Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei claimed Sunday recent policies attempting to establish better relationships with the West have failed, signaling a return to a more hawkish posture before the country’s presidential election.
Khamenei’s criticism targeted current President Hasssan Rouhani, who was largely responsible for pursuing closer ties to the U.S. and Europe and the signing of the 2015 nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Rouhani is seeking a second term as president, but is facing significant push-back from Iran’s hardliners.
“Some say since we took office the shadow of war has been faded away. This is not correct,” said Khamenei, as reported by Reuters. “It’s been people’s presence in the political scene that has removed the shadow of war from the country.”
Khamenei and other ultra conservatives have criticized Rouhani for failing to meet expectations in improving Iran’s beleaguered economy. The incumbent president promised improved economic growth through the easing of sanctions allowed as part of the nuclear agreement.
Rouhani encouraged voters prevent “extremism” from returning to Iran on Saturday, warning a hardline candidate could lead to greater authoritarianism.
The Supreme Leader holds the ultimate authority in Iranian politics. The traditionally conservative Guardian Council often weeds out any true moderate candidates from entering elections, meaning many so-called “moderate” candidates are often just softer hardliners.
A recent poll suggested that hardliners are most likely the win the May 19 election. More than 40 percent of respondents said Rouhani is “somewhat likely” to lose, while another 14 percent said he was “very likely” to lose.
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