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Khatami’s Withdrawal: Reasons, Domestic and Regional Implications

According to the Washington Post and the BBC, Ayatollah Khatami has decided to drop out of the Iranian presidential race. It is understood that he will throw his support behind the candidacy of former Prime Minister Mir Hosein Mousavi.
The analysis piece below looks at the reasons behind Khatami’s decision, why he would back Mousavi, and its implications for the Iranian nuclear program, talks with the US and policies towards Israel.
To read click below:

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Posted on : Mar 17 2009
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Posted under Iran- Elections |

Meet Mrs Ahmadinejad & Co

By: Meir Javedanfar

Since becoming president in 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has become one of the most widely known Iranian politicians. In direct contrast, his wife has been one of the most discreet spouses in Iranian political history. The world got its first glimpse of her in 2005, after she accompanied her husband on a trip to Malaysia. However, she did not speak any words and has hardly ever appeared in front of cameras since then. What was even more mysterious was her identity. She was only referred to as Mrs. Ahmadinejad in the very few reports which mentioned her. Her real identity was strongly protected.

But on January 18, 2009, the world suddenly met Azam Al Sadat Farahi, who until that day was known as Mrs. Ahmadinejad. The encounter was brought about by a letter she wrote on behalf of Gazans to Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. In it she wrote:

The people of Gaza have been subjected to aerial, ground and sea attacks and have been living under siege for a long time. Witnessing the bombardment of mosques, hospitals and houses and the mutilation of women and children brings pain to the heart of any human being. …I ask you to do whatever is in your capacity to help the people of Gaza and to help them from the oppression that they are suffering from, so that your name is placed alongside the name of worthy and peace seeking women.

One could doubt whether Mrs. Ahmadinejad’s letter would have any impact, because these days Egypt is trying its best to isolate Iran. This was seen by the fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on several occasions asked for Mubarak’s help. Nothing ever came of it.

Nevertheless, the symbolic value of the letter should not be ignored. Many people around the world believe that Iranian women, especially conservative ones, are confined to the boundaries of the kitchen. This may be true about wives of conservative clergy. However when it comes to non-clergy conservatives, the opposite is true. Quite a few are very vociferous in their political thinking and beliefs.

One of the most notable is Fatemeh Rajabi, the journalist wife of Gholam Hossein Elham, a government spokesman and one of Ahmadinejad’s most trusted confidants. Rajabi sometimes appears in the press more often than her husband. Furthermore, she has openly attacked Rafsanjani’s allies for being corrupt and Ayatollah Khatami for being too liberal and friendly toward the West. She even called for the defrocking of  Khatami. Although many male members of Iran’s political elite have done the same, Rajabi is the first female critic in Iran’s post-revolution history to go so far in her criticism of senior politicians. This has earned her several nicknames. One is “Fatti Arreh,” meaning “Fatemeh the hacksaw.” The other is “Shamsi Pahlevoon,” a nickname given to physically rough women in Iran.

Despite the fact that Ahmadinejad’s wife has been camera shy until recently, she too has had a strong influence on her husband. Although the president of Iran is no feminist, compared to other conservatives in Iran he has championed more rights for women. One of them was his public call to allow women to attend soccer matches as spectators. Soon after, he was subjected to fierce criticism from senior clergy from the city of Qom because they saw it as un-Islamic. Ahmadinejad did not back down until he was forced to by Iran’s supreme leader. Furthermore, during his tenure as mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad opened many leisure areas for women, including parks and libraries. Although segregation of men and women is frowned upon in the West and by many Iranians, it must be noted that some women in Iran welcome segregation in buses and parks due to problems such as unwanted physical contact and approach by strangers. Right-wing movements have also increased their recruitment of women for their campaigning and demonstrations. A great number of Baseej (people’s militia) who demonstrated against Israel and Egypt were women.

As the Iranian presidential elections near, we are going to hear more from the female members of Iran’s political arena. Their appearance is not solely for the betterment of human kind. Jealousy and self-interest are also at play. It is believed that one of the reasons why Ahmadinejad’s wife wrote to Suzanne Mubarak is because she did not want to be outdone by Zohre Sadeghi, the wife of Ayatollah Khatami (Ahmadinejad’s chief rival), who two days earlier had written a similar letter to the wife of the emir of Qatar.

Conservative clergy may wish to keep Iran’s women quiet and at home. However, it looks like the conservative non-clergy politicians who should back them are actually turning against them.

Sixty percent of Iran’s university graduates are women. It’s only a matter of time before they can slowly claim their deserved place in the government and society of their country.

This article originally appeared in PJM Media

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Obama To Meet President Ghalibaf?

By: Meir Javedanfar


The period leading to the Iranian presidential elections is always exciting, and this time it will be no different.

According to a recent article in the Tehran based Baztab online, members of a parallel intelligence agency inside Iran have been arrested after being caught spying on Tehran Mayor and presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. The arrested group was collecting information about Ghalibaf’s meetings and electioneering gatherings.

In an interesting twist to the story, the head of the counter intelligence agency that caught the group was later removed because he supplied the information to the press.

The report does not mention who were the people spying on Ghalibaf. However one can assume that the person who has the most to lose from Ghalibaf’s participation in the elections is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He may feel safe about Ayatollah Khatami’s participation, because he could assume that Ayatollah Khamenei, who is not usually in favor of reformists, may not allow him to win.

