Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Reactions in Iran to nuclear agreement
The homepage of the website (www.refahi.ir)
Pictures of the week
killer of shah’s last prime minister
Highlights of the week
Reactions in Iran to nuclear agreement: Iranian withdrawal or victory?
The agreement signed this week between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, under which Iran is to transfer 1200 kg of low-enriched uranium in exchange for nuclear fuel for the Tehran research reactor, has provoked diverse and contrasting reactions among Iran’s political establishment and media.
The daily Keyhan touted the agreement achieved between the three leaders as a "victory” for Iran. An editorial written by editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari says that Tehran’s statement reflects an Iranian achievement, since it guarantees that if the West fails to meet its obligation to provide nuclear fuel to Iran, the latter will receive back the enriched uranium kept as "collateral” in Turkey. Furthermore, Iran’s willingness to uphold the agreement is contingent on its acceptance by the Vienna Group, representing Western countries. Even if the West does accept the agreement, which Shariatmadari finds unlikely, it will be an acknowledgement by the West of Iran’s right to use peaceful nuclear technology and to enrich uranium. Shariatmadari claimed that Iran did not back down from its position by signing the agreement, and that the uneasy reactions to Tehran’s statement in the US and in Israel reflected the Iranian achievement. Iran wins the battle whether or not the Vienna Group accepts the agreement: if it does, it will thus renounce the claims it formerly brought up against Iran; if it does not, it will be proof that the nuclear program is just a pretext for the West to act against Iran (Keyhan, May 18).
The conservative daily Resalat also expressed support of the agreements reached between Iran on one hand and Turkey and Brazil on the other. An editorial published by the daily says that the agreement leaves the West no excuse to continue acting against Iran. It reflects Iran’s transparency with regard to its nuclear program and its good intentions, allowing it to take back the initiative on the nuclear issue and demand a similar transparency by the West (Resalat, May 18).
Mardom Salari, a daily affiliated with the moderate reformist camp, expressed somewhat mixed support of the agreement. The daily welcomed Iran’s accelerated diplomatic activity with regard to the nuclear issue in recent weeks, expressing hope that the agreement would make it possible to lift some of the sanctions against the country. The daily wondered, however, why Iran had not engaged in such diplomatic activities before the Security Council passed three resolutions against it. An editorial published by the daily one day after the agreement was signed further states that it remains to be seen to what extent it reflects Iran’s full right to continue uranium enrichment (Mardom Salari, May 18).
On the other hand, Ahmad Tavakoli, the chairman of the Majles Research Center, strongly criticized the agreement, saying that it does not guarantee Iran’s national interests. In an interview to Fars, a conservative news agency, Tavakoli (considered one of President Ahmadinejad’s opponents in the conservative camp) said that Iran’s promise to transfer its enriched uranium to Turkey was not conditioned upon obtaining guarantees from the West to provide it with nuclear fuel in exchange. He noted that Iran does not need to agree to the West’s proposal at any cost just to lead the negotiations with it out of the dead end. Tavakoli expressed his concern that the West would not fulfill its part of the bargain and continue to demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, and that Turkey might refuse to give back the enriched uranium to Iran under pressure from the West. Tavakoli also warned against the strengthening of Turkey’s regional status at the expense of Iran’s following the agreement. Regarding the Majles’ position on the agreement, Tavakoli said that the Majles does not object to the Western proposal, but only under certain conditions: transferring the uranium only after the West provides Iran with some of the nuclear fuel, swapping the enriched uranium for nuclear fuel in several stages and not all at once, and suspending the sanctions imposed on Iran. He noted that the president must present the agreement to the Majles and explain why he chose to agree to the West’s proposal. According to Tavakoli, the agreement shows that, like former president Khatami, Ahmadinejad is not immune to pressure (Fars, May 17).
Criticism was also voiced by the conservative daily Jomhuri-ye Eslami, affiliated with the chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. An editorial titled "Victory or Retreat” states that the agreement is a withdrawal from the conditions set by the Supreme Leader for accepting the Western proposal: uranium enrichment on Iranian soil, simultaneous exchange of enriched uranium for nuclear fuel, and letting Iran decide on the quantities of enriched uranium and nuclear fuel exchange under the agreement according to its needs. What is more, the proposal accepted by Iran is worse than previous proposals it had rejected, since under the new proposal Iran is required to transfer 80 percent of its enriched uranium in exchange for 120 kg of nuclear fuel, when under previous proposals it was only required to transfer 75 percent of its uranium in exchange for 200 kg of nuclear fuel. It is not clear, the article says, why Iran needs the agreement given its ability to enrich uranium to 20 percent according to its needs. The agreement is therefore a withdrawal rather than a victory, and Iran must not accept it (Jomhuri-ye Eslami, May 18).
Subsidies to be phased out: subsidy reform trial launched
in three provinces starting this week
President Ahmadinejad has announced this week that the subsidy policy reform will start in the second half of the current Iranian year (fall 2010). In an interview to a TV channel in southern Iran, the president said that the reform is Iran’s biggest economic program for the past 50 years, and that it will lead to resource conservation and a more just distribution of the country’s revenues.
The president said that the annual energy consumption in Iran is now about 100 billion dollars, four times the world average. Removing the subsidies, the president said, will make it possible to considerably reduce energy consumption and increase investments in development projects. According to Ahmadinejad, the government will deposit the welfare payments in the accounts of Iranian citizens who are supposed to receive them under the subsidy policy reform, two months prior to the launch of the reform and after the government has gathered the necessary data. He expressed hope that the implementation of the program will not lead to any negative consequences (various news agencies, May 13).
Meanwhile, Welfare Minister Sadeq Mahsouli announced last week that a subsidy reform trial will be launched this week in three provinces: Ilam, North Khorasan, and Gilan. As part of the reform trial, residents of those three provinces were asked to register online and give their bank account details to receive the funds they are entitled to under the reform. The minister unveiled a special website (www.refahi.ir) created for the reform implementation, which allows residents to give their bank account information. According to Mahsouli, residents can only give their bank account details through the Internet—those without Internet access at home can register at government Internet service centers located in the various cities and villages. Registration instructions will be issued in the coming days through Iran’s official TV.
Mahsouli added that 95 percent of households that have filled out the necessary forms for the subsidy policy reform already have a bank account required for the government deposit. Those who have not yet opened a bank account must do so within the next two weeks at any bank in the country (various news agencies, May 15).
According to the subsidy policy reform, which will be implemented gradually over the course of five years, the government subsidies currently given to all Iranians for fuel, natural gas, electricity, water, and bread will be removed. They will be replaced by welfare payments in cash to those in need, according to data provided this past year by Iranian citizens to the state authorities. Iran’s current subsidy policy has been the target of strong criticism both by Iranian politicians and economists and by international financial institutions. Relative to GDP, Iran’s subsidies are among the highest in the world, leading to numerous negative consequences, such as over-consumption, waste of energy resources, and inefficiency in economic production processes.
The homepage of the website (www.refahi.ir)
Despite the broad-based agreement on the need for a reform, this past year Iranian politicians and economists have expressed concerns that a hasty implementation of the reform will lead to a sharp increase in inflation and will deliver an even more severe blow to the weak segments of society. In recent months, the implementation of the reform plan (which has already been approved by the Majles and the Guardian Council) has been the subject of a fierce political debate between the government and the Majles. However, the two bodies have recently reached a compromise allowing the government to start the implementation of the program.
Recent data on AIDS in Iran: increase in AIDS spread through unprotected sex
Last week, Iran’s Health Ministry published recent data on the number of AIDS cases in Iran. According to the data, nearly 21 thousand Iranians are diagnosed with the disease, 92.6 percent of whom are men and 7.4 percent are women. Nearly 40 percent of AIDS patients are aged 25 to 34. Over 3600 people have died from the disease so far.
The Health Ministry data also shows that the disease was contracted through infected needles in 69.8 percent of cases, sexual intercourse in 8.9 percent of cases, infected blood transfusions in 1.2 percent of cases, mother to child HIV transmission in 0.6 percent of cases, and undiagnosed causes in 19.5 percent of cases. The causes of infection appear to be changing, and the Health Ministry data suggests that about 18 percent of those diagnosed with the disease in the past year contracted it through unprotected sex. No new cases of AIDS infection through blood transfusions have been reported this year (Mehr, May 6).
