News Round-up 12/26/11 to 1/1/12

Iran reports nuclear progress as sanctions loom

By Parisa Hafezi | Reuters – Sun, Jan 1, 2012

A military personnel carries ammunition on a naval ship during Velayat-90 war game on Sea of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran December 31, 2011.  REUTERS/Fars News/Hamed Jafarnejad

TEHRAN (Reuters) – – Iran announced a nuclear fuel breakthrough and test-fired a new radar-evading medium-range missile in the Gulf on Sunday, moves that could further antagonize the West at a time when Tehran is trying to avert harsh new sanctions on its oil industry.

U.S. President Barack Obama signed a law on Saturday imposing tougher financial sanctions to penalize Iran for a nuclear research programme that the West suspects is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

The move could for the first time hurt Tehran’s oil exports, and the European Union is due to consider similar steps soon.

As tensions have risen, Iran threatened last week to close the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow Gulf shipping lane through which 40 percent of world oil flows, if sanctions hit its oil exports.

At the same time, it signaled on Saturday that it was ready to resume stalled international talks on its nuclear programme.

It says the programme is completely peaceful and, in what Iranian media described as an engineering breakthrough, state television said Iran had successfully produced and tested its own uranium fuel rods for use in its nuclear power plants.

_________________________________________________________________

Iran says it has produced its first nuclear fuel rod

LA Times, January 1, 2012 | 10:17 am

Iran-maneuvers

This post has been updated. See the note below for additional details

REPORTING FROM TEHRAN AND BEIRUT — Iran said Sunday that its scientists had produced the country’s first nuclear fuel rod and its navy had test-fired a new medium-range surface-to-air missile, announcements that were likely to heighten concerns about the country’s disputed uranium-enrichment program.

The Islamic Republic News Agency, or IRNA, reported that the nuclear fuel rod had “passed all physical and dimensional tests” and had been inserted into the core of Tehran’s research reactor.

Iran had said that it would be forced to manufacture the rods because it is barred from buying them on foreign markets. The tubes contain pellets of enriched uranium that provide fuel for nuclear reactors.

Tension has been growing between Iran and the West since a report by the United Nations nuclear inspection agency in November expressed serious concerns about a possible military dimension to the country’s nuclear program.

The United States and its allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear payloads for missiles. Tehran denies the charge, saying it needs the technology to generate electricity and produce radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.

[Updated 3:38 p.m. Jan. 1: The State Department had no immediate comment Sunday on the Iranians’ statement that they had produced a fuel rod.

A physicist who tracks nuclear defense issues, Edwin Lyman, said the claim had “no direct relationship to weapons development” by the Iranians.  However, he added, “it does say something generally about their increasing sophistication in nuclear fabrication.”

See full article at LA Times: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/01/iran-nuclear-fuel-rod-missile.html

_________________________________________________________________

Iran navy tests cruise missile in drill

 USA Today, Janyary 2, 2012

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran test-fired a surface-to-surface cruise missile on Monday during a drill that the country’s navy chief said proved Tehran was in complete control of the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for one-sixth of the world’s oil supply.

  • Iranian navy fires a Mehrab missile in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday.
    By Ebrahim Noroozi, AFP/Getty Images
    Iranian navy fires a Mehrab missile in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday.

By Ebrahim Noroozi, AFP/Getty Images

Iranian navy fires a Mehrab missile in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday.

The missile, called Ghader, or Capable in Farsi, was described as an upgraded version of a missile that has been in service before. The official IRNA news agency said the missile “successfully hit its intended target” during the exercise.

No other details were released about Ghader. An earlier version of the same cruise missile had a range of 124 miles (200 kilometers) and could travel at low altitudes. There were suggestions it could counter the U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf.

Iran’s 10-day navy drill, which ends Tuesday, was Tehran’s latest show of strength in the face of mounting international criticism over its nuclear program. The exercise came amid conflicting comments from Iranian officials over Tehran’s intentions to close the Strait of Hormuz, and U.S. warnings against such an ominous move.

“The Strait of Hormuz is completely under our control,” Iran’s navy chief Adm. Habibollah Sayyari said after Monday’s test. “We do not allow any enemy to pose threats to our interests.”

See full article at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-01-01/iran-missile-test/52318422/1

___________________________________________________________________

‘Iran gained success over US sanctions’

Sun Jan 1, 2012 1:27PM GMT, Press TV

Leader says the country has scored an eye-catching victory against the hegemonic powers.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says Iran has achieved “eye-catching successes” in its confrontation with hegemonic powers and their economic and propaganda campaigns.

“Countering the sanctions and progress in nuclear [technology] is part of these accomplishments,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a meeting with the members of the Islamic society of Iranian students in Europe.

The Leader added this triumphant trend will not subside and will continue apace in the future.

“The enemy is repeatedly suffering defeats and setbacks, despite its all-out political, security, and political measures against the Islamic Republic,” Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated.

See full post at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/218796.html

___________________________________________________________________

Iran Says It Recorded U.S. Carrier’s Movements

ASSOCIATED PRESS

TEHRAN, Iran—An Iranian surveillance plane has recorded video and photographed a U.S. aircraft carrier during an Iranian navy drill near a strategic waterway in the Persian Gulf, Iran’s IRNA news agency reported on Thursday.

In Washington, meanwhile, a statement from the mother of an Iranian-American detained in Iran for four months on espionage charges said his alleged confession was made under duress.

The Tehran report about the aircraft carrier didn’t provide details, and it was unclear what information the Iranian military could glean from such footage.

See full article at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203899504577128542563309880.html

_____________________________________________________________________

Iranian Exiles in Iraq Ready to Start Relocation

Published December 28, 2011
FoxNews.com

  • camp_ashraf.jpg
    AP – Dec. 9, 2011: In this photo provided by the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, Iraqi police stand guard outside the opposition group’s camp northeast of Baghdad, Iraq.

The leader of an Iranian dissident group has agreed to start relocating refugees who for years have been living in precarious conditions in an Iraqi camp.

Under an agreement recently struck between the United Nations and the Iraqi government, the 3,400 Iranian exiles at a site known as Camp Ashraf will move to Camp Liberty — the former U.S. military base near Baghdad — before making arrangements to leave Iraq and resettle elsewhere.

Maryam Rajavi, the Paris-based head of the group, averted a potential showdown Wednesday by announcing that, “as a gesture of goodwill,” 400 residents at Ashraf are prepared to go to Camp Liberty “at first opportunity.” The statement was obtained by Fox News.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/12/28/iranian-exiles-in-iraq-ready-to-start-relocation/#ixzz1iLSAYRam

__________________________________________________________________

Iran proposes new round of nuclear talks with 6 world powers as sanctions hit hard

( YJC, Mohammad Ali Marizad / Associated Press ) – A member of the Iranian military takes position in a drill on the shore of the sea of Oman, on Friday, Dec. 30, 2011. Iran’s navy chief has reiterated for a second time in less than a week that his country can easily close the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the passageway through which a sixth of the world’s oil flows.

By Associated Press, Published: December 31
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran said Saturday it has proposed a new round of talks on its nuclear program with six world powers that have been trying for years to persuade Tehran to freeze aspects of its atomic work that could provide a possible pathway to weapons production.The country’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said he has formally called on the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to return to negotiations.

The invitation comes after new sanctions recently imposed by the West over Tehran’s enrichment of uranium, a process that produces fuel for reactors but which can also be used in making nuclear weapons. Iran insists it only has peaceful intentions, while the U.S. and many of its European allies suspect Iran of aiming to use a civilian nuclear energy program as a cover for developing a weapons capability.

