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Jafari v. Rouhani: Senior officials spar on IRGC’s role in politics, economy

April 19, 2014 in Analysis, News

As the Hassan Rouhani administration pushes ahead with its policy priorities, hitherto largely latent tensions with principalists are rising to the surfaces. This week Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander Major General Ali Jafari took aim at the administration for not including the IRGC and its perspective and capabilities in cultural and economic policy making. On Iran’s Army Day, Rouhani shot back, making veiled criticism of the IRGC for its attempts to influence politics and the economy. Ali Jafari calls on Hassan Rouhani administration to give IRGC greater role in economic and cultural issues Remarking on Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s theme this year of “Economy and Culture with National […]

Hamid Aboutalebi’s appointment a diplomatic gaffe that will hurt U.S.-Iran ties

April 13, 2014 in Analysis, News

After the United States government denied a visa to Iran’s choice to be its next ambassador to the United Nations in New York, senior Iranian foreign ministry officials have spoken out. Whatever the rationale for Aboutalebi’s appointment, it will certainly hurt budding U.S.-Iran relations. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s controversial choice as its next ambassador to the United Nations, Hamid Aboutalebi, has been denied a visa to assume his post because of his involvement in the 1979 hostage crisis. Aboutalebi claims that his role was limited to being a translator for the hostage-takers and that he was not in Tehran at the time that the hostage crisis first […]

The European Union’s human rights gambit in Iran

April 9, 2014 in Analysis, News

In late March 2014, the European Parliament (E.P.) passed a resolution which called on its diplomats to integrate human rights as an essential aspect of its relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The EP’s actions created an outcry among Iranian centrists and principalists. Does the European Union plan to seriously pursue human rights in parallel to already difficult nuclear negotiations? If so, any Iran-E.U. rapprochement could be more difficult than many people expect, with negative consequences for the Hassan Rouhani administration. Toward the end of March 2014 the European Parliament (E.P.) passed a resolution which, among other things, called for “the EU to mainstream human rights in […]

Ahmad Jannati hints at mass disqualifications in 2016 elections

April 3, 2014 in Analysis, News

If Council of Guardians (CoG) chairman Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati is to be believed, the upcoming Assembly of Experts (AoE) and parliamentary elections in 2016 could be a tough one for supporters of President Hassan Rouhani, whether centrists, reformists, or Green Movement supporters, who may face mass disqualifications at the CoG. Earlier this week Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the chairman of the Council of Guardians, spoke very frankly about the role the body he leads could play in Assembly of Experts and parliamentary elections. The CoG is a quasi-judicial quasi-electoral body which plays a multiplicity of roles within the Islamic Republic of Iran’s political system as laid out by the […]

Khamenei’s Nowruz address highlights Iran’s culture war

March 24, 2014 in Analysis, News

This past week Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave his annual address in Mashhad, after having unveiled that the Iranian calendar year of 1393 will henceforth be known as the year of “Economy and Culture with National Determination & Jihadi Management” in his annual Nowruz television address. These names are supposed to give each year one or more themes which highlight the central concerns of the regime. Not surprisingly, the economy once again was front and center in this year’s name, as it has been since 1388 (2009). While many have tried to decode the significance of the repetition of the economic theme, fewer have addressed the […]

Ali Motahari criticizes the IRGC’s political and economic influence

March 21, 2014 in Analysis, News

Maverick Iranian parliamentarian Ali Motahari has once again stirred controversy with a recent interview (originally published in the Nowruz edition of Etemad newspaper and republished elsewhere) in which he touched on a number of issues facing Iran, including what he considered the undue political and economic influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the country’s premier security body. While much has been written on the IRGC’s political and economic role by observers outside of Iran, statements by Islamic Republic officials have been limited not only because of concerns over Sepah-harrasi (“IRGC-phobia”) but probably due fear of retaliation as well. Motahari has been an exception to this trend, […]

Ashton’s visit underlines the nuclear negotiations versus human rights dichotomy in Iranian politics

March 16, 2014 in Analysis, News

European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton’s visit to Iran has once again helped demonstrate the dichotomy between P5+1-Iran nuclear negotiations, which most of the Islamic Republic’s political currents appear to have a tentative consensus on, and the issue of human rights in Iran, which is likely to be a majour arena of domestic conflict. For the time being, hardliners are not trying to sabotage nuclear negotiations but they are trying to undermine the domestic human rights agenda. As we have argued in the past, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s often divergent political currents appear to have formed a tentative consensus on the need to conduct nuclear negotiations with […]

Iran Cyber Front: Culture minister signals possible changes in Iran’s cyber policies

March 4, 2014 in Iran Cyber Front, News

Could the Islamic Republic of Iran be taking a new approach to cyberspace, and some media freedoms more broadly? It is perhaps too soon to tell, but recent comments by the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati have raised hopes that the regime may in fact be moving in this direction. Speaking to Mehr News Agency at the sideline of a “digital media activists conference”, Jannati was asked about the filtering of social networking websites such as Facebook . He responded that this was an issue under the oversight of the website filtering committee, an independent body in which the culture ministry only has a single […]

Voice of the Nation: A new pro-Rouhani faction in parliament

February 14, 2014 in Analysis, News

Since 2009 Green Movement demonstrations, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s factional politics have been in a state of flux, from the left to the right of the political spectrum. On the left, the story has been dominated by the rapid rise and equally rapid repression of the Green Movement, which advocated more radical reforms than its parent Second of Khordad (Reformist) Movement. The latter has also been the subject of considerable repression. Centrists, once equally reviled by the left and right, are now in the ascendency with their own Hassan Rouhani elected as president in June 2013, thanks in part to the policies and failures of the Mahmoud […]

Hassan Rouhani’s horrible, no good, very bad week

February 7, 2014 in Analysis, News

This has not been a good week for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose tenure began on a very optimistic note in August 2013. Despite a significant, albeit short-term, diplomatic victory in Geneva with the signing of the P5+1-Iran Joint Plan of Action, Rouhani has had less success on the domestic front when it comes to socio-cultural reforms important to a key bloc of his supporters. As we have noted in the past, on the issue of reforms Rouhani is caught between his largely Green Movement/Reformist-oriented social base on one hand and his Traditional Principalist allies and Neo-Principalist adversaries on the other. Of course, like most newly elected leaders […]