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.”

Iran Blocks Telegram

Iranian women take part in a reformist campaign for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Tehran, Feb. 20, 2016.

It is not strange that Iran is the only country in the Middle East that blocks services which are considered essential now like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp as part of its continuous blackout policy. Tehran even disturbs the signal of several broadcast channels blocking citizens from any external media access.

Of all international social media applications available, Iranians are only left with the messaging application Telegram.

Telegram was formed by two Russian brothers and is headquartered in Germany. Almost 40 million Iranians use its voice messages, while 20 million use the application for texting. Being the only application available, this precious service is in high demand among Iranians who amount up to a quarter of Telegram’s users across the world.

But then the government quelled Iranians’ sole source of joy by blocking most of Telegram’s services, precisely the voice messages under the pretext of protecting national security.

The truth is that the regime blocked the application fearing it would affect the course of the upcoming elections; a course that had already been engineered.

Thousands of local candidates are “filtered” according to the criteria of the “democratic Iranian religious clerics”. In the end, only those whom they are satisfied with are allowed to run for elections. It is not a secret system and, eventually, no one is allowed to win the elections or even run for it if the Supreme Leader doesn’t agree.

The 2009 elections caused a great embarrassment both domestically and internationally because those who diverted from the leadership were figures licensed by the leaders of the regime to run for the elections.

The supreme leadership decided that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would become president and forged the results accordingly. This angered the candidates who had the best chance in winning and led to the famous “Green Movement” revolution, during which many died or were injured and arrested. The memory of the uprising has been haunting the authorities that believe this massive antagonist movement wouldn’t have been possible, especially in Tehran, hadn’t it been for Twitter and Facebook.

Indeed, back then al-Arabiya Channel relied almost completely on the videos, photos and information it received from those two platforms to cover the Iranian events after the authorities shut down its office and expelled its correspondent. The results were astounding! The regime was in confusion after images of the protests, clashes, and injuries were broadcast on international media outlets.

After reading a report published about a month ago in the Los Angeles Times about the influence of Telegram inside of Iran, I sensed the regime’s fear and anticipated its next move. The report mentioned that the security authorities had already begun warning users of political messages and forced anyone who owned a channel with over 5,000 subscribers to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Culture. The government then began a series of arrests for active users on the application.

Iran has now shut most of Telegram’s services hoping to contain the atmosphere of the parliamentary and presidential elections, which are mostly an encore of the same charade. Results can be partially or completely forged, even after the filtration and suspension done during the early stages of candidacy.

The regime is really concerned with controlling the reactions of the Iranian street to avoid the repetition of the Green Revolution.

No surprises on the level of the presidential elections are expected because the approved candidates are just copies of each other.

Even former President Ahmadinejad, despite his importance and history, was banned by the Supreme Leader from running for this election. Ahmadinejad shocked everyone and announced himself a candidate with a series of clarifications and apologetic statements saying he didn’t disobey the directives of the Supreme Leader. He pledged to withdraw from the elections after the first round and said he only participated to support his friend, a presidential candidate, and give him the media and public attention.

Iran: Raisi Registers for Election with Entourage of ‘Mothers Who Lost Their Children to War’

Iranian cleric Ebrahim Raisi gestures after registering his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections at the ministry of the interior in Tehran on April 14, 2017

London- On the eve of closing candidate registration for Iran’s upcoming May presidential elections, current President Hassan Rouhani and his chief conservative rival, Ebrahim Raisi, submitted their bids.

Raisi, 56, is a hardline cleric known for his ultra-conservative stances and great proximity with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He arrived at the registration committee center for presenting his candidacy papers a few hours after ‘moderate’ Rouhani had applied in hopes of winning over a second term in office.

Raisi showed up at the center accompanied by a number of mothers who had lost their children to wars fought by Iran, said Tehran-based media outlet Tasnim.

When presented with a copy of the Quran and Iran’s flag, Raisi accepted the gesture before dozens of flashing cameras that documented every step of him submitting his documents, but he made no statements, Tasnim added.

However, a few days earlier, Raisi said that his candidacy is an effort to salvage the country from ‘chronic structural disease’ and incorrect administrative traditions.

