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Iran Media Celebrates Libyan Rebels' Victory; Mashaei Death Threat

24 Aug 2011 20:15Comments

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

3 Shahrivar/August 25 Here's a quick AP update via the Boston Globe:

The European Union imposed sanctions yesterday on the elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, saying the Qods Force is providing equipment and other support to help Syria's president, Bashar Assad, crush the five-month-old uprising against him.

Iran has offered unwavering support for Damascus, and there has been speculation it is providing funds to cushion Assad's government as it burns through the $17 billion in foreign reserves that was on hand at the start of the uprising.

LibyaCompound.jpg8:15 p.m., 2 Shahrivar/August 24 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
Conservative and hardline mass media in Iran have reacted positively to the apparent ouster of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. Alef -- the website published by Majles deputy Ahmad Tavakoli, a prominent critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- declared a "new era" in Libya, and wondered whether the Libyan people will be able to experience democracy after over four decades of Qaddafi's rule, or if "the world's major powers will try to influence Libya during the transition of power." The Asr-e Iran website, which is close to Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, reported extensively on the fighting in Tripoli as well as where Qaddafi may be hiding. It also criticized the Iranian Foreign Ministry for being preoccupied with domestic affairs, such as the appointment of Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh -- a close aide to Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and confidant -- as deputy foreign minister and his almost immediate resignation (he is currently in jail), while Turkey and many Arab nations were developing links with and providing assistance to the Libyan rebels.

Ayande News, which is aligned with Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, welcomed the overthrow of Qaddafi and congratulated the people of Libya. The website also criticized Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi for not trying to make contact with the Libyan rebels, and going instead to Somalia. Fararu, a moderately conservative website, declared jubilantly that Qaddafi's dictatorship had ended. Fars, the news agency run by the intelligence unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, proclaimed that Qaddafi had met the same fate as former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and that this proves that "injustice and oppression, despite their appearance of longevity, will not last."

Majles Speaker Ali Larijani sent a congratulatory message to "the Muslim and revolutionary people of Libya," and expressed his hope that the country's new government "can be established without intervention by foreign countries." The Foreign Ministry also issued a statement supporting the people of Libya and warning against outside interference in their affairs.

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MansourArziAugust.jpgMansour Arzi (pictured), a well-known panegyrist, declared that he will provide the blood money payable to relatives of the dead if someone murders Mashaei. He accused Mashaei of being of Jewish origin, and said that he has been hiding lately, worried about people's anger. Referring to Ahmadinejad and his supporters, Arzi said, "They are trying to lay the foundation for the presidential election of 2013 in order to get the votes of the mobs and criminals, but they will take their wish to the grave." Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said that if Mashaei takes Arzi to court, the judiciary will pursue the case. Ali Akbar Javanfekr, the president's press adviser, said that the government has kept silent about the threat because it is waiting to see what Dolatabadi will do. The Iran website declared that Arzi has become a tool of the extremists. Several Majles deputies also criticized Arzi.

As reported by Tehran Bureau, the daily Iran, which backs Ahmadinejad, published a special section on women called Khatoon Nameh that angered many hardliners. The website devoted to Khatoon Nameh has now been blocked in Iran.

In a press conference, Dolatabadi said that there are currently 15 people in detention who are facing charges of spying for foreign governments. He also announced that Iran is facing charges regarding Khatoon Nameh, and that the person who verbally assaulted Faezeh Hashemi, Rafsanjani's daughter, last year will soon be put on trial.

The Coordination Council for the Green Path of Hope, the temporary leadership council while Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are under house arrest, called for people to go to their rooftops Thursday evening, and shout "Allah-o Akbar" in support of the people of Palestine and Syria, and against dictatorship. Since 1979, the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan has been designated "Quds Day," during which demonstrations are held in support of the Palestinian people.

Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei, a supporter of the Green Movement, said in a speech that Iranians have become better informed and no longer accept dictatorship. He spoke about the difficulties that the nation's citizens are facing, including unemployment, economic pressure, addiction to dangerous narcotics, corruption, and the arrest of good people. "Oh God, we have a depressed society, help us," he said, concluding, "The oppressor should know and rest assured that dictatorships and dictators will both be gone."

Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naghdi, the Basij militia commander, said that in its "soft war" with the West, Iran has a shortage of 150,000 clerics. He added that Iran also needs 35,000 extra mosques. The hardliners refer to peaceful demonstrations, as well as using the Internet for exchanging ideas and organizing protests, as the "soft war."

Nasim Online, a website close to the conservative Islamic Coalition Party that is dedicated to brief headlines and news, reported that there is a bill under consideration in the Majles that would create a National Commission for Elections and take control away from the Guardian Council. There was a similar plan in the Expediency Discernment Council in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election, which was set aside.

Bultan News, a website run by the Revolutionary Guards, reported that the Ahmadinejad administration is pushing out Saeed Jalili as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, and giving his position to Foreign Minister Salehi. Jalili, a hardliner, is secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council, and used to be considered very close to Ahmadinejad. It is said that he routinely refuses to discuss Iran's nuclear program when he meets with representatives of the United States and its allies, and instead lectures them about the West has done to Iran over the years. The website criticized the fact that both Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov prefer to deal with Salehi. In an article a few months ago, I predicted that Salehi would take the lead role in the nuclear negotiations.

Minister of Economy and Financial Affairs Seyyed Shamseddin Hosseini was summoned to the Majles and questioned. Tavakoli asked, "Under the current conditions in which we see the signs of recession, why is it that some people still want to get permits to open new banks and financial cooperatives? The reason is the great raant khaari [kleptocracy] that can be run through such financial institutions. The money that makes some rich...is taken from the pockets of the poor." Hosseini was also questioned by hardline deputies Elyas Naderan and Parviz Sarvari, both former Revolutionary Guard officers. The minister announced that 39 million people have enrolled with the government to receive the so-called "justice shares."

Iran has begun to import gasoline again. Naser Sudani, deputy head of the Majles Energy Commission, confirmed the news, saying that the fire in the Abadan refinery is one reason not enough gasoline is being produced in the country.

Mohsen Hashemi, a son of Rafsanjani, said that if it were not for the expediency of the nation, Ahmadinejad would not have been allowed to continue as president. Hashemi for 17 years headed the organization responsible for the construction and expansion of Tehran's subway system. He was forced to resign after the Ahmadinejad administration refused to provide the system with the necessary funds. He added, "I believe since the era of the Medians we have never had someone like Ahmadinejad in history who could attract the trust of some people by making [baseless] accusations against his competitors. His mass media team and those who benefit from him have used the national resources to hurt people's trust in those who are the true servants of the people, the nation, and Islam." In another interview, Hashemi said that "the radicals and extremists cannot run the country." The daily Resalat, the mouthpiece of the Islamic Coalition Party, criticized Hashemi, claiming that what he has said is part of a campaign for the next Majles elections, to be held in March 2012.

Ahmadinejad has ordered the head of Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport not to provide fuel to the Dutch airline KLM. Since last year, several European countries have refused to provide fuel to Iranian passenger airliners, and Iran has retaliated in kind.

A week after Ahmadinejad controversially appointed Ali Saeedloo as his vice president for international affairs, Saeedloo suggested using Iran's Botany Garden and Museum of Agricultural Science for the upcoming conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, but 63 Majles deputies warned Ahmadinejad against pursuing the plan.

Three new items manufactured by the armed forces were shown publicly for the first time: the Ghader cruise missile, which has a range of 125 miles; the Valfajr submarine-launched missile, designed to strike warships; and a powerful ship engine.

Three Marjas (sources of Shia emulation) have issued fatwas, saying that the people can send part of their income that they are supposed to give to the grand ayatollahs for religious affairs (sahm-e emam -- the Imam's share) to help the people of Somalia. The Marjas are Grand Ayatollahs Naser Makarem Shirazi, Lotfollah Safi Golpayegani, and Hossein Nouri Hamadani. As mentioned above, Foreign Minister Salehi made a quick trip to Somalia, visited the camps for the refugees, and discussed with Somalian officials the ways Iran could help the country's people.

Research carried out in the Medical School of the University of Tehran indicates that in the Iranian year of 1389 (March 21, 2010-March 20, 2011), 3,600 people died of causes that can be directly attributed to air pollution. In addition, according to the criteria set for clean air, Tehran did not have a single day with good air quality during 1389. At the same time, however, the same research indicates that the amount of pollutants in Tehran's atmosphere has decreased relative to a decade ago, because one million old and substandard cars were removed and replaced by new cars with higher pollution standards.

