Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 29 Feb 2000
There are 5 messages totalling 409 lines in this issue.
Topics of the day:
1. WP: Iran's Supreme Leader May Have to Follow
2. Payvand:Beloved prisoners Commentary to Arya daily 27 January 2000
3. Payvand: SATTIRE: How to learn lessons from the Constitutional
4. Iran's Conscience
5. Iran election short of epochal change
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 12:56:54 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: WP: Iran's Supreme Leader May Have to Follow
Iran's Supreme Leader May Have to Follow
TEHRAN –– To the strictest followers of Iran's Islamic system, supreme
spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is a man beyond criticism,
appointed to safeguard religious rules and given power over institutions
such as the country's defense forces and broadcasting system.
However, to his younger brother Hadi Khamenei, a reformer just elected
to parliament, the leader is a man who grew up with no special claim to
piety or insight. Hadi Khamenei said that as children in the 1950s, he,
his brother and six other siblings enjoyed raising birds and playing
sports, and were not pushed by their father into religious studies.
Eventually, three of the four brothers would join Iran's clerical class
and participate in the political movement that toppled Shah Mohammad
Reza Pahlavi. One would succeed the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and
acquire what for many conservative Iranians is a mantle of
Now, though, 20 years after the revolution, a large majority of Iranians
is pushing for more freedoms. In elections Feb. 18, voters handed
control of parliament to reformers after 20 years of conservative
domination. How Iran's conservatives--and particularly the supreme
spiritual leader--react to the growing demands for freedom will be key
to determining the pace and extent of the changes.
Hadi Khamenei says his brother might have to set aside his personal
political preferences in deference to the will of the people.
"He as an individual has his own thoughts and ideas toward different
things, which he can express," said the younger Khamenei. But "as a
leader, he is going to follow the majority."
The strength of that majority was on display yesterday as final results
from the parliamentary vote were released. According to the tally,
reformers allied with President Mohammed Khatemi won 170 of the 290
seats, while hard-liners took 45, and independents 10. The remaining 65
seats will be decided in runoff elections in April.
In the three years since Khatemi's surprise landslide election in 1997,
hard-line forces have blocked many of the changes he has tried to
institute. Control of the parliament gave them the ability to impose a
conservative legislative agenda and even impeach Khatemi cabinet
members. Control of the courts allowed them to jail journalists and
liberal clerics. Control of the security services and influence in the
intelligence ministry always kept the threat of physical intimidation
With the reformers taking control of parliament, the job of reshaping
Iran's political system will become easier. But even before the
election, there were signs that the balance of power was tipping in
favor of Khatemi and the tens of millions of young Iranians who support
his program of openness and more civil liberties.
Riots last summer by students opposing the closure of a liberal
newspaper prompted not just the arrest of those involved, but an
unprecedented decision to prosecute police officials who ordered the
violent crackdown that caused the initially small protest to grow. As
calm was restored, the student leader stated his confidence in the
The hard-line head of Iran's court system, meanwhile, was replaced by
someone with more moderate leanings, whom reformers believe will make
judges apply Iran's written legal code instead of using their personal
interpretations of Islamic law, as some had been doing.
Such developments, local diplomats and analysts say, show that the
supreme leader and others influential in conservative circles realize
that unlike Khomeini, who was granted widespread deference, Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei "is a politician," said one diplomat.
"He is not the guy the office was created for," the diplomat said.
"Khamenei and his friends remember exactly how the shah was overthrown.
If you start to shed blood, you lose."
In the days after the election, two jailed clerics popular among
reformers were temporarily freed to visit their families, and Khamenei
reportedly pardoned two students serving prison terms for writing a
satirical play thought to have insulted Shiite Islam's 12th Imam, the
religion's central figure. Some conservatives had argued that the
students should be put to death.
If Khamenei is influenced by the size of Khatemi's presidential win in
1997, and by the reformers' parliamentary victory, it is not just
matters of policy and government that motivate him, some of Iran's new
The supreme leader is not directly elected by the people, but is chosen
by a body of clerics called the Experts' Assembly, which is elected.
Though ostensibly appointed for life, the leader can be removed by the
In today's Iran, the clerical class is split between hard-liners who,
for reasons of ideology or self-preservation, want to maintain the
social and political controls established by Khomeini, and reformers who
feel the society must change if the Islamic system is to survive.
Reformers say that now that the presidency and parliament are under
their control, they may begin to focus on contests for the experts
assembly to enhance their power. In one recent by-election in Isfahan,
for example, the winner's credentials as a Khatemi supporter were
emphasized by the media--a sign that contests for the assembly, often
obscure affairs in the past, could take on increasing importance.
"The chain of power--it is so complicated," said Ahmed Bourqani, a
victorious parliamentary candidate and strategist for the reformers.
"But it is possible to change everything."
© 2000 The Washington Post Company
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 13:00:32 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Payvand:Beloved prisoners Commentary to Arya daily 27 January 2000
Payvand's Iran News ...
02/28/00 Beloved prisoners Commentary to Arya daily 27 January 2000 By
In the past week, two distinguished prisoners of the country were given
leaves of absence. The house of Abdollah Nouri, who had come home after
serving for three months in cell number 11, ward 325 of Evin prison, was
host to huge crowds longing to see him. Everybody was coming, from the
neighboring old man to executive officials, ministers, the head of the
presidential office, etc. The same applied to meetings with Mohsen
Kadivar, another reformist prisoner. It was as though these two have
gained more popularity because of going to prison. Their popularity even
resulted in a considerable number of votes for their siblings in the
After Mohammadreza Khatami, the president's brother, Jamileh Kadivar and
Alireza Nouri gathered 1.36 and 1.33 million votes respectively.
Furthermore, the political, social and international credit of the two
esteemed prisoners have also increased. Why indeed? Why when the mayor
of Tehran was tried and imprisoned for some discount he had given, his
popularity was multiplied? Why did the judicial system and a part of the
establishment have no proper answer for the society? After Karbaschi,
Kadivar was sent to jail because of asking questions. Then Abdollah
Nouri was jailed for defending writers and intellectuals.
The major question is that why does a part of the establishment insist
on calling the people to confrontation? What message does the
million-strong popularity of these two prisoners have for that
particular faction? Is it not true that they are backward in
understanding the time?
The truth is that the reform process is inevitable for all revolutions
and Iran is no exception. Only those who can think of a proper language
for the developments will remain in this cycle.
Nouri went back to the prison to stay in jail with his jail-mate Mohsen
Kadivar, but he is definitely not concerned about the coming days, for
the process of reforms, although difficult, will continue its course.
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 13:01:46 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Payvand: SATTIRE: How to learn lessons from the Constitutional
Payvand's Iran News ...
02/28/00 SATTIRE: How to learn lessons from the Constitutional
revolution? By Ebrahim Nabavi Chehel Sotoon column Asr-e Azadegan daily
28 February 2000
Since it is crystal clear that history is very important, and since you
must talk about the past when you cannot talk about the present, and
since you must promise good things for the future when you cannot solve
a problem in the present, and since the Constitutional revolution is
really important and particularly since America's role in the toppling
of the Constitutional revolution's committed forces has decisive effects
on the post-election situation, we hereby offer one of the methods for
learning lessons from the Constitutional revolution.
How to learn lessons from the Constitutional revolution?
1.In the first step, we must try not to read any books about the
Constitutional revolution. 2.In the second step, we must try not to talk
to anyone who knows something about the Constitutional revolution. 3.In
the third step we must not step into the National Library even once.
4.In the fourth step, we must try to offer viewpoints about whatever we
know nothing about, for otherwise we may fall ill. 5.In the fifth step,
we must try to attribute to the past whatever we think is better to have
happened. 6.In the sixth step, even if our beliefs and behavior is like
those of dictators and despots, we must put ourselves in the heroes'
shoes. 7.In the seventh step, we must attribute to history whatever is
in our time. Obviously people do not have the patience to research into
history. Therefore, we take a horn and make big noises. 8.Yes, America
had an essential role in the Constitutional revolution. Abraham Lincoln
ordered Merlin Monroe to provoke suspicious elements in order to destroy
the revolutionary forces of the Constitutional revolution. 9.As Mr.
Nateq-Nouri has said, we truly recommend reading the history of the
Literary conclusion: Reading books is a nasty thing.
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 15:04:20 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Iran's Conscience
Ignoring death threats, a muckraking journalist takes on the high and mighty
By SCOTT MACLEOD Tehran
Akbar Ganji is no pop idol or sports champion. But nearly everywhere he
goes, Iran's No. 1 muckraking journalist is mobbed. When he attended a
lecture at Tehran University recently, students whistled and chanted his
name until he went on stage and gave a speech. Afterward, a throng of
admirers, some asking for his autograph, swept him to his car. When he
covered an election rally featuring the country's most popular reform
politicians, it was Ganji, not the pols, who brought down the house. "Ganji!
