-called Mykonos affair, in which a German courts verdict had found three top Iranian officials guilty of sanctioning assassinations of Kurdish opposition in Berlin.
Khatamis moderate image managed to change the situation, as hopes for drastic reforms in Iran coupled with growing optimism with regard to a potential rapprochement with the White House served to reduce international pressures on Iran.
Still, and after the Majles elections, things took a turn for the worse for the reform camp, as all political legislations passed by the reform-minded deputies were rejected by the Guardian Council, the upper-house of the Majles. Meanwhile, the countrys judiciary system, which continued to be controlled by the hardliners, intimidated the press by launching a massive campaign of arrest sanctioned by high-raking conservative figures. In this, various government institutions were indeed bypassed through the operations of a variety of parallel entities meant to supervise the countrys economic, security and foreign policies.
The ensuing public disillusionment led to a decrease in the electoral turnout for the 2003 local council elections which the reformists ended up losing. This, in turn, encouraged the countrys hardliners to disqualify over 2000 reformist candidates for the February 2003 Majles elections paving the way for a conservative takeover of the parliament. The weakness of popular outcry and international reactions in this regard, coupled with the emergence of the nuclear crisis, made the whole issue of the elections fall into oblivion, and have in a way lowered the potential cost involved in a conservative victory in the presidential elections of 2005.
Considering the declining influence of Rafsanjani, no longer Irans second most influential man, and the fact that the reformist camp is no longer supported by the majority of the Iranians, the Islamic Republic seems to have survived the legitimacy crisis of 1990s, and seem to have emerged as the most democratic states in the Moslem Middle East. The Majles is currently in the hands of old and neo-conservatives with their unwavering support going to the countrys Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The question currently facing the Iranian regime, therefore, is whether the interest of the state lies in having a radical president who would fall in line with radical forces in the parliament, or whether Irans international, domestic and economic realities require a more pragmatic president who could continue the current détente with the international community, that even the conservative leaders of the Islamic Republic find necessary for the preservation of the regime.
Candidates & Their Chances of Success:
After the experience of the Majles elections, the reformists are more or less assured that the presidential election in 2005 would not be all that different. That the conservatives had decided to disqualify so many of their opponentsa unique experience in the history of the Islamic Republicis an indication of the start of a new political trend and not the end of it. Moreover, the fact that this parliamentary coup, as some reformists have called it, did not give rise to domestic unrest has assured the conservatives that not only is the price for an undemocratic takeover low, but that the time is also right for more such moves. By the same token, the international communitys reaction to the elections has been relatively weak in comparison to the EU and the US initial warnings against massive disqualifications. All said, the successful takeover of the parliament, followed by little domestic resistance and even less international protest, have enhanced the possibility that the conservatives might adopt a similar attitude for the May election.
The Reformists. Nevertheless, the reformists have not entirely given up hope. Their first move was to find a candidate that the hard-line dominated Guardian Council could not easily disqualify. Irans war time prime minister, Mirhossein Mousavi, a revolutionary figure, was the reform camps first choice. He would have been accepted by the majority of reformist groups inside the establishment and would have probably won support of some seculars due to his good performance in the early 80s as manager of war time crises. Moreover, Mousavi is also well-known for his confrontational course with Ali Khamenei when he served as President Khameneis prime minister in the 80s. Nevertheless, Mousavi refused to run arguing that given the conservatives control over the Guardian Council, state-run TV, the Judiciary and all parallel institutions that bypass the government, there was not much any president could do to stop the conservatives.
Consequently, some reformists turned back to the idea of throwing their support behind Rafsanjani, arguing that only the former president with his pragmatist attitude and his ability to build a coalition cabinet could actually avoid disqualification and offer some hope for potential reformists participation in governance. Although there is some truth to this argument, the majority of the reformists are against this line of thinking.
Another problem with Rafsanjani was that many neoconservative forces in the Majles are opposed to his candidacy as well. For this, they in fact designed a draft law that would bar anyone over the age of 70 from registering as candidate. Being over 70, Rafsanjani read this as a sign that he would not have the support of many conservatives in the parliament. Still, and although rumor has it that even the Leader has asked him not to run, Rafsanjanis candidacy will depend on many domestic and external factors that will be explained later.
Meantime, the majority of the reformists seem to be considering two men as their candidates: Khatamis Minister of Higher Education Mostafa Moin and Chairman of the Association of Combatant Clerics Mehdi Karroubi. While the more democratic and secular forces support Moin, the clerical division favors former Majles speaker Karroubi.
Karroubi initially made his candidature dependent on Rafsanjanis, saying that, if the latter ran, Karroubi would run as well in order to minimize Rafsanjanis chances of success. But Karroubi might indeed run regardless of what Rafsanjani chooses to do. The non-clerical reformists clearly oppose Karroubi as their candidate due to his recent close association with the Leader and his compromising attitude. Moreover, the non-clerical reformist groups are more democratic and secular-oriented than Karroubis Association of Combatant Clerics.
Moin, on the other hand, has a small chance of being approved by the Guardian Council. In addition, he is unlikely to make a strong stance against the conservatives as president. He is not as well-connected as Mousavi, Karroubi or Rafsanjani and is likely to be easily bypassed and undermined by opponents. Some analysts argue, Moin is not a real candidate, but merely the reformists attempt to test the waters and distract the conservatives from their real candidate whom they will introduce only shortly before the election campaigns. Another interpretation is that since Moin is not considered a radical reformist his chances of being approved by the Guardian Council are much higher. Apparently, the major reform party, the Islamic Irans Participation Front, had initially thought of presenting the partys chairman and the Presidents brother, Mohammadreza Khatami, as its candidate, but later changed its mind due to the latters reputation as a radical reformer. There were concerns that his candidature could provoke his rivals.
Other strong potential candidates such as Abdollah Nouri, Khatamis impeached and imprisoned Minister of Interior, Gholamhossein Karbaschi, Khatamis dismissed and imprisoned mayor of Tehran, and similar like-minded activistswho are out of prison nowwill have their judicial cases as an impediment to running as presidential candidates. All former reformist Majles deputies are unlikely to pass the vetting procedure of the Guardians as these deputies were disqualified in the Majles elections.
This said, the reformists seem to have three choices:
1) To come up with a new candidate that the Guardians will not be able to disqualify in the last minute, or use their pressure leverages to pass a moderate reformist through the Guardian Councils Approbatory Supervision. But no such candidate is known to observers.
2) To support Rafsanjani or another moderate conservative candidate as the lesser of all evils.
3) To start a political campaign opposing the looming conservative vs. conservative competition. But the reformists are aware that a full boycott of the elections could further undermine their already shaky political position.
The Conservatives. In contrast to the limited choices available to the reformists, conservative forces have too many candidates. The neoconservatives (those who champion the cause of state-run economy) are capitalizing on such figures as Ahmad Tavakoli, a parliament member. Meanwhile, the more traditional factions are supporting Akbar Velayati, the Leaders advisor on foreign affairs. Some forces close to the neo-conservatives may also support former head of the state-run TV and Radio, Ali Larijani, also an advisor to the Leader. Other activists such as Hassan Rohani, the nuclear negotiator (also an ally of the Leader), and Mohsen Rezai, Secretary of Expediency Council have also been mentioned as candidates. Rezai is considered an independent conservative candidate close but not obedient to the Leader. Even the current Majles speaker Gholamali Haddad Adel, the Leaders in-law, has expressed his interest in running. On the harder line, Tehrans mayor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is said to have good chances among the radical and para-military forces.
