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There are 5 messages totalling 731 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. Gulf Arab ministers to meet on Iran, summit date
2. Iran says annual offshore oil output up 21 pct
3. The End of the Great Satan?
4. Iran Focus talks to US Congressman Bob Ney
5. =?UTF-8?Q?Foreign=20policy=20decisions=20in=20Iran:=20three=20in?=


Date: Sun, 2 Apr 2000 10:51:20 EDT
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Gulf Arab ministers to meet on Iran, summit date

Gulf Arab ministers to meet on Iran, summit date

DUBAI, April 2 (Reuters) - Gulf Arab foreign ministers are to meet early this
month to come up with a date for a regional summit and discuss efforts to end
a dispute between the United Arab Emirates and Iran, local media reported on

The reports by official news agencies and newspapers said ministers from
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE -- which make up the
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) -- would meet in the Saudi city of Jeddah on
April 8.

They would try to agree on a date for a summit of their leaders that is
expected to be held by May, the reports said.

They would also discuss efforts by a committee comprising Saudi Arabia, Qatar
and Oman to bring Iran and the UAE to the negotiating table to settle a
dispute over three islands in the Gulf, the reports said.

Gulf Arab leaders asked the committee in November to press ahead with efforts
to end the row and to present its report to the upcoming summit.

The dispute over the strategic islands of Abu Musa and the Lesser and Greater
Tunbs, located near key shipping lanes close to the mouth of the Gulf,
continues to hamper a further improvement of relations between Gulf Arab
states and their non-Arab neighbour across the water.

The UAE has been pressing its GCC allies to link improving relations with
Iran to a peaceful resolution of the dispute.


Date: Sun, 2 Apr 2000 10:52:13 EDT
From: Sohrab68@AOL.COM
Subject: Iran says annual offshore oil output up 21 pct

Iran says annual offshore oil output up 21 pct

TEHRAN, April 2 (Reuters) - Iran said on Sunday its offshore oil production
had reached 190 million barrels in the year to March, a 21 percent increase
over the previous year.

Abolqassem Hassani, director of Iranian Offshore Oil Company (IOOC), told
state television that his company was aiming at an annual production capacity
of 1.1 million by 2005.

He said IOOC was moving fast to develop oil fields which Iran shares with
other countries across the Gulf, including Salman, partly owned by Abu Dhabi,
in the United Arab Emirates.

Salman's output capacity reached 90,000 barrels a day in the Iranian year
which ended on March 19, from 80,000 barrels a day the year before, the
official said.

He said total crude production in Salman and two other shared fields - Nosrat
and Foroozan - had stood at 47 million barrels last year.

Exploration is underway in other offshore fields, including Esfandyar, the
official said.

Hassani said his company had signed two major deals last year, including one
with Royal Dutch/Shell (RD.AS)(SHEL.L) for $1.45 billion.

Iran signed an $800 million deal with Shell last November to develop two Gulf
offshore oil fields - Soroush and Nowruz - on a buy-back basis.

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said later that Shell would earn a total
of $1.455 billion from the deal within a ten-year period after the two fields
start pumping oil.

Hassani said the other deal had been signed with an Iranian company for $185

He said about 4.5 billion barrels of crude had so far been extracted from an
estimated total offshore reserves of 20 billion barrels.

Iran said last month it was preparing to sign deals to develop six offshore
gas fields it shares with other countries across the Gulf.

Deputy Oil Minister Mehdi Hosseini said the projects included the next five
stages of Iran's massive South Pars gas field, which Iran shares with Qatar,
as well as the Salman, Farzam, Esfandiar and Foroozan fields.


Date: Sun, 2 Apr 2000 21:33:32 EDT
Subject: The End of the Great Satan?

Must Read: Iran-US Relations, The End of the Great Satan?

Iran Press Analysis

The statement of US Secretary of State Madeline Albright on 17 March during a
conference organized by the American-Iranian Council in Washington, DC was
historic. As one of the Iranian participants told IPA on the sidelines of
the conference, “If I wrote Albright’s speech myself, I would have neglected
to include some of the gestures that she did!”

