Khamenei Warns Against System Disruption during Elections


London – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned against efforts to change the regime’s “behavior”, saying that they would pave the way for toppling the system.

In remarks on Wednesday, Khamenei also said that any attempts to disrupt the presidential election on May 19 would be dealt with harshly.

“The enemy has put on its agenda three short, medium, and long-term goals. Its short-term goal is to tamper the country’s security and create chaos and sedition,” he stated.

He added that the “enemy’s objective in the medium-term” was to weaken economy and make living conditions for Iranians more difficult.

As for the third goal, Khamenei said the prime objective was to eliminate the establishment by provoking a change in “behavior”.

The Iranian spiritual leader was speaking during a graduation ceremony in Tehran for cadets in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC).

“The security of the country must be completely preserved during the election,” Khamenei said.

“Anyone who deviates from this path should certainly know that they will be given a slap,” he added.

Khamenei’s comments came two days before the third and last televised presidential debate, which is scheduled for Friday, during which the six candidates, including outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, will present their economic programs.

Khamenei called on electoral candidates to prioritize economic issues and the improvement of living conditions.

He underlined that national sovereignty and Iranian people’s dignity should be the core of electoral campaigns.

The spiritual leader also urged candidates to hold peaceful campaigns away from escalation.

“If people participate with order, behave morally, observe legal and Islamic parameters then this will be a source of honor for the Islamic Republic,” Khamenei said.

“But if they break the law, operate in an immoral way, or speak in a way that will encourage enemies, then the elections can be seen as a loss,” he stated.

Iran: Rouhani’s Vice President Warns from Internal Conflict

London- Outgoing President Hassan Rouhani and his hardline opponent Ebrahim Raisi exchanged on Tuesday heavy criticism, 48 hours ahead of the third and last presidential debate between candidates running for this month’s elections.

While Rouhani said those criticizing the unemployment crisis have themselves prevented Sunnis and women from getting jobs, his foe Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf accused him of introducing the war in every Iranian house through poverty and unemployment.

Also, Raisi, a former prosecutor-general, rejected Rouhani’s statements and accused him of being aggressive in addressing the people and his challengers.

But, Rouhani did not fall short from continuing his harsh attacks against the Tehran mayor, Ghalibaf, and said the foundation of Astan Quds Razavi, which is linked to Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, was evading taxes.

Iran’s Vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri, also a presidential candidate, said on Tuesday he was worried that an internal conflict could erupt due to the disputes among the country’s political players, calling on officials to learn from other regional states, which suffer from crises.

Meanwhile, at a speech delivered in South Tehran, Rouhani addressed his opponents, saying: “Tell the people the same words that you repeat in your meetings. Have you not sought to issue a decree to prevent women in workplaces? Make an assessment of the decrees on gender discrimination.”

Since last Monday, Rouhani has drastically shifted the strategy of his presidential speeches by choosing to defend freedoms of expression and citizens’ rights.

On Tuesday, the outgoing president also tried to make up for the embarrassment he had faced in the northern province of Golestan were he was met on Sunday with stones, thrown by angry workers on his convoy while he was visiting a coalmine that collapsed last week.

Rouhani lashed out at the Basij without naming them, and said: “You want the economy, but you never examined the mine, which you owned, and where people are now buried.”

Last Wednesday, at least 30 miners were killed in the coalmine collapse, while rescue workers continued to search for dozens of others trapped miners.

According to Iranian reports, Rouhani’s campaign has assembled 15,000 from his supporters.

Pakistan Infuriated by Iranian Army Chief-of-Staff Comments

London– Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to Islamabad on Tuesday following threats by Iran’s military chief of staff to carry out strikes inside Pakistani territory on suspected bases of militants.

Islamabad strongly denounced the warnings of Iranian Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri, and told Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost that such remarks were “against the spirit of brotherly relations between the two countries”.

“The Iranian side was urged to avoid issuance of such statements that could threaten the environment of fraternal relations,” the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement.

Baqeri threatened on Monday to strike Balochi bases in Pakistani territories if Islamabad failed to control its borders and stop militant activities near the eastern border regions of the country.

Baqeri said Tehran refuses to tolerate this situation in the joint borders with Pakistan, adding: “If the situation continues, we will hit terrorists’ safe havens anywhere they are.”