The political party Motalefeh, Society of Islamic Coalition, which keeps an iron grip on the bazaar, chambers of commerce and some Islamic foundations and charities has announced that it will not introduce its own candidate. Motalefeh has been among the most isolated political parties even within the conservative camp. Many activists disassociate themselves from this group during elections due to the party members reputation as rent seekers and monopolists who are also known for their radical views on political and social issues.
Obviously, if the reformists should somehow manage to pass a strong candidate through the Guardian Councils vetting right, the conservatives will reduce the number of their candidates in order to create more unity and be able to compete more effectively. But, should the reformists be circumscribed, as had been the case with the Majles elections, a large number of candidates is likely to emerge, a development that will probably undermine the support given to any one conservative candidate, and will most likely lead to a low electoral turnout, once again, just as had been the case in the Majles elections that brought only 51% of eligible voters to the polls.
On a different note, and given the relative pluralism that exists within the system, or at least inside the conservative establishment, it would be in the Leaders interest if the next president failed to receive to strong popular backing, seeing that there may be candidates among the conservatives who would not necessarily agree with all of his policy decisions.
In late November, the Islamic Republic finally managed to settle an agreement with the European Union (EU) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over Tehrans nuclear facilities. Despite US pressures on both the IAEA and the EU to have Iran referred to the UN Security Council (SC) for economic sanctions, Iran managed to avoid such a measure by agreeing to suspend its uranium enrichment programs. Although the international community (read US, EU and IAEA) was trying to pressure Iran to fully suspend its uranium enrichment activities, the agreement reached between the two sides seems to have alleviated the EU and IAEAs concerns while also accommodating some of Irans interests, perhaps even its main interest, namely: to avoid a permanent suspension.
Elaborating on the details of this face-off requires discussions beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, however, that despite the current agreement, the US pressure on the Islamic Republic remains heavy enhancing possibilities of an escalation of tensions. In other words, due to the US discontent with the results of the agreement and Washingtons skepticism towards the clerical regime in Tehran, more tensions between Iran and the international community seems to be imminent.
In view of the nature of the international crises that Iran might find itself caught in within the coming months, the decision-makers in Tehran could come to the conclusion that a moderate president in Tehran would be more able to successfully cope with a new international crisis. In other words, at least hypothetically, it could be hypothesized that the ruling establishment might decide to produce a second Khatami, seeing that he effectively managed, back in 1997, to end the international crisis facing Iran at the time.
Given the radical political slant of the parliament and the Islamic states genetic inclination towards good cop, bad cop policies, the likelihood that Irans next president would be a moderate is not all that minute.
Hence, it is quite possible that the more critical Irans international situation will grow in the coming months, the more moderate Irans next president is likely to be. However, there is a limit to the extent of Irans next presidents potential liberalism. The conservative establishments understanding of a moderate president does not necessarily correspond to that of the people. For instance, despite extensive opposition to Rafsanjanis candidature on part of both conservatives and reformists, he might in the final weeks before the election be found the appropriate person for the job. It is, however, very unlikely that Irans conservative leaders might opt for a reformist president some one very close to Khatami. Approving a real reformist candidate by the conservatives is thinkable only under very extraordinary circumstances, including international pressure or as a consideration to increase electoral turnout.
As elaborated above there are circumstances that could justify in the eyes of the conservatives a moderate Iranian president as a viable solution to Irans international crisis. On the other hand, a too liberal Iranian president is unlikely to be able to cope with the radical and rogue elements.
Irans nuclear policy, although endorsed by Irans top leadership, has been subject to extensive protest staged by radical and sectarian forces. Demonstrations in front of the British embassy in Tehran followed by violent acts such as throwing stones and attempts to enter the embassy premises are among cases where an Iranian president capable of controlling rogue forces could provide more security than a moderate one like Khatami. Other examples that underline the necessity for an influential president are parliamentary cross examinations of Kamal Kharrazi, the foreign minister and even Hassan Rohani, the Leaders representative in the Supreme National Security Council, on account of their soft line with the EU on the nuclear issue.
The Majles has also ratified a bill on the separation of Irans Ministry of Intelligence and the government. Reformist and even some conservatives have referred to this move as one that undermines the independence of the executive branch.
Other examples are speeches given by Hassan Abbasi, head of the Revolutionary Guards research centre in which he has insulted President Khatami and provoked rogue elements against the states foreign policy vis-à-vis the Europeans.
Despite the rise of the conservatives as a consequence of weak policies of the reform camp in the past years, Irans foreign policy in the nuclear issue has been more in line with the views of the moderate pole of the Islamic Republic than with the hardliners. This said, threats from the Majles or from activists such as Abbasi and his like-minded demonstrators in front of European embassies are likely to continue, even if a moderate conservative candidate wins next years presidential elections.
Hence, Irans next president will also need to be able to cope with rogue and radical forces and a legislative branch that usually adopts a hard-line and is capable of interrupting the governments policies seriously.
In order to understand how economic factors could impact Irans next presidential election it is necessary to consider the economic outlooks of the three main political groups in Iran. The following is a general outline of these factions:
The Reformists. The majority of the reformist forces support Khatamis liberalization policies, advocate transparency and endorse IMF guidelines. The level of openness towards IMF policies and emphasis on social justice varies among sub-factions.
IranIMF relations are partly politically motivated. The pro-reform group in Iran believes that economic liberalization in the long run leads to democracy and termination of monopolies and rent-seeking activities. The reformists have been so obsessed with a political rapprochement with the West and with displaying their anti-xenophobic and economic liberal attitudes that they have disregarded the impact of the IMF and World Banks destructive policies on such states as Russia and those in East Asia.
The Traditional conservatives. These are affiliated with the bazaar and favor a trade-oriented and protected economy. They are not necessarily hostile to engagements with the West and other foreign players, but they do not find international commerce and technology particularly significant. This capitalist-mercantilist group seeks rents and monopolies and is open to conditional liberalization policies. Although politically at odds with the reformists, some pragmatic conservatives may share some of the ideas of the reformist camp. These centre-right pragmatists consist of technocratic and professional elitists well connected to the political conservatives. Their difference with the reformists is mainly a result of the fact that the source of their power is their support for the traditional conservatives.
The neoconservatives. Generally speaking, the Iranian neoconservatives have a limited and sectarian view of liberalization policies. They also advocate a state-run economy, over-emphasize social justice, often in a demagogic manner, and are quite xenophobic. These fundamentalist ideologues, given their power in the Majles, embrace populist economic policies based on state intervention, price controls and subsidies. Most of them are opposed to reforms by the World Bank and the IMF, and reject globalization categorically as un-Islamic. (For a more detailed explanation of Irans political economy please go to www.menas.co.uk∕ir_currenthtm)
In spite of their mutual opposition to the reformists, both conservative sub-factions disagree on many economic issues. As a matter of fact, their differences are more due to their economic views than domestic and social matters. The traditional conservatives regard the neo-conservatives as being originally on the periphery of their camp. In their view, it was due to the reformists radical pursuance of democracy and secularism that the hardliners of the conservative camp managed to make it into the 7th parliament. A political activist close to the traditional conservatives foreign policy team referred to the neo-conservatives as political dwarves.
