Iran’s Presidential Candidates Begin Registration Process

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From Left: Kavakebian, Vaez-Zadeh, Lankarani, Saeedikia, Rowhani

From Left: Kavakebian, Vaez-Zadeh, Lankarani, Saeedikia, Rowhani

Registration for candidates for Iran’s 11th presidential elections officially began at 8 this morning in Tehran at Iran’s Interior Ministry building. Candidates have until 6 pm Saturday, May 11 to register their names. After the registration process closes, the 12-member Guardian Council will issue its first list of those they deem qualified to run. After an appeal process, the final list of Iran’s presidential candidates permitted to run will be issued by the Guardian Council on May 23.

Nearly two dozen candidates have registered their names at this point. Some of the more prominent candidates spoke to reporters after registering.

Former nuclear negotiator and current head of the Center for Strategic Research Hassan Rowhani was perhaps the highest-profile registration today. He said that “saving the economy, reviving the morale of society and constructive engagement with the world” is what he would bring as president.

Rowhani has attempted to position himself as a “moderate” between the Reformists and Principlists. He said that “I am a moderate individual. I’ve always had close and warm relations with moderate Reformists and Principlists. …I’ve consulted and spoken with the leaders of both sides and I hope I can attract the votes of all the moderates in society and those who believe in reason and moderation.”

To questions about Rafsanjani’s potential candidacy, Rowhani said, “you have to ask him that,” but he did add that “it’s unlikely that he will register.” Ali Younessi, the minister of intelligence under President Mohammad Khatami, said that he met with Rafsanjani and doesn’t believe he will run. He added, “We’re certain that Rafsanjani will not run, but assuming he does, Rowhani will put out.” In January, MP Temour Ali Asgari, who is close to Rafsanjani and Rowhani, made similar statements to Etemad newspaper.

One of the first candidates to register was Sadegh Vaez-zadeh, a former deputy to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a member of the Expediency Council. He said that he “had designed a comprehensive plan to solve inflation,” adding, “We’ve come to realize the fundamental needs of the people, especially the youth, and I believe the current state is not desirable and we can neither return to the past.”

Former health minister under President Ahmadinejad’s administration Kamran Bagheri Lankari also registered today. He said that “our goal is to bring about calm in the country, not tensions.” Lankari said that he wants to address “reforming the banking system” and “corruption in the administration.” On former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s potential candidacy, Lankari said, “I think the young country of Iran needs young ideas rather than returning to the past.” Lankari is also close to hard-line cleric Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a former supporter of the president.

Former minister under previous administrations Mohammad Saeedikia also registered today. Saeedikia is not a favored candidate and questions revolved around his response to being disqualified, to which he responded, “I’m dependent on the law.” Mostafa Kavakebian was another political figure to register today. He said, “My slogan is ‘long live Reformism,’ my administration will named ‘morality,’ and my color is green.”

Many candidates picked various colors to represent their campaigns. Green was the color chosen by Reformist candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi in the 2009 elections, which came to be later known as the Green Movement.

