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Weekend Roundup | Aiding Assad vs 'Terrorists'; Suez Bomb Plot?; Blix Speaks

24 Mar 2012 23:30Comments

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. 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.

AssadAhmjadFars.jpg4-5 Farvardin/March 23-24 Western officials tell Reuters that the Islamic Republic is helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad put down the opposition to his regime through the supply of a wide range of arms and other technology, as well as advice on security measures. Reuters reports,
Tehran's technical assistance to Assad's security forces includes electronic surveillance systems, technology designed to disrupt efforts by protesters to communicate via social media, and Iranian-made drone aircraft for overhead surveillance, the officials said. They discussed intelligence matters on condition of anonymity.

Iran has also provided lethal materiel that can be used for riot control, they said.

"Over the past year, Iran has provided security assistance to Damascus to help shore up Assad. Tehran during the last couple of months has been aiding the Syrian regime with lethal assistance -- including rifles, ammunition, and other military equipment -- to help it put down the opposition," a U.S. official said.

"Iran has provided Damascus [with] monitoring tools to help the regime suppress the opposition. It has also shared techniques on Internet surveillance and disruption," the official continued.

***

Even as Iranian officials express their support for a diplomatic resolution to the situation in Syria, Iran's official and semiofficial media echo the Assad government in describing the Syrian opposition as "terrorists," as in this report from Press TV, the English-language subsidiary of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting:

Syrian state media say terrorists have blown up a section of a pipeline carrying gas through the eastern province of Deir al-Zour. [...]

In January, Syrian state media also said terrorists attacked an oil pipeline near Quriye area in Deir al-Zour.

An armed terrorist group also blew up a section of a gas pipeline in the central province of Homs near the Lebanese border in January, state media said.

The Saturday attack in the region was conducted on the same day when state media said Syrians held a demonstration in the provincial capital, Deir al-Zour, to express support for the government's reform programs and to reject foreign interference in the internal affairs of Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad endorsed a new constitution on February 28 as part of the promised reforms in the country. The draft was put to vote in a February 26 referendum and won the overwhelming support of the Syrian voters.

President Assad said on March 6 the Syrian people, "who have in the past managed to crush foreign plots...have again proven their capacity to defend the nation and to build a new Syria through their determination to pursue reforms along with the fight against foreign-backed terrorism."

***

Many Israeli media outlets are featuring a story first reported in Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly alleging that the Islamic Republic was behind a plot to bomb one or more Israeli vessels in the Suez Canal. As Ynet describes, relying on Al-Ahram,

Egyptian authorities have two suspects in custody -- Saliman Rizek abdel Razek and Salame Ahmed Salame.

The two deny any involvement, but according to the report authorities have evidence linking them, via the offer of a 50 million Egyptian pounds payment, to a third suspect -- Muhammad Zakri -- who they allegedly tried to hire to execute the attack.

Case details quoted by the paper say that Zakri was told he would be "paid by the Shiites," who ordered the attack on the backdrop of their hatred for Israel and their ties with Iran.

In the Jerusalem Post's version of the story, "Iranian agents offered two Egyptian men" -- evidently Razek and Salame -- "50,000 Egyptian pounds...to carry out the attack."

***

Hans Blix, former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief and lead United Nations weapons inspector, speaks with Al Jazeera about Iran's nuclear program and the prospect that a military strike might be launched it. "Recent talk about a possible attack on Iran's nuclear installations has made Blix concerned about a repeat of the events that led to the Iraq war," according to Al Jazeera. "'When I hear [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu saying it's not a question of days or weeks, but also not years, I think that sounds like a terrible threat,' he says."

***

ABC News reports that the "Iranians, We Love You" campaign launched by Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry and his wife, Michal Tamir, last week continues to gather steam:

"The message of this campaign is people to people," Moti Khemo, who manages the movement's website, told ABC News. "We believe that we're not that different, and most people just want to live in peace."

The site and its accompanying Facebook page are filled with photos of Israelis from all walks of life and the "Iranians, We Love You" slogan, with the subheader: "We will never bomb you[r country]." On Friday evening, the page had almost 28,000 "likes," and the campaign has raised more than $16,000 to print posters and "keep the movement grow[ing]." [...]

One of the more popular posts ricocheting around Facebook is of a man and woman kissing, with him holding up his Israeli passport as she flaunts her Iranian passport.

"Persian girls are sexy and adorable," the boyfriend wrote. "Our cultures and backgrounds have never got in the way. We actually share the same ideals, so everything works perfect."

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The English-language website of RT, the government-funded Russian television network, reports on a day of action Saturday against war with Iran organized by Britain's Stop the War Coalition:

The demonstrations were planned in 15 major cities including Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, London, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

The coalition's unit in Nottingham declares on its website that the United States has always been "tempted to use its overwhelming military strength" to try to make up for its relative economic decline, exacerbated by the current crisis.

"This means that the target is shifting to Iran and Syria. There are continual calls for intervention in Syria, and the war of words with Iran continually threatens to boil over into a war of aircraft carriers and bombs in the Straits of Hormuz," the activists say.

The protesters compare what they call "current hysteria against Iran" with 2002 debates over the invasion of Iraq. At that time they feared war against Iraq was fatally approaching and held massive demonstrations against it.

***

ISNA, the Iranian Students News Agency, reports that Iran Khodro and SAIPA, the country's leading vehicle manufacturers, did not achieve their goals for growth in the Iranian calendar year that just ended. In the last weeks of winter, a planned increase in the price of domestic products was canceled to protect consumers. This has added to the manufacturers' other difficulties -- earlier in the year, they had to halt their assembly lines for lack of parts and equipment. While the domestic car makers were suffering, importers have seen rising profits. According to the ISNA report, they have gained particularly because of the devaluation of the rial, inflating the prices at which they are able to sell their inventories.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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