Tags Posts tagged with "Iran"


Hariri meets Velayati at his office in Beirut. Source: Mehr News

“We praise Hariri, the government and the people for the recent victories in the face of terrorist forces.”

Today this quote may sound like it came from Saudi Arabia, where Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister, is supposedly taking refugee due to what he says is a threat against his life from Iran. But would it surprise you if this flattering quote came from none other than an advisor to Iran’s supreme leader who visited Hariri just one day before he departed and announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia?

The advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati visited Hariri last Friday and added: “The formation of a coalition government between March 8 (Hezbollah-led coalition) and March 14 (Hariri-led coalition) is a victory, a great success and a blessing for the Lebanese people.”

“We had a good, positive, constructive and practical meeting with Prime Minister Hariri, especially since the Iranian -Lebanese relations are always constructive and Iran always supports and protects Lebanon’s independence…” 

Does this sound like an Iran that is threatening Hariri or congratulating him?

But you might say, hold on, wait a minute- this must be some sort of Iranian propaganda. Hariri would never endorse this speech, which is a total lie.

Actually not only did Hariri endorse this speech, he sent it out through his email list to hundreds of journalists on Friday, shortly after the meeting. In fact Hariri sends an email almost every day about his speeches and those that visit him. Surely his staff would not have broadcast a message Hariri believed to be harmful propaganda?

Also have a look at the pictures. Hariri seems to be smiling and very at ease in both shots:


Of course this does not substitute for an actual transcript of the meeting and we may never know what all was said. But it does seem odd that Hariri would be distributing a speech by someone who apparently just threatened his life.

I’m posting this because you won’t hear this narrative in much of the US mainstream media coverage, which is reporting Hariri’s story with little question, while demonizing Iran as usual and touting Saudi Arabia’s so-called “crackdown” against corruption, also without question:

An alternate narrative circulating in Beirut is that Hariri’s life was not threatened (the Lebanese army and police both denied having any intel on this), but that he resigned out of fear of upsetting Saudi Arabia, where he and his family have huge amounts of financial assets.

What’s also interesting is that the Saudi-led blockade against Qatar also began after a warming of relations between the gulf state and Iran. In that case, Saudi Arabia couched the move as part of the war on terrorism. So is the war on corruption just the latest pretext to consolidate power? Can Saudi Arabia simply not tolerate any cracks in its campaign against Iran?

Like Qatar, Hariri also seemed to be warming up to Iran and its allies in Lebanon over recent months, speaking frequently about the need for dialogue and compromises, working on joint legislation with pro-Hezbollah MPs on such issues as a raise for civil servants and electoral reform. That’s what was so surprising about his resignation-things actually seemed to be going relatively well in Lebanese politics ( a sentiment confirmed by the leader of Hezbollah) and elections were finally expected this year.

Here is the full email as sent by Hariri’s office. Notice that Hariri had other meetings that day, including one with the head of a television network in an effort to combat intellectual piracy and stolen cable channels. It seems like a mundane issue and an odd way to end a day marked by fear.

Full email below:


Press Office of the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri

03- 11– 2017

Hariri receives Velayati


The President of the Council of Minister Saad Hariri received today at the Grand Serail the senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Akbar Velayati, accompanied by the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohamed Fathali and a delegation, in the presence of Hariri’s chief of staff Nader Hariri.

After the meeting, Velayati said: “We had a good, positive, constructive and practical meeting with Prime Minister Hariri, especially since the Iranian-Lebanese relations are always constructive and Iran always supports and protects Lebanon’s independence, force and government.

We praise Prime Minister Hariri, the government and the people for the recent victories in the face of the terrorist forces and we hope to see more success. The formation of a coalition government between March 14 and March 8 is a victory, a great success and a blessing for the Lebanese people.

The victory against terrorists represents the victory of all of us against terrorism, and what has been achieved on the Syrian arena, as well as the victory of the Syrian government and people against terrorism, is our victory and our success. We know that these terrorists are supported by the Zionists and by the Americans. Defeating them means defeating the Zionist and American conspiracies against us. The victory of the Iraqi government and people against the separatist movement is also another form of those victories. In conclusion, the Lebanese victory against the terrorists and the Syrian and Iraqi victories represents the victory of the resistance axis at the level of the region and this is the victory of us all. We listened to Prime Minister Hariri regarding the actions taken at the regional level and we support them for the interest of the region.”


Electoral law Committee

Prime Minister Hariri headed at the Center House a meeting of the Ministerial Committee for the Implementation of the Electoral Law, attended by ministers Ali Hassan Khalil, Mohammed Fneish, Nouhad Al-Machnouk, Gebran Bassil, Talal Arslan, Ayman Choucair, Youssef Finianos, Ali Kanso and Pierre Bou Asi and the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers Fouad Fleifel.



Premier Hariri met with the CEO of OSN network, Martin Stewart, who said that he discussed with Prime Minister Hariri the participation of the network in the conference to protect the media creativity from piracy and the need to protect intellectual property in Lebanon, thus preserving the Lebanese economy and creativity.


