Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ceasefire Among Battling Factions

Hamid Ahadi, Rooz Online:
Reports from Tehran indicate that on the eve of the meeting of the Majlis Khobregan Rahbari (Leadership Experts Assembly) last week and with the heightening of criticism over the government’s policies and the elimination of experienced hands, senior leaders of Iran held a meeting last week to diffuse the serious tensions growing between the two main political groups in the country in the last few months.

The impact of the meeting materialized when the Khobregan met last week. Observers and even politicians and officials had been concerned that the meeting would be used by the battling factions to accuse each other of treason, incompetence etc, as they have been recently. The reason they thought such a clash would take place was because the de-facto spokesmen of the two main political factions who have been battling each other in public (and also in private), namely Hassan Rohani who is the former chairman of the Supreme National Security Council, and Ali Larijani, its current chairman both are also members of the Khobregan and would use the occasion to denounce and accuse the other. Larijani came to prominence after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidential race last year and was tasked to lead Iran’s negotiations with the international community (IAEA, the Europeans etc). Even before Ahmadinejad’s team come to power last year, the new officials launched a campaign to denounce their predecessors in person and their policies, at times even calling some of them treacherous and unpatriotic. Khobregan assembly is an 86 member elected body (candidates are vetted by the Guardians Council) whose task is to review the competency of the supreme leader of the country (currently cleric Khamenei) in its twice-a-year meetings and also elect or simply stamp the new leader. The assembly gains special importance this year as its 8-year term members come up for re-election this October.

These differences between the hardliners and others have become so blatant that the president of the Khobregan, ayatollah Meshkini, was temporarily released from hospital to attend the meeting and ensure that the warring factions stayed calm. Among the issues that were discussed in the preliminary preparatory meeting of the Khobregan were the wide propaganda of pro-government media accusing former government officials of corruption and generally rebuffing everything they had accomplished. At the meeting, clerics argued that such harsh criticism was at this time destructive and unnecessary, aiding the enemies of the regime. So pro-government newspapers were specifically asked end their aggressive policies regarding former government officials.

When the official session of the Khobregan opened last week in the short presence of Meshkini, the session remained calm and stuck to its agenda. The speech of Larijani and the interview of Rohani were each non-accusatory, and the latter even approved the policies of the current chairman, contrary to what they had been doing until now.

At the second session of the meeting, the current chairman of the Shoraye Maslehat Nezam (State Expediency Council) Hashemi Rafsanjani who was the acting president of the gathering in the absence of Meshkini due to his health, said, “The American have found varying excuses to isolate us and have therefore launched a massive propaganda campaign against us. Under the current circumstances, our duty is unity and solidarity.” In another part of his speech he said Iran was stronger than ever before and that the country would bear the current difficulties just as it had those earlier during its 27-year history. Now group and factional interests must give way to the interests of Islam and the revolution. Many Muslims around the world have their eyes and hope on us”, he said adding that the country should not disappoint them. In a reference to some of the policies and practices of Ahmadinejad’s team, he also said that the energy of the country should not be spent on in-fighting and driving revolutionaries out of power. “I cannot believe that someone who has served the revolution and country for 20 or 30 years is now easily removed and his name discredited”, he said. READ MORE