Tag Archives: Mir-Hossein Mousavi

#Iran: The Mullahs Must Go

Michael Ledeen

 

Sanctions and diplomacy have thus far failed to induce the Iranian regime to cease its nuclear weapons program. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. Top Iranian leaders, from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei down, have repeatedly said that Iran will never abandon its “right to enrich uranium,” a process essential to building nuclear weapons. Indeed, the Iranians are now claiming that the Interim Agreement reached in Geneva by Iran, the U.S., and five other nations accepts this “right,” and the text seems to support their interpretation.

However you parse the agreement, there is no doubt that the U.S. has agreed to ease sanctions on Iran for at least the next six months. And even that time limit is more of a hopeful request than a hard and fast deadline. At the time of this writing, we are told that there are still some technical details to be hammered out, and the clock won’t start ticking until there is a final agreement. At the same time, Iran has already opened talks with American, European, Asian, and Turkish business concerns, especially the big oil companies, in anticipation of an end to the sanctions regime. Once those business connections take effect, there will be little enthusiasm for renewing the sanctions, whether after six months or six years.

So now what? Are we doomed to suffer endless negotiations, without any realistic hope of ending the Iranian nuclear program? Some American political leaders believe that if tough sanctions got us this far, tougher sanctions will get us farther. But the White House is having none of it. The president warns that such a move would undermine progress toward a final agreement and bring the West closer to war with Iran.

Are we, then, faced with the terrible choice once formulated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy: “Iran with the bomb, or bomb Iran”?

Not at all. Western strategy need not be limited to these two fearsome options. Instead, Western leaders should listen to the Washington Post editorialists who spelled out a third option two years ago: Change the Iranian regime. “By now,” the Post wrote in November 2011, “it should be obvious that only regime change will stop the Iranian nuclear program.”

Green Revolution protesters, June 17, 2009. Photo Hamed Saber / Wikimedia

Green Revolution protesters, June 17, 2009. Photo Hamed Saber / Wikimedia

For this third option to work, it must meet two conditions: First, it must be plausible. That is, there must be good reason to believe that the downfall of the regime—without waging a full-scale war against Iran—can be accomplished. And second, there must be good reason to believe that a new regime in Tehran will be better than the old. As my clear-eyed Russian grandmother used to remind me, things are never so bad that they can’t get worse. We certainly wouldn’t want that.

To understand the possibility of democratic change in Iran, one must remember that revolution is an Iranian national tradition. Over the last century, there have been no less than three political revolutions in Iran, the last of which created the Islamic Republic in 1979. There have also been two failed uprisings against the current regime: First in the summer of 2003, in response to which Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that the United States did not wish to get involved in a “family squabble”; and second in 2009, following the fraudulent elections that kept then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power for another four years. The 2009 demonstrations were larger than those that toppled the Shah in 1979, but once again the US stayed out of it, and the regime succeeded in putting down the uprising through a massive campaign of domestic repression.

Many of those who fought the regime in the streets four years ago are still in prison; most notably, three leaders of the opposition Green Movement: former prime minister and presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi (who probably received more votes than Ahmadinejad), his firebrand feminist wife Zahra Rahnavard, and his ally, former parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karroubi. All three have been held in isolation for more than 1,040 days, and both men have been recently hospitalized.

Yet support for the opposition remains strong. When Iran’s Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif recently returned to Tehran from Geneva, hundreds of enthusiastic Iranians greeted him at the airport. But a substantial number of them were opposition supporters, as demonstrated by a YouTube video in which they can be heard calling Mousavi’s name—“Ya Hossein! Mir Hossein!”

Opposition activities aren’t limited to words. Although rarely reported outside Iran, attacks on refineries and pipelines are pandemic. In the small oil-rich province of Ahwaz, for example, where the Arab population has been subjected to unusual cruelty, there have been six pipeline attacks this year alone. At the same time, the northern gas pipelines to Turkey (where anti-regime Kurdish forces are active) have been frequently bombed.

