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Reform Journalist's Sentence: 4 Years, 74 Lashes; Party Ban Overturned

08 Oct 2010 22:30No Comments

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Iranian Journalist Sentenced in Absentia

Radio Zamaneh | Oct 8

Iranian journalist and social activist Saeed Razavi Faqih was tried in absentia and sentenced to four years in prison and 74 lashes.

Jaras website reports that the Revolutionary Court has charged Razavi Faqih with "propaganda against the regime", "participation in illegal gatherings" and "insulting the supreme leader" and tried him in absentia.

The reformist journalist is now summoned to Evin Prison to serve out his sentence.

Razavi Faqih denies all charges and has demanded a retrial where he can be afforded a chance to defend himself.

Razavi Faqih is a prominent Iranian journalist who was [first] arrested seven years ago and held in solitary confinement for two months for his critical articles regarding harsh judicial treatment of dissidents.

He was spokesman for Mehdi Karroubi['s] campaign during the controversial presidential election of Iran in 2009 which has been followed by persecution of numerous supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's opponents.

See also a selection of Razavi Faghih's post-election writings:
"New Protest, Same Story" | Aug 19, 2010
"Soft Genocide" | May 20, 2010
"From Hoveyda to Ahmadinejad" | Apr 7, 2010
"The Need to Create a Coalition Front" | Dec 3, 2009
"Are Family Arrests Next?" | Sept 22, 2009
"The Headaches Facing the Appointed President" | July 24, 2009

Court Denies Mosharekat Party's Dissolution

Rooz | Oct 8

Iran's largest reformist political party, Mosharekat, announced that following the party's complaint, branch twenty-seven of Tehran's general court has overturned the decision of Article 10 Committee on Political Parties regarding the dissolution of Mosharekat. As such, and as some analysts had expected, the Ahmadinejad administration and its intelligence ministry's request to eliminate one of their opponents did not bear fruit, at least for now.

The Mosharekat party wrote a letter to the secretary of the Article 10 Committee on Political Parties yesterday noting that the party filed a complaint with the court following the Committee's announcement that Mosharekat's permit had been revoked. Pointing to the court decision, the Mosharekat party requested that the Committee abide by the court order and acknowledge the party's rights under the Constitution and relevant laws.

Previously, the judiciary's spokesperson and the country's attorney general, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ezhei had announced that in response to an Article 10 Committee request the court had dissolved the two reformist parties of Mosharekat and Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution.

Over the past few weeks, Mohseni-Ezhei's remarks about the dissolution of the two parties left their members shocked. But now it is becoming apparent that the issue is being picked up as a main point in the new round of clashes between the administration and the judiciary. It is an open question whether the reformist parties' hope that the Islamic republic constitution would still preserve a space for peaceful party activism can overcome the power of those in the administration who seek to eliminate all opponents ahead of future elections.


Iranian Human Rights Lawyer on Hunger Strike

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty | Oct 8

Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is on a hunger strike to protest the poor conditions she says exist in Tehran's Evin prison where she's being held, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Sotoudeh's husband, Reza Khandan, told Radio Farda on October 6 that he finally received a brief telephone call from her after nearly three weeks without any contact.

"After 18 days of total silence, I could hear my wife for only three seconds," Khandan said. "I could not talk at all. She just said she has been on a hunger strike from September 25."

He added that "she just said 'threat.' She wanted to say she has been threatened by [the authorities]."

Sotoudeh, 47, has represented Iranian political activists and prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18.

Khandan told Radio Farda that the previous time he spoke to his wife she told him she would start a hunger strike unless the prison wardens allowed her to speak to her family once every four days. Sotoudeh and Khandan have two children aged 3 and 10 years.

"I did not announce this news [of the hunger strike] as she is being kept in solitary confinement and nobody is with her," he said. "I was not sure when exactly she started the hunger strike, but she told me yesterday that she started on September 25."

Khandan is concerned about the conditions in which his wife is being held. "The atmosphere that pervaded our conversation was fear; I could feel it from her tone of voice," he said.

