February 23, 2000
AFTER REFORMIST WIN, 'EMBRACING IRAN, BUT NOT TOO EAGERLY'
Last Friday's landslide victory of reformists over conservatives in Iran's parliament, the Majlis, was a major focus of overseas editorials this week, with many tentatively suggesting that there may be sufficient change in the Islamic republic to warrant an end to its isolation. A prevailing view, expressed by Ottawa's conservative National Post, suggested that "Western countries should...make clear that they will reward better international behavior with trade and investment on favorable terms--but that they will not give the reward without the reforms." The U.S. was viewed as cautiously watching developments in Iran, awaiting "concrete signals...on the crucial dossiers of terrorism and stability in the Gulf region" before venturing into a rapprochement with its erstwhile enemy. But some, noting that "American alarmism is not taking root in Europe" determined that Washington may find itself prodded into "a warming" of bilateral relations with Iran. These were major highlights:
POLICY REEVALUATION?: In Russia, China, Italy, Belgium, Egypt and Thailand pundits saw the U.S. coming under increased "pressure" from the international community "to lift sanctions against Tehran." An Italian paper, for example, deemed that "only a full normalization in U.S.-Iranian relations can lead to solutions in the Middle East and Central Asia, including the Caucasus and Putin's Russia." A few observers, like an Egyptian paper, went so far as to suggest that the U.S.' "dual containment" approach to Iran and Iraq may be outmoded because the EU has "revolted against the unwarranted blockade imposed by the U.S." while others, such as Saudi Arabia, are changing in their dealings with Tehran. But German, Canadian and Israeli papers sounded a cautionary note against adopting a "breathlessly optimistic tone" regarding democracy taking hold in the Islamic republic since "terror and oppression still reign" in Iran.
'POLITICAL ISLAM': The majority of observers interpreted the reformers' win, fueled by young and women voters, as evidence that Iranian society "is modestly evolving towards the pragmatic, democratic tendencies that are spreading worldwide." Many concluded, however, that the parliamentary upset would not translate into a significant shift in Iran's political landscape. Practically all maintained that with the cleric-conservatives controlling the military and the courts, Iran's greatest challenge is to continue to reform without "collapsing." Pundits in major European capitals hoped the Iranian experience would provide a "strong impulse for the democratization and modernization of Islamic societies" around the world. In this vein, Jordanian and Egyptian papers marvelled at "the most honest elections in the region." There were also implications for the Indo-Pak rivalry. A Pakistani paper judged that the change in Iran "is likely to have a salutary effect on militant Muslim movements in the region by promoting Islam's culture of peace and dialogue." But an Indian paper maintained that should President Clinton "go ahead and stop over in Pakistan," during his proposed trip to South Asia, "he will be doing so at the cost of moderate Islam." If the president "is serious about fighting religious fanaticism and terrorism," the paper served notice, he should go to "democratic and reformist Iran, not Pakistan."
ROLE OF THE PRESS: Papers in Tehran and New Delhi noted the role of Iran's print media--which, unlike the broadcast media is no longer under the sway of the conservative Islamic orthodoxy--in promoting Iran's social, cultural and intellectual "transformation."
EDITOR: Gail Hamer Burke
EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 53 reports from 31 countries, February 18 - 23. Editorial excerpts are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.
IRAN: "Elections And Freedom Of Expression"
Tehran's Iran Daily's Internet version published this commentary in English (2/22) by Javad Daliri, who asked: "What were the roles of journalists and writers in the creation of Friday's epic [elections]? What portion of the society voted in light of the coverage of the print media? These are some fundamental questions, the answers to which will help clarify several hidden aspects of Friday's parliamentary race. Before Friday, the print media [in Iran]...were subjected to the harshest of criticisms.... However...the continued onslaught against the print media provoked the public opinion in the press's favor.... The epic of February 18 has proven that knowledge is the greatest source of power. The people of the pen have now understood that by virtue of the power of thought, they can play an effective role in shaping public opinion."
BRITAIN: "Iran's Power Shift"
The liberal Guardian editorialized (2/22): "The victory of the reformists in Iran is especially heartening because it is an example of a society reviving its indigenous democratic traditions. The pluralism of Iran throughout history, the attempts at a parliamentary system early in the 20th century, and the development of party politics after the Second World War all suggested Iran was a country with strong democratic instincts.... There remains a common interest between most conservatives and reformists--to maintain the Islamic nature of the regime. In part, their differences have arisen out of a debate about how best to preserve the revolution. But there has been a shift in the balance of power, the most important being that the wishes of ordinary Iranians, especially women, count for more than they did. The Khatami government must respond to those wishes--for more personal freedoms, for education, jobs and housing--in a situation where the opposition of the weakened conservatives no longer provides an excuse for failure."
