Headlines: Clinton, Ahmadinejad Clash over Iran Military Sway
20 Sep 2010 07:07
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Clinton Urges 'Responsible' Leaders to Take Control in Iran
AFP | Sept 19
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Sunday on "responsible" leaders to assert control in Iran and said tough UN sanctions were turning the screw on the military-backed regime.
Short of an explicit call to the Iranian people to revolt, Clinton's comments represented a sharpening of rhetoric as she increasingly seeks to portray Iran as a military dictatorship.
Clinton said the military, especially the elite Revolutionary Guard, was wielding more and more power to prop up a regime struggling to maintain its legitimacy since last year's "very flawed" presidential elections.
"And I can only hope that there will be some effort inside Iran, by responsible civil and religious leaders, to take hold of the apparatus of the state," she told ABC News.
"When you empower a military as much as they have to rely on them to put down legitimate protests and demonstrations, you create a momentum and unleash forces that you do not know where they will end up."
The remarks drew an angry response from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, interviewed by ABC in New York where he is to attend next week's UN General Assembly.
"Don't you think that Mrs. Clinton should think a little bit before she makes statements of such nature?" he asked.
More Heavy Prison Terms for Iranian Activists
Radio Zamaneh | Sept 19
Shiva Nazar-Ahari, Iranian human rights activist, was sentenced to six years in prison and exile to Izzeh, in Khuzestan Province; while the appeals court upheld the eight and a half year sentence handed earlier to Iranian student activist Majid Tavakoli.
Kaleme website reports that Nazar-Ahari, who was sentenced for the charge of "rebellion against God, activities against national security, disturbing public order and propaganda against the regime," will appeal her sentence.
In the meantime Daneshjoo news reports that the eight and a half year sentence of prominent student activist Majid Tavakoli was confirmed by the appeals court.
According to this report, Tavakoli is sentenced to five years for "activities against national security," one year for "propaganda against the regime," two years for "insulting the supreme leader" and six months for "insulting the president."
Majid Tavakoli had been arrested three times in recent years. He was first arrested three years ago for publishing a caricature of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, in a university newsletter.
See also: Full report on Tavakoli (in Farsi) (Daneshjoo) | "Journalist Hamid Mafi Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison" (RAHANA) | "Zakaria Abbasifar Sentenced to Six Months Imprisonment" (RAHANA) | "Student Activist Rahim Hemmati Disappeared" (RAHANA) | Report on prison/lashing sentencing of journalist Saeed Haeri (in Farsi) (Commitee of Human Rights Reporters)
Ebadi Condemns Islamic Republic Persecution of Human Rights Defenders
Radio Zamaneh | Sept 19
Shirin Ebadi, Iranian Nobel Peace laureate, condemned the Islamic Republic's fierce attacks on human rights defenders in Iran and announced that Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iranian lawyer, is under extreme pressure in prison to make self-incriminatory confessions.
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports that Shirin Ebadi has informed them that "unfortunately, human rights activities put you in imminent danger of persecution in Iran at the moment."
Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested on September 3rd, after her home and office were raided. She is charged with "activities against national security" and "propaganda against the regime."
Human rights defenders in Iran maintain that her arrest is linked with her defence of a number of recent political prisoners.
Sotoudeh has been kept in solitary confinement since the day she was arrested.
See also: Report on abuse of imprisoned rights activist Abolfazl Abedini (in Farsi) (Peyke Iran) | "Letters from Iran's Hellish Prisons" (Daily Beast) | "Judge Moghiseh Dreaming of 1980s-Style Justice" (Rooz)
UN Chief Presses Iran on Nuclear, Rights Disputes
AFP (via Channel NewsAsia) | Sept 20
UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Sunday gave Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pointed reminders about international disputes over his country's nuclear drive and human rights.
Ahmadinejad met the secretary general at the UN headquarters in his first formal engagement of his trip to New York for the UN General Assembly.
With Iran already facing four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment Ban "hoped that Iran will engage constructively in negotiations" with international powers on the nuclear showdown.
Ban said the talks should lead to "a mutually acceptable agreement in conformity with relevant Security Council resolutions," said a statement released by a UN spokesman.
Ban also stressed to the Iranian leader "the importance of respecting fundamental civil and political rights."
Opposition Leader Wants Experts to Re-evaluate Iran's Supreme Leader
Radio Zamaneh | Sept 19
Mehdi Karroubi, Iranian opposition leader criticized the Assembly of Experts for failing to live up to its duty to supervise the actions of the supreme leader and dismiss him if necessary.
In a letter to Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, Chairman of the Assembly of Experts, Mehdi Karroubi speaks out against issues such as interference of the armed forces in political and economical affairs of the country, violation of people's rights, incompetence of executive and judicial managers and abuse of public rights by institutions under the protection of the supreme leader.
Saham News reports that the letter was written on the occasion of the eighth meeting of the Assembly of Experts in the fourth session and calls on Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani to take action against these violations and transmit the results openly to the public.
He goes on to accuse the government of "incompetence, imprudence, exaggeration, irreverence and impertinence" and warned the Assembly of Experts that their inaction at this point of time could result in making the state unredeemable.
Karroubi's letter and its unprecedented attacks against the supreme leader got no coverage in the Islamic Republic state media.
MPs Respond to President's Remarks on Role of Majlis
Mehr | Sept 19
A number of lawmakers have criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent claim that the executive branch of government is more important than the legislature.
In an interview with the daily Iran published on Saturday, the president said certain people cite the late Imam Khomeini's statement on the importance of the Majlis, but at that time the president was not entirely in charge of the country and the prime minister, who had to be approved by the Majlis, was mostly responsible for running the country.
Ahmadinejad also noted that the executive is the most important branch of government.
MP Ali Motahhari, a member of the Majlis majority faction, said that among the three branches of government, the parliament is still on top of affairs and has the authority to impeach the president and remove him from office.
MP Mohammad-Taqi Rahbar, the leader of the clerics' faction of the Majlis, noted that Imam Khomeini's statements are not limited to a certain time and must be respected and put into practice at all times.
See also: "Larijani Criticizes Ahmadinejad Remarks" (Tabnak)
AP Interview: Ahmadinejad Says Future Is Iran's
AP | Sept 19
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday that "the future belongs to Iran," and challenged the United States to accept that his country has a major role in the world.
He insisted that his government does not want an atomic bomb -- something he has said in the past -- and that Iran is only seeking peace and a nuclear-free world. He gave no indication of when Iran would resume talks on its nuclear program and said any anti-nuclear sanctions against his government would have no effect on his government's policies.
"The United States' administrations...must recognize that Iran is a big power," he said. "Having said that, we consider ourselves to be a human force and a cultural power and hence a friend of other nations. We have never sought to dominate others or to violate the rights of any other country.
"Those who insist on having hostilities with us, kill and destroy the option of friendship of us in the future, which is unfortunate because it is clear the future belongs to Iran and that emnities will be fruitless -- and hence sanctions, too, will be ineffective."
He added: "If they were to be effective, I should not be sitting here right now."
Ahmadinejad, Master of Spin
BBC | Sept 19
As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives in New York for the UN General Assembly, once again he joins the battle for public opinion, and once again he may have won the first skirmish.
As usual, he is making the round of American TV studios, appearing on the Charlie Rose show on PBS, and Larry King Live on CNN. Already, he has been interviewed by Christiane Amanpour on ABC News.
While some of the Western media denounce him as crazy, Mr Ahmadinejad has shown himself just as able at influencing opinion and swaying the media as any Western leader.
One of his favourite techniques is to take his apparent weakness, and use it to attack his opponents.
So, anticipating pressure for the release of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, the two Americans held in Iran since July 2009, he has called for the release of a number of Iranians held in prison in the United States.
That issue dominated the early headlines, rather than his own human rights record, or the threat of stoning on Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.
See also: "Swagger in U.S., but Stagger in Iran" (AP/Post-Bulletin)
Is Iranian TV to Blame for Deadly Protests in Kashmir?
Time | Sept 19
Last week's deadly outburst in Kashmir, sparked by reports of a Koran being desecrated in the US, claimed two dozen lives as police fired on rampaging mobs. In the wake of this summer's widespread political unrest, alleged footage of Americans tearing pages out of a Koran on Sept. 11 prompted protesters, mainly Shiite Muslims, in the Indian-controlled territory to defy curfews, torch a Christian school and try to burn another. Government officials believe Iran's Press TV, which is popular among Kashmir's Shia, played a major role in instigating the violence.
"It is surprising that only this television channel [Press TV] based in Iran showed one unknown individual without verification or any authenticity desecrating the holy Koran," said the region's Chief Secretary S. S. Kapoor, who added that the broadcast "seems to be a deliberate act and conspiracy to instigate innocent sentiments of people."
He announced a ban on airing Press TV across the predominantly Muslim region, where anti-India sentiments run high and often find expression on the streets. Press TV, which claimed that the Muslim holy book had been torn up and burned in Washington as well as in other US cities, criticized the ban, saying the channel's popularity in Kashmir over the past three months has made Indian authorities nervous.
See also: "Iran's Foreign Ministry Blasts Killing of Muslims in Kashmir" (Fars)
Freed Hiker Sarah Shourd Speaks: 'Only One-Third Free'
ABC | Sept 19
Sarah Shourd, the American hiker freed from Iranian captivity after more than a year, spoke today on American soil publicly for the first time, thanking those who helped and calling for a similar release for her fiance and friend who remain in captivity.
"This is not the time to celebrate," Shourd told reporters from New York City. "My disappointment at not sharing this with [fiancé Shane Bauer and friend Josh Fattal] was crushing. And I stand before you today only one-third free.
"I walked out of prison with my spirit bruised but unbroken and I am more determined than ever that Shane and Josh, God willing, insha-Alla, will soon walk out the same way," Shourd said.
"We committed no crime and we are not spies. We in no way intended any harm to the Iranian government or its people and believe a huge misunderstanding led to our detention and prolonged imprisonment."
See also: "Mothers of Hikers Jailed in Iran Seek Meeting with Ahmadinejad in New York" (Bloomberg)
Powell Says War on Iran Unlikely
Press TV | Sept 19
Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell says Washington and Tel Aviv are not likely to launch a military strike against Iran anytime soon.
Powell said he does not think the "stars are lining up" for an attack on Iran's known or suspected nuclear sites, the Associated Press reported.
In a Sunday appearance on NBC television's Meet the Press, Powell said international sanctions on Iran may never persuade Tehran to back off its nuclear energy program.
He said the United States may have to accept this while trying to deter Iran from building or using a bomb.
See also: "Iran Calls for Readiness against Possible U.S.-led War: Commander" (Xinhua)
All Hostages Released in Southeast Iran: IRGC
Tehran Times | Sept 19
All six persons who had been taken prisoner in the southeast province of Sistan-Baluchestan were released on Saturday through an operation by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, the IRGC ground forces commander announced.
On Thursday armed bandits stopped a bus traveling from Chabahar to Zahedan and took six people hostage, five soldiers and a bank employee.
IRGC Ground Forces Commander Mohammad Khakpour called the kidnappers a number of armed robbers remained from the terrorist Rigi group.
See also: "Iran: Hostages Freed, in Good Health" (Press TV)
'Iran Seizes US Troops' Report Denied
AFP | Sept 19
Officials in Iran, the United States and Islamabad on Sunday all denied reports that Iranian security forces had seized seven American troops near the Islamic republic's border with Pakistan.
The denials came after hardline news website Javanonline.ir, which is close to the elite Revolutionary Guards, reported that seven US soldiers had been seized in Iran's Kuhak area near the border with Pakistan.
"No American troops have been arrested. We deny it," Ali Mohammad Azad, the governor general of Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province, told the Arabic language Tehran-based Al-Alam network.
The channel said a source with the provincial border patrol services had also denied the arrest.
The United States also rejected the Javanonline report as "false."
And in Islamabad, Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told AFP: "There are no US soldiers there -- the question of arrest does not arise."
Javanonline later said its report had been "incorrect" and "apologised" to its readers.
See also: "In False Report of Captured American Soldiers, a Warning to Ahmadinejad?" (L.A. Times' Borzou Daragahi via Babylon & Beyond blog)
'Cooperation to Implement Subsidy Reform Plan a National Duty'
Mehr | Sept 19
Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani says it is necessary that people cooperate to implement the subsidy reform plan.
Cooperation of all people in redirecting subsidies is a "national duty," Rafsanjani said to a gathering of students in Tehran on Sunday.
He also advised people to refrain from extremism. However, he said "constructive criticism" is necessary for national progress.
See also: "MP: People Need to Fasten Belt for Implementing Subsidy Reform" (Mehr)
$16b Worth of Goods Smuggled into Iran Annually: Police
Mehr | Sept 19
About 16 billion dollars worth of goods are smuggled into Iran annually, according to a senior police officer.
"According to a study conducted by the Office of the Campaign against Smuggling of Goods and Foreign Currency, each year about 16 billion dollars worth of goods are smuggled into the country and 3 billion dollars worth of goods are smuggled out of the country," Hassan Batuli said at the National Conference on the Smuggling of Goods, which was held on Sunday in the western city of Sanandaj.
The figures for Iranian calendar year 1388 (March 2009-March 2010) show that the volume of smuggled goods rose by 22 percent compared to the previous year, he said.
Turkey Urges Cooperation with Iran in Auto Industry
Fars | Sept 19
Turkish Industry and Trade Minister Nihat Ergun called for cooperation with Iran in the car manufacturing industry, and announced that a group of Turkish industrialists are due to visit Iran in the near future.
"A number of Turkish auto-making companies are keen to hold negotiations with the representatives of Iran's auto sector," Ergun said.
Noting that the Turkish carmakers are completely acquainted with Iran's market, he reiterated that a group of them will travel to Iran soon.
Turkey does not have an independent auto industry and imports cars from other countries, including European states.
Iran has made ample progress in the car production industry in recent years and has exported a large number of its products to different countries.
OPINION & ANNOUNCEMENTS
Clinton Has Raised the Stakes
Editorial, Daily Star (Lebanon) | Sept 20
With the unenviable task of Middle East peace talks to arbitrate, Hillary Clinton would be forgiven for viewing her table as a little cluttered. But the conundrum has not stopped her turning the crosshairs on Iran, asking its people to reject their government's ever-enlarging military authoritarianism. The request seems oddly timed when juxtaposed with the Palestinian-Israeli bind.
The secretary of state, admittedly having performed admirably in keeping the latest round of peace negotiations roughly on track, is at risk of complicating matters, adding muddying issues to an already murky riddle. What her comments regarding Iran show is an iron-cast will to redesignate the United States as global peacemaker. What they risk is tying disparate regional situations to the outcome of Israeli-Palestinian talks, itself a complicated equation.
The fact that Clinton now deems it acceptable to cajole ordinary Iranians -- her "responsible civil and religious leaders" -- into rejecting President Ahmadinejad and the frightful Revolutionary Guards' robbery of constitutional rights suggests that when it comes to the Middle East negotiating table, she still holds some aces up her sleeve.
Constrained Internationalism: Adapting to New Realities -- Results of a 2010 National Survey of Public Opinion
Chicago Council on Global Affairs | Sept 19
The Council's 2010 survey shows that Americans remain committed to an active part in world affairs. However, Americans are becoming more selective in what they support.
On the issue of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, Americans are at present reluctant to resort to a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, preferring economic sanctions and diplomacy.
Very strong majorities do not think it is likely that a military strike would cause Iran to give up trying to have a nuclear program. They also think a strike would likely result in retaliatory attacks against U.S. targets in neighboring states as well as in the United States itself.
If all efforts fail to stop Iran, Americans are about evenly divided on whether to conduct a military strike.
If Iran were to allow UN inspectors permanent and full access throughout Iran to make sure it is not developing nuclear weapons, a slight majority of Americans believe that Iran should be allowed to produce nuclear fuel for producing electricity.
There are numerous situations where the American public expresses a desire for the United States to refrain from taking an active role in conflicts. These include situations where the United States has historically been quite active.
Perhaps most striking is a possible military conflict between Iran and Israel, prompted by an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. A majority (56%) says the United States should not bring its military forces into such a conflict, with 38 percent saying it should.