The Health Ministry data supports the assessment of Iranian health experts, according to which there has been a change in AIDS transmission patterns in Iran, and that compared to previous years, most reported new cases involve unprotected sex rather than using infected needles by drug addicts or infected blood transfusions.
According to various estimates, the actual number of AIDS cases in Iran is considerably higher than official data suggests, and may be as high as 60 to 100 thousand. In recent years, Iranian experts have warned about a third possible AIDS outbreak in the country as a result of unsafe sex and low public awareness. The first outbreak of the disease occurred in 1986, when several patients received infected blood transfusions imported to Iran. The second outbreak occurred in 1995 and mostly affected drug addicts. The authorities’ awareness of the need to fight the disease and their recognition of dangerous sexual behavior as a significant cause of AIDS contraction in Iran have significantly increased in recent years. For years, officials claimed that blood transfusions and infected needles were the only causes of transmission. There are currently several dozen safe sex counseling center in Iran; however, without adequate health education, many in Iran are still unaware of those centers.
Fight against reformist opposition leaders takes to video games
In recent weeks, several bloggers and news agencies have reported a new video game called "The Battle against the Leaders of Incitement”, recently released on CD in Esfahan Province. The purpose of the game is to hit the three reformist opposition leaders (Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karoubi, and Mohammad Khatami) by using fighter jets. The player controlling the fighter jet has to evade missiles launched at him by opposition leaders.
It is unclear who is responsible for creating and distributing the game. Aftab News agency reported, however, that the production and distribution of audio and video equipment—mostly in the provinces—is monitored by the internal security services (Aftab News, May 11).
The background music for the game is a song called "My Schoolmate” (Yar-e Dabestani-ye man), considered one of the most popular protest songs of the reformist student movement in Iran. Bloggers affiliated with government supporters recommended the game and even posted a download link for it. One of the bloggers, Agha Jun Salam (http://mahroz.parsiblog.com), who recommended the game as well, defined the three opposition leaders as Iran’s enemies, posing a serious threat to the country, seeking to eliminate the Islamic republic, and being worse than the infidels
It is not the first time that video games are used for political purposes in Iran. In recent years, the authorities have also stepped up their involvement in distributing video games. In February 2009, it was reported that the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (IIDCYA) was planning to establish centers for online video games where young people could play Iranian-made games. The establishment of such centers is designed to make it easier for the authorities to deal with the numerous unlicensed and unmonitored video game centers operating in the country, providing access to imported video games at least some of which fail to meet proper Islamic criteria.
In 2006, the Cultural Revolution Supreme Council decided to establish the National Foundation for Video Games. Supervised by the Islamic Guidance Ministry, the foundation publishes lists of "improper” video games, including games that contain violence, sex, alcohol and drug use, offense to Muslims and Islam, spreading secular views, and so forth. The establishment of the foundation is designed to make it possible to plan and supervise all the activities pertaining to the cultural, artistic, and technical aspects of video game production in Iran.
The authorities’ use of video games to promote the regime’s objectives is evident, for example, in the distribution of a video game about the Islamic revolution, whose development was announced in early 2009, or the distribution of a game called "Special Ops” about the Iranian nuclear program (summer of 2007). That game has eight levels and follows the attempt of a commander in Iran’s special intelligence forces to save two nuclear scientists captured by the US in Iraq.
Pictures of the week: killer of shah’s last prime minister
returns to Iran on release from French prison
This week, France has released from prison Ali Vakili Rad, an Iranian national who in 1991 assassinated Iran’s former prime minister, Shapour Bakhtiar. Bakhtiar, the last prime minister under the shah’s regime, escaped to France in 1979 and was killed at his Paris residence by a squad consisting of three assassins dispatched by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry. Two of the assassins, Mohammad Azadi and Faridoun Boyer-Ahmadi, managed to escape through Switzerland. Vakili Rad was caught in Switzerland, extradited to France, and sentenced to life in December 1994.
Vakili Rad’s release came two days after the release of French citizen Clotilde Reiss, a teacher held in Iran on charges of espionage since July 2009. About two weeks ago, France freed another Iranian citizen whose extradition was demanded by the US for the alleged illegal purchases of electronic equipment from American companies, for military use. The governments of France and Iran denied that the release of the two Iranian citizens and the French citizen were part of a prisoner swap.