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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 22nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The Campaign for a Better Iran Continues –

www.Amirahmadi.com/english/

Dear compatriots and supporters,

 The Guardian Council (GC), the theocratic body that vets candidates for elected offices in the Islamic Republic of Iran, has selected its favorite presidential candidates to stand for vote in less than three weeks- on June 14, 2013. Although none of the candidates “approved” has stood for real change in the past, we certainly hope that they will alter their perspectives. They must understand that the Iranian people have a burning desire for new directions in their nation’s domestic and foreign policies.

 Dr. Amirahmadi’s candidacy became a source of concern as we approached the registration period. During his April trip to Iran, Dr. Amirahmadi was pleasantly surprised that because of its popularity and novelty, the campaign had generated serious interest in the country. However, many in Iran, including state officials and his political consultants, were concerned that, because of the messy political situation, the timing was not right and that we must proceed with the campaign without facing the GC judgment.

 Following from this “preservation strategy,” we are pleased to announce the formation of a new organization, tentatively called the Campaign for a Better Iran. We will work with the next administration and civil society organizations to promote our realistic and pragmatic platform for real change in the confines of the Iranian Islamic Constitution. We hope to convince the next president of Iran to adopt our plan for national reconciliation, resolution of conflict with the US, and economic growth, as at stake is a nation’s future and international peace.

 When we began this campaign, we were fully aware of its challenges. Running an election campaign based on realism and pragmatism at a time of hyped ideologies poisoning Iran’s domestic and international environments was in itself a daring task. We were also aware of the restrictions that the Islamic system would impose, and of the public apathy towards the coming presidential election in the wake of the 2009 protests. Nevertheless, we were not hindered by such challenges and campaigned for a fair, healthy and enthusiastic election.

 We initiated the campaign because our candidate was qualified and we had a realistic and pragmatic platform for real change. We particularly felt a national obligation to enter the race at a time when the Iranian nation needed urgent help. We campaigned for real change and produced the only campaign plan for the progress of the Iranian people and the country. We wanted to raise attention to the problems and the need for new policies. We also wanted to demonstrate that not only Iranians but the whole world cares about a better Iran.

 We are proud of our accomplishments and the level of support we have received throughout this groundbreaking, indeed historic, campaign. We are particularly proud of the tremendous support we have received from young Iranians and university communities throughout the world as evidenced by over 100,000 Facebook Likes in just 3 months. We are also most pleased to witness during this campaign that rationalism, realism and pragmatism are growing within the political culture of younger Iranians, and that they are in search of an honorable global place for their nation.

 Iran has been constantly in the news for the last 34 years, since its Islamic Revolution in 1979, and often as a pariah state. This fact has made Iran a household name in the international community. It is no wonder that people throughout the world, not just the Iranian people, have a stake in a better Iran. For this reason we decided to internationalize our campaign, taking our words of hope and change to many nations and international media. The reception to our initiative was beyond expectation. We demonstrated that the whole world cares about Iran and we harnessed social media tools in novel ways.

 Our campaign was also innovative in that for the first time an expatriate organized an election campaign for the presidency of his homeland outside the nation. In the new globalized human community, expatriate populations are growing exponentially, making nationally confined elections increasingly constrained. There are over seven million Iranians outside the country and their number is rapidly growing. More significantly, the majority of them has maintained  citizenship, cares for the homeland, and wishes to help create a better Iran. They must be reconnected.

 We also greatly influenced the Iranian political and election scene. Because of our campaign, the Guardian Council has for the first time asked all candidates to submit plans; and our independent and innovative campaign and its ideas are now widely discussed among the Iranian people and the international media. We were the only campaign to produce a platform for the country and we raised a great deal of attention to important problems and suitable policy prescriptions. We have also modernized Iranian election process by taking it to social and satellite media, democratizing access to the general public towards fairer and healthier future elections.

 The most difficult challenge to overcome was to demonstrate to our Iranian audience that process in an election is as important as its result. Many people we approached for support dismissed our campaign because we would be disapproved by the GC. The fact that we could accomplish, as we did, tremendous progress in the process was irrelevant to them. They were conveniently overlooking democratic election processes, including American primaries, in which many candidates raise and spend millions of dollars only to lose their bids. Raising financial support in this context became a serious challenge.

 We continue to believe that our platform offers the only realistic pathway to a better Iran and deserves the support of all Iranians and the international community. Other options, including another revolution, sanctions or war are unacceptable. To stay the course and promote the platform for real change in Iran, Dr. Amirahmadi will look for future opportunities to run again or serve the nation in other capacities. We look forward to working with you to continue building on the momentum we have generated together. We are grateful to our supporters for their generosity and for making these achievements possible. God bless you.

The Campaign Team of Dr. Amirahmadi

May 21, 2013

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  • Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Iran’s presidential shortlist exposes a fearful regime.

The removal of two outspoken Khamenei critics indicates the narrowing of legitimate discourse in the Islamic Republic, experts say.

May 22, 2013,
The most dramatic development as the final list of candidates emerged on Tuesday was the disqualification of veteran politician Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who served as Iran’s president between 1989 and 1997.

A religious conservative, the 79-year-old Rafsanjani has become an outspoken critic of policies espoused by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, most recently his backing of the Assad regime in Syria and his unwavering hostility toward Israel.

Rafsanjani also supported reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi in the 2009 elections, a decision which cost him his position as head of the prestigious Assembly of Experts (a religious body that appoints the Supreme Leader) and as sermon-deliverer in Tehran’s Central Mosque.

Another leading candidate booted from the race is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s close adviser Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, demonized by his detractors as “head of the deviant stream” for his criticism of the prerogatives enjoyed by the Supreme Leader and his call for a more nationalistic form of Islam.

Ahmadinejad Ally  Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei (photo credit: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Ahmadinejad Ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei (photo credit: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The three remaining front-runners, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, National Security Council head Saeed Jalili, and former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, are either conservative centrists or radicals who toe the official line, the experts said.

“On June 14 what will take place is selections, not elections,” said Meir Javedanfar, who teaches Iranian politics at Herzliyah’s Interdisciplinary Center. “The candidates will put on an act, and the one who impresses the Revolutionary Guards most will be chosen.”

Javedanfar said that unlike Rafsanjani, the remaining candidates are unlikely to challenge the regime’s controversial policies, including Iran’s nuclear program or its policy on Syria.

“Today the regime is weaker, and Khamenei is far less tolerant of criticism of his policies,” Javedanfar added.

Moreover, Rafsanjani was the only candidate who could save Iran from the economic abyss — its economy is expected to deteriorate further as the political status quo is maintained – and strengthen its negotiating position with the west on the nuclear issue. In that regard, Javedanfar argued, his disqualification “is great news for Israel.”

Of the remaining candidates, Jalili is most likely to win as he best reflects the positions of Ayatollah Khamenei and enjoys the support of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, Javedanfar assessed.

“He reads from the script, doesn’t improvise, and does not have the image of a corrupt politician,” he said.

Since its inception in 1979, Iran’s Islamic regime has prided itself on allowing for a range of ideologies in its presidential nominees, vetted through free elections and serving as a counterbalance to the nondemocratic authority of the Supreme Leader. In that regard, narrowing the range of “legitimate discourse” is a significant change in Iranian policy, said Raz Zimmt, a research fellow at the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University.

“What characterizes this list is the names absent from it,” Zimmt told The Times of Israel.  ”It is a very gray list, which shows the regime’s decision not to take any unnecessary risks.”

But the brazen removal of a popular politician like Rafsanjani is not only a sign of fear, but also of self-confidence on the part of the regime, Zimmt argued. The regime would not have made such a move had it expected a public reaction similar to the Green Movement which swept Iran in 2009 following the falsification of elections and the placement of reformist leaders Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest.

“The Iranian regime always claimed that, unlike the autocratic Arab regimes in the region, Iran combines the authority of the people and the authority of God — through the Supreme Leader,” Zimmt said.

‘We know that revolutions can devour their sons, but the Islamic revolution is now devouring its fathers’

That democratic spirit began to erode, however, with the election of reformist president Mohammed Khatami in 1997, as the regime became increasingly fearful that revolutionary values were starting to dissipate.

“The conservatives went through a process of soul-searching and began fearing for the future of the revolution,” Zimmt said. “In recent years, especially since 2009, the regime has been alienating anyone who thinks differently.”

Can the next president alter Iran’s decision to pursue the development of nuclear weapons? Unlikely, said Zimmt. Decisions regarding security and foreign policy are largely within the domain of Supreme Leader Khamenei.

But the dramatically parochial list of candidates will harm the legitimacy of the regime in the eyes of its own people, he added.

“In the middle and long term, this is dangerous for the regime. For now it can rely on the [oppressive force] of the Revolutionary Guard, but the narrower the political elite becomes, the less maneuverability the regime will eventually enjoy.”

This sentiment was expressed on Wednesday by Iranian journalist Ahmad Rafat. Referring to the disqualification of Rafsanjani — as veteran revolutionary leaders Karroubi and Mousavi continue to languish in house arrest — Rafat wrote that “we know that revolutions can devour their sons, but the Islamic revolution is now devouring its fathers.”

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FURTHER INFORMATION FROM THE TIMES OF ISRAELMeet the candidates:

Eight vie for Iran’s presidency

Contenders include a former oil minister, a one-time adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, and a previous head of the Revolutionary Guards.

www.timesofisrael.com/eight-vie-for-irans-presidency/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=ff32b8fd0b-2013_05_22&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-ff32b8fd0b-54419797

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