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Ashtiani Case Metastasizes; New Clues: Stuxnet Crafted to Cripple Natanz

18 Nov 2010 15:131 Comment

Press Roundup provides selected excerpts of news and opinion pieces from the Iranian and international media. Click on the link to the story to read it in full. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. The inclusion of various opinions in no way implies their endorsement by Tehran Bureau. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow other news items through our Twitter feed.

THE LEAD

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Editor Reacts to German Journalists Accused of Spying in Iran

CNN | Nov 17

The editor for a German tabloid newspaper expressed strong concern Wednesday over two journalists charged with spying in Iran.

"We've been extremely worried for a month now about our two reporters imprisoned in Iran," Walter Mayer, chief editor of Bild am Sonntag, said in the newspaper. "We're doing everything in our power to help our colleagues and their relatives. We will not give out further details for their safety." The rest of the piece confirms that both are Bild am Sonntag journalists.

Iran has charged two German journalists who interviewed the son and lawyer of a woman condemned to die by stoning with espionage, Iranian media reported Tuesday.

"Their reports and propaganda in Tabriz proved that they are in the country for spying," Malek Ajdar Shafiee, the head of the Justice Department of East Azarbaijan, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars News Agency.

The two men, identified only as a reporter and photojournalist, were arrested last month in the northwest city of Tabriz after they interviewed the son and lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who was convicted of adultery in 2006 and sentenced to death by stoning.

The charges against the two Germans came a day after they were shown on Iranian state-run television. A program produced by Iran's Channel 2 quoted one of the men saying that the two were "tricked" by an activist with the German-based International Committee Against Stoning into entering the country illegally.

The unnamed man told the television station that the committee's spokeswoman, Mina Ahadi, used the journalists for her own gain.

"Mina Ahadi sent me to Iran because she knew she would benefit from my arrest, and I'll sue her when I get back to Germany," the man said.

Iran Stoning Case under Investigation: Ahmadinejad

AFP | Nov 18

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that the case of a woman sentenced to death by stoning was still under investigation and denounced the US outcry over her sentence as biased.

The case of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, who has been sentenced to die by stoning on charges of adultery, has sparked international outrage and calls from the United States and Europe for her execution to be called off.

"Iran's investigative agencies are very competent and they will take the right decision on this matter," Ahmadinejad told a press conference in the Azerbaijani capital Baku.

Asked about international appeals for her sentence to be commuted, Ahmadinejad said: "I want to make my own appeal. In the United States there are 53 women condemned to death. Why is the whole world not asking them to pardon these women? We handed to them a list of these women but the media is in their hands and this is why they are not covering this question."

How Stuxnet Cyber Weapon Targeted Iran Nuclear Plant

Christian Science Monitor | Nov 16

Stuxnet, the world's first known "cyber missile," was designed to sabotage special power supplies used almost exclusively in nuclear fuel-refining centrifuge systems, researchers studying its code have revealed. The discovery is another puzzle piece experts say points to Iran's nuclear centrifuge plants as the likely target.

The researchers followed a complex trail. After cleverly gaining access to computer systems using an array of devious "exploits," Stuxnet searches for and infects only a specific Siemens-made programmable logic controller (PLC) performing specific functions, the researchers found. Then -- and this is the part just unearthed -- it hunts for identification numbers unique to a special kind of "frequency converter drive" made by just two firms in the world: one headquartered in Finland, the other in Tehran.

Frequency converter drives are a kind of power supply that can change the frequency of its output to control the speed of a motor. The drive responds to a PLC's computer commands and is used for industrial control in factory settings worldwide. Stuxnet hunts for specific drives set at specific speeds -- the very high speeds a centrifuge must achieve to physically separate and concentrate uranium isotopes for use as nuclear fuel. Such fuel can then be used in a reactor or, if refined to far higher concentrations, a nuclear weapon.

All of the circumstantial evidence points in the same direction: Natanz.

The Natanz nuclear centrifuge fuel-refining plant may have been hit first by Stuxnet in mid-2009, said Frank Rieger, a German researcher with Berlin encryption firm GSMK. The International Atomic Energy Agency found a sudden drop in the number of working centrifuges at the Natanz site, he noted in an interview in September.

"It seems like the parts of Stuxnet dealing with PLCs have been designed to work on multiple nodes at once - which makes it fit well with a centrifuge plant like Natanz," Mr. Rieger says. By contrast, Bushehr is a big central facility with many disparate PLCs performing many different functions. Stuxnet seems focused on replicating its intrusion across a lot of identical units in a single plant, he said.

Symantec Finds Stuxnet Targets Iranian Nuclear Enrichment

Information Week | Nov 16

With the help of an unnamed Dutch expert [...], Eric Chien, technical director of Symantec Security Response, said that Symantec had unraveled "the purpose of all of Stuxnet's code."

Here's how it works: Stuxnet watches for frequency converter drives [...] operating at certain, very high frequencies -- between 807 Hz and 1210 Hz. Once spotted, Stuxnet hijacks the PLC code and begins altering how the drives operate. "In addition to other parameters, over a period of months, Stuxnet changes the output frequency for short periods of time to 1410 Hz and then to 2 Hz and then to 1064 Hz," meaning that it speeds up and slows down the motors, said Chien. "Modification of the output frequency essentially sabotages the automation system from operating properly."

What uses high-frequency drives? With the disclaimer that they're not industrial control system experts, the authors of Symantec's report into Stuxnet said that "efficient low-harmonic frequency converter drives that output over 600 Hz are regulated for export in the United States by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as they can be used for uranium enrichment."

Stuxnet Worm Possibly Made to Cripple Iran Centrifuges

Washington Post | Nov 16

Ivanka Barzashka, a research associate at the Federation of American Scientists, said the Symantec findings, "if true, are very significant."

In an e-mail, Barzashka said the targeted frequency range, from 807 megahertz to 1210 megahertz, "is consistent with the operational frequencies of gas centrifuges used for uranium enrichment."

"Centrifuges are delicate pieces of equipment," she said. "There is a huge incentive for pushing the machines to operate at the maximum speed allowed by the materials they are made of. In addition, before they reach their maximum operating speeds, centrifuges have to traverse certain 'critical frequencies' at which they encounter resonance and can fly apart.

"Rigging the speed control is a very clever way of causing the machines to fly apart," she added.

OTHER NEWS

Nuclear Standoff Could Hurt Iran's Cancer Patients

AP | Nov 18

The human impact from the wrangling between Iran and the West over its nuclear program could fall first in nuclear medicine clinics around the country, where hundreds of cancer patients a week get treatment with radioactive isotopes.

Iran says fuel for the Tehran research reactor that produces the isotopes will run out in September next year, leaving it without the materials needed to diagnose and treat some 850,000 cancer patients across the country.

A deal for the West to provide fuel for the reactor has all but fallen apart in the deadlock over Iran's broader nuclear program, and Iran's drive to produce the fuel on its own has brought condemnation from the U.S. and Europe. They fear the program could boost what they contend is the secret goal of Iran's nuclear ambitions: to produce a bomb.

At the nuclear medicine ward in Tehran's Shariati Hospital, Ghodratollah Ghalavand fears the standoff could eventually leave him without his lifeline. Every week, he comes in for treatment of his thyroid cancer with iodine-131 isotopes produced by the reactor.

"I'm not familiar with politics. I'm a rural person. I only know that not giving fuel is wrong. It will endanger my life. Humanitarian issues are different from politics," said Ghalavand, a man in his 50s from a village in southwest Iran.

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Iran Unveils Islamic Doll, Hijab Software, and Islamic Tie

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty | Nov 16

Iran has unveiled a number of "Islamic" products including an Islamic tie.

The tie, which is shaped like the sword of Imam Ali (cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad who is considered by Shi'a as his rightful successor) and decorated with an Islamic hadith (a saying attributed to Muhammad), has been registered in the Islamic republic by inventor Hemat Komeili. (For a picture, click here.)

Komeili has been quoted as saying that his tie has been approved by some of the sources of emulation. He says it appears beautiful like a tie in addition to being based on Islamic values.

Ties came under attack in Iran following the 1979 revolution as one of the symbols of "decadent" Western cultures. It was reported that men with ties were detained in the early days of the revolution and according to unconfirmed reports in some cases their ties were cut off.

Some Iranian men still wear ties in public even though it is generally condemned and disapproved by the country's leaders and clerics.

Meanwhile an Iranian company says it has created the first Islamic doll.

Iran had in the past created two dolls, "Sara" and "Dara," which were to counter Barbie and Ken but reportedly were not very popular. The new doll, which is branded Islamic and not Iranian, has the Arabic name "Fatima."

Hossein Homay Seresht, of the company Fam that created Fatima, says the doll is meant to fight the "enemies' cultural invasion" of the Islamic republic.

Seresht says that Iran's enemies are increasingly targeting 3-year-old kids.

"The Westerners, by creating Barbie and marketing it, are encouraging bad veiling and not wearing the hijab; all of these factors led us to take it as our duty to present Islamic dolls to the market," he said.

Western Media Faux Pas on Iran Drill

Press TV | Nov 17

Distorting news about Iran's war drill, Western media have reported that six "unknown planes" intruding into the country's airspace have been intercepted.

Spokesman for the "Modafean Aseman Velayat 3" (Defenders of Velayat Skies) drill General Hamid Arjangi said earlier on Wednesday that Iranian forces have identified the mock intrusion of six "unknown planes" into the country's airspace.

"As part of the drill, we had six reports about the intrusion of six unknown planes into the country's space [on Tuesday]," Arjangi said, adding that in [all] six cases the planes were forced to lift off and interception operations were carried out, Fars News Agency reported.

However, The Washington Post, Associated Press and AFP among other Western media outles, reported that Iran's armed forces intercepted six "unknown planes" that intruded into the country's airspace during aerial defense maneuvers, citing Fars News Agency as the source.

Arial defense units from the Army and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) are taking part in the three-stage five-day "Modafean Aseman Velayat 3" defense maneuvers.

The nationwide air maneuvers, which kicked off early Tuesday, are being held near Iran's "nuclear and vital landmarks" and include tests of long-range anti-air missiles.

The drills aim to enhance response capabilities in countering threats against the county's populated, vital, strategic and nuclear landmarks.

Exiled Iranian Ex-Air Force Pilot Claims Iran's Military Rife with Rebellion

CP | Nov 17

A one-time Iranian Air Force pilot seeking political asylum in France, and armed with what he claims is a valuable list of contacts, said Wednesday that he intends to serve as a bridge between military officers and resistance forces.

Behzad Masoumi Legwan claims that dissidence in Iran's military is widespread.

Masoumi's arrival in France was announced Nov. 10 by the Europe-based Green Wave Iran opposition movement which has in the past announced the defection of several Iranian diplomats in Europe.

Masoumi said at a news conference that he established links with dissident personnel and officers in the air force, serving as a middleman for them, before being arrested, tortured and expelled from the air force in 2001.

The 33-year-old Masoumi claimed that he established a network among officers that remains active.

"Today, the time and opportunity (have) arrived for me to announce that I and a significant segment of personnel and senior officers in the armed forces are in opposition to the Islamic Republic," Masoumi said.

Green Wave founder Amir Hossein Jahanchahi says that Masoumi's credentials were verified along with the "authenticity of the messages and information he had brought from a number of key serving senior officers" in the armed forces.

Tehran Issues Warning on Visiting Canada

Fars | Nov 17

The Iranian Foreign Ministry in a statement cautioned Iranian nationals who plan to visit Canada to take precautionary steps and avoid unnecessary trips to the country.

The warning was issued on Tuesday after the new wave of Islamophobia is sweeping across the North American country.

The statement warns that the wave of Islamophobia in the Western countries has expanded its reach and is claiming new victims as a number of Muslims, especially Iranian nationals, have been deported under different pretexts, while Ottawa actively hinders Iranian nationals who want to seek justice through the Canadian courts.

