With Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) set to meet on Nov. 20 in Geneva to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, Kayhan, whose editor is chosen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has questioned the continuation of talks after it was reported that Iran has reduced some of its nuclear activity, suggesting that a concession to do so was influenced by the same people who, with the help of the United States and Israel, brought millions of protesters to the streets after the contested 2009 presidential elections.
After anti-American billboards were removed from the streets of Tehran, Iranian hard-liners promised that they’d be back.
The posters, which received much attention online and were even criticized by Reformist newspapers, were put up shortly after Iranian negotiators returned from Geneva after meeting with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) and held direct talks with the United States.
Most of the posters depicted two men sitting at a table facing one another. One showed a US official wearing a suit jacket but military fatigues beneath, and holding a shotgun under the table pointed at the Iranian negotiator, who wore the customary grey suits of Iranian officials. In another poster, next to the American official stood a snarling dog held back by a leash. In English, the text read, “The US Government Styles Honesty” and in Persian, “American Honesty.”
After much attention and controversy, Tehran municipality spokesman Seyed Mohammad Hadi Ayazi said that there was no agreement with the city in regard to putting up the billboards, so many were collected and taken off the streets.
Kayhan editor Hossein Shariatmadari questioned the move to remove the billboards. He wrote that they “had no other message than to warn about American dishonesty” and that they would help the negotiating team rather than weaken it.
Hard-line Mashregh defended the billboards as accurate depictions of the American position in negotiations, writing, “The interesting point about the billboards is that no matter how diplomatic the negotiator acts above the table, underneath the table they use violent tools and arms pointed at the Iranian negotiator.” As evidence for this position, the article said that after US President Barack Obama spoke with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in what was called a historic step between the two countries, he immediately met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said that with respect to Iran, “We take no options off the table,” meaning the military option against Iran is still present.
In an article titled “The Billboards Will Return To the City,” another Kayhan piece republished by Ansar-e Hezbollah, strongly criticized the removal of the posters and blamed members of the Iranian negotiation team for putting pressure on municipal Tehran officials to remove the posters.
The editorial said, “In the last few days, some of the compromising community, hiding behind the policy of the administration, labeled the artistic revolutionary designs of “American Honesty” as disturbing to the nuclear negotiations. And with this ridiculous excuse, they put so much pressure on the city that they were forced to remove many of the posters from Tehran.” It called the removal “cultural bullying” and expressed “serious criticism toward some of the inappropriate actions of our diplomats.”
The editorial concluded that the billboards will return during Ashura, when Shiites mourn Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
The editorial explained, “We have not installed all of the billboards” and that on Ashura, “The entire city will yell ‘Hussein’ and on that day, no one will want to negotiate with Yazid.” Imam Hussain was brutally killed on the orders of Yazid in 680 CE because he would not submit to Yazid’s unjust rule. The name “Yazid” has become synonymous with an unjust or oppressive ruler for the Shiites. The article continued, “Our billboards will return to the city. We will never reach a win-win with Yazid.” Rouhani administration officials have insisted that Iran and the West, particularly the United States, reach a “win-win” solution.
The posters were designed by Ehsan Mohammad Hassani, who manages Oj, the company that paid to have the billboards installed in Tehran.
The editor of Kayhan newspaper has come under intense criticism for his attacks in an op-ed against former Reformist president Mohammad Khatami. Kayhan’s editor is picked by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the paper is distributed widely in government offices.
On Monday, Hossein Shariatmadari wrote that “these days, some people who in a clear way and with hundreds of undeniable documents revealing their role in the 2009 sedition as a fifth column for America, Israel, England, — ‘corrupt on earth’ and ‘traitor’ are the clearest words to describe them — by announcing their candidacy for the presidency … which clearly has been initiated by those outside the country, talk about returning to the key responsibilities of the system.”
Although Khatami was not mentioned by name, it was clear he was the individual Shariatmadari was writing about for his position during the 2009 protests and his recent statement regarding his possible candidacy for the presidency. A conviction for being “corrupt on earth” carries the death penalty.
