The firm pushback against any idea of Iran’s cooperation with the US over the Iraqi crisis continued on Wednesday.
The head of armed forces, General Hassan Firouzabadi (pictured), while denying any presence of Iranian troops in Iraq, declared, “Iran-US cooperation will never happen as it would be absolutely meaningless.”
The Secretary of the Expediency Council, Mohsen Rezaei, added, “Iran is unwilling to stand with America” and — echoing Firouzabadi’s comments — said that the Iraqi insurgency was “part of the plans of the Zionist system that seeks to turn the wave of Islamic awakening against Islam”. He condemned the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham for committing atrocities “that not even Hitler did”.
The Rouhani Government, which floated the idea of cooperation in statements by unnamed officials to Western media last week, was silent on Wednesday about the issue.
Instead, President Rouhani told a crowd in western Iran that, although Tehran has no military forces in Iraq, Iranians would volunteer to defend key sites in Iraq:
Regarding the holy Shia shrines in Karbala, Najaf, Khadhimiya and Samarra, we announce to the killers and terrorists that the big Iranian nation will not hesitate to protect holy shrines….
These terrorist groups, and those that fund them, both in the region and in the international arena, are nothing, and hopefully they will be put in their own place.
(Hat tip to Iran Tracker for translations)
Senior Clerics Call for Release of Opposition Leaders Mousavi and Karroubi
Speaking about Iraq, President Obama distanced himself from cooperation with Iran, preferring to caution the Islamic Republic over its involvement in Iraq and criticize its activities in the region:
Iran can play a constructive role if they send the same message of inclusion that we’re sending. If Iran is coming in as an armed force on behalf of the Shia, that worsens the situation and the prospect of government formations.
Iran has heard from us, we’ve indicated to them that they need to avoid sectarian splits that might lead to civil war. We have deep differences with Iran across the board on a host of issues. What happened in Syria is the result of Iran coming in hot and heavy on one side of the conflict.
If Iran’s views of the region is solely sectarian, they will end up fighting all over the region and that isn’t in their interests. We suspect that they know that.
(Cross-posted from Iraq Daily)
Senior Clerics Call for Release of Opposition Leaders Mousavi and Karroubi
A series of senior clerics have again called on the Rouhani Government to press for the release of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, held under strict house arrest since February 2011.
Seyed Hadi Khamenei, the brother of the Supreme Leader, told the reformists’ youth branch:
We need more unity in our society. Two of the most important issues are the freedom of political prisoners and the end of house arrest of the Green Movement’s leaders.
The youth should ask and help the government to solve the house arrest issue.
Ayatollah Dastghaib asked, “Why should Mousavi and Karroubi who were close companions of Imam Khomeini, be under house arrest? The Imam had much respect for them.”
The cleric continued, “I wish they were released in these days that are the anniversary of (the death of) Imam Khomeini, as their freedom will be more valuable than any ceremonies held for remembrance and respect.”
Hojatoleslam Seyed Mahdi Tabatabaee, a leading seminary teachers of Howzah, asserted, “The continuation of the house arrest is not beneficial. We should try to calm the public by ending it.”
Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi: “Rouhani Has Turne His Back on Revolutionary Beliefs”
Ayatullah Mesbah Yazdi, a leading critic of President Rouhani, has renewed his challenge in a meeting with the Islamic Coalition Party.
Continuing the debate over the State’s place in culture and religion, Mesbah Yazdi said: “Those who are calling us hallucinating and saying that we don’t understand Islam — they have interpret their religion using the Western culture.”
Rouhani has responded to his critics — including Tehran Friday Prayer leader Ahmed Khatami — by saying, “One cannot take people to heaven through force and a whip.”
Mesbah Yazdi chided the President:
Unfortunately it seems those who were very active during the Revolution, including the person giving the nickname of “Imam” to Imam Khomeini (Rouhani), have turned their back on their revolutionary beliefs.
Some of our officials are gradually forgetting Islam and its values, and in their speeches they say our Revolution was for freedom.
The cleric concluded, “We should organise ourselves and plan to stand against these people.”
MP Javad Karimi Qoddosi, a member of Mesbah Yazdi’s Endurance Front, added a specific charge in a speech in Parliament. He said Rouhani has given secret information to the British on culture and religion through his Ph.D. thesis in Law at Glasgow Caledonian University.
Prominent Analyst Zibakalam Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison
Leading political scientist Sadegh Zibakalam, writing on his Facebook page, says he has been sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Zibakalam said he had been punished for “defending the efforts of the government for resolving the country’s nuclear issue” and for questioning the judiciary over verdicts in prosecution of a $2.6 billion bank fraud, revealed in September 2011.
The academic provoked the anger of hardliners when he wrote the editor of Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari, in defense of the Rouhani Government’s approach to nuclear talks.
Shariatmadari then accused Zibakalam of support the accused in the bank fraud — including the central figure, Amir Mansour Khosravi, who was executed last month. The academic replied that he only wanted to know what the specific crimes were in the case, saying ” the Judiciary was not looking for unearthing the truth, it merely was working towards satisfying the public opinion”.
Iranian Media Replaces News with Propaganda Denials of Insurgent Advances in Iraq
State outlet Press TV is spreading outdated denials of insurgent advances in Iraq this morning and promising that Iraqi forces will regain the second city of Mosul, lost to the insurgency last week:
Iraq’s Army Spokesman General Qassim Atta stated on Wednesday that preparations were underway to move in against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham) militants in Mosul after Iraqi Special Forces regained full control over the nation’s largest petroleum refinery complex in Baiji, taking out at least 40 terrorists in the process….
According to the Iraqi general, one of ISIS leaders in Iraq was among those killed by government forces.
General Atta further reiterated that Iraqi armed forces were also in full control of the cities of Tal Afar and Samarra, which also came under attack by foreign-backed ISIS militants.
Eyewitness reports on Wednesday established that insurgents had taken almost all of the Baiji refinery, one of three in Iraq.
The insurgency also has captured Tal Afar, in northwest Iraq near the Syrian border, although Iraqi forces are carrying out air attacks and trying to regain territory.
There is one accurate item in Press TV’s report: Iraqi forces hold Samarra, 70 miles north of Baghdad, repelling insurgent attacks and bringing in reinforcements and Shia volunteers.
Supreme Leader Calls on Iraqis to Refrain from Sectarian Conflict
The Supreme Leader’s office has used Twitter to put out his call for restraint in Iraq:
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) June 19, 2014
Nuclear Talks Begin Drafting Text of Comprehensive Agreement, But “Fundamental Differences” Remain
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif offered some news on Wednesday about the third day of talks in Vienna between Iran and the 5+1 Powers seeking a comprehensive nuclear agreement:
The drafting phase began today with a small number (of written points), although this does not mean that we have achieved an understanding. There are still very fundamental differences….We will began drafting with points that are mostly agreed upon.
Western and Iranian officials indicated that the major point of dispute is the number and level of Iran’s centrifuges for uranium enrichment.
“The Iranians have not yet shown a willingness to reduce their centrifuges to an acceptable number, making it difficult to envision a compromise at this point that we could all live with,” an unnamed negotiator told Reuters.
Head of Armed Forces Repeats Warning to Revolutionary Guards: No Criticism of Nuclear Talks
As Iran and the 5+1 Powers hold their fifth round of talks seeking a comprehensive nuclear agreement, the head of Iran’s armed forces, General Hassan Firouzabadi, has repeated his warning to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards: refrain from condemnation of the discussions.
Firouzabadi expanded on Wednesday about his injunction last week for media to refrain from “baseless criticism” of Iran’s negotiators:
My warning was a warning to all media and was a strategic matter. The media must look at national affairs with a strategic outlook and consider the main principles of the revolution….
The armed forces’ media have had violations, which will be confronted if not addressed. Serious measures fortunately will take place to reform media affairs afterwards.
Outlets of the IRGC, including Fars News and Sepah News, had periodically challenged the Government over its approach to the talks with the US and other powers; however, they have muted their criticism in recent weeks amid the Supreme Leader’s endorsement of the negotiations.