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News | Hardline Foes Slug It Out Online; US Sanctions Iranian Intel Service

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

16 Feb 2012 23:05Comments
750865_orig.jpgPress 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

1 a.m., 28 Bahman/February 17 The U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions against the Iranian regime Thursday, this time targeting the Islamic Republic's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS, also known as VEVAK). Reuters reports:

"Today we have designated the MOIS for abusing the basic rights of Iranian citizens and exporting its vicious practices to support the Syrian regime's abhorrent crackdown on its own population," David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

MOIS also provides support for al Qaeda, al Qaeda in Iraq, Hizbollah and Hamas, "exposing the extent of Iran's sponsorship of terrorism as a matter of Iranian state policy," Cohen said. [...]

[The move] bars MOIS officials from travelling to the United States, blocks any property MOIS owns in the United States and prevents U.S. citizens or companies from dealings with MOIS.

11:05 p.m., 27 Bahman/February 16 In the latest round of infighting between supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the hardliners around Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, websites are being blocked, at least those sympathetic to the Iranian president.

Raha Press, a fierce advocate of Ahmadinejad, was blocked for at least two days. Raha Press had reported that Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, the Chairman of the Assembly of Experts and the "spiritual leader" of the Principlists opposed to Ahmadinejad, has been unable to prevent fissures from forming among them. It went on to say that it was likely that Gholam-Ali Hadad-Adel, father-in-law of Khamenei's son and former Majles Speaker, may be demoted on the list of Principlist candidates from Tehran. Haddad-Adel has emerged as a strong spokesman for Khamenei and has been widely praised by the Principlists. The report from Raha Press had been removed from the website shortly after it was posted.

In another commentary, Raha Press criticized Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, and threatened Larijani's maternal cousin and arch-Ahmadinejad critic Ahmad Tavakkoli with more revelations about his alleged corruption.

Two other pro-Ahmadinejad websites, Me'yaar News and Super Enherafi, have been blocked. Other pro-Ahmadinejad websites, such as Mahramaneh News, Zaman News, Khordad Press, and Hemmat Negar have been attacking Ahmadinejad's foes fiercely...but in a more subtle manner: They quote Khamenei prominently on their front pages and even refer to him as "Imam Khamenei," an honorific generally reserved for the first Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, but then go on to harshly attack his supporters. (See here and here.)

Interestingly, blocking websites and slowing down the internet has even angered some of the hardliners' own allies. Mehr News Agency, which is owned by the Organization of Islamic Propaganda; conservative website Teribon Mostazafin; Mehdi Khan-Alizadeh, a reporter for the reactionary website Raja News; and Ali Motahari, the conservative Majles deputy (pictured), have all complained about the internet in Iran. Motahari has promised to pursue the matter with the Ministry of Communications.

President's son-in-law named to new post

Ahmadinejad's son-in-law, Mehdi Khorshidi, has been appointed deputy to three branches of government in the office of Mohsen Rezaei, secretary-general of the Expediency Discernment Council. Rezaei ran against Ahmadinejad in 2009, and is close to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad's archrival. We have already noted that Khorshidi had criticized Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, closest confidant, and leader of what the hardliners refer to as the "perverted group." Khorshidi's father is close to Rezaei. Before the 1979 Revolution, they were active in an Islamic group called Mansooroon, which opposed the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

Iran, Europe, and oil

Press TV, the propaganda arm of the Islamic Republic in English, reported that, beginning on Wednesday, Iran stopped exporting oil to the Netherlands, Spain, Greece, Italy, France, and Portugal. But IRNA, Iran's official news agency, reported that Hassan Tajik, head of the Western Europe Desk at Iran's Foreign Ministry, denied the report.

Valentine's Day in Qom

A report by Qom News indicates that Valentine's Day was very popular among the young people of Qom, one of the two major holy cities of the Shia faith. According to the report, shopping for the day began 10 days prior to the Valentine's Day, and many store owners said that they sold everything that they had.

New poll said to show Khamenei highly popular

Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, chief of the the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, claimed that in a poll taken by the Guards last June, 80 percent of respondents supported Khamenei. He added, "The Islamic Revolution has penetrated the hearts of Europe and the United States." In September 2002, a scientific poll taken by an organization, Ayendeh Public Opinion Firm, led by Hossein Ghazian and Abbas Abdi, indicated that 75 percent of the people supported resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States. Both Ghazian and Abdi were subsequently jailed for the poll; reports suggested that the real reason for their imprisonment was that the poll had also indicated that Khamenei was the least liked politician in Iran, with his popularity standing reportedly at 1 percent. If true, it is not clear what has happened since then to raise Khamenei's popularity to 80 percent.

Kavakebian: 'I am a principlist and am proud'

Mostafa Kavakebian, a Majles deputy from the town of Semnan, northeast of Tehran, declared in a speech, "I am a principlist and am proud of it." Previously, Kavakebian always claimed to be a reformist and, in fact, the hardliners have used him and several others as the evidence that the reformists are also running in the upcoming Majles elections on March 2. The reformists have always viewed Kavakebian as only a bit more moderate than the principlists, and his proclamation confirms the view.

Luxury apartment in Tehran

A luxury apartment in Tehran is for sale for about $11.5 million, if one uses the unofficial rate of exchange between the U.S. dollar and Iranian rial, or $19 million according to the official exchange rate. Pictures of the residence can be seen here.

