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

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.


Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 26 May 2020

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.