US actions speak louder than words
- Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani
US actions speak louder than words
By Marzieh Hashemi
Press TV, Tehran
The following is an exclusive Press TV interview with Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani on Iran's Islamic Revolution, the country's nuclear issue, upcoming presidential elections and the prospect of Iran-US relations.
For more than three decades, Ayatollah Rafsanjani has been at the forefront of Iranian politics. He was the speaker of the Iranian parliament, Majlis, from 1980 to1989. He also served as the president of Iran from 1989 to 1997. Currently, he holds the position of Chairman of the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Council of Iran.
Press TV: We would like to know your perspective on what prompted Iranians to persue an Islamic Revolution instead of trying to alter the monarchial system.
Rafsanjani: Well, the popular movement in Iran started because people wanted reforms. For some time we only talked about reform, but the Shah's regime was unyielding. Instead of accepting criticisms, it resorted to violence and became more and more tyrannical. So we came to the conclusion that criticism will not work and the problem lies within the regime itself.
Press TV: Ayatollah Rafsanjani, as we know there have been a lot of hostilities between Tehran and Washington. In your perspective, what type of steps can be taken to mend this relationship and what made it reach this point where obviously relations have been severed for many decades? Is it possible to mend this relation?
Rafsanjani: Well, after the victory of the Revolution, although the Americans were very much involved in what the Shah had done, we were not looking for a fight with the Americans. All US advisors here in Iran went back to the US of their own accord.
The US embassy was open and was working here in Tehran but little by little, the embassy was turned into a center for anti-revolutionary forces and also efforts against the Revolution which gradually infuriated the people.
There was a military campaign by the US in Tabas, yet another step which angered the people again. Not long after that, they tried to stage a coup in Iran; the Nojeh Coup was orchestrated by them. Our probe into this issue pointed to American involvement.
Later, we were forced into war. With US backing, Saddam attacked Iran. The US supported Saddam Hussein's regime.
When you combine these factors and also take into consideration the resentment people felt toward US policies before the Revolution, it becomes clear why things have reached this point.
For example if the Americans acted according to our earlier agreements in The Hague, this would have been a positive step toward helping prevent the further souring of relations.
Press TV: Is there any possibility to mend this difference between Iran and the United States? What has to be done?
Rafsanjani: When I was serving as president, I announced that if the US demonstrates good will and we come to the understanding that they want to work with us and no longer have fantasies of colonizing Iran, negotiation will be a possibility.
For example, we have assets in the US, which have been illegally frozen. If Americans unfreeze our money, it will show that they are serious. We will regard that as a good will gesture and start negotiating but they have not done so to this day.
People who served after me also said the very same thing. If the US proves that it has good intentions toward Iran, there will be a possibility for talks.
Press TV: Is there any possibility right now? With President Barack Obama in office, do you think it is more likely?
Rafsanjani: Things have been said and Mr. Obama has used a vocabulary different from that of Mr. Bush. Having said that we still have not received a clear signal from the Americans. Iranian officials are waiting to see what Mr. Obama will do in practice and if he really is the bearer of good will and of course, actions speak louder than words.
Press TV: Looking back, over the past thirty years you have gone through a lot and seen a lot in the Islamic Republic. I would like to know what you would describe as your biggest regret and biggest accomplishment since the Revolution?
Rafsanjani: Achievements are those goals that one struggles to accomplish. Let me give you an example, independence was one such goal for us, we did not want to remain subservient to foreign countries.
Europeans and other Western countries had long had an unyielding hold on Iran. One of our demands was to end foreign interference in our country and gain independence. Lets not forget the tyrannical Pahlavi regime, people wanted to have freedom, to elect their own officials and this was also one of our demands.
Our people's Islamic beliefs also had a lot to do with the victory of the Islamic Revolution. Iranians demanded the enforcement of Islamic law. Today our people still have the same ideals.
After the Revolution, we tried to make our system of governance an Islamic one. No law that is against Islam can be approved. We did our best to reconstruct and rebuild the country to lessen foreign dependence.
We have made many great scientific and technological achievements and have increased the education rate. We have reconstructed the country's infrastructure and have revolutionized our defense industry. These are enormous achievements in my opinion.
Although our system of governance has been successful, there have been things we should have not done. This is true about every government as things are not always rosy.
I am sure we have made our fair share of mistakes and have not achieved some of our goals. There is a lot of work to do. There was also the issue of sanctions, which to some extent slowed our progress in certain areas.
This Revolution has prospered and for thirty years, it has not diverted from its path and has remained true to its original ideals.
Press TV: Let's look at the economic status of Iranians. What is your perspective on President Ahmadinejad's economic reforms?
Rafsanjani: Our main issue right now is to deal with and reform the subsidy system as it is not purposeful in its present form.
For example subsidies on fuel and energy are not the way they should be and it is the affluent who benefit most from these subsidies. A large portion of our society is not receiving subsidies, which they need and is their right, the way they should. This is an issue that is being debated in Majlis.
The Majlis is currently busy with the budget bill, the economic reform plan and the fifth development plan's general policies which has been referred to lawmakers by the Expediency Council. We are presently working on the fifth development plan which will aid us in achieving our goals.
Press TV: I would like to look at the upcoming presidential elections here in the Islamic Republic. What is your perspective on the upcoming elections? Do you prefer a particular group or candidate?
Rafsanjani: No. I don't have a specific opinion about any of the candidates or candidates-to-be. I am waiting for the final list of candidates to be announced in order to choose my preferred candidate.
The most important thing for me is to see the elections organized in a manner that will ensure a high turnout. We expect to see the majority of eligible voters at polling stations.
Press TV: What are the challenges the Islamic Republic is currently faced with?
Rafsanjani: The nuclear issue is a very serious international challenge for us and the US is mostly involved in it; the presence of foreign troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf region and also to our north is alarming.
On a domestic level, there is the issue of subsidies and if it remains unresolved, it will create serious problems for our economy.
A major part of our economic sector is state-owned, steps have been taken to minimize state-ownership and to steer the economy toward privatization.
Press TV: You just mentioned one of the challenges, the nuclear situation. How flexible would Iran be if the United States asked for give and take on the issue in order to warm up relations with Tehran? How much flexibility does the Islamic Republic have in dealing with the nuclear issue?
Rafsanjani: We are fully prepared to cooperate in accordance with international laws and regulations. We are a member of the UN nuclear agency, the IAEA, and the agency has very clear rules.
Any country that becomes a member has the right to benefit from peaceful nuclear technology. Of course, IAEA membership prohibits from developing a military nuclear program. This is something we approve of.
In return, we expect the agency to cooperate with us and to work with us when it comes to the nuclear issue. This is the only thing we have been asking for all along.
However, certain countries are trying to bully us. They say it is dangerous for you to have enrichment technology. This is not acceptable for us, as this is a right given to states under international rules and regulations.
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