A look at the neoconservative parliamentarians record of the past couple of months shows the extent and nature of threats that the radical Majles deputies are able to pose to a president who is not entirely in line with their views. For instance, the Majles is trying to pass a bill allocating $350 million from the Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund for expanding the Basij (hardline-dominated subsidiary of the revolutionary guards) and resolving the problems of the war disabled.
But, this move is very likely to be inflationary and will hurt interests of the more vulnerable social strata. In this connection, Government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh declared: "We are opposed to inexpert withdrawals from the funds and we believe that those who take such decisions should accept the responsibility. He also noted that the ratification of this bill would lead to an increase in expenditures and would impose new financial burdens on the government. Calling the move politically-motivated, he asserted that it would undermine the governments improving economic performance. Even some mainstream conservatives have criticized the parliamentary proposal. Still, the neoconservatives in the Majles are attempting to appeal to the Basijis and their like-minded forces to garner their support for upcoming presidential elections.
The neo-conservatives are also expected to backtrack on unpopular policies for instance by removing subsidies (i.e. for fuel and bread), refraining from creating an effective taxation system, opposing the current investment law and refraining from changing the extremely worker-friendly labor law before the election day. All of the mentioned are policies that the system under Khatamibut with the blessing of top authoritieshas come to see as necessary for Irans economy.
All said, the next Iranian president will also need to be able to control and, if need be, even contain these forces and prevent them from adversely impacting the states macro policies. The importance of the resistance of the neoconservatives to liberal policies such as privatization, attracting FDI, removing subsidies come to light when one considers that Irans 20 year economic outlook plan, that was ratified last year, was not only in line with such policies but also actively promoted by the Supreme Leader. Hence, in the same way that the neoconservatives showed their disrespect for Irans macro-policies in the nuclear issue by criticizing the Leaders representative Rohani, their opposition to the economic liberalization policieswhich have been approved by the Leaderis an indication that they are prepared to sacrifice political and economic issues, if that brings them to power.
If the Iranian state were to seek to appoint its next president based on national interest, criteria to preserve the regime and the presidents skills to reconcile political factions, it would certainly fail to do so, at least under the current circumstances. The reason is simple: Irans national interest is contrary to incentives to preserve the regime of the Islamic Republic, and both precedents contradict the interests of the powerful political elite.
In other words, it is almost impossible for the Iranian state today to find a presidential candidate who could produce a high turnout (source of domestic legitimacy), be able to gain the trust of international community (source of external legitimacy) and be capable of accommodating the interests of major political groups (national reconciliation).
While many may argue that these consideration can neither reflect the interest nor the real intentions of Irans elite, it must be admitted, however, that meeting these three criteria is, nonetheless, necessary if the Islamic Republic is to better manage its legitimacy crises over the next few years, seeing that the regime change discourse employed by the Americans is expected to become even louder given the more hawkish tendencies of the new Bush Administration.
Bearing all this in mind, we can present the following simplified scenarios for the Islamic Republics 9th presidential elections could be envisioned:
Scenario 1. If Irans next president is elected from among forces politically close to the mindset of those who negotiated the recent agreement on Irans nuclear program, it would be possible to expect a moderate conservative administration who would gradually move towards détente with the West. People close to this mindset are Hassan Rohani, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Hossein Mousavian and Sirous Nasseri. The members of this group, however, would have to face a difficult dilemmas indeed: containing the radicals while meeting civil society expectations with regard to a variety of social and political issues.
Scenario 2. Should Irans next president be Ahmad Tavakoli or Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad, or any other figures affiliated with their policies, one could expect a period of escalated tension with the West accompanied by a clampdown on reformist forces at home. The main challenge that his group will have to deal with will be its ability to gain the necessary sense of domestic and international legitimacy and credibility and attract foreign investment.
Scenario 3. A victory by the traditional conservatives, such as the Motalefeh, will bring about more a return to the economic policies of rent-seeking and monopolies, coupled with an even stronger clampdown on social opposition.
Scenario 4. A reformist president, on the other hand, will face resistance from all of the above forces, leading to a situation similar to that prevailed throughout the past eight years. Still, the chances of success for a moderate president are not exactly nonexistent. For, depending on Irans international position, such a president may be able to consolidate more reform concepts. But, and as had been the case with Khatami, he will not manage to bring about major changes in the political areas.
As stated above, this is, of course, a simplification of the situation. For in all four scenarios, the alignment of political forces between now and election time could indeed change and alter the entire situation. Emerging international or domestic crises may bring closer groups that usually have little in common. Moreover, the election of a person like Rafsanjani may involve aspects of all scenarios making forecasting the consequences difficult if not impossible.
Still, one thing can be said with certainty about the Islamic Republics next presidential election: in the short term, the likelihood of major changes in the areas of human rights and press and electoral freedoms is relatively minute, regardless of what scenario should unfold, given the critical international situation that Iran is currently in. Iranian elite still vividly remembers Jimmy Carters human rights policies that started under the Shah in 1977 and gradually brought about his fall leading to the revolution of 1979. Hence the ruling elite will not let such reforms take place so easily.
Hypothetically speaking, a peaceful transition to a democracy in Iran can only be provided through the election of a president who could control the rogue elements, ease the concerns of the powerful conservative elite and accommodate the interests of Irans dormant civil society a dream that, given what has come to be the Islamic Republics raison dêtre cannot be brought about through the will and aegis of only one man, if he is the president.
Mr. Amir Ali Nourbakhsh is a frequent contributor to many publications and conference on social and political issues in Iran. He is director and partner at the Iranian strategic and consulting firm, Atieh Bahar Consulting. Mr. Nourbahkhsh is the editor of the political and economic monthly, Iran Focus, published by the London-based Middle East and North African Survey (MENAS Associates). Mr. Nourbakhsh wrote this article specially for the Tharwa Project.
Iran-EU talks beyond nuclear issue: Musavian
Dec. 14 - Irans nuclear spokesman Hossein Musavian said on Tuesday that the Brussels talks were beyond the issue of Irans nuclear program, saying, The negotiations were mainly aimed at the expansion of all-out relations between Iran and Europe.
During the three-month period of the joint working groups activities, Europe has the opportunity to prove its seriousness, good-will and commitment to Iran, Musavian told the Mehr News Agency correspondent in Brussels.
The spokesman said that so far the negotiating sides have agreed on the working groups agenda.
He announced that the working groups were to start their work officially on December 14 and that the initial results of their activities should be tangible by March 14.
Musavian stressed that there would be no reason for Iran to continue with the working groups activities if it sees no progress in negotiations.
But if the working groups produce practical results and accomplishments, we can be hopeful over the continuation of talks, he added.
Referring to the agenda of the joint working groups, Musavian stated that peaceful nuclear cooperation and confidence-building guarantees are two official issues that will be discussed in the nuclear working group.
The political-security committee will study issues related to the national security of both sides as well as the issue of weapons of mass destruction and regional security, he added./MNA-
Number 928 December 16, 2004
Carrots for Iran? Lessons from Libya
By Patrick Clawson
This is the first part of a two-part series on diplomacy surrounding the Iranian nuclear program and looks at U.S.-European relations. The second part, to appear in a future PolicyWatch, will discuss the role of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, with particular focus on Russia and China.
As European and Iranian officials began negotiations December 14 on whether to make permanent Iran's temporary suspension of uranium enrichment, eight former Western foreign ministers issued a joint statement calling on Washington to support the European efforts by engaging with Iran. There is a growing chorus claiming that Iran will keep its nuclear program suspended only if offered significant incentives by the United States, such as security guarantees, an end to hostility, or at least normal relations.
It is instructive to consider Iran's situation in light of Libya's agreement one year ago, on December 19, 2003, to end its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and to fully engage in the war against terror. Several factors were involved in bringing Libya to a deal involving tradeoffs made by the United States and the West.
Normalization In Exchange for WMD and Terror
In order to secure a normalization of relations with the United States, Libya had to agree to both fully engage in the war against terror and give up all of its WMD programs -- chemical, nuclear, and long-range missiles (those with a range over 300 km and a payload of over 500 kg). Libya also agreed to extraordinarily intrusive inspections and to extensive access to its WMD scientists and technicians -- Muammar Qadhafi realized that if he really was getting out of the WMD business, it was in his interest to have his actions verified by the West and the UN.
The lessons of Libya have been applied in part in the November 14 Paris Accords between France, Britain, Germany (the E3) and Iran, which state: "Irrespective of progress on the nuclear issue, the E3/European Union (EU) and Iran confirm their determination to combat terrorism, including the activities of Al Qa'ida and other terrorist groups such as the MeK [Mujahedin-e Khalq]." That is a recognition that Iran's relations with the West cannot be fully normal until Iran addresses the terror problem.
Resolving the al-Qaeda issue referred to in the Paris Accords will not be easy. The Iranian attitude was well illustrated by the statement this week by Abbas-Ali Alizadeh, Tehran Justice Administration director general, "All the cases of the Al Qaeda members arrested in Iran have been attended to and the religious and legal rulings have been issued." (He also said, "I don't know the exact number [of al-Qaeda detainees] but there are many.") The clear implication was: do not expect any further action against these individuals. This while Iran continues to refuse to provide even a list of the names of the al-Qaeda members on its soil, much less to hand over to the Saudis those responsible for ordering (from Iranian territory) the May 2003 bombing in Riyadh.
But in addition, an important lesson from the experience with Libya is that it is not enough to renounce some types of terrorism -- what is needed is full engagement in the global war on terror. In particular, Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians are now financed mainly by Iran, which also provides important technical support by which Palestinian terrorists have become more sophisticated. British prime minister Tony Blair says "the Middle East peace process is the single most pressing political challenge in our world today," requiring "a massive mobilization of international effort and will." European leaders often complain that the United States is not doing enough about Middle East peace. If Europe is serious about regarding Middle East peace as a priority, then it should actively reengage on the issue -- and there is no better opportunity for it to make a difference than in its security dialogue with the leading supporters of the terrorists out to sabotage Middle East peace, namely Iran.
By addressing the full scope of terrorism and WMD problems, Washington and Tripoli now have normal relations. But they do not have good relations. In particular, the United States has used these normal relations to press Libya on human rights issues: the fate of Libyan dissidents, access by international human rights groups, and especially the death sentences of six Bulgarian nurses falsely convicted of spreading AIDS to Libyans. In the event of a normalization of U.S.-Iranian relations, Washington would use those normal relations to raise the full range of its concerns about human rights and democracy, just as Iran would be free to raise its concerns about U.S. policies.
Since U.S. statements about Iranian human rights are regularly criticized by Iranian hardliners as being in fact U.S. calls for regime change, it seems unlikely those hardliners would relish the prospect of normalization and the attendant regular exchange with Washington on these issues. Nor does it seem plausible that these hardliners would welcome a U.S. embassy that would risk being crushed by the onslaught of Iranians seeking visas. So it is not entirely clear if in fact normalization of relations with the United States is so desirable for Iran's hardliners that to achieve it, they would agree to give up their nuclear program. The many voices in Europe suggesting that only a U.S. offer for normalization could save the deal with Iran about suspending its nuclear program sounds rather like an excuse. That is, it appears that the Europeans have concluded that the deal with Iran is going to fall apart, and they are looking to blame this on Washington.
Sticking to Your Guns Works
If one important lesson from the experience with Libya is that both WMD and terrorism must be addressed, another is the usefulness of U.S. unilateral sanctions. The multilateral UN sanctions on Libya were suspended in 1999 and totally lifted in September 2003. The breakthrough with Libya only came after those UN sanctions were gone. The Libyans made clear that their major motivation was ending sanctions and trade restrictions, at a time when the only such limits were the U.S. unilateral sanctions. The case with Iran has many similarities. Iranian leaders -- and even more so the Iranian public -- are well aware of the high price their country has paid for the years of unilateral U.S. sanctions. Indeed, the current calls for Washington to offer Iran normalization of relations are tacit recognition of just how much impact the U.S. sanctions have had.
The experience with Libya also shows that sanctions were not enough. Also necessary was a demonstrated willingness to use military force when necessary -- both against Libya and against other countries of proliferation concern, i.e., Iraq. After years of on-and-off probing, Libya opened serious negotiations as U.S. and allied troops massed to invade Iraq, and Tripoli took the final decision only after the October 2003 U.S. interdiction of a German ship carrying centrifuge components for the Libyan nuclear program.
As the Libyan record shows, progress in one arena (i.e., Iraq) contributes to progress elsewhere. All of which goes to say that progress on Iran is most likely if Afghanistan continues to progress and if Iraq becomes more stable. In particular, if post-election Iraq has a government with which the vast majority of Iraqi Shiites identify, Iran will have poor prospects of meddling in Iraq: few Iraqi Shiites will want to sacrifice their hold on power for the benefit of Tehran, and Iran is not well positioned to reach out to the Sunni Arab insurgents. The greater the stability in Iraq and Afghanistan, the less plausible any Iranian calculation that it could meddle against the West there to fend off pressure about the Iranian nuclear program, and the more Tehran has to be concerned that the United States is in a position to ratchet up pressure on Iran.
Another lesson of Libya is that success took years. The 1999 breakthrough about the Pan Am 103 case took long, hard negotiating and active Saudi mediation. In spring 2001, the U.S. and British governments presented the Libyans with a script about what else was needed. It was only two years later that serious talks about eliminating Libya's WMD program got under way. Almost all of these talks and soundings were conducted out of the public eye by officials of Libya and the United States (and United Kingdom) -- a sort of contact for which intelligence agencies are best suited. Only once the two sides had been able to work out in secret what a deal would consist of could they go public. Whenever an U.S.-Iranian deal is eventually worked out, it is likely to follow a similar path.
Next Steps on Iran
If Europe wants U.S. assistance, Europe will have to listen to U.S. advice -- a trade-off it is not clear Europe is willing to make. Instead, European negotiators went out of their way to keep Washington in the dark about the Paris Accords with Iran and the subsequent negotiations about an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution. Rather than addressing U.S. concerns that Iran could continue its eighteen-year record of misleading IAEA inspectors, Europe agreed to water down the IAEA resolution to reduce the power of inspectors to look into whether Iran has a nuclear weapons program -- which more or less guarantees that the IAEA will continue to say it has no proof of such a program, since it has few powers to look for one.
