News 8 august — 11:55

Iran's ex-President Khatami: 'Collapse of state in Iran began' (Shireen Hunter comments for Azeri Daily)

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BY POLITICS SECTION

The situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is entering a phase of a strategic crisis. The first part of the US sanctions against a wide range of Iran's financial and economic system came into effect. The Iranian government was forced to introduce some kind of emergency economic situation. The currency restrictions imposed by the Americans force the Iranian authorities to take unpopular steps and actually send out the population and business to buy dollars in the very expensive secondary currency market. As a consequence of what is happening there is even greater inflation, rising prices, a drop in economic activity, a crisis in the banking system, etc.

According to Radio Liberty's Iranian service, the country's former President Mohammad Khatami assessed the situation in the country as 'the end of the Islamic Republic.' 'One of the dangerous consequences of the ongoing processes is that the Islamic Republic's system is collapsing,' he said, asking the Iranian people for forgiveness for failing to carry out the expected reforms, and noting that the government's inaction, the inability to take political, democratic reforms lead the country to collapse.

Mohammad Khatami

Under the pressure of inflation, environmental problems, strict Islamic rules, lack of drinking water, interreligious contradictions, lack of democratic freedoms, the mood of the streets is getting tougher every day. If in Tehran, Isfahan, Arak, Shiraz everything was limited to anti-government slogans and street clashes of protesters with the police, then in the city of Eshtehad, to the west of Tehran, protesters attacked a religious school and 500 clerics had to flee from angry demonstrators, Tasnim reports.

The strike of truck drivers demanding higher wages, which has been lasting for a week, led to a shortage of petrol in the northern regions of Iran. There are empty petrol stations in the cities and towns of the third in the world oil-producing country.

The United States cleverly uses the reluctance of clerics in power to make concessions, refusing to negotiate with it. At the same time, the Supreme Leader Khamenei rejected President Rouhani's proposal to release the leaders of the 'green movement' Mousavi and Karroubi.

Professor of the Georgetown University (Washington, DC) Shireen Hunter expressed her opinion about what is happening in Iran for Azeri Daily.

Shireen Hunter

- Since December of last year, Iran has been feverish. Is it already a revolution or just its prerequisites?

- The Iranian people have suffered a lot because of the wrong policies of the Islamic government. First, because of the new government's revolutionary rhetoric, especially vis a vis the conservative Arab regimes, Iraq invaded Iran and begun a war that lasted eight years and caused much destruction and loss of life. Iran's hostility to Israel has also cost it very dearly. After the end of the war, despite efforts by President Hashemi Rafsanjani, the hardliners, especially the revolutionary guards, prevented his reforms, including his efforts to reconcile with the United States. The same happened under President Khatami and now is happening under Rouhani.

Iranian people, are tired of revolution and economic hardship. The new generation of Iranians are more secular, well educated and want a more open social and cultural atmosphere and , of course economic well being. They resent the fact that Iran's international image is so negative now.

- During the rallies slogans are increasingly sounding, in which the late Shah Reza Pahlavi is celebrated. Over the past 40 years in Iran, not one media, no politician, historian, has said a single positive word about the former shah. Where does this popularity come from?

- This is not very surprising ,because the monarchy has a three thousand year history in Iran. It is also related to many Iranians' sense of nationalism and their affection for Iran's pre-Islamic culture. The Pahlavis, despite their flaws , contributed to Iran's survival and modernization in the last century. Therefore, with the mounting frustration with the Shia clerical rule, a return to Iran's nationalist and hence monarchic, roots cannot be ruled out.

- How likely is the default in IRI? Rial depreciates, confidence in the national currency is lost thoroughly...

- Such a situation certainly cannot be ruled out. Much would depend on how strictly US sanctions are implemented. Also , if Iran accepts President Trump's invitation for talks and reaches an understanding with America such a scenario could be avoided.

- What became the main reason for the crisis in Iran?

- A combination of factors have contributed to the current problems among which are the following: the dismantling of the pre-revolution structures and their replacement by dubious organisations which interfere in the economy and distorts its functions; mismanagement at all levels, partly because of the migration of experts; corruption and nepotism; and, finally, sanctions. the latter has had a devastating effect on Iran by preventing the flow of capital and technology to the country. Of course, some of Iran's resources have been wasted on Hezbollah, HAMAS, Syria and now possibly the Huthis, although the latter is not quite certain.

- Trump plans to block Iran's most important source of profit: oil exports. In November this year, the US will introduce a second phase of sanctions against countries that purchase Iranian oil. What can Iran do?

- Trump has already given India an exemption form the oil sanctions. India is a large importer of Iranian oil. However, the important thing is whether Iran would be able to access the money form the oil sales. The same is true of China. Even if the sale of Iran's oil is not reduced to zero, a cut in these exports would seriously worsen its economic problems.

- For several decades, the state system of Vilayati Faghih was held by large social programs: various benefits, social payments. The authority of the supreme leader depended on this social support of the population. How will the state's refusal to comply with social obligations in case of a default affect the authority of the clergy?

- Many of these programs are already under challenge. There are reports of delays in the payment of salaries etc. More important, such programs are only band aids. What the poor people in Iran want and need is economic growth and jobs and not charity. Economic problems have already undermined the authority of the clerics. That is why many of them are advising the government to liberalise rules, including vis a vis Hijab.

- Speaking of hijab. Can the Iranian authorities, under the pressure of protests, make liberal reforms in public and cultural life, in particular in ensuring the rights of women?

- The irony is that in many respects Iran has already greatly liberalised. The position of women in Iran is much better than in many Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia and possibly even in Erdogan's Turkey. The problem is that it is hard for the regime to seem to be betraying its Islamic goals. Some influential clergy also oppose such measures. However, I believe liberalisation is inevitable.

- The threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, is it only the psychological pressure or the real plan of Tehran?

- Iran is physically capable of closing the strait of Hormuz. However, that would impel America to attack Iran, in order to keep the straits open.The Europeans and the international community would support America in this case because it would be justified in terms of protecting the freedom of navigation in international waters. Under such circumstances, Iran would not be able to export any oil. However, such operation would also mean a very sharp rise in oil prices and a big shock to the global economy.

- How likely is the big war between Iran and the US?

- There are people in America and in Iran, especially within the revolutionary guards, who want war. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and most of all Israel, too, want war. However, I believe President Trump does not want war. The Pentagon also does not want war. A war with Iran would be very long and costly. Trump does not want another major military involvement by America. However, there is always the risk that some form of conflict could occur by miscalculation or accident.

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