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Inquiry & Analysis-
Iranian Domestic Criticism of
U.N. Security Council Resolution 1737, of
In light of the growing pressure on Ahmadinejad in the lead-up to the upcoming Security Council meeting, scheduled for February 13, 2007, which will discuss expanding the sanctions, and in light of the intention of Majlis members to summon him to the Majlis to explain his nuclear strategy, on January 21 Ahmadinejad appeared at the Majlis and said: "Even 10 sanctions resolutions of this sort would have no effect on Iran's economy and policy... Developing nuclear technology is a lofty ideal and a sacred goal for
It should be emphasized that this domestic criticism is focused mainly on the strategy of Ahmadinejad and his supporters, and on the way they have chosen to fight for
Criticism in Conservative Circles
*Jomhouri-ye Eslami: "Let the Officials [in Charge] of the [Nuclear] Dossier Take a Stand Vis-à-Vis... the Americans and the Westerners..."
In a January 9, 2007 editorial, the conservative daily Jomhouri-ye Eslami, which is close to the religious seminaries in Qom, attacked Ahmadinejad's handling of the nuclear dossier, and called upon him to let the professionals handle the dossier and to cut back to a minimum his incendiary statements on the issue. The daily also criticized his incorrect assessment of the impact of the sanctions, and called upon him to use greater prudence and not to hide their true effects from the people. The editorial emphasized
"...President Ahmadinejad, we appreciate your desire to do justice [to]
"It is true that the national [i.e. the nuclear] dossier must occupy a place [of pride] in the heart of the nation. Therefore you generally evoke it in your speeches, and rightly so, in order to [ensure] the nation's dedication [to this issue]. However... the fact that you see fit to evoke nuclear technology in all your speeches and in all [of your visits to Iranian] cities... – that is not a correct strategy.
"In your speeches in various cities, you mention in particular certain important decisions regarding the nuclear dossier, which were made without the necessary thought and planning. Why is it that in his speeches the president feels the need to explain his policy regarding every phase of nuclear development? One day you announce the installation of 3,000 centrifuges, and several days later [the installation of] 60,000 centrifuges... It seems to us that [these] speeches are not well thought-out, and that there is no precise calculation behind them. If there was planning [of any sort], your pronouncements indicate that it has no professional basis.
"Your statements on the nuclear issue, which are so aggressive and [include] inappropriate words, indicate that you have taken an obstinate position on the nuclear conflict. But what a country needs in the process of becoming nuclear, is expertise and confidence, in accordance with the [guidance] of the Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei]. Why do we need pronouncements of this sort, which give those aggressors [i.e. the Western countries] an excuse to increase the pressure [on us], and which [lead] the people to think that their president... is handling the nuclear issue in an extremist fashion?... The president needs to explain the country's nuclear [policy] calmly and rationally, to the necessary extent, and in most cases it is others who should do the talking, not [the president].
"By referring to the nuclear conflict in your speeches, you have turned it into the symbol and motto of your government. This is not right... since governments come and go while the national issues remain. Just as
"We emphasize that you... highlight the [nuclear] issue in order to cover up your government's failings and problems... This is damaging to you and to your government. The government needs to address the country's various needs, [like] inflation, employment, and hundreds of other issues... If the people think that the government is emphasizing the nuclear issue in order to divert [attention from other issues], you will actually lose national support in handling the nuclear [issue].
"The nuclear issue has diverse aspects. The most important of them is technological progress, in which much effort [has been invested] during your presidency. However, diplomacy is also part of the nuclear dossier... Sometimes there is need for negotiations, and sometimes [there is need for] a strong stance, or for various tactics that calm [the situation], or for obstinacy or for flexibility. In any event, an important dossier such as this requires sensible diplomatic handling. There is also the task of informing the public... You believe that this can be done [simply] by making speeches and dealing with the media...
