Hardliners Set To Tighten Grip In Iran Vote As Frustration Mounts


Hardliners Set To Tighten Grip In Iran Vote As Frustration Mounts | Reuters 

Iran began voting for a new parliament on Friday, seen as a test of the clerical establishment's popularity at a time of growing frustration over economic woes and restrictions on political and social freedoms. State TV said polling started at 8 a.m. (0430 GMT), and it is scheduled to last for 10 hours but can be extended. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called voting a religious duty, was the first to cast his vote in Iran. "Vote as soon as possible ... today the eyes of Iran's friends and ill-wishers are on the (election) results. Make friends happy and disappoint enemies," Khamenei said. The election is the first formal measure of public opinion after anti-government protests in 2022-23 spiralled into some of the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran's rulers need a high turnout to repair their legitimacy, damaged after nationwide protests.  

Calls For A Boycott Roil Iran’s Parliamentary Elections | New York Times 

As Iran prepares for a parliamentary election on Friday, calls to boycott the vote are turning it into a test of legitimacy for the ruling clerics amid widespread discontent and anger at the government. A separate election on Friday will also decide the membership of an obscure, 88-member clerical body called the Assembly of Experts, which selects and advises the country’s supreme leader, who has the last word on all key state matters. While it normally operates behind the scenes, the assembly has the all-important task of choosing a successor to the current, 84-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ruled Iran for more than three decades. Iran’s leaders view turnout at the polls as a projection of their strength and power. But a robust vote appears unlikely with these elections taking place amid a slew of domestic challenges and a regional war stemming from Israel’s invasion of Gaza that has come to include Iran’s network of proxy militias.  

Iran Sending Attack Drones To Sudan’s Military | Semafor  

Iran is stepping up shipments of attack drones to the Sudanese military, further internationalizing the North African country’s civil war and potentially providing Tehran with a new ally through which to project power into the Red Sea, U.S. and Arab officials tell Semafor. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) has been locked in a nearly year-long conflict with the rebel Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that has split the country and spilled into neighboring countries like Chad and South Sudan. The war provided Iran with an opening last October to reestablish diplomatic relations with the Khartoum government for the first time since 2016 and potentially end Sudan’s strategic shift towards the West. The country, previously designated by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terrorism, significantly improved its ties with Washington during the Trump administration and agreed in 2020 to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Sudan’s worsening civil war, which has included the targeting of civilians, however, has halted these steps towards normalization. And the Biden administration imposed new sanctions on both the SAF and RSF in recent months.  


Houthi Leader Says Group Preparing Military “Surprises” In Red Sea | The Foreign Desk 

“... It’s no surprise that the Houthis intend to escalate their Red Sea operations, as the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to offer critical support to the terrorist organization – including Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) intelligence from the Behshad spy ship, UAVs, and ballistic missiles,” said Jack Roush, a research associate at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and a PhD candidate in International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “Sustained Houthi attacks on civilian shipping pose a grave threat to United States national security, particularly because it demonstrates the IRGC’s power projection capability,” he added.  

Jason Brodsky On VOA: Elections In Iran | VOA  

UANI Policy Director Jason Brodsky discusses the significance of the Iranian elections today.  

Iran’s “Election” Farce | BBC World Service 

Today’s “election” farce in #Iran and what we can expect summed up in 3 minutes. I joined @bbcworldservice to discuss. 


US Does Not Expect A Free And Fair Vote In Iran, State Dept Says | Jerusalem Post 

Washington has "no expectation" that a parliamentary election in Iran on Friday will be free and fair, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters on Thursday. "I suspect that a great number of Iranians have no expectation that those elections will be free and fair," Miller said. "As you probably already know, thousands of candidates were already disqualified in an opaque process and the world has long known that Iran's political system features undemocratic and non-transparent administrative, judicial, and electoral systems.”  


