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Supreme Leader Appears to Win Intel Wrangle; Campaign to Write Mousavi

24 Apr 2011 00:30Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

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Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday.

12:30 a.m., 4 Ordibehesht/April 24 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

The confrontation between Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, along with their respective bases of support, over the resignation and reinstallation of Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi continues. In a meeting with a group of people from Fars province, Khamenei said, "The nation and the Leader always support [government officials'] working and serving the nation. But if the Leader feels that a great interest of the nation is being ignored, he will step in. So long as the Leader is living, he will not allow any deviations in the great movement of the nation toward its ideals. The Leader does not intend to interfere in the work of the government, unless an interest of the nation is ignored. In the recent issue, it was felt that a great interest of the nation is being ignored."

The office of the Supreme Leader then issued a statement harshly criticizing IRNA, Iran's official news agency. The statement accused IRNA of not reporting Khamenei's speech to the Fars group, called the ommission irresponsible, expressed regret over what IRNA had done, and after declaring that the public relations office of the Leader is the only credible source of news about him, asked the mass media not to rely on IRNA. The news agency is headed by Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a supporter of Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. Arian Manesh, chairman of the Cultural Affairs Commission of the Majles, also criticized IRNA and said that his commission will investigate the news agency. Subsequently, IRNA officially apologized to the office of the Supreme Leader. Javanfekr was quoted as saying that IRNA is at Khamenei's service. But he added that continuous criticism of the Ahmadinejad administration is meant to topple it.

Then, as if to cover up the power struggle between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, Fars, the news agency controlled by the Revolutionarty Guards' intelligence unit, published a series of interviews with various officials in which they declared that the president is totally obedient to the Supreme Leader. Kazem Sedighi, the mid-ranking cleric who is Imam of Tehran's Friday Prayers, said that in his view Ahmadinejad is a Khamenei devotee of and that firing Moslehi was not in his interest. Ali Samari, another mid-ranking cleric and a former Ahmadinejad adviser, said that the president has always been obedient. A third mid-level cleric, Mehdi Taeb, said that, as in the past, Ahmadinejad will be a good emulator of Khamenei.

Hossein Mamdouhi, representative of Fars province in the Assembly of experts, said that Ahmadinejad has never opposed any decision by Khamenei and has always obeyed his orders. Hassan Ebrahimi, member of the central committee of the conservative Society of Militant Clergy of Tehran said that Ahmadinejad's acceptance of Moslehi continuing as intelligence minister indicates that he is an obedient follower of Khamenei. Mohammad Nabi Habibi, secretary-general of the conservative, pro-Khamenei Islamic Coalition Party, said that Ahmadinejad's actions demonstrate that he believes in Velaayat-e Faghih (guardianship of the Islamic jurist, the Supreme Leader). A letter to the president by 11 branches of the Society of Muslim Students, the conservative university student organization, declared that he is at the forefront of the army of Velaayat-e Faghih and his work "disappoints the enemies." Moslehi himself was reported as saying that he considers Ahmadinejad to be pious and revolutionary.

But criticism of Ahmadinejad and his inner circle continued, as well. Gholam-Reza Mesbahi Moghaddam, the conservative cleric and Majles deputy, accused Mashaei of using public resources for the next Majles elections, to be held in March 2012. Aftab News, the website close to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, reported that if Ahmadinejad does not fully carry out Khamenei's order regarding Moslehi, the Majles will summon the president to explain himself. And Alef, the website published by conservative Majles deputy and Ahmadinejad critic Ahmad Tavakoli, claimed that the president is refusing to work with Moslehi. According to Alef, Ahmadinejad has not yet invited Moslehi to take part in the meetings of his cabinet, nor has he invited the minister to accompany him to Kurdistan province. Assembly of Experts Chairman Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani warned Ahmadinejad not to do anything that would lead the clerics to split from him. And, quoting Mehr, the news agency controlled by the Organization of Islamic Propaganda, Al-Arabiya reported that Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei -- the previous intelligence minister who was fired by Ahmadinejad in August 2009, said that there was no justification whatsoever for removing Moslehi. He added that, two years ago, he did not know that he had been fired by Ahmadinejad until one of his deputies informed him.

