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Iran News Digest- May 26, 2014

Khamenei’s Battle

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has formerly made statements rejecting any possible attempts to limit the nation’s ballistic missile stockpiles or otherwise restrain its ability to make war on foreign nations. On Sunday, he put these commitments into broader context when he urged the Iranian parliament to continue an ongoing ideological war with its ideological opponents in the West. Ironically, Khamenei also used the same speech to levy accusations of treason against anyone who acknowledges Iranian aggression.

“This battle will only end when the society can get rid of the oppressors’ front with America at the head of it, which has expanded its claws on human mind, body and thought,” Khamenei said. He also described America and other Western nations as “thieves and plunderers of human honor, dignity and morality who are equipped with knowledge, wealth and power,” and who commit crimes “under the pretense of humanity.”

More IRGC War Plans

In a television interview with Al-Alam News, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, Brigadier General of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Aerospace Force, reiterated what several of his IRGC colleagues have claimed in recent weeks: that they are prepared to meet the United States military face-to-face in the event of armed conflict. In fact, Hajizadeh’s comments also include the entirety of NATO, in that he said that if provoked, Iranian forces will attack a NATO missile battery in Turkey, as well as unspecified “other targets.”

Following upon Khamenei’s recommendation that the country mass produce missiles, Hajizadeh declared that “Iran will enhance its defense and military capability.” This is in spite of his belief that Iran is already adequately prepared to successfully fight the world’s largest military. “Today, Iran possesses whatever defensive and intelligence capabilities are necessary for such confrontation,” Hajizadeh said.

Lingering Threats

Two highly visible individuals are still waiting under threat of possible punishments for their violation of the regime’s repressive religious laws. Sassan Soleimani, the director of the viral video showing six Iranian youths dancing to the Pharrell Williams song, “Happy,” is still in jail a week after the stars of the video were released on bail.

Interrogators reportedly compelled the six released individuals to swear that they were tricked into their actions by Soleimani. The interrogators’ narrative holds that the dancers were told that the video would not be released online and that it was part of a larger project that had been officially sanctioned by the government.

This effort to portray Soleimani as the sole culprit may explain the discrepancy in treatment. The filmmaker’s family was told that he too would be released on bail, but prison officials did not follow through on that promise, instead telling the family that they could return at the end of this week to visit Soleimani.

Surprise Execution

In the latest example of Iran’s liberal application of the death penalty, it carried out the execution, on Saturday, of a businessman convicted of the nation’s largest case of fraud. Mahafarid Amir Khosravi reportedly used forged documents to obtain credit and purchase assets, as part of a bank scam that totaled to 2.6 billion dollars and led to the conviction of 39 individuals.

Most of the defendants received prison terms, two of them life sentences. But four were sentenced to death. As with drug convictions, which may account for about two thirds of executions carried out in Iran, financial crimes do not rise to the level of severity that makes the death sentence permissible under international law.

In addition to the dubious severity of the crime, Khosravi’s execution was reportedly carried out without advanced notice. His lawyer complained that he was not informed of the execution and that the state prosecutor’s office had immediately confiscated all of the defendant’s assets.

Khosravi’s bank fraud reportedly began in 2007, and the resulting trials are said to have exposed some of the corruption that was at the heart of the Ahmadinejad administration. But in light of the way this execution was carried out, and in light of the state’s increased reliance on executions under the current administration, the case may also raise questions about the different kinds of corruption that are prevalent under the Rouhani presidency.

 

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