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News | Divisions in Leader's Camp Deepen as Elections Loom

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

08 Feb 2012 01:30Comments

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

Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

LarijaniMotahariVertical.jpg1:30 a.m., 19 Bahman/February 8 Elections for Iran's parliament, the Ninth Majles following the 1979 Revolution, are to take place on March 3. All the reformists and democratic groups are boycotting the elections, referring to the vote as sham and the outcome as rigged. The campaign is thus limited to a competition between two main camps: those who support Mahmoud Ahmadinejad versus the supporters of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Eighteen groups in the latter camp have formed a coalition that refers to itself as the Jebheh Mottahed-e Osoolgaraayaan (JMO, or United Front of the Principlists). Though, as its name suggests, it has tried to portray itself as a united force, fissures have begun to emerge in its ranks.

Ali Motahari (pictured at bottom right), a critic of Ahmadinejad and brother-in-law of Majles Speaker Ali Larijani (pictured at top right), has announced that he and his comrades will run in the elections as a separate group, calling themselves Montaghedaan-e Dolat-e Dahom (MDD, or Critics of the Tenth Administration). He said that the list of his group's candidates will be publicized in the next two to three days. The Greater Tehran district sends 30 deputies to the Majles, and the JMO has refused to include in its list Motahari and two other current Tehran deputies, Hamid Reza Katouzian and Ali Abbaspour. The three will be included in the MDD list. Motahari said that he does not agree with the JMO's interpretation of principlism and that it is best that he was eliminated from its list. Remarkably, the JMO also deleted cleric Seyyed Abolhassan Navvab from its list. He is deputy secretary-general for the Jameh Rouhaniat Mobaarez (JRM, or Society of Militant Clergy), the main conservative clerical group, which is led by Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, chairman of the Assembly of Experts and the JMO's spiritual leader. According to Motahari, Navvab will be included in the MDD list.

Meanwhile, the JMO has published a list of 27 candidates for Tehran, to which three more names will be added. The list is headed by Gholam Ali Haddad Adel (pictured on homepage), former Majles speaker and father-in-law of Khamenei's son Mojtaba, who has emerged as an unofficial spokesman for the Supreme Leader. The list includes seven former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers, five women, and only four clerics. The Guard candidates also belong to two hardline groups that consist mostly of former Guard commanders, Jameiyat-e Eisaargaraan-e Enghlelab-e Eslami (JEEE, or Society of Islamic Revolution Devotees) and Jameiyat-e Rahpooyaan-e Enghlelab-e Eslami (JREE, or Society of Followers of the Islamic Revolution Path). The remaining three candidates were supposed to be selected on Tuesday evening, although Mashregh News, a Guard-aligned website, reported that they had already been chosen.

Khabar Online, a website close to Larijani, has pointed out that the JEEE and JREE have the largest number of candidates in the JMO list. At the same time, the JRM and the Jebheh Peyrovan-e Khat-e Emam va Rahbari (JPKER, or Front of the Followers of the Imam's and Leader's Line), which represents the interests of the bazaar and major merchants, have very few candidates in the list. The JPKER has been one of the strongest supporters of Velaayat-e Faghih (guardianship of the Islamic jurist), and its lack of representation in the JMO is surprising.

The JMO refused to include in its list any candidate who belongs to the Jebheh Paaydaari Enghelaab-e Eslami (JPEE, or Durable Front of the Islamic Revolution), which is headed by the reactionary cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi and financially supported by Ahmadinejad's close friend and former Interior Minister Sadegh Mahsouli, known as the "billionaire minister." Mahdavi Kani had said that a coalition between the JMO and JPEE was highly doubtful, and the JMO's list confirmed it, although the JPEE has included five candidates from the JMO list in its own.

Raha Press, the pro-Ahmadinejad website, reported that there will be fierce competition between Haddad Adel and Larijani for the post of Majles speaker. According to the website, JMO candidates Ali Reza Zakani and Hossein Fadaei, both former Guard officers, support Haddad Adel because both the JEEE and JREE have close relations with the JPEE, which wants to bring down Larijani. At the same time, according to Raha Press, it was Haddad Adel who prevented Katouzian, Motahari, and Abbaspour, who are supported by Larijani, from being listed as JMO candidates for the Greater Tehran district. Raha Press opined that, given such frictions, the JMO will soon collapse.

In another sign of fissures in the hardliners' ranks, Baztab-e Emrooz, the website close to Mohsen Rezaei, former Guard chief and current secretary-general of the Expediency Discernment Council, warned that Mesbah Yazdi has secretly accumulated considerable power. The website claimed that his students criticize the Marjas (the grand ayatollahs who are sources of emulation for the Shia masses), who in turn do not have a positive view of Mesbah Yazdi and his supporters.

The pro-Ahmadinejad website 598 (a reference to United Nations Security Council Resolution 598, which established a ceasefire between Iran and Iraq in 1988) listed three factors that have contributed to the divisions among the hardliners. First, the website criticized those who did not attack the Green Movement strongly enough, mentioning Larijani as one example, and comparing them with pro-Ahmadinejad Majles deputies, such as Mehdi Koochakzadeh and Ruhollah Hosseinian. The second reason for the fissures, according to 598, is the views of the two leading groups, the JMO and the JPEE, regarding Ahmadinejad. While the JMO rejects the president completely and considers him a "burnt-out figure," the JPEE believes that he is still a principlist. Finally, while the JMO does not view Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as a "deviant" from the Revolution, the JPEE considers him the root cause of perversion in the political system.

There is yet another conservative group, the Jebheh Eistaadegi Enghelam-e Eslami (Resistance Front of the Islamic Revolution), composed of Rezaei supporters, that has announced that it will put forward its own list of candidates.

Appeal from Mousavi's and Karroubi's children

In a joint public letter, the children of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have called on the nation to participate in the silent protests that have been planned for next Tuesday, February 14, the first anniversary of the massive pro-democracy demonstrations around Iran that prompted the regime to place Mousavi, his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, and Karroubi under house arrest. (The latter's wife, Fatemeh Karroubi, was also under house arrest for a time). Decrying the arrests of their parents as illegal, immoral, and inhumane, the children have called on the nation to be their voice and help spread the word about them throughout the world.

Obama freezes Iran's assets in the United States

The White House announced that President Barack Obama has ordered a freeze on all assets of Iran and Iranian financial institutions that are under U.S. jurisdiction. Citing the "deceptive practices" of Iran's Central Bank in hiding transactions of sanctioned parties and its failure to prevent money laundering, the president has concluded that Iranian activities pose an "unacceptable risk" to the international financial system. The order freezes all property and interests in property that belong to Iran, its Central Bank, and any of the country's other financial institutions, even those that have not been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, have joined the boycott of the Iranian Central Bank.

IAEA delegation will return to Tehran

Ramin Mehmanparast, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that a high-level delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency will visit Iran on February 21 and 22. An agency delegation visited Tehran January 29-31, and apparently enough progress was made that the IAEA is sending it back. The main topic of discussion was the points that the IAEA raised in its latest report on Iran regarding possible military dimensions of the country's nuclear program.

BBC reporters arrested

Mehr News Agency has confirmed that several people who work in Tehran for the BBC have been arrested. It quoted an unidentified "informed source" as saying that those arrested were involved in collecting information, "creating [anti-Iran] content in various forms," and training, employing ,and helping elite Iranians to leave the country. The BBC expressed its deep concern over the arrests and accused the government of trying to scare those who it claims work with the network. The BBC reports that family members of Iranians who work with it in Britain are also being pressured.

Human rights news

Kurdish political prisoners Loghman and Zanyar Moradi have been sentenced to death. The two brothers were accused of killing a son of the Friday Prayer Imam of the Kurdish town of Marivan and two people who were with him. The killings allegedly happened on July 5, 2009, "on the order of the British MI6." Two other Kurdish activists, Rahman Sobhani and Ghaffar Choupani, have been arrested.

Dr. Mehdi Khazali, a critic of Khamenei and a son of reactionary cleric Ayatollah Abolghasem Khazali, has been sentenced to 14 years incarceration followed by a decade of internal exile. Since he was arrested almost a month ago, Khazali has been on a hunger strike, and various reports indicate that his heath has deteriorated badly enough that he has been taken to Evin Prison's medical center.

The newspaper Roozegar, which is close to the reformists, has been ordered to cease publication for one month. The cause of the suspension -- the paper's third in recent years -- appears to be an interview with Dr. Mohammad Reza Khatami, a younger brother of former President Mohammad Khatami and a leading reformist. The banner headline of the paper's last issue before its suspension read "We Do Not Take Orders," a statement made by the younger Khatami in his interview, in which he harshly criticized the hardliners.

Twelve Baha'i citizens have been arrested since Friday. The Baha'i religious minority is not recognized by Islam. All the arrested people live in the southern city of Shiraz.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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