It remains unclear what charges Sotoudeh faces. Khandan told Radio Farda that Sotoudeh's lawyer, Nasim Ghanavi, was with her on the first day of the revolutionary court hearing.

"Ghanavi was told that as Sotoudeh's file is at the interrogation stage, she may not have access to the file or visit Sotoudeh in prison," Khandan told Radio Farda.

Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki on Hunger Strike

RAHANA | Oct 7

Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, who blogged under the name of Babak Khorramdin, has gone on a hunger strike in order to protest the verdict and the behavior of the judicial authorities. Zoleikha Mousavi, his mother, told the RAHANA reporter that he has gone on a hunger strike and has talked to the Tehran Prosecutor about his requests.

Mrs. Mousavi told RAHANA that "someone had told the family that Hossein is on hunger strike during the 2 days that he had not contacted home but Hossein confirmed the news in his telephone call today."

Ronaghi was sentenced to 15 years in prison on October 3rd by the 26th branch of the Revolutionary Court. Sattari, the court clerk in charge of the 26th branch of the Revolutionary Court, announced his verdict. He was not allowed to see or read the verdict and was forced to sign it after being beaten.

Ronaghi was detained on December 13, 2009, at his father's home in the city of Malekan located in Tabriz. He was then transferred to the IRGC controlled Ward 2A. He had been under intense pressure to make false televised confessions in the past 10 months.

According to his family, the authorities have told him that he should have been sentenced to death but they have reduced his sentence. They have further stated that they would have been able to reduce his prison sentence [further] if he had cooperated with them.

'Germany: Time Ripe for Iran N-talks'

Press TV | Oct 8

Germany believes time is ripe for the resumption of negotiations between the Islamic Republic and the West over Iran's nuclear energy program, a report says.

"Following the cautious signals for talks coming from Iran, what's important now is to quickly start serious and constructive talks," Reuters quoted German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle as saying on Friday.

Westerwelle further pointed out that he would discuss Iran's nuclear activity with Yukiya Amano, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in the German capital of Berlin on Friday.

Iran announced its readiness to resume talks on its nuclear program in September, but reiterated that any negotiation must be conducted within the framework of the May 17 Tehran declaration.

Foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey, and Brazil signed the declaration in the Iranian capital of Tehran on May 17. According to the statement, the Islamic Republic would ship 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey to be exchanged for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched nuclear fuel rods.

The 20-percent enriched fuel will be used to power the Tehran research reactor, which produces radioisotopes for treatment of cancer patients.

The West, however, cold-shouldered the trio's agreement and pushed for further economic restrictions on Tehran.

See also: "Germany Condemns Iran for Lack of IAEA Nuclear Cooperation" (DPA via Earth Times)

Dutch Investigate 'Illegal' IAEA Shipment to Iran

Reuters | Oct 8

Dutch authorities may take legal action against an exporter for violating EU sanctions on Iran by shipping equipment to the country on behalf of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the Economics Ministry said on Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Organisation (IAEA) had sent the equipment to a banned recipient, Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, as part of a technical cooperation agreement with the Islamic Republic, a ministry spokesman said.

In Vienna, the IAEA confirmed it had ordered a helium leak detector for a cancer project it was running in Iran, but said the project had been approved by its 35-nation governing board, which includes several European Union states, in 2007.

"The objective of this technical cooperation project is to prepare therapeutic sources, radiocolloid particles and radiopharmaceuticals for cancer treatment," IAEA spokesman Ayhan Evrensel said in a statement, without giving further details.

The issue appeared to highlight an unintended consequence of tightening Western sanctions against Iran over nuclear work the West suspects is aimed at making bombs, a charge Tehran denies.

The Dutch ministry said the halting of equipment was due to the tougher EU rules agreed upon in July even though the detector was an instrument not necessarily for nuclear use.

"In this case the use is not relevant to us. The recipient -- Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran -- is responsible for the disputed nuclear programme in Iran," the spokesman said.

Iran to Buy Russian Nuclear Medicine

Press TV | Oct 8

Iran's top nuclear official says the country is in the initial stages of negotiations with Russia over a large order of radioisotopes and other nuclear medicine.

"Iran and Russia have had agreements on producing nuclear medicine, under which a Russian-made radioisotope sample will be sent to Iran for testing and if we find it up to our standards we will place a large order," Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said on Friday.

He added that Iran is planning to manufacture up to over 20 forms of nuclear medicine and "if the Tehran reactor works permanently, we will be in a better position to meet national demand."

Salehi told Fars News Agency that Moscow had proven a reliable partner in nuclear medicine, hinting at a controversial decision by the Kremlin to renege on a deal to deliver S-300 defense systems to Iran.

He reiterated Iran's willingness to restart negotiations with the UN nuclear agency, Russia, France and the US.

Salehi went on to stress that if the Vienna group continues to give Iran's trust-building efforts cold-shoulder, Tehran will provide fuel for its medical research reactor by September 2011.

Iran's Nuclear Energy Plans Draw Scepticism

Reuters | Oct 8

Iran justifies its atomic activity with plans to set up a network of nuclear power plants, but Western analysts say a lack of indigenous resources and growing international isolation make those ambitions look far-fetched.

The issue of whether Iran can build as many as 20 reactors during the next two decades goes to the heart of an eight-year diplomatic row over the Islamic state's nuclear programme.

Iran insists it needs to enrich uranium -- material which can also be used to make weapons if refined much further -- to fuel future power stations designed to generate electricity and enable the country to export more of its gas and oil riches.

"It is simply unrealistic to build so many nuclear reactors in such a short time," said Oliver Thraenert, senior fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

"The Iranians don't have the experience, they don't have the infrastructure and it is possible they don't have the money due to the sanctions," he said.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, told the U.N. nuclear watchdog's annual assembly in Vienna last month about a parliament decision to construct nuclear power plants generating a total of 20,000 MW by 2030.

He urged "all potential suppliers to seize this opportunity to participate in the construction of the new power plants."

Behind Propaganda, Iran Fights Fuel Sanctions

Reuters | Oct 8

Iran's assertion that it has side-stepped some international sanctions and become self-sufficient in gasoline is political propaganda, experts say, but it could become a reality as early as 2013.

U.S.-led sanctions have scared off Iran's regular gasoline suppliers, hitting what is seen as the Islamic Republic's Achilles' heel as lack of refining capacity forces it to import around one-third of its gasoline needs from abroad.

While Tehran is still managing to import fuel from friendly powers since the sanctions over its nuclear programme took full effect in July, it is also fervently pursuing gasoline production through an array of downstream projects.

Several analysts estimate that just two upgrade projects at the existing Abadan and Arak refineries will add 115,000 barrels a day of gasoline-making capacity, allowing Iran to fully plug the deficit sometime between 2011 and 2014.

"We expect Iran to become self-sufficient around 2013 based on the condensate and refining projects they've got," said David Wech of JBC Energy. "They are quite fierce about it," he said, adding Iran could be a net exporter by 2014.

Oil and gas consultants Facts Global Energy said self-sufficiency could come as early as 2011 or 2012 and that Iran could become a net exporter of gasoline by 2015.

But Iran's poor track record of finishing such projects on time and the deepening impact of the sanctions across the economy leave some other experts deeply suspicious that Iran can achieve its ambitions.

Price, Yen Access May Hit Japan's Iran Oil Imports -- Cosmo

Dow Jones (via NASDAQ) | Oct 8

The relatively high price of Iran's crude oil may be a reason for reduced sales in Japan, and volumes could fall even further if Japanese banks reduce credit lines for companies doing business with Iran, a senior Japanese refining company official said Friday.

"What we are worried about is Japanese banks' possible scaling down of credit lines," Masayoshi Ishino, an executive officer at Cosmo Oil Co., said.

If that happened, Japanese oil companies could [have] access to only limited amounts of yen for Iranian transactions, which could result in lower imports from Iran, he said in a speech on crude-oil market trends delivered at a Petroleum Association of Japan event.

