All the President’s Men: Iran’s Cabinet Candidates

Vahid Salemi/AP

While humans lack the ability to see into the future, we do possess the power to analyze our world to predict what the future has in store for us. The result of Iran’s so-called presidential election back in May rendered a second term for the incumbent Hassan Rouhani. During Iran’s short election season, lasting no less than a month, the mullahs’ cunningly downgraded crackdown measures, decreasing executions and increasing social freedoms to lure the general public into polling stations.

Nevertheless, the all-male slate of cabinet candidates presented by Rouhani to the parliament for approval provides a dark insight of what awaits the Iranian people and the international community. To make a long story short, these are names consisting of former Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) members, hostage takers, executioners, torturers and thieves.

This is a signal of Iran fuelling a future of further wars, crackdown, massacres, exporting terrorism and fundamentalism, and killing sprees targeting the region’s nations.

While Iran apologists and the appeasement camp misled the international community to naively describe Rouhani as a smiling “moderate,” his first term rendered over 3,000 executions and went mostly neglected. Knowing the Obama administration desperately needed a legacy-defining foreign policy achievement, Rouhani and the mullahs saw a green light to press the gas pedal on executions.

After deactivating the gallows shortly for the May elections, the mullahs returned to their true nature and resorted to over 100 executions in July alone. This consists of an average of at least one execution every eight hours.

This should be a wake-up call for European states that have banned executions altogether, and yet are willing to signature lucrative economic deals with Tehran, such as Airbus, Total and Renault.

Rouhani’s list of cabinet candidates has raised quite a stir. After providing a variety of promises during his election campaign, he failed to present even a single female minister candidate. Only under a wave of protests and pressures did Rouhani give in to naming three female vice presidents, providing nothing more than symbolic roles.

There are also reports indicating Rouhani ran through his candidates in close coordination with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. This goes against Iranian political norms — Khamenei is known to have a say in a number of specific candidates, including the key ministers of defense, foreign affairs and intelligence.

Anger mounted during his first term over Rouhani’s ironic decision to appoint Mostafa Pourmohammadi as his justice minister. Pourmohammadi is known for his direct role in the notorious 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters members of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

And while Pourmohammadi is set aside in Rouhani’s second term cabinet, his replacement, Alireza Avaie, is adding insult to injury. Avaie also played a leading role in the 1988 massacre in Khuzestan Province, southwest Iran. The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held a press conference in September unveiling Avaie’s involvement in executions of Younesco Prison in the city of Dezful. The majority of Iran’s Arab community are resident in the country’s southwest regions.

Other names in Rouhani’s cabinet indicate a bleak second term riddled with crackdown measures and going back on all election season promises.

Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi is appointed to serve as the new minister of communications and information technology. This is an individual who entered the mullahs’ hated Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) at the age of 21, becoming involved in interrogations, torture and censorship in his early days.

During the 2009 uprising Jahromi was appointed as the MOIS Director of Surveillance. He is known to have expanded this department and his appointment is seen as Rouhani’s attempt to confront the PMOI/MEK’s increasing popularity amongst Iran’s population through social media networks. Iran is known to have a young and very active social media population of over 40 million users.

Amir Hatami is set to become Iran’s new defense minister. Joining the ultraconservative and repressive IRGC Bassij paramilitaries at the age of 12, Hatami is known for his active and enthusiastic participation in the regime’s crackdown and killing campaigns. He is amongst the Bassij members tasked to join Iran’s classic army and quickly rose the ranks to provide the mullahs the influence they sought in this force. Hatami also played an important role in identifying, arresting and eliminating any army member showing even the slightest sign of patriotic devotion and acting against the mullahs’ interests.

Habibollah Beetaraf, Rouhani’s candidate for the new labor minister, was amongst the so-called “college students” who stormed the US Embassy back in 1979 and took 52 American diplomats hostage. He was one of the first IRGC members and participated in literally herding teenagers and even small children into minefields during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

Iran’s industry, mines and trade will be managed by Mohammad Shariatmadari, famous for actively playing a part in the regime’s crackdown and plundering. He is heavily involved in managing Khamenei’s conglomerate, known as the “Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam” – Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam, controlling a large percentage of the regime’s economic empire. $95 billion is this massive entity’s estimated capital.

This lineup provides a dark glimpse into what the future will bring for the Iranian people and neighboring nations. For example, following July’s execution spree, the mullahs’ regime reportedly sent 13 individuals to the gallows on August 10th alone.

This atrocity included 11 hangings in a mass killing in the city of Birjand, eastern Iran; one execution in a small town in northern Iran; and the horrific execution of 20-year-old Alireza Tajiki, arrested at the age of 15 at the time of his alleged crime.

