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Ahmadinejad Critics Emboldened by Ministerial Resignation, Rejection

23 Jun 2011 02:30Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic 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

Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh. Hamid Sajjadi. (Homepage: Busts of Neda Agha-Soltan.)

2:30 a.m., 2 Tir/June 23 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

The forced resignation of newly appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh and the Majles's rejection of Hamid Sajjadi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nominee for the post of minister of sports and youth affairs, have created an unprecedented level of energy among Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's critics. Before Malekzadeh resigned, the Ministry of Intelligence declared its opposition to his appointment, which provided more ammunition for those aligned against the president. Influential Majles deputy Ali Motahari has declared that a motion to impeach Ahmadinejad will be delivered to the parliament's leadership by the end of next week.

Alef, the website published by Majles deputy Ahmad Tavakoli, a leading Ahmadinejad critic, declared in a report that the two events indicate the failure of the "perverted group" -- codename for Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and his son's father-in-law, and Mashaei's inner circle -- in its attempts to take over crucial government positions. Perhaps more important than Malekzadeh's resignation was Sajjadi's failure to receive the parliament's vote of confidence, as he is a well-known sports figure who won many medals in international competition as a long-distance runner. Those deputies who voted against him accused him of a variety of charges. For example, Hassan Noroozi, who represents Robat Karim at the southern edge of Tehran, said that people have the impression that Sajjadi belongs to the Mashaei group. He told the nominee, "We have heard that the National Organization for Inspection has an open case on you for three problems: mismanagement, destroying public assets, and nepotism." Deputy Reza Hosseini said, "Mr. Sajjadi, there is an important problem related to you, which is about your relation with the perverted group. How are you going to exonerate yourself?"

Hardline cleric Mojtaba Zolnour, deputy to Ali Saeedi, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said that it is futile to try to divide Ahmadinejad from Mashaei. "Some people say that if we separate Ahmadinejad and Mashaei, the problem will be solved. Ahmadinejad and Mashaei are like Ladan and Laleh [Bijani], the Siamese twins, who after the surgery to separate them, died," Zolnour said. He also provided more details of the confrontation between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, saying, "During the 11 days that Ahmadinejad did not show up for work as the president, 200 officials spoke to him, either in person or by phone, but it was futile. In my opinion, he has not gone back to work with enthusiasm, but reluctantly and by force, because the Majles was so inflamed and the deadline for the ultimatum [that Khamenei gave Ahmadinejad] had expired. If he had not shown up for work, he would have been impeached. If that had happened, he would have received the largest number of no-confidence votes in history."

Zolnour also attacked the "perverted group," making several accusations, including: "The perverted group is using the mask of religion to attack religion"; "Ahmadinejad believes that Mashaei is in direct contact with Imam Mahdi"; "Although the perverted group pretend that it believes in the existence of a deputy for Imam Mahdi in his absence [as the hardliners describe Khamenei], in fact it believes that due to the Mahdi's presence there is no need to obey the Supreme Leader"; "The reason that the government invited King Abdullah of Jordan and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to visit Iran is that they believed that their trips would be a sign of the Mahdi's reemergence -- they even tried to get visas from Saudi Arabia to go and be there the day the Mahdi reemerges"; and, "The leader of the perverted group needs to have 150 deputies in the Majles supporting him, and he knows that the biggest obstacle to achieving this [in the Majles elections next March] is the Ministry of Intelligence, which is why he wanted the minister to be fired and Ahmadinejad to appoint himself as the acting minister." Referring to Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, who ran against Mohammad Khatami in the 1997 presidential election -- won in a landslide by Khatami -- Zolnour said, "Ahmadinejad believes that the seven million people who voted for Nategh Nouri are [the only] supporters of Velaayat-e Faghih" -- the doctrine of guardianship of the Islamic jurist, by which Khamenei rules. Zolnour also emphasized that the Revolutionary Guards will defend the Revolution, by which he meant opposing those who advocate democracy. At the same time, the Guards' public relations office reported that Zolnour, a Guard officer, has retired from active duty. Observers believe that he has retired in order to run for the Majles next March.

Aftab News, the website that is close to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, described Malekzadeh's resignation and Sajjadi's rejection as "fake" victories for the Majles. According to the editorial, there is not much difference in the thinking of Mashaei, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Malekzadeh, and Ahmadinejad, and, thus, forcing one out, or not allowing one in -- Sajjadi -- does not address the core issue.

Rafsanjani declared that the "perverted group" has arisen because his warnings and those of the Marjas (sources of emulations for the Shia masses) have been ignored. He also said that the presentation of correct statistics is an important factor in formulating plans for the development and growth of the country.

The Basij organizations of the University of Tehran, the University of Medical Sciences of Tehran, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, and Qazvin's International University sent a threatening letter to Ahmadinejad, accusing him of "individualism" that has added to the Supreme Leader's "grief." The letter says in part, "We decided to write to tell you that the people around you are trying to make the society more polarized. We want to warn you. We decided to write to tell you that enough is enough; do not do anything to put the government in a position to be accused of [wrongdoings]. We decided to write to tell you that, we are still loyal to our commitment of 3 Tir [June 24, 2005, when Ahmadinejad was elected] and support and only support the Leader, evaluate you based on your obedience of the Leader and adjust our positions [concerning you] based on the evaluation."


On Monday, the second anniversary of the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, who was killed during the peaceful demonstrations in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election, Alef published a long article repeating the hardliners' claim that she was killed by foreign agents in an attempt to discredit the Islamic Republic.

As reported by Tehran Bureau, 12 leading political prisoners have been on hunger strike since last Friday to protest the deaths of Haleh Sahabi and Reza Hoda Saber. Reports indicate that two of them, Abolfazl Ghadian and Abdollah Momeni, have been transferred to Evin's medical center. Ghadiani, 65, currently the oldest political prisoner, is a senior member of the Organization of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin, a major outlawed reformist group, which has issued a statement in support of the hunger strikers. Momeni, a teacher, is spokesman for the Organization of University Graduates, which has also issued a statement supporting the 12.

The families of the 12 have emphasized that none wanted to go on hunger strike, but believed it to be the only way of raising their voices and protesting. Dr. Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, spokesman for Mir Hossein Mousavi outside Iran, has said that the government is responsible for their health and well-being. A group of veterans of the Iran-Iraq War have also written a letter to the 12 to express their support and declare that the responsibility for their well-being lies squarely with Khamenei.

In the latest development, Mehdi Karimian Eghbal, member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the leading reformist group outlawed by the hardliners, has joined the hunger strike. The IIPF issued a strong statement in support of the hunger strikers. Eghbal was arrested in November 2009 and was sentenced to four years in jail. In essence, he replaces hunger striker Emad Baghi, who was released from prison.

Mrs. Zahra Rahimi, Ghadiani's wife, told Kaleme, the website that reflects the views of Mousavi, that her husband told her that during the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, political prisoners' hunger strikes were usually effective and the regime would quickly address their concerns. According to Mrs. Rahimi, the strikes of that era were mostly about minor issues, such as allowing the distant relatives of the prisoners to visit them in prison. During his show trial, Ghadiani told the court, "Ahmadinejad is not the president, but a liar and hypocrite. I admit explicitly and with honor that what I am accused of is propaganda against Velaayat-e Faghih, which is not only against republicanism, but also against the Islamic nature of the political system."

The Coordination Council for the Green Path of Hope, the temporary leadership council while Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are under house arrest, called on the people to go to their roofs at 10 p.m. on Wednesday and shout "Allah-o Akbar" (God is great) in support of the 12 hunger strikers and in memory of Saber and Haleh Sahabi.

Outspoken reformist and former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh, who has been imprisoned since immediately after the 2009 election, has returned to Evin Prison. He had been granted a five-day furlough.

Three political prisoners, university students Babak Dashab, Kiarash Kamrani, and Arsalan Abadi, have been granted furloughs. Dashab is serving a five-year sentence and Abadi is serving nine and a half years. Another political prisoner, journalist Mohammad Javad Mozaffar, who is deputy head of the Society for the Defense of Imprisoned and member of the central committee of the Society for Defense of Freedom of the Press, was also granted a furlough to participate in the memorial for his deceased mother. He is serving a one-year sentence.

Well-known journalist and human rights advocate Emad Baghi was released from prison. He served his one-year sentence in full. He has been imprisoned several times over the past 11 years.

Majles deputy Jafar Ghaderi said that a group of deputies has submitted a plan to the parliament's leadership to impeach Minister of the Interior Brigadier General Mostafa Mohammad Najar. Once the leadership officially acknowledges the submission, the impeachment proposal will be debated.

