Archive for September, 2009

Iran Reveals Second Nuclear Site

September 29, 2009

Iran Reveals Second Nuclear Site

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090929/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iran;_ylt=Av6OcUuZavs_zFVe5saif_HlWMcF

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI and GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press Writer Ali Akbar Dareini And George Jahn, Associated Press Writer – 46 mins ago
TEHRAN, Iran – In an unusually frank disclosure, Iran’s nuclear chief said Tuesday the country’s new uranium enrichment site was built for maximum protection from aerial attack: carved into a mountain and near a military compound of the powerful Revolutionary Guard.

Iran’s revelation that it covertly built a second uranium enrichment plant has raised international concerns that other secret nuclear sites might exist as well.

Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi’s statement came with a hard-line message ahead of crucial talks this week with the U.S. and other world powers — Iran will not give up its ability to produce nuclear fuel.

The details emerging about the secret site near the holy city of Qom have only heightened suspicions Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb, despite repeated denials.

Salehi, who is vice president and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, spoke at a news conference that touched on sensitive military and nuclear issues rarely discussed publicly in Iran. The effort at openness was seen as an attempt to counter international dismay over the nuclear site and a new round of missile tests this week.

“This site is at the base of a mountain and was selected on purpose in a place that would be protected against aerial attack. That’s why the site was chosen adjacent to a military site,” Salehi said.

“It was intended to safeguard our nuclear facilities and reduce the cost of an active defense system. If we had chosen another site, we would have had to set up another aerial defense system.”

He said Iran is willing to have a general discussion about nuclear technology when it meets Thursday in Geneva with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. But he insisted Iran will not give up its “right” to uranium enrichment, which produces fuel that can be used for both nuclear energy or nuclear weapons.

“We will never bargain over our sovereign right,” said Salehi, repeating a long-held Iranian position.

The U.S. and its allies have demanded Iran come clean on all its nuclear activities or face harsher international sanctions. President Barack Obama’s administration is planning to push for new sanctions targeting Iran’s energy, financial and telecommunications sectors if it does not comply with international demands, according to U.S. officials.

Hard-line Iranian lawmaker Mohammad Karami Rad threatened Tuesday that Iran might pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty if the U.S. and its allies pressure Iran during the Geneva talks, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Iranian officials have dismissed such calls to pull out in the past, saying the country will remain committed to its obligations.

Salehi reiterated that Iran is in talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency to set a timetable soon for an inspection of the Qom site. He said the country did not feel bound by a U.S. demand to allow an inspection within a month.

“We are working out the timetable,” he said. “It could be sooner than a month or later.” Iran will officially inform the IAEA of details about the site at a later date, he said.

The nuclear facility, named Meshkat or Lantern, is located next to a military compound of the Revolutionary Guard, Iran’s most powerful military force, equipped with an air defense system, Salehi said.

“This is a contingency plant. It is one of the pre-emptive measures aimed at protecting our nuclear technology and human work force. It is a small version of Natanz,” he said, referring to Iran’s other nuclear facility in central Iran.

“This is to show that the Islamic Republic of Iran won’t allow its nuclear activities to stop under any circumstances even for a moment.”

The revelations have raised questions about whether the plant was the only site going unreported.

“You only need to ask yourself if you were the manager of the Iranian nuclear program, how likely is it that you would put all your nuclear eggs in one basket?” asked Graham Allison, an assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration and now director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.

“My expectation is that over the months ahead, Iran will either be found out to have a number of other sites or Iran may even announce that it has a number of other sites,” he said.

A Western diplomat whose country is on the IAEA’s 35-nation board and who has access to intelligence on Iran’s nuclear activities, said there was no evidence of other secret sites. But if Iran’s intention had been to keep the enrichment plant secret, it would be logical to build a related site nearby, feeding it nuclear material.

Israel has portrayed the latest disclosures as proof of its long-held assertion that Iran seeks nuclear weapons and is a strategic threat. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday that Israel is keeping all its options open, suggesting a pre-emptive military strike on nuclear facilities is still a possibility.

However, some Israeli analysts believe the disclosure of the new nuclear facility could actually put off an Israeli strike because it increases the chances the international community will impose harsher sanctions.

