Iran’s Television Drama

A battle for the future of Iran is shaping up in outer space, and it’s not about missiles or nuclear weapons. It’s about information—the ability to jam the signal that brings the news to the Iranian people via satellite television. And for the moment, it’s a fight the Iranian government appears to be losing.

Since June 12, 2009, when the apparent fraud of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection provoked outrage on the streets of Tehran, his regime has worked to stifle any reporting of discontent. As images of the protests—and the repression—made their way out of the country on cell phones and through social media, the Iranian government frantically blocked access. But even more important than the way those images got out was the way they got back in: picked up and rebroadcast by international news organizations that reached tens of millions of Iranians who don’t have the Internet but who do have satellite dishes.

So the Iranian government set out to block the satellite networks it thought posed the biggest challenge to its power. No. 1 on the list: BBC Persian TV, which began broadcasting in January ’09, just months before the election. The mullahs blocked the BBC signal by uplinking static on the same frequency. In the process, however, they also garbled other commercial programming in Iran that comes from the same satellite, Hot Bird 6 (which carries several more or less pornographic channels as well as mainstream Western media). Eutelsat and GlobeCast, the French-owned companies that run Hot Bird, moved the BBC signal to other satellites that were harder for the Iranian government to jam. But anyone who wanted to watch the channel had to reposition the dish—and risk losing all the other programming.

Earlier this year the French lodged a formal protest with the International Telecommunications Union, which criticized Iran. But three industry sources, who didn’t want to be named discussing the mullahs’ telecom disputes, say the Iranian government is in a difficult spot: Iran’s domestic TV broadcasts—key to the regime’s ability to maintain control and stability—depend on the very European satellites Iran is toying with to get its signals distributed across the country. (Arab-owned satellites have quit carrying Iran’s broadcasts, and Iran has no satellites of its own.) Ezatollah Zarghami, chairman of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, told a conference late last month: “We jam them, they jam us in return. And then our channels are taken off their satellite…So we have to make sure that we don’t overreach ourselves.” If the satellite fight gets too hot, the Europeans could just pull the plug. Since the end of May, BBC Persian TV has been transmitted from Hot Bird and is broadcasting, so far, without interference.

Tehran bazaar shuts its doors in anger at tax hike

Everything from dried rose petals to $5,000 (£3,300) silk carpets to cheap sweets and gaudy plastic sandals could be found on sale in Tehran's grand bazaar. The vast covered market, its narrow lanes typically heaving with shoppers and the raucous sounds of busy commerce, stands empty now, though. The bazaris, the city's merchant classes, have shut their doors in protest at tax hikes proposed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

For a second day yesterday, the authorities ordered a public holiday, ostensibly because of the unusually high summer temperatures, but in reality, many Iranians speculated, to camouflage the strike and head off any trigger for a mass outpouring of public protest. The merchants' action, which began last week, is a clear and potentially grave challenge to the authority of the hardline president.

Mr Ahmadinejad's standing had already been considerably weakened following the repressive handling of last year's post-election street demonstrations and a subsequent power struggle within the Islamic regime. The bazaar is a traditional stronghold of political and social conservatism and because its support for the Islamic revolution in 1979 was so pivotal, carries huge symbolism. For the president to be at odds with such a loyal institution suggests that bigger political trouble is brewing.

Anger in the commercial hub, which, at least until much of the economy fell under the control of the elite Republican Guards, used to be the nation's economic heartbeat, erupted over a decision to raise the rate of value-added tax. The gold sellers were reportedly the first to shut up shop, followed by others. Black banners were reported to have been draped over some stores and Iranian opposition news sites have reported clashes after security forces attempted to force the shops to resume trading.

The head of the union of fabric sellers in the old bazaar was allegedly detained after trying to rally fellow traders for a protest meeting. In the shoemakers' area of the bazaar, meanwhile, hundreds gathered at the end of last week, according to opposition reports (which could not be independently checked) chanting "Death to Ahmadinejad!" and "Death to this government!".