"Nuclearization and unyielding dedication are indeed required and necessary, but the president must not raise the national price [that we must pay for] carrying out this task. The nation should not have to pay... for your approach [to the nuclear issue].
"Another point: The people need to feel that the president intends to resolve this issue in a sensible manner. The fact that you attach no importance to whether or not the sanctions resolution is passed – that is not the right approach, in our opinion. The people are resilient and patient, [but] the current sanctions resolution undoubtedly does damage to the country, and now, in light of your [attitude, the West is acting] to considerably broaden the sanctions... When the sanctions are broadened, will we say that [the new sanctions resolution] is also an [insignificant] piece of paper?
"In any event, this sanctions resolution creates problems, and it would behoove the president to speak to the people in a proper fashion. The Iranian people is sensible and is always ahead of its leaders. Do not be [afraid] that if you tell the people the truth they will no longer defend you. Know that they will withdraw their support for you if you cover [things] up. The sanctions resolution was unjust, and will create certain difficulties... What would be better for the people than to hear [words of] moderation and understanding from their president?
"In light of this, [we] suggest that the honorable president devote time to the nuclear issue only at large national ceremonies. You should not speak too much about this issue in your speeches in the various districts, and should leave it to the officials [in charge] of the dossier to take a stand vis-à-vis the hooliganism of the Americans and the Westerners, if needed... For every issue... there are officials [who are in charge of it, and there is no need for you] to deal with the nuclear issue on a daily basis..."(2)
*Iranian Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezai: "We Must Act Reasonably – And At the Same Time Prevent
Referring to the increasing
Further, in a
"In half the time it took for the U.N. Security Council to pass the sanctions resolution,
"Naturally, these conditions, and the consensus of the world powers against
"Reformists and officials formerly in charge of the nuclear dossier... deem [Ahmadinejad's policy] as the main cause of the deepening of the nuclear crisis and of the sanctions. This group sees the measures being taken by the new government as the cause of the deepening concerns regarding Iran's capability [in face of the West's pressure], [and as the cause of] the West's interference in Iran's sensitive affairs, and of the escalation of the pressures on Iran.
"This group believes that the loss of the trust built with Europe... the failure to present [an Iranian answer] to the [5+1] proposal in time, and the transformation of the nuclear dossier into a propaganda and media matter in Ahmadinejad's [speeches] in the various districts and forums... are among the factors that have led Iran into the current situation. This group is placing the responsibility for the current situation on the Ahmadinejad government, and particularly on Ahmadinejad himself...
"The position of Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei] is 'wise steadfastness' in the fullest sense of the term: The state is not seeking adventure, but neither is it willing to surrender..."
Criticism by Members of the Previous Negotiating Team and the Khatami Administration
*Hassan Rouhani: "Those Who Said that the Referral of [Iran's] Nuclear Dossier to the Security Council is Nonsense Must Now Explain Why They Thought This Way"
In an interview with the reformist daily Etemad-e Melli, former Supreme National Security Council secretary Hassan Rouhani, who was in charge of the nuclear dossier in Khatami's administration and is now the representative of
"[During Khatami's time], there were those who scoffed and said that the referral of [
"When we say that we have the right to enrich uranium, [we base this on] Article 4 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which guarantees us that right. But the treaty also [states] that nuclear activity must be for peaceful purposes [only]. If we cannot prove that our nuclear activity is for peaceful purposes, our legitimate right [to develop nuclear technology] will be called into question... [In Khatami's time], we proved legally that our [nuclear] program is for peaceful purposes... We said that through cooperation with [IAEA] and through negotiations we can make achievements, and indeed we attained all our [goals]..."
