The Story of a State Secret
Why are Iranian hardliners so infuriated when Ayatollah Khomeini’s letter about ending the 8-year Iran-Iraq war in 1988, which had been read out to Iranian officials at the time and had also been posted on ayatollah Montazeri’s website is published today? Who is the letter targeting and what is their relationship with Hashemi Rafsanjani and what is the impact of the letter on current political events?
Mr. Rafsanjani is the current chairman of the State Expediency Council (Shoraye Maslahat-e Nezam) which meets every few years to publicly review the work of the “Supreme Leader” of the Islamic regime. He is also considered to be the treasure chest of the secrets of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Rafsanjani published the letter that describes the country’s conditions in late 1980s that lead to Iran’s acceptance of the UN Security Council cease fire resolution no 598 at a time when president Ahmadinejad and his associates have, through their confrontation international posture, pushed Iran’s nuclear dossier out of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency into the UN Security Council in just one year of his administration, while at the same time taking a military posture at home with a national military exercise once every few months and take journalists into military bases to show off the country’s military might.
Furthermore, by launching issues such as the “annihilation of Israel” or doubting the Holocaust, none of which have any national security priorities for Iran, at least not since the end of the war with Iraq, hardliners have presented a frightening picture of Iran to the outside world as if Iran is the source of threat to the civilized world.
Ahmadinejad appears to be still operating as if he is a presidential candidate, traveling from city to town to introduce himself to the countryside and create this image that people support his policies. In his view, people have come to believe that nuclear energy is their inherent right, even though he does not tell them at what cost is this right to be attained and by whom? And as usual propaganda is leading realities on the ground.
The publication of ayatollah Khomeini’s letter is important from two perspectives. First, it shows the cost of the Iran-Iraq war and the conditions under which Iran decided to accept the ceasefire. Second, who paid for the war? The letter raises the question why people must not be made again to pay. The picture that the letter presents of Iran’s situation is completely different from the picture that people were presented in those days. It shows how the propaganda machinery of the regime can distort real conditions.
At the very time that Iran accepted the Security Council cease fire resolution, Iranian television showed people across this land crying in grief, and expressing regret that martyrdom was denied to them. Images that portrayed the desire of many to go to the war fronts. Ayatollah Khomeini himself in those days said, “Since people have come to realize that a quick victory is not attainable, their enthusiasm to go to the war fronts has diminished. Furthermore, in his letter to Khomeini, ayatollah Montazeri in 1988 wrote this on the conditions in the country: “How much longer must people live under these conditions? In addition to economic pressures, some of us treat them harshly and antagonistically. We must not put our hearts into induced slogans or fake interviews. We must look at social realities. We generally use innocent Baseeji kids who have no training, and thus hurt their families.”
In another part of his memoirs Montazeri writes, “In many towns people openly insult clerics if they know that they hold some government or official positions. Volunteers for the war and assistance the war effort are dwindling in numbers and much of the help that comes is coerced. When I say these, I am not quoting counter-revolutionary foreign radio stations. I am quoting those very fighters who go to the fronts and those who have had martyrs among them. These are the ordinary people in the streets and the bazaars and even some officials and government employees.” Ayatollah Khomeini’s letter of accepting the cease fire was written just two months after Montazeri’s observations and letter to him.
It is interesting to note that just a few days after Rafsanjani published ayatollah Khomeini’s letter last week that many others began to question the wisdom and outcome of the protracted 8-year war. Iran’s permanent representative at the UN at the time Rajai Khorasani said that even the officials who visited the war fronts in those days would lose their faith and morale.
In another part of his memoirs Montazeri explained how the successive failures on the war fronts which were paid with the lives of hundreds of thousands of people were covered up and justified so that today they constitute a “state secret”.
“Normally, every time the military suffered a defeat - which would become known to the public – instead of openly investigating its causes and conditions and utilizing the views and criticism of all junior and senior commanders, including the fighters themselves who were witnesses to the facts and calamities, a serious of distortions and empty threats would be announced in the media and the pulpits of Friday congregational prayers, placing everything under propaganda so that those actually responsible for the failure never feared or had concerns about their role in the events, or they simply engaged in finger pointing. This state of affairs led to one mistake being followed by another for the revolution and the people.”
The publication of the letter last week itself demonstrates a serious concern that has been shaping up during the recent months about Ahmadinejad and his associates by those who reject any harm to Iran regardless of its source. At a time when many of the senior leaders of the regime, including Rafsanjani himself, believe that the country is at a seriously dangerous point, this letter clearly shows how the reality of a major event in the country which had taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals is covered up, and that it can happen again.
The responses that Ahmadinejad has been making to Rafsanjani, which are summed up as offensive language and tone, are of the same type that Ayatollah Khomeini was warning against. He warned the public to be watchful of those who would try to distance them from the good of Islam through extremist revolutionary slogans and promises. “I categorically state that you must preach against such an event. Any deviant step is a sin for which there will be a reaction”, he said.
Rafsanjani is in fact doing what Khomeini had said. He and some other officials have realized how a “deviant step” of the recent months can impact not just the future of the regime, but also the whole country.
It is because of this that Mohsen Armin, the spokesperson for the Sazemane Mojahedin-e Engelab-e Islami organization (Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization) stresses that this letter has been published for the purpose of preventing another episode of “taking the poison potion”, which is how ayatollah Khomeini described his pain in accepting the 1988 cease-fire with Iraq. If at that time the poison potion ended a war, today it is not clear what the outcome may be.
(Published in Roozonline)