Iranian politician Ali Motahari

Iran Politician Suggests Referendum On Foreign Policy Issues

Monday, 11/28/2022

A former lawmaker in Iran has suggested that the government should put the future of the nuclear deal and support for Russia's war in Ukraine to a referendum.

In an interview with moderate conservative website Khabar Online, Ali Motahari blamed the Raisi administration for the country's economic problems without mentioning Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's responsibility. However, when speaking on key issues such as reforming election law, negotiating with the United States to revive the JCPOA, and aligning with Russia in its war against Ukraine, he acknowledged that it is Khamenei who has the final say on key issues.

Motahari is a social conservative who has sometimes been an outspoken critic when the hardliner core of the regime has violated insider rules or taken steps leading to more international isolation.

Speaking on the ongoing protests in Iran, Motahari said that people's hopelessness about their future triggered the current wave of protests. Blaming the existing economic crisis and hard-line policies as the root causes of the protests, he agreed that creating a moderate political grouping might help resolve the country's current economic and political impasse.

He also maintained that the government's indecision about the nuclear deal, economic problems and even the ongoing protests has lent momentum to the popular uprising.

The idea of holding a referendum on major issues is not new. Former President Hassan Rouhani proposed the idea on several occasions, angering Khamenei and his followers.

In another development, in an article entitled "The government's Autumn hibernation," Khabar online criticized Raisi and his administration for being absent from the public scene and for their indifference in the face of recent UN and IAEA resolutions about Iran's human rights record and its nuclear program.

The article concluded that "Raisi's indecision and his government's absence in public arena to tackle problems has gradually turned cultural, foreign policy, economic and social issues into security problems" for the country and the nation.

At the same time, it criticized Raisi for failing to understand and prioritize the problems Iran is currently facing and for turning the issues that should normally have conventional solutions into unwanted crises. In other words, Raisi's absence has provided opportunities for forces outside the presidential administration to get involved in policy making behind-the-scenes and impose a high cost on the government.

Khabar Online did not name those forces, but it was presumably referring to influence by Khamenei's many offices, influential clerics and IRGC officers who intervene in the affairs of the state.

The article charged that since Raisi came to office, he has always avoided public appearances during crises. He has stopped his visits to provinces and has been silent about hardliner attempts to restrict social media and deprive thousands of Iranians from benefitting from their Internet-based businesses.

At the same time, the Raisi administration constantly contributed to crises by measures such as eliminating the preferential rate of exchange as well as acting passively regarding security forces restricting Internet access.

Khabar Online mentioned that Raisi's silence was eye-catching when security forces killed dozens of protesters in the provinces. He did not act or say anything about Tehran's police's brutality against peaceful protesters either. According to the website, Raisi's silence has provided opportunities for hardliners to push for policies, such as strengthening the ‘morality police’, that have enraged the people. Raisi did not even respond to clerics and political activists' letters about those developments.

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