“If there ever was a thought of going with a military option, it’s been put off,” said Ephraim Kam, the deputy director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute of National Security Studies.

“Iran was caught lying again, it’s clearly moving toward becoming a nuclear power,” he said. “Now the Americans are better able to try to persuade the Europeans, and even the Russians, to go for tougher sanctions.”

Salehi said Tuesday the new site is about 60 miles south of Tehran on the road leading to Qom — placing it in the same location as satellite imagery showing a well-fortified facility built into a mountain about 20 miles northeast of Qom.

The images, provided by DigitalGlobe and GeoEye, show ventilation shafts and a nearby surface-to-air missile site that indicate it is being constructed to withstand a potential offensive strike, according to defense consultancy IHS Jane’s, which did the analysis of the imagery. The image was taken in September.

GlobalSecurity.org analyzed images from 2005 and January 2009, when the site was in an earlier phase of construction, and believes the facility is constructed of heavily reinforced concrete and is about the size of a football field — large enough to house 3,000 centrifuges used to refine uranium.

Salehi said the location was selected after a careful study by the authorities. He said it was a formerly an ammunition depot before his agency took control of it a year ago and started construction that will eventually house a uranium enrichment plant.

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Iranian Students Protest at Tehran and Sharif Universities

September 29, 2009

Hundreds of university students staged demonstrations Monday at Tehran University and Tuesday at Sharif University, waving green ribbons and balloons and chanting slogans against the Iranian regime.
The Iranian student website advarnews.com reported that hundreds of university students held up their hands in the V for victory sign and chanted slogans against President Ahmadi-nejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenehi, including “Death to the dictator!” and “Ahmadi, Ahmadi, this is the last message, the green movement is ready for uprising!” The reformist website Norooz estimated that about a thousand students took part in the demonstration, according to a Reuters report.
Ahmadi-nejad was scheduled to appear at Tehran University but apparently failed to show up. No reason was given for his absence.
Officials had expressed concerns about student protests breaking out at the universities as the new school year began. But despite being warned to refrain from political activity, students staged demonstrations anyway.
Iranian bloggers reported that several short clips of video footage posted on YouTube showed that a smaller group of students chanted “Death to dictator!” and “Shame! Shame! Representative who is against the people!” Sunday, at the philosophy faculty of Tehran University during an appearance by a former speaker of Iran’s parliament, Gholam Ali Hadad Adel.
The following day, scores of students joined together in a demonstration at Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology. The students called for political prisoners to be released, voiced their support for reformist Ayatollahs Montazeri and Sanei and chanted slogans like, “Torture and rape, no longer have any effect,” “This regime is fascist, and at one point must stop,” and “As long as Ahmadi-nejad is president, the situation is going to remain the same.”
For years, the Islamic Republic has attempted to impose its will within university walls. Years ago, it started to censor and restrict the humanities. Scholars in various fields including sociology, psychology, law, literature and political science were expelled or forced to resign. Earlier this month, the Iranian supreme leader issued a directive to purge the social sciences in an effort to eliminate “ungodly” Western thought.
“Many of the humanities and liberal arts are based on philosophies whose foundations are materialism and disbelief in godly and Islamic teachings,” Khamenehi said.
Footage of the protests can be view at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YetR9GQAjww and at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEkhBAGX7Y8

Iran Caught in a Ten-Year Cycle

September 17, 2009

Iran Caught in a Ten-Year Cycle
By Grace Nasri
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KH07Ak01.html

Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, major changes have emerged every 10 years in Iran. In 1979, the Iranian people, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, forced out the shah as the country shifted from a monarchy to a theocratic republic.

Ten years later, in 1989, the leader of the Islamic revolution passed away and was replaced by the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Ten years after that, in 1999, Iran was rocked by students protesting in support of more freedoms.

Now, exactly 10 years later, up to a million Iranians have taken to the streets after the June 12 election publicly questioning, “Where is my vote?” Despite the mass public protests, however, it is what is going on behind the scenes within the leadership that has the potential to evoke real change.

