Archiv der Kategorie: Ali Khamenei

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Did Khamenei blur his own red lines on sanctions?

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) at a hotel in Vienna, to discuss the nuclear deal, June 27, 2015.  (photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told a meeting of government officials June 23 that “economic, financial and banking sanctions — whether those imposed by the United Nations Security Council, those imposed by the U.S. Congress or those imposed by the U.S. administration — should immediately be lifted at the time of signing the agreement, and any remaining sanctions at reasonable intervals.”

The timing and pace of the lifting of sanctions remains one of the most vexing issues as negotiators meeting in Vienna aim to conclude an agreement by the June 30 deadline. While US officials took note of Khamenei’s remarks, a US official said, “What always matters most to us is what happens inside the negotiating room and if Iran upholds its commitments … as it has,” as reported by Laura Rozen, who is covering the nuclear talks from Vienna.

Mohammad Ali Shabani writes that unless Khamenei’s remarks, which appeared to draw even stricter red lines for a deal, are put in context, “It’s easy to misread what was said. In the same vein as his comments on Western penalties, Khamenei asserted that ‘the lifting of sanctions has different phases of implementation and we accept this,’ adding that ‚implementation of the lifting of sanctions should be in line with the implementation of Iran’s agreed commitments.’”

Shabani also wrote, “Oddly, in this case, Khamenei’s own media office seems to have abetted the mainstream reading of his remarks. Khamenei has two websites: and His crucial comment that ‘the lifting of sanctions has different phases of implementation and we accept this’ is omitted in both the English- and Persian-language transcripts of the speech on, while it’s only available in Persian on Al-Monitor was able to confirm this key remark after reviewing Persian-language video of the speech disseminated by”

Shabani clarifies what may be Iran’s interpretation of a “start date” for an agreement: “Speaking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, Iranian sources said nothing will be signed in Vienna, even if a deal is reached. They noted that the United States has its own domestic process for ratifying the deal, and that if it does, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) and Iran can start implementing commitments. According to the sources, this process will take time. The reduction of the number of centrifuges, for example, can’t be done in a matter of days. Moreover, as both sides begin taking measures, there will be a mechanism to ensure that on an agreed date, when the deal will be considered implemented, both sides will have lived up to their commitments. The Iranian sources said that Khamenei was referring to the date of implementation in his speech. They added that Iran still seeks UN Security Council issuing of a resolution endorsing the agreement.”

Khamenei made clear in his remarks his full support for those in the Iranian negotiating team, referring to them as “friends” and counseling critics within Iran that while the negotiators are not “infallible … we believe in their trustworthiness, their piety, their zeal and their courage.” Khamenei added, “If you were aware of the content and details of the negotiations and what happens there, then you would surely confirm part of what I am saying.”

Assad chooses his battles in Aleppo

Mohammed al-Khatieb reports this week from Aleppo that the Syrian government may be seeking to break rebel strongholds in northern Syria by leveraging Islamic State (IS) operations against Syrian rebel forces in those areas.

Khatieb observes that recent Syrian government airstrikes in the region have focused on territory controlled by Syrian opposition forces backed by the United States and its allies, while sparing those areas controlled by IS. There has at times been a muddled or confused understanding of the alleged relationship between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and IS. In November 2014, US Secretary of State John Kerry had said, “The Assad regime and [IS] are actually dependent on one another. That’s why Assad has relentlessly bombed areas held by the moderate opposition while doing almost nothing to hinder [IS‘] march.”

Khatieb’s analysis clarifies the alleged Assad-IS “dependency”: “Despite the fact that IS must be benefiting from these strikes, it cannot be said that Assad and IS are allies. The regime has fought IS before, incurring heavy losses in materiel and troops in August and September of 2014, when IS attacked the Tabaqa military airport and the Shaer oil field. What then drives Assad to help IS on the battlefield?

“There are two main reasons. The first is the region’s importance to the rebel forces. Aleppo’s northern countryside is considered to be one of the largest rebel strongholds with access to Turkey, as well as the rebels‘ only gateway to the city of Aleppo,” Khatieb writes.

Khatieb continues that international support for armed Syrian opposition groups also weighs in Assad’s calculations: “The second reason for the recent strikes against rebel areas is that the Assad regime faces two main foes in Syria: IS, against which the United States is leading an international coalition, and rebels backed by a variety of regional powers, most notably Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In that context, it is only logical that the regime would prefer eliminating an enemy that receives backing, weapons and funds from regional sources, and leave the task of weakening its primary enemy, IS, to the international coalition. Consequently, the regime’s presumed elimination of Syrian rebels would force the international community and the factions that back those rebels into allying themselves with Assad to finish off IS.”

Whbee: Israel “next target” for terrorists

On June 22, a mob near the Druze village of Majd al-Shams attacked an ambulance carrying two wounded Syrian rebel fighters to an Israeli hospital, killing one, and further escalating questions about Israel’s role in Syria.

Ben Caspit writes that since the incident “Israel has intensified its information campaign among the Druze in an effort to convince them that Israel is neither collaborating with nor aiding Jabhat al-Nusra fighters. Nevertheless, many members of the Druze community are convinced that most of the wounded Syrians taken for treatment in Israel are actually members of Jabhat al-Nusra. On June 11, that same group allegedly committed a massacre of Druze in northern Syria, where the community lives along the border with Turkey.”

Former Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Majallie Whbee, an Israeli Druze, told Mazal Mualem that while he believed that those Druze involved in the attack near Majd al-Shams had “some ties or other to the Syrian government,” Israel needs to be more alert to the threat from terrorist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and IS gaining ground in Syria.

“Israel’s leadership took time to wake up to the threat,” Whbee said. “At first, they were excited to see the Assad regime collapsing. They didn’t realize what would come to replace it. It is clear to me that Israel is the next target after Syria. Given that, what happened to the Yazidis and the Christians must not be allowed to happen to the Druze. Some people claim that the civil war in Syria will last years. In that case, Israel must take a deep breath and have its forces on the alert. If Bashar al-Assad falls in the near future, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] must be ready for much more extensive defensive measures along the border.”

Egypt charts new course on Syria

Ayah Aman reports, “Despite Turkey’s new alliance with Saudi Arabia on Syria, with both supporting jihadist movements there, Cairo’s diplomatic efforts appear geared toward countering or lessening Turkey’s active role in the conflict. At the same time, Egypt is taking steps toward rapprochement with Russia and is beginning to view Assad’s regime as part of a potential solution.

“The opposition conference in Cairo — which hosted new factions and excluded the Ankara-backed National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces — announced a new road map to resolve the crisis. The plan does not abolish Assad’s government, but stipulates that the only way to save Syria is through a negotiated political solution between opposition delegations and the regime under the auspices of the United Nations.”


Iran talks may go into overtime

Negotiators of Iran and six world powers face each other at a table in the historic basement of Palais Coburg Hotel in Vienna, April 24, 2015. (photo by REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader)

Negotiators are focused on the June 30 deadline for reaching a final Iran nuclear deal, but it is more important to get the details right and a good agreement, a senior US official said June 10, as some former US officials and experts suggested negotiations are likely to go into overtime, as each side waits to see if the other will make concessions as the deadline looms.

“Everyone in the room is focused on June 30,” the senior US administration official, speaking not for attribution to discuss the talks between six world powers and Iran, told a small group of reporters in a call June 10. “It doesn’t help any of us to delay difficult decisions. They get harder over time.”

“All of that said, our focus continues to be and always will be on getting the right agreement that is a good agreement,” the US official said. “We are focused on getting the right set of key parameters.”

An Iranian official described the Iranian position on the deadline in almost the same terms.

„We don’t intend to go beyond the deadline. At the same time, we are not pressurized by time,“ the senior Iranian official, speaking not for attribution, told Al-Monitor June 11. „We are determined to have a good deal.“

Lead US negotiator Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman returned to Vienna June 11, where expert teams from six world powers, the European Union and Iran have continued work drafting the technical annexes to a comprehensive deal. Lead EU negotiator Helga Schmid has also been meeting with Iranian Deputy Foreign Ministers Abbas Araghchi and Majid Takht-Ravanchi in Vienna this week, and they will be joined by Sherman and the other political directors from the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security council plus Germany) at a meeting June 12.

Progress in resolving the final remaining issues has been slow since the reaching of the framework deal in Lausanne, Switzerland, April 2, negotiators have said, even as they express overall cautious optimism about the trajectory of the final deal talks. They said it is a normal dynamic of negotiations that hard bargaining and compromise comes at the later stages and sometimes beyond. Tough issues in the post-Lausanne negotiations include how to resolve the International Atomic Energy Agency’s questions about possible past military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, having publicly forbidden the granting of access to scientists and military sites.

“As we expected, after Lausanne, the next portion of this process will be pretty tough,” the US official said, describing the end stage talks — as at earlier points in the negotiations — as something of a roller coaster.

“Events happening all over the world challenge this negotiation on a daily basis,” the US official said. “No time is better than the present to make these difficult decisions.”

Iranian negotiators, for their part, have suggested they are not overly concerned about the June 30 deadline, and said it is up to the other side not to raise excessive demands.