Iran Cracks Down On Calls For Election Boycott | Radio Free Europe 

Several people have been detained in Iran for allegedly calling for a boycott of parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections scheduled for March 1. A young woman was arrested on February 28 for "opposing electoral participation" in Tehran's Valiasr Square during an event called "Free Tribune," witnesses told RFE/RL's Radio Farda. They said the woman estimated to be in her 20s protested in front of a state television camera, symbolically removing her head scarf while declaring, "Vote or no vote, we will not vote." A street vendor, who claimed to have witnessed the event, said the woman was quickly surrounded and subsequently detained by several security personnel after she waved her scarf over her head in protest. Other eyewitness accounts detailed the intervention of two female officers, who covered the young woman with a chador cloak, while five male officers forcibly escorted her to a van. The woman, described as having dyed, long hair and a slim build, was reportedly shouting for the officers to release her. Security forces present at the scene issued warnings to bystanders not to film the arrest and to disperse.  

Women's Rights Activists Await Verdict After Trial In Iran Court | Iran International  

Twelve women's rights activists who were arrested last year for alleged involvement with planned unrest in Iran are awaiting the verdict after being tried in a regime court. Activists including Sara Jahani, Hooman Taheri, Yasamin Hashdari were charged with offences including "anti-establishment propaganda" and "membership in an illegal group". They faced proceedings under Judge Mehdi Rasekhi in a revolutionary court in the northern city of Rasht on Thursday. The defendants were represented by their lawyers Mustafa Nili, Ramin Safarnia, and Mohammad Ali Kamfirouzi. Sources reported that at the conclusion of the court session, the judge announced that the trial had ended, and the activists would await the verdict.  

Grammy-Winning Iranian Protest Singer Sentenced To Jail | Iran Wire 

Iranian authorities have sentenced singer Shervin Hajipour, a vocal supporter of the Woman, Life, Freedom movement, to three years and eight months in prison.He is charged with "propaganda activities against the Islamic Republic" and "inciting people to riot."  Hajipour announced the verdict in an Instagram post on March 1, also revealing a two-year ban on leaving the country.  Hajipour's troubles stem from the release of the popular protest song “Braye”, or “For," which became an anthem for the protest movement following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini in September 2022.  The song, garnering millions of views within days, resonated with lyrics drawn from ordinary Iranians’ social media posts and its critique of the Islamic Republic, and went on to win the "Song for Social Change" award at the 65th Grammy Awards.  


Yemeni Military: Iran Controls Houthi Naval Attacks | Asharq Al Awsat 

An Iranian Revolutionary Guard unit is directing Houthi military operations, including attacks on Red Sea navigation, Yemeni military sources told Asharq Al-Awsat, affirming that the Houthis have used up most of their missile stockpile. The sources, speaking under the condition of anonymity, confirm that most of the weapons currently used to target ships are from Iran, modified and assembled in Sanaa and other centers in Saada province. Members of the Revolutionary Guard have been entering Yemen, revealed the sources, adding that some of them were smuggled across land borders into Saada province by professional smugglers. Others arrived by sea, particularly along the coasts of Hajjah province facing the Red Sea, sources added. The sources also affirmed that a team of members from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group oversee every aspect of the military and political activities of the Houthis.  


Iran To Vote In Elections As Supreme Leader’s Succession Looms | Financial Times 

Iran’s government has been seeking to drum up enthusiasm among voters for tightly-controlled elections to choose members of parliament and the assembly that will appoint a successor to the 84-year-old Supreme Leader when he dies. As Friday’s vote for the Assembly of Experts approaches, together with parliamentary elections, social media videos have circulated showing unexpected scenes: supporters of parliamentary candidates in small towns dancing to loud music at campaign events. The public display, which would normally be banned, suggested an official attempt to lighten the public mood and encourage voting as the regime seeks to tread a fine line between narrowing the field of candidates and winning popular support. There was even a rare sign of official tolerance towards women voters choosing not to wear the Islamic headscarf. Hadi Tahan Nazif, the spokesperson for the Guardian Council, a clerical body, said last month when asked whether women without hijabs could vote: “Voting rights have not been denied by any law, and cannot even be taken away by [a] court.”  

Iran’s Elections Will Decide A New Parliament. Here’s What To Know | Washington Post 

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to elect members of the national parliament and the body that will choose Iran’s next supreme leader as the country grapples with crises across multiple fronts: A spiraling economic downturn, regional tensions testing the country’s foreign policy and the fallout from mass protests sparked by the 2022 death of a young woman in the custody of the country’s morality police… Why would Iranians boycott the elections? Many Iranians are still reeling from the violent government crackdown on the nationwide protests that began over a year ago with the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality police in September 2022 for allegedly failing to wear her hijab properly. More than 500 people were killed and thousands jailed. Since the protest movement, government crackdowns on free speech and dissent have intensified. Rates of executions increased, conservative laws have been tightened and repressive tactics are on the rise, according to rights groups and activists.  


