Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 31 Jan 2000 to 1 Feb 2000

There are 6 messages totalling 644 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. fwd: bahs-e AzAd-e
2. Secret arrest of a Saddam ally
3. Target Practising
4. Iran Hard-liners Reinvent Themselves
5. Waging Bets: Factions & Iran's Upcoming Elections
6. NYT: In Islam's State, an Islamic Cry for Change

Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2000 11:46:26 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@ALGONET.SE>
Subject: fwd: bahs-e AzAd-e

dostAne aziz bA salAm!

lotfan be pAy-gAh-e dAneS-gAh-e moSArekat bA Adres-e:
http://go.to/mosharekat.university
morAjee konid va dar bahs-e AzAd-e An Serkat konid.
piruz bASid

Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2000 21:02:14 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Secret arrest of a Saddam ally

Secret arrest of a Saddam ally

The Ottawa Citizen
Aaron Sands

A 'commander' of an Iranian guerrilla group, who is being held in Ottawa,
is a key recruiter and fundraiser, ex-members say. Aaron Sands reports.


Tuesday February 01, 2000


She stood in the hot sands of an Iraqi desert guerrilla camp and groomed a
killing machine.

With traditional headdress, a military helmet and an old-fashioned Russian
AK-47 slung over her slim shoulder, Mahnaz Samadi is said to have trained
women as fighters for the Mujahedeen Khalq's heavily armed military wing,
the National Liberation Army of Iran -- an organization widely believed to
be a secret army of Iraqi warlord Saddam Hussein. The Mujahedeen Khalq is
a guerrilla group dedicated to overthrowing the Iranian government.

According to confidential Mujahedeen documents obtained by the Citizen,
Ms. Samadi joined the Mujahedeen Khalq as an activist in 1980. Born in
Tehran in February 1965, Ms. Samadi rose through the organization's ranks
quickly. She spent four years in jail after being arrested by the Iranian
government in 1982 for terrorist attacks carried out in Tehran.

According to the documents, she passed through the Kurdistan border to
Iraq in 1987, and began commanding a military group called Parcham -- a
tank and foot-patrol army -- in the Ashraf guerrilla camp located outside
Baghdad.

Former members said she was feared and respected, largely because of her
close ties to Maryam Rajavi, the Mujahedeen's president-elect and third
wife of its worshipped leader, Masoud Rajavi. The guerrilla camp was named
after Mr. Rajavi's first wife, Ashraf, who was reportedly killed by
Ayatollah Khomeini's forces during an attack on the Rajavi home in 1982.

The camp consisted of concrete barracks, military training grounds,
meeting rooms, a library, a dining room, a soccer field and a spacious
cemetery for fallen Mujahedeen soldiers.

A former Mujahedeen member who lived with Ms. Samadi at the camp said
soldiers followed a daily regimen of prayer and training.

At 5 a.m., the 3,000 members of the group's largest camp woke and bathed.
Then they prayed before marching and singing the national anthem. After
eating a large breakfast, soldiers trained for four hours before breaking
for a one-hour lunch at noon. After lunch they underwent five or more
hours of training. Everyone was ordered to bed by 9 p.m.

Shortly after the Iran-Iraq war ended, the documents say Ms. Samadi
participated in "Eternal Light," a large-scale Mujahedeen-Iraqi assault on
Iran. Their offensive failed and the Mujahedeen army was left with 2,000
dead soldiers and 1,000 wounded. Ms. Samadi suffered an injury to her
thigh in battle, which limited her in her military training capabilities.

According to intelligence reports compiled by ex-members, Ms. Samadi was
named an official leader of the National Liberation Army and the National
Council of Resistance (NCR), the Mujahedeen's civilian front, in 1993. In
an interview with a disenfranchised member of the Mujahedeen Khalq, the
Citizen learned Ms. Samadi was assigned to head a fundraising campaign for
the NCR in North America after Robab Farahi-Mahdavieh was deported from
Canada on March 26, 1993. Ms. Mahdavieh was suspected of masterminding the
1992 attack on the Iranian embassy in Ottawa.

According to the former member, Ms. Samadi assumed Ms. Mahdavieh's
position and moved to the United States in 1994. She was granted United
Nations Convention refugee status the following year after citing a claim
of torture and persecution at the hands of the Iranian government.

Her mission in North America is said to have involved raising money and,
more importantly, recruiting fighters. Recruitment became the group's
focus after the Persian Gulf War, when Mr. Rajavi ordered all married
members of the Mujahedeen to divorce and give their children over for
military training.

Disillusioned members began seeing the group as double-faced and they
questioned Mr. Rajavi's close links to Iran's enemy, Saddam Hussein.
Members who were suspected of trying to disassociate from the group were
tortured in Mujahedeen camp prisons, starved and killed.

The 5,000 disassociated members of the Mujahedeen Khalq now outnumber the
Mujahedeen. The group's membership has fallen to about 3,000 full-fledged
members from the more than 8,000 it had before the Persian Gulf War.

Ms. Samadi arrived in Ottawa last month -- about a week before Christmas
-- and was silently arrested on Dec. 23, in an apartment across the street
from the new U.S. Embassy. A joint investigation by CSIS and Immigration
Canada concluded Ms. Samadi is a potential threat to public safety.

The suspected terrorist is in a cell at the regional jail on Innes Road,
where she is awaiting a deportation hearing. She does not face criminal
charges in Canada.

Mujahedeen officials in Washington said Ms. Samadi is an innocent and
peaceful human rights advocate who has been wrongly imprisoned.

Ms. Samadi entered Canada in the first week of November via the U.S.
through a border crossing in Vancouver. She stayed with Mahady Bondar,
who's known as the chief Mujahedeen official in Vancouver. From Vancouver
she travelled to Toronto, where she has an aunt. She arrived in Ottawa
shortly before her arrest. She is believed to have met with high-profile
Iranian businessmen, doctors, professors and restaurateurs here to solicit
funds.

Two businesses in Ottawa have apparently acted as fronts for the
Mujahedeen for several years. One is located in Centretown, the other in
downtown Ottawa, in close proximity to the new U.S. Embassy.

An Ottawa taxi driver, known to be a secret agent for Mujahedeen, is said
to prowl the streets of the capital daily, spying on members of the
Iranian community and contacting new Iranian immigrants in an effort to
recruit new warriors.

Lower-level members are known to go door-to-door in Ottawa, showing
pictures of children and asking for money. The group's belief, the
disenfranchised member said, is that Canadians are naive and will give
money, without hesitation, at the sight of a suffering child. It's
believed credit card and welfare fraud are other tactics used by
supporters to raise money in Canada.

News of Ms. Samadi's arrest flowed quickly throughout Ottawa's Iranian
community. In the past week, CSIS agents interviewed former members of the
group to find out how they learned of an arrest that was supposed to be
secret. Prominent members of the Mujahedeen have long worked in North
America. Leaders have recently attempted to distance themselves from their
assassination campaigns in the 1970s, when they claimed responsibility for
the killings of six American citizens and a series of bomb attacks.

Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2000 21:01:11 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Target Practising

TEHRAN, Jan 31 (AFP) - Three Iranian youngsters chose the wrong target
when they threw snowballs at passers-by and vehicles in a posh suburb of
Tehran, and ended up before the judge, the daily Entekhab reported Monday.

Their missiles struck a police car, whose furious occupants handcuffed
them and hauled them off to the station for interrogation.

The three appeared in court Sunday faced with a police demand for 10
million rials (1,200 dollars) to pay for damaged sirens on the car. But
the judge sent both sides away to settle the dispute amicably, the paper
said.

Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2000 21:07:24 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Iran Hard-liners Reinvent Themselves

Updated 1:14 AM ET January 31, 2000
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - With only a few weeks until Iran's
legislative elections, Islamic hard-liners are trying to portray a more
moderate image to attract voters they've alienated by attacking reformers.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, announced last week that he had
pardoned the popular former mayor of Tehran, Gholamhossein Karbaschi, after
seven months of a two-year jail term for embezzlement.

But few Iranians will forget it was the hard-liners themselves who put
Karbaschi in jail in the first place.

His sensational 1998 trial was seen by most Iranians as part of a witch hunt
aimed at undermining the overwhelmingly popular President Mohammad Khatami.
Karbaschi was instrumental in Khatami's election victory in 1997, when the
hard-liners thought their own candidate was a shoo-in.

Khatami, a reformist cleric who opposes the strict Islamic rule advocated by
hard-line clergy, says freedom is the most important aspiration of mankind.

His efforts to relax rules have been strongly welcomed by Iranians chafing
under the strict Islamic law enforced since the 1979 revolution that overthrew
the Westernized, U.S.-supported Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

The rules aren't changing, but the hard-liners have indicated several times
they want a new image.

Earlier this month, Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi, who was appointed by
Khatami but has leaned toward the hard-liners on key issues, said members
of an
outlawed opposition group should be allowed to compete in elections and hold
official posts.

Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was regarded as a moderate until he
swung toward the hard-liners recently, has spoken about the need to allow
greater use of the Internet and legalize dish antennas that would allow
Iranians to tune in to foreign television programs.

"We cannot prevent computer and satellite networks on the pretext of
safeguarding morality," Rafsanjani said.

Some Iranians are openly skeptical of the hard-liners.

Just days before Karbaschi was pardoned, the newspaper Aftab-e-Emrooz ran a
cartoon showing a guard unlocking the former mayor's shackles. Karbaschi
wonders why, and then remembers that the Majlis, or parliament, elections are
coming up Feb. 18.

Another cartoon showed a hard-line thug chasing a reformist supporter. He
hides
his club behind his back just before the elections, but starts chasing his
victim after the elections end.

Despite the strong support the reformers have been getting at the polls, the
hard-liners are not without resources. They control key institutions like the
judiciary, the Intelligence Ministry, the armed forces and the broadcast
network. Khamenei also has more powers than the president, and the hard-liners
hold sway over the Majlis.

The hard-liners attempted, but failed, to change election rules in a way that
voting would not have been completely anonymous, perhaps in an effort to scare
the public into voting for them.

The Interior Ministry said earlier this month that 402 would-be candidates -
most of them pro-reform - had been disqualified by a hard-line electoral
supervisory council.

Among them were some of the top names in the reformist camp, including
newspaper editor and former Interior Minister Abdollah Nouri, who was
sentenced
late last year to five years in prison on charges that included religious
dissent. His trial was blatantly political.

But, anticipating such disqualifications, the reformers entered swarms of
candidates in the nominating process. Enough were approved for the ballots
that
election day could bring another setback for the hard-liners.

Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2000 21:07:47 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: Waging Bets: Factions & Iran's Upcoming Elections

01/29/00
Waging Bets: Factions & Iran's Upcoming Elections

Siamak Namazi
Editor, Iran Focus (UK)

The 18 February Majles elections draw closer and with it comes a flood of
international press to Iran.

The press' concern with the outcome of the elections is obvious: it is widely
thought that should the reformists take over control of the majority of the
parliament from the conservatives, Iran's liberal president, Mohammad Khatami,
and his reform-minded allies, would be in much better position to create
change
in Iran.

Nonetheless, conventional analysis of Iran today is suffering from an
unhealthy
myopia: we simplify matters into an inaccurate vision of "good" vs. "evil" by
breaking everything into neat categories of "reformist" and "conservative".


The Left, Right, & Iran-US Relations

Time and time again, reading over the press we get the vision that if (or
when)
the reformists take over the 6th Majles, we will see a very different Islamic
Republic of Iran. Is it that simple?

Let's take, for example, John Burn's recent piece in the New York Times, where
he claims:

"The United States has an important stake in the outcome of the voting, since
President Khatami and the reformers have said that they favor improved
relations that could end American economic sanctions and the bitterness that
began with the seizure of the American embassy and hostages in November
1979."

It is indeed true that the Khatami camp favors an end to US sanctions on Iran.
But then again, almost all major political figures in Iran, regardless of
their
factional affiliation, or even whether or not they are engaged in factional
games, want an end to Washington's sanctions policy. Iran never wanted a break
in commercial relations with the United States. Even the Supreme Leader has
been clear that sanctions should be lifted!

But is it fair to say that the "reformists" are pro-relations with the US and
the conservatives are against it?

That vision, which seems to have unfortunately taken over Western circles is
not only inaccurate, but also dangerous.

It is inaccurate because it fails to see the multitude of shaded within each
camp. After all, what is called the "reformist" camp in Iran, is a
coalition of
two groups: the moderates and the modern left. Even within the modern left
faction, to which Khatami himself belongs, there is a considerable
spectrum. At
one end are figures such as Ayatollah Khalkhali, a man notorious for ordering
the execution of literally thousands of people during the early revolutionary
period. He recently identified himself as part of the reform movement, adding
that he would act in exactly the same manner regarding his orders of
execution,
since every single person he send to death was allegedly deserving of that
fate
under Islamic guidelines.

Even going far along the other side of the modern left spectrum and reaching
figures such as Abbas Abdi, one of the hostage-takers turned liberal
reformist,
can we be sure that they are pro-ties with the US? After all, the modern left
remains a group with strong ideological belief, that to date often overshadows
realpolitik and effective pragmatism.

There should be no mistake, this piece is not arguing that the conservative
forces in Iran are the better group. Rather, things are not as simple as many
analysts are making them out to be, and the simplification could be
detrimental
in drawing up policy.

Washington is inadvertently turning Iran-US relations into Reformist camp-US
relations, which is counter-productive and perhaps dangerous. The policy
produces a vicious cycle: the right now sees relations with Washington as a
direct threat to its survival, since it is sure to fortify the hand of the
reformist faction, so it tries to stymie things. That, in turn, just adds fuel
to the argument among the decision-makers back in DC that they must wage their
bet on the reformists...

Not all conservatives are against relations with Washington; even if they now
appear that way just to stop their domestic opponents from gaining. And not
all
the reformists want to see a rapprochement! In short, the issue of relations
with Washington cannot be neatly delineated among factional lines.

In fact, there are powerful groups in Iran that are not involved in factional
politics, who serve as a major force when it comes to saying no to a
rapprochement. This includes some of the high-ranking clerics in Qom, who do
not involve themselves in the day-to-day politics of the regime. To them,
anti-Americanism is a necessary pillar of the revolution and the Islamic
establishment. They fear that the system might collapse should this pillar --
as hollow as it may be -- is removed.

Convincing this group not to object to a rapprochement requires one of two
approaches: (1) They need to believe that unless relation are re-established
with DC, they regime would be in danger of collapse. Think along the lines of
drinking "a cup of poison" to end the war with Iraq; or, (2) They need to be
convinced that should the pillar be removed, the regime will stand. Has enough
been done to satisfy the second condition, since it is tough to argue the
first, at least right now?


Rafsanjani & Keeping the Balance Post Majles Elections

The politics of the Islamic Republic is more dynamic than we often give it
credit for. This is best seen in the candidacy of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani for
the 6th Majles. If you recall, after certain members of the left started
hitting hard at Rafsanjani, bringing the leftist-moderate coalition at the
brink of a split, Rafsanjani claimed that President Khatami himself has asked
him to become a candidate. Could that be true, and if so why?

Yes, it can. Khatami's brilliance has been in his ability to convince the
rightists that he is not a man to play politics of exclusion and that he
has no
intention to shut out the conservatives (or, in other words, he would not act
like the conservatives did against the left during the late 80's).

Many argue that Rafsanjani is needed in the next Majles, like it or not, as
the
center weight that would reassure the conservatives that their interests will
be taken care of. For months before the elections, the reformists have
contemplated the worry of winning by too wide a margin. After all, if the
conservatives are completely shut out of the Majles, the temptation to raise a
fuss about the validity of the election process would be great.

We should also not forget that power centers in Iran are not rigid. In other
words, the Majles' significance could be downgraded. This is another fear that
may have led Khatami to ask Rafsanjani to step into the game.

Thus far, Khatami has resorted to issuing executive orders for much of the
change he has sought. But executive orders or directives are not law, and can
be easily be reversed by another administration. Still, in the face of a
present Majles, the president had little choice. Arguably, Rafsanjani is
one of
the only figures that could produce the kind of authority needed in the
Majles.


Keep in mind that the Guardian Council, which is going to remain in the
control
of the conservatives, has the power to block the laws passed by Majles. In
case
of a deadlock between the Majles and the Guardian Council, the Expediency
Council would step in to mediate and the ruling of the latter council is
final.
(An example can be seen in the recent law allowing foreign banks to establish
branch offices in the free trade zones). Rumor has it that the conservatives
want to place Akbar Nateq-Nouri as the next chairman of the Expediency
Council,
that is, to switch the roles of Rafsanjani and Nateq-Nouri.

It would be a lot more difficult for the Guardian Council to block Majles laws
that are strongly backed by Rafsanjani as the speaker of the house. Rafsanjani
is one of the only figures that could pick up the phone and call a meeting
with
any figure in the Islamic Republic. He possesses the authority to lobby
effectively for the backing of the Supreme Leader, and the Guardian Council is
unlikely to veto a bill with the Leader's backing.

