Saturday, September 16, 2006

Review of the Week

A Bluff and Crackdown!

16 Sep 2006

The policy of crackdown at home and bluffing abroad aimed to continue the life of Tehran’s Islamic regime continued last week. Ahmad Khatami, one of the extreme radical spokesmen for the ‘military party’ running Iran who recently declared that the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency completed the gradual cultural and political coup that had begun a decade ago, again accused others in the country for pursuing policies similar to Afghanistan’s Taliban in Iran, something it has been doing for the past 27 years. The gradual coup which derailed the 1979 revolution is now busy rebuilding dictatorial rule in Iran under the republican robe.
In its march, the coup which is led by a single leader shut two more newspapers in the country. And it carried out the task just before the elections of the Khobregan council that monitors and confirms the ‘supreme leader’ of Iran and the provincial councils. The measure is interpreted to be a warning to moderate and progressive clerics, and to veteran politician Hashemi Rafsanjani, that the road to these official institutions is closed to them. Rafsanjani gets a yellow card when the newspaper that is close to him is shut on charges of ‘propagating Marxism’ while Khatami, who is on a tour of the United States to prevent a military attack on Iran, is presented with articles written by the woman who discovered Ahmadinejad’s powers to do ‘miracles’.
Iranian Writers Association describes the domestic situation in these words: ‘Intensification of censorship, elimination and closure of publications, repeated summons of student and political activists, and dismissal of university teachers.’ On his personal website, Mohammad Ali Abtahi presents more details. ‘Because the price of paper has doubled over the last few months, publications that do not receive government support are now on the verge of closure. This is a more civil way of shutting down publications that are disliked by the regime rather than formally stopping them in large groups by court orders. If we add the recent resumption of forcefully removing people’s satellite dishes from rooftops and the filtering of websites disliked by the regime, and the letter of the president’s chief of staff to the attorney general which complaints about the media, the censorship of the media becomes almost complete, thus denying any independent coverage and news to the public.’
During the week that just ended, the sword that for years threatened Isa Saharkhiz came down with a 4 year prison sentence plus a 5-year ban on writing. Saharkhiz is a journalist and a former director for the press at the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry under the previous government of President Mohammad Khatami, who was arrested for criticizing one-man rule in Iran. This sentence was so harsh that even the French Socialist party protested against it. It said that “Saharkhiz was paying the price for his bold and courageous criticism of the ‘supreme leader’ of Iran ayatollah Khamenei. He had requested a review of his unjust sentencing by the Islamic court because he believes that ayatollah Khamenei personally is behind these court rulings and sentences.”
A director at the government’s Sherkat Fanavari Etelaat (Information Technology Company) announced last week that “Ten million websites had been filtered and denied access to in Iran.” A representative of an international immigration agency declared that about 180,000 educated Iranians leave the country every year. And economists in Iran predict that as the petrol (gasoline) rationing resumes in Iran in the coming days, the current rate of inflation will get even worse.
Last week, professionals and specialists of the law enforcement agencies hold a huge gathering at Amir Kabir University under the leadership of general Talai who is famed for violently cracking down on student demonstrations. At the one-day gathering ways to confront and combat student unrest in Iran are reviewed and discussed. This coincides with the first week of commencement of schools and educational institutions around the country. The ‘military party’ in Iran seems to be preparing to ensure that campuses and schools remain absolutely quiet this academic year, unlike the events of last year.
The policy of domestic crackdown intensified last week. Mehdi Karubi, a former Majlis leader and a presidential candidate, received a yellow card from Hossein Shariatmadari of Keyhan newspaper who is known to be a protégé of the current president. Karubi said, “It is meaningful that this limitation on the media comes at a time when two important elections are to take place this year”, adding that reformers had no access to any large and influential media in the country, while the hardliners enjoyed unhindered access to numerous sources. “The nuclear issue which dominates the news in all countries except Iran is certainly behind these press limiting decisions and measures”, Karubi further said.
The events and decisions of last week make it even clearer that the crackdown on the media that has resumed is for the purpose of completely imposing the Taliban-type regime in Iran, something that is challenged from the outside. And to counter these foreign threats, the policy of bluffing continues with full intensity. Iranian television networks orchestrate in unison the news about some advanced weapon that the armed forces of the Islamic regime have acquired. Later it is revealed that the footage is of a similar exercise in China that took place last year. The commander of the Passdaran Revolutionary Guards Corps tells the ‘leader’ of the Islamic regime about the “Islamic Middle East” that is taking form under the leadership of Iran. He also talks of Iran’s readiness to strike at the “strategic depths of the enemy” if Iran were attacked. So what is the purpose of these repeated bluffs?
The answer must be found in the explanations offered by Tajzadeh and Karubi on the nuclear issue. The nuclear issue entered a yet-another phase after the Islamic regime formally presented its response to the latest Western incentives package to Iran. Iran’s condition was that its proposal remains confidential so as to deprive not only the Iranian public of its contents, but also the world of the dealing of the Islamic regime. But since dictatorial practices have no room in democratic societies, the key provisions of Iran’s response appeared in Western media. The core of Iran’s response is that the West guarantee that it would not militarily threaten or attack the Islamic regime in Tehran. Interpretation: guarantee the survival of the crumbling Islamic order.
The United States on the other hand has a reciprocal condition for the Islamic regime: Talks after the suspension of uranium enrichment. Tony Blair, who is in step with US foreign policy, described the reasoning for this condition to be that it would be a historic mistake to ignore Iran’s plans to produce nuclear weapons. He compared such a mistake to the one that Europe made in compromising with Hitler. Even IAEA’s ElBaradei’s views are now close to those of the US and retain on this. He said last week that Iran had little time left to decide and would otherwise face international sanctions.
But if the reports in the Financial Times are correct, Europe seems to be reaching some sort of accord with Iran on the issue and seems ready to engage in talks even before the suspension of enrichment activities in Iran. Something that will be clear today after EU’s Solana holds his talks with Iran’s Larijani.
Hashemi Samareh, the link between ultra-fundamentalist ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is now in Paris to meet with French President Jacques Chirac before the UN Security Council votes on the sanctions.
Is this meeting not the cause for the recent round of attacks, closures and limitations on the Iranian media?
If Europe refrains from compromising and stays with the US and Britain, the pressure on the Islamic Republic will be increased and sanctions will be imposed on it, thus exposing all of Tehran’s bluffing policies. But if Europe does compromise, then the Islamic regime will have bought yet another two months based on what Khatami has been saying in the US, after which it must still stop its activities for what it has been publicizing as ‘Iran’s right to nuclear energy’, claiming that this is the wish of the whole Iranian nation.
But in either of these defeats and failures, hardline officials in Iran are going to announce a complete ‘victory’. And the Iranian nation which is now subjected to hearing only the words of the government’s officials on issues that concern their future and lives, will be deprived of the words and views of the popular Sharg newspaper, which pursued its life very cautiously and strived to stay in business by respecting the official publication red-lines. But only until last week, when it was finally shut by judiciary authorities of the Islamic state.

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