United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Latest on the Race: Candidates Approved

            The Guardian Council has approved eight out of 686 candidates to run in Iran’s June 14 presidential election. The unelected body of 12 clerics and scholars rejected two individuals who might have been key contenders ― former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff. The approved group includes four hardliners who are close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The following are profiles of the eight candidates.

Mohsen Rezaei
      Born in 1954, he is the current Secretary of the Expediency Council, the powerful body charged with resolving disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council. Rezaei is also a former chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. He unsuccessfully ran for parliament in 1999, and for the presidency in 2005 and 2009. He finished third in 2009 with 1.7 percent of the vote, far behind Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi. 

Mohammad Reza Aref
      Born in 1951, he served as vice president under former President Mohammad Khatami from 2001 to 2005. Since 2002, he has been a member of the powerful Expediency Council, the body charged with resolving disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council. Aref studied electrical engineering and reportedly did graduate work at Stanford University in the late 1970s. He was a professor at Isfahan University of Technology from 1981 to 1994. Aref then served as president of Tehran University from 1994 until 1997, when he was appointed telecommunications minister. He is widely considered to be the most reform-minded of the candidates.
Hassan Rouhani
      Born in 1948, the conservative cleric headed the Supreme National Security Council for 16 years from 1989 to 2005. Rouhani has also acted as lead nuclear negotiator in earlier rounds of diplomacy with European powers. Hardliners charged that he was too accommodating in negotiations. He resigned after President Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. Rouhani is currently a senior member of the Expediency Council.


Mohammad Gharazi
      Born in 1941, Gharazi was telecommunications minister from 1985 to 1997, partly under Rafsanjani’s administration. He reportedly studied electronics as a graduate at Tehran University and then served in the Revolutionary Guards during the 1980-1988 war with Iraq. Gharazi also served in parliament and was oil minister from 1981 to 1985.

Saeed Jalili
      Born in 1965, Jalili has been secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and head nuclear negotiator since 2007. He served in the Basij paramilitary under the Revolutionary Guards during the war with Iraq. Jalili ran the supreme leader’s office from 2001 to 2005. In 2005, newly elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appointed Jalili, a personal friend, to be deputy foreign minister for European and American affairs.
Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf
      Born in 1961, he has been the mayor of Tehran since 2005. Son of a dried-fruit seller, Qalibaf served in the Revolutionary Guards and rose to high ranks during and after the war with Iraq. He became the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ air force and was chief of the Law Enforcement Force from 2000 to 2005. Qalibaf received less than 14 percent of the vote in the 2005 presidential election against Ahmadinejad.
Ali Akbar Velayati
      Born in 1945, he is the supreme leader’s principal foreign policy adviser. Velayati served as foreign minister under Khamenei and Rafsanjani from 1981 to 1997. Velayati serves on the Expediency Council. In 2005, he ran for president but later withdrew and supported Rafsanjani instead. Velayati has indicated that he may drop out in support of Saeed Jalili.
Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel
      Born to a business family in 1945, he is a member of parliament from Tehran. Haddad-Adel served as parliament’s speaker from 2005 to 2008. Haddad-Adel is reportedly a close confidant of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His daughter is married to the Khamenei’s son. Haddad-Adel is also a current member of the Expediency Council.
Photo Credits:
Mohsen Rezaei by درفش کاویانی (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Hassan Rouhani by Mojtaba Salimi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0  (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 )], via Wikimedia Commons
Online news media are welcome to republish original blog postings from this website in full, with a citation and link back to The Iran Primer website (www.iranprimer.com) as the original source. Any edits must be authorized by the author. Permission to reprint excerpts from The Iran Primer book should be directed to permissions@usip.org


Latest on the Race: Reactions to Candidate List

      The Guardian Council has blocked two prominent figures from running in the June 14 presidential election. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a two-term former president, and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, former chief of staff to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, were both left off the list of eight approved candidates. Rafsanjani questioned whether Iran’s leaders know what they are doing in comments to his campaign staff on May 22. “I don’t think the country could have been run worse, even if it had been planned in advance,” he said according to opposition websites. Rafsanjani reportedly does not have plans to challenge the Guardian Council’s decision.
            But Mashaei and his supporters, including President Ahmadinejad, have vowed to  contest the Guardian Council's ruling. “I consider my disqualification as unjust, and I will follow up with the supreme leader,” Mashaei said on May 21. The following are excerpted reactions by the barred candidates, their supporters and other Iranian leaders.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former president and current Expediency Council chief
            "I know that I shouldn't have run. I know them [Iran’s leaders] better than anyone else… I don’t think the country could have been run worse, even if it had been planned in advance… I don’t want to get involved in their types of attacks, but their ignorance is troubling. They don’t know what they’re doing…” May 2013 to campaign staff, according to opposition websites

Eshagh Jahanhgiri, Rafsanjani’s campaign manager
            “Rafsanjani will not consider any objection to his disqualification by the Guardian Council… Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani and his campaign staff entered this race with absolute adherence to the rule of law and will continue the same way… Mr. Hashemi is one of the pillars of the system and will hopefully remain so.” May 21, 2013 in an interview with the Iranian Students’ News Agency
Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, former chief of staff to President Ahmadinejad
            “I consider my disqualification as unjust, and I will follow up with the supreme leader… God willing, it will be resolved.” May 21, 2013 in an interview with Fars News Agency

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, outgoing president 
            “I believe the right of an oppressed man won't be trampled at this level in a country where there is velayat-e-faqih (guardianship of the jurist)… I ask those who support me and Mr. Mashaei to be patient, because there will be no problem due to the presence of the Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei).” May 22, 2013 to reporters

Mashaei's campaign office
            The campaign office will use “the full legal capacity of the country” to contest Mashaei’s rejection. “We also ask the president Ahmadinejad to use his position to fix any possible violation over this issue.” May 21, 2013 in a statement

Ali Motahari, member of parliament
            “It appears the disqualification [of Rafsanjani] has happened for two unjustifiable reasons: his physical inabilities and his role in the 2009 sedition. This is damaging to the upcoming elections... My strong assumption is that if Imam Khomeini were alive, and he registered under a pseudonym, he would be disqualified, because sometimes he expressed criticism." May 2013 in a letter to the supreme leader

Naeimeh Eshraghi, reformist activist and granddaughter of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
            “Old age is not something that the Guardian Council should determine, since the law allows candidates of this age. If the Guardian Council disqualified Hashemi [Rafsanjani], it should give a compelling reason for having done so, and Mr. Hashemi would certainly pursue legal means [if necessary], although I do not think he will contest this matter. The solution to the Guardian Council's disqualification of Mr. Hashemi is not street protests and creating disturbances.” May 22, 2013 in remarks to Tasnim news
Ali Asgari, member of parliament and Expediency Council Strategic Studies Center deputy
            “Ayatollah Hashemi, risking his reputation, came to the election to help shape the political ‘epic’ that the supreme leader mentioned… The Guardian Council’s disqualification of Hashemi was a shock for society, raising many questions by elites of the system…
            We had marjas (high ranking clerics) such as Ayatollah Araki, who passed away when he was 100. Imam Khomeini was also leading the country at a relatively old age but with more vitality, and today, the supreme leader, who is a few years younger than Hashemi, has lead the system for many years…
            Nevertheless, we abide by the law and would do anything for progress of the system… If Mr. Hashemi’s case is related to his old age, the physical health of others should be a matter of investigation.” May 22, 2013 according to Mehr News Agency

Hassan Khomeini, mid-ranking cleric and Ayatollah Khomeini's eldest grandson
            “From now on, Hashemi Rafsanjani’s name will not only be tied to fighting and revolution, the Holy Defense [1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War], and reconstruction… Your name, combined with hope for tomorrow, will have a prominent role in the memory of the Iranian people." May 22, 2013 in a letter to Rafsanjani
Ali Khamenei, supreme leader
            “I would announce this to everyone, all you know, those who were disqualified, are not necessarily incompetent individuals. Do not suppose because this guy was disqualified, he is no longer competent for any job; no, but he could not, according to law, run for elections; it might be that the authority disqualifying him was not careful enough; he may have not be competent for this particular job; but he may have other competences. Disqualification of an individual would not be assumed as his failure in whole life; but that he has other qualifications.” May 21, 2013 in a reposting of February 2011 remarks on his website and Facebook page

Abbas Ali Kadhkhodaei, Guardian Council spokesman
            “According to the law, disqualified candidates cannot appeal the decision of the Guardian Council… So the Guardian Council believes that an old candidate, despite his well management ability, is not physically capable to accept the responsibilities of presidency…  If a presidential candidate disqualified by the Guardian Council, it doesn’t mean that he is not qualified to serve in other political positions.” May 21, 2013 in an interview with state television


US Sanctions Nuclear and Missile Programs

            On May 23, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned 20 individuals and entities for involvement in Iran’s nuclear and missile proliferation networks. They were responsible for moving supplies and providing services to clandestine programs. “As long as Iran continues to pursue a nuclear and ballistic missile program in defiance of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions, the U.S. will target and disrupt those involved in Iran’s illicit activities,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. The following are excerpts from the press release.

            Fourteen of the entities and individuals being designated today are part of Iran’s international procurement and proliferation operations. These designations are being made pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13382, which targets weapons of mass destruction proliferators and their supporters. The designations focus on entities and individuals supporting previously designated entities within Iran’s proliferation network as well as Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Naftiran Intertrade Company (NICO), and Iran’s Ministry of Defense for Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL). These organizations are at the center of Iran’s continued proliferation activities. Today’s designations include companies supporting IRGC attempts to clandestinely ship illicit cargo around the world, including to Syria. They also target the Deputy Defense Minister and Dean of Malek Ashtar University, who is responsible for significant contributions to Iran’s missile program, as well as companies and individuals supporting Iran’s nuclear program.
            Today Treasury is identifying Seifollah Jashnsaz, Chairman of NICO and director of Hong Kong Intertrade Company and Petro Suisse Intertrade Company SA as well as five individuals holding other leadership positions in Iran’s energy sector who have been involved in Iranian attempts to evade international sanctions. These individuals work for the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), NICO, and previously-identified Iranian front companies. Specifically, they are being identified today as subject to sanctions under E.O. 13599, which, among other things, targets the Government of Iran (GOI) and persons acting for or on behalf of the GOI. In addition to Seifollah Jashnsaz, the following individuals are being identified today: Ahmad Ghalebani, managing director of NIOC and a director of both Petro Suisse Intertrade Company SA and Hong Kong Intertrade Company; Farzad Bazargan, managing director of Hong Kong Intertrade Company; Hashem Pouransari, NICO official and managing director of Asia Energy General Trading LLC; and Mahmoud Nikousokhan, NIOC finance director and a director of Petro Suisse Intertrade Company SA…
Proliferation Designations Related to the IRGC 
            The IRGC continues to be a primary focus of U.S. and international sanctions against Iran because of the central role it plays in Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs and its involvement in serious human rights abuses. The IRGC was designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 in October 2007 for having engaged in proliferation-related activities.

Latest on the Race: Rafsanjani Redux?

By Robin Wright and Garrett Nada

            Among the 680-plus candidates who registered to run for president of Iran, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani stands alone as the most experienced and savviest politico — by far. He has almost done it all.

      He was speaker of parliament for nine terms in the 1980s. He was president for two terms from 1989 to 1997. He was chairman of the Assembly of Experts, a panel of more than 80 clerics and scholars who oversee the supreme leader, from 2007 to 2011. And he is currently chief of the Expediency Council, the ultimate arbiter of disputes between parliament and the 12-man Guardian Council.
      But more than titles, Rafsanjani was long the behind-the-scene powerbroker in the world’s only modern theocracy. He orchestrated the rewriting of the constitution in 1989 to create an executive president — and then got himself elected to the more powerful post. The same year, he mobilized the inner circle after the death of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini to support Ali Khamenei as the new supreme leader. The twin steps are still the biggest political overhaul since the 1979 revolution.
      For his wiliness, Rafsanjani was nicknamed “the shark,” which is also a play on his smooth beardless chin, a physical attribute inherited from Mongolian ancestors. He was also — somewhat cynically — nicknamed “Akbar Shah,” a dig at the king-like power he once wielded. His Cheshire cat grin was a staple of Iranian politics in the 1980s and 1990s — and a barometer of who and what was in favor.
            Yet Rafsanjani has struggled since 2000 to retain his leverage. Subsequent comeback efforts have failed.
            His famous family has also increasingly been targeted by both the regime and his political rivals. Two of his children were charged with acting against the regime after the disputed 2009 presidential election. His daughter Faezeh Hashemi ― a former member of parliament and vice president of Iran’s Olympic committee ― spent six months in prison for “spreading propaganda.” She was released in March 2013. His son, Mehdi Hashemi was jailed for more than two months in late 2012 for inciting unrest and still faces formal prosecution.  

What support does Rafsanjani have among the general population today?
            After two decades of dominating political power, Rafsanjani suffered serious setbacks in his last two campaigns for parliament in 2000 and the presidency in 2005. Although considered a pragmatist in the 1980s and early 1990s, a new generation of reformists began turning elsewhere in the late 1990s. Disillusionment deepened after his statements following the brutal government crackdown on protests in 1999, when university students rallied against the closing of a reformist newspaper and new limits on freedom of expression. In a sermon, Rafsanjani condoned the use of force to stop “enemies of the revolution.”
            In the 2000 election, Rafsanjani failed to win enough votes for any of the 30 parliamentary seats allocated to Tehran — a stunning development. A recount later claimed that he came in 29th, although he opted not to take the seat.
            Rafsanjani attempted another comeback in a run for the presidency in 2005. His inventive campaign had young girls on rollerblades pass out “Hashemi 2005” bumper stickers. The campaign set up tents in Tehran and blared Western-style music ― a controversial move in a country that had banned broadcast music after the 1979 revolution. Rafsanjani faced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the working-class mayor of Tehran, in a runoff election. Ahmadinejad routed Rafsanjani with about 62 percent of the vote.  
How is Rafsanjani perceived among Iran’s political elite?
      Key members of the reformist elite supported Rafsanjani’s 2013 presidential bid. Former President Mohammad Khatami (left) called Rafsanjani the “most appropriate figure” for easing economic challenges and international pressures. “Now it is the people's turn to enter the scene with bravery and responsibility and assist him,” Khatami said.
      But hardliners countered by painting Rafsanjani as part of a “deviant camp.” They claimed that he helped incite mass demonstrations—the largest since the revolution—after the disputed 2009 presidential election. Rafsanjani’s critics demanded that he condemn Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, leaders of the opposition Green Movement who both ran for president in 2009.
            In May 2013, some 100 hardline members of parliament reportedly sent a petition to the 12-man Guardian Council urging it to disqualify Rafsanjani for having a major role “in managing the sedition” after the 2009 election. Before the election, hardliners had also considered a new law prohibiting candidates over the age of 75. The idea was widely believed to be an attempt to prevent Rafsanjani, then 78, from running. But the Guardian Council rejected the bill.
What is Rafsanjani’s record on domestic policy?
      In the 1980s and 1990s, Rafsanjani was considered pragmatic on both domestic and foreign affairs. After the eight-year war with Iraq, he moved to jumpstart the war-ravaged economy. He pushed a free-market agenda after he became president in 1989. He reopened the stock market launched during the monarchy and encouraged foreign investment with new incentives. He cut a few subsidies and started privatizing state-run businesses.
      But conservative opponents in parliament balked at his plans for economic shock therapy. And excessive spending depleted foreign exchange reserves, forcing Iran into debt. When he ran for reelection in 1993, the public also seemed less enthusiastic, as his support at the polls dropped significantly. Inflation soared in 1994, and the economy went into a recession. Iran’s Chamber of Commerce acknowledged that up to 40 percent of Iranians lived below the poverty line in 1996.
            Rafsanjani initially succeeded in easing social restrictions and cultural censorship. Women began wearing brightly colored headscarves instead of the full-body and typically black chador. His minister of culture, Mohammad Khatami, was credited with allowing revival of Iranian music and cinema. But hardliners in parliament forced Khatami from office in 1992. Rafsanjani also found it increasingly difficult to enact reforms as Supreme Leader Khamenei and his conservative allies consolidated power in the mid-1990s.
What is Rafsanjani’s record on foreign policy?
            In the mid-1980s, Rafsanjani reportedly played a key role in the arms-for-hostage scandal, which involved acquiring American weapons in exchange for release of American hostages held in Lebanon. He was widely viewed as the leading advocate of repairing relations with the United States to end Iran’s isolation. Even after the scandal was revealed, he reportedly dispatched a nephew to Washington to probe the potential of reviving behind-the-scenes talks.
            In 1988, Rafsanjani also played a key role in convincing Ayatollah Khomeini to end the war with Iraq, in which more than 120,000 Iranians died. Afterwards, he again sought to end Iran’s diplomatic isolation. But he made little progress, partly because of Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 fatwa calling for the death of British author Salman Rushdie for his book “The Satanic Verses.” Tehran also continued to support Hezbollah, a radical Lebanese Shiite militia, and opposed the Arab-Israeli peace process. But Rafsanjani did improve relations with China, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
            Toward the end of his presidency in the mid-1990s, Rafsanjani reportedly orchestrated the offer of a $1 billion contract to U.S. oil company Conoco to develop Iran’s offshore fields. The move was widely interpreted as an indirect overture to the United States through commercial channels. Under congressional pressure, however, President Clinton issued an executive order in March 1995 that prohibited U.S. trade in or development of Iranian oil.

What is Rafsanjani’s relationship with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei?
      Rafsanjani and Khamenei both were active against the monarchy. Both spent time in the shah’s jail. And both were close disciples of late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini. (The three clerics are pictured on the left in the 1980s). Rafsanjani was instrumental in promoting Khamenei to the position of supreme leader in 1989.
      But Rafsanjani’s relationship with Khamenei soured in the 1990s as the two men jockeyed for control of the Islamic Republic. As the new supreme leader, Khamenei reportedly disapproved of Rafsanjani’s efforts to improve relations with the West, move towards a free-market economy, and loosen social restrictions.  Rafsanjani also then had wider popular support.
            Khamenei gradually got the upper hand after Rafsanjani had to step down from the presidency in 1997, as the constitution only allows two sequential terms. Rafsanjani’s attempts at a political comeback in 2000 and 2005 then failed.
            After the controversial 2009 presidential election, the regime also revoked Rafsanjani’s title as Friday prayer leader when he gave a sermon criticizing the government crackdown on protestors. Rafsanjani then lost his post as head of the Assembly of Experts in 2011. Ayatollah Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi Kani, an elderly conservative cleric who reportedly had Khamenei’s backing, took his place. Rafsanjani chose not to contest the election.  
             His third attempt at a comeback in 2013 surprised even astute political analysts in Iran. Rafsanjani had initially said that he would not run for president without the supreme leader’s permission. He reportedly informed the supreme leader of his interest shortly before registering—also in the final minutes of the five-day process. He did not indicate whether or not he won Khamenei’s approval.
What positions has Rafsanjani taken on Iran’s most critical domestic and foreign policy issues, such as negotiations over the nuclear program?
            Rafsanjani is generally running on his past record. His official campaign website says Iran needs a “captain,” not an “inexperienced boatman” to lead Iran. He has also compared Iran’s problems in 2013 to the challenges it faced during post-war reconstruction in the 1990s.
            On the economy, Rafsanjani has called for further privatization of Iran’s large state-run sector. He has also criticized the government’s reliance on oil revenues and neglect of the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Rafsanjani has favored subsidy reform but has emphasized the importance of reinvesting government savings.
            On the controversial nuclear program, Rafsanjani has supported negotiations with the West and the international community. He has also been a staunch defender of Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear technology, including uranium enrichment capabilities. Rafsanjani has said that Tehran does not want nuclear arms.   
            In the past, Rafsanjani advocated rapprochement with the United States and the West. Iran would negotiate with the United States if it showed “goodwill,” Rafsanjani told USA Today in 2005. In comments posted on his 2013 campaign website, he said, “We shouldn’t be afraid of interaction with the world.” At the same time, he has warned against giving into the demands of “bullying and domineering powers.”
            Rafsanjani has also supported opening up Iranian society. He has called for greater media freedom and the release of detained journalists. “We should open the doors to debates,” Rafsanjani said in a July 2009 sermon after the presidential election. He has even reportedly described Facebook and other social media as a “blessing” that helps “movements against tyranny and oppression.”
            Rafsanjani has publicly opposed harsh implementation of Iran’s penal code, which is based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law. “We should live based on Islamic laws and not based on radical individuals' interpretations which sometimes make people's lives difficult,” Rafsanjani told journalists in May 2005.  But he was also in power during periods when the international community criticized Iran for support of extremist movements and ruthless internal repression.
What is his background?
      Rafsanjani was born in 1934 in Bahraman village near the south-central city of Rafsanjan, the district from which he gets his name. His father was a well-to-do pistachio farmer. Rafsanjani left home at age 14 to study Islamic jurisprudence in the holy city of Qom, where he developed a close relationship with Ayatollah Khomeini. In 1958, Rafsanjani married Effat Marashi, the daughter of a respected cleric. They have five children: Fatemeh, Mohsen, Faezeh, Mehdi and Yasser.
      Rafsanjani joined the struggle against the Pahlavi dynasty in the late 1950s. He was detained seven times and imprisoned for a total of four years spread out between from 1958 to 1979, according to his bio.
     Rafsanjani was a top adviser to Khomeini throughout the revolution. He was elected speaker of Iran’s first post-revolution parliament in 1980 and held the position for nine years.
      Khomeini appointed Rafsanjani to be his personal representative on the Supreme Defense Council during the 1980-1988 war with Iraq. He also briefly served as acting commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
      But he also has enemies. In May 1979, he narrowly escaped assassination by members of the leftist Islamic group, Forqan.
            Rafsanjani and his family have reportedly amassed significant wealth since the revolution. In 2003, Forbes named him as one of the “millionaire mullahs.” Critics have accused Rafsanjani and his sons of corruption. His youngest son Yasser, a businessman educated in Belgium, has run a successful export-import firm. Rafsanjani’s middle son, Mehdi, has done well financially through connections to the oil industry. He used to head a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company. Rafsanjani’s oldest son Mohsen headed Tehran’s metro until he resigned in 2011.
Links to Rafsanjani’s official website and Twitter account.
Robin Wright is a distinguished scholar at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She edited The Iran Primer. See her chapter, “The Challenge of Iran.”
Garrett Nada is a Program Assistant at USIP in the Center for Conflict Management.
Online news media are welcome to republish original blog postings from this website in full, with a citation and link back to The Iran Primer website (www.iranprimer.com) as the original source. Any edits must be authorized by the author. Permission to reprint excerpts from The Iran Primer book should be directed to permissions@usip.org


Latest on the Race: Rafsanjani on the Issues

      Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been a pivotal player in Iranian politics since the 1979 Islamic revolution. His views have often adapted to the times, issue or public sentiment. But he has often argued that “moderation” and national unity could help Iran overcome domestic challenges as well as repair its relations with the outside world. The following are excerpts from various interviews, public remarks and campaign materials.

Iran’s Theocratic System
            “We should live based on Islamic laws and not based on radical individuals' interpretations which sometimes make people's lives difficult.” May 2005 to journalists
            “According to the constitution, everything in the country is determined by people's vote. People elect the members of the Assembly of Expert and then they elect leader, so the leader is [indirectly] elected by people's vote. Presidents, MPs, members of the councils are elected by direct votes of people. Other officials are also appointed [indirectly] through people's vote. Everything depends on people. This is the religious system. The title of Islamic Republic is not used as a formality. It includes both the republican and Islamic nature… This is a reality passed on to us on the basis of Koran, as well as the religious sayings of the [Shiite] Imams and prophet… Rest assured, if one of those two aspects are damaged we will lose our revolution.” July 17, 2009 in a sermon according to BBC Monitoring
His political career
            “I entered the 2013 race to perform my religious and national duty given the country's situation … and its problems at home and abroad… Certain people and movements have resorted to lying and falsification and slurs to discredit others. These people, intentionally or unintentionally, are harming the Islamic revolution.” May 16, 2013 to Tehran University students
            I have “been with the revolution second-by-second from the very beginning of the struggle, which was begun by our leader Imam [Khomeini]. We are talking about 60 years ago. I know what the Imam wanted.” July 17, 2009 in a sermon according to BBC Monitoring
Factional Politics and the 2009 Election
            “I have never wanted to abuse this platform in favor of a particular faction, and my remarks have always concerned issues beyond factionalism… I am not interested in any factions. In my view, we should all think and find a way that will unite us to take our country forward and save ourselves from these dangerous effects and the emerging grudges…” July 17, 2009 in a sermon according to BBC Monitoring
            “The income resulting from restructuring subsidies was supposed to be reinvested in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, but these sectors have not received adequate support… Rising economic problems threaten the future of the country like an awesome avalanche.” January 2012 in a meeting with the Agricultural Council, according to ISNA
            Subsidy reform (under President Ahmadinejad) led to an “insignificant amount of cash distributed to the population in exchange for alarming inflation… People are feeling the multiplication of prices and the drop of the currency’s value with their flesh and blood… Yet some are content with their imaginary statistics.” February 20, 2013 according to Donya-e-Eqtesad
United States and the West
            “Several times when I was the president I mentioned that if the United States showed goodwill we would enter a dialogue with it. And I gave this directive to the Americans, that freeing our assets in the United States would be a sign of goodwill…They admitted the shah (for medical treatment after he fled Iran). They started it…”February 6, 2005 in an interview with USA Today
            “There is no doubt that America is a superpower of the world, and we cannot ignore it…Americans should gradually begin to adopt positive behavior rather than doing evil. [But] they should not expect an immediate reaction in return for their positive measures. It will take time. ” May 2005 to journalists, according to Reuters
            “I believe the main solution is to gain the trust of Europe and America and to remove their concerns over the peaceful nature of our nuclear industry and to assure them that there will never be a diversion" to military use.  May 2005 to journalists
            “Americans are using sanctions and pressure. In the negotiations, they also have the upper hand… Now, if we sit down with them to negotiate, they say, ‘You do this, and then we stop some sanctions.’ But this is not negotiations.” May 2012 in an interview with Jomhouri Eslami translated by PBS
            “Our country should be united against all the dangers that threaten us. They [Western countries] have now upped their ransom demands and are coming forward to take away our achievements in the fields of hi-tech and particularly nuclear technology. Of course, God will not give them the opportunity to do so, but they are greedy…” July 17, 2009 in a sermon according to BBC Monitoring
Nuclear Energy Program
            Nuclear energy “is our nation’s legitimate right ... especially when it is in accordance with international laws and regulations.” May 18, 2005 to journalists
            “If one day the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world…” December 14, 2001 in a speech on Jerusalem Day according to the BBC
Israel and Palestinian Issue
            “We are not at war with Israel. If the Arab countries are at war with them, we’ll help them.” April 2013 to reporters according to Mehr News
            We want all the Palestinians back in their homeland, and then there can be a fair referendum for people to choose the form of state they want... Whoever gets the majority can rule.” October 29, 2005 at a Jerusalem Day rally according to The Washington Post
            “The Palestinian issue, and the formation of the state of Israel, are among the worst periods of our contemporary history. I don't know of any similar tragedy. In the 50 years since this pseudo-state was formed, and in the several decades before it when fighting was going on, hundreds of thousands of holy people shed their blood… Tragedies resulting from these events constitute the greatest encyclopedia of crime committed by the World Arrogance [United States].” December 14, 2001 in a speech on Jerusalem Day according to the BBC
Media Freedom
            “We should not limit our media, which has legal permission for their activities. They should be able to work within the framework of the laws…The media should not expect to engage in activities beyond the legal framework, nor should the establishment expect them to ignore their legal rights…Our officials, law enforcement, military and security forces should help to create that atmosphere.” In a July 17, 2009 sermon according to BBC Monitoring
            “We see that a Facebook page costing nothing can outstrip several television and radio outlets, and can influence millions of people… This, in my opinion, is a blessing… We see that if social media did not exist, movements against tyranny and oppression would be endangered.” May 29, 2013 according to ISNA via AFP

Connect With Us

Our Partners

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Logo