Monday, November 24, 2008

Iran Early Bird-Monday

Iran today is hosting a visit from Lebanon President Michel Suleiman and a number of his cabinet ministers. The visit has been defined as "historic" and as having the potential to help promote the development of ties between the two countries. Speaking during a meeting with his Armenian counterpart, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili said that the intervention of foreign forces in the Caucasus was leading to tension and crises and undermining peace and stability in the region.

3. Iran's permanent mission at the UN has announced in a letter to the New York Times that Tehran "has no intention of coming out of the NPT or cutting cooperation with the IAEA," describing the newspaper's claims about Iran's nuclear program as "irresponsible and unjustifiable" and charging that they could generate unnecessary tension.

4. A positive signal to Washington? – In an address to students at Sharif University, Supreme Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani said that the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran at the outset of the Islamic Revolution had been a mistake. "Today, we have the ability to criticize events that took place during the time of the Revolution, including the occupation of the American Embassy, the Spy Nest," Rafsanjani said. "Today, we can say that there were events that took place then that should not have occurred." Just three days after coming under harsh flak from Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad, Rafsanjani also said that he was in close contact with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and that in the event of disputes between them, he would always heed and follow the Supreme Leader's word.

5. In contrast, Iranian Deputy Chief of Staff General Rashid said at the opening of Basij Week that it would be naïve of Iran to think that U.S. policy towards Tehran would change when Barack Obama takes office. Rashid called on the army to use all at its disposal over the coming year to boost its deterrence capabilities and military readiness to combat U.S. threats.

6. Speaking at the 15th International Festival and Exhibition of Press and News Agencies in Tehran, Ahmadi-Nejad said that "the crimes being committed by the Zionist regime in Gaza" are an indication of its desperation and concerns regarding its continued existence. "This regime is on the brink of crumbling and has therefore decided to go all the way," Ahmadi-Nejad said. Directing his statements at supporters of Israel, he added: "Let it be known to you that these crimes will not go unpunished. Evil is not eternal."

7. A Palestinian resident of Jenin who turned up at the Palestinian-Iranian Friendship Society in the Yarmukh refugee camp in southern Damascus has handed over the keys to his home to a representative of Iran's ambassador in Syria, offering the house as a present for Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Palestinian, Mohammed Mustafa Ibrahim, who was in Damascus to participate in an international seminar on the right of return, said he had offered his home to the Iranian leader as a sign of appreciation for Iran's support for the Palestinians.

8. Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, one of Iran's leading religious figures, has called on the country's leaders to refrain from airing differences and problems to the media. Disputes and problems, he said, should be resolved face-to-face and not in the pages of the newspapers. In the same context, the Rooz Opposition-affiliated website is reporting that the Iranian cabinet has instructed all officials at government entities and executive bodies to refrain from giving interviews to the media without prior coordination with the government.

1. The commander of the IRGC this afternoon announced the exposure and capture of an Israeli spy network that was gathering information on nuclear and military facilities in Iran. According to the IRGC commander, all member of the network have been apprehended and sophisticated equipment belonging to the Israeli Mossad was seized in the operation.

2. The Iranian Intelligence Ministry has announced the capture of an Israel-backed terror cell in Iraqi Kurdistan. According to the ministry announcement, the four-man cell, which was apprehended on the border before carrying out any attacks, planned to infiltrate Iran and assassinate senior officials. The men were armed with Israeli weapons, the announcement said.

3. Last week (November 17) saw the execution in Iran of Ali Ashtari, who was convicted of spying for Israel. Outlining the charges against Ashtari, the head of the Intelligence Ministry's Counterespionage Department said that he had cooperated in full with his interrogators and that the information he divulged had given the Ministry a good understanding of Israel's objectives in Iran. The Counterespionage chief called on the Iranian public to learn a lesson from the affair and call 113 with any information on enemy intelligence activity. He also warned against contact with the "Born to Freedom" organization, charging that it was an Israeli intelligence trap designed to recruit spies.

4. The commander of the Iranian Army's naval forces has announced that Iranian Defense Industries experts have successfully manufactured a new training boat for the naval forces' divers. Yesterday, the naval commander announced the construction of two missile boats, the "Kalat" and "Derafsh," and a light submarine that will be launched on Navy Day, November 27, 2008. The vessels, he said, were manufactured entirely in Iran.

5. The Iranian Army's naval forces will be conducting maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman within the next two weeks. Codenamed, "Unity," the naval exercises will involve a wide range of vessels and submarines; new Iran-made weapons systems will also be on display.

6. The commander of the Iranian security forces in the East Azerbaijan Province has told the public to be on the lookout for CDs containing pornographic and immoral films in their mail boxes. The CDs, he said, were being distributed by enemies of the Revolution who wanted to corrupt the Iranian youth and undermine the values of the Revolution.

1. Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad arrived this morning Ahvaz (a Sunni-minority city in southern Iran) to participate in a launch ceremony for three large national projects – the country's largest sponge steel plant, an oxygen plant, and a sewage purification plant. The plants are slated to provide jobs to some 200 Iranian youths directly, with another 2,000 set to gain employment indirectly through the projects.

2. The director general of the industrial park in Rafsanjan has announced that three groups of investors from countries in region have expressed interest in investing the "Talia" cellular telephone project. Bringing the three investment groups on board, he said, would speed up the project and may prompt Iran's Communications Company to lower the rates for cellular calls.

3. Iran's labor minister has admitted that one of the proposed clauses in the government's economic plan that is currently under discussion provides for canceling the minimum wage in the economy. The minister clarified, nevertheless, that if the proposal was approved, workers would not be affected and instead of the minimum wage, they would receive subsidies paid out directly by the government.

4. Iran's deputy energy minister for electricity affairs has defined the consumption of electricity in the country as "unreasonable and worrying." The deputy minister has urged the need to cut back on electricity consumption so as to prevent outages during the winter.

5. Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Ahmadi-Nejad said that the Iranian government would be able to run the country even if oil dropped to $5 a barrel. The Iranian president called on the "imperialist states" not to be under the illusion that low oil prices would harm Iran, stressing that the country's foreign currency reserves and Oil Stabilization Fund are in good shape.

6. Iran's oil minister has taken full responsibility for the importing of fuel without the approval of the Majlis, arguing in his favor that the parliament would have authorized the process by which the fuel had been imported.

7. The spokesman for the government's taskforce on the economic developments has announced that out of all the proposed scenarios, the Central Bank was focusing at present on the option of knocking three zeros off the national currency.

1. A Kurdish youth, Fasih Yasamani, has been sentenced to death following his conviction on charges of collaborating with and joining Kurdish political parties.

2. Despite the fact that two weeks have gone by since the abduction of Kurdish student Rahman Rahim-Pour, his family remain in the dark regarding his whereabouts and condition. A number of Rahim-Pour's classmates have submitted a letter of protest to the president of Oromiye University, demanding information on his condition and threatening to strike.

3. Family members of political prisoners have staged a demonstration outside Evin Prison to protest the ban prison officials have slapped on face-to-face meetings with prisoners. Under new prison regulations, political prisoners may meet with their families only from behind glass.

4. The spokesman for Iran's Judicial Authority has announced sterner legal measures against anyone found using Bluetooth devices to distribute immoral or personal material. And for his part, the commander of the Internal Security's Moral Police has urged anyone who receives such material from a known source to report the matter to the law enforcement authorities.

5. The committee that oversees student publications has banned further publication of the "New Step" political-social journal by students at Arak University.

6. Following a directive from Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, houses of worship will be constructed at all of Tehran's underground stations.

7. Basij Week is upon us, and a baby born yesterday in the city of Kashan became the Basij Forces' youngest member when his parents registered his name a few hours after his birth. Speaking at a press conference, the father said that he had been following the words of Imam Khomeini, who said, "My supporters and brethren are in cradles." The oldest registered Basij member is 95.

8. Iran's Internal Security forces have closed the offices of the Society for Iran's Street and Working Children, which focused on providing education to immigrant children. A senior source at the society said the organization had been denied a government license to operate under the claim that immigrant children are illegal residents and therefore have no right to education.

9. Human rights activists are reporting that anti-riot forces at Evin Prison have transferred religious detainees, including Ayatollah Broujerdi, to an unknown location. In all likelihood, Broujerdi has been moved to a prison in Yazd to serve his sentence in exile.

10. A large number of Kurdish minority Sunni religious figures have been summoned over the past few days to Intelligence Ministry offices "to provide explanations." The religious figures were interrogated and warned by Intelligence Ministry officials not to join the union of religious figures in Kurdistan, which, the officials said, was supported by the United States and Israel.

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