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The POMED Wire Archives
Category: Iran
Iran: Sotoudeh Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison, Banned from Travel and Practicing Law
January 10th, 2011 by Naureen
On Sunday, Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 11 years in jail for “anti-regime propaganda, acting against national security and failing to wear Islamic cover in a film.” Sotoudeh has also been banned from practicing law and leaving the country for 20 years. According to her husband, Reza Khandan, the main charges against Sotoudeh were a result of interviews she gave to foreign news outlets and allegations that she was a founding member of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, an association of lawyers led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi. Khandan also said that Sotoudeh believed her sentence was politically motivated, as she was told by interrogators before her trial that her sentence would be “guaranteed to be more than 10 years.”
Update:  Philip J. Crowley, State Department spokesman, condemned the verdict and called for her immediate release stating, “Ms. Sotoudeh is a strong voice for rule of law and justice in Iran. We are dismayed by her continued detention and loss of the right to practice law. Her conviction is part of a systematic attempt on the part of Iranian authorities to silence the defense of democracy and human rights in Iran.”
Posted in Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Middle Eastern Media | Comment »
Iran: Ahmadinejad Dismisses 14 Advisors
January 4th, 2011 by Naureen
On Saturday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unexpectedly removed 14 of his policy advisors. The removals came one month after three other officials, including Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, were fired. According to President Ahmadinejad’s office, the advisors were removed due to “incompetency” in fulfilling their responsibilities. Conservative opponents of Ahmadinejad argued that the dismissals empower his Chief of Staff and possible presidential candidate Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei. Other analysts argued the firings indicate a growing rift between Ahmadinejad and the clerical leadership.
Posted in Iran | Comment »
Iran: Reform Leaders Threatened with Prosecution
January 3rd, 2011 by Jason
At last weeks Friday Prayers, Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi​, announced that the leaders of the Green Movement “will definitely be prosecuted.” On Wednesday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also referenced the opposition, saying that the “seditionists” had “hurt the Islamic Revolution and the people.” In response, opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi said that he is ready to stand trial if it is open to the public. Female MP’s have also called for the prosecution of Zahra Rahnavard​, the wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, for actions that are “anti-Revolutionary.”
Posted in Civil Society, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Judiciary, Reform | Comment »
Iran: A Regime in Decline
December 29th, 2010 by Evan
Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Ray Takeyh has a new op-ed in the International Herald Tribune explaining the challenges currently facing the regime in Tehran. Takeyh argues that the Islamic Republic has failed both practically and philosophically. Elite defections have weakened the government and popular dissent, while less visible than in previous years, remains a strong force. According to Takeyh, the demise of the old political and religious structures is certain, but what will replace them remains unclear. Takeyh urges U.S. policy makers to balance security interests with support for Iranian opposition movements. “Our choices speak as much to our values as they do to our interests. In the long run, America has never gone astray by standing with those who hope for a more decent future,” Takeyh writes.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Islam and Democracy | Comment »
Iran: Corruption Charges Expose Internal Rifts
December 28th, 2010 by Evan
Last week, Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi announced corruption charges against one of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad​’s closest confidants, First Vice President Mohammad Reza. According to the AP’s Brian Murphy, Reza’s indictment by the Iranian judiciary​—​which is controlled by Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani’s brother Sadeq​—i​s a direct response to Ahmadinejad’s firing of Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki earlier this month. “The developments revealed the increasingly complex political maneuvering within the Islamic Republic as it struggles with economic sanctions and growing international pressure to curb its production of nuclear fuel,” Murphy writes.
Posted in Iran | Comment »
Clinton Welcomes UN Resolution on Iran
December 22nd, 2010 by Evan
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement welcoming the UN General Assembly’s latest resolution on Iran’s human rights record. “The international community is deeply concerned about ongoing human rights abuses in Iran and the plight of Iranian citizens facing persecution at the hands of their government. Yesterday’s UN resolution recognizes the severity of this troubling situation, particularly the continued harassment, persecution, and violent repression of political opponents, human rights defenders, and a wide variety of civil society representatives.” Clinton concluded the statement by reaffirming the United States’ commitment to stand with Iranian activists: “To all those Iranians struggling to lift your voices and speak up for fundamental freedoms and human rights, you are not alone. The United States and the international community stand with you.”
