US embassy cable - 79TEHRAN11319

MODERATION: DOES IT HAVE A CHANCE?

Identifier: 79TEHRAN11319
Wikileaks: View 79TEHRAN11319 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tehran
Created: 1979-10-26 07:32:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PINT SHUM PINR IR
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 260732Z OCT 79
FM AMEMBASSY TEHRAN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 4479
INFO SECDEF WASH DC
JCS WASH DC
AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0343
AMEMBASSY ANKARA 0335
USINT BAGHDAD 0341
AMEMBASSY DOHA 0313
AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 0385
AMEMBASSY JIDDA 0401
AMEMBASSY KABUL 0383
AMEMBASSY KUWAIT 0351
AMEMBASSY LONDON 0467
AMEMBASSY MANAMA 0312
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0348
AMEMBASSY MUSCAT 0221
AMEMBASSY PARIS 0419
USCINCEUR VAIHINGEN GE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 01 TEHRAN 11319 
 
E.O. 12065: GDS 10/25/85 (TOMSETH, VICTOR L.) OR-P 
TAGS: PINT, SHUM, PINR, IR 
SUBJECT: MODERATION:  DOES IT HAVE A CHANCE? 
 
1. (C - ENTIRE TEXT). 
 
2. SUMMARY:  THE MODERATE IRANIAN POLITICAL PARTIES, WHICH 
WERE ACTIVE DURING THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION AND WHICH HAVE A 
LONG HISTORY OF OPPOSITION TO THE SHAH, HAVE BEEN PUSHED INTO 
THE BACKGROUND BY THOSE INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS WHO FOLLOW A 
NARROW AND AUTHORITARIAN INTERPRETATION OF ISLAM. WITHIN THE 
PAST FEW WEEKS, MODERATE GROUPS WHO FAVOR A MORE BALANCED 
SOCIETY RESEMBLING A WESTERN SOCIAL-DEMOCRACY, HAVE BECOME 
MORE VOCAL. WHILE NOT DIRECTLY CRITICIZING AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI, 
THEY HAVE FOCUSED THEIR CRITICISM ON SOME OF THE OBVIOUS 
FAILURES OF THE PRESENT REGIME. THE POLITICAL POSITION OF 
THESE GROUPS IS STILL PRECARIOUS. IT EXPRESSES ITSELF THROUGH 
A FEW SECULAR SPOKESMEN, SOME LIBERAL CLERICS, AND SOME SMALL 
NEWSPAPERS. ALTHOUGH STILL NOT A MAJOR FORCE ON THE IRANIAN 
POLITICAL SCENE, THESE GROUPS HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ORGANIZE 
THEMSELVES ENOUGH TO EXPRESS IDEAS CONTRARY TO THOSE OF THE 
RULING ESTABLISHMENT.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3. THE ROLE OF SECULAR AND CLERICAL MODERATES -- THE HEIRS IS 
STILL A MATTER OF DEBATE. SINCE THE REVOLUTION FIGURES SUCH AS 
MATIN-DAFTARI NAZIH, FORUHAR, SANJABI, AND BAZARGAN HIMSELF 
HAVE BEEN OVERSHADOWED BY KHOMEINI AND BY HIS ALLIES WHO SHARE 
HIS VISION OF A THEOCRATIC IRAN. NOT ALL OF THESE SUPPORTERS 
OF KHOMEINI ARE CLERICS; THEY INCLUDE THE "SECULAR MULLAHS" 
SUCH AS QOTEZADEH, YAZDI, CHAMRAN, TABATABA'I AND OTHERS. THIS 
GROUP HAS DOMINATED THE GOVERNMENT, THE PRESS, THE 
REVOLUTIONARY COUNCIL, AND THE COUNCIL OF EXPERTS. IT HAS 
HARRASSED AND IGNORED ITS OPPONENTS. BARZARGAN REMAINS 
POWERLESS; MATIN-DAFTARI AND NAZIH ARE IN HIDING; FORUHAR IS 
IGNORED; AND SAXJABI QUIT HIS JOB IN DISGUST AND LEFT THE 
COUNTRY. 
 
