ANALYSIS: Unveiling the secrets of Iran’s 1988 massacre

Ali Fallahian, Iran’s intelligence minister during the tenure of Rafsanjani’s presidency back in the early 90s, is a name most notoriously known for his role in a series of chain murders across the country that saw the elimination of many dissidents.

Fallahian has recently been heard making shocking revelations in reference to mass executions, especially targeting members and supporter of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

A German court raised charges against Fallahian for his direct involvement in the September 1992 assassination of Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Berlin. In 2007, Interpol placed Fallahian on its most wanted list for his role in the 1994 bombing the AMIA in Buenos Aires Jewish center that left 85 killed.

The 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly MEK members and supporters, has in the past year inside Iran become a major issue for the general public, especially the younger generation who are beginning to demand answers.

Fallhian’s remarks, aired in a recent interview, have caused quite a stir in social media inside Iran and amongst Iranian communities living abroad. In this interview, Fallahian sheds light on his role in the Iranian regime’s die-hard enmity against the MEK as the only opposition truly threatening their rule.

Q: “Can we blame only the MEK for taking up arms, or did we also make mistakes… for example, attack their gatherings, pressure their members and supporters…?”
Fallahian: “They had such an analysis. [Iranian opposition leader Massoud] Rajavi had maybe written 36 articles against armed conflicts.” (Khazar website – July 18) This is Fallahian acknowledging the fact that the MEK had sought to continue their peaceful political activities. The mullahs’ regime, however, dispatched their forces to attack, arrest, torture and kill MEK members. Fallahian moves on to discuss the 1988 mass executions across Iran.

Q: “Did the Intelligence Ministry suggest the 1988 executions to [Iranian regime founder Ruhollah] Khomeini?”
Fallahian: “Khomeini himself ordered it… saying the ruling for all moharebs [term used for MEK members, meaning enemies of God] is execution. There were discussions in this regard back then. Mr. Mousavi Tabrizi believed there was no need for prosecution, arguing prosecuting those who are at war with us has no meaning. Others believed those arrested should be prosecuted… however, [Khomeini] constantly emphasized to beware they don’t slip out of your hands… [Khomeini] would always say be careful in this regard… how? For example, if there was a confusion about someone being a murderer or not, execution would not be the first option of punishment. However, about the MEK [Khomeini] would say an opposite approach is needed. I know them, he would say, they must not slip away and their rulings are execution. This was his constant ruling, before and after the 1988 issue…

“… there are discussions and some are asking why were those sentenced to prison terms again condemned to death? First of all, keep in mind their rulings are execution, even if a judge hadn’t ruled for an execution, he had violated the law… If an armed mohareb was arrested, his/her ruling would be execution, even if he/she hadn’t killed anyone… the ruling for a hypocrite (another term used for MEK members) and mohareb is execution. This was [Khomeini’s] fatwa. There was no discussion in this regard. In 1988… the discussion reached the point that all of them must be executed, even those not sentenced to death. [Khomeini] would ask why have you still kept them alive.”

It is worth noting that the Iranian opposition has for the past year launched a justice movement shedding light on the 1988 massacre both inside Iran and across the globe. These efforts went into full gear weeks prior to Iran’s May 19th presidential election, forcing Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to sack his plans of engineering election results as he desired.

Conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, known to be Khamenei’s preferred candidate to replace the incumbent Hassan Rouhani as president, suffered a major defeat due to revelations of his role in the 1988 massacre. Raisi was a member of the notorious four-man “Death Commission” appointed by Khomeini himself to facilitate and hasten the execution process.

Q: “Raisi was in the commission. Who were the other members?”
Fallahian, however, refrains from naming other Death Commission members and begins discussing the process which political prisoners were executed and the summer 1988 massacre. He placed all the blame on Khomeini, emphasizing he had issued the execution and massacre ruling long before.”

Fallhian: “Yes, the poor guy [referring to Raisi] insisted he hadn’t issued the ruling, the ruling was issued in advance… but no one would listen, and they would also think the executed were innocent… if we hadn’t killed them there would be no country today. These are not my words, they are the words of [Khomeini]…”

The reporter seeks to make a reference to a groundbreaking sound file unveiled last September of Khomeini’s then successor, the late Hossein Ali Montazeri, in which he sheds light on unknown aspects of the 1988 massacre.

Q: “What was Mr. Montazeri’s mistake?”
Fallahian: “He came in disagreement with [Khomeini]… [He] believed history would judge these executions against us and Islam. He would say it would be better to refrain, as when the enemy begins to write, they won’t cite us harshly. However, [Khomeini] ordered to carry out your religious duty and don’t wait for history’s judgement.”

Q: “Were all those executed arrested while armed?”
Fallahian: “No, not all of them were involved in the armed revolt. However, many of them were living in team houses. We would go there and find only one or two weapons, or arrest them on the street without any arms.”

Q: “So how were they linked to the armed revolt?”
Fallahian: “Well, they were part of the organization.”

Q: “Wasn’t it necessary for each individual to have taken up arms to be convicted of being a mohareb?”
Fallahian: “No, when someone is a member of an armed current, the individual being armed or not, their ruling is mohareb.”

Q: “Even if they are arrested with a newspaper?”
Here the interviewer is referring to the fact that many MEK members and supporters were arrested, and eventually executed, for the mere fact of having a pro-MEK newspaper at their possession.
Fallahian: “Yes. They were part of that organization and were operational. Now, its possible someone would merely buy bread for those living in ‘team houses’, another would, for example, procure other necessary items. They were all involved.”
On a side note, Fallahian referred to the extensive MOIS role in dispatching its spies abroad under various pretexts.

“… we do not dispatch an intelligence officer, let’s say to Germany, the US or Russia, and there he would say, ‘well, I am from the Ministry of Intelligence, please provide me your information.’ (They would do it) under the cover of business or media jobs. Many journalists are intelligence agents … A journalist is not paid well, so he needs to work with an intelligence service.”

Revelations and shocking remarks about the 1988 massacre are made by numerous senior Iranian officials recently. What has made these figures acknowledge the nature of the mullahs’ regime of carrying out such massacres and mass murders?

This has been the true, yet unfortunately cloaked, nature of the mullahs ruling Iran. Nearly three decades after that horrific summer of 1988, the efforts placed by the Iranian opposition through its vast network of brave activists inside the country and abroad have forced the mullahs to literally confess to their role in these killings.

It is now high time for the international community to demand a fact-finding mission, and bring to justice all perpetrators of the 1988 massacre and all the atrocious human rights violations throughout the past 38 years.

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The state of Iran’s presidential election after recent exits

Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf’s early exit on Tuesday from Iran’s presidential election even prior to the May 19 polls, with no candidates until now forecasted to gain more than 50% of the votes, came as an unexpected turn of events.

This can be the result of a conclusion reached by the hardliner camp from the 2013 presidential election where their chances were hurt with none of their candidates willing to step aside in favor of their all-out interests.

The Status Quo

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his camp have most likely decided to set aside the deceiving smiles of incumbent President Hassan Rouhani and American educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the first round, and bring in figures known to adopt harsher tones.

Mostafa Mir-Salim, a conservative former minister of culture and Islamic guidance, will most likely follow in Ghalibaf’s footsteps. He never had any meaningful chance in the polls and was only kept to level the playing field and set three “hardliners” against three so-called “moderates/reformists”.

Khamenei loyalists will now be rallying behind Ebrahim Raisi, known as an insider figure enjoying the Supreme Leader’s support. He has climbed up the political ladder through the judiciary and out of the spotlight until the past year or so.

Ebrahim Raisi. (Raisi.org)

Known as the “massacre ayatollah” inside Iran, Raisi has served the mullahs’ so-called “judiciary” for three decades, sending thousands to the gallows to ensure his rise in the ranks. Raisi’s signature trademark is his notorious role in the summer 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the banned Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

The Rival Camp

Rouhani, of course, leads three “reformists/moderates”, with his own Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri stepping aside on Monday, and Mostafa Hashemitaba, who served as head of Iran’s National Olympic Committee.

Jahangiri in the debates was seen both challenging the “hardline” rivals head on and taking the hits for Rouhani. Hashemitaba is not a serious candidate as he has openly indicated he is literally voting for Rouhani.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (AFP)

The initial wrap up is the “reformists/moderates” are rallying behind Rouhani. However, a broader analysis shows how ridiculous the entire sham election truly is.

Rouhani himself has nothing to present to the Iranian “voter.” He has failed to inject any new life into the economy and provide for the average Iranian after the nuclear deal, and yet tens of billions of dollars are spent on:
a) the regime’s meddling across the region, mainly in Syria
b) the ballistic missile drive
c) the domestic crackdown machine
d) the nuclear program that was supposed to be curbed

During the past four years Rouhani has also presided over 3,000 executions, meaning two individuals sent to the gallows in Iran each day.

And Then There Were Two

The scene is now set for a race between Raisi and Rouhani. Signs indicate Raisi will ultimately be selected by the regime apparatus. Would Khamenei have even entered Raisi into the race if he had any hesitations about the outcome? The Supreme Leader’s recent remarks can be interpreted as warnings to Rouhani, especially when he cautioned any disruptor of the process will receive a “slap in the face.”

Rouhani also understands a complete “engineering” of the election will not be an easy task for Khamenei due to the deep divides in the regime’s senior ranks.

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, a former principalist, and Ali-Akbar Nategh-Nouri, a close confidant of Khamenei, have placed their weight behind Rouhani.

The ruling elite allowed Rouhani into the presidency in 2013 to answer their need for such a tool during the end of Obama’s term to bring an end to international sanctions. With Obama gone and the Trump administration imposing a complete overhaul in US policy vis-à-vis Iran, Khamenei is recalibrating his regime for the tough road ahead.

A Potential New Twist

Another new change in the 2017 election is how Khamenei’s camp is now understanding and embracing the importance of social media.

The candidates are using Twitter, despite being officially banned in Iran, and the messaging app Telegram, with over 20 million users amongst Iranians, to spread their message especially to the younger generation that comprise a very large percentage of Iran’s population.

While hardliners were known to traditionally respect bans placed by the regime on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, a video posted by hardliners themselves went viral showing Rouhani visiting the site of a recent mine disaster and how protesters attacked his vehicle to voice their demands.

Raisi took to Instagram to livestream his rallies and staged question-and-answer sessions, a move considered unprecedented in Iranian politics.

Dissident activists, especially those connected with the PMOI/MEK network of supporters inside the country, have gone the distance recently and braved many risks to make their voices heard and spread the message of Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi.

If arrested these activists will most certainly be tortured and most probably executed as any support for the PMOI/MEK inside Iran would be crossing a major red line for the mullahs’ regime.

Final Thoughts

Despite the regime in its entirety boasting a high general turnout vote, this trend of dissent most definitely signals yet another major boycott by the Iranian population.

Here’s a few lines to take into notice about Iran’s façade presidential election.

“Fact is, in Iran the question isn’t who gets the most votes, but who’s counting them. And those counting them this year clearly favor Raisi, a hardliner judge,” according to The New York Post.

