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Entries in John Limbert (1)


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”
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Latest Iran Video and Transcript: Haghighatjoo and Marandi on CNN (4 January)
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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.