[Marxism] Iran’s President Takes On His Hard-Line Critics

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jan 8 10:40:53 MST 2018

NY Times, Jan. 8, 2018
Iran’s President Takes On His Hard-Line Critics

TEHRAN — President Hassan Rouhani of Iran lashed out at his hard-line 
opponents on Monday, saying the protesters who have shaken Iran in 
recent weeks objected not just to the bad economy but also to widespread 
corruption and the clerical government’s restrictive policies on 
personal conduct and freedoms.

“One cannot force one’s lifestyle on the future generations,” Mr. 
Rouhani said, in remarks reported by the ISNA news agency. “The problem 
is that we want two generations after us to live the way we like them to.”

In his most extensive comments yet on the protests, Mr. Rouhani said 
that those people who took to the streets across the country did so 
because they were seeking a better life. “Some imagine that the people 
only want money and a good economy, but will someone accept a 
considerable amount of money per month when for instance the cyber 
network would be completely blocked?” he asked. “Is freedom and the life 
of the people purchasable with money? Why do some give the wrong 
reasons? This is an insult to the people.”

Mr. Rouhani, a moderate, has been seeking a relaxation in social 
controls, but he faces resistance from hard-liners in unelected power 
centers like the judiciary, vetting councils and the state news media. 
They want to keep in place the framework of Islamic laws that 
effectively dictate how people should live, despite enormous changes in 
Iranian society in the past decade alone.

Iran’s judiciary and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blame 
the country’s “enemies” for the protests in over 80 cities, which 
started on Dec. 28. They said the actions were organized by the United 
States, Israel and Saudi Arabia with the aim of bringing down the 
Islamic government.

They call the hundreds of protesters who have been arrested “rioters” 
and want all social media to be banned. In a move seemingly unrelated to 
the protests, but one that gives insight into hard-liners’ attitudes, 
all English classes in elementary schools were banned on Sunday to 
combat the spread of Western influence.

Several political supporters of Mr. Rouhani say that the first protest 
in the city of Mashhad was actually masterminded by the hard-liners, in 
an attempt to discredit the government.

The Iranian president has twice run for office promising to reinvigorate 
the economy, but has little to show for it. To make matters worse, his 
recent budget enraged many by calling for cuts in fuel subsidies and 
cash payments to the poor, alongside sharp rises in spending for many 
clerical institutions.

But the protesters have also spoken of a host of other problems, 
including endemic corruption and the government’s expensive support for 
the Syrian government and Shiite groups throughout the Middle East, 
particularly Hezbollah, the Shiite movement in Lebanon.

Seeking to blunt criticism over the economy, Mr. Rouhani stressed the 
breadth of the protesters’ demands as well as their validity.

“The people have demands, some of which are economic, social and 
security-related, and all these demands should be heeded,” he said on 
Monday. He did not directly refer to slogans calling for Iran’s supreme 
leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to step down, but he said that no one was 
exempt from criticism.

“We have no infallible officials and any authority can be criticized,” 
he said.

Mr. Rouhani said that the social media platform Telegram, used by over 
40 million Iranians but blocked during the protests, would be reopened. 
The photo-sharing app Instagram, which was also closed, has been 
partially reopened but is still not usable on mobile devices.

“Everything good has its disadvantages,” Mr. Rouhani said of social 
media, “but one cannot say that, for instance, automobile and motorcycle 
factories should be completely closed due to the dangers that these have.”

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