United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Revolution I: Khamenei, Rouhani Speeches

Iran celebrated the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution for 11 days from February 1 to February 11. On February 8, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that Iran’s enemies were trying to undermine the revolution through cultural and economic invasion. Tens of thousands turned out in Tehran to hear President Hassan Rouhani speak on February 11. He called on Iran’s political factions to put their aside their differences and participate in the upcoming elections.

February 1 marked the day Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran from exile and kicked off the Ten Days of Dawn, culminating in mass rallies on February 11. The following are excerpted remarks by officials on the occasion of the revolution’s anniversary. 
 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Feb. 8, 2016, in a speech to Air Force commanders and staff 
 
“Peoples’ massive presence in the Esfand 7 (February 26) elections, like fresh blood, will guarantee the dignity and might of Iran and the [Islamic Republics] establishment and will neutralize the objectives of the deceitful and cunning enemy."
 
“The presence of people in the Bahman 22 rallies over the past 37 years has been a physical presence along with willpower and determination and affection and support, and this year, with God’s grace, people’s presence in the streets will be eye-catching, enemy-crushing and disheartening for ill-wishers.”
 
“Since the victory of the Islamic Revolution up to the present time, under any circumstances, including harsh weather conditions and in the midst of problems, people have always attended the feast of the [Islamic] Revolution on Bahman 22.”
 
“Most of those who have taken part in the [annual] demonstration [of the Revolution] in recent years had not experienced the days of the Revolution and Bahman 22, 1357 (February 11, 1979, the day when the Islamic Revolution became victorious) due to their [young] age, but this never-ending chain [of demonstrations] proves the [nation’s] power to recreate the Revolution.”
 
 
“The truth about the Revolution must always remain alive in the minds of people, because the Islamic Revolution is just halfway through [toward achieving its goals] and it needs its main goals to be kept alive in order to strengthen its pillars and achieve its lofty goals.”
“The fundamental goal of the enemy front is to make these lofty goals be forgotten, and finally [to cause] a change in the behavior and ‘internal transformation of the Islamic Republics establishment.”
 
“All efforts of the extended front of ill-wishers of the Islamic establishment is to prevent the Islamic Republic from continuing to move towards dignifying and power-boosting goals and to restore the foreigners’ dominance on the country.”
 
“Today, the main plan for confronting the Islamic establishment is [waging] soft war to strip Iran’s establishment and people of the elements of power.”
 
“If a nation is weakened, no hard war would be needed any longer to confront it.”
 
“The only way to prevent such a horrendous situation is to protect and safeguard revolutionary thought in ‘practice and behavior and [in] orientations and regulations and law.”
 
“By exercising its natural right [by holding elections], the nation enters the arena at the right time in order to make decisions about which one of the officials whom they have previously elected should stay or leave [their posts].”
 
Elections are like “refreshment of the nation and [pledging] fresh allegiance to the goals of the Revolution.”
 
“My insistence on everybody’s presence in elections is because public participation dignifies and insures the country and the establishment, [and] therefore participation in this huge event is an obligation for all people.”
 
“In the face of all these conspiracies, the nation rushed to the Islamic establishments help, and the Almighty turned the Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation into a regional power and, with regard to some cases, into an effective and influential global power through His reciprocal assistance.”
 
“The dignity and honor and authority of the homeland and the nation are tied to fulfillment of revolutionary duties, which taking part in elections is among the most significant of these duties.”
 
"With Almighty’s assistance, officials are working and making efforts, but they must be careful not to be preoccupied with everyday election-related hype, so that they would neglect forget to deal with important issues, particularly the economy.”
 
“Despite all its importance, this issue is ephemeral and what would remain after a few weeks is the country’s basic issues, including making the economy resistant [to outside influences].”
 
“By relying on these unique assets [natural resources], the country’s economy is so resistant that the enemy would think twice about [exerting] economic pressures to impose its demands [on Iran].”
 
“By directing [the country’s] assets towards industrial and agricultural production, prosperity of production and resolving the problem of stagnation, officials must accelerate the country’s progress to make the enemy understand that sanctions are useless.”
 
“If this goal [of self-sufficiency] is realized, appropriate solutions will be also found for creating jobs for the youth, unemployment and other economic woes.”
 
