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News | Khamenei: We Won't Back Down; Report: New Computer Worm Hits Iran

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

25 Jul 2012 20:35Comments

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.

LilKCrowdOfOfficials.jpg8:35 p.m. IRDT, 4 Mordad/July 25 On Tuesday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his cabinet, and other high officials of the Islamic Republic. In his speech to the group, he attacked the administration of former President Mohammad Khatami and indicated that he will not back down from his position regarding Iran's nuclear program and the dispute with the West. Referring to the Khatami administration (1997-2005), he said,
In the era in which the language of our officials with the West and the United States was one of flattery, the person [George W. Bush] who himself was the symbol of evil dared to call the Islamic Republic [part of] the axis of evil. The West had become so shameless in that era that even though our officials had accepted that Iran would have very few [uranium enrichment] centrifuges, they opposed it, but today we have 11,000 centrifuges working in our nation. If the retreat of our officials in that era had continued, we would not have made the nuclear and scientific advancements that we have today.

There have been persistent reports that many supporters of Khamenei have been urging him to compromise with the United States over Iran's nuclear program. Lending credibility to the reports, Khamenei seemingly responded to such calls:

The current economic pressure on the country is an isthmus that the nation will pass, because the continuation of the pressure is not in the interest of the Western nations. The reality is that with God's help, accepting the increasing risk [of military attacks], and the use of wisdom and planning, we can continue our resistance. The goal of the enemy in exerting the pressure is to impair our national growth and development, and create difficulties for the people to make them despair and separate their path from the Islamic government.

Today, balanced [as opposed to excessive] consumption is like a jihad, and all the governmental and non-governmental organizations and all the people must avoid waste and take seriously domestic production. The officials must avoid useless rifts and publicizing of differences to protect national unity. The enemies of the Revolution and the people are trying to create [fake] realities, in order to make the officials and people err in their evaluation [of the state of affairs]. Such facts indicate that although the nation's path toward its ideals faces challenges, it is not at a dead end. Not only will we not reconsider our evaluation of the situation, we will advance the nation's path with more confidence.

Khamenei called for combining "idealism with pragmatism" in order to overcome the current crisis. Although he rejected any alteration in Iran's defense of its nuclear program, there have been reports that he has begun to worry about the consequences of the sanctions, particularly in light of the recent demonstrations over the high cost of living and rampant inflation.

Despite Khamenei's proclamation, various officials continue to warn about the dire situation that is developing. This week, a judiciary official, Mohammad Javad Montazeri, told ISNA, the Iranian Students News Agency, that "the sanctions have put us in warlike conditions." He continued, "The actions of some officials seem to be aligned with the enemy, and in coordination with the sanctions of the enemy, they are carrying out psychological warfare against the people." Meanwhile, nine Majles deputies issued a statement in which they demanded the formation of a special commission to deal with the economic consequences of the sanctions.

Mehr News Agency reported that for the past three months Iran has been planning barter agreements with other nations, under which it will exchange its oil and petroleum-based products for goods such as wheat, flour, rice, tea, cooking oil, sugar, paper, and industrial equipment. Specifically, according to Mehr, Iran will receive wheat from Pakistan in return for certain petrochemical products. Far News Agency, owned by a foundation under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reported that Iran has received flour from India in return for oil.

Cleric Ghasem Ravanbakhsh, a disciple of the reactionary Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, claimed that the dramatic increase in the price of basic goods is an act of revenge by the Ahmadinejad camp against Khamenei due to the Supreme Leader's intervention last year in the Moslehi affair. Ravanbakhsh accused the "perverted group" -- the circle around Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and close confidant Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei -- of forging a secret alliance with the reformists and the Green Movement. Mohsen Kookkan, secretary of a conservative organization led by former Majles deputies, declared, "The rise in the cost of living is not due to the international sanctions; the government plays a role in it too. We are supposed to think that the sanctions are the reason for the inflation. It is the result of the government's lack of attention to the problem."

Has a new computer worm attacked Iran's nuclear facilities?

A blog entry on the website of Finland's F-Secure Security Labs suggests that a new computer worm attacked and shut down two of Iran's nuclear facilities. Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure's chief research officer, describes how he received an email, allegedly written by an Iranian nuclear scientist, that says,

I am writing you to inform you that our nuclear program has once again been compromised and attacked by a new worm with exploits which have shut down our automation network at Natanz and another facility Fordo near Qom.

According to the email our cyber experts sent to our teams, they believe a hacker tool Metasploit [an open-source project to identify vulnerabilities in software] was used. The hackers had access to our VPN [virtual private network]. The automation network and Siemens hardware were attacked and shut down. I only know very little about these cyber issues as I am scientist not a computer expert.

There was also some music playing randomly on several of the workstations during the middle of the night with the volume maxed out. I believe it was playing "Thunderstruck'" by [Australian rock band] AC/DC.

Hypponen wrote that while he could not verify the email's assertions, he could confirm that it was sent from within the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Early last month, Hypponen -- who is renowned in the field of computer virus detection -- wrote in Wired,

A couple of days ago, I received an email from Iran. It was sent by an analyst from the Iranian Computer Emergency Response Team, and it was informing me about a piece of malware their team had found infecting a variety of Iranian computers. This turned out to be Flame: the malware that has now been front-page news worldwide.

The Washington Post subsequently reported that the Flame virus was developed by the United States and Israel to infect the computer systems in Iran's nuclear facilities and retard the progress of its atomic program.

Ashton and Jalili to talk by phone

On Monday, Ali Bagheri, the deputy to Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, and Helga Schmid, senior adviser to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, head of the negotiation team for the P5+1 group -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany -- met in Istanbul. After the meeting, it was agreed that the two senior negotiators would talk over the phone. No date has been set, and the fact that this will merely be a phone conversation implies that no significant progress has been made since the last senior-level meeting in Moscow on June 18 and 19.

Ahmadinejad: Given my condition, how painful was Khatami's

According to a report on the Melimazhabi website, in private gatherings Ahmadinejad has been reflecting on his political isolation and the stream of attacks to which he is subjected by Khamenei's supporters. Comparing his state to that of his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, who was never favored by Khamenei, the president reportedly said, "I, who was supported by the Supreme Leader, am in this condition. How painful Khatami's suffering must have been."

Narges Mohammadi returned to jail

After 12 days with no news on the condition of jailed human rights activist and journalist Narges Mohammadi, she was finally able to contact her family and inform them that she had lost her eyesight for five days and been hospitalized, after which she was returned to the prison in Zanjan. No member of her family was allowed to visit her during her hospitalization.

According to Mohammadi, she fell on the ground in the prison and severely injured her face. Prison officials refused to allow her to be hospitalized until the prison doctors warned that she was in critical condition. Her treatment in the hospital, where her hands were chained to her bed, was so bad, however, that she requested to be returned to prison. She suffered two seizures during her hospital stay, the second of which lasted six hours.

Mohammadi's family has been told that her release will require a bail of about $500,000, up from the previously announced figure of about $400,000. In a letter to Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Mohammadi stated that the responsibility of anything that may happen to her in prison, including death, will lay squarely with the judiciary.

Texts: After Assad's fall, celebrate in streets

Reports indicate that text messages are being sent to people in Iran asking them to celebrate in the streets if the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad falls. Similar messages are also spreading on the Internet via Facebook and other social networks. As Assad is a strategic ally of the Islamic Republic, any public celebration of his downfall would represent a significant expression of dissent.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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