In this issue:

Iran: Hundreds of Thousands Attend Montazeri Funeral

Montazeri Letter Underscored Depth of Iran's Opposition

U.S. Reportedly Rejects Iran's Uranium Swap Offer

House Votes Gasoline Sanctions Against Iran

Army Officers Detained in Plot To Assassinate Turkish Leader

From Volume 36, Issue 50 of EIR Online, Published Dec. 25, 2009
Southwest Asia News Digest

Iran: Hundreds of Thousands Attend Montazeri Funeral

Dec. 22 (EIRNS)—The funeral for Iranian Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who had become a spiritual inspiration for the Iranian opposition, turned into a mass protest.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians marched in the funeral procession Dec. 21 for Montazeri, including opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the two defeated reformist candidates from the June Presidential elections. Montazeri died on Dec. 19 at the age of 87. Demonstrations in favor of Montazeri, and implicitly against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also took place in the former's birthplace of Najafabad in Isfahan.

Khamenei's reported comments on Montazeri's death were that he hoped he would be subject to "God's lenience" after failing a "test" by disagreeing with Ayatollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Now, according to Hossein Bastani, an Iranian political analyst, the protests had moved beyond anger over the election, and were aimed directly at Khamenei. "Khamenei's comments about Montazeri met with a very negative reflection in Iranian opposition websites and media," he said. "Today we had a very great demonstration in Qom, a small provincial city and the ideological center of the Islamic regime," he added. "I don't think there were demonstrations there of that size even during the revolution. The slogans people were chanting were indirectly against the Islamic regime and similar to what was chanted before the revolution against the Shah."

Montazeri Letter Underscored Depth of Iran's Opposition

Dec. 22 (EIRNS)—On June 16, 2009, Iranian Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri issued a letter denouncing the election fraud and violence as endangering the foundations of the Islamic Republic. Montazeri had been the assumed successor as Iran's Supreme Leader, but in 1989, he was abruptly dismissed for criticizing Khomeini on human rights. While Montazeri spent most of the last 20 years under house arrest, he was still a highly respected and widely read spiritual leader among Shi'ites.

Montazeri's June 2009 letter struck the conscience of Iran. Addressing the "sacrificial efforts," especially of the youth, throughout the 2009 election campaign, Montazeri said the election "was an excellent occasion for the government's officials to take advantage of and establish religious, emotional and nationalistic bonds with our youth and the rest of our people." Yet, he adds, "this opportunity was wasted," the "election results were declared that no wise person in their right mind can believe...."

Denouncing the repression, he said that the protests by "the same people who have carried the heavy weight and burden of the Revolution during eight years of war and resisted the tanks of the imperial government [of the Shah] and those of the enemy [Iraq]—they attacked the children of the same people and nation right in front of the domestic and foreign reporters, and used astonishing violence against defenseless men and women and the dear students, injuring and arresting them. And, now, they are trying to purge activists, intellectuals, and political opponents by arresting a large number of them, some of whom have even held high positions in the government of the Islamic Republic."

"A characteristic of a strong and legitimate government—Islamic or not—is that it is capable of respecting all opinions, whether they support it or oppose it," Montazeri continued. "This is necessary for any political system, in order to embrace all social classes and encourage them to participate in the affairs of their nation...."

The election fraud and violence, Montazeri wrote, have made the people "pessimistic" about their government. Unless the government addresses this and protects the people's rights, "trust in the government" will be lost, and its "legitimacy will become questionable."

He appealed to everyone, "particularly our dear youth," to continue to demonstrate for their rights, but to avoid violence and provocations by "the thugs who wish to distort their lawful demands ... [and who], creating chaos and destruction, wish to create a besieged atmosphere in the country." He appealed to government officials, security and military personnel, "to preserve their religion and not sell it out for the sake of others," concluding that unlawful repression would "never be accepted by the great God."

U.S. Reportedly Rejects Iran's Uranium Swap Offer

Dec. 21 (EIRNS)—On Dec. 12, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced that Iran is ready to take 20% of its low-enriched uranium to the Island of Kish, and exchange it for nuclear fuel, but so far, the U.S. has officially ignored the offer. This stubborn U.S. position needlessly increases tensions, a well-informed Arab commentator told EIR.

The U.S. is insisting that Iran follow a UN plan worked out in October—to which Iran agreed "in principle," according to Mottaki—where Iran would ship most of its uranium (up to 1,200 kg) to Russia for reprocessing. It would be further enriched in Russia, then fabricated into fuel rods in France, and shipped back to Iran to be used to produce badly-needed medical isotopes.

Although the Obama Administration has not made public an official answer to this proposal, numerous press accounts quoted unnamed Administration officials saying the offer is unacceptable. "If Iran wants to produce those medical isotopes itself," an unidentified senior Obama Administration official is quoted in the Dec. 20 Washington Post as saying, "then the best way to do that is to accept the IAEA proposal." AFP quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying that "Iran's proposal [of Dec. 12] does not appear to be consistent with the fair and balanced draft agreement proposal by the IAEA in consultation with the United States, Russia, and France." The official said Iran should take up the IAEA proposal and send 1,200 kg of its low-enriched uranium to Russia "in one batch."

Tehran has noted that in the past, France reneged on an promise to deliver reprocessed uranium to Iran.

House Votes Gasoline Sanctions Against Iran

Dec. 16 (EIRNS)—A pattern of war provocations by neoconservatives and others against Iran includes the "Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act," which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 412-12 on Dec. 16. The bill, which has not yet been voted on in the Senate, imposes sanctions on foreign companies supplying gasoline to Iran—with Chinese firms high on the target list. It authorizes the President to sanction not only firms that supply gasoline to Iran, but also firms that provide insurance and tankers for fuel shipments.

The Obama Administration reportedly wants to wait until January 2010, to impose sanctions, in an attempt to get the UN Security Council's approval, after the UNSC's rotating membership changes. In a Dec. 11 letter, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, requested a delay in any Senate vote on sanctions, noting that the U.S. is involved in "intense negotiations" with Iran. Legislation now "might weaken rather than strengthen international unity," he wrote.

Opposition to the House bill came from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who said, "We're telling the Iranian people, 'we have feelings of friendship for you, we like you so much, but we're going to cut off your home heating oil,' " and from Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.).

Army Officers Detained in Plot To Assassinate Turkish Leader

Dec. 22 (EIRNS)—The ongoing destabilization of Turkey through British-linked terrorism and assassination plots using the historic "Young Turk" networks has reached a high point of tension over the last weeks.

On Dec. 18, two Turkish military officers were detained by police on suspicion of plotting to assassinate State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc. The officers, who are members of the Special Forces Command, were released after interrogation.

These latest arrests occur as new revelations have surfaced around the ongoing trial of former military officers and others accused of being members of the Ergenekon, a secret network that has penetrated Turkey's security forces, and been accused of plotting against the government. More recent revelations involved the arrest of ten naval officers accused of plotting the assassination of two Turkish admirals.

Another revelation that surfaced in November was a document known as the "Cage Plan," which detailed plans to assassinate public figures, and was allegedly prepared by a group in the military also linked to Ergenekon. At the same time, there has been an escalation of terrorism by the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) just as the government has launched a series of initiatives to enhance the rights of the Kurdish minority in Turkey.

Turkey has been an important nation for peace in Southwest Asia. Until the Israeli attack on Gaza in January 2009, Turkey was mediating peace talks between Syria and Israel. It recently offered to mediate the nuclear enrichment issue with Iran. And, Turkey has mapped out an extensive and inspiring series of transportation and energy projects to enhance regional development and stability.

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