RADIO FREE EUROPE/ RADIO LIBERTY
RFE/RL Iran Report
A Weekly Review of Developments in and Pertaining to Iran
IRAN COMMEMORATES 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF WAR WITH IRAQ. A military parade marking the beginning of Holy Defense Week, which commemorates the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, took place in Tehran on 22 September, state television reported. Hardware on display included: Mobarez, Zolfaqar, and T-72 tanks; M-113 and BMP-2 armored personnel carriers; and artillery pieces. The missiles on display included: Hawk, Shihab-3, Tondar-69, Zelzal-1 and -2, as well as antiship and antiarmor missiles. Among the personnel participating in the parade were handicapped veterans, a brass band, cadets, paratroopers, commandos, military police, air-force personnel, and sailors, as well as Revolutionary Guards from infantry, naval, and armored units. Basij members also participated in the parade.
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad gave a speech before the parade began, state television reported. Twenty-five years ago, he said, "a front comprised of arrogant powers and some of the regional countries started the most widespread attack on the Iranian nation." Iran, he said "humiliated and embarrassed its enemies." Ahmadinejad said Iran wants friendly relations with other countries, and history shows a powerful Iran is the "best friend" of its neighbors and the region. Those who test Iran should know that "the flames of the Iranian nation's wrath are very destructive." He attributed continuing insecurity in Iraq to its occupation, adding, "We want a popular government, security and peace to be established in oppressed Iraq and we want the occupation to end so that the way is paved for progress and development." Ahmadinejad also called for the departure of foreign forces from the Caspian Sea. (Bill Samii)
HARD TO PIN BLAME FOR MOST RECENT IRAQ VIOLENCE. Holy Defense Week, Iran's annual commemoration of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, began on 22 September. The first day featured a military parade marking the armed forces' role in protecting the country from former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's aggression. As Iran marks the end of one conflict involving Iraq, it faces accusations of contributing to an ongoing one. The situation in Iraq is so convoluted at the moment that blaming just one party does little to clarify or resolve the situation.
Tensions In The South
British officials believe Iran is behind increasing violence in southern Iraq, London's "The Times" reported on 20 September. The report connected violence in Al-Basrah the previous day with the arrest by British military personnel of leading figures in the Imam Al-Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The report went on to link Iran's purported actions against the British with London's toughening stance on the Iranian nuclear program.
Asked if he believes Iran is behind tension in southern Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on 20 September: "Iran has been busy in southern Iraq for years and years and years," voa.com reported. "They've sent pilgrims back and forth across that border into those Shi'ite holy sites on a regular basis. The borders are porous." Rumsfeld was not certain about an Iranian role in the previous day's incidents, but he added, "They're interested, they're involved, and they're active." Rumsfeld continued: "And it's not helpful. You know, you can overplay your hand."
Speakers at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on 14 September also discussed the Iranian role in Iraq (see http://www.usip.org/events/2005/0914_rahimi.html). Ken Pollack, the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said the establishment of safe houses and networks are just some of the suspicious Iranian activities in Iraq. Another speaker, USIP senior fellow Babak Rahimi, noted that by dint of proximity it would not be difficult for Iran to interfere in southern Iraq. These two, as well as the Nixon Center's Geoffrey Kemp and Georgetown University's Daniel Brumberg, concurred that Iran is very sensitive to Iraqi affairs and U.S. actions there. However, none of them described how extensive Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs might be at the moment.
There is little question of an active Iranian presence in southern Iraq specifically or of Iranian involvement in its neighbor's affairs since at least March 2003. Tehran's stand towards events in Iraq has developed against a backdrop of continuing hostility to what it perceives as its greatest enemy -- the United States. Iran also is faced with the possibility of Kurdish autonomy and being surpassed by Iraq as the center of Shi'a Islam (see also "The Nearest and Dearest Enemy -- Iran after the Iraq War," http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2005/issue3/jv9no3a3.html.)
Tehran Blames Washington
Tehran rejects links with the violence in Iraq and attributes it to the United States. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 21 September, "Publishing such reports is aimed at concealing the incapability of the occupying forces in restoring security to Iraq," the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. If anything, Assefi said, Iran has contributed to stability in Iraq by working with the central government and other parties.
