Sunday, April 29, 2007
Has the Countdown Begun?
Ynet today also published an op-ed piece by Orli Azulay titled “Countdown Has Begun.” In the article Azulay argues that the new US intelligence information leaked to and broadcast by CBS News that Iran is making accelerated progress in developing its first atomic bomb is part of a plan to attack Iran. When the intelligence information was revealed to CBS (see the entry on Friday 27 April on this blog), the senior Pentagon officials were quoted as saying that now there will be more pressure on Israel to carry out a preemptive strike on Iran.
Less than two days since the broadcast by CBS, the Israeli Prime Minister outlines the possibility of such an attack, 1000 Tomahawk missiles fired over 10 days.
As Ynet article has put it, the countdown for attacking Iran might have begun.
Iran Denies Siege of Consulate in Karbala
Iran Will Attend Sharm el-Skeikh
US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will be also attending the conference and she is expected to meet with Mottaki. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari welcomed Rice-Mottaki talks as a breakthrough in reducing tensions in the region.
The Iranian government had set the release of the five Iranians held by US forces in Iraq as a precondition to attend the Sharm el-Skeikh conference. The US government refused to release the five, but the Iranians decided to attend anyway. The move is seen as a major political setback for the Islamic Republic.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Israelis Try to Soften Olmert’s Remarks
The Israeli spokesman said that Olmert did not actually have a formal interview with the magazine, and had only given a background briefing to its reporter and was speaking off the record. The reporter in question is Amir Taheri, an Iranian-born journalist. Taheri and Olmert had apparently held a 35-minute-long conversation.
Taheri is quoted by the Israeli prime minister spokesman as saying that there had been a misunderstanding between the prime minister and himself, who had been under the impression that he was indeed conducting an interview.
Speaking off the record, however, is at times as important as a formal interview. The Israeli premier’s description of a possible missile attack on Iran remains as dangerous even if it was made off the record.
Israel Warns of a Missile Attack on Iran
Olmert said that the strike would require 10 days and the launch of a thousand Tomahawk missiles.
Olmert said Israel can not exclude military action against Iran if the Islamic Republic continued to defy UN resolutions calling for a halt of its uranium enrichment program.
The Chairman of Majlis’s Foreign Affairs Commission, Alladin Borojerdy, immediately voiced the Iranian government reaction to Olmert’s remarks by saying that the United States and Israel know what the “consequences will be for themselves.”
Meanwhile, the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana yesterday called for the US to open a channel of communication with Iran on all outstanding issues. Solana and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani held talks in Ankara on Wednesday and Thursday. The reports indicate that a modified “double suspension” compromise on Iran’s enrichment program is being fine-tuned by the two sides.
Today’s comments by the Israeli premier, however, indicate how tense the situation remains on the ground.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Is Iran Closer to Nukes?
CBS quotes Pentegon officials as saying that the new report narrows the window in which Israel might launch a preemptive strike against Iran.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Majlis Elections a Year Away, Yet So Near
Just four months ago the Guardian Council used its vetting process to disqualify 340 candidates for the Assembly of Experts, a stunning 67% of all the hopefuls. Bahonar’s prediction, in the face of the growing unpopularity of the government, can indeed be viewed as a threat, if not as a wishful thinking that God might answer the fundamentalists' prayers.
Report on Larijani-Solana Talks
The sticking point during the negotiations has been the status of the uranium-enriching cascades of centrifuges at Natanz. According to reports widely circulated today the talks have been centered on a proposal by Switzerland not to dismantle the cascades but to put them in a “cold reserve” status. In effect under the Swiss proposal the cascades will remain linked up but will not be turned on. Iran has so far accepted a “hot reserve” alternative, whereby the centrifuges still operate but would not enrich the uranium gas. Iran’s proposal would allow it to start up the cascades at any moment.
The two sides announced that they will continue their talks beyond today. The major powers are scheduled to meet in London on 2 May. It is expected that Solana and Larijani finalize their agreement prior to the meeting to allow the London group to approve the compromise.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Iran and the West Are Reaching a Compromise
If Iran can pursue some degree of enrichment activities, the leaders in Tehran will be able to save face and sign a nuclear agreement with the West. The two sides could agree to the double suspension of UN sanctions and most of Iranian enrichment activities until a final and comprehensive nuclear agreement between Iran and EU could be reached. The US government and the UN Security Council are expected to sign off on the proposed compromise.
What parts of the enrichment program Iran would be able to keep is unclear this afternoon. However, it is expected that the West would accept a scientific and research-based enrichment program by Iran.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Ahmadinejad Rejects Nuke Compromise
An EU spokesman said today that its foreign policy chief Javier Solana would still try to persuade the Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani to accept a double suspension of uranium enrichment and UN sanctions to allow time for negotiations.