The last round of negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany was held in January in Istanbul, Turkey, but it ended in failure.

“We formally declared to them (the intent) to return to the path of dialogue for cooperation,” Jalili told Iranian diplomats in Tehran, according to the official IRNA news agency. Jalili did not say when or through what channel he issued the invitation.

Read full article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/report-iran-to-propose-new-round-of-nuclear-talks-with-six-world-powers/2011/12/31/gIQANOIxRP_story.html

________________________________________________________________

Iranian officials: Woman may be hanged instead of stoned

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 12:45 PM EST, Mon December 26, 2011
Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006.
Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006.

Tehran, Iran (CNN) — A woman sentenced to die by stoning will be executed, Iranian officials said Monday, but the method of execution is still being debated, according to an Iranian media report.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case drew international attention after she was sentenced to die by stoning for adultery.

“This lady is accused of two crimes,” Hojatoleslam Sharifi, the judiciary chief of Eastern Azarbaijan province, said at a news conference Monday, the semi-official Iran Student’s News Agency reported. “One is adultery, which is punishable by stoning to death, and the other is assisting in her husband’s murder. She is currently serving 10 years for helping to kill her husband.”

He said “we did not have the needed facility for stoning,” so officials asked the then-head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, for advice, Sharifi said. “He was too busy at the time, and this issue was left for his successor to handle.”

The current judiciary head, Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, “is of the opinion that since the objective is execution, and since stoning is not practical, the execution should be done by hanging,” he said. “However, (Larijiani) has decided to wait for now and discuss the issue with other Islamic scholars until a clear and accurate decision is reached.”

Officials have decided to await Larijani’s decision. Since Ashtiani is currently serving time, “we agreed there is no hurry,” Sharifi said.

Read full article at: http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/26/world/meast/iran-woman-stoning/index.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

News recap for the week of 12/19/11

Iran TV shows suspected US spy ‘confessing’

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press – 11 hours ago

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s state TV broadcast video of a young man Sunday it claimed was a CIA spy who sought to infiltrate Iran’s secret services.

The TV identified the man, apparently in his late 20s, as Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, an American-Iranian who received special training and served at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading to Iran for his alleged intelligence mission.

“Their (US intelligence) plan was to initially burn some valuable information, to give it free so that (Iran’s) Intelligence Ministry would see the good things and then would contact me,” said in a part of the confession that was broadcast.

The voice of an unnamed announcer on the video said U.S. intelligence was certain that Iran’s secret services would not ignore the data. Therefore, they provided a mix of correct and false information to mislead Iran’s intelligence but tempt it at the same time.

“Iran’s intelligence apparatus overcame the thirst and detected the deception, identified the intelligence corridors (Hekmati’s alleged link to U,.S. intelligence) … and contained the infiltration mission,” it said.

The TV showed a card with writing in English identifying the bearer as an “army contractor.” It also showed several photos of the man identified as Hekmati, some of them in military uniform, together with U.S. army officers.

There was no immediate comment from Washington.

See original article at Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/iran-tv-shows-suspected-us-spy-confessing-to-alleged-mission-to-infiltrate-iran-secret-service/2011/12/18/gIQAG9mg2O_story.html

Did Iran hijack the ‘beast’? US experts cautious about bold claims. (Video)

To hijack the lost US drone, Iran would have to have overcome major technical hurdles. None are impossible, but US experts question Iran’s capabilities in such high-end cyberwarfare.

By Mark Clayton, Staff writer / December 16, 2011

This photo released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards claims to show US RQ-170 Sentinel drone which Tehran says its forces downed earlier this week.

See original article & video at Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2011/1216/Did-Iran-hijack-the-beast-US-experts-cautious-about-bold-claims.-Video

IEA Says More Sanctions on Iran May Push Crude Prices Higher

By Nayla Razzouk – Dec 13, 2011 2:46 AM PT

Tougher international sanctions on Iran may lead to higher global crude prices and a decrease in output capacity for OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, the International Energy Agency said.

A proposed European Union ban on purchases of almost 600,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude would “likely” force refiners in the Mediterranean region to pay more for oil from other suppliers, the agency said in a report released today. Iran’s production capacity will decline by 890,000 barrels a day to less than 3 million barrels a day by 2016 if the EU also blocks sales, as it is considering, of oil-related equipment and services to the Persian state, the IEA said.

The EU added 180 Iranian officials and companies to a blacklist earlier this month to intensify pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, after the U.S. imposed stiffer penalties in November. The bloc is still discussing a possible halt to purchases of crude from Iran, the world’s third-largest oil exporter. The Gulf nation denies it is seeking technology to build nuclear weapons.

“Given already very low European crude inventories, a spate of precautionary buying and escalating tensions surrounding the Iranian issue could sustain prompt prices at levels higher than otherwise, amid the growing concerns about the euro zone and weaker global economic activity for 2012,” the IEA said.

See original article at Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-13/iea-says-more-sanctions-on-iran-may-push-crude-prices-higher-1-.html

Iran, Saudi Officials Hold Rare Talks

BY ELLEN KNICKMEYER

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—Iran’s intelligence chief visited Riyadh for talks with senior Saudi officials on security and political issues, a rare high-level session amid growing tensions between two Persian Gulf powers that have competed for influence in the region.

Saudi officials have intensified accusations against Iran in recent weeks, charging Tehran with inciting political unrest and a potential nuclear-arms race in the Middle East.

The meeting in the Saudi capital “helped us exchange ideas and policies about mutual security and politics and also clear some misunderstandings,” said Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast.

See original article at Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203518404577096031404782816.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

IRAN, SYRIA INK FAIR TRADE AGREEMENT

TEHRAN – Iran and Syria have signed a free trade agreement in a bid to boost bilateral trade especially in industry, mining and agriculture, the deputy industry, mine and trade minister stated on Sunday.
The deal was signed after the Iranian parliament passed a bill last Tuesday for free trade with Syria. The bill provided for free trade between Iran and Syria within the next five years.
Speaking to the Mehr News Agency, Hamid Safdel added that the deal would pave the way for the two sides to increase annual trade to $5 billion.
Currently, Safdel said, engineering services is Iran’s main exports to Syria, which amounted to $2.2 billion in the last Iranian calendar year which ended on March 20, 2011.
The two countries’ trade value (excluding technical and engineering services exports) stood at $336 million last year, the IRNA news agency reported.
Iranian firms are currently carrying out different construction projects in Syria such as cement factory, hydroelectric power plants, glass factory, and silos.
Senior Iranian lawmaker Allaedin Boroujerdi said last Tuesday that the free trade pact was “a firm response” to the United States and its allies which are “investing billions of dollars to change the political structure of the Syrian government.”

Russian customs seize Iran-bound radioactive metal

By NATALIYA VASILYEVA, Associated Press – 2 days ago

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s customs agency announced Friday it has seized pieces of radioactive metal from the luggage of an Iranian passenger bound for Tehran from one of Moscow’s main airports.

It was not immediately clear if the substance could be any use to Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA confirmed that material had been seized from the luggage of an Iranian passenger in Moscow about a month ago, but denied it was radioactive.

Russia’s Federal Customs Service said in a statement that agents found 18 pieces of metal, packed in steel pencil cases, at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after a radiation alert went off. It said the gauges showed that radiation levels were 20 times higher than normal.