Since 2007, and at the request of Iran, Japanese oil refiners and trading companies have paid for crude oil imported from Iran in yen rather than U.S. dollars.

Iranian Official Battles to Stave Off Spiralling Inflation

The National (UAE) | Oct 8

The threat by Tehran's top prosecutor this week to take legal action against what he called "economic saboteurs" is aimed by authorities at helping reverse a recent sharp downturn in the value of the national currency, analysts said.

Tehran prosecutor general Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said Wednesday that Iran's courts had the authority to act against those "who disturb public order by hoarding commodities, closing the bazaar or manipulating the supply of commodities in the market."

An infusion of millions of dollars by the Central Bank since Saturday has calmed the market. Nevertheless, the move has failed to bring the rate down to 10,600 rials, which Central Bank officials now say is the "normal" and "targeted" rate. Yesterday, Tehran's exchange houses were offering 11,000 rials to the dollar, while the Central Bank was offering 10,700 rials to the dollar to individuals with identification documents wanting to buy US$1000 to $2,000 (Dh3,673-Dh7,346).

Iran's Forex Reserves Decline by $10b in Currency Crash

Tehran Times (via Tabnak) | Oct 7

According to the Aftabnews website, following the slump in the value of rial against dollar, the central bank has injected 10 billion dollars into the domestic foreign currency market to curb the rise in the value of dollar. The report raises concern over the repercussions of the move on the country's economic security, because the foreign currency reserve is a reliable tool for the central bank to retain the value of the national currency and regulate the imports and exports in order to maintain the economic stability.

Basij Defends Toman with Weapons

Al-Rai al-Aam (Kuwait [in Arabic]) | Oct 8

Iran has foreign currency reserves valued at around 80 billion USD and these reserves have been historically considered as the basis for the toman exchange rate against the dollar.

Iranian businessmen are convinced that for every toman there are "reserves of foreign currencies" (such as the dollar, the yen, the euro, or gold) safely kept in the banks around the world to support the value of the Iranian currency. [However] ever since the implementation of the sanctions, the foreign currency reserves have been frozen in the bank safes around the world, and Iran no longer holds the key to those safes.

Informed sources at the Iranian Central Bank told Al-Rai that "the Iranian government has almost used up all its dollar, euro, and gold reserves." [Central Bank] Governor Mahmoud Bahmani had made a bold statement in the past week when he announced that the bank has enough cash and gold to "drown" the market and thus raise the value of the toman. However, the same sources told Al-Rai, "We know that he is bluffing."

And as the government realized that it does not have enough dollars to support the toman, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dispatched members of the Basij to threaten the currency traders by force of arms whenever they fail to stick to the official exchange rate set by the state. Therefore, the currency traders are writing on their display signs that the exchange rate of the dollar against the Toman is 10,600 while no one of course expects them to sell any dollars for this price as everybody knows that the real price is 13,000 and maybe more.

In addition, Ahmadinejad issued his orders to launch a campaign to convince countries such as Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, and the UAE to reopen their banking relations with Iran. However, that campaign is unlikely to succeed, as most of the governments in the Middle East and the Gulf oppose the Iranian nuclear program and realize that cutting the flow of currencies to Tehran is like cutting the flow of blood to the arteries of the nuclear program.

Indeed, the central bank has only 2 billion USD left in its safes and it is only willing to use 300 million dollars to defend the value of the toman for the time being. [...] [T]he central bank was unable to reach its foreign currency reserves abroad and therefore, it was unable to bring back its dollars to the inside. As a result, the USD reserves of the central bank have started to regress dangerously, leaving the bank incapable of providing the foreign currency dealers with foreign currencies in addition to being unable of defending the value of the toman.

Few Influential Traders behind Gold Market Closure: Kayhan

Tehran Times (via Tabnak) | Oct 7

The high-profile managing director of the daily 'Kayhan', Hossein Shariatmadari, has commented that a few major gold dealers are behind the closure of the gold market following the enforcement of the value-added tax. Shariatmadari has said that 90 percent of the gold which is brought into the country is smuggled by few well-connected traders. He believes that these traders are not worried about paying more tax, but they are afraid of transparency in the gold market, so they have incited minor gold dealers to close their stores ostensibly in protest at the implementation of VAT.

Tehran, Cairo Flights Draw US Ire

Press TV | Oct 8

Washington expresses disappointment over the resumption of flights between Tehran and Cairo, urging Egypt not to negotiate any deal with the Islamic Republic.

"We continue to urge all countries, including Egypt, not to pursue any new business deals until Iran complies with its international obligations," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Thursday when asked about the agreement.

When asked by reporters if the White House is "going after Iranian civilian airlines," the spokesman said such agreements would have "implications in terms of business" and "economic implications."

Israel Buys F-35 Jets with Eyes on Iran

UPI | Oct 8

Israel's purchase of 20 Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters, the world's most advanced combat jets, significantly enhances the Jewish state's ability to defend itself "by itself," in the words of U.N. Ambassador Michael Oren.

His comment following Thursday's contract signing in New York, is a clear reference to possible conflict with Iran, against whose nuclear installations Israel has threatened to launch pre-emptive strikes.

However, Israel is unlikely to take delivery of the first of the fifth- generation fighters until 2015 at the earliest, with completion scheduled for 2017.

That should rule the F-35s out of any long-range mission against Iran for at least four years, by which time the Tehran regime may already have developed a nuclear weapon.

The timing of the contract suggested the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama may have fast-tracked the deal as an inducement to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to extend a freeze on settlement building in the West Bank, still largely under Israeli occupation, to salvage threatened peace talks with the Palestinians.

Shiraz Sites Cause Concern

Iran Daily | Oct 7

The destruction of historical sites in the ancient city of Shiraz has raised the ire of cultural heritage lovers.

Recently, 87 historical sites, including a number of ancient houses, baths and a mosque, were destroyed in Shiraz to make way for the construction of commercial and lodging centers in the vicinity of Shah-e Cheragh Mausoleum.

According to Mehr News Agency, the Cabinet, during its latest trip to Shiraz, ratified the renovation of historical sites spread over 57 hectares in the perimeters of the mausoleum, which led to the destruction of the historical sites.

Alireza Golgoli, the head of the national plan titled "Documentation of Iranian Historical Houses," said the historical site of Shah-e Cheragh had become a refuge of addicts and criminal gangs, which triggered the complaints of citizens.

The plan titled "Bein-ol-Haramein" was ratified by the Cabinet following the citizen's complaints and aimed to improve the condition of the place.

The official noted that those involved in the plan aim to replace the old texture of the area with modern buildings, pointing out that there are over 900 historical buildings near the mausoleum, of which 500 are among the most attractive monuments of the city.

"Such a plan will damage the city's cultural heritage because the monuments situated near Shah-e Cheragh are among the most important historical sites of the province and can boost tourism in case of renovation," he said.


The Road to Tehran Runs through Ankara

Geneive Abdo, Director of the Iran Program at the Century Foundation (Middle East Channel/Foreign Policy) | Oct 6

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in recent days met with dignitaries at the United Nations to generate international support for Iran to engage in talks with the United States and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council over Iran's nuclear program. But when Mottaki and other Iranian officials in Tehran have talked recently about restarting talks, they are not referring to the nuclear negotiations the Europeans and the United States are hoping for; rather, they are trying to gain traction on negotiations about the Tehran Declaration, the agreement brokered between Iran, Brazil and Turkey in May, which is limited to a swap deal over a portion of Iran's enriched uranium. This is the deal the United States, Britain, and France dismissed in May as a sideshow and a manipulative tactic by Iran to get out of tough sanctions, shortly before crippling sanctions were passed in the United Nations, the European Union, and the U.S. Congress. At the time, this action prompted a hostile reaction from Iran.