"Iran, Islam And Democracy"
The independent weekly Economist editorialized (2/18): "Are Islam and democracy compatible? Iran's parliamentary election will not provide a definitive answer, but it may provide some hints. It turns, in any event, on the issue of how democratic an Islamist regime can be. Iranians can elect, in a tolerably fair way, the representatives they want; the question is how much authority and freedom their system then allows these representatives. Our conclusion: not much. President Khatami has succeeded in making the theocratic state less restrictive. But a growing number of Iranians--the bold, the thoughtful, the young--want an administration and a judiciary that are free from clerical despotism. The turbaned are finding it ever harder to sap these hungry reformers down.... With democratic reform strongly promoted in this election, and with Iran's braver prelates now admitting publicly that political power, even if divine in origin, belongs to the people, it is much too soon to pronounce that the Iranian test case has proved democracy and political Islam to be incompatible.... Political Islam still provides dangers, but it also provides reasons for hope."
FRANCE: "Toward A Warming Of Relations With The U.S."
Jean-Pierre Perrin commented in left-of-center Liberation (2/23): "The Iranian reformists did not wait long after their victory to speak about a change in Iran's attitude toward the United States. Reza Khatami, President Khatami's brother and a great winner of these elections, says that although the new parliament cannot have a direct role on the issue, 'it can create a new atmosphere which can in turn help to eliminate tensions.'... Because relations with the United States are a major domestic policy issue in Iran, Reza Khatami's remarks can be considered as a step forward in Iran's traditional position.... Washington also advances carefully on this question because for the United States, this is equally a matter of domestic policy."
"The Fall Of The Islamic Godfather"
Jean-Pierre Perrin contended in left-of-center Liberation (2/22): "In Iran, Rafsanjani is an all-powerful man.... In his last post, he directly threatened Khatami's policy of reforms.... But experts agree that he is a realist in terms of economic matters.... He is feared and believed to be a major manipulator. Many reformists hoped he would be elected because they fear his capacity for harm more from the outside than from within."
ITALY: "To Reform Without Collapsing Is The Challenge For Iran"
An editorial in provocative, classical liberal Il Foglio declared (2/22): "The situation [in Iran] is very delicate. There is no doubt about the Iranian youth's feelings of rejection towards the clerical caste. As a consequence, the fate of Iranian theocracy seems to have been already decided. This is an epoch-making turn for Iran and the first positive, if not definitive, response to the question of whether political Islam and the principles of pluralism and democracy can coexist. Yet the most urgent problem is whether Kathami will be able to carry out a peaceful and gradual evolution of the regime without falling into anarchy and destabilization.... The other key element for a change in Iran comes from abroad. Even though the State Department spokesman has termed the Iranian elections 'an event of historic proportions,' the Clinton administration, in its final phase, finds itself vis-a-vis an exceptional responsibility, i.e., avoiding becoming a prisoner of the U.S. electoral battle and making firm openings toward Iran the way it is now, and not the way it would like it to be. There are many problems indeed, but only a full normalization in U.S.-Iranian relations can lead to solutions in the Middle East and Central Asia, including the Caucasus and Putin's Russia. In the medium term, a strong impulse for the democratization and modernization of Islamic societies can come from Iran."
"U.S. Still Has A Few Questions About The Ayatollahs"
An analysis in provocative, classical liberal Il Foglio (2/22) described the comments issued by State Department spokesman Rubin as "clear, unusually prompt and definitely positive," but noted: "This satisfaction does not contradict the caution with which Washington, officially, continues to monitor the political evolution in Iran.... That is to say, the United States awaits concrete signals from Iran on the crucial dossiers of terrorism and stability in the Gulf region, and is not lowering its guard.... American alarmism, however, is not taking root in Europe, and especially not in Italy. The outcome of the Iranian elections seems to confirm the theses of the supporters of the dialogue."
GERMANY: "Embracing Iran, But Not Too Eagerly"
Stefan Kornelius wrote (2/23) in centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich, "Germany and the other EU states are perceiving the Iranian elections as a true sign of change. During the first wave of optimism, business groups are outdoing each other with statements of respect for Iran's reformers, and they are jockeying for the best positions to gain access to the new market.... The Iran visit by German Foreign Minister Fischer--one of the first by a Western
politician--and the scheduled Berlin visit by Iranian President Khatami...now offer the opportunity to create a broad web of contacts. In this dialogue, the rules of a gradually developing political Islam will have to be taken into account. Terror and oppression still reign in Iran; people are still being executed and the simplest right are being violated. Iran has not turned into a stronghold of freedom and democracy overnight. Supporting the reform forces too eagerly could reverse the desired development. Nevertheless, it will be easier now than it was in the decades before to influence this key nation in a region ridden with crisis. A democratic Islam in Central Asia will be a stabilizing factor--an alliance between the West and Iran might even serve as a deterrent (e.g. with respect to neighbor Iraq). The departure from terrorism could push the Middle East a bit more in the direction of peace."
