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Intel Chief: No Link Between $3Bil and Mashaei; IRGC 'Reporter' Training

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

08 Oct 2011 20:00Comments
13900715125611_PhotoL.jpgPress 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 Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

8 p.m., 16 Mehr/October 8 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

In a speech in Damghan, a town about 210 miles east of Tehran, Lieutenant Brigadier General Ramamzan Sharif, head of the public relations department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), revealed that the Basij militia has 21,000 volunteer "reporters" who work with their organization. The reporters work with the IRGC and Basij in the area of "cultural affairs," he said. They get training at the IRGC's "various media outlets." This is the first time that the IRGC has admitted publicly that it has thousands of "reporters," possibly the same "cyber army" oftentimes referred to by the hardliners.

For the first time, as well, the Imam Ali battalions, a security force totaling 31,000, formed and trained by the IRGC in the aftermath of the June 2009 presidential election, were shown to the public. On Friday, the force held a maneuver in the Resistance Village near Tehran. Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the top IRGC commander, spoke to the force (pictured above waving). He said that the goals in forming the force are "defending the security [of the country], deepening the Revolution and attracting the maximum number of people [to the government]."

"Our duty is not merely confronting events physically, but also learning how to treat those who have been deceived [by the opposition] to appear in the protests," he said.

Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi said that his ministry has no documented evidence that links the culprits behind the embezzlement of nearly $3 billion to the "perverted group" -- code name for the inner circle of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and closest confidant. The hardliners have been trying to link the two groups to further weaken Mashaei and his supporters. Speaking in Hamadan after a cabinet meeting there and responding to a question about the security qualification of Mahmoud Reza Khavari, former Bank Melli chief who resigned after the embezzlement was publicized and fled to Canada, Moslehi said Khavari's qualifications had been approved before he took over the ministry in August 2009. Khavari reportedly holds dual Iranian and Canadian citizenship, which has become an issue in the heated debate over the embezzlement.

However, Minister of Economics Seyyed Shamseddin Hosseini said that Khavari's appointment was approved after the Ministry of Intelligence ran an extensive background check on him. No one had informed him that Khavari holds dual citizenship, he said. Turning to economics, Hosseini said that the current rate of inflation in Iran is about 17 percent, which he called "natural," due to "2 to 3 problems that we have had this year."

In an interview with the IRGC-controlled Fars News Agency, former Majles speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, who is also father-in-law of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's son Mojtaba, said that if the principlists do not unify for the 2012 Majles elections, they will be defeated. He claimed that the reason the reformists were defeated in the elections that followed those for the Sixth Majles in 2000 was that the principlists unified. He called for further negotiations between the principlists, led by Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, chairman of the Assembly of Experts and the so-called 7+8 Committee, and the Jebheh Paaydaari-ye Enghlelab-e Eslami (JPEE, or the Steadfast Front of the Islamic Revolution). The JPEE was recently formed by the reactionary cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi and former officials of the Ahmadinejad administration. They have expressed serious differences with the 7+8 Committee and have declared that they may take part in the elections with a separate list of candidates. Haddad Adel also claimed that the reformists will run in the elections, even though their most prominent figures have indicated that they will not participate because the conditions that former President Mohammad Khatami set have not been fulfilled.

Majles deputy and cleric Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moghaddam said that the political environment must be such that the reformists can take part in the Majles elections. Mesbahi Moghaddam, who is a member of the Society of Militant Clergy of Tehran, the main conservative clerical group, said that he does not believe reformists should be eliminated from the political scene. But, he said, that they must accept Velaayat-e Faghih (guardianship of the Islamic jurist) and leadership of Khamenei, and distance themselves from the "sedition" -- the hardliners' code name for the Green Movement.

In a meeting with a group of young political and social activists in Kerman province, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, said, "One can create a political environment in the country, in a way that those who are compassionate toward the state can expand their knowledge and allow constructive criticism, so that the conditions will be suitable for participation of the people and [political] groups in the [Majles] elections." He added, "I have never been indifferent toward the problems and difficulties of the country. Regarding the problems and difficulties of the past two years, I have made my own suggestions to officials. To the extent that the political conditions of the country make it possible, will continue my efforts to resolve the difficulties."

Mostafa Kavakebian, leader of the academics' bloc in the Majles, said that his group will investigate the death of Ameneh Zanganeh, the graduate student of polymer engineering at Amir Kabir University. He added that the bloc will first question the officials in charge of education. "This issue must be taken seriously, because we have already witnessed similar events happening to the students at [Ferdowsi] University of Mashhad and Allameh [Tabatabaei] University [in Tehran]," said Kavakebian.

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that the Supreme National Security Council must decide whether Iran should agree to the establishment of a hotline between Tehran and Washington, to prevent an accidental war between Iranian and American forces in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman. The United States recently proposed it. He also reported that Ahmadinejad will soon travel to Pakistan to participate in the trilateral conference between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Twenty percent of toddlers and very young children in Iran suffer from psychological problems, according to Abbas-Ali Nasehi. The head of the division of psychological and social health and narcotics in the Ministry of Health likened the phenomenon to an approaching tsunami upon Iranian children. According to the latest investigation of the state of psychological health of adults in Iran, which was carried out ten years ago, 21 percent of the adults also suffer from similar problems. He attributed the cause of the problem in children to bad economic conditions that force both parents to work and spend less time with children. Divorce and single-parent child rearing were also cited as factors.

Iran on Saturday hanged a man convicted of multiple rapes of 37 women whom he coerced by filming acts with them, Fars and ILNA reported. The man, aged 67 but not otherwise identified, was executed in a prison in the central city of Isfahan after four years of repeated appeals against his sentence. The hanging brought to 219 the number of executions reported in Iran so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on media and official reports.

On October 8, 2006, cleric Seyyed Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi was arrested for opposing Velaayat-e Faghih, advocating the separation of religion from state, and defending the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His supporters have also been repeatedly attacked and incarcerated. He had a heart attack in prison which left his lungs damaged. He has not been allowed to seek treatment outside of prison for it. He has allegedly been tortured physically and psychologically to make him "repent," which he has reportedly refused to do. On the fifth anniversary of his arrest, 47 human rights advocates wrote a letter to international human rights organizations asking for their help in winning his release.

Journalist Isa Saharkhiz has gone on a hunger strike to protest the lack of attention to his deteriorating health. His son, Mehdi Saharkhiz, told the BBC that his father began his strike on Thursday, and if the situation does not improve, he will refuse medication as well. Saharkhiz was arrested after the June 2009 election and sentenced to three years in prison. He was also banned from practicing journalism for five years and restricted from traveling outside Iran for a year.

Former Deputy Minister of Communications Ma'soom Fardis, who has been incarcerated in Evin prison in Tehran, has been transferred to a hospital reportedly for wide fluctuations in his blood pressure. Fardis, 57, was arrested and sentenced to six years of prison. But Iran's Supreme Court overturned the verdict and found him not guilty of all the trumped up charges. Even so, he is still being held in Ward 350 of Evin Prison. It is widely believed that the reason for his arrest, and continued incarceration, is his opposition to giving control of part of Iran's national telephone network to the IRGC.

Brigadier General Mohammad Baqer Zolghadr, deputy to judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani, said that every year the number of prisoners in Iran increases by 20 percent, and that the number of current prisoners is three times the total capacity of the prisons. As an example, he said the prison in Mashhad, in northeast Iran, with a capacity of 3,500 is currently holding 12,000 offenders. Zolghadr added that Iran ranks first among the Islamic countries in terms of prisoners per capita.

Saeed Naeimi, a member of the Organization of University Graduates [Advar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat], was arrested by security forces on May 9. Since then he has been detained in Tabriz in East Azerbaijan province in northwest Iran. It is not yet clear why he has been arrested, and the judiciary has not allowed his attorney to see the case against him. His trial will be held on Novermber 22, and he has been told that he will be detained until then. The judiciary has denied him bail.

On Friday evening, Mehdi Karroubi was taken to the home of his oldest son, Dr. Hossein Karroubi, to visit with his family. He was accompanied by six security agents. Karroubi was reported to be in good health. He just turned 74, and according to his son, the security agents promised that his conditions will improve in the coming days and he will have more access to his family, as well as to books and newspapers.

Meir Dagan, former Mossad chief, said at a conference on Monday that a military strike on Iran was "far from being Israel's preferred option." He told the Council for Peace and Security that "there are currently tools and methods that are much more effective." He also said Iran's nuclear program was far from the point of no return, and that Iran's [political] situation is "the most problematic it has been in since the revolution" in 1979, but that Israel's strategic situation is also "the worst in its history," due to the mistakes that Israel has made. As an example, Dagan pointed out Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon's decision to humiliate the Turkish ambassador last year by seating him on a low chair.

Reports indicate that when U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visited Israel a few days ago, he conveyed a clear message from President Obama that the United States opposes any Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. At a joint press conference with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Panetta stressed that any steps against Iran's nuclear program must be taken in coordination with the international community. He said that U.S. is "very concerned [about Iran's nuclear program], and we will work together to do whatever is necessary" to keep Iran from posing "a threat to this region." But doing so "depends on the countries working together." Panetta emphasized the word "together" several times.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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