By Farda's Mehdi Khalaji
and Ardavan Niknam
Iran has made great strides in recent years in
rebuilding bridges to Europe and Asia after the
tumultuous early years of the Islamic Revolution
of 1979. Those years saw the new Islamic regime
seeking to export its revolutionary values abroad
and assassinating opponents. The early excesses
led many countries to regard the Islamic Republic
as a rogue state and to try to isolate it
politically and economically.
claims its right to again be a full member of the
world community. But doubts linger about how much
it has moved away from its use of terrorism as a
political tool. Washington, for example, still
considers Iran to be a state sponsor of terrorism
and cites as evidence what it says is Tehran's
continued support of Middle Eastern terrorist
groups, the killings of dissidents in Iran and
interference in Iraq. Why does Washington view
Tehran as part of an "axis of evil" and as an
enemy in the global war on terrorism?
relation based on mutual distrust
Washington's eyes, November 4, 1979 marked the
beginning of the Islamic Republic's state
sponsorship of terrorism. That's when a crowd of
militants unopposed by police stormed the US
Embassy in Tehran.
attackers took 52 American members of the staff
hostage and held them for 444 days. By the time
the incident ended, in January 1981, the US had
severed diplomatic ties with Tehran and had
attempted, unsuccessfully, to liberate the
hostages in a commando operation.
president Jimmy Carter announced the failure of
the US commando operation: "I share the
disappointment of the American people that this
operation was not successful." The rescue
operation had to be unexpectedly aborted after a
helicopter developed engine trouble in a staging
area in the Iranian desert. The mission ended in
the deaths of eight Americans as two US transport
Gary Sick was the
principal White House aide for Iran during the
Islamic Revolution and the hostage crisis. He said
those events continue to shape the tense
relationship Tehran and Washington have today.
"A lot of this also goes back to the early
days of the [Islamic] Revolution, which was seen
not only as a revolution against the Shah but a
revolution against the United States," Sick said.
"The concept of 'Death to America', the 'Great
Satan' and other such slogans and words have
become very much part of the revolution,
particularly after the mass demonstrations
associated with the takeover of the US Embassy. So
it is very much part of Iran's domestic politics.
At the same time, the United States suffered
greatly because of the takeover. And Iran became
the US's 'Satan'. They are now part of the axis of
evil. Many politicians have identified them as the
sort of permanent bad guys in the Middle East and
that, of course, is increased by the fact that
Israel regards Iran as its No 1 enemy. So between
Israel and the US, the rhetoric on the American
side is in some cases no less as dramatic as on
the Iranian side. And this has become part of
American domestic politics, too, which immensely
complicates any kind of discussion or any hope for
developing better relations."
the hostage-taking also remains a powerful symbol.
But it portrays the event as a just reaction
against what it calls decades of US exploitation
As an example, Tehran charges the
US with helping orchestrate the 1953 coup that
toppled the government of prime minister Mohammad
Mossadeq after he nationalized Iran's then
foreign-dominated oil industry. Some US
involvement was subsequently acknowledged by
former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright in
Tehran also saw the US as propping
up the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi,
which was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution in
January 1979. Revolutionary leaders regarded the
Shah's government as corrupt and ruthless in its
use of its state Intelligence and Security
Organization (Sazeman-i Ettelaat va Amniyat-i
Keshvar, Savak) to target opponents.
leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini, made anti-Americanism a
principle of the Islamic Republic's foreign
policy, lashing out at Washington in many of his
"We are here to prevent America
committing evil acts, to defend ourselves,"
Khomeini once said. "We do not expect America to
do any good to us. We trample upon America in
these matters. We will not let it interfere with
our affairs. Nor will we let any other party
interfere [with] us. And if they want to invade,
we will not let their planes land. We will kill
their paratroopers in midair."
relations between the US and Iran continue to be
characterized by hostile statements on each side.
Occasional attempts at starting talks to ease
tensions have always run aground due to
preconditions set by both sides. Iran says there
can be no talks until the US first ends it efforts
to isolate Iran through unilateral sanctions.
The US says there can be no talks until
Iran ends what it charges is its state sponsorship
of terrorism and its rejection of the Arab-Israeli
peace process. Washington also wants Tehran to
renounce any efforts to acquire nuclear weapons
and long-range missiles.
