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A U.S. advocacy group hopes Jennifer Lopez can use her star power to help hamper Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Is Jennifer Lopez the long-sought solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis?

And can she improve the deteriorating human rights situation in the Islamic republic?

We shouldn’t discount the power of music and some Latin hip shaking, but one U.S.-based advocacy group has something else in mind.

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a group that says it is working to prevent Iran from "fulfilling its ambition to obtain nuclear weapons" -- a charge Iranian officials have repeatedly rejected.

It has now called on Jennifer Lopez to end her partnership with the car manufacturer Fiat, if the company refuses to terminate its business with Iran.

UANI claims a Fiat subsidiary, Iveco, sells and distributes trucks in Iran, which the group says have been used by the regime to transport ballistic missiles and stage public executions.

UANI also says Fiat is reportedly planning to expand its presence in Iran by opening a luxury Maserati dealership in Tehran.

The group launched its campaign against Fiat last year and called on the company to end its business in Iran.

Fiat has apparently not been listening, with the group now turning to the pop diva to use her influence.

In a letter, UANI's president has asked Lopez, the face of Fiat, to either use her position to make the carmaker change its "irresponsible" policies toward Iran or cut her ties to the company.

"[B]y endorsing Fiat, you are serving as spokesperson for a company that freely does business with a regime that is developing an illegal nuclear weapons program, financing and sponsoring terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda, has killed American and NATO soldiers and is recognized as one of the world's leading human rights violators," the letter says, before making the following plea:

"Political dissidents, human rights activists, labor leaders, women, ethnic and religious minorities, homosexuals and students in Iran are routinely detained incommunicado and beaten, raped, lashed and subjected to inhumane forms of physical and psychological torture.

"According to an October 2011 United Nations report, there are at least 100 juveniles on death row in Iran. The same United Nations report states that at least 300 executions were carried out in secret in Iran in 2010 alone. These executions are often cruel and unusual and include public hangings by construction cranes and stoning.

"A Fiat subsidiary, Iveco, produces vehicles that are reportedly used by the Iranian regime as platforms to stage such gruesome public executions. It is doubtful that you would want your name or image even remotely associated with a company involved in such actions."

The singer has not yet publicly responded to the letter.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan
It's not clear who is behind the assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the Iranian scientist who was killed on January 11 in northern Tehran in a bomb attack.

Iranian officials were quick to blame Israel and Western intelligence agencies for the explosion that killed Ahmadi Roshan and his driver. The assassination is the fourth since the start of 2010 targeting Iranian physicists and nuclear scientists.

(Click here for pictures of Ahmadi Roshan, including one with his son)

Many analysts believe the terrorist attack -- which comes on the second anniversary of the death of another Iranian scientist, Masoud Ali Mohammadi, by a remote controlled bomb -- is part of a covert war against the Islamic republic, aimed at slowing its nuclear program.

Yet it might have the opposite effect and make Tehran even more determined in pursuing its nuclear program, which Western countries believe is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran maintains all its nuclear activities are peaceful.

Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said the attack on Ahmadi Roshan, a deputy director of the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility for commercial affairs, would not stop "progress" in the country's nuclear program.

In a statement, Iran's Revolutionary Guard blamed Israel and "its backers in the White House" for the assassination, adding that it will accelerate Iran's drive to reach the highest scientific peaks.

The hard-line Rajanews, which said the terrorist attacks in Iran are being conducted with the aim of controlling "Iran's technical achievements" and preventing it from consolidating its role "as a regional power," claims many are asking why the Islamic republic is not retaliating.

The website quotes an unnamed "intelligence source" as saying that Iran is in a good position, following information it obtained from the alleged assassin of Alimohammadi, to take retaliatory steps against those behind the killings of the Iranian scientists. Iranian officials have said that Majid Jamali Fashi, who has pleaded guilty to murdering Ali Mohammadi, had received money and training from Israel.

"Iran's reaction will extend beyond the borders and beyond the region, it follows the strategy that none of those who ordered these attacks should feel safe anywhere," the source said, adding that Iran will enter a new era in its "special intelligence operations" against its enemies.

'Can This Not Be Stopped?'

Some Iranians had a very different question than the one raised by Rajanews. They asked in comments to RFE/RL's Radio Farda and also on social-networking site why Iran is not providing its nuclear scientists with better protection.

"In a country where the police's job is to collect people's satellite dishes and arrest women who are badly veiled, and whose security officials are busy harassing young people who send text messages, the security situation cannot be any better than this," a man based in Tehran wrote on Facebook.

Many condemned the assassination of Ahmadi Roshan and other Iranian scientists.

"It's a terrorist act against an innocent civilian and one of the brains of this country," said one young woman from the Iranian capital in an e-mail exchange with "Persian Letters."

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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