On Tuesday, a senior Iranian military official reiterated Iran’s commitment to launch strikes inside Pakistani territories.

Lieutenant Commander of the Iranian Army, Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, stressed his country’s “natural and legal right to destroy terrorists’ shelters”.

In remarks to local Iranian news agencies, Pourdastan expressed his regret on what he believed was Pakistan’s inability to fight terrorism.

Meanwhile, IRNA news agency quoted well-informed sources in Iran’s foreign ministry as saying that Tehran was aware of and welcomed Turkey’s plan to build a wall along the joint borders with the Persian state.

Earlier this week, Turkey’s Hurriyet daily said that the Turkish government was planning to build a wall along the border with Iran as part of measures against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“This should happen sooner and flow of illegal imports to Iran should be curbed,” the daily quoted an Iranian official as saying.

Iran Threatens to Attack Baluchi Fighters inside Pakistan


London – Iran’s Chief of Army Staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri threatened on Monday to strike Baluchi bases in Pakistani territories if Islamabad fails to control its borders and stop militant activities near the eastern border regions of the country.

Baqeri said Tehran refuses to tolerate this situation in the joint borders with Pakistan, adding that “if the situation continued, we will hit the terrorists’ safe havens anywhere they are.”

He also said Iran expects “Pakistani officials to show responsibility, control their borders, arrest terrorists and shut down outlaws’ bases.”

The Iranian general’s comments came after the Baluchi group Jaish al-Adl or “The Army of Justice” attacked last month a military convoy of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards near the city of Mirjaveh in the southeastern Baluchistan district.

According to a Revolutionary Guards spokesperson, Iran lost more than 10 of its members during the attack.

Baqeri accused regional states of supporting Baluchi groups and of training them in Pakistan.

However, in a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday, Jaish al-Adl’s public relations office, Ibrahim Azizi denied Iranian allegations that his group was receiving military support from other countries in order to launch military operations against Iranian security forces.

He said: “The security apparatus starts launching accusations after every military operation.”

He added: “Unfortunately, we haven’t received any support from any state until now. We rely on the popular support.”

The spokesperson said that had the group welcome foreign support, adding however that had it received any, Jaish al-Adl would have been much stronger now.

Azizi also accused the Iranian security forces of keeping quiet on the military operations launched by Jaish al-Adl deep in the Balushistan district against Iranian forces, while they “amplify” the operations that happen on the borders in order to put pressure on the Pakistani and Afghani governments.

Golestan Welcomes Rouhani With Stones

People gather at the site of an explosion in a coal mine in Golestan Province, in northern Iran.

London- The promises of outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani were met on Sunday with stones, thrown by angry workers on his convoy while he was visiting the northern province of Golestan where a coal mine collapsed last Wednesday.

From the city of Urmia, hours after visiting the mine, Rouhani called on the Basij apparatus of the Revolutionary Guards, without naming them, to “offer clarifications to the Iranians concerning the situation of the mine and the circumstances of the accident.” The Basij owns the mine.

Last Wednesday, at least 30 miners were killed when a coal mine collapsed in northern Iran, while rescue workers continue to search for tens of other trapped miners.

Contradictory reports followed the visit of Rouhani to Golestan.

The Fars and Tasnim news agencies, linked to the Revolutionary Guards, published snapshot photos showing tension in the Zemestan-Yort mine when President Rouhani was delivering a speech among workers and family members of the collapsed mine.

Their reports said that families of the victims refused that Rouhani leaves before uncovering the fate of those trapped underground in the province of Golestan.

The miners chanted slogans against ignoring the living conditions of workers in Iran.

On the other hand, IRNA and Isna news agencies, which support Rouhani, accused other media outlets of “trying to distort what happened in the mine location and to use workers’ woes for electoral purposes.”

Last Thursday, Iranian Labor and Social Welfare Minister Ali Rabi’ei announced the killing of 30 workers in a collapse at the Yurt mine.

The protest staged on Sunday is the second facing Rouhani in a week. Last Monday, around 30,000 workers had confronted the president while he delivered a speech at Imam Khomeini’s mausoleum complex in southern Tehran. The workers chanted slogans slamming Rouhani for ignoring workers’ living conditions in Iran.

