Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Spotlight on Iran
Rigi after his arrest (Iranian news agencies)
Source: Donya-ye Eqtesad
cartoon by Nikahang Kowsar, Rooz Online, May 24, 2009
Iranian Cyber Army
Iran's first cloned sheep, Royana, dies
Mehdi Sa’idi’s blog, www.sarband.ir, February 16)
Highlights of the week
Strong criticism in Iran over IAEA report
Strong criticism has been voiced in Iran this week following the release of the new IAEA report on the Iranian nuclear program.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in response to the report that Iran expected the IAEA to maintain its identity and prestige instead of allowing several countries to impose their political will on the international community. He further added that the IAEA must realize that the main threat comes from countries that possess nuclear weapons and not from Iran, with its peaceful nuclear program (IRNA, February 20).
Ala’eddin Borujerdi, chairman of the Majles National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said that the IAEA report was the worst in the past six years. He noted that the IAEA chief must be immune to political pressure and that his report was not representative of reality (Fars, February 21).
Expediency Discernment Council chairman Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani also criticized the report, saying it was perfectly obvious that parts of it were influenced by the recommendations of elements outside of the IAEA. According to Rafsanjani, instead of expressing the views of an independent international organization, the report reflects the psychological warfare waged by the US on Iran in an attempt to build a coalition against it (various news agencies, February 20).
Iran’s conservative media was also outraged by the IAEA report. According to an editorial published earlier this week by the conservative daily Jomhuri-ye Eslami, the fact that the report immediately leaked to Western media shows that its entire purpose was to reignite the propaganda campaign and political pressure against Iran. The report aims to lay the groundwork ahead of the coming 5+1 meeting and for imposing further sanctions against Iran. The daily accused the IAEA chief of acting on behalf of the US and in accordance with the policy set in Washington, saying that instead of taking action against countries possessing nuclear weapons, he was going after Iran, whose nuclear program is meant for civilian purposes.
The report reflects a Western scheme designed to take vengeance on Iran for its refusal to accept the Western proposal on transferring enriched uranium from its territory, being also an expression of the anxiety of Western countries, specifically the US. In light of the firm stand taken by the Iranian people against their enemies, as was seen in the Revolution Day processions, the West gave up the idea of creating a rift between the Iranian people and their leaders and was now trying to accuse Iran of arming itself with nuclear weapons in order to step up the economic sanctions and defeat the revolution. However, Iran will continue moving forward with the nuclear program and the Iranian people will not bow down to Western demands, reports, and US-led decisions against Iran (Jomhuri-ye Eslami, February 20).
The daily Keyhan also attacked the IAEA report, claiming it was based on lies and that it exposed the "American identity” of the new IAEA chief, Yukiya Amano. According to the daily, the report reflects an attempt by Amano to tie in completely disparate issues to accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons (Keyhan, February 20).
Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has announced this week that Iran was not seeking to produce nuclear weapons. Speaking at a ceremony for the launch of the first Iranian-made destroyer on the Persian Gulf navy base of Bandar Abbas, Khamenei said that Iran had repeatedly made it clear that it was not interested in nuclear weapons since its religious beliefs and principles prohibited the use of weapons of mass destruction (various news agencies, February 19).
Achievement for Iranian intelligence:
Iran’s most wanted man Abdolmalek Rigi arrested by security forces
The Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced Tuesday (February 23) that the security and intelligence forces managed to capture Abdolmalek Rigi, the head of the Jundollah terrorist organization, in an operation carried out in east Iran.
Rigi after his arrest (Iranian news agencies)
The Fars news agency also reported the arrest of another top operative belonging to the organization in the same operation. The agency also reported that Rigi was arrested by Iranian intelligence services outside of the country’s borders after an extended period of intelligence surveillance. Several Iranian news websites reported that Rigi was arrested while on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan over Iranian air space. According to that information, the Iranian security forces directed the plane to land in Iran’s territory and then arrested Rigi. Iranian media also reported that Iran’s intelligence services had photographs proving that Rigi had stayed on a US military base in Afghanistan just one day prior to his arrest. At a press conference called by Intelligence Minister Haidar Moslehi, he reported that the operation to arrest Rigi had been carried out without the cooperation of foreign intelligence services; however, the Iranian Diplomacy website reported that the Pakistani intelligence service had taken part in it as well. Rigi’s trial is scheduled to begin soon and will be open to public (various news agencies, February 23).
