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Iran Offers 'Full' Atom Oversight; Water Guns 'No Game'; Reform Papers Banned

06 Sep 2011 23:00Comments

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

timthumb.jpg8:55 p.m., 15 Shahrivar/September 6 Quoting Iranian news agencies, Reuters reports that Oliver Stone's son is in Iran to "prepare" a documentary on an unknown topic.
"Sean Stone has come to Iran and wants to prepare the ground for making a documentary," Mehrdad Hojjati, an Iranian film producer, was quoted as saying by the ILNA news agency.

Another news agency, Mehr, reported that Oliver Stone, whom it described as an "anti-American system" director, would join his son on September 26 to help out.

Earlier, the Tehran Times said filmmaker Michael Moore was headed to Iran in the fall. "He has asked [for permission] to travel to Iran, and we are trying to invite him to the Cinéma Vérité," Deputy Culture Minister for Cinematic Affairs Javad Shamaqdari was quoted as saying.

6:30 p.m., 15 Shahrivar/September 6 One day after announcing an offer to allow the IAEA, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, "full supervision" of Iran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions, Fereydoun Abbasi, the Islamic Republic's nuclear chief, made a very significant "clarification" of the offer in response to a query from the Iranian Students' News Agency. The Khaleej Times reports,

On Tuesday ISNA asked him whether this offer includes the implementation of the additional protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which calls for tougher and snap inspections of atomic activities of its signatories.

Abbasi said the offer does not include such inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities.

"We will not accept any more obligations," he told ISNA. [...]

The Iranian proposal was immediately rejected Monday as insufficient by the European Union, which said the Islamic Republic must first re-establish confidence for any sanctions to be lifted.

4:30 p.m., 15 Shahrivar/September 6 As popular uprisings continue around the Middle East, particularly in Syria, a close ally of Iran's, the Islamic Republic has intensified its crackdown not only on dissidents and human rights advocates, but those who simply know them. The Wall Street Journal reports,

Kouhyar Goudarzi, 25 years old, a well-known human-rights activist who was active online, was arrested on July 31 when security forces stormed into his house at night. He hasn't reappeared and there is no official record of his whereabouts, said his lawyer, Mina Jaffari in a phone interview from Tehran.

Mr. Goudarzi's mother, Parvin Mokhtareh, was also arrested for campaigning to release her son. She is being held at the criminal ward of the women's prison in the city of Kerman.

In another case, Behnam Ganji, a 22-year-old engineering student in Tehran, committed suicide last week after he was released on bail after eight days of solitary confinement in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. He wasn't a political activist and was arrested only because of his friendship with Mr. Goudarzi, his family told the Iranian news web site Roozonline.

Mr. Ganji's friends and family said he was tortured and pressured to give false testimony against his activist friends and charged with threatening national security.

"Behnam was terrified of his own shadow when he was released," a family member told Roozonline. "What happened in prison that a happy young man would end his life?"

FereydounAbbasiPressTV.jpg6 a.m., 15 Shahrivar/September 6 The director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran revealed Monday that he had made an offer to allow the United Nations' nuclear energy organization complete access to the Islamic Republic's nuclear activities; on the same day, it was announced that the Bushehr nuclear power plant has been linked to Iran's electrical grid.

Here's how the state-run Press TV website covered the first story:

Iran says the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can completely supervise Tehran's nuclear activities for five years if the sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic are lifted.

In an interview with ISNA [the Iranian Students' News Agency] on Monday, Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereydoun Abbasi said he had made the offer to Director-General of the IAEA Yukia Amano.

"By lifting the sanctions and meeting mutual obligations, the agency can completely supervise Iran's nuclear activities without broaching [such topics as] military aspects and alleged studies," Abbasi further elaborated.

Referring to the recent visit of Deputy Head of the IAEA Safeguards Department Herman Nackaerts to Iran, Abbasi said Tehran's objectives of taking such measures are to prove that the country has no problem with the agency.

The coverage in the Tehran Times of the same ISNA interview took a very different slant:

The director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has said that Iran's preconditions for talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency and other countries have changed due to Iran's nuclear progress. [...]

"They (the Westerners) used to say that Iran should not enrich uranium. Now they say the country should not install centrifuges and should stop enriching uranium to a purity level of 20 percent. Meanwhile, they are seeking to damage our nuclear facilities through viruses and selling (us) defective equipment," Abbasi stated.

"Technically speaking, we should push ahead with our plans and adopt all the measures necessary to coordinate the AEOI and our country's political apparatus for the nuclear discussions."

Commenting on IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano's recent report on Iran's nuclear program, Abbasi said, "Amano should not have included the alleged weapons studies in his report because he has not negotiated with Iran on this matter."

For years, IAEA reports have said that the agency cannot provide assurances about Iran's undeclared nuclear material, he stated.

Since the agency is not sure about the studies, it would be better if it did not include the sentence in its reports, he added.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Monday, as well, Iranian security analyst Mojtaba Bigdeli emphasized that Iran was attempting to demonstrate the "transparency" of its atomic program. "It is high time," he declared, "for Western countries to stop their stubborn stance and grasp the golden opportunity provided by Iran's goodwill."

Evidence of the progress of that atomic program was emerging almost simultaneously, as the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported from Moscow:

[The] Russian contractor of Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Reactor (BNR), Atomstroyexport, announced here Monday evening [that the] BNR is now connected to Iran's Electricity Network.

According to the communiqué of the Atomstroyexport a copy of which was faxed to the Moscow bureau of IRNA earlier this evening, we read: Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Plant, whose total capacity stands at 1,000 MW, was launched late on Saturday at a capacity of 65 MW at 23:29 pm, Saturday night, Moscow time.

The Russian company has further reiterated that the full security tests of the entire parts of the BNR have been completed successfully.

The Atomstroyexport stresses that the activities at the BNR are proceeding normally and just as scheduled.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in mid-August that the plant would go into full operation by the end of the (Iranian) year (March 20th, 2012).

The fuel for Bushehr was provided by Russia, which completed the long-delayed construction of the plant last summer. The plant was expected to start operating last February.

***
WaterFun.jpgOn Monday, three days after the arrests of several people who had gathered to take part in a water-gun fight in a central Tehran park, Iranian Prosecutor-General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, who is also the spokesman for the national judiciary, declared that the increasingly popular pastime is part of a counterrevolutionary plot masterminded by foreign entities. According to Agence France-Presse,
"This is not simply a game with water. This is a campaign which is being orchestrated from abroad," [Mohseni Ejei] told a press conference, ISNA news agency reported.

"Some of those arrested have admitted that they were deceived, with some saying they had responded to calls by anti-revolutionary" groups, he added. [...]

Water fights by young Iranians -- using balloons, plastic guns and water bottles -- have angered the Islamic regime, which is wary of unofficial gatherings, particularly in large cities, over fears they could ignite demonstrations. [...]

On Monday, Mohseni Ejei said water fighting was not a crime in itself but only when "people use it to commit acts against religion and disrupt public security ... particularly when there is a foreign orchestrator."

An Associated Press report offered a different Iranian perspective:

[E]ven some conservatives who are strong supporters of Islamic rule thought arresting young people was going too far.

"I feel bad when I see some youth were detained for water fights. Those who support such detentions think the Islamic system is somehow very fragile," said Mohammad Reza Zaeri, a conservative cleric, on a state TV talk show recently.

Lawmaker Mohammad Hossein Moghimi, another conservative, said young people were holding water fights because of a lack of other entertainment and because of so many other restrictions on them.

"Sometimes, we make it too hard for people and constrict them, so they react," he said. "We have to make people comfortable."

***

Two leading Iranian pro-reformist periodicals, the daily Roozegar and the weekly Shahrvand-e Emrooz, have been banned. AFP reported on the daily:

"Rouzegar newspaper has been banned for two months" starting [Monday], ISNA news agency quoted the prosecutor's office as saying.

"The newspaper has been banned on charges of propaganda against the regime and publishing state secrets," it added, without elaborating.

Rouzegar first appeared on newsstands on February 3, 2010 to join a half-dozen reformist newspapers which have struggled to survive anti-media repression in the Islamic republic.

The paper, along with the once-banned Etemad (Confidence) daily, enabled the reformists to launch a debate on whether to participate in the upcoming parliamentary election of March 2012.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported on the weekly's ban:

According to a letter the publication's management received, the reason for the ban is cited as Article 6 of the Iranian Press Law.

The source told the Campaign that "apparently publishing an image on the cover of the weekly was the reason for its ban." According to the source, in the referenced issue, there is a collage containing a picture of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the cover. According to one of the items in Article 6 of the Press Law, "publishing libel against officials, institutions, organizations and individuals in the country or insulting legal or real persons who are lawfully respected, even by means of pictures or caricatures," is not permitted. [...]

Shahrvand-e Emrooz Weekly is an independent, reformist-leaning publication. It opened in March 2006, but "on 6 November 2008, the Press Oversight Committee banned the weekly for its unrealistic portrayal of certain actions of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cabinet."

The weekly resumed on 2 July of this year, only to be banned again three months later. [...]

Iran Newspaper, affiliated with Ahmadinejad's Ministry of Islamic Guidance, explicitly asked for judicial action on the publication. "The publication, which belongs to the extremist faction of reformists and whose editorial board had a role in the 2009 sedition, has published an insulting cartoon of the President and those close to him on the cover of its recent issue.... Now public opinion and a major part of the Iranian nation whose legally elected president has been insulted await the Judiciary's reaction to this," wrote Iran Newspaper in a short news item.

The 2008 ban occurred after Shahrvand-e Emrooz pursued the case of Ahmadinejad's then interior minister, Ali Kordan and his multiple fake degrees -- a "doctorate" from Oxford University and "bachelor's" and "master's degrees" from Islamic Azad University.

***

In the aftermath of Iran's presidential vote in June 2009, there were widespread claims that the outcome had been rigged to insure Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection. Last week, WikiLeaks made public a classified cable sent by the U.S. State Department's Iran Regional Presence Office in Dubai to the department's Washington, D.C., headquarters detailing why America's top Iran watchers were of exactly that opinion. Here is the text of the cable, sent on June 15, 2009, three days after the election:

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 RPO DUBAI 000249

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 6/15/2009
TAGS: PGOV PREL IR
SUBJECT: IRAN'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: KEY INDICATORS OF FRAUD

DUBAI 00000249

CLASSIFIED BY: Ramin Asgard, Director, Iran Regional Presence Office, DOS.

REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

¶1. (S/NF) Iran analysts, both Iranian and foreign, have reacted with incredulity to the results of the Iranian presidential election and accused the IRIG [Islamic Republic of Iran government] of grossly rigging the election and falsifying the results. The Iran Regional Presence Office's review of Iran's recent presidential elections and the current election indicate the accusations of fraud have merit. Key points:

-- The numbers released by the Ministry of Interior -- for all four of the candidates -- contravene known voting patterns in Iran's recent history. Most significantly, accepting the Ministry of Interior's numbers requires believing that a massive new group of voters who did not support Ahmadinejad in 2005 voted in favor of him this time.

-- Media supportive of Ahmadinejad began indicating he had won before polls closed and before counting was to have begun. Just after 6pm in Iran, an article appeared on the Fars news website in Farsi alleging that a candidate had won the election with about 60% of the vote, nearly matching the final outcome.

-- There is strong evidence that the government had prepared extensively for the post-election riots despite that past elections have not provoked riots.

Where Does Ahmadinejad's Majority Come From?

¶2. (S/NF) According to the Ministry of Interior (MOI), 46.2 million of Iran's 70 million people were eligible to vote in the election. Based on the numbers released publicly by the MOI on June 13, turnout exceeded 85 percent nationwide, based on 38.95 million ballots cast. This is the highest participation level recorded in a national election, topping the 80 percent turnout in the 1997 presidential election. This level of voter participation was anticipated by most Iran political analysts and supported anecdotally through widespread foreign and domestic media coverage of long lines at polling stations in major urban centers throughout the day.

¶3. (S/NF) Khatami won the 1997 and 2001 elections in landslides, taking 70 percent and 78 percent, respectively. He had broad support across all demographics, but the large margins of victory were primarily due to his ability to mobilize and sweep the urban vote.