And this attitude continues. For instance, the statement by eight former foreign ministers (including Madeleine Albright and former ministers of Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, and Canada) is couched as a call for trans-Atlantic unity, but the only advice is that Washington should "consider launching commercial and diplomatic engagement with Iran" (that is, adopt the European position) while Europe proves to Iran that if the talks break down, Tehran will face "severe political and economic consequences," i.e., Europe takes the military option off the table. If in fact Europe wants to reach a trans-Atlantic consensus about Iran, then Europe would do well to remind Iran that the military option remains on the table. The EU "Strategy Against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction" (adopted by the European Council on December 12, 2003) states, "coercive measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and international law (sanctions, selective or global, interceptions of shipments and, as appropriate, the use of force) could be envisioned" when political and diplomatic measures are unable to stop WMD proliferation. It is only fair to ask Europe to remind Iran of the official EU position.
The reason that EU-U.S. cooperation is important is that when Iran has been convinced that it faced a united insistence by the major powers it has made major concessions, as seen in the October 2003 initial Iranian suspension of uranium enrichment. Now, Iran's main concern is the UN Security Council. Former Iranian envoy to the IAEA Ali Akbar Salehi recently said, "We will be anxious and tense if we do not reach agreement with [the Europeans] and if our case is referred to the Security Council. However, our hands won't be tied. We have seen indications that countries such as China, Russia, and Brazil will enter the arena on Iran's side." The most important way for Washington to move the current negotiations forward would be to convince China and Russia to quietly inform Iran that they would not stand in the way of Security Council action. How to promote unity on the Iran issue among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the P5) will be the subject of part II of this series.
Steps to promote P5 unity would do more to facilitate the European negotiations than would any U.S. offer to engage Iran, which would only bog down the negotiations in bitter disputes about what Iran must do against terrorism and whether the United States will continue to criticize Iran's regime. The argument that the European negotiations hinge on whether Washington offers Iran a carrot look like a pre-emptive excuse for the likely breakdown of the EU-Iranian talks.
Patrick Clawson is the deputy director of The Washington Institute.
U.S. wants Japan to take Iran as seriously as it does
Friday, December 17, 2004 at 06:00 JST
TOKYO The United States wants Japan to take Iran's suspected nuclear arms program as seriously as North Korea's nuclear activities, a senior U.S. administration official said Thursday. "As North Korea is testing the boundary of international norm against developing nuclear weapons and deliberate capability, so is Iran," said Lincoln Bloomfield, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs.
"I think it's important to point out that the very consequences that Japan would find unacceptable in a nuclear-armed North Korea are the same consequences that Iran's neighbors from Central Asia to the Caucuses to the Arabian Peninsula would face if Iran's nuclear ambitions are not similarly ended," he said.
12/7/2004 Clip No. 416
Secretary of the Iranian National Security Council, Hasan Rouhani: Technologically, We Have Obtained the Nuclear Fuel Cycle
The following are excerpts from an interview with secretary of the Supreme National Security Council in Iran, Hasan Rouhani:
Rouhani: The Paris agreement mentions that Iran is allowed to have a nuclear fuel cycle, but it must supply the necessary guarantees, in other words, concrete and solid guarantees. Therefore, the most important aspect of the Paris agreement is the European acceptance of the principle of an [Iranian] nuclear fuel cycle. However, it mentions that Iran will begin this cycle only when it supplies the guarantees to Europe or the international community. The debate revolves around Europe's supplying our technical nuclear needs and the necessary facilitations to make this technology available to us. Our needs could be a nuclear power reactor, a research reactor, or nuclear safety mechanisms.
Therefore, what Europe wants to give us is very different from what we are currently receiving from the IAEA. The IAEA aid will continue as in the past, but the aid Europe is supposed to give us is of a much broader scope. The case of South Korea shows that the IAEA is not governed by fairness, facts don't matter, and justice does not rule. Political pressures are more significant there. This shows that the Board of Governors is more political than legal. It's a fact.
Behind the scenes the matter is clear. But even at face value there is a great difference between the South Korean case and ours. South Korea's violations were very severe and it cannot be compared to our case. However, South Korea gave up its activity. It had laser [enrichment] activity and it said it had given it up and that those involved in it had made a mistake. It also said that it had known nothing about it, and that it was a small group of scientists who would be punished. It was also backed by America, since South Korea is under American occupation. It's obvious.
We have two problems. We are in exactly in the opposite position. America supports South Korea, but is our enemy. This is an essential difference. The second difference is that we want to continue the enrichment, while South Korea gave it up. Iran is determined to achieve the goal it set for itself to obtain nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and to continue on this path.
Technologically, we have obtained the nuclear fuel cycle, this [manufacturing capability] has been localized. 'Localized' means we have our own uranium mine. We can, with our means, mine the uranium. We can turn the ore into Yellow Cake with the means available in Iran. We can convert Yellow Cake into UF4 and UF6. We have already done this and we can continue. We can also enrich the UF6 through the centrifuges to a level of 3.5 percent. and in the zirconium plant in Esfaham We have the necessary capability to turn the enriched uranium into tablets that will be used as fuel for reactors. We also manufacture the fuel rods in the zirconium plant. Therefore, If Iran wants to produce fuel for a reactor, We have all the means, from the ore stage to turning the enriched material into tablets and inserting them into fuel rods.
12/12/3002 Clip No. 417
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Asafi: Secretary Powell Was Mistaken When He Thought Iranian FM Kharrazi Was Talking to Him; We Don't Think the US is in a Position to Attack Iran
The following are excerpts from the weekly press briefing of the spokesman of the Iranian foreign ministry, Hamid-Reza Asefi:
Asefi: There was no conversation with Mr. Powell at the dinner table [in Sharm Al-Sheikh]. Mr. Powell was sitting near Mr. Kharrazi. There were other foreign ministers there, and Mr. Kharrazi was speaking with them. There were various discussions with the other foreign ministers at the dinner table. Mr. Powell had probably heard these discussions and thought he was having a direct conversation with Mr. Kharrazi, although there was no such conversation between Mr. Kharrazi and Mr. Powell.
As for [a possible] American attack on Iran, American officials have already denied this and said that this information is incorrect. We believe that this is propaganda and extortion by the media. We don't think the US is in a position and has the necessary capacity to attack Iran. Surely Iran will defend itself with all its might. We believe that this is psychological warfare waged by some media outlets, originating, directly or indirectly, in the Zionist lobbies.
Iran may sway Iraq elections, some fear
The New York Times
December 15, 2004
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- On a list of 228 candidates submitted by a powerful Shiite-led political alliance to Iraq's electoral commission last week, Abdulaziz al-Hakim's name was entered as No. 1. It was the clearest indication yet that in the upcoming January elections, with Iraq's Shiite majority likely to heavily outnumber Sunni voters, al-Hakim may emerge as the country's most powerful political figure.
Al-Hakim is a preeminent example of a class of Iraqi Shiite leaders with close ties to Iran's ruling ayatollahs. His political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was founded in Tehran.
The question of Iranian influence will weigh heavily as election campaigning formally begins today among more than 230 parties and political groups that have entered lists of candidates.
Ghazi al-Yawer, the Sunni Arab sheik who was named Iraq's interim president, and King Abdullah of Jordan have both sounded warnings over the past week.
