Rouhani allies embrace censored reformers ahead of Iranian polls

Bloomberg reports: Allies of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are challenging restrictions on top reformist politicians as wrangling with conservative rivals heats up ahead of elections next year.

The state-run Ettelaat newspaper ran a front-page editorial last week criticizing as unlawful a ban on publishing the name and picture of former President Mohammad Khatami. A day earlier, Rouhani’s brother Hossein Fereydoun had visited opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi, who’s under house arrest and accused of sedition by hardliners.

Buoyed by Rouhani’s success in striking July’s nuclear deal with world powers in the face of domestic resistance, a reformist camp largely silenced since 2009 is showing signs of renewed ambition. Elections for parliament and the assembly that will choose Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s successor could embolden Rouhani, who’s seeking to control a majority in the legislature.

Infighting “is reaching the highest and most sensitive” level since Rouhani won a four-year term in 2013, said Alex Vatanka, a senior fellow at the Washington DC-based Middle East Institute. “How Rouhani chooses to respond to the hardline pushback against his agenda, and the degree to which he is successful, will be a major indicator of political life in Iran for the remainder of his presidency.” [Continue reading…]

Reuters adds: An Iranian committee is examining potential candidates to be the next Supreme Leader, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Sunday, breaking a taboo of talking publicly about succession in the Islamic Republic. [Continue reading…]

Earlier, the New York Times reported: Iran’s conservative judicial authorities indicted the managing editor of a prominent daily newspaper on Tuesday, saying that he had violated prohibitions on the coverage of Mohammad Khatami, a reformist-minded former president they now describe as a seditionist.

Rights activists said the indictment was a sign not only of the escalating repression of the news media in Iran, but also of heightening tensions between hard-line factions and the administration of the current president, Hassan Rouhani, with parliamentary elections due in February.

“It is absurd that Khatami, president for eight years, has been declared essentially nonexistent to such an extent that disseminating his picture and voice is considered a crime,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, an advocacy group based in New York. [Continue reading…]

Absurd indeed.

It is likewise absurd to view the factions that would try to enforce this kind of political repression as belonging to an “Axis of Resistance.”

Let’s hope that as Iran’s reformists once again grow in confidence, they don’t end up facing the same kind of ruthless oppression that strangled the Green Movement in 2009.

That was an uprising that deserved global support and only the regime’s most rigid loyalists could have viewed it otherwise.

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2 thoughts on “Rouhani allies embrace censored reformers ahead of Iranian polls

  1. Syd

    “That was an uprising that deserved global support…”

    What does that mean? Encouraging tweets? Funding? Arms? Troops? Most Western leaders — including Obama — condemned the crackdown, but Obama said he wasn’t more outspoken because he didn’t want to be a propaganda “tool” for the Ayatollah to use against the people. Whether you agree with him or not, it’s hard to see what positive action he could have taken that would have saved the protesters.

    In 2004, the Guardian started a project where British or Canadian readers would politely write to an American voter in a swing state and urge him/her not to vote for Bush. The furious reaction of Ohioans forced the Guardian to stop the campaign within days. With a few exceptions, global support for one political side or the other in most countries will elicit this xenophobic response. The Greens needed what every revolution requires — a divided security force. They didn’t have that, and we couldn’t give it to them.

    Perhaps if Obama had really wanted to help the green revolution, he should have feigned support for the regime, echoing President Carter’s words to the Shah just a year before the king was overthrown: “Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah [Ahmedinejad], is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world. This is a great tribute to you, Your Majesty, and to your leadership and to the respect and the admiration and love which your people give to you. “

  2. Paul Woodward Post author

    You’re right that there was little the U.S. govt could have done to support the Green Movement. What I’m referring to here is the lack of support from those in the West who couldn’t shed their attachment to the mythical Axis of Resistance. Since that attachment was rooted in antipathy for Western imperialism and Zionism, it was impossible for these Western armchair revolutionaries to express support for an authentic revolution even when millions of Iranians had taken to the streets.

    What many people can’t stomach is the fact that if genuine political reform takes place in Iran, it will likely end up forging stronger ties with the West. There is no clearer sign of corruption — so the thinking goes — than Western alignment. Corporate takeover is just a step away. From that perspective, it’s more desirable to see the Basij bludgeoning and shooting unarmed protesters.

    On the same basis and from the same quarters, Bashar al-Assad has enjoyed support or tolerance which derives from the notion that while destroying Syria he has also been standing up against Western imperialism.

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