“All this seems to guarantee the next few years will be filled with hostility and provocations directed toward America from Tehran. Indeed, even if Rouhani gets another presidential term, it’s already clear: The age of phony smiles between America and Iran is now over.”

In Lead-Up to Iranian Elections, the Nuclear Deal Becomes a Heated Topic of Debate

It is clear why Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would defend the pact, which is the cornerstone of his foreign policy legacy. His rivals, including influential cleric Ebrahim Raisi and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, defend the deal in principle and yet pinpoint its lack of effectiveness.

What must not go forgotten is the fact that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the true sculptor of the Iran nuclear deal, which is also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Prior to Rouhani’s presidency, Khamenei contacted the Obama administration through Oman to signal his readiness for negotiations.

Today, grave concerns of international reactions, especially the new U.S. administration, have kept all presidential candidates in line regarding the JCPOA. And voices in Washington are now constantly describing the JCPOA as the worst possible deal and calling for major reviews, causing deep worries in Tehran. This is exactly why Raisi, known to be Khamenei’s preferred candidate, has described the JCPOA as a national document. Ghalibaf in his remarks described the JCPOA as an initiative to be respected by all governments.Khamenei had been informed of all the details during this process. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif underscored how all red lines in the talks enjoyed Khamenei’s signature. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi confirmed as well that all fine lines were checked with Khamenei, being the regime’s final arbiter on all matters of state.

Senior Iranian officials have sensed the tides are changing and that the Obama “golden era” is over.

Iran’s economic circumstances are in such a condition today that its leaders are, in fact, in desperately in need of the JCPOA’s continuation, despite all the accompanying dilemmas. Tehran is at least permitted to sell its oil now and a few low-level banks from overseas are doing business with this regime. If not, Khamenei would have pulled the plug when the United States extended its ten-year embargoes or imposed new non-nuclear sanctions.

Iran is also facing a range of challenges severely limiting its economic endeavors.

“Many foreign investors have been put off by obstacles to doing business such as the poor state of Iranian banks, the heavy role of powerful hard-line institutions such as the elite Revolutionary Guards in the economy, a lack of clarity about the legal system as well as lingering unilateral U.S. sanctions,” according to a Reuters report.

“More than a year after the deal between Tehran and the U.S., UK, France, China, Russia and Germany came into effect, Iran’s attempts to woo international investors have borne little fruit,” the Financial Times explains.

Major French banks have also refused to do business with Iran’s financial institutions.

“Despite the efforts made, unfortunately major French banks are refusing to cooperate with Iranian banks in fear of US punitive measures,” Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported, citing Ali Ahani, Iran’s Ambassador to France.

“Banking restrictions are intact and money cannot be transferred through the SWIFT international systems,” said Iran’s Aeronautics Organization chief Hamid Pahlavani.

In the meantime, U.S. lawmakers are calling for additional attention to Iran’s use of commercial planes to assist terrorists and raising the stakes by demanding the cancellation of the Boeing deal to sell new planes to Tehran.

“These photos of Boeing executives smiling and glad-handing with a prominent member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are truly sickening. No self-respecting American should shake Hossein Alaei’s hands. They have American blood on them,” one report in the Washington Free Beacon noted.

It is the same picture on the other side of the Atlantic and further to the East.

“A preliminary deal signed by Bouygues last year to build and run a new terminal at Tehran’s Khomeini airport has been canceled, a spokesman for the French construction group said,” Reuters reported.

“All the positive results of the nuclear deal and lifting of sanctions have been overshadowed by the low prices of oil,” economist Saeed Laylaz told Reuters in a phone interview from Tehran.

All said and done, whatever the result of Iran’s presidential election, the regime has no capacity to abandon the JCPOA.

ANALYSIS: What is behind Iran’s new threats against its neighbors?

Senior Iranian officials have been heard making strong comments and threats against its neighbors in the region, specifically Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Although being alert is always advised vis-à-vis the Iranian regime, knowledge regarding the nature of the mullahs’ apparatus reassures us about this being an old Tehran tactics aimed at maintaining a straight face at hard times, desperately attempting to preserve the morale of their dwindling base, and a pitiful attempt to sway international attention from its domestic crises with a major presidential election just around the corner.

Archrival grudge

Iran’s first such threat came against Saudi Arabia when Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan threatened the Kingdom soil.
“If the Saudis do anything ignorant, we will leave no area untouched except Mecca and Medina,” Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan was quoted by Reuters citing Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency.

Dehghan’s remarks came after Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud threatened to counter Tehran’s measures by moving the “battle” between the two regional archrivals inside Iran.

The mullahs’ seem to have easily forgotten they initially launched the “battle” and how their modern day illegitimate support for the Houthis in Yemen are threatening Saudi Arabia’s southern borders. Tehran is also known for provoking Shiite terrorists inside the Kingdom and other Muslims nations across the region.

“They think they can do something because they have an air force,” Dehghan added in an apparent reference to Yemen, where Saudi warplanes have been regularly pounding the Houthis and seeking to bring an end to Tehran’s meddling.

Looking to the east

Placing attention this time on Iran’s eastern neighbors, Major-General Mohammad Baqeri warned Islamabad of his country’s forces willing to attack inside Pakistan to target “terrorists”. Head of Iran’s armed forces in effect accused Islamabad of harboring terrorists and not taking enough measures to stop cross-border attacks, as he described.

“We expect Pakistani officials to control the borders, arrest the terrorists and shut down their bases,” the Al Jazeera website quoted Iran’s Fars news agency citing Baqeri.

