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Mousavi Dismisses Upcoming Elections; Rowdy Buildup to Majles Campaign

07 Sep 2011 02:30Comments

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

11 p.m., 16 Shahrivar/September 7 GlobalSign, a leading provider of website authentication based in Belgium, has suspended issuing new security certificates out of concern that it may have been targeted in a mass hacking operation directed at Iranian Internet users. The Telegraph reports that the company "took the action after a pseudonymous hacker said he had breached its security."

"ComodoHacker" made the claim in a web posting that also claimed responsibility for a verified attack on DigiNotar, a smaller SSL certificate authority. According to a report prepared for the Dutch government, that security breach exposed the private emails, Facebook messages and more of more than 300,000 Iranians to spying.

In a statement on Wednesday, GlobalSign said it had stopped issuing new certificates as a precaution.

"GlobalSign takes this claim very seriously and is currently investigating," it said.

"As a responsible [certificate authority], we have decided to temporarily cease issuance of all certificates until the investigation is complete."

For more on the hacking operation, see Tehran Bureau's reports here and here.

8 p.m., 16 Shahrivar/September 7 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following items:

mo_8.jpg
After more than 200 days of house arrest, Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, were taken to the home of one of their three daughters and met with their children. They were accompanied by many male and female security agents and, according to the report, a "senior judiciary official." In the meeting, Mousavi said that Iran's future is bright, but given the current conditions in the country, there is no way to participate in the Majles elections nor hope for their outcome.

The couple also reportedly said that because their house arrest has been imposed on them due to their beliefs, they have no complaint. Mousavi did protest strongly to the judiciary official, telling him that he had no right to be inside the home of Mousavi's daughter. Mousavi and Rahnavard emphasized that all their means of communication with the outside world, even radio and television, have been cut off, and they do not even have access to pens with which to write. Some of their works of art have also been taken away. The couple were reported to be in good health and in great spirit.

Former President Seyyed Mohammad Khatami met with the members of the general council of the Muslim Students' Association of the University of Tehran and its medical school. During the meeting Khatami told the students, "A university is not a military barrack in which no one can question anything and there is a chain of command to which everyone must be obedient. Neither is it a place for justifying the [government's] policies and methods. It is a place for the free expression of opinion and criticism, things that the life of a society depend on, and you, the Muslim students, should be at the forefront of this." Khatami continued, "A university in which the professors and students are under pressure to follow an [imposed] path is not a desirable university. Defending the rights and honor of free-thinking and thoughtful professors, who are the main treasure of the nation, as well as defending the rights, respect, and freedom of the students are some of your most important tasks.... If we are really interested in the security of the society, we must first open up the society for thought and opinion."

Contradicting earlier reports that an agreement had been reached between the government and the textile and fabric merchants of the Tehran bazaar, new reports indicate that the merchants' strike continues. There is reportedly a state of martial law in the bazaar, with a very heavy presence of security forces. The agreement that had seemingly been reached between the government and the representatives of the merchants has not been accepted, and even though the Islamic Coalition Party, the conservative political group that usually represents the interests of major businesses in the bazaar, has tried to mediate between the two sides, the efforts have not been successful. The merchants have been on strike for six weeks.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has reported that Hamid Kavian, the military commander of the Party of Free Life of Kurdisan (PJAK), has been killed in the fighting between its forces and the Kurdish dissident group. PJAK has apparently confirmed the report. Kavian, who was born in Baneh in Iran, was first a member of the Kurdish group PKK, which operates in Turkey. He joined PJAK, which is considered the Iranian branch of PKK, when it was founded in 2003.

Distinguished film director Mojtaba Mir Tahmaseb was prevented from leaving Iran, right before he was boarding a plane to go to Paris for a screening of a movie on which he and Jafar Panahi, another distinguished filmmaker, collaborated. Their film, This Is Not a Film, has been selected for screening by 50 international film festivals.

After two publications close to the reformists, Shahrvand-e Emrooz and Roozegar, were ordered to cease publication, a hardline weekly, 9 Dey, which had been barred from publishing a few months ago, reportedly received a permit to begin publishing again. The managing editor of 9 Dey is Majles deputy Hamid Rasaei, a hardline cleric.

MohsenGharavianIQNA.jpg2:30 a.m., 16 Shahrivar/September 7 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
Conservative cleric Mohsen Gharavian (pictured) said that the principlists are concerned about the possibility of fraud in the upcoming Majles election on March 2, 2012. He warned that the "perverted group" -- the inner circle of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, President Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and close confidant -- may want to influence the elections and demanded that the Guardian Council prevent that. At the same time, Deputy Majles Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar said that the radicals among the principlists want to eliminate all those who voted for Mir Hossein Mousavi in the 2009 election.

Mashregh News, the website that is close to the security forces, predicted that Ahmadinejad will remove Mashaei from his official posts to lessen the pressure on himself and allow Mashaei to concentrate on planning a strategy for the Majles elections. According to Mashregh News, Mashaei and Vice President for Executive Affairs Hamid Baghaei, who is very close to Ahmadinejad as well, may resign. Khabar Online, the website associated with Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, has also speculated that some of Ahmadinejad's close aides may step down and devote themselves to the Majles elections.

At the same time, Javan, the online daily that is a mouthpiece for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, accused Ahmadinejad's supporters of being "thirsty" for power and aiming to creating chaos in small towns for the upcoming Majles elections. Javan also said that the weakness of the Ahmadinejad team in running the economy is "dangerous for the country," and said that it is one of the most important reasons for strife in Iran.

Abdollah Safaei Nasab, deputy head of the Accounting Tribunal, which oversees the spending of the national budget, said that the Ahmadinejad administration has violated the law regarding the electricity subsidies, which has been reported to the Majles. He added that the government has spent part of the budget, which had been set aside for electricity subsidies, for distributing the cash handouts. Safaei Nasab also said that the government has not executed many development plans and ignored many of the promises that it had made to the nation. Majles Speaker Ali Larijani and his deputies have prevented the publication of a report on the matter.

The fourth round of Ahmadinejad's trips to provinces around the country is about to begin, and many Majles deputies are expressing concern about such trips close to the Majles elections. They believe that the trips will serve as a propaganda tool for Ahmadinejad to make grand promises to the people and not delivering them, which is why they want to publicize the report of the Accounting Tribunal, which evidently indicates that the administration never delivered on 70 percent of the promises made by Ahmadinejad on his previous trips.

***

In its meeting on Monday, the commission that monitors the press ordered a daily newspaper and a weekly to stop publishing. Shahrvand-e Emrooz (Today's Citizen), the popular weekly under editorship of Reza Khojasteh Rahimi, which was independent but close to the Reformists, was ordered to cease publication and the commission referred its case to the judiciary. This is the second time that Shahrvand-e Emrooz has been barred from publishing. It began publishing in March 2007 under the editorship of prominent journalist Mohammad Ghoochani. In November 2008, it was barred on the basis that it was stating that some of Ahmadinejad's claims have no basis in reality. It was then allowed to begin publishing again on July 2 but only if Ghoochani was not the editor. It published only ten issues before it was ordered to stop publishing. It is not clear why this has happened, but there are reports that one reason is that it displayed Ahmadinejad's picture on the cover of its last issue and likened him to Shah Ismail of the Safavid dynasty.

The Iran newspaper, which supports Ahmadinejad, had demanded that the judiciary close the weekly and put on trial its management, accusing it of representing "the radical reformists who were involved in the sedition [Green Movement]." Others have speculated that the reason for the ban is that the weekly published an interview with Mehdi Firoozan, a nephew and son-in-law of Imam Mousa Sadr, the popular Shia cleric who disappeared in Libya in September 1978 and was never heard from again. In the interview, Firoozan described how Muammar Qaddafi of Libya tried to penetrate the revolutionary circle in Iran in the early days of the 1979 Revolution, and named several prominent political figures of that era as his allies, including Jalaloddin Farsi and Abbas Zamani (known as Abu Sharif), who was the second top commander of the Revolutionary Guards. Firoozan said that Qaddafi's Iranian allies should definitely know the fate of Sadr.

RoozegarJune26Page1.jpgRoozegar, under the editorship of Ali Mir Fattah and similarly close to the reformists, was ordered to cease publishing for two months. One of the few newspapers with a female managing editor, Farzaneh Kherghani, Roozegar published six days a week. Speculation is rife that one reason for the ban may be that on its June 26 issue, Roozegar published a large front-page photo of former President Mohammad Khatami and reported extensively on his views about the conditions necessary for truly free elections. That angered the hardliners and led to Kherghani being summoned by the press commission and be warned about it. There is an unofficial ban on giving prominence to major Reformist figures in Iran. Another reason may be its last editorial. In its last issue, Mir Fattah wrote,

One of the bad things of this era of misunderstanding is that there are things that are publishable, but others only create problems.... In a nation in which [Akbar] Hashemi Rafsanjani does not get a chance to defend himself, it is clear what Golshifteh Farahani can do. Do you remember that they [the hardliners] claimed whatever they wanted on television about Rafsanjani, but never gave him a chance to defend himself? Aside from Golshifteh Farahani, we would like to criticize many things and express our opinion, but we must consider whether we can publish their responses -- not just according to the [press] law, but also based on fairness.

Mir Fattah was referring to two episodes. One was the series of accusations against Rafsanjani by Ahmadinejad in his nationally televised presidential debate with Mousavi a week before the June 2009 election. The second concerns actress Golshifteh Farahani, who left Iran and has had major roles in several foreign movies, including a recent one that has angered the hardliners. Referring to Mousavi as "the person whose face and the news about him are being censored," Mir Fattah continued,

I was talking to a friend about the Mousavi administration [1981-89]. We reached the conclusion that his administration was never critiqued [in that era] the way it should have been. But, now, everyone is attributing anything they want to him and call him a Freemason and on CIA payroll in the official websites and the press, while he is not allowed to defend himself. Would it then be fair if Roozegar begins critiquing his administration? From the era of that administration up until two years ago neither did anyone critique it, nor said something, but in the aftermath of the [2009] election everybody said whatever he wanted to. Some accused him of being involved in the [1981] assassination of [right-wing politician Hassan] Ayat [by the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization], some accused him of committing treason in the war [with Iraq], and others said that he was an enemy of the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini].

***

Deputy Minister of Power Mohammad Reza Attarzadeh said that some of the water from Aras River, on the border with the Republic of Azerbaijan, and from other resources in West Azerbaijan province will be diverted to Lake Orumieh. It was also reported that the Ahmadinejad administration has approved $900 million for the project to stem the rapid drying of the lake.

It was revealed a few days ago that popular soccer player Ali Karimi, the captain of Iran's national team, presented his jersey from the German club for which he played to the family of Ashkan Sohrabi, the young university student who was murdered in the demonstrations on June 20, 2009, in the aftermath of the presidential election. After the revelation, the hardline websites, including Javan and Nedaa-ye Enghelab, vociferously attacked Karimi. In a soccer game a few days after the 2009 election, Karimi and several other soccer players wore green wrist bands in order to demonstrate their support for the Green Movement.

In his weekly press conference, judiciary spokesman Golam Hossein Mohseni Ejei said that it is in the interest of Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi to be under house arrest. In response, Sadollah Nasiri Gheydari, a reformist deputy from Zanjan, said that if Mousavi and Karroubi have committed any offense, they should be prosecuted in an open and legal trial. Ejei also claimed that the 70 political prisoners who were released recently had asked for clemency; there has been no independent confirmation of his claim.

Minister of Economic and Financial Affairs Seyyed Shameddin Hosseini said that close to $3 billion has been embezzled from Bank Saderat. One of Iran's largest financial institutions, it was founded 60 years ago. He emphasized that Iran's banking system discovered the embezzlement.

Four hundred employees of a company that is building a light rail system for the city of Ahvaz in Khuzestan province have been on strike for ten days. They have not received their wages for seven months, although city and company officials have denied this. Reports also indicate that the workers that work on the Zhaveh Dam in Kurdistan have also been on strike for six days because their wages for the past six months have not been paid.

Central Bank Director Mahmoud Bahmani said that India has settled what it owed to Iran for oil imports. He added that India had expressed interest in settling the debt through a barter deal, but Iran rejected the proposal. India owed Iran $4.2 billion. It imports 400,000 barrels of oil daily from Iran.

In the interview in which Vice President Fereydoun Abbasi Davani said that Iran is willing to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to tightly monitor Iran's nuclear program for five years if the sanctions imposed on Iran by the United Nations Security Council are set aside, he added that the top five priorities of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) are bringing online the 40 MW nuclear reactor in Arak, which will use plutonium as fuel; optimization of uranium enrichment and producing the enriched uranium at the level that is needed; producing the compounds that are needed for nuclear fuel in the plant in Isfahan; completion, bringing online, and maintenance of the Bushehr reactor; and planning for exporting nuclear materials and services, all under the supervision of the IAEA. He emphasized that "we do not want to do anything outside the international tradition and agreements, and whatever that we do that are our right under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty will be overseen and supervised by the agency."