Raisi is a hardline judge who spent years in powerful backroom positions before emerging as a leading challenger for Iran’s presidential election next month.

In 1985, he became a deputy prosecutor at the Revolutionary Court of Tehran in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war when thousands of political prisoners were executed.

Raisi spent a decade as head of the Inspection Office from 1993, followed by 10 years as deputy head of the judiciary. In 2006, he was elected to the Assembly of Experts that has powers to choose the next supreme leader, and now sits on its board of directors.

In 2012, he became a prosecutor in the Special Court of Clerics, charged with disciplining the clergy, and spent two years as Iran’s nationwide prosecutor-general from 2013 to 2015.

In March 2016, he was appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to head Astan Qods Razavi, a charitable foundation overseeing the Imam Reza shrine, as well as a huge business conglomerate with interests in everything from IT and banking to construction and agriculture.

Earlier this week, Iran’s election commission had announced two days ago that the number of candidates has exceeded 950 candidates, most notably – other than Rouhani and Raisi – is the contentious ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his former deputy Hamid Baghaei.

Tehran’s conservative Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf is also among the high-profile candidates. Despite the dashing number, the vetting committee, known by the Guardian Council, will only authorize a few candidates whose names are announced by the Interior Ministry within two weeks to officially run for president.

Rouhani Political Aide: Election Brawl Threatens Iran’s National Security

London- With presidential elections just around the corner, the political spat in Tehran is ever more escalating.

In their recent confrontation, the ‘reformist’ administration led by President Hassan Rouhani-who seeks another term in office- and former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad forced a top Rouhani administration official to come out urging for restraint to be exercised in the best interest of national security.

All the while a senior official belonging to Ahmadinejad’s bloc said that reformers (in reference to Rouhani’s party) represent a major threat in the May 19 municipal elections, coinciding with the presidential election.

Hamid Aboutalebi, a political aide in the Rouhani administration, responded to harsh criticisms by Ahmadinejad earlier in the week when visiting the Ahwaz region in the southwest.

Aboutalebi accused Ahmadinejad of seeking to weaken national bipartisanship in hopes of reaching conservative support.

Ahmadinejad had gone as far as accusing Iran’s current president of defection.

Criticizing the current economic policy leaving Iran destitute, Ahmadinejad addressed Rohani saying “Who are you to not accept what the people say? 97 percent of people want something … Why do you oppose? Could it be that from among 80 million people, you and only you understand what is right? The people of Iran are the sole reason you are president.”

Ahmadinejad’s harshly phrased reproach was relayed during a speech he gave before a crowd of supporters in the city of Ahwaz, despite his previous statements of standing out from any election-related campaigning.

Aboutalebi, rushing to back Rouhani and promote the national spirit of unity, said that Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric destroys security and deregulates the national economy by promoting inequity among the rich and poor, along with depleting national wealth.

More so, Aboutalebi said that Ahmadinejad’s remarks chiefly promote nonconstructive populism.

According to the latest statistics released by the interior ministry, over 258,000 people – 15,566 of whom are women – have submitted papers to run for Iran’s nationwide municipal elections.

Iranians Quarrel Over Bankruptcy

Iran

London – Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei addressed Monday the ongoing quarrel over the “state bankruptcy” currently taking part between President Hassan Rouhani and his opponents who criticize his economic policy.

Khamenei advised high-ranking officials to show force instead of unraveling the country’s economic weaknesses.

“If you want to prevent enemy from attacking, you should avoid displaying weakness and show the many points of strength that we have,” he said

Khamenei was speaking during a meeting with officials and organizers of the Rahian-e-Nour (the Journey to the Light).

Referring to some Iranian parties without naming them, Khamenei said: “The mistake some made regarding the big economic challenge that the country is facing now was that some people displayed weakness in the economic sphere and the enemy exerted pressure on Iran.”

Khamenei’s comments carried hidden criticisms to both moderate and conservative camps, currently accusing each other over the economic situation in the country. Both political camps bet on the economic paper to run the presidential election campaign expected next May.

The Iranian leader’s comments also came two days after former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Rouhani of spreading false information concerning the Iranian treasury. Rouhani said earlier he had received an empty treasury from the former government.

Later, Ahmadinejad said the president’s accusations were a pretext to justify the government’s failure to administrate.

During his speech, Khamenei also referred to the Iraqi invasion of Iran in the 1980’s to show that a display of weakness will embolden enemy to make an attack.

“The imposed war occurred, because the enemy found the weakness in us,” he said.

Khamenei said the economic stagnation in the country was also caused by the unfettered import of goods and lack of efforts to increase domestic production.

Meanwhile, Iranian chief of Staff General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri presented his report to Khamenei concerning the Rahian-e-Nour trips. Baqueri said 10 military bases linked to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and more than 150 Basij and IRGC members were ready to welcome this year more than 6 million visitors during the season of the Revolutionary Guards trips to war areas, in coincidence with the Persian New Year’s holiday known in Iran as Norooz.

Ahmadinejad Heeds Khamenei’s Request

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, Iraq, July 19, 2013. REUTERS/Karim Kadim/Pool

London- Iran’s Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on Tuesday that he will not run for presidency in next year’s Iranian election, heeding the wishes of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Some newspapers that support Iranian President Hassan Rouhani considered this a collapse of Ahmadinejad’s political life.

Former president media bureau published a letter to Khamenei, revealing that he has no plans to take part in the presidential plans scheduled on 18 May in compliance with Khamenei recommendations. He ended his letter to the supreme leader with, “I will always remain the regime’s soldier.”

On the sidelines of a lecture on Monday Khamenei said that he met someone and advised him not to take part in the elections for his own good and for the country’s interest as well. The Supreme Leader expressed concern over the polarization of blocs in the Iranian administration, stressing that Iran “needs to maintain calmness and unity in the current period.”

Khamenei condemned the leakage of some details from his meeting with Ahmadinejad. Hours after his speech, Dolatebahar Website raised doubts that Ahmadinejad might challenge Khamenei and seek re-election.

This is not the first time Khamenei and Ahmadinejad disputes come to surface but it’s one of the few times when Khamenei admits interfering in the elections and the candidates.

Ahmadinejad enjoyed the Supreme Leader’s political support from 2005 until 2013. Yet, the case is not any similar now especially that the relations between the two deteriorated during Ahmadinejad’s second term.

The Iranian Former President held several visits to Iranian cities following the completion of Parliamentarian elections in February. Rouhani’s government objected over these actions, considering his speeches against the nuclear agreement an electoral activity.

Commenting on that, Ahmadinejad denied on several occasions that his activity had electoral purposes.

Ahmadinejad Prohibited to Run for President…based on Khamenei’s Orders

Iran

Tehran – Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei has advised former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, without naming him, not to run for the country’s upcoming presidential elections.

The instructions of Khamenei would probably destroy Ahmadinejad’s chances for getting the popular support needed for his reelection.

The conservative camp in Iran said on Monday it was likely that Ahmadinejad would not run for the elections on May 2017, following the comments of Khamenei.

“Someone, a man, came to me. I did not tell him not to participate,” Khamenei said, adding: “I told him not to take part in that certain issue, both for his own and the country’s good.”

Khamanei, who has the final say in the country’s affairs, said: “This will create bipolar opposites and divisions in the country, which I believe is harmful.”

Former Fars News Agency Director Mehdi Fazaeli, close to the conservatives, said: “The statements of the Supreme leader reflect his opposition to Ahmadinejad’s participation in the presidential run, and therefore, all revolution forces should abide by his decision.”

Current President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected in 2013, is expected to run for his last four-year presidential term. Until now, no candidate or figure from the conservative camp has yet presented his candidacy for next year’s elections.

However, Mayor of Tehran Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf might rerun for elections, after he had run for the presidency in 2005 and 2013.

Ahmadinejad was first elected president in 2005. In 2009, the supreme leader supported the candidacy of Ahmedinejad, whose election at the time created a wave of objections.

Conservative lawmaker Mohammad Reza Mir Taj who worked as a vice president in parliamentary affairs for Ahmadinejad, was quoted by Fars as saying: “Revolutionary forces should respect the directives of the supreme leader and prepare for the elections in a new mood.”

In a linked development, the Department of Publications in Iran has summoned photographer Mona Hoobehfekr, after she published a photo of Khamenei while delivering a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York to a poor audience.

Hoobehfekr works at the Iranian Students’ News Agency. Her famous photo taken last week at the U.N., showed that around 39 presidents and state representatives have attended the supreme leader’s speech, out of 192 countries. The photo drove a wave of criticism on social media and news websites. The Iranian photographer might face a punishment because the photo was spread among international media outlets.

Iran’s Former President Asks Obama to Overturn Supreme Court Ruling

London-Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has asked U.S. President Barack Obama to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued in April that allowed the seizure of two billion dollars worth of Iranian assets to compensate victims of the 1983 Beirut terror attack.

While Ahmadinejad said that his letter to Obama is not political, it comes amid speculations that the hard-liner politician is preparing for a possible run in the coming presidential elections.

The timing of the letter is interesting given that the name of Ahmadinejad has resurfaced as a possible candidate in the Iranian elections on May 19, 2017 facing incumbent Hasan Rouhani.

Iranian media had interpreted the letter as an election activity and an attempt to lure the media’s attention in spite of the former president’s denials.

Earlier, Ahmadinejad said that the country’s best interest doesn’t require his candidacy for elections, yet he would return to the political arena when the time is suitable.

Some Iranian newspapers considered Ahmadinejad’s letter to Obama as a message to say that Rouhani didn’t act as required to retrieve the money.

Iranian newspaper Shargh published a cartoon mocking the president’s attempt, saying “Former President Writes another Letter.” The newspaper added that the ex-president had written several letters to leaders without receiving any answers.

The letter comes in time as a large number of Iranians await to see the benefits of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, which could be used by Ahmadinejad and other hard-liners in any campaign against moderates.

In the letter, posted on a website associated with the former president’s office, Ahmadinejad focuses on the Supreme Court’s decision issued with the approval of six of its members and the objection of two.

The court’s ruling allows families of the Marines, who were the victims of the 1983 bombing in Beirut, and victims of other attacks linked to Iran to receive financial compensations from Iran.

“It is the clear expectation of the Iranian nation that the particular case of property seizure … be quickly fixed by your excellency and that not only the Iranian nation’s rights be restored and the seized property released and returned, but also the damage caused be fully compensated for,” the letter said.

Ahmadinejad added: “I passionately advise you not to let the historical defamation and bitter incident be recorded under your name.”

According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Iranian 1.75 billion dollars in bonds owned by Iran’s Central Bank and held by Citibank in New York are at risk.

The letter was delivered to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which oversees America’s interests in the country in the years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and U.S. Embassy takeover.

Embassy officials refused to comment on the matter. There was no immediate comment from the White House regarding the letter either.

Ahmadinejad previously served two four-year terms. According to Iranian law, he has to wait one-presidential term before he’s eligible to run again.

Under his presidency, Iran found itself heavily sanctioned as Ahmadinejad questioned the Holocaust and predicted the demise of Israel. In 2009, wide debates and protests rose after his re-election.

It is still unclear how Iranians would react to another Ahmadinejad re-election if it happens.

Opinion: Tehran is playing a double game

The Iranians hastened to sacrifice the Muslim Brotherhood, not out of love for the Egyptians but out of hatred of the Turks, aiming to isolate Turkey in view of Erdogan’s recklessness toward Egypt. Iran’s attitude is also aimed at furthering détente with the new Egyptian regime. After a year backing Mursi, the Iranians have now sold out and sacrificed the Muslim Brotherhood and are singing the praise of the “Tamarod” (Rebellion) movement.

Overnight, the Iranians now demand respect for the Egyptian people’s desires, and advise Turks not to side with Mursi or the Brotherhood. According to the Turkish Zaman newspaper, Hussein Nakawi, spokesman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Politics Subcommittee, said more Turkish support to Morsi could be harmful to Turkish interests. He added that the Iranian Foreign Minister has recently advised the Turks to “take into consideration the Egyptian people’s demands from Mursi’s opposition,” yet Ankara seems to be deaf.

