The Syrian army has reportedly retaken control over the city of Qusair in Homs province after a year of Syrian rebels controlling the city. Qusair witnessed heavy fighting and many casualties on both sides, and stood out especially due to the heavy presence of Lebanese Hezbollah’s fighters who fought on the side of the Syrian army. Iran has invested heavily in keeping President Bashar al-Assad’s government in power and is the main sponsor of Hezbollah.
Mohammad Reza Aref, former first vice president from 2001-2005 under former president Mohammad Khatami, registered for Iran’s presidential elections today. Aref, who is currently a member of the Expediency Council, an advisory body to the supreme leader, said that soon a united Reformist candidate would be introduced among the other potential candidates. He is perhaps the most well known Reformist candidate to register thus far.
At an “Islamic Awakening” conference in Mashhad Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s top foreign-policy adviser said that “today, the arrogant powers have targeted Syria, which in reality is the golden link in the chain of resistance.” Iran believes itself to be in an “Axis of Resistance” with Syria and Hezbollah against Israeli and American hegemony in the region. They also refer to the “Arab Spring” uprisings as “Islamic Awakenings.”
Ali Akbar Velayati, who is also the secretary-general of the World Assembly of the Islamic Awakening, added that the “[arrogant powers] had the goal from the beginning, under the name of “Arab Spring” to overthrow the [Syrian] government, but with the support of Israel and Saudi Arabia, in actuality something else took place.”
Conservative website Baztab Emrooz has published an op-ed by Foad Sadeghi asking Iran’s two previous presidents, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, to help Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “save” Iran by participating in the upcoming elections.
The article shares that based on the speeches of Ayatollah Khamenei, “the fundamental issue of the elites of the country, in the 40 days remaining until the process of the elections officially starts, is to present solutions to pass through the critical conditions and unprecedented threats” facing Iran.
The article listed eight issues that Iran is facing, with the first one being “the American and Israeli position against Iran’s nuclear program, which has turned into an international issue that has been taken up the Security Council.” Other issues were the “acceptance” of the “events of the 2009 elections” and addressing “the undeniable, tangible effects of the economic sanctions.” Continue reading
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, in a Tehran press conference with Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, said Sunday that “Syria, like all other governments, has a legal president that has come [chosen] from the people. And the people of Syria, like all other countries in the world, choose their own president, and until the next elections, the president is Bashar Assad.” Al-Monitor’s Week in Review originally covered this story.
Salehi continued that in the next elections “everyone should be free to present their own candidate.” He stressed that “this is the official position of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He also suggested that Assad like all others can participate in Syria’s next presidential elections in 2014.
Salehi defended Assad’s crackdown, which has left more than 70,000 dead, by saying that “we cannot ask Syria to lay down their arms while rebels do as they want.”
Salehi described Iran-Syria relations as “deep and bright” and said that Iran “will never forget the support of Syria during the imposed war,” in a reference to the eight-year Iran-Iraq that began when Iraq’s troops invaded Iran in 1980. Syria was the only Arab country to support Iran while Arab states in the Persian Gulf and North Africa financially and logistically supported Iraq. The Iran-Iraq war is also known as “The Sacred Defense.”
Interestingly, Salehi described Syria’s current situation also as an “imposed crisis.” However, he added that Iran has always emphasized that Syria’s government “must be answerable to the demands of the nation by realizing the demands of its citizens.”
Iran has invested heavily to support Assad in Syria’s civil war, both financially and military. On Feb. 14 Hassan Shateri, a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, was killed. Surprisingly, Salehi’s statements received scant coverage in Iranian media. As the Iranian economy continues to struggle, the Islamic Republic’s support of Assad has become increasingly unpopular at home.
In Other News
A new wave of raids of took place yesterday when security forces entered the offices of three publications. The Director, Mohammad Mehdi Imami Naseri, and Political Editor, Alireza Aghaeirad, from Maghreb newspaper were both arrested.
