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News | Report: Iran Plans Nuclear Sub; First VP Said to Have Embezzled $1.5M

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

13 Jun 2012 20:20Comments

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.

SubmarineIRNAHome.jpg8:20 p.m. IRDT, 24 Khordad/June 13 Fars, the news agency that is owned by a foundation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reported that Iran has taken the first steps toward designing and constructing a nuclear submarine. According to Fars, Rear Admiral Abbas Zamini, deputy commander of the Iranian Navy for technical affairs, said, "When we possess peaceful nuclear technology, we can begin planning for constructing submarines that use the technology. Every country has the right to do so." He added that Iran is in the preliminary stages of such development. "Given the advances that we have been making, I hope that we will soon deploy a generation of nuclear submarines by the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy." Several hours after Fars reported on Zamini's statements, it removed the dispatch from its website.

Just a few days before Zamini's declaration, naval commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari announced that a Russian diesel-class submarine has been repaired and deployed by the Iranian Navy. The submarine is one of three that were sold to Iran two decades ago. It is worth mentioning that Israel has received four advanced submarines that can be equipped with nuclear warheads.

Senior Ahmadinejad aides linked to embezzlement, bribery

Three major figures in the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been linked by new testimony to one of the largest cases of financial fraud in the country's history. First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, Minister of Science, Research, and Technology Kamran Daneshjoo, and Tehran Province Governor-General Morteza Tamaddon (a senior adviser to Ahmadinejad) have been accused of involvement in the so-called "Fatemi Street case," which concerns bribery and embezzlement from the Iran Insurance Company, the country's largest insurance firm.

A defendant in the ongoing trial in the case said that he gave a checkbook to a Mr. "M.R.," widely believed to be Rahimi, to draw money from his account and spend it on campaigns for the Eighth Majles elections in 2008. Two years ago, Rahimi was accused of receiving a large sum as a bribe; he claimed that he had spent the money on Ahmadinejad's reelection campaign in 2009. After Ayatollah Ali Khamenei intervened, the judiciary stopped pursuing the case against Rahimi. Now, the new testimony confirms the two-year-old account. Rahimi has been accused of receiving 1.5 billion tomans (about $1.5 million under the official exchange rate at the time). The check by which Rahimi was paid undeniably exists. The Iran newspaper, which supports Ahmadinejad, claimed that Rahimi received the money on behalf of First Deputy Majles Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar. But Majles deputy Parviz Sorouri, a former Revolutionary Guard officer, said that Rahimi gave him 900 million tomans ($900,000 at the time) to spend on the campaigns of pro-Ahmadinejad Majles candidates in 2008. Ahmadinejad, who has formed a committee headed by Rahimi to "confront economic corruption" defended his vice president: "If you dare, why do you not pursue [charges against] against the main culprits?" He did not name anyone.

Daneshjoo was head of the election department in the Interior Ministry at the time of the 2009 presidential election, and played a lead role in rigging the outcome. He has been accused of receiving a bribe of 200 million tomans ($200,000 at the time). Apparently, he has even admitted the bribery to his attorney.

Tamaddon has been accused in court of involvement in an embezzlement scheme whereby 1.25 billion tomans ($1.25 million at the time) was received from some major mine owners. In a letter to the court, Tamaddon did not contradict the figure, but claimed that the embezzlement happened when his predecessor, Daneshjoo, was governor-general of Tehran province.

Ashton and Jalili speak by phone

On Monday, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton spoke for one hour with Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator and Secretary-General of the Supreme National Security Council. Ashton leads the P5+1 group -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany -- in its negotiations with Iran concerning the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. As noted here, in a letter to senior Ashton adviser Helga Schmid, Jalili's deputy, Ali Bagheri, demanded a meeting between the two side's experts to review the agenda for the upcoming Moscow negotiations, which Schmid rejected. After the Ashton-Jalili telephone call on Monday, E.U. officials said a more positive tone had been established. "Iran has...backed down from demanding an experts meeting ahead of Moscow and has done a lot to clear the air," said a senior E.U. official. "There's a sense now that after walking up the hill over the past few weeks, the Iranians are now walking down it again and the Moscow talks are very much on." The unnamed official revealed that, in the course of Monday's phone call, Jalili said that he would now engage with a detailed confidence-building proposal that was put to Iran at the last meeting between the parties in Baghdad.

Ashton and Jalili "agreed on the need for Iran to engage on the E3+3 proposals, which address its concerns on the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program," according to a statement from a spokesperson for Ashton. "She also conveyed the E3+3′s readiness to respond to the issues raised by the Iranians in Baghdad." (The three European powers, Britain, France, and Germany, refer to the P5+1 as the E3+3.) Jalili told Ashton that "an appropriate response to Iran's proposed package in Baghdad will advance the negotiations."

On Wednesday, Jalili reported to the Majles on the progress of nuclear negotiations. He claimed that the West had told the administration of former President Mohammad Khatami that Iran could not have a uranium enrichment program, but "due to the resistance by the Iranian nation they are now willing to settle for 1,000 centrifuges in Iran's hands and uranium enrichment at 3.5 percent." He emphasized that nuclear technology is now indigenous in Iran and noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency raised six issues with Iran that it addressed -- as the agency acknowledged in February 2008 -- yet its nuclear dossier is still treated as "special." He also claimed that the P5+1 has accepted Iran's suggestions for the upcoming round of negotiations.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is visiting Tehran Wednesday. On Tuesday, Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesman for the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the Moscow nuclear negotiations and the developments in Syria will be the two main topics of discussions during Lavrov's trip.

Clinton: Iran will be shown "clear path" to resolution

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the world powers will give Iran a "very clear path" to resolve the crisis over its controversial nuclear program in Moscow. Speaking in Washington, Clinton said, "There is a unified position being presented by the P5+1 that gives Iran, if it is interested in taking a diplomatic way out, a very clear path that would be verifiable and would be linked to action for action. I am quite certain that they are under tremendous pressure from the Russians and the Chinese to come to Moscow prepared to respond. Now whether that response is adequate or not we will have to judge."

Revolutionary Guards take over Majles Security Commission

At least nine former Revolutionary Guard officers have become members of the Majles Commission on National Security and Foreign Policy. At least three members have been prison wardens in the past. The reformist Etemaad newspaper reported that former agents of the Ministry of Intelligence have also joined the commission. Confirming the appointments, Majles Speaker Ali Larijani said, "Some of the deputies have security background and worked, for example, for the Ministry of Intelligence, but called it governmental work [when they ran in the last elections]." Several Majles deputies have protested the appointments.

Tajzadeh to Khamenei: You are responsible for country's state

Outspoken reformist and former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh, who has been imprisoned since a day after the June 12, 2009, presidential election, has written a public letter to Khamenei in which he says that the Supreme Leader is directly responsible for the country's current condition. The letter was written on the third anniversary of the rigged election.

In the letter, Tajzadeh reminds Khamenei of his Friday Prayer sermon a week after the election in which he threatened the nation that if people continued to protest, any bloodshed would be their responsibility. He notes the violent repression of the protests that swiftly followed and contrasts that with the thousands of illegal gatherings of Hezbollah thugs that have been allowed to take place during Khamenei's reign. Tajzadeh asks whether it is illegal to gather only for those who are critical of the violations committed by Khamenei's supporters. He describes how he and six of his comrades filed a lawsuit against Commander Moshfegh, a Revolutionary Guard officer who explicitly admitted that the Guards had intervened in the election. Tajzadeh then asks, "Over two and a half years have passed since that lawsuit. The result of that lawsuit has been a lawsuit by the judiciary against the seven people, in which one charge against the seven is filing a lawsuit against Commander Moshfegh. During their interrogation, they must explain why they filed the lawsuit against Commander Moshfegh that has weakened the nezaam [political system]!!!" Tajzadeh ends his letter by saying,

There currently is consensus among everyone, from the supporters of the nezaam and those who are devoted to the Supreme Leader to the critics and opposition, that changing the current conditions and the way the opposition is treated depends directly on the Leader's decision, and not anyone else. This consensus and unanimity of opinion is indicative of something else as well, which is that the current conditions and the way the opposition is treated are due to the Leader's decisions.

