Topics of the day:
1. FWD: RFE/RL IRAN REPORT, Vol. 2, No. 4, 25 January 1999
2. NEWS99 - Khordad Newspaper Bombed
Date: Mon, 25 Jan 1999 18:04:04 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad.abdolian@RSA.ERICSSON.SE>
Subject: FWD: RFE/RL IRAN REPORT, Vol. 2, No. 4, 25 January 1999
RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
RFE/RL IRAN REPORT
Vol. 2, No. 4, 25 January 1999
A Review of Developments in Iran Prepared by the Staff of
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
FACTIONALISM MAY LEAD TO PRIVATE BROADCASTING. On 17 January,
Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance Ataollah Mohajerani
warned Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) about
entering into factional politics. Not only was the warning
too late, but it is quite possible that such factionalism may
lead to the establishment of Iran's first private television
Mohajerani's warning came after a recent broadcast of
the television program "Cheraq," in which one of the guests,
Iranian documents center head and former Intelligence
Ministry official Hojatoleslam Ruhollah Husseinian, said the
spate of murders in Iran were the work of the "left faction"
-- in other words, President Mohammad Khatami's supporters.
Mohajerani said "those who are trying to attribute the
recent killings to the so-called right or left factions are
on the wrong path." He went on to claim that article 175 of
the Iranian Constitution gives the media the "constitutional
right to disseminate factional issues," but it must "abstain
from entering into factional propaganda." (In fact, article
175 does not mention factionalism). Mohajerani went on to say
that the Supreme National Security Council met in the
presence of IRIB chief Ali Ardeshir-Larijani when it decided
not to air programs about the murders, so it was only
appropriate for Larijani to apologize, on the air, to
Ayatollah Mirza Javad Gharavi Aliari objected to the
airing of factional issues on public television, reported
"Sobh-i Imruz" on 14 January. The "Iran Daily" on 19 January
referred to Husseinian's performance as "perhaps the low
point of poison partisan politics to date." There were also
reports that Larijani, who was appointed by Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would be banned from cabinet
meetings. This is a hollow threat, since the broadcast
director does not have ministerial rank and attends the
meetings only as an observer.
In an interview with RFE/RL's Persian Service,
Nottingham-on-Trent University Professor Ali Mohammadi said
IRIB's problems go beyond factionalism. He said IRIB
originally was to be run by a council of cabinet members, the
judiciary head, and the speaker of parliament. But now it is
effectively under the Supreme Leader, while it should be
supervised by the president.
Mohammadi went on to say that the critical TV program
was run the same night that a critical article was run in the
"Keyhan" newspaper. This is because the management of both
IRIB and "Keyhan" are selected by the Supreme Leader, so
"they give each other mutual support. They have no relation
to the government of the president, They sometimes work
against the president." The president's office would like to
regain control of IRIB's management, Mohammadi told RFE/RL,
but this is opposed strongly by the Supreme Leader's office
and those who benefit from the current arrangement. Mohammadi
speculated that Iranians may demand private radio and
television stations if the current arrangement continues.
The daily "Iran News," which allegedly is close to
Expediency Council head Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, may
have picked up on the RFE/RL broadcast, and on 20 January it
called for "privatization of television and cable stations."
It editorialized that, because IRIB must be "absolutely non-
partisan," private stations are needed so they are free "to
criticize any political faction or figure." Furthermore,
privatization would save money for the government. (Bill
GOVERNMENT REACTS TO ULTRACONSERVATIVES -- BY ARRESTING THEIR
OPPONENTS. Sermons given by Isfahan's Ayatollah Jalaledin
Taheri in the last two weeks have been the occasion for
violence by ultraconservatives, as well as repression of
dissident religious leaders by the conservatives' supporters
within the Iranian government.
Prior to Isfahan's Friday prayers on 15 January, IRNA
reported, people started chanting slogans and throwing
objects at the pulpit. The ensuing "commotion" prevented
Ayatollah Jalal Taheri from giving his sermon. "Salam"
reported that the 14 January arrest of some local clerics,
later identified by "Arya" and "Khordad" on 19 January as
Mansour Yar-Mohammadian, Mohammad Khairollahi, Ali
Shahnavazi, and Alireza Farzaneh-Khu, led to the incident. On
17 January, the Interior Ministry launched an investigation
to determine who had caused the disruption.
Some Isfahan residents told RFE/RL's Persian service
that there were many strangers in the crowd of worshippers,
and they started whistling, chanting, and throwing objects.
Mr. Madah, Taheri's spokesman in Isfahan, said in a 16
January interview with RFE/RL's Persian Service that although
personnel from "Revolutionary Guards, Intelligence, and
Isfahan's police" were present, they did not act. Taheri
hoped that by commencing the prayer, order would be restored,
but the chanting just got more violent. Then, the protesters
cut the loudspeaker cables and cut off the power to prevent
the sermon. Wanting to avoid further violence, Taheri left.
Taheri's spokesman said the event was "absolutely" an
attack against the Khatami government, but "it will end in
favor of the people and the government."
Taheri refused to back down. "Sobh-i Imruz" quoted him
as saying: "I will stand next to these loyal people until my
last breath. I will not resign as long as I'm alive, unless I
am ousted. I see resignation as a form of escaping the scene.
That would be criminal. I would never commit such treachery."
Taheri promised to make up for the missed sermon and on
18 January some 70,000 people attended his sermon marking
Eid-i Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan. At the
service's end, reported "Salam" and "Tehran Times"
newspapers, supporters of Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri chanted
slogans in his favor. These individuals were arrested. "Asr-i
Azadigan," however, reports on 21 January that Taheri had to
preach using a hand-carried loudspeaker, rather than the
public address system which mysteriously failed, and that the
violence erupted when opponents and supporters of Taheri
confronted each other and were subsequently dispersed by the
These are not the first disruptions of Taheri's sermons.
Nor are they the first occasions when he has run afoul of
Iran's conservatives. In the past, Taheri denounced
government corruption. Most recently, Taheri ridiculed
accusations that killers in the Intelligence Ministry were
part of Mehdi Hashemi's gang. Also, Taheri is recognized as a
supporter of Ayatollah Hussein Montazeri, who is a vocal
critic of conservative political figures in the regime and
who some see as a potential threat and rival for power.
Despite these factors, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
finds it impossible to replace Taheri because he was
appointed by Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In an
interview with "Salam" on 20 January, the secretary of the
Islamic Association of University Professors, Najafgholi
Habibi, described Taheri as "one of the most loyal companions
of the late Imam ..."
The disruptions alarm other senior clerics, too.
Ayatollah Abai Khorasani told "Sobh-i Imruz" on 19 January
that if such incidents are not prevented and their causes not
eliminated, "even the highest-ranking officials of the
country, including the Supreme Leader and the president would
not be immune from such attacks." (Bill Samii)
MONTAZERI FALLOUT. "Asr-e Azadegan" newspaper reported on 20
January that the Supreme National Security Council had
approved lifting the restrictions on Ayatollah Hussein
Montazeri, but the relevant agencies had not acted. This
seems farfetched, because shortly thereafter, "Khordad"
Director Hojatoleslam Abdullah Nouri was summoned before the
Special Court for the Clergy for violating the press law,
reported "Arya" on 19 January. Nouri told "Arya" he would not
attend the court because press issues are not within its
jurisdiction. Last week, "Resalat" newspaper, which is
associated with conservative bazaaris, published an editorial
suggesting "Khordad" newspaper might be banned for publishing
statements made by Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri. (Bill Samii)
HIZBULLAH THREATENED AGAIN. "Zan" newspaper reported on 19
January that Hussein Allahkaram of the Ansar-i Hizbullah, the
group which is usually associated with violent activities in
support of conservative causes, fears that blame for the
recent murders of Iranian intellectuals and dissident
politicians will be pinned on his organization. He said that
an unspecified "they" had mounted a month-long publicity
campaign to put the blame on Hizbullah members acting on the
orders of the clergy.
Allahkaram may have a point. "Shalamcheh," his
organization's publication, was banned recently. Founded in
1996 by veterans of the Iran-Iraq War, "Shalamcheh" was "the
voice of hard-line fundamentalists and right-wing pressure
groups," reported RFE/RL's Persian Service recently. It also
practiced "investigative journalism" by exposing corruption
among government officials, which may be the real reason for
its downfall, although the publicly stated reason for the
closure was that the publication had said the late Grand
Ayatollah Khoei was on the payroll of SAVAK, the Intelligence
and Security Organization, from 1957 to 1979. The publisher
of Hizbullah's publication said he would soon be launching a
new weekly called "Jebhe."
On 20 January, "Tehran Times," which is published by an
arm of the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance, reported
that "Shalamcheh" was closed because it made negative remarks
about "Zan" Director and Khatami ally Faezeh Hashemi after
she was "chosen as the woman of the year by an Italian
magazine along with some personalities who are famous for
their corruption." Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance
Ataollah Mohajerani reacted by "using his influence ... to
secure the closure of ["Shalamcheh"]." (Bill Samii)
IRANIAN MILITARY PERCEPTIONS. A recent feature article in the
Iranian armed forces journal "Saff" describes Iran's
objectives in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. The article
shows how the Iranian armed forces perceive U.S. strategic
interests in the Gulf. It may thus prove to be particularly
important because these perceptions are a major factor in
shaping Iranian military policy.
