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Entries in Chris Emery (2)


The Latest from Iran (19 August): Freedom & Detention

2015 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Families of detainees who recently ended their hunger strike have still not received visit permits.

2010 GMT: Divorce Shocker! Ayatollah Safaei Bushehri, Friday Prayer leader and the Supreme Leader's representative in Bushehr, has revealed that 50% of marriage break-ups are caused by bad hijab.

2000 GMT: Parliament v. President. "Hardline" MP Hossein Nejabat has declared that Parliament's problems with the President did not exist during the administration of the reformist Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005). He said Ahmadinejad has to abide to the laws, otherwise he will be called before the Majlis.

In a more cautious statement, MP Hossein Sobhani-Nia sad that he hoped the Supreme Leader's words will induce the Government to implement the laws of Majlis and on the judiciary to remove possible problems with those laws.

NEW Rewriting Iran’s History: The 1953 Coup, the CIA, the Clerics, and “Democracy” (Emery)
NEW Iran Cartoon of the Day: 1953 Speaks to 2010
Iran Document: Nourizad’s Last Letter to Supreme Leader “The 10 Grievances”
Iran Feature: Sanctions, Iranians, and YouTube’s “Life in a Day” (Esfandiary)
UPDATED Iran Special: Have Fars (& Revolutionary Guard) Faked a Reformist “Confession” on Election?
The Latest from Iran (18 August): A Letter and A Call for Bombing

1945 GMT: Khamenei to US "Have I Made Myself Clear?". The Supreme Leader's office wants to be sure that Washington (and the rest of the world) gets Khamenei's point, made in his speech to senior Iranian officials --- Ahmadinejad, Rafsanjani, and Seyed Hassan Khomeini were in the audience --- that Tehran will not enter discussions over uranium enrichment unless Washington pulls back sanctions. Not only did they put out the lines on Twitter even before the speech had hit the Iranian media; they have now put out an English version of the statement: "Ayatollah Khamenei further reiterated that the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to start negotiations provided that the US abandons its domineering attitude, puts an end to threats and sanctions and does not impose its goals on the negotiations."

Given the timing of mid-term Congressional elections in the US, it's a safe bet that there will not be a word breathed in Washington about a possible relaxation of sanctions. And that means there is no chance of public talks on Iran's nuclear programme before mid-November.

1700 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Golnaz Esfandiari has more on the case of detained women's rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari, including this comment from Zahra Rahnavard: "We are worried for Shiva Nazar Ahari, her trial, and its result because we are all Shiva Nazar Ahari. We, women, who make up half of Iran’s population, we are all Shiva Nazar Ahari."

1420 GMT: Iran MediaWatch. Radio Farda has more on the ban on the newspaper Asia, which specialises in economic matters.

Asia has been critical of the economic policy of the Government, but the official reasons for its closure, according to Deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Ali Ramin, are "publishing pictures against public chastity", “promoting wastefulness and extravagance", and "persistence in carrying out the aforementioned violations".

1405 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Peyke Iran claims that, after the Swiss Government's adoption of additional sanctions against Tehran, the assets of 40 Iranian companies have been blocked.

According to Fars News, Venezuela has said it will continue to supply Iran with gasoline despite sanctions.

David Velasquez, Venezuela's ambassador to Tehran, said, "We are at the service of Iran, and whenever Iran needs, we will supply it with gasoline."

1400 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch (Nourizad Edition). Back to our opening story today....

Video from RASA TV of Mohammad Nourizad's celebration with well-wishers before his return to prison has now been posted.

0910 GMT: I will be in meetings today about the Journal of American Studies, so updates will be limited until mid-afternoon.

0855 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch (Nokia Siemens Lawsuit Edition). Golnaz Esfandiari interviews Edward Moawad, the lawyer for detained journalist Isa Saharkhiz, who has filed a motion in US Federal Court against Nokia Siemens for provision of equipment to Iran assisting in surveillance. Moawad claims, "njuries to the main plaintiff here, Isa Saharkhiz, and to [his son] Mehdi and multiple others were inflicted as a result of the actions of Nokia Siemens network."

0850 GMT: The Battle Within. The latest journalist to consider the escalating tension within the Iranian political system is Robert Tait of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, who sees the root cause as President Ahmadinejad's "religious-nationalist" approach.