While the proponents of rapprochement in the US were rejoicing, the anti-Iran
camp in Washington made it clear that it was not happy. Albright and the
Clinton Administration came immediately under attack by a variety of camps.
The loudest voice in the opposition choir – which included figures not
necessarily opposed to a thaw in US-Iran relations – accused Albright of
“giving away too much,” claiming that much of what was said should have been
tucked away as bargaining chips for the day that official negotiations
finally take place.

The cacophony of praises and criticism in the US was very much anticipated
and predictable. What analysts found much more difficult to gauge was how
Tehran would react to this historic gesture.

The first signs of Iran’s reaction came a few hours after Albright’s speech
when Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Hodi Nejad-Hosseinian read his
comments during the same conference. Nejad-Hosseinian’s speech was
cautiously positive, but it clearly lacked the same punch as Albright’s
comments. Still, the Iranian Ambassador made a point to ask Ambassador Nick
Platt of the Asia Society, who introduced him to the audience, to emphasize
that his statement is not a reply to Albright’s speech; that response would
come from Tehran. Later that day, one of Nejad-Hosseinian’s advisors who
helped compose his speech told IPA that the Iranians were only expecting
Albright to announce the partial lifting of sanctions on carpets, caviar and
pistachios; not such an overwhelming gesture.

As such, the most significant portion of the Iranian Ambassador’s speech was
the following passage:

Notwithstanding the fact that the statement this morning contained some of
the old allegations against Iran – a factor which we recognize as the result
of conflicting tendencies towards Iran among US policymakers – we are
prepared, for our part, to welcome the lifting of US ban on import of some
Iranian goods and other initiatives as a positive step which I am sure will
be reciprocated by Iran with a positive and proportionate measure. The
prospects of US-Iran relations are still heavily contingent on American
willingness and ability to change its policies towards Iran. In this
context, reassessment of American past policies towards Iran and
acknowledgment of its shortcomings, would certainly contribute to lowering
the wall of mistrust.

In the meanwhile, a number of high-ranking figures in the Islamic Republic
expressed a restrained version of their views on the latest American gesture.
This continued up until the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself replied to
Albright’s speech on 25 March in an unequivocally negative and hostile
manner. Though, the “official” response from Tehran has not arrived to
date. The announcement of a “positive and proportionate” goodwill gesture
can still be expected from the Iranian Foreign Minister or the President.


According to a number of reports, the Khatami Administration is currently
preparing a comprehensive reply to Albright’s speech. Some say that this
“official” reply would be submitted to the Americans via available
diplomatic channels, such as the US Interest Section in the Swiss Embassy in
Tehran, or the United Nations missions of the two countries. Others
anticipate a much more overt reply and expect President Mohammad Khatami or
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi to make these remarks at an appropriate
venue, such as a press conference. Perhaps the Iranian President’s upcoming
trips abroad (to Venezuela or Germany) would present such an opportunity.

What is clear is that the Khatami Administration is currently feeling out the
various currents in the country in composing their reply. While we have
gained a good idea of the voice of opposition through Leader Khamenei’s
address, there has been much less discussion of the thinking within the
pro-rapprochement camp. As usual, a review of the Iranian press serves as
the best means to understand the thinking of various groups.


Tuesday, 22 March

While there has been plenty of comments in the reformist press regarding
Albright’s speech and rapprochement in general, the most significant telling
was an opinion piece written by Farhang Mohsenzadeh in the 22 March issue of

Mohsenzadeh starts his column with an interesting historic comparison. He
recounts the tale of the former head of the Soviet Union, Michael Gorbachev’s
first ever meeting with the American president of the time. “I have come to
deliver some unpleasant news,” Gorbachev is quoted as saying. “We want to
deprive you of having an enemy.” The author continues:

The documents that were later released showed that until two years later, the
American hawks did not take these words seriously. They had realized that
accepting the reality that the US must continue its existence without a big
enemy is indeed unpleasant news. For over half a century Washington had
justified all its wrongdoings, its domineering, and its bureaucratic
weaknesses with the presence of this enemy.

