As Iranians prepare to go to the polls this Friday reports from inside Iran paint a picture of growing resentment aimed at what many are calling an illegitimate election. This comes as Iranians are standing up to the regime, risking life and limb as a boycott of the presidential poll is reportedly gaining steam. On Wednesday a video doing the rounds shows an unnamed woman protesting a town hall event in Tehran. The video captured by the news website The Foreign Desk shows a woman speaking out, and taking aim at the seven presidential candidates.
As Iranians prepare to head to the polls on Friday, the only way for the leading moderate candidate to make any headway against the hard-line presidential front-runner is to convince millions of Iranians to bother voting at all. Former central bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati is pitching himself as a reform-friendly centrist to revive Iran’s relations with the West and allow more personal freedoms, including a more prominent role for women. He is currently polling in the low single digits, with many Iranians saying they will skip the ballot in protest at the way the country is run.
As the United States works to bring Iran back into compliance with the nuclear accord, the family of two Americans held by Tehran is appealing to the Biden administration to make their release part of any deal made with the Islamic Republic. US officials say they’ve engaged in indirect discussions — independently of the nuclear deal talks in Vienna — with Iran over unjustly detained US citizens, including Siamak and Baquer Namazi. The White House says their release is a top priority, but Babak Namazi worries his brother, Siamak, and father, Baquer, could once again be left behind.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran said it may renew a key nuclear monitoring agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, potentially buying more time for world powers to broker an arrangement between Tehran and Washington to revive their 2015 atomic deal. Mahmoud Vaezi, chief of staff for President Hassan Rouhani, said the extension of the temporary inspections pact with the IAEA will happen only if there’s progress at the current round of talks in Vienna over how to restore the nuclear accord, according to a statement on the Iranian government’s official website.
The frontrunner in Friday’s presidential election in Iran is an austere cleric and judiciary chief hostile to the West, who’s expected to prevail as millions boycott a vote their favored reformist candidates weren’t allowed to contest. The stage-managed elevation of Ebrahim Raisi, 60, carries risks for the country’s guiding hand, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, given the ayatollah’s desire to quickly rid Iran of U.S. sanctions and a history of political unrest.
Gulf Arab states said on Wednesday it would be dangerous to separate global powers' nuclear deal with Iran from Tehran's missile programme and "destabilising" behaviour, and reiterated a call that they be included in the dialogue. World powers and Iran entered a sixth round of talks in Vienna on Saturday to revive the 2015 nuclear pact which Saudi Arabia and its allies opposed for not tackling their concerns, and which the United States abandoned in 2018. Tehran has opposed any attempt to add other issues to the deal, under which it agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Ebrahim Raisi, the favorite in Iran's presidential election, has used his position at the heart of the judiciary for grave rights violations, including mass executions of political prisoners, activists say. They say Raisi -- who now has victory in his sights on Friday after even conservative rivals were disqualified in vetting -- should face international justice rather than lead his country. “Raisi’s only place is in the dock, not the presidency,” said Justice for Iran Executive Director Shadi Sadr.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran’s reported desire to purchase a Russian advanced satellite system is not “particularly concerning” to U.S. security in the region, according to the commander who oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East. In an interview with VOA, Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said Russia’s Kanopus-V satellite is not effective at targeting. “You really can’t do much with it,” he said. “It would probably allow them to see something the size of a school bus, which is not going to be particularly concerning to us.”
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
For many Iranians, the outcome of Friday’s presidential election feels predetermined. The next president, one joke goes, will be Ebrahim Raisi, or Sayyid Ebrahim Raisol-Sadati — Raisi’s full name. The ultraconservative judge, known for his allegiance to Iran’s clerical power structure, has emerged as the front-runner after key opponents were disqualified, in a field authorities have limited to hard-line candidates. Raisi would need to secure a majority in the first round of voting to avoid a runoff.
An expected win for a hardliner in Iran's presidential election on Friday is unlikely to slow its bid to revive a nuclear deal and break free of sanctions, with ruling clerics aware their political fortunes rely on tackling worsening economic hardship. Victory for a security hawk such as Ebrahim Raisi would allow the new government to claim credit for any economic benefits arising from the revival of the 2015 nuclear accord, something the outgoing administration may agree in coming weeks.
Two years after a popular uprising ended two millennia of dynastic rule in Iran, the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini scolded the country’s squabbling politicians for “biting one another like scorpions.” Four decades later, on the eve of a Presidential election, on Friday, Iranian politics are no less contentious. At the first of three campaign debates, the former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei vowed that his first act, if elected, would be to charge the leading centrist candidate, Abdolnaser Hemmati, who was seated a few feet away, with betraying the revolution.