Iran 'Gives Hezbollah Go-Ahead To Increase Attacks Against Israel' | Iran International 

Iran has given Hezbollah the go-ahead to escalate attacks along Israel's northern border, according to reports. The proxy militia in Lebanon backed by Iran is said to be poised to increase its cross-border assaults should it become certain Israel will invade the city of Rafah in the south of Gaza. Hezbollah and Israeli forces have exchanged fire repeatedly in the months since the Gaza war began following the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. 


Congress Weighs Bill To Cut Funding To American Universities From Communist China, Iran, And Qatar | New York Sun 

Strangling foreign funding to American universities could slow down the surge of anti-Israel protests on their campuses, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, who is pioneering a bipartisan bill to combat the influence of American adversaries on higher education, claims. “There’s a direct correlation between the money coming from malign actors and the demonstrations on the campuses,” Ms. Foxx, who is the chairwoman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, tells the Sun. She is co-sponsoring what’s become known as the Deterrent Act, which aims to end the “nefarious transactions” taking place between elite universities and “rogue regimes.” The bill, awaiting approval in the Senate after passing the House in December, seeks to restore transparency and accountability in foreign donations granted to American universities. It would toughen requirements for foreign gifts by cutting the threshold for reporting by colleges and universities to $50,000 from $250,000, with an even stricter $0 threshold for countries of concern, including Communist China, Iran, and Qatar.  


Alliance With Moscow ‘Betrayed’ Iran, Says Leading Ex-MP | Iran International  

A former leading Iranian lawmaker has claimed the alliance between Tehran and Moscow has led to a “betrayal” of the national interest. Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, who was head of the Iranian parliament’s foreign policy committee, said Iran’s hopes for success in nuclear negotiations had been “crushed under the boots of the Russians”. He was speaking after Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian admitted in an interview with the Hezbollah-affiliated news channel Al-Mayadeen that the talks had been adversely affected by Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine. In comments that suggested Russia’s invasion had harmed Iran negotiations, Amir-Abdollahian said: “We had serious negotiations with other parties but at one point, the outcome of our discussions was affected by the atmosphere of the Ukraine war.” But in response to the foreign minister’s comments, Falahatpisheh said it is too late to confess that the interests of Iran had been sacrificed to Russia.  

Israeli Strike Kills Three On Syria Coast: Monitor | AFP  

An Israeli strike on a villa on Syria's coast Friday killed three people, including an Iranian military adviser, a monitor said, in the third consecutive day of Israeli attacks on Syria. Three violent explosions shook the centre of Banias, on the Mediterranean, during the strike at dawn on the villa that sheltered "a group affiliated with Iran", said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The building was destroyed, killing the Iranian military adviser and two other non-Syrians who were with him, said the Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria. On Thursday, Israel killed a Hezbollah fighter in a strike on Syria, close to the Lebanese border, the Observatory said, hours after similar attacks. Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes on targets in Syria since civil war broke out in 2011. The strikes have mainly targeted Iran-backed forces including militants from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement as well as Syrian army positions.  


Iran’s Raisi To Make First Visit To Algeria In 14 Years As Africa Ties Grow | Al-Monitor 

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi is heading to Algeria this weekend for a two-day visit in the first official trip by an Iranian president to the North African country in 14 years. Raisi will participate in the 7th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum on Saturday in Algiers, the official Iranian news agency IRNA said on Wednesday. On the second day of his trip, the Iranian leader is scheduled to meet with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and is expected to oversee the signing of bilateral agreements. According to IRNA, Raisi’s visit comes upon an official invitation by Tebboune. The last time an Iranian president visited Algeria was in September 2010, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a brief stop in the Algerian capital. The forum is an intergovernmental organization made up of the world's leading gas exporting countries, namely Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. The organization was officially established in its current form in December 2008, based on a proposal first put forward by Iran in 2001.