Such comments led to Pakistan summoning Tehran’s ambassador over these recent threats. Pakistan strongly condemned Tehran’s statements, arguing bilateral relations between the two bordering countries would be harming, to say the least. Iranian authorities must abstain from making such negative comments, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry added.

Problems at home

And when we hear a presidential candidate using the opportunity to make strong remarks against the Saudis, we realize all these comments reflect the very viewpoint of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself, the man who has the final word on all state issues, including national security and foreign affairs.

“…one day soon the filthy stain of arrogance will be wiped… from the Noble Sanctuaries,” said Ebrahim Raisi, head of the Astan Quds Razavi, a so-called “charity foundation” that is actually funneling its revenue to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to pursue the regime’s support for terrorism and meddling across the Middle East.

Raisi was referring to the Saudis who administer many of Islam’s holiest sides on their soil. Raisi is also known to believe Tehran’s borders extend across Syria, “which we consider our frontier for defending the Islamic Republic’s security and identity.” This is exactly why Raisi is described as a close confidant of Khamenei.

In this picture released by official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a graduation ceremony of a group of the Revolutionary Guard cadets in Tehran, Iran. (AP)

Elections dilemma

All this reflects how Tehran is facing a major crisis at home. Raisi and four others are contesting incumbent President Hassan Rowhani in this regime’s 12th presidential “election”, read selection, described by The Wall Street Journal as “a race between several Islamic hard-liners and one hard-liner whom the Western media prefer to cast as a moderate”.

This is a process where all candidates are vetted by the Guardian Council, an unelected 12-cleric body appointed directly and indirectly by Khamenei.

The main candidates, Rowhani and Raisi, are both known as major executioners. Rowhani has presided over 3,000 executions during his past four-year tenure, while Raisi has led a long career in the regime’s judiciary and is notoriously known for his ruthless role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners.

Final thoughts

As a result, the remarks made by senior Iranian officials lashing at left and right reveal the unending troubles the Iranian regime in its entirety is facing. And with the third and final debate scheduled for Friday, the votes for May 19th and a likely second round vote for May 26th, this entire month can be described as a minefield for Khamenei and the mullahs’ entire apparatus.

In such situations this regime resorts to making threats across the board to especially maintain face amongst its already dwindling and very low percentage social base. The very people the mullahs’ rely on to turn out in a certain number of polling stations where foreign reporters will be channeled to in order to claim high voter turnout for the presidential “election”.

Mohammad Mohaddessin, Chairman of the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran Foreign Affairs Commission, best described the crises before Khamenei.

“The choices for Khamenei are between the worse, and the worse of the worse. This is the reality that Khamenei has to deal with. This is a totally new situation and new prospects and brings the regime closer to its downfall,” he said.

Iran’s presidential election: Nothing new after 38 years

We were recently witness to the first debate of Iran’s 2017 presidential election, which can be evaluated from a variety of perspectives.  One simple conclusion is that all candidates failed to provide any hope for a better future.

Remembering how the 2009 debates paved the way for nationwide uprisings, rattling the regime’s entire establishment, this year’s debate was shortened in timing to prevent any uncontrollable sparks.  Despite all this, the arguments provided a vivid view into the regime’s critical domestic crises.

More important is the fact that, similar to all previous so-called “elections” in this regime, no candidate was able to provide a comprehensive political and economic agenda.  Twelve rounds of presidential elections, parliamentary polls, and votes for city councils have provided nothing but more of the same.

Why is it that nothing changes in Iran?  Why is it that with a new president in the U.S., all policies are completely refurbished, including immigration, health, education, and so forth?  The Trump administration’s foreign policy is being overhauled, to say the least.

Why is it that in smaller countries more similar to Iran – say, the Philippines, Chile, or Turkey – a new government brings with it changes across the spectrum in people’s lives, all linked to the state’s domestic and foreign policies?

Yet when it comes to Iran, we see nothing but a cycle of the same factions coming and going, while further plundering the country’s wealth and making the least difference in people’s lives.

The reason must be pursued in the very roots and nature of this regime.  This is a dictatorship ruled by the four percent, as described by presidential candidate and Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf in the recent debate.  A vast 96% majority of Iran’s population remains under the wrath of this cruel minority that relies on a completely fascist-minded set of laws resembling anything but a constitution.

And when elections are held, all candidates are vigorously vetted by the Guardian Council, a body of 12 conservative clerics, of whom six are appointed directly and the other six indirectly by the supreme leader himself.  And when a president is actually selected, he is nothing more than a puppet, acting according to the supreme leader’s will.  Based on the regime’s “constitution,” the president’s authority must be confirmed by the supreme leader no matter what the people have “voted.”

All this brings us to a certain set of conclusions:

Firstly – The president in Iran has no true power or authority, as the supreme leader enjoys the final say in all subjects, including national security and foreign affairs.

Secondly – No regime president has ever had any specific economic-social agenda.  Assuming any one of them had prepared such a blueprint, his agenda would need to be in complete compliance with the supreme leader’s demands.

Thus, one may ask the purpose of holding elections in such an establishment.

Mohammad-Tai Mesbah-Yazdi, an influential senior cleric in the mullahs’ ruling elite, provided probably the best response in an interview:

Elections have two purposes[.] … [T]he nation considers itself involved in establishing a religious state. As a result, they will further strive in supporting a state established with their backing, leading to the realization of important religious state goals.

The second purpose is … the importance of the people’s role and votes disarming opponents. They intended to depict this Islamic establishment as authoritarian. However, when the people’s votes are respected, opponents will lose all excuses[.]

