A prominent right-wing commentator in Iran has called the country's former presidents opposition figures and said that the regime should “twist their arms.”
Hassan Rahimpour Azghadi, an ultraconservative commentator who usually speaks on Iranian national television as a member of the Cultural Revolution Council, said in an interview with the right-wing Students News Network (SNN) that criticisms by former presidents of Iran are "non-constructive" and aimed at "toppling other political figures and replacing them."
Among former presidents only populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) has been vocal since 2017 when his candidacy for president was rejected by the Guardian Council, controlled by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. His successor Hassan Rouhani has disappeared from the scene after his term ended in early August, and Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) has been forced into silence by the intelligence services. Even Khatami’s photos are banned from government-controlled media.
Hardliners loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have been occasionally attacking former presidents for not being fully in synch with prevailing policies. They have been even running a campaign to prosecute Rouhani.
Aghzadi even named the deceased former deputy supreme leader Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri and the Islamic Republic's first Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan as opposition figures. What all these politicians had in common was open or indirect disagreement with the overarching power of the Supreme Leader in the Islamic Republic.
Azghadi further criticized the former presidents for questioning the validity of the Islamic Republic's Constitution once they left office. However, he failed to mention that Mohammad Khatami and Hassan Rouhani had spoken out even when they were in office.
Azghadi stressed that those former officials need to understand that what they criticize now is the outcome of their own political performance. Meanwhile he claimed that former officials should not act against the system as this is a political system that can be reformed through democratic means.
He made the statement mindless of the fact that the existence of the non-elected Guardian Council that handpicks election candidates based on their loyalty to the Supreme Leader is far from being democratic.
A commentary published by Iran's leading economic daily Donyaye Eqtesad tried to respond to hardliner rhetoric by observing that former presidents have always been complaining about the intervention of non-elected and institutions without executive responsibility in the affairs of their administration.
The daily pointed out that if former presidents sound like opposition figures, then tens of millions of voters who had voted for them in various rounds of elections are now part of the opposition.
Donyaye Eqtesad also pointed to the limitations imposed on Mohammad Khatami, saying that “his arm has already been twisted.” The daily also reminded that that two months after Hassan Rouhani left office, he was mentioned only once in the media with no derogatory comment when he sent a condolence message following the death of a top cleric.
The daily wrote that if anyone's arm is to be twisted, it is the arm of those, including Azghadi, who have been on the Cultural Revolution Council and have degraded Iranian universities to the level of high schools.
The commentary asked at the end whether Vice President for Economic Affairs Mohsen Rezaei, a former commander of the IRGC and a candidate in the presidential election, is also an opposition figure, because he said during televised debates that hardliners "have kicked so many revolutionary figures out of the train of the revolution that what has remained of the revolution is a scooter!"
The daily also asked referring to Azghadi’s opposition against all presidents since 1990: "If being an opposition figure is bad, why Azghadi himself has been an opposition figure for such a long time?"