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Labor Activist In Critical Condition

Reza Shahabi, Iranian labor activist, undated

The Union of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (UWTSBC) says the health of a member of its board of directors, Reza Shahabi is critical after hunger strike.

Meanwhile, the number of signatories of a petition calling for Mr. Shahabi’s release has reached almost 1500.

According to a statement issued by the union, the relatives of Shahabi, after visiting him in the Rajaei Shahr prison near Tehran on August 30, declared that he is suffering from acute weakness and his left hand has become totally numb.

24 days ago, Reza Shahabi went on hunger strike to protest his re-detention.

Shahabi, after returning to the prison under the Prosecutor-general Office pressures, found out that his medical furlough was rejected whereas it was approved by the Forensic Medicine Organization, FMO.

Therefore, according to the verdict, he was condemned to stay another 968 days behind bars. Yet, Shahabi had reportedly seen a formal letter confirming his release in 2015.

While expressing deep concern over Reza Shahabi’s critical health condition the union’s statement has held the judiciary and security organs of the Islamic republic responsible for Reza Shahabi’s health.

The statement has also reiterated that Shahabi should be released immediately without any condition.

Furthermore, it calls for the cancellation of a verdict against two other members of the UWTSBC, Alireza Madadi and Davoud Razavi.

The statement insists, “Shahabi’s and other members of the UWTSBC’s crime is launching a union, independent of the government ant employers, to achieve and demand their absolute rights. However, they have been either sacked or beaten-up”.

Earlier, in an open letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) General Secretary Sharan Burrow had demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Shahabi.

The ITUC general secretary said, “Keeping Reza Shahabi behind bars is against Iran’s international commitments, which prohibit detaining labor activists who are peacefully campaigning for workers’ rights”.

Meanwhile, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), Zanyar Moradi, Loqman Moradi, Sa’eid Shirzad, and Shaheen Zoqi Tabar are also on hunger strike at the same prison.

According to CHRI, the one-year sentence added to Shahabi’s current term stems from a conviction for his alleged part in the April 17, 2014, clash between guards and prisoners at Evin Prison that became known as Black Thursday.

“The verdict issued by the Revolutionary Court in the Black Thursday case was when special guard units attacked political prisoners in Ward 350,” Shahabi’s colleague had told CHRI at the time.

Dissident Journalist Loses Half Face And Eye

Alireza Rajaie, Iranian journalist and activist, after extensive surgery that left half of his face, including an eye, removed, August 2017

A prominent Iranian journalist and member of the semi-opposition political alliance of "nationalist-religious", Alireza Rajaei has lost his right eye and part of the right side of his face after a complicated surgery, his relatives have confirmed.

In 2011, Rajaei, 54, was sentenced to four years imprisonment and put behind bars. He was accused of acting against national security and being a member of Nationalist-Religious alliance.

The alliance is deemed as deviant and Western-inclined by the political forces close to Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Rajaei, while doing his term in prison, got afflicted with Sinus cancer but never allowed to get treatment. Some of his former prison-mates have said on social media that on multiple occasions, the prison infirmary rejected to send Rajaei to hospital and attributed his pain to toothache "that was always remedied with pain-killers".

Political dissident and renowned Iranian journalist, Alireza Rajaei, before his surgery, his prison-mates say the prison infirmary officials denied his requests to be sent to hospital and dismissed his complaints of pain in his face "only giving him pain killers", undated
Political dissident and renowned Iranian journalist, Alireza Rajaei, before his surgery, his prison-mates say the prison infirmary officials denied his requests to be sent to hospital and dismissed his complaints of pain in his face "only giving him pain killers", undated

Some of his relatives and friends believe that his current condition is the direct result of the judiciary’s decision to deny him access to proper therapy.

Meanwhile, a Nationalist-Religious activist, Reza Alijani quoting Rajaei’s wife, Leila Liaqat, wrote in a Facebook post, “The surgeons were forced to enucleate Rajaei’s right eye and remove some of his facial bones to control his cancer”.

Alijani has explicitly accused the Islamic republic of being responsible for Rajaei’s current condition.

In recent days there were widespread reports on social media about Rajaei suffering a fourteen hour surgery and losing one eye. A picture was also published showing Rajaei on a hospital bed, with his right eye totally covered with white bandage.

Furthermore, the International Federation of Journalists, IFJ, reported the surgery in detail on its Persian website. Citing one of Rajaei’s companions, IFJ said, “Rajaei’s maxilla and a part of his upper jaw, as well as his muster muscle were completely removed after his right eye enucleation”.

Alireza Rajaei, during second half of 1990s was political desk editor of popular reformist dailies, including ‘Jame’e’, ‘Toos’, ‘Asr-i Azadegan’ and ‘Nishat’ that were banned one after the other.

He was also a Iranian parliament candidate in 2000 elections and garnered 771,677 (26.32%) of the popular votes in the capital city, Tehran.

However, after the Guardian Council declared hundreds of thousands votes null and void, Rajaei was not allowed to have a seat in the parliament. He was replaced by the hardliner and conservative father in-law of the Supreme Leader’s son, Gholam ali Haddad-Adel.

A year later, Rajaei was arrested and spent more than six months behind bars and 91 days in solitary confinement before being released on bail.

Furthermore, Rajaei along with dozens of other members of the Nationalist-Religious alliance was once again detained after bloody uprising against the reelection of the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010.

He was released after doing his term in 2015.

International Human rights Organizations including the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have repeatedly condemned the Islamic republic for its inhumane actions against journalists.

Recently, RSF reiterated that Iran is one of the largest prisons for the journalists.

Karroubi Returns To House Arrest

Photo Released by Mehdi karroubi's family on twitter shows him in hospital after cardiac surgery on August 2017.

Prominent Iranian dissident and Green Movement leader Mehdi Karroubi has been released from the Shahid Rajaei hospital and returned to his house, while security forces are stationed outside his residence, his wife, Fatemah Karroubi, has declared.

In an interview with Saham News, a website close to the octogenarian dissident cleric, she said, “The physicians took the stitches out of Karroubi’s chest and confirmed his heartbeat was back to normal and that he was healthy enough to be released from the hospital.”

Karroubi had undergone a second heart surgery to fix “an error” in the pacemaker recently installed in his chest, his son confirmed on August 19.

Karroubi’s son, Mohammad-Hossein, told Radio Farda his father had had his second operation that day and was then sedated to relieve the “extreme pain.”

According to Mohammad-Hossein, the problem surfaced when complications caused by his father’s hunger strike necessitated a return to the hospital.

More than two weeks ago, Karroubi’s family announced that after two angiography operations, the ailing opposition leader received a pacemaker. Following the surgery, on August 16, Karroubi announced his dry hunger strike, demanding an open trial in a competent court of law and the removal of security agents from his residence.

He ended his strike after his son announced that promises had made by the health minister and a deputy intelligence minister while they visited his father at the hospital.

Fatemeh Karroubi has reiterated that security forces had left the house where her husband has been under arrest for more than six years.

Earlier, judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei had insisted, “Who said the security guards have left his [Karroubi’s] house? That’s a flagrant lie.”

“The persons who provoke such an argument in defense of those who protested against the 2009 presidential election official result should be prosecuted,” he warned.

Retaliating to Ejei’s comments, Fatemeh Karroubi responded, “Fortunately, the government kept its promise and the security forces have completely left our house with all their equipment and belongings. They are now stationed in a booth outside the house on Choobineh Street.”

She lamented that her husband, during almost seven years of being under house arrest, has always been deprived of fresh air and sunshine.

“The security forces had disregarded my husband’s basic rights. They had occupied our residence, limited his communications, and installed microphones and cameras everywhere.”

More than anything else, Fatemah Karrubi maintained, “It was the head of the jailers’ arbitrary orders and decisions that tormented Karroubi to the extent that he was forced to protest by going on hunger strike.”

Moreover, she lamented, “Being under house arrest for almost seven years has damaged my husband’s health beyond repair. Nevertheless, he has stayed resolute and steadfast, ready to pay for his thoughts and points of view, regardless of their cost.”

Referring to a comment made by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, that “the people’s vote is the decider,” she insisted, “There were incidents, meddling and interferences during the presidential elections in 2005 and 2009 that led [him] and many others to believe that people’s votes were not the main measure or decider anymore, therefore, they concluded that it was a serious and dangerous deviation that should immediately be addressed.”

Fatemah Karroubi emphasized that her husband still demands to be tried in an open and competent court, according to Article 168 of the Iranian Constitution. “In an open court, Karroubi and his lawyer will answer any questions raised and end the disturbing saga for good,” she said.

Karroubi, 80; former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, 75; and his wife,, Zahra Rahnavard, 71; had called the 2009 presidential election an “obvious cheat” and “engineered” in favor of their main challenger in the election, incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Their protest led to months of bloody unrest, known as the Green Movement.

The trio were placed under house arrest in February 2011, after they invited people to participate in street demonstrations in support of democracy movements, or the Arab Spring, in Egypt and Tunisia.

A few Iranian politicians, including parliamentary deputy speaker Ali Motahari, have explicitly announced that the extrajudicial detention of the trio is solely based on the decision of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran’s constitution grants broad powers to the supreme leader, but according to Article 30 no one can be banished from his place of residence, prevented from residing in the place of his choice, or compelled to reside in a specific locality except in cases provided by the law.

Rouhani, Hard-Liners Spar Over Religious Compulsion

Iran Supreme Leader's representative to the IRGC, Ali Saeedi (2nd L).

The Supreme Leader’s representative to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, mid-ranking cleric Ali Saeedi, has opened a new round of attacks against President Hassan Rouhani, this time over the government’s role as a religious guide versus the free will of the Iranian people.

“One of the responsibilities of a theocracy is paving the way for people to enter heaven,” he said on August 29, in response to Rouhani’s comments from earlier that day.

“We believe it’s up to the people to choose between hell and heaven,” Rouhani had said, echoing a similar statement he’d made in May 2014 that triggered a fiery reaction from the hard-liner allies of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“We can’t drag people to heaven by force or with a whip,” he said at the time, speaking at a healthcare conference in Tehran. "We shouldn't interfere in people's lives like that, even out of compassion. Let them choose their own path to heaven. The Prophet [Mohammad] did not carry a whip in his hand.”

This debate goes to the roots of the regime’s relations with the Iranian people. Suppressing social freedoms and constantly interfering in the way people act in their daily lives, is perhaps the most annoying policy for the ordinary people.

At the time, hard-liner cleric and Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami hit back with full force a few days later, implying that Rouhani is, in fact, misleading people toward hell.

“We do not want to send anyone to heaven by force, but with your statements, do not pave the way to hell for anyone,” he said.

Another hard-liner ayatollah, Ahmad Alam al-Hoda, Friday Prayer leader in Mashhad, also joined in back in 2014 and reminded the president, “We will confront with full force those who want to prevent people from going to heaven, and not only with a whip in our hands.”

Rouhani’s recent comments brought the debate back into the spotlight. “We must act as a guide and show the right path to the people. Nevertheless, it is still up to the people themselves to choose the right path or, God forbid, pick the way toward aberration,” he said.

Saeedi fired back, saying, “We are trailblazers,” and citing a “global responsibility.”

“While we are obliged to build up our nation and our country, we should also pave the way for [the Shi’ite Hidden Imam’s] reappearance,” he maintained.

Rouhani has not yet reacted to Saeedi’s comments.

However, he did not shy away from lambasting his hard-liner adversaries in 2014.

“Some people seriously have nothing better to do,” Rouhani said during a speech in front of environmental officials, without addressing his adversaries by name.

“They have no work, no profession; they are delusional. They worry incessantly about people’s religion and the afterlife. They know neither what religion is nor the afterlife, but they’re always worried,” Rouhani added to applause.

Over the past four years, Khamenei and Rouhani have time and again tacitly criticized one another. However, the volume of attacks against Rouhani has decreased since his re-election this past May and the defeat of the conservatives.

Security Forces Leave Karrubi’s House

Photo Released by Mehdi Karrubi's family on Twitter reportedly showing him in hospital after surgery, August 2017.

In an interview with Radio Farda, the son of Mehdi Karrubi, a prominent leader of Iran’s Green Movement has confirmed that consistent with his father's demand, the security forces previously stationed at his house have now left.

Mehdi Karrubi, currently in the hospital for adjustments to his pacemaker, has been under house arrest since February 2011.

Karrubi’s son, Mohammad Taqi, told Radio Farda on August 30 that “the security forces started leaving my father’s house last night with all their equipment and belongings, and he will be soon released from the hospital.”

Photo posted on Twitter by Mohammad-Hossein Karrubi, Mehdi Karrubi's son, of his father on after his redo pacemaker surgery
Photo posted on Twitter by Mohammad-Hossein Karrubi, Mehdi Karrubi's son, of his father on after his redo pacemaker surgery

Karrubi, twice former speaker of the Iranian Parliament, along with former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, have been under house arrest since February 2011 as their families have become increasingly worried over their deteriorating health.

Earlier, Mohammad Taqi Karrubi had said the 80-year-old cleric had stopped eating since the morning of August 16 because he wants to be put on trial rather than remain under house arrest.

Karrubi's wife, Fatemeh, also told the opposition Sahamnews website that her husband, who she said is only taking heart medicine, "does not expect a fair trial" but wants it to be public.

She reiterated that he also demands security officers to leave his house.

Now that the security forces have left Karrubi’s house, his son declared, “The security forces have installed a booth in front of my father’s house in Tehran’s Jamaran neighborhood. However, as my father has not yet returned to his house, the procedure for keeping him under house arrest is not formalized. It is also not clear whether they would grant him permission to host visitors.”

Karrubi was taken to the hospital a day after going on hunger strike. A day later, Mohammad Taqi Karrubi made an unexpected announcement on Twitter that his father had ended the hunger strike. He added that the health minister and a deputy intelligence minister visited his father at the hospital and promised to pull away the security agents.

Nonetheless, two days later, judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei denied the removal of the security forces, maintaining, “Who said the security guards have left his [Karrubi’s] house? That’s a flagrant lie.”

“The persons who provoke such an argument in defense of those who protested against the 2009 presidential election should be prosecuted,” he warned.

The security forces have installed a booth in front of my father’s house in Tehran’s Jamaran neighborhood. However, as my father has not yet returned to his house, the procedure for keeping him under house arrest is not formalized. It is also not clear whether they would grant him permission to host visitors.
Mohammad Taqi Karrubi, son of Mehdi Karrubi, Iranian dissident and former parliament speaker under house arrest, in an interview with Radio Farda

Ejei went even further and called Karrubi’s hunger strike a ploy. “These scene settings have no impact on us [the judiciary], and such propaganda might turn against those who believe their move is in his [Karrubi’s] favor,” he cautioned.

In another development on August 30, Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Ja’fari Dolatabadi told reporters that the judiciary is ready to prosecute and put on trial the leaders of the sedition.

“Sedition” is a term favored by officials close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to describe protests against the controversial result of the presidential election in 2009.

Karrubi, 80; Mousavi, 75; and Rahnavard, 71, had called the election an “obvious cheat” and “engineered” in favor of their main challenger in the election, incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

“Keeping the leaders of the sedition under house arrest is the decision of the ruling system,” Dolatabadi maintained, adding, “We are prepared to take them to court for trial, whenever a proper situation is acquired.”

He did not elaborate further and shied away from explaining why the judiciary had not been prepared for the trial before.

According to Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), Dolatabadi asserted, “The government, in 2011, decided to keep the leaders of the sedition under house arrest. Therefore, they argue that putting them under house arrest has no legal bases and is totally unacceptable. The Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) approved the order for the house arrests and the approval reflects the regime’s will. Therefore, the judiciary alongside the Intelligence Ministry is responsible for executing the order and implementing the will of the ruling system.”

On August 29, government spokesman Mohammad Baqir Nobakht reported that the question of house arrests had recently been discussed at SNSC sessions and the next step would be taken after the complete removal of security forces from Karrubi’s house.

Earlier, Khamenei’s adviser to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Yadollah Javani, had cautioned that the opposition leaders, if tried, should prove that the 2009 presidential election was engineered to manifest their innocence.

Many prominent political activists and international human rights organizations have repeatedly called for the release of the trio.

