Jahangiri Stole Lights in Iran’s First Live Presidential Debate


London – Iran’s vice-president and presidential candidate Eshaq Jahangiri stole the lights on Friday during the first live debate held between the six candidates contesting Iran’s presidential election.

The first of three live debates, held on Friday for three hours, witnessed fierce confrontations between outgoing President Hassan Rouhani and his vice-president Jahangiri, from one side and conservative candidate Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf from another side.

Ghalibaf attacked Rouhani’s political administration and accused it of failing to manage Iran’s crises, mainly unemployment.

For his part, Jahangiri hinted to Ghalibaf’s role in the attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad that took place in 2016, and said the attack had caused a great damage to the Iranian tourism industry by creating tense relations with Saudi Arabia. Jahangiri said due to the attacks, Iran lost around 700 thousand tourists who visit Mashhad every year.

“The attackers of the Saudi Embassy are now used in which presidential campaign? Which candidate was financing what happened?” Jahangiri asked.

The response to Jahangiri’s question came quick by Rouhani’s backed media websites, which published a photo showing Ghalibaf with Hassan Kurdmihan, the first suspect accused of having led the attack on the Saudi embassy.

Also, media published reports in the past few days saying that Ghalibaf had chosen Kurdmihan as head of his presidential campaign in the city of Karj, west Tehran.

On April 20, the Guardian Council, a government vetting body approved that six candidates, including current President Hassan Rouhani, run for the country’s presidential elections next month.

In the same day, the interior ministry had announced it would ban live television debates, triggering an uproar that prompted a change of its decision. Three live debates are now expected before Election Day.

Separately, Jahangiri played down the importance of Ghalibaf’s candidature by referring to the military background of his opponent and of his affiliation to the Revolutionary Guards.

Jahangiri accused Ghalibaf of running the capital “with the mentality of a military man.”

Rouhani Criticizes Security Bodies’ Interference with Iran’s Economy


London – Outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized the meddling of security bodies with the country’s economy.

In a speech delivered three weeks ahead of Iran’s presidential elections, Rouhani underlined the influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), without naming it, on the Iranian economy and the private sector in particular, which has driven foreign investors out.

“How can we think of productivity while the economic atmosphere is not competitive,” the president asked.

“We should not disappoint employers and intimidate investors,” Rouhani warned, according to ILNA news agency.

Rouhani also called for preserving the “path of moderation” to overcome current challenges, noting: “Extremism and violence did not lead to happiness in any country.”

The outgoing president’s comments came in contradiction with the stance of Iran’s Religious Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called on the six presidential candidates not to rely on foreign investment to revive the country’s economy.

“We can attract 140 billion dollars of investment that can help to tackle unemployment,” Rouhani stated.

Defending his presidential record, Rouhani said: “The living standards of Iranians have improved … incomes of pensioners and those on welfare support have increased in the past four years.”

He added that he took five urgent measures to pull Iran back from the edge of an abyss: resuming nuclear negotiations to “break the siege on Iran”, taming the rampant inflation, overcoming economic stagnation, enhancing people’s purchasing power and normalizing Iran’s relations with the international community.

Meanwhile, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani criticized presidential candidates’ electoral promises.

Iran’s local news agencies quoted Larijani as saying that electoral candidates should refrain from making promises that are difficult to achieve.

The speaker went on to describe Iran’s problems as “complicated”, and warned against committing mistakes on the international and local levels and mismanaging the country’s affairs.

Iranian Academics Call on Khamenei to Implement Radical Changes

London – More than 100 university professors in Iran called on their country’s Supreme Leader to implement radical changes on various levels, including government-led institutions, to overcome living problems and achieve economic progress.

Professors, who work at 40 different universities, addressed an open letter on Wednesday to Ayatollah Khamenei, asking for extensive reforms and the implementation of national strategies to boost the Iranian economy.

