Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Iran Has 'Blood on its Hands' MacKay Says

National Post:

August 19, 2006

Mike Blanchfield

With a potential international showdown looming next week in Iran's nuclear standoff with the West, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay says Tehran has "blood on its hands" for backing Hezbollah in its recent war against Israel.

In an interview with CanWest News Service, Mr. MacKay highlighted Iran's support of Hezbollah and its nuclear ambitions, which will be back in the international spotlight on Tuesday -- the symbolic date in the Muslim calendar chosen by the Islamic regime to reply to UN demands to end its suspected nuclear weapons program.

"They [Iran] are certainly behind much of the difficulty that's going on in the region by funding Hezbollah, by supporting them in terms of their activities against Israel. They have a great deal of responsibility and blood on their hands from their activities," he said.

Mr. MacKay said he saw a "glimmer of hope" this week Tehran might consider halting its uranium enrichment program, although he's not holding his breath.

Iran says it needs nuclear energy to provide electricity, but the West suspects it of trying to create a nuclear bomb.

The United States says it wants the United Nations to move swiftly to impose sanctions if Iran fails to halt uranium enrichment by Aug. 31, the deadline set by the UN Security Council for Tehran to respond to an incentive package offered by the West.

"I think this is one of the more ominous and looming concerns that everyone should be focused on," Mr. MacKay said.

"Of course, we've been very much caught up with what's been happening in the Middle East, but Iran, it's fair to say, has been described an agent provocateur." Mr. MacKay also pointed to Syria as "a conduit for Iran to perpetrate much of this mischief."

Israel and the United States are concerned Iran and Syria may try to resupply Hezbollah with weapons after the ceasefire in its 34-day war with Israel. Syria is thought to have acted as one of the main supply routes for weapons used by Hezbollah during the war.

Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, suggested his country might be ready to agree on suspension of uranium enrichment.

"We are ready to negotiate over all issues stated in the proposed package," he said this week.

"One of the points in the package is the issue of suspension.

We are ready to negotiate over all issues, including suspension." Mr. Mottaki's conciliatory tone contrasts with the continued refusal of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop enrichment and his fiery support of Hezbollah.

"I have reservations about Iran's intentions for obvious reasons. At this point I think the Foreign Minister's statement is -- I would describe it as a glimmer of hope -- and let's hope that they follow through on their word," Mr. MacKay said.

Iran ready for Israel action after Lebanon war - army

Yahoo Asia News:

Sunday August 20, 2:19 AM

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A senior Iranian army commander said on Saturday the armed forces were prepared for any action by Israel after what Iran has called the Jewish state's defeat at the hands of Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrillas.

Ataollah Salehi, commander-in-chief of Iran's army, made his comment on the first day of army wargames, which started in the south of the country but will later extend to other areas. He did not say how long the manoeuvres would last.

"The enemy has gone mad facing Hizbollah's strength and we should keep ourselves prepared given the history we have from our mad enemy," Salehi was quoted as saying by Iran's official IRNA news agency.

Iranian officials have praised the truce in Lebanon as a victory for Iran's ally Hizbollah and a defeat for Israel.

Iran is embroiled in a nuclear standoff with the West.

It is due to reply by Aug. 22 to a demand by major powers that it relinquish uranium enrichment in return for trade and technical concessions. It denies accusations by western countries that it is seeking nuclear bombs. Israel launched a strike on Iraqi nuclear facilities in 1981 and some analysts have speculated Israel could consider a strike on Iran. But they say this would be a tougher task, partly because Iran's facilities are widely dispersed.

"We have designed plans that will definitely surprise our enemies," Salehi said in comments on state television, adding that the wargames would be held across the country.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the ideologically driven wing of the armed forces which has a separate command structure to the regular military, held wargames in the Gulf in April in which they tested new missiles, torpedoes and other equipment.

Analysts interpreted those wargames as a thinly veiled threat that Iran could disrupt vital oil shipping lanes if pushed by an escalation in the nuclear dispute.

Officials said new home-made equipment would be tested during the army's manoeuvres, newspapers earlier reported, but no such tests were announced on Saturday.

Iran launches military exercises

Yahoo News:

Sat Aug 19, 4:45 AM ET

Iran on Saturday launched a series of large-scale military exercises aimed at introducing the country's new defensive doctrine, state-run television reported.

The television report said the military exercise would occur in 14 of the country's 30 provinces and could last as long as five weeks.

The first stage of the maneuvers began with air strikes in the southeastern province of Sistan va Baluchistan, the report said.

The military exercises come as Iran faces heightened international scrutiny because of its contentious nuclear program and for supporting the guerrilla group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Iran has denied Israeli accusations it is arming and training Hezbollah fighters but also has declared Hezbollah victorious in its battle against the Jewish state.

The Islamic Republic, which views the United States as an arch foe, also is concerned about the U.S. military presence in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel's threats to destroy its nuclear facilities.

The military exercise, involving 12 infantry regiments, is called "The Blow of Zolfaghar," in reference to a sword that belonged to Imam Ali, one of the most revered figures of Islam for Shiite Muslims. A majority of Iran's 70 million people are Shiite.

Iran has routinely held war games over the past two decades to improve its combat readiness and test locally made equipment such as missiles, tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Iran bans The Economist over Gulf map

Yahoo News:

By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Writer

Wed Jun 14, 6:39 PM ET

Iran has banned The Economist magazine for describing the Persian Gulf as merely "the Gulf" in a map published in the latest edition, state television reported Wednesday.

It is the second time in two years that Iran has banned such an international publication for failing to use the term "Persian Gulf" in a map. In 2004, it banned the National Geographic atlas when a new edition appeared with the term "Arabian Gulf" in parentheses beside the more commonly used Persian Gulf.

Tehran believes in aggressively defending the use of the historical term Persian Gulf. It regards the name Arabian Gulf, used by some, as a name dreamed up by Arab nationalists.

While Iran dominates the eastern side of the waterway, the western shores are held by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.

State television reported late Wednesday that the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance had banned the importation and distribution of current and future editions of The Economist. The ban would only be lifted when the journal used "Persian Gulf," the ministry was quoted as saying.

In London, where The Economist is published, the magazine said it would stand its ground.

"We've used 'the Gulf' for a long time, and we have no intention of changing it at the moment," a spokeswoman for The Economist said, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with the magazine's policy.

She said the magazine sells about 750 English-language copies in Iran per week.

The current week's issue runs an article on the Iranian nuclear dispute titled: "Iran and nuclear diplomacy: Risky Bargaining — Should Iran's latest threat to stop oil exports be taken seriously?" The offending map shows Iran and its neighbors, with the waterway designated "the Gulf."

Iran lifted its earlier ban on the National Geographic atlas after the publishers decided the following month to drop the term "Arabian Gulf" in favor of a note, printed in the middle of the Gulf, that said while most people call it the Persian Gulf, "this body of water is referred to by some as the Arabian Gulf."

___ Associated Press writer Beth Gardiner contributed to this report from London.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Demonstration by women in Iran capital

Tehran, Iran, Jun. 12 – Nearly 100 women were arrested by State Security Forces (SSF) in a clampdown on a peaceful demonstration by several thousands Iranian women in Tehran, protestors told Iran Focus by telephone.Security forces used truncheons and teargas to attack the women who had gathered in 7 Tir Square demanding equal rights, the sources said.“Put an end to misogyny”, the women chanted. There were also chants of “freedom, freedom”, “we are human beings but have no rights”, and “we want equal rights”.Hundreds of young men took part in the rally and clashed with the agents of the SSF. The following are photos of the protest :

U.S. bans transactions with 4 Chinese companies for aiding Iran weapons programs

USA Today:

Posted 6/13/2006 3:08 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States on Tuesday prohibited all transactions with four Chinese companies and one U.S. company for allegedly helping Iran acquire weapons of mass destruction and missiles capable of delivering them.

"The companies targeted today have supplied Iran's military and Iranian proliferators with missile-related and dual-use components," said Stuart Levey, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury.

He urged governments worldwide to take appropriate measures to ensure that their companies and financial institutions are not facilitating Iran's proliferation activities.

Three of the Chinese companies are Beijing Alite Technologies Company, Ltd; LIMMT Economic and Trade Company, Ltd and Great Wall Industry Corporation.

The company with U.S. connections is China National Precision Machinery Import/Export Corporation, whose U.S. representative is G.W. Aerospace, Inc., based in California.

The U.S. government has applied various sanctions against the four Chinese companies in the past. In 2004 the State Department sanctioned all four in accordance with the Iran Non-proliferation Act of 2000 for transferring equipment and technology to Iran.

Movement's Coordinator interview with VOA (Audio/Video)


Jun 13, 2006, 09:31

"Voice of America" (Persian Service) broadcasted, on Saturday June 10th and via Satellite TV, Radio waves and on the Internet, its "Round Table" Q&A program in reference to Iran. The guest was Aryo B. Pirouznia who was speaking on behalf of SMCCDI and the "Iran National Secular Party" (INSP).

Various topics, such as, the internal situation, the Ahmadinejad factor, the fate of the Islamic regime's reformists or tolerated docile student groups, secularity, modernism, accountability, ways of fighting the regime, the mistakes of the outside opposition and what needs to be corrected, and geopolitic factors were debated during the one hour program hosted by Bijan Farhoodi of VOA.

