Iran General: Israel’s Apology To Turkey Meant to Weaken ‘Regional Resistance’

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Iran’s Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces said that “the apology from the prime minister of the Zionist regime to the government of Turkey for the attacks on the [Turkish] ship in 2010 is a new game by America, Israel and Turkey to influence regional resistance, especially the Islamic Awaking [Arab Spring].”

IRGC General Massoud Jazayeri told Sepah News on Saturday that “under today’s conditions, the prime movement of the world arrogance is to replace Iran’s [place] in the Islamic world.” He added that “the elite of the Islamic world must be alert and conscious and not allow America and its allies to lessen public awareness.”

On President Barack Obama’s trip to Israel last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize for Israel’s raid on a Turkish ship that was attempting to pass through its naval blockade of the Gaza strip in 2010. The raid left nine dead. Netanyahu was quoted as saying that the crisis in Syria was “his main motivation” for the call.

General Jazayeri added that the “the combination of those against Syria proves the government’s and country’s legitimacy.” He explained that “right now, America, England, France, Arab reactionaries, Turkey, and the Zionist regime form the prime anti-Syrian ring and this combination is a good indication of an anti-resistance front.” Iran sees itself, Syria and Hezbollah in an “axis of resistance” against American and Israeli influence in the region. They view the support by the West and Gulf Arab countries as a means to weaken this axis.

Ahmadinejad Ally Warns About Interference in Elections

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In an interview with state-run IRNA yesterday, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei said that “the president has strongly emphasized and has even stated that if he feels that either secretly or openly the elections become tainted, he will deal with it seriously.” Mashei said that in a meeting with the governors of the provinces the president warned against “showing partisanship” towards any of the candidates during the administration of the elections.

Iran’s presidential elections are in June 2013 and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been using the final months of his presidency to campaign and promote his longtime advisor Mashei as a candidate for the presidency. Since the president’s second term Mashaei has been attacked by conservatives and hardliners for an apparent promotion of “Iranianism” over “Islamism” and has been accused of being at the center of a “deviant” strain within the administration.

President Ahmadinejad had previously warned on several occasions about “interference” in these upcoming elections. In January of this year, Hojat al-Islam Ali Saeedi, Khamenei’s representative in the Revolutionary Guard said that “[the body’s essence] is to engineer the elections logically and rationally.”

Mashaei also criticized national media for their coverage of the elections. He said that “on the threshold of elections, from the view of partisanship towards candidates in the upcoming presidential elections, the national media has not performed well.” He added that “people remember well the performance the national media in the previous elections and that the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) should act with care and pursue a more moderate path.”

In the June 2009 elections, heated and somewhat sensational televised live debates between presidential candidates drew in millions of viewers. Live televised debates have been banned for these upcoming elections.

Chinese Investment in Iran Said to Drop from $3 Billion to $400 Million

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Assadollah Asgaroladi, who is head of the Iran-China Chamber of Commerce and Industries, warned that investment in Iran from China has dropped significantly.

To a group of reporters today, Asgaroladi, one of the most influential merchants in Iran after the revolution, said that Chinese investment in Iran in 2011 “had reached close to three billion dollars, but in 2012 this became less […] and had only reached 400 million dollars.”

The question of China arose when a reporter asked, “Under sanctions, are we not forced to sell oil for consumer goods?” Asgaroladi responded that “if we are forced to sell oil in order to buy inferior goods, then why have we built factories?”

China is one of Iran’s top customers for oil. Many Iranians blame their government for allowing Chinese companies to flood the market with cheap and inferior products, causing a strain on Iranian factories and even forcing some to close operations altogether. Asgaroladi continued that “under these conditions we must find a way to help factories bring down prices so that they can compete with imported goods.”

When asked by a reporter what could be done to address this issue, Asgaroladi said that “this is the weak point of management. The reason merchants bring in inferior goods is that we haven’t been able to produce these goods domestically ourselves.” The Iranian government has introduced economic plans such as “The Year of Economic Jihad” and “The Year of National Production” to address the overall economic problems. However, it’s difficult to ascertain how fruitful, if at all, these plans have been.

In regard to the sanctions, Asgaroladi said “we have still not been able to be free [from the effects] of sanctions. The Americans have carrots in one hand and a hammer in the other, and we don’t accept this type of politics.”

