‘Argo’ A Sign of America’s ‘Political Desperation,’ Says Iran Presidential Candidate

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Hojat Al-Islam Mostafa Pourmohammadi, presidential candidate and head of the Judiciary’s Inspection Organization, described the Oscar-winning film as “neither strong nor good in story or structure” to Mehr News agency on Sunday.

Pourmohammadi said that America’s “political desperation shows that America has reached a point that it needs to give a film like ‘Argo’ a prize.” He compared “Argo” to the Iranian film by Asghar Farhadi “A Separation,” which won the Best Foreign film Oscar last year. He said that “when we see ‘Argo,’ our admiration for ‘A Separation’ grows,” adding that “although there are critiques to be made of the film, as far as the message, capacity, originality and structure, [‘A Separation’] has room for praise.”

Most Iranian political figures have been skeptical of Iranian films that have reached critical acclaim in Europe and America and have accused the filmmakers of painting “a dark picture” of political or social life Iran. Pourmohammadi’s praise of “A Separation,” which centered on divorce and immigration, two increasingly prominent themes in Iranian life, seemed mostly a response to “Argo.”

“Argo” has reportedly been a popular movie on the black market in Iran. Pourmohammadi encouraged those who want to view the movie to watch it with a “critical” eye.

Renewed Calls for the Release of Mousavi and Karoubi

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A prominent political figure from the traditional right has renewed his calls for the release of opposition figures Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi from house arrest. Habibolla Asgarowladi, who heads the Followers of Imam and Supreme Leader Front, described the two-year house detention of the 2009 presidential candidates as “a lock that, if not opened, will cause problems again in the next elections.”

This is not the first time Asgarowladi has called for the release of the two opposition figures, nor is it the first time he has a used a lock analogy to describe their imprisonment and political situation.

Asgarowladi continued that “the lock was an attachment of Mousavi and Karoubi to the sedition [2009 post-election uprising]; while the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] said that the seditionists were the Americans and the Zionists, and from this I deduced that there is a difference between the sedition and those who fell under the sedition.”

Asgarowladi also said that he believed that the Principalist 2+1 Coalition between Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Supreme Leader advisor Ali Akbar Velayati and GholamAli Haddad Adel was “rushed” and that they should have waited before making the announcement.

In reference to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s two terms, Asgarowladi said that the process of “consulting was trampled.” He added that “from the perspective of the Quran, consulting has a lot of value.” He critiqued Ahmadinejad for clashing with the different branches of the government. Asgarowladi said that bills “approved by parliament and the Guardian Council are laws, both Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] and Agha [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] have both confirmed this procedure. It is not correct for someone to say ‘I do not accept this procedure.’”

In regard to “war and peace,” Asgarowladi said that “according to the law, only the Supreme Leader can express his opinions” on these issues.

Ahmadinejad Reminded of Fate of Exiled First President

A documentary about the first president of the Islamic Republic made by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) is said to have a “lesson” for the current president, according to prominent political figure from the traditional right.

Habibollah Asgarowladi made the comment at a parliament session yesterday regarding the film “An Inauspicious End,” about Abulhassan Banisadr, the first president of Iran after the 1979 revolution. The film, which used archival footage and interviews of prominent political figures today in the Islamic Republic, aired on Iran’s Channel One (shabeke yek) on Sunday night.

Banisadr became the first president after the revolution on Feb. 4, 1980. Although he had close relations with Ayatollah Khomeini when both were active in France organizing  against the Shah of Iran, they had a falling out over the division of power once Khomeini became Supreme Leader and Banisadr became president. On June 4, 1981 Banisadr was impeached and he fled a month later to Paris, where he still lives.

In response to the film, Asgarowladi said that watching “the entanglements between Banisadr and Imam Khomeini it was a translation of today and for the political figures, especially the executive branch, it should serve as a cautionary lesson.” His obvious reference was to President Ahmadinejad who has repeatedly challenged Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in his second term as president.

Asgarowladi’s comments received extensive coverage on Iranian websites.

Mehr News Agency also ran an extensive piece on Banisadr titled “The End of an Ungrateful President” in which they accused Banisadr of “hiding” his true positions from Ayatollah Khomeini while the two were in France. The piece calls Banisadr a “deviated symbol from inside the revolution.” Ahmadinejad and his inner circle have had similar accusations of “deviation” levied against them. It should be noted that Banisadr was not unique in his disagreements with Khomeini and that many of Khomeini’s companions in France were later either exiled or sidelined.

In Other News

Mohsen Rezaei, Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander during the Iran-Iraq war and current Secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran, announced his candidacy for the presidential elections while in Iran’s Kurdistan region of Divandareh. He said, “I was asked many times to announce my candidacy in Tehran and to use the full reach of the media, but my approach is to focus on the growth and development of the entire county and focus on solving the people’s problems.”

As Iran’s economy has struggled in the last several years, Rezaei has been one of the more outspoken political figures to stress solely on economic issues. Iran’s Kurdistan region historically, and particularly under the Islamic Republic, has been financially deprived.

According to Enthekhab, Rezaei recounted how he came to the decision to announce his presidency. Rezaei was in a mosque Iran’s Kurdistan’s capital of Sanandaj where after the evening prayer the cleric of the mosque gifted a Koran to him. When Rezaei opened the Koran in the direction of Divandareh, he believes that he “received permission from the Koran to participate in the elections.”

