Mojtaba Vahedi is a senior advisor to opposition cleric Mehdi Karroubi. Vahedi recently came to study in the United States and spoke to insideIRAN.org from Washington.
An opposition supporter stands near a police motorcycle set on fire during clashes
with security forces in Tehran on December 27, 2009 (photo: TehranLive.org)
Q: How do you view the state of the
opposition movement now? Is the Green Movement still capable of organizing large
crowds and large demonstrations?
A: I believe that the Green Movement is capable of attracting large crowds. I also believe that since the June 12 election, people's dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad has multiplied because of many false promises he made. There is another question here. How would another demonstration be received by the government? The leaders of the Islamic Republic have shown that they would not shy away from doing anything in order to stop demonstrations. Different people are willing to pay different costs for their goals. Some people might go as far as death. Most people, however, are not interested in that. I said this earlier that if a fraction of the level of violence that occurred in Tehran had occurred here in Washington, D.C., people would have gone to their homes and never returned to the streets again.
There is great potential in the people. This is evident from the fact that people take advantage of every opportunity to protest despite all threats.
Q:What are the concrete political goals of the opposition at this stage? Do you think there is a chance of running candidates in the next parliamentary election? Do you think there is a chance for a political compromise with the regime?
A: People were after free and fair elections in accordance with international standards. Another demand was also added to their list of demands after the election. People are repelled by being insulted and condescended. They believe that they were insulted and belittled in this election. Prior to the election, and for a short period of time, the political climate in Iran was fair and open. People chanted various slogans ridiculing the president. After the election, people started to realize that this was a trick to get more people to the voting booths so the government could brag about forty million people turning out to vote. By the way, I do not believe that 40 million people participated in the election. At any rate, those in charge fooled the people in a way just so they could brag about it. People found this to be very insulting. Now, people want a government that would not try to deceive its own people. The main goals of the Green Movement are transparency in elections and honesty in dealing with people.
Based on my own experience, the Guardian Council does not behave in accordance with the law. But its behavior does change as a result of domestic and outside pressure. They are very fragile when facing outside pressure. The Guardian Council will close its eyes on everything when there is outside pressure. Today, however, the same kinds of pressures may not work so today's pressures must be according to the conditions on the ground. Regardless of the Guardian Council's behavior, I personally am opposed to participating in the upcoming parliamentary election. Even if Mr. Khamenei says he would guarantee the fairness of the election, we cannot trust him for he made similar promises regarding the June 12 election.
In my opinion, internal rifts in the conservative camp are becoming so deep that there is the possibility for some conservatives to move closer to the reformist camp and take advantage of their [reformist's] power to put pressure on their rivals. That is why I am against taking part in elections. The Green Movement should not be used so one conservative faction would overcome another hardliner faction. There is no point in participating in elections as long as there are no guarantees about the fairness of the election.
The Iranian government has proven that it only understands the language of force. The Iranian government is not to be trusted. And please tell me who this so-called government is? Is it (Parliamentary Speaker) Ali Larijani or (Judiciary Chief) Sadegh Larijani? Is it Ahmadinejad or Khamenei? Is it all of them or none of them? Please tell me who this government is? They keep changing their positions too. Tell me who they are! I want to go negotiate with every single one of them! Seven years ago, some newspapers promoted traditional ceremonies prior to Nowrouz; this year, the very same people condemned those ceremonies and called them sacrilegious.
Q:What is the role of opposition figures, such as yourself, who live outside Iran? Do you plan to return to Iran? Do you coordinate your efforts with opposition figures inside Iran?
A: Living abroad now allows us to say clearly what we used to say through signals. People of Iran want their voices to be heard. Our role as those who reflect the events happening inside Iran to the world is very effective. Whatever needs to happen must be done by the Iranian people. Therefore, we are just acting as individuals who try to inform and provide information to the inside. Let's say I go to Iran. I will not be able to do anything alone. The world needs to know these men [the Iranian leadership].
As for coordinating with those inside Iran, I don't call to ask permission from Mr. Karroubi to do an interview with you or anyone else. Even when I was his adviser and chief of staff, I never worked like that. I believe that what I say and what I do are not in contradiction with the main goals of the Green Movement and will help these goals eventually.
Q: Some have argued that Ahmadinejad will not finish his term. Khatami said last week that the current situation was not going to last long. Karroubi and Moussavi have both said that this situation is unsustainable. What is your opinion?
A: I believe that Ahmadinejad will not finish his term not because of the Green Movement or what Khatami said about him. He will not finish his term because he thinks he is a partner in power with Khamenei and he thinks he is a "somebody" now. Khamenei cannot tolerate anyone who thinks he is a "somebody." It is no different to Khamenei whether this "somebody" is Abdolkarim Soroush or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Khamenei was looking for someone who needed him.
Q:Do you think that international sanctions will force the Iranian government to change its course regarding the nuclear program? Are these sanctions going to help or hurt the opposition?
A: Sanctions will certainly expedite the fall of the regime. I am an Iranian too. I don't like sanctions. They are blaming the sanctions for the government's mismanagement already, such as plane crashes. The government will welcome sanctions. Imagine the government sending its agents to buy goods with suitcases full of cash. Even without sanctions, the government is incompetent! Why are they rationing gasoline right now when there are no gasoline sanctions?
InsideIRAN.org is a bi-weekly
journal of analysis and research written primarily by scholars and activists
living inside Iran and those who have recently left the country. Our purpose is
to provide in-depth information about the internal political dynamic that is
unavailable in the mainstream media. Through research and commentary, we will
continue to document the political and theological crisis.
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