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Entries in Josh Shahryar (5)


The Latest from Iran (30 March): Strategies

2000 GMT: Politics, Religion, and Culture. Reihaneh Mazaheri in Mianeh offers a detailed article setting out how President Ahmadinejad has tried to use financial support of religious and cultural centres, often supervised by his close allies, to reinforce his political base. An extract:
The administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using state funds to spread its political and religious ideology and at the same time maintain powerful allies during times of turmoil, critics say.

The authorities have set aside 4.5 billion of the 347 billion US dollar, 2010-11 budget, which took effect on March 21, for cultural matters - but much of it is spent on religious and culturally hardline institutions sympathetic to the administration.

Ever since first becoming president in 2005, Ahmadinejad has made a clear effort to defend religious groups and organisations to a degree previously unknown in the country.

He set out his thinking in a speech to clergy in southern Fars province in 2007, saying, “In the budget of previous administrations, no room was found for religious centres and religious matters. However, we have taken them into consideration in the budget.”

The budget for “mosque centres”, one of the government’s main sources of popular support, has increased to 25 million dollars from 1.6 million in 2005 at the end of the term of reformist president Mohammad Khatami, according to Mohammad Hosseini, the minister of culture and Islamic guidance.

NEW Iran: Preventing Tehran from “Going Nuclear” (Ramazani)
NEW Iran Politics and Music: Sasi Mankan’s “Karroubi”
NEW Iran: The Green Movement’s Next Steps (Shahryar)
Iran: A View from the Labour Front (Rahnema)
Iran’s Nukes: False Alarm Journalism (Sick)
The Latest from Iran (29 March): Questionable Authority

1545 GMT: A Media Note. To the Charlie Rose Show on the US Public Broadcasting Service: I've now viewed what amounted to a half-hour propaganda special for the Iranian regime, aired in the US last night. Given the substitution of polemic, distortions, and misrepresentations posing as "analysis", I'm not even posting a link.

I'm hoping that this unfortunate interview disappears quickly. However, if it receives any attention as supposed "insight" into post-election Iran, I will be back with a fury.

In the meantime, this should suffice: this programme is a disservice and, indeed, a disgrace given the thousands detained, abused, and denied rights and freedoms. Speak to them, not the two "experts" to whom you turned over airtime last evening.

1540 GMT: Today's Propaganda Drama. After the reported rescue of Iranian diplomat Heshmatollah Attarzadeh Niaki from abductors in Pakistan, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence has declared, “The Islamic Republic did not capitulate to any of this armed group’s demands which is supported by the US and Mossad.”

1535 GMT: Grounding Iran's Airliine. The European Commission has imposed a ban on flights by Iran Air within Europe.

1530 GMT: The "Other" Khamenei Visits Freed Reformist. Hadi Khamenei, the brother of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, joined others in visiting Mostafa Tajzadeh, the former Deputy Minister of Interior who is on temporary release for Nowruz, at his house last night.

1520 GMT: Revival of the Photograph. Pedestrian reports that Amir Sadeqi of the photo blog Tehran Live is out of prison and again taking and posting his photographs.

1500 GMT: Another Death Sentence. Back from an academic break and an appearance on Al Jazeera English's Inside Story (airing 1730 GMT) about the latest in Iraq's power politics, I find confirmation on websites of the news --- reported yesterday --- that 42-year-old schoolteacher Abdolreza Ghanbari has been sentenced to death for  "Mohareb (war against God) through contacts with dissident groups". This broad charge covers "suspicious emails and having contacts with television media outside the country".

1110 GMT: Joke of the Day. An EA correspondent has pointed out the feature from the blog Persian Letters on post-election humour in Iran but, in my opinion, the best joke came from a reader in the comments:

Q. How Many Basijis Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?
A. None. The Basijis will sit in the dark and blame Israel and the USA.

0810 GMT: Latest on the battle over subsidy reform comes from "principlist" member of Parliament Mohammad Hossein Farhangi, who says the Government is obliged to act according to the vote of the Majlis.

0800 GMT: Rule of Law. Rah-e-Sabz tries to interpret what a meeting between the Supreme Leader and the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, means for Iran's judicial procedure and sentencing.

Rah-e-Sabz also claims information on a strategy by the Revolutionary Guards to avoid exposure of human rights violations, including the effort to crack down on human rights organisations in Iran.