The author’s next lines deserves to be highlighted:

But the difference between societies with a popular base and other societies
is that they will not be kept in ignorance for long. They will rapidly adapt
themselves to a new era, although they still feel the void of a big enemy and
the Zionists and hawks will aggrandize small enemies – sometimes China,
sometimes Islamic movements, … -- in order to justify their existence.

Moving on to Albright’s speech, Mohsenzadeh says that the address, and the
negative responses that were communicated from Tehran, show that the Clinton
Administration was able to take bolder steps during its lame duck days since
it is no longer so exposed to various lobbies and pressure groups. He
continues to deliver the heart and soul of his argument:

[The Clinton Administration] has heard the sound of Iran’s civil society
movement and has noticed its glorious and popular foundation and it has come
forward – at the price of criticizing its own past and admitting to its own
mistakes – to deprive Iran of a big enemy. It is now the time for
policymakers, Iran’s foreign policy experts, and most importantly the main
decision-makers to figure out what is expedient for the nation and what the
national interest rules. Giving the floor to those who cover their defeat in
the domestic race by ignoring the positive points of the US Secretary of
State’s message, and who put their fingers on the negative aspects of Madame
Albright’s speech as if no change has taken place, is not consistent with the
greater policy of détente.

Mohsenzadeh boldly asserts that Iran should rapidly separate its foreign
policy from domestic developments and that the responsibility of examining
new opportunities should be given to experts in the field. He concludes by

Put in different words, those in charge of foreign policy should identify the
positive aspects of Washington’s new policy in a bolder and more transparent
fashion than in the past and to generate the necessary movement in those


During her address, Madeline Albright made it clear that the US is prepared
to take things slowly and step-by-step, or to engage in fast track diplomacy
towards rapprochement via direct dialogue. Given Leader Khamenei’s strong
statements, it is clear that the fast track route is not a realistic option.

It should be no surprise that various groups in Iran are bound to continue to
stand opposed to better Iran-US relations. Notwithstanding, it is unwise to
resort to “conservative” vs. “reformist” categorization, which the foreign
press often depicts. Certainly so long as one political grouping in Iran
feels that relations with the US would translate to its marginalization from
power, it is bound to oppose such developments.

But as we try to predict the direction in which Tehran will be pulled in
regards to its relations with Washington, following the new American policy
declared by the Secretary of State, we should lose sight of the greater
movements within Iranian society. Albright’s speech was reflected in full in
the Iranian press. The Iranian people have had an opportunity to form a
personal reaction to these statements.

While we will continue to hear some old rhetoric from Tehran, Albright and
the Clinton Administration have managed to press some of the right buttons to
get the Iranian civil society involved in the debate. Arguments along the
lines of national interest and the importance of separating foreign policy
from ideological stands are going to be heard of much more frequently.
Furthermore, it is almost certain that various Iranian experts are going to
press for some sort of official dialogue with the United States, after
Albright made it clear that Washington is willing to reach a settlement on
the issue of Iran’s outstanding assets in that country.

As the Khatami Administration prepares its official response, there is much
more to consider than just the anti-rapprochement tenor.


Date: Sun, 2 Apr 2000 21:36:16 EDT
Subject: Iran Focus talks to US Congressman Bob Ney

Iran Focus talks to US Congressman Bob Ney

Ever since President Mohammad Khatami’s historic interview with CNN in 1997,
analysts have been expecting a thaw in Iran–US relations. But rapprochement
has been slow, with both sides often misreading the other’s signals. Iran
Focus talks to Congressman Robert W Ney (Republican-Ohio), the only
Persian-speaker member of the US House of Representatives, who sheds some
light on the American angle.

Iran Focus: There has been a lot of talk and analysis on the stance of
various factions and power centres in Iran regarding relations with the US
and the confusion that it creates. Iranian officials have expressed a similar
confusion. Can you provide us with a map of the Congress and perhaps the
Executive branch in regards to relations with Iran? Is there a general
difference in the attitude of Republicans as against Democrats when it comes
to Iran–US relations, or is this matter delineated more along personal lines?