US Vice President
Dick Cheney recently expressed Washington's
position toward Iran. "[Iran] has been a major
source of state-sponsored terrorism, if you will,
and [is] devoted to the effort to destroy the
peace process," he said. "We find that clearly
something that we can't accept, and we've made
clear our opposition to that, as well as to their
efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction."
Iran denies it supports terrorist groups
or is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.
Militant groups and terrorist
To back up its charges that
Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, the US cites
evidence it says proves that Tehran provides
financial and possibly some weaponry to militant
groups in the Mideast opposed to Israel. These
militant groups - including Lebanon's Hezbollah
and radical Palestinian Islamic groups like Hamas
- have previously carried out or continue to carry
out attacks that kill civilians as part of their
conflict with the Jewish state.
not hide its close relations with Hezbollah, which
include meetings in Damascus or Tehran with
leaders of the group. But it calls the Shi'ite
Hezbollah - which forced Israeli troops from
southern Lebanon in 2000 - a liberation movement,
not a terrorist group. The Islamic Republic
extends the same terminology to Sunni Palestinian
groups like Hamas because they also are fighting
to evict Israel from what Tehran says is Muslim
land. Tehran does not recognize Israel as a state.
Immediately after taking power in Iran,
Khomeini called for exporting the Islamic
Revolution to other countries. In one of his
messages, Khomeini said, "We will not rest until
the slogan, 'There is but one God and Mohammed is
his prophet', echoes through the whole world."
He considered Israel - which had good ties
with the deposed Shah and is a close ally of
Washington - an enemy in his global struggle,
second only to the US. The reason was what he
considered Israel's illegitimate occupation of
The feelings about Israel
were expressed in propaganda campaigns aimed at
both domestic and foreign audiences. In Iran, the
last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan
was proclaimed as Qods Day. Qods is the Arabic
name for Jerusalem. Qods Day was to remember that
the city - Islam's third holiest after Mecca and
Medina - is under the control of a non-Muslim
Khomeini described Qods Day as
marking a Muslim struggle not only against Israel
but all "arrogant" powers. "Qods Day is a day to
warn all superpowers that Islam is no more under
their domination through their evil mercenaries,"
When Israel invaded Lebanon in
1982, the conflict with the Palestinians spread to
include a country with a sizable Shi'ite
community. Shi'ite Iran responded by supporting
the Lebanese Shi'ite Hezbollah as a guerrilla
force battling Israel's establishment of an
occupied "buffer zone" across much of southern
Hajir Teymourian, a Middle East
expert in London, described Tehran's activity:
"The most important terrorist organization that
Iran helped form was Hezbollah, which was set up
in 1982 by Iran's ambassador in Lebanon, Ali Akbar
Mohtashamipour. According to journalists, it still
receives tens of millions of dollars of economic
and military aid from Iran annually. For 12 years,
Hezbollah was the major kidnapper of Western
citizens in Lebanon, and caused Iran's government
to be internationally isolated as a terrorist
state - an isolation that still continues - and
inflicted billions of dollars of damages on Iran's
economy. I think no one doubts that [the militant
Islamic groups] Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are
also supported by Iran," Teymourian said.
On the world stage, Tehran always denied
that it gave military support to Hezbollah, a
group that not only became notorious for
kidnapping Westerners in Lebanon in the 1980s, but
also for killing more than 240 US soldiers in a
1983 suicide bombing of their Beirut barracks. It
also hijacked a US commercial airliner in 1985.
But inside Iran, figures such as Hassan
Abbasi, a high-ranking commander of the Islamic
Revolution Guards Corps and head of the Islamic
Republic's Doctrinal Strategic Center, openly
spoke of the country's close ties with Hezbollah.
He described the group's activities as "sacred".
"If something can be done to terrorize and
scare the camp of infidelity and the enemies of
God and the people, such terror is sacred. This
terrorism is sacred. Lebanon's Hezbollah was
trained by these very hands. Pay attention! Do you
see these hands? Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic
Jihad were trained by these very hands," Abbasi
Sick, the former White House aide,
said factional struggles within the Iranian
establishment had made it hard to know whether the
support of Hezbollah comes directly from Iran's
elected government or, instead, from hardline
organizations like the Islamic Revolution Guards
Corps, which enjoy considerable independence.
