Iran after 2000

At the turn of the century in Iran the clash between the reform movement, rewarded by popular consensus in the latest electoral competitions, and the more conservative institutions of the theocratic regime (Council of guardians and organs of the judiciary above all) manifested itself in all its radicality, prerogative of the most obscurantist forces in the country. In the second half of 1999, in fact, the protest of tens of thousands of students of the University of Teherān in favor of freedom of the press and against the cultural oppression of the regime provoked the violent reaction of the organs of the judiciary which, with strong support unconditional of mosques, the moll ā and the bodies of the secret police, between August and September decreed or confirmed the closure of some important reformist and liberal press organs. Furthermore, in November, a high-profile figure from the reformist camp, ̔A. Nūrī, former Minister of the Interior, was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison. Nonetheless, in 2000 the response of the polls once again registered an important success of the reformist camp, which for the first time since the Islamic revolution of 1979 won the majority in Parliament ( Ma ǧ lis ): after the two elections in February and May, the reformists and their allies were given about 200 seats, while the rest90 went to the conservatives. But in the month of April some highly restrictive laws on press freedom, issued by the old Parliament a few weeks after the expiry of the mandate, hit hard the free press of the country, always sided with the president SM H̱atamī, elected in 1997. With the unconditional support of the judiciary, in fact, over 20 newspapers were closed and many editors and journalists arrested.

In the first months of 2001, in a climate of growing political tension, the Iran he prepared for the presidential elections of 9 June which saw the new success of President H̱atamī with about 78 % of the votes. The victory of the reformists, however, did not undermine the strong position of the conservatives in the upper echelons of power, as was evident from the arrests and accusations launched against some parliamentarians, politicians and journalists between December 2001 and January 2002. In the following months, commemorations of the days of the student revolt of July 1999 were banned by the religious authorities, while the most prominent reformist exponents condemned the blockade of both political and social reforms carried out by the most intransigent conservatives, denouncing once again the impotence of Parliament and the government, unable to circumvent the veto power of the Guardian Council on any law presented by them. The arbitrary supervisory power of this body, an unelected body of 12 members (including six members of the clergy appointed by the supreme leader, and six jurists chosen by the highest judicial authorities and approved by Parliament), threatened the effective implementation of the promised reforms. from H̱atamī to the country. In September 2002it was the latter who presented a draft law that promoted the possibility of entrusting the Minister of the Interior with the task of approving candidates deemed suitable for electoral competitions, removing it from the Guardian Council, and also tried to limit the range of action of the judiciary and other senior bodies, forcing them to adhere to the constitutional provisions. Preliminary approved by Parliament in November, the two bills were supported by the mobilization of liberal and reformist parliamentarians who blockaded H̱atamī. But outside Parliament the most intransigent conservatives enjoyed great freedom of action, as demonstrated by the trial of H. Āġāǧarī, the reformist intellectual very close to President H̱atamī, accused of apostasy and blasphemy and of having publicly supported the need for a reform of Islam. His death sentence caused not a few discontent even among the conservatives, so much so as to induce the supreme leader, the ā yatoll ā h  ̔A. Hāmene̔ī, to ask for a review of the case, while the mobilization among students was growing in the country. In February 2003, the Supreme Court quashed the first sentence, sentencing Āġāǧarī to several years in prison. At the end of the same month, the results of the administrative consultations signaled the first turnaround since the 1997 elections: a very low electoral participation, to which many blamed the defeat of H̱atamī, punished for the failure of his reform policy, led to success the conservatives, who in some important municipalities, such as in Teherān, won the total number of seats. An emerging figure in the Iranian political landscape was that of the new ultraconservative mayor of the capital, M. Ahmadinejad, a civilian who in the 1980s, during the conflict with Iraq, had volunteered to join the Revolutionary Guards, the so-called p ā sd ā r ā n , becoming one of its commanders. A month after the consultations, a new heavy setback for the reformist front was the rejection by the Guardian Council of the bill presented by H̱atamī, which called for the elimination of the supervision of electoral candidates by the Council itself.

According to Topschoolsintheusa, the 2004 opened with a new confrontation: in January the Council of Guardians, in anticipation of the planned policy advice for the next month, did not admit to the competition around 2000 aspirants 8000 candidates. The measure targeted the reformist camp, including eighty members of the parliament in office, and the recall of Hāmene̔ī did not move the Council from its positions, except for the decision to readmit a small number of excluded. Deeply disoriented, the reformist camp, weakened by exclusions, split and only some coalitioned formations chose to participate in the competition which took place in two rounds (February and May) and registered a popular participation of 51 %. For the conservatives, the success of the polls ensured a majority of seats (195); the remaining 95 were divided almost equally between reformers and independents. For the presidential elections of June 2005 the same scenario arose again: the exclusion of two leading figures from the reformist camp once again provoked Hāmene̔ī’s mediation intervention. In this case the Council ruled for the reintegration in the competition of the two excluded ones, one of whom, M. Mo̔īn, was considered among the leading candidates of the reformers. Surprisingly, the elections were won in the second round by Ahmadinejad, thanks to the support and widespread mobilization of mosques, p ā sd ā r ā n and bas ī j , a paramilitary body of volunteers born in the early 1980s and which could count on more than a million affiliates. With a slight advantage over Ahmadinejad in the first round, the defeated AH Rafsanǧānī, the powerful moderate conservative former president of the republic from 1989 to 1997, had not been able to convince the reformist electorate, especially young people and students, among whom he enjoyed a strong unpopularity.

A skilful blend of nationalist rhetoric, populism and justicialism in the name of Islam had rewarded the new president, whose victory brought an abrupt halt to the vitality and internal dialectic of the country. But the difficulties encountered by Ahmadinejad in forming his first government hinted at numerous contradictions and turning points: firstly, the recruitment of a new political class from the ranks of the p ā sd ā r ā n immediately provoked the predictable reaction of the strong powers of the country, the leaders of the clergy, enriched with the proceeds of oil and, until the rise of Ahmadinejad, undisputed protagonists of the Iranian limelight and international relations. In the clash over the appointment of the Minister of Oil (three times, in fact, Parliament rejected the candidates proposed by the new president for proven inexperience), Ahmadinejad on the one hand had to live up to what he had promised in the electoral campaign by sweeping away the ‘mafias of the oil ‘and redistributing revenues more equitably, but on the other hand it also had to guarantee its electors a good share of the economic power, thus suffering the reaction of the ā yatoll ā h .

On the international front, Ahmadinejad’s choices all seemed to converge in the ambitious goal of making Iran a regional power, also in the wake of the failure of the US interventionist policy in ̔Irāq, which had allowed Iran to recover a position of strength in a traditionally hostile country. Ahmadinejad’s aggressive strategy relied on traditional ‘Persian’ nationalism, in an attempt to regroup around the regime a population disappointed by a season of reforms that never took place. The heavy invectives against Israel, threatened in its very existence, support for the actions of the ḥ ezboll ā h Lebanese, the great emphasis placed on the nuclear program, certainly exposed the country to the repeated condemnations of the President of the United States GW Bush, who since 2002 had inserted the Iran, with ̔Irāq and North Korea, in an alleged ‘axis of evil ‘main responsible for world terrorism, but also allowed the Iran to gain prestige in the region at a time of serious crisis that saw the traditionally more moderate countries marginalized.

Iran after 2000