Amnesty International demanding Tehran halt this hanging fell on deaf ears and Iran’s mullahs once again proved their sinister cruelty and lack of respect for any humane values and international laws.

Rouhani’s second term will bring nothing but additional economic and social devastation, parallel to political crackdown, destructive meddling across the region and continuing Iran’s ballistic missile/nuclear drives. Rouhani neither has the will nor intention to bring about any meaningful change in this regime’s foundations, infrastructure, nature or approach.

What else is expected from an individual who for 40 years has actively participated in the regime’s oppression and warmongering. Rouhani was the first Iranian regime official to call for public executions to teach the Iranian people a lesson.

Despite claims otherwise, Rouhani is part and parcel of the mullahs’ establishment, and he, too, seeks to maintain this system intact and in power. Hence, the international community needs to understand no change will emerge from this medieval, reactionary-minded regime.

The Iranian people and their organized opposition finally deserve the support and recognition they have been deprived of for the past four decades.

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Crunching the numbers of Iran’s presidential election

The presidential election in Iran is over, and Hassan Rouhani has been selected to a second term.  Already there are strong allegations of fraud and vote-rigging, especially from the camp loyal to Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

The vote-rigging industry in Iran under the mullahs’ rule has been a very long-lasting practice.  One of the most common methods is simply to multiply the true number of all the votes for all candidates, to legitimize the collective process for the better good of the entire regime apparatus.

The mullahs are also known to print a large number of voting slips, far more than enough, and place them in ballot boxes at a variety of pit stops.  This is, again, aimed at depicting a canvas of very large voter participation.

The most important example was unveiled by former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi in 2009, when he said the Interior Ministry had printed an extra 22 to 32 million voting slips.  Moreover, a certain entity in the Interior Ministry, known as the “Vote Compiling Room,” is where any and all types of statistics are literally materialized.

Of course, this was back in 2009.  In this year’s election, eight years down the road, the “printing” phenomenon escalated to an enormous scale.  According to reports published by state media, the number of ballots printed for this year’s vote was over 200 million.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency, affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, unveiled these numbers while specifying that the number of eligible voters in Iran was 56,410,234.

It is worth noting that 200 million voting papers were printed for three rounds of elections, all held on May 19:

  •       presidential election
  •       city and village council elections
  •       midterm parliamentary elections

For the first two, 56 million voting papers was needed.  However, for the midterm parliamentary elections held in only four provinces, there was no need for another 60 to 70 million voting papers – especially since the constituencies were related to one city and a few towns:

1) Maraghe and Ajab Sheer (northwest Iran), population 314,000

2) Ahar and Harees (northwest Iran), population 192,000

3) City of Isfahan (central Iran), population around 1.6 million

4) Bandar Lange, Bestak, and Parsiyan (southern Iran), population less than 200,000

The total number of eligible voters in these four constituencies is less than 2.5 million people.

This brings us to the conclusion that these three different elections did not need anything more than 150 to 160 million voting slips.  The question is, what does this make of the 40 million extra voting slips printed?  Where did they end up?

Needless to say, according to the Interior Ministry’s own official numbers, in all the years of Iran being ruled by the mullahs, 25 to 49 percent of eligible voters have refused to cast their ballots.  Again, this is according to the Interior Ministry’s numbers.  Rest assured that the truth is far higher.

While Iran claimed that 73 percent of the eligible voters turned out for this year’s presidential election, of the 2.5 million Iranians living abroad, only 6 percent cast their ballots, according to the Interior Ministry.

Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Tehran’s former mayor and a presidential candidate, said this regime represents only 4 percent of Iran’s population.  Considering the vote-engineering seen in this round, we can reach a reasonable conclusion that only 6 to 7 percent of the Iranian populace actually cast their votes on May 19.

And as the elections have come to an end, popular protests across the country have intensified.  Many Iranians have invested in the Caspian housing firm, only to see their money plundered.  This has sparked a string of protests across the country.

Of course, considering the intense political disputes among this regime’s various factions, more light will be shed on the entire scope of the vote-rigging process practiced in this year’s elections.

This is the true nature of a regime that represents only a single-digit percentage of the Iranian people.

How Is Iran’s Hassan Rouhani A Moderate?

Following the May 19th presidential “election” in Iran and the incumbent Hassan Rouhani reaching a second term, there was an outpouring of Western mainstream media describing him as a moderate again.

As described by the National Review, Iran’s sham election was nothing but “a ridiculous farce. In reality, an anti-American jihadist beat a slightly-worse anti-American jihadist.”

Rouhani was the first Iranian regime official in the early days after the mullahs’ hijacking of the 1979 revolution who openly called for public executions.

He Is #Rouhani is he a #MODERATE?!!!
watch & share 2 others know him#humanrights #executions #humanity #UK #Terrorism#IranElections2017 pic.twitter.com/R5mjOgwCdB

— Shawn HarrisⓂ️ (@HarrisShawn5) May 23, 2017

During Rouhani’s first tenure (owing it to the ultraconservative Guardian Council, a 12-cleric body appointed directly and indirectly by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, that vets candidates of all elections in Iran), the regime in Iran:

  • sent over 3,000 to the gallows and escalated domestic crackdown,
  • increased its export of terrorism through Shiite proxies across the Middle East,
  • boosted the Levant dictator Bashar Assad in his massacring and displacing millions of innocent Syrians,
  • supported the IRGC in test launching a significant number of ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and harassing US Navy vessels in international waters,
  • went as far as increasing Tehran’s support for the Afghan Taliban, according to the The Washington Post,
  • and made having dual nationality a threat, as experienced by too many hostages.

And Rouhani has actually become very useful for the ruling hardliners in Iran.

“For hard-liners and their affiliates — including the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Basij, the judiciary and the Intelligence Ministry — Rouhani is more helpful in achieving their major objectives,” as explained Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy and president of the International American Council.

For this regime the selection of Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative cleric renowned for his three decade role in the judiciary and being involved in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners across Iran, would have raised tensions domestically and with the international community.

Desperate to maintain the nuclear deal intact and to prevent any possible snapback of UN Security Council sanctions, Khamenei and his regime succumbed to blueprint a second term for Rouhani.

In fact, Rouhani allows the entire so-called “hardliners” in this regime, including the IRGC and its extraterritorial Quds Force, to seek their interests, such as expanding their hegemonic reach across the region, especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Reports also indicate Iran has unveiled a new underground missile factory, another asset of the IRGC.

In March 2014, Iran unveiled what appeared to be tunnel storage for Qiam ballistic missiles.

Aviation Week

In March 2014, Iran unveiled what appeared to be tunnel storage for Qiam ballistic missiles.

The Iranian regime’s lobbies and apologists in the West dubbed Rouhani as a “moderate” while he was busy negotiating to release billions of frozen assets in order to fuel Iran’s military demands and fund its influence also in Bahrain, the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. The unfortunate attacks targeting innocent civilians in Manchester and Coptic Christians in Egypt should make those dubbing Rouhani as a moderate think twice, considering he is the president of a regime described as the leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Rouhani goes on to depict himself as a “moderate” good cop to seek legitimacy, as the world considers the IRGC as the “hardliner” bad cops. Under whose tenure has the IRGC and Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani expanded their reach to Syria and Yemen?

On the other side of the spectrum, however, is the fierce criticism raised against the election in its entirety, described by Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), as a “sham.”

Tehran will most possibly press the gas pedal in its belligerency during Rouhani’s second term, as seen vividly in his latest remarks pledging Iran will continue its Middle East warmongering, adding their boots are on the ground in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and fought against terrorism in the region.

“Iran has and will support these through its diplomats and military advisors,” he said according to an NCRI statement.

Unfortunately, the West’s decades of appeasement, dating back to the years of Chamberlain and Hitler prior to World War II, has led to the word “moderate” to now include even dictators willing to be just a notch more reasonable than a ruthless entity. In this case, leaving the world to choose between a deceptive-smiling Rouhani and the notorious IRGC.

When Westerners think of “moderates” they begin their comparison process against faces in their own countries. Even “conservatives” in many European countries are against a single execution, but this “moderate” Rouhani in Iran is very much for it. In fact, 2 per day is his report card over the past four years. The regime has already executed ten individuals in the first days of Rouhani’s second tenure, reports indicate.

And the Iranian people inside the country have voiced their opinion about Rouhani being a “moderate”. Defying all odds and accepting the risk of arrest and possible execution even, dissident activists took to the streets in unprecedented numbers in the past months and put up large posters, placards and even graffiti to voice their true vote of “regime change” and describing Rouhani not as a moderate, but as a “demagogue” and “king of executions.”

Rajavi, long presenting a 10-point-plan for a free Iran of tomorrow, delivered her input in this regard:

“In this light, portraying him as a moderate figure bears no color. Those who adhere to this notion must be challenged by asking them to make him unveil the true number of victims of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and details of their cases, respect human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of political parties, and freedom of political prisoners and pull out from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan.”

While the argument is often made of this and that being beyond the powers of Iran’s president, and former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami referred to the president’s role as that of a tea boy, it begs the question then as to how moderation is to take place.

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.

What Does the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Want Out of Iran’s Upcoming Elections?

Can the faction known as the “principalists” in Iran, loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, engineer the upcoming presidential elections‘ outcome in a manner similar to 2005 and 2009? Back then, this group resorted to fraud and vote-rigging to have their desired candidate selected. Is the Khamenei-allied faction even seeking to engineer the election outcome against the faction currently behind President Hassan Rouhani, who claim to be “reformists” or “moderates”? If the answer is yes, what measures have been taken so far?

The truth is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Khamenei’s inner circle have been planning these measures and plotting their steps for at least several months.

Their plan essentially relies on forcing the election into a second round, similar to the 2009 scenario when Ahmadinejad was selected from the ballot boxes. This time around, the Khamenei faction is seeking to have Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric known for his notorious role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, or Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, selected as president. Ghalibaf is a former IRGC member known to have undergone Airbus pilot training in France.

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To implement this, this faction first held a session with senior IRGC officials, including former IRGC intelligence chief Mehdi Taeb, IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari, IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani and others to establish the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, dubbed JAMNA, according to its Farsi abbreviation. Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr is the chair of this new entity.

Zolghadr is known for his role in rigging the 2005 presidential election that led to the selection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency while claiming to enjoy the support of 20 million voters. Zolghadr was then the regime’s chairman of the armed forces Joint Chiefs of Staff and deputy to former IRGC chief Mohsen Rezaie. He was then appointed as deputy interior minister in Ahmadinejad’s cabinet while maintaining his IRGC posts.

“The [2005] presidential election was unprecedented, held under very complicated political circumstances when foreign powers and acquisitive currents inside the country had long planned to direct the election results in their favor and prevent the establishment of a principalist cabinet. Complicated actions were needed and the principalists were fortunately able to gain the majority’s support,” Zolghadr said following Ahmadinejad’s victory.

In January 2013 Ali Saeedi, Khamenei’s envoy in the IRGC, made interesting remarks about the elections. “It is our [IRGC] inherent duty to logically engineer the elections,” he said.

Although Saeedi provided no further explanation about “logically” engineering the vote, his remarks shed further light on their plan and agenda. He referred to individuals, who according to him, attempted to “divide the state between the selected and the elected.” “In fact, those who were selected acted far better than those who were elected,” he stipulated.

This is exactly why in the past few months JAMNA has attempted to reach a consensus over a single candidate through the IRGC’s continued intervention. Numerous sessions were held with Khamenei to have him agree with Raisi taking part in the race and all principalist candidates rallying behind him.

The IRGC continued its engineering through the Guardian Council by disqualifying the vast majority of candidates. A week prior to the Council’s final announcement rumors indicated only six of over 1,600 candidates would be qualified. This made it clear all announcements by the Guardian Council were in fact decided previously by the IRGC.

The combination of the current six candidates in the presidential election is the necessary package for the IRGC to correctly rig the entire vote outcome.

An issue discussed on a daily basis among the IRGC senior command is how to plan their next move, aiming to inflict the utmost damage to the Rouhani faction and yet also prevent any possible ignition of massive protests and/or nationwide uprisings similar to those of 2009.

Following the candidate vetting process leaving only six candidates, this IRGC plan has been pursued on a daily basis in three different fields.

First, they have sought to increase the number of votes and finesse specific rigging methods. Second, they have expanded their propaganda activities in the media. And third, they have taken daily measures and guided the general rigging apparatus, such as attacking Rouhani’s brother Fereidoun Rouhani on his involvement in theft, creating havoc at Rouhani’s campaign events, depicting Raisi as the candidate of all factions.

In all three fields the IRGC apparatus enjoys a daily role, all while this security entity should have nothing to do with the elections.

Of course, Rouhani has nothing to boast about either as he too oversaw more than 3,000 executions during his tenure as president. He is also known to have ordered the horrific 1999 student uprising crackdown, especially during the protests in Tehran. Throughout his political career he has played a role in the regime’s decision-making bodies and is known to be a figure very well acquainted with the regime’s security apparatus. Rouhani was also Rafsanjani’s right-hand-man during the Iran-Iraq War, where the regime dispatched juveniles to the frontlines.

In the end, how far the IRGC’s plans can be implemented in practice is a different story altogether, depending highly on a range of factors. For example, considering the fact that Rouhani’s Interior Ministry is the administrative body running the election, will the IRGC be able to implement its objectives?

Only time will tell.

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.