This brings us back to our initial argument: as faces change in this regime, it is to no avail for the greater good of the people.

For example:

  • The so-called “reformist” Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s president from 1997 to 2005, doubled the number of executions in comparison to 1996 and quadrupled them in comparison to 1995!
  • The so-called “principalist” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was even worse, and the “moderate” Hassan Rouhani has stood above all with a record of 3,000 executions in four years.
  • Poverty and human rights violations have been on a continuous increase.  Iran has 16 intelligence services, and the numbers could go up, according to the semi-official Fars news agency, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards.
  • The mullahs’ own laws define around 1,800 counts of crimes that people must not commit!  The slate includes what clothes to wear, what to eat, what to read, and what satellite TV they are permitted to watch.  It is worth noting that France has only 300 such criminal measures.
  • The country’s national currency has constantly nosedived.
  • Embezzlement cases have been on the rise year after year.
  • Meddling in the internal affairs of regional countries, including Iran’s involvement in Syria, has climaxed.  This has been parallel to Tehran continuing its nuclear program and ballistic missile drive.

Neither in domestic policy nor foreign strategy can we pinpoint any significant differences among Khamenei, Rafsanjani, Khatami, Ahmadinejad, and Rouhani.

To this end, don’t hold your breath or have any hope that the May 19 presidential “election” – read: “selection” – will render anything new from within the mullahs’ regime.

Iran’s Presidential Election And The Raisi Twist

Various media outlets and Iran regime elements have commented recently over the candidacy of Ebrahim Raisi, an influential cleric described as the protégé of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, pumping new life into Iran’s so-called presidential election (read selection).

Of course, this perspective in some way is considered correct. Raisi’s candidacy has caused quite a stir in the entire poll, but not as Khamenei and his apparatus initially intended.

The role Raisi played in the “Death Commission” presiding over the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), has come into the spotlight like never before. The 1988 dossier was once considered a highly controversial matter and no senior Iranian official would raise the issue, all knowing their involvement would eventually unearth and play against their ultimate interests.

People from all walks of life in Iran are now becoming more informed about the matter and questioning both Raisi and incumbent President Hassan Rouhani about the entire ordeal. Such a phenomenon is even reflected in Iran’s state-run media, including Keyhan daily, considered Khamenei’s mouthpiece.

While placing its crosshairs on Rouhani, a piece in Keyhan is titled, “They attack Raisi, but we should not forget Rouhani’s past!”

The British state network says the positions adopted by Hassan Rouhani up to this day have been similar to others inside the apparatus. However, the ‘reformists’, seeking their own interests, only target their rivals in their remarks, leaving [Rouhani] out of the picture… There are considerable accounts in Rouhani’s report card. For example, at a time when Rouhani’s government in recent years supported efforts to revoke capital punishment, he himself in 1980 had suggested, ‘Bring traitors to Friday prayers and have them hanged for people to see. It would have more impact…’

Following the 1999 student uprising crackdown, Rouhani described the protesters as devious, foreign agents, affiliated and corrupt, adding they are ‘far more despicable for us to label them an overthrowing movement… if senior officials had not prevented us our people, our Muslim, brave and revolutionary youth would have resorted to the harshest of measures against these hoodlums.’ Back in December 2013, he described a march staged by regime supporters against those protesting the election results as clear insight. In 2015 he described that rally as the day ‘the Iranian nation defended the mullahs’ establishment.’

In other words, from 1980 to this day [Rouhani] has constantly supported crackdown measures against protesters and those opposing the government. In yet another move, Rouhani’s selected Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi as his minister of justice, saying he is delighted of Raisi’s presence in his cabinet.

(Pour-Mohammadi is another member of the abovementioned “Death Commission”.)

In yet another example, Rouhani praised his measures in imposing ‘mandatory hijab regulations in army administrative offices’. In his memoir Rouhani has written, ‘I went to Fort Dushan Tapeh and all the women employees, many in numbers, gathered in a large room where I spoke about hijab. Many of the women made a big fuss, but I stood firm and said: This is an order and no disobedience is tolerated… I ordered the guard that from the next morning women without proper hijab should no longer be allowed onto the premises.

As a result, it is crystal clear how the 1988 massacre dossier has become a trending topic amongst the Iranian people, especially college students who have been seen recently bravely questioning senior Iranian regime officials. A student in Tabriz University, northwest Iran, dared to state strong remarks and questions about this grave and horrific crime against humanity against Hassan Abbasi, a known theoretician of Khamenei’s faction.

As a result, it is natural to raise a question about the possibility of Khamenei being forced to set Raisi aside – due to his role in the 1988 massacre – and place his faction’s weight behind Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, one of the six candidates approved by the Guardian Council?

The truth is both Raisi, and Khamenei’s faction who currently support him, and Rouhani, and his so-called “moderate” faction, know the Iranian people have for decades had nothing but hatred for this regime. However, one cannot deny the fact that the possibility of Raisi stepping aside in favor of Ghalibaf has been raised in Iran’s state media outlets.

In such an outcome, this will deliver a highly unprecedented blow to Khamenei’s own image, and thus the entire Iranian regime establishment. This will ultimately play into the interest of the Iranian people and their organized resistance, resembled in the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

This coalition, represented by its President Maryam Rajavi and her 10-point plan for a future Iran, has for over three decades strived to establish a free, democratic and non-nuclear Iran. The May 19th presidential election in Iran is a major turning point and the international community should take the opportunity and stand alongside the Iranian people.

ANALYSIS: Is there anything Iran’s presidential election can change?

The US is said to be weighing a variety of different approaches on the regime ruling Iran after the upcoming May 19 presidential election.

