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'Iran Is Being Ruined': Khatami on the Nation's Future; New Green Manifesto

12 Jul 2011 21:45Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

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9:45 p.m., 21 Tir/July 12 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi provided the following commentary and translation:

As reported by Tehran Bureau, two weeks ago former President Mohammad Khatami set conditions for the reformists to participate in the upcoming Majles elections, to be held on March 3, 2012. Those conditions were the unconditional release of all political prisoners, freedom for the press and political parties, elimination of the Guardian Council's power to vet and reject candidates, and electoral supervision by a neutral organ. Khatami's conditions have been supported by almost all the major opposition figures within Iran (see, for example, here, here, here, here, and here.) On the other hand, some political figures in the diaspora, notably Mojtaba Vahedi, former adviser to Mehdi Karroubi, have severely criticized Khatami. Vahedi went so far as to describe himself as "no longer a reformist," though he did not articulate his new position. Is Vahedi, for example, a revolutionary now? Because those in opposition must believe either in evolution and reform, or in revolution and regime change. There is no middle ground in Iran's current conditions.

Some -- including the author in a recent television interview -- criticized Khatami, not because they do not agree with his conditions, but because there were signs that he might retreat from them. But the online daily Mihan reported that Khatami has said that, unless his conditions are satisfied, he advises the reformists not to participate in the parliamentary elections. According to Mihan's tape recording of a speech Khatami gave at a meeting with political activists from northern Iran, he said,

We should not have participated in any elections since [the presidential election of] 2005. Unfortunately, this was our mistake. If this time the conditions are not right, we will definitely not participate. This is my own personal view, and we should make a collective decision after consultation.

How can we ignore the people's rights? Even if the families of all those who have been killed in these events [since the 2009 presidential election] come forward and say that they forgive those who spilled the blood of their children, how can we ignore the legitimate rights of the people? The security environment must be lifted. The elections must be free. Did we not agree with [Mir Hossein] Mousavi and Karroubi to have the [aforementioned] conditions [for any elections] and look toward the future? At the same time, what I am saying may be interpreted as an ultimatum. Although it does not seems that the ruling group is paying attention, some day history will judge.

So long as those who supervise and monitor the elections are not trustworthy, the elections cannot be free. Those who supervise the elections must be trusted [by the people], not those from a certain group with the most extreme views. They [the political establishment] must select representatives from the current political parties to have better elections. If these conditions are not fulfilled, we will definitely not participate in the elections.

We should all decide collectively [what to do] after consultation.... We should not help to heat an oven that bakes bread for someone else [a Persian expression meaning that one should not allow oneself to be used by others to advance their agenda], although we must reach a collective decision about this. It is possible that many things may happen before the elections, but so far there has been no clear indication that the elections will be free.

Khatami then addressed his critics:

The difference between the leaders and the political elite is in finding the best way to achieve [our] ideals and goals. The high emotions and ideals of the youth are understandable, and they must be told not to lose hope. But we must recognize that we do not have all the necessary means [to effect change], while we cannot even use all the means that may currently be available.

Khatami then explained what he believes in:

Emphasizing the nature of the political system [that was supposed to be set up after the 1979 Revolution] is not deviating from the main problem [that the nation now faces]. I believe in Islam, and also believe in the Islamic Republic. But I define the Islamic Republic as a vessel that accommodates the entire nation [not just a small minority].

What Khatami means is that he is emphasizing that the present system is not what it was supposed to be. He continued,

[Free] elections are our right. If we do not participate in the elections, it will not be us who should respond [to the nation], but those who do not allow us to participate. For us to participate in the elections, the conditions must be right -- the elimination of the security environment, release of all the political prisoners, and truly free elections. How is it possible to have a security environment, many political prisoners, political parties so restricted, and then claim that we have free elections? The military must not intervene in the elections, and the problem of the [Guardian Council's] vetting power must be addressed, so that all political persuasions can have representatives. It cannot be that whoever that they [the hardliners] do not like can be disqualified by labeling him as being against the political system and Velaayat [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], and then arresting him.

Khatami then expressed his concern for the nation as a whole. He also focused on Ahmadinejad's controversial "justice shares" program, under which payments of supposed dividends were made to 5.5 million poor Iranians in the weeks leading up to the June 2009 presidential vote:

Iran is being ruined. They are destroying the resources of the country. They have ruined the economy. They have made a bad name for the nation. In order to keep these people [Ahmadinejad and his group] in power, blood was spilled, a heavy price was paid, and the prisons were filled.... The justice shares were illegal. They were getting the funds under a different name, but distributing justice shares, hoping that if the need arose, people would come out on the streets to support them, but they did not [after the conflict between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei erupted]. During the presidential debate, Mr. Mousavi said that the government had resorted to geomancy; they [Khamenei and his circle] said this is not true. Now watch how they themselves are saying the same!

The Green Movement means the freedom movement and, of course, free elections. The Green Movement is dear and magnanimous. We feel terrible that Mousavi and Karroubi are under house arrest. We hope to see their release, the release of their wives, and of course, the release of all the political prisoners. But we surely will not abandon the national and fundamental demands of the nation [even under the current conditions].

***

According to author and journalist Geneive Abdo, a group of Tehran intellectuals who are leaders in the Green Movement has produced a new Green manifesto. Abdo, currently a fellow and Iran analyst at the Century Foundation, reports that the text of the manifesto, below, was given to the foundation's insideIRAN.org by its authors:

We, dozens of groups of Green activists in Iran, have decided to offer several recommendations for the reform and strengthening of the Green Movement. These recommendations have emerged as a result of our experiences in Iran over the past two years as well as the experiences of those in other countries in the Middle East that recently have had popular revolutions aimed at overthrowing their dictatorships. These recommendations are the result of repeated discussions and debates among leaders of Green cells inside Iran, many of whom have suffered imprisonment, beatings, or other violence during demonstrations since the emergence of this popular movement.

The continued house arrest of the leaders of the Green Movement inside Iran and the conditions in which demonstrations have been attempted after their imprisonment requires that the Green leadership outside the country review and reform its tactics and strategy so that the great social capital obtained by the Green Movement after the coup d'état of the summer of 2009 is not lost. Moreover, Greens inside and outside the country alike need to develop new tactics and strategies in order to utilize and channel effectively the ever-rising economic, political, and social discontent within our country and to ensure that the movement does not split or falter. [...]

I. Inspiration

[...] The Green Movement is not a uniform undifferentiated mass. It consists of a myriad of peoples who, together, represent the cultural, ethnic, religious, and social fabric of our diverse society, and they are deeply concerned about the fate of their beloved country and religion. The principles that unite all Greens are the goals of rule of law, respect for human rights, and the supremacy of popular sovereignty over all state and government institutions, including the post of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Revolution.

Thus, we reject the suggestion of the former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, that we Greens and the supporters of Khamenei (in other words, the supporters of despotism) apologize to each other and go forward from there. Such a suggestion is irresponsible and ignores not only the coup d'état of 2009, but also the massive violence used against our society by Khamenei and his system that resulted in, among other things, the murder and rape of our youth. We believe that Khatami's suggestions in this regard are dangerous and threaten splits in the Green Movement and, if accepted, will result in a loss of our social capital. Khatami's discourse of reform is over, since Khamenei and those behind him have shown that they are unwilling to take this course and will resort to murder and mass suppression in order to ensure their political and economic interests.

We believe that this goal of the complete subordination of all government and state posts to direct popular sovereignty needs to be clearly and repeatedly stated so that people know clearly for what they are fighting. Without a doubt, most people in our society want this political change. The time for hesitation and talk of reformism in this regard has finished.

To the working and lower classes, we must offer an end to exploitative wages, and instead work toward true, effective trade unions, protected by law, and improvements in living standards and economic well-being. This goal cannot be achieved in the state structure we have today, as it is politically and economically corrupt and is not answerable to anyone.

