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Ahmadinejad Arrives in Lebanon; Opposition Figures Arrested, Sentenced

13 Oct 2010 14:052 Comments

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Lebanese Shi'ites Give Ahmadinejad Hero's Welcome

Reuters | Oct 13

Thousands of Lebanese Shi'ites gave Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a tumultuous welcome on Wednesday at the start of a visit which has highlighted Western fears about Tehran's growing influence in Lebanon.

Throwing rice and flowers at the smiling Iranian leader, who waved from the open roof of his car, they lined the main road from Beirut airport to the presidential palace where Ahmadinejad was due to meet Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman.

Iranian flags, banners, balloons and posters of Ahmadinejad were draped along the route -- as well as pictures of Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Ahmadinejad's visit has raised concerns in Washington, which wants to isolate Iran over its nuclear programme and says Iran's support for Hezbollah militants undermines Lebanese sovereignty.

The visit has also alarmed pro-Western politicians in Lebanon's fractious unity government, which includes Hezbollah ministers. The government is already deeply split over an international investigation into the killing of former premier Rafik Hariri which is expected to indict Hezbollah members.

Lebanon's largest parliamentary bloc, led by Hariri's son, has condemned Ahmadinejad for treating their country as "an Iranian base on the Mediterranean."

But most Shi'ites are grateful for Iranian support to Hezbollah, which fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, and for the support Tehran has given to reconstruction since then.

Thousands Welcome Iran President to Beirut

AFP | Oct 13

Many streets leading to the airport, located near Hezbollah's stronghold in the southern suburbs, were cordoned off amid tight security. The downtown area near the hotel where Ahmadinejad is staying was also off limits to traffic.

"I am here to express my support for the Islamic Republic of Iran," said Afaf as she stood outside the airport with her two children waving Iranian flags.

"Along with Iran, we are engaged in the same battle against Israel."

Prior to heading to Beirut Wednesday, Ahmadinejad described Lebanon as key base of resistance in the region.

"Lebanon is the focus point of resistance and standing against those who demand too much," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying on the state television's website.

"It is playing an excellent role in this regard," he added.

Ahmadinejad's first visit since his election in 2005 will highlight the clout Iran wields in Lebanon through Hezbollah, considered Tehran's proxy and by far the most powerful military and political force in the small Mediterranean country.

Ahmadinejad Accused of Meddling in Lebanon's Affairs

AFP | Oct 12

Lebanese politicians and members of civil society issued an open letter to Iran's president on Tuesday, accusing him on the eve of his official visit to Lebanon of meddling in the country's affairs.

The letter was signed by some 250 people, among them former MPs close to the Western-backed parliamentary majority, doctors, teachers and journalists. It lashed out at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over Iran's support of Lebanon's Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

"One group in Lebanon draws its power from you ... and has wielded it over another group and the state," said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

"You are repeating what others have done before you by interfering in our internal affairs," the letter added, referring to Tehran's financial and military backing of Hezbollah, considered a proxy of Iran.

The letter, signed by former MPs Fares Souaid, Samir Frangieh and Elias Atallah, criticized Ahmadinejad for declaring support for the Lebanese state while simultaneously providing Hezbollah with financial and military backing.

"Your support of the state is negated by your parallel financial and military support to one party in Lebanon," the letter said, referring to Hezbollah.

"Your talk of 'changing the face of the region starting with Lebanon' ... and 'wiping Israel off the map through the force of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon' ... gives the impression that your visit is that of a high commander to his front line," it added.

The letter also urged Ahmadinejad to convince Hezbollah during a two-day visit starting Wednesday to exist within the confines of the state.


Censors Pull Plug on Screenings of Iranian Protest Film during Ahmadinejad Visit

Babylon & Beyond/Los Angeles Times | Oct 12

As the Middle East braces for the controversial visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Lebanon this week, censors in Beirut are trying to make sure his visit goes smoothly.

They have put a halt to screenings of a documentary film about opposition protests in Iran that were due to coincide with Ahmadinejad's visit, according to a source, apparently in deference to Ahmadinejad and his entourage.

The movie, titled "Green Days" and directed by 22-year-old Iranian filmmaker Hana Makhmalbaf, was reportedly scheduled to be shown at the annual Beirut International Film Festival in the Lebanese capital on Wednesday, the first day of Ahmadinejad's two-day visit to Lebanon.

Bassem Hajj, press spokesman for the film festival, told Babylon & Beyond that censors from Lebanon's General Security contacted the festival over the weekend and requested that the movie be postponed.

