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Breaking | Ahmadinejad TV Interview: Khamenei 'Like a Father to Our Society'

by JOSH SHAHRYAR and DAN GEIST

15 May 2011 22:26Comments
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Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

1 a.m., 26 Ordibehesht/May 16 Here is Tehran Bureau's transcript of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's live interview Sunday night (and very early Monday morning) on Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting channel TV2:

What do you think about the execution of the laws in the past five months?

My assessment is very positive. The people of Iran have accomplished something here. Everyone thought that that the economic situation would not improve. But we have accomplished this and we have proud results to show. I will describe some of them to you.

One of the main things was to cut down the costs. One of the major issues was the cost of bread. I can tell you that we have cut down the costs to about 30 percent. In a short time, we have managed to do this. I won't say that the quality of bread everywhere is better than before, but it will be.

The quality has decreased, though, and the breads are a bit smaller.

Thirty percent of costs have been cut down here. The system was closed before, so it will take some time. In a year, things will get better in this regard. In terms of housing and trade, we have also cut down costs. But our industrial costs have increased. [...]

We have also cut down oil consumption in the country as well -- significantly, compared to earlier years. This is a revolution. We have also cut down the usage of electricity by about 12 percent. This is a revolution.

It's only now that people have started to cut down these costs so it will take some time to see more dramatic improvements. This is a great development, though. The people are learning that they can cut down electricity costs by using less.

We can proudly announce that we are the only country in the world where no family is hungry or without clothes. Maybe one or two European countries can compete with this.

One of our main goals is to induce efficiency in the use of commodities. This also cuts down costs.

The World Bank's president said that what we have done here is remarkable. They asked our specialists to come to three international conferences and explain how we've achieved such remarkable efficiency and economic turnaround in such a short time.

They predicted that inflation would be 75 percent. Where is that? We have natural inflation, but the people of Iran have actually managed to be the leader in the region in turning around the economy and I would like to thank them all.

This year, we will speak to people, assess the situation and we will take another step toward cutting costs, but we'll only do it if we see that it can be done. We will do things based on talking to people and seeing what they want us to do. But things cannot be turned around in five months.

We need time to further develop and make things more efficient. So there are some deficiencies still that we need to address. We have programs that will take two, three, or five years to implement. They will be done, but we need time. There should be pressure on us. I understand this. It helps us do things better. But there is no crisis.

We should bring these specialists who have created new technological ways to make things more efficient to cut down our energy costs. They should be brought to IRIB to explain how they've achieved this. There are improvements and innovations in agriculture. We're with them and we will help them with it.

People have some complaints about the high cost of electricity and gas.

In the last winter, about 78 percent of the population's electricity was only 4,000 tomans. Only 20 percent paid higher than that. That is much lower than before.

People get subsidies for these commodities. Of course, if they use more than the subsidies, they have to pay it for themselves. But only a small percentage use more than the subsidized amount. Some people just have higher usage, well, then, they have to pay for the higher usage. This is just. [...]

Prices are going up, partly because they are going up in the First World, so this is natural. I want to thank everyone, the nation of Iran and the lawmakers -- some of whom had some objections but they all came onboard with us. [...]

We have subsidies and we have them as laws, so that's our first program. Our second program is production. Our goods should find a market all over the world.

In the past four to five years, we have increased our steel production from ten million tons to more than 70 million tons.

Last year, we created 1.6 million jobs. This year, our job creation is going to be about 2.5 million. Hopefully, if we can keep this up for a few more years, we won't have unemployment in Iran.

We have also programs to bring down housing prices. Hopefully, soon, that will be accomplished.

We also need to have money in our treasury for each Iranian who is born, so when they grow up, they should have money already for them from the government to buy a house, get married, and such. This safety net will help people never to have to face hard times.

We also have made improvements in customs enforcement. [...]

We need to create ways to control leasing in the country when it comes to housing. We don't have any laws on leasing. Hopefully, in two years, a lot of problems will disappear and many worries facing Iranians will be remedied. We've had more investment, more people are buying shares in the market.

This year, we will adding two more programs: urban family doctors, which will begin this year, and universal insurance, which we will start this year and in two or three years, we could get to a point where Iranians wouldn't have to face any kind of shame and are taken care of.

Our currency should be strong. [...]

Our exports have increased greatly in the past seven years, even though our imports are still a bit higher than our exports. We need to keep the costs of our goods down, otherwise, they cannot compete with foreign goods. Now that our currency is stronger, we are seeing more investment and our goods are being sold more as well.

There have been disagreements over the implementation of the fifth economic development plan.

Well, we have to bring down the number of ministries. We have now laws that make it necessary that we merge ministries.

We have to start merging the ministries. This is part of the plan, but it needs at least a year. I wish I could make more ministries because my very good friends would be around me all the time. But the nation needs a smaller government.

What is your plan for the Ministry of Oil?

Well, currently, I'm the supervisor. The picture that people are getting about the merging of this ministry into another one [the Energy Ministry] is not the real picture.