To ethnic and religious groups, we Greens must actively propagate the promise of cultural and ethnic autonomy, which was expressed as well by Karroubi and Mousavi during the presidential elections.

To women, the Green Movement must actively propagate the idea that women must have equal rights as men before the law.

To the religious part of our society, we Greens must stress that our political goal of democratization will put an end to the abuse of religion by political opportunists and the supporters of despotism and authoritarianism to achieve and protect their political and economic interests. Religion is to be the model of morality, purity, and service to God, untainted by politics, corruption, murder, lying, and rape.

II. Organization

1. We suggest that a Green Council of some ten or so leading and known political and/or intellectual leaders (or whatever number is deemed appropriate) be formed in the absence of Mousavi and Karroubi. Members of this council would have to accept the ultimate leadership of Mousavi and Karroubi and their representatives, given the participation of these men in the election, their popular legitimacy inside the country, and their resistance to the despotism of Khamenei and those behind him. This council, during the absence of these two men, would (a) establish the goals of the Green Movement; (b) coordinate forms of protest and demonstrations; (c) propagate the goals and actions of the Green Movement and propaganda against the coup regime.

2. The leadership of the Green Movement and/or the council needs to make a call for Greens to form individual Green groups across the country. This announcement would build on Mousavi's idea that each person is a form of mass media. The size is not important. What is important is the construction of a country-wide network of Green "cells." Certainly, many such cells already exist, having come into existence due to the initiative of individuals. But the network is not large enough. No success can be achieved without expansion of these cells. They are the heart of the movement. Given our experience on the street, a call for such cells will be greeted with acceptance. But it needs to be done quickly. Our social capital is not endless.

3. A call needs to be propagated that Greens need to work harder on establishing their links with the working class and the urban working lower class. This movement cannot be successful if links are not made with these classes.

4. We believe that the Green leadership needs to propagate actively the need for all local Green cells and even individuals to pass the word, either orally or through leaflets and pamphlets, about the goals of the movement and about future demonstrations and other forms of protest. We know that individuals and certain groups have been doing this. But more needs to be done in this regard.

III. Action

1. In the face of the brutality of Khamenei's regime, the leadership of the Green Movement needs to choose methods of protest that will lessen the costs associated with protest for individuals yet maintain and expand popular mobilization behind the movement. Suggestions are strikes, boycotts, silent demonstrations similar to what we had on the anniversary of the election, days for wearing green, and organizing specific times when all Greens drive their cars -- these are just some of the methods that can be utilized, until the full force of the working and lower classes enters this struggle for the future of our country.

2. Expansion of the propaganda war. Greater systematic attention must be paid to the issues of corruption, the economic performance of the regime, murder and rape at the hands of the Khamenei regime, the linking of Khamenei with Ahmadinejad (with focus on his June 19, 2009 speech, in which he announced that his and Ahmadinejad's views were very close).

3. Regime morale -- "name and shame" -- must be utilized. If possible, the names of those serving in security and Basij services engaged in beating, raping, and imprisoning the people need to be found and actively propagated through the Internet, mass media, and leaflets. Failing this, just pictures of these forces taken when in action or just on the street need to be propagated inside and outside the country.

4. The names of those elites with extensive property and wealth abroad need to be found and propagated.

5. We need to resurrect Mousavi's statement, according to which those individuals -- from regular Basijis and other pawns to the leading officials of the regime, from Khamenei down -- ordering and/or participating in violence against and killing of people will be eventually held accountable. This needs to propagated consistently, through mass media from abroad and leaflets and pamphlets here in Iran

6. The point needs to be made consistently that, given the certainty of the eventual victory of the Greens, there will be a policy of forgive but not forget. If officials from low positions to high positions who have not participated in or ordered the murder and rape of people come to our side, we will accept them. However, there is a time limit on this.

