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Revolutionary Guard Chief Jafari: Enemies Aim to 'Eliminate Iran Physically'

05 Jul 2011 01:51Comments

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

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IRGC Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari.

1:30 a.m., 14 Tir/July 5 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

In an interview with Mehr News Agency, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the top commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said that part of the Guards' strategy for responding to any military attacks on Iran is blocking the Strait of Hormuz -- a threat raised periodically by the Iranian military. He also said that the corps is not limiting itself to defending the country's territorial waters, and it has a strategy to confront Iran's enemies in international waters. He warned that Iran's enemies are conspiring to "eliminate Iran physically" by assassinating Iranian scientists, particularly those in the nuclear field. According to Jafari, after prominent nuclear scientist and academic Dr. Majid Shahriari was assassinated and Dr. Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, current head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, narrowly escaped assassination last year, the Guards formed a security team to protect senior Iranian scientists. He added that the Guards have the capability to confront what he called "cyberspace war.... We have considerable capabilities and smart people in Iran." Pointing out Iran's advances in missile design and underground silo construction, Jafari said, "Our missile capabilities have become such a credible deterrent that over the past two to three years, at the height of their threats, our enemies did not do anything." On the other hand, he mocked the prediction by recently retired U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that Iran will be able to make a nuclear weapon within the next one to three years, saying that there is a long history of such "baseless statements."

Jafari also said that the Guards' engineering arm, Khatam ol-Anbiya, will complete work on phases 15 and 16 of South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf by December. The field is supposed to be developed in 28 phases; the first ten are more or less completed. The statement is surprising, as Khatam ol-Anbiya had previously said that it could not complete the two phases because the European firms that agreed to work with it had withdrawn from the project. Adding that phases of 23, 24, and 25 are also being developed by the Guards, Jafari said, "We have had good progress in less than a year since we began the work."

The top Guard commanders, together with Ali Saeedi, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative to the Guards, met with the Supreme Leader on Monday morning. Also in attendance were Mohsen Rezaei, former Guard chief, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a former commander of the Guards' air force. In his speech to the commanders, Khamenei emphasized, as he has been doing over the past two years, the necessity for officials to be united and avoid public arguments, saying that they make the enemy happy. He strongly supported the Guards and likened their actions to those of Imam Hossein, the Shiites' Third Imam.

The confrontation between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Guard high command entered a new phase a few days ago, when he implied that the Guards use illegal wharves to import goods, saying that the military's wharves should be controlled by the government and the customs authority. He added that, "If a product is for military or security purposes, it can be imported without any duties. But it does not mean that it should not be registered." Ahmadinejad's accusations were interpreted as his response to the charges leveled by the hardliners a few weeks ago that his close aides Hamid Baghaei and Esfandiar Rahimi Mashaei have been illegally importing Marlboro cigarettes.

In response to Ahmadinejad, Jahan News, the website published by hardline Majles deputy Ali Reza Zakani, a former Guard commander, claimed that the president's team intends to import four helicopters from Russia for use in the Majles elections next March. Jafari reacted strongly to Ahmadinejad's claim, declaring, "The military controls some wharves for military purposes. It does not use it for commercial purposes. This is a deviatory claim, made by those who have an interest in this. Those who bring up such issues want to distract people's attention from the true centers of illegal imports into the country." 7-e Sobh, Mashaei's mouthpiece, quickly responded to Jafari with an editorial that asked, referring to the Guards, "Is it true that importing from southern and eastern ports and borders, sent to specific addresses, is part of the duty of this 'special organ'?"

Veteran diplomat Javad Mansoori, former ambassador to China and an ex-Guard commander, said that Ali Akbar Salehi was appointed as foreign minister on condition that he would not initiate anything on his own and would be completely obedient to Ahmadinejad. Mansoori criticized former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as ineffective, but also said that Ahmadinejad's view of the post is unrealistic, because it is meant to serve the national interest without allegiance to any particular group. He added that all the decisions are made in the office of the president and that Salehi has no power of his own. This will hurt Iran's diplomatic efforts, in Mansoori's view, as the ministry is "semi-closed."

In an interview with Fars News Agency, which is run by the Guards' intelligence unit, Majles Speaker Ali Larijani criticized the Ahmadinejad administration for how it has implemented the legislation requiring the merger of several ministries. He said, "The government could have performed better. The principle that the bureaucracy should shrink is rational, particularly with the implementation of Article 44 [of the Constitution, which stipulates that the government should privatize many of the enterprises under its control]. We also approved the formation of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, but the government came out against it.... We gave the government two years to study the issue. We expected the government to come back to us and tell us that it has studied the issue and present its solution [but it did not]. If the government's problem was that the law was vague, it could have asked the Majles to clarify, as the constitution stipulates that the Majles is the interpreter of the Constitution. There was no need to fire three ministers [before their ministries were merged], and I said at that time that it is wrong to do this. They wanted to do the merger by themselves, and do it in a way that the new ministers would not need to obtain the Majles's vote of confidence. The Guardian Council also had the same view [that this was wrong]."

Majles deputy Ali Motahari, a prominent Ahmadinejad critic and Larijani's brother-in-law, warned against pressuring deputies to retract their support for a motion to summon the president to parliament for questioning. As reported by Tehran Bureau, there have been claims that 20 deputies out of 100 had withdrawn their support for the plan, but Motahari said those were rumors to create "an atmosphere of fear in the Majles" He added, "I do not have any news regarding the withdrawal of the support by some deputies. Currently, the Majles is in recess and there is not possibility of talking back one's signature for the plan. Those who feed such 'news' are apparently expressing their own wishes; there is nothing wrong to express the wishes of the hopeless people."

The National Iranian Oil Company has threatened to cut off deliveries of oil to India during August unless it is paid for the country's previous oil purchases. According to Fars News Agency, NIOC has not threatened a permanent cutoff of exporting oil to India, but has demanded payment for what has already been exported. India owes Iran a total of $9 billion, $2 billion of it past due.

On Sunday, Ahmadinejad claimed that the government will give 1,000 square meters to every family on which to build new homes. The next day, Mohammad Hossein Moghimi, head of the municipality commission, said that there are no lands available, and if Ahmadinejad wants to implement his plan, he will have to use the Lout Desert south and east of Tehran to do it. "We should not make baseless promises to the people," Moghimi said. "Instead of such promises, the government should help the farmers and agriculture sector that have experienced problems due to the elimination of subsidies."

Veteran attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, spokesman for the League of Defenders of Human Rights in Iran, was convicted of plotting the "soft overthrow" of the government. He was sentenced to nine years of incarceration, a ten-year ban on practicing or teaching law, and five lashes. In an interview with Radio Farda, Dadkhah said, "I am very happy that I was not given a death sentence, because when the laws disappear from the view of a judge, anything is possible."

A group of 12 intelligence and security agents unexpectedly visited Ward 350 of Tehran's Evin Prison. The ward currently houses 180 political prisoners, the vast majority of whom are Green Movement. It is not clear why the visit took place. Security and judicial officials have said that they were planning to house security forces in the ward to exercise tighter control over the political prisoners. Closed-circuit cameras have been installed in every corner of the ward, even the bathrooms, and the prisoners can see their families only once a week. Telephone lines have also been disconnected.

Twenty-five prisoners in Ghezelhesar Prison in Karaj, west of Tehran, were secretly executed on Sunday. They had been convicted of narcotic trafficking and distribution. The prisoners were apparently executed without their families or attorneys being informed, which is against the law.

The death sentence of Yousef Nadr Khani, a Muslim Iranian who converted to Christianity and became a preacher, was set aside by Iran's Supreme Court, which asked him to repent and return to Islam. His attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told the AFP that the Supreme Court has returned the case to a lower court.

Journalist Mehdi Hosseinzadeh, who was sentenced to prison for one year, was released after serving his sentence in full. He was one of the 64 political prisoners who signed a letter describing how journalist Reza Hoda Saber's death resulted directly from his treatment by Evin security guards.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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