Conflicting reports surround death of IRGC Commander

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A number of outlets offer conflicting reports regarding the death of the Revolutionary Guards’ commander, Hossein Shateri, the chief of Iran’s Headquarters for Reconstruction in Lebanon. Abna news agency reports that this Commander of the Revolutionary Guards was killed in Lebanon at the hands of “agents of Israel.”

It has also been reported that Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force, visited the home of Shateri, expressing his condolences to the family of the deceased. Soleimani is also said to have confirmed Shateri’s death soon after it was initially reported.

His funeral ceremony was held Thursday [Feb. 14] in Tehran; it was attended by high-level members of the IRGC command.

While Fars News doesn’t specify the location of Shateri’s death, the non-Iran based website Digarban has reported that a well-known pro-Hezbollah activist and also the Iran-based website Blogh.ir have reported that Shateri was killed along with two other companions in Aleppo by “mercenaries of the Zionist regime.”

According to Fars, Shateri, who also went by the name of Engineer Hesam, was responsible for the reconstruction of southern Lebanon in the aftermath of Hezbollah’s 33-day conflict with Israeli forces in 2006.

Mashreq News has posted several photos of Shateri while on duty in Lebanon.

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In other news

The Reformist daily Etemaad reports that former Health Minister, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, might be presented by Principalist women organisations such as the Society of Zeinab as a possible presidential contender.

“If during her time at the ministry Dastjerdi was faced with little commotion and rarely made political statements, but her removal according to many was very “political” and has been announced as following disagreement with some of the president’s and his supporters’ demands and resistance to the removal of her deputy Mohammad Baqer Larijani from the Chair of the Medical Faculty of the University of Tehran.”

The head of the Basij paramilitary, Commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi has spoken out regarding both Iran’s negotiations with the P5+1 [ithe five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany] stating: “Some people naively think negotiations with America are important and fruitful, when it is more than 10 years that we are negotiating with the P5+1 group and since these negotiations over 10 years haven’t had a result, negotiations with America won’t work either.”

“They want to pull down the flag of combat against Arrogance which is in Iran’s control, when the Americans have undertaken the most belligerent behaviour in history with the Islamic Republic of Iran and the people, and all the limbs of America commit evil against Iran and with its own language, [America] announces its intention to negotiate.”

Moreover, while not invoking former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani by name, there was little doubt about who Naqdi was criticizing when he said: “These are the same extremists that in the days of the sedition did not show any compassion for Friday prayers, Jerusalem Day and Ashura. How do they today partake in gestures of moderation? Someone who resists the Judiciary over the trial of his family cannot espouse moderation.”

Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and a prospective presidential contender, in a gathering of media outlets from Tunisia, Yemen and Afghanistan, has stated, “When Arab countries understood the hand of America and some reactionary Arab governments are active in Syria, they moved to the side of a political solution.”

Velayati added: “The people of Syria were in pursuit of reform of their own affairs and this was a rightful demand and in order to reach it they embarked on a struggle with the government…These countries are moving towards the formation of a unified Islamic community and transforming the Islamic world into one of the great global powers…In every country the people decide to cast an undesirable government aside and put a desirable government to use.”

The hard-line Ayatollah and patron of the Endurance Front for the Islamic Front, Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, at a doctrinal meeting for the Law Enforcement Forces said that “humanity without religion is mere bestiality,” complaining that after 34 years since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, “the signs of a proclivity towards humanism” is still seen the books and articles of Iranian writers.

Image via Blogh.ir

 

 

Revolutionary Guards issue statement against those posing a threat to regime unity

The Revolutionary Guards have issued a statement for the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution warning that “any action which destroys unity is deserving of decisive rebuttal”.

“The spirituality and guidance of the Supreme Leader in various areas, in particular in the field of the preservation of national unity and the interests of the regime and the revolution, are recognized by the Revolutionary Guards as the “clarifying explanation” for all. Without doubt any kind of action which destroys unity and prepares the basis for deviant movements and controversy in the media of the enemy is playing a role in the plans of the enemy”.

It is of course important to read this statement against the recent backdrop of the all out and very public war of words which has been unfolding and ongoing between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, who was pelted with shoes and prayer stones in one of Iran’s most holy shrines by Ahmadinejad supporters on Sunday. A series of videos have also been leaked in recent weeks, which appear to implicate the allies of the two men in financial corruption and political horse-trading.

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Online Activism Further Targeted Ahead of Controversial Election

Digarban, quoting Fars News, has reported that online activism calling for the boycott or decreased participation in this year’s presidential election, or protests, sit ins and strikes has been announced illegal.

