Prominent Imprisoned Reformist Calls For Boycott of Iran Elections

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Prominent Reformist political figure Mostafa Tajzadeh, who was arrested after the 2009 elections and is currently in Evin prison, has written a letter to the people of Iran, published in full by Norooz News. Tajzadeh, a member of the Reformist group Islamic Iran Participation Front and who served as a minister in for president Mohammad Khatami’s administration, has written numerous letters since his imprisonment.

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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

Ahmadinejad ‘Will Never Leave’

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Samina Rastegar wrote an op-ed in Reformist newspaper Etemad that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “speaks in such a way that he will never leave the political scene.” The president cannot run for a third term, but there are many indications he is actively promoting his longtime ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, and perhaps even others, for the presidential elections in June.

Rastegar referenced a speech the president made to his governors recently in which he said “I believe the future administration will reach a higher level than my previous two terms because the revolution and the nation is moving toward completion, and the indication of that is what the Iranian nation is introducing today.”

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Chief of Armed Forces Defends ‘Engineer Elections’ Statements

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The Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces defended yesterday controversial comments made about the elections by the Supreme Leader’s representative to Sepah, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Hojat Al-Islam Ai Saeedi, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative to Sepah, said in January that it was the responsibility of Sepah to “rationally and logically engineer the elections.” Many analysts took these statements to mean that Sepah will directly interfere in Iran’s June presidential elections. Sepah had been accused by the Iranian opposition of playing a part in vote rigging in the 2009 elections that saw the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Ahmadinejad Ally Accused of Early Presidential Campaigning

Two conservative websites have accused President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei of having already begun his presidential campaign advertising. Mashaei is currently the president’s chief of staff, and the president has spent a considerable part of his second term promoting Mashaei as his successor.

Entekhab website published a photo of well known Iranian marathon runner Hossein Fazeli with a picture of Mashei pinned to the front of his jersey in a contest in Europe. The article wrote that Fazeli and “Mashei were both born in the same city” and that Fazeli is a “supporter of Mashei in Europe.”

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Iran General: Israel’s Apology To Turkey Meant to Weaken ‘Regional Resistance’

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Iran’s Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces said that “the apology from the prime minister of the Zionist regime to the government of Turkey for the attacks on the [Turkish] ship in 2010 is a new game by America, Israel and Turkey to influence regional resistance, especially the Islamic Awaking [Arab Spring].”

IRGC General Massoud Jazayeri told Sepah News on Saturday that “under today’s conditions, the prime movement of the world arrogance is to replace Iran’s [place] in the Islamic world.” He added that “the elite of the Islamic world must be alert and conscious and not allow America and its allies to lessen public awareness.”

On President Barack Obama’s trip to Israel last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize for Israel’s raid on a Turkish ship that was attempting to pass through its naval blockade of the Gaza strip in 2010. The raid left nine dead. Netanyahu was quoted as saying that the crisis in Syria was “his main motivation” for the call.

General Jazayeri added that the “the combination of those against Syria proves the government’s and country’s legitimacy.” He explained that “right now, America, England, France, Arab reactionaries, Turkey, and the Zionist regime form the prime anti-Syrian ring and this combination is a good indication of an anti-resistance front.” Iran sees itself, Syria and Hezbollah in an “axis of resistance” against American and Israeli influence in the region. They view the support by the West and Gulf Arab countries as a means to weaken this axis.

Ahmadinejad Ally Warns About Interference in Elections

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In an interview with state-run IRNA yesterday, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei said that “the president has strongly emphasized and has even stated that if he feels that either secretly or openly the elections become tainted, he will deal with it seriously.” Mashei said that in a meeting with the governors of the provinces the president warned against “showing partisanship” towards any of the candidates during the administration of the elections.

Iran’s presidential elections are in June 2013 and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been using the final months of his presidency to campaign and promote his longtime advisor Mashei as a candidate for the presidency. Since the president’s second term Mashaei has been attacked by conservatives and hardliners for an apparent promotion of “Iranianism” over “Islamism” and has been accused of being at the center of a “deviant” strain within the administration.

President Ahmadinejad had previously warned on several occasions about “interference” in these upcoming elections. In January of this year, Hojat al-Islam Ali Saeedi, Khamenei’s representative in the Revolutionary Guard said that “[the body’s essence] is to engineer the elections logically and rationally.”

Mashaei also criticized national media for their coverage of the elections. He said that “on the threshold of elections, from the view of partisanship towards candidates in the upcoming presidential elections, the national media has not performed well.” He added that “people remember well the performance the national media in the previous elections and that the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) should act with care and pursue a more moderate path.”

In the June 2009 elections, heated and somewhat sensational televised live debates between presidential candidates drew in millions of viewers. Live televised debates have been banned for these upcoming elections.

Khamenei Predicts ‘Epic’ Year Ahead

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, addressed the Iranian people yesterday with his Nowruz message. He began his speech by addressing “Iranians all across the world […] especially the dear ones who have sacrificed themselves, the families of martyrs, the veterans and their families.”

Khamenei likened the previous calendar year to life in general, in that it “had its sweet moments and bitter moments, its victories and defeats,” but he emphasized that “what is important is to get out of the valleys and take ourselves to the peaks.”

