Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Bush and ahmadinejad (Gary Sick)

Click here for complete article!

I hesitate to weigh in on this subject with so many interesting and insightful contributions already posted. However, since I've been doing a series of interviews, I have had to develop opinions on all aspects of the Iranian elections. Since everyone else is doing it, here are my own questions, comments and evolving views.

Ahmadinejad seems to have been the beneficiary of a populist revolt (in addition to a little polling station assistance from his friends in the Revolutionary Guards and Basij). A friend of mine compares this to the election of Communist mayors in Italy during the Cold War -- who were elected not because of ideology but because they were seen as separate from the existing corrupt power structure and more efficient. (That proved to be correct in many cases, but these were mayors, after all, not presidents.)

I think the populism of Ahmadinejad can be compared with the Chavez and Peronist movements, but I wouldn't want to press that too far, partly because I don't know enough about Latin America....

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Ex-Hostages Say Iran Leader Was a Captor

Click here for the original story!: "

Associated Press Writer

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) -- A quarter-century after they were taken captive in Iran, five former American hostages say they got an unexpected reminder of their 444-day ordeal in the bearded face of Iran's new president-elect.
Watching coverage of Iran's presidential election on television dredged up 25-year-old memories that prompted four of the former hostages to exchange e-mails. And those four realized they shared the same conclusion _ the firm belief that President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been one of their Iranian captors.
'This is the guy. There's no question about it,' said former hostage Chuck Scott, a retired Army colonel who lives in Jonesboro, Ga. 'You could make him a blond and shave his whiskers, put him in a zoot suit and I'd still spot him.'
Scott and former hostages David Roeder, William J. Daugherty and Don A. Sharer told The Associated Press on Wednesday they have no doubt Ahmadinejad, 49, was one of the hostage-takers. A fifth ex-hostage, Kevin Hermening, said he reached the same conclusion after looking at photos.
Not everyone agrees. Former hostage and retired Air Force Col. Thomas E. Schaefer said he doesn't recognize Ahmadinejad, by face or name, as one of his captors."

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Thursday, June 23, 2005


Iranian Blogger Returns From Exile for Vote

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An influential voice of dissent emerges from Toronto and cyberspace for the presidential race. It's a choice 'between bad and worse,' he says.

By Nahid Siamdoust, Special to The Times

TEHRAN � In a trip financed by his online fans, Hossein Derakhshan, the godfather of the Iranian blogosphere, returned to his native country last week to cover the presidential election after five years of self-imposed exile.

Derakhshan, 30, had left Iran after authorities shut down the newspaper for which he worked during what he described as the country's worst period of press restrictions. From Toronto, Derakhshan influenced Iran's media culture by creating his Web log titled 'Editor: Myself' and by helping other Iranians set up their own blogs. In a country where media censorship is pervasive, blogs have become a key instrument of dissent."

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Iran presidential contenders in their own words

Click here for original story at IranMania

Wednesday, June 22, 2005 - �2005

LONDON, June 22 (Iranmania) - Iran is facing one of the starkest election choices in its history, between the ultra-conservative mayor of Tehran and an increasingly moderate cleric pushing for better ties with the West, AFP reported.
With accusation and counter-accusation flying like never before in an Iranian election campaign, here are Mahmood Ahmadinejad and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in their own words.


Rafsanjani: "I believe that if the Americans renounce their hostile stance and show goodwill, the road will be prepared for negotiations."

"The United States is the most important country in the world and Iran is the most important country in the region, so it is logical that they solve their problems."

Ahmadinejad: "In the past, the Americans broke off relations with Iran to create pressure. If they want to re-establish them now it is for the same reasons. We do not want to have imposed relations."

"The US administration cut off ties unilaterally to lay waste to the Islamic republic. They want to restore them today for the same reason."


Rafsanjani: "I have always been hostile to the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons. But it is not acceptable for us to renounce (uranium) enrichment" for civilian purposes.

"We can reach an accord, but I cannot predict when that will happen."

Ahmadinejad: "The Iranians want to possess civilian nuclear technology. The world should know that it cannot contain this effort.

"We will discuss in a rational way and if they accept our legitimate right (to enrich), we will cooperate. Otherwise nothing will force the Iranians to comply with their demands."

"We do not need" a nuclear weapon. "This does not correspond with our culture and Islamic beliefs."


Rafsanjani: "We have to increase the role of women in national decision making."

Ahmadinejad: "I believe women have certain qualities, such as being responsible and precise."

"Some draw fake lines between men and women as if they were two different classes. We all belong to the same nation and must not have a sexist attitude."

"It is a big lie to say that, if the country turns revolutionary, managers will only care about women's scarves slipping back."


Rafsanjani: "There are new demands. Nobody should think that we can act by employing the same literature, the same policies or the same attitudes that we had at the beginning of the revolution or at the end of the (Iran-Iraq) war."

"The situation is changing rapidly. To respond to the legitimate demands of this new generation, new solutions are necessary."

Ahmadinejad: "A young person who sports a certain outfit or haircut is dear to us and an asset to the country. We have to attract them by kindness, a nice attitude and creating an ideal atmosphere."

"There is an organised promotion of decadence and it is up to the government to find a solution and protect people."


Rafsanjani: "Our red line is the law. Everyone must apply the law, but I do not think that criticising the supreme leader should be a reason to imprison somebody."

"Our press is in a good situation and their freedom can develop. We cannot fight against satellite television and the Internet."

Ahmadinejad: "In our democratic system, liberty is already beyond what could be imagined."


Rafsanjani: "The government must resolve the problem of inflation and the cost of living. We must attract more foreign investment, competitiveness and privatisation."

Ahmadinejad: "National resources must be freed from the state and given to people to use them for the advancement of the country. There must be justice and equal opportunities for all."

"Unemployment, marriage and housing are the main priorities. Our government will support the poor, but that is not to say it will be against others."

"As for joining WTO, we will enter the organisation with a powerful economy. We will not definitely open the doors if industries and agriculture would be sabotaged. We will give precise study before doing so."


Rafsanjani: "Before the revolution I was among the rich seminary students. After the victory of the revolution, I gradually spent my assets on living, my children and the revolution. Now I only have a plot of land in city of Qom and I do not have any house or land in Tehran."

Ahmadinejad: "I declared all my assets as the constitution orders. I live on a teacher's salary and thank God I'm content."

"My biggest asset is huge -- it is my love for serving people, and nothing can compare to that.

"A revolutionary manager is not empowered by expensive office accessories and several secretaries."

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Sunday, June 19, 2005


Bush and Hawks Try Pre-Emptive Strike Vs. Iran Vote (Jim Lobe)

Clicl here for International Press Service!

Bush and Hawks Try Pre-Emptive Strike Vs. Iran Vote
Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON, Jun 18 (IPS) - A familiar clutch of hardline U.S. hawks who led the march to war against Iraq have tried to carry out yet another pre-emptive strike. But this time it wasn't military.

As millions of Iranians prepared to vote for the successor to Pres. Mohammed Khatami Friday, the group, helped along by a strong denunciation by Bush himself, mounted what could only be described as an orchestrated public-relations campaign to discredit the elections even before they took place.

”Today Iran is ruled by men who suppress liberty at home and spread terror across the world,” Bush declared in a statement issued by the White House Thursday afternoon. ”Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy.”

Bush's statements, which were echoed by National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and to a somewhat less categorical extent by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, offered some reassurance to the hawks, particularly some prominent neo-conservatives outside the administration who have pressed their own longstanding campaign for ”regime change” in Teheran with growing intensity.

At the same time, however, their own efforts to discredit the election at the eleventh hour highlight their growing concern that a new president in Iran may actually be someone with whom, as Margaret Thatcher first observed about incoming Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev 20 years ago, the West might actually be able to do business.

That concern rose sharply late last month when State Department officials quietly urged both the Republican Congressional leadership to hold off action on the Iran Freedom Support Act that would impose new sanctions on Iran pending ongoing negotiations between the so-called EU-3 -- Britain, France, and Germany -- and Iran over its nuclear programme.

”These guys want regime change,” said one knowledgeable source who asked not to be identified, ”and they're very worried about anything that could divert from that. They want to ensure that the White House won't get any funny ideas about making a deal with a new Iranian government.”

Thus, the hawks' mantra Thursday on the eve of the balloting, was that the elections won't make any difference because hardline elements led by the unelected supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, and the Guardian Council, which did so much to hobble outgoing Pres. Mohammed Khatami and the reformists, will continue running the country regardless of who wins.

”Any normal person familiar with the Islamic republic knows that these are not elections at all...,” wrote Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in an article headlined ”When Is an Election Not an Election?” posted on National Review Online (NRO) Thursday morning.

”They are a mise en scene, an entertainment, a comic opera staged for our benefit. The purpose of the charade, pure and simple, is to deter us from supporting the forces of democratic revolution in Iran.”

That theme was echoed in a series of events and other columns published Thursday, including one, by Kenneth Timmerman in NRO (and reprinted Friday by the Washington Times) entitled ”Fake Election, Real Threats” in which he predicted that no more than five percent of eligible voters in Teheran would turn out.

Another appeared in the Washington Times by Nir Boms, vice president of the new Centre for Freedom in the Middle East and previously vice president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and Elliott Chodoff entitled ”Facing the Iranian Elections,” and a third in the New York Times by AEI vice president Danielle Pletka, entitled ”Not Our Man in Iran,” a reference to the front-runner, former President Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose presumed victory, she wrote, was due to the ”machinations of the mullahs.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Sam Brownback, a Christian Right leader close to both hard-line neoconservatives and Iranian-American followers of Reza Pahlevi, the ambitious, U.S.-based son of the former Shah, charged in a floor speech that the elections were ”bogus,” while at AEI headquarters across town, a discussion on the elections featured a presentation by founder of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Mohsen Sazegara of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who predicted, ”No matter who wins the presidential elections, there will be no real changes in Iran's domestic or foreign policy.”

