Tuesday, August 7, 2007

News from Iran

The mounting tensions in US-Iran relations dominated the coverage in the Iranian media. Comments by President Bush on his continuous efforts to isolate Iran and earlier comments by a senior US military commander in Iraq accusing Iran of arming Shia militias in Baghdad received prominent coverage in the press. The conservative press emphasized the “futile” nature of any further negotiations with the US, while the moderate press highlighted the risks involved in the deteriorating relations with the US.

On the nuclear front, the government disclaimed comments made by Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator during an interview with a German magazine that suspension of uranium enrichment could be a possibility. A government spokesman said Iran would not consider suspension under any circumstances.

President Ahmadinejad continued his diatribes against Israel, this time suggesting that the Jewish state should fine a new home elsewhere on the planet.

On domestic front, the crackdown against moderate and reformist press continued. The reformist flagship daily Shargh was closed down by the government. The number of detained journalists in the notorious Security Section 209 at Evin prison rose to eleven.

US-Iran Relations

· US President George Bush said he would continue efforts to isolate Iran; Bush accused Iran of being a destabilizing force in the region; Bush, at a ceremony at Camp David for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said that because of the actions of the US government, Iran is isolated and the US will continue to work to isolate it further.
· A senior US army commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, accused Iran for increasing its supply of weapons and training to Shia militias in Iraq; Gen. Odierno said the Shia militias were responsible for two-thirds of the attacks in Baghdad that has killed or injured US troops.
· The US and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq met for third round of talks in two months on Iraqi security; Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi and the US Ambassador Ryan Crocker met for about two hours on Monday 6 Agust in Baghdad; the US, Iraqi and Iranian delegations also held their first talks as part of a subcommittee on Iraqi security.
· Meetings of the trilateral committee involving Iran, Iraq, and the US began in Baghdad to discuss the issue of security in Iraq; the Iraqi president Jalal Talabani met with the Iranian delegation and expressed hope that the trilateral meeting will help achieve security and stability in Iraq.

Iran Nuclear Program

· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Iran would not consider a suspension of uranium enrichment activities under any circumstances; Hosseini denied that Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, had said that a suspension was conceivable; the German weekly Focus had quoted Larijani as saying during an interview that a suspension was conceivable as an outcome to talks with world powers; Hossienin said that Iran’s nuclear program was progressing at “normal” pace and uranium enrichment will continue as planned.
· A delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) led by Michiro Hosaya arrived in Iran for talks on nuclear inspections; Hosaya held a meeting with Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy director of Iran’s atomic energy organization; the talks centered around the future inspections of Iran's uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz; Last week, another IAEA team inspected the heavy-water reactors under construction in Arak.

Leading Regional Storylines

· Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki is scheduled to visit Iran tomorrow; a high-level delegation of Iraq’s ruling Al Dawah Party arrived in Tehran for talks on the future of Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki’s government; reports circulating in Tehran suggest that Al Maliki’s government is loosing support for its lack of authority in Iraq and the Iranians might favor the return of Ebrahim Jafari as premier.
· Colonel Rahmatullah Safi, head of border police for western Afghanistan, told The Sunday Times that Iran is arming the Taliban; Safi accused Iran of delivering sophisticated IED’s (improvised explosive devices) to Taliban rebels to fight the British troop; The Sunday Times reports that Afghan military sources fear that the Iranians may also have supplied heat-seeking missiles along with supplies of assault rifles and mortars.
· Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on Israel to leave the Palestinian territories; Ahmadinejad said let the Israelis “go find somewhere else.”

Leading Domestic Storylines

· One of Iran’s leading newspapers, Shargh, was closed down by the government; Shargh had published an interview with an Iranian-Canadian poet, Misagh Ghahraman, in its culture section that had dealt with the issue of female homosexuality; the interview titled “Womanly Talk” was published in Monday 4 August edition of the paper; the government accused Shargh for the “publication of an interview with an anti-revolutionary and homosexual woman.”
· The Assembly of Experts is scheduled to meet 4-6 September to choose a successor to its deceased chairman, Ayatollah Ali Meshkini; Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi and Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were among the leading candidates to head the assembly; the 86-man clerical assembly is empowered to choose and supervise the Supreme Leader.
· The Expediency Council rejected the Majlis bill to combine the next Majlis and presidential elections; the elections for the 8th Majlis will be held on Friday 18 March, 2008; the presidential elections will be held in June 2009.
· Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier Mohammad Mustafa Najar announced that a domestic fighter jet, called Azarakhsh, was test flown successfully; the flight took place in Isfahan; Azarakhsh is the second fighter built in Iran (3); the first, Saeqeh, is already in service.
· Iran’s Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie said his organization has foiled a “terror plot” in southern province of Khuzestan; Ejeie added that a group of “anti-revolutionaries” were aiming to carry out the act; Ejeie did not elaborate on the target of the plot or the individuals involved; Ejeie also revealed that in recent months “a number of anti-revolutionaries” had been arrested in Iran’s neighboring countries and extradited back to Iran, but he gave no details.

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