A member of Iran’s presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani’s staff has been transferred to solitary confinement after being arrested on Saturday night, according to opposition website Kalame.
Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has once again issued statements about the potential of his candidacy for the Iranian presidency. Registration for candidates begins tomorrow and ends Saturday, May 11, at the Interior Ministry building. On his potential candidacy, Rafsanjani said to a group of Tehran University students, “I am currently assessing if it’s even needed for me to run.” He continued, “If I conclude that I should run, I need to speak to the leader [Khamenei] about the matter, because without his consent I will not run, and without his agreement, the result of my running for the elections will be the opposite [of what is desired].” In contrast to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Rafsanjani has expressed more concern about Iran’s current direction, going so far as saying recently that “if I feel that I can save the country, I will run.” He and Khamenei had long been considered two of Iran’s most powerful figures, but after the 2009 elections, Rafsanjani’s power and influence had decreased considerably. It is commonly known that both figures, and particularly their children, are at odds politically. Rafsanjani continued that “if a situation comes about that there are disputes between me and Khamenei, it will be to everyone’s detriment.” He added, “Our condition is bad, but it shouldn’t result in our despair. Rather, it should cause us to raise our consciousness.” On Saturday, Khamenei’s older brother, Ayatollah Mohammad Khamenei, criticized Rafsanjani’s position in the 2009 elections and the current presidential race. He said, “The enemies of the Islamic Republic put all their support behind the 2009 elections, and Mir Hussein Mousavi was picked by Rafsanjani and other opposition groups to pursue their own goals.” Mousavi ran as the Reformist candidate in the 2009 elections. He and his wife have been under house arrest for over two years without charge for contesting the results of those elections. Mohammad Khamenei, head of the Sadra Islamic Foundation, warned, “There is a new scenario by the experts and designers from American think tanks and their domestic advisers, who were the leaders of the 2009 sedition. In the new scenario, they’ve tried to present an individual who is likely to run and receive votes and be close to their intellectual perspective. What can be witnessed is that presumably, Rafsanjani is the best person for this plan and it makes no difference if he is aware of the depth of this conspiracy or not.” Mohammad Khatami, another potential presidential candidate, recently expressed his views on the presidential elections and the state of the country. He described Iran as being in “a suffocating security environment.” He added that “trust between the people and the government is gone. From the lower economic classes to the employers and the elite and especially the middle class and the young, they’ve lost their hope and trust, and this needs to be revived.” Khatami added that there must be “an understanding at the upper levels” of government. “Without Khamenei wanting it and without cooperating with him, these problems will not be solved. Someone needs to run for the elections who has this approach and understands the power of cooperation.”
The office of the Supreme Leader has issued a chart of the “dos” and “don’ts” for the media in covering the upcoming presidential elections this summer. Iranian media, particularly the websites that are close or attached to specific political figures, tend to be relentlessly aggressive in times of political turmoil, such as elections. The list consists of various statements Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has made on different aspects of the media. One side consists of a list of seven dos. The other consists of 13 don’ts.
The first recommendation is to “Add to the level of public awareness and analysis” because “people should analyze in order to understand that the system is beneficial for them.” The first point continued that whether writing about “politics, culture, economics, foreign policy and especially domestic issues, they must move in the interests of the system.”
The second point is the “three primary responsibilities: critique and monitor, spread information (truthfully and transparently), exchange of ideas.” The point added that “a free media is a sign of the growth of a nation;” however, Khamenei argued, “there other things that are of value and these freedoms must not trample those other things of value,” adding “one must be able to preserve freedom while at the same time understanding the truth, to have a free media while not provoking injuries.”
The third recommendation is for people “who write and speak” to “encourage people toward a better election.” The fourth point to journalists in the media is to “guard the elections as if it were a divine blessing” because “the enemy wants to use the elections against the security of the country.”
In the fifth recommendation, Khamenei warns that “criticism should be logical and realistic.” He offers the example of the media’s recent attention to Iran’s issues with domestic production and the closing of factories. He said, “If there is a factory that is experiencing problems and you want to state that with a realistic view, very good. In addition, for example, two other factories were also opened. If you point out the positive points, the country will understand the issue. If you don’t point out the positive points, the country will not understand the issue.”
Khamenei asked that “the electronic media also bind themselves to the law” in the sixth recommendation. Websites in Iran, as opposed to newspapers, sometimes have fewer bureaucratic hurdles to cross in order to produce their work and sometimes operate more freely. Bloggers have virtually no supervison except for Iran’s cyber police. In November of 2012, relatively unknown blogger Sattah Beheshti was apprehended by the cyber police and died a short time after in custody. Iran’s judiciary stated that while Beheshti had signs of abuse on his body, he may have died from shock. His case has been take up by various activists and online campaigns that have been critical about the lack of accountability in this case.
In the seventh recommendation, Khamenei warned about accepting and “quoting” lies and gossip about one another. He recited the verse from the Quran, “When you heard it, the believing men and the believing women should have had better thoughts about themselves, and should have said, ‘This is obviously a big lie.’ [24:12]” Although, on this last point, Khamenei elaborated that this was a “societal” problem.