The 2,500-year-old country, which has a history of democratic movements, has passed through two revolutions in recent memory, the most recent of which is the basis for Iran’s Islamic Republic. Today, however, there is a growing divide within the leadership between the reformists who want to lead Iran towards democracy, openness and freedom, and ultra-hardliners who want to take the country back centuries before the revolution, to the time of the Prophet Mohammad.

While both groups emerged out of the revolution, the hardliners – who claim their authority and legitimacy from the late Khomeini – seem actually to be going against the very principals of the revolution he led.

While Khomeini spoke about the power of the people and the legitimacy of Iran’s leaders as given through the will of the people, hardline leaders such as Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi are working behind the scenes to guide Iran from its path towards democracy back to the time when Islam was first emerging.

In the early 1980s, Khomeini warned against radical leaders and cautioned that people in power should remember where their legitimacy came from. He said at the time, “It is necessary for me to give some brotherly advice to the respectable future leader or council of leadership and sincerely remind them that in the religions of the book and in great Islam, leaders or the leader do not have any innate value and should not, God forbid, become afflicted with pride and arrogance.”

The regime’s crackdown in response to the protesters shows that the current Iranian leadership is not following the guidelines of the Islamic Republic’s founder.

Many of the same individuals who helped lead the revolution are now working to take the country back to the time before the revolution – before even the monarchy – to the time when Islam was first emerging. These same leaders are believed to be working discretely to change the leadership of the Islamic Republic from a theocratic republic to a theocratic dictatorship.

Studying Iran’s history reveals it is often what is out of the public eye that has the ability to evoke change within the country. The protests of 1999 garnered massive attention, but resulted in merely that. The outcome of recent protests against the re-election of Mahmud Ahmadinejad for a second four-year term remain unclear; but they have undoubtedly revealed a divide within the leadership and brought into question the legitimacy of not only the Ahmadinejad regime, but for the first time, the role of the supreme leader and the system itself.

It remains unknown, however, whether these public protests and the increasing and public division within the leadership will evoke a real change in the system.

Much of the future direction of Iran is dependent on the growing rift between two groups. One is led by former presidents Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, former presidential candidates Mir Hossain Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi, and Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. The other side is led by Khamenei and firebrand Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi and his hardline hojjatieh (a semi-clandestine, radically anti-Sunni organization).

Rafsanjani, who is currently the head of the Assembly of Experts – the only group that has the constitutional ability to remove the supreme leader from his position – was recently in the holy city of Qom leading a hushed meeting with the Assembly of Experts of which the subject of the meeting is believed to have been focused on the role of the velayat-e faqhi.

The velayat-e faqhi, a post held only in Iran, has come to be accepted as the supreme leadership held by a single religious leader. Many Iranian leaders, however, argue that the post was originally held by Khomeini, but that the position – as outlined by the constitution – does not specifically call for one leader. They go on to claim that Khomeini, as the founder of the Islamic revolution, held the post as a single man, but that the constitutional position could be interpreted as being allotted to a group of religious leaders in an attempt to move the country towards a more democratic system. Khomeini himself referred to the position as being filled by either one leader or a council of leaders.

This issue, which is now being debated within the leadership itself, has caused an unprecedented rift between the mullahs of Iran. Reformist leaders such as Rafsanjani, Khatami and Mousavi are believed to want to move the country towards a more democratic system and are reportedly calling for the position to be filled (as the current supreme leader is reportedly ill) by a group of religious leaders.

Khamenei and Yazdi – who runs a seminary in Qom – are calling for the position to continue to be filled by one person. They are also rumored to be working behind the scenes to shift Iran away from its movements toward democracy and its foundation as a republic, towards a hardline dictatorial Islamic theocracy. Many leaders in Yazdi’s camp are believed to be grooming Khamenei’s son Mojtaba, who was this month honored with the title of ayatollah, as Khamenei’s successor.

