Leaders of Iran

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Jannati and Karrubi and the Political Debate in Iran Following Elections for the Seventh Majlis

Special Dispatch Series - No. 713: "The Political Debate in Iran Following Elections for the Seventh Majlis

Prior to the February 2004 elections for the Seventh Majlis, or parliament, in Iran, the Guardian Council disqualified thousands of reformist candidates, among them senior Majlis members seeking reelection. [1] As expected, following the mass disqualification, most new Majlis members were from the conservative stream. [2]

The disqualification enraged many reformist Majlis members, and over 100 of them resigned in protest. In addition, some 80 of the disqualified candidates demanded that the Guardian Council explain in detail the reasons for their disqualification.

The Guardian Council disqualifications fired up the latent conflict between Majlis Chairman Medhi Karrubi and Guardian Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati. The following is a review of the Iranian media on the mass disqualification and its aftermath:


Ayatollah Jannati: The Demand to Explain Disqualifications is 'Illogical'
In his sermon on April 23, 2004, Guardian Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati defined the demand by reformist candidates to explain in detail the reasons for their disqualification as "illogical" and said that the council would not respond to this request. At the same time, Jannati said that the council would provide a reply if the Judiciary, also a conservative body, asked it to do so.

Jannati explained that "it is illogical for a group of disqualified candidates to challenge the decisions made by the most senior body with the authority to discuss and make decisions on issues regarding the candidates' qualifications… The February 20 parliamentary elections were actually a slap in the face to [Iran's] enemies, and a great victory for Islam…." [3]

Jannati explained in general terms that the candidates' unsuitability stemmed from reasons of "financial and moral corruption, espionage and security, smuggling, and matters of that kind." [4]


Majlis Chairman Calls for Comprehensive Investigation

In a speech in the Majlis, Majlis Chairman Medhi Karrubi attacked Jannati's statement and called on him to refrain from "generalizations, false accusations, and slander." Karrubi stressed that "the fact is that Mr. Jannati has no logical arguments on this issue. Instead, he should have been courageous and said that the mass disqualification of candidates for the Seventh Majlis was planned in advance, and political… Even before the elections we declared that the rights of a number of specific candidates had been violated."

Karrubi called for a comprehensive investigation of the matter, and said that Jannati should be responsible for it because he was Guardian Council secretary. "These are not the last elections, and there will always be more elections in years to come. This is because the architect of the Islamic revolution [Ayatollah Khomeini] set out the constitution that calls for holding national elections always. Even the acting leader [Khamenei] said that the country's top officials are nominated via elections … and stressed that elections must take place on time and that all the political groups must be given a chance to take part in them."

'If a Court Sentences a Man to Be Flogged, Don't They Tell Him Why?'

Karrubi continued, "I have a complaint for the sources of authority. [5] They know that I always defend them, but they must think about the honor of the clerics. Why can one cleric [Jannati] disqualify over 2,000 [candidates], accuse them, judge them, and [say they are] corrupt?… We accept that among 2,000, perhaps a number are indeed corrupt … but why reject the qualifications of good people? You must say why – even to those who are unqualified and corrupt…

"What does this resemble? If for example a court sentences a man to be flogged, don't they tell him why? Do they grab him by the collar and flog him without telling him anything? Imam [Khomeini] said that if a condemned man is slapped in excitement, he has the right to punish [the one who slapped him]. Such sweeping accusations are nothing more than contempt for the clerics.

"We have only one month left here [in the Majlis]. But we will always be in Iran. I came into the world in Iran, and, God willing, it is in the land of Iran that I will be buried. Here is our land, but to the people I say that neither the religion nor the clerics are responsible [for what Ayatollah Jannati did]. By clerics I mean [Ayatollah] Motahhari, and [Ayatollahs] Beheshti, Bahonar, and Khamenei. [6] By clerics, I [also mean] Imam Khomeini.

"I have a complaint against the sources of emulation. Why do they give permission to one cleric [Jannati] to accuse so many in such a way? I ask in all honesty, why is Mr. Astana unqualified? He was a parliamentary representative from the Third through the Fifth [Majlis], and was qualified to run in the elections for the Sixth Majlis. Is he among [those] who was flogged and accused of financial [corruption]? Does he face a court ruling?

"Mr. Jannati, please tell us: Why did you disqualify Mr. 'Anayat Husseini Boroujerdi, who is also the father of a Shahid [martyr]? … What is his crime? He had one child who became a martyr… Tell us why you rejected him...

