36 army officers ‘arrested’ — The Guardian website says the Iranian army has arrested 36 officers who were planning to attend Friday prayers in their military uniforms. Quoting a report on the Persian-language Peiknet website, the Guardian says the officers included two majors, four captains, eight lieutenants, six sergeants and four warrant officers. Peiknet said the officers made their decision the night before at a weekly prayer meeting at the Shah Abdolazim shrine in Shahr-e Rey, south Tehran. “They decided to attend the Friday prayer in their military clothes as a sign of protest against the cruel massacre of people by the basij and revolutionary guards …”
There have been a number of Twitter posts suggesting unease among the various armed forces, especally the army, but no firm evidence has emerged. However, it may be no coincidence that the report coincides with the news that Ayatollah Khamenei has installed a new head of the army’s ideological-political department. Hojatoleslam Sayed Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem replaces Hojatoleslam Sayed Mahmoud Alavi, who had held the post since August 2000. In a possible sign that all was not regarded as well, Khamenei told Ale-Hashem in his decree making the appointment: “You are expected to further enhance the military’s tendency for spirituality and morality through employing fresh methods.” The position is the military equivalent of the supreme leader’s representatives assigned to the Revolutionary Guards. The basic role is to ensure the unswerving loyalty of the military to Khamenei as commander in chief and supreme religious leader. Guardian, Fars
Reformist leaders hold key talks — Two key leaders supporting the reformist camp are conducting a series of important meetings in the wake of Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s Friday prayers sermon and the huge demonstration that accompanied it in Tehran. PressTV revealed today that Rafsanjani had flown to Mashad on Saturday to “confer with senior Iranian clerics” in the holy city. Details on the discussions are scant, as they are on talks that have reportedly taken place between the reformist former president Ayatollah Mohammad Khatami and Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, the intelligence minister. Mohseni-Ejei is a key hardliner who on Friday all but accused Rafsanjani of working with Iran’s enemies to destablise the state. According to the Green Brief, the meeting was reported by Etemad-e Melli newspaper without giving further details. The Green brief also reported that Khatami travelled to Qom on Friday for talks with religious leaders there, which was the reason why he did not attend Friday prayers. Again, no details of the talks have surfaced.
Opposition sources meanwhile expressed bemusement at an official report that Moussavi and Karroubi had been the subject of an assassination plot. PressTV quoted Jahan news as saying five hit squads of the outlawed Mujahedin Khalq had entered Iran from their Iraqi base at Camp Ashraf to kill the pair and put the blame for the murders on the government. “With the vigilance of the intelligence and security bodies,” these plans were foiled and four of the hit-squads were arrested and one fled, the report said. PressTV, Green Brief, PressTV
Iran ‘has nuclear test site’ — Iran is in the last stages of the construction of a nuclear test site in the Kavir Lut desert to the east of Tehran, according to an Israeli website that specialises in intelligence and security matters. Debkafile, which claims to be independent, quotes military sources as saying the Iranian experts in charge of the project were invited to attend North Korea’s nuclear test this year. It adds that North Korea has shared the results of its latest missile launches with Iran “exactly as it did after its nuclear and ballistic tests”.
Debkafile quotes intelligence sources as confirming that Iran “is squarely on the fast track for an N-test. Once preparations are complete, its leaders will not hesitate to conduct one, following the North Korean model.” In this context the report describes Western hopes that Iran will not wish to risk worsening its confrontation with the West by conducting tests as “wishful thinking”. It also accuses the US, Europe and Israel of turning a blind eye to Iran’s cooperation with North Korea. “Both nuclear transgressors are getting away with the gross, ongoing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and making a mockery of international law and UN resolutions,” it says.
The report refers to an AP story out of Vienna on Saturday quoting two western diplomats accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency as saying Iran has advanced its nuclear programme to the stage where it will be able to test a weapon within six months. The diplomats added that Iran is blocking attempts by the UN’s nuclear agency to upgrade the monitoring of its atomic programme as it expands its enrichment of uranium. Iran Sunday denied the claim. The diplomats said the Iranians were resisting IAEA attempts to increase surveillance of its enrichment site at Natanz to keep pace with the plant’s increased size and complexity.
The claim that Iran is six months away from being able to conduct a nuclear test is a controversial one. When it was originally made by the magazine Stern, quoting German BND intelligence officials, the intelligence agency attempted to play down the claim, insisting Iran was years away from having a nuclear bomb. Nuclear experts, however, draw the clear distinction between being able to carry out a nuclear explosion test and producing a full nuclear warhead delivery system.
