Iran: The Ruling Class Unites Around Rouhani’s Nuclear Diplomacy

Once again, the international media has noisily greeted the arrival of a new Iranian president, seeing in him the ultimate triumph of diplomacy, moderation and wisdom. In this they are just repeating what they said and wrote ten years ago with headlines like:

EU ministers strike Iran deal

Diplomatic coup on nuclear programme averts crisis (1).

And comments like

Three European foreign ministers claimed a diplomatic coup yesterday, securing an agreement from Iran over its nuclear programme which could defuse a brewing crisis with the US (2).

Another election and another president

The political apparatus of the Iranian bourgeoisie in the midst of a great global economic crisis, as well as an unprecedented split within the state, managed their electoral farce with some success. This was achieved through the cooperation of all political factions and of course ever-present on the scene were the opposition parties. “The Political Epic” (3), the Supreme Leader's slogan for the new year, despite his temporary retreat, was achieved. Any excitement gained from watching this drama could only be for those who have suspended their disbelief. Disbelief in the fact that the directors of this play were the same charlatans who 34 years ago made people believe that Khomeini's image was depicted on the moon! These were the same murderers who, 4 years ago, shot protesters who were asking for their votes back in broad daylight.

Holding an election with a maximum turnout had a great importance for the regime, in order to overcome two of its major impasses at minimum cost; first, to mend the rift within the Iran's ruling elite and second, to change course in its foreign policy. A glance at the manoeuvres of the regime's various factions, in the weeks before the election, shows the vital importance of this election to the regime. Ranging from bold threats such as:

Anyone who doesn't take part in the election will definitely go to hell (4).

to simply pleading with voters on the days prior to election. Ayatollah Khamenei, aware of the apathy and the reluctance of people to participate, for the first time in the Islamic Republic’s entire history, asked the opponents of the Islamic Republic to participate in the election.

For some reason, there are some who may not want to support the Islamic regime, but they surely still want to protect their country. Everyone should come to the polls (5).

With this background and with the full support of Rafsanjani, the reformists, and the entire spectrum of the opposition, Hassan Rouhani, under the slogans of "prudence and hope" and "moderation" won 51 percent of the votes on 3rd August 2013, and was officially elected as the President. No objection was raised over the way the result was announced even though there were some questions about why the election did not go to a run-off. It seems that reaching an agreement amongst themselves prior to the election made any objection irrelevant and unnecessary. The men of “principle” of the reformist opposition did not say a word, because their political interests were already being met. All the factions, from conservatives to reformists and the opposition declared the election results as their victory, and that was absolutely true. It was a victory for all of them.

The August 2013 election, an opportunity for mending the rift within the Iran's ruling elites

In our article, “The Crisis in the Iranian Ruling Class” in Revolutionary Perspective No. 58 in August 2011, we wrote (6):

Focussing on the election is not limited to the current factions in power. The main two camps, conservatives and the reformists, led by Khamenei and Rafsanjani, are trying to settle their differences through the upcoming parliamentary election and have come up with a formula for power-sharing to repair the damage that the state suffered following the 2009 disputed election...

They found this formula in the person of Hassan Rouhani who is neither a reformist nor a conservative, or rather, he is a bit of both. Previously he was on the Supreme National Security Council, representing the Assembly of Experts, as well as member of the Expediency Council and director of the Centre for Strategic Research. He later became the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council. A real man of the regime.

In that article, we also noted that;

… they are facing two major problems; first the presence of an element of distrust among themselves, which may well require both camps to make some sacrifices/changes in their personnel and structure … The second problem is how to regain public trust in elections and preferably by creating yet another hyped-up election atmosphere, as they did in 2009. No one is more tuned in to this than Rafsanjani.

It was not so easy to achieve this. In the conservative camp, the Ahmadinejad administration were preparing their candidate Mashaei (related by marriage to Ahmadinejad) for victory. Then the conservatives turned against him, mostly because of Mashaei’s ultra-nationalistic views so that the Economist magazine described it as a game of chicken. (7) Ahmadinejad told his supporters in a rally in the city of Ahvaz, that he had been threatened:

...they have sent me a message that if I push too far, they will deal with me and put me in my place. You are nothing in comparison to the nation. The Iranian nation never bowed to the superpowers and slapped them in their faces and will do so again, you are nothing. If any one your files are revealed, then you will have no place within this nation (8).

