Radicals Want Urgent Crackdown

Iran’s radical leaders have tired of waiting for the United States to invade Iraq so that can start cracking down on the reformists. On Sunday, December 15, they congregated at the residence of spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to try and persuade him to authorize their plan of action without further delay.

The original blueprint provided for Khamenei to announce a national emergency as soon as the Americans invaded Iraq, declaring that Iran was next on the American hit list. This would be the pretext for dissolving parliament and shutting down the independent press. Reformist civil servants would be jobless, security forces would round up dissident student leaders and civil rights advocates, and the reformist president Mohammed Khatami given an ultimatum to retire from political life or join the hardliners.

But, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Tehran sources, Khamenei balked at the demand for precipitate and drastic action, warning that failure could bring down the government. He only promised the radicals to review the plan if the situation changed.

Later this week, when it transpired that a US offensive was not expected before mid-January at the earliest, Khamenei reviewed the radicals’ arguments for an early crackdown.

— Student demonstrations have gotten out of hand and spread to universities across the country. In recent protests, security forces arrested hundreds of students – sparking more demonstrations. Many were released on bail but will go on trial soon. The radicals warned Khamenei the situation could snowball and undermine the regime. Many Iranians, they said, still believe it is too dangerous to join the students but, once they grow bolder, who knows where the demonstrations could lead.

— The radical and reformist camps are on course for a head-on collision in the political arena. The Iranian parliament is currently considering legislation that would widen Khatami’s authority to enforce articles of the constitution and strip the conservative Constitutional Council of its power to disqualify liberal candidates to the Majlis. The reformist camp threatened to demand a public referendum if the Council vetoed the legislation. The radicals stood fast against a referendum, whereupon the reformists threatened to resign en masse from government service, effectively a civil rebellion. This threat was withdrawn when the reformists understood it would play into the hands of their foes. However, the moment of truth is fast approaching.

— Although Europe has always followed a foreign policy independent of Washington, it has joined the United States in recent months in demanding the respect of human rights in Iran. A European delegation came to Tehran this week to evaluate the human rights situation, a visit widely viewed as Iran’s surrender to a European attempt to link expanded trade to an improvement in civil liberties.

The delegation achieved very little and was denied access to leading political prisoners.

But the Europeans did manage to raise with Iranian authorities the issues of prison torture and rape, executions, show trials and discrimination against women, minorities and religious groups. Europe has also demanded that Iran recognize Israel, stop sponsoring terrorist organizations and abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

— Ordinary Iranians are losing patience with the government’s harsh regime of repression. This week the reformist dominated parliament enacted a bill enabling Iranians to legally view approved foreign television stations, seen as another sign of weakness on the part of the regime. According to one parliament member, there are three million satellite dishes in Iran, which means that one-fifth of the population has access to foreign programs, including eight Persian-language stations that broadcast 24 hours a day and some of which are intensely critical of the clerical government.

— The economic situation in Iran is getting worse, with poverty on the rise along with drug abuse among young people and an unprecedented increase in prostitution.

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