Iranian politician compares Khamenei to Shah Reza

Mir Hossein Mousavi. (AP)
Updated 30 November 2019

Iranian politician compares Khamenei to Shah Reza

  • Ex-Prime Minister Hossein Mousavi remains under house arrest in Tehran

DUBAI: A long-detained opposition leader in Iran on Saturday compared a bloody crackdown on those protesting government-set gasoline prices rising under its supreme leader to soldiers of the shah gunning down demonstrators in an event that led to the Islamic revolution.

The comments published by a foreign website represent some of the harshest yet attributed to Mir Hossein Mousavi, a 77-year-old politician whose own disputed election loss in 2009 led to the widespread Green Movement protests that security forces also put down.

Mousavi’s remarks not only compare Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the toppled monarch whom Khamenei to this day refers to as a tyrant. It also suggests the opposition leader views the demonstrations that began Nov. 15 and the crackdown that followed as a potentially similar last-straw moment for Iran’s Shiite theocracy as the 1978 killings represented for the shah.

“It shows people’s frustration with the country’s situation. It has a complete resemblance to the brutal killing of people on the bloody date Sept. 8, 1978,” Mousavi said, according to the statement published by the Kaleme website long associated with him. “The assassins of the year of 1978 were representatives of a non-religious regime, but the agents and shooters in November 2019 were representatives of a religious government.”

There was no immediate response from Iranian officials nor state media, which has been barred from showing Mousavi’s image for years.

The protests that struck some 100 cities and towns across Iran beginning Nov. 15 came after Iran raised minimum gasoline prices by 50 percent. The subsidy cuts, which the government said would help fund cash handouts to the poor, come as Iran’s economy suffers under crushing US sanctions following President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, remain under house arrest in their home near Khamenei’s official residence in Tehran. 

However, the Kaleme website occasionally publishes statements from Mousavi, who earlier served as Iran’s prime minister before the position was eliminated in 1989.

Iranians immediately began demonstrating and protests quickly turned violent, seeing gas stations and banks attacked. Online videos purport to show Iranian security forces shooting at demonstrators.

The scale of the gasoline price demonstrations remains unclear even today as Iran so far has not offered nationwide statistics for the number of people arrested, injured or killed in the protests. Amnesty International believes the protests and the security crackdown killed at least 161 people.

One Iranian lawmaker said he thought that over 7,000 people had been arrested, though Iran’s top prosecutor disputed the figure without offering his own. The country’s interior minister said as many as 200,000 people took part in the demonstrations. Iran blocked access to the wider Internet for a week, further shielding its response from the world’s view.

The statement Saturday saw Mousavi compare November’s crackdown to “Black Friday,” a seminal moment in Iran’s revolution. That September day in 1978, soldiers opened fire on demonstrators in Jaleh Square.

How many the shooting killed remains in dispute today, with figures running anywhere from 86 to 4,000. However, historians mark the day as the point of no return for the fatally ill shah. Mass protests and strikes followed. The shah fled Iran in January 1979 and by the next month, the revolution took hold.

In his statement, Mousavi offered his condolences to those slain in the November crackdown and warned “this wound on the nation’s body and soul” would not heal until there are public trials of their killers.

“The bullying and talking about how we are in the middle of a world war are not a convincing answer for the people and it would not heal the people’s wounds,” Mousavi said, referring to tensions with the US “It would be enough that the system just think about the consequences of the Jaleh Square assassinations.”

Mousavi is not the only one to compare the November crackdown to the time of the shah, however. Days earlier, lawmaker Mohammad Golmoradi at the Iranian parliament got pulled away after some news websites reported he criticized President Hassan Rouhani over the crackdown.

Golmoradi’s area, Mahshar in Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan province, saw security forces violently put down protests, activists say.

“What did you do that the shah didn’t?” Golmoradi reportedly asked.


Trump: Mideast peace plan likely rolled out in days

Updated 24 January 2020

Trump: Mideast peace plan likely rolled out in days

JERUSALEM: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he’ll likely release the long-awaited White House Mideast peace plan before his meeting early next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz.
“It’s a great plan. It’s a plan that really would work,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One en route to a Republican Party meeting in Florida.
He said he was surprised that both Netanyahu and Gantz were willing to take a break from campaigning for the March 2 elections to join him Tuesday in Washington.
“They both would like to do the deal. They want to see peace,” Trump said. “Look, Israel wants peace, Palestinians want peace. They all want peace. Not everyone wants to say it.”
He said his administration has talked briefly to the Palestinians, who have rejected the administration’s peace plan before it even comes out.
“We’ve spoken to them briefly. But we will speak to them in a period of time,” Trump said. “And they have a lot of incentive to do it. I’m sure they maybe will react negatively at first, but it’s actually very positive to them.”
Vice President Mike Pence announced the invitation for Netanyahu and Gantz to visit during at a meeting with the prime minister in Jerusalem after addressing an international forum Thursday on the Holocaust. He said that at Netanyahu’s request, the invitation was also issued to Gantz, a former army chief.
The plan is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.
“We have had no better friend than President Trump,” Netanyahu said. “With this invitation, I think that the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security that it deserves.”
The Palestinians rejected Trump’s peace efforts after he recognized disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy there in May 2018. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war and annexed, to be their capital.
“If this deal is announced with these rejected formulas, the leadership will announce a series of measures in which we safeguard our legitimate rights, and we will demand Israel assume its full responsibilities as an occupying power,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He appeared to be referring to oft-repeated threats to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, which has limited autonomy in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. That would force Israel to resume responsibility for providing basic services to millions of Palestinians.
“We warn Israel and the US administration from crossing the red lines,” Abu Rdeneh said.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV, citing Israeli officials, said the plan is expected to be extremely favorable toward Israel and offer it control over large parts of the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians seek the entire territory, which was also captured by Israel in 1967, as the heartland of a future independent state. Most of the international community supports the Palestinian position.
Netanyahu has said he plans to annex the Jordan Valley as well as Jewish settlements across the West Bank, which would all but extinguish any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state.
Netanyahu has tried to make that the cornerstone of his campaign for reelection following unprecedented back-to-back elections last year that left him in a virtual tie with Gantz, with neither able to cobble together a ruling coalition.
The deadlock was deepened by Netanyahu’s indictment last year on serious charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from three long-running corruption investigations. Netanyahu has asked Israel’s parliament to grant him immunity.
Next week’s meeting could produce an awkward scene. Gantz has made Netanyahu’s indictment the focus of his campaign to oust the prime minister. And his Blue and White party is leading an effort in parliament to block Netanyahu’s immunity request before the election. At the same time, they will be joined by an impeached president who is being tried in the Senate.
The US was believed to be holding back on releasing the peace plan until Israel had a permanent government. Those calculations may have changed as the deadlock in Israeli politics looks to be further prolonged.
Trump may also be looking for a boost from evangelical and pro-Israel supporters as the Senate weighs whether to remove him from office after he was impeached last month, and as he gears up for a reelection battle this year.
Pence was among dozens of world leaders in Jerusalem on Thursday for the World Holocaust Forum. Many of the participants, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, also paid visits to the Palestinians in the West Bank.
A Palestinian official said Abbas asked the visiting French and Russian presidents to support the Palestinian position when the plan is published.
“He asked them to refuse and act against any Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing closed meetings.
While the plan is expected to be friendly to Israel, it could still face opposition from Netanyahu’s hard-line partners.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the ultranationalist Yamina party, called Trump a “true friend” of Israel and said the country likely stands before a “historic opportunity.” But he said his party would not allow the transfer of any land to Palestinian control or for a Palestinian state to be established.