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The Latest from Iran (24 March): Regime Confidence, Regime Fear?

2210 GMT: Neda Propaganda Overkill. You might think it would be enough for Iranian state media that Caspian Makan, the reported fiancé of Neda Agha Soltan, had met Israeli President Shimon Peres (see separate entry). But, no, Press TV has to go much, much farther:

One of the suspects believed to be involved in the killing of a young woman during Tehran's post-election violence last year has visited Israel.
Caspian Makan, who claims to be Neda Agha Soltan's fiancé, has met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, during his stay in Israel.

Makan was also interviewed as a guest on an Israeli TV channel.

Agha Soltan was shot dead far away from the riot scene on June 20. Western media accused Iranian security forces of killing her, but police rejected the allegations and said Neda was shot with a small caliber pistol which is not used by the Iranian police.

They have described the killing as a premeditated act of murder "organized by US and Israeli intelligence services."

NEW Iran: The Controversy over Neda’s “Fiance”
NEW Iran: An Internet Strategy to Support the Greens? (Memarian)
The Latest from Iran (23 March): Inside and Outside the Country

2140 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Gooya reports that more than 900 Iranians have signed a petition calling for the release of imprisoned student Omid Montazeri.

Montazeri was arrested in January after he approached the Ministry of Intelligence following the detention of his mother and guests at the Montazeri house.

2015 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. On a slow news day, Parleman News has not one but two features around Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The top story on Rafsanjani's latest declaration is not that earth-shaking: the former President issues another fence-sitting declaration that "the majority of protesters are loyal to the regime", which allows him to back some public pressure on the Government while maintaining his own position of backing the Supreme Leader. No real change there.

More intriguing is the appearance of Faezeh Hashemi, Rafsanjani's daughter. The content of the interview is not very subversive. Hashemi talks about her education and passion 4 women's sports as well as making the far-from-controversial assertion that her father wants the common good of society. It's the timing that matters: the interview comes a few days after the regime tried to shut Hashemi up by arresting her son, Hassan Lahouti.

1440 GMT: Sanctions Rebuff. Turkey, a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has added to the obstacles for tougher international sanctions on Iran. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "There is still an opportunity ahead of us and we believe that this opportunity should be used effectively. Not less, but more diplomacy (is needed)."

(I am beginning to suspect that these moves might be political theatre, accepted if not directed by Washington. The Obama Administration's approach seems to be a public posture of the international route, primarily as a response to Congressional pressure, while carrying out the meaningful initiatives in bilateral talks with other countries and even with individual companies.)

1420 GMT: Today's Obama-Bashing. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of Parliament's National Security Committee, takes on the daily duty of slapping down the US Government's approach to Iran:
[President Obama's Nowruz] comments were nothing but a deception. They (Americans) have sent several messages during the last year calling for talks with Iran, but at the same time passed more than 60 anti-Iranian bills in their Congress. As long as there is no sense of balance between their comments and actions, offering talks could be only a trick....Obama has lost his prestige among the world's public opinion, therefore his new year message has no value.

1400 GMT: On the Economic Front. This could be significant: The Russian energy firm LUKoil has announced its withdrawal from an oil project in Iran "due to the impossibility of carrying out further work at the field because of the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. government".

LUKoil has a 25 percent stake in the Anaran project; a Norwegian company, Hydro, has the other 75 percent. We'll see if this withdrawal sticks: LUKoil also announced in October 2007 that it was pulling out of the project, which encompasses Azar, Changuleh-West, Dehloran and Musian oilfields with reserves at the project sites estimated at 2 billion barrels, but it resumed work two months later.

1200 GMT: We've posted an editorial from prominent reformist journalist Masih Alinejad criticising Caspian Makan, the "fiancé" of Neda Agha Soltan.

0925 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Iran Human Rights Voice reports that writer and women's rights activist Laleh Hasanpour was detained by Intelligence agents on 16 March and taken to an undisclosed location.