Women protest against the mandatory wearing of hijab in the days following the Iranian Revolution, 1979. Photo credit: Soroush90gh / Wikimedia

Women protest against the mandatory wearing of hijab in the days following the Iranian Revolution, 1979. Photo credit: Soroush90gh / Wikimedia

Regime assets are also a target. Last March, the opposition attacked two Revolutionary Guard Corps installations. One was Zarin Dasht, where missile fuel and warheads are manufactured. The other was Natanz, a major uranium enrichment center. The resulting explosion forced the entire complex to shut down. While invariably blamed on Israel or the United States, some of these spectacular attacks are actually carried out by the Iranian opposition, and serious analysts believe they are also responsible for at least some recent assassinations of nuclear physicists.

The most convincing evidence of the opposition’s strength, however, comes from the regime itself. Put simply, the regime appears terrified of even the quietest expressions of dissent. Even small groups in public places are quickly broken up, lest they grow into full-scale demonstrations. At the beginning of the year, Khamenei’s representative to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Ali Saeedi, described just how intense this fear has become. If Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wanted to demonstrate the weakness of the opposition, he would have subjected the Mousavis and Karroubi to the same harsh treatment that has been meted out to many of their followers: Summary judgment by a Revolutionary Court, followed by execution. But Saeedi told the Iranian state news agency Fars that Khamenei cannot do this because Mousavi and Karroubi “have supporters and followers” as well as “a few [clerics] who continue to back elements within the sedition.”

The regime’s anxiety about the Green Movement led it to ban scores of candidates from running in the May parliamentary elections and deploy thousands of security forces to polling stations in order to prevent protests. Even the Supreme Leader shies away from public events. For the first time in more than twenty years, Khamenei failed to appear at Revolutionary Guards Day festivities in late June or at birthday celebrations for Imam Ali the following month. Indeed, when two popular Iranian artists— actor Iraj Ghaderi and musician Hassan Kassai—died in the summer of 2012, their funerals were held in the middle of the night, to make popular attendance as difficult as possible.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mouasvi being greeted by supporters, June 18, 2009. Photo: Hamed Saber / Wikimedia

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mouasvi being greeted by supporters, June 18, 2009. Photo: Hamed Saber / Wikimedia

So the regime’s answer to the question, “Can the Iranian regime be replaced?” appears to be an emphatic, “Yes, it can.”

Paradoxically, Western intelligence services are much more pessimistic about the chances for a successful Iranian revolution. They maintain that the Green Movement has been crushed and decapitated, and Khamenei and his henchmen are firmly in control. I’m not impressed by these conclusions, for two reasons: First, they said the same thing before the 2009 uprising, which took them by surprise. If they were so wrong then, why should we believe them now? And second, they said exactly the same thing about the Soviet Union and its satellites on the eve of their implosion. Time and again, we were told that there was no real opposition to the Soviets, that the KGB had crushed any attempt to challenge the regime, and that Gorbachev was firmly in control.

I think the Iranian regime has the more accurate reading of the situation.

Many of the revolutions resulting from the recent “Arab Spring” have been unhappy ones; so it is prudent to ask whether a new regime in Tehran would make things worse, not better: Worse for the region, worse for the United States, and worse for the Iranian people. Skeptics remind us that Mousavi was a loyal servant of the Ayatollah Khomeini, creator of the Islamic Republic itself. Why would we want such a man to rule Iran today?

First, there is plenty of reason to believe Mousavi has changed. Before he ran for president in 2009, he spent twenty years outside politics; and even as he repeatedly paid homage to Khomeini, his electoral campaign made is clear that he intended to undo the Ayatollah’s theocratic system. The clearest evidence of this comes from Mousavi himself. In the early months of his captivity, he wrote on his Facebook page that, if readers want to understand him, they should read two books: Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s News of a Kidnapping, and Stefan Zweig’s The Right to Heresy. Both quickly became best-sellers in Iran. The first book gave rise to a popular Facebook page called “News of a Kidnapping, the status of a president in captivity.” The second deals with the revolt against John Calvin led by 16th century cleric Sebastian Castellio. It is a call for religious toleration, and Castellio’s most famous line is “to burn a man alive does not defend a doctrine, but slays a man.”

