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  • 25 July 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: July 25, 2012

Romney Takes Hard Line on Iranian Enrichment

At the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Mitt Romney took a hardline on Iran’s nuclear program. “There must be a full suspension of any enrichment, whatsoever, period,” Romney said (Fox News 7/24). In a separate interview, Romney advisor Rich Williamson asserted that, “after the election… [President Obama] is going to cut a deal allowing [Iran] to have enrichment,” (PBS 7/24).

Iranian Supreme Leader Urges Unity On Sanctions

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged his nation’s politicians to show more unity under pressure from Western sanctions. In a meeting with officials, he is quoted as saying, “You should avoid useless disputes and airing these disputes to help preserve the nation’s unity … and officials should know these actions will not bring them any honor or prestige among the people,” (Reuters 7/25).

Irano Hind Shipping Co. Folds Under Sanctions Pressure

  • 5 June 2012
  • Posted By Milad Jokar
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Israel, Neo-Con Agenda, Nuclear file

Ending characterization of “the other” is key to an Iran agreement

As a French-Iranian who has been exposed to both Iranian and Western mindsets, I have witnessed the lack of understanding that exists between Iran and the United States firsthand. During my travels and personal meetings, I have been able to access both narratives and what has struck me most is the harsh and intense misleading characterization of “the other” made by the political and media presentation. These different narratives create a problematic rift that heightens the political cost of finding a compromise between Iran and the P5+1 (U.S, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany). Hence, the decision-making on both sides is constrained by a political narrative driven by ideology more than the geostrategic and economic realities. One step to de-escalate is to lower this political cost by deconstructing the “otherization” of each side to allow a diplomatic resolution to be framed such that neither side loses face.

Unlike France, the United States and the Islamic republic have had more than 30 years of institutionalized enmity and this is why the political discourse on both sides has specifically been more aggressive and more prone to misconceptions. The rhetoric between the United States and Iran is still ratcheting up and the representation given of “the other” still deeply divides the average uninformed citizens in both countries. It is increasingly evident that the discursive strategy used by both the United States’ and Iran’s hardliners has been to simplify the representation of “the other” and to frame its complexity as an evil/demonic monolithic entity.

  • 18 April 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Human Rights in Iran, Neo-Con Agenda, Nuclear file

Washington and Tehran’s Vicious Spin Cycle

The crux of negotiations between the U.S. and Iran is that, at some point, in order to succeed, each side will have to take a deep breath and shake hands on a deal. But thirty years of mutual demonization and fear mongering, means it takes serious political courage to come to the table, and even more courage—and a major investment of political capital—to actually accept a deal and sell it at home.

One way each side builds such political capital is to spin the talks as favoring the home team. This zero-sum approach—building capital at the expense of the other side—is dangerous and can create a precarious back and forth.

After modest success in Istanbul this past weekend, we’re seeing this back and forth play out as the sides prepare for the next round of talks in five weeks in Baghdad. Tehran has portrayed Washington as having softened its position and backed down from previous demands—particularly on the issue of whether Iran has the right to enrichment.

As Robert Wright speculates in the Atlantic, “If Iran’s leadership thinks it may do a deal with a government it has long framed as the great Satan, it needs to tell the Iranian people that it’s bringing Satan to his knees.” He points out that, as Tehran spins one way to build domestic support and to perhaps insulate the negotiations from political backlash at home, the opposite happens among opportunists in the U.S.

The Washington Times, for instance, takes Fars News at its word that the U.S. is granting Iran concessions, seizing on Tehran’s domestic spin to attack the talks. The very same groups that dismiss positive news like Khamenei’s fatwah against nuclear weapons as religious dissembling are, ironically, the most eager to treat Iran’s anti-U.S. spin as gospel–so long as it can be used to attack the Obama Administration’s diplomacy.

For its part, the U.S. is doing the exact same kind of spinning. In Haaretz yesterday, an unnamed U.S. official pushed back against criticism from Bibi Netanyahu that the Istanbul talks were a “freebie” for Tehran. Such an attack from Netanyahu–delivered with Senator Joe Lieberman at the Prime Minister’s side–is politically damaging for the White House and for the talks. Bibi may not technically be a domestic political opponent of the President, but nobody has bothered telling that to Congress.

