Ali Asghar Kazemi
(Professor of Law and International Relations in Tehran, Iran)

Copyright: (May 31, 2008)

In an introductory speech upon his election to the position of Iran’s chief legislative branch, the former nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, launched harsh critiques on the recent ambiguous statement of the IAEA on Iran’s nuclear case. The remarks seem to be designed to send simultaneously multiple signals to various directions pursuing a number of objectives.

Who is the man recently elected as the speaker of the Islamic Parliament? Shall we consider him as the person who will break through the nuclear deadlock? How we shall construe the message he conveyed in his first official address to the 8th parliament with respect to the nuclear issue? What are chances for him to manage the impending crisis quietly and peacefully?

Coming from a religious nobility background, son of a Grand Ayatollah, holding PhD in mathematics and philosophy and former member of the Revolutionary Guards, close to the leader and having a number of high positions in his record, the newly-elected speaker of the Islamic Parliament is a clever and articulate man who is well aware of the power of logic and persuasion. Unlike his counterpart in the executive branch, he seems to ponder upon his words and vocabulary on issues having impact on vital interests of the nation. His election from the district of theological City of Qom, his family background and his squabble with the hard-line president while he was chief nuclear negotiator, gave him enough credibility to be elected Chief Legislative by the majority of the new conservative faction in the Majles, known to be critical of the president.

In fact, he was fired by the president while he was in the middle of negotiations with EU representatives on the nuclear issue. He was then the secretary of the National Security Council and his sudden dislodgment was indeed a real embarrassment for the regime.

Contrary to the divertive course that shaped the fate of imminent Ayatollah’s offspring in the past and turned them away from the rigorous religious dogma, the Larijani family could be considered an exception. It is worth to note that the main body of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO) opposition group, who fiercely fought against the Islamic regime, was formed from among close relatives of well known religious figures who assumed high positions after the revolution in Iran.

The Larijani brothers are all well-educated and devoted to the Islamic regime. They have been serving the revolution from the beginning as university rector, political theoretician, physician, and member of the Guardian Council. The man who is now elected to the position of Iran’s chief legislative power is a smart and educated person who has enough credibility and knowledge not to engage in populist and humdrum discourse in order to prove his competence in the job and his loyalty to the regime.

Now against this imposing background, how far Mr. Larijani will be successful in his new position is subject to query. With respect to his first speech as the new chief legislative, the following messages could be read as regards the nuclear issue:
• Though Larijani’s observations on IAEA appeared tough and uncompromising, he seems to convey the message that he is the one who will pursue the case quietly and intelligently;
• Given his past experience and his good relations with the EU as chief nuclear negotiator, most likely he will not hesitate to get involved more closely to the issue and will take the initiative in his hands as the speaker of the house;
• From now on the Majles will be the main forum where the nuclear policy will be dictated to the executive branch, meaning that the president can no longer maneuver on the nuclear platform for his future presidential campaign;
• The message seems to send signal to the populist president that the Majles will no longer support him blindfolded and if necessary will embark on his impeachment for incompetence.
All of the above are just mere conjectures that appear most likely to emerge in the months to come. However, it would not be unusual that suddenly some unknown factors come into play and change the whole course of events in Iran’s political landscape. Chances for Mr. Larijani to handle horrendous problems in domestics and external affairs created by an amateur eccentric president, who tends to run state affaires by instinct and not reason, is indeed extremely difficult if not impossible.

As regards the nuclear case, we could expect that Larijani be able to take the initiative through the parliament in resuming talks from where he left last time, provided that the hard-line president abstain to interfere in the business and the supreme leader gives his unequivocal support to him.

Furthermore, he should endeavor to convince the conservative front that the West, and by the same token the permanent members of the UN Security Council, will not draw back from their principal position in letting Iran to become a nuclear actor in the present vulnerable international relations. This is to suggest that he should think and act realistically and rationally in order to avoid the nuclear issue to escalate into a full scale clash between Iran and the opposing parties.

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