Category Archives: Ahmadinejad

#Iran: He’s Back! Ahmadinejad to run for president in May

AMIR VAHDAT and JON GAMBRELL
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday stunned the country by unexpectedly filing to run in the May presidential election, contradicting a recommendation from the supreme leader to stay out of the race.

Ahmadinejad’s decision could upend an election many believed would be won by moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who negotiated the nuclear deal with world powers. Though Rouhani has yet to formally register, many viewed him as a shoe-in following Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s recommendation in September for Ahmadinejad to stand down and conservatives’ inability to coalesce around a single candidate.

Ahmadinejad’s firebrand style could prove appealing for hard-liners seeking a tough-talking candidate who can stand up to U.S. President Donald Trump. His candidacy also could expose the fissures inside Iranian politics that linger since his contested 2009 re-election, which brought massive unrest.

Associated Press journalists watched as stunned election officials processed Ahmadinejad’s paperwork on Wednesday. Asked about Ahmadinejad’s decision, one Tehran-based analyst offered a blunt assessment.

“It was an organized mutiny against Iran’s ruling system,” said Soroush Farhadian, who backs reformists.

Ahmadinejad previously served two four-year terms from 2005 to 2013. Under Iranian law, he became eligible to run again after four years out of office, but he remains a polarizing figure, even among fellow hard-liners.

Two of his former vice presidents have been jailed for corruption since he left office. Iran’s economy suffered under heavy international sanctions during his administration because of Western suspicions that Tehran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in 2009 sparked massive protests and a sweeping crackdown in which thousands of people were detained and dozens were killed.

Internationally, Ahmadinejad is more known for repeatedly questioning the scale of the Holocaust, predicting Israel’s demise and expanding Iran’s contested nuclear program.

The memory of the 2009 unrest likely sparked Khamenei’s comments in September. At that time, he recommended an unnamed candidate not seek office as it would bring about a “polarized situation” that would be “harmful for the county.”

Ahmadinejad described comments by the supreme leader suggesting he not run as “just advice” in a news conference shortly after submitting his registration.

“His advice does not prevent me from running,” he said. “There is extensive pressure on me from dear people of different walks of life as their small servant to come to the election.”

There was no immediate reaction from the supreme leader’s office.

Ahmadinejad said his decision to run was intended to help former Vice President Hamid Baghaei, a close confidant. Baghaei, who was imprisoned for seven months after he left office, registered alongside Ahmadinejad on Wednesday. So did Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, another of the former president’s close allies.

More than 120 prospective candidates submitted their names as candidates on the first day of registration Tuesday, including six women and seven clerics. Registration remains open until Saturday.

Under Iran’s electoral system, all applicants must be vetted by the Guardian Council, a clerical body that will announce a final list of candidates by April 27. The council normally does not approve dissidents or women for the formal candidate list.

The May 19 election is seen by many in Iran as a referendum on the 2015 nuclear agreement and other efforts to improve the country’s sanctions-hobbled economy. Under the nuclear deal, Iran agreed to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

Since the deal, Iran has signed multi-billion-dollar contracts with airplane manufacturers Boeing Co. and Airbus. The benefits have yet to trickle down to the average Iranian, however, fueling some discontent.

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Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Adam Schreck in Dubai contributed to this report.

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Iran: Ahmadinejad, ready for a comeback

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TEHRAN, Iran — When Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stepped aside in 2013 — after eight years in office — it was clear that he had serious plans for his future. In fact, he had indicated this in a TV interview one year before leaving office, by pointing to his possible presence in Iran’s next government. The disqualification of his Vice President, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, from the 2013 presidential race, however, prevented this dream from becoming reality.

But despite the disqualification of Mashaei, Ahmadinejad had no intention to leave the stage. Soon, he came up with a special plan for the recently held parliamentary elections. In an interview last year, one of his advisers, Abdolreza Davari, revealed that a 5,000-strong cadre had been trained for parliament during Ahmadinejad’s time in office. It also came to light that the former president was holding weekly meetings with his previous ministers and advisers in a building in Velenjak, a district in northern Tehran. One of his foreign policy advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity told Al-Monitor, “I take part in meetings every Sunday. These sessions are often held on foreign policy issues, but they are not the only meetings. Other individuals in Ahmadinejad’s inner circle hold similar gatherings on different days. Of course, Ahmadinejad had no serious plans for the parliamentary elections from the start, and his mind is on the 2017 presidential poll instead.”

The source added, “Once I asked him if he had any plans for directly entering the parliamentary stage. His response was ‘no.’ He said, ‘In government, I was the only person and they created so many problems for us. In parliament, it will be me with 289 other members of parliament. Naturally this will be more difficult.’”

Prior to Iran’s Feb. 26 parliamentary elections, Ahmadinejad had predicted that the Principlists would suffer a heavy loss, and that even the Reformists’ third-rate cadres would be able to defeat the Principlists’ weak list of nominees — a prediction that proved to be true.

Meanwhile, a look at the performance of the groups close to Ahmadinejad in the recent parliamentary elections shows they were not lacking a plan either. These groups have managed to get their own candidates elected into parliament through small towns. In fact, 11 of Ahmadinejad’s former ministers, advisers, deputies and high-ranking managers have found their way into parliament’s next term through these towns.

Indeed, soon after the election results for Tehran were announced, an intense wave of joy and happiness was witnessed among the groups linked to Ahmadinejad. Posters began circulating online, bearing the slogan “The Principlists are nothing without Ahmadinejad.” In addition, numerous articles written by Ahmadinejad’s friends and allies started popping up on different websites, arguing that the main reason for the Principlists’ heavy loss — especially in Tehran — was caused by the fact that they had distanced themselves from the former president — a point that was also stressed by Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Ahmadinejad’s former adviser for press affairs. With all the parliamentary leaders of the Principlist movement eradicated in Tehran, analysts began to talk about a Principlist return to Ahmadinejad. Sadegh Zibakalam, an Iranian university professor and analyst said, “The Principlists do not have the power to return to power without Ahmadinejad.”

This idea has, however, not been met warmly within the Principlist movement. In an editorial published on the Khabar Online news website, Mohammad Mohajeri, former editor-in-chief of hard-line newpaper Kayhan, wrote that the main reason that the Principlists lost in the recent parliamentary elections was Ahmadinejad’s first election as president in 2005. Saeed Ajorloo, the editor of the Principlist magazine Mosalas, also referred to the idea of the Principlists turning back to Ahmadinejad as the worst possible thing.

Moreover, in another editorial, Hossein Kanani Moghadam, the founder of the Green Party, described the main reason for the Principlist loss in the elections as the cost inflicted on their reputation by Ahmadinejad. Yet despite all this, one should not forget that Ahmadinejad is good at playing the political game — especially when it comes to the public. By relying on this strength alone, he has managed to get his people into the next parliament, while the Principlists have failed to even predict the defeat that was awaiting them.

It is possible that Ahmadinejad is now preparing to enter the 2017 presidential race himself, which could pit him against incumbent President Hassan Rouhani. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the foreign policy adviser to Ahmadinejad told Al-Monitor, “I once told Ahmadinejad that it was unlikely that he would get votes and that it is best that he forget about the presidency. He got upset and told me that I only saw Tehran and other big cities, while he enjoyed high popularity in smaller towns.”

Except for Abolhassan Bani Sadr, the first president after the 1979 Islamic Revolution who was impeached by parliament less than two years into his term, all other presidents in the history of the Islamic Republic have served two terms in office. Based on this and the high voter turnout in the recent parliamentary elections — an indication of public satisfaction with Rouhani’s performance — it will be somewhat risky for Ahmadinejad to enter the 2017 presidential race, in which he would likely have to run against Rouhani, who has the success of the nuclear negotiations behind him.

Thus, maybe it is best for Ahmadinejad that he wait another four years and instead run in the 2021 presidential vote. However, some analysts believe that Ahmadinejad’s actions show that he does not intend to wait. Others believe that his tendency to go against the norm — such as his 11-day sulk in 2011 when he refused to show up for work after failing to dismiss his minister of intelligence, or his insistence on supporting Mashaei despite strong criticism from the Principlists as well as clerics — will prompt the establishment to prevent his return.

Saeed Laylaz, an Iranian journalist and economist, told Al-Monitor, “Whether the establishment allows Ahmadinejad to return or not is not important. We have to prevent this ourselves by closing the holes through which he could return, such as manipulating the weaker [social] class and the economically vulnerable and pulling them toward him, something that Mr. Rouhani has until now managed to do well.”

by Saeid Jafari

Iran: Ahmadinejad launches website ahead of vote

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has launched a website ahead of parliamentary elections next year in a sign he may be considering a political comeback despite a recent corruption scandal.

The website, ahmadinejad.ir, was launched Sunday with a big smiling photo of Ahmadinejad and the slogan: “We will come soon.”

Ahmadinejad effectively disappeared from Iran’s political landscape after his second term ended in 2013. The hard-line leader’s eight-year rule was marked by hostility toward the West and inflammatory rhetoric calling for the destruction of Israel and casting doubt on the Holocaust.

His reputation — even among hard-liners — took a hit earlier this month after his former senior vice president was sentenced to five years in jail and ordered to pay a $300,000 fine for corruption.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

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