0840 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Gozaar offers a detailed profile of human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari, detained since July 2009. Her lawyer says a trial date is set for 4 September on charges of "mohareb" (war on God), which carries a death sentence.

Academic and Mir Hossein Mousavi advisor Ali Arab Mazar has been released from detention on $200,000 bail. He was arrested on 28 December and was in solitary confinement for three months.

0735 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The Pro-Vice Chancellor of Britain's Durham University, Anthony Forster, has expressed concern over the health and situation of Ehsan Abdoh-Tabrizi, a Ph.D. student imprisoned in mid-January after travelling to Tehran to visit his family.

Forster said Durham, in agreement with Abdoh-Tabrizi's father, had taken a low-profile approach after the arrest, conducting discussions with the Iranian Embassy in London; however, Durham's most recent letter had not been acknowledged by the embassy.

0730 GMT: We have published two features linking the 19 August 1953 coup that overthrew the Mossadegh Government and today's events in Iran. In Nikahang Kowsar's cartoon, Mohammad Mossadegh offers advice to Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Chris Emery has serious issues with a Washington Post article which claims to revise the history of the coup.

0625 GMT: Execution (Ashtiani) Watch. Britain's Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt summoned the Iranian ambassador, Rasoul Movahedian, on Wednesday to raise the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman sentenced to death for adultery. Burt also brought up the situation of seven members of the Baha'i faith, each sentenced to 20 years on charges of spying for Israel. and of Ebrahim Hamidi, who faces execution for sodomy.

Turkish officials have told Zaman that Ankara has also brought up Ashtiani's case in discussions with Iranian counterparts.
0605 GMT: Wednesday was marked by a series of statements: from the rhetoric of the Supreme Leader (don't mention internal matters, focus on relations with the US) to the declarations of opposition figures like Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi (this Government is discredited; the Iranian people will emerge and prevail) to the letter from journalist and filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad, now returned to Evin Prison, to Ayatollah Khamenei (here are the grievances against you and the system that you have led into disrepute).

But, at the end of the day, we noted this item, sent from an EA correspondent: Oxford University student Mohammad Reza Jalaeipour, seized by Iranian forces earlier this year after he was told to collect his passport, has been released from detention after 66 days in solitary confinement. The news was confirmed by his wife Fatemeh Shams, also a student at Oxford, who spoke to him by phone.

In total, Jalaeipour has spent 111 days in solitary confinement since the 2009 Presidential elections. It is unknown how much bail was posted for his release, and it is unclear whether he will get back his passport in time for the new academic year.

And we also saw the photograph, one of a set, that we are using for this post: Mohammad Nourizad, having written his 6th letter to the Supreme Leader in the knowledge that it would bring a summons from the authorities, is surrounded by well-wishers as he prepares for his return to prison.

Rewriting Iran's History: The 1953 Coup, the CIA, the Clerics, and "Democracy" (Emery)

On Wednesday, The Washington Post published a re-presentation of the 19 August 1953 coup in Iran by Ray Takeyh, fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations and former State Department Official, "Clerics Responsible for Iran's Failed Attempts at Democracy". (The opening paragraphs of the article are at the bottom of this entry.)

Much has been written about the US involvement, notably through the Central Intelligence Agency in the overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and the support for renewed power of the Shah, but Takeyh writes, "The CIA's role in Mossadeq's demise was largely inconsequential. The institution most responsible for aborting Iran's democratic interlude was the clerical estate, and the Islamic Republic should not be able to whitewash the clerics' culpability."

Iran Cartoon of the Day: 1953 Speaks to 2010

EA's Chris Emery, a specialist on US-Iran relations, is not so sure that Takeyh's revision is accurate. Indeed, he is not even convinced that the primary aim is historical accuracy:

1. This opinion piece seems needlessly insensitive at a time when many ordinary Iranians would take heart from a note of contrition from US-based observers --- which is reasonable, even according to the version of events presented by Takeyh. In timing and in tone, this is an extremely provocative (but not intellectually rigourous) attempt to re-frame a genuine area for historical debate. I would expect it from a professional polemicist, but not one with an academic pedigree. It reads like scholarly sabre rattling, which in my mind compliments much of the other kind we have seen recently.

2. Are ordinary Americans being told they shouldn't apologise for trying to remove democratically elected leaders as long as their removal is reliant on other factors as well? Is intent irrelevant?

3. Is Takeyh consciously trying to establish a wider historical context for the belief that Iran's suffering is entirely self-inflicted by the "Mullahs"? Clearly this will resonate well with many opposed to engagement between the US and Iran.

4. Considering the provocative headline, would it not have been better to devote more space to actually proving the allegation? Takeyh does not even direct the reader to recent scholarship that might support his conclusion. Instead we get precisely one sentence outlining how "the clerics" ousted Mossadegh: "Through their connections with the bazaar and their ability to galvanize the populace, they were instrumental in orchestrating the demonstrations that engulfed Tehran." He then seems to suggest that further proof lies in the hyperbole of Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA officer overseeing US covert operations, written more than 25 years after the events.

In other words Takeyh cannot find a US source acknowledging the pivotal role supposedly played by the clergy. He does not even acknowledge that the CIA possibly bribed Ayatollah Kashani, the former Speaker of the Majlis, with a large sum of money.

5. The final sentence of the piece --- "Responsibility for the suffocation of the Iranian peoples' democratic aspirations in the summer of 1953 lies primarily with those who went on to squash another democratic movement in the summer of 2009: the mullahs" --- is deliberately disingenuous, suggesting a link between the clerical elite then and now that Takeyh knows is false or at least far more complex (politically, doctrinally, and historically) than presented here.

Has Takeyh really failed to notice "mullahs" such as Mohammad Khatami, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, Grand Ayatollah Sane'i, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, and Ayatollah Dastgheib who have protested the suppression of rights and denial of justice since June 2009?

Clerics Responsible for Iran's Failed Attempts at Democracy
Ray Takeyh

Thursday marks the anniversary of one of the most mythologized events in history, the 1953 coup in Iran that ousted Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadeq. CIA complicity in that event has long provoked apologies from American politicians and denunciations from the theocratic regime. The problem with the prevailing narrative? The CIA's role in Mossadeq's demise was largely inconsequential. The institution most responsible for aborting Iran's democratic interlude was the clerical estate, and the Islamic Republic should not be able to whitewash the clerics' culpability.

The dramatic tale of malevolent Americans plotting a coup against Mossadeq, the famed Operation Ajax, has been breathlessly told so much that it has become a verity. To be fair, the cast of characters is bewildering: Kermit Roosevelt, the scion of America's foremost political family, paying thugs to agitate against the hapless Mossadeq; American operatives shoring up an indecisive monarch to return from exile and reclaim his throne; Communist firebrands and nationalist agitators participating in demonstrations financed by the United States. As Iran veered from crisis to crisis, the story goes, Roosevelt pressed a reluctant officer corps to end Mossadeq's brief but momentous democratic tenure.

Yet this fable conceals much about the actual course of events. In 1953 Iran was in the midst of an economic crisis. An oil embargo had been imposed after Tehran nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., and by that summer, the situation had fractured Mossadeq's ruling coalition. Middle-class Iranians concerned about their finances gradually began to abandon Mossadeq. The merchant class was similarly anguished about the financial consequences of Mossadeq's stubborn unwillingness to resolve the stalemate with the British. The intelligentsia and the professional classes were wary of the prime minister's increasingly autocratic tendencies. Rumors of military coups began circulating as members of the armed forces grew vocal in their frustrations with the prime minister and began participating in political intrigues.

Not just the stars but an array of Iranian society was aligning against Mossadeq.

Now, the CIA was indeed actively seeking to topple Mossadeq. It had made contact that spring with the perennially indecisive shah and Iranian officers, including Gen. Fazollah Zahedi, an opportunistic officer who sought the premiership himself. Roosevelt had laid out a plan in which the shah would issue a monarchical decree dismissing Mossadeq; it was to be served to him on Aug. 15. But the commander who was to deliver the message was arrested, and the plot quickly unraveled.

This is where the story takes a twist. As word of the attempted coup spread, the shah fled Iran and Zahedi went into hiding. Amazingly, U.S. records declassified over the past decade indicate, the United States had no backup plan. Washington was largely prepared to concede. State Department and CIA cables acknowledge the collapse of their subversive efforts.

But while crestfallen Americans may have been prepared to forfeit their mission, the Iranian armed forces and the clergy went on to unseat Mossadeq....

Read rest of article....