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Rooz Talks With Mohsen Gharavian: Majority of Iranians Want Relations With the US

By Fereshteh Ghazi, Rooz Online

Cleric Mohsen Gharavian told Rooz that according to polls conducted on Iran-US relations, the majority have a positive view of establishing relations with the US and that Hassan Rowhani’s efforts are in line with the wishes and trust of the Iranian people and those of the supreme leader.

Mohsen Gharavian

He believes that the theological centers and the majority of clerics in the city of Ghom also support Rowhani’s diplomatic efforts regarding America. He adds, “One should not attribute the small gestures committed by a limited number of people to the theological centers, theologians and the majority of the clerical establishment.”

Rowhani administration’s public opinion poll about relations with the US has been met with harsh criticism by some principlists - a group of hardliners who espouse the ideals of the 1979 Islamic revolution - and some Friday prayer leader imams. Ali Akbar Velayati and Emad Afrough also joined in the ranks of critics on the issue and Ahmad Elam al-Hoda, the Mashhad Friday imam said, “A group that does not aspire the rule of Islam in the life of mankind is entertaining the poisonous idea that relations with the US be put to a poll. But can the principles of the revolution be put up for a poll?”

A vice-president and government spokesperson during the previous administration Mohammad Bagher Nobakht however had a softer tone and said the purpose of the poll was “to learn whether people were satisfied with their policies.”

Alef website affiliated with conservative MP Ahmad Tavakoli has announced that “the initial results of the poll between 80 to 90 percent of people want a change in the relations between the two countries and only between 10 to 20 percent of those interviewed are against any change in the current relations. At the same time, a significant percent from the 10-20 percent group that does not want improved relations has announced its agreement to end the ‘Death to US’ chants during Friday congregational prayers and public events.”

Mohsen Gharavian is a teacher at the Ghom Theological Center and a former student of ultra conservative cleric Mesbah Yazdi. Speaking with Rooz, he said, “The majority of people support the new diplomatic effort of the government and the establishment of relations with the US. Those people who view this latest poll to be against the views of ayatollah Khomeini and the foundations of the revolution know that they are merely attributing their personal views to Khomeini.”

In response to the view that some people have that such a poll is against the principles of the revolution, Gharavian says, “These are the personal views of individuals who are represent extremists and always want to jam the cog wheel of the efforts of a new administration. This view belongs to a small minority group. What Dr Rowhani talks on the support he received during the election which is why he is also conducting a poll on this issue. The result of the polls is that the majority of people support it (diplomacy and relations with the US). Therefore, those who present this to be against the view of ayatollah Khomeini are merely presenting their own personal views and want to attribute it to Khomeini. The message of the Iranian people is that they trust Dr Rowhani’s administration and the supreme leader has expressed his trust as well. In fact Dr Rowhani wants to show that what he has been doing in relations to diplomacy is the desire of the majority of people.”

Talking about stopping the Death to US chants across Iran, Gharavian suggests that it could be changed to Death to Arrogance. (The Persian word for arrogance is estekbar, which can also mean oppression caused by arrogance. Arrogance is a term in Iranian political lexicon that stands for the US signifying hegemony and disregard for others.)

Tehran’s influential Friday imam Ahmad Khatami, who is also a member of the Experts Assembly on Leadership, had in the past criticized those who called for ending the anti US chant and explained his view by saying that the chant resulted in strength in Iran’s diplomacy and that it would not fall from the lips of Iranians.

Mohsen Gharavian however tells Rooz that Khomeini had said death to arrogance, death to oppression and tyranny and those who perpetrated it. “His criteria was arrogance and oppression. If America is the symbol of arrogance and oppression, then ayatollah Khomeini’s words include it. When people of Iran chant the slogan they really mean arrogance. Of course even the Death to US chants in Iran are not directed at the American people. It is the US government they have in mind and then too it is against a government that wants to deal with the rights of the Iranian nation through oppression. So I think it all depends on the ways and policies of the American government. If the US government really changes its ways with us, Dr Rowhani’s talks and negotiations can be the prelude for change and friendly relations. These talks are good and can be the foundation for changing the Death to US chants to Death to Arrogance. Even the supreme leader has agreed in general to this turn towards talks and negotiations and the reduction of pressures and sanctions. He has said that everybody should cooperate with Dr Rowhani’s government. I too think we need to deal with political and diplomatic problems with reason and not emotions and excitement. Reason tells us that if we notice a change in American behavior we too should change or ways and slogans. So I conditionally approve provided the US takes a just attitude towards us.”

When asked what has caused this change in the thirty-year taboo, i.e., talk with the US, Gharavian said, “The Iranian people moved towards moderation in its last election and voted for reason. This change has created the basis to have rational and fair talks with America. Our foreign minister Dr Zarif too is striving to help this national desire to have fair and reasonable relations with today’s world. The world is not what it used to be forty or fifty years ago. It is the age of communications, diplomatic relations, political relations, economic relations, etc. It is also the age of national principles and protection of values. Our nation too has values and principles which can be maintained while having relations with the West and the East: which is how our relations are based with other countries. I emphasize again that it depends on the decision of the US government in how it wants do regulate its relations with our nation and people.”

During the interview, Gharavian also spoke positively of recent talks about a joint chamber of commerce between Iran and the US and the establishment of a friendship parliamentary (congressional) group between the two countries.

Finally, he said that the majority of clerics in Ghom supported the new diplomatic efforts launched by Tehran. He made it clear that he believed that the new administration in Iran was serious about talks with the world.

... Payvand News - 10/24/13 ... --

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