One cannot read Zweig’s account of Castellio’s battle with the “totalitarian” Calvin without thinking of Mousavi’s challenge to Khamenei. Indeed, the book begins with a quotation from Montaigne that is clearly Mousavi’s motto: “The most valiant are often the most unfortunate. So there are triumphant losses more to be envied than victories.” Equally significant is the fact that there is no shortage of quotations extolling martyrs in Shi’ite Muslim texts—in fact, this is the central theme of the faith. Yet Mousavi sent anyone wishing to understand him and his movement to two Western books, one written by a Jew.

A bus burning in Tehran, the result of protests during the Green Revoultion, June 13, 2009. Photo: Shahram Sharif / Wikimedia

A bus burning in Tehran, the result of protests during the Green Revoultion, June 13, 2009. Photo: Shahram Sharif / Wikimedia

Second, Mousavi made it clear throughout his presidential campaign that he wants to bring Iran closer to the West. He promised, for example, to end Iranian support for international terrorism. This promise proved extremely popular. More than a year and a half later, in February 2011, demonstrators were decrying the regime’s support for the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah, carrying banners with slogans like “Don’t talk to us about the Palestinians, talk about us.”

The Green Movement also pledged to end many of the Islamic Republic’s oppressive policies. Although the group’s leaders pay lip service to restoring the values of the Islamic Revolution, anyone reading their specific proposals can see what’s really going on. During the 2009 campaign, Mousavi’s wife Zahra campaigned alongside him, saying, “I wear a veil and I believe all Iranian women should wear it.” But, she went on, “if there are any women who do not want to wear it, so be it.” It was a stark act of defiance against a deeply misogynistic regime. Mousavi has also promised toleration of religious dissenters, the release of all political prisoners, and a greater separation of religion and state. That is tantamount to dismantling the Islamic Republic.

President Obama has long been aware of the Green Movement and their intentions. During the 2009 uprising, the White House sent a short message to its leaders through an Iranian-American back channel in New York City. In November, with Iran still in turmoil, a lengthy reply arrived. The key line reads, “Religion, by the will of the Iranian people of today, has to be separated from the state in order to guarantee unity of Iran.” It’s hard to imagine a clearer rejection of the very basis of the Islamic Republic, or a more explicit statement of the desire to return to the Shi’ite tradition of limiting religion to the mosque while entrusting affairs of state to secular leaders.

Ayatollah Khomeini praying in France. Hassan Rouhani is behind him, second from left. Photo credit: Mojtaba Salimi / Wikimedia

Ayatollah Khomeini praying in France. Hassan Rouhani is behind him, second from left. Photo credit: Mojtaba Salimi / Wikimedia

The letter also warned President Obama about the true nature of the Iranian regime in no uncertain terms. It presents a snapshot of Iran under a theocratic tyranny. “It is as if the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ were to be reestablished in the West,” it states at one point. And, later on, “the regime is a brutal, apocalyptic, theocratic dictatorship that tries to survive by means of suppression of its own people, military force, theft of national resources, and economic stealth.” The letter says that, like all totalitarian governments, the regime cannot be reformed. But it also insists that the forces for change inside Iran are strong and well-led.

The Obama Administration never replied.

What about nuclear weapons? While the issue has not been specifically addressed, the Green Movement has repeatedly condemned the regime’s “adventurism” in foreign affairs. This, combined with the myriad indications that the Greens want better relations with the West very much, makes it a near certainty a free Iran led by the opposition would bring the country into compliance with the various UN resolutions that call for an end to uranium enrichment. In addition, the West would have far less to fear from a free Iran, whatever weapons it might possess, than from the current regime.

Those of us who worked to peacefully bring down the Soviet Empire have learned how little we really know about political revolution. During the Reagan administration, we were confident the Soviet system was doomed; but many of us, myself included, believed we had failed to bring about the revolution we hoped to see. We were surprised when the U.S.S.R. fell; and it was only later that we learned from dissidents in the former communist bloc that our work had indeed been decisive.

Those wondering how to bring down the Iranian regime today can learn several lessons from the last years of the Cold War. One of them is that many smart and sensible people will always tell you not to challenge an enemy regime. I was amazed at the opposition to our support for Soviet dissidents and refuseniks, as well as the Jackson-Vannick Amendment on behalf of Soviet Jewry. We were repeatedly warned that challenging Moscow would only make things worse for the people we wanted to help. And we were branded as crazy for believing it was possible to bring down the entire Soviet empire.