The article describes Iran as the "first country to come
forward" when the British left the region in 1971. The
article fails to mention, however, that this action stemmed
from the Iranian monarch's ambition to be the regional
"gendarme,", a desire fueled by (a) the Nixon Doctrine, in
which U.S. allies would become more self-sufficient
militarily; and (b) aggressive sales tactics by Western arms
Because of its naval victories in the Iran-Iraq War, the
article says, the Iranian Navy established overall control
over the Gulf, but this alarmed the U.S., which began to
expand its activities. Such activities included, the article
claims, participation in the battle of Faw, "recapturing this
port city from Iran and handing it back to Iraq." Since then,
America's main concern has been to establish itself as the
unipolar security guarantor in the region, in exchange for
which "America was to demand full political, financial, and
infrastructural support from its allies." The presence of
American military forces in Bahrain, Jordan, Diego Garcia,
and the Rapid Deployment Force are all part of this scheme,
the article states.
The article then makes an implicit threat. "[The] recent
bomb explosions in [Saudi] Arabia serve as reminders that no
matter how strong and how sophisticated American military
muscle might be, it is still no match for the dedication of
the strugglers. If anything, the sophisticated and ultra-
modern military hardware would provide tempting targets for
the attacks by those strugglers."
According to the article, the West has eight major goals
in the region: 1) Security of the seas to transport Persian
Gulf oil to the West.
2) Preventing any country, especially a regional one, from
wielding influence in the Persian Gulf or spreading Islamic
3) Ensuring the safety of investments.
4) Political stability in friendly states.
5) "Ensuring that the regional countries continue to toe the
line as set by the arrogant powers."
6) Preventing non-nuclear countries from acquiring nuclear
7) "Encouraging separatist movements in the non-friendly
countries of the region, and if possible, bringing about the
disintegration of those countries."
8) Causing occasional crises in "non-friendly countries"
which will weaken their governments. (Bill Samii)
WHO WILL BE THE NEXT INTELLIGENCE MINISTER? As soon as
suggestions came that Minister of Intelligence and Security
Qorban Ali Dori-Najafabadi might have to resign because
personnel under him had been implicated in the recent murders
of intellectuals and dissident politicians, rumors followed
about his possible replacement. "Hamshahri" reported that
parliamentarian and Assembly of Experts member Hojatoleslam
Majid Ansari is the most likely candidate, although he denied
this rumor in "Resalat" on 20 January. Some see Ansari as a
Rafsanjani/Khatami ally who voiced support for ties between
Iran and the U.S. in January 1998.
The "Tehran Times" reports that Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi
will probably be the replacement. Yunesi was the public
prosecutor whose investigations of financial improprieties
led to the disqualification of parliamentary candidates in
1992, and by 1996 he had become head of the armed forces
judicial department. "Zan" reports that possible replacements
are Yunesi, Ansari, or Hojatoleslam Mohammad Esmail
Shushtari. Shushtari is currently the justice minister and
served in this position during the Rafsanjani administration.
"Iran" mentions all these candidates plus Mohammad
Mohammadi Reyshahri (see RFE/RL Iran Report, 11 January
1999). Some sources cite Ali Rabii as the next intelligence
minister, although IRNA reports that he was offered a job he
has held before, that of deputy intelligence minister. (Bill
IRAN STILL ACTIVE IN BOSNIA, BUT OBJECTIVES UNCLEAR. On 12
January Ambassador Seyyed Homayoun Amir Khalili presented his
credentials to Bosnia-Herzegovina Presidency Chairman Zivko
Radisic. Comparing Khalili's background with that of his
predecessor may indicate a shift in Iran's approach towards
Bosnia-Herzegovina. But Iran's activities in Sarajevo
indicate continuing participation in military and
Khalili told Sarajevo's pro-Alija Izetbegovic (Muslim
member of the Bosnian presidency) "Dnevni Avaz" newspaper on
8 January that prior to his current assignment he was
director of a foreign affairs think-tank in Tehran, and
before that he was ambassador to Sofia. These assignments are
fairly benign compared to those of his predecessor, Mohammad
Taherian. Taherian was ambassador to Afghanistan, and,
according to an April 1996 Congressional Research Service
study, "he helped funnel Iranian aid to Shiite guerrilla
In his interview, Khalili stressed Iran's acceptance of
the 1995 Dayton Accords. He went on to describe Iran's desire
to invest in Bosnia-Herzegovina and to say investment is an
"important item" in his mission. But before any investment
occurs, he warned, Iran must analyze the country's laws and
degree of privatization. He went on to say that Iran is
especially interested in the agricultural and industrial
This is not the first time Iran has expressed an
interest in Bosnian industry. A few years ago Iran wanted to
invest in a steel mill in Zenica, a town 60 kilometers west
of Sarajevo. This fell through, however, and the Kuwait
Investment Agency stepped in.
But it appears that Iran is interested in more than
trade and investment. The Iranian community in Sarajevo keeps
a low profile and mainly engages in business, a Balkan
affairs analyst said after a recent trip to Sarajevo. The
Iranian cultural center, however, is believed to be the site
of "aggressive ideological training." Bosnian Muslims,
Sandzaks, and Afghans are seen there often, as are Kosovar
Albanian refugees and Albanians who served with the Bosnian
Muslim forces. These people work in a wide variety of jobs,
leading the analyst to believe that they are well placed for
This is not the first time observers have questioned
Iranian motives in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the early 1990s
Iran -- in its self-perceived role as a leader of the Islamic
community -- persuaded the Organization of the Islamic
Conference to call for an end to the international arms
embargo on Bosnia. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati created and led an
Iranian aid agency called the Bosnia-Herzegovina Support
Headquarters, and he traveled to Bosnia in 1992. The
Oppressed and Disabled Foundation (Bonyad-i Mostazafan va
Janbazan) provided aid, too. Iran also made an offer, never
accepted, of military personnel for a U.N. peacekeeping
So Iran began provision of military aid. Substantial
Iranian military support began in March 1994 after Croatia
and Bosnia formed an alliance. In September 1994, the
"Washington Times" reported that Bosnia's government asked
Iran for arms, night-vision equipment, and guerrilla warfare
specialists. U.S. government officials described "regular
shipments" of weapons flown from Iran and Lebanon via
Croatia. RFE/RL's South Balkan service reports that 30
percent of all those shipments stayed in Croatia. By April
1995, reported "The Washington Post," it was clear that, with
the U.S. administration's tacit approval, "hundreds of tons"
of weapons and ammunition from Iran came to Bosnia.
Reports emerged that 350 to 400 men from Iran's
Revolutionary Guards Corps and Lebanon's Hizballah were
serving there, but Iran denied this. Also, personnel from
Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security were working
with their Bosnian counterparts in the Agency for
Investigation and Documentation. At that point, Western
officials were "deeply concerned" about the possibility of a
suicide bombing against NATO forces, reported "Jane's
Intelligence Review" in March 1996.
But when nine Iranians were detained in the Croat-held
part of Bosnia in February 1996, IRNA described them as Koran
recitors traveling the region to organize concerts. Iran's
foreign minister said any Iranians in Bosnia were involved in
humanitarian work and none of them were "fighters." In
January 1997, Iran's foreign minister denied funding Bosnia's
main Muslim party or then-Bosnian President Alija
Izetbegovic's election campaign, saying any money from Iran
was for humanitarian purposes. That February, Clinton
administration officials said they believed that Bosnia's
ties with Iranian intelligence services were severed and Iran
was being edged out of the country. A White House spokesman
said: "[Bosnia] is not conducting an operational intelligence
program with the Iranian government or a military assistance
program with the Iranian government." Under the terms of the
Dayton peace agreement engineered by the U.S., all foreign
fighters had to leave the former Yugoslavia.
Such denials and statements were, at best, overly
optimistic. On 28 November 1997, "The New York Times"
reported that Western and Bosnian officials believed more
than 200 Iranian intelligence agents were mounting extensive
information gathering operations in Bosnia and infiltrated
the U.S. program to train the Bosnian army. Furthermore, they
were to "sow dissension between Muslim and ethnic Croat
officers." A Western observer described the Iranians'
activities as a "classic intelligence program" in which
agents were placed as journalists and aid workers and then
awaited activation, wrote "The New York Times."
At his party's annual conference on 12 January,
Izetbegovic asked "Are we going to accept Europe and take our
people toward European integration; are we going to create a
civil state with less ethnic emotions with the domination of
what we call Western civilization?" The possibility remains
that, despite superficial personnel changes, Iran intends to
be part of that decision. (Bill Samii)
Copyright (c) 1999. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.
Monday, January 25, 1999 Published at 23:36 GMT
World: Middle East
Explosion at Tehran newspaper office
An Iranian newspaper renowned for its outspoken
criticism of the conservative clergy has been
attacked by unidentified assailants.
The official news agency said two men on a
motorobike threw a stun grenade at the
newspaper's offices in Tehran, shattering windows
and slightly injuring two reporters.
An anonymous phone caller said that next time it
would be a bomb. The editor said the paper would
come out as usual on Tuesday.
The newspaper was launched about two months ago
by the former Interior minister, Abdollah Nouri,
who angered conservatives in the government by
supporting social and political reforms and was
removed from office.
The attack comes at a time of increasing tension
between moderates loyal to President Khatami and
From the newsroom of the BBC World Service