Legislator: Mousavi victory would have hurt system

Majles deputy Esmail Kosari, a former Revolutionary Guard commander, said that if Mir Hossein Mousavi had won the 2009 presidential election, "The seditionist would have controlled the nezaam and would have pursued a project to change it." He added, "Some of the elites who were supposedly supporters of the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] and the Supreme Leader forgot about Islamic and godly values, due to their materialistic greed." He was apparently referring to former presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami who, explicitly or implicitly, supported Mousavi.

Human rights news

On Monday evening, a large group of political prisoners tried to commemorate the third anniversary of the Green Movement, as well as the first anniversary of the death of nationalist-religious journalist and political activist Hoda Saber, who had a heart attack in Evin Prison and passed away due to lack of treatment. The prisoners are held in Evin's Ward 350, designated for those incarcerated for political offenses. Security forces cut off the electricity to prevent the ceremony from taking place, then attacked the prisoners. Six prisoners -- Bahman Ahmadi Amooee, Saeed Jalalifar, Farshad Ghorbanpoor, Arash Saghr, Saeed Matinpoor, and Javad Alikhani -- were transferred to Ward 209, controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence, where prisoners are held in solitary confinement. The security forces also transferred Ahmadi Amooee, a distinguished journalist, to Rajaei Shahr Prison west of Tehran, near the town of Karaj. He was arrested in the aftermath of the 2009 election and sentenced to five years of imprisonment. According to reports, the prisoners were shouting "Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein" and "Marg bar dictator" (death to the dictator).

Prominent attorney Abdolfattah Soltani, who has represented many political prisoners, was sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment. He was arrested on September 10, 2011, and has been in prison ever since. After a show trial, he was sentenced to 18 years of incarceration and a 20-year long ban on any type of public activity. An appeals court reduced his sentence to 13 years, to be spent in internal exile in Borazjan Prison in southern Iran. His daughter, Maedeh Soltani, has said that security agents tried to convince her father to appear in a television program attacking the Center for the Defense of Human Rights, founded by Shirin Ebadi; he was promised that if he spoke against her, he would be released, but he refused. The security forces even arrested his wife, Masoumeh Dehghan, and pressured her to write a letter against her own husband and "repent," but she refused as well. Soltani has been arrested at least four times over the past decade.

Mr. Dargahi, the maternal grandfather of Arash Sadeghi, a student at Tehran's Allameh Tabatabaei University who has been imprisoned for over two years, was released from Evin, where he had been held in Ward 209. Sadeghi, who was active in Mousavi's 2009 presidential campaign, has paid a heavy price for his activism. In addition to being incarcerated, his mother had a heart attack and died when security forces invaded their home to arrest Sadeghi. Mr. Dargahi wrote a letter to his grandson's interrogator, which was used to charge him with "propaganda against the nezaam." He was released after posting bail of about $15,000. Sadeghi has been on a hunger strike for 13 days ago and is now hospitalized. He took the action to support another political prisoner, Seyyed Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, who was also on hunger strike. Ronaghi Maleki has ended his strike, but Sadeghi has said that he would end his only when he receives confirmation from Ronaghi Maleki's family.

On May 1, 2011, Sedigheh Moradi was arrested in Tehran and taken to Evin. She was charged with working with the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization. She spent seven months in Ward 209 and was then transferred to the general ward for political prisoners. A court in Tehran has sentenced her to ten years of incarceration.

University activist Siavosh Hatam was arrested at home and taken to prison, where he was told he would be serving a sentence of one year and four months. He was aware of the four months of incarceration that he had been sentenced to in 2010, but neither he nor his attorney knows anything about the additional one year. He has also been sentenced to 74 lashes. Hatam was arrested on June 15, 2009, three days after the presidential election. He was formerly secretary of the Muslim Student Association of Bouali University in the western city of Hamadan. He was released a month later after posting bail of about $100,000.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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