Iran Election Guide

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Latest from Iran (31 August): Religious Freedom & Lakes Drying Up

See also Iran Special: Assessing the Latest Cyber-Threat --- The "Rogue Certificate" (Arseh Sevom)
The Latest from Iran (30 August): "Conflict & Retaliation"

1842 GMT: An EA Correspondent has this assessment of the Supreme Leader's approach to the upcoming Majilis elections.


Farrokh Negahdar, a Fedayeen member who always defends the IR, commented on Kham's statement on Radio Farda today: apparently the SL prefers "secure" Majlis elections to a massive outcome of voters, i.e. high security measures will be taken to guarantee a fluid "election" for appearances' sake. To me this news is the most obvious evidence for the fact that he has lost all hope in attracting the masses via pro-regime "reformists".

1840 GMT: Al Jazeera English is reporting that Mehdi Karroubi has resided in solitary isolation inside an Iranian prison for the last several weeks. However, they have not provided the source of their report.

1700 GMT: According to Fars News, Abbas Mottahari, the Revolutionary Guards commander in Garmsar, has stated:

"the final goal of the new structure of the Basij is to make 70% of the people in the neighborhood Basij members, 50% participants in group prayer, and 20% participants in Friday prayer."

1441 GMT: "TV Makes Kids Satan" Alert - IRNA is reporting that Ayatollah Mazaheri said today that satellite dishes are far more dangerous than the atomic bomb, because TV is making the youth turn towards moral corruption and prostitution.

1335 GMT: Never Work with Children, Animals, or Honest Experts. The danger of live television, as an Iran News Network anchorman found in this interview with an analyst on Afghanistan....

The trouble began when the analyst, instead of keeping focus on the problems and errors of the US, said, "Countries in the region, including Pakistan and Iran, don't want a democracy to exist in Afghanistan,... [Iran and Pakistan] have carried out damaging interference in Afghanistan in the past 10 years,"

The anchorman tried to get back on-message, "Of course, this is your view --- you are right about Pakistan --- but I don't agree with you on Iran." He then sought to shift topic by asking about the goals of Afghan President Karzai’s trip to Saudi Arabia.

No luck. The analyst persisted, "I respect your view about Iran, [yet] Iran doesn't have friendly relations with any of its neighbors. Iran is the only country in the world that is fully isolated and facing a deep crisis."

The anchor abruptly ended the interview.

1330 GMT: Strike Watch. The head of Iran's guild unions has warned striking Bazaaris that they could lose their trading permits.

The warning comes as gold and textile vendors have joined cloth sellers in a Tehran Bazaar protest over the Government's tax policies.

1310 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Libyan Front). In his Eid ul-Fitr address today, the Supreme Leader struck a very different tone from that offered by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who on Tuesday congratulated the success of the Libyan opposition and invited leaders of the National Transitional Council to Tehran.

Ayatollah Khamenei, comparing the new Libyan system to post-Revolution Iran, said the insurgents were the same people who "cooperated with the dictator not long ago" and people should be cautious.

1010 GMT: Religious Freedom Watch. Moulavi Abdolhamid Esmail Zehi, the Sunni Friday Prayer Leader of Zahedan in southeastern Iran, has written to the Supreme Leader, protesting that the ban by Iranian authorities on Sunni celebration of Eid ul-Fitr at the end of Ramadan (see 0545 GMT) is "against the law" and "full of sorrow".

Esmail Zehi continued, "If you do not allow us to build mosques, let us at least hold prayers at home."

1005 GMT:Political Prisoner Watch. Amidst indications of regime steps on political prisoners to bring reformists into the 2012 Parliamentary elections (see 0930 GMT), three-day furloughs from prison have been granted to leading reformists Mostafa Tajzadeh, Ghorban Behzadian-Nejad, and Javad Emam.

1000 GMT: Economy Watch. Ayande News continues its criticism of President Ahmadinejad's claims on the economy, saying his declarations on economic growth and new jobs are far beyond those cited by the Ministries of Economy and Labor.

0955 GMT: Unity Watch. Ali Akbar Velayati, former Foreign Minister and a key advisor to the Supreme Leader, has said, "We still hope that the [Islamic] Constancy Front joins us" on the 7+8 unity committee.

The Constancy Front, led by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, has been in dispute with the unity committee over the inclusion of other factions, reportedly linked to Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf.

0945 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Syrian Front). Another sign of a possible shift in the Iranian position on Syria....

Seyed Ahmad Avaei, a member of Parliament's National Security Commission, has said "absolute support for [President Assad's] Syria was wrong" and has asserted that the protest of religious people in the country is genuine and not directed by foreign powers, even if those powers are trying to take advantage of the situation.

0935 GMT: Keeping It in the Family. Minister of Oil Rustam Qassemi, formerly head of the Revolutionary Guards' engineering firm Khatam al-Anbia, has signed a $500 million contract with an Iranian company for a 539-kilometre (335-mile) pipeline to petrochemical plants in southern Iran.

The company? Khatam al-Anbia.

