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The Latest from Iran (6 January): Distractions

IRAN GREEN2030 GMT: US Walks Tightrope on Green Movement. Earlier today we posted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's declaration about the "ruthless repression" of the Iran Government. Now State Department official John Limbert, who has direct responsibility for Iran, has put out a longer, more balanced statement.

On the one hand, Limbert continues the rhetoric criticising and cautioning the regime, "I think it's very hard for the government to decide how to react to the legitimate demands of the people. The more violence it uses, the more it will hurt itself in the end....We will never remain silent in the face of state violence and the mistreatment of people."

On the other, Limbert is also assuring that the Obama Administration will not break off discussions with the Ahmadinejad Government: "As you know, the U.S. president is determined to renew ties with Iran despite all the problems -- which we don't underestimate -- based on a new beginning."

NEW Iran: Hillary Clinton on Engagement & Pressure with Regime of “Ruthless Repression”
UPDATED Iran: The 60 Forbidden Foreign Organisations
Latest Iran Video and Transcript: Haghighatjoo and Marandi on CNN (4 January)
Iran: How Outside “Help” Can Hurt the Green Movement

2020 GMT: Setareh Sabety has posted an article commenting on the recent declaration of five Iranian intellectuals living abroad and declaring, "[Their] ten demands...should be embraced because they provide the democratic framework within which we can debate the future of our beloved Iran."

2010 GMT: Kalemeh is reporting the latest statement of Mehdi Karroubi that he is "prepared for everything" and "could not have imagine" the behaviour of the regime in the post-election conflict.

1950 GMT: Mesbah Yazdi Calling for Death Penalty? Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, close to President Ahmadinejad, ran out the standard line on the "evil" protests as the product of the "West" and Jews today. He allegedly added, however, that the demonstrators were "corruption on earth" and, as such, are subject to the death penalty.

1940 GMT: Iran's Energy Boost. "Turkmenistan has opened a second gas pipeline to Iran....Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated the new 30km (19 miles) pipeline with Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in a ceremony in the desert near the Iranian border."

What is interesting beyond the story is that the BBC not only reports the development but praises it for "further eroding Russia's historical domination of its energy sector". Not sure the US authorities will see the deal in exactly the same way.

1930 GMT: Oh, Please (with an MKO twist).... We try our bet to limit the damage, but sometimes you cannot keep a bad article down. Laura Rozen of Politico, who normally has the best pairs of eyes and ears in Washington, swallows The New York Times "Iran Nuclear Bunkers/Tunnels" story (see 0640 GMT). What's more, she inadvertently highlights more reasons for concern, quoting Broad:

In late 2005, the Iranian opposition group [Mujahedin-e-Khalq] held news conferences in Paris and London to announce that its spies had learned that Iran was digging tunnels for missile and atomic work at 14 sites, including an underground complex near Qum. The government, one council official said, was building the tunnels to conceal “its pursuit of nuclear weapons”.

Hmm.... That's Mujahedin-e-Khalq, dedicated by all means to topple the Iranian regime. A neutral source for solid, reliable intelligence?

1430 GMT: With continued quiet, I'm off to address the conference in Beirut. Back for evening updates around 2000 GMT.

1305 GMT: Mortazavi Accused? Alef reports that a Parliament committee has unanimously approved a report, after several months of investigation, naming Saeed Mortazavi --- former Tehran Prosecutor General and current aide to President Ahmadinejad --- as chief suspect in the death of detainees in Kahrizak Prison.

1240 GMT: The day continues quietly in Iran, and in the lull more media mischief (see 0640 GMT). The Washington Times declares, "Iran's Al Qaeda Connection in Yemen", based on the suspect testimony of a former Guantanamo detainee, a suspect letter supposedly from Al Qa'eda Number 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the assertion of a Yemeni politician.

For sheer stupidity, however, this pales into insignificance beside the Guardian's allocation of space to a Brian Binley, whose comment, "End Appeasement of Iran's Regime", offers this approach to resistance:
If the British government seriously wishes to find a solution to the Iran problem, they need look no further than the streets of Tehran and the Iranian people's determination to purse democratic ambitions.
For a number of years now, colleagues and I on the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom have worked with Iran's largest opposition group in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, and its president-elect Maryam Rajavi to strengthen our policy towards Iran whilst seeking increased support for the Iranian opposition movement.

That would be the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political wing of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq and its often-violent campaign to overthrow the Iranian Government since 1979.

Such political "wisdom" deserves a separate entry, I think.

