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Is Iran's next president the face of its nuclear program?

May 17th, 2013
11:29 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Iran holds presidential elections on June 14, and Saeed Jalili, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, is hoping to get the top job; he appears to have the support of Ayatollah Khamenei.

In a country with an ayatollah, it’s nice to be a favorite.

The Ayatollah is hoping for a smoother election that in 2009, when the country erupted into protests among allegations that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the election fraudulently.

Scores of reformists and activists have been arrested ahead of next month’s vote, but it the last-minute entry of two more major candidates that may have the biggest effect on the race.

Former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, who very publically supported the 2009 election protests, threw his hat in the presidential ring last week.

And Ahmadinejad’s hand-picked successor, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, is contesting the race. Ahmadinejad, who is term-limited and cannot run again, has fallen out of favor with the Ayatollah in his second term; so too has protégé, Mashaei.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, Jalili seemed unfazed by his new competition.

“Iran is a democratic, religious system of government,” he said through an interpreter. “The more participation we have, the stronger the system will be.”

Iran’s system of government requires that all presidential candidates be vetted by a Guardian Council before they can actually participate in a presidential election.

“I myself, or other candidates – all candidates for that matter – have to be vetted by the Guardian Council, and we have to abide by the letter of the law,” he said. “One of its duties is to determine the competency of would-be candidates.”

Ayatollah Khamenei’s public disagreements with Mashaei and Rafsanjani, Jalili said, will have no effect on the race.

“His Eminence does not prefer one candidate over another,” he said. “So we are going to, Inshallah, God willing, have a vibrant race.”

Before Jalili can concentrate on his desired new post, however, he must deal with the biggest issue facing Iran on the world stage: its nuclear program.

As chief nuclear negotiator, he is responsible for convincing the world that Iran’s nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has always stressed that for peaceful purposes, we believe enrichment is our right,” he said.

Iran, as a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, does indeed have the right to the civilian use of nuclear energy.

According to Jalili, his country’s participation with the agency that is tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is extensive.

“The cooperation we have had with the agency, dare I say, is unprecedented and unique,” he told Amanpour. “Thousands of man-hours of inspections have been carried out and all the activities of Iran are under the monitoring supervision of the agencies.”

Iran will soon vote to replace a president who has taken a hard line in nuclear negotiations; how it votes, and what Jalili will do should he be elected, will have far-reaching implications for its economy, its place on the world-stage, and its people.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Joshus

    This election is already over. Khamenei decided for the people...as he knows best :|

    May 17, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Reply
    • Iranian

      This is an unsubstantiated claim. While the Iranian election system may have its flaws, particularly the candidate vetting process in the Guardian Council, the actual voting process is overally free and fair, and decided by genuine voters, not the authorities. Notably, there have been outcomes against the candidates ostensibly supported by Khamenei, e.g. Khatami's election in 1997 and 2001 (even though Khamenei has never revealed which candidate he in fact votes for). Even the results of the 2009 election, which was painted as rigged by the supporters of the losing candidate (Mousavi) and most Western media, turned out to be genuine through multiple independent opinion polls carried out by prestigious Western pollsters like Terror Free Tomorrow and World Public Opinion and the fact that no real evidence of widescale fraud was put forward by the losing candidates (Mousavi had representatives at most of the polling stations).

      May 17, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Reply
      • meifumado

        Says the member of the revolutionary guard!

        May 17, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
      • Iranian

        meifumado,

        No, I'm an ordinary Iranian. Also, IMO, a paid member of the IRGC for propaganda purposes (if any such thing exists) would never raise doubts about the candidate vetting process by the Guardian Council.

        I urge you to come up with a counter-argument to address my points. Countering actual argument with ad-hominem attacks shows the weakness of your logic and muddles informed, rational argument.

        May 17, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
      • spocksbrain

        Even if the actual election was not rigged, the factors preceding it and stemming from it reveal much truth. Beating people in the streets (intimidation), arresting journalists and opposition candidates, and the very fact that candidates cannot even run for office unless approved by Khameini and his ilk show how restricted this "democracy" in fact is. Iran does not harbor a free society and as such, its election process is a sham.

        May 17, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
      • Msmish

        LOL, if you are really " Iranian" why are you sticking up for the animals that are running the country? I seriously doubt they give a crap what the Iranian ppl want and majority of Iranian's DO NOT want ANY mullah or blood sucking ayatollah running their country.

        May 18, 2013 at 8:22 am |
      • 2Bob

        Middle Eastern "religious democracy' in action.
        Doesn't really matter who wins. The guy with the black hat still makes all the decisions.