The day before, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani told a Tehran press conference that Iran has tried to bring stability to Iraq, state television reported. Larijani, like Assefi, pinned the blame on the United States. He said, "We believe that the occupation of Iraq and the bases they are setting up there and their humiliating behavior towards the Iraqi people have resulted in an extreme reaction."
The 14 September bombings in Baghdad, which killed hundreds of people, also were blamed on the United States. Guardians Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said in his 16 September Friday-prayers sermon in Tehran that the violence is harmful to all Muslims and all Iraqis, state radio reported. He went on to say that the United States has more plots for the region and is "constantly causing insecurity." Jannati claimed, "They want to poison the minds of the Shi'ia that the Sunnis are behind these incidents. They want to create discord and distrust among Shi'a and Sunnis. They have various political objectives with these tensions and killings."
Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini-Najafabadi said in his 16 September Friday-prayer sermon in Qom that the people responsible for the bombings are targeting Shi'a and are "knowingly or unknowingly" harming Iraq, state television reported on 17 September. He explained: "Apparently there are certain hands which want to put the Iraqi people against each other. The aim is in fact to rationalize the foreign occupation. Obviously when the country is not safe, the occupiers have the pretext that 'if we leave, the country will fall apart, Iraq will fall apart.' This is the pretext for remaining." He added: "The main responsibility for all these crimes lies with the aggressors, led by America and Israel. They entered Iraq with the excuse that they want to bring security and justice. Is this security?"
A Difficult Situation
The situation in Iraq is so complex at the moment that to attribute the violence to just one or two actors would be woefully simplistic. Several reports on 21 September in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Guardian," the "Financial Times," and "The Christian Science Monitor" carry interviews with experts from across the political spectrum, as well as diplomats and locals, who note that Shi'ite militias -- most notably the Badr Corps and the Al-Mahdi Army -- are active in the south and have infiltrated the police and other institutions. Therefore, the primary loyalty of individuals in the security agencies and local government is to these Shi'ite organizations. An anonymous Baghdad-based "Western diplomat" told "The Guardian" after a visit to Al-Basrah that the militias are involved with smuggling, as well. Moreover, there are rivalries between the different Shi'ite militias. A clash occurred in Al-Najaf in August when the Al-Mahdi Army tried to reopen its office in the city (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 26 August 2005).
The Sunni-Shi'a rift is widening, too. Fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's 14 September declaration of war on Shi'a came on the heels of his July announcement that the newly established Umar Brigade's sole function is to kill Badr Corps personnel (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 August and 19 September 2005). Other Sunni groups, including the Ansar Al-Sunnah Army and the Victorious Sect Army, claim to have killed Badr Corps personnel.
Resolution of the tense situation in Iraq through the give-and-take of civilized political discourse is possible and is clearly the desire of most Iraqis. Bringing about an atmosphere in which this dialogue can take place requires the elimination or at least neutralization of extremists like al-Zarqawi and his followers. (Bill Samii)
TEHRAN DENIES ROLE IN IRAQI UNREST. Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari said on 22 September in London that he is unaware of Iranian involvement in recent violence in Al-Basrah, Al-Alam television reported. In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said British allegations of Iranian involvement in the Iraqi unrest are "categorically baseless" and "superficial," IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)
IRAN TO GET ANOTHER PASS FROM IAEA. The governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began a meeting on the Iranian and Korean nuclear cases on 19 September, just two days after Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad delivered his nuclear proposal to the UN General Assembly (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 20 September 2005). Disappointed statements from French and British officials and others from American ones suggested that the Iranian case might be referred to the UN Security Council, which could lead to a range of sanctions. By the end of the week, however, it became clear that action on the issue will be postponed for a few more months.
Ahmadinejad's proposal did not impress French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, AFP reported on 17 September. He said, "What I heard today obliges me to say that the option of the International Atomic Energy Agency report to the United Nations is still on the agenda." Douste-Blazy noted that Ahmadinejad is ignoring the concerns of the international community. Douste-Blazy said Paris does not oppose Iran's having a civilian nuclear program, but "our position is still firm: Iran must not develop the sensitive parts of the [nuclear] process. This would enable it to produce fissile materials."
