Friday, July 31, 2009

Project Sky Hawk

Iranian F-14 Tomcat with MIM-23 I-HAWK round

The initial plan of Project Sky Hawk was to successfully mount and accurately fire a MIM-23 I-HAWK round in the place of the dwindling stocks of the American made AIM-54 Phoenix missile.

Video of Iranian F-14 with HAWK SAM

The I-HAWK is a SAM (Surface to Air Missile) so marrying it up with the F-14 was going to be a difficult task for Iranian technicians.

One HAWK was test-fired from an F-14 on in April of 1986, but if the missile fired from the F-14 had any hope of scoring a hit, the F-14 would have to fly at no less than 10,000 ft and Mac 0.75 with the target at between 30,000 and 50,000 ft. Test-firing also had to be carefully conducted eventually proving that in the heat of combat it would be extremely unreliable.

It was eventually discontinued, a similar idea was done with the testing of Sedjil missile on the F-14 during the 1990's a few years after the war had ended.

Iran: Opposition vs. Government, the Way Ahead

President Ahmadinejad said today in Tehran that the “devils” were perpetrating the allegations of division between him and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, over his recent selection of his vice president. Interestingly enough, the hardliners and close allies of Khamanei were the most vocal critics of Ahmadinejad’s choice. It was not clear from Ahmadinejad’s statement if he was classifying those allies, among them Keyhan’s influential editor Hossein Shariatmadari, as “evils.” Denying the growing tensions among the conservative camp would not make them disappear.

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said in Tehran today that the post-election demonstrations and the current pro-opposition movement were the work of foreign countries. He also blamed Britain, and not Iran’s Basij and security forces, for the killing of demonstrators on the streets of Tehran.

This blogger expected the government to learn a thing or two from the opposition movement, its strength and its simple and just demands as well as lessons learned from government’s heavyhandedness in dealing with young demonstrators. Instead they are following the familiar path of blaming everything on foreigners. The more I listen to such statements by government officials, the more I become convinced that they have lost touch with realities on the ground.

We are entering a delicate and probably a prolong period of balance of fear between the government and the opposition, each having its own support among segments of the population, but neither able to get rid of the other, either by use of force by the government or by street demonstrations by the opposition.

This is a rare opportunity for the opposition to mature and organize for a fundamental change in the way the country is governed. The strength of the opposition was again tested during city-wide demonstration in Tehran in commemoration of the 40th Day anniversary of the death of Neda and other slain demonstrators. And the maturity of the the opposition leaders in handling the delicate task of organizing the memorial service at Behesht Zahra was also put on display.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Letter from Tehran: Opposition Rising

A Letter from Tehran:

"This is going to be a slightly disjointed email, I'm sorry in advance. It's already well passed midnight here and we just finished returning from the streets protesting. But I wanted to make sure to get this out tonight.

Today marked the 40th day anniversary of the killings of such youth as Neda Agha Soltan and Sohrab Aarabi in Iran's post-election demonstrations. We headed to Behesht Zahra Cemetery in the afternoon to join the 4pm ceremony at their gravesites. Behesht Zahra is about a one hour drive south of Tehran and as we neared the cemetery, about five police cars and officers were directing traffic. Waiting to enter the cemetery compound in the traffic, one of my companions pulled down the window and half jokingly asked the police officer what was going on. He smiled back and said, "Nothing, just go towards row 257." For those not familiar with Behesht Zahra, it's an enormous cemetery with wide avenues and squares. Knowing it would take us a while to find our destination, the police officer decided to help by telling us in which row we could find Neda's grave (others in Behesht Zahra would help lost drivers by directing them to Neda. That's all people said: "Neda ounjast" (Neda is there), pointing in the direction of her grave).

Throughout the ceremony it was obvious the police force was very sympathetic with the people (as opposed to the anti-riot police and the revolutionary guard factions that were present in large numbers and were standing by the graves of both Neda and Sohrab).

By the time we arrived to their graves, it was 4.30pm and about 150,000-200,000 had gathered there. Most had on green ribbons and shouted in unison: "Neda-ye ma namordeh, ein dolat-e ke morde" (Our Neda is not dead; it is this government that is dead). Her grave was covered in flowers and candles, as was the grave of Sohrab, just a few feet away. The demonstration was held about 75 feet from the graves and was where the majority of the people had gathered. The main difference between this gathering and the other gatherings in the past two months was that the slogans for this gathering were very highly charged and at times extremely revengeful. People shouted: "ma bache-haye jangim, bejang ta bejangim" (we're the children of war, fight and we'll fight back); "mikosham ani ke baradaram ra kosht" (I will kill he who killed my brother). There was no more talk of reclaiming the vote, but of getting rid of this "coup" government; the most numerous chant was "Death to the dictator." The anger could be felt at this gathering (which for me was a very ominous sign of worse things to come) and there was a very palpable lack of fear among people. Both Mir Hossein Mousavi and Karoubi had shown up at the gathering earlier in the afternoon.

We stayed for nearly two hours and decided to leave when we saw the security forces getting larger in number. As we left, we heard that they had hit some with batons and we could feel the tear gas in the air. A few minutes later reports emerged that Jafar Panahi, the award-winning filmmaker was arrested, as was Mahnaz Mohammadi, a documentary filmmaker and a women's rights activist. They have both been taken to an unknown location.

As we left the cemetery, the honking of the cars began: most cars were heading into Tehran to try to get as close to Mosallah as possible (the large mosque in central Tehran where Mousavi and Karoubi had asked to hold a ceremony of those killed last month---the interior ministry did not give the permission for the gathering, but people had decided to show up there at 6 regardless). Every car driving out of Behesht Zahar was honking their horns and all drivers and passengers had their hands out of their cars in the peace sign. The police tried to discourage drivers from driving the main highway that would lead to central Tehran, but very few listened. Soldiers standing along the streets flashed the peace sign back at the honking cars with large smiles on their faces. It was obvious the soldiers and police forces were with the people.

A few streets away from Mosallah, we saw people running from motorcycles (the Basij), who tried to taser them, and the protestors encouraged us to turn our windows up so the tear gas wouldn't hurt us. Residents came out of their homes and began small fires on the corners (to help against the tear gas). The streets were completely overtaken by protestors who were in a cat and mouse game with the security forces, all on motorcycles. We parked the car and went onto Valiasr Street (the main boulevard in Tehran that runs from north to south). The city was covered in a haze from all the tear gas and fires started on the corners. All roads leading to Mosallah were witness to huge confrontations between people and the security forces.

