Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spiegel, Hook, Line and Sinker on Fordo Explosion

I don't have any information about Iran's nuclear plants other than what is in the public domain and I would have no way of verifying if an explosion occurred inside a nuclear plant in Iran, unless tangible reports such as radioactivity being reported by experts or official statements and witness reports suggest so. What I do have however, is extensive experience of bullshitters and I am usually pretty quick at detecting there is some BS in the air, when it comes to Iran related news on both sides.

That is why when I read the Spiegel report about an explosion at Fordo nuclear plant near the holy city of Qom, I did not need to google for geiger counter readings of Qom, I could tell straight away that Spiegel had fallen hook, line and sinker, since its only source for the explosion story were two publicity seeking untrustworthy individuals Hamid Reza Zakeri and Reza Khalili.

The former, I have known about since ten years ago. Hamid Reza Zakeri, claimed back then to have worked for Iranian intelligence and had fled Iran to Holland. There is nothing this man will not comment about or not know about. Whether it is about the murder of Zahra Kazemi in Evin prison or how IRGC will close the straits of Hormuz or inside an Iranian nuclear plant, Zakeri has been privy to them all and even after ten years, his "contacts inside the Iranian intelligence services" inform him of the lastest developments! Perhaps his contacts would do a more worthwhile job if they taught him not to make basic spelling mistakes when writing in Persian.

Even if someone has worked for Iranian intelligence, they would not be privy to everything but Zakeri with his basic literacy is never shy to be in the news and will make out he knows everything. Over the ten years, I have known about him, I have been studying his stories and seen his amateur forgeries of so-called top secret documents.

Here on the left, is one such amateur document he has produced in the past. The forgery is so bad, even an Iranian school boy would recognise it as a forgery, but his sponsors like Kenneth Timmerman, another dubious character, have no problems promoting him to the unknowing Western public and news channels that crave for titillating news.

Zakeri's predictions have also been no better than his forgeries. Ten years ago, he was a regular guest on many Iranian satellite channels in LA and he claimed he had been shown documents by the CIA and the Pentagon that the US will invade Iran within a maximum of six months. That was ten years ago!

The other Spiegel source, is Reza Khalili, who has written a book called, Time to Betray. The book has no significant information in it for an avid Iran watcher. Basically it is a collection of public domain facts and rumours in the 1980s Iran, told in a nice narrative format suitable for bedtime reading. Khalili has also come up with all sorts of claims that have been proven to be mere figments of his imagination, but whether it is an impending EMP attack on US by the Islamic Republic or an IRGC general who has been arrested for his support of the opposition, who later appears standing loyally next to the Supreme Leader, such news stories are always an opportunity to plug his book, Time to Betray.

In fact, if I had access to the sales figures of his book, I could have probably come up with a BI graph which showed every time the sales dipped, he came up with a new sensational news story!

Apart from my sceptism about the sources of the hoax in Spiegel, there is a matter of common sense and logic. How has Zakeri & Co. come up with an exact number of 240 personnel trapped inside the nuclear plant? The 240 personnel surely have families, but none have been vocal about the situation. The blast shook facilities within a three mile radius, highway was supposedly closed for hours and rescue workers have been working frantically, so even more people must know about something happening at Fordo, but they have only notified Zakeri and Khalili?

The explosion  is supposed to have taken place one day before the Israeli elections and was a joint Mossad operation, so surely the Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu must have sanctioned it and known about it and the news would have been a great boost to his poor election prospects, but strangely, no word.

And those who want to believe such stories keep saying, "intelligence sources" have confirmed it. Where? Its enough for an Israeli official to make a usual, on the fence, generalised comment, neither deny or confirm the story and you see the tabloids quote one another, intelligence sources have confirmed it! :)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gary Sick, A sick Leftover from Carter's Administration

The first time and only time I ever met Gary Sick, I was inches away from punching him on the chin. Sick was justifying the Islamic Republic's massacre of political prisoners in 1988 by saying "those who were executed were MeK members who had sided with Saddam and invaded Iran".  Having lost three of my dear friends in the 1988 massacre, who were not MeK, and were imprisoned well before Saddam invaded Iran, I felt this deluded old fool deserved to have his dentures knocked down his gullet. Fortunately for him however, I don't have it in me to hit senile octogenarians, but Sick really ought to shut up and retire.

