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By Will Roth
Last year, Israel rejected the American proposal of twenty F-35 fighter jets (worth three billion dollars) and a pledge to support Israel at the United Nations in exchange for a ninety-day settlement freeze (to resume peace talks); but this was only one chapter in a much larger story of how arms deals, and the industrial interests behind them, lay at the heart of international relations in the Middle East.
By: Afsaneh Haddadian
In December of 2010, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki from his post while Mottaki was on an official visit to Senegal. He instead appointed Iran’s Director of Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, as the new Foreign Minister. Manouchehr Mottaki was the first Minister to be dismissed in Ahmadinejad’s second term as President. Given the tensions between Iran and the West over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Salehi’s appointment as the new Foreign Minister seems like a pragmatic move. But the decision, and the way it was carried out, has been extremely controversial.
Manouchehr Motakki, like his other colleagues in the Foreign Ministry, was among the fundamentalists in the Islamic Republic’s system. Once the leader of the political activities of Imam followers, and Iran’s consuls in Turkey and Japan, he never came short of doing and saying what top Iranian officials would command in the diplomatic arena. But why was such a cooperative character dismissed? Is Iranian diplomacy on the verge of big changes? Or are the conservatives within Iran’s government trying so hard to seize power that even someone like Motakki is no longer tolerated in the system anymore?
Ever since his first term as Iran’s Foreign Minister, Motakki had repeatedly mentioned his close ties with the Supreme Leader, Khamene’i. This had convinced many that Motakki is the Supreme Leader’s “man” in the office, someone who would ensure that foreign policy go the Ayatollah’s way. The fact is that Motakki was never all that close to Khamene’i, based on the Supreme Leader’s moderate reaction to his dismissal.
It seems more likely that Mottaki’s dismissal is the result of an uneasy coalition with President Ahmadinejad, who had to compromise with Iran’s Assembly in order to secure votes for his other candidates for vacant ministries. Soon after his selection of Foreign Minister in 2005, Ahmadinejad became disillusioned with Motakki’s incompetence and his inability to serve the Foreign Ministry needs as Ahmadinejad saw them. On several occasions, Motakki’s resignation was discussed – in 2007, 2008 and then again in August 2010 when Ahmadinejad announced the appointment of four permanent “special envoys” that would report to him directly. Everyone thought that Motakki would protest and at least make a threat to resign. He did not.
Many analysts point to Mottaki’s actual incompetence and his marginal role, even complete absence, from the foreign relations decision-making processes. During his term in office, nepotism and favoritism reached its highest level and many departments were shut down or brought under the control of various Ahmadinejad cronies. Mottaki created positions for several of his own relatives, including his wife and brother, in different governmental agencies and embassies. Iran’s relations with Western countries such as Great Britain and France deteriorated during his tenure, as did relations with India and African countries.
According to various sources, Iran’s diplomats did not read Motakki’s words as “official”, aware of clear differences between his and Ahmadinejad’s opinions. According to Iranian former diplomats, Motakki was blamed for not being able to prevent the passage of several International sanctions against Iran, namely the UN resolution condemning Iran’s violation of Human Rights, as well as the failure to secure a seat for Iran on UN Women or to calm the situation regarding Iran’s involvement in sending illegal weapons to Nigeria.
Maybe such explanations and assumptions have become par for the course. But, the fact is that neither Motakki’s dismissal nor his replacement was an ordinary matter. The appointment of Salehi to the post is important because Ahmadinejad’s government has had serious confrontations with the West over Iran’s nuclear program. Given Salehi’s appointment, we could speculate that the Iranian Foreign Ministry, which has had only formal and minimal influence on Iran’s nuclear talks, is once again at the center of the decision-making process in Tehran. Furthermore it seems that Iran’s President wants to have more say in Iran’s foreign diplomacy, which was not fulfilled by Motakki’s presence.
Many believe that Mottaki’s main objective during his five years as Foreign Minister was just to hold onto his job. Even after his humiliating dismissal, Mottaki did not lose his cautious language, only calling his firing as “un-Islamic, outside political or diplomatic norms, and disrespectful.” Perhaps he is trying to remain in Khamene’i’s good graces, in the hope of gaining power again in the near future.
Jafar Panahi, an internationally celebrated film director who won the coveted “Golden Lion” prize at the Venice Film Festival for his 2000 film “Dayareh” (Circle), has been sentenced to six years in prison plus a twenty-year ban on all his artistic activities—including film making, writing scripts, traveling abroad and speaking with media. Jafar Panahi was convicted of “propaganda against the state” for having exercised his right to peaceful freedom of expression through his film-making and political activism. He was specifically accused of making an anti-government film without permission and inciting opposition protests after the disputed 2009 presidential election. Mr. Panahi’s artistic collaborator, Mohammad Rasoulof, was also sentenced to six years in prison.
Visit Amnesty International’s website to learn more about Panahi’s work and to take action against his sentence.
Let’s all work toward making 2011 a more just and free world!
By: Sheridan Gunderson
The day after Thanksgiving, Mohammad Osaman Mohamud, a nineteen-year-old Somali-American, tried to detonate a car full of explosives at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, OR.
Mohamud sent bomb components to undercover FBI agents who he thought were assembling the bomb. However, agents provided him with a fake that Mohamud attempted to detonate twice with his cell phone.
Mumin Barre is the President of the Somali Diaspora Network in Washington D.C. and a Commissioner for the Governor of Maryland’s Commission on African Affairs. When I asked him about the reaction within the Somali community, he said it’s “been one of overwhelming shock, and disbelief. This is certainly not something the community would condone. We want to know more about the facts behind how this whole thing came about. This brings a bad light on our community.”
By Kashif Ghazanfar
While many now argue that the once volatile and vibrant Punk ethos has been all but reduced to a timid, votive candle amid ceaseless corporate gales (‘Hey bro, Target’s having a sale on Ramones shirts!’), Punk’s history, at the very least, remains a vital and potent source of inspiration.
All comedy tours are equal, but some are more equal than others. The new *FUNATICAL: Taking Comedy to the Extreme* tour’s motto is ‘We Come in Peace’, and features multicultural comedians who are Arab, Iranian, South Asian and American of different faiths.