These attributes of Rafsanjani is exactly why the more pragmatic figures in
the
leftist camp are trying to make others such as Abbas Abdi and Saeed Hajjarian
back off from attacking the former president. These pragmatic figures probably
don't like Rafsanjani's political behavior any more than those currently
attacking him, but they feel that the Master of Expediency is needed to
guarantee the survival of the reform movement and not to tempt the
conservatives to launch a major attack on them after they lose their
control of
the Iranian parliament.


Iran under the 6th Majles

There is little doubt that if the reformists manage to win a majority in the
next Majles, President Khatami would breathe a sigh of relief. Khatami's
objective would then be to put into law the processes he previously had to
create through executive orders.

Nonetheless, Khatami and his group are "reformists," which gives away a major
hint that we should not expect sudden revolutionary change in Iran. Even if
the
conservatives lose every seat they have in the Iranian parliament, they will
not have lost their ability to bargain and lobby, particularly since they can
block -- or at least make difficult -- the passage of a law using the Guardian
Council.

Given that the reformist front is a large coalition of vastly different
groups,
we should not forget that their differences could become much more apparent
should their standing change from opposition to position. There have been
plenty of signs of this discord on the run-up to the elections, mainly over
whether or not to make a deal with Rafsanjani. The prominent reformist
journalist Akbar Ganji, for example, has been writing so controversially, that
even the daily Sobh-e Emrooz, for which he is a columnist, protested, as did
others like Asr-e Azadegan.

Moreover, the left was in power up until the late 1980s, and they don't have
the brightest of records. Sure, there has been a major change in the leftist
camp, and they learned a lot during the long years that they were shut out of
power, but it still remains to be seen whether or not they can put into
actions
these lessons if they make a full comeback.

Meanwhile, we should not ignore the growing importance of the "independents".
The independents are likely to gain a greater share of the parliament than
many
expect, particularly in provincial areas. In fact, it is very likely that
voters turn increasingly to casting votes based on individual merit and their
expertise.

Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2000 21:12:59 -0500
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad@PANJERE.NET>
Subject: NYT: In Islam's State, an Islamic Cry for Change

http://www.nytimes.com/library/review/013000iran-islam-review.html

January 30, 2000

ELECTION TIME IN IRAN

In Islam's State, an Islamic Cry for Change

By JOHN F. BURNS

hen he arrived at the shop of a specialist in old Islamic scripts in
Tehran, the mullah, about 40, was neatly bearded in the way of the
college-educated Shiite clerics. But he was dressed in a business suit,
not his cleric's attire, and he was flustered.

Late for his appointment, he explained that he had waited in the street
in his white turban, black cloak and collarless white shirt, and had
seen a dozen empty taxis pass. So he returned home and changed to a
suit, and the next taxi picked him up. But the driver, eyeing his fare's
salt-and-pepper beard in the mirror, asked, "You're a mullah, aren't
you?"

"Well yes, I must confess that I am," the mullah said.

"If I'd realized that when I first saw you," the driver said, "I
wouldn't have stopped."

Hearing the unhappy man tell his story a couple of months ago, it seemed
like an apt metaphor for the troubled times confronting Iran's 180,000
Muslim clerics. Having wrested power from Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in
1979 and created an intolerant, often vengeful theocratic state that has
ruined Iran's economy, sponsored terrorist groups abroad and left the
country profoundly isolated, the clerics are now widely unpopular among
Iran's 65 million people.

These days, it is not uncommon to hear Iranians whisper the shah's name
with shades of nostalgia, even reverence. "God bless the shah!" they
will tell a foreigner, glancing about nervously as they tour the
preserved magnificence inside Neyavaran Palace in Tehran, just below the
field from which the shah boarded a helicopter on his way into his final
exile. This is not to say that Iranians have forgotten, much less
forgiven, the brutality of the shah's secret police, his modernizer's
insensitivity to Iran's 1,350-year embrace of Islam or the corruption he
tolerated.

Rather, it is a measure of how anguished Iranians have become after
nearly a generation under "the government of God," and of their
desperate yearning for change. On Feb. 18, they will have an opportunity
to register their sentiments in a parliamentary election, the sixth
since 1979 but the first in which the alienation engendered by the
mullahs has resolved into a coalition capable of winning the
legislature. Reformers already claim the Iranian presidency, which
Mohammed Khatami won in the 1997 election with 69 percent of the 29
million votes cast. That success was repeated in a sweep of municipal
elections last February.