Despite the certainty with which these views were expressed, many U.S.-based Iran specialists, while agreeing that powers of Khameini and the Guardian's Council clearly circumscribed what an elected president could do, said that the depiction of the election as a sham was simplistic at best, a deliberate distortion at worst.

Contrary to Pletka's assertion that Rafsanjani was chosen by the mullahs, said Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University, ”Those who are closest to the actual election process have stated repeatedly that Rafsanjani was seen as dividing the mullahs and was not-so-subtly opposed in his candidacy by Khamenei.”

That view was echoed by Abbas Milani and Michael McFaul, directors of the Project on Iranian Democracy at the conservative Hoover Institution in California, in an article in Friday's International Herald Tribune. Rafsanjani and Khamenei, they wrote, ”now àare at each other's political throats,” signaling ”clear division within the ruling elite” of the kind that could well presage ”the beginning of political liberalisation.”

What's more, according to Milani and McFaul, Rafsanjani and Mostafa Moin, a reformist who is tipped to be Rafsanjani's likely rival in a run-off Jul. 1, have both gone further than Khatami ”in challenging the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic and its current leadership” and in advocating improved relations with the United States.

A close reading of the hawks themselves also disclosed serious inconsistencies. While insisting, for example, that ”millions of 'officially cast' ballots (were) manufactured weeks ago, to ensure the right guy wins and that enough votes will have been cast,” Ledeen confessed that even he didn't know who would win.

Like Pletka, Ledeen had assumed ”that Rafsanjani would walk away with it.” But since Khameini overruled the Guardian Council so that Moin (”a nasty pseudo-reformer”) could join the field, he was no longer so sure. Moin ”might be more convincing as he plays that most difficult role,” Ledeen went on: ”the moderate face of islamofascism.”

To some Iran specialists, such speculation serves only to demonstrate that, as in the run-up to the war in Iraq, some hard-liners are trying to fit the facts into their preferred policy.

”Michael Ledeen has never been to Iran; he speaks no Persian,” said Brown University Professor William Beeman, who observed the campaign in Teheran during the past week. ”He has minimal credibility in assessing the Iranian elections, or evaluating the political situation there.

”It is clear that the neo-cons are desperate to deny any credibility to the Iranian people in this election àby continuing to promulgate the image of helpless Iranians cowering under tyrannical rule -- the better to justify some kind of attack leading to 'regime change,”' Said Brown, author of a forthcoming book, ”The 'Great Satan' vs. the 'Mad Mullahs:' How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other.' (END/2005)

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Thursday, June 16, 2005



Foreign Policy Alert No. 44, June 16, 2005
American Foreign Policy Council, Washington, DC

Tomorrow, when Iranians go to the polls to elect a new president, all eyes
will be on the Islamic Republic.

The outcome of Iran's presidential race will undoubtedly be important for
the legitimacy of the country's current clerical regime, now embroiled in a
thorny diplomatic dispute with the United States and Europe over its nuclear
program. But it will be even more decisive for the Iranian people, whose
urge for democracy is poised to take a giant step backward.

The runaway favorite to be Iran's next president is Ali Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani. A consummate politician, shrewd pragmatist, and former Iranian
head of state, Rafsanjani's popular candidacy - which has been implicitly
endorsed by the country's Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -
reflects the Iranian regime's efforts to put forward a more pragmatic,
accommodating international image. Simply put, officials in Tehran are
banking on the fact that Rafsanjani can buy them greater diplomatic
breathing room - and more time to attain their atomic ambitions.

Yet, for all of its fanfare, the Iranian presidential election is just a
sideshow. No matter their political affiliation, all of the approved
candidates have passed muster with the regime's vetting authority for
political appointments, known as the Guardian Council. This spring, in the
run-up to the official electoral season, that same political body rejected
more than one thousand political aspirants. The handful that has remained,
despite variations in political tone, is uniformly beholden to the regime's
ideological line.

This means that irrespective of who wins the Iranian presidency, the Islamic
Republic will not roll back its efforts to acquire a nuclear capability. Nor
will it change any of the other troubling policies (such as sponsorship of
terrorism and opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process) that
characterize its core ideology. In the end, if there is a change in Iranian
policies, it will be one of style, not substance.

Perhaps as important, however, is the fact that the presidential race has
obscured another, more pivotal political shift now taking place within Iran.
In 1997, "reformist" cleric Mohammed Khatami was swept into the country's
highest office by an unprecedented wave of popular support, buoyed by the
notion that he would make dramatic changes to economic policies, improve
social conditions and, above all, soften Iran's radical political

Eight years later, however, much the opposite has happened. Reformists have
lost ground, repression has deepened, and Iran's radical ideology is
experiencing a renaissance.

In the wake of the resounding victory of regime conservatives during Iran's
hotly-contested February 2004 parliamentary elections, close to a third of
Iran's 290 parliamentary deputies now have links to Iran's military complex,
and 42 are directly affiliated with the country's clerical shock troops, the
Pasdaran. Ezatullah Zarghami, the public relations czar installed by the
regime last summer, is a former Pasdaran commander. So is Mahmoud
Ahmadi-Nejad, who assumed the office of mayor of Tehran in the spring of
2003. The implications of these political developments are clear: Iran's
Islamic Revolution is getting a new lease on life.