0655 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Children's rights activist Maryam Zia Mohaved has reportedly been released from Evin Prison after a 13-day hunger strike.

0645 GMT: We begin today with three Iran specials. Josh Shahryar thinks about the next steps for the Green Movement. R.K. Ramazani evaluates the best US strategy to deal with Iran's nuclear programme. And, after the arrest of underground rap artist Sasi Mankan, we post his April 2009 single "Karroubi".

Iran: The Green Movement's Next Steps (Shahryar)

Josh Shahryar writes for EA:

Yesterday was the funeral in Qom of Banoo Rabbani, the wife of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri. Despite claims by some activists that Greens were going to join the funeral and protest, the atmosphere for most participants was one of silent contemplation. Security forces essentially took over the funeral procession,arresting 30 people, and Rabbani was not even buried in the location selected by her family.

The funeral follows Chahrshanbeh Suri, the Fire Festival, on 16 March. Although there was much celebration, despite the disapproval of authorities including a Supreme Leader fatwa, no protest was planned or executed by the Green Movement.

So is the decision not to use public holidays or funerals for staging protests a bad one by the Movement?

The answer is no. The movement has endured for more than nine months. It has sufficient backing and is confident enough that it will survive, despite every repressive measure of the regime, that it does not have to periodically show the world, the Iranian government, and ordinary Iranians that it can put people on the streets. At the same time, the Greens have made clear that they will not be backing down from their demands, let alone giving up.

Mir Hossein Mousavi's Nowruz address clearly hinted at this, as he . declared, "Withdrawing our demands of unconditional execution of the Constitution is an act of treason for Iran and for Islam. This is a demand that we will not abandon."

So next question: What is the Green Movement going to do if not hold protests on holidays?

Again, Mousavi's address offers a good answer:
Faced with such a situation [overwhelming violence by the government], the Green Movement must expand its reach to all segments of society. The Green Movement must revive the timeless social and Islamic principle of inclusion. We must lend a hand to neighbors and neighborhoods both near and far, through job creation and other forms of interaction.

This Iranian Year 1389, according to Mousavi, is the year of "persistence". Several activists with whom I have spoken are hopeful that within the next few months, the Green Movement will not only survive but also thrive as it wins more supporters to its side.

Indeed, their resolve is that they need not just a majority of Iran's people to back them, but an overwhelming majority. One activist noted that next time they hold a protest in Tehran, they don't want "only" one or two million participants but hope to have as much as half the city on the streets.

Only time will demonstrate how successful this will be. The Green Movement, though, is not just a spontaneous mass of discontented citizens, but an organized and well-informed movement whose members are slowly building up networks within the country and unifying their goals, all the while preparing for future confrontations with the Government.

The Latest from Iran (25 March): Lying Low

2200 GMT: A Very Quiet Day. Little to report, with only ripples coming from references backs to earlier stories. Human Rights Watch, for example, has issued a statement declaring that "Iran's state-owned media, judiciary, and security forces have opened a coordinated attack on human rights groups in recent weeks".

NEW Iran: “We are Going to Make the Future Better”
UPDATED Iran Appeal: Japan’s Deportation of Jamal Saberi
UPDATED Iran: The Controversy over Neda’s “Fiance”
Iran: An Internet Strategy to Support the Greens? (Memarian)
The Latest from Iran (24 March): Regime Confidence, Regime Fear?

1730 GMT: Khabar Online is now also running the report on the supposed  Mousavi-Rafsanjani meeting.

1630 GMT: Rumour of the Day. According to Green Voice of Freedom, Farda News reports that Mir Hossein Mousavi met with Hashemi Rafsanjani on Sunday afternoon. The story comes from “news sources close to the government....This source, which is known for its support for [Ahmadinejad advisor Esfandair Rahim] Mashai, has spoken of the presence of Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard and a group of reformist leaders in this meeting.”

Hmm.... Neither the Mousavi nor Rafsanjani camps have released any word of such a meeting, nor have websites linked to the men offered any clue of this. The source is close to Rahim-Mashai, who is no friend of Mousavi and no fan of Rafsanjani.

I'll put my money on this as another arrow in the volley being fired at Rafsanjani by groups within the regime. Anyone --- including Mr Rahim-Mashai --- care to enlighten me?

