By Safa Haeri
LA HERRADURA (SOUTH OF SPAIN), 20 May (IPS) In a major shake up at the head of the Voice and Visage of the Islamic Republic (VVIR, or the Iranian Radio and Television Organisation), Mr. Ali Larijani, a personal friend of Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, is to leave the huge Organisation after ten years of controversial but iron fist rule over one of the most important bastions of the ruling conservatives.
The news about the departure of Mr. Larijani, a former officer of the Revolutionary Guards and his replacement by Mr. Ezzatollah Zarqami, one of the former islamist revolutionary students who stormed the American Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and taking 55 American diplomats and staff as hostages for 444 days, was first published by newspapers close to the conservative establishment immediately after Mr. Khameneh'i paid an unscheduled visit to the Radio and Television’s head quarters situated on a hill top in the posh district of north of the Capital Tehran.
Mr. Zarqami is one of the very few students who did not joined the leftist current that, after the victory of Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami in the presidential elections of May 1997 became known as the reformist movement.
“Among all the students who attacked the American Embassy, Mr. Zarqami who joined the Revolutionary Guards at the end of the occupation and worked there with Mr. Ali Larijani before becoming a Deputy Islamic Guidance Minister for Cinematographic Affairs, kept only one friend, namely Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, the current Mayor of Tehran”, wrote the pro-reformist daily “Sharq” under the title “Larijani Out, Zarqami In”.
Mr. Ezzatollah Zarqami is one of the former islamist revolutionary students who stormed the American Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and taking 55 American diplomats and staff as hostages for 444 days.
Like all other key or strategic institutions of the Islamic Republic, the State-owned Radio and Television are directly under the direct control of Ayatollah Khameneh'i and often, reflects his views and the policies of the conservatives, hence the anger of the reformists who are almost ignored and the majority of the Iranians that accuses the Organisation of being the propaganda tool of the ruling minority instead of an independent instrument at the service of the wider public, satisfying the needs of the viewers.
According to Iranian analysts, the change is significant, as it shows the will of the ruling conservatives to perpetuate their hold on power by bringing up new generation of decision-makers younger, less dogmatic, less politically motivated and at the same time more obedient to the ruling establishment and more in line with the founding principles of the Islamic Revolution, above all the principle of velayat motlaqeh faqih, or the absolute rule of the leader, the corner stone of the present Iranian theocratic system.
“The appointment of Mr. Zarqami is important for he and a few other officials represents the new generation of decision-makers. Total dedication to the principle of velayate faqih, past military presence at the (Iran-Iraq) War fronts especially membership at the Revolutionary Guards, youth, cooperation with institutions in charge of the safeguard of the political establishment (Intelligence Ministry, Revolutionary Guards or Islamic Revolution courts) as well as accepting the idea of khodi and nakhodi (one of ours and no ours) are the highlights of these new officials that due to their young age, one can describes them as the young neo conservatives”, the paper confirms, adding that the appointment of Mr. Zarqami as the new Head of the VVIR would “no doubt” reinforce the position of this young generation against that of the conservative’s old guard.
Under the generic name of the “Developers of Islamic Iran”, led by Mr. Qolamali Haddad Adel, a close relative of Mr. Khameneh'i likely to become the next Speaker of the Seventh Majles dominated by the “young neo-cons” -- and by the same token, would make history in becoming the first no-turbaned man sitting in this important position – is fully in line with the conservative’s new approach.
To many analysts, between Mr. Haddad Adel, Larijani and Ahmadi Nezhad, this later has the most chances to become Iran's next president and is already groomed by the conservatives for that job.
One of the important particularities of the new comers is, according to some political pundits, their relative desinteressement to foreign relations, giving the priority to domestic problems, and above all strengthening the “calamitous” situation and eroding power of the conservatives led by the Khameneh'i-Hashemi Rafsanjani duo, at a time that the Iranians have also lost all hopes with the reformists.
The appointment of Mr. Zarqami is important for he and a few other officials represents the new generation of decision-makers
Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani has already highlighted this change of priorities in speeches made immediately after the victory of the conservatives at the 20 February Legislative elections, reiterating that the new Majles would spent less of its time in “futile debates and factional confrontations”, concentrating more on satisfying people’s most urgent demands like job, security, justice and equity, issues that the conservatives accused the Khatami government of ignoring, giving the priority to enhance the regime’s image abroad, mostly with the Europeans.
“Going from the principle that power makes negotiations and bargaining easier, the new team that is emerging would take North Korea as a model of fait accompli, meaning less palabres with the International Atomic Energy Agency in the one hand and more efforts in finishing the nuclear bomb”, commented Mr. Nima Rashedan, a former Revolutionary Guards officer turned journalist, living now in Switzerland.
However, other observers said, the presence of Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati, the former Foreign Affairs Minister who now is serving as a special advisor to the leader on foreign relations having the upper hand on the Ministry would keep a lid over those who would take the risk of cutting bridges with important international organisations. “In fact, only one diplomat considered as khodi can take the making of foreign policy out of the hands of the militaries”, Sharq said.
Speaking with the Persian service of Radio France International, Mr. Rashedan warned that the appointment of Mr. Zarqami, the very example of a typical Revolutionary Guard’s elite would increase the support of the VVIR for extremist organisations such as the Lebanese Hezbollah or the Islamic Jihad of Palestine “without changing much for the viewers or the gteneral policies of the Organisation”. ENDS LARIJANI LEAVES VVIR 19504