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Posts Tagged ‘ Ahmadinejad ’

  • 25 August 2011
  • Posted By David Shams
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Iran Factions Use Hikers for Own Political Games

If previous Iranian government behavior is any indication, the 8 year sentence handed down this past weekend against the two American hikers, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, is by no means the final word.  The Iranian government has always sought more tactical flexibility and uses situations such as this to leverage its opponents.  But in addition to the continued U.S.-Iran standoff, the hikers have also fallen prey to political infighting in Tehran that creates the biggest obstacle to clarity.  Their sentence is the latest installment in a series of political football matches between the various factions inside of Iran.

Recall that it was last September when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attempting to score points for himself just weeks before coming to New York to address the UN General Assembly, announced an imminent release for the third hiker, Sara Shourd.  But Ahmadinejad’s political opponents in the Judiciary attempted to block the initiative and prevent any corresponding political capital Ahmadinejad hoped to gain.  They cancelled Shourd’s release and ultimately required her to post bail of $500,000 before she was finally released on September 14th.

In a case of déjà vu with Fattal and Bauer, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi (appointed by Ahmadinejad) suggested the trial would lead to their freedom.  But this past weekend, we saw a completely different result.

Now, Fattal and Bauer will continue to languish in Evin Prison instead of being reunited with their families.  You can take action to send a letter calling for their release through Amnesty International’s website.

In a radio interview with Anti-War.com, NIAC’s  Reza Marashi explained, “It’s a puzzle to me what Iran’s trying to achieve.”  But he also said there remains a glimmer of hope that the Supreme Leader would issue  an edict releasing the hikers.  It could be a way to save face, by showing leniency in the holy month of Ramadan.  This way they “won’t have to come up with a nonsensical justification for keeping them in prison,” Marashi said.

As Wednesday’s New York Times editorial put it, “There is no legitimate excuse not to (let them go). Mr. Bauer and Mr. Fattal should be freed immediately.”

But in addition the murky internal political dynamic, this situation is endemic to the conflict between the US and Iran.  As Marashi points out, “If relations had been halfway normal this would have been resolved far earlier.”  Without diplomatic relations, there are few levers for the U.S. to pull.

Unfortunately, due to a deeply seeded culture of mistrust on both sides, the US and Iran have framed their relationship as a zero-sum game. Thus, if one side gains then by nature the other side loses.  It’s easy to envision how a stalemate can develop as neither side is willing to bargain or negotiate.  So, situations like we see with the hikers become more “complex, even though (the solution) is straight forward.”

  • 22 December 2010
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Sanctions

Engineering Economic Suffering

After hearing Ahmadinejad’s announcement on Sunday of the first phase of subsidy cuts, the world is watching and waiting to see what will come out of eliminating 30 year-old oil subsidies for Iranian citizens. With economic sanctions already taking a toll and the beginning of cuts on subsidies coming into effect, ordinary Iranians continue to bear the brunt of US pressure and Iran’s economic mismanagement.

Ahmadinejad claims that cutting oil subsidies will help the ailing Iranian economy. Given Iran’s already high rate of inflation – estimated to be around 20 percent – the Iranian government’s latest move could spark even more inflation and carries significant economic risk.

According to Tehran Bureau, the subsidy cuts are already causing a ripple effect on prices of goods and services:

“The price of electricity has tripled from 0.75 cents/KWh to 2.2 cents/KWh. The price of water has similarly increased by a factor of three. The price of natural gas for home heating and cooking has increased by a factor of four, and for vehicle fuel by a factor of ten. The price of flour has increased by a factor of 40.”

But before proponents of “crippling” Iran’s economy begin dancing in the streets, they should consider two factors.

First, while Ahmadinejad emphasizes that subsidy cuts are about distributing Iran’s economic wealth in a more equitable way, there is clearly another issue at hand: the subsidies have been a cancer in Iran’s budget for years.

