12 April 2004, Volume
IS AN IRANIAN HAND STIRRING THE IRAQI POT?
As Iraq undergoes some of its most serious unrest since the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003, questions have been asked about the role Iran may be playing in the violence. There is no publicly available substantive evidence of an Iranian role, but an exploration of these questions indicates that actors in the Iranian foreign policy field have the motivation and the means to interfere in Iraqi affairs.
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami briefly addressed events in Iraq in a 6 April speech, state television and the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported, claiming the U.S.-led coalition is misusing the issues of democracy and human rights. "Those who violate human rights exert pressure on other countries in the name of human rights," Khatami said. "Those [foreign troops] who use tanks to crush people of an Iraqi town for staging a demonstration do not have the right to talk about human rights."
Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi said on 6 April, "The United States should change its attitude toward the Iraqi nation in line with efforts to settle the ongoing crisis in that country and stop the threats, detention, and massacre of the nation, because this method has proven inefficient," IRNA reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 5 April, "The occupying forces are responsible for the continuation of the unrest in Iraq," state television reported.
Iran, as the self-perceived leader of the Shi'a community, can be expected to make such statements. Its statements, furthermore, are consistent with its continuing hostility to the United States. The focus therefore shifts to Tehran's relationship with Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who the White House and U.S. officials in Iraq assert is behind the current uprising. (Unnamed U.S. intelligence officials said in "The Washington Post" on 8 April that this is a "broad-based uprising that goes well beyond the supporters of one militant Islamic cleric.")
Al-Sadr's role in the current unrest began when the coalition authorities closed his "Al-Hawzah" newspaper in late March for inciting violence. In early April, Iraqi police arrested al-Sadr associate Mustafa al-Yacubi in connection with al-Khoi's murder and announced that a warrant had been issued for al-Sadr's arrest. Al-Sadr responded by announcing, in a 4 April speech reported in the "International Herald Tribune" on 5 April, "There is no use for demonstrations, as your enemy loves to terrify and suppress opinions and despises peoples.... I ask you not to resort to demonstrations because they have become a losing card and we should seek other ways.... Terrorize your enemy, as we cannot remain silent over its violations."
Al-Sadr's leadership credentials initially had more to do with being the son of slain Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr than with any personal accomplishments. Yet in the space of one year he has gone from relative obscurity to being considered the leader of a significant threat to Iraq's stability. He was a relative unknown until his associates allegedly murdered a cleric named Abd al-Majid al-Khoi in April 2003. Over time he has established a base by providing his supporters some of the social services normally provided by a functioning government. He also has created a militia, the Imam Al-Mahdi Army, that numbers up to 6,000.
Some in Washington believe Iran has a hand in the unrest. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on 7 April, "We know the Iranians have been meddling [in Iraq] and it is unhelpful to have neighboring countries meddling in the affairs of Iraq and I think the Iraqi people are not going to want to be dominated by a neighboring country, any neighboring country," RFE/RL reported. "No country wants to be dominated by its neighbors." Yet State Department spokesman Adam Ereli was less definitive on 9 April. "We've seen, generally speaking, reports of suggestions of Iranian involvement, collusion, provocation, coordination, et cetera, et cetera. But I think there's a dearth of hard facts to back these things up," Ereli said, as cited by UPI.
The relationship between Iran and al-Sadr is rather unclear. He went from being a critic of Iran when he emerged on the scene to making a trip to Iran a few months later (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 9 June 2003). Al-Sadr said in response to a September 2003 question about his position as an extension of Iran's Islamic revolution, "I am the extension of my own reference, that of my father. If the two lines are similar, which is a fact, then our goals are also similar. There is no harm in my being an extension of the Khomeini revolution" (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 25 September 2003).
Moreover, an Iraqi cleric based in Iran, Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri, appointed al-Sadr as his personal representative in April 2003. Sources in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) said in October 2003 that they are under pressure from some Iranian officials to recognize al-Haeri as their source of emulation and to declare allegiance to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 28 April and 13 October 2003).
An Iraqi Governing Council member told the "Al-Hayat" daily on 6 April 2003 that Iran is waging influence through al-Sadr.