Right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine suggested (2/23): "The election results give Iran the chance of opening up to the world and of changing its policies, which used to emphasize confrontation and the export of fundamentalism. The strengthening of reformers, however, is also an opportunity for the West to check its political stereotypes and fixations in the face of a less fundamentalist Iran. Even America may manage to overcome its reservations and may reconsider its Gulf strategies in light of new possibilities.... The American policy of containment--and geopolitical isolation--was necessary against an aggressive and politically expansive Iran. But this policy has run its course with bureaucratic routine, the permanent tying up of resources, and economic self-limitation. America should carefully use the chance of setting up conditions for a reasonable cooperation."
"Vote For Change"
Christiane Hoffmann penned this front-page editorial in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/21): "The majority of Iranians has expressed their belief in a democratic reform of the Islamic system. The vote is a call for change. It says 'yes' to a gradual, peaceful, and constitutional change.... So far, Khatami has tried to build his reforms on a widely accepted consensus and also on the integration of both his conservative opponents and the impatient, more radical reformers.... It is now important for the winners to integrate the losers into the reform process, especially since [the conservatives] still control such tools of power as the military.... Change in Iran is inevitable...but the danger that the reform consensus might break apart is great. There is no agreement on how quickly the change is supposed to happen, and where it should lead. Despite obvious contradictions between the democratic and the theocratic legitimization of power in Iran, the country is still a considerable distance away from Western secularism. There is no thought-out concept for the separation of church and state. Western liberalism has no tradition in the country and is not being proposed as an alternative to the Islamic system."
"High Time To Stop Supporting Terror"
Right-of-center Rheinische Post of Duesseldorf offered this analysis (2/21): "Khatami can rebuild Iran only at a gradual pace. A sudden change in the economy or in the political system would be exploited by his opponents. The argument that the election results are a clear mandate for change is of little help in this context. As long as the anti-reformers refuse to acknowledge the voters' judgment, internal political tensions are likely to arise. Tehran's foreign policy is becoming more flexible. It is high time to stop supporting Islamic terrorist groups in the Middle East. Only then would Iran have the chance of breaking out of its political and economic isolation."
AUSTRIA: "An Election With Limited Choice"
Foreign affairs editor Livia Klingl commented in mass-circulation Kurier (2/18): "Parliament has--like the president--a comparably subordinated role. But despite the many traps set by the arch-conservatives for their relatively liberal opponents, today's election will have an impact. At least as a yardstick of what the population would want if it could. That is, a transformation of the 'revolutionary' left towards personal freedom and openness to the rest of the world. Communal elections last February, which had been awaited for 20 long years, resembled a slap in the face for the fundamentalists, but which has not kept them from pursuing their brutal and bloody running fight. Journalists are at the center of this fight, which is not surprising, since freedom of the press is the spearhead of comparably moderate President Khatami. And it is him who has initiated a discussion on a separation of church and state--which would cut the ground from under the fundamentalists' feet, but let the country rest on the foundation of its constitution, which is not that bad at all. Therefore, his candidates have been blocked as much as possible. Because the ultra-reactionaries know that they have only little influence over the voters."
BELGIUM: "Western Countries Are Eager To Help Iran"
Asian affairs writer Manu Tassier observed in independent Catholic De Standaard (2/21), "Several Western countries are eager to help Iran, but the cool relations between Tehran and Washington are obstructive to a breakthrough. The United States wants, inter alia, that Iran puts an end to its irreconcilable attitude towards Israel and reduces its support to groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon.... The question is also what the highest authority in Iraq, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, is going to do. To date, he has cooperated rather smoothly with Khatami. The president must also be cautious that he does not alienate the youngsters to much by hesitating with tangible reforms. The patience of many students has come to an end and frustrations may be uttered through massive demonstrations. The danger of violent collisions, like in July 1999, is looming around the corner. At the same time, many people at home and abroad wonder how far the president will be able and allowed to go with his reforms.... Will Khatami dare to affect the core of the dominance of the religious leaders, i.e., the unity of state and religion?"