He couldn't recall an incident in which any other film in the festival had ever gotten tangled up with the censorship authorities for such a reason.

Makhmalbaf appeared deeply disturbed about the news coming out of Beirut in a comment she made in Farsi about the censorship of her film, posted on the website of the Makhmalbaf film house (Persian) and circulated on blogs in English.

"Ahmadinejad in my land is the symbol of censorship. Look how he brings censorship to your country before even arriving there," she wrote, according to the blog of activist Potkin Azarmehr. "Ahmadinejad stole our votes yesterday and will steal your trust today. His intention is not to help you, just as his intention is not to serve Iran. ... He uses your land as a frontline trench of his imaginary war."

Iran Arrests Top Reformist from Banned Party: Report

AP | Oct 13

Iran has arrested a top reformist from a banned political party which backed opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi in last year's presidential election, the ISNA news agency reported on Wednesday.

Ali Shakouri-rat, a leader of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, was "arrested yesterday (Tuesday) night for security reasons," the news agency quoted Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi as saying.

Shakouri-rat is known for his outspoken criticism of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government.

In September, Iran banned two reformist parties -- the Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Islamic Revolution Mujahedeen Organisation -- after they backed Mousavi in the June 2009 presidential election.

Amir Hossein Fatoohi Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison

RAHANA | Oct 13

The 15th branch of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Salavati has sentenced political and student activist Fatoohi to 4 years in prison.

According to the Human Rights reporters Committee, the Revolutionary Court has sentenced Fatoohi to 3 years in prison for acting against national security and one year in prison for anti-regime propaganda which adds up to a total of 4 years.

He was the secretary of the Hormozgan School of Medicine Islamic Association and an activist for Karoubi's Free Citizen Campaign in the Province of Hormozgan during the presidential election.

Student and Human Rights Activist Mehdi Khodaei Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

RAHANA | Oct 13

Mehdi Khodaei, a student activist and a human rights activist, who had been sentenced to 4 years in prison last year, has been sentenced to 3 more years of imprisonment by the lower court.
According to the RAHANA reporter, his charges in the new case are the same charges that he had been sentenced to 4 years in prison for.

Khodaei was sentenced to 4 years in prison for acting against national security by organizing gatherings and anti- regime propaganda by the 15th branch of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Salavati in February of 2009.

Khodaei was detained on March 3rd by the cyber unit of IRGC for the 2nd time and has been held in Ward 2A of Evin Prison since then.

This student activist who has spent most of his detention in solitary confinement and under intense psychological and physical pressure is currently held in a 2 person cell in Ward 2A of Evin Prison after 8 months of detention.

See also: "Former Student Activist Mehdi Khodaei Presented Last Defence" (RAHANA)


Arrests of 2 Germans in Iran Take on Political Overtones

New York Times | Oct 12

Germany and Iran faced off Tuesday over the case of two Germans arrested in Iran over the weekend while interviewing the son of a woman whose sentence to death by stoning raised an international uproar.

There were indications that the arrests were taking on political overtones similar to those surrounding the arrest of three Americans by Iranian border guards more than a year ago.

Both Iran and Germany confirmed Tuesday for the first time that the two were indeed Germans. Leaders here said the two were journalists, giving no further identification. Chancellor Angela Merkel called for their release, and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said, "We work with full strength at all diplomatic levels" for their freedom.

In Tehran, however, government officials accused the two of being connected to a revolutionary group, and said they had traveled to Iran on tourist visas, not the requisite journalist visas.

"They were arrested because they had a link to a foreign antirevolution network and their case is under review," the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, told reporters.

18 IRGC Forces Killed in Blast in Western Iran

Mehr | Oct 13

A blast on Tuesday in the armory of an IRGC (Sepah) base in Lorestan province killed 18 and injured 14 other military forces, Deputy Commander of Sepah in Lorestan province announced on Wednesday.

The cause of the explosion was a nearby fire that spread to the weapon store of the base, Yadollah Bouali said.

Two of the injured are in critical condition.

Currency Traders under Investigation in Iran

Radio Zamaneh | Oct 12

Iran's Central Bank announced that three currency exchange offices have been shut down due to a number of violations.

Central Bank auditors announced that three currency exchange offices have been shut down due to a series of violations and their files are under investigation.

The Central Bank also announced that the public can acquire foreign currencies through banks and private foreign exchange offices.

Head of Melli Bank of Iran confirmed however that the sudden rise in demand for the US dollar has not subsided yet. He announced that the dollar is being sold at the rate of 1053 rials to the public today.

