Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Iran and the “New Middle East” vision
Pro-regime demonstrators in Tehran, February 18
“Cyber war” between Iran’s regime and its opponents escalates along with resumption of political protests
Government submits budget proposal to Majles approval more than two months late
Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani following her brief arrest by security forces during February 20 demonstrations
Highlights of the week
"Time is on our side”: Iran and the "New Middle East” vision
This week, Iran once again portrayed the developments in the Arab world as reflecting the formation of a new Middle East inspired by the Islamic revolution and heralding the end of American hegemony in the region.
In a speech given by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the occasion of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, the Supreme Leader said that the developments in the Arab world are fueled by hatred towards the presence of Western powers’ presence in the region, being a sign that humanity has grown tired of the extreme pressure exerted by Western civilization in its attempts to enforce its hegemony across the globe. The nations of the world have had it with Western materialism, and they have now awakened—thanks to Islam. The popular and Islamic awakening in the region is a reaction to the long-standing humiliation by Western powers. Khamenei noted that the nations of the region must rid themselves of Western domination and involvement to solve their own problems and those of their governments, which have distanced themselves from the people as a result of Western and American presence (www.khamenei.ir, February 21).
In a speech given by the Supreme Leader to clerics at an international Islamic conference held in Tehran earlier this week, the Supreme Leader stressed that the uprisings in the Arab world are Islamic. This is a critical historical time for the Arab world, Khamenei said. Stronger religious faith, preservation of unity, refusal to come under threat from the U.S., and belief in divine assistance will pave the popular movement’s way to victory in the Islamic world. He added that the current historical phase is important because, if managed properly, it may solve the problems of the Muslim world. According to Khamenei, the enemies are trying to portray the popular movement in the Muslim world as non-Islamic, when it is clear that it is completely Islamic and must be supported (www.khamenei.ir, February 20).
Other top Iranian officials also expressed satisfaction over the popular uprisings in the Arab world. Majles speaker Ali Larijani said that the cause for such uprisings is the dissatisfaction of the region’s nations with the tyrannical regimes ruling their countries. In a meeting with the chairman of Ecuador’s parliament who visited Tehran this week, Larijani noted that the political developments in the Middle East and North Africa give rise to a new situation and will prove beneficial to the peoples of the region (IRNA, February 21). Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Majles Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, also said this week that the waves of "Islamic awakening” among Muslim nations are expected to propel the region into a new age and change the regional balance of power (Fars, February 20).
Iran’s views on the developments in the Arab world could also be seen in editorials published by the conservative press. The daily Keyhan argued that the Americans never believed—let alone assessed—that the situation in the Middle East could spiral out of their control. After the fall of Mubarak’s regime, Saudi Arabia, America’s strategic ally, is also facing a severe risk of destabilization; while Bahrain, a highly significant country for the Americans, is on the verge of collapse. The Americans are losing their military outposts in the region and need to find substitutes for them. The U.S. and Israel fully realize that the political developments will swiftly change their military and defensive plans, and the passage of the two Iranian vessels through the Suez Canal is just a symbolic reflection of the new reality. According to Keyhan, the military presence of the Americans in the region relies on four major elements: a network of military bases, exchange of intelligence information with countries in the region, use of their territorial waters, and use of their airspace. These four elements are now collapsing, and the day is near when everything the Americans have will be taken away. It is small wonder, says an editorial published by the daily, that the Americans are so angry with Iran and are doing all they can to hold it back (Keyhan, February 22).
In an editorial titled "Time is on our side”, the daily Resalat also claimed that opportunities are in store for Iran. The fall of Mubarak is a sign of divine victory and proof that the revolution in the Middle East has its source in the Islamic revolution. The world is transitioning to a new phase of its history. Developments in the 20th and early 21st centuries show that the three Western worldviews: fascism, Marxism, and liberalism—have come to an end. The nations of the world are now waging a struggle in the name of God, and it is in this manner that they will overcome global imperialism and international Zionism. The developments in the Middle East, which began with the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran, have now reached their peak with the fall of the corrupt Arab governments (Resalat, February 22).
Growing demands to put opposition leaders to trial as protest demonstrations resume
In the past week, there have been growing demands to put the reformist opposition leaders to trial following the reformist opposition demonstrations held last Monday and amidst the more recent demonstrations held Sunday, February 20.
Last Friday, Guardian Council chairman Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati called on the judiciary to take measures against the leaders of the reformist opposition. In his Friday sermon, the senior cleric claimed that the leaders of "incitement” have lost their prestige and standing in society, and that they are now despised by the Iranian people. He said that they have to be cut off from the public and confined to their residences. He called to impose restrictions on their freedom of movement and cut off their communications lines to keep them from contacting their supporters (Fars, February 18).
Judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani warned the opposition leaders this week that the regime’s patience towards them is wearing thin. Speaking at a conference of top judiciary officials, Larijani said that the opposition leaders have strayed from the path of the revolution, that their actions are anti-revolutionary, and that they should know that in addition to the public trial they are facing, the judiciary also carries responsibility to handle their case in accordance with the law. In an interview to Iranian TV, Ebrahim Ra’isi, Larijani’s deputy, also said that the judiciary intends to take strong measures against the opposition leaders, whom he accused of treason.