All this is hardly likely to change under Iran's new president. In fact, if
the ruling ayatollahs have their way, the world will see a reconstituted,
revitalized Iranian presidency in ideological lockstep on Iran's quest for
the bomb, its internal anti-democratic policies, its strategic agenda in the
greater Middle East, and its opposition to American strategy.

American policymakers, currently involved in Europe's diplomatic effort to
roll back Iran's atomic advances, may - like their counterparts in Britain,
France and Germany - be banking on a concrete change in Iranian policy,
post-June 17th. If so, they are likely to be sorely disappointed.

-- Ilan Berman

Copyright (c) 2005, American Foreign Policy Council, posted here by author's permission.

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Latest polls show Rafsanjani in lead followed by Moin!

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Iran politicians woo the young

For complete story click here to go to
Presidential hopefuls reach out with music and rallies before Friday's vote to sway the under-30 majority.

By Scott Peterson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

TEHRAN, IRAN � Draped in an Iranian flag, Nahid Molavi clenches her fists and speaks with a political fervor that is supposed to have vanished among Iran's disillusioned youth.
'I support the one who values freedom,' declares the 21-year-old history student during a rally for reformist presidential candidate Mustafa Moin."

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Letter From Tehran: In Washington's Cross-Hairs

By Norman Solomon

Washington keeps condemning Iran's government and making thinly veiled threats. But in Iran, many people are in the midst of challenging the country's rulers, in the streets and at the ballot box.

The June 17 election for president could be a turning point or a hollow spectacle -- no one knows which -- but the Bush administration is eagerly trashing the whole thing. "The United States has not waited for the first ballot to be cast before dismissing Iran's presidential election as rigged," Agence France Presse reported over the weekend.

But Iran's election is not rigged. There is a fierce electioneering battle underway, with some significant differences between candidates. Meanwhile, hindered rather than helped by the bellicose statements from Washington, courageous Iranian activists have begun a new wave of actions against the status quo of theocracy.

On June 12, in front of the University of Tehran, nearly a hundred courageous women sat down to demonstrate for human rights in a society where women literally and figuratively are compelled to sit at the back of the bus. "Stop Bias Against Women," said one handheld sign. "Stop violation," said another. And: "Freedom."

Across the wide vehicle-choked street, several hundred Iranian men and women of all ages quickly gathered to augment the demonstration, one of the only such public protests in recent years. "Political prisoners should be free," they chanted. A sign declared: "First Democracy, Then We Will Continue Living."

Some of the Iranian people who most strongly oppose the government's theocracy are boycotting the election. Others will vote, primarily for Mostafa Moin, the most popular candidate at the reform edge of the spectrum. He's in sync with the current president, Muhammad Khatami, "termed out" after eight years in office. Khatami wasn't able to do much to undermine the power of highly conservative clerics. Yet many young people, who have faced extremely puritanical strictures, say that life in Iran has become a bit less stifling in recent years.

The widely respected icon and hack Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, positioned midway on the spectrum of candidates, has been making noises that are not only somewhat conciliatory toward the United States but also indicate that he favors a move away from current restrictive pressures on media and personal freedom. He might just be blowing smoke to appeal to the youth vote, but he clearly realizes that many in the nation's large population of young people are especially eager for such changes.

Several of the eight presidential candidates are hardline theocrats. Whether their outlook will prevail after the ballots are cast June 17 (or in the runoff scheduled for two weeks later if no candidate gets more than 50 percent in the first round) remains to be seen. So does Iran's path after this historic crossroads that could lead to more fundamentalist repression or progress for elements of democracy in Iranian society.

As I've learned more about what's at stake here for Iranian people, I've become more angry at the deceptive rhetoric coming out of Washington. When President Bush and his aides call Iran's presidential election meaningless, it is wishful thinking. Some of the Bush neocons have the delusion that they can overthrow the Iranian regime with plenty of missiles. But the real means for displacing Iran's theocratic rulers with democratic processes are grassroots efforts of the sort taking root in Iran right now.

Evidently, the Bush administration would prefer that Iran's presidential election be won by the most reactionary theocratic forces in the country. Many of Bush's policymakers have a fantasy that involves seeing Iran changed with military force. And a more reasonable Iranian president could make Bush's agenda-setting for warfare more difficult.

We should remember that the Bush team has much nicer things to say about the far-more-repressive government in Saudi Arabia. And a few weeks ago, Laura Bush -- with her husband's endorsement -- proclaimed Egypt's sham election "reforms" to be an inspiration. Iran's election process is very flawed, but it includes real aspects of democracy. Compared to the current Saudi or Egyptian electoral setups, Iran is a beacon of hope for the region.

