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News | 63% Online Back Halt to Uranium Enrichment; Nuclear Talks to Continue

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

04 Jul 2012 19:45Comments

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.

FemaleSilhouettesFars.jpg8 p.m. IRDT, 14 Tir/July 4 The website of the Shabakeh Khabar (News Network) press agency, which is controlled by the state broadcasting network, Voice and Visage of the Islamic Republic, posed a question: How should Iran respond to counter the anti-Iranian sanctions imposed by the West? It then proposed three possible answers and asked its readers to participate in an online poll to express their preference. The three answers were: (1) suspend uranium enrichment in return for gradual lifting of the sanctions, (2) close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for the sanctions, and (3) resist the West (implicitly, continue the current course of action) to preserve Iran's nuclear rights. The website has a very large number of readers, with tens of thousands of daily visitors.

The poll went on for two days. In early tallies, around 58 percent of respondents voted for the first choice. As polling continued, the percentage of the people agreeing with response 1 reached 63 percent and appeared to still be rising gradually, when the poll was abruptly stopped. At that time, 20 percent agreed with the proposition that Iran should retaliate, while 17 percent approved of continued resistance to Western pressure.

Another online poll was also taken by Shabakeh Khabar, in which a single question was asked: "What do you think of the Majles resolution [see below] to close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for the West's sanctions?" Only 11 percent supported the closure, while 89 percent opposed it. The result of that poll was also removed from the website. Both polls were then replaced by one about the popular Persepolis soccer team.

Taking the polls at such a critical time does not appear to be a random act. Retreating from Iran's position and suspending the uranium enrichment program, as well as trying to close the Strait of Hormuz, are courses of action that can be ordered only by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has always claimed that the Islamic Republic and his rule follow the wishes of the country's people. The poll might be used in the future to justify a retreat from Iran's current position regarding its nuclear program, but only time will tell.

Reaction to new European oil sanctions

The new European Union sanctions that went into effect this week, according to which its members states stopped importing oil from Iran and insurance companies were barred from insuring Iranian oil tankers, have deeply angered the Islamic Republic's hardliners.

Sobh-e Sadegh, the weekly mouthpiece of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' political directorate, suggested that Iran can react in five different ways to the new sanctions: (i) continue to negotiate with the P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, (ii) make the negotiations extremely complex (apparently to buy time), (iii) limit the traffic of oil tankers from other Persian Gulf countries in the Strait of Hormuz or close the strait altogether, (iv) use the sanctions to motivate self-reliance, and (v) create problems for the United States and the West in the region. Surprisingly, Sobh-e Sadegh did not specify which of the five options it preferred.

Bultan (Bulletin) News, a website linked to the security establishment, reported that a group of 100 Majles deputies are going to submit a plan to close the Strait of Hormuz. It reported that Mashhad deputy Javad Karimi Ghoddoosi told the website that a plan has been drawn up, which he claimed is in accordance with the Geneva Convention of 1985 and the Jamaica Convention of 1982, to protect the nation from losses resulting from an oil embargo. According to the plan, Iran will not allow passage to tankers carrying oil to countries that are participating in the sanctions.

And, the website Iran-e Hastehei (Nuclear Iran) reported that Iran is getting ready for an "unexpected" and "serious" response to the new oil sanctions. The website did not specify the nature of the response.

Nuclear negotiations to continue

On Tuesday, a delegation of experts from the Supreme National Security Council, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran met in Istanbul with their counterparts from the P5+1 group. Nothing is known yet about what was covered in the 15-hour-long discussions. During the last round of negotiations in Moscow, it was agreed that, if the meeting of the experts made enough progress, talks would continue at a more senior level. After the meeting ended close to midnight local time, it was decided that the principal deputies to the two chief nuclear negotiators, Helga Schmid, senior adviser to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and Ali Bagheri, deputy to Supreme National Security Council chair Saeed Jalili, will meet soon. It is not yet clear whether the experts' meeting reduced the gap between the two sides, and if so, by how much. An Iranian official said, "Sometimes I think neither of the sides understands the other. It is a complex negotiation. Both sides want to show that the meeting produced some result, even if the progress is simply deciding when and where the next round of negotiations should be."

Ashton had expressed hope that Iran will take what she called "constructive positions" in the Istanbul talks. According to a statement she issued Monday, "We hope Iran will seize the opportunity of this meeting to show a willingness to take concrete steps to urgently meet the concerns of the international community, to build confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program and to meet its international obligations."