The announcement was made by the Working Group for the Determination of Criminal Content, which is responsible for internet censorship inside Iran.

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Former Head of the Revolutionary Guards: We will enter the area if we sense a threat

Commander Yahya Rahim Safavi, former Revolutionary Guards chief and advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Iran’s joint chiefs of staff, in the course of a meeting of ex-servicemen in Tehran has warned of the prospect of a “new sedition from some inside [the country]” and also ominously stated that if “we sense a danger to the regime, we will enter the arena.”

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Former IRGC chief says US working to turn Turkey into Iran’s strategic rival

Commander Yahya Rahim Safavi, advisor to the Supreme Leader and the Joint Chiefs of Staff has stated, “the Americans think they must have a presence in West Asia and North Africa to ensure the survival and security of the Zionist regime and to create a strategic rival in confrontation with Iran, this rival is Turkey”.

Referring to a 2012 United States’ National Security Report approved by President Barack Obama, Safavi said, “in this document of the Americans they introduced this as the biggest economic and security threat to America and in this same document Iran is mentioned as a regional threat and they have strengthened the Fifth naval fleet in the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean, so they can preserve their dominance in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans and control the global economy and energy”.

Safavi emphasized further, “in regional issues and matters, the Americans don’t want Iran to be the first power of the region, and because of this they created the issues in Syria and with the money of some Arab countries and the politicking of America and deputyship of Turkey, they pursue Syria’s destabilization”.

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Member of Islamic Coalition Party: “If Ahmadinejad is deposed, a problem will not occur for the regime”

Hamid Reza Taraghi, a prominent member of the Islamic Coalition Party, in an interview  with Asr-e Iran, has said that while the regime “in the next couple of months has the capacity to tolerate Ahmadinejad, if Ahmadinejad is to be deposed, a problem will not occur for the regime.”

Taraghi went on: “In the end efforts will be made to see this government reaches its culmination, but if it doesn’t, we are not very worried that a problem will occur in the country. Naturally, if someone is after disrupting the conditions of the country, he is playing a role in the enemy’s puzzle and the regime can solve these kinds of issues.”

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Larijani brother & former Tehran Prosecutor both embroiled in Allegations of Corruption

Majles Speaker, Ali Larijani has released his full rebuttal of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Sunday’s Majles session on his own personal site, which has since spread across the web and social networks. Following a fiery exchange, Larijani refuses to permit Ahmadinejad to speak any further and accuses him of violating the Majles protocol.

Meanwhile it seems that a source close to the Ahmadinejad government have released the video and voice recording of a private conversation allegedly between former Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi and Fazel Larijani, brother to Majles Speaker, Ali Larijani, in which Fazel Larijani seems to be requesting political favours in exchange for economic inducements. Ahmadinejad read out the text of the conversation in parliamentary session relating to the impeachment of the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Abdolreza Sheikholeslami.

Baztab-e emruz has published a controversial article, the veracity of which is still to be verified, on another highly controversial video which has been edited and placed on YouTube and which appears to implicate Fazel Larijani in a 30 billion toman bribery scandal.

Since publishing this story and a number of others Baztab has claimed that it has been under heavy cyber-attack and at the time of writing baztab.net is down and inaccessible.

The article in question claims that one of the men featured in the apparently secretly taped video, a businessman and multi-millionaire oil broker by the name of Babak Zanjani, and the man claiming Larijani attempted to extract the bribe from him, is linked to “the mafia patrons of Ahmadinejad” and Saeed Mortazavi.

Baztab alleges that the video has been released by Mortazavi and “wayward security forces”. The video allegedly features Mortazavi, Zanjani, and another man by the name of Hassan Mir Kazemi.

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Baztab posts a photograph of Mir Kazemi, who had been photographed wielding a gun on a motorbike in the aftermath of the 2009 election protests in which a number of protesters were shot by plainclothesmen.

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Baztab has also posted pictures of Mir Kazemi and Zanjani on the latter’s private jet and alleged that the two were involved in “money laundering” outside the country.

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The article then goes on to allege in connection with the charges of money laundering that Zanjani was given “tens of billions of dollars’ worth of oil prior to the intensification of sanctions without the relevant guarantees”, and through numerous deals over the course of the last five years has accumulated considerable wealth.

Baztab also claims that Mir Kazemi is “of the Mafia elements supported by Ahmadinejad, with considerable outstanding bank loans were paid with special support of his companies”.

Baztab is effectively implying that the Ahmadinejad government covered Mir Kazemi’s bad loans, which he never intended to repay.

