Iran Hopes

A Weblog on Iranian Affairs (Formerly Iran Votes 2005)

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

At the time of publishing this post, the bridge stampede deaths in Baghdad is reported at 852 by some sources and expected to climb. Condolences are all that I can offer to grieving Iraqis.

Conspiracy plot hatchers have come out quickly. The Age (Australia) reports: 'Iran today led a worldwide chorus of horror and outrage over the deaths of almost 1,000 people in a stampede as they headed to a Shi'ite shrine in Iraq, blaming "suspicious hands" bent on causing havoc in the country.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi expressed his country's "condolences and sympathy with the Iraqi people and government." Asefi said: "suspicious hands are involved in conspiracies to incite violence and bloodshed among the different Iraqi groups and tribes so that they disturb the security and calm of the Iraqi people. " '

Let's ignore such comments. At least, let Iraqi people grieve in peace.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ali Motahari, son of the prominent Islamic Republic ideologist Morteza Motahari, has suggested that the Iranian regime "must consider creating an Islamic Union of [Muslim] States". This idea of 'Islamic globalization' is frequently heard in Iran these days. As I stated in one of my previous posts, this was the slogan of the Islamic regime in the early days of its establishment. Its recent revival as an strategy is aimed at detracting Iranian people from the numerous domestic problems that the new government is seemingly unable to tackle.

Advocates of the idea of the union of Islamic nations seem to forget that the Isalmic Conference Organisation was established for precisely the same purpose but was relinquished much sooner than predicted for its inability to deliever its promises, and for its political bias and insensitiveness. Besides one important point that Motahari and those who support his theory of Islamic globalisation do not address in their theory is what role Iran would play in such a process, should it ever happen. Would Iran take the lead? Considering that Iran has made itself almost completely alienated in the Muslim world by its deeds, it is hard to conceive such a role for Iran. The majority of Muslim world, or at least the key nations such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf states, have already distanced themselves from Iran and its policies. Moreover, in a number of countries in the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan, there are ongoing attempts to show that Shia Iranians are not even real Muslims. For instance, there are losts of books that are being published, and electronic messages getting circulated to deliever that message.

Therefore, it seems that instead of spending its resources on futile projects such as Islamic globalisation, the priority for the Iranian regime must be to gain some decent reputation, domestically and internationaly, as a successful Islamic state.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Mehdi Karoubi, former Majlis speaker, has formally established his new political party: E'temad-e Melli (National Trust). Addressing the would-be party members, Karoubi has highlighted the 'critique of power' as a major priority.

There is something exotic about this title. There was a time when everything bearing the term 'national' would be changed into ‘Islamic’. national consultancy assembly (Majlis) was changed into Islamic consultancy assembly and the national aviation company was re-named as Aviation of the Islamic Republic. But now, it seems, nationalist sentiment is increasing as a strategy to unify a fragmented society. A party whose majority is composed of former revolutionary and Islamists have chosen such a title as national trust. Thus, Karoubi wants to create trust. How? By offering opportunities for the 'critique of power', that is, by upsetting the pillars of the totalitarian authority. He acknowledges that the behaviour of the institutions of power is producing dangerous impact on people in terms of trusting their rulers. This kind of acknowledgment, however implicit, by a political party is unprecedented in Post(and pre) Revolution era.

Admittedly, it is too early to invest hope in Karoubi's party. It is still unclear how far it is willing to go in its critique of power and what dimensions and institutions of power it will address. Be it as it may, what has to be valued at this early stage is the very consciousness among influential figures such as Karoubi (and perhaps Rafsanjani) as to the danger caused by the growingly deep division between the centre of power and the Iranian populace.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

This regime is getting bolder and bolder. Yesterday, they hired a number of bullies to march in front of European embassies in Tehran "in protest against Europeans policies towards Iran's nuclear program". The mob burned the flags of France, Germany, and Britain. State News agencies, and newspapers (Kayhan, Jomhuri, etc.) claim that the protesters were 'students'. BUT THEY WERE NOT! They might have been pupils at regime's schools of violence and hatred, but they certainly were not students in the proper use of the term. They were Basijis from Ashura squad (Gordan-e Ashura). They get money to do these things. One day they are 'students', another day they are 'volunteer suicide bombers', the next day they are 'law enforcers', enforcing their law upon women who do not observe rules of their version of Islam.

Iranian students are not disrespectful to other nations, even when they become frustrated by acts of foreign nations or when they want to defend their rights against totalitarianism. The regime is fully conscious of the political sensitivity towards the Student Movement inside and outside Iran. Therefore, it wants to put its dirty hands on it and lay claim to it for its own evil purposes. Student associations must denounce such acts. I wonder why newspapers such as Shargh that used to be on students side are so disappointingly passive these days in terms of defending students against such accusations.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Ahmadinejad’s cabinet is dubbed by his advocates as ‘revolutionary’. There is nothing scandalous about a revolutionary cabinet per se. It can succeed better than its predecessors. However, the danger that lurks out of this form of cabinet is the propaganda of the self-asserted intellectuals backing this cabinet and the credulity of those who are on the receiving end of the propaganda. Let’s not forget that in contemporary Iran, the revolutionary tendency has always been presented under the banner of Islam (the Shi’ee version of it, of course).

And what is so dangerous about this tendency? The danger is that religion, i.e. Islam, is used as a resource, as the only remedy, to deify the persons (like Khomeini, Khamenei and now Ahmadinejad) and to make sacred their ‘victories’ in a way that will always agree with the regime’s oppressive agenda. Consider the following from Ahmadinejad’s government charter:
“Imam Khomeini was such a [civilization-making] leader who, like Messiah, was able to rage a new spirit into the skeleton of the nation and revive the nation’s competence in civilization-making. He was a gift of God to the Iranian nation who could feel his devine breathe.” And among the ‘values’ that the new government enlists are: “to obtain God’s satisfaction through spreading justice and kindness and offering service to followers of God”.

In this way, the inherent evils of society are concealed under a heavy layer of moral/religious exhortation. Sadly, the oppositions inside the country are missing too easily this massive opportunity to make aware people of the dangers posed by the lies that are being spread by the new government.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

I am in Mashad, north east of Iran, on a short business trip. I had heard about Khatami's coming to Mashad for piligirmage (to pay respect to Shia's eighth Imam). So I decided to go and see him somehow. He was welcomed and cheered by a considerably big crowd gathered at Imam Reza's Mausoleum court. It was interesting to see how popular he still is among people although he is no longer their president.

He also delievered a speech which I found very inciting and revealing. He said: "enemies of Iran are not only those foreign enemies who do not want to see a progressive Iran. But there are also domestic enemies who are even more dangerous." Khatami added that the real enemies of Iran are those who want to promote a backward and outdated thought which stems from their reactionary views. Their views, Khatami said, "are anti-thought against conscience, and immoral". Khatami also warned against the move which wants to instutionalise old-fashioned and superficial beliefs and impose them on people". If you wish to get an idea about to whom Khatami was directing his attacking words, have a look at my last post below.

It looks like Khatami has eventually got his tongue back!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Recently, Ahmadinejad government agenda has been published. I have been reading it over the past few days. It contains numerous intersting and thought-provoking points and I think it can be an important source to help us discern the political mindframe that this new government is going to represent.

What especially struck me about this agenda was its fascination with the establishment of a 'universal just government' as a 'macro-strategy', which implies a return to the early revolutionary slogans. At that time, and for some time after the Revolution, the idea of 'Hukumat-e Adl-e Ali' (a state based on Imam Ali justice system) was a popular slogan. A reflection of that can be found in Article 3 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic where the government is placed under the obligation "to support, by all means, the oppressed across the world".

Almost thirty years on, and now the ninth government of the Islamic regime founds its agenda on the same old slogan(s). What this backward move reveals is that the regime has admited its failure in delievering its promises. But it is not brave enough to abandon those empty idealist promises and engage with the real world. Even worse, to disguise its failure, the regime has come up with more lies. The only difference is that this time those lies are flavoured and wrapped by some more passionate, linguistically complex, sorcerous tone. Besides, has the Islamic regime not yet understood that it cannot and should not speak and make laws for the entire world? Isn't it disgraceful for a government to claim that it will bring justice to the whole world when its own citizens have been suffering from its injustices for such a long time?

Monday, August 15, 2005

The so-called reformists have denounced Ahmadinejad's cabinet line-up. They argue that the new government is prone to become "docile to external powers" - by which they implicitly refer to the Leader and bodies under his control. Further, they argue that by picking up ministers who are not autonomous in their roles and thoughts but represent a homogeneous body, Ahmadinejad has failed his own motto during the election in which he had promised that his cabinet would represent diversity of interests and thoughts (the 70-million cabinet).