Abbasi Davani acknowledged that the sanctions imposed on Iran have slowed down the progress in the Arak reactor, and predicted that it will come online in 2013 (originally, it was supposed to come online in 2009). He added that the required equipments for the Arak reactor, which has been designed internally, will soon be transferred there. The plutonium for the Arak reactor is supposed to be produced by the heavy water plant in Arak. Abbasi Davani said that Iran is producing 17 tons of heavy water annually, and there will be no further investment to expand it. The reactor will be tested in summer 2012 using synthetic fuel. Regarding cooperation with the IAEA, Abbasi Davani said that if the agency demonstrates that it is not influenced by Iran's enemies, Iran will cooperate with it more closely, but added that Amano is more influenced by the West than his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei. Abbasi Davani said that Iran has invited Amano to participate in the ceremony marking the coming online of the Bushehr reactor, and he has expressed interest, but has not yet given a definitive response. He added that the agency must change the tone of its reports on Iran, must not include anything in the report about which it is not sure, and must also not include any claim in the reports before talking to Iran about it.

Abbasi Davani said that no country can deny Iran the nuclear technology on the pretext that Iran has vast oil and natural gas resources. He added that Iran's progress in its nuclear program has changed the nature of the negotiations with the West. "There was a time that they were saying Iran cannot have uranium enrichment. Now, they say stop the centrifuges for now, and do not increase their number, or stop producing nuclear fuel at the 20 percent enrichment. At the same time, they are after hurting our program through computer viruses. When they did not succeed, they went back to the agency again to blow up [the issues with Iran] out of proportion, so that they can issue another [UNSC sanctions] resolution against Iran," he said.

In reaction to what Abbasi Davani said, a spokesman for Catherine Ashton, who is in charge of the European Union's foreign policy, said that "despite what Abbasi has said, Iran must carry out its international obligations regarding its nuclear program."

Colonel Hamid Ahmadi, spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards' operations in northwestern Iran against the Party of Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), said that due to its recent operations PJAK has proposed a ceasefire, but Iran has not yet made any decision regarding the proposal. He added that PJAK has suffered heavy losses in recent days, including at least 40 dead and 30 injured.

Lieutenant Brigadier General Mohammad Hassan Nami, head of the geography organization of the armed forces, said that his organization has carried out a very precise estimation of Iran's area. Iran's area has always been said to be 1,648,195 square kilometers (636, 371 square miles), but Nami said that it is in fact 1,873,959 square kilometers (723,539 square miles).

Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini said that Ahmadinejad has not rejected the suggestion to change the name of his department to the Ministry of Culture and Art. He added that if the suggestion is approved by the cabinet, a piece of legislation will be submitted to the Majles for approval.

First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi left Tehran to visit Cuba and Ecuador. Several ministers, including Hosseini, Minister of Commerce and Mines Mehdi Ghazanfari, and Minister of Power Majid Namjou, are accompanying Rahimi in his trip.

The official trips of Majles Speaker Ali Larijani to North Korea and China that were to take place next week have been postponed indefinitely. No reason has been given for the postponement.

Outspoken reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, who was granted a three-day furlough, returned to Evin Prison after the furlough ended. He has been sentenced to six years of imprisonment and is held in solitary confinement. Tajzadeh has been fasting in protest.

Imprisoned journalist Mohammad Nader Karimi Jooni was released. He was arrested in December 2008 and sentenced to ten years of incarceration, which was later reduced to five years.

Fereshteh Shirazi, a women's rights activist, has been arrested. Her daughter Elham Mohseni was arrested on Friday. Shirazi was active in the Campaign for One Million Signatures, which seeks the elimination of discriminatory laws against women.

The health of progressive religious scholar Ahmad Ghabel, who has been detained in Mashhad, has deteriorated to the point that he had to be transferred to a hospital. Ghabel has been arrested and imprisoned several times over the past several years, and after his latest arrest was sentenced to two years in jail.

Distinguished journalist Jila Baniyaghoob has been summoned to court for the fifth time since the 2009 election. She has been barred from journalism for 30 years. Her husband, Bahman Ahmadsi Amooee, has also been imprisoned since the 2009 election.

Imprisoned university student Ashkan Zahabian, who had gone on hunger strike, declared that he will end the strike on a temporary basis. He went on strike to protest the conditions of his detention and the fact that he has not been told of the charges against him.

An attack by the Basij forces on a group of a religious sect, Daravish-e Gonabadi, in a town in Fars province injured a number of sect members. At least ten of them have been arrested over a three-day period.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Ghashghavi said that Iran will support any reform program that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria may want to implement. He added that "Iran condemns foreign intervention and provocation [in Syria], particularly by the Zionist regime [Israel] and the United States whose goal is to weaken the resistance front [against Israel]."

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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