Iran Elects Hardline Officials Accused of Murder

As media calls win for moderates, Iranian hardliners, IRGC celebrate results

Hassan Rouhani (AP)
February 29, 2016

Early election results from Iran indicate that the country elected on Friday another crop of hardline officials, including those who have expressed hatred for the United States and Israel and who stand accused of planning the murder of political opponents, according to information provided by organizations that observed the elections.

As the names of those officials who won a seat on Iran’s Assembly of Experts and other governing bodies begins to emerge, experts say it is becoming clear that hardline extremists will continue to control the Iranian government.

While some western media outlets have claimed that reformists made inroads in the latest election, regional experts explained that this is not the case, as moderate political camps ultimately endorsed on their voting lists more hardline candidates aligned with the Iranian ruling regime.

The Obama administration on Monday declined to comment when asked about the preliminary results, with officials stating that they will "reserve judgment" until final tallies are issued later this week.

This election is being viewed as particularly significant since the current Iranian supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is in poor health. The Assembly of Experts will be responsible for selecting his replacement.

Iran’s Guardian Council, which oversees elections, is believed to have disqualified at least 60 percent of the potential candidates, including around 99 percent of those billed as reformists. As a result, even moderate political camps were forced to include hardliners on their own voting lists.

"Radicals dominated the Assembly of Experts, as expected," said Amir Toumaj, an Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "The Guardian Council engineered the field so it would be that way."

Most of those who were prevented from running include those who have advocated warmer ties with Western powers.

"The bulk of the disqualified candidates represent comparatively pragmatic elements of the ruling elite—among them Hassan Khomeini, grandson of Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s late founder and first supreme leader," Saeed Ghasseminejad, also an Iran expert at FDD, wrote in a policy brief last week.

"On the other hand, most of the approved contenders are radical revolutionaries – devotees of the supreme leader with close ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)," he wrote. "It is mathematically impossible for the less-hardline factions to win at the ballot box."

Early results appear to confirm this analysis and indicate that reformists backed many of the same candidates endorsed by Iran’s hardline factions, according to information provided by observers, including The Israel Project and FDD.

Mohammad Reyshahri, for instance, a former intelligence minister who was elected to the assembly, is accused of organizing the murder of scores of political prisoners. He is a close ally of Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and has served him in several capacities. Reyshahri received the backing of both reformists and hardliners.

Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, another election winner and former intelligence minister, also is believed to be behind the killing of Iranian dissidents and anti-government voices. As with Reyshahri, he was backed both by hardliners and reformists.

Ali Movahedi-Kermani, a radical Iranian cleric, also received support from Iran’s moderate factions. He has threatened to "trample upon America," as well as bomb U.S. and Israeli interests.

Mohammed Emami-Kashani, another radical cleric who won a seat on the assembly with the backing of moderates, has blamed the U.S. and Israel for creating al Qaeda.

Other election winners backed by reformists include Ayatollah Yousef Tabatabaeenejad, a religious radical who has called on civilians to use violence in order to enforce strict dress codes for women.

Other so-called reformist winners also have a history of calling for the destruction of Israel and America and reportedly sponsored attacks of political dissidents.

Leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have praised the election results as a sign that the country remains committed to revolution, according to reports in Iran’s state-controlled media.

"The big turnout indicates that Iranians have remained loyal to the values and aspirations of the Islamic Revolution and reaffirm allegiance to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei," the IRGC reportedly said in a statement. "There is no doubt that those chosen by the nation will subjugate the global hegemony and arrogance to their perceptiveness and alertness."

Though the Obama administration will not yet comment on the results, U.S. lawmakers have already begun to cast doubt on the election.

"Until Iran stops being the world's biggest state sponsor of terrorism, militarily propping up Assad the butcher in Syria, and spreading violence and instability throughout the Middle East, all this talk about 'reformers' taking hold in Tehran seems premature," Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), a vocal opponent on the Iranian regime, said on Monday. "What's more, some newly-elected 'reformers' seem anything but moderate, such as Kazim Jalali, who called for death penalty against leaders of the Green Movement in 2011."

Others adopted a similar view.

"Because the fanatical Ayatollah holds ultimate power, February 26 was more of a selection of the next group of radicals by the current radicals, than a true election by the people," Rep. Mike Pompeo, a member of the House’s intelligence committee, told the Free Beacon on Monday. "Iranian state television has declared a national victory for the hardliners—politicians who declared that Israelis ‘aren’t human’ and who called for the execution of the pro-democracy Green Movement leaders were selected."

Iranian dissidents also described the election as a farce.

Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, also known as the MEK, said that candidates were carefully screen to ensure their allegiance to Khamenei’s hardline camp.

"A glance at the list of candidates presented by the regime's various factions leaves no doubt that the choice was merely between different factions responsible for suppression, execution, exporting terrorism, warmongering, and plundering the Iranian people’s wealth," Rajavi said in a statement following the election.

Published under: Iran