PHOTO: Iran’s Guardian Council in session — Can President Rouhani limit its power?


The Rouhani Government has stepped up its challenge to Iran’s powerful Guardian Council, attempting to take control of the process for important elections in February 2016.

The Guardian Council consists of 12 members — six clerics and six specialists in Islamic law — who are effectively appointed by the Supreme Leader. It has interpreted its power of “supervising…elections”, specificed by the Islamic Republic’s Constitution, to mean that it can vet and disqualify any candidate, including for the Presidency or Parliament.

The Council has used its authority to limit reformists, although it has also disqualified hardline and conservative candidates. In 2013, it banned former President Hashemi Rafsanjani from standing for the Presidency, only for Rafsanjani’s Hassan Rouhani — allowed to stand as a consolation to centrists — to claim an unexpected victory.

Last week Rouhani signaled his challenge to the Council over elections in February 2016 to the Parliament and the Assembly of Experts, which names and can nominally remove the Supreme Leader:

The executive authority of the elections would not disqualify the members of certain political parties to deprive them of their rights of political participation.

The Guardian Council has a supervisory role, but not an executive one. This is the government which actually does the task.

See Iran Daily, August 20: Rouhani Challenges Guardian Council Over Next Elections

Senior clerics and Council members immediately hit back, insisting that the powers of the Guardian Council were not just to be the “eyes” to supervise the elections but to be the “hands” to shape the process.

Far from retreating, the Government renewed its demand on Thursday. Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said, “The Intelligence Ministry has established an eight-man committee to investigate [Parliamentary candidates].”

Alavi then made an even more provocative challenge, referring to the disputed 2009 Presidential election “won” by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Referring to the regime’s crackdown on supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leading challenger in the election, the Minister said:

No one will be disqualified because of past record of work at the campaign headquarters of a certain candidate back in 2009….Having a particular political view will not be reason to disqualify the candidate.

Alavi also staked out the Government’s position on other issues, saying that “between 65 to 85% of the people approve of the negotiations” that led to the July 14 nuclear deal with the 5+1 Powers:

There are those who tried to depict the nuclear negotiators as traitors…but the Leader was behind the negotiations….

There are those who claim the Government tried to force the Leader to drink from the chalice of poison. This is not criticism, but an allegation, and destructive.

On the economic front, he attacked the mismanagement of the Ahmadinejad administrat from 2005 to 2013:

The Government inherited a chancery [from Ahmadinejad] which not only was empty, it was in deficit!….

Back then [when Rouhani took power], there were some who criticized us: “Why do you say these things to the people?” Our view was that such knowledge will control the level of public expectations from the government.

(h/t Iran Press Review for translation)

Amid Political Fighting Within Regime, Ex-President Rafsanjani’s Daughter Warns of “Injustice and Discontent”

Amid the challenge of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani to elements within the Iranian regime, his daughter Faezeh has spoken to Iran Wire about the “injustice and discontent” within the system.

Faezeh Hashemi put the case of her brother Mehdi, recently sentenced to 10 years in prison on fraud charges, within the context of a regime which she said was now comparable to that of Iran before the 1979 Revolution:

In the Shah’s period, the prisons were full. Evin Prison was just an example. The point is that when the prisons are crammed with innocent people, this will promote injustice and discontent, and cause problems for the ruling faction. Imam Hossein says: “Heresy may persist, but oppression will not.”

We believe the verdict for Mehdi was not fair. The injustice is not only about Mehdi, but about all prisoners. This will cause problems. In any case, the more justice and transparency there is, the more the people will trust the Government, and the problems will begin to ease.

Rafsanjani has been fighting with hardliners for years over political and legal issues, beginning with the response to the disputed 2009 Presidential elections. This month, Rafsanjani and his one-time protégé, President Hassan Rouhani, have stepped up the challenge to the power of other factions.

See Iran Analysis: Rouhani-Rafsanjani Bloc Steps Up Its Political Challenge, Ahead of 2016 Elections

Last week, sources told EA of a letter from Fatemeh Rafsanjani, the former President’s elder daughter, warning of exposure of regime secrets — including the wealth of the Supreme Leader’s son Mojtaba — if the proceeding in Mehdi Hashemi’s were not made public.

Faezeh Rafsanjani did not repeat the warnings, but she did criticize the judiciary:

The [lack of transparency] is exactly what derails the justice system. This creates the conditions for the judge to act as he wishes, leaving him open to errors and mistakes. When the court is open, the probability of errors diminishes; the judge’s verdict will be witnessed by the public and therefore will be more fair.

One of the main ways to reduce injustice is to open public courts….Up to this moment, no clear definition has been provided as to what a political crime is.

IAEA Says Iran Complying With Nuclear Deal, But Renewed Tension Over Construction at Parchin Military Site

In its first report since the July 14 nuclear deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported that Iran is complying with the terms over uranium enrichment.

However, tension has renewed over the Parchin military base, seen by the deal’s critics as a suspect site for development of nuclear weapons.

IAEA Secretary General Yukiya Amano said on Thursday, “Since [our] previous report [in May], at a particular location at the Parchin site, the agency has continued to observe, through satellite imagery, the presence of vehicles, equipment, and probable construction materials. In addition, a small extension to an existing building [appears to have been built].”

The IAEA report concluded, “Full and timely implementation of the relevant parts of the road-map is essential to clarify issues relating to this location at Parchin.”

Since the start of August, some US media and analysts have insisted that construction at Parchin must be linked to Iran’s pursuit of a militarized nuclear program.

Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, responded on Friday that the allegations over Parchin are “baseless” and “worn-out”, with “ridiculous” claims about the recent annex to an existing building: “Iran has no need to get permission from the Agency for construction in its own sites.”

The US State Department played down Amano’s statement about Parchin, with spokesman John Kirby telling journalists:

It’s important to remember that when you’re talking about a site like Parchin, you’re talking about a conventional military site, not a nuclear site. So there wouldn’t be any IAEA or other restrictions on new construction at that site were they to occur.