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described the Iranian measure as "unhelpful and disappointing," "The Guardian" reported on 19 September. Washington is organizing a meeting of senior U.S. officials and their counterparts from France, Germany, and Great Britain to consider their next step, the daily added.
An anonymous "Western diplomat" told AFP on 19 January that France, Great Britain, and Germany are distributing a draft resolution at the IAEA meeting in Vienna that calls for Iran to be reported to the Security Council. The diplomat said the process is informal so far and the resolution will be formalized only after consultation with members of the IAEA's governing board.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a 19 June interview with "Time" magazine that Washington believes Iran should have been referred to the Security Council "some time ago." The reason to refer Iran to the council is that it engaged in uranium-enrichment activities, which is permitted under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), without disclosing them or allowing their monitoring, which are NPT requirements. Rice indicated that most of the IAEA governing board's members would support a resolution referring Iran to the Security Council. According to "Time," however, China, Russia, and some less-developed countries on the board would like to give Iran more time to comply with its NPT obligations.
U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Gregory Schulte said in an exclusive interview with Radio Farda on 20 September that the time to refer the Iranian nuclear dossier to the Security Council is overdue. He noted that IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei has said questions about the Iranian program remain, and negotiations between Tehran and the EU-3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) have gotten nowhere. Instead of confidence building, he told Radio Farda, Iran has destroyed confidence.
Ahmadinejad's comments at the UN General Assembly were not only unconstructive and worrisome for the international community, Schulte told Radio Farda, but they should worry the Iranian people as well. That is because the European proposal made in July was good for Iran, would have given it access to peaceful nuclear technology, and would have helped the Iranian economy. "But Iran's leaders did not accept this proposal," he said (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 9 August 2005).
The EU-3 withdrew on 22 September a slightly amended draft resolution that would have referred Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions in the future, instead of immediately, Reuters reported. The EU-3 and the United States want Iran taken before the Security Council due to its inadequate cooperation with the IAEA and its history of clandestine nuclear activities. Moscow and Beijing, which have veto power in the council, and other less-developed countries, opposed the harsher resolution. "We are decisively opposed to an artificial exacerbation of the situation, including the transfer of the question to the UN Security Council," Russian Ambassador to the IAEA Grigorii Berdennikov said according to Reuters on 22 September.
In the face of this opposition, RFE/RL reported, the Europeans have opted for continued negotiations until the next IAEA meeting in November. Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Mohammad Mehdi Akhundzadeh said in Vienna, "There is no consensus whatever to [refer Iran to the Security Council], and I believe that that's a message, that if there is to be a solution, that it is to be through a consensus." (Bill Samii)
TEHRAN HANGS TOUGH ON NUCLEAR ISSUE. Members of the Iranian executive and legislative branches remained defiant when faced with the possibility of being referred to the UN Security Council. "Our stance will not change," President Ahmadinejad said in a 19 September interview with Iranian state television when asked about the possibility of referral to the UN Security Council over his country's nuclear program. He predicted that there will be no sanctions. Ahmadinejad implied -- in an interview with "Time" magazine that appeared on its website on 17 September -- that Iran might deny access to international nuclear inspectors or manipulate international oil supplies.
Parliamentarian Alaedin Borujerdi said in a state television roundtable on 18 September that Iran's "aggressive policy" is very effective. Borujerdi said the United States should abide by the NPT and stop bullying other countries. If the issue is referred to the Security Council, Borujerdi said, Iran will close its doors to IAEA inspectors. He added that activities at the Natanz enrichment facility could begin. Borujerdi encouraged the Europeans to negotiate with Iran.
Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani said in a 20 September press conference broadcast on state television that the United States and occasionally the IAEA are not standing by the articles of the NPT. Larijani said the treaty allows for the peaceful use of nuclear technology for power production. He said Iran has not violated any laws in developing its nuclear program, has never sought nuclear weapons, and has been very cooperative with the IAEA. He said Iran is willing to continue negotiations with European countries. He advised against bullying Iran and said North Korea withdrew from the NPT because of the pressure it faced. Larijani stressed that Iran has a right to develop nuclear technology and it refuses to be treated like a second-class country. If Iran is referred to the Security Council, Larijani said, it will reconsider its accession to the Additional Protocol of the NPT and will not "harbor any doubt on resuming enrichment."