In a BBC interview Monday in London, al-Yawer cited reports that Iran had pushed up to a million people across the 900-mile border with Iraq in a bid to influence the elections, and that Iranian money was flowing covertly to Shiite religious groups competing in the election.
"There are some elements in Iran playing a role in trying to influence the elections," he said.
For the United States, and for Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which have Sunni Muslim majorities, the prospect of al-Hakim and his associates coming to power raises in stark form the brooding issue of Iran's future influence in Iraq.
And among Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, the fear of a Shiite-led government heavily influenced by Iran has helped drive a powerful insurgency.
Analysis: Iran's Reformers Lack Viable Candidate
By Bill Samii
Iranian governmental bodies are locked in a dispute over when to hold the country's next presidential election -- in May or in early June -- but three conservative figures have already declared their intention to be candidates.
Such eagerness stems from the conservatives' lopsided domination of the February 2004 parliamentary polls and their belief that they can duplicate these results. The country's reformist organizations -- known as the 2nd of Khordad Front after the date of President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's May 1997 election -- are less sanguine, and they appear to have lost what little unity they once had. To date, therefore, no viable reformist candidate has stepped forward.
Indeed, some reformist leaders reportedly are backing the candidacy of Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who is usually seen as a favorite of the center-right or the "pragmatic conservatives." A 4 December editorial in "Farhang-i Ashti" said that reformists such Mashallah Shamsolvaezin and Sadeq Zibakalam openly support Hashemi-Rafsanjani, and the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization and the Islamic Iran Participation Party support him implicitly. The editorial ascribed the support for the ex-president to age-cohort divisions within the reformist front, and added that the younger reformists favor Hashemi-Rafsanjani. The "middle-aged reformists" oppose a Hashemi-Rafsanjani candidacy.
An article in the 4 December "Sharq," on the other hand, asserted that the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization and the Islamic Iran Participation Party support the candidacy of former Science, Research, and Technology Minister Mustafa Moin.
Government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh announced on 15 November that Moin had agreed to be a presidential candidate (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 29 November 2004). Mustafa Derayati, a leading figure in the Participation Party, said in the 5 December "Sharq" that his organization has chosen Moin.
These announcements may have come as unwelcome news to Moin, who said on 5 December in Shiraz that "I have not made a decision about participating in the presidential election," the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. Moin added in his speech that people should not expect a repetition of the 23 May 1997 elections, when dark-horse reformist candidate Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami won a surprise landslide victory.
Militant Clerics Association (Majma-yi Ruhaniyun-i Mobarez) Secretary-General Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi also is being promoted as a possible candidate. One of the members of the association, Mohammad Baqer Zakeri, said on 1 December that Karrubi is the strongest potential reformist candidate, Mehr News Agency reported.Reformists want a candidate who will be allowed to run. Their choices are limited.
At the Mardom Salari party's 2 December congress in Tehran, Karrubi said that he still has not made up his mind on running for president, IRNA reported.
Karrubi repeated his position, in an interview that appeared in the 5 December "Sharq," that he has yet to make up his mind. He predicted that the reformist 2nd of Khordad Front could win the election if it coordinates its actions and if public participation is high.
Passing The Test
Choosing a candidate is not the only difficulty the reformists are facing. They must also choose one who will survive the Guardians Council's vetting process.
Presidential adviser Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ali Abtahi said a strong reformist candidate has not come forward because potential candidates fear having their candidacies disallowed by the Guardians Council, "Sharq" reported on 5 December. A member of the Guardians Council should run for president, Abtahi recommended, as a test of public support for the institution that makes decisions on behalf of the people.
The reformists should choose a presidential candidate who is "committed, capable, competent, powerful, insightful, and prudent to the extent that he will not be doubted and disqualified," according to a letter from Qom reformists that was published in the 29 November "Aftab-i Yazd." The letter stressed the importance of unity in the 2nd of Khordad Front, and suggested that the reformist groups should meet and take a common stance on what they can do to meet public demands.
"Reaching consensus on one candidate is the only way the reformists can win," Mardom Salari party Secretary-General Mustafa Kavakebian said, according to the 20 November "Mardom Salari." Consensus, he went on to say, would "minimize the chances of "disqualification."
Former parliamentarian Hussein Ansari-Rad expressed similar concerns in the 22 November "Farhang-i Ashti." After the mass disqualification of candidates for the 2004 parliamentary election, he said, a lot of people think that conditions for a free election no longer exist. Reformists want a candidate who will be allowed to run. Their choices are limited.
Who the reformists tap as their leading candidate remains to be seen -- Moin, Karrubi, or somebody else. The candidates still have some time to decide, as a date for the election has not been set. They need to hurry, however, as the unofficial campaign period -- marked by party meetings and get-out-the-vote speeches by big name political figures -- will begin in January.
Iran criticises EU for hosting exile leader speech Thu. 16 Dec 2004
TEHRAN - Iran on Thursday accused the European Parliament of "supporting terrorism" by hosting a speech by the leader of an exiled opposition group dedicated to overthrowing the Islamic state's clerical leadership.
Iran's Foreign Ministry said the speech to a private meeting of the parliament by Maryam Rajavi, the self-styled president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), "is unacceptable and an act in line with supporting terrorism."
The NCRI is the political arm of the People's Mujahideen guerrilla movement, which the United States and the EU consider a terrorist organisation.
In her speech on Wednesday Rajavi accused the European Union of appeasing Tehran by entering diplomatic negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme and urged MEPs to support a policy of regime change for Iran.
Rajavi was hosted by Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a vice-president of the European Parliament, and two MEPs who co-chair a group called Friends of a Free Iran, Paulo Casaca of Italy and Struan Stevenson of Britain.
"The European Parliament should be careful that the relations of a few of its members with this group will only discredit the European Parliament and result in a loss of public trust in it," Iran's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"Rafsanjani reinvents himself as a moderate?"
He kills people in moderation.?
Rafsanjani is still a terrorst, so, who cares?!?
Iran needs to get serious: Bush isn't buying nukes lie
Posted: December 17, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2004 WorldNetDaily.com
After waltzing with the E.U.-3 (France, Germany and England) and the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, the Iranians announced this week that they would like to negotiate there nuclear program with the United States, provided Washington will treat Tehran as an equal.
If Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi hadn't actually said this, the statement would be so ridiculous that it would be hard to invent. What's going on?
First, Kharrazi is deeply involved in a strange language we have to call "U.N.-SPEAK" to decipher the meaning. Remember, in the United Nations General Assembly all nations are equal, regardless of their size or their legitimacy, their dedication to peace or whether they are actively protecting genocidal maniacs within their borders. Actually, a few of the countries appear to have genocidal maniacs as their leaders, but that doesn't bother the United Nations. All countries participating in the General Assembly are equal and each have the same one vote.
So, as far as Kharrazi is concerned, Iran and the United States are equals and he can demand we treat them as such, or else he won't talk to us. Makes sense, doesn't it?
No, it doesn't. We don't have diplomatic relations with Iran because we consider them a terror-supporting rogue regime. Even Democrats like John Kerry liked the 9-11 commission. On pages 240-241 of the 9-11 commission report, Iran is listed as having helped the terrorists who flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The subtitle of that section is clear: "Assistance from Hezbollah and Iran to al-Qaida." The text explains how Iran even gave free passage to the 9-11 "muscle" hijackers.