Jundollah, the organization headed by Rigi, was established in 2003. In recent years, the organization was responsible for a number of terrorist attacks in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, home to over three million people, the majority of them belonging to the Baluchi minority. The terrorist attacks resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Iranian security forces as well as civilians. According to the organization, its main goal is to put an end to the discrimination of the Baluchi minority, comprising about two percent of Iran’s population and belonging to the Sunni denomination of Islam. On their part, the Iranian authorities claim that Jundollah is a terrorist organization supported, among other things, by American and British intelligence services, with ties to the Al-Qaeda network.
The major terrorist attacks perpetrated by the organization in recent years include an attack in the town of Tasuki in March 2006 in which 21 civilians were killed, an attack in the city of Zahedan in February 2007 in which 18 Revolutionary Guards were killed, a suicide bombing attack in the city of Saravan in December 2008 in which a number of police officers were killed, an attack at a Shi’ite mosque in the city of Zahedan in May 2009 in which 25 people were killed, and an attack in the city of Sarbaz in October 2009 in which over 40 people were killed, including a number of Revolutionary Guards top officials.
Assembly of Experts meets as government supporters continue
attack on assembly chairman Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
The Assembly of Experts, which, according to Iran’s constitution, is responsible for monitoring the activity of the Supreme Leader, appointing his heir, or even impeaching him if he is found unfit to continue in his post, convened this week for a two-day meeting. It is its seventh meeting since the assembly elections of December 2006, and the second since the outbreak of the political crisis following the Iranian presidential elections in June 2009.
Source: Donya-ye Eqtesad
During the two-day meeting, the assembly, consisting of 86 clerics, met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and held discussions on various subjects, including the political happenings in the country and the foreign and defense policy. The assembly members were briefed on security and political issues by Revolutionary Guards chief Mohammad-Ali Ja’fari and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. At the end of the meeting, the assembly once again declared support for the Supreme Leader, as it did at the end of its previous meeting held last September.
On the eve of the assembly meeting, government supporters from the conservative camp once again voiced strong criticism of assembly chairman Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. In a speech given to a convention of the ultra-conservative group Ansar Hezbollah, Gholam-Hossein Elham, the former spokesman of Ahmadinejad’s government and member of the Guardian Council, lashed out against Rafsanjani and the policy he had followed during his presidential tenure (1989-1997). Elham accused Rafsanjani of frequently changing his views according to personal interests, and of seeking to damage the status of the Guardian Council, which, among other things, is responsible for monitoring elections in Iran (Raja News, February 22).
Elham’s criticism joins the criticism voiced this week by Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor-in-chief of the daily Keyhan, over the alleged intention of the Expediency Discernment Council (also headed by Rafsanjani) to curb the involvement of the Guardian Council in monitoring elections in Iran by establishing a "national elections committee” to supervise the election procedure. Shariatmadari claimed that a plan to amend the election law being discussed by the council could result in the election of candidates not committed to the principle of the rule of the religious jurisprudent (Velayat-e Faqih) (Keyhan, February 21).
On the eve of the Assembly of Experts’ opening session, a number of Iranian websites reported on strong disagreements between Rafsanjani and senior members of the assembly, saying it was possible that some of them were seeking to impeach him from the council’s chairmanship (Asr-e Iran, February 22). It should be mentioned that in recent months Rafsanjani has been the target of an attack by conservative circles, which blamed him for the political crisis and accused him of cooperating with the reformist opposition against the regime. What is more, it has been a long time since Rafsanjani last appeared at the Friday prayers in Tehran University, which he used to lead until the presidential elections.
Majles Research Center chairman forecasts negative economic growth for next year
Ahmad Tavakkoli, the chairman of the Majles Research Center, has warned this week that Iran’s economic growth for the next year is likely to be zero or even less.
In an interview to the Mehr news agency, Tavakkoli, considered to be one of the strongest critics of Ahmadinejad’s government in the conservative camp, said that during the Iranian year of 1387 (March 2008-March 2009) the economic growth rate dropped to 2.3 percent. He forecasted that the economic growth rate would drop to 1.5-2 percent for the current Iranian year (1388, March 2009-March 2010), and that next year (1389, March 2010-March 2011) the economic growth rate would likely be negative or, at the very best, zero.
The figures, based according to Tavakkoli on data from Iran’s Central Bank, are different from those recently given by President Ahmadinejad, who said that last year’s (2008-2009) economic growth rate reached 6.9 percent. Tavakkoli added that in light of those troubling figures, the government must avoid a drastic reform in the subsidy policy, which may further exacerbate the economic recession.
"The economic growth in the ninth government” (the caption on the left reads: "the ninth
government’s chart of lies”), cartoon by Nikahang Kowsar, Rooz Online, May 24, 2009
The economic research team of the Expediency Discernment Council has also issued a warning recently about a drop in the economic growth rate for the next year. According to the team’s assessment, the economic growth rate is likely to drop below 2.5 percent even without the implementation of the government subsidy policy reform (Donya-ye Eqtesad, February 21).
In light of the discrepancy between the economic growth figures published by the Central Bank and those given by the president, the Farda website, affiliated with the pragmatic conservative camp, criticized the Central Bank. It is unheard of, said the website, that several days after the president’s announcement on a 6.9 percent economic growth rate for the last year the Central Bank would publish a figure smaller by nearly 5 percent than that given by the president. Furthermore, both figures are different than those released this week by the International Monetary Fund, which has assessed Iran’s growth rate at 2-2.5 percent. The website also wondered how it was possible that while the Iranian year 1387 ended eleven months ago, it was still impossible to calculate the exact economic growth rate and bring it to the attention of Iran’s leaders, at the very least (Farda, February 22).
"Iranian Cyber Army”: yet another aspect of political struggle in Iran
As more and more reformist websites are attacked by pro-government hackers, in recent weeks the reformist media has extensively covered the activity of the Iranian Cyber Army, which has taken responsibility for hacking a number of websites over the last several months. Hacked on behalf of the organization was the Twitter website; the Chinese search engine Baidu; the website of Radio Zamaneh, a Persian-language radio station based in the Netherlands and affiliated with reformist elements; the website of the reformist student union of Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran; and Rah-e Sabz ("The Green Path"), a website affiliated with the supporters of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi. On every hacked website, the hackers left political messages against the reformist protest movement and the West and in favor of the regime.
Last week, the reformist website Rooz Online published a story on the activity of the Iranian Cyber Army, which received attention not only in Iran but also on the international scene. According to the website, the messages left by the organization after attacking websites and the characteristics of the websites it hacks are indications of a "hidden guiding hand" by elements within the regime.
In recent years, several organized groups of hackers have operated in Iran, including Ashianeh, Shabgard, and Simorgh. Rooz Online reports that in addition to those groups, there are now ostensibly private companies operating in Iran whose job is to recruit military servicemen, provide them with training in computer attacks, and acquire the technology required for that purpose. According to the website, one of the managers of those companies is the son of a senior officer (who was not mentioned by name) who uses his father’s connections in the defense establishment to promote his business.
The website also reported that the plan to establish the Cyber Army was first brought up by the Revolutionary Guards in 2005, and that the plan kicked into high gear as the president’s critics stepped up their media campaign against Ahmadinejad’s government. The Cyber Army recruited professional hackers, who in some cases were threatened into cooperating with regime elements.
Rooz Online added that so far the Iranian Cyber Army was unable to hack into the servers of the various websites and had to settle for domain hijacking for the time being (Rooz Online, February 16).
It should be stressed that the activity of Iranian hackers is not limited to government supporters. In recent months, hackers affiliated with the reformist opposition have repeatedly hit pro-government news websites with denial-of-service attacks. Hacked in January was the official website of President Ahmadinejad, with messages against him left on the main page by the hackers.
Iran’s first cloned sheep, Royana, dies
Royana, Iran’s first cloned sheep, died this week at the age of 3. The sheep suffered from a liver disease in the past year and had to undergo various medical procedures. When those failed, the doctors decided to euthanize her this week.
Royana was born on September 30, 2006, in the Royan Institute in the city of Esfahan, after she developed for 145 days in the uterus of a surrogate sheep.
Royan Institute for Reproductive Biomedicine, Stem Cell Biology and Technology is a center involved in stem cell research for medical purposes. Established in 1991, it first operated as a center for limited surgery for medicine development and research. The institute developed over the years and in 1998 was approved by the Iranian Ministry of Health to become a stem cell research facility, and became involved in genetic cloning as well. In 2002 a stem cell laboratory was established in the institute to generate stem cells from embryos. The institute is now the most advanced biomedical center in Iran and one of the leading stem cell research centers in Asia and the Middle East. There is also a cord blood bank operating as part of the institute. It publishes dozens of scientific articles a year and even has its own periodical.
In 2002, Iran’s Supreme Leader gave his blessing to research on embryo cloning for fertility treatments carried out by the institute. However, he said that the scientists must be careful not "to create a human being”. According to religious rulings issues by Shi’ite clerics, cells and embryos can be cloned as long as they are not older than 120 days, for that is the age when the soul enters the embryo. In recent years, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad have visited the institute on several occasions, expressing their appreciation for the researchers’ work.
Picture of the week: Snakes and Ladders, Iran-style
Mehdi Sa’idi’s blog, www.sarband.ir, February 16