PHOTO: Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli on Tuesday — “We must preserve unity”
UPDATE 0845 GMT: The Supreme Leader has maintained his warnings of sedition, telling an audience in central Iran, that the enemy has failed to prevent Iranians’ allegiance to the regime over the past 37 years.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) February 24, 2016
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Amid growing hardline and conservative pressure over Iran’s elections, the Rouhani Government has tried to counter any allegation that it is silent over foreign-backed “sedition”.
Iranians go to the polls on Friday to choose the 290-seat Parliament and the 88-member Assembly of Experts, the body which chooses the Supreme Leader.
For more than a week, the hardline and conservative factions — including the Supreme Leader — have declared that US and British “enemies” are trying to influence the vote to undermine the Islamic Republic.
Senior clerics and military commanders have denounced the Government for not countering the alleged plots, including the coverage of BBC Persian. The head of Iran’s armed forces, General Hassan Firouzabadi, said “the country’s officials should not underestimate” the sedition, and his deputy, General Masoud Jazayeri, accused the Foreign Ministry of reticence.
On Tuesday, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli responded to the challenge, “Unfortunately, today we see the support of some foreign media for a specific political faction. In this regard, it is necessary that solidarity and internal unity be preserved.”
President Rouhani’s senior advisor Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said in a press conference that the Government would counter any “foreign interference”.
Hardliners and some conservatives fear that — despite the disqualification of thousands of candidates by the Guardian Council — centrists and reformists could gain success in the Parliamentary ballot through joint lists of candidates.
The head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, maintained the “sedition” theme on Tuesday. Accusing US and British media of intervention, he said, “The people…must not allow the Americans and the British to make their decisions for them.”
Mehr News put out the provocative claim, from unnamed sources, that the “British Prime Minister’s office has reportedly reprimanded its newly appointed charge d’affaires to Tehran over ‘misinformation’ on Iran’s election”.
Britain and Iran restored diplomatic representation last August, after a break in late 2011 when a crowd attacked the British Embassy in Tehran.
Meanwhile, Larijani’s brother, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, has added a twist to the campaign with a refusal — so far — to join either the conservative bloc or the centrist movement, seen as allied to President Rouhani and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Ali Larijani is running as an independent in the holy city of Qom. He said on Tuesday that that he “has not separated” from the conservative Principlists but rather “just thinks differently from some of them”.
If hardliners and Principlists who oppose him triumph on Friday, Larijani could face a battle to retain the Speaker’s position.
Detained Iranian-American Namazi on Hunger Strike
Siamek Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman arrested in October while visiting family in Tehran, is on hunger strike in Evin Prison, according to his family.
“As a mother I ask the authorities to at least allow me and Siamak’s father to visit him as soon as possible to convince him to stop his hunger strike,” Effat Namazi wrote on Facebook.
Namazi has been denied access to his lawyer and visits by relatives. He is in Evin’s Ward 2-A, controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Organization.
The businessman was heading the strategic planning division for Crescent Petroleum, an oil and gas company based in the UAE, when he was arrested. He was previously an executive at the Tehran-based Atieh Bahar business consultancy and had publlished research for the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Namazi was falsely reported to have been among four Iranian-American freed in January as implementation of the July 2015 deal over Iran’s nuclear program was confirmed.
Picture: Head of Elite Qods Force Visits Soldier Wounded in Syria
In another photograph exalting Iran’s increasing military role in the Syrian civil war, the head of the elite Qods Force, General Qassem Soleimani, is pictured in a Tehran hospital with a soldier wounded in the conflict.
As Iranian casualties have mounted, amid foreign-led offensives that began in October, the regime has stepped up publicity hailing the “martyrs”. The Supreme Leader has been photographed on two occasions with the relatives of slain troops.
Soleimani, proclaimed by Iranian media and politicians as a savior in both the Iraqi and Syrian battles, was reportedly injured near Aleppo last November and spent months recovering in Tehran.
Oil Minister: OPEC Proposal to Cap Production is “A Joke”
After initial uncertainty over its position, Iran has firmly rejected the proposal by OPEC members and Russia to cap oil production to check a 70% fall in global prices since summer 2014.
After Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed on the limit last week, ministers from OPEC members Venezuela, Iraq, and Qatar visited Tehran to get Iranian compliance.
Zanganeh said at the time that Tehran would work with others on the production ceiling, but other Iranian officials maintained Tehran’s goal of an immediate increase in exports from 1.4 million barrels per day to about 2 million bpd, with further increases later in the year.
On Tuesday, Zanganeh put aside his diplomatic language:
Some countries that are producing above 10 million barrels per day have called on Iran to freeze its production at one million bpd….This is like a joke. They tell us they would freeze their oil production above 10 million bpd and that we should also in turn freeze our production at one million bpd?
Iranian media are reporting that Zanganeh made his comments in response to “a plan that has reportedly been raised by the Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi.
However, speaking to oil executives in Texas on Tuesday, al-Naimi said the OPEC plan to limit production is not viable because some countries will not comply. He said that Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Russia, and Qatar might freeze their output if others like Iran agreed.
Naimi said, “Cutting low-cost production to subsidize higher cost supplies only delays an inevitable reckoning.”