Roger Gale, MP - Reform in Iran?   Article first published: March 04, 2008

Iran Reinstates Khomeini's Son: Sign of Reform?

Iran's Guardians' Council, the body put in place to vet candidates standing for the upcoming parliamentary elections on March 14 has reinstated 280 individuals who were originally banned. Among them is Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson, Ali Eshraghi. The original list of banned candidates included some further significant figures in Iranian politics, including senior cleric Ayatollah Mousavi Tabrizi who served as general public prosecutor under Ayatollah Khomeini.

The significant analysis is that such reinstatements were not in fact an answer to public discontent, but a preplanned attempt by the regime to quiet the masses. The leaders in Tehran were fully aware that banning Khomeini's grandson would cause a feeling of anger. However, they were aware that reinstating Ali Eshraghi among a group of 280 would create the belief that the regime was reacting to the people's demands, a belief that would mean the further 2100 individuals who were banned and not reinstated, including Tabrizi, would be well forgotten by the time Iranians go to the polls.

Tabrizi's removal as a candidate is a further indication of President Ahmadinejad's control and insistence that he will achieve his aims and that of Ayatollah Khamenei on his terms and his terms only. Tabrizi is not a threat to the Islamic Republic as we know it.

President Muhammad Khatami, under the banner of "reformism," has achieved great success for the regime, but unfortunately little of that has trickled down to the Iranian people in the form of promised greater freedoms.

Khatami's greatest success has been to achieve a ban on the Iranian opposition group, The People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). The U.S. Bill Clinton administration, in what has been termed by officials as a "goodwill gesture" to Khatami, banned the group in an attempt to build bridges with Tehran. This attempt and further such endeavors by a European Union lead by the British government to open dialogue with Tehran gave the regime years to advance its nuclear program and years to strengthen its internal control over the Iranian people through horrific human rights abuses.

In fact, the case of the PMOI has now become an issue of significant concern for many. The case has in fact highlighted the continuing lack of a clear policy by the West toward Tehran. The PMOI achieved success in legal proceeding in Europe and the UK. Both the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg and the Proscribed Organizations Appeal Commission found that the PMOI had been treated in an unjust manner and called for its removal from the banned lists.

However, the PMOI remains on both lists in direct defiance of two court rulings. The manner in which the West has behaved toward the Iranian opposition and the continuing futile attempt to find reformists within the Iranian regime indicate the distinct lack of a coherent policy toward Tehran. This lack of coherence and consequent failure to condemn the actions of the Iranian regime in banning candidates in their thousands has left the West weak in the face of the regime's nuclear defiance, its support for terrorism and its human rights abuses.

The Appeals Commission found that the PMOI "is not concerned in terrorism" and labeled the actions of the UK government in refusing to de-list the PMOI "perverse." The EU and the UK should now immediately remove the PMOI from their respective lists. 

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