Spotlight on Iran (Week of December 2-9, 2010)

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

Spotlight on Iran

A ceremony was held as Iranian-made yellowcake was

A ceremony was held as Iranian-made yellowcake was

The convention in Tehran University

The convention in Tehran University

Last year’s Ashura processions in Tehran

Last year’s Ashura processions in Tehran

Iranian women arrested for taking part in a mixed-gender party in Tehran, May 2010

Iranian women arrested for taking part in a mixed-gender party in Tehran, May 2010

Iranian airplanes drop water to alleviate Tehran air pollution

Iranian airplanes drop water to alleviate Tehran air pollution

Iranian airplanes drop water to alleviate Tehran air pollution

Iranian airplanes drop water to alleviate Tehran air pollution

Iranian airplanes drop water to alleviate Tehran air pollution

Iranian airplanes drop water to alleviate Tehran air pollution


Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran

Highlights of the week

  • Iran takes tough stance as nuclear talks in Geneva resume

  • Sporadic clashes between students and security forces on Iran’s Student Day

  • Iran criticizes Turkey’s aid in extinguishing forest fire in Israel’s north

  • Authorities once again impose restrictions on mourning processions ahead of Ashura Day

  • Soccer scandal: three players and coach caught at mixed-gender party

  • Pictures of the week: Iranian airplanes drop water to alleviate Tehran air pollution

Iran takes tough stance as nuclear talks in Geneva resume

On the eve of the newly-resumed negotiations in Geneva between Iran and the G5+1 (the five permanent member countries of the Security Council and Germany) on the Iranian nuclear program, top Iranian officials and media expressed many doubts over the negotiations’ chances of success. 

President Ahmadinejad declared last weekend that Western leaders should make good use of the negotiations with Iran. He noted that if Western countries wished to see the talks yield positive results, they must respect Iran’s rights, recognize Iran as a nuclear state, and abandon hostility towards it. He stressed that the Iranian people would not negotiate their legal rights (Mehr, December 4).

Prior to that, Sa’id Jalili, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said that if the West did not change the strategy it had been using towards Iran in the fifteen months since the talks between Iran and the West were terminated, the negotiations would not end in success. The strategy of exerting pressure on Iran had failed, Jalili claimed. Iran is willing to resume the talks; however, the West must abandon the wrong, ineffective strategy it had used against it. At a press conference held by the Supreme National Security Council chairman, Jalili said it was that strategy that had led to the attempt on the lives of the two nuclear scientists last week, following the inclusion of their names on the UN Security Council resolution against Iran. He stressed that Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear technology was not open to negotiation, and that, as before, Iran would not give up its legitimate rights in the current round of the talks (ISNA, December 4).

On the eve of the talks’ resumption, Ali-Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, announced that Iran became self-sufficient in the production of yellowcake, a concentrated powder obtained from uranium ore, used in the first step of uranium enrichment.

The conservative daily Keyhan argued this week that Iran’s participation in the negotiations was pointless, and that the talks would result in nothing. In an article written by the daily’s editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari claimed that the attempt on the lives of the two nuclear scientists last week was aimed to send Iran a message: with no military option against it and in light of the economic sanctions’ failure, Israel would eliminate Iran’s nuclear scientists and hit its nuclear facilities. The previous rounds of negotiations held by Iran with the West in recent years had already proven that the West was unwilling to give up its demand for a total suspension of the Iranian nuclear program. There can be, therefore, no agreement between Iran and the West, which is willing to use any means possible, such as imposing economic sanctions, destabilizing the regime, and eliminating nuclear scientists, to achieve its goals. Iran has no common ground with the West with regard to the nuclear program, Shariatmadari said, and there can be no understanding between the two negotiating sides (Keyhan, December 4).

A ceremony was held as Iranian-made yellowcake was
A ceremony was held as Iranian-made yellowcake was
brought into the nuclear facility in Esfahan (December 5)

The daily Javan also called on the authorities to reconsider the resumption of the talks in Geneva in light of the attempt on the lives of the two nuclear scientists and the new sanctions recently imposed on Iran. National dignity demands that the negotiations be postponed for a while, or at least that the sanctions be frozen during the talks, the daily claimed. Javan called on the authorities to postpone the resumption of the talks until recent international developments become clearer, such as the tensions between the two Koreas, the negotiations between Russia and NATO, and the dead end facing the U.S. in Afghanistan. The developments may open up new opportunities for Iran that could positively influence the results of the nuclear talks with the West (Javan, December 4).