Ney: There is no difference in attitude among Republicans and Democrats on
US–Iran relations. I have personally asked both Republicans and Democrats on
their opinion if we should start talking with Iran. The select few that I
have spoken with believe that it is a good idea. As for the Executive branch,
I have on more than one occasion spoken with and at the State Department on
opening dialogue with Iran. Over the past year, some signals have been sent
to Iran by the Administration and members of Congress. Some of the messages
were received well and others not so well, which has been the same way in

Iran Focus: The US has made it clear that it has three major objections to
Iranian behaviour that stymie prospects of rapprochement. Specifically,
Washington alleges that Tehran is pursuing a weapons-of-mass-destruction
programme, that it sponsors terrorism, and also that the Islamic Republic is
trying to derail the Middle East Peace Process. Are these issues an outline
of what the US would like to discuss, or a precondition for holding
negotiations? Do all three issues carry equivalent weight in your opinion?

Ney: Personally, I have stated over and over again that if dialogue begins,
each country cannot come to the table with a list of preconditions that must
be met. If this is the case, nothing will be accomplished. According to the
latest statements from the State Department, these are no longer
preconditions as they once were. Now, the US Administration argues for
unconditional talks, but does point out that they would like to bring up all
these issues. Eventually, Iran, I’m sure, would like to bring up issues
important to them as well. The Administration has made no distinction on
which one of the above is most important. The Iranians seem convinced that
the two first (terrorism and weapons of mass destruction) are just
smokescreens, and that the real issue is the Arab–Israeli talks. Again, I
believe we should just agree to talk without conditions.

Iran Focus: Many analysts are now claiming that the era of sanctions, at
least unilateral sanctions, as a foreign policy tool is rapidly coming to a
close. Do you think that sanctions in general are losing their vogue on
Capitol Hill? More important, what do you predict in regards to the
Iran-Libya Sanctions Act when it reaches its sunset clause in 2001? What are
the prospects of ILSA being renewed? What are the most important variables
that can affect the decision to renew ILSA or not?

Ney: I personally believe all sanctions are starting to lose their vogue here
in Congress. In the first Session of the 106th Congress, legislation was
introduced to remove all sanctions imposed on all countries. I am a
co-sponsor of this legislation. For sanctions to work, the entire
international community must be involved and believe in what you are doing.
As the United States has seen, international support for such sanctions as
ILSA is very poor.

The prospects for ILSA to be renewed are too close to judge. I believe the
more Members of Congress are educated on the issue of renewing ILSA and its
consequences, the more likely they will not bring it up for a vote or, if it
does come to the House floor, it may fail. Of course, the chances that it
will not be renewed are higher if talks can begin between Tehran and
Washington before August 2001.

Iran Focus: There is a belief among Iranian circles that certain powerful
lobbies are pushing Congress to keep away from ameliorating ties with Tehran
and that often Washington is forced to pursue the interests of another
nation, rather than that of the US. Can you shed some light on how the
lobbies affect the way Congress deals with Iran?

Over the past years, yes, there have been a select few lobbying organisations
that lobby against Iran. However, recently there are many organisations
forming to pursue the interest of Iran and Iranian-Americans. I believe you
will see evidence of these groups in this Congress and hopefully they will
have a favourable effect on upcoming legislation.

Iran Focus: Along the same lines, many Iranians – from government officials
to average people on the streets of Tehran – express great anger and surprise
that militant opposition group the MKO [Mujahedeen Khalq Organisation] has
been able to exert so much influence in the US Congress, even after it was
listed as terrorist group by the State Department. How did such a group come
to gain a loud voice in Congress? Why do certain members of Congress express
support for a group that engages in terrorist acts? What is the status of the
MKO in the Congress today?

