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News | Montazeri's Office Raided; Khamenei Rejects Oversight of His Rule

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

20 Feb 2012 01:31Comments

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

3:15 a.m., 1 Esfand/February 20 As reported by The New York Times,

Iran's government ordered a halt to oil exports to Britain and France on Sunday, in what may be only an initial response to the European Union decision to cut off Iranian oil imports and freeze central bank assets beginning in July.

Britain and France depend little on Iranian oil, however, so their targeting may be a mostly symbolic act, a function of the strong positions Paris and London have taken in trying to halt Iranian nuclear enrichment and bring pressure to bear on Syria, one of Tehran's closest allies.

MontazeriOffice.jpg1:30 a.m., 1 Esfand/February 20 On Sunday, ten agents of the Special Court for the Clergy, an extra-constitutional tribunal that monitors what the clerics do and issues any arrest warrants deemed necessary, raided the Qom home of Ahmad Montazeri, a son of the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. When they knocked on the door and were asked to identify themselves, they responded that they were from the Municipality of Qom, but after the door was opened, it turned out that they had been sent by the Special Court. They then raided an office in his home where people ask religious questions, as Grand Ayatollah Montazeri was one of the most important Marjas (sources of emulation for the Shia masses) and had a vast network of followers. According to the order of the court, the agents confiscated everything that had to do with Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's work as a Marja. Ahmad Montazeri protested the raid and said, "If the government is strong, why is it afraid of just one office?" The agents then sealed the door to the library of the late grand ayatollah. On June 14 last year, the same court ordered the closure of the late grand ayatollah's office.

Ahmad Montazeri has been critical of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the many repressive acts committed by his supporters. He recently wrote a letter to the Supreme Leader in which he declared, "Saving the country from destruction and disintegration is your first and foremost duty." In an interview with Radio Farda, Montazeri said that he had been warned about his political activities, ordering him to stop them because "they were weakening the state." He added that he will not protest the raid to the Special Court, because doing so is not wise, as the court itself is the culprit behind "this ugly and illegal act."

Khamenei rejects Assembly of Experts oversight

According to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, the Assembly of Experts appoints the Supreme Leader, monitors his performance, and can even remove him from office. But cleric Seyyed Abbas Nabavi, head of the Organization for Islamic Civilization and Development, told the hardline vigilante group Ansar-e Hezbollah that, in his last meeting with Assembly members, Khamenei rejected the idea that the body had any right to monitor his performance. According to Nabavi, Khamenei told the Assembly that it can only monitor "the qualification of the Supreme Leader" and "whether he is still qualified." By Nabavi's account, Khamenei continued, "I do not accept the Assembly can say that the Supreme Leader is still qualified, but then question why such and such official was directed in a certain direction, or why I allowed a certain official [to do certain things]." As criticism of Khamenei has sharply increased since 2009, the Assembly has been compelled to issue multiple statements declaring that he is still qualified to remain Supreme Leader.

Rezaei: Iran should prepare for five years of sanctions

In a speech at Allameh Tabatabaei University in Tehran, Major General (retired) Mohsen Rezaei, secretary-general of the Expediency Discernment Council, said that the sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and its allies will continue for five years, and that they are much tougher than the sanctions imposed on the state during its war with Iraq between 1980 to 1988. He added that for 16 years, during the administrations of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, Iran tried to reduce tensions with the United States, but "because the gap [between the two nations] was too deep, a compromise was not possible.... We allowed them to inspect [the uranium enrichment facility in] Natanz, we reduced the number of centrifuges, we suspended the Isfahan [uranium conversion facility], and our President [Khatami] began the 'dialogue among civilizations.' But [George W.] Bush declared that Iran, Iraq, and North Korea constitute the 'axis of evil' and began a confrontation with us." He concluded, "I predict that the sanctions will continue for five years and, thus, we must learn how to live under such conditions."

U.S. officials doubt sanctions will be effective

The Guardian reports that many in the the Obama administration are convinced that sanctions will not stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear program, and that the United States will be left with no option but to launch an attack on Iran or watch Israel do so. President Obama has made clear that he is determined to give the recent financial blockade and the looming European oil embargo time to deeply affect Iran's economy.

According to the Guardian, many Pentagon and State Department officials believe sanctions will fail, and that their principal now is in delaying Israeli military action, as well as reassuring Europe that an attack will only come after other means have been tested.

Iran seeks end to nuclear negotiations deadlock

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran is searching for a mechanism to end the deadlock in its negotiations with the West and produce a "win-win situation" for both sides. Speaking to reporters while meeting with Nicaragua's Foreign Minister, Salehi said that in the letter that Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, sent to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Iran emphasized that negotiations should be restarted "as soon as possible." Salehi added, "We understand the situation of the other side. They too are after creating conditions that would allow them to exit the deadlock honorably. We will attend the negotiations with a positive outlook and good intentions, and hope that the other side will do likewise."

New deputy minister of defense?

On Saturday, Fars News Agency, which is owned by a Revolutionary Guard foundation, reported that Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi has appointed a new deputy, named only as Commander Bokaei, who was previously deputy defense minister for financial, economic, and engineering affairs, replacing Brigadier General Ahmad Vahid. The news item was removed from the Fars website after a short time for unknown reasons.

Embezzlement trial begins

According to Iranian media reports, on Saturday the trial in the embezzlement case involving the theft of nearly $3 billion began. Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi attended the court session and read the introduction to the 220-page-long indictment. The accused are represented by 28 attorneys, and the document that presents the evidence reportedly runs to 12,000 pages. Four unnamed Majles deputies who have been accused of being involved in the embezzlement have been barred from running for reelection in the voting for a new parliament that will be held March 2. Judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani has said that four of the accused have been charged as mofsed-e felarz (corruption on Earth), an offense punishable by execution. The launch of the trial so close to the Majles elections appears to represent an attempt by the hardliners to encourage the people to vote.

Mehdi Khazali suffers heart attack

On Saturday, political prisoner Dr. Mehdi Khazali had a heart attack and was taken to Taleghani Hospital in Tehran. Khazali has been on a hunger strike for 40 days to protest his illegal arrest. Khazali, who fought in the Iran-Iraq War, has said that he will not end his strike until his rights are restored.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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