As the USIP’s Iran Primer on “The Subsidies Conundrum” explains:

“Subsidies have been costly. They were estimated to eat up around 25 percent of Iran’s gross domestic product (GDP) of $335 billion in 2009. Subsidies for energy products alone accounted for 10 percent of Iran’s GDP in 2010, according to the World Bank.”

The Iranian government has attempted to cut the subsidies multiple times, but always been rebuffed by popular pressure.  But as GWU Professor Hossein Askari and NIAC President Trita Parsi warned in a New York Times op-ed from last year, the sanctions appear to be “throwing Ahmadinejad a lifeline” by providing him with the political cover to cut the subsidies and remove this cancer.  It is no accident that Ahmadinejad finally succeeded in cutting subsidies after the sanctions on refined petroleum were imposed.

Secondly, the response to the price shocks that have resulted from the subsidy cuts has been calm so far.  Jason Rezaian at the Global Post writes, “Despite steep price increases for everything from bread to gasoline, the Iranian public here has so far remained relatively calm,” though he cautions that “the impact of some of the price hikes, such as electricity and water, won’t be felt for weeks.”

William Yong at the New York Times echoes this point:

“Seemingly unaffected by a sharp increase in gasoline prices that went into effect at midnight on Sunday, drivers jammed the streets here on Monday after the government lifted traffic restrictions aimed at reducing severe air pollution.”

Compare this to one year ago when thousands of protesters turned out during Ashura to demonstrate against the injustices in the aftermath of the June elections – despite the massive presence of the riot police and basij.  US policymakers like freshman Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) who want Washington to engineer economic suffering so that ordinary Iranians revolt against their government should take notice. Iranians were on the streets protesting last year not because of economic hardship but to fight for their right to basic civil liberties.  Perhaps it is difficult for ordinary Iranian citizens to think about the prospects of improving civil liberties when they are being squeezed from all sides and can’t even provide a simple noon-o-panir (bread and cheese) for their families.

As Askari and Parsi pointed out last year, sanctions proponents who “believe that increased economic pressure would cause Iranians to revolt against their unpopular rulers,” were engaging in “a fundamental misreading of the psychology of an embargoed people.”

Ahmadinejad Accuses Opposition of Supporting Sanctions

Earlier this week, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reacted to the latest round of international sanctions by lashing out at his political arch nemeses, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mir Hossein Mousavi, during a televised conference with the heads of Iran’s propaganda machine, the IRIB.  Ahmadinejad didn’t call them out by name, instead referring to them as those “who were responsible for forcing the Imam [Khomeini] to drink the poisonous chalice” — referring to UN Security Council resolution that brought an end of the Iran-Iraq War.  These individuals – Rafsanjani and Mousavi — “were complicit with the West” in imposing sanctions against Tehran and trying to “put an end to our government,” Ahmadinejad claimed.

Of course the leaders of the Green Movement have repeatedly spoken out against international sanctions.  Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad pretended as if the opposite were true – not unlike much of official Washington – in order to attack the Green Movement as treasonous.

This being Ahmadinejad, he went even further. He declared “we wanted this from God –we were waiting for them [the Green Movement] to come,” alluding to the brutal crackdown on protests that ensued after his disputed re-election.

Despite Ahmadinejad’s bellicose rhetoric, his standing is not nearly as firm as he would have the world believe.

Ahmainejad’s allegations come a week after the head of the IRGC, Ali Jafari, admitted for the first time in public that some IRGC officials are supportive of the Green Movement.  According to Rahe Sabz, top officials, such as the Supreme Leader and top IRGC officers decided to forcibly retire 250 members of the Guards who had sided with Mousavi after last year’s disputed presidential election.

These two events together show the depths of the rifts that continue to grow by the day within the Iranian government.  Ahmadinejad’s striking accusations are surprising, even for someone as strident as Ahmadinejad. He is, after all, accusing the head of one of the most powerful institutions in the Islamic establishment of colluding with the U.S against his government.  Moreover, while there was always some speculation that certain members of the IRGC were at odds with the government’s brutal reaction to the demonstrations, Jafari’s announcement further demonstrates that the IRGC is not a monolithic institution with unwavering allegiance is to the Supreme Leader.

