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Cyrus Cylinder Departs; Moslehi Status in Doubt; Khatami Speaks Out

18 Apr 2011 19:30Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Cyrus Cylinder. Heydar Moslehi.

9:45 p.m., 29 Farvardin/April 18 Armed assailants kidnapped 12 Iranian engineers building a road in western Afghanistan, the AP reported. Militants in the area claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and threatened to kill the hostages if work on the road was not halted. "For the time being the road construction has stopped," an Afghan official was quoted as saying.

7:30 p.m., 29 Farvardin/April 18 The 2,500-year-old Cyrus Cylinder, regarded by some as one of civilization's first recorded expressions of human rights, was returned to the British Museum yesterday. It had been on display in Tehran since September. The 2,500-year-old artifact bears a text written in cuneiform script attributed to the Persian king Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire, on the occasion of the Persian conquest of Babylon.

Commentator Jon Snow observes that leading nonclerical figures in the Islamic Republic, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have recently been promoting a "'nationalist narrative' of Iran which long predates Islam. Hence the dislike of the object in the highest echelons of the clergy.... The Cyrus Cylinder has ignited a new debate in Iran about the country's culture and history. The mullahs boycotted the exhibition. The President, the man who could well be his successor [presidential chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei], and a current Vice President all embraced the Cyrus Cylinder." The third reference is to Hamid Baghaei, one of Iran's eight vice presidents and head of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization, who referred to Ahmadinejad as "the Cyrus of our times."

Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

IRNA, Iran's official news agency, continued to cast doubt on whether Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei actually ordered Ahmadinejad to retain Heydar Moslehi as minister of intelligence. In a dispatch quoted by Aftab News, IRNA reported that although many news agencies and websites have removed their reports about Moslehi's resignation, the office of the Supreme Leader has yet to issue an official statement. IRNA continued, "As of the time of this dispatch, the office of the President had not received any official statement from the office of the Supreme Leader." This may be a tactic that Ahmadinejad's supporters have employed in the past -- to take advantage of Khamenei's reluctance to issue an explicit statement as a sign of consent.

In a meeting with Qur'anic scholars from Yazd province, former President Mohammad Khatami said, "In the year that we need the presence of the people [in the political arena] more than ever, we call once again to end the house arrests [of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi and Fatemeh Karroubi], to open up the political atmosphere and the press according to the laws, make it possible for political parties and groups to be active with immunity, and move toward open and problem-free elections...those in which no candidates are eliminated [by the Guardian Council's vetting] and everyone has the right to vote and be elected.... Elections and the people's vote have a special significance and free and all-encompassing elections are a sign that a society is alive and well. In a republican system, it is very important that those in power recognize their responsibilities and accept criticism, because if they do not...republicanism and the Islamic aspects of the political system will both be hurt." Khatami thus reaffirmed his conditions for reformist participation in the upcoming Majles elections, to be held next March 2.

Regarding Khamenei's declaration of the new Iranian year as "the year of economic jihad," Khatami said, "When we talk about economic jihad, it implies that the economic conditions of the country are not desirable and there is need for an all-out jihad [struggle] for economic progress. In fact, because of the astounding earnings of the country due to oil exports over the past few years and the existence of the [drawn by the Expediency Discernment Council's] 20-year plan for the development of the country, we should have witnessed great advancements in productivity, investment, job creation, a strong presence in international markets, and improvements in the standard of living, especially for the poorer strata of the society, but unfortunately that has not been the case."

After Mir Esmail Mousavi, father of Mir Hossein Mousavi, passed away, Khamenei sent Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, his chief of staff and son-in-law, to the home of Mir Abdollah Mousavi, Mir Hossein's brother, to convey his message of condolence. The elder Mousavi was a paternal cousin of Khamenei's father, Seyyed Javad Khamenei.

Kamran Daneshjoo, the hardline minister of science, research, and technology (which oversees the universities) reportedly suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. The attack apparently happened after a meeting of Ahmadinejad's cabinet. However, a close relative of Daneshjoo denied that he had a heart attack and said that he has back problems.

In a press conference in Washington, where he is attending an IMF and World Bank meeting, Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Seyyed Shamseddin Hosseini said that Iran has about $100 billion in reserves and owes about $20 billion to foreign entities. His assertion contradicts the report by Iran's Central Bank that has put Iran's foreign currency reserves at about $64 billion, and its foreign debt at about $22 billion.

The Ministry of Roads and Transportation was merged with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, while the Ministry of Commerce was merged with the Ministry of Industry and Mines. This was in accordance with the fifth development program that mandated the reduction of the number of ministries from 21 to 17.

Kayhan, the mouthpiece of some of the security forces, claimed that Mehdi Karroubi is enjoying his life and is allowed to swim three times per week. This was apparently in response to statement made by his son Dr. Hossein Karroubi last week. The younger Karroubi said that his parents are under the control of the Intelligence Ministry and that he knows very little about their current condition.

The judiciary in West Azerbaijan province has convicted three Kurdish activists of taking part in the assassination of Judge Gholizadeh, who served in the town of Khoy. Two of those convicted received four-year jail sentences, while the third was sentenced to two years. Also in West Azerbaijan province, poet, translator, blogger, and human rights activist Sima Didar, was arrested, presumably to enforce the six-month jail sentence that she received last year.

Artin Ghazanfari, a photojournalist who is of Bahai religion, began serving his one-year jail sentence in Evin Prison. He was first arrested, along with his wife, Zhinous Sobhani, on January 3, 2010. He was detained for three months before he posted $45,000 bail. he was then released but was arrested again a week later.

Jafar Ganji and Aresh Najbaei, two supporters of the Liberation Movement of Iran have been released from detention. Ganji, a graphic artist and designer, was arrested on February 14. Najbaei has a master's in information technology management from the University of Tehran.

Hossein Allah Karam, the hardline former leader of the vigilante group Ansaar-e Hezbollah, said that there are five possible solutions to the crisis in Bahrain, one of which is carrying out suicide missions there. He accused Saudi Arabia of kidnapping 50 Bahraini citizens, presumably democracy activists, and taking them to unknown locations. He said that people should no longer be silent about what is happening in Bahrain.

In a letter to Ahmadinejad, Hassan Moslemi Naeini, an instructor at Tarbiyat Modarres University and deputy minister of science, research, and technology, asked the president to prevent his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, from enrolling at the school. As reported previously by Tehran Bureau, Mashaei plans to begin his graduate work in international law at Tarbiyat Modarres.

Mehdi Pour-Hossein, a former student of the reactionary cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, Ahmadinejad's spiritual adviser, has strongly criticized him. In an article in the daily Jomhouri-ye Eslami, Pour-Hossein says that Mesbah and his supporters are the main reason for the current state of affairs in the country. In his opinion, this is due to Mesbah's blind support for Ahmadinejad -- a man who has never been in contact with a true Islamic scholar, according to Pour-Hossein.

Brigadier General Mohammad Hedjazi, armed forces deputy chief of staff for preparation, support, and industrial research said that Iran cannot hide its pleasure with the attack on Camp Ashraf in Iraq, where about 3,500 members of the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization live. He said that the MKO has never ended its "enmity toward Iran" and the people and the government of Iraq that want friendship with the Islamic Republic naturally cannot tolerate the presence of Iran's enemies in their country. In fact, according to Hedjazi, the Iraqi government had wanted to take action against the MKO for a long time, but was prevented by the United States from doing so.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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