Yet Tehran's relationship with other Iraqi Shi'a has deeper roots. SCIRI and Al-Da'wah al-Islamiyah have had relations with Iran since the early 1980s, when they were forced to relocate to Iran after fleeing Ba'ath regime repression. Leaders in these parties were based in Iran, and SCIRI's Badr Corps militia was trained by and fought alongside the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) -- a relationship that reportedly continues. Muddying the waters further is Tehran's early recognition of the Iraqi Governing Council and the frequent trips to Tehran of council officials, whether they are associated with SCIRI, Dawa, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or the Iraqi National Congress.
One possible explanation for alleged Iranian actions is the dual nature of the Iranian foreign policy apparatus, in which officials associated with the executive branch and the Foreign Ministry interact with their counterparts in other countries, while officials in the IRGC, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), and the armed forces deal with insurgent groups and terrorists. Not only can these latter three institutions bypass the executive branch and the Supreme National Security Council, but their actions are sometimes at odds with the government's stated policies. An example of the real impact of this foreign policy dichotomy is a 6 April report, in the "Al-Hayat" daily, that the Iranian charge d'affaires in Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, served in the IRGC in Lebanon. (Before Qomi came to Iraq in December 2003 he was the consul-general in Herat, another place where Iran was involved with activities against U.S. forces; see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 23 February 2004.)
The Iranian executive branch has frequently stated that it wants to see a democratic and unified Iraq with a democratic form of government that is acceptable to all the country's ethnic groups. It wants the United States out of Iraq and away from Iran's borders.
Yet other officials use the "quagmire" metaphor when discussing the U.S. role in Iraq. They don't just want the U.S. to leave the region. They want a humiliated and bloodied American army to give up on Iraq, thereby handing Iran a public relations victory in the battle for Muslim hearts and minds.
Such thinking was expressed by Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani in a 9 April Friday prayers sermon. "Americans have a bumpy road ahead of them.... They are really in a quagmire," he said according to state radio. "The day they set foot in Baghdad, I said that they had entered a quagmire and that from then onwards, the policy of extricating themselves from the quagmire had to be implemented."
Another example of such thinking was expressed in the IRGC's 8 April statement as cited by the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA): "A fate more horrifying than Vietnam awaits America in the morass of Iraq." An earlier example occurred in Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani's 5 December 2003 sermon in Tehran, according to state radio. "America is now stranded in Iraq. It is trapped in a quagmire which it created itself," Emami-Kashani said.
In the context of dueling institutions, it is notable that when Muqtada al-Sadr visited Iran he reportedly met only with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani; "Al-Sharq al-Awsat," however, reported on 8 October 2003 that Khatami refused to meet with him. When SCIRI's Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim visited Iran in early October he met with President Khatami as well as many other top officials.
Comprehension of the Iranian foreign policy process is made more difficult by the actions of actors outside governmental and military security institutions. Para-statal foundations are extremely wealthy, act with no government oversight, and pursue actions that have a significant foreign policy impact. For example, the 15th of Khordad Foundation's 1989 offer of a multimillion dollar bounty for British author Salman Rushdie is still valid. Religious institutions can be used to channel money to figures in Iraq, thereby allowing state institutions the opportunity to deny any involvement in the unrest.
Apologists for Iran will ask for proof of an Iranian hand in the current unrest. It is unlikely, however, that any evidence that will satisfy these people will ever be found. Indeed, whatever the extent of Tehran's involvement, it is clear that its direct or indirect agitation has stirred up native tensions. Nevertheless, for the last 25 years Iran has involved itself in a range of regional conflicts, and there is no reason to believe that it will end this involvement when its perceived survival is at stake. (Bill Samii)IRAQI OFFICIAL CALLS FOR WITHDRAWAL OF FOREIGN FORCES.
Iraqi Governing Council member Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, who is with the predominantly Shi'a Al-Da'wah al-Islamiyah party, said during a 7 April meeting in Tehran with Iranian Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani that the presence of occupation forces threatens regional security, IRNA reported. "We insist on the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq and the region," al-Ja'fari said. Rafsanjani said he hopes the occupation forces leave soon, and he expressed concern about the clashes in Al-Najaf and Kufa. Al-Ja'fari also met with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who said, "Using military force against civilians cannot be justified under any pretext," IRNA reported.