*Hossein Mousavian: "Security Council Resolutions Take Precedence over NPT Articles"
Criticism of the current government's nuclear strategy was also expressed by Hossein Mousavian, former chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee in the Supreme National Security Council, who was a member of the nuclear negotiating team during Khatami's time, and now heads the International Relations Research Department of the Expediency Council. Participating in a January 3, 2007 panel on U.N. Resolution 1737, he warned that the sanctions could be broadened, and called upon the regime's leaders to adopt a more sensible strategy, based on a more realistic view of the international balance of power:(7)
"...Saying that the sanctions resolution is illegitimate and illegal does not solve the problem of the nuclear dossier. According to the U.N. Charter, Security Council resolutions take precedence over commitments of governments to international forums, and they are binding for all U.N. member states. So if we say that Article 4 of the NPT guarantees our absolute right to [develop] nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, we must bear in mind... that Security Council resolutions take precedence over NPT articles. [Furthermore], Iran is bound by the U.N. Charter, and as long as it continues to be a member of this organization it cannot act in total opposition to [this Charter]...
"The Security Council is the highest global-level authority, and its resolutions cannot be appealed before any other body. We must understand the international laws... We have our own [Iranian] position, [but] we must understand the international laws as well... If we reject [the Security Council resolution],.. it will only deepen [the crisis]. Therefore... we must think rationally [about how to] put an immediate end [to the crisis], and start negotiating in any way possible, since negotiations are our only option... Future Security Council resolutions may broaden the sanctions...
*Expediency Council Member: "We Need Skilled, Experienced and Moderate Individuals to Save Our Country from Crisis"
In an interview for the conservative news agency Aftab, Expediency Council Member Mohammed Hashemi of the reformist Kargozaran party said that since he assumed power, Ahmadinejad had been unable to thwart
"... A year ago, there were those who believed, on the basis of statements by certain countries [i.e. China and Russia], that America could not refer Iran's nuclear dossier to the Security Council, and that if this did happen, there still would be no sanctions imposed on Iran... But unfortunately, we have seen that America realized its aspirations, step by step... [China and Russia] have no clear position, since on the one hand, they are defending Iran's right to [develop] nuclear technology, and on the other, they are supporting America and are partners to its moves. It is unfortunate that the local media in Iran has not publicized the latter half of their position...
"In the past year, during which the current government has taken charge [of the nuclear dossier], we saw the [sanctions] resolution passed [by the Security Council]. I believe that with its next steps, America will realize all its aspirations [with respect to Iran]. Therefore, we need skilled, experienced and moderate individuals to save our country from crisis..."
*Advisor to Former Iranian Defense Minister: "Why Are We Openly Revealing Our Weak Points to the Enemy?"
In an interview for the Iranian news agency ISNA, Ali Reza Akbari, who was advisor to former Iranian defense minister Ali Shamkhani, likewise criticized Ahmadinejad's policies. He said that the Holocaust cartoon exhibition recently held in Tehran, as well as Ahmadinejad's provocative statements, were not serving Iran's interest in maintaining political and security calm – which would allow it to develop its nuclear technology:(9)
"...Today, one of the things that Iran needs the most in order to realize its nuclear rights is to control its political and security environment – that is, [to create] a safe zone [for itself] in the global security arena, and to control the situation in a way that serves our interests... The more heated our environment and the [prevailing] atmosphere, the further we get from our goals... Raising issues like the Holocaust and [other] matters that provoke our adversaries... runs counter to our interests...
"[U.N.] Resolution 1737 is essentially a destructive and threatening resolution... which runs counter to international laws and rights and which makes problems for
"Why are we openly revealing our weak points to the enemy? Why don't we protest forcefully against the harmful repercussions of this resolution, and at the same time reject it in a reasonable manner?...
"Our nation is too strong to stray from its positions [because of] one [single] sanctions resolution, but it makes no political sense to say that the resolution is nothing more than an [insignificant] piece of paper, [just] to scorn our adversary...