The professors underlined the importance of the role of government institutions, including the ministry of foreign affairs, the judiciary, as well as security and economic bodies in executing development strategies.

They also expressed their readiness to meet with Khamenei to present their vision on the changes needed.

On a different note, the electoral campaign office of Iran’s main conservative candidate, Ebrahim Raisi, denied any role in the presence of former Prosecutor General Saed Mortazavi during Raisi’s electoral tour in an Iranian city on Tuesday.

Mortazavi, whose role in torturing demonstrators has been condemned by human rights groups for years, was sentenced last year to 135 lashes on corruption charges.

The photo of Mortazavi joining Raisi’s electoral tour has sparked wide controversy on social media networks, which forced Raisi’s office to issue a statement denying any close relationship with the former prosecutor general, who was a friend of ex-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Meanwhile, Iranian Vice President and presidential candidate Eshaq Jahangiri said nobody wanted Iran to go back to war and the era of threats and sanctions.

In an interview on Wednesday with a local radio station, Jahangiri defended the performance of President Hassan Rouhani’s government over the past four years, underlining the need to preserve security in the Persian state.

The vice-president was one of the six presidential candidates to address the Iranians via a radio program that covers electoral campaigns.

Last week, Iran’s Guardian Council announced a list of six approved presidential candidates, including incumbent president Rouhani, Jahangiri and Raisi, in addition to Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Mostafa Mir-Salim and Mostafa Hashemitaba.

Khamenei Razes Foreign Hope in Iranian Elections to the Ground


London – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei destroyed growing foreign hopes, when he strictly warned Tehran’s six presidential candidates from running their campaigns on promises to establish relations with foreign states.

Their eyes must not fall beyond Iranian borders, Khamenei addressed the candidates in a hint that campaigning on foreign sponsorship for domestic challenges is unacceptable.

Khamenei, who as supreme leader has the final say on matters of state, discouraged candidates from reaching out to other nations.

“The candidates should promise to focus on national capabilities and domestic capacities to resolve the economic issues … rather than looking abroad,” Khamenei said.

Seeking another term in office, ‘moderate’ President Hassan Rouhani expressed optimism towards running a thorough and fair election. Rouhani’s election rival and ultra-conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi said that Iranian efforts and resources are reliable enough to surmount national disputes.

Speaking to an audience of officials, among which were five presidential aspirants, Khamenei discussed the impact of elections on Iranian security, stressing that it “prevents the enemy’s ability to mobilize and strike”.

“They fight against the Islamic Republic of Iran… as “Islam” blocks their interests,” he was quoted as saying.

Earlier in March, the supreme leader promoted “Resistance Economy – Generating Job Opportunities” using the slogan to pass resistance economy policies in mid-2011, reducing Iran’s reliance on foreign transactions under imposed sanctions.

Rouhani’s main hardline rival in the May 19 election, Raisi, has promised to create over 1.5 million jobs a year if elected. Another candidate, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, has promised to create 5 million jobs per year.

Khamenei said that the US threatening-based policy shared by successive US authorities “is a sign of unified malicious intentions harbored by the American political strata.”

He said that “the US did not miss an opportunity on striking Iran.” Saying that things will end badly to anyone targeting the Iranian people, Khamenei added that Iran’s response will be firm.

‘Iran’s Unemployment’ Ignites Elections… Candidates Battle with Numbers


London – Unemployment in Iran weighed heavily on the fourth day of the presidential campaigns as candidates exchanged accusations and contested with numbers.

While conservative candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf vowed on Monday to provide five million jobs if he wins the election, he was accused by the Iranian president’s ally and vice president, candidate Eshaq Jahangiri of “duping the people.”

Without naming Ghalibaf, Jahangiri said: “Some people present slogans about creating job opportunities at specific levels. Those launching the promises had either never offered job opportunities, or had missed the numbers and statistics of unemployment.”

Jahangiri added: “Those speaking about creating millions of job opportunities clearly want to fool the people.”