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.”
Gholamhossein Ashraghi, head of public relations for the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), said yesterday that “in the continuation of making sanctions ineffective, bartering oil sales for goods and equipment is one of the methods being used to collect payments for oil.” Ashraghi, who is also an adviser to the director of NIOC, said that as far as neutralizing the effects of sanctions, “bartering oil for goods has been one of the most effective methods in this direction. Meanwhile, the NIOC, in cooperating with Iran’s Central Bank, also has other approaches to collect payments.”
In regard to the expansion of the bartering programs, Ashraghi said that “with consideration of the numerous advantages, today, part of our international contracts will be designed and implemented through bartering.” He added that “under present conditions, one of the positive aspects of bartering is that it secures the collection of payments from crude oil. Using this method can diversify foreign trade in the field of the oil industry and based on the plans that were conducted, a significant part of the oil revenues can be acquired through various means.”
Potential presidential candidate and mayor of Tehran Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf sat down with Tasnim News Agency to present his positions on foreign policy and economics. Ghalibaf, who is part of the 2+1 Coalition along with foreign-policy adviser Ali Akbar Velayati and Gholam Ali Hadded Adel, shared his ideas on the Western sanctions against Iran, the nuclear program and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial remarks on the Holocaust.
Ghalibaf said the “nuclear issue is our most important foreign-policy topic.” He added that “the nuclear case is a national and macro case that all the administrations will pursue within the framework of the system.” The decisions on the nuclear program are made through Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office. Ghalibaf, however, added that “one must discern between strategy and tactics on the nuclear issue.” While the “strategy for the system is clear,” he differentiated his positions on the issue of “tactics.”
The mayor of Tehran believes that tactics can take the form of diplomacy, which he believes he would perform better than Ahmadinejad. He said “steps were taken and words were said that not only did not help us push our programs forward, but it also gave our opponents the opportunity to gather others against us. Controversial but useless remarks and slogans and presentations struck a blow against us and weakened our rightful position.” As president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made controversial comments about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, homosexuals in Iran and the Holocaust, among other topics which received international attention and condemnation.
“Our legal position can only be realized through an intelligent and rational diplomacy,” Ghalibaf said. “There was a time when they used to say the sanctions are torn pieces of paper. Now they are saying that they are crippling, and they are the cause of all the problems. … A rational view says that the sanctions are neither torn pieces of paper, nor will removing them fix all of the problems.” Ahmadinejad had made defiant statements against the sanctions, and had even dared the West to pass more at one point. However, domestically, the issue of how much sanctions have affected the economy is a source of contention. Often, statements regarding to what extent sanctions have affected the economy are made with political rather than economic intentions and insights.
On Ahmadinejad’s statements regarding the Holocaust, Ghalibaf asked, “for instance, where did the case of the Holocaust take us?” He continued, “We were never against Judaism; it’s a religion. What we opposed was Zionism. We’ve been the major supporters of Palestine for 30 years, but with the intelligence of Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei, no one could accuse us of being anti-Semitic. But suddenly without consideration for the results and implications, the issue of the Holocaust was raised. How did his benefit the revolution or the Palestinians?”
Ghalibaf added that it became an “excuse for our biggest enemies, which are the Zionists, and affected the goals of the Palestinians. Defending the goals of the Palestinians is part of the principles of our foreign policy. Denying the Holocaust is not part of our foreign policy.” He added that “we have seen a lot of damages in the area of foreign policy” due to this type of politics.
On the potential of Iran-US negotiations, Ghalibaf said that “negotiations are neither taboo, nor will they solve all of the problems. Negotiations are a tool. When it’s necessary at points, we will certainly negotiate with America. Negotiating with America has never been a red line for us.” Iran’s foreign policy is ultimately decided by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and if there are to ever be direct negotiations between the two countries, they would be need to be approved by him first.
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.
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
Iranian media has given the Boston bombing and the subsequent manhunt extensive coverage. Most media outlets confined themselves to reprinting the photos of the events with straight reporting. Some other sites and Tehran Friday prayer believed there were larger lessons to be gleaned from this event.
In response to the manhunt in Boston for the marathon bombers Fars News Agency ran with the headline, “Will America Now Have to Confront Salafis in Its Own Streets?” Ali Reza Karimi wrote, in a long article covering several decades of US foreign policy, “Jihadi Salafism, which is a type of Salafism, has not only entangled itself with the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Iraq, but that virus that the United States nourished in the region now has inflicted America.” He used the analysis of a Stratfor article about the Boston bombers which said, “The jihadist threat now predominantly stems from grassroots operatives who live in the West rather than teams of highly trained operatives sent to the United States from overseas.” Continue reading
On April 16, Saham News, a website close to Mehdi Karroubi, published an article which quoted an anonymous source who was present at a meeting between the head of the Expediency Council, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and provincial governors during Rafsanjani’s and Mohammad Khatami’s presidencies. The following day, the public-relations department of the Expediency Council denied the reports attributed to Rafsanjani.