PARIS, 29 Aug. (IPS) Like Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, the 49 years-old Mayor of Tehran who created surprise by beating one of Iran’s most powerful, influential and richest clerics in Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the second round of presidential elections, the Majles, or the Iranian Parliament also created its own surprise when, on Wednesday 24 August, rejected 4 out 21 personalities the new President has proposed as ministers.
“This was another political tsunami, an event that is unprecedented in the political history of post Revolution that can have deep impact on the nation’s political atmosphere”, one analyst told Iran Press Service, pointing out that the Majles refused its confidence to the people who were among the closest to the President.
This was another political tsunami, an event that is unprecedented in the political history of post Revolution that can have deep impact on the nation’s political atmosphere.
Not only this was the first time in past decades that lawmakers refused confidence to ministers proposed by the president for his first government, but also it was the first time that a Majles controlled by the ruling conservatives humiliated a president that belongs to the same wing of the Iran’s clerical-led Establishment and whom had urged the lawmakers to give his nominees “the highest votes possible” and had ruled out the possibility that “even one nominee” be rejected.
Though it was expected that some lower-ranked proposed ministers would not win the approval of the Majles, (as seen by IPS), but what surprised most observers was the rejection of Mr. Ali Sa’idlou, the President’s right hand man when he was Mayor of Tehran, for the important Oil ministry.
The three other proposed ministers rejected by the Majles were those for National Education, Welfare and Cooperatives, the last two also close assistants of the new President at the Tehran City Council.
Lawmakers did not only criticised most of Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad’s nominees for their lack of experience in running macro economics or big administrations, they also objected to their backgrounds, as the majority of them come from the ranks of the revolutionary guards, like the president himself, or the intelligence community.
“Being an intelligence official, placing this man at the head of Interior ministry would make the political atmosphere of the country security-oriented”, observed Mr. Elias Naderan referring to Hojjatoleslam Mostafa Pourhammadi, who had served as deputy intelligence minister under Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahiyan, considered as responsible for the assassination of several popular politicians and intellectuals.
Emad Afrough went even further and warned of possible plots in the making. "From the womb of Constitution (of 1907) came the government of Reza Khan (the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty that was toppled by the Islamic revolution of 1979). From the womb of Oil Nationalization came the CIA coup (of 1953 toppling the nationalist Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq). It is quite possible that from the womb of this (extremist) government would emerge liberalism” (a word dreaded by the ruling Iranian officials, both turbaned and non-turbaned).
To what Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad, an islamo-populist in the strict line of Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the orthodox leader of the theocratic regime immediately reacted, saying vehemently that there is “no place in the Islamic Republic for liberals and liberalism”.
In order to cool down the shocked President, the Speaker of the House, Qolamali Haddad Adel said the vote of no confidence is “the sign of independence and the power of the Majles” and should not be interpreted as an insult to the President or lack of confidence in the Government, with which, he assured, there will “be a full cooperation and understanding in the future, as both branches shares same ideals, objectives and policies”.
“From the outset, there were those who had propagated that contrary debates in the Majles about the proposed ministers are for the façade, a ploy, a war of jewellers and were confident that all the nominees would be voted in. Now, one clearly see that the Majles also has created surprise by rejecting four ministers for the first time”, added Mohammad Reza Bahonar, the first vice-Speaker.
Another phenomenon that surprised analysts was the silence of the so-called reformist minority during the debates:
“What was behind the absence of the reformists from the debates? Why they did not budged about the nomination of a man whose role in the assassination of so many intellectuals and politicians is obvious, leaving it to one lawmaker from the conservative majority? Was it because of their fear or the futility of any objection?”, asked Mr. Kamran Safa’i in the news website “Roshangari”.
Nevertheless, the “revolt” of the Majles shows that at a time that the country faces major problems at home, a dangerous unemployment situation hitting more than five millions, a stagnating, cumbersome, hugely centralised economy making the State the world’s biggest employer with more than 2 million employees and dependent at more than 80 per cent to oil exports in the one hand and renewed tensions with the international community on Iran’s nuclear ambitions on the other, the ruling conservatives that are now controlling all the three powers are running towards serious rifts, if not fratricide wars that could lead to a real militarization of the nation.
“At a time that major crisis are looming ahead, crisis that Iran can not afford, this is a Government of facing crisis not by diplomacy and wisdom but by the sword of the military and the intelligence and security machines”, Mr. Safa’i predicted.
Another phenomenon that surprised analysts was the silence of the so-called reformist minority during the debates.
Hence, Tehran’s new intransigent attitude towards its three European nuclear interlocutors, namely Britain, France and Germany that Mr. Ardeshir Larijani, the elder brother of the new Secretary to the Supreme Council on National Security (SCNS) describes as the “word’s most savage nations”.
"Those very countries that should be thankful for our contribution to their economic success, now act as if we owe them something. On political issues, they go so far as to interfere in our domestic politics", Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad stated during an address to the Majles, adding that such international "tyranny and injustice" was unacceptable to Tehran.
