Iran’s former minister of interior, Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari told state-supported Fars news agency “Enrichment and the nuclear issue which have brought us problems with the West have been under the direct supervision and management by Khamenei right from the beginning.”
Lari added that during Mohammad Khatami’s administration a “committee had been created of which I was not a member but whose reports, whatever they were, were given to the supreme leader and issues were pursued under his direction.”
He named Hassan Rowhani, who at the time was the secretary of Iran’s supreme national security council and the head of the negotiations team on the Iranian side, to be the chief of that committee but added, “All issues about who should come or go and what should be discussed and where and what should be accepted were all part of the higher decisions of the state, and officials were accountable to them.”
Lari is a member of the pro-reform Majmae Rohaniyun Mobarez (Association of Combatant Clerics) group and his comments come just a week after ayatollah Khamenei once against criticized Khatami’s administration and his approach to the nuclear talks. Khamenei accused that administration of “retreating and accompanying the West” which compelled me to “personally intervene in the issue.” More than that, the leader asserted that Khatami’s government “was filled with praise for the West and the United States,” and added, “Western countries at the time had become so aggressive that they rejected Iran’s proposals to have just three centrifuges. Had those retreats continued, there would today be no signs of nuclear progress, joy and scientific initiative in the country.”
A Revolutionary Guards commander, Saeed Ghasemi, had used these remarks of the supreme leader and said at a gathering, “They begged to be allowed to have just three centrifuges but Jack Straw told Mr. Kamal Kharazi that he would look into this and let him know. And they were busy laughing with Jack Straw, all of them from the head of the national security council to the head of the government, the foreign minister and even the head of their fire stations were of the same model.”
Last spring, Hassan Rowhani published his memoirs and in it he speaks of Khamenei’s large presence and influence in the nuclear talks. He writes that during a meeting of state officials with the supreme leader he was instructed by Khamenei to reopen the Isfahan nuclear facilities. Rowhani also says in his book that all decisions regarding the nuclear talks were made with the knowledge of the supreme leader.
This is not the first time that Khamenei criticizes the Khatami administration and accuses it of retreating to the demands of the West. In 2010 when he was in Qom, he said the following in a meeting with members of the Teachers Association of the Qom Theological Seminary: “Today I have no concerns when the president travels abroad with senior government officials. Before, however, I used to be concerned about what the officials were going to say abroad. At one time on the issue of relations with a European country, they brought me a piece of paper and raised an issue that was dishonorable and I stood against it and on another similar issue even told them that if went ahead with their plan I would announce my opposition in public.”
In 2004 after the IAEA issued a resolution against Iran, three European countries called on Iran to stop its nuclear program as a way to get the trust of the international community regarding its nuclear program. Following the talks with foreign ministers from the three European countries, the Islamic republic announced its commitment to voluntarily implement the additional IAEA protocols as a trust-building exercise.
But when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration came to office in 2005, the Islamic republic changed its nuclear approach. The result is that in the last 6 years, 4 resolutions with sanctions have been issued against Iran. In the latest round of these sanctions, Western countries have banned imports of Iranian oil and there is a ban on banking activities with Iran’s central bank.
But a large part of Lari’s talk was reserved for the upcoming elections, the conditions that reformers have to participate in them, and the role of the Guardians Council. He conceded that some of the elections in the country were not “free or fair” as he also criticized the ways of the Guardians Council. “The Guardians Council does not even announce its reasons for rejecting candidates,” he said, adding, “if there is any evidence for its actions it would have presented them. But since there is no evidence, it cannot announce it.”
Regarding election rigging, he said that if the executive and monitoring groups performed their duties correctly there would be no electoral fraud. “But when the supervisory mechanism do not perform their duties and are one-sided, then anything is possible,” Lari said.
On the issue of the involvement of military personnel in elections, he said, “The law expressly says that the armed forces must not participate in the operational and monitoring activities of elections. But when they do, it changes views. So if these legal mechanisms are followed there would be no possibility for fraud.
Regarding the possibility that some reformers may decide to run in the next presidential race, Lari said the remarks and comments were at the rumor level so far. “The Association of Combatant Clerics has till now not had a single meeting over the issue of the next presidential election. The group believes that if the conditions are right, … the atmosphere is a competitive one, meaning that there will also be media access, then we will definitely participate and strengthen the people’s participation, Otherwise, we cannot.”