Saturday, March 31, 2007

Iran-Britain Crisis

Iran and Britain held extensive discussions throughout Friday and late into the night to resolve the crisis over the continued detention of British naval personnel. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters this morning that he had hoped “that something might have happened during the night” (AFP).

The Friday frenzy was a latest attempt to find a solution before the sailors and marines are tried and sentenced in an Iranian court. The possibility of an upcoming trial was reinforced this morning when IRNA (the official Iranian news agency) quoted Iran’s ambassador to Russia as telling a Russian TV station that the British sailors could be tried in Iran for violating international law. The ambassador, Gholam Reza Ansari, later retracted the comment.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told reporters this morning that “everybody regrets that this situation has arisen. What we want is a way out of it” (AFP).

Iranian intentions are not very clear. There are concerns that the hardliners might want to use this incident to gain politically. The November 1979 hostage crisis propelled the radical right into power and for many years kept the influence of the moderates and the reformists to a minimum.

The difference between the situation in 1979 and now, however, is enormous. Today the Persian Gulf is full of warships and warplanes. This time around, any miscalculations by the politicians could become very costly for Iran and for the detainees.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

UN Security Council on Detained British Sailors

The UN Security Council today unanimously expressed "grave concern" at the detention of 15 British crew members by Iran but stopped well short of Britain's call to criticize Tehran.

The 15-member council turned back Britain's request for a call for the immediate liberation of its naval personnel because of strong opposition from Russia.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted UN diplomats that Russia, backed by some other council members such as Indonesia, wanted to avoid giving the impression that the council was taking sides in what was seen as a bilateral dispute, particularly on the issue of exactly where the 15 Britons were seized.

AFP reported that the original British draft would have the Security Council "deplore the continuing detention by the Government of Iran of 15 UK naval personnel" and back "calls for (their) immediate release". It stated that "the UK personnel were operating in Iraqi waters as part of the Multinational Force-Iraq under a mandate from the Security Council under Resolution 1723 (2006) and at the request of the government of Iraq."

The final statement adopted avoided the issue of whether the incident took place in Iranian or Iraqi waters.

Iran also withdrew an offer to free the only female British detainee. Tehran released a second letter apparently written by the captured woman, 26-year-old Faye Turney, in which she suggested it was time for Britain to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

The world oil prices soared to six-month highs on the spike in tension.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Arab Summit and the Challenge Facing Iran

The Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is a guest at the Arab Summit which began this morning in Riyadh. This year’s Arab summit has raised cautious hopes across the region that it might offer some promising possibilities for the Arab-Israeli conflict. Saudi King Abdullah, who as a crown prince in the Beirut Summit in 2002 had presented what is now called the Arab Peace Initiative, is enthusiastically chairing the Riyadh Summit. The Initiative calls for the recognition of Israel and a comprehensive peace agreement in the region if Israel withdrew from the lands occupied since the 1967 War. The Initiative could become a serious platform around which the Arab-Israeli conflict could finally be resolved. Is Iran ready to back the Initiative?

The timing could not be worst for Iran. The Islamic Republic is locked in a dangerous standoff with the West over its nuclear program. Its standing within the Muslim world and the larger Third World is in rapid decline. The latest unanimous vote against the Islamic Republic at the UN Security Council was an indicative of Iran’s isolation even among the fellow Third World countries and the Arab states (Qatar, Indonesia and South Africa all voted against the Islamic Republic). To normalize its relationship with the West and indeed with the rest of the world, the Islamic Republic needs to be seen as a moderating force in the region, acting on national and regional interests, and not solely on ideology.

And here lies the danger. The Islamic Republic can not back the Arab Peace Initiative and not be seen as backing off its doctrine of a Middle East with Palestine but without Israel. President Ahmadinejad has made a career of predicting Israel’s imminent demise. Indeed we witnessed a dress rehearsal of how awkward the topic could get for the Iranian leaders just earlier this month. On 3 March, Ahmadinejad had a meeting with King Abdullah in Riyadh and the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that in the meeting Ahmadinejad voiced support for the Arab Peace Initiative. Ahmadinejad’s office later denied any discussions on the topic during the meeting with the King.

On one hand, feeling increasingly isolated, the Iranian government does not want to be seen as actively opposing an eventual peace agreement between Israel and the Arabs. On the other hand, the leadership can not afford not to. They fear loosing the support of the public, to whom they have promised the imminent demise of the State of Israel.

The Arab summit and the push to make the Arab Peace Initiative the centerpiece of the Middle East peace plan could not have come at a more inopportune time for the Islamic Republic.

Iran Will Free British Servicewoman

Iran will free a detained British servicewoman on Wednesday or Thursday, the Iranian foreign minister told the Associated Press. She is one of the 15 British sailors and marines detained last Friday by Iran.

The British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said today Britain will freeze all ties with Iran over the incident.

Earlier today, the British military officials presented maps which they said proved that the sailors were in Iraqi waters when seized. The Iranian Navy has said that the sailors were trespassing on Iranian waters.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Iran Did Not Fire at US Warship

The US military denied reports today that Iran fired a missile at a US ship in the Persian Gulf.

The rumors of an attack had sent oil prices soaring, but a spokesman for the US Navy 5th Fleet said the rumors were untrue. Crude oil futures had jumped nearly eight percent this afternoon in a matter of minutes, topping $68.00 as rumors of a military confrontation in the Persian Gulf spurred panic buying.

Amrikaee is born!

The first issue of Amrikaee appeared on line. Pedram Moallemian, the publisher, says Amrikaee will be “the progressive voice of the new generation of Iranian-Americans.”

Congratulations to Pedram and the entire staff of Amrikaee on a job well done.

Please visit Amrikaee at:

News from Iran

The detention of 15 British sailors by Iran and the unanimous approval of a UN Security Council resolution slapping new sanctions on Iran dominated the news coverage on Iran. Today, the British Prime Minister warned Iran of the start of a “different phase” if it did not immediately free the 15. On nuclear issue, the EU, supported by the permanent members of the Security Council, renewed its offer of suspending all the sanctions against Iran if the government suspended its uranium enrichment program. This to jumpstart installed negotiations for a final agreement on the nuclear program.

The tensions arising from the detention of the British sailors and Iran’s nuclear program increased dramatically today when the US Navy began its largest naval and air maneuvers and demonstration of force in the Persian Gulf since the invasion of Iraq.

