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On the Verge of a Crucial Decision: Will Iran's Leader Again Be Called to "Drink the Poison Cup"?

Israel, Megafon

By Dr. Raz Zimmt


Yet the expanded media discourse on this matter might imply that also in Iran, the recognition has been taking shape: the Islamic Republic is facing another decisive moment – similar to one faced by the revolution leader in 1988...


Translated by Viktoria Lymar

Edited by Steven Stenzler


21 July 2012



Nearly a quarter century after the historic decision of the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, to accept the ceasefire with Iraq and end the war between the two countries, there is renewed historical debate in Iran on the justification of the move. Between the lines, one can also read the Iranian indecision in the moments before deciding the nuclear issue.


Last week (July 17) Iran marked the anniversary of the decision by the former Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to adopt in 1988 the U.N. Security Council Resolution 598 and say yes to a ceasefire with Iraq after the eight years of war between the two countries. This year, the anniversary since embracing that resolution was characterized by large-scale and unusual attention from the Iranian media towards Khomeini’s agreement to the armistice. The media discourse that unfolded around the matter reflected unequivocal support for Khomeini’s decision to consent to the ceasefire which was, in his words, equivalent to drinking a “cup of poison.”

The official website of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, displayed on his front page extensive excerpts from his references over the years to Khomeini’s decision to accede to Resolution 598. In the passages brought on the site, Khamenei expressed his support for accepting the Resolution 598, justified it and highlighted the achievements made possible thanks to that step. Khamenei stressed that the decision to agree to the ceasefire wasn’t made out of fear before the enemy or as a result of the pressures exerted against Iran, but rather as the result of Khomeini’s recognition of the economic problems Iran faced – and presented to him by the senior administration officials who claimed that the war charges too high a price from Iran. When Khomeini understood that acceptance of the resolution serves Iran’s interests, he agreed to switch his previous stances on the subject matter. He viewed in that the interest of Islam and managed to enlist the support of the entire nation to the truce.


A “Political Masterpiece”


Numerous Iranian websites have also dealt extensively with Khomeini’s decision to go along with the ceasefire and presented it in a positive light. A number of Iranian high-standing officials who occupied different positions during the Iran-Iraq War, addressed in press interviews various opinions spread among the Iranian leadership as to the question whether Iran should adopt Resolution 598. In the interviews, the high office-holders justified Khomeini’s decision, which was based, as they said, on the vision of the broad national interest.

Mohsen Rezaee, the Secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council of the regime, who served as the Revolutionary Guards chief commander at that period of the war, praised the acceptance of Resolution 598 by Khomeini and defined it as a “political masterpiece”* that thwarted the enemy’s schemes. In an interview he gave this week to the “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” show on the state TV channel, Rezaee told that had Khomeini not agreed to the ceasefire, who knows how the war would end. He also claimed that Iran had refused to accept preceding truce proposals because it was interested in getting further concessions, – nonetheless, since the conditions of the war changed, it saw in Resolution 598 a plan making sense that deserves to be accepted. The key reason for complying with the armistice was, in his interpretation, the economic problems and great suffering of the citizens.

One of the Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders at the time of the war told in an interview to the Fars news agency that adoption of Resolution 598 foiled the plot of Iran’s enemies, who tried to eliminate the revolution by presenting the Islamic Republic as a warmonger that affects the stability in the region. He noted that while some in Iran saw in the ceasefire a big victory ensuring the regime and the revolution, some argued that the war should be continued until the total destruction of the enemy. It’s just that the latter also humbly accepted, however, Khomeini’s decision.

Another commander in the Revolutionary Guards at the war time has also turned, in an interview given to a conservative news site, to the controversy in the Iranian leadership around the question of whether to agree to the truce with Iraq. He told that Khomeini’s agreement to accept the armistice resulted from a combination of political, military and economic considerations and his recognition that the Iranian interest requires a ceasefire. He observed that Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was [de-facto] in charge of the warfare, and other higher-ups along with him, reached a conclusion that it’s impossible to continue the war for economic and other reasons. Most of the political, military and economic top brass recommended to Khomeini to comply with the ceasefire, and he admitted their opinions.


Will Khamenei Opt to Drink from the Cup of Poison, too?


The media polemics regarding Khomeini’s consent to back off from his standing, which dismissed over the course of the war years any solution that did not include overthrow of the Baath rule and its condemnation by the international bodies, may testify to the dispute going on today in the Iranian top echelon concerning the need to review the nuclear policy in light of the increasing Western pressure.

Yadollah Javani, Adviser to the Supreme Leader's Representative in the IRGC and former head of the Political Bureau there, acknowledged last week that there are two contradicting approaches in the Iranian leadership with respect to the way Iran should cope with the growing pressures from the West, and that among them, the Supreme Leader is siding with the hawkish one. In the speech he delivered during the conference of the Revolutionary Guards and Basij militias held on July 17, Javani stated that one perspective espouses fighting resolutely against the enemies of Islam and the revolution – in the first place, the United States. Proponents of this approach oppose any concession to the enemies of Iran and stand for strengthening of the values of the revolution and unity around the leadership. Javani remarked that if those responsible for the country and the people adopt this mindset – undoubtedly, Iran will be able to win in the struggle against its enemies and their attacks. Another approach advocates, as he claimed, concessions in view of the pressures from the side of the world powers, and establishing relations with the United States. According to him, this point of view is endorsed by some high-ranking officials and prominent figures in the country, and it is subject to criticism by the Supreme Leader, since it is only going to lead to enhanced pressure on Iran.

In an interview with Fars news agency this week, Javani emphasized that the situation of Iran today is not to be compared with that dating back to the Iran-Iraq War. He said that any comparison between Iran’s condition today and that during wartime from the domestic, regional and international standpoints indicates that its state of affairs today is far better than in the past.

The positive attitude evident in the recent days around the media discussion apropos Khomeini’s acquiescence to go for the ceasefire with Iraq, does not necessarily speak to the intent of the Iranian regime to prepare the ground for the Iranian compromise vis-à-vis the West on the nuclear issue. On the contrary, the nuclear talks conducted lately between Iran and the P5+1 representatives have only reinforced the assessment that the Iranian leadership, and primarily, the Supreme Leader have no intention of agreeing to a strategic compromise with the West.  Still, the expanded media discourse on this matter might imply that also in Iran, the recognition has been taking shape that the Islamic Republic is facing another decisive moment – similar to one faced by the revolution's leader in 1988, – and that Khamenei, too, could be soon required to choose whether he is ready “to drink the cup of poison.”


Original Hebrew article:


The author of the commentary is a research fellow at the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University and editor of weekly Spotlight on Iran, published by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center


See also: The Wrong Conclusion