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Report: Ahmadinejad Says Next President 'Already Decided'

23 Mar 2011 20:55Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

AhmjadMashaei11Mar.jpg
File photo of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, the president's chief of staff.

8:30 p.m., 3 Farvardin/March 23 Bahrain's national airline, Gulf Air, has suspended service to Iran. Senior Shia clerical figures in Iran, including Grand Ayatollah Hossein Vahid Khorasani and Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei, have strongly condemned the intervention in Shia-majority Bahrain by forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in support of its Sunni-controlled monarchy. Gulf Air had been serving four Iranian cities: Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz, and Isfahan. The airline has also canceled flights to Iraq and Lebanon, where Shia political groups and communities have also voiced support for the anti-government protests in Bahrain.

Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

The Ansar News website, which is close to Ansar-e Hezbollah, the hardline group that supports the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reported that in a speech last Wednesday, March 16, Iran's president said, "It has been decided who the next president of Iran will be." The story was deleted from the website after a short time, but not before it was noted by several other websites. Iran's next presidential election will take place in 2013. Ahmadinejad has been promoting his chief of staff and confidant Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. This has angered many among the hardliners and conservative clerics, who exerted great pressure to force Mashaei to cancel a trip to New York that had been scheduled for this week.

The European Union agreed on Monday, March 21, to impose sanctions against Iranian officials responsible for violations of human rights.

The declaration was adopted by the foreign ministers of the E.U., who stated that the union "will continue to address human rights abuses in Iran, including by swiftly introducing restrictive measures targeted against those responsible for grave human rights violations." They said that they are "alarmed by the dramatic increase in executions in recent months and the systematic repression of Iranian citizens," and that "human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, women's activists, bloggers, persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities and members of the opposition face harassment and arrests for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly." The foreign ministers called on Iran to immediately release all political prisoners.

King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain claimed that a foreign plot against his nation had been foiled. "An external plot has been fomented for 20 to 30 years until the ground was ripe for subversive designs.... I here announce the failure of the plot," he was quoted as telling troops in a report by Bahrain's news agency, BNA. He also thanked troops brought in from other Sunni-ruled countries of the Persian Gulf to help quell weeks of protests calling for political reform. Many of those who participated in the protests were members of Bahrain's Shia majority. One thousand soldiers from Saudi Arabia and 500 police officers from the United Arab Emirates entered Bahrain to protect government facilities during the unrest. The king did not say who was behind the alleged plot, but his comments were widely interpreted as meant to indicate Iran. Abdulrahman al-Attiyah, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, told reporters in Abu Dhabi, "We reject any intervention in our internal affairs and among these [intervening] countries is Iran."

Azim Aghajani, a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is being tried on charges related to a weapons shipment seized in Lagos, Nigeria. He acknowledged that he did not have a license to export arms, according to a statement read at his trial on Monday. In the statement, Aghajani said, "My IGTCC [International General Trading and Construction Company], registered in Gambia, does not have an import license from the Iranian government or the Nigerian government to import or export arms to Nigeria or Gambia or any other country." The statement was made at the secret police headquarters in Abuja on February 11, the court was told. Aghajani and his co-defendant Ali Abbas Jega, a Nigerian national, are accused of the illegal importation of rockets, explosives, and grenades seized at a Lagos port in October 2010. Despite the February 11 statement, both have denied the charges against them, and in particular the charge that they falsified the documents for the 13 containers seized at a Lagos port as building materials.

The incident created a diplomatic crisis for Iran. The Islamic Republic claimed that the weapons were intended for Gambia and were part of an agreement between that country and Iran. Gambia denied it was the intended recipient and, along with Senegal, cut ties with Iran. Aghajani is said to be a member of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Division, which operates outside Iran.

Several websites that support the Green Movement -- Kalemeh, Saham News, Jonbesh-e Rah-e Sabz (Jaras), Mizan Khabar, Tahavvol-e Sabz, Emruz, Neda-ye Sabz-e Azadi, Advar News, Taghir, Khat-e Sabz, Ra'y-e ma Kojast, Neda-ye Azadi -- along with the Rasa television network issued a joint statement pronouncing the new Iranian year "the year of knowledge and freedom." The statement declares, "One hundred years of resistance and struggle against dictatorship has taught us that knowledge is the Achilles' heel of dictatorship and the authoritarian demon. Today, spreading knowledge is also our most valuable asset for continuing on the green path of hope."