Ganji!" the crowd roared when he arrived. "You're our hero!"
He is an unlikely one. Once a functionary in the Revolutionary Guards and
Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance, Ganji, 40, is now calling Iran's
Islamic authorities to account for human rights violations and political
mistakes as no other Iranian journalist has ever before dared to do. He has
exposed death squads and has broken the taboo, observed even by most of the
growing number of pro-reform newspapers, on challenging high authorities by
name. His barbs, in fact, helped cause a major setback in last month's
parliamentary elections for one of the Islamic regime's sturdiest figures,
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
After Ganji led a barrage of unprecedented questioning of Rafsanjani's
decades in power, the former Iranian President ran a weak 30th in the
contest for Tehran's 30 seats, jeopardizing his bid to become the next
powerful Majlis speaker. If nothing else, the humiliation of a top
conservative gave an added psychological boost to President Mohammed
Khatami's reform camp: the latest vote count gives it some two-thirds of 290
But Ganji's writings carry risks. He regularly receives anonymous threats,
but continues his daily routine of passing by the Tehran newspapers Sobh
Emrouz, Fath and Asr-e-Azadegan that publish his stories. "I guess I'm a
troublemaker," Ganji says with a laugh. But in a more sober vein he adds: "I
call it playing with death. One day something might happen to me. This fight
for reform is lawful, but it has its price." In addition to the outpouring
of public support, Ganji is encouraged by the steady flow of leaks he
receives about the death squads. He won't name his sources, but likens them
to the insiders who provided Woodward and Bernstein with information for
their Watergate exposés.
Ganji's scoops began appearing early last year with articles tying Iran's
feared Intelligence Ministry to the serial murders of dozens of
intellectuals, organized crime figures and people killed apparently because
they knew too much. In what Ganji calls "disclosure by drips," he published
one article after another explaining how shadowy operatives selected their
victims and executed them, like the university professor whose body was
dumped on the outskirts of Tehran after he was killed with skull-fracturing
blows to his head. Ganji avoids accusing specific officials of ordering the
murders, tantalizing readers by allegorically pinning the blame on "Mr.
Master Key" and the "grey eminences"--widely seen in Tehran as references to
a former Intelligence Minister and other Iranian leaders who protected him.
Ganji gleefully cast such devices aside, however, when former President
Rafsanjani joined the race for parliament earlier this year. Intent on
bringing the powerful Rafsanjani "down to earth," he embarked on a searing
campaign in his newspaper columns, demanding that the candidate explain what
he knew about the killings as well as why the eight-year war with Iraq,
which killed more than 300,000 Iranians, was prolonged "unnecessarily." In
confronting Rafsanjani so brashly, Iranian journalists agree, Ganji almost
single-handedly removed the taboo on demanding accountability of Iranian
leaders. "In the history of Iranian journalism, there is hardly a precedent
for Ganji's bravery," says Ahmed Bourghani, a former Islamic Culture
Ministry official. "He has pulled back the curtain."
Not surprisingly, Rafsanjani has denounced Ganji's writings as lies. Even
some of Iran's liberals, fearing a hard-line backlash, believe that Ganji
often goes too far. "We need to make sure that our approach is measured,"
says Morteza Mardihah, a columnist for Asr-e-Azadegan. "With Ganji, it is
like passing a car accident. Sometimes reality is too harsh--and unnecessary
to look at."
To the delight of most reformers, however, Ganji, the son of a service
station attendant, refuses to avert his eyes. A street activist during
Khomeini's revolution, an avid reader of Western philosophy and an unabashed
partisan of President Khatami, he now insists that building Iran's democracy
entails acknowledging the Islamic regime's past mistakes. Whether Ganji is
able to continue his campaign is a crucial test for Iran's reformers against
the hard-line conservatives who maintain tight control over the security
forces and judicial system. Few in Iran will be surprised if he runs afoul
of the Islamic courts--he has already served a jail term in 1997 for a
speech that the religious authorities said branded Iran's Islamic system as
a form of fascism. As Ganji is well aware, that sort of talk is not music to
an ayatullah's ears.
With reporting by Azadeh Moaveni/Tehran
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 21:59:46 EST
From: Iran Man <IRANEHMAN@AOL.COM>
Subject: Iran election short of epochal change
Iran election short of epochal change
The Washington Times
February 29, 2000
In unusually bold language, the Clinton administration expressed euphoria
over the serious gains made by the reformers in the Iranian parliament. A
State Department spokesman had this to say: "By all indications this
[election] is an event of historic proportion." In its last year in
office, the administration, after a confused policy toward Iran, now touts
the victory of the reformers as if it were its own.
