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Report: Sealed Lebanon Assassination Indictment Points to Iran Regime

18 Jan 2011 14:43Comments

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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UN Prosecutor Files Indictment in Killing of Lebanon's Ex-Premier Hariri

Bloomberg | Jan 18

The United Nations prosecutor investigating the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri filed his indictment after tensions over the probe brought down the country's government last week.

Daniel Bellemare sent the document yesterday to the pretrial judge, Daniel Fransen, without revealing who is being charged. The details will remain "confidential" until they are assessed, according to an e-mailed statement from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was created in 2007 to probe the killing of Hariri by a roadside bomb two years earlier.

The judge will review the indictment and then consult with the appeals chamber before finalizing the charges, a process that's likely to take "at least six to 10 weeks," court spokesman Crispin Thorold said.

Hariri Tribunal to Indict Iran, Hezbollah: Reports

Al Arabiya | Jan 17

French media reported Sunday that the International Lebanon Tribunal will charge Iran and Hezbollah with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri while former Iranian president Abol Hassan Bani Sadr said Iran is expected to liquidate Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah when the report comes out.

The Islamic Revolution, an Iranian opposition newspaper known for its close ties to former Iranian president Abol Hassan Bani Sadr published an article about a French radio report stating that General Qassem Suleimani, head of the Iran's Quds Brigade, affiliated to the elite Revolutionary Guards ordered the late Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh to carry out the assassination of Hariri in 2005.

Mughniyeh was killed in 2008 in the Syrian capital Damascus and both Iran and Hezbollah accused the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad of assasinating him.

According to the French report, the assassination of Hariri was assigned to both Mughniyeh and one of his relatives called Mustafa Badr al-Din and the operation was carried out through full coordination between Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards.

Q+A: The Next Steps in Lebanon's Road to Justice

Reuters | Jan 17

Why Was the Draft Indictment Secret?

The pre-trial judge's review of an indictment is a confidential process, due primarily to the stigma attached to a criminal charge. It is considered important that an accused is only identified when the charges are confirmed.

A warrant of arrest might also be served when the indictment is confirmed. The Lebanon tribunal has said experience at other international tribunals shows that successful execution of a warrant is enhanced if the filing is under seal.

Who Can Be Indicted?

The tribunal, like other international criminal courts, can only prosecute individuals and not groups, organizations or states.

Trial in Absentia?

Trials in absentia are possible under three sets of circumstances: when the accused has waived his or her right to be present, has not been handed over to the tribunal by state authorities or has fled and cannot be found.

See also: "Factbox: Lebanon Tribunal -- The World's First Terrorism Court" (Reuters) | "Key Events Leading Up to Issuance of Tribunal Indictments" (Daily Star)

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Hariri Court Signifies U.S. Soft War: IRGC General

Tehran Times | Jan 18

IRGC Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri has said the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) signifies the U.S. soft war against Lebanon.

The STL is investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

On Wednesday, 11 ministers of the March 8 Alliance, whose main parties are Hezbollah, Amal, and the Free Patriotic Movement, quit the Lebanese cabinet over tensions arising from the SLT and the indictment expected to be released soon.

Hezbollah has called the SLT an "Israeli project".

Talking to the Mehr News Agency in an interview published on Monday, Jazayeri said, "The U.S. is aware that it cannot rival the heroic Hezbollah."

Therefore, the U.S. is doing everything in its power to create instability in Lebanon, Jazayeri noted.

The general said the Zionist regime's defeats in military confrontations with Hezbollah and Hamas coupled with the "strategic" failures of the United States -- as the main ally of Israel -- in Iraq and Afghanistan have compelled Tel Aviv and Washington to resort to soft war against the Lebanese.

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Iran's Nuclear Negotiator Says U.S. Involved in Cyberattack

NBC News | Jan 17

Telegraphing Iran's negotiating stance entering key talks about its nuclear program in Turkey later this week, Tehran's chief negotiator is charging that the United States was involved in a cyberattack that he said disrupted a peaceful program aimed at creating nuclear energy, not weapons.

In an exclusive interview with Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, this week in Tehran, Saed Jalilli said that Iran's investigation has determined that the U.S. was involved in the cyberattack using the Stuxnet computer worm, a virus which targeted centrifuges used to enrich uranium as part of Iran's nuclear program.

"I have witnessed some documents that show...their satisfaction in that (the U.S. was involved)," he said.

Jalilli indicated, however, that the cyberattack was not as successful as some media accounts have portrayed it.

"Those who have done that could see now that they were not successful in that and we are following our success," he said.

OTHER NEWS

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Karroubi Hits Back at the Regime: "We Will Surpass These Hardships"

Saham News (via Enduring America) | Jan 17

Mehdi Karroubi has responded to the regime's continuing charges of "sedition":

In the past years, they used to excuse their inefficiencies and failures by referring to the corrupt regime of Shah. Now they have pretexts such as the conspiracies by United States and Israel to cover their violations, mistakes, and ineffectiveness. They constantly use phrases like "soft" war, combatant [against God], the "fifth pillar" [spy],...corruption, and traitor in their speeches.

Karroubi took specific aim at the statements of Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council: "When I hear his remarks, I remember the Shah's remarks. Instead of wearing a crown, he has a turban on his head."

Karroubi continued, "Actions of people matter. Turban or crown, or suit or cassock, is not the criterion. At least the Shah was not using people's religion for his remarks but unfortunately he [Jannati] is giving orders as a clergymen and from the podium of Friday Prayer. Is this how they wanted to serve people by changing the corrupt regime to the Islamic Republic?"

Karroubi then pursued his list of charges against the regime:

It is the performance and management of the past 20 years (since the passing of Ayatollah Khomeini) that has brought the county's situation to this point. Unfortunately, these gentlemen thought they can rule the county by establishing a security atmosphere in the society, closing down newspapers, imprisoning students and reporters, forcing professors to retire, imprisoning political, social, and human rights activists, and bringing armed forces into elections and the political scene of the country.

Afghan Businessmen Halt Business with Iran to Protest Fuel Blockade

Canadian Press | Jan 18

Afghan businessmen have vowed to stop doing business with neighbouring Iran until it stops blocking thousands of fuel trucks from crossing into Afghanistan.

The Afghan Chamber of Commerce issued a resolution on Tuesday protesting the blockade, which has caused fuel prices to spike.

The blockade has prompted protests in Kabul and in Herat province, which borders Iran.

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Iran Releases Mehregan and Khandan on Bail

Radio Zamaneh | Jan 18

Iran released Keyvan Mehregan, the political editor of Shargh newspaper and Reza Khandan, husband of jailed human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh yesterday evening.

The release of Keyvan Mehregan, the last of the Shargh newspaper crew who was still in prison after the arrest of six editors and reporters linked to the reformist newspaper in December, was reported on Mizan Khabar. Mehregan's bail was set at $10,000 and the prosecutor of Tehran had said earlier the Shargh newspaper detainees were facing security charges.

Feminist School website reported the release of Reza Khandan. Accoridng to the report, Khandan had been summoned to the Evin Prison court on Sunday to face charges of "disturbing public perception and publishing falsehoods."

The judge set up a $50,000 bail for him but once his sister-in-law, Guiti Sotoudeh offered to put up the bail, the judge refused her as the bail guarantor. On Monday, after finding another guarantor, Khandan was finally released from custody.

Khandan's wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is a prominent Iranian lawyer with a practice mainly focused on human rights cases, has been incarcerated since last September charged with threatening national security and propagation against the regime. She is also facing the charge of "not wearing hijab (Mislim covering) in a recorded video message.

She was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison and 20 years ban from law practice and travel abroad.

Khandan, who has been very vocal in informing the media about the situation of his wife, was arrested after Sotoudeh was handed her sentence.

According to Iran Green Voice, Fariborz Rais Dana, was also released on Monday on a $30,000 bail.

Rais Dana, a prominent Iranain economist who has criticized the government's plan to cut public subsidies on energy and food staples, was arrested in December at the threshold of implementation of this project.

See also: "Regime Taking Revenge on Prisoners' Families" (Rooz)

Iran's Nuclear Tour Fails to Live Up to Expectations

insideIRAN | Jan 17

Articles in the Islamic Republic's state-owned or affiliated press agencies assert that representatives of no fewer than 120 countries participated in Iran's January 15 and 16 tour of two nuclear facilities. However, in spite of Tehran's claim, direct representatives and diplomats numbered far fewer than the figures provided by Iran would indicate. Tehran intended the tour as a publicity maneuver indicating their supposed transparency and accountability in the nuclear program; critics accused Iran of using the tours as a propaganda tool and stalling tactic.