Human rights news

Mrs. Mahnaz Asgharzadeh, wife of Dr. Mohsen Aminzadeh, deputy foreign minister in the Khatami administration who was imprisoned almost immediately after the June 2009 presidential election, said that her husband is in poor health, suffering from heart and kidney disease, and high blood pressure. He has been sentenced to five years of incarceration, and is currently in the Evin prison. Mrs. Asgharzadeh has said that the prosecutor's office has told her that the Revolutionary Guards' intelligence division controls her husband's case, and does not allow him to be hospitalized. Aminzadeh's cellmates have said that something bad may happen to him at any given minute.

Meanwhile, prison officials have prevented nationalist-religious journalist Keyvan Samimi and university student Misagh Yazdannejad from being hospitalized. Both are imprisoned in Rajaei Shahr Prison near Karaj. Since November 30, 2009, Samimi has been incarcerated and has been sentenced to six years of incarceration. He has gone on hunger strike several times to protest his conditions, and suffers from kidney disease and other ailments. Yazdannejad was once sent to a hospital for surgery, but while in surgery room, he was returned to jail right before the operation.

There is still no word on the people who were arrested on Tuesday during the protest marches called for by the supporters of the Green Movement. It is estimated that at least 400 people were arrested.

The first session of the trial of Dr. Ali Reza Rajaei, the nationalist-religious journalist who has been imprisoned for several months, was held on Wednesday. He has been charged with "membership in the nationalist-religious council" and "propaganda against the political system." His wife was not allowed to be present in the court. Mrs. Sedigheh Raahat-Talab, Rajaei's mother, said that she had been told that her son had been arrested to enforce the sentence that had been issued against him in 2003, but that his new trial indicates that he has been charged with new "offenses." In March 2001, Rajaei, together with several other nationalist-religious figures - the late Ezzatollah Sahabi and Hoda Saber, Drs. Habibollah Peyman, Reza Raeis-Toosi, Mohammad Hossein Rafiei, Mohammad Maleki, and Masoud Pedram, Mohammad Bastehnegar, Saeed Madani, Mohammad Mehdi Ardehali, Taghi Rahmani, Morteza Kazemian, Reza Alijani, and Mahmoud Omrani - were arrested en masse. After nearly two years of incarceration, all the imprisoned were sentenced to jail terms of 4-11 years, but were released on bails. They appealed their "conviction," but the appeal court never took up their appeal. Of these, Rajaei, Madani, and Pedram are currently in jail, and there is no information on Madani's whereabouts.

Mohammad Sadegh Kaboodvand, Kurdish activist and secretary of human rights organization of Kurdistan province, who has been imprisoned, has been on a hunger strike for two weeks. He was arrested in 2007 and sentenced to 11 years of incarceration. His attorney, Nasrin Sotoudeh, is also incarcerated. He has had heart attacks and three minor strokes.

Dr. Mehdi Khazali, a critic of Khamenei and son of the reactionary ayatollah Abolghasem Khazali, has been on hunger strike for 37 days to protest his arrest and imprisonment. He was arrested on January 9. During his arrest, one of his hands was broken by the security forces. He has been sentenced to 14 years incarceration, a decade in internal exile, and 90 lashes. His son, Mohammad Saleh Khazali, said that his father is in critical condition, suffering from stomach bleeding, but refuses to end his strike.

In a letter to Ahmad Montazeri, son of the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, Khazali wrote, "The injustice that is being done to me is 1 percent of what is being done to my cellmates." Recounting the terrible conditions of the jails in the 1980s, which he has been told by some of the current political prisoners who were also incarcerated in that era, Khazali wrote, "I can now understand if it were not for the protesting voice of your father, what would have happened to us. Here, all the prisoners pray for your father. Let [losing] my life become a reason for the laws to be followed during the trials, and decrease the number of counter-revolutionaries and hypocrites in the Ministry of Intelligence and the IRGC. Perhaps, the future generations will also pray for me. Perhaps my martyrdom will force the unjust revolutionary courts and its fake branches and appeal courts to be closed, and cleanse this stain from the judiciary. Three of my cellmates have been sentenced to 17 years of incarceration after a two-minute trial, and have joined the hunger strike since February 4. Another person has been sentenced to death for receiving a two-line e-mail from an anonymous source. Another cellmate that had been given the death sentence twice was released yesterday. This goes to show how careful the judge [Revolutionary Court Judge Abolghasem Salavati] was. Another young man was exiled to another prison because he refused to change his thinking. Three other people have been imprisoned for converting to Christianity, even though they are not politically active, and have been sentenced to long jail terms."

The health of political prisoner Mohammad Reza Motamednia has deteriorated. He went on a hunger strike on February 10, and his health has deteriorated so much that he has been taken to Evin Prison's medical center. He is suffering from heart disease and low blood sugar. He was in the military during the war with Iraq and an adviser to the joint chiefs of staff, as well as the special representatives for three prime ministers in the 1980s, Mohammad Ali Rajaei, Mohammad Javad Bahonar -- both of whom were assassinated on August 30, 1981 -- and Mir Hossein Mousavi. He was arrested in June 2009, released after two months, and eventually sentenced to one year of incarceration.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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