This line of thought argues any punishing measure by the US now would support “hardliners” against “moderates”. The problem is that any such distinction of Iran’s political landscape is entirely incorrect.

The regime in Iran does not, to say the least, has the best interest of Iranians or people across the region at heart, let alone other nations throughout the planet. The argument of how the West’s actions may affect Iran’s elections fails to understand what Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his surrogates have in their playbooks.

In the elections, all candidates are vetted by a 12-cleric member Guardian Council body, effectively appointed directly and indirectly by Khamenei, as seen last Thursday. The list has now been trimmed to six candidates.

The slate includes incumbent President Hassan Rowhani, hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s first vice president Eshaq Jahangiri, Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, former minister of culture Mostafa Mirsalim and former industry minister Mostafa Hashemitaba.

A first glance indicates the remaining four will most probably step aside eventually in favor of Rowhani and Raisi.

Elections render no change

Iran’s elections do not have any impact on domestic or foreign policy. In internal issues, the hallmark “moderate” Rouhani and former president Mohammad Khatami – also dubbed “moderate” and president from 1997 to 2005 – only increased domestic crackdown, including arrests, tortures and executions.

In the past four years, Rowhani has presided over nearly 3,000 executions – far more than his firebrand predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

On foreign policy, never has there been the slightest difference in the regime’s eagerness to advance its nuclear program. Most recently, Rowhani made remarks signaling a shocking contrast to other Iranian officials: he boasted of the highly flawed Iran nuclear deal.

“Nuclear technology is a dire necessity for us, and that is exactly why [Khamenei] constantly underscores the need to continue developing this technology,” he said according to the semi-official ISNA news agency. Rowhani also boasted how his cabinet increased the defense budget.

“Statistics show [this] government has increased the defense budget by 145 percent… It is the pride of [this] government that the steps taken forward in providing strategic equipment and assets for the armed forces in the past 3½ years have matched those of the past 10 years,” he explained.

Rowhani is also known for his close relationship with the regime’s founder, Ruhollah Khomeini, dating back to 1979, while his main opponent, Raisi, spent the past three decades easily climbing up the regime’s ranks for his role in the judiciary, and sending dissidents to the gallows without any hesitation.

Raisi is most famously known for his membership in the notorious “Death Commission,” tasked to carry out Khomeini’s fatwa leading to the summer of 1988 massacre that left more than 30,000 political prisoners dead in the span of a few months. Most of the victims were members and supporters of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

In the past four years, Rowhani has presided over nearly 3,000 executions – far more than his firebrand predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Reuters)

A slate of wrongs

It would be a grave mistake for the US, and the West in general, to preemptively limit their available options on the theoretical basis of enjoying influence in the internal election, let alone its outcome, of a regime such as Iran.

A more critical mistake is constantly made by Western media, which tends to be easily misled over the scope of existing political opinions in Iran. The mere fact that Rouhani is embattled does not make him the ideal candidate for the West. A reflexive reaction in the West seems to be that if Raisi is worse, then let’s support Rowhani.

Whoever ends up becoming Iran’s next president, is – and has to be, for his own safety, politically and otherwise – absolutely in line with the supreme leader, and the radical direction of the Iranian regime in its entirety.

The mere assumption that potential US actions might be considered a major factor in Iran’s presidential election simply fails to comprehend the true nature of Iran’s political establishment, loyal only to the views of Khomeini. There is no representation by true liberals in Iran today, and nor should there be any such expectations in the future.

Even if the rivalry between Rowhani and Raisi ends with the “moderate” Rowhani gaining a second term, it changes absolutely nothing. Rowhani has been, and has to be, in service to Khamenei’s policies. Rowhani advanced the supreme leader’s nuclear policy after he blessed the nuclear talks back in 2012, prior to Rouhani’s presidency.

He supported Iran’s involvement in Syria and all the proxy militias in Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya, parallel to supervising increasing human rights violations.

Conclusion

Iran’s presidential election is nothing but a game we witness every four years. The president has no true role in running the country, other than to implement the supreme leader’s policies. Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, has the final say on all national security and foreign policy issues, while enjoying full, unrivaled supremacy.

Khamenei even has the authority, under the regime’s so-called constitution, to veto and dismiss all powers provided to the president. The difference we will witness in Iran’s approach to domestic and international affairs will be zero. That is exactly why designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization should not be delayed for any reason – especially Iran’s presidential election.

According to The Daily Beast the IRGC “are Iran’s most important security, military, and political institution, with financial interests in most areas of the state’s economy. Its Quds Force, which is in charge of global operations, was officially designated as a terrorist entity by the US Treasury Department in 2007. Hezbollah was designated in 1997.”

It is now time to target the main root of the Middle East’s crises.

Iran’s 2017 Election: Ahmadinejad’s Candidacy Signals the Regime’s Weakening

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s entrance into Iran’s electoral race is deeply dangerous.

At a time when public hatred in Iran nears a high point for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani due to his report card of deception and influential cleric Ebrahim Raisi for his role in massive killings and massacres, firebrand former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered his candidacy for Iran’s presidential election. Ahmadinejad’s return has furthered already dangerous divides among the Iranian regime’s senior ranks.

First and foremost, this sheds important light on the weakness of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and serves as a litmus test of the entire regime. Ahmadinejad claims to have remained loyal to his pledge to Khamenei to keep out of this election’s fiasco, and that his candidacy is merely aimed to support that of Hamid Baqai, a former vice president to Ahmadinejad known for his role in the notorious Ministry of Intelligence. However, the rendered disputes inside the regime prove otherwise.

