Former Foreign Minister on Negotiations With the United States

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Former Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motakki, in a debate with Reformist politician Mostafa Kavakebian, on the state television programme “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” has said that “negotiations with American in present circumstances are not to Iran’s advantage”.

Motakki added, “the most important tool in diplomacy is dialogue; it must not be permitted that they impose the absence of dialogue. In these circumstances we must be in relations with the entire world except for one exception [i.e. Israel] [and] take the lead in dialogue”.

Regarding the letters sent by U.S. President Barack Obama to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Motakki stated, “[U.S. President Jimmy] Carter also wrote a letter to his Excellency Imam [Ruhollah Khomeini] [and] the Imam and Supreme Leader replied to these letters and when it is necessary, we will reflect the text of the Supreme Leader’s letter”.

Motakki, who also might run as a presidential candidate in June 2012, also argued: “the people judge on the basis of the practical change of behaviour”.

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Obama’s New Term Shows a ‘Realistic Approach’?

The head of the Majles Commission for National Security and Foreign Policy, Ala’oddin Boroujerdi, has made a number of noteworthy comments in conservation with Khaneh-ye Mellat, the Majles’ news agency, regarding US President Barack Obama and the possibility of negotiations with the United States, saying “if these verbal statements aren’t political, it shows the realistic approach of Washington in the new term of Obama’s presidency.”

Boroujerdi added: “Iran is a country with mastery of nuclear knowledge and has operated persistently in the peaceful framework and seriously disagrees with any kind of tendency to the side of a nuclear bomb.”

Boroujerdi also once against emphasized the importance of sanctions relief, “the official recognition of the right of Iran for the use of peaceful nuclear energy by America can be the important starting point for solving the nuclear problem of several years and following that, in future negotiations the P5+1 must take serious steps for the removal of sanctions.”

Mohsen Rezaei, the secretary of the Expedience Discernment Council, has claimed  that Obama’s “silence” regarding Israel’s recent military engagement in the Gaza strip is the outcome of an “[pre]electoral agreement” with Israel.

Majles Commission blames government and Central Bank over drug shortages

Hossein Ali Shahriari, the head of the Commission for Health and Medicine has criticized the government over the fact that despite the increase in its budget after subsidies reform, the health and medicine budget with the existence of high levels of inflation has decreased by 6%. Shahriari also plainly stated that “the Central Bank in recent months has not allocated any currency for the health part [of the budget].”

Shahriari added: “We are always witness to the increase in the construction budget for different parts of the country, but the government has paid no attention to the domain of health and medicine.”

Shahriari emphasized that in the last six months the Central Bank has allocated “virtually no currency” for the health and medicine budget and the import of medicines, saying “the mismanagement of the Central Bank was the primary factor of the problems for the allocation of currency.”

As an example of the considerable increase in the prices of several treatments in his public report to the Majles he stated that the price of syringe angiographies have increased by 245%, radiological film has increased in price by 249%, electroshock therapy by 289%, helium gas by 667%, and dialysis sets by 352%.

Addressing President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Shahriari commented, “from the 6,000  billion tomans in the targeted subsidies reform law which should have been designated to the health [budget], no amount has been fulfilled … Unfortunately the government only proclaims slogans and must apportion credit for these slogans and the government has shirked [its duties]. Certainly  individuals who need cancer drugs and [it is] imperative, today do not have appropriate access to these drugs.”

Petraeus and the perils of Gmail

Fars News has attempted to use David Petraeus’ resignation over having an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell to claim Google’s Gmail service is “not safe.” The article claims that anonymity cannot be guaranteed, even under a pseudonym, and that past e-mails and chats even if deleted will be kept on a separate server and will still be able to be accessed. The article also claims that the access of the American government to the accounts of Google users is expanding. It also cites Petraeus’ and Broadwell’s use of Gmail’s draft function to message one another, without actually e-mailing one another and this too, says the article, has ultimately proven insecure as well.

Mashaei for president?

According to the Revolutionary Guard-affiliated Bashgah-e Khabarnegaran-e Javan, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s office has once again rejected rumors that the president’s controversial chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, will run for president in April 2013.

This rejection has been released amidst rumors that Mashaei in a meeting with Mazandaranis (Iranians from the northern province of Mazandaran where Mashaei happens to be from) living in Tehran, said that he will enter the race and that “no one can prevent my candidacy.” He is also alleged to have said: “I am ready for martyrdom.” Asr-e Iran, which published the story also quote Mashaei as saying, “We have been constantly active for seven years and we won’t give the eleventh government that easily to [Mohammad Baqir] Qalibaf [that is, the mayor of Tehran].”

