Recently, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqr Kharrazi, secretary-general of the Hezbollah-Iran organization and part of the Iranian regime elite, announced his candidacy for the upcoming Iranian presidential election set for June 2013. He has promised that if elected he will restore Iranian sovereignty over the territories of Tajikistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, which it lost under the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay with Russia.
It should be noted that already in 2010, Ayatollah Kharrazi had outlined his vision to restore these territories to Iran, and stressed the need to reestablish "Greater Iran" from Palestine to Afghanistan, based on the pre-Islamic Persian Empire (see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 3021, The Iranian Supremacy Manifesto of 'Greater Iran': Hezbollah-Iran Secretary-General Lays Out Plan, Strategy for Reestablishing 'Greater Iran' as Prelude to Establishment of Global Government Led by the Mahdi, June 10, 2010).
Kharrazi's comments were criticized by Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Mohammad Raisi, who explained that he is a cleric whose statements lack official status, and by the website Entekhab, which questioned whether he was really an ayatollah, and said that his statements were not be taken seriously because they were intended solely as a provocation.
Ayatollah Kharrazi: Iran Must Regain The Territories It Lost Under The Treaty Of Turkmenchay
On February 3, 2013, the Iranian website Teribon published Ayatollah Kharrazi's speech from the previous day, in which he announced his presidential candidacy. Among his statements, Kharrazi promised his audience that "if I am elected president, I will regain Tajikistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan for Iran."
Along with Kharrazi's announcement that he would run for president, the website also published an image of the December 15, 2012 front page of the newspaper of the Hezbollah-Iran organization, which featured a map with arrows pointing to Tajikistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The map's caption read: "The next Hezbollah[-Iran] government will undertake legal-political and even military action to end the shameful Treaty of Turkmenchay."
Teribon (Iran), February 3, 2013.
On February 9, 2013, the Iranian news agency ISNA published the text of a speech given by Ayatollah Kharrazi at the opening ceremony of the Bandar Abbas bureau of the Hezbollah-Iran newspaper. In his speech, Kharrazi said: "We must act legally [to] regain Iran's northern territories, [which were lost] 99 [sic] years ago under the Treaty of Turkmenchay. As [part] of our legal relationship with the West, we will force them [to accept this], just as they accepted Hong Kong's [return] to China after 99 years."
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Iranian Ambassador To Armenia: Kharrazi Is A Cleric, His "Statements Have No Validity"
Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Mohammad Raisi told an Azerbaijani news agency that "the Iranian government affirms and respects the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Tajikistan. As you know, Kharrazi is a cleric and has no official post in Iran.
He continued: "Iran is a free country in which anyone can speak his mind. Iran's official position on foreign policy matters is expressed solely by the Leader [Ali Khamenei], the president, and the foreign minister. All other statements have no validity."
Iranian Website Entekhab: Kharrazi's Statements Are Not Serious, And Maybe He's Not Really An Ayatollah Anyway
On February 17, 2013, the Iranian website Entekhab published the Tajikistani and Azerbaijani ambassadors' reactions to Kharrazi's statements. It also postulated that Kharrazi might not even actually be an ayatollah, and added that he was only seeking attention and shouldn't be taken seriously. It said:
"Some political analysts believe that this man's [Kharrazi's] statements are often taken seriously due to his lineage: He is the son of Ayatollah Mohsen Kharrazi (an Assembly of Experts member), the brother of Mohammad Sadeq [Kharrazi, former Iranian ambassador to France], and the nephew of Kamal Kharrazi [former Iranian foreign minister, former Iranian ambassador to the U.N., and current head of the Foreign Relations Strategic Council].
"According to these analysts, Kharrazi was attempting to appeal to his audience's nationalism... It seems that this man [Kharrazi] uses every opportunity to be seen and to be talked about – but [his statements] are never taken seriously.
"However, the neighboring countries' reactions to his most recent statements were harsh, first of all because he is a cleric, [even] called by some an ayatollah (whether rightly or not), and he is connected to one of important families of Iranian politics.
"[Secondly,] it is said that he was also an [Iranian presidential] candidate in 2005 but was disqualified by the Guardian Council..."
Tajikistani Foreign Ministry: Kharrazi's Statements "Constitute Interference In The Internal Affairs Of An Independent Country"
Tajikistan's Foreign Ministry posted its response to Kharrazi's statements on its official website. It said: "These statements by [Kharrazi, who is] related to Iran's previous foreign minister, surprised and saddened Tajikistan's cultural, political, and social circles, and they constitute interference in the internal affairs of an independent country. This cleric is not aware of the current realities of the region, the world, or the judicial system."
Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry Spokesman: We Refuse To Comment On "Such Illogical Statements"
Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev told the Interfax news agency that Azerbaijan refuses to comment on "such illogical statements." The secretary-general of Azerbaijan's ruling party, Ali Ahmedov, told reporters, "The statements by this Iranian presidential candidate indicate his lack of free and independent thought."
 Kharrazi is also the brother-in-law of Masoud Khamenei, the son of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei; his father is Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Mohsen Kharrazi.
 The Treaty of Turkmenchay was signed in 1828 between Russia and Persia; under it, the Persian Shah was forced to cede the territories of Armenia, Nakhchivan, and Talysh to Russia. In the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan, Persia was forced to cede the territories of Azerbaijan, Daghestan, and modern Georgia to Russia. Iran considers these treaties humiliating, because they ended the Persian Empire's control of the Caucasus and Central Asia.
 ISNA (Iran), February 9, 2013.
 Teribon.ir, February 3, 2013.
 ISNA, February 9, 2013.
 Asr-e Iran (Iran), February 12, 2013.
 Entekhab (Iran), February 17, 2013.