Many Muslims, particularly Iranians, are deprived of their social and political rights and Canadian police have proved to be incapable of following the cases filed by Iranians residing in Canada, the statement added.

According to the Iranian foreign ministry statement, the crime rate has soared in Canada recently, hence Iranian visitors may fall victim to various crimes in that country.

S. Korea Bans Unauthorized Financial Transactions with Iran

Xinhua (via CRI English) | Nov 18

South Korea will ban all unauthorized financial transactions with Iran starting next year as part of sanctions against the country for its controversial nuclear program, local media reported Thursday.

The finance ministry said individual financial transfers involving 40,000 euros or more must get a prior permission from the Bank of Korea. Financial deals involving more than 40,000 euros over twelve months should also be authorized beforehand, according to local media.

Transactions related to medical equipment, health services, food and items for humanitarian purposes are not required to notify the authorities in advance, but must report it later.

The plan is part of Seoul's independent sanctions on Tehran for its nuclear program that Washington believes is a cover for developing nuclear arms. Iran denies the charge and warned of financial damage to South Korean firms tapping into the growing Iranian market.

Mousavi Campaign Activist Mohamamd Ezlati Moghaddam Detained

RAHANA | Nov 17

The security forces have detained Mohammad Ezlati Moghaddam, head of Mousavi's Isargaran Campaign.

According to Kaleme, he was detained following the meeting of several military commanders of the Iran-Iraq War with Mousavi.

Moghaddam has had a short telephone call with his family after the arrest.

Labor Activist Azad Monirnia Sentenced to Prison

RAHANA | Nov 17

The appeals court of the Province of Kurdistan has upheld the prison sentence of labor activist Azad Monirnia.

Azad Monirnia was summoned to the court yesterday and was told that the appeals court has upheld his prison sentence.

According to the Mokrian News Agency, he had been charged with anti-regime propaganda. He was detained on September of last year by the security forces and was later released on bail.

Abdolreza Tajik's Sister Sentenced to 1 ½ Years of Prison

RAHANA | Nov 17

The 28th branch of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Moghiseh has sentenced Parvin Tajik to 1 ½ years of prison for anti-regime propaganda and agitating public opinion.

According to the news sources, she had never been summoned to the court for a hearing but Judge Moghiseh convicted her [...] and issued the verdict after she appeared at the court.

Parvin Tajik had previously stated that her brother has been "dishonored" in prison and it appears that this is the reason for the jail term.

She is the sister of journalist, Nationalist-Religious activist, and a member of the Human Rights Committee, Abdolreza Tajik.

Two Months of No News from Mohseni, the Head of Mousavi's office

RAHANA | Nov 15

Two month have passed since the arrest of Hamid Mohseni, the head of Mousavi's office, yet his family has not been able to meet with him and there is no specific information available on his exact situation.

According to Kalameh, This lack of news and information is of grave concern to his family. He has in the past two months only been able to contact his family in a few short phone calls and has not been able to discuss his situation with them. His family does not know where to go in an effort to inquire about and to follow through with his case.

Mohseni, the head of Mousavi's office was arrested on September 14th and is being held in solitary confinement in ward 209 of Evin Prison. He was arrested after the Security Forces raided Mousavi's office and executed a search and seize.

In a continues effort to put pressures, in the last two month, the Security Forces have proceeded to arrest anyone who has come to his office and later released them from detention following interrogation and obtaining a written commitment not to return to the office in the future.

500 Peace Activists Call for Immediate End to Economic Sanctions on Iran

Fars | Nov 16

More than 500 peace activists from around the globe, in a statement, called for an immediate end to the existing economic sanctions on Iran, and asked the western states to recognize Tehran's right of access to the peaceful nuclear technology.

In their statement called "Solidarity with Iran -- Yes," the peace activists as well as proponents of justice movements also called for an immediate end to military threats against Iran and recognition of the Iranian nation's right of access to the peaceful nuclear technology.

The statement came a month after the Iran-based House of Latin America (HOLA) started a campaign to attract global solidarity with Iran.

