Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Daily Star - Opinion Articles - It's Rafsanjani's moment, once again

The Daily Star - Opinion Articles - It's Rafsanjani's moment, once again: "It's Rafsanjani's moment, once again

By Mahan Abedin
Commentary by
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
The Iranian presidential election scheduled for June 17 promises to be much more exciting and competitive than had been anticipated. The are several prominent contenders, including Mohsen Rezai, the former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the former national police chief, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nezhad, the mayor of Tehran, Mustafa Moin, a former culture and higher education minister, Ali Larijani, the former head of state broadcasting, and of course Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former Iranian president and the current head of the Expediency Council.

It is Rafsanjani's bid for the presidency that makes the elections meaningful. After all, whoever succeeds President Mohammad Khatami will have to contend with a serious foreign policy challenge, namely relations with the United States, particularly over the nuclear issue, that has enormous implications for Iran's national security and geopolitical fortunes. A brilliantly instinctive politician, Rafsanjani implausibly declared that he had "reluctantly" agreed to again stand for office. While he has many friends and enemies, it is important to examine Rafsanjani's past record, if only to assess his suitability for the presidency.

Hashemi Rafsanjani has been a central figure at the commanding heights of the Iranian state for the past 26 years. His cool demeanor, Cheshire cat smile and public-speaking skills reflect impeccable political instincts. Rafsanjani's ability to fuse ideological conviction, foresight, coalition-building and political intrigue makes him the ultimate politician, and a unique one in modern Iranian history.

But Rafsanjani's political acumen is not what is in question. Hotly contested is his impact on Iranian politics and economy over the past quarter century. Rafsanjani is widely thought to have played a stabilizing role in the 1980s, helping to contain the more extreme passions of Iran's revolutionaries and thus consolidating the gains of the revolution. In his capacity as speaker of Parliament, he was a highly important balancing figure between the right-wing presidency of Ali Khamenei and the left-wing premiership of Mir Hossein Moussavi. Moreover, Rafsanjani's balancing act received added weight and credibility by virtue of the fact that he enjoyed the full support of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Some of Iran's reformists have tried to blemish Rafsanjani's record by pointing to his role in prolonging the Iran-Iraq war. The accusation is unfair, not least because the dynamics that determined the course of the war were incredibly complex and certainly impossible to reduce to the behavior of any single personality.

While Rafsanjani's record in the 1980s is often described as decisively constructive, the same assessment is not made of his record as president in the 1990s. Rafsanjani was elected in July 1989, only a month after the death of Khomeini, an event of epic importance in the history of post-revolutionary Iran. Despite this, Rafsanjani assumed the presidency with high expectations. Iranians anticipated massive reconstruction and regeneration after the losses sustained in the eight-year war with Iraq.

Their expectations were largely unfulfilled, as Rafsanjani proved to be a less than brilliant economic manager. Although his administration presided over large-scale privatizations, in reality many of the ventures were acquired by corrupt government cronies. With respect to broader macro-economic policies, Rafsanjani largely oversaw the dismantling of the gains made by the Moussavi government. For instance, the sudden removal of some subsidies had a terrible impact on the poorer classes, who constitute the core supporters of the Iranian revolution. The failure of Rafsanjani and the so-called "technocratic" faction loyal to him to implement the centerpiece of their economic reform program - namely reintroducing large-scale foreign investments - attested to the limits of the president's influence within the complex power structures of the Islamic Republic.

The Rafsanjani presidency was also a failure on the political front. Apart from the suppressive cultural climate of the 1990s (rooted in the gradual empowerment of right-wing factions), Rafsanjani, either through ignorance or willful neglect, enabled the emergence of "rogue" elements in the country's security and intelligence community. This culminated in the "serial" murders case of late 1998, which was a major embarrassment to the country's judicial and security authorities. Rafsanjani's critics allege that these developments were yet another reversal of the gains made in the 1980s, when for the first time in its modern history Iran had developed a disciplined and law-abiding security apparatus.

