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Iranian Alert -- May 2, 2004 [EST]-- IRAN LIVE THREAD -- "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
The Iranian Student Movement Up To The Minute Reports ^ | 5.2.2004 | DoctorZin

Posted on 05/01/2004 9:03:42 PM PDT by DoctorZIn

The US media almost entirely ignores news regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Tony Snow of the Fox News Network has put it, “this is probably the most under-reported news story of the year.” Most American’s are unaware that the Islamic Republic of Iran is NOT supported by the masses of Iranians today. Modern Iranians are among the most pro-American in the Middle East.

There is a popular revolt against the Iranian regime brewing in Iran today. I began these daily threads June 10th 2003. On that date Iranians once again began taking to the streets to express their desire for a regime change. Today in Iran, most want to replace the regime with a secular democracy.

The regime is working hard to keep the news about the protest movement in Iran from being reported. Unfortunately, the regime has successfully prohibited western news reporters from covering the demonstrations. The voices of discontent within Iran are sometime murdered, more often imprisoned. Still the people continue to take to the streets to demonstrate against the regime.

In support of this revolt, Iranians in America have been broadcasting news stories by satellite into Iran. This 21st century news link has greatly encouraged these protests. The regime has been attempting to jam the signals, and locate the satellite dishes. Still the people violate the law and listen to these broadcasts. Iranians also use the Internet and the regime attempts to block their access to news against the regime. In spite of this, many Iranians inside of Iran read these posts daily to keep informed of the events in their own country.

This daily thread contains nearly all of the English news reports on Iran. It is thorough. If you follow this thread you will witness, I believe, the transformation of a nation. This daily thread provides a central place where those interested in the events in Iran can find the best news and commentary. The news stories and commentary will from time to time include material from the regime itself. But if you read the post you will discover for yourself, the real story of what is occurring in Iran and its effects on the war on terror.

I am not of Iranian heritage. I am an American committed to supporting the efforts of those in Iran seeking to replace their government with a secular democracy. I am in contact with leaders of the Iranian community here in the United States and in Iran itself.

If you read the daily posts you will gain a better understanding of the US war on terrorism, the Middle East and why we need to support a change of regime in Iran. Feel free to ask your questions and post news stories you discover in the weeks to come.

If all goes well Iran will be free soon and I am convinced become a major ally in the war on terrorism. The regime will fall. Iran will be free. It is just a matter of time.

DoctorZin


TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: alsadr; armyofmahdi; ayatollah; cleric; humanrights; iaea; insurgency; iran; iranianalert; iranquake; iraq; jayshalmahdi; journalist; kazemi; khamenei; khatemi; moqtadaalsadr; persecution; politicalprisoners; protests; revolutionaryguard; rumsfeld; satellitetelephones; shiite; southasia; southwestasia; studentmovement; studentprotest; terrorism; terrorists; wot
Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin”

1 posted on 05/01/2004 9:03:43 PM PDT by DoctorZIn
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To: DoctorZIn
If Carter had handled the situation better, Iran might already have become an ally.
2 posted on 05/01/2004 9:05:24 PM PDT by TomEwall
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To: Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; McGavin999; Hinoki Cypress; ...
Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin”

3 posted on 05/01/2004 9:06:15 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: TomEwall
Agreed.
4 posted on 05/01/2004 9:07:00 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
PING
5 posted on 05/01/2004 9:07:10 PM PDT by ConservativeVoice
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To: DoctorZIn
Bush Says Democracy in Iraq has Message for Damascus and Tehran

May 01, 2004
BBC News
BBCi

A year after declaring an end to major combat operations in Iraq, US President Bush has been defending his comments.

After the worst month for US forces in Iraq, his critics have been focusing on the speech made against a background of a banner saying "mission accomplished".

"Life for the Iraqi people is a world away from the cruelty and corruption of Saddam's regime," Mr Bush said in his weekly radio address.

But he warned of the challenges still to be faced.

"Illegal militias and remnants of the regime, joined by foreign terrorists, are trying to take by force the power they could never gain by the ballot," he said.

"These groups have found little support among the Iraqi people."

Mr Bush also acknowledged that there is likely to be more violence in the run-up to the 30 June handover of sovereignty.

"We will not be intimidated or diverted. On 1 July, and beyond, our reconstruction and military commitment will continue."

'Not in vain'

The BBC's Nick Childs in Washington says Mr Bush made no apologies for last year's remarks but instead he attempted to put the best gloss on the current situation.

Without mentioning the heavy toll suffered in April, the president said that US forces are "sacrificing greatly".

But he told the families of the soldiers who had died that "their loss is not in vain".

"The success of Iraqi democracy would send forth the news, from Damascus to Tehran, that freedom can be the future of every nation."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3677045.stm
6 posted on 05/01/2004 9:08:02 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Saudi Militants Raise Stakes in Battle of Wills

May 01, 2004
Reuters
Dominic Evans

RIYADH -- Militants in Saudi Arabia took their battle against pro-U.S. Saudi rulers to a new level by targeting vital economic facilities in the Gulf state, killing five Westerners in a shooting spree in an oil city.

Saturday's attack in the industrial hub of Yanbu was the first to target a petrochemical complex in the country, the world's largest oil exporter.

Saudi Arabia said the shooting was carried out by workers who used their passes to access the tightly secured site and gun down the five engineers -- two Americans, two Britons and an Australian employed by Swiss-based firm ABB Lummus.

Another American and a Canadian were injured. The four gunmen were later killed in clashes with police. Two officers also died and 18 were injured.

Riyadh has cracked down on militants linked to Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group since a series of suicide bombings on residential compounds in the capital last year killed 50 people, including nine Americans.

But despite the arrest or killing of suspects, militants appear determined to heed calls by al Qaeda leaders and widen the conflict by striking sophisticated and vital targets in their bid to destabilize what they see as "apostate" rulers allied with the United States.

Last month, a suspected al Qaeda suicide bomber destroyed a police headquarters in Riyadh and killed five people in the first major attack on a government target.

In Saturday's attacks witnesses said the gunmen also dragged the body of a Westerner through the streets of Yanbu but the report could not be independently confirmed.

Top Saudi al Qaeda leader Abdulaziz al-Muqrin has called for the bodies of Americans to be dragged through Saudi streets, urged fighters to expel "infidel" Americans from the birthplace of Islam and target security forces who stand in their way.

"God willing, the day will come when bodies of Americans and Jews will be dragged, humiliated and trampled in the Arabian peninsula, them and their tyrants and allies. The day will come, God willing, when we will destroy their bases over their heads and kick them out of our land," one statement by Muqrin said.

In the shooting spree in Yanbu, a city on the Red Sea, the gunmen also fired on U.S. fast food chain McDonald's and threw a pipebomb at an international school but no casualties were reported.

Riyadh has come under intense pressure from Washington to quash militants after the September 2001 airliner attacks on U.S. cities in which most of the hijackers were Saudi nationals.

Prior to the attack on the Riyadh police headquarters, Washington ordered non-essential diplomats out of Saudi Arabia and urged its 35,000 citizens to leave the country, citing fresh signals of possible attacks on Western interests.

Threats of instability could hurt efforts to attract international investment and diversify Saudi Arabia's oil-dominated economy. But it was not clear if foreign firms would scale down their operations or pull out staff.

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=5007846&section=news
7 posted on 05/01/2004 9:08:51 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
I just received this from Banafsheh regarding her father who has been in Iran's famous Evin prison...

"Hi Everyone,

Here is a photo of my father in the hospital. My father can now receive visitors as he is officially on a medical furlough. He will be staying in the hospital for the next few months has he has a battery of operations that must be performed on him.

Banafsheh"


8 posted on 05/01/2004 9:20:10 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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Comment #9 Removed by Moderator

To: DoctorZIn
These young men and women are so brave and courageous. We watch every documentary we see on them. We pray so hard for them.

Because of them one day they will have a country that is free. They will be able to walk in their streets with their children in strollers laughing and loving, living freely like we do here in America.

Freedom isn't free. It is won by blood, sweat and tears. America was founded that way, and is being kept free by the blood, sweat and tears of Americas troops, and from the families of America's fallen hero's.

Thank you for these threads DoctorZin. Democracy in Iran would be such a blessing, for so many reasons. We pray that day will come very soon.

May God protect these young brave people! They just amaze us.... the risks they take, their stories. They are so heroic. Many blessings!
10 posted on 05/01/2004 10:53:35 PM PDT by Vets_Husband_and_Wife
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To: tantric
Do you know what DoctorZin is talking about? He isn't talking about the Mullahs.

Goodness. These are some of the bravest people we've ever studied. They DIE standing up against the Mullahs and Ayatollahs. I don't think you understand that this thread is in support of those who "oppose" the current situation in Iran, or that we (America) actually supports "the people" taking a stand against them.

Anyway.. just trying to help you get a "clearer" picture about this thread.

FRegards
11 posted on 05/01/2004 11:02:16 PM PDT by Vets_Husband_and_Wife
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To: DoctorZIn
I've heard about rumors that many Muslims (including a sizable contingent in Iran) believe that President Bush is somehow the "Messiah." I'm not exactly sure how best to describe this (apparently an old caliph disappeared and will return or something), but I've heard that the closeness of the 2000 election has something to do with it. Got any information to clear this up?
12 posted on 05/01/2004 11:06:46 PM PDT by dufekin (Eliminate genocidal terrorist military dictator Kim Jong Il ASAP)
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Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

To: Dajjal
Please comment on this.
14 posted on 05/02/2004 12:25:42 AM PDT by AdmSmith
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To: All
Najaf office of Iran-based cleric involved in bid to end Sadr standoff

Sunday, May 02, 2004
IranMania News

NAJAF, Iraq, May 2 (AFP) - Representatives of Iran-based Grand Ayatollah Kazem Hossein Haeri are helping mediate to end a standoff between wanted Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr and US forces, the ayatollah's office said Sunday.
An official at the office said Haeri believed that any confrontation with the Americans in this Shiite holy city would result in significant civilian casualties.

"Armed confrontation will give occupation forces the excuse to hit civilians under the cover that they are ridding Iraq of followers of ousted president Saddam Hussein or members of the Al-Qaeda terror network," the source said on condition of anonymity.

He said Sadr was "completely independent" from Haeri but the ayatollah nevertheless had authorised his office here to put pressure on the cleric and the US-led coalition to find a peaceful resolution to the standoff. The office was working through Shiite members of the US-appointed Governing Council and tribal leaders.

A fresh mediation effort involving Iraqi police chiefs and tribal leaders was announced by Sadr's spokesman on Saturday. The official at Haeri's office said the talks aimed to convince the US-led coalition to postpone the trial of Sadr, wanted in connection with the murder of a rival cleric last year, until after the June 30 deadline for the transfer of partial sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government.

As for Sadr's Mehdi Army militia, the official said that it would be converted into a political party that would have the right to take an active role in Iraq's future. "This is the solution that we find reasonable and Sayed (eds: honorific) Moqtada may accept it," said the official.

Previous mediation efforts have come to a dead-end because of what the Sadr camp described as "impossible conditions dictated by the Americans." The US-led coalition insists that while it welcomes all attempts to avoid bloodshed it is not negotiating with Sadr, who must face justice and disband his militia.

A force of 2,500 US troops is camped outside Najaf and clashes with Mehdi militiamen near Kufa to the north last week killed 64 Sadr fighters, according to the US military. Grand Ayatollah Haeri, 65, has been living in exile since 1976.

In Iraq he was a leader of the Dawa party, and then took a leading role in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which was Iran-based but has become the main party in post-Saddam Iraq.

http://www.iranmania.com/news/020504b.asp
15 posted on 05/02/2004 4:54:59 AM PDT by F14 Pilot (John ''Fedayeen" Kerry - the Mullahs' regime candidate)
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To: freedom44; nuconvert; AdmSmith; McGavin999; Cindy; Eurotwit
Univ. of Chicago Returns Tablets to Iran

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI,
Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran - The University of Chicago on Saturday returned 300 ancient clay tablets taken from Iran on loan 67 years ago, marking the first U.S. return of borrowed Iranian artifacts since the Middle Eastern state's 1979 Islamic revolution.

The clay tablets belong to the Achaemenid dynasty that ruled ancient Persia about 2,500 years ago. They have provided historians with details about the languages and daily life in the Persian empire.

The tablets were received in Iran on Saturday, the official Islamic Republic News Agency said, citing National Museum chief Mohammed Reza Kargar.

Archeologists discovered the tablets in 1933 in the ruins of Persepolis, capital of the Achaemenid dynasty. They were loaned for research purposes to the institute, Kargar said.

The tablets have taken on added significance as the university's Oriental Institute — a leading center for the study of ancient Iran in America — tries to re-establish ties with Iranian scholars and archaeology sites.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Iran in 1979 after Iranian militant students seized the U.S. embassy to protest Washington's refusal to hand over the shah to Iran for trial. Militants held 52 people hostage for 444 days.

Tehran-Washington relations began thawing after the 1997 election of President Mohammad Khatami, who called for cultural and athletic exchanges to help bring down the wall of mistrust between both countries.

Relations worsened after President Bush named Iran as part of an "axis of evil."

Kargar said Iran was open to new cooperation with the university's Oriental Institute, which shared a close relationship for most of the 20th century until Iran's 1979 revolution.

"Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization is prepared for scientific exchanges with the world's scientific centers, but so far we have not signed any research cooperation agreement" with the Oriental Institute, Kargar said.

The 300 tablets are among tens of thousands discovered in 1933 by University of Chicago archeologists excavating in Persepolis. They vary in size from that of a dish towel to a packet of chewing gum and in color from beige to reddish brown.

The tablets are written in cuneiform — an early system of writing that used wedge shapes — but the language is Elamite, which is poorly understood. The translations took years, but all 300 tablets have been translated and published.

From the tablets, researchers have learned how much laborers in Persia were paid, that workers were brought in from distant parts of the empire, such as Greece, Egypt and Central Asia, and details about the system under which foreign delegations were authorized to travel across the land.

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=540&ncid=736&e=9&u=/ap/20040502/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iran_ancient_tablets
16 posted on 05/02/2004 5:38:57 AM PDT by F14 Pilot (John ''Fedayeen" Kerry - the Mullahs' regime candidate)
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To: AdmSmith; Dajjal; tantric; dufekin; Vets_Husband_and_Wife; nuconvert; DoctorZIn
You might check this

To: DoctorZIn
I just received this from a student inside of Iran regarding the capture of Saddam...

"People are happy & shocked here.

Most say that the regime should review itself... It is a turning point for Iran too. Mullahs can see Saddam now and think about their own destiny.

One Taxi driver said here: Mr.Bush is the 12th Imam of Shiites, God bless him. "

34 posted on 12/14/2003 9:36:22 AM PST by DoctorZIn (Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1040014/posts?page=32#32
17 posted on 05/02/2004 9:37:52 AM PDT by F14 Pilot (Don't give in without a FIGHT)
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To: DoctorZIn
Several teachers arrested at the issue of first day of strike

SMCCDI (Information Service)
May 2, 2004

Several teachers have been arrested at the issue of their first day of strike and rallies in front of the regime's Ministry of Education. Arrests were made in Tehran, Esfahan and Hamedan by the plainclothes agents of the regime who were identifying the activists.

While thousands of teachers defied the official threats by striking and not organizing their courses, many of them used this first day to gather and to shout slogans against the regime's officials and policies by requesting an immediate follow up of their conditions.

The exasperated demonstrators were shouting: "ta eghdam e assassi, na class na darsi" (No class and no course, till proper measures), "Etessab, Etessab" (Strike, Strike), "Hokoomat e adl e ali, in hame bi edalati" (Regime of justice and so much injustice), "Vazir e bi kefayat, estefa, estefa" (Incompetent Minister, Resign, Resign), "Majless e be in bi liaghati hargez nadide mellati" (A parliament with so little competence, no nation has ever seen), "Moalem mimirad, Zelat nemipazirad" (Teacher will die but won't accept submission), "Dirooz sokoot, emrooz faryad, farda..." (Yesterday silence, today slogan, tomorrow...).

In most schools, many teachers and supportive students didn't show up or didn't organize regular classes and spoke about the deteriorating situation of the country.

During the today's demos, several plainclothes agents having infiltrated among the demonstrators were recognized and seen their cameras and walky talkies confiscated. Other had to escape as recognized and rush toward the regime's official forces blocking the perimeters in most cities.

Most Academic areas of the Capital and cities, such as, Babol, Esfahan, Lahijan, Kerman, Tabriz, Mashad, Yazd, Gorgan, Amol, Shiraz, Hamedan, Ahwaz, Khomein, Rasht, Kermanshah, Abadan and Oroomiah (former Rezai-e) were touched by the today's action. A wider spread to more cities and a radicalization of strike are planned for tomorrow.

All desperate tries made, in the last days, by the Islamic regime and its security circles, such as, arrest of several teachers and threats of imprisonment or expel were not able to match the teachers exasperation and will to show their anger.

Their today's strike and demos follow several years of actions in order to protest against the persistent deterioration of their conditions, the repressive measures existing in Iranian schools and the non fulfillment of the regime's promises. The teachers are also requesting the immediate release of their arrested colleagues.

Millions of students are supportive of the legitimate aspirations of their "Spiritual Fathers and Mothers" and ready to defy the regime in case of the radicalization of the situation. Such event will face the regime with an unprecedented problem and its impossibility to control around 20 millions of students.

http://www.daneshjoo.org/generalnews/article/publish/article_6008.shtml
18 posted on 05/02/2004 9:42:21 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Intelligence: A Double Game

May 02, 2004
Newsweek
Mark Hosenball

Has Chalabi given 'sensitive' information on U.S. interests to Iran? He denies it, but the White House is wary.

Ahmad Chalabi, the longtime Pentagon favorite to become leader of a free Iraq, has never made a secret of his close ties to Iran. Before the U.S. invasion of Baghdad, Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress maintained a $36,000-a-month branch office in Tehran—funded by U.S. taxpayers. INC representatives, including Chalabi himself, paid regular visits to the Iranian capital. Since the war, Chalabi's contacts with Iran may have intensified: a Chalabi aide says that since December, he has met with most of Iran's top leaders, including supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his top national-security aide, Hassan Rowhani. "Iran is Iraq's neighbor, and it is in Iraq's interest to have a good relationship with Iran," Chalabi's aide says.

But U.S. intelligence agencies have recently raised concerns that Chalabi has become too close to Iran's theocratic rulers. NEWSWEEK has learned that top Bush administration officials have been briefed on intelligence indicating that Chalabi and some of his top aides have supplied Iran with "sensitive" information on the American occupation in Iraq. U.S. officials say that electronic intercepts of discussions between Iranian leaders indicate that Chalabi and his entourage told Iranian contacts about American political plans in Iraq. There are also indications that Chalabi has provided details of U.S. security operations. According to one U.S. government source, some of the information Chalabi turned over to Iran could "get people killed." (A Chalabi aide calls the allegations "absolutely false.")

Why would Chalabi risk his cozy ties to Washington by cuddling up to Iran's fundamentalist rulers? Administration officials say Chalabi may be working both sides in an effort to solidify his own power and block the advancement of rival Iraqis. A U.S. official familiar with information presented to policymakers said that White House advisers were concerned that Chalabi was "playing footsie" with the Iranians. Yet Chalabi still has loyal defenders among some neoconservatives in the Pentagon. They say Chalabi has provided information that saved American lives. "Rushing to judgment and cutting off this relationship could have unintended consequences," says one Pentagon official, who did not respond to questions about Chalabi's dealings with Tehran. Each month the Pentagon still pays his group a $340,000 stipend, drawn from secret intelligence funds, for "information collection."

Still, the State Department and the CIA are using the intelligence about his Iran ties to persuade the president to cut him loose once and for all. Officials say that even some of Chalabi's old allies in Washington now see him as a liability. If Chalabi's support in the administration was once an iceberg, says one Bush aide, "it's now an ice cube."

Newsweek May 10 issue

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4881157/
19 posted on 05/02/2004 9:43:14 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran Denies Directing Warning to U.S. on Iraq

May 02, 2004
Kuwait News Agency
KUNA

TEHRAN -- Iran Sunday denied that it had directed a letter of warning to the U.S. on the situation in Iraq through an Iraqi mediator and said that any such action is conducted through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.

Hamidreza Asefi, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman, said that "what was rumored about Tehran directing a letter of warning on the U.S. performance in Iraq through member of the Iraqi Interim Governing Council Ibrahim Al-Jafari in untrue and is only a fabricated report."þ

Asefi said that directing letters is done through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran which cares for American interests in Iran.

Meanwhile, Asefi lashed out at Washington's reliance on Baathists to occupyþgovernment posts in Iraq and said that such policy "is a sign of a mistake inþthe strategy adopted by the the United States there."þ

þHe said that the [U.S.] is relying on trial and error in Iraq for lack of a clear-cut policy.

Asefi said that rehabilitating Baathists despite widespread opposition byþpolitical and religious powers affirms that the U.S. always chooses the worstþsolutions when its policy reaches a deadend.

http://www.kuna.net.kw/English/Story.asp?DSNO=627359
20 posted on 05/02/2004 9:44:33 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Kharazi to Seek European Support Over Nuclear Program

May 02, 2004
AFP
IranMania

TEHRAN -- Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi will meet European leaders this week ahead of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting to review Tehran's nuclear program, a spokesman said Sunday.

Kharazi will hold talks with European Commission President Romano Prodi and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana from Monday before heading to Germany and Denmark later in the week, spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

He said the minister wanted to "talk about Iran's peaceful nuclear program and the situation in the region". "He will also talk about Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and our agreement with the Europeans, and the region's developments, especially Iraq."

Kharazi met Belgian, Italian, Irish, British and French officials in Europe almost two weeks ago, seeking their support ahead of a June meeting of the IAEA board of governors to discuss Tehran's use of nuclear technology.

In October Iran gave the IAEA what it said was a complete declaration of its nuclear activities but the dossier was later found to have significant omissions, including its acquisition of designs for sophisticated centrifuges that can produce weapons-grade uranium.

The IAEA board of governors passed a resolution in March that condemned Iran for failing to report crucial technologies such as the advanced centrifuge designs.

IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei returned to Vienna three weeks ago from Tehran, where he had hammered out an agreement for Iran to adhere to a timetable to answer outstanding questions about its nuclear activities.

The United States claims Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons and is seeking a tougher stance against Tehran. But under a deal struck last year, Britain, France and Germany offered to provide peaceful nuclear assistance to Iran if the IAEA cleared the country of running a secret weapons programme.

http://www.iranmania.com/news/020504a.asp
21 posted on 05/02/2004 9:45:50 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran Loses Faith in Clerics

May 02, 2004
Chicago Tribune
Kim Barker

Twenty-five years ago, the Iranian people toppled the Shah of Iran, seized the American Embassy in Tehran and established an Islamic republic, a unique form of government that they thought would rid them of their problems. The fourth part of this Tribune series on Islam looks at how even some esteemed ayatollahs are having second thoughts about the wisdom of a government controlled by clerics--something sought by many factions in the struggle for the soul of Islam.

The mob shouted for his blood. They called him a traitor; they yelled, "Death to Montazeri."

The target of their wrath? The Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri.

Once, he was heir apparent to the ruler of the country, an Iranian equivalent to Thomas Jefferson, an Islamic revolutionary who helped topple the dreaded Shah of Iran. Now, though, his fall from grace seemed complete. Outside his home, an unruly crowd of hundreds had branded him a heretic.

As Montazeri, partially deaf, prayed in a room behind his office, he barely heard bricks shattering the windows. But his family members were scared. They ran from the cleric to the chaos outside and back, trying to shield Montazeri from harm.

Eventually, the police took action on that day in 1997, spraying the mob with tear gas. The aging cleric and his family escaped harm. But they would endure years of punishment, house arrest, prison and harassment.

Montazeri's crime was simple: He had publicly criticized his one-time allies, the clerics who run the country, for abandoning human rights and freedom as the foundation of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

"The shah is gone," Montazeri said in a recent interview. "But a clergy has replaced him."

On one level, the story of Hussein Ali Montazeri is a powerful drama of life, death and resurrection in one of the world's most rigid societies. Critics say he is naive, manipulated by the people around him and bitter after falling out of favor with the government. But at 82, Montazeri has survived years of intellectual apartheid to rise again in the eyes of the Islamic world. Today he is considered one of the top two Shiite clerics worldwide and is a powerful voice for moderation in Iran.

His story also shows the ups and downs of the struggle over Islam in a nation where large numbers of people yearn for the economic and political freedoms practiced in the secular West, often viewed as an icon of immorality by the conservative clerics of Iran.

In thick, black-rimmed glasses, a white skullcap, cardigan sweater and long robe, Montazeri hardly fits the image of a rebel. His hands shake. He often sits on a heating pad. He suffers from diabetes, but he hides chocolates in a desk drawer. He speaks in singsong sentences that trail off in a wheeze.

But Montazeri is at the heart of a battle over Iran's fate--one that could hint at the future in the Middle East, where radicals from Iraq to the Gaza Strip want an Islamic revolution like the one that happened in Iran 25 years ago.

On one side are the powerful clerics who rule Iran and thwart the most modest reforms.

On the other side, grass-roots reformers complain that the fight for an Islamic democracy actually led to an Islamic dictatorship, one that jails or even kills its critics, violates basic rights and distorts the tenets of Islam.

Led by senior clerics such as Montazeri and one-time foot soldiers of the revolution, they seek democratic reforms that would restore a respect for human rights and freedom. Some, such as Montazeri, believe that the country can be run through an Islamic system. But others believe that religion has no place in government. They want the clergy to return to the mosques. They want a true democracy.

"I don't have any doubt it will come," said Ibrahim Yazdi, the Islamic Republic's first foreign minister, who now leads the country's only secular-leaning political party.

The people of Iran are caught in the middle, chanting "Death to America" at Friday prayers then welcoming American visitors with fresh fruit. They adhere to strict Islamic codes in public but disappear behind closed doors to drink homemade vodka and watch MTV.

They live in a nation that is rich in oil but has a stagnant economy. Jobs are scarce, the air polluted, the press controlled and the politics repressive.

And in the ultimate irony of the Islamic Republic, the country is becoming less religious, not more.

Friday prayers

On a Friday in January, one of Iran's top politicians stood on an outdoor stage at the University of Tehran, praising the Islamic Revolution to a crowd of thousands.

"This is a big achievement," said Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran's president from 1989 to 1997. "In today's world, when many countries and people are against religion, we see a religion emerging capable of making a country run."

This was no ordinary political stump speech. Rafsanjani was leading weekly Friday prayers, a blend of politics and religion, of pep rally and prayer, of love for Iran's government and hate for the U.S. and Israel.

On one side of the audience, about 5,000 women sat on Persian carpets. Most wore chadors, sometimes using their teeth to hold the sheet-like coverings over their hair and bodies. They could not see Rafsanjani over the tall dividers separating them from about 15,000 men.

During Rafsanjani's speech, the crowd responded with the same cheers of praise shouted since the revolution. "God is great," they yelled. "Death to the United States."

Iran is still a religious country, despite pushes for political reform. People in the crowd on Fridays embrace the revolution and all that has followed.