The Detention of British Sailors
· British Prime Minister Tony Blair said today that Iran has to release the sailors; if not, he added, the confrontation “will move into a different phase.”
· Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Iran is questioning the British sailors and marines to determine if their alleged entry into Iranian waters was ''intentional or unintentional''; Hosseini’s comments were the first sign that Iran could be willing to release the detainees if their entry was deemed unintentional.
· A British government spokesman said that the UK will publish GPS records showing that the sailors were not in Iranian waters when detained.
· British Foreign Secretary Margaret Becket said the UK will continue to leave the door open for a constructive outcome; she urged Iran to quickly release 15 detained sailors; she also asked Tehran to allow British diplomats access to the detainees.
· Iran said today the 15 British sailors and marines it detained last week are healthy, have been treated in a humane manner and that the only female sailor among them had been given privacy; the foreign ministry spokesman said the sailors have been treated with humanitarian and moral behavior.
· Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called on Iran to release 15 British sailors; he told his Iranian counterpart in a phone conversation that the sailors were operating with the Iraqi government's consent when they were captured; an Iraqi government spokesman confirmed later that the capture took place in Iraqi waters.
· The crisis began when British sailors boarded an Indian-flagged commercial ship suspected of carrying smuggled cars through the Arvandrud; the captain of the Indian ship has reportedly provided a statement to Iraqi officials that his vessel was in Iraqi waters at the time it was stopped by the British; the Iranian Navy had announced that the 15 British navy personnel were detained for their illegal entry into Iranian territorial waters.

The US Naval and Air Maneuvers in the Persian Gulf
· The US Navy today began its largest maneuvers in the Persian Gulf since the invasion of Iraq; the war games involved two aircraft carrier strike groups backed by warplanes flying simulated attack maneuvers off the coast of Iran; more than 100 American warplanes were conducting simulated air warfare in the crowded Persian Gulf shipping lanes; the exercises involve more than 10,000 U.S. personnel on warships and aircraft making simulated attacks on enemy shipping with aircraft and ships, hunting enemy submarines and finding mines.
· US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had said earlier that the US has offered to help the British in any way it can to release the detained sailors.

Iran’s Nuclear Program
· The UN Security Council slapped new sanctions on Iran to pressure Tehran into suspending its nuclear program; the UN Security Council’s 15 members unanimously adopted Resolution 1747that broadens UN sanctions imposed on Iran in December; Qatar, Indonesia and South Africa joined the West in voting against the Islamic Republic.
· Today EU, backed by the six world powers, renewed its offer to Iran to start a new round of negotiations if Iran suspends its uranium enrichment program and the international community simultaneously suspends the sanctions against the country.
· Earlier the presidents of China and Russia in a joint statement had called on Iran to accept UN demands and to suspend its uranium enrichment program.
· Iran defiantly responded to the new UNSC resolution by limiting its cooperation with the nuclear watchdog agency, IAEA; the government announced that it would no longer inform the nuclear watchdog of new installations until six months before they are brought into service; Iran would now will not report future modifications at Natanz, where it aims to ultimately have over 50,000 centrifuges running.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Russian, Chinese Presidents Call on Iran to Fulfill UN Resolution

The presidents of Russia and China today called on Iran to fulfill the UN Security Council's resolutions over its nuclear program.

"Russia and China are calling on Iran to take necessary constructive steps to fulfill the UN Security Council resolutions and (IAEA) board decisions," said President Vladimir Putin and President Hu Jintao in a joint statement. The two presidents had been meeting today in Moscow.

Russia and China have been reluctant to join the United States and other Western nations in an aggressive push for punitive sanctions against the Islamic Republic, but they joined other members of the Security Council on Saturday in voting to impose new sanctions on Iran.

Major International Banks Cutting Ties with Iran

The Washington Post is reporting today that more than 40 major international banks and financial institutions have either cut off or cut back business with the Iranian government or Iranian corporations as a result of a campaign launched by the US Treasury and State departments.

Robin Wright, the Post staff writer, reports that the financial squeeze has seriously crimped Tehran's ability to finance petroleum industry projects and to pay for imports. Many Iranian importers are now forced to pay for commodities in advance when a year ago they could rely on a revolving line of credit.

Among the major financial institutions that have cut back business ties with Iran are UBS of Switzerland, which cut off all dealings with Iran last year, London-based HSBC and Standard Chartered, as well as Commerzbank of Germany.

Main Points of Arab Plan for Peace with Israel

The Arab leaders have gathered in Riyadh today to revive a Saudi-inspired Arab peace initiative first floated five years ago in a bid to find peace in the Middle East.

The Saudi Press Agency had reported earlier this month that Iranian President Ahmadinejad had approved the plan during his meeting in Riyadh with King Abdullah (please see the posting on this site on 4 March, "Has Iran Accepted the Arab Peace Initiative?")

The Saudi plan was adopted at an Arab summit in Beirut in 2002. The following are the main points of the plan.

- Presenting the plan, Saudi crown prince (now king) Abdullah calls for full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967, and Israel's acceptance of an independent Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel.

- Arising from the conviction of Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, the council:

1 - Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.

2 - Further calls upon Israel to affirm:
a. Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights to the lines of June 4, 1967 as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon (the Shebaa Farms).
b. Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.
(UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948), Article 11: "Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.")
c. The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

3. Consequently, Arab countries affirm the following:
a. Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.
b. Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.

4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of Arab host countries.

5. Calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighborliness and provide future generations with security, stability, and prosperity.

6. Invites the international community and all countries and organizations to support this initiative.

Iran Says British Sailors Being Interrogated

Fifteen British sailors and marines seized by Iran are currently being interrogated in Tehran and will have to answer to allegations they violated Iranian waters, an Iranian official said today. The 15 were seized on Friday in Arvandrud (Shatt al-Arab) waterway that divides Iraq-Iran.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in a statement issued in Baghdad that the Britons were detained while operating in Iraqi waters.

Iranian deputy foreign minister Mehdi Mostafavi denied reports that Iran wanted to exchange the British sailors with Iranian diplomats seized by US forces in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil in January.

With tensions rising in the region over both the group's capture and Iran's nuclear program, oil prices rose to their highest levels this year -- above 62 dollars.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Truth Behind 300

Iranian-American filmmaker Cyrus Kar has been working on a documentary film on Cyrus the Great, King of Persia. We have received his article on the movie 300, which is pubished below. Many thanks to Cyrus Kar.

Cyrus Kar


For many Iranians the cinematic movie '300' may come as a shocking revelation. But to those of us who came up through America's school system, the 'Battle of Thermopylae,' which is what the movie '300' is based on, is as familiar as George Washington's fabled "cherry tree" episode.

The Battle of Thermopylae was of course written by the classical Greek author, Herodotus, who lived in the Persian city of Halicarnassus. His book, 'The Histories' became part of Western folklore only recently. It was not until about 1850 that America embraced Herodotus as the leading authority on Persian history.

Before 1850, however, the West had a very favorable impression of the Persian Empire. That's because the West's main source for Persian history was the Bible and the 'Cyropaedia,' written by another Greek author named Xenophon.

But the Cyropaedia glorified the monarchy of Cyrus The Great, and in the wake of two bloody revolutions fought by America and France to liberate themselves from their own monarchies, a major campaign began, around the mid 19 th century, to promote democracy throughout the rest of Europe, and Herodotus was the perfect propaganda tool.

Herodotus was a democratic groupie and was quickly ushered in as the "Father Of History." Around 1850, his 'Battle Of Thermopylae' came to symbolize the West's struggle for democracy against the powerful forces of Persia's monarchy.

The story is easy to buy into: 300 brave Spartans saved Western democracy from 2.7 million evil Persians. But aside from the fanciful numbers which need decimal-point adjustments, this whimsical tale has far graver consequences than a mere biased account of history.

The 'Battle Of Thermopylae' has been the single most powerful wedge, which has divided East and West for over 2 millennia. In a time when East and West should be reconciling their differences, along comes the movie '300' to drive that wedge even deeper.

What is most disturbing about this movie is not that it lacks historical accuracy. It is not that Xerxes, the Grandson of Cyrus the Great and loving husband of Esther, is shown as an oversized drag queen. It is not even the outdated racist cliché of casting the Persians as Africans and the Spartans as white, blue-eyed 'Chippendale dancers,' when in reality the roles may well have been reversed.

What is so distressing about this movie is the realization of the tremendous power Hollywood wields in determining a people's identity. It is the same nightmare Native Americans endured during the whole 'cowboy-movie' genre.

But for those who are quick to dismiss '300' as a fleeting fantasy flick aimed at the insignificant, 17 to 24 year-old male video-gamer, think again. First there was Alexander, now '300,' next could well be the 'Battle Of Marathon,' another one of Herodotus's glowing accounts of ancient Persia.

Herodotus is accepted blindly by virtually all Western demographics. Even the New York Times is not immune.Here is how it described the Persians in its April 20, 2004 issue about the Battle Of Marathon:

"the defeat of a ruthless state (Persia) that had enslaved much of the known world from the Balkans to the Himalayas."

"the ancient Greeks defeated the Asian invaders (Persia) and saved Europe in what scholars call one of the first great victories of freedom over tyranny"

- William J. Broad, (NY Times)

What stretches the limits of hypocrisy is that there isn't a single shred of archeological evidence that the Persians ever owned slaves. Yet we know that slavery was an integral cornerstone of Greek society. Aristotle's manifesto even sanctions it. Persia, which was once a haven for runaway slaves from Egypt, Greece, and later Rome, is today branded as a slave-hungry empire by cultures which were built on slavery!

What makes Herodotus's propaganda so difficult to refute is that it is peppered with facts. But in reality, it is a desperate diatribe. Perhaps his biggest ploy is his attempt to equate democracy with freedom. These two words are used virtually interchangeably throughout his book. And the West has swallowed it hook-line-and-sinker.

But America's founding fathers knew better. They implemented many safeguards to protect freedom from the pitfalls that mired Athenian democracy. Even Winston Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others which have been tried."

Democracy may well be the best form of government. But what makes America great is not so much democracy, as it is its Bill Of Rights. And this is exactly what made Persia Great. Democracy can often lead to tyranny by the majority as was the case in democratic Athens, where women, slaves and foreigners did not have the right to vote.

In monarchic Persia, however, women enjoyed a level of gender equality unmatched even to this day, and slavery was not practiced. The fact is, Persia's monarchy was freer than Athens' democracy, all because of Persia's Bill Of Rights.

No one exemplifies Persia's freedom better than Herodotus himself. He describes Athens as the bastion of freedom, yet he chose to live in Persia. Xenophon, on the other hand, who actually lived in Athens, reminisces enviably about the monarchy of Cyrus the Great.

Herodotus claims Persia had enslaved most of the known world, yet we know Herodotus was not a slave. He traveled freely throughout the empire, openly criticizing it.

Why did Herodotus not live in Greece? Because Persia - the empire he is so quick to demonize - afforded him the very freedom to publish his scathing report of it. People want to live where their god-given rights are protected, regardless of whether it is democratic or monarchic.

These god-given rights were first drafted into law by the founder of the Persian Empire, Cyrus the Great. In fact, ancient Persia may well have served as the blue print for America's Bill Of Rights. Both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the architects of America's Constitution, were great admirers and owned several copies of Xenophon's Cyropaedia.

Today, no other country resembles ancient Persia as closely as does the United States. If any country should sympathize with, rather than celebrate, Persia's quagmire in Greece, it is the United States. Few events in history mirror America's war on terror as closely as Persia's war on Greece.

The Greeks had been carrying out terrorist attacks on Persian holdings for years. They had attacked Persian cities, set fire to Persian temples, disrupted key trade routes, and pirated merchant ships crossing the Bosporus. They incited rebellions inside Persian provinces, but perhaps most abhorrent to the Persians was the ease by which the Greeks broke their treaties and betrayed Persia's trust.

Rather than resort to violence, however, Persia tried to keep the Greeks in check by financially supporting Greek politicians who were "pro-Persian," much the same way America fights its proxy wars. But what finally triggered Persia's wrath was an act rarely mentioned in the West, though well documented, even by Herodotus (7:11).

Persia's 9/11:

In 498 BCE, Athens carried out a terrorist attack on Sardis, a major Persian city, which made 9/11 seem like child's play. Aristagoras, an Athenian, set fire to the "outlying parts" of Sardis trapping most of its population "in a ring of fire." (Herodotus 5:101)

More innocent civilians died at the hands of Aristagoras than Osama bin Laden could ever hope to kill. And just as most of the world supported America's retaliation against Al Qaeda, so did it rally in support of Persia's attack on Athens.

The Spartans were not even targets of Persia's attack, until they violated a universal protocol by killing a Persian messenger who Herodotus claims was asking for Sparta's submission but in reality was probably sent by Persia's king, Xerxes to convey the same message America sent to the entire world after 9/11: "you're either with us, or against us."

The Spartans were Greek Jihadists who lived only to die. They were by all accounts ruthless savages who murdered Greek slaves known as "Helots" just for sport, cultivated a culture of thievery and rape, and practiced infanticide, as the movie '300' rightly points out in its opening scenes. Sparta was not even democratic. It was an oligarchy at best. Despite knowing all this, the West continues to hail the Spartans as the saviors of Western democracy.

Yes, the Spartans died fighting a foreign invader. But so do countless terrorists. Yet few would consider them "good guys." Those who do are then not much different from Westerners who cheer for the Spartans.

Persia was drawn into a protracted war against terror, much the same way the U.S. was. Cheering for the Spartans merely because they were underdogs is like cheering for Osama bin Laden today.

The Power Of Film:

History is no longer written by the victors, it is written by filmmakers. When will the children of Persia rise up and fight back using the same weapon Hollywood has used for decades to denigrate the legacy of their ancestors? When will we abandon our defensive posture and begin to write our own history again?

Perhaps the movie '300' was a necessary wake up call. But Persia bashing will never disappear on its own. It is the main villain in the Western saga. The only way it will change is through the power of film.

Alex Jovy's epic movie about Cyrus the Great could have done wonders for the Iranian image. Most minority groups in America understand the power of film and are quick to finance films that communicate their stories to the rest of the world. But Alex Jovy's movie today sits idle due lack of money. My documentary film about Cyrus the Great ( has languished for a mere want of $400,000.