A fourth of the oil in this country is used to power the electricity grid. Most countries have an energy ministry. There are some ministries that you can take three of them and merge them into one.

[On the issue of Osama bin Laden's death]

I have clear information that Bin Laden was in U.S. custody since a very long time ago. He was sick. They had him. But they killed him.

This is because the president of the United States wants to use it for his personal gain -- that means he wants it to use it for his reelection.

[On the issue of developments in the Middle East]

What is happening is much more complex than in the past. Every country has its own problems, it's not like the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.

I don't want to name names, but the people of the region want freedom, liberty, and dignity and have rightful demands. They want to change their social and political life.

In some of these places, their enemies are interfering, like in North Africa. When NATO intervenes, then things become too complicated. No one knows what exactly is happening there.

We have an Islamic duty to support justice, truth, and what is right. It is our duty to resist the hegemony of the United States in the region,

I think that these nations will rule themselves and justice will rule. Some of them will take time, in some it will happen faster.

We can now see that the U.S. and her allies are using these countries for their own gain. We will see that once the allies' needs are met, they will create more problems for these nations.

These things have to happen because people have reached a level where they cannot stay under these corrupt administrations. I think the IRI is supporting these people well. [...]

The terrorist groups in the region, we all know who they are being supported by -- these were the same countries that created empires and colonialism. Why are we surprised? Wherever there is a dictatorship now, they are present. When there's a coup, they are there. Wherever there is violence, they are there.

The U.S. talks about liberty. Where is the liberty in the United States? There are only two parties and they simply switch time at the top. There are no freedoms, the press is controlled. The same goes for Europe. Yet they wave the banner of liberty and freedom.

We have asked countries to come to our conference against terrorism. Everyone should come and we should discuss this. People are dying in suicide bombings in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan every day. This will only increase. [...]

Today, it was proven that people, on the anniversary of the occupation of their country [Palestine], came and they protested in Lebanon, in Gaza, in the West Bank, Syria, Jordan. Dozens of people were killed by Israel. Israel showed again what it stands for.

If Israel is on one half foot of Palestinian land, our region won't see peace. They are only the face of the colonialism in this area. Their job is to create problems in the region, to create tensions in the region. Israel showed that today. They killed innocent civilians who were unarmed.

All Palestinians should be allowed to get back to every city or village that they are from. It is their right and it is their land. I don't think Palestinians will be under this for much longer. [...]

We [Iranians] have the best things. We have the best history, the best geography, resources, people, and finally, leadership. We must go forward. We should join hands, minds, and hearts and do what is necessary to take things forward. We have the best country.

As for the elections for the Majles [parliament], they are the people's. No one in the government has the right to interfere with them in anyway.

Finally, we believe that our system is the best. Imam and nation. The Imam guides, and the nation follows. A nation without an Imam is always in trouble.

We have a just ruler, whose connection with the people is one of love. How can you have justice without a just ruler? Our Imam is the one who ensures justice in this system. And the people ensure that it reaches them.

I have taken it upon myself to defend this modern system, to defend Velaayat-e Faghih. Wali [the Authority, Khamenei] is like a father to our society.

12:15 a.m., 26 Ordibehesht/May 16 The audio quality of the IRIB TV2 feed to which Tehran Bureau had access was rough and the translation was obviously being done in real time -- at a superhuman pace by TB contributor Josh Shahryar -- so the initial English transcript to follow will be incomplete. But we will post here everything we were able to capture in a short while.

12:05 a.m., 26 Ordibehesht/May 16 More presidential love for the Leader. Referring to the doctrine of guardianship of the Islamic jurist, by which Khamenei rules, Ahmadinejad says, "I have taken it upon myself to defend this modern system, to defend Velaayat-e Faghih." Employing another religious epithet to refer to Khamenei, he declares, "Wali is like a father to our society." The interview ends after an hour and 20 minutes.

Midnight, 26 Ordibehesht/May 16 Adopting a soft, heartfelt tone, the president continues to lavish praise on the Supreme Leader: "We have a just ruler. One whose connection with the people is of love. How can you have justice without a just ruler? Our Imam is the one who ensures justice in this system. And the people ensure that it reaches them."

11:55 p.m., 25 Ordibehesht/May 15 Ahmadinejad speaks about the Iranian nation, implicitly addressing the recent conflict with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: "We have the best things. We have the best history, the best geography, resources, people and finally, leadership. We must go forward. We should join hands, minds and hearts and do what is necessary to take things forward. We have the best country. As for the elections for the parliament, they are the people's. No one in the government has the right to interfere with them in anyway. Finally, we believe that our system is the best: Imam and nation. The Imam guides, and the nation follows."

11:50 p.m., 25 Ordibehesht/May 15 More observations by Ahmadinejad on developments in the Middle East and the West's involvement: "The terrorist groups in the region, we all know who they are being supported by -- these were the same countries that created empires and colonialism. Why are we surprised? Wherever there is a dictatorship now, they are present. When there's a coup, they are there. Wherever there is violence, they are there. The U.S. talks about liberty. Where is the liberty in the United States? There are only two parties and they simply switch time at the top. There are no freedoms, the press is controlled. The same goes for Europe. Yet they wave the banner of liberty and freedom."

