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'Temporary Wife' Shahla Jahed Hanged; Mossad Implicated in Car Bombings

02 Dec 2010 02:404 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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Iran Hangs Woman for Murdering Love Rival

AFP | Dec 1

Iran on Wednesday hanged a woman convicted of murdering a love rival, her lawyer told the official IRNA news agency.

Shahla Jahed was hanged at 5:00 am (01:30 GMT) after the verdict was confirmed by the supreme court and the judiciary chief, lawyer Abdolsamad Khoramshahi said.

The London-based rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday called on Iran to halt Jahed's execution, saying "there are good reasons to suggest that she may have been wrongly convicted."

Jahed, who had a so-called "temporary" marriage with Nasser Mohammad Khani, a former striker for the Iranian national team, was convicted of stabbing to death his "permanent" wife eight years ago.

In the Shiite faith that is the majority religion in Iran, men and women can marry for an agreed period of time. Afterwards, the marriage is null and void, although it can be renewed.

Men can have up to four permanent wives, and any number of temporary wives. Women can only be married to one man at a time.

Amnesty said that in early 2008 the judiciary overturned the verdict and ordered a fresh investigation, citing "procedural flaws." However, Jahed was again sentenced to death in February 2009.

Khani was a prominent Iranian footballer in the 1980s and late became a coach for Tehran's Persepolis football club.

The execution is the 146th [in Iran] so far this year, according to an AFP count based on media reports. At least 270 people were executed in 2009.

Iran Executes Woman Accused of Murdering Lover's Wife

Guardian | Dec 1

Jahed, who was held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison for nine years, was sentenced to death on the basis of her confession, which she later repeatedly retracted at her public trial.

Activists in Iran widely suspect that Jahed was forced to confess to the stabbing. Karim Lahidji, the president of the Iranian League for Human Rights, described her as "a victim of a misogynous society" and said: "Shahla Jahed has never had a fair trial in Iran and has always insisted that she is innocent. Although Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's case is about adultery, her case is similar to that of Shahla Jahed because both are victims of the flaws of the Iranian judicial system."

He added: "We are approaching the Human Rights Day on 10 December and once again Iran is executing another woman. That's a clear signal that Iran wants to challenge the world on human rights issues."

Following the murder, Jahed was arrested as the prime suspect, but she refused to talk for nearly a year. Mohammadkhani was also imprisoned for several months on charges of complicity but was finally released after the authorities said Jahed had confessed to committing the crime alone.

Jahed told the judge at her public trial: "If you want to kill me, go ahead...if you send me back there [where her confessions were taken], I'll confess again and not only will I confess to killing her but I'd also confess that I killed those who have been killed by others." She then repeatedly reiterated that she was innocent and that she had not committed any crime.

Mohammadkhani was in Germany when the killing happened, but it emerged later that he was "temporarily married" to Jahed. [...] Temporary marriage or "sigheh", as it is known in Iran, allows men to take on wives for as little as a few hours to years on the condition that any offspring are legally and financially provided for. Critics of the tradition see it as legalised prostitution.

Iran Hangs Footballer's Mistress Shahla Jahed

BBC News | Dec 1

After a court imposes a death sentence, the family of the convicted prisoner is allowed to make a direct appeal to the family of the victim to stop the execution from going ahead. In many cases, the victim's family gets to decide whether or not the death sentence is carried out.

In this case, Shahla Jahed's lawyer [...] says that he wasn't given the time he needed in order to make this appeal properly.

"According to the rules I should have been informed 48 hours before the execution so that I can go to the bereaved family asking them to forgive Shahla for the last time," he says.

Instead, Mr Khoramshahi only had a few hours to make the appeal. Just before the execution was set to take place, he and Ms Jahed's family held talks with the family of Laleh Saharkhizan -- Ms Jahed's alleged victim. Reports say that judiciary officials joined in the appeals for mercy.

But the victim's family decided that the sentence should be carried out.

The Irna news agency reported that Jahed prayed prior to the hanging, and then burst into tears and shouted for her life to be spared.

The victim's brother was at the execution and pulled the chair from under her, according to reports.

Iran Soccer Star's Lover Hanged for Wife's Murder

Reuters | Dec 1

"Whatever my children and Laleh's mother say is okay with me," the newspaper Mellat-e Ma quoted Mohammadkhani as saying before the execution. "The killer of my wife should get the appropriate punishment."

In an interview with Mellat-e Ma a few days before her execution, Jahed protested her innocence.

"I want to answer to the things that her parents said, that came from the pain which they have been through all these eight years, all the pain that we mutually shared," she said. "But they are not willing to listen to my words."