Iranians are the most affluent and educated minority group in America. If we set our minds to it, we could literally change the world. This Norooz, I hope all Iranians, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation, resolve to finally unite in an effort to redeem the reputation of our ancestors.

Happy Norooz,

Cyrus Kar

Institutions and Individuals Sanctioned by UN 1747

The following is a list of 28 additional Iranian institutions and individuals hit by an assets freeze or travel restrictions in the new UN Resolution 1747 adopted yesterday.

ENTITIES involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities:
-- Ammunition and Metallurgy Industries Group (AMIG), owned and controlled by the Defense Industries Organization (DIO). AMIG is targeted for its role in Iran's centrifuge program.
-- Isfahan Nuclear Fuel Research and Production Center and Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center, part of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), which is involved in enrichment-related activities.
-- Kavoshyar Company, an AEOI front company which is said to have sought glass fibers, vacuum chamber furnaces and laboratory equipment for Iran's nuclear program.
-- Parchin Chemical Industries, a branch of DIO that produces ammunition and explosives as well as solid propellants for rockets and missiles.
-- Karaj Nuclear Research Center, part of AEOI's research division.
-- Novin Energy Company, which operates within the AEOI and has transferred funds on behalf of AEOI to entities associated with Iran's nuclear program.
-- Cruise Missile Industry Group which is responsible for production and development of cruise missiles.
-- Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International, said to provide support for AIO (Aerospace Industries Organization) and its subordinates.
-- Sanam Industrial Group, an AIO subordinate that has purchased equipment on its behalf for the missile program.

-- Qods Aeronautics Industries, which produces parachutes, para-gliders and para-motors.
-- Pars Aviation Services Company, which maintains various aircraft used by the IRGC air force.
-- Sho'a Aviation, which produces micro-lights.

PERSONS involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities:
-- Mohsen Fakrizadeh-Mahabadi, a senior Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) scientist and former head of the Physics Research Center (PHRC). The UN nuclear monitoring agency has asked to interview him about PHRC activities, but Tehran has refused.
-- Fereidoun Abbasi-Davani, a senior MODAFL scientist with links to the Institute of Applied Physics, working closely with Fakhrizadeh.
-- Seyed Jaber Safdari, manager of the Natanz (uranium) Enrichment Facilities.
-- Amir Rahimi, head of the Esfahan Nuclear Fuel Research and Production Center.
-- Mohsen Hojati, head of the Fajr Industrial Group, already targeted for travel and financial sanctions for its role in the ballistic missile program.
-- Mehrdada Ketabachi, head of Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group, already targeted for sanctions for its role in the ballistic missile program.
-- Naser Maleki, head of the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group. He is a MODAFL official supervising work on the Shahab-3 ballistic missile program. The Shahab-3 is Iran's long-range ballistic missile currently in service.
-- Ahmad Derakhandeh, chairman of Bank Sepah.

IRGC key persons:
-- Brigadier General Morteza Rezaie, IRGC deputy commander
-- Vice Admiral Ali Ahmadian, chief of the Joint Staff
-- Brigadier General Mohammad Zahedi, commander of ground forces
-- Rear Admiral Morteza Safari, commander of the navy
-- Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi, commander of the para-military Bassij resistance force
-- Brigadier General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Qods force, an elite IRGC unit that carries out special operations outside Iran.
-- General Baqer Zolqadr, IRGC officer and deputy interior minister for security affairs.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

UN Security Council Unanimously Approves Resolution 1747

The UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1747, a new package of sanctions which includes a ban on arms exports and financial restrictions against an expanded list of Iranian officials and corporations.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki attended the Security Council meeting, but the Council rejected his arguments and unanimously voted against the Islamic Republic.

This is becoming a familiar trend. When it comes to any showdown with the Islamic Republic, the entire world unites against it; and in the process Iran becomes increasingly more isolated.

It is apparent that the actual government in Iran can not protect the rights of the Iranian nation, no matter how basic those rights might be. The entire world so mistrusts this government that it does not even allow it to develop an energy program of its own. If Iran wants to realize its full potentials, it would need to have a new government.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Ahmadinejad UN Visit Off

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will not go to New York for tomorrow’s UN Security Council meeting on Iran's nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad’s office blamed the US for issuing him a visa too late to make the trip.

Iran Captures 15 British Sailors and Marines

Britain is demanding the "immediate and safe return" of 15 British navy personnel seized by Iranian forces. Iranian naval vessels detained 15 British sailors and marines at approximately 10:30 a.m. Iraqi time (0730 GMT) on Friday.

The UK soldiers had completed an inspection of a merchant ship when they and their two boats were surrounded and escorted by Iranian vessels into Iranian territorial waters.

Sky News said the captives, from the Type 22 frigate HMS Cornwall, were seized in the Shatt Al Arab (Arvandrud) waterway. The British Royal Navy insisted that they were operating in Iraqi waters and not Iranian territorial waters.

Late today, the Iranian Television quoted a foreign ministry statement that the British sailors had actually entered Iranian territorial waters at Arvandrud illegally. The report indicated that the detainees were being questioned by the border guards.

UN to Vote on New Iran Sanctions

Sponsors of a UN Security Council measure to reinforce sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program are ready to put it to a vote on Saturday 24 March. The resolution was expected to receive overwhelming support.

The Security Council members reviewed minor changes made to the text agreed last week by the five veto-wielding permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany.

The United States today issued a visa for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to allow him to attend the UN Security Council meeting. Ahmadinejad had announced the he will address the council on the day of the vote. If he is going to come, he should leave Tehran later today.

Amid mounting tensions over its nuclear ambitions, Tehran announced it had launched naval military exercises, codenamed "Power," in the Persian Gulf to display the Islamic Republic's "power and defense capability."

Earlier this year the United States increased its own naval presence in the Persian Gulf, in a move seen more directed at Iran than to support US forces in Iraq.

The UN Security Council resolution would ban arms exports, calls for trade sanctions and expands a list of Iranian officials and companies targeted for financial and travel restrictions.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Persians

Azar in Maryland has left a comment on this site regarding 300, with a link to YouTube on a documentary first aired by History channel on Persian Empire. The YouTube piece consists of five parts, with the events behind 300 appearing on Part 4. A great documentary you may want to watch. Many thanks to Azar for sending us the link.

New Year and New Direction

Yesterday we began to celebrate the Iranian New Year 1386. The customary Nourooz greeting of wishing everyone a happy and prosperous year was particularly meaningful this year. I am not all that certain if Iran will have happy or prosperous days ahead. In 1385, the Ahmadinejad administration did all it could to channel people’s energy in supporting the country’s uranium enrichment program. In the process, the government all but ignored major issues facing the country internally and isolated the country externally, to a degree unprecedented in modern history of Iran.