Although the green movement may seem to be on hiatus, people in the U.S should not make the mistake of believing that the movement has been crushed by the government. While protestors have grown weary of taking to the streets to be beaten, the political schisms in Iran show no signs of healing, and only time can tell what will happen next.


  • 29 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

A Majlis of the IRGC, by the IRGC, and for the IRGC



The recent battle over Azad University and its assets is not only a sign of a growing division in Iran’s hardliners. If one looks more closely, the growing importance of the IRGC in Iranian politics is also becoming clearer.

Originally created by Ayatollah Khomeini to be the Supreme Leader’s personal militia, the IRGC acts independently from the official armed forces. While it already controls a large segment of the Iranian economy, in the last decade the IRGC has also been increasingly acting like an independent branch in the government.

In recent decades, the IRGC has been used to suppress Iran’s rapidly developing civil society and student movement. Over the last two years, though, it has reached a boiling point: Hillary Clinton said Iran is becomming a “military dictatorship,” and the disputed electoral victory for Ahmadinejad last June was labeled a military coup.

“It is not a theocracy anymore,” said Rasool Nafisi, an expert in Iranian affairs and co-author of an exhaustive study of the IRGC. “It is a regular military security government with a facade of a Shiite clerical system.”

Now, the IRGC’s ascendancy is playing out in a battle over Azad University, its board, its 1.5 million students, and its billions of dollars worth of assets.

On June 19, Azad University’s board secured a temporary injunction preventing the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution (SCCR) from enforcing its revision of the university’s charter. In support of Azad University, on June 20 a bill was rushed through the 270-member Majlis that allowed universities to endow their properties to the public, thus circumventing the government takeover of the University.

As all political moves in Iran are protested by one group or another, shortly thereafter Basijis and Ahmadinejad loyalists protested outside Majlis, claiming the bill was against Khamenei’s will. Protesters threatened to place the Majlis “under fire” unless it backed away from its bill.

What is interesting to note is that the Basij and Ahmadinejad loyalists were not actually acting in the name of the Supreme Leader as they claimed. In fact, Khamenei came out and called for unity, saying “I object to any comment, move, action, or written text that leads to division and rift…We need to promote consolidation.” It thus seems that the Basij have actually developed a position of their own, independent of the Supreme Leader.

As a result of the heated protests, 100 legislators voted for emergency discussion of legislation that would support the SCCR’s authority in the matter. In other words, this discussion could overturn the endowment bill passed earlier on June 20.

The fact that protest by the Basij led many Majlis members to change their mind is a sign of their growing power.  According to U.S.-based political analyst Reza Fani Yazdi:

“It seems that from now on any bill that is due to be ratified by the parliament [must] be approved by the security military forces, otherwise the same thing will happen and they will bring their pressure groups to the streets and force the parliament not to make any independent decisions— even the current parliament, which includes many former members of the [Revolutionary Guard] and close aides of Ahmadinejad’s government.

As NIAC Advisory Board Member Reza Aslan said shortly after the June elections, “There is a genuine fear… that Iran is beginning to resemble Egypt or Pakistan, countries in which the military controls the apparatus of government.” If the IRGC begins to control the Majlis as well, Aslan will have proven to be right.

It is important to note, of course, that the IRGC is far from a monolithic organization. Members voted for various political candidates in the elections and of course do not all support Ahmadinejad. In fact, many former members denounced the regime’s brutal crackdown following the June 2009 elections. The effects of this great diversity on the battle over Azad University remains to be seen.

For now,  if the Ahmadinejad camp wins this political battle, they will control the billions of dollars of assets belonging to the university. The university’s campuses will be controlled by the government’s security and military apparatus. But most important, and perhaps most frightening, their victory will also serve as a precedent for the IRGC to effectively control the Majlis in the future through intimidation and violence, thus permanently overshadowing the most representative branch of the Iranian government. And with such a diverse IRGC, who knows what will happen next?