1310 GMT: Meanwhile, in Local Government.... Outside Tehran, there's a claim of major fraud by city council in Mahabad in northwestern Iran, amounting to billion of tomans (millions of dollars), which has supposedly been reported to Ali Larijani. Peyke Iran claims a boycott of the last city council elections by the people, with the current council being backed by the Iranian Government.

1135 GMT: Mahmoud Says "Quit Your Fussing". And here is the latest on that Ahmadinejad nuclear policy, courtesy of a televised speech announcing the construction of a new dam in southwest Iran:
[Western powers] are saying we are worried that Iran may be building a bomb. But we are saying you have built it and even used it. So who should be worried? We or you? They are just making a fuss. They have ended up humiliating themselves.

Let me tell you, the era when they could hurt the Iranian nation is over. The Iranian nation is at such a height that their evil hands can't touch it. They want to stop, even for an hour, the fast speeding train of Iranian progress. But they will be unable to do it.

1125 GMT: Challenging Ahmadinejad on Nukes. Khabar Online offers space to Elaheh Koulaei, professor of political science at Tehran University and a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, to denounce the President for his failure to protect national interests in his nuclear policy.

1120 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. RAHANA updates on Mousavi campaigner Mansour Miri-Kalanaki, who has been held incommunicado since 17 July.

1100 GMT: Mousavi Watch. So what has Mir Hossein Mousavi been up to? Well, he and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, visited journalist Azar Mansouri, who was recently released from detention after receiving a three-year suspended sentence from the Revolutionary Court. Rah-e-Sabz has the story and photographs.

Mousavi and Rahnavard also saw the family of Seyed Alireza Beheshti-Shirazi, a senior advisor of Mousavi who has been detained for more than three months.

Former President Mohammad Khatami has been doing his own visiting, spending time with released economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz.

0755 GMT: Parliament v. President. Khabar Online's English-language site headlines, "Ahmadinejad calls for referendum on subsidy plan execution".

It's a strange article, as there is nothing new beyond the President's appeal last Friday and the subsequent hostility from some members of Parliament, including Speaker Ali Larijani. The purpose seems to be to fire a warning shot: "It would be risky measurement [measure] taken by the head of the government since the first referendum led to the early retirement of...the head of the Iran Statistics Center who cooperated with the government on the plan."

Khabar is also featuring more criticisms from individual MPs, such as Sattar Hedayatkhah's declaration that the Government should forward its ideas about subsidy reductions "within legal boundaries".

0730 GMT: The Makan Controversy. As the concern and confusion over Caspian Makan, the purported "fiancé" of Neda Agha Soltan, increases (see separate entry), Josh Shahryar intervenes:
No one speaks for [Neda]....[So] does Caspian Makan speak for the Green Movement? The answer is again, no....

Let’s get over this.

0715 GMT: We begin the morning with an update on a human rights case, with a new protest at the Japanese Embassy in Washington over the attempted deportation to Iran of activist Jamal Saberi. And, with news slowing down from inside Iran on the state of the opposition, we counter pessimism with a note from a reader, "We Are Going to Make the Future Better".

On the international front, "5+1" talks (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China) resumed Wednesday on how to deal with Iran's nuclear programme. The Wall Street Journal offers evidence to back up our evaluation that the Obama Administration is downplaying tougher international sanctions against Tehran while pursuing bilateral discussions with countries and companies for withdrawal of investment:
The U.S. has backed away from pursuing a number of tough measures against Iran in order to win support from Russia and China for a new United Nations Security Council resolution on sanctions....Among provisions removed from the original draft resolution the U.S. sent to key allies last month were sanctions aimed at choking off Tehran's access to international banking services and capital markets, and closing international airspace and waters to Iran's national air cargo and shipping lines.

The Latest from Iran (18 March): Uranium Distractions

2225 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. This could be interesting --- Hossein Marashi, cousin of Hashemi Rafsanjani's wife and a Vice Secretary-General of the Kargozaran Party. has been arrested.

2220 GMT: Edward Yeranian of the Voice of America offers an analysis, "Iranian Government Releases Prisoners for Persian New Year", with contributions from EA staff.