I wonder where these 'reformist think-tanks' were when Khatami was froming his cabinet in 2001 to advise him on the inclusion of diversity of interests? Moreover, at least Ahmadinejad's proposed list reflects that he is listening to his leader who brought him to power. But did Khatami listen to the millions of people who voted for him? His second cabinet was one of the weakest and least efficient cabinets in Islamic regime's history. Besides, he had no discernible agenda. Ahmadinejad, however, has a well-defined agenda - be it a dictated one or otherwise- and seems to know how to realise it. All of his moves can easily be read in line with that agenda. But Khatami only gave promises without knowing if they were realisable or he would have the capacity to deliever them. And obviously at that time, these think-tanks were too content with 'their victory' to think about an agenda. Suddenly, they have woken up to an ultra-hardliner government which seems to be intent on making life difficult for them. Too late, but at least they are awake to see where they failed.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A few hours ago, Ahmadinejad submitted his list of ministers to the Majlis for vote of confidence (for further information on the names on the list click here).

Is this an 'ultra-hardliner' cabinet? Names such as Mohseni Ejehi (Ministry of Information [security]) and Saffar Harandi (Ministry of Culture) would make it hard to answer this question in negative. Mohseni Ejehi is particularly notorious for the role he played as the chief prosecutor of the Special Court for the Clergy in the imprisonment of Abdollah Nouri (Khatami's first minister of interior and an outspoken critic of Khamenei). Prior to that, in 1998, he was the trial judge of the court that convicted Gholam Hossein Karbaschi, Tehran's former mayor, on embezzelment charges - while it was believed Karbaschi was paying the price for supporting Khatami in 1997 presidential elections. Mohseni Ejehi is not an unknown figure among 'ettelaati's' [security officers]. He served in a variety of positions related to the Minsitry of Information in 1980's and 1990's. After leaving the Ministry, he remained a major player in coordinating security operations against dissidents through other security agencies (with their operation headquarters in Sepah and the Judiciary), called 'parallel security agencies'.

Saffar Harandi is another name on the list that sticks out like a sore thumb. He is a member of the editorial board of Kayhan the hardliner Tehran daily. He is a strong advocate of suppressing any opposition voice. So, the censorship office of the ministry of culture will become very busy once he takes office.

But how are the public reacting to this list? In fact, what surprises me is that people, generally, do not really seem to care about these developments. I asked a few people if they were in any way concerned about the names on Ahmadinejad's list, and they simply said no. People listen to the news passively. They are too preoccupied with making the ends meet to care about censorship or a Gestapo-like ministry of information.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

In his editorial today, Hossein Shariatmadari, Kayhan's boss, has argued that Iran is no longer a member to the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). In his very ludicrous argument, Shariatmadari refers to Article x(2) of the 1969 treaty which states:
"Twenty-five years after the entry into force of the Treaty, a conference shall be convened to decide whether the Treaty shall continue in force indefinitely, or shall be extended for an additional fixed period or periods. This decision shall be taken by a majority of the Parties to the Treaty".
In Shariatmadari's view, the decision made according to the above provison by the majority of the member states at the NPT Review and Extension Conference in 1995, according to which the NPT was extended for an indefinite duration without conditions, did not create any obligation for Iran, since, Shariatmadari writes, the decision did not go through the 'constitutional channels' for ratification. In other words, Shariatmadari has come up with a new doctrine in international law: when the duration of a multilateral treaty is extended by the decision of the majority of states (and the decision is to be enforced without condtions), for the decision to become legally binding, each and every member state must ratify it, since, Shariatmadari teaches us, the decision renders the already ratified and enforced treaty into an entirely new one! Obviously, his buddy, Mr. Firouz Aslani (a law don at Tehran university law school) has not taught him yet that there is a huge difference between extension of a treaty and its modification. Ultimately, he concludes that Iran has not been a member to the NPT since 1995 and as such its 'cooperation with the IAEA' must have stopped long time ago. He goes on to question the Iranian governments (under Rafsanjani and Khatami) as to why they had submitted to 'the illegitimate demands of the IAEA and the European threats'.