HOLA is a non-governmental organization and is now acting as campaign coordinator.

A number of prominent international figures have signed the Solidarity statement.

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, American anti-war activist Cindy Lee Miller Sheehan, 2008 US presidential candidate Gloria La Riva, Director of the International Action Center Sara Flounders and other prominent peace activists are among the hundreds of figures who have signed the statement.

Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down [the] West's calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismissed [the] West's demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians' national resolve to continue the path.

Political observers believe that the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran mainly over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran's nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for the other third-world countries.

US Religious Freedom Report Faults Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia

VOA | Nov 17

A State Department report on religious freedom world-wide Wednesday listed Iran, North Korea and U.S. Gulf ally, Saudi Arabia, as among the worst violators of religious rights. A number of countries were credited with steps to protect religious practice.

The annual report is required under a 1998 act of Congress, and the countries violating religious freedom could be subject to U.S. sanctions.

Of the nearly 200 countries assessed in the report, eight are listed as CPC's or Countries of Particular Concern: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Afghanistan.

The list is unchanged from a year ago but it is to be reviewed in the next few months.

Iran has been a CPC each year since the first report was issued in 1999. The new report says the Tehran government continues to severely restrict non-Sh'ia religious minorities, and that Baha'is are particular targets.

It said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continued a virulent anti-Semitic campaign, questioning the existence and scope of the World War II Nazi extermination campaign against Jews.

Iranian FM Protests at China over Using False Name for Persian Gulf

Fars | Nov 17

The Iranian Foreign Ministry in a letter strongly protested at China's use of the false phrase 'the Arabian Gulf' instead of 'the Persian Gulf' during the inauguration ceremony of the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said the justifications made by Beijing as for having no responsibility about the event are unacceptable.

The unpleasant event which happened during the opening ceremonies of the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, made the Iranian officials concerned, he said on Tuesday.

Mehman-Parast added that a letter of protest was handed over to Chinese officials while the country's ambassador to Tehran was summoned to the Foreign Ministry.

Tehran expects permanent members of the UN Security Council including China which are advocates of international peace and security not to make such moves, Mehman-Parast reiterated.

We are surprised over the forging of the name of the Persian Gulf which enjoys international historic documents, he noted.

While historical documents show that the waterway has always been referred to as the 'Persian Gulf', certain countries deliberately or mistakenly remove the word 'Persian' from the name of the waterway.

Iran designated April 30 as the National Persian Gulf Day to highlight the fact that the waterway has been referred to by historians and ancient texts as 'Persian' since the Achaemenid Empire was established in what is now modern day Iran.

In July 2009, archeological excavations in the Iranian port city of Siraf yielded new evidence confirming the antiquity of the Persian Gulf title.

The Iranian archeologists discovered Sassanid and early-Islamic residential strata as well as a number of intact amphoras used in sea trade during the Parthian, Abbasid and early Islamic eras, all referring to the waterway as the Persian Gulf.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Lieberman to Push for Iran War Resolution?

Jamal Abdi, National Iranian American Council Policy Director (NIAC) | Nov 17

Senator Joe Lieberman on Tuesday signaled that the incoming Congress may consider endorsing war with Iran.

Speaking before the Foreign Policy Initiative, a neoconservative think tank formed by many of the chief architects of the Iraq war, Lieberman was questioned by accomplished war advocate Bill Kristol about how the new Congress will factor into Iran policy.

Lieberman said that Congress would focus on pressing the Administration on sanctions, but also suggested Congress may decide to formally endorse military options against Iran. According to Lieberman, Congress's role should include "that we express what I believe is actually there in the Congress and I think it's there in the American people. Nobody wants to use military force against Iran, but there is a base, a broad bipartisan base of support if the Commander in Chief comes to a point where he thinks that's necessary."


MR. KRISTOL: And so Congress could --

SENATOR LIEBERMAN: Could express that in some way, but I think that's not tomorrow, but it may be down the road depending on -- I mean, when you think about it, by January it will have been six months since the sanctions began to be applied to Iran, and it's fair to say that there's been no voluntary limitation of their nuclear weapons program.


