Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has criticied President Hassan Rouhani for saying his detente policy with the West has helped fade the threat of war as tension mounts ahead of May’s presidential elections.
Iranian media reported Khamenei saying yesterday: “Some say since we took office the shadow of war has been faded away. This is not correct. It’s been people’s presence in the political scene that has removed the shadow of war from the country.”
Rouhani faces competition from conservatives who have criticised his economic record, saying detente with the West and nuclear concessions had yet to yield economic benefits.
Over the past few months, competition between Rouhani who is seeking a second term, and Khamenei’s allies, who oppose the nuclear deal, has escalated ahead of the 19 May presidential race.
Rouhani urged voters on Saturday to prevent the return of “extremism” to Iran and said the country could face more authoritarianism if a conservative rival won the election.
Among Rouhani’s rivals are Ebrahim Raisi, an influential cleric with decades of experience in the hardline judiciary, and conservative Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a former Revolutionary Guards commander.
Rouhani, a pragmatist who won the 2013 election has led a diplomatic breakthrough with the West in 2015 by signing a landmark deal with the West in which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of international sanctions.