Posted in Human Rights, Iran, United Nations | Comment »
Iran: Sit-in for Sotoudeh at the UN
December 21st, 2010 by Jason
Freedom House released a statement yesterday expressing “solidarity and support for Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and other women’s rights activists,” who began a sit-in Monday at the United Nations in Geneva in support of imprisoned human rights lawyer Nasrin SotoudehPaula Schriefer, Director of Advocacy at Freedom House, said in the statement that the “human rights abuses inflicted on its people by the Iranian government, particularly on women, are in direct violation of international human rights treaties to which Iran is a state party.” Gissou Nia, a researcher and analyst at the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, writes at CNN that Sotoudeh was arrested for “a range of ’security’ offenses, including her legal representation of Ebadi,” and that the human rights lawyer has been denied “the ultimate legal right: a fair trial.” Nia goes on to describe the role lawyers have in protecting human rights in Iran and calls on the international community to “commit itself to protecting lawyers in Iran from arrest and imprisonment.”
Posted in Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Judiciary, United Nations, Women | Comment »
Lebanon: Khamenei Dismisses STL, “Justice is More Important” Than Stability
December 21st, 2010 by Jason
Speaking during a meeting with the Qatari emir yesterday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) “‘a rubber-stamp one whose verdict is null and void whatever it is.’” The Daily Star reports that the statement from the leader of Iran was not well received by many in Lebanon. “Labor Minister Butros Harb criticized Khamenei’s remarks, saying that it was up to the Lebanese to decide, ‘and not for others to dictate to them how to deal with the tribunal.’” Also in The Daily Star, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir worries about a possible take over by Hizbullah: “The way Hizbullah is acting and their talk about becoming a significant force leads us to believe that if the party continues to pursue its plan it could seize power.” The patriarch also contradicted the recent assertion by Roger Cohen that stability “trumps” justice, saying “‘Justice is justice and if we sacrifice it once, we could sacrifice it many times. Stability is important but justice is more important and guarantees stability.’”
Posted in Hezbollah, Iran, Lebanon, Political Parties, Sectarianism | Comment »
Iran: Subsidy Cuts Begin, Jundallah Members Executed
December 20th, 2010 by Jason
The Iranian government slashed subsidies for gasoline yesterday according to a report in The New York Times. “After midnight on Sunday, the price of subsidized gasoline jumped to about $1.44 a gallon from about 38 cents a gallon.” The report also states that there was an increase in the presence of security forces in anticipation of any unrest. Tehran Bureau provides reactions from Iranians in Tehran. Muhammad Sahimi explains that the rise in prices affects more than just fuel: “The price of electricity has tripled from 0.75 cents/KWh to 2.2 cents/KWh. The price of water has similarly increased by a factor of three. The price of natural gas for home heating and cooking has increased by a factor of four, and for vehicle fuel by a factor of ten. The price of flour has increased by a factor of 40.”
Also, eleven members of the Jundallah terrorist group have been executed in Iran. The group has recently claimed responsibility for the bombing of a mosque in the southeastern Iranian city of Chabahar on December 15. According to an Iranian official, the men were executed for “‘carrying out terrorist attacks in the province (Sistan-Baluchestan) during the recent months, fighting with police, and martyring several innocent people.’”
Posted in Iran, Oil, sanctions | Comment »
Iran: A Divided Nation
December 17th, 2010 by Jason
In two new pieces, Mehdi Khalaji and Abbas Milani explore cultural and political divisions in Iran.  Khalaji focuses on the growing split between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini. “Tension between the president and the Supreme Leader is built into the Islamic Republic’s core,” Khalaji writes, because the Supreme Leader is chosen, while the President “emerges from an electoral process.” This natural tension has caused conflict between Khameini and the two previous presidents, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. Khalaji concludes that “[t]he history of the Islamic Republic indicates that the power struggle between the Supreme Leader and the president never abates. It also suggests that the Supreme Leader will prove to be stronger.”
Milani takes a sociohistorical view of the divided Iranian identity. Looking back over the country’s history, Milani sees “a bifurcated, tormented, even schizoid cultural identity: pre-Islamic, Persian-Zoroastrian elements battling with forces and values of an Arab Islamic culture.” Milani goes on to detail the the struggle between the two identities, which conflict through art, film, language, and the meaning of modernity. Post-1979 Iran can be seen through this lens of bifurcation. Ayatollah Khomeini advocated for a Shi’ism that rejected modernity (i.e. the Shah and his insistence on a Persian national identity) and established a strong state that clashes with calls for greater democratization from many citizens. “[A] critical look at the past shows the bleak future of Khamenei and other champions of despotism. Violence can only delay but not destroy the rights of man in a nation that has embraced the cultural ethos of modernity.”
Posted in Civil Society, Iran, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Political Islam | Comment »
Iran: Taking Stock of Human Rights Abuses
December 17th, 2010 by Jason
As the end of the year approaches, observers of Iran are speaking out about the human rights abuses witnessed in 2010. Hadi Ghaemi writes at Tehran Bureau that “Iran launched a sweeping crackdown on human rights and civil society in 2010, following political unrest after the disputed June 2009 presidential election.” The “most notable trend” in the regimes human rights abuses is the “broadening (of) the definition of Moharabeh (or “enmity against god”), a capital offense,” to include common criminals. Ghaemi also suggests that the regime is increasing “secret group executions.” Saeed Kamali Dehghan, writing at Comment is Free, relates some of the history of the now notorious Evin prison, and lists some of those who are still imprisoned by the regime. “Iran’s nuclear programme might remain as the most important concern for the international community next year, but what is clear to me is that the important story for Iranians is not the nuclear programme…but the fate of the prisoners and those whose human rights are violated.”
Posted in Freedom, Human Rights, Iran | Comment »
Iran: A History of “Underground Media”
December 16th, 2010 by Jason
In a three part series at Tehran Bureau, Dr. Afshin Marashi explores the complex relationship between the rulers of Iran and the press going back to the early 19th century. The establishment of newspapers by the expatriate communities in places like Baku and London helped spread discontent with the Qajar Dynasty (1794-1925), eventually leading to the Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911). In the early years of the Pahlavi Dynasty (1935-1979) the number of media outlets began to shrink as a result of the centralization enforced by Reza Shah Pahlavi. Under Reza’s son, Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, newspapers again flourished until the overthrow of Mosaddegh in 1953 and the re-establishment of state controls. Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran saw an explosion of “underground media,” perhaps best exemplified by spread of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini​’s sermons on tape. Since the Revolution, tensions between Conservatives and Reformists have maintained a vacillating balance between state controlled media and underground media. Most recently, blogs and YouTube videos have taken the place of tape cassettes and pamphlets. Marashi writes that “the current phase of state control of the Iranian media should be seen in the broader context of the country’s modern history. […] As in earlier stages of Iran’s history, today’s democratic opposition has made extensive use of the latest technologies to circulate news, opinions, and calls for reform.”
Posted in Civil Society, Freedom, Iran, Journalism, Technology | Comment »
Iran: A Quiet Ashura
December 16th, 2010 by Evan
Writing on the Shi’ite holiday of Ashura, Scott Peterson notes the absence of protests in Iran. Last year, thousands of Iranians took to the streets, invoking the memory of Imam Hussein to protest the repressive Ahmadinejad regime. “Now forced underground and facing severe restrictions, where is the Green Movement today?” Peterson asks. Nader Hashemi, Professor of Middle East and Islamic Politics at the University of Denver, responds that the Iranian opposition is likely engaging “in a process of reflection, social networking, and organization to raise critical consciousness, and to basically just try and keep the movement alive, waiting for another opportunity where they manifest their presence and push forward their pro-democracy agenda.”
Posted in Human Rights, Iran, Islam and Democracy | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Iran Primer I: Domestic Politics”
December 15th, 2010 by Evan
On Wednesday, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars hosted presentations by three of the authors of the United States Institute of Peace’s (USIP) Iran Primer. Shaul Bakhash, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History at George Mason University, Geneive Abdo, Director of the Iran Program at The Century Foundation, and Robin Wright, joint Senior Fellow at USIP and the Wilson Center all delivered presentations on Iran’s domestic political scene. Director of the Middle East Program at Wilson Center Haleh Esfandiari moderated the event.
(To read the full notes, continue below or click here for a pdf.)
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in DC Event Notes, Iran | Comment »
Iran: Reform a “Long-Term Proposition”
December 14th, 2010 by Jason
Daniel Brumberg and Barry Blechman write in a new piece at the Middle East Channel that using “regime change” as a basis for an “effective U.S.-Iran policy” is unwise. Policy makers in the the U.S. are becoming impatient with the Obama administration’s attempts to negotiate a resolution to the nuclear issue and some are again turning to military action as a solution. “Political reform will eventually come to Iran, but in [a] manner far more prolonged and partial than that imagined by advocates of a full-scale democratic revolution.” The Green Movement was “battered by a repressive regime and deeply divided” after the 2009 elections, but “[t]his is not an impossible project…it will require a grass roots process of networking, communication and alliance building that will take years to unfold.” The authors argue that the best thing the U.S. can do to “promote political decompression” is to continue to engage with the Islamic Republic. “Sustained U.S.-Iranian engagement would undercut the ‘threat’ that ultra hardliners regularly invoke to legitimate their efforts to pummel or isolate their critics.”
Posted in Diplomacy, Iran, US foreign policy | Comment »
Iran: President Clashes with Parliament
December 13th, 2010 by Evan
The Washington Post’s Thomas Erdbrink has a new article on political turmoil in Iran.  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad​, bolstered by the continued support of Supreme Leader Ali​Khamenei​, has repeatedly ignored or overruled the Iranian parliament. Ali Larijani, the current speaker of the parliament, and four other prominent parliamentarians responded by releasing a letter criticizing the President and warning that his actions violate the country’s constitution last week. On Monday, the conflict escalated when Ahmadinejad abruptly replaced Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki—a close Larijani ally—with Ali Akbar Salehi, the current head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.
Update:  In an interview with insideIRAN, former Iranian diplomat Mohammad Reza Heidari explains why he believes Mottaki was removed: “Ahmadinejad wants to homogenize the government and make the nuclear issue the main pillar of his government. […] This is also a signal to the world: the person in charge of Iranian diplomacy is the head of Iran’s nuclear program. This implies that the Iranian foreign policy is nothing but the nuclear issue; they are the same thing.”
Posted in Iran | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Ahmadinejad’s Confrontation with the Iranian Parliament”
December 7th, 2010 by Evan
On Wednesday, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars hosted a presentation by Bahman Baktiari, Director of the Middle East Center at the University of Utah, on the conflict between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the parliament. Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Wilson Center’s Middle East program moderated the event.
 (To read full notes, continue below or click here for a pdf.)
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in DC Event Notes, Iran, Uncategorized | Comment »
POMED Notes: “The Realities of Power Sharing in the Next Iraqi Government”
December 7th, 2010 by Jason
The Middle East Institute (MEI) held an event on Tuesday titled “The Realities of Power Sharing in the Next Iraqi Government” with Reidar Visser. The event was held to mark the release of Visser’s new book, “A Responsible End?: The United States and the Iraqi Transition, 2005-2010.” Visser was introduced by Kate Seelye, the Vice President of Programs and Communications at MEI.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here for pdf.)
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Society, DC Event Notes, Elections, Iran, Iraq, Kurds, Political Parties, Sectarianism​, US foreign policy | Comment »
Iran: Ahmadinejad Profiled, Tensions Between Conservative Factions
November 30th, 2010 by Jason
Frontline’s Tehran Bureau has published two articles profiling President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad​’s political history. The first article focuses on Ahmadinejad’s use of populism to set himself apart from the clergy, and his sometimes messianic self image. The second article explores the tensions between a more secular nationalism, often associated with Ali Shariati, and the “​Velaayat-e Faghih (guardianship of the Islamic jurist),” associated with Supreme Leader Khomeini and the Islamic revolution. The second article concludes by looking at various scenarios for the presidential election in 2013, including a “Putin-Medvedev Shuffle,” necessary because Ahmadinejad is constitutionally prohibited from running for a third consecutive term. Rahim Mashaei, a close aide to Ahmadinejad, is named as a possible successor.
Amir Taheri, writing in the Wall Street Journal, also chronicles the growing tensions in Iran between the several conservative camps, which has garnered recent attention due to a threat by some legislators to impeach Ahmadinejad. “Behind all this is the struggle for power between the mullahs and the rising generation of the military and their technocratic allies. […] Whatever the outcome, we are sure to witness a long and bitter fight within the ruling establishment. Because neither Ahmadinejad nor his rivals within the regime have anything positive to offer Iranians, both have to maintain the country’s state of permanent crisis.”
Posted in Iran, Islam and Democracy, Political Islam | Comment »
Iran: A “Naked Power Struggle”
November 26th, 2010 by Jason
An Iranian member of parliament claims to have enough signatures to bring the motion to impeach President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “into force,” according to a report by Golnaz Esfandiari. The MP, Ali Motahari, says that he has collected “more than 50″ signatures, close to the one-fourth (73) of parliament needed to “question the president.”
Jamsheed Choksy writes at Foreign Policy that “[c]asual Iran observers tend to portray the country’s most prominent political division as that between fundamentalist hard-liners and secular moderates. In reality, however, the struggle for Iran’s future is a three-way fight waged by the different branches of conservatives that control the parliament, the presidency, and the theocracy.” He goes on to describe the situation as a “naked power struggle that has cloaked itself in ideology,” and that the “infighting is motivated by differences over pragmatic political strategy.”
Posted in Iran, Legislation | Comment »
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