However, Ghalibaf quickly fired back from Qom by saying: “Those saying there is an impossibility to provide five million job opportunities are looking at other places (the West). Today, brokers manage the economy.”

Therefore, the ship of elections bumped into the tsunami of escalating unemployment in the country.

Conservative candidate Ebrahim Raisi pledged to work on decreasing its level to 8 percent.

On Sunday, Iran’s parliament discussed the crisis of unemployment. Mehr news agency quoted member of the parliament’s presiding board Akbar Ranjbarzadeh as saying that Iran’s Labor Minister informed parliament about the presence of 3.2 million unemployed Iranians, while parliament’s statistics show that 7 million were jobless.

Labor and Social Welfare Minister Ali Rabiei admitted that providing one million job opportunities in Iran could not improve the level of unemployment.

Meanwhile, Tasnim news agency published a paragraph from Rouhani’s 2013 presidential campaign in which he speaks about providing 4 million job opportunities, only by reviving the tourism sector in Iran.

A focus on unemployment during the current presidential race came in accordance with the “economic resistance” launched by Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei on the eve of Iran’s New Year, celebrated on March 20.

Iran Interior Ministry Sets Electoral Debates Dates amid Security Concerns


London – The Iranian electoral commission announced the schedule of the televised presidential debates, reversing a decision that bans their live broadcast.

Spokesman for Iran’s Interior Ministry Seyyed Salman Samani said that the ban stemmed from “highly delicate” concerns, hinting at the experience of the past two presidential elections.

Debates will tackle three essential areas – in the first week, candidates will discuss social and economic issues, while in the second the focus will be on political programs and the third will conclude the social and economic topics discussed earlier.

Samani attributed the ban of televised debates to a meeting that discussed certain “concerns”, adding that the electoral committee is in a quest to reach solutions that tackles these concerns. He added that it is necessary to reach “ways that take them into consideration.”

While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised to “unveil the truth to the Iranian people in the coming days” regarding those who are hindering his political programs, Mayor of Tehran Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf expressed discontent with the Iranian political and military situation. He criticized the Rouhani administration, saying that “the economic crisis frustrated the people.”

In his first statement since being barred from running in the elections, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared: “We clearly announce that we have not and will not support any candidate in the upcoming elections.”

The letter was signed by himself and his former deputy and presidential-hopeful Hamid Baghaei.

Ahmadinejad’s barring from the elections sparked speculation in Iran because the reason for his rejection was not revealed. The very fact that he even decided to run in the polls came as a shock because he defied an edict by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei not to do so.

The Iranian electoral commission announced on Thursday that Iran’s Guardian Council approved six out of 1,636 candidates to run in the elections.

Ahmadinejad Complies with Law, Avoids Sedition after Being Excluded


London – The Iranian Interior Ministry announced the list of qualified candidates late Thursday night after receiving it from the Guardian Council, effectively allowing them to launch their election campaigns.

In the peak of reactions on the final list, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad grabbed the media’s attention and the interaction of Iranians on social media before he announced that he complies with the law and will not respond by igniting strife.

Meanwhile, media reports have talked about the tight security environment in central Tehran, and eyewitnesses reported information about the imposition of a security cordon around the residence of Ahmadinejad.

Iranian media reported that televised debates among presidential candidates would not be livestreamed instead recorded before being broadcast by state-run TV for the citizens.

Conservative media promptly attributed the decision to Hassan Rouhani administration, accusing the president of pressing the campaign monitoring committee to block live broadcasting of debates.

Tasnim website, affiliated with Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), said the decision stemmed from the government’s “fear of being challenged in these debate programs”, and its “failure to fulfill its promises” which had resulted in “unprecedented economic recession” and a “massive army of the unemployed.”

In an attempt to acquit the administration from the allegation, Ministry of Interior released a statement on Friday afternoon.

