Omid Memarian

Thursday, May 31, 2007

- High Noon With Iran:
By Kenneth R. May 31, 2007
So there you have it. If the United States wishes to have further talks with the Iranian regime, we must first admit 1) that our policies were wrong, and 2) that they have failed. Once that’s over with, hey – whatever you like!I don’t know how deaf you have to be not to hear the message. Lee Hamilton, are you listening?
How did the the US-Iran talks go? Read the rest of the story through conservative eyes
- Talk to foreigners and we will view you as a spy, Iran warns academics

Guardian Unlimited, UK
"Iran's powerful intelligence ministry has stepped up its war of nerves with the west by telling the country's academics they will be suspected of spying if they maintain contact with foreign institutions or travel abroad to international conferences."
What does is mean , "powerful"? Robert, how long have you been in Tehran? Vacation? (Read the rest of the story here)
- The Case for Bombing Iran
Wall Street journal, Editorial Page:
But Ahmadinejad's ambitions are not confined to the destruction of Israel. He also wishes to dominate the greater Middle East, and thereby to control the oilfields of the region and the flow of oil out of it through the Persian Gulf. If he acquired a nuclear capability, he would not even have to use it in order to put all this within his reach. Intimidation and blackmail by themselves would do the trick.
Such a poor mindset! look at the facts and results!!! Who is making decision based on these thoughts? (Rest of the story)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

US-Iran Talks: Failure by Design?

The Iranian and American officials have finally agreed to talk about creating stability in Iraq on May 28. During the last few months, the United States has resisted deliberating on this topic with Iraq's most influential neighbor -- Iran. Officials from both sides have indicated that this negotiation is focused on Iraq and will not include discussions on other issues of mutual concerns, such as Iran's nuclear program.

Obviously, the negotiations are not proceeding under the best of circumstances. On one hand, Iran is under pressure to halt enrichment of uranium: The first
resolution (1737) was adopted on December 23, 2006, and the two-month deadline for the second resolution (1747) of the UNSC resolution, adopted on March 24, 2007, is fast approaching. On the other hand, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly emphasized that Iran will never stop enriching uranium even if the UNSC adopts a thousand more resolutions. Additionally, Iran-EU negotiations have reached an impasse since the West insists that Iran should suspend enrichment prior to any discussions, while Iran vehemently refuses to accept any pre-conditions to joining the deliberations.

In view of the fact that there is no indication of Iran's willingness to comply with the EU demands, it is likely that Tehran will increase the number of centrifuges and
expand enrichment activities, resulting in more political and economic pressure on them from the UNSC through the adoption of a the third resolution.

Moreover, the US is entering negotiations armed with claims of Iran's involvement in
arming and training insurgents in Iraq -- a claim repeatedly denied by the Iranians. However, American officials have not been able to produce any clear proof of these claims. Conversely, there is indication that the US is in fact supporting Kurdish insurgents in Iraq, against Iran!

Meanwhile, Iranians are stepping into the ring with the assertion that US occupation is the root of all problems in Iraq, and warning the US against any military action. On a trip to
UAE this past Monday, President Ahmadinejad stated that, "They (the Americans) understand that if they should make this mistake, the retaliation of the Iranian people will be severe and they will repent." He appears to be giving the impression that the Iranian government is not concerned about sanctions and/or even a military strike.

Given such murky perceptions and dire circumstances, why should we expect any negotiations between the two countries to be effective or productive? There is very little
incentive for Iran to support the US government in resolving its challenges in Iraq, especially given the fact that they are accused of supporting insurgency in Iraq, and are facing pending sanctions.

A journalist friend in Iran indicated that the hardliners have adopted a harsh tone against officials who approve of talks with the US. One of the
conservative newspapers in Tehran has entitled these negotiations as "dancing with wolves and shaking with evil".

I asked him if he thinks that public opinion in Iran supports the idea of direct talks with the US. His response was that "since 2001 when Iran supported the US in an attempt to overthrow the Taliban in
Afghanistan, Iranian officials are extremely mistrustful of engaging with Washington given the cold reception they received in return for their support. They feel that as soon as US resolves the Iraqi situation, they will increase their pressure on Tehran."

Iran is not likely to support US in Iraq, unless the US shows a willingness to change its attitude toward Tehran's regime and embrace an '
engagement policy'; this policy would include the US removing regime change policy from its agenda, supporting the lifting of sanctions against Iran, halting the support of Iranian opposition groups, and removing Iran from its "Axis of Evil" list. Interestingly, these items were included in Iran's 2003 letter to the administration, which was completely ignored.

Iranians, as
proposed before, should ensure "full transparency" and other measures to assure the U.S. that it will not develop nuclear weapons, offer an active support for Iraqi stabilization, contemplate an end to material support "Palestinian opposition groups" while pressuring Hamas, and support the transition of Hezbollah to be a "mere political organization within Lebanon.

If these conditions persist, it is very unlikely that the negotiations will produce any feasible results and in its current state, clearly designed to fail, much to the satisfaction of
warmongers in Tehran and Washington who dislike engagement. Although it appears that the public opinion supports dialogue between the two countries, unsuccessful attempts may have even more destructive consequences.

(Read all posts by Omid Memarian in Huffington Post)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

IRAN:Charges Against Renowed Scholar Called "Absurd"

Below is my latest piece on the arrest of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, a prominent scholar who had been imprisoned in Iran last week:
"BERKELEY, United States, May 15 (IPS) - The arrest of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, Middle East programme director at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Centre, by Iranian security forces in Tehran on May 8 has sparked grave concerns among Iranian-Americans with dual citizenship who travel to Iran.

In the last two years, there has been a wave of arrests and accusations of espionage against Iranian scholars, academics and activists who reside outside of Iran and attempt to create dialogue with colleagues inside the country.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Iran's judiciary confirmed that Dr. Esfandiari was detained on charges of violating national security and is being held by the Intelligence Ministry.

"The investigation is totally unfounded," Michael Van Dusen, deputy director of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, a nonpartisan research institute, told IPS. "We've given Iran all the information on what the Middle East Programme did and where it got its money. We have been very open. We have nothing to hide." (read the rest of the story

Student Affairs Professional Recognized for Community Service and Activism
Elahe Amani Honored With Inaugural Award

Elahe Amani has served the needs of students since 1999 — first in student financial services and now as director of technology services in student affairs at Cal State Fullerton.
The Iranian-born Amani also has been involved in activities that enhance students’ educational experience, ranging from lecturers on gender and culture, leadership and multiculturalism to getting funding for a financial literacy program on campus. (Read the rest of the stroy

Friday, May 11, 2007

"Iran’s American Prisoner "

Here is today's Ney York Times editorial piece about the arrest of haleh Esfandiari. She has been devoted to support dialogue among scholars between Iran and the United States; sad days for all the people who know her. The Situation in Evin prison is hurtful for her. I hope that the Islamic government release her pretty soon:
"This past week Iran’s capricious and dangerous government jailed the Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari. Her unjustified arrest came after authorities barred her from leaving the country and after weeks of harassment clearly intended to intimidate one of the United States’ most distinguished analysts of Iranian politics.
Ms. Esfandiari must be immediately released and allowed to return to her family. The world and the citizens of Iran are watching to see how its leaders treat this advocate of improved relations between Washington and Tehran.

Ms. Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the nonpartisan Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has lived in the United States since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Over the past decade she has visited her aging mother in Iran twice a year. At the end of her most recent visit, on Dec. 30, three masked, knife-wielding men stole her luggage, including her American and Iranian passports. When she went to replace her documents, she was sent to the Intelligence Ministry for the first of many unwarranted interrogations. On Tuesday, she was taken to the Evin prison, where an Iranian- Canadian photographer was beaten to death in 2003.

Repressive regimes are congenitally paranoid, but how Iranian officials can believe they will benefit from Ms. Esfandiari’s imprisonment is impossible to understand.Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is under severe pressure at home and abroad. Jailing Ms. Esfandiari will only increase those pressures, further weakening Iran’s standing with the rest of the world and his own standing with Iran’s citizens."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Passport Robbery, Daily Interrogations and Arrest of a Prominent Scholar:
The Crackdown Continues!

Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, the 67-year old Director of the Middle East Program at the Smitshonian Museum’s
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was arrested on Tuesday and transferred to Evin Prison in Tehran. Dr. Esfandiari is in need of medical attention due to undisclosed health conditions. Iranian authorities have not issued a statement about her arrest.

