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Are Iranians Outside Connected to the Voices Inside the Country?

Opinion article by Taghi Rahmani (source: Rooz Online)

As Iranians gear up for the June presidential elections, political groups and personalities become more vocal and visible. A question that is pursued by some today is whether the voice of Iranians outside the country is deeper, more radical, than those inside. If the outside calls are independent, more radical and disconnected from those inside Iran, the two can still temporarily come together and yet act differently.

To Freedom - by Mana Neyestani

Every social movement advocates and advances its own goals and interests. In the case of Iran, the outcome of this has worked to the advantage of the conservatists and conservative reformists in Iran, while it has also benefited the regime. The presence, and even fuelling of, differences among domestic and foreign based Iranian political groups are in fact a security objective of Tehran.

When the Green Movement was at the height of its activities, its foreign-based groups and personalities insisted on positions and demands that were different from the core demands of their domestic buddies. Inside the country, the goal of attaining democracy was defined by pursuing the core demands of the movement, even if this meant doing it through the political process and groups. This is important because a foreign-based Iranian political group can get close to people and gain its recognition and acceptance only if it embraces the demands of the public inside the country.

But foreign-based Iranian opposition groups transformed the core demands of the people to forms of regime change. At the same time, half way in its activities, the leaders of the Green Movement wavered and began to build new leaders, replacing existing ones. This effort however miscalculated the influence of the new leaders, the strength of the supporters of the movement and even its own strength. The result was that it helped the decline of the whole movement. Till today, no definitive review and conclusion of what and how things developed to that point have been done. The various groups comprising the movement have each reached their own independent conclusions and lessons without consideration of the views of their comrades. Now some groups inside the country point to the radical/extremist views of the foreign-based factions and argue that they had caused the factions inside the country to take the extra conservative views and actions inside the country, thus causing the decline of the Green Movement as a whole.

This argument only strengthens the view that the movement outside the country and the one inside are nothing other than two parallel movements that will not join hands. But one must stop and ask who really benefits from this picture? At the same time the critical issue to be agreed upon is this: What do we want: fundamental freedoms and rights that bring about democracy; or take leadership of the political process and institutions? If we want the leadership of the polity inside the country, do we really have the influence, power etc to accomplish it, especially in view of the disconnect between the outside and inside? We must not lose sight of the fact that the establishment in Tehran works to keep this disconnect between the groups inside and outside broiling, even when the chances of any leadership from opposition groups outside the country are absent.

The reality of the opposition and the Green Movement is that the elements inside the country and those outside it need each other. What is missing is a coordinated policy for their shared goals. The groups and individuals outside Iran clearly cannot take the leadership to launch social movements and actions inside the country but they certainly can help the leaders inside the country accomplish such acts. So the two groups can discuss goals and means to work together.

Who specifically will be leading such an effort is a secondary matter. In other countries similar to ours, pathways to liberty and democracy were created by individuals in power who themselves had questionable records and who were not perfect. A regime that relies on oil and is the offspring of a revolution only adds to the complexity of this reality; it does not negate it. Furthermore, show me a successful movement in the last 100 years or so which succeeded in taking the leadership of a movement without having some support from inside the establishment. The history of the Green Movement shows that criticism of its leaders did not result in the rejection of the leaders but it did negatively impact public enthusiasm to fight and resist.

Upcoming Elections

It must be noted that the structure of the oil-based regime and Iranian history indicates corroborates the fact that what happens outside the country impacts events inside it, but they are not the decisive and determining elements. To become or remain effective one must identify and understand the forces that are decisive. To become an effective player, I suggest attention to the following:

1-Individuals and groups inside the regime are important in the events that shape Iran. It is critical that their role and views be objectively understood. For example, the real roles and influence of Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami will not change just because hundreds of articles are written reimaging their actual positions or influence. The Green Movement can benefit from their position in its pursuit of its goals. Outside Iran, much is written about what to do, but what are the practical and real possibilities of their materialization?

2-Many have wrong views and opinions about groups and individuals outside the country. Pre-judgments are not useful and practical in this regard. Differences among Iranian groups outside the country have a negative impact on groups inside the country. They also reduce the influence outside groups have. What reduces differences is the attainment of a coordinated effective approach and strategy with groups inside the country. It is only in that context that realistic and fair criticism of domestic groups will be listened to.

3-During the last elections, we observed that despite the thousands of critical articles that have been written by groups outside Iran, the main players in the next elections are showing themselves. What can a group that is demanding something that is different from what the groups inside and Iranians inside the country are calling for?

In this regard one can point out to the plan of the supreme leader's house/establishment which expects 3 loyal reformist to participate, while members of the house know that even if reformists do not reach a consensus they would still present candidates to the elections. This is why they tell Khatami and Rafsanjani that they should not participate so they can advance their own candidates while at the same time prevent reformists from reaching a consensus.

This plan will be complete when Mashai's is rejected. If in that scenario Ahmadinejad resigns, then the Revolutionary Guards would conduct the national elections. Those in the supreme leader's establishment are currently not worried about pressure from the West. There are also those among this group who have come to believe on the need to have a candidate other than Mashai form the government's faction.

So how you disrupt this game or change it in a manner that would be very costly for the supreme leader if it succeeded?

Some options may be:

1-Completely boycott the elections on any grounds, Mousavi/Karoubi's continued house arrest or whatever.

2-Let the supreme leader's house to do all it can do to prevent the reformists from reaching a consensus, thus resulting in the candidate of the three weak reformists.

3-Strive to come up with a single reformist candidate who would also have the blessing of Mousavi and Karoubi, and most importantly, whose rejection by the vetting institutions would cost the regime dearly. So this has to be a candidate who will create public enthusiasm and energy. We reformists need this public fervor. By presenting our demands we can create the right atmosphere and even force the candidates to present better programs. The effect of such a well prepared plan and the right mix of demands the public sphere will fire up so that even if the supreme leader's establishment and or the Guards resist them, more of their supporters will drop off and join the ranks of the reformists or opponents.

We should not forget that the core demands of the Iranian pro-democracy groups outside the country had a solid foundation in the groups, which must still exist. Pursuing the core demands places the needs away from personal drives and most importantly, our society needs the open space. What can those outside the country do to help bring about this open space?

... Payvand News - 04/07/13 ... --

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