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A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of May 12th

“An evil American and rich Zionist said that he managed to turn everything upside down in Georgia with $10 million. In 2009, he was foolish enough to try to affect the Islamic Republic, but he slammed against a strong wall of national will and determination. It is the same today.”

- Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
accuses George Soros of meddling in the 2009 presidential elections

 

Khamenei also warned against disrupting the election vote (VOA).


ROUHANI STEPS UP, FINALLY
FILED UNDER:
 Iran Election

President Hassan Rouhani stepped up his game in the second televised debate (IranWire). The moment the debate on “political and cultural matters” commenced, the president came out swinging. The hardline candidates—cleric Ebrahim Raisi, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and former minister Mostafa Mirsalim—challenged Rouhani over the lack of economic improvement since the nuclear deal. Continuing to defend the president, Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri said, “Dear people of Iran, what do you want? Do you want limitations or more freedom? Do you want international tension or peace? Isolation or integrity? By casting your vote you will determine Iran's path.” The most controversial issue during the debate was the Iran Deal (Al-Monitor). While hardliners criticized the nuclear deal in the past, all candidates vowed to protect and stay committed to “the national accord”.  Rouhani also said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) tried to sabotage the nuclear deal, a rare public criticism of their conduct (The Guardian). “They wrote messages on the missiles so that we won’t be able to reap its benefits,” he said, mentioning the testing of two ballistic missiles in March 2016, months after sanctions were lifted. On the missiles had a message in Hebew: “Israel must vanish from the page of time.” The third and final debate is today, May 12.

President Rouhani defied critics by sounding like an opposition leader (Bloomberg). During a campaign speech in Hamadan, Rouhani said he was running for president to “tell the extremists and those who use violence” that their era is over, in apparent reference to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani then added, “We want freedom. Your rationale is one of just banning things,” alluding to his rivals who oppose greater civil liberties. Hours later, at a campaign rally in Orumiyeh, Rouhani also took a swipe at hardline presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi. “The people will say ‘no’ to those who over the course of 38 years only executed and jailed,” Rouhani said. “Those of you who cut out tongues and sewed mouths shut. Those of you who over the past years only issued the word ‘ban,’ banned the pen and banned the picture. Please don’t even breathe the word freedom for it shames freedom.”

Here are the latest polls from the Iranian Student Polling Agency:
Hassan Rouhani 41.6 percent
Ebrahim Raisi 26.7 percent
Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf 24.6 percent
The other candidates polled below 5 percent

Here are the latest polls from the iPPO Group:
Rouhani around 67 percent
Raisi 20 percent
Ghalibaf 20 percent

The IRGC and Basij are taking steps to promote the candidacy of hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi (Reuters). Media outlets affiliated with the IRGC have been criticizing Rouhani's performance and will likely to use their street muscle to rally Raisi supporters.

Iranian state media censored a documentary released by Rouhani's campaign (AP). The censored segmented showed supporters chanting for Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has been under house arrest since 2011. A picture of former president Mohammad Khatami was also removed. Khatami’s name and image have been banned since 2015 due to his support of the Green Movement leaders.

Meanwhile, a reformist journalist said hardliners are working to sabotage Rouhani campaign with intimidation tactics (CHRI). Here are some examples: several Rouhani billboards have been defaced and at two campaign headquarters were attacked (Twitter). 
Rouhani staff repeatedly blocked from campaigning in north Tehran weeks before elections (CHRI).  

Interestingly, the Canadian government will not allow Iran to set up polling stations for Iranians to vote in upcoming presidential election (The Globe and Mail). The denied request was put forth by Tehran’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York and Iranian-Canadians. According to Canadian law, foreign countries must set up polling stations at their embassies and consulates, which Iran has not had in Canada since 2012. The Iranian foreign minister urged Canada to facilitate Iranian expats’ participation in polls (PressTV).

Canadian officials made first visit to Tehran since the Canadian embassy’s closure in 2012 (CBC). According to an anonymous source, the officials are in Iran to advocate for Canadians caught up in the country’s legal system and make recommendations for the improvement of Iran’s human rights record. The visit is also a sign that Canada is “committed to re-engaging” with Tehran, although no major breakthrough is expected in reopening either nation’s embassy.

Learn more: Iranian-Americans can vote at the following polling stations in over a dozen states.

Good reads:

Do Iranian elections conform to international standards? (IranWire)

Harsh anti-Iran rhetoric could undermine Hassan Rouhani’s reelection bid and undermine the historic nuclear deal (The Nation).

Raisi gains support—but should Rouhani be worried? (IranWire)

Online freedoms in Iran ahead of the presidential elections (Article19).


Presidential election breakdown:

May 12: Third and final presidential debate (2:30 pm GMT, watch it here)
Now–May 17: Campaigning
May 19: Election
May 26: Second round of election if no candidate secures a majority


MINER GRIEVENCES
FILED UNDER:
 Domestic Affairs

Angry miners grieved the deaths of their co-workers by blocking the convoy of President Hassan Rouhani (New York Times). In one heartbreaking viral video that made state media newspaper headlines, a miner confronted the president: “We worked here for 22 years. None of you know what a miner is, now you remember and turn up here?[...] 170 kids are now orphans, 40 women have become widows, we don’t know what to do. I am in pain, my heart is full, let me speak: Mr. President, where were you until now?” He also complained that they have not been paid in 14 months. “I don’t even have 10,000 tomans [around $2.60] to take my child to the doctor.” Hamid Aboutalebi, chief of staff of political affairs wrote on Twitter: “Dr. Rouhani opposed me by saying: ‘I am the president of the people at the time of their pain and tumult. If their yelling at me would result in national tranquility, I should go.’” In a separate post, Aboutalebi added, “Dr. Rouhani said: ‘I will go to the mine alone so that the miners would achieve comfort and serenity by yelling at the highest national official; this is an honor for me.’”

The death toll in the mine explosion rises to 42 (AP).


THREATS TO SAUDI ARABIA, PAKISTAN
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy

Iran warned Saudi deputy crown prince for his remark about bringing “battle” to Iran (Reuters). Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghani said, “If the Saudis do anything ignorant, we’ll leave no area untouched except Mecca and Medina.” He then added, “They think they can do something because they have an air force,” in an apparent reference to the Saudi bombardment of Yemen.

Pakistan criticized Iran for threatening to launch cross-border military strikes against suspected Sunni militants whom Tehran says are plotting attacks against Iran (VOA). Major General Mohammad Baqeri, the head of the armed forces, said, “If the terrorist attacks continue, we will hit their safe havens and cells, wherever they are.” The warning came days after a cross-border militant raid killed at least 10 Iranian border guards.


POSSIBLE U.S. INVESTMENT
FILED UNDER:
 ECONOMY + TRADE

Iran bought gear to shield gas output from any new U.S. sanctions (Bloomberg). The “essential equipment” would need to avert a halt in operations at the offshore South Pars gas field, according to managing director Mohammad Meshkin Fam of the state-run Pars Oil & Gas Co. If new sanctions were imposed, Iran’s purchase of something as simple as a valve would become a challenging task.

Iran said $55 per barrel is a suitable price for crude oil (Reuters). Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh also said that OPEC and non-OPEC producers are likely to extend output curbs to support prices.

According to an Iranian official, U.S.-based Pall will invest in Iran’s oil industry (RT). If the news is true, this could be the first investment by an American firm since 1979.


CARTOON OF THE WEEK

“The Second Debate” by Mana Neyestani. President Rouhani uses an extinguisher to put out the fire-breathing hydra comprised of candidates Mirsalim, Ghalibaf, and Raisi (Read more in IRAN ELECTION).

The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Haleh Esfandiari spoke to The Iranist about the upcoming Iranian presidential election, imprisonment of dual nationals, and words of wisdom for the next generation.

OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS

+ Mehrangiz Kar: My husband was tortured and forced to confess by Ghalibaf’s police.

+ Reformist journalist tortured under Ghalibaf’s police command demands accountability.

+ Family witnesses Hengameh Shahidi faint from hunger strike in Evin Prison.

+ Student imprisoned for refusing to collaborate with intelligence ministry denied care.


+ Rouhani promises to withdraw anti-labor amendments while police quash protests

+ Iranian local teacher’s union leader exiled for singing popular ballad to students.

+ Authorities block attempts by Olympian's husband to stop her from competing abroad.

+ British-Iranian grandfather begins seventh year in notorious Evin prison.

+ Delight as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s toddler gets her passport back.

+ U.S. Representatives: “Free hostages now”.

DOMESTIC ISSUES

+ Iran election’s theatrics, frank discourse push boundaries.

+ Dual nationals warily await outcome of presidential poll.
 
+ Dark horse candidate for president, Ebrahim Raisi.

+ Iranian supreme leader critical of Rouhani education plan


+ Rouhani’s rivals are making pledges Iran cannot afford.

+ Prominent activist Faezeh Hashemi barred from speaking at Rouhani campaign event.

+ Ghalibaf’s son Elias: Media mogul or embezzler?


+ Several reformist candidates disqualified at last minute from Tehran city council election.

+ Former athletes under fire in Tehran City Council elections.

+ Walkways, bike lanes, green spaces: An unusual election platform for a politician.


Rouhani  touts amendment blocking police from unilaterally stopping music concerts.

+ Iran’s mobile, internet providers offer discount for limiting usage to state-approved sites.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS


+ Negotiating with Iran could pay off for Trump.

+ Top U.S. army general aligns with Israeli concern over Iran and its proxies.

+ More U.S. sanctions could affect Iran’s election and even ignite war in Lebanon.

+ Iran reports 30 percent rise in number of tourists from last year.

+ Tourists flock to Iran's 'image of the world'.


+ Afghanistan, India, and Iran wary of Pakistan's 'jihadist support'.

+ Turkey must inform Iran of any border wall construction.

IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS

+ Will Donald Trump get in the way of Rouhani replacing rickety airlines?

+ House oversight panel to investigate Iran Deal.

+ Iranian FM defends diplomacy and nuclear deal from hardliner candidates.
 
ECONOMY + TRADE

+ Financial tech gaining steam in Iran.

+ How Iranian women became the queens of online shopping.

+ Iran doing business with 3 Japanese mega-banks.

+ Politics chill Iran’s attempts to attract foreign capital.

+ Poet Dylan Thomas wrote a propaganda film — and that it’s hidden in Iran.

OTHER

+ Iranian-American woman rescues dog from Iran.

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