PHOTO: Supreme Leader and President Rouhani host Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday


Seeking economic recovery and political leverage, Iran’s regime featured the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

In the first trip by an Indian leader since 2001, Modi met the Supreme Leader and President Rouhani, and the two sides highlighted co-operation with the signature of 14 agreements in areas such as trade and culture.

Specifically, Modi and Rouhani presented the deal to develop the port of Chabahar in southeastern Iran on the Gulf of Oman. The project is hoping to becoming one of the leading trade centers on the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, rivaling Pakistani and Saudi initiatives.

Modi pledged $500 million for the development.

The talks also brought in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for a trilateral agreement on a North-South corridor. linking investment and trade with Chabahar. Afghanistan is hoping for a significant boost in its annual trade volume of about $9 billion, while the route gives India access to Central Asia without going through Pakistan.

Trade between India and Iran was about $14 billion in 2015, almost $10 billion of which was Iranian exports. India also owes Tehran more than $6 billion in payments for oil, held up because of complications over financial transactions amid US sanctions.

Jannati Elected Head of Assembly of Experts

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, has been elected as chair of the Assembly of Experts, the body which chooses the Supreme Leader.

Jannati, who is also a Tehran Friday Prayer leader, won 51 of the 85 votes cast.

His election is a victory for hardline and conservative critics of the Rouhani Government. In the wake of success for the centrist-reformist List of Hope in February’s elections for Parliament and the Assembly, it had been expected that former President Hashemi Rafsanjani — an ally of Rouhani and chair of the Assembly from 2007 to 2011 — would stand. However, Rafsanjani said last week that he would not pursue the post.

Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, a Tehran representative at the Assembly of Experts, was second with 21 votes and former head of judiciary Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi was third with 13.

Relations between Jannati and President Rouhani have been increasingly tense amid battles over the Guardian Council’s authority. Rouhani tried unsuccessfully to curb the Council’s powers to vet election candidates; however, the Council’s disqualification of thousands of applicants was unable to prevent the centrist-reformist bloc from unexpectedly winning a plurality of Parliamentary seats.

Rouhani and the Council are also in dispute over the President’s call to open up political and social space in Iran.