In conclusion, we would like to stress that this piece was made by us only as a set of suggestions and an expression of serious worry over the current state of the Green Movement. The above text is the result of debates, study, and the varied of experience of Greens on the frontline inside Iran, and our collective opinion of what is needed by our movement. We understand that most of what we have proposed without doubt can be improved and perfected as we move forward. In addition, we realize that many of these suggestions are not new. However, most of them have not been implemented or have been implemented only partially, which has resulted in a temporary but severe weakening of the Green Movement.

We hope that the decision-makers outside of Iran will take seriously these suggestions. It no longer can be naïvely assumed that the despotic side of this regime simply will collapse due to its inner contradictions and power struggles. We on the ground have to create pressure and the conditions for its implosion. We here in Iran are looking for decisive participation from Green leaders abroad. The movement here in Iran can be rejuvenated and propelled to victory if such leadership is provided. If not, we regret to say, we feel this movement will just become another failed attempt to bring freedom, dignity, and respect to our country.

***

Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

In an interview, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, criticized the Ahmadinejad administration and accused the president of sacrificing Iran's national interests in favor of his own group. Rafsanjani said that the improvement in relations with Saudi Arabia after the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988 was one of his own administration's successes, and he voiced regret that those relations have recently become strained. He accused Manouchehr Mottaki, Ahmadinejad's first foreign minister, of lying about the rough treatment that Mohammad Mohammadi Reyshahri, who was in charge of Iranian pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia, allegedly received at the hands of Saudi security forces. Mottaki had said that he was under pressure (implicitly from Ahmadinejad) to make the false statement.

Majles Deputy Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar said that no principlist is willing to enter the upcoming Majles elections under Ahmadinejad's banner. The conservatives and hardliners had formed a committee to mediate between Ahmadinejad's supporters and other conservatives, but Bahonar said there is no longer such a committee because the principlists are not willing to support the president. He added that there is no official group that supports Ahmadinejad.

In his weekly press conference, judiciary spokesman and national prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, said that a group of people close to the "perverted group" -- code name for Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and close confidant Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and his supporters -- have been arrested. He did not provide any names, but said that they work for the National Museum and the Organization for Cultural Heritage and Tourism, Mashaei's power base. In response to a question about Ahmadinejad saying that the arrest of his cabinet members would be his "red line," Ejei declared, "The law does not recognize red lines." At other points in the press conference, he said that the country needs new laws governing the use of cyberspace and that the powerful nations of world have double standards when it comes to the violation of human rights.

In response to Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who set conditions for the reformists to run in the upcoming Majles elections, Jamshid Ansari, the reformist deputy representing Zanjan, said, "The reformists will decide for themselves whether they want to run in the upcoming Majles elections. It is not right for some people to say how the reformists can run in the elections for the Ninth Majles."

Reactions to the letter by Mohammad Reza Khatami, the younger brother of the former president, in which he criticized Jafari for intervening in political affairs, have continued. Basij commander Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naghdi berated the younger Khatami, calling him a "turncoat" and "an agent of the foreigners." Majles deputy and former Guard commander Mohammad Karami Rad said that if the younger Khatami continues his attacks on the Guards, he will be arrested. He accused the judiciary of acting weakly in confronting the reformists, and said, "Reza Khatami should be in jail, because he has done injustice to people's rights and the Revolution" by criticizing Jafari. Brigadier General Hossein Hamadani, commander of the Mohammad Rasoulallah corps, said that the military can intervene in politics, just not in the form of an organized political party. Defending Jafari, he said that not only the Guards but also the regular military can enter politics in order to gain political knowledge and develop political views.

By contrast, the Islamic Medical Association of Iran issued a statement at the end of its convention supporting Mohammad Reza Khatami -- a medical doctor -- and called on Jafari to apologize to the nation and commit himself to nonintervention in politics. The association declared its support for the Green Movement and its leaders, the political prisoners, and all those hurt in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election. It also supported the conditions that Mohammad Khatami has set for reformist participations in the upcoming Majles elections. The association expressed its concerns about the reports that Mousavi and Karroubi are in poor health, and demanded that independent medical doctors examine them.

Seyyed Ali Reza Beheshti Shirazi, a senior adviser to Mousavi, returned to Evin Prison to serve his sentence of five years. He was arrested on June 22, 2009. After his release, he was arrested again on December 28, 2009, and spent 74 days in solitary confinement. After nine months, he posted $500,000 bail and was released again. Before returning to Evin, he said his noon and afternoon prayers at the prison's gates.

In an editorial, Hossein Shariatmadari, the hardline managing editor of Kayhan, mocked Ahmadinejad and warned that he must separate himself from the "perverted group." Shariatmadari claimed that Ahmadinejad has done great things for the country, but now what he called "the perverted group together with the internal agents of the American-Israeli sedition of 2009 and hindrance that Ahmadinejad's political foes have created" have prevented the president from continuing his "great work."

As reported by Tehran Bureau, in a letter to Minister of Science, Research, and Technology Kamran Daneshjoo, who oversees the universities, Ahmadinejad opposed the separation of students by gender. However, Gholam Ali Naderi, a senior ministry official said that the ministry is studying the establishment of single-gender universities in seven provincial capitals. They are supposed to be set up in Isfahan, Kerman, Tabriz, Qom, Zahedan, Sari, and Kermanshah. The one in Isfahan is supposed to be exclusively for male students; the rest, for female students.

Security agents prevented the families of Ezatollah and Haleh Sahabi from holding a private memorial on the 40th day after their deaths, an Islamic tradition. The memorial was supposed to be held in a restaurant in which Sousan Shariati, daughter of the late Dr. Ali Shariati was to speak.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that the United States will not "walk away'' from the challenge of Iran's arming of Iraqi insurgents, whom he accused of targeting and killing American troops. "We're very concerned about Iran and the weapons they're providing to extremists in Iraq,'' Panetta told a group of soldiers on his first visit to Iraq as Pentagon chief. "We cannot sit back and simply allow this to continue. It is something we are going to take on head on,'' he emphasized. Panetta urged Iraq to more aggressively go after the Shia militias that are using what he called Iranian-supplied weapons.

Panetta's threat comes in the wake of comments made by Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on July 7. According to Mullen, Iran is expanding its support for what he called extremist militias in neighboring Iraq as the United States prepares to withdraw its forces there by December. "Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shiite groups, which are killing our troops," he said during a lunch with Pentagon reporters.

The head of the Cypriot navy, a naval base commander, and six firefighters were among 12 people killed by an explosion at a munitions dump, which knocked out the island's biggest power station. The blaze at the dump -- located at a base on Cyprus's south coast -- burned for about an hour before the huge blast, which leveled a nearby power plant that produces nearly 60 percent of the island's energy. Cyprus's defense minister and army chief resigned hours after the explosion at the dump, which held confiscated Iranian armaments. The materiel was confiscated from the Russian cargo ship Monchegorsk, intercepted by U.S. warships in the Red Sea en route from Iran to Syria in violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions. As the Monchegorsk was registered with the Cypriot Merchant Marine, Cyprus ultimately took custody of the cargo. Sabotage has been ruled out in the disaster.

During Friday Prayer sermons in Tehran on July 8, reactionary cleric Ahmad Jannati urged Bahrain's majority Shiites to keep up their protests, until death or victory against the Sunni monarchy. Although there is no evidence of a link between Bahrain's Shia opposition and Iran, the Persian Gulf leaders are concerned that political gains by Bahrain's Shiites may give Iran leverage over its archrival Saudi Arabia. On July 5, Tehran summoned Bahrain's chargé d'affaires in Tehran to officially protest the crackdown on the Bahraini people. Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Iran was also summoned to the Foreign Ministry. The next day Iran recalled its ambassador from Bahrain.

The Bahraini Foreign Ministry reacted strongly, condemning Jannati's statement, calling it "provocative," and declaring that, instead of meddling in other nations' internal affairs, Jannati should concern himself with solving the problems of his own country.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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