And in the reformist camp, Rafsanjani and Khatami, stopped at nothing, from political manoeuvring to appeals and supplication to the leader. It was Rafsanjani's manoeuvring over his nomination for his candidacy on the final day and his later disqualification by the vetting system of the Guardian Council that mobilised the opposition behind Rouhani. The only reformist candidate, who had gone through the Guardian Council vetting system resigned in favour of Rouhani's candidacy on Khatami's advice. Despite Rafsanjani being denounced by the intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi (9) as a seditious leader he made no reply. He went along with anything in order to save the system. In this atmosphere, Ahmadinejad's top man, Mashaei was also disqualified. Ayatollah Khamenei, in response to their submission to the disqualification of their candidacy, said:

We should appreciate and thank all the candidates, in particular those who were not qualified ... We may be unhappy with the law, but we will obey the law, to establish the rule of law (10).

On the second issue, that is the problem of how to regain public confidence, a new level of bullshit was reached. After the election, Rafsanjani expressed his delight in the following nonsense:

If the enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran are fair and just they should accept that Iran held the most democratic election in the world and there can be no doubt of it (11).

Asking for fairness and acceptance of the electoral farce as the "most democratic election" in the world in a country where people have no right to choose what they wear, can only come from a calculated myopia, a characteristic that is found in abundance among these people.

Nevertheless, the events following the election, namely the appointment of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by Ayatollah Khamenei as a member of the Expediency Council which is headed by Rafsanjani, implies that the mutual distrust has not completely gone away. The prospect of a final resolution in the face of the severe economic crisis seems unlikely. Despite this lack of trust in each other, all parties have shown as a first step, however that they are united behind government policy to continue imposing more economic austerity, even if they disagree on how to do it.

The August 2013 election, an opportunity to intensify attacks on workers' living conditions

Ahmadinejad, came to power claiming he would root out corruption and expose its main perpetrators to the people. He declared he would put an end to the privileges of the elite, promising to bring the oil money to people's tables. Not only did he not expose anyone and did nothing, but actually made the life of the workers and toilers more miserable. He has prepared the ground in such a way that someone worse than him, is now a beacon of “hope”, and under the key slogan of “prudence and moderation” is going to open closed doors soon … but not just yet! The nightmare of the words of the first Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic who kept asking people to have “revolutionary patience”, resonates again after 34 years. Listen to these words from the Iran's former president Mohammad Khatami, supporter of the new President:

Do not think that a government which assumes power can do whatever it wants, no, there are a lot of things that cannot be done. One must consider what is possible and what obstacles exist and have a realistic judgement … It cannot fix everything overnight as if by miracle.

He warned that "making demands on the government" should not be advocated! (12)

In order to avoid any misunderstanding of what "overnight" might mean, as usual, academic gentlemen with "scientific" logic, had already enlightened the public in advance. Hussein Raghfar, Professor of Economics at the University of Al Zahra on repairing the damage done by the Ahmadinejad administration had the following to say:

Different parts of the country, including economic, social and cultural activities during the last 8 years have witnessed a lot of losses. Recovery if it is planned well, will be possible in the life of the four future governments and only then can development follow (13).

Yes, improving conditions, not only will not be done "overnight" it won’t even be possible during the first term in the office. Don't think of improvement even on the second term either. Four governments! That is 16 years! So for example, the income of a 20 year old worker, after 8 years of Ahmadinejad's government and 16 years of the following governments, that is when he is age 44, in the most optimistic assumption, will be the same as it was 24 years before.

But what about profit and profitability? On this we didn't need to wait "overnight" as not even a second was wasted:

The Tehran Stock Exchange Index, has, since yesterday’s announcement of the provisional Presidential vote result, grown and has passed 46,000 points. In today's dealing it easily reached its peak value of 47,000 (14).

Make no mistake, this record-breaking index of the Tehran Stock Exchange is not just based on Rohani’s Presidential victory. In the world of business and trade, whatever happens, the capitalists take it in a “good faith” and fill their pockets. On the contrary, for the workers and toilers، any event is an excuse for further attacks on their livelihoods through the imposition of greater economic austerity. Didn't the index of the Tehran Stock Exchange break records several times during the Ahmadinejad government?

Now what can be said to those who deliberately or naively, kept calling for support for Rouhani and wanted to form a united front against the conservatives. These were the ones who said again and again that during the Ahmadinejad years all classes suffered equally? In the first hundred days of the new government what steps have been taken in favour of working class interests? Not only is nothing being done but all the evidence indicates rather that austerity policies have continued and will be intensified.

