News

 

DATE=12/22/97

TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT

NUMBER=5-38511

TITLE=YEARENDER: IRAN UNDER KHATAMI '97

BYLINE=ALI JALALI

DATELINE=WASHINGTON

CONTENT=

VOICED AT: 



INTRO:  A LANDMARK PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN MAY 1997 HINTED SIGNS

OF POSSIBLE COURSE CORRECTION IN IRAN'S ISLAMIC REVOLUTION.  

MODERATE CLERIC MOHAMMAD KHATAMI WON 70-PERCENT OF THE VOTES.  

V-O-A'S ALI JALALI TAKES A CLOSER LOOK AT THE STATED COMMITMENT 

OF IRAN'S NEW PRESIDENT TO SOCIAL CHANGES AND REACHING OUT TO THE

OUTSIDE WORLD.  



TEXT:  THE LANDSLIDE VICTORY OF PRESIDENT MOHAMMAD KHATAMI CAME 

AS A SURPRISE TO THE RULING HARDLINE RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT THAT

OPPOSED HIS CAMPAIGN.  THE ELECTION RESULTS SENT A CLEAR SIGNAL 

MOST IRANIANS WANT THEIR COUNTRY TO CHANGE.



PRESIDENT KHATAMI'S CAMPAIGN PLEDGES ARE FAR REACHING BY IRANIAN 

STANDARDS -- EASING SOCIAL RESTRICTIONS, CREATION OF JOBS AND AN 

END TO THE COUNTRY'S ISOLATION. 



DESPITE A SLOW START, MANY IRAN WATCHERS SAY THE COUNTRY IS ON 

THE WAY TO CHANGE.  THEY CITE THE EMERGING PUBLIC DEBATE OF ONCE 

FORBIDDEN ISSUES, SUCH AS THE LEGITIMACY OF THE SUPREME RELIGIOUS

LEADER AS AN EXAMPLE.  ANALYSTS CALL THE PROCESS AN IRANIAN 

VERSION OF THE FORMER SOVIET UNION'S "GLASNOST" POLICY.



DR. PATRICK CLAWSON OF THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST 

POLICY NOTES CERTAIN SIMILARITIES. 



                        // CLAWSON ACT //



 GLASNOST WAS ABOUT AN INTERNAL CHANGE AND CERTAINLY SEEMS TO ME 

THE MAIN AREA WHICH MR. KHATAMI REMAINS INTERESTED IS CHANGING 

INTERNAL POLICIES; AND GLASNOST HAD SOME IMPLICATIONS FOR FOREIGN

POLICY, BUT THAT WAS NOT THE PRINCIPLE AREA OF ACTIVITY; AND SO 

AGAIN, I THINK THE ANALOGY IS GOOD WITH WHAT MR. KHATAMI IS 

DOING.



                          // END ACT //



BUT MR. CLAWSON IS NOT SURE WHETHER THE IRANIAN GLASNOST WOULD 

LEAD TO WHAT HAPPENED IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNION.  SOME IRANIAN 

OBSERVERS CAUTION AGAINST SUCH COMPARISON SAYING DESPITE POLICY 

DIFFERENCES, ALMOST ALL MAJOR IRANIAN FACTIONS ARE COMMITTED TO 

THE PRINCIPLES OF THE ISLAMIC REVOLUTION.  PROFESSOR NOZAR 

ALAOLMOLKI (ALAH-OOL-MOLKI) OF HIRAM COLLEGE, OHIO, SAYS UNBRIDLE

CHANGES MAY LEAD TO THE COLLAPSE OF THE SYSTEM ITSELF.



                      // ALAOLMOLKI ACT //



 IF THE IRANIAN REGIME WERE TO ALLOW FOR THE OPENING OF THE 

POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT TO THE YOUNGER PEOPLE, I AM OF THE OPINION 

THAT, THAT WOULD BE A NAIL IN THE COFFIN OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC 

AS IT IS TODAY.  I DO NOT MEAN IT WOULD DISAPPEAR, BUT WOULD BE 

WEAKENED TO A POINT THAT MAY BRING ABOUT A KIND OF EASINESS IN 

THE SYSTEM THAT MAY CAUSE ITS COLLAPSE.



                          // END ACT //



EFFORTS TO MINIMIZE POTENTIALLY DESTRUCTIVE IMPACT OF CHANGE TO 

THE REGIME'S STABILITY HAS BEEN A HALLMARK OF THE CONTRY'S REFORM

POLICY.  PRESIDENT KHATAMI CONSPICUOUSLY STAYED ON THE SIDELINES 

DURING THE RECENT TUG-OF-WAR BETWEEN THE HARDLINE CIRCLES AND THE

DISSIDENT CLERICS OVER THE LEGITIMACY OF AYATOLLAH KHAMENEI.



FEARING THE POTENTIAL NEGATIVE IMPACT OF AN UNBRIDLED POLITICAL 

CHANGE, SOME IRANIAN POLITICIANS HAVE BEEN ADVOCATING A 

CHINESE-MODEL OPENNESS IN THE ECONOMY WITHOUT DISMANTLING THE 

POLITICAL STRUCTURE.



BUT, LONDON-BASED VETERAN IRANIAN JOURNALIST AMIR TAHERI SAYS IT 

WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE TO RESIST THE EMERGING LIBERAL MOVEMENT IN 

THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC.



