No. 787

Thursday, November 20, 1997

Representative Office of

The National Council of Resistance of Iran

Washington, DC

Debate Brews in Iran over Legitimacy of Supreme Leader, Agence France Presse, November 19 

A political campaign against the former designated successor to the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini turned violent on Wednesday as demonstrators ransacked his office and Koran school in this holy city….

IRNA said protesters also attacked the office of another senior clergyman and professor of theology, Ayatollah Azeri Qomi, on Wednesday. He was unhurt….

Khamenei's conservative backers accuse Montazeri and his followers of adding fuel to a political debate raising questions about the constitutional legitimacy of the supreme leader, who is the highest authority in Iran….

[AFP called he attack "a sign of mounting political tension in Iran where opposing Islamic factions are locked in a fierce power struggle."]

Since Khatami's election win, questions have been raised about the all-encompassing powers vested by the Iranian constitution in the supreme leader, a post occupied by Khamenei since Khomeini's death….

Calls for limiting the leader's powers have struck a sensitive chord within the conservative religious establishment, which demands "absolute obedience" to the leader.

On Saturday, the office of a student activist group was vandalized and its leader, Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, severely beaten up after he called in a rally for Khamenei's powers to be reduced.

The violence in Qom followed a virulent speech against Montazeri by a conservative deputy in parliament on Wednesday.

[In another report, AFP quoted Hossein Irani, "a conservative MP from the holy city of Qom in Central Iran" as saying that: "Enemies, knowingly or unknowingly, are targeting the spine of the regime."]


Montazeri: Khamenei Should Have A Supervisory Role, Reuter, November 19 

…Montazeri had criticized government policies including treatment of political prisoners. Khomeini's aides also accused him of links with armed opposition groups.

Police used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators who also attacked the offices of Ayatollah Ahmad Azari Qomi, it said. Azari Qomi was not hurt, the agency added.

The demonstration was the latest act in a campaign by conservative backers of Khamenei against clerics and political groups which have questioned the leader's absolute power.

Montazeri is reported to have said Khamenei should have a supervisory role rather than absolute control. Azari Qomi, who until recently headed the conservative newspaper Resalat, has also come under attack for reportedly expressing similar views.

Newspapers and conservative parliament deputies have also blasted an Islamist student group close to moderate President Mohammad Khatami and liberal Moslem opposition members for demanding legal limits on Khamenei's authority….


Anti-government Cleric Attacked, The Associated Press, November 19 

…Montazeri has maintained a low profile since his house arrest, only occasionally speaking out against the Islamic Republic, which he accuses of human rights violations and repressing freedom of speech….

The Iranian government has been trying to position Khamenei as the supreme authority of Shiites around the world, but his credentials have been rejected by other senior clerics in Qom, 80 miles south of Tehran….


Rajavi: Escalating Power Struggle Expedites Mullahs' Overthrow, Iran Zamin News Agency, November 19

Mr. Massoud Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, described today's demonstration by a group of Khamenei's supporters against Hossein-Ali Montazeri and increasing opposition in recent weeks to the velayat-e faqih (absolute rule of a jurist-consult) and Khamenei, as indications of the escalating trend of feuding within the regime. He said: The mullahs' elections and the resultant troika leadership will expedite the inevitable overthrow of the theocracy ruling Iran.

Agence France Presse reported on Wednesday that the deputy speaker of Majlis, mullah Mohammad-Ali Movahedi Kermani, warned at a session of Majlis on Tuesday that "the new challenges could lead to tension and dared the president to take a 'clear stand' on the issue."

Tuesday night, Khatami, the mullahs' president, took part in a joint session of the cabinet and the Majlis. He praised and endorsed Khamenei.

Mr. Rajavi added: These developments clearly demonstrate that the velayat-e faqih regime has no capacity for reform and Khatami has neither the power nor the interest to bring about any change in this religious, terrorist dictatorship.

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