The Washington officials who warn of Iran's nuclear intentions fail to mention that the U.S. government has been encouraging the spread of nuclear power plants for five decades. From an environmental standpoint, Iran (like all nations) is ill-advised to develop nuclear power. But there's no evidence it is anywhere near developing nuclear weapons. And the Bush administration, with a solid track record of winking at Israel's hundreds of atomic bombs and lying about WMDs in Iraq, is in no credible position to lecture about Iranian nuclear activities.

Bombast from the U.S. government helps to strengthen the hand of hardline Iranian "theologues." For them, a missile strike against Iran would be a godsend.

While in Washington there are fervent dreams of a military assault on Iran, many people in Iran have boundless dreams of creating a society that embraces human rights. Americans who want to help them should challenge the dominant rhetoric of American media and politics that is now setting an agenda for war on Iran.

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, is the author of the new book "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," which became available this week. For information, go to:

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In the Mullahs' Shadow


June 15, 2005; Wall Street Journal Page A14

As Iranians go to the polls on Friday to elect a successor to Mohammad
Khatami, the high hopes for reform that brought him to power in 1997 have
given way to fear that the hardliners will use this election to
consolidate their power and reach an accommodation with the West. Eight
years ago, Iranians hoped the election of a reformist would lead to
political change, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.
President Khatami made peace with Iran's oil-producing neighbors,
expanded ties with the European Union, and allowed the development of a
vocal opposition. Secret executions and assassinations have largely
stopped, and jailing without trial of dissidents has subsided. Even the
hardliners' candidates speak of the need for reforms.

But the pace of reforms has ground almost to a halt. The hardliners have
shut down more than 90 reformist newspapers and other publications, and
some of Iran's best writers and journalists are either in prison or in
exile. In many cases, trials are held behind closed doors and without a
jury; and judges declare verdicts that seem to be purely political.

The Guardian Council, a constitutional body controlled by Islamic
hardliners, has thwarted many of the reforms introduced by President
Khatami and his allies. In principle, the Council should approve bills
passed by parliament after ensuring their conformity with Islamic laws.
But in practice, it has barred reformist candidates from standing in
elections and has vetoed legislation aimed at curbing its power. The
hardliners have also jailed university students, intellectuals,
dissidents and rights activists, and President Khatami has failed to
overcome the Council's obstruction of reform. * * *

Friday's presidential election is another part of the political process
under the heavy hand of the Guardian Council. The election will not be
free and fair because the Council controls who can stand. The main
reformist candidate, former Minister of Higher Education Mostafa Moeen,
has been allowed to run. But many other qualified candidates -- including
every woman -- have been disqualified. Meanwhile, hardliners are
exploiting many of the state's resources (including radio and television)
to promote their candidates, while censoring many progressive positions
of Dr. Moeen and attacking his supporters.

The hardliners view victory in the upcoming elections as the final step
in consolidating their grip on power, following last year's rigged
parliamentary elections. They already control many of the unelected
instruments of power, and have put forward four candidates, all of whom
are connected to the most powerful branch of the armed forces, the
Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

Another candidate, the powerful former president Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani, is running on a platform of economic reforms and improved
relations with the U.S. Although he has some differences with Iran's
hardliners and is not supported by them, he cannot lead Iran toward a
more democratic future. It was during his presidency that the murder of
intellectuals and dissidents began, massive foreign debts were run up,
corruption and cronyism became rampant, and hyperinflation became the
rule rather than the exception.

Today, Western countries are preoccupied with curbing Iran's nuclear
program rather than helping Iranian people to reform the government
behind the program. The true danger behind Iran's nuclear program is its
decision-making process, which is shrouded in secrecy (unlike in India, a
nuclear power but a democracy). The hardliners, who are the program's
driving force, have an ideological and naive view of the world and are
fiercely opposed to Iran's democratic movement. But military strikes
against Iranian nuclear facilities would only inflame nationalist
sentiment, and likely rally Iranians around the hardliners' government.
At the same time, the hardliners will use such attacks to suppress Iran's
internal democratic movement, invoking a threat to Iran's national

What many Iranians fear is that if the hardliners win the election, they
would offer significant concessions to the West in return for a free hand
in running Iran. Pledges to help stabilize Iraq and curtail Iran's
nuclear program might seem attractive to the U.S. or to the EU, but the
West should bear in mind the longer-term dangers. Turning a blind eye to
human rights abuses, when the vast majority of Iranians desire mutually
respectful relations with the West, would only increase their suspicion
of the West's underlying motives. The U.S. has already tried two such
deals with unpopular and undemocratic groups in Iran. Both had disastrous
results. First, after the 1953 coup, the U.S. propped up the Shah's
dictatorship, which eventually led to the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Second, in the 1980s, efforts to reach a secret deal with Iran's
hardliners led to the Iran-contra scandal. Therefore, if the West seeks
to negotiate another such deal with the hardliners, it would thoroughly
discredit the claim of wanting to foster democracy and human rights in
the Middle East.

Whatever the results at the polls, the West does have leverage. The
hardliners need continued commerce with the EU, and are looking for the
same with the U.S. We have already had four years of dialogue between
Iran and the EU regarding Iran's violations of human rights. This has
been largely fruitless because the EU has not been willing to back up its
demands by practical steps. The EU (and, through the EU, the U.S.) should
declare unequivocally that the foreign investment will be provided only
if a truly democratic political system is established. The EU should make
clear to Iran's hardliners that it will not expand its political and
commercial relations with Iran (and is ready to curtail them, if
necessary) unless Tehran undertakes meaningful reforms, including freeing
political prisoners, allows true freedom of speech and the development of
an independent press, and permits all political groups to participate in
the political process through elections that are considered free and fair
by the international community.

Such a clear-cut declaration in support of reform, backed by practical
steps, will help Iran's democratic movement to continue its slow but
steady progress. And while Iran has a fundamental right to the peaceful
use of nuclear energy and technology, only the institutions for a
democratic society will be able to uncover nuclear adventures that Iran's
hidden power-centers may wish to pursue.

Over the past 100 years, Iran has endured two revolutions, two military
coups engineered by foreign powers, and two foreign invasions. But the
peaceful revolution that Iran needs today is one that would bring reform
and the rule of law, a representative and transparent government, and
respect for human dignity. Such a revolution will also have a profound
effect on the entire Middle East and Central Asia.

Ms. Ebadi, a law professor at Tehran University, was awarded the 2003
Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Sahimi, professor of chemical engineering at the
University of Southern California, is an expert on Iran's nuclear

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Iran presidential race.

13 June 2005- Christian SCience Monitor:
By Haleh Vaziri and [G2K member] Bahman Baktiari

WASHINGTON, D.C. AND ORONO, MAINE . Iran's field of presidential
candidates offers the widest-ranging choices on the political spectrum
since the revolution of 1978-79 - of course, within the confines of the
Guardian Council's vetting procedures. Even though the Islamic Republic's
clerical leaders jealously guard their theocracy, they also permit
semi-competitive elections, seemingly unbothered in the short run by the
contradiction between institutions based on assertions of divine
sovereignty and mechanisms for popular participation.

The eight major candidates in Friday's race each portray themselves as the
answer to Iran's daunting challenges - from the need for legal and
socioeconomic reforms and questions about the Supreme Leader's
prerogatives, to diplomacy and the development of nuclear weapons
technology. However, former president Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's
reemergence on the scene has stirred both worries and cautious optimism in
Iran and the West. He is bolder than his opponents in pledging to
liberalize the economy, resolve the nuclear dispute with the West, and
normalize relations with Washington. And given his revolutionary
credentials and sense of pragmatism honed in the Islamic Republic's
labyrinthine factional struggles, Mr. Rafsanjani appears to be the
frontrunner in the polls.

Yet victory for Rafsanjani is not a foregone conclusion; the self-declared
reformist Mostafa Moin seems to be gaining ground. At first rejected by
the Guardian Council as a presidential contender, he was reinstated after
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei intervened to ensure at least the appearance
of a balanced election. Mr. Moin, former minister of science, research and
technology, resigned his post in 2003, protesting mistreatment of students
and repression that has stifled scientific development. With a platform
emphasizing intellectual freedom and cultural diversity, Moin has earned
credibility among the under-30s to almost two-thirds of Iranian society.
Polls taken by SHARQ, the major Tehran daily, suggest that if elected,
Rafsanjani would receive less than a quarter of the vote, with the rest of
the electorate splintering to give none of the other candidates a majority
and compelling a run-off contest, probably with Moin.

Indeed, without more significant popular backing, Rafsanjani, who is
considered an ideological chameleon by enthusiasts and detractors alike,
would find it tough to deal with the parliament's ultraconservative
majority. Neither the legislature nor Ayatollah Khamenei has much sympathy
for Rafsanjani's ideological flexibility, striving to preserve their own
vision of doctrinal purity. Refraining from openly endorsing one
candidate, the supreme leader - who is selected by the clerically
dominated Assembly of Experts rather than popularly elected - would be
more amenable to other presidential hopefuls whose loyalty to conservative
principles is not in doubt.

And if past promises are any indication, Rafsanjani cannot easily run on
the record of his two-term presidency from 1989 to 1997. After some
initial socioeconomic liberalization, his administration could not trim
Iran's unwieldy bureaucracy nor cut its red tape enough to attract foreign
investors. Rafsanjani could not capitalize on either the Bush or Clinton
teams' subtle overtures to restore ties with the US. And by the time he
left office, the EU states had withdrawn their ambassadors from Tehran,
charging Iranian agents of assassinating dissidents in exile.

Iran and its regional context are far different today from during the
1990s, when the reformist movement was more influential and the Islamic
Republic was not perceived as part of the "axis of evil." Conservatives
have now recaptured most government power centers. And some in the second
Bush administration and Congress have advocated that regime change be
applied to the Islamic Republic as part of the effort to democratize the
Middle East. With US troops next door in Afghanistan and Iraq, no Iranian
president can afford to take anything for granted.

So, before addressing the domestic agenda, whoever is elected will have to
diffuse the nuclear standoff with Washington and its European allies - the
most serious foreign-policy crises for the Islamic Republic since its
1980-1988 war with Iraq. With international opposition to the Islamic
Republic's quest for nuclear weapons technology intensifying, even a
leader of Rafsanjani's stature and shrewdness may not be able to convince
the Iranian citizenry that abandoning this quest is in the country's
long-term interest. More than half of Iranians support the nuclear program
and 46 percent are strongly behind it, according to a May survey
commissioned by the Washington-based firm InterMedia. Living in a
dangerous neighborhood and seeking recognition as a regional powerhouse,
neither Iranian citizens nor their leaders have much incentive to change
this policy, and international pressure may strengthen the Islamic
Republic's already defiant conservatives.

Iran's clerical leadership claims its legitimacy rests on divine
sovereignty, yet it has established mechanisms for popular participation
in decisionmaking. This paradox has at once ensured the Islamic Republic's
survival and produced gridlock in the national discourse, as a splintered
presidential vote and the decisions over nuclear technology may soon
demonstrate. A Rafsanjani presidency would not necessarily reconcile these
contradictions within the Iranian system and might actually aggravate
them. Meanwhile, Iranians, debating whether to vote on Friday or boycott
the contest, realize what their leaders have not yet explicitly admitted -
that their government cannot relate to them or tackle their concerns as
long as it is run by both the elected representatives of the people and
the unelected representatives of God on earth.

Haleh Vaziri is regional research manager for the Middle East and North
Africa at InterMedia, a media research organization. Bahman Baktiari, who
visited Iran in May, is director of international affairs at the
University of Maine. The views expressed here are their own.

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Friday, June 10, 2005


Sean Penn in new role at Friday Prayers in Tehran

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: "Fri Jun 10, 8:56 AM ET

Hollywood actor Sean Penn, adopting the role of a journalist, scribbled in his notebook as Friday prayer worshippers in Tehran chanted 'Death to America.'
Penn, 44, in Iran on a brief assignment for the San Francisco Chronicle ahead of presidential elections on June 17, may be one of the best known faces in film, but he went unrecognized by the 6,000 faithful at Tehran University.
Working with a translator, Penn took copious notes as hardline cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati urged the congregation to vote en masse 'to make America angry.'
The actor, who visited Iraq before and after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and wrote an account of his second trip for the Chronicle, told Reuters he had decided to come to Iran because of growing tensions between Washington and Tehran.
The United States accuses Iran of developing nuclear weapons and sponsoring terrorism. Iran denies the charges. "

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Friday, June 03, 2005


"Ohne Druck wird es nicht gehen" | Politik | Deutsche Welle |

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"Ohne Druck wird es nicht gehen"

Für einen demokratischen Iran: Mehran Barati

Von Deutschland aus kämpft der iranische Exil-Politiker Mehran Barati für Demokratie in seinem Heimatland. Im Gespräch mit DW-WORLD fordert er mehr Druck von außen, um einen Regimewechsel von innen zu ermöglichen.

DW-WORLD: Wie gestaltet sich Ihre Arbeit in der Exil-Opposition von Deutschland aus?

Mehran Barati: Wir sind bemüht, keine Exil-Orgnaisation zu sein, sondern eine einheitliche Bewegung im In- und Ausland. Daher haben wir uns vor mehr als anderthalb Jahren mit gleichgesinnten Iranern, die für eine demokratische Republik eintreten, verständigt. Sie agieren im Iran, wir hier. Wir haben vor, in den nächsten Monaten die politische Arbeit im Iran unter dem Namen "Iranische Republikaner" zu beginnen. Falls uns das verboten wird, wollen wir um internationale Unterstützung werben.

Wie beurteilen Sie die jetzigen Verhandlungen der EU mit dem Iran - hinsichtlich der Ziele, aber auch hinsichtlich der Mittel?

Wir unterstützen die Ziele, die Mittel hingegen kennen wir im Einzelnen nicht. Die Gewährleistung der Sicherheit für den Iran würde im Endeffekt bedeuten, dass alle Atomwaffen in der Region abgeschafft würden. Dies ist für uns unabhängig von den Herrschaftsverhältnissen im Iran ein willkommenes Ziel. Es wäre gut, wenn im Rahmen des vorhandenen Konflikt ein Weg gefunden werden könnte, das Gebiet zu entmilitarisieren.

Wie beurteilen Sie das Verhältnis zwischen den Positionen der EU und der USA?

Manche glauben, dass es zwischen den USA und Europa eine Arbeitsteilung gibt: Die USA "spielen die Bösen", während die Europäer für die Verhandlungen zuständig sind. Das kann zu einem gewissen Grad stimmen. Letztendlich wird es ohne Druck nicht gehen - die Frage ist aber, welche Druckmittel dies sein könnten. Dabei sollte man nicht nur an den Weltsicherheitsrat, sondern etwa auch an einen Einfuhrstopp für Technologie aus Europa und den USA denken - auf diese Importe ist der Iran angewiesen.

Wie beurteilt die iranische Bevölkerung die derzeitige Situation?

Die Bevölkerung ist für jede Unterstützung dankbar. Demokratie ist ohnehin keine regionale Frage mehr. Durch die Globalisierung kennt auch der Gedanke der Freiheit keine Trennung zwischen verschiedenen Ländern und Regionen. Der Iran ist Teil der Weltgemeinschaft - wer in dieser Zeit die Demokratie im Iran unterstützt, ist bei der Bevölkerung sicherlich sehr willkommen.

Was passiert, wenn die Verhandlungen mit dem Iran scheitern?

Die Verhandlungen werden zunächst zu keinem Ergebnis führen. Die Iraner taktieren sehr stark und wollen die Urananreicherung durchführen - wogegen völkerrechtlich nichts zu sagen wäre. Die Frage ist allerdings, wohin es führt, wenn meine Landsleute in den Besitz von Atomwaffen gelangen. Ich befürchte eine Kettenwirkung für zahlreiche weitere Länder, etwa für Ägypten und Saudi-Arabien. Es würden zusätzliche Risiken entstehen. In den Verhandlungen müssen daher Angebote gemacht werden, die den Iran in die politische Weltgemeinschaft integrieren - allerdings ohne das Regime zu akzeptieren oder zu unterstützen.

Also möglichst ein schneller Regimewechsel?

Wir sind für einen Regimewechsel durch die iranische Bevölkerung. Eine Veränderung von außen, insbesondere mit militärischen Mitteln, hätte unvorhersehbare Folgen. Die Gegenreaktionen wären weitaus schlimmer als derzeit im Irak, da das Zerstörungspotenzial ungleich größer ist.

Welchen Einfluss werden die Präsidentschaftswahlen auf den Verhandlungsprozess haben?

Es ist gut möglich, dass Ex-Präsident Rafsandschani zum Präsidenten gewählt wird. Er wird darauf bedacht sein, die Konflikte mit dem Westen zu entschärfen. In der Atomfrage dürfte er einen Weg suchen, der beide Seiten zufrieden stellen kann. Aber: Der Präsident muss sich vor jeder Entscheidung bei dem Revolutionsführer Chamenei absichern. Selbst seine Kabinettsliste wird er zunächst mit Chamenei absprechen. Wenn er sich in der Atomfrage genauso verhält, ist ein Erfolg in den Verhandlungen zweifelhaft.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005


Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Laureate Honored With UCI Peacebuilding Award

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Iranian human rights lawyer and Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, was presented with the third-annual UC Irvine Citizen Peacebuilding Award on Saturday, at the Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel.

She is the only Iranian ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize, which she received in 2003 for her human rights activism in Iran.

Ebadi also visited UCI on May 20 for a tree dedication ceremony in Aldrich Park, commemorating the anniversary of His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama’s visit last spring.

After graduating with a doctorate in private law with honors and holding a six-month apprenticeship in ajudication, Ebadi became the first female in Iranian justice to have served as a judge.

A turning point in Ebadi’s career came after the Iranian Revolution in 1969, which led to females being denied the right to practice law.

As a result, Ebadi and other female judges left their posts and were given clerical duties.

Ebadi later opened her own law practice, representing high-profile cases involving various human rights violations.

The title of Saturday’s talk, translated from Farsi to English by an interpreter, was “The Challenges of Women, Children and Human Rights Today” which centered around what Ebadi considers the two fundamental factors that have led to chaos in the Middle East: the lack of democracy and oil.

Ebadi believes that the current government has fallen behind the path of democracy, a crucial element she admits is “the most fundamental [reason for] chaos in the region.”

According to Ebadi, the justification of why the Iranian government does not support democracy is the belief that Islam and democracy are clashing ideals.

“There is a belief that democracy grew from the West, that it is completely incompatible with the Middle East and thus, Islam,” Ebadi said.

According to Ebadi, the repercussions of citizens who attempt to criticize the government, are dire. Any action of the sort is considered “blasphemy” and that those who commit it, according to the government, “deserve to die.”

The second point Ebadi discussed was the reason behind the wars and chaos in the Middle East.

“The Middle East is a target of greed because of its wealth,” Ebadi said. “The people of the region don’t resist. This poses the greatest danger of our time.”

The topic of resistance to the current regime allowed Ebadi to segue into the human rights portion of her talk, especially women’s rights.

She addressed gender discrimination in Iran, bringing to light the law which clearly defines women as being worth half of a man. As such, men are allowed to marry and divorce freely while a woman would have a hard time getting a divorce.

According to Islamic law, it takes two female witnesses to substitute for a male witness in court cases.

The importance of women participating in a feminist movement comes at a time where 63 percent of university students in Iran are women.

The inequality of women is just another form of division in the country. Religious discrimination is also rampant in the region where certain religions are not nationally recognized.

For example, in Tehran, there is no government permission required to build a mosque for Sunnis, a sect of Islam.

Ebadi also addressed concerns related to the poverty level, claiming that one out of seven Iranians are living on less than $1 a day, a situation which she claims is the result of “wrong economic policies.”

The event concluded with the presentation of the Citizen Peacebuilding Award.

Ebadi also received a proclamation from Irvine Mayor Beth Krom, in recognition for her humanitarian work.

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