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May Headlines

31 May 2009 12:10No Comments
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Headlines, Features, Reports

Think tank accuses Ahmadinejad of distorting facts [AP] A moderate think tank led by Iran's former top nuclear negotiator accused President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of distorting facts about the country's nuclear program to depict himself as a hero and improve his chances in the upcoming election. read

Homemade bomb on board plane raises tension ahead of Iran elections [Guardian] Rising political tensions in Iran ahead of watershed presidential elections on 12 June intensified today with the discovery of a homemade bomb on board a domestic airliner. The incident closely followed a fatal attack on a mosque that hardline Iranian leaders blamed on the US, Israel and Britain. read

Change in the Air in Iran [WaPo] As Iran heads toward its presidential election on June 12, there are signs that Iranian voters are embracing their own version of "Change we can believe in." read

The Iran Push Backfires; How Netanyahu failed in Washington [Newsweek] Even by the frenzied standards of Israeli politics, the recent meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama was unusual. Days after the confrontation between a popular, resoundingly victorious agent of change (Obama) and a neoconservative in his second stint as prime minister (Netanyahu), the Israeli media and chattering classes were still arguing over who had come out ahead. read

Anti-Iran militia faces terrorist designation; US is weighing conciliatory step [Boston Globe] The State Department is seriously considering placing a shadowy anti-Iranian militant group on its terrorism list, a move that would send a conciliatory signal to Iran as the Obama administration is trying to restart diplomatic talks, according to US officials. read

Ahmadinejad campaign office attacked [LAT] Preelection tensions rose Friday in Iran's religiously and ethnically mixed southeast after gunmen opened fire on the president's campaign office and a radical group claimed responsibility for the bombing of a mosque the day before that killed up to 23 people and injured scores. read

Iran's Mousavi vows to review 'unfair' women laws [AFP] Iranian presidential hopeful Mir Hossein Mousavi vowed on Saturday to review laws which are "unfair" towards women if he wins next month's election. In a speech to around 1,500 women at a sports complex in southern Tehran, Mousavi said he will "review all laws which are deemed discriminatory and unfair to women by introducing the needed bills in the parliament." read

Iran hangs 3 over mosque bombing [AP] Three people convicted of involvement in a mosque bombing in southeastern Iran that killed 25 were hanged Saturday, Iran's official news agency reported. The three men supplied explosives to the perpetrators who carried out the Thursday bombing in Zahedan, 1,000 miles southeast of the capital Tehran, said a statement issued by the judiciary. Ebrahim Hamidi, the head of the justice department in Zahedan, said that the men were actually arrested before the mosque bombing, but they had "confessed to importing explosives into Iran and providing them to the main person behind the attack." read

Iran official accuses US over mosque bombing [AFP] Iranian officials Friday accused the US of hiring those behind a suicide bombing of a Shiite mosque in southeastern Iran that killed 23 people and linked the attack to next month's presidential vote. read | related | related

Debate Over Child Executions Roils Iran's Presidential Vote [WSJ] The day before two of his young clients were to be hanged, lawyer Mohamad Mostafaei went to a Justice Ministry office here to request a stay of execution. Mr. Mostafaei's errand should have been routine, if solemn: He represents 30 of the 135 criminals under the age of 18 on Iran's death row. Instead, he says, he was detained and grilled for an hour and a half, part of Iran's widening crackdown on human-rights activists. read

Blast hits mosque in Iran's Zahedan, 15 dead [Reuters] An explosion hit a mosque in the southeast Iranian city of Zahedan Thursday, killing 15 people and wounding 50, the state news agency IRNA reported. read | related | related

Lawyers Seek Reversal in Second "U.S. Spy" Case [IPS] In a case that human rights activists say echoes that of recently released journalist Roxana Saberi, the Iranian government has imprisoned a woman employed by a U.S.-based non-profit organisation working to improve child and maternal health in the country, alleging that she acted as a spy for the United States. read

More on Amalek [LobeLog.com] The Amalek analogy has become the subject of a fair amount of attention. Fareed Zakaria and Roger Cohen have both chimed in, arguing that Netanyahu's identification of Iran with Amalek demonstrates a dangerous strain in the Israeli prime minister's thought. Now Jeffrey Goldberg, whose New York Times op-ed was the source of the Amalek quote, has responded with a series of posts. read

Iran urges citizens to vote [LAT] Putting their political rivalries aside, hundreds of Iranian television executives and government officials gathered recently to think up strategies to draw as many voters as possible to their country's June 12 presidential election. read

Former diplomat: Iran won't stop nuclear work [LAT] Short of the tremendous cost and risk of war, what would it take to get Iran to stop producing the nuclear material that one day could be used to build weapons? read

Iran 'restores access' to Facebook [AFP] Iran has restored access to Facebook after blocking it reportedly to prevent supporters of a moderate in the presidential race from using it for his campaign, the Ilna news agency said on Tuesday. read

Microsoft cuts Windows Live Messenger access for users in five countries [MJF] Microsoft is confirming that it is cutting off Windows Live Messenger service for users in five countries that are "subject to United States sanctions." read

Iran sends 'six warships' to international waters [AFP] Iran has sent six warships into international waters including the Gulf of Aden, a local newspaper reported on Tuesday, just days after it test-fired a new missile that can reach some parts of Europe. "We have dispatched six warships to international waters and the Gulf of Aden," naval commander Habibollah Sayari was quoted as saying in the Jomhuri Eslami. read

Iran's Ahmadinejad Wants to Debate Obama at the UN [ABC News] Iranian officials have banned Facebook in the Islamic Republic after it became an immensely popular tool for mobilizing young voters, many of them supporters of lead challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi. While squelching debate in his own country, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried to rally his supporters today with a new proposal. Ahmadinejad said he wanted a face-to-face debate with President Obama at the United Nations if he is re-elected next month as Iran's president. read

Iran says US wants to play friendly in Tehran [AP] Iran Football Federation chief Ali Kafashian said Monday he received a proposal from his U.S. counterparts to play a friendly in Tehran in October or November. Kafashian told the Fars news agency that the Iranians are considering the offer. It wouldn't be the first time that sport has cut through the nearly 30-year diplomatic freeze. Weightlifters, basketball players and other athletes have taken part in exchanges between the two countries in recent years. read

Ahmadinejad denies calling for Facebook ban [CNN] Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday he did not call for a ban on Facebook during the country's presidential election. "I should make an inquiry and ask about this," he said when asked about reports that his government blocked access to the online social networking site. He added, "I believe in maximum freedom of expression." read

Tehran hosts trilateral summit [Al Jazeera] The presidents of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan have gathered in Tehran to discuss a joint strategy to tackle terrorism, militancy and narcotics in the region. read

IRGC Officers Killed in Venezuela [Tabnak via Uskowi] Four IRGC officers were reportedly killed in the crash of a Venezuelan military helicopter on May 3rd in Venezuela-Columbia border region. The IRGC officers were in the country to be trained on the use of advanced night vision goggles purchased by IRGC from Venezuela. read

They May Not Want The Bomb [Newsweek] Everything you know about Iran is wrong, or at least more complicated than you think. Take the bomb. The regime wants to be a nuclear power but could well be happy with a peaceful civilian program (which could make the challenge it poses more complex). What's the evidence? Well, over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has quoted the regime's founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who asserted that such weapons were "un-Islamic." read | related

Have We Already Lost Iran? [NYT] President Obama's Iran policy has, in all likelihood, already failed. On its present course, the White House's approach will not stop Tehran's development of a nuclear fuel program -- or, as Iran's successful test of a medium-range, solid-fuel missile last week underscored, military capacities of other sorts. It will also not provide an alternative to continued antagonism between the United States and Iran -- a posture that for 30 years has proved increasingly damaging to the interests of the United States and its allies in the Middle East. read | related

Iran completes gas pipeline deal with Pakistan; line could be extended to include India [AP] Iran's official news agency says the country has completed a major gas pipeline deal with Pakistan that could be extended in the future to take Iranian gas to India. The IRNA news agency says Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, watched the signing of the agreement Sunday. read

Iran blocks Facebook over presidential hopeful [AFP] Iran has blocked access to Facebook ahead of June presidential polls, allegedly to prevent supporters of the leading opposition candidate from using the site for his campaign, Ilna news agency said on Saturday. read | related

Iran's Election Turns on President's 'Truths' [WaPo] For all their differences over foreign policy, however, Iran's incumbent president and his challengers are even more sharply at odds over domestic priorities. Ahmadinejad has appealed to the country's downtrodden, particularly the rural poor, promising to raise their salaries and pensions. He has even handed out potatoes. read

Italy to send envoy to Iran [AP] Italy's foreign minister said Saturday he is sending a representative to Tehran to sound out the possibility of a meeting with Iranian officials after he canceled a visit earlier this week. read

Iran vows to win war on drugs [AFP] At first glance, it is just an innocent microwaveable spicy chicken sandwich, but the plastic pack smuggled across the border to Iran contains a shiny slab of premium cannabis made in Pakistan. read | related | feature

Israeli Jets Practicing For Possible Iran Clash [Huffington Post] Israel's air force held a large-scale exercise simulating war on several fronts with enemies that include Iran, Israeli defense officials said Friday. read

Negative Growth of Iranian Economy [Iranian TV 01.08] : Zero Foreign Investments | watch

Iran to host 'Afghanistan' summit on May 24 [AFP] A delayed summit hosted by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts will now go ahead in Tehran on Sunday, diplomatic sources said. The sources confirmed the participation of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai in the summit, which will discuss the rebuilding of war-shattered Afghanistan. read

Rehab the terrorists... with love [The Daily Beast] What should Obama do about hard-core Gitmo cases? The Saudis have had success with a program that has nothing to do with waterboarding. Try money, cars, and wives. read | watch

Ahmadinejad, Mousavi to Hold TV Debate [Fars] President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and presidential hopeful Mir Hossein Mousavi will hold a TV debate on June 3. read | related feature

U.S. Strategy Should Avoid Inflating Iran's Role in Middle East Instability, Exploit Constraints on Iranian Power and Seek Areas of Engagement [RAND] Iran's rise as a regional power presents a key foreign policy and security challenge to the United States, but its reach may be more limited than Western conventional wisdom suggests, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today. read

Clinton plays down more US sanctions now [Reuters] U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday played down the chances of more U.S. sanctions on Iran for now and suggested that if diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions fail, multilateral sanctions may be better. read

Iran approves main presidential candidates [BBC] Iran's electoral council has approved the four main candidates for the 12 June presidential poll, reports say. They include President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is seeking a second term in office, the semi-official Mehr news agency said. Two leading reformists have also had their qualifications approved - former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi and ex-parliament speaker Mehdi Karoubi. Former Revolutionary Guards chief, Mohsen Rezai, can also run. read | candidate profiles

Italian foreign minister cancels trip to Iran [AP] Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini, has canceled a planned trip to Iran for talks on regional security issues. The Foreign Ministry in a statement Wednesday cited a problem over the meeting place with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It said it regretted the "lost opportunity" to discuss involving Iran in the stabilization of Afghanistan and Pakistan. read

U.S., Israel forming working group on Iran [WT] The United States and Israel are quietly forming a high-level working group to assess the progress of President Obama's outreach to Iran and to share intelligence about the Islamic Republic's nuclear weapons program, officials familiar with the two countries' deliberations said Tuesday. read

Iran Says It Test-Fired New Mid-Range Missile [NYT] President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran had test-fired an upgraded surface-to-surface missile with a range of about 1,200 miles, according to the IRNA news agency. The reported range of the Sejil-2 missile would put it within striking distance of Israel and of American bases in the Persian Gulf, though the Iranian leader did not allude to any specific target beyond Iran's borders in the news agency account. read

Ahmadinejad accused of trying to buy votes in Iran [AP] Opponents of Iran's hard-line president have accused him of trying to buy votes before the June presidential election by handing out checks and free vegetables to the poor. read

Iranian Public Is Not Monolithic: Iranians Divide Over Their Government But Unite on Forgoing Nuclear Weapons [WPO] Findings from an early 2008 World Public Opinion survey in Iran1 suggest that the Iranian public is far from monolithic in how it views important political and social issues that will likely play prominent roles affecting the outcome of the upcoming 2009 national elections. These findings also have considerable relevance for U.S. policy toward Iran during a period in which the U.S. government is exploring the possibility and usefulness of greater openness in its dealings with Iran. read

U.S.-Russian Team Deems Missile Shield in Europe Ineffective [Wash Post] A planned U.S. missile shield to protect Europe from a possible Iranian attack would be ineffective against the kinds of missiles Iran is likely to deploy, according to a joint analysis by top U.S. and Russian scientists. read | full report

Iran watchdog clears ex-PM for presidency elections [AFP] Iran's ex-premier Mir Hossein Mousavi has been cleared by the Guardians Council, the powerful constitutional watchdog, to stand in June presidential elections. read

Prophet Motive [The New Republic] The Roubinis are from Mashad, a city on the eastern fringe of Iran and the resting place of the Imam Reza, the eighth of the twelve Shia imams. This made Mashad a major religious hub and, thus, a difficult place for its Jewish community, the Roubinis included, to live. read

Iran-Armenia pipeline expected online soon [UPI] Iranian gas supplies to Armenia through a 70-mile pipeline are expected to commence Friday, Iranian gas officials said while en route to Yerevan. read

Ex-U.S. Envoy May Take Key Role in Afghan Government [NYT] Zalmay Khalilzad, who was President George W. Bush's ambassador to Afghanistan, could assume a powerful, unelected position inside the Afghan government under a plan he is discussing with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, according to senior American and Afghan officials. read

Debate on Iranian TV [via MEMRI] Tehran University Political Science Professor Sadegh Zibakalam harshly criticizes Iranian foreign policy toward United States: "Even If Obama Had Registered Planet Earth in Its Entirety in [Iran's] Name, We In Iran Would Still Be Saying: 'There Has Been No Change'" watch

Despite smiles and nods, Obama and Netanyahu are miles apart on policy [The Guardian] The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, nodded repeatedly today as he listened to US president Barack Obama when they met the press at the White House. Netanyahu nodded most vigorously when Obama spoke about the threat that would be posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. read

Iran and Israel [NYT] A story is doing the rounds in Washington about an Arab ambassador whose view of Barack Obama's overtures to Iran is: "We don't mind you seeking engagement, but please, no marriage!" read

Iran's spiritual leader discourages electing a pro-Western president [LAT] Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments are seen as support for the foreign policy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who faces a powerful conservative and two heavyweight reformists in the June 12 election. read

Reformist media outlet closed in Iran [UPI] An Iranian prosecutor halted publication of the Yas No newspaper supporting Reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi hours after its first issue hit the stands. The Yas No newspaper ended its six-year hiatus with a May 16 issue that included a front-page article supporting Mousavi for the June presidential election. read

Second Iranian bank floats shares [FT] Tejarat, Iran's fifth largest commercial bank by capital, on Monday became the second state-owned bank to join the private sector by selling 6 per cent of its shares. The sale came despite arrears which even the bank admitted amounts to about 20 per cent of its 10,400bn rials ($1.06bn) in capital. read

Iran's Pres. Candidates Recognize the Web as a Go-To to Win [ABC News] Roughly 20 Million Internet Users May Tilt High-Stakes June 12 Iranian Election: Presidential candidates looking to make headway in a key youth demographic try to win votes with high-tech outreach through YouTube, Facebook and cellphone alerts. But this isn't Washington in November 2008. It's Iran, in the Persian calendar year 1388. read | related

Still in Prison [NPR] Roxana Saberi has been released from Tehran's Evin prison, but she isn't the only political prisoner in Iran. Scott Simon spoke to one of the most prominent human rights lawyers in Iran today about the state of dissent. listen

Iran to host summit with Afghanistan, Pakistan [AFP] Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will on Tuesday host a summit with his counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is expected to discuss rebuilding of war-shattered Afghanistan. read

Is Ross in trouble? [LobeLog.com] Everyone knows that the Israelis are pressing hard for the Obama administration to set a relatively short-term deadline for progress in its prospective diplomatic engagement with Iran to bear fruit, after which it would move to tighten sanctions, hopefully in coordination with the EU and the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, against Tehran. If, after an additional period of time, Iran proved unresponsive, the Israelis hope that Washington would either take military action on its own or give the green light to Jerusalem to do so. read | related

Obama's kinder, gentler military commissions [Salon.com] It now appears definitive that the Obama administration will attempt to preserve a "modified" version of George Bush's military commissions, rather than try suspected terrorists in our long-standing civilian court system or a court-martial proceeding under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Obama officials have been dispatched to insist to journalists (anonymously, of course) that Obama's embrace of "new and improved" military commissions is neither inconsistent with the criticisms that were voiced about Bush's military commission system nor with Obama's prior statements on this issue. read

Obama Administration Statements on Iran Nukes Not Backed by Intelligence [Foreign Policy Journal] A recent unclassified CIA report to Congress says that it is not known whether Iran is working towards developing a nuclear weapon, despite consistent rhetoric from the Obama administration that Iran is pursuing the bomb. read

Israeli Leader Prepares to Meet Obama as U.S. Priorities Shift in Mideast [NYT] The last time Benjamin Netanyahu met an American president as Israel's new leader, in 1996, it did not go well. Mr. Netanyahu lectured President Bill Clinton about Arab-Israeli relations, aides recalled, driving Mr. Clinton into a profane outburst after his guest left. read

Iran's Young Rebels [CBC News] 30 years ago they had a political revolution - but is Iran about to have a revolution of a very different kind? In an exclusive investigation, we go inside Iran to explore the secret underground world of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. Just how far can Iran's Young Rebels change the country's religious regime? watch | related

Netanyahu 'asked Pope to condemn Iran' [BBC] Israel's right-wing new Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says he has asked Pope Benedict to condemn Iranian threats to destroy his country. read

Roxana Saberi's plight and American media propaganda [Salon.com] Imprisoning journalists -- without charges or trials of any kind -- was and continues to be a staple of America's "war on terror," and that has provoked virtually no objections from America's journalists who, notably, instead seized on Saberi's plight in Iran to demonstrate their claimed commitment to defending persecuted journalists. read

Roxana Saberi: Out of Iranian Prison, Into a Soap Opera [Time] Even as Saberi's parents rejoiced at her release there was additional drama in front of the prison. Also waiting there was internationally acclaimed filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi, who had published an open letter last month declaring that Saberi was his fiancee. He told TIME that he believed it was in great part because of his endeavors that Saberi was being released so quickly. read

Roxana Saberi to be released [NPR] A lawyer for the jailed journalist in Iran confirmed on Sunday that a deal to free her was imminent after a five-hour closed-door appeals hearing. He said she will be allowed to leave the country immediately. read

Iran President Seeks Second Term [BBC] Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has registered to fight for a second term in office in June's presidential vote, Iranian media report. read | related feature

Iran has 1.2 million drug addicts [AFP] Iran said on Friday it has 1.2 million drug addicts and the average age of victims is 32 years, the official IRNA news agency reported. read | related feature

Despite U.S. Outreach, Syria Affirms Iran Ties [Time] U.S. officials ought not to have been surprised by the smiling solidarity between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Amadinejad in Damascus on Tuesday -- but they may, nonetheless, have been disappointed. read

Roxana's Commencement Speech [Poynter Online] On May 11, Roxana Saberi will be spending her 100th day in prison in Iran. She was supposed to be the commencement speaker at her undergraduate alma mater, Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. I was asked to stand in for her. I delivered the below speech on May 3. read | related feature

AIPAC Confronts A New Reality as Obama's Agenda Becomes Clear [The Forward] Vice President Joe Biden used his May 5 keynote speech to the pro-Israel lobby to convey the Obama administration's insistence on a number of policies directly conflicting with those of the new government in Israel -- and some policies held by previous Israeli governments, too. read

Iran stays execution of two minors [AFP] Iran has ordered a stay of execution for two young convicts sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18, their lawyer told AFP on Wednesday. read | related feature

Secret U.S.-Israel nuclear accord in jeopardy [Washington Times] President Obama's efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons threaten to expose and derail a 40-year-old secret U.S. agreement to shield Israel's nuclear weapons from international scrutiny, former and current U.S. and Israeli officials and nuclear specialists say. read

Abbas Kiarostami's UK visa [Guardian] Kiarostami yesterday announced that he would not be travelling to the UK to direct the production, because, an ENO spokeswoman said, he "does not feel he was treated in a respectful way" when applying for his visa. read | related feature

Iran supreme leader rebukes president over powers [AP] Iran's supreme leader publicly rebuked the president over his removal of a top official, a rare show of discontent with the hard-line Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by the country's most powerful figure. read

Iran execution provokes outrage [BBC] Human rights groups have protested against the execution on Friday of a young Iranian woman for a murder committed when she was 17 years old. read

The world's second biggest sponsor of capital punishment [Telegraph] Delara Derabi's hanging Iran has breached its own laws as well. Her execution went ahead this morning without even her lawyer being told, in defiance of the Iranian legal requirement that legal counsel should receive 48 hours' notice of an impending execution. To add insult to injury - and what particularly shocked people in my office - Iran's Head of the Judiciary had only very recently (19 April) ruled that there should be a stay of execution for two months. read

10 Worst Countries to be a Blogger [CPJ] Authorities regularly detain or harass bloggers who write critically about religious or political figures, the Islamic revolution, and its symbols. The government requires all bloggers to register their Web sites with the Ministry of Art and Culture. Government officials claim to have blocked millions of Web sites, according to news reports. A newly created special prosecutor's office specializes in Internet issues and works directly with intelligence services. Pending legislation would make the creation of blogs promoting "corruption, prostitution, and apostasy" punishable by death. read

Iranians and Others Outwit Net Censors [NYT] The Iranian government, more than almost any other, censors what citizens can read online, using elaborate technology to block millions of Web sites offering news, commentary, videos, music and, until recently, Facebook and YouTube. Search for "women" in Persian and you're told, "Dear Subscriber, access to this site is not possible." read

Ahmadinejad opponents accuse him of faking support [AP] Opponents of Iran's hard-line president accused him Saturday of faking his support by bussing in students and soldiers to attend his public appearances, a strategy brought to light by the death of a student in a bus crash. read

Middleman in the Middle East [FT] On a warm October morning in Beirut, Crooke stood in the lobby of the Albergo, one of Beirut's finest hotels. It was the second day of a Conflicts Forum seminar and he hovered around the 50 or so delegates as they took their places in the restaurant that was acting as a conference room. Half of those attending were from the west: serving or former politicians, diplomats and advisers. They included a member of the House of Lords, a former US State Department official, an adviser to Silvio Berlusconi and a former British ambassador. The other half were academics or advisers from the Middle East; a good many from Iran. read

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