        May 18, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • Milad

      Everybody said the same thing (conspiracy theory) back in 2005 election when Ahmadinejad won despite all speculations which indicates Supreme leader support Rafsanjani.
      Next president will have challenge with supreme leader and right wing parliament but still can do something as Khatami did.
      Here in US Obama can't do anything against gun lobby NRA, so can we say he can't do anything else and loose our hope?

      May 18, 2013 at 7:18 am | Reply
    • Miller Morstan

      Iran does not have elections it has selections.

      May 18, 2013 at 7:49 pm | Reply
  2. shepherdgregory

    Russia insisting Iran part of emergency talks on Syria.[BBC 00:00.]

    Any thoughts?

    May 17, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Reply
    • Milad

      Thats a good suggestion by Russia simply because Iran is a huge player in the region. US behave as if 99.9% of Syrian are against Assad and support armed gang al-qaida, so how come Assad is still in power despite west famous quote from TWO years: "Assad days are numbering"
      Turkey and US are not in a position to say Assad has to go, this will be Syrian people decision.
      Russia stance is moral, practical and realistic.

      May 18, 2013 at 7:25 am | Reply
  3. Muslim Answers

    The situation is a no-win for the U.S.A. whoever is the president of Iran or its "Supreme Leader", as long as they insist that Iran cannot have any type of nuclear technology.

    I am not in favor of the Iranian leadership, but this is something concerning national prestige and honor, and generally a "nation" takes this much more seriously than its election of presidents, etc.

    May 17, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Reply
  4. Worldsavior

    After all years on the ongoing crisis between west vs Iran. I have to say Iran is very honest about their nuclear program. Just close the file on Iran. And focus on the world major problems like the climate change, Israel Palestine conflict,The economy, North korea,and the threat from Space.

    May 18, 2013 at 3:38 am | Reply
  5. Milad

    No matter who win the Iran's election, US has to respect Iran's right for uranium enrichment, ease the sanction and accept Iran as a real regional power then Iran of course will show more corporation. However, it is important who win the election in Iran as it is important who is the US president, John Mccain/John Bolton or Obama/Kerry!
    Practically the best option in Iran is Rafsanjani now.

    May 18, 2013 at 7:12 am | Reply
    • Ron

      Why? Milad – Respect is earned not demanded.

      May 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Reply
      • Milad

        Ron;
        yes but don't forget what US has done to Iran so far; coup against Mosadegh (Iran would have been really different today, if US didn't commit that coup against democracy)
        -shooting down Iranian jet with 300 passenger in its own maritime territory
        -arming Saddam against Iran and being silent about Saddam chemical weapon in 80s
        -civilian aircraft part sanction against international law
        -arming Israel despite its several nuclear warheads
        - i'll give you several more if you require...

        May 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
      • Matt

        The right to a non-military nuclear program is granted by the NPT. Iran doesn't have to earn this right – it has it. And the US must respect that. That's how law works. Period.

        May 21, 2013 at 3:41 am |
  6. H. B.

    Yeah, Iran is a really noble government. They've told their people, over and over, through imagery of white doves in a blue sky to outright propaganda, that nuclear reactors are pure, clean, cheap (once the facilities are paid for, of course) and safe energy. The people believe this.

    This might be so, in some parts of the world (not many). But not in Iran. NEVER in Iran. Most Iranians have no clue about the extreme threat the reactors would pose to them. And this has nothing at all to do with its absolutist government. It has to do with the planet.

    You see, Iran lies over one of the most viciously-active seismic areas on Earth. It has humongous earthquakes – often. I know of no area of Iran which is safe from them, either.

    Remember Fukiyama? That was an offshore quake. One of the biggest on record, but it didn't hit the land under the reactor directly. What hit it was the seismic waves that were generated in all directions from the epicenter, which was deep under the ocean.

    The reactors literally fell apart. The radiation from them was horrific, and the location is still not under control. I won't go into all the horrors of that incident; you already know it was...BAD.

    Now let's turn to the land on which Iran would build a reactor. Reactors, actually, as they have a large number of them in mind.

    Every single one of them is a Fukiyama waiting to happen. And not in any far-distant future, either. Nor am I even getting into the subject of just how expert the people who would run those plants would be. Nuclear accidents happen, and we know it, and we also know many can be caused by ineptness or carelessness by those running the plant. But set all that aside, because earthquakes are a MUCH bigger reason for them not to build any reactors in Iran. Even assuming the most talented and highly trained people to run them. There are no people capable of preventing or thwarting what an earthquake can – and surely WILL – do to their plants. Imagine a quake which destroys several reactors on the same day... Eeee.