0920 GMT: Breaking the Movement. Rooz Online reports the Freedom Movement of Iran, many of whose members have been detained, including the recent re-arrest of its head Ebrahim Yazdi, has suspended operations for the first time in its 48 years. The organisation added, “While we express our regret at the regime’s unlawful confrontation aimed at limiting the free flow of information and the demand that the Freedom Movement of Iran stop the activities of its official website and its analytical website Mizan until further notice, we reserve the right to legally pursue our rights in this regard.”

0730 GMT: To Be Fair. Disdain for some of the US portrayals of "Iran" this morning should be balanced with a hat-tip to Robin Wright of The Los Angeles Times, who considers the possibility of "An Opposition Manifesto in Iran":
Three bold statements calling for reform have been issued since Friday, one by opposition presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, one by a group of exiled religious intellectuals and the third by university professors. Taken together, they suggest that the movement will not settle for anything short of radical change.

0640 GMT: Not much breaking news from Iran overnight and this morning, with the outcome that the US papers are awash in distracting rhetoric, tangential stories, and even a forceful call to recognise the legitimacy of the Iranian regime.

The rhetoric comes from Emanuele Ottolenghi in The Wall Street Journal. A long-time proponent of regime changes in countries such as Iraq, Ottolenghi grabs the Ashura story of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein to praise "Iran's Righteous Martyrs": "This time we should root for [them]." (Presumably the United States was unable to root for Imam Hussein in the 7th century.)

The Los Angeles Times, in an article by Robert Faturechi, features the claims that the cost of the Green movement's protests has been the "loss" of three detained Americans:
With street protests raging in Iran, political activism is on the rise among Los Angeles' already vocal Iranian American community. Flag-waving demonstrators clad in the opposition movement's signature green have been a common sight outside the Federal Building in Westwood, and Iranian-language media is abuzz with debate.

But when it comes to the three young American hikers being held in Iran on espionage charges the community has been decidedly silent. No large demonstrations, little conversation, virtually no push for action.

For William Broad in The New York Times, the issue is not the politics either of the Iranian protests or the imprisoned US trio, but Nukes, Nukes, Nukes.

In yet another piece fed to him by by "American government and private experts", Broad launches the latest proclamiation of Imminent Iranian Threat: "Iran has quietly hidden an increasingly large part of its atomic complex in networks of tunnels and bunkers across the country."

On a different page of The Times, however, the Iranian Government has a vocal defence team. Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, in the latest of their numerous calls for discussion with President Ahmadinejad and his representatives, open with the declaration: "The Islamic Republic of Iran is not about to implode. Nevertheless, the misguided idea that it may do so is becoming enshrined as conventional wisdom in Washington."

To bolster their argument that the Obama Administration has no choice but to engage with Ahmadinejad, the Leveretts throw out a confetti of unsupported assertions:
Antigovernment Iranian Web sites claim there were “tens of thousands” of Ashura protesters; others in Iran say there were 2,000 to 4,000....Vastly more Iranians took to the streets on Dec. 30, in demonstrations organized by the government to show support for the Islamic Republic (one Web site that opposed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election in June estimated the crowds at one million people)....

Even President Ahmadinejad’s principal challenger in last June’s presidential election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, felt compelled to acknowledge the “unacceptable radicalism” of some Ashura protesters.

The Leveretts do put a series of challenges, discussed also at EA, about the opposition's leadership, its strategy, and its objectives, but this is all to prop up the "default" option that the regime (whose political, religious, economic, and ideological position is not examined beyond that claim of a million protesters on its behalf on 30 December) must not only be accepted but embraced in talks.

Just as the US Government set aside the inconvenience of Tiananmen Square 20 years ago, so it should put in the closet the trifling annoyance of those Iranians who demonstrate against rather than for the Government. The Leveretts conclude:
As a model, the president would do well to look to China. Since President Richard Nixon’s opening there (which took place amid the Cultural Revolution), successive American administrations have been wise enough not to let political conflict — whether among the ruling elite or between the state and the public, as in the Tiananmen Square protests and ethnic separatism in Xinjiang — divert Washington from sustained, strategic engagement with Beijing. President Obama needs to begin displaying similar statesmanship in his approach to Iran.

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Reader Comments (45)

The Dictator's Obituary...

