Hard-line Iran website publishes names of fighters killed in Syria

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Hard-line Iranian University Students News (IUSN) published the names of 15 Iranians killed who had volunteered to go to Syria.

While Iranian officials and commanders have admitted to having sent “advisers” into Syria to assist the Syrian government in its fight against the opposition, that Iran has active fighters is addressed only when the hard-line media mention that a fighter has been killed in Syria “defending the Shrine of Zeinab,” which is the official line on those who die in Syria. Continue reading

Former Iranian FM: Some Dismissed Threat of Oil Sanctions

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Ali Akbar Salehi, who served as Iran’s foreign minister from 2011 to 2013 under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration, spoke with Iranian media about the perception of some within the government toward the tightening of sanctions against Iran, the storming of the British Embassy in Tehran in 2011 and communications with the US.

In an interview with an administration-affiliated news agency, Salehi claims that he had warned administration officials about the possibility of new sanctions from Western countries in a letter, but that his warnings were not taken seriously.

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Iran’s Outgoing FM to Head Atomic Energy Organization

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Iran’s former foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, will now head the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and join president Hassan Rouhani’s administration as a deputy to the president. Interestingly, earlier in the week, Salehi also addressed rumors that the AEOI would be transferred to the Ministry of Energy and operate as one of its branches.

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Khamenei: Nuclear Issue Solvable if US Ends ‘Stubbornness’

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In his speech to members of the judiciary yesterday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed Iran’s elections, the need to help president-elect Hassan Rouhani and Iran’s nuclear file with the West.

In regard to negotiations with the West, Khamenei said, “Several countries have formed an opposition front to Iran and they lie to the international community. Through stubbornness they want to solve the nuclear issue. But if they put aside their stubbornness, solving the nuclear issue is simple and easy.”

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Iran’s Foreign Minister Defends Visa Waivers for Egyptians

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An extensive interview with Mashreg News on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi covered a wide range of topics, two of the more interesting topics being the first flight between Cairo and Tehran in 34 years and the attack on the British Embassy in Tehran in November 2011.

On Saturday the first commercial flights between Tehran and Cairo in 34 years took place. Salehi was asked about domestic criticism regarding the measures taken to improve ties between the two countries. Iran has waived visa requirements for Egyptians visiting the country while Egypt has not only not returned the favor, but has announced that Iranians in Egypt would have restrictions visiting Cairo to prevent them from visiting Shia shrines.

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Iran to Sue Filmmakers of Argo

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Iran has enlisted the help of French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre to sue the filmmakers of the award-winning film “Argo.”

At a meeting yesterday in Tehran with Seyyed Akbar Massoudpour, vice president for Parliament Legal Affairs and Provincial Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance, Coutant-Peyre said that “for me, Iran is a symbol and model of resistance against the West and I am happy to stand next to Iran in this direction, and to play a part in this great world movement.”

Massoudpour thanked Coutant-Peyre and said that “I am glad that in France there are still open-minded people such as yourself.”

When asked by a reporter how much the case would cost, Coutant-Peyre said that “as a lawyer I cannot say, but less than the production of a film.” She also said that she couldn’t say for certain her chances of success but that “the movement that Iran had started and the complaint against Hollywood is very valuable and can attract public opinion and create discussions. Also, it will stimulate curiosity that will result in people thinking about the reality and lies.”

In regards to the case Coutant-Peyre said that “we are not going to go after damages, but we want to challenge [the filmmakers] and encourage them to apologize.” She also said that they plan to target “the producers or distributors” of the film and that they cannot “target the entire Hollywood system.”

Coutant-Peyre is mostly widely known for her relationship and defense of Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, also known as Carlos the Jackal, who is serving a life sentence in France for the murder of two French agents.

Various Iranian political figures have called the Ben Afleck and George Clooney-produced “Argo” an “anti-Iranian” film and have suggested that its production and subsequent awards were politically motivated.

On CNN’s Fareed Zakaria March 2, Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Khazei called the film “technically weak” and said that it had “many mistakes.” Jam News cut a short clip of the interview in which Khazaei invited the filmmakers of “Argo” to travel to Iran so that the day following their visit “they will apologize to the big nation of Iran for producing such a weak film.”

In Other News

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi answered questions today before reporters about his statements last week that received considerable coverage. At a joint press conference on Sunday Salehi said that he was hopeful that “sanctions will be gradually removed.”

Salehi said that “if you read the newspapers from before, you will also see positive news, and the European Union also said that there needs to be a reassessment of the sanctions.” Salehi stressed that “in the world of politics, you have to move in grey areas so that you give yourself the possibility of stepping back. If you burn all the bridges you’ve passed you cannot go back. Statements at press conferences should not be judged to this extent.” The foreign minister then compared the work of a diplomat to that of the security services in that “all of his work must not be out in the open.”

Salehi did stress again that he was “hopeful about the following year.” He said that “the people should be certain that God willing, next year Iran will enter a new phase; meaning that 34 years we’ve worked to enter this phase.” The next calendar year in Iran starts March 20.

Iran’s FM: Until the Next Elections Assad is the President of Syria

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, in a Tehran press conference with Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, said Sunday that “Syria, like all other governments, has a legal president that has come [chosen] from the people. And the people of Syria, like all other countries in the world, choose their own president, and until the next elections, the president is Bashar Assad.” Al-Monitor’s Week in Review originally covered this story.

Salehi continued that in the next elections “everyone should be free to present their own candidate.” He stressed that “this is the official position of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He also suggested that Assad like all others can participate in Syria’s next presidential elections in 2014.

Salehi defended Assad’s crackdown, which has left more than 70,000 dead, by saying that “we cannot ask Syria to lay down their arms while rebels do as they want.”

Salehi described Iran-Syria relations as “deep and bright” and said that Iran “will never forget the support of Syria during the imposed war,” in a reference to the eight-year Iran-Iraq that began when Iraq’s troops invaded Iran in 1980. Syria was the only Arab country to support Iran while Arab states in the Persian Gulf and North Africa financially and logistically supported Iraq. The Iran-Iraq war is also known as “The Sacred Defense.”

Interestingly, Salehi described Syria’s current situation also as an “imposed crisis.” However, he added that Iran has always emphasized that Syria’s government “must be answerable to the demands of the nation by realizing the demands of its citizens.”

Iran has invested heavily to support Assad in Syria’s civil war, both financially and military. On Feb. 14 Hassan Shateri, a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, was killed. Surprisingly, Salehi’s statements received scant coverage in Iranian media. As the Iranian economy continues to struggle, the Islamic Republic’s support of Assad has become increasingly unpopular at home.

In Other News

A new wave of raids of took place yesterday when security forces entered the offices of three publications. The Director, Mohammad Mehdi Imami Naseri, and Political Editor, Alireza Aghaeirad, from Maghreb newspaper were both arrested.

Upon news of the raids, several websites inside Iran had reported that three publications, the monthly Mehrnameh, the weekly Aseman and Tajrobeh, were shut down. All publications are known to be close to the Reformists. However, the editor of Mehranmeh, Mohammad Ghoochani, said that, “until this moment he had not received any letters from either the Press Supervisory Body or the Prosecutor’s” to shut down operations. However, it has been reported that the editors of the three publications had been “recommended” to shut down operations.

No reasons for the arrests of the Maghreb employees was given. However, editor of Maghreb wrote that the journalist were arrested “one day after publishing a letter by Mohammad Khatami.” Khatami is the former Reformist president of Iran who still has popular support among Reformists. Many believe these waves of arrests of journalists are meant to sideline Reformists before the upcoming presidential elections in Iran.

March 5 to March 12 in Iran is known as “Natural Resource Week.” The first day of this week has been designated “National Tree Planting Day.” Political leaders in Iran from the Supreme Leader to the president to the mayor, accompanied by the press, planted trees and stressed the importance of the environment on Tuesday.

After the tree planting ceremony Ayatollah Khamenei addressed in his speech the concerning level of deforestation in Iran. “The complaint I have with the political leaders,” he said, “at times, hundreds of trees that should not be cut down are cut down.” He also addressed the alarming trend in Iran of confiscation of “green” land on the outskirts of large cities that are converted to “concrete and high-rise towers.”

Due to the high rate of urbanization of Iran’s cities, land on the outskirts have been confiscated, sometimes through back-door dealings, and has made investors with connections to the government quite wealthy.

Jailed Former Deputy Minister Claims Khamenei’s Support for Assad has Provoked Shia-Sunni Conflict

Mostafa Tajzadeh, former deputy minister of the interior and one of Iran’s leading Reformist figures, currently imprisoned in Evin jail, has written a highly critical letter addressed to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, stating, “the result of your support for [Bashar] Assad is a war between Shia and Sunni.”

Tajzadeh stated that Khamenei’s “absolute defense” of the Syrian president was his biggest mistake of the last two years, adding that continuing such a policy will result in the expansion of the war to Lebanon and Iraq.

Tajzadeh also stressed that the confrontation in Syria is not merely one of the United States and West against Russia and China, but has been transformed into an “arena of struggles” between Salafi forces and non-Salafis, Shia Syrians, Iraqis and Lebanese.

Tajzadeh, who has written a number of critical letters to Iran’s leader since his arrest following Iran’s 2009 presidential election, added that following the Arab Spring it is clear that the people of the region have rejected the Iranian model for emulation. He further argued that the Arab world’s rejection of the Iranian model is due to the “absolute power of a person over 70 percent of the powers” of the state, claiming that “such a regime is similar to authoritarian regimes like that of the Pahlavis, Mubarak, Qaddafi and Assad.”

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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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Khamenei’s representative in IRGC rejects the Islam of the Taliban and Turkey’s Erdogan

Hojjat al-Islam Ali Saeidi, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative in the Revolutionary Guards,said  in a speech delivered in the southern city of Bushehr: “We have several kinds of readiness for the reappearance of the Hidden Imam, such as individual and social readiness which does not instigate [his reappearance], individual readiness which does instigate [his reappearance] and a third kind of readiness which helps create the government of the Hidden Imam before his return … Before the reappearance of the Hidden Imam we needed a Mahdist government and the Islamic Revolution of Iran was on the course [set down by] the Hidden Imam.”

“The fourth kind of readiness is the change in the Middle East for the reappearance of the Hidden Imam and until a time when change [still] doesn’t encompass the whole of the Middle East, the Hidden Imam will not reappear.”

“The people of America must understand that their problem is their apostate and idolatrous leaders and they must know the Democratic and Republican Party and European Union will not heal any pains and will ultimately reach a dead end.”

Saeidi also invoked the name of Turkish Prime Minsiter Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stating that “the Islam of the Taliban and Al Qaeda has created problems for Islam [as has the] truncated and secular Islam of the kind [advocated] by Erdogan … We have stood against the Taliban and secular Islam; we introduce pure Islam to the world.”

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