Ney: Up until last year, it was the MKO and not the NCR [National Council of
Resistance] that was on the list, and many Congressmen were not fully
informed on their link with each other. It is a misconception that they have
been influential. Once they succeeded in getting around 220 signatures for
their letter, but since then they have mostly recycled these signatures and
refused to disclose them. This is changing, however. This past October, the
NCR was included on the terrorist list and this has caused them to not be
allowed to lobby in Congress any more, ie, their activities have effectively
been curbed. Do realise, at one point in Washington they were one of the only
groups talking about Iran in Washington. Now there are many groups and
organisations that have been formed to begin communication about and with

Iran Focus: The number of Iranians in the US is quite significant. By the
estimates of the Iranian government, there are between 1 million and 1.5
million Iranians in the US, a considerable number of whom are now US
citizens. Have these Iranian-Americans had any role as forces to pressure the
anti-Iran camp in Congress? Do you see this group as a potential lobby for
the interests of Iran in the US?

Ney: As I have seen and met with, many Iranian-Americans are getting
motivated after their silence for over 20 years. Today, most
Iranian-Americans are pressuring their Representatives in Congress to
initiate a dialogue with Tehran and to lift the sanctions. Many groups have
been formed, such as the Iranian Trade Association, American Iranian Council
and Iranians for International Cooperation. This is a very positive
development, as most Congressmen previously have had no access to the views
of the Iranian-American community. If the Iranian-American groups continue
these organisations and their involvement in politics, they will be able to
exert political pressure on Congress and influence the future direction of
US–Iran relations. They are a very able, resourceful, highly educated
community who have been very successful in adapting to American society.

Iran Focus: Another element of confusion on the Iranian side is the issue of
a $20 million budget set aside to destabilize the government in Tehran. While
some media reports have claimed that this budget was never approved, the
common perception in Iran is that Radio Free Europe’s Persian service is
funded by that budget. Could you clarify what the story with the $20 million
budget against Iran was and why RFE’s Persian service was created?

Ney: During the height of our non-communication, this was created. Recently,
the radio group has succeeded in ensuring that it was filled with people who
had a more open-minded approach to Iran and US–Iran relations, and
interviewed a wide range of Iranian politicians and analysts. Therefore, it
may not be as big a problem as people thought it could be.

Iran Focus: Various American officials, including the President of the
United States, have expressed a view that they wish to engage in greater
people-to-people exchanges since President Mohammad Khatami’s landmark CNN
interview. There have been many examples, from the exchange of athletes, to
various members of civil society, etc, on both sides. Despite this policy,
Iranians visiting the US on such invitations are frequently subjected to a
humiliating process including fingerprinting and interrogations. Why does
such a contradiction exist and is there anything being done to resolve it?

Ney: Unfortunately, because of US law, any state listed on the State
Department’s terrorist list is subject to fingerprinting when that country’s
citizens enter the US. I have personally called the State Department to
inquire on a solution to stop this humiliating fingerprinting. As I
understand, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has so far not
fingerprinted any terrorists, they have only fingerprinted Iranian children
and grandmothers, visiting their Iranian-American relatives in the US. This
policy is very unfortunate since discriminating against US citizens such as
Iranian-Americans in no way promotes US interest. This approach is
inappropriate altogether.

Nonetheless, the State Department has recognised this by ensuring that the
Iranian soccer players were not fingerprinted several weeks ago. They gave
them an exemption. I believe this is a good start, but we need to go much

Iran Focus: On the topic of civil exchanges, members of Congress are elected
representatives. Are there any Congressmen who are interested in visiting
Iran officially or unofficially?

Ney: Yes, there are some members of Congress that I spoke to personally on
both sides of the aisle that have shown an interest in travelling to Iran.

Iran Focus: Average Iranians reflect that they are extremely upset at the US
involvement in the 1953 coup against the popular government of Mohammad
Mosadeq. Perhaps that upset is only matched by the US Navy’s shooting down of
an Iranian passenger plane over the Persian Gulf in 1988, an incident that
led to the death of 290 civilians. Time and time again, during our informal
interviews with the Iranian people, they have told us that they have not been
able to forget that the Americans never apologized for either incident, and
that such an apology would go a long way as a goodwill gesture. As a
representative of the American people, would you have any comments to the
Iranian people in this regard?