This is not the appropriate place to examine in detail the flaws of Shariatmadari's absurd argument, which simply reflects his lack of knowledge and competence in law and international law (something that I am sure does not surprise anyone). What is worth paying attention, however, is his persistence on urging Iran to pull out of the NPT and resume all uranium enrichment-related activities regardless of the demands of the IAEA (representing the demands of the international community). What objective are Shariatmadari and his fellows in Majlis and Sepah pursuing? What do they mean when they say the new government must give the Europeans a 'categorical and solid response' and teach them (and the US) 'a good lesson'? Jannati (the Guardian Council secretary general) said in Friday prayers last week that 'we' (i.e. him and his fellows in the Brethren) want to enforce our right (to develop the nuclear program) and we will pay the price for that". Would Jannati pay the price of a war? Or the Iranian people? But what benefits would Jannati and Shariatmadari and their likes' make out of another war? To find the answer to this question one only needs to look at how the deliberately prolonged Iran-Iraq war consolidated the pillars of the regime.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Police say they are still investigating the assassination of Moghaddasi which took place last Tuesday in Tehran. While speculation is rampant and no police or security authority has yet directly linked the assassination to Ganji's case, Mobasheri, the chief of the Revolutionary Courts has told Kayhan that he does not see the two unrelated. Does this indicate a new project of oppressing dissidents is getting under way?

There is little doubt that Iran is coming to the verge of a deep domestic and international political (and social) crisis. There are reports of unrest in West and South East of the country. The political structure of the regime has changed dramatically after the recent election. Those who were previously deemed to be the insiders of the 'circle of trust' are now openly out of it. At the international level, the situation is getting worse for the regime. Its options are limited: either to surrender to foreign pressure and abandon its nuclear ambitions, or face the tough consequences that might put an end to their existence. The 'war committee' convened at the Ministy of Foreign Affairs yesterday is an indication for a grave concern.

On the other hand, the history of the Islamic regime shows that, at times of crisis, 'terror' has always been adopted as the best strategy to distract attention from the causes and centres of crisis, and, at the same time, to silence the opposition voices and international demands. A frightening fact about this strategy is that it draws no line that cannot be crossed. Saving the regime justifies every action. To give an example, in 1994, when the regime was under heavy international pressure for its human rights violations and terror aborad, and there were unrests taking place across the country, the regime's security strategists, then nested in the Ministry of Information, came to the conclustion that inciting terror and fear would be the best outlet for the crisis. The bomb explosion in the shrine of Imam Reza (Shia's eighth Imam)- the holiest place in Iran - was carried out under this strategy. Around fifty pilgrims were killed in that incident. Shortly afterwards, a "Mehdi Nahvi" was named as the prime suspect and after a few days it was in the news that Nahvi was shot dead in a shooting incident with the security officers in south of Tehran. There was no information as to who Nahvi was, what his probabale motivations were, or what background he had. But, the regime made the most out of this incident by reinforcing its oppressive measures domestically and gesturing for the international community that it is the main victim of terror and not the Iranian people persecuted by it inside and outside of the country.

It seems that the same strategy is gaining momentum once again. Reading hardliner newspapers such as Kayhan, Ressalat, and Jomhuri, one can easily draw similarities between the language used today and in the early to mid 1990s . Judge Moghadass (literally translated, his family name means sacred) was a 'holy man', a man of virtue, very religious, etc. But he was not holier than the Imam's shrine and his pilgrims. If his assassination would help saving the regime, it must be done - the strategy would say. Thus, my speculation is that soon we will hear of another poor fellow who either gets killed in a shoot out leaving behind letters in support of Ganji or some opposition groups, or gets arrested and then confesses to his empathy for Ganj's or some anti-regime cause. What will follow from that is not hard to predict.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

More on yesterday assassination

Kayhan's today headline reads: "The trial jude of Ganji's case assassinated". For now, I leave it to you to interpret this very telling headline, but I will write on it in my posting later today. Ah, one more thing, Ahmadinejad officially begins his new job as the Iranian president from today.

Judge Ahmadi Moghaddas, Tehran's deputy chief prosecutor, has been assassinated (BBC report here). It is yet unknown who was behind this act, so one cannot rush to conclude that it was politically motivated. But whatever the motive, this assassination is sending a terrifying message: violence and terror is frighteningly growing as a means for 'settling accounts'. This can be the beginning of a chaos, a social disaster.