By Safa Haeri, IPS Editor

PARIS 18 Dec. (IPS) With the Iranian ruling conservatives increasing their "iron fist" offensive against the reformers, analysts says the political configuration in Iran has reached such a point that the reform group must either put a bold challenge to the conservatives or accept its elimination from the political scene of the nation.

"For the time being, the reformers are swimming in a political pool filled by the conservatives and react to strategies drawn by this group. If the reform process is to continue, reformists should draw their own strategy separate from that of the conservatives", said Mr. Masha’allah Shamsolva’ezin, the editor of pro-reform dailies "Jame’eh", "Toos", "Neshat" and "Asr Azadegan", all banned one after another and himself freed from prison just a few weeks ago.

After having shut all but few reformist and independent publications, jailed or silenced leading journalists, commentators and intellectuals, banned nationalist-religious groups and limited drastically the activities of the once vibrant students organisations, the Iranian Islamic Judiciary which is controlled by the regime’s leader and acts as his police and political arms, has turned its wrath to reformist members of the Majles (Iranian Parliament) as well as top government officials, including ministers.

According to a reformist deputy, more than sixty MMs (Member of the Majles) are summoned to various courts. "Such an attitude towards the elected representatives of the people is unprecedented anywhere in the world", he observed, underlining the fact that by deliberately humiliating reformists deputies, the conservatives wants to show the people that under the present system of "Velayat Faqih", or the absolute rule of a clerical leader, the be or not to be of the reformists-controlled Majles has no importance.

After confirming the jail sentence pronounced against Mr. Mohammad Dadfar, Appeal Courts have also upheld condemnations passed on Mrs. Fatemeh Haqiatjoo, an outspoken deputy from Tehran and Mr. Hoseyn Loqmanian of the east northern city of Hamadan.

Earlier in the past week, Mr. Mohammad Salamati, the Secretary General of the Islamic Revolution Mojahedeen’s Organisation (IRMO), the largest group on the left of the Second Khordad Coalition (SKC) that supports President Mohammad Khatami’s promised reforms and Mr. Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, the former Governor of Kurdistan Province and the present Secretary of the cabinet have been sentenced to 26 and 6 month of prison respectively, accused of the same old "bundle" charges of propaganda and activities against the Islamic Republic, offending Islam, insulting the leader etc.

[Judge Sa’id Mortazavi, nicknamed the "Butcher of the Press" said on Tuesday that closure of "Asr Ma" depended on the court’s deliberation and as far as its Editor is concerned, as he has appealed to a first court ruling, he is free until the Appeals Courts decision on his case].

Mr. Mohsen Mirdamadi, Editor of "No Rooz" daily, considered as the organ of the Islamic Iran Participation Party, the largest of Iranian political formations who is also the leader of the Majles’s Foreign Affairs and National Security Committee is to appear in an Islamic revolutionary Court on Monday, accused of … "activity against the regime’s foreign policy" and "undermining national security".

And according to "Keyhan" newspaper, a mouthpiece of Ayatollah Khameneh’i edited by Mr. Hoseyn Shari’atmadar, a high-ranking official of the Intelligence Ministry specialising in confessing intellectual dissidents, Mr. Bizhan Namdar-Zanganeh, Mr. Es,haq Janhangiri and Mr. Mohsen Noorbakhsh, respectively ministers of Oil, Mines and Industries and General Director of the Central Bank are also to appear in court, in relation with an oil deal corruption case involving Mr. Behzad Nabavi, an influential reformist MM and one of the IRMO’s top leader.

All three have denied the paper’s allegation, but considering Mr. Shari’atmadari’s position and his close connections with both the leader and the Judiciary, one might bet that they are in the cyclone’s eye.

Mr. Salamati criticised the hostile attitude of the conservatives-controlled Judiciary against the reformists-dominated Legislative and Executive and accused it of weakening both the Majles and the government by summoning government ministers and deputies in various courts.

"At a time that the United States is increasing its military presence in Afghanistan, imposes a pro-American government of the Afghan people and reiterates that it would continue its attacks beyond Afghanistan, weakening the Executive and the Legislative (at the hand of the Judiciary) endangers (Iran’s) national security and is against the interests of the regime", he told the independent Students News Agency ISNA.

It is against such a gloomy background that most observers have reached the conclusion that five years after being initiated by Mr. Khatami, the reform process in Iran is in real danger, if not having reached its end.

In a recent statement issued after the closure of "Asr Ma" and the verdict passed on its Editor, Mr. Salamati, the IRMO said "with the conservatives having closed all doors for possible bargaining, it is high time to change the strategy of "active passivity" with that of "active resistance".

In his Tuesday telephone interview with the Persian service of Radio France Internationale (RFI), Mr. Shamsolva’ezin says the conservatives, working on a defined policy, have successfully cut the reform movement from its very social roots like the press or the students movements.

"Reform process is a very slow motion, progressive movement. If one wants to hasten its speed, it would get a revolutionary content that is contrary to its nature", he said, rejecting the idea that the process has lived.

But other analysts say as the conservatives have successfully blocked all reform programmes, using the key and strategic institutions they control, such as the Council of Guardians or the Judiciary, people, particularly the young ones have despaired from the lame and embattled President.

"Hoping they could advance the reforms by legal and peaceful means and ways, and backed by both the Majles and the government, the reformists are now facing a dead end situation", one political analyst said, adding that "except a serious confrontation with the conservatives that would give them an adrenaline, the reformists should accept their defeat and leave the political scene". ENDS CONSERVATIVES VERSUS REFORMISTS 181201