Spotlight on Iran (Week of January 4-11, 2012)

Issued on: 11/01/2012 Type: Article

Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran

Highlights of the week

  • Iran-West threat exchange over Persian Gulf escalates

  • "From the threshold stage to the zone of immunity”: Iran confirms launching another uranium enrichment plant

  • 2012 elections: first vetting stage ends; Khamenei calls for mass participation

  • Severe conflict between government, leading film industry figures

  • "Big brother” comes to internet cafés, "national internet network” to be launched soon

Iran-West threat exchange over Persian Gulf escalates

This week top officials in Iran once again threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in response to the sanctions on importing oil from Iran. Ali Fadavi, commander of the Revolutionary Guards navy, stated last weekend that Iran has previous experience closing the strait. He warned the United States against launching a naval conflict with Iran, the way it had during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.

Fadavi said that the world will not last more than 24 hours without the oil that passes through the Persian Gulf, and that the United States cannot guarantee the safety of maritime traffic in the region. He reported that this coming February Iran will conduct yet another naval exercise in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, which will be different from the exercises it conducted over the past year.

Top military officials also discussed the possibility of Iran blocking the Strait of Hormuz. Top air force official Aziz Nasirzadeh said this week that the armed forces are fully capable of closing the strait if the Iranian leadership decides to do so. Navy Commander Habibollah Sayyari also said that Iran can close the strait easily.

The Revolutionary Guards weekly Sobh-e Sadeq dedicated the front page of its latest issue to Iran’s threats to close the strait. A commentary article by Yadollah Javani, head of the Revolutionary Guards Political Department, said that, considering the threats made by the United States, Britain, and Israel, Iran is within its right to use all available means, including the weapon of oil, to defend itself. Javani warned that if the West tries to prevent Iran from exporting oil through the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, Iran may retaliate by stopping the passage of oil through the strait.

On the other hand, Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi noted at a press conference held this week that Iran never said it had any intention of closing the Strait of Hormuz.

Meanwhile, Majles Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Hashmatollah Falahatpisheh warned the United States that, if its military presence in the Persian Gulf continues, Iran will respond. Last week the commander of Iran’s army, Atallah Salehi, warned the United States not to return its aircraft carrier John C. Stennis to its previous location in the gulf. The U.S. vessel had crossed the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf of Aden before the start of Iran’s recent naval exercise in the Persian Gulf.

At the same time, Britain’s Defense Secretary Philip Hammond warned that any attempt by Iran to block the Strait of Hormuz will be illegal and unsuccessful. It was reported on the media this week that Britain intends to deploy an advanced destroyer in the Persian Gulf in light of the growing tensions around Iran. 

 "From the threshold stage to the zone of immunity”:
Iran confirms launching another uranium enrichment plant

This week International Atomic Energy Agency diplomats in Vienna confirmed reports that Iran began enriching uranium to 20 percent at the Fordo plant near the city of Qom. Iran’s IAEA representative Ali-Asghar Soltanieh confirmed the reports as well, saying that the underground facility enriches uranium for medical needs and that its operation is fully supervised by the agency.

The conservative daily Kayhan defined the launch of the additional enrichment plant as a defeat for the policy of threats against Iran, and a new stage in the demonstration of its power. In its editorial, titled "From the threshold stage to the zone of immunity”, the daily said that Iran has crossed the "nuclear threshold” into the immunity zone of its nuclear program. According to Kayhan, the transfer of 20-percent-enriched uranium to the Fordo enrichment plant rules out any possibility of a military attack on the nuclear sites, since the new plant is considered by the West to be immune to outside threats.

The daily also said that the main strategic concern of Western countries, primarily Israel, stems from the possibility of two processes happening at the same time: the increase of Iran’s strategic influence in the region as a result of the Islamists’ growing power, and the passing of its nuclear program into the immunity stage. Israel believes that, the day these two processes merge, Iran’s nuclearization will become impossible to stop.