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Reformers Hands Have Been Untied"
Jaroslav Höfer commented in the economic Hospodarske Noviny (2/22): "It is already clear that a large, if not an overwhelming majority of Iranians voted for a change. The Islamic revolution has met the same destiny as similar ambitious movements in the past. Instead of freedom, independence and a just Islamic republic, millions of the then idealists only saw an introduction of a fundamentalist dictatorship. Iran, which used to be known for its oil wealth, has gained a negative reputation because of its support to terrorist movements and many scandals...and signals that Tehran is attempting to obtain nuclear weapons. However, election results do not mean that electors will live to see changes. The Iranian parliament has only limited powers and its decisions will be approved by fundamentalists from the Council of Overseers. Moreover, the coalition that won in the elections is composed of 18 reformist groups and parties of heterogeneous characters.... The most important outcome of the elections therefore is that the reformists' hands have partially been untied and electors have reached new hope. The theocratic regime is still in power and its fall can hardly be expected any time soon."
HUNGARY: "Pro-President Referendum"
Independent Nepszava opined (2/22): "According to analysts, the parliamentary election is almost equal to a pro-president referendum. It is an encouragement to carry out all the reforms, for which [the president] he has been elected."
"Israel Hopes For Self-Restraint"
Independent Magyar Hirlap (2/21) referred to an Israeli diplomat who held that: "No rapid changes can be expected in Iran's politics [in the operations of the Hezbolah active in South Lebanon.] Israel of course welcomes the reforms, but does not expect too much more than that Tehran practices self-restraint."
IRELAND: "Important Implications For Middle East"
The conservative, populist Irish Independent editorialized (2/23): "The new regime's priority will be to enlarge freedom within the country. The question of equality for women requires urgent attention. But the election also has important implications throughout the Middle East. Iran could now become a focus of stability, instead of turmoil, in the region."
NORWAY: "Reform In Iran"
Newspaper-of-record, conservative Aftenposten commented (2/21): "Reform powers have shown themselves to be strong in Iran.... But both the conservative and foreign countries are wrong if they think that the election was a 'no' to Islam. Iran will continue to be an Islamic country and profess Islamic values.... The election can signify that Iran's international isolation, which very much is self-inflicted, might now reach an end. There have been many small steps in that direction in the last years, now the steps hopefully can be bigger."
POLAND: "The Swirl Of Revolution"
Kazimierz Pytko opined in center-left Zycie Warszawy (2/23): "In spite of enormous hopes raised by the election success of the moderate politicians, there seems to be no man in Iran yet who would be able to build a totally different system. What the Iranians succeeded in doing was to disclose the truth of the [current] system, which is that the president, parliament, and government cannot do anything even though they are elected by the nation. Democracy has reached its limits and it cannot go any farther without toppling the system--which means depriving Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards of the 'divine' power.... It is hard to think that they would resign the power of their own will. This in turn means that the wounded revolution...can devour many of its children before it finally dies."
"The Twilight Of Revolution"
Jaroslaw Gizinski observed in center-left Polityka (2/23): "It is impossible to expect that the situation in Iran will change overnight.... But the voters, mainly the young people, gave a signal that after 20 years, the fire of the Islamic revolution had faded. The Iranians want a more liberal policy, a better life, and contacts with the West. The result of the clash between the old and the new world is not settled yet, and the 2001 presidential elections are likely to be the next stage in the struggle."
Ryszard Malik wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (2/22): "The Iranian elections are being closely looked at by the entire world. The way the Iranians voted can be a signal to the other Muslim countries and the changes in Iran may mean changes in many Islamic nations. Distancing oneself from supporting terrorism, breaking with the revolutionary and religious ideology can rid hundreds of Islamic organizations in the world of the very reason to exist.... This may begin a dialogue between the world of Islam and the world of democracy, resulting in respect for human rights and geopolitical changes in the strategically crucial region of the Middle and Near East."
RUSSIA: "Iranians Tired Of Fundamentalism"
Maksim Tokarev pointed out in reformist youth-oriented Komsomolskaya Pravda (2/22): "The ice has been broken: The people are tired of fundamentalism. Even the United States has tempered its attacks on European countries that have normalized relations with Iran."
"U.S. To Face Pressure"
According to Nadezhda Spiridonova in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (2/22): "The reformers' victory will enable the world community to put pressure on the United States to lift sanctions against Tehran. It is a fact that the Americans have stymied many promising economic projects, mostly gas and oil pipelines, for political motives."