Several callers from Iran and Europe posed their questions to Pirouznia or endorsed the Movement's stands.

To listen to the interview click here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Iran-Mexico soccer game leads to clashes in several Iranian cities


Jun 12, 2006, 01:32

Unrest, sporadic clashes and attack of some public buildings and materials happened in several Iranian cities, yesterday night, following Iran's 3-1 loss to Mexico in the frame of the 2006 Soccer World Cup.

Angry supporters expressed their hostility, against the Islamic regime and in cities, such as, Tehran, Ahvaz, Shiraz and Esfahan. Several were injured or arrested by the Islamic regime's security forces and plainclothes men.

Many Iranians had gathered with the hope of seeing Iran's victory, especially, after witnessing Iran's net dominance of Mexico, during the first haf time. But the anger arised after the astonishing and sudden mediocre game played, by Iran's National Team, during the second half time and immediately following the return of the players to the field.

Already many Iranians were speaking about the way that most members of the Iranian team had refused to chant the mandatory Islamic republic anthem, which was very noticeable during the televised transmission. Many were already speaking about the repressive consequenses for these maverick players and how their refusal had put more shame on the theocratic regime, at a time that it needed to show as much support as possible for its illegitimate rule.

Rumors spreaded quickly that the Islamic regime has forced again the Iranian players to lose, in order to punish them and to avoid massive celebrations and hostile popular gatherings at a time that it faces pressure and an increased world wide attention.

These rumors were boosted following the sudden childish way that Iran's goal keeper and a defender sent the ball, resulting in Mexico's second goal, in the feet of Omar Bravo. "It was like it was made based on an order" many were saying.

Many experts were sure of Iran's victory following the way it played, during the first half time, and as, especially, the main Mexican player was pulled off of the game due to an injury, and the fact that Mexico had used all its exchanges.

Many remember how Iran's National Soccer Team was forced to lose to Bahrain, four years ago. Several players had mentionned this fact but were quickly silenced due to threats made against their family members.

That forced loss had put an immediate stop to consecutive nightly gatherings and anti-regime demos.

A victory against Mexico would have, for sure, lead to a night full of problem for the Islamic regime, such as, those witnessed in year 2000 and during what became famous as Iran Soccer Riots. Underground groups would have used a much massive popular presence in order to transform a night of popular celebration into another nightmare for the Islamist clerics and technocrats.

Oppostion bars Islamic regime's propaganda at the occasion of soccer game


Jun 12, 2006, 00:05

Opposition groups and their members stopped the Islamic regime's propaganda and supporters at the occasion of the Iran-Mexico match played in the frame of the 2006 Soccer World Cup.

In several cities groups gathered in order to organize opposition soccer gatherings, in which they displayed the banned "Lion & Sun" flag and some posters of the Islamic regime's crimes. Such actions were very noticeable, especially, in cities, such as in Los Angeles, where, the Marzeporgohar Party had rented a full restaurant in the Westwood area, and where tens of Iranians gathered to watch the match on Television.

In Dallas and in Seattle, several SMCCDI and Iran National Secular Party members took off the Islamic regime's displayed flags, from the walls of some businesses, where some Islamic regime supporters had gathered in order to watch the game on big screen televisions.

In Nuremberg and in Berlin, tens of Iranian opponents rallied with anti-Ahmadinejad Jewish groups in order to condemn the hateful nature of the Islamic republic regime.

Jailed Iranian writer barred from seeing lawyer


Tue Jun 13, 2006

5:14 AM EDT

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Canadian-Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, arrested in Tehran last month on spying charges, has been denied access to a lawyer during his interrogations, the judiciary said on Tuesday.

Canada earlier this month asked Iran to either release or charge Jahanbegloo, who has joint nationality, and the case has further strained the icy relations between the two governments. Jahanbegloo has worked and lectured on democracy in Iran and how the Islamic Republic can engage with the West, and has written on the importance of acknowledging the Holocaust. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has questioned whether it happened.

"It is a security case. Based on the law, when it is at this stage of the investigation, he cannot have access to a lawyer," Justice Minister Jamal Karimirad told a news conference at Evin prison in north Tehran.

Karimirad gave no indication of how long the investigation stage might take. Authorities had invited journalists on a very rare visit to the notorious Evin prison, where political prisoners like Jahanbegloo are held.

Diplomatic relations between Tehran and Ottawa have been poor since Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died in detention in Iran in 2003 after being arrested for photographing Evin prison.

Iran says conditions are improving in its jails but rights groups describe arbitrary detention and solitary confinement and say detainees should have more access to lawyers and family.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Tehran's prisoner


Ramin Jahanbegloo is a noted scholar and a Canadian citizen. Now he's been locked up in Iran, accused of being a foreign agent, and Ottawa is powerless to do anything about it.


Last summer, while Iran was in the grip of the election campaign that would bring the authoritarian populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power -- and set the country on a collision course with the West over his nuclear ambitions -- Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff found himself in Tehran, talking to university students about such lofty matters as whether one can prove that human rights are universal. He was there at the invitation of a dapper, intellectually intense 46-year-old philosopher named Ramin Jahanbegloo, who had studied at the Sorbonne and Harvard, taught at the University of Toronto, and written some 15 books in three languages. Jahanbegloo, a Canadian citizen, was now back in his homeland, to foster what he earnestly called a "dialogue of civilizations."

Outside of the state-controlled universities, Jahanbegloo -- whose name in one dialect translates as "son of the world" -- had turned a small office in an arts and culture NGO into something of an international salon. Through force of will and a gregarious personality, he persuaded some of the world's most famous intellectuals to travel to Tehran, where they were treated like rock stars. Crowds of 1,500 people gathering to listen to German Jürgen Habermas discuss "post-ideological thinking," or Stanford philosopher Richard Rorty talk about "democracy and non-foundationalism." While such encounters are taken for granted on Western campuses, in theocratic Iran they took a measure of courage -- though it is only now becoming clear just exactly how much.

It has been less than a year since Ahmadinejad replaced the reform-minded Mohammad Khatami as president, but a political era has passed. Ignatieff is now running for the leadership of the Liberal party, and Jahanbegloo, who was until recently "dialoguing" with foreign presidents and the Dalai Lama, is in jail. He was arrested at Tehran airport on April 27, between a sojourn in India and a trip to a conference in Brussels, and locked up in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, where detainees are routinely subject to torture and abuse. Formal charges have not been laid, but Iran's minister of intelligence said Jahanbegloo was picked up because of "relations with foreigners." Government-aligned newspapers accuse him of being a foreign agent conspiring against the government.

His friends, and they number in the hundreds around the world, are shocked that the regime could target their Ramin -- a man so passive in his methods that a critic once dismissed him as "all talk and no action." "Ramin was not a political activist, an organizer, someone to get caught up in causes," says his long-time friend, Nader Hashemi, a post-doctoral fellow in political science at Northwestern University in Illinois, who got to know him while studying in Toronto. "That's something he was critical of."

A letter to Ahmadinejad calling for the philosopher's release has been signed by more than 420 thinkers from Antwerp and Austin to Malaysia and Serbia, including Habermas, Umberto Eco, Timothy Garton Ash, Noam Chomsky, Leszek Kolakowski, Antonio Negri and others. Danny Postel, a Chicago-based journalist and critic who is organizing the petition, admits that given the unpredictability of the regime, he can't be sure it won't do more harm than good. "The authorities could say, 'Look at all the Western intellectuals who are behind Ramin. This proves our point.' We hope it has the opposite effect of putting pressure on the regime. But one simply doesn't know." Insists Ignatieff: "This man had no connection to any anti-regime activities of any kind. It would be an international disgrace if they harmed him."

A disgrace, yes, but not the first one. Jahanbegloo is the second Canadian citizen to be thrown into the brutal Evin prison, at risk for his life. And it's the second time Canada seems powerless to do anything about it. He sits in the same prison where Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist arrested for taking pictures during a demonstration, was raped and tortured. She died of her injuries. Jahanbegloo's friends worry that he could face a similar fate. Ottawa's campaign to have him either formally charged or released has consisted mainly of stern letters from Foreign Minister Peter MacKay to the Iranian minister of foreign affairs, and futile entreaties. A letter co-signed by the EU, which has greater diplomatic and economic ties to Tehran, protested the lack of due process, the fact that no charges have been laid, and that he has not been granted a lawyer. But it has made no difference. Canada has not been allowed consular visits. "Iran does not recognize joint citizenship, so they're not in any way acknowledging his Canadian citizenship or connection," MacKay said. "In fact, by some bizarre assessment, having Canadian or American or any other foreign connection is feeding perhaps the reasons for his detention."

The Iranian chargé d'affaires in Ottawa has met with Canadian officials, while Canada's ambassador in Tehran has met Iranian officials, but there have been no public threats to recall our ambassador, as Canada did at least three times over the Kazemi affair, and no public upbraiding of the regime over the case. It's a delicate area because every step must be weighed for its consequences on a man's life. MacKay and his officials have taken pains not to issue statements that might be interpreted as putting pressure on the unpredictable Iranian regime. But some critics say Canada should be doing more, not just for Jahanbegloo but to hold Iran to account for human rights abuses, and to encourage democracy there. "If the Bush administration monopolizes this issue on the international stage, it's the kiss of death for civil society in Iran," says Payam Akhavan, an associate professor of international law at McGill University, and a former adviser to the UN war crimes prosecution at The Hague. "We take notice because [Jahanbegloo and Kazemi] are people with a connection to Canada, but there are so many people like them who suffer in silence because they don't have a foreign nationality. Canada should be engaged in promoting civil rights in Iran irrespective of whether a Canadian is languishing in prison. The case has to be raised at the highest levels. It needs to become an international issue." Reliable news on Jahanbegloo's condition is difficult to come by. His wife, with whom he has an infant daughter, is thought to be the only one who has seen him, and she has declined to speak to reporters out of fear of making things worse. She is also said to be wary of involvement by foreign governments.

If his treatment follows the typical pattern of other dissidents, he is likely being held in solitary confinement in a small cell with the lights continually on, in an effort to disorient him and deprive him of his sense of time, says Akhavan, who is also president of the New Haven, Conn.-based Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. "He is probably being interrogated to coerce a confession through sheer exhaustion or psychological breakdown," he says. Jahanbegloo could be there a long time. "If he doesn't confess, they will continue to detain him. If he does confess, they cannot release him because their accusations would lack credibility," Akhavan says.

There are multiple layers of irony to his arrest, not the least of which is that Jahanbegloo was a patriotic Iranian who turned down the chance at an academic career in the best Western universities to live in a middle-class apartment and contribute to the cultural life in his country. "I encouraged him and so did others," says Hashemi. "We said that he was more needed in Iran than anywhere else." Says Ignatieff: "He could be living a comfortable life in Toronto -- that makes me angriest. This man is a patriotic Iranian and has every right to live and teach in Iran."

Moreover, to hear his friends and colleagues tell it, the idea of him plotting to overthrow the regime is as likely as seeing Mahatma Gandhi get into a barroom brawl. Jahanbegloo was raised in a family of intellectuals in Tehran; his father was an economics professor and his mother hosted salons for writers and artists. He did his Ph.D. dissertation at the Sorbonne on the non-violence philosophy of Gandhi. He studied the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as well. "The key feature of his thinking is non-violence and dialogue," explains Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, professor of history and Near and Middle Eastern civilizations at the University of Toronto. Jahanbegloo first moved to North America to study and teach at U of T from 1997 to 2001. Hamid Marjaee, a friend and community volunteer in Toronto, remembers his dedication to his work. Except for early morning swims and strolls around the city, he spent his time working. "He liked Canada. He was very happy here, with the non-intrusiveness," says Marjaee. After a stint in Washington, Jahanbegloo headed back to Iran in 2002.

In a lengthy series of interviews in January and February with Danny Postel, to be published in the online journal, Logos, Jahanbegloo explained: "I consider myself a politically moderate and non-violent person, but a philosophically radical-minded person. . . . Philosophy is the daily practice of dissent at the level of thought. Being a true radical is having the courage to think and to judge independently." His contacts with foreigners were part of a philosophical, rather than a political, project. "For those of us who live and work in Iran, every visit of a prominent intellectual figure is fresh air which gives us the necessary oxygen to continue thinking differently," he told Postel.

Jahanbegloo comes from a generation of Iranian thinkers disillusioned by revolutionary politics and political violence, and rejects utopian ideologies like Marxism as well as religious dogma. Instead, the way forward is through tolerance, "dialogue" with other cultures, and efforts to understand them, though not to ape them. "The new Iranian intellectual is no longer entitled to play the role of a prophet or a hero," he told Postel. "He/she is in the Iranian public space to demystify ideological fanaticisms and not to preach them."

It is no coincidence that one of his best-known books, Conversations with Isaiah Berlin, published some 14 years ago, focused on a thinker Ignatieff describes as a "pragmatic" liberal. At one point in the book, Berlin tells Jahanbegloo, "Total liberty can be dreadful, total equality can be equally frightful." Here was a Persian entering into conversation with a Latvian-born Jew and Oxford don. "That's what it means to think freely," says Ignatieff, who has written an authorized biography of Berlin. "It means you don't decide you like a thinker based on his religion or ethnicity -- you find him interesting based on what he says, and that is Ramin's view."

Another irony of his arrest as a foreign agent is that, despite his immersion in Western philosophy, he was opposed to importing Western ideas wholesale into Iran. On the contrary, he told Postel, "We have to look for a universalism which is founded on all human experiences of history rather than only on Western values." Says Postel, a senior editor at openDemocracy.net, a British-based online magazine: "I think of Ramin as a philosophical ambassador between Iran and the outside world -- and not just the West. He is engaged in a profound dialogue with India." While in prison, he will miss the publication of his latest book, a collection of conversations with Indian thinker Ashis Nandy.

At U of T, Jahanbegloo founded an Iranian discussion group that met each Saturday and called itself the Agora, after the ancient Athenian forum. "Agora initially created a lot of problems in Toronto," recalls Tavakoli-Targhi, "because it brought people from the far right and far left and they were debating. They had been so polarized: Islamist, monarchist, or leftist, and he sort of messed this up. He came and brought people of different ideologies together."

There are a variety of theories as to why this moderate man of letters was targeted. For one thing, his detention is part of a broader crackdown. Student leaders and prominent writers have been arrested in past months. Human Rights Watch reported that "freedom of expression and opinion deteriorated considerably" last year, while Amnesty International pointed out the arrests of journalists, online bloggers and human rights defenders. Last month, the government even closed a state-run newspaper "due to its publication of divisive and provocative materials."

Secular intellectuals were tolerated under Khatami, who encouraged at least a rhetorical "dialogue of civilizations" as cultural policy. But Ahmadinejad is interested only in a "dialogue of religions." "This administration wants to roll back the democratic gains that were achieved in the last presidency," says Hashemi. "One way of doing that is to target someone like Ramin as an example of the type of people they don't want."

"He lived in this kind of bubble that the regime allowed for free thought in Tehran," Ignatieff notes. "Now it's not simply that they have arrested a free mind, but they have also deliberately decided to puncture the bubble for free thought. It's not just Ramin, it's all these people. In silencing him, they decided to silence all other free spirits in Iran with trumped-up charges of espionage." Another theory is that Jahanbegloo was simply becoming too popular among young Iranians, who make up 70 per cent of Iran's population.

Some accounts have linked his arrest to two articles he published in Spain's El País newspaper. In January, a little more than a month after Ahmadinejad famously denounced the Holocaust as "myth," Jahanbegloo wrote emotionally about his 2004 visit to Auschwitz, calling it "one of the most terrible experiences that anyone can experience." In a second article, which ran on April 20, Jahanbegloo outlined the current intellectual debates in modern Iran, stating that it is one of the few Muslim countries with an active civil society, which he compared to those in Poland and Czechoslovakia under the Communist regime. He described two groups of religious intellectuals -- reformists who aim to reconcile Islamic thought with democracy, civil society and religious pluralism, and oppose the absolute supremacy of clerics; and neo-conservatives who believe in the supremacy of the clerics, are against Western ideas, and oppose the separation of church and state. Jahanbegloo placed himself among a third new generation of thinkers who do not follow a specific ideology, but are in favour of exchange with other cultures and a dialogue with the West and with modernity, thus posing a threat to the philosophical and intellectual principles of the established order.

Some see Jahanbegloo as a pawn in the escalating confrontation between Iran and the U.S., which earlier this year announced it would spend US$75 million to promote democracy in Iran. Some of that money is slated to flow to radio and TV broadcasts to promote opposition to Iran's religious leaders. But some will flow to non-governmental organizations and institutions such as the National Endowment for Democracy, an organization based in Washington that receives some funding from the U.S. Congress.

Jahanbegloo won a fellowship from the endowment to cover a year's living expenses in the U.S. capital, where he worked on a book that dealt with balancing the traditions of Persian civilization with the demands of the modern world. Now, his connection to the endowment could be held against him. But the notion that by receiving a fellowship he was somehow on Washington's payroll is "bogus," says Hashemi, "because the U.S. government gives money to many academic institutions, and a lot of people indirectly benefit from U.S. largesse. In that sense, many top-ranking Iranian officials who studied at U.S. universities could be accused of the same things." Nonetheless, some blame the Bush administration for pursuing a program that is backfiring. "I think he is a victim of the kind of policy the U.S. has been pursuing of openly declaring they are giving $75 million to the opposition to overthrow the regime. So the regime has been looking for people to scapegoat. It seems they have picked Ramin as a way of making a case," says Tavakoli-Targhi.

But others say that if other countries stood firm, such a policy would not be branded as a purely U.S. project. "You can fault the Americans, but where are the Europeans and the Canadians in making a more serious commitment?" asks Akhavan. "It is equally the fault of Canada and the Europeans that they are not playing a more prominent role on the issue."

Hashemi fears there is little Canada can do to help Jahanbegloo. "Unfortunately, Canada's relations with Iran are at an all-time low. The leverage that Canada has over Iran is not extensive. The only thing Canada can do is keep raising the human rights profile and condition of Iran in international forums and not allow Iran to close the case on Jahanbegloo or Kazemi."

The Kazemi case was a flashpoint in Iranian-Canadian relations. After Iran admitted she died as a result of being beaten in 2003, and an intelligence officer was charged, Canada was forbidden to have representatives at much of the trial. Our ambassador was twice recalled in protest. The intelligence agent was acquitted in July 2004, and the story exploded again in March 2005, when an Iranian physician who had examined Kazemi fled to Canada as a refugee and recounted how he had seen signs of horrific torture and rape. More recently, a story in the National Post suggesting a new Iranian dress code would force non-Muslims, including Jews, to wear identifying badges caused an uproar, and led to our ambassador being summoned to Iran's foreign ministry. (The Post later admitted the story was wrong.)

Despite the strained relations, former Hague adviser Akhavan says it is time for Canada to get more serious about pushing Iran to respect human rights, by taking concrete steps such as using international law to indict members of the regime. "Canada should exercise leadership in leading a coalition to push for individual accountability against Iranian leaders who are responsible for crimes against humanity, such as widespread executions, torture, persecution on political or religious grounds," he says. As well, Canada could look for regime-related assets to freeze.

At stake is ensuring that the issue of promoting a civil society in Iran "doesn't simply become a standoff between the U.S. and Iran, but becomes part of a broader sustained commitment on the part of the international community," Akhavan says. In that, he adds, Canada must be strongly engaged. Foreign Affairs declined to comment on what steps, if any, are now being considered. But, says Ignatieff: "It's time for everyone who loves freedom of thought to stand up and speak out on Jahanbegloo's behalf."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Iran has weeks to settle nuclear dispute, says Rice

The Guardian:

Associated Press in Washington

Monday June 5, 2006

The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, yesterday warned that the incentives offered by the west to Iran to end its nuclear programme were not open-ended, but declined to say whether Tehran had a firm deadline to respond.

"I'm not one for timelines, but we do have to have this settled over a matter of weeks, not months," she said. The US, Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia agreed last Thursday to offer Iran incentives to give up uranium enrichment, and to punish it if it refused. "No one among these six powers is prepared to let this drag out," she said.

Iran threatens oil disruption in event of US 'mistake'

Financial Times:

By Roula Khalaf in London and Negar Roshanzamir in Tehran

June 5 2006

Iran's supreme leader yesterday warned that energy supplies from the Gulf would be disrupted if the US made a "mistake" against his country, as officials in Tehran prepared to receive the details of an international package of "carrots and sticks" aimed at resolving the nuclear dispute.

In an attempt to raise the diplomatic stakes and deflect growing international pressure, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate decision-maker, appeared to contradict earlier assurances from Tehran that the world's fourth largest oil producer would not use the oil weapon. "If Americans make a mistake about Iran, the flow of energy from this region will definitely be jeopardised," he said in a speech, insisting, however, that Iran would never be the initiator of war. His comments are likely to unsettle oil markets when they open today.

Iranian analysts say the regime considers one of its most potent cards the ability to disrupt energy supplies through the straits of Hormuz, from which much of the world's oil shipments pass.

But Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, yesterday played down the leader's threats, highlighting that Iran depended heavily on oil revenues.

Mr Khamenei did not specifically mention last week's US offer of talks with Iran if it agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and processing activities. But he referred scathingly to a "recent message from Americans", describing it as "rude, cheap and full of foolish arrogance".

Sticking to Iran's official position that it has no intention of building a nuclear bomb, he suggested the regime felt emboldened and saw no need to make concessions. He said the government in Tehran was "one of the most popular in the last 100 years since the constitutional revolution", while the Bush administration was "one of the most hated governments in the history of the US".

Despite an agreement reached last Thursday by the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany, to offer Tehran a package of incentives in return for suspending uranium enrichment, Mr Khamenei insisted that there was no international consensus on Iran policy.

Yet the bold rhetoric combined with milder messages from other senior officials. President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad said on Saturday Iran would study the international proposals and not rush to judgment. The package is set to be delivered to Iran by Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, possibly this week.

Analysts in Tehran said the occasion of Mr Khamenei's speech marking the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic republic, required the projection of a defiant image.

But the leader's comments also highlighted the challenge ahead for the world community in trying to persuade the regime to give up uranium enrichment. "The leader wants to show that Iran can stand firm and that it won't falter," said one analyst. "At the same time. Iran will study the proposals and postpone any decision on them as long as possible."

Security inspection leads to clashes in Bookan


Jun 5, 2006

Sporadic clashes resulting in shoot out happened, yesterday, in the northwestern City of Bookan, as an angry crowd attacked Islamist militiamen during a security inspection.

The militiamen were intending to confiscate textile products when they were attacked by the local residents of the Amir-Abad district. Several security agents were injured by pieces of stones and clubs and they had to open their escape way by shooting to the air.

Slogans against the regime and its leadership were shouted by the protesters who damaged the local bank and several public vehicles.

The situation is tense in most northwestern cities following last month's clashes, following the publication of a cartoon judged, by some analysts, as an insult to the Azari ethnicity. Many residents, like most Iranians, seized the occasion in order to show their rejection of the Islamic regime but the move reduced of intensity as some sources tried to portray it as a long run separatist movement.

The cartoon was in reality a hidden critic made of the Islamist clergy, but the Islamic regime's intelligence circles pushed the promotion of the theory of ethnical insult, in order to increase the fear of a civil war and split of the province from Iran.

The arrested cartoonist named 'Neyestani', who has been used as a scapegoat, is in reality an Iranian-Azari, just as like as, most of the Islamic regime's leadership, including Khamenei, who are native of the Iranian Azarbaijan province and Turkish speaking.

The Islamic regime's disinformation game was at the same time an occasion for some discredited separatist groups, such as the so-called "Diplomatic Mission of S. Azarbaijan" which are lacking of any real popular support inside, to try to make a name outside Iran; and an occasion for some opportunist oppositionist, such as "Mandana Zand-Karimi-Ervin" who are located abroad, to make 'comments' during controversial meetings or on satellite TV and radio networks. It's believed that some American think thanks, in a desperate need of a kind of Iran solution, are also fueling this wrong campaign which is undermining more the Bush Administration's popularity among Iranians.

President Bush had stated, last July, on the "need of respecting the territorial integrity of Iran". The statement had boosted, at that time, his popularity among Iranians and had lead to massive demos, against the Islamic regime in most Iranian border provinces. But a controversial meeting, held later at the WDC based AEI on last October, fueled the Islamic regime's propaganda machine and inadvertently contributed to damage the US Administration's increasing popularity among most Iranians.

The October 2005 meeting, had gathered a panel composed by some notorious fascist and blood thirsty elements, such as Rahim Shahabzi, and the very same opportunist Zand-Karimi Ervin. But the find out of some of Shabazi's racist and fascist comments, on the Google website, was a major blow to the meeting and created a massive protest reaction, by many Iranian-Azaris and Iranians of other ethnicities, against the wrong move.

The long run result of the reaction was to the point that none of the US legislators was present during another such controversial meeting, held last week, in a room at the Russell Senate Building. The meeting had gathered the very same opportunists but had no real coverage except by one agency and following the posting, a week later of Roya Toloo-i's so-called speech, on a controversial 'oppositionist' website named Iran Press News.

In reality, it has been reported that Toloo-i refused to deliver her speech, at the meeting, after understanding the real goals of the other speakers who were the affiliates of the same discredited separatist groups.

It's believed that the room, without any present US legislator, was obtained by an American Think Thank who has somehow access to the Senate and who's also somehow 'helping' the Iran Press News website in which Zand-Karimi Ervin's daughter is heavily involved.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Report: Japan Eyeing Sanctions Against Iran in Nuclear Weapons Dispute

Fox News:

Sunday, June 04, 2006

TOKYO — Japan is considering imposing sanctions on Iran if it continues to reject international calls to scrap its nuclear program and controversial uranium enrichment efforts, a news report said Sunday.

The sanctions would ban the remittances of money to Iran from Japan, the Yomiuri newspaper said, citing unidentified sources.

CountryWatch: Iran

Japan has tried to seek a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions, but with Iran still uncommitted to a package of incentives offered by other nations, the Japanese government is considering stronger measures, the report said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, when asked about Iran on a Sunday morning talk show, declined to say whether Japan was considering sanctions and said the government is still pushing for a diplomatic resolution.

But he said he doubted whether sanctions would be effective against Iran, given the windfall profits the country is making on the currently high price of oil.

"It might not damage Iran, but could cause confusion in the world economy," Abe said on TV Asahi's Sunday Project.

On Thursday, Foreign Ministry Taro Aso urged Iran to accept a U.S. offer for direct talks in return for suspending its controversial uranium program, but said Tokyo was not considering economic sanctions.

Foreign Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment Sunday afternoon.

Local news reports have said the United States is urging Japan to consider restricting financial transactions with Iran should diplomatic efforts fail to break the diplomatic impasse. Some have said Washington is pressuring Japan to freeze plans to develop oil fields in Iran, although both sides have denied the reports.

Japan, a top U.S. ally that also imports much of its oil from Iran, has been keen to play a mediating role in resolving the standoff.

Japan has started to curb crude oil imports from Iran amid the nuclear controversy. Oil shipments from Iran fell by 20 percent in April compared to a year earlier, according to Trade Ministry data.