These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 5, 2012.
Sunday, 5 February 2012
'Terror link' pilot who flew 747s for BA can be identified for the first time
From the Mail on Sunday
A Muslim pilot arrested over an alleged terrorist plot involving an aircraft was a senior first officer for British Airways and flew Boeing 747 jets. He can be identified for the first time today as Surrey-born Samir Jamaluddin. The 39-year-old is suing the airline for racial and religious discrimination after losing his job.
He was judged a security risk after his arrest by Scotland Yard counter-terrorism detectives in 2007, and the airline decided it was in the national interest to ensure he never flew again. He was eventually dismissed three years later.
The pilot was unmasked when employment tribunal reporting restrictions were lifted on Friday after 12 days of highly charged evidence, allowing the case’s extraordinary circumstances to be revealed for the first time.
During the case – described as unique and unprecedented – the tribunal heard that BA became increasingly ‘frustrated’ at the previous Labour Government’s failure to act over the issue. In private, the security services and the Department for Transport’s security arm, Transec, backed the airline’s decision to prevent Mr Jamaluddin from flying. But they failed to pursue the matter or support BA officially, even after BA’s former chief executive, Willie Walsh, raised the matter with then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. BA was told the Government was not prepared to instruct the firm to withdraw Mr Jamaluddin’s airside security pass because, at the time, it was ‘particularly sensitive to its handling of terrorist threats’
Tim Steeds, BA’s director of security, accused Transec of ‘sitting on the fence’ and said he too asked the Home Secretary ‘to move things forward’. But help was not forthcoming and the airline was left to resolve the problem alone. ‘They [Transec] were clear they did not want Samir to fly again, but that the decision to allow Samir to fly or not was BA’s,’ said Mr Steeds. ‘We became so frustrated.’
The tribunal heard that at a briefing attended by MI5, MI6 and senior police officers in October 2007, BA was warned that two businessmen wanted to fly a ‘747 by Christmas 2007’ and had paid for lessons upfront in cash. . . . Adam Mohamed, 32, of Chessington, Surrey, and Imad Shoubaki, 35, of Merton, South London – had ‘sought flying lessons in order to achieve a private pilot’s licence as quickly as possible’. Both had been having up to four lessons a day, which the tribunal was told was ‘extremely unusual’. But BA believed they would have had time to learn only to ‘steer a 747 mid-flight, not take off or land’.
The two men were arrested along with Mr Jamaluddin later the same month, after his close links to them were uncovered by police. None of the arrests resulted in convictions, but after conducting two inquiries the airline concluded Mr Jamaluddin was in a ‘position to cause considerable harm’ and should not fly again.
The pilot, a practising Muslim of Indian descent, believes the decision to end his ten-year career was unfair and taken against a background of post-September 11 paranoia and prejudice. In the event, Mr Jamaluddin was arrested over money-laundering offences connected to the alleged terror plot and, much to BA’s relief, the news never became public.
The pilot’s brother, Yakoob Jamaluddin, an active member of the Islamist extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, was questioned over the same offences but never charged. Police then established the first of several links between Mr Jamaluddin and the two men. The first was that his brother Yakoob was in business with Mr Mohamed. The pilot and his brother were arrested on October 23.
Mr Steeds said police told him it ‘seemed as if Samir had been expecting to be arrested’ as they found the name and number of a prominent human rights lawyer who specialises in race discrimination issues punched into his mobile phone. ‘They also informed me that copies of the flight documents previously shown to BA had been found in Samir’s flight bag. I considered it was too much of a coincidence that Samir had documents in his possession which were the same as those found in Mr Shoubaki’s possession, given the links.’