4. ALTHOUGH THE POSITION OF THE MODERATE PARTIES IS STILL VERY 
FRAGILE, IN RECENT WEEKS THEY HAS SHOWN SOME SIGNS OF LIFE. 
ALTHOUGH THEIR MOST IMPORTANT ORGANS, INCLUDING THE NEWSPAPER 
AYANDEGAN AND THE POPULAR HUMOR MAGAZINE AHANGAR, WERE 
SUPPRESSED IN AUGUST, THEY HAVE BEGUN PUBLISHING SMALL PAPERS 
SUCH AS KHALO-E-MOSALMAN (FROM THE MUSLIME REPUBLICAN PEOPLES' 
PARTY); JONBESH (PUBLISHED BY ALI ASGHAR HAJ SEYYID JAVADI), 
JFBHEH-YE-AZADI FROM THE IRAN PARTY AND AZADI FROM THE 
NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC FRONT. ALTHOUGH THE CIRCULATION OF THESE 
PAPERS IS LIMITED AND THEY CARRY MUCH LESS INFLUENCE THAN THE 
THREE MAJOR DAILIES (SAYHAN, ETTELAAT, AND BAMDAD) THEY DO 
OFFER SUBSTANTIAL AND CRITICAL COMMENTARY ON EVENT -- A 
COMMENTARY OFTEN AT VARIANCE WITH THE OFFICIAL VERSION. 
 
5. FOR THE PAST SIX WEEKS, THE MUSLIM REPUBLICAN PEOPLES PARTY 
(MPRP) HAS ORGANIZED FRIDAY AFTERNOON MEETINGS AT ITS TEHRAN 
HEADQUARTERS. ALTHOUGH THE FIRST MEETING ATTRACTED ONLY ABOUT 
100 PEOPLE, EMBASSY POLITICAL OFFICER AND POLITICAL ASSISTANT 
ATTENDED OCTOBER 19 MEETING AND FOUND AN OVERFLOW OF OVER 1500. 
THE CROWD WAS LARGELY MIDDLE-CLASS AND WELL-EDUCATED. THERE 
WERE MANY WOMEN, SOME VEILED, A FEW CLERICS. THE SPEAKERS 
INCLUDED AHMAD ALIZADRH, THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE MPRP, 
AND KAHMATULLAH MOQOADAM-MARAGHE'I, LEADER OF THE RADICAL 
MOVEMENT AND EAST AZARBAIJAN DELEGATE TO THE COUNCIL OF 
MOVEMENT AND EAST AZARBAIJAN DELEGATE TO THE COUNCIL OF 
EXPERTS. ALTHOUGH THE AUDIENCE AND SPEAKERS HAD NO AFFECTION 
FOR THE OLD REGIME, THERE WERE FEW MENTIONS OF AYATOLLAH 
KHOMEINI, AND NO ANTI-AMERICAN STATEMENTS. 
 
6. THE SPEAKERS ELICITED THE GREATEST RESPONSE BY THEIR 
ATTACKS ON AKHUNDBAZI (CLERICAL MEDDLING), ON THE COUNCIL OF 
EXPERTS, AND ON ATTEMPTS TO ESTABLISH A THEOCRATIC 
DICTATORSHIP THROUGH THE VELAYAT-E-FAQIM. ONE OF THE SPEAKERS 
FOUND THE CROWD'S PULSE WHEN HE SAID, "WE WANT THE ISLAM OF DR. 
SHAR'IATI; WE DON'T WANT THE ISLAM OF ........)" AND LEFT THE 
END EMPTY FOR THE CROWD TO FILL IN. BOTH MOQOADAM-MARAGHE'I 
AND ALIZADEH WERE CRITICAL OF THE VELAYAT-E-FAQIH. THE LATTER 
SAID, "THIS CLAUSE IS AN ACT OF TREASON AGAINST FUTURE 
GENERATIONS OF IRANIAN PEOPLE. WE HAD A REVOLUTION NOT TO 
PREPARE THE GROUND FOR A DIFFERENT KIND OF DESPOTISM." sPEAKING 
PRIVATELY AFTER THE MEETING, MOQOADAM-MARAGHE'I SAID THAT EVEN 
THE RELIGIOUS LEADERSHIP HAS NOW REALIZED THAT IT WILL NOT BE 
ABLE TO SELL THE VELAYAT-E-FAQIH TO THE IRANIAN PEOPLE IN ITS 
PRESENT FORM. "THE COUNCIL OF EXPERTS HAS DECIDED TO REOPEN 
DEBATE ON THIS ISSUE. I HOPE THAT SOME KIND OF IMPROVEMENT WILL 
BE POSSIBLE." 
 
7. THE MODERATES, IN CRITICISING VELAYAT-E-FAQIH, HAVE FOUND 
SOME ALLIES AMONG CLERICS SUCH AS AYATOLLAHS NURI AND SHARI'AT- 
MADARI WHO SHARE THE VIEW THAT SUCH AN INSTITUTION, IF NOT 
PROPERLY DEFINED, COULD LEAD TO A DICTATORSHIP. ONE OF THE MOST 
INTERESTING RECENT DEVELOPMENTS HAS BEEN THE ENTRANCE OF 
AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI'S SON, HOJJAT AL-ISLAM AHMAD KHOMEINI, INTO 
THE DEBATE ON THIS SUBJECT. IN THESE DEBATES, THE YOUNG 
KHOMEINI HAS TAKEN A POSITION WHICH HAS MUCH IN COMMON WITH THE 
MODERATE VIEW THAT VELAYAT-E-FAQIH, AS DEFINED BY THE 
CONSTITUTION, CONTAINS SOME DANGEROUS AMBIGUITIES. EMBASSY WILL 
DISCUSS THIS QUESTION IN MORE DETAIL IN SEPARATE MESSAGE. 
 
8. IN PART, RECENT OUTSPOKENNESS OF THE MODERATES CAN BE 
ATTRIBUTED TO DISILLUSION WITH SOME ASPECTS OF THE REVOLUTION -- 
ESPECIALLY TRENDS TOWARD AUTHORITARIAN, CLERICAL RULE. THE 
MODERATES HAVE ALSO TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF THE GOVERNMENT'S OBVIOUS 
MISHANDLING OF CERTAIN ISSUES TO ATTRACT ALLIES BEYOND THE 
NORMALLY MINISCULE CONTITUENCY OF GROUPS SUCH AS THE RADICAL 
MOVEMENT, THE IRAN PARTY, AND TEH NATIONAL FRONT. FOR EXAMPLE, 
THE OBVIOUS FAILURE OF A MILITARY POLICY IN KURDESTAN HAS 
BROUGHT CALLS FOR RECONCILIATION, EVEN BY FIGURES WITHIN THE 
REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS. A COLUMNIST IN THE NORMALLY CONSERVATIVE 
ENGLISH-LANGUAGE TEHRAN TIMES HAS URGED THE WITHDRAWAL OF NON- 
KURDISH GUARDS FROM THE REGION; THE TUDEH PARTY PAPER MARDOM, 
STUNG BY ACCUSATIONS OF SOVIET INVOLVEMENT IN KURDESTAN, HAS 
CALLED FOR A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT. ONLY THE RIGHT-WING ISLAMIC 
REPUBLICAN PARTY, THROUGH ITS ORGAN JOMHURI-YE-ISLAMI, HAS 
CONTINUED TO REFER TO THE KURDISH INSURGENTS AS "AMERICAN 
MERCENARIES". HOWEVER, THE IRP HAS BECOME INCREASINGLY ISOLATED 
IN ITS POSITION. 
 
