x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Mousavi's apparent concession splits Iran's conservatives

Some criticise the opposition leader's agenda for recognising the Ahmadinejad government, while others see it as conciliatory gesture.

TEHRAN // The opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's five-point New Year's Day proposal, in which he implicitly recognised the government of the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has divided the conservative establishment, with some moderate conservatives seeing it as a concession that could help resolve the ongoing political crisis.

The Mousavi proposal calls for revising the election law to guarantee fair competition, freeing political prisoners, guaranteeing freedom of press and recognising the right of the people to form political parties and to hold peaceful rallies. Mohsen Rezaie, a conservative, who like Mr Mousavi lost to Mr Ahmadinejad in June's presidential race, sent an open letter on Friday to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in which he said the proposal, although late, could lead to reconciliation. Mr Rezaie called on Ayatollah Khamenei to support Mr Mousavi's plan.

"A message from you or pronouncements in a speech can strengthen and continue the new move towards unity, unanimity, brotherhood, sacrifice and devotion in the society," Mr Rezaie wrote in the letter. Such a move by the supreme leader would help both supporters of the government and the opposition to make up for their mistakes and would prevent radicals in both groups from taking over, Mr Rezaie said.

Neither Ayatollah Khamenei nor Mr Ahmadinejad, who has been keeping a low profile as protests over the election have continued, reacted to Mr Mousavi's proposal for reform and reconciliation. In an editorial on Sunday, the hardline Kayhan newspaper chastised Mr Rezaie for publicising his letter to the supreme leader and alleged that the United States, Israeli media and all others who oppose the regime and Islam were delighted by his support for Mr Mousavi's plan.

The editorial called Mr Rezaie, who is a former chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards, a political simpleton and said he had been deceived by "the seditionists", a word commonly used to describe the opposition and its leaders. Ruhollah Hosseinian, the leader of the pro-Ahmadinejad faction in parliament, claimed Mr Rezaie and Mr Mousavi had conspired together in writing the proposal. "Unity is treachery if unity with the leaders of sedition - who are still beating on the drums of opposition and insist on their evil ways - is meant," he was quoted by the semi-official Fars News Agency as saying.

Mr Hosseinian also alleged that the Mr Rezaie's support for Mr Mousavi's proposal "will encourage the leaders of sedition to continue their crimes". Hardliners such as Ahmad Jannti, the chairman of the powerful Guardian Council, have demanded that opposition leaders be punished for inciting turmoil by claiming vote rigging in the elections and refusing to recognise the legitimacy of Mr Ahmadinejad's presidency.

On the other side of the dispute, some members of the opposition consider the adoption of Mr Mousavi's proposals the minimum requirement for resolving the post-election turmoil. Mr Mousavi's statement is "a pronunciation of immense goodwill and minimal demands" for resolving the current crisis and authorities will be facing dreadful consequences if they fail to exploit this opportunity, Abolfazl Fateh, the chairman of the media committee of Mr Mousavi's campaign, was reported as saying by Kalemeh, Mr Mousavi's official website.

Abbas Abdi, a prominent reformist journalist, said on Fararu, a moderate website: "Mousavi has thrown the ball into the rivals' field." The Islamic Participation Front in a statement made public on Sunday called on the regime to admit the existence of a crisis in the country and expressed its full support for Mr Mousavi's proposals. In his statement, Mr Mousavi dismissed any necessity for personally entering into negotiations with the government over his proposal or of making deals.

He also demanded the termination of "extraordinary support for the government", referring to Ayatollah Khamenei's broad support for Mr Ahmadinejad. Other appeals have been made to Ayatollah Khamenei to order measures to prevent the crisis from deepening. In a letter published by opposition website Jaras yesterday, 88 professors of Tehran University's technical faculty appealed to the supreme leader to order authorities to respect civil freedoms and legal rights guaranteed by the constitution.

The signatories also called on Ayatollah Khamenei to order the prosecution of security forces responsible for using violence on university campuses and the release of jailed opposition students. @Email:msinaiee@thenational.ae