Rafsanjani is well aware of this. During Friday prayers late last month, Rafsanjani said, “If the Islamic and republican sides of the revolution are not preserved, it means that we have forgotten the principles of the revolution.” Rafsanjani went on to recall that his mentor, Khomeini, said that the “people’s will” must be done, something Rafsanjani has accused the current regime of ignoring.
Yazdi, however, seems to want to do away with the republican nature of the regime, and some feel he has blatantly disregarded the will of the people. He has been quoted as saying, “If anyone insults the Islamic sanctities, Islam has permitted for his blood to be spilled, no court needed either;” and “It does not matter what the people think; they are ignorant sheep.” Insiders claim he wants to radically transform the country and take it back to the time when Islam was first emerging. Yazdi goes much farther than the hardline leader of the Islamic revolution, to the extent that Khomeini actually banned Yazdi’s hojjatieh group in 1983, saying “they cannot run even a bakery, let alone a country”.

In 1990, a year after Khomeini’s death and Khamenei’s takeover as supreme leader, the group reportedly re-emerged and began advocating an Islamic regime in which the velayat-e faqhi was an unelected leader selected by god not elected by the people. It is this same hardline leader who is the spiritual leader of Ahmadinejad.

Freedoms enshrined in the constitution are these days being withheld from the people, suggesting a move away from the fundamentals of the Islamic revolution and towards an even more regressive form of government. For example, Article 24 of the Iranian constitution states: “Publications and the press have freedom of expression except when it is detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam or the rights of the public.” Yet the regime continues to censor the press and crack down on freedom of expression. Simply wearing green or chanting “Allah-o Akbar” can now led to detention.

According to Article 25, “The inspection of letters and the failure to deliver them, the recording and disclosure of telephone conversations, the disclosure of telegraphic and telex communications, censorship, or the willful failure to transmit them, eavesdropping, and all forms of covert investigation are forbidden, except as provided by law.” Yet, according to reports, the Nokia Siemens Networks sold to Tehran is now being used for exactly those purposes against the Iranian people.

In another example, Article 27 states: “Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.” But after the June 17 Friday prayers, tens of thousands of demonstrators were met with baton-wielding Basiji militia and riot police armed with tear gas.

Observers believe that Iran’s hardline leaders, including Yazdi, Ali and Mojtaba Khamenei and their followers, are currently working behind closed doors to drag the Islamic Republic back to the 7th century, away from democracy and in the direction of an absolute theocracy.

The millions of Iranians who risked their lives to join protests and call for their rights are not enough to stop this alleged political shift. It is up to Iran’s reformist leaders who have gained legitimacy from the Iranian people themselves.

Iran cannot afford to wait another 10 years.

Grace Nasri is the assistant editor of an international Iranian newspaper based in Washington, DC. She received her master’s degree in international relations from New York University. Her most recent articles can be found at the Digest on Middle East Studies and at openDemocracy.net.

Iranian Woman in Britain Saving Troubled Kids

September 17, 2009

Iranian Woman in Britain Saving Troubled Kids
By Grace Nasri
http://www.payvand.com/news/09/sep/1148.html

An Iranian-British woman previously named Social Entrepreneur of the Year and Woman of the Year for her unique and charitable work is the founder of a south London-based youth center that has helped children suffering from various traumas successfully reintegrate into society.

Born in Iran in 1963 and raised in England, Camila Batmanghelidjh founded Kids Company in 1996 as a small charity which has since grown, attracting international attention. Today, Kids Co. works with more than 13,000 in-need children by doing a variety of things from providing children with food and new clothing, to consoling children who have been through traumatic events and preparing them to successfully reintegrate into society.

The idea behind Kids Co came to Batmanghelidjh when she was still a child living in Iran. Batmanghelidjh told the Iran Times, “I knew as a nine-year-old that I wanted to do this kind of work, I just thought I would be opening an orphanage in Iran. My family used to tease me about it all the time,” she laughed. “But because we ended up having to live in England, I couldn’t do it.”

After the 1979 Iranian revolution, Batmanghelidjh—who was raised in a wealthy, upper-class family, was sent to the UK where she studied at the Sherborne boarding school. It was there, at the age of 14, that she came up with the idea for Kids Co., which she hoped would become a street center to provide parental constancy for children in need.

Although her dream of establishing an orphanage in Iran didn’t come to fruition, the 46-year-old Batmanghelidjh didn’t allow her move to stop her from her passion—working with in-need children. Instead, she opened up the Peckham-based Kids Co.

At the center, Batmanghelidjh—who was named the UK’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young in 2006, the UK’s Woman of the Year by the Good Housekeeping magazine in 2006 and Person of the Year by the New Statesman magazine in 2006—employs a staff of more than 300 to work with the troubled youth at the center in addition to an additional 11,000 troubled children in 33 local primary schools. Batmanghelidjh told the Iran Times that the children and young adults she works with are 97 percent self-referrals; many of the babies are brought in by older brothers and sisters.

Kids Co.’s drop-in center is used by about 1,000 kids and young adults, ranging in age from infancy to 25; most, however, are in their teens. Of those 1,000, more than 80 percent have a history of drug use, criminal involvement, homelessness, traumatic pasts, mental disturbance or emotional difficulties.

“The police have said to me, ‘We’ve got a new kind of kid—they shoot and they don’t even bother to run away,’ ” Batmanghelidjh told The Guardian of London. “That’s what I see when they first arrive. I’ve seen that lethally, deadly capacity. That’s not something you can control through sanctions, because all your sanctions are about preserving life. That idea comes from middle-class people who think life is worth living. They can’t get into the minds of kids and understand their hopelessness. These kids don’t think even being free is worth it. They will just say, ‘Come on, then, I don’t give a shit.’ And they really mean it. They are so dangerous because they have nothing to lose.

“The children who walk in our door lack the kind of compassionate companion, whether a parent, or someone who is going to take responsibility for their childhood,” Batmanghelidjh told The Times of London. “More painful for these kids than the abuse is the humiliation of having not been chosen. Part of our task is to say to that kid you are worthwhile….whatever you do, we want you. Punishment or shouting doesn’t work; they are immune. They need to be surprised by something else. And what surprises them is relentless tough love,” she said.

Batmanghelidjh told the story of one 12-year old boy she worked with who had stabbed his stepfather for attacking his mother—both of whom were addicted to crack. The boy, who had had a gun put into his mouth by an addict, said he slept with knives under his pillow from fear. He was a terrifying, angry child, she said, adding, “I’d…sit next to him and say ‘You’re too cute to frighten me!'”

But from those children who enter Kids Co. as hopeless adolescents, many turn out to be success stories. Batmanghelidjh told the Iran Times of one child, Florence, who was homeless when she came to Kids Co. but who is now studying at Oxford, while other kids she has worked with have moved on to study a range of fields from aeronautical engineering to computer science.

Batmanghelidjh explained that roughly “one-third of the children end up at the university, one-third end up in employment and one-third have severe, long-term psychiatric disorders.”

The Iran native, who speaks Farsi, French and English, said that unlike other state funded programs, her program is successful because it understands the minds of the children by using the most up-to-date neuroscience research and applying the findings at the street level. To do so, Batmanghelidjh told the Iran Times that Kids Co. has 35 international developmental trauma specialists working with it to do research to better understand the children.

“The reason we’ve been approached nationally, and why our program is internationally considered unique, is that we’ve worked out and understood their [the children’s] trauma so that the children stop behaving dangerously,” Batmanghelidjh told the Iran Times.

The program is considered so unique, in fact, that in 2007 an Iranian delegation came to Kids Co. where Batmanghelidjh offered them training so they could learn their practices and then use them back in Iran. The Iranian delegation, Batmanghelidjh told the Iran Times, consisted of various orphanages, the social services and a university for social workers.

Recently, London University research found that 91 percent of Kids Co. clients were reintegrated into education, 90 percent of those with a criminal history had reduced their illegal activity and 94 percent had decreased their dependence on and use of drugs.

Batmanghelidjh, who has spoken extensively and has been widely published for her articles on children living on the fringe and their welfare, had her book, “Shattered Lives: Children Living with Courage and Dignity,” published in 2006.

The personal side of Batmanghelidjh’s work, however, is only one aspect of her job; she must also come up with funding for her organization. Until last year, Kids Co. had no state funding. Recently, however, the British government awarded a 12.7 million pound ($20.9 million) grant to be spent over three years on the center’s 400 most troubled teens. But Batmanghelidjh still has to fundraise to pay for the remaining 13,000 children. In addition to needing funding for the day-to-day operation of the program, Kids Co. is currently looking for further funding for brain research studies.

To donate to Kids Company visit their website at: http://www.kidsco.org.uk.