Vice President for Atomic Energy Gholamreza Aqazadeh-Khoi said in Vienna on 21 September that Iran does not plan to leave the NPT and the country remains committed to its obligations, IRNA reported. Aqazadeh-Khoi said he briefed members of the Nonaligned Movement on Tehran's discussions with the EU-3 (Germany, Great Britain, and France) earlier in the week. "These explanations were necessary and my sense was that they will have an important impact on the decision making at the current meeting of the board of governors."
Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, who was in New York to participate in a meeting of Nonaligned Movement foreign ministers, said on 21 September that Iran has gone far in trying to build international confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, IRNA reported. "We have adopted a whole range of measures, including signing and implementing the additional protocol, voluntarily suspending enrichment activities for nearly two years, and facilitating for the IAEA to carry out around 1,200 [man/days of] inspection on our facilities," he said. He went on to say that Iran is willing to continue its cooperation, but it refuses to give up its perceived right to operate a nuclear fuel cycle.
Islamabad-i Gharb parliamentary representative Heshmatollah Falahat-Pisheh, who serves on the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said on 21 September that Iran should continue with its nuclear program and argued against conceding anything in negotiations, the Mehr news agency reported. He complained that "the IAEA has been turned into an office for monopolistic activities," adding, "We are witnessing a political power game in the IAEA board of governors and therefore it is unlikely that [Iran's plan] will be accepted."
Another legislator, Hussein Nejabat, said on 21 September that Iran has complied with its NPT obligations and could pull out of the treaty if it is referred to the UN Security Council, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. He criticized Iran's voluntary suspension of nuclear activities. If Iran leaves the NPT uranium conversion and enrichment would take place at facilities in Isfahan and Natanz, respectively.
Hard-line Karaj parliamentary representative Rashid Jalali said on 20 September that nobody will benefit if Iran is referred to the UN Security Council, "Iran" reported. He thought it unlikely that Iran will be referred to the council but acceded that a resolution might be forthcoming. He added, "Nothing unusual will occur when Iran's case is referred to the UN Security Council, because we are a signatory of the NPT and they cannot go beyond the treaty and take action against Iran." Jalali went on to say that Europe and the United States do not want Iran to have access to the fuel cycle and they are trying to "initiate a new political movement against Iran." (Bill Samii)
LITTLE SAID ABOUT SAFETY OF IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM. As the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-member board of governors contemplates the Iranian nuclear program this week, the United States -- and reportedly, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom -- are calling for Iran's referral to the UN Security Council.
President Ahmadinejad threatened in a 19 September interview with Iranian state television that Tehran would take unspecific actions should the case go to the Security Council. In a 17 September interview with "Time," Ahmadinejad hinted at denial of access to international nuclear inspectors or the reduction of oil supplies.
While the international community considers issues such as the extent of Iran's cooperation with the IAEA and the possibility that the country is trying to develop nuclear weapons, the safety of the Iranian nuclear program has gotten less notice. Any accidents at the nuclear reactor being built in Bushehr in southwestern Iran could have an international impact, and the issue therefore deserves international attention.
IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei said in his opening remarks at a 6-7 September conference in Vienna marking the nuclear disaster in Chornobyl: "The first lesson that emerged from Chernobyl was the direct relevance of international cooperation to nuclear safety. The accident revealed a sharp disparity in nuclear design and operational safety standards. It also made clear that nuclear and radiological risks transcend national borders -- that 'an accident anywhere is an accident everywhere'" (for the full text, see http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Statements/2005/ebsp2005n008.html).
At least two of Iran's neighbors -- Kuwait and Saudi Arabia -- have already expressed their concerns about safety issues. When Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani, who was secretary of the Supreme National Security Council at the time, visited Kuwait and other Persian Gulf states in June it was to assuage these countries' fears, "Sharq" reported on 7 June.
Rohani said at the time, "I also made clear to our Kuwaiti brethren that Iran's peaceful nuclear programs would be fully run under the close supervision of the [IAEA], and therefore, they should not be the source of any fear for the regional, or international circles," the IRNA reported on 7 June.
Iran awarded the Bushehr safety contract -- worth some $20 million -- to the Bezopasnost (Safety) enterprise of Rostekhnadzor, Russia's Federal Service for Environmental, Technological, and Nuclear Oversight, "Sharq" reported on 19 April.