Ali-Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency, denied his country was restricting the agency’s access to nuclear facilities. “The agency’s surveillance cameras and inspectors are continuing to monitor Iran’s nuclear program, especially in Natanz, without any interference or problem,” he said. That, however, fails to address the point about increasing that surveillance. Debkafile, Journal-Sentinel, Stern, Bloomberg, PressTV
Government ‘should pay blood money’ — Emad Afrough, a former hardline MP who was once regarded as a supporter of President Ahmadinejad but has become one of his strongest critics, has called on the government to pay blood money to the families of those who have lost their lives in the current turmoil. In an interview with the INLA news agency carried in full on Mir-Hossein Moussavi’s Facebook page, Afrough also calls for the state broadcaster IRIB to be prosecuted for sowing public mistrust. “Today I am sorry to say that [IRIB] has played [a deceitful] role and, despite the recommendations of many revolutionary and loyalist figures, willfully or unwillfully has encouraged defamation and division and has ignorantly tried to create a growing mistrust.”
Endorsing Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s Friday prayers sermon, Afrough says the national media played a critical role in encouraging the post-election turmoil.: “Today we are witnessing a growing mistrust and division in the country and I specifically blame some of the interpretations of Islam and the Islamic republic as well as the actions of some of the authorities and especially the national media. In the past few years the national media has really deviated and, instead of being a bipartisan national media, is serving a specific party with its own specific interpretation. We should find a solution for this issue and one of the points in Mr Hashemi’s speech was that the national media should truly be national … The national media should provide a platform to all groups whose needs, motivations, and revolutionary concerns have somehow been mistreated.”
A frough, a university sociology professor, referred to the hardliners’ accusation that the reformists were plotting a “velvet revolution”. He suggested that since it was possible to consider the current government to be along the lines of the socialist administrations in China and Russia such a revolution posed no problems. “ Do we accept that our current government is like China and Russia? If we believe in this hypothesis then we can bring up the concept of velvet revolution in relation to the protestors.”
He backed Rafsanjani’s emphasis on allowing people their full rights within the law. “One cannot invite one side to obey the law, but not give permission to those who are not in power [to conduct their] legal activities. It is obvious that this will cause legal problems. When we deviate from the law or we don’t give permission for legal activities to different groups, naturally deviation from the law will increase and will even add to the intensity of confrontation. … Why don’t we give permission to groups for legal activities? Why if there are requests for demonstrations do we not give them a positive response so that the “good” can be distinguished from the “bad” and the domestic protestors can be identified from the outlaws and those linked to foreigners.”
On the question of blood money, Afrough said it was the government’s religious duty to pay it. “One of the ways to sympathise with the families of those who have lost their lives is to pay their legal religious blood money and the important factor in this is for them to realize that the Islamic Republic adheres to the religious treatment of the issues. … Forgiveness must be sought for the recent events and victims must be comforted with sympathy and consolation.”
He noted that while Iran expressed c oncerns about “martyrs” in other parts of the world – a reference to the storm over the courtroom murder of an Egyptian woman in German – it appeared insensitive to similar victims back home. “Why should we be so ignorant about this … Isn’t a religious democracy supposed to present a gentle, religious and spiritual face against a wrong mentality? Today we are not seeing this face; rather we have witnessed contradictions and double standards”.
Afrough, said he was not concerned about public mistrust in the country’s rulers “because naturally if the rulers have not fulfilled their duties they should be set aside.” But he was afraid of the damage it could do to the principles of the Islamic revolution, which had not been achieved so easily that they could be sold cheaply.
“I believe that … those responsible for the public mistrust should be brought to justice. Whether it is the national media which has caused the public mistrust, or those who have caused an Iranian family to lose their loved one, or those who have committed an action in the name of the government – they should all be identified and punished. Unfortunately we are witnessing that not only there are no trials and corrections of actions but also every day the actions that cause public mistrust in the government continue”. Facebook
Habeus corpus Iran style: the Islamic Republic of Rape — That is the stark headline the Anonymous Iran website puts on a thread that reprints a story in the Jerusalem Post claiming to be an interview with a basij mamber in whicvh he adnmits to taking part in the rape of girls femail detainees before their execution. The report by Sabina Amidi says the interview “took place by telephone, and on condition of anonymity. It was arranged by a reliable source whose identity can also not be revealed”. With that caveat, and the fact that it turns up in an Israeli newspaper, you can read the full story in the Jerusalem Post, Anonymous Iran
— The Green Brief on Anonymous Iran says it has confirmed the death on Thursday of Mohammad Kamrani, aged 18, who had been held for a week. Twitter posts said he was buried Sunday. According to another website announcing his death, despite there being almost no life in him he was still chained to the bed at the Loghman hospital in Tehran where his family found him. It is unclear why he was taken to that hospital, which specialises in poisoning cases. After pressure from his family he was moved to Mehr hospital, but was so badly hurt he could not be saved. Green Brief, Freedom Messenger!!!
