Supreme Leader’s top aide Ali Akbar Velayati (picture): “Who is Emmanuel Macron to interfere?”



Podcast: Lebanon is Caught Up in Saudi-Iran Confrontation

Iran’s strategy to detach European countries from the US on the July 2015 nuclear deal and regional issues is under threat, with a growing, bitter rift with France.

The Rouhani Government has been wooing the European Union and its leading members — including France, Britain, and Germany, all signatories of Iran’s nuclear agreement with the 5+1 Powers — to ensure continuation of the accord despite the hostility of the Trump Administration. Tehran is also seeking economic recovery with trade and investment deals, including the purchases of 100 Airbus passenger jets and a $4.8 billion gas deal with France’s Total.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron challenged the strategy last week. Speaking from Saudi Arabia, he blamed Iran for a missile fired by Yemen’s Ansar Allah (Houthi) insurgents on Riyadh International Airport, then called for the negotiation of Iran’s ballistic missile testing, alongside the nuclear agreement.

Iran has responded vehemently, with the Foreign Ministry denouncing France’s “one-sided and biased view towards the ongoing crises and humanitarian catastrophes in the Middle East”.

On Saturday, the Supreme Leader’s top aide Ali Akbar Velayati stepped up the rhetoric, directly addressing the French President:

It is not in Mr. Macron and France’s interest to interfere in the missile issue and the Islamic Republic’s strategic affairs, on which we are very sensitive. Such interference will have no impact other than diminishing the French government’s credibility in Iran’s eye.

How does the issue concern Mr. Macron? Who is he to interfere in the first place?…

No country would bargain over its national interests.

Implicitly pointing to Macron’s youth — the President is the youngest French leader since Napoleon — Velayati advised him to follow in the footsteps of the late Charles de Gaulle by adopting a stance of “semi-independence” in his foreign policy.

However, the fragility of Iran’s position, particularly on the economic front, has been exposed by the risk to the Total deal for development of a phase of Iran’s South Pars gas field, the largest in the world. Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne has twice warned in the past month that the deal is stalled pending clarification of US restrictions which could affect Total’s holdings.

Conflict between Iran and France could also be spurred by dispute over the future of the Lebanese Government, which includes the Islamic Republic’s ally Hezbollah.

Two weeks ago, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri brought down the coalition when he resigned in a speech from Saudi Arabia. Iran and some Lebanese officials said Hariri had been detained by the Saudis, but on Saturday he was received by Macron in Paris. Hariri then vowed to return to Lebanon on Wednesday, the country’s Independence Day, to face the challenge of Hezbollah.

Claim: Plainclothesmen Attack Ahmadinejad Allies in Their Sanctuary

Supporters of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claim that his allies were beaten as they took refugee in a sanctuary south of Tehran.

A Telegram channel run by the supporters posted video clips allegedly showing the attack on Ahmadinejad’s former Vice President Hamid Baghaei, former senior advisor Ali Akbar Javanfekr, and Habibollah Khorasani.

Refusing a court summons, the three men claimed the code of refuge, “bast neshini”, banned in 1935 by Reza Pahlavi, as they entered the Shah Abdul-Azim sanctuary on Wednesday. They called on the Supreme Leader to assign the chairman of the Expediency Council, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, to supervise the legal procedure over indictments against them.

See Iran Daily, Nov 18: Fighting Judiciary, Ahmadinejad’s Men Appeal to Supreme Leader

In one of the clips, Baghaei — who was detained for months in 2015 on charges of embezzlement and briefly held again in July — is seen shouting at the a group of men, “You are after me, why are you beating these guys?”

The Telegram channel said Ahmadinejad, President from 2005 to 2013, minutes earlier.

On Thursday Ahmadinejad spoke at the shrine, challenging head of judiciary Sadeq Amoli Larijani, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, and Mohammad Javad Larijani, the Secretary of the High Council for Human Rights: “We are against Larijani brothers. Is it a crime to oppose somebody?”

He addressed judiciary officials, “You are either not Iranians or you do not know Iran”, and then returned to the Larijanis: “We cannot let these [brothers] dominate the country and place people under pressure to the point that they submit to foreigners….Over my dead body you may convict Baghaei.”