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News | Police Rough Up Ahmadinejad Aide, Fire Tear Gas; 30+ Arrested

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

21 Nov 2011 15:00Comments

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. 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.

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

8:30 p.m., 30 Aban/November 21 Iranian security forces tried to arrest a senior press adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "firing tear gas into the offices of the newspaper that the aide runs and retreating only after a phone call from Ahmadinejad himself."

The attack took place while Ali Akbar Javanfekr, also director of IRNA, Iran's official news agency, and publisher of the pro-Ahmadinejad newspaper Iran, was holding a press conference today at the daily's headquarters. Reports indicate that employees of Iran and the security agents had a physical confrontation, and the agents used tear gas to subdue the paper's staff. At least 30 people were arrested. It is not clear why the attack occurred, but it's likely that it was meant to deter Javanfekr from continuing to criticize supporters of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Initial reports indicated that Javanfekr had been arrested. Jahan News, a website published by hardline Majles deputy and Ahmadinejad critic Alireza Zakani, subsequently reported that Javanfekr had staged a sit-in in his office and was resisting being taken into detention by the security agents, who apparently had an arrest warrant. According to reports, Ahmadinejad intervened and finally the agents left the building without arresting Javanfekr. "Senior officials of the nezaam [political system]" -- usually code for Khamenei -- also reportedly intervened. Javanfekr said that he had asked agents of the judiciary to wait until senior officials could resolve the standoff, but they refused, which led to the melee. Prosecutor-General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei declared that Javanfekr will not be arrested for now.

Morteza Tamaddon, governor-general of Tehran province, visited those who were injured in the confrontation, and said that they will all be freed.

5 a.m., 30 Aban/November 21 Elias Hazrati, the managing editor of the moderate reformist daily Etemad said that his newspaper has been barred from publishing for two months. Hazrati, a former university activist and Majles deputy from 2000 to 2004, told IRNA, Iran's official news agency, that the reason was his paper's publication of an interview with IRNA director Ali Akbar Javanfekr, an ardent supporter of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (At the time of this writing, the IRNA webpage about Hazrati's statement has become inaccessible.) Hazrati said that Etemad had actually deleted some of the things that Javanfekr said, to no avail. Etemad, founded in 2001, was also barred from publishing from March 2010 until this past June.

In the interview, Javanfekr strongly attacked the so-called principlists, the conservative and hardline supporters of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who have been opposing Ahmadinejad and the so-called "deviationist" or "perverted group," the circle around Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, the president's chief of staff and closest adviser. (See here for an image of Javanfekr and Mashaei.) When asked what he and the president's camp have deviated from or been perverted about, Javanfekr said,

The issue of the group goes back seven months, not two years [as some claim]. I have asked them [Ahmadinejad's adversaries] the same question. [Can] someone be found among them and explain what "perverted phenomenon" means? What have we deviated from? Yes, we have deviated from these "friends." We have deviated from their beliefs, behavior, and interpretation [of various issues]. We do not agree with them, and do not accept their behavior and manners, and have deviated from them. This is correct, and if this is what they mean by "perverted group," we confirm it.

The interviewer then asked, "Why then did you not say in 2005 [when Ahmadinejad was first elected president] that you have deviated from them and do not accept them? Now that they helped you to come to power, you have separated your path from them?" Javanfekr responded,

We do not accept the manners of the principlists, and we have deviated from them. Has the country become a company with stocks that they demand their share [of power] from us? After the [2009] election, they began raising hurdles against the government's work, and demanded their share. Ahmadinejad is popular and does not owe them anything.

More of Javanfekr's comments from the wide-ranging interview follow:

Regarding the principlists' claims by the principlists that they elevated Ahmadinejad in the political hierarchy, and that he is their creation: No, I reject this notion, and it is not correct. Who has claimed this? Mr. Ahmadinejad demonstrated high capabilities and the people supported him. They are, of course, free to make any claim, but what matters is whether or not the people believe such baseless claims.

Regarding the charges of financial corruption by Ahmadinejad's supporters: What financial corruption? Did they not say that we are geomancers, but could not prove it? Did they not say that we have stolen 150 million? Where is the evidence? Why is it that they are prepared to create tension for the sake of the "interests of the political system," but now, for the sake of the same interests, do not want to provide any evidence that they have against us? What are they afraid of?

Regarding the arrest of Rahim Mashaei's aides: Why was [former Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Sharif] Malekzadeh kept in solitary confinement for 60 days? Why was he released [if he did commit an offense]? He developed health problems in solitary confinement, and his wife had a miscarriage. Who is responsible for this?... What was the offense of Malekzadeh and other people from our side who were arrested? The [Tehran] prosecutor [Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi] must respond to the accusations that he made against us.

