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Iran: Government of Moderation

By Gholamali Khoshroo, Senior Editor and vice president of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam
Source: Iran Review

Iranian President-Elect Hassan Rohani

The recent presidential election in Iran started with confusion, doubt and misunderstanding and ended in transparency, admiration and hope. Not only the result of the election, but also its process were quite interesting. Given the sensitivity that the international community has toward Iran, the presidential election was not simply a domestic issue, but on global scale, it was a test of the wisdom of the Iranian people and their endeavor to lead a more dignified life. The election and people’s expectations from the elected president can be analyzed in three different areas of moderation, rationality, and ethics.

A) Moderation: The victory of Dr. Hassan Rohani in the presidential election was universally hailed by all the domestic political forces from principlists to reformists as well as the political elite and people alike. This was because his announcement about adopting a moderate policy has raised hopes about the resolution of domestic problems and termination of foreign restrictive measures imposed against the country. Now, the general feeling in the society is that the election was a transition from divergence to convergence. The elected president never tried to instigate one part of the society against another by using such common tools as threat and information leak. He never wanted to highlight the lines of conflict and division in the society, or ride the wave of insult and hostility. On the contrary, he patiently guided the wild waves of grudge and spite toward the safe shores of friendship.

From the viewpoint of political organization, he has been close to the principlist camp, but in terms of discourse, he has good relations with the reformist figures. This characteristic can serve to repair the rift which has been made deeper and deeper in the political society of Iran as a result of narrow visions and the absence of foresight. Those political figures who put the highest emphasis on “resistance” [against the West] and opposed the positions taken by Mr. Rohani, while dreaming of gaining control over the main body of the society, have now found their rightful place. However, even those political forces should not be pushed to the margins now. On the contrary, they should muse over the people’s votes, get aligned with the main current in the society, and help to promote the process of public unity and national dignity.

The government of moderation does not consider factional rivalries or cult-related conspiracies as a criterion for choosing its members. It rather chooses Cabinet members, who are supposed to run various affairs of the country, on the basis of meritocracy and in accordance with their experience and knowledge as well as compliance with and loyalty to the principles and goals of the Islamic Revolution. [The head of] such a government defines the vow of cooperation not on the basis of absolute compliance with his decisions, but according to active participation of Cabinet members in making decisions, their serious commitment to national interests and the degree to which they can pass over personal and factional interests. He gives precedence to informed and ethical criticism and comments by his colleagues in the government over absolute obedience with his decisions. He also replaces the elements of arrogance, cowardice and surprise inside the Cabinet with consultation, trust and hope.

Moderation in domestic affairs helps to bolster the country’s social assets and prevents the spread of such ominous phenomena as distrust and suspicion. Inviting all the people, even those who have problems with the Islamic establishment, to take part in the election was an auspicious beginning for a major national reconciliation. This should be taken as a good omen which has so far replaced distrust and despair for vividness and friendship. If large groups of people are ousted from the inclusion of “self,” the result will be this bitter satire: “The circle has been so narrowed down that even its center has fallen out!” With moderation, all the citizens would be hailed and the rights of all the people would be respected with the government considering itself not the guardian, but the servant of people. In this case, the government actually melts in the context of a society whose expanse includes the entire area of Iran. It is also in that case that security and stability will be bolstered in the country, the independence of the country and the dignity of the people will be realized, and social divides as well as ethnic, local, group-based and sectarian conflicts will be resolved.

When it comes to foreign relations, the government of moderation, which has a correct understanding of both the opportunities and threats, will do its utmost to use the best possible methods in order to get the security established in the country and the national interests met. A government’s correct understanding of the strategic, economic, and cultural conditions of its own country and other countries is necessary to adoption and pursuit of a moderate policy. Statesmen who are mistaken about their own position will either usher their country into submission and surrender, or impose war and destruction on their own people. The foreign policy is an arena for interaction and rivalry among countries that are bent on pursing and protecting their national interests and security. By bolstering social solidarity and general reconciliation, a given government can succeed in stabilizing its national interests at a global level. Constructive interaction with the world and building confidence at regional and international levels will be among foreign policy priorities of such a government. At the same time, collaboration and convergence with neighboring countries in addition to having constructive relations with effective countries in the world will reduce the risk of securitization of issues related to Iran, and will help to realize the interests of the Iranian nation.

