To Please Washington, Ayatollahs Decentralize Regime

In an exclusive report from Tehran, DEBKA-Net-Weekly reveals that the rulers of Iran are going to extreme lengths to appease Washington and persuade the United States to enter into a friendly dialogue to settle their differences over Iraq, Lebanon and terrorist groups like the Shiite Hizballah and the Palestinian rejectionists which they support. To demonstrate good will, they have embarked on radical regime reform, the first since Ayatollah Khomeini established the Islamic Republic in 1979.

It is also the Iranian hard line leadership’s first tangible response to American pressure for regime change by political means and to Washington’s discreet postwar diplomatic moves in the region.

The key element of the Iranian reform program, as set out by the real power in the land, spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is the decentralization of government in Tehran and its breakdown into two systems. Government in the capital, headed by himself, will control national security, foreign affairs, the treasury, the military, the oil, military and nuclear industries and nuclear weapons development.

The second system will be based on regional semi-autonomy in the conduct of local affairs, industry and economic development. A coordinating authority will operate on the national level to oversee overlapping essential utilities and services such as electricity, transport and water.

Our Iranian experts point out there is nothing haphazard about this distribution of power in relation to the burdens of government. It is heavily weighted on one side, leaving the power and national revenues in the hands of the hard line spiritual ruler and the militant Revolutionary Guards who obey him, and casting the country’s galloping social and economic ills out for the provincial authorities to cope with as best they can.

The only province unaffected by the reform will be Khozistan. Since this region contains most of Iran’s oil riches and is populated largely by Arabs, Tehran will not abolish the military government that has ruled the province for many years.

Baluchistan is a different matter. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Tehran sources reveal that earlier this month, Khamenei took a trip to this province which abuts Pakistan. Local conditions here were a factor in the Iranian ruler’s decision to go for reform. He found that across the border, the Islamabad government and the Pakistani army were fast losing control of their Baluchi citizens, whose province is sinking into lawlessness. Fearing a spillover to the Iranian side, Khamenei decided to grant Iran’s 4 million Baluchis a measure of administrative autonomy in their capital of Zaheadan – both to check the breakdown of order from seeping through into Iranian Baluchistan and perhaps to tempt Pakistani Baluchis to seek annexation to their better-off brethren in Iran.

Our sources report that the Ayatollah spent ten days in Baluchistan and when he returned to the capital, ordered the devolution of the central government’s powers to begin forthwith.

Iran’s 11-18 million Kurds are the second population group who will be at the receiving end of the changes in Tehran. A group of Kurdish leaders has already approached Khamenei to state that their people are not seeking full independence in the wake of the Iraq War, only equal rights, administrative autonomy and official recognition of the Kurdish language alongside Farsee. Khamenei’s office displayed willingness to discuss Kurdish demands for the first time.

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