"Kuwait's or Saudi's concern over the safety of the Bushehr nuclear plant is understandable, because the Russians don't have such a stellar track record and reputation in nuclear safety around the world," Najmedin Meshkati, a professor of civil/environmental engineering and industrial and systems engineering at the University of Southern California and an international nuclear safety expert, told Radio Farda. "We -- Iranians -- are also aware of these facts, and that's why we should try to get other qualified safety-related service and technology provider companies from Europe and the United States to participate in Bushehr." Meshkati told Radio Farda that this is the only logical way Iran can convince its neighbors that the Bushehr facility is as safe as a Western one.
Meshkati stressed that experts working at Iran's Atomic Energy Organization are competent, but nuclear power plant safety is complex and multifaceted. Therefore, he said, several companies with expertise and knowledge in different areas should complement each other. "How can they put all their eggs in one basket?" Meshkati asked. "There is no single company that possesses all that needed expertise in-house."
Meshkati asked how an individual Russian company with an unknown history can execute such a big job, adding that independent Western firms should participate in the project so the different companies can cross-check each other. "However, because of sanctions, Iran does not have access to the Western companies that could take care of Bushehr's safety," he said.
The safety issue is so serious, Meshkati said, that it should be kept distinct from political considerations. He said Iran should initiate a parallel line of negotiation for obtaining nuclear-safety-related services and technologies from the West.
Meshkati also expressed concern about the safety culture in general. He noted that culture and an emphasis on secrecy were factors that contributed to the disasters at Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979 and at Chornobyl in the Soviet Union in 1986.
The IAEA And Bushehr
Ken Brockman, IAEA director of nuclear safety and nuclear installation, seems more confident about safety at Bushehr. He told Radio Farda that the Iranians are very involved with their Russian counterparts. He said they have a "long-term vision" of achieving independence in safety. Brockman said he has visited Bushehr "many times" and has seen the Iranian dedication to quality control. He stressed that Iran has the primary responsibility for safety and the Russians are there to provide support in that area.
Brockman went on to explain that the IAEA is involved with the Bushehr project. "We have an active program under technical cooperation and initiative with Iran working both with the operators and with the regulatory body there. There have been numerous peer-review missions." Brockman said experts from other countries come to Bushehr and to the Iranian regulatory agency to ensure that activities there benefit from global expertise. Brockman said the situation at Bushehr is satisfactory. "From my tour there, visiting the plant, I would say I am very comfortable with the commitment that Iran has in that regard recognizing their responsibilities." (Fatemeh Aman, Bill Samii)
IRANIAN DIPLOMAT ARRESTED IN IRAN. Judiciary spokesman and Justice Minister Jamal Karimirad said on 19 September that an Iranian ambassador was arrested four or five days earlier on financial corruption charges, Fars News Agency reported. Karimirad said the amount of money in the case is 16 million euros ($19.2 million) and it is connected with an official who served under former Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi. Karimirad did not identify the individual, and earlier news reports asserted that Cyrus Nasseri, a senior representative to the IAEA, refused to go home to face corruption charges (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 29 August and 12 September 2005). However, Nasseri appeared in photographs of the Iranian delegation at the IAEA meeting in Vienna on 19 September. (Bill Samii)
POLITICAL PRISONERS CASES TO BE REVIEWED. An early September letter from the Association in Defense of Prisoners' Rights to the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, calls for a review of the cases of 34 prisoners, "Aftab-i Yazd" and "Etemad" reported on 18 September. Most of the named individuals are being held for political offenses -- this includes student activists Ahmad Batebi and Manuchehr Mohammadi, as well as Abbas Amir-Entezam. Iran's longest-serving political prisoner, Amir-Entezam was sentenced to life imprisonment in December 1980. "Sharq" reported on 18 September that Hashemi-Shahrudi has ordered an investigation into these cases.
