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Ofer Dies; Iran Said to Aid Syrian Crackdown; 'Sahabi' Texts Filtered?

03 Jun 2011 23:00Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic 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

HalehSahabiFuneral1.jpgHalehSahabiFuneral2.jpgHalehSahabiFuneral3.jpg
The nighttime funeral of Haleh Sahabi.

11 p.m., 13 Khordad/June 3 Sammy Ofer, the shipping tycoon whose Ofer Brothers Group's dealings with the Islamic Republic of Iran has created a major scandal in Israel, died in his Tel Aviv home. The 89-year-old, often identified as Israel's richest man, passed away after a long illness.

As the scandal developed this week, it was revealed on Wednesday that until two months ago, Yaakov Amidror, recently appointed as national security adviser by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, sat on the boards of several firms controlled by Sammy Ofer and his brother, Yuli. Netanyahu's office issued a statement insisting that "Gen. Amidror was not connected in any way or form with any of the companies alleged to have dealt in transporting fuel from Iran, or with the company that sold a tanker to an Iranian company." On Tuesday, hearings by the Economic Committee of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, into the Ofer-IRI affair were abruptly halted without explanation after a note was handed to the committee's chairman, Carmel Shama-Cohen.

According to a UPI report, there is growing evidence that the Islamic Republic is aiding President Bashar al-Assad's regime in its suppression of the popular pro-democratic uprising in Syria. By UPI's account, much of that assistance is being provided by the al-Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC):

U.S. officials and Arab diplomats say...al-Quds operatives have been...training Syrian forces in how to contain the kind of large-scale street protests that the Tehran regime has in recent years put down with overwhelming force.

The Syrians' recent move to carr[y] out wide-ranging mass arrests of suspected dissidents and troublemakers reflects tactics used by the IRGC and its militia, the Basij, in Iranian cities. [...]

Iran also appears to have supplied Syria with sophisticated electronic equipment to monitor Facebook and Twitter to identify protest organizers and their supporters, just as Tehran did during mass protests following the 2009 presidential elections. [...]

In recent days, there have been persistent reports that Brig. Gen. Mohsen Chirazi, considered to be the third-ranking leader in the al-Quds Force, is in Syria.

***

Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

Reports indicate that the Ministry of Communication has ordered the filtering of the words "Haleh" and "Sahabi" from text messages. Any message containing either word will reportedly not be delivered to its destination and automatically deleted. Since 2009, the words "Green Movement" have been blocked.

Hamed Montazeri, a grandson of the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, declared that he saw a security agent strike Haleh Sahabi in her upper chest, causing her to fall down and faint. The assailant immediately left the scene, according to Montazeri. He stated that he is willing to testify about the incident in court.

The central committee of the Nationalist-Religious Coalition issued a statement demanding that an independent court investigate the death of Haleh Sahabi. The statement praised her for the manner in which she lived: "Haleh always said, 'I despise violence and, similar to any human being, am afraid of dying. But I take part in people's demonstrations, hoping that because I am a women, they [the security forces] will not do anything to me, will not strike the young people, and not take them to prison.' The day she was taken to prison, she said, 'My heavy jail sentence was issued to exert pressure on my father. I will be silent so that they will not pressure my family.' She began teaching French and contemporary history to female prisoners and became an adjudicator for resolving their arguments and differences."

Thirty prominent political prisoners issued a statement of condolence to the Sahabi family and condemned the attack by security agents on Ezatollah Sahabi's funeral procession. They praised him for his 60 years of struggle for democracy, patriotism, nationalism, honesty, and fairness, and continued, "Even his corpse terrified those whose power has become so shaky that not only do they not respect the rights of the living, but also those of the dead, and are concerned about public mourning and funerals. Such self-doubt and lack of self-confidence leads to their haste in threatening and pressuring the Sahabi family and created the [funeral's] sad and catastrophic events."

In the morality class he teaches, Grand Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani, who supports the Green Movement, addressed the death of Haleh Sahabi: "It is really shameful that in a Shia country, the nation of Imam Mahdi, and a country with Marjas [sources of emulation for the masses], a pious lady passes away in such a strange way. It has even been reported that she was buried at night without the prayer for the dead. If a sin [against a person] occurs in a society without any reaction to it, one cannot make up for that sin. The repentance of the sinner and the group that he belongs to will be more difficult [to accept] and must be proportional with the position of the person and his group, because this is not about a person, but a collective act taken place in the name of Islam and a religious government against a pious lady."

The U.S. State Department condemned the death of Haleh Sahabi. According to a statement by Mark C. Toner, deputy State Department spokesman,

We condemn the killing of Iranian activist Haleh Sahabi in the strongest possible terms. Eyewitness and reliable accounts of Haleh Sahabi's death yesterday at her father's funeral in Iran are making it clear that Ms. Sahabi died as a result of reprehensible actions taken by Iranian security forces. Iranian government explanations have so far been unsatisfactory, and it shut down a commemoration of her death today, with additional reports that Iranian security forces beat members of Women for Peace and the Mourning Mothers to prevent participation in her memorial.

It is unfathomable that a government would be so terrified of its citizens that it would order the use of force against a daughter mourning at her father's funeral. Indeed, this is a government that regularly brutalizes its citizens, imprisoning them under questionable charges, torturing them, cutting them off from the rest of the world, and denying their fundamental human rights. It is for this reason that the international community voted overwhelmingly to establish a Special Rapporteur for Iran at the Human Rights Council. We will recommend that the Rapporteur fully investigate this incident at the earliest possible opportunity. We again express our condolences to the Sahabi family, friends, and supporters all over the world.

The British Foreign Office joined the U.S. State Department and human rights organizations both in Iran and around the world in urging the Islamic Republic's government to carefully look into the case of Haleh Sahabi. "We call for an immediate and transparent investigation into her death and call on the Iranian authorities to allow her family and friends to mourn her father and her deaths without interference," a spokesperson said.

**

Since 2008, when the Eighth Majles convened, the deputies have issued 10,000 warnings to the Ahmadinejad administration. The overall list of all the warnings, those to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as well as his cabinet members, was publicized by the Majles office of control and monitoring. The statistics also indicate that, relative to the total number of days that Ahmadinejad has been president, his government has received more warnings than any other.

The Majles approved the report by its Energy Commission finding that Ahmadinejad had violated the Constitution by appointing himself acting minister of oil. It also particularly criticized him for taking the action just when Iran is assuming the chairmanship of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for the first time in three decades. The report will now be sent to the judiciary to be pursued.

With the Majles now out of session until June 12, Ahmadinejad appointed his close friend and relative Mohammad Ali-Abadi as the new acting minister of oil. Ali-Abadi previously failed to win a vote of confidence from the Majles when he was nominated to be minister of power. Two years ago, there were rumors that he would be appointed as the minister of oil in the second Ahmadinejad administration, but that did not materialize after it became clear that the Majles would reject him.

Criticizing the appointment of Ali-Abadi, hardline website Asr-e Iran asked in an editorial, "Was there not any [more qualified] person in Iran's century-old oil industry?" Ali-Abadi was previously the head of the national sports organization, as well as the head of Iran's national Olympic committee. Asr-e Iran said, "It is not clear what type of expertise Ali-Abadi has. Is it in sports? In oil? In fishery, or in housing?" Ali-Abadi has held posts in all those areas.

Hardline cleric Abdolnabi Namazi made several comments about the relationship between Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He said that the "perverted group" -- code name for Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, and his inner circle -- is trying to eliminate Velaayat-e Faghih (guardianship of the supreme jurisprudent) from Iran's political system. Namazi said that two people close to Mashaei, Abbas Ghaffari and cleric Abbas Amirifar, who were recently arrested, have already confessed to several crimes. Ghaffari is accused of exorcism, geomancy, and insulting the Qur'an. According to Namazi, the people in the president's office exercise the power that is nominally Ahmadinejad's. He asserted that Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, asked Khamenei to order Mashaei's arrest, but that the Supreme Leader instead ordered the arrests of the "operational people," those who have been involved in recent events. By Namazi's account, Mashaei has admitted that he did not think that Khamenei would be so firm over the forced resignation of Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi. Namazi said that Khamenei did not want the Moslehi affair to become public, but was forced to air it when Ahmadinejad resisted his order reinstating the minister and then staged a sit-in in his own home, boycotting meetings of the cabinet. According to Namazi, when Mashaei was told that if he decides to run in the next presidential election, he will be rejected by the Guardian Council, Mashaei responded, "Two years from now [Council Secretary-General Ahmad] Jannati and [...] will not be around." The unnamed official is presumably Khamenei. Namazi also said that the goal of Mashaei and his group is to create a new "third way," in addition to the reformists and principlists, and he accused Ahmadinejad of suggesting that he did not win as many votes as he could have in 2009 because of his association with Khamenei.

The Revolutionary Guards' public relation department issued a statement denying what Namazi had said about General Jafari. The office of Khamenei also issued a statement declaring that only those statements posted on the Supreme Leader's website represent his official views. The president's office then issued a statement denying the claim concerning his statements about the 2009 vote and association with Khamenei.

The Central Bank reported that as of May 22, the end of Ordibehesht (the second month of the current year), the rate of inflation was 14.2 percent. That rate itself was 21.2 percent higher than the rate a year ago.

Mahsa Amrabadi, wife of imprisoned journalist Masoud Bastani, said that during her last visit with her husband in Rajaei Shahr Prison, a guard attacked and injured him. Amrabadi said that when, at the end of their meeting, her husband asked her to say goodbye to his mother, the guard attacked him, which provoked strong reactions by the other prisoners, in particular journalist Isa Saharkhiz and Dr. Ahmad Zeidabadi. According to Amrabadi, after two hours she was allowed to see Bastani again, who told her that prison officials had sent him to the facility's medical center for tests.

The mother of Rasoul Bodaghi, the incarcerated teacher who is participating in the hunger strike by political prisoners in Rajaei Shahr, has died. Reports indicate that she had a heart attack when she heard the news that her son had gone on a hunger strike, and was taken to a hospital. Bodaghi is a member of the board of directors of the League of Teachers of Iran.

Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar said that the government is establishing five camps around Iran where narcotics addicts will be treated. He said that if addicted people do not voluntarily seek treatment, they will be forcefully taken to the camps. If they do seek out treatment, on the other hand, they will not be considered legal offenders and will be helped by the government to end their addictions.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in an interview that Iran has responded to a recent letter by IAEA Director-General Yukia Amano. Soltanieh said the response came from Dr. Fereydoon Abbasi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Abbasi reportedly expressed to Amano that as far Iran is concerned, the issue of the agency's claims about the nature of the Iranian nuclear program, supposedly based on fake documents, is closed. Iran is not willing to discuss the matter with the agency any further, but is willing to respond to other questions that the IAEA may have.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared that Iran has an "inalienable" right to operate a peaceful nuclear program. "Iran is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has inalienable rights to develop nuclear energy under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) control," IRNA, Iran's official news agency, quoted Lavrov as saying at a meeting with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon in Moscow. Lavrov stressed the importance of holding further negotiations with Tehran "to alleviate concerns about the nature of Iran's nuclear program. This should be done only through negotiations." A week ago, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov argued against imposing new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, saying they would be inefficient. "This method completely exhausted itself," he said. "We are not ready to accept the logic."

Meir Dagan, former chief of Israel's Mossad, said his country is incapable of preventing Iran's nuclear program, and that a preemptive attack against the Islamic Republic would result in a regional war that would pose an "impossible" challenge to Israel. "We do not have the ability to stop Iran's nuclear program. In the best case scenario we can push it off a bit," Dagan told a Tel Aviv leadership conference on Wednesday. "It is important to know what the outcome of an attack on Iran would be, what would happen on the day after, and what situation Israel would find itself in on the international stage. An attack on Iran would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given [Iran] the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program because the Iranians would then claim, 'We have been attacked by a foreign country that is reported to have a military nuclear capability. Now we have no choice but to defend...against a country with strategic capabilities -- a compelling and principled argument for them to move to a large nuclear program. It is important to know that that war would not just be against Iran. It would be a regional war that would include Syria -- if we needed to attack Hezbollah targets in Syrian territory. The regional challenge that Israel would face would be impossible," Dagan added.

Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi visited Bolivia at the invitation of the country's Defense Ministry. On Tuesday, he attended a military ceremony in the city of Santa Cruz in the presence of Bolivian President Evo Morales. Vahidi is on an Interpol list due to his alleged involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured over 300. He was traveling on a diplomatic passport that grants him immunity from arrest.

After Jewish groups in Argentina voiced their outrage at Vahidi's presence in Bolivia, he was told that he must leave the country less than a day after he arrived there. Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman used Twitter to post a letter that he received from David Choquehuanca, his Bolivian counterpart, apologizing for the episode. The letter described the invitation to Vahidi as a "grave incident" and promised that "the government of Bolivia has taken the corresponding provisions to see to it that Ahmad Vahidi immediately leaves Bolivian territory," adding that Bolivia's Defense Ministry "did not know about the background of the case" and failed to consult with the rest of the government. Vahidi left Bolivia on Tuesday night without appearing at a second event that he was supposed to attend.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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