Rafsanjani Renews Call for Reconciliation

The deputy chief of the Majles Commission for Health and Medicine has announced that it will be finalized next week whether a motion for the impeachment of the Minister of Health Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi will be presented before MPs. The deputy chief is quoted by the Majles news agency as stating: “Unfortunately at the moment medicine and medical equipment in the country are in great crisis, [and] it can be observed in the shortage of special drugs and the disarray of hospitals.” The representative for Rasht also criticized the ministry for failing to plan for this eventuality and not stockpiling drugs. Referring to a possible call for the minister’s impeachment, the commission’s deputy chief said: “The subject in recent weeks has become one of the subjects of debate amongst the representatives … On the basis of the planning undertaken, the decision regarding the impeachment of the Minister of Health, Medicine and Medical Education will be finalised next week.”

Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of the Expediency Discernment Council, has stated in an interview with Entekhab that he stands by the comments he made at his final Friday prayer sermon in July 2009, in the aftermath of Iran’s controversial presidential election [and which I attended at the time]. Moreover, as Ebtekar News observes, at the time Rafsanjani was also head of the Assembly of Experts, whose job it is, at least in principle, to monitor the supreme leader’s performance and appoint his successor. Since his famous Friday prayer sermon, Rafsanjani has lost that position to Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, a stalwart of the traditional right, who is foremost concerned with preserving the Islamic system he played an important role in bringing into being.

In his famous Friday prayer sermon, Rafsanjani offered his recommendations for the restoration of calm, as protests had swept the country. Amongst his recommendations were the release of political prisoners and the recognition of the protesters’  demands to the end of realising “national reconciliation.” Since that time Rafsanjani has repeatedly called for such a reconciliation, suggesting it is the only route for the country to return to a state of “normality and calm.” At the time, Rafsanjani’s speech was met with severe criticism by numerous Principalists and Khamenei loyalists, especially in light of the supreme leader’s speech some weeks earlier which had essentially told the protesters to accept Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s re-election and move on.

In his interview Rafsanjani added, comparing the present with his experience in government during the Iran-Iraq war: “At the moment the basic problem is with the foreigners. In the [Iran-Iraq] war it was the same. We gave priority to the reform of foreign relations and we started with the ceasefire. In those negotiations the opposing side also understood that it is faced with a rational movement in Iran. Of course they also cooperated well with us … In that period on the internal scene differences were intensified. My solution was that we form a government that is a combination of the influential wings of the revolution (the conservatives, independents, and the radicals).”

Criticism of Ali and Sadeq Larijani

The website Digarban carries the comments of plainclothes quasi-official vigilantes critical of the Ali and Sadeq Larijani, the Majles speaker and judiciary chief, respectively. Ruhollah Mahdavi, who writes for the hard-line website Bashgah-e Khabarnegaran-e Javan, reacting to the acquittal of preacher Mansur Arzi after having threatened to murder President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, claimed the judiciary was “under the influence” of this preacher.

In reaction to the comments of Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of Iran’s human rights council, who stated, “If expedient, we will negotiate with America in the depths of hell,” Mahdavi had previously said: “Why doesn’t anyone attack him when the Larijani brother clearly talks about probable relations with America?”

Unlike other hard-line bloggers, particularly Ahmadinejad supporters, who have been arrested as a result of their attacks on the Larijani brothers, Digarban claims that Mahdavi, a self-styled virtual “soldier of the soft war,” enjoys the protection of the Revolutionary Guards.

Majles’ Commission head comments on talks

The head of the Majles’ Commission for National Security and Foreign Policy, Ala’oddin Boroujerdi, commenting on Iran’s negotiations with the P5+1 over its controversial nuclear program, has told Khaneh-ye Mellat, the Majles’ news agency: “In the face of confidence building steps that Iran will show in the negotiations and the opportunity the negotiations put in the hands of the West, part of the West’s program in negotiations must be the removal of sanctions”. The MP for Boroujerd added: “The removal of sanctions by the West must for certain be made part of the formula, because [they] are an oppressive, unjust and imposed act upon the Iranian nation”. Finally, he stressed that Iran requires 20% uranium for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) and “the principle of enrichment will never change.”

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Serat News on Petraeus Scandal: ‘The Terrible Organization kneels before a woman!’

The hardline Serat News close to the Kayhan Institute weighs in on the debate over David Petraeus’s resignation due to an extramarital affair with his biographer in an article titled “When the Terrible Organization kneels before a woman!”

“The forces that the CIA can bring to accompany it, the most elite of which can be seen with the existence of individuals like Petraeus, who even though the head of an important organization kneeled [when] confronted with an infiltrator and a woman whose spirit of militarism had distanced her from her family for years.”