SPAIN: "Khomeini's Second Passing"
Center-left El Pais observed (2/21): "Iran's future depends on the pressure brought by civil society on orthodox members of the regime to put aside their obstructionism.... For this reason, now is the time for that society to receive outside help in order to convert Iran into a country worthy of membership in the international community."
"Iran: Beginning Of The End"
Conservative ABC judged (2/22): "In 1998 President Khatami revealed the outlines of his program: separation of powers, establishment of the rule of law and a government that holds itself accountable to the electorate. Naturally, such principles are unacceptable to a clergy that receives instructions directly from on high. Directed dogmatism frequently culminates in opaque, if not corrupt, politics. After 20 years in this tunnel, Iranian society is modestly evolving towards the pragmatic, democratic tendencies that are spreading worldwide."
TURKEY: "Isolation Helps Separatism"
Hasan Cemal opined in a front-page editorial in mass-appeal Milliyet (2/23): "If a television station is faced with a blackout from the Radio-Television Supreme Council because of a [PKK-related] question asked on one of its programs, then the action cannot be interpreted within the framework of democracy.... Issues such as lifting capital punishment or allowing Kurdish broadcasts and Kurdish education are not things that can harm a unified state.... As for the arrests of the [pro-Kurdish] HADEP mayors, we should also bear in mind that HADEP is the favored party among most of our citizens with Kurdish origin.... We have to make a choice: are we going to isolate them completely, or are we going to reconcile them within the system? We had better put our thoughts together and decide on the following as well: to continue to isolate the PKK despite its declaration to lay down its arms. Will that weaken separatism or strengthen it even further?... If we continue to ignore peoples' votes in the southeast and not try to understand them, then it will lead us to a dead end."
Hakki Devrim commented in intellectual Radikal (2/22): "It is a fact neither of the two fronts in Iran--the reformists and conservatives--are arguing about an Islamic republic. The only thing one can expect from the election results is the possibility of Iran opening up to the world. On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether the Khatami-led movement can really turn into a Gorbachev-like expansion.... However, hoping that Iran will stop exporting its regime can only be described as cautious optimism."
Akif Emre commented in pro-Islamic Yeni Safak (2/22): "The reformist front can be even stronger if the major economic problems in Iran are resolved.... It seems that theoretical arguments among the two fronts will continue...but it is certain Iran will not remain the same composition it was before the elections.... The Islamic revolution will experience a phase of opening up to the world and will reach a point where civic values can be used within the framework of an Islamic republic."
ISRAEL: "Post-Iranian Islamism"
Analyst Sever Plotker wrote in the lead editorial in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/23): "The elections in distant Iran have had an unexpected influence on the mood of the Arab world. The fact that fanatical 'revolutionary' Islam has been rejected and defeated by almost the whole Iranian population has made extremist Islamic groups in other areas feel isolated and abandoned.... Organizations and movements that grew under the shadow of fanatical Islam and were under the spell of its dark charm could vent their frustration by multiplying terrorist attacks.... The reformists' victory in Tehran is certainly the most positive event in the Muslim world. But it also has other, worrisome aspects--similar to those which have accompanied the fall of Communism to this very day."
"The Lingering Iranian Danger"
Nationalist Hatzofe's lead editorial argued (2/21): "It is already clear that ... the supporters of the liberal line have reaped a massive victory in the Iranian parliamentary elections and that the conservatives have been defeated.... But it looks as though there will be no confrontation between liberals and conservatives and reforms will be introduced gradually.... It would be hard to predict a drastic, swift change vis-à-vis Israel, with the reduction of assistance to Hezbollah and other extremist terror groups as a corollary. It looks as if Iran's opening in the near future will be directed toward the United States. The bilateral rapprochement process that started with Khatami's election will accelerate.... But hatred for Israel has been nurtured constantly and over a long period.... It should be assumed that Iran's arming with non-conventional weapons will not stop in the mean time. Thus, as far as Israel is concerned, Iran remains a dangerous country.... One must hope that the United States and other Western countries, as they turn to a rapprochement with Iran, will not disregard the risks posed by that country."
EGYPT: "Most Honest Elections In The Region"
Hazem Abdel Rahman wrote in pro-government Al-Ahram (2/23): "Iran is currently witnessing the most honest elections in the region.... There is public consensus on change conveyed, not through bloody clashes and thuggery, but even stronger, through the ballot boxes. This revolution is empowered by the youth and veiled women.... The difficult mission of Khatami, the revolution leader, has started. In this second revolution, he should work on raising the quality of life and services and decrease unemployment.... If he succeeds in this mission, he will be mobilizing the power of his people toward creativity and construction, which cannot be crushed.... Maybe after achieving this decisive aim, hopefully Iranians will seek to change their foreign policy. Reformists will be in a stronger position vis-à-vis their hardline foes inside, and vis-à-vis foreign countries, especially the United States.... Will Khatami succeed?"