Ney: I believe many situations on both sides are regrettable. I also believe
insisting the US apologise is a preconditions that neither country should
demand before communicating. That would prolong the process even further. We
should talk about the future, not the past. If we constantly glance back, we
may miss the bright future our two countries can enjoy together. Both
President Clinton and President Khatami have expressed regret over the past,
and I believe this is a good start for dialogue between countries. For now,
let’s sit down, talk and solve our problems, and once that process has
started, I am sure we will hear apologies and recognition of past mistakes
from both capitals


Date: Sun, 2 Apr 2000 21:37:50 EDT
Subject: =?UTF-8?Q?Foreign=20policy=20decisions=20in=20Iran:=20three=20in?=

March 2000 (Esfand -Farvardin 1378/9) VOLUME 14 NUMBER 3

Foreign policy decisions in Iran: three institutions’ constitutional powers

Iran’s power structure is complex and hard to understand. The multiplicity of
centres and key players is a challenge analysts face in evaluating and
interpreting the impact of change in certain institutions – such as the
Majlis elections – or even statements and comments from various political
players in the Islamic Republic on the future of Iranian policy. In this
article, Farshid Farzin, a legal expert based in Tehran, discusses the extent
of the powers of three key institutions in foreign policy making in Iran: the
Majlis, the Expediency Council and the Supreme National Security Council.

The Majlis

The Majlis, Iran’s legislature, is the most significant decision-making body
in the Islamic Republic. Given the experience of pre-1979 Revolution
conditions – the executive branch had had vast authority since the times of
the Constitutional Revolution early in the century – the authors of the new
Iranian Constitution were careful to give the legislative branch powers
proportionate to those of the executive and judicial branches. Accordingly,
even the Supreme Leadership, with its broad field of dominion, is not able to
dissolve the Majlis or disturb it. Each parliamentary round concludes at the
period defined in the Constitution. Even if an election is not held because
of an emergency, the old Majlis will continue to sit until elections can be
held. This means that the country will never be without a parliament.

As far as the Majlis’ widespread authority is concerned, Article 71 of the
Constitution confirms that it can pass laws on all matters that are within
the framework laid down by the Constitution. This framework is described in
Article 72, according to which the Majlis is not permitted to approve laws
that are in contradiction to the official religion of the country and the
Constitution. According to Article 84, any one of the Majlis deputies is
permitted to comment on all the domestic and foreign affairs (see box on
powers of the Majlis).

Regarding foreign policy, the Majlis is empowered to make decisions under the
defined limitations given by the Constitution and deputies are freely able to
comment on foreign policy issues, but everything must fall within the
framework defined in Article 152 of the Constitution. The basic rules that
the Majlis must adhere to according to that article are:

It must reject any attempts to domineer or to be dominated;

It must maintain complete independence for Iran;

It must preserve the country’s territorial integrity;

It must defend the rights of all Muslims;

It must give no commitment to autocrat powers;

It must pursue peaceful relationships with governments that are not hostile
to Iran.

The decisions and final approvals made by the Majlis should be in accordance
with these stipulations. Since the Majlis relies on the people’s votes and is
supposed to reflect their tendencies, some consider it the most appropriate
body for making decisions on foreign policy. Moreover, once the Majlis
considers a political case a critical one and of crucial importance, it can
hold a referendum, provided that a majority of deputies accept this
proposition. However, following the revision made to the Constitution in
1989, after the demise of the late father of the Iranian Revolution,
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, it appears that the Majlis’s role in respect to
foreign-policy making was diminished. Instead the Expediency Council, whose
powers are discussed later in this article, has gained prominence.


The Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) was set up in 1989, following
the revision of the Constitution. Its objectives include safeguarding the
nation’s interests, the Islamic revolution, the country’s territorial
integrity, and the country’s sovereign rule.

Some of Iran’s highest-ranking officials sit in on the SNSC, including: the
heads of the three branches of government, the head of the joint chief’s of
staff’s office, ministers of foreign affairs and information, etc.