Tehran MP and deputy parliamentary speaker Ali Motahari urged Iranian decision makers to respond to the demands of Karrubi.

“Tomorrow’s too late,” Motahari warned on Instagram.

“Karrubi’s hunger strike is a wake-up call for those who insist on the continuation of house arrests,” Iran’s Labor New Agency (ILNA) cited Motahari as saying. “[His] argument is based on logic. He says, ‘Let the law decide my fate. If I have committed a crime, let a competent court try me; whatever its verdict, I would accept it.’”

Motahari dismissed the arguments made by a number of security and intelligence officials that those under house arrest should repent before being freed.

“Such arguments have no logical basis since Karrubi has insisted he committed no crime and in fact had fallen victim to unjust decisions,” Motahari said. “Furthermore, if he had really committed a serious crime, disregarding the nation’s rights, how could he be forgiven by simply declaring remorse?”

However, the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani had previously implicitly referred to Rouhani and retorted, “Some people have talked about lifting the house arrests, but [one might ask] who are you to lift the house arrests?”

A few Iranian politicians, including majlis deputy speaker, Ali Motahari, have announced that keeping the extrajudicial detention is Khamenei’s decision.

Iran’s constitution grants wide powers to the supreme leader, but according to Article 30, no one can be banished from his place of residence, prevented from residing in the place of his choice, or compelled to reside in a specific locality except in cases provided by the law.

Namazis’ Appeal Rejected

Iranian-American consultant Siamak Namazi (R) is pictured with his father Baquer Namazi, undated

Two Iranian-Americans sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment over their ties with the United States, have lost in a court of appeal, according to Washington-based lawyer Jared Genser.

“Siamak and his father, Baquer Namazi, were informed on Monday, August 28, that their appeal has been denied,” Genser said on August 28.

The court's decision comes as both Siamak and his octogenarian father, Baquer, suffer health problems related to their incarceration at Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, where political detainees are held.

Genser says Siamak has spent most of his prison term in a solitary cell while being “brutally beaten and interrogated.”

For nearly 40 years, Iran has used detentions and hostage-taking as a tool of state policy, a practice that continues to this day....
White House statement, July 2017

He maintained that he is deeply worried over Baquer’s health as it is “deteriorating rapidly.”

Siamak Namazi, former director of Crescent Oil Company’s strategic planning office, and his father, Baquer Namazi, were sentenced to 10-year prison terms last year for "collusion with an enemy state" -- namely the United States.

His 81-year-old father is a former UNICEF representative who served as the governor of Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan Province under the U.S.-backed shah of Iran. He was arrested after traveling to Iran seeking his son's release.

NY -- United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley meeting with Babak Namazi, whose father and brother are imprisoned in Iran, on Thursday June 15, 2017.
NY -- United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley meeting with Babak Namazi, whose father and brother are imprisoned in Iran, on Thursday June 15, 2017.

The Namazi family fled Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution but kept business ties there. Siamak Namazi's arrest in late 2015 followed criticism by hard-liners over his advocacy for improved Iran-U.S. ties.

The Namazis are among a host of dual-national Iranians who have been thrown behind bars after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, was ratified in 2015.

Earlier, the court had denied another U.S. citizen’s appeal. On August 17, Princeton University declared that one of its students, Xiyue Wang, was behind bars and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The court has denied Wang’s appeal, Princeton University said in its statement.

"For nearly 40 years, Iran has used detentions and hostage-taking as a tool of state policy, a practice that continues to this day with the recent sentencing of Xiyue Wang to 10 years in prison," the White House said, referring to the Princeton researcher who was sentenced by Iran for spying.

Xiyue Wang, a naturalized American citizen from China, arrested in Iran last August while researching Persian history for his doctoral thesis at Princeton University, is shown with his wife and son in this family photo, undated
Xiyue Wang, a naturalized American citizen from China, arrested in Iran last August while researching Persian history for his doctoral thesis at Princeton University, is shown with his wife and son in this family photo, undated

"Iran is responsible for the care and well-being of every United States citizen in its custody," the White House said. "President Trump is prepared to impose new and serious consequences on Iran unless all unjustly imprisoned American citizens are released and returned."

Many analysts say detaining American citizens and sentencing them to long-term imprisonment is an effort toward weakening President Hassan Rouhani and stopping his administration’s plan to open up Iran to the West.

“Tehran, through detaining U.S. citizens and accusing them of unfounded crimes, is using them as a lever for blackmail and as a tool for easing off the sanctions imposed on Iran,” said the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce.

Lebanese IT Expert Nizar Zakka, a permanent US resident, he was detained in Iran in 2015 accused of being an American spy, here shown during a speech at (WSIS) Forum in 2015
Lebanese IT Expert Nizar Zakka, a permanent US resident, he was detained in Iran in 2015 accused of being an American spy, here shown during a speech at (WSIS) Forum in 2015

These efforts are “violating of international conventions against taking hostages,” the Republican representative of California noted on July 26.

The UN’s Hostages Convention is a treaty by which states agree to prohibit and punish hostage-taking and Iran, is a party to it.

Meanwhile, Trump urged Iran to return Robert Levinson, an American former FBI agent who disappeared more than 10 years ago in Iran, as well as the Namazis and "all other American citizens unjustly detained by Iran."

Former FBI agent Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007 while reportedly on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains unaccounted for.

Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese U.S. permanent resident who advocates for Internet freedom and has done work for the U.S. government. He was sentenced to 10 years last year on espionage-related charges.

Unemployment In Iran Reaches Critical Point

File Photo

Based on the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) standards and measures, unemployment in Iran is at a critical point, the head of the Center for Strategic Information and Statistics at the Labor Ministry, Nematoolah Mir Fallah-Nasiri, has disclosed.

According to the semi-official news agency Mehr, unemployment reaches a critical point when the rate of unemployment among the youth of a country is twice more than its general unemployment.

“The rate of unemployment among youth (15 to 29 years old) was 25.9 percent at the end of the last Iranian year (beginning 21 March 2016) while the general rate of unemployment for the same period was 12.4 percent,” said Mir Fallah.

the unemployment at the end of last year was 12.4 percent, which shows a 1.4 rise
Nematollah Mir Fallah-Nasiri, head of the Center for Strategic Information and Statistics at Iran's Labor Ministry

Referring to the fact that many Iranian youths have university degrees, he stressed, “The younger generation’s expectations are much higher than before, and youth are reluctant to accept jobs that are counted as inferior to their higher education.”

Mir Fallah pointed out, “Another challenge for Iran’s job market is the incompatibility between youth’s job skills and what the employers demand.”

He highlighted the problem of long-term unemployment, which takes more than a year and adds to the rate of unemployment in the country.

Out of 3,203,398 unemployed persons, at the end of the last Iranian year, nearly 1 million were in long-term unemployment, Mir Fallah maintained.

He also disclosed that the unemployment at the end of last year was 12.4 percent, which shows a 1.4 rise.

According to Iran’s Statistics Center, unemployment among women at the end of the last Iranian year was 2.7 percent and twice as much as men’s.

Iranian Politicians Who Use Twitter Despite State Ban

Despite the fact that Twitter is banned in Iran, many hard-line Iranian politicians, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, use Twitter to reach out to their supporters with statements and messages. (file photo)

Iran's top communications official has suggested that negotiations have begun that could lead to the unblocking of Twitter. But while the social-networking site has been heavily filtered to prevent access in the Islamic republic for years, it has hardly been ignored by some of the country's highest-ranking authorities.

Twitter was not a hugely popular networking tool when it was blocked in 2009 amid massive protests over the reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Read this article in full on RFE/RL website.

"Difference In Accounting" Delayed Pay Of Personnel, Defence Minister Says

Amir Hatami, Iranian Defense Minister, in Tehran on August 15, 2017

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami has tried to down play the row over paying salaries to Iran’s armed forces personnel.

The personnel have been protesting against their salaries being overdue for the past month.

“The delay in paying the armed forces personnel’s salaries occurred because of a difference in accounting and, soon the problem will be addressed,” Hatami told Khane-ye Mellat, the parliament’s official website.

Iran’s armed forces personnel have also been angry for only receiving a salary for 23 days of work instead of for a full month.