"Obviously, Iran claims absolutely that it
does not support terrorism. But it does, however,
make no apologies that it supports Hezbollah,
which from the Iranian point of view and from
Hezbollah's point of view is fighting a war of
liberation against Israel," Sick said. "They
consider that a legitimate activity. They deny
that they, in fact, train and support terrorist
activities. Iran has a particular problem, and
that is that Iran is comprised of two or three
different governments, different groups of people,
different factions, each of which has a certain
amount of control over things that happen. It is
possibly very true that people such as President
[Mohammad] Khatami may not, in fact, even know
what people in some parts of the Revolutionary
Guards, for instance, are doing with Hezbollah.
But, in any case, the government is held
responsible. So Iran has created a problem for
itself to some degree by its rhetoric, very strong
rhetoric, which some people say is more
'Palestinian' than the [rhetoric of the]
editor of Lebanon's Al-Safir daily, believes Iran
not only supports Hezbollah but also tries to
extend support to Palestinian militant groups -
though it is logistically more difficult to do so.
"Any resistance [movement] has its own
conditions," Salman said. "Lebanon is
geographically tied to Syria, and in terms of
military support and training, Iran does have the
means to help Hezbollah. But it is much more
difficult in Palestine. Iran obviously gives
political support to Palestinian groups, and also
other forms of support that we may not be able to
detect. But I believe that even today, there is an
organic connection between Iran, Hezbollah and
In one sign of
support for Palestinian militant groups, Iran
hosted former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as
one of its first foreign visitors immediately
after the Islamic Revolution. At the time, many
Iranians reportedly named their newborn sons
Yasser in enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause.
More recently, in January 2002, Israel stopped a
ship loaded with arms, which Arafat eventually
acknowledged was destined for the Palestinian
Authority. Both Israel and the US said the arms
originated in Iran, which Tehran denied.
But as Arafat pursued on-and-off peace
talks with Israel, Iran's relations with him
cooled. Tehran saw his attempts to negotiate as
falling short of its own policy of fully opposing
the Jewish state.
In recent months,
Washington's concerns over Iran as a sponsor of
terrorism in the Middle East have shifted from the
Arab-Israeli conflict, further east to Iraq.
Kenneth Katzman, a regional expert with
the Congressional Research Service in Washington,
DC, said the concern for many in Washington now is
that Iran is supporting groups in southern Iraq
who might want to form a nondemocratic, strict
Islamic government modeled after Iran.
Iraqi and US officials have accused Iran -
as well as Syria - of interfering in Iraq by
permitting groups in their countries to supply
Iraqi insurgents with money and other resources.
US President George W Bush repeated the
charges against both countries recently. "We will
continue to make it clear, to both Syria and Iran,
that - as will other nations in our coalition,
including our friends the Italians - that meddling
in the internal affairs of Iraq is not in their
interest," Bush said.
Iran and Syria
reject charges of interfering in Iraq. On February
16, the two countries declared that they had
formed a mutual self-defense pact to confront
"threats" - an apparent reference to the US.
Outside of the Middle East, Iran also
appears to have sought to use its aid to Bosnia's
Muslims during the conflict there to secretly
train fundamentalist groups.
Rashedan, an Iranian journalist and analyst, said
much of the evidence of such activities comes from
documents seized by North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) forces in Bosnia.
"This is a case that happened in a place
in Bosnia. Before the Dayton Accords and the
presence of the United States and NATO in Bosnia,
the Islamic Republic had sent groups to Bosnia,
including the Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force,
led by Mohammad Reza Shams Naqdi, and his deputy,
Hossein Allahkaram, based near Sarajevo - another
group from the Intelligence Ministry - who had set
up a camp, training fundamentalists close to
[Alija] Izetbegovic's Democratic Action Party, to
establish the intelligence apparatus of Bosnia.
Later, NATO attacked the camp and arrested a
number of people, including Iranian intelligence
officials. The most interesting point was the
discovery of documents that were part of the
curriculum for the training of Bosnian
intelligence recruits by Iranians. Among the
instructions in the texts were methods for killing
opposition figures and silencing journalists. That
is, the Intelligence Ministry instructed a foreign
organization's members how to intimidate, hunt,
kidnap, eliminate and threaten the families and
the financial sources of journalists," Rashedan
Hardline elements of the Iranian
Revolutions consume their children.