NEW Latest Iran Video: Mousavi's and Rahnavard's New Year Messages (18 March)
NEW Iran: Reading Mousavi & Karroubi “The Fight Will Continue” (Shahryar)
NEW Iran & the US: The Missed Nuclear Deal (Slavin)
Iran Labour Front: Minimum Wage, “Unprecedent Poverty and Hunger”, and Strikes
Iran Analysis: What Does the Fire Festival Mean?
Latest Iran Video: Two Views of the Fire Festival (16 March)
UPDATED Iran Document: Mousavi Speech on “Patience and Perseverance” (15 March)
The Latest from Iran (18 March): Uranium Distractions

2215 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Women's rights activist Somaiyeh Farid was arrested on Wednesday. Farid was at Evin Prison enquiring about her husband, Hojat (Siavash) Montazeri, who was arrested on 5 March.

2145 GMT: A Ray of Light. Amidst some poor analyses today of the Iranian political situation and the Green Movement, Melody Moezzi comes to the rescue with this piece in The Huffington Post:
The arrests before Revolution Day last month (11 February) surely dissuaded many opposition protesters not already in jail from pouring into the streets and risking beatings and unlawful detentions. I personally know of several opposition activists who stayed home as a result of the intimidation, and I can't say that I blame them. Still, no matter how few or many pro-democracy demonstrators show up in the streets for Nowruz the Iranian opposition has far from died. Rather, it has merely been pushed underground, but it is germinating like a stubborn hyacinth, taking on a course and a life of its own, teeming with the sweet smell of a freedom to come.

2100 GMT: A slow evening. Only significant news that we've noted is the release of Abolhasan Darolshafaei from detention. He is the last member of the family to be freed, following the releases of daughters Banafsheh and Jamileh and nephew Yashar.

No members of the Darolshafaei family are any longer in custody, just in time for New Year festivities.

1625 GMT: We have posted the New Year's video greetings of Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, to the Iranian people.

1440 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist Bahman Amoui, who has been detained since 20 June (read the letter to him from his wife, Zhila Baniyaghoub), has reportedly been released.

1415 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch: Journalist Akbar Montajabi has been released on bail. So have journalist Keyvan Samimi and Hojatoleslam Mir Ahmadizadeh.

1410 GMT: The Case for Change. Hassan Rowhani, a member of the Expediency Council and ally of Hashemi Rafsanjani, has used a long interview to discuss nuclear issues and to make the case for electoral reforms.

1355 GMT: Escape. The BBC is now reporting the story, which we carried last week, of student activist Ali Kantouri, who has fled Iran after being given a 15-year prison sentence for abduction and extortion.

1340 GMT: We have posted a special analysis by Mr Verde of the political significance of this week's Chahrshanbeh Suri (Fire Festival).

1220 GMT: On the Economic Front. Following up on our Wednesday special on the minimum wage and "unprecedented poverty and hunger"....

Six independent labor organizations have argued that the poverty line is $900 per month and asked for that to be new minimum wage. (The Government has authorised $303.) Economists at Mehr News Agency” have set the poverty line in the coming year at above $1000.

(Persian readers may also be interested in Faribors Raisdana's detailed analysis of minimum wages and labourer's poverty.)

1000 GMT: We have two specials for you this morning (and there's a third on the way). We've posted an excellent account by Barbara Slavin of the US-Iran deal on uranium enrichment that almost came off but then collapsed last autumn, and we have Josh Shahryar's analysis of the latest moves by Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

0855 GMT: We're Taking Our Subsidy Bill and Going Home. The ongoing fight between the President and Parliament for control of the budget and expenditure is highlighted by a bad-tempered interview of Ahmadinejad supporter Ruhollah Hosseinian in Khabar Online.

Hosseinian declares that, since the Majlis only gave the President $20 billion of the $40 billion he wanted from subsidy reductions, Ahmadinejad should withdraw the proposal: "It's not clear which portion of the government's revenue will be channeled to other sectors by the Parliament, so I believe implementing subsidy reform bill is against our interests."

Asked how the Administration could avoid implementing a plan which has been passed by Parliament, Hosseinian replied:
Although the bill has become a law, a way must be explored to halt its execution, since enforcing this law in its current form will simply add to the problems. As the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei coordinates the interactions between state branches of the country, a method must be found to annul implementing subsidy reform bill.

0830 GMT: The Uranium Issue. An EA reader asks for clarification on the claim that Iran may be facing a crisis over uranium stock for its medical research reactor.

