Khameneh'i and Khatami in first open and public clash
By Safa Haeri
TEHRAN-PARIS 14TH Feb. (IPS) In an unprecedented verbal clash, the lamed leader and the embattled President of the Islamic Republic of Iran accused each other and the forces under their command for dangers that threaten the security of the regime.
In a strong speech made Monday to the Conference of "Public Security and National Unity", Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami openly pointed to "wide-range, carefully planned" efforts by a "narrow minded group" aimed at deceiving the people and keeping them out of the political life of the nation, warned that "the day people concludes that the dirty hands that are at work for their desperation have succeeded, then no force, being it military, police, security or even judiciary could safeguard the country".
"Till the day the people, the women and young men who are the real owner of this country and the revolution and are aware of this fact, are in the arena, the fundament of the nation's security are safe and strong, but once they reach the conclusion that a group that is imposing its will and present a one way interpretation of security are immune, then both the regime and the nation are doomed", Mr. Khatami said.
Analysts said so far, the address was the strongest and the most direct attack the President has made against the conservatives and their leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i.
They also interpreted it as Mr. Khatami's intention to enter the forthcoming presidential race due next June, in an effort to recover the popularity he used to enjoy but that has almost vanished as a result of his constant yielding and bowing to the conservatives offensives.
"There are two different interpretations of security: One that is limited to the form, not the content, to a one sided security based on the absence of different views, on monotony and disregard of complexities attached to the problem of security, ignoring natural tensions of different orders in the society, in one word, a superficial tranquillity that exposes the society to explosion and the one that is a real, fundamental security based not only on the existence of natural differences but also accepting them and encouraging debates", Mr. Khatami argued.
He reiterated that the biggest "corrupting danger" that threatens the society comes from the "abuse of power", an open reference to the conservatives who, despite their landslide defeat in all the last elections, yet continue to rule, mostly thanks to the unlimited powers placed in the hands of the leader.
Insisting on the importance of civilian structures such as political parties, unions, associations and formations "with identities" and emphasising that the more these kind of forces are consolidated, the more the society, the state and the system become stronger, Mr. Khatami said "otherwise, the society has no other choice than to submit to unidentified gangs that hide themselves behind general problems like Islam, revolution's values or freedom and progress, a phenomena that brings more tension between individuals and groups and leads to one interpreting that religion is in contradiction with freedom, as we are unfortunately witnessing its disastrous effects on our society", he added.
In a clear reference to "destructive" views voiced mostly by Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, who says opponents of the regime must be jailed and crushed "without hesitation" and those who question Islam's laws must be killed by the faithful "without referring to courts or waiting for authorisation from the government", Mr. Khatami asked vehemently how comes that in a country that has a Constitution "some openly call on the people for insurrection, terror and public disobedience and not only they enjoy judicial and social immunity, but are also encouraged?".
A hawkish, ultra-orthodox cleric who teaches in theological seminaries in the religious city of Qom, considered the cradle of militant Shi'ism, Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi is both much respected and protected by Ayatollah Khameneh'i.
Mr. Khatami strongly condemned the situation in which one deals with one side with "extreme violence, using illogical methods" while the other side is left free to do whatever it likes to do or to say without impunity, feeling protected. "The other meaning of such a situation is the disruption of security in the society, encouraging elements outside the country to profit from these vulnerable points and increase the weaknesses", he pointed out, referring to the Judiciary that protects the conservatives offensive against reformers.
Ina reference to Mr. Khameneh'i who always and endlessly talks about "foreign hands" and their contacts and relations with "agents inside", the President said one does not have to look for the links of this anti-regime, anti-religious current, since there are elements inside the country that do the job for them charge free.
He warned his conservative opponents that "one day, when interests would dictate" he would inform the people about all the hurdles and hardship and difficulties some "narrow minded people" have brought to his government in the past four years, adding that considering all the crisis he had to face during the time he was in office, the government had to face one crisis every nine days.