Mr Steeds said he was equally ‘troubled’ by a cheque stub found at Mr Jamaluddin’s house recording a payment of £10,000 to Mr Mohamed. The pilot claimed it was a payment for the rent of a flat, but BA did not find the explanation convincing. Mr Steeds said it was also suspicious that Mr Jamaluddin applied to join pilots’ union Balpa only after Mr Shoubaki and Mr Mohamed were arrested. Again, he said it suggested that Mr Jamaluddin was quite possibly expecting to be caught up in the terror investigation and ‘might need representation’
Explaining the decision to withdraw Mr Jamaluddin’s airside pass, thus ending his BA career, Mr Steeds said: ‘I concluded there was a more than trivial security risk in allowing Samir to operate BA aircraft. I know from many years of working with the Metropolitan Police that releasing an individual without charge does not necessarily mean there are no longer any suspicions. In some instances, the Government’s policy is to disrupt a plot before it reaches its final stages, in the interests of public safety, even if this means that ultimately there is insufficient evidence to prosecute. I was satisfied on the evidence that there was more than a trivial security risk in this case, and therefore I could not be satisfied that Samir was suitable to hold a security pass. My suspicions were not unfounded.’
The hearing continues.
Posted on 02/05/2012 5:13 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 5 February 2012
Britain is Becoming Less Honest
A lot of academic research goes into proving the obvious: in this case that, as a nation, we are much less honest than we used to be.
Researchers at the University of Essex, working at the Centre for the Study of Integrity (a name in itself to make you smile wanly) have discovered that the British are more inclined to cheat, and to believe that cheating is justified, than they did in 2000, only 11 years ago.
Lying, having an affair, buying stolen goods and keeping money you have found are all considered more acceptable than they were a decade ago, say the researchers.
Of course, to say that we are more dishonest than we used to be is not to say that most of us, much less all of us, are dishonest.
Being very absent-minded myself, leaving my things by accident all over the place, I am repeatedly grateful for the honesty of people in returning them to me.
For example, I must have left my mobile phone in taxis half a dozen times, but the drivers have always made efforts, sometimes considerable, to return it to me – without any expectation of reward.
I left a notebook in a taxi not long ago, and it had my address in it. I had expressly written on the cover that the only reward for its return to me in the event of loss would be my thanks. It duly arrived by post.
Such episodes gladden your heart, but alas there are just as many episodes of dishonesty to sadden your heart.
Let me start with a few small things. I go to book a ticket on an airline that is offered, say, for £15.99. Fantastic! But the taxes are £50, luggage is £10, and the total is perhaps £5 less than the cheapest scheduled flight.
In effect, I have been strung along by the impression that I am getting something very cheap; but quite the opposite is true. And then, when I come to pay, they have the gall to charge me for the use of my debit or credit card, when there is no other way to pay.
Recently, I wanted to rent a place in a country town; all of the rental agencies, except one, used a number that charged the caller, without advertising that they did so. This is not illegal, perhaps, but it is dishonest.
Perhaps the most astonishing example of this kind of institutionalised spivvery is that if I pay a foreign cheque into my bank, I am charged interest on it.
Charged interest on the money I pay in! The reason given is that my account is credited immediately, but it takes some time for the money to be collected from the foreign bank. In fact, I am charged a fantastic rate of interest over a period of six weeks. In an age of electronic transfer apparently, it would be quicker to use carrier pigeons.
In contrast, if I send money from my bank to a foreign account, it disappears from my account instantaneously, but does not arrive at its destination for ten days. Bear in mind that the transfer is conducted at nearly the speed of light. Where is the money in the meantime? Any guesses as to who is earning interest on it?
We are chiselled and cheated in this way almost at every turn. And while each little transaction might net little to the chiseller, millions of such transactions amass him an illicit, even if legally-acquired, fortune.
Meanwhile, the conduct of our political class has been revealed as that of small-time crooks. More MPs cheated on their expenses than did not.
Even some of those who broke no rules broke the spirit of the rules. By rights, most MPs should be in prison, and would be if they were just your next-door-neighbour.
After leaving office, MPs and ministers behave as if they were selling their influence in a souk. If Tony Blair, a former Prime Minister, makes untold millions trading deals with shady despots in the Third World, is it really any surprise that many people - the electoral peasantry of our political masters - feel that to be honest in these circumstances is to be naive, a fool, a mug.
