Iran’s Khamenei urges massive vote to bolster regime

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves before speaking to the audience in Tehran on Wednesday. (via Reuters)
Updated 17 May 2017
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Iran’s Khamenei urges massive vote to bolster regime

TEHRAN: Iran’s top two presidential candidates launched a final day of election campaigning Wednesday as the supreme leader called for a massive turnout to bolster the regime against its “enemies.”
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested Iran’s foes would be deterred from pursuing regime change if they saw voters flock to the ballot boxes in Friday’s poll.
“American, European officials and those of the Zionist regime are watching our elections to see the level of participation,” he said in quotes carried on his Telegram messenger account.
“The Iranian nation has enemies. Faced with the enemy, the people should show its determination and calm,” he said.
Turnout is all-important to the Iranian regime, which uses regular elections to demonstrate the legitimacy of its Islamic system.
But on the campaign trail, two starkly different visions of how that system will evolve have been on display.
President Hassan Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric, defended his international outreach, which included a nuclear deal with world powers that ended many sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran’s atomic program.
Rouhani told his hard-line opponents they were not equipped to continue his diplomatic efforts.
“You say you want to negotiate with the world, but you don’t know how to speak the global language. You don’t even know how to speak the language of your own people,” he said at a rally in the northern town of Ardebil.
His hard-line opponent, 56-year-old cleric Ebrahim Raisi, has vowed to stick by the nuclear deal, but said the government had made too many concessions to the West and failed to “cash the cheque” offered by the accord.
“A diplomacy of supplication will not solve our problems. We need a diplomacy of strength,” he told supporters in Tehran, according to ISNA news agency.
Raisi said Iran’s continued exclusion from international banking, despite the nuclear deal, was proof that Rouhani’s diplomacy had failed.
“Some people say that if we’re elected, the sanctions will return,” said Raisi.
“But in what measure have the sanctions been lifted? The banking sanctions that were the most important are still in place.”
Campaigning will draw to a close on Thursday morning, 24 hours before polls open.
Rouhani is still seen as the front-runner, though polling is unreliable in Iran.
Early election results are expected on Saturday.
The conservative-dominated Guardian Council selected six candidates to stand in the election but two have dropped out, effectively creating a two-horse race between Raisi and Rouhani.
Conservative Mostafa Mirsalim and reformist Mostafa Hashemitaba are still in the race, though they are not expected to win more than a few percent of the vote.


Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

Palestinians celebrate the resignation of Israel's defense minister. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

  • The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM: A knife-wielding Palestinian attacker sneaked into a Jerusalem police station and lightly wounded four police officers before he was shot and captured, Israeli police said on Thursday.

The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip that ended two days of heavy fighting, the area’s most severe violence since the 50-day Gaza war in 2014.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the knife-wielding attacker climbed over the station’s fence late on Wednesday night and began stabbing officers inside. Other officers then shot the assailant and captured him; he was later taken to hospital.

In the two days of heavy fighting, Palestinian militants had fired 460 rockets and mortars into Israel, while Israel carried out airstrikes on 160 Gaza targets. Seven Palestinians, including five militants, were killed. A rocket fired from Gaza killed a Palestinian laborer in Israel.

The latest round of violence was triggered by a botched Israeli raid on Sunday that left seven Palestinians and a senior Israeli military officer dead. Before the raid, Egyptian and UN mediators had made progress in reducing tensions.

In recent days, Israel had allowed fuel shipments to increase the power supply in Gaza, which suffers from frequent blackouts, and agreed to additional Qatari assistance to allow Hamas to pay the salaries of its thousands of government workers.

The cease-fire led to the resignation of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who had demanded a far stronger Israeli response to the Palestinian rocket attack but appeared to have been overruled by Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

Resignation

The resignation threw the government into turmoil and pushed the country toward an early election. Netanyahu presented the decision to step back from a full-blown conflict as a unified one made by his Security Cabinet and based on the military’s recommendations. 

But Lieberman and fellow hard-liner Education Minister Naftali Bennett later expressed reservations, saying they favored a stronger response.

Hamas has staged  near-weekly border protests since March in an effort to lift the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of the coastal strip in 2007.  This has inflicted heavy damage on Gaza, but Hamas remains firmly in power. Demonstrators each week approach the border fence, throwing firebombs, grenades and burning tires at Israeli troops. Israeli snipers have killed about 170 people, most of them unarmed.

Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party was demanding to be given the defense portfolio or he would withdraw his eight seats from Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

Another key coalition partner, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon of center-right Kulanu, reportedly told Netanyahu elections should be called as soon as possible because a stable government was needed to keep the economy on track.

Premier Netanyahu’s political popularity is in large part due to his reputation as Israel’s “Mr. Security,” as he has often been dubbed, and he has defended his decision saying: “Our enemies begged for a cease-fire.

“In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy,” he said.