However Ghalibaf who is from within the conservative movement may pose a bigger danger. Unlike Ahmadinejad, he was a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards, and fought in the war for the entire eight years. This is in contrast to Ahmadinejad’s one and half years on the front lines. Also, Ghalibaf is the brother of a Shaheed (martyr), whereas Ahmadinejad did not lose any close family in the war. These factors reinforce Ghalibaf’s revolutionary credentials and give him an edge over the president. 

Furthermore, Ghalibaf is seen as more moderating force in terms of economic and foreign policy. He has openly spoken out against excessive spending and populist policies of the current government, while calling for a more moderate foreign policy and investment from abroad. This is music to the ears of many conservative supporters, and those who want to support Khatami, but believe that despite his good intentions, Khamenei will never let him win.

There are two other factors which boost Ghalibaf’s chances.

One is Ali Larijani’s decision not to participate. His participation may have led to cannibalization of votes between the two.

The other is election of Barack Obama. His calls for unconditional dialogue have been heard in Tehran. So have recommendations for him not to meet with Ahmadinejad.

It is very possible that the Supreme Leader may decide that Ahmadinejad’s catastrophic economic performance and his foreign policy stance may have cost Iran too much. That his removal may be worth the price for the sake of internal stability, and the chance to reap the benefits of dialogue with the US.

Between all the candidates, Ghalibaf would be the best face saving choice. His election as a conservative candidate would allow Khamenei to choose a middle course which would satisfy conservatives at home and those wanting to approach a more moderate Iran.

Iranian President: Israeli Heartthrob?

Since becoming president in 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has achieved many things. He has managed to push the economy into its worst state since the end of the war against Iraq, and also, to isolate Iran almost like never before.

His other achievement is being subject of numerous jokes in Farsi.

There are plenty of sms message flying around Iran with jokes about the president.

Here are a couple:

President Ahmadinejad appears on a general knowledge quiz.

The presenter asks him: “who was the fist Shiite Imam?”.

Ahmadinejad scratches his head, can’t think of an answer. He asks for a hint.

The presenter says “ he was known for his sword”.

Ahmadinejad looks back and says “ah thats easy. Its the Zorro”.


The presenter tries again. He asks the president:

Which prophet had a huge boat?”

Again Ahmadinejad is stuck for an answer. He says, can I have a hint?

The presenter says “this prophet had a huge boat, which he filled with animals”.

Ahmadinejad replied” ah, of course. Its Yogi bear!

And finally…

President Ahmadinejad is asked: you have 20 seconds to give three names which end with the word “allah”.

Ahmadinejad says: “Shokrallah, Hamdallah”….

…….then all of a sudden he gets a mental block and becomes stuck….he thinks and right before his time is up he shouts “Cinderallah”.

One thing the president is not known for are his looks.

But this is one quality which these female soldiers seem to appreciate.

And they are from none other than the Israeli Defense Forces.

If only president Ahmadinejad could use these endorsements for his presidential campaign.

Luckily for Ayatollah Khatami, he can’t.

To see the pictures click here

Full credits go to the Iran Dokht blog

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Posted on : Jan 18 2009
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Posted under Iran- Elections |

The Return of Mohammad Khatami

By: Meir Javedanfar


Mohamamd Khatami, Iran’s former reformist president recently announced that he is considering to run as a candidate in the next presidential elections, if the following two conditions are met:

  1. “My first condition is reaching an agreement with the people on their expectations”.
  2. “I need to see to what extent these programmes can be implemented within the existing (power) structures,” he said.

Judging by his second condition, it looks like that Khatami is either preparing a graceful exit strategy, or that he is simply out of touch with current political realities in Iran.

It is extremely unlikely that Ayatollah Khamenei would allow him to win. Even though Khatami is missed by many Iranians, Khamenei is not one of them. He made his life very difficult when he was president.

Also, in 2009, Iran will be a much more different country.

Power, both political and economic is more firmly in the hands of the IRGC. It would be very difficult for Khatami to change that. First because of the extent of their power, and secondly, their animosity towards him. Therefore, implementation of domestic policies, especially economic ones will be far more difficult than before. Subsequently he would run the great risk of being labeled as a lame duck president, again.

Furthermore, when it comes to foreign policy, he will find a different Iran. Although his milder and more intellectual approach will be a breath of fresh air for many Iranians who are becoming horrified of Ahmadinejad’s behavior, nevertheless, it is very unlikely that he will be able to change much, especially when it comes to the nuclear program. Ayatollah Khamenei is going full speed towards nuclear glory. Not only because of ideology, also because he is a realist. The current situation in the Middle East, oil market and in the UN have provided him with an opportunity, and he is taking it. Khatami won’t be able to change that. Unless there is a massive drop in oil prices.

If he fails again, Khatami should not be disheartened. According to various reports, Iran is somewhere between 2 – 5 years from reaching the bomb. Once it does, Khamenei will need to improve relations with the West. He is most probably realistic enough to know that Iran’s economy could very well suffocate if things continue in their current format. Relations will have to be improved. Iran will have no choice. With a bomb in the basement, Khatami will be the best man for the job.

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Posted on : Oct 12 2008
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Posted under Iran- Elections, Uncategorized |