13 May 2010 19:51
Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian press, and excerpts where the source is in English. The link to the news organization or blog is provided at the top of each item. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the story in perspective. You can follow our news feeds on Twitter.
Homepage photo: May 15, 2009 photo of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hiking in the Sanandaj mountains.
Kurds Stage Strike in Iran to Protest Executions of Activists
NYT | May 13, 2010
Iranian Kurds staged one of their largest strikes in recent years, closing shops and bazaars in nearly all Sunni Kurdish cities and towns in eastern Iran to protest the executions of five people, including four Kurdish activists, on Sunday, according to opposition Web sites and witnesses.
The strike was the largest in Kurdish areas since 2005, when another Kurdish activist was shot and killed by security forces.
Iran's Kurds have long presented a delicate subject for the government, which fears that the restive population will join Kurds in Iraq and Turkey to try to form a Kurdish nation. Iran's leadership has faced opposition from at least one armed separatist group.
Iran's Kurds, mostly Sunni Muslims, are a minority in a mainly Shiite country, and they say the government discriminates against them.
Tehran's sensitivity about the Kurds and other ethnic groups has only increased over the past year, as Iran's leaders have faced their most serious political challenge since the Islamic Revolution, with tens of thousands of Iranians protesting a presidential election they declared fraudulent.
Many analysts and opposition figures interpreted the executions on Sunday as a warning that the government would not tolerate protests next month on the election's first anniversary.
The government said the five people who had been executed had been found guilty of carrying out fatal bomb attacks.
Nearly all the shops were closed in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan Province, said a witness who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested. "The city is deserted," he said. "People have stayed home and the entire bazaar is closed."
The shops and bazaars in several other Kurdish cities, including Bukan, Oshnavieh and Marivan, were also closed, an opposition Web site, Jaras, reported. Pictures and videos posted on Web sites appeared to support those claims.
Minister promises Internet speed improvement by September
Tabnak | May 13, 2010
Telecommunications Minister Reza Taqipour promised that restrictions on Internet speed would be lifted by September.
"Due to proper planning and investments, we will be able to put equipping and
improving high bandwidth server appliances on our agenda. As a result, the restrictions on Internet speed will be lifted."
Next Govt more revolutionary than mine: Ahmadinejad
Khabar Online | May 13, 2010
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described his government as a revolutionary one and said the next government would be ten times more revolutionary than his.
"Those who form committees to prove this government is not a revolutionary one and create obstacles in its way should know what they are doing is in vain," Ahmadinejad said in a meeting with Kohkilouyeh-Boyehahmad provincial managers.
"If we proclaim this government as revolutionary, have no doubt that the next administration will be ten times more revolutionary than our government."
"I am well aware of the situation in other countries in the world. Everywhere in the world, even in the United States and Europe, people have become disappointed with their rulers and only have one beacon of hope: Islamic Iran."
"Today, both in the country and abroad, there are some who do not comprehend that Islamic Iran is a school, a bunker, a sanctuary, a beacon of hope, joyful, motivating and a banner in the world."
"We must prepare the world for the coming of the Hidden Imam, Mahdi."
"The governor of the province can come to the cabinet to follow up on provincial cultural and construction projects. If one of the ministers does not come to your province, I will personally bring that minister to your province."
Iran's opposition leader criticizes ruling clerics
AP | May 14, 2010
Iran's opposition leader condemned the country's hardline ruling clerics for abuses against anti-government detainees, while insisting that the protest movement remains committed to a nonviolent path.
Mir Hossein Mousavi has often spoken out against the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but has recently stepped up his criticism of Iran's clerical leaders.
In remarks posted late Thursday on his website kaleme.com, Mousavi was quoted as telling a gathering of families of detained political activists that their "children, brothers, sisters and husbands are innocent."
"What did they do? The asked for the most basic rights of the nation. But they were arrested ... tortured," he said. "Even their families are attacked, disrespected and assaulted."
Mousavi stressed that peaceful, nonviolent resistence is the only path to victory, saying that violence will only allow the ruling system to justify its crackdown against the opposition.
"We neither have nor want weapons ... we took to the streets to demand 'where is my vote?' We challenged (the ruling system) with logic," Mousavi said. "Peaceful resistance and awakening the people is our main asset to bring change."
Earlier this week, Iran granted the mothers of three Americans arrested in July along Iran's border with Iraq visas to visit their children, who are being held in a Tehran prison. While welcoming that decision, Mousavi accused the Iranian government of double standards, and questioned why Iranian mothers have not been afforded the same right.
"Exposing this issue alone will reveal where problems lie," he said.
Mousavi has hardened his stance against the ruling system in recent weeks, saying a dictatorial "cult" and a corrupt power structure was ruling Iran in the name of Islam.
Mashai describes his work
Tabnak | May 12, 2010
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's chief of staff Esfandyar Rahim Mashai rejected being labeled a jack-of-all-trades and said he has been chosen to accelerate the work flow.
"The responsibilities I have cannot be considered [creation of] jobs. I have been chosen to prevent the creation of new jobs and instead accelerate the work flow," Mashai said, responding to a comment from the host of the "Tehran 20" program who said that it had taken him a full minute to read the [long] list of positions held by the presidential chief of staff.
On the subject of Ahmadinejad's controversial UN address, Mashai said, "Those countries that walked out were the ones at a loss and the ones who lost face. If they had not walked out, they could have at least claimed later on that they had coordinated with one another not to leave the general assembly and that if they had decided to walk out at least 50 percent of the participants would have followed them out."
"One of the members of our delegation asked one of the members of a delegation that was leaving the general assembly, 'Why are you leaving? What he [Ahmadinejad] is saying is all researched-based.' The person responded, 'It is an order. We have been ordered to walk out. But I listened to your president's speech. He said some good things.'"
Mashai called on earlier comment
Khabar Online | May 12, 2010
After the Press Jury acquitted Kayhan's Editor-in-Chief of wrongdoing, many were curious to follow up on Esfandyar Rahim-Mashai's bold statement about denouncing his faith in the event of Hossein Shariatmadari's exoneration.
With regards to the complaint he lodged against Shariatmadari, Mashai had said, "If I do not get a guilty verdict against this newspaper, I'm no longer a Muslim."
Mashai had taken Shariatmadari to court for publishing a story in Kayhan claiming that Mashai had met with Houshang Amirahmadi, founder of the American Iranian Council.
Last February, Mashai rejected the Kayhan report at the Tehran Preachers' Society and said, "As God is my witness, this is all a lie and this is why I have lodged a complaint against Kayhan and I will definitely get a guilty verdict for it. If this paper is not found
guilty, I am no longer a Muslim, because it has printed a very big lie."
"This paper reported that Amirahamdi was brought to Iran by Mashai and Mashai met with him in Iran. This is while when this person came to Iran, I was unaware of it and no one ever contacted me or requested a meeting with me. I did not find out that he was here until after he left the country."
Now that the Press Jury found Shariatmadari not guilty, Mashai must decide how to justify the bold statement he made about Kayhan's culpability.
Mirdamadi will appeal verdict; Tajzadeh declines appeal
Tabnak | May 12, 2010
Mohsen Mirdamadi's lawyer said his client, who has been sentenced to six years in prison, has appealed the verdict of the initial court.
Mirdamadi was found guilty of acting against national security and propagating against the establishment. He was handed a six-year jail term and was banned from work in or related to journalism for 10 years.
Houshang Pourbabai told ISNA that his client had received his verdict in branch 15 of the Revolution Court and decided to file an appeal.
Pourbabai, who is also the legal representative for Mostafa Tajzadeh, said his other client would not be appealing his verdict.
Municipality denies involvement of workers in bust thefts
Khabar Online | May 13, 2010
A spokesman for the Tehran Municipality rejected reports that some of the missing statues in the capital were either taken down or stolen by municipality workers.
"This is absolutely untrue and the police are currently investigating these thefts," said Seyyed Mohammad Hadi Ayazi.
"A number of websites claimed that four of the stolen statues were taken down by the municipality's employees, which is untrue and an attempt to negatively influence public opinion," IRNA quoted him as saying.
"Fortunately, the municipality and police are working well together and we are diligently following up on the case of the thefts."
Mehdi Hashemi's family leaves Tehran for London
Khabar Online | May 13, 2010
Amid the controversy over Mehdi Hashemi's refusal to return to Iran, his wife and two children have apparently decided to join him in the UK. The Jahan website wrote that it was unclear how Mehdi Hashemi's family had obtained the necessary permits to leave the country.
Mehdi Hashemi departed Iran shortly after the post-election riots. Hashemi was accused of inciting the unrest in Tehran and was summoned back to Iran for investigation. He, however, declined to return, citing the pursuit of higher education as the main reason for his decision.
The Iran Channel claimed that Mehdi's wife, Fereshteh, who recently joined her husband in London, told her acquaintances that she did not intend to return to Iran.
It should be noted that Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's daughter-in-law, Fereshteh, was arrested on Aug. 3, 2009, in a protest near Vanak Square in Tehran. However, she was released after a short time thanks to her family connections.
New name for police pending final approval
Tabnak | May 12, 2010
Seyyed Esmail Eftekhari, deputy head of the military phrase-coining committee of the civil forces, said 156 words have been chosen as possible Persian equivalents for the word "police."
"A few words have been short-listed; however, no final option has been chosen to replace the word 'police,'" he said.
Eftekharai explained that the committee had been formed nearly 14 years ago in order to find equivalent words or phrases for foreign technical military words that have entered the Persian language.
"Representatives from the Army, police, IRGC, and Defense Ministry are the members of this committee. They propose equivalents for words related to their line of work, which are approved after Farhangestan (Academy of Persian Arts and Literature) endorses the suggested words."
Iran subsidy cuts to start this year
Press TV | May 14, 2010
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the plan to cut food and energy subsidies will be implemented in the country in the second half of the 2010/11 year.
In a televised interview in southern Iran, Ahmadinejad said the plan would be Iran's "biggest economic plan in the past 50 years."
The government plans to phase out subsidies over five years and compensate those in need with direct cash payments.
President Ahmadinejad said the government would begin depositing payments in to accounts opened for individuals two months before the implementation of the plan.
Amid Iran sanctions drive, U.S. lobbies foreign firms
Reuters | May 12, 2010
The Obama administration is waging a largely behind-the-scenes campaign to convince foreign companies that it is becoming too politically risky for them to do business with an increasingly isolated Iran.
On the world stage, the United States and its allies are aggressively pushing for new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. Out of the public eye, it has dispatched a top U.S. Treasury official to foreign capitals to talk to governments, financial regulators, banks and business leaders.
Stuart Levey, the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, is armed with U.S. intelligence on how Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is controlling a growing swath of Iran's economy and is setting up front companies to try to evade sanctions.
His mission is part of a multi-pronged U.S. effort to tighten the screws on Iran, running parallel to the drive for fresh U.N. sanctions.
Levey, a silver-haired former white-collar criminal lawyer appointed in 2004, has been successful in persuading foreign banks to cut ties with Iran. Now, he is widening his focus to include service providers, insurers and manufacturers.
"We view the business community as an ally and we talk to them in that sense. We have information regarding Iranian illicit conduct that they might not have, and we provide them with the advantage of our viewpoint so they can better assess their own risks," Levey told Reuters in an interview.
IRGC replaces Total, Shell in South Pars
Fars News | May 12, 2010
The Islamic Revolution Gurads Corps' (IRGC) Khatamolanbia headquarters
will be replacing Royal Dutch Shell and Total in developing the South Pars gas field.
"After restructuring the headquarters, we were able to enter major projects that previously required the participation of foreign firms. For example, in South Pars we have replaced Shell and Total and have taken on about 50 percent of this project," IRGC commander Rostam Qasemi said in a meeting with Majles Speaker Ali Larijani.
"Part of the smaller projects have been turned over to the government and the bigger portion of these projects which consists of nearly 240 projects will be turned over to the government over a three-year period," he added.
Boeing, Exxon Say New Iran Sanctions Would Hurt Global Sales
Business Week | May 13, 2010
Boeing Co. and Exxon Mobil Corp. are lobbying to fend off tightened sanctions against Iran that business groups say may cost $25 billion in U.S. exports.
Legislation before Congress would expand a 1996 law penalizing foreign companies that invest in that country's oil industry. U.S. firms, already barred from investing there, say their sales worldwide could be hurt by provisions that ban doing business with companies in Europe, Russia or China that trade with Iran.
"We are up on Capitol Hill talking about the collateral damage," William Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a Washington-based group that represents Exxon and Boeing, said in an interview. "There is legitimate, non- Iran business that will be cut off."
The sanctions measure follows President Barack Obama's difficulty in getting members of the United Nations to agree to expanded financial penalties on Iran, which the U.S. estimates may be three to five years from having a nuclear bomb. Lawmakers are trying to work out differences this month between Senate and House versions of the bill.
Cargill Inc., ConocoPhillips, Hannover Re, Bechtel Corp., Halliburton Co. and Siemens AG are among more than 20 companies that have lobbied on the proposed sanctions, according to congressional disclosure forms.
California insurers agree to avoid Iran investment
AP | May 13, 2010
More than 1,000 insurance companies have agreed to avoid future investments with corporations that do business with Iran, California's insurance regulator said Thursday.
The action is in response to a state law passed last year that prohibits California-based companies from making direct investments in Iran, which the U.S. considers Iran to be a state sponsor of terrorism. The insurance department last year found no direct investments by insurers doing business in California.
Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner pressured 1,300 insurance companies that operate in the state to go a step further. He wanted them to drop investments in any multinational corporation that might indirectly benefit Iran's nuclear, defense and energy industries.
Poizner, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, announced that all but 290 of the California-licensed companies had pledged to avoid making future investments with the 50 foreign-based corporations identified by his office. The companies will be able to keep their current investments, however.
Afghans protest against 'refugee executions' in Iran
BBC | May 13, 2010
Thousands of Afghans have protested in the eastern city of Jalalabad against the alleged executions of a number of Afghan refugees in Iran.
Demonstrators rallied in front of the Iranian consulate, shouting slogans and throwing eggs.
This is the fifth and largest anti-Iran protest in Afghanistan in a fortnight.
Protesters and rights groups say Iran has executed 45 Afghans in recent weeks on drug smuggling charges. Tehran and Kabul officials put the number at six.
Between 4,000 and 5,000 Afghans have been arrested by the Iranian authorities and hundreds are reported to be on death row, activists say.
Iranian officials refuse to confirm how many Afghans are at risk of execution.
The treatment of Afghans in Iran has caused much concern in their home country.
So far three anti-Iran demonstrations have been held in Kabul and a fourth in the western city of Herat on the border with Iran.
Tehran has denied ill-treatment of Afghans and says the reports are a conspiracy to undermine the "historic ties" between the two countries.
Iraqi and Iranian soldiers trade fire on border
AFP | May 13, 2010
Iraqi border guards exchanged fire with Iranian troops along the two countries' border on Thursday, the first major incident between the two since Iran took over a disputed oil well in December.
An Iraqi officer was captured by the Islamic Republic's forces in the 90-minute gunfight on the border with Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, which was apparently sparked when Iranian troops mistook Iraqi soldiers for a Kurdish rebel group.
"Iranian forces thought that the border guards belonged to PJAK (the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan -- an Iranian Kurdish rebel group) and started to open fire," Brigadier General Ahmed Gharib Diskara, the head of Iraq's border guards in Sulaimaniyah province, told reporters.
"The border guards shot back and one officer of the Iraqi army has been captured. Negotiations are ongoing to free him."
There was no immediate comment from Iran or the US military, which is involved in training Iraq's border guards.
The Iraqi border guards involved in the incident were formerly members of the Kurdish peshmerga, the guerrilla force that fought against Saddam and led a campaign for autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan but has since partly been integrated into the Iraqi military.