"Until the day we no longer have blood in our veins, we will say `Death to America,'" said Soraya Ghayoomi, before cheerfully handing an apple to an American.

But the appeal of such services has slipped. In the early years of the Islamic Republic, hundreds of thousands of people showed up for Friday prayers in Tehran, according to press reports. Now, in a city of about 7million, it's difficult to attract 20,000 worshipers.

Mosques were often filled before the revolution. But those who still attend say mosques are now often empty.

Frustrated with their government, some people have turned away from religion. They treat their leaders like ineffectual politicians anywhere.

"I believe in God, but I don't believe in the prophet or the imams or anything else," a 17-year-old girl in pointy high heels said as she put on makeup in the bathroom of the only mall food court in Tehran. "The things we read in the Koran, it's not like the country is right now. That makes us hate them more."

Across Iran, clerics no longer command the respect they once inspired. Taxi drivers refuse to pick them up. More and more jokes are told about the clergy. One cartoon, forwarded by e-mail, depicts clerics' brains being removed before they get turbans. Some people laugh when asked whether they go to Friday prayers.

"This is my Friday prayers," said Vida Farahmand, 40, just after she finished racing laps at a go-kart track outside Tehran.

For years, a quiet rebellion has been brewing in Iran. Many people create two lives. Publicly, they obey the strict rules. Privately, they live as they want. They drink illegal alcohol and watch illegal satellite TV. They use black-market entrepreneurs who promise to deliver whatever, whenever, from whiskey to Western movies.

The government continues to rail against the West, but the West continues to seep into Iran. Instead of McDonald's, there's Mc Ali's, which sells hamburgers and pizza. Even the shrine to the country's founder has a gift shop selling Sylvester Stallone movies.

In a Tehran hotel in February, a hotel worker intently watched a DVD of "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" on a computer. Several days later, other hotel workers crowded around a TV to watch a videotape of one of the many popular Iranian talk shows from Los Angeles, home to so many Iranians that people call it Tehrangeles.

The biggest pop star in Iran now sings a love song to the tune of "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson. Ask young people about their favorite music, and hear familiar answers: R. Kelly, Metallica, Korn, Madonna. "It's like an epidemic," said Adel Amiri, 16. "Everyone just likes to listen to foreign music."

The Internet has helped introduce the world to Iran. Young people download hip-hop and heavy metal music. In chat rooms, Iranians flirt and vent frustrations with the country. When the government banned part of a book by Czech writer Milan Kundera, the objectionable material soon showed up on the Internet--in Iran's language of Farsi.

"The problem with our young people is their feet are on Iran's ground, but their eyes are on the Internet," said Hamid Ghassemi, who sells fabrics in Tehran's crowded bazaar. "The things they want and the things they have are very different."

But the young will eventually determine the future of the country. They are already a majority, thanks to a push for more Muslim children in the early years of the Islamic Republic.

About 70 percent of Iranians are now younger than 30. They do not remember the shah and his secret police. They do not remember the revolution.

The revolution

The story of the Islamic Revolution is written throughout Tehran, a city of smog, traffic snarls and boxy beige buildings nestled beneath a mountain range.

Palace Street is now Palestine Street. The square once named for a monarch's birthday is Revolution Square.

Throughout the city, giant murals feature battlefield scenes of martyrs, men killed fighting for the new country or in the war against Iraq. Pictures of Iran's first two supreme spiritual leaders loom everywhere, on buildings and inside pizza shops.

The former U.S. Embassy, where Iranians seized American hostages in late 1979 and held 52 of them for more than a year, is now a shrine to the hatred for America. Graffiti such as "Death to America" covers the outside walls. A mural of the Statue of Liberty features a skull instead of a woman's face.

The Islamic Revolution had almost as much to do with America as it did with Iran's repressive ruler, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, seen as a pawn of the U.S. in its war against communism.

After Pahlavi fled Iran in 1953, a U.S.-backed coup restored him to power. He turned into a ruthless leader, paranoid and determined not to lose his throne again. The shah created a brutal secret police force and cracked down on Islam. He tried to make Iran a Western oasis in the Middle East.

When faced with dictator-like leaders who embrace the West, people in Islamic countries have often used religion as a political tool.

The cleric Hussein Ali Montazeri became a leader in the underground Islamic movement. He was a close friend of the popular Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, exiled to Iraq and later France for speaking against the shah. Khomeini called his former student "the fruit of my life."

Throughout Iran, rebels handed out smuggled tapes and leaflets of Khomeini's preachings, from mosque to mosque, living room to living room, rallying people against Pahlavi and the influence of America.

Young men left home to join the movement. Women abandoned jeans for the tent-like black chador, a statement of Islamic and Iranian pride.

In Iran, the secular leadership at first refused to bend, responding with brute force. Police shot unarmed religious students in Qom, home to major seminaries and clerics such as Montazeri. Rebels were jailed and tortured.

"They broke all my teeth," recalled Hussein Shariatmadari, now a representative of Iran's supreme leader and editor of the conservative Kayhan newspaper. "Two of my toenails, they ripped them off. They gave me electrical shocks. I lost my kidney."

By 1978, Iran was boiling. Protests and riots rolled through the country for the entire year. People hurled rocks at soldiers, Molotov cocktails at tanks. The rebellion spread like a fever.

In a last-ditch attempt to pacify the country, the government in the fall of 1978 released many political prisoners, including Montazeri, who flew to Paris to meet with Khomeini.

When a new grandson was born, Montazeri's family named him "Down with the shah."

Within months, the shah fled. Khomeini flew home, and Montazeri became his right-hand man, helping run the new country's affairs. He leaned on an automatic rifle while leading Friday prayers at Tehran University. He supervised the writing of a new constitution.

Montazeri favored a government that would, theoretically, prevent any one person from grabbing too much power. Iran would be an Islamic democracy, with an elected parliament and an elected president, watched over by the Council of Guardians and the supreme spiritual leader. But the clerics were on uncharted ground.

"We were not familiar with the issue of lawmaking," Montazeri recalled. "We were just some clerics in Qom."

The more-secular nationalists worried that this system created the potential for an Islamic dictator. But Iranians overwhelmingly voted for an Islamic republic and Montazeri's constitution.

The new leaders promised to respect other faiths and set aside five parliament seats for minorities. Armenian Christians were even allowed to legally make their own wine for religious services. But over the years, many of different faiths, whether Jewish or Zoroastrian, would leave Iran, complaining of repression and persecution.

As expected, Khomeini was named Iran's first supreme leader. And eventually, Montazeri was designated his successor. He never commanded the same respect as Khomeini, a larger-than-life, god-like figure. Critics joked that he looked like the cat from a popular cartoon.

Doubts emerge

But Montazeri surprised people.

Emadeddin Baghi was one of many who moved to Qom in the early years of the Islamic Republic, when seminaries overflowed and people packed into Montazeri's office. Baghi, a loner on a spiritual quest, avoided the powerful Montazeri.

In 1985, Baghi wrote a book that argued for an individual's right to interpret Islam. Khomeini banned it. Baghi watched as his books were shredded, boxed and carried out of Qom.

Montazeri asked to see Baghi and told the young man that he liked his book. "He was very sympathetic," Baghi recalled. "He said, `There are always ups and downs.' He told me, `One day, as No. 2 in the country, I still might be sentenced to death by my own friends.'"

Behind the scenes, Montazeri had started to question the direction of the country. As its next supreme leader, he worried about the death toll from the war with Iraq. He complained about the number of people being executed in Iran. Montazeri wrote letters to Khomeini.

"I saw some flaws and faults," Montazeri recalled. "I always told him about them."

He did not see this as a change in his views. Instead, Montazeri felt he was trying to correct the direction of the republic, which he believed had veered away from the goals of the revolution and had started to repress people. As the Iraq war dragged on and the economy sputtered, others in Iran grew disenchanted as well.

In July 1988, Montazeri accused Khomeini of ordering the execution of hundreds of jailed opponents. "This genocide is incompatible with Islam," he wrote in a letter, later made public.

And then, in February 1989, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Montazeri gave a critical speech to followers in Qom.

"On many occasions we showed obstinacy, shouted slogans that frightened the world," he said. "The people of the world thought our only task in Iran was to kill people."

Along with the actions of several leading politicians, Montazeri's speech signaled that Iran's leaders were moving in a more liberal direction. But within days, Khomeini indicated where he wanted the country to go: He announced a death ruling for author Salman Rushdie, accused of defaming Islam.

The next month, Montazeri was asked to resign, and the landscape changed throughout the country. His photographs were ripped down, murals painted over. Streets, squares and hospitals were renamed.

Shortly after, Khomeini died, and President Ali Khamenei was named supreme leader.

Critics said Montazeri became outspoken only because he was bitter.

"As long as he was the deputy, he didn't criticize," recalled Hamid-Reza Taraqqi, a longtime friend of Khamenei's. "Once he lost his job and his capacity, then he started to criticize."

But Montazeri said he had always privately criticized the government. He made his complaints public only when problems were not fixed.

In spite of his critics, he soon developed a strong following. New students such as Baghi and a young cleric named Mohsen Kadivar started to come to Montazeri's office and his religious classes. They belonged to an unofficial group of people who had fought the revolution as young students but now questioned the direction of the country.

These Iranians had not turned their back on Islam, not become secularists. Instead, they were Islamic intellectuals who pushed for a new kind of Iran. They called for reform, for change from within the system.

In Montazeri, who had helped form the republic and write the constitution, these people found someone they respected.

"If he remained quiet, he would have been the successor," recalled Kadivar, who became a top student of Montazeri's. "But he rejected this in the name of human rights. It's a very great thing for me--greater than all his lessons."

Hopes for change

By the mid-1990s, many Iranians had grown frustrated with their government. In an echo of the shah's time, people complained about a ruthless dictator, about not being allowed to dress how they pleased, to say what they wanted. But they also worried about the lack of jobs and the loss of the country's brightest to the West because they could not find good work in Iran.

And then, in 1997, a moderate cleric named Mohammad Khatami ran for president on a reformist platform. In a shock to the country's leaders, he won.

There were high hopes of a "Tehran Spring," a relaxing of all the restrictions, a warming toward the West. Reform newspapers were planned. Reformist political parties were created.

In the new environment, certain social restrictions were eased--an unmarried man and woman could get away with holding hands. Women started to wear skimpier head scarves, often pulled back behind their ears. They dyed their hair with streaks of blond, red and silver.

Despite the optimism, it was soon clear who was really in charge. True power in Iran rested not with elected officials but with the appointed Islamic supreme leader and the appointed Council of Guardians.

The supreme leader, not the elected president, controlled the most powerful parts of the government: the judiciary, the military and much of the media. And the conservative Council of Guardians, which had veto power, screened potential candidates for office and laws passed by parliament.

After Khatami became president, Montazeri gave a lecture at his small school in Qom, questioning the authority of the supreme leader. "No government can rule by the stick any longer," he said. Although the speech was not reported in state-run media, copies of it circulated, and word of it spread.

Hard-line government supporters had often ignored Montazeri. Since his removal as Khomeini's successor, the cleric had been shoved aside in the country's political scene. He was an old man with little power, the forgotten ayatollah.

But with so much change and so many ordinary Iranians pining for a more open society, Montazeri was now seen as a real threat.

In November 1997, five days after Montazeri's lecture, a rally was held in Qom to support the supreme leader. But the rally turned violent, and the mob attacked Montazeri's school, office and home. People spray painted "Heretic of the age" on a wall. Police used tear gas on the crowd. When security forces tried to take Montazeri away, he refused, saying he would rather die in his home.

Accused of treason, Montazeri was placed under house arrest, guards stationed outside. His school was closed. Relatives and followers were thrown in jail.

Other reformists in Iran continued to push the limits of the government. But there was no chance of winning.

"It was like playing chess with a gorilla," recalled Baghi, who had left the clergy to become a writer. "There were no rules."

The reformists won control of parliament, but the conservative Council of Guardians vetoed new legislation. The reformist culture minister granted new newspaper licenses, but the conservative judiciary shut many new publications--85 in all.

Hamidreza Jalaeipour, a former student revolutionary, helped start 10 reformist newspapers. "All were closed," Jalaeipour recalled. "They told me you are threatening the national security of Iran."

Eventually the government jailed provocative writers, including Kadivar and Baghi.

From his home, Montazeri reached out to the world. Followers launched a Montazeri Web site and published his memoirs, which accused Khomeini of personally ordering the death of thousands of opponents. With a worldwide audience, Montazeri became more popular, a symbol of the government's repression.

In January 2003, five years, two months and 10 days after being locked in his house, Montazeri was freed. Officials never gave a reason.

Protected by family members and close followers, Montazeri walked slowly to the major shrine of Qom to see the grave of his oldest son, killed in a bombing by Marxist rebels in 1981. And then Montazeri walked back home. He would rarely leave again.

Disappointment

By this year, many people said they had lost hope. The reformist government had been unable to make real changes, and the clerics still controlled Iran. The country's love affair with Khatami was over.

Parliamentary elections were scheduled for February, but many Iranians said they planned to skip them.

"We made a big mistake once--we voted for Khatami. We're not going to make the same mistake twice," said Surena, 30, who did not want to give her last name, fearful that she would be punished for criticizing the regime.

The Council of Guardians made sure that conservatives would win the election. In one of its boldest moves since being established, the council disqualified about 2,500 potential candidates, mostly reformists, even sitting members of parliament. Most were deemed un-Islamic.

Reformists called for a national protest. They held a sit-in for 26 days in a lobby area near the parliament meeting room.

On one afternoon, about 100 men and women sat in the lobby, on carpets and chairs. Hamidreza Jalaeipour, the former newspaper publisher, stepped up to the lectern. Jalaeipour, who teaches a class about revolution at the University of Tehran, delivered an unsparing assessment of the Islamic Revolution. He said the country now has millions of drug addicts, millions of unemployed people.

"You'll find fewer people in the mosques," he said. "They were supposed to be more crowded."

Jalaeipour talked so loudly that his voice could still be heard when his microphone stopped working. He urged the reformists to keep fighting for a free election. "If it doesn't happen, you can hold your head up and say, `We did something,'" he yelled, and everyone put down their newspapers and clapped.

But the streets outside were largely silent. Students did not protest as they had in recent years. They knew the reformists would lose, and they feared that the conservatives would crack down. No one talked about a revolution against the clerics. And most people no longer put their faith in the reformists. Instead, many young people were resigned to waiting. Eventually, they would be in charge.

So in an election with few alternatives, conservatives won. "We must prove to our enemies that nothing is more important to us than Islam and the revolution," Zohreh Moazezi, 40, said as she voted. "We have so many martyrs here, we have to respect their blood."

About half of Iran's eligible voters cast ballots, the lowest turnout in parliamentary elections since the revolution but not as small as reformists had hoped. Some voters turned in blank ballots in protest.

Cleric's regrets

Montazeri, suffering from diabetes and hard of hearing, now spends his days inside his house. He is not prone to long explanations and does not always answer questions, preferring to talk about what he wants. He is full of regret.

As a younger man, Montazeri tried to expand the Islamic Revolution to other countries. He led Friday prayers and shouted "Down with the U.S.A." He supported taking hostages at the U.S. Embassy. All were wrong, he said.

"These were all mistakes, and maybe I was one of them too, impressed by the circumstances, like the occupation of the U.S. Embassy," Montazeri said. "It was a mistake then, but mistakes prevailed upon wisdom."

Ibrahim Yazdi, the country's first foreign minister, met with Montazeri in January. "He complained about the Council of Guardians," Yazdi said. "I said, `Well, that is your byproduct. You created it. You did it.' Without any hesitation, he said, `Well, we didn't know these things. We didn't have any experience. We made a mistake.'"

Montazeri is now considered to be one of the top two Shiite legal experts in the world. He has continued to modify earlier opinions. Women are allowed to watch him teach--a rarity in Qom. Montazeri recently said women and men can shake hands in certain situations--a liberal ruling for any Muslim cleric.

He still demands change. He wants Iran to be run according to the principles of the Islamic Revolution, which he says are freedom, democracy and Islam. He wants an elected top leader who derives his power from people, not from God.

Before the election, Montazeri was courted by both reformists and the government, aware that the dissident cleric's opinion could sway certain voters. Reformists asked him to say publicly whether he would cast a ballot. But he said he did not want to interfere with voting.

On election day, officials offered to send a ballot box to Montazeri's home so he could easily vote. He told them not to bother. At least eight of the top 12 grand ayatollahs did not vote, protesting the elections, said Grand Ayatollah Yusef Saanei, who lives next to Montazeri.

It's not clear what the new parliament will do when it takes over in a few weeks. Some believe that conservatives will again try to crack down on social freedoms, and others believe this is impossible.

"Nobody can stop these freedoms," said Ataollah Mohajerani, the former culture minister under Khatami. "Freedom is like a genie in a bottle. Once you open it, it's hard to put back in."

If the country does not continue with reform, some clerics worry about the future of Islam in Iran. They say Iran is still religious, but they fear that the Islamic Republic and its vision of religion might be hurting Islam.

"If our prophet said something like what these people say--the supreme leader and his men--why would people continue to be Muslims?" asked Kadivar, an ally of Montazeri's. "No one would follow him."

Shortly after the election, Kadivar attracted 1,000 people for a speech at a Tehran community center. For three hours, he lectured in his quiet voice, laying out 10 ways to identify an unjust government, starting with lack of tolerance for peaceful opposition and ending with unfair distribution of wealth. He never mentioned Iran. But the implication was clear.

Throughout the speech, people listened quietly and took notes. One of Montazeri's grandsons, Meisam Hashemi, sat near the front, next to Kadivar's son.

When he was born, Hashemi was given the name "Down with the shah," which was changed after the shah was deposed. He is now 25, the same age as the Islamic Republic. He is a religious man, but he believes religion has no place in his government. Hashemi is no revolutionary. He understands the value of moving slowly.

Montazeri wants Hashemi and his other grandsons to become clerics, like all three of his sons. "After all, it is not bad to be a clergyman," Montazeri said, talking about all he has done for Islam and for people in Iran, all that the clergy can contribute to the world.

But Hashemi gives the same answer as Montazeri's 12 other grandsons: No.

Hashemi wants to do something with his life that could really make a difference for his family. He wants to be a criminal lawyer.

- - -

The world's largest Shiite population

Iran is predominantly Shiite Muslim, a form of Islam that differs slightly from the more prevalent Sunni Islam. About 10 to 20 percent of Muslims worldwide are Shiite.

SUNNI -- SHIITE SCHISM

Origin of the split: After Prophet Muhammad's death in 632, a disagreement arose over who should succeed him as leader of Islam. Two main factions emerged, creating a rift that remains almost 14 centuries later.

- Shiites believe that Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Ali, was his rightful successor, and that Ali's descendants are the true leaders of Islam.

- Sunnis believe that Muhammad's most pious companions were his rightful successors, and that the leaders of Islam may be chosen by consensus.

OTHER DIFFERENCE

- Shiite clerics generally have more authority among their followers than Sunni clerics do among theirs.

- Most Shiites reject the idea of predestination (that God has decided who is saved and who is damned), which Sunnis accept.

- Shiites allow temporary marriages and use different inheritance laws.

Iran

Population: 68.3 million (2003 est.)

Government type: Islamic republic

Literacy rate: 79 percent

Industries: Petroleum, textiles, construction materials, food processing

Poverty rate: 40 percent (2002)

Per capita GDP: $1,686 (2002)

Sources: CIA World Factbook, U.S. State Department, University of Texas Library

Online, Council on Foreign Relations, World Book Encyclopedia, Economist.com

Chicago Tribune

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0405020477may02,1,5525446.story?coll=chi-news-hed
22 posted on 05/02/2004 9:47:28 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran Denies Troops Running Secret A-Bomb Project

May 02, 2004
Reuters
ABC News

TEHRAN -- Hard-line troops are not running a secret nuclear weapons program, Iran said Sunday, rejecting the latest accusations from a prominent exiled opposition group.

The group last week said a special Revolutionary Guard unit was running a secret atomic weapons program parallel to the civil program declared by Iran's Atomic Energy Organization.

When asked about this accusation from the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters: "The group resorts to any deceitful remark to guarantee its survival."

The NCRI is the political arm of the People's Mujahideen Organization seeking to topple the Iranian government. The Mujahideen is listed as a "terrorist organization" by the United States and the European Union.

The NCRI has made similar revelations in the past about Iran's nuclear facilities, which have later been confirmed by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Washington accuses Iran of using its atomic program as a smokescreen for building a bomb and insists the Iranian military is intimately involved in Tehran's nuclear activities.

Tehran says its nuclear scientists are committed to the peaceful generation of electricity.

The Revolutionary Guards were set up after the 1979 Islamic revolution as a force dedicated to protecting revolutionary values. They work in parallel with the regular army and their head is appointed directly by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

NCRI also said the guards, devoted to safeguarding the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution, were supervising some 400 atomic experts to prevent further leaks of sensitive nuclear information.

Since August 2002, the IAEA has been trying to determine whether Tehran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful. However, Iran has in the past withheld information from the IAEA about potentially weapons-related technology.

http://abcnews.go.com/wire/World/reuters20040502_57.html
23 posted on 05/02/2004 9:48:08 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran MPs Back Plan Targeting Fast Economic Growth

May 02, 2004
Reuters
Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN -- Iran's parliament approved on Sunday a five-year development plan containing a number of liberal reforms aimed at spurring the oil-reliant economy towards an annual growth rate of eight percent, lawmakers said.

The 2005-2010 plan, which contains measures to cut state subsidies, reduce state dominance of the economy and encourage foreign investment, was approved by the outgoing reformist-held assembly after more than a week of lengthy discussions.

"The plan is a turning point in Iran's economic planning history. It guarantees a swift economic recovery," parliament's deputy speaker Ali Shakourirad told Reuters.

The plan targets an annual 12.2 percent growth in investment to create 800,000 jobs a year for its 66 million population. Inflation, currently running at around 14 percent, is expected to fall to a single digit rate.

The plan also targets an average eight percent annual growth rate for gross domestic product. Iran's GDP grew 7.4 percent in the year to March 2003 and is expected to have recorded similar growth in the fiscal year just ended.

After virtually suppressing foreign investment following the 1979 Islamic revolution, officials are now promoting foreign investment in a bid to slash unemployment, currently running at around 16 percent.

Among specific measures outlined in the plan is a sharp reduction in fuel subsidies, which cost the state billions of dollars a year, and permission for foreign banks to operate branches anywhere in the country.

The plan, like all legislation passed by parliament, has to be approved by the veto-wielding Guardian Council before it becomes law.

Shakourirad said the pro-reform parliament was expecting the Guardian Council to reject some parts of the plan.

"Definitely the council will have some objections but we will try not to change the soul of the plan," he said.

"The plan offers a main economic framework and has a clear vision for the country's economic future," he said.

Economists praised the plan, which they said was a continuation of reforms initiated in the current five-year plan which expires next March.

"This plan's spirit is deepening market reforms. It will usher Iran towards economic stabilisation," said Behrouz Hashemian, economics professor at Tehran University.

http://www.forbes.com/markets/newswire/2004/05/02/rtr1355946.html
24 posted on 05/02/2004 9:48:44 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Free "12 illegally-detained journalists" in Iran

May 1, 2004, 21:23
AFP

A group campaigning for press freedom Friday called on Iran to free "12 illegally-detained journalists" following instructions from an influential senior cleric this week that torture and human rights abuses should cease.

The head of the judicial authority, Iraqi-born mullah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, who is one of the most powerful men in Iran, ruled that suspects should not be blind-folded, shackled or humiliated.

"Taking note of that undertaking the organisation calls on the authorities to free the 12 journalists being illegally incarcerated and to compensate them for their imprisonment and the violence of which they have been victims."

http://www.iranian.ws/iran_news/publish/article_2205.shtml
25 posted on 05/02/2004 9:51:05 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Students Turn Down Khatami

The secretary of the Islamic Association of Tehran University, Hossein Baqeri said: "There was a time when President Khatami wasn't on speaking terms with the students but now the reverse is true. The general feeling among students is why should Khatami come to the university? What does he have to say to us. Many Tehran University students were arrested last year but Khatami did not even bother to meet with these students or their families", reported by Tose'eh.

http://www.iranian.ws/iran_news/publish/article_2211.shtml
26 posted on 05/02/2004 9:52:05 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; McGavin999; Hinoki Cypress; ...
Kharazi to Seek European Support Over Nuclear Program

May 02, 2004
AFP
IranMania

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/1128109/posts?page=21#21
27 posted on 05/02/2004 9:54:16 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: DoctorZIn
Yesterday silence, today slogan, tomorrow....

Indeed.
The mullahs have only brut force to keep them in power. I wonder what will happen when the thugs in the militia realize that they have the power to say who does what in the government?
28 posted on 05/02/2004 3:17:09 PM PDT by Valin (Hating people is like burning down your house to kill a rat)
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran UFO watchers... this just in from inside of Iran...

"UFO over Tehran now... west of the city. I had 5 people observed it again."

29 posted on 05/02/2004 5:00:14 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: F14 Pilot
Thanks and Bump!
30 posted on 05/02/2004 5:58:12 PM PDT by Vets_Husband_and_Wife
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To: DoctorZIn
This thread is now closed.

Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread – The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail DoctorZin”

31 posted on 05/02/2004 9:02:23 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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To: AdmSmith; dufekin; DoctorZIn; F14 Pilot; Destro
I've heard about rumors that many Muslims (including a sizable contingent in Iran) believe that President Bush is somehow the "Messiah." I'm not exactly sure how best to describe this (apparently an old caliph disappeared and will return or something), but I've heard that the closeness of the 2000 election has something to do with it. Got any information to clear this up?
12 posted on 05/01/2004 11:06:46 PM PDT by dufekin

To: Dajjal
Please comment on this.
14 posted on 05/02/2004 12:25:42 AM PDT by AdmSmith

You might check this
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1040014/posts?page=32#32 [snip]
One Taxi driver said here: Mr.Bush is the 12th Imam of Shiites, God bless him. "
34 posted on 12/14/2003 9:36:22 AM PST by DoctorZIn
17 posted on 05/02/2004 9:37:52 AM PDT by F14 Pilot

Well, this is an interesting twist on things! Thanks for the ping -- this is the first I’ve heard of this!

Here’s the thread to which dufekin is referring:

IRAN: God Wills It, But The People Don't Want It (Iranian youths calling Bush "the messiah")
strategypage.com ^ | April 24, 2003 | Q & D Headlines
Posted on 04/25/2003 7:55:21 AM PDT by Destro

See especially dufekin’s post #83 on that thread.

I have to take it that the Iranian youths are calling Bush "the Messiah" in an analogous use of the term, given that the Shi’ite version of the Messiah -- or Mahdi -- is someone who is supposed to be someone who’s over 1100 years old!

But it is a tremendous compliment to Bush, and a voice of hope that the evil-doers ruling Iran will be overthrown either directly by America, or with our assistance.

32 posted on 05/04/2004 3:17:02 AM PDT by Dajjal
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To: Dajjal; nuconvert
Thanks a lot!
33 posted on 05/04/2004 3:24:46 AM PDT by F14 Pilot (Don't give in without a FIGHT)
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