Iranians will be electing their next president on May 19. Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced he is running for what would be his third mandate.
His re-election in the disputed 2009 election triggered the biggest nationwide protests since the 1979 revolution.
Euronews’ Javad Montazeri spoke to him as the Guardian Council, the body in charge of approving candidates, prepares to give its verdict.
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “Dr. Amadinejad, hello and thank you for agreeing to answer our questions. May I start by asking you what changes you have seen in Iran since the end of your last mandate?”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “In the name of God, I would like to greet your listeners and viewers, yourself and your colleagues. There are a lot of differences between then and now. The world is constantly changing. No two days are the same in the life of an individual, and the same rules apply to nations. However, I don’t think we have become stronger, either politically or economically.”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “One of the problems during your presidency was the economic and international sanctions that made it difficult for the country’s economy. After the nuclear deal, it’s said a lot of sanctions were lifted and problems were being solved. I wanted to ask for your opinion on the nuclear deal.”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “It is a legal agreement that was signed between Iran and several countries. In Iran, it was approved by official institutions and the Supreme Leader announced his commitment to it. Therefore, it is now a legal document. But in terms of the expectations that were created and the interviews about the nuclear deal, it was presented as though it was going to solve all the problems of the world, and all the UN sanctions as well as illegal unilateral and collective sanctions on Iran would be lifted, relationships would be mended and every problem would be solved. In my opinion, the nation was not given the correct information. And then we saw that what had been said did not materialize. Sanctions continued, new sanctions were imposed, some were extended. In the agreement, the capacity for legal follow-up had not been envisaged.
“I think that wherever in the world an agreement is reached at such a high level, the people must be provided with the correct information and they must be asked about their opinion because, in the end, it’s the people who are affected. But according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Iranians have fulfilled their commitments but the other side hasn’t yet and I think they should.”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “Why did you decide to step forward as a candidate for a third term as president? A while ago, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei advised you against taking part in the elections. After that, you sent him a letter announcing formally that you had no plans to run for election. So why have you decided to run for the presidency? Many see your decision as a challenge to Ayatollah Khamenei. What is your answer to that?”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “Look, it is the duty of every individual to take part in social affairs. One cannot order someone not to take part. There is freedom in Iran. Anyone who has an idea and a plan can take part and subject themselves to the people’s votes. Anybody who thinks he or she can do something, can do a better job or has a better plan for running the country can step forward, and I am no exception. As I said on the day of registration, the Leader of the Revolution has not issued an order, he gave his advice, saying ‘We do not tell people to run or not to run’. Besides, the situation has totally changed. It is no longer bipolar but multi-polar. Anyway, I announced on registration day that I was stepping in to support my friend and brother, Mr. Baghaei (Hamid Baghaei, former Vice President under Ahmadinejad).”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “Are you confident your candidacy will be approved by the Guardian Council?”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “There is no reason why not… Why not?”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “The Leader clearly supported your candidacy in the 2009 elections. It seems today you do not have the same support as you had back then. What would you say to this?”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “He has supported every government. He supports the present government. Had it not been for his support, the present government would not have been able to sign the nuclear deal or push ahead with its plans.”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “My next question is about your two main rivals from the 2009 election. What do you think about the fact that they are still under house arrest eight years after the election?”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “I have said it before, I do not like it that anyone anywhere in the world should be in detention or in prison. I don’t like it.”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “Is that your answer?”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “You asked for my opinion and I told you: I do not like it, that is my opinion.”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “In the media and in some political circles, it is said that your candidacy and that of your former vice-president Mr Baghaei aren’t serious, and that they are simply an attempt to gain some sort of immunity against accusations of political and economic corruption? What do you say to these critics?”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “Look, I have a general remark for politicians around the world. To be involved in politics, you have to be truthful, committed to human values and morality. Resorting to other means in politics will ruin the job. Lying, accusations, spreading rumours is very bad. We have rivals inside the country who know nothing else but to undermine us. They simply level accusations against us without any proof. Fortunately, thanks to God, no such proof has been presented so far as it simply doesn’t exist.
“Mr. Baghaei’s life has been under very close scrutiny. Many groups from different institutions looked into his life but nothing can be found on him. However, there are some people who think that, by relaying false information, they can make it look like reality. There is no legal case against him. Anyone can be the subject of accusations. It is not difficult to make a case against someone. You simply need to file a complaint and get a registration number and that’s the start of a legal case. But those who have made claims have not been able to prove anything against me, Mr. Baghaei or my friends and they will never be able to do so.”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “You come from the ultra conservative Principlist faction, but today…
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “What do you mean by ‘Principlist faction’?
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “The faction that calls itself…”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “That’s not so. The Principlists didn’t support me at all. I was already connected to different politicians and people the way I am now. But if by Principlist you mean being committed to a set of principles, then you can say that, for sure. I am very committed to a set of principles and values and I am not willing to abandon them for the sake of political rivalries. Besides, my aim is to improve the situation for the people, the country and the world.”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “How popular are you within Iranian society?”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “We have a good relationship with the people. You have to look within your own own heart to find the answer. If you love the people, the people will love you back.”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “I mean: once you get the Guardian Council’s approval, will you get the people’s?”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “Yes, the people will certainly give it to me.”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “You sent Mr. Trump a letter after he was elected President of the United States. What was in the letter and did you get a response?”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “Did you not read the letter?”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “Yes, but we want to hear it from you.”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “Mr. Trump made some claims and promises. I reminded him of his promises and explained how he could fulfill them. I did it as a human duty. We all have such duty, to remind each other. I did it as a duty. It doesn’t matter if he accepts it or not – I did my duty. I told him what way is right and what way is wrong.”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “And did he reply?”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “I do not expect him to reply as this is public diplomacy, and public diplomacy doesn’t require an exclusive response. The idea is to address the whole world by naming just one person.”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “Turning to the situation in Syria, following the recent US missile attack. Where do you think it is heading?”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “I think Mr. Trump chose the path of war in spite of the promises he made to his people. I have said this before and I say it again: this war will certainly lead to the fall of US hegemony in the world. I believe there are many reasons for this which I will explain another time.
“Iran, the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey – we all have to join hands to work towards security, dialogue and peace in Syria. And secondly, to help fulfill the will and sovereignty of the Syrian people. We have to respect Syrian sovereignty and let the people of Syria choose what they want and we should accept their choice. Nobody, nobody is above the people of Syria, nobody.”
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “How have you spent your time since the end of your term in office?
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “I study, I teach at the university. I carry out research in my own specialized field of study as well as political, economic and international studies. A considerable part of my time is dedicated to meeting with ordinary people as well as different national and international personalities. I excercise, I travel and I have fun, too.
Javad Montazeri, Euronews: “Thank you for answering our questions, Dr. Ahmadinejad.”