Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaks on television after casting his ballot in the presidential election in Tehran, June 12, 2009. (photo by REUTERS/Caren Firouz)
With less than 10 days to go before Iranians head to the polls to elect a president and city council members, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cautioned against political unrest.
“The issue of security and calm is very important for the country,” Khamenei said in a May 10 speech to graduates of the Imam Hussein military academy. He encouraged the judiciary, the police force and the Interior Ministry, which oversees elections, in their duty to safeguard the security of the country during the process.
Khamenei also had a few words to say about George Soros, the billionaire investor who has spent millions of dollars around the world to advance political causes. “That rich American Zionist who said that he toppled Georgia with $10 million started to think he could do the same to Iran in 2009,” Khamenei said. “If anyone wants to rise up against the security of the nation, they will encounter a firm reaction.”
Soros’ Open Society Institute had been instrumental in promoting organizations and training activists who spearheaded the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia following disputed legislative elections. In 2009 in Iran, Reformist candidates made allegations of fraud in that year’s presidential election. Their accusations, plus a widespread crackdown on journalists and activists, resulted in the emergence of the Green Movement.
Unlike the leaders of protest movements in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and into the 2000s, however, Iranians at the forefront of the Green Movement did not call for toppling the government. Regardless, conservatives accused the movement and its leaders of working on behalf of foreign governments with the goal of regime change. It was then that Soros evolved into a notorious figure among conservative columnists.
Khamenei also warned the six candidates approved by the Guardian Council to contest the election to avoid stoking ethnic, regional or linguistic conflict and animosity during their campaigns. “It’s been many years that our enemies are working on these fault lines,” he said.
According to Khamenei, the “enemies of the Islamic Republic” have actively been trying to exploit such fault lines in Kurdistan, Balochistan and Sistan, Azerbaijan and Khouzestan provinces. Khamenei cautioned the candidates to be careful and not to make mistakes that might aid Iran’s enemies in furthering efforts “that they have done halfway and not been able to push forward.”
Khamenei did not refer to specific incidences, but Iran’s border regions, particularly in Balochistan and Sistan and Kurdistan, have experienced terrorist attacks against government officials and border security guards, who are mostly conscripts. The last such incident took place in April, when Sunni militants killed 10 border guards.
Tehran has in the past publicly expressed frustration with Pakistan for not monitoring its side of the border. On May 8, Mohammad Bagheri, head of Iran’s armed forces, warned that the military would strike terrorist cells inside Pakistan if the Pakistani government failed to stop their flow into Iran.
Meanwhile, Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, also recently caught Tehran’s attention with respect to its border region. In a May 2 interview, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman accused Iran of wanting to attack Saudi Arabia and asserted, “We’ll work so that the battle for them is in Iran.” In response, Iran delivered a formal complaint to the United Nations. Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan was less diplomatic, stating on May 7 that if the Saudis take a war inside Iran, nowhere in Saudi Arabia would be safe, with the exception of the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina.