Iran Theater

Netanyahu's doublethink

Bibi Netanyahu's polarizing speech before Congress today was basically a repeat of his 2012 performance at the UN, but with the level of doublethink considerably jacked up. It is pretty damn terrifying that his relentless barrage of lies and distortions won virtually incessant applause throughout—although it is a glimmer of hope that some dozen Democrats declined to attend. But most of the outrage has been over Bibi's perceived meddling in the US political process (thanks for playing right into the anti-Semitic stereotype, Bibi, very helpful)—not the outrageous dishonesty of his speech. Here's a few choice chuckles from the transcript...

Iran executes Kurdish juvenile offender

Iran reportedly executed Saman Naseem, a juvenile offender who was 17 years old when sentenced to death, despite international pressure to halt the execution. According to Iran Human Rights (IHR), it is unclear if the execution occurred on Feb. 19 or 20, but Naseem's family was asked to collect his body. Now 22, Naseem was charged in July 2011 with "enmity against God" and "corruption on earth." The juvenile was arrested because of membership in Party For Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) after a battle with the Revolutionary Guards. One member of the Revolutionary Guard was killed and three others injured. Naseem reported he did not have access to a lawyer during the investigations and was tortured prior to confessing. Both UN human rights experts and Amnesty International urged Iran to halt the execution. Iran is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and pursuant to Article 37(a) capital punishment is prohibited for persons below 18 years of age. However, the Islamic Penal Code permits the death penalty for juveniles under certain circumstances.

Iran, Pakistan battle at Baluchistan border

Pakistani and Iranian forces exchanged mortar fire along their border in the divided region of Baluchistan Oct. 24. Pakistani officials said Iran fired six mortar shells, which landed near the border town of Mashkail. Pakistan is then believed to have fired back. The two countries share a long desert border which straddles Balochistan province in southwest Pakistan and Sistan Baluchistan in eastern Iran. Last week, Pakistan said a Frontier Corps soldier was killed and three were hurt in a clash with Iranian troops who crossed the border, presumably in pursuit of militants. Islamabad lodged a diplomatic protest. Pakistan is accused by Iran of failing to stop cross-border attacks on its forces by Sunni militants. But Baluch militants are also making trouble within Pakistan. On Oct. 23, two were killed in an explosion taregetting a Frontier Corps convoy near Quetta, Balochistan's capital. That same day, a gunman opened fire on members of Shi'ite Hazara minority who were returning from an open-air market in a bus, killing eight. Also that day, Fazl-ur-Rehman, leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) political party, was targeted in a suicide blast in Quetta, although he escaped unharmed. (BBC NewsBBC News, The Nation, Pakistan, Express-Tribune, Pakistan, Oct. 24)

Iran: protests against acid attacks on women

Thousands took to the streets of Isfahan Oct. 22, demanding authorities act to halt a spate of acid attacks on young women in the historic Iranian city. Assailants on motorbikes have thrown acid in the face of at least eight women who were driving in the street with their windows rolled down in recent weeks. Local media say the number of victims could be higher. The attacks have so far claimed one life. Many Iranians believe that women were targeted because they were wearing clothes that could be deemed inappropriate by hardliners—a claim denied by the authorities. The protest was apparently a "wildcat" march, held in defiance of police efforts to close the streets. A similarly demonstration was held across from the parliament building in Tehran. (NCRI, Oct. 23; The Guardian, Oct. 22)

Kurdish guerillas kill Iranian army commander

Guerillas affiliated with the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) have for the past days been clashing with Iranian military forces in the area of Shino (Oshnavieh, West Azerbaijan province), leaving a senior army commander dead.  Iran's official media on Sept. 26 confirmed the killing of the commander, named as Sajad Takhti, by the guerilla force known as the Peshmerga of Iranian Kurdistan. The PDKI also confirmed that one of their fighters has been killed  in the area. Fighting is also reported in the Kurdish city of Mariwan (Kordistan province) on the border of Iran and Iraq's Kurdistan Region. (BasNews, Sept. 27)

Iran sends troops and drones to fight ISIS

We've noted reports that Iranian forces have intervened in northern Iraq to help fight ISIS, part of the Great Power convergence against the self-declared "Islamic State." Now Reuters reports that the commander of the Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, traveled to Baghdad in June to coordinate the military counter-offensive as ISIS seized the north of the country. According to the report, "The plan included the use of thousands of militiamen who were armed and trained by Iran as well as thousands of new recruits who had volunteered after Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, issued a call to arms against ISIS in June." Iran has always been close to the Shi'ite-led regime in Baghdad, but now there also seems to be a rapprochement between Tehran and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), traditionally suspicious of each other. The Kurdish Globe reports that KRG President Masoud Barzani met with the visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif in Erbil on Aug. 26 to discuss coordinating the fight against ISIS. The independent Kurdish news site BasNews also reported Sept. 1 that an Iranian drone crashed in a village near the Iraqi Kurdistan town of Darbandikhan close to the Iranian border. Tehran's denials that it has forces fighting in Iraq seem increasingly transparent.

Iran: UN rights chief condemns juvenile execution

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on June 26 condemned  Iran's use of the death penalty for juvenile offenders and called on authorities to halt the announced execution of Razieh Ebrahimi. Ebrahimi, who was legally married to her then-28-year-old husband when she was 14, was sentenced to death after killing her abusive husband when she was 17. "Regardless of the circumstances of the crime, the execution of juvenile offenders is clearly prohibited by international human rights law," Pillay said, citing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a party, which prohibit the execution of those who commit their crimes while under the age of 18. In the same statement, Pillay also criticized Iran's use of the death penalty for political prisoners and for drug-related offenses.

Iran: online revolt against hijab

Iranian women by the thousands are posting their photos without a hijab on a Facebook page called My Stealthy Freedom, created by London-based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, and winning over 180,000 "likes" since it was launched May 3. Women post photos of themselves in varying degrees of defiance, from some only showing the backs of their heads while others standing bareface in front of government offices. "It is painful that I shall not be free so that you will not sin," comments one woman below her photo. "That I have to be covered so that your weak faith does not break!" The women, generally anonymous, are standing up against the Islamic Republic's 35-year law that requires women to dress according to sharia law. In addition to the head covering, they cannot wear clothing that exposes their arms or legs, and must wear a cloak or overcoat that covers three-quarters of the body. The semi-official Fars News Agency has condemned the page and accused Alinejad of inciting immoral behavior and collaborating with Iran's enemies. (Mid East Faces, May 14)