Al-Ja'fari met with President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami on 10 April, state television reported. Khatami compared current events in Iraq with "the crimes of the Zionist regime," and he said the only solution is let the Iraqi people decide their own fates. Khatami spoke out in support of the position of Iraq's most senior Shi'a cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who has called for the restoration of order. (Bill Samii)IRAQI UNREST DELAYS REFUGEES AND PILGRIMS.
Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Ali Asqar Ahmadi met Iraqi Interior Minister Nuri Badran after the latter's arrival at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport on 3 April, IRNA reported. Badran spent four days in Iran discussing security along the two countries' 1,458 kilometer shared border.
Police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf told Badran on 5 April that security along the joint border must improve, Iranian state radio reported. Qalibaf added, "If border security management is boosted on the Iraqi side, the Islamic Republic of Iran can assist that country on border control." Qalibaf said Iran is ready to cooperate in the provision of security for visiting pilgrims. Badran said that Iraq is trying to improve the situation, saying, "By activating 20 border posts on the Iranian border, we are trying to control passenger and goods crossings." Coalition forces recently closed all but three crossings on the border.
Badran also discussed issues relating to the traffic of religious pilgrims between the two countries. Badran said at the airport on 3 April that Iraq is not ready to serve the more than 10,000 pilgrims who visit Iraqi holy sites daily, but it is working to set up suitable services. The already heavy pilgrimage demand is expected to increase, as thousands of people make their way to Karbala to participate in Arbain, which marks the 40th day after the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and his brother Abbas in a battle over Islamic leadership in 680 A.D.
Iran is making efforts to help the pilgrims. On 6 April in Karbala, Hussein Akbari, the head of the local Iranian Hajj and Pilgrimage Office, announced that the office would reopen for the first time since the early-March bombings. Explaining his office's function, Akbari said, "All Iranian pilgrimage agencies wishing to sign contracts with Iraqi hotels and transportation companies must organize their activities under the supervision of this office." He said his office would help Iranian pilgrims with any problems they might have in Iraq. "We control the fares that the pilgrims are charged, the quality of services rendered to them and their room and boarding, their food quality, and the other affairs they are entangled with during their pilgrimage," he added. The office is located at the Baqer Hotel in Karbala, which is located at the Baab-ul-Qibla intersection between the Abolfazl al-Abbas shrine and Jomhuri Street.
A few days after Badran's arrival, however, Tehran called on pilgrims to delay their travel plans. The Interior Ministry on 6 April issued a statement urging Iranians not to visit Iraq in light of the current unrest there, IRNA reported. An Iranian pilgrim from Bushehr was shot in Kufah on 4 April, IRNA reported, and two other Iranians were wounded. Four Iranian pilgrims and their Iraqi bus driver were killed and three other Iranians wounded when their bus to Karbala was caught in an exchange of gunfire between coalition troops and Iraqis, dpa reported, citing Iranian state television. Iranian state television reportedly claimed that U.S. troops killed the pilgrims, according to dpa.
United Nations spokesman Peter Kessler said on 6 April that the return of Iraqi refugees from Iran is being temporarily suspended, VOA News reported. Kessler cited a security incident that prevented a convoy of more than 200 people from returning to Al-Basrah, and he added that they will stay on the Iranian side of the border until the security situation in Iraq is stabilized.
The Kosar al-Nur group from Mashhad reportedly intended to go to Karbala to repair the light fixtures in Imam Hussein's shrine, "Jomhuri-yi Islami" reported on 4 April. Seyyed Mohammad Sadeq Mesbah-Musavi, the group's director, said most of its 10 specialists have more than 30 years' experience, and they are ready to work on shrines in Al-Najaf, Kazemiyan, and Samara. Presumably, their trip will be delayed by the current unrest and the travel ban.
As for Iraqi Interior Minister Nuri Badran, he resigned on 8 April, the "Financial Times" reported the next day. Badran explained: "I heard reports that Ambassador [L. Paul] Bremer was unhappy with my performance, so I went to see him and asked if it was true. He said that the problem was that the interior and the defense ministers could not both be Shi'a.... So from now I am resigning my position and I hope that by my decision, balance will be restored to the ministries in Iraq." (Bill Samii)BAGHDAD RELEASES IRANIAN DETAINEES.