"U.S. Trying To Overcome 'Dual Containment' Policy"
Salama Ahmed Salama held in pro-government Al-Ahram (2/23): "The international attention to developments in Iraq is due to the strategic and cultural weight of this country in the Middle
East. Not only it is one of the oldest civilizations or its geographic position, but also it is a link with Central Asia and the Caucasian region.... Driven by its broad interest in the region, and due to its contradictory roles after the Islamic revolution and its ignition of the Iraqi-Iran war, the United States is now trying to regain its old position with Iran and overcome the dual containment policy.... The EU has already resumed its economic and political relations with Iran and revolt against the unwarranted blockade imposed by the United States.... Saudi Arabia changed its old method and has succeeded in eliminating the accumulated hatred.... It is Egypt's turn now. It could have been more effective in supporting reformists if it had resumed diplomatic relations with Iran. However, the impact of Iranian elections on the region may be broader and deeper than all of that."
LEBANON: "Will Change In Power In Iran Impact Its Support For Hezbollah?"
An analysis in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq made this point (2/23): "There are three possibilities for a future relationship between Hezbollah and Iran: 1) The relationship might not change at all, because Hezbollah does not get financial support from the government of Iran. Hezbollah gets a fifth of the alms paid by Shi'a believers to Ali Khameni, the Murshid (guide or counselor) of the Iranian Revolution. 2) The relationship might be shaken because the reformers might reduce the Murshid's authority. In this case, he will not be able to take decisions that help export the revolution outside Iran. The reformers want to have diplomatic ties with countries, not with parties. 3) The relationship between Hezbollah and Iran might be restricted and pass through Lebanese government channels only. Iran, however, will not forget its long history with Hezbollah and might change its support from political-military to socio-cultural support."
JORDAN: "Lessons From Iran"
Columnist Hassan Nabulsi commented in semi-official, influential Al-Ray (2/23): "The Iranian elections have finished safe and sound and the results are going to have a big effect on the future of the country and of the regionů. The Americans received the results of those elections with great joy and praised them as if they represented their own victory. But what is the future of the Iranian-American relations? Do the leaders in the White House think that they can control Iran and make it subordinate after what happened in the elections? I don't think so. The Iranians, whether conservatives or reformers, view Israel as the enemy that occupies holy Muslim territories and view the American as the supporters of occupation and usurpation. No positive development in the Iranian-American relations will take place until the United States releases Iran's funds and until the relationship becomes that of reciprocity and not subservience."
"From The Iranian Elections"
Columnist Yaser Zaatreh commented (2/21) on the op-ed page of center-left, influential Al-Dustur (2/21): "The Iranian elections show the vitality of the experience of Islam in Iran and its ability to put forth a genuine model for pluralism that is almost as modern as those of the West. The presidential elections that brought Mr. Khatami to power and the parliamentary elections proves that we stand before a truly pluralistic experience which was not affected negatively by the Muslim regime there. The elections were a celebration of true democracy, unlike those celebrations of fake democracies in most of the Arab countries. The Iranian people have every right to be proud of their experience and its success."
KUWAIT: "Positive Outcome"
Independent Al-Seyassah published this piece (2/22) by Shamlan al-Issa: "The Iranian election results confirm that the majority of Iran's youth desire a change and reject religious extremism. These results also indicate new changes, such as voting for parties instead of individuals pointing to a fact that Iranians have begun to understand the principles of civil societies and
respect for institutions."
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: "Important Elections"
Dubai-based Al-Bayan held (2/21): "There is no doubt that the recent elections in Iran are important not only to Iran but in terms of Iran's regional and international relations. Therefore, the GCC countries are required more than any others to read objectively the changes in the political system of their large neighbor.... We sincerely hope the new developments in Iran will further foster relations between Iran and the GCC countries and therefore solve all pending issues between them by peaceful means and build relations based on confidence and cooperation in the interests of all Islamic people."
The Sharjah-based, English-language Gulf Today editorialized (2/21): "Friday's poll is not only a vote for moderation, but also a slap in the face of conservatism. It is also a vote against isolationist foreign policy. Indeed hope is high for regional stability when the new parliament dominated by moderates and reformists sits in Tehran.... This includes resolving the problems over its unjust occupation of greater and lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa belonging to the UAE."