In a speech in Mashhad, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei warned officials of the Islamic Republic against publicly airing their differences and criticizing each other. Speaking from the shrine of Imam Reza -- Shiites' Eighth Imam -- the ayatollah said that the "enemy" benefits from such public squabbling. He declared the new Iranian year the year of "economic jihad" and criticized the West's intervention in the Middle East and north Africa. He said that whenever the United States claims that it supports the people of the region, it is lying, and that "the U.S. government does not even have mercy on its own nation."

In response to criticisms of the Nowruz festivities planned for Persepolis by Ahmadinejad and Mashaei, to which many foreign dignitaries had been invited, Mohammad Reza Forghani, head of the presidential office of international affairs, said, "The Nowruz diplomacy is an achievement of the tenth administration" (Ahmadinejad's second administration). Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Haeri Shirazi also voiced support for the celebration. Criticism had come from a broad spectrum of hardliners, ranging from Brigadier General Yadollah Javani, head of the Revolutionary Guards' political directorate, to conservative Majles deputy Ahmad Tavakoli.

A spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that Turkey has confiscated from an Iranian cargo plane materials that are illegal under United Nations sanctions on Iran. The cargo plane had been forced to land at Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey on Saturday while en route from Tehran to Syria. The spokesman continued, "During routine controls it was determined that there was illegal material on the plane which fell within the scope of U.N. sanctions imposed on Iran and this material was confiscated. The plane was allowed to leave Turkey and return to Iran today without the illegal material."

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that he has no particular concerns in the diplomacy arena in the new Iranian year. He said that his priority for the new year is expanding Iran's relations with its neighbors, the Islamic countries, and the European countries.

Ebrahim Raeisi, deputy to judiciary cheif Sadegh Larijani, has told Mohammad Reza Rahimi, Ahmadinejad's first vice president (Iran has eight vice presidents) that the corruption accusations against him are serious and he will need to respond to them in court. Rahimi has been accused, even by some hardliners, of masterminding an embezzlement scheme that reaped as much as $1.2 billion, using an insurance company. He has denied the accusation and claimed that the money was distributed among Ahmadinejad's supporters and spent on his 2009 reelection campaign.

Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, a conservative Marja (source of religious emulation) has harshly criticized the distribution of a documentary film, The Appearance Is Imminent. The documentary, which has been distributed free of charge as a DVD, purports to explain why the return of Imam Mahdi, the Shiites' 12th Imam and earth's promised redeemer, is nigh. As evidence the documentary, made by supporters of Ahmadinejad and Mashaei, claims that "Seyyed Khorasani" is Khamenei and "Shoayb ib-Saleh" is Ahmadinejad. The two mythical figures are supposed to emerge when the reappearance of Imam Mahdi is imminent. Makarem Shirazi said that such claims are no more than the filmmakers' hallucinations and hurt Shiism.

Sara Haj Bahrami and Ali Divsalar, two children's rights activists, have been arrested and imprisoned in the southern city of Kerman. They have been charged with working with the members of the Baha'i minority, whose faith is not recognized by the Iranian government. The two founded a charity in Kerman to aid children who lost their parents in the Bam earthquake of December 2004. Since December, Divsalar had also been a member of the management council of the Society for the Defense of Children's Rights. He is the second leading member of the society, after attorney and journalist Nasrin Sotoudeh, to be arrested.

During a visit by his daughter, outspoken reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, who has been imprisoned since immediately after the June 12, 2009, presidential election, has asked his children not to seek any furlough for him. Tajzadeh has said that the entire process of his arrest and his show trial was illegal, and he does not recognize his conviction and his sentence. Just as he has never appealed his conviction, he has asked his family not to pursue his case either. He has said that furlough is a fundamental right of political prisoners that no one can take away from them, and that the hardliners will eventually be forced to recognize the right.

Ali Karroubi, son of Mehdi and Fatemeh Karroubi, and his wife were allowed to visit his parents on Sunday evening and have dinner with them. The younger Karroubi was released from detention after posting $100,000 bail. In a message to the nation, he said that his parents are healthy.

Dr. Mohsen Mirdamadi, secretary-general of the banned reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, was granted a furlough and released from Evin Prison. Mirdamadi was a deputy in the Sixth Majles from 2000-2004 and chairman of its National Security and Foreign Relations Committee. He is also a professor of political science at the University of Tehran.

Mohsen Safaei Farahani, another imprisoned member of the central committee of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been granted a furlough. While in Evin Prison, he developed heart illness. He was hospitalized for the past five months, with his room sealed off to visitors by security agents. As his condition has improved recently, he was given furlough and allowed to go home.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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