Hossein Shariatmadari, Kayhan‘s editor personally chosen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reminded President-elect Hassan Rouhani in an unusually softly worded editorial about the return of Reformists to the administration.
The presence of Ali Fallahian, the feared former intelligence minister of Iran, at a conference in celebration of president-elect Hassan Rouhani’s campaign staff has sparked controversy in Iranian media, prompting those close to Rouhani to deny that Fallahian was ever invited.
With Reformist candidate Mohammad Reza Aref pulling out of the presidential race and leaving Hassan Rouhani as the sole front-runner among the moderate candidates, the pressure now appears to be on conservatives, or Principilists, to either pull out of the race or build a coalition.
The contents of the first of a series of strategy sessions were presented to former Reformist president Mohammad Khatami yesterday to address the problems Iran is currently facing.
The contents of the session, which was signed by 46 former Khatami advisers, experts, analysts, economists and political and cultural activists, was presented under the name “Fears and Hopes, Dos and Don’ts.” The purpose of the session was “to find a path to free people from the various economic, social, political and cultural problems” they are facing. The various problems were described in various categories such as “social and cultural, economic,” and “political” sections. A list of 11 conditions, such as “freedom, justice,” and “civil rights” were also presented.
In response to the plan presented to him, Khatami wrote a short letter in appreciation. He wrote that he has “hope that the next steps […] to solve the problems” will be taken. Khatami’s positive response is seen by some as an indication he may be getting ready to announce his candidacy for the presidential elections this summer.
On Sunday Hojat Al-Islam Jaffar Shojouni, a member of the Society of Militant Clergy, predicted that Reformists would not be approved by the Guardian Council to participate in the presidential elections this summer. He also called Reformists either “stupid, ignorant or culpable” for the events surrounding the 2009 elections.
On Saturday, an opposition website reported that former Reformist politician Hossein Loghmanian was arrested in Hamedan on his way to visit Khatami in Tehran. Hamedan is just over 200 miles southwest of Tehran. Loghmanian was Hamedan’s representative in Iran’s 6th parliament. He was arrested alongside four companions described as “Reformist activists.” No reason for their arrested was given.
In Other News
An employee from the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran was involved in a car accident that left an Iranian citizen dead yesterday in north Tehran. The Saudi employee was reportedly drunk and speeding, and bottles of alcohol were found in his car. Alcohol is banned in Iran; however, a variety of alcoholic drinks are smuggled inside the country. The position of the Saudi employee was not given, and only his initials were provided by the Iranian media.
Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesperson for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said today that “a strong protest was sent to the [Saudi] embassy for this event from an individual that did not abide by domestic laws and exceeded speed limits […] that resulted in the death of an Iranian citizen.” Mehmanparast said that Iran would pursue “a diplomatic and legal” path in regards to this case.
Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jaffari Dowlatabadi announced on Sunday that 18 individuals have been indicted in relation the assassination of nuclear scientists. Jaffar Dowlatabadi said that “the following year, important work will be done, which I will announce now, and that is a number of people involved in the assassination of martyrs of the nuclear program.”
Jaffar Dowlatabadi added that the 18 people indicted “had designed many plans; they were considered our elites in the nuclear program,” adding that these indictments were a joint operation with the prosecutor’s office and the ministry of intelligence.
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.”
Hojjat al-Islam Mehdi Taeb, the head of the Ammar Strategic Base (an organization established to fight the “soft war” against the Islamic Republic of Iran), in a meeting with university student members of the Basij paramilitary force, has stated: “Syria is the 35th province [of Iran] and a strategic province for us. If the enemy attacks us and wants to appropriate either Syria or Khuzestan (in southern Iran), the priority is that we keep Syria.”
Taeb added: “If we keep Syria, we can get Khuzestan back too, but if we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran … Syria had an army, but did not have the ability to manage a war inside Syria’s cities. It is for this reason the Iranian government suggested that “in order to manage an urban war you must form a Basij …The Syrian Basij was formed with 60,000 [members] of the party of God [the religious and ideologically zealous] who took over the war in the streets from the army”.
Taeb also commented on the upcoming presidential election stating: “The main choices of the Reformists are [Mohammad Ali] Najafi, [Mohammad Reza] Aref, and Eshagh Jahangiri, although they still haven’t reached a conclusion on them. Hojjat al-Islam Mousavi Khoeiniha [the head of the Reformist Association of Combatant Clerics] says don’t participate in the election, but [former President Mohammad] Khatami says we will participate and his argument is that if we don’t enter [the election] we will forever be eliminated … The hit we [Taeb is now referring to himself and fellow radical Principalists] took from the last election was that Ahmadinejad was not a team player. If he stayed with the team of the ninth government [Ahmadinejad’s first term], he would have become a legend and the difficulties endured because of sanctions wouldn’t have been as much.”
Former Reformist Interior Minister, Hojjat al-Islam Abdollah Nuri, in a meeting at his home with students from Eastern Azerbaijan, has said that “we must not wait for a miraculous event to change the atmosphere”. Numerous other Reformist-inclined activists were present at the meeting and asked questions surrounding the future of the Reformist movement and the best course of action and strategy for the future.
The Reformist daily Etemaad quotes Nuri as saying, “today for the creation of dynamic and effective relations between the Reformists and the general public, particularly with the deprived classes, their various issues and hardships must have priority over the special concerns of political activists, and more or less a comparable priority alongside these concerns. [This is] because the most basic concern and preoccupation of the Reformist movement is the destiny of the country and the people. Political and student Reformist activists across the country with the creation of a kind of camaraderie and accompaniment of the people can point out the roots of the economic problems, deprivations and backwardness. The causes of the economic hardships and livelihood of the people must be clearly explained for society. Excessive emphasis regarding concerns it’s possible are not the first priority of the people causes us to be oblivious to the basic problems of the people and society. Our problems in truth are only a part of the difficulties of the whole of society and perhaps we don’t correctly perceive the depth of the problems and economic crises, because we were less amongst that segment of society and those individuals who were afflicted by these issues. This of course doesn’t mean that we must dilute our own concerns. Perhaps the objective is to make the public concerns of society a priority”.