Now that Mottaki is placing the deal squarely on the table again, the Obama administration should seize the moment. Rather than purse talks over Iran's broader nuclear program and risk failure -- during a period when there appears to be little time to waste before either a military attack is launched against Iran or Iran develops the technology to produce a nuclear weapon -- a wiser move would be to talk with Iran first over the Tehran Declaration as a way of building trust.

This is certainly the view of the Turks. A delegation of Turkish parliamentarians was in Washington last week for meetings with the Obama administration over Ankara's relations with Iran, Israel and other issues. The delegation likely advised the United States to take Iran up on its offer to begin talks immediately over the Tehran Declaration. At least one other Turkish delegation visited Washington this past summer, delivering this same message. But their efforts produced little more than hostility from members of Congress and less than enthusiastic responses from officials in the administration.

In interviews I had in Turkey during a recent trip there, Turkish diplomats who spent months shuttling between Ankara and Tehran last spring to broker the Tehran Declaration told me that the United States should accept Iran's offer to make the Tehran Declaration the framework of any negotiations with the five-plus-one because there is no support in Tehran now to negotiate over Iran's broader nuclear program. This might be what the United States wants, but there is no backing for it among a cross-section of Iran's political elites. "The inner circle around [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei views this Tehran agreement as a first step to establish good faith with Western governments," said one Turkish official with first-hand knowledge of the talks with Iran.

Iran's Hardliners Fall Out

Yasaman Baji (IWPR) | Oct 8

While the reformist opposition has been more or less completely marginalised from Iranian politics over the past year, that does not mean all is quiet at the top.

Quite the reverse -- a fierce battle is now going on within Iran's conservative establishment.

The various conservative and hard-line political factions and senior clerics that are collectively known as the "principalists" have tried to establish a modus vivendi with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad since he first came to power in 2005.

It might appear to an outsider that he and they represent pretty much the same thing - a conservative, Islamist view of society, and a defiant view of the outside world. Ahmadinejad himself comes from the principalist camp. But Ahmadinejad's style has been to accumulate more and more power in his hands over the years, at the expense of anyone outside his circle.

The principalists should logically be content with their control of the judiciary, the legislature and the executive in Iran, but they have felt increasingly pressured by the president's expanding reach.

Interviewed recently by the Panjareh weekly, Morteza Nabavi, managing director of Resalat, a daily paper that effectively serves as mouthpiece for the Motalefeh party and other principalist forces, warned, "Now that Ahmadinejad's supporters have got rid of the reformists, they are trying to get rid of their principalist opponents as well."

Parto-ye Sokhan, a weekly paper controlled by the hardline Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, normally an ally of the president, said that "the path Ahmadinejad is taking goes nowhere."

Which Way Will China Lean on Iran?

Willem van Kemenade, Senior Fellow at the Clingendael Institute of International Relations (Daily Star, Lebanon) | Oct 8

After a diplomatic marathon of several months, China agreed on June 9 with fellow permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany to a new round of United Nations sanctions against Iran's nuclear program. That approval was conditioned on China's extensive interests in Iran's oil and gas sectors remaining untouched.

When US President Barack Obama signed a bill with new, more rigorous unilateral sanctions, China strongly criticized the move as excessive, stating: "China believes that the Security Council resolution should be fully, seriously and correctly enforced and cannot be willfully expanded." China's criticism echoed Russia's and aimed not only at the United States but also at the tougher measures that the European Union was preparing in Obama's footsteps.

China worried that its companies and banks with exposure in Iran could be banned from doing business in the US and took preemptive steps, such as transferring Iran assets away from companies that wanted to keep options open for the US market. By August, Washington warned China not to take advantage of the sanctions regime by "backfilling," or scooping up opportunities left by departing EU-companies complying with Obama's unilateral sanctions bill.

Chinese editorials condemn US policy without specifics on retaliatory action Beijing might take, while gloating that the hardline united front on sanctions is cracking: "The US is building its case against Iran by overstating the threat Iran poses to regional peace and stability," observed one editorial. "The US policy of antagonizing the existing government, labeling it as a member of the axis of evil, and threatening to use force against Iran, is dragging the entire region into dangerous uncertainty."