9. THE GOVERNMENT'S FAILURE TO ENSURE PERSONAL SECURITY, ITS 
CRUDE ATTEMPTS AT CENSORSHIP, AND SCANDALS INVOLVING THE 
REVOLUTIONARY COURT SYSTEM -- LARGE-SCALE BRIBERY AND THEFT 
INVOLVING NO LESS A FIGURE THAN FORMER TEHRAN PROSECUTOR 
AYATOLLAH AZARI-QOMI HIMSELF -- HAS ALSO WIDENED THE APPEAL OF 
THE MODERATE MESSAGE. THE PAPER AZADI OF OCTOBER 18 PRINTED A 
BITTER ATTACK ON THE REVOLUTIONARY JUSTICE SYSTEM ACCUSING IT 
OF IGNORING THEFTS BY ILYAVI, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PROSECUTOR- 
GENERAL HADAVI, WHILE SENDING PROSTITUTES AND SMALL-TIME DRUG 
SMUGGLERS TO THE FIRING SQUAD. THE RECENT ATTACK ON TWO 
JOURNALISTS AT THE COUNCIL OF EXPERTS BUILDING LED THE ULTRA- 
ESTABLISHMENT PAPER ETTELAAT OF OCTOBER 22 TO WRITE A STRONG 
FRONT-PAGE EDITORIAL ENTITLED "LET US NOT REPEAT MISTAKES", 
POINTING OUT THAT THE PEOPLE OF QOM AND TABRIZ REBELLED IN THE 
SHAH'S TIME BECAUSE FOR DECADES THEY HAD BEEN DENIED THE RIGHT 
TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES. 
 
10. WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS ADD UP TO? MOST IMPORTANT, THE 
MODERATES OF THE IRAN PARTY, THE NATIONAL FRONT, AND OTHER 
GROUPS ARE ONCE AGAIN FINDING THEIR VOICE AND BEGINNING TO SPEAK 
OUT. IN DOING SO, THEY WILL HAVE TO OVERCOME SEVERAL MAJOR 
OBSTACLES: 
 
-   A) THE MEDIA REMAIN FOR THE MOST PART IN THE HANDS OF THEIR 
OPPONENTS. JOMHURI-YE-ISLAMI BECOMES MORE RABID BY THE DAY, AND 
THE OTHER MAJOR PAPERS ARE EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS. THE RADIO AND THE 
TELEVISION, UNDER QOTEZADEH'S OPPORTUNISTIC AND UNENLIGHTENED 
GUIDANCE, RARELY DEVIATES FROM ITS DAILY MENU OF PSEUDO- 
RELIGIOUS DRIVEL INTERSPERSED WITH PSEUDO-REVOLUTIONARY DRIVEL. 
 
-   B) ALL INTELLECTUALS HAVE BEEN TAINTED BY KHOMEINI'S 
DENUNCIATIONS. HIS FAMOUS AUGUST DECLARATION THAT "WE DO NOT WANT 
INTELLECTUALS" IS STILL REMEMBERED. HIS DIATRIBES AGAINST WESTERN 
DECADENCE HAVE MADE ALL WESTERN MANIFESTATIONS, INCLUDING 
NICETIES, SUSPECT IN HIS FOLLOWERS' EYES. 
 