"Why do you affront the honor of the clerics? If you think I am accusing you, appeal to a court. I will come and give an answer …" [7]

A week later, Chairman Karrubi again went on the offensive against the Guardian Council: "Had the disqualifications been based on a clear standard, that would be all right. But when the rights of a certain group are violated in the elections process, it is like stopping a competitor midway." Karrubi added that each body in the regime should be run by people elected by the public. [8]

Expediency Council Chairman Rafsanjani: Explain the Disqualifications

It should be noted that former president and current Expediency Council Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, acentral conservative figure in the Iranian regime, accepted Karrubi's demand, saying that the required documents must be provided to disqualified candidates who want an explanation. [9]

Guardian Council Ignores Imam Khomeini's Guidelines

In a 47-page letter to Iranian youth, Iranian President Mahammad Khatami also mentioned, albeit indirectly, the mass disqualification of reformist candidates, criticizing how the Guardian Council was being run. Khatami said that some are trying to advance a traditional interpretation of Islam in the name of Imam Khomeini, and to prevent any other interpretation. "These people want to prevent society from free thinking, in the name of Islam. Some are trying to excessively support the Imam [Khomeini] in the Guardian Council, while they ignore the warnings he issued during his life to the Guardian Council..." [10]

Interior Minister Musawi-Lari: 'The Guardian Council Cannot Do Whatever it Wishes'

Interior Minister Abd Al-Wahid Musawi-Lari, who is close to President Khatami, expressed amazement at Ayatollah Jannati's statements, saying: 'The rule of law is transparent. The Guardian Council cannot do whatever it wishes, and it is obligated to officially declare why it rejected candidates..." [11]

Reactions in the Media: Jannati Must Explain

In an editorial, the centrist daily Entekhabasked by what logic Jannati had rejected the candidates' right to know the reasons for their disqualification. The newspaper noted that it is unfair to disqualify candidates and not tell them officially why. Jannati's justification for doing so, wrote the paper, was completely intolerable. [12]

The reformist daily Nassim-e Saba said that Jannati's words were "very illogical" and that "all society mistrusts them." [13] The reformist daily Seday-e 'Edalatwondered by what standard the Guardian Council justified its actions, and stated that Jannati must explain this standard to the public. [14]

Conservative Columnist: 'The Guardian Council Must Present the Logical and Constitutional Reasons for Disqualification'

Nasser Imani wrote in his column in the conservative daily Resalat that because Jannati said that some of the reasons for the candidates' disqualifications were security-related, a detailed report could not be expected for reasons of state security. With regard to the disqualification related to financial or moral corruption or criminality, he said that the newspapers had already extensively covered the crimes of any candidate involved in crime, and that Jannati's logic was that there is no need for further explanation. "Apparently," wrote Imani, "the Guardian Council's motives for not publishing the reasons [for the disqualification] were fear of the outcome [of publishing them]."

At the same time, Imani concluded that due to "the need to prevent non-believers from entering the regime, the Guardian Council must announce the reasons for disqualification, even if most are published later in public by the people. The Guardian Council must present the logical and constitutional reasons for disqualifying candidates. The advantage in doing so exceeds the price, as thus the Guardian Council will advance from the place of a closed and restricted circle to a responsible and responsive position – even if part of the [Iranian] political arena does not accept its logic." [15]






--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] The Guardian Council is a conservative body appointed byspiritual leader Ali Khamenei. The council has the authority to determine whether the Majlis' rulings are compatible with Shari'a law, and can revoke laws passed by the Majlis and disquilify candidates for election. Relations between the council and the largely reformist Sixth Majlis were tense.

[2] The voter turnout for these elections was very low in comparison with previous years – about 50%. An analysis of voting patterns in Majlis elections and in the local authorities for the past year shows that reformist supporters preferred not to vote. The conservatives turned out in numbers similar to those in last two elections – that is, some 20%. See Memri Special Dispatch No. 689, April 1, 2004, 'Iranian Youth Organization to Supreme Leader Khamenei: 'What A Huge Lie You Are Telling!''

[3] Mardomsalari (Iran), April 24, 2004.

[4] Aftab-e Yazd, (Iran), April 26, 2004.

[5] He is referring to the religious jurisprudents, who are considered "sources of emulation" (marlij'eh taqlid) in Iran.

[6] Ayatollah Mortheza Motahhari was one of the founders of the Islamic Revolution, and assassinated in 1979 in an attack by the Mujahedeen-e Khalq. Ayatollah Mohammad Hosseini Beheshti, another founder, was secretary-general of the Islamic Republic Party and was assassinated, along with 70 members of the Islamic Republic Party, in 1981. Ayatollah Mohammad Javad Bahonar was Iran's second prime minister and also secretary-general of the Islamic Republic party, and was assassinated in another 1981 bombing.

[7] Aftab-e Yazd (Iran), April 26, 2004.

[8] Aftab-e Yazd (Iran), May 3, 2004.

[9] Jamhouri Eslami (Iran), May 5, 2004

[10] Aftab-e Yazd (Iran), May 4, 2004. http://khabarnameh.gooya.com/politics/archives/009833.php

[11] Aftab-e Yazd (Iran), May 29, 2004.

[12] Entakhab (Iran), April 25, 2004.

[13] Nassim-e Saba (Iran), April 28, 2004.

[14] Seday-e 'Edalat (Iran), April 29, 2004.

[15] Resalat (Iran), April 26, 2004."

Daily Times - Site Edition

Daily Times - Site Edition: "Iran reappoints Jannati to head Guardian Council

TEHRAN: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has reappointed a senior hardline cleric to head a powerful constitutional watchdog seen by moderates as one of the key obstacles to reform in the Islamic state.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who has been a member of the 12-strong Guardian Council since its creation in 1979, was granted another five-year-term after his current period expired, the council said on its Web site on Thursday. As secretary of the veto-wielding body, Jannati is one of the most powerful officials in Iran.

The watchdog, comprised of six clerics and six Islamic jurists, has the power to block legislation it deems un-Islamic or unconstitutional and can also bar candidates it considers unfit from standing in parliamentary or presidential elections.

Analysts said Jannati’s reappointment was of little surprise since Khamenei has tended to keep faith with most of the key officials he has the power to appoint. But one conservative commentator said Khamenei was aware that public opinion of the council was low due to its role in blocking reformist legislation and candidates in recent years. “Perhaps Khamenei will try to modify the Guardian Council’s behaviour,” said Amir Mohebian, editor of the conservative Resalat newspaper. reuters"

AYATOLLAH JANNATI RETRACTS ACCUSATIONS AND APPOLOGISES

AYATOLLAH JANNATI RETRACTS ACCUSATIONS AND APPOLOGISES: "AYATOLLAH JANNATI RETRACTS ACCUSATIONS AND APPOLOGISES

TEHRAN 20 July (IPS) Three weeks after having created an unprecedented turmoil in the country by claiming that the Oil Ministry was riddle with corruption, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati had now changed his mind, saying he was given wrong information.

In a speech pronounced end of June, the hard line cleric who is also the secretary of the powerful Guardians Council had accused unnamed officials at the Oil Ministry of getting large kickbacks, sending "millions and millions" in their bank accounts outside Iran.

The accusations, coming immediately after the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) had clinched an important deal with Italian oil giant ENI, drew sharp reaction from the government, with the Oil Minister, Mr. Bizhan Namdar-Zanganeh urging Mr. Jannati to make public the names of all those who suspect of fraud and kickbacks accompanied of their bank accounts.

Mr. Jannati replied that he would do so without hesitation and present all the names and every bit of information in his possession to the Judiciary, adding that his information comes from a "very informed and reliable" source inside the Ministry.

The charges were also interpreted by some Iranian analysts as heralding a new political showdown, this time between the leader of the regime, Ayatollah Ali Khamenehe'i and the former president, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, with the former getting closer to the reformists while the latter becoming the flag bearer of the ultra-conservatives staunchly opposed to any kind of reform.

Answering Mr. Namdar-Zanganeh who had called for urgent action and investigation to the ayatollah’s allegations, Mr. Khatami went out of his usual indifference and said openly that the charges were "politically motivated".

He also warned the influential cleric of the possibility of being investigated by the notorious and controversial leader-controlled Clergymen’s Special Tribunal.

Conservatives-controlled newspapers, particularly "Resalat" that speaks for the Bazaar oligarchy criticised Mr. Jannati, observing that his claims had "further confirmed the position of the Oil Minister instead of weakening".

Now, according to the pro-reform daily "Hambastegui" (Solidarity), Mr. Jannati, in a letter to President Mohammad Khatami, had apologised for the recent accusations he brought up against the Oil Ministry.

"In his letter, Mr. Jannati acknowledges that he had been provided with incorrect and distorted information on the deals" the paper added.

At the core of the controversy lies the "buy-back" system with which the government bypass constitutional clauses that forbids foreign investments in Iranian oil industries.

Under the system, introduced in the nineties, a foreign investor is to recover his investments and interests from products produced.

According to many experts, this system benefits mostly the oil firms that accept to challenge the sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States.

As Mr. Jannati retracted from his previous hawkish stand and appoligised for the unfounded accusations, the reformists-dominated Majles (parliament) began probing into the benefits of "buy-back" contracts signed with foreign firms for the development of the country's oil and gas reserves.

The inquiry aimed to determine whether the contracts were in the national interest and whether the projects given to foreigners could be carried out by Iranian experts.

Iran has signed buy-back deals worth billions of dollars with several major international oil firms such as Italy's ENI and France's TotalFinaElf.

