Q&A with Iran diplomat on the postelection unrest

The recent protests against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection look to many observers like a repeat of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, a “people power” movement aimed at toppling the existing power structure.

But Iranian officials would beg to disagree. The postelection discord, they say, is more like a very heated dispute between two brothers, perhaps fighting vociferously over the best route to take on a road trip.

If there’s a fundamental clash occurring, they suggest, it is between the Islamic Republic and the West.


In a recent interview, Mir Masoud Hosseinian, the charge d’affaires at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, accused Western powers of misreading and manipulating the unfolding political crisis in Iran to serve their own ends.

“We stood against the West during all these 30 years,” said Hosseinian, who has also served as a diplomat in Syria and Egypt. “And that resistance has created a hatred in their hearts. They sought an opportunity for revenge.”

What’s your assessment of what is happening in Iran?

[Defeated presidential candidate] Mir-Hossein Mousavi participated in elections, accepting the rules of the game. If the system did not want Mr. Mousavi, it would have removed him from the list of candidates, just as there were 200 candidates at the start, but the regime accepted four candidates. They were accepted by the regime and they also accepted the framework.

Some say the framework was suddenly changed.

They are free to say that. But 24 million people, according to what was announced, were on the side of Mr. Ahmadinejad, and 13 million did not want him. This clearly demonstrates that democracy exists in Iran. My point is that the problem was private, as with two brothers who had problems that can be resolved and will be solved.

Do you think this problem can be solved?

Of course. . . . Iran is a country that has stood for 30 years against the United States and Britain, the arrogance of the West. They want that Iran and the current regime does not exist! Whether an Iran with [former President] Mohammad Khatami or Mousavi or Ahmadinejad . . . they want this regime to disappear.

But President Obama this year acknowledged the Islamic Republic and has agreed to start a conversation.

Obama is the president of American institutions and not the president of the American people. Little by little, he is forced to bend to the rules of American institutions. The evidence is that he has again extended for one year sanctions on Syria.

Do you think the West could have triggered the unrest in Iran?

We believe, rightly, that of those who made all this noise in Iran, most were not even supporters of Mousavi. Many of those arrested were not even of voting age. I am sure that those who made these riots were not more than 10,000 or 15,000.

Unfortunately there were management problems within the system that distorted the rules of the game. The West benefited from the opportunity to sow mischief.

Why jail and try the deputies of these candidates who themselves are also part of the system, such as former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi?

Apparently they found documents and evidence against them. The candidates are good people and are approved by the regime. But this is no reason to believe that all their employees are also good people.

Is one faction using the judiciary system to criminalize another faction?

If there is evidence, we must accept it. Otherwise, no matter who makes the accusations, they will not be acceptable.

In your opinion, to keep someone for five weeks in a solitary-confinement cell and then to air their confession, is that fair or acceptable?

When there is dust in the air, it ends up blinding the eyes. This is what inevitably happens when the atmosphere is being polluted.

It’s like war. You round up the entire world. Then after a week when we realize that we erred, they are freed and apologized to and sent home. But there is among them the need to punish perpetrators.

In your opinion, what is the role of the Western media in what is currently happening in Iran?

Naturally they write what they want to write. Of course there were clashes, there were obviously two or three killed. . . . But when you see the foreign news channels, which, even after 40 days, continue to make use of the first images of the unrest, that means they want to put oil on the fire.

Right now not only reformists but even conservatives are criticizing Ahmadinejad. . . .

I can have problems and differences of views in my family. With my brother, for example. . . . We want to go from Tehran to the city of Karaj; I want to take a road and my brother, a different route.

Nonetheless, we both want to go in the same direction. We just do not agree on the way to get there.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, by positioning himself in one camp, didn’t he change the rules of Iranian politics?

He simply said that regarding the economy, there were differences of views . . . and in regard to these economic problems, his view was closer to the opinion of Ahmadinejad. But those who wanted to abuse the situation immediately diverted and exaggerated that.

Most protesters say they will continue their efforts not because they are against the system but against Ahmadinejad.

The assertion that Ahmadinejad is not legitimate because the entire population is not with him is absurd. Even during the Russian Revolution, did all the people take part in the revolution? What percentage of the population made the revolution?

In Russia? 5%?

And [the Soviets] controlled the country for decades. Whether you like it or not, Ahmadinejad is the president of this country.