IRAN: Presidential candidate says those who dodged Iraq war are tainted

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Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai (pictured) is scheduled to debate incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday night in the last of half a dozen debates among those running in the June 12 elections.

Amid the tumult of the Iran-Iraq war, Rezai assumed command, at age 27, of the elite Revolutionary Guard.

The war changed the country and shaped Rezai’s life.

The war years taught him to appreciate peace, he said in an interview with The Times published Monday.

He acknowledged that those years also had a profound effect on Iran’s public life.


“Just as those who dodged their responsibility during the U.S. war in Vietnam are tainted in political life, the same goes for Iran,” he said.

“Everybody, no matter where he lives, even 1,000 miles from the war front, came to defend their country,’ he continued.

‘The war was an imposed war and we had to defend ourselves,’ he said. ‘That’s what an army is for. It’s to defend and not to attack.’

Still he injects romanticism in his recollection of the war years, which dominated his recent half-hour infomercial on television.

‘The scent of Islam and the nation were mixed together,’ he said. ‘And it’s still a big part of our culture today.”

He also acknowledged the role the Revolutionary Guard plays in Iranian public life, but he predicted it would decline in the coming years.

“After the war, [the Revolutionary Guard] had a big economic role in building bridges and roads,” he said. “There was no private sector back then. But article 44 of the constitution requires that the government begin selling off assets, and that goes for the Revolutionary Guard.”

Though he’s a former Revolutionary Guard turned politician, he says he opposes allowing the military to play a role in politics, a phenomenon some Iran watchers have observed and criticized.

“I was one of the ones against the Revolutionary Guards becoming politician,” he said. “As a role model, I took my Revolutionary Guard uniform and became a civilian to show that military should not be involved in politics.”

-- Borzou Daragahi in Tehran

Photo: Mohsen Rezai. Credit: Ramin Mostaghim / For The Times