And yet, it’s gone.

Much the same is going on today in regard to Iran: The same warnings, the same insults, the same demands that we come to terms with an evil system and try to work out some kind of modus vivendi. Yet the Iranian regime is even more hollow and internally fractured than Gorbachev’s, and the relative size of the Iranian opposition dwarfs the forces willing to challenge the communists.

Khamenei knows that the greatest threat to his power comes from the Iranian people, who despise him and want to be free of his regime. They have long experience with self-government, they are the best-educated people in the Middle East this side of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and they are willing to fight. We should help them.

Protesters in Tehran, June 16, 2009. Photo: Milad Avazbeigi / Wikimedia

Protesters in Tehran, June 16, 2009. Photo: Milad Avazbeigi / Wikimedia

As the Greens wrote to Obama in 2009, “It is up to the countries of the free world to make up their mind. Will they… push every decision to the future until it is too late, or will they reward the brave people of Iran and simultaneously advance Western interests and world peace?”

To date, we have tried to come to terms with the regime and utterly failed to help the Iranian people; even though it wouldn’t be very difficult or expensive to do so. We should maintain sanctions, which send an important political message to the Iranian people, and we should openly support them, call for the release of political prisoners, broadcast accurate news about the Islamic Republic to them, work with the international trade union movement to support Iranian workers (tens of thousands of whom are not being paid on time), and relentlessly expose the crushing repression to which they are subjected and which has not improved under the new President, Hassan Rouhani. But above all, they should hear from us. To my knowledge, no Western government has contacted the Iranian opposition inside the country since shortly after the 2009 uprising. That must change.

It’s the right thing to do, and it’s strategically sound. If we don’t work for revolutionary change inside Iran, we condemn ourselves to the Sarkozy option: Which will it be, Iran with the bomb or bomb Iran?

Banner Photo: Hamed Saber / Wikimedia 

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Iranian Presidential Election Turning into a Circus

Iranian Presidential Election Turning into a Circus

By Reza Kahlili

The Iranian presidential election next month will not be free. The candidates have all been selected to run because they are loyal to the Islamic dictatorship.

Most of the candidates are criminals, including three with arrest warrants issued against them by either Interpol or Argentinian courts for the 1994 Jewish Community Center bombing in Buenos Aires: Mohsen Rezaei, the ex-chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards, and two former regime officials, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ali Akbar Velayati.

Another candidate, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, current mayor of Tehran and former police commander, has said of the 1999 student protests:

“I was the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Air Force at the time. Photographs of me are available showing me on the back of a motorbike, with Hossein Khaleqi, beating them (the protesters) with wooden sticks. … I was among those carrying out beatings on the street level and I am proud of that. I didn’t care that I was a high-ranking commander.”

Recently an audiotape surfaced on the Internet revealing his 2003 speech to the Basij paramilitary forces bragging about his role at the Supreme National Security Council meeting to get the authorization to attack the student protesters: “I spoke very harshly. Didn’t observe proper protocol, and I told them as head of the police, I will demolish anyone who would show up tonight on the campus to protest … with my behavior I intimidated them to get the permission to enter and also to shoot (at protesters).”

Under the Islamic Republic’s constitution, the 12-member Guardian Council decides the eligibility of who can run for office, and anyone with any history of opposing the regime is barred from participation. The council is made up of six Islamic faqihs (experts in Islamic law) appointed by the supreme leader and six jurists nominated by the head of the Judiciary (who is himself appointed by the supreme leader), and then approved by the parliament.

However, what makes this presidential election interesting this year is the confrontation between Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the latter’s handpicked candidate, close confidant and top adviser Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

As I reported on April 30, Ahmadinejad was arrested after his visit to Tehran’s 26th International Book Fair. He was held for seven hours and was warned to keep his mouth shut about matters detrimental to the Islamic regime before being released, according to a source within the Revolutionary Guard’s intelligence unit.

Earlier, the regime’s media outlet Baztab reported that Ahmadinejad had warned associates that if Mashaei was rejected as a candidate, then Ahmadinejad would reveal recordings confirming that the regime defrauded the voters in the 2009 presidential election.

