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News | Details Emerge on 'Iran' Daily Raid; IRI Bigs Slam Oil Sanctions

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

23 Nov 2011 13:25Comments

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. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

IranWebFrontPage.jpg1:25 p.m., 2 Azar/November 23 The attempt to arrest Ali Akbar Javanfekr, director of IRNA, Iran's official news agency, in a raid on the newspaper Iran, of he which he is the publisher, continues to be the subject of intense debate. In protest at what occurred, including the arrest of 40 of its staffers -- all now released -- Iran's Tuesday edition ran with a completely blank white cover (the online version is seen here). Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said that Javanfekr resisted the arrest warrant and incited the Iran staff. According to Dolatabadi, Javanfekr ignored a warning he had been given about making statements that could cause "anxiety" in the society. He denied that tear gas was used in the attack on the paper. Among those arrested were Abdol Reza Soltani, Iran's deputy managing editor for political affairs. He told Dolat-e Ma, a website close to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "The basic lesson that we have learned from Ahmadinejad is to defend the ideals of the Revolution with our lives." The situation became so critical that the president cancelled a planned trip to Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province. According to reports, Ahmadinejad threatened that if Javanfekr were not released, he would go to Iran's headquarters and personally free him.

Hassan Roozitalab, a former Iran reporter and a supporter of Ahmadinejad, wrote in his blog that the attack on Iran was similar to the attack on the University of Tehran dormitories in July 1999. He said, as well, "The incident reminds us of the mobs on the newspapers in the [Mohammad] Mosaddegh era." Gozaresh-e Aghaliat (Minority Report), a pro-Ahmadinejad website, reported that during the attack, the security agents uttered profanities against the president and maligned his chief of staff and closest adviser, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, and Hamid Baghaei, his vice president for executive affairs. Once at the detention center, the agents reportedly told the staffers, "You are all puppets of Mashaei and Baghaei. Rest assured that we will soon bring Ahmadinejad here blindfolded."

Elias Hazrati, publisher and managing editor of Etemad, the reformist newspaper that this week was barred from publishing for two months, said that the reason his paper was closed -- in addition to its publication of an interview with Javanfekr in which he attacked Ahmadinejad's critics -- was that it had published news about Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the Green Movement leaders who have been under house arrest sine February. On Sunday, Etemad reported that Mohammad Javad Larijani, deputy judiciary chief for human rights, had said in New York that Mousavi and Karroubi were arrested under a judicial order. Iran's Supreme National Security Council has banned the media from publishing anything about the two opposition leaders.

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Majles Speaker Ali Larijani said that Iran will reconsider its relations with the European Union, in view of the new sanctions imposed this week by Great Britain, along with the United States and Canada, and further ones being planned by the union at the urging of Britain and France. "The European Union should not think that its action will meet with no response," he said, adding, "What the U.S. and Britain do is a sign of their backwardness." Referring to the recent resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that the Islamic Republic has not been fulfilling its obligations to prove that its nuclear program has no military objective, Larijani emphasized, "There has been no new development in our nuclear program to prompt the approval of a new resolution. Thus, the root cause of the resolution must be elsewhere. It is the developments in the region. The dictators supported by the West have been toppled one after another and, therefore, the U.S. and Britain exhibit political stubbornness." Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Majles's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said that the Iranian parliament will soon consider legislation to downgrade Iran's diplomatic relations with Britain.

Major General Hassan Firoozabadi, chief of staff of the armed forces, said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has proven, as a regional and worldwide power, that it will not retreat from any sanctions or injustice.... Despite the sanctions of the West and the Americans we have been able, through God's mercy, to overcome such sanctions and grow in strength in the region and worldwide."

Firoozabadi's deputy for intelligence and operations, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, warned that the continuing pressure on the country and the pursuit what he called the project to instill "fear of Iran" will force the Islamic Republic to reconsider its military strategy. "The history of the Iranian nation testifies that aggression against others and [even] considering about it have never been part of our thinking, and we have never had any doubts about giving a firm response to threats. But the Supreme Leader said recently that a threat must be responded to by a threat, and this implies reconsidering the defense strategy of the Iranian nation," he said.

Ahmad Ghaleh Bani, chief executive of the National Iranian Oil Company, said that Iran is not concerned about the sale of its oil to Europe. He was reacting to the suggestion by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the world should consider sanctioning Iran's oil and gas industry. A statement issued by Sakozy's office said that France is asking the United States, Canada, and Britain, as well as Japan and the European Union, to impose "unprecedented" sanctions, including freezing the assets of Iran's central bank and suspending the purchase of Iranian oil, a statement that was applauded by U.S. Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Joseph Lieberman (Ind-Connecticut). Ghaleh Bani said that Iran does not export any oil to France, and sells very little oil to the E.U. in general.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Abdullah Gul warned the West about its escalating confrontation with Iran. In an interview with London's Telegraph, Gul said, "Iran is a very important country in the region, with its potential, its history and its culture. The situation in a way is turning into another era of Cold War." The Guardian reported Gul as saying of Iran's leaders, "It is important to put oneself in their shoes and see how they perceive threats," referring to Israel's undeclared nuclear arsenal. Gul said that Turkey was opposed to military attacks to address Iran's nuclear program. "Looking at the Middle East, one has to have a comprehensive approach [to disarmament]," he added. "A piecemeal approach would not yield the same results."

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There have been several U.S. reports in the United States that two CIA operative networks have been identified in Iran and Lebanon, and dozens may have been arrested. CBS News reported that the Lebanese Hezbollah has unraveled the CIA's spy network. According to the report, over the past several months, several foreign spies working for the agency were arrested by Hezbollah. In June, the group made its first announcement to that effect, which was denied by the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. A month earlier, Iranian Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi announced that 30 people who had spied for the United States and Israel had been captured, and a total of 42 spies had been identified (the additional 12 may be those captured by Hezbollah). The Ministry of Intelligence stated that the spy network, set up by CIA operatives in several countries, attempted to lure Iranian citizens into espionage under the guise of assisting with U.S. visas, permanent residency, and job and study offers. The CIA operatives, according to the ministry, gathered information from "universities and scientific research centers, and in the field of nuclear energy, aerospace, defense and biotechnology industries, oil and gas pipelines, telecommunication and electricity networks, airports and customs, the security of the banking and communication systems," by using "U.S. embassies and consulates in several countries, particularly "the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Malaysia." There was no U.S. response at the time. ABC News now reports that the Iranian claim was accurate.

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Mahan Air, Iran's second largest airline, has purchased an Airbus 310-304 that, for 20 years, transported Germany's chancellor and cabinet. The jet was first sold to a German firm, which it sold to a Ukrainian investor for 3.1 million euros, who in turn sold it to Mahan Air at unknown price.

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In an important but little-noted development, Lieutanant Brigadier General Yadollah Javani, the ultra-hardline head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' political directorate, has been replaced. The new head of the directorate is Ali Ashraf Nouri, who was previously deputy commander of the Basij for political affairs. Javani has been appointed as an adviser to cleric Ali Saeidi, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative to the Guards.

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