In demonstrations held in Tehran and some other cities last Friday (February 18), thousands of pro-regime demonstrators called to prosecute and even execute the opposition leaders.
Pro-regime demonstrators in Tehran, February 18
The conservative press also joined in the attack against the opposition leaders. The daily Keyhan referred to them as "the greatest criminals in the history of Iran”. An editorial published by the daily earlier this week says that the opposition leaders obviously need to be put to trial. Their prosecution is the most important legal case since the Islamic revolution, and the sooner the judiciary takes the case, the better. Not only did the opposition leaders, who acted in the service of American, Israeli, and British intelligence organizations, compromise national security and violate public order, but they also gave hope to Iran’s enemies. In their actions, they gave Iran’s enemies the opportunity to work against it, assassinate its nuclear scientists, and step up anti-Iranian sanctions. They should therefore be prosecuted, and their crimes exposed (Keyhan, February 19).
Tehran Emrouz, a daily associated with Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, also accused the reformist opposition of treason. The opposition leaders gave the West an opportunity to achieve its propaganda aims against Iran and cast doubt over the public support of the Islamic regime. Their actions should be construed as high treason against the Iranian people and the regime, being the basis for the demand to put the traitors to trial and expose their true nature for the public to see (Tehran Emrouz, February 19). In another article published by the daily, the opposition leaders were referred to as the "new Khawarij”, a term used to refer to the first religious opposition in Islam, formed after a group of Muslims seceded from the camp of Ali bin Abi Talib, the fourth caliph, in 657 AD (Tehran Emrouz, February 20).
Meanwhile, the ultra-conservative website Raja News claimed this week that, prior to the Islamic revolution, Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard had collaborated with the SAVAK, the Shah’s intelligence and security organization. A commentary article published by the website says that there is evidence to suggest that the couple had contacts with SAVAK agents. The website further claimed that Mousavi had contacts with one of the leaders of Mojahedin-e Khalq, an opposition organization, and that the Mousavis traveled to the U.S. in 1977 for purposes of permanent immigration, deciding to return to Iran during the outbreak of the Islamic revolution. The website also accused Mousavi of opportunism and political flip-flopping, strongly criticizing his policy as prime minister of Iran in the ‘80s (Raja News, February 19).
The two opposition leaders, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, have remained under house arrest this week and were denied any contact with the outside world. Saham News, a website affiliated with Karoubi’s supporters, reported this week that on Monday night, about 30 people assaulted his residence, smashed the windows, and threw fragmentation grenades into the house (Saham News, February 21). In addition, security forces raided Karoubi’s residence and confiscated books and documents. One of Karoubi’s sons, Ali, was arrested this week together with his wife. Security forces also wanted to arrest Karoubi’s elder son, Hussein, but were unable to do so as he was not present at his residence at the time (Saham News, February 22).
"Cyber war” between Iran’s regime and its opponents escalates
along with resumption of political protests
As protest demonstrations resume, the cyber war between Iran’s regime and its opponents has escalated as well in the recent two weeks.
The Gerdab website reported this week that the Voice of America website as well as 94 other websites affiliated with the U.S. State Department were attacked by the "Iranian Cyber Army” in protest of the "lies” spread against the regime by opposition-supporting Western media. The hackers who broke into the Voice of America website posted a message to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "Mrs. Clinton, do you want to hear the voice of oppressed nations will from heart of USA? Islamic world doesn’t believe USA trickery. We call on you to stop interfering in Islamic countries” (Gerdab, February 22).
The attack of the Iranian Cyber Army was made days after a widespread hacker attack on several websites affiliated with the Iranian regime and conservative media. The hackers targeted the official websites of the Supreme Leader, the president’s office, the Foreign Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Atomic Energy Organization, the Majles, the Basij, and Iran Broadcasting. Also attacked were the official websites of IRNA (the official news agency), as well as Fars, Aftab, and Fararu news agencies. Shortly prior to the attack on the websites, activists from the international hacker group Anonymous posted a message of support for the Iranian people’s struggle against the regime.
After the website of the Fars conservative news agency was taken down, its technical department contacted the Iranian authorities in request to file a complaint to the international court against the U.S. for its alleged involvement in the cyber attack on the Iranian websites. However, Mohammad Hossein Khoshvaqt, director of the Fararu news website, accused the government of Britain and the BBC of attacking the Iranian websites to divert Iran’s public opinion and strengthen the opposition for the demonstration that took place on February 14. In an interview to the Tabnak website, Khoshvaqt claimed that, last week, hackers broke into the Fararu website and posted a message saying that Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul, who was visiting Tehran at the time, intended to take part in the opposition’s demonstration. The website managers were forced to take the website offline after the posting. According to Khoshvaqt, the Aftab News website was the victim of a similar attack and had to be taken offline as well. Khoshvaqt asked the relevant government agencies to help the IT companies that support the websites defend themselves from the Western cyber attack.