The Constitution sets the tasks of this Council as first and foremost
defining the country’s defence and security policies. The SNSC is also to
coordinate political, economic and other activities in line with the nation’s
defence and security needs. This body can furthermore harness monetary and
other resources in order to defend the nation in the face of domestic and
foreign threats.

When it comes to foreign policy making, despite the fact that the SNSC
includes such high-ranking officials, it is legally only allowed to make
decisions when the policy has direct bearing on defence and security matters.
But then under a liberal interpretation, it appears that just about any major
foreign policy decision could be brought into this body. Nevertheless, even
under a more rigid interpretation, if Iran is to engage in rapprochement with
the US, many analysts believe that the SNSC is the institution where the
debate would take place and the ultimate decision announced (this is not to
say that other individuals would not play a role in such a process). Given
the fact that the US has a nuclear naval fleet in the Persian Gulf, there
would be little ground to challenge the argument that relations with that
county has direct national security implications for Iran.

The Expediency Council

Following the revision made to the Constitution in 1989, the Expediency
Council was officially included in Iran’s constitutionally sanctioned
political institutions. The roots of this council date back to the Khomeini
era, however. Ayatollah Khomeini called for the establishment of the
Expediency Council as a body to arbitrate when differences between the Majlis
and the Guardian Council lead to a deadlock. Following the constitutional
revisions, though, other tasks and authorities were extended to the
Expediency Council, placing it in parallel to other institutions. It should
be added that the late father of the Revolution was not in favour of such a

The current version of Iran’s Constitution defines the following duties for
this council:

l arbitration between the two legislative bodies when the Guardian Council
rejects a law passed by the Majlis, on grounds that it is in contradiction to
the Constitution or Islam, while on the other hand the parliament insists
that the law is expedient to the regime and its ratification is necessary.

l serving as a consultative body to the Supreme Leader on general policies of
the Islamic Republic of Iran.

According to Article 110 of the Iranian Constitution, the Supreme Leader
determines the general policies of the regime. Of course the Leader cannot
personally determine these policies and should consult with the Expediency
Council first. Given that the adoption of a nation’s general policies is of a
critical importance, as seen in recent events, the Supreme Leader defers such
decisions to the Council.

The Expediency Council is a particularly effective body because of its
composition. It includes the heads of the three branches of power, the six
clerical members of the Guardian Council, the minister concerned with the
decision at hand (eg, the foreign minister if there is a decision on foreign
policy), and a number of key authoritative personalities. Basically, this
body is balanced in its representation of the various factions in the Islamic

Legally it appears that the Expediency Council is authorised to make foreign
policy. However, there are guidelines it must adhere to, as defined in
Article 152 of the Constitution, which sets out the framework of the
country’s foreign policy.

Legal conclusion

Reviewing the context of the Iranian Constitution, we find that the
Constitution revision of 1989 has extended the Leader’s authorities and put
foreign policy making under his power. However, the law also requires him to
seek the opinion of the Expediency Council before making any decision on
these crucial issues. The Majlis is Iran’s highest elected body, but since
its composition does not include some of the highest-ranking officials, it
seems that effectively the Majlis has not been the hotbed for foreign policy

The Constitution has also determined the duties of the Supreme National
Security Council as the body in charge of defence and security affairs. Thus,
the SNSC would step into the realm of foreign policy making only when there
was a direct and significant relation with security and defence matters. It
is believed that given the presence of the US nuclear navel fleet in the
Persian Gulf, a decision towards rapprochement with Washington would have to
be made here.

The Expediency Council is effectively the most competent body for determining
foreign policy given its unique composition, which includes both those who
currently hold an official position and those who are otherwise well-known
and powerful personalities in the establishment. The latter group enjoy
considerable influence – including their opinion in critical decisions adds
to the durability and stability of the policy. Moreover, the Expediency
Council’s main responsibility is to act as the body in charge of giving
advice to the Leader. The Leader, considering that the opinion of the
Expediency Council is that of a body that represents the thinking within the
regime, generally follows the advice given by this organ and leaves tough
decisions to be handled there


End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 31 Mar 2000 to 2 Apr 2000