After an uproar from critics, The Daily Beast has removed an article that labeled Lebanon and four other Middle Eastern countries as “The worst places (on earth) to visit.” The link now directs to a blank page with no explanation.

I wrote an extensive criticism of the piece yesterday which clearly singled out  the Middle East, Africa and former Soviet states. So did politics or a bit of Islamophobia play a role in this list?

The worst countries–which are all beautiful places– were as follows:

1. Lebanon
2. Iran
3. Egypt
4. Ukraine
5. Jordan
6. South Africa
7. Russia
8. Georgia
9. Morocco
10. Senegal

We can see that 60 percent of the “worst” countries are Middle Eastern or African and the remainder are largely former Soviet states. Pretty objective, huh?

Of course Islam and communism have been the greatest perceived “boogie men” in the West over the last few decades, but surely this was just a coincidence, right?

Though the piece has been removed, its Facebook advertisement still exists:

We first heard it could be taken down when the Beast’s executive editor tweeted that the piece was “messed up” last night. But it wasn’t removed for several more hours.

@tomgara @acarvin @borzou Yeah, this piece is messed up. We’re pulling it.
— Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) March 13, 2014

Here are some screen shots I took before it was taken down:

How many times has one wall been used to represent an entire country?

Among the winners were South American and Asian countries such as, Brazil, Thailand and Mexico:

I guess the 100,000 people who have been killed in Mexican drug wars did not bother the Beast editors as much as places like Jordan and Iran which have some of the lowest crime rates on earth.

*Unfortunately I missed getting a screenshot of number 6, so if anyone has it, please update me.

Update: Number 6 is South Africa. Thanks to Almaz for the screen shot. 


Just hours after today’s killing of a Hezbollah commander, OTV is now replaying its lengthy interview with Hezbollah chief Sayed Hassan Nasrallah from last night.
Today Hezbollah is blaming the killing on Israel, but last night Nasrallah blamed Saudi intelligence for the twin suicide attacks on the Iranian embassy last month. At first those attacks were initially blamed on Israel, so will today’s killing also eventually be blamed on Saudi Arabia or other parties?
And before anyone gets any “sectarian” ideas, OTV is a Chrisitian-owned broadcaster that is fervently pro-Hezbollah, pro-rightist Christian politics. What’s most interesting about this aspect of the Syrian conflict, I believe is how, under threat, Hezbollah has increasingly defined itself as non-extremist, non-terrorist and pro-religious tolerance when compared to the rebel groups it is fighting in Syria. It’s almost as if the battle has gravitated Hezbollah closer to its often-Islamophobic Christian and secular allies in the fight against what it has labeled as extremist Islam. 


Hours after today’s tragic bombings at the Iranian embassy in Beirut, a qualifying football match was to be held between Lebanon and Iran.

And despite the killing and injuring of dozens this morning– with blood and bodies
splattered all over the place– the match went on as scheduled later this evening:

The stadium was empty. Some reports suggested this was in respect for the dead.
But this stadium is usually empty owing to regular bans against audiences to prevent political hooliganism.

I watched astonishingly at an arguile (hookah) cafe:

Yet none of the patrons sipping on their water pipes seemed to be fazed by the disconnect between the game and tragic events a few hours earlier.

Later I watched the evening news and the weather woman was wearing the usual night
club kit of mini-skirt and high heels. But in black… to mourn the dead?

Maybe we have become desensitized to violence as pointed by fellow blogger Gino. A little too desensitized, it seems.

UPDATE: For those interested in the score, it was a landslide 4-1 victory for Iran.
The Lebanese coach blamed the lack of an audience. 


    A few blocks away from where the civil war started in 1975.

    If only Jesus, bikinis and Iran could get along more often– maybe we won’t have a second one. 


      The question was put to the channel’s news director, Sami Kleib, who was a guest last night on an Al Jadeed talk show.

      The funding of Al Mayadeen has been a mystery since the channel’s launch earlier this year, with critics claiming funding comes from Syrian or Iranian regime sources.

      At first Kleib said he couldn’t answer the question because business and administrative issues were ‘beyond his responsibility’ as a newsman. But when pressed by host Rabia Zayyat, Kleib refused to name the investors saying only that they were “a group of respectful businessmen” who agreed with “our Arabist” perspective on Palestine.

      Zayyat put the question another way: “Are you funded by Iran and Syria?”

      “Absolutely not,” Kleib responded.

      Throughout last night’s show Kleib repeatedly claimed his channel was objective and independent. But why then has it been so tight-lipped about its funders?

      See my interview with the channel head Ghassan Ben Jeddou–back when he was a major personality on Al Jazeera– for more on his political perspective.

        The flags are actually attached by a string.
        And where else would this happen, but above a Kuwaiti-owned American fat food franchise:

        Coincidental placement or does someone have a sense of humor?


        I wonder if it ever dawned on the producers of Argo– as they watched their film unfold– that it contained virtually no characters from the country the movie aims to portray.

        In fact, despite 120 minutes of screen time, not one of the dozens of Iranian actors employed in the production has been given any significant role to play, beyond a grimacing one-liner, usually in the form of a threat.

        Instead, the Iranians hired for this movie played the role of extras–a kind of Orientalist wallpaper to make the location feel “realistic.”

        And what could be more realistic for the producers than to cast their Iranian extras in one of two categories: either as members of angry mobs, fists waiving in the air chanting “death to America” or as maniacal bearded men with piercing eyes, often equipped with assault rifles.

        The role of “The Iranian” as defined by Argo resembled that of the ruthless “Smith” in The Matrix trilogy. Like the dozens of Iranians cast in Argo, the hundreds of Smiths in The Matrix have no depth, no emotional qualities and indeed no human qualities. Like the Smith, the Iranian never smiles.

        So fearsome are these Argo Iranians, that the audience (myself included) is driven by the suspense to collectively breathe a sigh of relief once the Americans are finally safe in an airplane, leaving the dark, repressive and angry Islamic world in the rear view mirror. This final scene reminded of the closing scene in the 1986 film Delta Force, where Chuck Norris and his commandos cheer as they are finally safely aboard a plane out of Beirut.

        And what has changed in the 26 years since Delta Force hit screens? Hollywood is still scripting Middle Easterners as the dimensionless, screaming bad guys, attacking brave innocent American heroes for no reason better than their own backwardness. Perhaps out of post-Orientalism guilt, the makers of Argo added a one minute history lesson at the beginning of their film which blames America for having a role in removing Iran’s past prime minister in a CIA coup (I’d love to see a film about that).

        But these ideas are not developed beyond a fleeting slide show and I doubt few if any audience members will have remembered this brief ‘blame America’ moment once 119 minutes of seat gripping tension (and menacing Iran/Islam stereotypes) have followed it. More importantly, viewers are left with a lasting empathy or lack thereof for the respective American and Iranian faces on screen.

        Will Hollywood ever make a film where audiences rally not with American operatives completing their mission, but with those who have suffered directly as a result of that mission, relieved to kick them out for it?


        Post Script: 

        Turns out that Argo’s climax– and perhaps most Orientalist moment– where Iranians chase a plane down the runway in buffoon-like, Delta-Force-like fashion was completely fabricated, according to this panel Q&A with Affleck, who somehow maintains the film was “extremely accurate.” 

        “One audience member asked about the film’s dramatic climax, in which — spoiler alert — a fleet of cars driven by members of the Revolutionary Guard chase the houseguests’ plane as it lifts off. “There were no cars chasing them down the runway,” admitted Affleck, who got a big laugh when he added, “Those were my cars, and I wanted to get the rental [fees]. I was like, ‘Maybe we use it, maybe we don’t,’ you know what I mean? Turned out to be good.”



          No I don’t mean the military kind. Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV is airing Iranian soap operas. I wonder how successful they will be and to what extent the move is a reaction to Turkish soap operas which have taken the region by storm. Almost every major Arab broadcaster is now airing multiple Turkish drama serials, known for their relatively liberal social norms and striking actors who have now become stars across the region and yet attacked by some religious leaders.

          Perhaps Al Manar is trying to provide a more ‘wholesome’ coach potato alternative. There could also be a cultural value aspect. While Iran’s military support has been critical to Hezbollah, the Iranian leadership seems to have made few inroads on the social side with barely a single Persian restaurant operating in Beirut (sadly), let alone any major cultural events.

          But Iranian drama faces an uphill battle. The buzz surrounding Turkish shows has partly been driven by a groundbreaking decision to dub them into a colloquial Arabic accent, rather than less personable formal Arabic, used for years to dub the formerly dominant genre of Latin American soaps. Yet as seen in the photo above, Al Manar has chosen to go with Arabic subtitling instead, which could prove less attractive to viewers.

          Above all, whether Mexican, Turkish or Iranian, the rising popularity of imported dramas raises bigger questions about the quality of locally produced Arabic language serials, where scripts and production values leave a lot to be desired. Since most of these productions take place in either Egypt or Syria, it will be interesting to see what impact the revolts may have on the sector, which struggles with censorship and cronyism.      


            For a minute, I thought the world turned upside down: the Iranians are giving a press conference at the U.S. Dept of State?!

            Then again, I was watching Lebanese television.

            Tehran, it turns out, seems to have modeled its foreign ministry briefing room on that of arch nemesis, Washington.

            See Hillary’s briefing room for comparative purposes:

            (photo credit: State Department)

            During a recent press conference in Tehran, the Iranian spokesman was asked why the Islamic Republic copied America’s propaganda room style, while shunning all other things Western, such as neck ties.

            The spokesman smiled and responded: “Of course we did not copy America and its Zionist enterprise. If you look closely you will see that they only have one national flag in their room.”

            (photo credit: UPI)

            Just kidding, I have no idea what the minister was talking about.. although it probably was America.