11. THESE MODERATE GROUPS STILL LEAD A PRECARIOUS EXISTENCE ON 
THE FRINGES OF IRANIAN POLITICAL LIFE. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THEY 
ARE LEFT ALONE TO HOLD THEIR MEETINGS AND PUBLISH THEIR 
NEWSPAPERS BECAUSE THEY ARE CONSIDERED IRRELEVANT TO THE POLITICAL 
PROCESS. HOWEVER, IN HIS MOST RECENT SPEECHES, KHOMEINI HAS TAKEN 
NOTE OF THEM AND HAS CRITICIZED THEM HARSHLY FOR THEIR ATTACKS ON 
VELAYAT-E-FAQIH AND ON THE CLERGY. IN A SPEECH TO TEHRAN RELIGIOUS 
LEADERS ON OCTOBER 20, KHOMEINI REFERRED DIRECTLY TO THE MPRP 
MEETING, SAYING, "RECENTLY, IN ONE OF THEIR MEETINGS, ONE OF THESE 
MISGUIDED ONES, WHO KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT ISLAM, SUGGESTED THAT THE 
COUNCIL OF EXPERTS SHOULD BE DISSOLVED. AND THE REST CHEERED... 
YOU, WHO DID NOT EVEN PARTICIPATE IN THE VOTING (FOR THE COUNCIL) 
HAVE NO RIGHT TO SAY THIS... IT WAS THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS WHO GAVE 
YOU (OPPONENTS OF VELAYATI-E-FAQIH) THE FREEDOM TO SAY WHATEVER 
YOU WANT TO SAY. YOU WERE IN HIDING WHEN THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS 
WERE STRUGGLING AGAINST THE SHAH AND HIS FATHER. NOW YOU WANT TO 
DISSOLVE THE ASSEMBLY?... YOU DO NOT HAVE THE POWER TO DO SO. I 
WILL SLAP YOU IN THE MOUTH. STOP THIS AND JOIN THE RANKS OF ISLAM 
AND LET THIS COUNTRY PUT ITSELF IN ORDER." 
 
12. KHOMEINI'S ATTACKS ON THIS GROUP ARE STILL ONLY WORDS AND ARE 
UNLIKELY TO TAKE THE FORM OF ALL-OUT REPRESSION INVOLVING THE 
CLOSING OF NEWSPAPERS, THE BANNING OF MEETINGS, AND THE ARREST OF 
LEADERSHIP. MANY OF THESE GROUPS AND THEIR LEADERS HAVE 
DISTINGUISHED RECORDS OF OPPOSITION TO THE MONARCHY - RECORDS WHICH 
ARE DIFFICULT TO IGNORE. HOWEVER, THE HARD-LINE CLERGY AND ITS 
ALLIES HAVE BEEN ISOLATING AND ATTACKING INDIVIDUAL TARGETS FROM 
AMONG THE MODERATES SUCH AS ??AZIH, METEN-DAFTARI, AND FORUHAR. 
 
13. AS THE AUTHORITIES CONTINUE TO MISHANDLE MATTERS SUCH AS ARAB- 
IRANIAN RELATIONS, PROVINICIAL AFFAIRS, AND REVOLUTIONARY JUSTICE, 
THE MESSAGE OF THESE MODERATE GROUPS COULD ATTRACT A WIDER 
FOLLOWING. PERHAPS THEY COULD FORCE SOME CONCESSION TO THOSE WHO 
DO NOT SHARE THE IMAM'S VISION OF AN IRAN RULED IN ACCORDANCE WITH 
THE TEACHINGS OF THAT SPECIALIZED VIEW OF ISLAM HELD BY ONE SECTOR 
OF A MINORITY SECT OF THAT RELIGION. 
 
14. IN THE LONGER TERM, IF THESE GROUPS CAN PRESERVE SOME 
COHERENCE THEY MAY PRESENT AN ALTERNATIVE TO A CLERICAL MONOPOLY 
OF POWER IN POST-KHOMEINI IRAN. AT THAT TIME THEIR REVOLUTIONARY 
CREDENTIALS MAY BECOME VERY IMPORTANT; BUT FOR THE IMMEDIATE 
FUTURE, THIS GROUP WILL PROBABLY CONTINUE ON THE PERIPHERY OF 
IRANIAN POLITICS -- ARTICULATE, INTERESTING, BUT WIELDING LITTLE 
REAL POWER. 
 
LAINGEN 

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