The first phase of the targeted subsidies plan(15) that was referred to in the last government as "the biggest economic surgery in Iran's history" was adopted in an atmosphere full of lies, rumours, bribes and threats that prevented the working class from its instinctive reaction to protest. Nothing has changed. The door is still turning on its old hinge. The same techniques are being used for the adoption of the second phase of the targeted subsidies plan. Have a look at these headlines from the official Islamic Republic News Agencies.

Are the subsidies targeted?
Since the distribution of subsidies to all sectors of society ....... the only result has been inflation and high prices. (16)

They must be pretty desperate to officially admit this. Or

In order to establish some fairness, four deciles of subsidies payments should be eliminated. (17).

Aren't they working day in day out just to establish this “fairness”?

Identifying the top deciles would harm the economy: “Identification of high-income segments of the population through bank deposits and the outflow of bank capital from the country would harm the economy” A top banking expert said (18).

What about identifying the bottom deciles? Presumably that would help the inflow of capital!

Identification of the wealthy people takes only two weeks. An economist stated that to identify the high income deciles only takes two weeks; he added if the government cooperates with the central banks, it is quite possible, within a shorter period (19).

Presumably it is possible, as there aren’t many of them around!

The ex-deputy chairman of the Central Bank said that investigation of people’s wealth is not legal and Sharia law does not permit it either, instead of that, the government should investigate the lower income deciles.

In their official-theological language any attempt to clarify capitalist income is not legal and not in accordance with Sharia law, but with regard to workers, there is no problem. This is what the Islamic brotherhood’s promise to the people 34 years ago is really all about.

During the 8 years of the Ahmadinejad government Iran's oil income recorded the biggest profit in its history but workers’ share did not share in this wealth. Wage payments were usually several months late and austerity policies continued. Now that there is clearly no such bonanza on the horizon, it is not too difficult to imagine what awaits them. The philosophy of government change through parliamentary democracy, is nothing but a false image of change. It just means blaming the previous government for everything so that in essence the system is saved whilst they call for patience and request time to rectify the mistakes of the previous administration! All this is accompanied with deafening propaganda about how wonderful democracy is, repeating the big lie that all problems can be resolved in democracy and this system is the best possible one that we can have.

Now the Islamic Republic has arrived at a crossroads for a historic compromise with the US. It has delegated the task of implementing of this compromise to the smiling Rouhani. Historically, such changes in foreign policy, have always been accompanied by brutal suppression, executions and tortures inside the country and this time seems to be no exception. The smell of terror in Iran's political environment is rising. It has even reached former President Khatami's nose. On Rouhani's return from New York following his speech at the UN assembly, there were protests outside Tehran airport against him by so called “rogue elements” (otherwise known as plain clothes police thugs), throwing shoes at him. This incident reminded Khatami of an incident when a member of his government, in his first term in the office, was shot by such elements. He reacted by criticising …

the incidents that happened at the airport. The President was welcomed by his supporters, and claimed that the disruptive incidents were not being carried out just by rogue elements but by an organised campaign, he added that “I am sure that the leader is not happy with all these” and said if it is not confronted, as happened during his government, it will eventually end up in assassination (22).

The August 2013 election, an opportunity for a new turn in foreign policy

On 17th September 2013, in a meeting with the commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Ayatollah Khamenei, by welcoming “the right diplomatic moves“ endorsed and affirmed a new approach to the country's foreign policy.

He said:

I am not against proper diplomacy. I believe in what was called many years ago ‘heroic flexibility’.

He was referring to an Arabic book entitled “Hassan’s (2nd Imam of the Shiites) Peace”, which he himself translated in 1969, giving it a new title of “The Most Glorious Heroic Flexibility in History”. (23)

But, what is behind this new turn?

During the 8 years of the Iran/Iraq war, the Iranian bourgeoisie came to a definite conclusion that for it's survival and its ability to compete with other regional powers, it should increase its military power at all costs and over the years to a some degree fulfilled this aim on the back of millions of workers’ and toilers’ poverty and misery. By declaring victory and establishing itself as a regional power, the Islamic Republic moved towards easing tensions when the reformist government of Khatami took the office. By adopting this policy, the regime managed to end its a decade-long post-war isolation towards the end of the second term of Khatami's government, despite its voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment and the cooperation with the US invasion of Afghanistan, not only were the sanctions not removed they were not even reduced. On the contrary the US Neo-conservatives’ decision to include Iran in its "axis of evil " at the same time as a war criminal, Ariel Sharon, became the prime minister of Israel, convinced the regime that they should adopt the same approach as the US, which they did.