The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the primary official news agency of Iran's government, maintains that a majority of the world's nations were represented during the much-publicized tour provided by Iran of the nuclear facilities near Arak and Natanz. Unusually, however, IRNA failed to mention any single country by name in their primary article on the tours, saying only that representatives of the Arab League and the Group of 77 were present. Additionally, the article uses vague and circuitous terminology in Farsi, repeatedly saying "representatives of 120 nations attended" rather than "representatives from 120 nations attended," for example.

In other coverage the number of nations specifically listed was quite small. Mehr News, a semi-official news agency, explicitly lists ambassadors to the International Atomic Energy Agency from Egypt, Cuba, Syria, Algeria, Venezuela, and Oman, and makes no mention of other nations. Official state photographs of the meetings following the tour show less than ten foreign diplomats despite publishing 22 pictures.

Sanctions Hurt Iran, But Compromise Unlikely: Report

Reuters | Jan 17

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's management of Iran's economy has been a "disaster" and sanctions are making matters worse, a report said on Monday, but Tehran is still unlikely to compromise on its nuclear program.

Iran is due to hold a second round of talks with six major powers over its disputed nuclear activities in Istanbul on January 21-22 following U.N., U.S., and EU sanctions imposed last year that target oil and gas sectors vital to the Iranian economy.

But Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful figure in Iran, are unlikely to be swayed, wrote Jonathan Paris in a report for the Legatum Institute, a London-based think-tank backed by the Legatum investment group.

"The reality is that even if the economy is hurting, it has a very small place in the calculus of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. Unless the severity of the sanctions dramatically escalates, it is unlikely that Iranian leaders will see the sanctions as a domestic threat to their survival in power," he said.

"Enormous pressure is required to lead them to compromise on the nuclear program."

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Student Activist Pouria Mousavi Detained

RAHANA | Jan 17

Student activist Pouria Mousavi who is also the head of the publicity unit of the Ayeen Magazine and a member of the Islamic Front of Iran, was arrested.

The security forces raided his father's house, and arrested him after confiscating his personal belongings such as his computer and searching the house.

The authorities failed to show a warrant and only stated that they already have a judicial warrant.

There is no information as to his whereabouts.

He was also a member of Mousavi's campaign.

Four Student Activists Fined and Sentenced to Prison in the Province of Golestan

RAHANA | Jan 17

The appeals court has sentenced four Mousavi Campaign student activists to prison and payment of fine.

The appeals court of the Province of Golestan has issued its decision on the prison sentence of 4 student activists. Mobin Mirarab has received a 2 year prison sentence and Alireza Rahnamayee and Hossein Matloubi have each received a 4 month prison term. They have also been fined. Moreover, Saman Bozorgi has been sentenced to 91 days in prison.

They had previously been detained for 10 days and have been convicted of acting against national security and anti-regime propaganda.

The lower court had sentenced Mirarab to 4 years, Matloubi to 18 months, Rahnamayee to 15 months and Bozorgi to 1 year of imprisonment.

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Jailed Student Activist Arash Sadeghi in Critical Condition

RAHANA | Jan 17

Arash Sadeghi, a student activist at Allameh Tabatabaei University, is suffering from illness and is in need of medical attention.

After multiple arrests and several interrogation sessions, Sadeghi has been sentenced to 5 years in prison and 3 years of suspended imprisonment.

According to RAHANA, he was held in the IRGC run Ward 2A after his arrest following the disputed presidential elections and had been tortured.