¶4. (S/NF) During the eight years of Khatami's administration, urban voters grew disillusioned with the political system that prevented Khatami from effectively implementing the reform movement's platform and emerged as a largely silent majority within Iran. Participation among this cadre dropped in the 2004 Majles election, the 2005 presidential election, and the 2008 Majles election. It is within this context that the relatively unknown Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, primarily on the back of a strong rural turnout and a significant popular backlash to his principal opponent. The 2007 Tehran City Council election provides a snapshot of Ahmadinejad's urban support, midway between the two presidential elections. Ahmadinejad's allies in the election fared poorly in the 2007 Tehran City Council election, indicating that two years into his tenure his urban support, at least in Tehran, remained low.

¶5. (S/NF) In the first round of the 2005 election, Ahmadinejad gained 20 percent of the vote, roughly 5.6 million people. This cohort should be considered his base of support at that time. Ahmadinejad may have expanded his base in the intervening 4 years, and likely did, but the MOI numbers require that Ahmadinejad's base roughly quadrupled. The MOI numbers show that 85 percent of the country voted and that Ahmadinejad received 63 percent of the vote, an outcome that requires Ahmadinejad to have captured a significant share of the urban vote and the silent majority -- the exact people who stayed home in the past few elections rather than vote for Ahmadinejad or his political allies.

¶6. (S/NF) Ahmadinejad does enjoy a loyal, committed base of support. He has been in campaign mode since 2005 but has focused his attention and the government's resources mainly on the rural voters who brought him to office. He has also recently been able to boost the salaries of many public sector workers and pensioners. In the months leading up to the election, however, there was a growing consensus among political scientists, sociologists, and economists that despite the handouts and salary increases, Ahmadinejad's support among the poor and the working class in both urban and rural areas was eroding rather than increasing. It is well-established that attendance at Ahmadinejad public events is enhanced by cash handouts, and supporters are often bussed to events to ensure high turnout.

¶7. (S/NF) The election results released by the MOI contravene voting patterns in Iran's recent history. In 2005, Ahmadinejad's support in the 30 provinces ranged from a low of 6 percent to a high of 55 percent, reflecting a range of voting preferences among Iran's diverse population. In this election, Ahmadinejad's support ranged from a low of 45 percent to a high of 77 percent, and he received under 50 percent in only two provinces. Also, Karroubi gained 18 percent of the vote in 2005 and swept his home province of Lorestan. According to the MOI, this year he captured less than 1 percent of the vote nationwide and just 4 percent in Lorestan. Of the three "Azerbaijani" provinces, Mousavi lost two to Ahmadinejad and barely won a third; historically, even minor presidential candidates with an Azerbaijani background win these provinces. It is worth noting that Mousavi lost his home province, East Azerbaijan, despite his candidacy's significant resonance amongst his fellow Azeri Iranians. Ahmadinejad won East Azerbaijan, despite having polled at only 15 percent there in 2005.

Government Oversight Also Raises Suspicions

¶8. (S/NF) The process of counting and announcing results did not follow the government's own rules. In past elections, the government entities charged with administering and certifying results have largely observed the protocol outlined in the Election Law. The Ministry of Interior usually announces provincial and municipal results real time, as they are counted, following the close of the polls. Such results were only announced three days later in this election. Khamenei, rather than waiting for the Guardians Council to certify the election before endorsing the result, approved of the results prior to the MOI's announcement of the final results.

¶9. (S/NF) Media supportive of Ahmadinejad began indicating he had won before polls closed and before counting was to have begun. Just after 6pm in Iran, an article appeared on the Fars news website in Farsi alleging that a candidate had won the election with about 60 percent of the vote.

¶10. (S/NF) There is strong evidence that the government had prepared extensively for the post-election riots, with the pre-positioning of anti-riot units, the cuts in SMS service before the election, and the denial of communication services to reformist groups. However, past elections have not provoked riots. The riots in protest of the announcement of election results are occurring in all major cities, and across a variety of neighborhoods within the cities. Protests have not been limited to specific demographic groups.

Comment:

¶11. (S/NF) The actual results of the election will likely never be known. However, IRPO concludes that the allegations of widespread fraud have merit.
ASGARD

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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