Pointing to the composition of Committee for Monitoring Presidential Election Campaigns, where the government holds only two seats out of five, the Interior Ministry statement said the decision for broadcasting debates as recorded programs was a collective decision, not solely that of the government.

Ahmadinejad’s response to being excluded from the elections did not come late as he tweeted on Friday, saying: “After the Guardian Council rejected my candidacy, I announce that I am obedient to the law and nothing else.”

He continued: “Iran needs to stay calm. Raising tension and focusing on marginal issues will only serve the benefits of our enemies.”

In another tweet, Ahmadinejad said that if he stood against the Supreme Leader, they would’ve said that he is from the deviant faction. “Now, that I want to remain silent I am being subjected to a series of accusations and violations.”

Ahmadinejad’s registering as a candidate last week came as a surprise to many.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had advised Ahmadinejad against running and had cited his divisive record.

Ahmadinejad initially suggested he would follow the Supreme Leader’s wishes, but ultimately dismissed them as mere suggestions.

On the other hand, eyewitnesses published videos showing an intense security presence in the vicinity of Ahmadinejad’s residence in the northern Iranian city of Narmak.

A witness who was near Ahmadinejad’s house in eastern Tehran on Thursday night told Reuters that “around 50 police officers had blocked two ends of the street to his house to prevent possible gathering of his supporters”.

The list of candidates included three from the conservative party former Culture Minister Mostafa Mirsalim, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and former Public Prosecutor Ebrahim Raisi.

The other three candidates were from the moderate and reformist parties, headed by President Hassan Rouhani, Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri and Mostafa Hashemitaba.

Ahmadinejad Barred from Iran’s Presidential Race

London- An Iranian election committee approved Thursday for six candidates, including current President Hassan Rouhani, to run for the country’s presidential elections next month, but rejected a request by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his close ally Hamid Baghaie.

The Guardian Council, a government vetting body that decides which candidates could run in May’s elections, selected three conservative candidates -Ebrahim Raisi, Mostafa Mirsalim, and Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf – in addition to Rouhani, Mostafa Hashemitaba, and Rouhani’s ally and vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri, who are moderates.

The council, however, disqualified Ahmadinejad – a two-term president – Baghaie, the brother of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Hashemi, and conservative parliamentarian Ali Reza Zakani.

Ahmadinejad had threatened to uncover secrets related to the regime, including an electoral fraud to his advantage during the 2009 presidential elections, the reformist website in Iran, Amad News, reported.

The Guardian Council examined the qualifications of more than 1,600 candidates who registered to run for president.

Meanwhile, Iran’s interior ministry said Thursday there would be no live debates in the run-up to the elections.

“Based on a decision by the Election Campaign Monitoring Commission, the election debates of the candidates will be broadcast pre-recorded,” interior ministry spokesman Seyed Salman Samani said.

Following the ministry’s announcement, Rouhani called for the decision to be reviewed.

“I support the mostly independent way in which Iranians could receive information on the candidates and the elections,” Rouhani said.

The council’s spokesman, Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, said on Thursday that candidates should stay away from hurting the image of their competitors and respect the electoral law, ISNA reported.

The election commission also issued guidelines for the debates, and said candidates are not allowed “to tarnish the image of the country, or the actions of the executive, administrative, legislative or judicial bodies.”

Rouhani Urges Iran’s Armed Forces to Steer Clear from Politics, Economics


London – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani reiterated in his national army day speech the demand for armed forces to steer clear from the game of politics. Rouhani went on to defend Iran’s military and armament program, while highlighting it being for defense purposes solely.

Every year, Iran’s armed forces hold parades across the country to mark Army Day. In a ceremony in Tehran, broadcast live on state television, trucks carrying missiles drove past a podium where Rouhani and military commanders were standing. Iran showed off its new S-300 air defense missile system Soldiers also marched passed the podium and fighter jets and bombers took part in an air show.

