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Iran News Digest- June 2, 2014

Khosravi Executed 

Despite a flurry of effort by the Iranian opposition and some human rights groups to intercede, GholamrezaKhosravi was executed on Sunday morning, approximately five days after he was transferred from his solitary cell in Evin Prison to a section of Gohardasht Prison usually reserved for inmates awaiting execution. 

Though there were clear signals that his execution was imminent, at no point did the regime set a specific date for Khosravi’s execution or communicate to outside parties about the case. This included his family and even his lawyer, neither of which were told of the transfer or the reasons behind it. Khosravi’s family was finally permitted to visit him on May 31, though they were not explicitly told that he was scheduled to die the following morning. 

Afterwards, government officials refused to release the body to Khosravi’s loved ones. He was buried that same evening in Bagh-e-Rezvan Cemetery, under cover of secrecy. The regime is presumed to have been concerned about protests and demonstrations that might have surrounded a publicly accessible funeral. 

Tragically, Amnesty International had responded to the Khosravi case on May 31, in full awareness of the fact that the execution could be carried out at any time. Officials rushed the process so quickly, from initial transfer to actual execution, that there was no time for activists and NGOs to react to the immediate threat before it was too late. 

His case certainly could have been given more attention prior to the transfer to Gohardasht Prison, as Khosravi had been held in solitary confinement for the entirety of the 40 months he was awaiting an execution date. He was also targeted in the April 17 crackdown on political prisoners in Evin Prison’s Ward 350. 

However, Khosravi  was only one of over 800 political prisoners in Iran, and only one of many who were held in Evin Prison, or held in isolation, or subject to raids. It is difficult to know which cases to emphasize, as any death row prisoner might be called up for a fairly sudden execution at any time.

Other Crackdowns and Implications

Along with executions, a rising tide of arrests and non-capital punishments are drawing attention to the ongoing human rights crisis in Iran. The Tower puts this in context with the arrest last week of Saba Azarpeik, a journalist who had been working for a number of reformist publications. The specific reasons for her arrest were not immediately clear, but she joined the ranks of a large number of other writers and reporters imprisoned in a country that has one of the worst records for such arrests.

According to The Tower: “Analysts who are wary of engaging the regime have pointed to a range of indicators, from the shuttering of multiple newspapers to a spike in executions, as evidence that Rouhani is either unable or unwilling to moderate Iran’s hardline government.”

Meanwhile, The Conversation website points out the dichotomy between the various recent repressive moves made against internet communications and the various activist campaigns and creative projects that have defied those restrictions. The author argues that this is one of the major drivers of the Iranian diaspora – one of the world’s largest. The sentiments of much of the population are clearly at odds with the government’s expectations.

John Bolton Hacked

On Friday, the New York Times reported on the ongoing efforts by Iranian agents to conduct cyber-attacks against the United States. The latest example consisted of a phishing scam in which hackers created dummy accounts for high-profile personalities including former UN ambassador John Bolton, and attempted to use them to illicit sensitive information from other people who are close to US government or policy.

Although it was clear that this attack came from within Iran and that it was looking for weapons system plans, it could not be determined whether the origin was among government agents or simply “patriotic hackers.” However, earlier reports on Iranian cyber-espionage have indicated that the sophistication of Iranian-based attacks took a major leap forward sometime last year, suggesting that they had become organized for the first time, likely under the direction of a government agency. 

John Bolton responded to the theft of his identity by saying, “I’m honored they picked me. They must have been looking for the most anti-Iranian regime person in Washington. I’m proud to win that award.”

Kevin Barrett’s Conspiracies

While it was of course necessary to steal John Bolton’s identity in order to use him for the Iranian regime’s purposes, there are occasionally Western personalities who are willing to contribute their services of their own free will. Former university lecturer Kevin Barrett did just that on Monday when he wrote an article expressly for publication by Iranian propaganda network Press TV. 

A separate article on the organization’s website proudly championed his contribution in an article titled, “West Alarmed by Iran-Russia-China Arc.” Barrett’s analysis of increasingly close connections among those three Asian nations is that the West will choose one of only two specific responses to the situation. On one hand, they can “make peace” with Iran. And if they do not, Barrett believes that they will “set off a huge 9/11-style false flag attack to launch the next round of bloody imperial conquest.”

Barrett’s article then proceeds to emphasize his famous conspiracy theory about “the Bilderbergers” organizing and carrying out the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City, and falsely blaming Islamic terrorists. It is a theory that has made Barrett infamous, and one that is aggressively promoted by Press TV, which makes the transparently ridiculous claim that 97 percent of people endorse that same idea. 

Kuwait on the Fence 

On Sunday, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah began a visit to Tehran, in a development that may have significant impacts upon the extent of Iran’s reach in the Middle Eastern region. Kuwait is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which had previously appeared to be united in opposition to foreign intrusions by the Iranian regime.

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, both also member states of the GCC have accused Iran of, among other things, contributing to rebellion and political agitation among their Shiite minorities. For its part, Kuwait also has a Shiite minority, and a particularly sizable one. The desire to control a potentially restless political wing may be part of the nation’s motivation to reach out to Iran, the world’s leading Shiite power.

Kuwait’s geographic location and past history may worsen its concerns about Iranian influence, and further contribute to the perceived need to make a deal. Gulf News explains that Kuwait has almost always been stuck in between competing powers, as it faced alternating threats from Iran and Iraq when the two nations were enemies. Now, Iran is closely allied with the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq, and Kuwait is virtually sandwiched between them while also being allied with their main regional rivals.

If Kuwait and Iran do secure improved relations, the new relationship will likely feature coordination of their oil extraction, refinement, and sales. Menafn.com indicates that oil and gas were on the agenda for Sunday’s talks, and that no less a figure than the Kuwaiti Oil Minister acknowledged the possibility of uniting the two industries. 

This would be another step in Iran’s apparent efforts to secure a controlling interest in oil resources well beyond its own borders, as suggested by announcements of pipelines that would allow Iran to refine foreign crude, as well as agreements to help with oil exploration and drilling in nations as far away as Tunisia.

On its own, these economic efforts point towards the irony of the Iranian ambassador to Kuwait’s comments about the emir’s visit. Ali Anayati was quoted in Reuters as saying that the leaders of both nations want to “create a safe and stable regional system based on non-interference in other countries' internal affairs.” However, international observers are well aware that Iran wants no such thing, and that its policies of interference are apparent in many areas.

Warning to Supporters of Sunnis 

Another example of Iran’s foreign adventurism is its support for extremist organizations in various parts of the world. The US Department of State recognizes Iran as still being a major state sponsor of terrorism. Interestingly, this support is not limited to Shiite terrorists like Hezbollah. It also includes Al Qaeda offshoot organization which have been allowed to operate inside of Iran and warned by their own leadership not to attack inside the country despite their ideological differences.

These facts contradict the content of a speech given by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Monday. In it, he warned other Middle Eastern countries against supporting what Khamenei described as “Takfiri groups.” AFP presumes that this refers to Sunni extremists in general, though it is clear that the specific motive of the speech was to attempt to dissuade other countries from supporting the Syrian opposition. Khamenei warned that after such groups take power, the nations that supported them will eventually have to remove them once again, and will pay a high price to do so. 

Iran and Russia are largely credited with turning the tide of the Syrian Civil War against the rebels by resupplying and actively supporting the Assad regime. Monday’s speech may imply that Iran is nevertheless fearful that the tide may turn again with enough foreign support on the other side.

Last week, Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba met in Paris with Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The meeting may have signaled the potential for foreign support for the Syrian rebels, and the unity of opposition groups fighting against the two allied nations. 

Kurdish Unity Delayed

Also last week, the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan called for unified opposition against the Iranian ruling system. On Monday, another Iranian Kurdish political party, now divided against itself, encountered obstacles in its attempts to re-establish a portion of that unity. 

In 2006, Iran’s Kurdistan Democratic Party split into two separate organizations. Since 2011 they have been in talks to re-unify but have maintained different visions for that unification. Rudaw.net reports that the latest talks face an impasse, though the two sides are striving to come together before the party’s 16th convention, or at least to set a date for that convention.

Broader possibilities for unity may still be forth coming, as with international gathering of Iranian nationals set to take place in Paris on June 27 under the banner of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

 

 

 

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