Posts Tagged ‘Guardian Council’

Upset With US, Iranian Lawmakers to Draft Anti-American Bill — “America is the only thing holding Iran back”

July 18, 2017

Iranian state TV reported that 211 lawmakers in the 290-seat assembly backed an outline for the legislation at a session Tuesday.

The details of the bill will be worked out in parliament over the next few weeks, after which it will go to the Guardian Council for ratification, like all laws in Iran.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, right, with Brigadier General Ali Fadavi and other commanders

The development came a day after the Trump administration told Congress that Iran would face consequences for breaching “the spirit” of the nuclear deal with world powers.

Congress has been pushing for a new set of sanctions against Iran and its Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force responsible for recent ballistic missile tests that angered Washington.

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Iran election campaign kicks off after Ahmadinejad excluded by supreme leader

April 21, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Eric RANDOLPH and Ali NOORANI | Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gestures to the camera after registering to run for re-election in Tehran on April 14, 2017

TEHRAN (AFP) –  Campaigning began on Friday for Iran’s presidential election with incumbent Hassan Rouhani facing a tough battle against hardliners, though not from former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was barred from standing.

Ahmadinejad’s disqualification by the conservative-run Guardian Council was no surprise — he had been advised not to run by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who said it would “polarise” the nation.

Ahmadinejad’s populist economics and defiant attitude to the establishment had alienated even his hardline backers during his tenure between 2005 and 2013.

“Once the supreme leader had told him not to stand, it became impossible for him to be cleared by the Guardian Council,” said Clement Therme, research fellow for Iran at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“By his second term, (Ahmadinejad) was even challenging the clerics. He was not useful anymore for the system.”

The mood in Tehran has been subdued — many are disillusioned with Rouhani’s failure to kick-start the economy despite broad support for his efforts to rebuild ties with the West, notably through a nuclear deal with world powers that ended many sanctions.

The election commission ruled on Thursday that live TV debates would be banned, without giving a reason — a decision criticised by Rouhani and other candidates.

Campaigning, which the Guardian Council announced could begin immediately, had not been supposed to start for another week, so little activity was expected on Friday.

But experts say the authorities are keen to excite interest in the vote.

“They need that for legitimacy — the turnout is even more important than the result,” said Therme.

Iran’s elections are tightly controlled, with the Guardian Council allowing just six people — and no women — to stand for the May 19 vote out of 1,636 hopefuls that registered last week.

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent, a run-off between the top two is held a week later.

Rouhani, a politically moderate cleric, squeaked to victory last time with 51 percent in the first round, helped by a divided conservative camp.

The Guardian Council has resisted efforts by Iran’s parliament, the Majles, to clarify the criteria by which they choose candidates.

The constitution adopted after the 1979 revolution offers only vague guidelines that candidates should possess “administrative capacity and resourcefulness… trustworthiness and piety”.

– Hardline competition –

The build-up to the vote has injected more interest than many predicted just a couple of months ago, when Rouhani was seen as a shoo-in for a second term if only because the conservative opposition seemed unable to offer a strong candidate.

Since then, the 56-year-old former judge and cleric Ebrahim Raisi has emerged as a front-runner for the conservatives.

Little-known on the political scene, Raisi runs a powerful religious foundation and business empire in the holy city of Mashhad and is seen as a close ally of — and possible successor to — supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But despite emphasising his care for the poor, many say Raisi’s hardline judicial background and entourage will turn off voters.

“He seems like a good and calm person himself, but the people around him are scary,” said a tour operator in Yazd, echoing a widely heard sentiment.

Some think he may drop out at the last minute in favour of Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who came second to Rouhani in 2013.

Ghalibaf is a war veteran, former Revolutionary Guards commander and police chief — and could be the preferred choice of powerful backroom hardliners.

The other three candidates have been less prominent so far.

They include two moderate reformists, Mostafa Hashemitaba and vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri, and a veteran hardliner Mostafa Mirsalim — a selection that appears designed to give an even balance to moderates and hardliners in the upcoming debates.

– ‘Took risks’ –

There were mixed reactions to Ahmadinejad’s disqualification.

Despite controversial rhetoric against Israel that worsened ties with the West, and somewhat reckless financial management, he retained considerable popularity, particularly among the poor.

“I think Ahmadinejad should not have been disqualified,” said Mohammad Barkhordar, 20, doing his military service.

“He was the kind of president that took risks, like distributing money among people and giving houses to the poor, and he had big ambitions for Iran’s nuclear programme. Rouhani doesn’t take any risks.”

But many were glad to see the back of him.

“It was right for Ahmadinejad to be disqualified but it happened 12 years too late,” said one Twitter user.

by Eric RANDOLPH and Ali NOORANI

Trump’s stance on Iran emboldens hard-liners in Iran

April 2, 2017

Iran’s hard-liners are hoping they can benefit from the rise of Donald Trump in upcoming elections, arguing that their own country needs a tougher leader to stand up to an American president whose administration has put the Islamic Republic “on notice.”

They say it’s time for a “revolutionary diplomacy” to confront the U.S. after four years of a more conciliatory policy under moderate incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.

Hard-liners feel energized by the Trump administration’s repeated criticism of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. The agreement found little support among the group, who feel Iran gave too much away in exchange for too little in the way of sanctions relief.

The U.S. president’s tough talk on Iran plays into hard-liners’ hands too, reinforcing anti-American sentiments they can use to rally their base.

A group of hard-liners banded together late last year to form the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, which is assessing more than a dozen potential candidates. But with less than two months to go before the May 19 election, they have yet to settle on one to run against Rouhani.

One potential candidate, Mohsen Rezaei, a former chief of the elite Revolutionary Guard, has lashed out at the administration for lacking revolutionary spirit — tough words in a country that prizes the heroes of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that created the current governmental system.

“A group (of officials) has become hopeless and tired while trying to find a prescription for problems outside the revolutionary framework,” he said.

A lack of reliable polling in Iran makes it difficult to gauge how the election could play out, particularly given that no hopefuls have formally declared their candidacies yet.

But Tehran-based political analyst Soroush Farhadi said Trump’s stance on Iran could bode ill for Rouhani’s chances because it gives hard-liners a way to denounce his foreign policy of outreach and negotiation with the West and regional rivals.

Earlier in March, the current chief of the Guard, Mohmmad Ali Jafari, warned that an “un-revolutionary viewpoint” that had taken hold in recent years was the greatest danger facing Iran.

The daily Javan, which is affiliated with the Guard, has meanwhile criticized the Rouhani administration for choosing “smile diplomacy” that has done little to improve Iran’s standing with the rest of the world.

While candidate Trump said he’d renegotiate or dismantle the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel fiercely opposes, his administration is continuing to implement the accord for now. Because the agreement was negotiated with a group of international powers, Washington does not have the ability to tear it up on its own. But continued hostility to it by the Trump administration could discourage Western companies from doing business in Iran and embolden U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia that are hostile to Tehran.

The administration, meanwhile, has implemented additional U.S. sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile program.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reiterated Sunday that the Trump administration “has put Iran on notice,” and will not tolerate Iranian efforts to “destabilize the region and jeopardize Israel’s security.” The warning first came in February after Iran test-fired a ballistic missile.

Hard-liners are also hoping to capitalize on voters’ pocketbook anxieties, including Rouhani’s failure to significantly alleviate poverty and Iran’s longstanding double-digit unemployment rate. Officials say some 11 million of the country’s 80 million people are living below the poverty line.

Iran has been freed of crippling economic sanctions and secured multibillion-dollar deals with Boeing Co. and Airbus for hundreds of passenger planes as a direct result of the nuclear deal.

But many average Iranians say they are still waiting for the deals’ benefits to trickle down. They include Houshang Lotfi, a 43-year-old welder in Tehran who has turned to selling cheap toys on the street because of a lack of jobs.

“I know Rouhani did a lot to save our country from hassles but I am still selling toys,” he said. “Streets are not my place. I must work in an industrial field.”

Other hard-liners considering running include Hamid Baghaei, who is an ally of former controversial president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili; Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf and cleric Ebrahim Raisi, a close ally to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The crowded field means multiple hard-liners — who belong to the conservative “principalist” camp in Iranian politics — could end up running, as was the case in 2013.

That could help ensure the re-election of Rouhani, whose 2013 win as a relative moderate surprised those who had assumed another hard-liner would replace his firebrand predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani rode to victory by beating his nearest two rivals, who split the hard-line vote.

“If principalists’ choice is to send various candidates to the field, they — in practice — open the road for reformists. The choice will keep principlaists in the margin of power for another four-year term,” said a commentary in the semi-official news agency Fars, which is close to hard-liners and the Guard.

Those running formally register their candidacies during a five-day period beginning April 11. They must then be vetted by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog, which will announce who is approved to run by April 27.

Rouhani has not said yet that he will run, but he is widely expected to do so. Incumbents typically announce their candidacies late to keep their rivals guessing. However he has pushed voters to go to the polls.

A Tehran-based political analyst, Saeed Leilaz, predicted that Rouhani would win the election with a weak majority “The sphere is yet not polarized and this leads to lower turnout. So Rouhani will be a president with a weaker majority.”

Rouhani won the 2013 presidential election with nearly 51 percent from a turnout of about 38 million. Approximately 52 million are eligible to vote this year.

Iran Moves to Change Its Currency

December 7, 2016

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s official IRNA news agency says that President Hassan Rouhani’s administration is proposing changing the name and denomination of the country’s currency.

The report says the Cabinet approved a measure on Wednesday calling for the change from the rial to the toman. One toman would be worth 10 rials, or around 3,200 to a dollar at official exchange rates, and 3,900 to a dollar at unofficial rates.

The Iranian currency was known as the toman until the 1930s, when the name was changed to the rial at a rate of 10 rials to a toman. Many Iranians continued to use the old terminology even after the change.

Parliament will have an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed change before it goes to the constitutional watchdog Guardian Council for approval.

Iran election campaign gets under way

February 18, 2016

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranians got a first taste Thursday of the campaign for next week’s elections, pitting reformists and moderates against conservatives in polls that could shape the country’s future over the next decade.

Voters will take part in two separate ballots — one to elect members of parliament and another to pick the Assembly of Experts, a powerful committee of 88 clerics who supervise the work of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s ultimate authority.

The run-up to voting day on February 26 has been dominated by controversy over who will be allowed to contest the elections rather than actual debate of the policies that candidates support.

All those seeking public office in Iran are vetted for their loyalty to the Islamic republic and almost half the applicants seeking to become candidates were excluded.

In the initial round of vetting, reformists suffered the heaviest blow, with thousands of candidates excluded.

That decision — taken by the Guardian Council, a watchdog that scrutinises and has veto power over who can stand — was criticised by Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s moderate president whose nuclear deal with world powers stands to open Iran up to the West.

After Rouhani and government ministers intervened, 1,500 rejected candidates were reinstated.

© AFP / by Arthur MacMillan | A poster of Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, an election candidate, on a pole in Tehran on February 18, 2016

But grievances remain, particularly because of the exclusion of many prominent reformists.

Emphasising the tightly controlled nature of Iran’s elections, the application and vetting process has taken seven weeks while the parliamentary campaign will last only a week.

On the first official day of campaigning on Thursday, there were few posters on the streets and those that were visible represented candidates for the Assembly of Experts rather than parliament.

Would-be lawmakers are not allowed to make speeches in the street, and at venues where they are permitted to address voters or supporters, placards, posters or use of outside loudspeakers are forbidden.

Only 15-by-20-centimetre (six-by-eight-inch) posters of their credentials or policies are allowed to be put up or distributed.

– May pick next supreme leader –

Reformists have urged their supporters to turn out in strong numbers despite the setbacks.

A pro-Rouhani coalition of reformists and moderates, on the back of the nuclear deal, is hoping to swing the balance of power in parliament away from conservatives.

Should the bloc — the Alliance of Reformists and Government Supporters — succeed, Rouhani would stand a better chance of delivering modest political changes and social reforms.

Although parliamentarians backed Rouhani on the nuclear deal they did so less out of a sense of support for the president than because Khamenei made it clear he wanted sanctions lifted.

The president’s domestic plans have been blocked by lawmakers and one of his ministers was impeached, with replacements also being rejected.

Although 290 seats — 30 in Tehran alone — are up for grabs in parliament many see the Assembly of Experts election as having much greater importance.

Its current task is to monitor Khamenei’s work but its much bigger role could be in picking his successor.

Should the 76-year-old supreme leader, who underwent prostate surgery in 2014, die during the next assembly’s eight-year term it would be responsible for picking his successor.

Assembly hopefuls were also cut drastically by vetting. Of the 800 who applied only 161, all men, were approved by the Guardian Council.

Rouhani is seeking re-election to the assembly and is allied in two 16-member lists for Tehran headed by himself and former two-term president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The two have become increasingly close since the build-up to the presidential election in June 2013 that saw Rouhani voted into office on Rafsanjani’s backing.

Among those rejected for the Assembly vote was Hassan Khomeini, the 43-year-old grandson of the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The younger Khomeini is a cleric with ties to reformist politicians.

by Arthur MacMillan
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Iran Readies for Parliamentary Elections — Hardliners Expected to Block Moderate Candidates — A New Brand of Iranian Hero Worship

February 18, 2016

World | Thu Feb 18, 2016 6:37 am EST

A man puts up an electoral poster of candidate Elyas Hazrati for the upcoming parliamentary elections on a notice board in central Tehran February 18, 2016.
REUTERS/RAHEB HOMAVANDI/TIMA

Iranians will shape the future of the Islamic republic for at least a decade when hardline and moderate candidates battle next week in elections for parliament and the body which will choose the country’s next supreme leader.

Allies of pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, buoyed by Iran’s nuclear deal, hope to gain influence, but moves by hardliners to block moderate candidates and disillusion over Rouhani’s stalled reforms leave them with an uphill task.

Last year’s nuclear accord led to the lifting of crippling international sanctions, offering the hope of economic upturn and better living standards for many Iranians.

But the potential opening up to the world – and Rouhani’s increasing popularity – have alarmed hardline allies of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and have intensified the political infighting within Iran’s complex power structures.

The hardline Guardian Council, which vets candidates and laws, blocked thousands of mostly moderate hopefuls from standing in the Feb. 26 parliamentary election.

It also barred nearly 80 percent of candidates standing in an election held on the same day for the Assembly of Experts, which will eventually choose the 76-year-old Khamenei’s successor.

The council vets parliamentary candidates based on their loyalty to Iran’s constitution and clerical leadership.

“In total 6,229 people, out of nearly 12,000 registered hopefuls, have been qualified for the parliamentary vote,” said senior Interior Ministry official Hosseinali Amiri, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Campaigning for the parliamentary election starts on Thursday and lasts for a week.

AFTER KHAMENEI

Even if his hardline allies were to lose the parliamentary race to their moderate rivals, Khamenei will continue to hold ultimate authority in matters of state, while presidents and lawmakers will come and go.

Khamenei, supporting the Guardian Council’s strict vetting, has repeatedly warned that Iran’s enemies have sought to use the elections to “infiltrate” its power structure.

“I won’t get tired of saying the truth again and again … The enemy pursues infiltration into the elections. People must be aware of that and act against what the enemies seek,” Khamenei said on Wednesday,

Moderates want to have a say in choosing Khamenei’s successor by winning more seats in the assembly, whose 88 elected members will remain in place until 2024.

In the past, debate about Khamenei’s possible successor was considered as undermining the supreme leader, but public discussion has gained momentum ahead of the elections.

“Khamenei is 76 years old and he has medical issues. The Assembly of Experts’ vote will designate future of Iran because the next assembly has to pick the next leader,” said a Tehran-based analyst on condition of anonymity.

In a move which may have been aimed at maintaining hardline domination of the assembly, the Guardian Council approved only around 166 candidates out of 801 registered hopefuls.

“The Assembly vote is very important … They will select the supreme leader when it is necessary … Therefore the enemy is very sensitive about the Assembly,” Khamenei said.

Among those disqualified from the assembly was Hassan Khomeini, an ally of Rouhani and a grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late leader of Iran’s 1979 revolution.

The supreme leader has substantial influence, or constitutional authority, over the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government as well as the military and media.

“With more moderates in the assembly, Iran can have at least a less hardline leader after Khamenei or even a moderate leadership council to lead the country,” the analyst said.

Iran’s former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani angered hardliners in December when he said the assembly would be open to choosing “a council of leaders if needed” instead of a single supreme leader who rules for life.

Rouhani and Rafsanjani are both members of the assembly and will run again in next week’s vote.

Under Iran’s constitution, a transitional “Leadership Council” is permitted until a supreme leader is selected by the assembly. But analysts said Rafsanjani advocated a permanent council, fiercely rejected by Khamenei’s hardline allies.

FRIENDLY PARLIAMENT

The outcome of the parliamentary vote, essentially a contest between hardline and moderate factions, will have no big impact on Iranian foreign policy. But it will boost the victorious faction’s influence in next year’s presidential election.

A friendly parliament could strengthen Rouhani’s hand to push through economic reforms to open up the country to foreign trade and investment. It can also help the government carry out a political agenda aimed at expanding social and economic liberties, as promised during his 2013 election campaign.

“A moderate-dominated Majles (parliament) will not challenge Rouhani’s promised reforms as the current one did. Harmony between the executive and legislation bodies will help officials to serve people better,” said a senior Iranian official.

Moderates hope that economic and political benefits of the nuclear deal would translate into votes for Rouhani’s allies in the polls.

“Iranians understand that if they want reforms, they should have a moderate parliament to help Rouhani carry out his social and cultural policies,” said the official.

But many voters – particularly women and young people – who pinned their hopes in 2013 on Rouhani to bring social change and greater freedom, have grown disillusioned since he took office and may be reluctant to support his candidates next week.

Rights campaigners say there have been few, if any, moves to bring about greater political and cultural freedoms.

Analysts said the stakes for Khamenei are high and he will seek to limit Rouhani’s popularity and influence.

“Losing control over the parliament would be a major political blow to hardliners, who then only would have control over the judiciary among Iran’s three branches,” said political analyst Hamid Farahvashian.

Khamenei appoints head of the judiciary, which has cracked down on activists and journalists in the recent months, aimed at displaying limits of Rouhani to create a freer society, demanded by moderate supporters of the president.

Human rights groups and the United Nations have criticized Iran for what they say is a crackdown on freedom of expression and the media.

(Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in Dubai; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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Demonstrators displayed a photo of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani at a rally in Baghdad in March 2015. He has led Iranian forces opposing Islamic State insurgents in Iraq.

 

Gen. Soleimani: A new brand of Iranian hero for nationalist times

Not a Shiite religious figure and not a martyr, Qassem Soleimani, the living commander of Iran’s elite Qods Force, has been elevated to hero status.

By Scott Peterson
The Christian Science Monitor

For years the commander of Iran’s elite Qods Force worked from the shadows, conducting the nation’s battles from Afghanistan to Lebanon.

But today Qassem Soleimani is Iran’s celebrity general, a man elevated to hero status by a social media machine that has at least 10 Instagram accounts and spreads photographs and selfies of him at the front lines in Syria and Iraq.

The Islamic Republic long ago turned hero worship into an art form, with its devotion to Shiite religious figures and war martyrs. But the growing personality cult that halos Maj. Gen. Soleimani is different: The gray-haired servant of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is very much alive, and his ascent to stardom coincides with a growing nationalist trend in Iran.

“Propaganda in Iran is changing, and every nation needs a live hero,” says a conservative analyst in Qom, who asked not to be named.

“The dead heroes now are not useful; we need a live hero now. Iranian people like great commanders, military heroes in history,” he says, ticking off a string of names. “I think Qassem Soleimani is the right person for our new propaganda policy – the right person at the right time.”

Soleimani’s face surged into public view after the self-described Islamic State (IS) swept from Syria into Iraq in June 2014. Frontline photographs of the general mingling with Iranian fighters went viral.

Iranians cite many reasons for his rise, from “saving” Baghdad from IS jihadists and reactivating Shiite militias in Iraq to preserving the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during nearly six years of war.

Never mind that some analysts suggest that earlier failures to prevent internal upheaval in Iraq and Syria – for years those countries were part of Soleimani’s responsibility – are the reason for Iran’s deep involvement today.

For his part, Soleimani attributes the “collapse of American power in the region” to Iran’s “spiritual influence” in bolstering resistance against the United States, Israel, and their allies.

“It is very extraordinary. Who else can come close?” says a veteran observer in Tehran, Iran, who asked not to be named. “I don’t know how intentional this is; you see people in all walks of life respect him. It shows we can have a very popular hero who is not a cleric.”

“There is no stain on his image,” says the observer.

Indeed, Soleimani has become a source of pride and a symbol for Iranians of all stripes of their nation’s power abroad. At a pro-regime rally, even young Westernized women in makeup pledge to be “soldiers” of Soleimani. At a bodybuilding championship held in his honor, bare-chested men flaunted their muscles beside a huge portrait of him.

Among the Islamic Revolution’s true believers, Soleimani’s exploits are sung by religious storytellers and posted online. His writings about the Iran-Iraq War are steeped in religious language.

In a video from the Syrian front line broadcast on state TV last month, he addressed fighters, saying, of an Iranian volunteer who was killed, “God loves the person who makes holy war his path.”

When erroneous reports of Soleimani’s death recently emerged (Iran has lost dozens of senior IRGC commanders in Syria and Iraq and hundreds of “advisers”), he laughed and said, “This [martyrdom] is something that I have climbed mountains and crossed plains to find.”

Some say the hero worship has gone too far; months ago the IRGC ordered Iranian media not to publish frontline selfies. When a young director wanted to make a film inspired by his hero, the general said he was against it and was embarrassed.

Yet Soleimani appears to have relented for Ebrahim Hatamikia, a renowned director of war films.

“Bodyguard” is now premièring at a festival in Tehran. “I made this film for the love of Haj Qassem Soleimani,” the director told an Iranian website, adding that he is “the earth beneath Soleimani’s feet.”

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2016/0215/Gen.-Soleimani-A-new-brand-of-Iranian-hero-for-nationalist-times

Will The Iran Nuclear Negotiations Fail To Produce A Deal? Former Obama Advisors Now Think We Must Walk Away

June 25, 2015

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It seems to many that neither Iran nor the United States really still think a deal is likely…

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, shown in March, appeared to undercut several agreements his negotiators have reached with the West. CreditOffice of the Iranian Supreme Leader, via Associated Press

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has hardened its stance less than a week before the deadline for a nuclear deal, with its top leader rejecting a long-term freeze on nuclear research as a constitutional body on Wednesday approved a law banning access to military sites and scientists.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also insisted that Iran will only sign a deal if international sanctions are lifted first, which could further complicate the negotiations. The new law calls for all sanctions to be lifted the first day of any agreement’s implementation.

The supreme leader has backed his negotiators amid criticism from hard-liners. But his latest remarks may narrow their room to maneuver ahead of a self-imposed June 30 deadline for a potentially groundbreaking deal with world powers that would curb Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for lifting sanctions.

Iran’s constitutional watchdog, known as the Guardian Council, ratified the legislation banning access to military sites and scientists, making it binding law, according to state TV.

The bill would still allow for international inspections of Iranian nuclear sites within the framework of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

The United States — which is negotiating the deal alongside Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — has said the sanctions would be gradually lifted as inspectors verify Iran’s compliance.

Speaking Tuesday night in comments broadcast on Iranian state TV, Khamenei said demands that Iran halt the research and development portion of its nuclear program constitute “excessive coercion.”

“We don’t accept a 10-year restriction. We have told the negotiating team how many specific years of restrictions are acceptable,” Khamenei said. “Research and development must continue during the years of restrictions.”

Khamenei said the U.S. is offering a “complicated formula” for lifting sanctions. He said that waiting for the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency to verify Tehran’s cooperation would take too long.

“Lifting sanctions can’t depend on implementation of Iran’s obligations,” he said.

Khamenei also said he rejects any inspection of military sites or allowing Iranian scientists to be interviewed. Iran’s nuclear scientists have been the target of attacks.

The Americans’ “goal is to uproot and destroy the country’s nuclear industry,” he said. “They want to keep up the pressure and are not after a complete lifting of sanctions.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday the negotiations would not be affected by the Iranian leader’s remarks.

“This is something that’s been going on throughout the negotiations,” he said. “It is not new. We are not going to be guided by or conditioned by or affected or deterred by some tweet that is for public consumption or domestic political consumption.”

Western nations have long suspected Iran is covertly pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian program, charges denied by Tehran, which insists its atomic program is for purely peaceful purposes.

Negotiations likely will begin in earnest in the coming days in Europe. On Wednesday, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported that deputy foreign ministers Abbas Araghchi and Majid Takht-e-Ravanchi had resumed talks with Helga Schmidt, a deputy of European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. It did not elaborate.

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Associated Press writer Nancy Benac in Washington contributed to this report.

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Ex-Advisers Warn Obama That Iran Nuclear Deal ‘May Fall Short’ of Standards

The New York Times

Five former members of President Obama’s inner circle of Iran advisers have written an open letter expressing concern that a pending accord to stem Iran’s nuclear program “may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement” and laying out a series of minimum requirements that Iran must agree to in coming days for them to support a final deal.

Several of the senior officials said the letter was prompted by concern that Mr. Obama’s negotiators were headed toward concessions that would weaken international inspection of Iran’s facilities, back away from forcing Tehran to reveal its suspected past work on weapons, and allow Iranian research and development that would put it on a course to resuming intensive production of nuclear fuel as soon as the accord expires.

Read the rest:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/world/middleeast/former-advisers-caution-obama-on-iran-nuclear-talks.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

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Beijing will insist on stringent rules for Hong Kong’s political reform, say scholars

January 18, 2015

By Tony Cheung
South China Morning Post

Albert Chen Hung-yee said he did not believe Beijing would bow to pressure to amend electoral rules for Hong Kong in 2017. Photo: SCMP

Beijing will not only insist on its stringent framework for political reform in Hong Kong for now, but for at least another four to five years if the electoral overhaul fails this summer, two University of Hong Kong scholars warned this morning.

Basic Law Committee and law professor Albert Chen Hung-yee, and political economy professor Richard Wong Yue-chim also urged on Commercial Radio that pan-democrat lawmakers should consider the public interest and abandon their vow to veto the government’s reform bill to be tabled in the Legislative Council this summer.

The pan-democrats refused to accept China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s decision on August 31 last year, stating that while Hong Kong can elect its chief executive by “one man, one vote” in 2017, it can only choose from a slate of two or three candidates approved by a nominating committee likely to be dominated by Beijing loyalists.

The decision triggered the 79-day Occupy Central protests, in which student leaders and scores of residents condemned Beijing’s decision for depriving them a free choice of candidates.

They called for Beijing to retract its decision and for the local government to re-launch the political reform process.

But Chen believes that would be impossible.

“[China] is now ruled by the Communist Party, under Xi Jinping’s leadership. In 2019, when we start discussing about [‘one man, one vote’ in] 2022, it is still [likely] to be Xi, a ‘strong man’, leading the Communist Party. I don’t think that they will retract or change the 831 (August 31) decision,” Chen said.

He added that Beijing’s framework “is a manifestation of Beijing’s view on the extent of Hong Kong’s democratisation under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle… and the importance for Hong Kong to be governed under a ‘patriotic’ leader”.

Wong endorsed Chen’s view, saying that it is better to “make sure Hong Kong implements universal suffrage in 2017 first, before asking authorities to re-launch the political reform process”, rather than the other way round.

The government is contemplating a proposal put forward by Chen, that the chief executive election should be deemed void if more than 50 per cent of voters tick a “none of the above” option on the ballot paper.

But Chen said this morning that while he has yet to discuss the idea with officials, he believes that it is unlikely to be accepted by pan-democrats.

Citing the Guardian Council in the Iranian presidential election as an example, Chen said residents should not worry about the nominating committee “screening out” Beijing’s critics.

“There is also something similar in Iran, which is [dominated by lawyers and] clerics, but even that body put forward moderates as candidates.

“[And in Chile] In the late 1980s, when Pinochet was put forward as the only candidate for the presidency, voters also voted no and prompted him to step down.”

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1681622/beijing-will-insist-stringent-rules-hong-kongs-political-reform-say

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