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News | Soleimani to Nasrallah: Don't Attack Israel; IAEA's Amano to Visit Iran

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

19 May 2012 14:25Comments

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.

NasrallahAhmjad.jpg 2:25 p.m. IRDT, 29 Ordibihesht/May 19 The conservative website Botia News reports that Major General Ghasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force -- the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps division responsible for foreign operations -- has told Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah (pictured here with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) that his group must not stage any preemptive strikes on Israel. According to the website, Soleimani has emphasized that Nasrallah must restrain extremist and radical views within his organization, and that the authority of those who believe in attacking Israel must be limited. "Your powerful force and readiness to destroy Tel Aviv and the ability for sustained attacks on Eilat in the southern part of occupied Palestine must not make you proud and arrogant," Soleimani reportedly told Nasrallah. He attributed what he called the Hezbollah's military victory over Israel in the summer of 2006 to the power of faith and God's help, rather than Hezbollah's arms.

According to Botia News, Soleimani further stated to Nasrallah, "The Zionist regime has become isolated and is facing a crisis of legitimacy, [but] any attacks on it will make it a nation to which injustice has been done, and make us the aggressor and oppressor. This will generate sympathy for Israel that is not in our interest. To free the Al-Aqsa Mosque [Islam's third holiest place, in Jerusalem], we must rely on informing people, not our guns." Javan Online, which is closely linked to the Revolutionary Guards, published a very similar report, but it was removed after a few hours. The same thing happened on the website operated by Fars, the Guard-affiliated news agency.

A few hours after the original reports appeared, the Revolutionary Guards' public relations department issued a statement calling the news that had been disseminated by its own websites "a big lie" by the "Zionists" and an attempt to distract attention from Israel's behavior. Fars then directly denied its own report, claiming that an "informed source" told the news agency, "This report is definitely a lie, because there are no extremists in Hezbollah, although the West has been trying for a long time to claim that the Hezbollah consists of two factions [moderate and extremist]." Whenever Fars tries to deny its own reportage or propagate some lie, it refers to an "informed source." In fact, Fars was recently fined for relying on too many unnamed "informed sources."

Amano to visit Tehran

Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, will visit Tehran on Monday to continue the discussions between Iran and the agency. Iran's negotiation team met with IAEA officials last Monday in Vienna to reach an agreement that will allow the agency to visit the Parchin military site 20 miles southeast of Tehran. Amano's trip, which will last one day, precedes the upcoming round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany -- that will be held on Wednesday in Baghdad.

Herman Nackaerts, Amano's deputy for safeguards, said that the IAEA will adopt a constructive approach in its talks with Iran to settle the standoff with the West over Tehran's nuclear energy program. "We aim to reach an agreement on an approach to resolve all the remaining issues on Iran's nuclear energy issue," Nackaerts added.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that Ali Bagheri, deputy to Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator and secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council, met last week in an undisclosed location with German diplomat Helga Maria Schmid, senior aide to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The purpose of the meeting was to agree on the agenda for Baghdad. Bagheri and Schmid are reportedly scheduled to meet again before Wednesday.

Majles deputy Javad Jahangir Zadeh said on Thursday that the world powers should be careful in their calculations for the upcoming talks. "The Western governments must know that Iran will never retreat from its nuclear [energy] rights," declared Jahangir Zadeh, a member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission. Hossein Amir Abdollahian, deputy foreign minister for Arab and African Affairs, similarly affirmed Iran's right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In a meeting with South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Amir Abdollahian stated of the upcoming negotiations with the P5+1, "If the opposing side continues with a realistic atmosphere, the Islamic Republic of Iran will give a positive response to their move. Under such circumstances, there is hope that the Baghdad talks will be a step forward."

Israeli government in "lockdown" for Iran strike?

Concerning the prospect of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, Reuters reports, "As the deadline for a decision draws nearer, the public pronouncements of Israel's top officials and military have changed. After hawkish warnings about a possible strike earlier this year, their language of late has been more guarded and clues to their intentions more difficult to discern." An unnamed Israeli official told Reuters, "The top of the government has gone into lockdown. Nobody is saying anything publicly. That in itself tells you a lot about where things stand."

Another senior Israeli figure was quoted as saying, "I think they have made a decision to attack. It is going to happen. The window of opportunity is before the U.S. presidential election in November. This way they will bounce the Americans into supporting them."
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said earlier this week that American military plans to strike Iran were "ready" and the option was "fully available." "I think they've gone into lockdown mode now," a senior Western diplomat said. "Whatever happens next, whatever they decide, we will not find out until it happens."

In February, Hassan Nasrallah's deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassem, told Reuters that an Israeli attack on Iran would set the whole Middle East ablaze "with no limit to the fires.... Gone are the days when Israel decides to strike, and the people are silent." Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also said in an interview with Reuters last week that an Israeli attack on Iran would be "the end of the world."

Iran, Republic of Azerbaijan lock horns

On May 8, a group of hardline supporters of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei staged a demonstration in front of the consular office of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Tabriz, the capital of Iran's East Azerbaijan province. They shouted, "The silence of a Muslim is treason to the Qur'an" and "The Azeri Shiites do not accept abjectness." They also shouted slogans denouncing Israel, which was recently reported to have been given access to a military base in the Republic of Azerbaijan; Israel has denied the report. The demonstrators also shouted, "Long live Azerbaijan, Shame on [President] Ilham." A concert last month in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, organized by the Official Eurovision Fan Club with the stated purpose of "giving a chance to feel the Eurovision spirit and increasing interest towards it among the population," also angered the Islamic Republic. Friday Prayer Imams around Iran have been attacking Aliyev's pro-Western policies -- see, for example, here and here.