“If the opposite side does not come up with excessive demands, the negotiations will lead to a result by the announced deadline,” Ravanchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for European and American affairs, said at a meeting with the chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, Elmar Brok, in Iran June 7, Iran’s Press TV reported.

“We are not at the point where we can say that negotiations will be completed quickly … they will continue until the deadline and could continue beyond that,” Araghchi said May 27, Iran’s Al-Alam news agency reported.

Some current and former US officials believe the negotiations are likely to go at least into July, as both sides try to use the pressure of the deadline to see if the other side will make compromises first. While the United States would not like to see the negotiations drag out into the fall, the Iranians need to move to make the final decisions necessary to conclude the deal, current and former US officials say.

“Given the significant issues still unresolved as well as the crucial technical details still to be agreed, it is very hard to imagine that a satisfactory comprehensive agreement can be achieved by the June 30 deadline,“ former US Iran nuclear negotiator Robert Einhorn wrote in The National Interest this week.

“Indeed, Iran may be counting on the fast-approaching June 30 terminal date to put pressure on the United States to make concessions on unresolved issues and settle for less detailed technical annexes,” Einhorn added.

“But meeting US requirements for a sound agreement is clearly more important than meeting a self-imposed deadline,” Einhorn wrote. “Indeed, it is Iran, not the United States, that should feel pressure to finish this month. … The United States can well afford to take the additional several weeks, or even several months, to ensure that its requirements are met.”

Deadline brinkmanship is a normal dynamic in such negotiations, noted John Isaacs, a senior fellow at the Council for a Livable World and Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

“Both sides are withholding any final compromises until the last possible moment because they don’t want to have to compromise now and then compromise further later,” Isaacs told Al-Monitor June 11. “Both sides hope they will get a little more if they go beyond the deadline.”

Under the recently passed Corker-Cardin Iran review legislation, if the US administration does not submit the Iran accord to Congress for review until after July 9, then Congress gets 60 days versus 30 days to review it, meaning US sanctions relief would be delayed further.

In some ways, the Corker legislation, which was initially opposed by the Obama administration, “has punctured the pressure” on the US administration to conclude the deal by June 30, Isaacs said. “Congress now has a role. … They get a vote, whether the deal happens June 30 or July 15 or Aug. 15. In the meantime, there are lots of other things to deal with.”


AL Monitor| Does Iran really want all sanctions removed immediately?

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif talks to members of the media while walking through a courtyard at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel during an extended round of talks in Lausanne, April 1, 2015.  (photo by REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski)

As nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers in Lausanne continue past the soft deadline of March 31, Iranian officials have made statements regarding sanctions removal that may show more flexibility than previously assumed.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader who has final say on the nuclear program, has previously said that all sanctions on Iran must be removed and that the deal will not be a multistep deal. Members of parliament and other officials have also stated this. Presumably, this means that once a deal is signed, all nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be removed.

As with all other comments made by the supreme leader, competing sides attempt to interpret Ayatollah Khamenei’s statements through a bias that is beneficial to their own talking points. However, comments by Abbas Araghchi, one of Iran’s top negotiators, and Mehdi Mohammadi, a prominent conservative analyst whose views reflect the previous more hard-line nuclear negotiators in Iran, there appears to be a public consensus that not all sanctions will be removed at once but rather the removal of sanctions must be clearly stated.

Speaking from Lausanne to Iranian reporters April 1, Araghchi said: “We cannot have an agreement thatdoes not contain the removal of sanctions. Certainly all the sanctions must be removed but the sanctions have a wide range, both quantitatively and qualitatively. The topics and issues of sanctions are very diverse. The types of sanctions and the issuer of sanctions are diverse: the Security Council, the European Union and America. These have to be separated and it has to become clear in what order it will take place.”

Araghchi continued: “We insist that in the first step of the agreement all the financial, banking and oil sanctions be removed and find a clear framework for the removal of sanctions that are possibly associated with other parts. Either way, without a completely clear and precise outlook for the removal of sanctions, certainly we will not have an agreement.”

In a column titled “Dos and Don’ts of a Political Agreement,” Mohammadi also addressed the issue of sanctions, clarifying his views on how they should be removed. “All the sanctions have to be immediately removed after Iran implements its commitments within the framework of the final step,” he wrote. Second, “all the timing has to be in an fixed, clear and unconditional text.”

The article also referred to other instances of “final rounds” and “final steps,” implying that Iranian negotiators and analysts understand that, given the complex nature of how sanctions were applied, a very complex procedure would be required to remove them. This nuance may not be enough for some members of the six world powers, but it’s a clearer picture of what the Iranians are thinking regarding the removal of sanctions.