Ahmadinejad told Reuters in an interview that Iran will not accept the double suspension solution because the UN sanctions are not legal.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Crackdown against Women
A growing number of young women have ignored the dress code in the past and it is expected that they will confront the police if the crackdown continues.
President Ahmadinejad has in the past taken a different path than the traditional conservatives over the women’s dress code. During his elections campaign, Ahmadinejad had said that the women’s dress was not a national issue. His stance on the new crackdown is yet unclear.
The issue of women’s rights in the Islamic Republic, including the freedom of dress, is rapidly growing into a major challenge for the authorities. The One-Million Signatures Campaign of the recent weeks has become a nationwide women’s movement calling for the equality of men and women. The women’s issues can indeed prove to be the Achilles’ heel of the Islamic Republic.
Majlis Cuts Ahmadinejad’s Term
Majlis has in the past approved a similar plan which was vetoed by the Guardian Council. If, as expected, the council rejects the new resolution, the standoff needs to be resolved by the Expediency Council.
The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said today that halting uranium suspension is “definitely deleted from the literature of Iran’s nuclear program.”
Also today the Russian contractor building Bushehr nuclear reactor said that it has signed a protocol with Iran outlining measures to guarantee future payments for the project. The company, Atomstroiexport, did not say when it will restart the construction work. Published reports earlier in the week had indicated that until the issue of Iran’s enrichment program and its standoff with the UN is resolved, the Russian company will not restart its work at Bushehr even if it resolves its financial disputes with Iran.
Referring to UN Security Council resolutions against Iran, the Israeli premier Ehud Olmert said today that there is a possibility to stop Iran from going nuclear without a military operation. He said Iran was far from crossing the nuclear threshold.
Friday, April 20, 2007
News from Iran
Iran Nuclear Program
· Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran resists to the end in defending its right to enrich uranium on its soil; he warned that Iran will reveal new developments in the nuclear field if the West pressures UN to impose new sanctions against Iran.
· Iran’s Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, Reza Aghazadeh, said Iran will install 50,000 centrifuges at Natanz uranium enrichment facility within the next two years; Aghazadeh also said that 3,000 centrifuges are already installed and are operational in Natanz.
· The EU announced its willingness to restart negotiations with Iran to resolve the nuclear standoff; Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, also said that a positive atmosphere has been created allowing Iran to restart negotiations; Larijani said, however, that Iran would in no way accept the suspension of its uranium enrichment program.
· The government announced that it will build two new nuclear reactors.
· Iran restarted its negotiations with the Russia over the completion of Bushehr nuclear reactor; the Russian contractor had stopped work on the plant citing financial issues.
Leading Domestic Storylines
· Iran might not attend the foreign ministers conference on Iraq which is scheduled to be held in Sharm Al Sheikh, Egypt on May 3rd; Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said that if the five Iranians held by US forces in Iraq are not released beforehand, Iran might boycott the conference.
· Jalal Sharafi, the Iranian diplomat assigned to the Embassy in Baghdad, said that the CIA integrators tortured him while he was in their detention; Sharafi said he was kidnapped by Iraqi uniformed officers while exiting a bank building in Baghdad; Iranian television stations showed images of Sharafi’s wounds.
· The Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said he is hopeful that the five Iranians being held by the US forces will be freed soon; Mottaki said he has received signals that the US will release the detainees in the coming days; he did not elaborate on the signals.
· The Intelligence Minister, Mohseni Ejeie, said that the authorities have arrested more than 90 members of Jundallah organization; he said the detainees have taken part in various terrorist attacks in the province of Baluchistan; the minister of intelligence also accused Britain of encouraging terrorist activities within Iran; he said the British were aiding terrorist groups in Khuzestan; Ejeie did not give any details on British actions in Khuzestan.
· Russian foreign ministry announced that Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Zolghadr’s recent trip to Moscow did not violate the UN sanctions against Iran; the spokesman for the foreign ministry said that the UN Security Council resolution on Iran sanctions allows limited travel by targeted Iranian officials as long as the travel plans are reported to the UN beforehand; Russia, he said, had already informed the UN of Zolghadr’s itinerary.
· Iranian media extensively covered the reports that leading members of US congress have expressed their desire to visit Iran; Chairman Lantos of the Foreign Relations Committee and speaker Pelosi has said they might consider a visit to Tehran to hold talks with Iranian officials.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Iran Started Limited Enrichment
President Ahmadinejad last week had announced that Iran has achieved industrial-level production and called for a national day of celebration. Nuclear analysts immediately discounted Ahmadinejad’s claims (see the April 10 entry in this blog: Iran’s Enrichment Breakthrough Questioned.)
IAEA inspectors protested Iran’s decision to prevent them from visiting the country’s heavy water facility now under construction. The plant will produce plutonium. Enriched uranium and plutonium can both be used as the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
Monday, April 16, 2007
New Nuclear Achievements: Ahmadinejad
The Security Council in March imposed a second round of sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment work. That resolution followed one in December. Iran said last week that it was capable of industrial-scale enrichment, which prompted the U.S. to warn Iran that it was likely the U.N. Security Council would impose further and tougher penalties against the Islamic Republic.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
13 Teachers Are Arrested in Tehran and Hamedan
The Defenders of Human Rights Center in
Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi also condemned the detention of teachers who have staged public protests over low wages. The arrests in recent days follow an earlier spate of arrests in March after a series of demonstrations were staged by teachers.
ISNA, the student news agency, also reported today that three persons were arrested on Saturday and transferred to Evin Prison over the March demonstrations. ISNA named them as Hamid Pour-Vosugh, Mohammad Reza Rezai Garakani and Alireza Akbari Nabi.
Pour-Vosugh is the deputy head of the teachers' union, and the other two are directors of a weekly publication called Ghalam-e Moallem (Teacher's Pen).
Thousands of teachers gathered in front of the Iranian parliament in three separate protests in March, demanding higher salaries and accusing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of not keeping his election promises to spread wealth. Teachers in
Saturday, April 14, 2007
U.S. Will Not Release 5 Iranians
Washington says the five, seized in a January 11 raid by U.S. forces in the Kurdish city of Erbil, are linked with Iranian Revolutionary Guard networks involved in providing explosive devices used to attack U.S. troops in Iraq. Iran says they are diplomats and has demanded their immediate release.
The Post said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had wanted to free the men because she judged them no longer useful but went along with the decision to retain them in custody that was strongly supported by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Women Activists’ Letter from Evin Prison
For more information on the One-Million Signatures Campaign please see the entry in this blog on April 7, 2007.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Democrat Wants to Visit Iran
Democratic representative Tom Lantos, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representative told reporters that he wants to visit
Lantos said that he is ready to go, and “knowing the Speaker, I think she might be”. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi standing next to Lantos at the press conference did not challenge his remarks.
Pelosi said that while she finds Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s remarks on Holocaust to be repulsive and outside the circle of civilized human behavior, the willingness of Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, to meet with Ahmadinejad “speaks volumes about the importance of dialogue.”
The White House said today it would be “unproductive and unhelpful” for the Democratic Leaders of the Congress to visit
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Iran’s Enrichment Breakthrough Questioned
In the enrichment process, UF6 is pumped into centrifuges, which spin and purify the gas. Enriched (or purified) to a lower degree, the result is fuel for a reactor, but to a higher degree it creates the material for a nuclear warhead. 3,000 centrifuges would be enough to build one nuclear warhead within a year. Iran has so far been able to run two small cascades of 164 centrifuges.
The Western nuclear proliferation experts have not been able to verify Iran’s new capabilities. They are not sure if the frenetic activity at Natanz during the past few months is real, a bluff or a little of both. This morning two UN inspectors arrived in Iran to visit the uranium enrichment complex. The Western experts are awaiting their report.
Ahmadinejad has also set a goal of building 60,000 operational centrifuges at Natanz.
Monday, April 9, 2007
Halliburton Completes Work in Iran
US oil service giant Halliburton said today it has completed its contractual commitments in
Halliburton, headed by Dick Cheney before he became vice president, was involved in drilling for gas in
Halliburton announced last month that it was relocating its headquarters to
Ahmadinejad: Nuke Fuel Production
Ahmadinejad also vowed that Iran would not give up its rights to enrich uranium. The “good news” announced today will put the country on a collision course with the UN Security Council, who has banned such activities, and with the US that believes that the Islamic Republic’s goal is to produce atomic bombs.
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Iran Will Continue Uranium Enrichment
President Ahmadinejad is expected to announce tomorrow the installation and operation of 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz.
Hosseini also warned that the Iranian military is ready to take action against any military strike on
Iran Snubs Iraqi Leader
The refusal to allow
Al Maliki is in
Saturday, April 7, 2007
The One-Million Signatures Campaign Continues
On Friday, more than 1,000 social activists and leading political and cultural personalities published an open letter asking for the immediate release of Keshavarz and Hosseinzadeh (pictured here).
Women in Iran are calling for equal rights with men, equal rights in divorce, equal rights in child custody, and equal rights in inheritance. Islamic Republic’s disregard of women’s rights and the growing movement to achieve women’s rights is becoming a major political and social movement in Iran.
Ahmadinejad to Announce the “Good News” on Monday!
Ahmadinejad will confirm the launch of 3,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges at Natanz despite repeated ultimatums from the UN Security Council to suspend the enrichment program. Chief nucler negotiator Ali Larijani announced on Thursday that there would be no freeze on enrichment activities.
Iran’s startup of 3,000 centrifuges will subject the country to a new round of economic sanctions at the UN. It will also strengthen the possibilities of military actions by the West against the nuclear and military installations.
Friday, April 6, 2007
The US Was to Send Aircraft Over Iranian Bases
The Guardian also quoted an unnamed Iranian official as saying that if the incident was between US and
· Iran again rejected suspension of the country’s uranium enrichment program. Iran chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani told the Iranian TV that there is no chance for such suspension.
· US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said today that the US was not inclined to release five Iranians captured by US military in Iraq. The US had accused the five of supporting Iraqi insurgents. After the release of the British detainees by Iran, the US denied that a quid pro quos linking their release with those of Iranian detainees were at work.
· The US indicated today that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice remains open to have a face-to-face meeting with Iranians when she attends an international conference on Iraq in early May.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Referendum on Nuclear Program
The government has defined its nuclear program as the cornerstone of Iranian nationalism and the national pride, no matter the costs to the nation. A public debate over this assertion could as easily show that the national pride could not be defined only in terms of uranium enrichment. The love of the country did not start with the enrichment program and will not end with its suspension. The public knows that the world distrusts the Islamic Republic and it would not want it to have a nuclear capability. The question is not Iran’s rights to enrich, but the Islamic Republic’s inability to safeguard Iran’s rights.
What is more important here, however, is the national interest of the country. Is it in our interest to become an isolated nation in an increasingly interdependent globe only to be able to enrich uranium? Is it worth it to push the West (US and Europe), the East (Russia and China), the Third World (South Africa) and the Muslim World (Indonesia and Qatar) into a unified camp to vote against our country in the UN Security Council?
The government has failed. The time has come for the public to discuss the issue and to vote on it. Holding a referendum on the issue is the only logical solution to the standoff. Let the public decide.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
British Sailors Will Be Freed Today
Quid Pro Quos
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
News from Iran
· The reports from Britain indicate that Iran’s National Security Council Chairman Ali Larijani is acting as the chief negotiator for Iran.
· Larijani had said in an interview yesterday that there was “no need for any trial” of the 15 captured Britons.
· British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office announced that “both sides share a desire for an early resolution of this issue.”
· World oil prices tumbled today as Iran and Britain signaled that progress had been made to end the British detainee standoff. New York’s futures contract for light sweet crude fell by $1.30 a barrel today.
· In a related matter, the Iraqi foreign ministry said today that the Iraqi government was “intensively” seeking release of five Iranians detained by the US military to help with the release of 15 British sailors and marines detained in Iran.
· US President George Bush said there would be no quid pro quos with Iran, linking the release of the 15 British detainees with that of the 5 Iranian detainees in Iraq.
· A senior Iranian diplomat at Iran’s embassy in Baghdad who was kidnapped last February was released today by his captors. Jalal Sharafi returned to Tehran this afternoon. Iran had accused a group linked to Iraqi defense ministry of being behind the kidnapping.
· Iran inaugurated a power station and a water purification plant at Bushehr’s nuclear reactor site in a sign that it is seriously pursuing to eventually finish the construction of the reactor. Russia has delayed the completion of the project and the delivery of uranium fuel needed to operate the reactor pending a resolution of Iranian nuclear standoff with the West and the UN.
· President Ahmadinejad said today that he will soon have “important news” regarding Iran’s nuclear program and its achievements.
Monday, April 2, 2007
Radical Fundamentalists and New Hostage Crisis
It appears that the radical elements within the country are trying to use the detention of the British sailors and marines into a 2007 version of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. In the original 1979 version, the radical “anti-imperialist” factions within the clerical establishment and the country’s Islamist movement turned the detention of US Embassy personnel into a political campaign to oust the moderate government of Mehdi Bazargan and to purge all moderate and pro-democracy elements within the Islamic Republic. In today’s Iran, the reformist parties and moderate politicians are the target of the radical fundamentalist groups.
The violent and radical anti-British demonstrations in Tehran showed that the hardliners are indeed intent to take the upper hand in the country. During the municipal elections of 15 December, the radical fundamentalists lost miserably. Pro-Ahmadinejad candidates received less than 5% of the popular vote. Creating a new hostage crisis can give the hardliners an opening, albeit outside ballot boxes, to consolidate its power in the Islamic Republic.
The realities of country’s current situation where no factions can dominate the power structure might not allow the hardliners to exploit the situation as in 1979 and eliminate moderate and reformist opposition. However, the radical outbursts of the past few days are reminders of the radical fundamentalists’ desire to turn the present situation into a new hostage crisis.