Omid Memarian

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Division Among Ideologues
Published on Rooz online daily

“By appointing individuals to government Ministries, some perhaps have wrongly concluded that the appointees need not engage in policy planning and intellectual engagement, but simply to implement what the president has thought through.” These are not the words of opposition politicians in Iran or reformists, whom conservative newspaper Kayhan calls individuals who “cannot speak calmly, judge fairly and talk without being angry”, but the words of the chairman of the Culture Committee of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) when speaking about ideologues and ideology driven politicians.

Professor Afroug, the sociologist, who visited the president along with members of the Culture Committee of Majlis, views the cabinet ministers that have been presented to the Majlis for confirmation as “executive agents”, meaning they only receive and carry out orders. In the same meeting, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said “the formation of the next government will depend on the internal, performance as well as on the executive and scientific performance of the members.” He further said that uniformity, single mindedness and unity in purpose shall constitute the nature of the new government, adding that he hoped the problems of the country will be resolved with their brave decisions and scientific programs.

Only a day after the explicit criticism of Khoshchehreh, another ideologue, of the role of the power and wealth mafia on the president’s selection of his cabinet members, Dr Afroug responded to Ahmadinejad’s statement about his expectations from the cabinet members, in the following words: “I used to think that each and every one of the twenty one individuals selected to lead a government agency, would be the most powerful, effective, and strategic thinking person. He then called on the Majlis representatives to be very careful in their decisions to confirm or reject the cabinet posts warning that if the wrong decision is made, the country will be thrown into more challenges and tension. This is the very same Majlis that political analysts have said will confirm the cabinet ministers, even if their biography and accomplishments do not exceed a single paragraph.
While the traditional conservatives and ideologues who, connect to the central circle of technocrats in a very lose way, were under the impression that the advice of Majlis deputies and religious “elders” would be decisive in the selection of at least some of the cabinet members, eventually had to form a group comprising three representatives of conservative and right wing ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, three representatives of the president, and three Abadgaran members from Tehran’s City Council to come up with a list of cabinet ministers.

The plan to bring the Abadgaran who have close ties to the notorious elements of the intelligence community that had a direct hand in the serial killings of dissidents, on board had already been reveled before this. When a few days before the presidential elections of last June the rug was pulled from under one of the ideologue candidates, the process of filtering out the non-inner circles elements became clear, indicating that serious differences exist even among apparently single minded ideologues and conservatists. The second phase of this filtering was more difficult to implement due to the uniformity of the Majlis and conservative groups who had waited for eight years to take control of the executive branches of the state. The project of “unity of purpose and heart” that Ahmadinejad had proclaimed would fail with the slightest mistake and create the rift that it was created to avoid. So the list of cabinet members was sealed behind doors that could disregard opinions and “advice” of those Parliamentarians and ideologues that did not belong to the inner security-military establishment. The ten cabinet level nominees who instead of high government or even private sector experience carry powerful security and military baggage some of whom have only seen a lower government bureaucrat as their highest boss, is the product of this agreement. Mesbah Yazdi sends his students and Ahmadinejad’s friends to the key government Ministries, including Intelligence and Guidance.

The warnings of the chairman of Majlis’ Culture Committee are made under these circumstances. He preaches to a president who does not listen to anybody’s advice in these words: “Those around the president have either not conferred with him or have not made their opinions known.” “My concern is doubled when I know that these words have already been communicated to the president, without any consideration on his part, thus leading to the presentation of this weak cabinet.” The chairman openly criticizes the choices of the president revealing the division within their ranks, something that was not supposed to happen before the vote on the cabinet ministers.
He continues his criticism by explaining the difference between “yes men” and policy makers, as cabinet ministers. Since these words are similar to those of Majlis deputy Mohammad Attrian who was immediately rebuffed by the ultra conservative Kayhan newspaper, one should expect the same response to the chairman’s statements from the enlightened editors of Kayhan.

Whatever the outcome, the criticism and the way it has been carried out demonstrates the deep division within the ranks of the ideologues and ideology driven politicians with possibly more resistance towards the president in the coming days. Afroug even predicts that if the president does not modify his cabinet candidates, then the ministries themselves will undertake the task of pushing the unaccepted cabinet ministers out.

Conservatists against conservatists is the theme now. And this is really the message that the Culture Committee chairman is sending to the president, who is not playing the game by the set rules. With the internal competition intensifying, will we be seeing a wider divide in which yet another group within the ideologues responds to grasp still more power for itself, or will the conservatists remain quiet so as to portray the image of “unity in hearts” as the president had predicted

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