Two Major Reform Parties Officially Banned
28 Sep 2010 13:22
Press Roundup provides selected excerpts of news and opinion pieces from the Iranian and international media. Click on the link to the story to read it in full. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. The inclusion of various opinions in no way implies their endorsement by Tehran Bureau. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow other news items through our Twitter feed.
Iran Bans Two Leading Reformist Parties
AFP | Sept 27
An Iranian court has banned two leading reformist parties which backed opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi in last year's presidential poll, a judiciary spokesman said Monday.
Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie said that the Islamic Iran Participation Front and Islamic Revolution Mujahedeen Organisation had been "dissolved."
"Their case was sent to the court which dissolved both parties and they are not allowed to have any activities," said Ejeie, cited by the ILNA new agency.
In April, a hardline political watchdog affiliated with the Interior Ministry accused the two parties of undermining national security and suspended their activities.
The two political groups had strongly supported Mousavi, the main challenger to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the June 2009 presidential election.
Reformist Site Announces Government Involvement in Attacks on Karroubi's Home
Radio Zamaneh | Sept 27
A recent report on reformist websites reveals that a number of government figures were identified amongst the attackers of Mehdi Karroubi's home.
In the holy month of Ramadan, the home of Mehdi Karroubi, Iranian opposition leader, was attacked by plain clothes forces for five nights in a row. The attacks were condemned by opposition leaders and human rights activists.
The government however claims no responsibility in the attacks and attributed them to arbitrary forces.
Tagheer website reports that Mohammad Larijani, Governor of Shemiranat, was directly involved in the attacks.
Tagheer claims that numerous eyewitnesses have identified "government forces and figures" involved in the attacks.
They maintain that Mohammad Larijani was consistently in telephone contact with Morteza Tamaddon, Governor of Tehran, reporting the attacks.
Iranian Parliament Receives Petition to Scrap Polygamy
Radio Zamaneh | Sept 26
A group of women's rights activists delivered a petition with five thousand signatures to the Iranian parliament urging the legislative body to "bar polygamy."
ILNA reports that the petition was delivered by 40 women who called on the parliament to halt all efforts in "promoting temporary marriages and polygamy."
One of the activists announced that their efforts in the past week to meet with the parliament's Legal and Judicial Commission had failed but the secretariat of the parliament had finally accepted the petition today.
According to this report, efforts to collect more signatures continue and other women's groups will deliver them to the parliamentary office in the coming days.
The Legal and Judicial Commission of the parliament is set to review the controversial articles of the Family Protection Bill regarding temporary marriages, polygamy and lump-sum alimony (mehrieh) on Tuesday.
Iran Struggling to Contain 'Foreign-Made' 'Stuxnet' Computer Virus
Washington Post | Sept 27
Iran suspects that a foreign organization or nation designed "Stuxnet," a quickly mutating computer worm that has been infiltrating industrial computer systems in the Islamic republic, a high-ranking official said Monday.
"We had anticipated that we could root out the virus within one to two months," Hamid Alipour, deputy head of Iran's Information Technology Co., a part of the ministry of communication and information technology, told the Islamic Republic News Agency. "But the virus is not stable, and since we started the cleanup process three new versions of it have been spreading," he said.
Iranian officials said Saturday that they had been hit by "electronic warfare" and acknowledged that the worm had infected more than 30,000 computers, including personal computers owned by employees of the nuclear power plant near Bushehr.
But although the officials said over the weekend that the facility itself was not in danger and that the virus was under control, Monday's remarks suggest otherwise.
'Computer Virus in Iran Actually Targeted Larger Nuclear Facility'
Haartez | Sept 28
Experts on Iran and computer security specialists yesterday voiced a growing conviction that the worm that has infected Iranian nuclear computers was meant to sabotage the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz -- where the centrifuge operational capacity has dropped over the past year by 30 percent.