Meanwhile, the opposition website Rooz Online reported that during the last nine months, Iran Broadcasting has been operating a cyber department whose responsibilities include spreading disinformation on Western media and social networks. According to the report, the department consists of 20 units with a total budget of about 100 million dollars. It runs three internet networks, known as Ma ("We”), Shoma ("You all”), and Paydari ("Resistance”). Ma and Shoma are in charge of uploading videos on YouTube that reflect the positions of the regime. Paydari operates on the Facebook social network. It creates fake user profiles to develop discussions with Facebook users where the opinions of government supporters can be voiced. This department cooperates with hackers who attack websites affiliated with the reformist opposition. According to Rooz Online, it is the Paydari department that took down www.balatrin.com, a website that serves as a Persian-language social network and is affiliated with the regime’s opponents. The department’s achievements include spreading a fake photograph of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s daughter, portraying the student killed in Tehran during the February 14 demonstration as a Basij member, spreading exaggerated information on the number of participants in the pro-regime rally on February 11, and spreading information playing down the extent of the opposition demonstrations on February 14 (Rooz Online, February 22).
The Iranian regime and its opponents were engaged in a cyber war with each other also during the riots that broke out in Iran in the summer of 2009. During the riots, the Iranian Cyber Army claimed responsibility for attacking a number of websites used by reformist opposition activists, including the Twitter website; the website of Radio Zamaneh, a radio station based in the Netherlands and affiliated with the opposition; the website of the reformist student union of Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran; and Jaras, a website affiliated with the supporters of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi. On every hacked website, the hackers left political messages against the protest movement and the West and in favor of the regime. At the same time, websites belonging to official institutions and media affiliated with the regime were attacked as well.
Government submits budget proposal to Majles approval more than two months late
This week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad submitted the budget proposal for the next Iranian year (1390, 2011-2012) to the approval of the Majles. The 539-billion-dollar annual budget provides about 177 billion dollars for direct government expenses and 362 billion for government companies and government-associated institutions. Next year’s budget represents an increase of over 45 percent, reflecting government estimates on an expected increase in government revenues following the subsidy policy reform and the increase in oil prices. The budget proposal is based on an estimated oil price of 80 dollars per barrel compared to last year’s working assumption of 37.5 dollars per barrel (Mehr; Fars, February 20).
In a speech addressed to the Majles, the president laid out the guiding principles of the budget proposal. He noted that the government put an emphasis on the need to promote social justice, and that the budget reflects a government effort to reduce social and economic inequality. The president added that the budget was formulated with the intention of cementing social unity and solidarity, increasing investments in development projects and scientific research, and promoting health services, sports, and tourism.
President Ahmadinejad also noted that the government put a particular emphasis on the need to solve the unemployment problem. He said that there are currently 2.4 million unemployed Iranians, and that the government intends to create between 2.2 to 2.4 million new workplaces a year by 2013, compared to today’s number of 1.6 million. The president reported that the government earmarked about 47.5 million dollars in next year’s budget for the promotion of development and construction projects to alleviate the housing crisis. He further added that the subsidy policy reform will continue next year as well (Tabnak, February 20)
It should be mentioned that the government was supposed to submit the budget proposal to the approval of the Majles already in December 2010; however, due to an unprecedented delay by the government, the proposal was only submitted this week. It is not clear whether the Majles can complete its discussions of the budget proposal by the end of the current Iranian year (March 21).
Government critics once again criticized the government’s considerable delay in the submission of the budget proposal. In an article published in the daily Tehran Emrouz, Ahmad Tavakoli, head of the Majles Research Center, claimed that the Majles was unable to seriously discuss the budget proposal in the time left until the end of the year. A hurried discussion of the budget proposal would not serve the interests of the state and the public, he said. Tavakoli, affiliated with the president’s critics from the conservative camp, also noted that the figures presented by the president in his speech to the Majles, particularly the sharp increase in government spending, are puzzling. He therefore recommended that the Majles only approve the portion of the budget that pertains to the first two months of the year, and continue discussing the entire budget early next year (Tehran Emrouz, February 22).
Iran’s take on London 2012 Olympics and the Zionist connection
In recent days, several Iranian websites claimed that the logo chosen for the Olympic Games to be held in London in 2012 reflects a Zionist influence, as it is reminiscent of the word "Zion”.
One Iranian blogger even brought up the possibility that Zionist influence explains the alleged resemblance between the logo of the 2012 Olympics and the shape of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, which likewise resembles the word "Zion” (the building is shaped like a zigzag or lightning bolt) (www.masonyab.com).
The Roozegar website claimed this week that senior officials from Iran’s Olympic committee have been required to demand that the British Olympic committee change the logo or even threaten that, unless it is changed, Iran will boycott the Olympics due to its resistance to the "Zionist movement” (Roozegar, February 22)
Picture of the week: Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani following her brief
arrest by security forces during February 20 demonstrations