Written by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Highlights of the week Ending June 30, 2011 on Geopolitical Moves by the Iranian Regime
Internal political struggles within the conservative camp: arrests of Ahmadinejad’s allies continue
18 political prisoners end hunger strike
Iranian press voices criticism of Turkey over its stance towards Syrian regime
Iran skeptical over President Obama’s announcement on U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan
Pictures of the week: Revolutionary Guards’ “Great Prophet-6” military exercises
The struggle waged by the traditional-conservative establishment against the allies of President Ahmadinejad and his office chief Rahim Masha’i (referred to as the “deviant faction”) has entered a new phase in recent days with the arrests of some of them.
Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh, one of Rahim Masha’i’s allies and chairman of the High Council of Iranian Expatriates’ Affairs, was arrested last weekend, only days after Majles members had forced him to resign as deputy foreign minister for administrative and financial affairs. Also arrested in recent days were Ali Asghar Parhizkar, head of the Arvand Free Trade Zone on the Persian Gulf coast; and Ali Reza Moghimi, head of the Aras Free Trade Zone in East Azerbaijan province.
The three senior officials, considered to be close allies of President Ahmadinejad’s advisors, are accused of involvement in economic corruption affairs. In recent weeks, the Iranian media reported that nearly 30 people close to Ahmadinejad have been arrested. Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Eje’i announced this week that other officials involved in corruption affairs could be arrested as well.
Commenting for the first time on the wave of arrests of his allies, President Ahmadinejad said that the arrests were motivated by political interests. He warned that, in case of an attempt to act against members of his government, he would break his silence and utilize his legal powers to protect his allies. Meanwhile, media affiliated with the president’s critics in the conservative bloc reported that the president had disregarded established protocol and was conspicuously absent from a meeting held earlier this week between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai.
Eighteen political prisoners held in two prisons in Tehran ended a hunger strike which had started as a protest over the deaths of two members of the Nationalist-Religious opposition movement, Haleh Sahabi and Reza Hoda Saber. The hunger strike of twelve political prisoners held in Evin Prison’s ward 350 began on June 18, and was joined several days later by six political prisoners held in Raja’i Shahr Prison.
Earlier this week, the prisoners complied with the request of senior reformist opposition officials and senior reformist clerics to end the strike due to their deteriorating physical condition.
The political prisoners’ families and the spokesman of the reformist opposition sent letters to the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, asking that the issue of political prisoners in the country be resolved at once.
Iranian media have recently taken a critical stance on the change in Turkey’s policy towards Syria following the riots that had broken out in that country.
This stance could be seen in a number of commentary articles published on the Iranian media, strongly criticizing Ankara’s approach towards the developments in the Arab world in general and Syria in particular.
The conservative daily Keyhan strongly criticized Turkey’s attitude on the developments in Syria and its attempts to exert pressure on Hamas to recognize Israel as part of the internal Palestinian dialogue in Cairo. The daily warned that if Turkey does not change its stance, it will be faced with considerable internal and regional challenges and serious resistance from Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The resistance may compromise Turkey’s position, Keyhan argued, since its regional influence depends on cooperation with those countries.
The daily Hemayat also strongly criticized Turkey’s policy towards Syria and even accused it of helping the U.S. set the stage for a military intervention in Syria.
The website Khabar Online brought up doubts over the Turkish involvement in the Arab world, arguing that Turkey’s involvement reflects a scenario prepared by Saudi Arabia to weaken Iran’s influence in the region.
According to the website, Turkey seeks to take advantage of the developments in the Arab world for its own interests, and hasn’t changed its past policy. If Turkey changed its stance towards the Palestinians, for example, it would have to cut off its ties with Israel.
Press TV, an Iranian English-language website, has also condemned Turkey’s policy towards the events in Syria, going as far as to accuse Turkey of being responsible for the riots in that country and claim that the weapons used by the demonstrators had been smuggled to Syria from Turkey.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement on his intention to pull out American forces from Afghanistan in the coming years was met with considerable skepticism in Iran.
Speaking at a meeting with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai at an international anti-terrorism conference held in Tehran this week, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that Obama’s announcement was geared towards U.S. domestic interests and warned about America’s intention to establish permanent bases in Afghanistan for its forces to use.
The reaction of the Iranian press to President Obama’s announcement was similarly dismissive. The conservative daily Jomhuri-ye Eslami argued that the president’s announcement should be considered a tactical measure, a deception meant to serve America’s domestic propaganda and political needs. President Obama is well aware that the ongoing U.S. presence in Afghanistan may jeopardize his standing in the coming election, and it is in this context that his announcement should be understood. Having somewhat improved his position with the announcement on Bin Laden’s killing, he now hopes to create the right conditions for re-election using his new tactics in Afghanistan.
The conservative daily E’temad also argued that the sole purpose of the plan to pull out the Western military forces was to please Western public opinion. The situation in Afghanistan is so complicated that the withdrawal of the Western forces cannot be expected to solve the severe problems facing the country, and the Afghans cannot be expected to become self-sufficient by 2014. or the local forces to provide security to a country locked in perpetual warfare for many decades (E'temad, June 26)
Pictures of the Week