Motahari, Outspoken Iran Politician, Announces Presidential Candidacy | Iran International

Motahari, Outspoken Iran Politician, Announces Presidential Candidacy

Ali Motahari, an outspoken socially conservative politician, has announced his candidacy for Iran’s presidential election in June, although his bid to run again for parliament last year was rejected by the Guardian Council, which vets candidates.

Motahari, son of Ayatollah Morteza Motahari, a revolutionary leader assassinated in May 1979, has in recent years attacked some policies restricting political freedoms, while he was deputy parliamentary speaker. He has often attacked security agencies as well as decisions by aging clerics close to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dominating key state bodies.

Motahari’s tilt towards such positions cost him his chance of running again for parliament last year when hundreds of reformist politicians and candidates were banned from running in February’s elections. Turn-out was declared to have been relatively low at 43 percent, with principlists winning a majority of seats.

Many pundits and media outlets in Iran expect hardliners to win the presidency in the upcoming elections with key reformists barred from running. This could reduce voter participation − 73 percent in the 2017 presidential election − which is seen by Iran’s leadership as a barometer of the health of the political system.

Iran’s former defense minister Hossein Dehghan, a long-time officer of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), is one of a handful of people who have so far declared their candidacy. There has been discussion and controversy over candidates with strong military backgrounds and connections.

Other strong potential candidates are Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (Qalibaf), the parliament speaker and former top IRGC officer, and Ebrahim Raeesi, the chief justice.

Ali Motahari, an outspoken Iranian politician. FILE

Exclusive: Officials Cutting Vaccination Line In Iran

According to the report that Iran International has received from Iran’s Medical Science University, during the “non-transparent” vaccinations with imported vaccines, some officials have been vaccinated without being on the priority groups’ list.

A middle management source at the University of Medical Science who asked to remain anonymous told Iran International that he was able to get vaccinated with the imported foreign vaccine without being of old age or suffering from specified illnesses. Meanwhile, the vaccination of sensitive groups and the medical staff in Iran has not finished, which has drawn widespread criticism.

Some media in Iran have reported that in Tehran’s black market, coronavirus vaccine is being sold as high as 500 to 600 million rials (2000 to 2400$) According to the latest numbers from the Ministry of Health, Iran has imported 1.7 million doses of vaccine so far.

On Monday, the chairman of Iran’s Nursing Organization criticized the improper process of vaccination and said: “If the officials had nothing to hide, they would release the clear numbers of vaccinations in Iran.”

The questions about the access of officials to imported vaccines before the populace become more serious when Ali Khamenei’ the leader of the Islamic Republic who was quarantined since the beginning of the pandemic, suddenly started attending public events after it was reported that the first shipments of vaccines have arrived in Iran.

But a week ago the Minister of Health Saeed Namaki announced that neither Khamenei nor any other officials have been vaccinated yet.

In March, some members of the parliament also confirmed the reports about officials cutting the vaccination line.

Khamenei’s Foundation Denies Any Problems In Production Of Iranian Vaccine

After the chairman of Iran’s Medical Organization announced some problems in the production of the Iranian coronavirus vaccine “Barekat”, the spokesperson for the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO) foundation, controlled by the leader of Iran Ali Khamenei, denied any problems in the production.

Hojjat Niki Maleki, tweeted that the information provided by the chairman of Medical Organization Mohammadreza Zafarghandi, is false. In a discussion on Clubhouse, Zafarghandi had said that Iranian vaccines including Barekat, Razi, Pasteur, and Cuba are all in the process of production, but Barekat vaccine which was supposed to be ready by the end of Spring has encountered some problems and its production will be delayed.

The director of the vaccine production for the EIKO also announced that the building’s construction has finished, 20 to 30 percent of the equipment have been installed and 20 percent are currently being installed.

The spokesperson for the EIKO also claimed that the capacity of the semi-industrial production line for the vaccine has reached three million doses a month.

Months into the beginning of vaccination in the Middle East and the world, Iran remains far behind in public vaccination with less than a million citizens vaccinated. Many in the medical community and experts have criticized government officials for their weak response to the epidemic.

Zarif: Iran And Russia Are In Agreement Over Lifting US Sanctions

The Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif announced that Russia and Iran agree that for the nuclear deal to be revived, the US sanctions must be lifted.

In a tweet on Tuesday, April 13, Zarif said his negotiations with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Tehran about “mutual relations, regional and global issues” were positive.

“Biden must choose; the deal that Obama made or the failed economic terrorism of Trump,” Zarif added.

Lavrov also met with President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday. “We want the atmosphere and agreements to return to the commitments and agreement of 2015,” Rouhani said in the meeting.

As Lavrov visits Tehran, the deputy foreign minister of Russia, pointing out the indirect talks between the Islamic Republic and the US in Vienna, said Russia is ready to mediate between Iran and the US in order to move forward the process of returning to the nuclear deal.

Iran insists that it will return to its JCPOA commitments only if all US sanctions incompatible with the JCPOA are lifted in a verifiable manner. This was “clearly stated” to other JCPOA signatories, Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s IAEA envoy, said in an interview published on Friday by the website of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The talks in Vienna between Iran and the world powers over returning to the nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will resume on Wednesday, April 14.


Ship Owned By Israeli Firm Attacked By Missile Off UAE Coast: Media

A commercial vessel owned by an Israeli firm was attacked near Fujairah port in the United Arab Emirates, two pro-Iran media outlets based in Lebanon said on Twitter on Tuesday.

Israel's top-rated television news quoted unnamed Israeli officials as blaming Iran for an assault on an Israeli-owned ship off the UAE coast and said there were no casualties. The channel said a missile had hit the ship.

An Israeli Transportation Ministry spokesman said he was aware of the reports but that he could not confirm them. There was no immediate confirmation from the UAE.

The incident comes a day after Iran accused arch-foe Israel of sabotaging a key nuclear site and Iran's government spokesman vowed revenge against those responsible.

The Lebanon-based Unews news agency, which has previously reported news of attacks on vessels in Gulf waters, said the vessel was transporting cars and had been at Kuwait's Mina Al Ahmadi port 48 hours earlier.

Al Mayadeen television channel, also citing sources, identified the vessel as Hyperion.

Refinitiv ship tracking data showed the Bahamas-flagged vehicle carrier HYPERION RAY was headed to Fujairah port from Kuwait.

Last month an Iranian container ship was damaged in an attack in the Mediterranean, two weeks after an Israeli-owned ship the MV HELIOS RAY - owned by the same company as the Hyperion Ray according to a U.N. shipping database - was hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman.

Reporting by Reuters

Central Bank Chief Slams IMF For Saying Iran's Reserves Have Dwindled

The Chairman of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), Abdolnaser Hemmati, has said that an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report about Iran’s available foreign currency reserves is an “egregious” mistake and a mistaken report resulting from “incomplete information”.

The IMF in a report this month about economic indicators of countries in the Middle East and Central Asia showed that Iran’s foreign currency reserves had dwindled to just $4 billion form a high of $122 billion.

Iran’s oil exports, the main source of foreign currency, were sanctioned in 2018 by the former US Administration and the country reverted to using its reserves to finance government operation and essential imports. Although Iran only occasionally revealed withdrawals from its reserves, but the question remained of how it has been financing essential needs since 2018.

Hemmati, who issued an Instagram post on Tuesday, slammed the IMF for not consulting with Iran’s Central Bank before issuing its report and compared it with IMF “discriminatory” refusal to grant an emergency loan to Iran. In 2020, Tehran applied for a $5 billion loan from a package the IMF offered countries to fight the impact of the Covid pandemic but was not granted the loan.

Iran’s currency has depreciated eightfold since the beginning of 2018, reaching 250,000 rials to one US dollar, mainly because of US sanctions that have choked off foreign currency earnings. Hemmati pledged that the foreign currency market is under CBI’s control and the bank will supply enough hard currency to prevent a further depreciation of rial’s value.

Defense Minister Says Iran’s Soldiers Will Miss Extra Pay For Combat

Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami told parliament on Tuesday [April 13] that the General Staff could not afford the extra pay armed forces should receive in “war zones,” as is required by law, with meeting regular salaries already difficult.

“We have at least 60,000 people serving annually in those regions that must receive the extra pay and the financial burden is around 10 trillion rials ($40 million),” Hatami said in reply to questions from parliamentarians, according to the official news agency IRNA.

The defense minister said that with the General Staff facing a “budgetary deficit for current expenses such as regular salaries and operational needs of the armed forces” it could not afford additional allowances. He said that Iran’s Planning and Budget Organization had said it lacked extra finance available to allocate and had instructed the armed forces to find the resources from their own funds. Hatami suggested that the armed forces should have greater control over their own budget, which has over two decades been transferred in part to the jurisdiction of other entities.

Sanctions imposed by the United States since 2018 sent the Iranian economy into a two-year recession from which it is only now emerging. A lack of hard currency income from energy exports – due both to reduced sales and to an inability to repatriate currency given overseas banks’ fears of punitive US measures - has reduced available reserves. The IMF recently explained its estimate of a fall from $122.5 billion at the end of 2018 to $4 billion as due mainly to reclassification of 90 percent of previously claimed reserves as unavailable.

Elementary Teacher Arrested In Iran For Protesting Iran-China Agreement

An elementary school teacher, Batoul Amini Dehyadegari, was arrested by the Islamic Republic security forces in Mashhad city a week ago for protesting the 25-year comprehensive cooperation deal between Iran and China.

According to her son, the security forces arrested the elementary school teacher Batoul Amini at her home in Mashhad city and took her to an undisclosed location.

Foad Sojoudi Farimani, former political prisoner and the son of Batoul Amini Dehyadegari announced the news on a Telegram channel he has created for his mother and said the security forces searched her house and confiscated some of her personal belongings.

He also tweeted that the reason for his mother’s arrest was that she participated in the protests against the 25-year deal between Iran and China. According to him other protesters against the Iran-China deal have also been arrested in the past few days but their families have refused to announce their arrests to the media.

Amini’s son also said that since his mother’s arrest last week, she has not been allowed to make a phone call or contact her family, and no bail has been set for her release.

Since the announcement of the deal, there have been many protests across Iran with many celebrities, sports figures, and filmmakers voicing their opposition to the deal.

Hashtags associated with opposition to the pact or calling for its abolition have topped the list of most used Twitter hashtags. Many allege that the pact means Iran's capitulation to China, or call it a "colonial contract" similar to the 1828 Treaty of Turkmanchai, which followed the military defeat and ceded large parts of Iran's northwestern territories to Tsarist Russia.

Iran Demands Steps From South Korea To Release Frozen Funds

Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran Abbas Aracghchi in a meeting with his South-Korean counterpart asked for pragmatic action by the South-Korean government to release Iran’s frozen funds in that country.

In the meeting with his South-Korean counterpart, Araghchi said: “The illegal action of Korean banks in freezing Iran’s funds has resulted in the loss of Iran’s trust in Korea, and making up for it will not be easy.”

“The visit of South-Korean prime minister to Tehran is unprecedented in the history of the two country’s relations after the revolution,” Araghchi added. “With the negotiation of delegations at such level, South Korea must make efforts to resolve the issues between the two countries.”

The President of Iran’s Central Bank Abdolnaser Hemmati has said that over seven billion dollars of Iran’s funds have been frozen in South Korean banks.

In an apparent response, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) detained a South-Korean tanker and its crew in the Persian Gulf, claiming environmental violations as the cause. The Islamic Republic officials initially claimed that the tanker and the frozen funds are unrelated issues. But later some Iranian and Korean officials confirmed that the release of the funds would impact the release of the ship.

Last month it was announced that the US has approved of South Korea releasing a portion of the Iranian funds, and a few days later Iran released the crew of the tanker, with the tanker itself being released last week.

Despite Pressures, 43 More Filmmakers Sign Statement Against Iran-China Deal

After a statement by 18 Iranian filmmakers against the 25-year deal between Iran and China faced heavy backlash by the Islamic Republic security forces and its signatories were pressured to take back their signatures, 43 more filmmakers and writers joined the signatories of the statement.

The statement released on April 3 denounced “Islamic Republic’s four decades of secretive policies” and announced that the signatories do not consider the 25-year Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Iran and China in line with Iran’s national interests, since the content of it was “kept hidden from Iranian people.”

Since the release of the statement, media outlets close to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and to the Supreme Leader, including Kayhan, Tasnim News, and Mashregh news have heavily criticized the filmmakers who signed it. In recent days, several filmmakers reported receiving threats to withdraw their signatures.

Despite this, reports on Monday indicates that 43 more filmmakers have joined the signatories of the statemen

Many artists and celebrities have joined the protest movement against the deal with China and people protested in various Iranian cities inside and abroad, including in the United States.

Hashtags associated with opposition to the pact or calling for its abolition have topped the list of most used Twitter hashtags last week. Many allege that the pact means Iran's capitulation to China, or call it a "colonial contract" similar to the 1828 Treaty of Turkmanchai, which followed Iran's military defeat ceding large parts of Iran's northwestern territories to Tsarist Russia.

After Natanz Attack, Netanyahu Says He Will Never Let Iran Obtain Nukes

A day after a purported Israeli cyberattack on an Iranian nuclear facility, dubbed ‘terrorism’ by Tehran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated claims that Iran was pursuing efforts to construct nuclear weapons. Netanyahu said he would “never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capacity to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel.”

The Israeli premier was addressing reporters alongside visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, but he made no comments on media reports that Israel was behind Sunday’s attack on Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility. Israeli outlets widely claimed that Israel and its secret service Mossad targeted the power generation system at Natanz, causing an explosion, fires and damaging some enrichment centrifuges. These claims contrasted with more guarded comments on earlier attacks, including the killing in November of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Netanyahu has said many times, well before he became prime minister in 2009, that Iran was within grasp of a nuclear weapon. His latest remarks come as United States President Joe Biden attempts to revive Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, with multilateral talks indirectly involving Washington underway in Vienna.

Netanyahu opposes these moves to revive the agreement, which his ally President Donald Trump left in 2018 before imposing draconian sanctions on Iran. Some defenders of the JCPOA in the US have suggested Israel attacked Natanz to embarrass Austin or to rally hardline critics of the deal in Tehran, while one opponent of the JCPOA in the US said “Israel greatly impressed” him.

The New York Times has quoted US intelligence suggesting the disruption at Natanz would delay progress in Iran’s program by nine months.

Iran Minister Says Sanctions Push Up Foreign Banking Costs 20%

International banking transactions for Iran have become 20 percent more costly during United States sanctions since 2018, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Mohammad Shariatmadari told the official government Iran Daily on Monday [April 12]. The minister explained that without normal ties with international banks, Iran had to rely on middlemen to transfer funds.

Shariatmadari said that vendors, money middlemen, entities carrying goods all imposed a surcharge – with sellers increasing prices in what they dub as “Iranian terms.”

While Iran’s primary challenge is the oil export and banking sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump in 2018 after withdrawing from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Iran has also failed to adopt the rules of the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF), whose members host the world’s leading financial sectors.

The FATF has asked Iran to accept its regulations aimed at increasing transparency and preventing discrete movements of money including laundering and financing of ‘terrorism.’ Iran has ratified two laws to this end, but conservatives have delayed ratification of two other pieces of legislation leaving Iran on a blacklist where the FATF placed it in February 2020. Even if US sanctions ease, without internal financial reforms Tehran would struggle to correspond directly with the conventional international banking system and to attract back Western energy majors who abandoned contracts after 2018.

The government and private businesses use a network of money changers, obscure financial entities, bitcoin, and small banks for international business. Critics of joining FATF say accepting its terms will restrict Iran's ability to assisst regional groups, such as Hezbollah.