 2012 elections: first vetting stage ends; Khamenei calls for mass participation

The first stage in the vetting of candidates for the Majles elections by the Interior Ministry was completed this week. The chairman of the Interior Ministry’s election headquarters in Tehran Province, the largest constituency, reported Tuesday, January 10, that 747 of the 1,066 candidates who registered in the province were approved.

Over 30 current Majles members were disqualified, including some of President Ahmadinejad’s most notable critics and a number of reformists. Several candidates affiliated with the right wing of the reformist bloc were approved, however. Candidates whose nominations were rejected have four days (until January 14) to appeal. Final decisions on approving candidates are made by the Guardian Council.

Meanwhile, top regime officials are stepping up efforts to ensure the highest possible voter turnout in the March 2 elections. This week Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for mass participation in the elections. He said that this will be a crushing blow to Iran’s enemies, whom he accused of trying to keep Iranians from taking part in the elections.

Top officials in the conservative camp once again issued a warning about the ongoing internal power struggles between the conservatives ahead of the elections. Habibollah Asgaroladi, a high-ranking member of the Islamic Coalition Party, said that Iran’s enemies are trying to create conflicts among the conservatives to diminish their power, and called for solidarity in the conservative camp. Former Majles Speaker Gholam-Hossein Haddad Adel, who announced he is going to run in the coming elections on behalf of the United Conservative Front, also gave a warning about the danger of internal disagreements, saying that the most important principle for all conservatives is to be true to the rule of the religious jurisprudent and to the Supreme Leader.

In addition to the political conflict between the United Conservative Front and the Steadfast Front, supported by radical cleric Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, differences of opinion have also emerged between Steadfast Front activists and President Ahmadinejad’s supporters. Steadfast Front member Ali-Asghar Zare’i announced this week that his fellow front members will not agree to run in a joint list with government supporters even if President Ahmadinejad renounces his controversial office chief Rahim Masha’i.

 Severe conflict between government, leading film industry figures

Last weekend leading figures in Iran’s film industry released a memorandum of opinion condemning the decision made by the Islamic Guidance Ministry to close the House of Cinema, the main trade union for those employed in the local film industry. Ahmad Tavakoli, head of the Majles Research Center, criticized the decision as well, saying it was made on the eve of the Majles elections due to political considerations.

Last Tuesday the Public Culture Council informed Mohammad-Mehdi Asgarpour, director of the House of Cinema, that it was decided to shut down the union following an announcement released by the Islamic Guidance Ministry, according to which the House of Cinema had made illegal changes to its constitution. The Islamic Guidance Ministry also filed a petition to court against the House of Cinema for making the changes.

Last week Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini defended his decision to close the House of Cinema. He claimed that the union had made a number of changes to its constitution without the authorities’ approval, refused to be supervised by the Islamic Guidance Ministry, and acted in a manner incompatible with the values of the Islamic revolution and the regime. As an example of the inappropriate conduct of the House of Cinema, he mentioned a statement released by the union this past September in support of several documentary filmmakers detained by the authorities on charges of collaborating with the BBC.

In response to the authorities’ decision to close down the House of Cinema, the union leaders dubbed the decision as illegal since the establishment is registered as an NGO, which is why the executive authority cannot close it down without a court order. House of Cinema members even threatened to boycott the Fajr international film festival, to be held in Tehran in February as in previous years.

The House of Cinema, which currently has about 5,000 members, was established in 1987 to protect the rights of those working in Iran’s film industry and improve their work conditions. For the past year it has been engaged in a serious conflict with the authorities, which claim that the union leaders have turned it into a means of promoting the reformist opposition’s political objectives.