Woodrow Center President and Director Lee H. Hamilton, and Esfandiari's husband have
confirmed her arrest. Over the past two days, the arrest of this researcher and former lecturer of Princeton University, who for the past few years has written many books and articles about changes in Iran, has had wide coverage internationally. Esfandiari who holds dual citizenship has emotional ties to Iran through her mother who lives in Tehran alone, and has traveled to Tehran several times over the past few years. When she traveled to Tehran last December, in a staged “robbery,” her passport and other possessions were stolen; but in order to hold on to her chances of visiting with her 93-year-old mother, she kept the news from the media, all the while attending interrogation sessions by security forces in Tehran. She had been under house arrest since December.

Sean McCormack, a State Department Spokesman, has
condemned Esfandiari’s arrest and making a reference to Parnaz Azima, a reporter based in Praque for U.S.-funded Radio Farda, whose passport has been confiscated by security forces in Iran, “We want to see them returned back to their families,” said McCormack. “These two women are an academic on the one hand, a journalist on the other. …I am not sure what it is the Iranian government has to fear from these ladies.” he said. He added “It is an insight into the nature of this regime.”

Passport Robbery and Daily Interrogation

In a report covering Esfandiari’s arrest,
Washington Post says that last December, as she left her mother’s house in a taxi for Mehrabad Airport, he was stopped by several men who stole her passport and other possessions. Since then, he has continually been called to Ministry of Information to provide explanations about her activities over the past several years, people with whom she has been in contact, organizations working on Iranian affairs in the US, and similar questions. Esfandiari’s specialty is women’s issues, development of democracy in the Middle East and Iran affairs. She was a university professor in Iran prior to the Islamic Revolution. She earned her Ph.D. in Austria.

Over the past several years, academics and authors who travel to the US have been subjects of suspicion by security authorities in Iran. Some of the suspects have been summoned to security organizations after their trips to US, facing interrogation and arrest. After the US announced that
$75 million was allocated to “reach out to Iranian people,” these encounters have intensified. Iranian Government has subsequently announced that a budget has been allocated to “neutralizing” US plans in this regard.

The Woodrow Wilson Center is a reputable organization in the US, active in foreign affairs, hosting many researchers from all over the world annually to share their opinions and analysis on different issues. As Middle East issues have gained elevated importance over the past few years, several individuals from the region, including Iran, have been invited to the Center to exchange ideas.

During the past several months, Esfandiari has been repeatedly called to appear at the Ministry of Information to answer questions regarding her professional activities and her relations with other individuals.
Parnaz Azima, a Radio Farda reporter has also faced similar problems over the recent months, unable to reclaim her passport. There might be other individuals in this group who are not publicizing their difficulties with the Iranian authorities in order to avoid future problems in traveling to Iran.

Iranian authorities have not made any statements pertaining to Esfandiari’s arrest. She had asked her family and close friends not to disclose information pertaining to her summons and interrogation to the press.

Arrest of Academics to Neutralize US Conspiracies

Security authorities have tried hard to find the trail of US’ budget for applying pressure on the Iranian regime by arresting Iranian journalists,
intellectuals and academics in recent years. Even through Ministry of Information and other organizations’ continued arrests and long detentions, however, these authorities have been unable to find evidence of the trail, and have had to release the detainees in the end.

Victims of this suspicious policy have included
Dariush Zahedi, a prominent lecturer at University of California at Berkeley, Ramin Jahanbegloo, an Iranian intellectual and a researcher for many international organizations, and several journalists including Ali Farahbakhsh who is serving a three-year jail term for receiving $2,300 in travel expenses to a seminar abroad.

During this time, after their arrests security authorities have attempted to put pressure on the detainees, forcing them to “
confess.” Even so, they have been unsuccessful in receiving those confessions. In the case of Ramin Jahanbegloo, after announcing that his confession would be imminently released, after widespread national and international objections to his arrest and false confession, the whole issue was abandoned. After facing charges of espionage and cooperation with outside security organizations, he was released on a heavy bail and has returned to his activities. It is clear that if his charges were proven, he would have had to serve years in prison.

Several sources have confirmed that Haleh Esfandiari, as is the case with all those detained and interrogated on a daily basis, has been under immense pressure to confess. The same scenario has also been true for
Ali Farahbakhsh, though neither one has confessed. The usual method of operation of security organizations is to achieve these confessions through promising the prisoners that if they agree to write their confessions, the interrogations will end and they will be released and they may even leave the country, notwithstanding the heavy bails set for their freedom. If the prisoners refuse to confess, they will face long-term imprisonment and denied travel rights.

