Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Eye on Iran: Iranian Coal Miners, Furious Over Deaths, Confront President

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Angry miners grieving the deaths of dozens of co-workers trapped after an explosion blocked the convoy of President Hassan Rouhani over the weekend, an extraordinary display of public anger two weeks before presidential elections. Workers from the Zemestan-Yurt coal mine in northern Iran, some of whose faces were still black from their failed attempts to rescue at least 35 miners stuck in several shafts since Wednesday, blocked the car carrying Mr. Rouhani on Sunday. The incident was shown in video clips posted by the semiofficial Fars news agency. Mr. Rouhani, who is fighting to be re-elected on May 19, remained in the armored car, with bodyguards hanging from all sides protecting him. Dozens of miners and grieving family members surrounded the vehicle, some wearing hard hats, blocking it from moving.

Iran tested a high-speed torpedo on Sunday that is capable of reaching speeds of 200 knots per hour, according to a U.S. official. The test was conducted in the Strait of Hormuz, the vital waterway between the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. The Hoot torpedo has been tested over the past decade, with the most recent test taking place in February, 2015. It is believed it is able to reach a speed four times faster than the top speed of traditional torpedoes. According to the U.S. official, the torpedo was tested on Sunday in an area directly south of Bandar Abbas, home to an Iranian naval base located along the Strait of Hormuz. Sunday's test appeared to be a speed test given that it was not aimed at a target barge. A torpedo moving at such a high rate of speed would require a sophisticated guidance system to accurately strike its target. The torpedo is believed to have a range of six miles.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani launched a scathing attack on his conservative election rivals Monday, saying their era of "violence and extremism" was over. The semiofficial ISNA news agency said Rouhani did not name any of his five election rivals in the campaign speech, but appeared to be referring to Ebrahim Raisi, who is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "The people of Iran shall once again announce that they don't approve of those who only called for executions and jail throughout the last 38 years," he told a packed stadium in the western city of Hamedan, referring to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. "We've entered this election to tell those practicing violence and extremism that your era is over."


Visits from Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles designed for surveillance have become commonplace here, where the Bush and ships from its strike group patrol and launch airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. While small Iranian vessels continue to approach the carrier and harass U.S. ships elsewhere in the region, the spy drones appear more regularly, said Capt. Will Pennington, commanding officer of the Bush. "That is a capability that the entire world is getting, and Iran is no different," he told Military.com in an interview. "These aren't small, radio-controlled drones. They're reconnaissance."

Pakistan's foreign office has summoned the Iranian ambassador over an ultimatum by the head of Iran's armed forces that his country will attack areas sheltering "terrorists" in Pakistan unless it tightens control over its borders and stops what he calls cross-border attacks. Major-General Mohammad Baqeri made the comments on Monday, nearly two weeks after 10 Iranian border guards were killed in clashes near Mirjaveh, a town near the Iran-Pakistan border. Jaish ul-Adl (Army of Justice), a Sunni armed group fighting for independence in Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province, claimed responsibility for the attack. It said it had shot the guards with long-range guns fired from inside Pakistan.

Iran's Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli has called on Pakistan to take swift measures to improve security along its borders with Iran. In a telephone conversation with Pakistani Federal Minister for Interior and Narcotics Control Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Monday, Rahmani Fazli said Islamabad should prevent the infiltration of terrorists into Iran, smuggling of narcotics and illegal crossing into Iran by Afghan nationals from the Pakistani border. He pointed to the recent terrorist crime against Iranian border guards serving on the country's southeastern frontier near the town of Mirjaveh and added that the incident was not expected considering the cordial relations between the two countries The Iranian minister invited Ali Khan to pay a visit to Tehran and said, "We are ready to hold a conference on cooperation on security, economic and border issues as soon as possible."


Political prisoner Hamid Babaei is being refused hospital treatment by the authorities of Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj, west of Tehran, an informed source told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). "Hamid's chest pains started two weeks ago for unknown reasons," the source told CHRI on May 5, 2017. "The prison clinic prescribed pain killers and told him he would be dispatched to a hospital if his condition worsens, but he's really suffering. They haven't even checked his blood pressure or measured his heart beat." Political prisoners in Iran are singled out for harsh treatment, which often includes denial of medical care. Babaei has consistently argued that he was imprisoned for refusing to operate as an informant for Iran's Intelligence Ministry while he was in Belgium completing his PhD as a foreign student.

Iranian activists have shared a video on social media platforms showing poor citizens in the southern Iranian city of Minab rushing to a truck carrying rotten food to be discarded in a remote area. The citizens can be seen clamoring over the truck's contents and proves the extent of rampant poverty gripping parts of the country. The video shows hundreds of people rushing toward the truck as the driver, who wanted to bury the rotten food in a nearby landfill, stepping aside to make way for those who took cans and cartons of expired produce, according to the YJC news agency. The news agency said that Iranian actor Parviz Parastui was the first to share the video on his Instagram account and said: "In the city of Minab, officials threw rotten food to destroy it, but the poor and hungry citizens rushed to take it".


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Monday that voters in next week's presidential election do not want someone who is only familiar with "execution and imprisonment," an apparent criticism of a hard-line rival who is a longtime judge. The semi-official ISNA news agency says Rouhani did not name any of his five election rivals in the campaign speech, but appeared to be referring to Ebrahim Raisi, who is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Rouhani is running for re-election as a moderate who will push for improved relations with the West and greater freedoms within Iran. His administration struck a landmark nuclear deal with world powers in 2015, but his push for expanded liberties has been fiercely resisted by hard-liners, who dominate Iran's judiciary and security services.

Two weeks ahead of the Iranian presidential election, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has increased his criticisms of the policies endorsed by President Hassan Rouhani. A week after indirectly criticizing the president for suggesting that diplomacy had averted war, Khamenei criticized a United Nations education program that some conservative Iranian detractors say promotes gender equality. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's criticism of a UNESCO program promoting gender equality is seen as an attack on President Hassan Rouhani. "These are not things the Islamic Republic can carry on its shoulders and submit to them," Khamenei said of Education 2030, which is a part of UNESCO's program to wipe out poverty through development. The program, which Iran endorsed in 2015, aims to "ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all."

Alireza Zolfaghari had briefly returned to Tehran to visit his family when an Iranian government official contacted him through LinkedIn. The 33-year-old, who has Iranian and British citizenship, was surprised by the approach last year, but intrigued by the pitch: move back from the UK, set up a business with support from the government and help develop Iran's economy. "I was encouraged to see technocrats in the government of [President Hassan] Rouhani who gave me grants and office space to launch a start-up," Mr Zolfaghari says. After finishing his PhD in engineering and spending 11 years in the UK, Mr Zolfaghari moved to Tehran in December to look for business opportunities. He is one of hundreds of dual nationals Mr Rouhani's centrist government has lured back to the Islamic republic in a bid to reverse decades of "brain drain".

Iranian rescue workers on Tuesday pulled out the 43rd and last body of victims killed in a mine explosion after six days of round-the-clock digging, the state broadcaster reported. The explosion happened on Wednesday in Zemestan Yort mine in Golestan province when workers tried to jump-start an engine in a tunnel filled with methane gas. The bodies of 26 miners were recovered on the second day while rescue teams had to work four more days to gradually access the rest who were trapped in the excavation shafts. The final toll was higher than expected as it had been unclear how many unregistered day-labourers were trapped by the explosion.


Iranian voters head to the polls later this month to elect their next president, without much of a choice. The contest is shaping up as a race between several Islamic hard-liners and one hard-liner whom the Western media prefer to cast as a moderate. The unelected Guardian Council eliminated more than 1,600 candidates, including 137 women, who are constitutionally prohibited from holding that office. The Council deemed only six candidates morally sound, which in Iran means thoroughly committed to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the nuclear program and the destruction of Israel. Among the challengers, Ebrahim Raisi has garnered the greatest attention. The 56-year-old cleric is a protege of Mr. Khamenei, and our sources say he enjoys the support of elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the security apparatus.

As the Trump administration is undergoing a major Iran policy overhaul, senior American officials should comprehend the fact that the upcoming May 19 presidential election will not result in any fundamental - or nonfundamental, for that matter - change in the Iranian regime's behavior. The so-called election to be held in Iran will be neither free nor fair. However, this development bears major significance due to a series of political, economic and social crises this regime is facing internationally and domestically. Certain is the fact that, after the elections, the regime in Tehran will surface far weaker and more fragmented than before, as two major Iran experts explained recently. The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran Foreign Affairs Committee hosted an online conference last week with former Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi and the NCRI's Foreign Affairs Chairman Mohammad Mohaddessin providing their analysis and views.

Iran will elect a new president on May 19. But the real event will take place days before, on May 14, and it will offer more insight into the nature of the regime than managed elections ever could provide. May 14 will mark the ninth anniversary of the arrests of the Iranian Baha'i leadership, known as the Yaran. These seven men and women managed the religious and worldly needs of Iran's Baha'i, who make up the country's largest non-Muslim minority. Iranian authorities condemned them to 20-year prison terms for their alleged misdeeds-charges that included "corruption on earth," "insulting religious sanctities," "espionage for Israel," and "propaganda against the system." The group's secretary was arrested on March 5, 2008, and was also sentenced to 20 years in prison. From the Iranian revolution in 1979 to this day, the regime has shown the Baha'i no mercy. The Iranian Baha'i community has faced continued oppression on the economic front and in the denial of educational opportunities.

Iran is in the midst of an intense election campaign with six presidential candidates pledging how they would address the country's economic issues through their respective policies. While incumbent Hassan Rouhani and First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri are focused on justifying a continuation of their government's economic policies, the other four candidates are presenting economic remedies that need to be scrutinized - especially through the lens of whether they would actually be feasible and also whether they present real solutions to the country's complex economic issues. This article will initially critique some of the campaign pledges of Rouhani's main challengers - conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf - and then offer some expert remedies that need to be the focus of the next government if the real goal is to address the core socio-economic issue, namely unemployment.

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 press@uani.com.

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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