Iran’s Hard-Line Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Registers For June 28 Presidential Election

TOP STORIES 

Iran’s Hard-Line Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Registers For June 28 Presidential Election | Associated Press 

Iran’s hard-line former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered Sunday as a possible candidate for the presidential election, seeking to regain the country’s top political position after a helicopter crash killed the nation’s president. The populist former leader’s registration puts pressure on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In office, Ahmadinejad openly challenged the 85-year-old cleric, and his attempt to run in 2021 was barred by authorities. The firebrand, Holocaust-questioning politician’s return comes at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s rapidly advancing nuclear program, its arming of Russia in its war on Ukraine and its wide-reaching crackdowns on dissent. Meanwhile, Iran’s support of militia proxy forces throughout the wider Mideast have been in increased focus as Yemen’s Houthi rebels attack ships in the Red Sea over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.  

Iran Ex-IRGC Commander Sanctioned By US Launches Presidential Bid | AFP

A former commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards who is under US sanctions registered his candidacy Saturday for next month’s presidential election, state media reported. Like other hopefuls, Vahid Haghanian, will have to wait to see if his candidacy is okayed by the Guardian Council, a 12-strong body of jurists dominated by conservatives that vets all candidates for public office. Little information has been made public about Haghanian’s career in the Guards, the ideological arm of Iran’s armed forces. Like late president Ebrahim Raisi whom he is seeking to succeed, Haghanian has been under US sanctions since 2019 for his role in supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “inner circle responsible for advancing the regime’s domestic and foreign oppression.”  

Houthi Rebels Say At Least 16 Killed And 42 Others Wounded In Joint US-British Airstrikes In Yemen | Associated Press 

Joint British-U.S. airstrikes targeting Yemen’s Houthi rebels killed at least 16 people and wounded 42 others, the rebels said Friday, the highest publicly acknowledged death toll from the multiple rounds of strikes carried out over the rebels’ attacks on shipping. Three U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe a then-ongoing attack, described the strikes Thursday as hitting a wide range of underground facilities, missile launchers, command and control sites, a Houthi vessel and other facilities. They called it a response to a recent surge in attacks by the Iran-backed militia group on ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden over the Israel-Hamas war. The U.S. F/A-18 fighter jets involved in the strikes took off from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier in the Red Sea, officials said. Other U.S. warships in the region also participated.  

UANI IN THE NEWS 

‘A Weapon Of Mass Distraction:’ How Oct. 7 Enabled Iran To Advance Its Nuclear Program | Jewish Insider 

...Jason Brodsky, policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran, said that as a nuclear-threshold state, Iran “is trying to weaponsize and exploit that status, and use it as a sword of Damocles to hang over the international community in an attempt to thwart any pressue on the Islamic Republic, and it’s succeeding.” Brodsky said that the Oct. 7 attack could have been motivated by distracting from the nuclear file, but that thrwarting normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel was a more likely reason for the timing. In addition, “Hamas and Iranians might have perceived Israeli deterrence to be low or eroded because of judicial reform protests.”  

Iran Using Criminals in Sweden to Target Israeli, Jewish Interests | Iran International 

… Jason Brodsky, the policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), told Iran International that while he's not surprised, he is concerned. "It points to the lack of deterrence in the West with respect to Iran. The Islamic Republic feels confident enough that it could get away with literally murder, in trying to harm or assassinate Western nationals on European soil without it paying a significant price," said Brodsky. 

Foxtrot And Rumba: Who Are The Violent Swedish Gangs Doing Iran’s Bidding? | The National News 

…The Swedish connection could potentially give the EU a legal basis to list the IRGC as a terrorist group, if a link can be established, said Jason Brodsky of the United Against Nuclear Iran campaign group. The EU has evaded demands to list the IRGC by saying it must first have been formally linked to terrorism by a European state, with lawyers also studying Iran’s involvement in an arson plot against a German synagogue. A German court ruled last year that a fugitive Hell's Angel, who arranged the bungled arson plot, was acting on orders from "Iranian state agencies", in what judges called an "escalation" of the country's secret activities in Europe. In the Swedish case, Mr Brodsky said “there are some questions we need answers to – who are the handlers for the criminal gangs in question in Tehran? Is it the Ministry of Intelligence? Or the IRGC?”  