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdaleandersen

Excellent article from Haideh Daragahi (Sweden) in the Frankfurter Rundschau (German) about citizen journalists opposing superficial reports on Iran by Western media:
Though she omits to mention the IRGC's predominant influence on Iranian economy, her statements on the actual social situation are revealing: Iranians citizens are treated as living in an occupied country, where concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few clerics has led to growing loss of income, producing among others thousands of street children, rising prostitution and millions of drug addicts. The rigged election was not the main cause for protests, but only a starting signal to express frustrations deeply entrenched over the past 30 years, which explains the movement's vigour, as she rightly states. Any country trying to establish good relationship to the IRI should keep in mind this extremely perverted social situation.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArshama

Jaras ( reports that Saeed Mortazavi the former Tehran prosecutor, has been identified by the Majlis investigation comity, as the prime suspect of the Kahrizak murders.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKasra

Saeed Valadbaygi, The People’s “Representatives” Impatient to Execute Them:
On behalf of this article I would suggest a new action of expats, entitled "I am a Mohareb". As Valadbeygi says, "in this battle we all are Mohareb and executable".

As to the staterun "protests" from last Wednesday, a relative from Iran, employed in the administration, reported that his office was closed in the morning and all civil servants urged to leave the building for the demonstration. He could not escape, because special forces had formed a kind of tunnel in front of the building, leading directly to the busses.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArshama

In regards to the pro-regime opinion piece in NY times, I send them an email:

Dear Hillary and Flynt,

Let us assume that millions of people did show up to support the current Iranian regime and they were not bussed in, paid or required to show up in order to save their jobs as civil workers. Let us assume that the number of opposition supporters are in the thousands and not millions as you were suggesting. And let's just for argument's sake assume that majority of people are pro-government and that the opposition supporters are a small minority. The question I have for you both which throws off all your arguments and questions your credentials is this...

Why doesn't the Islamic government you're supporting granting permission to the opposition movement for a peaceful rally as is their constitutional right? Isn't their refusal to grant permission in itself a confession that the opposition supporters are in the millions? Isn't it safe to assume that for every single protester that shows up to any one of these anti-government protests there exists 100 or even a 1000 Iranians who don't show up because they are afraid of being beaten, arrested, tortured, raped and killed?

Considering your refusal to see the facts on the ground and your refusal to acknowledge the opposition's broad base of public support and your blind support for a staged rally in a medium-sized city square in Tehran that cannot hold any more than 20,000 people, one cannot help but to wonder if you're on the Islamic Republic's payroll when you write such opinion pieces... You should indeed be ashamed of yourselves...

A reader from Tehran

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAJ

RE Arshama's post 2, has anyone here read this high;y interesting 2003 Forbes article 'Millionaire Mullahs'?

The article starts "Who controls today's Iran? Certainly not Mohammad Khatami, the twice-elected moderate president, or the reformist parliament. Not even the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ... The real power is a handful of clerics and their associates who call the shots behind the curtain and have gotten very rich in the process.

The 1979 revolution expropriated the assets of foreign investors and the nation's wealthiest families; oil had long been nationalized, but the mullahs seized virtually everything else of value--banks, hotels, car and chemical companies, makers of drugs and consumer goods. What distinguishes Iran is that many of these assets were given to Islamic charitable foundations, controlled by the clerics. According to businessmen and former foundation executives, the charities now serve as slush funds for the mullahs and their supporters."

The article then proceeds to lift the lid on the Rafsanjanis, the Asgaroladis, the Islamic foundations in general and the Mostazafan & Jambazan Foundations in particualr, Rafiqdoost, the centuries-old Razavi Foundation, and more. The seven-year-old article ends on a prophetic note:

“Meanwhile the clerical elite has mismanaged the nation into senseless poverty. With 9% of the world's oil and 15% of its natural gas, Iran should be a very rich country. It has a young, educated population and a long tradition of craftsmanship and international commerce. But per capita income today is actually 7% below what it was before the revolution. Iranian economists estimate capital flight (to Dubai and other safe havens) at up to $3 billion a year.

No wonder so many students turn to the streets in protest. The dictatorship tells them what to think, what to wear, and what to eat and drink. It has also been robbing them of their future.”

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Once again following up on Arshama's post 2, here's another eye-opening blast from the past - a 2002 interview with economist Fariborz Raisdana. Raisdana says that Iran's Constitution precludes the possibility for real democracy, and that the structure of the system has led to the economic and social ills that plague Iranian society. If you disregard the elements that point to the date the interview was conducted, you'd think they were talking about today.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

RE 12.40 GMT - Let's not forget Newsweek, who jumps on the Iran's ties to Al-Qaeda bandwagon with: "Al Qaeda’s Pandora - Osama bin Laden's 17-year-old daughter is trying to get out of Iran. Her story could expose ties between the mullahs and her father's terror networks.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Taiwan firm put on watch list after sales to Iran
TAIPEI (AFP) – Taiwan has placed a local company on a watch list after the firm sold specialised equipment to Iran, an official said on Wednesday.

