A source close to President-elect Hassan Rouhani spoke with Aseman Weekly about the incoming administration’s potential cabinet appointments and behind-the-scenes activities. Traffic at the Center for Strategic Research, a think tank under the Expediency Council headed by Rouhani since 1992, has increased since his surprising election and speculation has run wild about who will fill his top cabinet positions and what influence key players such as former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani will have.
An advisor to President-elect Hassan Rouhani in charge of the transition from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration to Rouhani’s said that “The economic situation of the country is worse than previously thought.” Akbar Torkan, who was minister of defense under Rafsanjani and deputy minister of oil under Ahmadinejad’s first term, said that one of the primary challenges of the incoming administration will be to “secure basic goods.”
One of Rouhani’s mandates as president will be to create stability in the Iranian economy, which has appeared unmanageable in the last few years to due economic sanctions from the West and government mismanagement. This is no small task, and other Rouhani advisors have begun to issue warnings against expecting a quick economic rebound.
The head of the Iranian Cinema Organization Javad Shamgadri has asked the head of Iran’s Cinema museum to remove all of the awards of Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf from the national museum. The exiled Makhmalbaf is currently in Israel for the Jerusalem Film Festival promoting his latest film, The Gardner, a docu-drama shot in the Baha’i World Center in Haifa, Israel. In response to Makhmalbaf’s appearance in Israel, Shamgadri wrote in the letter, “The presence of an Iranian filmmaker, who made his first ten films with the support of revolutionary institutions and government organizations to practice film, today is in the embrace of the usurpers of Jerusalem and the criminal Zionism for an award.” On his film about Bahai’sm, the letter said, “He wants to give lessons on piece and piety by using a misguided faith, which was made up by the English, as document.” On Makhmalbaf receiving an achievement award at the festival Shamgadri said, “A few lost and rootless people, who stand against the greatness of the Iranian nation and go after wicked awards, are ready to allow their historic and Islamic identity be looted.” Mahkhmalbaf, a former revolutionary who became disillusioned with the Islamic Republic, has made over 20 films on sensitive social and economic issues and has received numerous international awards. He left Iran in 2005 shortly after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected. In a 45-minute English language video, Makhmalbaf explained why he chose the gardens at the Bahai World Center in Haifa, Israel as the setting for his latest movie. A number of foreign-based and some domestic based Iranian scholars, students and activists signed an open letter asking Makhmalbaf not to attend the Jerusalem Film Festival, believing that “his participation directly violates the International call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of the State of Israel.” The letter continued, “As human beings of conscience, we are appalled by the brutality Palestinians undergo at the hand of Israeli occupation and we are supportive of the non-violent global BDS movement.” The open letter, which also did not absolve the Iranian government of persecuting Baha’is in Iran, said, “We recognize the repression that led to Mr. Makhmalbaf’s own exile, and we sympathize with his suffering as a filmmaker who has been persecuted by the Iranian regime. At the same time, we insist again on the political and ethical responsibilities that we as human beings have to resist oppression and tyranny wherever they may be.” In response to the open letter, Makhmalbaf told BBC Persian, “Boycotting and writing statements does not solve anything. Why don’t the intellectuals try to solve the problems by traveling and having dialogue? Why is there no effort to remove religious hatred?” He continued, “Not going to Israel has become fashionable. Why not start a peace movement? Why not start a movement to reduce religious hatred?” “In Israel, every year a thousand students graduate with a degree in cinema,” Makhmalbaf continued. “Go and see how they worship Iranian cinema and they know it as an alternative to Word Cinema Day. How can it be that a people can be in love with their enemy’s cinema? We have to stop this possible war that may provoke all of us.”
Iranian Student’s News Association has published a wide-ranging list of “safety recommendations” from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. The recommendations are categorized into groups totaling dozens of pieces of advice. Although certain recommendations such as “not writing down the code of your lock” are trivial, if not amusing, other recommendations, such as warnings against “relations with foreign citizens” could be cause for alarm.
Conservative newspaper Ebtekar speculated on the topic of what president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his controversial Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei will do once they leave office early August. According to Ebtekar, “Although this issue always exists, there has never been as much ambiguity about the future of a president and his deputies as there is about Ahmadinejad and his inner circle.”
A former agriculture minister under Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani’s presidency and current member of the advising committee to help form President-elect Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet Issa Kalantari spoke to Ghanoon newspaper about a variety of economic challenges Iran is facing today and in the decades ahead, in particular the potential water crisis.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Aragchi suggested that foreign hands could be at work in weakening Egypt and called the military’s move against President Mohammed Morsi’s government “unacceptable.” The statements were issued before today’s shooting by the military that reportedly left dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members dead.
“Certainly foreign hands are at work, and this cannot be denied,” said Aragchi. “Either way, Egypt is a great Islamic country and has been the intellectual vanguard of many movements and thoughts in the Arab and Islamic world. Egypt’s strength is the strength of the Islamic world, and Egypt’s weakness is the weakness of the Islamic world. And certainly a strong Egypt is not desired by Western countries or the Zionist regime. Therefore, it is natural to know their interference as likely.”
“The interference of the military in political matters is not acceptable and is a cause for worry,” Aragchi continued. “Pushing Egyptian society into differences and creating a divided society is a dangerous situation. All the transformations are taking place together, and this makes it complicated.”
On his assessment of Egypt today, Araghchi said, “The events in Egypt are still hazy and their different dimensions are not yet clear. On one hand, the demands of the people of Egypt are present, and these demands started at the time of the revolution, when the people wanted the overthrow of [deposed president Hosni] Mubarak, and at different times different mistakes were repeated. In the latest events, a wider range of opposition and demands were expressed. What is important is to give importance to the legitimate demands of the people.”
Aragchi said, “We hope unity is protected in Egyptian society and that calm and stability are returned to Egypt’s political community.”
Chairman of Iran’s parliamentary commission on national security Alaeddin Borujerdi also spoke today about Egypt’s current political turmoil.
On the arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members, Borujerdi said, “This will be a provoking act for their supporters to enter the scene, but [the Muslim Brotherhood] should accept early elections. It’s a difficult thing but it’s the only path toward an understanding, because a continuation of the existing situation is dangerous for Egypt and the region.”
“Iran will certainly not interfere in the internal crisis of Egypt,” he added. “But we are ready to use our capacity to create calm to help Egypt.”
Borujerdi continued, “Certainly, America and the Zionist regime are happy about this crisis. Therefore, Egypt’s national interests must take priority. After one year of ruling, [the Brotherhood] was entangled with many problems, the army interfered and the people became divided. Therefore, if the leaders of the two sides fuel the conflict, it’s possible that Egypt will move toward an internal crisis or even toward violence or underground armed movements, which will be a tragedy for Egyptian society.”
“They must not give permission to provide the ground for extremist and well- known elements,” Borujerdi concluded. “Or Egypt will move toward unfortunate events like [those in] Syria and Iraq.”
Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami criticized ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi’s government today for not being able to distinguish between “friends and enemies.”
Although Iran had initially hope to improve relations with Egypt very quickly, many differences have surfaced. Yesterday, Iranian MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi faulted Morsi for “continuing the old policies” of deposed president Hosni Mubarak.