Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Khamenei Cools Controversy over ‘Fire-at-Will’ Statement, Demands National Unity | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page
Media ID: 55377446

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaks live on television after casting his ballot in the Iranian presidential election in Tehran, Iran June 12, 2009. (Reuters)

London – Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei used his Eid El-Fitr speech on Monday to cool down rising tensions spurred by a feisty presidential election. Iran’s re-elected President Hassan Rouhani also urged turning over a new page and overcoming disputes.

Despite Khamenei’s call for calm in the war of words, a poet affiliated with his office delivered a prose in which he highly criticized the nuclear deal and the Rouhani administration only three days after angry protests burst through the streets, some raising anti-Rouhani slogans.

Following the twin attacks in Iran’s capital just a few weeks ago, Khamenei encouraged his officers to “fire-at-will” and act as they see fit. This has resulted in an even more repressive atmosphere in the country.

Human rights organizations are worried that the Supreme Leader has effectively allowed authorities to further suppress the people of Iran, especially women and young people.

The country’s top cleric stressed that what he meant by “fire-at-will” is “spontaneous and clean cultural work”, adding that he wanted “intellectuals to play their role to identify cultural gaps that are leaving society weakened.”

In a veiled criticism of Rouhani’s centrist government, Khamenei said: “Sometimes the central think tanks and cultural and political institutions fall into disarray and stagnation, and when that happens, officers against the soft war should recognize their duty, make decisions and act in a fire-at-will form.”

Iranian officials often refer to Western cultural influences as a “soft war” against their national and religious values.

Khamenei’s order to his followers, including to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Basij paramilitary forces, is a response to the more moderate policies of Rouhani, who has maintained close ties with reformists throughout his presidency.

Khamenei warning against social “infiltration” on the eve of the signing of the nuclear agreement in July 2015, had played a major role in forming anti-government sentiment in Iran that defies the Rouhani administration.

Khamenei coined the term “fire-at-will” to Iranian politics less than a month after Rouhani’s re-election. The supreme leader also highlighted in his fears of the risk of a polarized Iran, warning of the possibility of a repeat of the 1981 events.

In 1981, ex-president Abolhassan Banisadr was impeached by parliament over his anti-Gulf war positions and moves against the clerics in power. Then supreme leader Rouhollah Khomeini himself instigated the impeachment.