- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

TEHRAN A hard-line group best known for disrupting reformist gatherings and beating up students declared a "holy war" yesterday to rid Iran of reformers who promote Western democracy and challenge the country's supreme leader.
The declaration by Ansar-e-Hezbollah, the chief organization of the so-called vigilante movement, appeared to be a direct challenge to reformist President Mohammed Khatami.
Masoud Dehnamaki, an ideologue with the group, also said yesterday that Iranians who try to appease Iran's enemies such as the United States "should be stopped."
The declaration, which appeared as an article in the weekly newspaper Ya Lesarat, the usual vehicle for announcing Ansar-e-Hezbollah decisions, warned that the time has come for a "revolutionary jihad," or holy war, to remove reformers from power and replace them with "idealist and religious" officials.
The declaration follows some of the largest demonstrations in years by students protesting a death sentence imposed on a reformist leader, Hashem Aghajari, for making statements questioning the rule of the clergy over Iranian society.
Also yesterday, Mohammed Reza Khatami, leader of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, made a statement suggesting further confrontations were likely between the country's reformers and hard-liners.
Mr. Khatami, the younger brother of the president, was quoted by the official Islamic Republic News Agency as saying the behavior of hard-liners may bring Iran to a "situation that no one would be able to control." He had earlier warned that moderates would walk out of government if hard-liners continued to thwart efforts toward reform.
The toughly worded article in Ya Lesarat also comes after a statement last month by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying he may "appeal to the people" to resolve the country's problems if Mr. Khatami's government and the hard-line judiciary could not narrow their differences.
The supreme leader usually stays out of factional politics although he is mainly known for siding with hard-liners.
Ya Lesarat described the Khatami government as a "paralyzed executive branch" and threatened to take action against it and against the "unfaithful [reformist] lawmakers who have penetrated into the parliament."
The paper added that the "revolutionary cleanup" entails a "comprehensive attack on the cultural invasion bases of liberal and secular intellectuals."
Mr. Dehnamaki said people who have taken posts in the Islamic establishment but do not carry out Ayatollah Khamenei's orders need to be punished.
"Those who seek changes to appease enemies including the U.S. should be stopped. People will come to act if they [reformists] go beyond their limits," he said.
Enemies of Iran such as the United States should not think clashes between the country's reformers and hard-liners would bring the collapse of the Islamic establishment, he said.
"Vigilantes and so-called reformers will join hands to target the heart of American soldiers if they decide to attack us," he said.

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