Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

Rafsanjani’s grandson arrested

March 22, 2010

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Tehran on Monday arrested the grandson of former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as he arrived at Tehran’s international airport from London, where he is studying.

The arrest of Hassan Lahouti, 23, was seen by many as an attempt by the Iranian regime to increase pressure on the influential former president and fomer Council of Guardians head, who has spoken out against the current regime’s repression of members of the oppoisition following the controversial June 2009 presidential election, in which the incumbant President Ahmadinejad claimed a victory.
According to a New York Times report, another relative of Mr. Rafsanjani, the reformist politician Hussein Marashi, was arrested and sentenced to one year in jail on Thursday.

Lahouti left his native Iran 10 days after the disputed election. He was returning home for the Persian New Year when he was arrested. The Times quoted the opposition website Jaras as reporting that Lahouti had been taken to Section 209 of Evin Prison, where political prisoners are held.

A court has also summoned Rafsanjani’s son, Mehdi Hashemi, who supported the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi during the recent presidential election.


Iranians Defy Ban and Turn out to Celebrate the New Year

March 17, 2010

U.S. General David Petraeus announced Tuesday that he believed Iran has slid back in its nuclear work and would not develop a nuclear weapon in the year 2010, though he did say that Iran continued to be one of the greatest threats in the Middle East.

Responding to a question asked by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Petraeus—the head of United States Central Command oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—said, “It has, thankfully, slid to the right a bit, and it is not this calendar year, I don’t think.”
The General’s comments came on the Iranian celebration of Chaharshanbe Souri, which marks the beginning of Iranian celebrations of the New Year celebrated on the Spring Equinox.

The Persian New Year Now Ruz (meaning New Day), a more than 3,000-year-old Zoroastrian tradition, celebrates Persian culture and is seen by the Islamic regime in Iran as a test of their power, as there is a dichotomy between many Iranians between their ancient Persian culture and their newly adopted Islamic faith.

This year, the regime in Iran banned the Chaharshanbe Souri tradition of celebration and jumping over constructed fires to ward off evil spirits. Iranians, however, kept the ancient tradition alive and came out, as they do every year, to celebrate.
The New York Times reported there were unconfirmed reports on Iranian opposition websites of clashes between pro-government forces and celebrants in the streets. The semiofficial news agency ISNA reported that 50 people were arrested for “causing disturbances,” while the Fars news agency reported that 220 people were injured on Tuesday.

Opposition leader Mir-Hossein Moussavi on Sunday named the new Iranian year, which begins Sunday, the year of “perseverance and patience.”

Karroubi Target of Protests

March 15, 2010

A small group of Iranian hardliners surrounded the Tehran home of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi Sunday, chanting death slogans and calling for the two time former parliament speaker to be put on trial.

The Fars news agency identified the crowd as “students and families of martyrs” of the Iran-Iraq war, which began in 1980 and ended in 1988. Photos taken during the protests showed the building had been defaced with red coloring and slogans pronouncing “Death to Karroubi” had been written on the walls. The death threats also extended to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and former president Mohammad Khatami.

The Fars news agency quoted the protesters as chanting: “We want the judiciary to put the leaders of sedition on trial as soon as possible.”

According to an AFP report, some of the protesters held signs that read: “Karroubi is a Mossad agent”—linking the two-time former parliament speaker to Israel’s intelligence service.

This is not the first time Karroubi has been the target of protest following the disputed June 12 presidential elections which the opposition claims was rigged. Karroubi was attacked by hardliners during Iran’s annual revolution day rally on February 11 and his car was shot at earlier in January in the city of Qazvin west of Tehran.

How Will Iranians Celebrate Now Ruz This Year

March 13, 2010

I’m interested in seeing how the Persian New Year will be celebrated in Iran this year. The Islamic regime has been trying to pressure the people to not throw the traditional chaharshanbe souri parties, where people gather together and jump over huge bonfires to ward off illness and bad wishes.

Now Ruz dates back more than 2500 years, and began as a Zoroastrian (the first monotheistic religion) tradition honoring the first day of spring. Now Ruz is a 13 day celebration that is anticipated by Iranians all over the world. Now Ruz, however, dates back to pre-Islamic times and reminds Iranians of a time when Persia was the greatest empire and a time when Iran—then known as Persia—was not yet an Islamic republic.

As reports that the Islamic regime is trying to suppress Now Ruz celebrations, a celebration of ancient Persian culture, it will be interesting to see how Iranians will join together to celebrate this centuries old festival in defiance of the regime.

Iran Shuts Down Major Opposition Publications

March 2, 2010

Iranian authorities on Monday shut down two major opposition publications linked to opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi.

The closure comes in the midst of a campaign of media closures and Internet censorship, as websites in Iran slowed and cell phone SMS capabilities have been periodically jammed.

The daily newspaper Etemad and the weekly magazine Iran Dokht, both linked to Karroubi—the opposition leader who has recently called for a referendum—were reported closed Monday. The closure comes after a ruling last week by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, that opposition leaders Karroubi and Mir Hossain Moussavi have no place in politics.

The same day, opposition website Jaras reported four journalists and one university professor were released after being held in detention for two months. It also said up to 20,000 people were arrested, some of whom were released shortly after, during the Revolution Day protests February 11. According to The New York Times, the website went on to say the figure had been leaked from internal communications among the three divisions of the security forces: the police, the Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Basiji militia.

In an interview with the website Kaleme, Moussavi spoke critically of the regime and said the government’s tactics resembled “the thinking and character from before the revolution.”

Iran-Syria Alliance Grows Stronger

February 26, 2010

According to a report in today’s Washington Post, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have pledged to create a Middle East “without Zionists” and jointly criticized U.S. policy in the region.

As the West is trying to gain support for targeted sanctions against the Islamic Republic as they continue their uranium enrichment program, Tehran has been trying to get increased support from its allies, which include Bolivia and Venezuela in South America, and Syria in the Middle East region.

In an attempt to weaken the Iran-Syria relationship, Washington announced recently that it will send Ambassador Robert Ford to Damascus after a five-year absence after Washington pulled its representative in protest over the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

The message delivered by the two heads of state during the joint news conference Thursday, however, showed the Iran-Syria alliance grow despite Washington’s efforts. The statement also seemed to show that any real progress toward an Israel-Syria peace agreement was still unlikely.

The U.S wants “to dominate the region, but they feel Iran and Syria are preventing that,” Ahmadinejad said during the joint news conference. “We tell them that instead of interfering in the region’s affairs, to pack their things and leave.” According to the report by the Post, Ahmadinejad went on to speak about Israel’s eventual “demise and annihilation,” saying the region could create a future “without Zionists and without colonialists.”

According to the Post, Assad also criticized what he regarded as the United States’ “new situation of colonialism” in the region. He pointed out the presence of U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and pressure on Syria to split from Iran—a friendship Assad emphasized remained strong despite Syria’s declining economy.

As for Israel, that country’s officials say they still think a deal with Syria is possible, but less so if President Obama fails with Iran.

“The question is, where is Syria going to locate itself?” Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Israeli parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was quoted by the Post as saying. The alliance with Iran, he said, “gives them less reason to be pragmatic.”

IAEA Says Iran Possibly Working on Nuclear Warhead

February 18, 2010

The International Atomic Energy Agency has announced concern that its information about Iran’s nuclear activities suggests Tehran may be working on a nuclear warhead, according to a classified report obtained by Agence France Presse today.

“The information available to the agency … raises concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” IAEA chief Yukiya Amano wrote in his first report to its board of governors.

This is the first time the IAEA has expressed such concern over Iran’s “current” activities.
According to the AFP, the report went on to confirm claims from Tehran earlier this month that the country had begun enriching uranium at the 20 percent level. Iran had previously been enriching uranium to the 3.5-5 percent level.

“Iran provided the agency with mass spectrometry results which indicate that enrichment levels of up to 19.8 percent (uranium) were obtained,” the AFP quoted the report as saying, adding that the enrichment was carried out at a plant in Natanz between February 9 and 11.

Despite the higher level of enrichment, uranium must be enriched to 90 percent or higher for it to be weapons grade.

After a UN proposed plan that Iran send 75-80 percent of its LEU abroad for further enrichment fell through, Iran announced it would begin enriching uranium to 20 percent, claiming it needed the enriched uranium for a research reactor that makes medical radioisotopes.

“On February 10, when the agency inspectors arrived at PFEP (Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant), they were informed that Iran had already begun to feed the UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) into one cascade the previous evening,” Amano’s report said.

The report also said Iran had moved most of its overall stockpile of low-enriched uranium—1,950 kilograms from an estimated total of 2,065 kilograms—for processing to higher levels.

Iran to Produce Unmanned Aircraft Domestically

February 8, 2010

Iran on Monday announced it has launched two production lines of unmanned aircraft, also known as drones. Defense Minister, General Ahmad Vahidi reportedly said the planes will be able to carry out precision surveillance as well as attack tasks.
Also on Monday, Senior Air Force Commander, General Heshmatollah Kasiri, told the official IRNA news agency that Iran would soon deploy a missile air defense system that’s more powerful than the Russian S-300 system. Tehran has sought to buy the S-300 system from Russia for some time, but has not yet received it. In January, Russia’s state arms trader declined to say whether it would go ahead with the sale of the anti-aircraft system and Iranian officials have expressed growing frustration with Russia.
“The only equipment we wanted to import from abroad was the S-300 … which Russia, based upon unacceptable reasons, has not delivered yet,” the official IRNA news agency quoted commander Heshmatollah Kassiri as saying. He added, “In the near future, a new locally-made air defense system will be unveiled by the country’s experts and scientists which is as powerful as the S-300 missile defense system, or even stronger.”

Bushehr Plant to Become Operational Soon

February 8, 2010

Tehran announced Monday that its first nuclear power plant in the southern city of Bushehr will become fully operational after completing one final test. Russia took over construction of the plant in 1995, and was set to complete the project in 2007. Now, however, Iran says the plant is close to being operational.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told Fars News, “There remains just one test named ‘Warm Water Test’ before we can launch the power plant …. We will inject fuel to the heart of the reactor after that (final test),” adding that the plant had completed several extensive tests including the Metal Core Test.
Last month, Russian nuclear reactor builder Atomstroyexport announced it had successfully tested the second circuit equipment of the Bushehr plant—a significant step in completing the plant.
The announcement follows Ahmadinejad’s weekend call for Iran to begin enriching its own uranium up to the 20 percent level, essentially ending the need for Iran to sent shipments of its LEU abroad to Russia and France for reprocessing.
To be able to increase enrichment levels, Iran’s atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi has announced the country plans on building 10 new uranium enrichment facilities during the next Iranian year.

Iran Tests Radar-Evading Aircraft

February 8, 2010

On Sunday, a senior Iranian air force official announced Iran had successfully tested a radar-evading aircraft.
Citing Aziz Nasirzadeh, the Fars News Agency reported that the prototype of a radar-evading aircraft named Swordfish had been test-flown.
“The prototype of this aircraft … completed all radar evading characteristics considered by us,” he said. After analyzing data from the tests, and after completing some additional tests, Nasirzadeh said Iran was prepared to take the prototype into production.
The previous day, Iran announced it had officially started production of two new missiles.