Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Eye on Iran: Iran's Leader Derides Protests; Lawmakers Urge Death for Opposition Leaders

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NYT: "A day after the largest antigovernment protests in Iran in more than a year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday dismissed opposition attempts to revive mass demonstrations as certain to fail, while members of the Iranian Parliament clamored for the two most prominent leaders of the protest movement to be executed. Critics have called in the past for the two men, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, to be prosecuted for alleged crimes that would merit the death penalty. The calls for punishment on Tuesday, however, appeared to be the most strident yet - with members of Parliament shouting in unison, 'Moussavi, Karroubi should be hanged!' But while the government has tried and convicted many opposition members since large street protests in 2009, it has so far shied away from putting the two men on trial, perhaps fearing that would lead to further unrest. On Wednesday, Reuters reported, new clashes were reported between government opponents and supporters at the funeral of Saane Zhaleh, one of two students reported killed during protests on Monday."

WashPost: "In a six-month period between late 2009 and last spring, U.N. officials watched in amazement as Iran dismantled more than 10 percent of the Natanz plant's 9,000 centrifuge machines used to enrich uranium. Then, just as remarkably, hundreds of new machines arrived at the plant to replace the ones that were lost... But the IAEA's files also show a feverish - and apparently successful - effort by Iranian scientists to contain the damage and replace broken parts, even while constrained by international sanctions banning Iran from purchasing nuclear equipment. An IAEA report due for release this month is expected to show steady or even slightly elevated production rates at the Natanz enrichment plant over the past year. 'They have been able to quickly replace broken machines,' said a Western diplomat with access to confidential IAEA reports. Despite the setbacks, 'the Iranians appeared to be working hard to maintain a constant, stable output' of low-enriched uranium, said the official, who like other diplomats interviewed for this article insisted on anonymity to discuss the results of the U.N. watchdog's data collection."

WashPost: "President Obama addressed the Iranian demonstrations Tuesday with a large measure of caution, calling on Iran's leaders to allow protesters to express their grievances but stopping short of calling for a change in government. In the final days of Egypt's unrest, Obama aligned himself with the demonstrators' demand for a new government. With Iran he has not been so bold. His call Tuesday for Iran's Islamic government to allow peaceful protest echoed the one he made after the opposition Green Movement emerged on Tehran's streets in June 2009 following a disputed presidential election, a response many conservatives criticized as tepid. 'We were clear then and we are clear now that what has been true in Egypt should be true in Iran - that people should be allowed to voice their opinions and their grievances and seek a more responsive government,' Obama said. 'What's been different is the Iranian government's response, which is to shoot people and beat people and arrest people.'"

Iran Disclosure Project

Nuclear Program & Sanctions

"Amid anti-government protests in Iran, a group of US lawmakers said late Tuesday they would introduce legislation aimed at tightening economic sanctions on the Islamic republic. The measure would require US companies to disclose any of their or their affiliates' investments in Iran that violate existing US sanctions laws in their quarterly or yearly reports to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The bill would also require US banks to report activities by their foreign correspondent banks -- effectively intermediaries able to do business in Iran -- that may fall afoul of US laws. Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Republican Senator Mark Kirk, Republican Representative Dan Burton and Democratic Representative Ted Deutch were to detail their proposal on Wednesday."

AP: "The trial over an illegal arms shipment from Iran seized in Nigeria has started. Iranian citizen Azim Aghajani and Nigerian Usman Abbas Jega appeared in Nigeria's Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday to face charges accusing them of orchestrating the illegal arms shipment. The two men have pleaded not guilty. Nigerian security officials found 13 containers full of 107 mm artillery rockets, rifle rounds and other weapons in a shipment marked as containing building materials on Oct. 26. Authorities have said the shipment was bound for Gambia, while Nigerian officials say the weapons were intended to be used by politicians over the coming April elections."

Human Rights

AP: "Human rights groups are pressing the U.N. and the international community to denounce a rash of executions in Iran. The groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, say at least 86 people have been executed in 2011 in Iran. They say at least eight of those killed last month were political prisoners. Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi joined the call, saying that the 'executions may increase if the world is silent.' Wednesday's appeal also included Reporters Without Borders, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the International Federation for Human Rights and the Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights. The groups want a moratorium on all executions in Iran."

Domestic Politics

BBC: "Fresh clashes have erupted in Tehran during the funeral of a student killed in anti-government protests on Monday, Iranian state television says. Rival groups of pro- and anti-government protesters both claim the dead man as one of their supporters. Sanea Jaleh, 26, was among two people killed during Monday's protests, when thousands of opposition members rallied for the first time in more than a year. The protests come amid a wave of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. Wednesday's clash took place during Mr Jaleh's funeral procession, which started at Tehran University in the centre of the capital, broadcaster Irib reported."

AP: "Iran's opposition leaders remained defiant Wednesday despite calls from hard-liners for them to be brought to trial and put to death, with one reform advocate saying he was willing to 'pay any price' in pursuit of democratic change... 'I declare that I am not afraid of any threat,' said Karroubi, who has been effectively kept under house arrest since first calling for the demonstrations earlier this month. 'As I've demonstrated in serving the nation as a soldier (political activist) since 1962, I am ready to pay any price in this graceful path.'"