 "Big brother” comes to internet cafés, "national internet network” to be launched soon

Last week the cyber police released new regulations imposing severe restrictions on Iran’s internet cafés. Among other things, the regulations require internet cafés to prominently display their operation licenses where they can be easily seen. Also under the regulations, internet cafés can only provide web surfing services through licensed internet providers rather than providers that offer satellite-based internet access; internet café operators must have no criminal records, be married and at least 25 years old; internet cafés have to record their customers’ personal data as it appears on their official identification; they must document the web usage data of their customers; providing access to blocked websites is strictly forbidden; files can only be sent by members of the internet café staff and after making sure that the files contain no viruses; internet cafés must be equipped with CCTV cameras to monitor activities in the establishment; and only one customer can use a particular computer at the same time.

The new regulations are another stage in the restrictions imposed by the authorities on the use of internet cafés. This past November the Tehran police conducted an operation to shut down illegally-operating internet cafés.

Meanwhile, the Iranian media reported that in the next several weeks the authorities will complete preparations for the launch of a separate, closed internal internet network, which will be cut off from its global counterpart. Telecommunications Minister Reza Taqipour said this week that the first stage in the implementation of the project will be carried out in the beginning of the next Iranian year (which starts on March 20). He noted that the internal network isn’t supposed to replace the global internet network, but that since most Iranian communications do not require access to the global network, they will be routed through the new internal network.

 

Iran-West threat exchange over Persian Gulf escalates

This week top officials in Iran once again threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in response to the sanctions on importing oil from Iran. Ali Fadavi, commander of the Revolutionary Guards navy, stated last weekend that Iran has previous experience closing the strait on a number of occasions. In an interview given to the Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow TV show, Fadavi warned the United States against launching a naval conflict with Iran, the way it had during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. He noted that in 1987, when the United States increased the number of warships it had in the Persian Gulf from 12 to 86, it couldn’t ensure freedom of maritime traffic there due to Iran’s ability to hit and even sink naval targets.

Fadavi said that the world will not last more than 24 hours without the oil that passes through the Persian Gulf, and that the United States, which withdrew from Lebanon, Somalia, and Iraq, cannot guarantee the safety of maritime traffic in the region. He reported that this coming February Iran will conduct yet another naval exercise in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, which will be different from the exercises it conducted over the past year (Fars, January 6).

Top military officials also discussed the possibility of Iran blocking the Strait of Hormuz. Top air force official Aziz Nasirzadeh said in an interview IRNA News Agency that the armed forces are fully capable of closing the strait if the Iranian leadership decides to do so (IRNA, January 7). Navy Chief Habibollah Sayyari also said that Iran can close the strait easily. In a TV interview, Sayyari said that Iran’s naval presence goes beyond the Strait of Hormuz all the way to the Indian Ocean (ISNA, November 8). Esma’il Kowsari, member of the Majles National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, also addressed the possibility of closing the strait, saying that the military exercise which the Revolutionary Guards intend to conduct this coming February is aimed to improve the readiness of the armed forces to close the strait within a short period of time if necessary (Mehr, January 7).

The Revolutionary Guards weekly Sobh-e Sadeq dedicated the front page of its latest issue to Iran’s threats to close the strait. A commentary article by Yadollah Javani, head of the Revolutionary Guards Political Department, said that, considering the threats made by the United States, Britain, and Israel, Iran is within its right to use all available means, including the weapon of oil, to defend itself. Javani said that if the West decides to try an adventurous approach and attempts to prevent Iran from exporting oil through the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, it should be aware that Iran is also capable of preventing the passage of oil through the strait.

Referring to Western claims that Iran is unable to close the strait, Javani said that despite such claims, which are part of the psychological warfare campaign waged by the West against Iran, Western countries are well aware of Iran’s capabilities. According to Javani, Iran could also close the strait during the Iran-Iraq War, but didn’t do so as it wasn’t necessary. Iran currently has dozens of effective ways of responding to the threats of the West, and one of them is by closing the strait (Sobh-e Sadeq, January 8).