Ayatollah Khamenei reminded Iranians that “the enemies have targeted different fields, primarily in the political and economic arenas.”

He said that in the field of economics, the enemy “said that through sanctions they want to cripple the Iranian nation.” Although Khamenei said that there was “various growth” in the field of economics, ultimately “there was pressure put on the people,” which with their own “shortcomings and oversights, helped the enemy’s plans.”

In the field of politics, Khamenei said “that their plan was from one direction to isolate Iran and the other direction to create uncertainty and doubt, but the exact opposite happened.” Khamenei pointed to the fact that the 16th Summit of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was hosted in Tehran August 2012 as an indication that Iran has indeed not been isolated.

Khamenei said that “of what we are looking ahead to in the following year, the fields of economics and politics are of primary importance.” Khamenei reiterated the need to focus on “domestic production” and hoped that for the presidential elections, “the people, with their presence, will strive for a good future for the country and themselves.”

Ayatollah Khamenei concluded that “with this view, the next year will be named ‘The Year of Epic Politics and Epic Economics.’”

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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also addressed the political and economic situation in his Nowruz speech. In regards to economics, the president said “those who want ill for Iran, in an open cooperation between those inside and outside” the country, have put Iran “under unparalleled economic and psychological pressure to distort the historical successes and achievements” of his presidency.

Amadinejad spent a considerable part of his speech on the upcoming presidential elections. He predicted the elections would be “vibrant and have a near-100% participation rate,” and with a “decisive vote” elect a president that will address “domestic, regional and international” issues in the interests of Iran.  He continued that these elections “for the people and political leaders are a determinant and historical responsibility.”

The president said that Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leaders of the Islamic Republic’s history, have both previously said that even they “only have one vote, and the right of vote belongs to the nation.” While some found this comment to be a direct attack on Khamenei, others found it ironic given that many believe Ahmadinejad’s 2009 victory was achieved primarily through vote rigging that was inspired by Khamenei’s endorsement.

Will Former Reformist President Khatami Run In the Elections?

Opposition website Jaras  published an extensive article titled “40 Reasons For the Necessity of Khatami’s Candidacy” on March 8. The article, written by Mohammad Reza Jalaeipour, has been shared and critiqued widely on Facebook and is the latest call to former Reformist President Mohammad Khatami to participate in Iran’s upcoming presidential elections this summer. In writing the article, Jalaeipour stated his intention was to have a “public discussion” about Khatami’s candidacy.

Jalaeipour believes that a Khatami presidency would increase the possibility of the end of Mir Hussien Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi’s house arrest and bring about the freedom of political prisoners. 2009 presidential candidates Mousavi and Karoubi have been under house arrest for two years without charge. He also believes that Khatami is able to address some of Iran’s economic problems and also decrease sanctions and the possibility of military strikes. Some on social media wrote that Jalaeipour overestimates Khatami’s abilities to reign in the various issues Iran is facing.

One of the more interesting reasons given for Khatami’s candidacy is that Jalaeipour believes that the next president may be the last president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Previously this year, Ayatollah Khamenei had suggested the possibility of moving from a presidential system to a parliamentary system. Some analysts believe this move would provide Khamenei more leverage over a prime minister than he currently has over the president.

Yesterday at Tehran University, Khatami gave a speech which was printed by opposition website Kalameh. In relation to the elections Khatami set forth a list of prerequisites in regards to elections. He explained how “the government should be run by the people” and that people “must be free from fear, force, intimidation […] to express themselves as they want.”

Feb. 18 it was reported that the Reformist Front, a group of Reformist parties and groups, had nominated Khatami as their candidate for the presidency although he had not yet responded to their nomination. Many on social media who are close to the Reformists are suggesting that Khatami will soon decide to run. However, several Reformists told Iran Pulse that nothing is confirmed yet.

On March 6, Minister of Intelligence Haydar Moslehi warned of “an individual connected to the seditionist camp” has connections to BBC and VOA and that they “desire this person’s candidacy.” Although Moslehi did not mention Khatami by name, it was generally known that that’s who he was referring to. The “sedition” is what Iranian state media refers to the Green Movement protests that erupted after Iran’s 2009 contested elections.

In Other News

The Iranian delegate at at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session accused Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed of “working with terrorists” in compiling his latest report.

At the 22nd Human Rights Council session, Shaheed’s report accused the Islamic Republic of Iran of human rights violations ranging from the arrests of journalists to the high rate of executions and persecution of religious and ethnic minorities. This is Shaheed’s fourth report on Iran in nearly two years.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, Iran’s delegate at UNHRC and also head of human rights council to the judiciary in Iran, also accused Shaheed of “reducing himself to a political activist who is against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Days before the session in Tehran, Larijani accused Shaheed of acting like “a movie star running from one network to another.” Larijani also said that unlike in other countries, “no question has been left unanswered” in regards to human rights. He also accused the United States of human rights violations after Sept. 11, 2001 for the purposes of “protection of security.”

The European Union announced yesterday that nine Iranians were added to their sanctions list of human rights violators. This list restricts their travel and activities to the 27 countries within the European Union. This addition brings the total list of Iranians on this list to 87.