He was referring to the “package” of nuclear, trade and political cooperation the EU 3 had offered Tehran beginning this month of August but was bluntly rejected by Iran as “meaningless and void of value” since it did not mentioned the “right of Iran to enriching uranium”, the most important step for producing fuel for either nuclear reactors or making an atomic weapon.
Realising that they have the winds of international economic and political conjunctures at their back, -- the Americans engulfed in the Iraqi quagmire, a barrel of crude reaching the 70 dollars and the Russians and Chinese opposed to any harsh economic sanctions by the United Nations and the fact that the World Body does not want a major crisis tarnishing its scheduled “millenary Summit” on 14 September in New York-- the Iranians increased the stakes by officially resuming activities on the Uranium Conversion Facility centre situated near the historic city of Esfahan in central Iran on 8 August.
Ignoring majestically the call by the European Union’s Big 3 and the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to stop the process, Iran escalated the tension by warning that it might no more consider the European Troika as its sole nuclear negotiator.
"Based on what logic and agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency have the negotiations been limited and dependent on the three European countries?”, asked Mr. Larijani during a television interview before going to Vienna on Friday 26 August meeting with the IAEA Chief Mohammad ElBarade’i.
"Who does the EU3 represent in the negotiations? Is it the (IAEA) board of governors, the EU, the United Nations or themselves?" he added reacting to the EU’s decision to cancel a meeting with the Iranians set for 31 of August, noting that Tehran has not respected its earlier engagements of keeping sensitive nuclear activities suspended.
Larijani, one of the seven presidential candidates who did very poorly said he had good talks with ElBarade’i and stressed that from now, Iran would consider the IAEA’s regulations as its main criteria.
But he said other countries (like the Non Aligned Movement member of the IAEA Board of Directors that also includes the United States, which accuses Iran of preparing secretly atomic weapons) should get involved and named South Africa as an example.
“Negotiations (about Iranian nuclear projects) should not be exclusive and monopolized therefore we believe other capacities should be utilized", he said, adding however: "We consider the negotiations with the Europeans positive and still believe they can be positive”.
This point and another Iranian “traditional” song that “in case talks are interrupted, the West would be more harmed than Iran” are questioned by Mr. Mehran Karimi in the moderate newspaper “Sharq” (Orient), which, in an editorial on Saturday 27 August, said that quitting the negotiation table with the EU3 would bring even closer Europe and the United States and pave the ground for an international action against the Islamic Republic.
“Furthermore, not only our decision has destroyed the wall of trust that was painstakingly built between Iran and the three European nations, but also would add to the world’s suspicions about our nuclear intentions but also who says new negotiators would be better than the three big European nations and who knows that what their prices from Iran would be?”, the newspaper added.
In an interview with the official Iranian news agency IRNA, Mr. Larijani accused Western powers and the United States of efforts to forming a “nuclear apartheid” or an “atomic OPEC” aimed at keeping in their hands the strict monopoly of nuclear technology by depriving others from that source of energy.
“The (Iranian) President has innovations of his own. But considering that he is new, one must give him enough time to present his proposals and meantime, one can continue talking”, the former boss of the Iranian State-owned, conservatives-controlled Radio and Television told IRNA, but at the same time he warned against creating an “atmosphere of threats” that would “certainly lead to new obstacles and problems for the region”.
"Who does the EU3 represent in the negotiations? Is it the (IAEA) board of governors, the EU, the United Nations or themselves
And on his return to Tehran, he indicated that “some changes” are obvious in the conduct of Iran’s nuclear negotiations, “based” on the changes in Iranian government and the present situation of the talks and reiterated that the “right of Iran to nuclear technologies must be taken into account”.
“I told Mr. ElBaradeh’i that there is no way for us to stop full nuclear cycle activities and assured him about the peaceful aspect of our projects as well as our readiness to give all the assurances and guarantees the IAEA would ask”, he told reporters.
Waiting for Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad’s “initiatives” that according to the new hard line Iranian Chief Negotiator would be ready in one month in the one hand and the report of Mr. ElBarade’i on the Iranian nuclear issue to be presented to the IAEA’s Board of Directors on 9 September on the other, the EU3, in tandem with Washington, called off an extraordinary meeting of the IAEA’s directors scheduled for 6 September while leaving left the doors open to further talks.
“The door is open, our hands stretched, and so we are completely open to contacts with the Iranians and such contacts could occur any time”, France’s Foreign Affairs spokesman Jean Baptiste Mattei told reporters last week during the daily press briefing.
“Actually, the threat of ending the talks, as suggested by the European Troika, if put into motion, could be a golden occasion for Iran, helping it to give more impetus to its negotiations with the IAEA and bringing in other members of board of directors”, Mr. Zia’eddine Ehtesham observed on 28 August in the Baztab news website that belongs to Mr. Mohsen Reza’i, the Secretary of the Expediency Council and a former Commander of the Revolutionary Guards. ENDS ATO AHMADI NEZHAD CABINET 28805.