Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Eye on Iran: Iran's Rouhani Lashes Rivals With Rare Criticism Of Security Forces, Ruling Cleric

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Iran's moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, has delivered rare rebukes in recent days to the country's powerful Shiite clergy and allied security forces, lashing out at rivals and their hard-line backers ahead of his reelection bid next week. At rallies across Iran, Rouhani has blasted his opponents as "extremists" and criticized authorities for the detention of reformist leaders. On Monday, he attacked rival Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative cleric and former judicial official, for a record of "execution and imprisonment." Rouhani also questioned the tax-exempt status of a charitable foundation linked to Iran's supreme leader and suggested in a televised debate Friday that Iran's most influential security institution, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, tried to sabotage the 2015 nuclear deal he struck with world powers.

From a former president disobeying the supreme leader to open discussion of a 1980s mass execution, Iran's presidential election is pushing the boundaries of what can be discussed in public and done online, a small but noticeable shift in the country's clerically overseen polls. The push doesn't portend a dramatic change to the structure of the Islamic Republic, under which Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say over all state matters and clerics determine who can run for office and what bills become law. It does, however, show that the government's ability to clamp down on criticism is waning as Iranians turn to encrypted messaging applications like Telegram and internet chats ahead of the May 19 election.

Iran's supreme leader says anyone trying to foment unrest around the country's upcoming presidential election, like that which followed the disputed 2009 vote, "will be hit with a slap" Iranian state television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as making the comment Wednesday during a graduation ceremony for cadets in Iran's Revolutionary Guard in Tehran. Khamenei also referred to a "wealthy American Zionist merchant" trying to interfere in Iran's 2009 election in his comments, likely referring to liberal billionaire George Soros. Iranians will go to the polls May 19. Moderate President Hassan Rouhani, whose administration struck the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, is seeking another four-year term Iran's disputed 2009 re-election of former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led to months of unrest and dozens of deaths.


Q: UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Sean. I have two questions. First, a citizens group known as United Against Nuclear Iran released a list of 16 American companies a few days ago, among them Volvo, Honeywell and Schlumberger, all of which are cutting back on jobs involving Americans but all of which expressed a desire to do business in Iran under the terms of the deal that was made with Tehran. My question is this. What is the administration's response to businesses who say they want to do business in Iran under a deal the president described as the worst ever?

A: SPICER: I think that speaks for itself. The president is very clear on what he thinks of the Iran deal and companies need to abide by the law.


Iran is preparing to launch two new domestic satellites into space, according to a new announcement by Iranian military leaders that is stirring discussion among U.S. national security insiders who say the move is likely cover for the test firing of advanced intercontinental ballistic missile technology that could be used as part of Iran's nuclear program. The latest test comes as the Trump administration continues to engage in a comprehensive review of the Iran nuclear agreement that U.S. officials tell the Washington Free Beacon will result in a full-scale plan to "meet the challenges Iran poses with clarity and conviction." Iran continues to boost its military might and move forward with the testing of controversial ballistic missile technology. The expertise needed to launch satellites into space is similar to that needed to properly launch intercontinental ballistic missiles, which could potentially reach U.S. soil.


Relationships between Washington and Moscow have reached a new intersection relating to the Syrian conflict. Though both the United States and Russia agree on fighting terrorism they still differ on several files related to Syria. The core of the problem which will be discussed by both foreign ministers Sergei Lavrov, who is on his first visit to Washington since US President Donald Trump assumed office, and his American counterpart Rex Tillerson will focus on Iran's role in Syria. It will also hone in on Moscow's support for Tehran's Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, as perceived by Washington and Gulf states.


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.

An official with the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Turkey has "informally informed" Tehran of a plan to construct an Iran-Turkey border wall.  "Iran is informally informed of Turkey's intention to construct a wall along parts of its borders with Iran," the official, who asked for anonymity, told the Tehran Times "Apparently, Turkish officials intend to apply new measures to tighten border security."  The official did not elaborate on diplomatic contacts over the issue.  On Tuesday, the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, quoting a senior official, reported that Ankara is considering plans to build a wall along the Turkish-Iranian border as part of measures against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).  

