Monday, March 08, 1999

Have mercy on Yourselves!

Iranian society is on the verge of institutionalizing the political party system and the notion of popular participation in politics. If some persons do not know the rules of the game and desire the revival of the monopolistic system, it is because old habits die hard. They fear that transparency will weaken the pillars of the establishment, without understanding that a competitive atmosphere can be a source of strength. Still another group totally ignores the rules of the game and has practically slowed down the process. They resort to every trick in the book to stop improvements which may not be in their best interests. The true intentions and the members of this group should be made public.

Let me point to a historical case to further clarify the matter. Qavom-ol-Saltaneh (a prime minister of the Pahlavi regime in the 1940s) went to Moscow to discuss the situation in Azarbaijan (which had practically been separated from the country by the Russians) with the towering political figure of Josef Stalin. Some elements of the imperial court - a group of Majlis deputies - who viewed his success as their own failure, started to plot against him and his cabinet back home.

Qavam in a secret message asked for help from Mohammad Mossaddeq and Moetamen-ol-Molk. He also ordered his deputy, Sahom-ol-Soltan Bayat, who was the acting prime minister, to tell those gentlemen, "Please wait for a while. There is still time. At least have mercy on yourselves so you will not go down in history as disreputable individuals."

Qavam's warning proved quite effective and the deputies changed their minds about impeaching his cabinet and waited until he came back from Moscow. The atmosphere in the Majlis was such at the time that in the negotiations with the Russian authorities, Malenkov sarcastically reminded Qavam that he was not so popular at home. Qavam wittily replied, "Apparently you people know everything about our Majlis. So why do you insist that the Majlis should ratify the oil contract before it gets implemented?". Qavam managed to escape the trouble, but this does not always happen.

When President Mohammad Khatami visited New York in 1998, to address the UN General Assembly and while the international community was eagerly waiting to hear more about the new Iran, strange incidents occurred. These incidents revealed that some people will do anything possible to prevent the government from expressing itself on the world scene. Of course, the international community gave sufficient attention to Mr. Khatami's proposal of dialogue among civilizations, contradicting the news which some were disseminating in Tehran.

Soon the president will be visiting Europe. It is a vital development at the beginning of the third decade of the Islamic Revolution and can open up new economic opportunities for a country like ours which is oil-dependent. In a world wherein the president of a superpower like the US is involved in economic issues, to the extent that the European press labels him as a great automobile middleman, why should Iran miss opportunities for bolstering its cultural and commercial ties worldwide?

Those who claim to be fighting against global arrogance, should welcome these new chances. Otherwise, as Qavam said, there is still time and this particular group should have mercy on itself. Let me also recall one more important issue. In our most recent history, those who have opposed the establishment of liberty and freedom have reasoned that national security will be endangered and the youth and the masses will create unwanted problems if freedom reigns in society. This view lingered until 20 months ago and quite a large number of individuals also supported the idea. However, we have lived through it.

During the past 20 months, our people, particularly the youth, have had a cause and never raised the least disturbance either. This is, in fact, the reason behind their success in this period. Our youth have understood that the might of the land lies in our tranquillity. In this same critical region the Taliban exercises prehistoric rule, another regime ignores the views of the majority of its people, our poverty-stricken northern neighbors are preoccupied with throwing lavish festivities and Saddam Hossein is raising hell, treating his hungry and sick people to missiles for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our youth know that in the world we live in, the US gains economic prosperity when the Southeastern Asian countries experience economic crisis and oil prices fall drastically, and that difficulties can be only overcome through patience and prudence. They also understand that they have never been rude or obnoxious, but may God save us from those who claim they guide the youth away from vice while they have only added to our problems. I just welcomed the opportunity to remind you of Qavam's word to Bayat, "Have mercy on yourselves."