Ahmadinejad ‘Will Never Leave’

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Samina Rastegar wrote an op-ed in Reformist newspaper Etemad that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “speaks in such a way that he will never leave the political scene.” The president cannot run for a third term, but there are many indications he is actively promoting his longtime ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, and perhaps even others, for the presidential elections in June.

Rastegar referenced a speech the president made to his governors recently in which he said “I believe the future administration will reach a higher level than my previous two terms because the revolution and the nation is moving toward completion, and the indication of that is what the Iranian nation is introducing today.”

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Reformists seek meeting with Khamenei to discuss elections

According to a March 3 report by the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), Mohammad Javad Hagshenas, the deputy director of the Reformist Front, has confirmed that his group sent a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei requesting a meeting.

The Reformist Front, which consists of various organizations and political parties, sent the letter two weeks ago to the Office of the Supreme Leader to start a conversation with Khamenei on addressing their “concerns about the next presidential elections, the political atmosphere of the country, political campaigning and the presence of reformists in these elections.” Hagshenas said that Khamenei had not yet responded to the request.

Etemaad had reported on Feb. 18 that three prominent reformists had met privately with Khamenei. Details of that meeting were not made public, but it was known to be the first meeting between the supreme leader and members of the reformist camp since the contested presidential elections of 2009.

Due to reformist support of the protests that erupted following those elections, leaders of the major reformists groups were arrested. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, the two reformist candidates in the election, remain under house arrest, as does Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard. Hagshenas said that the various reformist blocs have approved of Mohammad Khatami’s candidacy in the next election, but they are “awaiting his response to this decision.”

Meanwhile, in an interview Mar. 3 with ISNA, Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani expressed his opposition to a new regulation limiting access to photographers at open parliamentary sessions. The rule, which was presented along with 13 other unrelated regulations, has not been ratified but has become the center of minor controversy. If approved, it would restrict photographers to the first hour of each session and require the Speaker’s discretion for any additional time.

Member of parliament Mehdi Koochazadeh had offered his assessment of the photographers on Feb. 27, when he stated in open session, “It’s true that everyone that is here has the title of a journalist, but some of them are corrupt and pornographers.” Pictures of Majlis members asleep in their chairs, with their heads on their tables and sitting on the floor in groups have circulated widely on social media outlets, such as Facebook, and have made the representatives the target of widespread ridicule and mockery.

In government news, Zahra Tabibzadeh, a member of the Committee for Education and Research, denied in an interview with the Fars News Agency on Mar. 3 that she will replace Marzieh Dastjerdi as minister of health. Dastjerdi became Iran’s first female minister in September 2009, but was sacked Dec. 27, after complaining publicly that the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had not allocated adequate funding for the purchase of medicine.

Other media sites reprinted her interview because of what she said after denying the replacement rumors: “I’m fundamentally opposed to women becoming ministers,” Tabibzadeh said. She explained, “Women in our country still do not have the experience for management on a large scale.” Tabibzadeh concluded that picking a female minister for its own sake was simply “propaganda and not in the interest of the country.”

Has Iran’s presidential election begun on Facebook?

Facebook Rezaei

Serat News reports on the various Facebook profile pages of Iranian politicians and “probable electoral candidates.” The Serat editorial states that the country’s electoral laws prohibit premature electioneering and that doing so can be interpreted as an electoral violation. Nonetheless, the article goes on, several individuals have “circumvented” the law by setting up Facebook profiles and fan pages.

Facebook Qalibaf

The article continues that while clerics who plan to compete in the presidential race such as Ali Fallahian and Mostafa Pourmohammadi, have not shown themselves particularly disposed toward “modern advertising,” laymen such as Mohsen Rezaei, Mohammad Reza Bahonar and Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf have an active presence on the social networking site, with multiple accounts bearing their names.

Facebook Jalili

Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, and Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, a member of the 2+1 presidential electoral coalition and in-law to Iran’s supreme leader, also have a presence on Facebook with pages dedicated to their online promotion. Serat does, however, admit that it is often not entirely clear who is, in fact, responsible for running these profiles and fan pages.

Facebook Haddad Adel

Serat was also sure to mention a page entitled “I hate Mashaei,” attacking President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial ally, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

When speaking of the Reformist candidates, the article claims that their presence is less significant, only mentioning Mohammad Reza Aref and Mostafa Kavakebian. No mention is made of former President Mohammad Khatami, or Interior Minister Abdollah Nuri, who it has also been speculated could attempt to run.

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Online Activism Further Targeted Ahead of Controversial Election

Digarban, quoting Fars News, has reported that online activism calling for the boycott or decreased participation in this year’s presidential election, or protests, sit ins and strikes has been announced illegal.

The announcement was made by the Working Group for the Determination of Criminal Content, which is responsible for internet censorship inside Iran.

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Former top nuclear negotiator set to run for the presidency?

Tasnim News has claimed that the candidacy of Hassan Rowhani in June’s presidential election has become “final.” Hassan Rowhani is a member of the Assembly of Experts, the Expediency Discernment Council and a member of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). He was also formerly Iran’s top nuclear negotiator as head of the SNSC.

The conservative news outlet, Entekhab, also reported on the likelihood of Rowhani’s candidacy, saying, “this experienced political activist described as being in the Principalist circle, apart from attracting a large number of the Principalists, is also subject to serious support by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and the leaders of the Principalist Front”.

“He has a good image amongst foreign governments and most think [Rowhani] a very desirable and valuable choice for the Principalists, and even the Reformists.”

It should be noted that Rowhani has been especially vocal in recent weeks, not merely criticizing the Ahmadinejad government’s foreign policy, but also addressing domestic issues such as the high rate of youth unemployment in Iran’s cities.

In other news

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission  told Khane-ye mellat, the Majles’ news agency that, “the Agency’s [International Atomic Energy Agency] exit from the Western puzzle is a condition for negotiations yielding results with Iran.”

Boroujerdi added, “For the Agency to take a step forward in the negotiations with Tehran, it must base its reports on a legal rather than political principle… The IAEA must in its negotiations with the Islamic Republic save itself from the political pressures of America and the West so that it can undertake its obligation to support countries which are members of the Agency.”

Gholam Hossein Esmaili, the chief of the Organization of Prisons, in conversation with the Islamic Republic News Agency, has claimed that “we do not have any religious or doctrinal prisoners”.

“Someone who perpetrates a crime, regardless of doctrinal inclination, or tribal [affiliation], is treated accordingly and in fact no one in the country is imprisoned for the beliefs they have or adhering to a particular religion…With the occurrence of a crime and treatment of a criminal, the law does not recognize Shia, Sunni or Bahai.”

With Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election as prime minister of Israel, the hard-line outlet Mashreq News reports on an article posted on Bloomberg by American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg [Mashreq doesn’t post the link to the original article], commenting on President Barack Obama’s strained relations with Netanyahu.

“It is reported that Barack Obama recently in a private conversation has said that Netanyahu doesn’t have the power to identify Israel’s interests and his actions will conclude in Israel’s severe international isolation.”

“According to Goldberg after the approval of Palestine’s observer-state status at the United Nations, Obama in a private gathering said, ‘Israel doesn’t know where its interests lie.’ He also said about Netanyahu’s decision to continue building settlements: Netanyahu is taking Israel in the direction of total isolation.”

“Obama believes if the small government of Israel in an unwelcoming region, loses its only friend and ally, America, it will be destroyed. Iran is a short-term threat for Israel, but the behaviour of the Israeli authorities threatens the government of Israel in the long term.”

Revolutionary Guard Chief Holds Press Conference

Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) delivered an important speech at a press conference on Sunday, which has been reported by virtually all of the Iranian news outlets. What follows below is a summary and translation of the key parts of the Commander’s speech and some of his answers to journalists’ questions. The speech should be regarded as significant and news of the press conference was announced on several news agencies a number of days in advance.

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