Former Iranian President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami (who was president from 1997 to 2005) has said that a higher voter turnout in a elections would stop groups seeking regime change from gaining support in the country. Mr. Khatami also argued in favor of rethinking the reform strategy. He made the remarks earlier this month at a meeting with the Iranian Engineers Association in Tehran earlier this month.
“The notion of [regime] overthrow could gradually gain strength if people were to lose confidence in the reforms. God forbid it should succeed,” Khatami warned. “That is why we must heed people’s demands, and if the reformists cannot move things forward, then they should be honest about it and let people know.”
Khatami added: “Both reformists and conservatives get a percentage of the votes in an election. However, a large segment of the population does not care about political trends. They have real concerns and questions that need to be addressed. As this segment of the population becomes more interested in the elections, it will be less likely for those groups which promote [regime] overthrow to gain any support.”
“Freer elections establish the will of the people. We must abide by people’s votes. However, summons, arrests, intimidations, mistreatments, and accusations are not in the country’s best interests. They contradict efforts to create national unity,” Khatami explained. “Revising reformist slogans does not mean abandoning them. It means aligning them with the current needs of our society and having a clear strategy.”
Many of the leaders of the reform movement, including Khatami, have never offered a comprehensive and coherent definition of “reforms.” People believe that the regime concocted the reformist movement as a ploy to ensure its existence. That is why the slogan “Conservatives, Reformists, Your End Is Near” has persisted since the widespread unrest in December 2017. Reformists and conservatives are viewed as the two faces of the Islamic Republic.
Khatami and other reformists called for the decisive crackdown on protesters during the nationwide protest that started in 2017 and that has continued in some form since then. Both Khatami and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei take seriously the movement that has been calling for regime change. They continually warn against those who plan to overthrow the Islamic Republic.
Khatami also praised the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) for shooting down the U.S. RQ-4A Hawk military drone near the strait of Hormuz on June 19.
He said: “The military did a great job of fending off U.S. aggression by shooting down the military drone. It sent a clear message about our unwavering resolve to defend our territorial integrity. We will repel any attack against our country and nation.”
Khatami also spoke about maintaining a dialogue with the international community except the current U.S. administration given the escalating tension between Tehran and Washington.
“The Islamic Republic has never been against holding dialogues. We have conducted many discussions on crucial issues — for instance, the Afghan talks, which yielded positive results. We have achieved the same results in Iraq and other places,” Khatami noted. “We have always advocated the establishment of a democratic system of government for all of our neighbors. We do not object to any talks as long as they do not harm our national interests.”
He added: “One of our most successful negotiations was the 2015 JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran nuclear deal] but it was ultimately derailed by the U.S. There were some people in Iran who also opposed the deal. However, the signing of the JCPOA signifies the success of effective dialogue. Who are we going to talk to now? Do we enter a dialogue with a country that has called Iran a terrorist nation? It is dangerous to label an entire country like that.”
“Our diplomatic corps must take every measure to protect our national interest but should also refrain from any adventurism that could create problems for the country and the region. We must be cautious and avoid inflammatory rhetoric and provocative actions,” Khatami warned. “The shooting down of the U.S. drone was a good example of effective solidarity, which received support from various political circles in Iran and some opposition groups outside the country. We must build on this success.”
Speaking about U.S. President Donald Trump, Khatami said: “We are dealing with someone who constantly contradicts himself. For instance, Trump said he wanted to talk, but then he imposed more sanctions on Iran. He also made the appalling decision to impose sanctions on the Leader and Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad Zarif], which shows he lacks logic and goodwill.”
[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]