Spokeswoman Kseniya Grebenkina told The Associated Press the luggage was seized some time ago, but did not specify when. The Iranian wasn’t detained, she said, and it was not clear whether he was still in Russia or not. She did not give his name. The pieces contained Sodium-22, she said, a radioactive isotope of sodium that could be produced in a particle accelerator.

Kelly Classic, a health physicist at the United States’ renowned Mayo Clinic, said: “You can’t make a nuclear bomb or dirty bomb with it.”

“You’d certainly wonder where it came from and why,” Classic told The Associated Press. “It’s prudent to be a little leery considering where the person’s going.”

Classic said the isotope can be used in devices that determine the thickness of metals.

Another expert, Michael Unterweger, group leader for the radioactivity group at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, said it can be used as a calibration source for radiation instrumentation.

See original article from the AP: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i7a3f5ZT-NbEcUyHxKc1y595WOFA?docId=550c37cdc6974645b7e11dad5191577b

Iraq’s Shiites in no mood to embrace Iran

By , Published: December 14

NAJAF, Iraq — When a senior Iranian cleric announced last month that he was planning to move to this holy Shiite city to open an office, the furor that erupted offered a glimpse into the future of a complicated relationship.

As American troops leave Iraq, Iran certainly ranks high among the beneficiaries of their nearly nine-year presence. As a Shiite power that suffered enormously during an eight-year war with a Sunni-dominated Iraq in the 1980s, Iran now can generally count on closer ties with a friendly Shiite government next door.

But the biggest winners of all have been Iraqi Shiites, whose ascent to power reversed nearly 1,400 years of sometimes brutal Sunni domination. And although Iraqi Shiites broadly welcome the departure of the Americans, they seem in no mood to substitute one form of foreign domination for another — and least of all, they say, from Iran.

See original article at the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraqs-shiites-in-no-mood-to-embrace-iran/2011/12/14/gIQANYRUuO_story.html

US ups Iran sanctions, could target central bank

Published December 13, 2011

| Associated Press

WASHINGTON –  The Obama administration hit two senior Iranian military officials with travel and financial sanctions Tuesday and moved closer to a compromise with Congress over tough new sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank that Washington worries could have unintended consequences.

Citing their roles in alleged human rights abuses, the Treasury Department added the chairman of Iran’s joint chiefs of staff, the country’s most senior military officer, and the deputy commander of the hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to a U.S. blacklist. The move freezes any assets they may have in the U.S., although it is unlikely they have any such assets, and bars Americans from doing business with them. The State Department also barred the two men from entering the United States.

Iran’s endgame is long overdue

Joel Brinkley, © 2011 Joel Brinkley

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The world is closing in on Iran, but not aggressively enough. It’s time for Europe to deal the final blow.

The Iranian attack on the British Embassy in Tehran was close to an act of war – as was the plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Given the collection of recent provocations from this rogue state, the West’s extremely slow-motion campaign to end Iran’s nuclear-weapons program needs to be pushed to its denouement.

In recent days, the United States and Europe have been imposing ever more penalties and sanctions – closing embassies, isolating Iranian officials. But to all of it, Iran’s leaders simply shrug. “We will not budge an iota from the path we are committed to,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fall 2011 Issue – volume 96

Ramin was born in Shiraz and moved to the UK at 13. Through painting he came to realize that no matter what medium his work is focused on protest based Art “where I continue to tell the story of those often forgotten. A kind of Art that sometimes mixes serious issues with some humour but often with tragedy”. See  www.dagod.org/about

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

News Recap: 8/1/11 – 8/7/11

Iran’s oil minister: Replace foreign oil companies with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard

Nominee for Oil Minister, Gen. Rostam Qasemi, commander of Khatem ol-Anbiya Construction Organization, a company owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, arrives at the podium, in an open session of parliament to debate on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's proposed ministers, in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011. Iran's conservative-dominated parliament approved a senior Revolutionary Guard commander, targeted by U.S. and European sanctions, to head the strategic oil ministry.
New Oil Minister, Gen. Rostam Qasemi, commander of Khatem ol-Anbiya Construction Organization, a company owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, arrives at the podium, in an open session of Iran’s parliament.(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
By: Nasser Karimi Associated Press / August 7, 2011
See full Article at The Boston Globe
See also a related story on the appointment of General Ghassemi, who formerly headed the IRI Revolutionary Guard’s Construction division, and is under UN and US sanctions for his, and the Guards’, role in Iran’s quest for nuclear power. (By Ramin Mostaghim and Borzou Daragahi)

TEHRAN, Iran—Iran’s new oil minister says he wants the Revolutionary Guard’s economic conglomerate to replace foreign gas and oil companies, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The minister, Rostam Qasemi, had been the chief of the economic conglomerate until his appointment last week to the government post.

The economic conglomerate, Khatam-ol-Anbiya, is the Revolutionary Guard’s most important economic unit and is the largest contractor of government projects including major oil and gas projects.

“Khatam-ol-Anbiya … should convert to a successor to foreign big companies,” Qasemi said, according to IRNA.

His remark is seen as a reaction to the pressure that sanctions are putting on foreign companies working in Iran. Several oil companies, including Total SA and Royal Dutch Shell, have withdrawn from the country over the past years. Some Chinese and Indian companies are still working there.

Qasemi said Khatam-ol-Anbia should be improved and said he still feels that he is still working for the Guard.

See also: Iran’s New Oil Minister Seeks $40 Billion to develop Oil & Gas fields.

__________________________________________________________________

American hikers in Iran await verdict a week after trial ends

By: Shirzad Bozorgmehr, CNN
August 7, 2011 11:00 a.m. EDT
Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal, center, seen here in February, are accused of being spies.
Shane Bauer, left, and Josh Fattal, center, seen here in February, are accused of being spies.
See Full Story at CNN.com
Tehran, Iran (CNN) — The attorney representing three American hikers accused of being spies in Iran said Sunday that he was still awaiting word about his clients’ fate.

Attorney Masoud Shafiei said he had not heard anything from court officials as of 6:30 p.m. Sunday, a week after a hearing that he hoped would result in a swift and lenient ruling.

After last week’s hearing, Shafiei said an Iranian court was scheduled to issue a verdict within a week — an assessment reiterated by a U.S. State Department spokesman.

On Saturday, state-run Press TV reported that “Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi expresses hope that the trial of the three U.S. nationals detained on charges of espionage and illegal entry will result in their freedom.”

“God willing … the Judiciary will present necessary information in this respect when the time is right,” Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said during a news conference in Tehran.

_______________________________________________________________________

Iran’s rich eat ice cream flecked with gold as poor struggle to survive

Thomas Erdbrink/For The Washington Post – At the Milad Tower

See full article at The Washington Post

By: Thomas Erdbrink
Published: August 5 | Updated: Saturday, August 6, 6:00 PM
Tehran — Gold-flecked ice cream wasn’t part of the picture that Shiite Muslim clerics painted during the Iranian Revolution, when they promised to lift the poor by distributing the country’s vast oil income equally across society.

But more than three decades later, record oil profits have brought in billions of dollars, and some people here are enjoying that decadent dessert. The trouble is, it’s just a small group of wealthy Iranians. Despite the promises of the revolution, many here say the gap between rich and poor has never seemed wider.

Iran’s new wealthy class has succeeded in tapping the opportunities provided by a vast domestic market, sometimes aided by corruption and erratic government policies. It includes children of people with close connections to some of Iran’s rulers, as well as families of factory owners and those who managed to get huge loans from state banks at low interest rates. The oil windfall — nearly $500 billion over the past five years — has also played a central role in establishing this small group that is visibly enjoying its profits.