While Lieberman was careful to say that such a Congressional action endorsing war would be in "support" of the President if he decides force is necessary, the pro-war crowd is clearly trying to turn up the pressure on Obama and is unlikely to be satisfied with compromise. Republicans have already demonstrated a willingness to undermine the President on foreign policy, with incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor's suggestion to Benjamin Netanyahu that Republicans would be a "check" on Obama as just the latest example. Earlier this year, House Republicans introduced a resolution endorsing Israeli strikes against Iran, undercutting the authority of the President and his civilian and military leadership to prevent such an attack by sending a signal that Congress would stand with Israel instead of the President.

Do Neoconservatives Really Care about the Iranian Opposition?

Ali Gharib (Foreign Policy/Middle East Channel) | Nov 16

The rumblings of the largely underground Iranian Green Movement encourage neoconservative pundit Reuel Marc Gerecht. "I think it's the most amazing intellectual second revolution...that we've seen in the Middle East," he told a packed briefing room at Bloomberg's D.C. headquarters last month. But even as he called on President Barack Obama to do more to vocally support the embattled rights movement -- thinly veiled U.S. encouragement for regime change, in other words -- Gerecht pushed for bombing Iran.

Yet Green activists who work on the ground in Iran roundly oppose a military attack precisely because it will undermine opposition efforts. Confronted with their warnings against strikes by his debate opponent, Gerecht was dismissive. He derided dissident journalist Akbar Ganji as "delusional" and spoke in dangerous innuendo about Shirin Ebadi, a human rights lawyer and Nobel laureate."There is a huge difference between what some dissidents will say privately and what they'll say publicly," said Gerecht of Ebadi, "and I'll leave it at that."

In a phone interview, Ebadi couldn't remember Gerecht by name (noting that she speaks to four or five journalists a day), but emphatically denied the charge that she talks out of both sides of her mouth. "Me, no! Everything I say, is exactly what I say," she told me in Farsi. "Whoever said this, that I say different things in public and private, is wrong." "I'm the same person in public and private," she went on. "And I'm against war."

Ebadi hasn't been in Iran since the crackdown on demonstrators in the wake of the June 2009 elections, but she's nonetheless a tireless advocate for reform and human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran."The military option will not benefit the U.S. interest or the Iranian interest," she said recently in an interview with Think Progress, a Center for American Progress blog. "It is the worst option. You should not think about it. The Iranian people -- including myself -- will resist any military action."

Here's Why Israel Must Not Attack Iran Now

Amos Harel (Haaretz) | Nov 18

Dr. Olli Heinonen, former deputy secretary general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, presented a relatively optimistic forecast regarding the Iranian nuclear danger when speaking with Haaretz last month. Iran's centrifuges, he told Yossi Melman, are not working well; some of them are defective. Only about 3,000 are working properly, and Iran will need many more to enrich uranium to a level that will allow it to manufacture a nuclear weapon.

Intentionally or not, Heinonen provided a significant argument against an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear sites in the near future. Heinonen is talking about a critical period of more than a year, during which diplomatic efforts can still see the program halted. A host of international media reports about computer worms and mysterious explosions of Iranian nuclear sites and missiles, responsibility for which has been attributed to various intelligence agencies in the West, could attest to even more time available before a violent clash becomes inevitable.

The scenario presented by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, depicting in detail a possible Israeli attack, naturally made waves worldwide and in Israel. But along with the limited progress of the Iranian nuclear program, other considerations must be taken into account. The main one involves the implications of an Israeli military move. The immediate outcome of such a move would be a missile war with Iran and its proxies in the region, Hezbollah and Hamas, into which Syria might be swept.

A plan that might seem impressive on a screen before the seven senior cabinet members who meet might deliver much less than promised in practice. The danger is that Israel will obtain only a short-term delay of the Iranian bomb, but will get involved in a prolonged war.

