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Monday, April 20, 2009

Why is Ahmadinejad interfering in the Roxana Saberi case?

The New York Times reports that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has asked an Iranian prosecutor to re-examine the case of Roxana Saberi, who was sentenced to eight years in Evin prison in Tehran last week.
In Mr. Ahmadinejad’s letter, he urged Tehran’s prosecutor general, Saeed Mortazavi, to examine the cases fairly, the official IRNA news agency reported. Although the court’s workings are secret, Mr. Mortazavi, known as a hard-line conservative, would be the one to at least oversee the prosecution of both cases.

The letter was written by the president’s chief of staff, Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, on behalf of the president, who left Tehran for Geneva on Sunday to attend the United Nations conference on racism.

“At the president’s insistence, you must do what is needed to secure justice and fairness in examining these charges,” the letter said, IRNA reported. “Take care that the defendants have all the legal freedoms and rights to defend themselves against the charges and none of their rights are violated.”

Iran’s president has no direct authority over the courts — the Constitution prescribes separation of powers — and it was not clear what effect his letter would have.
The interesting question is why Ahmadinejad would interfere in Saberi's case. The Times raises a number of possibilities.
Mr. Ahmadinejad, who will be attending an international conference on racism on Monday and is expected to seek re-election in June, may be seeking to cast himself as a defender of human rights, analysts said. He may also be trying to prevent radical forces from sabotaging a possible reconciliation between Iran and the United States.


Analysts here suggested the letter’s intent may have been to stake out a political position before the June 12 election, where he would face liberal opposition and may want to inoculate himself against criticism on the human rights front.

One analyst, Alireza Rajaee, said that he might be looking past the election to a possible bid to improve relations with the United States. In a conciliatory speech last week, responding to overtures by Mr. Obama, he said that Iran would welcome change by the United States.

“He wants to present himself as a man eligible for international talks and also dialogue with the United States,” Mr. Rajaee said. “He is confident that he will win another term and wants to send a positive signal inside the country and to make sure that talks with Washington will proceed.”
Debbie Schlussel has a very different take on Saberi, which may raise some other possibilities as to why Ahmadinejad may be trying to help her.
Roxana Saberi made her career as an apologist for Iran in her gushing reports for BBC, NPR (National Public Radio a/k/a National "Palestinian" Radio), and other media outlets for whom she freelanced over how "liberal" the country is. One of those pandering reports, ironically, was from a soccer match, where others of her gender are not allowed to attend and are sent to jail when they do. But not her. She was privileged in Iran and used that privilege as a platform to be a blatant sop. But she used her privileged position to promote the country endlessly and unapologetically. And now that she's been arrested and tried, it's poetic justice at its finest.

While Ms. Saberi could travel to and from Iran at will, hundreds of Iranian Jews are still not allowed to leave. When one of them does leave, his/her family members are held hostage by the government of Iran, until they return. Instead of covering things like this, Ms. Saberi painted a picture of Iran as Candyland, where everything's coming up lollipops and gum drops. Even her father, Reza Saberti of Fargo, acknowledged, she's "only used her position to promote this country [Iran]. For this woman, I'm supposed to be concerned? Whatever she gets, she deserves. Maybe her story will teach other far-left reporters that apologizing for Iran won't protect you, even in Iran.
There are two problems with viewing Ahmadinejad's effort to assist Saberi as trying to help someone who has promoted a positive image of Iran abroad. First, if Saberi is so good for Iran, why was she arrested in the first place? And second, why did Ahmadinejad also ask the court to examine the case of Iranian-Canadian Hossein Derakhshan, a blogger who has been jailed since November without any official charges.
Mr. Derakhshan, a high-profile blogger, traveled to Israel in 2007 and had written about it on his blog. In November, a Web site affiliated with the Intelligence Ministry reported that he had been accused of spying for Israel, but no formal charges have been reported.
Here are my guesses. Ahmadinejad is trying to improve his image abroad. He will ultimately get Saberi released - her usefulness to Iran may have come to an end, or she may just want a graceful way to return to America. For all we know, she may even be in on the game. And Ahmadinejad will score brownie points with Obama that will allow him to continue developing nuclear weapons.

Derakhshan is a cover to make Ahmadinejad look good and to make it look like Saberi is less of a special case. Derakhshan will remain in jail. He will eventually stand trial on some trumped up charge of spying for Israel.


At 9:40 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Agreed, Carl. Even though the Americans know Ahmedinejad is evil, they will still seek to do business with the country he represents. Don't let any one tell you morality has a bearing on statecraft. For the Swiss, it didn't. For the Americans, it will be no different after Durban II ends at the close of the week.

At 12:48 AM, Blogger blah said...

Where do the quotations end? I highly doubt her father said what this article claims he said, all four sentences, and if he did say those things, I'd like to know. Please correct the article....

Even her father, Reza Saberti of Fargo, acknowledged, she's "only used her position to promote this country [Iran]. For this woman, I'm supposed to be concerned? Whatever she gets, she deserves. Maybe her story will teach other far-left reporters that apologizing for Iran won't protect you, even in Iran.

Careful blogger!

At 12:55 AM, Blogger Christie Schmidt said...

I think that we need to look at the overall picture and save the life of this woman before we go second guessing motives. http://www.newsy.com/videos/jailed_journalist_shakes_up_u_s_iran_dialogue/ has coverage where Saberi's mother talks. It's heartbreaking and is a reminder that we need to get this girl home above anything else.

At 12:26 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


That quote didn't come from my blog - I was quoting Debbie Schlussel. That should have been obvious from the indentation.

And although she did not close the quotes, it should be obvious that the close-quote should come after "[Iran]."

But why don't you take that up with her instead of attacking me.

Christine M,

I'm not in the US, but at what price?

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