The official deadline for these nuclear talks is the end of June, though by the end of March there was supposed to be an announcement of a political framework agreement. There have been reports that as negotiators work around the clock there may be a press announcement rather than an announcement of a deal. Though given the confidential nature of the talks, and the conflicting information released by the various sides, this too may change.

Source: AL-Monitor

AL-Monitor| Kerry, Zarif hold all-night Iran negotiations

A late night view of the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel during an extended round of Iran nuclear talks in Lausanne, April 1, 2015. Major powers and Iran negotiated into the early hours of April 2 on Tehran’s nuclear program, two days past the deadline. (photo by REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski)

Lausanne, Switzerland — US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held marathon negotiations through the night that ended after 6 a.m. on the morning of April 2, as they tried to overcome final gaps for a political accord on an Iran nuclear deal. But Iran said the issues had not been totally resolved and what was likely to be issued later today or on April 3 is a press statement.

„We have examined all the solutions, which should provide the axis of a final accord between now and the end of June,” Zarif told Iranian journalists here on the morning of April 2. “The P5+1 [the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany] is studying them.“

Zarif added, „There will be a statement to the press that should be announced but the text still has to be worked on.“

Negotiators and ministers from the six world powers that comprise the P5+1 held a meeting among themselves after breakfast April 2, ahead of a meeting between Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Zarif, speaking ahead of those meetings, said the members of the P5+1 “have to examine among themselves the results of the negotiations” that were held overnight between him, Kerry and EU deputy negotiator Helga Schmid. “We don’t know yet the result of those discussions. … If these solutions are approved, it is expected that there will be a joint declaration made by me and Mrs. Mogherini and then we will start drawing up the text of a final agreement by the end of June.”

The White House said on April 1 that progress was being made at the talks here, but that as of yet there had not been sufficient movement from Iran on some issues to finalize the preliminary political agreement.

“The talks continue to be productive and progress is being made,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told journalists at the White House press briefing on April 1. “While the talks have been productive, we have not yet received the specific tangible commitment that the international community seeks,” he said.

“As long as we are in a position of convening serious talks that are making progress, … we would not arbitrarily or abruptly end them,” he added. “This is a very complicated situation and we want to be sure that … we’re clear about the details. The details in the situation matter significantly.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, announcing he was staying overnight in Lausanne on April 1 to continue the negotiations, said the onus was on Iran to offer ideas to close remaining gaps for an accord.

“Tonight there will be new proposals, new recommendations. I can’t predict whether that will be sufficient to enable an agreement to be reached,” Steinmeier, speaking in German, said according to a translation from Reuters. “I will remain here tonight and then tomorrow morning we will see how the situation develops.”

A collapse of the talks is possible, but so is the possibility of reaching an agreement, Steinmeier said.“Whoever negotiates has to accept the risk of collapse. But I say that in light of the convergence [of views] that we have achieved here in Switzerland, in Lausanne, it would be irresponsible to ignore possibility of reaching an agreement.”

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius returned to the Lausanne negotiations late April 1.

US and Iranian officials said the situation was still fluid, and they were not sure if the talks would end later on April 2 or possibly continue into April 3.

Source: Laura Rozen – AL-Monitor

Kurier| Khamenei: Der kranke Mann und die Bombe

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – Foto: AP/Uncredited

In Teheran ringt man um die Macht – mit oder ohne atomare Geheimpläne.

Selten war der Revolutionsführer so deutlich wie zum persischen Neujahr vor wenigen Tagen. Alle Iraner, verkündete Ali Khamenei, sollten sich hinter Präsident Rohani und dessen Verhandler im Atomstreit stellen. Ein Atomabkommen sei notwendig, vor allem aus einem Grund: „Die Sanktionen gegen Iran müssen danach sofort aufgehoben werden.“

Der 74-Jährige macht damit deutlich, worum es ihm und dem innersten Kreis der Macht in Teheran geht: Die über Jahre mehr und mehr verschärften Sanktionen der UNO, aber auch einzelner Staaten wie den USA, haben die iranische Wirtschaft inzwischen schwer geschädigt. Dazu kommen der dramatisch gefallene Ölpreis und eine anhaltende Trockenheit im Land. Man steckt in einer tiefen wirtschaftlichen Krise und die trifft inzwischen nicht nur die normale Bevölkerung, sondern auch die politische Elite: Das heißt auch Khamenei selbst. Immerhin soll das von einem seiner Söhne geleitete Firmenimperium der Familie etwa 90 Milliarden US-Dollar wert sein.

Krebs im Endstadium?

Für Khamenei wird die Zeit knapp. Dass er seit Jahren an Prostatakrebs erkrankt ist, hat die Führung in Teheran sogar offiziell gemacht. Dass er vor Kurzem neuerlich für längere Zeit ins Spital musste, machte nicht nur die Mächtigen im Iran merklich nervös. Plötzlich kursierten Gerüchte, der Revolutionsführer sei bereits tot – schafften es bald sogar in westliche und israelische Medien.