Photo Credit: Radio Farda

  • 25 June 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Vl
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Persian Gulf

Iran’s Hardliners Continue Splitting

Tensions are boiling in Iran’s parliament over the government’s demand to take control over the assets of Azad University, which amounts to over $200 billion. This feud between the parliament and Ahmadinejad’s administration reflects the ongoing battles between the camps of Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad. (Azad University was one of the most successful pet projects and legacies of the Rafsanjani era.)

Recently, the hardliners organized a mob of Basijis to demonstrate against the parliament in order to make the MPs succumb to the government’s demands for changing the Azad University’s Board of Directors that are part of the Rafsanjani coterie. The mob chanted offensive slogans, like “Death to the hypocrites” and “Shame on this disgraceful assembly.”

But this intimidation actually backfired. In response, many conservative MP’s lashed out at the government of Ahmadinejad for instigating “such insolence.” This response is reflective of an emerging third conservative faction that has become disillusioned with the hard-liners like Ahmadinejad and is increasingly distancing themselves from their hostile policies. Prominent conservative elements of the Majlis, like Motahari and Larijani, are also fed up with the political tactics of intimidation employed by Ahmadinejad supporters.

Obviously, this rift in the establishment is the product of last year’s presidential elections. The post-election turmoil sparked an internal power struggle that is continuously fluctuating in its intensity. Without this constant struggle, it is unlikely that such a sensitive matter that would have so embroiled the different chambers of the Iranian government, and then have surfaced for the entire Iranian nation to see as well.

  • 24 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran

The People’s Enemy

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEeMnedfUy0&”]

Today marks the 28th anniversary of the liberation of Iran’s southwestern city of Khorramshahr, captured by Iraq in 1980 near the start of the Iran-Iraq War.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei made a speech marking the occasion, declaring that “Enemies of the Iranian nation will definitely be defeated today as they were defeated in 1980.” Denouncing the actions of the US and its allies in different parts of the world, namely Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and the Palestinian territories, Khamenei attributed Iran’s enemies as the root cause and element of crimes and insecurity in the world.

President Ahmadinejad also made a speech in Khorramshahr for the occasion, but this speech didn’t go exactly as planned. Ahmadinejad was interrupted by loud chants coming from the crowd, saying: “Bikaree! Bikaree!” (“Unemployment! Unemployment!”)

With this interruption, the citizens of Khorramshahr reminded the president as well as the Supreme Leader that they don’t blame Iran’s enemies for the double-digit unemployment in the country.

To top it off, the speech — and the ensuing chants — were carried live on national TV.  This forced Ahmadinejad to respond, saying “The government… with the help of the youth in Khorramshahr and Khuzestan [province], hopefully will eliminate unemployment in Khuzestan.”

Unemployment was also one of the main issues in the 2009 presidential campaign, and one of the main issues distinguishing incumbent Ahmadinejad and reformist candidate Mousavi, who criticized Ahmadinejad for his handling of the economy in his four years in office.  In his 2005 election campaign, then-candidate Ahmadinejad gained significant support among the voters for his promise to put “a chicken in every pot.”

But perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on detaining artists, hikers, Bahai’s, election protesters, Canadian journalists and French academics (among many others).  This has to have been a distraction from the government handling the double-digit unemployment in the country, which is also an “enemy of the Iranian nation.”

  • 7 May 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Who is Mousavi Challenging in His New Statement?

Mir Hossein Mousavi issued a statement just a few days ago calling for the implementation of each and every article of the Iranian constitution. According to Mousavi, the full implementation of the law is the only peaceful solution to the existing crisis in Iran, and he commits to this path forward.  His English translated statement can be found on his Facebook page. Mousavi’s official site – Kalameh – provides the full text in Persian.

Every single ignored or abandoned article of the constitution should be implemented

Mir Hossein Mousavi stressed that the full implementation of the constitution without any personal interpretations against the clear rulings of the constitution is the only solution for achieving national unity and reinstating the rights of all ethnics groups and said: “Every single ignored or abandoned article of the constitution should be implemented and if there is any issue in this matter that should be put to a referendum.”

Which abandoned articles of the Iranian constitution is Mousavi referring to, and what are the road blocks that he sees in this proposed path forward?

He is most likely challenging the full – unquestioned -authority of the Supreme Leader which even under the existing Iranian constitution is supposed to be monitored by the Khobregan Council; a council that because of the nature of its appointment by the bodies under the control of the Supreme Leader himself is unable to make a sound judgment in questioning the Leader himself.

Mousavi almost never talks about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly. The two have a history of a ferocious political fighting in the early days of the Iranian revolution, and it appears that neither of them is ready to move away from that history.

After the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution, the Iranian constitution was amended and voted on. That was when the Absolute Guardianship of the Islamic Jurisprudence – Velayat e Motlagheye Faghih – was inserted into the Islamic Republic’s constitution. Almost overnight, Khamenei, a Hojatoleslam back then and  a man who was a subordinate of Mousavi in government was elevated to a position of an Ayatollah, and became the sole absolute power in the Islamic Republic. Thereafter, Mousavi disappeared from the political arena for twenty years.

Although the principle of Velayat Faghih is enshrined in the constitution, there also exist other chapters and articles that are supposed to monitor its performance.  But these articles are never enforced.

Being absent from the political arena in Iran, Mir Hossein Mousavi, “felt a sense of danger” as he called it, and re-entered politics to challenge the existing absolute authority. As opposed to American political culture — which can be much more direct or blunt —  the Iranian way of conducting politics is hidden beneath loads of sarcasm, metaphor, poetry, and peculiar Persian literature, which is another reason why it is so difficult for foreign governments to understand the Iranian side of the story.

But now Mousavi is back, and is challenging a twenty year old – undisputed – stronger-than-ever, absolute authority that appears to be more frustrated with its own inability to contain popular resentment.

Mousavi never refers to this personal authority by its name, but his subliminal messages appear more and more transparent as his movement progresses.

  • 4 March 2010
  • Posted By Nayda Lakelieh
  • 5 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

It’s the Economy, Ahmagh

Time reports that the Iranian economy is in a dire state, more than Tehran would like to reveal. The Iranian government has even stopped reporting economic statistics, as financial anxiety is encroaching upon the Islamic Republic’s stability.

Although the Iranian government has ceased official economic reports, unofficial sources still report the growing labor problems; one report states that a privately owned industrial-parts company in Isfahan has not paid 200 of its employees for the past 7 months. Additional problems were reported in an Isafahani steel plant, where workers started a hunger strike to protest vast discrepancies in their pay. In Shiraz, Gorgan, and cities all over Iran, more reports assert that workers  have gone unpaid for months, with some employers even failing to pay state insurance, letting working conditions steadily diminish. Still, there is no official recognition of the growing economic problems.

An Iranian journalist explains “they have manipulated the definition of who is jobless so they can keep the figure close to 10%. But now every family has one jobless person in their home.”

“They cannot believe all those optimistic figures given by the government. The government says that inflation was less than 30%, but they go to the grocery store and find everything is double and triple the price that it was four years ago.”

The official figures fall short of Iran’s targeted economic development plan, while unemployment is predicted to be over 24%. Ahmadinejad was elected on the campaign platform of economic success, yet has failed to deliver upon his promise.  Iranian media continues to depict a thriving economy, while ordinary Iranians feel the brunt of inflation, adding yet another shaky ingredient to the Islamic Republic’s future.

Would Ahmadinejad Welcome an Attack on Iran?

“Bomb Iran!” Few words cause more apprehension among Iranians and Iranian Americans than those two put together. Yet attacking Iran is always among the list of suggestions for how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.

Whether Iran is pursuing peaceful nuclear energy or a weapon is, however, actually becoming irrelevant.  The international community is rallying around the most recent IAEA report, which criticized Iran’s lack of cooperation with the Agency, to lambaste Iran’s continuing nuclear work.

This is exactly what Ahmadinejad was hoping for.

The world’s breathless reporting on Iran’s nuclear program takes the focus off of human rights abuses and the domestic unrest, and ratchets up the possibility of a future confrontation.  And Ahmadinejad is never happier than when he’s in a clash of civilizations with the West.

A recent war game conducted at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy demonstrated that an Israeli-US pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear sites could delay an Iranian bomb for a few years. That said, according to one participant:

There would be almost no incentive for Iran not to respond with force…It was interesting to see how useful it was for Tehran to push the limits. The Tehran regime was also able to crush its domestic political opposition.”

One has to wonder why Iran recently made the decision to move nearly all of its stockpile of enriched uranium to an above-ground facility with wholly inadequate defense against an airstrike.  Could it be that Tehran would actually invite an Israeli attack?

A former Deputy Director General of the IAEA thinks so:

Very recent signals from Tehran indicates that the Ahmadine-jad faction – it seems with the blessing of the Supreme Leader – would welcome a limited Israeli attack on a nuclear facility – for sheer internal political reasons, in order to strengthen the govern-ment and to silence the opposition.

If an attack were to occur, it would do little to actually end the nuclear program in Iran. Rather, it would almost guarantee the end of a legitimate opposition movement inside Iran.

Continuing the nuclear program.  Crushing the Green Movement.  And being able to play the victim on a global stage?  That’s a dream come true for Ahmadinejad.

  • 11 February 2010
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 8 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Bearing Witness: 22 Bahman

NIAC is liveblogging the events of Feb. 11 in Iran, which marks the latest day of planned opposition protests as well as the anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic.  We encourage readers to share their own news and insights in the comments section below.

2:36 pm: More from the Senate presser.  John McCain, speaking about the new Iran Human Rights Sanctions Act:

The United States must lead an international effort to support the human rights of the Iranian people, and to put that effort at the center of our policy toward Iran.  This is not about picking winners in an internal Iranian matter. It’s about standing up for the universal values we hold dear and championing the cause of all who seek to secure those values for themselves.

1:49 pm: Senate focuses on Iran human rights. As Laura Rozen reported this morning, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman are introducing a bill imposing sanctions on Iran — nothing new there — but this time the focus is not on the nuclear program, but rather the human rights violations going on.

The scheme is straightforward: the bill requires the President to draw up and periodically update a list of names of individuals who have committed human rights abuses in Iran,” a Senate aide says. “These individuals are then subject to a set of targeted sanctions, including a visa ban and various financial restrictions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.”

The list will also be public, so that other governments and people around the world, including in Iran, can see who these individuals are, the aide continued. It also includes a presidential waiver that can be exercised on a case-by-case basis. “The overall sanctions scheme lifts when the President can certify that the Iranian government has taken certain tangible steps to improve the human rights situation inside the country, such as releasing all political prisoners.

The press conference, which is still going on, is available here, via C-Span.

12:46 pm: “Allah-u Akbar,” “Death to Dictator” rooftop chants tonight. JARAS is reporting that opposition supporters are planning to shout “death to the dictator” alongside their usual chants of “Allah-u Akbar” tonight.  (h/t NYT)

12:42 pm: Most mainstream news outlets have validated my initial assessment earlier today (9:02 am) about the government using security services to maintain relative control over the opposition’s activities.  Tehran Bureau called it an “anti-climax,” and AP is reporting many opposition supporters being deflated at the size and strength of opposition rallies compared to the pro-government one.

[T]he massive security clampdown appeared to succeed in preventing protesters from converging into a cohesive demonstrations. Large numbers of riot police, members of the Revolutionary Guard and Basij militiamen, some on motorcycles, deployed in back streets near key squares and major avenues in the capital to move against protesters.

Without playing the game of counter-factuals, it is important to note just how differently today could have gone.  Following Ashura, which rocked the hardliners to their very core, many expected today’s protests to be even larger and more well organized.  Many more dreaded the possibility that Basij and security personnel would fire on the crowds and kill scores.  Obviously that did not happen today, though the Basijis were as violent as ever in dispersing the crowds.

For those who yearn for democratic progress and respect for human rights in Iran, as we do, days like today will always be difficult to watch.  It’s a catch-22: for the “greens” to prevail, many believe they will have to endure massive violence, brutality, and chaos.  But the world can hardly abide the violence, brutality, and chaos that we have already witnessed.  And so, faced with this difficult challenge, many in the West on Facebook and in the blogosphere simply turn against one another, choosing to engage in petty backbiting rather than keeping the focus where it belongs: on the struggle that continues to be waged by average, ordinary people in Iran.  Frankly, they couldn’t care less what we think or what our problems with one another are.

12:13 pm: Our contact in Iran (11:58) also points out a big distinction between the various types of security personnel surrounding the demonstrations — the ordinary police forces versus the Basij, or as our contact calls them the “gladiators.”  For those on the ground in Iran, the ordinary police force is much more ambivalent about cracking down on opposition activities — the guards at the makeshift prison that was overrun by protesters were police, not Basij, which made a big difference to the opposition supporters.

11:58 am: A contact in Iran who attended the rallies in and around Azadi and Sadeghieh Square this morning told us of his experience, which left him bruised and cut from scuffling with security forces.

According to the source, the biggest difference between today’s events and previous demonstrations was the amount of undercover police among the crowd.  The moment anyone indicated an opposition or “green” point of view, plainclothes militiamen would come out of nowhere and take that person away.  One gentleman remarked about all the buses funneling people in from out of town, only to be whisked away by three undercover agents.

Our contact was also one of the protesters shot with an orange paint pellet, to mark him for arrest at a later time.  He managed to find a hiding place where he could wipe the paint off of his pants to evade detection.

Finally, during the morning’s rallies, he recounted an experience where three protesters were being held by police in a makeshift pen, when a group of other opposition supporters came to the rescue.  They so outnumbered the police guards, throwing rocks and yelling for their release, that the crowd broke down the holding pen and freed the three.

11:35 am: IAEA on Iran’s “modest” new enrichment. AP obtained an internal IAEA document regarding the enrichment work announced in this morning’s speech by President Ahmadinejad, which for the first time took  uranium above the 5% level in Iran. “Iran expects to produce its first batch of higher enriched uranium in a few days but its initial effort is modest, using only a small amount of feedstock and a fraction of its capacities,” it said.  “It should be noted that there is currently only one cascade … that is capable of enriching” up to 20 percent, said the document.

The document, relying on onsite reports from International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, also cited Iranian experts at the enrichment plant at Natanz as saying that only about 10 kilograms — 22 pounds — of low enriched uranium had been fed into the cascade for further enrichment.

Agency inspectors were told Wednesday “that it was expected that the facility would begin to produce up to 20 percent enriched … (uranium) within a few days,” said the one-page document.

11:22 am: Tehran Bureau has an interview with Karroubi’s son, Hossein.

How is your father Haj Agha Mehdi Karroubi? We’re treating him for burns to his face and eyes. He’s having trouble with his lungs too. He was badly attacked with pepper spray. Plainclothes agents (vigilantes) approached him and kept spraying it in his eyes. He’s resting at home though; he’s not been hospitalized.

Any news of your brother Ali?

We haven’t been able to figure out where he is. Everyone we call claims to have no information on him. We believe he’s in the custody of the law enforcement agency.

11:05 am: Recap. Most reports indicate that people are heading home right about now.  The day was characterized by the contrasting styles of the one large government-sponsored rally in the morning with tens of thousands of people, versus the numerous smaller and nimbler gatherings by the opposition forces.  There have been no confirmed cases of protesters being killed, (though rumors abound), and most likely the number of arrests is in the low hundreds.  Protests occurred in most of the major cities, but the heaviest presence was felt by far in Tehran.

Many commenters are calling the presence of governmental security forces “stifling,” using violence and intimidation to prevent demonstrations from growing beyond relatively small numbers.  With over a month to prepare, the government’s security forces were out in full force today, immediately reacting when opposition leaders like Karroubi, Khatami, and Mousavi appeared among the people.  For much of this week, Internet service was spotty and Gmail has been taken down completely, all in preparation for today’s expected events.  (Compare this to Ashura, when the government had hardly any time at all to prepare, and the reaction by Basij and police was much more careless and led to more bloodshed).  Family members of opposition leaders were beaten or detained, and there was never an opportunity to rally supporters around the green movement’s figureheads.

10:30 am: Brutality.

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kSBWG2rBV8&feature=player_embedded”]

9:32 am: Via Mir Hossein Mousavi’s Facebook page, Kalame news is reporting:

Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who was intending to join the people in the demonstration from Sadeghiye Square was surrounded and attacked by plain clothes militia. The plain clothes militia physically assaulted her and beat her with batons at her head and back. Zahra Rahnavard after this incident with the support of a large crowd of people who made a human shield to protect her, was able to leave the area.

9:21 am: The Guardian relays an AP interview with protesters today, who were dejected for the same reason mentioned below at 9:02.

“There were 300 of us, maximum 500. Against 10,000 people,” one protester said.

“It means they won and we lost. They defeated us. They were able to gather so many people. But this doesn’t mean we have been defeated for good. It’s a defeat for now, today. We need time to regroup,” she said.

Another protester insisted the opposition had come out in significant numbers, but “the problem was that we were not able to gather in one place because they (security forces) were very violent.”

It should be noted that this is actually not at all the representative view for most opposition supporters being reported on today.  Many green activists on Twitter have been circulating messages saying the goal of the opposition today was to disrupt the government’s official ceremony, and that it was a victory.

9:02 am: It’s still very early to be drawing conclusions from today’s events, as people are still out in the streets.  But one thing I’m struck by is just how much the government has been in control today.  Sure, they chartered busses and lured tens of thousands to the official government rally with free food, but they have also managed to keep the opposition activities largely on their terms today.

The government’s strategy is to depict the protesters as a small group of rioting thugs, burning trash cans and disrupting order for their own radical, “foreign-backed” agenda.  Toward that end, they have been very effective at keeping the demonstrations today dispersed and nervous — less of the “million man march” and more like Seattle WTO protesters.  Above all else, the ruling elites know the danger of big crowds: strength in numbers takes over and individuals no longer feel like they will be held accountable for their actions, thus their demands get more radical and their tactics more extreme; this forces a harsher backlash from security forces, possibly including using lethal force.  And then that’s the ball-game.  That’s exactly what happened in 1979, and Khamenei learned that lesson well enough that he’ll do his utmost not to repeat it.

So today’s events (like previous ones) have seen security forces disrupt crowds before they can coalesce into a large group, arresting numerous individuals as a way of controlling the crowds before they get out of the police’s hands.

8:42 am: Josh Shahryar has catalogued most of the opposition rallies today, with his own figures for numbers arrested by police forces.  By his account, thousands gathered in Esfahan at the See-o-Seh Bridge, where security forces tried to disperse the demonstators with tear gas.  Also, protests occured in Ahvaz, Shiraz, Mashad, and of course, Tehran, with skirmishes involving security forces either arresting individuals, blocking protesters routes, or in some cases firing tear gas and beating anyone showing any sign of opposition activity.

Interestingly, many accounts we’ve been hearing involve protesters being hesitant to wear green, flash a V for victory sign, or even chant openly out of fear of backlash from security personnel.  In some cases, particularly at Azadi Square where Ahmadinejad addressed the official government rally, security forces scanned the crowd watching for any signs of “green” activity, and quickly pulled people out of the group as soon as they were given cause.

8:15 am: Indisputable. Via United4Iran, this video of protesters tearing down a photo of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and then trampling on it:

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fd4FRQXiwzc&feature=player_embedded“]

Remember that even in the heady days of protests this summer, it would have been unthinkable for protesters to deface an image of the Supreme Leader.  In a short eight months, the demands of the demonstrators have evolved, and their tactics have advanced as well.

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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