Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hardliners On Both Ends of the Gulf

Nearly two years have passed since the election of Ahmadinejad to Iran’s presidency. His administration, whose coming to power was a blessing for both domestic and foreign radicals, has served half of its time. And it is still busy handing out promises, and threats. In the midst of it all, except for a handful of radicals in Tel Aviv and Washington, people have had enough of this administration.

There is an assertion in the above statement that must be carefully examined. Following the death of a number of the Islamic Republic’s founding fathers )people like Motahhari, Taleqani, َAhmad Montazeri, Beheshti, and Ahmad Khomeini( a radical group rose to prominence and worked to eliminate the remainder of the founding fathers. Mousavi Ardebili, Mir Hussein Mousavi, Mehdi Karoubi and Mousavi Tabrizi were the first targets. Then the movement went further and focused on Hashemi Rafsanjani, Gholamhussein Karbaschi, Abdullah Nouri, Saeed Hajjarian, Ataollah Mohajerani, Hassan Rowhani, Ali-akbar Velayati, Nateq-Nouri, Mahdavi Kanni, etc. This group had a plan and a goal.

If we shy away from using this group’s tactic of labeling every other group or faction that opposes it as a ‘mafia,’ we still have to say that this group is itself a mafia. It has become clear over the years that this group uses the method of “label and eliminate” to get rid of its opponents: it first labels whatever that gets in its way, and then uses that label to eliminate it.

Let us for the moment leave aside how the ninth government came to power. Let us just try to understand why an administration that came to power on some popular support is now under such heavy criticism that it has to actually confront the very same “people” that voted it into office!

The group’s political tactics have not been and are not complex. In fact, this group is essentially incapable of designing elaborate plans. In the field of foreign policy, it decided to create controversies whenever it could, so that the price of oil would go up and more money could be spent on the poor – to purchase popularity, so to speak. The tactic seems plausible on the surface. And it worked for a year. Mr. President talked of the need to remove Israel from the face of the planet, and there was a huge uproar. He denied the Holocaust, and more controversies emerged. Both times the price of oil went up and reached a peak. But this group did not know that the opposite side would use expertise and computer rooms to come up with a counterattack very soon. And the counterattack came all right: nowadays, no matter what Ahmadinejad says or does, there are no major controversies; the price of oil stays the same, and has even gone done.

The group’s whole plan, which seems “complex” to itself, can be summarized in one line: provoking the international community into making threats and using those threats as an excuse to create an abnormal and emergency situation, in which publications, labor unions, the student movement and non-governmental organizations can be suppressed.

What was it that enabled the American neo-cons to implement their lifelong dream of bringing 200-300,000 troops to the oil wells of the Middle East? The answer is clear: Bin Laden. The presence of “Bin Ladens” is essential for quenching the thirst of neo-cons for energy resources. The radicals on both sides live parasitically off one another.

These are not the times of the Iran-Iraq war, when people were still hot about the revolution and poured onto the battlefield to defeat a devil like Saddam. Today, most, if not all, people want to coexist peacefully with the international community, and know about these tactics very well. They ask, very clearly, what have you done to bring us to this point?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Once Again, Shaban "The Brainless"

Following the coup of 1953, Shaban Jafari moved up the ranks and was promoted by the Shah to head the Federation of Traditional Sports. But, no matter what wise words he said, he was always called the brainless Shaban, "Shaban Bimokh".

It is the same story with General Zolghadr, who was promoted into his new position as the deputy Ministry of Interior because of his involvement in the election of Ahmadinejad last summer. Despite the fact that Mr. Samareh Hashemi, the senior advisor to president Ahmadinejad, is officially in charge of the election process, General Zolghadr appeared on television screens this week to present a report to the people – and remind them once again that the most recent elections [for city councils and the Assembly of Experts] were the fairest in all of Iran's history.

Despite the facts on the integrity of the elections, pay raises, the number of voters and overall participation rates, most of General Zolghadr's report had to do with the neatness and uniformity of ballot boxes. According to Zolghadr, none of the previous administrations had the ability to build such neat and uniform ballot boxes! Perhaps they were wasting their time doing useless things, such as making sure that the integrity of the electoral process was not compromised, or that ballot boxes would not go missing for even a moment – let alone days, which are things that took place in the most recent elections.

It seems as if, from the point of view of the deputy minister, issues such as breaking seals, missing reports, changing monitors, and not allowing candidates or reporters to visit tallying centers are completely worthless of any discussion. What matters is who won, and Mr. Zolghadr did talk about that.

If Mr. Zolghadr insists on arguing for the fairness of recent elections, he must be reminded that what took place was incompatible even with the Islamic Republic's own standards. One should not speak of standards though; the only question is whether it is wise to treat the public and its votes in such manner given Iran's present condition. Is this the way to treat all those hopeful ones who showed up to cast their votes despite all of the problems? Is it appropriate to hear a voice that questions the importance of the people's vote, even if he is indirect about it?

[Translator's note: Shaban "the brainless" Jafari is a well-known figure in Iran because of his involvement in the 1953 coup d'etat that eventually toppled the legitimate government of Prime Minister Mossadegh. Brainless led a group of thugs in Tehran who disrupted mass gatherings organized in opposition to the Shah.]

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Iranian Deng Xiaoping: The Return of Rafsanjani

Foreign observers regarded Rafsanjani’s victory as the most important outcome of the election for the third Assembly of Experts. Some even went as far as referring to him as “elevator,” which was a nickname given to Deng Xiaoping upon his return to power in the aftermath of Mao’s death.

Rafsanjani’s recent victory is important in that it comes after two consecutive loses in the sixth Majlis and the ninth presidential elections. It is even more remarkable given the litany of charges and criticisms that Ahmadinejad and his supporters directed at Rafsanjani’s way in the past year. This is why many of Rafsanjani’s supporters believed that a loss in these recent elections could mark the end of Rafsanjani’s 50-year-long political existence.

There have been many politicians and statesmen who returned to power and prominence after bearing defeats. Perhaps the most famous are Napoleon, Winston Churchill and Indira Gandhi. But Deng Xiaoping is the one who earned the nickname “elevator” for his miraculous return to power in his mid-seventies, long after Mao and his radical supporters got the impression that they had buried him.

Rafsanjani’s first significant defeat came in 1999, during the sixth Majlis elections. The elections took place two years after Rafsanjani left the presidential palace by inaugurating hundreds of construction projects and dubbing himself “the commander of construction.” But within those two years, the media used its newly found freedoms under Khatami to attack Rafsanjani and his involvement in the killing of numerous dissidents throughout the 1990’s. When the votes were counted Rafsanjani was announced as Tehran’s 31st candidate [only 30 candidates are elected from the Tehran district]. The Guardian Council got involved and bumped Rafsanjani up to the 29th spot, but Rafsanjani released a statement in which he announced his resignation.

Rafsanjani then received the most number of votes in the first round of the ninth presidential elections. But a second round was scheduled since he fell short of receiving one-third of the votes, a benchmark established by the constitution. In the second round Rafsanjani faced Ahmadinejad, a mid-ranking official who served under him and was young enough to be his son. Suddenly Ahmadinejad found his way to the presidential palace by winning five million more votes than Rafsanjani.

It was tempting to think that this was the last attempt by the Islamic Republic’s number two man, who was now in his seventh decade of life. But Ahmadinejad’s radical policies, and his disposal of thousands of managers, experts and university professors once again turned the heads towards the man who had long been calling for moderate policies.

In a statement that he released after the election, the Iranian Deng Xiaoping wrote, “28 years after the advent of the Islamic revolution, it is a great honor for a student to be the people’s first choice in a majority of the 11 elections for the Majlis, the Assembly of Experts and the presidency.