In the wake of the Interior Ministry’s announcement on Tuesday that the Guardian Council had formally approved eight of the 686 Presidential hopefuls who registered as potential candidates in the June 14 election, the question still remains: which candidate will the Supreme Leader ultimately back?
The eight men approved are Supreme National Security Council secretary Saeed Jalili; former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaei; centrist Hassan Rouhani; Supreme Leader advisor Ali Akbar Velayati; MP Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel; Tehran mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf; a token reformist, Mohammad-Reza Aref; and the lesser-known Mohammad Gharazi, a Minister of Oil in the late 1980s.
The list of approved candidates —unsurprisingly — includes all three of the 2+1 Coalition (Velayati, Haddad-Adel and Qalibaf), who were originally tasked in December with finding a consensus candidate behind whom the principlists and conservatives could unite.
The committee has said that it would wait until the Guardian Council released its list of approved candidates before deciding on which of three would ultimately run. However, with Jalili emerging in the past week as a front-runner, the question now is whether the Coalition — and the Supreme Leader — decide to back him as the consensus candidate, or whether they will choose Qalibaf, who has said he has said he does not wish to stand down.
As customary, extracts from the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency are being fed by Western officials to the media with the scariest-possible interpretation.
The report says that Iran’s stock of 20% uranium is still below the level of 250 kilogrammes needed for a single atomic bomb, with Tehran holding 182 kilogrammes and another 140.8 kilos in a state for civilian-only use.
Three diplomats, however, made sure that George Jahn of the Associated Press has the dramatic lede that Tehran “has installed close to 700 high-tech centrifuges in an upgrade of its uranium enrichment program since the start of the year”. (Jahn apparently has forgotten that in January the diplomats were talking of 3000 centrifuges.)
Reuters recycles the line that “Iran is pressing ahead with the construction of a research reactor” using plutonium from the Arak heavy-water reactor.
As EA noted earlier this year, dissecting a scare story in The Daily Telegraph, plutonium is a natural by-product of heavy-water reactors, and other countries use it in their civilian programmes.
The unintentional humour, howver, comes from the Institute for Science and International Security, which has previously seen pink tarpaulins and doom-laden magnets as harbingers of Iran’s sinister atomic plans. This time, the Institute warns, “Iran Laying Asphalt at the Suspect Parchin Site“.
Dr Seyed Mohmmad Marandi of the University of Tehran justifies the exclusion of Hashemi Rafsanjani from the Presidential race on the grounds that he supported “sedition” in 2009:
I think one of the most important arguments that’s being put forward against him is that four years ago he and his supporters questioned the validity of the presidential results, to say the least.
Four years ago he failed to accept the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s victory….So if he loses this election, who is to say his followers are not going to cause trouble? We already have an experience with him where his side lost and yet he failed to accept the democratic process.
Marandi added, “That is what his critics say.”
The daughter of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, the first Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, has written to the current Supreme Leader to call for the reinstatement of Hashemi Rafsanjani as a candidate.
Zahra Mostafavi Khomeini said the reinstatement would prevent dictatorship in Iran and officials “doing whatever they want”.
She invoked the name of the father, “By the views of Ayatollah Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini, Rafsanjani had all the qualities to be a competent leader,”
MP Ali Motahari, who is part of the Rafsanjani campaign, has also written the Supreme Leader, saying that Ayatollah Khomeini would have been disqualified by the Guardian Council under the rationale they used this week.
Both the Tasnim and Fars news agencies have shown signs that they are — unofficially at least — backing the campaign of Supreme National Security Council secretary Saeed Jalili.
Both agencies went beyond reporting that a group of “scholars and clergy” in Tehran have set up a campaign headquarters in support of Jalili, by including email and telephone contact details for those who wish to join the campaign.
Tasnim was launched last November and like Fars News has strong ties to the Revolutionary Guards.
Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi has discussed the ministry’s role in the upcoming Presidential election, saying that “there will be powerful and intelligent people in the elections and the defense ministry will perform its duties well alongside the people.”
Vahidi said that “another chapter in the history of the revolution” was being written through the Presidential election.
Incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that he will contest the Guardian Council’s decision to disqualify his right-hand man, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei.
Ahmadinejad said he would pursue the issue “until the last possible moment”.
The incumbent President said that he had introduced Mashaei and knew that he would be good for Iran, and capable of being President.
Ahmadinejad said that he believed the Supreme Leader would resolve the “problem”.
Presidential candidate Saeed Jalili has tweeted a photograph of his “internet campaign headquarters”.
Jalili — or his campaign team — has emerged as the leading user of social media among the candidates, though it is not clear — especially with reports that the internet is at best extremely slow across Iran today — what the impact of his campaign is domestically.
Ahmadinejad’s right-hand man, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, criticized as an “injustice” Tuesday his disqualification by the Guardian Council, and said the Supreme Leader would fix the situation.
He added: “Enshallah, this problem will be solved this way.”