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Monday, August 5, 2013



Dedicated to the background of contemporary events around the world. 


IN BRIEF: Moderate on dialogue with the West and armed with a cabinet of old reformers,  Rowhani is nevertheless tough on nuclear issues and has a record of crushing student protests in 1999.


(see below for RELEVANT DATES for Hassan Rowhani taking office as president of Iran.)


  -since 1907- Iran had prime ministers, an office which, after the revolution of 1979 existed alongside the new presidency until it was abolished in 1989 leaving the president the sole secular political authority.
-Prime Minister Mossadegh (1951-1953) was probably the greatest, most powerful and most independent head of state in Iranian history.
-Iran' first post-revolution election was held in 1980 and elected Bani  Sadr President.
-the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, was the Iran's second elected president in 1981; he held two terms until 1985. 
1989- August - Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, a reformer is sworn in as the new president.
1991- the 12 members of the Council of Guardians are given the role of choosing or disqualifying candidates for the presidential or the parliamentary elections.
1997- Rafsanjani is defeated in elections by Muhammed Khatemi, another reformer.
2009- after the June 12 presidential election, opposition reform candidate Ali Hosseini and others lead mass protests against Ahmadinejad's claim of victory in a massively rigged election. Security forces kill 30 and arrest 1,000. Iran blames the west, particularly Britain, for provoking the arrest.

In 1951 Britian was still an influential power in Iran when am ultra nationialst prime minister, Mohammed Mossadiq, challenged the outside world by nationalizing Iran's oil production once and for all.

The dream of a new Iran died when the British and the CIA worked in concert to protect their oil interests by staging a coup, removing Mossadiq from power and then backing the young Shah Pahlavi, son of Reza, as their tool. When Pahlavi was overthrown in 1979 and Iran fell under the iron rule of a clerical, Shia theocracy, British and all other foreign influence inside the country came to an end.

But so did all hopes of Democratic government as Iran was transformed into a theocracy, in which the president's power is limited and carefully circumscribed. He can open debate and influence policy, but all the important decisions are reserved by the Supreme Leader and the Council of Guardians.

Between 1989 and 2005, the moderate  presidencies of Rafsanjani and Khatemi saw a slow and difficult move toward reform.

The election of President Ahmadinejad in 2005 put an end to all tendencies toward reform within the government.

In June 2009, Ahmadinejad's re-election was met with mass demonstrations protesting widespread fraud. Security forces killed 30 and detained over 1,000 amid international protest while the government blamed the West, especially Britain for fomenting the the mass street gatherings. Leading opposition candidate Ali Hosseini periodically led the demonstrators. As Ahmadinejad swore in his new cabinet in August, a large number of opposition figures were publicly put on trial for organizing the protests.

RELEVANT DATES for Hassan Rowhani taking office as president of Iran.


Islamic Revolution
1979- Rowhani helps organize Iran's military to stabilize country.
1980- Rowhani elected to Parliament.
1980-1983- Rowhani appointed to Supervisory Council where he has conflicts with Hashemi Rafsanjani whom he eventually replaces. But Khomeini reappoints Rasfanjani to SC.

1982-1989- Rowhani holds various high positions in the military for which he receives a high decoration.

Death of Khomeni
1989- Khomeini dies. After a power struggle, another cleric, Hashemi Rafsanjani becomes speaker of the Majlis and Ayatollah Khamenei replaces Khomeini.
1989-2005- Rowhani is first secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.

President Rafsanjani
1989- August - Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani is sworn in as the new president.
1991- Rowhani appointed to the Expediency Council  
1993- Rafsanjani’s attempt at the creation of a mixed economy and low oil prices weaken the country’s economy.

Rasfanjani defeated by Khatemi
1997- Rafsanjani is defeated in elections by Muhammed Khatemi, a relative liberal. He brings liberal reforms to the political system.