People are discontent, and the government is incapable of offering any solutions except the crackdown of any protest movement. Teachers want higher pay. The government arrests 1,000 protesting teachers in front of Majlis on the eve of Nourooz. Women want changes in gender-based discriminatory laws in matters of divorce, child custody and inheritance. The government arrests 33 women activists on the eve of the International Women’s Day. The students call for freedom and the bus drivers ask for higher pay. The government arrests their leaders. Ahmadinejad’s answer to social discontent is to show off force.

Externally, the increasing isolation of the country is becoming unbearable. The world will not recognize our national rights, including the right to nuclear energy, under this government. The threat of a military attack might have been exaggerated, but the choking effects of the tightening economic sanctions are real. The blacklisting of Iranian banks and the refusal of Western financial institutions to conduct business with Iranian corporations and individuals are the start of a long process that might end in an embargo on Iranian oil. Under this government, the enrichment of uranium is not achievable; the impoverishment of the country is! The country needs a new direction.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

News from Iran

The country’s nuclear program and the impending UN Security Council’s meeting to impose further sanctions against Iran for its program dominates the media coverage. President Ahmadinejad announced that he will attend the UNSC meeting to defend Iran’s nuclear rights. Iranian leaders warned the West against any military attack on Iran and threatened to respond militarily to any attack.

Iran Nuclear Program
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he will attend the UN Security Council’s meeting on Iranian nuclear issue; Ahmadinejad said he will defend Iran's nuclear rights at the meeting; US announced that it has issued visas for Ahmadinejad and 38 members of his entourage to attend the UN meeting; Ahmadinejad had said earlier that the Security Council has no legitimacy among the peoples of the world.
· Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran will respond in equal measure if the UN Security Council issues a second sanctions resolution against the country; Mottaki said the new sanctions will bring all kinds of consequences.
· Major General Ataollah Salehi, the commander of Iranian military, warned the United States not to make any “stupid move” over Iran’s nuclear program; General Salehi said Iran's military was stronger now than when Iran fought against Iraq in 1980-88; Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, also warned the West against any military attacks; Larijani said that Iran would respond militarily if attacked.
· Russia put off delivering enriched uranium fuel to start Bushehr nuclear reactor; the fuel delivery was scheduled for March 2007; Russia had announced earlier that the construction of Bushehr plant will not be completed on schedule; Atomstroiexport, the Russian general contractor for Bushehr project, said in a statement that it had difficulties in appeasing subcontractors demanding urgent payments from Iran; the Iranian government announced that there had been no delay in paying the construction companies for their work at Bushehr; Iranian politicians have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of politicizing the Bushehr project.
· French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Iran had the choice of either suspending its uranium enrichment or face further sanctions.
· Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki arrived in South Africa for a meting with President Thabo Mbeki; South Africa has proposed a 90-day moratorium on uranium enrichment by Iran and a corresponding moratorium on UN sanctions against Iran to calm the atmosphere and give all sides to conclude their negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the nuclear standoff.

Domestic Storylines
· International Monetary Fund (IMF) ruled that US sanctions against an Iranian bank was legal; IMF rejected Iran’s argument that US sanctions violated laws on foreign exchange; US had blacklisted Iran’s Bank Saderat in late 2006, accusing it of financing terrorist operations; in January 2007, US added another major Iranian bank to the list, Bank Sepah. It has singled out the bank of major investment in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.
· Iran hangs Ahmad Sariz, a member of Baluchi militant group Jundallah; Jundallah has carried out a string of attacks on government forces in Iranian Baluchestan; the government said that Sariz was found guilty for taking part in the killing of a police chief and the abduction of policemen; the province borders Afghanistan and Pakistan and has a substantial Sunni minority.
· The head of Iran’s Security Forces, Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam, said it is possible that Western intelligence services have kidnapped Iran’s former defense deputy minister Ali Reza Asgari; Asgari’s wife said her husband had disappeared in December; Asgari arrived in Istanbul on a visit and has not been seen since.
· Iran's most wanted fugitive businessman was arrested in a neighboring Arab country after escaping from authorities and leaving the country in February; Shahram Jazayeri had been sentenced in 2002 to 27 years prison for embezzlement; Jazayeri was transferred to Iran after his arrest in the unnamed Arab country.
· Iran launched a complaint with UNESCO against the movie 300; Iranian ambassador to UNESCO asked the world’s cultural organization to take a stand against the film; the movie portrays the Achaemenid Persians as savage beasts attacking freedom-loving citizens of Sparta; Achaemenid Persia, and its founder Cyrus the Great, gave the world its first charter of human right, known as Cyrus Cylinder; a replica of the cylinder is on permanent exhibit near the entrance of UN Security Council; the film is seen as a crude attempt to prove Western moral superiority over Eastern savagery throughout history and to show Persia as an “evil empire.”

Regional Storylines
· Bahrain’s defense minister said that the Arab states of the Persian Gulf have capability to respond to any attack from Iran; Khalifa bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa said the Gulf countries are able to defend themselves against Iran.
· Iranian ambassador to Iraq Mohammad Hossein Kazemi-Ghomi said that detained Iranian diplomats will be freed soon; he said that the Iraqi foreign minister had assured him of their imminent release; Kazemi-Ghomi said that no negotiations had been held between Iran and US on the fate of detained Iranians.

Happy Nourooz!

Today is the first day of spring and the beginning of the Iranian New Year. Nourooz is celebrated not only in Iran, but also in Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. May the New Year bring happiness and peace to people around the globe!

Monday, March 19, 2007


300 brave Spartans defeated the Persian evil empire and in the process saved the civilization. Two assumptions; two lies!

Xerxes was the king of Archaemenid Persia whose founder, Cyrus the Great - Xerxes’s grandfather, gave the world its very first charter of human rights, the Cyrus Cylinder (a replica of the cylinder is kept at the UN headquarters near the entrance to the Security Council).

Greeks did not save the civilization and democracy by defeating Persians. These are Herodotus’s assumptions, readily accepted in the West, and recycled again by Hollywood. There are no facts available to support such claim. Greece had its own democratic traditions, even though the Greek democracy and its benefits were limited to and enjoyed by a selected few. Persia had its own charter of human rights, which more than 2200 years later were used by America’s Founding Fathers in creating the Bill of Rights. Recasting the Battle of Thermopylae into a clash of civilization between Western democracy and Eastern savagery is recycling an old lie and in the process spreading racism and ignorance, especially in a world suffering from both.

Warner Bros. studio tells us that 300 is a work of fiction and loosely based on an historical event, and it is not meant to disparage an ethnicity or culture or make any sort of political statement. This is precisely what they have done!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reformists Oppose Government’s Nuclear Policies

In a letter distributed on Wednesday 13 March, more than 300 reformists and political activists in Iran declared their opposition to what they called the “warmongering policies” of the Iranian government. The activists called for the suspension of uranium enrichment in order to avoid UN sanctions and the worsening economic situation in the country.

