Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel (R) shaking hands with former president Mohammad Khatami. May 30, 2023

A Handshake That Rattled Iran’s Hardliners

Sunday, 06/04/2023

Iran's hardliner Paydari Party has dismissed long-time conservative figure Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel's leadership of an umbrella group for a handshake with a moderate.

Paydari's break with the coalition occurred this week after long-time conservative figure Haddad-Adel shook hands with former reformist President Mohammad Khatami at a commemoration ceremony on Tuesday.

The former president has long been shunned by conservatives loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. State media have even been barred from showing his image or say anything positive about him, although during eight years in office Khatami hardly challenged the authoritarian ruler.

Paydari used to join coalitions with other conservative parties ahead of almost all elections since mid 2000s, but it invariably left all coalitions at one point before an election and went its own separate way.

However, if Paydari stands on its word this time, it would be a first even for the notorious spoiler group eight months before the 2024 parliamentary vote.

Reformist newspaper Shargh called the development "a confrontation between radical and moderate conservatives," although Haddad-Adel can hardly be characterized as a moderate.

The development also revealed, though belatedly, why the host of the meeting, Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, had to apologize to an Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reporter who was beaten up by his bodyguards and kept in a shed for several hours. The reporter was assaulted apparently when he tried to take photos of Haddad-Adel shaking hands with Khatami.

According to Sharq, Haddad-Adel was criticized by Paydari for remaining at the commemoration event after he found out that individuals such as Khatami and former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were also there. The hardliners said Haddad Adel should have done what Kayhan's firebrand editor Hossein Shariatmadari did. He left the session a few minutes after the opening speech by a reformist figure.

Shaking hands is nothing more than a sign of politeness and courtesy, wrote Shargh, but it was different for Paydari, because Haddad Adel and reformist figures were involved. That makes it a meeting which has something to do with elections and the rivalry between political factions.

Shargh pointed out that Haddad-Adel certainly knew beforehand that reformists will be present at the ceremony. It also reminded that Haddad-Adel was the first political figure to accuse Khatami as being one of the perpetrators of the post-election unrest in 2009 which led to his isolation on Iran's political scene. But apparently the old conservative leader thought a handshake was needed with the ex-president.

Hamid Rasaei, a Paydari figure wrote after the photo showing Haddad-Adel shaking hands that Khatami was "one of the leaders of the coup in 2009 and the ensuing seditions."

What Khamenei loyalists call a sedition was popular protests when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quickly declared the winner of the presidential election in 2009 in a highly disputed move.

Shargh further pointed out that the episode revealed that Iran's conservatives see the upcoming election in March as a game reserved only for their candidates where no reformist should be allowed to play.

As a further indication of that, Shargh noted that the Strategic Network of the Supporters of the Islamic Revolution [Persian acronym SHARIAN] ,another conservative coalition which is also close to Paydari has made it clear in a recent meeting that their list of candidates will include no so-called moderate conservatives.

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