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Presidential Candidates Told To Avoid Military Topics

Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri.

The Iranian military has issued a warning to the six presidential candidates, instructing them to stay away from military and defense topics in their campaigns.

“The warning has been presented in writing to the candidates and the Iran Central Election Executive Board,” said General Masoud Jazayeri, senior spokesman for the General Staff of Iran Armed Forces.

“[We expect] the candidates to keep national interests and the security of the state in mind whenever they comment on military and defense topics,” he said, adding that “presidential candidates are also required to refrain from any ‘unprofessional interference’ by commenting on military issues. When it comes to military and security issues, presidents have no authority.”

According to the statement, the warning also serves as a reminder for the election executive board to monitor presidential campaigns and related media reports.

Nuclear Deal And The Shadow of War

Time and again in his campaign rallies and speeches, incumbent President Hassan Rouhani has boasted of his government’s achievements in preventing a possible military attack against Iran. He has argued that the nuclear deal Iran reached with major powers was the main factor eliminating the threat of war.

“In the May 19 elections, people should choose between the glory of Iran and the ghastly shadow of war,” he said in a recent visit to Yazd Province.

However, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei disagreed. “Some say since we assumed office the shadow of war has faded. This is not true. It has been the people’s presence in the political arena that has lifted the shadow of war from this nation.”

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ aerospace commander, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, also denied Rouhani’s claim, calling it a lie and boasting on his part that “the reason behind the elimination of war threats against the nation is Iran’s progress in defense fields.”

Other hardliners, including justice chief Sadegh Larijani and Ebrahim Raisi, one of Rouhani’s main challengers in the upcoming election, joined the chorus and dismissed the incumbent’s comments.

“What removed the shadow of war was the presence of pious and faithful people who are armed with insight,” said Raisi, a mid-ranking cleric.

In a campaign rally, Raisi implicitly attacked Rouhani and reminded his supporters, “We should not warn our people of wars and crises. We have total security in the country. Iran has no need of foreign help to improve her economy and is always capable of defending herself.”

Rouhani Stands By His Words

Ignoring the chorus of hardliners against the nuclear deal, Rouhani again defended his position when inaugurating a new refinery in the Persian Gulf port city of Bandar Abbas.

“The nuclear deal was a national achievement. We should make use of its advantages. Nevertheless, some have started to dispute it,” he said.

In recent days, the barrage of criticism against Rouhani has gained momentum and intensified. His economic policies have also become the target of conservatives’ scathing criticism.