Regarding the struggle for control of the Ministry of Intelligence that brought to the fore the deep rift between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei: Who says that we controlled the Ministry of Intelligence in the aftermath of the [2009] election? If that was true, we would not have agreed with the resignation of [Intelligence Minister Heydar] Moslehi. [Former Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni] Ejei [fired by Ahmadinejad in August 2009] was never our minister.

Regarding the absence of Mashaei and the rumors that he has been arrested: Mashaei has not been [arrested and] interrogated, [but] others [?] do not allow him to be [publicly] active. How many innocent people have been arrested because of Mashaei, [and] for what? Is he attacked because he is popular with the people?

Regarding former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki's and Ejei's criticisms of the administration: Mottaki and Ejei had better keep silent. Their respect will be preserved in silence. If the curtain is lifted, people will find out what is going on.

Regarding Ejei's challenge to Ahmadinejad to debate him: Why should the president debate Ejei? For what? Is it right if the president debates his [former] minister of intelligence? [And what is the use, since] the president cannot say what he wants?

Regarding Ahmadinejad's threats to expose certain cases of corruption: It is due to [protecting] the interests of the political system that Mr. Ahmadinejad does not reveal the evidence. But let them ask how much Ahmadinejad has and how much others. They should truly investigate this, but not just Mr. X or Y and then say "release him" [a reference to Malekzadeh]. What are they afraid of? In the satire column of Iran [an IRNA subsidiary] it was said...that 140,000 documents [regarding corruption cases] would be presented to the public; they were terrified and said bar Iran from publishing.

Regarding Moslehi's resignation last spring: They [the administration's adversaries] contacted me and told me to remove the news about Moslehi's resignation from IRNA's website. I said, Who are you? They said, We tell you to remove it [because] it is the Supreme Leader's order. I responded that his view should be conveyed by his office, and...they said, No, you should do what we tell you, and I responded, I will not do it. They said, Then you should respond to the judiciary, and the next day the pressure [on the administration] began.

Regarding the claims by some that they voted for Ahmadinejad reluctantly: Did [Majles deputy and Ahmadinejad critic Ali] Motahhari vote for Ahmadinejad? Then what was he doing in the demonstration for [Mir Hossein] Mousavi? [Ahmad] Tavakoli [another critic of Ahmadinejad in the Majles] and Motahari claim that the Majles can approve laws that are against Islam [a reference to Ahmadinejad's claim that the reason he does not order the implementation of certain laws is that they are un-Islamic]. How credible are the views of such Majles deputies?

Regarding the next presidential election in 2013: They are thinking about the next election. Does Ahmadinejad want to be the next [Dmitry] Medvedev or [Vladimir] Putin [a reference to the accusations by some hardliners that Ahmadinejad wants to install a close aide as the next president, so that he can rule from behind the scenes]? They [the principlists] still do not recognize that they have lost the game [of attracting popular support].

Regarding the rumors last April that Ahmadinejad was going to resign: If someone steps forward to serve [the nation], he stays until the end. He stays until [even] martyrdom.

Regarding the rumors that for the past 17 months Mashaei has tried to secretly negotiate with the United States: This is another lie, out of thousands of others, that they attribute to Mashaei. Is it possible to negotiate without the Leader's permission?

Right after Javanfekr's interview appeared in Etemad, it was announced that he had been sentenced to one year of incarceration and a three-year ban on any journalistic activities. He was convicted of charges related to Iran's publication in July of a special section on women that mocked the hardliners' directives about appropriate outfits and colors for Iranian ladies. Quoting IRNA, Aftab News, a website close to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, reports that Javanfekr will hold a press conference on Monday to talk about his conviction.

Meanwhile, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini said that Etemad was barred by the Tehran prosecutor-general, Jafari Dolatabadi, and not by the press monitoring commission that is controlled by his ministry. He claimed that Etemad had received multiple warnings, but did not answer the question of whether its closing had anything to do with Javanfekr's interview and said "ask the prosecutor about it." Reformist Majles deputy Mohammad Reza Tabesh, nephew of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, criticized the paper's closure. He said, "On the one hand, moderate principlists want the reformists to run in the Majles elections [next March], and on the other hand the newspapers that reflect the views of the reformists are barred."

But Bultan (Bulletin) News, a website close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reported that Etemad was indeed closed due to the Javanfekr interview. The website accused Etemad of "disturbing the public mind under the current sensitive conditions of the country," and opined that what Javanfekr said was of no benefit to the nation.