That maxim was arguably as true of the Islamic
Revolution at its outset as it was of the French
Revolution. But as the Islamic Republic has
matured over the past 26 years, the fierce
political jockeying and violence of its early
period has largely been forgotten. Instead, Iran
appears today to provide some room for political
differences within the limits of its theocratic
system. Those differences are expressed in
parliamentary struggles that are often
characterized as showdowns between hardliners and
reformists - that is, those who brook little
change in the existing system and those who seek
to reform it from within.
But if Iran has
a limited parliamentary system, it remains a state
whose inner workings can be far from transparent.
That is particularly true of its Intelligence and
Security Ministry - an institution controlled by
hardliners and with responsibility for assuring,
among other things, public security. That ministry
has been the focus of one of the most riveting
dramas in Iranian public life in recent years -
the assassination of four prominent dissidents by
what officials later claimed were "rogue"
intelligence agents acting on their own. The case
- and suspicions that many more dissidents might
also have been killed - raised questions about the
extent to which hardliners in the regime might be
terrorizing domestic opponents or critics in order
to silence them.
Like many revolutions,
the Islamic Revolution led by Khomeini came in two
waves. The first wave toppled the Shah in January
1979. The second consolidated power in the hands
of Khomeini and his supporters at the expense of
many other groups, including secular ones, that
had made common cause with his camp.
consolidation-of-power phase of the revolution saw
the Islamic regime employing its security services
against rivals in exile.
perhaps the best-known case was that of Shapour
Bakhtiar, the last prime minister of the Shah's
era and a prominent opponent of the Islamic
Republic. He was stabbed and killed in his Paris
home in 1991. A French investigation led to the
imprisonment of several individuals who were
believed to have been intelligence agents of the
In 1992, an attack on
Kurdish opposition leaders in a Berlin restaurant,
the Mykonos, caused such an uproar that it led to
a major breakdown in attempts to improve ties
between Iran and the European Union.
Ebrahimzadeh was among nine people hit by
automatic-weapon fire in the Mykonos. He recalled
the trial that followed the incident: "On 17
September 1992, the restaurant was drenched in
blood with the commando-style terrorist attack of
the agents of the Islamic Republic, in which four
opposition figures were killed. With four to five
years of judiciary investigations and hearings
that followed, the outcome was the trial of top
officials of the Islamic Republic. In April 1997,
for the first time a European court issued a
sentence, in which it named Supreme Leader Ali
Khamenei, president Hashemi Rafsanjani, foreign
minister Ali Velayati and most important of all,
intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, as the person
who implemented the collective decision of
physically eliminating the opposition - in this
case, the leaders of Democratic Party of
Kurdistan. The verdict also mentioned other
assassinations, including the assassination of Dr
Qassemlu in Vienna and Dr Shapour Bakhtiar in
Paris," Ebrahimzadeh said.
German court's verdict, Iranian officials denied
having any role in the Mykonos killings. However,
EU countries recalled their ambassadors from
Tehran to emphasize that Europe would not tolerate
Iranian state sponsorship of terrorism. The
ambassadors returned again in late 1997 after the
EU became convinced that Iran's Intelligence
Ministry - at least in the future - would not
carry out political assassinations on European
Inside Iran, thousands have perished
in apparent assassinations that followed the
Islamic Revolution - including dissidents and
intellectuals. But the killings have been obscured
by the monolithic structure of the new cleric-led
government, the lack of an independent press, and
a ban on non-governmental political bodies.
Analyst Rashedan, who has studied what he
believes is a pattern of political assassinations,
said: "The concern of the plotters of terrorism in
the first post-revolution decade was the damage
that the victims could inflict upon the
foundations of the revolution in Tehran. Those who
were assassinated were considered threats to the
revolution, considered serious threats by
fundamentalist revolutionary forces in Tehran. But
in the second decade, the trend becomes somewhat
more sophisticated. It seems that terror was now
used as a lever in foreign policy, as a balancing
or sometimes destabilizing ballast in the foreign
relations of the Islamic Republic. In the second
wave of assassinations - which statistically is
the larger part, under Intelligence Minister Ali
Fallahian - individuals were not as important as
the very nature of terror was."
suggest that it was only after the election of
reformist President Mohammad Khatami in 1997 that
an independent press emerged to look into cases
where intellectuals or dissidents disappeared
under mysterious circumstances.
cases to receive significant public attention were
the 1998 killings of four liberal dissidents,
including well-known secular politician Dariush
Foruhar and his wife, Parvaneh. The outcry sparked
an investigation that officially blamed "rogue"
agents in the Intelligence Ministry with killing
the dissidents on their own initiative. Further
investigations were stymied when the accused
ringleader of the agents, Said Emami, died in
jail. Emami's death was labeled a suicide.