“Those who neglect their enemies and pin hopes on them will never win peoples praise.”
 
“The enemy smiles, [and] you smile as well, but one must watch out for the ruse that is hidden behind the enemy’s smile.”
 
"The enemy’s plots with regard to such issues as security, [peoples’] livelihood, culture, the youth, social maladies and other issues must be understood and, in order to counter them, policymaking, [and] legislative [steps must be taken] and [other necessary] measures [must] be [also] taken and discussions must be held.”
 
“When the enemy disguises himself as friend, he can do things under that disguise that no enemy can.” (Quote by Persian poet Sadi of Shiraz)
 
“Americans refuse to answer the simplest question [posed] by the world public opinion about their support for the perpetrators of [ongoing] savage crimes in Yemen, and outrageously continue to support those who are committing the most ruthless form of state terrorism in killing the innocent people of Yemen.”
 
“They are supporting the child-killing Zionist regime and their regional allies, who know nothing about elections and do not understand elections at all.”
 
“The American administration is so shameless that it commits the most savage actions and then smiles to you. Should we not be totally careful in the face of such an enemy?”
 
Feb. 3, 2016, in a meeting with the Supreme National Security Council 
 
 
 
 
President Hassan Rouhani
 
Feb. 11, 2016, in a speech in Azadi Square in Tehran and in remarks to reporters
 
“We will achieve all of our ideals by people’s support, unity, and integrity.”
 
“Today the Islamic Iran is the safest country in the region and the whole world is eying dear Iran’s activities.”
 
“Iranians will not give in to any pressure and threat.”
 
“With people’s support and the Supreme Leader of the Revolution’s guidance, we can accomplish all our goals.”
 
“The people of Iran defended their country against foreign aggressors during the eight-year [with Iraq]… and showed the world that they stood up against aggression with all their might. They did not bow to unprecedented international sanctions over the past decade.”
 
Iranians “proved that portrayals of Iran as a threat to regional countries was a lie. Iranians also proved all [allegations] that the nation was seeking WMDs and nuclear weapons were baseless and unfounded.”
 
“We are capable of competing with the world in terms of economy and industry.”
 
“Iranians will never yield to any pressure. Our nuclear victory showed to the world that Iranians are capable of winning any battle, including diplomatic battles."
 
“Political factions should put aside any confrontation ... we need consensus now. Don't turn your backs on the ballot boxes.”
 
“True (conservatives), true reformists and true moderates are all revolutionary.”
 
“In our time, 'revolutionary' means being in favor of participation, tolerance, and resistance, and having goods capable of competition in world markets.”
 
“Our vote will be a vote for hope, rationality, law and the protection of the rights of the Iranian nation.”
 
“It is a 'No' to those who do not respect the law and seek confrontation.”
 
Feb. 10, 2016, in a meeting with foreign ambassadors
 
“Considering the Islamic Republic of Iran’s geographic and strategic location, as well as its extensive economic capabilities and facilities, we are ready to interact and cooperate with all countries of the world.”
 
“Interaction and economic cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran as the cheapest communication path is beneficial to the world’s economy and trade.”
 
“Iranian people led a huge revolution to victory 37 years ago for independence, freedom, and national sovereignty, despite oppositions by the world powers, and they have been eager to have good relations with their neighbors and the world.”
 
“The 11th government stated since its early days in office that if respect replaces sanctions, the nuclear issue will be solvable through negotiation.”
 
“The people of the world understood during the negotiations that Iranophobia is not real and the Iranian people are peace-loving and peace-seeking.”
 
“Serious fight against terrorism and restoring stability to the sensitive Middle East region is very important to Iran and our main goal is to combat terrorism and put an end to instability in the whole region.”
 
“We neither have started, nor favor continuing tensions in the region.”
 
“Terrorism and its roots, which are ignorance, poverty, and unemployment in the region, should be confronted with.”
 
Feb. 1, 2016, after meeting the heads of other government branches
 
“All of what we have, are due to the Islamic Revolution, the Ten Days of Dawn, and endeavors by the Iranian nation, led by Imam Khomeini, which brought us dignity, freedom, independence, Islamic ethics, and the Islamic Republic.”
 
“Reaching development is not only possible through coordination and communion among the three branches and all branches should join hands in using the post-JCPOA atmosphere to the benefit of the people, the country and job creation for the youth.”
 
“What the supreme leader and the Iranian nation want today, is a great election in the country, therefore, how a competitive election is held, will cause a move forward in political and social fields.”
 
Feb. 3, 2016, in a speech
 
"The whole world was supporting the oppressive regime but the people could reach his lofty ideals and the Islamic Revolution affected the history.”
 
 
Ali Akbar Salehi, chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran
 
“This is a day of pride for our nation. Our nation decided 37 years ago to get its independence and not to be the lackey of any superpower anymore. So ever since its revolution, it has been progressing and proceeding forward. There has been a lot of achievements this nation has achieved in these 37 years, despite the fact that we were under all sorts of sanctions. We were under all sorts of constraints and limitations, but nevertheless our nation has been able, and as you can witness, to take pride of its achievements. The other part of the world, those specific portion of the world, I’m not talking about all of them, they have to take heed of what our people say today, so that they make sure that they don’t make a mistake anymore. I mean there is no room for further mistakes on their side. They have to come to this understanding that this nation never submits itself. This nation is a proud nation. It has its roots in its history. It has 3,000 years of written history. It’s one of the very few nations that has withstood the test of time, so please stop testing this nation.”
—Feb. 11, 2016, at a rally in Tehran
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to cooperate with all countries of the region to confront common challenges.”
—Feb. 10, 2016, in a meeting with foreign ambassadors
 
Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh
 
“It’s a very good time for me and for all the Iranian people. As you mentioned, the sanction[s] [have been] lifted, and now is the time that we can expand our relationship with the international community better than before, and we are in a position to develop our country again and to be… a first power in economy, in culture, in scientific issues, and in technological issues.”
—Feb. 11, 2016, at a rally in Tehran
 
 

 

Revolution II: Street Celebrations

On February 11, Iranians celebrated the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. The popular uprising, led by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, led to the ouster of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi and ended centuries of monarchical rule. Large street rallies across the country are held each year to celebrate the revolution and Iran’s subsequent achievements. The following are pictures from Tehran and across the Islamic Republic.

 

Anti-American slogans were a common theme in the rallies.

 

Demonstrators also praised Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani.

Soleimani attended a rally in Tehran. Multiple reports have surfaced in the past few months claiming that he was killed in Syria.

 

 

House Hearing: Nuclear Deal Implementation

CongressOn February 11, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing to evaluate the status of the nuclear deal and its consequences. Stephen Mull, the State Department’s lead coordinator on the nuclear deal, and John Smith, acting director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, provided testimony. The following are excerpted remarks from the hearing.
 
 
Committee Chairman Rep. Edward Royce
 
January 16th – so called “Implementation Day” – marked an historic turning point in the Middle East. In a snap, Iran’s record was cleared, and its pariah status dropped -- reconnecting Iran to the international trade and financial system. Now, with access to $100 billion in unfrozen assets and sanctions wiped away, Iran has instantly become the dominate country in the region. Tehran achieved this all without having to end its aggression against its neighbors or swear-off its support for terrorism.
 
The Iranian economy was hemorrhaging before the deal. Now Iranian leaders are predicting swift growth. They’re probably right, as European countries, seeing the sanctions dam broken, sprint into the Iranian market to cut billions in deals – making a mockery of the Administration’s claim that sanctions could “snapback” if Iran cheats. You tell me if these companies are going to turn back when Iran stiffs international inspectors.
 
The Revolutionary Guards – already Iran’s “most powerful economic actor” in the words of the Treasury Department – will only grow more powerful with international investment. Just hours after the agreement’s implementation, the regime disqualified 2,967 of roughly 3,000 moderate candidates from running in parliamentary elections later this month. And after the Administration finally responded to Iran’s missile tests with minor sanctions, Iran’s “moderate” president ordered the military to accelerate its intercontinental ballistic missile program. That’s aimed here -- at the United States -- and designed to carry a nuclear warhead.
 
Worse, the administration continues to go out of its way to appease the Iranian regime, and even thanked Iran after it recently seized 10 U.S. sailors in a highly provocative act. It appears the Administration is determined to protect this deal at all costs. Just look at how the Obama administration backed away from a new bipartisan U.S. law ending visa waiver travel for those who have visited Iran. After an outcry from Tehran, the Administration has now decided to basically ignore the law – and Iran’s ongoing sponsorship of terrorism – by stretching a narrow national security waiver far beyond reason. President Obama signed this bill into law, but has essentially allowed Iran’s Supreme Leader to veto it.
 
And in an unusual move, the State Department settled a decades-old financial settlement the day after ‘implementation day,’ sending Tehran a check for $1.7 billion. As you know Mr. Ambassador, the Committee eagerly awaits answers from the State Department to the many questions surrounding that surprise payment. The Administration had countless opportunities to seek Committee input on this matter in advance – but purposefully did not, I must conclude.
 
Iran has never complied with any of its past nuclear-related agreements. We’re watching this to see if this time will be different. But even if Iran meets all the Administration’s expectations, in a few short years the accord will leave it the dominate power in the Middle East, and only steps away from the capability to produce nuclear weapons on an industrial scale. All the while, Iran’s leaders chant “Death to America.” Many of us are struggling to see how this tilt toward Iran makes us safer.
 
Click here for the full statement
 
Stephen Mull
Lead Coordinator for Iran Nuclear Implementation, U.S. Department of State
 
To reach Implementation Day, Iran had to verifiably complete key nuclear steps that substantially rolled back its nuclear program, placed its nuclear program under a comprehensive IAEA monitoring and verification regime, cut off all of its pathways to weapons-grade nuclear material, and lengthened its “breakout time” for enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon from 2 to 3 months before the JCPOA to at least a year at present – if Iran were to change course, abandon the JCPOA and spring toward a bomb.. Let me highlight some examples.
 
In keeping with its commitments under the JCPOA, Iran has dismantled two-thirds of its installed centrifuge capacity including all of its most advanced centrifuge machines. Before the JCPOA, Iran had over 19,000 centrifuges. Today, it has just 6,104 of only its most primitive, first-generation centrifuges. And of those 6,104 machines, only 5,060 of them can be used to enrich uranium for the next decade.
 
Iran shipped out almost all of its enriched uranium stockpile. Pre-JCPOA, Iran had approximately 12,000 kilograms of enriched uranium. Now, Iran can have no more than 300 kilograms of up to 3.67% enriched uranium for the next 15 years. This, combined with Iran’s dismantlement of two-thirds of its centrifuges, has effectively cut off Iran’s uranium pathway to a nuclear weapon.
 
Iran removed the core of its Arak reactor and rendered it inoperable by filling it with concrete. This cut off the path by which Iran could have produced significant amounts of weapons grade plutonium. Now, the Arak reactor will be redesigned, in cooperation with a working group established under the JCPOA, ensuring that the reactor is used solely for peaceful purposes going forward.
 
Iran placed its nuclear program under an unprecedented IAEA verification and monitoring regime. Its key declared nuclear facilities are now under continuous monitoring using modern technologies like electronic seals and online enrichment monitors that can detect and report cheating. The IAEA also has oversight of Iran’s entire nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mills to enrichment facilities and centrifuge production plants, ensuring that Iran cannot divert nuclear materials to a potential covert program without detection.
 
Furthermore, any goods and technology potentially usable for nuclear purposes must now go through a procurement channel administered by the United Nations Security Council, creating yet another layer of transparency and monitoring into Iran’s nuclear program.
 
Iran is now also provisionally applying the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. This, along with the JCPOA’s special provision to address disputes regarding IAEA access to an undeclared location within a short period of time, ensures that the IAEA will have the access it needs to verify Iran’s commitments.
 
And finally, Iran has committed not to engage in activities, including at the research and development level, which could potentially contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device.
 
These are just some of many steps Iran had to take to substantially roll back its nuclear program and reassure the world of the exclusively peaceful nature of the program before reaching Implementation Day. And just as Iran had commitments to meet, so too did the United States and our P5+1 and European Union partners.
 
On January 16, the United States and EU lifted nuclear-related sanctions against Iran. As a result of these actions, there are now more opportunities for legitimate business in Iran that is consistent with the JCPOA, and international banks and companies are beginning to explore those opportunities. As they proceed, it will be important that they have a clear understanding of the changed regulatory and sanctions environment with respect to Iran, and we are working closely with our colleagues at the Department of the Treasury to engage the international business community to answer their questions about the sanctions that have been lifted as well as those that remain in place.
 
But I want to emphasize, however, that this relief of nuclear-related sanctions is predicated on Iran’s continued compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA. If Iran cheats or fails to meet its end of the bargain, the United States has an array of means to respond, including the ability to re-impose sanctions unilaterally, in part or in full, at any time.
 
As you know, our government both engages with Iran on its nuclear program and works with partners around the world to oppose Iran’s actions on a host of issues unrelated to this nuclear deal. For example, we continue to have concerns and take actions to counter Iran’s support for terrorism, its human rights abuses, and threats from its ballistic missile program. All U.S. sanctions on Iran that are not nuclear-related remain in effect. As evidenced just a few weeks ago when we designated for sanctions a number of individuals and entities for supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program, the JCPOA in no way limits our ability or will to use these tools to respond to Iran’s other destabilizing activities.
 
This is precisely why our allies and nations around the world support this deal – it eliminates the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, gives the international community unprecedented tools to ensure Iran’s nuclear program remains exclusively peaceful moving forward, and does not limit our ability to respond to Iran’s destabilizing policies and actions. In short, it makes the world safer.
 
The JCPOA has received broad international support, including from our allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and over 100 countries around the world. It has been endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and multinational organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
 
And we have recently seen signs that Israel, our close partner and friend with whom we have had extensive consultations and more than a few disagreements over the JCPOA, is now publicly acknowledging the positive benefits of the JCPOA.
 
Speaking at an annual security conference in Tel Aviv a few weeks ago, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot acknowledged that the JCPOA reduces the immediate Iranian threat to Israel because it “rolls back Iran’s nuclear capability and deepens the monitoring capabilities” of the international community into Tehran’s activities. In those same remarks, Eisenkot also said that he believes that, “Iran will make great efforts to fulfill their side of the bargain.”
 
Of course, we will remain vigilant regarding Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA. The JCPOA was not built on a prediction of what the future will bring. It was built on verification instead of trust, and my team and I will continue working every day to confirm that Iran is living up to its JCPOA commitments.
 
Click here to read the full statement
 
John Smith
Acting Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury
 
On Implementation Day, the United States took actions with respect to sanctions in two key areas. The first, and most significant, was to effectuate the lifting of nuclear-related secondary sanctions, which are sanctions that are directed toward non-U.S. persons for activity wholly outside of U.S. jurisdiction. The sanctions that were lifted applied to Iran’s banking, financial, insurance, energy, petrochemical, and automotive sectors; shipping and shipbuilding sectors and port operators; trade in gold and precious metals; trade in certain materials and software; and associated services for each of these categories. In addition, OFAC removed more than 400 individuals and entities from the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (the “SDN List”), meaning that secondary sanctions no longer attach to significant transactions with, or the provision of material support to, those individuals and entities.
 
The second area concerns three relatively narrow exceptions to our primary embargo on Iran. On Implementation Day, OFAC issued: (1) a Statement of Licensing Policy establishing a favorable licensing policy with respect to exports or re-exports to Iran of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to be used exclusively for commercial passenger aviation; (2) a general license authorizing the importation into the United States of Iranian-origin carpets and foodstuffs, including pistachios and caviar; and (3) a general license authorizing U.S.-owned or -controlled foreign entities to engage in activities involving Iran that are consistent with the JCPOA and applicable U.S. laws and regulations.
 
To give effect to U.S. commitments with respect to sanctions on Implementation Day, the President issued an Executive Order that revoked four Iran sanctions-related Executive orders and sections of a fifth, a series of waiver determinations and findings with respect to relevant statutory sanctions issued by the State Department came into effect; and OFAC took the actions that I just outlined.
 
To assist the public in understanding all the sanctions modifications effective on Implementation Day, OFAC published on its website a summary of the actions taken, as well as hyperlinks to documents that explain in detail the contours of the sanctions lifting. These documents are: (1) a guidance document that describes in detail the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions under the JCPOA and the sanctions that remain; (2) a set of more than 85 frequently asked questions; (3) the texts of the Statement of Licensing Policy and two general licenses; and (4) information on the changes we made to the various sanctions lists administered by OFAC.
 
While we have fulfilled our Implementation Day commitments to lift the sanctions specified in the JCPOA, OFAC continues to administer a robust sanctions regime targeting Iran outside of the nuclear arena, and its troubling activities. Broadly, the U.S. primary embargo on Iran is still in place. This means that U.S. persons generally remain prohibited from engaging in transactions or dealings with Iran or Iranian entities, unless such activities are exempt from regulation or authorized by OFAC. Limited exceptions include longstanding general licenses that authorize U.S. persons to engage in certain activities involving Iran, such as the export of agricultural products, medicine, and medical supplies to Iran, as well as certain items to facilitate Iranian persons’ access to communications and the Internet. U.S. persons must also continue to block the assets of the Government of Iran and Iranian financial institutions. Furthermore, we have retained sanctions authorities targeting Iran’s support for terrorism, its human rights abuses, its ballistic missile program, and its destabilizing activities in the region. And, we will continue to exercise these authorities to counter Iran’s behavior, as we did on January 17, when OFAC designated eleven individuals and entities in connection with their support to Iran’s ballistic missile program.
 
In addition, secondary sanctions continue to attach to the more than 200 Iran-related individuals and entities that remain on the SDN List, as well as any such persons we add to the SDN List in the future. This means that non-U.S. persons who conduct significant transactions with, or provide material support to, designated parties may face being cut off from the U.S. financial system. Further even after Implementation Day, secondary sanctions continue to attach to significant financial transactions, including those by foreign financial institutions with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, or any individual or entity sanctioned in connection with Iran’s support for international terrorism or its ballistic missile program. Finally, of the more than 400 individuals and entities that were taken off the SDN List on Implementation Day, roughly 200 of those were placed on a new OFAC list – the E.O. 13599 list – to indicate that they remain blocked persons under U.S. law. These individuals and entities are those OFAC has previously identified as the Government of Iran or Iranian financial institutions. While secondary sanctions no longer apply to most transactions involving individuals and entities on the E.O. 13599 list, U.S. persons continue to have an obligation to block property in which such persons have an interest and are prohibited generally from dealing with them.
 
In addition to the sanctions that we have in place to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities, we also have avenues to swiftly respond if Iran stops complying with its commitments under the JCPOA. The JCPOA contains a dispute resolution mechanism whereby any JCPOA participant can refer any instances of alleged non-compliance to the Joint Commission, which provides a multilateral forum for addressing issues that arise. If we are unable to address these issues, the United States has the ability to quickly re-impose all of the national and multilateral sanctions that are lifted. At the UN, we have established a snapback mechanism that provides the unilateral ability to re-impose UN sanctions that were in place on Iran prior to Implementation Day without the worry of a veto by any member of the P-5. Finally, the United States has a range of options short of full snapback to respond to smaller breaches of the JCPOA, should we so choose.
 
Click here for the full statement
 

Khomeini Grandson Disqualified in Elections

Seyyed Hassan Khomeini lost his appeal of the Guardian Council’s decision to bar him from running for a seat in the Assembly of Experts. A grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, he is widely considered the heir apparent of the late revolutionary leader’s legacy. The young Khomeini’s long-anticipated entrance into politics could have important consequences. The 86-member Assembly of Experts, which will increase its membership to 88 this election, is the only constitutional body with the authority to appoint, supervise and dismiss the supreme leader.
 
The group of clerics has historically served as a rubber stamp organization that has never seriously questioned the actions of Iran’s previous or current supreme leader. But the stakes are higher for the February 2016 election. The next assembly may be faced with the question of what to do should the 76-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pass away due to illness or old age.
 
Khomeini registered for the election on Dec. 18, 2015. In January 2016, he missed the written exam intended to test candidates’ knowledge of Islam. Members of his family claimed that he never received an invitation to attend. The Guardian Council announced that all candidates had received a text message invitation, and that missing the exam would not necessarily disqualify a candidate.
 
On Jan. 26, 2016, the Guardian Council announced that it had finished vetting 801 would-be candidates and that 166 would be allowed to run. The group, however, did not specify who had passed the screening. 
 
Khomeini’s 19-year-old son, Ahmad, reported that his father had been disqualified in an Instagram post on Jan. 26, 2016. He wrote that the Guardian Council “failed to prove” that his father was qualified. Ahmad added that the group also refused to accept testimonies of tens of top clerics who could vouch for his father’s qualifications. Therefore, the reason for Khomeini’s disqualification is “clear for all,” Ahmad wrote, perhaps implying that the council’s ruling was a political one. Khomeini has connections to influential reformist and centrist political elites. Khomeini later verified his disqualification by reposting what his son wrote.
 
 

• ديشب ديگر قطعى شد كه شوراى نگهبان نتوانسته صلاحيت علمى بابا را احراز كند و نتوانستند از شهادت ده ها مرجع و عالم و فقيه به اجتهاد پى ببرند. به نظرم براى همگان علت عدم احراز ، احراز شده است ، مخصوصا كه برخى ديگر هم بدون امتحان اجتهادشان احراز شده است بگذريم؛ قبل از خواب با بابا صحبت كردم از اوضاع سؤال نمودم. يك بيت از حافظ خواند: سر ارادت ما و آستان حضرت دوست كه هر چه بر سر ما مى رود ارادت اوست

A photo posted by سيد احمد خمينى (@ahmadkhomeini) on

 
 
On Jan. 29, 2016, Khomeini reportedly announced to a group of students and clerics that he would appeal the Guardian Council's decision. He noted that he was surprised by the Council’s decision, and that he would appeal at the request of members of the public and political leadership. But on February 10, the Guardian Council announced that his appeal was rejected. The council reportedly said that Khomeini "has not enough Islamic knowledge to distinguish the next supreme leader."
 

Khomeini would likely have been popular with voters. He has spoken out against extremism and supported the nuclear deal, which was broadly welcomed by the Iranian public. At age 43, Khomeini is significantly younger than the mostly elderly members of the Assembly of Experts. The youth vote is increasingly important in Iran, where more than 60 percent of its 80 million people are under 30 years old. Through his 18-year-old son Ahmad’s popular Instagram account, the Iranian public has gained some insight into Khomeini’s family life.  

 

Khomeini is also known for being an avid fan of soccer, Iran’s most popular sport. He played in his youth until he began to focus on his religious studies in his 20s. Khomeini’s deep knowledge of Iran’s league became widely known due to his 2014 appearance on a state television soccer program. In December 2015, he met with some of Iran’s top players in his office. “I was good in defense, and if I had continued football I might have achieved something,” he told them, according to Reuters.
 
In addition to Khomeini’s revered pedigree, his family is connected to prominent reformists through marriage. His cousin, Zahra Eshraghi is married to former deputy speaker of parliament Reza Khatami, brother of former President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005). Khomeini also has the support of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who chairs the Expediency Council. In August 2015, Rafsanjani said it was Khomeini’s turn to come forward to “protect the revolution.”
 
Khomeini’s candidacy, however must be approved by the Guardian Council, a powerful unelected institution that vets candidates’ Islamic credentials. The conservative group has previously rejected the candidacy of another Khomeini grandchild, Zahra Eshraghi, for parliament. Even if Khomeini makes the cut and wins a seat on the assembly, it will likely still be dominated by elderly conservatives in the near term.
 
Born in 1972, Khomeini is a mid-ranking cleric, a hojatoleslam. He spent much of his childhood in the holy city of Qom in Iran. He also visited his grandfather in exile in Iraq and France in the 1970s. Khomeini became a cleric in 1993 and then taught courses on Islam. In 1995, he was appointed as caretaker of Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum in Qom, where his father Ahmad is also buried. He heads the Institute for the Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works, an organization that preserves the late leader’s original publications and achievements.
 
Khomeini kept a relatively low profile until 2002, when a university professor was sentenced to death for insulting Islam. Professor Hashem Aghajari argued that each generation should be able to interpret Islam on its own. Khomeini reportedly protested the sentence with about 1,000 students in November 2002. 
 
Khomeini has spoken out against military interference in politics. He also criticized the disqualification of nearly 2,000 candidates from running for parliament in 2008. Most of them were reformists. Khomeini’s comments prompted a harsh reaction from conservatives, who accused him of corruption.
 
Khomeini reportedly supported reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in 2009. Hassan reportedly went on a trip outside Iran before Ahmadinejad’s August 2009 inauguration ceremony. Conservative publications criticized Khomeini’s move and interpreted his absence as opposition to the election results. Khomeini also met with political prisoners Alireza Beheshti and Mohammadreza Jalaeipour shortly after their release in 2009, which also suggested sympathies with the reformist camp.
 
In June 2010, Khomeini spoke at a ceremony marking his grandfather’s death. But his speech was cut short by hardliners chanting “Death to Mousavi!” and shouting slogans in support of Iran’s current supreme leader. The incident may have been the first time a Khomeini family member had been insulted in a public venue.
 
In a May 2013 letter, Khomeini called former President Rafsanjani’s disqualification from running in the presidential election “unbelievable.”
 
In August 2015, Khomeini gave a speech to reformists suggesting he would stand for election. “Imam [Khomeini] told my father ‘I am not asking you not to accept responsibilities in the Islamic Republic. If necessary, do whatever is needed and take on responsibilities, but if there are others [who can take control], let them do it,’” he said, according to The Guardian. Khomeini said that he would therefore play a role in politics if necessary.
 

Click here for more information on the Assembly of Experts. 


This article partly was based on previous research by Helia Ighani, who was a research assistant at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Garrett Nada, assistant editor of The Iran Primer. Katayoun Kishi, a research assistant at the U.S. Institute of Peace, also contributed.   


Tags: Profiles

Rouhani on Women’s Rights

On February 7, President Hassan Rouhani said that women should play a significant role in politics and other fields. “We should believe in women’s presence and capabilities and know that our country’s women can have roles in science, knowledge, economy, politics, and arts just like men,” he said at a national conference titled “Women, Moderation and Development.”
 
Since taking office in 2013, Rouhani has appointed four women as vice presidents and three women as governors. But he has not named women to his cabinet or revived the Ministry of Women's Affairs. The following are excerpted remarks from the recent conference.
 
“After the victory of the Islamic Revolution, our country’s women have been effectively active in all areas and we will undoubtedly witness their effective presence at the ballot box.”
 
“We should believe in women’s presence and capabilities and know that our country’s women can have roles in science, knowledge, economy, politics, and arts just like men.”
 

“The government sees it as a duty to provide the groundwork for women’s capabilities to demonstrate and let them to step on the path of perfection and be able to demonstrate their talents; this way, the gap and disproportion between men and women can be replaced with moderation.”

“Women being alongside men in science and knowledge, but witnessing a disproportion [absence] in economy and politics, is not acceptable.”

“Unfortunately, some people have radical ideas; at times, they even think radically in the name of religion and explain religion radically.”

 
“Moderation is not a slogan, but rather the path of thinking and discourse and today we should revitalise this discourse.”
 
“A major proportion of today’s problems in the world stems from fanaticism and extremism and some view the world radically. It is true that we should not fully trust everyone and strangers, but anyway, anything has got a point of moderation. Unfortunately, some do not know any way other than radicalism.”
 
“I receive a lot of messages and letters, asking me why I do not make a move in the current conditions. I am aware of all issues and understand that what many of them wanted are not there for them to see, but we should look at the lofty goal we have; and tactfulness means that we should have foresight and do not forget the main goal and the [expected] result.”
 
“Of course, I have not remained silent wherever I saw a problem and I will pay the price personally; but it is very important that we should pay attention to the end and the result with tactfulness, patience, and forbearance and go to the ballot box unitedly.”
 
“I feel that if we do not think about some issues and processes, the society may face despair and do not attend the elections.”
 
“Although sometimes choosing become difficult, everybody should go to the ballot box for the February 25 elections. Women also have a great responsibility in this field and should play their significant and effective role just like all other fields.”
 
“At the time when people decorated the streets with their presence for the victory of the Islamic movement, women had significant and active roles in all of those fields.”
 
“Some people were expressing doubts about women sitting at the same table as men to present news, and also their presence in the elections, but today we have passed through all of these stages.”
 
“How some viewed women is not particular of Iran, and we are witnessing the same procedures in the world’s history in a way that a few centuries back, women and girls were prohibited from entering universities in UK, and in the twentieth century, in most of the European countries women did not have the right to vote.”
 
“Fortunately in the field of economy, women’s role is becoming stronger and the existing gaps can be filled.”
 
“In political and management fields, we are still distant from a desirable point and we should make progress in this path by planning and joining hands.”
 
“We do not accept feminist ideas; and we do not accept ossification either.”
 

Click here for information on the women’s movement in Iran. 

 

Photo credits: President.ir

 

 

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