Asgaroladi predicted another difficult year for the Iranian economy due to the presidential elections in June. “Political fighting will push the issue of the economy to the side before the elections,” he said, adding that when the new government takes office, in “the first six months, the new government must specify their plan and then have their ministers approved, and this process will go until the end of the year.”

In Other News

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At the opening ceremony of a refinery plant, President Ahmadinejad said yesterday that “we cannot still say that our oil has been nationalized, and the day that we can claim our oil has been nationalized is when all of the earnings of oil is in the pockets of the Iranian nation.”

Oil in Iran was nationalized after the 1979 revolution but has had a long and contentious history, serving as a rallying cry in Iranian modern history for political parties from Islamists to secularists. Despite being one of the top oil producers in the world, Iran still needs to have much of its oil refined abroad.

At the ceremony, Ahmadinejad told the oil minister and those in charge of the refinery that “today, I want you to make a refinery that […] is completely Iranian and from now on; instead of waiting for others to do something for us, we’ll have others waiting for Iranian capabilities.”

The president stated that “we want to reach a point where we won’t export any crude oil. In this case, the refineries will at least double, and this will have a lot of benefits for our country.” Ahmadinejad believes that Iran can sell refined oil at “three to four times the price of crude oil.”

Ahmadinejad Criticized for Welcoming Pre-Islamic New Year

untitled The Iranian president has once again upset religious leaders in Iran. Earlier in the week Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his controversial aid Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei participated in a ceremony of welcoming Norouz, the Persian New year, which falls on March 20. The celebration of Norouz predates both Islam and Christianity and is celebrated by several countries in the Middle East. At the ceremony, a presentation of provincial dances was performed. Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi asked “how can welcoming Norouz be Islamic? Isn’t music and dancing […] that occurred at this ceremony against sacred Islamic laws?” He continued, “they are mocking the commandments of Islam and showing irreverence.” He urged political leaders to take action against this latest celebration by the president, adding that “a system [of government] that has come about through the blood of thousands of martyrs cannot show weakness against these reckless and un-Islamic deeds.” Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran have had a difficult relationship with pre-Islamic festivals. The president has been able to capitalize on this issue. Lately he has been using the word “Spring” as a kind of campaign slogan to promote his close aid Mashaei as the next president of Iran. The Persian New Year falls on the first day of spring. On Feb. 25 it was even reported that the mayor of Tehran would forbid the advertisement of “Spring” on billboards and public spaces. In the president’s second term, Mashei deeply angered clerics by appealing to Iranian and pre-Islamic forms of nationalism in various speeches and statements. These public Norouz celebrations appear to be part of the president’s plan to present Mashei to Iranian voters as a counter to the reactionary clerics. In Other News Hassran Rowhani, the Supreme Leader’s representative to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), said in regard to negotiating with America, that if “under conditions that the honor and interests of the country are secured, the Supreme Leader will give permission for negotiations and relations; just as other issues like Iraq, Afghanistan and the nuclear case, where temporary and issue-related negotiations took place.” Rowhani was clarifying remarks made previously by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about relations with the West and America. A former nuclear negotiator himself and current presidential candidate, Rowhani said that “the Supreme Leader didn’t mean that until Resurrection Day, Iran and America would not negotiate or have relations.” The Supreme Leader implements his nuclear policy through the SNSC. Fereydoon Abassi, Head of Iran’s Energy Atomic Energy Organization, responded to reporters’ questions about the suspension of operations at the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which has received coverage “in internal and foreign press.” Abbasi said yesterday that “Bushehr right now is at a testing stage and has not yet come out of this testing stage, and switching off and on is natural at this stage.” The Bushehr nuclear power plant was started by German companies in 1975. It has since been taken over by Russian companies. Some believe the mixing of the two technologies has led to the extra precautions. Iranian weekly magazine Panjareh (Window) is at the center of a minor controversy that has received considerable attention on social media. According to an editor at Panjareh, due to “unsuitable reactions and comments by readers of disrespect towards the president and the orders of the director in charge this publication was collected (from shops) and a new print with a different cover will be distributed.” The picture on the left was the original cover. The picture on the right is the new updated version. AN pics Some believe that the large black-and-white version was unflattering to the president and perhaps that was the reason why it was taken off the shelves. The editor of Panjareh said that there was “no pressure or orders from the government or the judiciary” for this decision, adding that the “articles were not changed.”

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.