He has been under pressure by the interrogators in order to make false televised confessions such as confessing to membership in PMOI. He refused to confess and was thrown out of a car unconscious in Eastern Tehran after being tortured and enduring 50 days of solitary confinement. He went on a hunger strike for 14 days in order to protest the torture he had been under. He was later transferred to the General Ward. He has been suffering from stomach bleeding and lung infection due to the hunger strike. He has been tortured to the extent that he is unable to stand according to his cellmates. There is also a high chance that he has lost the use of his right shoulder. He is suffering from depression and psychological problems due to prison conditions. Yet, he has not received any medical attention.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Iran's Dangerous Role in the Afghan War

Wahid Monawar, Former Chief of Staff of the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Former Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations in Vienna (Public Record) | Jan 17

Just as troubling is the role of Pakistan in supporting extremism and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan by allowing them sanctuaries in its territory, the Islamic Republic of Iran plays a more serious and dangerous role in Afghanistan's domestic affairs. This could eventually dictate the outcome of US engagement in Afghanistan to an invidious conclusion.

Here is why. While secrets from Wikileaks were spattered all over the media, I couldn't help but wonder: What if Iran had a Wikileaker and we could see what its embassy in Kabul was reporting about Afghanistan and US engagement there? I suppose the cable would read like this:

Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kabul, to Ministry of Foreign Affairs -- Tehran

TOP SECRET/Subject: Afghanistan today

In the name of Allah the most merciful and most compassionate

Things are going well here for Iran. Afghanistan remains a deeply politically polarized country; its leadership is incompetent, politically corrupt and resentful of America's military tactics, which is certainly helpful for our goal of proliferating sectarian divide, and helping the Taliban fight the infidels. This, of course, allows us sufficient time to pursuit our goal of acquiring nuclear weapons. But we are particularly optimistic because the Afghan government and the Americans are in constant disagreement. They point fingers at each other for all the wrong reasons.

What Stuxnet Is All About

Ralph Langner, Langner Communications (Langner.com) | Jan 10

Somewhere back in late 2007 or early 2008, operation Myrtus was given a go. Myrtus is a multi-year cyberwar campaign aiming to corrupt the Iranian uranium enrichment program up to the point where the cost for Tehran to pursue this program under tightening sanctions gets too high, or until some twist of fate, like a regime change, terminates the threat of a nuclear armed Iran. The technical way to achieve this is to significantly reduce the output of low enriched uranium by stealthy process manipulations, along with causing several hundred centrifuges to explode every now and then - all this under the radar of safety systems and process alarms in a manner that must have driven maintenance engineers in Natanz crazy.

A flaw in the attack concept was the idea that even after Stuxnet was discovered by antivirus companies, nobody would be able to figure out what it was all about. For some funny reason, the organizations with the known capability and the publicly assumed responsibility of analyzing the core attack routines -- ICS-CERT and the vendor -- either didn't do so or did not publish their results, and it looks like the attackers had bet on that. However, even after Tehran has a clue what's going on, they have little chance to protect themselves from follow-up attacks.

Myrtus is the Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) executed by a cyber superpower. Tehran should consider if it isn't outright silly to attempt withstanding this threat. In the moment when they will have cleaned up all systems, a new dropper exploiting new Windows 0day vulnerabilities will likely be underway already. Maintenance in Natanz will have an even bigger problem in figuring out whether the latest rotor cracks and poor LEU outputs are due to defect components, operator inability, or Stuxnet 2.0. The cyberwar nightmare for Tehran may have only just begun.

The Italo-German Double Game in Iran

Giulio Meotti and Benjamin Weinthal (Wall Street Journal via Iran Energy Project) | Jan 18

In 2010, Germany and Italy put themselves further on the wrong side of history. Although both countries agreed last summer to support new European Union sanctions against Iran, the latest data show that both countries have increased their trade with the Islamic Republic. As Tehran continues its illicit nuclear program, Berlin and Rome are extending a commercial life line to the regime.

Despite Chancellor Angela Merkel's repeated promises to reduce trade with the mullahs, German imports from Iran climbed to €690 million in the first 10 months of last year, surpassing by 28% the total 2009 import volume of €538 million, according to figures provided by the German Federal Statistics Office. German exports to Iran rose 5% to €3.164 billion between January and October 2010, compared to €3.013 billion during the same period in 2009.

Holger Beutel, a spokesman for the German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA), told us in early January that his office last year had approved 16 dual-use deals to Iran. Among the products that his office green-lighted, and which can be used for both civilian and military purposes, were "replacement parts for rescue helicopters, valves for a steel work, a liquid jet vacuum pump for water treatment in connection with desalinization, and protective clothing for medical production."

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