The editorial accused the US of making war more probable, and of harming China's interests: "China values a smooth Sino-US relationship, but it does not wish to sacrifice its developing relationship with Iran. China is against Iran acquiring nuclear weapons; meanwhile, China has to secure its strategic interests in Iran."

Caught between Bombing Iran and an Iranian Bomb

Philip Stephens (Financial Times) | Oct 7

John McCain framed the dilemma during the 2008 US presidential election campaign. The only thing worse than war with Iran, the senator postulated, would be a nuclear-armed Iran. Barack Obama took another view and went on to win the White House. He may yet find it impossible to sidestep the choice posed by his opponent.

The hope is that Mr McCain's binary choice can be avoided. Through a combination of sticks and carrots, Iran might be persuaded to trade its nuclear ambitions for a return to the community of nations. The chances still seem slim. The best a high-ranking US official will offer is that a deal is "not impossible".

I caught this mood during two days of discussions between a diverse group of mostly European and American experts assembled in Berlin at the invitation of the Aspen European Strategy Forum.

The message I took from the policymakers, diplomats, intelligence types and physicists was depressing in almost every dimension. Iran wants the bomb; and nothing that the west has done thus far is likely to persuade it otherwise.


Travel Warning: Iran

Bulletin from U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs | Oct 8

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to Iran. Dual national Iranian-American citizens may encounter difficulty in departing Iran. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and carefully consider nonessential travel. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Iran issued March 23, 2010, to update information on security concerns.

Some elements in Iran remain hostile to the United States. As a result, U.S. citizens may be subject to harassment or arrest while traveling or residing in Iran. Since 2009, Iranian authorities have prevented the departure of a number of Iranian-American citizens, including journalists and academics, who traveled to Iran for personal or professional reasons, in some cases for several months. Iranian authorities also have unjustly detained or imprisoned U.S. citizens on various charges, including espionage and posing a threat to national security. U.S. citizens of Iranian origin should consider the risk of being targeted by authorities before planning travel to Iran. Iranian authorities deny the U.S. Interests Section in Tehran access to imprisoned dual nationals because Iranian authorities consider them to be solely Iranian citizens; access to U.S. citizens is often denied as well.

The Iranian government continues to repress some minority religious and ethnic groups, including Baha'i, Arabs, Kurds, Azeris, and others. Consequently, some areas within the country where these minorities reside, including the Baluchistan border area near Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Kurdish northwest of the country, and areas near the Iraqi border, remain unsafe. U.S. citizens who travel to Iran should exercise caution.

The U.S. government does not have diplomatic or consular relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in Iran. The Swiss government, acting through its Embassy in Tehran, serves as protecting power for U.S. interests in Iran. Neither U.S. passports nor visas to the United States are issued in Tehran. The Iranian government does not recognize dual citizenship and will not allow the Swiss to provide protective services for U.S. citizens who are also Iranian nationals. Iranian authorities have detained and harassed U.S. citizens of Iranian origin. Former Muslims who have converted to other religions, as well as persons who encourage Muslims to convert, are subject to arrest and prosecution.

'None Dared to Raise Questions about the Truth of' 9/11

Transcript of Speech by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRNA via MEMRI) | Oct 8

In his September 25, 2010 speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Ahmadinejad gave the first signs of openly accusing the U.S. of carrying out the 9/11 attacks. Immediately afterwards, various Iranian regime spokesmen reiterated his accusations. Since then, Ahmadinejad has developed the accusations further, saying that the American 9/11 conspiracy had two goals: first, to take over the Middle East and thus solve its own economic problems, and two, to rein in the spread of the Islamic Revolution in the Middle East and in southeast Asia, as it threatens the U.S. and the West.

Following are the main points of Ahmadinejad's statements in an October 5, 2010, speech in Golestan, northern Iran:

Prior to the attack on Afghanistan and on Iraq, the Americans were in economic crisis, [so they] planned an attack on these two countries to solve it. They carried out their goals using the pretext of a terrorist threat against America and the world.

