Freedom of the Press? Not Under Rouhani.


Imagine a group of people. They look just like you. They have families, lives, interests, hobbies, everything you know from your own life. The only thing that is different in their lives than those of yours is the job they chose to do: They elected to be journalists in the Islamic Republic of Iran. So now they’re in jail, and no one knows when they will be set free again.

It wasn’t supposed to be like that. Upon his election, Hassan Rouhani was perceived as being a great hope in that aspect. In fact, as early as his first speech in office, Rouhani said “The government that takes its legitimacy from its people does not fear the free media; we will seek help from their constructive criticism.”

Well, apparently that’s over with; Washington post’s Tehran’s correspondent Jason Rezaian (along with his wife Yeganeh Salehi), has been arrested in July. Since then, there have been numerous calls for his release, but the president has remained silent, and has done nothing to aid in that cause, nor has his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Rezaian’s story is a sign of the perils of trying to become a reporter in today’s Iran: “The two have been held for more than eight weeks without explanation or charges. They have not been permitted to meet with their lawyer”, says Douglas Jehl, the Washington post’s foreign editor.

Rezaian is the face of an alarmingly growing epidemic in Iran, reports the committee to protect journalists, in an article that states that journalists have been arrested by the dozen in the country.

This raises the question about the connections between the Iranian president and those kidnaps, but Mr. Zarif’s recent admission, about not even knowing all of the charges that Rezaian was tagged with, brings to mind the question of control in Iran – and it seems that no one in the government really knows what’s going on inside those Journalists’ prisons cell.


What do the Iranians really want?

what does iran really want

Trying to understand what Iran wants in its nuclear program can be exasperating and even futile.

Obviously, the world doesn’t really know what the chiefs in Tehran want nor can we take their denials at militarizing their program at face value because a) Tehran has a history of breaking the rules, b) Tehran’s nuclear program is far from transparent and c) Tehran might have a lot to gain regionally from a nuclear bomb.


The message to Iran – don’t build a bomb!

Iran with a nuclear bomb will put the P5+1 and the UN in a position in which they will have to demilitarize Iran’s nuclear power by force which might lead to a war that will make the Gulf War look like a neighborhood squabble.

The US is desperate for Iran to sign a deal because the immediate alternative is to increase sanctions against Iran which might cause a further fall-out of support from countries who are hungry to capitalize on Iran’s wealth of natural energy. Increasing sanctions and watching them being circumvented by its own partners would be a real slap in the face which the US would have to answer with military aggression.

So what does the US, the P5+1 and the UN want from Iran? To maintain a transparent nuclear program that includes a longer break-out time for it to build a bomb if it decided to do so.


The messages from Iran – maybe, maybe not

Since Rouhani was elected president, the signals from Tehran were decidedly mixed: Rouhani called for a change that will bring a rapprochement with the West, end the burden of sanctions and allow Iranians to prosper.

But at the same time, the mullahs in Tehran wanted to maintain the nuclear program “as is” regardless of the fact that much of it was based on clear digressions from IAEA rules and regulations that there were military dimensions to the program and that the demand for enrichment and plutonium production countered the civil energy claims.

And since Khamenei is the supreme power, it is enough to view his mixed signals to get the picture: Initially, Khamenei supported the Iranian negotiators encouraging them to practice “heroic flexibility” in regards to giving up parts of the program. But once the P5+1 negotiators tried to block the holes in the initial deal (the heavy water plant in Arak, topping Uranium enrichment at 5%, opening up the Parchin military base etc…), Khamenei’s support withered and strengthened depending on his moods or the rhetoric of the US.  Two months ago, he aggressively identified Iran’s red lines and last week he stated that the nuclear talks “were harmful to Iran“.

But Khamenei is relatively stable compared to Zarif. Zarif is consistently inconsistent in creating an environment of optimism mixed with pessimism. His attitude remains cordial and friendly with a “take it or leave it” attitude that may or may not be a bluff. He has constantly repeated that sanctions have not hurt Iran but requests repeatedly for all sanctions to be lifted. He has denied cooperating with the US-led coalition against ISIS but is now ready to cooperate as long as Iran will be repaid in leniency on the nuclear deal. He is quick to smile but is also quicker to blame.


Nobody really knows if there will be a deal or not.

One thing is for sure, Iran seems less desperate than the US for a deal and, as any negotiator will tell you, that gives Iran an advantage.

Although sanctions are still in force, the Iranian economy has benefitted from the negotiations themselves with hundreds of delegations flying into Tehran to sniff out the chances to business with Iran while countries like Russia, Turkey, Iraq and China simply disregard any sanctions.

The “relativity of threats” has also impacted the resolve. In weighing the need to destroy ISIS against minimizing and Iranian nuclear break-out, the West has given the Iranians an extra boost in their ability to make a better deal…for them.

ISIS & Iran – Spot the Differences

isis and iran

ISIS definitely took the world by surprise: here was a radical Islamic movement who made no apologies and didn’t cater to Western norms. The “spectacular” beheadings, the European jihadists, the fervent vision…all seemed so foreign to us.

But anyone who has been following the doings of ISIS’s Eastern neighbor and target shouldn’t have been too surprised.  Why? Because, although there are some major differences between ISIS and the regime in Tehran, there are quite a few similarities as well.


ISIS & Tehran – fighting for Islam on a global scale

Both ISIS & Tehran are driven by a vision of global Islamization and a strict adherence to Sha’ariah law.

ISIS’s version of Islam is Sunni and is focused on Iraq/Syria for now but their call is for a global uprising of Muslims all over the world and a return to a purer form of Islam from the days of the Prophet.

In Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei’s vision of the long-awaited global “Islamic Awakening”, the world would turn away from Western capitalism and “embrace” Islam in order to bring about a “century of Islam“. Tehran’s focus on Islam is evident in its name (The Islamic Republic of Iran) and in the power of its Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which was established on the eve of the Islamic revolution in 1979 with the aim to “protect the country’s Islamic system“. Likewise, its vision of leading a global Islamic revolution with Tehran at its epicenter is exemplified by the elite Qods forces of the IRGC whose focus is in “extraterritorial operations” all over the world.

Bottom line – both hope for a global Islamic revolution but each hopes that it will lead it.


ISIS & Tehran – legitimizing the use of terror

Both ISIS & Tehran have no qualms in using terrorism in order to achieve their goals. This goes back to some of the most fundamental teaching of the Prophet who believed that terrorizing the enemy was a legitimate tool for the believers.

ISIS has perfected its version of terrorism to the world of social media by turning its acts of terror into spectacles that feed the curiosity of billions who, although disgusted by what they see, continue to look.

Iran’s version of terrorism is just as harsh but Tehran goes to great lengths to distance itself from the acts of terror themselves quite simply because supporting terror openly is not good for business with the West. This means that someone else usually does the dirty work for Tehran. Terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad etc… are supported financially, supplied militarily and trained by Iran.

Without Iran’s support, these organizations would simply dwindle away unless they found support from elsewhere. They are the ones responsible for some of the biggest massacres in Syria, bombarding Israeli cities from Gaza, acts of terrorism in Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Africa and much more.

Bottom line – both freely use terror but Tehran prefers to use proxy terrorists in order to preserve a “clean” image.


ISIS & Tehran – abusing human rights

Both ISIS and Tehran believe that Shaa’riah law supersedes any form of human rights in the eyes of the West. This may be hard to swallow in the West but it sometimes is much harder to live through on the inside where people are persecuted, tortured, imprisoned and killed because of their gender, their religion, their sexual preferences, their beliefs etc…

The gruesome trail of blood following the ISIS gangs is its message to all those they haven’t reached yet: either accept wholly our vision of Islam or else…

The regime in Tehran has mixed feelings about displaying abuses of human rights. They might agree with ISIS’s manner of enforcing Islamic law but they understand full well that abusing human rights openly, like promoting terrorism, is not good for business. Human rights are being abused in Iran constantly: floggings, torture, imprisonment and executions are experienced by anyone who doesn’t toe the line – women who are sick of gender inequality, gays who want to stop hiding, people who want to eat on Ramadan, Christians and Baha’is who want to practice their faith, politicians and activists who want to change the system, journalists and bloggers who hope for freedom of speech etc…

But, and this is a big “but”, all this is usually done under a heavy blanket of secrecy and denials in order to minimize criticism by the West which could subsequently empower enough Iranians to try to revolt against the regime.

