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17 May 2010 05:40No Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian press, and excerpts where the source is in English. The link to the news organization or blog is provided at the top of each item. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the story in perspective. You can follow our news feeds on Twitter.



What to make of the new nuclear agreement by Turkey and Brazil with Iran?

Blog Watch: Gary Sick | May 17, 2010

Perhaps the main point is to be reminded of the moral from the old folk tale: Be careful of what you wish for, since you just might get it. The United States took a rather righteous position that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the West had made Iran a remarkably generous offer, and when it was rejected they had no choice but to go all out for sanctions.

There are those in Washington (but also in Paris and London) who were fully committed to passing a strong sanctions resolution in the United Nations Security Council next month, and this is a blow to them and all the intense diplomatic work they have done in the past five or six months. Clearly, it will be immensely more difficult, if not impossible, to get a sanctions resolution if this deal is on the table.

According to preliminary information, the agreement provides that Iran will, within a month, ship 1240 kg of roughly 5 percent low enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey where it will be held in escrow for up to a year until Iran is provided with 120 kg of fuel cells (uranium enriched to near 20 percent) to replace the nearly exhausted fuel of the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) that makes medical isotopes. This represents more than half of the 2065 kg of LEU that Iran had produced as of February according to the IAEA, and it greatly reduces Iran's capability to produce enough fissile material for a bomb.

We should all be reminded of the original purpose of the agreement. It was intended as a confidence-building measure that would open the way to more substantive discussions of other issues. The original offer that Iran provisionally accepted in October tacitly accepted Iran's right to enrich uranium; in return Iran would give up control over a significant portion of its existing stash of LEU. Even low enriched uranium can be further enriched to create bomb-grade (roughly 90+ percent) highly enriched uranium (HEU) that is required for a bomb. The October agreement would have created an environment conducive to at least minimal mutual trust and the beginning of serious negotiations.

Note to negotiators: In the past six months, Iran has not used its LEU to build a bomb, even without an agreement.

Iran has set up a special line to enrich uranium to the 20 percent required for the TRR, but that line is small, separated from its other enrichment facilities, and under inspection of the IAEA. The move to enrich some uranium to 20 percent was obviously intended as a pressure tactic to drive the West back into negotiations, since Iran does not have the capability to manufacture fuel cells for the TRR.

We should also be reminded that Iran did not reject the original deal: they proposed amending it. Basically, when the Iranian negotiators came home with the proposed deal, they were attacked from all sides - including members of the Green Movement - for being suckers. Their opponents pointed out that they were going to rely on the word and good will of Russia (where the LEU would be enriched to 20 percent) and France (where the fuel cells would be fabricated). Iranians from left to right argued that both of these countries had repeatedly cheated Iran on nuclear issues: Russia by delaying endlessly the completion of the nuclear power plant at Bushehr, and France by refusing to grant Iran rights to the Eurodif enrichment facility partially owned by Iran since the days of the shah. Why, they asked, should we believe that this agreement will be any different?

Instead, they proposed that the swap of LEU for the fuel cells should happen on Iranian soil, probably in stages and within a fixed period of time. That idea was rejected by the United States and its negotiating partners.

The new bargain appears to be a compromise in which the LEU would physically be removed from Iran and held in escrow in Turkey for up to a year, in which time the fuel cells would be manufactured and delivered to Iran. The new bargain also appears to go much further in formally recognizing the legitimacy of Iran's independent enrichment program. That should not be a surprise given the fact that Brazil, one of the parties to the bargain, has its own enrichment facility similar to Iran's and in fact concealed its details for some time.

So where does that leave us?

Essentially, it takes us back to last October. The one big difference is that Iran has more LEU now than it did then. But the reality is that Iran will keep producing LEU unless a new agreement is reached to persuade them to stop. If we wait another six months for negotiations, Iran will have still more LEU.

In short, this agreement is largely symbolic and limited in its practical effects. If the West accepts the deal as worked out by Brazil and Turkey, and if a new round of negotiations begins - on both the nuclear and other major issues - then this could be a breakthrough. If the West turns it down, or if the two sides do not use it to negotiate some of the major issues that separate them, then nothing much will have been accomplished.

The next step is up to the United States and its negotiating partners.

France to send Iranian assassin home after academic freed

AFP | May 17, 2010

France decided Monday to send home an Iranian agent it had jailed for murdering the Shah's last prime minister, two days after Tehran freed a young French academic accused of spying.

Ali Vakili Rad was serving a life sentence for stabbing Shapour Bakhtiar to death at his home outside Paris in August 1991, but he had recently asked for parole and Iranian leaders had linked his case to that of Clotilde Reiss.

A court is due to rule on the parole request on Tuesday, but Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux signed a deportation order on Monday, paving the way for his release and return back home.

"I am hopeful that at the May 18 hearing, Ali Vakili Rad will be released," said his lawyer Sorin Margulis.

The decision came after Reiss, a 24-year-old French researcher, returned to Paris on Sunday at the end of a 10-month ordeal in Iran, where she was put on trial on charges of acting against national security.

Given the timing of the releases, questions were raised as to whether there had been some secret deal with Iran, but both Paris and Tehran denied this.


Five killed, 22 injured in clashes with security forces in Ahvaz

HRA | May 16, 2010

Five people were killed and 22 injured in clashes between members of a local tribe in Ahvaz, the capital of the Khuzestan province in southwest Iran, and the Basij militia.

According to Al Arabyiah, armed clashes erupted in the wake of an attempt by security forces to disperse the crowd that had gathered for the funeral of an Ahvazi political activist who was a member of Al Amour, an Arab tribe in the east of Ahvaz, killed by the Basij. Weapons are usually carried in such ceremonies by the Arabic people.