The new analysis, based on the characteristic behavior of the Stuxnet worm, contradicts earlier assessments that the target was the nuclear reactor at Bushehr. Iranian spokesmen, led by the director of the Bushehr facility, had confirmed that Bushehr's computers were infected by the virus. But the director added that while senior staffers' computers were affected, the damage to the reactor's functioning was very limited and would not delay its launch, set for next month.
The Bushehr reactor, however, is considered less of a security threat than Natanz by the intelligence communities in both Israel and the United States. Because intelligence analysts believe Iran would have enough material for at least two nuclear bombs if it enriched the uranium held at Natanz from 3.5 percent to 90 percent, every scenario for an Israeli or American attack on Iran's nuclear facilities has put Natanz high on the list of potential targets.
Sakineh Ashtiani Is Sentenced to Death: Prosecutor
Tehran Times | Sept 28
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has received a death sentence for committing murder and this sentence has precedence over her crime in doing adultery, announced National Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei [at] a press conference on Monday.
The prosecutor's remark means that Ashtiani will not be stoned to death for committing adultery, because she should first be executed for murder.
"The issue should not be politicized and the Judiciary will not be influenced by the propaganda campaign launched by the Western media," added Mohseni-Ejei, who also serves as the Judiciary spokesman.
See also: "An Adulteress Could in Theory Be Stoned, Iran Prosecutor Says" (Washington Post)
Russian Arms Ban Boosts Iran Gunrunners
UPI | Sept 27
Arms dealer Jacques Monsieur was jailed by a U.S. court for plotting to smuggle jet engines to Iran but, with the Islamic Republic smarting under a new Russian arms ban and international sanctions, Tehran's going to need suppliers like Monsieur more than ever.
The swashbuckling Monsieur, a veteran gunrunner and former intelligence agent known as The Field Marshal, pleaded guilty in a Mobile, Ala., court and was given a 2-year prison sentence Friday after a plea bargain.
After 13 months behind bars since his arrest in New York Aug. 27, 2009, he will only have to spend about 10 months more in prison for conspiracy to smuggle U.S.-made J85-21 engines for F-5 fighter jets to the Islamic Republic.
The Belgian-born Monsieur is only one of a score of people convicted in recent months of involvement in smuggling weapons, along with missile and nuclear components, to Iran, in most cases from the United States.
See also: "Iran to Sue Russia for Not Delivering S-300 Missile System: MP" (Xinhua)
Iran Says It Killed 30 Perpetrators of Deadly Bombing
AFP | Sept 27
Iranian Revolutionary Guards have killed 30 perpetrators of last week's deadly bombing at a military parade in western Iran, apparently in a cross-border raid in Iraq, state-run media reported Monday.
Abdolrasoul Mahmoudabadi, the Guards commander in the province where the parade was bombed, said those killed included "mercenaries" working for the United States, which he implicated in the bombing, the state-run television's website reported.
"Thirty of the main elements of the terrorist attack in Mahabad were killed" in an operation on Saturday, Mahmoudabadi said.
"These terrorists were comprised of (Iraq's) old Baathist regime officers and American mercenaries," Mahmoudabadi said without giving details.
Reformists Publish List of Political Prisoners
Radio Zamaneh | Sept 27
Kaleme website published the names and details of 216 political prisoners in Iran's various prisons who between themselves are sentenced to 1100 years of imprisonment.
According to Kaleme, Mir Hosein Mousavi's news outlet, this report has been provided for them by the "anonymous friends of the Green movement at Evin Prison."
The report indicates that 145 political prisoners are in section 350 of Evin out of which nine are sentenced to death and 13 are accused of espionage.
The youngest prisoners amongst them is 19-year-old, Mohsen Shoshtari, sentenced to one year in prison, and the oldest is Amir Ali Mehrnia, a 73-year-old who was arrested in the post-election events and is sentenced to two years in prison.
Veteran Journalist Issa Sahrakhiz Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison, 6-Year Ban
Green Voice of Freedom | Sept 27
Senior reformist journalist Issa Saharkhiz was sentenced to three years in prison, following his trial at branch 15 of Iran's Revolutionary Court. He has also received a five-year ban on journalistic and political activities, as well as a one-year ban on leaving the country.
The harsh prison sentence against Saharkhiz is based on charges of "insulting the leader" and "propagating against the establishment."
Since his arrest following the fraudulent presidential election of June 2009, the journalist has not enjoyed any form of leave despite his poor health conditions.
Saharkhiz is a founding member of the Association of Iranian Journalists and has had a long career in journalism. He worked for 15 years for IRNA, the Islamic Republic's official news agency, and headed its New York office for a number of years. He has also worked for many reformist websites and newspapers.
Two Kurdish Activists Sentenced to Prison
RAHANA | Sept 28
The Revolutionary Court of Saghez has sentenced two Kurdish residents by the names of Jamal Amini and Mohammad Moniri to prison.
Their lawyer Seyyed Vafa Hosseini confirmed the report and stated that the appeals court has upheld the 3 year prison sentence of Jamal Amini issued by the 1st branch of the Saghez Court. He had been charged with anti- regime propaganda and collaborating with anti- regime groups.
According to the Mokrian News Agency, his other clinet Mohammad Moniri had been sentenced to 4 years in prison for anti-regime propaganda and collaborating with anti- regime groups and the appeals court reduced the sentence to one year of imprisonment.
Appeals Court Upheld Ali Malihi's 4 Year Prison Sentence
RAHANA | Sept 28
Tehran Court of Appeals has upheld the 4-year prison sentence of Ali Malihi issued in the 28th branch of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Moghiseh.
Ali Malihi, the head of Avar-e-Tahkim (Office for Consolidating Unity) Public Relations Office and a member of the political division [of] the organization, who has been detained since February 9th, was sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment for anti-regime propaganda and a $100 fine for insulting the president.
His attorney Mohamamd Ali Dadkhah had previously stated that there were many problems with this case and he was convicted despite lack of evidence.
Prominent Lawyer Mohammad Seifzadeh to Be Tried for Founding the Defenders of Human Rights Center
RAHANA | Sept 28
The case of prominent attorney Dr. Seifzadeh who has been the lawyer of many prisoners of conscience is under review in the 2nd branch of the Prosecutor's Office presided by an interrogator by the name of Sobhani. He has been charged with founding the Defenders of Human Rights Center based on Article 489 and 500 of the Islamic Penal Code.
The Defenders of Human Rights Center, headed by Shirin Ebadi, was illegally shut down by the judicial authorities and its activities were declared to be unlawful. The prominent attorneys working for the Committee believe that the authorities' decision is illegal. During the last year, pressure has intensified on the members of the Committee such as Dr. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah and Dr. Fatah Soltani who had previously been held in detention.
Shell Increases Oil Trade with Iran -- Despite Sanctions
Guardian | Sept 27
Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, paid the state-owned Iranian oil company at least $1.5bn (£0.94bn) for crude oil this summer, increasing its business with Tehran as the international community implemented some of the toughest sanctions yet aimed at constricting the Islamic republic's economy and its lifeline oil business.
Sensitive trading documents seen by the Guardian show the UK-registered company stepped up its orders of Iranian oil at a time when other major buyers, including BP and Reliance Industries, India's largest conglomerate, halted orders amid impending trade sanctions aimed at curbing Tehran's perceived desire to acquire nuclear weapons.
Shell is not accused of acting illegally because the sanctions -- enforced by the US, UN and EU -- stopped short of banning the import of Iranian oil. But its trades with the state-owned oil company, a major contributor to the finances of a government which has made its nuclear programme a priority, are likely to expose Shell to growing political pressure.
See also: "Oil Firms Reap Benefit of Iran's Build-up of Crude Stocks" (Guardian)
Iran Carpet Industry to Lose U.S. Market to Sanctions
Bloomberg | Sept 27
Iran's carpet industry is likely to lose a major source of revenue when U.S. sanctions banning the import of the Persian carpets are implemented starting in two days, an Iranian industry expert said.
The export of hand-woven carpets generates about $500 million annually for Iran's economy, with 20 percent of the total earned in the U.S. market, Ali-Reza Ghaderi, founder and head of the Persian Carpet Think Tank, said today in a phone interview from Tehran.
Banning the entry of Iranian hand-woven carpets into the U.S. is "a clear mistake," Ghaderi said. "The carpet industry is in the hands of the private sector from scratch to end product and is not backed by the Iranian government. Instead of hurting the regime this will harm Iranian families involved in the business."
"The U.S. decision to ban sales of carpets should not be viewed as merely a curiosity," said Robert Powell, an economist with the Economist Intelligence Unit in New York. "Carpet weaving is big business in Iran and one of the country's biggest employers," Powell wrote in e-mailed comments. The sale of carpets to the U.S. has increased recently even as ties between the two nations deteriorated, he said.
Iran's carpet sales are also rising elsewhere, as the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran has targeted Asia with some success as a market for Iranian non-oil products, Powell said. Still, the move will have "a considerable impact on the local industry," he said.
Germany Keen on Iran Trade Ties
Press TV | Sept 27
Managing director of the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce says German firms are still doing business with Iran despite a host of sanctions against the country.
"The business shifted from large corporations to medium-sized businesses (SMEs)," Michael Tockuss told Der Tagesspiegel on Friday.
Financial reports suggest that despite the withdrawal of several large corporations from Iran in line with UN Security Council and unilateral sanctions imposed on the country, trade with the energy-rich country continues to grow.
German companies have sold goods worth 1.85 billion euros in the first six months of 2010, 14 percent more than the same period last year, the Berlin-based newspaper added.
OPINION & ANALYSIS
If Israel Attacks
Perhaps never before has the government in Jerusalem felt under greater threat than with the Iranian atomic program. The temptation is to attack. It is an exercise in futility with likely disastrous results. The United States should take steps to assure Israel's deterrence remains strong, as this is the only way to both prevent an Israeli assault on Iran in the short term and to contain Tehran in the future.
Israel now faces the biggest-ever challenge to its monopoly on the bomb in the Middle East from Iran. For Israel, Tehran is a dangerous opponent, close and threatening. There is a virtually unanimous consensus in Israel that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. From left to right, Israelis see an existential threat to their very survival. Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued at the Brookings Institution's Saban Forum in Jerusalem in 2007 that Iran is a "crazy," even suicidal, state that will be prepared to sacrifice millions of its own citizens in a nuclear exchange with Israel.
Though other Israeli leaders are more cautious, even they are strongly determined to keep Israel's monopoly on nuclear weapons. Ephraim Sneh, former deputy defense minister and a much-decorated retired general in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), notes that "the most salient strategic threat to Israel's existence is Iran." They fear Israel's strategic room for maneuver in the region would be constrained by an Iranian nuclear deterrent. The success of Hezbollah and Hamas in the last few years has only added to Israeli concern.
It is clear from statements of Israeli military and intelligence officials and numerous press leaks that planning for a military operation to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is well under way in Israel. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said that "the things that we do behind the scenes, far from the public eye, are far more important than the slogan charade," implying that Israeli covert capabilities are already hard at work trying to cope with the Iranian threat, and preparing to attack it if they must. It is impossible to know what those plans entail in detail without access to the IDF's classified documents, but Israelis say the mission is not an impossible one.
Iran's Interrupted Lives
In late September, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York asserting his government's respect for human rights, several young students in Iran were receiving lengthy prison sentences for their efforts to speak out in defense of those rights. Indeed--as a small photography exhibition about student repression in Iran at Georgetown Law School this month powerfully reminded us--hundreds of Iranian students, journalists, and bloggers have been jailed, many of them in deplorable conditions, since the disputed elections of June 2009. And though the matter has received little attention in the press, many more continue to be arrested and sentenced.
I was struck by the setting of the exhibition. In Georgetown's McDonough Hall, where it was held, law students hurry to and from classes. They walk past or stop to look at the photographs--photographs of men and women, also students, the same age as themselves. But these men and women are Iranian. The Georgetown students are free to come and go, to speak their minds, to argue with their professors; the Iranians in these photos have experienced life differently.
The record on display of students arrested, jailed, tortured and executed makes for grim viewing, all the more striking for its spareness and understatement. Beside each photograph is a brief description, powerful in its simplicity, providing name, age, university affiliation, circumstances and dates of arrests, sentencing, eventual fate. At the bottom of each panel, in tiny print, are the names of the thousands of students caught in the web of Iran's intelligence apparatus, its secret police, and its judicial and prison system. There are echoes here of the Vietnam War Memorial's wall of names, except that those commemorated in this exhibition had their lives destroyed by their own countrymen, not by an enemy army.
The Method behind Ahmadinejad's U.N. Trash Talk
Tony Karon (Time) | Sept 27
President Barack Obama's experience in playing street basketball will have prepared him for the trash-talking tactics adopted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York City last week. The Iranian leader's U.N. General Assembly address included the bizarre -- and, in Obama's words, "inexcusable" -- allegation that the U.S. government had orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. U.S. and allied diplomats walked out of the Assembly, and Ahmadinejad was rebuked far and wide. But causing a commotion was precisely what the Iranian leader intended. The whole point of trash-talking is to throw your adversary off balance and to pump up your own team by landing a verbal zinger. The game in which the two men remain embroiled is a nuclear standoff apparently heading for a new round of negotiations.
Ahmadinejad's barb came after a week of statements indicating Tehran's willingness to resume negotiations over its nuclear program, as the U.S. and its allies have been demanding. "Possibly in October, we are prepared to talk," Ahmadinejad reiterated last Friday, one day after his contemptuous remarks. "The door is open for talks and negotiations within the framework of justice and respect." Not that there was much respect about his 9/11 comments, but Iran certainly appears set to resume negotiations with the group known as the P5+1, comprising the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany. And with that in mind, Ahmadinejad's 9/11 denial appears to have been a calculated, if not crude, provocation aimed at putting the Americans on the back foot in the spin war ahead of the next round of talks -- and grandstanding for an audience of Third World malcontents.
DOCUMENTS & DECLARATIONS
Top U.S. Diplomat for Iran Looks for Openings to Progress
Philo Dibble is the new deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran, the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat assigned solely to issues involving Iran, replacing John W. Limbert, who retired. He is a career Foreign Service officer; his previous assignments have included deputy assistant secretary in Near East affairs, director of the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs, deputy chief of mission in Damascus, Syria, and tours in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Tunisia, Italy and Pakistan.
He spoke with America.gov at his office in Washington soon after the release of American hiker Sarah Shourd, who had been held in an Iranian prison for more than a year, and in advance of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.
No assignment is easy, but it must be particularly hard trying to work with a government, like Iran's, that seems to be fractured.
"Fractious," I think, is more the word, or "faction-ridden," if you like. I think it's a mistake to think that the Iranian government is not a functioning government or a competent state. But its politics are very much present, and there are acute rivalries within and among the various branches and personalities within the government.
Iranians are going through a very tough time now, economically, and have been for a while. They also face a new round of sanctions. What would you say to the Iranian people about the sanctions?
I would say two things: first of all, that the parlous state of Iran's economy is due mainly to the mismanagement by the Iranian government, to the various distortions introduced through the subsidy system, to various other monopolies like the bonyads [supposedly charitable foundations with enormous economic power] and other similar distortions. That's one thing, and that's the main thing.
The second thing I would say is that the sanctions have never been aimed at imposing any kind of suffering on the Iranian people. In fact, they were very carefully crafted to target either nonproliferation or counterterrorism or certain elements of the leadership, and not -- specifically not -- the broader population. So that if the Iranian government chooses to point to the sanctions as causing the suffering, well, that's not very surprising. But the Iranian people need to have no illusions, and I suspect they don't, about what is causing their current economic difficulty.