Seditionists' Plot to Create Economic Instability Foiled: Police Chief

Mehr | Oct 12

Iran has managed to prevent the opposition's recent attempts aimed at creating instability in the domestic foreign exchange market, National Police Chief Ismail Ahmadi Moqaddam said on Tuesday.

"The economic sedition has started. In the new round of sedition, the U.S. Treasury officials encourage various countries (in the region) and put them under pressure (not to supply Iranian merchants with foreign currencies)," Ahmadi Moqaddam said.

The Iran-based opposition groups also tried to provoke a wave of panic buying of foreign currencies to destabilize the market, he said. However, their plot was foiled by the central bank's unlimited distribution of foreign currency, the police official explained.

Ahmadi Moqaddam did not elaborate on the role of police in curbing the recent chaos in the domestic foreign exchange market.

Earlier, Ahmadi Moqaddam said that the opposition plans to foment economic unrest by taking advantage of the government's plan to implement subsidy reforms.

"Following the implementation of the economic reforms, seditionists may seek to close the markets and stage strikes. But police forces will defend the government and will firmly deal with those who seek to complement the enemies' economic pressure," he said.

Iran Blames EU's Ashton for Nuclear Talks Deadlock

AFP | Oct 12

Iran on Tuesday blamed European Union Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton for the deadlock over nuclear talks with world powers, urging her to be "more active" in pursuing the dialogue.

"Basically, it seems that the volume of Ms. Ashton's activity is lower," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters, targeting Ashton for the stalemate in talks over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme.

Ashton represents the six world powers -- the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany -- in negotiations with Iran.

Dialogue between Iran and the six powers has been stalled since October 2009, when the two groups last met in Geneva.

The negotiations aim to address international suspicions that Iran is seeking to develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme, a charge Tehran vehemently denies.

On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tehran considered late October or early November as an appropriate time for a resumption of the talks but a spokesman for Ashton said no date had been set.

"Mrs. Ashton is still ready to talk to Iran and is hopeful that this will be possible," spokesman Darren Ennis told AFP in response to Mottaki's remarks.

Mehmanparast directly blamed Ashton for the stalemate.

"If she is really eager for negotiations, she should be more active," he insisted, adding that her predecessor Javier Solana was "more active."

"We have announced our readiness for negotiations. But the other side ... is not really following up, or is not serious" about resuming the dialogue, he said.

Saudi King, Ahmadinejad Talk Politics on Phone

AFP | Oct 12

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Saudi King Abdullah discussed regional affairs by telephone on Tuesday amid tensions over Iraqi and Lebanese politics and a Gulf arms buildup, the official SPA news agency said.

The leaders of the two rival powers "discussed bilateral relations and reviewed the overall situation in the region" in the rare call, SPA said.

The conversation took place as the two sides appeared to be at odds over the formation of Iraq's government, stalemated seven months after parliamentary elections.

Saudis fear an Iranian-backed government of incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and have been supporters of former prime minister Iyad Allawi, whose political block outpaced Maliki's in the March 7 election, but without enough seats to claim the premiership outright.

On Sunday, Allawi held talks with Abdullah on a visit to Riyadh. Details of their discussion were not revealed.

Saudis, whose predominantly Sunni Muslim country is frequently at odds with Shiite-dominated Iran, are also concerned about Tehran's role in Lebanese and Palestinian politics.

Over 80 Thousand People in Iran Suffer from AIDS

Radio Zamaneh | Oct 12

Iranian Minister of Health, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, announced that over 80 thousand people are suffering from AIDS in Iran.

Iranian media report the health minister announced the official number of people with AIDS in Iran is set at 22,000 but added: "The actual number of people suffering from AIDS in the country must be evaluated at about four times the official numbers."

Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi maintained that with the spread of "high-risk sexual activities", there may be an "eruption of AIDS" in Iran.

She reported that the highest number of AIDS sufferers can be seen amongst drug-users and added that "50 percent of street people are suffering from AIDS."

According to the latest statistics, four new cases of AIDS are registered everyday in Iran and 92.6 percent of AIDS sufferers in Iran are men.

U.S. Jews Increasingly Hawkish on Iran, Sceptical of Obama

IPS | Oct11

U.S. Jews, who, next to African Americans, have constituted the minority most supportive of Barack Obama, are growing more sceptical of his performance and increasingly hawkish on Iran, according to a new poll released Tuesday by the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

Support for U.S. military action against Iran "to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons... if diplomacy and sanctions fail" rose from 53 percent to 59 percent since last March, while opposition to such a course fell from 42 percent to 35 percent over the same period.