11:40 p.m., 25 Ordibehesht/May 15 Ahmadinejad on turmoil in the region: "Every country has its own problems, it's not like the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.... The people of the region want freedom, liberty, and dignity and have rightful demands. They want to change their social and political life. In some of these places, their enemies are interfering, like in North Africa. When NATO intervenes, then things become too complicated. No one knows what exactly is happening there. We have an Islamic duty to support justice, truth and right. It is our duty to resist the hegemony of the United States in the region. I think that these nations will rule themselves and justice will rule."

11:35 p.m., 25 Ordibehesht/May 15 The issue of Osama bin Laden's death is raised. According to President Ahmadinejad, "I have clear information that Bin Laden has been in U.S. custody for a very long time. He was sick. They had him. But they killed him. This is because the president of the United States wants to use it for his own gain -- he wants it to use it for his reelection."

11:30 p.m., 25 Ordibehesht/May 15 Asked about his plan for the Ministry of Oil, whose chief -- Massoud Mirkazemi -- he dismissed yesterday, the president replies: "Well, currently, I'm the supervisor." Defending his plan to merge it with the Ministry of Energy, he observes, "A fourth of the oil in this country is used to power the electricity grid.... There are some ministries that you can take three of them and merge them into one."

11:25 p.m., 25 Ordibehesht/May 15 The interview turns to the question of the ministry mergers. "We have to start merging ministries. This is part of the plan," says Ahmadinejad. "I wish I could make more ministries because my very good friends would be around me all the time. But the nation needs a smaller government."

11:20 p.m., 25 Ordibehesht/May 15 The president describes two new healthcare programs set to begin this year: "Urban family doctors...and universal insurance, which we will start this year and in two or three years, we could get to a point where Iranians wouldn't have to face any kind of shame and are taken care of."

11:10 p.m., 25 Ordibehesht/May 15 Ahmadinejad on the employment picture: "Last year, we created 1.6 million jobs. This year, our job creation is going to be about 2.5 million. Hopefully, if we can keep this up for a few more years, we won't have unemployment in Iran." Many observers believe the country's unemployment rate has been rising in recent years. In late 2010, Reza Rahimi Nasab, Majles representative from Khorramabad, capital of Lorestan province, said that the provincial unemployment rate had reached 40 percent.

11:05 p.m., 25 Ordibehesht/May 15 Asked about complaints over the high cost of electricity and gas, the president replies, "Last winter, about 78% of the population's electricity was only 4,000 tomans.... That is much lower than before. People get subsidies for these commodities. Of course, if they use more than the subsidies, they have to pay it for themselves. But only a small percentage use more than the subsidized amount."

11:00 p.m., 25 Ordibehesht/May 15 Ahmadinejad defends the country's economic performance under his stewardship: "The World Bank's president said that what we have done here is remarkable. They asked our specialists to come to three international conferences and explain how we've achieved such remarkable efficiency and economic turnaround in such a short time."

10:55 p.m., 25 Ordibehesht/May 15 In the first part of the interview, President Ahmadinejad has been addressing the economic reform program. He declares, "We can proudly announce that we are the only country in the world where no family is hungry or without clothes."

10:45 p.m., 25 Ordibehesht/May 15 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has just begun a live interview on Iranian national television. The appearance follows a month of turmoil in the Islamic Republic's regime that followed the resignation of Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi, apparently forced by Ahmadinejad, and the minister's reinstatement by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. We'll be providing live updates on the appearance and as close to a full translation as possible at the end of the interview.

Yesterday, there was another significant development in the political furor. Ahmadinejad dismissed three of his cabinet ministers as part of a plan to merge eight executive branch ministries into four. The president has been wrangling for weeks with the leadership of the Majles, which has argued that the merger plan must gain parliamentary approval before it can be effected. The Guardian Council sided with the legislature, and after a meeting with both the president and the Supreme Leader, Majles Speaker Ali Larijani declared that the matter was resolved. Nevertheless, without seeking the consent of parliament, Ahmadinejad moved forward with his plan, dismissing Minister of Welfare and Social Security Sadegh Mahsouli, Minister of Oil Masoud Mir Kazemi, and Minister of Industries and Mines Ali Akbar Mehrabian.

On Sunday, Ahmadinejad took another major step in actualizing his plan. According to a report on the website of Press TV, the English-language subsidiary of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, he appointed two of his current cabinet ministers as "caretaker" replacements for Mahsouli and Mehrabian. The two appointees -- Minister of Commerce Mehdi Ghazanfari for the Ministry of Industries and Mines and Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Abdolreza Sheikholeslam for the Ministry of Welfare and Social Security -- already head the ministries into which the additional ones they are now responsible for will be folded under Ahmadinejad's plan.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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