What are we to do? Just forget about it? Iran hasn't forgotten about it. The Middle East Media Research Institute reports about a TV program broadcast by the Iranian government TV channel directed toward Europe. The program, broadcast on June 1, 2004, advanced the clearly anti-Semitic theory that the Jews were responsible for the 9-11 hijacking. As proof, the program claimed five Israelis photographing the World Trade Center were arrested just hours before the blast. Then 4,000 Jews working in the Twin Towers were not there on 9-11 because they had taken a vacation day, having been warned in advance of the attack that was ordered by World Zionism as defined in the Jewish Protocols.
Sure, makes sense, here we go with Henry Ford and Hitler all over again. Has the world learned nothing since the Holocaust? Oh, I forgot the Holocaust is a myth, made up by Jews just to blame the innocent Germans, the real victims of World War II.
This would all be worth of a Lewis Carroll experience, except it is happening all over again, this time with the Iranian mullahs at center stage. Does anyone wonder why we might not want these guys to get their hands on nuclear weapons? Does anyone doubt that the 9-11 hijackers would not have used nuclear weapons to take down the World Trade Center and the Pentagon if they had possessed them?
None of that deters Foreign Minister Kharrazi. He insists that Iran is engaged in the talks with the E.U.-3 and the IAEA "very seriously" and "something useful can be accomplished" if only the Bush administration could forget about the sanctions and enter the talks directly, despite the fact we have no diplomatic relations with this rogue regime. "Axis of Evil?" Don't worry about it. It was just a figure of speech anyway.
That's what the Iranians want us to believe.
The E.U.-3 and the IAEA seem to have bought Kharrazi's logic. Even when the Iranians insist they need to keep some centrifuges running, the E.U.-3 and the IAEA don't seem bothered. Iran needs to keep pursuing "research and development," doesn't it? So what if Iran forgot to disclose this clandestine uranium enhancement location, or that one? What's a few secret locations among friends?
Nor would many of the Democrats have any problem with Kharrazi's request. If John Kerry (remember him?) were president-elect today, we'd be running to Vienna or Brussels, or wherever Iran wanted to meet, especially if they could bring along with them a few Europeans and a multinational organization or two to boot. After all, even in the first debate with President Bush, John Kerry said we should give nuclear fuel to the Iranians for peaceful purposes, just like President Clinton did with the North Koreans. If the Iranians had evil intentions, then they would make an atomic bomb. If they made an atomic bomb, then we wouldn't have to worry about them being evil. We'd have proof they were evil. Get it?
What's the problem? Clinton used the same logic and it worked with the North Koreans, didn't it?
The problem is that the Iranians aren't serious about giving up their nuclear weapons program and most sane people in the world know it, even if a lot of Democrats don't get it. Besides, the Iranian liars aren't fooling the Bush administration.
If the Iranians do not want nuclear weapons, then let them give up their centrifuges. Maybe the Iranians can allow open inspection of all their nuclear sites at a time and choosing of the international inspectors. Maybe the Iranians could even stop sending insurgents into Iraq to cause trouble. How about Hezbollah? Maybe the Iranians could call off the suicide bombers who are ready to blow themselves up in Israel.
But it was a nice try, Mr. Kharrazi. Maybe next time somebody besides the New York Times will take you seriously enough to give you attention. Maybe you could get the opening skit on "Saturday Night Live" this coming weekend. Who knows, we could all use a good laugh? Maybe Madeleine Albright could give another speech about appeasing the mullahs. That ought to do it.
Jerome R. Corsi received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in political science in 1972 and has written many books and articles, including the No. 1 New York Times best-seller, "Unfit for Command Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry." Dr. Corsi is an expert on political violence and terrorism and is currently writing a new book titled, "Atomic Iran," due to be released in 2005 by WND Books.
WHAT IRAN IS AFTER IN IRAQ[Excerpt]
By AMIR TAHERI December 17, 2004 -- IN Washington this month, King Abdullah II of Jordan pleaded with his American hosts to postpone Iraq's first free election, scheduled for late January.
The king warned that Tehran has mobilized over a million Iranians to infiltrate Iraq and vote in the election, thus ensuring the victory of pro-Iranian candidates. ...
And where would one find a million Arabic-speaking Iranians who could talk and walk like Iraqis? It is enough for an Arabic-speaking Persian to open his mouth for everyone to know that he is not Iraqi. Grand Ayatollah Ali-Muhammad Sistani, the primus inter pares of Iraqi Shiite clerics, still retains his Persian accent despite having spent more than half a century in Najaf.
The king's claim, inspired by the Arab penchant for conspiracy theories, could be dismissed as fanciful. But Iran is determined to play a central role in shaping the future of Iraq, and will do all it can to affect the results of the election.
The reasons are not hard to divine.
Until 9/11, Iran was the only power interested in changing the regional status quo. It saw itself surrounded by enemies, notably Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. It also nurtured hopes of de-stabilizing the traditional Arab regimes that it regarded as moribund.
The Clinton administration had gone out of its way to forge a relationship with the Taliban, sending a succession of emissaries, including then-U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson, to Kabul to sweet-talk Mullah Muhammad Omar into joining Washington in efforts to isolate Tehran. In 1998 and 1999, the Clintonites also tried to find a modus vivendi with Saddam.
But the 9/11 attacks persuaded Americans that the status quo they had cherished in the Middle East was a threat to their national security.
As far as destroying the Taliban regime and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein were concerned, Iran was on the U.S. side: The Americans were doing what the Iranians had prayed for. But when it comes to creating a new order in the region, Iran wishes to have its say. ...
For Iran, the worst outcome of Iraq's crisis would be the emergence of a new regime based on Arab Sunnis with a pan-Arab, and thus anti-Persian, ideology. Given time, such a regime could claim the leadership of the Arab world and frustrate Iran's regional ambitions.
But the Arab Sunnis can only regain power by forcing the Americans into a precipitous withdrawal. This would be a disaster for Iran so Iran does not want the United States to fail in Iraq.
Yet Iran does not want America to succeed easily. It wants to bleed the United States as much as possible en route to eventual success in Iraq. The cost of success should be so high as to make it impossible for the Bush administration, or its successors, to win popular support at home for any similar venture, for example, in targeting Iran itself.
So the Iranian strategy is to push the United States to the edge in Iraq, but no further. America should respond in kind.
The United States should acknowledge the fact that at this moment in Iraq, Iran is an objective tactical ally, insofar as it also opposes the revival of a Sunni-based pan-Arab regime. But the Americans should raise the political cost for Iran of a success that both seek.
While denying Iran a place at the high table, it is prudent for the United States to allow its regional rival a stool at another table at the banquet. The coming elections should be used to lock Iran into a policy of cautious support for a new, U.S.-shaped status quo.
The Irano-American rivalry has divided the new Iraqi elite into two camps.
In one camp are those who see Iran as Iraq's strategic enemy and hope to counter it with a discourse of pan-Arab nationalism. They deem the United States a tactical ally in helping Iraq rebuild a state, an army and a security service, leaving in place not a democracy but a "lite" version of Arab authoritarian rule.
In the other camp one finds those who are trying to stay in the good books of both Tehran and Washington. These people believe that the future Iraqi regime, which is bound to be dominated by the Shiite majority, would need Iranian support for years to counter plots by neighboring Arab states that fear both Shiism and democracy. Here the argument is that the U.S. attention span is short and that there is no guarantee that a future administration in Washington would remain as committed to Iraq as President Bush.
