An Unlikely Reformist Joins Iran's Presidential Field

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The ex-spy chief and wanted terrorist who proposes to scale back his country's nuclear program and reconcile with the United States.

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Former Iranian intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, escorted by his bodyguards, is seen in Tehran on Dec. 22, 2000. (Hasan Sarbakhshian/Reuters)

One of the most feared figures of Iran's Islamic establishment has announced his candidacy in the country's June 14 presidential vote.

Ali Fallahian, a member of Iran's Assembly of Experts who served as intelligence minister under former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been accused of involvement in the killings of Iranian dissidents and is on Interpol's wanted list for alleged participation in the 1995 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.

He announced his candidacy on February 19 in Birjand. "People's requests to me have reached a threshold; my candidacy in the presidential vote is definite," Fallahian said.
The Democracy Report
Fallahian, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2001, said his campaign slogan will be "Advanced Islamic Country," and that stabilizing prices and fighting inflation will be among his priorities.


Fallahian seemed to suggest that if he were elected he would halt Iran's controversial uranium-enrichment program. "Enough of nuclear. We don't want nuclear enrichment, we have already mastered its knowledge," he said.

He also appeared to suggest that he would seek improved ties with the United States. "Given the many offers made by the Americans at different occasions, and the U.S. need for Iran's support to create stability in the region -- including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Tunisia, and Egypt -- I see a bright horizon for the ties between Iran and the U.S," he said during his announcement.

But Interpol would like to see Fallahian in custody. And he is the second Iranian official on Interpol's wanted list to announce presidential aspirations.

The other is Mohsen Rezai, secretary of Iran's Expediency Council and a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Rezai said on February 19 that he will officially announce his candidacy in the coming days.

Like Fallahian, Rezai is suspected of playing a role in the Buenos Aires Jewish center bombing.

Associated With Several Murders

For many Iranians, Fallahian's name is closely associated with several murders and disappearances of Iranian intellectuals while he was serving as intelligence minister from 1989 to 1997.

Rights groups and a German court have linked the 68-year-old to several such murders, both inside and outside the country, and he has also been implicated in the 1992 assassinations of three Iranian Kurdish opposition leaders.

After Fallahian left office his senior deputy, Said Emami, and several other Intelligence Ministry officials were arrested for the murders of four dissidents in 1998 and 1999. Emami subsequently died in prison and the authorities described his death as a suicide.

Fallahian finished  sixth in the 2001 presidential election that kept reformist Mohammad Khatami in power. He received 0.2 percent of the vote.

Some observers have suggested that the cleric knew he didn't have a chance of winning and only ran to try and clear his name.

In his bestselling book, "Dungeon of Ghosts," Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji connected the series of dissident murders to leading figures, including former President Rafsanjani and Fallahian, who was identified as "The Master Key."

In a recent interview with the "Tejarat Weekly," Fallahian told a reporter he didn't want to be asked about things that happened while he was intelligence minister. "I want to become president, ask me economic questions," he said.



This post appears courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
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