The Iranian reform should be examined more carefully before such bold
statements are issued. The real question is, to paraphrase Winston
Churchill, is it the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end? In
my view, it is neither. The real question is what reform would mean to the
Iranians and the international community. Is President Mohammed Khatami a
Nikita Khruschev or a Mikhail Gorbachev? In my view, neither one.
Khruschev's anti-Stalin speech has been hailed ever since as the beginning
of the end of the Stalinist regime. The reformers made no such
condemnation of the ruling clergy. Mr. Khatami and the reformers do not
have a Gorbachev, either, since they have not challenged the existing
reactionary, theocratic ruling class.
Certainly the victory of what are called reformers is an important step in
the direction of what eventually could end Iran's isolation. However, the
forces of totalitarianism and reactionary theologians are still in place.
Democratic elections are not a sufficient political institution to ensure
a liberal government. Some writers who claim expertise on Iran should be
reminded there are 100-plus member states of the United Nations that have
held elections and continue to be authoritarian regimes.
Elections are only one political instrument of reform. Real reform means
the establishment of a secular rule of law in Iran and the end of the
Islamic republic. We are very far away from such an event. The forces in
power in the Islamic Republic of Iran are still dominating the state's and
society's most significant political institutions. The theocrats (who have
suddenly become conservatives, according to some writers) are dominating
the judiciary, the courts, the police, the military and all social and
cultural institutions. A relatively free press exists in many
authoritarian systems, including Yugoslavia.
Reform in Iran means a transformation of the system from Islamic
fundamentalism to secularism. Reform in Iran means the end of the
politicized clergy and their return to the mosques and seminaries. This
has not taken place. Parliamentary victory of the reformers may be
reversed, as it has been in other authoritarian states in recent times. It
is not yet time to celebrate the Iranian election as "an event of historic
Since his election two years ago, Mr. Khatami has sided more often with
the reactionaries, not seriously challenging the regime of Iran's supreme
leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who, with his colleagues, runs the country
tyrannically in both foreign and domestic affairs. Ayatollah Khamenei
controls Iran's powerful security services, Iran's equivalent of the KGB.
As long as the security services are in a position to penetrate society,
to intervene in cultural affairs from the writing of poetry to the making
of movies, we must be resigned to the idea that Mr. Khatami's rhetoric is
not followed by action. In the case of the clerical advocate of change and
democracy, Abdullah Nouri, who was convicted of apostasy by a clerical
court and imprisoned by the regime three months ago, Mr. Khatami was in no
position to influence the decision of the powerful clerics.
Concerning foreign affairs, none of the reformers have offered ideas for
how to devise an alternative foreign policy to that of the theocrats and,
in his two years in office, neither has Mr. Khatami. We can start with the
move toward reconciliation with the United States. The reformers have not
targeted the regime's policy of satanizing the United States. If this
policy were to change, it would bring an end to Iran's isolation. The
reformers did not utter a sentence on the regime's efforts in continuing
to support international terrorism in the United States, Europe and the
Middle East. The regime has increased support for the terrorist Hezbollah
in southern Lebanon. The regime's dedication to derail the Israeli-Syrian
and Middle East peace process continues to be a central strategic target.
The reformers have not addressed themselves to this critical issue.
Last but not least, the Iranian regime continues to amass an arsenal of
weapons of mass destruction and is engaged in the development of nuclear
power. In this vile effort, the Russians, the Chinese and the North
Koreans play a leading role. Since Mr. Khatami came to power, none of
these acts and policies has changed for the better. This is still a regime
dedicated to terror, to upsetting peace in the Middle East and to
eventually resuming the war in the Persian Gulf. There is nothing historic
about Iran's foreign and security policies.
We are several years away from domestic reform in Iran. We must applaud
the victory of the reformers and hope for the best. But we should not be
deceived into believing that the reformers have made a dent in Iran's
anti-American and terrorist orientations and dedication to the
destabilization of the Middle East and the Gulf.
The Iranian election is not the beginning of any serious reform. Not until
we see that they have succeeded in changing the nature and structure of
the Islamic fundamentalist theocracy will it be time to celebrate.
* Amos Perlmutter is a professor of political science and sociology at
American University and editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies.
End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 29 Feb 2000