All of a sudden everybody's talking about this. On Aug. 12 the Jerusalem Post noted a story by Jeffrey Goldberg in the current issue of The Atlantic, "The Point of No Return," predicting an Israeli attack on Iran by the end of the year. After speaking with 40 Israeli, Arab and US officials (past and present), Goldberg writes that "based on my conversations with Israeli decision-makers, this period of forbearance, in which Netanyahu waits to see if the West's nonmilitary methods can stop Iran, will come to an end this December." He asserts that the Pentagon has issued a directive not to shoot down Israeli planes in Iraqi airspace.
A military court in Iran has ordered the suspension of three top judiciary officials in connection with last year's torture deaths of three detained protesters, the Mehr News Agency reported Aug. 23. The three victims, Mohammad Kamrani, Amir Javadi-far and Mohsen Ruholamini, were tortured and beaten to death at the Kahrizak detention center after being arrested during anti-government protests that followed last year's disputed presidential election. According to an anonymous source, three unidentified officials at the Tehran prosecutor's office have been suspended and stripped of their judicial immunity after a lengthy investigation into the case. The move clears the way for the three officials to face trial.
We truly hate to say it, but Iran's protestations that it is seeking nuclear power purely for peaceful purposes are starting to ring a little hollow. The same day Iranian and Russian engineers began loading uranium fuel into the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Iran's military announces the development of a prototype long-range unmanned bomber, dubbed the Karrar. Reuters Aug. 22 reports that in a speech at the unveiling ceremony, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "said Iran should seek the ability to make pre-emptive strikes against a perceived threat, although he said it would never strike first." This is of course exactly the kind of Orwellian doublethink that characterized the Bush administration.
An Iranian court on Aug. 8 sentenced seven Baha'i leaders to 20-year prison terms on charges of espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, and cooperation with Israel. All seven have denied the charges and have appealed the decision. The seven, all members of a national coordination committee for the Baha'i community in Iran, were arrested in 2008. Their arrest and subsequent trial prompted international criticism and calls for their release from the US government, UN rights bodies and governments worldwide. There are 300,000 Baha'i living in Iran, comprising Iran's largest non-Muslim minority. There are an estimated seven million members worldwide. The religion is considered heretical by the Iranian government, and the Baha'i have also faced legal restrictions on their activities in Egypt since the 1960s.
For the past two weeks, 17 political prisoners in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison have been on hunger strike to protest constant abuse; solitary confinement; lack of phone call rights and family visits; and lack of access to medical care, books and newspapers. One hunger striker, photojournalist Babak Bordbar, has been released. The remaining strikers include student activist Majid Tavakoli and human rights activist Koohyar Goodarzi. In addition to protests by the families of these prisoners, a group of political prisoners including Mansour Ossanloo of the Tehran Bus Workers Union and journalist Issa Saharkhiz have issued an open letter to urge an end their hunger strike. The letter states that "the democracy-seeking Green Movement needs capable forces and prolific youth like you to build a free Iran."
Rallies have been held in London, Paris, New York, Berlin, Ottawa and other cities around the world to support Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to death by the Islamic Republic for adultery. Ashtiani has been incarcerated since 2005 and has already received received 99 lashes. She was initially sentenced to death by stoning, but the execution was put on hold earlier this month after an international outcry. "We do want to save her life," said Maryam Namazie, a protest organizer in London. "We are hoping this will be a stepping tone to ending stoning and executions in Iran once and for all."
A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on July 16 ordered the State Department to reconsider the status of the People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). The PMOI has been designated a foreign terrorist group by the US since 1997, but it argues that it stopped military action in 2001, and since 2003 has been without weapons. The group has also touted its actions in providing information about Iran's nuclear program. The State Department has argued that the PMOI still engages in military action and that the information it provided about Iran's nuclear program was not reliable.
The Jundallah, a Sunni militant organization whose leader was recently executed by Iranian authorities, claimed responsibility July 16 for two coordinated suicide blasts the previous night that killed at least 27 people, including members of the elite Revolutionary Guard, and injured 270 others during an evening prayer ceremony at the Grand Mosque in Zahedan. The group said its goal was to kill members of the Revolutionary Guard and avenge the arrest and hanging of its leader, Abdulmalak Rigi.