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Human Rights in Iran

Iran News Roundup 12/22

Iran’s currency troubles

The Financial Times reports that Iran’s currency has dropped almost 10 percent in recent days, a record low against the U.S. dollar.  While sanctions and economic mismanagement are likely culprits, some Iranian media have accused Ahamdinejad’s government of “engineering a deliberate devaluation to boost the rial value of its oil income in the final months of the fiscal year” to attempt to reduce the budget deficit, which some say could be as high as 7% of GDP (Financial Times 12/21).

Do GOP voters prefer diplomacy over war?

In an op-ed, Scott Clement writes that, although Republican voters see Iran as a threat, more than six in 10 pick “economic and diplomatic efforts” as the best Iran policy rather than military options (Washington Post 12/21).

Ambassador Rice discusses Iran’s nuclear program and diplomacy 

U.S. Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice expressed concern about Iran’s nuclear program during a U.N. Security Council briefing, specifically about the possibility of secret underground enrichment facilities in Iran. In her assessment, the Security Council “must redouble its efforts to implement the sanctions already imposed,” barring weapons and nuclear-related business with Iran in order to buy “more time to resolve this crisis through diplomatic means” (Think Progress 12/21).

Rice also noted, “[S]anctions are only a means to an end. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that Iran enters into full compliance with all its international nuclear obligations and takes the steps necessary to resolve outstanding questions” (State Department 12/21).

Iran News Roundup 12/21

Iran’s currency tumbles

On Tuesday, Iran’s currency plummeted in value to its lowest level ever against the dollar (NY Times 12/20).

The Washington Post reports that the sudden drop followed the announcement by Iranian officials that Iran had cut trade ties with the UAE because of “anti-Iranian positions.” After Tuesday’s plunge, Iranian Vice President Rahimi backtracked on these statements, saying that the UAE had simply been “warned” not to go along with sanctions proposed by the U.S (Washington Post 12/20).

DOD walks back Panetta’s recent comments on Iran

 Yesterday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that Iran could have a nuclear weapon as soon as next year. Pentagon officials clarified that this assertion is based on a highly aggressive timeline and actions that Iran has not yet taken (NY Times 12/20).

Camp Ashraf closure delayed

Iraqi’s prime minister Malaki said today that he has granted a six-month extension to the December 31st deadline (Salon 12/21).

American officials had expressed fears that MEK leadership may order the massacre of camp residents, rather than allow a peaceful disbandment of Camp Ashraf.  The Christian Science Monitor interviewed recent MEK defectors who say that further dramatic acts may occur as the deadline quickly approaches. Shahram Heydari, who left Camp Ashraf two months ago, said that “It’s clear to me, [MEK leadership] wants people to get killed, and send it to the media,” in order to keep the camp open.  Although several high-ranking U.S. officials have been paid by the MEK to make its case to get the MEK off the US terror list, family members of those inside the camp have held protests asking for the release of their children, whom they say are imprisoned in the camp (Christian Science Monitor 12/20).

Iran News Roundup 12/19

Talks accelerate on a potential embargo on Iran

In what could be a precursor to an embargo on Iran, a “coalition of like-minded countries” including U.S., EU, Arab, and Asian states will meet in Rome tomorrow for talks on how to maintain stable global energy markets in the midst of increased Iran sanctions (Wall Street Journal 12/19).

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran has prepared for “the worst case scenario” and has a “road map” circumvent Western sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank and oil exports(AFP 12/16).

U.S. drone saga continues

U.S. cyber-warfare experts have questioned Iran’s ability to hijack the spy drone by overwhelming the drone’s GPS signal (Christian Science Monitor 12/16).  Additionally, U.S. officials say the drone actually crashed, further refuting Iran’s claims (Wall Street Journal 12/16).  On Saturday, Iran’s foreign minister said that Iran deliberately delayed its announcement that it had captured the American surveillance drone to test U.S. reaction (Huffington Post 12/17).

Iran News Roundup 12/16

GOP candidates get fact checked for Iran claims at debate

Michelle Bachmann made the claim that the IAEA report proves that “Iran is within just months of being able to obtain that [nuclear] weapon.”  Fact checks from CNNThe Washington Post, and the New York Times said Bachmann got it wrong.

Mitt Romney accused President Obama of having said “pretty please” in order to have the American recently fallen drone returned and Rick Perry said the Obama should have used military  destroy of retrieve the drone.  But the New York Times says:

In fact, American military officials considered an operation to retrieve the drone but rejected it as too dangerous, since it would require a sizeable force traveling more than 200 miles into the country and likely facing a large Iranian protection force.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum repeated his very un-covert calls for “covert activities” against Iran. “We need to plan a strike against their facilities and say to them that if you do not open up those facilities and close them down, we will close them down for you.” (New American 12/16).

  • 15 December 2011
  • Posted By Sheyda Monshizadeh-Azar
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Iranian labor movement warns against potential war

The Network of Iranian Labor Associations (NILA) has sent a sobering message to the international community, warning that an attack on Iran would have devastating consequences and would inevitably strengthen the regime to an unprecedented extent.

NILA, who are the leading advocates of Iran’s growing labor movement sent a letter to Amnesty International ahead of their International Human Rights in Iran event in Chicago this coming Saturday.

The letter, which heavily criticizes human rights abuses in Iran whilst congratulating human rights advocates for their continuing efforts, gives a frank assessment of the potential impact that an attack on Iran could have:

“They (Iranian Regime) are preparing themselves for war. The bloodier, the better, from their perspective. It would be their savior, a lifeline to the regime. Under the circumstances, it would be sheer folly for either Israel or the United States to go to war with Iran. Why give the Islamic Republic’s leaders a fresh lease on life when every visible sign points to a terminal state of being?”

The letter aims to warn hawkish factions of the international community that the growing threats of war only “consolidate the regime for many years to come and it would radicalize the Arab Spring into a radical Islamic fundamentalist nightmare.”

Iran News Roundup 12/15

Broad Iran sanctions approved by the House

The House of Representatives approved central bank sanctions on Iran as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be sent to the President by the end of the week (Newsweek 12/15).

The House also approved two standalone Iran sanctions bills, H.R. 1905 and H.R.2105.  H.R.1905 eliminates the President’s humanitarian waiver to allow for parts and repairs of Iranian civilian airplanes, puts legal restrictions on contacts between U.S. and Iranian officials, and places sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. The bill must now go to the Senate for consideration, which is not expected until after the New Year (The Hill 12/14).

Reuters reports that Asian countries China, India, South Korea, and Japan are increasingly worried about oil in light of new Iran sanctions. (Reuters 12/15). China is looking to obtain discounted Iranian oil as the U.S. increases pressure on Iran. “Any restriction on oil supplies from Iran, the world’s fifth-largest crude exporter, could drive up already high oil prices and threaten economies already facing the impact of the euro zone debt crisis.”

“This is an issue that could have a big impact on the global economy in terms of crude prices, so our nation will pay close attention to this with grave concern,” said Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.

Growing concern over the number of executions in iran

Amnesty International warned of “a new wave of drug offence executions”  in a report published yesterday. Public and secret hangings have increased in what has been called “a killing spree of staggering proportions” (Guardian 12/14).

War watch

On Tuesday former Vice-president Cheney advised the Obama administration to launch a “quick air strike” against Iran after it had captured the U.S. drone.  NIAC’s Trita Parsi says, “the Obama administration’s decision not to risk war by going in and destroying the drone reflects its desire to avoid catastrophic escalation” (Salon 12/12).

Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman, speaking to CNN, said he’d commit to a ground invasion to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon (Think Progress 12/14).

Revolutionary Guards commander Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali said Iran would move the uranium enrichment centers to safer locations if Iran were attacked (Reuters 12/14).

Additional Notable News:

State department official Frederick Hof toldCongress that Syrian president Assad’s hold on power will be short-lived despite the repression of protestors.

Iran News Roundup 12/14

How covert operations can spiral out of control

Barry Lando writes on the dangers of increasing covert operations against Iran. “Predictably, aggressive acts will provoke retaliation from Iran — a situation, which, in the context of America’s superheated presidential primaries, could spiral dangerously out of control. Which is just what militants in Tehran, Jerusalem, and Washington may be out to provoke” (Lando Huffington Post 12/13).

Increased sanctions and higher oil prices

The Obama administration and European allies are seeking assurance that Saudi Arabia will boost oil output in order to prevent higher oil prices and damage to the global economy because of sanctions (Los Angeles Times 12/13). Yet Iran’s oil minister, at an OPEC meeting, said Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi has agreed not to increase oil output to replace Iranian oil (Boston Globe 12/14).

Human rights

The U.S. placed sanctions on two top Iranian military figures for human rights violations in the wake of the June 2009 election: Lieutenant Commander of IRGC Ground Force Abdollah Agragi and Chief of Staff of the Joint Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Firouzabadi (AFP 12/13).

Nokia Siemens Networks announced that it would stop doing business with Iran–gradually reduce its existing commitments starting next year (Wall Street Journal 12/13). Nokia Siemens Networks came under fire in 2009 after providing the Iranian government with surveillance equipment used against peaceful protestors.

Mitt Romney on the M.E.K.

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was asked whether he supported the removal of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq from the State Department’s list of designated terrorist organizations.

“I have not heard of the MEK, so I can’t possibly tell you whether I support the MEK. I’ll take a look at the issue,” said Romney. Romney’s special advisor on foreign policy, Mitchell Reiss, is an advocate for the group.

Notable opinion: 

In a Washington Post op-ed, Thomas Erdbrink discusses the growing fears and concern amongst ordinary Iranians regarding the possibility of war and the negative impact international sanctions are having on everyday lives.

Instead of sharing that sense of defiance, however, many ordinary Iranians are increasingly worried that war could be catastrophic.

As tension rises, many have started taking precautionary measures. Some are stocking up on basic goods. Others are changing their money into foreign currencies, or obtaining visas to move abroad.

Anxiety is also being fueled by the latest rounds of international sanctions against Iran. While Iranian officials continually say the country can cope with the growing limitations, average Iranians are faced with soaring prices and a plummeting exchange rate for their currency, the rial. It has lost 48 percent of its value against the dollar since 2008.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

Iran’s intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi met the Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel-Aziz Al Saud to refute U.S. claims that Tehran planned to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, according to a senior Iranian official.

Iran News Roundup 12/9

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Drone update

The Washington Post reports that a video of the drone that went down earlier this week aired on Iranian state television. Officials deny that the drone could have been brought down by Iran’s military (Washington Post 12/8). Military hardware expert Peter Singer doubts the authenticity of the drone shown in the video (Guardian 12/8).

Suggestions of military action against Iran continues  

GOP presidential hopeful and frontrunner Gingrich calls for joint operations with Israel against Iran’s nuclear program if Israel chose to attack Iran, saying, “I would rather plan a joint operation conventionally than push the Israelis to a point where they [the Iranians] go nuclear.”(Think Progress 12/8). video of Wednesday’s Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) forum where republican candidates suggested military action against Iran’s nuclear program is now available (Think Progress 12/8).  

President Barack Obama reiterated that the United States is “considering all options” in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon (Reuters 12/8).

Reuters reports that everyday Iranians are increasingly concerned and fearful of the potential for war. Maryam Sofi, a university teacher a mother of two, says she “cannot sleep at night, thinking about destruction and bloodshed if Israel and America attack Iran.” (Reuters 12/8). According to a senior geopolitical risk analyst at Barclays Capitol, the chance of a military strike on Iran has roughly tripled in the past year (Reuters 12/8).

Imprisoned Iranian journalists

 The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that the number of imprisoned journalists worldwide has risen up 20% with Iran being the worst jailer, with 42 journalists behind bars (CPJ 12/8).  Other independent journalists contest that the real figure is nearly double.

Notable Opinion:

 In a Huffington Post op-ed Robert Naiman discusses how The National Defense Authorization Act, blocking European banks and companies from doing business with Iran’s Central Bank, would raise oil prices and weaken the U.S. economy.

This is a big deal, because Iran is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, and blocking Iranian oil exports to Europe would raise the price of oil, in Europe and in the United States.

Kirk’s amendment would hurt the U.S. economy, at a time when economic contraction in Europe could push the U.S. back into recession.

Raising the price of oil will hurt the U.S. economy directly. In addition, hurting the European economy will also hurt the U.S. economy by causing U.S. exports to Europe to fall. Furthermore, adding to Europe’s economic problems now would undermine attempts to contain the European financial crisis, as the trader’s joke about sanctions helping Italy, Spain and Greece to collapse suggests. And if efforts to contain Europe’s financial crisis fail, we’re going to feel that pain in the U.S., just as Europe felt the 2008 U.S. financial crisis.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

Farideh Farhi writes that the spin that never materialized in the IAEA report, and the rising pressure on Iran, has diminished political space in Iran in favor of hardliners, particularly regarding the the nuclear program and Iran’s stance towards the U.S.

Shirin Ebadi and Hadi Ghaemi write in the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. and EU should press European satellite providers to halt broadcasting services for Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting in retaliation for Iran’s signal jamming of outside broadcasts.

Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karoubi, currently under house arrest, met with his family over the weekend.

  • 6 December 2011
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, MEK, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, UN, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 12/6

Obama vs. Kirk
Speaking at an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute today, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) claimed that the unanimous passage of his amendment to force the Administration to sanction Iran’s central bank demonstrated that support for Obama’s Iran policy has “collapsed” on Capitol Hill (The Hill 12/6).  The Obama Administration pushed back against the amendment, which was attached to the Senate’s defense authorization bill, warning that it could undermine international efforts on Iran, raise energy costs that would threaten a teetering European economy, and enrich Iran.  The Administration is working to change the central bank amendment during negotiations between the House and Senate as lawmakers reconcile a final defense bill to send to the President (Washington Jewish Week 12/6).  The White House has threatened to veto the bill, but for detainee provisions separate from the Iran sanctions .

Fallen U.S. drone

U.S. Military officials acknowledged yesterday that Iran is indeed in possession of an RQ-170 Sentinel drone (Think Progress 12/5).  Iranian military officials claim that the drone was taken down near Iran’s eastern border, yet Defense officials and experts doubt that the drone was shot down or taken down by a cyber-attack (Washington Post 12/5). There has been speculation that Iran could have used a ground based jamming system, Avtobaza, it purchased from Russia 6 weeks ago to take down the drone.  There is concern that Iran could exploit the drone’s technological capabilities (Christian Science Monitor 12/5). 

Escalating tensions

The Financial Times reports that Washington met with UAE representatives “to press for further isolation of Iranian institutions…threaten[ing] to cut off any transgressors from the US financial system” (Financial Times 12/5). Meanwhile, the Revolutionary Guard in Iran has raised “operational readiness” in response to increased sanctions and the fear of a military strike (Telegraph 12/5).

  • 16 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth

Substantial increase in Iranian students studying at US universities

A recent report released by the Institute of International Education shows a 19% increase in the amount of Iranians coming to the US to study.  With over 5,600 students in the US, Iran had the 22nd highest amount of international students in the U.S. during 2010/2011.

This welcome trend is likely connected to the Obama administration’s smart decision last May to begin issuing Multi-Entry Visas to Iranian students attending universities in the US.  Previously, Iranian students could only get Single-Entry Visas, which prevented them from returning home for the duration of their studies, regardless of whether there was a funeral or a wedding for a loved one.  As such, the policy change was undoubtedly welcome news for potential students in Iran.

But whatever the reason for this increase in Iranian students coming to the US for their studies, it could prove to be an intelligent and effective policy for the US.

The U.S.’s image among ordinary Iranians may have taken a hit with crippling sanctions and threats of military action.  Taking steps to ease burdens on Iranian youths, some of whom are prevented from attending college in Iran because of associations with the democracy movement, helps mitigate some of that damage.  As such, accepting more Iranian students is a tangible step that could prove to Iranians that our problem is not with them but with the behavior of their government.

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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