So when Ahmadinejad took office his speech at the UN and his bellicose statements about Israel made Iran's new foreign policy explicit to the international imperialist order. By continuing the Bush administration’s policies of talking tough but acting carefully (23) and with the overthrow of Iran's two regional arch-enemies, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, Iran established itself in a somewhat stronger and a better position.

Buoyed up and delighted with these successes, the Islamic Republic strode towards a greater concentration of its political power. Although the effect of the 2008 financial crisis on the Iranian economy was totally denied by the Iranian government, under its weight as well the project of concentration of political power, a massive split appeared within the state and shook the very basis of the Republic which manifested itself in the Green Movement. With the election of the new US President, Barack Obama, who adopted Clinton's approach, that is fine words combined with tough action, the straitened circumstances of the Iranian government started to increase. Obama's friendly tactics surprised the leaders of Iran. Responding to his video message of extending a hand towards Iran, Khamenei rejected it by saying that the extended hand, though covered with a velvet glove, it is made of cast iron. Later on he summed up his disappointment in the West in the following statements:

They (the West) wanted to harm us, but by relying on the strength of our faith, we hit back, and so hard that for a while, they had to look for a cure! Any time that we were agreeable and have been irresolute, they became more aggressive ... (24).

With the arrival of American and English ships in the Persian Gulf and threats to boycott Iranian oil and invade Iran Ayatollah Khamenei aware of America's difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan reacted by saying:

We are constantly menaced with threatening language that all options are on the table! It means that even war is an option. Well this threat of war, will be against US interests ... So the more they threaten the more they stand to lose. But they and others should know – and they do know it – against their threats, we have our own threat, and if necessary at the right time, God willing, it will be carried out (25).

With the intensification of sanctions, the Islamic Republic's policies became more aggressive. Once again Ayatollah Khamenei explained:

Wherever, we could be involved, we say it openly, on anti-Israel issues, we were involved; resulting in the success of the thirty-three-days war and the victory of the twenty-two days war. And from now on, wherever a nation or a group fights against the Zionist regime, we will be behind them and will support them and we do not shy away from saying these words (26).

Then came the Arab spring which at first created a great deal of excitement amongst the Iranian authorities. Ayatollah Khamenei at Friday prayers, gave a speech in Arabic (reading from a written statement) for an Iranian audience calling these movements "The Islamic awakening" in order to link them to the Iranian uprising of 1979. But his opportunistic attempt did not get very far. In these countries, among the middle classes (the main source of Islamic tendencies), the Islamic Republic model was no longer desirable. And when the spring tide reached Syria, pressure started to build up on Iran, with an unprecedented increase in sanctions which covered the areas of finance, petroleum and shipping. The foundation of the Iranian economy became extremely critical. Rafsanjani/Velayati, summed up the situation clearly:

The commerce of the country has reached a situation where tens of billions of dollars of goods have ended up in China and India. Not only are they not paying for them in dollars, they are not even paying with their own yuan and rupee currencies either! They say they will pay for them by providing goods and these are goods are those that they choose!

This issue had already been raised during the election, when in a televised debate, Rouhani said:

... it is good that if the wheels of centrifuges are rotating, but on one condition; that other wheels in the country are also rotating, it is no good for the wheels of centrifuges to rotate while the others stand still.

And on the other hand, with the implementation and tightening up of these savage sanctions the main impact and pressure has been on workers and toilers. America and the West put themselves in a better position to negotiate with Iran, however the general situation in Afghanistan, Iraq and concerns over the status of the opposition to the Assad regime and Hezbollah's open involvement in Syria as well as the situation in Egypt ... have convinced the American President and his administration that to reach a compromise with Iran, not only secures and safeguards the US's long term interest, but in its rivalry with Russia and China, and even the EU, it will also improve America’s position. In the initial negotiations in Geneva France's concern about any possibility of agreement between the US and Iran was clearly shown. For the EU in general and France in particular an agreement between Iran and the US could be seen as a disaster. In three main sectors, the car and oil industries and in uranium enrichment France will be the main loser. The recent rumours of US companies getting ready for a post agreement bonanza may be seen as confirmation of this.

