Khamenei Predicts ‘Epic’ Year Ahead

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, addressed the Iranian people yesterday with his Nowruz message. He began his speech by addressing “Iranians all across the world […] especially the dear ones who have sacrificed themselves, the families of martyrs, the veterans and their families.”

Khamenei likened the previous calendar year to life in general, in that it “had its sweet moments and bitter moments, its victories and defeats,” but he emphasized that “what is important is to get out of the valleys and take ourselves to the peaks.”

Ayatollah Khamenei reminded Iranians that “the enemies have targeted different fields, primarily in the political and economic arenas.”

He said that in the field of economics, the enemy “said that through sanctions they want to cripple the Iranian nation.” Although Khamenei said that there was “various growth” in the field of economics, ultimately “there was pressure put on the people,” which with their own “shortcomings and oversights, helped the enemy’s plans.”

In the field of politics, Khamenei said “that their plan was from one direction to isolate Iran and the other direction to create uncertainty and doubt, but the exact opposite happened.” Khamenei pointed to the fact that the 16th Summit of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was hosted in Tehran August 2012 as an indication that Iran has indeed not been isolated.

Khamenei said that “of what we are looking ahead to in the following year, the fields of economics and politics are of primary importance.” Khamenei reiterated the need to focus on “domestic production” and hoped that for the presidential elections, “the people, with their presence, will strive for a good future for the country and themselves.”

Ayatollah Khamenei concluded that “with this view, the next year will be named ‘The Year of Epic Politics and Epic Economics.’”

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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also addressed the political and economic situation in his Nowruz speech. In regards to economics, the president said “those who want ill for Iran, in an open cooperation between those inside and outside” the country, have put Iran “under unparalleled economic and psychological pressure to distort the historical successes and achievements” of his presidency.

Amadinejad spent a considerable part of his speech on the upcoming presidential elections. He predicted the elections would be “vibrant and have a near-100% participation rate,” and with a “decisive vote” elect a president that will address “domestic, regional and international” issues in the interests of Iran.  He continued that these elections “for the people and political leaders are a determinant and historical responsibility.”

The president said that Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leaders of the Islamic Republic’s history, have both previously said that even they “only have one vote, and the right of vote belongs to the nation.” While some found this comment to be a direct attack on Khamenei, others found it ironic given that many believe Ahmadinejad’s 2009 victory was achieved primarily through vote rigging that was inspired by Khamenei’s endorsement.

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.”