In hindsight it is clear that Rafsanjani's failure to deliver meaningful economic reforms and his inability to stem the influence of extreme right-wing factions were decisive factors in producing the Khatami phenomenon of 1997, which led to serious confrontations between the country's reform movement and entrenched ideological and commercial interests. However, eight years later and with the reform movement no longer a serious force in Iranian politics, Rafsanjani is geared for yet another comeback.

Although the lineup of presidential contenders is impressive and the election promises to be closely contested, it is unlikely that Rafsanjani will lose. In fact, given his enormous clout and influence, there is only one person in the country who could defeat him in a presidential race: the popular Mir Hossein Moussavi. But last year Moussavi indicated his intention not to run. His political posturing may indicate he intends to contest the presidential election of 2009, when he expects the country's political climate to be more favorable to his style of leadership.

Thus, we are almost assured of a Rafsanjani presidency for the next four years, a period that will likely be marked by serious diplomatic (and possibly military) confrontation between Iran and the U.S. Given that Iran is now faced with a serious external threat, Rafsanjani is probably the right man for the presidency. His mastery of political intrigue and diplomatic maneuvering will certainly trouble Washington, which seems determined to deny Iran the right to develop a nuclear infrastructure.

Looking beyond the next four years, however, it is quite possible that Rafsanjani will not run in 2009. If so, that would make him the first Iranian president since October 1981 not to complete eight years in office. Rafsanjani will be 74 in 2009, and by then the reformists will have surely regrouped under a new credible leadership, possibly under Moussavi. It is thus difficult to escape the conclusion that Rafsanjani is being propelled into the presidency to normalize Iran's geopolitical environment and help avoid a catastrophic confrontation with the Americans.

Mahan Abedin is editor of Terrorism Monitor, which is published by the Jamestown Foundation, a nonprofit organization specializing in research and analysis on conflict and instability in Eurasia. The views expressed here are his own. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR."

Mohammad Reza Bahonar - Third Iranian rightist victory awaited

Iran News - Third Iranian rightist victory awaited: "Third Iranian rightist victory awaited

Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - ©2005 IranMania.com
LONDON, May 31 (IranMania) - A top rightist activist said after winning the council and parliamentary elections, it is important for conservatives to clinch victory in the ninth presidential elections because people will gain nothing from lack of harmony between the executive and legislative branches.

Speaking to members of bazaar and guild associations, Mohammad Reza Bahonar said the failure to succeed on the ’third stage’ would foil the past two achievements, according to Iran Daily.

“The executive branch is mainly responsible for events that occur at the national level and has the most impact on our social lives,“ he said.

Noting that having a non-rightist president would be the “beginning of troubles“, Bahonar, who is also the first vice speaker, said the people are tired of constant, unhelpful political bickering among members of the majority faction.

On Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s candidacy, he said the former president is one of the top trusted revolutionary figures. “We want him to stay on the scene, but insist at the same time that younger people should be allowed a bigger role in running state affairs.“

Bahonar also said we need to reach a point where the country can be run in the best manner even when it is not possible to use Rafsanjani’s political skills."

Rafsanjani Pledges 'Interactive' Diplomacy

Rafsanjani Pledges �Interactive� Diplomacy: "Rafsanjani Pledges ‘Interactive’ Diplomacy

Siavosh Ghazi
Agence France Presse, Arab News
TEHRAN, 31 May 2005 — Leading Iranian presidential candidate Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani released his election manifesto yesterday, promising an “interactive and constructive diplomacy” but without mentioning relations with the United States.

In a 24-page “pact with the people”, the top cleric also vowed to “effectively” defend human rights, improve freedom of speech, boost the role of women in public life, solve unemployment, press on with privatizations and lure more foreign investors. The presidential election takes place on June 17.

Rafsanjani, seen as a pragmatic conservative who favors improved ties with the outside world, said that “the foreign policy of the government must be founded on an “active, interactive and constructive diplomacy”.

But conspicuously absent from the lengthy text was any reference to the United States - with whom relations have been cut since 1980. The issue of ties with the United States remains highly contentious, and is in principle a matter that can only be decided upon by supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

Although Khamenei is seen as resisting any thaw in relation with Washington, there has been mounting speculation that Rafsanjani — who has gained a reputation of being a savvy deal maker — may be prepared to address the subject if he wins. Rafsanjani’s only other comment on the future of Iran’s relations with the West was that he intended to “develop political and economic relations with industrialized countries and use their technology and capital to the best of our common interests.”

Reaching out to Iran’s women, Rafsanjani — who has already served as Iran’s president from 1989 to 1997 —promised to “increase the role of women in national decision-making.” Regarding individual rights, he pledged to “prevent the government from intervening in private life”, “protect individual and public rights”, “reinforce freedom of expression by improving the status of the press within the constitution” and “effectively defend human rights and freedoms that are enshrined in the constitution.”

Rafsanjani said that he also wanted to “solve the unemployment problem”, “control inflation and raise the purchasing power of Iranians”, bring in foreign investment and liberalize and privatize parts of the state-dominated economy. Improving social security was also mentioned. Campaigning for the election is already under way, with informal opinion polls in the national press — to be taken with a pinch of salt — putting Rafsanjani ahead. The hard-line candidates are Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Ali Larijani, Mahmud Ahmadi Nejad and Mohsen Rezai plus moderate former Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karoubi."

Jerusalem Post | Rafsanjani vows to open Iran to the world

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World: "

JPost.com » Middle East » Article
Jun. 1, 2005 0:10
Rafsanjani vows to open Iran to the world
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
TEHRAN, Iran
Iran's leading presidential candidate campaigned Tuesday on a promise to open his country to the world, a vision that apparently contradicts the goals of the country's supreme leader.

"We need to think global since globalization is a reality and not a foreign-made (concept)," said Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president and front-runner in the June 17 elections.

"Iran needs a new form of communication with the world. We have to take the international climate into account and take advantage of it," the 70-year-old Rafsanjani said.

Rafsanjani is running his domestic campaign under the slogan, "Let's work together," interpreted as a reconciliation gesture as he has moved frequently between the hard-line and more moderate camps.

His globalization comments contradict the views expressed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called on Iranians to elect an anti-Western president.

Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, denied that he backs a certain candidate, though half of the eight men running for president are strongly loyal to him.

"Some people may say that I support a particular candidate but it is not right," state-run television quoted Khamenei as saying Tuesday. "I have just one vote and nobody will know for whom it will be cast in the ballot box on the election day.""

Iran News - Iran's POLL WATCH: Praise for Rafsanjani

Iran News - Iran's POLL WATCH: Praise for Rafsanjani: "Iran's POLL WATCH: Praise for Rafsanjani

Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - ©2005 IranMania.com
LONDON, May 31 (IranMania) - A member of the Executives of Construction Party said the presence of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the June 17 presidential race helps fortify the foundations of democracy in the country, Iran Daily reported.

Speaking to IRNA, Mohammad Atriyanfar added that Rafsanjani’s candidacy will also help increase the voter turnout.

“Based on surveys conducted so far, some 33% of potential voters will vote for Rafsanjani,“ he said.

Stressing that Rafsanjani will form his cabinet on the basis of national interests and competence upon election, Atriyanfar said, “It is obvious that he will not grant anybody any privilege and will use the services of all effective forces in his administration. If necessary, he will even use nationalist-religious forces or members of the banned Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI).“

High Turnout Can Foil Plots
Defense Minister Vice Admiral Ali Shamkhani on Monday said the presidential race will influence nuclear negotiations as well as all areas related with national security, ISNA reported.

Speaking to reporters, Shamkhani said, “High voter turnout can help foil international plots against the Islamic system.“

Commenting on the campaign mottoes of candidates, he said, “Since I am a military man I do not want to judge the slogans, but the person who has not even been the director general of an office cannot speak about peace and employment. Many neither know how to overcome unemployment, about the financial resources available to the government nor how to use the experiences of past administrations.“

Identify Assailants!
Head of Mehdi Karroubi’s Election Headquarters called on officials of Hamedan province to firmly confront people who attacked student members of the headquarters.