They are wrong, actually: it is important to be honest for the sake of one’s self-respect, but not everyone values their self-respect.
What we have seen in this country is the widespread legalisation of dishonesty. Most of the bankers did nothing illegal, perhaps, but in effect they misappropriated shareholders’ funds (and continue to do so) by paying themselves grotesquely inflated salaries and bonuses, having brought the economy to its knees, egged on and encouraged by Gordon Brown.
The interests of the banks’ shareholders - and remember that, in cases like the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB, we taxpayers are those shareholders - clearly require that bankers should be employed at the lowest cost possible, not the highest. Yet only yesterday, the talk was that Stephen Hester, chief executive of the RBS, is in line to receive a bonus of £1million.
This legalised theft extends to the public sector. The number of workers earning more than £50,000 in Manchester City Council went up by 40 times between 1997 and 2007, even though there has been no evident improvement in services over the same period.
In the council in which I live, all the workers have had to take a five per cent pay cut: except, that is, the most highly paid 60, some of them earning over £100,000. This is not illegal, but from the moral point of view it is criminal.
The head of the publicly-funded BBC is paid approximately £800,000 a year, and his various satraps huge sums, when most of them are just successful bureaucrats who have never risked a penny of their own in any real business.
This represents the most blatant funnelling of money from the pockets of the poor into the pockets of the rich. I am no egalitarian, indeed I believe equality to be a pernicious economic goal, but personal enrichment should not come from the public purse. Neither, for that matter, should it come from the pockets of shareholders in public companies.
Our belief in the rule of law has declined catastrophically. Islington Museum currently has an exhibition of library books defaced in the 1950s by the playwright Joe Orton and his lover Kenneth Halliwell. Orton later became a well-known, but not necessarily very good, playwright. The pair of them went to prison for six months for defacing the books, causing £450 damage (the equivalent now, perhaps, of £25,000), stealing 72 others, and cutting out 1,653 art plates.
These are not the worst crimes in the history of the world, of course; but they are nothing to celebrate just because one of the culprits became famous (he was murdered, as it happens, by his fellow-defacer).
Their prison sentence was not inappropriately harsh; the problem is that people now think that it was. They think, in other words, that doing this considerable damage to public property was some kind of harmless amusing jape.
However talented Orton may have been, no talent justifies this kind of vandalism; and if we choose to glorify as Islington Museum does, we ought not to be surprised that some people think they can behave in the same, yobbish way.
Dishonesty is contagious. And the example our business, political and intellectual leaders give us is, to an unprecedented degree in recent memory, bad, corrupt and corrupting.
When my wife, who is French, moved to this country 30 years ago, she admired the honesty of both the British people and of public life. Alas, she admires them no longer, because there is nothing much left to admire.
Originally published in the Daily Mail.
Posted on 02/05/2012 6:40 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Sunday, 5 February 2012
Bomb Plotters are my Students, Admits Choudary
From the Daily Star Sunday
HARDLINE Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary taught six of the nine fanatics jailed last week for plotting to bomb London. The firebrand cleric even praised the terror gang as “decent young chaps”.Choudary claimed he had no idea they planned to kill and maim. He said: “We cannot be blamed.”
But last night a Tory MP called for the preacher to be arrested. Patrick Mercer said: “This is yet another nail in Anjem Choudary’s coffin. “No one can doubt his connections with active and highly dangerous terrorists who pleaded guilty to their crimes.” But Choudary claimed the jailed plotters were merely “inquisitive” and their plans had been “taken out of context”.
The controversial East London-based cleric said: “From what I knew of these young chaps, they were very decent young men. Dedicated to Islam, they were students of Sharia and as far as I know they were not planning or plotting anything. They were very inquisitive so I am not surprised if they downloaded material but that does not mean they wanted to kill anyone or carry out any operations.”
The former leader of al Muhajiroun and Islam4UK groups – both banned in January 2010 – said that he viewed their activities as little more than “thought crimes”.
He said: “Certainly the ones in London and in Stoke were students of mine. They studied the Sharia with me and I knew them for quite a while. Number one, that does not mean they were members of any kind of organisation because not everyone who studies with us is part of the organisation. Number two, we are not aware of anything outside our own activities which is purely ideological and political struggle.”
He added: “We are very conspicuous. The police know what we say openly is what we say privately. And that’s why I have never been arrested for anything either plotting or planning anything. If they thought there was a link between these guys and me I’m sure I would have been picked up.”
The cleric, who once planned to parade through the former repatriation town of Wootton Bassett carrying empty coffins in protest at the war in Afghanistan, said that he talked about the “science of the Koran and Islamic jurisprudence” in his lectures.
He said: “I talk about how to derive rules from the divine texts, very technical and very academic, nothing to do with sending people abroad or engaging in military activities. At one point they used to study with me and attend some of our lectures. They used to attend some circles and occasionally they would attend some demonstrations and protests. But that does not mean they were part of any organisation. They were students, they were studying. The same can be said of the people in Stoke.”
“Talking, discussing things, talking about what is going on is not something which should be illegal really. It was an unfortunate fact that they were being followed and listened to."
Posted on 02/05/2012 6:59 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 5 February 2012
And Now For Something Completely Different
Posted on 02/05/2012 8:08 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 5 February 2012
America Should Never Have Given Aid To Egypt, But At Least Now No One Can Stop Its Being Stopped
Egyptian investigating judges on Sunday referred 43 NGO workers, including 19 Americans, to trial before a criminal court for allegedly being involved in banned activities and illegally receiving foreign funds.
Posted on 02/05/2012 9:36 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 5 February 2012
Madame Secretary Buttinsky Just Can't Stop, Can She?
SOFIA, Bulgaria - US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Sunday for “friends of democratic Syria” to unite and rally against President Bashar Assad's regime, previewing the possible formation of a formal group of likeminded nations to ...
By Glen Carey and Elizabeth Konstantinova - Feb 5, 2012
The U.S. will work with its allies to put “immense pressure” on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down after Russia vetoed a resolution aimed at ending fighting, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
Posted on 02/05/2012 9:48 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 5 February 2012
English, As She Is Broke, Deserves Charity
The zaftig -- to use a word much loved by John Updike -- Sheryl Sandberg, No. 2 executive at Facebook, whose founder's face is so amusingly unsettling -- is the subject of a largely admiring piece in today's New York Times.
That piece includes this offense to the English language:
Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, who worked with her at Google, said Ms. Sandberg’s high profile gave Facebook an edge in recruiting and retaining talent. “When you have women who say, ‘Can I stay in? Can I have children and make it still work?’ the existence of role models like Sheryl is very impactful,” said Ms. Singh Cassidy, who now runs a video shopping start-up, Joyus.
"the existence of role models like Sheryl is very impactful"?
Samuel Daniel, predicting the wide distribution of "the treasure of our tongue," could not have foreseen such a debasement of the currency.
But who could?
And don't you feel sorry for the inoffensive English language, which has done so much good, and nothing, certainly, to deserve this impoverishment?
Wouldn't you like to do something about it?
Posted on 02/05/2012 12:27 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 5 February 2012
Gingrich Wants To Help Sunni Muslims "Get Rid Of Assad"
Gingrich suggests covert action in Syria
by Lucy Madison
Newt Gingrich on CBS' "Face the Nation," Feb. 5. 2012. (CBS)
The day after a government-directed assault allegedly left more than 200 people dead in Syria, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called for the U.S. to supply covert weapons and assistance there, as well as to put together a coalition to "get rid" of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In an interview with CBS' Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation," Gingrich said he thinks there's "a lot of things we could do covertly" in Syria, such as "supplying weapons... helping people in the region supply advisers.
"I think we should make clear to the world that Assad is going to go," Gingrich told Schieffer.
The former House Speaker said he didn't think it would be necessary to send in U.S. troops, but rather, "I think you can put together a coalition to get rid of him."