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM 

European Powers Voice ‘Deep Concern’ Over Iran Nuclear Violations | Asharq Al Awsat 

European countries backing the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran urged Tehran to reverse its activities that violate its commitments. A joint statement Friday from Germany, France, Britain and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini voiced "deep concern" over Iran's latest actions. This week, the United Nations' atomic watchdog confirmed that Iran is preparing to use more advanced centrifuges, another breach of the limits in the nuclear deal that is slowly unraveling after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from it last year. The Europeans said they "are concerned by the risk that the (accord) further unravels under the strain of sanctions imposed by the United States since May 2018 and following Iran's decisions to no longer implement several of the central provisions of the agreement." The European powers urged "the need for diplomatic efforts toward de-escalation and resumption of dialogue."  

Israel’s Military Figures Endorse US Stance To Reach Nuclear Deal With Iran | Asharq Al Awsat 

Leaders of the military and security institutions in Israel disagree with Prime Minister Naftali Bennet government’s hardline opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal, political sources in Tel Aviv revealed on Wednesday. They support the US policy towards Iran, led by President Joe Biden, generals in the Pentagon, the army and intelligence services, and prefer reaching an agreement with Tehran instead of the failure of the ongoing negotiations in Vienna. The sources said these Israeli figures cannot engage in public discussions with the government, so they don’t express their stances and continue to prepare for direct military confrontations with Tehran and conduct drills to launch raids on Iranian nuclear facilities. But in order to influence the government’s stance, they push veteran retired generals to speak on their behalf to the media as experts.  

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS 

US Lawmakers Push To Sanction Iranian Officials Over Death Sentence For Rapper Toomaj Salehi | Associated Press 

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Friday targeting Iranian officials involved in the prosecution and death sentence of a rapper who came to fame for his lyrics about the 2022 death of an Iranian woman and his criticism of the Islamic Republic. The proposal would impose sanctions on the judges, prosecutors and investigators of Iran’s Revolutionary Courts in response to Tehran’s continuing crackdown against dissenters — including rapper Toomaj Salehi — after years of mass protests in the country. It would also codify into law that the U.S. views any judgments issued by Iran’s courts against political prisoners as violations of human rights. “Toomaj Salehi has used his platform to give a voice to the voiceless and bravely speak out against the Iran regime’s torture, abuse, and crackdown against the free will of the Iranian people,” Rep. Young Kim, R-Calif., one of the bill’s lead sponsors, said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Unfortunately, he is just the latest victim of the regime’s cruelty.”  

New US Sanctions Target Iran Drone Production | Voice Of America 

The U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions Friday aimed at disrupting Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, program, which has been providing deadly UAVs to Russia for use in attacks against Ukraine. In a release, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, said it was targeting an Iranian aviation executive and four commercial entities associated with the previously-sanctioned Rayan Roshd Afzar Company that have procured critical parts for the UAV program. The targeted executive is Iran Aviation Industries Organization (IAIO) Chief Afshin Khajeh Fard, who is based in Tehran. The department says Khajeh Fard oversees IAIO’s efforts to produce UAVs and missiles, and he has promoted the innovation of Iran’s UAV program and its reduced reliance on foreign suppliers. 

EU Sanctions Iranian Defense Minister, Quds Commander Over Drone Transfers To Russia | Al-Monitor 

The European Union adopted restrictive measures Friday against six Iranians and three Iranian entities for their involvement in transferring drone technologies to Russia, and the United States announced additional sanctions, blacklisting four Iranian companies that it said had procured parts for Iran's drone program. The six EU-sanctioned individuals are Mohammad-Reza Gharaei Ashtiani, defense minister; Gholam Ali Rashid, commander of the Khatam al-Anbia Central Headquarters; Hossein Hatefi Ardakani, chair of Kavan-Electronics-Behrad; Mehdi Dehghani Mohammadabadi, CEO of Kavan-Electronics-Behrad; Ismail Qaani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Quds Force; and Afshin Khaji Fard, head of the Iranian Aviation Industries Organization (IAIO).  The three groups sanctioned by the EU are the Khatam al-Anbiya Central Headquarters, which coordinates between the Iranian military and the IRGC; the Iran-based company Kavan-Electronics-Behrad, which procures and sells drone parts; and the IRGC Navy.  

TERRORISM & EXTREMISM 

Yemen’s Houthis Say They Launched Missile Attack On US Aircraft Carrier Eisenhower | Al Arabiya 

Yemen’s Houthis launched a missile attack on the US aircraft carrier Eisenhower in the Red Sea in response to US and British strikes on Yemen, Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree said on Friday. A US defense official, however, told Al Arabiya English that the Iranian-backed group’s claim was false. Six US and British strikes have killed 16 people and wounded 41, including civilians, Saree said in a televised statement. Strikes on the province of Hodeida targeted the port of Salif, a radio building in Al-Hawk district, Ghalifa camp and two houses, Saree said. The US and British militaries said they launched strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen on Thursday to deter the militant group from further disrupting shipping in the Red Sea. The US Central Command said US and British forces had hit 13 targets in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.  

Yemen Rebels Threaten 'Escalation' As US, UK Strikes Said To Kill 16 | AFP 

The toll announced by the Huthis, which AFP could not independently verify, would make the strikes some of the deadliest since the US and Britain launched their campaign in January against disruption of the vital trade route. The rebels, who control much of Yemen, have carried out scores of drone and missile attacks on vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden since November, citing solidarity with Palestinians over the Israel-Hamas war. The US military's Central Command (CENTCOM), said 13 Huthi facilities were targeted in the latest strikes. "The American-British aggression will not prevent us from continuing our military operations," Huthi official Mohammed al-Bukhaiti said on X, vowing to "meet escalation with escalation".  

IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS 

Iran Election: U.S.-Sanctioned Ex-Officer Among Candidates To Replace Raisi | Reuters 

U.S.-sanctioned former Revolutionary Guards commander Vahid Haghanian was among candidates who registered on Saturday to run for election as Iran's president after Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash, state media reported. Haghanian, a close aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told reporters after registering that his qualifications were based on "experience from serving 45 years in the presidency and the leader's office". The U.S. Treasury designated, opens new tab Haghanian in 2019 among nine individuals in Khamenei's inner circle responsible for "advancing ... domestic and foreign oppression". Iran says most U.S. sanctions are prompted by baseless accusations. Former parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, a prominent conservative, was among candidates who registered on Friday, as was Abdolnaser Hemmati, a former central bank governor.  

Ex-Tehran Mayor Brands Presidential Elections 'Stand-Up Comedy' | Iran International 

Gholamhossein Karbaschi, former mayor of Tehran, likened the mass registrations for the Iranian presidential election to a "stand-up comedy." Karbaschi, a prominent figure in the centrist, pro-reform Executives of Construction Party, said, "They [the government] have turned the country's main symbol of democracy into a stand-up comedy," amid the sham elections which will ultimately nominate someone chosen by the country's Supreme Leader. Karbaschi, a close ally of former President Mohammad Khatami, was previously arrested and imprisoned on corruption charges in a case that the New York Times described as "widely seen among moderates as a politically motivated attack" by conservatives and hard-liners. It was perceived as an effort to suppress Khatami's reformist agenda. Echoing Karbaschi's sentiments, Saeed Hajarian, a reformist theorist, also voiced his concerns over the superficiality of the candidate registration for the upcoming presidential election.  

Former Iran Parliament Speaker Registers For Presidential Vote After Raisi Death | Reuters 

Former Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, a prominent conservative, was among candidates registering on Friday for an early election next month following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash, state media reported. Larijani, an adviser and ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told reporters that he would focus on fixing the economic problems facing Iranians and "resolving (U.S.) sanctions", while maintaining a strong defence. Larijani was barred from standing in the 2021 presidential race by the clerical-led Guardian Council which vets candidates. But an Iranian insider told Reuters that Larijani decided to run after he was assured by top officials that he would not be disqualified by the hardline council. No reason was given for the change. Abdolnaser Hemmati, a former central bank governor, was among other hopefuls who registered on Friday. Hemmati, a low-key moderate, also ran in the 2021 presidential election.  

Iran Announces The Death Of A High-Ranking Revolutionary Guard General After A Long Illness | Associated Press 

A high-ranking general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has died after an illness, Iran’s state TV reported Saturday. Gen. Vajihollah Moradi was one of the commanders of the Guard’s foreign wing, TV said. He was also a comrade of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was slain in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad in 2020. State TV said a funeral ceremony will be held in the northern city of Babolsar on Sunday. Iran occasionally holds funerals for its soldiers fallen in Syria though officials say Iranian forces are there only as advisers. Iran is Syrian President Bashar Assad’s main regional supporter in the Arab nation’s lengthy civil war. Hundreds of Iranian forces have been killed in the war in Syria.  

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN 

Israel's Strike On Iran: Limited Hit, Major Message | Asharq Al Awsat 

Israel's apparent strike on Iran was deliberately limited in scope but sent a clear warning to the country's leadership about Israeli abilities to strike at sensitive targets. Tehran refuses to recognize Israel, and for decades the two countries have waged a shadow war marked by covert Israeli operations inside Iran, and Iranian backing for anti-Israel militant groups including Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. But while the surge in tensions over the past weeks has calmed for now, the shadow war has entered a new phase, carrying more than ever the risk of open conflict between the foes, analysts say. The current escalation comes against the background of Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel followed by the Israeli bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip.  

Iran's Acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani Arrives In Beirut On First Official Trip | The National 

Iran's acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani has arrived in Beirut in his first international visit since taking on the role. Mr Kani will hold talks with Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib and is also expected to meet Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah. Iranian state media said Mr Kani would discuss regional developments, especially the situation in Palestine. The visit comes as Hezbollah and Israel engage in daily cross border exchanges of fire in south Lebanon, which have gradually increased in intensity and scope.  

CHINA & IRAN 

Iran Summons China’s Ambassador Over UAE Statement | Al Arabiya News 

Iran’s foreign ministry summoned China’s ambassador in Tehran on Sunday to protest “baseless claims” made in a joint statement by China and the United Arab Emirates regarding three islands controlled by Iran but claimed by the UAE. The joint statement was issued on Saturday following a visit by the Emirati president to Beijing. Paragraph 26 of the statement said China supported the UAE’s efforts to “reach a peaceful solution to the issue of the three islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa through bilateral negotiations.” These three strategically located islands, near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, have long been a point of contention between the UAE and Iran. Although both countries claim the islands, Iran has held them since 1971, just before the formation of the UAE following its independence from Britain. Iran has repeatedly said it will not engage in talks over the islands, saying they are an “inseparable” part of its territory. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi has consistently advocated for a negotiated solution.  

OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS 

European Powers Seek To Censure Iran At UN Nuclear Meeting | AFP 

Britain, France and Germany will seek to censure Iran over its lack of cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog at its board meeting from Monday despite US opposition, diplomats told AFP. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Tehran is the only non-nuclear weapon state to enrich uranium to 60 percent, while it keeps accumulating large uranium stockpiles. 

MISCELLANEOUS 

News Site Editor’s Ties To Iran, Russia Show Misinformation’s Complexity | Washington Post 

Recently unearthed documents reveal that leaders of an online news site aimed at Americans have received money from both Russian and Iranian government media outlets, showing how widening geopolitical alliances are making it harder to identify and trace foreign influence operations. Hacked emails and other documents from the Iranian government-funded Press TV show payments of thousands of dollars to a writer who is now a Washington-based editor for Grayzone, whose founder regularly appears on Russian television and once accepted a trip to Moscow for a celebration of Russian state-controlled video network RT that featured Vladimir Putin. Misinformation experts say the overlap in funding underscores concern that the spread of falsehoods and propaganda online is entering a more complicated stage as the November election draws closer.  

Tehran Summons Swedish Envoy Over 'Spiteful Accusations' | AFP

Tehran summoned Sweden's temporary charge d'affaires over "baseless & spiteful accusations", the foreign ministry said Sunday, after Stockholm's intelligence agency said Iran was "using criminal networks" inside the Scandinavian country to attack Israel and its interests. The Swedish diplomat was summoned by the assistant of the foreign ministry's general directorate for Western Europe, the ministry posted on the social media platform X. Iran's embassy in Stockholm had on Friday already denied accusations that Tehran was recruiting criminal gang members as proxies to commit "acts of violence" against Israeli interests in Sweden. That came in reply to Sweden's intelligence agency saying the day prior that Iran was "using criminal networks in Sweden to carry out acts of violence against other states, groups or people in Sweden that it considers a threat."  

Sweden Says Iran Has Denied Access To Detained Dissident | Asharq Al Awsat 

Sweden said Tuesday it had not been granted consular access to a Swedish-Iranian dissident who is detained in Iran after disappearing during a visit to Turkey in October. Iran’s state media in November reported the arrest of Habib Chaab, a political dissident living in exile in Sweden. A spokesman for Sweden’s foreign ministry said Tuesday its diplomats had still not been given consular access to Chaab, who has Swedish citizenship. "Immediately when we learned of the reports we investigated through our foreign missions in Turkey and Iran. The case has also been raised with Turkey’s and Iran’s ambassadors to Stockholm,” Erik Karlsson at the foreign ministry told AFP. Tehran accuses Chaab of being a leading figure in the Arab separatist group known as the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), which Iran has designated a terrorist organization.