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Entries in Foreign Policy Magazine (3)


Iran Interview: Faezeh Hashemi "Every Iranian Seeking Rights is Green"

Faezeh Hashemi --- former member of Parliament, women's rights activists, and daughter of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani --- spoke with Omid Memarian for Foreign Policy magazine:

Foreign Policy: During the post-election protests last year, you were imprisoned for 24 hours and then released. Many believe that, if you were not the daughter of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, you would still be in prison right now. How has it felt over the past year to see so many of your former colleagues remain in prison?

Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani: I, too, believe that I would not have been released had I not been Mr. Hashemi's daughter. It feels terrible to see individuals who have worked hard for this country for years put in prison without due legal process only for their attempts to stand up to injustice and for telling the truth. Likewise, [it feels terrible] to see those who are real criminals as rulers.

Presently, everything is upside down, wrong is right, the unjust pretend to be unjustly treated, those who aim to destroy the country and the religion call themselves servants of the nation. Imbeciles are at the top, and managers and the distinguished are in prison, or have been dismissed, or have had to flee the country. All of this would be painful for any Iranian who has a modicum of pride.

FP: Recently, Ahmadinejad has expressed interest in meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama. Considering his upcoming trip to the United States this month for the inaugural session of the U.N. General Assembly, do you think such a meeting might take place? And if so, how might this affect Iran's domestic politics?

FHR: Ahmadinejad should handle his own problems first. Even if his own fabricated statistics are reviewed, everyone can see that over the 30 years [since] the Iranian revolution, even during the Iran-Iraq War, Iran has never had such a sorry state of affairs. He destroys whatever he touches.

Whether the meeting takes place or not, I don't think anyone is waiting for any positive change in Iran's internal or foreign politics or putting too much hope on it.

FP: How do you think Iranian society has changed since the June 2009 presidential election?

FHR: The exuberance, hope, and excitement of the [post-election period] has given its place to depression and hopelessness. People see themselves face to face with lies, mismanagement, demagoguery, bullying, thuggery, injustice, destruction of national resources and wealth, loss of international opportunities, and further destruction of the country at the hands of the ruling group.

FHR: I think every Iranian who is in search of his or her rights, freedom, democracy, and the country's development belongs to this movement.

This is a peaceful civil movement. Respecting everyone's rights, even one's opponents'; avoiding tension and animosity through finding points of common interest; pursuing demands through consensus in whatever way everyone can --- these are some of the expectations of this movement....

Read full article....

Iraq: After the US "Withdrawal" (Rosen)

UPDATE 0840 GMT: Two US troops were killed and nine others wounded when a Kurdish Iraqi soldier sprayed them with gunfire at an Iraqi army commando base north of Baghdad on Tuesday afternoon. Juan Cole offers a comment.


Nir Rosen writes in Foreign Policy:

Hundreds of cars waiting in the heat to slowly pass through one of the dozens of checkpoints and searches they must endure every day. The constant roar of generators. The smell of fuel, of sewage, of kabobs. Automatic weapons pointed at your head out of military vehicles, out of SUVs with tinted windows. Mountains of garbage. Rumors of the latest assassination or explosion. Welcome to the new Iraq, same as the old Iraq --- even if Barack Obama has declared George W. Bush's Operation Iraqi Freedom over and announced the beginning of his own Operation New Dawn, and Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has declared Iraq sovereign and independent.

US Politics: How Can Obama Deal with a World after Iraq? (Cohen)

Iraq has had several declarations of sovereignty since the first one in June 2004. As with earlier milestones, it's not clear what exactly this one means. Since the Americans have declared the end of combat operations, U.S. Stryker and MRAP vehicles can be seen conducting patrols without Iraqi escorts in parts of the country and the Americans continue to conduct unilateral military operations in Mosul and elsewhere, even if under the guise of "force protection" or "countering improvised explosive devices." American military officers in Iraq told me they were irate with the politically driven announcement from the White House that combat troops had withdrawn. Those remaining still consider themselves combat troops, and commanders say there is little change in their rules of engagement -- they will still respond to threats pre-emptively.

Iraq is still being held back from full independence -- and not merely by the presence of 50,000 U.S. soldiers. The Status of Forces Agreement, which stipulates that U.S. forces will be totally out by 2011, deprives Iraq of full sovereignty. The U.N.'s Chapter 7 sanctions force Iraq to pay 5 percent of its oil revenues in reparations, mostly to the Kuwaitis, denying Iraqis full sovereignty and isolating them from the international financial community. Saudi and Iranian interference, both political and financial, has also limited Iraq's scope for democracy and sovereignty. Throughout the occupation, major decisions concerning the shape of Iraq have been made by the Americans with no input or say by the Iraqis: the economic system, the political regime, the army and its loyalties, the control over airspace, and the formation of all kinds of militias and tribal military groups. The effects will linger for decades, regardless of any future milestones the United States might want to announce.

The Americans, meanwhile, worry about losing their leverage at a time when concerns still run high about a renewed insurgency, Shiite militias, and the explosion of the Arab-Kurdish powder keg everybody's been talking about for the last seven years. Many in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad wonder what Obama's vision for Iraq is. By the summer of 2006, Bush woke up every day and wanted to know what was happening in Iraq. Obama is much more detached.

American diplomats also worry that they will soon lose their ability to understand and influence the country. In addition to Baghdad, there will soon be only four other posts. Much of the south will be without any U.S. presence: There will be no Americans between Basra and Baghdad, no Americans in Anbar or Salahuddin provinces. Some in the embassy fear they are abandoning the "Shiite heartland." The diplomats still in the country will have less mobility and access, even if they are nominally taking the lead over the military, because it will be harder to find military escorts when they want to travel. "You can't commute to a relationship," I was told....

Read full article....

The Latest from Iran (2 September): Karroubi, Mousavi, and Qods Day

2030 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Kalemeh reports that leading reformist politician Mohsen Safaei Farahani, one of seven detainees who recently filed a complaint alleging military interference and manipulation in the 2009 Presidential election, suffered a heart attack three days ago and is in the Evin Prison medical facility.

2025 GMT: We are updating urgently in our separate entry on the siege of Mehdi Karroubi's house. Latest reported developments: a bodyguard in a coma, shots fired at assailants, electricity, water, and phones cut off. Fatemeh Karroubi, Mehdi Karroubi's wife, says the pro-regime crowd is "trying to kill her husband".

1905 GMT: Karroubi (and Qods Day) Alert. A fifth night of the "siege" of Mehdi Karroubi's house has begun, with Molotov cocktails fired and Karroubi's bodyguard firing into the air.

Meanwhile, we have posted the first video of tonight's rooftop "Allahu Akbars" (God is Great) . The chants have been a sign of protest throughout the post-election period.

NEW Latest Iran Video: The Rooftop “Allahu Akbars” (2 September)
NEW Pro-Regime Media Asks, “Which is Worse: Stoning or Prostitution?”
NEW Iran Document: Karroubi-Mousavi Meeting on Eve of Qods Day (31 August)
UPDATED Iran: The Latest on the Karroubi “Siege” and the Qods Day Rally
Iran Special: Thoughts on Protest, Stoning, and Human Rights (Shahryar)
The Latest from Iran (1 September): The Threat of Stoning

1900 GMT: Sports! (and Stoning). Football's Francesco Totti, striker and captain of Roma and star of the Italian national side, has signed the petition for clemency for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, sentenced to death for adultery.

1415 GMT: All is Well Update (cont. --- see 1045 GMT). Video of today's "Control in Tehran" operation, taken "discreetly" by observers, has emerged.

Two pictures from a set in Mehr, via Peyke Iran, of today's "Control in Tehran" operation....

1315 GMT: Video of Day. Human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei, forced to leave Iran this summer because of threat of arrest, has been re-united with his wife and daughter in Norway.

Mostafaei's clients include Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, sentenced to death for adultery. His wife was detained when Iranian authorities could not find Mostafaei to arrest him.

1310 GMT: Economy Watch. Trade union activist Mehdi Kouhestani-Nejad tells Deutsche Welle that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps is now the biggest employer in Iran's petrochemical, communications, and services sectors. Kouhestani-Nejad also claims the IRGC has taken over "bankrupt" companies, arresting managers, in areas such as steel.

1253 GMT: No Hysteria at All Statements of Day. Former Minister of Culture Mohammad -Hossein Saffar-Harandi explains that if security forces had not intervened last year, there would have been one million casualties. He added that Green media are "censoring" the good work of the government.

Pro-Ahmadinejad MP Hamid Rasaei declared that the recent remarks of former President Mohammad Khatami are designed to cover up $1 billion that he has received from foreign agencies for "regime change".

The reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front has responded to similar "$1 billion" accusations from Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi with the claim that he is falsifying reality to avoid the truth about the political and security situation. The IIPF adds that the slander of reformists is a pretext for more persecution.

1245 GMT: Bringing Out a Crowd. The Iranian authorities lay out their plan: there will be special traffic restrictions with 1500 buses to carry people and free use of the metro in Tehran.

1150 GMT: All is Well Update (cont.). The completely secure Iranian regime has reportedly blocked the website of Grand Ayatollah Dastgheib.

1145 GMT: Siege. It isn't just Mehdi Karroubi who has been intimidated this week by regime supporters. Zahra Rahnavard, activist and wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, was accosted by plainclothes forces on a Tehran street.

Kalemeh reports that the incident occurred a few nights ago in an alley close to Rahnavard's residence, as she was surrounded and interrogated about her activities during the Revolution and her commitment to religion. Rahnavard reportedly responded, “I will not respond to a street interrogation but I will be willing to respond to your questions at my office.”

1140 GMT: Picture of the Day. A photograph of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, sentenced to death for adultery, on the facade of a government building in Rome:

1135 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The wife of activist Arjang Davoudi, who launched a hunger strike in jail 50 days ago, says that he is in grave condition.

1130 GMT: Stopping the Lawyers. Earlier this week we wrote about the raid on the office of defence attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh by Iranian authorities. Sotoudeh has now told Rooz Online that she was given a summons to appear in court within three days on charges of “assembly and conspiracy to disrupt national security and propaganda against the regime".

Sotoudeh's case is the latest in a string of arrests and intimidations. Abdolfatah Soltani and Mohammad Ali Dadkhah spent months in Evin Prison on national security charges. Mohammad Oliyayifard is still detained, while Mohammad Seifzadeh awaited his trial later this summer. Khalil Bahramian has been interrogated at Evin, and Saleh Nikbakht has an open case at the judiciary’s branch in the prison. Mohammad Mostafaei has fled Iran to avoid arrest.

Sotoudeh said, “The gentlemen [of the regime] plan to put so much pressure on lawyers to make legal defense, especially of political defendants, impossible.”

1120 GMT: The Battle Within. Hooman Majd offers an analysis in Foreign Policy which, despite his acknowledgement of "the public feuds between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and seemingly everyone else in the entire country", turns into, "Move Along, Nothing to See Here":
Put simply, now is not the time for petty infighting. And even those conservatives who retain their distaste for Ahmadinejad won't want to jeopardize their good standing with Khamenei -- especially as the 2013 presidential election approaches -- by appeasing Iran's enemies, real or imagined.

1115 GMT: Academic Corner. Writing in Tehran Bureau, Ali Chenar reviews the regime's pressure on universities, considering the resignation of Sharif University head Saeed Sohrabpour and the removal of Zanjan University head Yousef Sobouti.

1045 GMT: All is Well Update. On the eve of Qods (Palestine) Day, the regime is already showing the levels of mass public support it is enjoying. Tehran police have launched the operation "Control in Tehran". Police commander Hossein Sajedi-Nia explained that the heavy presence of security forces on the streets was a regular "exercise" to contain "crimes", occupying all "critical points" of the city to guarantee the people's "safety" on Qods Day.