Over the first four months of the current Iranian year, 7,023 people lost their lives in road accidents. The number of deaths over the same period last year was 8,030. Statistics indicate that since the 1979 Revolution, 800,000 people have been killed in such accidents and nine million people have been injured.

Iran's largest case of embezzlement was recently discovered. Through a series of fake accounts and lines of credit, a group of businessmen embezzled about $2.5 billion. The culprits have been arrested.

The trial of Ali Jamali Fashi, who is accused of assassinating Professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi, began in Tehran. Although there is considerable inconsistency and even obvious falsehoods in the "confessions" that Jamali Fashi, 26, made on national television, Dolatabadi went ahead with the trial. Jamali Fashi has said that Israel's Mossad trained him to carry out the assassination, and gave him $120,000. In the court session, the prosecutor accused him of moharebeh (warring against God) and corruption on earth, as well as working with foreign intelligence agencies, all punishable by execution. Jamali Fashi has said that he is a strong supporter of Ahmadinejad.

Dr. Latif Safari, publisher of the reformist newspaper Neshaat, which was closed by the hardliners 12 years ago, said that his paper has been cleared of all charges and that if he can find adequate financial resources, he will begin publishing it again. Many observers believe that allowing Neshaat to be published is part of the usual hardline tactic of temporarily opening up the political arena when an important election looms.

Vahid Lalipoor, husband of imprisoned university activist Mahdieh Golroo, has been detained. He was arrested with his wife in December 2009 and spent three months in Evin Prison. The court sentenced him to one year of imprisonment and four years of suspended incarceration. He was detained to begin serving his sentence.

Political prisoner Hossein Ronaghi Maleki was transferred to a hospital for the second time. On the first occasion, he fainted as he was being severely beaten by prison guards, after he protested the conditions in which he was being held. Reports indicate that the health of another political prisoner, Majid Dorri, incarcerated since July 2009, has also deteriorated. He has been exiled to a jail in Behbahan in southern Iran.

Two Kurdish religious activists, Hossein Amini and Khaleh Hajizadeh, have each been sentenced to six years of imprisonment. They were arrested six months ago and are currently in Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj, west of Tehran.

Vahed Kholoosi, a Baha'i student and activist for the rights of those that have been expelled from the universities, has been arrested. The Baha'i faith is not recognized by Islam. Reports indicate that he is being held in Evin's Ward 2A, which is controlled by the Revolutionary Guards.

The trial of Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi, leader of the Liberation Movement of Iran, will begin on Sunday. He was first arrested in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election. He had been hospitalized when arrested. He was released after three days. He was again arrested in January 2010, and after 60 days of solitary confinement was transferred to a hospital, suffering from heart problems and prostate cancer. He was then released after posting bail of about $500,000. Arrested for a third time on October 1, 2010, he spent three months in solitary confinement and another three months in a "safe house" run by the Ministry of Intelligence.

Reporters without Borders issued a statement that condemned Iran for its treatment of journalists and the general deterioration of human rights in the country. It declared that the illegal arrests and secret detentions of journalists are violations of international law and should be considered cases of "forced disappearance."

Last week, Herman Nackaerts, deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and head of its safeguards department, visited Iran for five days and was given a tour of a facility used to develop advanced uranium enrichment machines. Iran's representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said that the visit demonstrated Tehran's "100 percent transparency and openness." Soltanieh said Nackaerts also visited a heavy water production plant in Arak -- which the IAEA has long wanted to inspect -- and Iran's main uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, as well as other nuclear sites that the IAEA inspects regularly. Iran and the IAEA agreed on how agency inspectors will monitor activities at Fordow, an underground facility near Qom, where Iran will produce the 19.75% enriched uranium that it needs for Tehran Research Reactor. Dr. Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, announced on Monday that Iran has already transferred several advanced centrifuges to Fordow.

The sudden replacement of Iran's ambassador to Syria, Ahmad Mousavi, has angered the Syrian government. The Foreign Ministry has replaced Mousavi with Ahmad Sheibani, head of the ministry's Middle East and North Africa desk. Reports indicate that Mousavi was sending unrealistic reports to Tehran regarding developments in Syria, provoking Ahmadinejad's ire. Syrian officials are upset by Mousavi's departure because it could be interpreted as evidence that Iran is losing faith in President Bashar al-Assad and his government.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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