So with some regret, rather than punching the lights out of him, I just reminded Sick that MeK members were not the only victims of the 1988 massacre, many of those who were executed were kids, mere teenagers who had been imprisoned for just handing out leaflets or selling newspapers well before Saddam declared war on Iran. Many of those executed in the 1988 Massacre had even finished serving their sentences and should have been freed. In fact what determined whether the prisoners faced summary executions by the Kangaroo courts, set up to wipe away any remnants of the opposition for the post-war era, was not whether they were MeK or not, as Gary Sick wanted to believe, but whether they answered Yes to one of these questions:

1- Do you believe in God?
2- Are you prepared to publicly denounce your affiliated organisation?

And when they were asked these questions, they had no idea what the consequences of their answers would be. Those who answered 'No' to one of the above were taken out of the room and executed and all this was justifiable for Gary Sick, Jimmy Carter's former national security adviser.

I recommend watching the film, The Tree that Remembers or reading reports of the recent symbolic tribunal of the 1988 massacre to find out more about the subject for those who want to know more about the subject.

Since that irritating encounter with Gary Sick, I had been urged by many friends to join Sick's Gulf2000 forum. I was told Islamic Republic lobbyists and apologists are very active in this forum and sadly many policy makers are influenced by the information posted there. Frankly however, I had no spare time to get into endless cyber forum discussions with people who either have vested interests or people who just don't want to wake up. Debating with these people is a waste of time and I rather spend my precious little spare time with my loved ones.

It did worry me though every time I was reminded that journalists and policy makers were members of this forum too. Finally, a few weeks ago, I succumbed to requests by friends to join the forum. I thought if I can have even a small contribution to stop some hapless Western politician repeating the Andrew Young syndrome, it may have been worthwhile. Andrew Young was Jimmy Carter's ambassador to UN, who perceived "Ayatollah Khomeini as being Iran's Gandhi".

After some initial resistance and delay by Gary Sick, I was finally given an account to post my stuff on the forum. It was obvious from start that Gary Sick was reluctant to include me. The first thing that became obvious was that Gary Sick himself was the sole moderator and Supreme Leader of G2K, who decided what got circulated to the mailing list and what didn't.

I had posted the recent Times articles on the medicine crisis in Iran, which described how luxury cars and other non-essential items are being imported to the country with government subsidised currency, while the incumbent Iranian health minister at the time, complained how the Central Bank of Iran denied the health ministry the much needed currency for importing medicine with. I also posted  the Times article that exposed the lie which was printed in the Guardian about a haemophiliac boy having died as a result of the hospital not having his drug because of the sanctions - the boy had in fact died in a tragic hiking accident before he even got to the hospital. I also posted my own recent post on this subject. Yet none of these posts were being circulated to the G2K members. Instead what was being circulated was one side's arguments only, the side that claimed sanctions are killing Iran's sick.

The Times articles had also told of a concerted effort by IR to blame the medicine crisis on the sanctions in order to vamp up a grass root campaign in the West against the sanctions and on the G2K forum, I was seeing the regime lobbyists and apologists, hard at work,  doing everything they could to induce the people in the West into thinking that it was the Western sanctions which were killing the sick in Iran.

When the Guardian came up with yet another cock and bull story about the medicine crisis which completely ignored their previous lie about the haemophiliac boy tragedy, Sick was quick to circulate the article again. I complained strongly and cc'd some other members on the forum asking why Gary Sick is just circulating one side of the story to his mailing list?

Sick made up an excuse that the Times articles were protected by a pay wall and he did not have subscription to the Times. It was of course a feeble excuse, my blog posts were not protected by a pay wall and they were not circulated either and in any case, I had copied and pasted the entire content of the Times articles. At the end of a lot of wrangling and emailing, Sick was forced to circulate just one of the Times articles I had posted, which resulted in this reaction against the Times journalist Hugh Tomlinson, by one of the Forum members, Grant L. Hopkins:

"Mr. Tomlinson should get a grip & consult a medical professional-- or spend some of the Times quid and buy an opinion on Harley Street..And check his emotions at the door. Or perhaps should have called the midwife.Lying is a matter of state practice. Hypocrisy inbred from a 100 year gruel of "royal" dna. Cowardice and intellectual dishonesty a matter of daily behavior.Let us all remember that 15 year old Kuwaiti Ambassador's daughter testifying in front of Congress about rape of Kuwaiti nurses by Iraqi troops.Grant L. Hopkins"

The G2K forum rules stipulate "comments or materials that are offensive, demeaning or ad hominem" will not get posted, yet Grant Hopkins's reply seemed to be just those thing and yet were ignored by the Supreme Moderator, Gary Sick.

Grant Hopkins's reply was followed by Michael Metrinko, who said "The effects of sanctions can really only be understood by people on the ground" to which I replied "Exactly! and one of the people who was on the ground until a few days ago, was the former Iranian health minister who repeated time and time again that sanctions were not the reason for the medicine crisis but that
the Central Bank of Iran was instead giving the money that should have been allocated to import medicine with to non-essential and luxury goods like cosmetics, shovel handles and horse saddles. Yet some people who are NOT on the ground, but have a vested interest, insist that the medicine crisis in Iran is because of sanctions!!"

Then came Farid Marjai, who seemed to think everything written by the Guardian was the gospel truth . This was Farid Marjai's reply which was circulated by Gary Sick:
"I wonder if Mr. Azarmehr would include the Guardian newspaper as part of the Western elements that have vested interest?  The article by Julian Borger, titled "Iran unable to get life-saving drugs due to international sanctions"

So, I replied :
"Dear Seyyed Farid Marjai

I don't think the Guardian have a vested interest other than they try
to please their  readers and to appeal to their niche market, but the
people who have manipulated Saeed Kamali and Julian Borger to write
these articles certainly do have a more sinister vested interest. In the latest Guardian article that you
refer to, one of the sources mentioned is, Siamak Namazi (AKA Atieh
Bahar :) ), who certainly has vested interests and connections to the
Rafsanjani faction.

In fact propagating the myth which blames sanctions for the medicine
crisis in Iran, all seem to originate from sources who have
ties/connections to Fatemeh Rafsanjani. Readers may be interested to
know that Fatemeh Rafsanjani has been in charge of importing specialised
medicine into Iran since 1995.

For example, the Guardian lie about the haemophiliac boy dying as the
result of sanctions on Iran, was propagated by Ahmad Ghavidel, former
class mate of Manouchehr Mottaki and now a crony of Fatemeh
Rafsanjani. Similarly, Atieh Bahar, which has conducted the "on the
ground" research :)),  is well known for its connections to

In fact this lobbying and manipulating of Western media to blame the
drugs crisis in Iran on sanctions, for me has become a litmus test to
see who is connected to the Rafsanjani clan.

Manoto TV, which is the most popular Iranian TV watched in Iran, did
an excellent news VT on the day the Guardian article you refer to was
printed. They talked to people "on the ground", health workers and
companies concerned, who clearly indicated the medicine crisis was
nothing to do with sanctions as explained by the former Iranian health

I am new to this forum,  but I am told a lot of policy makers are
here. I sincerely hope they don't consider newspapers like the
Guardian as Gospel, as Seyyed Farid Marjai seems to do, and base their
information on Guardian articles."

and gave just one example of how wrong the Guardian have been in the past:

"Just one example on how wrong the Guardian can be, is the Haystack
hoax which the newspaper extensively publicised. Haystack was a
non-existent software that claimed to be used by Iranians to by-pass
the Islamic Republic internet filtering. Guardian was full of praise
for this non-existent product and even awarded the fraudster, Austin
Heap, who was spearheading the Haystack project, with their Technology
Innovation Award :)). Even the gullible US state department people
were fooled and issued special export exemption for this
anti-filtering tool that did not exist. At the end, the whole saga was
so embarrassing that the US State Dept had to carry out a damage
limitation exercise by saying there were "security holes" found in
Haystack's software. THERE WAS NO Haystack and I am proud that I was
the one who proved Guardian wrong by exposing the fraud. At the time
people similar to Seyyed Farid Marjai must have also been saying "but the Guardian
can't be wrong!"

I had told Guardian's Saeed Kamali about Haystack and Austin Heap too,
but sadly he ignored me and featured the fraudster in his HBO
documentary about Neda. He is very embarrassed when I remind him of

Well that was it! This reply was somehow too much for Gary Sick and I was removed from his G2K forum immediately without my reply to Farid Marjai being circulated to the forum. The sick leftover of Carter's administration who naively continues to recommend diplomacy and dialogue with the Islamic Republic has no stomach for hearing an opposing view to his deluded misconceptions of the Islamic Republic, in particular when something is mentioned about the Rafsanjanis. Gary Sick seems to be more concerned about protecting Rafsanjani than the interests of his own country, perhaps he thinks Rafsanjani is the new Gandhi of Iran :))

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Joy of Having a Mother for a Moment

There were many people today who were overjoyed with the news of jailed Iranian Human Rights lawyer,  Nasrin Sotoudeh having been granted a three day leave from Evin prison, and this picture of Nasrin Sotoudeh with her son, Nima, topped it all. A moment of sheer joy worth a million words that both the mother and child are dearly clinging on to and hoping it would never end.

The picture reminded me of a Persian poem I had to recite in front of the whole school in Iran on Mother's Day.  I was barely nine years old and two things worried me most on that day;  the natural fear of forgetting the verses while standing up in front of the whole school and even a greater concern about how a class mate of mine, who had lost his mother, would feel when he heard the words.

At the end, the whole enormity of the occasion engraved the verses of the poetry in my mind forever. As usual when translating Persian poetry, all I can say is, it never sounds as good as the original, its the best I can do.

To have a crown that dazzles to the end of the horizon
To be able to wear that crown for ever

To be surrounded by gifts and lures during the day
and to have a lover as beautiful as the moon by night

To have the affluence and esteem of Solomon
and to have the glory and the splendour of Alexander

To live at the pinnacle of power forever
and to be able to mock the world at your feet

Are all utterly worthless in comparison
with the joys of having a mother for just a moment

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Whatever This Man Suggests, Do the Opposite

As the revenue pot in the Islamic Republic is getting smaller and smaller, the factional fighting is getting more intense. This factional fighting is real and it is serious but there are still limits and boundaries which the ruling factions will not cross. These limits and boundaries are still what is keeping the system more or less afloat. The regime’s security projects for its survival are paramount amongst these limits and boundaries that must not be crossed.

The return of Mehdi Hashemi, Rafsanjani's son, to Iran and his subsequent arrest was one such manifestation of factional fighting in the Islamic Republic. To fully understand each faction's motives, one must go back to the time Rafsanjani was Iran's strong man.

During the peak of Rafsanjani's power, Hossein Taeb, worked as an interrogator in the regime’s prisons. Some of the prisoners who came his way had information about the extensive corruption of the Rafsanjani clan. Taeb, in order to endear himself to the Supreme Leader, passed his interrogation findings to  Ayatollah Khamenei, who at the time, was steadily putting together his power bases.

Taeb eventually suffered the Rafsanjani wrath for his cloak and dagger mischiefs and was put in prison. The man who once made prisoners suffer was now at the receiving end himself. The pressure on Taeb was so great that at the age of thirty, he suffered a stroke in prison. Taeb's future seemed doom and gloom until Khamenei intervened and he was released. This was the foundation stone of what became Taeb's intense hatred towards the Rafsanjanis and his un-wavered loyalty to the Supreme Leader and especially towards the Supreme Leader's son Mojtaba.

When Rafsanjani's son, Mehdi Hashemi made a misjudgement to return to Iran to escape a $13 Million court judgement made against him in a civil suit in Canada, he was arrested and taken to prison. According to Islamic Republic law, a prisoner can be detained without being charged for a maximum of one month, but when did they even observe their own laws in the Islamic Republic? Especially now that Mehdi Hashemi was in the hands of Taeb's gang, who were determined to extract enough information from their prize catch to throw the key away for good. Instead rumours started circulating that Mehdi Hashemi will soon be released.

Following these rumours, two audio files were released on the cyberspace. These were taped conversations of Mehdi Hashemi, when he was outside Iran, with a dissident exiled journalist and famous Iranian cartoonist, Nikahang Kowsar. The tapes were handed to the Canadian courts as evidence, after strangely enough, Hashemi’s lawyers had requested them.

The audio tapes did not receive much publicity in the Western press but they went viral on the Persian cyberspace in no time. They revealed clandestine efforts by the Rafsanjani clan to regain much of their lost power and their role in the Green Movement. The anti-Rafsanjani factions, known in the West as hardliners or “The Principal-ists”  were delighted with the contents of the audio tapes.

