It is clear that Iran’s former firebrand-in-chief Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president from 2005-2013, is attempting a political comeback.
First were the well-timed media profiles of visitors making the pilgrimage to his home in Tehran’s Narmak neighborhood seeking favors; next, the Iranian press accounts of Ahmadinejad’s opportunistic trips to Iran’s provinces; then rumors from spokespeople that he intends to run for the presidency in 2017; and now a public letter to the president of the United States seeking the repatriation of $2 billion of assets frozen in the US.
But will all of these efforts and publicity help him succeed in reclaiming the presidency, and winning the mandate of the Islamic Republic’s hardliners?
An Iran poll survey suggests that the former president now trails incumbent Hassan Rouhani by just eight percentage points in a head-to-head match-up, compared with 27 points in May 2015. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story – indeed, Ahmadinejad faces an uphill battle in regaining the regime imprimatur due to heavy political baggage.
Ahmadinejad was the Supreme Leader’s darling when he began his reign in 2005. It is believed that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei quietly supported Ahmadinejad while his influential son Mojtaba openly endorsed him in 2005, all in the midst of a run-off between Ahmadinejad’s campaign and that of the moderate former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
But as early as 2008, the bloom was beginning to come off the rose, with reports circulating that Khamenei was disappointed with Ahmadinejad’s economic policies, which “had led to steep inflation in basic necessities, from food to property values.”
Then came his hotly contested reelection in 2009, which saw the Supreme Leader publicly bless Ahmadinejad’s purported victory during a dispute between his camp and that of his challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi. But at the same time, the cracks in the relationship continued to grow, with the Supreme Leader having to publicly chastise Ahmadinejad for his accusations of corruption against his opponents during live televised debates, saying “[o]ne doesn’t like to see a nominee, for the sake of proving himself, seeking to negate somebody else.”
Ahmadinejad soon fell even deeper out of favor. In 2011 he fired his intelligence minister, accusing him of being a spy who disseminated information to the Supreme Leader on his chief of staff – and preferred successor – Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. This led to Khamenei having to reinstate the intelligence chief, prompting Ahmadinejad to begin his “great sulk” – not appearing in public or participating in cabinet meetings for two weeks.
The mullahcracy in Tehran long had its eye on Mashaei, whom it suspected of attempting to undermine their religious authority.
Throughout the rest of his presidency, a fifth clerical column routinely targeted Ahmadinejad’s allies – in 2011 he saw at least 25 lieutenants arrested and accused of “black magic.” According to media reports, one arrested supporter was dubbed by a conservative daily as a “man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with unknown worlds” and was “accused of summoning a genie, who caused his interrogator to have a heart attack.”
By the 2013 presidential campaign season, the former president was considered damaged goods. In a final political rebuke, rumors ran rampant in Tehran that Ahmadinejad would face 74 lashes or six months in jail after he illegally accompanied Mashaei to register as a candidate. In the end his loyal confidante Mashaei was barred from running for the presidency.
Even after Ahmadinejad left office his record continued to haunt the halls of power in Tehran.
His first vice president, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, was sentenced to five years in prison and forced to pay a $300,000 fine on undisclosed embezzlement charges; Hamid Baqaei, Ahmadinejad’s vice president for executive affairs, was arrested in 2015 on unspecified grounds; his ally and billionaire Babak Zanjani was sentenced to death for fraud and economic crimes in profiting off of sanctions imposed on Iran; current regime officials have called for Ahmadinejad himself to stand trial for mismanagement of the country; and the most recent “pay slip-gate” furor over the inflated salaries of the heads of state-owned companies seems to have begun during his reign.
Finally, let’s not forget the power of the Guardian Council. There is a precedent for a former president being prohibited from running for the presidency again: in 2013, the Guardian Council thwarted former president Rafsanjani’s ambitions for a third term, suggesting that Rafsanjani was too old. His battles – like Ahmadinejad’s – with the Supreme Leader have become legendary.
Ahmadinejad could find himself sharing a similar fate.
So, while Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is once again entering the political limelight, his record and reputation precede him. His list of enemies is long, but will memories of his reign be short with the lack of economic improvement in the aftermath of the Rouhani administration’s nuclear deal? Only time will tell.
Turkish tank units have entered Syria as part of a military operation backed by Turkish and US-led coalition warplanes to clear the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group from the Syrian border town of Jarablus, according to Turkish state media.
Turkish special forces had crossed the border and entered Jarablus early on Wednesday, officials said.
“The operation, which began at around 4am local time (01:00 GMT), is aimed at clearing the Turkish borders of terrorist groups, helping to enhance border security and supporting the territorial integrity of Syria,” Anadolu Agency quoted Turkish officials as saying.
Turkish media said the operation involved artillery and rocket shelling as well as warplanes, before the ground forces, including heavy armoured vehicles, entered Syria towards noon.
So far, Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters backed by Turkey have captured four villages and total of 46 ISIL fighters have been killed in the operation, Dogan news agency said on Wednesday.
Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that Turkish tanks in Syrian territories blocked ISIL’s support routes and Turkish fighter jets along with coalition jets pounded ISIL vehicles headed from the al-Bab region to support ISIL fighters in the Jarablus area.
Meanwhile some 5,000 FSA fighters, including groups from the Sultan Murat Brigade, Sukur al-Jeber, Sham Front and Feylek al-Sham, were reportedly advancing toward central Jarablus.
PYD and ISIL targeted
The operation is targeting ISIL and Syrian Kurdish fighters in northern Syria to end attacks on Turkey’s border, President Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech in the capital Ankara on Wednesday.
“At 4:00 this morning, operations started in the north of Syria against terror groups which constantly threaten our country, like Daesh [the Arabic acronym for ISIL] and the PYD [the Syrian Kurdish group],” he said in a speech in Ankara.
Turkey had pledged on Monday to “completely cleanse” ISIL fighters from its border region after a suicide bomber suspected of links to the group killed 54 people at a Kurdish wedding in the southeastern city of Gaziantep.
Turkey is also concerned about the growing influence of Syrian Kurdish groups along its border, where they have captured large expanses of territory since the start of the Syrian war in 2011.
Turkey sees them as tied to the PKK, which has been waging an armed campaign mainly in the country’s southeast.
“It is hard to conduct this operation without the green light from Moscow, Tehran, Damascus and Washington,” Metin Gurcan, security analyst, told Al Jazeera from Istanbul.
“The open objective in this operation is that Turkey is trying to create an ISIL-free humanitarian zone by clearing Jarablus for possible flow of refugees,” he said.
“The covert objective is another one. The PYD’s recent advances alarmed Ankara. Turkey aims to deny the PYD’s objective of connecting cantons it controls and creating monolithic Kurdish entity.”
The military operation against ISIL comes as Syrian rebels, backed by Turkey, also say they are in the final stages of preparing an assault from Turkish territory on Jarablus, aiming to pre-empt a potential attempt by Syrian Kurdish forces of PYD to take it.
The PYD, a critical part of the US-backed campaign against ISIL, took near-complete control of Hasaka city on Tuesday.
The group already controls chunks of northern Syria where Kurdish groups have established de facto autonomy since the start of the Syria war – a development that has alarmed Turkey.
Turkey’s army and international coalition forces on Wednesday started an operation to drive Islamic State jihadists out of a key Syrian border town, a statement from the Turkish prime minister’s office said.
“The Turkish Armed Forces and the International Coalition Air Forces have launched a military operation aimed at clearing the district of Jarablus of the province of Aleppo from the terrorist organisation Daesh,” it added, using an Arabic acronym for IS group.
The state-run news agency Anadolu said the operation began at around 4 am local time (0100 GMT).
Turkish F-16 jets dropped bombs on IS targets in Jarablus — the first such assault since a November crisis with Russia sparked by the downing of one of Moscow’s warplanes by the Turkish air force, the private NTV television reported.
Security sources quoted by Turkish television said a small contingent of special forces travelled a few kilometres into Syria to secure the area before a possible operation.
Broadcaster CNN-Turk reported that Turkish artillery hit 63 targets in Syria.
Several mortar rounds from IS-held Jarablus hit the Turkish border town of Karkamis on Tuesday, prompting the army to pound the jihadist positions on Syrian soil with artillery strikes.
Official Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/216865
The U.S. Marine Corps is testing a pocket-sized drone that can deliver live video feeds from three cameras and is small enough that it’s almost invisible from the ground.
The Black Hornet PD-100 can stay aloft for 25 minutes and has a range of 1.6 km (1 mile). That means Marines can use it for surveillance far beyond their current position.
It can fly missions guided by GPS yet fits in a pocket. The cable hanging out the back in this image is an antenna, not a cord for power or data.
The three cameras can be used to send live video or take pictures. One camera points ahead, one directly down and one at 45 degrees to the ground.
The tests took place in California recently during an exercise called MIX-16, held to evaluate new technologies and how they might be used by the Marines.
The Black Hornet has already been used in Afghanistan by the British military, and the U.K. Ministry of Defence was sufficiently impressed to make it an ongoing part of the country’s military kit.
It’s made by Norway’s Prox Dynamics, and the Norwegian Special Forces have ordered a version with night-flying capability. The drone is also used by a handful of other countries.