Khatami, 53, was not always a challenger of the regime's orthodoxies.
Son of a leading ayatollah, and a senior cleric himself, he was a close
aide to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic revolution.
But like Mikhail Gorbachev, the reform-oriented Soviet leader with whom
he is sometimes compared, his experiences persuaded him that the system
could survive only if it responded to the people's democratic yearnings.
To hard-line clerics, remembering Gorbachev's fate, only oblivion
beckons in the attempt to graft the political ideals of democratic
liberalism onto the ancient beliefs of Islam. But many thousands of
mullahs, alarmed by what might happen if the popular discontent is not
assuaged, have joined Khatami's crusade.

Predictably, the president, since his election, has had a difficult two
and a half years. His powers under the Islamic constitution are nominal
compared with those of the "supreme leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who
inherited the mantle but not the charisma or religious authority of
Khomeini. And Khamenei has shown less flexibility, in some ways, than
Khomeini.

Although he was an absolute ruler, and approved much of the cruel
repression that accompanied the Islamic takeover, Khomeini repeatedly
warned his fellow clerics not to lose touch with popular opinion. But
under Khamenei, the hierarchy has been archly selective in ignoring the
parts of the Khomeini legacy that might embarrass them, especially
warnings about clerical dictatorship.

Since he inherited the supreme leader's position in 1989, Khamenei has
rested his authority on a rigid interpretation of a concept written into
the constitution, velayat-i-faqih, the guardianship of the religious
jurist.

Traditionally, the faqih was a cleric learned enough to render binding
interpretations on religious matters. But Khamenei and conservative
clerics have taken the concept as endowing the clerical hierarchy,
through the supreme leader, with the Islamic equivalent of the divine
right of kings. Last week, responding to reformers who say that the
people are sovereign and that the supreme leader is bound by the
constitution and the laws, Khamenei said the true meaning of
velayat-i-faqih is that "the person in charge of the Islamic government
does not make mistakes and if he does he will not be the supreme leader
from that moment."

Many scholars specializing in Iran find in the opposing views an
illuminating echo of the arguments that flowed in 17th- and 18th-century
Europe, when Western concepts of democracy were forged on the anvil of
the Reformation and the Enlightenment. In England, when Charles I
insisted on his divine right to rule and Oliver Cromwell declared the
sovereign rights of the people, as represented by Parliament, it took a
civil war to settle the matter, and the king's severed head was part of
the price paid for parliamentary democracy. The ideas born then were
central, later, in America's revolution.

But where Iran scholars find the European and American experience most
instructive is in the theological debate that underlay the political
evolution -- the way in which men like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke
found sanction for their ideas in a reinterpretation of the Bible.
Today, it is tempting for Westerners to think that Iran could emerge
from its bitter experience of the past 20 years as a secular republic --
a Turkey, perhaps. But most people who know Iran well say that however
the immediate political struggle comes out, what lies ahead will be an
Islamic republic -- albeit, perhaps, a more civil and gentle one than
the mullahs have built so far.

Many Iranians would have it otherwise. But most accept that political
change, to be stable in a country where faith is a pervasive fact of
life, will have to come from a redefinition within Islam of the
relationship between state and religion. It will not, they say, come
from a separation of church and state that leaves the mullahs as
voiceless in temporal matters as they were under the shah. Pressed, many
Iranians will cite Turkey as proof. However secular its system, it still
has had sharp challenges in recent years from resurgent Islamism.

This, in fact, is the message of Khatami. Although he is the author of a
best-selling book that discusses the merits of Locke, Hobbes and
Montesquieu, he has never disguised that his democratic, pluralist,
tolerant principles would find expression within a body politic that had
Islam at its core. Addressing the throngs who mob him everywhere, he
invariably returns to the Koran and his belief that the prophet's
teachings rested, at base, on the need for dialogue and consent among
the governed.

In the parliamentary election, Khamenei and his allies, having used
their powers to disqualify scores of reformist candidates, may yet hold
the reformers at bay. But whatever the vote's outcome, Iran's political
struggle will still hold the attention of all who care about the world's
1 billion Muslims. For if Iran, the fount of modern Islamic militancy,
can find a way to reconcile the ancient beliefs of Islam and its
people's yearnings for freedom, the lesson will not stop at Iran's
borders. It can be expected to ripple outward across the 53 Muslim
nations that have been notable absentees, so far, from the rise of
democracy that followed the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company

End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 31 Jan 2000 to 1 Feb 2000