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Gold Bazaaris' Strike Expands; Sanctions Sting Deeper

01 Oct 2010 08:446 Comments

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.

THE LEAD

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Iranian Gold Traders' Strike Spreads

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty | Sept 30

Gold merchants throughout Iran are joining a strike to protest a new tax on gold that they say severely hurts their business, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The gold bazaar in Tehran went on strike shortly after the government announced on September 26 that it was adding a 3 percent VAT (value-added tax) on gold products.

The strike has since stretched to other cities such as Mashhad, Shiraz, Ghazvin, Qom, and Sabzevar.

A Tehrani gold seller told Radio Farda on September 29 that "we are opposing this law because it shoots the price of gold up and customers will lose their purchasing power."

Iranian Tax Affairs Director Ali Asgari said on September 28 that the government will not back down on the tax.

Strikes Continue in Bazaar of Tehran and Other Cities

Radio Zamaneh | Sept 29

Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) reports that the Gold and Jewellery Dealers Union has called on gold merchants to end their strike and open their stores today in order to prevent "enemies from taking advantage of the situation."

Officials claim that only gold dealers have expressed protests [against] the new law and all other retailers have taken the new regulations in stride.

However, some official reports indicate that the steel market also went on strike last Sunday and Monday in protest [against] the new value added tax law.

See also: "Iran Has Lowest VAT Rate" (Iran Daily)

Big Energy Firms Cut Iran Ties under U.S. Pressure

Reuters | Sept 30

Four major European oil companies will abandon their Iranian activities voluntarily to avoid American sanctions designed to pressure Iran over its nuclear program, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The decision by France's Total, Norway's Statoil, Italy's ENI and Royal Dutch Shell will help ratchet up pressure as Western powers seek to bring Tehran into new talks on an atomic program they fear is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said.

"The international community should collectively abandon a business-as-usual approach to Iran," Steinberg told reporters, saying other major energy companies were under investigation and could face consequences if they do not follow suit.

See also: "Japan to Withdraw from Iran Oil Project: Reports" (AFP)

U.S. Sanctions Selectively under Its Iran Policy

Los Angeles Times | Sept 30

The Obama administration rolled out its first penalty Thursday under the new U.S. sanctions on Iran, but carefully avoided any challenge to Russian and Chinese companies that would have risked diplomatic fallout.

The administration sanctioned a Swiss subsidiary of Iran's national oil company, while declaring that it was weighing punishments against other, unidentified foreign companies.

The sanctions on Naftiran Intertrade Co. will prevent it from receiving loans of more than $10 million from any U.S. bank and prohibit various benefits from the U.S. government. But officials said the more significant penalty would be an indirect one: They said the move was likely to make foreign firms unwilling to do business with the Swiss company for fear they could be hit by U.S. penalties.

"The goal here is not to impose sanctions for sanctions' sake, but to end companies from doing business with Iran," said James Steinberg, the deputy secretary of State.

Iran Summons Envoy for U.S. "Sanctions" on Its Officials

Reuters | Sept 30

Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador in Tehran on Thursday to protest over what it called U.S. sanctions imposed on eight Iranian officials who Washington says participated in human rights abuses, media reported.

Iran has no diplomatic relations with the United States and U.S. interests in Tehran are handled by the Swiss embassy.

"This action by the American government is a clear interference in Iran's domestic issues...it is also a political misuse of the human understanding of human rights," state broadcaster IRIB quoted a deputy foreign minister as telling the Swiss envoy.

Sanctions on Iran Prompt Concerns about Rial's Value as Currency

Washington Post | Sept 29

New sanctions against Iran, recently implemented by the United Arab Emirates, have led to a sharp drop this week in the value of Iran's currency, the rial, disrupting the country's markets and prompting the government to consider intervening to curb the rise in hard currency exchange rates.

But analysts say the rate increase means that the government - widely seen as on a drive to boost its income - will receive more rials for its petrodollars, even as the currency drop could contribute to inflation.

Iran's finance minister, Shamseddin Hosseini, told state radio Wednesday that "if the drop leads to a bubble, the government will stop it." He did not elaborate on which measures would be taken or whether Iran's central bank is selling foreign currency in a bid to lower the rates.

The rial, which is normally closely pegged to the dollar, has lost about 15 percent of its value against the U.S. currency since Sunday. It has also lost in relation to the euro.

Skirmishes broke out between money changers and security forces in front of the central bank's headquarters in Tehran on Tuesday, after the money changers learned they would not be able to buy dollars at a lower rate, as they had been promised. No foreign currency was being sold.

NGOs Quietly Press for Access to Iran

Christian Science Monitor | Sept 30

US-based nongovernmental organizations [...] are quietly pressing to gain access to Iran to do humanitarian work they say is needed and to bridge the communication gap between Americans and Iranians.

But US sanctions are hampering their efforts, some say.

For NGOs hoping to work in Iran or with Iranians, proving to the Department of Treasury -- which issues the appropriate licenses -- that their work is humanitarian and won't violate sanctions is so challenging that many NGOs give up, says Jamal Abdi, policy director of the National Iranian American Council, a US-based nonpartisan organization that handles Iranian issues.

In Iran, the Sting of Sanctions Begins to Take Hold

Global Post | Sept 30

On the first day of a recent Iranian workweek, a day after U.S. President Barack Obama gave a rare televised address to the Persian-speaking world, Tehran residents were seething.

They didn't like the president's message that the severe economic sanctions the United States and other countries have imposed on Iran are its leadership's own doing. The sanctions are overly aggressive and unjust, they said -- a perhaps reasonable view given how difficult life is becoming for them.

"Obama...said that these sanctions are meant to affect the Islamic republic government, but without affecting people it can't affect the government," said Maryam, a 26-year-old graduate student who works part time for a company that imports construction material.

"It affects every aspect of our lives: transportation, the ingredients in the food we eat, even my university dues are all up considerably since this time last year, and no one in our family is earning any more money than we were then."

OTHER NEWS

Senior Ayatollah Criticizes Khamenei for Overstepping Powers as Supreme Leader

insideIRAN | Sept 29

Ayatollah Ali-Mohammad Dastgheib, member of the Assembly of Experts and an outspoken critic of the government, issued a new theological verdict about Velayat Faqih, or rule of Islamic jurist, and stated that the current implications of this theory are contradictory to what the Iranian constitution had intended.

Ayatollah Dastgheib, in response to a question asked by one of his followers on his official website regarding Velayat Faqih, argues in five pages that the current theory of Absolute Velayat Faqih does not correspond to the interpretation of the concept, as it was determined by Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic and the most prominent intellectual father of the theory.

Dastgheib begins his long jurisprudential and technical response by first mentioning that he was one of Ayatollah Khomeini's students and a number of other prominent seminaries of the time, thus establishing both his commitment to the theory of Velayat and his religious credentials as a legitimate source of opinion on this matter.

According to his website, Dastgheib.com, this senior cleric argues that "Absolute Velayat Faqih and Vali Faqih [the actual person who carries out the duties of Velayat] appointed by the Assembly of Experts are two different things that can at times take place and be observed in one person, such as Imam Khomeini," implying that the current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lacks one of those properties. He then argues that the only duties of someone selected by the Assembly of Experts are "...to coordinate the efforts of the three branches of government and to prevent the violation of citizens' rights by the three branches." This bold claim means that the Supreme Leader's powers are much more limited than is currently the case.

See also: Ayatollah Dastgheib's full statement (Dastgheib.com [in Farsi])

Iran Announces New Delays at Bushehr Nuclear Plant -- But Denies Stuxnet Link

Christian Science Monitor | Sept 29

Iran said its troubled Bushehr nuclear power plant won't go on line for at least another three months, the latest delay for a plant that is the centerpiece of Iran's nuclear power program.

The announcement in August of the Russian-built Bushehr's imminent commissioning created alarm in some quarters, with some analysts saying the early stages of the plant's operation could produce fuel suitable for conversion into a nuclear weapon.

Since, there's been growing evidence of clandestine efforts to disrupt Iran's nuclear progress. In particular, some Internet security analysts say the Stuxnet virus, a sophisticated program apparently designed to disrupt the sort of Siemens software used to control processes at the plant, appeared to have been targeting Iran's nuclear sites.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's atomic energy agency, told a government-linked news agency on Wednesday that while the virus had been found on the personal laptops of some technicians at Bushehr it hadn't spread to the facility's main computers.

"I say firmly that enemies have failed so far to damage our nuclear systems through computer worms despite all of their measures and we have cleaned our systems," he told the Iranian Students News Agency.

See also: "Iran Denies Cyberattack Hurt Nuclear Program -- But Expert Isn't Sure" (CNN)

In a Computer Worm, a Possible Biblical Clue

New York Times | Sept 29

Deep inside the computer worm that some specialists suspect is aimed at slowing Iran's race for a nuclear weapon lies what could be a fleeting reference to the Book of Esther, the Old Testament tale in which the Jews pre-empt a Persian plot to destroy them.

That use of the word "Myrtus" -- which can be read as an allusion to Esther -- to name a file inside the code is one of several murky clues that have emerged as computer experts try to trace the origin and purpose of the rogue Stuxnet program, which seeks out a specific kind of command module for industrial equipment.

Not surprisingly, the Israelis are not saying whether Stuxnet has any connection to the secretive cyberwar unit it has built inside Israel's intelligence service.

"The Iranians are already paranoid about the fact that some of their scientists have defected and several of their secret nuclear sites have been revealed," one former intelligence official who still works on Iran issues said recently. "Whatever the origin and purpose of Stuxnet, it ramps up the psychological pressure."

See also: "U.S. Trying to Wage Cyber Warfare against Iran: Minister" (Mehr)

Obama Pressed to Weigh Iran Strike

Ynet | Sept 30

Both Senator Joe Lieberman and Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have urged the president to consider setting a time limit of just a few months on the effectiveness of the most recent sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic for its nuclear advances.

"Our goal here is to convince Iran to stop its nuclear weapons development program by economic and diplomatic means if we can but (to make clear) that we are prepared to use military means if we must," Lieberman told the Financial Times.

Howard Berman told the publication that the administration had "months, not years" to make sanctions work and that a military operation was preferable to a nuclear Iran.

Maliki Gives Iran and US Joint Cause

Financial Times | Oct 1

The US and Iran appear to have found common cause in Iraq, a rare convergence of interest which sees both concluding that Nouri al-Maliki, the controversial prime minister, is the most viable choice to lead the next government.

Even as the most influential foreign powers push in the same direction, however, they have not managed to create a domestic consensus around the divisive figure of Mr Maliki, six months after Iraq's elections. No party won an overall majority in that contest, meaning that any new government must be a coalition. The continuing deadlock has highlighted the limits of foreign influence.

Peter Harling, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, says that continuity serves the interests of both the US and Iran, although for different reasons. With the US focused on its planned military withdrawal by the end of next year, Washington wants to avoid political upheaval.

Iran's priority, meanwhile, is to maintain the Shia alliance that took power with its support after the 2005 elections. If Mr Maliki is out, he and his powerful Dawa party could leave the alliance, which has already been plagued by divisions.

Iraq's Allawi Asks Syria to Press Iran Not to Meddle

AFP | Sept 29

Former Iraqi premier Iyad Allawi said he had asked Syria on Wednesday to persuade Iran to keep out of his protracted battle for the premiership with incumbent Nuri al-Maliki.

Allawi, whom opponents have accused of leaning on the support of Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia in the drawn out coalition talks that have left Iraq without a government since an inconclusive March 7 general election, said that it was Iran that was blocking progress in the talks.

"Iran is interfering in Iraqi affairs," Allawi told a news conference in Damascus after his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"We have been asking leaders who have good relations with Iran to ask it not to interfere in Iraqi affairs and we discussed this with President Assad," Allawi said.

Iraqi Shiite Militia Hints of Iran's Hand in South

AP | Sept 29

Nearly four minutes of shaky, hand-held video clips show roadside bombs hitting U.S. convoys, a battery of Katyusha rockets and a soldier who appeared to be downed by sniper fire.

And digitally burned into the left hand corner is the raised-rifle emblem of a Shiite militia linked to Iran.

The purported claim of responsibility by the group known as Asaib Ahl al-Haq and pledges of more violence highlight possible new muscle flexing by armed Shiite factions as U.S. forces depart and Iraq's political leaders struggle to form a government. The jihad-style montage also underscores the unpredictable nature of armed Shiite factions eager to portray U.S. troops as leaving under fire.

Iran has been accused for years of aiding violent Shiite gangs -- a charge Tehran denies. But U.S. and Iraqi authorities say a possible splintering of Shiite factions in Iraq could open even more channels for Iran to back proxy attacks and harassment of American forces and Sunni allies.

Assad to Ahmadinejad: Don't Visit Lebanon

Ynet | Sept 29

The Iranian president's planned visit to southern Lebanon is raising fears in Syria of all places. According to reports, Syrian President Bashar Assad has suggested that his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, postpone his trip as "this is not the right time."

Kuwaiti newspaper al-Anbaa on Wednesday quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Ahmadinejad's scheduled visit to Lebanon in about two weeks was raised during his latest meeting with Assad in Damascus, about 10 days ago.

Ministers of Industries and Education May Face Impeachment

Mehr | Sept 29

MPs have lodged two impeachment motions against Industries and Mines Minister Ali-Akbar Mehrabian and Education Minister Hamidreza Hajibabaii.

28 lawmakers have signed the letter for impeaching the education minister.

The motion was introduced at the Majlis session on Wednesday.

14 MPs have also signed a letter to impeach the industries and mines minister

Signatories of the impeachment proposal have cited Industries Deputy Minister Iraj Nadimi's recent remarks on Imam Khomeini's pronouncement about the role of [the] Majlis as well as the ministry's poor performance as the reasons for the move.

Families of Dead Iranian Prisoners Want Justice

AP | Sept 29

The families of three opposition protesters who were tortured to death in prison last year demanded the former Tehran prosecutor be brought to trial and punished, Iranian media reports said Wednesday.

The three prisoners were among hundreds arrested during the mass street protests that erupted after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in June 2009. They died the following month in Tehran's Kahrizak prison.

One of the torture victims, 24-year-old Mohsen Rouhalamini, was the son of a prominent conservative figure, and the deaths sparked an outcry even among influential government supporters and figures in the clerical hierarchy.

"We demand the prosecution and punishment of those who ordered sending the prisoners" to Kahrizak prison, a statement from the families said, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency.

The other two prisoners were Amir Javadifar and Mohammad Kamrani.

In June, two prison officials were convicted of torturing and killing them and were sentenced to death.

As allowed under Iranian law, the families pardoned the two prison officials, saying they were just "puppets in the hands of unruly law breakers."

"Putting responsibility on the shoulders of interrogators and police cannot nullify the responsibility of someone who ordered the victims sent to Kahrizak, as parliament officially reported," the families said, referring to former Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi.

In January, a parliament investigation found Mortazavi responsible for the death of protesters in prison.

There has been no sign, however, of any steps to punish Mortazavi or place him under criminal investigation. Since leaving his post as prosecutor he has become the head of a government body tasked with fighting the smuggling of goods.

See also: "No Death Sentences for Kahrizak Culprits" (Mehr)

Report: Iran Judiciary Chief Criticizes Rafsanjani over Azad University Endowment

Tabnak (in Farsi) | Sept 28

In remarks aimed at [Ayatollah Akbar] Hashemi Rafsanjani, the judiciary chief said, "With all my respect, I would like to say that your comments in which you had said, 'Everyone who annuls the endowment of Azad University is standing against God,' is totally false."

[The university's board of directors declared it endowed as a religious charity earlier this year in order to keep it from falling under the effective control of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.]

Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli-Larijani, who was speaking on the sidelines of the 21st meeting of the Policy Making Council of Friday Prayer Leaders of the Country, said, "I respect Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, but had anyone else made that comment I would have said that this was a populist comment."

He added, "I am not going to say that endowment is annulled and we want to stand against God. But, I want to say that the endowment of Azad University has been initially an invalid act."

The judiciary chief added, "After the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] assigned me to review this issue I did an expert examination on the validity of the endowment. However, I have reached the conclusion that the endowment has initially been an invalid act. I have also sent my views in writing to the Supreme Leader and he will announce his ideas with regard to my views."

See also: Report on Rafsanjani's response (Tabnak [in Farsi])

Newspapers Will Receive Subsidy Based on Their Stances: Minister

Mehr | Sept 29

Newspapers which don't support the Islamic system will not receive subsidy, says Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini.

"The subsidies will be paid considering the newspapers' stances. We can not help a newspaper that does not move in line with the Islamic system's policies," Hosseini said in an address to a gathering of Friday prayer leaders in Tehran on Tuesday.

The ministry will completely support those newspapers that promote the Islamic systems' policies and principles, he emphasized.

Ahmadinejad Aide Calls for More Women's Rights

Reuters | Sept 29

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's closest aide has called for more rights for Iran's "oppressed" women, the latest controversial comments from a man who has become the lightning rod for divisions in the ruling elite.

"Women have been oppressed and treated unjustly in our society in the past and this oppression still exists," Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie, the president's chief of staff, was quoted as saying by Iranian newspapers on Wednesday.

[Mashaie] has often been the focus of ideological and personal rifts among the hardliners who rule the Islamic Republic and dislike what they see as his liberal leanings.

Mashaie's interview with the semi-official ILNA news agency happened as Iran's parliament debates a law which, among other things, could give a man the right to take up to three other wives without the consent of his existing spouse.

Iran About to Abolish Stoning, "But We Are Under No Influence from Abroad"

Repubblica (in Italian) | Sept 29

According to the ambassador in Rome [...] leading voices in the Iranian government have publicly pressed the Parliament in Tehran to abolish death by stoning and to generally eliminate discriminatory practices against women. A new scenario appears to be taking shape: the battle for legislation improving the status of women is evidently the road being taken by President Ahmadinejad to gain the popular support necessary to shake off the control of the Shia religious hierarchy and other traditionalist elements.

The Iranian ambassador to Rome, Seyed Mohammad Ali Hossein, has declared to [Italian news agency] ANSA that his country is likely to abolish stoning very soon. The new penal code bill before the country's Parliament no longer includes the punishment. The bill has received committee clearance and awaits the full body's vote. It then must be vetted by the Guardian Council, the Iranian constitutional court, before being enforced. "A majority in Parliament is in favor and we are well on track for final approval of the law," the diplomat said.

Ali Hossein told ANSA that "Iran is continuously updating the penal code" to adapt to society's changing norms. [...] "This criminal code that we are launching is the most progressive and advanced in the region" and is part of "a journey of faith" that the Iranian society and government are undertaking.

The diplomat, however, made certain to emphasize that the initiative has nothing to do with the "political and media pressure" applied by some Western countries over the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani -- the Iranian woman on trial for adultery and complicity in the murder of her husband -- because the Iranian Parliament "is not influenced" by anyone and maintains complete legislative autonomy. Among other things, said Ali Hossein, the former head of the Iranian judiciary had already ordered a "freeze" on stoning, well before the Sakineh case.

Iran Says Facebook and Twitter Are Country's 'Hidden Enemies'

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty | Sept 29

Iranian state-controlled television has accused Facebook and Twitter of being Iran's "hidden enemies" and tools used by Western intelligence agencies in order to recruit new members and gather data on individuals.

The website Mardomak has posted a video of the report.

The segment starts with a short biography of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but then goes on to say that the website is social only in appearance. According to the report: "The aim of Facebook is to identify people for special operations for Western spying agencies."

It includes a short interview with an unidentified individual whose face is darkened and who claims he works for Facebook and cooperates with Western intelligence agencies.

"I've been working for Facebook for a year and a half. I provide spy organizations with information and sell them information they need. I'm not unhappy with this work because I get a lot of money for doing it," the unnamed individual said.

The report features an interview with another unidentified individual who claims he was told by Twitter officials to provide them with tapes of his conversations with friends and colleagues in case "one day it would be used by spy agencies."

Increase in Prisoner Population

Iran Daily | Sept 30

"By the end of last month, there were over 204,000 people in the prisons," Mohammad Ali Zanjirei, deputy head of the Prisons Organization was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency.

"The figure rose by 35.2 percent compared to last year," he said [...] adding that out of every 100,000 people in the country, 271 were behind bars.

In the past authorities had said a large number of people had been locked up for drug-related crime and other offenses. Iran is located on a major narcotics trafficking route from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Astronomical Bail Keeps Journalist in Prison

ICHRI | Sept 29

Journalist Hengameh Shahidi's mother, Nahid Kermanshahi, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the $600,000 bail set for her daughter's furlough is impossible for her family to raise leaving her daughter unable to make use of prison leave despite her critical health condition.

Kermanshahi told the Campaign that she goes to visit her daughter every Tuesday but has no good news for her. About her last Tuesday's visit with Shahidi she said, "She was not well at all. They brought her back from the infirmary. She had a sharp drop in blood pressure. Her eyes were hollow."

Hengameh Shahidi, journalist and adviser to Mehdi Karroubi in the 15 June 2009 presidential election, was arrested during post-election round-ups. She was released on 24 October 2009 after posting a $90,000 bail, but was returned to Evin prison after being sentenced to a six-year prison term.

Minister: Zero Tolerance for Iranian Filmmakers Backing Opposition

DPA (via Earth Times) | Sept 30

Iran will have zero tolerance for filmmakers who support the country's political opposition, Culture Minister Mohammad Hosseini said Thursday.

"Anybody who avails himself of its (cultural) syndicate cover for making political activities and undermining values of the establishment are not tolerated and harshly condemned," Hosseini said during a press conference in Tehran.

Hosseini was referring to the decision by his ministry last week to revoke the licence for the latest film by renowned Iranian filmmaker Asqar Farhadi, The Separation of Nader and Simin.

The Culture Ministry said it revoked the license after the filmmaker made "unsuitable" remarks in a ceremony at the Cinema House in Tehran and later refused to retract them.

But Hosseini said the main problem with the ceremony was that "some of the attendees wore green wristbands."

Green is the symbolic colour of the eponymous movement that supports opposition leader Mir Hossein [Mousavi], and is meant to stand for change in Iran.

"Supporting this group and making a dead movement alive again is unacceptable," Hosseini said, adding that the projects of filmmakers with such a stance would not be permitted by his ministry.

Gay Iranian Refugee Says He Can't Return Home

NPR | Sept 30

Human rights groups say the Islamic republic continues to execute homosexuals. Gay and lesbian Iranians are increasingly among those fleeing the country.

One young Iranian who fled to Turkey says he was targeted by authorities for two offenses: going public with his homosexuality and taking part in last year's post-election anti-government protests.

Ramin Haghjoo, 25, who is slender with a red streak in his long, curly hair, still laughs when he recalls the incident.

His smile vanishes, however, when he talks about what it's like to live as a gay man in Iran. In an Istanbul cafe, Haghjoo spoke of friends estranged from their families, living in fear and depression, wondering if their future holds prison or worse.

"We live our lives but in secret," Haghjoo says. "You never know when the authorities will come after you. At the moment, there's a kid named Ebrahim Hamidi, they're planning to execute him. It's so easy for that to happen these days."

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Dear Minister, What Do You Mean, "No Subsidy for Counterrevolutionary Publications"?

Editorial (Tabnak) | Sept 30

The Persian service of Tabnak, in a note on Thursday, has posed a question for the Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister, asking him to clarify what he means by saying that his ministry would not pay subsidy to those national newspapers that do not support the Islamic system.

Does the ministry mean that counterrevolutionary papers have publication licenses presently, and there is no hindrance for continuation of their activities? Is the ministry only worried about distribution of subsidies? If so, the Majlis deputies must ask the ministry to stand against such publications.

The assumption in this remark is that the Islamic Guidance ministry has so far given subsidies to counterrevolutionary newspapers and now it is trying to stop doing so. But the question here is that whether any counterrevolutionary newspaper is currently published in the country in an era that publication of any news, even by those that work "within the framework," is faced with an avalanche of warnings by numerous domestic institutions and organizations.

Moreover, all publications in Iran receive their licenses from the Islamic Guidance ministry. They work within a specified framework and will be prosecuted as soon as they commit any illegal act, including activities against the principles of the revolution and Islam. They are immediately punished and ordered to stop their publications. Then, in such circumstances, how is it possible to have counterrevolutionary papers in the country, especially the ones that receive subsidies from the ministry?

Iran's New Wave of Social Engineering

Afshin Shahi (openDemocracy) | Sept 29

The social engineering venture of the Islamic Republic has been a systematic attempt of the ruling machinery to reshape the socio-cultural infrastructure of the Iranian society in accordance with the ideological mandate of the state. It has been an attempt to standardise the collective consciousness through the productive social agencies and reshape collective behaviour. In a recent attempt to stifle the internal opposition, the Islamic Republic has called for more "Islamisation" of the educational system and has in particular targeted universities for further "de-westernisation".

Lately, Kamran Daneshjoo, the Minister of Higher Education in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Cabinet, warned about the "threat" of "un-Islamic" universities and called for universities that failed to follow their Islamic duties to be crushed to dust. He clarified this notion of an "Islamic university" by stating "We have pledged to take our universities in the direction of the Supreme Leader. That means if He orders something we need to unconditionally obey, even if we disagree with Him to one hundred percent."

Daneshjoo's statement reflects a longstanding conviction of the Supreme Leader himself that the dangers of western values are reaching the Iranian society through the social sciences and humanities. Hence, he has labelled these academic fields as "dangerous," since they can breed "secularism, liberalism and materialism" thereby undermining the foundations of the Islamic State.

At a time when confidence of and in the ruling political class is low, some of the former elites have joined the opposition to express the idea that the utopia of Islamisation has failed, the regime has to stand firm. Indeed it needs to convince the masses that they are still committed to their guiding principles and that they have not given up on the cause. Against this background, blaming westernisation and an unfinished process of Islamisation seems to be the most straightforward strategy.

Intelligence Services: From Attracting Foreign Funds to Suppressing Dissidents

Morteza Rasooli (Gozaar) | Sept 30

With the announcement of the filing of the lawsuit against Green movement leaders by the political and security deputy of the National Prosecutor, the latest chapter in the "Green Leaders Receiving Financial Aid from Abroad" drama scripted by [Guardian Council Chairman] Ahmad Jannati and Intelligence Minister [Haydar Moslehi] of the Ahmadinejad administration has been given a new twist.

[In early September, as reported by Tehran Bureau's Muhammad Sahimi, Naser Saraj, deputy head of the judiciary for security and political affairs, told the conservative Fars news agency that judicial officials have opened a case to put the "leaders of sedition" on trial. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has used the word "sedition" to refer to the Green Movement and the post-election crisis. Since then, the term has been repeatedly used by the hardliners to refer to the opposition, especially Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.]

This whole project, a means to put down the Greens, was the brainchild of Ahmad Jannati who had first brought this up at a meeting at Jamkaran near Qom. He had claimed he had come across a document that showed that the Americans, with a little Saudi assistance, had paid a billion dollars to the "leaders of sedition" with a promise of another fifty billion for toppling the present regime. Reacting to this groundless statement, protests arose from all around, even from unlikely quarters such as even the fundamentalist Majles delegate Ali Motahari. Green movement leaders denied and ridiculed the allegations and demanded to see the documents. In response to this, in turn, Kadkhodai, spokesman of the Council of Guardians, without mentioning any documents, spoke of disclosing "evidence" in "court" and then Yadollah Javani, one of the political authorities in the Revolutionary Guard, threatened these leaders with action by the regime.

Haydar Moslehi, the Intelligence Minister, claimed that the amount of money paid to the "leaders of sedition" was considerably more than a billion dollars, the amount claimed by Jannati. He then produced a list of all the educational, propaganda, cultural, research and even sporting activities undertaken by all countries with Iran and declared that the precise amount of funds discovered by the Intelligence Ministry was actually 17 billion 700 million dollars. He added that certain other funds for international awards, secret intelligence missions, assistance given to terrorist guerrillas, such as Rigi or the PJAK groups, research institution scholarships and similar beneficiaries had not even been included in the figures.

Iranian Women Poised for Major Setback

Shayan Ghajar (Huffington Post) | Sept 28

Since the disputed Iranian presidential election in 2009, it is widely known that the Islamic Republic's regime has repressed protesters, journalists, and all forms of dissent. But the latest tactics to undermine Iranian women, who electrified the Green Movement and inspired activists worldwide, may dismantle decades of progress.

In the past month the government has pursued the passage of laws through parliament that would roll back what limited legal rights women are granted in Iran. In late August, a controversial bill, ironically dubbed the "Family Protection Bill," was reintroduced to the Iranian parliament after languishing three years while tabled for review. Three articles within the bill would prove extremely injurious to women's legal rights: articles 22, 23 and 24, which sought to impose heavy taxation of women's alimony and dowry, remove the requirement to register temporary marriages, and to eliminate the need for a husband to prove financial solvency or ask his wife's permission before marrying another woman.

Women's rights activist Saba Vasefi, interviewed by InsideIRAN, attributes the "Family Protection Bill" to an offensive taken against women since the 2009 protests: "In the midst of all the despicable things that happened in the aftermath of the June 12 election, the government is now trying once again to show its might and push through a law that is so anti-women. Women in Iran have been on the forefront of many battles against the government." Vasefi describes the most recent efforts against activists as the state's attempt to create "gender apartheid," to hamper further women's rights efforts by setting the clock back on the past three decades of improvement.

Iran's European Helpers

Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Benjamin Weinthal, Foundation Fellow (Wall Street Journal via Planet Iran) | Sept 29

The European Union in July imposed unprecedented sanctions against Iran's energy and financial sectors. But despite the crackdown, some European companies continue to sign up for business deals in Iran that may be both directly and indirectly supporting Iran's nuclear-weapons development.

Take the example of Ceresola TLS. According to a hard copy of the confirmation of a contract we have obtained, the Swiss firm recently signed an agreement worth over €1 billion with Rahab Engineering Establishment in Tehran. According to the contract, Ceresola has agreed to provide Rahab with tunneling technology to facilitate the construction of a metro line in Iran. But in the past, the regime in Tehran has used similar agreements to help hide its nuclear-weapons program. Although the confirmation order lists the deal as a project for a metro line, obtaining heavy earth-moving equipment and technology is also a top priority for Iran's nuclear program. Tehran needs this know-how to hide military nuclear installations deep underground, as it did with the Qom and Natanz enrichment facilities.

A June United Nations resolution lists the similarly named Rahab Engineering Institute as one of the firms involved in "nuclear or ballistic missile activities," and says the Institute is owned by the government's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Given Iran's history of simply renaming sanctioned firms or using front companies, it may be no coincidence that both businesses have their offices on the same Valiasr Street in Tehran. Ceresola manager Doris Ceresola, whose name is listed on the confirmation order, refused to comment when asked about the possibility that Rahab Engineering Establishment and Rahab Engineering Institute could be one and the same company.

Pushing For Iran War, Joe Lieberman Is Hoping We Don't Remember Iraq

Matt Duss (Wonk Room) | Sept 30

As I predicted with the formation of the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative last year, the neocons have been hard at work to repair their reputations and position themselves to push America into all kinds of new, staggeringly expensive and disastrously counterproductive military adventures. Yes, the people who brought us the Iraq debacle -- and, by under-resourcing Afghanistan for years as a result of Iraq, the Afghanistan crisis too -- are trying to get America into yet another war in the Middle East, this time in Iran.

Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, leading Congressional neocon Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) declared "It is time to retire our ambiguous mantra about all options remaining on the table":

It is time for our message to our friends and enemies in the region to become clearer: namely, that we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability -- by peaceful means if we possibly can, but with military force if we absolutely must.

Leaving aside the other reasons, which I'll get to in a second, why it's important for Americans to reject Joe Lieberman's warmongering, there's the rather significant fact that his central proposition is an exercise in question begging. It's entirely unclear that the U.S. can, even if it decides to do so, stop Iran's nuclear program through military means.

A Plea to Muslims: Join American Christians in Supporting a Free Iran

Jordan Sekulow, Director of International Operations at the American Center for Law & Justice (On Faith/Washington Post) | Sept 30

Rather than joining international efforts to promote peace, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs who rule Iran are fomenting violence, funding terrorist activities, and corrupting tenets of Islam all while systematically persecuting citizens of the Islamic Republic. Ahmadinejad has a record of violence against his fellow Muslims and countrymen. After stealing the Iranian elections from reformers in 2009, Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei brutally suppressed the brave Iranians who peacefully took to streets in support of the Green Revolution.

As the Iranian government clamped down on any who dared to oppose the election results, Ahmadinejad said in his swearing-in statement that he would "protect the official faith, the system of the Islamic revolution and the constitution." In doing so, Ahmadinejad justified murdering peaceful protesters, stealing the election, restricting the press, and silencing the speech of his fellow Muslims. This was all done to "protect" Islam and the revolutionary government bearing its name.

I have joined with a group of Christian leaders who have lobbied Congress to pass sanctions on the Iranian regime and called on President Obama to do everything in his power to stop Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs from possessing a nuclear weapon. Christian Leaders for a Nuclear-Free Iran represents 30 million Americans from various Christian organizations, denominations, and backgrounds.

There is a serious question remaining for our Islamic brothers and sisters and their religious and political leaders: will they, too, speak out against the corruption of their faith? Will they, too, seek to contain virulent leaders like Ahmadinejad? Or will they allow him and others to speak unchallenged in a way that corrupts their faith internally and externally while leading their fellow Muslims down a path of violence and destruction?

My hope is that, like the brave protesters in the Green Revolution, Muslims worldwide will encourage one another to rise up in protest of leaders like Ahmadinejad. It's time to show the world that you are not afraid to condemn those who persecute and terrorize in the name of your faith. We ask you to put aside political and religious differences and join us in support of a Free Iran.

DOCUMENTS & DECLARATIONS

Iran to Cut Oil Subsidies in Energy Reform

Transcript of Interview with IMF Mission Chief Dominique Guillaume and Senior IMF Economist Roman Zytek (IMF) | Sept 28

In the past three months, the Islamic Republic of Iran has begun eliminating energy subsidies, a move that could transform the way the country's economy works and influence reform in other energy-producing countries, IMF economists say.

How much does the current subsidy amount to?

Zytek: The value of subsidies varies depending on the price of oil. Until recently, a household of four in Iran gets on average about $4,000 a year in various subsidies on oil and natural gas alone. By comparison, many Iranians may earn about $300 a month, or $3,600 a year. The government has already started reducing the subsidies, however, by halving the gasoline ration sold at extremely low prices. Other energy products have so far remained very cheap.

[T]he subsidy benefits those who use energy the most -- the rich fellow with a sports utility vehicle, a 7,000 square foot air-conditioned house, and several large appliances. The $4,000 subsidy is an average -- the poor, who use much less energy, get very little subsidy.

What has prompted the government to get rid of the subsidies?

Guillaume: The main reason is to eliminate the huge negative impact on the economy of this extremely cheap energy. In the 1980s, Iran was one of the most energy-efficient countries. Now, it's one of the most wasteful. When you set foot in Tehran, you realize it immediately. Some days you can't even see the beautiful mountains surrounding the city because of the pollution.

The government realizes that the distortion in the demand and supply for energy is so serious that if they don't restore the balance, the country will never achieve its high-growth potential. The government is aiming to grow at the pace of South Korea and other vibrant emerging market countries, and they realize that the only way to do so is to restore market pricing of energy.

Governments Should Blacklist Human Rights Violators

Declaration by International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) | Sept 30

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran urged governments from around the world to blacklist officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran implicated in grave human rights violations, thus recognizing their role as perpetrators in Iran's grave human rights crisis and making it impossible for them to travel and keep assets abroad.

The Campaign is urging the governments of Canada, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, and members of the European Union in particular, countries in which known Iranian human rights offenders are most likely to hold assets or travel, to institute asset freezes and travel bans against them.

The Campaign welcomed an announcement by the United States government on 29 September 2010, naming eight top Iranian government officials as targets of such financial freezes and travel bans.

The eight individuals sanctioned by the US government are:

* Mohammad Ali Jafari, Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC)
* Sadeq Mahsouli, current Minister of Welfare and Security and former Minister of the Interior
* Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, current Prosecutor General of Iran and former Minister of Intelligence
* Saeed Mortazavi, former Prosecutor-General of Tehran
* Heydar Moslehi, Minister of Intelligence
* Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, current Minister of the Interior and former Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces for Law Enforcement
* Ahmad-Reza Radan, Deputy Chief of Iran's National Police
* Hossein Taeb, current Deputy IRGC Commander for Intelligence and former Commander of the IRGC's Basij Forces

In addition to the above, the Campaign also urges blacklisting of the following human rights violators:

* Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam, Head of the Iranian Police
* Abolghassem Salavati, Presiding Judge of Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolutionary Courts
* Seyed Hassan Firouzabadi, Chief of Staff of the Joint Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran
* Mohammad Moghisseh, Presiding Judge of Branch 28 of the Islamic Revolutionary Courts
* Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, Secretary General of the Guardian Council
* Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, Head of the Khomeini Education and Research Institute in Qom and a member of the Assembly of Experts
* Yadollah Javani, Head of the IRGC Political Office
* Rouhollah Hosseinian, Member of Parliament
* Ali Saeedi, Representative of the Supreme Leader in the IRGC
* Hossein Shariatmadari, Managing editor of Kayhan Newspaper
* Ezatollah Zarghami, Head of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB)
* Mohammad Reza Naghdi, Commander of Basij Forces

Blogger's Conviction Not Supported by Evidence; Immediate Suspension of Judge Salavati Urged

Declaration by International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) | Sept 29

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today that the conviction and sentencing of Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan to 19.5 years in prison included academic connections as a basis for his charges, and should be overturned by an appeals court.

The Campaign further demanded the immediate suspension of Judge Abolghassem Salavati, who issued Derakhshan's verdict, on grounds of deviation from judicial standards and procedures in this and numerous other cases. An informed source told the Campaign that Derakhshan's lawyer did not have full access to his file in order to review its details.

Sources close to Derakhshan's family told the Campaign that a portion of evidence for Derakhshan's alleged crimes consisted of a letter of recommendation for university written by Gary Sick, a Columbia University faculty member, that intelligence authorities claim demonstrates problematic connections with a hostile state. The content of Derakhshan's blog, operated outside of Iran, is another basis for his harsh sentence.

Derakhshan was questioned in interrogations about his membership in a group mailing list managed by Sick, Gulf2000, which includes over 1500 academics, journalists, and diplomats, and experts from across the world. Gulf2000 serves as a place for Middle East experts to exchange ideas.

"That a letter of recommendation from Professor Sick, and membership on his list can contribute to a 19.5 year prison term is evidence in itself of gross judicial incompetence," [Hadi] Ghaemi, [spokesperson for the Campaign,] said.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has previously named Judge Abolghassem Salavati as one of the "Men of Violence, Perpetrators of Post-Election Crackdowns" in Iran, for his illegal and political rulings aimed at achieving the objectives of radical segments of security and intelligence organizations. During post election show trials, Salavati has been one of only three judges in charge of post-election cases. He has sentenced more than a hundred political prisoners, human rights activists, and peaceful demonstrators to lengthy prison terms as well as doling out at least nine execution sentences, earning the nickname "The Judge of Death."

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6 Comments

Why is Ynet being linked to at Tehran Bureau?

What's next- Debka File?

Pirouz / October 1, 2010 8:48 PM

Thanks for your concern, Pirouz. We're experimenting with different formats and sources.

moderator / October 1, 2010 9:40 PM

As the editor responsible for organizing this roundup, I'm happy to respond in more detail.

My practice is to identify and link to the freely accessible (no subscription required) English-language source, when available, that provides the most comprehensive and detailed information on a given topic at the time of publication.

In the case of "Obama Pressed to Weigh Iran Strike," no other source provided as much detail on what Senator Lieberman and Representative Berman actually had to say about their shared desire for a more bellicose U.S. posture.

In the case of "Assad to Ahmadinejad: Don't Visit Lebanon," no other professional English-language source had the story at all at the time.

Every media outlet has its biases, and our editorial message that you see at the very top of each roundup is meant to be a reminder of that inescapable fact. As it stands, the two particular reports in question are fairly straightforward. I trust that the comparison between Ynet and the vehemently alarmist, almost entirely anonymous DEBKAfile was not meant to be a serious one.

Dan Geist / October 1, 2010 10:37 PM

It is a sad fact that I have to preface my comments that I do not think the U.S. should militarily attack Iran in any way. I do not support the economic sanctions on U.S. citizens against trading with Iranian citizens.

But, Lieberman is now a "neo-conservative"?


Is anyone who even thinks of an attack on Iran is a neocon? I am not a big fan of such labels, but at least get the label right. A neo conservative is a label for "new" conservatives. Even new Conservatives at least give lip service to smaller government. Lieberman does not. Neo-consevatives talk alot about illegal immigrstion to the U.S. Leiberman does not. etc., etc.

If you're going to label a person to a political philosophy, at least get it right. Leiberman is not a "neocon".

muhammad billy bob / October 2, 2010 4:03 AM

Dan,
My congratulations on the recently expanded coverage of your press roundup and the faster response to breaking news. I think the division into categories is a great idea now that you're presenting much more content. I fully agree with your selection criteria as explained above ..... BUT .... PLEASE don't ever use Debka File, except of course in jest. :-)

Catherine / October 2, 2010 1:59 PM

Thanks for your comments, Catherine.

I'm not the sort of rounder-up who ever says never, however...

(1) It's virtually impossible to imagine any circumstance in which I would source a news item to DEBKAfile or any similar website. Their intense ideological slant is not so much the problem -- one might say that some of the state- and hardline-controlled Islamic Republic sources we link to have comparably strong slants. The basic problem is that the very nature of DEBKAfile's "reportage" has as much journalistic credibility as the average blind item in a scandal-sheet gossip column. (And, obviously, it's more significant to the mission of Tehran Bureau to track how the Iranian government and power elite are viewing and presenting things.)

(2) As for the "Opinion & Analysis" section of the roundup, what I've said above would also apply to any of DEBKAfile's "analysis," and their "Exclusive" and "Special" news reports are so rampantly opinionated they have no need for distinct opinion columns.

(3) The "Documents & Declarations" section is essentially for direct statements and texts from governments, political figures, and advocacy groups (in the conventional sense of the term), as well as interview transcripts, open letters, and similar communications from other significant newsmakers. DEBKAfile is neither such an entity nor a venue for such material.

(4) We have yet to institute a "Jests & Japes" section here at the roundup, but I'll keep it in mind...

I realize that most of the above may be rather obvious concerning the specific case of DEBKAfile, but perhaps it gives some more insight generally into how the roundup is conceived.

Dan Geist / October 3, 2010 4:41 AM