Khamenei issues warning to Iran election’s sole non-hardliner, who backs nuclear deal with US

In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gestures in a ceremony to mark the Shiite holiday of Eid al-Ghadir, in Tehran, Iran, June 25, 2024. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gestures in a ceremony to mark the Shiite holiday of Eid al-Ghadir, in Tehran, Iran, June 25, 2024. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s supreme leader issues a thinly veiled warning to the sole reformist candidate in the country’s upcoming presidential election, saying anyone who believes “all ways to progress” come from the United States shouldn’t be supported.

While often speaking in parables like many Iranian politicians, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appears to directly undercut the candidacy of 69-year-old heart surgeon Masoud Pezeshkian, who has aligned himself with officials from the administration of former president Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani helped reach Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, an accord Pezeshkian has fully embraced in contrast with his five hard-line opponents, who want an agreement fully on Iran’s terms.

Khamenei also calls for “maximum” turnout for Friday’s vote, which analysts say could support Pezeshkian. Already, the doctor’s rallies have drawn large crowds in major cities, though it remains unclear whether his candidacy alone would be enough to push an apathetic public to vote to replace the late president Ebrahim Raisi, a protégé of Khamenei who died in a helicopter crash in May.

“Some politicians in our country believe they must kowtow to this power or that power, and it’s impossible to progress without sticking to famous countries and powers,” Khamenei says in a speech marking the Shiite holiday of Eid al-Ghadir. “Some think like that. Or they think that all ways to progress pass through America. No, such people can’t” run the country well, he says.

Khamenei’s comments in his hourlong speech draw repeated cries of “Death to America, death to Israel” from a raucous crowd. The 85-year-old Khamenei has to urge the crowd to quiet themselves several times during his remarks.

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