Sunday, June 19, 2005

World Peace Herald

World Peace Herald: "Interview: Rafsanjani runoff win may bring changes to Iran
By Shinkichi Suzuki and Hind el Hallage
Special to World Peace Herald
Published June 18, 2005

CAIRO -- Iran held presidential elections on Friday, but none of the seven candidates received a majority vote. The top two vote-getters will go into a runoff on June 24. World Peace Herald interviewed Mohamed Saeed Abdul Momen, head of strategic center of Iranian studies at Ain Shams University regarding his views on the Iranian elections.

Q: The presidential race in Iran has turned out to be a very close contest. Who will win in your opinion, and Why? What is your prospect for changes in Iran after a new president is electe?

A: If Hashemi Rafsanjani wins, there will be a remarkable change in Iran's system. Because of the existence of hard rivalry between him and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the top leader, Rafsanjani who is considered to be the second strongest leader in Iran will try to gain the upper-hand over Khamenei. For example, he aims at bringing the nuclear issues under his control. In addition, he aims to rewrite the constitution with regard to journalism so that more press freedom will be allowed and a new more democratic period will begin.

Also, we can notice that Rafsanjani has skills with media. He likes to give press interviews to different mass media. In addition, he knows very well that the difficulties he faced when he was elected for the sixth term in Islamic Shura Council were caused by journalists hostile to him.

Another subject matter in his first priorities will be free commerce. Rafsanjani used to promote commercial projects and economical ideologies. He has very good relations with bazaar men and private financial establishments. He will work on freedom of commerce, try to open up Iran's economy and activate the role of Iran in international economic organizations.

Rafsanjani seeks to continue the basic structural projects that he started during his previous term as president. This means he will not limit commercial activity. That is because he realizes how wealthy other countries in the region are. He is trying to be a commercial mediator between Central Asia, India and Pakistan, as well as a mediator between Gulf countries and the West.

The relationship with the U.S. will be another focus for Rafsanjani. He emphasizes that he is the only one who can retain good relations with U.S. and keep the relationship in balance.

It was known that Iran-U.S. relations represent a big problem for Iran's foreign policies. There are some extremists who consider the U.S. to be the main reason for Iranian problems and believe there will never be a mutual good relations between the two countries.

Rafsanjani has proven his ability to deal with U.S. He was able to solve some problems in his past presidential term. He was able to get tire parts for factories and built a Coca Cola factory in Iran as a symbol for his ability to convince Iran to deal with U.S. economically.

Q: Democracy of Iran is not perfect. It is limited by Islam. A few Islamic scholars control a large majority of the population. The clergy have the right to choose candidates. What do you think about this?

A: Iran is convinced that they should practice an Islamic democracy. Its Islamic democracy is from a Shiite point of view, not its general common meaning. The Iranian system chooses only one element of many political elements of Islamic ideology. This element is "rule by the Islamic scholar." They are convinced that the Islamic scholar is the most suitable ruler to guide people. Religious science, justice, and public acceptance are the conditions by which they choose this ruling scholar.

Q: The Iranian government insists that their nuclear development is for peace. However, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United States have stated that Iran cooperation was not enough. European countries and the entire world doubt Iran's intention now.

A: In the beginning, I would like to point out that Iranian nuclear program is not only a cultural issue but also it is related to the Iranian character and traditions. So it cannot be a matter for bargaining. For example, the nuclear issues were not used as the cards by which election candidates run with. The leader is the only one who takes care of these issues and constitutes a special scientific assembly for it.

This means that Iran talks seriously about continuing their nuclear projects. Yet, Iran is not in hurry to implement them. That is why they set up the projects in stages and adopted a "self-sufficient" strategy, wherby they do not import any nuclear materials or parts from abroad.

Bushehr nuclear power plant is no longer the basis of this project. Iran began to build more reactors in some difficult and undeveloped places that are characterized by difficult geographical terrain and near uranium fields. Iran possesses rich resources of uranium, which could be exploited commercially, Yet, Iran considers it a treasure for the nuclear projects.

Using nuclear energy to build huge economical projects proves that Iran aims for peace. Yet, the misunderstanding between Iran and the rest of the world comes from the traditions of the common Iranian character. Iranian personality believes in "El Takya" which means that person should hide his real feelings and appear to be well."