On the other hand, Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi noted this week that Iran never said it had any intention of closing the Strait of Hormuz. During a press conference held at the close of the weekly government session, the minister said that Iran is the best guarantee for the security of the strait, and that if anyone is willing to jeopardize the security of the Persian Gulf, they will be jeopardizing everyone (Fars, January 8).

Iran-West threat exchange over Persian Gulf escalates

Meanwhile, Majles Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Hashmatollah Falahatpisheh warned the United States that, if its military presence in the Persian Gulf continues, Iran will respond (Fars, January 7). Last week the commander of Iran’s army, Atallah Salehi, warned the United States not to return its aircraft carrier John C. Stennis to its previous location in the gulf. The U.S. vessel had crossed the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf of Aden before the start of Iran’s recent naval exercise in the Persian Gulf. Salehi said that Iran is not in the habit of repeating its warnings.

At the same time, Britain warned Iran that it will not tolerate the blocking of the Strait of Hormuz. During a visit to the United States, Britain’s Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said that disruption of the flow of oil through the strait would threaten regional and global economic growth, and that any attempt by Iran to block the strait would be illegal and unsuccessful. He stressed that the British navy will continue operating in the Persian Gulf to keep the strait open. It was reported on the media this week that Britain intends to deploy an advanced destroyer in the gulf in light of the growing tensions around Iran.

"From the threshold stage to the zone of immunity”:
Iran confirms launching another uranium enrichment plant

This week International Atomic Energy Agency diplomats in Vienna confirmed reports that Iran began enriching uranium to 20 percent at the Fordo plant near the city of Qom. Iran’s IAEA representative Ali-Asghar Soltanieh confirmed the reports as well, saying that the underground facility enriches uranium for medical needs. Speaking about the West’s condemnation of the launch of the facility, Soltanieh said that Iran had informed the IAEA of the plant’s operation about two years ago, and stressed that the enrichment plants in Natanz and Fordo are fully supervised by the agency (ISNA, January 10).

The conservative daily Kayhan defined the launch of the additional enrichment plant as a defeat for the policy of threats against Iran, and a new stage in the demonstration of its power. The launch of the plant in Fordo is an effective response to Western pressure aimed to slow down or stop the Iranian nuclear program, the daily said (Kayhan, January 8).

In its editorial, titled "From the threshold stage to the zone of immunity”, the daily said that Iran has crossed the "nuclear threshold” into the immunity zone of its nuclear program. Concerns in the West in recent years have focused not on the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons, but rather on the possibility of Iran reaching the threshold, meaning a state where it can obtain such weapons at any time if such a political decision is made. Intelligence assessments in the West also discussed the date of Iran’s becoming a "threshold country” rather than acquiring nuclear weapons. While some intelligence assessments argued that Iran had already reached that point, others said that it was still possible to prevent Iran from reaching it through intelligence operations and stepping up sanctions.

The use of the term "threshold stage” has become obsolete, Kayhan said, and strategists in the West now use the term "immunity zone”. The first to use this term were the Israelis, who referred to the moment when Iran would achieve deterrence that would make the regime immune to attacks by the West, and when the nuclear program would become immune to a military attack thanks to defense systems. According to the daily, the transfer of 20-percent-enriched uranium to the Fordo enrichment plant makes the nuclear program immune, since the plant will always be considered immune to outside threats by the West. The relocation of the nuclear program to the Fordo facility forever rules out any possibility of a military attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.

The daily also said that the main strategic concern in the West stems from the possibility of two processes happening at the same time: the increase of Iran’s strategic influence in the region as a result of the Islamists’ growing power, and the passing of its nuclear program into the stage of immunity. Israel’s main concern is that, the day these two processes merge, Iran’s nuclearization will become impossible to stop (Kayhan, January 8).

