Iran protester sentenced to over five years jail, to be flogged 60 times Sat. 8 Jan 2005
Tehran, Jan. 08 An Iranian woman who took part in human rights protests in front of the United Nations office in Iran in October has been sentenced to five years and three months in prison and 60 lashes.
Mina Darabvand took part in protests organised by family members of political prisoners outside the UN building in Tehran calling on the world body to condemn torture being carried out on their relatives.
The judge sentenced Darabvand after concluding that it was illegal for the demonstration to have taken place without prior permission.
Last summer many relatives of political prisoners demonstrated outside the UN building as well as a number of embassies calling for foreign governments to stop negotiations with the clerical state.
A large number of political prisoners throughout Iran went on hunger strike at the time in protest to the Iranian regimes use of torture against its opponents.
Iranian judiciary warns those who allege prisoner abuse Sat. 8 Jan 2005
TEHRAN - Iran's hardline judiciary has threatened legal action against those who alleged that detained journalists and Internet writers were abused to extract confessions and apologies, official media reported Saturday.
"We will legally deal with those who have published unrealistic material that corresponds with that of the enemy media and that tries to tarnish the work of the police," said a statement from Tehran's prosecutor.
In recent months the judiciary has been engaged in a fresh crackdown on pro-reform press and Internet sites, detaining some 20 reporters. Four of them wrote letters of repentence after being arrested.
Last month the reformist government admitted that it was concerned over the confessions, and said President Mohammad Khatami had ordered an enquiry amid allegations that the detainees were subject to ill-treatment or threats.
But the judiciary's statement asserted that "after being confronted with proof of their criminal actions, almost all of those accused said that they regretted having cooperating with illegal sites and they accepted their errors."
The statement also pointed to "contradictory" comments over the treatment of detainees, pointing to the case of female writer Fereshteh Ghazi, who claimed her nose was broken in detention.
"The police consider her claim to be a lie, since after a medical check it turned out that she had had plastic surgery some months ago," the statement said. Her allegation was aimed at "distorting the public mind and providing fodder for the enemy and foreign media."
The statement also named former Iranian vice president and outspoken reformist Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who maintains a personal website complete with weblog, as one of the people circulating such allegations.
Abtahi quit Khatami's isolated government in October, saying that working with hardliners, who took control of parliament after most reformists were barred from contesting the February elections, had become impossible.
The judiciary statement said the case of the allegations of abuse "was going through its legal process and will be handed over to a court for prosecution."
8 January 2005
5000-year-old commercial seal discovered in Iran
The oldest known commercial seal, estimated to be about 5000 years old, was recently discovered at the historical site of Jiroft in southeastern Iran. The director of the archaeological team working at the site, Yusef Majidzadeh, said that the seal, which bears the image of a goat with its head leaning back, was discovered near the governmental structure of the site during the third stage of excavations. "The 2x2cm marble seal was skillfully made, indicating that the region was a developed economic center 5000 years ago," he added.
Over 20 Iranian and foreign archaeologists from France and the USA are currently working at the site. "During the previous excavation seasons, archaeologists found around 25 seals dating back to about 2300 BCE," Majidzadeh said.
Recent studies on seals unearthed at the ancient site of Jiroft clearly indicate that the area was once the most important economic center of the Iranian plateau and its residents had extensive trade ties with people living in other parts of the country. The inhabitants of ancient Jiroft packaged goods inside earthenware vessels and/or jugs and then covered the lid with mud and affixed the special seals, according to Iranian archaeologists.
Jiroft came into the spotlight nearly three years ago when reports of extensive illegal excavations and plundering of the priceless historical items of the area by local people surfaced. Since 2002, two excavation seasons have been carried out at the Jiroft site under the supervision of Majidzadeh, leading to the discovery of a ziggurat made of more than four million mud bricks dating back to about 2300 BCE.
In response to Hooshang Amirahmadi's "Viable option":
Dear Dr. Amirahmadi:
During the past few years, you have been making overtures to the officials and members of the US Congress and administrations that they should adopt the policy of rapprochement to and appeasement of the regime of the mullahs in Iran. However, your argument is based on the fallacious assumption that the mullahs and their ideology are flexible and that they are amenable and persuadable to peace, evolution, and refinement!?
During the past three decades, several US administrations have unsuccessfully tried to encourage and tame the mullahs into respecting and abiding by the norms, rules, and laws of the international systems and communities. But, every time the mullahs have lashed back and reciprocated with more violence while the degree of their barbarity intensified at exponential rates. The disasters, misery, and destitute the regime of the mullahs have brought upon the people of Iran, the people of the region, and the whole world for that matter are at biblical proportions and are only comparable to those of the recent tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean.
It is a known fact to the citizens of the world that the regime of the mullahs and their thugs are gangs of violent and barbaric criminals and murderers.
Mimicking their ex-Soviet counterpart (e.g., the Stalinist regime), the mullahs create crisis and chaos and use deception, intimidation, and violence to rule. That has been their strategy for the past 25 years and it will continue to be for as long as they are in power.
Therefore, Iranian people and the civilized communities around the world deeply, profoundly, and pathologically hate, despise, detest, reject, renounce, and condemn the regime of the mullahs and their ideology. The statistics collected and generated by the regime point to these sentiments.
Having described the beastie nature of the regime of the mullahs, the dynamics of the current situation in Iran point to one important observation! That is, the solution formula to its political impasse must consider the following that Iranian people and the civilized world can not and will not co-exist with these beasts (e.g., mullahs, their terrorist colleagues, and thugs.) A good analogy would be that people can not co-exist with dogs infected with rabies. It is imperative that you quarantine and shoot the infected dogs!
Hence, any solution to the problem at hand in Iran must have as a component the elimination of the beasts. Unfortunately, your recommended viable option of more carrots and less sticks will not work since it will only make the beasts salivate and attack for more!
A feasible option to the current situation in Iran would have to have military, economic, and political components. The latter two components must be used to encourage and support the people of Iran to achieve their long-desired objective, that is, a free and democratic society. The military component must be used to deprive the mullahs from all the wealth they have plundered and amassed over the years and for their complete annihilation! Whether or not this will result in another Iraq totally depends upon the level of cooperation by the Iranian people!
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Problems with Syria, Iran should not be aired publicly: Allawi
Sat Jan 8, 6:40 AM ET Mideast - AFP
DUBAI (AFP) - Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said he would use all available means to defend Iraqis against neighboring states harboring "terrorists," but appeared to rebuke his defense minister who has repeatedly slammed Syria and Iran.
"The interim Iraqi government is entrusted with ensuring the security of Iraqi citizens with all available means -- be they diplomatic, political or otherwise -- and we will not hesitate to use them," he told the Dubai-based daily Al-Bayan on Saturday.
"Some neighboring countries host terrorist elements who make plans to undermine (Iraqi) national security from inside these countries," Allawi said.
But asked about Defense Minister Hazem al-Shaalan's "fiery" remarks about Syria and Iran, which he has repeatedly blamed for violence by anti-US insurgents in Iraq (news - web sites), Allawi said differences within the government were not about substance but about "ways of dealing" with the issue.
"In my judgement, that should be (through) diplomatic channels, not in a media auction that does not help resolve any problem with this or that country," he said.
"A positive relationship with Syria is at the top of my priorities," Allawi added.
Allawi himself has made public statements critical of Syria and asked it to hand over Iraqis implicated in the ongoing violence in Iraq.
In his latest diatribe against Syria and Iran, Shaalan threatened Friday to instigate violence in these two countries.
"We do not want to be a party in harming either Syria or Iran ... (But) we have the means of shifting the battlefield from the streets of Baghdad to the streets of Tehran and Damascus," said Shaalan, whose remarks were reported by Arab satellite channels.
"But believe me, neither I, nor the prime minister, nor the president, nor the ministers, nor even the (US-led) coalition forces intend to meddle in Syrian or Iranian affairs," he added.
His remarks were accompanied by the release of a video purporting to show confessions by a top insurgent that militants received help from Iran and Syria.
