Ahmadinejad’s Office Denies Existence of Tape Exposing Election Fraud

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The public-relations department of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s office has denied that the president is in possession of an audio tape which reveals fraud in the 2009 presidential elections.

On Saturday, April 27, the Baztab website published an article titled “Ahmadinejad’s Eight Million Tape In the Face of Mashaei’s Disqualification.” The article reported that there is a tape of Ahmadinejad speaking with political authorities in which they tell him that he received “16 million votes but in order for there to be no doubts about fraud and to create the appearance that the difference in votes received was large, we will announce that it was 24 million votes.” The source of this information is reportedly Esfandiar Rahim Mashei’s business associates. Mashaei is Ahamdinejad’s adviser and reportedly has ambitions to participate in Iran’s upcoming presidential elections.

Ahmadinejad apparently opposes the decision to announce a different vote total and tells the authorities in the tape to “announce the real votes of 16 million.” According to the official numbers announced by the Iranian government, Reformist candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi received 13 million votes and Ahmadinejad received 24 millions votes in the heavily contested 2009 elections.

The Baztab article speculates on three reasons why the issue of the tape could have been raised. One: “The tape doesn’t exist and it’s being used as a tool for psychological war against the Guardian Council.” The Guardian Council is the body which vets potential candidates and many speculate they will disqualify Mashaei from running for the presidency. Two: Ahamdinejad wants to “accuse the Guardian Council and system while protecting his place as someone who was really chosen by the people.” Three: “The tape exists,” an option that Baztab says is unlikely.

Immediately after publishing the article, Baztab removed it from the site. However, many social-media sites and blogs had already taken screenshots of the page and had copied and pasted the contents of the article for redistribution.

The president’s office released a statement which said that “following the publication of false news with the subject of “Eight Million Tape …”, from a site whose political leanings is clear to everyone, it is explicitly emphasized that the issue that was raised and what was attributed to the president is completely false and baseless.” Baztab is believed to be close to presidential candidate and Secretary of the Expedience Council Mohsen Rezaei, and it is being suggested that there are perhaps political motivations related to the presidential elections in publishing the article.

The statement continued that “although this article was deleted from the website a short while after publishing, the goal of publishing this article was bringing into question the 2009 elections and distorting the upcoming presidential elections by creating worry among the people about the protection of their votes, and ultimately decreases vote participation and removes the groundwork for an epic creation.” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has named this year the year of “Epic Politics and Epic Economics,” and many presidential candidates and political figures in Iran have adopted this slogan and reused it in various capacities.

Rafsanjani Says Iran ‘Not at War With Israel’

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Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani spoke to reporters yesterday at the Expediency Council building. The Expediency Council is an advisory body which he heads. Rafsanjani spoke about Iran’s foreign policy and relation to Israel, his predictions about Iran’s current crisis and his potential candidacy.

Rafsanjani said Iran needs to “repair its foreign policy.” He added, “We are not at war with Israel,” though he elaborated “if the Arab countries are at war with them, we’ll help them.” Iranian authorities have said they would accept agreements the Palestinians make with Israel but have also said that they would support any group that fights them.

The hard-line Raja News website responded harshly to Rafsanjani’s statements on Israel. They wrote, somewhat sarcastically, that “it doesn’t appear that Hashemi, who accompanied and wrote the historiography of Ayatollah Khomeini, has forgotten his (Khomeini’s) approach towards the fake Israeli regime, as Khomeini said toward his regime ‘Israel must be erased from the scene.’” In fact, the title of the article compares the two statements by presenting Khomeini’s comments on top, with Rafsanjani’s on bottom.

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Raja also added: “Yet, maybe these statements from Hashemi are not that unexpected due to this support of those who chanted ‘neither Gaza nor Lebanon’ during the 2009 sedition.” The chant “neither Gaza nor Lebanon, my life for Iran” became popular during the 2009 postelection protests. It is criticism aimed at the Iranian government’s support and attention toward Hezbollah and Hamas in favor of Iranian domestic issues.

Rafsanjani also highlighted his approach to foreign policy when he had considerably more influence in the first decade of the revolution. “During the war it was my recommendation to accept the resolution to end the war,” he said. It’s believed that it was Rafsanjani who persuaded Ayatollah Khomeini to accept the UN cease-fire with Iraq which ended one of the deadliest wars of the 20th century.

