x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Mousavi reaches out to the world

On Monday, the Iranian opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, through his Facebook page, called for global solidarity demonstrations on Thursday 'for the martyrs that have been lost so far in our fight for justice.' While the US president Barack Obama is under pressure from conservative critics to speak out more forcefully on the turmoil in Iran, he is winning praise from Iranians who strongly oppose foreign intervention.

On Monday, the Iranian opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, through his Facebook page, called for global solidarity demonstrations on Thursday 'for the martyrs that have been lost so far in our fight for justice.' While the US president Barack Obama is under pressure from conservative critics to speak out more forcefully on the turmoil in Iran, he is winning praise from Iranians who strongly oppose foreign intervention. Noting that protesters have now been photographed in Iran, holding aloft images of Mir Hossein Mousavi along side the democratically-elected former prime minister Muhammad Mossadeq, Stephen Kinzer wrote: "Centuries of intervention, humiliation and subjugation at the hand of foreign powers have decisively shaped Iran's collective psyche. The most famous victim of this intervention - and also the most vivid symbol of Iran's long struggle for democracy - is Mossadeq. Whenever Iranians assert their desire to shape their own fate, his image appears... "Carrying a picture of Mossadeq today means two things: 'We want democracy' and 'No foreign intervention'. These demands fit together in the minds of most Iranians. Desperate as they are for the political freedom their parents and grandparents enjoyed in the early 1950s, they have no illusion that foreigners can bring it to them. In fact, foreign intervention has brought them nothing but misery. "The US sowed the seeds of repression in Iran by deposing Mossadeq in 1953, and then helped bathe Iran in blood by giving Saddam Hussein generous military aid during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Militants in Washington who now want the US to intervene on behalf of Iranian protesters either are unaware of this history or delude themselves into thinking that Iranians have forgotten it. Some of them, in fact, are the same people who were demanding just last year that the US bomb Iran - an act which would have killed many of the brave young protesters they now hold up as heroes. "America's moral authority in Iran is all but non-existent. To the idea that the US should jump into the Tehran fray and help bring democracy to Iran, many Iranians would roll their eyes and say: 'We had a democracy here until you came in and crushed it!' "President Barack Obama seems to grasp this reality." The Huffington Post received a message from an 'ordinary Tehrani - the message was forwarded to an Iran-focused listserv in the hopes that it would find its way to officials in the American government. "During the last two or three decades not one American president had 'understood' Iran. All of them got caught in the traps of the mullahs, despite themselves having to play the bad cop .. but this time the intelligent president has decided not to join in their game, bravo. "It is normal that he is criticised vividly by most of the Los Angeles Iranians (and by most Republicans): since a long time they have been asking for just one thing : that America attack Iran and change the regime so that they get their possessions and their former jobs and privileges back, without wanting to know what today's young Iranian wants here and now. It makes me think of the Cubans in Florida ... they don't consider the interests of their country but only what is due to them." Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council said: "the Iranians are missing two words from Obama: 'I condemn.' Protesters and political leaders I've spoken to in Iran want the US to speak out forcefully against the government's human rights abuses and condemn the violence. Philosophical formulations about respecting the wishes of the Iranian people aren't enough: The president should clearly condemn the Iranian government's violations and use of brutal force against its own people. "After all, condemning violence is different from taking sides in Iran's election dispute. Not only would it be compatible with American values, it would also reduce pressure on the president to entangle the US in Iranian politics. Clarity on the human rights front strengthens the president's ability to avoid siding with any political faction in Iran. "Second, few in the US debate have taken note that Obama's pro-engagement, anticonfrontation approach may have directly contributed to the developments in Iran. President George W Bush sought to destabilise and bring about regime change in Iran for eight years through isolation, threats, and financial support for anti-Tehran groups. For all its labours, the Bush administration failed. The Iranian elite closed ranks, and hard-liners used the perceived threat from the US to clamp down on human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists. "Obama's diplomatic outreach and removal of this threat perception has not necessarily created fissures among the Iranian elite in and of itself, but it has weakened the glue that created unity among Iran's many political factions." Meanwhile, reporting on the political wrangling taking place at the highest levels inside Iran, EurasiaNet said: "A source familiar with the thinking of decision-makers in state agencies that have strong ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there is a sense among hardliners that a shoe is about to drop. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani - Iran's savviest political operator and an arch-enemy of Ayatollah Khamenei's - has kept out of the public spotlight since the rigged June 12 presidential election triggered the political crisis. The widespread belief is that Rafsanjani has been in the holy city of Qom, working to assemble a religious and political coalition to topple the supreme leader and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. " 'There is great apprehension among people in the supreme leader's [camp] about what Rafsanjani may pull,' said a source in Tehran who is familiar with hardliner thinking. 'They [the supreme leader and his supporters] are much more concerned about Rafsanjani than the mass movement on the streets.' "Ayatollah Khamenei now has a very big image problem among influential Shi'a clergymen. Over the course of the political crisis, stretching back to the days leading up to the election, Rafsanjani has succeeded in knocking the supreme leader off his pedestal by revealing Ayatollah Khamenei to be a political partisan rather than an above-the-fray spiritual leader. In other words, the supreme leader has become a divider, not a uniter. "Now that Ayatollah Khamenei has become inexorably connected to Ahmadinejad's power grab, many clerics are coming around to the idea that the current system needs to be changed. Among those who are now believed to be arrayed against Ayatollah Khamenei is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shi'a cleric in neighbouring Iraq. Rafsanjani is known to have met with Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani's representative in Iran, Javad Shahrestani. "A reformist website, Rooyeh, reported that Rafsanjani already had the support of nearly a majority of the Assembly of Experts, a body that constitutionally has the power to remove Ayatollah Khamenei. The report also indicated that Rafsanjani's lobbying efforts were continuing to bring more clerics over to his side. Rafsanjani's aim, the website added, is the establishment of a leadership council, comprising of three or more top religious leaders, to replace the institution of supreme leader. Shortly after it posted the report on Rafsanjani's efforts to establish a new collective leadership, government officials pulled the plug on Rooyeh."

pwoodward@thenational.ae