0745 GMT: Iran and Afghanistan. Readers have noted the latest wave of allegations, spurred by The Sunday Times of London that the Iranian Government is providing support, including funding and training, to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

I have been cautious in reporting the allegations, in part because The Sunday Times has been a handy channel in the past for those spreading "information" to discredit Tehran. Far more importantly, key US Government officials and military leaders are also playing down the accusation. General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command, has said any Iranian Government role in assistance is limited. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates echoes, "There is some [training], but it, to this point, I think, has been considered to be pretty low-level."

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Sholtis said on Monday, "We've known for some time that Iran has been a source for both materiel and trained fighters for Taliban elements in Afghanistan"; however, he added that US officials do not know if the training is "simply something that is happening beyond the government's control".

(hat-tip to an EA reader for raising the story and providing sources)

0730 GMT: With the Green Movement in a quiet phase (defeated, intimidated, or just lying low?), attention is on the continuing battle between elements of the regime and Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Iranian authorities released Rafsanjani's grandson Hasan Lahouti yesterday, albeit on $70,000 bail, and they had to let go the former President's ally Hassan Marashi after a short detention. The anti-Rafsanjani campaign is far from over, however.

The latest assault comes from Gholam-Hossein Elham, a member of the Guardian Council. In a lengthy "unpublished interview" which somehow is published on Fars, Elham details post-election subversion. Specifically, he targets Rafsanjani for Friday Prayers addresses which did not support the Government and thus opened the way for illegal protest and manoeuvres to undermine the Islamic Republic.

So a question: is the sustained assault on Rafsanjani a sign of regime confidence that, having vanquished the opposition outside the system, it can move aggressively against challengers within? Or is it an indication that this is a Government which will never feel secure in its supposed legitimacy?

Reader Comments (10)

If Generals McCrystal and Petraeus say some Quds Force/Taliban training is credible, then it probably is, but the Sunday Times articles itself was just not believable in any way. From top to bottom it reeked of fakery.

What was meant to be the motivation for the two Taliban leaders to spill the beans to the Times? The glory of being anonymously famous in a British newspaper? Or are we to assume the Times gave material aid and comfort of some kind to Taliban fighters who are actively fighting British troops, in exchange for the story? It's been my experience that real terrorist leaders tend to want to keep their training procedures on the down-low.

I think somebody somewhere in Afghanistan is having a good laugh at pulling one over on the Times, or else the whole thing was deliberate disinformation on purpose to begin with.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRev. Magdalen

Rev. Magdalen,

While i have viewed the arms issue with a grain of salt in the past my view somewhat changed after reading the following article and viewing the video. Here is a link:

In the video you will note arms with persian writing(no big deal because I am sure the Taliban have US arms as well), but what caught my attention was the fact the army officer telling his cohort pointing out the writing shouldn't have done that. That exchange demonstrates a much higher level of angst over the issue and indicates a delicate political scenario. It was obvious the commander was specifically told to refrain from that and you have to ask why. In my view it indicates their is a problem and the Afghans are reluctant to bring light to it because of political ramifications. They know but what can they do when they are somewhat dependent on Iran for border security and other things.

From an Iranian perspective it does make sense. On one hand they play nice with Afghanistan while via the back door the keep the US tied down by arming the Taliban. One can surmise the tactic is an extension of their use of proxies akin to the Palestinian issue to ply their trade. To them either scenario is a win win unless they are caught. Even if they are caught if they keep it low level enough bringing the issue to light is to costly politically for all sides. The lack of forceful responses regarding the issue from all sides seems to indicate this. Its why because the nuclear issue and stabilizing Afghanistan the arms issue will most likely be swept under the carpet. The only problem is some intrepid journalist spoiled the party and it will be interesting to see how this plays out.


March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBill

For me the marking on that road side bomb looks suspicious.
The marking on them which the journalist and other Afghani claim it is an Iranian serial #, contains alphabetical and numerical figures.

Those alphabets looks Iranian but that alphabet is also used by Afghans, Pakistanis, over 25 Arab nations as well as many parts of India and Central Asian nations.

