NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: July 8

Khamenei’s son takes control of Iran’s anti-protest militia

The son of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has taken control of the militia being used to crush the protest movement, according to a senior Iranian source.

The source, a politician with strong connections to the security apparatus, said that the leading role being played by Mojtaba Khamenei had dismayed many of the country’s senior clerics, conservative politicians and Revolutionary Guard generals.

But these conservatives are reluctant to challenge the Khameneis openly out of fear that any conflict would destabilise the Islamic Republic and weaken Iran in the region. Instead they will use their positions in the organs of state to make it hard for the supreme leader and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to govern.

“This game has not finished. The game has only just started,” the source said, on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his own position in Iran. [continued…]

US frees five Iranian diplomats in Iraq

The US military in Iraq on Thursday freed five Iranian diplomats held since January 2007 in a major source of friction between archfoes Tehran and Washington, Iraqi and Iranian officials said.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the five men were handed over to the government under a security accord which lays out the terms for the US pullout from the war-torn nation and the transfer of prisoners in US custody.

“This process is taking place today and includes the Iranian officials arrested in Arbil,” he told AFP. [continued…]

Iran police tear gas protesters

Iranian police have fired tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators who defied government warnings that any fresh attempt at protests would be “smashed”.

The marchers were heading towards Tehran University to commemorate the 10th anniversary of student unrest.

All gatherings have been banned in a crackdown on mass protests that erupted after the disputed election of 12 June. [continued…]

Iranian exile speaks out against militia he once supported

For people around the globe, the images of club-wielding men on motorcycles beating demonstrators on the streets of Tehran was just another case of brutality in a far-off land.

But as he watched the violence of recent weeks unfold on television and YouTube, Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, an exiled Iranian, recognized some of the attackers.

They were once good friends.

His life, encapsulating the betrayals and disappointments that followed Iran’s tumultuous revolution 30 years ago, as well as the hopes and fears of Iranians now living abroad, had come full circle.

Once a lonely young man in exile, a rejuvenated Ebrahimi is now using his experience as an insider within Iran’s hard-line militias to “out” members of the group.

On his well-regarded Persian-language blog, he has listed the names and phone numbers of about a dozen militia members whom he has spotted in photos and video of the demonstrations over his homeland’s disputed presidential election. [continued…]

Iran pro-regime voices multiply online

Supporters of Iran’s regime are taking a cue from the opposition’s strategy: They’re mounting an online offensive.

Thousands of Iranians used social-networking sites and blogs after Iran’s election last month to criticize the government and spread news of its violent clashes with protesters.

But over the past week, a growing number of Iranian users of Twitter — the online service that allows users to send short messages — have been “tweeting” in favor of the regime, according to Internet security experts and others studying the development. [continued…]

G-8 nations press Iran on nuclear program

The world’s major industrial nations have given Iran until September to negotiate the dispute over its nuclear program, but remain vague and divided over what consequences they might try to impose should Tehran continue to defy them.

After a long discussion Wednesday night, President Obama and counterparts from the rest of the Group of 8 powers called on Iran to compromise on its uranium enrichment program, condemned its crackdown on the dissent after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election and repudiated the president’s statements denying the Holocaust.

But the Russians succeeded at blocking any further sanctions despite Mr. Obama’s visit to Moscow leading up to the Group of 8 summit meeting, which he used to press the Kremlin to join him in a unified front. Although President Dmitri A. Medvedev told Mr. Obama on Monday that he shared concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, Russian officials on Thursday boasted that they had watered down the Group of 8 statement. [continued…]

Shark attack

After weeks of silence, Iran’s mainstream clerics, perhaps the most powerful constituency inside Iran, have spoken out. In a bold statement Saturday, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qom called President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection illegitimate. The Guardian Council that oversaw the election, the association concluded, no longer had the “right to judge in this case as some of its members have lost their impartial image in the eyes of the public.”

As stunning as it might seem to hear clerics openly condemn an election that the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has sanctified, inside Iran it is less unexpected. Most clerics in the holy Shiite city of Qom have never supported the extremist religious and political ideas of Khamenei and the hard-liners within his inner circle. The clerics in this association — and many other high-ranking ayatollahs — had already individually sided with the opposition now led by Mir Hossein Mousavi. They have done so not to bolster the so-called “green revolution” of the streets, but to save the Islamic republic from extinction. [continued…]

US may move to toughen sanctions against Iran

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States may call for “stricter sanctions” against Iran if U.S. diplomatic efforts with Tehran fail.

Clinton commented late Tuesday in an an exclusive interview with Venezuela’s Globovision TV.

She responded to a question about how she perceived relations between Iran and Venezuela by saying “Iran has not respected its own democracy.” [continued…]

A peek in Iran: protests fade under withering gaze

Interviews with more than a dozen Iranians here paint a picture of a nation deeply polarized by the results of the presidential election last month, and a government that, with a daunting display of security might from town to village, appears to be succeeding in silencing dissent.

Given the heavy restrictions Iran has imposed on journalists in the aftermath of the election and the bloody street confrontations that followed, the travelers’ comments provided one of the few remaining sources of unfiltered news from inside Iran, and a rare glimpse of what is happening outside Tehran, where most journalists were not allowed even before the postelection crackdown. [continued…]

Netanyahu’s two-state goal?

To judge by the next day’s headlines, Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy speech last month was a great success. “Israeli Premier Backs State for Palestinians,” declared the New York Times. “Israel Endorses Two-State Goal,” said the Washington Post. “Netanyahu Backs Palestinian State,” announced The Guardian.

He did no such thing, of course, unless by “state” one understands an amorphous entity lacking a definite territory, not allowed to control its own borders or airspace, shorn of any vestige of sovereignty (other than a flag and perhaps a national anthem), not allowed to enter into treaties with other states–and permanently disarmed and hence at the mercy of Israel. It would make about as much sense to call an apple an orange or a piano a speedboat as to call such a construct a state, and yet those are the conditions that Netanyahu imposed on the creation of such an entity for the Palestinians (if they get that far in the first place).

The strange thing is that Netanyahu’s speech marked both the definitive end and a symbolic return to the beginning of the two-state solution as that hapless notion has been peddled since the Oslo Accords of 1993-95. For what he said the Palestinians might–perhaps–be entitled to is pretty much what Oslo had said they might be entitled to fifteen years ago: a “self-government authority” not allowed to control its own borders or airspace, shorn of any vestige of sovereignty, etc. And on top of that they can also forget about Jerusalem–that is and will forever remain the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people. [continued…]

Israeli agents to screen judges before appointment

Israel’s internal security service has been given a de facto veto over the appointment of judges in an unprecedented decision that has the country’s embattled liberals up in arms.

The move by the Judges Selection Committee on Friday is likely to make it harder for members of Israel’s Arab minority and others with views that are not mainstream to become judges, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (Acri). Zahava Galon, a former MP of the dovish Meretz party, said the decision was “a scandal”. She said: “We are turning into a kind of police state with Big Brother everywhere. A judge shouldn’t have to pass the Shin Bet’s tests. This is just something that isn’t done.”

The selection committee’s membership – partly determined by the ruling coalition – has become more nationalist and intent on limiting the power of the Supreme Court due to appointments made since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office in April.

Increasing the powers of the security service, the Shin Bet, were part of an attempt to erode the judiciary’s ability to protect civil liberties and human rights in a country that lacked a constitution to defend them, Ms Galon said. The security establishment has always enjoyed wide powers but the Supreme Court was seen as a bastion of liberalism that counterbalanced that and helped define Israel as a democracy. [continued…]

Shipwrecked, before reaching Gaza

Last week, the mainstream media only touched on the attempt by the Free Gaza Movement to reach the occupied territory by boat. Israel Defense Forces boarded their vessel, The Spirit of Humanity, which was carrying humanitarian aid. In spite of the incarceration of former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, along with nineteen other activists who were aboard the ship, the story has gained little traction on our side of the ocean.

Yesterday, Congresswoman McKinney arrived safely back in the US, and in an interview, she emphasized the need for a new approach to Gaza: [continued…]

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Comments

  1. Shipwrecked, before reaching Gaza. Like the man said, the story has gained little traction on our side of the ocean. Palestine Israel news coverage is always minimal and biased. If it wasn’t for War in Context, Democracy Now! and Haaretz, we’d all be more in the dark. Free the press!

  2. Wallace says:

    Israel was created by England and the U.S. and sustained materially and diplomatically by the two. The media in both countries is under tremendous pressure to only tell one side of the story and demonize the other. Even African American media in the U.S. has been strangely silent even though Ms. McKinney is well known amongst black politicians and writers. The Palestinians aren’t the only ones being terroized!!