Asr-e Iran, a website affiliated with the pragmatic conservative bloc, assessed this week that the talks in Geneva would not lead to any practical results due to the extent of the differences between the two negotiating parties. Iran is quickly forging ahead with its nuclear program, says a commentary article published by the website, and will not be delayed by lack of cooperation from the West. As sanctions against Iran escalate, forcing it to pay a higher price for the implementation of its nuclear program, Iran will raise its demands even higher. At any rate, claimed the website, the sanctions have no effect on Iran and will not be able to stop the nuclear program (Asr-e Iran, December 6).

Meanwhile, this week the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine published an article by Hossein Mousavian, a former leader of the Iranian nuclear negotiation team during Mohammad Khatami’s presidential term. In May 2007 Mousavian was arrested on charges of espionage, contact with foreign elements, and transfer of sensitive information to foreign agents. He was released shortly thereafter and currently resides in the U.S.

In the article, Mousavian claimed that regardless of who the current leader of Iran may be, Iran would never give up its nuclear rights, including its right to an independent fuel cycle. According to Mousavian, no Iranian government will be able to give up those rights, even though different governments may follow different negotiation tactics.

Mousavian noted that in order to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully, the concerns and demands of both negotiating parties must be addressed. He claimed that Iran’s experience with the conduct of Western countries towards it over the years had taught it that it could not count on them to uphold their obligations to Iran regarding peaceful technology, and that the West could even support the use of weapons of mass destruction against Iran, as it had done in the Iran-Iraq War. Consequently, Iran has to remain independent when it comes to its nuclear program.

Mousavian further claimed that a military attack on Iran would jeopardize U.S. and Israeli interests worldwide, make the U.S. more heavily embroiled in Iraq and Afghanistan, provoke anti-American sentiments in the Muslim world, and lead to a worldwide increase in oil prices to a level of 200 to 300 dollars per barrel. Economic sanctions are also ineffective and cannot bring about a change in Iran’s policy. The only way to solve the crisis is through negotiations, which must take into account each party’s "red lines”. Iran’s red line is the demand to acknowledge its nuclear rights, including its right to a fuel cycle, while the red line of the U.S. and the West is that Iran must not use nuclear technology to develop nuclear weapons. The solution, therefore, is for Iran to provide guarantees based on international treaties that it would not use nuclear technology for the development of nuclear weapons, in exchange for an official recognition by the Security Council of its nuclear rights and the lifting of the sanctions against it.

Sporadic clashes between students and security forces on Iran’s Student Day

Student Day was marked in Iran this week (December 7). On that day in 1953, three students from Tehran University were killed in a protest rally they held during the visit of then U.S. vice president Richard Nixon against the cooperation between the Shah’s regime and the American administration. In recent years, Student Day events have become the setting for violent clashes between student demonstrators and security forces.

As in previous years, this year’s Student Day was marked by protest rallies held by students in universities across Iran, some of which escalated into violent clashes with internal security forces. On Tuesday, websites affiliated with the reformist opposition reported violent clashes between students and security forces in several universities, including Tehran’s Amirkabir University, Azad University of Qazvin, and Kermanshah University. Several students were detained in the clashes.

On Monday, a mass student convention was held in Tehran University. Titled "Hope: the Strongest Protest”, it was attended by senior reformist opposition figures and featured a recorded address by former president Mohammad Khatami to the students. Khatami, one of the leaders of the reformist movement, called on the students to continue their civil struggle in peaceful ways and not to lose hope in the face of the heavy pressure exerted by the authorities on university students and lecturers (Jaras, December 7)

The convention in Tehran University
The convention in Tehran University (www.rahesabz.net,
the website of Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s supporters)

Ahead of Student Day, opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi also released a special memorandum of opinion calling for the continuation of the non-violent struggle against tyranny and for a just, free society.

Iran criticizes Turkey’s aid in extinguishing forest fire in Israel’s north

In recent days, Iranian media has been reporting on the Turkish aid in extinguishing the fire in the north of Israel, and on Israel’s attempts to take advantage of Turkey’s humanitarian aid to rebuild the relations between the two countries.

The conservative daily Jomhuri-ye Eslami did not settle for an informative account of the Turkish aid and published an editorial which strongly criticized the assistance extended by Turkey to Israel. According to the daily, the Turkish assistance to Israel is proof that, being a member of NATO, Turkey is unable to deviate from the strategy of that organization, which is committed to support Israel. Even if the anti-Israeli views expressed by Turkish PM Erdogan in recent months were not just a publicity effort to obtain the support of Muslim public opinion in Turkey and elsewhere, they still reflected only his own personal opinion. Those views cannot be translated into reality due to the Turkish secular regime’s overall commitment to the West. Turkey’s demand for an official Israeli apology following the attack on the Turkish ship and for bringing those responsible for the attack to justice reflects, according to the daily, Erdogan’s personal preferences rather than his stance as head of state. Being the prime minister, he is under obligation to follow a policy that takes into account his country’s dependency on NATO and on Turkey’s military leaders.

