Jalili: Amputee Candidate Becoming Frontrunner in Presidential Race

By Masoud Foroghi

Scores of people are stepping up for the presidency as we are witnessing more than 38 would-be candidates from the three major political parties in Iran, Principalists, Reformists and pro-governments, have registered as candidates.

Perhaps one of the significant turning points in Iran’s recent politics was the last minute registration of the three well-known figures: Saeed Jalili, secretary of the National Security Council, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of the expediency council and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, top advisor to the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Most analysts consider Jalili’s unforeseen appearance as the most important. They believe Hashemi Rafsanjani is the experienced man who knows the ropes and it was nothing new to Iranian voters. In the eyes of the people, Mashaei is another Ahmadinejad, as he himself said, “Ahmadinejad means Mashaei and Mashaei means Ahmadinejad.”

But who is Saeed Jalili?

Jalili graduated from one of the most important institutes of Iran, Imam Sadigh University which is headed by Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi Kani, the current chairman of the Assembly of Experts. He went to war with Iraq in the 80s and one of his legs was amputated. But that didn’t stop him from continuing his studies.

Secretary of Iran's NSC, Saeed Jalili( First form left) reacts while attending a religious ceremony in the residence of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei May 2012. (Photo Credit: Khamenei.ir)

Secretary of Iran’s NSC, Saeed Jalili( First form left) reacts while attending a religious ceremony in the residence of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei May 2012. (Photo Credit: Khamenei.ir)

His service as the secretary of Iran’s NSC and his handling of the sensitive nuclear program would be the most important job Jalili ever had.

“I had my high school diploma in 1983 and came to Tehran [from Mashhad] to study at the Imam Sadigh University. I received my MA in 1989 and applied for a PhD abroad. But at the same time I was recruited into the Foreign Ministry so I decided to study my PhD at Imam Sadigh University in political sociology. From 1992 to 1998 I was head of the inspection office of the foreign ministry,” Saeed Jalili wrote in his biography.

He also was in charge of one of the offices of the Supreme Leader for 4 years.

why is Jalili’s candidacy important?

Jalili 48, doesn’t  have much executive experience and is mostly seen as a diplomat. however he is very popular among Iranian voters. The Internet is filled with posters and articles supporting him and even some of the famous candidates said they are ready to step aside in favor of him.

One day after Jalili’s registration, many Principalists faced numerous questions on how they perceive his candidacy. Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, former MP and a known Pricipalist candidate welcomed Jalili’s candidacy and said, it’s possible that our coalition of 2+1 (Adel, Mohammad- Bagher Ghalibaf and Ali Akbar Velayati) will support Jalili altogether.

Another candidate, Alireza Zakani said he is ready to unite with Jalili. The Jebheye Paydari front which is led by Ayatollah Mohammad-Taghi Mesbah Yzdi, a senior cleric from Qom, cited Jalili’s candidacy as being productive and helpful.

Being in the National Security Council since 2007, Jalili has become a symbol of the resistance against the demands of the west on the nuclear issue and has been leading the iranian team in negotiations with the EU and USA (P5+1).

Jalili sat down with the foreign policy authorities of Europe, China and Russia several times and boasted about  Iran’s advancement in nuclear technology as the officials of the US council of foreign policy have reportedly stated their concerns of pressures on Iran being fruitless.

 Twice Jalili rejected an invitation from a US representative in the P5+1 to have bilateral meetings . For Iranians, this shows he can confront the US.

The First time he was in Geneva when William Burns, indirectly asked him for talks, through the foreign Minister of Switzerland. The Iranian delegation rejected this and demanded a public hearing in the P5+1 meeting but the US representative wanted Jalili to listen to him anyway. finally they had a one-by-one sidebar conservation.

When back home, Saeed Jalili said, no one should act out of accord with the Supreme Leader’s will. It was perhaps an indication that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized Jalili’s bilateral talk with the American undersecretary of state. So in the next rounds of talks Jalili avoided to hold bilateral talks with Americans.

In Iran, Jalili is seen as a politician close to Iran’s Leader who demands Iran’s strong role in politics and economics. He reiterated several times that the key to Iran’s success and progress, is resistance and this word is what Ayatollah Khamenei underlines in all of his speeches.

Public opinion has responded positively to Jalili’s candidacy as several people’s committees formed independent election campaigns supporting him.

Iranian people don’t have a negative memory of him, because he was never involved in domestic politics. While Hashemi’s past is filled with failures (of course along with successes) and this can be a winner for Jalili, as it was for Ahmadinejad in 2005 when his opponent was Hashemi.

*Masoud Foroghi is a student political activist and an editor of the Iranian University Student news website.

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