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News | US F-22 Stealth Fighters in UAE; IAEA Visit to Parchin Possible

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

01 May 2012 13:05Comments

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.

TwoF22s.jpg 1:05 p.m. IRDT, 12 Ordibihesht/May 1 The tension between Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been increasing over three islands in the Persian Gulf: the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, and Abu Musa. The islands, which have been associated with Iran for centuries and are currently administered by the Islamic Republic, are also claimed by the UAE. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently paid a visit to Abu Musa that sparked rhetorical broadsides from both parties in the dispute.

As an apparent show of support for the UAE, the United States has now deployed F-22 stealth fighter jets, generally regarded as the most advanced fighters in the U.S. arsenal, to the Al-Dhafra air base. The UAE base is south of the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a fifth of globally traded oil passes. The number of fighters deployed has not been disclosed. Major Mary Danner-Jones, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Air Force, said, "The United States Air Force has deployed F-22s to Southwest Asia. Such deployments strengthen military-to-military relationships, promote sovereign and regional security, improve combined tactical air operations, and enhance interoperability of forces, equipment and procedures."

Reacting to the news, Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said, "We consider such presence in the region useless and harmful and creating an insecure atmosphere in the region.... Guaranteeing the security of the region is possible only through the cooperation between the countries of the region. The presence of other countries[' forces] will only complicate the matter and increase the insecurity."

This past Sunday was declared the National Day of the Persian Gulf in Iran. Demonstrations took place in Tehran in front of the UAE embassy and the Third Biennial International Conference on the Persian Gulf opened at two universities, one in Tehran and a second one in the province of Hormozgan, which encompasses the three disputed islands. The conference focused on environmental concerns and Iran's ownership rights in the Persian Gulf.

IAEA visit to Parchin

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that on May 14 and 15 Iran and the IAEA will resume negotiations and expressed the hope that they will be "constructive and successful." He added that the talks will aim to develop a framework for resolving the outstanding issues between Iran and the agency, and "addressing the unclear aspects" of Iran's nuclear program. When asked whether a visit by the IAEA to Parchin, a large military complex southeast of Tehran in which Iran has been making conventional military hardware and ammunitions for decades, will be allowed, Soltanieh responded, "After the framework is agreed upon [by the two sides], the visit will be possible." Soltanieh said that "Iran will never stop uranium enrichment," seemingly ruling out the possibility that Iran may suspend enrichment activities as a concession to the United States and its allies in the upcoming negotiations in Baghdad on May 23.

Meanwhile, Dr. Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, reported that, beginning on Saturday, the Bushehr light-water reactor has been producing 940 megawatts of electricity and is connected to Iran's electricity grid.

Human rights news

Imprisoned labor activist Reza Shahabi, who has been jailed in Ward 350 of Evin Prison, was transferred to a hospital after half of his body became numb. He has been suffering from extreme pain in his neck and spine, as well as irregular blood pressure and heartbeats. Doctors recommended surgery to treat the pain, but prison officials opposed it. Shahabi went on two hunger strikes over the past few weeks, which further weakened him. He has been sentenced to six years of incarceration.

Another political prisoner, Mohammad Reza Motamednia, who had been on hunger strike since April 9, was also taken to a hospital. A nationalist-religious figure, he was an adviser to two former prime ministers, Mohammad Ali Rajaei, who was assassinated on August 30, 1981, and Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. When he began his hunger strike, he declared that he would end it only when Mousavi is released from house arrest. In a courageous letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Motamednia strongly criticized the Supreme Leader, writing, "Have some courage and accept people's demands."

Meanwhile, human rights activist and attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, who has been sentenced to nine years of imprisonment, is supposed to begin his sentence on May 5. Dadkhah, who has represented many political prisoners, has also been barred from practicing law for ten years. He has declared, "I'll go to prison, but will never leave my native land, Iran."

The family of former deputy interior minister and outspoken reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh has written a letter to the judiciary protesting strongly the fact that he has been kept away from all other prisoners for nearly three years in the quarantine section of the prison, which they call completely illegal. He has also been barred from face-to-face visits with his family members.

Khamenei opposes impeachment of Ahmadinejad's labor minister

As noted here, a group of Majles deputies tried to impeach Minister of Labor Abdolreza Shaeikholeslami over the appointment of the notorious former judge Saeed Mortazavi as the head of the Social Security Organization, the large government-controlled organ that provides heath insurance and care to tens of millions of people. After it was announced that Mortazavi had resigned, the motion for the impeachment was quashed. It turned out, however, that Mortazavi's resignation was rejected by Sheikholeslami and, thus, the effort to impeach him has been resumed.

New reports indicate that Khamenei has sent a message to Majles Ali Speaker Ali Larijani that he is opposed to the impeachment. According to the reports, former judiciary chief Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi has told Larijani that Mortazavi was not the culprit in the crimes that happened in the Kahrizak detention center in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election, in which at least five young men were murdered and dozens of others were tortured. Shahroudi reportedly affirmed to Larjani that Khamenei is opposed to the impeachment and that he should prevent any move in that direction.

At the same time, reports indicate that Ali Akbar Heidarifar, a leading suspect in the Kahrizak crimes, has been arrested and imprisoned. He, Mortazavi, and the infamous Judge Haddad (Hassan Haddad Dehnavi) are believed to be the main culprits in the crimes.

Confrontation between Ahmadinejad and Larijani brothers

After several pieces of legislation were approved by the Majles, Ahmadinejad refused to issue the executive orders for their implementation. Speaker Larijani thus issued the orders, which articles 85 and 138 of the Constitution permit him to do if the president refuses to do so within 15 days of a law's enactment. Now Ahmadinejad has directed all government organs not to put into effect those laws for which Larijani ordered implementation, calling the speaker's action illegal. Two prominent Majles deputies, Deputy Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar and Ahmad Tavakoli, strongly protested the president's action, accusing him in turn of breaking the law.

Without naming him, judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani -- brother of Ali Larijani -- also rebuked Ahmadinejad. He said, "There are hidden ways of corruption that, in my opinion, are far more important than those that are in the public eye. There is a communication octopus that, through wheeling and dealing, has the ability to solve its problems in various places, even with the judiciary. I have identified several manifestations of this, although I cannot speak about all of them. They have a gathering place in a restaurant where these people get together, and even some judges go there. They have food and smoke water pipes, but also discuss their issues." He appeared to be referring to the case involving the embezzlement of nearly $3 billion that roiled the Iranian political scene a few months ago. Among those currently on trial for their involvement in the embezzlement is former Minister of Roads and Transportation Hamid Behbahani, a close confidant of the president and Ahmadinejad's adviser for his Ph.D. degree in civil engineering.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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