x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Rafsanjani breaks his silence

Ending more than two weeks of silence, Iran's former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani issued a statement on Sunday calling for a fair and thorough examination of complaints about this month's disputed election. "The developments following the presidential vote were a complex conspiracy plotted by suspicious elements with the aim of creating a rift between the people and the Islamic establishment and causing them to lose their trust in the system," Mr Rafsanjani said Sunday.

Ending more than two weeks of silence, Iran's former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani issued a statement on Sunday calling for a fair and thorough examination of complaints about this month's disputed election. "The developments following the presidential vote were a complex conspiracy plotted by suspicious elements with the aim of creating a rift between the people and the Islamic establishment and causing them to lose their trust in the system," Mr Rafsanjani said Sunday. "Such plots have always been neutralised whenever the people have entered the scene with vigilance." Iran's state-funded Press TV said: "In his Sunday remarks, Rafsanjani praised the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei for extending by five days the Guardian Council's deadline to review issues pertaining to the elections and removing the ambiguities surrounding it. " 'This valuable move by the Leader to restore the people's confidence in the election process was very effective,' he said. "He expressed hope that 'those who are tasked with this issue (election) can thoroughly and fairly review and study the legal complaints.'" Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported that an unauthorised rally in front of the Ghoba mosque in Tehran on Sunday was attended by thousands of supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi. "According to a witness, who has previously provided accurate information to The Times, numerous opposition figures attended the rally, including presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi; Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard; and both the daughter and wife of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a Mousavi supporter. "The witness said pro-government Basiji militiamen and plainclothes security officials on motorbikes surrounded the ralliers and that Mousavi himself addressed the gathering by cellphone, which was attached to a megaphone, but the witness could not hear what he said." On Saturday, Press TV reported that Mr Mousavi has proposed that an arbitration committee be formed to probe into election irregularities. "In a letter to the Guardian Council, Mousavi reiterated his position on the final result of the election and said that nullifying the disputed vote would be the most 'appropriate' solution to the ongoing situation and 'a means to rebuild public confidence'. " 'The Guardian Council has announced that it does not have the authority to look into some of the breaches that have occurred in the tenth presidential elections. Some of the complaints of violation and bias have also been filed against certain members of the Guardian Council as well as the interior minister himself and other executive election officials,' Mousavi wrote. " 'Therefore, the Guardian Council or a committee it has chosen, cannot be expected to pass fair judgment in this case, particularly as some of the individuals selected for the committee have adopted a bias position in these elections and have taken stance toward the results before any inquiry,' he added. "Mousavi then proposed an 'independent, religious, and legal' committee, accepted by all presidential contenders and supported by top clerical figures for settling the issues that arose after the June 12 elections." Bloomberg reported: "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed to take a tougher approach toward the West during his second term, saying the Obama administration's criticism of his crackdown on dissent after the June 12 election shows its offer of talks on Iran's nuclear program isn't genuine. " 'If they think the government will be influenced, they're wrong,' Ahmadinejad told judiciary officials at a conference yesterday in Tehran, in comments aired on state television. 'The government will have a more powerful and decisive approach in the new term.' He called Western leaders 'the arrogants'." In what might be seen as a demonstration of this tougher approach by the Iranian government, The New York Times reported that several Iranian employees of the British embassy were arrested. "The government's arrest of nine Iranian employees of the British embassy marked a significant escalation in its conflict with Britain, which Tehran has sought to cast as an instigator of the unrest since the disputed June 12 election. It said the embassy employees played a significant role in organizing the protests, which have reached across the country and across social and economic lines. "Tehran also continued to charge journalists with working as agents of discord, publishing one editor's 'confession' while continuing to keep others behind bars without charge or barred from working. "The arrests, detentions and restrictions added to Iran's growing international isolation, as European Union foreign ministers meeting in Corfu, Greece, warned in a statement that there would be a 'strong and collective EU response' to any intimidation of its members' diplomatic staffs. The British foreign ministry said some of its personnel had been released, but declined to provide details." As reliable reporting has become increasingly difficult, Farhad Manjoo writing in Slate noted the conflicting accounts about attacks on protesters in Tehran's Baharestan Square on Wednesday and that the ensuing confusion demonstrated the effectiveness of media supression. "Over the last couple of weeks, those who believe in the transformative powers of technology have pointed to Iran as a test case - one of the first repressive regimes to meet its match in social media, the first revolution powered by Twitter. Even in the early days of the protest, that story line seemed more hopeful than true, as Slate's Jack Shafer, among many others, pointed out. Since last week, though, when the state began to systematically clamp down on journalists and all communications networks leading out of the country, hope has become much harder to sustain. The conflicting accounts about what happened at Baharestan Square are evidence that Iran's media crackdown is working. The big story in Iran is confusion - on a daily basis, there are more questions than answers about what's really happening, about who's winning and losing, about what comes next. The surprise isn't that technology has given protesters a new voice. It's that, despite all the tech, they've been effectively silenced. "The crackdown in Iran shows that, for regimes bent on survival, squashing electronic dissent isn't impossible. In many ways, modern communication tools are easier to suppress than organising methods of the past. According to The Wall Street Journal, Iran has one of the world's most advanced surveillance networks. Using a system installed last year (and built, in part, by Nokia and Siemens), the government routes all digital traffic in the country through a single choke point. Through 'deep packet inspection,' the regime achieves omniscience - it has the technical capability to monitor every e-mail, tweet, blog post, and possibly even every phone call placed in Iran. Compare that with East Germany, in which the Stasi managed to tap, at most, about 100,000 phone lines - a gargantuan task that required 2,000 full-time technicians to monitor the calls. The Stasi's work force comprised 100,000 officers, and estimates put its network of citizen informants at half a million. In the digital age, Iran can monitor its citizens with a far smaller security apparatus. They can listen in on everything anyone says - and shut down anything inconvenient - with the flip of a switch."

pwoodward@thenational.ae