Maintaining that a difference of accounting caused the problem, Hatami promised that the armed forces personnel’s salary will soon be paid in full.

Hours earlier on August 28, the deputy speaker of the Iranian Parliament Masoud Pezeshkian, lambasted the government for the problem, calling it unacceptable.

Furthermore, the outspoken MP for the city of Urmia, Nader Qazipour, on August 28 blamed the government for ignoring the armed forces personnel’s “reasonable demands.”

“The armed forces personnel’s monthly salary is 700,000 tomans ($211) less than the public servants’ minimum wage set by the government,” Qazipour said.

Nevertheless, Hatami dismissed the MP comments and, for his part, claimed, “According to the law, the salaries of armed forces personnel are 20 percent more than their equals in other branches of the state, for their job as well as their working situation are harder to bear, compared with others.”

Meanwhile, a member of the parliament’s Defense and National Authority Faction, Shahbaz Hassanpour Baiglari, noted, “During the Shah’s reign, armed forces personnel were paid nearly 20 percent more than other public servants.”

The heated debate goes on while scores of retired teachers and other government pensioners held a protest rally in front of the Iranian Parliament in Tehran on August 22.

The protest assembly, according to Iran’s official state news agency, IRNA, was organized by military retirees who were protesting against ignoring the implementation of a law approved by parliament that requires matching the salary of military pensioners with the income of active personnel.

“The law has been passed by the parliament but it has not yet been implemented, while what the pensioners are paid is significantly less than the amount current employees are paid,” IRNA cited one of the protesters as lamenting.

The pictures of the rally that were widely published on social media show angry protesters carrying banners with slogans like, “Poverty line, 40 million rials ($1210), Our income, 10 million rials (roughly $300),” “As far as we are under the poverty line, we will not stop demanding,” and “No to any bargain until we achieve our true rights.”

The protesters ended their two-hour rally at noon, chanting, “It’s not over; we’ll be back.”

Moreover, tens of thousands of armed forces personnel are facing housing problems and have demanded the government to address the issue.

In a TV interview five months ago, the deputy of the army’s chief commander had promised to mete out the armed forces personnel’s demands before 2018.

Fifty Tons Of Narcotics Seized In Kerman Province In "Four Months"

50 tons of narcotic drugs were uncovered during the first four months of the current Iranian year (started March 21st) in the province of Kerman, according to the head of police and security in the province.

In an interview with Mizan, the judiciary’s news website, Khalil Homayee also reiterated on August 28 that the volume of uncovered narcotics in the province shows a 49 percent rise compared with the previous year.

Due to its proximity to the Iran-Afghanistan border, Kerman has been a major conduit for drugs smuggling into Europe through Iran.

Homayee also said the volume of opium produced in Afghanistan, because of the foreign presence in the country, has risen from 100 tons in 2001 to 8,000 tons in the current year -- which he cited as the reason for the increase in the volume of narcotics uncovered in Iran.

There are nearly 2,800,000 persons currently in Iran who regularly use narcotic drugs
Ali Moaned, Iran's Anti-Narcotics Police Chief

Homayee anticipated the approval of a bill by the Iranian Parliament that would sever the connection between security matters and smuggling narcotic drugs.

If approved, the bill would “push smugglers and dealers out of the drugs market and lay the groundwork for significantly decreasing the number of drug-related social harms,” he said.

Furthermore, during a TV show on August 27, Iran’s anti-narcotics police chief Ali Moayedi declared, “There are nearly 2,800,000 persons currently in Iran who regularly use narcotic drugs.”

Moayedi did not miss the chance to encourage the parliament to approve a bill authorizing the government to distribute drugs among addicts.

On August 13, Hassan Norouzi, spokesman for the Iranian Parliament’s Judicial and Legal Commission, noted that giving the government the greenlight to distribute opium among addicts is reminiscent of what was done before the Iranian Revolution, during the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Earlier, Saeed Sefatian, head of the working group on drug demand reduction in the Expediency Council, had also referred to the necessity of going back to pre-revolution drug policies.

“The state needs to manage all areas of drug policy: cultivation, production, supply, and consumption,” he said.

Moreover, the parliament has approved a motion that will significantly limit the number of drug-related executions in Iran.

Based on the current law, anyone convicted of manufacturing, distributing, importing, or selling more than 5 kilograms of hemp, hashish, or opium, or more than 30 grams of heroin, cocaine, morphine, or their chemical derivatives faces the death penalty.

Under the new law, if passed, affirms Norouzi, “only those who are convicted for manufacturing and distributing more than 50 kilograms of traditional addictive drugs and/or 2 kilograms of industrial addictive drugs will be executed.”

The revised and detailed version of the bill, if approved, will save thousands of prisoners already on the death row inside Iran’s prisons.

However, Amnesty International and its collaborator the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation have urged the Iranian Parliament to seize the historic opportunity to reject the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

“Iranian lawmakers must not miss a historic opportunity to reject the use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses and save the lives of thousands of people across the country.”

“Instead of abolishing the death penalty for drug-related offenses, the Iranian authorities are preparing to adopt a deeply disappointing piece of legislation, which will continue to fuel Iran’s execution machine and help maintain its position as one of the world’s top executioners,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

According to Iranian MPs, there are currently an estimated 5,000 people on death row for such offenses across the country. About 90 percent of them are first-time offenders between 20 and 30 years old.

AI and its partner are calling on Iran’s parliament to urgently amend the proposed legislation to bring it into line with Iran’s obligations under international human rights law, which absolutely prohibits use of the death penalty for non-lethal crimes.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also urged Iran to halt all executions for drug-related offenses while the parliament discusses amendments to reform the country’s drug law.

“It makes no sense for Iran’s judiciary to execute people now under a drug law that will likely bar such executions as early as next month,” HRW Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson said in a July 20 statement. “It would be the height of cruelty to execute someone today for a crime that would at worst get them a 30-year sentence when this law is amended.”

HRW said the Norway-based Iran Human Rights Organization, which documents executions in Iran, has recorded the executions of 39 people since July 5 on drug-related charges.

However, many judicial authorities and conservative allies of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are against applying limits on the death penalty, maintaining that it would weaken Iran’s resolve in its campaign against the country’s growing drug crisis, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) reported on July 7.

The latest opposition came from the head of the prosecutor’s office in Khorasan Razavi Province, Ali Mozaffari, who accused the parliament of trying to appease Western governments that have criticized Iran’s high rate of executions, CHRI added.

The amended bill, if finally approved in parliament, needs the Guardian Council’s ratification to become a binding law.

Iran Drops Soccer Captain After Israeli Match

Masoud Shojaei, Iranian soccer player, is dropped from the national team apparently for playing against Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv, undated photo.

Iran’s national side soccer coach, Carlos Queiroz, has declared the list of footballers chosen to play against South Korea and Syria.

The captain, Masoud Shojaei, who played against an Israeli club in Athens, is not on the list by Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz.

Nonetheless, Shojaei’s teammate, Ehsan Hajsafi, who also played for Greek side Panionios of Athens against Maccabi Tel Aviv, is included on the Iranian squad.

Shojaei and Hajsafi played for Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv for a full 90 minutes on August 3. However, they were not present at the away match in Tel Aviv.

Later, Hajsafi and Shojaei’s Greek club issued a statement, stressing that the team needed them for the return match in Athens.

It was a gentle reminder to the Iranian athletes that if they skipped the return match, they would breach their contracts and fined accordingly. Shojaei and Hajsafi received the message and decided to help their Greek side in its return match against the Israelis.

Predictably, the soccer players’ presence in their club’s home match against the Israeli club triggered fiery criticism from conservatives in Iran.

Shojaei 1 - Islamic Republic 0", cartoon by Shahrokh Heidari for Radio Farda, Dec 2016.
Shojaei 1 - Islamic Republic 0", cartoon by Shahrokh Heidari for Radio Farda, Dec 2016.

Iran does not recognize the state of Israel and, based on an unwritten law, bars its athletes from competing against participants from the country. So far, several Israeli athletes have had easy wins by walkover against their Iranian rivals in international sports events. As a rule, Iranian athletes lie and feign illness to avoid challenging their Israeli counterparts.

Shojaei and Hajsafi practically broke the unwritten law and taboo of confronting an Israeli rival.

They “crossed the red line,” according to Iranian Sports and Youth Affairs Deputy Minister Mohammad Davarzani, who lambasted the two, saying, “They have crossed the [government's] red line, and they are not going to have a place on Iran’s national side.”

Davarzani’s comments led to widespread reactions in defense of Shojaei and Hajsafi. Social media outlets were bombarded with angry posts condemning the “harsh decision” and demanding FIFA step in and stop the “totally unfair punishment.”

FIFA's statutes ban political interference in its affiliated national associations, which can be suspended if the rule is breached.

“We are currently monitoring the matter and will request additional information from the Iran Football Federation,” said a FIFA spokesperson shortly after the incident.

If a country's FA is suspended, it means both the national team and its clubs are barred from international competition.

Iran has already qualified for next year's World Cup, making it an especially delicate matter for FIFA.

FIFA statutes state that “each member association shall manage its affairs independently and without undue influence from third parties.”

The unprecedented angry reactions forced Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Masoud Soltanifar to downplay the row, saying, “I have asked the Supreme National Security Council to lay a ground rule for Iranian athletes who face Israeli competitors in international sports events.”

Meanwhile, Shojaei and Hajsafi were under heavy pressure from conservatives to publicly apologize for their “outrageous and shameful” behavior.

The beheading of an Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) member, Mohsen Hojaji, who was reportedly captured by the Islamic State (IS) militants on August 7 and beheaded two days later in Syria, intensified the pressures.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei praised Hojaji and soon his supporters followed suit comparing him with Hajsafi and Shojaei, blasting the two for what they described as betraying the "values" of the Islamic revolution.

Under the pressure, Shojaei stopped short of an apology and rather tried to justify his decision for playing against an Israeli club.

“I deeply respect those who sacrifice their lives for our country,” Shojaei said. “I am a child of war myself, and I come from a city of blood and sacrifice where the children’s lullaby was the roar of cannons and artillery.”

A member of Iran's national team at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups, Shojaei, 33, had captained the team in their last qualifier, a 2-0 win over Uzbekistan in June that secured their ticket to Russia.

Meanwhile, Hajsafi decided to go slightly further than his teammate and did not shy away from expressing regret for playing against an Israeli club.

“Regretfully, people of our country, with a justified broken heart, were forced to judge an incident that should have not had happened. However, do not forget that we [athletes] have always tried to bring a smile to the lips of 80 million Iranians.”

Hajsafi also called Hojaji an “obvious paragon of sacrifice” who lost his life for security and revolutionary aspirations.

The published list of Iranian soccer players expected to play against South Korea in Seoul on August 31 and Syria at home on September 5 does not necessarily mean Shojaei has lost his national position indefinitely. As Iran has already qualified for the next World Cup in Russia, its matches against South Korea and Syria are a formality. Therefore, keeping captain Shojaei out of two peripheral matches might also be interpreted as sports coaches’ tactic for saving their star for vital matches on rainy days.

Queiroz, in comments reflected on Iran’s Football Federation official website, maintained, “The list [of players picked for matches against South Korea and Syria] does not necessarily mean that we are dropping out [star players like] Andranik Eskandarian, Pejman Montazeri, Khosro Haidari, and Masoud Shojaei for good. They are still on our list of the best 37 elite players we can choose from.”

Meanwhile, Queiroz has not missed the chance to criticize soccer authorities in Iran.

“My team is facing dangerous winds of havoc,” Queiroz lamented on a post on his Facebook account on August 26. “Iranian authorities had failed to provide adequate financial support for their World Cup campaign.”

Iran Dismisses U.S. Call For IAEA Inspection Of Military Bases

Iran's Newly-upgraded Sayyad-3 air defense missiles are displayed during an inauguration of its production line at an undisclosed location in Iran, July 22, 2017

Iran has dismissed a call by the United States on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to seek access to Iranian military bases for inspection, Iranian state TV reported on August 27.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told state TV that Tehran’s stance remains unchanged and that “no permit would be issued to enter those fields banned with the nuclear deal [with world powers].”

The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons by imposing constraints on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international sanctions on Tehran.

Given the IAEA’s independence and the agency’s need to secure its international position, it is not probable that it would yield to the unrealistic and illogical demands of other countries
Bahram Qassemi, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, responding to US call to IAEA to inspect Tehran's military bases

Qassemi also reiterated that Iran would continue to abide by its commitments toward the IAEA as stipulated in JCPOA.

Referring to the recent meeting between U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki

Haley with IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano in Vienna, Qassemi said, “Given the IAEA’s independence and the agency’s need to secure its international position, it is not probable that it would yield to the unrealistic and illogical demands of other countries.”

On August 25, Haley called on the UN's nuclear watchdog to seek access to Iranian military bases to ensure they are not concealing activities banned by the 2015 nuclear deal.

"I have good confidence in the [IAEA], but they are dealing with a country that has a clear history of lying and pursuing covert nuclear programs," Haley told a news conference in New York City after returning from Vienna.

The UN watchdog previously concluded that Iran had conducted research secretly on a nuclear warhead at one military site before 2009, a charge Tehran denies.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said “JCPOA is a multilateral agreement that Iran is committed to, and others must observe their commitments as well.”

Iranian leaders have rejected giving international inspectors access to their military sites. But the deal lays out a process for the UN agency, which is charged with monitoring compliance with the agreement, to request access to any Iranian site where it suspects nuclear activities might be occurring.

The U.S. Statement Department has certified Iran is technically in compliance with the deal twice this year but has charged that Iran's ballistic missile tests violate the "spirit" of the deal.

Iranian leaders have countercharged that a series of new sanctions imposed by the United States over the missile tests this year also violate the "spirit" of the accord. They have warned that Iran could easily and quickly resume nuclear weapons development if the United States abandons the deal.

Haley said earlier this week she was "concerned" about whether Iran is adhering to the nuclear deal and that while the IAEA is known for its "credibility, professionalism, and seriousness," it "can only be as good as the access Iran grants.”

Spiritual Healer Taheri Sentenced To Execution

Mohammad Ali Taheri, alleged Psymentologist and spiritual master, undated.

Iranian imprisoned spiritual healer Mohammad Ali Taheri has been sentenced to execution, one of his lawyers, Zeynab Taheri, announced on August 27.

The Erfan Telegram channel, run by Taheri’s followers, also published the news and posted a copy of what is reportedly the official announcement by Taheri’s lawyer.

Meanwhile, another member of Taheri’s defense team, Mahmoud Alizadeh-Tabatabaei, told the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) that his client was “apparently” sentenced to execution.

Alizadeh-Tabatabaei said he had not referred to the court to receive the sentence since “September 13 is Taheri’s daughter’s wedding day.”

“According to the law, the sentence has to be passed on to us, and we are not going to the court to receive the sentence,” he said.

At the same time, a number of Iranian human rights organizations, journalists, and activists have condemned Taheri’s death sentence on social media.

Twitter user "Dast-e Posht-e Parde" [lit. hand behind the curtain: secret plotter] wrote, “I don’t know Taheri, nor does mysticism have any value for me. But beware that those who execute Taheri for his beliefs today will put the noose around our necks tomorrow.”

Iranian journalist Mohammad Javad Akbarin blasted those behind the sentence, saying, “Finally they pronounced Taheri’s shameful death sentence. It’s incredible that the Supreme Court quashes the sentence yet the revolution court imposes it all of a sudden.”

Taheri, 61, established an organization under the name of Erfan-e Halqeh, or Circle of Mysticism, in 2001, where he used to practice Iranian supplementary medicine, faith healing, and scientology.

He was initially allowed to preach, practice, and teach in public, and his classes and healing sessions were attended by hundreds of people from all walks of life, including commanders from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and government officials. Several of his books were published with permission from the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry.

Then Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stepped in, warning against what he branded as “false mysticism that might lure people away from Islam.”

Taheri was arrested in 2010 but later released after spending 67 days in solitary confinement. He was rearrested in 2011, reportedly held in solitary confinement, and convicted on several charges, including acting against Iran's national security, blasphemy, and touching the wrists of unrelated female patients, which is forbidden in Islam.