Bottom line – both abuse human rights but Tehran prefers to keep its abuses hidden as much as possible from public scrutiny.


Obviously, ISIS is not Tehran and Tehran isn’t ISIS. One is a Sunni stateless organization with a total disregard to the expectations of Western states and the other is a Shi’ite state trying to foster relationships with Western states. But they do have more in common than friends of Tehran in the West would like to admit. Something to think about in regards to the role of Iran in the fight against ISIS and threats to the West once ISIS is eradicated.

No change after over a year

nothing has changed

Rouhani was elected on a ticket for change – a change which was desperately needed by the Iranians after decades of the regime thumbing its nose at the world and believing it could get away with anything.

Rouhani promised to stand for the rights of the people and spoke about basic freedoms which had the voters running to the ballots. Those same voters are probably sorely disapointed today because the state of human rights in Iran has barely changed, and if it has changed at all,it is for the worse.

Rouhani may have changed the rhetoric of the regime and has convinced part of the world leadership that the change is not only rhetoric thin but the reports are far from moderate.

If you are not sure and have 3:27 minutes, you should watch this video which highlights the significant gaps between the rhetoric and reality of Rouhani.

Or if you would rather read, take some time off to read this article which shows that there is “massive repression” under Rouhani’s rule. With an unexpected surge in the number of executions, it’s not a surprise that the UN has condemned Iran with another scathing report, as it did in the pre-Rouhani days for the dismal state of human rights in Iran.

And how does Rouhani answer to these accusations? He either keeps quiet about it if he can and if he is trapped into answering a direct question, such as regarding the 91 lashes to be given to the “Happy in Iran” video dancers, he manages time and time again to dodge the question – “I’m not certain what this thing you’re referring to was, how many people danced.”

It’s time for Rouhani to decide: is he to fulfill his election promises or not? If he is, great. If he isn’t the P5+1 negotiators should decide if this is the man we want to make peace with.

Iranian Mullah Bans Internet

internet fatwa

Here we go again…

Although Supreme Leader Khamenei, President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif and a score of other leading Iranian leaders have become quite adept at using the internet for their purposes, free internet is still only a far away dream in Iran.

And if it is up to clerics like Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, it will stay that way or even get worse: He issued a “fatwa” (a religious decree) to ban mobile 3G internet deeming it “immoral and unlawful”.

It’s ironic that we only found about this mullah’s anitquated views through the internet he so wants to ban.


Gender Segregation in Iran Lands British Iranian Woman in Jail

ghoncheh ghavami

Goncheh Gavami, a 25 year old British Iranian woman is rotting away in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran since June 2014. Why? Because she went along with some other women activists to a gender segregated stadium to see a volley ball game between Iran and Italy. Gavami was in Tehran campaigning for women’s rights after being convinced that Rouhani’s presidency signaled change. The irony? The stadium is called “Azadi” which means “freedom” in Persian.

Help free Gavami by sponsoring the “Free Ghoncheh Ghavami” petition or by liking/sharing the “Free Ghoncheh Ghavami” fan page.


Previous posts on gender segregation:



Iranian Terror On The Rise

suleimani terror

Let’s face it, while nuclear negotiations are plodding along the long and winding road to an unknown destination, Iran is enjoying a “breathing space” as a result from the divisions between the members of the P5+1 regarding what to do with Iran until the deal is inked.

This “breathing space” has allowed Iran to strengthen its diplomatic and economic relations and has brought much needed relief to the Iranian people in the form of a better economy and an environment of guarded hope for a better future.


Steady Course for Nuclear Program

At the same time, this “breathing space” has also allowed Iran to stick its course on its nuclear program.

Doing so might sound like a valid strategy but since Iran’s nuclear program had crossed too many red lines in the past, this means that it remains beyond the red lines in the present. Yes, there is more transparency but the military base at Parchin and the heavy-water plant at Arak are still hidden under veils of secrecy which inspire doubts as to the sincerity of the Iranians regarding military dimensions to their nuclear program.


Steady Increase in Military Influence

But while the nuclear program is on a steady course, this “breathing space” has allowed Iran’s military programs beyond its borders to increase dramatically.

Iranian backed terror is not a new development but it is a growing one. A closer investigation of the Islamic uprisings in Europe and the US would probably show that Iran’s helping hand is deeply involved.