Iran's Hearts, Minds Join Battle over Philosophy Day

Olivia Ward (Toronto Star) | Nov 17

Philosophers aren't notoriously pugnacious. Ever since Socrates drank the hemlock -- an ancient Greek punishment for "impiety" -- they've been famous for taking it on the chin.

But when the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO named Iran as the host of an international conference for Thursday's World Philosophy Day, a line was drawn in the sand.

An international boycott, led by University of Toronto philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, a former Iranian political prisoner, shook the agency and the repressive regime in Tehran. UNESCO stripped its name from the event, and a number of international thinkers withdrew, including the keynote speaker, German philosopher Otfried Hoffe.

Jahanbegloo said Iran's current mentality runs counter to the spirit of philosophy.

Arrested in 2006 and isolated in a tiny cell in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison for four months, he was charged with importing foreign intellectuals to fuel a "velvet revolution" against the clerical regime, but freed after an international campaign.

"I was never able to teach because I was considered 'secular,'" he said. "I organized private classes and events in civil society."

DOCUMENTS & DECLARATIONS

Mohammad Mostafaei Writes First & Final Letter to Supreme Leader Khamenei

Mohammad Mostafaei, Human Rights Lawyer (Persian2English) | Nov 17

Your Excellency Ayatollah Khamenei, The leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran

My salutations,

This is the first time I am writing a letter addressed to you; it will also be the last time I am addressing you, because I believe you do not possess the merits to lead a democratic country and system. You know very well that you took the helm of leadership through deception, lies, hypocrisy, and duplicity, and have attained the title of "ayatollah" through recommendation and expediency, and have become undeservedly the leader of Iran after the death of Imam Khomeini. In any case, fate was such that you are leading a country that eight million of its people are living among the diaspora and are unable to return to their homeland as a result of your incompetence and establishment of a non-democratic dictatorial system. I hope you will read this letter written by a son of this land, or at least [I hope] it is passed on to you after your "anonymous agents" have read it.

Mr. Khamenei,

I was seven years old when I stepped foot in a society that its inception was marked by the rule of Khomeini and people like you and your powerful gang. I began to work at the age of seven as a result of poverty. My parents were also working hard. I had to knock on every door to buy warm clothes for the winters. I will never forget the days I would knock on any door in Tehran to make a miser earning and ask any decent and indecent person for help. I will never forget the slaps I received and had to endure [to obtain] a piece of bread. I will never forget the days where I had to work and suffer with my parents until 2:00am. I will never forget the blisters and swellings on my hands as a result of the harmful and dangerous work I was engaged in; including working at the hot furnace used for making ceramics. I will not forget how I had to swallow my words and suffer in silence while being beaten and slapped by my teacher for not doing my homework because I had no time to study.

I will not forget that during my childhood I was very envious of [the kids] who had bicycles. I will not forget the sadness of not being able to play with kids my age and the hours I spent crying [as a result]. I will never forget my mother who endured a lot of pain and suffered many long years.

The pain and tragedies my mother and I suffered resulted in my decision to change the course of my life. I made the decision to study law after I finished my military service. Since you were after stuffing your pockets with the revenue coming in from the oil and other industries, people like me were deprived of our social rights. Since I had to work during my childhood I was one of the most unsuccessful students during my elementary years all the way through my secondary studies. After working hard day and night, I succeeded in obtaining admission to the Law program at the Faculty of Law and Humanities in the University of Tehran. Finally, after years of studying I was able to become a lawyer -- a lawyer who vowed to be a defender of the weak and the oppressed.

Mr. Khamenei,

I briefly described my life so that you would not think it was easy for me to obtain the job I loved so much. I suffered for 30 years under the reign of you and incompetent people like you. I worked hard to finally establish a proper social status for myself. I am proud to be the defender of those whose rights have been violated, and I was working tirelessly to restore their rights. The majority of the people who came to my office were people whose rights were violated by the uncontentious judges of the violent and savage judiciary system. These were judges who knew nothing but how to commit violence and impose inhumane punishments such as stoning, execution, long-term prison sentences, etc.

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1 Comment

That tie really cracks me up.

Agnostic / November 19, 2010 11:39 PM