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Ahmadinejad Blasts Regime Rivals; US Sanctions Chief Steps Down

25 Jan 2011 16:22Comments

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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Ahmadinejad Attacks Rivals in Iran Parliament

AP (via Yahoo News) | Jan 24

New legislation approved in November by the conservative-dominated parliament requires approval of the legislature for appointing the central bank governor. The legislation has been blocked by a powerful constitutional watchdog called the Guardian Council, which needed to approve it to become law. The council deemed it violated the constitution.

Ahmadinejad unleashed a biting attack on rivals Monday including the parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani [...] over the legislation. He accused those behind the legislation of trampling the constitution.

"Unfortunately, the parliament's management...insists on revoking legal powers of the executive branch and intervening in affairs such as appointing or dismissing executive officials," Ahmadinejad said in a letter, according to state media reports.

Ahmad Tavakoli, a conservative lawmaker, said Ahmadinejad's comments were an attempt to divert attention from his mismanagement of the economy.

"Such an attack...is a pretext to hide social woes and overshadow serious economic weaknesses especially in the production sector whose problems are exacerbated day by day," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted him as saying.

Ahmadinejad Lashes Out against Expediency Council

Radio Zamaneh | Jan 25

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Iran's Council of Expediency of "straining the country's management" and criticized the heads of legislature and judiciary of supporting the Council in these efforts.

In a letter to the parliament, in which rather than the customary address to the speaker of the parliament he addresses the MPs, Ahmadinejad states that the Expediency Council is supported by the heads of the legislature and the judiciary in interfering in the affairs of the government.

Ahmadinejad notes the insistence of the parliament's management to go against the recommendations of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei by proposing to withdraw the president's privileges in the appointment of the Central Bank's chief executive.

Ahmadinejad accuses the Expediency Council of violating the articles of the constitution and throwing obstacles in the path of the government "which at the height of foreign pressure is responsible for carrying out the most important socio-economic plans in the country."

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US Sanctions Czar to Step Down

AFP | Jan 24

Long-time US sanctions point man Stuart Levey is stepping down from his role targeting terror groups, weapons smugglers and narco-traffickers, the Treasury Department announced Monday.

A thorn in the side of regimes from Iran to North Korea and organizations from Al-Qaeda to the Cali drug cartel, Levey is to leave office after more than six years heading the US government's financial sanctions program.

His official title, Treasury "under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence," masked Levey's role at the apex of US efforts to tackle terrorism and weapons proliferation in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

Levey was appointed in 2004 by then-president George W. Bush and tasked with starving targeted individuals, groups and countries of access to the vast US financial system.

See also: "Stuart Levey's War" (New York Times Magazine)

OTHER NEWS

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Accelerated Implementation of Death Sentences; Over 100 Executions in 35 Days

AAED (via Persian2English) | Jan 25

Two weeks after a report was published by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on "a remarkable increase in the implementations of death sentences by the judiciary system", death sentences in Iran are being carried out at an even faster rate compared to just a few months ago.

According to AAED, along with reports from the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, on January 12, 2011, the Revolutionary Court in Tehran announced eight more executions, which were related to drug trafficking and sex crimes. Following that, another ten people were executed in Karaj's Rajai Shahr 'Gohardasht' prison last Wednesday morning [January 19th].

Six more executions were added on January 24th to the total from last month. According to reports by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, among the January 24th executions were Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaie, two [Iranian citizens] convicted of "Moharebeh" [Enmity against God] and "Membership in the People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI)." The other four people were executed in Evin and Qods Square in Karaj. They were convicted of "committing sexual crimes." Also, yesterday, a 29 year old man who was charged and convicted of "raping a woman" in Yasouj was hanged.

Statistics show that since the 2009 Iranian Presidential election, political prisoners and opposition protesters who were charged with Moharebeh were executed. The number of political prisoners sentenced to death has also increased. Ehsan Fattahian, a Kurdish political prisoner is regarded as the first victim in the series of executions that began after the Presidential election.

In the last 35 days, more than 100 death sentences have been carried out in various parts of Iran. The reason for such an increase is not clear and the judiciary forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran have not elaborated on this matter.

Iran, with a population of about 70 million, is rated second in the world after China (that has a population of 1.3 billion people) for its high rate of executions. [Although], based on Iran's population to execution ratio, it has the highest number of executions in the world; [a fact that has brought] much criticism from human rights organizations.

Stuxnet of Concern for Iranian Health Ministry

Radio Zamaneh | Jan 24

[The] Islamic Republic health ministry warned that Iranian medical systems may have been infected with the Stuxnet worm. Mehr news agency reported today that the research and technology branch of the health ministry announced that the Stuxnet worm could cause medical imaging systems to dysfunction.

In July, news of Stuxnet infection in Iran's industrial systems and the possibility of damage to Iran's new nuclear facilities in Bushehr was published in the media.

In September, Iranian authorities announced that they ha[d] tracked the path of Stuxnet spread in the country.

"Almost all the areas and computers infected with Stuxnet have been identified," Iranian minister of communications and technology said [at the time].

Thousands Attend Memorial Serivces for Alireza Pahlavi in Maryland

Radio Zamaneh | Jan 24

A memorial service for Alireza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah of Iran, was held [...] in Maryland with Iranians of different political convictions standing side-by-side to express their sympathies for the grieved family.

Close to two thousand people including three generations of Iranian immigrants from various walks of life as well as well-known political and cultural figures attended the ceremony at Strathmore Music Centre in Bethesda, Zamaneh correspondent reports.

A minute of silence was followed by clips of Alireza Pahlavi's life and various speeches from his friends, colleagues and relatives.

Farah Pahlavi, Alireza Pahlavi's mother, arouse[d] deep emotions in the participants. She thanked all the people who had sent condolences and expressed sympathies to her from all over the world.

"My pain is no different from the pain of any mother who had lost her loved one," she said; "whenever I think of Alireza, I tell myself, he flew from the cage."

Blogger, Journalist Siamak Ghaderi Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison

Green Voice of Freedom | Jan 24

Iranian reporter and blogger Siamak Ghaderi has been sentenced to four years in prison as well as a cash fine.

The former reporter for the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) has received a four-year jail term for "propaganda against the regime", "disturbing public opinion" and "spreading lies."

The blogger was jailed in early August after security forces raided his home.

Security agents had previously promised to release Ghaderi on the condition that he would agree to write articles in support of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the establishment on his personal blog "Our IRNA" which regularly features pro-Green Movement content.

Hezbollah Pick for PM Wins Majority

Press TV | Jan 24

Hezbollah-backed candidate Najib Mikati has clinched the backing of the majority of Lebanese MPs to be appointed as the country's next prime minister.

Lebanese Druze leader Walid Joumblatt has urged caretaker Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri to stop his supporters from flooding the streets.

"The streets will kill everyone and the repercussions will fall on all of us," said Joumblatt.

"I believe Hariri is very aware of the situation and the responsibility of protecting the country's peace and institution falls on him," he added.

Joumblatt made his request while crowds of Hariri supporters took to the streets in protest against the nomination of Hezbollah-backed candidate Mikati.

Hariri loyalists went on rampage, burning tires and destroying an Al-Jazeera van before setting it on fire.

Demonstrators also burned the mopeds of other media outlets considered close to the Shia group Hezbollah.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Did the Shah Perform Better or Have the Ayatollahs?

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard (Huffington Post) | Jan 24

32 years after Iran's revolution, people in the Islamic Republic are asking themselves which government was better. Did the late king, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, perform better or have the Ayatollahs?

On January 16, 1979, the Shah left Iran. Two weeks later, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran and a revolution took place. At the time of the revolution, people asked for social justice, equality and freedom of speech.

These provocative demands are usually made after revolutions. Iranians too had the same types of demands, and as expected, the last great revolution of the 20th century didn't turn out much different than other revolutions, except for one major difference: power shifted from a dictatorial monarchy to a religious "Ayatollah" kind of dictatorship.

The first 10 years of the revolution was the darkest time for Iran. Executions were carried out, opposition was crushed and political activists and the intelligentsia went undercover throughout Iran. Freedom of expression became a dream. Today, the Iranian regime has had no qualms jailing or torturing its own allies and supporters who now criticize the system of government they helped shape 32 years ago. The government's harsh suppression of popular opposition after the June 2009 elections, in particular, won't be forgotten for years to come. In today's Iran, there is no room for opposition. Even opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi have been virtually eliminated from Iran's political landscape.

Is Ahmadinejad Free to Strike a Nuclear Deal? ?

Volker Perthes, Director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (Al Watan) | Jan 24

The effects of the latest round of international sanctions on Iran are somewhat ambiguous: they have weakened the country, but they do not seem to have weakened Ahmadinejad. Withdrawal of European companies is delaying necessary investments and forcing Iranian firms to seek less-favored alternatives, mainly in China and Russia. Prices are increasing, more transactions are being conducted in cash, and more dubious business figures are arriving from around the world.

But, while government officials do not deny that sanctions worry them, they point to Iran's high foreign-currency reserves and the Iranians' creativity in coping with the effects. Moreover, Ahmadinejad uses the sanctions as political cover to pursue his economically sound -- but deeply unpopular -- policy of slashing subsidies on electricity, petrol, and bread.

Though economic pressure is unlikely to force the regime to abandon uranium enrichment, unity on sanctions among the five permanent Security Council members, and moves by the EU, Japan, and South Korea to sharpen them further has had an impact. Most importantly, sanctions have strengthened those within the elite who favor negotiations, and weakened those who are deeply critical of Ahmadinejad's unhidden interest in doing business with the West, particularly the United States.

For Ahmadinejad and his supporters, there are two main reasons for engagement with the US. First, they know that an understanding with the US would be popular, particularly among educated youth and the business community. Second, Ahmadinejad and the political leadership believe that the regime is under serious threat from the US -- and only from the US.

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