Some journalists who have investigated the
killings say they appear to be part of a wider
campaign of targeting dissidents, believed to have
claimed the lives of 70 to 100 victims.
Many observers suspect that the so-called
rogue intelligence agents were acting on orders
from much higher authorities, possibly the then
head of the Intelligence Ministry, Ali Fallahian.
But the inconclusive nature of the investigations
left such questions unanswered.
Zarafshan, a lawyer representing the families of
the slain dissidents, described the case in 2001.
"Mr Fallahian, who was for years the direct
superior of Saeed Emami, and therefore has had
direct supervision over his work, says that, 'I
will give no explanation without my superior being
present'. And thus to avoid the circle of
investigations to encompass him, he attaches
himself to others," Zarafshan said. "Therefore,
people themselves guess what's wrong with the
case. The problem is not to which faction the
perpetrators of the murders belong, but to which
faction the issuer of the fatwas
[assassination orders] belongs."
Nourizadeh is a journalist who has investigated a
number of dissident deaths. He suggests that
former Intelligence Ministry head Fallahian's post
appears to have shielded him from more thorough
"In the courtyard of the
Intelligence Ministry, those who later became the
key players in this case were playing soccer when
the minister arrived in his Mercedes-Benz. He
called out to Mr Mostafa Kazemi and asked him,
'Why hasn't this job been done'? Later, Mr
Minister fled from prosecution by taking an oath
[that he was not involved], and he is now the
prosecutor. But four witnesses - two of whom I
have talked to - have admitted that the minister
did come to the courtyard, called Kazemi and
Alikhani, and asked them why the job was not done.
It was after that talk that they started to act.
They went to the Foruhars' house with the false
claim that their stolen car had been found. They
entered the house and brutally murdered Dariush
and Parvaneh - the latter was sick and in bed
upstairs - and even broke Foruhar's arm,"
Journalists and lawyers
pressing for information have faced strong
official pressure to abandon the case, and several
have been imprisoned. One prominent journalist,
Akbar Ganji, continues to serve a jail term.
With such unsolved cases, it remains
unclear whether hardline authorities in control of
the Intelligence Ministry or other security
branches are willing to resort to extrajudicial
killings to silence critics.
Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of the Iranian
president and the secretary of the Mosharekat
Party, has warned that a "cancerous tumor" is
still alive and could reemerge at any moment.
Rushdie affair clouds Tehran
the US accuses Iran of state support for
terrorism, and Tehran adamantly denies the charge,
it can be difficult to judge the merits of each
side's arguments. Many of the actions fueling the
debate have taken place in an atmosphere of
extreme secrecy and with few publicly known
But one major incident that is
often cited to link Tehran to international
terrorism has played out very much in the open.
That is the death sentence passed by the Islamic
Revolution's founder, Khomeini, against British
author Salman Rushdie in 1989. The death sentence,
issued in a fatwa, called on Muslims
anywhere in the world to kill Rushdie for alleged
blasphemy against Islam's Prophet Mohammed.
The call shocked much of the world because
it appears to be an inducement to murder. It also
drove Rushdie into hiding and made him a symbol
for critics of the Islamic Republic's policies on
free speech, even far from its own borders.
Sixteen years later, Iran's hardline Islamic
Revolution Guards Corps recently declared that the
fatwa remains valid, and cash rewards are
still being offered for Rushdie's death.
In the fatwa - which was never shown to
the public in its original written form - Khomeini
called on Muslims of the world to try to
assassinate Rushdie, promising that they would be
regarded as "martyrs" if they were killed in the
The fatwa was quickly
given added weight by substantial financial
rewards offered to any successful assassin. Those
rewards were backed by different religious bodies,
such as the 15th of Khordad Foundation.
Rushdie was already a controversial author
in some parts of the Muslim world even before the
fatwa was announced. The reason was that
his novel The Satanic Verses had made
references to verses in the Koran that refer to
the worship of idols, something forbidden in
Islam. The verses are generally believed by
Muslims to have been surreptitiously inserted by
Satan into the Prophet Mohammed's message from
A number of Muslim leaders in India
and Pakistan argued that the novel contained
insults to Islam, and some bookshops selling the
novel were attacked. In Iran, where the book was
translated and published in 1988, it was also
labeled as blasphemous by some newspapers. But
none of those attacks compared in scale to that of
the Islamic Republic's supreme leader.
Experts on Iranian politics continue to
discuss today why Khomeini sentenced Rushdie to
death. The action shocked the Western world and
set back prospects for the Islamic Republic to
rebuild trade relations with Europe, even as some
capitals suggested Iran was becoming more moderate
10 years after the Islamic Revolution.
Ahmad Salamatian is a former Iranian
parliament member and a political analyst in
Paris. He says the fatwa was issued mainly
to overcome a series of domestic and international
crises the Iranian regime was then trying to
weather. They included the challenges of
recovering from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and the
worsening of Khomeini's health.
fatwa against Rushdie was one of the
Islamic Republic's biggest shows [aimed at]
finding an extraordinary presence in domestic and
international arenas in order to mobilize parts of
its supporters again," Salamatian said. "In that
sense, it is somehow similar to the [November
1979-January 1981 US Embassy] hostage crisis. It
coincides with the Islamic Republic's failure to
export its revolution through a disastrous
eight-year classical war, admitting its failure by
the metaphor of 'drinking a goblet of poison'. It
also coincides with a major crisis among key
bodies of the Islamic Republic following the
execution of thousands of political prisoners. It
also marks the intensifying of Ayatollah
Khomeini's illness 18 months earlier, such that
according to his associates, he would fall into a
coma for several days or weeks. In the likely
absence of Mr Khomeini, the establishment would
have three pillars: Mr Ahmad Khomeini, Mr Khamenei
and Mr Hashemi Rafsanjani, all of whom were in
harsh disagreement over the issue of succession."
One of the fatwa's clear effects
was that it created enormous public sympathy for
Rushdie in the West. That sympathy increased as
Rushdie, who was forced to go into hiding with
round-the-clock police protection, showed defiance
in the face of the death threat.
labeled the anti-religious interpretation of his
novel as misguided - protesting that he had not
intended to insult religious concepts. But he also
challenged the right of religious leaders to
control any author's freedom of expression.
"It showed this is a latest stage in a
campaign that began with smears and vilifications
and distortions of a book, which has escalated
into all sorts and levels of violence," Rushdie
said. "And frankly, I wish I had written a more
critical book. I mean, religious leaders who are
able to behave like this and then say that this is
a religion which must be above any whisper of
criticism, this doesn't add up. It seems to be
that Islamic fundamentalism could do with a little
criticism right now."
fatwa has been criticized by many religious
scholars and even some senior clerics in the
Muslim world. Mehdi Haeri Yazdi, one of Khomeini's
prominent pupils and the grandson of the founder
of the influential Qom Seminary, wrote that the
fatwa was inconsistent with the principles
of Islamic law, or Sharia. He also said it was
against the interests of Muslim society, which
should come before any Sharia tenet.
if the fatwa against Rushdie is today
controversial in parts of the Muslim world, there
are no signs that it can safely be ignored. The
author continues to live under security
restrictions. He has, however, increased his
public appearances in an effort to enjoy some
semblance of a normal life.
The risks were
evident recently when supporters marked 16 years
since the Rushdie fatwa was issued.
Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps,
which answers directly to the current Iranian
supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a
statement saying it considers the fatwa
valid and "irrevocable". The statement warned that
"the day will come when they will punish the
apostate Rushdie for his scandalous acts and
insults against the Koran and the Prophet
The statement comes despite
the fact that the government of Khatami has long
distanced itself from the fatwa in an
effort to improve relations with Britain and the
London and Tehran today
enjoy normal diplomatic ties and growing commerce,
largely based on the Islamic Republic's assurances
that it now rejects terrorism.
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