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.”
Certain Iranian media have begun to speculate that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will ultimately support presidential candidate Saeed Jalili. Ahmadinejad has long supported his ally and chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei for the presidency. However, Mashaei was disqualified by the Guardian Council to run.
The Alef website, which is close to traditional conservative parliament member Ahamd Tavakoli, mentioned the support of pro-Ahmadinejad for Jalili, and their immediate denial. Muhammad Sahimi covered and analyzed in Muftah the support of websites close to Ahmadinejad of Jalili’s candidacy. The Entekhab website, which is not friendly to Ahmadinejad, quoted an article from pan-Arab Al Hayat in which they claim that Mashaei has handed his campaign staff over to Jalili.
A spokesperson for the Guardian Council told reporters yesterday that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presence at Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei’s registration for the presidential race at the Interior Ministry building was a “violation.” Saturday was the final day for candidates to register their names. In a dramatic fashion, both Mashaei and Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani registered in the final minutes, accompanied by an entourage of supporters.
A member of the Assembly of Experts, Ali Fallahian, formally registered today for Iran’s presidential elections. Fallahian, who is believed to be the infamous “Master Key” in Iran’s notorious “Chain Murders” of dissidents and is wanted by Interpol in connection to the Buenos Aires AMIA bombing, said to reporters after registering, “I will not retreat on any front.”
Fallahian, who was minister of intelligence under Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s presidency, added that “Rafsanjani said that he won’t run, so if he decides to run, my reason is justified because a lot of my supporters asked to me promise that I would not step aside in favor of other individuals, and no one would be happy if I don’t fulfill my oath.”
The last time Fallahian ran in the elections was in 2001. He received less than one percent of the total votes.
On foreign policy and Iran’s regional role, Fallahian said, “The arrogant powers’ politics for the region has failed and they are experiencing economic problems.” he added, “We are hopeful that Iran can play a useful part in driving out the arrogant powers and be influential in bringing about stability, security and progress for the region.”
Bahman Sharifzadeh, a cleric close to Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei told Entekhab that Mashaei will register for the presidential elections on Saturday, the final day of registration.
Sharifzadeh said that he saw “no reason for Mashaei’s disqualification” from the Guardian Council. The reporter asked why, then, did Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei write a letter objecting to Mashei’s appointment as Ahmadinejad’s vice president in the president’s second term. Sharifzadeh responded, “This is very misleading to say, that Khamenei did not want Mashaei to become vice president. First, read the letter, and did Khamenei give this letter to be published?”
After the 2009 elections, Ahmadinejad was attacked by hard-liners in Iran for his nomination of Mashaei as his top deputy. Although Ahmadinejad first resisted the criticism from his right, it ultimately took Khamenei’s intervention to persuade Ahmadinejad to give up the appointment.
Regarding Khamenei’s intervention, Sharifazdeh continued, “The contents of the letter from the supreme leader [to Ahmadinejad] was that ‘a group of your friends will be disappointed in this appointment, and it is better that this appointment not take place.’ This sentence screams that the issue was about Ahmadinejad’s friends, and not the supreme leader.” He added, “The next letter from the supreme leader, stating that appointing Mashei in other positions is not a problem, confirms that Khamenei has no issues with Mashaei.”
Hojat al-Islam Mohammad Bagher Kharrazi, the secretary-general of Hezbollah in Iran, also registered today. Kharrazi said that his four main goals would be to focus on “epic progress, calm, economic relief and health.”
Kharrazi also reiterated statements he had made previously about a “Greater Iran.” He talked about “turning Iran into our Greater Homeland and have our sacred culture reach our Greater Persian Islamic borders, which starts from China and continues unto Africa.”
Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s longtime aid and potential presidential candidate, has been criticized for controversial remarks about “a new era” of Islam.
In a meeting with students and youth and social activists yesterday, Mashaei said that “there is a new era of Islamism, and this era must be named Mahdism (or Messianism).” Ahmadinejad and Mashaei have been accused by the ruling clergy in the past of trying to minimize the clergy’s role in religion by promoting a form of Islam that is more focused on Imam Mehdi rather than the clergy. Shias believe that Imam Mehdi, the last Shia imam, is in occultation and will return before Judgment Day to rid the world of evil.
Mashaei said that “the whole design of Islam no longer offers answers, and the world’s understanding of Islam, as a general concept, especially with the interpretations that some countries have presented, is a negative one. Therefore, we have to introduce our own Islam to the world, which comes from the Iranian school and is based on the original Islam, and this doesn’t mean we put Islam away.”
Mashaei attempted to elaborate and clarify previous controversial remarks by saying that “I’ve said tens of times which Islamism is coming to an end. Today there are those in Syria who kill people by beheadings and bombings and they also yell ‘Allahu Akbar’ and speak of Islamism. When I had spoke earlier about the end of Islamism, this is the type of Islamism I was speaking of.”
Mashaei continued, “The era has arrived that anyone in a general way speaks of Islamism, and especially after the victory of [Iran’s] Islamic revolution, a new era has arrived, and not everyone can claim Islamism.” He asked rhetorically, “Can we endorse the form of Islamism of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt or Qatar?”
Mashaei, who is also the head of the Non-Aligned Movement, has been accused by critics of promoting Iranian nationalism to appeal to a specific base of voters. He has previously been publicly threatened with death for various statements and positions by hard-line figures in Iran.
In response to Mashaei’s statements, head of the judiciary Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani said that “this claim is not correct because first we are Muslim, then Iranian, and Iran shined with Islam.” Larijani continued, “The supreme leader has said that Islamic communities must work to promote an Islamic civilization. Of course, some say we will progress if we put Islam away.”
Mashaei has not yet announced his candidacy for the presidency, but he has been traveling alongside the president across the country to the various provinces. The president has been criticized for taking these trips so late in his presidency and using these trips as unofficial campaign rallies for Mashaei.
Candidates desiring to run in the presidential elections have from May 7 to May 11 to register. Afterward, the Guardian Council approves the final list which can run in the elections. The head of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, had previously said that “seditionists” and “deviants” would be “confronted lawfully.” Those in Ahmadinejad’s camp close to Mashaei are commonly referred to as “deviants.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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
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.