In short, as opposed to what has been officially announced over the years, i.e. the issue of “security” , “safety “ and “world peace” in the propaganda of the US and its allies and the Iran’s strident insistence on the “right” to uranium enrichment under the NPT accord, neither have been the top priority on their list of concerns. In other word, a decade long stand off and a series of UN resolutions … has nothing to do with the “madness” of the mullahs or the “terrorist” nature of the Islamic Republic. This technology was provided to Iran by the US during the Cold War in the first place. It is almost certain that all factions of the Iranian bourgeoisie, from reformists to monarchists and from nationalists to the left, should they take political power, will pursue the same policy that the Islamic Republic has been pursuing. The nature of the western powers’ objections and Iran's eager drive for acquiring this technology in a clandestine way, has everything to do with the capitalist nature of the conflict and its general drive towards war. Other countries in the region who got the atomic bomb like India, Pakistan and Israel did not do so openly and straightforwardly, and Iran will be no different.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, and loose cannon of the Conservative Party saw it in 2006. In an article entitled “Give Iran the bomb: it might make the regime more pliable”, he wrote:

… in the case of Iran, we should admit that it's checkmate, as they say in Persian. The Iranians are one day going to possess a nuclear bomb; there is almost certainly nothing we can do about it; all our blustering and threats are pointless. Indeed, if all else fails, there may even be a case for giving the Iranians the bomb — that's right: maybe it is time for the Americans to take control themselves of this unstoppable programme (27).

As such, the Islamic Republic by having the numerous number of centrifuges and the stock of 20 percent degree of enriched uranium on one hand and a crippled economy on the other, and the US with the sanctions card on one hand and the problems of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria on the other, are both trying to reach a compromise to solve their different problems.

Whether they achieve this compromise or not, unlike all the nonsense that all shades of the opposition have come out with, it will be no solution for millions of workers who have borne and still bear the weight of all the disorders of capitalism. Not only will it not make the slightest improvement, on the contrary the attack on their living conditions will intensified.

The 2013 election, an opportunity for the opposition to prattle on again

The story of the opposition is a sad one. It is like a defeated army that seeks its survival from one event to the next. It does not know where its future lies. The reformists started their critique against Rafsanjani's government and were supposed to be establishing a “religious democracy” by rejecting him in order to set an example for the whole world and to "rescue" the people … 16 years on, they can only politically survive in the shadow of Rafsanjani who they were trying to get rid off in first place! Forget about saving the people, they have to constantly appeal to the Supreme Leader for mercy and the release of their own comrades from the prison. They would consent to anything to have a share in power. Since their protest against the election fraud four years ago, they have made a lot of noise about finding a new word to describe the fraudulent election differently and smoothly so they are accepted by the elite’s power circles.

They tried then to ensure that civil liberties were respected through bargaining with the top whilst putting pressure on from below, as they claimed at the time. Now they are constantly frightening people about the disintegration of society. They madly repeat that if we have to avoid the fate of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and save Iran from “Yugoslavisation” we must participate in the election. As if the current situation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are the public's fault. Perhaps if the leaders of those countries had listened to these gentlemen they would have avoided it! If anything can be said on this it is exactly the opposite. To a large degree people trust the regime and play on a pitch whose dimensions are drawn up and measured by the ruling class, so that a situation as bleak as in those countries is the more likely prospect, not the other way around. However it is interesting to note that the regime is threatening people by saying they will go to hell (in another world) if they don't participate in the election, whilst the opposition is saying it will be hell (i.e in this world) if you do not participate in the election!

Their nonsense seems to have no limit. The former leftists and today's democrats ... along with the other reformists began patronising people after Rouhani’s election victory. They hailed their participation in the elections and marked it as a sign of political maturity. To make it appear as though something real had been achieved by being prudent they pretend that they were shocked by the broad participation of people as well as the result, even though they themselves have been calling for it! Their academic experts and pundits marked the election behaviour of Iranians as unpredictable!

These words could simply be ignored except that the working class and toilers are targeted and bombarded by them. Unfortunately, as well as their daily hard work, growing poverty and deteriorating living conditions the working class have to put up with all this madness, and from morning to night have to listen to all this prattling nonsense.

Fellow workers

Whether the current negotiation between Iran and the West gets anywhere or stays at a stand off as it has been for the last ten years, whether Iran gains nuclear technology or is prevented from it, none of it will reduce the world wide growing tensions and stop the capitalist world’s general tendency towards war. None of this will end unemployment and poverty. The only way out of this situation is to intensify the class struggle and recognise the fact that our emancipation, as a battalion of the world proletariat lies in the emancipation of all the other battalions of the world working class. At no point in history, has our destiny been so intertwined as it is today and never before has the formation of an internationalist party been so vital and so necessary.

Damoon Saadati



(3 ) Ayatollah Khamenei named the Iranian new year ” The Year of Political and Economic Epic”.










(13 )












(25) The thirty days war refers to Hezbollah's war with Israel in Lebanon and the 22 days war refers to Hamas war with Israel in Gaza.


Saturday, December 14, 2013