The letter was signed by well-known figures in the reformist movement, including Hashem Aghajari, Saeed Hajarian, Fatemeh Haghighatju, Ezatollah Sahabi, Mashallah Shamsovaezin, Azam Taleghani, Jamileh Kadivar, Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoiniha, Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari and Ebrahim Yazdi.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Country Is Embracing Tougher Sanctions

The permanent members of the UN Security Council moved closer to agreement on a second resolution against Iran. The Security Council may vote on the proposed new sanctions by Friday 16 March. In addition to previous sanctions imposed against Iran, the new resolution is expected to impose an embargo on arms exports, a ban on governmental loans to Iran, and asset freeze on more individuals and companies linked to the nuclear program. The Russians also announced that the completion of Bushehr nuclear reactor will be delayed at least until November 2007.The plant was scheduled to go on line this month.

The Islamic Republic seems determined to continue its uranium enrichment program, even though it will certainly face further isolation politically and in the global marketplace. Although the former Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami, urged the Iranian government to pay “a certain price” in order to resolve the nuclear standoff and to avoid the second sanctions resolution at the UN, the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, announced that he will be going to the UN to personally defend the country’s nuclear program.

Enrichment of uranium has become the defining policy of Ahmadinejad’s presidency; notwithstanding the fact that the uranium enrichment does not enrich the Iranian economy. On the contrary, with the escalating sanctions and the country becoming increasingly isolated, the enrichment program will have economic and financial costs associated with it that might prove unbearable even for the political leadership in Tehran. Foreign investment in the foreseeable future is out. Gasoline import will be endangered. Inflation and unemployment will worsen. The lack of social justice and the sun-standard living conditions for the poor will become even more pronounced.

Is the uranium enrichment worth all these? The government will say it is: it is after all an undeniable right for the nation to develop its own uranium enrichment program. But is it worth the price of ruining the country’s economy and isolating it even further in this fast-paced global age? Hardly! We just need to look where we are in comparison to other countries that were our co-equals not long ago.

GDP per Capita (US dollar)
GDP 1980 1990 2000 2005

Iran 2645 3752 5826 7979
Thailand 1355 3715 6279 8551
Malaysia 2153 4519 8927 10843
South Korea 2617 7992 16179 21868

Numbers powerfully remind us that the country’s economy and the government’s defining policies are heading in a wrong direction. The government owes its citizens much better conditions that what they now have. An advanced and prosperous Iran will make the nation and the citizens proud.

News from Iran

The permanent members of the UN Security Council moved closer to agreement on a second resolution against Iran. The Security Council may vote on the proposed new sanctions by Friday 16 March. In addition to previous sanctions imposed against Iran, the new resolution is expected to impose an embargo on arms exports, a ban on governmental loans to Iran, and asset freeze on more individuals and companies linked to the nuclear program. The Russians also announced that the construction of Bushehr nuclear reactor will not be completed sooner than November 2007.

Iran Nuclear Program
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend a special session of the UN Security Council on Iran’s nuclear program.
· The permanent members of the UN Security Council moved closer to agreement on a second resolution against Iran.
· Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami urged the Iranian government to prevent a crisis with world powers over its nuclear program; Khatami said that Iran should pay “a certain price” to resolve the nuclear standoff and avoid the second sanctions resolution; he added that Iran can prevent a crisis with “discretion and courage.”
· Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that Iran’s nuclear program has a legal base; and Iran’s chief delegate to IAEA, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, added that the uranium enrichment program “will continue as planned.”
· Russia announced that the construction of Iran's first atomic power station will not be completed sooner than November 2007; Iran accused the Russians of “politicizing” the electricity-generating project.
· NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that Iranian and North Korean missiles and nuclear programs are serious threats to NATO.
· Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel is capable of dealing alone with the Iranian nuclear threat even if sanctions don't work.

The Baghdad Conference and US-Iran Relations
· The American and Iranian envoys to Baghdad’s regional peace conference exchanged direct talks; the US representative, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, called it a “first step”; Khalilzad said that their discussions with regard to Iraq were “constructive, businesslike and problem-solving”; the Iranian representative, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, told reporters that all dialogue was within the framework of the meeting; he added there had been "heated" discussions with the US side over the six Iranian diplomats detained by American forces in Iraq.

Domestic Storylines
· The government has released all but two of 33 women arrested prior to the International Women’s Day celebrations on 8 March; the women were detained while protesting the arrest of five other women activists.
· Mystery continued over the disappearance of a senior Iranian defense ministry official in Turkey ; Iran accused Western power of “kidnapping” the official, Ali Reza Asghari, a former deputy defense minister.
· Iran issued a bank note with a nuclear symbol in defiance of sanctions over its insistence on enriching uranium; the note shows a nuclear symbol within a map of Iran.
· Iran lifted the ban on the country’s flagship newspaper, Shargh; the newspaper was closed down in September 2006 after publishing a carton deemed offensive to the Iranian president.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Shargh is Back!

Iran’s flagship daily, Shargh, was given the go-ahead to publish again. The largest-circulation newspaper in the Islamic Republic had been banned for the past six months for publishing a cartoon deemed offensive to the Iranian president.
Congratulations to Mohammad Ghoochani, Shargh’s Editor-in-Chief, and the entire staff for this well-deserved victory. The nation awaits seeing Shargh in the newsstands soon.
Also today, the editorial team behind Shargh launched a new weekly, Shahrvand (Citizen). We expect to see its content to be as lively as Shargh.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

28-Year Diplomatic Freeze between US and Iran Ends

The American and Iranian envoys to Baghdad’s regional peace conference exchanged direct talks today on efforts to end Iraq's violence and bolster its government. The US representative, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, called it a “first step.” The contact was a significant break in the nearly 28-year diplomatic freeze between Iran and the US. Washington broke off ties with Iran after militants occupied the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Ambassador Khalilzad first approached the Iranian delegation and welcomed their attendance. He later exchanged views with Iranians “directly and in the presence of others.” Khalilzad told AFP that their discussions with regard to Iraq were “constructive, businesslike and problem-solving.” Khalilzad also noted that he raised Washington’s assertions that the Shia militias receive weapons and assistance from across the border from Iran.

The Iranian representative, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, told reporters that he had no face-to-face talks with Khalilizad, and all dialogue was within the framework of the meeting. Araghchi restated Tehran's demands for a clear timetable for the withdrawal of US-led forces. He also condemned attacks on Shia pilgrims, which killed 117 in the central town of Hila earlier in the week.

In a lead editorial in Keyhan, its influential editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari warned the Iranian delegates against falling into the US trap to lure Iran into playing a formal and open role in the conflict in Iraq. He wrote that Iran’s participation in the conference was a mistake.

The conference was convened by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki to forge a common front against the sectarian violence in Iraq. 16 nations, comprising the Iraqi neighbors and the permanent members of the UN Security Council, attended the one-day conference on Saturday 10 March in Baghdad’s Green Zone. The delegates proposed an expanded follow-up meeting, which could include the G-8 nations and others, in Istanbul, Turkey, next month.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Women Challenge the Islamic Republic

Today, March 8, is a global day of celebration of power of women past, present and future. The International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations through the decades past have ushered significant events, most memorable of all the 1917 Russian women’s strike for “bread and peace” which forced the abdication of the Czar and the formation of the Russian Provisional Government. Nowadays thousands of events are held throughout the world to celebrate women’s achievements, some even supported by major corporations.

In Iran, the government chose to arrest women’s rights activists ahead of IWD. 33 women were arrested on 4 March for gathering outside a Tehran courtroom, where four women activists were on trial for organizing a protest against gender-based discriminatory laws in the Islamic Republic.

In the recent months, the women activists and advocates of equal rights in Iran had started two major campaigns. One calls for an end to stoning to death of convicted adulterers. The other, and a much larger campaign, aims to gather one million signatures from Iranians of all walks of life who are in favor of changing gender-based discriminatory laws. The organizers of this campaign hope to present these signatures to Majlis, the parliament, in the coming days.

Women in Iran are calling for equal rights with men, equal rights in divorce, equal rights in child custody, and equal rights in inheritance. Such rights not being respected in 21st century might prove to be the Achille’s Heel of the Islamic Republic.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

News from Iran

Iran’s nuclear program continued to dominate the media coverage in Iran. Iran denied reports that it had halted its uranium enrichment program temporarily and was embracing itself for a new UN Security Council resolution that would expand the sanctions regime against Iranian organizations and individuals. Iran also tested its new air defense system around its nuclear sites. The visit to Saudi Arabia by the Iranian president also received prominent media coverage. Iran denied a Saudi Press Agency report that President Ahmadinejad had supported the Arab Peace Initiative during his talks with King Abdullah. The Initiative calls for the recognition of Israel upon Israeli withdrawal of Arab lands occupied since 1967 War. The Saudi foreign minister, however, contradicted Iran’s denial of any talks on the subject. He told the Lebanese newspaper Al Safir that the Initiative was indeed part of the meeting’s agenda.

Iran Nuclear Program
· Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki denied the reports that Iran has temporarily halted its uranium enrichment program; IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei had earlier made a remark that Iran appeared to have paused the development of its enrichment program; Mottaki insisted that there has been no change in the course; Iran's Atomic Energy Organization also announced that the enrichment activities in Natanz is continuing as planned.
· Iran started an air defense exercise at a key nuclear site; Isfahan governor said that the test of the system installed around Isfahan uranium conversion facility took place on Tuesday 6 March; Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said that Iran's armed forces were ready to hit back against any attack; Najar said Iran was ready to confront any national security threat; Brigadier General Ali Reza Afshar, Deputy Chief of Staff of Iranian Armed Forces, had earlier warned that smallest invasion of Iran will be reciprocated by devastation of US interests.
· The UN Security Council’s permanent members and Germany started their deliberations to strengthen sanctions against Iran; the world powers agreed to send the issue of Iran's disputed nuclear program to their UN representatives, after failing to resolve differences during their deputy foreign ministers meeting; UNSC was expected to pass a new resolution that would expand the sanction regime against the Iranian organizations and individuals involved in nuclear program; the new resolution will be a follow-up to 1737, adopted by the Security Council on 23 December.
· International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that its inspectors cannot guarantee that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful; IAEA has investigated Iranian nuclear program for the last four years; IAEA board of governors was to approve the suspension of 22 of 55 IAEA technical aid projects in Iran during its week-long meeting that started on 5 March; IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei told the meeting that Iran’s verification case is “sui generis” (one of a kind); unlike other verification cases, ElBaradei said, Iran's program has been shaken because of two decades of undeclared activities.

Domestic Storylines
· Iran has accepted Iraq’s invitation to a regional conference on security in Iraq; the conference will convene in Baghdad on 10 March; US and other permanent members of the UN Security Council along with all Iraqi neighbors would attend the conference.
· A group of detained Iranian women's rights activists have gone on hunger strike; thirty-three women, including many of the leaders of women’s movement fighting for equal rights in Iran, were arrested on 4 March ahead of international women's day on 8 March; five women activists were being tried in a court for leading a petition campaign dubbed "One Million Signatures", which seeks to change Iran's laws for women by collecting signatures online and in person.
· Iran’s Intelligence Ministry announced the arrest of several Iranian journalists; they were accused of spreading reports to create divisions among Iran’s ethnic minorities; the journalists were further accused of receiving support from foreign powers
· Commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi said members of an armed anti-government group are under siege in northwestern Iran; IRCG had earlier announced that 17 members of an armed group had been killed in Western Azerbaijan province; PEJAK, an Iranian Kurdish group based in the region has been involved in major clashes with IRGC forces in the recent months; Tehran accuses the group of being an operative of foreign powers; General Safavi had earlier threatened to pursue the group inside Iraq if necessary; Safavi was speaking at the funeral for 14 IRGC members killed in a helicopter crash during an operation against PEKAK forces.
· Iran’s central bank announced that it will issue new currency bearing atomic symbol; the new 50,000-rial note will be the largest in circulation; one side of the note bears the atomic symbol of electrons in orbit, while the other side carries a portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic.

Regional Issues
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Riyadh and held talks with Saudi King Abdullah; the leaders emphasized the danger posed by the enemies of Islam to create sedition between the Sunnah and the Shia; the leaders called for closing the Muslim ranks; Ahmadinejad also hailed Saudi efforts to bring peace and security to Lebanon; Saudi and Iranian officials have met several times to mediate between Lebanon’s Hizbollah, supported by Iran, and Lebenon’s Prim Minister Fouad Siniora, backed by the Saudis and the US.
· Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that during a meeting with King Abdullah, Iranian President Ahmadinejad voiced support to the Arab Peace Initiative; the Initiative, put forward by the King in 2002, offers recognition of Israel and the signing of peace agreements between Israel and the Arabs in return for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied since 1967 War; The office of Iranian president, however, denied the report; Presidential spokesman Ehsan jahandideh said that in the meeting between King Abdullah and President Ahmadinajad it was absolutely no talks about the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative; the Saudi Foreign Minister Nizar Obaid Madani told Lebanese newspaper Al Safir that talks between King Abdullah and President Ahmadinejad included the Arab Peace Initiative.
· President Ahmadinejad, in a visit to Sudan, vowed to defeat the enemies of Islam; Ahmadinejad accused the West of seeking to destabilize Sudan.
· President Ahmadinejad met Hamas political leader Khalid Mashal in Tehran; Ahmadinejad urged Muslim states to firmly support the Palestinian government; he said Israel is in its worst period of its life and is about to face its imminent demise; Mashal thanked Iran for its support and said that the Palestinian government is still in need of Iran's aids to end the economic and political siege of Palestine.
· Iranian police chief Ismael Ahmadi Moghaddam said that Western intelligence services may have kidnapped a former Iranian deputy defense minister who went missing in Turkey; Ali Reza Asgari was on a personal trip and vanished after arriving in Istanbul on 7 February; Turkish newspaper Milliyet said Turkish intelligence and police believed Asgari opposed the Iranian government and had information on its nuclear plans.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Has Iran Accepted the Arab Peace Initiative?