Mixed signals from Tehran

mixed signals2

Negotiating with Tehran is never an easy job due to the deluge of mixed signals of good will, promises, threats, evasions, insults etc… from all the leader/players (moderates and hardliners) as well as from each leader.

This is crucial and best exemplified in the person of Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – not only is he the final decision maker for life, he is also a master at sending mixed messages regarding his intentions on, well, pretty much everything.

Does Khamenei Want a Nuclear Deal?


Take the most burning issue concerning Iran right now, the nuclear talks: earlier this week, Reuters published a news piece saying that“Khamenei hints he’s ready to accept fair nuclear deal”, while on the same day, the BBC ran its own interpretation to the supreme leader’s  speech, choosing to headline their article with “Ayatollah Khamenei says ‘no deal better than bad deal‘. Same speech, different meanings.

Here’s a snippet of his speech that shows just how hard it is to read Khamenei:

  • “I would go along with any agreement that could be made” – YES.
  • “Of course, I am not for a bad deal” – MAYBE.
  • “No agreement is better than an agreement which runs contrary to our nation’s interests” – MAYBE NOT.
  • “The Iranian nation will not accept any excessive demands and illogical behavior” –NO.

Khamenei’s “nuclear fatwa” is a great example of his communicated ambivalence: The nuclear fatwa categorally denies the development and use of a nuclear arsenal (YES) but the fatwa is not written nor is it approved by parliament (MAYBE NOT).

Khamenei promises the world that Iran is peaceful by nature (YES) while at the same time he takes care to mention in nearly every speech his hatred for Israel and his plans to destroy it (NO).

So, he supports a nuclear deal (YES) but is ready to blow up negotiations (NO). He supports Rouhani (YES) but supports hardliners (no) as well. He can be optimistic (YES) and pessimistic  (NO) in the same sentence.


Freestyle Interpretations of Khamenei


Not only are the P5+1 leaders and negotiators baffled by Khamenei’s double talk: his leaders at home scramble constantly to interpret his intentions. Following his last speech on the issue of a nuclear deal, the Kayhan newspapers, which is traditionally viewed as Khamenei’s mouth piece supported by hardliners, ran an article that highlighted Khamenei’s comment regarding the wish for a “one-time comprehensive deal” while omitting his further comments regarding Iran’s current concessions following the interim deal. Khamenei did not shed any light on the newspapers’ interpretation.

The Iran newspaper, run by Rouhani’s administration ran  an article that not only focused on Khamenei’s support for a nuclear deal but also criticized the articles backed by the hardliner media stating “their economic and political interests are not [aligned] with the negotiations and an agreement” – and once again, Khamenei remains silent.

In the end of the day, despite the fact that he will retain his position for life, Khamenei is the ultimate politician who is acutely aware of his base of power. Every word is calculated so he can retain his political power with hardliners (his traditional base of power) as well as with the people of Iran by backing Rouhani’s (his ever-changing base of power) plans for change.

Source: Iran2407

Khamenei’s message to the West

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks live on television after casting his ballot in the Iranian presidential election in Tehran, June 12, 2009.  (photo by REUTERS/Caren Firouz)

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Jan. 21 posted an open letter to Western youth on his website, asking them to “gain direct and firsthand knowledge” about Islam instead of information based on “resentments and prejudices.” It might be the first time a senior Islamic cleric has directly addressed the youth of the West about his religion. The timing appears to have been an important factor in issuing the letter just two weeks after the Jan. 7 attack by Islamist extremists on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that set off a new wave of Islamophobia in the West, with anti-Islamization movements already gaining momentum, particularly in Germany and France.

The letter from Iran’s supreme leader arrived as a surprise, reflecting a new approach by the Islamic republic, whose first leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, had issued a fatwa calling for the death of the British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie for “The Satanic Verses,” a book regarded by Muslims worldwide as a provocation and blasphemous against Islam.

A Tehran source close to the supreme leader’s house told Al-Monitor, “This letter, which was written by Imam Khamenei himself, is aimed at reaching the youth of the West to tell them to read and understand Islam directly.” He also said, “It’s as important as the Salman Rushdie fatwa in the late ’80s. Imam Khamenei wants to build bridges with the future, with the youth, those who are going to be the leaders of the future.”

The source said Khamenei had insisted that the letter be circulated via social media, but that there had also been negotiations with several international newspapers to publish it. In the end, according to the source, “Talks failed because the letter had been circulating on social media before it could be published.”

