After months of political maneuvering, the scion of the powerful Khomeini family and the projected figurehead of Iran’s ailing reform movement was definitively barred Wednesday from participating in parliamentary elections this month, The New York Times reports:
Hassan Khomeini, 43, a Shiite Muslim cleric like his grandfather, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, lost his appeal before the Guardian Council, a powerful vetting group dominated by hard-liners.
Mr. Khomeini was among the thousands of candidates, most of them reformists, who were barred from the parliamentary elections and from the vote for the 88-member Assembly of Experts, which is charged with electing the supreme leader. Iran’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is 76 and has had some health problems in the past year.
The disqualification sent an unmistakable message to Mr. Khomeini and to the reformist bloc he aspires to lead, one analyst said.
“That message is: We do not share any power with you,” said Nader Karimi Joni, a journalist with close ties to the reformist faction. “The more reformists in the assembly, the more chance they will get to pick a new leader closer to their line of thinking.”
Mr. Namazi was arrested by operatives of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps while visiting relatives in Tehran, acquaintances have said. …Increasingly alarmed, five Iranian-American advocacy groups on Monday released the text of a letter sent on Friday to Secretary of State John Kerry imploring him to “redouble your efforts” to secure Mr. Namazi’s release.
While Iran announces multi-billion-euro deals with European multinationals, Namazi’s case sends a chilling message to expatriates who hope to participate in the economic opening following the lifting of sanctions, Reuters adds.
Iran however, “might attempt to use any additional U.S. citizens” held in Iran “as bargaining chips for U.S. concessions,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote in a worldwide threat summary submitted to Congress on Tuesday.
Asked what it was doing to win his release, the U.S. State Department declined comment on the individual case, citing “privacy concerns”.
“The U.S. government does everything and will continue to do everything it can on behalf of its citizens detained around the world who request our assistance,” said Sam Werberg, press officer for the Office of Iranian Affairs.
Saeid Golkar, a senior fellow of Iran policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a lecturer at Northwestern University, said he knew of many Iranian-Americans who had put off trips to Iran. Mr. Namazi’s arrest, he said, had sent a message that “the nuclear deal was a great deal but not for Iranian-Americans,” he told The Times:
Cliff Kupchan, an Iran expert who knows Mr. Namazi and is chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy in Washington, said Mr. Namazi’s troubles may signal Iran’s intent to keep using imprisoned Iranian-Americans as leverage.
“The kinds of people that particularly scare the Iranian government are members of the diaspora that are extremely well connected within Iran and could pose a threat to existing economic connections, and even to a real extent to political dynamics,” Mr. Kupchan said. “Siamak fits that like a wet T-shirt.”