Will Losing Candidates Join Rouhani Cabinet?

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With Hassan Rouhani’s landslide victory, the futures of some his competitors appear uncertain. Websites that supported Rouhani’s campaign have already begun to speculate who the president-elect will pick for his cabinet. Mojtaba Hosseini has written in Reformist newspaper Etemad about the next steps for the five losing candidates.

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Iranians Choose A Centrist As Next President

 Iranian presidential candidate Rohani waves to supporters in the central Iranian city of Shiraz

With a 72% voter turnout Iranians have picked moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani with an overwhelming margin over his conservative and hard-line counterparts.

Rouhani, a 64-year-old cleric who labeled himself a “moderate” and who has been able to work with both sides and has avoided extremes, often criticized the “security environment” that has become prevalent in the country in the last few years and has touted his credentials as capable negotiator when he was in charge of nuclear negotiations with the West. In his television interviews he was often engaging and not afraid to go on the offensive. In the last few days before election day, with the withdrawal of reformist Mohammad Reza Aref and the support of reformist former President Mohammad Khatami and Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, Rouhani began to draw large crowds at rallies, suggesting the momentum was in his favor. Continue reading

Khamenei’s Recommendations to the Media for Covering Elections

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.

Potential Presidential Candidate Says Holocaust Denial Was Damaging

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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.

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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.