Ahmadinejad Criticized for Welcoming Pre-Islamic New Year

untitled The Iranian president has once again upset religious leaders in Iran. Earlier in the week Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his controversial aid Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei participated in a ceremony of welcoming Norouz, the Persian New year, which falls on March 20. The celebration of Norouz predates both Islam and Christianity and is celebrated by several countries in the Middle East. At the ceremony, a presentation of provincial dances was performed. Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi asked “how can welcoming Norouz be Islamic? Isn’t music and dancing […] that occurred at this ceremony against sacred Islamic laws?” He continued, “they are mocking the commandments of Islam and showing irreverence.” He urged political leaders to take action against this latest celebration by the president, adding that “a system [of government] that has come about through the blood of thousands of martyrs cannot show weakness against these reckless and un-Islamic deeds.” Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran have had a difficult relationship with pre-Islamic festivals. The president has been able to capitalize on this issue. Lately he has been using the word “Spring” as a kind of campaign slogan to promote his close aid Mashaei as the next president of Iran. The Persian New Year falls on the first day of spring. On Feb. 25 it was even reported that the mayor of Tehran would forbid the advertisement of “Spring” on billboards and public spaces. In the president’s second term, Mashei deeply angered clerics by appealing to Iranian and pre-Islamic forms of nationalism in various speeches and statements. These public Norouz celebrations appear to be part of the president’s plan to present Mashei to Iranian voters as a counter to the reactionary clerics. In Other News Hassran Rowhani, the Supreme Leader’s representative to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), said in regard to negotiating with America, that if “under conditions that the honor and interests of the country are secured, the Supreme Leader will give permission for negotiations and relations; just as other issues like Iraq, Afghanistan and the nuclear case, where temporary and issue-related negotiations took place.” Rowhani was clarifying remarks made previously by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about relations with the West and America. A former nuclear negotiator himself and current presidential candidate, Rowhani said that “the Supreme Leader didn’t mean that until Resurrection Day, Iran and America would not negotiate or have relations.” The Supreme Leader implements his nuclear policy through the SNSC. Fereydoon Abassi, Head of Iran’s Energy Atomic Energy Organization, responded to reporters’ questions about the suspension of operations at the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which has received coverage “in internal and foreign press.” Abbasi said yesterday that “Bushehr right now is at a testing stage and has not yet come out of this testing stage, and switching off and on is natural at this stage.” The Bushehr nuclear power plant was started by German companies in 1975. It has since been taken over by Russian companies. Some believe the mixing of the two technologies has led to the extra precautions. Iranian weekly magazine Panjareh (Window) is at the center of a minor controversy that has received considerable attention on social media. According to an editor at Panjareh, due to “unsuitable reactions and comments by readers of disrespect towards the president and the orders of the director in charge this publication was collected (from shops) and a new print with a different cover will be distributed.” The picture on the left was the original cover. The picture on the right is the new updated version. AN pics Some believe that the large black-and-white version was unflattering to the president and perhaps that was the reason why it was taken off the shelves. The editor of Panjareh said that there was “no pressure or orders from the government or the judiciary” for this decision, adding that the “articles were not changed.”

Revolutionary Guards issue statement against those posing a threat to regime unity

The Revolutionary Guards have issued a statement for the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution warning that “any action which destroys unity is deserving of decisive rebuttal”.

“The spirituality and guidance of the Supreme Leader in various areas, in particular in the field of the preservation of national unity and the interests of the regime and the revolution, are recognized by the Revolutionary Guards as the “clarifying explanation” for all. Without doubt any kind of action which destroys unity and prepares the basis for deviant movements and controversy in the media of the enemy is playing a role in the plans of the enemy”.

It is of course important to read this statement against the recent backdrop of the all out and very public war of words which has been unfolding and ongoing between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, who was pelted with shoes and prayer stones in one of Iran’s most holy shrines by Ahmadinejad supporters on Sunday. A series of videos have also been leaked in recent weeks, which appear to implicate the allies of the two men in financial corruption and political horse-trading.

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Foreign Minister Salehi reacts positively to John Kerry appointment

The conservative website Khabar Online, close to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, has reported Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi’s “positive reaction” to the choice of John Kerry as the new US secretary of state.

Salehi stated his hope that John Kerry, by means of his “individual qualities,” can “reform some of the anti-Iranian approaches and policies of the American government.”

Salehi made the comments on the sidelines of veteran politician Hassan Habibi’s funeral ceremony.

Salehi continued, calling Kerry “a recognized face” in American foreign policy, who is familiar with the changes undergone by the Middle East.

The Khabar Online article also states that Kerry advocated “direct negotiations with Iran” in the course of his 2004 electoral campaign for the US presidency.

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Head of Revolutionary Guards on Security and Energy in the Persian Gulf

Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the head of the Revolutionary Guards, explaining the Guards’ role in the Persian Gulf stated: “The Guards are a pillar for securing stability and the movement of energy in the Persian Gulf”.

Jafari’s speech was delivered in the course of his visit to Guard military installations in the Strait of Hormuz, where he emphasized further, “this great defensive capacity can be developed in the path of securing national security and the defensive strategies of the regime…The Guards with its naval power as the bestower of order, is a lever of power in the Persian Gulf region, and pursues its obligations in the sphere of guarding the Islamic Revolution…Our defensive components in the sea are an assurance and deterrent and this power and assurance has always been guaranteed with the strengthening of spirituality in the Guards”.

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Former top nuclear negotiator set to run for the presidency?

Tasnim News has claimed that the candidacy of Hassan Rowhani in June’s presidential election has become “final.” Hassan Rowhani is a member of the Assembly of Experts, the Expediency Discernment Council and a member of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). He was also formerly Iran’s top nuclear negotiator as head of the SNSC.

The conservative news outlet, Entekhab, also reported on the likelihood of Rowhani’s candidacy, saying, “this experienced political activist described as being in the Principalist circle, apart from attracting a large number of the Principalists, is also subject to serious support by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and the leaders of the Principalist Front”.