Upon news of the raids, several websites inside Iran had reported that three publications, the monthly Mehrnameh, the weekly Aseman and Tajrobeh, were shut down. All publications are known to be close to the Reformists. However, the editor of Mehranmeh, Mohammad Ghoochani, said that, “until this moment he had not received any letters from either the Press Supervisory Body or the Prosecutor’s” to shut down operations. However, it has been reported that the editors of the three publications had been “recommended” to shut down operations.
No reasons for the arrests of the Maghreb employees was given. However, editor of Maghreb wrote that the journalist were arrested “one day after publishing a letter by Mohammad Khatami.” Khatami is the former Reformist president of Iran who still has popular support among Reformists. Many believe these waves of arrests of journalists are meant to sideline Reformists before the upcoming presidential elections in Iran.
March 5 to March 12 in Iran is known as “Natural Resource Week.” The first day of this week has been designated “National Tree Planting Day.” Political leaders in Iran from the Supreme Leader to the president to the mayor, accompanied by the press, planted trees and stressed the importance of the environment on Tuesday.
After the tree planting ceremony Ayatollah Khamenei addressed in his speech the concerning level of deforestation in Iran. “The complaint I have with the political leaders,” he said, “at times, hundreds of trees that should not be cut down are cut down.” He also addressed the alarming trend in Iran of confiscation of “green” land on the outskirts of large cities that are converted to “concrete and high-rise towers.”
Due to the high rate of urbanization of Iran’s cities, land on the outskirts have been confiscated, sometimes through back-door dealings, and has made investors with connections to the government quite wealthy.
Mostafa Tajzadeh, former deputy minister of the interior and one of Iran’s leading Reformist figures, currently imprisoned in Evin jail, has written a highly critical letter addressed to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, stating, “the result of your support for [Bashar] Assad is a war between Shia and Sunni.”
Tajzadeh stated that Khamenei’s “absolute defense” of the Syrian president was his biggest mistake of the last two years, adding that continuing such a policy will result in the expansion of the war to Lebanon and Iraq.
Tajzadeh also stressed that the confrontation in Syria is not merely one of the United States and West against Russia and China, but has been transformed into an “arena of struggles” between Salafi forces and non-Salafis, Shia Syrians, Iraqis and Lebanese.
Tajzadeh, who has written a number of critical letters to Iran’s leader since his arrest following Iran’s 2009 presidential election, added that following the Arab Spring it is clear that the people of the region have rejected the Iranian model for emulation. He further argued that the Arab world’s rejection of the Iranian model is due to the “absolute power of a person over 70 percent of the powers” of the state, claiming that “such a regime is similar to authoritarian regimes like that of the Pahlavis, Mubarak, Qaddafi and Assad.”
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.”
A number of outlets offer conflicting reports regarding the death of the Revolutionary Guards’ commander, Hossein Shateri, the chief of Iran’s Headquarters for Reconstruction in Lebanon. Abna news agency reports that this Commander of the Revolutionary Guards was killed in Lebanon at the hands of “agents of Israel.”
It has also been reported that Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force, visited the home of Shateri, expressing his condolences to the family of the deceased. Soleimani is also said to have confirmed Shateri’s death soon after it was initially reported.
His funeral ceremony was held Thursday [Feb. 14] in Tehran; it was attended by high-level members of the IRGC command.
While Fars News doesn’t specify the location of Shateri’s death, the non-Iran based website Digarban has reported that a well-known pro-Hezbollah activist and also the Iran-based website Blogh.ir have reported that Shateri was killed along with two other companions in Aleppo by “mercenaries of the Zionist regime.”
According to Fars, Shateri, who also went by the name of Engineer Hesam, was responsible for the reconstruction of southern Lebanon in the aftermath of Hezbollah’s 33-day conflict with Israeli forces in 2006.
Mashreq News has posted several photos of Shateri while on duty in Lebanon.
In other news
The Reformist daily Etemaad reports that former Health Minister, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, might be presented by Principalist women organisations such as the Society of Zeinab as a possible presidential contender.