Both supporters and critics of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say some of his economic policies designed to counter inequality are actually making things worse for many. And although some statistics show the gap between the Islamic Republic’s rich and poor has been stable over time, scenes of the rich flaunting their wealth have left many Iranians complaining.

The new wealthy are buying Porsches, getting caviar delivered to late-night parties, and eating $250 ice cream covered in edible gold at what’s billed as the highest rotating restaurant in the world. From the top of Tehran’s 1,427-foot-high Milad Tower, Iran’s poor appear as tiny dots in the streets below.

__________________________________________________________________

Are Iran’s Leaders About to Get Rid of Ahmadinejad?

By: Reza Kahlili

Published August 05, 2011

See full article at FoxNews.com

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
AP – June 7: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flashes a victory sign

Could Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be facing the ultimate pink slip?
Could his job as president be threatened by a severe rift within the Iranian leadership?

The possibility is not as far-fetched as it might sound.

A major rift between Ahmadinejad and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei surfaced after the president’s dismissal of the minister of intelligence in April and his subsequent reinstatement by Khamenei.

Ahmadinejad has often said hat he will not remain quiet in light of the arrests of his close associates and the daily attacks against him and his inner circle.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

These days in Iran, the supreme leader’s supporters refer to the president as the “deviant current,” and talk openly of those who abuse power and wealth and seek to deviate from the path of the Islamic Revolution.

In the past, similar condemnations have led to the death penalty or even elimination.

Ahmadinejad has publicly stated that the arrest of any member of his cabinet would be a line in the sand for him. He’s warned the Iranian Justice Department to back off or face dire consequences.

It didn’t take long, however, for Justice Department officials to respond, saying there is no line in the sand and that any official who breaks the law can, and will be, arrested and prosecuted.

Next, the Iranian president made his boldest move yet against the Revolutionary Guards — the very force that had, until now, secured his presidency. He accused the Guards of being “smuggling brothers” in security and intelligence. He said they earn billions of dollars in illicit profits by conducting their illegal operations from ports around the country. He knows their secrets, he warned, and is ready to reveal much more should the confrontation escalate.

Ahmadinejad’s threat was not taken lightly and once again Jafari responded with his most serious warning to date. The Guards are in possession of new information, he said, that proves the enemy is intent on creating instability in the country by assassinating top officials. He recounted a similar caution recently issued by the intelligence minister. All officials, he said, should be aware of their surroundings.

The radicals ruling Iran have often used similar statements to send a strong warning to the opposition that they will be taken out should they persist with their position. The moderates in Iran have often been silenced by just such threats.

_________________________________________________________________________

IRAN: Tehran youths’ plan to cool off lands them in hot water

By: Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

See Full story at LA Times Babylon & Beyond

119817_852
Iranian Youth in the August heat of Tehran amid a friendly water fight
many have termed a form of protest by the youth against a stifling government.

Every year, Iranian Armenians celebrate an ancient pre-Islamic water festival called Ab-Bazi, which has roots in the ancient faith of Mithraism. This year the ritual was turned into a youth festival for all Iranians, regardless of their faith, posing yet another challenge to hardliners in the Islamic Republic.

They were just looking to cool off and have a little fun in the middle of Tehran’s scorching-hot summer. Instead, a group of young Iranians got all tangled up with authorities in the Islamic Republic and paraded on Iranian state television for participating in a mass public water pistol fight in a Tehran park, Iranian media reports say.

On Wednesday night, state channel broadcast images of some youth who were arrested at the event on July 29, the Iranian daily Assre-Iran reported.

They said in the program that they had chatted with each other on Facebook and decided to meet at the park — ironically named Tehran’s Water and Fire park — at that date with water guns, added the report.

The event reportedly attracted about 800 people through a Facebook invitation.

Photos posted online said to have been taken at the event showed something rare in Iran, which is run by a gang of aging clerics, extremist military men and their hangers-on: groups of laughing young men and women spraying water at each other with colorful water guns and pouring water bottles over each other in the hot summer weather.

Ab-bazi-11

The event apparently ruffled the feathers of local officials and the self-styled Islamic guardian’s of public space. One city official was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying the water fight angered authorities because some of the women did not wear their Islamic headscarves in an appropriate manner and because the crowds were too large. The young people were also accused of using too much water from the taps in the park.

Chief commander of Tehran’s vice police, Gen. Ahmad Roozbehani, reportedly vowed on state TV that the detainees will face harsh punishment for “breaking norms.”

The ill-fated water fight is the latest in a series of similar gatherings organized via Facebook recently in Iran, according to a report by Radio Free Europe. Previous public events held include paintball and bubble-blowing gatherings.

It was not immediately clear why the July 29 water fight irked the authorities more than the previous ones. One theory is that the photos posted online on several blogs and websites showing smiling men and women soaked in water and playing together angered conservatives who want to impose their austere version of Islam on the nation.

Other observers say the water fight crackdown might have deeper roots in the conflict between Iran’s die-hard Islamic puritans and a population yearning for a connection to its pre-Islamic past and the outside world.

One parliament deputy, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, accused the organizers of seeking to “distance the youth from Islamic principles,” according to Radio Farda.

See update: Iran Frees on Bail 17 Young People Arrested at Park Water Fight

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

News/Events Update: 8/1/11

IRANIAN WOMAN STOPS ‘EYE FOR AN EYE’ PUNISHMENT, AT THE LAST MINUTE

Tehran, Iran (CNN) — (See Full Article)

Ameneh Bahrami - before/after

A woman blinded in an acid attack seven years ago said Sunday she stopped the “eye for an eye” punishment for her attacker because “such revenge is not worth it.”

A physician was to drop acid — under legal supervision — into the eyes of Majid Movahedi on Sunday, according to Fars News Agency, to punish him for throwing acid in Bahrami’s face. The act disfigured her face and blinded her.

“I never intended to allow Majid to be blinded,” Ameneh Bahrami told CNN. “… Each of us, individually, must try and treat others with respect and kindness in order to have a better society.”

Bahrami stopped the punishment minutes before it was carried out, she said, adding that Movahedi already had been given anesthetic.

____________________________________________________________________

ABC News:  Verdict for American Hikers in Iran Will Be Issued Within One Week, Judge Announces

By OLIVIA KATRANDJIAN
July 31, 2011

3 US hikers accused of espionage by Iran

Iran’s Revolutionary Court announced today that a verdict will be issued within one week regarding the arrest of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, Americans who were captured hiking near the Iran-Iraq border with their friend Sarah Shourd two years ago.

Today marks the second anniversary of their arrest.

The Muslim tradition of pardoning prisoners for the holy month of Ramadan, which starts next week, is thought by some to be a good omen for their release.

“…We have very high hopes. This gives us hope that the trial will be the end of this nightmare,” said Shourd to ABC News “This Week.”

But when no outside cameras were allowed in the courtroom this morning, that was thought to be a bad sign.

“We have heard from Shane and Josh’s lawyer, Mr. Masoud Shafii, that the judge announced in court that he will issue his verdict within one week. Mr. Shafii said Shane and Josh both appeared to be well and in good spirits. They again testified to their innocence, both verbally and in writing, and their lawyer had the opportunity to present their defense. The hearing lasted for about four hours,” said Fattal and Bauer’s families in a statement.

______________________________________________________________________

Washington Post: U.S. accuses Iran of aiding al-Qaeda

See Full Article Here

By Joby Warrick, Published: July 28

The Obama administration said Thursday that Iran is helping al-Qaeda funnel cash and recruits into Pakistan for its international operations, the most serious U.S. allegation to date of Iranian aid to the terrorist group.

Documents filed by the Treasury Department accuse Iran of facilitating an al-Qaeda-run support network that transfers large amounts of cash from Middle East donors to al-Qaeda’s top leadership in Pakistan’s tribal region.

____________________________________________________________________

WSJ:

Iran Redistributes Wealth in Bid to Fight Sanctions

See Full Article Here

By Wall Street Journal Columnists:
JAY SOLOMON AND FARNAZ FASSIHI

TEHRAN—Iran’s Islamist government may be public enemy No. 1 at the White House. But in the halls of the International Monetary Fund a few blocks away, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is being hailed as an economic reformer.

In the face of mounting international sanctions, his government has embraced over the past seven months what the IMF calls one of the boldest economic makeovers ever attempted in the oil-rich Middle East.

Tehran has cut price subsidies on most energy and food products since December in a bid to shave about $60 billion or more off the government’s expenses annually.

See also: Iran’s Pick for Oil Post Signals Power Shift

_____________________________________________________________________________

Asia Times:
IRAN EXPLORES RUSSIA’S PLAN TO END THE IRAN NUCLEAR STANDOFF WITH THE WEST.

See Full Article Here
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

After some hesitation, Iran has decided to adopt a positive attitude toward Russia’s new “step-by-step” proposal to end the Iran nuclear standoff. The so-called “Lavrov plan”, named after Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s resourceful and pragmatic foreign minister, was submitted to Tehran on Monday by a special envoy and welcomed at the Iranian foreign ministry.

According to reports from Iran, the Lavrov plan calls on Iran to expand its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), envisaging a scenario whereby for every proactive Iranian step to resolve an outstanding issue with the United Nations nuclear watchdog, a reciprocal action would follow to lighten the sanctions and other punitive impositions that have been placed on Iran. Iran has been accused of developing a nuclear weapon, a charge it denies, saying its nuclear program is for civilian use only.

In other words, the plan calls for the international community to grant Iran limited concessions, such as freezing some sanctions, for each step it takes toward meeting the demands to clarify its nuclear intentions.

The US has been cool toward the Russian initiative so far, a reflection of a widening gap between Moscow and Washington at odds with each other over human rights in Russia, events in Libya and a number of other regional and international issues.

Moscow has been critical of the recent spate of unilateral Western sanctions on Iran, and in contrast to the US’s coercive approach is considerably more interested in exploring avenues to restart the dormant Iran multilateral talks with the “Iran Six” nations (ie, the UN Security Council’s Permanent Five – the US, France, China, Russia and the United Kingdom – plus Germany).

____________________________________________________________________

NPR: Killing Focuses Attention On Iran’s Nuclear Program

By: Peter Kenyon

July 26, 2011

Iran says a scientist killed in Tehran over the weekend was not connected with the country’s nuclear program, but the daylight killing and recent announcements by Tehran of nuclear advances have renewed scrutiny of the country’s nuclear effort.

Iranian media said 35-year-old Darioush Rezai-Nejad was a promising graduate student. Officials speculated that his assailants — gunmen on motorbikes — may have confused him with a nuclear scientist with a similar name.

Relatives and friends mourn over the coffin of Darioush Rezai-Nejad in Tehran, Iran. Rezai-Nejad was killed in a deadly shooting on Saturday. Iran said he was a university student — not a nuclear physicist.

Photo from APRelatives and friends mourn over the coffin of Darioush Rezai-Nejad in Tehran, Iran. Rezai-Nejad was killed in a deadly shooting on Saturday. Iran said he was a university student — not a nuclear physicist.

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani condemned the killing as a “U.S.-Zionist terrorist act.” Similar condemnations followed attacks on a number of Iranian scientists in recent years.

Attention On Nuclear Program

The latest killing follows Tehran’s announcement that it is installing a new generation of centrifuges to enhance its uranium enrichment program.

Mark Fitzpatrick, an analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, says that if Iran’s claim is true, the number of more efficient, second-generation centrifuges may have increased from 20 to 164.

Fitzpatrick says that while that’s a cause for concern, it’s also a sign of how hard it is for Iran to replace thousands of older centrifuges.

“They have limitations on the amount of carbon fiber that they can import or produce, and there may be limitations in other components that restrict their capability to have many more than 164 [centrifuges],” he says.

Iran’s insistence that its program is entirely peaceful is widely doubted, Fitzpatrick says. But this year, Arab uprisings and international economic crises have dominated world leaders’ attention. That has left sanctions as the primary tool for dealing with Iran, Fitzpatrick says, though additional U.N. sanctions are unlikely in the near term.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pressure & Sanctions Mount on IRGC

Iran test-fires 14 missiles during military drills

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 28, 2011 9:31 a.m. EDT
see full article here
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps test Tuesday a ballistic missile Zelzal during military drills at an undisclosed location.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps test Tuesday a ballistic missile Zelzal during military drills at an undisclosed location.

Tehran, Iran (CNN) — Iran has successfully test-fired 14 missiles during military drills, Iranian news agencies reported Tuesday.

Following the unveiling of several missile silos Monday, Tuesday’s exercises are the second day of war games code-named the “Great Prophet Six.”

According to Iran’s IRIB news agency, the Islamic Revolutions Guards Corps fired three Shabab ballistic missiles and 11 Zelzal short-range missiles to test the missiles “‘precision, navigation and interceptive capability.”

Airing video of one of the facilities as it began a new round of military exercises, Iran announced Monday that it has built its first ballistic missile silos. The hardened, underground launch sites will allow Iranian commanders to fire missiles more quickly, Iran’s state-run Press TV reported. A military statement carried by the official Islamic Republic News Agency said the silos were capable of launching long-range missiles.

Iran’s development of missile and nuclear fuel technology has led to U.N. sanctions and accusations from the United States that the clerical regime is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran says it has a right to peaceful nuclear technology, but the International Atomic Energy says it can’t verify whether Tehran’s nuclear program remains entirely peaceful.

The United States and the Soviet Union built more than 1,400 silos to protect their long-range missiles during the Cold War era.

In the Iranian statement, military spokesman Col. Asghar Ghelichkhani said the facilities were designed and built with domestic expertise.

Western observers say Iran currently has missiles capable of hitting targets up to about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) away, a range that would cover nearly the entire Middle East and part of southeastern Europe. Iran also launched its first satellite in 2009.

____________________________________________________________________

23 June 2011 Last updated at 15:25 ET

US imposes economic sanctions on Iran Air

An Iran Air jet in a file photo
The US said Iran Air had “facilitated proliferation-related activities”

The US has imposed economic sanctions on Iran’s national airline, saying Iran Air had supported the Iranian military.

In a statement, the treasury department also said the airline had provided “material support and services” to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

It said the paramilitary group supported terrorism and committed human rights abuses against protesters.

The US accuses Iran of aiming to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its programme is wholly peaceful.

In addition, the US treasury department accused Iranian port company Tidewater Middle East Company of the Revolutionary Guard Corp of exporting arms and military equipment from the seven ports it operates in the country.

“Preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is a top US government priority and we remain deeply concerned about Iran’s nuclear intentions,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said in a joint statement.

Iran Air passenger planes have allegedly been used by the Revolutionary Guards to transport rockets and missiles – some of them to Syria.

Revolutionary Guard officers are said to occasionally take control of Iran Air flights with special cargo.

Iran Air doesn’t fly to the US and is unlikely to have any assets here, but Washington will also encourage other countries to shun the blacklisted companies and get airports around the world to stop refuelling Iran Air planes.

“The United States is committed to a dual-track policy of applying pressure in pursuit of constructive engagement, and a negotiated solution.”

Iran Air has faced US sanctions since 1995, preventing it from buying aircraft or spare parts from Boeing or Airbus.

Last year, the European Commission banned Iran Air jets from European air space, citing safety concerns.

The new sanctions mean no US company will be able to do business with Iran Air or Tidewater, and if the companies hold any assets in the US, those will now be frozen.

“The US and our partners remain fully committed to a diplomatic solution with Iran,” Mrs Clinton and Mr Geithner said.

“However, until Iran is prepared to engage seriously with us on such a solution, we will continue to increase pressure against Iranian entities of concern.”

See Also:

OFAC Clarifies that Iranian Americans May Continue Flying on Iran Air

Friday, July 01, 2011

By the Asian Law Caucus

July 1, 2011, San Francisco, CA – On June 23, 2011, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury announced that it has added Iran Air to its “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List” (SDN List).  The inclusion on the SDN list generally means that U.S. individuals – United States citizens and permanent residents and anyone who is “physically” in the United States – may not engage in financial and commercial dealings with Iran Air without first obtaining a specific license from OFAC.

In the past week, Asian Law Caucus (ALC) has worked closely with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) who requested and received responses from OFAC officials indicating that U.S. individuals may continue flying on Iran Air based on an underlying travel exemption.  OFAC officials also confirmed that the recent designation prohibits nearly all other dealings with Iran Air and affiliates are illegal.  Even though these statements may be subject to change and not legally binding, we are encouraged by this clarification and hope to work with OFAC and Iranian American organizations to mitigate the effect of sanctions on Iranian Americans.

The sanctions against Iran are complex and complicate many business, charitable, and family affairs of Iranian Americans.  You should consult with an attorney or with OFAC if you plan to engage in any transactions involving Iran.

____________________________________________________________________

U.S. military sees Iran behind rising troop deaths in Iraq

BAGHDAD — Three U.S. soldiers were killed this week in a rocket attack at a U.S. base near the Iranian border, the military said Thursday, bringing June’s death toll to 15 and marking the bloodiest month for U.S. troops in Iraq in two years.U.S. military commanders have said in recent months that they feared such an increase in violence would accompany the planned withdrawal of most American troops by the end of the year. Military officials in Baghdad and at the Pentagon blamed the mounting death toll on the growing sophistication of weapons that insurgents and Iranian-backed militia groups are using, including powerful rockets, armor-piercing grenades and jam-resistant roadside bombs suspected of coming from Iran.

The heightened danger underscores the volatile security situation in Iraq, amid ongoing debate here and in Washington about whether any U.S. troops should remain in the country.

June’s death toll was the highest since 15 troops died here in June 2009, according to iCasualties.org, a Web site that tracks U.S. military deaths. Fourteen of the deaths were combat-related, the highest since 23 soldiers and Marines were killed in action in June 2008, the site said.

During much of the insurgency that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, U.S. military commanders blamed Sunni-dominated terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq for many of the attacks against American troops. But as the U.S. military has adjusted its tactics, largely withdrawing from cities and improving its technological capacity to combat deadly roadside bombs and suicide attacks, officials say it has become far harder for loosely organized Sunni militias to strike out against the roughly 46,000 U.S. troops in the country.

Now, according to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, chief spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, the primary threat to the Americans comes from three Shiite militia groups operating in Iraq, which officials said they believe are being trained and equipped by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps special forces.

“All of them receive at least indirect support from elements in Iran,” Buchanan said in an interview this week.

In early June, what U.S. officials believe was a sophisticated rocket slammed into a joint Iraqi-U.S. military base in eastern Baghdad, killing six American soldiers in the deadliest single attack on forces here in more than two years. In addition, three U.S. troops were killed by roadside bombs in June.

Last week, an American contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development was killed when suspected Shiite militants attached a bomb to a car he was riding in near a Baghdad university. And Sunday, two U.S. troops were killed when an apparent armor-piercing grenade was lobbed at their vehicle.

Although the U.S. military did not release specifics on Wednesday’s attack pending notification of next of kin, officials familiar with the incident said the rocket was so powerful that it also wounded more than a dozen soldiers, several critically.

There was no immediate assertion of responsibility for that attack. However, Kataib Hezbollah, one of the Shiite militia groups mentioned by Buchanan, said earlier last month that it was responsible for the attack that killed six soldiers.

Buchanan said there is “no doubt” that Kataib Hezbollah “follows orders” from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Quds Force, a highly specialized unit responsible for operations outside Iran. “Their leadership lives in Iran, they are directly trained by the Quds Force and they are supplied by them,” Buchanan said.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expressed similar frustration with Iran’s ties to the Shiite militias operating in Iraq. Iran is “facilitating weapons, they’re facilitating training, there’s new technology that they are providing,” Gates said. “They’re stepping this up, and it’s a concern.”

Buchanan said efforts to protect U.S. forces in Iraq are further complicated by rival Shiite militias that are vying to emerge as the dominant Shiite insurgency group in Iraq.

___________________________________________________________________________

‘US accuses Iran of sending weapons to Iraq, Afghanistan’

By JPOST.COM STAFF
07/02/2011 09:13
Read original article here.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has armed Taliban, militant groups to better attack US targets, ‘Wall Street Journal’ report says.

US senior officials have accused the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s elite military unit, of sending military weapons to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

According to the report, Iran supplied the Taliban in Afghanistan with weapons that have increased the insurgents capabilities of striking US troops and targets from a farther distance.

The accusation comes as tensions between Tehran and Washington continue to escalate. Last Wednesday, the US Treasury Department said that it would impose greater sanctions on Iran following its support for another ally in the region: Syria.

The report of arms shipments from Iran to groups engaging in military conflict with the US heightens the competition for influence in the region playing out between the US and Iran.

And despite US sanctions on Iran, the Islamic Republic last week carried out a large-scale military drill called “Great Prophet Mohammad War Games 6” to allegedly test out Iran’s defense capabilities as well as practice the use of advanced equipment.

Besides the US, different nations in the Middle East have expressed growing concern over Iran’s military aspirations and regional influence.

Israel last week expanded economic sanctions against Iran, following a controversy over the late Israel shipping tycoon Sami Ofer’s supposed trade with the Islamic Republic.

Israel has long claimed that Iran arms and funds Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, two Islamist groups hostile to the Jewish State.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed that the sanctions were “an important step in the struggle against Iran’s nuclear program.”

Saudi Arabia also expressed concern over Iran’s military projects, including the contentious issue of nuclear arms development. A senior Saudi Arabian official said on Thursday “We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don’t. It’s as simple as that.”

“If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit,” the official said.

Saudi Arabia has long been an opponent of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, and as a Sunni Muslim country sees a Shi’ite Iran as an threat of influence in the region as well.

Saudi Arabia has frequently accused Iran of engaging in pro-Shi’ite activities in neighboring Bahrain, Syria and Lebanon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MeK Delisting, Feminism in Iran, Activists & Hunger Strikes, UNHR Rapporteur

WASHINGTON’S FAVORITE TERRORISTS

By: Trita Parsi
Author: A Treacherous Alliance
Published firs at the Huffington Post. Click here.

In the 10 years that I have lived in Washington, I have never seen lobbyists for al-Qaeda parade through the halls of Congress. I have not seen any events on Capitol Hill organized by Hamas. And I have not seen any American politicians take campaign contributions from the Islamic Jihad.

But the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an organization with the blood of Americans and Iranians alike on its hands, freely does all of these things, despite being a designated foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

And in a matter of weeks, this terrorist group may succeed in getting removed from the terrorist list — not as a result of any change of heart — but as a result of an unprecedented mutli-million dollar media and lobbying blitz.

If al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization were holding fundraisers in DC, lobbying Congress, or holding press conferences at the National Press Club, the FBI, Homeland Security, and local law enforcement would be all over it.

Not so with the MEK. There, law enforcement seems nowhere to be found. In fact, a prominent spokesperson for the MEK terrorist group was hired by Fox News in the mid-2000s to serve as their on-air terrorist analyst. Go figure.

Since early January 2011, the MEK has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists, PR agents and communications firms to build up pressure on Secretary Hillary Clinton to take the group off of the terrorist list. Their argument is that the MEK rejected violence and terrorism in 2001 and as a result should be de-listed.

But this is not true, according to the FBI. A recently disclosed FBI report from 2004 reveals that the group continued to plan terrorist acts at least three years after they claimed to renounce terrorism.

No one should be surprised — not even DC’s “unwitting members of Congress” — as the FBI calls the group’s supporters on Capitol Hill. The State Department has documented the MEK’s disturbing record: killing Americans and Iranians in terrorist attacks; fighting for Saddam Hussein against Iran and assisting Saddam’s brutal campaign against Iraq’s Kurds and Shia; its “cult-like” behavior; the abuses and even torture it commits against its own members; and its support for the U.S. embassy takeover and calls for executing the hostages.

And let’s not forget, the MEK suppresses and holds captive its own members – more than 70 percent of the MEK members in Camp Ashraf in Iraq are held there against their own wishes, according to a RAND Corporation study.

But even if the MEK could be believed, the reality is that they are currently on the terrorist list and, as a result, they must be subject to U.S. terrorism laws. Simply put, the laws must be enforced — without exception.

The State Department’s review of their terrorism status, which is due to be completed by August of this year, must be conducted without the essentially illegal pressure tactics the MEK currently is employing through lobbyists, lawmakers and hired former officials.

If the group is taken off the list, not as a result of an objective review, but by virtue of their lobbying prowess, several repercussions can be envisioned.

First, the desire to de-list them in Washington seems partially driven by gravitation towards covert military action against Iran. Neither sanctions nor diplomacy have yielded the desired results on the nuclear issue, and some in Washington are arguing using the MEK to conduct assassination and sabotage campaigns inside Iran.

As one former State Department official put it, the “paradox is that we may take them off the terror list in order for them to do more terror.”

Much like Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, the permanent leader of the MEK, Maryam Rajavi, seeks to return from decades of exile as the anointed President of Iran. And freed of the terrorist designation, there is little reason to believe the MEK won’t turn its lobbying apparatus — which puts Chalabi’s to shame — to obtain U.S. funding and to promote war with Iran. In fact, some members of Congress already refer to the MEK as the “real Green movement.” Even more shocking is that top former U.S. officials have called on the U.S. to recognize Rajavi as the rightful President of Iran.

Second, de-listing the MEK would spell disaster for the Iranian pro-democracy movement. According to prominent Green movement figures Mohsen Kadivar and Ahmad Sadri:

Removing the MEK from the FTO at this juncture would embolden Iran’s hardliners to intensify their repression and discredit the Green Movement by implying that it is somehow connected to the widely detested MEK terror group. Furthermore, supporting the MEK would provide the Iranian government with the specter of a foreign-based threat that could be exploited to heal key fractures within the system, increase the number of Iranians who would rally around the flag, and facilitate the suppression of the indigenous political opposition.

If you recognize the necessity of a non-violent campaign against the Iranian regime, the last thing you want is to have the US government support and fund one of the most violent and undemocratic Iranian organizations — and, to make matters worse, to do so in the name of the Iranian Green movement.

Third, de-listing will put the rising Iranian-American community in a state of shock. In the last decade, an impressive civic awakening has occurred in this successful but previously politically silent community, with dozens of new groups being formed with the aim of contributing to the American democracy and providing the Iranian Americans in the U.S. with a voice. A U.S. funded and supported MEK will ensure a return to the pre-1997 era. Back then, in the eyes of most U.S. lawmakers, the voice of Maryam Rajavi was the voice of the entire Iranian-American community.

Now, by buying off officials to pry open the floodgates of U.S. financial and political support, Rajavi and her small but vocal minority threaten to simultaneously drown out the voices of the rest of the Iranian-American community, co-opt the voice of Iran’s true opposition, and carry the U.S. down the path of war yet again.

 Follow Trita Parsi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tparsi
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Iran And The Woman Question

Francesca Donner, 06.17.09, 06:50 PM EDT

Feminism has a rich history in Iran. Now more than ever, says journalist Roya Hakakian, it is alive and well and at its most vibrant.

pic
ForbesWoman

ForbesWoman is a new section for professional and executive women. See the entire piece at Forbes.com .

Against the backdrop of Iran’s political turmoil, Iranian-American journalist Roya Hakakian sat down with ForbesWoman to discuss her native country’s current climate and the situation facing women–and men–in Iran today.Born in Tehran, Hakakian is the author of several collections of poetry and Journey from the Land of No, a memoir. She left Iran in 1984 at the age of 18. She has not returned nor has she been permitted to return. She now lives in Connecticut.

Excerpts from her interview with ForbesWoman follow.

Forbes: What was your first reaction to seeing women among the protesters in the streets of Iran?

Hakakian: The presence of women is not a surprise to me at all.

Iran has had a robust women’s movement for several decades now. But in the late 1990s, a new generation took charge; and in the early 2000s, they managed to organize and unite in ways that women had not since the revolution in 1979. It started as petition movement to collect signatures to ban stoning women to death and has spun out to become the “One Million Signatures Campaign.” So this is precisely what I expected.

Iran’s Election

pic

What’s the extent of risk these demonstrators are taking?

The risk is enormous.

By looking at pictures and YouTube videos, I can see the regime is using certain tactics: Plainclothes operatives with knives circulate through the crowd and bring out these knives and just as they are feeling safe because they are next to like-minded people who are demonstrating too, the operatives start to attack the protesters.

When one thinks back to 1978 and 1979 and overthrowing the Shah, it’s not remotely comparable. Even though I was young, I could see that the people knew who they were demonstrating against. There was a clear face-off between the Shah’s guards and armies and the rest of the people. The boundaries were very clear. This regime doesn’t honor that.

Some reports have noted the regime’s use of non-Persian-speaking police. Because the regime is afraid of the police switching loyalties, it has imported crowd control from other Arab countries so demonstrators on street can’t communicate with them. Iranians speak Persian and Arabs speak Arabic so they can’t be converted and brought to the other side.

Women are not particular targets. At this point, I don’t think it really matters to [the regime] whether it’s women, men, young or old.

What provides some measure of safety is the sheer volume of people that have taken to the streets. In the past 15 years, we have never had one million people marching on the streets of Tehran. Students have marched, yes, but there have been more than a million people demonstrating in the past two to three days. The crowds should are fed up and willing to pay the price.

Is this a moment of change for women?

Yes. The feminist movement, which has been ongoing in Iran, has now joined the broader public movement against the regime. This happened in Iran in the late 1970s too, but it had actually a terrible effect on the women’s movement in Iran. Women were somehow “hoodwinked” to think that the veil wasn’t such an important issue, that it was more important to sacrifice for the greater good. So the Shah went and the veil stayed.