The Americans implemented well-thought-out propaganda, and planned the 9/11 events so precisely that none dared to raise questions regarding the reasons for these events, or their main perpetrators; everyone merely identified with [the Americans'] pain and condemned the incident.

With advance planning, the American administration pointed an accusing finger at the Muslins and the peoples of the region, and American officials said that the perpetrators were some Afghans and Arabs.

In order to prove their claim, they said that they had found several passports belonging to these men in the ruins of the Twin Towers.... How is it that the bodies of the perpetrators were never found at the attack scene, but scraps of some passports were How is it that some of these men, who had allegedly managed to enter America from Afghanistan and passed through several of the country's labyrinthine security barriers, left no trace?

After [9/11], they launched a military attack on Afghanistan and Iraq, and then-president [George W. Bush] threatened Iran several times. We have in our possession reliable documents showing that prior to [9/11], the U.S. authorities warned residents of the Twin Towers against being there. Without this warning, the number of people killed would have been greater than what they announced - 3,000.

Ahmadinejad went on to explain the [motivation for the] American attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq:

[T]he spread of the Islamic Revolution and of the [ideological] movement of the Iranian people in the region and in the world. [...] The Americans realized that the mighty waves of this movement were like a gigantic cultural deluge spreading throughout the Middle East and Southeast Asia, that would quickly conquer all the continents, and the nations would join, one after another, the enthusiasm and the effervescence of the Iranian nation.

The Americans realized that the way to fight this mighty revolutionary wave was not with military schemes and political propaganda, and that the Zionist regime was no longer capable of implementing its aims. For this reason, they thought that a military attack was the only way, and [thus] put into action their extensive attack on Afghanistan and Iraq, by planning the scenario of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. They attacked the Middle East with several hundred thousand troops in order to take over the oil resources and to rein in the spread of the Islamic Revolution.

In perpetrating the events of 9/11, the Americans were so calculating, and the American media published the news about the incident so extensively and exclusively, that none dared to raise questions about the truth of the incident or [to suspect] the role of the Americans in creating it.

Lines and an Uncertain Future

Blog Post by Somayeh Tohidlou (Golnaz Esfandiari's Persian Letters/Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) | Oct 6

Blogger Somayeh Tohidlou has written in her blog ("Bar Sahel-e Salamat," On the Shore of Health) about the spread of long lines in Tehran:

Lines are a social phenomenon. When a group of people are forced to stand in lines in order to access what they need, it means that either there is a problem in the distribution of the needed goods or the quantity or quality does not meet the demand.

Standing in line is not very unusual for us. You shouldn't be too old to remember the time of the war [with Iraq] and even some time after it. Of course, standing in lines goes to times before that, including when there was a shortage of petroleum in the early days of the 1979 revolution and there were long lines. Even until a few years ago, there were long lines in our neighborhood for subsidized milk in the early morning hours.

Yet after several years of not having witnessed many lines, we're hearing news these days of long lines, lines for changing money to dollars, long lines for buying gold coins from the bank, long lines for gasoline. All of these events are the result of hastily made decisions, the reasons for which are unknown.

On the other hand, the minister of economy is not willing to announce the exact time of the of subsidy cuts. [Officials] don't like to speak about the rise of prices. The [lack of transparency] is the factor that is leading people to try hoarding what they can. And this is how the lines for gasoline get longer and longer.

In fact what is going on these days in society should have happened only after people had been informed or after the changes would have taken place. The issue is even more complicated.

All the news is about rising prices. For example, the 30 percent rise in the price of plane tickets, which means a rise in the price of other things and also a rise in the price of rice and oil, which has led many to go to shops to buy rice and oil at the old price.

There is worry these days over an uncertain future. A future that will bring a shock to the economy and to people's lives like the 10 percent increase in the dollar rate did. These days in different lines that are spreading, you can hear the concern of the people about their way of life now and in the future.

See also: Original post (Bar Sahel-e Salamat [in Farsi])

Homepage photo from a recent police raid featured on Fars news.

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