    I guess the U.S. isn't eager to call them out on this, since we have several of our own reactors sitting right on top of geologic faults – ones that are still known to be active. We should be DEALING with this. But keeping our own danger quiet by failing to mention a worse one for Iran's reactors, is not wise or smart. We built some in the wrong places; we should share what we've learned with Iran, because they don't have ANY "right places" within their borders.

    But OUR plants, if they went Fukiyama, would affect only the U.S. and the American people. The Iranian ones would affect neighboring countries. THAT makes it THEIR business. Very much so.

    Fukiyama was bad, because the quake was bad. But one occurring in Iran, very near to a reactor, would be much worse. A meltdown – a true meltdown – might occur, and that could cause disaster for thousands of miles.

    Common sense says that you don't build something in a place where it will soon be broken up. When nuclear power plants break up, the consequences are from dire to catastrophic, due to the radiation. A meltdown can be – well, no true meltdown has yet occurred, but scientists have a pretty good idea of what it could do, and it isn't pretty. Nor are the effects local in the least. Chernobyl showed us that the radiation that gets into the atmosphere can spread for many thousands of miles. And that, too, was not quite a meltdown.

    Iran's plans to build reactors in highly dangerous seismic zones is NOT just its own business. It's the business of every nation near enough to be a guaranteed victim of a reactor-generated disaster.

    Iran should NEVER have nuclear power plants, no matter what kind of government they have.

    And why, in heaven's name, should they even NEED them? They have oil coming out of their ears over there. They say they want the reactors to upgrade the electrical infrastructure. There has been nothing to stop them from doing that for several decades. They have everything they need to do that, and always have. If the electrical infrastructure hasn't been upgraded in all this time, there can't be any intention to do so after building reactors.

    They claim that nuclear bombs are against Islam. They lie. I remember reading in the 1990's that Iran was SLATHERING to get nukes. Nor did they make any secret of it. They were getting uranium, mined in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, to prepare themselves to build "the bomb." So NOW, it's suddenly against Islam? Liars.

    The very fact that they feel they have to LIE to convince us they're not building nukes is proof that that is exactly what they ARE doing. That, together with their unwillingness to be inspected. After all, if they WERE making reactors, modernizing their country, they'd have welcomed the inspectors. It would be a source of national pride to them, and they'd be boasting about it.

    They are NOT acting, or talking, like people who want to build their country's infrastructure. They're talking and acting like people with a whole LOT to hide.

    And there's only one thing that that hidden thing can be: they still want NUKES.

    May 18, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Reply
    • Noname

      Fukiyama? Seriously?

      May 21, 2013 at 10:25 pm | Reply
  7. bribarian

    israel sign NPT yet?

    May 18, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Reply
    • Matt

      Nope.

      May 21, 2013 at 3:54 am | Reply
  8. KEVIN

    Frankly, I don't think we need to worry if Iran develops a nuclear bomb. We should expend our energy to help the new president and ayatollahs to develop and practice world relations and world diplomacy utilizing their trusting relationship with russia.

    May 18, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Reply
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    May 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Reply
  10. AB

    I wish Americans agree on something unanimously as Iranians agree on Nuclear power project.Iran's democracy is the strongest in the region stronger than the Israeli of course there is no college vote that supercede public vote.West has no choice than to tactically retreat from this precipe of threat America know truly that Iran is strong verile and stable.Israel is the most unpredictable nation is the region it is a threat to it own self and to it allies if it has any.America justify it presence in the mideast by demonising Iran and that makes Saudi a close surrogate while Qatar,Kuwait&Bahraian are happy servants.Iran will emerge from this stronger and better though it also need to be more pragmatic and realistic

    May 19, 2013 at 6:22 am | Reply
    • 7113

      Druggie how long have you been on this high?.

      May 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  11. Don Perryon

    THE WEST HAVE BEEN BRAINWASHED BY THE CORROSIVE ISRAELI LOBBY TO SEE NOTHING GOOD IN IRAN. THEY KEEP BLACKMAILING IRAN OVER ITS PEACEFUL NUCLEAR PROGRAM YET ISRAEL HAS STOCKPILES OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS WHICH THE DOUBLE STANDARD WEST DONT TALK ABOUT. THE WORLD DOES NOT BELONG TO THE WEST. THE WORLD IS GETTING FED UP WITH THE ANNOYING ARROGANCE OF THE WEST WHICH ACT AS IF THEY OWN THE WORLD.

    May 19, 2013 at 6:51 am | Reply
    • Maria

      how many nations did Syria occupy: zero
      how many nations did LIBYA occupy: zero
      how many nations did IRAQ occupy: zero

      how many nations did Somalia occupy: zero

      how many nations did North Korea occupy: zero

      how many nations did Afghanistan occupy: zero

      how many nations did Pakistan occupy: zero

      how many nations did Vietnam occupy: zero

      how many nations did SUDAN occupy: zero

      and what about the IMPERIAL WEST COLONIZATION?

      They always used the DIVIDE AND RULE policy

      May 20, 2013 at 2:38 am | Reply
      • Robsssss

        Yes Maria, you're right – its not like Iraq invaded Kuwait and occupied it, or North Korea invaded the south after WWII divided the country's administration between the US and Russia, or Vietnam invaded Cambodia ..... oh, wait....

        May 20, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  12. major tom

    Yikes! Is Krever really a paid writer for CNN? I didn't know CNN employs high schoolers as journalists. Here, a review of his many pathetic language mistakes:

    ...when the country erupted into protests AMONG (amid or amidst) allegations...

    ...ahead of next month’s vote, but it (may be?) the last-minute entry...

    ...threw his hat IN (into – otherwise it means he was in the ring when he threw his hat) the presidential...

    ...Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, is CONTESTING (how can one contest a race that hasn't yet been held?) the race.

    GO BACK TO SCHOOL! CNN should be very embarrassed.

    May 19, 2013 at 7:45 am | Reply
  13. mish

    Milad, one. More thing I would like to add is Jimmy Carter and France had a huge role in helping start the Iranian Rev and helping the Ayatollahs topple the Shaw . US and UK and non stop interfeared with Iran and for 30 it was resulted in this brutal and hazardeous regime.
    I agree the US has brainwashed us to side with Israel but Iran is a danger to humanity and if they get a WMD it will give them decades longer which means many more yrs of hell for Iranian ppl.
    AB: r u for real about Iran being a democracy ? Haha furtherest from it. They are a killing machine!

    May 19, 2013 at 7:48 am | Reply
    • Milad

      Mish;
      Iran has no WMD. Iran can't stop its nuclear program just because some nuclear armed states don't like nuclear Iran!
      What US does, actually encourage some country to get WMD, look what happened to Saddam and Ghadafi compare it to north korea or Pakistan!
      This double standard with Iran is not fair, im not supporting Iran government but it is not US job to bring democracy, frankly it is not UN business. Look at its own allies; Saudi, Qatar....
      See what happening in Iraq now after 10 years. Possible war with Iran will be the most stupid move by US which I don't believe it happens.

      May 19, 2013 at 9:32 am | Reply
  14. mish

    Milad, I agree with you that no one should dictate who can get a WMD, the most dangerous countries have them now! I get Iran wants to protect their land as well as the vast resources . US does NOT want democrays in oil rich nations. I mean they have screwed with Iran for 70 yrs b/c of the oil.
    Iran is a threat to humanity and I'm sure under Obama they will get a WMD. Its tough cause u can blame them for wanting it but like I said, this could give them decades longer which means the ppl won't get the freedom they long deserve.

    May 19, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Reply
    • Milad

      Mish,
      How freedom can come to Iran? it is very complicated. I guarantee you if Iran's regime changed today, it won't be any better tomorrow. we got a lot of examples in the region; Egypt, Iraq...
      At least people live in RELATIVELY peaceful and secure Iran now, thats exactly why people inside Iran never listen to the outside opposition. They remember war with Iraq, current situation in other ME nations and even south European states.
      Today, human right, gay right! and freedom is not an urgent matter. I'm traveling to Iran every year and have lots of family/friend (low/middle/high class) there, its not too bad there.

      May 19, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Reply
  15. Don Perryon

    Mish:

    If you are not Israeli bigot...how come you keep saying iran is a threat to humanity. What a callous statement! The US and Israel are the real threat to humanity . Iran has never invaded a country beside the West engineered war with Iraq. But the US and Israel have killed close to Two Million people in Iraq, Palestine, Afganistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Somalia in the last one decade. Mish, you need to have your head examined, seriously.

    May 19, 2013 at 11:51 pm | Reply
  16. Don Perryon

    Mish;

    I forgot to add the US drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed close to 2000 innocent children and over 5000 adults.

    May 20, 2013 at 12:34 am | Reply
  17. Maria

    how many nations did Syria occupy: zero
    how many nations did LIBYA occupy: zero
    how many nations did IRAQ occupy: zero

    how many nations did Somalia occupy: zero

    how many nations did North Korea occupy: zero

    how many nations did Afghanistan occupy: zero

    how many nations did Pakistan occupy: zero

    how many nations did Vietnam occupy: zero

    how many nations did SUDAN occupy: zero

    and what about the IMPERIAL WEST COLONIZATION?

    They always used the DIVIDE AND RULE policy

    May 20, 2013 at 2:33 am | Reply
  18. Maria

    Numbers 31:17-18

    New International Version (NIV)

    17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man
    Christians sure do have a lot explaining to do. J

    Kill Followers of Other Religions.

    1) If your own full brother, or your son or
    daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to
    serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other
    nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do
    not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or
    shield him, but kill him. Your hand shall be the first raised to slay him; the
    rest of the people shall join in with you. You shall stone him to death,
    because he sought to lead you astray from the Lord, your God, who brought you
    out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. And all Israel, hearing of
    this, shall fear and never do such evil as this in your midst.
    (Deuteronomy 13:7-12 NAB)

    2) Suppose a man or woman among you, in one of your
    towns that the LORD your God is giving you, has done evil in the sight of the
    LORD your God and has violated the covenant by serving other gods or by
    worshiping the sun, the moon, or any of the forces of heaven, which I have
    strictly forbidden. When you hear about it, investigate the matter thoroughly.
    If it is true that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then that man
    or woman must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death. (Deuteronomy
    17:2-5 NLT)

    Numbers 31:35-40 "[From the captives of war] 32,000 women who had never slept with a man.......of which the tribute for the LORD was 32 [among them were virginn girls]."

    May 20, 2013 at 2:36 am | Reply
  19. Maria

    Why were the RED INDIANS Eradicated?

    May 20, 2013 at 2:36 am | Reply
  20. Maria

    Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your
    God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow
    citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you
    must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that
    such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and
    completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you
    must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it. Put the
    entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town
    must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder
    that has been set apart for destruction. Then the LORD will turn from his
    fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make
    you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors. "The LORD your
    God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving
    you today, doing what is pleasing to him." (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)

    May 20, 2013 at 2:37 am | Reply
  21. Maria

    USA is a pseudo democracy ruled by few cunning Jews.
    AIPAC's official position on Iran is to encourage a strong diplomatic and economic response coordinated among the United States government, its European allies, Russia, and China AIPAC has demanded "crippling" sanctions against Iran

    May 20, 2013 at 3:25 am | Reply
    • Jew Producer

      That's right honey...we OWN you.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  22. Skorpio

    The Ayatollah and all the Islamic clerics are the real face of the nuclear program AND THE VIOLENCE, DISCRIMINATION, TERRORISM, HATRED, VENGEANCE, RESENTMENT, PUNISHMENTS, MURDERS, COERCION, INSTIGATION, BRAINWASHING, INTIMIDATION, ETC. ETC. ETC. All these RATS are the ones behind every single evil act in Muslim countries.

    May 20, 2013 at 7:48 pm | Reply
  23. mish

    Don: iranian in the past 34 yrs hasn't invaded another country b/c they know US would come after them. If it wasn't for the US the hijackers (current Iranian govt) would be invading all the countries around them.

    May 20, 2013 at 8:01 pm | Reply
  24. mish

    Maria: pls stop with the Jesus talk, u sound wacky.

    May 20, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Reply
    • Maria

      Numbers 31:17-18

      New International Version (NIV)

      17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man

      1- Kill everything that "breathes" from humans and animals!

      May 21, 2013 at 2:07 am | Reply
  25. Bingley

    Ms. Amanpour @ CNN with a biased American management lobby, it’s nice to be a favorite & intelligent to be in their good books to continue transmitting.

    May 21, 2013 at 3:02 am | Reply
  26. Rufus Reeta

    Maria there is the old testament and new testament in the Bible. The reason Jesus is held in high regard by those who have seen the light is because of the new testament, in which he tells People that before his Father, who actually created all things, all are equal and will be only differentiated by the ability to listen, understand and take the right decision. He emphasised that under the new dispensation race/tribe does not matter.Jewish, or Gentile or .... Christians live by the guidance of the New Testament. You People who hate JEWS, ARABS, AFRICANS etc.. you do not yet have the TRUTH, peace, harmony and loving kindness of Jesus. I do not want to go into details but Iran's path has been prophesised in the Bible! It is prophesised that it will be one of the minor powers(there will be a major one/s) that will group itself against Isreal with the intention to 'wipe it out', 'destroy/crush it'... If interested read the new testament.

    May 21, 2013 at 10:15 am | Reply
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    May 22, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Reply

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