B) Rationality: When exercising politics, rationality is a necessary component for finding the real causes of incidents, gaining profound understanding of the realities, and taking advantage of all possible ways to achieve one’s goals and stay away from unjustified arguments. A rational government will listen to the comments of the elite and scholars and will do its best to solve the country’s problems through consultation and foresight. Such a government does not consider itself the know-it-all and will never look down on the experts. It is more poised to listen to other people’s ideas than ever trying to give voice to its own views. At the same time, whenever the head of such a government talks, he will not impose additional costs on the country and other institutions through his remarks.

Lack of good understanding of international mechanisms and lack of respect for international relations in Iran's foreign policy has already imposed hefty costs on the country. One of the main duties of the government is to identify threats and make plans to reduce the impact of international sanctions against Iran. In the meantime, it should take advantage of active diplomacy in order to prevent further international pressure mounted against Iran. Unfortunately, the previous government described international sanctions as empty threats right at the time that it should have thought of ways to prevent those sanctions from being imposed on Iran. That government even considered the United Nations Security Council’s anti-Iran resolutions as “scraps of paper.” Even now, instead of giving answers about its erroneous analyses and diplomatic inefficiency, that government is irresponsibly blaming international sanctions as the main reason behind the dire economic conditions which are facing the country.

A rational government carries out a good assessment of the existing opportunities and threats in international relations. It has nothing to do with delusional ideas about managing the world, departs from apocalyptic claims, establishes its own position in the world through active and dignified diplomacy, and guarantees the independence of the country with courage and self-confidence.

C) Ethics: The government of moderation will consider revival of ethics and commitment of the administration to observing the ethical principles as one of its most important tasks. In countries where the government plays a very important role in the social and political life of people, the importance of accountability, transparency, and respect for ethics merely doubles. Honesty, lack of discrimination, showing respect for individuals, justice, fairness, and commitment to people’s rights are among the main ethical principles which governments are duty-bound to painstakingly observe. Inattention of governments to the above issues will lead to the rapid spread of distrust, squandering of social assets, and further intensification of social maladies. Government is a powerful institution. When left unattended, it can easily tread upon the dignity of people. The government of moderation makes meticulous economic plans and tries to allay people’s suffering by correctly regulating foreign relations.

A government that adds to people’s sufferings through its rash decisions, leaves them surrounded by pains without a cure and in the ruthless clutches of joblessness, such a government is actually making people to pay for its inefficiency and, in practice, does the worst form of tyranny to impoverished social groups. A government that increases people’s pains as a result of its narcissistic delusions, gradually goes down with ethical decadence. Such decadence does not end when the limited term of administrations come to termination, but its effects will continue to affect generations for a long time to come. A government which has scaled up the power ladder through people’s votes should remove all the pressure from people’s shoulders, show respect for their rights, and give in to their rightful demands.

About the author Gholamali Khoshroo: Senior Editor of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam. Former Deputy Foreign Minister for legal and International Affairs, Islamic Republic of Iran (2002-2005). Khoshroo is assistant of President Khatami on “Alliance of civilizations” and Dialogue among Civilizations”. He has served as the Dean of the School for International Relations (1983-89); Ambassador to the United Nations (19890-95); Deputy Foreign Minister for Research and Education, Member of OIC Commission of Eminent Persons on “Enlightened Moderation”. In recent years, he has extensively worked on the development of contemporary political Islam and its implication for western societies. As a sociologist he studied at Tehran University and New School for Social Research, New York, He has published several articles and books on political and cultural affairs.

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