♦ Who is collecting signatures for Ebrahim Raisi’s candidacy?
How will Ebrahim Raisi influence the fundamentals’ front, if he decides to run for the presidency? That this question is serious and important can be understood from Ali Reza Zakani’s [fundamental politician] last statement. Zakani wrote, “All the invited candidates must go through the anticipated mechanism of Popular Front of Islamic Revolution, by submitting themselves to the judgment of appointees of revolutionary people from different cities and groups of people.” This implies that something else might happen in selecting the final candidate by fundamentals.
What is more important is the news that indicates significant efforts behind the curtain to prepare the ground for Ebrahim Raisi’s running for elections. According to websites supporting Raisi, 50 members of Iran’s Expert Council in a letter have announced their support for Raisi’s candidacy, calling him the most competent candidate.
Now the question is: “who is collecting these signatures for Raisi?” Some are speculating that Alamolhoda, Mashhad’s Friday Prayer Leader and Raisi’s father-in-law, is playing a role in this regard.
♦ Rafsanjani’s daughter to stand trial
Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of late Hashemi Rafsanjani, will be tried at the 15th branch of Revolutionary Court on April 16. Her trial comes after complaints filed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and Tehran Prosecutor. According to Center for Human Rights in Iran, Hashemi’s charges have not been announced yet. Two weeks ago, a court sentenced her to 6 months in prison for “crime” of an interview with a “hostile” TV network.
Faezeh Hashemi has been arrested several times since Iran’s 2009 presidential election. In 2011, she was imprisoned for 6 months on a charge of “spreading propaganda against the regime.”
♦ IRGC’s report on dissident cleric
Following the imprisonment of Mohammad Reza Nekounam, discontent with the establishment and the illegal measures of Special Court for the Clergy has notably risen among students and teachers at Qom Seminary, says a private report by IRGC. A source at IRGC intelligence unit told Amad News that the Guard has received the information from its “news sources” in the seminaries. The report has been sent to the Supreme Leaders’ office, Guardian Council, and Assembly of Experts among other institutions.
Dissident cleric Nekounam, charged with “establishing an independent religious authority”, has been in detention for the past 27 months. He suffered a stroke in Evin Prison and was hospitalized last year. But he was returned to prison before his treatment was completed.
♦ Khamenei’s disastrous fate without JCPOA
Mehdi Khazali, the dissident blogger, and publisher, has said if JCPOA did not come into effect, Iran’s Supreme Leader would share Muammar Gaddafi’s fate. Khamenei would be thrown into the garbage heap of history without JCPOA, he said.
♦ Japan announced implementation of agreement with Iran to support investment
Japanese Embassy in Tehran in a press release announced the implementation of an agreement as to mutual encouragement and support for investment between Japan and Islamic Republic of Iran as of 26 April 2017. The Embassy adds, “In this agreement, comprehensive and detailed provisions in relation to encouragement and support for investment are stipulated, anticipating that it will encourage investment between Japan and Iran and boost the economic relationship between the two countries.”
♦ U.S. Senator: We must sanction all Revolutionary Guards
Senator Bob Menendez, a famous opponent of JCPOA in U.S. Senate, said that U.S. must not remain silent against Iran’s regional measures, which is ‘why an Act for intensifying missile sanctions and putting all Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) under sanctions is proposed.’ He added that new sanctions will target IRGC beyond Quds Forces. A group of Republican and Democratic Senators have recently proposed an act for intensifying Iran’s missile sanctions.
♦ Russia to grant 2.2bn Euro loan to Iran
In a joint press conference with Hassan Rouhani, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that 2.2bn Euro loan has been allocated to finance infrastructure projects in Iran, such as electrification of railroad and construction of thermal power plants. Putin asserted that despite regional and global problems in last year, there was 70% increase in trades between Russia and Iran, while pointing out to both countries’ enthusiasm for creating a free trade zone between Iran and Eurasian Economic Union.
During Rouhani’s visit to Russia, 15 memorandums of understanding and cooperation documents were signed in domains of economy, energy, sports, and tourism. It must be mentioned that by signing an agreement, both countries mutually canceled visa requirements.