This generation is a lot smarter. The broader social movement is far more sympathetic to the cause of women than in the late 1970s. Thirty years later, Iranian men now realize that their fate is entwined with that of their female counterparts: If women are doing better, then men will do better too.

Does Mousavi’s wife–Zahra Rahnavard–in any way represent a new face of women in Iran?

Her presence on the political scene is, if anything, a manifestation of the strength of the feminist movement. It was a smart strategy to bring her out and make her visible. Mousavi wanted to court women who constitute a huge voting block and are extremely powerful and know how to organize. So, [Rahnavard] speaks more to the feminist movement than anything else.

What role has the Internet and modern technology played in helping Iranian women to get their message out?

I think it’s enormous. I have a Facebook page with several hundred people friending me from Iran. These are people I’ve never known. They post photographs, film clips, news items. I haven’t looked at any television broadcasts … I only look at television broadcasts to measure the lag time between what I’ve read [on social networks] and the news networks.

What have you heard in the last several years about the situation for women in Iran? How have their lives changed or stayed the same?

It varies. Life can be very different for women who live in big metropolis and women who are in more remote parts of Iran. It has been a grand metamorphosis since 1979 when the regime started rolling back women’s rights and freedoms that had been extended under the Shah, prior to revolution.

The [religious] regime took a very macho approach to governance and saw rolling back the rights of women as a major priority. It instituted the veil and closed major [academic] fields to women, such as law and engineering.

But [the regime] never counted on the enormous backlash and not just from women who had been used to their freedoms. Challenges came from their “own” women too. They said, “We are Muslim, we wear veils on heads and we want to participate. You told us we are brothers and sisters and as long as we are devout, there will be equal opportunity for everybody.” The regime encouraged religious women who had never thought of themselves outside of the kitchen and home to come out and take part. And as a result, the women thought they were entitled. That was the part of the game the men had not foreseen.

These women helped cultivate a whole generation that previously was not politically active.

At this point, what’s your greatest hope for women in Iran?

Greater solidarity and commitment to the cause of women.

Much of what we’re seeing right now–what we understand to be the huge social campaign against the rigging of the election–really came from the vast activities over the years of the feminist movement. Women were the ones who put together the infrastructure, who organized demonstrations and knew how to do this. The movement today owes a lot of its existence to the women’s movement and the infrastructure the women’s movement put in place.

What can individuals around the world do to help show their support for more equality for women in Iran?

A ribbon campaign or bumper stickers.

And we need to keep this in focus. We are far more connected as human beings than we ever were. Our destinies are entwined with one another. The events of Sept. 11 and the rise of global terrorism is a sad reminder of that.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Iran arrests 2 activists; political prisoners end hunger strike

By , Published: June 27 at The Washington Post

TEHRAN — Two Iranian women’s activists were arrested in Tehran, as a group of 18 political prisoners ended a nine-day hunger strike, an opposition Web site reported Monday.Documentary filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi, 34, was arrested in her house Sunday by intelligence agents, friends confirmed. Mohammadi, a women’s rights activist, was previously arrested in 2009 for protesting the deaths of opposition demonstrators. Maryam Majd, 25, a photojournalist and women’s rights campaigner, was arrested Friday and is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison, according to the Kaleme Web site.

Political prisoners started a series of hunger strikes this month following the death of women’s rights activist Haleh Sahabi, opposition media have reported. According to opposition sources, Sahabi, 54, was beaten by security forces who broke up a June 1 funeral procession for her father, a renowned dissident. Authorities said she suffered a heart attack during the melee.

Sahabi’s death prompted journalist Hoda Saber and another imprisoned activist to start a hunger strike, according to the opposition. Days later, Saber, 52, died in prison under mysterious circumstances. Other prisoners have told opposition media that Saber was beaten by prison guards, while authorities said that he, too, died of a heart attack.

The second death prompted 18 activists in two prisons to join in a second hunger strike June 18, demanding investigations into the deaths. The action seems to be well-coordinated, with opposition activists in exile orchestrating an international campaign in support of the prisoners. Several of the inmates, among them former deputy foreign minister Mohsen Aminzadeh and journalist Isa Saharkhiz , have been transferred to infirmaries, opposition Web sites said.

The strike ended Sunday, the Kaleme site reported, saying a statement by the prisoners would follow. Ali Shakori-rad, a politician belonging to the group, said the prisoners started eating after prominent activists asked them to stop their strike.

The fresh arrests and the end of the hunger strike come as several Iranian leaders are reaching out to arrested politicians, journalists and activists, asking them to urge their supporters to participate in parliamentary elections set for March 2012.

Following widespread purges of reform advocates, many of whom had disputed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s June 2009 reelection, Iranian leaders hope that some of them will become candidates in the coming elections.

In another development Monday, the Associated Press reported that as Iran began 10 days of war games, the country unveiled underground silos that can carry missiles able to hit Israel and U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf.

The AP reported that state television showed deep underground silos with missiles that it said were ready to defend the country in an attack.

On Saturday, a spokesman for the Guardian Council, which vets all candidates for general elections, said members of the disbanded Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Islamic Revolution mujaheddin party could participate without problems if they “acted lawfully.” Both parties call for widespread reforms, more personal freedoms and better relations with the international community.

Several Iranian politicians say they fear a disappointing turnout for the parliamentary elections if opposition representatives do not participate.

But the influential brother of former president Mohammad Khatami, one of the political leaders of Iran’s reformist movement, reiterated Friday that the group would participate only under certain conditions.

“The official recognition of parties, an independent press and the freeing of political prisoners are our main demands,” Mohammad Reza Khatami told the semiofficial Iranian Labor News Agency. “Anyone who wants lively elections must bring about these conditions,” he said.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Iran parliament set to ban entry of UN Special Rapporteur on Iran
Tehran Times Political Desk

TEHRAN – The Human Rights Committee of the Iranian parliament has decided to take measures to prohibit the entry of the newly appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on Iran, MP Mohammad-Karim Abedi announced on Sunday.

On June 17, the UN Human Rights Council appointed former Maldivian foreign minister Ahmed Shaheed as Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Iran.

On March 24, 2011, the UN Human Rights Council voted to appoint a special rapporteur to look into the situation in Iran.

In a U.S.-backed resolution adopted with 22 votes in favor, seven against and 14 abstentions, the 47-member council said the rapporteur would report to both the council and to the General Assembly.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Abedi said during the most recent meeting of the committee, it was emphasized that this person should not be allowed to enter the country.

Abedi, deputy chairperson of the Majlis Human Rights Committee, also said that the United States, Britain, and the Zionist regime are the greatest violators of human rights, and it would be better if the UN look into their human rights cases.

In addition, he pointed to the UN Fact Finding Mission’s report on war crimes committed by Israel during its 2008-2009 military offensive in Gaza, saying the UN failed to deal with the Zionist regime.

The Iranian lawmaker also said that the United States and Britain have dark human rights record as well.

MP Zohreh Elahian also said that Iran will not allow the UN Special Rapporteur to carry out his mission in the country.

Elahian, chairperson of the Majlis Human Rights Committee, made the remarks during a speech at the open session of the Majlis on Sunday.

The Islamic Republic of Iran full well knows the hidden agenda behind the human rights resolution that were adopted against it and will not bow to political pressure being exerted by certain other countries, she stated.

Elahian also said Iran has respect for the appointed rapporteur, who is a Muslim, but Iran is ready to welcome him as a tourist

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment