Watch out Iran, the hardliners could return

The sanctions on one hand, and cold relations with Western powers and neighbors on the other, has led to dire consequences

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

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Despite all the country’s foreign policy improvements, Iran’s president and his team have a long way to go before their own citizens feel any improvement.

Heavy focus on Iran’s international relations have, of course, eased some of the political pressures that the country has been suffering from for years. The sanctions on one hand, and cold relations with Western powers and neighbors on the other, has led to dire consequences.

Hassan Rowhani’s balanced foreign policy, which has, of course, been approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, helped Iran to reach a deal with Western powers over its controversial nuclear program. The deal, which is good for six months before it becomes permanent, allowed Iran to build trust and reduce the tension before the tougher part of negotiations began.

All these good things happened because the supreme leader has the aim of walking out of the sanctions trap. No one among the elite circle changed overnight. The GRIC commander’s thoughts and their unhappiness towards Rowhani’s team is clear but they are quiet because Ayatollah Khamenei asked them to keep quiet.

Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Dec. 15 tweeted in Persian: “Obama is also under pressure by radicals. The radicals on both sides think only war can solve the problems.” Having been president of Iran twice, the closet person to Ayatollah Khomeini, whose incredible support made Ali Khamenei the next supreme leader, today expressed his worries that extremists would spark war.

It is clear to the wise Hashemi Rafsanjani that hardliners are waiting to gather momentum and desire to dismiss everything that has been achieved so far.

During such fragile and delicate circumstances, the Iranian government must balance its relationship with the West with the wishes of hardliners at home.

While the world is watching Iran’s nuclear program and the deal that was recently struck with the P5+1 (five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany), the Iranian psyche is occupied with something else.

Iran’s concerns

Two men and two women have been put under house arrest for close to three years without any formal charges being levied against them. The opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi , his wife and Mehdi Karroubi, in spite of all the national outcry for their release, are still under house arrest.

Some say that Ayatollah Khamenei put them under house arrest and some blame the Revolutionary Guards. Meanwhile, some say that Mousavi and Karroubi have been blamed for all the chaotic events that happened after the disputed presidential election of 2009.

Who really barred Mohammad Khatami, two-time president of Iran, from traveling and who put Mousavi and Karroubi under house arrest?

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Just a few days ago, former President Mohammad Khatami expressed his wish to attend Nelson Mandela’s commemoration ceremony, attended by more than 100 of the world’s leaders in South Africa.

Apparently, he wasn’t allowed to travel. While visiting the South African embassy in Tehran to sign the memorial book , journalists asked Khatami about the possibility of his attendance and the rumors of his travel ban. He did not give them a clear answer.

Who really barred Mohammad Khatami, two-time president of Iran, from traveling and who put Mousavi and Karroubi under house arrest? If Rowhani is so centered on foreign policy it could mean that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his supporters are having their wish.

The desire for reform and the people’s wish to have a democratic and transparent government is only a dream which cannot be fulfilled during Rowhani’s tenure as president.

One thing is certain, an improvement in relations with the West does not lead to the development of an open society in the country.

It makes for more fears among ordinary people that there could be clashes between the current government and the conservatives over the many contradictions that both sides are tolerating. Rafsanjani saw the smoke before the fire. In an open letter he warned the supreme leader of all the consequences of the disputed 2009 election. Rafsanjani is not a fortune teller but his life experience and his ability to work with all Iran’s factions (except, perhaps, the ultra-conservatives) give him the ability to predict events. Today, he is seeing something in his rearview mirror which others can’t see. He is warning people of what he can see; the danger of the hardliners.


Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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