Gharib said the shooting took place in a mountainous part of the two countries' border known as Shamiran, 90 kilometres (55 miles) southeast of Sulaimaniyah, the Iraqi Kurdistan's second-biggest city.
Iran's murky link to al Qaeda confounds CIA
AP | May 14, 2010
It's one of the enduring mysteries of the war on terrorism: What will become of the al Qaeda leaders and operatives who fled into Iran after 9/11 and have been detained there for years?
Their fate has long been a blind spot for U.S. intelligence. Recently, however, some al Qaeda figures have quietly made their way out of Iran, raising the prospect that the country is loosening its grip on the terror group so it can replenish its ranks, former and current U.S. intelligence officials say.
This movement could indicate that Iran is re-examining its murky relationship with al Qaeda at a time when the United States is stepping up drone attacks in Pakistan and weakening the group's leadership. Any influx of manpower could hand al Qaeda a boost in morale and expertise and threaten to disrupt stability in the region.
Details about al Qaeda's movements and U.S. efforts to monitor them were outlined in more than a dozen interviews with current and former intelligence and counterterrorism officials, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
Iran's Shiite regime is generally hostile to the Sunni terrorist group, but they have an occasional relationship of convenience based on their shared enemy, the United States. It's a relationship that intelligence officials don't fully understand.
U.S. intelligence officials have tried wiretapping and satellite imagery to watch the men. The CIA even established a highly classified program - code-named RIGOR - to study whether it could track and kill terrorists such as al Qaeda in Iran. Results have been mixed. Monitoring and understanding al Qaeda in Iran remains one of the most difficult jobs in U.S. intelligence.
"This has been a dark, a black zone for us," former CIA officer Bruce Riedel said. "What exactly is the level of al Qaeda activity in Iran has always been a mystery."
Ayatollah threatens to wage Jihad on Azerbaijan
Khabar Online | May 12, 2010
Shia Source of Emulation Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi warned the Republic of Azerbaijan against demolishing Shia mosques, saying if Baku persists, he will wage Jihad on the country.
"We have recently heard that the government of Azerbaijan has been demolishing a number of Shia mosques and intends to demolish the rest of them," the Grand Ayatollah said during his Sharia class in the grand mosque of Qom on Wednesday.
"If they continue to demolish Shia mosques, I will order jihad and I will declare that anyone killed in this way is a martyr," said Ayatollah Makarem, adding that his emulators in Azerbaijan had asked him to decree Jihad.
"We do not care about the diplomatic relations between countries," he continued. "The government of Azerbaijan must realize that Shiites obey the Sources of Emulation and will execute the decrees issued by them."
"I haven't yet decreed anything but if I do not see any change, I will, and Azerbaijan will become insecure."
Ayatollah Makarem added, "We have officially sent our message to the government of Azerbaijan and we hope that they will cease such actions."
Azerbaijan is a predominantly Shia country.
Imprisoned filmmaker Jafar Panahi is honored at film festival
LAT | May 13, 2010
Amid the glitter and gaiety of the 63rd Cannes Film Festival opening, one of the nine chairs for jury members remained empty.
Internationally acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, slated to serve as a jury member at the festival, couldn't attend because he was being held in Tehran's Evin prison.
In March 2010, plainclothes security officials raided Panahi's Tehran home and arrested him along with his wife, daughter and 15 house guests. Though Iranian authorities shortly released the others, they held on to Panahi, accusing him of "making a film against the regime following the post-election events," according to the French daily Le Figaro.
Despite this, the prosecutor's office in Tehran argues that Panahi's imprisonment has no political motive.
"The arrest of Jafar Panahi is not because he is an artist or for political reason[s]," prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told the Iranian Students News Agency.
"He is accused of some crimes and was arrested with another person following an order by a judge," reported BBC News.
Authorities had previously arrested Panahi, a supporter of the protest movement that emerged after last year's disputed presidential elections held in June, for participating in a memorial service for Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman killed in July 2009 allegedly at the hands of a pro-government militiaman.