'The Victim's Family Did Not Forgive Shahla Jahed until the Last Moment,' Says Lawyer

ICHRI | Dec 1

Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, Shahla Jahed's lawyer, attended her execution this morning. "I just can't believe it. I'm not feeling well. Shahla just kept crying; she didn't say anything. I went forward and told her to talk, but she only cried. The victim's family did not give their consent until the last minute. All the people who were there asked them to forgive her, but unfortunately they didn't accept. Nasser Mohammadkhani was there, too, and said nothing," Khorramshahi said in a telephone interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

"Shahla is no more. Everything has ended and the case is closed. It does not matter anymore to talk about the ambiguous points of the case."

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Is the Mossad Targeting Iran's Nuclear Scientists?

Time | Nov 30

The Iranian nuclear expert assassinated in Tehran on Monday was the top scientist and senior manager of Iran's nuclear effort. Majid Shahriari was killed when an explosive charge placed in his car was detonated by remote control after he climbed into the vehicle, according to a Western intelligence expert with knowledge of the operation.

The assassination carried the signature of Israel's Mossad, which has carried out similar operations on foreign soil over the decades. Typically, a team of agents reconnoiters the target and his routines over a period of months, assessing vulnerabilities and opportunities to escape afterward. Most of the operatives are usually on their way out of the country by the time the charge is detonated by a member who sees the target enter the booby-trapped car. "It's like a suit," says the intelligence expert. "An assassination must be custom-made."

Only political appointees ranked higher than Shahriari in Iran's nuclear effort. His death dealt a double blow to the Iranian nuclear program. The most immediate cost was the loss of operational expertise and detailed knowledge of an effort that has gone on for decades. But his death also brought home to every other scientist the risk of remaining in their line of work.

Contrary to the account given to TIME, Iranian officials insisted that motorcycles figured in both incidents, with riders attaching explosives to the exteriors of the cars. "In the second incident, the driver noticed the motorbike approaching and he distanced from it -- that is why the explosion did not damage his car so badly," said Tehran police chief Hossein Sajedinia, according to the Fars news agency.

Ahmadinejad Blames Attacks against Nuclear Scientists on 'Zionist Dogs'

Los Angeles Times | Dec 1

Tempers flared in Iran on Wednesday as authorities held a funeral for Iranian nuclear physicist Majid Shahriari, who was killed in one of two reported attacks against the country's atomic brain trust.

"They mention the names of our scientists in their [United Nations] resolutions and provide the Zionist dogs with a copy and tell them to kill," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech in Mazandaran province, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

The head of [Iran's] nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, said during the burial ceremony [...] that the killing was "part and parcel of a carrot-and-stick policy" of the West meant to put pressure on Iran.

"They used all their capacity, for example resolutions, sanctions and political pressures," Saeed Jalili, who will lead the negotiation team next week in Geneva, told state television. "The fact that today they are resorting to assassination shows their desperation and shows that they have reached a dead-end."

Iran to Boost Security for Nuclear Scientists

AP | Dec 1

"This ominous terrorist attack was carried out by the Zionist regime in coordination with the intelligence services of the West, especifically the U.S. and Britain, with hypocrite mercenaries as agents on the ground," Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi was quoted as saying by the hard-line daily Kayhan.

Hypocrite mercenaries is a reference to the People's Mujahedeen. The Iraq-based group claimed responsibility for dozens of deadly attacks in Iran over the past three decades.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran holds members of the U.N. Security Council responsible, saying that by putting Abbasi on the sanctions list it effectively gave the assassins his address.

Similar attacks have been blamed on Israel, such as the 2008 assassination of top Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh, killed by a bomb placed in a headrest in his car in Damascus, Syria.

Yossi Melman, an Israeli journalist and historian who has written several books about intelligence matters, said he was almost certain that the Mossad did it, though he stressed he had no specific inside information.

He said few others would have the necessary motivation, know-how, intelligence and daring.

OTHER NEWS

Public Holiday in Iran's Capital Due to Pollution

Reuters | Nov 30

Iranian authorities have declared a two-day public holiday in the capital and some other cities in an attempt to reduce dangerous levels of air pollution, media reported Tuesday.

Tehran will all but shut down Wednesday and Thursday as public offices, banks, schools and universities will all be closed. Cars are already only being allowed on the roads on alternate days, depending on their number plates.

Tehran has been experiencing alarming levels of air pollution for more than a week and officials made last Wednesday a public holiday in their first attempt to tackle the problem.

But despite reduced traffic, which continued into an annual religious holiday Thursday and the weekly day of rest on Friday, pollution levels have remained high due to a weather inversion which has stopped traffic and industrial emissions dissipating.

Emergency hospital admissions have increased by 19 percent, with people suffering severe breathing difficulties, the Health Ministry said.

Iran Shuts Offices because of Heavy Air Pollution

AP (via Washington Post) | Dec 1

Critics say each holiday incurs about $130 million in financial losses.

The air over Iran's capital is among the most polluted in the world.

Most of the pollution comes from vehicles on the congested roads of the rapidly growing metropolis of more than 12 million people, and the level of pollutants far exceeds World Health Organization standards. Each year, the 1.4 million vehicles in the city pump an estimated 5 million tons of CO2 into the air, according to the Tehran mayor's office.

Among steps to try to reduce the pollution, Iran is converting heating systems in residential and commercial buildings to natural gas. Authorities are also expanding public transport, requiring vehicle emission inspections and developing more green spaces.

Gasoline Price Set to Increase by 700%

Kayhan (via Uskowi on Iran) | Nov 30

Iran's minister of economy said today in Tehran that as part of the government subsidy reforms and their removals, the price of gasoline will be set at 700 toumans a liter ($2.52 a gallon). This would be a 700% increase in the price. The removal of energy sector subsidies, including the gasoline, was expected to go into effect last week, but has been postponed without any explanations or any dates for their implementations. The comments by the minister of economy was an indications that the subsidy removals will indeed take place.

US Hits Iran-Linked Firms in Switzerland, Isle of Man

AFP | Nov 30

The US Treasury Department on Tuesday announced sanctions against 10 businesses linked to Iranian weapons programs, including eight on the Isle of Man, one in Switzerland and one in Malaysia.

The firms are affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Bank Mellat -- which have already been targeted for their role in aiding Iran's weapons of mass destruction programs.

"As long as Iran uses front companies, cut-outs and other forms of deception to hide its illicit activities, we intend to expose this conduct and thereby counteract Iran's attempts to evade US and international sanctions," said US sanctions czar Stuart Levey.

On the Isle of Man -- an island nestled between Britain and Ireland -- the firms targeted were shipping companies said to be fronts for the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines.

Nearly 80 firms have been sanctioned for their links with the Iranian shipping line, which is accused of carrying proscribed military cargoes.

Also sanctioned were Pearl Energy Company and a Switzerland-based subsidiary, who were accused of helping "provide financing and expertise to entities seeking to enter Iran's petroleum sector."

Both were linked to Bank Mellat, which in turn has been linked to helping finance Iran's nuclear program.

US: Sanctions Cost Iran Investment, Banking Access

Reuters | Dec 1

Iran is finding it increasingly difficult to access the financial services it needs to run its economy and may lose up to $60 billion in energy investments due to global sanctions, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

The officials told U.S. lawmakers that United Nations-backed sanctions imposed over the summer are inflicting economic pain on Tehran and hampering its drive to develop nuclear weapons.

"With great regularity, major companies are announcing that they have curtailed or completely pulled out of business dealings with Iran," Stuart Levey, U.S. Treasury undersecretary undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.

"And, as has been widely reported, Iran's leadership appears to have underestimated the severity and effects of the global financial measures, giving rise to internal Iranian criticism and finger-pointing," Levey added.

Undersecretary of State William Burns told the panel Iran may lose $50 billion to $60 billion in potential energy investments, along with critical technology and know-how from major international companies.

Seventeen Iranian banks are now blacklisted by most major financial centers and the United States has passed a law that effectively forces international financial institutions to choose between doing business with Iran or the United States.

A few years ago, Iran was able to deal with the world's largest and most prestigious banks, Levey said, but today it is "relegated to the margins of the international financial system, and is finding it increasingly difficult to access the large-scale, sophisticated financial services necessary to run a modern economy efficiently."

Iran's Chamber of Commerce Chair Says Sanctions Are Biting

insideIRAN | Dec 1

The Chairman of Iran's Chamber of Commerce urged the Iranian leadership to focus on removing sanctions as they meet with the representatives of the P5+1 next week. Mohammad Nahavandian, who was speaking at a seminar November 30 on how to deal with trade and banking problems, said, "Nullification of all sanctions should become one of the non-negotiable tenants of our negotiations."

The top representative of Iran's private sector added, "The root of economic sanctions is political and considering its political roots, action must be taken to remove these sanctions." He asserted, "Iranian executives must do all they can to minimize the effects of sanctions."

Nahavandian said that many solutions to Iran's economic problems are being discussed behind closed doors and added, "A number of solutions we are seeking cannot be revealed to the public and there is no need for us to mention them." According to him, the government has set up advisory units to provide economic counseling to companies hit hard by sanctions. He also admitted that many Iranian traders are now using cash after sanctions imposed much tougher restrictions on banks dealing with Iran.

Experts Cast Doubt on Iran Missile Cache

Washington Post | Dec 1

On Oct. 10, to celebrate its 65th anniversary as a one-party state, North Korea unveiled a new missile in the type of military parade that for decades has been a hallmark of authoritarian regimes. The North Koreans call the missile the Musudan.

The Musudan is now playing a starring role in reports this week prompted by WikiLeaks' release of U.S. diplomatic cables. One of the documents says that Iran has obtained 19 of the missiles from North Korea, prompting news reports suggesting that the Islamic republic can hit targets in Western Europe and deep into Russia -- farther than Iran's existing missiles can strike.

The problem, however, is that there is no indication that the Musudan, also known as the BM-25, is operational or that it has ever been tested. Iran has never publicly displayed the missiles, according to experts and a senior U.S. intelligence official, some of whom doubt the missiles were ever transferred to Iran. Experts who analyzed Oct. 10 photographs of the Musudan said it appeared to be a mock-up.

The snapshot provided by the cable illustrates how such documents --based on one meeting or a single source -- can muddy an issue as much as it can clarify it. In this case, experts said, the inference that Iran can strike Western Europe with a new missile is unjustified.

New IAEA Head 'Solidly in U.S. Court' -- WikiLeaks

Reuters | Dec 1

The U.N. nuclear watchdog's head Yukiya Amano suggested before he took office last year he was "solidly in the U.S. court" on key issues including Iran, U.S. diplomatic cables cited by the Guardian newspaper said.

Iran has accused Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat, of bias and relations soured further in June when he said Tehran was hampering the agency's work by barring some of its inspectors.

After Amano was narrowly elected by IAEA member states in July last year but before he took office in December 2009, the U.S. mission in Vienna described him in a cable as a "DG (Director General) of all states, but in agreement with us".

It said Amano had reminded the U.S. ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to developing countries, "but that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program."

Amano, who succeeded Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, was elected to the position thanks to overwhelming support from industrialised states while many developing countries regarded him as a poor communicator and a tool of Western powers.

Another cable cited by the Guardian said a meeting with Amano had illustrated "the very high degree of convergence between his priorities and our own agenda at the IAEA".

U.S. Scrambled to Understand Protests in Iran, Leaked Documents Show

Los Angeles Times | Dec 1

As protesters poured into the streets of Iran in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, U.S. diplomats scrambled to decipher the erupting political crisis and the goals of the opposition's so-called green movement, according to recently disclosed diplomatic cables.

The diplomats hurried to understand without the benefit of an official outpost in Tehran, a result of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Instead they read news bulletins and spoke with allied embassies in places like Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Turkey and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. They contacted Iranian dissidents, human rights activists and disgruntled businessmen, according to the confidential dispatches made public in recent days by WikiLeaks.

"What started as a movement to annul the election now gives shelter both to those seeking the full set of rights guaranteed them by Islamic Iran's constitution and those seeking a new system altogether," reads a cable sent Jan. 12 to the State Department.

"But like the regime that seeks to crush it," the cable reads, the opposition "is not monolithic and there is a clear gulf between the opposition's elite leadership and the popular movement protesting in the streets."

The released documents reveal a feverish struggle by U.S. diplomats to gauge the effectiveness and power of an unprecedented opposition movement that would eventually be crushed, in part because it was as fragmented as the Iranian establishment.

The documents do not suggest that the United States or any of its allies sought to influence the opposition or provoke demonstrations, as Iranian authorities allege.

Israel Torn on U.S. Arming Arabs against Iran: WikiLeaks

Reuters | Dec 1

Israel's lobbying to get better American weaponry than U.S.-aligned Arab powers has been complicated by their shared hostility toward Iran, leaked diplomatic cables show.

WikiLeaks disclosures from July 2009 document Israeli and U.S. defense delegates debating the merits of arming Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states given doubts over whether Iran can be denied the means for developing nuclear weaponry.

Hearing the Israelis' objections to the planned sale of F-15 fighters and missiles to the Saudis, State Department official Andrew Shapiro argues for "a commonality of interests with the Gulf States, which also view Iran as the preeminent threat."

"We should take advantage of this commonality," he says.

One Arab leader echoes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by likening Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hitler. Another voices empathy for Israel in considering offensive military options against its arch-foe.

Yet Netanyahu is quoted as warning that should Iran get the bomb despite U.S.-led efforts to curb its uranium enrichment, Arab powers could shift loyalties from Washington to Tehran.

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Iran Outraged as Star of David Revealed on Airport

Fox News | Dec 1

A satellite image of the headquarters of Iran's national airline reveals a Star of David, and government officials in the Islamic Republic are calling for its immediate removal, according to reports.

The satellite image of the Airline of the Islamic Republic of Iran, also known as Iran Air, was taken by Google Earth, according to Ynetnews.com. Local reports say the building was "built by Israeli engineers" who worked in the country before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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15 Years in Prison Confirmed for Iranian Blogger

Radio Zamaneh | Dec 1

Iranian blogger, Hossein Ronaqi Maleki's 15-year prison term has been approved by an Islamic Republic appellate court.

RAHANA website that covers human rights news in Iran reports that Ronaqi has been kept in solitary confinement for over 11 months and was given 15 years in prison by a preliminary court.

The blogger known as "Babak Khoramdin" is charged with "membership in Iran Proxy, an internet group, propaganda against the regime, insulting the leader and the president."

Hossein Ronaqi Maleki went on a hunger strike in September in protest to his sentence and the behaviour of the judiciary officials in prison.

Zoleikha Mousavi, Ronaqi's mother has told RAHANA that she has not seen her son since last July. She adds: "Hossein calls home a couple of nights a week each for about a few minutes and all our efforts to see him have been to no avail."

Balouch Blogger Ebrahim Hosseinbor Detained

RAHANA | Dec 1

He has been detained for undisclosed reasons by the Intelligence authorities and transferred to an unknown location.

According to news sources, Hosseinbor had a blog by the name of Ostomaan which covered the issues related to Baluchistan.

The Islamic Republic has intensified the pressure on the residents of Sistan and Baluchistan in the recent years and the arrest seems to be related to the increasing pressures.

Tehran University Student Mojtaba Hashemi Sentenced to Lashes and Prison

RAHANA | Dec 1

As the Student Day is approaching and following the increasing pressure on the student activists, the court has issued a verdict for Mojtaba Hashemi, a member of the central branch of the Islamic Association of Tehran University School of Law, who was arrested on December 8, 2009 at the University after being beaten.

According to JARS, he has been sentenced to 6 months in prison for acting against national security, 91 days for insulting the Supreme Leader, 91 days of imprisonment and 74 lashes for disturbing the public order, and a $100 fine for insulting the president.

Currently, over 80 students and student activists are imprisoned.

Shiraz Baha'i Resident Arrested

RAHANA | Dec 1

Rouhollah Khaleghi, a Baha'i resident of Shiraz was arrested after the security forces appeared at his house and transferred him to an unknown location.

According to the RAHANA reporter, the security forces searched his house and confiscated his computer, CDS, books and personal belongings on November 9th. They transferred him to an unknown location after arresting him.

Three other Baha'i Shiraz residents are serving the 4th year of their prison sentence and several other residents are awaiting their sentences.

Scholars Study Swell of Underground Music in Iran

Mehr | Dec 1

The increase in the number of Iranian hip-hop bands working underground was discussed during a meeting organized by the Center for Strategic Research of the Expediency Council on Monday.
Masud Kowsari, Afshin Davarpanah and several other scholars gave lectures during the meeting.

Kowsari believes that the lack of liveliness in common music of the Iranian society is one of the factors compelling the youth to show interest in hip-hop music.

"Instead of producing vivacity in the society, the common music encourages lethargy," he said.

For example, he pointed to "Morning Bird" ("Morgh-e Sahar"), a song which has a high standing in historical memory of the Iranians. First performances of the song date back to about 80 years ago. However, it was later performed by several vocalists including Mohammadreza Shajarian.

"The song complains about society, drumming sadness and lethargy into the people," he added.

He said that the dual approach of the government to music is one of the factors promoting the Iranian teens' inclination to hip-hop.

The element of music is never separable from the youth. There are people in the government doing everything to protect the element in Iran and on the other hand, there are those doing their best to eliminate it from society, he explained.

Kowsari said that the underground music productions carry social, political and cultural criticism. "Due to their amorphous styles and patterns, underground music productions are dangerous," he added.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

The Arabs vs Iran? Please.

Andrew Sullivan (The Atlantic/Daily Dish) | Dec 1

Much hooey has been made about the Wikileaks documentation of various Arab autocrats wanting the US and/or Israel to "cut off the head of the snake" in Iran. In fact, my colleague Jeffrey Goldberg has even gone so far as to call this confluence of the interests of the Israeli right and the Arab dictators a "pan-Semitic" lobby -- that both allegedly destroys the notion of a pro-Israel lobby being the main driver for war against Iran and the fiction of its apparent power. Apparently, a lobby for a foreign government is useless if it cannot instantly get the US to launch World War III to maintain said foreign government's regional nuclear monopoly for a few more years.

But a little reality check. Here is the latest poll of what the people of various Arab countries, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates, actually say they think about an Iranian nuclear weapon:

While the results vary from country to country, the weighted average across the six countries is telling: in 2009, only 29% of those polled said that Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons would be "positive" for the Middle East; in 2010, 57% of those polled indicate that such an outcome would be "positive" for the Middle East.

So, in fact, the Arab population, unlike their corrupt, gutless, torturing autocrats, is increasingly in favor of a nuclearized Iran. 77 percent of those surveyed said that Iran had a right to its nuclear program, even though close to 57 percent (a three-year high) viewed it as a military program designed for nuclear bombs (only 39 percent believed that three years ago).

DOCUMENTS & DECLARATIONS

Implementing Tougher Sanctions on Iran: A Progress Report

Statement by William J. Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee (U.S. Department of State) | Dec 1

Central to our strategy have been the efforts made by the Congress, by all of you, to sharpen American sanctions. When the President signed into law the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA) in early July, the Administration and the Congress sent an unmistakable signal of American resolve and purpose, expanding significantly the scope of our domestic sanctions and maximizing the impact of new multilateral measures.

We are enforcing the law rigorously and energetically. Already, more foreign investment in Iran has been curbed than at any time since Congress enacted the original Iran Sanctions Act nearly fifteen years ago. In late September, Secretary Clinton imposed sanctions for the first time in the history of the ISA, on a Swiss-based, Iranian-owned firm involved in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of deals in Iran. Deputy Secretary Steinberg announced that we have opened formal investigations into other firms. Just as importantly, we have used the powerful instrument provided by CISADA's "special rule" to persuade major European and Asian firms, including Shell, Statoil, ENI, Total and INPEX, to terminate existing sanctionable activities in Iran and provide clear assurances that they would not undertake any such activities in the future. According to reliable estimates, Iran may be losing as much as $50-60 billion overall in potential energy investments, along with the critical technology and know-how that comes with them.

Faced with new international concerns, and the choice between doing business with Iran and doing business with America, more and more foreign companies are pulling out of the Iranian market. Major energy traders like Lukoil, Reliance, Vitol, Glencore, IPG, Tupras and Trafigura have stopped sales of refined petroleum products to Iran. Until last July, according to open sources, Iran imported roughly 130,000 barrels per day of refined petroleum products; in October, that figure had dropped by 85%, to 19,000 barrels per day. Large shipping companies like Hong Kong-based NYK are withdrawing completely from the Iranian market. Major firms like Lloyd's have stopped insuring Iranian shipping. Daimler, Toyota and Kia have stopped exporting cars to Iran. Major banks like HSBC and Deutsche Bank have pulled out. Stuart will address the impact of these developments in more detail, and his own personal efforts with firms and governments around the world remain hugely important. But the short answer is that the net result of all of the measures we've applied in recent months is substantial, far more substantial than any previous set of steps.

Written Testimony by Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey

Statement to the House Foreign Affairs Committee (Benzinga) | Dec 1

By concentrating our sanctions programs on Iran's illicit conduct and its perpetrators -- for example, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran's national maritime carrier, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) -- we sought to maximize the chances of achieving a truly multinational coalition, because it is difficult for any government, whether an ally or not, to oppose taking action targeted against these types of activities. Equally as important, recognizing the commercial risks associated with doing business with Iran and to protect themselves from being unwitting participants in Iran's illicit conduct, private sector actors willingly implement the financial measures and, in fact, often take steps that go beyond the strict legal requirements. As more banks and businesses cut off their dealings with risky individuals and entities, the reputational risk increases for those that have not. This encourages additional firms to join in creating a ripple effect that amplifies the effect of sanctions. Moreover, when private sector consensus gels around taking certain actions, governments find it easier to require additional measures. The result is a mutually-reinforcing cycle of governmental and private sector action that isolates bad actors from the legitimate financial system. The effect of this on our targets is significant. When an individual or entity is cut off from access to international financial institutions, their ability to access the commercial sector is significantly affected.

As we designed our strategy, we also knew that Iran would seek to evade the measures we put in place. We therefore sought to create a sanctions program that is specifically adaptive and responsive to Iranian evasion attempts. The examples of Iran's deception are numerous. Iranian banks and companies have concealed their involvement in transactions by removing or stripping their names from transaction documents. Non-sanctioned Iranian banks have stepped into the shoes of sanctioned banks to disguise the role of sanctioned banks in transactions. IRISL, which we designated in 2008, has renamed and even repainted ships, and changed the nominal ownership of vessels, all to hide their connection to the shipping company. A good example of Iran's continued deceptive and illegal conduct has been widely reported recently. Just a few weeks ago, Nigeria intercepted and seized an Iranian weapons shipment, including 13 containers of rockets and explosives, which were labeled as building materials. Several Iranians in Nigeria quickly sought refuge in the Iranian embassy, and last week, a Nigerian court charged a reported member of the IRGC in the plot.

We have publicized this kind of deceptive activity and have taken enforcement action against those that have cooperated in these deceptive practices and thereby facilitated Iran's illicit conduct. Amid the wealth of derogatory information, the private sector has become increasingly wary of engaging in any business with Iran. Many in the private sector are simply unable to distinguish between Iran's legitimate and illicit transactions, and so they have opted to cut off Iran entirely. In this way, Iran's own evasion and deceptive conduct is further increasing its isolation.

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Letter to Interior Ministry of Greece: 'Do Not Criminalize Asylum Rights!'

Letter from Saeed Arman, Director of the International Organization of Iranian Refugees (Iran Tribune via Persian2English) | Nov 29

To the Interior Ministry, Athens, Greece

Do Not Criminalize Asylum Rights!

Re: Jailed Iranian Labour Activist, Mohammad Ashrafi,

I am writing to express our concern over the imprisonment of Mr Mohammad Ashrafi, a well known labour activist, a member of the "Committee for the Foundation of Free Workers Organisations in Iran". Following a campaign of threat and harassment on the part of the security forces in Iran, Mr. Ashrafi was forced to flee Iran and seek sanctuary in Greece. Once in Greece, Mr. Ashrafi was arrested and jailed by your Ministry's security forces.

Mohammad Ashrafi was jailed for one year in 2009 for participating in a rally to mark May Day [International Labour Day]. On June 21st, 2010, Mohammad was summoned to appear before the Islamic Revolutionary Court. Historically, those tried by the Islamic Revolutionary Courts were given long and severe sentences and accused of conspiracy against the state. Mindful of the prospect of enduring many years of torture, mistreatment, and imprisonment, Mohammad Ashrafi was forced to flee Iran and seek Asylum in Greece.

Mohammad has now been detained by your department for over three months incommunicado. His family and friends have no information on his whereabouts. Such a treatment is surely unacceptable and will have major physical and psychological implications. Such a behavior on the part of the Greek government and at the same its cordial and close relationship with the murderous Islamic regime is unacceptable and we hold the Greek government and its Interior Ministry responsible for the safety and well-being of Mohammad Ashrafi.

We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Ashrafi from jail. We also call on you to grant Mr. Ashrafi permission to remain in Greece if he wishes to or arrange for his safe transfer to a third safe country. Mr. Ashrafi deserves to be afforded all the rights and entitlement enshrined in the 1951 Geneva convention for refugees.

Looking forward to your immediate action.

With regards,

Saeed Arman
Director of International Organization of Iranian Refugees

'The Single Dominant Aspect of the Persian Psyche Is an Overriding Egoism'

Cable from Bruce Laingen, Chargé d'Affaires, U.S. Embassy in Tehran, to U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance (WikiLeaks) | Aug 13, 1979

Subject: Negotiations

Recent negotiations in which the embassy has been involved here, ranging from compound security to visa operations . . . highlight several special features of conducting business in the Persian environment. In some instances the difficulties we have encountered are a partial reflection of the effects of the Iranian revolution, but we believe the underlying cultural and psychological qualities that account for the nature of these difficulties are and will remain relatively constant. Therefore, we suggest that the following analysis be used to brief both USG [U.S. government] personnel and private sector representatives who are required to do business with and in this country.

Overriding Egoism

Perhaps the single dominant aspect of the Persian psyche is an overriding egoism. Its antecedents lie in the long Iranian history of instability and insecuring which put a premium on self-preservation. The practical effect of it is an almost total Persian preoccupation with self and leaves little room for understanding points of view other than one's own. Thus, for example, it is incomprehensible to an Iranian that U.S. immigration law may prohibit issuing him a tourist visa when he has determined that wants to live in California. Similarly, the Iranian central bank sees no inconsistency in claiming force majeure to avoid penalties for late payment of interest due on outstanding loans while the government of which it is a part is denying the validity of the very grounds upon which the claim is made when confronted by similar claims from foreign firms forced to cease operations during the Iranian revolution.

The reverse of this particular psychological coin, and having the same historical roots as Persian egoism, is a pervasive unease about the nature of the world in which one lives. The Persian experience has been that nothing is permanent and it is commonly perceived that hostile forces abound. In such an environment each individual must be constantly alert for opportunities to protect himself against the malevolent forces that would otherwise be his undoing. He is obviously justified in using almost any means available to exploit such opportunities. This approach underlies the so-called "bazaar mentality" so common among Persians, a mind-set that often ignores longer term interest in favor of immediately obtainable advantages and countenances practices that are regarded as unethical by other norms.

Coupled with these psychological limitations is a general incomprehension of causality. Islam, with its emphasis on the omnipotence of God, appears to account at least in major part for this phenomenon. Somewhat surprisingly, even those Iranians educated in the Western style and perhaps with long experience outside Iran itself, frequently have difficulty grasping the interrelationship of events. Witness a Yazdi [Ibrahim Yazdi, who was foreign minister when the embassy was seized] resisting the idea that Iranian behavior has consequences on the perception of Iran in the U.S. or that is perception is somehow related to American policies regarding Iran. This same quality also helps explain Persian aversion to accepting responsibility for one's own actions. The deus ex machina is always at work.

The Persian proclivity for assuming that to say something is to do it further complicates matters. Again, Yazdi can express surprise when informed that the irregular security forces assigned to the embassy remain in place. "But the central committee told me they would go by Monday," he says. There is no recognition that instructions must be followed up, that commitments must be accompanied by action and results.

Finally, there are the Persian concepts of influence and obligation. Everyone pays obeisance to the former and the latter is usually honored in the breach. Persians are consumed with developing parti bazi -- the influence that will help get things done -- while favors are only grudgingly bestowed and then just to the extent that a tangible quid pro quo is immediately perceptible. Forget about assistance proferred last year or even last week; what can be offered today?

There are several lessons for those who would negotiate with Persians in all this:

First, one should never assume that his side of the issue will be recognized, let alone that it will conceded to have merits. Persian preoccupation with self precludes this. A negotiator must force recognition of his position upon his Persian opposite number.

Second, one should not expect an Iranian readily to perceive the advantages of a long-term relationship based on trust. He will assume that his opposite number is essentially an adversary. In dealing with him he will attempt to maximize the benefits to himself that are immediately obtainable. He will be prepared to go to great lengths to achieve this goal, including running the risk of so alienating whoever he is dealing with at future business would be unthinkable, at least to the latter.

Third, interlocking relationships of all aspects of an issue must be painstakingly, forcefully and repeatedly developed. Linkages will be neither readily comprehended nor accepted by Persian negotiators.

Fourth, one should insist on performance as the sine qua non at each stage of negotiations. Statements of intention count for almost nothing.

Fifth, cultivation of good will for good will's sake is a waste of effort. The overriding objective at all times should be impressing upon the Persian across the table the mutuality of the proposed undertakings. He must be made to know that a quid pro quo is involved on both sides.

Finally, one should be prepared for the threat of breakdown in negotiations at any given moment and not be cowed by the possibility. Given the Persian negotiator's cultural and psychological limitations, he is going to resist the very concept of a rational (from the Western point of view) negotiating process.

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4 Comments

Another day and other execution. I wonder how good the family of victim feels now.

Persiantraveler / December 2, 2010 3:23 AM

When will the Iranian judiciary see the light and abandon and outlaw the death penalty?

Is there an excuse great enough for taking someone else's life?

'Life in prison,' without the possibility of parole is the right substitute for the death penalty.

Extinguishing another human being's life is not the right punishment for any crime.

Rastkar / December 2, 2010 4:41 AM


This also points out to a very fundamental aspect of life in Iran nowadays. Mercy is becoming a fading tale of the past.

Agnostic / December 2, 2010 10:34 PM

Very Heartbreaking indeed. Such young and enthusiastic lady wasted (or was made to waste) her life this way. This is lesson to all young girls. All that glitters is not gold. Marry a sincere person and be loyal and respectful to him.

In Pakistani Soceity pardon from victim's family is a very common phenomenon. I followed this case for many year and was very disappointed that victim's family felt no mercy on a craying woman with noose around her neck.

Ali / December 8, 2010 3:43 PM