As recently as its 2008 survey, the AJC found that 42 percent of respondents opposed an attack, while a 47-percent plurality supported one.

"I don't think these results are surprising, especially given the drumbeat of Islamophobia in the American media, the constant pounding on the Iran threat by Israeli politicians and their supporters here, and the Obama administration's repeated failure to explain what it thinks it is doing in the Middle East," said Stephen Walt, a Harvard international relations expert and co-author of the controversial 2007 book, "The Israel Lobby".

The survey suggested that the hawkish views of the right- wing leadership of major Jewish organisations, including the AJC itself, have been gaining traction with the more-liberal Jewish public over the last eight months.


The Sources of Soviet Iranian Conduct

Roger Cohen (Foreign Policy) | November

[F]ew contemporary analyses capture the nature of today's Islamic Republic better than a masterpiece I first read in college: diplomat George F. Kennan's incisive and unapologetic 1947 essay on the Soviet Union, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct." Kennan's article, published in Foreign Affairs under the pseudonym "X" because the author was a serving U.S. official, set the tenor of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union until it finally collapsed in 1991 under the weight of its economic mismanagement and moral exhaustion.

Like all such comparisons, the analogy is far from perfect. The Soviet Union was an irreligious empire with nuclear weapons and global reach, while the Islamic Republic is an aspiring nuclear power whose influence outside the Middle East is limited. But like the Soviet Union, the Islamic Republic is a corrupt, inefficient, authoritarian regime whose bankrupt ideology resonates far more abroad than it does at home. Also like the men who once ruled Moscow, Iran's current leaders have a victimization complex and, as they themselves admit, derive their internal legitimacy from thumbing their noses at Uncle Sam.

Read Kennan's essay with the Islamic Republic in mind -- replacing "Soviet Union," "Stalin," and "communism" with their Iranian equivalents -- and the parallels are quite evident. Here's 10 striking examples of Kennan's text anticipating today's Iran. They offer time-tested insight into the machinations and gradual decay of Tehran's paranoid, opaque regime. Kennan's wisdom does not call on the United States to shun dialogue with Tehran, but merely to temper its expectations. In the process, Kennan would caution, America should remain "at all times cool and collected" -- and allow the march of history to run its course.

1. Iran's sense of siege is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
2. The security apparatus designed to protect the state has begun to subsume it.
3. The looming foreign enemy is needed to justify domestic suppression.
4. Revolutionary ideology has not evolved.
5. The Islamic Republic may make tactical offers of compromise, but its enmity toward the West is strategic.
6. The United States must focus on a long-term strategy, rather than short-term tactics.
7. Ideological fatigue has set in.
8. The succession of power in the Islamic Republic is uncertain.
9. You can't reach an accommodation with a regime that needs you as an adversary.
10. U.S. policies can expedite, but not engineer, political change in Iran.

India's Iran Stance Will Be Crucial at the U.N.

Henry Foy (Reuters) | Oct 13

India took its deserved place at the world's most powerful table on Tuesday, winning a two-year seat on the United Nations Security Council with the resounding support of 187 of the assembly's 192 countries.

Immediately, the country's U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri began talking of his intent to use the tenure to push for reform, with an eye on a permanent berth for the Asian giant.

But the perennial issue of sanctions against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran and its nuclear ambitions are a more pressing -- and complex -- issue for India in its new role.

India, a key trading partner with Iran, has recently advocated an anti-sanctions stance, but under pressure from the U.S. voted for sanctions at the International Atomic Energy Association in 2006, and again at the U.N. General Assembly a couple of years later.

With the added responsibility of its new-found position as a global mediator, its position will come under greater scrutiny and further pressure from pro-sanctions states.

South Africa, which was also elected to the Council in New York on Tuesday, caused major headaches during its last two-year period with its reluctance to support sanctions.

If India sticks with its friendship with Iran, the two powerful emerging economies with the support of Brazil -- which also has a close relationship with Tehran -- could unite to seriously derail attempts from the U.S. and others to curb Ahmadinejad's ambitions.

What Really Bugs Iran

Spengler (Asia Times) | Oct 13

Amid the mass of published analysis of the Stuxnet virus, Iran's most obvious vulnerability to cyber-war has drawn little comment: much of the Islamic Republic runs on pirated software. The programmers who apparently cracked Siemens' industrial control code to plant malware in Iran's nuclear facilities needed a high degree of sophistication. Most Iranian computers, though, run on stolen software obtained from public servers sponsored by the Iranian government. It would require far less effort to bring about a virtual shutdown of computation in Iran, and the collapse of the Iranian economy. The information technology apocalypse that the West feared on Y2K (the year 2000) is a real possibility.

