Iran’s top leader warned voters on Wednesday the West was plotting to influence elections pitting centrists close to President Hassan Rouhani against conservative hardliners in a contest that could shape the Islamic Republic for years to come.
In remarks reflecting an abiding mistrust of Rouhani’s rapprochement with the West, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he was confident Iranians would vote in favor of keeping Iran’s anti-Western stance on Friday in the first elections since last year’s nuclear accord with world powers.
Rouhani’s allies, who hope the deal will hasten Iran’s opening up to the world after years of sanctions, have come under increasing pressure in the election campaign from hardliners who accuse them of links to Western powers including the United States and Britain.
Those accusations seek to tap into Iranians’ wariness of Western motives and memories of a 1953 coup against nationalist prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh that was orchestrated by the United States and Britain and strengthened the Shah’s rule.
Rouhani on Wednesday denied accusations from hardliners that the candidates close to him were affiliated with Western powers, calling it an insult to the intelligence of Iranians.
In remarks on his official website, Khamenei was quoted as saying he was certain the United States had concocted a plot after the nuclear deal to “infiltrate” the Islamic Republic.
“When I talked about a U.S. infiltration plot, it made some people in the country frustrated,” said the Shi’ite clerical leader, who has final say on all major state policy in Iran.