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News | Iran FM Takes Controversial Saudi Arabia Trip, 'Virtual' US Embassy

27 Oct 2011 17:11Comments
salehisaudiarabia.jpg 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.

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

Iran's FM makes a controversial trip to Saudi Arabia

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi recently visited Saudi Arabia. Mohammad Karami-rad, member of the Majles commission on national security and foreign policy, said that if the trip was not authorized by the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), it is possible that Salehi will be summoned by the Majles to explain the reason for his trip. He added that since Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince recently passed away, Saudi Arabia may experience some problems. He then also added that he believed that Salehi's visit took place after approval by the SNSC.

Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said that Salehi's trip, which was intended to convey the condolences of the government of Iran to Saudi Arabia. It is standard diplomatic tradition, he said. Salehi took part in the funeral services of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince and delivered a message from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to King Abdollah.

Mehmanparast also said that Salehi will soon travel to Libya.

But on Wednesday, the hardline Kayhan newspaper criticized Salehi's trip to Saudi Arabia, saying that the late Crown Prince took part in the murderer of thousands of people in Bahrain [a reference to military intervention of Saudi Arabia in Bahrain].

In response to Kayhan, a conservative website Asre Iran posed a question: What did the critics of the trip expect Mr. Ahmadinejad to do?

Should he have declared a three-day national celebration [for the death of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince]? Should [Ali Akbar] Salehi have called his Saudi counterpart and told him, 'It is good that he [the Crown Prince] died'?'

The website noted, "Iran and Saudi Arabia have diplomatic relations at the highest levels. We have different interests in the region. But we cannot have diplomatic relations, and have tens of thousands of Iranians on pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, but then not follow diplomatic protocol."


The Iran Academics Front (Jebheh Daneshgahian-e Iran), a new political group, began its work in a gathering at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance; Kamran Daneshjoo, Minister of Sciences, Research and Technology; Shahab-olddin Sadr, Deputy Majles Speaker; and Gholam-Hossein Elham, adviser to Ahmadinejad for legal affairs, spoke at the gathering. It is widely believed that the new group is supportive of the Ahmadinejad administration, which intends to run its candidates in the upcoming Majles elections in March 2012. This is the second pro-Ahmadinejad group formed over the past few months. The first group was Jebhej Paaydaari-ye Enghelab-e Eslami (JPEE), or the Steadfast Front of the Islamic Revolution, which was formed by former officials serving the Ahmadinejad administration, and some Majles deputies who support the president. The JPEE is led by the reactionary cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi.

Davood Ahmadinejad, the President's older brother, said that the "perverted group" -- codename for the supporters of Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and closest confidant Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei -- began its campaign for taking control of the Majles a while ago. They want "to take control of the revolution," he said. The elder Ahmadinejad, an IRGC commander, claimed that he has credible evidence that "the 'perverted group' intends to enter the military phase of its campaign," because "it has failed in the cultural and political phases."

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, chief of staff to Mohammad Khatami when he was the president, said that the reformists will not take part in the upcoming Majles elections.

After it was revealed that Mahmoud Reza Khavari, former chief of Bank Melli, who resigned and fled to Canada, is also a citizen of Canada, another MP was identified as holding foreign residency in a Western country. Morteza Agha Tehrani, a strong supporter of Ahmadinejad in the Majles and the "morality teacher" in his administration, was also identified as another official who holds a U.S. Green Card. Several months ago, Emad Afroogh, former conservative Majles deputy, said that "an ardent supporter" of Ahmadinejad in the Majles has a Green Card, but refrained from naming him. Agha Tehrani is also a prominent member of the JPEE.

In a speech in Southern Khorasan province, Ahmadinejad claimed that no Iranian President has met with Muammar Ghaddafi over the past 25 years. "In an interview that I had with an American reporter [Fareed Zakaria of CNN], I told him that no Iranian president or his vice presidents met with Libya's dictator [Ghaddafi] over the past 25 years, although we are friends with the Libyan nation," said Ahmadinejad. A photo of Ahmadinejad with Ghaddafi has long been circulating on the web. There is also a famous photo of Ayatollah Khamenei, when he was president, with Ghaddafi.

Possible elimination of Presidency, among other posts

In a meeting with a group of journalists, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that the elimination of the post of the president, which is elected directly by the people, will weaken the republican aspect of Iran's political system. He added that republicanism and Islam are two unchangeable pillars of the system. "Of course, the Leader [Khamenei] said that this may be studied in the distant future, and if the decision is to go forward, it must be achieved through a constitutional change," Rafsanjani said.

Mohammad Dehghan, member of the Majles leadership group, said that the Expediency Discernment Council (EDC), which is headed by Rafsanjani, must also be eliminated. He said that a system with a presidency is not compatible with Velaayat-e Faghih [guardianship of Islamic jurist, represented by Khamenei], and a parliamentary system with a prime minister who is responsive to the Supreme Leader and the Majles is a better political system. He added that if the constitution is to be revised for elimination of the presidency, elimination of the EDC should also be studied, and a system with two parliaments [presumably a Majles and a senate] should be considered.

At the same time, the conservative website Parsine reported that the current term of the EDC will end in February 2012 and, thus, Khamenei must select the new members of the Council, as well as its chairman. The EDC was formed in 1987 on the order of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Parsine speculates that Rafsanjani may not be selected by Khamenei for another term, which would effectively mark the end of his political life.

* * *

The Obama administration is looking to launch a "virtual embassy" online to reach out to Iranians because it does not have a physical embassy in Tehran, Secretary Clinton said Wednesday. Clinton made the announcement in interviews with two Persian-language television shows, the first time she's spoken to Persian television as America's top diplomat.

"My goal in speaking with you today is to clearly communicate to the people of Iran, particularly the very large population of young people, that the U.S. has no argument with you," she told the popular Voice of America program "Parazit".

Iran's FM spokesman responds, attributing the move to distract the public from the United States' own problems:

Majles speaker Ali Larijani was also asked for his response. He said such actions would only serve to strengthen Iranians' sense of national unity, and deepen the region's many opposition movements, which were inspired by Iran's revolution. Still, he thought these U.S. efforts "shouldn't be taken too seriously."

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal today,

When Western companies pulled back from Iran after the government's bloody crackdown on its citizens two years ago, a Chinese telecom giant filled the vacuum. Huawei Technologies Co. now dominates Iran's government-controlled mobile-phone industry. In doing so, it plays a role in enabling Iran's state security network.


It was announced in the Sixth Congress of the Society of General Surgeons of Iran that 200,000 new cases of cancer are identified in Iran every year, with 40,000 cancer patients dying annually. Car accidents, heart disease and cancer are the three leading causes of death in Iran. Among women, skin cancer and breast cancer are the most common types of cancer in Iran, but early diagnosis has helped decrease the number of deaths. Among men, cancer of esophagus and liver are the most common. Fifty-five percent of all cancer patients are men.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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