Our revelation of the news caused a firestorm inside the regime, which then arrested the editor of Baztab for publishing the report. They then attacked WND and me for publishing the report of the arrest and the revelation about the recording, which reportedly quotes officials telling Ahmadinejad in 2009 that they would announce his total winning tally as 24 million votes where, in fact, the actual number was much lower.

The source who provided the information about Ahmadinejad’s arrest then revealed the content of the tape (which is a bit longer than 11 minutes) as being between Ahmadinejad and Vahid Haghanian, the head of the supreme leader’s office. The two discuss the fraud in which Haghanian said election officials added millions of votes to Ahmadinejad’s tally to declare him the winner.

During that phone call, the two argued as Haghanian told Ahmadinejad what Khamenei expected of him. Haghanian told him that they had to add millions of fake votes to declare him the winner despite having all the Guards and Basij personnel voting for him.

The actual results of the election, as provided by the source were:

• Mir Hossein Mousavi won the election with over 19,250,000 votes.
• Ahmadinejad was second with a little over 13,000,000 votes.
• Mohsen Rezaei had approximately 3,700,000 votes.
• Mehdi Karoubi had approximately 3,200,000 votes.

Millions of Iranians took to the streets after the 2009 election results were reported, calling Ahmadinejad’s reported 62 percent tally of voters a fraud and demanding a free election.

Thousands were arrested, with many tortured and executed. Mousavi and Karoubi have been under house arrest ever since.

According to the source, Ahmadinejad plans to derail the elections if Mashaei’s registration for presidential candidacy is not accepted. Khamenei desperately wants this election to go without incident to show the world that the regime is united and has popular support.

It will be interesting to see if Khamenei backs down and allows Mashaei to run just to keep Ahmadinejad in check, but then picks his own candidate out of the hat, as the regime always does, and as they did with Ahmadinejad himself, to keep the clerical regime alive longer.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and author of the award-winning book  A Time to Betray (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).

Who’s who of Iran’s elections

Many names stand out when talking about the upcoming Iranian presidential elections, but some candidacies are more important for Iran’s domestic and foreign policies.

Most potential candidates are hardliners close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, but there are some from incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s movement, especially if the candidacy of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, the president’s advisor and brother-in-law, is approved.

Things are still unclear within the reformist spectrum. A meeting was held between Khamenei and three reformist figures, and there have been rumors about a potential meeting between the Supreme Leader and former Iranian President and reformist leader Mohammad Khatami.

Hereunder is information about potential candidates:

Saeed Jalili

His name was mentioned as a potential right-wing candidate, but the man who lost a leg during the Iran-Iraq War and is widely respected in policy circles as well as among the public still has detractors, minimizing his chances of victory even within the extremist movement. Many – including influential figures within the right wing – believe that Jalili does not have the necessary support and that many would not vote for him. According to his foes, his talks on Iran’s nuclear program with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton did not help Iran, as the UN Security Council has issued six resolutions against the country.

Hassan Rohani

Rohani was the chief negotiator in the 2003 talks on Iran’s nuclear program with three European countries (Great Britain, France and Germany), which led to Iran’s accepting to suspend its uranium enrichment program. Despite his harsh criticism of Ahmadinejad’s policies, Rohani is not widely accepted in reformist circles. Even though he is Khamenei’s representative to the National Security Council and a member of the Assembly of Experts, his role in nuclear talks has left him unpopular with right-wingers.

Ali Larijani

Laijani ran in the 2005 presidential elections and came in sixth. In the second round of elections, he supported former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is a close ally of Khamenei and is a member of every committee established by the Supreme Leader, and is one of Khamenei’s representatives on the National Security Council.

Larijani was also a chief nuclear negotiator with the West, and he managed to move the focus of diplomatic action from the Foreign Affairs Ministry to the National Security Council.

During the fall of 2007, his conflict with President Ahmadinejad broadened around the best way to run the nuclear talks, ultimately leading to him being dismissed from his position as chief negotiator. Larijani then ran for election on the Shura Council with the support of influential religious figures in the city of Qom, and handily took the position of speaker.

Larijani’s conflict with Ahmadinejad grew worse during the president’s second term, as Larijani supported Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Larijani is also a key figure in the Revolutionary Guards and was the director general of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

Yet despite having the support of three out of four traditional reference figures in Qom and hailing from a family with religious standing, he is not greatly popular in major cities and within the right wing.