Baztab then features a picture of Mir Kazemi alongside the Ahmadinejad’s Minister of Industry, Ali Reza Tahmasebi, at one of former’s companies, prior to his re-election in 2009.

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Infamous Tehran Prosecutor and Ahmadinejad Ally Arrested

Former Prosecutor of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, Saeed Mortazavi, has been arrested as he left work Fars News reports. Since his arrest Mortazavi was transferred to Evin jail.

Fars News then appeared to have removed the article first posted announcing Mortazvi’s arrest only to repost the news later with additional details.

The news of Mortazavi’s arrest was also posted on the website of the Tehran Prosecutor’s office, so there is little doubt as to its credibility.

The reason for Mortazavi’s arrest had still not been announced at the time when Fars posted the story, but the news agency close to the Revolutionary Guards speculated that the open case over the deaths of 3 young men in Kahrizak detention centre in 2009 during his tenure as Tehran Prosecutor is perhaps the reason for the arrest, but Shahr news agency has quoted a former member of the Supreme Court, alleging the reason for Mortazavi’s arrest was the secret recording of his conversation with Fazel Larijani, brother to the Majles Speaker allegedly implicating the latter in financial corruption. The inaudible tape was played by Ahmadinejad in the course of the parliamentary session, which if accurate is very damning (a transcript of the secretly recorded conversation has been published in the Reformist daily Bahar here), which in turn led to a forceful rebuke by the Majles Speaker, Ali Larijani, and his telling the president that he longer is permitted to speak due to his violation of Majles protocol.

The video below is of Larijani’s effective dismissal of Ahmadinejad and his telling him to leave the Majles floor.

The timing of Mortazavi’s arrest is indeed fortuitous given that it has occurred a day after a fiery exchange of words and threats by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Majles Speaker, Ali Larijani. It seems Mortazavi’s arrest is more likely the result of political infighting rather than any specific charge.

In particular, and as indicated by the comments and official complaint made by Fazel Larijani, it seems Mortazavi’s arrest might well be connected to the implicit threat of further revelations vis-à-vis the Larijani family. Sadeq Larijani, another brother of the Majles Speaker, currently heads the judiciary undoubtedly was at the forefront in issuing Mortazavi’s arrest warrant.

Mortazavi became infamous in the era of President Mohammad Khatami for playing a leading role as a district judge in the closure of a slew of prominent Reformist newspapers, and was allegedly involved in the death of Canadian Iranian journalist Zahra Kazemi.

Mortazavi was also found culpable by a parliamentary inquiry for 3 deaths in 2009 which had occurred in Kahrizak detention centre while he was Tehran’s prosecutor.

Ahmadinejad had been in conflict with a significant constituency of the Majles, who had repeatedly objected to the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare’s appointment of Mortazavi as caretaker to the powerful Social Security Organization. Eventually the Minister of Labour, Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, was impeached over the refusal to fire Mortazavi.

In other news

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an interview with the Arabic language news channel Al Mayadin, has said regarding this year’s approaching presidential election, “The nation of Iran are more knowledgeable than for me to want to introduce someone for them as a candidate [in the election]”.

Many Iran watchers and commentators are still waiting to see whether the Ahmadinejad government will put forward or explicitly back a candidate for Iran’s June presidential election.

Ahmadinejad supporter, Abdolreza Davari, and a member of the scientific committee for jihad in the university, has told  Arya news agency that President Ahmadinejad “has revealed only one card of thousands”.

He added, “the president’s words in the Majles had two points. The first was the president’s determination of the pathology of the country’s legal frameworks. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s arguments showed the processes of legislation have gone in a direction whereby normal laws have come to take precedence over the constitution”.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, brother to Majles Speaker, Ali Larijani, has attempted to downplay Sunday’s controversial entanglement between Ali Larijani and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the impeachment of the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare and much else besides.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, who is the head of the human rights council of Iran’s Judiciary claimed that the heated exchanges between the Majles Speaker and the President were “a sign of the exuberance of the political system of the country”.

 

 

Foreign Minister Salehi reacts positively to John Kerry appointment

The conservative website Khabar Online, close to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, has reported Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi’s “positive reaction” to the choice of John Kerry as the new US secretary of state.

Salehi stated his hope that John Kerry, by means of his “individual qualities,” can “reform some of the anti-Iranian approaches and policies of the American government.”

Salehi made the comments on the sidelines of veteran politician Hassan Habibi’s funeral ceremony.

Salehi continued, calling Kerry “a recognized face” in American foreign policy, who is familiar with the changes undergone by the Middle East.

The Khabar Online article also states that Kerry advocated “direct negotiations with Iran” in the course of his 2004 electoral campaign for the US presidency.

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