AFP: "Iran's regime said it called a rally in Tehran for Friday to express 'hatred' against the opposition movement, as its two key leaders launched fresh anti-government tirades despite demands they be hanged. Wednesday's call for the mass rally came as clashes erupted between regime backers and 'apparent' supporters of the opposition at a funeral attended by thousands in Tehran of a student killed in anti-government protests of Monday. 'The noble people of Tehran will take to Enghelab Square after Friday prayers with their solid and informed presence,' the Islamic Propagation Coordination Council, which organises regime-backed programmes, said Wednesday. It said those joining the rally will 'scream out their hatred, wrath and disgust against the savage crimes and evil movements of sedition leaders, their Monafeghin (hypocrites) and their monarchist allies.'"

& Analysis

WSJ Editorial Board: "Iran's Green movement, the squelched democratic hope of 2009, isn't dead after all. Wearing green scarves and chanting 'Death to the dictator!', tens of thousands turned out in Tehran, Shiraz and other Iranian cities Monday to demand political change. The size of the protests surprised and embarrassed the regime, but it's important to understand why revolution will be harder than in Egypt and Tunisia. Iran has many of the revolutionary ingredients found in those countries: a technologically savvy and frustrated young population, a stultifying society, stagnant economy and a corrupt military-run regime. Its middle classes are, if anything, better educated and more politically conscious than in the Arab world. But Iran's leaders are also more ruthless. The regime in Tehran-aptly described by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday as 'a military dictatorship with a kind of theocratic overlay'-feels zero compunction or shame about repressing political opponents. Hosni Mubarak and Egypt's military, dependent on U.S. aid and support, were susceptible to outside pressure to shun violence. Tehran scorns the West. To put it another way, pro-American dictatorships have more moral scruples. The comparison is akin to what happened in the 1980s when U.S. allies led by authoritarians fell peacefully in the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan, even as Communist regimes proved tougher... Perhaps the most significant difference is the nature of the struggle. In Tunisia, as in Egypt, the demands of the demonstrators were straightforward: Down with the strongman. It's not as simple in Iran, which doesn't have a single dictator as much as a dictatorial system... The revolution will come to Iran eventually. Iranians are overwhelmingly young and pro-American, and they hate their anti-American regime. But in the meantime, the U.S. and its allies need a far tougher strategy of isolation and pressure. Louder and more active support for Iran's democrats should be a main plank of the strategy whose goal should be freedom for Iranians."

NYT Editorial Board: "Iran's autocrats have shown once again that they know absolutely no shame. Last week, they crowed about the ouster of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and rushed to claim solidarity with the protestors in Tahrir Square. On Monday, when thousands of Iranian protestors courageously took to the streets of Tehran, the government sent out its riot police to threaten and beat anyone who dared to demand an end to the mullah's rule. The judiciary announced that 1,500 people were jailed, and a member of Parliament said two people were killed. Journalists were barred from covering the protests, so no one really knows how many more may have died. The government has placed two of the main opposition leaders, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, under house arrest. On Tuesday, 222 of 290 Iranian lawmakers called for their execution. Unfortunately, no one can dismiss that as empty rhetoric. A group of Iranian intellectuals living abroad recently charged that Tehran executed more than 500 dissidents in 2010 and another 83 just since the start of this year. We don't know what will happen next. We are cheered by the news that the Iranian people are still willing to stand up and truly frightened by the government's capacity for brutality.... Mr. Obama was smart not to make the United States the issue during Iran's 2009 antigovernment protests. He and his aides must now find a way to help the Iranian people without feeding the mullahs' narrative about foreign manipulation. The State Department's initiative to expand and defend access to the Internet around the world (it just opened a Twitter site in Farsi) seems like a creative start."

Robin Wright in The Iran Primer: "The Obama administration has become increasingly outspoken about Iran since the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings. The main focus has notably shifted from Iran's controversial nuclear program to issues of democracy and human rights abuses. For the first time, the administration has taken the side of protesters, calling on Tehran to honor the people's right to free speech and peaceful assembly and condemning the latest repression. The flood of comments from the Obama administration on Iran-just since peaceful demonstrations forced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign on February 11-starkly contrasts with restrained language during six months of Iranian protests after the disputed 2009 presidential election. Both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sternly admonished Tehran for its brutality on February 14, when the Islamic Republic cracked down on tens of thousands of protesters who turned out in several Iranian cities. The tougher U.S. language follows two rounds of unsuccessful diplomatic talks with Iran on its nuclear program. Negotiations in Geneva in December and Istanbul in January did not even produce an agreement on possible short-term measures to build confidence."

Omid Memarian in The Daily Beast: "A man in Tehran climbed a crane about five stories tall Monday, waved pictures and symbols of Iran's green movement, and threatened to jump to his death. But police managed to arrest him before he became a martyr, like the man who set himself ablaze earlier this year, sparking Tunisia's revolution. The Iranian was one of tens of thousands who poured into the streets of Tehran and other cities across the country, reinvigorated by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. But unlike Egypt and Tunisia, Monday was Round 3 for Iran's protesters, whom authorities thought they had silenced through intense intimidation campaigns since the first outpouring in June 2009, after the allegedly fraudulent election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In January alone, more than 70 Iranians were hanged on various charges. In the last two weeks, dozens of opposition leaders have either been arrested or become targets of monitoring, according to Human Rights Watch. Opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi were placed under house arrest. This month, they requested a permit for protests but were denied. But the protesters still came out Monday, along with the militias and riot police, despite low expectations due to severe crackdowns and police brutality."

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

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