I am strongly influenced by the knowledge that Iran's approach to the International Atomic Energy Agency last June, which set off this round of talks over uranium enrichment, was prompted by the specific issue of isotopes for medical treatment. I have my suspicions, though no firm evidence, that the renewal of a Tehran push for a deal may also be prompted by this immediate need for 20 percent enriched uranium.

We will soon be posting an excellent investigative piece by Barbara Slavin highlighting this issue.

0605 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Amnesty International is featuring the case of student activist Milad Asadi, detained without charge since 1 December.

0555 GMT: We might have been concerned with the Fire Festival and the renewed protest through the statements of prominent opposition figures (Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami), parties (Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution), and activist groups (Committee of Human Rights Reporters).

Looks like the Ahmadinejad Government wants to talk uranium, however. Iran's atomic energy agency chief, Ali Akhbar Salehi, put out the line that it was time to agree a uranium swap inside Iran. First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi insisted, "During the new year, new nuclear plants will be built and the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue with its path without allowing the arrogant powers to meddle."

But, with the US threatening more sanctions and no sign that the "West" will accept a deal where the swap occurs inside Iran, where is the hope for Tehran? No problem: "Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin has called for stronger ties...and urged closer cooperation between Iran and Russia to confront existing regional and international threats."

Better hope so. I get the sense that not only is Iran concerned about economic restrictions, primarily through the withdrawal of foreign companies and investment, but also that there may be a crisis looming over uranium for the medical research reactor.

Afghanistan-Pakistan: The Tragedy of Non-Cooperation

Josh Shahryar writes for EA:

Imagine this scenario: within the space of a single day, two deadly bombs hit two different cities in two different countries. The death toll from each bomb is dozens killed and dozens more injured. Both bombs are placed by arms of the same terrorist organization.

Now suppose these two cities were in France and Spain. The two countries would immediately share all the information they with each other to find a solution to a shared problem. It's common sense. But sadly in this case, the two countries are Afghanistan and Pakistan. They have not understood this logic of sharing information, even after years of being subjected to such terrorist attacks.

Afghanistan-Pakistan: America’s Private Assassination Company

On 12 March, suicide bombings in the Pakistani city of Lahore killed 72 people and injured dozens. On 13 March, a bomb ripped through the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, slaying more than 30 people and wounding dozens more. More bombs exploded in the following days.

Despite the toll, the ability and/or willingness of the Afghan and Pakistani authorities to share information about the Taliban is almost shameful. The clearest example of which is Afghan President Hamid Karzai's belated outrage last Sunday over the detention of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghanistan Taliban's second-in-command, in Pakistan. Mullah Baradar was arrested on 8 February in Karachi but, according to a Karzai aide, the President was in touch with Baradar through different sources and was negotiating for discussions between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

According to the Associated Press:
Karzai "was very angry" when he heard that the Pakistanis had picked up Baradar with an assist from U.S. intelligence, the adviser said. Besides the ongoing talks, he said Baradar had "given a green light" to participating in a three-day peace jirga that Karzai is hosting next month.

The adviser, who had knowledge of the peace talks, spoke on condition of anonymity because of their sensitivity. Other Afghan officials, including Abdul Ali Shamsi, security adviser to the governor of Helmand province, also confirmed talks between Baradar and the Afghan government.

Clearly, there was a mishap. Either the Afghan government did not wish the Pakistani side to know of what they were doing behind closed doors or the Pakistani government decided not to share with the Afghan government the fact that they knew of Baradar's whereabouts. In either case, it demonstrates the fragility of the coalition the US has built to fight the War on Terror.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have a long border, on both sides of which Taliban fighters have found a strong foothold to carry out attacks. You'd think that Kabul and Islamabad would cooperate much more closely, yet gaffes like this are inumerable. Taliban routinely escape into Pakistani territory after carrying out attacks on Afghan soil. Weapons from the Afghan side daily make their way into Pakistan.

If the Taliban succeed in making the border between the two countries a permanent base of operations, the world is going to suffer because next item on their agenda will be assistance to their old buddies, Al Qa'eda. So if Kabul and Islamabad aren't ready to cooperate, the rest of the world, and mainly the US, need to get a stick and start beating some sense into the politicians running the two countries.

Otherwise, the Taliban will have the last laugh.