A weekly newsletter on all things Iran.
The Iranist
Week of May 19th

“Some people in those institutions might wish to make infringements. However, these bodies—be it supervisory, executive, or security-ensuring bodies—thanks to God, are trustworthy and, certainly, should be vigilant.”

- Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warning of possible election fraud

 Iran Election

As you read this, Iranians are going to the polls. The polls are expected to close at 6:00 pm local time, although they have run until midnight in the past. About 56 million Iranians are eligible to vote today.

In a surprising turn of events, Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf dropped out in favor of hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi (New York Times). This was Ghalibaf’s third unsuccessful run, and it is possible he pulled out to save himself from embarrassment. According to recent polls, if Raisi takes over Ghalibaf’s support base, then the candidate will win over 50 percent of the vote, with Hassan Rouhani courting 42 percent. However, it is unlikely that Raisi will inherit all of Ghalibaf’s supporters. Raisi’s team said Ghalibaf would be appointed vice president if the cleric is elected president (Al-Monitor).

As expected, Rouhani’s vice president Eshaq Jahangiri dropped out of the election (AP). Jahangiri threw his weight behind his president.

Reformist candidate Mostafa Hashemitaba also backed out of the race in favor of Rouhani. However, he did not formally drop out of the election. Mostafa Mirsalim hasn’t formally dropped out either, but he was seen campaigning alongside Raisi (BBC Persian). Mirasalim and Hashemitaba’s campaigns have gained no traction although their names are on the ballot today. By any measure, only Rouhani and Raisi are in this race. There will not be a second round of elections.

At a rally in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, Rouhani called the presidential election a “historical decision” (AP). He said, “Our nation will announce if it continues on the path of peacefulness or if it wants to choose tension. We should not let Iran become isolated again. We want constructive communication with the world.”

Rouhani delivered his last speech in Mashhad before the election, the home city of his rival (Al-Monitor). His rally took place at the same time as Ebrahim Raisi’s. It was the boldest and most outspoken speech of Rouhani’s three-week campaign. Rouhani told the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Basij to “stay out of politics.” Aiming directly at Raisi’s father-in-law, who leads Friday prayer in Mashhad, Rouhani said, “We have one government, one leader, and one constitution; and for each city we do not need a separate leader.” Rouhani also attacked Raisi: “You have all the financial resources, all the institutions of Mashhad. What have you done for the marginalized?” Rouhani went after almost all major figures within the Iranian political establishment, including the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and judiciary, with the exception of the supreme leader. Khamenei denounced the heated rhetoric of Iran's presidential election campaign as “unworthy” (Reuters) It was apparently a rebuke of Rouhani's attacks on Raisi.

Iranians are circulating photos on social media of handouts from the Raisi campaign (Twitter). Everything from rice, oil, tomato paste, to 1 million rial gift cards (about $30). 

Green movement leaders under house arrest will vote for Rouhani (Reuters). According to the opposition website Kalameh, Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Ranavard have requested security forces bring a mobile ballot box to their homes so they can cast a vote. Also, the Khomeini family broke taboo and backed Rouhani (Al-Monitor).

The latest polls from the iPPO Group:
Hassan Rouhani: 59- 67 percent
Ebrahim Raisi: 28- 36 percent

Incumbent president projected to win

The latest polls from the Iranian Student Polling Agency:
Rouhani: 41.6 percent
Raisi: 26.7 percent

Incumbent president projected to win

There is concern about turnout in this presidential election (AP). According to a report by state media IRNA, over a third of 6,000 eligible voters who were polled said they will not vote. The poll did not provide a margin of error. However, the New York Times Tehran bureau chief reported that he's seeing the highest turn out in well over a decade (Twitter). At the same time, there are concerns that the IRGC and Basij will meddle today, putting Raisi ahead of the race. Read more about it here: Iran’s tense presidential election sparks fears of a rigged finale (Washington Post) And here: Taboo-breaking election tests how much dissent Iran can handle (Christian Science Monitor).

What this election is really about: The short-term stability of the system versus long-term survival of the revolution (International Crisis Group).

FYI:  Iranian-Americans can vote at polling stations in over a dozen states.

Here are some good reads:

An explainer on the platforms of eachIranian presidential candidate (Bloomberg).

These seven charts illustrate why Rouhani could lose the election (Bloomberg).

Rouhani Scorecard: Did Iran's president deliver? (RFERL)

The rise of Raisi: How similar is it to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s popularity in 2005? (IranWire)

Iran has its own hardline populist and he’s on the rise (New York Times).

Here are the smears marring Iran’s election (RFERL).

How Iran became an undemocratic democracy (New York Times).

The election is so critical that actors, directors, and human rights defenders are advocating for Rouhani (LobeLog).

During this election, candidates are using Instagram to court young voters (New York Times).

In Iran's presidential election: Telegram rules! (IranWire)

 Domestic Affairs

Ransomware that has hit computers in over 90 countries has also reached Iran (Trend News Agency). The WannaCry malware holds entities hostage by freezing computers and encrypting data for ransom in bitcoin.

An Iranian official said the NSA was behind the wave of cyber attacks (Tasnim News Agency) The head of Iran’s civil defense organization Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali said, “As the malware spread quickly across the world, some government or intelligence apparatus must be behind the cyber attacks.” He added, “Since the U.S. is not among the target countries of the ransomware, which are mainly in Europe and Asia, it can be said that the U.S. is the origin of the cyber attacks.”

 Iran Deal

Donald Trump extended sanctions relief to Tehran, while imposing new sanctions over Iran’s ballistic missile program (Reuters). The Treasury Department sanctioned two senior Iranian defense officials, an Iranian company, a Chinese man, and three Chinese companies for supporting the missile program.

Trump’s acting Treasury Secretary warned lawmakers an Iran sanctions bill could undermine the nuclear deal (Huffington Post). Adam Szubin, who left the Trump administration in February, wrote a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stating that the bill could “provoke a terrible reaction in Iran and with our allies, as it would be seen as contrary to at least the spirit of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” Szubin is normally considered to be hawkish on Iran and has pushed for aggressive sanctions in the past.

Iran plans to sanction nine U.S. individuals and companies in response to what it called an “unacceptable, illegal” decision by Washington (VOA).

Meanwhile, Iran Air received its first delivery of four ATR planes (Reuters). Tehran signed a contract for 20 planes, which will be completed by the end of 2018.

 Economy + Trade
Oil traders are focused on the Iranian elections (CNBC). There is concern that the Iran Deal could be weakened or abandoned by the next Iranian president, although all candidates said they would adhere to the terms of the nuclear deal.

According to unnamed sources, Iran will likely back the nine-month, OPEC-led oil cut if all members are on board (Reuters). Saudi Arabia and Russia have already agreed to extend the cut for nine months.

Iran set new terms for India gas field award (The Hindu). Tehran wants India to buy all natural gas at the equivalent rate Qatar charges New Delhi for liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The daughter of Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard—currently under house arrest since 2011—posted this cartoon on her Instagram account in response to those abstaining in today's presidential election. Narges' parents vote from their bird cage, while an Iranian says "I won't vote!". (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.


+ Imprisoned civil rights activist Atena Daemi in critical condition.

+ Hunger-striking imprisoned teachers’ rights activist Esmail Abdi in poor health.

+ Prominent Kurdish activist facing more prison time after serving 10 years in Evin prison.

+ EU Parliament urges Iran to release detained journalists and activists ahead of elections.


+ Rouhani supporter “resigns” from supreme leader’s inspection office

+ Iranian women’s rights activists use elections as “opportunities” to put forth demands.

+ Pro-Rouhani editor arrested ahead of elections remains detained without charge.

+ Iranian Kurds voice frustrations and hopes heading into election.

+ Most Yarsani religious minority candidates disqualified from 2017 councils elections.

+ Judiciary forbids campaigners from printing Rouhani’s criticism of the IRGC.

+ Judiciary announces arrests of campaign staff one week after Rouhani’s criticism.

+ Tinder-like app provides unfettered info about the candidates.

+ Did Rouhani sell ‘grand bargain’ with U.S. to Iranian voters?

+ Will Rouhani be able to weather jobs crisis?

+ Will Iran's next president care enough to put the environment first?

+ Voices of Iranians ahead of presidential election.

+ Rouhani official accused of unethical work scheme for young women.

+ Who's behind campaign to probe Rouhani's doctoral thesis?

+ Four women politicians speak out ahead of the local elections.
+ Veterinarian runs for Tehran’s City Council despite taboo about dogs.
City council candidate says “military orgs” intervened to disqualify reformist candidates.
+ Police arrest man who shot city council candidate in northern Iran.

+ Struggle over Iran’s largest private university heats up.

+ Deadly earthquake hits Iran's North Khorasan province.

+ Jewish MP says life in Iran for Jews is better than in Europe.

+ Iran punishes adulterer by making her wash dead bodies in a morgue.

+ Iran thwarts terror plots, confiscates explosives, according to Intelligence ministry.

+ Gunmen kill 2 policemen in southwest Iran.


+ Will Trump and Netanyahu continue to misread Iran?

+ Iran changes course of road to Mediterranean coast in Syria to avoid U.S. forces.

+ Web defenders detect Russian hand in Iranians’ hacking attempt.

+ What drives anti-Iranian militant group 'Army of Justice

+ 'Fake' Iranian refugees reportedly allowed to stay in Australia.


Former CIA agent says Iran aiding North Korea.


+ Iran’s mining projects on hold as investors fear new sanctions.

+ Absent from America, French cars drive into Iran.

+ Zoodel helps Iranian SMEs open European bank accounts.

+ Irancell still not ready to go public.

+ The rise of the internet-based economy shows what's changed in Iran.

+ Six talent acquisition channels startups use in Iran.


+ Director Asghar Farhadi collects Oscar at Cannes after boycott.

A fashion designer and an architect attempt to turn an old mud palace into a hotel.

+ Cincinnati Art Museum receives $11.75 million to expand art collection from Iran, etc.

Is Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ Iranian?

+ From the 1979 revolution to today: The politics of music in Iran.


+ Iran launches National Strategic Plan to step up the battle against climate change.


+ This Is How We Dot It: the daily lives of seven kids in seven countries.

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