On August 25, before the Stuxnet story broke, Brandon Boyce reported on the website Neowin.net:

The Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology (IROST), an organization directly connected to the Iranian government, is charged with evaluating and advising policymakers on science and technology issues. They are also host to a large FTP server full of pirated software. Searching the FTP you will be able to find a wide range of applications all legal to download and use if you are an Iranian citizen. The FTP server, which was discovered by TorrentFreak, was open to anyone around the world, but shortly after being discovered access was cut off. Initially, they password-protected the FTP and then they cut off access completely to anyone outside of Iran. The server was host to multiple versions of software applications, including Microsoft Office 97 to 2010 or Photoshop 5.5 through CS3, along with appropriate serial numbers, cracks and keygens.

Even the software that the Iranian authorities use to block Internet access is apparently stolen. Wikipedia reports, "The primary engine of Iran's censorship is the content-control software SmartFilter, developed by San Jose firm Secure Computing. However, Secure denies ever having sold the software to Iran, and alleges that Iran is illegally using the software without a license."

For all the Iranians know, every word-processing document and Power Point presentation in the country is loaded with malware created by hostile intelligence services.

Iran's Uranium Holdings

Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President of Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (Congress Blog/The Hill) | Oct 12

Despite international sanctions designed to derail Iran's nuclear program, the Islamic Republic legally owns 15 percent of the third largest uranium mine in the world.

How is this possible? Ask the management of Rossing Uranium Limited in the southern African nation of Namibia. According to the company's most recent annual report, Iran has owned a sizeable stake in it since the early 1970s.

The United Nations has made it illegal to sell fissile material to the Iranians, but it somehow allows them to own a major stake in a uranium mine. This is a loophole that needs to be addressed at [the United Nations].

It will be important to learn whether the Islamic Republic owns controlling shares in other international businesses that could give it a leg up in its continuing efforts to build a nuclear weapon. As the Iranian nuclear endgame plays out, oversights like these could give Tehran a dangerous advantage.


International Campaign Launched to Hold Islamic Republic of Iran Accountable for Crimes against Humanity

Statement from the Campaign for an International Tribunal to Investigate the Mass Execution of Political Prisoners in Iran (Persian2English) | Oct 12

Freedom loving Citizens,

For the first time in the contemporary history of Iran, an international campaign has been launched to investigate the mass executions of Iran's political prisoners, and to hold the Islamic Republic of Iran accountable for its crimes against humanity during the1980s, and in particular, the summer of 1988.

This grassroots campaign has been initiated by the families of the victims, those who managed to survive the atrocities and many conscientious and freedom seeking political and human rights activists, in pursuit of justice.

We are turning to all freedom loving citizens of the world including writers, lawyers, journalists, human right activists, artists, workers, students, etc. to join this movement and to show and express their support toward this campaign.

This campaign was started in the autumn of 2007. Initially, a feasibility study was carried out to determine the most practical and possible methods of achieving its objectives. The advice and recommendations of several international law experts, particularly some of those among "Lawyers without Borders" were sought. Over sixty local and international visits, including hundreds of e-mails and paper correspondence were exchanged between the organisers and renowned international lawyers and human rights institutions.

Now that all of the preliminary and preparatory work has been completed, and the political and international situation has been carefully considered, the campaign is ready to establish the Tribunal.

To this effect, and despite many practical difficulties, due to its worldwide scope, so far, twenty renowned international lawyers and key people from Africa, Europe, USA and Canada have joined this campaign. The formation of the "Legal Steering Committee" as advised by our legal team is imminent and will be addressing the prerequisites of such a tribunal in terms of the Court Proceedings, Jury Panel, Panel of Prosecution and Defence Panel.

Any campaign of this magnitude and gravity requires substantial financial support. The cost implications of this campaign from the start through to its successful outcome are estimated to be around 120,000 Euros.

We appeal to all freedom loving people of the world to pledge and donate their contributions toward this campaign. The successful outcome of this tribunal will mean that one of the most brutal and barbaric regimes in the world will be held accountable for its crimes against humanity. It will also send a clear message to all other despotic states in the world that they are liable to be judged upon and prosecuted by their own oppressed people.

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Please keep him!

Anonymous / October 14, 2010 8:53 AM

No please, we insist you have him!

Agha Irani / October 14, 2010 11:31 AM