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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09LONDON566
2009-03-03 19:52:00
SECRET//NOFORN
Embassy London
Cable title:  

IRAN: KHAMENEI SAID TO CONSIDER RAHIM SAFAVI AND

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  PROP  PTER  IR  UK 
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P 031952Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1616
INFO IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
						S E C R E T LONDON 000566 


NOFORN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/03/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PROP PTER IR UK
SUBJECT: IRAN: KHAMENEI SAID TO CONSIDER RAHIM SAFAVI AND
TO WRITE OFF QALIBAF; VELAYATI MAY HAVE KEY ADVISORY ROLE

REF: A. 08 LONDON 2659 AND PREVIOUS

B. LONDON 451




1. (S/NF) Summary: Expatriate broadcaster Ali Reza
Nourizadeh sees Ahmedinejad as the current front-runner, but
claimed to London Iran Watcher (Poloff) that Rahim Safavi is
under consideration by the Supreme Leader as his own
preferred candidate in Iran's June elections; Nourizadeh
cited an unspecified regular contact of his within Khamenei's
office whom Nourizadeh has previously claimed as a source
(ref a). The same claimed source also reportedly told
Nourizadeh that Khamenei has, in an elliptical fashion, told
Qalibaf he should plan to stay on as Tehran mayor, and that
Khamenei will not endorse Qalibaf's presidential bid.
Countering an earlier prediction of his own, Nourizadeh
argued Khamenei foreign affairs advisor Velayati will play an
important advisory role in any engagement with the United
States but is now less likely to be endorsed by Khamenei as a
presidential candidate.



2. (S/NF) Summary (continued) A XXXXXXXXXXXX (please
protect) is planning to travel soon to Iran to make contact
with Velayati and urge him to facilitate contact between the
Supreme Leader's office and the USG. End Summary

Looking At Safavi


--------------------------





3. (S/NF) Supreme Leader Khamenei is allegedly looking more
closely at his military advisor, ex-IRGC commander Rahim
Safavi, despite Safavi's lack of political experience, as a
candidate Khamenei might support, expatriate broadcaster Ali
Reza Nourizadeh told Poloff; Nourizadeh cited an unnamed
source he has referenced before (ref a) and claims to have in
Khamenei's office. Nourizadeh said Khamenei trusts few
persons outside his immediate family or personal staff, and
argued Safavi is the most viable potential candidate among
Khamenei's staff or family. He said Khamenei's (alleged)
consideration of Safavi is still strictly internal to the
Supreme Leader's office; Nourizadeh claimed Safavi's brother,
Syed Salman Safavi, is overseeing a website
(www.yahyasafavi.com) which Nourizadeh argues is promoting
Rahim Safavi's visibility by reporting what Nourizadeh claims
are Rahim's recently more numerous public statements and
appearances. In a separate conversation, a Tehran-based
analyst told Poloff that Salman Safavi will in early March
speak at the Caspian Institute, a leading Tehran think tank
the analyst said is frequented by Western diplomats
accredited to Tehran.

Brushing off Qalibaf


--------------------------





4. (S/NF) Citing the same unnamed source in Khamenei's
office, Nourizadeh said Qalibaf had been told by Khamenei
that Qalibaf should plan to remain mayor of Tehran for the
next five years. Nourizadeh told Poloff his source claimed

the Supreme Leader had, when Qalibaf presented Khamenei with
a plan for the development of Tehran over the next twelve
months, told Qalibaf he "should be making (mayoral) plans for
the next five years, not one year." Qalibaf reportedly was
visibly downcast after the meeting.

Velayati: Uncharismatic as a
Candidate, But Still Key Advisor


--------------------------





5. (S/NF) Nourizadeh said his own previous prediction, that
former foreign minister Velayati would be tapped, seemed more
doubtful now -- Nourizadeh maintained that Khamenei had
quietly vetted Velayati but had judged the former foreign
minister to be too elderly and too widely perceived by
Iranian voters as uncharismatic and corrupt. He noted
however that Velayati is still trusted by Khamenei and will
in Nourizadeh's view likely be an important representative of
and sounding board for Khamenei as the Supreme Leader
prepares for direct engagement in some form with the United
States.

XXXXXXXXXXXX Plans to Meet
Velayati, Will Urge That Supreme
Leader Open a Channel to USG


--------------------------





6. (S/NF) In a separate conversation, XXXXXXXXXXXX(please protect), prominent XXXXXXXXXXXX on Iran issues, a past visitor to Iran, and himself strongly pro-U.S. (ref b), told Poloff March 3 he is
planning to travel soon to Iran to make contact with
Velayati. XXXXXXXXXXXX volunteered that
while in Iran he will urge Velayati to have Khamenei permit a
channel of communication to the USG; XXXXXXXXXXXX commented that Khamenei, not Ahmedinejad, is in his view "the correct return
address" for any USG outreach to Iran. XXXXXXXXXXXX past comments to Poloff on Iran tend to closely track FCO estimates, that
the West has a narrow window for effective diplomatic action
on Iran. Poloff reminded XXXXXXXXXXXX that during USG's ongoing
senior level policy review, U.S. officials cannot comment or
speculate publicly or privately on possible future courses of
U.S. policy on Iran.

Comment


--------------------------





7. (S/NF) Although continuing to claim Khamenei is
examining other figures in conservative circles as possible
candidates, Nourizadeh's singling out Safavi may reflect his
own over-reliance on his claimed source within Khamenei's
office. Nourizadeh, nevertheless, still believes
Ahmedinejad, despite his dismal economic record, has the
inside track, and is the candidate at this point most likely
to win. Nourizadeh attributes Ahmedinejad's electoral
strength to his control of voting processes, to his
popularity in Iran arising from his handling of the nuclear
issue, and to his continuing populist, "every-man" image.
Nourizadeh believes Ahmedinejad has no lasting interest in
improved relations and argues the United States in any direct
engagement with Iran should either delay outreach until after
the elections so as to minimize the chances of boosting
Ahmedinejad's prestige or, if acting before June, should use
channels controlled by the Supreme Leader, not by Ahmedinejad.



8. (S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX contemplating the Velayati-focused
visit to Iran has in the past been a source for Poloff of
insights and information on Iran and on Iranians visiting the
UK. XXXXXXXXXXXX above comments however, were the first
indication Poloff has had that XXXXXXXXXXXX or
other XXXXXXXXXXXX official intends advocating with Iranian
officials for direct U.S.-IRIG contact; XXXXXXXXXXXX's specific
objective, of promoting a USG channel to the Supreme Leader's
office, is likewise new information to Poloff.

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