Meanwhile, Khamenei’s allies labeled the Circle of Mysticism a “deviant sect” while claiming Taheri had amassed an “illicit” fortune through his teachings.

Taheri and his followers have repeatedly dismissed these allegations as false and baseless.

Iran, South Korea Sign Record Deal

Iran has secured its biggest post credit line deal since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, (JCPOA), Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, in a deal with South Korea, local media have reported.

The $9.4 billion deal between South Korea’s Eximbank and Iranian banks was signed in Seoul on August 24.

Iranian media immediately celebrated the news of the deal as a great achievement for President Hassan Rouhani’s new administration.

“The $9.4 billion finance by the Koreans will break a big barrier. Those banks that were afraid of cooperating with Iran can now finance Iranian projects. It is expected that after the Korean banks, Japanese banks and later European banks will be more comfortable working with Iran,” the state news agency IRNA maintained.

In an article for the financial daily Jahan-e San’at, Iranian Central Bank Governor Valiollah Seif called the loan a sign of a “return of global trust in Iran’s banking system,” following problems created by sanctions for the country due to the suspension of international financing contracts.

Meanwhile, state-run Press TV said, “The celebratory tone on Saturday, mostly reflected in the pro-government media, also exposed the pressure Rouhani faces due to his administration’s nuclear agreement with the West and raising questions about its tangible results for the country.”

A spokesman for South Korea's export credit bank, contacted by AFP, said the deal would finance projects in Iran by companies from the Asian country.

"Under the agreement, Eximbank will provide an 8 billion euro ($9.4 billion) credit line for those banks so they can help finance various projects in Iran that are awarded to South Korean companies," said the bank spokesman.

However, according to Bloomberg, although the level of foreign investment post-JCPOA in Iran has been less than expected, the billion-dollar-contracts already signed with Iran will not allow the signatories to easily leave the agreement in future.

The latest report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) also verifies the fact that the flow of foreign investment in Iran has been slow.

According to the assessments made by UNCTAD’s experts, the volume of direct foreign investments in Iran for 2016 showed an increase and reached to $3.3 trillion. Nevertheless, UNCTAD reiterates the volume is still much less than at the height of sanctions imposed on Iran in 2011 and 2012.

France-based economic analyst Fereydoun Khavand says, “The low level of foreign investments in Iran clearly indicates that signing JCPOA, in spite of its significant capacities, has not been able to end Iranophobia at an international level.”

“Capital is cowardly, so to speak, and it does not go where there is no security; this agreement represents the existence of security in the Iranian economy,” Abbas Argoon, a member of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture told IRNA on August 26.

Based on the objectives of Iran’s sixth five-year development plan (2016-21), $65 billion of foreign investment should be absorbed in various sectors, said Akbar Qahremani, deputy director of the Organization for Investment Economic and Technical Assistance of Iran.

Khamenei Questions Rouhani's Economic Statistics Again

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in meeting with Rouhani's cabinet on August 26, 2017.

In a meeting with Hassan Rouhani’s administration, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has questioned the accuracy of the administration’s statistics saying they do not reflect the country’s real situation and people’s living conditions, Iran Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on August 26.

According to the report, Ayatollah Khamenei said “the economic statistics presented [by the government] are based on scientific rules, but these statistics do not fully and comprehensively reflect the country’s real situation and people’s living conditions.”

“Based on these statistics, the inflation has been decreased from tens of per cent to under ten per cent, but has people’s buying power increased accordingly?” Khamenei said.

The Iranian leader, meanwhile, agreed that the government’s statistics on emerging from recession is correct, nonetheless, not all decisions made by the “Resistance Economy Command Headquarters” have been observed.

"Resistance Economy" is the proclaimed title of a set of policies suggested by Khamenei against Western sanctions initially imposed to curtail Tehran's nuclear program.

Some economy experts, say organizations under the very direct tutelage of Ayatollah Khamenei are a major cause of the chronic problems Iran's economy suffers from.

Economy expert and Radio Farda contributor, Fereydoun Khavand, wrote in an op-ed on August 21 that the two pillars of power in Iranian politics do not have the same leverage suggesting that even if they were to unite on economy, Rouhani's team will get the shorter end of the stick.

"That is particularly evident on key issues of the country, including economy," Khavand wrote.

Based on these statistics, the inflation has been decreased from tens of per cent to under ten per cent, but has people’s buying power increased accordingly?
Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in an address to Hassan Rouhani's administration on August 26

Ayatollah Khamenei had previously voiced doubt about the accuracy of the statistics released by Hassan Rouhni’s administration: “these statistics do not affect people’s livelihood and life in the short and medium term”.

Just after that speech by Khamenei, a wave of criticism targeting Rouhani and his team started among the forces close to the supreme leader.

Replying to those criticisms, Hassan Rouhani said his government’s record in keeping inflation under control, economic growth and creating jobs had been “unparalleled” in the past 25 years.

Rouhani insisted that “10 next governments cannot solve all problems”.

Elsewhere in his Saturday’s speech, Ayatollah Khamenei, told the government members that they have to resist against what he described as “arrogance and the subjugation system”, an indirect reference to the US and its allies.

Years of Western sanctions, domestic corruption, an oil-based economy, lack of investment security and organizations outside the government's reach have greatly shrunk the Iranian economy and deteriorated citizens' welfare. Both major political factions within the Islamic Republic accuse the other one of being the culprit.

Yemen Blames Iran For Its Bloody War

Iranian protesters chant slogans as they hold national flags of Yemen during a demonstration in Tehran on May 8, 2015.

Yemen's foreign minister is blaming Iran and its support for Houthi Shiite rebels for causing the country's civil war and says it can't be part of the solution.

Iran, "is part of the problem, not the solution" when it comes to ending conflict in the war-torn nation, Yemen's top diplomat said at the UN headquarters in New York.

Iran “continues to support the Huthis and Iranian arms are smuggled” Foreign Minister Abdulmalik al-Mekhlafi said when asked if Tehran could contribute to a political solution in Yemen.

According to AFP he was speaking at a major luncheon hosted by Yemen and Saudi Arabia with the majority of diplomatic missions to the United Nations.

"Iran has no role to play in the region," echoed the Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi.

The Saudi-led military coalition largely controls the country's airspace, although US drones also carry out strikes on suspected Al-Qaeda bases there.

More than 8,300 people have been killed and 44,000 wounded since the Saudi-led coalition entered the Yemen war in 2015.

Close to 2,000 Yemenis have also died of cholera since April and another 600,000 are expected to contract the infection this year.

Yemen has been engulfed in civil war since September 2014, when Houthi rebels swept into the capital and overthrew the government. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition began a campaign against Houthi forces.

In an exclusive interview with Nader Sadighi our senior Correspondent in Washington, DC Michael Rubin Middle East specialist at American Enterprise Institute says he can see no end to this bloody conflict in the foreseeable future.

Interview With Michael Rubin On Yemen Conflict
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Air Pollution Kills 35,000 In Iran Each Year

An Iranian woman wearing a mask in a street in Tehran, November 16, 2016.

Air pollution kills 35,000 people every year in Iran, an official at the Environmental Protection Organization has warned.

“Air pollution also kills 5,000 persons in Iran’s capital city, Tehran,” Mohammad Darvish, director-general of the organization’s office for education and popular cooperation, added.

In an interview with news website, Entekhab, Darvish said that while life expectancy in Iran is reportedly 79 years, “The latest statistics of the capital’s main cemetery show that the average age of people who died in the past nine months in Tehran is 49.”

The most important factor in air pollution, according to Darvish, is “excessive and unnecessary use of private vehicles.”

Darvish also claimed that air pollution plays a role in aggressiveness, obesity, cancer, mental disabilities, and gastrointestinal issues.

Air pollution, water shortages, and dust storms and their impact on the environment have seriously threatened large and small cities in recent years in Iran.

The Iranian media have repeatedly published alarming news and features about the unbelievably high level of air pollution in Iran’s metropolitan cities, including Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, and Ahvaz, as well as cities in Sistan and Baluchestan Province.

President Hassan Rouhani’s first deputy, Es'haq Jahangiri, while introducing the new head of the Environmental Protection Organization on August 14, said, “The environment is not a fanciful matter. We are confronting a water crisis and air pollution in mega cities, and we are also threatened by phenomena such as dust particles and drying-up ponds and wetlands.”

“We should swiftly start working to find a solution for the country’s main problems,” Jahangiri said.

According to the latest opinion polls, Jahangiri noted that “the environment has been singled out as one of the top four most important problems of the country.”

Although there are no reliable statistics available, according to Tehran City Council’s Committee for Environment head Mohammad Haqqani, “5,800 people fall victim to air pollution in Tehran” per year.

Meanwhile, an expert in genetic engineering, Qassem Ahangari, says air pollution impacts people’s neurological systems and may create aggressiveness.

Furthermore, Ahangari insists, air pollution has a negative impact on people’s genes.

The World Health Organization (WHO), in its 2016 report, ranked an Iranian city as the worst for air pollution in the world.

WHO said the world’s dirtiest air was in Zabol, located in restive Sistan-Baluchistan Province near the border with Afghanistan that suffers from months of dust storms in the summer.

The next four most polluted cities in the world were Indian: Gwalior, Allahabad, Patna, and Raipur.

“More than 80 percent of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air-quality levels that exceed WHO limits. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted,” WHO said.

U.S. Calls On UN Nuclear Watchdog To Seek Access To Iran's Military Sites

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley Speaking On Iran And IAEA
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The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on August 25 called on the UN's nuclear watchdog to seek access to Iranian military bases to ensure that they are not concealing activities banned by the 2015 nuclear deal.

"I have good confidence in the [International Atomic Energy Agency], but they are dealing with a country that has a clear history of lying and pursuing covert nuclear programs," Haley told a news conference in New York after returning from a visit to the agency in Vienna.

"We are encouraging the IAEA to use all the authorities they have and to pursue every angle possible" to verify compliance with the nuclear deal, she said.

The UN watchdog agency previously concluded that Iran conducted research secretly on a nuclear warhead at one military site before 2009, a charge which Tehran denies.

The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons by imposing constraints on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international sanctions on Tehran.

Iranian leaders have rejected giving international inspectors access to their military sites. But the deal lays out a process for the UN agency, which is charged with monitoring compliance with the agreement, to request access to any Iranian site where it suspects nuclear activities might be occurring.

"The JCPOA made no distinction between military and non-military sites," said Haley, adding that "there are also numerous undeclared sites that have not been inspected. That is a problem.”

U.S Ambassador To The U.N Talks About Iran Lebanon and Venezuela
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The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is in the midst of a review of the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has criticized as "horrible" and has threatened to abandon. The United States is one of six world powers that signed onto the agreement in 2015.

The U.S. Statement Department has certified that Iran is technically in compliance with the deal twice this year, but has charged that Iran's ballistic missile tests violate the "spirit" of the deal.

Iranian leaders have countercharged that a series of new sanctions imposed by the United States over the missile tests this year also violate the "spirit" of the accord. They have warned that Iran could easily and quickly resume nuclear weapons development if the United States abandons the deal.

Haley said earlier this week that she was "concerned" about whether Iran is adhering to the nuclear deal and that while the watchdog agency is known for its "credibility, professionalism, and seriousness," it "can only be as good as the access Iran grants" it.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

Ground Rules For Playing Against Israel Needed

Iranian senior legislator, Ali Motahari, undated.

Ground rules needed for Iranian athletes who face Israeli competitors, outspoken Tehran MP and deputy speaker of the Iranian Parliament Ali Motahari has suggested.

Referring to a message written by Ihsan Hajsafi, Iranian sportsman who played for his Greek club against an Israeli soccer team, Motahari called upon the Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry to compile instructions and set ground rules for future similar cases.

Calling Hajsafi’s message praiseworthy, Motahari noted, “Hajsafi has admitted that avoiding the match against Israeli club was compulsory. It’s a commendable admission, and I am absolutely sure [Hajsafi’s teammate] Masoud Shojaei also thinks on the same wavelength.”

“Regretfully, people of our country, with a justified broken heart, were forced to judge an incident that should have not had happened. However, do not forget that we [athletes] have always tried to bring a smile to the lips of 80 million Iranians.”

Hajsafi has also called Mohsen Hojaji an “obvious paragon of sacrifice” who lost his life for security and revolutionary aspirations.

Mohsen Hojaji, a member of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) was captured in Syria reportedly by the Islamic State militants on August 7 and decapitated two days later.

An unwritten law in Iran forbids Iranian athletes from competing with Israeli rivals and teams, while international sports bodies insist politics be kept out of sports events.

Meanwhile, Motahari hoped that Hajsafi’s message would end the row over Iranian soccer players who played the Israeli club, Maccabi-Tel Aviv, adding, “The Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry, in consultation with the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Supreme National Security Council, could set guidelines for cases where Iranian athletes face Israeli rivals or compete in a match that is refereed by an Israeli.”

Earlier, on August 10, sports ministry deputy Mohammad Reza Davarzani declared, “Both players have lost their spots on the Iranian National Team. … They have crossed Iran's red line.”

Nevertheless, FIFA's statutes ban political interference in its affiliated national associations, which can be suspended if the rule is breached.

“We are currently monitoring the matter and will request additional information from the Iran Football Federation,” said a FIFA spokesperson shortly after the incident.

If a country's FA is suspended, it means both the national team and its clubs are barred from international competition.

Iran has already qualified for next year's World Cup, making it an especially delicate matter for FIFA.

FIFA statutes state that “each member association shall manage its affairs independently and without undue influence from third parties.”

Shojaei and Hajsafi played for their Greek club side, Panionios of Athens, against Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv. Shojaei, the captain of Iran’s National Football team, and teammate Hajsafi played for a full 90 minutes against the Israeli club, on August 3 in Athens.

Panionios lost the home match 0-1, with Maccabi Tel Aviv advancing to the playoff round 2-0 on aggregate.

The Israeli club Shojaei and Hajsafi played against was founded in 1906, more than four decades before the creation of the state of Israel.

Iran Says Women Who Are Infertile Or Have 'Too Much Facial Hair' Can't Be Teachers

You can't be a woman and teach in Iran if you get migraines, have breast or ovarian cancer, are infertile, or have too much facial hair, according to controversial new guidelines. (file photo)

If you’re a woman and are infertile or have “too much facial hair” you can’t become a teacher in Iran, according to a new list of conditions and illnesses issued by the Iranian Education Ministry that disqualifies applicants from being hired as teachers.

According to the list, a “thick accent,” getting “migraines and cluster headaches,” cancers that affect the head, face, or neck and, in the case of women, breast or ovarian cancer, are all taboo for would-be teachers.

Smokers, people who enjoy smoking a hookah, drug users, and alcoholics are also blacklisted, according to the document published by the semiofficial Fars news agency.

Many of the conditions on the extensive list have led to criticism and even ridicule on social media.

“In the Education Ministry’s medieval list, a thick accent and too much facial hair are considered an illness and a barrier for those willing to be hired as teachers. A clear violation of basic human rights,” tweeted Iranian journalist Sara Omatali.

The new government regulations also prevent people suffering from sexual dysfunction or venereal and sexual diseases, including AIDS and syphilis patients, from teaching at Iranian schools.

And those with mental problems, including psychosis, depression, and sexual deviation are also banned.

Journalist and activist Omid Memarian noted that under the new conditions, world-famous physicist, cosmologist, and author Stephen Hawking -- who suffers from a form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) -- wouldn’t be able to teach in Iran.

Some have blasted the list as discriminatory.

Shahindokht Molaverdi, a presidential assistant for citizens’ rights, has reportedly promised to look into the list.

“The physical and mental conditions of a teacher have a direct impact on the education process. But these guidelines are a clear violation of citizens’ rights,” tweeted rights activist and former teacher Ahmad Medadi.

Iran’s presidential assistant on citizens’s rights, Shahindokht Molaverdi, promised on Twitter to look into the list and announce the results of her investigation.

The regulations are to be applied only to new teachers -- they are not retroactive.

Trump's Tool Kit: U.S. Options For Pressuring Pakistan

Pakistanis read newspapers with a front page headline about U.S. President Donald Trump at a stall in Islamabad on August 23.

U.S. President Donald Trump has many tools at his disposal to turn up the pressure on Pakistan to shut down alleged Afghan Taliban sanctuaries and arrest extremist leaders on its soil, analysts say, as Washington looks to turn the tide in America’s longest-ever war.

In unveiling his new Afghanistan strategy on August 21, Trump chastised Pakistan for harboring "agents of chaos" and providing safe havens to militant groups waging an insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, saying Islamabad must promptly change tack or suffer the consequences.

Analysts say Trump's options range from cutting off billions in annual military aid to downgrading Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally in order to force Islamabad’s hand if it does not does not get behind a renewed U.S. effort to help Kabul repel the Taliban and force the fundamentalist militant group to negotiate a political settlement.

How to get nuclear-armed Pakistan to crack down on militant sanctuaries on its soil has long been a point of contention. Former President Barack Obama tried and seemingly failed to persuade Pakistan to change course with billions of dollars in military aid and the sale of subsidized weapons. But analysts say Trump is likely to use more stick and less carrot in his own dealings with Islamabad.

“This would be an extremely bold move on the part of the United States but completely feasible if it was willing to deal with the consequences..."
-- Shamila Chaudhary, New America Foundation

Trump upped the ante further by seeking greater Indian engagement in Afghanistan, an overture that has set off alarm bells in Pakistan. The nuclear-armed archrivals have vied for influence in Kabul for years, with New Delhi backing civilian governments with millions in aid while Islamabad has attempted to establish friendly governments in Afghanistan through proxies like the Taliban and the mujahedin.

“The Trump administration appears to be determined to increase pressure on Pakistan to eliminate terrorist safe havens on its soil or bring the Taliban to the negotiation table,” says Ahmad K. Majidyar, a South Asia expert.

Analysts expect Washington to first pursue an aggressive diplomatic effort to convince Pakistan to change its approach and will only resort to military and financial measures if Islamabad fails to deliver.

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Iran’s "Reformists" Under Fire After Approving Cabinet

File photo - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) delivers a speech to the parliament in Tehran on August 20, 2017

After granting a vote of confidence to 16 of 17 nominees of President Hassan Rouhani for cabinet positions, Iran’s pro-Rouani MPs -- who hold a majority in the parliament -- face criticism for not being harsh enough on some of the president’s picks.

The present majority at Iran's parliament are usually referred to as the reformists in the Islamic Republic's politics.

The sessions for confidence votes were accompanied by some spectacular statements. Ghasem Mirzaei Nekoo, a reformist MP, criticized the house arrest of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, that is attributed to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Opposing the nominee for the Culture Ministry, who is reportedly selected in consultation with Khamenei, Mirzaei Nekoo condemned the ministry’s censorship of books and press.

Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, the nominee for the telecommunications minister, has been accused of being involved in the 2009 crackdown on protesters against the reelection of Mahmud Ahmadinejad as president. The protesters saw the election results as rigged. Jahromi was working with the Intelligence Ministry at that time and allegedly contributed to the expansion of the surveillance system. The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) even said several opposition activists were personally interrogated by him.

By the next election, people may say we have been cheated once, and we are not going to vote for reformists again.
Sadegh Zibakalam, professor of political sciences at Tehran University

Due to his background, Jahromi did not have enough independence and would turn Telecommunications Ministry into a second Intelligence Ministry, said MP Mohammad Ali Pourmokhtar.

However, none of these speeches prevented the parliament from approving 16 of 17 of Rouhani’s nominees with an unprecedented majority of votes. Surprisingly, the only nominee who was not confirmed was a famous reformist candidate for the Energy Ministry.

“This is not the first time we have witnessed a weak and disorganized performance by reformist MPs,” Hanif Mazrooei, an Iranian journalist residing in Belgium, told Radio Farda. They made similar mistakes during the recent election of members for the presidential board of the parliament and lost a few seats to rivals, Mazrooei added.

Reformists are putting their credibility in jeopardy, said Saedgh Zibakalam, a professor for political science at Tehran University, in an interview with Entekhab newspaper. “By the next election, people may say we have been cheated once, and we are not going to vote for reformists again.”

Some observers now suspect the voting session for Rouhani’s cabinet was just a show and Khamenei had already chosen the ministers.

A few weeks ago, news broke that Rouhani had sought the supreme leader's preapproval of his cabinet. Some MPs criticized the move, arguing it would limit their leeway. Subsequently, Khamenei’s office issued a statement denying his role in the nomination of “all” cabinet ministers. The statement added that the president only “coordinates” the selection of ministers for defense, foreign affairs, and intelligence.

“Regarding some ministries, including the Science, Education, and Culture ministries, the leader is sensitive, since deviation in their work would deviate the move of the entire country on the path to our ideals,” the statement said.

“It seems Rouhani is trying not to agitate Khamenei so he can go forward with his agenda, particularly in foreign policy and economy,” Morteza Kazemian, an Iranian journalist living in Paris, told Radio Farda.

Even if a miracle happened and there was enough cohesion, Rouhani still had to deal with the interests of the “government with the gun" [IRGC].
Fereydoun Khavand, economic analyst, in an op-ed for Radio Farda

In fact, the government’s “economic team” -- consisting of the central bank, organization for management and planning, the Economy Ministry, and the Industries, Trade, and Mining Ministry -- is now under the full control of the reformists, wrote Radio Farda contributor Fereydoun Khavand in an op-ed. A lack of cohesion on the economic team has been the biggest challenge for the Iranian government. It seems Rouhani tried to overcome this challenge with his new nominations. But Khavand is not optimistic this will lead to major economic developments and reforms.

Even if a miracle happened and there was enough cohesion, Rouhani still had to deal with the interests of the “government with the gun,” wrote Khavand. Rouhani recently used the term to refer to the powerful Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) that controls the major parts of Iran’s economy.

The government and the IRGC did not have equal weight and did not share same ideas on key economic issues, Khavand said. And when there are differences, the upper hand always wins, which is in almost all cases the “government with the gun.”

Iran Reported To Be Negotiating With Twitter To Unblock Popular Website

File photo

Iran's new communications minister has said that negotiations are under way to stop blocking Twitter, which has been banned for years despite being used by the country's top leaders.

The microblogging platform was barred in 2009 after mass protests broke out against the reelection of former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi told the state-owned Iran daily newspaper on August 22 that Twitter was ready to "negotiate to resolve problems."

"Twitter is not an immoral environment needing to be blocked," Jahromi, 36, was quoted as saying.

Jahromi is Iran's youngest minister after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Previously he had lauded the social networking website for being a great tool in public diplomacy and communicating with the people of the world.

Under the Islamic Republic, platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter remain officially banned even as millions use them daily through easily obtained anti-filtering software.

Iran's Supreme Council of Cyberspace, which is headed by President Hassan Rouhani and overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is in charge of blocking websites.

Even so, Rouhani and Khamenei both have Twitter accounts administered on their behalf.

Jahromi told the newspaper that officials were also looking at ways to unblock YouTube while still censoring "immoral content." He said a pilot project would allow universities to access the site.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

Do Iran's Missile Tests Violate The Nuclear Deal?

Do Iran's Missile Tests Violate The Nuclear Deal?
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A war of words between Iran and the United States has intensified in recent months as the two countries traded accusations that the other was not upholding the terms of the nuclear agreement reached with Tehran in 2015. We take a look at how Iranian missile tests are complicating an already complex issue.

In Controversial Move, Iran's New Female Vice President Ordered To Wear Chador

In a photo posted to an Iranian government website, Vice President Laya Joneydi is shown wearing a chador, which covers the entire body and only leaves the face exposed.

Before she was appointed as Iran’s vice president for legal affairs, law expert and college professor Laya Joneydi followed the obligatory Islamic dress code by covering her hair with a scarf and wearing a coat and pants to cover her body.

In announcing her appointment to the cabinet, the Iranian government website posted a statement and a photo of Joneydi wearing the chador, which covers women from head to toe and leaves only the face exposed.

Social-media users were quick to point out that Joneydi had overnight become a so-called chadori, an expression used in Iran to refer to women who choose to wear the chador promoted by conservatives as the "superior hijab" and the best protection for women.

Read the full text of this article on RFE/RL.

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