The government has already said it will back down on its initial proposal for a top rate of 70 per cent sales tax, but many of the merchants have remained defiant, saying they will stay closed because their annual taxes had risen so steeply in the past year.

Some complain that they are paying $5,000 a year, up from around $1,500 annually. Value-added taxes have risen by up to 15 per cent a year, depending on the commodity. "We cannot even pay salaries to our employees. How can we pay higher taxes?" Ali Akbarzadeh, a jewellery seller, told Reuters.

Faced with falling oil prices and a big ratcheting up of US and UN sanctions on its energy sector, Iran's government has been trying to introduce internal reforms, scaling back on the generous food subsidies that cushion Iranians from the true costs of production or importing, and raising taxation.

But with inflation and unemployment rampant, many are feeling the pinch. Many blame Mr Ahmadinejad for economic mismanagement, since, during his first term, he lavished oil revenue on certain sectors.

There was some speculation that the striking shopkeepers were affiliated to factions within the Islamic regime that have grown disaffected with the president and his inner circle following last year's poll. Some are said to be close to Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, the former president, a leading cleric and sworn enemy of Mr Ahmadinejad.

افزايش مشكلات خطوط كشتيرانى رژیم پس از صدور قطعنامه

خطوط كشتيرانى براى حكومت حياتى است چرا كه ايران در شمال و جنوب به خليج فارس و درياى عمان و درياى خزر منتهى مى شود و حجم زيادى از مبادلات حكومت از طريق اين درياست. شرکت کشتيرانى آريا که پس از انقلاب نام کشتيرانى جمهورى اسلامى را به خود گرفت، جزو ۲۰ شرکت بزرگ کشتيرانى دنيا است. اين شرکت با ظرفيت ۵ . ۵ ميليون تن کالا، ۱۶۱ کشتى دارد که ۹۵ فروند آن اقيانوس‌پيما است. علاوه بر اين کشتيرانى ايران ۱۲ شرکت فرعى در داخل و چهار شرکت فرعى در خارج دارد و شمار دفاتر نمايندگى آن در دنيا به ۱۸۰ دفتر مى‌رسد. با توجه به اهميت حياتى اين ناوگان تجارى براى نظام , شوراى امنيت سازمان ملل در قطعنامه خود، کشتى‌هاى اين شرکت را نشانه گرفته است
ماده ۱۵ قطعنامه ۱۹۲۹ بازرسى کشتى‌هاى حكومت ایران در درياهاى آزاد را مجاز كرده است. براساس اين قطعنامه كشورهاى مختلف مى‌توانند کشتى‌هاى مظنون حكومت را در درياى آزاد بازرسى كنند. ماده ۱۸قطعنامه شوراى امنيت هم از کشورهاى عضو مى‌خواهد که از ارائه خدمات به کشتى‌هاى مظنون حكومت جلوگيرى كنند. علاوه بر اين، ماده ۲۰ همين قطعنامه از کشورهاى عضو سازمان ملل مى‌خواهد که هر نوع اطلاعات در مورد فعاليتهاى مظنون توسط خطوط كشتيرانى حكومت ايران را به كميته نظارت شوراى امنيت ارائه دهند
حكومت براى خنثى كردن تحريمها اقداماتى را در چند ماه گذشته بهعمل آورده تا کار شناسايى کشتى‌ها را مشکل کند، از جمله ثبت شمارى از کشتى‌ها در کشورهاى خارجى و جزاير کوچک و استفاده از پرچم آنها، تغيير نام کشتى‌ها و تغيير شرکتهاى فرعى اداره‌کننده کشتى‌ها. اما بسيارى از اين اقدامات حكومت افشا شده است
حكومت ایران تهديد كرده است اگر كشتيهايش بازرسى شود مقابله به مثل مى كند. اما ناظران مى گويند نيروى دريايى سپاه پاسداران در برابر ناوگان پنچم آمريکا و هم ‌پيمانان اين کشور توان هيچگونه حركتى را ندارند