Rouhani Blasts Revolutionary Guards’ Attempt at Sabotaging ‘Landmark’ Nuclear Deal


London – Iran’s outgoing president Hassan Rouhani was fiercely attacked by conservative rivals on Tuesday after which he accused Tehran’s elite Revolutionary Guard of sabotaging the nuclear deal with its ballistic missile program.

In the second televised presidential debate, Rouhani said that testing and putting at display the range of ballistic missiles and writing provocative messages on missiles is a clear attempt on derailing the nuclear deal.

Conservative candidate and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf was accused by Rouhani for running an anti-nuclear deal propaganda that targeted the negotiating team by distributing posters in the capital.

The debate held on Friday happened between six candidates running for Iran’s upcoming presidential election on May 19.

Hardline rivals challenged President Hassan Rouhani in a pre-election debate on Friday over the lack of economic revival since his nuclear deal with big powers, but he said oil exports had resurged and the economy only needed more time to recover.

All three conservative candidates harshly criticized the way the nuclear deal is being implemented, saying that it has failed on delivering what Rouhani had promised.

One of his main challengers, hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, said he would not tear up the nuclear accord but slammed what he called the government’s weak stance and empty promises.

Rouhani in turn asked his rivals to tell the electorate what they would do with the agreement and how they would deal with the international community.

Conservative candidate Mostafa Mirsalim said the nuclear deal caused the Iranian program to be shut down, the closure of its sites and the expulsion of nuclear scientists.

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) issued a statement in response to Mirsalim’s statements shortly after the debate ended.

In turn, the foreign ministry issued a statement refusing remarks made by conservative candidates targeting the nuclear agreement, while reformist candidate Mostafa Hashemitaba called for a foreign policy away from the provocative and aggressive statements lead to straining Iran’s international relations.

Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said Iran should choose between cooperating with the international community or a negative isolationist stance.

Iran: Pro-Rouhani Officials Accuse Conservatives of Slander, False Claims


London – Campaign tensions between outgoing president Hassan Rouhani and his rival candidate, Tehran’s conservative Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, escalated two weeks ahead of the May 19 presidential election.

On Wednesday, Iranian Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi responded to Ghalibaf’s televised speech on the trafficking scandal pinned to one of the children of a pro-Rouhani minister.

Iranian politician and cultural advisor Hesamodin Ashna harshly criticized conservative candidate and senior cleric Ebrahim Raisi for speeches accusing the government of widespread corruption.

On the other hand, former president and leader of the reformist Mohammad Khatami issued a statement in support of reelecting his ally Hassan Rouhani for another term.

“Today, Mr. Rouhani not being elected would mean the increased likelihood of the return of [Iran’s] isolation and sanctions,” wrote the Reformist heavyweight.

Accusations of corruption were exchanged faster than a shooting round of bullets between Tehran’s moderate and conservative platforms, exasperating tensions on the nation’s political arena.

Conservative candidates are betting on Rouhani losing votes over worsening economic and living conditions in Iran, which has given corruption speculations a margin for credibility across the political scene– despite the stringent vetting procedures limiting presidential candidates to a pre-approved few by supreme decision-making circles.

Ghalibaf had demanded Rouhani apologizes to the Iranian people for corruption, particularly on scandals related to trafficked goods. The conservative presidential nominee stressed that four percent of Iranians control the country’s wealth, while a 96 percent remains underprivileged and submerged with economic strain.

On the case of trafficked goods, Justice Chief Pourmohammadi denied statements made by judiciary mouthpiece Mohsen Ajai on authorities apprehending smuggled clothes at a minister’s house.

Pourmohammadi came out saying that the smuggled shipment confiscated in Lavasan, Tehran is open to judicial investigation into the case.

“The suspicious shipment belongs to one of the minister’s children and was seized at the minister’s house,” Ajai had reported.

Pourmohammadi ordered prosecution to file an apology for Rouhani after allegedly investigation showing that the shipment was “legal and licensed”.

Another response that rushed to defend the Rouhani government was made by Iran’s Vice-President for Parliamentary Affairs Hossein Ali Amiri, a close associate of Rouhani, expressed serious Iranian concerns on declassifying issues on debates broadcasted nationwide.

