The Farsi original of this article was published on www.kargar.org in July 2002 and in Kargar-e Socialist No. 114 in August 2002. The remaining parts will be published over the next few weeks.
The meeting of the heads of 15 European Union countries in Luxembourg on 17 June 2002, which followed on from the recent position of European governments that emerged in a similar meeting a month earlier, has strengthened relations with Iran. Next September the Council of Ministers will begin discussions with Iran for the signing of an economic co-operation treaty (of course, depending on the European parliament ratifying it, which it probably will).
During the past month the representatives of European countries have travelled to Iran many times to strengthen relations, and in return, the representatives of the regime have visited the leaders of European countries. For example, Mr Michel, the Belgian Foreign Minister, representing the foreign ministers of the 15 EU countries, recently went to Tehran and presented a report to the Luxembourg meeting. Before him Christopher Patten, the special representative of the EU for negotiations with the leaders of the regime, had gone to Iran. The regular trips of Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Deputy Foreign Minister, to various places in Europe and also the four day trip of the head of the Islamic Parliament, Mehdi Karroubi to Finland and then Ms Liisa Jaakonsaari, head of the Finnish parliament's foreign policy commission, to Iran on 14 June, and their negotiations on the developments in Afghanistan and the Middle East and human rights (!); Karroubi's trip to Austria and a meeting with Thomas Klestil, the President; the visit of Abbas-Ali Alizadeh the general head of Tehran province's judiciary to Wiesbaden in Germany and meeting with the city's public prosecutor, Dr Kumer; the trip of Ms Anna Lindh the Foreign Minister of Sweden to Iran last month; and so on are all aimed at preparing a "honeymoon" between the EU and the Iranian regime.
It is obvious that adding the name of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran to the list of terrorist organisations, and Iran being declared a safe country by international organisations, are part of these behind the scenes negotiations. The main reasons for such a new course must be sought in the international situation of western capitalist governments and also in the internal developments of the regime.
Europe's disagreements with America
The new course of the heads of European governments is partly a reaction to the recent adventurist policies of the Bush government (and Sharon). After September 11, 2001, the Bush government organised the attack on Afghanistan to solve the economic crisis of America and after that, under the guise of a War on Terrorism, has declared war on all those who oppose him in the Third World. George Bush, in his speech on 29 January 2002 to a joint session of the US Congress, attacked Iran, Iraq and North Korea by calling them an "axis of evil". In this speech Bush declared that these countries seek to produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. He said: "With the production of these weapons of mass destruction these regimes create the danger of digging their own graves". It is obvious that the reason for such an attack under the present conditions cannot be just to do with the nature of these regimes, because terrorist acts by the governments of Iran and Iraq is nothing new. The main issue is the economic crisis of the US itself. In fact Bush admitted in his speech that "American society is in an economic recession."
This speech was given straight after the collapse of Enron, one of the biggest American capitalist companies, a company that has, more than any other, direct political links with Bush and the Republican Party. On top of this, the bankruptcy of companies like K-Mart, Global Crossing, Sunbeam and all of the steel industry are an issue.
(The right-wing government of Sharon is also following this adventurist policy using the same phrases. It planned the attack on the towns of the West Bank of the River Jordan and Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah which caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent Palestinians; and the destruction of the economic infrastructure like cutting off electricity and drinking water, food and medical supplies and so on.)
It is obvious that the US government's policy of one-sided attacks and Bush's bullying behaviour towards his opponents in the 'Third World' was not based on an agreement with the European governments and on the interests of European capitalists. Although world capitalism uses a general policy of aggression towards the capitalist countries of the Third World, nevertheless, they have their tactical differences. The economic interests of the European countries do not at the same time and in a uniform way correspond to those of the policies of the US government. The recent speeches of the representatives of European countries reveal this contradiction.
For example, the French ambassador in Tehran, Francois Nicolo, recently announced that: "The axis of evil does not exist for France" (Norooz newspaper, 15 June 2002). Ms Liisa Jaakonsaari, head of the Finnish parliament's foreign policy commission, at her meeting with representatives of the Islamic parliament in Tehran claimed that for Finland "The harsh language of America against Iran, and that the Islamic Republic is part of the axis of evil, are unacceptable" (Hamshahri newspaper, 15 June 2002). The recent position of the representatives of the European parliament shows the opposition to the use of harsh words and the ultra-right policies of America's Republicans. In the middle of this the British government, which until now was in America's camp in every respect, has for the first time in the past decade separated itself from the US government. Of course, the US (and the Israeli) government have publicly protested against the policies of the European countries and show displeasure against this turn.
The regime's reformers
One of the central analyses of the leaders of the European countries for getting closer to the regime is that this appears to strengthen the 'reformist' wing within the regime. The views of Anna Lindh, the Foreign Minister of Sweden, before and after she went to Iran were published in Dagens Nyheter, one of Sweden's most respected newspapers, on 16 April 2002 and they were that "The trip to Iran is in fact support for that country's reformers". According to the Dagens Nyheter report, Anna Lindh then added that the oppression that is meted out to the people in Iran is still "unacceptable", but despite this, there have been changes in the country. She then said: "In Iran the reformist tendencies are growing. These groups want to change Iran, to make it modern and democratic and the President of Iran belongs to this wave." According to Dagens Nyheter, the Foreign Minister of Sweden adds: "For all those who want to create reform in Iran, it is necessary to travel to that country and have close contact with them." She continued: "Travelling to Iran was in fact to support the reformers in that country (Dagens Nyheter newspaper, 18 April 2002).
Ms Anna Lindh (and the heads of European countries) must first clarify what they mean by 'reforms' within the regime and then count out the steps that have been taken by the 'reformers'. If these people were looking for the results of reforms and the reformers, then it would have been enough to take a look at the woeful situation of the people during the period of the President's so-called reforms. Instead of behind the scenes 'negotiations' with people who have had a part in suppressing the human rights of workers, the youth and women, it would have been better to hold talks with the representatives of these oppressed layers. Obviously the motive of the heads of the European countries was not to find out the truth, and the turn towards the regime is based on the economic interests of international capitalists.
'Reforms', even in the bourgeois sense, mean demands on such questions like unemployment benefit, social insurance, paid holidays and so on, which were traditionally posed as part of the 'minimum' demands of the late nineteenth century social democratic predecessors of Ms Anna Lindh. The 'reforms' in Iran are even more limited than the demands of late nineteenth century social democracy. At a time when even the workers' wages go unpaid for six months to a year in Iran, and the regime and its reformist factions shamelessly arrested and imprisoned the workers of the Baresh textiles in Esfahan; when the workers of Jamco and Shadanpoor are shot in front of parliament; and when the slightest protest by workers is nipped in the bud - just because the workers demand their unpaid wages - how can the regime's defenders among the heads of European countries imagine that reforms are taking place and growing? Ms Lindh forgets that Khatami, the leader of “reforms”, has been in power for over six years. The reformers also have a parliamentary majority. And yet the suppression and beating of workers and students has been taking place during the time of these very same 'reformers'.
'Reforms' in the sense of achieving unemployment benefit, social insurance, the right to have holidays; 'reforms' in the sense of having democratic rights like the right to the freedom of speech; the right to organise and to strike; the freedom to found trade unions and independent workers' organisations; free education for women and men at all levels; respect for human rights; the right to lodge complaints and to prosecute any government official by any citizen and so on, are demands that are approved by all of Iranian society. But, the 'reformers' - even those who are now in opposition - do not want such reforms and in practice have not taken the slightest step in this direction. When Khameneii, with just one mention, blocked the move by the majority of the reformist parliament (supposedly those who had been voted in by the people) for freedom of the media and newspapers of the reformers themselves, not even one of them protested. Then we cannot conclude that the 'reformers' can be expected to take steps on other basic issues.
The heads of the European countries surely know about these issues. But the two-faced nature of the governments, who supposedly support the freedom of speech and democratic rights, gets them into this contradictory position. The defence of reforms for the people of Iran is completely opposed to support for the 'reformers'! The best and quickest way for achieving reforms in Iran is the international isolation of the regime in power and not strengthening it. The heads of the European countries, with their new turn towards signing economic-political treaties with the regime, show in practice that they do not want reforms!
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