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Roundup: Much Ado About Majles Elections

20 Jul 2011 18:03Comments

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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.

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

In direct response to top commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, former President Mohammad Khatami again emphasized the conditions that must be met before reformists will agree to take part in the March 2, 2012, Majles elections. In a meeting with a group of academics from Shiraz, Khatami said, "We who want free elections defend the Islamic Republic and the political system that people voted for. And those who claim that this or that organ that has power and guns and is not responsive can decide [who can take part in the election] only hurt the system. There are currents that do nothing other than to bad-mouth, make [baseless] accusations, arrest people, and [engage in] character assassination, and unfortunately are immune [to prosecution], and these are the people who hurt Islam and the Revolution. It is really unfortunate that all of these are done by those organs that were founded upon people's blood and were supposed to be supportive of morality, advancement, and the national interests."

As reported by Tehran Bureau, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Guards' top commander, recently said that Khatami can become active in the political arena and in the Majles elections only if he repents and condemns the Green Movement and its leaders. Brigadier General Yadollah Javani, the head of the Guards' political directorate also accused Khatami of wanting to topple the Islamic Republic and called him one of the top leaders of the "sedition" -- the Green Movement.

Reports over the last several days suggesting that Rasoul Montajabnia, a cleric and former deputy to Mehdi Karroubi in the National Trust Party, had denounced the Green Movement and its leaders and intended to run in the upcoming Majles elections, were apparently false. Montajabnia denied the reports, which had angered many reformists, and stated that the reformists should participate in the elections only if and when Khatami's conditions are fulfilled. If the reformists ran in the elections without those conditions being satisfied, he added, it would be tantamount to "political suicide."

The Organization for Justice and Freedom in Islamic Iran issued a statement declaring that no reformist will take part in the Majles elections until the conditions set by Khatami are fulfilled. The organization called those conditions "the minimum" and said they are the "people's right," even before they were articulated by the reformists.

Abbas Ali Khakhodaei, spokesman for the Guardian Council (the body that vets candidates for most elections), said that the banning of the two leading reformist groups -- the Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin -- has not been declared to the council. This might be a tactic to encourage moderate and conservative reformists to run the in the Majles elections, bypassing Khatami and the conditions that the former president has set. (Khakhodaei pictured in light suit above in Fars photos.)

Does the Majles possess any real power? Do the parliamentary elections even matter? Some still think so. "It's important," a Europe-based Iran analyst told Tehran Bureau. "Its mix will set a trend and pave the way for conquering the presidency." What's your take? Share your comments with us below. (Homepage photo: Majles election posters, 2006.) Meanwhile, Muhammad Sahimi reports that the pressure being applied on the Ahmadinejad administration by the Majles continues unabated:

Majles deputy and former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohammad Karami Rad said that a complaint has been filed with the parliament's Article 90 Commission against Hamid Baghaei, Ahmadinejad's vice president for executive affairs, and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, his chief of staff and close confidant. The commission investigates the complaints against government officials. According to Karami Rad, the complaint is 144 pages long.

Several deputies have also bitterly complained about the decision of the Majles leadership to table for now the plan to summon Ahmadinejad to parliament to answer their questions. Ali Motahari, a prominent Ahmadinejad critic, said, "Those deputies that support questioning the president do so based on their own analysis and sense of duty, and they cannot take back their support based on superficial analyses." Responding to the view of some deputies that it is not the right time to question Ahmadinejad, Motahari said, "I ask these gentlemen to define the right conditions. For example, they may say that the right conditions are when the U.S. and Israel have been destroyed, and the foreign press has also been eliminated," mocking the view that the conditions are not right because the questioning could be used by the foreign press as propaganda tool against Iran.

Another deputy, Fazel Mousavi, a member of the Article 90 Commission, said that the complaint by 12 deputies about 30 legal violations allegedly committed by Ahmadinejad has been investigated by the commission, and in the majority of the cases it was found that the president had indeed violated the laws. Mousavi said that a report about the investigation has been prepared and must be read out loud in a Majles session. Mousavi added that another report has also been prepared regarding Ahmadinejad's resistance to the order by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to reinstate Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi. He added that if the deputies approve the two reports, Ahmadinejad must be impeached.

Yet another Majles deputy, Hassan Ebrahimi, said that after the arrest of Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh, who was appointed as the secretary-general of the Supreme Council for Iranian Expatriates by Mashaei, the documents collected by the security agents were given to Ahmadinejad so he could study them. Ebrahimi heads a commission that is investigating the council, which was founded by Mashaei in 2010. Ebrahimi said that a report has been prepared about the council that was supposed to be read in a Majles session, but "unforeseen events have postponed it."

In an item posted on Alef, the website's publisher, Ahmad Tavakoli, the influential Majles deputy and Ahmadinejad critic, said, "Careful examination of the President's positions indicates that he is constantly raising people's expectations of the political system.... He acts as if on this path, he is not constrained by the laws and wisdom. Just over the past two weeks, while the Majles was in its summer recess, one can point to three such cases of raising expectations. First, he announced that the government will give every family 1,000 square meters of land free of charge. Next, he said that $7 billion will be spent on the Mehr housing project [for the poor], whereas only $3 billion has been approved. Third, on the president's suggestion, the number of doctoral students [admitted after national exams] has been doubled."

At the same time, Hassan Sobhaninia, a member of the Majles leadership team, said that five deputies have summoned Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to explain his ministry's inaction in response to what they call the "Islamic awakening" in the Middle East countries.

Majles deputy Jafar Ghaderi said that 26 deputies have signed a petition to summon the minister of the interior, Brigadier General Mostafa Mohammad Najar, to be questioned and possibly impeached. Ghaderi criticized the parliament's leadership for officially acknowledging that it has received the petition.

The president is also being pressured along other fronts. Hardline websites and news agencies are now claiming that the daily Iran has been publishing illegally since July 16, because its deadline for appointing a new managing director expired. The newspaper is published by IRNA, Iran's official news agency, which is aligned with Ahmadinejad. Among those making the claim are Jahan News, the website published by hardline Majles deputy Ali Reza Zakani, former commander of the Basij's university branch; Mashregh News, which is close to the security and intelligence forces; and Fars, the news agency run by the Revolutionary Guards' intelligence unit.

***

In other news compiled by Muhammad Sahimi:

Saeed Mortazavi, the notorious former Tehran prosecutor, said that he was exonerated by a court of responsibility for the murder of young demonstrators in the Kahrizak detention center, on Tehran's southern edge, in the aftermath of the June 2009 presidential election. At least four young people were murdered in the detention center. Mortazavi, the highest-ranking figure to have been prosecuted for the crimes, added that the victims' families have protested the verdict and it has thus yet to be finalized.

Dr. Mehdi Khazali, a critic of the hardliners and son of the reactionary Ayatollah Abolghasem Khazali, was arrested when he responded to a summons from the Ministry of Intelligence. After arriving there, he was presented with an arrest warrant. Khazali told the intelligence agents that the warrant was ten days old, whereas only four days earlier he had posted a bail. He was told that they must arrest him. When Khazali insisted that such an arrest would be illegal, three agents attacked him.

Marzieh Vafamehr, wife of well-known Iranian filmmaker Naser Taghvaei, has been arrested. The judiciary has not explained the reason, but reports indicate that she was arrested for acting in the movie My Tehran for Sale, directed by Goranaz Mousavi, the Iranian filmmaker who lives in Australia. Vafamehr is reportedly being held in the notorious Gharchak detention center, 12 miles southeast of Tehran.

Reports indicate that filmmaker and women' rights activist Mahnaz Mohammadi, who was arrested in late June, has been hospitalized over the past week, after her health deteriorated badly in jail.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that the Islamic Republic will not allow the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Iran to visit the country. He called the rapporteur's appointment an "illogical" and "political" act.

Sobh-e Sadegh, the weekly published by the Revolutionary Guards, appeared to warn Turkey regarding its policy toward Syria. In an editorial, Reza Garmabadri said,

If Turkish officials insist on continuing their current path that will lead to more tension, to the point that Iran is forced to choose between Turkey and Syria, logic and strategic considerations will Iran to tilt toward Syria. It would be wise if Turkish officials understand this Iranian necessity, and through adopting a wise policy and forward-looking prevent Iran from reaching such a point."

At the beginning of the complex conspiracy against Syria, Turkey adopted a mild policy regarding Syria['s demonstrations], and as destruction and murder increased in Syria, the tone of the Turkish officials about Syria became stronger to the point that they stood against Syria and showed that in this problem they are in the U.S. front. The bad treatment of Syria by Turkish officials is not limited to taking negative positions against Syria. Turkey was the host to two gatherings of the Syrian opposition, and by creating camps near its border with Syria before the confrontation began it somehow helped the opposition, and according to Syrian officials some of the guns used by the opposition have been passed on to them through Syria. Turkey's only excuse for supporting the opposition is that these are common people that have logical demands and human rights that must be paid attention to by the government of Syria. Turkish officials who make such claims do not recognize that if these people [the Syrian opposition] are common and poor people, where have all these weapons come from, and how it is possible for common people to perpetrate the massacre against Syrian forces. How does Turkey view millions of people who have marched in support of the government of Syria, and how should one analyze the extensive Western propaganda and the support of the opposition by the Arab countries that has been accompanied by lies and deception?

The Sobh-e Sadegh threat comes in the wake of accusations by leading Turkish newspapers that, in retaliation for Turkey's position vis-à-vis Syria, Iran is supporting the PKK, the Kurdish armed group that has been fighting Turkish forces for decades. (For more on the recent clashes between Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Kurdish militant forces, see here.)

Hossein Shariatmadari, the hardline managing editor of Kayhan, said in an editorial that in retaliation for European countries' refusal to provide fuels for Iran's passenger airliners, "attacks on the offices of European and American airlines will be an unforgettable lesson for them." Shariatmadari claimed that Resolution 1929 of the United Nations Security Council was issued for the sole purpose of supporting the "seditionists" -- participants in the Green Movement -- and that the Islamic Republic's conflict with the United States and Israel is the reason that fuel is not provided to Iran's airlines.

Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd of India is negotiating with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to increase its oil purchases from them. It also planning to import more from other countries, in an attempt to decrease its dependence on Iranian oil. The company said in its annual report that it plans to finalize its crude import strategy for 2012-13 by September. MRPL -- Iran's biggest Indian oil consumer, buying about 150,000 barrels/day -- has already begun diversifying its crude basket. It is one of five Indian firms that are facing difficulty in paying for Iran oil imports due to global sanctions and the elimination of a long-standing clearing house mechanism by the Indian central bank last December. Iran has warned that, beginning on August 1, it will stop exporting oil to India if a financial dispute over payment is not resolved. India is Iran's second largest oil consumer after China, while Iran is India's second largest source of oil after Saudi Arabia. Indian firms currently owe Iran over $5 billion for oil imports.

Members of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) completely rejected what they called the "false" and "provocative" claims made by the reactionary cleric Ahmad Jannati on July 15 during a Friday Prayer sermon. The GCC states rebuked Jannati for his unwelcome interference in Bahraini domestic affairs and the Gulf state's sovereignty and independence. During a meeting in Riyadh, GCC Secretary-General Abdul Latif al-Zayani, handed a note to Seyyed Mohammad Javad Rasouli, Iran's ambassador in Bahrain, that called on Iranian officials to put an end to their "inflammatory statements" concerning the Kingdom of Bahrain and its people, so as to preserve the regional interests that connect the Gulf states with the Islamic Republic.

In 2006, Germany sold Israel two AIP-equipped Dolphin submarines. The total cost was $1.27 billion, of which the German government paid a third. The sale of one more submarine has now been confirmed. The submarines are capable of being armed with nuclear-warhead missiles, and most military analysts believe that they will play a leading role in any possible war between Israel and Iran.

A new report by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) indicates that Iran is no longer the second-largest OPEC oil exporter, slipping to third place after Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. According to the report, in 2010 Iran exported an average of 2,248,000 bbl/day, compared with Nigeria's average of 2,464,000 bbl/day. The report indicates that Iran's domestic production of gasoline increased by 12 percent in 2010, and has reached 1,741,000 bbl/day.

In response to rumors fueled by former CIA agent Robert Baer, P. J. Crowley, former State Department spokesman, said that Israel will not attack Iran anytime soon. Baer recently said that he believes that Israel will attack Iran in September. "The claim Israel will attack Iran soon is not credible," Crowley posted on his Twitter page, as reported by Israel's Haaretz daily. "The strategic costs, while not static, still outweigh the prospects of success. The Arab Spring has sufficiently complicated Israel's strategic calculus that it is more likely to show restraint in the immediate term," Crowley added. (Update: Baer responds here.)

Majles deputy Seyyed Ali Aghazadeh Dafsari, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said that the Revolutionary Guards' air defense system shot down a U.S. drone aircraft that was flying over the Fordow nuclear facility near Qom. The aircraft was presumably on a spying mission. The U.S. has denied losing a drone in Iran.

The announcement by Iran that it is installing more advanced centrifuges in its uranium enrichment facility in Fordow near Qom has angered Western countries. Iran has acknowledged that the installation will accelerate its nuclear program. "The installation of new centrifuges with better quality and speed is ongoing," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mehmanparast told reporters at his weekly press briefing. "We have announced it and the [International Atomic Energy] Agency has full supervision of them. They are fully aware that Iran's peaceful nuclear activity continues to progress. This is another confirmation of the Islamic republic's successful strides in its nuclear activities."

France said Iran's move confirmed suspicions that its nuclear program had "no credible civilian application." According to a statement from the French Foreign Ministry, "Iran has just given in to another provocation by announcing the imminent installation of next generation centrifuges.This is a new violation of six Security Council resolutions and ten resolutions by the council of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency." The British Foreign Office said the announcement "further undermines Iran's claim that its nuclear program is designed for purely peaceful purposes, and demonstrates the urgency of increasing pressure on Iran.... Iran must understand that we will not be distracted by events in the region and it should not doubt our resolve."

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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