Although he was the parliament speaker during the war years he was a close confidant and adviser to Khomeini. Some hard-liners in Iran have criticized Rafsanjani for his advice to Khomeini to end the war.

Rafsanjani appeared to be answering his critics when he said that “if the resolution wasn’t signed Tabriz, Tehran, and Esfahan (three of Iran’s largest cities) would have been attacked with chemical weapons from airplanes borrowed from France and Russia and we would have had many casualties.”

He also highlighted his actions when he was president and Saddam attacked Kuwait. “After Saddam invaded Kuwait some gentlemen said let’s go support Saddam. But we didn’t support Saddam and we even accepted Kuwaiti refugees and the world trusted us and the sanctions were lifted,” he said.

Rafsanjani also said that in 2008 he spoke with a commission that approached him to address his problems with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He said he “spoke for 2½ hours where he listed all the problems of yesterday, today and tomorrow.” He claimed that these meetings were taped but he will not reveal them for the sake of “unity.”

As far as the presidential elections, Rafsanjani said: “There is no need for me to run. Of course I’m not saying I’m not running. But I’m saying it’s not necessary for an 80 year old man to run.”

Khamenei’s Recommendations to the Media for Covering Elections

The office of the Supreme Leader has issued a chart of the “dos” and “don’ts” for the media in covering the upcoming presidential elections this summer. Iranian media, particularly the websites that are close or attached to specific political figures, tend to be relentlessly aggressive in times of political turmoil, such as elections. The list consists of various statements Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has made on different aspects of the media. One side consists of a list of seven dos. The other consists of 13 don’ts.

The first recommendation is to “Add to the level of public awareness and analysis” because “people should analyze in order to understand that the system is beneficial for them.” The first point continued that whether writing about “politics, culture, economics, foreign policy and especially domestic issues, they must move in the interests of the system.”

The second point is the “three primary responsibilities: critique and monitor, spread information (truthfully and transparently), exchange of ideas.” The point added that “a free media is a sign of the growth of a nation;” however, Khamenei argued, “there other things that are of value and these freedoms must not trample those other things of value,” adding “one must be able to preserve freedom while at the same time understanding the truth, to have a free media while not provoking injuries.”

The third recommendation is for people “who write and speak” to “encourage people toward a better election.” The fourth point to journalists in the media is to “guard the elections as if it were a divine blessing” because “the enemy wants to use the elections against the security of the country.”

In the fifth recommendation, Khamenei warns that “criticism should be logical and realistic.” He offers the example of the media’s recent attention to Iran’s issues with domestic production and the closing of factories. He said, “If there is a factory that is experiencing problems and you want to state that with a realistic view, very good. In addition, for example, two other factories were also opened. If you point out the positive points, the country will understand the issue. If you don’t point out the positive points, the country will not understand the issue.”

Khamenei asked that “the electronic media also bind themselves to the law” in the sixth recommendation. Websites in Iran, as opposed to newspapers, sometimes have fewer bureaucratic hurdles to cross in order to produce their work and sometimes operate more freely. Bloggers have virtually no supervison except for Iran’s cyber police. In November of 2012, relatively unknown blogger Sattah Beheshti was apprehended by the cyber police and died a short time after in custody. Iran’s judiciary stated that while Beheshti had signs of abuse on his body, he may have died from shock. His case has been take up by various activists and online campaigns that have been critical about the lack of accountability in this case.

In the seventh recommendation, Khamenei warned about accepting and “quoting” lies and gossip about one another. He recited the verse from the Quran, “When you heard it, the believing men and the believing women should have had better thoughts about themselves, and should have said, ‘This is obviously a big lie.’ [24:12]” Although, on this last point, Khamenei elaborated that this was a “societal” problem.

Election Rhetoric Heats Up in Iran

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Election rhetoric in Iran has increased since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial statements earlier in the week, in which he threatened to reveal sensitive information about his political enemies and taunted them that they are “nobody” to confront him.

Immediately after the statements, several figures in Iran responded. Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of the armed forces, said that what the president did “was unacceptable, and it is disturbing public order.” He added that “we hope the president puts an end to this type of discourse.” Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the Kayhan newspaper, which is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also responded to the president’s statements. He wrote to the president, “There could be two reasons why you still haven’t revealed anything. Either you’re bluffing … or you’re worried they’ll reveal something about you. Could there be any other reason?”

