Tuesday, September 4, 2007

News from Iran

The worsening US-Iran relations dominated the Iranian media coverage. President Bush launched his starkest attack yet on the Islamic Republic, accusing it of threatening to place the Middle East under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that his “mathematical calculations” has convinced him that it would be impossible for the US to attack Iran; but if attacked Iran will retaliate on a massive scale.

Ahmadinejad also reiterated Iran’s commitment to its uranium enrichment program and revealed that Iran already operated more than 3,000 centrifuges, directly contracting IAEA chief who had said earlier that the Iranian leadership has slowed down its enrichment program to gain politically in the international community.

On domestic front, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani was chosen to head the all-powerful Assembly of Experts after an all-out effort by the radical fundamentalist supporters of Ahmadinajad could not convince the 86 senior cleric members of the assembly to elect another ayatollah. The political infighting within the Islamic Republic reached its height when Ahmadinejad accused a score of moderate and reformist former officials of treachery and passing up nuclear secrets to foreign powers.

US-Iran Relations

· President Bush launched one of his strongest attacks against the Islamic Republic, accusing it of threatening to place the Middle East under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust; President Bush said he has authorized US military commanders in Iraq to confront Iran’s “murderous activities.”
· Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, who commanded the Islamic Revolution Guards Corp. (IRGC) until last week, warned that a US attack on Iran would unleash a much larger response from the Iranian that expected; Gen. Safavi said Iran would attack US and Israeli positions and would stop the flow of oil in the Straits of Hormuz.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that his “mathematical calculations” has convinced him that it would be impossible for the US to attack Iran; Ahmadinejad told a group of students that his training as an engineer enabled him to conduct mathematical calculus and analysis; Ahmadinejad also mentioned his belief in God as his second source of analysis; God said those who move on the correct path will win, Ahmadinejad emphasized.
· Eight Iranian officials, including two diplomats, who were detained by US troops in Baghdad, were released a day later; The Iranians were picked up at their hotel, blindfolded and handcuffed and taken into custody for questioning.

Major Domestic Storylines

· Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani today was chosen by the 86 senior cleric members of the Assembly of Experts to head the powerful body; Rafsanjani, 73, replaces Ali Mehkini who passed away in July; he defeated Ayatollah Ahmad Janatti, the candidate favored by the fundamentalists.
· President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused his opponents within the regime of “treachery” for providing the latest news and information on the country’s nuclear program to the Westerners; Ahmadinejad said that as many as eight to ten people might be involved in this treachery.
· The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenie today removed Maj. Gen. Yahya Safavi from his powerful post as the Commander of Islamic Revolution Guards Corp. (IRGC); the new IRGC commander is Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Aziz Jafari; Gen. Jafari was most recently the director of IRGC’s Center for Strategic Studies; previously he commanded IRGC ground forces.
· Haleh Esfandiari, the 67-year old Iranian-American academic who was held at Evin prison for nearly four months and was freed on bail on 21 August, was allowed to leave the country; she arrived in Austria to be reunited with her husband on her way home; latest news indicate that radio farad journalist Nazee Azima is also given her passport and is expected to leave Iran shortly; Kian Tajbakhsh, the other Iranian-American academic in detention reportedly will be released within the next few days; there is no news on the fate of Ali shakeri, the last Iranian-American who has also been detained.

Iran Nuclear Program

· IAEA Chief Mohammad ElBaradei warned Iran of its “last chance” to end the nuclear standoff, by being candid on all aspects of its nuclear program; Iran and IAEA have agreed on a timetable for Iran to clear up outstanding questions on its nuclear activities; IAEA chief said that this is indeed a critical moment for candor.
· President Ahmadinejad announced that Iran already has 3,000 uranium enriching centrifuges in operation at Natanz; the statement contradicted an assessment by IAEA Chief Mohammad ElBaradei that Iran has slowed down its enrichment program; Ahmadinejad also said that Iran is brining on line one new cascade (164 centrifuges) every week; the Iranian president has declared Iran’s nuclear case closed.
· Iranian President Ahmadinejad lashed at the warning of French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Iran risked being bombed over its nuclear program saying Sarkozy was still “inexperienced.”
· Iran’s envoy to IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said IAEA acted with “professionalism” in setting a timetable for Iran to resolve all previously-unsettled issues regarding the country’s nuclear program; the new timetable agreement between Iran and IAEA is expected to delay any new round of sanctions against Iran at the UN for at least few months.
· Iran announced that it may hire alternative builders to finish its first nuclear power plant at Bushehr if Russia was not willing to complete the project; a Russian contractor had been working on Bushehr project but had suspended its activities over disputes with Iran.

Regional Storylines

· Iranian President Ahmadinejad said a huge power vacuum will be created in Iraq when the US forces leave the country; he said Iran was prepared to fill the gap.
· The influential editor of Keyhan, the conservative Tehran daily officially part of the office of the Supreme Leader, today in an editorial reiterated his views that Bahrain is an integral part of Iran; Hossein Shariatmadari challenged Bahraini leaders to accept a referendum on the issue in the island nation; Shariatmadari claims that the scheduled UN popular referendum in 1971 on the subject of Bahraini independence from Iran was never carried out and instead a group of hand-picked elders close to the current royal family chose independence.
· President Ahmadinejad accused the US of interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs; the Iranian president said any US effort to topple Al Maliki’s government will fail.
· Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said a large amount of weapons are being smuggled into Iran via Iraq; Hosseini said that terrorists and smugglers take advantage of the situation in Iraq and carry on with their sabotage activities.
· UAE put in place re-export maritime laws to prevent foreign companies exporting to Iran electronic components and devices used in manufacturing explosive devices; US had exerted pressure on UAE government to institute the ban; US has said that these devices are later used to attack US and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan; the preferred venue for re-export to Iran has been the port of Dubai.
· Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Kurdish faction headed by Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, is reporting today that Iran has resumed heavy shelling of Iraqi Kurd areas near Iranian borders; Iran contends that the presence in the area of Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), an Iranian Kurdish opposition group, is forcing it to attack the villages in Iraq Kurdistan region; the Kurdish Parliament condemned the shelling and called for an immediate ceasefire.

No comments: