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Iran ♥ Egyptian Uprising; Major US Lobbyist Calls ElBaradei Iran 'Stooge'

31 Jan 2011 12:03Comments

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THE LEAD

Egyptian Protests Inspire Opposition in Iran

Wall Street Journal | Jan 30

Egypt's uprising has captivated the Arab world, but in Iran [...] backers of the regime and supporters of the beleaguered opposition are competing for credit for inspiring the demonstrations in Cairo.

Protests in Egypt calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak have also reinvigorated Iran's opposition, triggering calls to regroup.

[O]n Sunday, the main student activist website, Daneshjoo News, issued a statement calling for a big opposition demonstration on the anniversary of the Islamic Republic on Feb. 12th. Bloggers also are calling on opposition leaders to rejoin the fray.

"The democracy movement we started is spreading in the region and today we are witnessing the awakening of the Arabs. It's time for us to once again join hands and prove to the world that dictatorship must end," the Daneshjoo News statement said.

On the streets of Tehran, a new slogan is being sprayed on walls: "Seyed Ali, go be with Ben Ali" -- refering to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Tunisia's former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted by protests in that country earlier this month.

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'Iranian Students Support Egypt Uprising'

Press TV | Jan 29

Iranian students have gathered outside Egypt's Interests Section in Tehran to show support for the Egyptian people, who are protesting against the Cairo government.

In their rally, students from different universities in Tehran chanted slogans against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and called for Muslim unity.

Students also announced their support for the revolution in Tunis.

Majlis Backs Uprising In Egypt, Tunisia

Iran Daily | Jan 31

Ali Larijani has declared Iran's support for the popular uprising in Tunisia and Egypt, describing them as a spark for similar movements in other parts of the Middle East.

Addressing a session of the Majlis, the speaker referred to the popular uprisings in the Arab world against their dictatorial regimes and said, "This regional revolution was triggered by the uprising of the Tunisian people and its effects have now engulfed several other countries."

"The evolutionary trend of the regional revolution has surprised many despotic governments," IRNA quoted him as saying. Larijani described the uprisings as the revolution of the free-hearted that has transcended nationalistic considerations.

The Parliament speaker took stock of the confusion in and contradictory stances of the US and Western governments towards the unprecedented developments in the Arab world that has spread fear and concern in almost all corridors of power in that part of the world and pro-Western Arab capitals.

"President Barack Obama has had three different stances during the past three days," Larijani recalled.

"First he offered moral advice on upholding the rights of the Egyptian people. Later he announced full support for the Egyptian rulers and after that called for addressing popular aspirations of the people of Egypt."

Larijani described the West's stance on Egypt as similar to its position vis-a-vis the Islamic Revolution and said "This shows that the West's policy and thinking toward Muslim countries is reactionary and they lag behind when it comes to Mideast developments."

'Iran Monitoring Regional Developments'

Press TV | Jan 30

Iran's foreign minister says the country is keeping a close watch on the key developments in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly the popular movements unfolding there.

"Vigilant regional nations inspired by religious teachings and Islamic awakening are seeking to free themselves of the domination of hegemonic powers and gain real independence," Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by a Foreign Ministry statement as saying.

He said certain regional nations, which are the descendants of ancient civilizations, have been under the pressure of extra-regional powers that support Zionists, and "have been alienated from their true identities for years."

"Today, Egypt and its people are drawing on the invaluable experience of the Middle East's contemporary history and getting ready to determine their own fate and reclaim their influential status in the region."

'Iran's Foreign Policy Will Not Change'

Press TV | Jan 30

Senior Iranian lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi says the appointment of a new foreign minister [Salehi] will not cause any changes in the country's foreign policy.

"Iran's foreign policy is under the supervision of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution [Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei] and this is how policies are determined and the change of minister will not lead to [a] change of policy," [the] head of the Parliament (Majlis) National Security and Foreign Policy Commission said on Sunday.

The Iranian lawmaker described Tehran's policy regarding recent developments in the region as respecting the will of the nations and supporting their demands.

"What began in Tunis and continued in Egypt...is a kind of reaction to the past policies of these countries," Boroujerdi added.

"We saw that when a part of the Muslim world was besieged, the Egyptian government did not cooperate to transfer food to Gaza and even blocked communication channel to this area," the Iranian lawmaker said.

Commander Stresses Egyptian Revolution's Domino Effect on Arab States

Fars | Jan 29

The present Revolution in Egypt serves as a prelude to more uprisings in the other Arab countries, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said.

"Egypt is the heart of the Arab world...therefore any political changes or sociopolitical revolutions in Egypt could occur in many other Islamic countries," IRGC Lieutenant Commander General Hossein Salami told FNA.

"This is what comes of hegemonic systems dependent on foreign [states] that start a dictatorial movement in their country," the commander added.

The IRGC deputy commander went on to describe the developments in Egypt as a "manifestation of the [Iranian] Islamic Revolution in the Middle East region and the world of Islam."

The military official said Egypt had become the "geologic backrest for the Zionist regime [of Israel] as well as a geostrategic spot for backing US policies on Africa."

Headlines in Sunday's Tehran Dailies

Iranian Diplomacy and Tehran Times | Jan 31

Hamshahri: "Mubarak's Promises Fail to Soothe Egypt"

Iran: "Uprising in Egypt Goes National: Mubarak's Regime on the Verge of Overthrow"

Jam-e Jam: "U.S., Israel Fearful of Developments in Middle East"

Javan: "Alexandria Conquered; Egyptians Say 'Mubarak Must Go'"

Jomhouri-ye Eslami: "As Popular Uprising and Resistance against the Army Spreads: Egypt's Dictator Preparing to Flee"

Kayhan: "Cairo and Other Cities Erupt in Fire and Blood; People's Big 'NO' to the Pharaoh of Egypt: Regime Must Change, Not the Cabinet"

Khabar: "The Last Breaths of Hosni Mubarak's Regime: The End of Pharaoh"

Khorasan: "Unofficial Reports of Hosni Mubarak's Fleeing"

Resalat: "As the Popular Uprising Gains Momentum: Fall of the Cabinet in Egypt"

Shargh: "Countdown for Mubarak's Fall"

Vatan-e Emrooz: "The Egyptian Army Withdraws from Several Major Cities: Mubarak's Sons Flee to London"

See also: "Egypt Protesters Remain Defiant; Unmoved by Mubarak's Military Might" (Iran Daily) | "Iran Tells Egypt to Listen to the People's Voice" (Tehran Times)

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Hoenlein: ElBaradei a 'Stooge' for Iran

JTA | Jan 30

The director of the U.S. Jewish foreign policy umbrella called Mohammed ElBaradei, the opposition leader emerging from the Egyptian ferment, a "stooge for Iran."

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice-president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, accused ElBaradei of covering up Iran's true nuclear weaponization capacities while he directed the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

"He is a stooge for Iran, and I don't use the term lightly," Hoenlein said in an online recorded interview with Yeshiva World News on the Egyptian crisis. "He fronted for them, he distorted the reports."

ElBaradei, who directed the IAEA from 1997-2009, returned to Egypt after his third term ended. He was soon touted as a possible challenger to the 30-year autocracy led by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

OPINION & ANALYSIS: UPRISINGS IN THE ARAB WORLD

The U.S. Foreign Policy and Its Paradoxes: Chickens Have [Come] Home to Roost

Mahmood Monshipouri, San Francisco State University (Tehran Times) | Jan 31

A quick glance at the current realities in the Middle East shows that the consequences of U.S. foreign policy mistakes have eventually come home to roost. Some things have changed and others have remained the same. Palestinians are homeless and still in search of sovereign independence, and they see no end in sight despite frequent international condemnation of Israeli occupation and lethal Israeli reprisals against Palestinian uprisings since 1987 and the siege of Gaza. The United States acts as the sole extra-regional hegemonic power on the basis of its military pre-eminence in the area, invading countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq and guaranteeing the persistence of pro-Western but dysfunctional and corrupt regimes. Many of these regimes owe their political longevity and power to their willingness to cooperate with the U.S. foreign policy. In return, The United States has exerted little or no political/diplomatic pressure on these governments to adopt reforms. Yet these countries remain vulnerable to internal revolts in the long term and history has a way of catching them.

The most glaring example of this hypocrisy today is Egypt. Mubarak and its regime no longer represent the aspirations of their people. He is seen to perpetuate the interests of a corrupt regime and as a ruler who owes his power to his external support and foreign assistance from the United States ($1.3 billion annually). The U.S. backing of the region's corrupt and dysfunctional regimes has alienated reformist social movements and further discredited U.S. foreign policy in the region. Nearly 30 percent of the Egyptian population lives below the poverty line. Moreover, uneven development has led to the emergence of an affluent class in predominantly lower middle class and poor cities such as Cairo and Alexandria. Since 1991, under IMF and World Bank guidance, Egypt has adopted a myriad of neoliberal policies. Its privatization policies have constantly led to workers' strikes and demonstrations.

But the story does not end there. For the first time since the post-war period, across the Middle East and North Africa, a shared and common Arab identity has swept the streets of the Arab world. This new narrative is neither about the United States and its regional wars and military interventions, or the Arab-Israeli conflicts, and nor about the military coups and assassinations. It is about the first modern Arab uprisings against poverty, unemployment, and general recession. It has no ideological or political leaders. Far from being called a social movement at this stage--these uprisings are largely street protests emblematic of a sense of shared Arab identity and frustration spontaneously erupted by failed economic and political systems. This moment in history is not about social networking (Facebook and Twitter) and the power of technology -- as the Western media wants us to believe it is -- but rather it is about the Arab street and the Arab world, which have become much crowded and far more destitute than years past.

Ben Ali's Departure, Seyed Ali's Tenacity

Akbar Ganji (Rooz) | Jan 30

Iran's revolution and its outcome (a dictatorial regime, incredible levels of violence, etc) have weakened revolutionary culture in different ways. Peaceful methods to attain ends have given way to violent ones. But still, the idea of revolution lingers in the back of the minds and will not go away this easily. When Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the president who had ruled over Tunisia for 24 years fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14 of this year, suddenly everybody began to ponder: why not topple seyed Ali and force him to flee as well. The period between the start of Tunisian demonstrations against their economic and political conditions on December 17 and the flight of Ben Ali on January 14 is not very long, so how come the many month demonstrations of Iranians did not produce a similar result? Even though the number of deaths among protestors in both countries were about the same (Tunisia's transition government announced 78 deaths of which 42 were among the detainees who died of burns in prison, while the UN presented over a 100 deaths), this event demonstrated that revolutionary culture is still alive among us and if an opportunity arises, many people will rise to topple an existing order.

Opponents of the Iranian regime, who have been waiting for years for changes in the political structure of the country, rejoiced at the flight of the Tunisian dictator and brought new optimism to them. This joy also brought about questions and directions. The goal now was to topple Ali Khamenei just as Ben Ali was removed. But can this optimism to topple or remove Iran's supreme leader be supported by historic observations and evidence, and theoretic basis? As far as I know, there are two historic evidences and one theory that support the possibility of replicating in Iran what took place in Tunisia[: the European revolutions of 1848, the eastern European revolutions of 1989, and the "theory of [the] archetypal."]

This theory asserts that when a dictatorial regime falls and is replaced with a democratic regime, the event turns into a model for other dictatorial societies thus spreading democracy in this way. This theory is particularly true for countries that are adjacent to each other in the same region. In other words, this view believes that when an undemocratic regime collapses, pressure mounts on authoritarian regimes across the globe.

Both [Iran and Tunisia have] share[d] a dictatorial form of government. But beyond that, the two regimes have nothing else in common.

If Egypt Implodes

Editorial (Iran Daily) | Jan 30

America and Israel are obviously more concerned about losing their influence over the rapidly deteriorating situation in Hosni Mubarak's Egypt. It is understandable that they should worry more than the relatives of the embattled president and all those who plundered the Egyptian people's wealth and freedoms. By far the uprising in Egypt is bigger and deeper than what we saw in Tunisia earlier this month.

Egyptians of all political, cultural, ethnic leanings love to call their ancient land the "mother of the world". If the ongoing developments there do not directly affect the world, they will definitely have a major impact on the US, Israel and the Arab world plus authoritarian Muslim states.

With the start of the anti-government demonstrations in Egypt, Israel's ambassador and his staff fled the country. A few American diplomats who remained in Cairo fled on the first flight they could catch. The Arab elite and men of money took refuge in Dubai and Jordan.

The coming sea-change in Egypt actually means the destruction of almost everything that in the past 30 years had been set up in line with the interests of the West, Israel and pro-Western Arab rulers.

After former Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat developed thick ties to the US and signed a peace treaty with the enemy [Israel], the national economy shifted to a western mode. Time, money and energy was focused on personal profit not national interest. The ugly tendency took on bigger overtones during Mubarak's rule and men with big money emerged on the scene. The secret of their survival was being close to the centers of power. The pattern gradually led to diminishing of the once powerful middle class as the gap between the haves and have nots grew at terrific speed.

How Tehran Sees Tunis

Mehrun Etebari, Senior Research Assistant at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution (Foreign Policy) | Jan 28

Despite the examples of Ben Ali and Egypt's beleaguered President Hosni Mubarak, Iran's leaders are far from running scared. In fact, Tehran is taking a distinctly more triumphalist understanding of the roots and effects of the Tunisian protests than American commentators would expect from another authoritarian Middle Eastern government -- particularly from one facing its own challenges from opposition forces.

In the week following Ben Ali's frantic flight to Saudi Arabia, reactions from Iranian officials and state-supported media were, as always, bold and self-assured. But this is no skin-deep grandstanding designed to force a positive spin on an unsettling example of political upheaval. Where Washington sees an anti-authoritarian uprising, Tehran describes a 1979-style rejection of a U.S.-supported secularist: Ahmadinejad referred to the Tunisian uprising as an expression of the people's will for an Islamic order, and the Iranian Majlis voted overwhelmingly to support the "revolution."

The conservative press thoroughly rejects any suggestion that the uprising in Tunisia is at all comparable to the Green Movement. A hard-line paper associated with the Revolutionary Guard Corps ridiculed comparisons in opposition media outlets between the economic conditions that helped spark the Tunisian riots and Iran's economic struggles, arguing that Tehran's recent success in implementing risky economic reforms was a testament to the regime's durable popular mandate.

Hossein Shariatmadari -- one of the Islamic Republic's most influential conservatives -- used the Tunisian events to underscore the hard-liners' far-fetched claims that Iran's 2009 post-election violence represented a purely Western-oriented conspiracy. Writing in the hard-line Kayhan newspaper a few days after Ben Ali left the country, he likened the masses of Iranians who poured into the streets demanding a recount of the last presidential election to the despotic Ben Ali regime. By his logic, Tehran's repression of the protests and the Green Movement -- a Western plot -- was actually what emboldened Tunisians to seize their own independence from American-endorsed autocracy.

Nervous Tehran Sees Benefit -- Maybe

Azadeh Moaveni (Time) | Jan 30

News websites affiliated with Iran's conservative factions have carried jubilant headlines about the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's "Zionist regime." Pages of reader comments celebrate the perceived blow this delivers to American interests in the region, reflecting how quickly Iran's government managed to shape and package its "message" about Egypt's unrest.

Iran confronted its own mass uprising in 2009 in the wake of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's contested election victory, but the state deployed brutal force to crush those protests, known as the Green movement. "Iran is celebrating popular behavior in Egypt that it continues to identify as 'seditious' in Iran," says Farideh Farhi, an Iran expert. "The only way it can partially cover this basic contradiction is by spinning the Egyptian mobilization against dictatorship as the rise of Islamism ignited by the ideal of Iran's 1979 revolution."

Tehran's rush to brand the Egyptian revolt as Islamic reflects two concerns. The first is Iran's wish to retain its at least superficial popularity in the Arab world, where for years Arabs frustrated with their inept and authoritarian leaders have channeled their fury through a cheery affection for Ahmadinejad. Despite the limits of this regard -- most Arabs enjoy Ahmadinejad's defiance of the West but would not elect to live under his rule -- Tehran views its popularity amongst Arabs as an important sign of its ascendancy over its neighbors. As Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, puts it: "The Islamic Republic has long seen itself as the vanguard of the Middle East and an inspiration to Arabs everywhere." But if the region's hated Arab dictators fall, so collapses the social and political dynamic that has produced Ahmadinejad's pop star status.

Egypt's Crackdown on Protesters Evokes Iran's Heavy Hand in 2009 Unrest

Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor) | Jan 29

On the face of it, the outpouring of anger across Egypt and the government's declared "zero tolerance" policy look similar to the Iranian street fight in mid-2009. The Islamic Republic used every tool to quell weeks of unrest, which senior Revolutionary Guard commanders said later had brought the regime to the "edge" of collapse.