The letter, published in six languages, appears to emerge from an envelope brimming with flowers and with rose petals scattered about. Of added interest, it is headed by the hashtag #letter4u, giving it the appearance of being from an ordinary social media user.

Sheikh Najaf Ali Mirzai, a professor and a lecturer in Qum at the clerical university, told Al-Monitor, “Hatred between West and East has reached its peak. It is the same between Islam and Christianity, between the Muslim world and the West.”

“It’s not all about Islamophobia. We also have ‚Westophobia.’ The letter was sent to present a logical solution, for a new approach and understanding,” Mirzai said. “It’s not an attempt to preach ideology, but an invitation to think, to rely on logic in building thoughts. That’s why he said he doesn’t assume his understanding is correct, but asks [readers] to understand the religion from its main sources.”

Khamenei’s letter might represent a new tack in relations with the West, but it can also be seen as a milestone in the Iranian approach inaugurated by the ascent of Hassan Rouhani, the first Iranian president since the 1979 revolution to talk to an American president, and the unfolding series of meetings around the world between Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry. The letter is a clear indication that Iran is changing its thinking and wants to engage with those whom it considers to be middle of the road.

Mirzai believes this new direction might help in smoothing the path of dialogue and intellectual exchange between Muslims and the West. “Ayatollah Khamenei is initiating a dialogue with [members of] a younger generation from a different religion and who are on the opposite side. Some of them view Islam as an evil, therefore I believe this is a step forward that will help reform the religious rhetoric toward the West,” he said.

“Before this letter, we were used to a different rhetoric. The Islamic approach was incompetent, poor, which helped in inciting Islamophobia. The old, classical, Eastern approach is one of the reasons why Daesh [the Islamic State] has succeeded in attracting Europeans and recruiting them,” he said.

Of course, Khamenei’s letter caught the attention of the Western media, with outlets discussing and analyzing its content. Iranians and Westerners on social media expressed mixed feelings toward it, with members from both camps supporting the message while others did not. There were also acknowledgments of surprise and astonishment, both positive and negative, at the letter’s direct tone. Some among the Westerners used the ayatollah’s hashtag to highlight allegations of human rights violations against the Islamic republic.

It is important to remember that this step by the supreme leader of Iran will not be left to stand alone. A decision has been made in Tehran to combat Islamophobia, and presenting the Iranian version of Islam as moderate is part of this orchestrated effort. The true test of the experiment will be how the leadership deals with the part involving “Westophobia.”

Source: image-from-the-document-manager

Is Iran’s supreme leader subject to oversight?

Clerics attend the biannual meeting of Iran’s Assembly of Experts in Tehran, March 6, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi)

Ali Motahari, an outspoken member of the Iranian parliament and son of the noted Islamic scholar Ayatollah Morteza Motahari (1920-79), openly accused the Assembly of Experts of negligence. Motahari argued that the body, consisting of 86 elected Islamic scholars, is responsible for overseeing the actions of Iran’s supreme leader.

“We do not have individuals above criticism in the country,” he said. “The responsibility of the Assembly of Experts is to supervise theperformance of the supreme leader and his subordinates, but we haven’t seen them approaching this subject.”

Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, Mashhad’s Friday prayer leader and a member of the assembly, fiercely countered Motahari’s assertions, saying, “The Assembly of Leadership Experts cannot supervise the leader’s performance because the leader [the guardian jurist] is the guardian of all [of us], and experts cannot supervise the performance of their own guardian … The leader is the guardian, and the experts are subjects of the authority … How can I supervise his actions when he is my guardian?”

Ayatollah Khamenei’s view

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has expressed two positions on this issue of supervision. In a 2000 gathering of university professors and students, he remarked, “No one is above supervision. Even the leader is not above supervision, let alone the organizations linked to the leader … Government by its very nature entails the accumulation of power and wealth. … As a result, they must be supervised. It is necessary to supervise government officials to make sure they resist their temptations and avoid corruption and misuse of public funds.”

In a 2006 interview, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the powerful Guardians Council and a member of the Assembly of Experts, explained that the assembly had decided to establish a number of committees to supervise the supreme leader’s subordinates. These committees covered various categories, including the judiciary and defense establishment in addition to national radio and television, among others. Jannati said the committees were necessary to determine whether the organizational conditions required of the leader, including administrative capabilities, were sufficient. The assembly took its findings to Ayatollah Khamenei.

Jannati said, “We had several meetings with the leader and discussed the issue, [and] he was not agreeable [to the idea].” According to him, Khamenei said, “You have to examine my performance, not my subsidiaries‘. “[If you conclude that] I have lost prudence … then you can take action.”

