Iran bans powerful candidates from election

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
May 22, 2013

Ahmadinejad favorite banned from elections, Karzai asks for Indian arms, and battle rages for strategic Syrian city. Today is Wednesday, May 22, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.


Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) and then First Vice President Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie attend a ceremony in Tehran, July 22, 2009.  REUTERS/Yalda Moaiery

Khamenei clears the field for hardline loyalists. Iran’s supreme leader plans to bar two candidates from running in the country’s June 14 presidential election, a move that threatens to further alienate voters:

The Guardian Council, a vetting body, disqualified ex-President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, despite his hefty political role in the past three decades, as well as Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s former chief of staff, leaving a field dominated by hardliners loyal to Khamenei… Barring surprises, their elimination sets the stage for a Khamenei loyalist from the “principlist” camp to win – and will disappoint many Iranians, notably those from urban and middle-class backgrounds, who had hoped for a more open contest.

By eliminating the candidates, Khamenei hopes to avoid a repeat of the disastrous 2009 elections, when accusations of vote-rigging led to the worst popular unrest in the history of the Islamic Republic. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejadsaid he will work to get Mashaie, who he called a “righteous person and beneficial for the country,” back on the presidential ballot. Hardliners distrust Mashaie because they see him as the leader of a nationalist movement whose goal is to undermine clerical rule. As president, Rafsanjani could have attempted to repair ties with the West as U.S. sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program cripple the country’s economy.

Karzai’s weapons wishlist. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said today that he requested military equipment from India, putting New Delhi in a difficult position:

India wants to stabilize Afghanistan and is concerned about the resurgence of militant groups after foreign combat troops leave in 2014. But arming Afghanistan would alarm Pakistan. It takes issue with the influence of its old rival in Afghanistan. India does not want to get drawn into a proxy war with Pakistan, which has ties to the Taliban.

Karzai’s request comes amid tense relations with Pakistan following clashes over a contested border area. India and Afghanistan signed a partnership agreement in 2011, under which India agreed to help train Afghanistan forces and supply them with arms.

Battle for the road to Damascus. A fierce battle in the strategic Syrian city of Qusair between rebel soldiers and pro-Assad factions, including members of Iranian-backed Hezbollah, increased Western fears that Syria’s conflict is spreading sectarian violence in the region:

The fighting has drawn in fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, the latest sign of outside involvement in the war and evidence, according to Britain, that Iran and its allies in the militant group are lending increasing support to Assad. After months of warnings from regional and international experts, violence is now spilling over Syria’s borders, with clashes between pro- and anti-Assad factions in the Lebanese city of Tripoli and exchanges of fire between Syrian and Israeli forces in the Golan Heights.

Syria’s rebel forces called for reinforcements to fight off pro-Assad soldiers, warning that loss of control of Qusair could lead to revenge attacks against Shi’ites and Alawites on both sides of the Syrian-Lebanese border. One rebel soldier said that the fate of the rebel movement could hang in the balance, noting that “if we lose Qusair we lose Homs, and if we lose Homs, we lose the heart of the country.”

Nota Bene: Stockholm is hit by the worst riots in years as hundreds set fire to cars and attack police.

Standouts:

Hollande in Wonderland - Reuters Editor-at-Large Gary Regenstreif writes that France’s socialist leader could learn a thing or two from the Queen of Hearts. (Reuters)

Bear necessities? - Animal rights groups are up in arms over a folk remedy extracted from bears. (The New York Times)

FARC defector - A former Colombian rebel calls the movement a lost cause. (The Los Angeles Times)

Polite thief - A robber returns stolen purse with an apology note. (Want China Times)

Topless activist arrested - Authorities arrest Tunisia’s ‘topless jihad’ protester after she reportedly spent months in hiding. (Al Arabiya/The Associated Press)

From the File:

  • Germany backs call to put Hezbollah armed wing on EU terror list
  • Militants release seven Egyptians kidnapped in Sinai
  • Pussy Riot member starts hunger strike to protest court ruling
  • Turkey shuts Syria border crossing after deadly bombings
  • North Korea sends top Kim Jong-un aide to Beijing

(CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that the 2009 Iranian elections saw the worst unrest in the history of Iran, rather than the worst popular unrest since the Islamic Republic of Iran’s formation in 1979.)

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