But while many dozen have so far been killed in Egypt and more than 1,000 injured, the violence in Iran was marked by its brutality. Scores, if not hundreds, were killed in Iran, 4,000 were arrested in the first stage, and detainees were raped and tortured.

"The Iranians created real fear through using extreme force in streets and detention centers -- they much preferred personal combat to water cannon and tear gas," says Sir Richard Dalton, the former British ambassador to Tehran now at the Chatham House think tank.

The Iranians "made no concessions -- to project strength," notes Sir Richard. Just after midnight Friday, as his ruling party's headquarters burned in Cairo, Mubarak ended four days of silence by giving some concessions: He promised to sack the government, but gave no indication that he was responsible for Egypt's problems -- or would step aside.

The Iranian leadership couched its street fight in very different terms. They "created an ideological wall around the protests using religion, false accusations, the 'foreign enemies,' [and] claims of sedition," says Sir Richard.

Spotlight Again Falls on Web Tools and Change

Scott Shane (New York Times) | Jan 29

Tunisia's uprising offers the latest encouragement for a comforting notion: that the same Web tools that so many Americans use to keep up with college pals and post passing thoughts have a more noble role as well, as a scourge of despotism. It was just 18 months ago, after all, that the same technologies were hailed as a factor in Iran's Green Revolution, the stirring street protests that followed the disputed presidential election.

But since that revolt collapsed, Iran has become a cautionary tale. The Iranian police eagerly followed the electronic trails left by activists, which assisted them in making thousands of arrests in the crackdown that followed. The government even crowd-sourced its hunt for enemies, posting on the Web the photos of unidentified demonstrators and inviting Iranians to identify them.

"The Iranian government has become much more adept at using the Internet to go after activists," said Faraz Sanei, who tracks Iran at Human Rights Watch. The Revolutionary Guard, the powerful political and economic force that protects the ayatollahs' regime, has created an online surveillance center and is believed to be behind a "cyberarmy" of hackers that it can unleash against opponents, he said.

For US, Egypt Crisis Recalls 1979 Iran

Matthew Lee (AP via Washington Post) | Jan 30

The mounting popular demand that Egypt's all-powerful ruler step aside has suddenly forced the United States to contemplate a Mideast without the guarantee of a bedrock Arab ally -- and raised the specter of the anti-American revolution in Iran a generation ago.

Indeed, apart from the immediate concern of ensuring the safety of tens of thousands of Americans now caught in the Egyptian unrest, the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran coupled with more recent successes of militant Palestinian and Lebanese Islamist movements Hamas and Hezbollah weigh heavily on the minds of U.S. policymakers.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the country's most organized opposition group and one that does not share Mubarak's moderate, pro-U.S. agenda or approve of relations with Israel, may be best poised to fill a power vacuum.

Although Iran's was a Shiite revolt and Egypt is predominantly Sunni, there are similarities. Iran in the 1970s, like present-day Egypt, was a major U.S. ally whose support of American goals was criticized.

The Worst of Both Worlds

Gary Sick (Foreign Policy) | Jan 29

It is often forgotten, but there was a major Israeli dimension to the Iranian revolution of 1978-79 as well. The shah of Iran was Israel's best friend in the Muslim world, an essential part of Israel's doctrine of the periphery. Israel not only cultivated nations just outside the core Arab center, but in the case of Iran received a substantial portion of its energy supplies via covert oil deliveries to Eilat from the Persian Gulf. Israel and Iran also collaborated on joint development and testing of a ballistic missile system capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

President Richard Nixon and his advisor Henry Kissinger formalized the U.S. relationship during a meeting with the shah in 1972. They asked him to serve as the protector of U.S. security interests in the Persian Gulf at a time when the British were withdrawing and the United States was tied down in Indochina. Not only was Iran (and specifically the shah) the linchpin of U.S. regional security, but the United States had no backup plan. So confident was everyone that the shah or his successor would maintain this highly personal relationship that there had been no effort to fashion a Plan B in the event of an unexpected catastrophe.

There is genuine irony in the fact that Carter, Sadat, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin were at Camp David, in meetings that set the terms for more than a generation of uneasy peace in the Middle East, on the same day that the shah's regime experienced what would eventually prove to be its death blow -- the massacre of protestors at Jaleh Square in Tehran on Sept. 8, 1978.

Egypt Crisis Worst Disaster since Iran's Revolution

Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post) | Jan 31

No matter what the United States says or does at this point, it is not going to reap the gratitude of millions of Egyptians as a liberator. For the new anti-regime leaders will blame America for its past support of Mubarak, opposition to Islamism, backing of Israel, cultural influence, incidents of alleged imperialism, and for not being Muslim.

If anyone thinks the only problem is Israel, they understand nothing.

This is not the first time this kind of problem has come up and it is revealing and amazing that the precedents are not being fully explained. The most obvious is Iran in 1978-1979. At that time, as I wrote in my book Paved with Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran, the US strategy was to do precisely what Obama is doing now: announce support for the government but press it to make reforms. The shah did not go to repression partly because he didn't have US support. The revolution built up and the regime fell. The result wasn't too good.

Experts on television and consulting with the government assured everyone that the revolution would be moderate, the Islamists couldn't win, and even if they did, this new leadership could be dealt with. So either Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini couldn't triumph -- Islamists running a country, what a laugh! -- or he couldn't really mean what he said. That didn't turn out too well either.

The Tyrant Must Go, but Beware What Comes Next

John R. Bradley (Daily Mail) | Jan 31

Valuing stability in the Middle East above all else, and blinded by gratitude for Egypt's signing of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in 1979, Washington has been pumping money into the Egyptian economy ever since -- most recently to the tune of almost $2billion a year.

But now this strategy, which can be seen as propping up a corrupt dictatorship, could be about to backfire terribly, with America's name permanently tarnished in Egypt by its association with Mubarak.

Frighteningly, this is exactly what happened in Iran in 1979, when the revolution toppled the hugely unpopular Shah who had been supported by America for years.

That revolution is now routinely described as Islamic, but it wasn't initially. The populist uprising against Iran's monarch saw intellectuals, academics, feminists, the middle classes all demonstrating on the streets of Tehran.

It was only after the Shah had fled the country and Iran was plunged into uncertainty and chaos that Ayatollah Khomeini arrived from Paris, whipping up not just Islamic fundamentalist fervour but, by exploiting its close association with the Shah, widespread anti-American feeling too.

Egypt Protests Show American Foreign-Policy Folly

Stephen Kinzer (Newsweek) | Jan 28

Washington sees the various local and national conflicts in the Middle East as part of a battle for regional hegemony between the U.S. and Iran. If this is true, the U.S. is losing. That is because it has stubbornly held onto Middle East policies that were shaped for the Cold War. The security environment in the region has changed dramatically since then. Iran has shown itself agile enough to align itself with rising new forces that enjoy the support of millions. The U.S., meanwhile, remains allied with countries and forces that looked strong 30 or 40 years ago but no longer are.

Iran is betting on Hizbullah, Hamas, and Shiite parties in Iraq. These are popular forces that win elections. Hizbullah emerged as the heroic champion of resistance to Israel's 2006 invasion of Lebanon, winning the admiration of Arabs, not only for itself but also for its Iranian backers. Many Arabs also admire Hamas for its refusal to bow to Israeli power in Gaza.

Pro-Iran forces have also scored major gains in Iraq. They effectively control the Iraqi government, and their most incendiary leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, recently returned to a hero's welcome after an extended stay in Iran. By invading Iraq in 2003, and removing Saddam Hussein from power, the U.S. handed Iraq to Iran on a platter. Now Iran is completing the consolidation of its position in Baghdad.

Whom does America bet on to counter these rising forces? The same friends it has been betting on for decades: Mubarak's pharaonic regime in Egypt, Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, the Saudi monarchy, and increasingly radical politicians in Israel. It is no wonder that Iran's power is rising as the American-imposed order begins to crumble.

Learn from Our Mistakes

"aynak" (Iranian.com) | Jan 29

Letter from an Iranian to the people of Egypt

32 years ago, as the emotions of our nation [were] focused on the immediate removal of the Shah, our mind[s were] not looking forward as to what to replace that old bankrupt system with. Today, not only are [the] Iranian people no closer to a more accountable government nor better living standards, our social freedom along with our political freedom has been taken away from us as well.

Egyptian brothers and sisters,

Today in Iran, we don't have basic political freedom to assemble, as the Islamic Regime of Iran does not allow freedom of assembly. Today, the Islamic Regime of Iran does not even allow a candidate that passed its filtering process, and according to their own statistics received over 13 million votes, to hold a simple rally. How much freedom do you think an Iranian ha[s] today? Today, we do not have political parties. Even political factions are not tolerated within the Islamic regime.

[O]ur lessons:

* Don't bring religion to government. We Iranian people unfortunately did, and the results are far worse than what we had. Fortunately, you do not have a powerful character like Khomeini who said one thing, before reaching power, and the opposite after. But still, avoid those who provide their strict religious belief as the solution for [the] complex problems that face us today. Our problems today require collective cooperation and rational thinking, and the freedom to do so. Do not let political-Islam make you envy even these dark days of Mobarak, 30 years later!

* Don't just focus on removal of that brutal, ignorant dictator Mobarak, but also focus on visionary Egyptians that are NOT power hungry, focused on solving the issues, and are not hateful in their speeches.

* When the tyrant Mobarak finally agrees to step down, don't try to destroy your government and start from zero. That would only take you back another 30 years like it has done so for Iran. Every system has bad but also very good individuals that serve it.

* Don't execute or torture anyone, even those who tortured you or executed your loved ones. That's the only way to ensure execution and torture will be eradicated.

* Destruction of headquarters of Mobarak's party is valid reaction to his despotic rule, but do not destroy banks, theaters. Those all belong to Egypt not Mobarak.

* When you are rewriting your constitution, do not trust closed door sessions. Read every page of the documents and understand their ramifications. It is better to take the time to come up with a great document, than to hurry this process and have to redo it again in 30 years!

* Here's one we should have chanted from day 1 and we did not, Iran for all Iranians. Say, Egypt for all Egyptians! Moslem or Christian, northerner or southerner. Be aware of anyone who tries to do otherwise.

See also: "Which Uprising Is This?" (Tehran Bureau) | "Egypt's Political Unrest: More Lessons for Iran" (Tehran Bureau)

OTHER NEWS

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Iran MPs Back Ahmadinejad Ally as Foreign Minister

Reuters | Jan 30

Iran's parliament on Sunday narrowly approved President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's choice of Ali Akbar Salehi as foreign minister after his predecessor was abruptly sacked during an official visit to Africa last year.

The vote in favour of Salehi will be a relief to Ahmadinejad, who has faced growing criticism from lawmakers who mainly accuse him of concentrating power in his own hands and riding roughshod over the views of lawmakers.

Salehi, appointed as head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation in 2009, was opposed by some lawmakers who said he had little political experience.

"There is nothing but sloganeering in Salehi's programme ... He has no expertise in foreign policy," said moderate lawmaker Mostafa Kavakebian.

Majlis Approves Salehi as Foreign Minister

Tehran Times | Jan 31

Of the 241 MPs present for the Majlis session on Sunday, 146 lawmakers voted in favor of Salehi's appointment as foreign minister, 60 voted against, and 35 abstained. [In fact, 243 MPs were present; 241 officially recorded a vote on the appointment. -- Ed.]

Prior to the vote, a number of lawmakers expressed their views about Salehi's nomination.

MP Daryoush Qanbari [...] spoke against Salehi's nomination, saying, "The outlined plans are too general."

"It seems that he has mistaken the post of foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the United Nations secretary general, because he has talked more about controlling and changing the world rather than paying attention to the Islamic Republic's foreign policy," he said.

MP Ali Motahhari, who is well-known to be critical of Ahmadinejad's policies, said Salehi is not the proper choice for the post of foreign minister.

[Motahari argued that Salehi] cannot carry out reforms in the Foreign Ministry and resolve the issues facing this ministry because he has an accommodating personality and cannot prevent certain irresponsible people from interfering in the work of the Foreign Ministry.

MP Hossein Sobhaninia of the Majlis Presiding Board spoke in favor of Salehi, saying, "Salehi's plans reflect the Islamic Republic's stances on international issues."

See also: "Salehi's Turn" (Tehran Bureau) | "Mr. Salehi's In-Tray" (Tehran Bureau)

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Karoubi's Son Interrogated for Six Hours

Rooz | Jan 30

Hossein Karoubi, prominent pro-reformist cleric Mehdi Karoubi's eldest son, was released from top security Evin Prison after six hours of interrogations. This is the second time in two weeks Mr. Karoubi was summoned to Evin and interrogated.

A Rooz reporter reports from Tehran that Mr. Karoubi was interrogated over his interviews about the atrocities committed at Kahrizak Prison where rape, murder and torture have been reported. Hossein Karoubi was told that he had dishonored the country through the interviews.

During the interrogations, Mr. Karoubi was accused of targeting the supreme leader of the Islamic republic and in his interviews had weakened him, after Mr. Karoubi's father's [house] was raided by plainclothes agents and Basiji militiamen last year.

After leaving Evin, Hossein Karoubi told Rooz that he was released after several house of interrogations and was not formally charged with anything while the interrogations were all recorded in writing. Most of the questions were over the interview with Saham News, a website belonging to the Etemad Melli (National Unity) party.

Fatemeh Karoubi [Mehdi Karroubi's wife and Hossein's mother,] added that authorities were trying to exert pressure on the family [with] these actions. She reiterated that none of these pressures would have any effect and that they would not be shaken off because of them. "Look at what they are doing. They recently published a photograph of Mr. Karoubi belonging to the sixth Majlis when he was in hospital and are claiming that his health is not good, whereas in reality his health is fine and he is in great spirits and we feel sorry for the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] website for publishing this claim and rejoicing at someone's death while claiming to be Muslims. They are in fact expressing their hopes and wishes," she concluded.

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Iranian Women's Rights Activist Arrested in Qom

Radio Zamaneh | Jan 29

Iranian security forces arrested Fatemeh Masjedi, an Iranian women's rights activist in Qom. She was arrested while travelling from Qom to Tehran by unidentified government officials, We-change website reports.

Fatemeh Masjedi was arrested in September 2009 along with Maryam Bidgeli and sentenced to six months in prison by the appeals court last December.

The arrest comes while the judiciary's Human Rights office has written to the head of Qom's justice department to review the sentences of the two activists.

The preliminary court had convicted Masjedi and Bidgeli of "propaganda against the regime in support of an anti-government feminist group (One Million Signatures Campaign)" and handed them one year in prison.

The appeals court had dismissed their defence yet reduced their sentence to six months because of no previous convictions.

A statement from women's rights activists states: "Activity in the One Million Signatures Campaign is not a crime. This is an issue that has been stated over and over again by the Revolutionary Court of the Islamic Republic following the arrest of the Campaign activists. The court did not regard participation in the Campaign as propaganda against the regime. Collecting signatures for the Campaign has been regarded as collecting signatures for any other petition such as one for road repairs. But this particular branch of Qom court has decided to equate the collection of signatures for the Campaign with propagation against the regime."

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Blogger Hossein Ronaghi Denied Medical Prison Leave

RAHANA | Jan 31

The judicial authorities have denied furlough for blogger and human rights activist Hossein Ronaghi who has been in detention for the past 14 months and is suffering from kidney problems.

The family of Hossein Ronaghi Maleki travelled to Tehran yesterday to request a medical prison leave for Maleki which has been denied.He had been transferred to the prison clinic last week and the medical staff had confirmed that he needs to be transferred to a hospital outside of prison. According to the Human Rights House of Iran, his family had previously been informed that in case of authorization by the "higher officials", he would be granted furlough on bail. In September, bail was set for Ronaghi but the cyber unit of IRGC denied his release. Ronaghi is suffering from kidney problems and needs surgery. He was arrested on December 13, 2009 at his father's house in the city of Malekan and transferred to the solitary confinement of Evin Prison. He has been sentenced to 15 years in prison which was upheld by the appeals court.

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Mehdi Mahmoudian in Critical Condition

RAHANA | Jan 30

Due to the severe pressure put on prisoners of conscience in recent days, the physical condition of many of them has been reported as critical.

Mehdi Mahmoudian has fallen unconscious due to his critical condition (heart attack) and the prison authorities have failed to transfer him to the prison clinic or a hospital. According to the Human Rights House of Iran, in a letter to the leaders of the Green Movement, he has requested that they continue to fight for freedom and justice. He has been sentenced to 5 years in prison and was arrested after the disputed presidential elections.

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Imprisoned Baha'i Citizen: Fariba Kamal Abadi Ill in Rajai Shahr Prison

Committee of Human Rights Reporters (via Persian2English) | Jan 30

News received from Rajai Shahr 'Gohardasht' prison indicates that Fariba Kamal Abadi is ill. She is one of the seven former leaders of the Baha'i community, Yarane Iran.

Since a week ago, Fariba Kamal Abadi has been battling ague (severe form of fever), the common cold, and insomnia. Prison guards have reacted by sending her to a quarantine cell without providing any medical care. Gohardasht prison is known for not having adequate medical supplies and health facilities for prisoners.

Since May 15, 2008, Fariba Kamal Abadi and five other former leaders of Yarane Iran have been held in prison and their homes have been attacked by Security forces. Mahvash Sabet, the seventh former member was arrested on May 3, 2008 in Mashhad.

The seven former Baha'i community leaders were each issued a sentence of ten years in prison and transferred to Gohardasht prison.

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Pedram Rafati Summoned to Prison after His 2 year Prison Sentence Was Upheld

RAHANA | Jan 31

Pedram Rafati who has been deprived of continuing his education at the Polytechnic University and a former member of the university's Islamic Association, has been summoned to prison in order to serve his 2 year prison sentence.

Rafati, who had been arrested by the Intelligence Ministry and held in solitary confinement for 21 days in 2007 for participating in student gatherings, was once again arrested in June of 2009. He was released on bail after 2 weeks in solitary confinement. According to the Human Rights House of Iran, Judge Salavati sentenced him to 2 years in prison for acting against national security by participating in the protests. In February, he received a summons order stating that he has to appear at the prison to begin serving his sentence.

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Execution Sentence of Two Web Designers to Be Reviewed by the Supreme Court

RAHANA | Jan 31

The Tehran Prosecutor [Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi] stated that the execution sentence of two moderators of a pornographic internet sites has been sent to the Supreme Court for review.

Jafari Dolatabadi has not stated their names but Saeid Malekpour was one of the defendants in the case who has been sentenced to death. Another defendant in the case who is in danger of issuance of a death sentence is Vahid Asghari. In February of 2008, the cyber unit of IRGC reported that several people were arrested for directing anti-Islamic and pornographic websites. Malekpour and Asghari were among the detainees. They had endured torture and forced to make false televised confessions even though they had not even been tried. Before the court hearing, Judge Jafari had stated that they would receive a death sentence.

See also: "Saeed Malekpour Sentenced to Death" (RAHANA)

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Distraught, Bahrami's Daughter Demands: "How Is It Possible That She Was Executed?!"

ICHRI | Jan 31

A shocked and emotional Banafsheh Nayebpour, daughter of Iranian-Dutch citizen, Zahra Bahrami, who, according to a Fars News Agency report, was executed in the early morning hours of Saturday, 29 January 2010, talked to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran today. She said people have been calling her for the past hour to verify the news of her mother's death. "How is such a thing possible? We had requested clemency, and we have not yet received a reply. They have not reviewed my mother's other case, either. How is it possible that she was executed?" she said in disbelief.

Zahra Bahrami's daughter was informed of her mother's execution through phone calls from her friends and relatives on Saturday at around 4:00 p.m. "I called her lawyer. She had not been informed, either. I don't know where to go now, of whom to seek information. Nobody is answering me now, because it's past business hours. This means that my mother died this morning, when I was sleeping," she said.

"Shouldn't they have informed her family and lawyer before executing her? We should have gone to see her before her execution. Is it so easy-that my mother is no longer in this world? Did I not have any right to see her before her execution?" said a distraught Banafesheh Nayebpour.

See also: "Dutch Iranian Held in 2009 Protests Hanged; 'Iranians and the Cult of Death'" (Tehran Bureau Press Roundup)

Iran Summons Dutch Ambassador

Press TV | Jan 30

Iran's Foreign Ministry has summoned the Dutch Envoy to Tehran Cees J. Kole over the meddlesome remarks of the foreign minister of the Netherlands.

On Saturday, the Netherlands formally froze all contact with Iran following the execution of Dutch-Iranian drug trafficker Zahra Bahrami.

Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said, "The Netherlands is very shocked by this execution, this scandalous deed."

The Iranian Foreign Ministry reminded the Netherlands of Iran's laws regarding drug trafficking drugs and cautioned the Dutch government against supporting criminals and interfering in Tehran's internal affairs.

Dutch Gov't Freezes Ties

Iran Daily | Jan 31

Iran's ambassador to Amsterdam, Kazem Gharibabadi [...] advised the Dutch officials to "respect Iran's internal laws and avoid meddling in the country's ruling affairs."

He argued that "Iran does not recognize dual nationality; therefore Ms. Bahrami was considered an Iranian national."

Western media reported recently that Bahrami was arrested for participating in anti-government protests in 2009.

Last week, in response to such allegations, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast described the allegations as a pretext to exert pressure on Tehran.

"It is expected from the Western countries to cooperate and appreciate Iran's efforts in fighting illegal drugs. However, we see that they support Zahra Bahrami and have also called for her release," he complained.

"They are not allowed to interfere in our internal affairs and our judiciary is independent," Mehmanparast was quoted as saying.

Reuters Website Filtered in Iran

Green Voice of Freedom | Jan 30

The official website of the Reuters news agency has been filtered by Iranian Internet Service Providers, according to reports on Sunday.

According to the Kaleme website affiliated with opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousav, the Reuters website has now become inaccessible for users inside Iran. The Green Voice of Freedom can also independently confirm the reports regarding the website's blockage in Iran.

The news agency is headquartered in London, United Kingdom and is owned by Thomson Reuters.

Mousavi: Green Movement Proud of Its Reliance on People

Green Voice of Freedom | Jan 30

Mir Hossein Mousavi has strongly denied reports that Mahmoud Abbas convinced a businessman to fund a radio station for Iran's Green Movement.

According to the Kaleme website affiliated with the Green Movement leader himself, Mousavi issued a statement earlier in the day denying reports that Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian National Authority had convinced a Palestinian businessman to give financial backing to the Iranian opposition. Mousavi strongly denied the bogus claim--which is not the first of its kinds--and added, "While denying the receipt of any form or amount of foreign aid, I consider the reliance of the Green Movement and its supporters on the people of our country, as one of its honours."

"The narrator of this complete lie is similar to a Friday prayer leader who once claimed that the United States had granted one billion dollars to the leaders of the Green Movement through Saudi Arabia," the veteran reformer continued.

According to leaked documents released by Al Jazeera, the PLO's chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told the US national security adviser, General James Jones, in October 2009: "Ten days ago, we had to convince a Palestinian businessman to pay $50m for Mussawi to have a radio station."

However, the Iranian government's propaganda tools including websites such as Raja News, have in recent days tried to distort the truth by innacurately translating quotes that lead readers to believe Mousavi had already received $50 million from the PA to launch his radio station and that it was done deal. While little needs to be said about the ridiculousness of such so-called "reports," even an investigation by the British Guardian recently established that no such transaction was ever made.

Supreme Commander, Leader's Representative and IRGC PR Are Cited

Rooz | Jan 30

In recent years, and particularly since the disputed June 2009 presidential elections in Iran, commanders of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have regularly appeared in the media and accused many political personalities, civil activists, and media professionals of engaging in "sedition" activities against the state, trying to overthrow the regime, and even having relations with foreigners -- a term implying being foreign spies -- because of their criticism of the current administration and also their protests over the official announcement of the 2009 presidential elections. But in its latest statement, the public relations office of the IRGC announced that, "The official position of the IRGC will be announced only by the supreme commander (of the IRGC), the representative of the supreme leader and the PR office of the force."

In remarks that were posted on the IRGC website and official news agencies of the Islamic republic, Guards commander General Ramezan Sharif said, "Based on existing directives and criteria in the armed forces and IRGC policies, only what is said and published by the supreme commander, the representative of the supreme leader and the public relations office of the IRGC through its statements, news, interviews or reports, shall be the official positions of this institution." He specifically reiterated that what "other commanders and officials of the Guards announce about various issues and subjects are not necessarily the official position of the force." But he also further added that, "force commanders and organization authorities and those whose responsibilities have been announced by the supreme leader and the supreme commander also shall engage in reporting on their performance within the realm of their responsibilities."

[E]ver since the June 2009 presidential elections IRGC commanders have widely expressed their support for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad through the official media, despite the specific ban on such activity in the charter of the force and also the directive of ayatollah Khomeini who had said that "the Guards should not engage in political affairs."

Iran Issues 4 Death Sentences in Chabahar Explosion Case

Radio Zamaneh | Jan 30

Four individuals arrested in connection with the explosions in Chabahar last year in southwestern Iran were handed the death sentence by Zahedan Revolutionary court.

Zahedan prosecutor told ISNA that the preliminary sentences of these detainees were sent to Tehran for confirmation and that about 20 people were arrested in connection with the deadly explosions in Chabahar in December.

A suicide bomber caused an explosion in Chabahar in December during a public procession causing the death of 39 and many more injuries. The authorities announced that three people were involved in the attack and while one was killed by the explosion, the other two were arrested.

Jundollah organization claimed responsibility for this attack following the explosion.

Five days after the explosion in Chabahar, Iran executed 11 "supporters and connections" of Jundollah at Zahedan Prison for charges of "enmity against God, corruption of the earth and antagonism with the regime."

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Death Crimes by Islamic Republic of Iran Spark Protests in Afghanistan

Persian2English | Jan 29

Around a thousand protesters took to the streets of three main Afghanistan cities on Saturday to protest against the alleged execution of Afghan citizens by Iran.

The biggest rally was in western Herat, Afghanistan's second city, where about a thousand people marched in the centre of town carrying banners with anti-Iran slogans, an AFP correspondent said.

More than a hundred people gathered in the capital Kabul, while there was also a demonstration in Mazar-e-Sharif, the main city in the country's north.

The protesters, chanting death slogans to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called for an end to the executions of Afghans as well as Iranians by Tehran.

Azeri Silence on MKO Questioned

Iran Daily | Jan 31

Three days after Azerbaijan's ANS TV reported that the banned Mujahideen Khalq Organization (MKO) is active in that country, the foreign ministry in Baku has strangely remained silent about the development.

The TV Network, which has close ties to that country's National Security Ministry, on Tuesday interviewed several MKO members. The group is responsible for killing and maiming hundreds of Iranian officials and innocent civilians.

In the report two MKO agents, Shokrollah Mottahamin and Hamid Kharrazi said they have lived in the neighboring republic for nine and two and a half years respectively with the help of their Azeri friends. Previously, Nasim Online had said two MKO members in Baku had bought a supermarket and used the place as a cover for secret meetings between the group and fugitive supporters of Pan-Turkism.

There have been reports that in addition to the MKO, other terrorist groups such as Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDK) and PEJAK (Free Life Party of Kurdistan) are in Azerbaijan.

Western Concerns Misplaced

Iran Daily | Jan 31

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Saturday the West's concerns about Turkey's role in Iran's talks with G5+1 and the expansion of his country's ties with Iran are more indicative of some psychological problem.

In a talk with France 24 TV, regarding the Western sensitivities toward Turkey-Iran ties, Gul said there is simply no reason for such misgivings.

"For example, look at our relations with Iran. Our exports to Iran are more than what France or Germany sell to that country. There is no problem when these countries export to Iran.... But problems arise when we export to Iran! This is more like a psychological problem," Fars News Agency quoted him as saying.

Asked about America's reservations about Turkey joining the nuclear talks, the Turkish leader said, "This is among the complicated problems we face.... It is not expected that this problem be settled by the wink of an eye. Turkey is trying to help. We have the ability to do so."

Saudi Uneasy about Sanctions on Iran

Gulf News | Jan 29

Saudi Arabia is uneasy about the current sanctions programme on Iran, and fears that it will not work. Instead, the Saudis would like a renewed focus on a plan for a nuclear-free Middle East, which would have the benefit of targeting all states in the region with nuclear weapons, including Israel.

This plan for a nuclear free Middle East was outlined by Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, a former Director of Saudi Intelligence and former Ambassador to the UK and the US, speaking in an Al Arabiya debate held at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

But Richard Hass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, and former official in the Bush administration, criticized the Saudi plan as being far too slow, and he was not hopeful that the plan would work.

"The technology is going a lot faster that any diplomacy. Iran will be able to have weapons long before any diplomacy has a chance to work. The time lines are quite short," said Haas.

Haas saw no future in diplomacy. "Iran sees diplomacy as simply tactics. The P5 plus 1 will not work. The Turkey-Brazil initiative will not work. Iran is not sincere in its talks. Therefore only sanctions will work, and it they do not we will face a binary choice: to live with a nuclear Iran or to go to the military option."

"Force is a serious option," he continued. "Any action would not follow the Iraq and Afghanistan [models], but instead would use naval and air force action to attack Iran's nuclear installations. This is costly and risky, but so is living with a nuclear Iran."

Iran to Open Biggest Oil Refinery in ME

Tehran Times | Jan 30

Iran will open Middle East's largest oil refinery, the Shazand, in the next few days.

The project will come on stream at the cost of $3.5 billion in the central Iranian city of Arak, the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network reported.

Abadan oil refinery's gasoline production unit will also be inaugurated in the next few days.

The unit was completed at the cost of one billion dollars and would add over one million barrels to the country's daily gasoline production capacity.

Once the first phase of the Shazand oil refinery's development plan come on stream, some 2 million barrels per day would be added to the country's gasoline production capacity, while by completion of the remaining phases of the refinery, the nation's gasoline production capacity would be raised by 16 million barrels per day.

Iran Arrests 'Hundreds' in Suspected Scam: Reports

AFP | Jan 30

Iranian police have arrested hundreds of people allegedly involved in running a pyramid scheme in an operation in the west of the capital, media reports said on Sunday.

"Today in a simultaneous operation more than 50 offices of a pyramid scheme company have been sealed and so far 425 people have been arrested," the state broadcaster's website quoted police Colonel Mohammadi as saying, giving only his last name.

Last year, the intelligence ministry listed a number of pyramid scheme firms it said were operating in Iran and that were on a ministry target list.

Mehr news agency reported that 1,000 people were arrested in Sunday's police operation.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

The Failure of Quiet Diplomacy: Getting Away with Murder in Iran

Kamran Ashtary, Cofounder of Arseh Sevom (DutchNews.nl) | Jan 30

The execution of Dutch-Iranian citizen Zahra Bahrami, is clear evidence of the failure of quiet diplomacy by the Dutch government.

The protection of human rights and quiet diplomacy do not have have any thing in common. Human rights organizations focusing on Iran have long been saying that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran pressures individuals and governments to keep quiet. When governments use quiet diplomacy to try and negotiate with the IRI they are falling into a trap. This is not a call for an end to diplomacy. The point is that the time is long overdue to make some noise. Human Rights organizations and defenders have been saying this for years.

In the words of a human rights specialist who was once stationed in a Western embassy in Tehran, "I have always asked myself if quiet diplomacy helps with Iran. At this point it is obvious that there can be no quiet diplomacy with the current government. The only thing I can recommend is that all governments and all media start paying attention to and condemning the human rights violations in Iran. Unfortunately, no one is paying attention, and Iran is just getting away with murder."

On Saturday, January 29, the Dutch citizen, Zahra Bahrami was executed despite the fact that the foreign ministry in the Netherlands was told that the judicial process was not yet completed. This is not the first time that human rights violators have used false accusations of drug smuggling to execute and hold (non) political activists. The actions of the government of the Netherlands to freeze business ties and diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran is a good first step, but should not be the last.

Iran's Weapons Smuggling Ring

Con Coughlin, Executive Foreign Editor of the Daily Telegraph (Wall Street Journal) | Jan 30

Tehran will face renewed international pressure over its involvement in arms smuggling when a trial scheduled to start today in Nigeria is set to reveal details of a botched Iranian operation to supply weapons to guerrillas in West Africa.

Under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1747, which was passed in 2007, Iran is banned from the purchase or export of weapons. But a detailed investigation by Western intelligence officials following the seizure of weapons at the Nigerian port of Apapa last October has exposed a well-coordinated plot by Iran's Revolutionary Guards to supply a number of Islamic rebel groups in West Africa. These include Muslim militants in northern Nigeria and other militias battling the government in Lagos for a bigger share of the lucrative oil revenues from the Niger delta.

A key defendant in the trial will be Azim Aghajani, an Iranian national who has been identified by intelligence officials as a senior officer of the Qods Force, Iran's Revolutionary Guards unit responsible for supporting overseas Islamist militant groups. He was one of two Iranians who sought sanctuary at the Iranian embassy in Abuja immediately following the seizure of the weapons, which was triggered by a tip-off from the CIA.

The other Iranian was identified as Ali Akbar Tabatabaei, who is described by Western intelligence sources as the commander of Qods Force operations in Africa. He managed to escape to Tehran following an emergency visit to Abuja in November by Manoucher Mottaki, who was then serving as Iran's foreign minister. Intelligence officials believe that the Iranian regime has now sent Tabatabaei to Venezuela to command Qods Force operations in Latin America.

Deep Traumas, Fresh Ambitions: Legacies of the Iran-Iraq War

Joost Hiltermann, Deputy Program Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group (Middle East Report) | Jan

The seeds of future war are sown even as parties fight and, depleted or on the verge of defeat, sue for peace. The outcome is rarely stable and may be barely tolerable to one side or the other. This rule holds true for the two belligerents no less than for their respective sponsors, keen to protect their strategic interests. Ambitions thwarted are merely delayed, not abandoned; new traumas incurred are entered into the ledger for the settlement of what is hoped one day will be the final bill.

The eight-year war between Iran and Iraq (1980-1988) was no different in this respect. Opportunistic in conception, clumsy but unrelentingly lethal in execution and horrific in its accumulating human toll, its result left both parties more or less where they started territorially -- a pointless war fought by two regimes intent on their own survival while largely unaccountable to their publics. At war's end, there was no peace treaty but merely an armistice, an acknowledgment of the law of diminishing returns and of mutual exhaustion, not evidence of conflicts resolved or emotions calmed.

Like any war, this conflict, too, had its enablers and exploiters, its funders and suppliers, as well as its anxious observers fearing adverse consequences for themselves. All shut their eyes in tacit unison as one atrocity followed another, feigning shock and surprise when intrepid reporters managed to navigate either one of the countries' paranoid, closed and repressive security systems to reveal some of the battlefield's worst horrors. The journalists' efforts were rewarded invariably with global indifference. There were perfunctory condemnations by the UN, which, when it either could not or would not identify the culprit of the latest outrage (as was the case especially with chemical attacks), cast a plague on the houses of both adversaries.

Hundreds of thousands of casualties later, this senseless war continues to reverberate today and indeed continues to be fought, but in a different guise. Its legacies are only now starting to articulate themselves against the backdrop of a region profoundly shaken by the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the neo-conservative pioneering that followed. They are the unintended consequences of a war that should never have been started, or encouraged, or allowed to drag on for eight long years.

DOCUMENTS & DECLARATIONS

New Egyptian Vice President: 'We Have Started a Confrontation with Iran'

Cable from U.S. Embassy, Cairo, Egypt, to U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. (WikiLeaks via Guardian) | Apr 30, 2009

Thursday, 30 April 2009, 15:00
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000746
NOFORN
SIPDIS
EO 12958 DECL: 04/26/2019
TAGS PREL, MASS, MOPS, PARM, KPAL, IS, IR, SO, EG, SU
SUBJECT: ADMIRAL MULLEN'S MEETING WITH EGIS CHIEF SOLIMAN
Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey per 1.4 (b) and (d).

Summary

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen told by Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Soliman that his overarching goal was combating radicalism in Gaza, Iran, and Sudan. Soliman warns that Iran 'must pay a price' for its actions. Key passage highlighted in yellow.

1. Key Points:

- (S/NF) During an April 21 meeting with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, Egyptian General Intelligence Service Chief Omar Soliman explained that his overarching regional goal was combating radicalism, especially in Gaza, Iran, and Sudan.

- (S/NF) On Gaza, Soliman said Egypt must "confront" Iranian attempts to smuggle arms to Gaza and "stop" arms smuggling through Egyptian territory.

- (S/NF) Soliman shared his vision on Palestinian reconciliation and bringing the Palestinian Authority back to Gaza, saying "a Gaza in the hands of radicals will never be calm."

- (S/NF) On Iran, Soliman said Egypt was "succeeding" in preventing Iran from funneling financial support to Hamas through Egypt. Soliman hoped that the U.S. could encourage Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and stop interfering in regional affairs, but cautioned that Iran "must pay a price" for its actions.

- (S/NF) Egypt is "very concerned" with stability in Sudan, Soliman said, and was focusing efforts on convincing the Chadean and Sudanese presidents to stop supporting each others' insurgencies, supporting negotiations between factions in Darfur, and implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). "Egypt does not want a divided Sudan," Soliman stressed.

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Gaza
----

2. (S/NF) Soliman said radicalism was the "backbone" of regional security threats, adding that radicalism in Gaza posed a particularly serious threat to Egyptian national security. Soliman said Egypt must "confront" Iranian attempts to smuggle arms to Gaza and stop arms smuggling through Egyptian territory. "Egypt is circled by radicalism," he continued, expressing concern over instability in Sudan and Somalia as well. Egypt's own successful campaign against radicalism in the 1990s provided a useful lesson in how to counteract extremist groups by reducing their ability to operate and raise funds, in additional to educating people on the dangers of extremism. Soliman noted that only the Muslim Brotherhood remained and the Egyptian government continued to "make it difficult" for them to operate.

3. (S/NF) "We do not want incidents like Gaza to inflame public anger," Soliman said, adding that the Gaza conflict put "moderate (Arab) regimes" in a corner. To prevent another outbreak of violence, Egypt is focusing on Palestinian reconciliation and a durable cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. On reconciliation, Soliman explained, the ultimate goal was to return the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, as "Gaza in the hands of radicals will never be calm." The problem, however, is that the PA cannot return to Gaza without Hamas' acquiescence. Soliman said the PA must return before the January 2010 Palestinian elections, or else Gazans would be afraid to vote for moderates.

4. (S/NF) Stability in Gaza also depends on giving people a more "normal" life, Soliman continued, saying Israel must be convinced to regularly open the border crossings for legitimate commercial activity. The current system - where Egypt informs Israel of a humanitarian shipment and Israel waits two days before accepting or rejecting the shipment for transfer to Gaza - does not adequately meet people's needs.

5. (S/NF) On Palestinian reconciliation, Soliman said he expected the factions to return to Egypt on April 26 to discuss his proposal on establishing a high committee comprised of the various factions. The committee would be responsible for preparing for the January 2010 elections, monitoring reconstruction, and reforming the security services in Gaza. On reconstruction, the committee would issue licenses for companies eligible to participate on projects, but the PA would decide who receives the money for private and government contracts. Arab governments would assist with reforming the security services and could base security assistance out of Egypt. Soliman doubted that Hamas would agree to the high committee, but said it was important to keep Hamas and Fatah talking, so they would not resort to violence.

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Iran, Counter Smuggling
-----------------------

6. (S/NF) Iran is "very active in Egypt," Soliman said. Iranian financial support to Hamas amounted to $25 million a month, but he said Egypt was "succeeding" in preventing financial support from entering Gaza through Egypt. Iran has tried several times to pay the salaries for the al-Qassam Battalions, but Egypt had succeeded in preventing the money from reaching Gaza. Soliman said the Egyptian government had arrested a "big Hezbollah cell," which was Hezbollah's first attempt to stand up a cell within Egypt. Iran was also trying to recruit support from the Sinai Bedouins, he claimed, in order to facilitate arms smuggling to Gaza. So far, he continued, Egypt had successfully stopped Hamas from rearming. Soliman noted that in six months, MOD will have completed the construction of a subterranean steel wall along the Egypt-Gaza border to prevent smuggling. He warned, however, that people will find an alternative to the tunnels to smuggle arms, goods, people, and money. Admiral Mullen expressed appreciation for Egypt's efforts to combat smuggling, adding that he hoped Egypt felt comfortable enough to ask for additional border security assistance at any time.

7. (S/NF) Egypt has "started a confrontation with Hezbollah and Iran," Soliman stressed, and "we will not allow Iran to operate in Egypt." Soliman said Egypt had sent a clear message to Iran that if they interfere in Egypt, Egypt will interfere in Iran, adding that EGIS had already begun recruiting agents in Iraq and Syria. Soliman hoped the U.S. would "not walk the same track as the Europeans" in regards to negotiating with Iran and warned against only focusing on one issue at time, like Iran's nuclear weapons program. Iran must "pay the price" for its actions and not be allowed to interfere in regional affairs. "If you want Egypt to cooperate with you on Iran, we will," Soliman added, "it would take a big burden off our shoulders."

We Stand In Solidarity with Tunisian Women

Statement by Iranian Women's Rights Activists (Change for Equality) | Jan 30

On Saturday 29th of January there was a big demonstration arranged by independent women's rights organizations in Tunisia.

Due to this occasion 155 Iranian women's rights activists in a letter showed their solidarity with the Tunisian women and their struggles to preserve their achievements with respect to women's rights.

The letter is as follows:

The world was taken by surprise at the show of will of the Tunisian people, who stood for their rights and took significant steps in ensuring their right to self determination. Like the rest of the world, Iranian women's rights activists are watching closely the developments in Tunisia. We as Iranian women's rights activists want to express our solidarity with the people of Tunisia, and women in particular, as they embark on an exciting, yet difficult process of building democracy and ensuring human rights and rule of law in their country. We are particularly interested and concerned with the impact of these developments on women's rights and women's equality.

We recognize that Tunisian women's rights activists have not forgotten their struggle and their major achievements for women's rights. Tunisian women's rights activists should know that what they manage to accomplish in their quest for democracy and the equality of women will significantly impact the region and serve as a model for us all. Today, a gain for the women of Tunisia is a gain for all the nations in the region and for all women in Islamic countries.

So today, like the people of Tunisia, we harbor much hope. We hope that key actors will not compromise on women's rights, and that women are involved fully in the process of defining the future of a democratic Tunisia. We hope that Tunisian citizens will not only safeguard their achievements with respect to women's rights, but take steps to ensure the full equality of women under the law, and their equal participation in civic and political life. We hope that the achievements of the Tunisian people will work to inspire all the nations and peoples of our region to take concrete steps toward ensuring the rule of the people by the people, the protection of the rights of women and the equality of all citizens.

Iran's Chief Nuclear Negotiator: 'As Soon as the First Fuel Rod Is Ready, There Is No Justification for Further Negotiations'

Interview with Ali Asghar Soltanieh by Sergei Strokan (Red Line/Voice of Russia) | Jan 28

The first question is about the purpose of your visit to Moscow ahead of talks between the group of six and Tehran. Why did you choose Russia and not any other member of the group? We know that it was initiated by the Iranian side, so what was your message?The first question is about the purpose of your visit to Moscow ahead of talks between the group of six and Tehran. Why did you choose Russia and not any other member of the group? We know that it was initiated by the Iranian side, so what was your message?

We consider Russia a country playing an important role on the international arena. And we do have friendly relations with Russia, so expectations are high and we consider the fact that there is an absolute necessity of raising public awareness of all factual situations about Iran's nuclear activities and Iran's nuclear policy. We thought this would be very useful to have the possibility for getting first-hand information, bearing in mind the opportunity to intellectuals, writers and think-tanks, which would be able to explain to the decision-makers and the media, so that real information would be revealed to Russia and the whole world. That's why I was interviewed by Russia Today. Therefore, I expect that Russia Today in English would also reveal it to the whole world what the other side of the coin is. You might have seen only the one side and you will judge it for yourself.

Did I get you right that the primary purpose of your visit to Moscow is to inform the Russian publicity about what the situation around the Iranian nuclear program really is?

Public opinion, scientists and scholars. But I haven't met with officials. I have a good and continuous sort of interaction with your ambassador in Vienna, but I though this is the time for the Russian public to find out everything.

Does your visit indicate the special privileged relations between Moscow and Tehran?

Yes, that is the case in fact. Russia's involvement in the Bushehr power plant project, which Germany had not finished and which is going to give electricity soon, provides a very positive image of Russia as a reliable partner for nuclear cooperation in the future as well.

Mr. Soltanieh, the main stumbling block in Iranian dealings with the international community is the issue of uranium enrichment up to 20 percent. Recently, the Iranian side made it clear that despite sanctions and any pressure, Iran will go ahead with enriching uranium. Can we expect that Tehran will once give up this policy and impose a moratorium on it? If yes, what are the terms for this?

Let me tell you very simply: we have repeatedly said that all nuclear and enrichment activities are under fullest control of the IAEA. In 2003, we voluntarily suspended enrichment activities for two and a half years following an associated request from the three EU countries - the UK, France and Germany. But we found out that they wanted the complete cessation of all nuclear activities. And two and a half years later, they expanded the suspension to almost total cessation. And then we thought it was enough and our parliament said we are not going to suspend enrichment any more. WE continued, but under the IAEA control. But regarding the 20 percent, this is something different. We wanted to give an opportunity to other suppliers to provide fuel for the Tehran nuclear reactor. That is why I officially wrote a letter to IAEA Director General Mohamed el Baradei and asked for fuel. In October 2009, Russia, France and the US held talks. Although normally they pay and get fuel through the IEAE, this time, unfortunately, they put a condition that we should pay for it and that we should also give a nuclear uranium equivalent to the supplier. We suggested checking this material in Iran under IEAE control and then, as soon as the fuel is ready, sending it from Russia to France to exchange them. But this issue wasn't ever negotiated again. Then, Brazil and Turkey had a very honest and sincere initiative and we accepted it as a big compromise - to send 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium produced in Iran to turkey and then get the material. But this proposal was not yet implemented. We had to continue with the 20 percent in order to produce fuel for our own. What I want to tell you here again is that the Tehran declaration is on the table. We are still ready to send 1,200 kilograms of material abroad. The sooner this happens, the quicker the situation will change. But, if they do not use of waste time, it will be a great disadvantage, because we do not technically need to until all the 1,200 kilograms are ready up to 20 percent. Now we have some 40 kilograms for use. As soon as the first fuel rod is ready and we put it into the core of the reactor, then there is no justification for further negotiations between the US, Russia and France in Vienna. That opportunity of new diplomacy and cooperation will be lost forever. Therefore, I advice them to come back as soon as possible to the Vienna negotiations table

Can we say that if Iran gets international guarantees of stable uranium fuel shipments, it will change its stand concerning enrichment?

We don't trust this because of the past experience. America's got $2 million for the fuel for the Tehran reactor before the revolution; that fuel was ready to be shipped but we got neither fuel nor money. Almost the same with France.

But maybe you trust Russia?

Unfortunately, in the last project Russia said no and said it needed France also. Russian wants to give this material to France and then to us. France has 50 tons of our natural uranium but did not deliver it to Iran. France is not giving natural uranium, so how can we believe that it will give us 20 percent uranium? The whole world should know what happened. I was ambassador to Vienna and saw debates on creating an international document to guarantee fuel supplies to Iran. Seven years of negotiations failed. Therefore, there are no legally binding instruments that can give us international guarantees. And even for the Bushehr power plant we have only received the first fuel load. After a year we don't have any contract as yet. I want to say that we are now facing a historical deadlock as to the Security Council in New York. It is a crisis of legitimacy of the Security Council. Its resolutions have no legal basis. I've already said that there are four reasons for this and we will not implement them because they are not implementable.

Mr. Soltanieh, you are a professional diplomat and you know that of course there are some UN Security Council's resolutions that may be to the liking. Maybe they are imperfect, but people have not yet worked out other internationally binding legal mechanisms to solve this issue. Resolutions of the Security Council should be respected.

Those who wrote these resolutions are mainly western counties. They made a mistake. They wrote something contradictory to the statute of the IAEA and there is no legality for it therefore. They should be courageous enough to come and tell the whole world "look, we've made a mistake, the language of the resolution is wrong and we will now cooperate."

Mr. Soltanieh, I want to ask you another question regarding the recent trip of ambassadors to visit your nuclear facilities. Why didn't you invite American diplomats -- the most outspoken critics of you?

Did you appreciate that we invited others apart from the members of the non-alignment movement and G77? We invited Russia and China, the EU. I also sent invitations to two exceptional diplomats -- the ambassador of Hungary, which now chairs the EU, and a representative of Madam Ashton. I invited everybody in the whole world.

Why were America, Britain, Germany and France not on the list?

Britain, Germany and France are members of the EU.

America is not an EU member.

I invited Mrs. Ashton and she is a representative of 5 plus one group. She may be called a representative of the whole world. We gave them a clear message that everything is transparent in Iran.

One more question, Mr. Soltanieh. You have a positive cooperation experience with Russia concerning the Bushehr power plant. We know there were some statements by the Iranian side that you may build more plants. What are Russian chances for winning tenders? What are the prospects for our cooperation?

A very good question. According to the decision by our parliament, we are embarking 20,000 megawatts -- twenty times Bushehr. We are going to create another 20 plants and we welcome all potential suppliers to conclude a contract. If Russia joins the project, it will have more priority because of the trust based on the Bushehr experience.

I would like to ask you a very sensitive question and you may refuse to answer it. To what extent did the image of Russia change after it supported UN resolutions and gave up the idea of selling S-300 missiles to Iran?

That was very disappointing.

But you still consider Russia to be a partner?

We have good friendly relations with Russia and hope they will be improved. We count on better future, particularly in the sphere of nuclear energy.

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