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News | Grand Ayatollah Sanei: Avoid Acting as 'Warmongers' against Israel

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

20 Aug 2012 22:15Comments

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.

SaneiBooks.jpg 10:15 p.m. IRDT, 30 Mordad/August 20 In his sermon for the Eid al-Fitr prayer in Qom, Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei, known as a supporter of the Green Movement, addressed the recent reports that Israel may be preparing to attack Iran. "I did not intend to discuss this issue," he said, "but we see that the occupying and stubborn Zionist regime has spoken about attacking Iran, and has become so fearless that it has not backtracked from its threats." After rebuking Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians and threats against Iran, Sanei declared,
I support human rights and freedom for all the people [presumably encompassing the people of Israel], but it is our duty to respond to any possible attack by the Zionist regime in such a way that this regime will never think of such things.

He continued,

I warn the Zionist regime that if it takes any military action against Iran, it will be playing with gunpowder and the reaction that it will experience will be such that it will not recover from it; in that case we will not be caring about human rights.

He then criticized those in Iran who make provocative statements:

We must all do our best to prevent the Zionist attacks on Iran, because if they happen, Iran will be hurt greatly, even though the Zionist regime will be hurt even more. In a war, they do not distribute bread and halvah. We should not act, God forbid, as warmongers in our country and provoke a war. The nation is currently in a special condition, and the most important task is to shut the Zionist regime up with our thoughts, pen, and correct efforts and actions.

Khamenei: We are fighting for ourselves in Syria

Melli-Mazhabi, the website of the Nationalist-Religious Coalition, reports that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has reacted angrily to criticism behind the scenes from senior officials concerning Iran's continued support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Accusing critics of being uninformed and incompetent, Khamenei reportedly declared, "Syria is our first line of defense. We are fighting there for ourselves. Our enemies will come after us after Syria, and to slow down and resist this plan, we are fighting in Syria." The Islamic Republic has always claimed that it supports Syria because Iran, together with the Palestinians and Lebanese Hezbollah, represent the "resistance front" against the United States and Israel.

At the height of insurgency in Iraq in 2004-06, during its occupation by U.S. and British forces, Hossein Shariatmadari, the managing editor of the hardline newspaper Kayhan, which is considered a mouthpiece for Khamenei, said, "Let's face it. The Iraqis are doing the fighting for us."

Ashton condemns Ahmadinejad's remarks on Israel

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement through a spokesman in which she responded to Ahmadinejad's recent comments about Israel, including his description of the country as a "cancerous tumor." According to the statement,

The High Representative strongly condemns the outrageous and hateful remarks threatening Israel's existence by the Supreme Leader and the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Israel's right to exist must not be called into question.

Ashton called on Iran "to play a constructive role in the region and expects its leaders to contribute to de-escalate tension and not fuel it."

In remarks during his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, Ahmadinejad said that Israel "was an embarrassment to humanity." On Friday, during a speech marking Quds (Jerusalem) Day, he said, "In the new Middle East, there will be no trace of the American presence and the Zionists." Last week, Khamenei also said Israel would one day be returned to the Palestinian nation and would cease to exist, though he did not threaten a war.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also issued a statement that condemned Khamenei's and Ahmadinejad's remarks:

The Secretary-General condemns these offensive and inflammatory statements. The Secretary-General believes that all leaders in the region should use their voices at this time to lower, rather than to escalate, tensions. In accordance with the United Nations Charter, all members must refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.

Eid al-Fitr: Sunday or Monday?

Over the years, there has always been some difference between the Shia Marjas (sources of emulation for the masses) about when the last day of the fasting month of Ramadan falls, and thus also the following day of the Eid al-Fitr celebration. For the past several years, regime hardliners have tried to force the grand ayatollahs not to take any position on the issue and accept the proclamation by Khamenei, who is not even considered as a true Marja by many senior clerics. This year, he declared that Sunday marked Eid al-Fitr and led the special prayer for the event at the campus of the University of Tehran. However, seven major Marjas refused to accept his proclamation and declared that Monday is Eid al-Fitr. Even Radio Qom had its regular program for the fasting month on Sunday.

The most important of the seven are Grand Ayatollahs Naser Makarem Shirazi, a conservative and usually pro-hardline cleric; Hossein Vahid Khorasani, the most senior cleric in Qom, father-in-law of judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani, and a critic of Khamenei; and Ali Sistani, perhaps the most important Shia Marja, who lives in Najaf, Iraq. Shirazi said on Saturday that "it is impossible for Eid al-Fitr to be on Sunday."

The other four senior clerics who differed with Khamenei are Seyyed Mohammad Taghi Modarresi (who lives in Iraq), Eshagh Fayyaz, Seyyed Mousa Shobeiri Zanjani, and Seyyed Sadegh Shirazi, who has harshly criticized the Islamic Republic's leadership since the 1979 Revolution, and in particular the execution of officials who served in the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (there was an attempt on his own life in 2008).

Shirazi's and Khorasani's websites could not be accessed for several hours on Sunday, presumably because the hardliners wanted to minimize the reach of any statements that might call into question the timing of Khamenei's special prayer. A report also indicates that Sistani's website was hacked on Sunday.

Alef: People no longer trust the government

As reported by Tehran Bureau, there has been widespread criticism of the government and state media's reaction to the two large earthquakes in East Azerbaijan province last week and their aftermath. In an editorial, Alef, the website published by Majles deputy Ahmad Tavakoli, a leading critic of Ahmadinejad, said that the people have been trying to deliver their aid to survivors directly, rather than through official channels, which local government organs have been trying to prevent. Alef asked,

Question: How can one analyze this phenomenon?... Can we not conclude that one of the most important reasons for the phenomenon is that people's trust in the officials and government taking proper actions has been hurt? This question has occupied the minds of many of our people, and [thus] it is necessary that the officials reconsider their policies and behavior. Baseless promises and lack of correct statistics and complete transparency in the bureaucracy are some of the reasons for the distrust.

Read here an eyewitness account of how the people were unified to help Azerbaijan, "Iran's eye," and here for the latest developments in the relief effort. Pictures of life one week after the earthquakes in the city of Ahar, which was near the epicenters, are available here.

Iranian appeals court reaffirms scientist's jail sentence

An appeals court has reaffirmed the ten-year prison sentence handed down to Omid Kokabee, a young Iranian physicist. Kokabee was arrested in February 2011 at Tehran's international airport, right before he was to return to the University of Texas at Austin, where he is a doctoral student (he previously received another Ph.D. in Spain). After he spent 15 months in solitary confinement, he was charged with "communicating with a hostile government" and "illicit earning." It is, however, widely believed that the true reason for his imprisonment is that he has refused to work for Iran's nuclear program. His attorney, Saeed Khalili, has called the charges "irrational and baseless" and said that he was not allowed to speak to his client during the trial.

New York Times: Iraq is helping Iran skirt sanctions

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that Iraq has been helping Iran to work around the sanctions imposed on it by the United States and its allies. According to the Times,

When President Obama announced last month that he was barring a Baghdad bank from any dealings with the American banking system, it was a rare acknowledgment of a delicate problem facing the administration in a country that American troops just left: for months, Iraq has been helping Iran skirt economic sanctions imposed on Tehran because of its nuclear program.

The little-known bank singled out by the United States, the Elaf Islamic Bank, is only part of a network of financial institutions and oil-smuggling operations that, according to current and former American and Iraqi government officials and experts on the Iraqi banking sector, has provided Iran with a crucial flow of dollars at a time when sanctions are squeezing its economy. [...]

Iraqi banking experts said last week that the bank was still allowed to participate in the Iraq Central Bank's daily auction at which commercial banks can sell Iraqi dinars and buy United States dollars. These auctions are a crucial pathway for Iranian access to the international financial system. Western officials say that Iran seeks to bolster its reserves of dollars to stabilize its exchange rates and pay for imports.

Iraqi and American officials with knowledge of Iraqi banking practices say Iranian customers are able to move large amounts of cash through the auction, and from there into banks in regional financial centers like Dubai, United Arab Emirates, or Amman, Jordan, and then into the international banking system.

According to many reports, Iran has also been using Afghanistan and Lebanon to avoid the sanctions, sell its oil, and import what it needs. Some of Iraq's oil exports are reportedly shipped to Afghanistan first, and then sent along to the broader international market.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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