Hamilton’s Letter to Ahmadinejad

It is interesting to note that Lee H. Hamilton, a member of the famous
Iraq Study Group which produced the Hamilton-Baker Report, is Director of Woodrow Wilson Center who has repeatedly criticized Washington for its policies to isolate Iran in the region. He told the Washington Post that he sent a letter for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on February 20th, asking him to allow Ms. Esfandiari to leave Iran for US. He has never received a response to his letter.

Hamilton has been one of the few people advising the US to negotiate with Iran and Syria in order to solve their problems in Iraq. Esfandiari, who is the Middle East Director of the Center, has tried hard to bring realism to the thinking of American intellectuals, politicians, and decision-makers about changes within the Iranian society. As a result of such efforts, the policy for negotiations with Iran to solve the regional issues through recognition of Iran’s significance in the region has emerged as a serious option.
In his letter to Ahmadinejad,
Hamilton writes: “…the Wilson Center did not receive any money from the U.S. government for the purpose of trying to influence or to determine specific policies or direction of the Iranian government," he said in an interview yesterday. "We've been very transparent about our dealings. . . . We have offered a wide array of viewpoints. That's our role."
In a press conference he stated, "The interrogators could have gotten all the information with a few clicks on the Wilson Center Web site."
Ahmadinejad’s cabinet officials, who have always insisted that the two governments must negotiate, ignore the letter sent by Hamilton, a staunch supporter of US-Iran dialogue. Over the past several days Iranian authorities have repeatedly expressed an interest in
negotiations with US, yet they won’t reply to the letter of one of the few supporters of talks with Iran amidst Bush’s war propaganda machine. Hamilton has stated in this press conference that US-Iran talks will have to be real and far reaching.

As a researcher whose voluminous papers about changes in Iran have been published, despite all limitations imposed on Iranian researchers’ travel to US, Esfandiari has tried over the past few years to invite these analysts to the Center to present papers and lectures, hoping to create a platform for voicing Iran’s real issues. Ramin Jahanbegloo was one of the individuals presenting lectures in the Wilson Center. The timing and proximity of the two cases appears of interest. Haleh Esfandiari’s husband,
Shaul Bakhash, is a faculty member at George Mason University.

Jahanbegloo and Reja News

Reja News, a super conservative website which has been active over the past few days in attacks against Hossein Moussavian, a senior Iranian diplomat recently arrested in Tehran, published a report in which Haleh Esfandiari was named the Zionists’ agent in Iran. A part of Ramin Jahanbegloo’s confessions in which his relations with this Iranian researcher has been called “of a political/security nature” has been quoted in the report, declaring “I met a woman named Haleh Esfandiari in Canada (who is an anti-Revolutionary Iranian, married to a Jewish man), and through her I established contact with certain organizations in the US, and I received a scholarship in the US to research intellectuality in Iran.” The wording resembles the literature of forced confessions.

The report then describes Dr. Esfandiari’s activities in Ayandegan Newspaper, saying: “She is an effective member of the pre-Revolution Zionist Lobby in the Pahlavi court, who along with her husband founded the Zionist Ayandegan Newspaper in Tehran. The interesting point is that Haleh Esfandiari remained in Iran for a time after the Revolution, but with the ban on Ayandegan Newspaper, she fled Iran in August of 1979 for Israel.”

Reja News which withholds its source continues: “It is said that she was the architect of
AIPAC’s conference two years ago, which met under the slogan of ‘Now Is The Time to Stop Iran,’ suggesting a review of all avenues to confront Iran’s nuclear programs. This conference’s motto, ‘Iran, the Point of Understanding Between US and Israel,’ tried to review ways for coordinating Israel and US efforts to apply pressure on Islamic Republic of Iran. George Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Hillary Cinton, John Bolton, Ihud Ulmert and Amir Perez were some of the speakers in this conference. It is said that the decision of war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah was reached in this conference.”

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Softer, Gentler Era of U.S., Iran Relations?

This is my piece in IPS(Inter Press Service) about the latest news on Iran-US relations. For this piece, I interviewed Mr. Shamsolvaezin, a prominent journalist and analyst in Iran and Dr. Abbas Milani, director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University. It is interesting to review their thoughts on why the diplomatic option has become more acceptable among both sides....
"After the costly catastrophes in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iranian analysts believe that the United States has already eliminated the possibility of military action against Iran. Although the Bush administration has tried to put pressure on Tehran by supporting U.N. Security Council sanctions over its nuclear programme, there has been a shift from the "use of force" to harsh diplomacy. "A gradual sanctions scenario is currently under review in the U.S. In this scenario, there are increasing steps of sanctions against Iran," prominent Iranian journalist and analyst Mashallah Shamsolvaezin told IPS from Tehran. "The West believes the Iranian economy will not be able to tolerate these sanctions on the one hand, and on the other hand they believe that when Iran is completely exhausted by the sanctions, it will come to the negotiating table about its nuclear plans."

"While there are certainly dedicated minorities in Iran and America who, for different reasons, crave a military confrontation, even an attack on Iran, and while in the expected discourse of diplomacy 'keeping all the options on the table' is believed to be simply wise policy, I think a majority of policy-makers in Washington and in Tehran have realised that at this moment, direct negotiations, even if they end up in failure, is much more in their interest than a military confrontation," Milani told IPS. (read the rest
of the story

Iran and the United States: time to engage

Here is my piece in"Open Democracy":

"There is a wider strategic interest for the United States too. The US is currently attempting to contain the influence of Iran's hardliners in the region by employing Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as a proxy - two states where democracy is merely a dream even for optimists. If ever a "one individual, one vote" system is established in either country, radical Islamists are bound to rise to power - and whose access to nuclear bombs would make their containment near impossible. It is part of a greater geopolitical hypocrisy that the status of these two countries as US allies has guaranteed them immunity from criticism for their violations of human rights, lack of democracy, and even sponsorship (financial and ideological) of terrorism. (Read the rest of the story here.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The President and Women’s Hejab

Recently, the B.B.C. news network aired a short video on a program about the recent hejab crackdown in the Islamic Republic. The video, which was taken by a personal mobile phone, showed police officers violently shoving a girl inside a vehicle, as she screamed for help and refused to enter the vehicle. Later in the video, a number of Iranian girls told Frances Harrison, BBC’s correspondent in Tehran, that they did not feel safe at all. Ever since they had left their homes that morning, they had been told by strangers repeatedly to be careful about their hejab [Islamic covering].

The rest of the video shows demonstrators calling for confronting inappropriately dressed women, with someone saying that people who cannot conform to the Islamic dress code must leave the country. The BBC correspondent notes that Iranian officials strongly oppose any attempts by journalists to take pictures or videos from these confrontations, and that a BBC reporter was actually arrested trying to record one such episode. The same is true of photographers too. Only a few days earlier, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had told a Spanish television network that free speech was respected in Iran.

What is happening now in Iran under the cover of confronting slack dressing or increasing public safety, along with the suppression of journalists and social activists, provides a complete picture of how the administration in Tehran views people and those who do not fit into a narrow and confined model of life that is propagated by a ruling minority. Only last week, Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Parvin Ardalan, Sousan Tahmasebi and Fariba Davoudi Mohajer, along with other social activists, were convicted to unprecedented prison sentences. The story thus runs deeper than controlling the size of women’s scarves and the color of their makeup.

On the eve of the 2005 presidential elections, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made these remarks in a campaign video aired from the national television network: “Really, is the problem of our people now the youth’s hairstyle? People can style their hair however they want; this is none of your business or mine! You and I have to think about our country’s real problems. The government must set the economy in order, restore peace, create a secure psychological environment, support the public – people have diverse preferences, diverse traditions, diverse ethnicities, diverse groups, diverse styles – the government is at everyone’s service. Why do we belittle people? We really belittle people so much so that now the important problem of our youth is to pick their hairstyle, and the government doesn’t let them?! Is this the worth of government? Is this the worth of our people? Why do we underestimate people? Our country’s problem is that some girl wore some dress? Is this our country’s problem? Is this our people’s problem?”

In reality, that part of Ahmadinejad’s speech where he says that this is not our people’s worth is right. But apparently, the worth of the government is just what we see. Now one has to ask the same questions from our forgetful president. Is our country’s problem the way women dress? Are the problems of poverty, inflation and mismanagement not of primary priority? Are unemployment, drug addiction and rampant corruption in state institutions not our problems? What about foreign threats?

Our forgetful president must really answer this question: is he confronting a real problem, or is he trying to take people’s focus and attention away from other things that are happening in the country? Is the supreme leader’s decision to give Ali Larijani full authority in initiating negotiations with the United States and solving Iran’s nuclear crisis part of those other things that are happening?