Khamenei laments 'loss' of hard-line Assembly of Experts members

At the last meeting of Iran’s outgoing Assembly of Experts, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed regret for the departure of two hard-liners and defended the Guardian Council's disqualification of several Reformist candidates.

al-monitor Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (C) meets with the members of the outgoing Assembly of Experts, Tehran, March 10, 2016. Photo by Mehr News Agency.
Arash Karami

Arash Karami

@thekarami

Topics covered

mohammad yazdi, iran election, hassan rouhani, guardian council, assembly of experts, ali khamenei, ali akbar hashemi rafsanjani

Mar 10, 2016

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met for the last time with the outgoing members of the Assembly of Experts before the winners of the Feb. 26 elections take office.

Missing from the next meeting will be two of the country’s most hard-line clerics, chairman Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi and Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi. In his address to the assembly, Khamenei called their departure "a loss" and stressed that their losing the election does not “harm their reputation in any way.”

Perhaps no one in the next assembly will be more relieved by their absence than Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani lost the last election for the chairmanship to Yazdi. Meanwhile, Mesbah-Yazdi and the hard-line political group he leads, the Endurance Front, are some of Rafsanjani’s harshest critics. That Khamenei would mention these two individuals by name and lament their absence suggests that should Rafsanjani seek to take back the chairmanship in the assembly, he may find it no easy task.

Khamenei also praised the 62% voter turnout for the parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections, saying that Iran had better voter participation than the United States. He said that the turnout signifies the people’s “trust in the Islamic system.”

Khamenei thanked all the organizations that helped administer "calm and secure" elections, including the Intelligence Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij Organization. In comparison to the contested 2009 presidential elections, which resulted in protests, Khamenei said, “The Feb. 26 elections once again shows as incorrect and unreliable the comments by those who said the 2009 elections were discredited and brought about sedition.”

Khamenei also addressed one of the more controversial aspects of the elections: the disqualification by the Guardian Council of approximately half of the 12,000 candidates who registered to run, including many Reformists. Khamenei defended the Guardian Council and said it did its work with “seriousness,” and if there was a problem, it had to do with laws that should be reformed.

Khamenei added, “Reviewing the qualifications of 12,000 candidates in 20 days is a legal problem and needs to be resolved, [but] the Guardian Council must not be attacked because of this legal problem.” He said that any attack on the Guardian Council is “un-Islamic, illegal, anti-religious and anti-revolutionary.” Khamenei did not mention names, but Rafsanjani and President Hassan Rouhani, who are also members of the assembly and attended the meeting, have both been critical of the Guardian Council in recent months.

Khamenei also indirectly addressed Rouhani’s desire to better Iran's relations with the world, saying, “We have to have relations with the world — of course, except with America and the Zionist regime  but we have to know that the world is not limited to Europe and the West.”

Since taking office in 2013, much of Rouhani’s diplomatic efforts have been focused on European countries. European leaders and businessmen have been traveling to Iran and a number of agreements and deals have been struck. However, Khamenei questioned these deals with Western countries, saying, “They have had no positive impact and in action, it has to become clear what impact this coming and going has had. Otherwise, an agreement on a piece of paper is useless.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since its initial publication.

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