The fifth cash handouts in lieu of the subsidies that the government used to provide for basic food items and energy have been deposited into people's bank accounts. The amount is 45,500 tomans, about $37. According to the government's own statistics, rents have risen about 30 percent over the past six months, and taxicab, bus, and subway fares were just allowed to increase by 15 percent. Cash handouts were paid to 72.5 million people. The government also announced that it will continue to distribute subsidized milk until July 6.

The first Iranian solar power plant came online in Tehran on Tuesday. The plant, located at a branch of Bank Sepah, produces 2.9 megawatts of electricity.

A report by an investigative commission of the Majles indicates that less than 25 percent of the fourth national development plan was implemented by the Ahmadinejad administration. The report also states that the administration prepared regulations for executing only 42 percent of the plan, which means that the government paid no attention to 58 percent of the overall plan. The investigation also indicated that the agriculture sector lost jobs, whereas according to the plan it was supposed to increase job opportunities. The government also repeatedly broke the laws regarding the special saving account for foreign currencies that was set up during the administration of former President Mohammad Khatami.

Reformist Majles deputy Dariush Ghanbari said that the real rate of unemployment is 30 percent. "The deputies do not accept [the Ahmadinejad administration's claim] that 1.5 million jobs were created [last year], and the unemployment rate is 11 percent, because the economic indicators do not support the claim," Ghanbari said. He also said that eight million people, including women and a large number of university students who are on the verge of graduation are out of jobs.

Cleric Abbas Amirifar, a close aide of Ahmadinejad and Mashaei, was released from Evin Prison. He was arrested 50 days ago, let go after 40 days, but was immediately arrested again by the Special Court for the Clergy.

Dr. Fereydoon Abbasi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, strongly criticized the International Atomic Energy Agency. "The IAEA has illegally prevented Iran's experts from participating in some workshops and conferences," according to Abbasi. He said one result of the ban is "denying the world the achievements for humanity of what has been produced in Iran," calling it "very ugly and inhumane." Abbasi also said that he has invited IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano to come to Iran. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who just visited Iran, said, "The Iraqi Constitution prohibits the presence of Mojahedin or any other militia groups from neighboring countries -- whether it's the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party], or PJAK [Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan], or whoever -- to have a presence on Iraqi territory and to launch attacks against our neighbors. Constitutionally, this is not allowed and the Mojahedin or the MKO members of the Ashraf camp have to respect Iraqi law. Iraq has a commitment not to extradite any of its members to Iran. Iraq has a commitment also to observe international humanitarian law and to allow access by international organizations to them."

Prince Turki al-Faisal, former intelligence chief of Saudi Arabia, warned that Riyadh could seek to supplant Iran's oil exports if the country does not constrain its nuclear program, the Wall Street Journal reported. According to the Journal, in closed-door remarks he made early June at a gathering of American and British servicemen at the Royal Air Force Molesworth base outside London, al-Faisal also strongly implied that Riyadh would be forced to follow suit if Tehran pushed ahead to develop nuclear weapons and that Saudi Arabia is preparing to employ all of its economic, diplomatic, and security assets to confront Tehran's regional ambitions. "Iran is very vulnerable in the oil sector, and it is there that more could be done to squeeze the current government," said the prince, who has also served as an ambassador to the United States.

AFP reported that Lebanese authorities have banned screenings of the Iranian film Green Days, which is about the peaceful protests against the 2009 "reelection" of Ahmadinejad. Colette Naufal, an organizer of Beirut International Film Festival told AFP on Tuesday, "We received a call yesterday from General Security informing us they had withdrawn the license allowing us to screen the film. When we asked them why, we were told: 'This is not our decision; we are only carrying out orders.'" Green Days, directed by 22-year-old by Hana Makhmalbaf, shows raw footage of the violence that erupted when security forces cracked down on protests following the June 2009 vote.

Bahador Aminian Jazi, the Iranian ambassador in Bucharest, was summoned on Monday to the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was asked to clarify statements that he made in an interview concerning the objective of deploying the antimissile shield in Romania's territory. The ambassador had said that the deployment was directed against Russia and aimed at leaving it without protection. He was told that such statements do "not have a constructive character" and reminded that the missile shield, called the European Phased Adaptive Approach, is a strictly defensive system and thus can not be directed against a particular state.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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