by Zafar Bangash (World, Crescent International Vol. 37, No. 2, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1429)
On March 14 Iranians in overwhelming numbers participated in the country’s 28th elections since the Islamic Revolution (1979) to elect members of the eighth Majlis (parliament). At least 25 million people, constituting more than 60 percent of the electorate, cast their ballots to choose 290 members from a field of 4,225 candidates. Under Iran’s Islamic system there are no political parties, only groups that cooperate on the basis of their policy platforms. Accordingly, two factions known as osoolgayaran (the principalists) gained a comfortable majority of 71 percent of the vote, though not all 290 seats were filled. According to Iran’s electoral system, a candidate must secure 50 percent plus one vote to be elected to parliament. The Persian daily, Kayhan, reported that 204 members had been elected in the first round and the rest would go to the second round of polling.
Other sources, such as Mehr news agency, reported that one faction within the Osoolgayaran, the “United Principalists Front” that is aligned with President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, won 88 seats, while 27 of its candidates go through to the second round. Another faction, the “Broad Principalists Coalition”, won 75 seats and 27 of its candidates will also contest the run-off. At the other end of the political spectrum, the group calling itself the “coalition of reformists” and generally identified with Mohammed Khatami, the former president, won 23 seats; 10 of its candidates are to compete in the second round. An allied faction, the Etemad-e Melli, won 17 seats and 11 of its candidates have to go to the second round. A number of independents were also elected. The second round of elections will take place later this month (April).
“By holding approximately thirty free and popular elections in less than thirty years and in difficult circumstances, the Islamic Republic has shown that it is the most dedicated system of popular sovereignty in the new world,” said the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei. The difficulties the Rahbar alluded to are obvious: they are largely Western and primarily US-engineered; the US refuses to accept Iran’s independent system because it will not submit to Washington’s bullying. The US has led a campaign of sanctions, military threats, political and economic blackmail and vicious propaganda to undermine the Islamic system in Iran, though with little success. The reason is that the people of Iran support and trust their leadership because the leadership keeps them abreast of all developments.
The US campaign against Iran has taken many forms, the most recent of which is the one about Iran’s alleged nuclear programme. Iran insists that it is for peaceful purposes, but the UScontinues to make wild allegations. Even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog responsible for these matters, has sided with Iran, but because of pressure from Washington has not been able to say openly and categorically that there is nothing illegal about Iran’s activities. Despite intrusive inspections, the IAEA has found no evidence thatIran has diverted nuclear fuel to any activity not permitted under the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which it is a signatory. On March 3, the US pushed yet another resolution through the UN Security Council (Res. 1803), the third in two years, calling for further sanctions against Iran.
Apart from Indonesia, which abstained, the other 14 security council members again succumbed to the US’s bullying. Muhammad Khazaee, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, said: “No country … can solely rely on others to provide it with the technology and materials that are becoming so vital for its development and for the welfare of its people.” He went on: “People across the globe have lost their trust in the Security Council” and that they see it as the work of “a few powers to advance their own agenda.” His argument found resonance with a number of countries, including South Africa, whose ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, despite voting for the resolution, nevertheless pointed out that the West’s attempts to deny Iran its nuclear fuel reprocessing rights was hypocritical. “South Africa does not want to see [either] a nuclear Iran or a country denied peaceful technology.” Expressing the view of other rotating Council members, including Vietnam and Indonesia, Kumalo said that South Africa would have preferred to postpone the vote and leave further deliberations on the Iranian nuclear programme to the IAEA. The IAEA met two days later; despite attempts by Western countries to push another resolution against Iran through, the resolution was rejected because a number of non-aligned member-states said they were not in favour of such a move. Iran, meanwhile, has said that it will ignore all such illegal resolutions of the security council that deny its rights under the NPT.
The US is using the nuclear issue to exert pressure on and mobilise support for a possible military strike against Iran. US vice president Dick Cheney, considered to be the most ‘hawkish’ member of President Bush’s government, visited a number of countries in the Middle East in the last week of March. He not only met Egyptian and Saudi rulers but also visited tiny Omanon the Western coast of the Persian Gulf, just across the Strait of Hormuz. While the ostensible reason for Cheney’s visit was to boost the so-called peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, the real reason was to drum up support for a military strike against Iran. It is reported that in his meeting with Cheney on March 21, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia made clear his opposition to any US attack on Islamic Iran. Pointing to the mess in Iraq and the growing resentment against US policies, and against regimes aligned with it, the king is reported to have told Cheney to adopt the diplomatic approach. This is not what Cheney wanted to hear.
The drums of war are again beating loudly in Washington after a hiatus of three months following the release in December 2007 of the National Intelligence Estimate report that confirmed that Iran had abandoned the military component of its nuclear programme as early as 2003. The resignation in early March of Admiral William Fallon, head of US Central Command, who was in charge of US military operations in the Middle East, Afghanistan and also Africa, led to speculation that there was deep unease within the military about the wisdom of launching yet another military adventure when the two wars the US is already engaged in (Iraq and Afghanistan) are going so badly. Fallon and his colleagues are not constrained by pangs of conscience or the illegality of their actions; their primary concern is that they cannot wage another war at this time. They simply do not have the manpower or the material resources to start another war, especially one in which the intended target is not weak, as Iraq and Afghanistan were, and the US military is already stretched almost to breaking point.
But Bush and the neo-cons seem not to think in rational terms. Theirs is a cabal of rightwing ideologues whose primary mission in life is to bring death and destruction to other societies, especially Muslims’. If, in the process, thousands of Americans are killed and the US economy is destroyed, it does not matter because their own sons and daughters are not dying, and they and their friends in the oil and arms industries are making fortunes. There is no logical (market) reason for the extremely high oil prices; Bush and co. want them high so that their friends in the oil industry can rake in billions of dollars in profits.
America’s policies are motivated by greed, exploitation, violence, and war or the threat of war to achieve its nefarious designs. Other people are supposed to work to advance America’s interests. Those, such as Iran and (more recently) Venezuela and Bolivia, which refuse to do so, are targeted. They are vilified, their political systems are destabilised, and attempts are made to overthrow their governments. They use every means at their disposal to achieve their criminal ambitions. When people resist such illegal tactics, they are accused of terrorism or of sponsoring terrorism. The nuclear issue is a case in point. Iran and a number of other Middle Eastern countries have called for a nuclear-free Middle East. America refuses to countenance such a proposal because its surrogate, the zionist state of Israel, will then have to give up its arsenal of nuclear weapons. It is the only entity in the region with more than 200 nuclear weapons. Such weapons in the hands of the zionist war criminals are acceptable but others, especially Muslims, must not even think of acquiring the nuclear expertise to produce energy.
Western (especially American) policy is based on hypocrisy and blackmail. The only way to deal with it is to resist it. This is what Islamic Iran has done, and now a number of other countries are also realising that it is possible to defy Uncle Sam. The fundamental condition for this policy to be successful is, of course, the support of one’s people. This is what the leadership of Islamic Iran enjoys, and no amount of propaganda can detract from this fact, as attested to by the scores of elections Iran has had since the Islamic Revolution 29 years ago. The general election on March 14 was one more slap in the fact to the US, its allies and their meddlesome, selfish, exploitative, manipulative ways.