1997-2005- Khatami President of Iran. 
1997-2005   Hassan Rowhani was Iran's lead nuclear negotiator during Khatami's 1997-2005 administration; he blamed the nezaam (ruling system) of the Islamic Republic for the failure to engage in direct talks with the US. "[Non-negotiation] was the decision and, thus, the US was set aside," he said. When asked directly if it was the US that had in fact taken the first step towards negotiation, Rowhani simply replied, "Yes." This contradicts the prevailing orthodoxy not only in the west, but the official line in Iran as well.-Guardian
1998- January- President Khatami, in an interview on CNN calls for a "a dialogue of civilizations" and expresses admiration for US political traditions. But findamental differences of policy remain unchanged.
1999- After Iran student protests, July 1999  Rowhani, as secretary of Supreme National Security Council, stated in a pro-government rally that "At dusk yesterday we received a decisive revolutionary order to crush mercilessly and monumentally any move of these opportunist elements wherever it may occur. From today our people shall witness how in the arena our law enforcement force . . . shall deal with these opportunists and riotous elements, if they simply dare to show their faces."[48] and led the crackdown. (Wikipedia)
1999- Under Khatemi, Iran holds its first elections.
Reformers Win a Majority.
2000- reformers win a majority in the Majlis.
2001- Khatemi (re) elected president.

Iranian Nuclear Enrichment.
2003- 2005- Rownani is Iran's nuclear negotiator. In addition to building confidence, insisting on Iran's rights, reducing international pressures and the possibility of war, and preventing Iran's case from being reported to the UN Security Council, Iran succeeded in completing its nuclear fuel cycle and took groundbreaking steps.[14]:660–667 However, decisions made by the nuclear team under the leadership of Rowhani were criticized by certain circles in later years. (Wikipedia)  
2003-Sept- the IAEA asks that Iran prove it’s not developing a nuclear weapons program.
2004- April-September- radical, nationalist Shia militia leader, Moqtada al Sadr launches two rebellions, with Iranian support, against the US occupation.
2004- June- the IAEA criticizes Iran for its failure to cooperate with inspections.
November- the European Union gets Iran to agree to a deal to suspend its nuclear enrichment program.


President Ahmedinejad.
2005- Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wins the presidency, defeating Hashemi Rafsanjani.
August- Iran resumes converting uranium at Isfahan, insisting it’s for peaceful purposes. But the IAEA syas that Iran is violating the Non-proliferation treaty.
-after Ahmadinejad is elected, Rowhani, seeing little hope of working with the new president, resigns his post at Supereme Security Council.
2006- Rowhani elected from Tehran district to the Assembly of Experts.
2006- January- at its Natanz nuclear plant, Iran breaks seals placed on equipment by the IAEA.
February- As Iran resumes nuclear enrichment at Natanz, the IAEA votes to report the violations to the UN Security Council.
April- Iran claims to be enriching Uranium at natanz.
July 31- the UN Security Council demands that Iran suspend its nuclear activities.
Aug. 31- the deadline set by the Security Council for Iran to stop its uranium enrichment activities.
Dec 23- the UN security council approves the impostion of sanctions on Iran in nuclear.
Technology and trade. Iran continues enriching uranium.

Iran Continues Uranian Enrichment.
2007-April- Ahmedinejad announces increased, industrial scale of uranium production. IAEA says that Iran has 1,300 centrifuges.
May- IAEA declares that Iran would need only 3-8 years to produce a nuclear weapon.

Many Opposition Candidates Barred from Parliamentary Elections.
2008 -parliamentary elections return a 2/3 majority of conservatives, with many reform candidates barred from running. Moderate conservatives embarrassed by Ahmedinejad also win seats.

Khamenei Contradicts Ahmadinejad's Welcome to Obama
2009- February- On the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Ahmadinejad claims he would welcome open and respectful talks with the US.
March- Ayatollah Khameini tells anti-US rally that Obama is merely prolonging the old Bush policy.

Protesters Shot Demonstrating against massive fraud in Ahmadinejad's Election Victory.
2009- after the June 12 presidential election, opposition candidates Ali Hosseini and others lead mass protests against Ahmadinejad's claim of victory in a mssively rigged election. Security forces kill 3o and arrest 1,000. Iran blames the west, particularly Britain, for provoking the arrest

The West Tightens Sanctions over Uranium Enrichment.
2011 November - A report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA says Iran is carrying out research that can only be used to develop a nuclear bomb trigger. Iran rejects the findings as politically motivated.
2012 September - International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) quarterly report says Iran has doubled production capacity at Fordo nuclear site and "significantly hampered" IAEA ability to inspect Parchin military site.
--EU countries announce further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, focusing on banks, trade and crucial gas imports.