Ahmadinejad's supporters responded to the criticism. Abbas Amirifar, head of cultural affairs of the president's office, strongly defended Mashaei and said that he never fails to say his night prayers (nonmandatory prayers recited by pious Muslims after midnigh). He also said that Mashaei has pure and clear thoughts, works hard, and sleeps no more than one or two hours every day, to which Kayhan, the mouthpiece of a faction of the security forces, responded, "That explains why Mashaei speaks nonsense!"

***

A campaign has begun to encourage citizens to write letters to Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard. The goal is to flood the government and the postal service with letters, and send a clear message that the nation demands their release from house arrest. The home address of the Mousavis is No. 26, Akhtar Alley, Pastour Street, Tehran, Iran.

Fatemeh Karroubi, Mehdi Karroubi's wife, was finally allowed to leave their residence to receive medical treatment. The couple has been under house arrest for 71 days, since 25 Bahman/February 14, when large demonstrations called for by Karroubi and Mousavi took place across Iran.

The Office for Consolidation of Unity, the umbrella organization for most of the university Muslim Students Association, has issued a statement strongly protesting the continuing pressure on the students. It accused the government of carrying out a second cultural revolution (the first, which began in spring 1980, closed the universities for nearly three years) to purge the schools of students and faculty whom it perceives as its opposition. The statement points out that 400 students have been arrested, and another 900 have been suspended. It also observes that four students -- Saneh Jaleh, Mohammad Mokhtari, Hamed Nour-Mohammadi and Behnoud Ramazani -- were killed in the recent demonstrations, many university student organizations have been forced to stop their activities, and many well-respected professors have either been fired or forced to retire. Academics such as Drs. Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, Ahmad Zeidabadi, Mohsen Mirdamadi, Davood Soleimani, and Ghasem Sholeh Sadi have been imprisoned, and Mousavi and Rahnavard, both academics, are under house arrest.

Twenty-three political prisoners held in Tehran's Evin Prison, Karaj's Rajaei Shahr Prison, and prisons in Khuzestan province have written a letter to the leading clerics asking them to end their silence about what is going on in the country. The ayatollahs were askedto "return to Iran" -- that is, condemn what is going on in their own country rather than making the oppression of Muslims in other parts of the Middle East the priority -- and pressure the Islamic Republic's officials to end the crimes, the repression, and the corruption in the military, security, and intelligence organizations. The letter reminds them that Grand Ayatollahs Asadollah Bayat Zanjani, Yousef Sanei, Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, Ali Mohammad Dastgheib, Hossein Vahid Khorasani, Mahmoud Amjad Kermanshahi, and Abdollah Javadi Amoli have become the voice of the people by criticizing the way the government has reacted to the protestors and the opposition, and that they should do the same, because otherwise the people will be deeply disappointed in them. The names of the 23 political prisoners have not been revealed, but a plausible list has been published.

On Saturday, President Barack Obama strongly condemned the Syrian government's use of violence against demonstrators there. The president accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of seeking help from Iran to put down protests in his country. "This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now," Obama declared. "We call on President Assad to change course now, and heed the calls of his own people. He also accused Assad of "blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria's citizens through the same brutal tactics that have been used by his Iranian allies. We strongly oppose the Syrian government's treatment of its citizens and we continue to oppose its continued destabilizing behavior more generally, including support for terrorism and terrorist groups." Reports indicate that at least 72 people were killed in Friday's demonstrations.

Al-Arabiya, which reflects the views of Saudi Arabia, reported that the permanent representatives of the six countries that are members of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council have filed a complaint against Iran with the United Nations through a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi previously wrote to the secretary-general, criticizing the violent crackdown on the demonstrations by Bahrainis. The GCC letter condemned Salehi's missive and called it interference in Bahrain's internal affairs.

In a long interview with Fars, the Revolutionary Guards' top commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari claimed that in Tehran, a city of over ten million people, only 2-3,000 oppose the Islamic Republic. He said that in order to defend the Islamic Revolution, the Guards will never recognize any limits on what it can do, an indirect response to those who have criticized them for interfering in politics. He warned that the future "sedition" will hide itself behind a credible face, and that "in the view of the people the past 'incidents' are finished, but the new perverted group, using new slogans and tactics, wants to confront the Revolution and will surely oppose it in the future." "Perverted group" is code language for Mashaei and his supporters. Jafari then opined that the way "the main and popular figure [Ahmadinejad] allows them to use him is unnatural." He claimed that the era in which Iran could be threatened with military attacks is over, and Iran is now threatened economically. Responding to criticisms that the Guards are taking over the economy, Jafari said that they do not take part in projects that cost less than $100 million, and that the only reason they have taken over large projects is that foreign investment and corporations have left Iran.

Last week a video was publicized in which Mohammad Saeedi, Imam of Qom's Friday Prayers, claimed that when Khamenei was born, he immediately said, "Ya Ali" -- "Oh Ali," Shiism's First Imam. The claim was widely ridiculed. Saeedi's office issued a statement saying that he had only quoted what he had heard and that he should not have said it.

Distinguished filmmaker and director Jafar Panahi will be given a lifetime achievement award as part of the Directors' Fortnight sidebar at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Cannes organizers said they would give Panahi the Carrosse d'Or, or Golden Coach, award. Last December, Panahi was sentenced to six years in prison and a 20-year ban on writing and directing on charges stemming from his film-in-progress chronicling the 2009 "reelection" of Ahmadinejad. Panahi has been a staple at Cannes, with his 1995 coming-of-age story The White Balloon winning the Camera d'Or and his working-class drama Crimson Gold taking the Prix Un Certain Regard in 2003. The Carrosse d'Or, awarded by the Société des Réalisateurs de Films, recognizes filmmakers' courage and independence of thought.

Reports indicate that security agents raided the ward in Rajaei Shahr Prison where political prisoners are being held, mistreated the prisoners there, inspected their cells, and videotaped everything. One political prisoner, Reza Hordani, was even threatened with death if he does not stop his activities inside the prison. It is not yet clear what prompted the attack.

Some Majles deputies are demanding that Bahrain's embassy in Tehran be shut down and diplomatic relations with the country cut off. They claim that by closing the embassy, Iran take an effective step to help the Shiites in Bahrain and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region. Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighash, a member of the Majles's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said that legislators are ready to approve a resolution to shut the embassy.

Nourallah Heydari, a conservative Majles deputy, criticized Ahmadinejad, saying, "When part of the government intentionally or unintentionally breaks the law, how can we be sure that there will be no problems in the elections." As an example of law breaking, he accused the government of paying off the Majles deputies, though Ahmadinejad denies that it occurred.

According to the Central Bank's statistics, compared with the similar period last year, the price of basic food items increased an average of 25 percent during Farvardin (March 21-April 20), the first month of the Iranian calendar. The price of eggs rose 97.6 percent -- while the price of fruit increased an average 43.5 percent, with apples seeing the largest spike, 111 percent. The price of dairy products rose the least -- 5 percent. The price of cooking oil increased by 20.3 percent, rice by 13.4 percent, chicken by 12.6 percent, sugar by 9.6 percent, red meat (beef and sheep) by 7.4 percent, and tea by 5.7 percent. Onions are the only item whose price fell -- by 31 percent.

Attorney Mohammad Seifzadeh, who has represented many political prisoners, was arrested in Orumieh. His attorney Marzieh Nikara said that Seifzadeh has been accused of leaving the country illegally and that he has rejected the charge.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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