“If during her time at the ministry Dastjerdi was faced with little commotion and rarely made political statements, but her removal according to many was very “political” and has been announced as following disagreement with some of the president’s and his supporters’ demands and resistance to the removal of her deputy Mohammad Baqer Larijani from the Chair of the Medical Faculty of the University of Tehran.”
The head of the Basij paramilitary, Commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi has spoken out regarding both Iran’s negotiations with the P5+1 [ithe five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany] stating: “Some people naively think negotiations with America are important and fruitful, when it is more than 10 years that we are negotiating with the P5+1 group and since these negotiations over 10 years haven’t had a result, negotiations with America won’t work either.”
“They want to pull down the flag of combat against Arrogance which is in Iran’s control, when the Americans have undertaken the most belligerent behaviour in history with the Islamic Republic of Iran and the people, and all the limbs of America commit evil against Iran and with its own language, [America] announces its intention to negotiate.”
Moreover, while not invoking former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani by name, there was little doubt about who Naqdi was criticizing when he said: “These are the same extremists that in the days of the sedition did not show any compassion for Friday prayers, Jerusalem Day and Ashura. How do they today partake in gestures of moderation? Someone who resists the Judiciary over the trial of his family cannot espouse moderation.”
Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and a prospective presidential contender, in a gathering of media outlets from Tunisia, Yemen and Afghanistan, has stated, “When Arab countries understood the hand of America and some reactionary Arab governments are active in Syria, they moved to the side of a political solution.”
Velayati added: “The people of Syria were in pursuit of reform of their own affairs and this was a rightful demand and in order to reach it they embarked on a struggle with the government…These countries are moving towards the formation of a unified Islamic community and transforming the Islamic world into one of the great global powers…In every country the people decide to cast an undesirable government aside and put a desirable government to use.”
The hard-line Ayatollah and patron of the Endurance Front for the Islamic Front, Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, at a doctrinal meeting for the Law Enforcement Forces said that “humanity without religion is mere bestiality,” complaining that after 34 years since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, “the signs of a proclivity towards humanism” is still seen the books and articles of Iranian writers.
Image via Blogh.ir
Commander Yahya Rahim Safavi, advisor to the Supreme Leader and the Joint Chiefs of Staff has stated, “the Americans think they must have a presence in West Asia and North Africa to ensure the survival and security of the Zionist regime and to create a strategic rival in confrontation with Iran, this rival is Turkey”.
Referring to a 2012 United States’ National Security Report approved by President Barack Obama, Safavi said, “in this document of the Americans they introduced this as the biggest economic and security threat to America and in this same document Iran is mentioned as a regional threat and they have strengthened the Fifth naval fleet in the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean, so they can preserve their dominance in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans and control the global economy and energy”.
Safavi emphasized further, “in regional issues and matters, the Americans don’t want Iran to be the first power of the region, and because of this they created the issues in Syria and with the money of some Arab countries and the politicking of America and deputyship of Turkey, they pursue Syria’s destabilization”.
Hojjat al-Islam Ali Saeidi, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative in the Revolutionary Guards,said in a speech delivered in the southern city of Bushehr: “We have several kinds of readiness for the reappearance of the Hidden Imam, such as individual and social readiness which does not instigate [his reappearance], individual readiness which does instigate [his reappearance] and a third kind of readiness which helps create the government of the Hidden Imam before his return … Before the reappearance of the Hidden Imam we needed a Mahdist government and the Islamic Revolution of Iran was on the course [set down by] the Hidden Imam.”
“The fourth kind of readiness is the change in the Middle East for the reappearance of the Hidden Imam and until a time when change [still] doesn’t encompass the whole of the Middle East, the Hidden Imam will not reappear.”
“The people of America must understand that their problem is their apostate and idolatrous leaders and they must know the Democratic and Republican Party and European Union will not heal any pains and will ultimately reach a dead end.”
Saeidi also invoked the name of Turkish Prime Minsiter Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stating that “the Islam of the Taliban and Al Qaeda has created problems for Islam [as has the] truncated and secular Islam of the kind [advocated] by Erdogan … We have stood against the Taliban and secular Islam; we introduce pure Islam to the world.”