Rights groups and opposition sites said dozens were summoned by the intelligence ministry for interrogation and had been detained. The Iranian government has denied there has been a wave of arrests, describing the reports as “baseless”.
Some officials and analysts believe that the aim is to limit pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani’s influence and recognition after his achievement in reaching a historic nuclear deal with the six significant powers in July that ended over a decade-old stand-off.
“The difficult-liners are wary of Rouhani’s influence at property and abroad. They fear it may possibly harm the balance of power in Iran,” a senior official close to Rouhani told Reuters on situation of anonymity.
Human rights groups and the United Nations have criticized Iran for what they say is a crackdown on freedom of expression and the media. There have been no precise numbers of just how several folks had been detained, no details of what charges if any were brought or regardless of whether there had been any trials.
Analysts say that suppressing dissenting voices has been stepped up since September when the country’s most powerful figure Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of “infiltration” by Iran’s enemies.
The judiciary has sentenced Iranian-American Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian to jail after being arrested in July 2014 on espionage charges. The U.S. government and the journalist’s household rejected the charges. The sentencing was followed by the arrest of Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi when visiting his relatives in Tehran.
GRIP ON Power
Iran’s economic hardships persuaded Khamenei to support Rouhani’s efforts to attain the nuclear deal, under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear plan in exchange for an easing of sanctions on its flagging economy.
The analysts say the tough-liners hope that the wave of arrests will help to tighten their grip on power and protect Khamenei’s authority from becoming challenged by the president with the elections just weeks away.
Analysts and officials close to the government think the arrests will also show the limits of the president’s energy internally and demoralize Iranians who could support pro-reform candidates in the subsequent elections.
An election win in Iran’s parliament and the Assembly of Authorities, a clerical physique with nominal power more than the supreme leader, would give Rouhani’s faction as well much power and influence in the country, tough-liners believe.
“It has often been the circumstance in Iran before the elections,” mentioned Iran-based analyst Saeed Leylaz. “Of course the nuclear deal and efforts to end Iran’s isolation have enhanced Rouhani’s reputation,” he said, adding:
“Rouhani’s opponents are worried about its influence on the vote results.”
Rouhani and his centrist and moderate backers could well be rewarded at the ballot box with their election promises of delivering a freer society.
KHAMENEI’S “RED LINE”
“Growing prestige at residence and abroad for Rouhani means significantly less authority for Khamenei and it has always been Khamenei’s red line,” said political analyst Hamid Farahvashian.
“More flexibility in foreign policy, has usually led to more pressure at property in Iran,” he said.
The United Nations has referred to as on Iran to stop arresting, harassing and prosecuting journalists and other activists.
“It is most likely to continue, at least until the upcoming votes and possibly beyond … the hard-liners are worried about Rouhani’s comparatively larger recognition … since of the nuclear deal,” mentioned Meir Javedanfar, politics lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya.
“By arresting reporters and activists, they are attempting to make Rouhani look weak and incompetent.”
Rouhani, who won a landslide election in 2013 on a progressive platform, has occasionally criticized the crackdown but has accomplished tiny to cease it.
Some supporters of Rouhani are losing patience, fearing now that he might lack the authority to develop a freer society.
“Rouhani blames challenging-liners for the limitations but words are not enough. I nevertheless support him because there is no other alternative,” mentioned a journalist in Tehran, who asked not to be named.
“His only concern is the economy and maintaining his position.”
Analysts say Rouhani lacks the constitutional power to take sensible steps to cease the suppression.
Under Iran’s constitution, Khamenei has the final say on all state matters and he has produced confident that no group, even challenging-liners, gain enough power to challenge the supreme leader’s authority because taking over the position in 1989.
ROUHANI Under SCRUTINY
Nevertheless, some doubt that Rouhani, who represented Khamenei on the Supreme National Safety Council for more than two decades, has the stomach to confront the leader and his challenging-line supporters to boost Iran’s human rights record.
“He is part of the establishment. He has gained this status since of the Islamic republic of Iran. Why must he shoot himself by weakening the program?” said Farahvashian.
If voters reward Rouhani’s allies in the elections, a pro-Rouhani majority in parliament could aid him to expand social and financial liberties.
Khamenei controls Iran’s judiciary, armed forces, the Guardian Council that vets laws and election candidates, public broadcasters and also enjoys the loyalty of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, which suppressed mass protests that followed the 2009 presidential election.
Because 1989 when he took over the position from the late founder of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Khamenei has always created certain that no group, such as from among his personal tough-line allies, gains enough energy to challenge him.
“Rouhani is a wise politician. He knows that Khamenei will by no means tolerate any challenge to his authority. For that reason, Rouhani will not make such a error as to confront Khamenei,” said a senior diplomat in Tehran.
“Such confrontations will jeopardize Rouhani’s political future. He does not want to turn into a lame duck president … for the rest of his term.”
A relative of Khamenei stated : “Our leader only thinks about the interests of our brave men and women, our nation and the Islamic republic. Political infighting is beneath him.”
(Reporting and writing by Parisa Hafezi in Ankara, editing by Peter Millership)