2012 elections: first vetting stage ends; Khamenei calls for mass participation

The first stage in the vetting of candidates for the Majles elections by the Interior Ministry came to an end this week. The chairman of the Interior Ministry’s election headquarters in Tehran Province, the largest constituency, reported Tuesday, January 10, that 747 of the 1,066 candidates who registered in the province were approved. In an interview given to Fars News Agency, Safar-Ali Baratlou reported that 319 candidates were disqualified or announced that they would not be running in the elections (Fars, January 10).

Over 30 current Majles members were disqualified, including Ali Motahari, considered one of President Ahmadinejad’s most notable critics in the conservative camp. He was disqualified under section 28 of the elections law, which requires all candidates to be committed to Islam, the regime, the constitution, and the principle of "rule of the religious jurisprudent”. Hamid-Reza Katouzian, another of the president’s critics, and reformist Majles member Dariush Qanbari were disqualified as well. A number of candidates affiliated with the right wing of the reformist bloc were approved, however, including Mohammad-Reza Tabesh, Mohammad-Reza Khabbaz, Mohammad-Reza Sajadian, Mohammad-Hossein Moghimi, and Mostafa Zolqadr (Khabar Online, January 10). Candidates whose nomination was rejected have four days (until January 14) to appeal. Final decisions on approving candidates are made by the Guardian Council.

Meanwhile, top regime officials are stepping up efforts to ensure the highest possible voter turnout in the March 2 elections. This week Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for mass participation in the elections. In a speech given to thousands of Iranians in the city of Qom, Khamenei stressed that massive participation in the elections will reflect the people’s partnership in deciding the fate of their country and will be a crushing blow to Iran’s enemies, whom he accused of trying to keep the citizens from taking part in the elections (Fars, January 9).

The Supreme Leader’s election forecast (Rooz Online, January 10)
The Supreme Leader’s election forecast (Rooz Online, January 10)

Militant Clergy Association member Hojjat-ol-Eslam Hossein Ebrahimi also called on Iranians to take part in the elections in order to thwart the conspiracies of the country’s enemies and express the legitimacy of the regime (ISNA, January 10).

Voter turnout in Iran’s parliament elections

Election year

Population of Iran

Number of eligible voters

Number of actual voters

Voter turnout

1979

37,714,000

20,857,000

10,875,969

52%

1984

45,798,000

24,143,000

15,607,306

65%

1988

51,909,000

27,987,000

16,714,281

60%

1992

56,656,000

32,465,000

18,767,042

58%

1996

59,187,000

34,716,000

24,672,386

71%

2000

63,152,000

38,726,000

26,082,157

67%

2004

67,315,000

46,351,000

23,734,677

51%

2008

71,532,000

43,824,000

22,350,254

51%


Source: Khabar Online, December 27

Top officials in the conservative camp once again issued a warning about the ongoing internal power struggles between the conservatives ahead of the elections. Habibollah Asgaroladi, a high-ranking member of the Islamic Coalition Party, said that Iran’s enemies are trying to create conflicts among the conservatives to diminish their power, and called for solidarity in the conservative camp. Former Majles Speaker Gholam-Hossein Haddad Adel, who announced he is going to run in the coming elections on behalf of the United Conservative Front, also warned about the danger of internal disagreements. Speaking at a conference held in Esfahan, Haddad Adel said that the elections must not become a scene of internal struggle, since the most important principle for all conservatives is to be true to the rule of the religious jurisprudent and to the Supreme Leader.

Ali-Reza Zakani, chairman of the United Conservative Front’s election headquarters, said this week that the conservatives are currently facing two main adversaries: "the seduction faction” (Jaryan-e Fetneh, a derogatory term to refer to the reformist opposition) and "the deviant faction” (Jaryan-e Enherafi, a derogatory term to refer to President Ahmadinejad’s allies and his office chief Rahim Masha’i). He said that the "deviant faction”, which isn’t loyal to the values of the revolution and does not obey the Supreme Leader, uses the resources it has available to influence the elections (Fararu, January 7).