Shariatmadari continued “It should be asked: Where in the world and based on what legal system is the enemy’s recognized fifth column even allowed to breath?” He continued, “Can the leaders and agents of the sedition point to any action that was not a direct recommendation from America, Israel and England? Is not the claim of fraud in the elections, with the recommendation of the Zionist George Soros, made with the goal of attacking the republicanism of the system? Is not the chant “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, my life for Iran” a desire of the Zionist regime against International Quds Day?” Quds (Jerusalem) Day began after the 1979 Iranian revolution under Ayatollah Khomeini to show support for the Palestinian people.
The article also pointed to statements made by Barack Obama, Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu in support of the protest movements, asking, “Did they not leave their fingerprints on the traitorous identity of the seditionists?”
Shariatmadari concluded that “the leaders and agents of the sedition not only do not have the smallest qualification for the most insignificant positions, but should expect to be tried and punished.”
Mohsen Ismaeli, a member of the Guardian Council, which vets potential candidates, responded to Shariatmadari’s article. He said that “no one can judge on behalf of the Guardian Council. After the registrations, the Guardian Council will announce those approved. These speculations have no basis or influence on the Guardian Council, and perhaps they’re not appropriate for the political climate of the country.” He added, “So far, no discussions about any particular candidate have been raised” in the Guardian Council.
The opposition Kalameh website, which is close to Mir Hussein Mousavi, wrote in response to Shariatmadari’s op-ed that “this isn’t Shariatmadari’s first immoral and unprofessional act, and it won’t be his last … because he learned journalism through artillery training and politics through Sepah’s (Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps) political office.” The article added “eventually, we have to know whether Shariatmadari is a media activist, the supreme leader’s representative or a judge.”
Mohammad Khatami has not responded to Shariatmadari’s latest attack, either directly or indirectly. The Entekhab website reported today that “it is certain that Seyyed Mohammad Khatami will not run in the elections.” No official statement from Khatami has yet been released.
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.”
Commander Yahya Rahim Safavi, former Revolutionary Guards chief and advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Iran’s joint chiefs of staff, in the course of a meeting of ex-servicemen in Tehran has warned of the prospect of a “new sedition from some inside [the country]” and also ominously stated that if “we sense a danger to the regime, we will enter the arena.”
Former Interior Minister and high-ranking Reformist politician, Abdollah Nouri, in the course of a meeting with members of the Central Council of the Islamic Society of the University of Tehran and Medical Sciences of Tehran, stated that “we will try to free Mrs. [Mehdi] Karroubi, [Mir Hossein] Mousavi and Mrs. [Zahra] Rahnavard and [the other] political prisoners”.
With respect to the prospect of changing the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, Nouri, who is a former member of the Council for the Re-examination of the Constitution said, “the constitution is not a sacred book and was written by the same individuals with the same qualifications, personalities and society and despite germane criticisms it for the prevention of disorder and chaos and the pivot for the movement of all [political] currents in pursuit of comprehensive reform and [who] form a critical front. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic was re-examined at one time and it was also predicted in [the document] that it is reformable. Of course it is not predictable at what time and in what conditions the decision to re-examine the constitution again will be taken. Necessarily, it is deserving of reflection and attention [whether] the civil institutions and defenders of the rights of the nation will have a bigger role and influence or the reverse. It will become clear with time”.
Hossein Shariatmadari, who is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative at the Kayhan institute and editor of Kayhan newspaper, has written a critical op-ed of both the Reformist and the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad government.
In the article Shariatimadari rebuts Reformist politicians’ statements to the effect, that Ahmadinejad’s turbulent relationship with the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards, not to mention alleged “economic mismanagement”, confirms their early criticisms of Ahmadinejad. Needless to say, Shariatmadari rejects the Reformist’s conclusion i.e. that Ahmadinejad was always trouble, and defends Ahmadinejad’s disputed landslide electoral victory in June 2009. Shariatmadari is also sure to praise Ahmadinejad’s frontal assault on the “private interests” of the Executives of Reconstruction close to former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (though he does not mention Rafsanjani by name) and the Reformist political elite.