"Articles 24 and 20a of resolution 1737 advise the 5+1 [i.e. the five permanent Security Council members +
Criticism by Reformists
*Former Reformist MP Mohsen Armin: "If This Policy [of Ahmadinejad] Continues, There Is No Doubt That it will Fail and Bring About Harmful Consequences"
At a November 15, 2006 seminar at Tehran University on "Foreign Policy, National Interest, and Ideological Interests," Mohsen Armin, who in the Sixth Majlis was spokesman of the reformist party Mojahedin-e Enqelab-e Eslami and a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said that Russia and China would not be able to withstand the U.S. forever, and that Iran's leaders must respond to Europe's demand to freeze uranium enrichment. Following are his main points:(10)
"...Ahmadinejad has said several times in his speeches that the Europeans asked us to suspend [our uranium] enrichment, if only for a few hours, and was proud [of the fact] that we would not do this. If this is so, and the Europeans were [really] so meek, why is Iran [now] on the brink of sanctions only [for want of] a few hours of suspension? This makes no sense... China and Russia do not have the ability to confront America to the end. It appears that regarding [our] nuclear dossier, there is no way but to return to the strategy of the Khatami government.
"With the change in the American [Congress] and the defeat of the Republicans by the Democrats, a good opportunity has been created for
After the passing of the sanctions resolution, Armin added, "There is no doubt of
*Reformist Mosharekat Party: "
The following are the main points of the communiqué, as it appeared on the reformist website Emrooz on
"...Unfortunately, since the beginning of the activity of the Ahmadinejad government and of the new team [in charge of
"As we noted in the past, we link [
"In our view, the opinion that [Iran's] national interests are best served by preventing... any type of criticism and public debate is wrongheaded, mistaken, and contrary to national interests... We remind the ruling branch of the Majlis and the government that [they] rose to power on slogans of development, welfare, and improvement of living [conditions] and the economy. It should not be forgotten that
"We too are opposed to the oppression and authoritarianism that prevails in the international arena, and we do not doubt the aggression and unilateralism, and the double standards, of
"In light of the threats against the country's national interests and territorial integrity, we must be sure to take no actions that could be used [against us] by the superpowers...
"We stress that that [
"The opportunity to review [
"In light of the fact that steadfastness in the face of the U.N. Security Council resolution is steadily placing us in a more difficult and isolated position... and in order to break the international comprehensive consensus [against us], exit the crisis and begin a new round of negotiations and confidence building, we advise announcing a return to the previous policy [of the Khatami era]...
"Talks on this subject must begin with the countries that influence the Security Council members, particularly
"Under current conditions, and in the negotiations and the confidence-building process, we must refrain from any kind of declaration of adventurous policy that exacerbates the crisis, or from executing any kind of action likely to arouse suspicion and doubt about Iran in the international arena (such as leaving the NPT or holding a Holocaust [cartoon] exhibit)..."
*Hamshahri: "As Long as It's Not Too Late, the Country's Top Officials Must Choose an Effective Strategy so as to Lead to Greater Progress in The Country, and to Prevent [Iran from Paying] a Higher Price"
"...The current period, [when] debate is underway in the country about
Criticism by Top Religious Authorities
*Ayatollah Montazeri: "Have We No Other Rights and Obligations [to Our People]?"
In a memorial ceremony for former Iranian prime minister and Iranian liberal leader Mahdi Bazargan, Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri expressed his fears that President Ahmadinejad's fixation on the nuclear issue was denying Iranian citizen's other rights.(14) Following are the main points of the report, as it appeared January 22, 2007 in the online reformist daily Rooz:(15)
"... We repeat every day that this thing [i.e.
"Did we elect the government just so it can spout slogans? In spite of all [
*Y. Mansharof is a research fellow at MEMRI.
(1) ILNA news agency (
(2) Jomhouri-ye Eslami (
(3) ISNA (
(4) Mehr news agency (
(5) Baztab (
(6) Etemad-e Melli,
(7) ILNA news agency (
(8) Aftab news agency (
(9) ISNA news agency (
(10) ISNA (
(11) Emrooz (
(12) Emrooz (
(13) Hamshahri, (
(14) Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, one of the founders of
(15) Rooz (
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