♦ Arrested journalist to participate in Iran’s elections
Editor-in-chief of Memari News Website who exposed corruptions in Tehran Municipality last year says he plans to participate in Iran’s city council elections. “My priority is to fight corruption which still exists in some institutions, including the municipality”, says Yashar Soltani. As for his possible disqualification, Soltani said his case is still open in court and since no sentence has been issued yet, he sees no prohibition against participating in the election. Soltani also said he intends to take part in the election as an independent candidate.
After his website published classified information about illegal land sales by the Tehran Municipality, Yashar Soltani was arrested on a charge of “spreading lies” last September. He was released on bail in November 2016.
♦ Iran cannot receive European tourists for religious reasons
Iran’s Oil Minister during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency has recently said his country cannot receive European tourists for “religious and Islamic” reasons. Rostam Ghasemi, currently a presidential candidate from the conservative Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, added “there are 80 million halal tourists in the world, and we should move towards Islamic tourism,” reported Entekhab website. Ghasemi also said if visa issues are resolved, more than 8 million Iraqis can enter Iran every year.
♦ Iran to sign nuclear agreement with Russia
A Russian Foreign Ministry source says Tehran and Moscow will sign a memorandum of understanding on the development of peaceful nuclear cooperation during Hassan Rouhani’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Kremlin, reported Sputnik news agency.
The source added this would be a “working document” between Rosatom and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran: “We are talking about signing a document that defines a number of aspects of bilateral cooperation in the field of the purely peaceful use of nuclear energy, including in the context of the construction of the second and third units in Bushehr.”
♦ 5 years in prison for Iranian Christian convert
Tehran’s Appeal Court has confirmed five-year imprisonment sentence for Ebrahim Firouzi, an Iranian Christian convert from Islam. Firouzi, a 32-year-old worker, has been arrested and tried three times so far for converting to Christianity. During interrogations, Firouzi was told that if he announced he was a Muslim, he would be released. He was first detained in January 2011, then rearrested in March 2013 and sentenced to 1 year in prison followed by two years of exile, charged with “propaganda against the regime” through holding religious classes. His third arrest was in August 2013.
Firouzi is now held at Rajaee Shahr Prison’s 12th ward, which is specifically for prisoners of conscience.
Center for Human Rights in Iran
♦ Admiral Sayari: Iranian Navy’s strategy is presence in open seas
Iranian Navy Admiral, Habibullah Sayari, said Iranian navy’s strategy is developing Makran coasts, presence in open seas, and building different kinds of vessels and submarines for presence in open seas. Pointing out to his negotiations with commanders of naval forces of several Asian and European countries in Malaysia, Admiral Sayari said: countries of the region and the world are now aware of the power of Islamic Republic’s navy, considering it as one of the most powerful naval forces capable of escorting more than 3,900 commercial ships and tankers in the Gulf of Aden and securing their safety.
He urged that Iran’s presence in open seas will increase its capabilities and its pre-emptive powers. Sayari added a presence in the Gulf of Aden, Strait of Malacca, and the southern Indian Ocean is a part of Iranian navy’s strategy.
♦ Embezzlement in Astan Quds Razavi
Mehdi Azizian, former deputy custodian of Astan Quds Razavi– who is accused of embezzlement in this organization– has left the country 6 months ago. An informed source said that after the death of Vaez Tabasi, ‘they decided to only ban his children and Mr. Azizian from leaving the country, out of respect of Vaez Tabasi. After a while, Morteza Bakhtiari–Mashhad’s revolution’s prosecutor, Ahmadinejad’s Justice Minister, and currently deputy custodian of Astan Quds Razavi – summoned and interrogated Mehdi Azizian.’ The source continued, ‘apparently, they have reached the conclusion that it is better for Mehdi Azizian to leave the country to put a stop on consequences of embezzlement in Astan Quds Razavi.’
Astan Quds Razavi is one of the richest organizations in Iran, which despite its widespread economic activities, does not pay any taxes to the government.