Then, in February 2012, Abbas Nabavi, a cleric with close ties to the influential and hard-line Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, revealed additional comments by Khamenei regarding supervision. In a letter to the Assembly of Experts, Khamenei said, “Supervision must begin from the point of the presence of the conditions required for leadership. First you should examine to see whether the leader continues to have the requirements [as stipulated in Article 109 of the constitution] or not. If the answer is yes, then I do not accept that you should go into the minute details. If the answer is no, then you must provide the reasons, and, for example, say that a specific condition is not fulfilled.”

Based on this statement, Khamenei in general accepts the idea of supervision of the leader by the assembly. He limits it, however, to whether the requirements of the leader are being maintained. According to Article 109, the essential qualifications of the supreme leader are justice and piety, political and social discernment, prudence, courage and administrative capability.

Legal and religious arguments

Chapter 8, Article 111, of the Iranian Constitution reads: “Whenever the leader becomes incapable of fulfilling his constitutional duties, or lobs one of the qualifications mentioned in articles 5 and 109, or it becomes known that he did not possess some of the qualifications initially, he will be dismissed. The authority of determination in this matter is vested with the experts specified in Article 108.”

Many clerics support Ayatollah Khamenei’s argument that Article 111 does not imply micro-supervision. Rather, they maintain that the text only authorizes macro-level examination of the supreme leader’s capabilities in general.

The oversight issue had been raised and discussed in 1989 during meetings of the Assembly for Revising the Constitution, a panel of 25 members tasked by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini with preparing the draft of amendments to the constitution for a general referendum. Many on the panel, including Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, were against the idea of the supreme leader being left to rule unsupervised. “No, really, how can the experts not supervise the performance of the leader and all of a sudden decide to dismiss him?”

According to the internal regulations of the Assembly of Experts, the seven-member Committee for Investigating and Supervising the Leader is tasked with providing advice to the supreme leader and with supervising the conditions and comportment of the leader on a continual basis. The committee reports to the assembly’s presiding board and, if two-thirds of the board and committee members agree, the assembly members are called for an extraordinary session to discuss whether it should take action with respect to the leader.

Despite this oversight mechanism, the supreme leader can, based on his understanding of the reality of day-to-day politics, potentially nullify decisions by the assembly, as Khamenei did in the case of the subcommittees. Some may argue that Iran’s leader uses his authority to influence the assembly’s decisions because the constitution’s Article 57 places all three branches of the government — the executive, legislative and judiciary — “under the purview of the absolute rule and leadership” of the supreme leader. One could counter, however, that the Assembly of Experts is not under the jurisdiction of any branch and is, therefore, not subject to his oversight.

According to Iran’s official religion, Twelver Shiism, no one, excluding the Prophet Muhammad, his daughter and the twelve Imams, is divinely free from error and sin. This principle, with the recognition that the leader himself is not immune from sin and error, is said to justify oversight by the Assembly of Experts. The effect of this principle also appears in Article 107, which states: „The leader is equal with the rest of the people of the country in the eyes of law.”

Ayatollah Khamenei, however, speaking on the extent of the authority of the guardian jurist in a fatwa, said, “According to Shiism, all Muslims have to obey the order of the guardian jurist and submit to his commands. This edict even applies to other grand ayatollahs, let alone their followers.” The vision outlined in this fatwa potentially neutralizes religious arguments supporting the leader’s supervision.


Against those who assert that the leader cannot be supervised because subjects cannot supervise their guardian, one could argue that Ayatollah Khamenei has stated that he does not reject supervision. In addition, oversight is, under Article 111’s description of the Assembly of Experts‘ role, constitutionally enshrined. Also, given the widely held religious principle that no individual escapes sin and error, no religious obstacle remains in justifying the leader’s supervision. Nevertheless, Ayatollah Khamenei’s interpretation of the role of the guardian jurist may supersede arguments supporting supervision.

Source: AI-Monitor

The two faces of modernity in Iran – analysis

How the 1979 revolution and eight-year war with Iraq modernised the country

Women in Tehran protest against the hijab in March 1979.
Women in Tehran protest against the hijab in March 1979. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

It is often thought that what is currently taking place in Iran, the continuation of what has unfolded there over the past three decades – violation of human rights, systematic discrimination against women, and belligerence toward the west – constitutes a rejection of modernity and its fruits. There are many reasons to find this view plausible. Soon after the victory of the Islamists in the revolution of 1979, most of the modernising efforts and institutions of the 55-year-old Pahlavi dynasty were either abandoned or completely reversed. Some of the most visible of these institutions pertained to women. During the rule of Mohammad Reza Shah, the state had taken some positive steps regarding the status and welfare of women. Some of the most flagrant institutionalised forms of discrimination and abuse were curbed, if not abolished, through the curtailing of arbitrary divorce by men, the institution of more women-friendly custody laws, and the restriction of polygyny.