As we arrived on Valiasr people were spilt on different sides of the sidewalk: one side would shout slogans, the anti-riot police would attack with their batons and paint-ball guns (to mark the protestors to pick them up later), then the other side of the side-walk would start the chanting, so the anti-riot police would be forced to come to this side. As they attacked one side of the sidewalk, the protestors on the opposite side would come out of the side streets they had just run into and gather, regroup, and chant again. This continued for hours. When the anti-riot police disappeared for a bit, people lit candles and put them on the sidewalks, to commemorate the deaths of Neda, Sohrab, and the others. At one point we had managed to cover one section of the street in candles. As soon as the plainclothes militia saw the sidewalk lit in candles, they approached, stomped them out, and began hitting people. No one turned away. They would attack us, we'd run into the side streets and reemerge less than one minute later.

The most haunting scene was when protestors had gathered at the beginning of Takht-tavvos Street and were shouting "Death to the Dictator." The anti-riot police gathered on their motorcycles (two per motorcycle, all in camouflage, with full riot gear) in the middle of the street and their leader began pumping them up (it looked like a huddle during a football game---it was disgusting). He got them riled up, spun his baton in the air three times, and then they attacked (there were about 30 motorcycles, all in full gear). As they attacked the protestors in the street, some from the side began throwing stones at them, and all began cursing.

The anti-riot police would also drive up in cars and try to get people to move along and not congregate. People would walk slowly, and then turn right back around. There was no more fear. They attacked; people retreated in the side-streets, and then would come back out in less than one minute as soon as the motorcycles had gone off. There were so many protesters, and they were spread out all throughout Tehran (Valiasr Square, Fatemi Square, Yousefabad, Vanak Square, Mosallah, Sanati Square, Amirabad, Revolution Square, Tajrish Square....all the main streets and squares of Tehran were full of people and it seemed for the first time that the forces simply were not enough).

The security forces were using batons, chains, whips, tasers, paint-ball guns, and I saw handguns in the hands of three of them. There was a rumor that a few were shot at in Vanak Square. Two people were picked up near us and people tried to chase after the security forces to get the young men back, but it was a futile chase. Until around 11pm the streets were full of people. At 10 pm the shouts of Allah-o Akbar and Death to the Dictator were being screamed from the rooftops all over the city until 10.30 pm.

People of all ages, sexes, and socio-economic groups were out today. We ran into many at the cemetery who had driven in from the provinces to attend the 40th day ceremony. Religious men and women were numerous at the gravesite, as were non-religious men and women. Children were out (at one point on the street back in Tehran I saw a group of two brothers and one sister, the youngest about 7 and the eldest 14, walking hand in hand down the street). Middle aged and older people would turn to us and say "we're out on the streets for you guys, this is for your future, for your generation." One mother told a soldier who asked her to go back home "I'm not going anywhere. Don't you know that we brought you guys into power by doing just this: by being out on the streets for nights on end? We brought you to where you are today, and we're going to take you out by being on the streets. I'm not going anywhere."

Chanting against Mujtaba Khamanie

people chanting: "Mujtaba be Miri, Rahbari ro Nabini" ("Mujtaba Die before becoming the Leader!"). Tehran. Vali Asr & Takhtetavoos intersection. 30 July 2009

People chanting against Mujtaba Khamanie, the eldest son of the supreme leader, and repotedly a leading figure in Basij brutality against the protesters. Rumors abound in tehran that Mujtaba is positioning himseldf to replace an ailing father.

"Marg bar Dictator", "Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein" - Tehran

Chants: "Marg Bar Dictator" ("Death to Dictator"). "Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein" ("O Hossein, Mir Hossein") [Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader]. Tehran. Qnabarnejad Street. 30 July 2009

Protests in Isfahan

Isfahan. 30 July 2009. Toward Azar Bridge.
The Sound of Silence

"Iranian Republic": The New Chant

People Chanting: "Iranian Republic, Independence, Freedom" Tehran. 30 July 2009

Protesters today for the first time chanted "Iranian Republic, Independence, Freedom" ("Jomhouri Irani, Esteghlal, Azadi". The significance is the variation of the first part in the chant, "Iranian Republic", replacing the familiar "Islamic Republic" part in now-famous "Islamic Republic, Independence, Freedom" chant sung during the 1979 revolution.

Tehran Protests

Protests at Vanak . Tehran. 30 July 2009

Beheshti Avenue. Tehran. 30 July 2009

Police attacking and shooting at protesters. Tehran 30 July. Vali Asr & Vanak intersection

Mousavi Joins the Mourners

Iran's opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has just joined the mourners gathered in Tehran’s Behesht Zahra Memorial Park to commemorate the 40th Day anniversary of the death of Neda Soltan and other protesters slain during the post-election demonstrations.

Eyewitnesses are estimating the size of crowd gathered so far at the cemetery at 10,000. Heavy anti-riot police presence has also been reported. There are reports of mourners being arrested, including the arrest of Jafar Panahi, Iran’s renowned filmmaker.

UPDATE: Mousavi managed to visit and pay respect at Neda's grave upon arrival at Behesht Zahra. The riot police have now surrounded his vehicle forcing it to drive off cemetery.

UPDATE (4:30 pm Tehran): Some 3,000 mourners remain at Neda's grave. Police is charging the crowd to disperse them. Reports of injury.

UPDATE (4:50 pm Tehran): Mehdi Karrubi has joined the opposition supporters in Behesht Zahra. Karrubi visited Neda's grave.

UPDATE (5:00 pm Tehran): Police and Basij have cordoned off Neda's burial place, preventing people to go there.

Today at Behesht Zahra

Today at Behesht Zahra

Iran Opposition Defying Police – Memorial Services for Slain Protestors

Hundreds of anti-riot police have surrounded Behesht Zahra Memorial Park in Tehran today to prevent a visit by opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karrubi and their supporters to the graves of protesters slain in post-election demonstrations in Iran.

The memorial service was to start at 4:00 pm Tehran time. Reports from Tehran indicate that the police are trying to disperse mourners who have begun to arrive at the cemetery and are arresting a number of them. Thousands are expected to attend.

Today is the 40th Day anniversary of the death of Neda Soltan and a number of other protesters. Neda's mother is also expected to attend the memorial service today. 40th Day anniversaries are important mourning occasions in Shia religion.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Iran and Russia to Hold Joint Naval Exercise

Russia and Iran will hold a joint naval exercise in the Caspian Sea. The exercise will include 30 Russian and Iranian ships, as well as helicopters. This is the first time ever for a joint military maneuver between the two countries. The Iranian Navy did not release any dates or details about the exercise.

Iran to Open Naval Base in Jask

Iranian Frigate in the Persian Gulf (file)

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said today in Tehran that Iran will open a new naval base in Jask, a port in the Sea of Oman. A new air force base was also opened in Jask earlier this month.

Seven Iranian Dissidents Killed at Camp Ashraf

Camp Ashraf . Enterance Gate

Attack on Camp Ashraf by Iraqi Security Forces. 28 July 2009

Seven Iranian dissidents have been killed at Camp Ashraf, 60 kilometers north of Baghdad, during a surprise raid by Iraqi military and security forces on Tuesday. The camp, in Diyala Province, is run by the Iranian opposition group Mujahideen Khalq Organization (MKO). Iraqi forces have surrounded the camp and clashes are continuing for a second day. The camp is home to some 3,000 MKO members.

Commander of US forces in Iraq, GEN Ray Odierno, said in Baghdad that the US had not been forewarned of the raid. After Saddam’s fall, the camp came under US control and was disarmed. Last month, the US relegated the control of the camp to Iraqi military. GEN Odierno told reporters last night that the Iraqis had promised at the time that they would treat the exiled Iranians humanely.

Amnesty International said today it was “seriously concerned” about the raid and killing of Iranian exiles. Video footage of the raid clearly shows Iraqi forces beating people repeatedly.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Iran Frees 140 Detainees

Iranian authorities said today they were releasing 140 detainees of the post-election street protests, while still keeping 150 in jail.

This is the first time the government has released any figures on the number of people arrested during the recent events. The 290 number as the number of total arrests has not been verified by independent sources. Some human rights groups have published much higher estimates.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Iran’s hardliners face off over cabinet – The Christian Science Monitor

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (r.) and Esfandiar Mashaie
Tehran. 22 July 2009. Photo by Reuters’ Yalda Moaiery.
Printed on 26 July 2009 edition of CSM

In a column on Sunday 26 July 2009 edition of The Christian Science Monitor, Iason Athanasiadis examines the growing tensions among Iran’s hardliners. President Ahmadinejad fired his intelligence minister on Sunday after being forced to take back the nomination of Eskandar Mashaie, a close advisor, as his first VP. Athanasiadis also quotes this blogger on the balance of fear between the government and the opposition.
"A delicate and prolonged period of balance of fear has started between the government and the opposition," says Nader Uskowi, a Washington-based Iran analyst and president of Uskowi Associates. "After enduring a month of relentless attack by government forces, the opposition reaffirmed its strength, but the government will hang onto power with support from the armed forces and a segment of the more traditional and rural population" [CSM, 26 July].

Iran: The Growing Tensions within the Conservative Camp

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired his intelligence minister on Sunday after heated oral arguments between the two during a Wednesday night cabinet meeting in Tehran. Qolam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, the cleric intelligence chief, reportedly accused Ahmadinejad of disloyalty to the country’s supreme leader for not withdrawing quickly enough the controversial nomination of Esfandiar Mashaie to be his first VP. Ahmadinejad has since withdrawn the nomination, but has renamed Mashaie as his chief of staff, another top post in the administration.

Ejei’s dismissal as intelligence minister came amid open criticism of Ahmadinejad by the Maj. Gen. Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed for his delay in complying with an order from Khamenei to drop his pick for vice president.

The conservative backlash intensified today by the announcement that Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi, the minister of culture and former editor of ultar-conservative influential daily Kayhan, would not be returning to Ahmadinejad’s adminstration for his second term.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Letter by Mousavi, Other Opposition Leaders on Imprisonment and Torture

Mir Hossein Mousavi and other opposition leaders have urged the grand ayatollahs in the holy cities of Qom and Mashhad to pressure the government to release protesters and activists imprisoned and being tortured following last month’s disputed presidential election.

Mousavi, the presumed winner of the election, Mehdi Karrubi, former President Mohammad Khatami and 66 other prominent reformists sent a letter to the senior ayatollahs saying authorities have held protesters and activists without charges and have used torture to extract confessions.

"We call on you, the marja' taqlid to remind the relevant authorities of the damaging consequences of employing unlawful methods and warn them about the spread of tyranny in the Islamic republic system," said the letter.
"What legal, Islamic or human rights code can justify the repeated torture of those who live under the banner of Islam?" it said.

The letter said the repressive methods used to obtain confessions were reminiscent of the methods employed by Iran's former shah, who was toppled by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"The only way out of this situation is to release all detainees and put an end to the security state imposed after the election," it said [AP English translation, 25 July].

Global Day of Solidarity with Iran Opposition

Protesters across the world today are calling on Iran to end its clampdown on opposition activists and demanding the release of hundreds rounded up during demonstrations against the country's disputed election.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called 25 July a global day of action. Protests are underway in more than 80 cities across the globe, including protest march and a large gathering today, at 4:00 pm EST, in Washington, DC.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Khamenei Orders Ahmadinejad to Dump Mashaie

Ayatollah Khamenie's handwritten note ordering
Ahmadinejad to drop Mashaie's appointment
Fars News Agency, 24 July

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenie in a handwritten note to President Ahmadinejad ordered him to reverse the the appointment of Esfandyar Rahim-Mashaie as his First Vice President. The note written on 18 July was made public today by Fars.

“The appointment of Mr. Esfandyar Rahim-Masha'i as presidential deputy is contrary to your interests and that of the government and a cause for divisions and frustration among your supporters. It is necessary for this appointment to be declared null and void,” Khamenie said in his note to Ahmadinejad.

Mashaie stepped down today, citing Khamanie’s “decree.”

Iran Airliner Crashes - Kills 17

Iran’s Aria Airlines Flight 1525 crashed on landing in Mashhad on Friday afternoon, killing 17 people and injuring 23 others. The flight had been originated in Tehran.

The aircraft, a Russian-made Ilyushin 62 jet, caught fire while landing and skidded off a runway.

This is the second fatal air crash in Iran this month. A Caspian Airlines jet crashed on 15 July, killing all 168 people on board.

Ahmadinejad’s VP Pick Steps Down

Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie, Ahmadinejad’s controversial choice to become his first vice president in his new cabinet has stepped down. Fars reported that Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, Ahmadinejad’s senior aide, has confirmed Mashaie’s resignation.

“In the face of [Supreme Leader’s] decree, I don't believe myself to be the first vice-president. I will continue to offer my services to the revolution and Iran wherever else necessary,” Mashie was quoted as saying [Fars News Agency, 24 April].

Ahmadinejad had come under attack by his supports on the right to dump Mashie. Khamenei finally sent a letter to Ahmadinejad ordering him to reverse Mashaie’s appointment. Mashaie's reference to a decree is that letter sent by Khamenei.

The fiasco has become a major embarrassment for Ahmadinejad who did not expect to come under attack by his natural allies on his very first major decision in post-election Iran.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

US To Accept a Nuclear Iran

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today that the US would contain a nuclear-armed Iran in order to protect other Middle East countries. The statement was a tacit acknowledgment by the US of Iran’s advances in nuclear technology and an official announcement of US intentions of coming to terms with a nuclear Iran.

Until today, the official US position shared by European powers was that Iran would not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Clinton’s statement was a radical departure from this policy.

"We want Iran to calculate what I think is a fair assessment: that if the United States builds a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to develop the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it is unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer because they won't be able to intimidate and dominate as they apparently believe they can once they have a nuclear weapon," Clinton said during an interview with Thai TV [AFP, 23 July].

Clinton’s statement immensely helps the hardline positions of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenie and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, regarding the country’s nuclear policy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hunger Strike by Iranian Celebrities at UN

Dozens of Iranian celebrities today started a three-day hunger strike in front of the UN building in New York demanding the release of prisoners detained during the post-election protests in Iran. The action was sponsored by long-time former Iranian political prisoner Akbar Ganji. Among the celebrities on hunger strike was Gogoosh, the internationally-renowned Iranian singer.

Fundamentalists Furious over Adhamdinejad’s VP Choice

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s refusal so far to withdraw Esfandia Mashie’s appointment as his first vice president has put him on uncharted territory, picking a fight with ultra-conservatives and the fundamentalists, his political base.

Ultra-conservative Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami (not to be confused with the former president Mohammad Khatami) warned Ahmadinejad today that he must heed to the wished of the supreme leader and withdraw the appointment.

“When the exalted supreme leader takes a position explicitly, his statement must be accepted by all means and implemented immediately,” Ahmad Khatami told Mehr news agency. “Those who voted for Ahmadinejad because of his loyalty to the supreme leader expect the president to show his obedience in practice” [AP translation of Mehr report].

In picking fight with the fundamentalists before he has even formed his new government, Ahmadinejad might want to improve his fading public image in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election and divert attentions from the main issue at hand, request for a national referendum on the election results.

Khamenie Rejects Ahmadinejad’s Choice for VP

The Iranian internal politics and the power struggle are getting more exciting by the day! Today, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamamei formally rejected President Ahmadinejad’s decision to appoint Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, his son's father-in-law, as his first vice president.

Ahmadinejad’s first major appointment for his second-term cabinet had come under fierce attack by ultra conservatives, led by the influential Kayhan editor, Ali Shariatmadari. The government-owned Press TV reported on 19 July that Mashaie had withdrawn his name. The next day, pro-government websites, including Mashaie’s own website, announced that the “rumors” of withdrawal were propagated by anti-government forces, although the Press TV is a government-owned TV network! Now Khamaenie formally rejects the appointment.

The big looser today is of course Ahmadinejad. He seems to be loosing the support of the far right and increasingly operating in a void, loosing touch with the realities on the ground.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Protests in Tehran

Reports from Tehran indicated renewed demonstrations today on the city’s streets and clashes between the protestors and the riot police at 7-Tir Square in central Tehran.

Twitter entries say demonstrators were chanting anti-government and anti-Ahmadinejad slogans. The police have reportedly arrested dozens of protestors at 7-Tir Square.

Meanwhile, Iran’s police chief, Brig. Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moqaddam, accused the opposition of “inciting sedition.”

Dennis Ross on Iran Options

Dennis Ross, US special envoy on Iran, has raised the possibility of serious containment or using force against Iran if the current impasse over the nuclear program could not be resolved.

In a new book written by Ross and WINEP fellow David Makovsky, “Myths, Illusions & Peace - Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East,” the authors look at the diplomatic overture toward Iran as as a means to prepare the public for serious actions against the country.

"Tougher policies - either militarily or meaningful containment - will be easier to sell internationally and domestically if we have diplomatically tried to resolve our differences with Iran in a serious and credible fashion," the authors wrote [Reuters, 21 July].

Monday, July 20, 2009

Khamenei Warns Country’s “Elite” – aka the Opposition

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told the opposition leaders today not to “disturb” the country’s security. Khamenei addressed them as Iran’s “elite,” warning that they should be cautious in their positions on the post-election turmoil that has gripped the nation since 12 June disputed presidential election.

“Anyone who drives the society toward insecurity and disorder is a hated person in the view of the Iranian nation, whoever he is’” said Khamenei. "Any words they utter, any action they take, any analysis they express [could help the nation's international rivals].

"It is examination day," Khamenei added. "But anyone who flunks the exam cannot retake it the next year. Failing in this exam is not flunking, it is a collapse” [English translation by LA Times, 20 July].

Iran analysts speculate that Khamenei was upset with calls for national referendum on the legitimacy of the election made by Ayatollah Mohammad Khatami. The former president had argued that the referendum would help achieve the goal of restoring trust in the country, a requirement outlined by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani during his Friday Prayer’s sermon.

Meanwhile, the opposition leader and former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi demanded the release of all protestors detained following the election. Detaining people, Mousavi argued, would not resolve the dispute over the election outcome. His remarks were published shortly after Khamenei’s warning to the country’s “elite.”

Khamenei has the authority under the constitution to order a referendum on any questions deemed important to the stability of the system, including a referendum to settle the current dispute over the presidential election.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Khatami Calls for National Referendum

In a bold challenge to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, former president Mohammad Khatami today called for a national referendum on last month’s disputed presidential election. Khamenie has dismissed claims that the election was rigged.

The Islamic Republic constitution does allow national referendums on vital political issues.

“If the majority of people accept the situation, we also will accept it,” said Khatami, referring to a decision made through the national referendum.

Khatami also praised Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s Friday Prayer’s Sermon and said a referendum would help achieve Rafsanjani’s goal of restoring trust in the country.

Call for National Referendum on Disputed Election

The Association of Combatant Clerics (“majma-e rowhaniyun-e mobarez”), a political gathering of moderate/reformist clerics in Iran, today called for a national referendum to settle the current political deadlock over the results of the recent presidential elections.

The constitution of the Islamic Republic does allow national referendums to settle the vital issues and the vehicle have been used in the past. The call by the cleric body, however, represents the first time national referendum mechanism has been suggested to end the political impasse.

Iran Releases UK Embassy Analyst

Iran released the last remaining UK Embassy detainee today. Hossein Rassam, the embassy's chief political analyst, was freed from Evin prison in Tehran on bail. He had been charged with harming Iran’s national security. Eight other embassy employees were also arrested along with Mr. Rassam on 27 June, but were later freed without being charged. Iran was under pressure from EU to release Mr. Rassam.

Mashaie Resigns – Major Setback for Ahmadinejad

Mashaie (right) with Ahmadinejad
2008 AP File Photo

President Ahmadinejad’s controversial choice of Eskandar Mashaie for his first vice president bowed out three days after his appointment [Press TV, 19 July]. The post, somewhat equivalent to the position of prime minister, was held during the first four-year term of Ahmadinejad’s presidency by Parviz Davoudi, a former economics professor.

Mashaie’s appointment came under harsh criticism by the conservatives, normally allies of Ahmadinejad. They objected to a remark he had made last year saying the Israeli people were friends of the Iranians. The appearance of nepotism (Mashaie’s daughter is married to Ahmadinejad’s son) also did not help his case. Hossein Shariatmadari, the influential editor of ultra-conservative Kayhan, all but doomed Mashaie’s appointment in a harshly worded editorial on Saturday.

With Mashaie’s withdrawal today, Ahmadinejad’s already battered image and influence, after the strong challenge mounted by the reformists and moderates to his re-election, got even worse. The last thing he needed was being attacked by Shaiatmadari and the conservatives on the very first appointment to his new cabinet. He should have expected the reaction from the right to this nomination, but it seems that he may be loosing touch with the realities on the ground.

UPDATE (20 July): Mashaie's website denies he is quitting: "The rumors have been spread by enemies of the government," the website said. Iran's government-owned Press TV had announced the resignation on Sunday.

Yazdi on Islamic Republic

Ebrahim Yazdi, a confidant of Ayatollah Khomeini, who played a key role in establishing the Islamic Republic and who became the foreign minister of the young republic, today warned that the Islamic Republic is following the path of the of the former Soviet Union, being a “strong totalitarian regime with a very high effective but corrupt secret police.”

Yazdi’s comments were published in today’s edition of Asharq Al-Awsat.

“The former Soviet Union collapsed because the leadership moved too late to respond to the demands of the people and implement reform…I believe Iran is following this same path but with two key differences; firstly Iran is not an empire that can be broken up into different republics and countries. Secondly, the collapse of the Soviet Union signaled the end of the Marxist ideology…however Islam will not disappear as Marxism did. Islam is a part of our identity and culture. I am not worried about Islam, for Islam has a God to protect it…however I am afraid for the Republic of Iran and [the fate of] democracy in my country,” Yazdi said.

Yazdi is currently the secretary-general of the Freedom Movement of Iran, one of the parties of Iran's reformist movement.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Don’t Write Off Reformists – Iason Athanasiadis on Rafsanjani’s Sermon

Iason Athanasiadis, the internationally renowned journalist recently released from Tehran’s Evin prison, writes on Rafsanjani’s main message of the sermon delivered at Friday’s Prayer: Don’t write off reformists.

“Intermittent clashes between police and protesters persisted in Tehran tonight after an emotional Friday sermon by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's most powerful political opponent, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, that has prolonged Iran's political crisis,” writes Athanasiadis in today’s edition of Christian Science Monitor [CSM, 18 July].

Iason Athanasiadis quotes this blogger on the emerging balance of power between the opposition and the government.

"The opposition reaffirmed its strength after enduring a month of relentless attack by government forces, but the government will hang on to power with support from the armed forces and a segment of the more traditional and rural population," writes Nader Uskowi, a Washington-based Iran analyst and president of Uskowi Associates in an e-mail. "Ahmadinejad in his second term will pretend to be the president of all Iranians, and the opposition will assert that they are the future of the country. The future of Iran hangs in the balance."

Friday, July 17, 2009

AlJazeera Report on Today's Events

"Death to Russia!"

The official loudspeaker suggesting slogans to people at Friday's Prayer, and people responding with their own slogan!

Official: Death to America
People: Death to Russia!

Official: Death to Israel
People: Death to Russia!

Official: Death to England
People: Death to Russia!

Official: Death to Hypocrites
People: Death to Russia!

Mousavi and Karrubi at Friday's Prayer

Opposition Leader Mir Hossein Mousavi at Friday's Prayer
(seated, middle, facing camera)
Tehran. 17 July 2009
ISNA Photo

Mehdi Karrubi at Friday's Prayer
Loosing His Turban In a Confrontation with Security Forces

Tehran Protests

Enghelab Blvd. Tehran. 17 July 2009

Tehran. 17 July 2009

Tehran. 19 July 2009

In Front of Ministry of Interior (in charge of the election). Tehran. 17 July 2009

Police Using Tear Gas Against Protestors
Loudspeaker: Death to America - People Responding: Death to Russia!
Tehran. 17 July 2009

Tehran. 17 July 2009

After Friday’s Prayer

Eyewitness reports from Tehran:

After Rafsanjani’s sermons, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Mousavi supporters, staged a walk on the surrounding streets. Enghelab, Valiasr, Keshavarz and all side streets were completely packed.

People began walking towards Valiasr Square. On Valiasr Stree, cars joined the protesters, honking and cheering them on.

On the loudspeaker a man began shouts of "Death to America," which the crowd, overwhelmingly pro-Moussavi supporters, responded "Death to Russia."

Everyone walked in unison with peace signs in the air, chanting for Mir Hossein Moussavi.

As the crowd wound towards Keshavarz Boulevard, the security forces were out in full force. On both sides of the Boulevard riot police were stationed, as were plainclothes militia and the Basij in black, all carrying batons. The anti-riot police also had big automatic guns.

Vans were parked to take protesters to jail. But the protesters continued on.

People walked passed the security forces flashing the peace sign in their faces, and turning to them, shouting: "Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein" and "Death to the Dictator."

Friday’s Prayer in Tehran: Sermons and Protests

Rafsanjani Delivering Friday's Prayer Sermons
Tehran. 17 July 2009. Getty Images

Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani today delivered the sermons at Friday’s Prayer in Tehran, calling for the release of the detainees of the post-election uprising in Iran and an end to restrictions on free press and freedom of expression. He said the country was in midst of a crisis and expressed hopes that today’s service was a turning point for future change in Iran.

Tens and probably hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets around the University of Tehran, the venue of Friday’s Prayer, and chanted slogans calling for release of political prisoners and in support of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

The massive show of force by the opposition supporters was a major setback for the government.

The police used tear gas and batons to break out the crowd of people on nearby Enghelab and Keshavarz avenues.

Highlights of Rafsanjani’s sermon:
  • Country is in midst of a crisis
  • Today can be a turning point for change
  • Detainees of recent events should be freed
  • Sympathy must be given to those who have suffered during the recent events
  • Creation of a political atmosphere of respect for freedom of expression and freedom of press
  • IRIB [the state-owned broadcasting system] should help create an atmosphere of tolerance and freedom
  • The period following the election was “bitter” days for people… all parties were losers
  • People need to work within the existing laws
  • If the Islamic Republic is not Islamic, then we will go wrong; if it is not a Republic, then it would not work

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Karrubi to Attend Friday’s Prayer

Mehdi Karrubi will join Mir Hossein Mousavi at Friday’s Prayer service in Tehran tomorrow. Ayatollah Rafsanjani will be the Friday Imam and will deliver the sermons. The supporters of the opposition are expected to show up in large numbers. Meanwhile, Iran’s ministry of information (the country’s domestic intelligence agency) has warned against disturbances during and after the service.

The decision by Mousavi and Karrubi to attend, and their call on their supporters to do same, can potentially transform the routine Friday’s Prayer service into a show of force by the opposition.

Rafsanjani is not expected to criticize Ahmadinejad by name, but he might attack the government's heavy-handedness in suppressing post-election protests that has left more than 100 people dead. He might also demand the immediate release from prison of more than a thousand demonstrators detained during post-election demonstrations.

Normally, Friday’s Prayers, even the ones led by Ayatollah Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, attract crowds in low 5 figures. If more than 100,000 people turn up tomorrow in support of Mousavi and Karrubi, then the gathering would become a major victory for the opposition and a serious setback for the government.

Iran Nuclear Chief Resigns

Qolam Reza Aghazadeh
IAEO Chief Resigns. Tehran. 16 July 2009

Qolam Reza Aghazadeh, the director of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, has resigned.

ISNA today confirmed the report, adding that Aghazadeh had submitted his resignation to President Ahmadinejad in late June, a week after the disputed presidential election.

Israeli Warships Sail Closer to Iran

Israel's Eliat Class Saar Five
Two frigates have passed through the Suez Canal

Israeli defense officials have told Times of London today that Israel's recent deployment of warships across the Red Sea should be seen as serious preparation for an attack on Iran.

"This is preparation that should be taken seriously. Israel is investing time in preparing itself for the complexity of an attack on Iran. These maneuvers are a message to Iran that Israel will follow up on its threats," the official was quoted as saying.

Two Israeli Eliat class Saar Five missile warships and a Dolphin class submarine capable of launching a nuclear missile strike have sailed through the Suez Canal in the past ten days in preparation for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Times reported.

There were unconfirmed reports that units of Sayeret Matkal, Israel’s Special Forces, have also been transferred to a mock training facility near Eliat in preparation of an eventual attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mousavi to Attend Friday's Prayer – Tensions Growing in Tehran

news website reports that the opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi will attend the Friday’s Prayer which will be led by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani [Qalam, 15 July 2009].

Mousavi, in a letter published in Qalam, declared his readiness to join his supporters in attending the service, characterizing the move as the best way to protest the “unjust” suppression of the freedoms by the government.

It is expected that Mousavi supporters will also attend the gathering, potentially creating a protest atmosphere on Tehran streets after the service.

Countering the opposition, Hossein Shariatmadari, the influential editor of the ultra-conservative Kayhan, in an editorial to be published in Thursday's edition of the newspaper, has called on government supporters to attend the prayer services as well and has instructed them to chant pro-Khamenei slogans, such as “Khamenei, we are your soldiers; Khamenei, we are at your command!” [Kayhan, 16 July 2009].

Iran Jet Crash Kills 168 - Crash Site Pictures

From Top to Bottom:
  • Press TV announcing the crash
  • IRNA photo
  • ISNA photo
  • ISNA photo
  • National Identity Cards found at the site. ILNA photo
  • A Caspian Airways Tupolev 154M similar to the plane that crashed near Qazvin

The original post on the crash.

Iran Nuke within 6 Months – BND

German weekly magazine Stern is reporting today that sources in BND, Germany’s intelligence agency, have told the magazine that Iran is capable of producing and testing an atomic bomb within six months.

Iran will soon be able to produce atomic bombs and to perform underground nuclear testing, just as North Korea has done, experts in the German Foreign Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND) have told the weekly, Hamburg-based news magazine stern. "If they want to, they will be able to set off a uranium bomb within six months."

ICHRI on Casualties of Green Uprising

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a Western-based human rights group, said today at least 34 people were killed during election protests in Tehran on 20 June alone, more than three times the number published by the government.

ICHRI has based its estimate on the reports by medical staff at Imam Khomeini Hospital (19 bodies), Rasool Akram Hospital (8 bodies) and Loghman Hospital (7 bodies).

It said there were other hospitals near the demonstrations that could have received dead or injured protesters.

Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi has estimated that 100 were killed during the Green uprising.

Iran Jet Crash Kills 168

An Iranian passenger plane carrying 153 passengers and 15 crew members crashed today near the northwest city of Qazvin. All aboard were killed.

The Russian-made Tupolev belonging to the Caspian Airways crashed at 11:45 am local time, 16 minutes after the takeoff from Imam Khomeini Airport. The plane was flying from Tehran to Yerevan, the Armenian capital.

On Green Uprising and Shiism

Stanford’s Abbas Milani discusses the intellectual history of the Green uprising in his article titled “The New Democrats” published in The New Republic [15 July 2009]. Milani examines the link between the political battle underway in Iran and the old theological dispute about the nature of Shiism.

Those who voted for Khatami in 1997; the student movement of 1999; the recent struggle of the bus drivers' union for the rights of its workers; the relentlessly defiant but peaceful women's movement, particularly the attempt to solicit one million signatures in favor of reforming discriminatory laws; and, now, the green uprising of 2009--all owe something to the tradition that Na'ini established more than 100 years ago.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mousavi Visits Aarabi Family

Sohrab Aarabi: 1990 - 2009

Mousavi and his wife visiting Arabi family
Tehran. 14 July 2009
Gooya News Photo reported that Iran’s opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard tonight visited the family of Sohrab Aarabi, the 19-year old student reportedly killed by Basij Force near Azadi Square in Tehran during post-election protests.

The Mousavis offered their condolences to the family, who had discovered on Saturday that Sohrab died last month of a gunshot wound to the heart. Sohrab has been missing since 15 June, the day he attended a huge opposition rally in Tehran. His body was returned by the government to his family and he was buried on Monday in Tehran.

13 Jundallah Militants Executed

Iran executed 13 members of the militant group Jundallah this morning, but postponed carrying out the death penalty against Abdulhamid Rigi, the brother of the Jundallah leader. The 13 were hanged inside their prison in Zahedan, the restive provincial capital of the Iranian Baluchistan. They were convicted of “waging war against God,” being “corrupt on earth,” and killing innocent people.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rafsanjani to Lead Friday’s Prayer

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Mehr News Photo

Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani will lead Friday’s Prayer in Tehran on 17 July. Rafsanjani was scheduled to be the Friday Imam for this week prior to the 12 June presidential election and the nationwide protests that followed. He has harshly criticized Ahmadinejad and is generally believed to side with Mousavi. His speech this Friday will be closely watched by Iran analysts as a window to understanding the current power struggle within the Islamic Republic.

Reaction by Iran's Ayatollahs to Green Movement

The following analysis by Majid Mohammadi on the reaction by senior clerics to the recent uprising in Iran was published on 10 July in Mianeh, an independent web-based initiative run as a project by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting.

Iranian Clerics Diminished by Silence Over Protests
پایان عصر اقتدار اجتماعی نهاد مرجعیت: روحانیت و جنبش اعتراضی سبز مردم ایران
Majid Mohammadi New York 10 July 2009

In the days after the June 12 presidential election, defeated candidates, political parties, relatives of political prisoners, and others dissatisfied with the outcome appealed to senior members of the clergy to intervene to halt government-led repression.

Many reformists hoped that senior clerics would step in following the mass demonstrations, deaths and the arrest of political activists.

Yet the only high-ranking leader to openly condemn the government’s actions was Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was once seen as a possible successor to the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, but fell out with him shortly before his death in 1989 over a difference of opinion on human rights.

Two other grand ayatollahs – the highest rank in the Shia clerical system – Yusef Sanei, who once famously issued a fatwa declaring suicide bombings to be “acts of terrorism” and Abdulkarim Mousavi Ardebili, who is also seen as close to the reformers, confined themselves to asking the authorities to review allegations made by protestors, and sending their condolences to the families of those killed during the protests.

Of the other clerics, some either said nothing, like Abdullah Javadi Amoli, Ayatollah Musa Shobairi Zanjani, and Hossein Vahid Khorasani, while others like Ayatollah Hossein Nuri Hamedani came out in support of the government’s actions. Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi was among those who tried to persuade protesters to accept the election result and move on.

Ayatollah Lutfullah Safi Golpayagani, meanwhile, tried to conciliate between the two sides, urging them to seek a middle way.

Two groupings of clerics, the Assembly of Combatant Clerics and the Qom Seminary Researchers and Lecturers Association, backed the stance taken by defeated reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi throughout the protests. However, these two bodies only represent a small fraction of clerics in Iran.

Two powerful clerical bodies from the conservative camp, the Association of Combatant Clerics and the Society of Lecturers of Qom Seminary, chose to remain silent when demonstrators came out onto the streets, although they had not lent their support to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s bid for re-election.

Some believe these groups were intimidated into silence by the attacks leveled against Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who chairs both Iran’s Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Council, and backed Mousavi’s election bid. Allies of Ahmadinejad accused Rafsanjani and family members of corruption.

When a delegation of protestors visited Qom to speak to clerics on June 19, only Ayatollah Sanei agreed to see them.

Elsewhere in Iran, two other conservative clerical associations – located in Tabriz and Isfahan – supported Mousavi prior to the election, an unusual step given the heightened level of repression facing provincial clerics critical of the government.
Once again, however, they lapsed into silence once the demonstrators appeared on the streets, and made no comment when Mousavi said the results were illegitimate.
Despite the clerics’ reticence about speaking out after the election, the backing that many gave to Mousavi indicates their concern that Ahmadinejad’s administration has acquired too much power and reach.

Iranian clerics may be heavily dependent on the state, and its highest-ranking members enjoy the largesse of an oil-rich government, but they have not desire to lose the public’s respect.

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, clerics have been sensitive to developments in society, and have been careful to try to reflect popular moods and trends. They have also long been on their guard against an administration that is shaped by the military and the security forces, and espouses policies that principally benefit these groups.

To understand the Shia clergy’s behaviour before and after election day, it is best to break them down into three categories – seminary students and lecturers; mosque and Friday prayer leaders; and thirdly clerics in government employment as judges, teachers, managers and religious instructors.

Although there is some overlapping between these groups, all three groups are dependent on the office of the Supreme Leader for their livelihoods, one way or another. They no longer derive their principal income from religious tithes paid by members of the public, and their lack of economic dependence on the state is merely notional.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei quite clearly prefers to maintain the status quo, given that he has long seen Ahmadinejad as his natural ally.

The first category, seminary students, are naturally more supportive of Ahmadinejad because they aspire to fill government posts that will fall vacant once the older generation of clerics step aside. It is also worth noting that government funding for seminaries has gone up substantially during Ahmadinejad’s time in office.

The second group, mosque and prayer leaders, are more traditional and conservative in outlook. They tend not to be so trusting of the president, given his idiosyncratic religious views. They are also in closer touch with ordinary people, and get to hear their complaints about government policies and actions on a daily basis.

The third group, clerics holding down government jobs, are even more solidly supportive of the Supreme Leader than the students. Under Khamenei, favoured clerics have benefited from a good press, with the statements they make accorded far more weight than those of regime critics, who get dismissed as “low-level” clerics by the media. The negative press given to Ayatollah Montazeri is a case in point.

Given the high level of clerical dependence on the state, it was never likely the religious classes as a whole would stand up for the anti-Ahmadinejad protesters. Senior clerics have failed to respond to the many letters they have received from members of the public asking for help.

That silence could undermine public confidence in the clerical establishment, if people begin to believe the authority it has enjoyed in society has been traded for the patronage of an increasingly authoritarian government.

Majid Mohammadi teaches humanities and sociology. He is the author of more than two dozen books on Iran and has a particular interest in political Islam, judicial reform, and social movements.

This article is an abridged and translated version of the full original text published on the Farsi pages of Mianeh, with editorial adjustments agreed with the writer made to provide clarity for English-language readers."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Freed Iranians Arrive in Tehran

IRNA Photos

Five Iranians held in Iraq by the United States arrived in Tehran today and were greeted as heroes. The five were detained in Irbil, a city in Iraq's Kurdish region, on January 11, 2007.

The US military said the men seized in Irbil had been thought to be connected to Iran's IRGC Quds Force, accused of providing funds, weapons, roadside bomb technology and insurgent training.

The Iranian government holds US responsible for kidnapping and detaining of these diplomats in Irbil.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bandar Abbas

World's Largest Container Ship Arriving in Bandar Abbas, Iran
Rajaei Port. 10 July 2009
Mehr News Agency Photos

F-35 Fighters for Israel


The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel has ordered at least 25 F-35 stealth fighter aircraft to counter any potential threat from the delivery of Russian S-300 advanced air defense systems. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, manufactured by Lockheed, is one of the most advanced fighter jets in the world, replacing the aging F-15 and F-16. The fighters will be delivered to Israel in 2014.

Iran to Execute 12 Jundallah Militants

Iran will execute 12 members of Jundallah (Soldiers of God), the militant Sunni group operating in Iran’s Baluchistan. The twelve will include Abdolhamid Rigi, the brother of the group's leader Abdolmalik Rigi.

The 12 men would be hanged by Friday in Zahedan, Baluchistan’s provincial capital.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tehran Protests

Intersection of Taleghani & Valinasr. Tehran. 6:30 pm, 9 July 2009.

Kehavarz Blvd. Tehran. 9 July 2009
Chants of "Mir Hossein, Ya Hossin" in support of Mir Hossein Mousavi

CNN Report

Demonstrations in Tehran

Reports from Tehran indicate that demonstrations are under way at Enqelab Square and in front of the nearby University of Tehran campus in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of a deadly police attack on student protesters inside the university’s dormitories.

Police has been using tear gas to disperse the crowd at Enqelab. The reports also indicate that the Basij Force and anti-riot Guards have moved into the square.

Twitter Reports:
- Clashes reported in Saadat Abad. Hundreds of protersters in a sit-in on 12-e-Farvardin.
- Protests also reported in Tabriz, Isfahan and Shiraz.

US Frees Five Iranians Held in Iraq

The US military released five Iranian detainees arrested in Iraqi city of Irbil in January 2007. The five were held on suspicion of arming and funding Shia militias in Iraq. The US military had said at the time that one of the five prisoners was a senior officer in IRGC’s Quds Force. The detainees were handed over to the office of Iraqi prime minister today and will be transferred to Iranian embassy in Baghdad.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

G-8: Deadline for Iran Nuke Agreement

G-8 leaders today gave Iran two months to sign an agreement with the West on its nuclear program. The leaders warned that they will reach “new decisions” at the G-20 economic summit in Pittsburgh in late September if there are no agreement with Iran by then [AP, 8 July].

Iran Nuke: US-Russia Deal in Making

President Obama today said the US would scrap the plans to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe if Russia helped to stop Iran’s nuclear and nuclear weapon delivery programs.

“I know Russia opposes the planned configuration for missile defense in Europe. I have made it clear that this system is directed at preventing a potential attack from Iran and has nothing to do with Russia,” President Obama said in a speech in Moscow [Timesonline; 7 July 2009].

“If the threat from Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs is eliminated, the driving force for missile defense in Europe will be eliminated. That is in our mutual interest.”

The president’s remarks clearly links the missile defense shield with Iran’s nuclear program, putting tremendous pressure on Russia to work toward ending Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Qatar Army Chief in Tehran

Qatar Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Hamad ibn Ali Al Attiyah (right), visited Tehran and met with Iran’s Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mustafa Mohammad Najjar. Tehran. 7 July 2009. Mehr Photo

Alborz Returns from Aden

IRIN Alborz Returning from Aden
Bandar Abbas. 7 July 2009. Mehr Photo

IRIN frigate Alborz returned to Bandar Abbas today after patrolling the waters off Gulf of Aden. The British-made frigate, commissioned in 1971, was deployed to Aden to protect Iranian oil tankers and merchant ships against the pirates. The frigate became the first IRIN ship to take part in naval operation in international waters. Accompanying Alborz, was IRIN Busheher which also returned to its port of Badar Abbas today.

IRIN has deployed two more ships from their home port of Jask to Gulf of Aden. The IRIN Naghdi, a US-made patrol frigate commissioned in 1964, and IRIN Bandar Abbas.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kargozaran: No to Election Results

Kargozaran Sazandegi (“Executives of Construction”) Party of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former president of Iran and the current chairman of the Assembly of Experts today joined the Majma-eyeh Modaressin of Qom and declared the recent presidential election invalid.

"We declare that the result is unacceptable due to the unhealthy voting process, massive electoral fraud and the siding of the majority of the Guardian Council with a specific candidate," said the statement posted by the party on its website today.

The party’s defiant declaration ran counter to the forceful declaration by IRGC Gen. Yadollah Javani that that "no one is impartial" in the dispute over the election.

"There are two currents -- those who defend and support the revolution and the establishment, and those who are trying to topple it," Gen. Yadollah Javani said on Sunday [IRNA].

IRGC declared yesterday that it has taken over the security apparatus of the regime, adding to its enormous economic and political power, and effectively militarizing the regime.

Islamic Republic: Two Words Which Do Not Tell the Story

Khamanei’s Friday 19 June speech, and now the takeover of the security apparatus of the state by IRGC make it official: the “Republic” part of the Islamic Republic is no more. Even the loyal opposition is not tolerated. We have a new militarized regime.

Majma-eyeh Modaressin’s declaration that the new Ahmadinejad government is illegitimate, takes away the “Islamic” part as well. The senior religious body which was instrumental in bringing Ayatollah Khomeini to power and establishing the Islamic Republic does not accept the legitimacy of this government.

Islamic Republic; two words that do not tell the story of the current government in Iran.

Instead, we are moving toward a Bathist-type dictatorship backed by the military, a dime-a-dozen variety you can find all over the Middle East.