♦ Nomination of some officials’ sons for elections
Some officials’ sons and relatives have nominated themselves in the 5th elections for City Council in Tehran which has created many reactions. More than 3,000 people have registered for these elections, which shows significant growth compared to last 4 terms. Some managers from the first generation of the revolution have registered for the City Council elections in Tehran as well.
This includes Mohsen Hashemi, son of late Hashemi Rafsanjani; Hamed Montazeri, grandson of Montazeri; Mohammad Mehdi Tondgooyan; Fatemeh Ghassemi, and daughter of Rostam Ghassemi, Oil Minister in Ahmadinejad’s government. It must be mentioned that in the 5th elections for City Council in Tehran, Mehdi Khorshidi, Ahmadinejad’s son-in-law, and Hamid Ayati, husband of Vice President for Women and Family Affairs also nominated themselves.
♦ Iran’s Parliament to pass bill to designate U.S. Army as terrorist
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security in Iran’s parliament, said that a double priority bill for calling U.S. Army and Intelligence Services as terrorist organizations will be proposed in Iranian parliament’s first official session after Iranian new year’s holiday.
He added that U.S. Army, with its presence in numerous crises in the region including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, as well as its expansive support for “terrorist organizations,” has in actuality become the “staunchest supporter for terrorist groups in the region that are massacring the oppressed people.”
♦ Former Oil Minister: Those claiming to solve issues in 100 days suffer from political Alzheimer
Former Oil Minister Rostam Ghassemi said conditions in the country, particularly in relation to unemployment, have reached a “disgusting” level while hoping that with fundamentalists would take certain measures this year to change the direction of the country.
Rostam Ghassemi emphasized that those who claimed they were going to resolve all problems in the country in 100 days are now suffering from “political Alzheimer.” “They said all missile and political sanctions will be lifted, but now they say that we just paved one way.”
Former Oil Minister asserted that economy is the most important issue in the country, saying, “according to polls that exist in the country, more than 70% of people see the economy as their main concern.” He added: “we have 20 million people are poor in the country. While our companies are not working, we are good at producing poor people.”
♦ Shariatmadari: Government failed in resistance economy
Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor in chief of Kayhan newspaper, pointed out to Iranian leader’s speech in the beginning of Iranian New Year, saying ‘when the supreme leader repeatedly emphasizes on the necessity of resistance economy, it implies that executive officials of the country have failed in that regard.’ He added that this failure could have two reasons: either they don’t have the expertise, or they don’t care. At the end, he urged that the only solution is for them to step aside. “It is to the advantage of the people and themselves.”
Fars News Agency
♦ Does Hilary Clinton’s destiny await Hassan Rouhani?
Hilary Clinton, who had the absolute support of Democratic Party in U.S. presidential elections, and saw conflicts in Republican Party over the emergence of Donald Trump, is now sitting at home, while Donald Trump is in the White House. Al-Monitor says the same thing might happen in Iran’s election, and just as in the U.S. presidential elections Hilary Clinton lost her favorable position, everything might turn against Rouhani.
According to Al-Monitor’s report, Iranian fundamentalists do not seem to agree over a single candidate to challenge Hassan Rouhani in the upcoming presidential elections in Iran on May 9.
♦ MP Karimi Ghodosi: Rouhani does not believe in counter-smuggling
Javad Karimi Ghodosi, hardline lawmaker critical of the government, said smugglers have “influences” not only in the customs office, but also in Iranian parliament and other organizations, and the president Rouhani himself does not believe in combatting smuggling. He added that the president “has not said a word about combatting smuggling, which is why the supreme leader made criticisms in this regard.”
Karimi Ghodosi asked people to make a “revolutionary decision” and not vote for Hassan Rouhani in the upcoming presidential elections. He added “if religious, revolutionary, efficient executives are elected, the country’s problems including smuggling will be solved. But if they vote for Rouhani, issues will not be resolved, and will become manifold.”
