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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


May 4, 2000

Giving reformists a boost, from abroad

Rasool Nafisi's article ["Reform in retreat"]is well written and comprehensive. But I want to take issue with his final paragraph:

It is of vital importance to make clear to Iranians that only they can shape their destiny. Great Britain or the U.S. have little to do with what is happening in Iran. Those within the regime with entrenched interests, will try their best to make the people frustrated, frightened, and indifferent. The reformists should prevent it by keeping their cool and slowly but surely march forward.

My objection is to the role he assigns (or refuses to assign) to the U.S. and Britain (as well as other European countries). I agree that their record of involvement in Iran is less than brilliant; however, aside from the people (mellat), these foreign countries are the only other possible source of support for the reformists. Now the fact that they (foreign countries) are systematically demonized by the conservatives bespeaks their potential influence. We, reformist Iranians, should not simply play by the rules set by conservatives, rules which are rigged from the start.

Now that the distinction between the people's government and the "shadow government" is more pellucid, U.S. and the European countries can come to the aid of the reformist in the following ways (the list is by no means exhaustive):

- Promoting the spread of news, by enhancing the access of the Iranian populace to the news (radio, internet, etc.).

- Easing the restriction on travel by Iranian people; making it harder on the officials of the regime.

- Economic sanctions on bonyads and bans on their investment.

- Promotion of economic opportunities for initiatives stemming from the elected government and the majlis (if it convenes).

- Interference in the interests of the "shadow government" throughout the world.

This is just some of what can be done by the U.S. and Europe to provide leverage for reformists and the Iranian people. It is about time that they abandon their naive policies and look at Iran realistically, and there are many among the expatriate Iranian community that can help to achieve this result. On the part of Iranian people and the reformists, PURE reliance on internal factors and the law results in the advantage of the conservatives.

Mohammad Azadpur
Center for Research on Culture & Literature
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD


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