Ali Akbar Velayati

Velayati was first appointed as the foreign minister of Iran during PM Mir Hossein Mousavi’s cabinet and Ali Khamenei’s presidential term in 1981. He wanted to resign in 1984, but Khamenei refused to allow him to, so as not to give the international community the impression that Iran’s foreign policy was inclined to change.

Velayati was an important foreign policy player and used the doctrine of “neither pro-East, nor pro-West” in addition to the idea of exporting the Islamic Revolution.

Due to his conservative style at the helm of Iran’s foreign policy, he withdrew from President Mohammad Khatami’s reformist government and became Khamenei’s international affairs advisor. Velayati is regarded today as one of the strongest potential candidates, albeit one who will run only with Khamenei’s blessing.

Ali Akbar Salehi

The current Iranian foreign minister is widely liked in Iran and is reportedly close to Khamenei, and played a key role in the recent Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Tehran. Salehi, who holds a PhD in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, became foreign minister in 2010 and has retained his position at the helm of Iran’s nuclear power organization. He previously served under President Khatami as Iran’s delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Hooshang Amirahmadi

He is a professor at Rutgers University in the US and is the director of the American Iranian Council. Nicknamed “the sponsor of restoring ties” with the United States, he has declared his readiness to run for the Iranian presidential elections.

His name has been mentioned as part of the so-called Iranian lobby in the United States. Amirahmadi believes that the US impression of Iran seeking to expand its nuclear weapons is based on “mistaken and weak pretexts.”

Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf

Ghalibaf was the director of General Security and is said to have introduced improvements, including in prison conditions. Moreover, he served as special presidential representative and chaired the anti-smuggling department. He ran in the 2005 elections and was criticized because of “[excessive] splendor in his electoral campaign.”

Ghalibaf used his influence over Hamshahri, one of the most widely distributed Iranian newspapers, to attack Ahmadinejad, arguing that Iran is locked in a political and economic crisis.

Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei

For all the controversial statements imputed to Mashaei, including about “friendship with Israel,” he is close to Ahmadinejad, his brother-in-law. Mashaei served as the Iranian president’s top adviser and first vice president until he was removed from office on April 9, 2011. He is described as pragmatic, a moderate conservative and a religious nationalist.

Extremists consider Mashaei a troublemaker and a political burden. In 2007, he attended a controversial ceremony in Turkey during which a dancer performed, causing a stir. In 2008, he hosted a ceremony in Tehran during which several women played the tambour while another woman stood on the rostrum holding the Quran and reading verses. This drew angry reactions among extremists, who said Mashaei was “unworthy of reading verses of the Quran.”

However, in 2010, Mashaei said that Iran’s ideology, Shiite Islam, should be promoted worldwide. He asserted that Iran only recognizes “the pure Islam practiced in Iran rather than Islam as interpreted in other countries,” causing angry reactions from critics. Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said that his statements were “a crime against national security,” and Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, the speaker of Tehran University, said that “equating the Iranian school to the school of Islam is tantamount to pagan nationalism, which the people of Iran have never accepted.”

Mashaei was forced to step down from his position as vice president and served in 17 different governmental positions. Clerics accuse Mashaei of hampering Ahmadinejad’s agenda, and rumor has it that he was biased in favor of the leaders of the Green Movement. Some political analysts say Ahmadinejad is backing Mashaei’s candidacy for the presidency. This would allow the current president to bolster his influence in governmental affairs so that he can run for office again. Mashaei’s supporters have launched websites and blogs in his favor.

Gholam Hossein Elham

Elham is a lawyer, jurist and spokesperson for Ahmadinejad’s government. He served as minister of justice and as secretary of the Goods and Foreign Exchange Anti-Smuggling Headquarters in addition to being a member of the scientific board of the University of Tehran’s Law School. Many websites have started mentioning his name as a potential candidate.

Ali Nikzad

Nikzad is the minister of Transportation, Housing and Urban Building. Political and media circles have started referring to him as a potential presidential candidate, and he has not denied that he intends to file his candidacy.

by

Fatima al-Samadi

This article is a translation of the original Arabic