Eleven Iranian police agents were killed when a highway patrol intercepted what officials called an "illicit drug convoy" in Southern Khorasan Province near the Afghan border Jan. 1. Four traffickers were also reported wounded in the clash, and one wounded. Reports said police "attempted to confiscate" around two tons of drugs—but did not indicate what type of drugs, or if the confiscation was successful. Reports also indicate the convoy was headed north, which is not the most logical route if it was leaving Afghanistan, as accounts implied.
In a fourth consecutive day of protests during the Ashura holy period in Iran, police fired teargas Dec. 28 to disperse supporters of reformist leader Mirhossein Mousavi who gathered in Tehran to express their condolences over his nephew's death in an anti-government rally. Iranian authorities say the death toll in the past 48 hours stands at eight, with some 60 injured. (Reuters, Dec. 28)
In a heart-warming display of holiday spirit, the New York Times runs a Christmas Eve op-ed, "There's Only One Way to Stop Iran" by one Alan J. Kuperman, making the case for pre-emptive military strikes. The writer is named as "the director of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Program at the University of Texas at Austin"—but this entity apparently isn't important enough to rate its own web page. It appears to be a project of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law. Pretty ironic, given that pre-emptive strikes on Iran without UN authorization would be clearly illegal. Maybe they should call it the Robert S. Strauss Center Against International Security and Law.
The funeral of Ayatollah Montazeri Dec. 21 saw hundreds of thousands of mourners take to the streets in Qom, despite harassment and attacks from the Basij militia. Some 2,000 government supporters also attacked Montazeri's commemoration ceremony at Azam Mosque. To avoid any harm coming to mourners, the family has cancelled the customary third day commemoration events. Afterwards, Basij forces in plainclothes swarmed Montazeri's residence, breaking windows and tearing his pictures and the black mourning banners that had been placed there. They also attacked the nearby home of Montazeri's son. Pro-government forces have pledged to mobilize a counter-demonstration against the mourners in Qom.
Iran's government charged Dec. 9 that a newly built United Nations station to detect nuclear detonations near its border was established to allow world powers to spy on the country. Construction was completed last week on the seismic monitoring station in neighboring Turkmenistan, a few miles from the Iranian border. It is one of about 275 such facilities operating around the world to detect seismic activity set off by nuclear tests. Abolfazl Zohrehvand, an adviser to Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, said the international treaty that allows for setting up such observatories is an "espionage treaty."
Iranian human rights violations following the disputed presidential election in June were among the worst in the past 20 years, according to a report published Dec. 12 by Amnesty International. The report, "Iran: Election contested, repression compounded," contains testimony from individuals detained during the protests that ensued after the election. According to AI, individuals were unlawfully detained, beaten, tortured, and raped, resulting in numerous deaths in detention.
Protests greeted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Brazil at the start of a South American tour Nov. 23. On Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema beach, thousands of demonstrators from groups representing gays, artists, Christians, Jews, and Holocaust survivors carried protest banners and a giant cage containing white balloons as a symbol of Iran's "repressed values." Large protests were also held in Sao Paulo. Opposition politicians also criticized the visit. "One thing is a diplomatic relationship with dictatorships, another is to welcome their leaders in your home," Jose Serra, the Sao Paulo state governor, wrote in a newspaper opinion.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Court has sentenced former vice president and reformer Mohammad Ali Abtahi to six years in prison for his role in the unrest that followed the disputed June 12 presidential elections, according to Iranian news agencies Nov. 21. Abtahi, who had been in custody since just after the election, has been temporarily released on $700,000 bail pursuant to Iranian law which allows any person sentenced to more than three months in jail to be released on bail pending appeal. He served as vice president under Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005. Abtahi has 20 days to appeal his sentence.