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News | Top General Chides Assad; Green Council Rebukes Israel, US Congress

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI and ALI CHENAR

05 Sep 2012 09:10Comments

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.

SoleimaniCave.jpg9:10 a.m. IRDT, 15 Shahrivar/September 5 Major General Ghasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' special operations division, has been voicing repeated criticisms of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to a dispatch on the Meli Mazhabi website. Soleimani is reported to have declared, "We tell Assad to use the police force in the streets, but he dispatches the army." According to the Meli Mazhabi item, the Assad regime has ignored the advice of the Iranian government on how to confront the opposition, and is interested only in receiving financial, political, and logistical support.

As noted here, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei two weeks ago said that Iran is fighting for its own survival in Syria. More recently, Lieutenant Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Asoudi, a leading figure in the Revolutionary Guards' cultural affairs and propaganda division, referring to the mutual defense pact between Iran and Syria, said, "If America take the stupid action of attacking Syria, the military pact will be invoked." In the event of such attacks, he stated, "Iran and its Syrian ally will fight, and will deal a crushing defeat to the United States."

Majles Speaker Ali Larijani said this week that Iran has undertaken no military operations in Syria and that the crisis there will not be resolved through military intervention, either by countries in the region or the Western powers.

Green Council condemns U.S. Congress and Israel's threats

In a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Dr. Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, spokesman for the Coordination Council for the Green Path of Hope, the temporary Green Movement leadership council while Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are under house arrest, expressed grave concerns about Israel's repeated threats to attack Iran.

He also condemned the recent "surprising and irresponsible statements in the U.S. Congress," including the letter of Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in which he urged the Obama administration to help the people of Azerbaijan gain their "independence from Iran." In the words of the Rohrabacher epistle, "Now it is time for the Azeris in Iran to win their freedom too. Almost twice as many Azeris live in Iran as in the Azerbaijan Republic. Their homeland was divided by Russia and Persia in 1828, without their consent." The letter generated widespread anger in the Iranian American community.

Arjomand also asked Ban to focus the world's attention on the state of human rights in Iran. Referring to former President Mohammad Khatami, he said, "The architect of the idea of Dialogue of Civilizations, who has always been committed to dialogue, political development at the national level, reducing tension, and peaceful coexistence at the regional and international levels, is experiencing increasing restrictions on his freedom to express his views in his own country." Pointing out that Khatami has been barred from leaving the country to participate in international conferences, Arjomand said, "This treatment clearly demonstrates Iran's current political situation."

ZahraNemati.jpgParalympic archer first female Iranian gold medalist

Archer Zahra Nemati became the first Iranian woman to win a gold medal in any Paralympic or Olympic competition. The 27-year-old athlete was a black belt in taekwondo and a member of the national taekwondo team before her legs were paralyzed. She subsequently took up archery and joined the Tarasht Club, where she was coached by Hojatollah Vaezi and Sakineh Ghasempou. Prior to winning gold at the London Paralympics, she broke the world record in the preliminary competition.

Guard commander: Prosecuting Mousavi, Karroubi too "difficult"

In a speech delivered at a Basij academics' seminar in Mashhad on "soft war" (i.e., cultural war), Hamid Reza Moghaddam, deputy Guard chief for cultural affairs, said that "confronting such people as Mousavi and Karroubi, who have a positive track record [in the early postrevolutionary era] and now are acting against the Islamic Revolution, is much more difficult than what was done to Noureddin Kianouri and the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organixzation." Kianouri (1915-99) was secretary-general of Iran's pro-Soviet Tudeh (Masses) Party. Although Tudeh supported the Revolution, it was banned in 1983, and Kianouri was arrested and forced to "confess" on national television.

Mousavi and Karroubi have been under house arrest for over 550 days, and despite repeated claims by regime officials that they will put the two on trial, they have not dared to carry out their threat. Ali Saeedi, Khamenei's representative to the Revolutionary Guards, acknowledged last year that the government cannot try the two men because "they have support," both among the masses and among high-ranking clerics "whom I cannot name."

State prosecutor: Mousavi "fine"

During his weekly press conference, Prosecutor-General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei was asked about the health of Mousavi, who was breifly taken from house arrest to hospital two weeks ago for a three-hour surgery in which doctors inserted a coronary stent in a clogged major artery. Ejei answered, "He is fine." The reporter then asked, "Does that mean that we should still pursue the matter with the judiciary?" Ejei said, "You asked and I responded that he is fine."

Meanwhile, singer and social activist Aria Aramnejad, a former political prisoner, reported that he has met with Ahmad Yazdanfar, who was a senior security agent in charge of protecting Mousavi before he was put under house arrest, and Mousavi's nephew. According to Aramnejad, both men said that Mousavi's health is good and he maintains his critical view of the government.

How Ban Ki-moon was prevented from seeing Mousavi

Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, a member of the Majles's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, acknowledged the pressure exerted on U.N. Secretary-General Ban by the Iranian political opposition to request meetings with Mousavi, his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, and Karroubi while he was in Tehran to attend the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement last week. Hosseini said, "400 counter-revolutionaries wrote a letter to him and asked him to try to meet" with the three leaders of the Green Movement and "families of the political prisoners." This appears to be the first time that an official of the Islamic Republic has explicitly acknowledged that Iran has political prisoners. Naghavi Hosseini said that to "neutralize" opposition efforts, the government sent Ban a long list of people with whom he was welcome to meet; he was told that members of the National Security Commission and the families of martyrs of the "holy defense" (the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s) had priority.

Turkish leaders tell Majles deputies they want to overthrow Assad

Naghavi Hosseini also revealed that he and Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, met privately with three top Turkish officials: President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. By Hosseini's account, Davutoglu told the Iranian legislators that "we must train the Free Syrian Army and supply them with weapons, intervene directly in Syria, and topple the Arab Republic of Syria under the leadership of Bashar al-Assad." Turkish-Iranian relations have become increasingly strained due to the two countries' support for opposite camps in Syria.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told Al-Alam, the Islamic Republic's Arabic-language television channel, that Iran supports a ceasefire in Syria. He also said that relations with Egypt are improving and that "differences between the two countries" over Syria are "natural."

Ghadiani to Morsi: Be like Nelson Mandela

Political prisoner Abolfazl Ghadiani, a senior member of the Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin, a leading outlawed reformist party, has written a letter to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, in which he states, "It would have been good if, during your trip to Tehran [for the Non-Aligned Movement summit], you had asked the Iranian leaders to allow you to meet with the leaders of the Green Movement, a movement that was the inspiration for the anti-dictatorship movement of the great Egyptian nation and perhaps the entire Arab Spring, to personally hear the true goals of the Iranian nation. Although they [the Iranian regime] would not have agreed to your request, at least this would have created the necessary background for bringing up the repressed demands of the Iranian people." As Ghadiani is incarcerated, he did not know that Ban did, in fact, ask to meet the Green leaders but was turned down.

Condemning Khamenei, Ghadiani wrote, "Just to understand the depth of 'honesty' of Iran's current dictator, take a look at the differences between the translation of your speech in Tehran, which was broadcast by the state-controlled radio and television, and your original speech in order to understand what Iran's rulers mean by honesty, justice, righteousness." Ghadiani then said, "I hope that Your Excellency makes Nelson Mandela your model, and will not allow under any condition a life-long leader to emerge in Egypt, and transfer your power to the elected leaders of the Egyptian people, just as the power and authority were transferred to you, the elected leader of the people."

Ghadiani, who, due to his political activities in the opposition, was imprisoned for 4 years before the 1979 Revolution, was arrested in 2009 in the aftermath of the presidential election, and incarcerated for one year. After he served his full sentence, the judiciary "convicted" him for "insulting the Supreme Leader" and sentenced him to three extra years of imprisonment. Although he refused to recognize the legitimacy of his show trial, he declared courageously in court, "We did not revolt [in 1979] so that Mr. Khamenei could become another absolute monarch. My track record indicates that at one point I supported Velaayat-e Faghih [Khamenei's absolute religious rule as Supreme Leader], but that was a mistake. Velaayat-e Faghih has led to dictatorship."

Ahmadinejad: Some officials have never read Constitution

In a national television broadcast on Tuesday night, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected the assertions of those who have criticized him for forming the Council for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution several months ago. He said, "Some of our officials have not read the Constitution even once. Forming the council is the president's right." During his administration, Khatami formed a similar council, for which he was criticized at the time by Ahmadinejad and other hardliners. When Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005, he dissolved thar Council as one of his first acts; but after the deep rift between him and Khamenei became public, he evidently decided that a similar council was necessary.

During his 2005 presidential campaign, Ahmadinejad repeatedly claimed that he had a list of corrupt officials that he would publicize, which never occurred. On Tuesday night's broadcast, he was asked why he had still not released the list with less than a year remaining in his administration. Ahmadinejad responded, "How do you know that only one year remains?" He was implying that one of his allies might be elected to succeed him next June.

Elsewhere in the broadcast, the president referred to the dramatic falll in the open-market value of the rial versus the U.S. dollar as "psychological warfare." He acknowledged that Iran is encountering obstacles in exporting its oil, and said that the government is looking for solutions. He urged people to consume less, saying "we should all help each other."

Oil income since 2005: $531 billion

Akbar Torkan, a former deputy oil minister, said that Iran has earned $531 billion from oil exports during the past seven years, since Ahmadinejad was first elected president. He also said that Iran's total earning from oil exports over the past 103 years has been $1.116 trillion. According to Torkan, of the total oil export earnings during the Ahmadinejad administration, $483 billion has been spent on imports, leaving only a little over $50 billion for infrastructure development.

No new round of subsidy cuts; inflation's pain acknowledged

Vice President for Parliamentary Affairs Lotfollah Forouzabdeh said that the government has no plans to implement a second phase of subsidy cuts for basic food items and energy.

Abdolreza Azizi, head of the Majles commission for social affairs, said that high inflation and prices "have broken people's backs." He also said that only 20 percent of the current economic problems can be attributed to the sanctions, and the rest is due to mismanagement of the country.

Another Majles deputy, Ahmad Bakhshayesh, also acknowledged that Iranians have been made miserable by the country's soaring inflation, which he attributed to the Ahmadinejad administration's failure to effectively execute the subsidy elimination law.

Two journalists put in solitary confinement, released after other prisoners protest

Nationalist-religious journalist Keyvan Samimi and reformist journalist Masoud Bastani, who are incarcerated in Rajaei Shahr Prison near Karaj, were taken to solitary confinement, after photos of the two in prison were leaked to opposition websites. Samimi, managing editor and publisher of the now banned magazine Naameh and a leading member of the Society for the Defense of Freedom of the Press, was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to six years of incarceration. He has been suffering from various illnesses. Bastani worked for important reformist newspapers, such as Shargh, Kargozaran, and Jomhouriat. He was arrested in July 2009 and sentenced to six years of imprisonment. His wife, journalist Mahsa Amrabadi, is currently serving a sentence in Tehran's Evin Prison. After the journalists were taken to solitary confinement, the other prisoners in the general ward reportedly launched a protest that forced the warden to return the two to the general prison population.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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