Let's hope it's one of these:

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

@ Saeed Mortazavi
NY Times reports: Iran Ex-Prison Head Found Responsible for Deaths

I bet that nothing will happen to him, after all it is important to keep up the "revolutionary spirit", now that the regime is surrounded by enemies. But what about those millions of enemies inside the country?

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArshama

Catherine, Czechoslovakian ministry of commerce has already prohibited sales of pepper spray and electro shockers to Iran:
According to Monitor newspaper (Prag) during the first 5 months of 2009 the IRI was the main importer of such equipments from Czechoslovakia.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArshama

The Rand Corporation has a new report on Iran:

Mostly written before June and not really much new other than an insight as to how American elites think about Iran.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel

Asian Cup 2011 Qualification [Singapore - Iran]

Intresting manifesto by iranians abroad and iranians which attendet the game today.

Iranian crowd in Singapore chanting "Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein". This made IRIB to shut off the voice of stadium completely while broadcasting live on state TV. Pictures are from Dubai Sport.

and also...

"Marg bar Dictator" Death to Dictator chants during the game

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIranyar

Another hot shot

Iranian consul at Irans embassy in Norway has resigned due to the regimes behaviour during Ashura!

He now fears regime repressions and needs to stay in Norway with his family.

"It was the Iranian authorities' treatment of demonstrators during the Christmas week that made me realize I couldn't continue," public broadcaster NRK quoted Mohammed Reza Heydari as saying.

Opposition groups are now calling for more iranian officals abroad to join Heydari's move and leave a sinking ship.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIranyar

Sadeq Larijani said yesterday: Judges must be political.
And Stalin is dancing in his grave...

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArshama

This New York Times Op-Ed article I have come across really gets me steamed. The commentator says that a revolution in Iran won't happen which it might, that I am not argueing with but it is the "facts" he uses to support his arguement. He says that there were no memorial protests for Neda aand others killed on Bloody Saturday even though there were after the 7th and 40th days. There arre also many of problems with the article if you read it and it shows that this person should not be talking about this subject because he obviously knows nothing about it!

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

when all the media, all over the world, praise Green Movement, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett do the opposite ; it's too bizarre (odd) ! were they threatened ? or bought by our dear tugs ? CIA has to keep an eye on their life ! :-)

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterange paris

Proposed investigation on NIAC and Parsi by Senator Kyl.
Phone: (202) 224-4521
Fax: (202) 224-2207


You can send a message to Sen. Kyl.

Proposed message:

Honorable Senator Kyl,

I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your righteous stance on requesting the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the nature and extent of NIAC’s activities in the US.

The Views held by this organization and its activities closely match the interests of the Iranian regime. Furthermore, there are ample credible evidences pointing to possible coordination between NIAC leader and the Iranian regime, and hence justifies an extensive investigation into this matter.

I sincerely request that you pursue this matter further with the Justice Department and inform us of the development in this endeavor accordingly.


January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAfi

found this neat burning pic of supreme leader at :

Hukook al-Insan

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbarzakh81

At the risk of sounding "un-American", I've got to say that I find the hiker story to be overblown. At the very least, these 3 appeared to ignore warnings and behave rather foolishly. Also, although I find the fact that each of them are in jail rather despicable (presuming they are not spies, because the US does have a few of those), I find it no less despicable that each of thousands of Iranians are in jail for exercising their fundamental human and political rights, or simply speaking their minds. While I do understand that the American government has a special obligation to take care of U.S. nationals, the global (and even U.S.) media does not. Therefore, I don't understand why the fact that Sarah Shourd is in jail is worthy of about 100x or perhaps 1000x more attention than what was given to Mohammed Ali Abtahi when he was in jail.

If anything, I think that more Americans should take the opportunity to look at how the 3 Americans are being treated by the Iranian legal system, and pay more attention to the fact that thousands of Iranians are also sadly being treated like that every day.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Scott

[...] original here:  The Latest from Iran (6 January): Distractions | Enduring America Share and [...]

Even Coca-Cola makes its historical bottle Green in San Francisco! of course for a different reason, but it is ironic.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDecomracy4iran


You said it my friend. Thank you.

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Kevin Scott
The same answer than Megan ! thank you my friend as well .

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterange paris

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