Saham News claims that disturbance of G-Mail services started hours ago to prevent people from forwarding routes for tomorrow's protests, and ADSL service is also disrupted.

0830 GMT: Thought for the Day. Film director Jafar Panahi, detained earlier this year and barred from leaving Iran, in an interview with Middle East Online:

"There have always been restrictions, but over the past year it was the worst. I cannot be pessimistic though. Limitations have always existed, and this era will eventually come to an end too. It's important to have patience and resistance."

0825 GMT: Talk to Us. Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Wednesday that Tehran is still waiting for a response from the Vienna Group (US, France, Russia, International Atomic Energy Agency) on resumption of talks on uranium enrichment: "They have still not officially announced the date and venue for the new round of talks."

0740 GMT: We have posted a feature, "Pro-Regime Media Asks, 'Which is Worse: Stoning or Prostitution?'".

0710 GMT: Academic Corner --- The Counter-Attack. We have been reporting all week on new regime threats against universities. There is news from the other side, however....

An open letter from the "Islamic Association of Democracy", claiming to represent students of Tehran University, asks Minister of Higher Kamran Daneshjoo: "Wasn't it enough to attack the dormitories [after the June 2009 election] and dismiss students and professors? Do you have to u try to destroy free thinking and security at the universities?

A letter to Daneshjoo from 38 professors demands the restitutition of Professor Yousef Sobouti, recently replaced, as head of Zanjan University.

And students of Mehdi Karroubi's campaign committee have asked Green supporters to join Qods Day processions: "come to the streets for your lost rights".

0705 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Peyke Iran claims that the sister of detained journalist Abdolreza Tajik was interrogated for four hours and that Tajik's lawyer Mohammad Sharif has been blocked from meeting him.

0655 GMT: Karroubi Watch. Mehdi Karroubi met with the family of the political prisoner Mostafa Tajzadeh, a prominent reformist politician, yesterday.

0630 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Der Westen claims that up to 100 "front" companies in Germany are moving arms to Iran.

0605 GMT: Flu Alert! EA took great pride in its front-line coverage of the 2009 swine flu crisis. So we have to note the video, posted by Peyke Iran, in which Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami --- who is leading Friday Prayers in Tehran on Qods Day --- declares that swine flu is the outcome of the sins of the West.

0600 GMT: Sports! The US defeated Iran, 88-51, in the qualifying rounds of the World Basketball Championship on Wednesday. We wait to see if Max Fisher's pre-match prediction comes true:
After all the harsh rhetoric and low-level violence, three decades of Iran-U.S. tension will come to a close this afternoon. If the U.S. wins, Iran has agreed it will give up its nuclear program and cede power to the Green Movement. If Iran wins, President Obama says he will implement sharia law, although he was probably going to do that anyway.

0550 GMT: Execution (Ashtiani) Watch. Rooz Online publishes an open letter from the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, sentenced to death for adultery, to "human rights defenders across the universe". Sajad Ghaderzadeh writes:
Why do they extract false confessions from my mother by force and broadcast them? Why have they prevented my mother from seeing her attorney or us since then? Is it not because signs of torture are still visible on her body and they do not want any witnesses? Have they delayed visitations until the signs are healed? Why do they plant false evidence against my mother? Why do they open a case that was previously closed? Why have my father’s murder files gone missing? Why do they not allow my mother’s case to proceed normally like any another case? We are truly disappointed that we were born in the Islamic Republic; and that we were abandoned by our own family after the sham show on the Islamic Republic’s television; and that we are forced to tolerate this life of humiliation.

Life killed us. Death, where are you?

0540 GMT: We open this morning with two features. We have an English translation of Tuesday's meeting between Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, discussing tomorrow's Qods (Palestine) Day and the general state of Iran. The discussion was primarily about economic, political, and legal problems; despite rumours, there was no call for an opposition rally on Friday.

We also post an update on the harassment of Karroubi by pro-regime groups, as his home was surrounded for a fourth consecutive night.

Despite the intimidation, Karroubi remains vocal. Rooz Online summarises his recent remarks on military interference and the "fraud" of the 2009 Presidential election.