Iran’s Hard-liners Oppose US-Iran Negotiations, Handshake

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As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani landed in New York yesterday for the UN General Assembly with the apparent blessing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to solve Iran’s nuclear crisis, Iranian media has begun to speculate over whether Rouhani and US President Barack Obama would meet, or at least run into one another and shake hands.

Many Iranian Reformist publications have favorably covered the meeting between foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and appear to be eagerly anticipating the meeting on Thursday between Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry at a P5+1 ministerial meeting. Reformist newspaper Arman even published a picture of Zarif and Kerry shaking hands (above).

Iran’s hard-liners, however, have attempted to counter this enthusiasm.

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Guardian Council Denies Candidate’s Qualification Under Review

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Abbass Ali Kadkhodaei, spokesman for the Guardian Council, which vets potential candidates, has denied that moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani’s qualification to run for the presidency is under review. While legally the council has the authority to disqualify an already approved candidate just days before the election, the move would be a shock to many.

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Iran General: Israel’s Apology To Turkey Meant to Weaken ‘Regional Resistance’

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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

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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.