Amiri said such malicious publicity jeopardized Iranian national security, Tehran-based IRNA news agency reported.
Amiri said that the uncivilized exchange of accusations and slander between candidates during the election campaigns violates the law and ethics.

He urged candidates to focus on their own electoral programs instead of targeting their rivals.
Amiri warned of the consequences of candidates making promises that supersede the extent of legal jurisdiction assigned to the post of president.

“We are hearing words and promises causing social and national divisions,” he added.

Iran Tries Politician for Lambasting Its Role in ME

Former Tehran mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi

London – Iranian court is charging former Tehran mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi for criticizing Iran’s military involvement in Syria and the country’s policy in the Middle East.

Government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht rejected rumors claiming the government made a final decision concerning Iran’s Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri’s future in the presidential elections.

Nobakht said President Rouhani hadn’t made his mind yet on whether he’d withdraw from the presidential race or not.

Head of Isfahan judiciary Ahmad Khosravi Wafa said that Karbaschi faces the charges of offending Iranian men killed in Syria, which Iran refers to as “martyrs of the shrine”.

Media reports said that Khosravi Wafa had summoned Karbaschi for investigation.

Last week, while addressing a presidential campaign for Rouhani in Isfahan, Karbaschi said that Iran didn’t need a war to reestablish stability in Syria adding that it is possible to end things there diplomatically.

Karbaschi is the Sec-Gen of Executives of Construction Party and was released from prison in 2000 following a pardon from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei after he had spent two out of the three years’ sentence for embezzlement.

Khosravi Wafa told Mizan that the accusation against Karbaschi was based on his offending statements against Iranian fighters in Syria. Karbaschi rejected the accusation and said it was based on 28 seconds taken out of context from his speech. He added that he became aware of the charges against him from the media, ILNA news reported him as saying.

Earlier, Kayhan newspaper criticized Rouhani’s campaign and Karbaschi in its Sunday editorial and accused him of trying to change the regime’s foreign policy.

During his weekly conference, spokesperson Nobakht said that Jahangiri has his motive to go into elections. Despite the fact that over a week has passed, Jahangiri hasn’t launched his presidential campaign yet and only appeared during the first televised debate.

Iranian Judiciary international aide Mohammed Javad Larijani considered Jahangiri’s candidacy an insult to Rouhani. He called for banning the shadow candidate from appearing in the televised debates.

Chief of Staff spokesperson Masoud Jazayeri asked the six candidates to avoid discussing military and defense issues that are not within the jurisdiction of the president of the republic. He stressed that national security must be taken into consideration during the campaigns and speeches of the candidates.

Two days ago, Khamenei said that the shadow of war was eliminated with the Iranian presence. Khamenei was hinting towards Rouhani who previously spoke of the effect of the nuclear agreement on averting shadow of war in Iran.

On Monday, Sadek Larijani condemned those who assumed that Iran avoided wars by signing the nuclear deal. He said it was a wrong assumption.

Campaign wise, conservative candidate Ebrahim Raisi delivered a speech in Hamdan, west of Iran, during which he criticized Rouhani and Khamenei. He spoke about the 11 million Iranian men who are unable to get married because of poverty and economic pressures. He also attacked the institutions and personnel on tax evasion.

Shadow of war became a code in Rouhani’s speeches in which he takes pride of the nuclear deal.

Reactions varied between the conservative camp and some officials concerning Jahangiri entering the race, especially after his first debate with conservative candidate, Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf.

Over the past few days, Ghalibaf addressed Jahangiri saying: “the people will test your credibility after few days.”

In a related matter, political activist Mohammed Reza Khatami, brother of former President Mohammed Khatami, told Itimad Online that the reformists decided to continue supporting Rouhani. Khatami expressed his belief that Iran would face worse times if Raisi or Ghalibaf won the elections.

Khatami described Rouhani’s government as a salvation from failure.

May 1 Protests Slam Rouhani for Failure to Deliver on Economic Promises


London – Iran’s Hassan Rouhani chose Ruhollah Khomeini’s shrine as a platform for his May 1 Labor Day rally. Unexpectedly, the president seeking reelection was met with an angry crowd repeating slogans slamming his policy.

The laborers demanded an improvement of their living conditions and the repeal of a highly contentious labor bill from parliament.

Rouhani’s campaign management gathered over 30,000 Tehran workers on Labor Day. According to Iranian news agencies, Rouhani’s speech promising improving the lives of workers was booed and hissed at, as complaints rose that his administration overlooked the demands of the working class.

“Those who ignore labor force problems do not understand the reality of the situation,” Rouhani said, while stressing that Iran is facing two choices for settling internal crises.

The first is a passive one made of “slogans and promises” and the other is an active plan pivoted on “perceiving the status quo and working on projects that improve living conditions.”

On one hand, pro-Rouhani Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) described those opposing the president at his rallies as “saboteurs.”

On the other hand, Revolutionary Guard conservative mouthpiece “Fars” said that workers’ contempt was a reflection of deteriorating living conditions and the performance of Rouhani’s government.

Religious leader Naser Makarem Shirazi protested the content and moderating job done on nationwide televised debates between presidential candidates. He called on rivals to refrain from telling lies in their attempt to sway the public opinion.

Earlier, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei made comments that appeared to favor hardline candidates in the May 19 presidential elections. He played down the benefits of “moderate” Rouhani’s agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear activities in return for a lifting of international sanctions.

Khamenei and his hardline supporters also criticized the nuclear deal – which stifled talk by Washington of possible military action against Iran – for failing to deliver promised economic benefits.

One of Rouhani’s main challengers, Ebrahim Raisi, an influential cleric with decades of experience in the hardline judiciary, said Iran had no need of foreign help to improve the economy and could always defend itself.

Threat of War Stokes Conflict in Iran

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gestures as he speaks during a meeting with Iranian officials and ambassadors of Islamic countries, in Tehran

Tehran- Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday slammed election slogans of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani on the removal of the “shadow of war” from Iran by signing the nuclear deal.

Iranians should not thank Hassan Rouhani’s policy of detente with the West for any reduction in the threat of war, Khamenei said on Sunday, stepping up his criticisms of the president as elections approach.

Hours later, Rouhani renewed his position, but softened his tone.

At the same time, Iran’s Election Commission announced that it received complaints from four candidates in the presidential elections because of the issues witnessed in the first debate.

Ebrahim Raisi, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and conservative presidential candidate Mustafa Merslim protested against the way the debate was moderated and accusations made against competitors.

In comments that appeared to favor hardline candidates in the May 19 vote, Khamenei played down the benefits of Rouhani’s landmark agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear activities in return for a lifting of international sanctions.

“Some say since they took office the shadow of war has been faded away. This is not correct,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by state media.

“It’s been people’s presence in the political scene that has removed the shadow of war from the country.”

Khamenei and his hardline supporters have also criticized the nuclear deal — which stiffled talk by Washington of possible military action against Iran — for failing to deliver promised economic benefits.

But speaking at the opening of a refinery that Iran says will make it self-sufficient in oil products, Rouhani defended his position.

“The nuclear deal was a national achievement. We should make use of its advantages. But some have started a fight over it,” Rouhani said. He cited the new refinery, in the Gulf port city of Bandar Abbas as a result of the deal and “interaction with the world”.

One of Rouhani’s main challengers, Raisi, an influential cleric with decades of experience in the hardline judiciary, said Iran had no need of foreign help to improve the economy and could always defend itself.

“We should not warn our people of wars and crises. We have full security in the country,” Raisi said in a recorded address on state television.

“This approach, that we should wait for foreign investment and for foreigners to resolve our issues, is wrong.

“This is wrong, to wait years and years for foreign investors to come … We should resolve issues by relying on domestic capabilities,” Raisi said in comments that echoed those previously made by Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority.

Rouhani has said Iran needs foreign capital to modernize its oil, gas, transportation and telecommunication sectors after decades of international isolation.

However, foreign investors are still cautious about trading with or investing in Iran, fearing penalties from remaining unilateral US sanctions and President Donald Trump’s tough rhetoric on the Islamic Republic.

This has caused long delays in contracts that Iran seeks with international firms to develop its oil and gas fields.