Inside the Middle East
November 9, 2010
Posted: 1523 GMT
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses a mass rally in the southern Lebanese border town of Bint Jbeil (Getty Images)
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses a mass rally in the southern Lebanese border town of Bint Jbeil (Getty Images)

Fresh off the success of his controversial visit to Lebanon, it appears that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will now be weighing whether or not to make another diplomatic visit – this time to the Gaza Strip.

According to semi-official Iranian news agency Fars,  the Hamas government in Gaza has extended an official invitation to the Iranian leader to visit the coastal strip in order to "boost resistance moral" of the territories 1.5 million Palestinian residents.

Hamas official Ahmed Yousef told Fars  “We invite (President) Ahmadinejad to pay a visit to the Gaza Strip, and we are confident that the visit will have extraordinary importance”

Yousef  told Fars he hoped that a trip by the Iranian leader would inspire Gazans in the same way it did for Lebanese.

Lacking the same enthusiasm would be Israel which has long accused the Iranian regime of providing weapons and cash to Hamas which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

"Perhaps he could be smuggled in through the tunnels with weapons" deadpanned Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor who said he did not expect an Ahmadinejad visit to take place, despite the invitation.

Israel and Egypt control the land, sea and air approaches to the territory and it would be unlikely that the Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak , which has not enjoyed the friendliest of relations with Iran, would allow such a visit.

For his part Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who represents a rival Palestinian political faction,  will not be supporting a visit either.  He recently told CNN that both Iran and Hamas were impeding the peace talks with Israel.

"Hamas and whoever is standing behind Hamas – meaning Iran – is slowing the peace process. Yes, yes, Iran is pressuring Hamas not to be part of any agreement, so that they can use Hamas as a negotiations card in their talks with the international community and especially with the United States."

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Filed under: Gaza •Hamas •Hezbollah •Iran •Lebanon •Palestinians •West Bank

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November 7, 2010
Posted: 1826 GMT

It's tough being a rapper in Tehran these days...our Reza Sayah passes on the following:

Police in Tehran have arrested several members of underground Iranian rap groups, the semi-official  ILNA news agency reported.

Tehran Police Chief Hussain Sajedinia told ILNA that several young boys and girls were discovered using vacant homes to record and videotape illegal rap music for various websites and satellite networks.

Police raided the homes, arrested the young musicians and confiscated "western style musical instruments" and several bottles of liquor, according to ILNA.

The report did not specify when the raids took place, how many rappers were arrested, or how old they were.

"These groups use the most trashy, juvenile and street-like words and phrases that have no place in proper grammar," the police chief told ILNA. "More importantly, they have no regard for the law, principles, proper behavior and language."

Police were searching for a girl and several other of the young rappers after identifying them in material found during the search of the vacant homes, ILNA reported.

"A court order has been issued for the arrest of all of the accused and police in Tehran will make their utmost effort to arrest these people," Sajedinia told ILNA.

In Iran, rap and rock music is not a serious crime but is considered un-Islamic. Ignoring the laws against playing rap and rock music can lead to accusations of Satan worship and sentences of flogging or a night in jail.

It's not clear if the young Iranian rappers are still in jail or what they're being charged with.

Sajedinia accused Iran's underground rap scene of spreading profanity and poisoning young minds. He called for an increase in traditional Iranian music to counter the influence of rap music, ILNA reported.

"Those who have been arrested are among those who have veered away from proper behavior, who have distanced themselves from all of life's hardships and are in search of comforts that have no limits," he said.

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Filed under: Culture •Iran

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October 24, 2010
Posted: 1116 GMT

Human rights activists hope a new film will raise international awareness about stoning.

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Filed under: CNN Coverage •Iran •Video

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October 13, 2010
Posted: 1046 GMT

From Arwa Damon, CNN

Beirut, Lebanon (CNN) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Beirut for his first state visit to Lebanon Wednesday.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad crosses Beirut airport highway on his first visit to the country on Wednesday
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad crosses Beirut airport highway on his first visit to the country on Wednesday

Ahmadinejad was greeted at the airport by members of parliament, government officials and Hezbollah political leaders. The streets near the airport were packed with people in a festive mood carrying Iranian and Lebanese flags.

The Iranian leader met Lebanese President Michel Suleiman at the Presidential Palace here and was scheduled to meet other leaders as well as leaders of Hezbollah's resistance movement.

The United States considers Hezbollah, which has close ties to Iran and Syria, to be a terrorist organization. The Shiite group is a political party and a major provider of social services in Lebanon, but it also operates a militant wing.

Hezbollah has been linked to numerous terrorist attacks against American, Israeli and other Western targets. Some Muslims see it as a heroic organization, successful in its stated objective of driving Israeli forces from Lebanon.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed concern to Suleiman about Ahmadinejad's Lebanon visit, according to a State Department spokesman.

But in southern Lebanon many were happy that Ahmadinejad was coming. Read full article...


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Filed under: Iran •Lebanon

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September 7, 2010
Posted: 1649 GMT

From Errol Barnett, CNN

It may surprise some to find out that the Quran says absolutely nothing about stoning. However, the case of an Iranian woman being sentenced to death by stoning for adultery has lead many to criticize the Muslim faith for its practices. But reasons for the act are much more complicated and vary among Muslim countries – like Egypt and the UAE. As it turns out, the punishment stems from generations of interpretation of Hadith; narrations concerning the Prophet Mohammad. Many Islamic countries have implemented their own versions of implementing Hadith which has subsequently created volumes of legal precedent for certain punishments. Diana Hamade, a legal expert with International Advocate Legal Services, explained this to me from Dubai. It also raises the question; Outside the Vatican, can any one country represent an entire faith? And how much does interpretation of religious texts in other faiths lead to deep divisions among the faithful?

Watch the interview and post your thoughts.

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Filed under: Iran •Islam •Video

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July 25, 2010
Posted: 821 GMT

By the CNN Wire Staff

Tehran, Iran (CNN) - The head of Iran's nuclear energy agency announced Saturday that the country had launched a "serious" nuclear fusion research program, according to state-run Press TV.

Iran's atomic organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi, pictured here speaking in Tehran in April.
Iran's atomic organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi, pictured here speaking in Tehran in April.

Ali-Akbar Salehi, the chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said as many as 50 scientists were participating in the research to break into alternative energy, Press TV said.

The process of nuclear fusion consists of forcing hydrogen nuclei to collide at high speed and fuse together, which releases energy, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) website.

The goal is to eventually develop fusion plants to generate electricity, the IAEA said, but research worldwide is still in the early stages. The agency called nuclear fusion a "long term, sustainable, economic and safe energy source."

Salehi acknowledged the project will take time.

"It takes 20 to 30 years before this process can be commercialized but we have to use all the capacity in the country to provide the necessary speed for fusion research," Salehi said, according to Press TV.

Iran is under fire for other aspects of its nuclear program, which Tehran claims is for peaceful purposes. However, the United States and other Western nations fear Iran is attempting to develop a nuclear weapon.

The United Nations has issued four rounds of sanctions against the country for not being more transparent about the goals and status of its nuclear program.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed into law new U.S. sanctions against Tehran that he called another step in demonstrating that "the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

Filed under: Iran •Science & Technology

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July 14, 2010
Posted: 1013 GMT

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Shahram Amiri - a nuclear scientist Tehran claimed was kidnapped by U.S. agents - told a state-run television station in Iran that he was abducted by U.S. intelligence officials and faced "psychological warfare and pressure that are much worse than being in prison."

A man who says he is Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri appears in a YouTube video.
A man who says he is Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri appears in a YouTube video.

State-run Press TV said Wednesday that Amiri spoke in an interview after his escape, telling the channel, "I think I will be unable to get into details during this limited period of time and I will postpone it to when I am hopefully in my dear country Iran, so I can speak to the media and my own people with ease of mind and tell them about my ordeal over the past 14 months."

Amiri has left the United States and is headed back to Iran, the country's state-run media said Wednesday morning.

"Following the Islamic Republic's efforts and with the effective cooperation of the embassy of Pakistan in Washington ... Shahram Amiri left the United States and will arrive in Tehran via a third country," the news agency, IRNA, reported - quoting a foreign ministry spokesman.

Amiri, who is a researcher from Tehran's Malek Ashtar University, mysteriously disappeared in June 2009 while on a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, according to Iranian media reports.

On Monday, Amiri went to Iran's Interest Section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington and asked to be sent home.

The Iranian government has accused the United States of involvement in Amiri's disappearance, with Iran saying the researcher was taken to force him to give up data about Tehran's nuclear program.

In the Press TV interview, Amiri said he was kidnapped in Medina, Saudi Arabia, by three men in a van.

"Once I got into the van, the man who was inside said to me, 'Don't make any noise.' I was confused at the moment and had no idea what was happening," Amiri said Wednesday.

According to Amiri, he was later drugged and transported to the United States in a plane.