In response to a statement made by Iranian Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Mohammad Hussein Bagheri, the head of Pakistan's Council of Scholars Taher Mahmoud Ashrafi said that the Iranian threat to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is condemnable and regrettable. Ashrafi stressed that the Islamic world will not allow Iran to tamper with the security of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan since the latter is able to defend its borders and those of the country of the Two Holy Mosques. He stressed that Pakistan has always been working for peace in the region with patience and wisdom, but the statements of the Iranian leadership against Pakistan "cannot be tolerated emphasizing that Pakistan is not like Syria and Iraq and that the Iranian alliance with India and Afghanistan will not weaken Pakistan." He asserted that the Pakistani government should refer to the United Nations, the international community and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) regarding the statements and acts of aggression by Afghanistan, Iran and India over the past two weeks.


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, currently campaigning for a second term win in the May 19, 2017 presidential election, criticized two of his opponents' records of human rights abuses during a speech in the city of Hamadan. "The people of Iran are saying they don't accept those who only hung and imprisoned people for the past 38 years (since the 1979 revolution)," said Rouhani on May 8, indirectly referencing Ebrahim Raisi, who served on a committee in 1988 that implemented the executions of thousands of political prisoners. "You don't know them, but I do," continued Rouhani, indirectly referencing candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran. "One day they met and decided to put up walls and fences along Tehran's sidewalks to separate male and female pedestrians, just like when they segregated the staff in their offices."

Iran's leading presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi once approved the execution of thousands of while serving as a member of a commission tasked with eliminating political prisoners, according to an Iranian human rights group. Ebrahim Raisi, a favorite among Iran's radical religious leadership, was part of a four-person panel tasked with eliminating the regime's political opposition in 1988, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. Anywhere between 3,500 and 15,000 people were executed that year, according to a report by al-Arabiya. "With Raisi's candidacy, the regime is sending a clear message that it does not care about crimes against humanity nor does it have any intention to investigate the crimes in 1988, and in fact will install those responsible for the massacre in the highest governmental posts in the country," Shadi Sadr, an international law expert, told the Center in April.


Determined to protect a dominant security role and vast economic interests, Iran's Revolutionary Guards military force is quietly backing a hardliner in May 19 presidential polls, with an eye toward a bigger prize: the succession of the supreme leader. President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate elected in 2013 in a landslide on promises to open up Iranian society and reduce its international isolation, is widely seen as the favorite to win a second term next week. But the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and the Basij, a volunteer militia under the Guards' command, are taking steps to promote the candidacy of his main rival, hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi. Media outlets affiliated with the Guards have been criticizing Rouhani's performance in power. Experts who study the force say they are also likely to use their street muscle to help get Raisi supporters to the polls.

Iranians will vote to keep opening up to the world despite the "climate of tension" created by US President Donald Trump, vice president and election candidate Eshaq Jahangiri vowed in an interview with AFP. "Our government has started along a good path -- the nuclear issue was settled, we have stabilised the economy, hope has returned. I am confident Iranians will vote for this government to continue its work," Jahangiri told AFP at his office in Tehran. But he said the aggressively anti-Iranian posture of Trump's administration threatens to undermine Iran's reconnection with the world. "Mr Trump is creating a climate of tension. If he creates problems, Iran has the means to make him regret it," said Jahangiri.


If there has been one consistent theme in Donald Trump's foreign policy since the early days of his campaign, it has been his insistence that America has not benefited economically from the global order it mostly protects. Yet when it comes to U.S. policy in the Middle East, he has been wildly inconsistent. During the presidential race, he talked about ripping up the nuclear deal reached between Iran and six world powers. He walked that pledge back shortly after taking office. Nor has he acted on his rhetoric of ramping up sanctions on Tehran. So, here's a way the Trump administration could bring these foreign policy contradictions in accord: By confronting conventional Washington wisdom that isolating Iran is beneficial to America's strategic goals. Instead, the U.S. could try building on the nuclear pact in a way that would allow Tehran to gain more economic incentives by moderating, what Washington has long regarded, as its destabilizing behavior in the Middle East.

The U.S. and its allies can prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but only if they are clear about what the controversial 2015 nuclear deal actually says. Critics of the agreement, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, often say the deal gives Iran permission to acquire nuclear weapons after 10 years. Yet the stated premise of the plan was that Iran would never build or acquire nuclear weapons-ever. An item in the deal's general provisions states that the plan "will ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme." Another item reads: "Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons." The world powers that negotiated the deal agreed to lift the sanctions against Iran only on the stated assumption that Iran never had, and never would have, a nuclear-weapons program. Although it's unlikely any parties to the deal believed Iran's nuclear program was only for peaceful purposes, they all found it diplomatically convenient to assert that it was.

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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