The #s (written by red chalk) look more like Iranian calendar which I presume it is the manufacture date. But it says month 1 of the year 1360 (march/April of 1980) that is when Iran was engaged in full blown war with iraq, being an ex-Iranian military myself I don't believe we were manufacturing road side bombs back then, even if we did any 30 years old explosive should be considered dud and not trust worthy.
Just my humble opinion.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAryajet

Not even Time Magazine believes sanctions will work:,8599,1974747,00.html?xid=rss-world

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

In 1956, the Austrian-born photographer Inge Morath traveled to Iran on assignment for Holiday magazine. She wanted to photograph the entire Silk Road, from southern Europe to the South China Sea, and thought of Iran as “a good start.” The resulting images — which reveal the Shah celebrating the Iranian New Year, herders resting in the mountains near Shiraz, and the ruins of Persepolis — are captured in “Inge Morath: Iran” (Steidl, $60).
You can see some photos here:

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

@Scott re:(I am beginning to suspect that these moves might be political theatre, accepted if not directed by Washington..."

I'm tending to agree with you. I detail the economic woes and the subsidy battle in Iran in my newest article:

I am strong reasons to believe that the State Department is focused on providing internet to Iranians, bypassing government sanctions, as a way to institute change in Iran. I am also beginning to believe that the entire purpose of talking about stricter sanctions is actually a prelude to loosening sanctions, making American more popular with the people of Iran while forcing the government to cave on the nuclear issue.

With the political, economic, and international pressure on Ahmadinejad, I'm not really seeing a way out for the Iranian regime.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJames the Hype

Hey Boroujerdi:

Re: your comment: "They (Americans) have sent several messages during the last year..."

We (Americans) got some messages for you, bro. :D

And they don't come via Obama.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaria Rohaly

Re: post @1440GMT:

Interesting and insightful to the right wingers while moving forward with his own agenda slightly behind the scenes. May this also be a way to manage the wave that has come and will continue to come regarding the health care bill?

@James -

It may be implied in your post but i see the move to provide greater access to Iranians as a two fold approach...a slight of hand way of directly supporting the movement by providing Iranians to media and by doing so a bit of a smack to the face of the regime. americans are already very popular with the younger generations so perhaps to your statement the efforts are to widen the gap..though my experience shows many have favorable opinions to Americans..just not always the government! I do follow your assertion that this may be a PR play and it would make sense..while the US government will not directly interfere it will find a way to have a level of involvement..albeit indirectly....

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBijan


Thank you for your reply. I know a few persian words but by in large I can no way read it. I also agree this could be old surplus arms from long ago and I am sure the Taliban have been able to buy a lot of it on the black market. The Taliban having Iranian arms is not in my mind a definitive indiction Iran is arming them. I say that because it was the Taliban who have killed thousands of Shias and have stated more than once they are mortal enemies. After all these salafist nut jobs think Shias are infidels with the rest of us.

However what got me was the superior saying you shouldn't have done that. That was the tipping point for me showing this is a bit bigger than I thought. Regardless I would have to think it is very low level because at the end of the day Iran wants the Taliban gone just not before they inflict as much damage on the US as possible. This will all most likely die over the next few weeks.


March 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBill


Thank you for clarifying my own sentiments. EXACTLY! This whole internet freedom idea that the State Dep. is pushing is fundamentally helpful to the Green Movement, a slap in the face to the IRI, and a measure short of direct intervention. Win, win, win.

Many Iranian expats I've spoken to have issues with the idea of American involvement in other countries. Looking at history, one could hardly blame them. What Obama is proposing (or rather, what the blogosphere has proposed and Obama is adapting, cheers!) is a new path. By spreading communication technology, we can engage with the world, specifically with Iran, by engaging with the people, the Iranians. Why rely on high level diplomacy between bureaucrat with invested, and often hidden, interests, when one could speak person to person through the freedom of the internet? It isn't inaction, and it isn't Western meddling in other people's affairs. It's a happy medium.

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJames the Hype

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