Ahmadidnejad was not deterred, however. Yesterday while in Esfahan with longtime aid and potential presidential candidate Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, the president said, “You guys can draw plans, and the work of this nation is to thwart those plans.” He added, “I’m certain with the participation of 50 million in the elections, the next president, with 30 to 40 million votes, can show the strength of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the world and turn the issues facing Iran into favorable conditions.” On previous occasions Ahmadinejad has also predicted a voter turnout of 50 million people. Iran’s population is approximately 75 million.

Although Mashaei has not yet announced his candidacy, there has been opposition to his potential candidacy from conservative factions inside Iran.

This week, Chairman of the Guardian Council Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, when asked how the Guardian Council will confront the “sedition and deviants” in the elections, said, “We will confront these individuals lawfully.” Those who continued to support presidential candidates Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi in the contested 2009 elections were labeled seditionists. Mashei and those close to him in Ahamdinejad’s administration have been labeled “deviants” for their various political stances. The Guardian Council is a 12-member body that approves candidates to run for election, among other duties.

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Habibollah Asgarolladi, prominent political figure from the traditional right, called the “sedition and deviants” the “two blades of a scissor” today. He said that the “the goal of the enemy and sedition is to create war.” He reminded those participating in the elections to “remove those who have entered the sedition and deviant” groups. In response to “Reformists who participated in the sedition or were silent about it, and requests to have them apologize,” Asgaroladi took a soft line. He said, “Some don’t have a problem and they adopted a good position and we don’t need anything from them.”

Asgarolladi  said that “we don’t think of Ahmadinjead as a deviant, but we believe that some of those around him have deviated.” He also called Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi his “brothers” and said they were simply “charmed by the sedition,” adding “the roots of the sedition are America, the Zionist regime and England.”

Iranian Officials Say Food For Oil Programs Have Expanded

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Gholamhossein Ashraghi, head of public relations for the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), said yesterday that “in the continuation of making sanctions ineffective, bartering oil sales for goods and equipment is one of the methods being used to collect payments for oil.” Ashraghi, who is also an adviser to the director of NIOC, said that as far as neutralizing the effects of sanctions, “bartering oil for goods has been one of the most effective methods in this direction. Meanwhile, the NIOC, in cooperating with Iran’s Central Bank, also has other approaches to collect payments.”

In regard to the expansion of the bartering programs, Ashraghi said that “with consideration of the numerous advantages, today, part of our international contracts will be designed and implemented through bartering.” He added that “under present conditions, one of the positive aspects of bartering is that it secures the collection of payments from crude oil. Using this method can diversify foreign trade in the field of the oil industry and based on the plans that were conducted, a significant part of the oil revenues can be acquired through various means.”

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Potential Presidential Candidate Says Holocaust Denial Was Damaging

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Potential presidential candidate and mayor of Tehran Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf sat down with Tasnim News Agency to present his positions on foreign policy and economics. Ghalibaf, who is part of the 2+1 Coalition along with foreign-policy adviser Ali Akbar Velayati and Gholam Ali Hadded Adel, shared his ideas on the Western sanctions against Iran, the nuclear program and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial remarks on the Holocaust.

Ghalibaf said the “nuclear issue is our most important foreign-policy topic.” He added that “the nuclear case is a national and macro case that all the administrations will pursue within the framework of the system.” The decisions on the nuclear program are made through Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office. Ghalibaf, however, added that “one must discern between strategy and tactics on the nuclear issue.” While the “strategy for the system is clear,” he differentiated his positions on the issue of “tactics.”

The mayor of Tehran believes that tactics can take the form of diplomacy, which he believes he would perform better than Ahmadinejad. He said “steps were taken and words were said that not only did not help us push our programs forward, but it also gave our opponents the opportunity to gather others against us. Controversial but useless remarks and slogans and presentations struck a blow against us and weakened our rightful position.” As president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made controversial comments about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, homosexuals in Iran and the Holocaust, among other topics which received international attention and condemnation.