♦ 1,500 annual death due to work-related incidents
Iranian Deputy Minister of Road and Urban Development, Hamed Mazaherian pointed out to a significant number of construction accidents in Iran, saying that the death of 1,500 people due to work-related incidents shows that 60% of this number is related to construction accidents. He emphasized that this number is not acceptable according to global standards, adding that 3 households in the country are damaged by these accidents every day.
♦ Kurdish journalists and photographers prevented from covering Rouhani’s trip
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani entered Sanadaj Airport, in the absence of journalists and photographers from Kurdistan province’s news agencies and media to cover the event. Then Rouhani moved to Kurdistan Barez Tire Factory to take part in the opening ceremony of this project, where once again Kurdish journalists and photographers were banned from the ceremony.
Kurdish journalist and photographers were banned from Hassan Rouhani’s programs, while they had handed over the necessary information to governor’s office, and ID cards for this trip had been issued for them.
♦ Iranian MP: Leader dissatisfied with officials’ performance
Isfahan MP Ahmad Salek said the supreme leader Khamenei called last year “Resistance Economy, Measures, and Action,” because he expected officials to meet certain demands. But, Isfahan MP holds, one can feel from the leader’s message for Iranian new year that he is not very happy with Iranian officials in this regard.
Emphasizing that impacts of resistance economy must be felt in people’s lives, Ahmad Salek urged that with the growth of unemployment, inflation, and high prices, people are facing certain challenges that have created inefficiencies in realizing resistance economy.
♦ Houshang Amir Ahmadi announced candidacy for 2017 presidential elections
Houshang Amir Ahmadi announced his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections in Iran. He said his goal is building a national resistance economy through using domestic resources, increasing production, and creating jobs for the youth.
Amir Ahmadi is known as a lobbyist for U.S.-Iran relationship and is currently living in the U.S. He teaches at Rutgers University.
Fars News Agency
♦ Amano: We need more budget to monitor Iran’s activities
Yukiya Amano, Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said if more budget is not allocated to IAEA’s activities, this organization will face challenges in monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities. He added that in his last trip to Washington DC, he had emphasized on this point, asking for a 2.1% increase in its $400 million budget allocated to IAEA for 2018.
♦ Rouhani made pledges to Khamenei to overcome shortcomings
Following Khamenei’s criticisms of 11th government’s economic performance, Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani in a letter to Islamic Republic leader assured him that he will overcome the existing shortcomings.
In the letter published on president’s official website, Rouhani wrote that Khamenei’s emphasis on “continuous implementation of Resistance Economy’s policies” is “encouraging.”
Iran’s president announced in the letter that the government deeply believes in Resistance Economy’s policies, saying that the first session of government cabinet in the new year will be dedicated to national labor division to leap forward in domestic production and increasing employment.
♦ U.S. accused Iran of jeopardizing international navigation in Gulf
Some U.S. Navy commanders accused Iran of endangering international navigation by harassing warships passing through the Strait of Hormuz. These commanders say, according to Reuters, that future incidents might end up in miscalculation and armed clash.
The commander spoke after the U.S. aircraft carrier George H.W Bush had a confrontation with 2 sets of Iranian Navy fast-attack boats. This is the first U.S. aircraft carrier that enters the Gulf during Donald Trump’s presidency.
Some Iranian boats came as close as 870 meters of the aircraft carrier, forcing U.S. forces to send its helicopters to hover over these boats. No fire was shot during the incident.
♦ Fear of IRGC intervention in presidential elections
As Iran’s presidential election approaches, there is growing fear about Iran Revolutionary Guards’ (IRGC) intervention in this election as well. Abdul-Reza Davari, the advisor to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has written an open letter to Mohammad Ali Jafari, IRGC’s commander, saying that not only his advisors and the media led by him but also IRGC intelligence organization have already started intervening in the upcoming election in support of a certain faction.
In the letter, Abdul-Reza Davari tells Mohammad Ali Jafari that some of his advisors like Mohammad Hossein Safar Harandi and Seyed Morteza Hosseini, and also news and reports by news agencies such as “Fars”, “Nassim” and “Tasnim” indicate dark shadow cast by IRGC intelligence organization over next presidential elections.