Domestic Politics Color Iran's Susceptibility to Western Courtship
On his sixth trip to the United Nations, Ahmadinejad is likely to find an international community more confident that its forceful economic sanctions have finally made Tehran appreciate the cost of its belligerence. A closer look, however, reveals that the calculations of Iran's principal protagonists -- Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei -- are largely unaffected by mounting financial penalties imposed by the West. After three decades of wrestling with the Islamic Republic, Washington and its allies still fail to realize that they are not dealing with a conventional nation-state making subtle estimates of national interests.
The essence of Washington's approach is that confronted with a choice of debilitating isolation or rejoining the community of nations, Iran will eventually make the "right" decision. The Islamic Republic, however, is too wedded to its ideological verities and too subsumed by its rivalries to engage in such judicious determinations.
In a speech in August, Khamenei once again confirmed his opposition to reconciliation with the United States. His reasons were neither illogical nor irrational: "The change of behavior they want -- and which they don't always emphasize on -- is in fact a negation of our identity," he said. Iran's supreme leader appreciates that engagement with the United States is subversive and could undermine the pillars of the Islamic state. Dialogue, trade and cultural exchanges could, he understands, expose Iran to the unrelenting pressures of modernization and transform the revolutionary republic into another state that sacrificed its ideological heritage for the sake of profits and commerce. The politics of resistance and nuclear empowerment, on the other hand, affirm Iran's identity as a Muslim nation struggling against American encroachment. Economic sanctions can hardly disabuse Khamenei of such well-entrenched animosities.
The tragedy of U.S.-Iran relations is that the most persistent advocate of dialogue with America is Iran's firebrand president.
Crisis in Aggressive Diplomacy
The harsh postures of Fatah authorities against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be interpreted as the beginning of a new phase in the international standing of the Islamic Republic. While representatives and leaders of foreign countries, except Israel, have until now had [no more than] a critical view of the behavior of the Islamic Republic and have only on some occasions expressed their criticism through declarations, interview and resolution, the recent announcements by the Palestine Authority is of a different type as it views Iran's president to lack legitimacy and just like Ahmadinejad speaks of him and the Islamic Republic with disregard for diplomatic protocol.
Despite the harsh criticism of the regime by some members of the international community, the three branches of the Islamic regime and their leaders have been viewed as legitimate and recognized as such. But Fatah has opened a path that may be followed by other foreign governments. Prior to this, the spokesperson of the Russian government had used strong words against Ahmadinejad and charged him with being deceitful. Then came Fidel Castro, who expressly condemned the position of the tenth Iranian administration in denying the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people. These events, along with the intensification of the economic sanctions and their gradual negative impact on the structure of the Iranian economy and the security of the country, are signs of the difficult days that lie ahead for the ruling circles in Iran on the international scene.
Reality Check: Iran Is Not a Nuclear Threat
Politicians, lobbyists, and propagandists have spent nearly two decades pushing the lie that Iran poses a nuclear weapons threat to the United States and Israel. After a brief respite in the intensity of the wolf cries over the past two years, the neoconservative movement has decided to relaunch the "Must Bomb Iran" brand.
The fact that Iran is not and has not been a nuclear threat to either nation is rendered irrelevant by a narrative of universal "concern" about its nuclear program.
On September 6, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a new paper on the implementation of Iran's Safeguards Agreement which reported that the agency has "continued to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran to any military or other special purpose."
Yet despite the IAEA report and clear assertions to the contrary, news articles that followed were dishonest to the extreme, interpreting this clean bill of health as just another wisp of smoke indicating nuclear fire in a horrifying near-future.
An Opportunity with Iran?
Iran is signaling that it wants to join regional efforts to stabilize Afghanistan -- presenting President Barack Obama with an interesting diplomatic opportunity. He had solicited just such help from Tehran last month, but the administration has not yet responded to the Iranian feelers.
U.S. policy is still in flux, but the administration appears ready for a limited dialogue with Iran about Afghanistan, perhaps conducted through the two countries' embassies in Kabul. This position has not been communicated to the Iranians, in part because Washington is waiting to see if Iran will return soon to negotiations about its nuclear program with the so-called "P-5 plus 1" group.
The question for the Obama administration is whether to take up these feelers. Advocates argue that stabilizing Afghanistan is a strategic priority and that the United States should seek help wherever it can. They also argue that rather than undermining talks on the nuclear issue, contacts on Afghanistan could be an important confidence-building measure.