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Tehran Mayor a Powerful Contender For Iran’s Presidency

Tehran’s Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf is turning into a serious competitor in the upcoming presidential elections.

He is presenting himself as a safe pair of hands at the wheel of the country. This includes statements condemning denial of the Holocaust by Ahmadinejad, in addition to calls for a more realistic foreign policy.

My latest article explains why his chances are fair:


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Posted on : Jun 01 2013
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Posted under Middle East |

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.

Ghalibaf Takes On Ahmadinejad

By: Meir Javedanfar


Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf who has been serving as the Mayor of Tehran since 2005, is getting ready to enter the 2009 Iranian presidential race.

He already tried his luck in 2005 as a candidate, but failed to win. Winning 14% of the votes, he came in 5th. One of the reasons is because he described himself as an Islamic version of Reza Shah. Some Iranians have nostalgic feelings for the founder for the Pahlavi dynasty, and the father of Shah. The biggest reason is because he was a nationalist, and that he was a developer. He developed Iran’s roads, railways and telecommunication system. Also he was a no none sense man. He didn’t let bureaucracy (or democracy for that matter) get in his plans to develop Iran and to try and make it in to a modern country. In short, Iranians like Reza Shah, because he was a man of talk and action. In comparison, Ahmadinejad is a man of talk and no action. Or if he does anything, like reform the economy, he makes it worst.

However comparing yourself to the father of the Shah, even an Islamic version would make any politician lose great many point with supreme leader Khamenei. And this is what happened with Ghalibaf. Even though he had much better credentials as a Revolutionary Guards commander, Khamenei picked Ahmadinejad over him.

That was in 2005. Since then, Ghalibaf has improved his popularity as the Mayor of Tehran. He has just been recognized as the 8th best Mayor in the world. This is an achievement which won him much publicity in Iran. During his trip to Japan to receive the recognition, he used the opportunity to attack Ahmadinejad. Amongst other things he criticized Ahmadinejad’s domestic policies, with emphasis placed on the problem of inflation and Iran’s excessive reliance on oil as a source of income. He also criticized Ahmadinejad’s cash handouts, saying that they don’t “solve the economic roots of our problems”.

This is only a warning shot. President Ahmadinejad should expect a very tough and bruising competition . There is a queue of politicians waiting to settle scores with him. Ghalibaf should get to the back of the line. Ayatollah Karrubi got there first. There will be more people joining them.

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Posted on : Oct 20 2008
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Posted under Iran- Elections |