In addition to the political conflict between the United Conservative Front and the Steadfast Front (Jebhe-ye Paydari), supported by radical cleric Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, differences of opinion have also emerged between Steadfast Front activists and President Ahmadinejad’s supporters. Steadfast Front member Ali-Asghar Zare’i announced this week that his fellow front members will not agree to run in a joint list with government supporters. When asked by the Khabar Online website whether the Steadfast Front had negotiated with the president in an attempt to define boundaries between the front and "deviant faction” activists, Zare’i said that it had not. He noted even if President Ahmadinejad renounces his controversial office chief Rahim Masha’i, the front will not agree to participate in a joint list with government supporters. According to Zare’i, while the front does support the government’s positive activity, it does not accept its flawed conduct on certain issues (Khabar Online, January 8).

Severe conflict between government, leading film industry figures

Last weekend leading figures in Iran’s film industry released a memorandum of opinion condemning the Islamic Guidance Ministry’s decision to close the House of Cinema, the main trade union for those employed in the local film industry. The signatories strongly criticized Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini, accusing him of an attempt to compromise the independence and freedom of filmmakers and warning that attempts to create an "ideal cinema” may result in its collapse (Mehr, January 7).

Ahmad Tavakoli, head of the Majles Research Center, also criticized the decision to close the House of Cinema on the eve of the Majles elections, saying that it stemmed from political considerations. Tavakoli argued that even if the conduct of the House of Cinema can be rightly criticized, the decision to close it is unreasonable, inappropriate, and also illegal, since it was made without a court order (Mehr, January 7).

Last Tuesday the Public Culture Council informed Mohammad-Mehdi Asgarpour, director of the House of Cinema, that it was decided to shut down the union following an announcement released by the Islamic Guidance Ministry, stating that the House of Cinema had made illegal changes to the constitution on the basis of which it was established in 1987. The Islamic Guidance Ministry also filed a petition to court against the House of Cinema for making the changes.

Last week Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini defended his decision to close the House of Cinema. He claimed that in recent years the union leaders have made a number of changes to the constitution of the House of Cinema without the approval of the Islamic Guidance Ministry and the Public Culture Council. For instance, they dropped a constitution article which required members of the union’s executive board to be loyal to the regime and committed to the promotion of appropriate cinema in accordance with the values of the Islamic republic.

The minister also noted that House of Cinema leaders refused to be supervised by the Islamic Guidance Ministry and disregarded its request to supervise the union’s election procedure. Hosseini also accused the House of Cinema of acting in a manner incompatible with the values of the Islamic revolution and the regime, and claimed that the government received numerous requests from Iranians to take strong action against the trade union of the film industry employees due to its inappropriate conduct. As an example of such conduct he mentioned a statement released by the union this past September in support of several documentary filmmakers detained by the authorities on charges of collaborating with the BBC. The minister also said that regime opponents who reside abroad and have made statements against the regime have been invited to the annual celebrations organized by the House of Cinema in recent years. According to Hosseini, such functions are proof that the activities taking place in the union are not professional but rather political (Jaras, January 7).

In response to the authorities’ decision to close down the House of Cinema, last Wednesday, January 4, the union leaders convened a press conference where they dubbed the decision as illegal. The union director argued that the House of Cinema is registered as an NGO, which is why the executive authority cannot close it down without a court order. Top House of Cinema figures categorically rejected the claims made by the Islamic Guidance Ministry against the union, saying they had never refused to be supervised by the ministry. The union members even threatened to boycott the Fajr international film festival, to be held in Tehran in February as in previous years.

The press conference convened by the House of Cinema leaders, January 4
The press conference convened by the House of Cinema leaders, January 4

The House of Cinema was established in 1987 and began its official activities in 1993. The union, which currently has about 5,000 members, was established to protect the rights of those working in Iran’s film industry and improve their work conditions. For the past year it has been engaged in a serious conflict with the Islamic Guidance Ministry. The conflict began in September 2010, after the 14th annual film festival organized by the House of Cinema in Tehran, during which Asghar Farhadi was awarded best director of the year for his film About Elly. The title role in the film was played by movie star Golshifteh Farahani, who had sparked an outrage in Iran in 2008 after playing in the Hollywood thriller Body of Lies, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. In his acceptance speech, Farhadi criticized the Iranian regime and called for political change in the country. The authorities were also angered by the appearance at the ceremony of film director Rakhshan Bani E’temad and her daughter, the actress Baran Kowsari, who came to the ceremony wearing a green-colored bracelet and scarf, green being the color of the reformist opposition. Following the ceremony, Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini voiced strong criticism of the film industry leaders and said they should not become involved in political affairs. His deputy also condemned the House of Cinema leaders, accusing them of turning the institution into an instrument of promoting anti-revolutionary political goals.

A memorandum of opinion issued by the House of Cinema this past September in support of filmmakers arrested on charges of collaborating with the BBC further exacerbated the conflict between the union and regime supporters. The conservative Fars News Agency went as far as to mock the House of Cinema by calling it the House of BBC.

"Big brother” comes to internet cafés, "national internet network” to be launched soon

Last week the cyber police released new regulations imposing severe restrictions on Iran’s internet cafés. According to the authorities, the regulations are designed to guarantee the safety of internet café users, minimize the dangers involved in their activity, and protect the legal operation of these establishments. A special announcement sent by the cyber police to internet café owners requires them to take the necessary measures to implement the new restrictions within 15 days of their publication date.

Among other things, the regulations require internet cafés to prominently display their operation licenses where they can be easily seen. Also under the regulations, internet cafés can only provide web surfing services through licensed internet providers rather than providers that offer satellite-based internet access; selling software to clients and providing print and computer game installation services is forbidden; internet café operators must have no criminal records, be married and at least 25 years old; internet cafés have to record their customers’ personal data as it appears on their official identification, including first and last name, father’s name, ID number, phone number, and zip code; they must keep records of each customer’s internet access time, IP address, and history of viewed webpages for the past six months; the use of technology and unblocking software to provide access to blocked websites is strictly forbidden; customers’ files can only be sent by members of the internet café staff and after making sure that the files contain no viruses; at the end of each business day the managers are required to take the necessary measures to make sure no viruses have been installed on the computers; internet cafés must be equipped with CCTV cameras to constantly monitor activities in the establishment and keep the video recordings for six months; managers must provide their clients with detailed information on computer crimes defined by law and examples of content considered prohibited by law; only one customer can use a particular computer at the same time unless they require another person’s assistance for work purposes (Asr-e Iran, January 3).

The new regulations are another stage in the restrictions imposed by the authorities on the use of internet cafés. This past November the Tehran police conducted an operation to shut down illegally-operating internet cafés.

Meanwhile, the Iranian media reported that in the next several weeks the authorities will complete preparations for the launch of a separate, closed internal internet network, which will be cut off from its global counterpart. Telecommunications Minister Reza Taqipour said this week that the first stage in the implementation of the project will be carried out in the beginning of the next Iranian year (which starts on March 20) and that 25 of Iran’s 31 provinces are ready for this stage of the project. He noted that the national intranet isn’t supposed to replace the global internet network, but that since most Iranian communications do not require access to the global network, they will be routed through the internal network (IRNA, January 8).

National internet (Rooz Online, January 8)
National internet (Rooz Online, January 8)

The separate national internet is considered one of the government projects designed to provide the regime with greater ability to control and monitor internet traffic, which it perceives as a major scene of activity used by Iran’s domestic and foreign enemies. According to authorities, however, the launch of the internal network will make it possible to significantly decrease the cost of web surfing services and increase access speed.

Pictures of the week: President Ahmadinejad on a visit to Venezuela

President Ahmadinejad on a visit to Venezuela

President Ahmadinejad on a visit to Venezuela

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