“This was an act of suicide. He strapped a suicide belt around himself and entered the race… he registered despite the Supreme Leader’s specific recommendation, and this is insubordination,” said Kanani Moghadam, a member of Khamenei’s faction.

Another Khamenei loyalist went a step further to accuse Ahmadinejad of staging a rebellion. Ahmadinejad’s candidacy in the elections “is a dangerous development and officials should look into this matter. In my opinion, this paves the path for many more disobediences,” said Gharavian, a conservative cleric.

Akrami, another member of Khamenei’s camp, called for Ahmadinejad’s prosecution.

“The judiciary must set all reservations aside and see into this case to officially determine to what extent he has lied and what complications he has caused for the country… From this day forward the public prosecutor’s office still enjoys the ability to see into this matter,” he threatened.

Even members of the so-called “moderate” Rouhani faction revealed their true nature in issuing hostile remarks.

“Ahmadinejad will pay an extremely heavy price for his [recent] actions,” said Sadegh Zibakalam, an influential figure in Rouhani’s camp.

Saeed Hajarian, a former Ministry of Intelligence deputy and a current Rouhani advisor, shed light on the power struggle among the so-called “principalists.”

“In these elections all parties have placed their effort to prevent any rifts. Despite all this, we are witnessing such a division while all of them originate from a single trend. When it comes down to slicing the cake, however, they have their disputes and it’s not clear until when such a division will continue among their ranks,” he explained.

The fact is that all of the Iranian regime’s factions will continue this power struggle over a larger share of power and Iran’s wealth, while remaining an undisputable aspect of this corrupt establishment.

The Associated Press described Ahmadinejad’s candidacy as capable of widening existing rifts among Iran’s factions. Last September, Khamenei specifically made it clear how he felt about this issue.

“A certain individual came to see me and… I told him you should not participate… I didn’t even say don’t participate. I said I don’t see it fit… the country will be polarized if you do,” he warned.

“This may now cause divides… one saying that certain individual said, one saying that certain individual didn’t say, another saying why weren’t these remarks made public? Now you have it. Our enemies are listening to take advantage. You have to be very careful,” the Supreme Leader added.

Khamenei’s camp also sought to take advantage of this development in their continued attacks against Rouhani.

“When an individual makes baseless promises to resolve issues in 100 days only to receive votes, it is obvious they have no understanding of how to administer and manage the country. They are then forced to resort to lies… the price of deviated individuals returning to politics is the result of this cabinet only talking the talk, and not walking the walk,” Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said.

In the meantime, the Kayhan daily, known as Khamenei’s mouthpiece, ridiculed Rouhani for failing to deliver pledges based on the Iran nuclear deal.

“It has now been proven how all that brouhaha about foreign delegations coming and going opened no knots… no bank is willing to cooperate with us… Importing consumables, including even agricultural products, has literally crippled Iranian production. A large number of people are unemployed and huge investments have resulted in complete bankruptcies. Industrial complexes are closing down and many are working at half capacity,” the piece reads.

All said and done, this bring us to the conclusion that the Iranian regime in its entirety is facing a major dilemma, if not crisis. While the international community, especially the Obama administration, missed the opportunity to stand alongside the people of Iran in 2009 in their call for freedom, democracy and human rights, we are once again before a certain turning point in Iran’s modern history.

Iran’s Presidential Election and a Slate of Crises

What political dilemma is the regime in Iran intending to resolve through this presidential election?

In 2005, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, having the final say in all state matters, thought to spread his meddling across Iraq and the region, parallel to broad ambitions of obtaining nuclear weapons. As a result, firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was selected as president.

In 2013, Tehran needed to respond to the issue of nuclear negotiations.

Iran needs to solve a major riddle. The regime in its entirety, including all factions, seeks to defend its very existence in the face of an increasingly aggressive onslaught. This phenomenon can be described as a full house of intertwined calamities, defined as major political disorders caused by the regime’s own measures.

This means that relations between various currents and systems comprising the mullahs’ regime are suffering from numerous rifts threatening their entire existence.

A)  The ruling powers are now divided, and the separated components are placing crosshairs on each other, crippling or weakening their rivals. This is far beyond the factions loyal to Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. We are also witnessing growing divides and disintegration among Khamenei loyalists.

B)  A destabilizing dynamism can be seen in the struggle to determine who will succeed Khamenei, known to be ill with cancer.

C)  Most important is the powder-keg society ready to explode into an uncontrollable uprising. Iran has in the past twelve months witnessed the most significant rise in protests since 2010.

D) The conflict placing Iran’s oppressed minorities, including Baluchis, Arabs, Kurds, and others against the ruling establishment has intensified.

E) Iran’s deep involvement in three wars across the region, including Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, without no end in sight.

F) The regime’s major defeat in their plot against the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Members of this group were transferred collectively and as an organization from Iraq to safety in Europe, delivering a significant blow to Tehran’s plans for their annihilation.

G)  While highly flawed, the Iran nuclear deal has significantly reduced Tehran’s ability to realize its ambitions of obtaining nuclear weapons, at least for the time being.

For the mullahs, this is a defeat far more disastrous than the Iran-Iraq War.

H) The Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has become a political failure. We are witnessing how international sanctions are taking effect in different methods and may even be expanding. The JCPOA could only be effective under the Obama Doctrine, and Tehran has seen this window of opportunity slammed shut.

I) Rouhani’s administration has been nothing but a failure, both politically and economically. He has also lost his main supporters, those being former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and influential cleric Abbas Vaezi Tabasi, who died last year.

