Why we should still talk with Iran

Why we should still talk with Iran

Since I was released from Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison last month, the questions have come again and again: Can we still talk to these people? Should the Obama administration engage in dialogue with Iran? What should the West do in nuclear negotiations? After being jailed, interrogated and beaten by the Revolutionary Guards for 118 days for reporting honestly on the disputed June 12 presidential elections, I am often expected to oppose any dialogue. But the West still needs Iran and should continue talking to it — no matter what it has done to people like me.

Inside Evin, I was forced to confess that I was part of an insidious Western media conspiracy to overthrow the regime. I was forced to apologize to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. I was released as suddenly as I was arrested, without explanation. But my interrogator told me to send a message to the world: “We are a superpower. America’s power is waning, and we will soon overtake them. Now that Americans have started this war against us, we will not let them rest in peace.” He paused, perhaps realizing that he sounded defensive. I was a jailed journalist wearing a blindfold, not some sort of spy. (I’m not even American.) He changed the subject to “soft” war, a term Tehran uses to refer to an imaginary war that it says is promoted by the media against the “holy government of the Islamic Republic.” “We will answer their attacks with all our might,” he said.

The Revolutionary Guards are a schizophrenic bunch, plagued by both deep insecurities and a superiority complex. They have ambitions to take over the government and expand their business empire in Iran. At the same time, they are terrified of individuals and groups that question their grip on power. The Guards are the real power base of Khamenei. They are the main supporters of his claim to be Allah’s representative on Earth. One of the most serious charges against me was insulting Khamenei. In a private e-mail I had wondered whether Khamenei has been blinded by power and had lost touch with his people, and if that was why he was answering people’s peaceful demands with brute force. That was enough for my interrogator to kick and punch me for days and to threaten me with execution. [continued…]

Iranian-American faces new spying charge

An Iranian-American scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, already serving a 15-year prison sentence for spying, is facing a new charge of spying, a family member said Wednesday.

Mr. Tajbakhsh told his wife during a visit at Evin prison in Tehran that he was taken before the Revolutionary Court on Monday, where a judge read new charges against him of “spying for the George Soros foundation,” a reference to the Open Society Institute, a pro-democracy group founded by Mr. Soros, a prominent financier and philanthropist. The accusation was brought by the intelligence section of the Revolutionary Guards, said the family member, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of complicating the case.

Mr. Tajbakhsh, an urban planner with a doctorate from Columbia University, was arrested in June after protests broke out over that month’s disputed presidential election, which the opposition says was fraudulent. [continued…]

Hezbollah’s Man in Iran

Ever since his right arm was blown off in Iran’s Damascus embassy in the early 1980’s, he has become more careful about where he goes, and whom with. Some Iranians believe that the beautiful book on Shiite Islam which contained the bomb was sent by the Israelis to Iran’s embassy in Damascus, where he had been working. According to Mohtashamipour, he is lucky that he placed the book on the table first, and opened it sideways. Had he opened it in front of his face, his head would have been ripped off from the explosion.

Although it cannot be confirmed, there is reason to believe the accusations suggesting Israel’s involvement. Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour is, after all, the Iranian who established Hezbollah in Lebanon. The first man who tried and failed was Mostafa Chamran. The U.S.-educated Chamran had a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He was then hired as a senior research staff scientist at Bell Laboratories and NASA. However, once the Islamic opposition against the Shah grew, the religious Chamran found his calling back in Iran amongst his fellow revolutionaries. A fervent Islamist who later became Iran’s Defense Minister, he tried at the beginning of 1980 to establish a pro-Iranian group amongst Lebanon’s Shiites. His main target was the Amal movement, which back then was the main representative of the Shiites in Lebanon’s political arena. However, he found that he was unable to convince them to accept Iran’s Velayat-e Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurists) system, whereby Iran’s Supreme Leader would be accepted by them as God’s representative on earth to all the Shiites. Chamran was killed on the battlefront during the war against Iraq in 1981.

In 1982, Mohtashamipour succeeded where Chamran had failed by convincing the new Hezbollah movement to accept Ayatollah Khomeini’s religious authority. The rest, as they say, is history.

You would be forgiven for thinking that Mohtashamipour is treated like a hero in Iran, but the reality is quite different. Many conservatives hate him; despite the fact that he created what many believe is Islamic Iran’s most successful political and military ally in the Middle East. The reason is simple: he is a reformist. [continued…]

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