"I don't think you need to use American troops," Gingrich said. "But you do need to communicate that those who are opposed to Assad will get the kind of support they need in order to defeat him."
On Saturday, the Assad regime launched an assault on the city of Homs that activists say left more than 200 dead.
The same day, China and Russia blocked a U.N. action that would have backed an Arab League plan calling on Assad to step down.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday called the veto a "travesty," and urged "friends of democratic Syria" to unite against Assad's regime.
"What happened yesterday at the United Nations was a travesty," she said. "Faced with a neutered Security Council, we have to redouble our efforts outside of the United Nations with those allies and partners who support the Syrian people's right to have a better future."
President Obama on Saturday assailed Assad's actions and reiterated his call for the Syrian president to step down.
"Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now," Mr. Obama said. "He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately."
Despite the U.N. veto, Clinton pledged to continue the combat the Assad regime.
"We will work to expose those who are still funding the regime and sending it weapons to be used against defenseless Syrians, including women and children," she said. "We will work with the friends of a democratic Syria around the world to support the opposition's peaceful political plans for change."
Posted on 02/05/2012 12:45 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 5 February 2012
Ahmad Chalabi Did Not Inherit Iraq; Farid Ghadry Will Not Inherit Syria
If Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich have their way, the American government will make sure that "Assad has to go."
And if he does go? Then what?
Because if he goes, that means the Alawites will be demoralized, and the Sunni Muslims -- more and more of whom are displaying, though the Western governments appear not to care, the views that the Ikhwan has always held, while the liberal reformers that the Western press made so much of in Egypt, and the American government hoped so much from in Iraq, are losing significance every day. What would happen to the Christians, Arab and Armenian, in Aleppo and Damascus if the Alawites lose complete control? What would happen to the Alawites themselves -- do you think they should put their faith in guarantees from Sunni Muslims? From the Ikhwan? Where have such guarantees ever worked? What would happen to those Muslims who, being secular, are dyill willing to endure Alawite rule because they don't want rule by the real Muslims, with all that that implies for secularism?
Gingrich calls himself an "historian." He may have served a purpose in raising the issue of the invented "Palestinian people" though his brief remarks on the matter were not adequate, and he should, in attempting to undercut the phoniness of the "Palestinian people" propaganda effort, have been sure to eloquently present the telling evidence, in such fashion that no one would be able to dismiss or ignore what he said, as they have done with his statement since. It's the old business about killing the king -- when you have the opportunity, make sure you succeed. And though he was right, he did not do a good enough job. That's a problem.
And as with so many others, Gingrich's understanding of Islam, and of geopolitics, --to judge by his joining the Democracy-Now sentimentalists agitating for an end to Alawite rule in Syria, which means a takeover by Sunni Muslims, not all of them Farid Ghadry or even close -- leaves something to be desired.
Posted on 02/05/2012 12:56 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 5 February 2012
A Musical Interlude: You'd Be Surprised (Madeline Kahn)
Posted on 02/05/2012 1:47 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 5 February 2012
Sanctions On Iran Are Starting To Have An Effect
Iranians bemoan sanctions hardship as vote approaches
(Reuters) - Each day that he struggles to buy food for his family, vegetable seller Hasan Sharafi shoulders part of the burden of Iran's defiance of the West over its nuclear programme. He can hardly bear it.
"Prices are going up every day, life is expensive. I buy chicken or meat once per month. I used to buy it twice per week," the father of four said in Iran's central city of Isfahan.
"Sometimes I want to kill myself. I feel desperate. I do not earn enough to feed my children."
With just a month to go before a parliamentary election, Iran has been hit hard in recent months by new U.S. and European economic sanctions over its nuclear programme, which Tehran says is peaceful but the West says is aimed at making a bomb.
In conversations in towns and cities across Iran, people complained of rapidly deteriorating economic conditions, likely to be the main issue in an election that exposes divisions between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and hardline opponents.
The last time Iranians voted, in a 2009 presidential election, Ahmadinejad's disputed victory triggered eight months of violent street demonstrations. The authorities successfully put down that uprising by force, but since then the Arab Spring has demonstrated the vulnerability of governments in the region to uprisings fuelled by anger over economic difficulty.
"My father lost his job because the factory he used to work for 30 years was closed last month. I am so pessimistic. Why is this happening to us?" lamented mathematics student Behnaz in the northern city of Rasht.
"I don't know whether the prices are rising because of sanctions. The only thing that I know is that our lives are ruined. I have no hope for the future."
Iran's leaders deny that sanctions are having an economic impact, but are also calling for solidarity in the face of them. In a defiant speech on Friday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranians sanctions would make them stronger.
"Such sanctions will benefit us. They will make us more self reliant," he said in a televised address marking the anniversary of Iran's 1979 revolution. "Sanctions will not have any impact on our determination to continue our nuclear course."
BREAD ON THE TABLE
Such rhetoric resonates with some Iranians, who say they are willing to endure pain to defend a nuclear programme that has become a symbol of national pride.
"America uses the nuclear issue as an excuse to replace our regime with a puppet regime to control our energy resources. But we will not let them. Nuclear technology is our right and I fully support our leaders' view. Death to America," said student Mohammad Reza Khorrami in the northern town of Chalous.
But the West is hoping sanctions will turn ordinary Iranians against their leaders, and there are clear signs of discontent. When you ask Iranians about the nuclear issue, many seem to see it as a distraction from the real question of economic hardship.
"I am not a politician. I don't care about the nuclear dispute. Soon, I might not be able to afford food and other basic needs of my children," said Mitra Zarrabi, a schoolteacher and mother of three.
"What is the nuclear dispute? Don't waste my time asking irrelevant questions," said 62-year-old peddler Reza Zohrabi in a marketplace overflowing with imported Chinese goods in the city of Kashan. "I'm not interested in talking about politics and the nuclear issue. I have to find ways to put bread on my family's table."
Iranian authorities say 15 percent of the country's workforce is unemployed. Many formal jobs pay a pittance, meaning the true figure of people without adequate work to support themselves is probably far higher.
Hemmat Ghorban, 32, sits in a square in Mashhad city with a group of men, waiting to get work as day construction workers.
"I used to sell fruit in a small shop in Zanjan city," said Ghorban, who was forced to close his shop because of the increasing rent and high price of materials.
"Today I earned nothing. How am I going to support my family? Soon my family will be homeless. Sometimes I go without work for three or four days."
The new sanctions include measures signed into law by President Barack Obama on New Year's Eve that would ban any institution dealing with Iran's central bank from the U.S. financial system.
If fully implemented, the law would effectively make it impossible for countries to pay for Iranian oil. Washington is imposing the sanctions gradually and offering waivers to prevent chaos on international energy markets, but countries seeking those permits are expected to reduce trade with Iran over time.
The European Union, which collectively bought about a fifth of Iran's 2.6 million barrels per day of oil exports last year, has announced it will halt Iranian crude imports. Other countries are scrambling to comply with U.S. and EU measures.
Since the sanctions have only begun to bite, far greater pain is looming. Oil is 60 percent of Iran's economy. Much of its food and animal feed are imported, and many of its factories assemble goods from imported parts.
Already, ships bringing grain have been turning back from Iranian ports because Tehran cannot pay suppliers: an agricultural consultancy said maize imports from Ukraine - a major source of animal feed - fell 40 percent last month.
China, Iran's biggest trade partner, cut its purchases of Iranian oil by half in January and February this year, and is seeking steeper discounts for the oil that it does buy. Turkey wants a discounted price for gas.
Such discounts mean that even if it does manage to thwart sanctions and find buyers for its energy exports, Iran's revenue will be hurt. It relies on oil exports to buy goods to feed its 74 million people and pay for subsidies to keep prices low.
People have been queuing at banks to withdraw their savings and buy hard currency, even though banks have increased interest rates on savings to 20 percent from 12 percent.
Currency exchange shops are refusing to sell dollars at official rates, forcing people to the black market where the rial has lost more than half its value in the past two months.
For those who link the hardship to international sanctions, the most vivid example is neighboring Iraq, where an embargo imposed between 1991 and the U.S. invasion in 2003 reduced a wealthy oil exporting country to dire poverty.
"I don't want Iran to become like Iraq before America's invasion. With the sanctions, soon we will have problems finding essential goods and even medicine," said 31-year-old teacher Rokhsareh Sharafoleslam in Chalous.
Reformist candidates are largely barred from standing in Iran's parliamentary election, which will put Ahmadinejad - known in the West as a hardliner - against opponents that are even more conservative. The election will largely be a referendum on Ahmadinejad's economic policies, which his opponents blame for the economic disarray.
For decades, Iran has used its oil wealth to provide the public with lavish subsidies for goods. Ahmadinejad has been cutting those subsidies, replacing them with direct payments to citizens of around $110 a month for a family of four.
His hardline political opponents say the payments are a bribe to win support from voters and have fueled inflation.
Analyst Hamid Farahvashian said the payments could nevertheless win voter support for the president.
"The lower-income people in villages and small towns can live on that money. So, Ahmadinejad's camp basically will win their votes in parliamentary polls."
Iran's annual official inflation rate is running around 20 percent but economists and some lawmakers say it is really around 50 percent. Prices for bread, dairy, rice, vegetables and cooking fuel have soared. A traditional Iranian loaf of "sangak" bread costs 30 percent more than a few months ago.
"We are worried and afraid. I feel depressed when I think about future of my children. What might happen if America and other countries impose further sanctions on Iran?" said a housewife in Kermanshah, who declined to give her name.
Reza Khaleghi, who owns a small grocery store in the central city of Karaj near Tehran, said gloomily: "Because of sanctions prices are increasing almost every day. The purchasing power of people is nose-diving."
Since 2010, subsidy cutbacks have tripled the price of electricity, water and natural gas used for factories, cooking and heating homes. Soaring costs caused the closure of at least 1,800 small factories in Tehran province alone, according to Iranian media.
On a bus from Mashhad to the nearby town of Quchan, people spoke of little else but inflation.
"Prices are increasing by the hour. My husband and I cannot afford starting a family as life is so expensive," said Mahla Aref, a government employee.
Small businesses say they are struggling to operate as the falling currency raises the cost of goods.
"Business is almost dead. People only buy essential basics," said Khosro Sadegi, who plans to shut down his electronics and appliance shop in the town of Sari.
"Because of rial fluctuations we have to increase prices and people just don't buy anything anymore."
Posted on 02/05/2012 7:09 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 5 February 2012
Sanctions On Iran Hurt, But The American Government Needs To Publicly State One Thing
What is that one thing?
It is this: the sanctions on Iran, on its banking system, on its oil production, on its everything, will continue as long as Iran has a nuclear project, and WILL CONTINUE -- EVEN IF IRAN MANAGES SOMEHOW TO OBTAIN NUCLEAR WEAPONS -- UNTIL IT GIVES THOSE WEAPONS UP.
Why is this statement, made publicly and forcefully, by Obama, and repeated by Clinton and Panetta, and supported by members of Congress and the leading Republican candidates, so important?
It may be that the people who run the Islamic Republic of Iran believe that if tonly they can successfully bring their nuclear plans to fruition, and to produce nuclear weapons, if only they can manage to produce some bombs, then they are home free, and the Americans, seeing that they can no longer stop Iran from acquiring those weapons, will simply give up. After all, the Americans never did put pressure on Pakistan to give up its nuclear weapons, and even now, instead of withholding all aid, has since 9/11/2001 given Pakistan more aid.
It is important for a public statement to be made to frighten and demoralize the people of Iran: no matter what, you will be under sanctions unless and until you give up whatever nuclear project you have, or weapons you may somehow acquire.
If repeated, forcefully, so that enough people in Iran believe it, such a statement could change everything.
But if not, there's only one other way.
Posted on 02/05/2012 7:03 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald