Saturday, October 31, 2009

US Iran Relations -3 Decades

Relations between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been turbulent for decades. Some analysts prefer to trace this difficult relationship back to the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran by Muslim students in 1979. Others however argue that the event that has thrown this relationship off track is a CIA engineered coup d'etat against the nationalist government of Dr. Mossadegh in 1953, therefore the date 1953 and not 1979 should be considered as the origin of this ongoing tension. Hillary Clinton has recently spoken about a trust deficit as a challenge to the relationship betwen the US and Pakistan, while by now she has probably realized that most Islamic countries, including Iran face the same dillema when it comes to relations with the US.
The political faction wielding power in Iran relies on harsh anti American rhetoric as an integral part of its political identity. Even when news about direct negotiations between Iran and the US during the Geneva talks came out, Ahmad Jannati the Head of the Guardian Council who is known for his radical views, tried to infer that Jallili has not spoken directly to the American envoy, "dialogue with the US is not permitted", he emphasized. The current government and more radical Principalist parties have repeatedly blamed the Reformists for yearning to mend relations with the West. Reformists are now accused of formenting a velvet revolution, they are accused of promoting a soft pro-west political viewpoint and many are facing harsh sentences after protesting against the results of a highly contested Presidential election earlier this year. The irony is that this same government and political faction is taking hasty steps to mend relations with the US hoping that this would relieve pressures and santions against Iran. The covert nature of these negotiations, the weak internal standing of the current government and the fact that a number of the Muslim Students Following the Line of Imam are still held on charges of formenting a velvet revolution are all omnious signals of a weak compromise that would barely address the concerns and expectations of either party involved .This seems to be the major reason why many political figures are concerned about the ongoing stalemate among high-level politicians faithful to the Islamic Republic. A large Clergy organization and Mir Hossein Mousavi have recently issued statements seriously objecting to the sudden change in direction in the IEAE (nuclear) debate. Contrary to certain foreign policy estimates, I believe that the Islamic Republic has the strength and courage to accept shortcommings, correct its diversions, mend its relations and bring its train back on its orginal and shining track.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Saeed Hajjarian

We visited Dr.Saeed Hajjarian last week, with some friends. Dr. Hajjarian was freed 10 days ago after over 100 days of detainment. I knew Hajjarian from the days he was a student in 1979. At that time he was known as a young analyst with remarkable insight who provided political analysis for students particularly the Muslim Students Following the Line of Imam Khomeini ( the students who took the American embassy three decades ago). Hajjarian played an important role in later stages and in the making of the institutions of the Islamic Republic as well. He was a founder of the Islamic Participation Front(IPF) in 1997, and an influencial reformist politician who was also well recieved by progressive Islamic student associations. He was appointed as political advisor to President Khatami at that time.

He also founded a newspaper and headed the Center for Strategic Studies for a short period. Hajjarian was elected as Tehran Councillor in 1998. In 1999,an assasination attempt on his life, from a radical religious group, left him partially handicapped. He served on the Central Committee of the IPF until the recent Presidential elections after which he was arrested and detained for over 100 days. Hajjarian was brought on national TV to confess and repent, allegedly under pressure, last month.

His wife, Dr. Vajihe Marsoosi protested against his unlawful detainment and the unacceptable prison circumstances during that time. His conditions improved later and he was actually quite well when we met him last week. He had been accused of promoting the Humanities in Iranian universities, with a Western perspective. According to the charges filed against him and other reformist leaders they had formented a velvet revolution through the dissemination of their thought and ideas.

He told us that he thought it was quite amusing that dealing with Western scholars on issues like democracy and civil society, would be considered as a offense against national security. He said that during his detainment he had no information about the outside world and therefore his statements had been made totally in the dark. I gave him a copy of The Grapes of Shahrivar with my autograph; the published book of my memoirs as Vice President during President Khatami.

Hajjarian is now free but his other reformist friends are still in detainment, we all pray for them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Football Politics

The highly political and volatile atmosphere in Iran is now reflected in all aspects of public life. Football matches or the Derby as they call it has been considered as an opportunity to express opposition to government policies and a demonstration of the Green Power. A major match which was broadcast live from the national radio and TV last month was overshadowed by a large majority of spectators wearing green or banishing green banners. They also chanted slogans protesting against election outcome. As a result the State TV initially switched to black and white and in the second round they were obliged to cut all sounds and scenes from spectators. Last Friday another major match was held with unprecedented security measures, banning any form of green dress or sign . Protesters were warned of the dire consequences of using the opportunity to voice their concerns. People who had attended the game reported that they had been searched in at least three rounds. Yet inspite of the exceptionally tight security spectators chanted slogans in support of Mir Hossein Mousavi so that their voices were clearly heard on national TV and radio. Universities have face a similar predicament. Starting from Tehran University last week , protests have now spread to many cities nationwide. Journalists , students and activists are still being arrested while three more newspapers were banned this week taking the toll to 7 papers this month only. More than three months have elapsed from the Presidential elections, many Reformist leaders are still detained and await legal procedures for charges of the nature that they themselves do not yet know. While government officials have acknowledged illegal and irregular procedures and behaviour in certain detainment facilities, no court or legal procedure has been initiated against these people. Many political and religious leaders speak about the necessity to come to a logical and peaceful resolution and express deep concern about the consequences of the the harsh and repressive behaviour of the government.
The Government hopes that it can improve the dire economic conditions through short term economic measures as well as improvement of relations with the United States. This is in itself a significant development which is rapidly taking pace. Radical friends of the ruling faction who are addicted to producing hot rhetoric about the Great Satan will have to wait for the time. I might write a post about that in the future.