“He has a good image amongst foreign governments and most think [Rowhani] a very desirable and valuable choice for the Principalists, and even the Reformists.”

It should be noted that Rowhani has been especially vocal in recent weeks, not merely criticizing the Ahmadinejad government’s foreign policy, but also addressing domestic issues such as the high rate of youth unemployment in Iran’s cities.

In other news

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission  told Khane-ye mellat, the Majles’ news agency that, “the Agency’s [International Atomic Energy Agency] exit from the Western puzzle is a condition for negotiations yielding results with Iran.”

Boroujerdi added, “For the Agency to take a step forward in the negotiations with Tehran, it must base its reports on a legal rather than political principle… The IAEA must in its negotiations with the Islamic Republic save itself from the political pressures of America and the West so that it can undertake its obligation to support countries which are members of the Agency.”

Gholam Hossein Esmaili, the chief of the Organization of Prisons, in conversation with the Islamic Republic News Agency, has claimed that “we do not have any religious or doctrinal prisoners”.

“Someone who perpetrates a crime, regardless of doctrinal inclination, or tribal [affiliation], is treated accordingly and in fact no one in the country is imprisoned for the beliefs they have or adhering to a particular religion…With the occurrence of a crime and treatment of a criminal, the law does not recognize Shia, Sunni or Bahai.”

With Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election as prime minister of Israel, the hard-line outlet Mashreq News reports on an article posted on Bloomberg by American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg [Mashreq doesn’t post the link to the original article], commenting on President Barack Obama’s strained relations with Netanyahu.

“It is reported that Barack Obama recently in a private conversation has said that Netanyahu doesn’t have the power to identify Israel’s interests and his actions will conclude in Israel’s severe international isolation.”

“According to Goldberg after the approval of Palestine’s observer-state status at the United Nations, Obama in a private gathering said, ‘Israel doesn’t know where its interests lie.’ He also said about Netanyahu’s decision to continue building settlements: Netanyahu is taking Israel in the direction of total isolation.”

“Obama believes if the small government of Israel in an unwelcoming region, loses its only friend and ally, America, it will be destroyed. Iran is a short-term threat for Israel, but the behaviour of the Israeli authorities threatens the government of Israel in the long term.”

Former Supreme National Security Chief: Crass talk is not foreign policy

Hojjat al-Islam Hassan Rowhani, the former Chief of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, who currently heads the Centre for Strategic Research, has made a number of critical comments vis-à-vis Iran’s foreign policy in recent years, claiming “it is not clear whether this approach was engagement or confrontation”.

The comments were made in the course of a meeting entitled “Change in Foreign Policy in light of the Vision Plan”.

Rowhani, who remains a member of the Expediency Discernment Council, also stated, “the manoeuvring undertaken by the authorities of a country have an impact in increasing or decreasing the cost to a country. Authorities have titles in their possession, which are not for themselves but are the trust of the nation. The nation placed these titles in their control so they can be used to the benefit of the people. Moreover, these titles must not be ruined and must be returned in a fit state to the people until they hand it over to another individual”.

“Indisputably foreign policy must entail much preparation to the end of reaching the position of the first economic [power] in the region. The economy and economic growth without the use of foreign policy resources is not possible and without it, economic growth of 8 percent as laid out in the vision plan cannot be reached. Some researchers studied how to reach this goal, other than by means of domestic resources and how much foreign capital we need; and the number is a high one. Now it must be seen whether in the last seven years of which approximately a third has elapsed [i.e. the Vision Plan is predicated on a 20 year projection] foreign policy has prepared the necessary ground for economic growth in accordance with the plan or not…If foreign capital enters the country, it is brings the technology of the day along with it”.

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Former Chief Nuclear Negotiator Criticizes Ahmadinejad

Hassan Rowhani, a member of the Expediency Discernment Council and Iran’s former top nuclear negotiator has offered withering criticism of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a gathering in Tehran on Sunday. Rowhani, who still heads the Expediency Discernment Council’s think-tank, the Center for Strategic Research, has particularly criticized the government’s failure to support Iran’s own domestic industries stating, “production will not be mended with slogans and headlines”.

Rowhani continued by stating that the necessary conditions for “security in production” and “calm for producers” must be obtained and that security and calm were based on “the rule of law”.

He also questioned the government’s use of funds as a result of the subsidies reform programme, asking, “part of the subsidies money was meant to be deposited to support industry, but what happened?”

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