Iranians, irked by Netanyahu comment, tweet photos of their jeans

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his first Persian language interview broadcast into Iran Saturday, appeared to offend many young, educated Iranians with comments that they said revealed how deeply out of touch he is with Iranian society.

While Netanyahu, in the interview with the BBC's Persian TV service, repeated familiar talking points–dismissing the power of Iran's new, more moderate president Hassan Rouhani and arguing Iran should not be allowed to retain a nuclear enrichment capability–it was his assertion that Iranians are not free to wear jeans and listen to western music that set off a social media firestorm.

Iranians inside and outside of the country took to Twitter to mock the assertion, using the hashtags #jeans and #Iranjeans to send the Israeli leader photos of themselves wearing jeans and listening to music on their Apple devices, with messages expressing both humor and offense.

Tehran-based Iranian journalist Sadegh Ghorbani took to Twitter Saturday to offer to send Netanyahu photos of Iranians wearing jeans and listening to western music on their iPhones if, as he said, Israeli spies had not been able to provide that:

Ghorbani subsequently announced on Twitter Sunday that many Iranians were using the #jeans hashtag to protest the Israeli prime minister's distorted understanding of their sartorial choices.

BBC Persian journalist Bahman Kalbasi reported both the Netanyahu interview and the on-air and social media response:

RFE/RL journalist Golnaz Esfandiari also tracked the Iranian social media response to Netanyahu's comments:

An Iranian woman using the handle @miiilik welcomed Netanyahu to her room, with a photo of a few dozen pairs of denim stacked in the center of her closet:

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Rouhani Says Nuclear Issue Can Be Resolved

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In a mostly off the record discussion with about two dozen editors and political analysts, including Al-Monitor’s Andrew Parasiliti, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that “the nuclear issue can be resolved,” and condemned the Nazi Holocaust against the Jewish people, hoping to close the chapter on the legacy of Holocaust denial by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

On the nuclear front, Rouhani said Iran is ready to “provide assurances, talk, and negotiate an agreement.” Speaking through an interpreter, he stressed that Iran has nothing to hide, that all of Iran’s sites are under IAEA supervision and will remain so, and that Iran expects its legal and full rights as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). On the levels of uranium enrichment which Iran would be allowed for its nuclear program, Rouhani said that Iran seeks the same privileges as the other 40 or so countries which have signed the NPT and have the capacity for enrichment. “Nothing less, nothing more,” he said.

A source close to the delegation told Al-Monitor that the use of the language of the NPT in the speech by US President Barack Obama on Tuesday was well received in Iran, as was Obama’s reference to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s fatwa prohibiting nuclear weapons.

In response to a question about his position on the Holocaust, Rouhani made plain his difference with former Iranian president Ahmadinejad by condemning the crimes of the Nazis against the Jews and others during World War II, much as he did in an interview Tuesday with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

President Rouhani and his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have tried to reach out to the Jewish community, using Twitter to issue Rosh Hashana greetings earlier this month. Rouhani was also accompanied to the discussion Wednesday by Moreh Sedgh, Iran’s only Jewish member of parliament, Rouhani’s Twitter account said. Israel, however, has rejected the overtures, charging the Rouhani ‘charm offensive’ is a cynical ploy meant to deceive gullible audiences in the West.

The White House said Tuesday that it had expressed interest in an Obama Rouhani encounter in New York, but the Iranians ultimately declined, indicating domestic complications.

“It was clear that it was too complicated for them,” a senior US official said.

Before boxers get in the ring to fight, they shake hands, an Iranian diplomat told Al-Monitor Tuesday, to explain the Iranian decision not to meet with Obama at this time.

Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday as part of a P5+1 foreign ministers meeting.

Andrew Parasiliti contributed the report.

(Photo: Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during session with reporters in New York, September 25, 2013. Photo courtesy of Gideon Rose.)

Iran's Rouhani wishes Jews blessed Rosh Hashanah

Iranian Jews pray at the Yousefabad Synagogue in Tehran November 23, 2006.