After the funeral ceremony held in the Albo Roomi neighbourhood turned into a demonstration, the police, the Basij, and the plainclothes agents attempted to disperse the protesters. Instead the event became a situation of armed clashes that resulted in five people dead and 22 injured.

Based on news sources, government forces arrested large numbers of Iranian Arab citizens who took part in the ceremony. Moreover, reinforcement Basij forces as well as Revolutionary Guards flooded the area.

Earlier this week, Basij forces assassinated Ali Amoori, the Ahvazi political activist who was in hiding because he was wanted by the intelligence services.

Iran confirms death sentence for opposition activists

AFP | May 15, 2010

The death sentence for six opposition activists arrested in protests after last year's disputed presidential election in Iran have been confirmed, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said Saturday.

The six were accused of belonging to the exiled and outlawed People's Mujahedeen, the opposition group the Islamic republic's regime calls "the hypocrites."

Three were arrested after opposition protests during the Shiite mourning holiday of Ashura last December, Dolatabadi said, naming them as "Ahmad Daneshpour Moghadam, Mohsen Daneshpour Moghadam and Alireza Ghanbari."

"Their death sentences have been confirmed, but they have asked to be pardoned," the Fars news agency quoted Dolatabadi as saying.

It quoted the prosecutor as saying the death penalty for the other three, Mohammad Ali Saremi, Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad-Ali Haj-Aghai who were arrested in September last year, had also been confirmed.

Dolatabadi had announced in January that 10 people arrested during opposition protests that followed the re-election last June of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been sentenced to hang.

He added that three other people had been sentenced to jail after an appeal court overturned death sentences against them.

Motahare Bahrami Haqiqi, Reyhane Haj Ebrahim and Hadi Qaemi had been arrested during Ashura protests in December.

Prosecutor Confirms Armin's arrest

Tabnak | Tabnak | May 16, 2010

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi confirmed the arrest of Mohsen Armin, a senior member and spokesman for the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution.

Dolatabadi said that Armin had been arrested on charges of committing security crimes.

He added that investigations are ongoing.

Earlier a Parleman News report had claimed that Armin had been arrested along with the former head of Iran's Labor News Agency (ILNA).

Iran jails women activists, arrests top former MP

AFP | May 16, 2010

Iran has sentenced in absentia award-winning women's rights activist Shadi Sadr and another fellow activist to jail and lashes over a protest in 2007, their lawyer told ILNA news agency on Sunday.

Former MP Mohsen Armin, who is a senior member of a reformist party which backs opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, was also arrested in Tehran on Sunday, his daughter told a reformist website.

The revolutionary court "has sentenced Shadi Sadr, 35, to six years in jail and 74 lashes for acting against national security and harming public order," lawyer Mohammad Mostafai said.

The other activist, Mahbubeh Abbas-Gholizadeh, was also handed a term of two-and-a-half years in jail and 30 lashes for similar charges, he said, adding that he has 20 days to appeal the "heavy sentences."

The court had tried the pair, both currently abroad, on May 8 over a rally in March 2007 outside a revolutionary court where four fellow feminists were on trial. Iranian authorities arrested them along with 30 other protesters.

Sadr, who is also a lawyer and journalist, was awarded the Polish Lech Walesa Prize in September 2009 along with two other Iranian women for promotion of "human rights, freedom of expression and democracy in Iran."

Iran: Student's Death Sentence for Throwing Rocks Reversed

Iran Human Rights | May 16, 2010

On 16 May, Dowlatabadi, in an interview published by Fars News Agency, confirmed the names and the latest situation of eleven post-election protestors prosecuted on charges of Moharebeh [enmity towards God], which is punishable by death under Iranian law.

Regarding the well-publicized case of Mohammad Amin Valian, a 20- year- old student sentenced to death by a lower court for throwing three rocks during a protest, Dowlatabadi announced that the appeals court has rejected the charge of Moharebeh and sentenced him to three- and- a half year prison sentence and a fine of $300 (3 million Rials).

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran welcomed the reversal of Valian's unjust and outrageous sentence but called for his release as he has committed no crime justifying a harsh prison sentence.

Senior cleric condemns Islamic Republic's media policies

Radio Zamaneh | May 16, 2010

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Chairman of Iran's Expediency Council condemned censorship and fabrication of facts in the Islamic Republic and described such policies as "futile."

ILNA reports today that Ayatollah Rafsanjani stressed that efforts to ban the media, block news and filter information outlets is "futile" and advised that in today's world, we must "coordinate our actions with human principles."

He added: "We must create an open space and fall into step with the rest of the world."

Ayatollah Rafsanjani's controlled criticism of Iran's media policies comes at a time that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad supporters have accused him and his children of fomenting the post-election unrest.

The head of the Iranian judiciary has said that those who create "anxiety" in society through the their text messages would be pursued by the law.

Speaking to the semi-official Fars News Agency, member of the Iranian parliament Mousa Ghorbani said that he was told by the head of the Iranian judiciary Sadegh Larijani that the judiciary would pursue "destructive" text messages which lead to the "anxiety of public opinion."

Carpet Tableau of Ahmadinejad and Lula da Silva woven

Tabnak | May 16, 2010

A carpet tableau featuring Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been woven as a symbol of the amicable relations between Iran and Brazil.

The carpet tableau features Ahmadinejad and da Silva shaking hands. The line, 'long live Iran and Brazil's friendship,' has been woven into the bottom margin in both Persian and Portuguese.

Lula da Silva is currently in Tehran at the head of a 300-member business delegation for nuclear talks.

week in green

Episode 23: Interview with Reza Aslan

The Week in Green | May 14, 2010

In the 23rd episode of The Week in Green, author and journalist Reza Aslan discusses nuclear politics in the Middle East and the way in which the Green Movement has changed perceptions of Iran among young Americans.

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