"I was under very special circumstances for 14 months in the United States. I was not completely free, nor was I like a prisoner, that is, in shackles as viewers might think," Amiri added. "I was in a completely unique situation which is very difficult to describe."

Press TV reported that Amiri was offered $10 million in bribes to cooperate with the United States.

A top Iranian lawmaker recently claimed that newly found documents back up Tehran's claims that the CIA is responsible for Amiri's disappearance, Iranian media reported Sunday.

Javad Jahangirzadeh, a member of Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said Iranian officials had turned over the documents to the Swiss ambassador in Tehran.

The U.S. State Department has denied that charge.

A U.S. official, who is not authorized to talk to the media about such issues, told CNN last month that it would be "ludicrous, absurd and even preposterous" to claim an individual was kidnapped by the United States and held against his will.

Read full story...

Filed under: Iran •Science & Technology •U.S.

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July 8, 2010
Posted: 850 GMT

By Saeed Ahmed and Mitra Mobasherat, CNN

(CNN) - Iran has laid down the law: mullets won't make the cut.

The Islamic regime, which strictly enforces head coverings for women, issued grooming guidelines for the guys this week.

A woman in Tehran on Monday stands next to a board with pictures of men's hairstyles authorized by Iran.
A woman in Tehran on Monday stands next to a board with pictures of men's hairstyles authorized by Iran.

Among the do's that are now don'ts? The '80's Prince-style pompadour preferred by many young Iranian men, the Steven Seagal-style ponytail and the "business in the front, party in the back" sentiment of the mullet - also popular among the Persian populace.

The approved styles have a distinctly 1950s look to them: short on the front and sides for the most part. But the gel-slathered, combed-back 1980s look also received the government's blessing.

The "Islamic" haircuts were unveiled at the Hijab and Chastity Festival, a fashion event designed to show how the country's youth can be stylish yet not run afoul of the fashion police.

"Hair styles have been designed based on the shape of the neck, beard, the size of the chin and provincial cultures," said Jaleh Khodayar, the secretary of the festival. Her comments were reported by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.

"In designing these hair styles, we have not tried to go backward. On the contrary, we have tried to make our designs a mixture of our traditions and Iranian culture, as well as the latest fashions and by doing so confront the cultural assault by the West (on our country)."

Majid, a 32-year-old Tehran resident who did not want to give out his last name, shrugged his head in amusement.

"I don't think these young men will stop wearing these hairstyles, even though in my opinion they are actually pretty strange," he said.

He prefers his own hair on the short side.

To the outside world, the crackdown on cuts may represent further restrictions by an already restrictive regime.

But in one way, they are a loosening of guidelines: None of the photographs of acceptable grooming styles feature models with full-grown beards - a look, a la President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that Iran had encouraged for years.

Filed under: Iran

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June 29, 2010
Posted: 752 GMT

Tehran, Iran (CNN) - Iran is prepared to resume talks over its nuclear program but will wait until late August as punishment for recently imposed U.N. sanctions, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Monday that Western powers should put 'their bullying policies aside.'
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Monday that Western powers should put 'their bullying policies aside.'

The outcome of the talks will depend on whether Western powers hold Israel to the same standards over its nuclear program, Ahmadinejad said at a news conference.

"Western countries have no problems with Israel's nuclear bombs," Ahmadinejad said.

The U.N. Security Council imposed additional sanctions on Iran in early June, expanding an arms embargo and tightening restrictions on financial and shipping enterprises related to "proliferation-sensitive activities."

The 12-2 vote with one abstention came after the United States and other Security Council members expressed their concern over Iran's lack of compliance with previous U.N. resolutions on ensuring the peaceful nature of the nation's nuclear program.

The resolution on further sanctions was introduced by France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Brazil and Turkey voted against the measure and Lebanon abstained.

The United States pressured some nations to vote against Iran, Ahmadinejad said at Monday's news conference.

The Security Council also asked the U.N. secretary-general to create a panel of experts to monitor implementation of the sanctions.

Iran has disavowed any intentions of developing nuclear weapons and says its program is for peaceful purposes.

"Western countries should put their bullying policies aside," Ahmadinejad said Monday.

The Iranian president questioned the motives of the United States and others who want negotiations. And he discounted that concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions are the sole reason for the sanctions.

"They would have found another pretext if it wasn't for the nuclear pretext," he said.

Filed under: Iran

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June 15, 2010
Posted: 1005 GMT

CNN's Fareed Zakaria looks at the new HBO documentary on the life and death of Neda, who was killed last year in Iran.

Filed under: Iran •Video

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