In the interview with Al-Bayan, Allawi charged that neighboring regimes feared a democratic Iraq would make it impossible for them to survive in office if their peoples demanded similar democracy.
He said his government wanted two things of its neighbors: "control their borders with Iraq and prevent infiltration (of insurgents), and stop media mobilization campaigns ... whereby terrorism is called 'resistance'."
Both Syria and its key regional ally Iran have repeatedly rejected US-led accusations that they are meddling in Iraq.
Minister's 'advice' on Iran jet dealAntony Barnett, public affairs editor
Sunday January 9, 2005
A senior minister wrote a personal letter of advice to the husband of Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell on side-stepping a strict US trade embargo against Iran, The Observer can reveal.
The letter from the Foreign Office Minister, Baroness Symons, to Jowell's husband, David Mills, reveals she gave him advice on how to proceed with a controversial $200 million deal to sell jet aircraft to the Islamic regime in Iran.
In the wake of the David Blunkett scandal, opposition politicians have been quick to seize on the leaked letter as providing fresh evidence of Labour ministers being especially helpful to their friends. They have demanded a full explanation from the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw.
The US has a strict embargo on selling jets to Iran. Any British company or individual caught flouting the law would be blacklisted in the US.
In 2003 The Observer revealed how Jowell's husband lobbied Symons about the potentially lucrative deal to provide Iran with several British Aerospace jets after he sat next to her at a dinner party. Mills then went on to write to her, asking for help to push the deal through.
At the time Straw and Symons were adamant that Mills did not receive any special treatment. However, the leaked letter from Symons, written on headed government notepaper, suggests that this was not the case.
Symons wrote: 'Dear David. Given the obvious political sensitivities you will need to tread very carefully with this one. This is a difficult time to be raising Iran policy in Washington. The advice I have been given, with which I am inclined to agree, is that our official support for you with the administration would raise the profile of the case and, by so doing, increase the chance of eliciting a negative response.'
She advised Mills: 'So you will need to think very carefully about a lobbying strategy calibrated to achieve the right result. I am pleased that Allan Flood [the British Aerospace director] will be in Washington next week and that he will be calling on the Embassy to discuss this further. They are best placed to advise on next steps.'
Symons, whose portfolio includes the Middle East and international security, concluded: 'If after that meeting, you need further advice or help from me, please let me know. Yours sincerely, Liz.'
Opposition parties have accused Symons of giving Mills preferential treatment on a deal that could have had significant consequences for Britain's foreign relations. They argue that she should have written back telling him his request was being handled by an official.
The shadow Foreign Secretary, Michael Ancram, said: 'How many other businessmen would get such an immediate and helpful response from a senior minister?'
Last night a spokeswoman for Symons said: 'David Mills received no special treatment.'
Mills admits to looking for loopholes in the US law, but stressed he would never do anything illegal. He denied he had received any special treatment from Symons.
Mills said: 'I sought no favours and had none. It was dealt with in a completely, routine and proper way and, moreover, once I received the letter I took no further action to pursue the matter.'
Rice drops hardliner who scorned Britain's stance on IranBy Philip Sherwell in Washington
John Bolton, one of the most powerful hawks in the Bush administration and a robust opponent of Britain's "softly-softly" approach to Iran over its nuclear programme, has lost his job at the State Department.
Condoleezza Rice, who will be confirmed as secretary of state at congressional hearings next week, rebuffed pressure from conservative hardliners, believed to include Dick Cheney, the vice-president, to promote Mr Bolton as her deputy.
Tough: John Bolton is expected to return to the private sector
Instead, he will leave his post as under-secretary of state for arms control and international security after Dr Rice chose other candidates for her new team.
Mr Bolton, a tough-minded, Yale-educated lawyer, was not available for comment. He is expected to return to the private sector or academic world, although there is speculation that he might join Mr Cheney's staff.
An aide insisted that he had not openly campaigned for the post of deputy, but made clear that he would have been happy to accept it.
Mr Bolton, a veteran of Republican politics, played a far more powerful role than his title indicated. He headed the president's Proliferation Security Initiative, aimed at policing the trade of illicit arms and weapons of mass destruction.
His exit will be a source of relief for Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and his fellow European foreign ministers.
Mr Bolton was scornful of efforts by Britain, France and Germany to persuade Iran's ruling clerics to abandon their nuclear weapons ambition by diplomacy.
Mr Bolton believed that Teheran should be isolated by United Nations sanctions and, if it would not back down, confronted with the threat of military action. He was also uncompromising about North Korea, describing life in the Stalinist dictatorship as a "hellish nightmare". Pyongyang responded by calling him "human scum".
It was apparently Mr Bolton's abrasive approach as much as his unflinching politics that prompted Dr Rice to choose Robert Zoellick, the US trade representative, as her deputy instead.
Her choice reflects the fact that Dr Rice wields far greater influence in the administration than her predecessor, Colin Powell. He often found himself at odds with Mr Cheney's office and the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, and Mr Wolfowitz.
By contrast, President Bush has unstinting trust in the loyalty and political instincts of Dr Rice, for four years his National Security Advisor.
She is keen to improve relations with Germany and France, most notably, and believes that America should adopt a less confrontational approach to its old foes without compromising security or the international war in terror.
"There is a change in emphasis and approach, but don't think this means that the administration is going to go soft on Iran and North Korea," said a senior Republican political operative at the State Department. "It means that Condi wants her own people in place and the President trusts her go get the job done."
| I'm the sr. sysadmin for Anonymizer and we have a contract with VOA to provide free proxy service to Iran.
It's based off of PrivateSurfing (which you can try out for free at the Anonymizer [anonymizer.com] homepage, sorry you can't surf
The systems that run the Iran proxies are dedicated and used quite heavily. Much more than any of the servers that we have for everything else. The loadav is pretty high, and we're working on upgrading them in the next few months to increase capacity.
Most of our customers are under NDA so I don't mention where I work much, but the VOA [anonymizer.com] is one of our very few public contracts due to it's anti-censorship nature.
No, but the fanatical mob and mad mullahs who seized and control your country are. We'll try to limit our bombs to them.
Sharon weighs peace with Palestine; fears Iran's nukes
A global coalition of the giving bolstered by American military ships and choppers that are able to deliver needed relief to sick and starving tsunami victims rightly dominates the news. In Asia, the cataclysm's aftermath pulls even warring factions together.
Not in the Middle East. Palestinians and Israelis must first resolve their internal battles before they can begin to make peace with each other.
In Gaza, the leading candidate to replace Yasser Arafat in Sunday's election, Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, has embraced the radical Arabs who want not peace but conquest. These terrorists are firing rockets and mortars at nearby Israeli civilians in the hopes of making Ariel Sharon's planned withdrawal of settlers appear to be a surrender to the warriors of Hamas.
When Israeli defenders returned fire this week, Abu Mazen called all Arab casualties "martyrs who were killed today by the shells of the Zionist enemy.'
He hopes to win extremists' votes by adopting their hate- filled rhetoric as well as Arafat's platform of a "right of return' of Arabs to overwhelm Israel.
Sharon hopes this is campaign oratory to increase the expected majority for Abu Mazen. But the Palestinian, by appeasing his fiercest faction of die-hards, is playing with fire. To reach a settlement, he will have to make compromises that these warring radicals totally reject which, if they refuse and rebel, would mean Palestinian civil war.
The Israeli internal split is not about the usual parliamentary politics. At the moment, Sharon's Likud-Labor majority needs a few religious-party votes that will be determined by a 95-year- old rabbi. If that is not obtained by the usual method (a U.S. metaphor of political pork is not applicable in this context), then Sharon will go to elections to demonstrate the will of the Israeli people.
The split in Israel goes to the nature of the Jewish state. Ultras among the rabbinate talk of advising Israeli soldiers to refuse to obey orders to eject settlers who refuse relocation from Gaza.
Civil disobedience, with acceptance of its consequences in law, is legitimate in a democracy; military disobedience to legal orders is beyond the pale.
Were it not for the Israeli Defense Forces acting loyally under discipline, rabbis with the right to worship in synagogues and to dissent in the public square would be the first to be driven into the sea by the Arab extremists now being pandered to by Abu Mazen.
If there is to be a settlement, both Arabs and Jews must assert majority rule, which means that soldiers follow the orders of elected officials. I have no doubt that Arik Sharon, with Shimon Peres at his side, will do that. I wish I could be as sure about Abu Mazen.
Sharon is hopeful. "In the past, I have shaken hands with Abu Mazen, and with him I can talk,' he told me the other night. "I would never shake Arafat's hand.'
He is also confident that he can carry out his disengagement during or after an election, if one is needed provided his counterpart on the Palestinian side makes certain that the thousands of Israelis making this painful exodus are allowed to leave in peace. I take that to mean he expects Abu Mazen to restrain his armed extremists by any means necessary.
Egyptians under President Hosni Mubarak are now proving helpful, Sharon said: "I managed to convince them to release an Israeli they held in prison for eight years for nothing, and that changed the atmosphere stopped the smuggling of antitank weapons into Gaza.' But what motivated Mubarak? "They are the most important country in the Arab world, and want to be recognized as a major factor.' Is that all? "They want to strengthen their relationship with the United States.'
What if, with Egypt's help, Abu Mazen is able to co-opt and pacify the Palestinian jihadists? And on the Israeli side, what if the other internal battle is resolved, and the settlers accept reality? Wouldn't a negotiated disengagement then resuscitate the road map?
The optimistic Sharon looked beyond the Arab-Israeli impasse to what he considers the threat to his nation's existence: "There is an 'axis of terror.' It runs through Syria and Hezbollah, which has 13,000 rockets deployed in Lebanon, to Iran. And Iran's nuclear missile program is today the greatest danger not just to Israel, but to the world.'
-- William Safire is a New York Times columnist. Write him at 229 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036.
A NEW MIDDLE EAST[Excerpt]
By AMIR TAHERI January 9, 2005 -- A COUPLE of days ago, in Paris, I borrowed the crystal ball of a gypsy magician in Mont martre to steal a peep into 2005. ...
I cannot tell you what the events of 2005 will be. But I can tell you what the undercurrents that shape events are. The first concerns the concept of political power and its provenance. This is changing in a dramatic, though little noticed, way. Traditionally, power in the Middle East has been shrouded in mystical fog, its origins traced to divine will, military conquest, charismatic leadership and revolution. That view is now changing as more and more people in the region look to elections, that is to say the expression of people's will, as the proper origin of political power a power exercised in the interests of the whole community.
The 2005 calendar is filled with dates for elections. Today, Palestinians go to the polls to elect a new president in their first truly pluralistic experience. And that is only the first step. Before the year is out they will also elect a new Parliament. Next door, Israel, too, is almost certain to have elections in 2005. Even with a grand coalition under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the people of Israel would have to be directly consulted on the momentous decisions in 2005. At the end of January the people of Iraq are scheduled to go to the polls in the first free election in their history. The importance of what is at stake cannot be overestimated.
Iraq is a key Arab and Muslim nation and the success or fail ure of its experiment will impact many other countries. What is happening in Iraq is the biggest political battle that the Arabs have experienced since they emerged as independent nation-states in the last century. On one side there are forces that want Iraq to become part of the global mainstream where elections are the sole means of gaining and losing power. On the other, we have all the forces of despotism, religious and secular, that are determined not to let Iraq choose a future through elections. Their position is clear: If we are not in power, Iraq should not exist.
After the Iraqi election, the focus will shift to elections in Saudi Arabia. These are limited in scope and, thus, may not attract the same attention. Nevertheless, the coming of electoral politics to Saudi Arabia is a revolutionary turning point in the political development of the kingdom. Despite reports of initial tepid interest, my guess is that by the time the voting schedule begins many Saudis would decide to give it a try. Seen against the background of the series of national dialogues organized last year, plus a timid but welcome opening in the media, the municipal elections indicate the willingness of at least part of the Saudi elite to stay the course of reform.
Next, we shall have parliamentary elections in Lebanon in May. These come at a time that Lebanon is moving to the center of international attention. The May elections could provide a mechanism for avoiding a major crisis with unforeseeable consequences. But they might also unleash forces that could threaten Lebanon's existence.
In May or June, Iran will hold presidential election. Some may dismiss Iranian elections as meaningless because candidates are approved in advance by the authorities that could also cancel the results. Such a view is short-sighted. Even choreographed elections matter as we saw with Muhammad Khatami's presidential victory in 1997. The ruling establishment could use the coming election either as an opening to civil society or as a switch to a policy of political iron-fist combined with economic liberalization that is to say the Chinese model.
The year will also witness parliamentary and municipal elections in Afghanistan. The consolidation of the new Afghan state would not only help stabilize Central Asia but would have a positive impact on democratization throughout the region.
The second undercurrent likely to be with us in 2005 is terrorism in its many guises. The Afghanistan and Iraq wars served as needles that pierced old festering blisters. The destruction of the Taliban and the Saddamites forced terrorists of all ilks out of the woodwork to fight open battles. Having geared themselves for a gangrene strategy, that is to say low-intensity warfare to wear out Arab and Muslim societies over a long period, these terrorists were dragged into open combat in both military and political battlefields where their defeat, no matter how long it takes to accomplish, is certain.
The third undercurrent that merits attention in 2005 is the deepening desire for reform. For the first time ever, reform and changes have become the main themes of Arab politics. Last year dozens of conferences and seminars were held on the subject, and the 2005 calendar is dotted with many more.
Cynics would dismiss all these as nothing but a talk athon. But in politics, talk does matter. The change of Arab political discourse, from one obsessed with religious themes, to one concerned with matters such as economic development and educational excellence, is a leap toward modernity.
The political vocabulary of the Arabs, Iranians, Afghans and Pakistanis is changing to welcome new words and phrases such as opening, accountability, good governance, human rights, pluralism and diversity. Arab and other Muslim elites' fascination with the ideological triplets of Marxism, fascistic nationalism and Islamism is coming to a close, opening the space for the advance of liberal and democratic ideas. The women's prise de conscience and the young people's thirst for freedom and opportunity are among the factors that encourage hope for the future.
The next big idea for Arabs and Muslims may well be about the best way of joining the global mainstream as an active participant and not a real or imagined victim.
Having said all that, there is, of course, no guarantee that my predictions will prove right.
The Middle East may well turn out to be the only part of the world hermetically closed to the global trends of democratization, economic development and social change. The Iraqi election may be disrupted or, if it goes ahead, produce a majority for some version of religious fascism.
All the talk about reform and change may well end up as nothing but talk, a kind of political masturbation. The very idea of reform may etiolate under the impact of political lethargy and intellectual inertia.
None of the countries in our region is insured against the nastiest of surprises. The Middle East, as Gen. De Gaulle once observed, is designed to defy reality by living on the margin of probable impossibilities. My predictions could, indeed, prove to be nothing but images in Alice's mirror.
I hope they won't be.
I also hope that if I am right everyone remembers, and, if I turn out to be wrong, no one does.
Amir Taheri is an Iranian author of 10 books on the Middle East and Islam and a member of Benador Associates.
Iran To Grant Limited Access To Military Site9 January 2005 -- Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said today that his country will allow the UN's nuclear watchdog to take environmental samples from outside a military site.
He said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be allowed to take samples from a landscaped area outside the huge Parchin military complex to eliminate all ambiguities over its controversial nuclear program.
The United States has alleged that the site southeast of Tehran is used for secret projects that could facilitate the development of a nuclear weapon.
"The discussion is not about visiting military installations," AP quoted Asefi as saying today. "To show that nothing other than peaceful nuclear activities are carried out in the Islamic Republic of Iran, we agreed to allow the taking of environmental samples from the green spaces in the complex."
The IAEA is expected to visit Parchin to take the samples in the next few days or weeks.
Asefi said Iran's decision to allow access of the site was made on a voluntary basis.
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