Shariatmadari is also keen to praise Ahmadinejad for “throwing the myth of the Holocaust to the wind”.
Both Ayatollah Khamenei and Shariatmadari himself find themselves in a bind, since they confirmed and defended Ahmadinejad after the unparalleled post-election unrest which witnessed up to 3 million people demonstrate through Tehran’s streets in protest of alleged vote rigging. They had not foreseen that their relationship with Ahmadinejad would also come under strain, as the president sought to consolidate and aggrandise his position and that of his close-knit circle of allies, in the political establishment of the Islamic Republic.
Shariatmadari states that a “deviant circle” has appeared in the midst of the Ahmadinejad government, which has strayed from “some Islamic and revolutionary and popular teachings”. He goes on, “if only Mr. Ahmadinejad had kept guard of the vote of the people and the sanctity of the election of the people and according to the enemy, had not broken the pact of friendship. The people voted for Ahmadinejad in 2005 and not to the deviant current. The trust of the people which is a sacred custodianship in his possession, must not fall to the deviant current. Does Mr. Ahmadinejad not see that the closer he gets to the deviant current, by the same amount he distances himself from the people and the authentic line of the revolution?”
President Ahmadinejad’s press advisor Ali Akbar Javanfekr, who is currently serving an ongoing sentence in Evin jail, has been replaced as head of the Islamic Republic News Agency. In accordance with an order by Mohammad Hosseini, the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Majid Amidi Sharaki, has been appointed to Javanfekr’s position.
Javanfekr who was previously a special correspondent for IRNA, based in the Supreme Leader’s office, returned to Evin jail, after a stint in hospital and during that time was visited by President Ahmadinejad.
This comes after Ahmadinejad was not permitted to visit Evin prison by the Judiciary in October 2012, which led to a fiery exchange between the president and judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani.
Javanfekr’s position as government representative to the supervisory council of Seda va Sima, the Islamic Republic state broadcasting service, was also given to government spokesman, Gholamhossein Elham.
Gholamreza Kateb, the Spokesman for the Majles Budgetary and Planning Commission, quoting the Minister of Oil, Rostam Qassemi, has said that the sale of oil has decreased by 40% and gas revenues have decreased by 45%, compared with the same time last year.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits Ali Akbar Javanfekr in hospital before the latter returns to Evin prison via Fars News
Hossein Shariatmadari, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative at Kayhan newspaper claimed in the course of a meeting in Yazd that “Saudi Arabia sent money for the leaders of the sedition [i.e. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the nominal heads of the Green Movement] but banking issues were an obstacle to its transfer to Iran”.
Shariatmadari continued, “if not for the shadow of the [Ayatollah Khamenei], until now the revolution would have been defeated a 100 times and would have seen the country trampled under the feet of foreign militaries…Today our country is in the strongest circumstances since the revolution and the enemy is in the weakest of condition”.
Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the hardline Keyhan newspaper and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative to the Keyhan Institute, on Wednesday called former President Mohammad Khatami a “traitor” and “betrayer of his country” because of his meeting with the Hungarian-American business magnate George Soros and questioning the result of the 2009 presidential election.
On the Domestic Front
Deputy Speaker, Mohammadreza Bahonar, has claimed it likely that former Majles Speaker and former presidential candidate Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, will run for the presidency in 2013. Bahonar also greeted the prospect of Tehran Mayor, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, running.
Nateq-Nouri has long been targeted by President Ahmadinejad and his allies. Most recently, Nateq-Nouri delivered a speech in Mashhad during the month of Ramadan, which was overrun by plainclothes partisans of hardline IRGC ideologue Saeed Qassemi, an act which has been criticized by prominent Conservative establishment figures.