Khamenei Refuses Direct Talks on Nuclear Program.
2013 February - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismisses US offer of one-to-one talks on Tehran's nuclear programme
2013 April - Iran says it has begun operations at two uranium mines and a uranium ore-processing plant, furthering its capacity to produce nuclear material. This comes a few days after talks with the West in Kazakhstan fail to make progress.
2013- 16 June- Hassan Rowhani wins presidential elections. 


Iran- 1890-2003

It was the weakness of the Qajar Shahs that opened the way for direct British intervention in Persia. In the mid-nineteenth century the Qajars' heavy borrowing from European powers and the consequent debts encouraged those powers, especially Britain, to take direct control of the matter. The point of etnry was the southern coastline where Britain had naval supremacy. Britain's grand strategy at the time was to protect its colony in India from southward Russian exppansion. To this end Britain had to counter Russia in Afghanistan as well as in Persia. As Russia took more terriory along Persia's northern border, extending its influence into Persia itself, the British replied, in 1892, by giving Persia a loan it couldn;t refuse and then seizing the customs duties in southern Persian seaports as collateral,

In 1907, Britain and Russia agreed to respective zones of influence within Persia, Russia claiming the northern half of the country and Britain the southeast, adjacent to its Indian colony of Balluchistan.

The discovery of oil in the years 1900 to 1910 only intensified British and Russian competition for influence in Persia but the prospect of domestically generated wealth also ignited a strong current of Persian nationalism which burns to this day. With British support, the new constitionalist movement pressured Mossafar al-Din Shah to create a national assembly, which, however, foundered in 1907, in part, due to Russian subversion.

The only thing to survive, it seemed, was the British-dominated Anglo Persian Oil company. With the first World War British supremacy was complete, the Russian revolution having led to the withdrawal of Russian influence in Persia. Now, Britian's Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, saw Persia as the final link in the chain of British colonial power from India to Iraq, to the Mediterranean.
In 1919, a failing Persian ecomomy made it easy for Britain to make Persia a formal British Protectorate. Events today, involving the UN and Iraq were foreshadowed when Persia bridled at the severe resitriction of its influence in peace settlements at the end of the war. Tehran was further threatened when neighbouring Iraq became a British League of nations mandate. And in 1920, the Brtisih in Iraq violently suppressed a Sha-led rebellion in Iraq's south- a region seen by Iran's Shia majority as a sister in spirit.

When, in 1921, the British backed a coup, deposing the Shah in favour of an army officer, Reza Phalavi, they got more than they bargained for. Cleverly, the Reza Pahlavi made himself the new Shah, seized on Iran's new oil-fueled nationalism by renegotiating all foreign oil contracts, incuding that with Anglo-Persian Oil, in Persia's favour. He made a cult celebrating ancient Persian rulers, history and symbols as the spiritual basis for the modern state and empowered his country by playing off foreign rivals, against one another. Finally, he renamed Persia Iran, in memory of its founding Aryan people. In 1925, he made Iran once and for all independent. In 1951 Britian was still an influential power in Iran when am ultra-nationist prime minister, Mohammed Mossadiq, challenged the outside world by nationalzing Iran's oil production once and for all.

The dream of a new Iran died when the British and the CIA worked in concert to protect their oil interests by staging a coup, removing Mossadiq from power and then backing the young Shah Pahlavi, son of Reza, as their tool. When Reza Pahlavi was overthrown in 1979 and Iran fell under the iron rule of a clerical, Shia theocracy, British and all other foreign influence inside the country came to an end.

When the British returned to the region in 2003 by taking part in the American invasion of neighbouring Iraq and occupying Iraq's Shia south , it could only bring back bad memories of the British-led repression of a Shia-led revolt there in 1920.- And the patrolling of British ships in the Persian Gulf could only recall Britain's naval supremacy in Persian waters in the 19th century.

In August of 2005, Iran resumed converting uranium at Isfahan, insisting it was for peaceful purposes. But the IAEA declared that Iran was violating the Non-proliferation treaty. In January, 2006, Iran further dug in its heels by breaking seals placed on equipment by the IAEA on the Natanz nuclear power plant. After further violations, on July 31, the UN Security Council demanded that Iran suspend its nuclear activities. After Iran ignored an August 31 deadline, the UN approved the imposition of sanctions on
December 23.

In February-March, 2007 after further Iranian intransigence over its uranium enrichment the international committee took further measures. It is now suspected that Iran had in fact lost a game of brinksmanship in the nuclear negotiations and may have seized the British sailors as a distraction, if not to save face. A further humiliation may have been the American capture of 5 Iranian Revolutionary Guard members.

Iran extended its defiance to the international community in April, 2007, announcing a massive expansion of its nuclear program with the IAEA estimating that Iran could make a nuclear explosive in three to eight years. Despite Iran's grudging assent to some nuclear inspections, the United States responded by tightening sanctions in October. But American intelligence sent a coontradictory message that Iran's nuclear weapons development had been overestimated.

The new year, 2008, saw a visit to Iraq by Ahmadinejad where he signed agreements to help rebuild the shattered country. The clerics in Terhan, meanwhile, kept a firm grip on power with a 2/3 majority of conservatives returned in parliamentary elections with many reform candidates disqualified from running. In the spring, the UN tightened sanctions on Iran while the IAEA insisted Iran was concealing parts of its nuclear program. Throughout the summer, Iran defied incentives and sanctions from Europe and the United States as it pressed ahead with what many believe is a nuclear weapons program.

A false warming in relations ensued in November as Ahmedinejad congratulated Barak Obama's election as US President. Indeed, in March, 2009 Supreme Leader Khamenei accused Obama of continuing the old Bush policy toward Teheran. However, there might have been a faint gesture to the contrary when Iran released US-Iranian journalist Roxana Sabiri, recently imprisoned for spying.

In June, Ahmadinejad's presidential election victory was met with mass demonstrations protesting widespread fraud. Security forces killed 30 and detained over 1,000 amid international protest while the government blamed the West, especially Britain for fomenting the the mass street gatherings. Leading opposition candidate Ali Hosseini periodically led the demonstrators. As Ahmadinejad swore in his new cabinet in August, a large number of opposition figures were publicly put on trial for organizing the protests.

In September 2009, the focus turned to construction of a uranium plant in Qom which the regime insisted was for peaceful purposes while it tested missiles that could reach US installations in the Persian Gulf as well as Israel. In November, Mohammed El Baredei pressured Iran to accept an offer by western nations to help it enriich uranium abroad. In Teheran, meanwhile, thousands broke a ban on demonstrations by gathering to protest the 30th anniversary of the hostage-taking at the US embassy during the Iranian Revolution.

The end of the year sees the death of the Grand Ayatollah Montazzeri, an important reformist member of Iran's clergy. Demonstrations commemorating the Grand Ayatollah are again met with  violence by the government with eight killed. The crackdown continues in January 2010 with two arrrested in the June demonstrations put to death and others from the continuing demonsrtrations at the end of 2009 put on trial. A prominent physics professor is mysteriously murdered in a bomb blast, with opposition groups claiming he had supported one of their candidates in the June elections.

In February 2010, Iran attempts to show good intentions, claiming it is ready to send unranium abroad for enrichment for non-military purposes and Washington asks Iranian officials to match their words with actions. However tensions continue as the US claims to have evidence that Iran is sending arms to the Taliban and Iran announces another successful series of missile tests. In May Teheran follows through with its February commitment ageeing to ship uranium to Turkey or Brazil for enrichment but US officials remain skeptical that it will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. In June words are backed up by force as the UN Security Council brings down a fourth round of sanctions agains Iran, tightening the arms embargo and financial restrictions.

The focus shifts to human rights in July 2010 with international protest as an Iranian court sentences a woman charged with adultery and murder to death by stoning. Later in the month Brazil offers her asylum.

Iran claims significant progress in it nuclear program in August as its Bushehr nuclear plant is loaded with fuel, with Russia agreeing to provide more fuel in theory bringing the program closer to weapons capability. In September Washington, after perceiving that Iran's nuclear fuel swap and with Turkey and the latter's financial assistance are helping Iran to avoid sanctions, orders Turkey to desist with a threat to cancel a major arms deal.

IRAN- 1560-1907-
The British were able to build on commercial links with Persia ever since the establishment of a British overland trade route in 1561. In the second half of the eighteenth century, Britain further established factories in Persia at Bushire and at Basra, respectively on the east side and at the head of the Persian Gulf (not far from where the British sailors were seised by Iran in 2007) British attention was more forcefully turned to Persia in 1798 by Napoleon's Egyptian campaign by which the French hoped to challenge British dominance in India and the Indian ocean. Britian's first step in protecting India was to induce Persia to attack Afghanistan which was trying to establish its own empire in the region.

In the same year, Persia's modern histroy began with the rise to power of the Qajar Shahs whose long decline would, for more than a century, be accompanied by the increasing influence of foreign powers, particularly Britain. In 1800, Britian ratified an alliance with Persia by which Persia and India were assured mutual protection from outside powers such as Russia and France. This, of course was more to English than Persian advantage. In 1806, France responded to the British initiative by signing an agreement with Persia and sending a mission to train the Persian army. In 1814, at the wane of the Napoleonic wars, the victorious Brtisih responded in turn by signing an Anglo-Persian pact which forced Persia to abolish any treaties with European powers hostile to Britain.

Britain further flexed its muscles in the region by controlling neighbouring Afghanistan and when the Persians asserted a historic claim to the east Persian city of Herat, Britain stopped them, retaking it on behalf of the Afghans. British resolve around Persia increased after Russia seized control of the Caspian Sea and regions to the east and to the west in Persia's northern marches.

Persia was finally and effectively hemmed in on the east when she tried again to seize Herat in 1856. The British declared war, forcing Persia to recognize Afghan indepence in 1857. Heavy borrowing by the Qajar Shahs further weakened Persia, leaving it increasingly to the mercy of British and Russian territorial ambitions. Russia, after all, was looking for a southeen Port and Britain wanted both Afghanistan and Persia as buffers to protect her Indian colony from Russian expansion. By poviding loans and development, Brtiain gained further control over Persia The discovery of oil in Persia, which hadn't the means to exploit it, put an end to any vestige of autonomy. But if foreign, mostly British, interests won concessions on Persian oil, the new resource also sparked intense nationalism. With nationalism came pressures for parliamentary government, granted by the Shah in 1907.

CROSS-CENTURY SUMMARY: The history of Iran can be seen, if figuratively, as a series of successive movements of liberation, each with a claim to Iranian, or 'Aryan' identity on the Iranian plateau: an identity defended from misrule from within and from ambitons without: an identity seen to be dinstinct from the Graeco-Romans and Arabs to the west, the peoples of India to the East and the Mongols and Turks to the north. Hence, we have the Medes rescuing the peoples of the plateau from the Assyrians, the Achaeminids releasing Iran from the Medes, the Parthians rescuing it from the Achaeminids, the Achaeminids crumbling before the Greek Seleucids, the native Parthians throwing out the Seleucids and then holding back the Roman Empire for four centuries. Pressures from within and without caused the Parthian rule to collapse and be replaced, again from within, by the Sassanids. Pressure by Byzantium and by Islamic conquest from Arabia ended Sassinid rule and Iran is further subjected to domination by the Mongols and Turks in the 13th and 14th centuries. In the 16th century a Persian, if Islamic revival was brought about by the Safavids whose adoption of Shiism in the face of a Sunni majority in the Islamic world, would contribute to the revivial of an Iranian exceptionalism. Safavid rule is seen to represent the apogee of Persian culture. It ended in the early eighteenth century when it was supplanted by an Afghan dynasty. The late eighteenth century saw a brief revival under the Zands. The Qajars who succeeded them were the last traditional Persian dynasty.
The weakness of the Qajars throughout the 19th and early 20th century led to Persia's subjugation by foreign territorial and colonial interests. It seems inevitable that Iran would sooner or later attempt to rescue and to defend an ancient sense of identity dating back to the expulsion of the Assyrians by the Medes from the Iranian plateau. The assertion and revivial of 'Iran' arrrived rather paradoxically with a British-backed coup overthrowing the Qajars. The new Shah Pahlavi turned on his colonialist allies and created a new Iranian nationalism which recalaimed its pre-Islamic history. The discovery of oil and its gradual nationalization gave economic power to a reborn Iranian identity. With history and oil wealth being recovered, the replacement of the Pahalvi dynasty with a Shia revolution restored the religious component.
Meanwhile, Israeli, American and British foreign policy and the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq have only served to strengthen the Iranian revivial and to encourage Iran's intransigence in its pursuit of neculear dominance in the region.

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