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 Several oil companies, including Total SA and Royal Dutch Shell, have withdrawn from the country over the past years.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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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About rahavardenglish

Rahavard Journal of Persian Studies is a prominent print publication, circulated by subscription, to influential Iranians and those interested in Iran-related issues around the globe. It was first published in 1982, and has since been one of the Iranian diaspora's most reputable publications. Editor in Chief: Sholeh Shams-Shahbaz Contact us at english@rahavard.com
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