In stunning contrast to his Holocaust denying predecessor, Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday sent well wishes to the Jewish people on the occasion of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins at sundown.

“Not even under the monarchy do we remember such a message,” Haleh Esfandiari, the Iranian-born scholar who heads the Middle East program at the Woodrow Willson International Center, said of the message.

Rouhani's well wishes to the Jewish people come as the Iranian mission at the United Nations confirmed to Al-Monitor that he will travel to New York later this month to address the United Nations General Assembly and participate in a disarmament meeting.

Rouhani is scheduled to address the General Assembly on the afternoon of September 24th, the same day that US President Obama will address the body in the morning.

It also comes as Rouhani and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif have sent multiple messages condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Iran's ally, while not saying explicitly they believe it was done by the Assad regime, and while urging against U.S.-led action. Former Iranian President Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, however, is reported to have accused the Syrian government of gassing its own people at a lecture last week, allegedly recorded on video, even as other reports say his office had denied the comment.

“We strongly condemn any use of chemical weapons anywhere, but must be careful not to jump to conclusions before[ the] facts [are] clear,” Rouhani wrote on Twitter August 29.

Obama's national security chiefs have been testifying on the Hill and intensively consulting with lawmakers this week as the Senate and House consider whether to grant Obama an authorization to use military force to deter the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

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Gaza war intensifies — on Twitter


Given how polarized the Israel-Palestinian issue already is in the region and around the world, the Gaza conflict of 2012 is proving increasingly hard to navigate in one key virtual battleground: Twitter.

The social media space has already become a key front in the battle for information and narrative sympathies in the two day old Operation Pillar of Defense, avidly used by journalists on the ground and foreign capitals, the warring parties, and hundreds of thousands of their followers and observers around the world, often using hashtags that signify the posters’ point of view (#Gazaunderattack #LifeUnderRockets #PillarofDefense). But beyond the accurate information offered from the ground in real time–reports of air strikes in Gaza City and air raid sirens in Tel Aviv, videos posted of the Iron Dome system firing to try to intercept Hamas rocket fire, and heartbreaking photos of children killed–the Twitter forum has also produced a dizzying stream of misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, confusion, reports of rockets hitting Tel Aviv that didn’t, official accounts that seemed fake and fake accounts that seemed real.

In the deluge, even experienced journalists and ordinary observers were having trouble separating fact from fiction, real information from propaganda. Continue reading

Israel embassy pokes fun at Iran news goof


When Iran’s Fars News Agency published a spoof article from the satirical US newspaper the Onion, claiming Ahmadinejad beat out Obama in a new Gallup poll of American rural voters, Israel’s mission in New York couldn’t resist making a bit of fun at the IRGC-linked news agency’s expense.

But the Israeli diplomats’ social media crew went way over the head of whatever poor, ink-stained Fars scribe unwittingly took as real the spoof poll (and apparently ripped it off wholesale). The diplomatic mission took to Twitter to notify Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself of the error:

No word yet on the results of the attempted Twitter diplomacy/editorial correction between the two arch enemy nations.

According to his latest stats, Iran’s Supreme Leader’s English language Twitter account @Khamenei_IR has acquired 6,101 followers, and has issued 3,069 tweets. But the Supreme Leader still, as earlier, follows nobody on Twitter.

Meantime, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has departed New York for Iran, following what is likely to be his last US trip as Iran’s president, and apparently to contend with more political troubles at home. Among them, the news that his press aide Ali Akbar Javanfakr was jailed in Iran this week during his absence.

WikiLeaks dumps Syria files

Anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks on Thursday began publishing the first of what it says is a cache of over 2.4 million emails from Syrian officials.

“The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s opponents,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on the group's website.

The release comes as diplomats from the US, Europe, Turkey and Arab League meet in Paris on Friday for a conference of the so-called Friends of Syria. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will represent the United States at the meeting. Continue reading