Iranian Presidential Election Turning into a Circus

The Iranian presidential election next month will not be free. The candidates have all been selected to run because they are loyal to the Islamic dictatorship.

Most of the candidates are criminals, including three with arrest warrants issued against them by either Interpol or Argentinian courts for the 1994 Jewish Community Center bombing in Buenos Aires: Mohsen Rezaei, the ex-chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards, and two former regime officials, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ali Akbar Velayati.

Another candidate, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, current mayor of Tehran and former police commander, has said of the 1999 student protests:

"I was the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Air Force at the time. Photographs of me are available showing me on the back of a motorbike, with Hossein Khaleqi, beating them (the protesters) with wooden sticks. ... I was among those carrying out beatings on the street level and I am proud of that. I didn't care that I was a high-ranking commander."

Recently an audiotape surfaced on the Internet revealing his 2003 speech to the Basij paramilitary forces bragging about his role at the Supreme National Security Council meeting to get the authorization to attack the student protesters: "I spoke very harshly. Didn't observe proper protocol, and I told them as head of the police, I will demolish anyone who would show up tonight on the campus to protest ... with my behavior I intimidated them to get the permission to enter and also to shoot (at protesters)."

Under the Islamic Republic's constitution, the 12-member Guardian Council decides the eligibility of who can run for office, and anyone with any history of opposing the regime is barred from participation. The council is made up of six Islamic faqihs (experts in Islamic law) appointed by the supreme leader and six jurists nominated by the head of the Judiciary (who is himself appointed by the supreme leader), and then approved by the parliament.

However, what makes this presidential election interesting this year is the confrontation between Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the latter's handpicked candidate, close confidant and top adviser Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

As I reported on April 30, Ahmadinejad was arrested after his visit to Tehran's 26th International Book Fair. He was held for seven hours and was warned to keep his mouth shut about matters detrimental to the Islamic regime before being released, according to a source within the Revolutionary Guard's intelligence unit.

Earlier, the regime's media outlet Baztab reported that Ahmadinejad had warned associates that if Mashaei was rejected as a candidate, then Ahmadinejad would reveal recordings confirming that the regime defrauded the voters in the 2009 presidential election.

Our revelation of the news caused a firestorm inside the regime, which then arrested the editor of Baztab for publishing the report. They then attacked WND and me for publishing the report of the arrest and the revelation about the recording, which reportedly quotes officials telling Ahmadinejad in 2009 that they would announce his total winning tally as 24 million votes where, in fact, the actual number was much lower.

The source who provided the information about Ahmadinejad's arrest then revealed the content of the tape (which is a bit longer than 11 minutes) as being between Ahmadinejad and Vahid Haghanian, the head of the supreme leader's office. The two discuss the fraud in which Haghanian said election officials added millions of votes to Ahmadinejad's tally to declare him the winner.

During that phone call, the two argued as Haghanian told Ahmadinejad what Khamenei expected of him. Haghanian told him that they had to add millions of fake votes to declare him the winner despite having all the Guards and Basij personnel voting for him.

The actual results of the election, as provided by the source were:

• Mir Hossein Mousavi won the election with over 19,250,000 votes.
• Ahmadinejad was second with a little over 13,000,000 votes.
• Mohsen Rezaei had approximately 3,700,000 votes.
• Mehdi Karoubi had approximately 3,200,000 votes.

Millions of Iranians took to the streets after the 2009 election results were reported, calling Ahmadinejad's reported 62 percent tally of voters a fraud and demanding a free election.

Thousands were arrested, with many tortured and executed. Mousavi and Karoubi have been under house arrest ever since.

According to the source, Ahmadinejad plans to derail the elections if Mashaei's registration for presidential candidacy is not accepted. Khamenei desperately wants this election to go without incident to show the world that the regime is united and has popular support.

It will be interesting to see if Khamenei backs down and allows Mashaei to run just to keep Ahmadinejad in check, but then picks his own candidate out of the hat, as the regime always does, and as they did with Ahmadinejad himself, to keep the clerical regime alive longer.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran's Revolutionary Guards and author of the award-winning book  A Time to Betray (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).

The Iranian presidential election next month will not be free. The candidates have all been selected to run because they are loyal to the Islamic dictatorship.

Most of the candidates are criminals, including three with arrest warrants issued against them by either Interpol or Argentinian courts for the 1994 Jewish Community Center bombing in Buenos Aires: Mohsen Rezaei, the ex-chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards, and two former regime officials, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ali Akbar Velayati.

Another candidate, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, current mayor of Tehran and former police commander, has said of the 1999 student protests:

"I was the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Air Force at the time. Photographs of me are available showing me on the back of a motorbike, with Hossein Khaleqi, beating them (the protesters) with wooden sticks. ... I was among those carrying out beatings on the street level and I am proud of that. I didn't care that I was a high-ranking commander."

Recently an audiotape surfaced on the Internet revealing his 2003 speech to the Basij paramilitary forces bragging about his role at the Supreme National Security Council meeting to get the authorization to attack the student protesters: "I spoke very harshly. Didn't observe proper protocol, and I told them as head of the police, I will demolish anyone who would show up tonight on the campus to protest ... with my behavior I intimidated them to get the permission to enter and also to shoot (at protesters)."

Under the Islamic Republic's constitution, the 12-member Guardian Council decides the eligibility of who can run for office, and anyone with any history of opposing the regime is barred from participation. The council is made up of six Islamic faqihs (experts in Islamic law) appointed by the supreme leader and six jurists nominated by the head of the Judiciary (who is himself appointed by the supreme leader), and then approved by the parliament.

However, what makes this presidential election interesting this year is the confrontation between Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the latter's handpicked candidate, close confidant and top adviser Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

As I reported on April 30, Ahmadinejad was arrested after his visit to Tehran's 26th International Book Fair. He was held for seven hours and was warned to keep his mouth shut about matters detrimental to the Islamic regime before being released, according to a source within the Revolutionary Guard's intelligence unit.

Earlier, the regime's media outlet Baztab reported that Ahmadinejad had warned associates that if Mashaei was rejected as a candidate, then Ahmadinejad would reveal recordings confirming that the regime defrauded the voters in the 2009 presidential election.

Our revelation of the news caused a firestorm inside the regime, which then arrested the editor of Baztab for publishing the report. They then attacked WND and me for publishing the report of the arrest and the revelation about the recording, which reportedly quotes officials telling Ahmadinejad in 2009 that they would announce his total winning tally as 24 million votes where, in fact, the actual number was much lower.

The source who provided the information about Ahmadinejad's arrest then revealed the content of the tape (which is a bit longer than 11 minutes) as being between Ahmadinejad and Vahid Haghanian, the head of the supreme leader's office. The two discuss the fraud in which Haghanian said election officials added millions of votes to Ahmadinejad's tally to declare him the winner.

During that phone call, the two argued as Haghanian told Ahmadinejad what Khamenei expected of him. Haghanian told him that they had to add millions of fake votes to declare him the winner despite having all the Guards and Basij personnel voting for him.

The actual results of the election, as provided by the source were:

• Mir Hossein Mousavi won the election with over 19,250,000 votes.
• Ahmadinejad was second with a little over 13,000,000 votes.
• Mohsen Rezaei had approximately 3,700,000 votes.
• Mehdi Karoubi had approximately 3,200,000 votes.

Millions of Iranians took to the streets after the 2009 election results were reported, calling Ahmadinejad's reported 62 percent tally of voters a fraud and demanding a free election.

Thousands were arrested, with many tortured and executed. Mousavi and Karoubi have been under house arrest ever since.

According to the source, Ahmadinejad plans to derail the elections if Mashaei's registration for presidential candidacy is not accepted. Khamenei desperately wants this election to go without incident to show the world that the regime is united and has popular support.

It will be interesting to see if Khamenei backs down and allows Mashaei to run just to keep Ahmadinejad in check, but then picks his own candidate out of the hat, as the regime always does, and as they did with Ahmadinejad himself, to keep the clerical regime alive longer.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran's Revolutionary Guards and author of the award-winning book  A Time to Betray (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).