Ali Akbar Velayati, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s advisor on international affairs, has denied rumours which have been the object of much discussion regarding his alleged secret visit to the United States to pursue direct negotiations with the United States, calling the rumours a “baseless lie”. As the Reformist daily Etemaad states Velayati was the first to rebut President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comments regarding the prospect of establishing relations with the United States on the latter’s most recent trip to address the UN General Assembly, stating that any such decision is strictly the prerogative of Iran’s Supreme Leader. In an interview with Mashreq, reprinted by Etemaad Velayati also called Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney’s performance in the debates “clumsy” arguing that President Obama seems “further ahead” in his approach to Iran.
The story itself seems to be a leak attempting to embarrass Velayati, possibly ‘payback’ for his forceful rebuttal of the president, by individuals close to Ahmadinejad. The rumour was also picked up by opposition website Kaleme and similarly used to decry the disparity between the Conservative establishment’s public statements and private activities. On the whole, both analysts and media outlets have come to the conclusion that the rumour and particularly many of the details do not make much sense and seem inconsistent with the Islamic Republic’s standard diplomatic modus operandi.
Khabar Online, close to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, posts an article today entitled “Nateq Nuri, will he come or won’t he?” Nateq Nuri who had been the establishment’s favoured candidate in the 1997 presidential election and had lost to the young and charismatic cleric from Yazd, Mohammad Khatami, since the post-2009 marginalization of the lion’s share of the Reform movement has emerged as one of the more “moderate” Conservative candidates, who has good relations with Supreme Leader Khamenei, former President Rafsanjani and the traditional right around the traditionalist clergy, bazaar and Islamic Coalition party. He has however been heavily criticized by the radical right and the vigilante group, the Ansar-e Hezbollah, who disrupted a speech of Nateq-Nuri’s in Mashhad earlier this year in the month of Ramadan and refused to allow him to finish. Radical elements around the controversial Commander Saeed Qassemi had taken exception to Nateq-Nuri’s criticisms of certain zealous elements comments which appear to divinize the Supreme Leader.
In an recent interview with the weekly, Panjshanbe, Nateq-Nuri was once again on “the tip of everyone’s tongues”. He insisted that “if the same Constitution is implemented the problem [i.e. the current instability and polarisation of the political system] will be solved”; a statement which echoes much of Rafsanjani’s recent statements surrounding the call for “national unity” and the necessary and complete implementation of the Constitution. Interestingly the article refers to both Nateq-Nuri and Rafsanjani as “Principalist sheikhs” and thereby seeks to depict him as part of the Conservative establishment and not the Reformist wing of government, many of whose leaders were arrested and accused of “sedition” after the 2009 presidential elections.
Moreover, powerful Conservative voices, such as that of Deputy Speaker, Mohammadreza Bahonar, who have claimed the prospect of former President Rafsanjani’s standing in the presidential contest “inexpedient” have by contrast greeted Nateq-Nuri’s bid as a less divisive move.
A member of the Central Council of the Majles’ Principalist faction has said that in a meeting with President Ahmadinejad the president said that his being questioned before parliament will allow him to state what has he has hitherto left “unsaid”. Something which comes across as a not so subtle threat of publicizing embarrassing revelations against his political opponents.
Hossein Ali Hajji Deligani added that “in the event that the President is questioned publicly on the floor of the Majles, Ahmadinejad will air new issues on the political scene of the country and the MPs will respond and this atmosphere does not correspond with the atmosphere based on amity and engagement in the mind of the Supreme Leader”.
Mansur Haqiqatpur, MP for Ardebil has announced on the Majles floor that 50 percent of Ardebil’s industries are “inactive”. He also recommended that MPs visit the provinces to familiarize themselves with the nature of people’s problems outside the capital.
The foreign based site, Digarban based on a report from the website Armanshahr has claimed that several sites sympathetic to President Ahmadinejad have been filtered by the authorities. It is thought they have been censored due to their posting articles in praise of Ahmadinejad on the occasion of his birthday this past Saturday.
A prominent Conservative figure and member of the Expediency Discernment Council, Morteza Nabavi, at the monthly meeting of the Society of Islamic Engineers has alluded to the Ahmadinejad government’s efforts to pressure the Supreme Leader to open negotiations with the United States. Adding, “if a group inside the country want to moot that we must back down in the nuclear debate so that sanctions are lifted it is from treachery or ignorance”.