In response to the Javanfekr affair, an Iran editorial discussed what it called pressure on "the family of Major General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam", the Revolutionary Guard officer who was killed in a huge explosion at a Guard facility on November 12. As described by Tehran Bureau, General Moghaddam's brother, Mohammad, said that his brother was killed during a test of a new ballistic missile, but was apparently forced to retract his statement. Iran expressed "its deep regrets" for the conditions that have been created for the Moghaddam family, and that "it understands that the family has to deny some of the things that have been said."

***

In an unprecedented move, Khamenei's official website posted an article by right-wing journalist Amir Mohebbian in which he discussed the possibility of the United States and its allies waging war on Iran. The fact of the article's posting strongly suggests that Khamenei agrees with its analysis. Surveying "three probable scenarios" for war, it first describes what the United States is counting on in its confrontation with Iran:

One is that Iran is a country with multiple ethnic groups, and therefore the West has tried to disrupt the security of some regions on Iran's borders. Examples include support for the Party of Free Life for Kurdistan [PJAK] and for Jundallah [the terrorist group that operates in Sistan and Baluchistan].

The second is the U.S. hopes that internal developments in Iran will be such that the central government loses control, and that is why the Western press supported what happened in the aftermath of the 2009 election.

What worries the West, in Mohebbian's view is,

Expansion of Iran's influence in the region and the growth of Islamic awakening, which has toppled those regimes that were U.S. allies and against Iran.

Ineffectiveness of the sanctions imposed on Iran.

The ideological and very close relations between Iran and the [Lebanese] Hezbollah.

Very close relations between Iran and Syria.

The growth of Iran's military power despite the sanctions.

Mohebbian offers a survey of what the United States has done to counter Iran's influence in the region, including presenting the Quds Force as a new al-Qaeda, supporting the Syrian opposition with the ultimate goal of weakening Iran's ties with both Syria and Hezbollah, and imposing harsher sanctions on Iran. He then discusses the possibility of war with Iran and questions whether the West is in a position to wage it. Since, according to Mohebbian, everything on which the United States and Israel have been counting -- such as inciting ethnic tensions, supporting terrorist groups' attacks inside Iran, the reform movement, and the demonstrations in the aftermath of the 2009 election -- has failed, they are left with only two possible scenarios:

(1) Weakening the political system so that fissures are created within it and the internal opposition becomes strong enough to attack the system "like a virus"

(2) Initiating a war

Regarding the possibility of war, Mohebbian considers three types of conflict:

(i) An all-out war of attrition by ground forces following heavy bombardment.

(ii) War as a tool to achieve political goals, in a way that either causes political chaos in the country and destroys the system from within, or forces it to come to the negotiation table.

(iii) Selective or localized war, meaning attacking certain sites, so that Iran cannot attack anyone, particularly the Zionist regime [Israel].

Mohebbian opines that the first scenario is impossible, enumerating various reasons including the implausibility of occupying Iran, next year's U.S. presidential election, President Obama's having learned from the mistakes of the George W. Bush administration in Iraq, the terrible economic conditions in the United States, Iran's size, and what he describes as the population's support for the regime. Mohebbian then says that even the second scenario is problematic, because the United States cannot be sure that the political system in Iran will be overthrown by the people or crumble amid the chaos that military attacks would create, since the system has gained extensive experience since the 1979 Revolution. There is also, he says, no way to be sure that Iran would even alter its policies after being subjected to a severe attack. At the same time, European countries may not be willing to pay the price for supporting the United States. Mohebbian then says that even if Iran is forced to the negotiation table, there will be no guarantee that talks will bear fruit quickly. And if the Iranian government signed an agreement that was rejected by the Iranian people, he asks, would the U.S. continue to bomb Iran?

Mohebbian then opines that the third scenario is the most plausible, but even here there are problems because the question will be, What should be bombed? Economic, military, political, or nuclear sites? If economic, the Iranian people will be directly targeted. If military, many attacks will be needed, Iran will strike back strongly, and the war will quickly become an all-out one. If political, it will increase people's support for the government. And if the United States and its allies wish to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, wich ones? If Bushehr, it will create another Chernobyl. If other sites, will it destroy Iran's nuclear capability?

***

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that the new resolution by the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency expressing "deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear program" and the evidence presented to the board by IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano have had no effect on Iran. He said that most of the evidence had previously been made public, and while it is possible that some other documents may have been passed to the IAEA by foreign intelligence agencies, they have not benefited from presenting them. He added that the 77-nation nonaligned movement has warned Amano about his report. Despite this, Salehi said, "We are trying to preserve our good relation with Amano, because we consider the agency as the only legal organization for [monitoring] our nuclear program and do not wish its credibility to be hurt." He predicted that the IAEA will change its handling of Iran's nuclear program because "it has no other choice."

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