“Paula Broadwell for close to ten years cooperated with the American military forces. Even though she has a husband and two children, but she enthralled herself to militarism and was present in countries like Afghanistan following Petraeus who was at the time the American commander in Afghanistan … If we look at the course of the lives of the past leaders and managers of the CIA it can be seen to be full of these type of people in positions of power with a brutal soul.“

Foreign Affairs

The Deputy Commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, at a ceremony in remembrance of Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, the so-called ‘father of Iran’s missile program’ who was killed in an explosion at Al Ghadir missile base, which killed 17 people in November 2011, told the audience in attendance, “Tehrani Moghaddam has forever taken away peace and calm from the Israelis.” Salami’s speech was published on Sepah News, the official news agency of the Revolutionary Guards.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that a “meeting for Syrian national dialogue” will take place next week in the Iranian capital, Tehran. Amirabdollahian claimed that different representatives of the opposition and the government will be present at the meeting. The meeting will take place under the banner of “No to Violence, Yes to Democracy.”

Alef, affiliated to Principalist and Ahmadinejad critic, Ahmad Tavakkoli, has claimed the United Kingdom has given £13 million to the “rebels of Syria.” Adding, “The recommendations put forward by David Cameron [i.e. the British Prime Minister] regarding the changes in the politics of the European Union against Syria whose aim is securing armaments for the terrorists under the pretext of officially recognising their right to self-defense … London has performed an important role in exacerbating the fire of unrest in Syria.”

Domestic Affairs

Saeed Qassemi, a former Commander in the Revolutionary Guards in the Iran-Iraq war, now linked to the radical quasi-official vigilante group, the Ansar-e Hezbollah and formerly a staunch defender of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, told Asr-e emruz when asked about the prospect of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani running for office in the 2013 presidential election: “the history of Hashemi [Rafsanjani] and his hangers on has come to an end in the revolution…these things are being said  [i.e. that Rafsanjani will run for the presidency in June 2013] so they can say “we are here” and if not both Hashemi [Rafsanjani] and [former President Mohammad] Khatami in our view are finished. ”

Javad Karimi Qodusi, a member of the Majles Commission, has claimed, that five political prisoners are the “probable agents” responsible for the death of blogger and online political activist, Sattar Beheshti, who mysteriously died in custody at the Kahrizak detention centre last week. Karimi Qodusi added, “this killing is suspicious and I am suspicious of the influence of the seditious movement [i.e. the name hardliners generally use when referring to the Green Movement and those deemed sympathetic to it] in this killing.”

Two preachers very well-known Tehran preachers, Mansur Arzi and Saeed Haddadian, who had been brought before court after President Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, lodged a complaint against them for having threatened to kill him, have received  their sentences. Arzi was acquitted and Haddadian was forced to pay a very small fine.

Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the Majles, has said  that stopping the second phase of subsidy reform is a policy to surpass the pressure of Western-led sanctions.

MP Hojjat al-Islam Hossein Sobhani Nia has told the Islamic Republic News Agency that the date and time of President Ahmadinejad’s questioning over the state of the economy and his government’s economic policy, is still yet to be confirmed. It is unlikely that the time and date of the president’s appearance will be announced prior to the public holiday of Ashura, when Shi’is traditionally mourn the death of the third Imam and grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, Hossein.

Iran makes arrests in connection with death of blogger

Shabakeh-ye Iran has reported that three interrogators of the blogger and online activist Sattar Beheshti have been arrested in connection with his death. The death of Beheshti was reported last week when his family received a call from the authorities to retrieve his body from the Kahrizak detention center’s coroner’s office.

The General Prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ezhei also confirmed to journalists that evidence has been found of “the effects of bruising in five places” on Sattar Beheshti’s body.

The admission comes after much confusion and obfuscation over whether Beheshti had in fact died under torture at the infamous Kahrizak detention center, the very same detention center where a number of other young Iranians had died and allegedly endured physical and psychological abuse after Iran’s controversial 2009 presidential election.

This admission by Mohsen Ezhei conflicts with earlier comments by Ato’allah Boroujerdi, head of the Majles’ Commission for National Security and Foreign Policy, and who had been appointed to follow up on Beheshti’s case and how he had died. Boroujerdi had claimed  based on “preliminary information” there was no evidence of assault on Beheshti’s body.

The Reformist albeit banned party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, has condemned on their affiliated website, Nowruz News, the torture and death of Sattar Beheshti in very forceful terms.

During the same news conference Mohseni Ezhei also stated that “special privileges” have been given to Mehdi Hashemi, son of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, which have not been given to other prisoners. Last week, the hardline Raja News alleged that while in hospital Hashemi had had prepared numerous “fatty” foods and snacks, before undergoing a heart angiography.

Mohseni Ezhei responded to a statement issued by the Rafsanjani family which had been critical of the authorities’ treatment of Mehdi and his transfer from hospital back to Evin prison. Mohseni Ezhei stated that doctors had confirmed that Hashemi’s heart was healthy, adding, “I must say that we like to pay attention to every prisoner as is possible, but it is not feasible for us to provide whatever the families of prisoners want.”

The head of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s political bureau, Mohammad Jafar Behdad, has said that certain groups, i.e., the Basij and Revolutionary Guards, though Behdad doesn’t mention any organization by name, compare the president in their “internal bulletins” to former President Abdolhasan Banisadr who was ousted and forced to flee the country and Masoud Rajavi, the leader of the much maligned People’s Mojahedin of Iran.

Both leaders fell out with and eventually found themselves marginalized by forces loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s founder, and forced into exile in the early years of the revolution.

International perspectives

Ali Akbar Velayati, Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s advisor on international affairs and a prospective presidential candidate has claimed that “more than 90% of the people in Syria who are at war against the government and people of this country are not Syrian.” Velayati made his remarks at the inauguration of the new Islamic Awakening News Agency.

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Defense Minister Claims American Drone Was in Iranian Airspace

All the major Iranian news agencies have reported the comments of Iranian Defense Minister, Commander Ahmad Vahidi, in reaction to the US drone allegedly shot down by Iranian forces over international waters.

Vahidi is quoted by Fars News explicitly rejecting the claim that the US drone was in international waters: “A week ago an unrecognized drone entered the Islamic Republic of Iran’s airspace in the Persian Gulf and through the timely, intelligent and decisive action of the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran it was forced to flee. … This, as well as previous experience indicates that the Islamic Republic of Iran through necessary vigilance, precisely observes all the necessary motions and with effective strength will take decisive and timely actions.”

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Iran intelligence ministry: War may be averted with diplomacy

Jason Rezaian at The Washington Post reported yesterday on a brief “analysis” which featured on the Ministry of Intelligence’s website entitled “The Reasons and Obstacles to an Attack on Iran by the Zionist Regime”. What follows is a translation of the article’s conclusion from the Ministry of Intelligence’s own website:

“We must take heed that one of the important and fundamental options for insuring the Islamic Republic of Iran against foreign threats and military threats from the Zionist regime and their enemy actions, is the serious decrease of internal disagreements and the strengthening of popular bases. We must try to keep the management regime of the country up to date and at a time when the country is confronted with extensive sanctions, increase the efficiency of the government. Of course mentioning this very important subject that any kind of military attack against the nuclear installations of the Islamic Republic of Iran, cannot have any benefit for the aggressors and it is certain that the ability of the Islamic Republic up to a considerable point can respond to them with all its capability and make them regret their ill-considered action. But it is clear that the outbreak of war and resort to force, is so serious and horrendous that the smallest neglect of it, is an unforgivable sin. For the same reason, for the prevention of war different options exist. One of those is the adoption of diplomatic and political policies and utilizing the potential of international forums, which is a necessary course and of course is less-costly. But on the other side, military readiness for confrontation with these hostile actions is also one of the most basic courses for prevention the outbreak of war”.

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Reformist newspaper predicts Obama victory

Interestingly the Iranian media has not been awash with speculation on the U.S. presidential election. In fact the coverage has proven relatively sparse.

Fayyaz Zahed a well-respected history professor and journalist, has written an op-ed for the Reformist daily Etemaad on the U.S. presidential election arguing Obama will win and be returned to the White House. Zahed says having written on the subject last year, he could never have imagined the race would be so close and that Republican challenger Mitt Romney would become such a strong competitor.

“However much the Republicans claim structural changes in the Middle East, it is the Democrats that also undertook large wars and strategic changes in the region…It is not only American society and the Middle East which sensitively looks upon this election; Israel is no exception. The re-election of Obama is the nightmare of the Right in Israel, especially for Netanyahu. Even though American Jews are traditionally inclined to the Democrats, Netanyahu this time is making every effort so that Obama does not return to the White House. Obama has had the worst relations with the occupying regime in recent years.”

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Rafsanjani visits his jailed son in prison

Mehr News reports on the opening of a new naval base in the Persian Gulf by the Revolutionary Guards. Revolutionary Guards’ chief, Mohammad Ali Jafari at the opening ceremony stated, “Maintaining security in the waters of the Strait of Hormuz and the disputed strategic islands in the Persian Gulf (the three Iranian islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs) are important missions of the base…Most of the marines of the IRGC Naval Force and well-equipped naval fleets of the IRGC will be stationed in this region.”

Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of the Judiciary’s  human rights council has attacked the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, Ahmed Shaheed, calling him “an actor of the Western media”. Larijani added, “this Special Rapporteur of the UN, instead of thinking about inspecting Iran’s prisons, it is better he tours Washington, Paris and London…The report of Ahmed Sheed was totally unprofessional and based on information that is now being propagated and published against Iran by the Western media”.

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