President Ahmadinejad and Saudi King Abdullah held talks on Saturday night in Riyadh. The Saudi official news agency, Saudi Press Agency (SPA), reports that during the talks the two leaders discussed the Palestinian conflict and President Ahmadinejad specifically endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative.

“The two leaders underscored the importance of closing the Palestinian ranks, and the Iranian president voiced support to the Arab Peace Initiative, approved by the Arab Summit, held in Beirut in 2002.” (SAP, 4 March 2007)

What is the significance of Iranian approval of the Initiative? The Beirut Submit, held in March 2002, adopted a proposal put forward by Saudi Arabia offering a comprehensive peace between the Arabs and Israel, called the Arab Peace Initiative. The proposal stated that should Israel withdrew from all Arab territories occupied since 1967 War, provide a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, and recognize the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, then the Arab countries would in turn recognize Israel and enter into peace agreement with it.

By supporting the Arab Peace Initiative, as reported by the official Saudi news agency, President Ahmadinejad could have significantly changed the course of the Arab-Israeli conflict. AFP reports, however, that the office of Iranian president has denied the report.

"In the meeting of President Ahmadinejad with King Abdullah there was absolutely no talk about the 2002 initiative," Ehsan Jahandidieh of the presidential press office told AFP. (AFP, 4 March 2007)

Did Iran support the Initiative or not? The fallout from the report in the coming days can have significant political ramifications in Tehran.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

News from Iran

March 1, 2007

Iran’s nuclear program and its defiance of a UN deadline to halt its uranium enrichment program dominated the coverage of the media inside the country. Iran ignored the 23 February deadline and insisted that it will forcefully continue the development of its nuclear program. President Ahmadinejad compared the program to a high-speed train on a one-way track with no brakes. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran needed a stop button on its train to avoid further UN sanctions. On domestic front, the nuclear program caused major rifts among the country’s political groupings. In an unusual blunt language, a prominent reformist group accused the government of “adventurism” and warned that its nuclear program will put the country in grave danger. The Supreme Leader responded by saying any talks of danger for the country could only come from the enemies of the state.

Iran Nuclear Program
· President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran’s movement to acquire nuclear technology is like a train on a one-way track with no room for stopping, no reverse gear and no brakes; he said that the critics of the country’s nuclear program are bullying him to stop uranium enrichment.
· Iranian Government Spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham totally ruled out any suspension of the country’s uranium enrichment program; he said that suspension of peaceful nuclear programs that are pursued under the supervision of the IAEA is an illegitimate and irrational request; Elham added that if Iran's nuclear train stops, then the country will lose time and will be obliged to backtrack on the path of nuclear progress.
· The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran has ignored a UN Security Council (UNSC) ultimatum to freeze its uranium enrichment program; IAEA report to UNSC asserted that Iran has actually expanded its enrichment program by setting up hundreds of new centrifuges; the report put the number of centrifuges in operation at roughly 1,000; Iran has announced its goal of setting up 3,000 centrifuges, necessary to enrich enough uranium at industrial level.
· The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (5+1) sought a new UNSC resolution to tighten sanctions against Iran; an earlier UNSC resolution (1737) had demanded that Iran stop its enrichment program by 23 February; the leaders of 5+1 were to draw up a new draft UN Security Council resolution by early March.
· Mohsen Rezaie, the executive director of Iran’s Expediency Council, asserted that Iranian officials were firm in standing against any future resolution by the UNSC to curtail Iranian nuclear program.
· Expediency Council Chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani assured the West that Iran was not seeking to build a nuclear bomb.
· Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Iran was far closer to learning how to make bomb-grade uranium than earlier thought.
· The Mujahedeen of Islamic Revolution Organization (MIRO), a prominent reformist party in Iran, called upon the Iranian government to accept the UN demand and halt its uranium enrichment program; the statement put out by the party said that “the officials should bravely correct their mistakes …to stop a further sacrifice of people's rights and to protect national, security and military interests”; the statement asserted that the nuclear standoff and the government’s “adventurist” policies will subject Iran to serious dangers.
· Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei rejected any assertion that the country is in danger; Khamenie, alluding to the statement by MIRO, said that all the propaganda about existence of a state of emergency in Iran was false; he attributed such assertions to attempts by enemies to exert psychological pressure on the Iranian government.

Other Domestic Storylines
· Iran announced it has successfully launched into space its first rocket; Iran's Aerospace Research Center said that the suborbital rocket brings the country one step closer to launching its own commercial satellites; Iran launched its first satellite, Sina-1, into orbit from a Russian rocket in 2005; Iran has said it is planning the construction and launch of several more satellites over the next three years.
· Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Najar announced that Iran has inaugurated the production of Navy destroyers inside the country; the first destroyer to be built in the facilities was named “Wave II”; it is a 1420 ton destroyer with 2,000 hp and a top speed of 30 knots.
· Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) announced that it has killed one of the leaders of PEJAK, an Iranian Kurdish armed opposition group that operates in northwest Iran; IRCG had announced earlier that it had killed 17 PEJAK members during an operation in an area bordering the Iraqi Kurdistan.
· The Iranian government announced it plans to make an additional payment to a Russian contractor to enable the completion of a much-delayed nuclear power plant being built by the Russians in Bushehr; Russia had said it may delay the delivery of nuclear fuel for the reactor if the payments problems continue; Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation deputy chairman, Mohammad Saeedi, denied allegations by the Russian contractor, Atomstroiexport, that funds from Iran for the Bushehr plant had been frozen since January.

Iran-US Relationship
· US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, alluding to President Ahmadinejad’s comments comparing Iran’s nuclear movement to a train with no reverse gear and no brakes, said the Iranians do not need any reverse gear, only a stop button; Rice added if and when Iran stops its enrichment program, then we can come to the table and we can talk about how to move forward.
· Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, rejected US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's conditional offer that US is ready to hold direct talks with Iran if Tehran suspends uranium enrichment; Larijani said that setting conditions means indicating the outcome of talks before holding them.
· Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said US is not in any position to attack Iran; Mottaki was responding to US Vice President Dick Cheney who renewed Washington's warning to Iran that all options were on the table if Iran continues to enrich uranium.

Regional Issues
· Iran will attend an international conference in Baghdad to discuss Iraq’s future; US along with other permanent members of the UN Security Council and Iraq’s neighbors will all attend the conference; the issue of security in Baghdad and in Iraq will be on the agenda.
· Pakistan hosted a meeting of foreign ministers of the region’s Islamic countries; the foreign ministers of Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia gathered in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, to lay the groundwork for a summit of Muslim leaders at an unspecified date in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia; Iran was not invited to the meeting.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left Tehran for Khartoum on a state visit to the Sudan.