“Our legal position can only be realized through an intelligent and rational diplomacy,” Ghalibaf said. “There was a time when they used to say the sanctions are torn pieces of paper. Now they are saying that they are crippling, and they are the cause of all the problems. … A rational view says that the sanctions are neither torn pieces of paper, nor will removing them fix all of the problems.” Ahmadinejad had made defiant statements against the sanctions, and had even dared the West to pass more at one point. However, domestically, the issue of how much sanctions have affected the economy is a source of contention. Often, statements regarding to what extent sanctions have affected the economy are made with political rather than economic intentions and insights.

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On Ahmadinejad’s statements regarding the Holocaust, Ghalibaf asked, “for instance, where did the case of the Holocaust take us?” He continued, “We were never against Judaism; it’s a religion. What we opposed was Zionism. We’ve been the major supporters of Palestine for 30 years, but with the intelligence of Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei, no one could accuse us of being anti-Semitic. But suddenly without consideration for the results and implications, the issue of the Holocaust was raised. How did his benefit the revolution or the Palestinians?”

Ghalibaf added that it became an “excuse for our biggest enemies, which are the Zionists, and affected the goals of the Palestinians. Defending the goals of the Palestinians is part of the principles of our foreign policy. Denying the Holocaust is not part of our foreign policy.” He added that “we have seen a lot of damages in the area of foreign policy” due to this type of politics.

On the potential of Iran-US negotiations, Ghalibaf said that “negotiations are neither taboo, nor will they solve all of the problems. Negotiations are a tool. When it’s necessary at points, we will certainly negotiate with America. Negotiating with America has never been a red line for us.” Iran’s foreign policy is ultimately decided by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and if there are to ever be direct negotiations between the two countries, they would be need to be approved by him first.

Ahmadinejad Fires Back at Latest Threats, Accusations of ‘Nationalism’

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In a speech in Iran’s Khuzestan province today, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he “received a message that said, ‘If you become too bold, you’ll pay for it.’”

The president continued, “They ask, ‘Why are you traveling at the end of your term?’ Does it make a difference if it’s the end of the term or the beginning?” As president, Ahmadinejad spent a considerable portion of his time traveling to Iran’s various provinces to shore up support for his administration. He is accused of doing so now to campaign in an unofficial capacity for his ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who has not yet announced his candidacy. The message of which Ahmadinejad speaks to is most likely in reference to his bold campaigning efforts and statements.

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Khatami: If I Run In The Elections, The People Will Pay the Price

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Former President Mohammad Khatami spoke to a group of veterans, discussing not only the likely outcome of his candidacy but also the critical state Iran is facing domestically and internationally.

“The reality is that they will not allow me to enter the political scene,” Khatami said,  meaning the security and intelligence forces, who are under the control of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He added: “Assume I run … their unhappiness and concerns will increase and they will make you pay the cost, and it will be a cost with no results. Personally, for me, the cost that will be imposed on the people with my candidacy is an unbearable cost. Especially when they don’t want it and they will not allow it how can I run, and even more so, how can one move forward a nation which has so many difficulties and hardships? Assuming I run, it would be to pay the price to make things better, but not to pay a price for things to get worse.” Continue reading

Fars News: Will US Have To ‘Confront Salafis In Its Own Streets?’

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Iranian media has given the Boston bombing and the subsequent manhunt extensive coverage. Most media outlets confined themselves to reprinting the photos of the events with straight reporting. Some other sites and Tehran Friday prayer believed there were larger lessons to be gleaned from this event.

In response to the manhunt in Boston for the marathon bombers Fars News Agency ran with the headline, “Will America Now Have to Confront Salafis in Its Own Streets?” Ali Reza Karimi wrote, in a long article covering several decades of US foreign policy, “Jihadi Salafism, which is a type of Salafism, has not only entangled itself with the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Iraq, but that virus that the United States nourished in the region now has inflicted America.” He used the analysis of a Stratfor article about the Boston bombers which said, “The jihadist threat now predominantly stems from grassroots operatives who live in the West rather than teams of highly trained operatives sent to the United States from overseas.” Continue reading

Rafsanjani Denies Controversial Remarks About Khamenei, Revolutionary Guard

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On April 16, Saham News, a website close to Mehdi Karroubi, published an article which quoted an anonymous source who was present at a meeting between the head of the Expediency Council, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and provincial governors during Rafsanjani’s and Mohammad Khatami’s presidencies. The following day, the public-relations department of the Expediency Council denied the reports attributed to Rafsanjani.

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