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Ahmadinejad 'Illegally' Names New VP in Foreign Affairs Power Play

12 Aug 2011 04:45Comments

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

SaeedlooAhmjad.jpg4:30 a.m., 21 Mordad/August 12 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
In another sign that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not intend to end his confrontation with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he appointed Ali Saeedloo as vice president for international affairs. (The two are seen here in an image from August 2006, when Saeedloo was the president's executive deputy.) Traditionally, the Foreign Ministry handles international affairs, and last September Khamenei warned Ahmadinejad against "parallelism" after the president appointed five close aides as his "special envoys" for various regions of the world. The appointment has provoked criticism from various Majles deputies; Mohammad Dehghan, a member of the parliament's leadership, said that the appointment is illegal. Curiously, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has remained silent.

At an iftar -- the evening meal at which Muslims break the Ramadan fast -- for the staff of the office of the president, Ahmadinejad claimed that over the past six years 30 million Iranians have come to the presidential complex and asked for help in solving their problems. He said that he considered the statistic an indication of "how hard the staff of the office of the president has been working." Ahmadinejad's claim has, however, been widely questioned. In addition to the impossibility of 13,700 people visiting the complex every day of the week, critics point out that even if the figure were correct, it would indicate only that the nation's bureaucracy is highly inefficient and not working properly. As one put it, "This statistic is an embarrassment, not an honor."

On Wednesday, Ahmadinejad criticized the British police for their treatment of the protestors in London, Birmingham, and elsewhere, saying that "such treatment of citizens by the police is not acceptable. The officials should hear the voice of their people." In response, the British Embassy in Tehran issued a letter to Iran's Foreign Ministry noting that the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights has been to Britain many times, and suggested that the Islamic Republic allow Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the special rights rapporteur for Iran, to travel to Tehran and carry out his mandate.

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naghdi, commander of the Basij militia, suggested that Basij forces could be dispatched to London and other British cities "as a peace-keeping force." Naghdi also criticized the U.N. Security Council for keeping "silent" about the demonstrations in Britain.

On June 14, 16 men attacked a private party in Khomeini Shahr in Isfahan province and raped six women, four of them married. The event became a topic of national debate. The rapists were subsequently arrested and it turned out that some of them were repeat offenders. A court in Isfahan just convicted the four leaders of the gang and sentenced them to death. The rest of the accused have also been convicted and sentenced to various jail terms.

Iran's offensive against the Kurdish dissident group PJAK continues unabated. In the latest confrontation between the two sides, five military engineers -- including two officers -- were killed by PJAK forces near Makoo in northwestern Iran. PJAK has been listed by the United States State Department as a terrorist organization. Reports indicate that, a month after the offensive began, PJAK leader Abdulrahman Haji-Ahmadi has declared his readiness to arrange a ceasefire and enter into negotiations with Tehran.

Fourteen imprisoned journalists have issued a statement holding the government responsible for the health and lives of the leaders of the Green Movement and their wives -- Mir Hossein Mousavi and Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi and Fatemeh Karroubi, whose immediate release they demanded -- as well as all the political prisoners around the country. They point out that more than 40 journalists are currently in jail, some of whom have been barred for life from working in their profession. Many newspapers, magazines, and other publications have been shut down, many websites have been blocked, and journalists continue to be arrested.

Majles deputy and Ahmadinejad critic Ali Motahari has suggested that the elections for the Ninth Majles next March should be supervised by a committee composed of representatives of the three branches of government. This proposal has been supported by Deputy Majles Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar. Bahonar said that the Constitution does not explicitly state that elections should be supervised by the executive branch; only the laws that have been passed by the Majles have assigned responsibility to the executive, and those laws can be modified. Ahmadinejad's adversaries have been worried that he and his supporters will commit fraud in the parliamentary elections. Dariush Ghanbari, spokesman for the reformist bloc of the Majles, also supported Motahari's suggestion.

Bahonar has also asked the reformists to run in the upcoming campaign, after it became increasingly clear that they plan not to. In reaction, Abbas Abdi, a leading voice among Iranian dissidents, said that Bahonar's request is "personal" and "has no value" or credibility, since he is not speaking on behalf of the government. Abdi added that if the government really wanted the reformists to run in the elections, it would try to fulfill the conditions that they have set.

Every year during Ramadan, a group of hardline Basij university students meets with Khamenei. No dissident students are allowed to participate. On Wednesday, the Basij students met with Khamenei, while the Muslim Student Association of the University of Tehran posted a short statement that one of its members was going to deliver in the meeting if they were allowed to attend. The statement is highly critical of what is going on in the universities and in the country at large.

Rasoul Bodaghi, a teacher and member of the board of directors of the League of Iranian Teachers, who has been imprisoned for his political activities, has been fired from his job. Arrested on September 2, 2009, since June 2010 he has been incarcerated in Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj, near Tehran. After a show trial, he was sentenced in August 2010 to six years of imprisonment and a five-year ban on any political activity. As reported by Tehran Bureau, Bodaghi, together with several other political prisoners, went on a hunger strike in May and June, after which he was transferred to solitary confinement. When his mother passed away recently, he was refused permission to take part in her funeral and mourning.

Three university students, Soleiman Vahidinia, Ali Naderi, and Naser Aamam, have been arrested by the security forces in the Kurdish city of Mahabad in Western Azerbaijan province. There is no information about their current whereabouts.

Mohsen Mohagheghi, a member of the central committee of the Liberation Movement of Iran and son-in-law of LMI founder Mehdi Bazargan, has been imprisoned. He was arrested after the protests on December 27, 2009, the Day of Ashura, and spent two months in Ward 209 of Evin Prison. He has been sentenced to four years in jail. Mohagheghi was also arrested in April 2001, together with several other nationalist-religious figures, and spent some time in Detention Center 59, which is run by the intelligence unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. A secret court sentenced him on that occasion to 30 months of imprisonment. Other members of the LMI who are currently in jail include Emad Bahavar, who is in charge of the youth division of the group, Mohammad (Farbod) Taheri, and Dr. Leila Tavasoli.

There are reports that the health of several political prisoners has been deteriorating severely. They include:

* Ali Ajami, a secular leftist university student who has been imprisoned since February 2010. Ajami, a senior student at the Law School of the University of Tehran, has been sentenced to four years of incarceration.

* Dr. Ghasem Sholeh Sadi, a professor of law and political science at the university, who was jailed five months ago. Sholeh Sadi, a deputy in the Fourth and Fifth Majles (1992-2000), was arrested in 2002 and accused of "insulting the Supreme Leader."

* Nationalist-religious journalist Keyvan Samimi, who was sentenced to six years of imprisonment and a 15-year ban on political activity after his arrest last year. Samimi is a member of the central committee of the Nationalist-Religious Coalition, managing editor of the banned Nameh weekly, and a member of the Society for Defense of the Press Freedom, National Council of Peace, Committee on Illegal Arrests, and Council for the Defense of the Rights to Education. He also spent a long time in jail before the 1979 Revolution.

* Dr. Mehdi Khazali, a critic of the hardliners and a son of reactionary cleric Ayatollah Abolghasem Khazali, who went on a hunger strike and has been transferred to Ward 350 of Evin Prison, where common criminals are held. His son, Mohammad Saleh Khazali, says that his father was severely beaten when he was arrested.

Javan, the Revolutionary Guards' mouthpiece, reported that a plan is being considered under which all the clerics who support the reformists will be defrocked. Those who may be defrocked, according to the report, include former President Mohammad Khatami; his vice president for parliamentary affairs, Mohammad Ali Abtahi; his interior minister, Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari; Majid Ansari, a former Majles deputy; and the influential Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha. The report was removed from Javan's website after several hours.

A few days ago, Fatemeh Bagherinejadian -- daughter of Mohammad Bagher Bagherinejadian, a leftist/reformist deputy in the Third (1988-92) and Sixth (2000-4) Majles -- was kidnapped. Her body was discovered a day later in Rey, on Tehran's southern edge. Bagherinejadian is believed to be close to Mehdi Karroubi and Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Mohammad Dastgheib, the popular cleric who has been criticizing the hardliners in strong terms. He was one of the 127 deputies in the Sixth Majles who wrote a letter of protest to Khamenei and staged a sit-in after the Guardian Council disqualified 600 of the reformists' leading candidates from the campaign for the Seventh Majles, including almost all those already serving in parliament. Nedaye Enghelab, a website close to the security forces, claimed that Fatemeh Bagherinejadian had such deep differences with her father over his political views that she was afflicted with depression and communicating with him only by mail. Her father has threatened to go public with undisclosed information regarding her death if the judiciary does not take proper action.

Avaz Heydarpour, member of the Majles Commission on National Security and Foreign Policy, said that Iran is read to go to war in cyberspace with Israel and the United States. He said that Iran has always been attacked by the "Zionist regime" and, therefore, a cyberspace war against Iran is nothing new. He added that Iran can defend itself in such a war and give an effective response.

Talal al-Zoba'e, a legislator from the al-Iraqiya bloc led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, said in a statement on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of the end of the Iraq-Iran War that Iran must compensate Iraq for the conflict. (The international community has recognized Iraq as the aggressor, responsible for starting the war in September 1980.) Al-Zoba'e told the Aswat al-Iraq news agency, "We demand Iran pay compensation for its eight-year war against Iraq, estimated at more than U.S. $700 billion, for the 'martyrs' and the infrastructure destroyed because of the war and Iran's violations against Iraq. The Iranian side was the one that launched the war and the United Nations and other international organizations pointed out that Iraq was willing to achieve peace, but Iran insisted on continuing the war and striking Iraq, which forced us to defend ourselves.... The Iraqi arena witnessed huge violations by militias, supported by Iran, that killed Iraqis, forced others to desert their hometowns, and made a lot of women widows. So we are demanding compensation for that period from Iran...."

On Tuesday, Major General Hassan Firoozabadi, chief of staff of the armed forces, strongly criticized the Republic of Azerbaijan after it established diplomatic relations with Israel, saying, "Some of our Muslim neighbors do not follow the criteria for friendship [with us], give a free hand to the Zionists in their country, and then issue a ban on God's teaching for the Muslim masses" -- Azerbaijan has banned the wearing of hejab in schools. In reaction, Azeribaijan's Foreign Ministry summoned Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Bagher Bahrami to register a protest with him and demand a stop to such "slanders."

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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