The Iranian criticism of the Brotherhood did not stop here, as one of Tehran’s Friday clerics, Ahmed Janati, during his most recent sermon last Friday, accused the Muslim Brotherhood of offering aid to Israel, and highly praised the Tamarod movement. Maher News Agency cited Janati as saying: “The situation in Egypt is bad. We were hopeful that this revolution would be fruitful, as we had pinned great hope on it. Yet, they [The Muslim Brotherhood] provided assistance to Israel by shutting Gaza’s tunnels, championing the Camp David Peace Treaty and continuing to provide Israel with gas. This all continued to happen until the Tamarod movement emerged.”

Janati praised the movement by saying that “60 percent of the Egyptian people are members of Tamarod, and they are emphasizing that they are Muslims and are against the US and Israel, and want to remain independent. Yet, some are standing against them on the other side.”

Well, what does this all mean? This simply means that Iran is now is abandoning the Brotherhood and are exploiting the Turkish recklessness towards Egypt. Furthermore, Iran also aims to achieve political penetration, something it failed to accomplish throughout a full year of the Brotherhood’s rule, despite Ahmadinejad’s visit to Cairo, and despite all the Egyptian delegations which the Brotherhood sent to Iran, and despite the Iranian-Brotherhood statements about identical viewpoints towards Syria as well as other issues, and despite all the promises of transporting Iranian expertise to aid Mursi and the Brotherhood. Today, Tehran is trying to kills two birds with one stone. Tehran, by displaying courtship to the new Egyptian regime, is hopeful that it will open political channels with Egypt and isolate Turkey in the region.

Of course, Tehran will return to the Brotherhood either after they have rearranged their cards, or in case a détente is achieved in Egypt. Iran’s policy in the region relies on the principle of “divide and rule” as well as on exploiting crises and divisions. This is what Iran will also do to its Shi’ite adherents in the region and even to Al-Assad in a certain point. Iran’s allies in our region are mere tools which it uses for some time and then throws them away. This is how Iran is playing, but who will learn the lesson?

Iranian, Turkish foreign ministers discuss Egyptian crisis

Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, left, and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu shake hands before their talks in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, July 12, 2013.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, left, and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu shake hands before their talks in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, July 12, 2013.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi paid a short working visit to Ankara on Friday to discuss the latest developments in Egypt as well as other regional issues, according to the official news agency IRNA.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Araqchi confirmed that Salehi would discuss the latest regional developments with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu.

“Given the current disagreements on various regional topics between Iran and Turkey, we hope that Salehi’s visit can help bring together both countries’ viewpoints in line with the interests of the Egyptian people,” Araqchi was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

During Erdoğan’s premiership, Iran and Turkey have developed strong economic and political bilateral relations. This includes estimated USD 10 billion joint trade and security cooperation to control the Kurdish militias operating on their soil, which are considered a national security threat to both states.

In fact, the more international credibility outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government lost since 2005, the stronger Iranian–Turkish relations have become. However, this growing relationship suffered a substantial setback due to the escalating Syrian conflict, which began in 2011.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has enjoyed historic links with the Muslim Brotherhood, providing Turkey with a modicum of regional influence, particularly in Egypt and Syria. However, this hindered Iran’s expanding regional influence, particularly in light of Ankara’s opposing stance on the Syrian crisis. In addition to this, Hamas also broke away from the Iranian camp, realigning with Turkey and the former Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt.

Turkish–Egyptian relations may decline following Islamist President Mohamed Mursi’s ouster last week, potentially granting Iran an opportunity to strengthen waning strategic ties with the Turkish government.

There are a variety of strategic regional issues that both Turkey and Iran are set to face off against, including the presence of Kurdish opposition militias, the Syrian conflict, Hamas and possible future Palestinian–Israeli peace negotiations.

On August 3, president-elect Hassan Rouhani will be sworn in as Iran’s new president, replacing outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In light of the transitional political phase in Iran, Salehi’s surprise visit to Turkey is not likely to be part of the outgoing government’s foreign policy initiative; rather, the trip was likely made to convey a message from the Iranian supreme leader to Turkish officials.

Observers have predicted that Rouhani’s presidency will demonstrate a level of flexibility in negotiations to reach an agreement with P5+1, the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany, aimed at reducing international tensions over the nuclear issue and putting an end to the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran. However, it remains unlikely that there will be any significant changes in Iran’s regional priorities and redlines.