Over 120 Iranian nationals are in Iraqi prisons, Iranian charge d'affaires to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi announced on 7 April according to IRNA. Eighty of them are pilgrims who entered the country illegally, and many others are imprisoned for drug offenses, Qomi said. The Iranian Foreign Ministry announced on 4 April that 31 Iranians who were in Iraqi custody have been released over the last few weeks, state radio reported.
Meanwhile, according to a 3 April IRNA dispatch from Karbala, the police are holding 15 Iranians for entering the country illegally. 17 Iranian pilgrims were released from detention in Karbala on 9 April, IRNA reported on 10 April. The IRNA dispatch stated that some of these people are among those who were detained earlier. (Bill Samii)IRAN ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA.
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said on 5 April in Moscow, while attending a meeting of foreign ministers of the Caspian Sea littoral states, that Iran is satisfied with its cooperation with Russia in the nuclear field, ITAR-TASS reported. He added, "Iran has a right to use atomic energy and nuclear technology for peaceful purposes." There is room for improvement, however, as Kharrazi explained: "The Iranian side believes at the same time that considering their potentials, Moscow and Tehran could attain more in bilateral cooperation." He added, "This approach should not limit itself to economic cooperation alone, it should extend to the spheres of politics and security."
Despite the recent lifting of U.S. sanctions against some Russian enterprises accused of helping Iran to develop weapons of mass destruction, Washington will continue to try to push Russia out of the global market for nuclear-power technologies, former Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov told ITAR-TASS on 3 April. "The underlying reason behind U.S. attempts to make Russia curtail cooperation with Iran is to try to regain this lucrative market," Adamov said. "The United States resorts to the same type of unfair competition in other countries building nuclear-power plants with Russian assistance." Adamov specifically mentioned India and China, noting that those countries each plan to build 20 new nuclear-power plants over the next 20 years, at a cost of $1 billion each.
Russian Atomic Energy Agency Director Aleksandr Rumyantsev said on 2 April that his country is interested in "clarifying relations between Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] as soon as possible. "Iran is a strategic partner of Russia on the international market of nuclear-energy technologies," Rumyantsev said, according to ITAR-TASS. "Russia plans to develop this cooperation with Tehran." (Rob Coalson, Bill Samii)IAEA CHIEF VISITS TEHRAN, INSPECTIONS TO CONTINUE.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Muhammad el-Baradei arrived in Tehran on 6 April for a one-day visit and said shortly after his arrival, "I have always had good meetings with Iranian officials and I see no reason why I should not be optimistic that we will be able to move forward," RFE/RL reported. El-Baradei indicated that he would be taking a hard line with his hosts, telling reporters in Frankfurt before his departure, "Iran has been actively cooperating, but I sense some slowdown in the process," according to Reuters.
El-Baradei met with Atomic Energy Organization chief Gholamreza Aqazadeh-Khoi, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, and President Mohammad Khatami during his 6 April visit, according to dispatches from IRNA, Fars News Agency, and state television.
Aqazadeh-Khoi said that he told the visitor that Iran has done a great deal to win the international community's confidence and trust, such as signing and implementing the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, suspending uranium enrichment, suspending the manufacturing of parts for centrifuges and the assembly of centrifuges, and answering all the IAEA's questions. "In return, the Islamic Republic has serious expectations, and that is [that] this case should be closed as soon as possible," he said, according to state television.
Khatami told el-Baradei that Iran has the right to use nuclear energy peacefully, IRNA reported.
El-Baradei said that in his meeting with Aqazadeh-Khoi he insisted that remaining problems must be resolved, Fars reported. He added, "IAEA inspectors will travel to Iran on 12 April to examine the activities relating to the enrichment of uranium, including the production of and issues relating to centrifuges." El-Baradei said after meeting with Rohani that he had called for transparency and clarity on some issues, IRNA reported. He also denied, in response to a reporter's question, that he is under U.S. influence and said his record attests to his independence. (Bill Samii)IRAN TO BUILD HEAVY-WATER REACTOR.
Anonymous diplomats in Vienna, home of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on 7 April that Iran will begin building a 40-megawatt heavy-water reactor in June at Arak, "Khorasan" daily reported the next day, citing AFP. Tehran had announced its intention to build the facility the previous year, and, during el-Baradei's 6 April visit to Tehran, Iranian officials told him that they will break ground in June. This is not considered a deception because Iran previously declared its intention to build the reactor, the sources said, but they added that it does not build confidence under the current circumstances of concern about Iranian intentions. Iran asserts that the radioisotopes would be used for medical research, but according to an AP report, the spent fuel rods could be reprocessed to produce weapons-grade plutonium. (Bill Samii)IRANIAN MP-ELECT UNENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT IAEA.
Parliamentarian-elect Hussein Fadai said on 5 April that visiting el-Baradei should explain his "ambivalent approach towards Iran," IRNA reported. Fadai said Iranian officials should stand firm in the face of "unjust" Western allegations about the country's nuclear program, and he also complained about officials using the Noruz holiday as a pretext to delay a visit by IAEA inspectors to Iran. The visit, scheduled for 12 March, was postponed for 15 days (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 15 and 29 March 2004). (Bill Samii)CONSERVATIVES PREPARE FOR LEGISLATIVE TAKEOVER.
"The seventh parliament does not even have one hour to waste, and on top of the regular duties the elected deputies must make up for the time wasted in the sixth parliament," conservative commentator Amir Mohebbian wrote in "Resalat" on 4 April. Getting elected is not an end in itself, he wrote, and after conservative domination of the municipal council elections (February 2003) and the parliamentary elections (February 2004), the presidential election still remains (in 2005).
The conservative Islamic Iran Developers Council (IIDC, Etelaf-i Abadgaran-i Iran-i Islami), which dominated the Tehran polls in the February parliamentary elections, is already preparing for a conservative takeover of the legislature, and it is also looking forward to the presidential polls.
The Developers Council has created eight working groups that are assessing public demands and creating their short-term and long-term agendas, according to an anonymous source cited by the Baztab website (http://www.baztab.com) on 29 March. According to the source, the IIDC views its first year in office as especially important, because this is the period in which the public will form its impressions of the new legislators. Moreover, the presidential election will take place during the same period, the source said, adding that the Developers Council might discuss possible presidential candidates. They also have not settled on a candidate to be the next speaker of parliament, according to the source. It could be a well-known figure, such as Gholam-Ali Hadad Adel, Ahmad Tavakoli, or Mohammad Reza Bahonar, or it could be somebody more obscure and therefore less controversial.
A 2 April Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) report confirmed some of the preceding report and fleshed out some of the details. It said Developers Council working groups are meeting regularly and would continue to do so until the seventh parliament begins working on 27 May. An anonymous parliamentarian-elect, as well as Hussein Sheikholeslam and Hamid Reza Katouzian, told ISNA that it is essential for the state institutions and the public to cooperate to achieve their goals. The anonymous source added that it is not enough for people just to vote, they must stand by their representatives and they must demand accountability on the part of the executive branch and state institutions.
Sheikholeslam expressed the opinion that those elected to the seventh parliament "have similar ideas and are prepared to work together." Katouzian, however, said that uniformity is not the solution and innovation stems from differences of opinion. "Therefore, fundamentalists or reformists, or others with different names, will be working hard to achieve one objective and that is serving the people in our society," he said.
Sheikholeslam added that economic issues and the low standard of living must be addressed. He also said that large conglomerates must be downsized and new managers should be appointed. Katouzian concurred, saying, "The people's demands primarily revolve around issues such as their standard of living, job creation, and social activities." (Bill Samii)EXECUTIVE BRANCH READIES FOR CONSERVATIVE LEGISLATURE.
Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ali Abtahi told reporters after the 7 April cabinet session that there will be changes in Iran's cabinet after the 27 May inauguration of the new parliament, "Khorasan" daily reported on 8 April. Meanwhile, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said, "I am trying to achieve some things that you will hear about later." A parliamentarian who requested anonymity said the personnel changes are intended to avoid having a cabinet member interpellated by the incoming conservative legislature, and the legislator suggested that the ministers of roads and transport and of education and training would be replaced.
Legislator Jafar Golbaz added the interior minister to this mix, "Khorasan" reported, explaining that Khatami would make the changes in order to avoid early conflicts with the new parliament.
On 8 April, the Baztab website reported that Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari had submitted his resignation to President Khatami several times. Musavi-Lari reportedly indicated his readiness to be dismissed by the president, interpellated by parliament, or to continue his work. According to Baztab, there is the belief among some government officials as well as the interior minister's friends that he should be replaced to prevent an embarrassing interpellation.
Musavi-Lari reportedly is promoting Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Mohtashami-Pur as his successor. Currently representing Tehran in the parliament, Mohtashami-Pur served as interior minister during Mir-Hussein Musavi's second term as prime minister. (Bill Samii)KHATAMI LASHES OUT AT HARD-LINERS.
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said in a 6 April speech to the National Youth Association that the country's 1979 revolution focused on religion, democracy, and freedom, state television reported. The reform movement associated with his 1997 election victory meant to address these issues, he said, but it was misunderstood. In what appears to be a reference to the Guardians Council's power to block legislative measures on Islamic and constitutional grounds, Khatami said prejudiced people who ignore the exigencies of the time use the facilities at their disposal to "undermine the reform process." On the other hand, he said, the reformists believed that their success would make things more difficult for advocates of secularism. Khatami added, "at the moment things are difficult for [advocates of secularism], because a secular republic will never be established in our country." (Bill Samii)KARRUBI INCREASES CRITICISM OF GUARDIANS COUNCIL.
Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi has been critical of the Guardians Council for many years and his becoming speaker of parliament in 2000 has done nothing to temper his views. Indeed, the fact that he will leave public office at the end of May seems to have encouraged him.
The Militant Clerics Association (Majma-yi Ruhaniyun-i Mubarez), of which Karrubi is the secretary-general, has sent a letter to Assembly of Experts Speaker Ayatollah Ali Meshkini requesting access to a recent speech made before that body about the February parliamentary elections, ISNA reported on 5 April. The decision to send the letter was reached at the association's 4 April session, and it refers to a speech by Guardians Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati.
The association's letter noted that in the 4 April parliamentary session Karrubi had referred to Jannati's speech and said that it should be broadcast to the general public. "The expectation is that you will order -- in addition to the delivery of a copy of the tape to the Militant Clerics Association -- that the Voice and Vision of the Islamic Republic broadcasts the full speech for the information of our dear people," the letter concluded.
The Guardians Council must approve legislation passed by the parliament on religious and constitutional grounds and the Expediency Council makes the final decision in cases where these two bodies cannot resolve their differences. In a 7 April speech, Karrubi said that the Expediency Council had decided in favor of the parliament 70-80 percent of the time in recent years, state television reported.
In accordance with Article 98 of the constitution, the Guardians Council is tasked with supervising elections, and Karrubi criticized the council's method of vetting candidates for the February parliamentary elections. Referring to the fact that the results for all the constituencies have yet to be announced, he said, "We hope that the final results of the few remaining constituencies will finish well."
In a 6 April speech, Karrubi called for a clear delineation of the Guardians Council's supervisory function in elections, IRNA reported. He said the framers of the constitution, religious scholars, and intellectuals should give their views on the council's performance and state whether it is an approbatory or supervisory body. (Bill Samii)CLARIFICATION ON THE 'BRAIN DRAIN.'
An article in the 15 March "RFE/RL Iran Report" stated that, according to an International Monetary Fund survey of more than 60 countries, Iran has the highest rate of "brain drain" in the world. Actually, according to an IMF survey cited by IRNA on 30 December 2003, "Iran ranks first in brain drain among 61 developing and less developed countries (LDC)." Furthermore, an article by IMF research economist Enrica Detragiache and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics economist William J. Carrington in the IMF's quarterly magazine, "Finance and Development" (v. 36, n. 2 [July 1999]), states: "The Islamic Republic of Iran has had a substantial drain of highly educated individuals (more than 15 percent)." The article adds that about 25 percent of Iranians with a tertiary education live in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (http://www.oecd.org) countries. Neither of these articles, however, states that Iran has the highest rate of global brain drain. (Bill Samii)