With the establishment of the Islamic republic, most of the provisions of the Pahlavi era’s Family Protection Law were abandoned. Personal freedoms, which before the revolution were more or less tolerated, came under severe attack by the revolutionaries. Women were forced to don the hijab, and any form of resistance to the closely monitored dress codes for both men and women was met with harsh punishment, including public flogging. Ancient retribution laws that entailed the cutting off of thieves’ hands and the stoning of adulterers – which, in fact, had rarely been performed in medieval Iran – were enforced in many parts of the country.

Human rights, including freedom of belief, among the fundamental features of the modern world, received a fatal blow under the Islamic republic. Adherents of the Baha’i faith, for example, came under savage attack by the government and zealots soon after the revolution. Some 200 to 300 Baha’is were killed merely because they were not willing to recant their faith. Many more received long prison sentences. The property of thousands of Baha’is was confiscated and their children were deprived of education, especially of access to higher education. Even today many members of the Baha’i Faith face gross discrimination and many of their leaders are serving long prison sentences. After the brutal repression of the Green Movement, many more journalists, lawyers and civil society activists are in jail or under house arrest.

Iran's Dizin ski resort in March 2002.
Iran’s Dizin ski resort in March 2002. Photograph: Reuters

There is no doubt that the revolution and the Islamic republic that was established in its wake militated against and negated some of what we take to be the most important aspects of modernity. Yet, modernity is complex. Under closer analysis, it could become evident that what has been taking place in Iran over the past three decades might very well be the initial phases of modernity, whose emergence has often been Janus-faced in other parts of the world. The notion of modernity is a contentious one, surrounded by conflicting methods of analysis, value judgments, and sentiments.

Of particular relevance to Iran’s situation, there are some intellectual traditions that tend to view modernity in terms of transformations in the human psyche that empower individuals so that they are no longer passive, inactive, docile, compliant, idle, suffering, and resigned. From this point of view – shared in varying ways by philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, and Jürgen Habermas – modernity begins when a critical mass in a society abandons the life of passivity and acquires a sense of assertiveness, vigor, volition, resolve, and action. In a nutshell, modern people are not passive. They possess agency and power. They act upon the world. Moderns’ intervention in and acting upon nature constitutes the foundation of technology, which has liberated humans to some extent from the whims of nature and at the same time brought us close to thedestruction of both nature and ourselves.

Modern people also act upon society and politics as they assert their individual and collective power. This aspect of human agency and empowerment underlies the democratic institutions of modern societies. Democracy in the modern world is not possible without these fundamental transformations in the psyches of the people in a given society. We can install all the institutions of modern democracy, but without a critical mass in the society that has a sense of agency and empowerment these institutions will not survive. This happened in Iran (not to mention other countries) in the early 20th century. The Constitutional Revolution of 1906 laid the foundations of a restricted, constitutional monarchy, a parliament, a more or less free press, and free elections. But because a sense of agency and empowerment had not developed among the bulk of the Iranian people, none of these institutions could preserve their democratic character.. The Pahlavi period (1925-1979) witnessed some important degrees of development in the economy and education, as well as expansion of a centralised bureaucracy, military and urbanization. All of these promoted the sense of empowerment and agency among a growing number of Iranians, especially in the large cities and among the middle and the upper middle classes. Nevertheless, this sense of agency and thereby possessing human and citizenship rights was for the most part confined to the upper echelons of society and even among them it was experienced as a gift bestowed by the monarch and therefore not deeply internalized.

The observation may at first seem very counterintuitive, but the experience of Iran in the past three decades has brought a significant sense of agency and empowerment to average Iranians, especially those of the lower and lower middle classes. Ironically, this development may ultimately challenge the very existence of the Islamic republic as we know it. The revolution of 1979 galvanized and mobilized the “masses” of Iran like no other event in the country’s recent history. The participation of Iranians from all walks of life, especially the lower and lower middle classes, in political rallies, consciousness raising (as well as ideological indoctrination), formation of protest groups, and many other forms of social and political struggle toppled the Pahlavi dynasty. This collective action jolted ordinary Iranians and catapulted them into a form of agency, albeit rudimentary and contradictory.

The eight years of war with Iraq in the 1980s further promoted the sense of agency among Iran’s men, and to some extent its women (female participation in the war effort behind the front was significant). The conflict was inarguably devastating: it took a massive human toll, with between a quarter of million and one million Iranians killed or injured. It also further devastated what remained of the country’s physical infrastructure after the revolution. Yet, despite the massive human and physical damage that the war inflicted on Iran, it served to increase the sense of boldness and agency among its people.


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