In another blistering attack on the powerful Council of Guardians, Mr. Khatami said he "sympathises" with the senior officials at the Interior Ministry who, four months to the next presidential elections, are under "mounting pressures".
The Council tried hard to cancel the results of the last legislative elections that gave the reformists a huge, unprecedented victory, but failed, mostly thanks to resistance from Mr. Mostafa Tajzadeh, the senior Deputy Home Minister and a strong reformist personality. As the head of the elections Head Quarter, Mr. Tajzadeh is now tried in a an Islamic revolutionary court, accused by the Guardians of "fraud and rigging" in the February race.
The President described Iran's situation in the world as "bright, acceptable and credit worthy", accused the conservatives of doing their best to "deface and tarnish" this image "due to their narrow, wrong interpretation" from Islam and imposing their obscurant views on political, social, cultural and economic issues, damaging by the same token the nation's supreme interests "with lasting effects" not easily recoverable", a reference to the now famous Berlin Conference and harsh sentences handed down by Tehran Islamic revolution court to a dozen out of the seventeen reformists who attended the meeting.
It was after that meeting that Ayatollah Khameneh'i ordered the Judiciary to shut all reformist publications, some 30 titles in all, and the imprisonment of a dozen of leading and influential journalists.
Less than 24 hours later and addressing the same conference, Ayatollah Khameneh'i gave his own interpretation of security, "something that can not be secured with words and philosophical speeches", he said, in direct hint at the President.
While calling on all concerned organisations and administrations to firmly, speedily and relentlessly guarantee public security, the leader said unemployment, addiction, foreign enemies' provocative and meddlesome acts and its internal agents, ambitious and irresponsible policies and factional disputes are among factors making the country insecure.
"Security cannot be established through rhetoric, rather, in order to establish security one should rely on exact and clear-cut facts and figures'' Mr. Khameneh'i said, quoted by the official news agency IRNA that censored most parts of the speech containing direct criticism and attack on Mr. Khatami.
Mr. Khameneh'i confirmed again that he instructed the "bundle closure" of reformist newspapers he accused of having "encouraged" the students uprising of July 1999 that he described as "sad, unfortunate and tearful".
"With implicit and carefully chosen titles, this so-called press did the job of the enemy, tried to topple the regime by encouraging insecurity and at the same time, some closed their eyes to the betrayal and continue to do so", he said.
He accused the government of "negligence", saying American and some other foreign nations loudspeakers can be seen at work in official places calling openly for change of the Constitution and "peaceful toppling of the regime".
"While there are terrorist and anti-revolutionary forces are openly receiving money and get political and propaganda support from the enemy, yet some inside the country closes their eyes to these obvious realities, not only reject these plots, but inflates divergences between groups, playing one against the other, pave the way for emergence of insecurity. If this is not contact and link with foreigners, what is it then?" he added, in a quid pro quo reply to the President. Mr. Khameneh'i strongly defended the action of the Judiciary and security forces in harshly dealing with reformists, particularly students and journalists, asking, "Why some are so harsh with the Judiciary, with Law Enforcement Forces, with the Information Ministry they almost destroyed, wrecked in pieces?"
He was referring to the Ministry's unprecedented acknowledgement of direct involvement in the assassination of several prominent politician and intellectual dissidents in November 1998. At first, Ayatollah Khameneh'i said the murders were the work of foreign agents, but under heavy pressures from the independent press, the public and efforts deployed by Mr. Khatami that the Intelligence Ministry said some of its senior officials had directly masterminded and carried out the murders.
Ayatollah Khameneh'i said all those contributing to insecurity in any form and dress, either professional hooligans, or well-dressed political elements, or those disguising themselves as religiously committed individuals, or a senior official affiliated to certain apparatuses, should be equally dealt with. Such issues should be followed up to the end wisely and free from any factional considerations, added the Ayatollah.
Earlier, he had told a group of basiji students (controlled by the conservatives and making the leader's base force) that the enemy spends large amounts of money to hire elements inside the country to launch economic and security sabotage and to poison the student community.