Thursday, December 29, 2005

Surprised that Saba TV Was Killed?

Hossein Bastani, Rooz Online: a reformist website
The official news of the banning of Saba satellite broadcasting television belonging to cleric Mehdi Karoubi came amid unofficial but reliable news about the source of the ban. The source - as was expected – was no other than the number 1 figure of the country who had opposed the launching.

With the clarification of the position of the supreme leader of Iran on Saba, the efforts of Mr. Karoubi and his colleagues to establish an independent satellite broadcasting television channel quickly came to their end, thus ending a project which put forward much publicity the very day after the presidential election of June 2005.

This rapid conclusion and turnabout, was similar to an earlier episode when Mr. Karoubi’s repeated warnings that he would expose the presidential election violations of the armed forces in June 2005 just before he announced his Saba project also swiftly evaporated after the views of the Supreme Leader on the elections were announced.

Yet another similar incident occurred during the Majlis (Parliament) elections in 2005, although on a larger scale. At that time, Mr. Khatami’s government initially insisted that it would never succumb to the massive disqualification of candidates that was done by the conservative Guardians Council. So intense was that position that senior government officials announced that if the conservatives did not revoke their disqualifications, they would not go ahead with the elections or that they would still put the names of the disqualified candidates on the ballot boxes for voter to vote for. And to put meat into their threat, top ranking officials initiated a series of resignations from their posts, which began with the resignation of 14 cabinet members and was followed up with 28 governors of the country’s provinces, which led to the resignation of tens of their deputies in provincial cities and towns.

But all of those maneuvers too ended rapidly when the supreme leader expressly announced the need for holding the elections as planned to government officials. Following that, Messers Karoubi and Khatami paid a visit to the leader, where reportedly a hot argument ensued - and then announced that elections would be held on the scheduled day.

Immediately after that, the resigned governors and governor generals returned to their work one after another and accepted to hold the elections which they had been campaigning against for weeks. With that record, how could one expect the governor general of a small town to fight the election violations in his precincts? If he had to report and insist on fraud, who would he be dealing with, other than the military. And who would support him in his cause?

During the elections of the seventh Majlis, I used to work in the lower chains of the presidential command. My momentous task was to communicate my question to the higher officials regarding two unanswered issues: Based on what specific information or analysis had the government come to the conclusion that the supreme leader would not respond with full force if: elections were not held by government officials, the names of the disqualified candidates were added to voting lists, or the resignation of the disqualified candidates? And if there was a response, what would be the next step of the government?

The fact of the matter is that when the Supreme Leader responded, many government officials were shocked and caught unprepared. It was as if they believed the leader would succumb to their threats regarding elections and nothing would be done about it.

Apparently exactly the same thing happened about Saba television. After months of planning, expenditures and publicity, Mr. Karoubi and the officials of the Hezbe Etemade Melli (National Trust Party) were caught completely by surprise when the leader unofficially announced his opposition to the TV station. It was as if they had not taken his position into account or had naively assumed that he would not oppose it.

The very same two questions can be asked of these gentlemen: 1-Based on what specific information or analysis had they come to the conclusion that if the government monopoly over television was broken, they would not be confronted with a full response from the supreme leader, and 2-What did they expect to do if such a response came from the leader? End everything overnight, just as had happened during the threat to expose the violations of the elections, or other similar events?

I am not prescribing what should be the response, but am curious to know how can some of the veteran and influential political forces in this country who have come forward to initiate reforms within the framework of the regime be so mistaken in their assessments?

In the realm of politics, trial and error are not unforgiving. But it is certainly unprofessional to make it a habit to announce plans and projects that essentially lack realistic foundations. We can put forward any political rhetoric provided that they are aligned with the specific political measures that we have selected and more importantly with our strengths and power of resistance.

Have we thought about the costs of these perpetual “hopes and wisheson which we base our actions and which repeatedly lead to disappointment and failures? Is the result of this repeated failure anything other than the erosion of people’s trust and hope in our goals and rhetoric, finally leading to their apathy? And so if we have contributed to this feeling of hopelessness among people, how can we then have expectations from them? READ MORE