All this underlines the importance of the January election. The mullahs of Tehran would find it hard to bully a people-based government in Iraq. The beginning of democracy in Iraq is bound to encourage the democratic movement in predominantly Shiite Iran. The religious leadership in Najaf is already beginning to build a network of support throughout Iran and, given time, is certain to challenge the cult of Khomeini's personality, which is the basis of the Iranian regime's ideology.
The future Iraqi regime will be based on a coalition in which both pro-Iranian Shiite groups and pan-Arab elements will have a share. The best policy for the United States is to stand above the fray and to insist on only one thing: In a democratic Iraq, there is room for all, including its adversaries. E-mail:
General: Iraqi Insurgents Directed From Syria[Excerpt]By Thomas E. RicksWashington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 17, 2004; Page A29
A top Army general said yesterday that the Iraqi insurgency was being run in part by former senior Iraqi Baath Party officials operating in Syria who call themselves the "New Regional Command."
These men, from the former governing party of deposed president Saddam Hussein, are "operating out of Syria with impunity and providing direction and financing for the insurgency," said Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the U.S. commander in Iraq. "That needs to stop," Casey said at a Pentagon briefing.
He called on the government of President Bashar Assad to do more to stop the insurgency from being managed by Iraqis hiding in Syria. "The Syrians are making some efforts on the border," he said. "But they are not going after the big fish, which is really the people that we're interested in. And we're really interested in them going after the senior Baathists."
Casey's comments echoed remarks by President Bush on Wednesday but provided new details, including the name of the leadership organization in Syria. In recent weeks, new intelligence on anti-U.S. forces in Iraq has led officials to focus increasingly on the sanctuary being provided there.
Casey contrasted his view of Syria's role with what he described as the more distant threat presented by Iran. The Iranian government's influence on Iraq needs to be watched, he said, but does not appear to pose a major problem in affecting next month's elections.
"I don't see substantial Iranian influence on this particular government that will be elected in January," he said. "I see Iran as more of a longer-term threat to Iraqi security . . . a long-term threat to stability in Iraq. If you look on the other side, I think Syria is a short-term threat, because of the support they provide to the former Baathist leaders that we see operating in and out of Syria."
Overall, Casey expressed optimism about the security situation in Iraq. "I feel that we're broadly on track in helping the Iraqi people complete their transition to a constitutionally elected government at the end of next year," he said. "We also believe that this objective is both realistic and achievable."
He said the strength of the Iraqi insurgency should not be overestimated. "They're a tough, aggressive enemy, but they're not 10 feet tall," he said. ...
Iran: Woman to Be Buried Up to Chest and Stoned to Death In The Next Five Days
An Iranian woman charged with adultery faces death by stoning in the next five days after her death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court last month. Her unnamed co-defendant is at risk of imminent execution by hanging. Amnesty International members are now writing urgent appeals to the Iranian authorities, calling for the execution to be stopped.
According to reports, Hajieh Esmailvand was sentenced to five years imprisonment, to be followed by execution by stoning, for adultery with an unnamed man who at the time was a 17 year old minor. Although the exact date of her arrest and trial are not known, it is reported that she has been imprisoned in the town of Jolfa, in the north west of Iran, since January 2000.
The Iranian Penal Code is very specific about the manner of execution and types of stones which should be used. Article 102 states that men will be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning. Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes, nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones.
All death sentences in Iran must be upheld by the Supreme Court before they can be carried out. In November 2004, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence against Hajieh Esmailvand but changed the lower court's verdict from death by hanging to death by stoning. Reports suggest that the Supreme Court has ordered that the remainder of Hajiehs five year prison sentence be annulled so that the stoning sentence can be carried out before 21 December.
Amnesty International UK Media Director Mike Blakemore said:
"This is an urgent case. Hejieh could be killed in the next five days if we do not act quickly. Our members here in the UK are writing to the Iranian authorities, imploring them to stop this brutal execution. Campaigners in Iran are also taking action. But we need more people to stand up and be counted, to tell the Iranian authorities that this is not acceptable.
"Every day, thousands of women across the world face repression and violence, just because they are women. From the battlefield to the bedroom, women are at risk. Violence against women is a human rights atrocity and one we must tackle immediately."
The news follows reports of a 19-year old girl, "Leyla M", who has a mental age of eight, reportedly facing imminent execution for "morality-related" offences in Iran after being forced into prostitution by her mother as a child. According to a Tehran newspaper report of 28 November, she was sentenced to death by a court in the central Iranian city of Arak and the sentence has now been passed to the Supreme Court for confirmation.
Leyla M was reportedly sentenced to death on charges of "acts contrary to chastity" by controlling a brothel, having intercourse with blood relatives and giving birth to an illegitimate child. She is to be flogged before she is executed. She had apparently confessed to the charges.
Leyla was forced into prostitution by her mother when she was eight years old, according to the 28 November report, and was raped repeatedly thereafter. She gave birth to her first child when she was nine, and was sentenced to 100 lashes for prostitution at around the same time. At the age of 12, her family sold her to an Afghan man to become his temporary wife.
His mother became her new pimp, selling her body without her consent. At the age of 14 she became pregnant again, and received a further 100 lashes, after which she was moved to a maternity ward to give birth to twins. After this "temporary marriage", her family sold her again, to a 55-year-old man, married with two children, who had Leylas customers come to his house.
One in three women around the world suffer serious violence in their lifetime, at home, in the community or in war, just because they are women. Amnesty International is running a global campaign to 'Stop Violence Against Women'. The human rights organisation is calling on governments to repeal laws that permit and encourage violence against women, and on communities to challenge attitudes that allow violence to continue. For more information visit: www.amnesty.org.uk/svaw.
Amnesty International is aware of at least one case in which a sentence of execution by stoning has reportedly been issued this year. According to a report on 8 January 2004 in the Iran newspaper, a criminal court in the city of Qazvin sentenced an unnamed man to 80 lashes and 10 years' imprisonment to be followed by execution by stoning. It is not known whether this sentence has been carried out.
Amnesty International believes that the death penalty is the most extreme form of torture. It is a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
It is clear that the punishment of stoning is designed to cause the victim grievous pain before leading to death. Such methods of execution specifically designed to increase the suffering of victims are of particular concern to Amnesty International, as the most extreme and cruel form of torture.
For details of how to help stop the executions of Hajieh and Leyla M, please go to: www.amnesty.org.uk/action/
(AFX UK Focus) 2004-12-17 10:38 GMT:
EU SUMMIT Leaders eye deeper ties with Iran after nuclear deal - draft text
Article layout: reformatted BRUSSELS (AFX) - EU leaders are ready to intensify their political and economic ties with Iran if Tehran allays concerns over terrorism and human rights, they said in a draft text released here. Hailing a deal last month when Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, a key part of the nuclear fuel cycle, the leaders confirmed their aim to sign a trade and cooperation agreement. They also "confirmed the Union's readiness to explore ways to further develop political and economic cooperation with the Iran, following action by Iran to address other areas of concern," the draft text said. Those areas were "the fight against terrorism, human rights and Iran's approach to the Middle East peace process," it added. Under an agreement reached in Paris last month between Britain, France and Germany, acting for the European Union, and Iran, Tehran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for trade, technology and security rewards.