                     /// AMIR TAHERI ACT ///



 I BELIEVE THAT CHANCES OF POLITICAL CHANGE ARE GREATER THAN 

ECONOMIC CHANGE IN IRAN; BECAUSE THE IRANIAN ECONOMY IS HEAVILY 

DOMINATED BY THE STATE, IT WAS THE SAME EVEN BEFORE THE 

REVOLUTION, AND SO LONG AS THERE IS NO POLITICAL STABILITY AND 

POLITICAL HOPES, IT WOULD BE DIFFICULT TO CREATE A PRIVATE 

SECTOR; PEOPLE WOULD NOT INVEST AND THE MEDIUM AND SMALL 

ENTERPRISES NEEDED TO HAVE AN ECONOMIC TAKE OFF, ALSO FOREIGNERS,

WILL NOT INVEST IN THE VOLUMES NECESSARY.



                         /// END ACT ///



FACED BY TOUGH RESISTANCE FROM WELL-ENTRECHED ANTI-REFORM 

CIRCLES, MR. KHATAMI HAS BEEN WALKING A FINE LINE IN MAKING GOOD 

ON HIS PROMISES.  THE PRESIDENT IS ACTUALLY HAMSTRUNG BY A 

CONSTITUTION WHICH GIVES OVER-RIDING POWER TO THE SUPREME 

RELIGIOUS LEADER, AYATOLLAH KHAMENEI, ON EVERY IMPORTANT ISSUE.



BUT INDEPENDENT IRANIAN JOURNALIST ALIREZA NOURIZADEH SAYS THE 

LONG-SIMMERING DEBATE ON THE AUTHORITY OF THE SUPREME RELIGIOUS 

LEADER IS COMING TO THE OPEN.  HE SAYS THE RECENT CHALLENGES TO 

AYATULLAH KHAMENEI'S LEGITIMACY MAY FORCE THE AYATULLAH TO TEAM 

UP WITH THE POPULAR PRESIDENT.



                     /// NOURIZADEH ACT /// 



 HE (KHAMENEI) HAS A PROBLEM IN ORDER TO ESTABLISH HIMSELF AS A 

VALI-FAGHEH (SUPREME RELIGIOUS LEADER), SINCE THERE ARE AYATULLAH

MONTAZERI, (AYATULLAH) SHIRAZI AND OTHER AYATULLAHS WHO ARE MORE 

SENIOR, AND WHO ARE ACCEPTED BY THE PEOPLE AS SUCCESSOR TO GRAND 

AYATULLAHS LIKE KHOMEINI, LIKE GOLPAIGANI...THEREFORE, I THINK, 

KHAMENEI GRADUALLY WILL JOIN KHATAMI'S FORCE AND INSTEAD OF 

CONTRADICTING HIS DECISIONS HE WILL TRY TO COME TO TERMS AND TO 

SUPPORT KHATAMI IN THE LONG-TERM.



                         /// END ACT ///



ON THE OTHER HAND, THE ECONOMY IS SAID TO BE A MAJOR TEST FOR 

KHATAMI'S TEAM.  DECLINING OIL PRICES, HIGH INFLATION RATES AND 

LACK OF CAPITAL HAVE REPORTEDLY TAKEN A HEAVY TOLL ON PEOPLE'S 

LIVING CONDITIONS.  KHATAMI'S FAILURE TO  IMPROVE THE ECONOMY IS 

EXPECTED TO DISCREDIT THE MODERATES IN IRAN.



PROFESSOR EDMUND HERZIG OF MANCHESTER UNIVERSITY SAYS PRESIDENT 

KHATAMI FACES TWO MAJOR OBSTACLES IN HIS EFFORTS TO BOOST THE 

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT THROUGH DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN INVESTMENT.



                       /// HERZIG ACT ///



 IT IS DIFFICULT FOR KHATAMI TO GET ACTUALLY A SERIES OF LAWS AND

NEW LEGISLATION THROUGH PARLIAMENT TO MAKE IRAN MORE ATTRACTIVE 

FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENT AND INDEED MORE ATTRACTIVE FOR BUSINESS IN

GENERAL, BECAUSE THERE IS PLENTY OF IRANIAN CAPITAL BOTH IN IRAN 

AND IN THE WORLD AT LARGE THAT COULD POTENTIALLY BE PRODUCTIVELY 

INVESTED IN IRAN IF IT OFFERED A MORE FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT.



                         /// END ACT ///



THE SECOND OBSTACLE, SAYS MR. HERZIG, IS THE VESTED INTEREST OF 

THE RULING CLERGY IN MAINTAINING THE STATE-CONTROLLED ENTERPRISES

WHICH HAVE BECOME A SOURCE OF CORPORATE POWER AND PERSONAL 

BENEFIT.  HE SAYS RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZE THE BONYADS (RELIGIOUS 

FOUNDATIONS) RUNS AGAINST SHIFTS TO MARKET ECONOMY.  



LOOKING AHEAD TO 1998, ANALYSTS SAY MUCH WILL DEPEND ON THE 

ABILITY OF THE REGIME AND THE IRANIAN SOCIETY TO SUSTAIN A 

PROCESS OF GRADUAL REFORM.  THEY SAY, ATTEMPTS TO MAKE RADICAL 

CHANGES MAY DESTABILIZE BOTH THE GOVERNMENT AND THE SOCIETY.   

(SIGNED)



NEB/RAE



22-Dec-97 1:43 PM EST (1843 UTC)

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Source: Voice of America

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