0930 GMT: Elections Watch. Has the Supreme Leader's weekend amnesty for almost 100 political prisoners brought the political breakthrough of some reformists endorsing next March's Parliamentary elections? Rah-e Sabz reports that Mohammad Reza Khabbaz, a leading reformist in Parliament, will meet Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, the head of the Expediency Council, Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, and Sadegh Larijani, the head of the Iranian judiciary, to discuss the elections.

0925 GMT: Deviant Current Watch. Intelligence officers have reportedly arrested the head of board of directors and the inspection manager of the Iranian car manufacturer Saipa. The detainees are allegedly linked to the "deviant current", the phrase often used for the circle of advisors around President Ahmadinejad.

0910 GMT: Prediction of the Day. Before the Supreme Leader gave his Eid ul-Fitr speech expressing his worries over unity, MP Moussa Ghorbani told Khabar Online, "If the three powers [of Government --- Executive, legislative, judiciary] continue their quarrel, Ayatollah Khamenei may pull their ears."

0900 GMT: Celebration Gives Way to Concern. Not the most optimistic speech from the Supreme Leader for Eid ul-Fitr at the end of Ramadan....

Ayatollah Khamenei, with a coded reference to the disputed 2009 Presidential contest, expressed concern at the political tensions in advance of March's vote for the new Parliament:

We have an upcoming election at the end of the year. To some extent elections have always been a challenging issue for our country. Although, compared to elections in other countries and those so-called advanced countries where so much betrayal, malevolent acts, conflicts and even murder happen, thank God in our country it is not like that, but still it is a challenge. We should be careful that this challenge does not hurt the country's security.

The Supreme Leader put his concern in the wider context of the Arab Spring, declaring that any unrest would be new evidence of foreign interference:

The world is going through an important chapter in its history. We should be very cautious in this period and keep vigilant. If annoyances, ill wishes, discord and wickedness exist among ourselves...we cannot carry out our important tasks. It is a fundamental necessity for our country....

You felt it at a close distance when our enemies want(ed) to use elections against our country's security, you saw that. Everyone should be vigilant. The various authorities should guard the elections like a divine gift.

0545 GMT: Yesterday, the news bringing the most discussion was that President Ahmadinejad had blocked Sunni celebrations of Eid ul-Fitr, the end-of-Ramadan event marked by prayer and feasting. Fourteen MPs logged a letter of complaint, requesting that Sunnis be allowed to hold their own ceremonies, a right guaranteed in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic. A leading Sunni cleric, Moulavi Abolhamid Esmail Zehi, called on the Supreme Leader to allow Sunni spiritual leaders to hold Eid ul-Fitr mass prayers "in large cities where Sunnis are not majorities".”

The reasons for the regime's move are debatable. As Mansour Arshama postulated in the comments section:

The main reason for banning Sunni prayers is much more trivial: as the Supreme Liar claims to be leader of all Muslims, any divergent orientation towards the Islamic heartland, i.e. Mecca or Cairo, must be oppressed at any cost. This includes the Eid-e Fitr that is celebrated earlier on the Arabian Peninsula than in Iran due to astronomic calculations of the end of Ramadan. In other words: I (Khamenei) am telling you when it's time for celebration!

This is a good analysis, but James Miller notes that, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, there is always a reason beyond the reason given for decisions such as these.

Iran is feeling the heat in the region. Recent statements made by the Iranian regime, as well as statements made by Hezbollah, have begun to tow the line between supporting Syria's President Bashar al Assad and cautioning him that restraint is needed.

Furthermore, Iran is seeing its "soft power" in the region diminish, the result of the weakening of a once-strong ally in Syria, and Arab opinions towards Iran shifting as fast as the sands of Arab Spring, and all the change is towards an increasingly negative attitude towards Iran:

In Egypt, only 37% had a favorable view of Iran, compared with 89% in 2006. In Saudi Arabia, the number dropped to 6% from 85%, while in Jordan it fell to 23% from 75%.

"This whole arrangement between Syria and Iran is in deep trouble because of the Arab Spring. The geopolitics and the Arab street are changing, and it's leaving them exposed," said Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies at Columbia University.

Even Iranian clerics have begin to see the writing on the wall:

"Dictators must know that dictatorships are over and the end is coming for all dictators," said Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei during a Ramadan nightly prayer service in the holy city of Qom last week.

There is no way out of this pickle for the Iranian regime besides to further secure its security mechanism, which would include not allowing the Sunni Muslims in the country to gain power. With Sunnis being the target of Assad's attacks in Syria, and an increasingly volatile situation in Kurdistan (in multiple countries) continuing to develop, the Iranian regime is beginning to look increasingly nervous about the possible ramifications of Arab Spring.

I would disagree, however, with the cartoon at the head of this article, suggesting that Iran is next. Instead, I would insert Assad's regime in front of the line, but if Assad falls, a once powerful ally could immediately become an enemy, another Sunni nation, but potentially a democratic one, that will remember Iran's efforts to aid the Assad regime during what may be the middle act of Arab Spring.

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