Protests at Ahmadinejad appointment — Opposition is stirring against President Ahmadinejad’s appointment of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei as first vice president, with PressTV reporting a “hail of criticism” over the posting. Mashaei’s daughter is married to Ahmadinejad’s son, but it’s not nepotism that has got people bothered so much as his views on Israel. Last year he received a verbal slap from Ayatollah Khamenei after stating that “Today, Iran is friends with the American and Israeli people. No nation in the world is our enemy.” Khamenei famously responded: “Who are the Israelis? They are responsible for usurping houses, territory, farmlands and businesses. They are fighters at the disposal of Zionist operatives. The Iranian nation has nothing against Jews, Christians or followers of faith. However, it is mistaken to say that we are friends with the people of Israel in the same manner as we are friends with other people around the world.” Mashaei then said his comments had been misinterpreted.
But leading a chorus of complaints about the appointment is Ayatollah Sayed Ahmad Khatami, the hardline rotating Friday prayer leader in Tehran, who has urged Ahmadinejad to reconsider the decision. Given the sensitivities that are known to the president, I could not believe this appointment would take place,” Khatami said. “This appointment will create challenges for the government.” Khatami added that Ahmadinejad had shown “a twisted face to clerics and elites”.
Until now Mashaei worked as head of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation before his latest elevation although reports also describe him as a close confidante of the President. In appointing him Ahmadinejad said he was a pious and honest self-made man. But there was no shortage of people pointing out the irony of a man who likes Israelis being appointed by someone who believes they should be wiped off the face of the earth.
Khatami was by no means alone in attacking the appointment. PressTV reported that the Islamic Society of Students Union has sent a letter to Mashaei demanding he turn down the appointment. The letter said that, considering the amount of insults against the President his supporters had already had to suffer because of the election controversy, “it is in the interest of the Principlist movement that you resign from the post of vice president”.
In addition, the report said, Hojatoleslam Sayed Mohammad Qaravi, a member of the presiding board of the influential Qom Seminary Teachers Society, has declared the appointment “inappropriate”. He said: “Many of those concerned are worried about [the consequences] of this appointment.”
The Tehran Times, quoting Mehr news agency, also said Hamid-Reza Katouzian, the chairman of the Majlis Energy Committee, had criticised Ahmadinejad’s “hasty selection” saying: “Such appointments are usually made after the inauguration and authorisation ceremonies, and it would have been better if this practice was also followed this time.” Katouzian recalled Khamenei’s criticism of Mashaei and said many religious figures and MPs were also displeased with his remarks, especially since, instead of apologizing, Rahim-Mashaei stuck to his views.
Katouzian said the appointment had not taken the views of the people and the Supreme Leader into consideration. “I think Mr Ahmadinejad made a mistake in this appointment, and I am of the opinion that this choice will have some repercussions. Mr Ahmadinejad has always shown that he is totally heedless in situations that are very sensitive.”
Bail for British embassy man — Hossein Rassam, the British embassy Iranian employee detained for the last three weeks has been freed on bail. Rassam, the embassy’s senior political analyst, faces charges of inciting unrest during the recent protests against the result of the presidential election. He was one of nine Iranian members of the embassy’s staff arrested on June 27, but the others were freed a short while later. His lawyer, Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, went to Evin prison today with Rassam’s wife to bring his client out after fixing bail of 1 billion rials (about $100,000). Reports on the hardline press say Rassam played a key role in fomenting anti-government unrest after the June 12 election.as part of a British plot to destabilize the country. PressTV, however, suggested his “crime” involved no more than “providing guidance to diplomats and reporters of the British media during the recent unrest”. David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, welcomed the release, but said the detention of the embassy staff was “completely unjustified”. PressTV, BBC
In other news
The Majlis is expected today to open an investigation into last week’s plane crash near Qazvin in which 168 people died. Ali Ilkhani, head of the Civil Aviation Organization, and Asghar Razaghi, Managing Director of Caspian Airways will be present. PressTV
Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, has clarified his statement that France is ready to recognise Ahmadinejad’s reelection by adding a rather crucial caveat: only if his presidency meets the approval of every Iranian. PressTV
Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders and other international human rights organisations have declared July 25 as a day for worldwide demonstrations of solidarity with the Iranian protest movement. Deutsche Welle
Kurdish rebels identified as being from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan killed four Iranian policemen inm an attack on their police station in Targovar, near Urumieh, West Azarbaijan, Sarmayeh newspaper said. AFP
Ibrahim Yazdi, head of the Freedom Movement of Iran” said his country is following the path of the former Soviet Union – “a strong totalitarian regime with a highly effective but corrupt secret police.” But the reformist movement is looking at a number of different ideas to continue its protest. asharq alawsat
Iran suffered a total of 268 road accidents over the weekend which claimed 59 lives and left 367 others injured, according to Colonel Hossein Alishahi, Head of the Traffic Control Department. PressTV
Police in the souther Iraqi city of Basra have arrested a member of an Iranian-backed militia for the missile attack that killed three American soldiers at their base on Thursday. A raid on his house also retrieved four Iranian-made rockets and documents listing the names of Iraqi officials to be targeted. startribune.com
And finally … what is billed as the first Moussavi’s first “official video with English subtitles”! And it’s not bad either, except it tails off rather oddly. YouTube