With speculation growing about his return to politics for the 2017 election, Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made a high-profile move with a letter to President Obama.
Posted on Ahmadinejad’s website on Monday, the letter asks Obama to “quickly fix” a US Supreme Court ruling this spring that froze $2 billion in Iranian assets, allowing families of victims to terrorism to sue for compensation.
The ruling has been portrayed by many Iranian officials, including the Supreme Leader, as a US retreat from the terms of the July 2015 nuclear deal, implemented in January. Hardliners and conservatives have criticized the Rouhani Government for weakness as the US maintains some financial restrictions and others are taking months to remove.
As he made his intervention, Ahmadinejad downplayed its significance, saying his letter “is by no means of [a] political nature”.
However, the message came as Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said Ahmadinejad had been warned that the launch of any political campaign, before an official election period, is illegal.
Ever since Ahmadinejad finished his eight years in office in 2013, there has been recurrent speculation that he and his supporters were preparing for a political renaissance. Observers have pointed to the establishment of websites supporting the former President and to his presence at rallies, including one last week in Yazd Province.
While Ahmadinejad left under allegations of corruption and mismanagement and a strained relationship with the Supreme Leader — as well as the ongoing stigma of his disputed re-election in 2009 — some analysts argue that he retains a foundation of support among many Iranians, particular in poor and rural areas.
“I Passionately Advise You”
Ahmadinejad said to Obama in the letter:
It is the clear expectation of the Iranian nation that the particular case of property seizure … be quickly fixed by your excellency and that not only the Iranian nation’s rights be restored and the seized property released and returned, but also the damaged caused be fully compensated for.
I passionately advise you not to let the historical defamation and bitter incident be recorded under your name.
The letter was delivered to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which has represented US interests since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and takeover of the American Embassy.