Salehi in Damascus; a Rift Within the Endurance Front?

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Domestic Affairs

Arya News has reported on divisions between the Tehran and Qom wings of the radical Endurance Front affiliated with hardline cleric Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi. Former government spokesman and current presidential advisor, Gholamhossein Elham has been removed from the founding council of the Endurance Front and replaced with Meisam Nili. In the course of a recent meeting of the Front, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi stressed that “for us the most fundamental issue is the deviant current”. The “deviant current” though often a rather nebulous and all-encompassing term, began as a derogation referring to President Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, and other key members of Ahmadinejad’s inner circle. Elham and his wife Fatemeh Rajabi, who runs the hardline new service, Raja News, have been amongst the president’s most vocal supporters in the past. Rajabi famously published a book after the president’s election victory by the name of “Ahmadinejad: The Miracle of Third Millennium”. A statement she has since retracted. Nonetheless, Elham has remained a staunch supporter of the President, going so far as to refer to Ahmadinejad in a recent interview with Iran Newspaper, as “a real truth for the revolution”.

The office of Principalist politician & Deputy Speaker of the Majles, Mohammadreza Bahonar, has denied his candidacy for the 2013 presidential election. The denial comes after the government affiliated Iran Newspaper had alleged Bahonar will run in the upcoming presidential race. In reply Bahonar’s office stated that “the Iran Newspaper has become the spokesperson of a sect”.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Chief of the Inspectorate Organisation of the Country, in reply  to recent allegations for embezzlement from Mohammadreza Rahimi, the first vice president, has stated that, “this slander and swearing is the price of our combatting corruption. We must not expect that person whose corruption has been identified and whose case we’re sending to court to thank us”. The case to which Pourmohammadi is referring is generally believed to be that of the first vice president.

Majles Deputy Speaker Mohammadhassan Abu Tarabi Fard has stated that “the government is the agent of instability in the currency market”.

Commenting on the government’s inaction on the subject of Iran’s continued dependence on oil export earnings he stated, “some neglected this issue and the majority of the country’s budget found itself seriously dependent on oil income, when it was predicted in the fourth development programme that the relation between present expenses and oil income will be cut; this hasn’t been realised”. He added, “perhaps a hopeful sign is that we will be cutting the relationship between oil and the budget more quickly”.

In related news, Etemaad reports that the Majles has been left “unsatisfied” by the Minister of Economy’s explanation of the currency crisis and have given him a “yellow card”. One MP, Elias Naderan, also threatened Minister Shamssedin Hosseini with impeachment during his third appearance in the Majles in the space of a single week.

Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has stated that “rising prices are putting people under pressure”. Shirazi also criticized the economic management of the country, adding that “the president mustn’t make decisions alone”.

Foreign Affairs

Mehr News Agency covers Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi’s meeting with Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. In a report from Al-Hurra, Assad is said to have stressed that “the current war is not only against Syria, but is aimed at the whole of the resistance axis”. Quoting the Iraqi paper Al-Zaman, Assad is also quoted as saying that the conflict is “a conspiracy against the resistance axis”, comprising Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

In his meeting Salehi recommended the dispatch of observers from all four countries of the Cairo “contact group” for the supervision of ending the violence, the initiation of dialogue, while also stressing the necessity for national unity and Syria’s territorial integrity, and for abetting the process of fundamental reforms and the realization of democratic procedures. Salehi also emphasized the solution be a “Syrian-Syrian” one.

Defence Minister Commander Ahmad Vahidi, while at a commemoration service last night stated that “we are prepared for a large conflict”. Moreover, while specifying that Iran doesn’t have a military presence in Syria, Iran’s Minister of Defence commented that “just as the military clients of other countries have a presence in our country, the military clients of our country also have a presence in Syria, Lebanon and other countries”. The Commander added “if the those opposing Syria think rationally, they will never attack this country militarily, because a military attack against this country will conclude in a conflagration of the region”.

Image: Gholamhossein Elham and Gholamali Haddad-Adel, Mehr News Agency