Speaking to IRNA on Monday, Massoud Hesami added, “Members of the headquarters’ Student Committee were attacked on Sunday night after leaving the venue where Karroubi delivered a speech.“

Hesami emphasized that the sine qua non for continuation of campaign activities of all presidential aspirants is identifying the perpetrators of this offense.

Qalibaf Eying First-Time Voters
Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said on Monday he has placed high hopes on first-time voters, IRNA reported.

Responding to reporters on the sidelines of a roundtable themed “Challenges and Exigencies“, Qalibaf said, “I have not heard anything about Mohsen Rezaei withdrawing in my favor.“

Asked whether the leader thinks he is capable of becoming the next president, he said, “The leader does not interfere in such considerations. For him the important issue is maximum public turnout and the people have the right to choose.“

He asserted that when the president assumes his duties, his life should be such that it complies with that of the middle class.

On whether the number of votes garnered by the next president affects his powers, he said, “Maximum public participation is important.“"

Iran makes ballistic missile breakthrough - Sify.com

Iran makes ballistic missile breakthrough - Sify.com: "Iran makes ballistic missile breakthrough

Tuesday, 31 May , 2005, 18:18
Tehran: Iran announced Tuesday it had successfully tested a new solid fuel missile motor for its arsenal of medium-range ballistic missiles, a technological breakthrough that sparked fresh alarm in Israel.

"It was a test of a motor and not a test of a missile," a defence ministry official told AFP, clarifying earlier reports in the Iranian press that a missile itself was tested on Sunday.

A defence ministry statement quoted Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani as saying that "the more durable fuel allows the missile to be more accurate", and said the new technology could be built into Iran's Shahab-3 missiles.

The test was "100 percent successful", Shamkhani said. The ministry also denied a report on Iranian state television that a "two-stage rocket motor" - in theory for a missile capable of hitting Europe - had been tested.

Iran says the Shahab-3 has a range of at least 2,000 kilometres (1,280 miles) - meaning that arch-enemy Israel and US bases in the region are well within range.

The country has recently upgraded the Shahab-3 ballistic missile, a single-stage device believed to be based on a North Korean design. Up to now it has been based on liquid-fuel technology.

Military experts contacted by AFP said the test, if indeed successful, would signify an important breakthrough for the Islamic republic's missile programme.

Firstly, in order to develop a missile with a range greater than 2,000 kilometres - in effect a two-stage rocket - a country needs to master the more complex solid fuel technology.

Iran has, however, denied developing a missile with a reach beyond the Middle East region.

"The maximum range of a single stage missile is around 2,000 kilometers. In order to send a missile further, you need a twin stage design that separates in mid flight," said one analyst.

"This separation is very complex, and in order to maintain the accuracy of the missile, it needs to be using solid fuel. In very simplistic terms, think of a liquid fuel missile as a bottle of mineral water - the liquid is sloshing around and makes the bottle unstable," he said.

"And even if the missile is only a single stage design, solid fuel makes it more accurate," he added.

Secondly, solid fuel missiles of all ranges are more mobile and can be deployed far more quickly than liquid fuel devices, which need to filled up immediately before they are launched.

"It makes the missiles far more portable. It makes missile deployment much quicker. It makes missile deployment teams ," a military analyst said.

Tehran's rapid progress on its ballistic missile programme is a major cause for concern among the international community, particularly Israel, which is already alarmed over Iran's nuclear activities.

Britain, France and Germany are currently engaged in a tough diplomatic effort to resolve the nuclear issue without recourse to the UN Security Council and possible sanctions.

In a quick reaction to the latest Iranian test, Israel warned the "free world to beware of Iran's plans".

"We are closely monitoring these worrying projects being plotted in Iran," said one senior Israeli official contacted by AFP.

"Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon and is developing its vectors to this end. Its ballistic missiles do not only threaten Israel: they can also be turned on Europe," he added.

Iran insists it is not seeking to develop missiles with a longer range than the Shahab-3, and has denied allegations that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. The country says its missiles will only be tipped with conventional warheads.

But many are not convinced: as one Western diplomat in Iran has remarked, "why develop a Rolls Royce to only deliver a pizza?""