Iran’s Minister of Intelligence announced yesterday at a press conference in Esfahan that a group of 600 journalists have been identified and have been “dealt a blow.” Hojat al-Islam Haydar Moslehi said that of the 600 journalists, 150 are within Iran and “due to the relations some internal media have with anti-revolutionary networks, identifying them has allowed us to once again break the plans of the enemy.”

Moslehi also said that their plan for the presidential elections is to “prevent the sedition before the elections.” The uprising after the 2009 contested elections was called “sedition” by Iranian state media and political figures. Starting Jan. 27 of this year, the ministry of intelligence began a series of raids targeting mostly Reformist papers and journalists. The journalists have been accused of having ties to Western media; however, some analysts believe the arrests could be related to the upcoming elections.

Jailed Former Deputy Minister Claims Khamenei’s Support for Assad has Provoked Shia-Sunni Conflict

Mostafa Tajzadeh, former deputy minister of the interior and one of Iran’s leading Reformist figures, currently imprisoned in Evin jail, has written a highly critical letter addressed to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, stating, “the result of your support for [Bashar] Assad is a war between Shia and Sunni.”

Tajzadeh stated that Khamenei’s “absolute defense” of the Syrian president was his biggest mistake of the last two years, adding that continuing such a policy will result in the expansion of the war to Lebanon and Iraq.

Tajzadeh also stressed that the confrontation in Syria is not merely one of the United States and West against Russia and China, but has been transformed into an “arena of struggles” between Salafi forces and non-Salafis, Shia Syrians, Iraqis and Lebanese.

Tajzadeh, who has written a number of critical letters to Iran’s leader since his arrest following Iran’s 2009 presidential election, added that following the Arab Spring it is clear that the people of the region have rejected the Iranian model for emulation. He further argued that the Arab world’s rejection of the Iranian model is due to the “absolute power of a person over 70 percent of the powers” of the state, claiming that “such a regime is similar to authoritarian regimes like that of the Pahlavis, Mubarak, Qaddafi and Assad.”

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What are the Endurance Front’s choices ahead of the presidential election?

Prominent Tehran MP, Ismail Kowsari, has made a number of interesting comments relating to the neoconservative group close to hardline Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, the Endurance Front for the Islamic Revolution, and its relationship with the Ahmadinejad government, as reported by the Reformist daily, Etemaad.

“The Endurance Front have separated from the government and are now counted amongst those excluded from government. In truth, for those who toiled for the government, they expected the government to be the same government of 2005 [i.e., when Ahmadinejad was first elected into office]. In this regard I think it doubtful they will form a coalition with a candidate from the government.”

Kowsari also speculated on the Endurance Front’s possible backing of Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, saying, “it still is not clear whether Saeed Jalili will become a candidate in the election, so we can’t say whether the Endurance Front will support him or not.”

It had previously been speculated that the Endurance Front might back Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, who ran on the front’s list in the last Majles elections. He is both head of the Majles’ minority Principalist faction and a close ally and in-law of the Supreme Leader. But this week the head of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi’s office, Hojjat al-Islam Jalili, made a number of highly critical statements vis-à-vis Haddad Adel. No doubt due to his formation of a coalition with Principalists, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and Ali Akbar Velayati, but also others such as Mostafa Pourmohammadi [a staunch Ahmadinejad government critic], who diverge from the Endurance Front on a number of issues and are generally seen as “moderate” by comparison. The comment which really stuck out was when Jalili forthrightly compared Haddad Adel to “edible and delicious water,” which had entered a “salty brook” and is as a result “useless.”

The chairman of the Endurance Front, Hojjat al-Islam Morteza Aqa-Tehrani, has also seemed to back off from previous comments that the Endurance Front would consider a coalition with Ahmadinejad’s favored candidate, stating, “what I said is clear, I said the engagement between the Majles and government is something on which [Ayatollah Khamenei] has spoken and he is still saying the same.” Aqa-Tehrani then named [Saeed] Jalili, [Parviz] Fattah and [Kamran Baqeri] Lankarani as prospective candidates the Endurance Front might put forward for the presidential contest.

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Reformist Letter to Khamenei Calling for Approval of former President Khatami’s candidacy?

Asadollah Badamchian, one of the most prominent figures of the traditional-Conservative Islamic Coalition Party, referring to the various views amongst Iran’s Reformists, and that they have written a letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in order to prepare the way for former President Mohammad Khatami to run in the June 2013 presidential election.

Moreover, Badamchian has claimed that the letter in question was delivered to the Supreme Leader by Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council.

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Reactions to NAM inside Iran

Sadegh Zibakalam, a prominent political commentator and professor of Political Science at the University of Tehran has written an op-ed piece on the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tabnak, a website known to be close to Expediency Council Secretary, Mohsen Rezaei. The article was entitled, “Anti-Americanism and the Non-Aligned Movement”. After conceding that Iran “with much impressiveness and power expressed its existence”, he asks “with view to the fact that fundamentally…the reason for the Non-Aligned Movement’s coming into existence, was the bipolarity of the world order, and as this order and the Cold War, has not existed for more than two decades, what function and role can NAM have, and fundamentally is there a reason for its existence?”

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