Many theories started to circulate as to who was responsible for releasing the audio tapes. Some said it was the work of Rafsanjanis themselves, in order to make themselves more popular with the people of Iran by showing their efforts in opposing the Supreme Leader and hardliners. Some argued that it must have been the rival factions, who feared Rafsanjanis were still powerful enough to get away and needed more damning evidence against them in the public domain to ensure the Rafsanjani’s were finished. Regardless of the these different theories, everyone eagerly awaited the next audio tapes. When the first two were released, it was claimed there were twenty audio files altogether.

The third audio tape that was released was just as damning. That too went viral and the anti-Rafsanjani factions within the regime were delighted. A week later, the fourth audio tape was released too. Mehdi Hashemi, in this fourth audio tape, was giving information about Ahmadinejad’s trip to New York and sharing a joke about Ahamdinejad buying a vibrator. If it was any other Iranian dissident, this last audio tape would have meant the end, yet amazingly, even the hardliners, even the most vocal anti-Rafsanjani of them were silent! Even more amazingly, Mehdi Hashemi was freed albeit on bail!

What was in this tape that made even the hardliners go mute? The fourth audio, as well as information about the shopping sprees of Ahamdienjad’s entourage to UN and jokes about him buying a vibrator, contained information about Seyed Hussein Moussavian’s mission in America.  This former Islamic Republic ambassador in Germany during the peak of Islamic Republic led assassinations in Europe and a member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team is now in Princeton university in US. He has been charming the pants off Obama’s Iran policymakers and advising them on how to deal with the Islamic Republic.

The best advise however, may be, whatever this man tells you to do; DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Tehran Yearns for a Fresh Breeze

 Once again, Tehran was shut down today as air pollution  reached dangerous levels. The shutdown today, included all schools, educational places, government offices, banks, factories and production units that burn oil to operate with. All sporting events and exercises in open air were cancelled. Only one university, Payam Nour, was allowed to hold its exams but the rest of universities postponed their exams. Only staff at medical emergency places were required to go to work.

Earlier this week, the authorities had once again introduced the "odd/even number plate" plan. This plan requires vehicles with the licence number plates that end in odd or even numbers to be driven only on alternate odd/even days. It was hoped that the reduction in the traffic would reduce the air pollution, but it was not enough.

Ambulances were stationed in 5 main squares throughout Tehran to cater for people with heart or respiratory problems who were affected by the pollution. The casualty figures as a result of the air pollution are horrendous. Hasan Aghajani, an advisor to the Health Ministry, in an interview on state TV said, "in the last few days, 30% more patients were admitted into hospitals as a result of pollution related problems in Tehran" Aghajani also stated 4460 deaths were related to the air pollution in Tehran.

Massoumeh Ebtekar, known as Mary to the rest of the world, as the spokesperson for the US embassy hostage takers in the eighties and  now head of Tehran Municipality Environmental Committee, said most of Iran's major cities are suffering from dangerous levels of pollution.
She also said there are solutions available to combat the pollution but the will is not there.

Ahmadinejad's first deputy, Mohamad Reza Rahimi, is not happy about the emergency steps to reduce traffic. "We can not stop people from earning a living by driving their cars just for the sake of reducing air pollution" he told reporters.

This is a failed revolution on ALL levels. Iran's natural resources are being squandered, lakes are drying up, economy is in a downward spiral, historic heritage and landmarks of Iran are being destroyed and the country is facing an environmental catastrophe.

In the old days, it was a pleasure looking north and seeing the magnificent Alborz mountains, I was told today by a friend in Tehran, that he couldn't even see the end of his street, let alone the mountains to the north.

The two pictures above show how the Milad Tower, built after the revolution as a landmark to signify the greatness of the 1979 revolution, has disappeared from the view as a result of the pollution and the video below shows the cracks and the dilapidation of another iconic landmark in Tehran, the Shahyad or as they renamed it after the revolution, the Freedom Tower. The engineer who managed the original project, pines with bitterness at how the iconic landmark is facing ruin as a result of neglect and mismanagement. Even the thick waterproof slabs around the tower were taken out and replaced with porous thinner slabs which are now allowing water to leak and flood the foundations of the tower.

The longer this regime remains, the more likelihood that there will be no Iran left to rebuild.