INDIA: "Iran Shows The Way"
An editorial in the centrist Times of India maintained (2/23): "Even as President Clinton considers stopping over at Pakistan--despite secretary of state Madeleine Albright's acknowledgement that terrorists were transiting through that country--comes news of the Islamic Republic of Iran adopting democracy through the ballot box.... The country that had often been denounced as an extremist state by successive U.S. administrations has demonstrated its unimpeachable democratic and moderate credentials. For the Clinton-led U.S. administration, this is a test of its diplomacy--the choice between moderate Islam, as represented by Iran, and Islam's fanatical variation generated and exported from the Pakistan-Afghanistan region. Should Clinton go ahead and stop over in Pakistan, he will be doing so at the cost of moderate Islam.... The right place for President Clinton to stop over, if he is serious in fighting religious fanaticism and terrorism, will be the democratic and reformist Iran, not Pakistan."
"Mirroring The Changing Face Of Iran"
The centrist Hindu's Bahrain correspondent Kesava Menon judged (2/22): "In Iran, where the February 18 parliamentary polls have conclusively proved that it is a democracy, a part of these functions have been taken over by the newspapers.... Some of these newspapers are the official organs of liberal parties while others are managed or run by leading members of the reform parties.... Almost without exception, these publications ran foul of the conservative-dominated judiciary, which appeared to be on the lookout for the most minor infraction so that the publishers could be tried and the newspapers shut down.... These papers could not, of course, have survived without the support of its readership but that only shows that they fulfil a strongly felt need.... [Yet] it is not as if the newspapers have been the sole harbingers of change. The transformation of the social, cultural and intellectual ethos [of Tehran] over the past three years has been stupendous."
PAKISTAN: "Ongoing Revolution"
The center-right Nation told its readers (2/22): "The change in Iran is likely to have a salutary effect on militant Muslim movements in the region by promoting Islam's culture of peace and
dialogue. And signs are aplenty that the same keenness for dialogue on the basis of equality and reciprocity will crack through Iran's stonewalled ties with the United States."
CHINA: "He Who Goes With The People's Will Shall Surely Win"
Under the above headline Yang Xiaolan noted in official China Youth Daily (Zhongguo Qingnianbao, 2/22): "The victory of the Iranian reformists puts an end to the isolation Iran has long suffered in the international community, and will greatly improve its relationship with Europe and the United States."
JAPAN: "Great Expectations For Iran's Open-Door, Reconciliatory Policies"
An editorial in top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri observed (2/22): "It appears that the United States, taking note of Iran's election results, is looking for an opportunity to improve ties with Iran. We hope that the United States and Iran will make 'dynamic moves' towards improving their ties. Japan has taken a rather cautious diplomatic position towards Iran, while giving thoughtful consideration to the U.S. position. Now is the time for Tokyo to switch to a more positive diplomatic stance to Tehran."
"Iran's Realistic Change Welcomed"
Business-oriented Nihon Keizai editorialized (2/22): "The landslide victory for reformers in Iran's general election will help prompt this major Islamic nation in the Gulf to take more flexible domestic and diplomatic policies for the first time in 21 years after the country's Islamic revolution. Iranian conservatives will die hard, however. As things stand, there will be more political and other clashes between reformist and conservative groups in the years to come. Preventing radical elements on both sides from clashing will hold the key to political stability in Iran. Since the inauguration of the Khatami regime, Iran has considerably improved relations with Arab and EU countries. Reformists' major advance in parliament will not only help prompt Iran to improve relations with the United States, but will also contribute to stability in the Middle East."
AUSTRALIA: "Still Brakes On Changes In Iran"
An editorial in the liberal Canberra Times read (2/23): "Powerful institutional brakes on rapid or wholesale change remain. The test now is whether the reformers elected to the legislature can rid the country of the pernicious interference in the state by undemocratic religious forces and to eliminate the abuse of the judiciary and the intelligence agencies by those religious forces."
An editorial in liberal the Sydney Morning Herald said (2/18): "For the first time in 20 years, there is explicit competition over the shape of the Iranian state and power of the Islamic clergy.... For the Iranian majority, this carries the hope of an end to ruinous economic policies and political tyranny.... The outside world will be looking for signs of moderation and dialogue on subjects such as support of terrorism and development of ballistic missiles, before welcoming Iran out of its isolation."
INDONESIA: "Election Results Carry Iran Toward Larger Changes"
Leading, independent Kompas held (2/21): "The reformers' election victory is expected to provide avenues for the Khatami government to make social, political, and diplomatic changes.... Khatami continues to attempt to extract Iran from international isolation, and has
signalled a possible restoration of relations with the West--including the United States, considered its longstanding enemy.... However...in many countries, demands for political and economic change are not necessarily welcome. Some group always rejects change, which is felt to disturb those with interests in the 'status quo.'"
