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The Parliament and the President: Will They Grill Ahmadinejad?

03 Jul 2011 15:00Comments

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

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3 p.m., 12 Tir/July 3 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

Ruhollah Hosseinian, hardline Majles deputy and a supporter of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the plan to summon the president to the Majles may be set aside: "During the days in which the deputies were angry with him, they signed the letter [to the Majles leadership group to summon Ahmadinejad], but some deputies do not currently think that this is in the interest of the nation, and may take back their signatures." Hosseinian added that he doubts that the plan to summon Ahmadinejad will be put up for debate in the Majles, adding, "Given the current internal and external conditions, it is not in the interest of the nation to debate the plan. Given the recent meeting of the deputies with the Supreme Leader, the plan will definitely not be supported by him."

In response to Hosseinian, Ahmadinejad critic Ali Motahari said that, apparently, Hosseinian believes that questioning the president is akin to a coup, and he may be mistaking this with impeachment. Motahari said, "What he [Hosseinian] is saying is surprising. The number of people who signed on during the time that the president stayed home [abandoning the cabinet for 11 days] is fewer than 11. Even if all the people had signed on during that period, the nature of the issue does not change. The deputies read the questions and signed the motion. What Hosseinian is saying implies that the deputies acted emotionally, which is insulting to them."

Another Majles deputy, Sayyed Mohammad Javad Abtahi, said that 20 of the 100 deputies that had signed on the plan to summon Ahmadinejad to the Majles have changed their minds and retracted their signatures. He added that the Majles leadership council has been trying to convince Motahari to take back his signature. Motahari has been leading the effort to summon Ahmadinejad to the Majles and question him.

Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, leader of the clerical block in the Majles, said that now is the best time to question Ahmadinejad. He added, "Questioning, warning, and impeaching [the president] are the rights of the Majles deputies.... In order to protect the legitimacy and power of the government we had avoided talking about questioning [the president], but due to what is going on the deputies themselves want to question him. They have questions -- these are not [intended for] humiliating and weakening the government. There are some ambiguities and he [should] come here and provide explanation."

In response to Ahmadinejad's recent threat that if members of his cabinet are arrested he will take action "according to his legal, moral, and national duties," Majles deputy Sayyed Reza Akrami said, "We expect the government and the president to respect the law and express their views in a way that will not cause differences between and annoyance in the officials." He added, "Whether Mr. Ahmadinejad likes it or not, the judiciary and the intelligence organs will act according to their duties, will arrest the offenders, and will confront them."

After Hamid Sajjadi, Ahmadinejad's nominee for the minister of sports and youth affairs, was rejected by the Majles, the president appointed Mohammad Abbasi, who is currently minister of the cooperatives, as the acting minister. He began his work Saturday. Abbasi was born in 1958 in Gorgan (in northeast Iran) and has a doctoral degree. He was previously a Majles deputy, representing his home town, and is the managing editor of the weekly Shomal. The reaction of the Majles deputies to the Abbasi appointment has been largely negative. Nader Ghazipour, member of the Majles commission on sports said that the appointment is illegal because the deadline to appoint an acting minister has expired and, in addition, Abbasi is already a minister in Ahmadinejad's cabinet and thus cannot be acting minister for another ministry. Ghazipiour sadded that the appointment represents the continuation of Ahmadinejad's pattern of violating the law regarding the ministry. Hossein Sobhaninia, member of the Majles leadership council said that it is better if Ahmadinejad submits the nomination of another nominee, instead of appointing an acting minister.

Conservative journalist and analyst Reza Golpour said in an interview that Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and close confidant, told him that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his supporters have at most seven million votes. Golpour, who has had extensive discussions with Mashaei, also said that Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff firmly believe that Iran should reestablish diplomatic relations with the United States. Golpour added that Mashaei told him that he founded the Hojjatiyeh Society in Mazandaran province.

7-e Sobh, Mashaei's mouthpiece, responded to the accusations by Mojtaba Zolnour, former deputy to Khamenei's representative to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ali Saeedi. As reported by Tehran Bureau, Zolnour accused Ahmadinejad and his inner circle of many wrongdoings, and said that the president may have the same fate as Abolhassan Bani Sadr, the Islamic Republic's first president, who was impeached in 1981. 7-e Sobh responded, "You do not dare to remove Ahmadinejad." It added, "Why do you not tell the truth by saying that you do not dare to do anything against million of people [who voted for Ahmadinejad], and that you need time to try to destroy the president's credibility? Why do you not tell the truth that out of your fear of people's reaction, you do not dare to take quick action against the president?

There has been speculation that Khamenei's preferred candidate for the presidential election in 2013 is Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a brigadier general and former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' air force. The speculation has been fueled by Abdolali Govahi, Khamenei's representative to the Mohammad Rasoulallah Corps, whose mission is to defend the greater Tehran area. He praised Tehran municipality and the mayor's office and said that the cooperation between them and the corps is very good.

Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi said that whereas Iran's imports totaled $16 billion in 1999, in the last Iranian year that ended on March 20, imports cost the nation $65 billion. He added that there is no proper infrastructure in the country to absorb such a volume of imports, and a significant fraction of the imports is brought into the country illegally, which hurts the national economy.

Sometime ago the Majles revised the law governing its elections, according to which those who wish to run as a deputy must have at least a master's degree. But, this meant that many of the current Majles deputies will not be able to run again. The Guardian Council agreed, however, to allow the current deputies to run again, if they have at least a bachelor's degree.

Gholam Ali Rezaei, head of the judiciary branch in Ardabil province, said that 40 narcotic traffickers have been condemned to death and will soon be executed publicly. Referring to the condemned people as the "merchants of death," Rezaei claimed that that the number of serious offenses regarding narcotics has reduced significantly, which he attributed to the severe punishment for the offenders.

Human rights sources report that the health of two political prisoners, Allah Voroodi Rouhi and Jafar Eghdami, has deteriorated badly, but the prison officials are paying no attention to them. Rouhi is suffering from swelling of his prostate and needs emergency surgery, but the prison officials have prevented him from getting treatment. Eghdami is suffering from severe pains in his muscles from neck down.

Security forces raided the office of poet, author, and Islamic scholar Dr. Sedigheh Vasmaghi and took away many of her personal belongings. She is currently a visiting professor in Germany. After the 2009 presidential elections Vasmaghi's office was a headquarter for investigating the plight of those who had been hurt in the peaceful demonstrations. In the past she has been repeatedly threatened by the Ministry of Intelligence.

A group of attorneys and human rights activists have written a letter to Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, saying that the death of Haleh Sahabi and journalist Reza Hoda Saber are clearly crimes that it is the duty of the judiciary to pursue. They say, "We believe that had the deaths of Zahra Kazemi and Zahra Baniyaghoob been investigated impartially and the offenders had been confronted, the society would not have had to witness what happened in the Kharizak detention center, and had those crimes been investigated properly, the society would not have seen the death of Sahabi and Saber." Photojournalist Dr. Zahra Kazemi (1949-2003) was murdered while detained by the security forces. Dr. Zahra Baniyaghoob (1980-2007) was also murdered while in detention in October 2007. At least four young people were murdered while in Kahrizak detention center on southern edge of Tehran in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election.

Security forces have raided the home of Mahrokh Shahrokhi, a member of a group called the "Mothers of Laleh" who are active against political violence. Reports indicate that Shahrokhi has escaped and no information is available about her whereabouts. Some members of Shahrokhi family belong to the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization and live in Camp Ashraf in Iraq, but Shahrokhi and her husband Azizollah Rabiei have never been active in politics. Shahrokhi's brother, Saeed Shahrokhi, was killed in Camp Ashraf in April when Iraqi forces attacked the Camp. Her daughter Monireh Rabiei has also been detained after actively participating in the demonstrations in the aftermath of the 2009 election.

Four Kurdish activists, Anvar Khezri, Kamran Sheikhi, Seyyed Abrahim Sayyedi, and Kamal Sharifi have been on a hunger strike for 29 days. Reports indicate that their physical and psychological health has been deteriorating. The first three activists are incarcerated in Rajaei Shahr prison in Karaj. They were arrested two years ago and their case has never been investigated. Sharifi is held in Minab.

Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi rejected U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates's assertion that, due to Iran's intervention in Iraq, the number of U.S. casualties in Iraq has increased recently. Vahidi said, "The repeated lies and the ridiculous claims of Secretary Defense of the U.S. have been used in the Gates era [at the Pentagon] to justify the wrong policies of the U.S. in the Middle East. Gates also claimed that Iran is between one to three years away from making a nuclear warhead. In response, Vahidi said, "Senior military officials of the United States also claimed ten years ago that Iran was one to three years from making the bomb, but nothing happened, so they are repeating it again. No U.S. official, including its defense secretary, has the right to appoint himself in place of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has admitted repeatedly to lack of diversion in Iran's nuclear program, and invent such great lies."

David S. Cohen was confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. He will lead the Treasury Department's policy, enforcement, regulatory, and intelligence functions aimed at identifying and disrupting the lines of financial support to international terrorist organizations, proliferators, narcotics traffickers, and other illicit actors posing a threat to our national security. He will also be responsible for directing the department's efforts to combat money laundering and financial crimes. In this role, Cohen will also be directly involved in imposing sanctions on Iran.

In the latest report by the German Interior Ministry about the political and security state of the country, the activities of the agents of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence have been described in detail. According to the report the agents have been trying to penetrate the political groups that are opposed to the Tehran government, and gather information on the activities of the opposition members. One tactic used by the ministry of intelligence is talking to those Iranians that travel to Iran. According to the report, the security and intelligence agents work under diplomatic cover in Germany.

The British Foreign Office has condemned the arrest of several female activists. The Foreign Office specifically mentioned sports photographer Maryam Majd, filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi, journalist Zahra Yazdani and women's rights advocate Maryam Bahrman among those who have been detained in the past weeks. Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement released late Thursday that the women join a host of journalists, bloggers, students and human rights defenders behind bars in Iran, and that the arrests "are truly disturbing."

After several months, IranAir has ended flights to Belgrade as its refueling base for flights originating from Western Europe on route to Teheran. Belgrade Airport has been under pressure to stop refueling IranAir aircraft, with the U. S. recently issuing an advisory to all airports in Europe to stop refueling all IranAir jets. Nikola Tesla Airport has been refueling several IranAir flights since March 2011, because most companies in European airports have refused to supply fuel to the Iranian flag carrier. Similarly, the airline made refueling stops in the Hungarian capital Budapest as well. No IranAir passengers were allowed to enter or leave the aircraft while refueling in Belgrade.

Britain has ordered the family of Nosratollah Tajik, Iran's former ambassador to Jordan who lives with his family in Britain, to leave the country. Tajik has been living in Britain under house arrest since October 26, 2006, after the United States accused him of being involved in selling night goggles to Iran's military, and has been trying to extradite him to put him on trial. Tajik has rejected the accusation and has pointed out that the instrument that he has been accused of being involved in its transfer to Iran is available in the open market and can be bought by anyone.

Quoting senior U.S. officials, the Wall Street Journal claimed that the Revolutionary Guards have transferred new munitions to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months, in order to accelerate the U.S. withdrawals from the two countries. Jay Solomon quoted Pentagon officials as saying that the Guards have smuggled rocket-assisted exploding projectiles to its militia allies in Iraq that have resulted in the deaths of American troops. The official also claimed that the Guards have also given long-range rockets to the Taliban in Afghanistan, increasing the insurgents' ability to hit coalition positions from a safer distance. Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi dismissed the claims. According to Vahidi, "The ridiculous and repeated lies of the Americans are aimed at justifying their own errors" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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