This defeat was fundamental. In fact, the so-called moderates have reached a dead end after continuously playing an important role in preserving the regime in power.

J) The process of rallying investments in Iran under the mullahs’ rule is suffering immeasurably. A very large portion of Iran’s money is wasted in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

Moreover, the very structure of the mullahs’ regime is a major stumbling block in this regard, with no solution in sight. Deep recession, a failing banking system, the government going bankrupt, and financial instability are various fruits of this crisis.

K) The environment in Iran, largely neglected, is reaching a critical point. This is of grave importance, especially an emerging water shortage dilemma linked tightly to political and social tensions.

L) A high percentage of the population is tormented by hunger, with at least 10 million people being unemployed and 20 million living in city outskirts.

How is all this related to Iran’s presidential election?

The end of Obama’s term and the accompanying rapprochement has left the regime in Iran weaker than ever before, creating a slate of dangerous consequences for Tehran.

Iran sees a serious need to first merge all divides amongst its senior ranks, parallel to restructuring its political establishment.

From Khamenei’s perspective, this is exactly why Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric close to Khamenei, has been brought into this calculation. However, Raisi’s introduction can be defined as the establishment having no clear solution for the abovementioned crises.

Rouhani going on to a second term would mean the continuation of a failing status quo, while Raisi would be fueling a dangerous flame. The two don’t provide two different solutions. In fact, they are merely guards of different doors leading to the regime’s epicenter, that being Khamenei.

They both registered as candidates after gaining Khamenei’s blessing. A legitimate question is to ask who the supreme leader prefers.

No ruling power has much tolerance for partners or rivals. The Iranian regime, however, has no tolerance at all. Considering Iran’s powder-keg society and the people’s hatred of this regime, Khamenei is forced to tiptoe a tightrope to prevent triggering a new uprising.

To this end, as far as Khamenei is concerned, the best-case scenario would be to have Raisi become president. And one step prior to the worst-case scenario is to have Rouhani continue on to a second term.

However, which scenario will Khamenei be able to materialize remains a guess, especially after Ahmadinejad’s shocking entry into the campaign. The regime’s status domestically and internationally will also influence the outcome.

Rouhani and Raisi merely represent two different regime factions quarrelling over their portion of power and plundering the country’s wealth. Their only dispute is over how to maintain this regime in power, while overlapping extremely on objectives and general policies.

Moreover, the crises riddling this regime from within should not be minimized in regard to the May 19th polls. In fact, these disputes reflect the high-stakes tensions existing between the ruling regime and the people.

These predicaments should also not be viewed merely through an economic perspective, as they pose substantial political threats for the regime in its entirety.

How Trump and Congress can coordinate against Iran

In recent years, one of the most divisive foreign policy subjects in Washington has been none other than Iran.  The deal sealed by the Obama administration with other world powers aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program and altering the regime’s gross behavior, saw its way through Congress without a single Republican voting in favor.

President Donald Trump made it a hallmark of his campaign to adopt a tougher stance against Tehran.  Recent developments have once again brought Iran at the top of the congressional agenda with the weighing of new initiatives.

President Trump has not defined the exact nature of his approach against Iran, despite unprecedentedly placing the regime “on notice.”  The Obama administration went through intense Iran policy debates, and to this end, many members on Capitol Hill have become experts from the time they have spent on this matter, far beyond any other subject.  As White House officials continue to weigh their options, Congress can seize the initiative to present an assertive perspective able to gain the backing of both executive and legislative branches.

A slate of core components should be included in this congressional effort.

Lawmakers should begin their measures by expressing their view for the need to carefully oversee Iran’s strict compliance with the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  While disagreements have flared in the past in this regard, a consensus is being established in Congress and the White House that vigorously enforcing the deal is the best roadmap to holding Iran accountable for probable future violations.

A bipartisan congressional panel should be established to guarantee correct JCPOA implementation and holding hearings to maintain the subject high on the general foreign policy playbook.  Congress should also raise the costs of Iran’s potential violations, to force the regime to think twice about taking such a path.  This would involve sanctions far beyond those triggered if the deal collapses entirely.

Congress should also call for and support a new series of law enforcement activities, military and intelligence actions, sanctions, and weapons interdiction to blunt Iran procuring for its network of proxies scattered across the region.  This can include a variety of low-profile measures targeting the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its Quds Force, along with their proxies.  This would provide a major boost in the pushback against Iran’s growing influence in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.

Congress should support the Trump administration’s new effort to improve ties with Arab Gulf allies nearly broken under Obama’s watch for the sake of the Iran nuclear deal.  A variety of options, including weapons sales and different methods of cooperation, are available in this regard.  Establishing a broad multinational task force with its Gulf partners should be a major priority for the U.S.  Such a relationship would enhance exercises and training campaigns, intelligence-sharing, and joint operations.  Such an entity can employ attacks on different targets deemed necessary, such as Iran’s proxy groups and other terrorist networks across the region.

Do not be mistaken, however: there is no intention to promote a pro-war campaign against Iran, as launching such a campaign would play into the regime’s hands.  The silver bullet or the final nail in the coffin against Iran, at least for now, is for Congress to pass a bill designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.  This is the measure that will send the necessary signal to Tehran that neither America nor the international community will tolerate any longer their belligerence of any nature.

Such a move will prevent any further wars in the region, support the Iranian people against the very entity behind Iran’s domestic clampdown and human rights violations, and weaken the regime in its entirety prior to the crucial May 19 presidential election.  Congress can thus set the stage for the Iranian people to pour into the streets, similar to the 2009 episode, and express their true feelings about the mullahs’ hideous rule.