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Hossein Alaei
Hossein Alaei, a former senior commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), has come under attack by his fellow guards and hard-liners over an article in which he appeared to draw an analogy between the rule of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's rule and the last days of the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was ousted from power in the 1979 revolution.

In an op-ed published last week in the "Ettelaat" daily, Alaei, a prominent wartime commander and the former chief of the IRGC navy, raised a number of hypothetical questions the shah could have pondered after being forced into exile.

"If I had given the people permission to demonstrate peacefully and not have accused them of staging a showdown with the government, would the issue have ended?"

"If I had not ordered the security forces to shoot at the people and taken measures to calm them down, wouldn't I have reached a better outcome?"

"If, instead of placing some [prominent political figures] under house arrest, sending others to exile, and jailing political activists, I had opened a dialogue with them, would I have been forced to flee the country?"

He added that dictators who believe they have the right to rule over the people forever only think about these issues after they have been forced to flee, like Libya's former leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Alaei ended his piece with a quote from the Koran: "Thus, learn your lesson, o men of vision."

The issues raised by Alaei were widely interpreted as criticism of the very same moves by Khamenei, including his green light to the brutal 2009 postelection crackdown. The house arrests of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi are said to have been put in place with the blessing of Khamenei.

In an open letter to Alaei, 12 current and former commanders of the IRGC accused him of insulting the Iranian establishment and said he had made Iran's enemies happy.

Meanwhile, on January 14, hard-liners staged a protest in front of Alaei's house and chanted slogans against him. The semi-official Fars news agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, said the protest was held in reaction to Alaei's "insulting" note, in which Fars said he had compared the "sacred Islamic establishment of Iran" with the Pahlavi regime.

(To see photos of the protest, including slogans that hard-liners sprayed on Alaei's house, click here.)

Some hard-line websites and blogs have also criticized Alaei over his article, with one site referring to him as a hyena. (In Persian, the word for hyena, "kaftar," rhymes with "sardar," which is the word for commander.)

In 2010, the head of the IRGC, Mohammad Ali Jafari, acknowledged that some IRGC members had been supportive of the opposition movement. The IRGC played a major role in the repression of Iranian citizens who took to the streets in 2009 to protest the reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Jafari said those guards had since been convinced that they had been wrong.

Alaei's note could signal that some of the IRGC's current and former members remain unconvinced.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
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

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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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