But more than the system, it is the agreements that make the Oil Ministry and its officials look suspicious, as nothing ever have been published concerning the deals, worth billions of US Dollars.

Now, according to the pro-government "Aftab Yazd" (The Sun of Yazd), Mr. Namdar-Zangane has promised to publish the full text of all the oil contracts.

"As I have frequently mentioned before, at the time of signing the oil contracts, all the relevant state departments including the Foreign Ministry, the Management and Planning Organization, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Central Bank and the Energy Committee of the Majles were aware of these agreements. And there has been full co-ordination between the Majles and the government over this issue", the Minister has told the paper.

Mr. Namdar-Zanganeh has put the net figure of the oil contracts over the past four years to about 10.5 billion dollars and reiterated that the government is "almost obliged" to sign oil contracts on buy-back basis.

He said in accordance with the third economic development plan, the government must invest 31 billion dollars in the oil and gas sector, noting that the figure does not include investment in the petrochemical sector.

"In connection with the American sanctions, Mr. Zanganeh observed that Iran did not allow the sanctions to succeed and added that even Japan, which was the last country to ignore these sanctions, is no longer co-operating with America. As I have said on many occasions before, extension of these sanctions would hurt American firms", Aftab Yazd said. ENDS JANNATI RETRACT OIL CORRUPTION 20701"

OIL MINISTER TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION AGAINST AYATOLLAH AHMAD JANNATI

OIL MINISTER TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION AGAINST AYATOLLAH AHMAD JANNATI: "OIL MINISTER TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION AGAINST AYATOLLAH AHMAD JANNATI

TEHRAN 7 July (IPS-IRNA) Iranian Oil Minister Bizhan Namdar-Zanganeh reiterated Saturday that the Oil Ministry will take legal action against those accusing Ministry’s officials of taking commission from foreign companies with which the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) concluded buy-back contracts.

His remarks were in answer of accusations made recently by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the Secretary of the powerful Council of Guardians, charging that unidentified people have "plundered millions and millions" the country, sending the money in foreign banks.

Mr. Namdar-Zanganeh had immediately urged the hard line cleric to publicly name the persons and provide the name of the banks where the "plundered money" had been deposited.

Mr. Jannati’s harsh remarks came immediately after NIOC signed a new major contract with Italian ENI for developing the onshore fields of Dar Khovein in the oil-rich South-western Province of Khoozestan worth US Dollars one billion.

Since the proclamation of Islamic Republic 22 years ago, this is the first time that Iran signs a contract with a foreign company dealing with onshore fields.

Oil Ministry introduced the buy-back system of contracts to overcome constitutional obstacles that forbid foreign companies to invest in Iranian oil industries.

Speaking during a press conference, the Ministry again defended the "buy-back" system of contracts NIOC sign with foreign executives but at the same time said the law forbid the Ministry to divulge details of the controversial agreements that some oil experts say are against the nation’s interests, favouring foreign firms.

"All the signed contracts have passed legal channels before being finalised", Mr. Namdar-Zanganeh said, adding that a committee comprising of representatives of the president, the Management and Planning Organisation (MPO) and several deputy ministers study the contracts NIOC signs with foreign partners.

"The technical and economic justification for the projects, he pointed out, is approved by the High Economic Council and the ceiling for the total contracts to be signed each year are determined by the parliament", he pointed out.

He accused unidentified "certain countries which regard Iran as their monopoly’"' have launched speculations against contracts NIOC has signed with foreign partners, an indirect reference to the United States.

He said that the contracts the NIOC has signed with foreign executives mainly focused on the common oil and gas fields under which 3.5 billion barrels of gas liquids, 2,300 billion cubic meters of natural gas, 100 million tons of liquefied gas and 2.5 billion barrels of crude oil will be produced in 30 years.

He said that the contracts had already been put on tender and the projects have been ceded to those who won the tender except for phases one, two and three of South Pars oil and gas field.

According to the Minister, the NIOC has signed 11 contracts with foreign companies on exploration and research studies and has reservations about announcing the interest rate in the buy-back contracts. He said in the meantime that the interest rate has gradually decreased in the past four years.

He explained that the buy-back contracts have been signed in short terms to save payment of interest rate.

He said that the NIOC has set up Petro-Pars Company to carry out the phases one, six, seven and eight of South Pars Gas field and help domestic engineers promote their technical expertise.

"Petro-Pars has undertaken a dlrs 3.5 billion contract to develop South Pars gas field. 40 percent of Petro-Pars shares belong to the special fund "future builders" affiliated to the Iranian Development and Renovation Organization (IDRO) and 60 percent of the shares belong to the Retirement Fund of the Oil Ministry. ENDS OIL MINISTRY CORRUPTION 8701"