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Iran and the Lingering Myths in Western Media

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by Darius Dana (IRVAJ)

PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2004 12:49 pm    Post subject: Iran and the Lingering Myths in Western Media Reply with quote

Iran and the Lingering Myths in Western Media
January 26, 2004
Iran va Jahan
Darius Dana

Reading through some prominent western newspapers, one often comes across some disturbing inaccuracies in their description of the situation in Iran and also the credentials of political personalities there. President Khatami is often generously referred to as a "moderate" or even a "democrat". The members of the Islamic parliament are described as "reformists" and their struggle for re-election is depicted as a crusade against the unelected section of the theocracy. Below is a list of some of these lingering myths that persists in some sectors of western and in particular the European media.

Myth 1: President Khatami Was Democratically Elected:

In the run up to the 1997 presidential elections, only 4 out of 238 candidates were approved by the unelected Guardian Council. That's less than 2%. The other 98% were rejected by the unelected body for not being Islamic enough. Khatami was one of the 4 candidates, vetted by the Guardian Council to stand for the presidential elections.

The remaining 3 candidates, who made it through the vetting process, were old school Taliban style conservatives. In fact Khatami was the "best of a bad lot". The 1997 presidential election for Iranian people was rather like being made to choose between Malaria and Plague. Iranians opted for Malaria as it offered better chances of survival.

Myth 2: President Khatami is a Democrat:

All the events in the past 7 years of president Khatami's 2 terms in office point to the contrary. Every time a choice between reforms and maintaining the status quo had to be made, Khatami opted for the latter. In fact he went even further and encouraged the repression. In 1999 when pro-democracy university students of Tehran protested against the closure of a reformist newspaper that was ran by Khatami's allies, they were brutally attacked by the Basij vigilantes and security forces. 5 people were killed and hundreds were injured. When it was all over, Khatami took part in an interview with the state run TV, in which he referred to the pro-democracy protesters as "thugs and hooligans". He also thanked the Basij and security forces for "marinating Order".

President Khatami stood by and watched as his interior minister Abdollah Nouri was thrown into jail. He stayed silent in the face of mass closures of reformist newspapers and imprisonment, torture and murder of many journalists, students and political activists. In fact Khatami's 2 terms in office is a sad tale of missed opportunities and callous indifference to the appalling human rights violations by the regime. At every crunch point, Khatami chose to align himself with the hated supreme leader and his henchmen rather than his constituents, the Iranian people. It is unfortunate that some quarters in western press are still portraying Khatami as a democrat! Such portrayals are purely based on his words and not his deeds.

Myth 3: The Reformist Members of Parliament Were Democratically Elected:

In fact there are 2 myths in the above statement. First the democratic nature of the Parliamentary elections and also the reformist nature of the MPs elected. As in the presidential elections, hundreds of candidates were excluded by the Guardian Council in the run up to the parliamentary elections for not being Islamic enough or not believeing in "Velayate Motlaghye Fagheeh" (The Absolute rule of Supreme leader). The so called reformist MPs who found their way through the filter of the Guardian Council were mostly former revolutionaries of the 1979 revolution who pioneered and took part in the repression of the early years of the Islamic revolution. Today after 4 years of occupying parliamentary seats, the reformist MPs in their own admission, have utterly failed to honor any of their pledges of reforms and the rule of law.

Myth 4: Reformist MPs are Protesting Against the Vetting process, by Walking out of the Parliament:

During the last few days of their strike, disqualified MPs have only criticized the Guardian Council for rejecting the reformist faction. They have made numerous speeches about their services to the revolution, their heroic participation in the holy war against Iraq and their belief in the theocracy and its founder, Ayatollah Khomeini. None of the reformist MPs criticized the vetting process in principle. After all, they qualified and were elected into the Islamic Parliament on the back of the same vetting process. The Irony is that the rejected MPs know very well that in the complete absence of the Guardian Council's vetting process, they are unlikely be elected, because according to the Islamic Regime's own polls, the majority of Iranians aspire to a fundamental change in Iran. Therefore the disgruntled Parliamentarians want a vetting process that doesn't reject their candidacy, not entirely free elections. To put it in simple terms the reformist MP's are unhappy about losing their jobs!

Myth 5: There is Freedom of Expression in Iran:

It's true that there is more freedom of expression in Iran than Saddam's Iraq or North Korea. You can talk or write about anything as long as you don't question the authority of clerics, relations with the US, the role of supreme leader, the role of unelected but powerful institutions, Mullah's support of international terrorism, Mullah's obsessive enmity against the "Zionist entity", and all other matters of principle. People who dare go beyond these red lines face prison, torture and even death. The so called chain murders that claimed the lives of more than 80 writers and thinkers, some during Khatami's presidency, is a chilling testament to this fact.

Myth 6: European Diplomacy Was Instrumental in Making the Mullahs Sign the Additional IAEA Protocol.

Not true. As in all other tyrannies, the Iranian theocracy is more in tune with power politics, not quiet diplomacy. By in large dictatorships lacking support at home often tend to make concessions when their existence is threatened by external powers. By the same token, their concessions in the face of such threats are often superficial and fade away once the threat to their existence is removed. What moved the Ayatollahs to take note and toe the international line, albeit in appearance had little to do with EU carrots and a lot to do with US sticks!

The EU had been engaged in a self serving policy of "willful gullibility" or as they prefer to call it "Critical Dialogue" with the mullahs For over 2 decades with no positive impact on the behavior of the regime. The mullahs continued and are still continuing to finance terrorist groups in the Middle East. They freely dispatched assassins to EU capitals to kill members of Iranian opposition and even EU citizens. To add insult to injury, while EU politicians were hard at work critically engaging the mullahs, their counterparts were hard at work producing nuclear and chemical weapons. If that is not a policy failure then what is?

Let's be candid. It was the demise of the Taliban and Saddam and the continuing offensive posture in American Middle East policy that finally made the Ayatollahs realize that their intransigence could lead to dire consequences! That is what finally turned the table and led the hawkish fundamentalists in Tehran to grudgingly signup to the additional snap-inspection protocol. But does this mean that the mullahs are turning over a new leaf? Early indications are not good!

The ink on the signed IAEA protocol has hardly dried and reports are already emerging that the mullahs have all but accelerated the import and assembly of centrifuge components......

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