Tag archive for » Iran «

The Iran deal: What it means for Saudi Arabia

Wednesday, 27. November 2013 6:06

(This was written for the European Council on Foreign Relations, appearing on its website)

Almost everyone is happy about the deal reached between United States and Iran. Turkey, which has been drawing close to Tehran of late, is sending its foreign minister there on Monday; Oman was the location secret U.S.-Iran talks in recent months, so must be happy; the UAE issued a statement welcoming the deal. The two naysayers were always Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israel has made plain its displeasure, while Saudi Arabia has maintained a royal silence. [...]

Category:Published articles - 2013 | Comment (0) | Autor:

Saudi Arabia: cultivating sectarian spaces

Friday, 15. November 2013 2:55

(Part of a European Council on Foreign Relations report, ‘The Gulf and Sectarianism’, published November 2013)

Sectarianism has long underpinned Saudi Arabia’s domestic and foreign policy, and it has proved to be a particularly effective tool in the government’s management of the Arab Awakening, the movement of protest and revolt that began in Tunisia in December 2010. Saudi Arabia deployed a sectarian narrative to describe the 2011 uprising in Bahrain, calling it an Iranian-backed movement of Shia empowerment that aimed to disenfranchise Sunnis, the “rightful” Islamic centre of which Riyadh sees itself as champion. Saudi Arabia readily applied this framework to the conflict in Syria as it developed later that same year: the government characterised it as a battle in which a majority Sunni population has had to defend itself from an alignment of deviant Islamic schools and ideologies that aim to subjugate Sunnis – an easy sell considering that Shia powers and actors, specifically Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria’s own Alawi community, have been the most prominent supporters of President Bashar al-Assad. [...]

Category:Published articles - 2013 | Comment (0) | Autor:

Iranian Director Kiarostami Discusses His Work in Doha

Tuesday, 24. September 2013 1:20

Speaking in Doha during a special retrospective of his films last week, celebrated Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami talked a little bit about his work. He prefers not to say much by way of interpretation of his work, leaving it to the individual viewer to come to his own conclusions, but he was coaxed to say some words about his first ‘breakthrough’ film, Where Is The Friend’s House? from 1987. [...]

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On The Caliphate

Monday, 29. July 2013 18:57

The word caliphate, or khilafa in Islamic political theory, has been bandied around a lot over the past two years by opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood and sister movements of political Islam. Whether the Brotherhood would like to recreate this political institution or not is one issue, but the term itself needs some clarification since it is being misused, in often hysterical tones, to suggest a theocratic system along the lines of the Shi’ite innovation in Iran since 1979. [...]

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When East doesn’t meet West at an art auction

Thursday, 18. April 2013 20:10

farhad_moshiri_untitled_d5665810hMixing East and West has become such a cliche that first mention of it is enough to shut down interest in any given context. EastWest-ism is still doing well in the art world, though. One of celebrated Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri’s works, an untitled oil and acrylic on canvas that is part of his Numeral series, was unnecessarily subjected to it in the catalogue for the Christie’s Dubai auction this week. Lines of numerals are set against a background of shades of green that suggest the texture of unearthed artefacts from the past. As Christie’s notes, the numbers have a graffiti-like, Pop Art appearance but on a canvas skilfully manipulated by Moshiri to give an antique effect. But that alone seems to have led the authors to conclude baldly: “This example subtly melds Eastern and Western concepts.” It seems that Moshiri’s binary of the past and the contemporary has been liberally redefined as “east (past), west (present)”. The notes for another in the Numeral series from 2011 suggested more usefully: “the almost military alignment of the stylized numbers is visually overwhelming and inevitably raises questions on their role: do we live in a world ruled by numbers? Is history simply a long string of successive dates?” [...]

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Islamists Empowered: Back to the Future

Thursday, 7. February 2013 18:32

With the fall of Hosni Mubarak, victory in legislative elections and the presidential vote, and now the approval via referendum of a new constitution, Islamists have begun the work of putting their renaissance project into practice.

Unlike Salafism, which dreams of a recreation of the pre-colonial moment, political Islam has aimed more to repatch together the Islamic state but in an unambiguously modern, post-colonial context. The Brotherhood does not aim to return clerics to man a reestablished classical Sharia court system, rather it seeks to distribute the dominion of Sharia via parliament, legislation and an advisory role for clerics via Al-Azhar. Laymen play a key role in the process of Islamicization that they would not have had before the irruption of Western hegemony and modernity – something alien, for example, to Wahhabi Salafism which simply recognizes the sovereign powers of the temporal ruler in return for the clerics’ advisory role in policy and control of courts, mosques, education and their own coercive force (‘the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice’). [...]

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Bahrain criticises Iran over Mursi speech mistranslation

Sunday, 2. September 2012 2:31

By Andrew Hammond and Yeganeh Torbati

DUBAI, Sept 2 | Sun Sep 2, 2012 4:09pm IST

(Reuters) – Bahrain has criticised Iranian officials over a mistranslation of a speech by Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, which replaced the word “Syria” with “Bahrain” when he listed Arab states that had experienced revolts since last year.

The reference was diplomatically sensitive because Iran, a Shi’ite Muslim power and an ally of the Syrian government, has expressed sympathy with a Shi’ite-led democratic protest movement in Bahrain against the ruling Al Khalifa family. The Khalifas, backed by Washington, are Sunni Muslim. [...]

Category:Published articles - 2012 | Comment (0) | Autor:

Ten Days in Iran

Tuesday, 1. May 2012 21:45

The number of people who said don’t go to Iran was really astounding, even more so now that I’ve been there and back. The country is a pleasant surprise in many respects. It is very clean, very green, very organised. People are friendly but few move over the line into what tourists often consider harrassment. I was intending to book a fixed itinerary with the travel agent through which I got a visa but due to some last minute flight changes the bookings were never made, so I went there free to move as I pleased but nervous that that would expose me to trouble with the authorities. I decided  anyway to stick to the hotels that I had agreed on with the travel agent. I didn’t even have a guide book. At the airport on the way out I got myself a decent camera and a pair of sunglasses but there was no time for more than that in the rush. When I arrived, on a Friday afternoon in mid-April, there was no form to fill out at Shiraz airport and the immigrations officials only poured over the British visitor’s credentials for a few minutes more than the others in the queue. It was all incredibly easy and ad hoc for a country that gives the impression of being closed and unfriendly. Once you are in, it’s anything but. I was concerned though about the fact that I was a journalist, so didn’t want to ask too many questions and take too many photos in non-touristy locations. But part of the point of the trip was to improve my Farsi so I wasn’t going to keep quiet, as some people suggested. [...]

Category:Published articles - 2012, Travel | Comments (2) | Autor:

The Iran nuclear debate: preserving regimes vs. destroying peoples

Saturday, 31. December 2011 23:01

Debate has raged in recent days over an article in Foreign Affairs in which Matthew Kroenig of the Council on Foreign Relations argues that the United States should not flinch from launching a military operation, and soon, to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities before Iran achieves nuclear weapons capability. In “Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option”, Kroenig writes that: “…skeptics of military action fail to appreciate the true danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to U.S. interests in the Middle East and beyond. And their grim forecasts assume that the cure would be worse than the disease – that is, that the consequences of a U.S. assault on Iran would be as bad as or worse than those of Iran achieving its nuclear ambitions. But that is a faulty assumption. The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States.” [...]

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Iran says Bahrain plot claim “baseless”

Monday, 14. November 2011 19:39

By Andrew Hammond and Mitra Amiri

DUBAI/TEHRAN, Nov 14 (Reuters) – Iran denied on Monday it had any link to an alleged plot to stage attacks in Bahrain and a lawyer for two accused men said reports they had confessed were not true.

Bahrain said last week Qatar had handed over four men who Manama accuses of planning to attack the Interior Ministry, the Saudi embassy and a causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. It said a fifth was arrested in Bahrain.

On Sunday, a Bahraini prosecution spokesman said the plot was coordinated with Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Basij militia as well as two Bahraini opposition figures in London.

He told state media that some of the men had confessed to this. But a lawyer for two, speaking to Reuters, said they told their family by telephone that they had not confessed at all.

The allegation surfaced before the expected release of an independent rights commission report on the government’s crushing of a democracy protest movement earlier this year.

Bahrain, a U.S. ally which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, says it is implementing measures to expand democratic government and accuses the main opposition parties of organising protests in coordination with Iran with a Shi’ite sectarian agenda.

Most of the island state’s population is Shi’ite but the Saudi-allied royal family is Sunni Muslim.


Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said the plot was a fabrication driven by “Iranophobia”, replicating a U.S. claim last month to have uncovered an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

“Instead of propagandising and presenting baseless claims, Bahraini officials should do something about the large rift that has opened between the government and the people,” Abdollahian said in comments carried by the website of Iran’s al-Aalam TV.

“(These) baseless accusations repeat the comical and fabricated scenario of America.”

Mohsen al-Alawi, lawyer for two of the men, said Isa Ahmed Shamloh, decided to join his friend, driver Ali Abbas Mubarak on a trip to Saudi Arabia for a change of air. He said the driver picked up the two others, Mohammed Sahwan and Emad Abdelhussein, in Saudi Arabia and it was not clear why they had gone to Qatar.

“Shamloh said by telephone that they had not confessed,” Alawi said, adding he hoped to have access to the men next week.

Bahrain named an Iranian, Asad Qasir, as the Revolutionary Guards link who trained one of the arrested men in machinegun and explosives use during a trip to Iran.

Alawi said Qasir was also cited in the case of 21 men sentenced this year for leading the protests of February and March. “They are trying to link the cases,” Alawi said.

Eight of the 21 men, including politicians, clerics, rights activists and a blogger, were found guilty of charges including “forming a terrorist group to change the constitution”.

Tension between Iran and U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states has been high over Iran’s nuclear energy programme, which Gulf rulers fear will give Tehran a nuclear weapon and increase its prestige among ordinary Arabs as a regional leader.

In Kuwait, the Foreign Ministry summoned Iran’s ambassador on Monday over the arrest of two Kuwaitis whom Tehran had said were detained with “spying equipment”, Kuwaiti state media said.

Kuwait’s journalists association said they had entered Iran legally to prepare a TV programme.

Category:Published articles - 2011 | Comment (0) | Autor: