Lebanon: ‘Drill Baby Drill’

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad probably once imagined the first anniversary of his reelection as a pleasant, contagion passing thought, illness perhaps accompanied by an informal drink with his closest aides.

But first anniversaries are often not as festive as their victors would hope, and some analysts predict that when the June 12 anniversary hits, Ahmadinejad will once again be facing a formidable test of his government's legitimacy in the face of a recharged, inspired and defiant opposition movement taking to the streets once again.

The question is whether or not that is going to happen.

Allegations of fraud following last year's highly contentious June elections led to a mass protest movement the likes of which Iran had not seen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Dozens were killed in the unrest and hundreds were wounded.

Despite extensive, organized and well-documented government efforts to repress the ‘Green Movement,' the opposition kept up the momentum for months, far exceeding the expectations of the government, analysts and perhaps even the opposition leaders themselves.

Life in Tehran has to a degree gone back to normal, but the trials, forced ‘confessions' and sentencing of hundreds of arrested protestors throughout the year has kept the protest movement alive, albeit subdued.

Leaflets, banners and graffiti announcing anti-government protests between June 10 and 20 are appearing all over the capital, Tehran.

Yet, Iran's government is not taking any chances.

National police are said to have been preparing for the anniversary for weeks, and most major Iranian cities are believed to already have an enhanced police presence.

“Police will confront any illegal gatherings,” Tehran police chief Hussein Sajedi told Iran’s state-owned Ilna news agency.

In a moved billed by Iran's government as an attempt at reconciliation, last week Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced the release of 81 ‘Green Movement' activists detained over the post-election unrest.

“I expect June 12 not to pass quietly for the Islamic Republic,” Dr Emanuele Ottolenghi, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and author of Under a Mushroom Cloud – Europe, Iran and the Bomb, told The Media Line. “The regime has prepared for this anniversary for a long time now. While the release of detainees could be seen as a gesture, most other actions go in the opposite direction. The recent hanging of Kurdish dissidents was meant to send a powerful signal of intimidation to the opposition. Besides, arrests; harassment; intimidation by proxy (through family members); and closure of reformist publications continue. So does the tightening of governmental censorship on the internet.”

“The opposition has been cornered for some time – but it is doubtful that, after the government outflanked them on the 11 February anniversary of the Revolution, they have not learned some lessons,” he said. “Even if the government has for now succeeded to put a lid on the pressure cooker of the Green Movement, beneath the surface there is a burning rage across the land.”

Hossein Moghtaderi, an Iranian student close to the Green Wave movement, argued that the release of the 81 detainees was a propaganda tactic.

“The Iranian government has been dealing with a serious delegitimization of their power following the June 12th election,” he told The Media Line. “They have been using every possible incident to showcase their ‘good-will, positive Islamic attitude in governance, and religious legitimacy.'”

“Since they cannot by any means justify their violent repression of the people's [right to] peaceful demonstration; the illegal violation of human rights through imprisonment, cases of torture and rape, fake trials and in some cases capital punishment; this act is intended to showcase their good will to the world and their proxies around the world,” he said.

Kianoosh Sanjari, a spokesperson for the Iranian Political Prisoners’ Association, was also dismissive of the detainees' release.

“It's the same old show,” he told The Media Line. “The Supreme Leader wants to portray himself as someone kind and forgiving but the people know better and remember who ordered the mass killings of innocent and peaceful protesters in the streets.”

Sanjari was skeptical that the anniversary protests could amount to much.

“We have to acknowledge the fact that most political activists and journalists are in the prison (under torture and pressure),” he said. “There is absolutely no free media inside of Iran and the people are in a state of shock due to all the recent executions and hangings.”

Potkin Azarmehr, an Iranian blogger supportive of the Green Movement, agreed. “It is unreasonable to expect massive street demonstrations given the current high levels of security and potential crackdown,” he said. “There will be other forms of civil disobedience which may not be that newsworthy for the news editors to report… The plans are to chant from the rooftops the night before — localized street protests — and not turn up to work.”

But Pujan Ziaie, a former strategist for Mehdi Karroubi, a prominent reformist candidate in last year’s presidential campaign, was more reserved in his predictions for next week's anniversary.

“I believe the movement has been suppressed and the time of ‘planned' demonstrations is over,” he told The Media Line. “With the brutality that the regime showed in the last twelve months, I believe the costs of going on the streets is so high that not so many people dare to take the risk.”

“The opposition have two options,” Ziaie said. “First, to count on the spontaneous and surprising demonstrations due to some event like arresting one of the leaders or other provocative actions by the government. This is not a good choice, as it is very hard to control the masses once they are angrily on the street.”

“The second option is to plan to go on a national strike,” he continued. “This needs preparation and demands deep incentives. To be honest, considering that the middle class was the main player in the post-election movements, the opposition has to wait for the underdog to rise.”

Dr Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a lecturer at the University of Tehran, was also dismissive of any potential anniversary action.

“I don’t think that anyone is worried and I don’t think that anything really important will happen on June 12,” he told The Media Line. “The so called Green Movement has been dead for a long time now, except for in Washington, D.C.”

“These people may be able to get a few hundred or at most a couple of thousand people on the streets of Tehran and the western media will try to make a big thing out of it, but the truth is that the Mousavi camp has lost the vast majority of its supporters,” Marandi said, referring to Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the most popular opposition candidate in last years presidential elections. “The fact that Mousavi failed to provide evidence of fraud in the presidential election; that his supporters were often violent; and that he is seen to have effectively aligned himself with foreign-backed groups and even terrorist organizations, has isolated him and his supporters.”

Marandi argued that western media was exaggerating the influence of the protest movement.

“The problem with the western media (and I don’t mean you) is that whatever happens in Iran is somehow interpreted in a negative way,” he said. “If a terrorist is executed, the western media says that it was done to intimidate Mousavi supporters. On the other hand, when jailed rioters are pardoned, the same analysts fail to ask themselves how this fits with the previous interpretation.”
[Jerusalem] The Israeli government has set up a special department to manage the legal claims of Israeli Jews of Middle Eastern descent who lost their property when they left countries throughout the region.

Set up by Israel's Ministry of Pensioners Affairs, this site
the new department will help identify, buy
locate and seek compensation for the assets of the more than one million Jews who came to Israel from Iran, rx Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.

The initiative follows a bill passed earlier this year by the Knesset, Israel's parliament, requiring the compensation of Jews from Arab countries and Iran to be included in any future peace negotiations. The move is seen as an attempt to offset claims resulting from the 1948 expulsion and flight of some 800,000 Palestinians from what became the modern state of Israel in 1948.

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Lebanese leaders are scrambling to pass legislation to govern offshore gas and oil exploration, pathopsychology
following the discoveries of two gigantic natural gas reserves off the coasts of Israel and Lebanon, hospital
two countries in a state of war for decades.

The Lebanese parliament is set to discuss two draft laws that could manage offshore gas and oil exploration on Monday. The two versions of the bill differ over who will control potential revenues from offshore gas and oil discoveries: the President, through the Ministry of Energy and Water, or an independent body.

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