SOUTH KOREA: "Iran Wading Through Ahead Of Religious Conservatism"
Senior columnist Kim Young-hee observed in moderate Joong-Ang Ilbo (2/23): "While Iran's democratization movement may relieve some of the religious burdens neighboring nations must have felt all these years, its long-term effect will be the inauguration of a similar, yet larger movement that threatens the same neighboring monarchs by challenging the social order these rulers try to maintain. Meanwhile, protest against reformers will remain formidable for now. The cleric-conservatives' control of the military and courts will be the toughest challenge Iran's reforming forces face. A clock does not run backward and today's Iran is not the same one that welcomed Khomeini's return to the country 21 years ago. The 'wind of reform' that has swept the Eurasian Continent for the last ten years did not skip Iran. The West's strong support for Khatami's reform will help Iran shed itself of its dishonorable 'rogue state' label."
"A Landslide Victory By Reformers"
Conservative Chosun Ilbo (2/21) commented: "Intermediate results of the parliamentary elections in Iran all point to a landslide victory by reformers. Now, an experiment stands before Iran, one that will examine whether Islamic ideology and democracy can co-exist. The country, in other words, will likely witness the construction of a democratic civilian society within the system framed by Islamists. The results of the election will surely affect the Middle East region, and are likely to improve relations between Iran and other Gulf nations. They may also fan 'democratic winds' in the rest of the Arab world. Especially given Iran's status in the Arab world, the election result will prove to have historic significance."
THAILAND: "Iran Continues On Path Of Modernization"
The lead editorial of the top-circulation, moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok Post commented (2/22): "The major question...is how fast Iran will move towards normalizing relations with the United States. It now is clear that U.S.-Iran relations are improving. There are conservatives in both countries holding back this process. But it is vital in today's world that these two nations re-establish diplomatic relations.... The elections strengthen the case for further reform in Iran. They also make it clear that Iranians favor better foreign relations. Iran has long been viewed as a rogue nation, willing to use terrible force and terror to spread its own ideology. The image is rapidly changing, thanks to the moderate reforms which are now underway."
CANADA: "Tales Of The Imam's Death"
The conservative National Post (2/22) opined: "Although the results of Friday's parliamentary elections are not final, it is already clear that a broad alliance sympathetic to President Khatami's policies has won control of Iran's parliament. The mood of Iranian voters has clearly turned against repressive theocracy. But though Iran may be starting down the right path, the breathlessly optimistic tone that animates much of Western news reporting is overblown.... Increased foreign investment and an overhaul of Iran's repressive system of import controls may, indirectly, lead to the normalization of foreign relations, greater internal liberalism and an end to Iran's sponsorship of terrorism. But such policies are not central to Mr. Khatami's program. And they have not happened yet.
''Western countries should therefore make clear that they will reward better international behaviour with trade and investment on favourable terms--but that they will not give the reward without the reforms."
"The Iranian Evolution"
Montreal's liberal, English-language Gazette commented (2/22): "The landslide victory posted by reformers in Friday's parliamentary elections seems sure to reinforce the liberalization under way and embolden those who question the clerics' divine right to oversee the government. The Iranian evolution has begun.... Iranians seem to expect their vote to have a major impact. If the conservatives frustrate those rising expectations, the result could be explosive. There already has been a liberalization of the enforcement of social restrictions since Mr. Khatami took office. Not only is that expected to continue, but Mr. Khatami has said he will press for the depoliticization of the judiciary and for press freedom. The vote probably also will help Iran's ailing economy, by helping to attract foreign investment.... And there is also reason to hope that the changes inside Iran will translate into a moderation of its anti-Western, terrorist-supporting foreign policy. No wonder, then, that the election result has brought joy, from the streets of Tehran to the capitals of the West. Iranians have spoken. Now it is up to the conservative clerics to listen."
BRAZIL: "Opening In Iran"
Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo's editorial held (2/21): "More than a plebiscite on the proposals defended by the reformist government, the Iranian parliamentary elections also represent a crucial moment for Islamism in other nations. A clear victory by Khatami would be capable of pushing changes to foster the transition from a religious dictatorship to a less authoritarian regime. In addition to the obvious benefits for Iranian civil society, this would reflect in the region and increase the chances of improving the relations between Washington and Tehran.... A detente in Iran, where one of the century's more radical fundamentalist revolutions took place, may contaminate other nations. What remains to be known is whether Islam and Western democratic values will be compatible and what the conservatives' response will be to their loss of power."
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