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told ISNA, the Iranian Students News Agency, "The other side has no alternative but to reach an agreement because the other alternative is confrontation. I do not believe that any wise person would want such a course of action, given the developments in the region."

Revolutionary Guards' missile drill

On Monday, the Rebolutionary Guards began a three-day missile drill, entitled "The Great Prophet 7," in the central province of Semnan. Iranian-produced missiles -- the Shahab 1, 2, and 3, Khalij Fars (Persian Gulf), Tondar (Lightning), Fateh (Victor), Zelzal (Quake), and Ghiam (Uprising) -- were fired at mock targets. The Khalij Fars missiles were fired at maritime targets to demonstrate Iran's readiness for a war in the Persian Gulf.

Tavakoli implies Khamenei has blocked prosecution of the corrupt

While defending his credentials to sit in the newly elected Ninth Majles, deputy Ahmad Tavakoli said, "If it were not for the will of the Supreme Leader, we would be in a different situation, and those who are the root cause of corruption would be a situation completely different from their current one," seemingly implying that Khamenei has prevented the prosecution of leading corrupt figures. While Tavakoli did not name any one, based on his past statements and speeches he seemed to be referring to the inner circle of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in particular First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, who has been accused of being involved in a major case of financial corruption. Tavakoli's website, Alef, has also repeatedly criticized the judiciary for not cracking down on Ahmadinejad's close associates.

Hadi Khamenei: We should ask Mousavi, Karroubi about 2013 election

Cleric Hadi Khamenei, half-brother of the Supreme Leader and a supporter of the reformists, said that they should ask Mir Hossein Mousavi's and Mehdi Karroubi's views about the presidential election in 2013. The two men have been under house arrest for almost 500 days. There has been much speculation about whether the reformists will participate in the election next year. Meanwhile, Grand Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheib, one of the most popular clerical supporters of the Green Movement, said that Mousavi, his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, and Karroubi, have committed no offense and must be released from house arrest.

Warning about Velaayat-e Faghih

Cleric Mohsen Gharavian, a former student of prominent reactionary cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, criticized the positions of some clerics close to Khamenei, warning that the Isalamic Republic may be transformed into something akin to Bani Umayyah, the second of the four major Islamic caliphates established after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Shiites generally consider the dynasty as deeply corrupt and Yazid, its second ruler, as responsible for the murder of Imam Hussein, the revered Third Imam. "If we cannot analyze the performance of the Supreme Leader and Velaayat-e Faghih [the doctrine that justifies Khamenei's rule], sooner or later we will arrive at dangerous places," Gharavian told the website Teriboon-e Mostazafin. Without naming Khamenei, Gharavian added, "Whatever the top of the government cone thinks, and [whatever] his mental state and his thinking pillars and foundation are, the same will be implemented in the society. He issues the orders; he appoints the people to implement his ideals.... We must evaluate the Supreme Leader justly, not evaluate justice according to the Supreme Leader."

Report: Two "spies" arrested

Two citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan have been arrested in Iran and charged with espionage. A security official in Iran's East Azerbaijan province said that the two, Shahriar Hajizadeh and Farid Hosseinov, had entered Iran under the supervision of Azerbaijan's intelligence organization with the goal of using some of the dissidents to advocate secession of the East Azerbaijan province from Iran to join the Republic of Azerbaijan. Tensions between the two countries have risen recently since reports indicated that the Republic of Azerbaijan might have provided Israel with access to an air force base near its Iranian border.

Father imprisoned for son's Facebook posts

Iranian citizen Yashar Khameneh has been studying business administration in the Netherlands since 2009. Using the pen name Yashar Naghi Pazhooh, he posted earlier this year on a satirical Facebook page called "Campaign to remind Shiites of Imam Naghi [the Tenth Imam]." He explained, "We wanted to break the taboo on religion. Many people in Iran have strict religious views and do not tolerate laughing about faith. But we don't insult anyone. We just want people to be more open-minded."

On May 25, his father was arrested in Tehran and taken to Evin Prison. He was accused of participating in anti-religious activities on the basis that he has sent funds to his son -- even though all the forwarded money has clearly been intended for his son's education. The elder Khameneh has not been allowed to have an attorney, his case has yet to be presented to the judiciary, and he has not been allowed to see his family. It appears that his only "offense" is that he is the father of his son.

According to Yashar Khameneh, the ministry has told his father that Yashar is the manager of the Facebook page and so long as it is not shut down, he will remain in jail and might even be executed. Apparently, some of the younger Khameneh's friends in Iran have also been arrested and "confessed" under pressure that he is in control of the Facebook page.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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