Iranian reformist politician Mohammad Atrianfar has, in an interview with Khabar Online, weighed in on the recent ratification of the CFT bill in the Iranian Parliament.
Atrianfar says the “prudence” of moderate speaker Ali Larijani helped reformists and moderate lawmakers defeat the hardliners who were strongly opposed to Iran’s accession to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The reformist figure says the ratification, which is key to decreasing the impact of US sanctions, was not possible without the formerly conservative Larijani.
The full text of the interview follows:
Khabar Online: Before the joint meeting of reformists and President [Hassan Rouhani], there was word that the reformist current was distancing itself from Mr Rouhani. Can the meeting be a sign that the coalition of reformists as well as moderation have remained in place?
Atrianfar: It is not a right assumption that a rift has emerged between reformists and the president. Reformists criticize the Rouhani administration over the economic problems in the country. In fact, ill-wishers imposed sanctions on Iran that affected people’s economic situation and livelihood. Under such circumstances, reformists believe the government should get out of inaction, roll up its sleeves and redeem the situation. However, it was not right to say a rift had emerged between reformists and Mr Rouhani. Of course, the speculation was made by some reformist folks who had somehow gone to extremes. Nevertheless, what they said was their personal viewpoint.
Khabar Online: Did reformists’ meeting with Mr Rouhani show that the radical extremists who believe they should distance themselves from Rouhani are in the minority?
Atrianfar: Yes. In fact, the meeting showed that the key reformist current still maintain their position, i.e. approving of the government while criticizing its performance. In other words, they endorse the government, but at the same time express their criticisms in a friendly manner aimed at reforming the situation. The specific symbol of us reformists is Mr Khatami, who also approves of the government. Mr Rouhani made a comment at the meeting which I think was very illuminating. He said, :”Reformists are not only my supporters, but they are my partners in the administration and in executive affairs.” This was a very prudent, delicate and determining point, which meant that Mr Rouhani had never forgotten his relationship with reformists and that he had openly expressed his opinion. On the whole, the meeting was more of an opportunity to give the president a clearer picture of what was going on in society than simply being a chance to convey some criticisms to the president. The outcome of the session also showed that the bonds between reformists and moderation (the slogan of President Rouhani’s administration) remain in place. These were the two main objectives of the meeting.
Generally speaking, extremism and radicalism, and reforms, are mutually exclusive. Folks which adopt an extremist stance are practically breaching their position of reforms one way or another. In fact, they are sitting at the top while striking at the root. I do not care much about this dimension of the reformist current because it does not have much weight. The reformist current is a growing self-correcting trend. Generally speaking, reformism and radicalism are mutually exclusive. So, this has always been a clear position, and as I said before, if a few individuals make some comments, they are just their personal views; therefore, we cannot generalize their opinions to the whole reformist camp. Radicalism cannot emerge within the reformist current. Some single voices may be heard, which can be tackled with just a little dialogue.
Khabar Online: One of the signs of the alliance between reformists and the Rouhani administration was the passage of the bill on Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) in Parliament, which showed the solicitous (a terms used to refer to those concerned about national interests and about the appropriateness of certain measures) and conservatives are still in the minority. What’s your take on that?
Atrianfar: The story of the CFT, which is part of the FATF (Financial Action Task Force), needed to have been reviewed in Parliament. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani managed the parliament sessions very prudently and with national zeal, and did not allow the ballyhoo raised on parliament floor and the conservatives, whose symbol is the so-called Resistance Front party, hijack the hectic atmosphere there. The parliament speaker rendered ineffective the seven scenarios orchestrated by the opposition with regards to the CFT.
The first scenario was to keep Parliament from reaching a majority and, hence, keep an open session from being held. In other words, they wanted to obstruct the process, but failed to. The second scenario was that radicals tried to derail the parliament’s normal trend by kicking up a fuss and showing behaviour which was beneath the parliament’s dignity. The third scenario was that radicals organized a current from outside. It is customary that sometimes some radicals do not follow the normal course and disrupt the social atmosphere a little bit to achieve their objective. On the day the bill on CFT was being reviewed, they assembled a number of young people outside the parliament building to create a hectic atmosphere. However, this scenario failed as well. The fourth scenario was to make the CFT bill go through two readings. However, this was out of the question as details of the bill had already been discussed. The fifth scenario was that they gave warnings to disrupt the atmosphere in parliament, which failed as well. The sixth scenario was to make efforts to create the impression that the Leader [of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei] was against the CFT bill. In fact, the radicals attributed their own viewpoint to the Leader and said the Leader was against the bill. However, if the Leader is opposed to an issue, Mr Larijani, as Speaker, pays attention to it more than anybody else.
Fortunately, Mr Larijani had adopted the necessary preventive measures beforehand and by reading a letter from the Leader’s office announced that Ayatollah Khamenei was not opposed to the bill being reviewed on parliament floor. I think this move was very important. In fact, one of the radicals’ major scenarios in parliament was tackled through Mr Larijani’s prudence. The seventh scenario was to put pressure on two thirds of the MPs. As this group represents people from deprived areas and small towns, some of which have only one representative in parliament, they have a very limited choice in voting.
The radicals insisted that the votes cast in parliament needed to be open votes, which would give them the chance to stir up sentiments among the MPs in favour of the bill. However, their proposal for holding an open vote was rejected. On the whole, every measure adopted by those against the bill failed on that day. What happened in parliament was a positive development for the country’s national interests and was, in fact, a victory for government and reformists.
Khabar Online: Can we say that those opposed to the government are still on the defensive?
Atrianfar: I believe the government is facing a major obstacle part of which is due to the inaction and weakness of some of the executive arms of the government. The most important reason behind this is rooted in issues outside the government. It contains the problems imposed on us via the imposition of sanctions on our political system. People see these issues and know that the government is not to blame. If fact, the people know that the government has no intention of remaining inactive and turning a blind eye to the people. With this in mind, I believe those opposing the government do not have the upper hand on the country’s political scene.