Archiv für den Tag 6. November 2014

Is Ahmadinejad making a comeback?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) meets with Iraqi Vice President Khudair al-Khuzaie (not seen) during a visit in Baghdad when Ahmadinejad was still president of Iran, July 18, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Hadi Mizban)

A three-story building in a quiet one-way alley in northern Tehran is the headquarters of an unlikely campaign that opposes both the administration of President Hassan Rouhani and many of the Islamic Republic’s establishment figures.

The Velenjak building is the base of activities for former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has his offices on its third floor.

Ahmadinejad has been relatively quiet since the ascendance of the moderate Rouhani, but the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) is only one ofmany outlets that have reported on his desire to make a comeback.

According to Amir Mohebbian, a leading political analyst, Ahmadinejad’s attempt to return to poweris obvious as he „quietly awaits favorable conditions and occasionally tests the waters.“

The provincial trips that the former hard-line president makes are one indication.

In addition to making many trips to southern and northern Iran, Ahmadinejad celebrated the end of Ramadan by visiting Taleqan with the family members of four celebrated Iran-Iraq war „martyrs“ in a trip that, according to ILNA, was coordinated by the Quds Force, the formidable international arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

In April, Ahmadinejad ruled out a return to politics but many of his supporters beg to differ.

They are tirelessly organizing and insist on his return. These are an unlikely bunch. Their young cadre runsmany blogs and social media accounts. They draw controversy by their occasionally unconventional mixing of Islamism with an anti-wealthy and anti-establishment discourse, and many have spent time in jail for their activities. Their targets are not only the Reformists but many of the traditional conservatives.

Take Ahmad Shariat, who heads the Internet committee of an Ahmadinejad organization. In his blog, he attacked the policy of backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, called for a boycott of the last Majles elections in 2012 (because many Ahmadinejad forces were barred), attacked establishment religious figures such as Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi and, finally, dared to criticize Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself (the latter, in early 2013, led to the closing of Shariat’s blog and his arrest).

These supporters leave no doubt as to their allegiance to the ex-president. One name they go by is „Homa,“ a Persian acronym for „Supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.“ An online newspaper with the same name (Homa Daily) opened last week on the occasion of Ahmadinejad’s 58th birthday. („Square 72“ is another outlet, named after Ahmadinejad’s neighborhood in northeastern Tehran).

Abdolreza Davari — who was a vice-president of IRNA, the national news agency for the administration under Ahmadinejad — is a leading organizer of Homa. A controversial figure who was fired from a teaching post for „political activities,“ Davari was reported by ILNA as one of the top three media campaigners attempting an Ahmadinejad comeback.

„As an Iranian, I hope for the return of Mr. Ahmadinejad to politics,“ Davari told Al-Monitor, before adding that he thinks the ex-president is currently focused on „scientific“ activities.

To my question about the regular meetings of Homa in the Velenjak building, Davari says that such meetings are not organized but that „all kinds of people, commentators, students or ordinary people come to meet and talk to Dr. Ahmadinejad.“

Davari also denies that Homa is attempting to organize for next year’s Majles elections. Ahmadinejad’s return to power needs no less than „changes in the current relation of forces,“ Davari says, seeming to imply that many of the establishment figures wouldn’t want the ex-president back. Many such figures are especially opposed to Ahmadinejad’s entourage.

Enter Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, who was openly rebuked by Khamenei for his maverick mixing of Shiite millennialism, Persian nationalism and leftist language. Despite Khamenei’s personal rejection and the sustained attacks of many who accused Mashaei of leading a „deviationist current,“ the ex-president has continued backing his close friend (whose daughter married Ahmadinejad’s eldest son) even after the Guardian Council rejected Mashaei’s candidacy in last year’s presidential elections.

Mashaei’s offices are on the second level of the Velenjak building, and he is known to take part in Homa meetings.

Homa Daily ran Mashaei’s picture in the first page of its first issue, while reprinting his most controversial interview, where he had defended the necessity of „friendship with the Israeli people“ — an interview personally criticized and attacked by Khamenei.

Davari says Mashaei doesn’t want to return to politics due to his „cultural and spiritual sentiment.“ Taking a note from Mashaei’s book, he says Ahmadinejad’s concept of the Islamic Revolution and his belief in the coming of the hidden Imam is not „meant for a specific geography or religion as the hidden Imam’s global message is aimed at all nations and groups.“

„Freedom-loving and justice-seeking fighters“ like Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Djamila Boupacha, Bobby Sands, Hassan Nasrallah and Hugo Chavez belong to the same global front as Ahmadinejad, Davari insists.

Acolytes of Mashaei seem to have especially targeted Iran’s nuclear negotiations. A group called the „the National Movement for Iran’s Independence“ (NAMA, for its Persian acronym) was formed with the declared goal of fighting any compromise with the West. Its unusual name (not mentioning Islam) has the Mashaie imprint.

Mashaei’s presence has always driven away many of Ahmadinejad’s backers. One of them is Mohammadreza Etemadian, a trade adviser to the ex-president. Etemadian told Al-Monitor that he would like to see Ahmadinejad back, but he has always told him to keep Mashaei away since „he is not on good terms with the supreme leader and is a deviant.“

Etemadian is a leading member of the Islamic Coalition Party, the traditional organization of Bazari Islamists and an important part of the establishment. Its leaders seem to detest the populist excesses of Ahmadinejad.

Sensing this, the ever-adventurous Ahmadinejad has been trying to find new allies, even if among the Reformists. He met with Hassan Khomeini, the 40-year-old grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic, known for his proximity to the Reformists. The ex-president boldly asked Khomeini to lead a group of young clerics to contest the next year’s election of the Assembly of Experts, the body that chooses the supreme leader.

He has also reportedly tried to meet the Reformist ex-President Mohammad Khatami and Ambassador Sadeq Kharazi, an influential diplomat from a key political family.

Meanwhile, it was reported that Gholam-Hossein Elham, the spokesman of Ahmadinejad’s government, has started campaigning for the ex-president and last week met with the governors-generals of the previous government to organize. Elham, however, spoke with the pro-Ahmadinejad „Square 72“ website to deny this news.

Unceremoniously bowing out after the disqualification of the candidate he supported in the 2013 presidential elections, Ahmadinejad seems to be busy plotting a comeback.

Source: AL-Monitor

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Iranian students who took US Embassy: Where are they now?

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps attend the anniversary ceremony of the Islamic Revolution at the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the Behesht Zahra cemetery, south of Tehran, Feb. 1, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi)

The Nov. 4, 1979, storming of the US Embassy in Tehran by Iranian students who then held 52 American hostages for 444 days marked the beginning of three decades of hostility between Iran and the United States. Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) compiled a special report about the individuals involved in the hostage crisis today, 35 years after the incident.

According to ILNA, despite taking oaths not to enter politics or take government positions, many of the leftist students who called themselves the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line did end up in politics. Some entered parliament as Reformists or joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, who was at one time the spokesman for the students, became the Revolutionary Guard commander for Ghazvin province. He served in parliament from 1989 to 1993 and was a member of Tehran’s first city council from 1999 to 2003. Today he is primarily a political analyst and is married to Tahereh Rezazadeh, who was also involved in the hostage crisis.

According to ILNA, in 1997, during Reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s proposed “dialogue of civilizations” between countries, a student asked Asgharzadeh if defending the attack on the embassy were compatible with holding a „dialogue of civilizations.“ According to ILNA, Asgharzadeh has still failed to answer this question. Though ILNA did not report it, Asgharzadeh did offer an apology to the families of the hostages for his actions.

Ezatollah Zarghami, according to ILNA, “like many others joined the Revolutionary Guard.” Today he is head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, a position that is appointed by the supreme leader. He is considered a hard-line politician who according to ILNA shares “few common positions” with the other students, who went on to play a large role in one of the most well known Reformist student groups, the Office for Strengthening Unity.

Mohsen Aminzadeh held positions in the Foreign Ministry and Culture Ministry. A member of the Reformist Islamic Participation Front, he was arrested after the contested 2009 elections along with other another student involved in the hostage crisis, Mohsen Mirdamadi.

A number of the students became members of the sixth parliament, remembered as the parliament that was swept by Reformists. Among this group was Mohammad Naimipour, a member of the Islamic Participation Front. For a time he was the director of research at the Center for Strategic Research.

Abbas Abdi played a major role in establishing the Office for Strengthening Unity. According to him, the name of the organization came about when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said to him, “Go and strengthen unity,” though in this case, “consolidate” would be a better term. He later went to write in defense of Reformist theories in Salaam newspaper and though the ILNA report does not mention it, he was imprisoned in 1993 and 2002 for his political writings and activities.

Masoumeh Ebtekar, nicknamed “Mary” in the foreign press, for a time headed the English-language edition of Kayhan newspaper. She is currently the head of Iran’s Environmental Protection Organization, a position she also held under the Mohammad Khatami administration.

Reza Seifollahi joined the Revolutionary Guard and eventually became the head of intelligence for the organization. He is now a member of the Expediency Council.

Mohammad Ali Jafari joined the Revolutionary Guard and now heads it.

Source: AL-Monitor

Islamic State Invokes Prophecy to Justify Its Claim to Caliphate

A militant Islamist fighter uses a mobile to film his fellow fighters taking part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province (REUTERS/Stringer). At an Islamic State checkpoint on the southern outskirts of Kirkuk stands a billboard proclaiming, “The Islamic State: A Caliphate in Accordance with the Prophetic Method.” Search Twitter for the phrase in Arabic and you will see it’s popular with the jihadist set, who quote and swap pictures of it incessantly. (In one such picture, a little boy holds the slogan above his head.)

The Islamic State’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, is also fond of the phrase. Just months before the Islamic State’s declaration of the caliphate, Adnani invoked it to rebut al-Qaeda’s claim that the Islamic State had become too extreme: “A state of Islam rules by your Book and the tradition of your Prophet and fights your enemies. So reinforce it, honor it, aid it, and establish it in the land. Make it a caliphate in accordance with the prophetic method.”[1]

The phrase comes from a prophecy attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, who explains how religious authority will become increasingly secular and abusive after his death until the caliphate is restored.

“Prophethood will be among you as long as God intends, and then God will take it away if He so wills. Then there will be a caliphate according to the prophetic method. It will be among you as long as God intends, and then God will take it away if He so wills. Then there will be a mordacious monarchy. It will be among you as long as God intends, and then God will take it away if He so wills. Then there will be a tyrannical monarchy. It will be among you as long as God intends, and then God will take it away if He so wills. Then there will be a caliphate in accordance with the prophetic method.”

When the Islamic State declared a caliphate in June, Adnani reminded the world of the prophecy uttered “by the tongue of the prophet,” proclaiming “nothing remains after the elimination of these borders, the borders of humiliation, and the breaking of the idol, the idol of nationalism, except the caliphate in accordance with the prophetic method.” Signage and stationary further reinforce the claim that the Islamic State’s nightmarish bureaucracy fulfills Muhammad’s prophecy. An Islamic State soldier in Iraq’s Nineveh province wears a patchemblazoned with the slogan, and official Islamic State letterhead includes the words.

According to the story of the prophecy, Muhammad fell silent after he predicted the restoration of the caliphate. Many Sunni jihadists and other apocalypticists have interpreted the Prophet’s silence to mean the caliphate will be restored at the end of time. Among them was al-Qaeda firebrand Anwar al-Awlaki, who believed Muslims would reestablish the caliphate in accordance with the prophetic method after they had finally vanquished the infidels. Awlaki theorized that the “massive air power invented by humanity today” would annihilate any caliphate established before this final victory. The Islamic State is testing that theory today.


[1] Abu Muhammad al-`Adnani, “Ma kana hadha manhajuna wa-lan yakun,” 17 April 2014.

Source: Iran@Brookings

Iranische Cyber-Attacke auf deutsche Unternehmen Bayerischer Verfassungsschutz deckt Komplott auf

Der bayerische Verfassungsschutz hat einen iranischen Hacker-Angriff auf zahlreiche deutsche und internationale Unternehmen und Forschungseinrichtungen aufgedeckt. Dies berichtet das Hamburger Wirtschaftsmagazin BILANZ in seiner am Freitag erscheinenden Ausgabe. Ausgespäht wurden Rüstungsfabriken, Luft-, Raumfahrt- und Chemieunternehmen sowie Universitäten. Erhebliche Datenmengen wurden gestohlen. Der Angriff, der spätestens Anfang 2013 begann und immer noch läuft, besäße, laut dem bayerischen Verfassungsschutz, eine „große Dimension“.

Die Angreifer interessierten sich unter anderem für den Bau von Raketen, Hubschraubern, Satelliten und Drohnen. Einem Luft- und Raumfahrtkonzern kamen 115.000 Dateien abhanden, ein Satelliten-Hersteller verlor 10.000 Dateien. Ziel der Attacken waren Firmen und Einrichtungen aus Deutschland, anderen EU-Ländern, den USA, Mexiko, Israel, Russland und China. Bei deutschen Firmen seien laut Verfassungsschutz bislang keine Daten abgeflossen, teilte der Verfassungsschutz mit. Weitere deutsche und internationale Nachrichtendienste sind in die Ermittlungen einbezogen.

Die Fahnder waren auf einen Server gestoßen, auf dem erbeutete Dateien von Opfern sowie Werkzeuge der Angreifer abgelegt waren. Von dort aus arbeiteten sie sich durch das Netz der Hacker vor, ermittelten weitere Opfer und schließlich auch die IP-Adressen und Tarnfirmen der Täter: Die Spur endete im Iran. Man stellte auch fest, dass die Attacken meist zu iranischen Bürozeiten erfolgten. Die Hacker hatten Passwörter entschlüsselt, Zugangsdaten über gefälschte Emails abgegriffen und Lücken im Betriebssystem Windows genutzt.

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