  • 14 March 2012
  • Posted By Angie Ahmadi
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Iran’s Parliamentary Vote: The Beginning of the End of Ahmadinejad

Cross-posted from Huffington Post:

Last Friday, Iran held its first elections since the controversial 2009 presidential contest, after which millions of voters poured into streets of Tehran. Unrest following the announced re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad culminated in mass detention, torture and the death of many protesters. It also led to the near-elimination of pro-reform political forces in the Islamic Republic. For this very reason, the parliamentary vote last week should be viewed as an unrepresentative sham — nothing more than a selection process amongst the ruling conservative elite.

As the dispute between Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad runs deeper, this election is widely interpreted as a battle between these two political heavyweights. With the ballot boxes now counted, the outcome categorically declares Khamenei as the winner — as was broadly anticipated. But placing Iran’s future policy trajectory in its proper context requires caution against reaching hasty conclusions. The results clearly show that candidates openly associated with Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie failed to enter the parliament. However, the Islamic Revolution Durability Front, backed by ultra-conservative Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi and fairly close to Ahmadinejad, performed relatively well, thereby lessening the possibility of a solid opposition to the president emerging in the new parliament.

  • 13 January 2012
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 01/13

CIA memos uncover Mossad “false flag” operations

A series of CIA memos, written during the George W. Bush’s administration, describes how Mossad agents, pretending to be American agents and carrying US passports, reportedly recruited the terrorist group Jundallah to carry out a covert war against Iran (Foreign Policy  01/13).

U.S. sends warning to Iran’s Supreme Leader 

According to government officials, the U.S. has warned Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, via a secret channel of communication, that closing the Strait of Hormuz would constitute a “red-line” which would provoke a U.S. response. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also stated on Thursday that the closure of the Strait would not be tolerated (NY Times 01/12).

Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei responded to Wednesday’s assassination of an Iranian scientist by saying that those behind the killing would be punished. “We will continue our path with strong will … and certainly we will not neglect punishing those responsible for this act and those behind it,” said Khamenei (Reuters 01/12). The Iranian scientist, Mostafa Roshan, was buried yesterday in Tehran (BBC 01/13).

U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta echoed strong denials by other top U.S. officials of American involvement in the assassination (The Guardian 01/13).

Russia considers Iran war a threat to security

Russia’s departing ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin told reporters that Russia considers Iranian involvement in any military action as a direct threat to Russia’s security. He also said that Israel is pushing the U.S. towards a war with Iran (Reuters 01/13).

U.N. to discuss nuclear program in Tehran

A senior U.N. nuclear agency team will be visiting Tehran on Jan. 28 to discuss allegations over Iran’s nuclear program. Iranian officials have suggested that they are ready to talk about the issue, according to two diplomats (Reuters 01/12). Some in the West have expressed skepticism over Iran’s readiness to discuss its nuclear program (Reuters 01/13).

  • 3 June 2010
  • Posted By Sherry Safavi
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Leader Pardons 81 Political Prisoners, Hundreds More Remain Incarcerated

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pardoned 81 of some 530 political prisoners jailed in the wake of the 2009 presidential election. The fate of the other 450 who remain incarcerated is unknown and new arrests continue to be made.

The government has not released the names of those pardoned or confirmed their wrongful prosecution. According to ILNA news agency, the Leader noted in a letter to Sadegh Larijani, head of the judiciary, that the pardons were made on the Prophet Mohammad’s daughter’s birthday.

Speculation still surrounds today’s pardons with the Associated Press writing that “the pardons were seen as a gesture of good will by Iran’s leaders just days before the anniversary of the June 12 election.” However, some remain skeptical finding it hard to believe that Khamenei would have been motivated by a sudden change of heart to express good will towards a group of people he has spent the last year repressing. A far more likely explanation would be that the pardons are part of an effort to shift domestic and international attention away from the regime’s many human rights violations in the days nearing the anniversary of the 2009 election.

Aaron Rhodes, spokesperson for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, has come to this conclusion. He notes that the Leader’s pardons speak to the innocence of those imprisoned. It would then follow that those imprisoned under similar circumstances, i.e. the other 450 political prisoners, should be pardoned as well. If the Leader does not extend the pardon to those individuals, then today’s pardons are essentially meaningless and arbitrary.

Further undermining the legitimacy of the pardons are reports made to the Campaign of prisoners being forced to ask for pardons. One example is director and film maker Mohammad Nourizad who was ruthlessly beaten when he refused to seek a pardon for a crime he had not committed.

Moreover, pardoned sentences do not even ensure the detainees freedom. In the past, interrogators have kept close watch on former political prisoners and threatened them in order to keep them in the country and out of the public eye. Long after their release, these former detainees find themselves still in a cell, a larger and more comfortable one certainly, but a cell nonetheless.

  • 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.

  • 26 March 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Reporting for Duty?

Hossein Yekta, a high ranking member of the Basij militia and a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, said this week that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already declared “war,” but “no one is reporting for duty.”

Raja News, one of the most hard line news agencies in Iran reported that Yekta tells student Basijis to get into war formation because the war has already started, and it started in the universities.

“There is only one person in the country that can declare war, and that is the Supreme Commander of All Armed Forces. Only two times has there been a declaration of war in the Islamic Republic. Once in the eve of September 22, 1980, and the other was just a while back when “Agha” declared war on a full scale cultural attack that was launched against us.”

A friend of mine once told me that there are three social phenomena that can each change an entire generation: revolution, war, and mass immigration.  Those who experience these events are bound to have radically different perspectives than the generation that follows them, which is precisely what happened in Iran.  The generation that brought about the revolution all of a sudden found itself in a war with Iraq a year after taking power, and that war along with the revolution itself produced a mass immigration effect.

Today, many of the hard-liners in the Islamic Republic are the ones who obviously didn’t emigrate out of the country. They participated in the revolution, and many of them fought in the Iran-Iraq war. A generation with noble deeds in mind that is finding it harder and harder every day to re-gain the respect that it once had in the society. This generation’s mindset is still in the revolutionary days of Iran.  But that doesn’t sit well with the young and vibrant generation – a Green generation – that now makes up the majority of the Iranian population.  This new generation has no memory of the revolution, nor of the eight-year war that devastated the country in so many different ways.

The hard-liners view national policy like it’s a battle on the front-lines; as it was when they were in Khoramshahr, Talaieyeh, Majnoon Shahr and other border cities in which they fought.  They were celebrated in the ’80s for their courage, but the war is over. It was over twenty years ago.

Iranians today are hearing the war rhetoric getting louder and louder after last year’s disputed presidential election. The hard-liners realize that the youth do not relate to their values, so they think they must be supported by foreign elements. That is the reason why the establishment refers to its domestic struggle as a war, a “soft war.”

I think about what my friend said, and I think about it a lot. I agree with him that the first decade of the Islamic Republic did change an entire generation of Iranians; but I also believe that they will have to reconcile with the changing times one way or another.  I believe the new generation – the Green generation – will shun this “war” ideology, regardless of how loudly the establishment trumpets it.

The signs are already there: “no one is reporting for duty.”

Rafsanjani: National Healer?

As one of the main pillars of power in the Islamic establishment, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani played a significant role in what became the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979.  Depending on one’s political affiliation, Rafsanjani to this day is still either highly respected or highly feared in the  internal political circles of Iran.

Rafsanjani 75, a pragmatist who deep inside believes in reforms to sustain the Islamic Republic, is the head of two very important institutions; the Assembly of Experts, which is an oversight and an electoral body to choose the Supreme Leader, and the Expediency Council that is the author of all macro policies in Iran. The Expediency Council is also a mediator for the legal disputes between the Guardian Council and the Parliament.

This past summer, it wasn’t long after the first bloody protests and after Ayatollah Khamenei issued his ultimatum to the protestors that Rafsanjani proposed his own solution to the crisis.  Eight months later today, he continues to reiterate his previous positions. He is moving forward to try to build a process for reconciling the reformists and hardliners in the hopes that they might pull the country out of the present crisis.

Hasan Rouhani, head of the Defense and National Security Commission within the Expediency Council, is now moving forward on a piece of legislation to decrease the Guardian Council’s role in the election process.  The proposal would create a new National Election Committee to oversee the election process, cutting the influence of the Supreme Leader and eliminating the role of the Guardian Council.

Although this legislation has to be approved by the Supreme Leader to become law, it is such a compelling idea that Khamenei might have to think twice about rejecting it.  If it does win approval, it just might be the momentum Rafsanjani is looking for to seek a national reconciliation.

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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