As we wind down to the final stretch of Iran’s presidential “election” campaign, with polls scheduled for May 19th and a possible run-off for May 26th, tensions are rising as senior Iranian regime officials are taking gloves off and resorting to unprecedented remarks.
“We are here to tell pro-violence extremists that your era has come to an end,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said recently. “You [hardliners] cannot stand against our youth’s choice of freedom and progress… This month, the nation will once again reject those whose main decisions have only been executions and imprisonments over the past 38 years,” Rouhani added in an event in Hamedan, a city in western Iran.
The so-called “moderate” Rouhani is using these remarks to meet the challenge raised by the “hardline” candidates. Such distinctions in Iranian politics are highly flawed, covering a topic outside the range of this piece.
Interesting irony lies in the fact that Rouhani is making such arguments, appealing at a first glance, while over 3,000 executions have been carried out during his tenure of the past four years alone. Rouhani is also known to have been the first Iranian official to call for public executions at Friday prayers to further the influence of the regime’s domestic repression apparatus.
“Conspirators should be hanged in Friday prayers for people to see them and to have more of an impact,” he said on July 14th, 1980.
More recently, on April 18th Rouhani also boasted how under his tenure the “defense budget increased 145% from the days of 2013 and … the amount of strategic equipment and other necessities provided to the armed forces in the past 3 years equaled that of the past 10 years.”
Rouhani’s strong rhetoric were interpreted as an unusually strong indication of Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric of the faction loyal to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Raisi is known for his three-decade long role in Iran’s so-called judiciary and signing off the executions of thousands of dissidents in the 1980s, especially the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners involving mostly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
In response, Khamenei delivered a stark warning on Wednesday cautioning any “disruptors” of the upcoming polls of a “slap in the face.” This highlights the volume of political turmoil involved in the May 19th vote, to say the least.
Khamenei took advantage of a speech broadcasted widely to an audience of Revolutionary Guards graduates as he underscored the significance of security being the far more important matter in these elections. City and village council members are also set to be determined on this day.
Khamenei also banned the candidates from any mentioning of the 1988 massacre, as explained in a recent Iranian opposition statement.
Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, a cabinet post known to be appointed by the Supreme Leader himself, also delivered a report claiming his agents had foiled at least one plot aiming to instigate disruptions.
Alavi’s more important remarks came in claiming, without elaborating, his apparatus apprehending “suspected members of an Iranian opposition exile group,” according to The Washington Post.
The entire regime is terrified over a 2009-scenario repeat where Iranians in the thousands poured into the streets demanding their God given rights. Such concerns have transformed all “elections” into delicate moments for the regime.
This is exactly why Khamenei used his Wednesday speech to remind all of his determination that any party seeking to “take any measure against the country’s security in the election” will be dealt with accordingly.
These remarks are in response to a variety of different activities and measures staged by Iranians in cities across the country, which unfortunately mainstream media in the West, especially, have chosen to ignore.
In response to a call posted on the PMOI/MEK website, youths have dared the risks and threats of arrest, torture and definite execution to publicly express their views about the regime. Members of the PMOI/MEK network inside in Iran are seen placing images of the banned opposition.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the most organized and known Iranian opposition, has been banned from all political activities since 1981. Any support in Iran for the NCRI and PMOI/MEK is punishable by death, showing the bravery of these acts.
The Twitter hashtag #MyVoteRegimeChange has also been widely welcomed by both Iranians inside the country and the vast diaspora abroad. This is the very movement senior Iranian officials, and their entire regime for that matter, fear the most and seek to quell at all costs.
Iran’s 2017 presidential “election” is intertwined with the issue of Khamenei’s successor as his health is known to be deteriorating due to prostate cancer. This leaves the Iranian regime facing fast escalating domestic crises, parallel to increasing international pressures with a new US administration overhauling the previously failed Iran policies.
This is the exact timing when the international community can finally choose to stand alongside the Iranian people and their organized resistance to realize the true desires of a nation that yearns to establish a new Iran based on freedom and democracy, and free of any drive for a nuclear/ballistic missile arsenal, weapons of mass destruction, or extraterritorial terrorism and meddling.