Sohrab Suleimani, the Tehran Province prison chief, said on 17 September that dissident journalist Akbar Ganji's health is improving, the ILNA reported. Ganji recently ended a 70-day hunger strike. Suleimani denied that Ganji is in solitary confinement and said he is in Evin Prison's medical quarantine section, as are several other prisoners. Meanwhile, "Iran News" on 15 September cited the wife of imprisoned lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani as saying that her husband is in a shared cell but is not allowed to make telephone calls or have access to newspapers. Soltani is the attorney for the accused in a case involving nuclear espionage, and he also faces espionage charges. (Bill Samii)
WRANGLE CONTINUES OVER DIPLOMA MILL. In his 16 September Friday-prayer sermon in Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati demanded to know why nothing has been done about the case of the American University in Hawaii. Approximately one year ago, Iranian legal officials reported that the American University of Hawaii, a diploma mill with headquarters in the United States, was issuing degrees that the government did not recognize (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 September 2004).
This institution granted degrees in exchange for the payment of fees, and it did not require class attendance. On 15 September, "Iran" newspaper criticized the judiciary for its failure to take action.
In August, the university case was referred to the judiciary for action. But since then, according to a 7 September "Jomhuri-yi Islami" report, there has been a bureaucratic tie-up. When the case first came to light, Iranian newspapers noted that a number of government and judiciary officials had gotten their credentials from the American University of Hawaii.
Justice Minister and judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad tried to allay in early September any concerns about the possibility of a conflict of interest. According to the "Jomhuri-yi Islami" report, he said, "Some media organs have suggested that since a number of individuals who are currently working in different parts of the judiciary are graduates of that university, the judiciary as a whole does not intend to investigate and process this legal dossier seriously." He continued, "Full investigative and judicial work on this dossier will commence during the coming month."
According to its website, the American University of Hawaii has campuses in 19 countries, and Iran is not the only place where it is having problems. The U.S. state of Hawaii's Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has filed several injunctions against the institution. The founder of the institution, Hassan Safavi, will go on trial in the state on 7 November. The complaint against the institution notes that it is not accredited by any recognized agency or association, is "engaged in the operation of the unaccredited degree-granting institution," and "offered to sell and sold postsecondary degrees."
This is not the only Iranian case involving a diploma mill. When Ali Saidlu was being considered as the prospective oil minister in President Ahmadinejad's government in August, it was revealed that he had received a doctorate in strategic management from Hartford University (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 29 August 2005 ). Hartford University is registered on the Pacific island of Vanuatu and offers degrees in exchange for money, according to "Time" magazine on 5 September.
There are other diploma mills operating in Iran. The Russian Voronezh State University's branch in Iran was fined and closed, and the Eastern Studies Institute, which is affiliated with France's Sorbonne University, was investigated.
The appeal of such institutions reflects a phenomenon called "madrak gerayi," roughly translated as "degree-ism." This phenomenon also is referred to as "credentialism," which is an excessive emphasis on formal educational qualifications in employment. Some see a higher degree as an entree to a higher position and the commensurate increase in salary, benefits, and prestige. Others just want a higher degree to satisfy their egos.
Credentialism and the related problem of diploma mills are not peculiar to Iran. A May 2004 report (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04771t.pdf) by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) found that some U.S. government officials have enhanced their resumes by getting degrees from diploma mills. Such institutions "require no academic work at all and merely sell degrees for a fee." The GAO investigation found that in some cases these institutions structured their charges so the federal government would pay the students' fees.
A second GAO report (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d041096t.pdf) showed that a diploma mill can be created with relative ease. The main requirements for creating a diploma mill are a website, a telephone number, and a post office box.
The outcome of the Iranian case involving the American University of Hawaii is far from obvious. Legal cases in Iran sometimes just fade away without being resolved. But as long as Iranians retain the hope that academic credentials could lead to jobs, when the country is experiencing double-digit unemployment, the problem of credentialism is unlikely to disappear. (Bill Samii)
SUPREME LEADER PROMISES SALVATION. In a speech commemorating the anniversary of the birth of the 12th Imam (Muhammad al-Mahdi), Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said salvation will occur if people wait and do not succumb to despair, "Hamshahri" reported on 21 September. He said the United States tries to fool Islamic countries' officials into believing that they are incapable and must surrender to the United States. Khamenei praised President Ahmadinejad's speech at the UN and said the speech pleased Iranians. "This means that the Iranian nation will not surrender to threats, force, and pressure," he said. (Bill Samii)
Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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