A group of young people staged a counterdemonstration in front of the Iranian Embassy in Baku, shouting slogans against Khamenei. They carried a placard that read "Khamenei stop spilling the blood of Muslims in Iraq, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh" -- a territory that is claimed by both the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Iran has supported Armenia in the dispute. The embassy issued a strongly worded statement after the demonstration, declaring that it would respond to the "insult" and punish those responsible for it.

Tensions rise over Bahrain

After Friday Prayers ended at the University of Tehran, thousands of people marched through the capital to condemn the proposed union of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which is part of a plan announced by Saudi Arabia to transform the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) into a confederation patterned after the European Union.

During the 14th GCC summit that concluded Monday in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, the group's members -- Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates -- discussed whether to establish a closer union between the six states. Nabeel al-Hamer, media adviser to the Bahraini crown, said on Tuesday that four of the oil-rich states had agreed to the new union. Many political observers have said that the plan is driven by Saudi Arabia's fear of the Arab Spring and the spread of Iranian influence, and that it has stumbled over misgivings among the kingdom's smaller neighbors over the potential loss of their sovereignty and increasing domination by Riyadh.

The hardline Iranian newspaper Kayhan, whose editor in chief is close to Khamenei, called the Saudi plan "impossible" and declared that "Bahrain is part of Iran." "This is a dangerous American conspiracy, whose goal is to agitate the Middle East," declared an editorial in the paper.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Bahrain's chargé d'affaires in Tehran to express the Islamic Republic's growing concerns over developments in the Persian Gulf nation. In a meeting with the Bahraini diplomat, the head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry's Second Office for Persian Gulf Affairs said addressing the Bahraini people's demands is the only way out of the country's crisis.

Iran warns Google over Persian Gulf

After Google deleted the name "Persian Gulf" from its search engine, Iran warned the Internet giant of legal action should the U.S.-based corporation continue to use "alternative words" for the Gulf. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, "Toying with modern technologies in political issues is among the new measures by the enemies against Iran, [and] in this regard Google has been treated as a plaything." Cautioning Google that it faces serious repercussions if it continues to avoid "the proper" name, Mehmanparast told reporters, "Omitting the name Persian Gulf is playing with the feelings and realities of the Iranian nation."

Nationalist-religious figures write to Khamenei

Five prominent national-religious figures have written an open letter to Khamenei, asking him to order the release of the Islamic Republic's many political prisoners, particularly those who are ill. The letter's authors -- Azam Taleghani, daughter of the progressive Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Alaei Taleghani (1911-79); her husband, Mohammad Basteh Negar; Ahmad Sard Haj Seyyed Javadi; Hossein Shah Hosseini; and Nezamoddin Ghahhari -- protested the arrest and harassment of political, cultural, university, labor, and mass media activists, and specifically condemned the recent arrests of nationalist-religious figures Narges Mohammadi, Masoud Pedram, Mohammad Tavasoli, and Dr. Ali Reza Rajaei. They called on Khamenei to reduce the threats to the country's national security by mandating that the political prisoners be freed.

Narges Mohammadi transferred to prison in Zanjan

Journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi has been transferred to a prison in Zanjan, 175 miles northwest of Tehran. As reported by Tehran Bureau, Mohammadi was being held in Evin Prison and had been hospitalized in its medical center due to severe illness. Given that the judicial order for her imprisonment was issued in Tehran, her transfer to Zanjan is illegal under Iranian law.

Police attack a university

Fars reported that 300 policemen attacked the Art University in Karaj to enforce a judicial order, but encountered stiff resistance from students, which led to a physical confrontation. Apparently, the police wanted to enforce an order that calls for the construction of a wall around the campus, but the students prevented them. Saeed Zavieh, a university official, said that the issue has existed for years. He criticized the judiciary and the police for trying to enforce the order "under the current sensitive conditions [when] the nation needs calmness." A few hours after the original report's publication, Fars removed it from its website and replaced it with a more moderate one.

3.5 million children denied education

Children's rights activists have reported that 3.5 million Iranian youth do not have access to education due to a school shortage. A few months ago, the Center for Statistics stated that 7,135,000 young people had left school without finishing their education for various reasons. While the government announced that the number of students in elementary, middle, and high school is 12.3 million during the current Iranian year, the Center for Statistics puts the total number of school-age children -- those between seven and 19 years of age -- at 19.4 million.

Political prisoner ends hunger strike

Political prisoner Mohammad Ali Velayati, who went on hunger strike to protest the house arrests of Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi, ended his strike at the request of Mousavi and Rahnavard's daughters. Velayati was a deputy manager of Mousavi's 2009 presidential campaign for the provinces outside Tehran. He was arrested last year and in September 2011 was sentenced to two years of incarceration, Velayati had been subjected to repeated harassment by security agents since the late 1990s.

Young scientist sentenced to ten years' imprisonment

Omid Kokabee, a first-year physics Ph.D. student studying optics at the University of Texas in Austin, was sentenced to ten years of incarceration. Kokabee, born in 1982, was arrested in February 2011 while he was visiting his family. He was charged with "communicating with a hostile government" and "illegitimate/illegal earnings," a reference to the stipend that he was receiving in Austin, and put on trial last October 4 in Tehran. Last Sunday, while several people were being tried on charges of spying for Israel, Kokabee was taken to the same court to be informed of his sentence, a thinly disguised attempt to suggest a connection between his case and the espionage trial. Kokabee has never been active in politics, and his arrest shocked many. It has been reported that he was under pressure to work in Iran's nuclear program and that his arrest was prompted by his refusal.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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