Jomhuri-ye Eslami further claimed that Turkish-Israeli relations have deep historic roots. The economic and security relations between the two countries have continued in recent years in the shadow of the crimes committed by the "Zionist regime” against Muslims in Lebanon and Gaza, and even the new Islamic tendencies in Turkey have been unable to lead to any significant change in those relations. American influence on Turkish diplomacy is so considerable that even an Islamist government cannot make decisions without taking it into consideration. That weakness of Turkey is particularly evident, for example, in the government’s inability to assert its position that women should be allowed to wear headdresses in universities. Turkey’s armed forces still enjoy tremendous influence in politics, society, economy, and culture, an influence that is also evident in the ongoing strategic relations with Israel.

It is unfortunate, Jomhuri-ye Eslami concluded, that Erdogan’s government was willing to sacrifice its anti-Zionist stance in favor of U.S. policy and the secular generals’ interests (Jomhuri-ye Eslami, December 7).

Authorities once again impose restrictions on mourning processions ahead of Ashura Day

Just before the Muslim month of Muharram, Iranian authorities once again issued instructions imposing restrictions on Ashura Day events, which include mourning and lamentation ceremonies marked by Shi’ite Muslims on the tenth day of the month in remembrance of Husayn ibn Ali, the third imam, who died at the massacre of Karbala in 680 CE.

A memorandum of opinion published on behalf of the internal security forces this week prohibits self-flagellation during the mourning processions, as well as using musical instruments (other than such traditional instruments as drums or cymbals) and displaying images or statues of Shi’ite imams. The memorandum further states that the security forces intend to employ all means available to ensure public order and safety during the processions (various news agencies, December 6).

Last year’s Ashura processions in Tehran
Last year’s Ashura processions in Tehran

Meanwhile, senior conservative cleric Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi ruled once again that self-flagellation during the mourning processions violated Islamic religious law. Speaking at a religion class given in the city of Qom last week, Makarem-Shirazi claimed that the enemies of Islam took advantage of such inappropriate conduct to incite against the Shi’ites, claiming that self-flagellation was a deviation from the principles of Islam (Raja News, December 2).

In recent years, the authorities have imposed severe restrictions on the observation of Ashura. The restrictions are aimed to tighten control of the ceremonies and prevent their exploitation by regime opponents to violate public order. The stricter monitoring of the mourning processions also reflects a larger campaign to allow the country’s ruling clerics to retain exclusive control of Iranian religious life and keep a closer watch on religious expressions that could challenge the regime’s position as the sole authority in matters of religious faith.

On last year’s Ashura Day mourning processions, severe clashes broke out between security forces and reformist opposition supporters seeking to take advantage of the Ashura ceremonies for a show of power. Several demonstrators were killed in the clashes. After the riots, the authorities significantly stepped up their oppression of the reformist protest movement, which broke out after the presidential election in June 2009.

Soccer scandal: three players and coach caught at mixed-gender party

Three soccer players and a coach in Iran’s major soccer league were arrested this week after being caught at a mixed-gender party in Tehran.

Tehran Province internal security forces said that in recent days, the Tehran police had raided four mixed-gender parties in northern Tehran. Fifty young men and women were arrested at one of the parties, including three famous soccer players referred to only by their initials on Iranian news websites: H.K., A.N., and A.P. The police confiscated, among other things, foreign CDs and movies, as well as alcoholic beverages. The case of the arrested soccer players was referred to the judiciary (ISNA, December 5).

Iranian women arrested for taking part in a mixed-gender party in Tehran, May 2010
Iranian women arrested for taking part in a mixed-gender party in Tehran, May 2010

The Iranian Soccer Association announced this week that the soccer players caught at the illegal party were immediately suspended and summoned to a disciplinary committee. The website Tabnak reported that it was the second time in recent memory that soccer players were caught taking part in mixed-gender parties.

Internal security forces occasionally raid underground parties attended by a mixed crowd of men and women. In recent months, dozens of young Iranian men and women have been arrested for taking part in various parties in the cities of Tehran, Mashhad, and Shahriar (near Tehran). Mixed-gender parties, where party-goers frequently listen to Western music and even drink alcoholic beverages, have been illegal in Iran since the Islamic revolution.

Pictures of the week: Iranian airplanes drop water to alleviate Tehran air pollution

Iranian airplanes drop water to alleviate Tehran air pollution

Iranian airplanes drop water to alleviate Tehran air pollution

Iranian airplanes drop water to alleviate Tehran air pollution