“The power of our armed forces is not aimed at any of our neighbors … Its purpose is to defend Islamic Iran and act as an active deterrent,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

On the other hand, conservative presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi blasted Rouhani’s presidential campaign, asking it to limit itself to a “moral” standard.

Rouhani praised the people’s support of the armed forces and cited the words of Iran’s Supreme Leaders Ruhollah Khomeini and Ali Khamenei that “as long as military forces remain impartial to politics, the people’s support will only make them stronger.”

“The army and armed forces have, for 30 years, followed recommendations and not interfered, that is important,” Rouhani said.

Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran’s elitist Revolutionary Guard, said last March that none of the guards are permitted involvement in partisan campaigning. Jafari’s remarks came a week after Rouhani called in February for protesting the involvement of armed forces in the upcoming elections, should it happen.

Rouhani warned against military preoccupation with what he called “economic concerns”, warning that it could compromise the military’s chief goals.

The Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) is Iran’s strongest economic challenge, according to Tehran-based reports. The IRGC and its affiliates control about 40 percent of the Iranian economy, including energy and oil drilling.

Rouhani, taking advantage of the occasion, appealed to the IRGC to exclusively abide to the role of the army in Iran. “The constitution explicitly mandates the army to maintain sovereignty, independence and order in Iran,” he said.

Discrediting rumors on rising differences between the Tehran-controlled state army and the Khamenei-serving Revolutionary Guard, Rouhani said that the two security bodies’ cooperation is praiseworthy.

Since the rise of the Revolutionary Guards as a military force in Iran, the army has been marginalized and diminished. According to the Iranian constitution, the Revolutionary Guard is intended to protect the country’s Islamic system and only takes orders from the country’s top cleric, Khamenei, and not the president.

Referring to the strengthening of Iran’s arsenal, Rouhani said that the military is “ready today” more than ever to face any rising threats.

Rouhani May Withdraw from Presidential Race in Favor of Rafsanjani’s Brother

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani smiles in Ankara during a visit to Turkey on April 15. Reuters

London- The current Iranian President’s camp is racing to put multiple scenarios ahead of the date of the announcement by the Guardian Council of the Constitution on Thursday.

Brother of former Iranian President Mohammed Hashemi Rafsanjani said Monday that President Hassan Rouhani may drop out in his favor, denying any internal competition in the reformers and moderates’ coalition.

For its part, Iran’s Election Commission announced on Monday that it approved the candidacy of Rafsanjani’s son Mohsen Hashemi and his daughter Fatima for the May 19 elections coinciding with the presidential elections.

On the other hand, reactions to the candidacy of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the conservative camp continued yesterday.

While former MP Ahmed Tavakoli requested the Guardian Council of the Constitution to reject Ahmadinejad’s candidacy for what he considered “opposition the elements of the regime,” Minister of Intelligence and Security Heydar Moslehi warned of the possibility of new protests aimed at mobilizing the poor during the upcoming elections, in reference to Ahmadinejad’s slogans to improve the economic situation of citizens.

In a statement to Tasnim News Agency, Mohammed Hashemi Rafsanjani said that he decided to submit his candidacy in defense of the goals of his late brother Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Meanwhile, Rafsanjani confirmed that his party would choose a final candidate according to the campaign trail that runs from 28 April to 17 May.

The entrance of Hashemi and Rouhani’s Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri to the presidential race in the last moments came in the context of a plan for his brother Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani before his death on January 8, according to what Hasehmi’s statements revealed.

According to Hashemi, his late brother stressed the necessity of competing against Rouhani, noting that in addition to running for presidency he asked current Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, former Parliament Speaker Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri and Jahangiri to register in the election race.

Hashemi pointed out during his statements to the complementary role Jahangiri is supposed to play with Rouhani in the election campaigns.

He confirmed that there is no difference in the political programs between him and Jahangiri in case the latter was chosen to represent the party in the presidential elections.