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Prosecutor Threatens Striking Bazaaris; Afghanistan Intercepts Explosives

07 Oct 2010 23:102 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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Judiciary Will Deal with Hoarders and Strikers: Prosecutor

Mehr | Oct 6

Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi has said the Judiciary will take action against those who seek to create instability in the markets by hoarding goods and staging strikes.

"The Judiciary will deal with those who are indifferent to the country's economic situation and are seeking to disturb the public order by hoarding goods and closing markets," Dolatabadi said in Tehran on Wednesday.

Some gold and steel dealers around the country recently went on strike to protest the enforcement of the value-added tax (VAT). They say the law is ambiguous and they have not been properly informed about the effects of the implementation of the VAT on their businesses.

National Police Chief Ismail Ahmadi Moqaddam said on Friday that the opposition plans to foment economic unrest after the beginning of the implementation of the subsidy reform plan.

"Following the implementation of the economic reforms, seditionists may seek to close the markets and stage strikes, but the police forces will defend the government and will firmly deal with those who seek to complement the enemies' economic pressure," Ahmadi Moqaddam added.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Dolatabadi again emphasized that the major figures involved in the unrest following the June 2009 presidential election will be prosecuted.

"People are free to criticize the Islamic system, but there will certainly be a response to confrontation with the system," he added.

Afghan Police Seize 'Explosives from Iran'

AFP (via Times of India) | Oct 5

Afghan police said today they had seized nearly 20 tonnes of explosives stashed in boxes marked "food, toys and kitchenware" that were imported from neighbouring Iran.

The discovery was made yesterday in a customs office in the western province of Nimroz on the Iranian border, deputy provincial police chief, Mohammad Musa Rasouli, said.

"We found these materials hidden in a 40-foot (12-metre) shipping container that had come from Iran."

Bombs made from old ammunitions and explosives are the main weapon used by the Taliban and other insurgents fighting against the Western-backed Afghan government and Western troops, and cause the bulk of military casualties.

Foreign military commanders and some Afghan officials have accused Iran of providing weapons to the Taliban, the chief group leading the insurgency since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted its regime from power.

Iran Refutes Afghan Cargo Report

Press TV | Oct 7

Iran's ambassador to Afghanistan has dismissed claims that 22 tons of explosives seized by the Afghan officials were smuggled from Iran.

"According to the Afghani officials and one of the officials of the Nimroz province, the cargo belonged to an Afghan and had been transited to Afghanistan from China," Fada Hossein Maleki said on Thursday.

"The cargo was investigated and it turned out that its contents were fireworks not explosives," Mehr news agency quoted Maleki as saying.

The Iranian envoy dismissed the report as a "sheer lie," adding that the report was possibly a plot to damage Iran's good relations with Afghanistan.

The Afghan officials have expressed regret that the cargo had been linked to Iran, Maleki said.

OTHER NEWS

Iran Can Export Weapons to Over 50 Countries: Minister

Daily Times (Pakistan) | Oct 7

Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi has said that Iran's defence is at the height of its power and totally self-sufficient in producing defence products, the Press TV channel reported on Wednesday.

General Vahidi said that the country could supply weapons to over 50 countries, the news source channel reported. "At the moment the Islamic Republic is at the height of power and is able to export defence products," he was quoted as saying.

Recently, Iran's Defence Ministry has unveiled numerous military equipment and weapons including electronic, radar and optical projects. The "Bavar 2" stealth flying boat, which is a radar-evading fixed-wing seaplane capable of patrol and reconnaissance missions, was unveiled recently.

Earlier, the Iranian minster confirmed that equipping the naval and armed forces with advanced and modern weaponry would bolster the stability and security of the region and play an effective role in consolidating Iran's deterrent power.

Five Killed in Terrorist Attack in Iran

Press TV | Oct 7

Five people have been killed when two unknown gunmen opened fire on a police petrol vehicle and civilians in the western Iranian city of Sanandaj.

"The gunmen connected to counter-revolutionary cells opened fire on a police petrol vehicle and pedestrians in the Azadi square of Sanandaj [in Kurdistan province]," said police official Ebrahim Kazeminejad on Thursday.

"Five people, including four police officers and one civilian, were killed in this terrorist attack," Mehr news agency quoted Kazeminejad as saying.

He added that five police officers and four civilians were also injured.

In September, a bomb explosion near a military parade in West Azarbaijan Province claimed 12 lives and injured at least 80 people.

Shortly afterwards, Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said it had identified and killed all terrorists associated with the attack in an operation.

Riding on Wave of Lies, Honoring Cyrus and Compassion

Rooz | Oct 6

The office of Grand Ayatollah Sanei [...] released a statement yesterday objecting to the new round of filtering imposed against the popular grand ayatollah's website. The statement reiterated the ayatollah's resolve to continue his activities despite the restrictions and argued that the banning of written and online content pointed to the suppression of free speech in the country.

Ayatollah Sanei was the first grand ayatollah who openly voiced support for Mir Hossein Mousavi and the Green Movement. He has been the subject of vehement attacks over the past year as a result of his stance.

Yesterday, the office of Grand Ayatollah Zanjani, another senior cleric close to the reformists, also objected against the filtering of the ayatollah's website.

According to Kalame website, the statement by Ayatollah Zanjani's office notes, "We witness in utter disbelief that, since yesterday, the Internet portal of the grand ayatollah Bayat Zanjani has been blocked, and Iranian Internet users have lost access to the website. More interesting is the fact that the decision to block the Internet portal of a grand Shiite ayatollah was made on the eve of the martyrdom of the iconic Shiite figure, the holy Imam Jafar Sadegh (peace be upon him), and by a government that boasts compassion toward God's creations and is recently taking pride in Cyrus's declaration of tolerance and rights."

The statement released by ayatollah Zanjani's office notes, "The current era is the era of communication, and certainly no one can prevent people's awareness and general access to the true message of the holy Prophet's descendants. Undoubtedly, such acts will be counterproductive for those responsible."

Sakineh's Children Accused of Anti-Iran Activity

AKI | Oct 6

The children of an Iranian woman condemned to death by stoning for adultery and killing her husband are using their mother's case as a way to harm the reputation of the country, according to Rajanews, a website affiliated with government supporters

Sajjad and Sahideh Ghaderzadeh in a Tuesday interview with Adnkronos International said they risked arrest and pleaded with Italy to grant them political asylum.

The Ghaderzades' mother, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, had been sentenced to death by stoning but following international pressure, Iranian authorities said they would not carry out the stoning sentence for the time being, but she still faces execution by hanging.

The site said the Ghaderzadeh accusations were "false", referring to them as "the criminal's children."

Shirin Ebadi: 'Nokia Siemens' Action a Major Accomplishment for Iranians and for People Of The World'

ICHRI | Oct 6

Following publication of a press release by Nokia Siemens Networks about the company's halting all its activities in the area of monitoring technology with Iran, Shirin Ebadi who has had an active role in the negotiations with the company told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the company's action is a major accomplishment for Iranian people and people of the world.

In a press release published last week, Nokia Siemens Networks referred to a meeting the multi-national company's representatives had with Shirin Ebadi, discussing transparency. "Nokia Siemens Networks is aware of credible reports that the Iranian authorities use communications technology to suppress political activity in a way that is inconsistent with that government's human rights obligations," stated the press release. "As a result of these credible reports, Nokia Siemens Networks halted all work related to monitoring centers in Iran in 2009. Nokia Siemens Networks divested its monitoring center business in 2009 and will no longer provide monitoring centers to any country," it added. The statement further added that as a result of these reports, "the company has voluntarily restricted its business in Iran by not seeking or accepting new customers and by limiting its activities with its current customers."

Over the past several months, Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi has held negotiations with Nokia Siemens Networks: "After several prisoners, including Mr. Saharkhiz, said that they had been abused as a result of the Iranian government's utilization of technology and software sold by Nokia Siemens, myself and other human rights defenders tried to prevent use of technology against the people and for censorship and intimidation of people.

"More than one year of international efforts and contacts we made with Nokia Siemens managers have led them to see that the Iranian government has not used the purchased software in appropriate ways and has used it for censorship.

"I would like to point out that currently, through use of software provided by Chinese companies, the Iranian government taps and listens to telephone conversations and monitors targeted electronic mail exchanges."

Argentine Prosecutor Urges Iran Bomb Trial Response

Reuters | Oct 6

The Argentine prosecutor who accuses former Iranian officials of masterminding the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center says hosting a trial on neutral ground could help break the deadlock in the case.

President Cristina Fernandez suggested last month that Iran nominate a third country in an effort to persuade the Islamic Republic to hand over the suspects, saying that would help reassure them they would get a fair trial.

Iran denies any involvement in the bombing, which killed 85 people, and the government has not responded to Fernandez's suggestion.

Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who has requested the extradition of the Iranians, said the proposal could help advance the case and put pressure on Tehran to respond.

"What the president proposed is appropriate because it's a way to unblock the issue," Nisman told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

"Regardless of how much hope we can have over what Iran's response will be, they are left with less and less room for maneuver. Every time it will become harder for Iran not to respond."

Argentine, Israeli and U.S. officials have blamed the bombing on Hezbollah guerrillas backed by Iran.

Nisman said evidence gathered by Argentine authorities and used as a basis for arrest warrants showed the bombing plot was hatched by top Iranian officials, including former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, during an August 14, 1993, meeting in the city of Mashhad.

Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi is also among officials accused of being behind the attack. Nisman said prosecutors suspect that attack was in retaliation for Argentina's decision to cancel contracts to supply nuclear technology to Iran in the 1980s and 1990s.

Nisman said Vahidi and other officials enjoyed diplomatic immunity, which complicated efforts to bring them to justice despite Interpol arrest warrants.

"The evidence is solid. It has passed through the instances of a prosecutor, a judge and Interpol," he said, adding that they had testimony from former Iranian officials including former President Abolhassan Banisadr -- Iran's first elected president after the 1979 revolution.

Iranian and Hezbollah Leaders to Appear Together at Rally

AFP | Oct 7

The Iranian and Hezbollah leaders are set to appear together next week at a rally organised by the Shiite militant group for the Iranian leader's visit to Lebanon, a Hezbollah official said on Thursday.

"We are organising a rally in honour of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad next Wednesday at the Al-Raya stadium and we expect Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to make an appearance," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

It was unclear, however, whether Nasrallah would appear in person or via video link as is usually the case for security reasons.

The leader of Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organisation by Washington, lives in hiding and last appeared in public in July 2008.

The stadium where the Iranian and Hezbollah leaders are set to appear is located in Hezbollah's stronghold in southern Beirut. The facility and the immediate surrounding area can hold some 40,000 people, according to Hezbollah.

Lebanon Set to Allow Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Visit Israeli Border

Guardian | Oct 6

The reported two-day itinerary for Ahmadinejad's first state visit to Lebanon includes Qana, where he is to lay a wreath on the graves of Lebanese killed by Israeli forces. Another likely stop is Bint Jbeil, the scene of heavy fighting between Hezbollah and Israel in the 2006 war.

Posters welcoming Ahmadinejad in Arabic and Persian have already appeared in the area amid reports that the Iranian leader, with a business delegation in tow, will bring investment, financing for oil exploration and a controversial offer to sell weapons to the Lebanese army.

Iranian embassy officials in Beirut have refused to confirm details of the southern leg of the trip, but Hezbollah is said to be massing supporters to welcome Ahmadinejad as a hero of the resistance.

Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran, has warned that the US and Israel have no right to oppose the visit, which its TV channel al-Manar hailed yesterday as "a non-conventional bomb in the face of enemies wherever they are."

Iranian President Downplays Turmoil on Foreign Exchange Market

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty | Oct 6

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran's foreign currency reserves have recently reached a level unprecedented in the country's history, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Speaking on October 5, Ahmadinejad downplayed the impact of international sanctions and pronounced the economic situation "not unusual."

"Whoever wants to disrupt the market will pay for it," he added, alluding to the recent turmoil on the gold and foreign currency market.

Tehran-based economist Fariborz Raeesdana told Radio Farda on October 5 that contrary to Ahmadinejad's assertions, Iran's foreign currency reserves have declined noticeably.

"Iran's foreign currency reserves used to be substantial when the oil price was $120-130 a barrel," Raeesdana said. "But it's been almost three years since the government last made public any information about the amount of hard currency reserves, meaning that it is not much."

Russia to Repay Iran for Cancelled Missile Order

BBC | Oct 7

Russia will pay back Iran's downpayment on an order for a missile system after refusing to fulfil the contract, a top Russian official says.

The Kremlin last month banned the sale of the S-300 air defence system to Iran after it was outlawed by UN sanctions.

Sergei Chemezov, head of Russia's state weapons exporter, said it had annulled the contract and would repay Iran's $166m (£105m) advance payment.

But beyond that, he said, "we are not obliged to return another kopeck".

"Of course, they are not very pleased. We do not have a choice," he added.

Iranian officials have accused Moscow of breaching its contract and caving in to US pressure.

U.A.E. Banks Distancing Themselves from Iran

Wall Street Journal | Oct 6

Banks in the U.A.E. are cutting ties to 17 Iranian banks blacklisted by the U.S. -- a significant development considering Dubai has in recent years been an important re-export hub for Iranian importers.

The U.S. measures threaten foreign banks doing significant business with U.S.-blacklisted Iranian banks with sanctions. The U.A.E. central bank hasn't ordered banks to comply with U.S. sanctions, officials told the Journal. But it has asked banks to report cash transfers to Iran and provided them with an explanation of new, unilateral U.S. sanctions enacted in July.

"It's not like you're telling the banks, 'don't do business with Iran,'" a U.A.E. official told the Journal. "You're telling banks, 'here's the [U.S.] law.'"

Malaysia , too, recently suspended the local unit of Iran's second-largest bank, Bank Mellat, the Journal reported. The U.S. and the United Nations have accused the bank of helping to facilitate "millions of dollars" in transactions aimed at advancing Iran's nuclear program.

Bank Mellat officials have denied the allegations and said the U.S. has never offered any proof to back them up.

Seoul Finds New Way to Finance Iran Trade

Financial Times | Oct 7

South Korea has appointed two state-run banks to finance trade with Iran and revive lucrative business ties that collapsed because of sanctions announced in September.

The US has pressured Seoul to help cut Iran out of international markets, but South Korea is seeking ways to protect its $10bn annual trade with the Islamic Republic.

It has now been revealed that South Korea reached a financing agreement with the Iranian central bank, which Washington has sought to sanction, just one week after Seoul had won praise from the US for announcing independent sanctions designed to rein in cross-border financing with Iran.

Seoul says that, from this month, Woori bank and the Industrial Bank of Korea can finance legitimate trade with Iran in sectors unaffected by sanctions.

"We are closing the door on Iran, but leaving a window open," said Ernst Lee, a spokesman for South Korea's regulators.

Under the scheme, the Iranian central bank will deposit proceeds from oil sales in South Korea at Woori and IBK. The funds will be used to enure payments for South Korean exporters, who had been retreating from Iran since July ahead of the imposition of September's sanctions.

The exporters had feared that Seoul's branch of the Iranian Bank Mellat, which did much of the trade finance work, would be shut down by the sanctions. Ultimately it escaped permanent closure, instead being forced to close down for two months.

Hyundai and Kia, Korea's leading carmakers, which have large interests in the US, ended exports to Iran in August. GS Engineering & Construction quit a $1.2bn deal in Iran in July. Overall, exports to Iran slumped to $249m in August from $492m in May. However, imports -- mainly oil -- have held steady at about $600m each month.

'Egypt Keen on Improving Ties with Iran'

Press TV | Oct 7

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit has described Iran as an influential power in the Muslim world, saying Cairo seeks improved relations with Tehran.

"Turkey and Iran both are influential powers in the Arab world, and since Egypt is the center of Arab World's activities, it strives to keep the best of relations with these two [countries]," Aboul Gheit said on Thursday.

Some Egyptians have escaped to Iran and we ask the Iranian government to return these people to Egypt or expel them from Iran to improve understanding between Tehran and Cairo, Aboul Gheit was quoted by Fars news agency as saying.

Egypt and Iran have agreed to resume direct flights between their capitals for the first time after three decades.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Khamenei's Balance of Power

Arash Aramesh (Al Majalla) | Oct 6

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 2005 electoral victory over Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani brought to the fore an important cleavage within the conservative camp in Iran, a cleavage that has widened ever since. Ayatollah Khamenei, an astute politician who has weathered many storms, is trying to create a balance of power between the two main conservative factions in order to avoid an excessive power-grab from Ahmadinejad and his close supporters.

It was only five years ago when the then unknown mayor of Tehran kissed the hands of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during his inauguration as president. At the time, the unknown mayor surfed on a wave of public anger towards the establishment, and with the blessing of Khamenei and his loyal armed forces, this man became the sixth Iranian president. It was not long before the unknown mayor became a well-known president, who, along with his powerful friends, asked for a bigger share of power in Iran.

The defeat of Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani in 2005 at the hands of then Tehran's Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad brought to the fore a major cleavage within the conservative camp in Iran. And this rift has only widened in the years since. Those on the conservative side considered moderates feel that they have been marginalized by the hardliners. The hardliners, led by President Ahmadinejad and his allies in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), are unwilling to allow any room for their political rivals. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has been one of Ahmadinejad's ardent supporters, has felt the threat posed to the regime by Ahmadinejad and the IRGC's recently growing and unchecked powers. Acting accordingly, he has taken a number of steps to check their influence and clear the path for moderate-conservatives to return to the table.

In mid August, the Supreme Leader stripped Judge Saeed Mortazavi of his judicial status pending an investigation into the killings at the Kahrizak detention facility, a notorious jail on the outskirts of Tehran where many detainees have died due to harsh treatment and disease in the aftermath of the 12 June election last year. Judge Mortazavi, who once led the notorious Press Court responsible for shutting down hundreds of newspapers and publications, was considered a Khamenei loyalist. But his ties to Ahmadinejad and the hardliner faction were also prominent. Stripping Mortazavi of his status, and potentially allowing him to be prosecuted, demonstrates that Khamenei is willing to sacrifice a number of hardliners close to Ahmadinejad in order to curb their power in even the most sensitive positions of government.

There are more signs that the Supreme Leader is aiming to bring back the moderates. For one, direct personal attacks against Rafsanjani and his family have decreased significantly in major publications linked to the leader. Kayhan, a state-owned daily with intimate ties to the office of the Supreme Leader, has not run an anti-Rafsanjani rant in some time. In a dinner ceremony celebrating the month of Ramadan, the Supreme Leader invited key figures to his residence, including Rafsanjani. Furthermore, according to Rafsanjani's own personal website, he regularly meets with Khamenei and the pair lunch together twice a month and discuss the most important affairs of state.

Iran versus Sanctions, Part 3: Time for US to Get Real

Hossein Askari (Asia Times) | Oct 7

As with anything in life, there is a threshold level of pressure before change can be achieved. So it is with sanctions. There has to be a sufficient level of pressure to force a target to change its policies. In the case of sanctions on Iran, the US has never adopted a comprehensive approach. It is all ad hoc, a little of this now and later a little of that. Although today there is more pressure than ever before, it is still not at that threshold level, causing some pain but less than likely to succeed. Pain with no little likelihood of success should never be the approach.

Let me give some examples. Why just freeze the foreign accounts of a few prominent Iranians such as senior members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC)? As mentioned before, their foreign banks accounts are unlikely to be under their real name. So why not freeze foreign bank accounts of all Iranian residents that are in excess of a certain amount, say exceeding US$1 million or any other reasonable number.

Most Iranian residents (probably over 99%) don't have foreign bank accounts, and a majority of those that have sizeable foreign bank accounts are members of the regime or support it for financial gain. Yes, a few who are independently rich and that have nothing to do with the regime may unfortunately get caught in the net, but they are not average Iranians by any stretch of the imagination. This may be the price of exacting change. In their cases, they can be allowed to appeal and if their appeal is supported there accounts can be quickly unfrozen.

Why hasn't the US sanctioned the central bank of Iran? Well, there are two empty excuses that are often provided. It may violate the International Monetary Fund's Articles of Agreement. But that's never bothered the US before; just recall the unilateral abrogation of dollar conversion on August 15, 1971, that destroyed the Bretton Woods exchange-rate system; also the central bank of Iraq under Saddam was sanctioned.

The other reason given is that the US needs the support of other central banks to do so. Again, the US has and continues to use threats when it really wants to do something; if another central bank violates US sanction on the central bank of Iran the US can threaten not to transact with them.

These are doable. They would tighten sanctions many, many notches. But the US continues with a little here and a little there, prolonging the insufficient pressure and getting nowhere.

See also: "Part 1: A History of Failure" | "Part 2: US Shuns the Obvious"

Tehran Alarm Grows at Russia's Defection

Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Asia Times) | Oct 7

"Russia's long-term interests will not be served by participating in the US games." -- Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman.

The indications are that Moscow has now joined the United States' "strategic game" against Iran. As Tehran's preoccupation grows over this unsettling issue about its northern neighbor and sole nuclear partner, rumors are circulating that authorities have interrogated several Russian technicians at the Russian-built Bushehr power plant over their possible involvement with the recent cyber-attack that infected staff computers at the facility.

"Unfortunately we are faced with two Russias now instead of one, and one is friendly - the other is not. As a result, they keep taking away with one hand what they offer with the other," an Iranian analyst at a Tehran think-tank tells the author.

Some Tehran analysts attribute the recent "green light" given by Washington for Russia's World Trade Organization entry to a behind-the-scenes bargain whereby Moscow is handsomely rewarded for its cooperation with the West against Iran. The Israeli press has been reporting a "secret US-Russia deal."

The Russian government adamantly denies any such bargain, and its envoy at the UN General Assembly last week threaded the fine line of exhorting Iran to enhance its nuclear transparency while lambasting the "unilateral sanctions" against Iran by US, Europe and others.

Why Iran Won't Bow to Foreign Pressure

Hooman Majd (Political Bookworm/Washington Post) | Oct 7

At a time when there is great debate about the efficacy of the latest round of sanctions on Iran -- pressure intended to change Iran's behavior -- the question shouldn't be whether sanctions are having a painful effect, which of course they are, but whether sanctions will achieve the intended result. Essentially the sanctions, imposed by both the U.N. and individual countries, seek to force Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and bow to the West in its demands that it prove its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

There is no reason to believe that sanctions, or any other form of pressure on Iran, will bring this result.

The Islamic Republic's foreign policy is founded on the principle, etched into tile at the entrance to the Foreign Ministry, that Iran is a truly independent nation. "Neither East nor West; Islamic Republic," the slogan reads, written at a time when most countries of the world fell into one camp or the other of the superpowers, the United States or the Soviet Union.

Iran's revolution, which drew the support of the majority of Iranians, even those not hostile to the West, was successful partly because of what that slogan meant to them after more than a hundred years of foreign domination, interference in their affairs, and the country's inability to chart its own course independent of the consent of the West to which Iran was allied.

United States, Iran Vie for Influence in Iraq

Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation) | Oct 5

The March 7 election resulted in a sharp division of Iraqi politics along ethnic and sectarian lines. A mostly secular party called Iraqiya, led by secular Shiite Iyad Allawi and supported by nearly all of Iraq's Arab Sunni voters, won ninety-one seats in the 325-member parliament. Prime Minister Maliki's State of Law coalition, which drew votes almost entirely from Shiites, won eighty-nine seats. A coalition of religious Shiites, cobbled together from fractious Shiite parties with Iran's support, won seventy seats, most of which came from the party led by Muqtada al-Sadr, an anti-American cleric who lives in Iran. And the separatist Kurds, who are themselves fragmented, won fifty-seven seats. Because the next prime minister would need 163 seats to succeed--and, in practice, quite a few more than that to maintain a stable government--some sort of grand bargain is necessary.

Last week, Muqtada al-Sadr agreed to support Maliki's return as prime minister. That set off alarm bells in Washington, because Sadr is unalterably opposed to the US occupation of Iraq and he'd likely oppose any extension of the American presence beyond 2011, when the last of the remaining 50,000 American troops are scheduled to leave. Though Sadr has nationalist tendencies, in recent years he's drawn increasingly closer to Tehran, and a big role for Sadr in the next Iraqi government drew a strong reaction in Washignton because it would mean that Iran, not the United States, was emerging as the most powerful player in Iraq.

The United States has strongly supported the inclusion of Allawi in the next government, and so have Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Arab Gulf countries and Turkey. All of them see Allawi as more representative of the Sunni Arabs of Iraq, and therefore more likely to resist Iran's vast and growing power inside Iraq. But, in a bad sign for the United States, the Maliki-Allawi-Sadr deal seems to have been assembled not in Washington, but--yes--in Tehran. Recently, Allawi met with Syria's President Assad, and by some accounts asked Assad to work with Iran on a deal. Assad, a close ally of Iran's, visited Tehran over the weekend, where he met with Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad. The reports of the Allawi-Maliki deal surfaced soon after Assad's talks in Tehran.

The United States, of course, isn't sitting on the sidelines. Vice President Biden, who has the Iraq portfolio for the Obama administration, has been on the phone with every Iraqi leader who'll talk to him, but it's quite certain that list doesn't include the Sadrists, who put together the deal with Iran's backing.

PressTV, the Iranian outlet, carried an interview with Hassan Danaie-Far, Iran's ambassador in Baghdad, who praised the Sadr-Maliki politicking. "The development is a turning point for exiting the deadlock over the formation of Iraq's government," he said. And, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Danaie-Far smugly noted: "We have connections and ties to all political groups in Iraq."

DOCUMENTS & DECLARATIONS

Selected Reciprocity Schedules

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs

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'Despotism's Palace Is Shaking on Its Foundations'

Letter from Detained Activist Majid Tavakoli to Fellow Students (Enduring America)

The English translation, provided by Ramin Parham on Tavaana, of a 15 September letter to students by activist Majid Tavakoli, detained since December and sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison:

Once again fall has come. It's back to school time. Yet, there's no sign of kindness on the autumnal horizon. Once again, the spring of knowledge has coincided with the fall of nature. Yet, awaiting our aspirations to bear fruit, we remain, amongst stories of sadness and madness, hopeful in our expectation... Without hope, hope of change, it would have been difficult to write, once again, embracing the risk of repeating oneself, of the criminal nature, of the mediocrity and betrayal of this gang of despots who have hijacked power in our land. Without hope, hope of change, it would have been difficult to write about the bravery and resistance of our people....

Universities and the critical mind of the student community have been and remain the dynamic engine of popular movements. The student movement has been and remains alive and creative... It is a privilege to be part of this meritorious generation, living in an exceptional era... Having learned from past experiences, the values borne by the student movement have grown up into a strongly rooted tree....

More than a hundred years of struggle against despotic regimes has finally taught us, in the drought of knowledge and humanity of the Islamic Republic, resistance and the ability to remain vibrant, alive and creative, in order to put an end to this long, sad story of sterility. The hundred year-long story has taught us that liberty has a price to be paid, risks to be taken. In the continuation of this long road, we are happy to have the student community that we have, ready to embrace danger in order to fulfill its aspirations for liberty. University, to tell the truth, is surely the home of enlightenment and the critical mind. Democracy and human rights have, these days, become our guiding lights, helping us strengthen our efforts for liberty, peace and security worldwide. Our entire hope rests on the shoulders of this new generation, which has always been effective and whose innumerable members herald our final victory....

My friends!

Bells are ringing and once again the time has come to go back to class. Some chairs in the classrooms are empty this year, while prisons are full. So, let us not forget our imprisoned comrades... We used to say that universities are like barrels of explosives which injustice will ignite. So, let us not forget our impoverished ethnic brothers, our oppressed minorities, our jailed journalists, our exiled thinkers and learned scholars, our repressed intellectuals, our disadvantaged sisters, our enslaved workers, our impoverished teachers and teamsters. Let us not forget them... For years, these few who rule our land with despotism have provoked crisis after crisis so as to have the needed pretext to shut down universities... But your awareness will prevent them from staging, once again, their criminal and shameful scheme embodied by the Cultural Revolution. Having continuously failed in achieving their ultimate goal, they have done their best to subjugate universities into mediocrity. While shutting down any independent-minded student organization or publication, one after another, they have consistently built up their own parallel GONGOs [government-operated NGOs]....

Despotism's palace is shaking on its foundations. Fascism is wearing away, and religious dictatorship is nearing its end. The rise of this millennium is the downfall of despotism. Fallen dictators now lie in the mud of shame. The process of eroding repression has started. Worn out under the heavy weight of their own weapons, corroded by their own lies, exhausted by their own violence, denounced in the face of the free world, their back will surely break under the steady steps of freedom-lovers. Today, dictators are alone. Today, dictators know that they must go.

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2 Comments

The list of "seditionists" is getting longer. apparently now Bazaris are seditionists as well.

Ahvaz / October 8, 2010 9:38 AM

They are the actual bad guys, since they were behind this regime into power but as they say what goes around comes around.
Dont feel about them at all.

PersianTraveler / October 11, 2010 10:36 PM