Tuesday, September 11, 2007

News from Iran

The country’s nuclear program and its continued standoff with the West dominated the coverage in the Iranian media. Iran’s supreme leader addressing the commanders of the Revolutionary Guards said that Iran does not have an atomic bomb and it does not intend to build one. It was for the first time that the country’s leader so emphatically has declared that Iran has no nuclear weapons. The venue in which Khamenei made the declaration was also significant. The IRGC is in charge of Iran’s nuclear program and would control any nuclear weapons. The Iranian leaders, including Khamenei, rejected calls however to suspend the country’s enrichment program. In the absence of any operating nuclear reactor, and with Khamenie’s pledge that the country was not seeking to build an atomic bomb, it was not clear why then Iran was continuing its production of enriched uranium. On regional developments, Iran raised the possibility of a military intrusion inside Iraq to pursue anti-government Iranian Kurdish groups who are launching their attacks on Iranian military positions from inside Iraq. On domestic front, Ayatollah Khamenie in an unusually blunt language warned the Iranian press against covering issues related to last week’s victory of Hashemi Rafsanjani to become the new speaker of the assembly of experts. Rafsanjani defeated the candidate of the hardliners in the assembly. The moderate and reformist press saw the results a defeat for Ahmadinejad and fundamentalists.

Iran’s Nuclear Program

· Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that the country has no plans to build a nuclear bomb; speaking to the commanders and the officers of Islamic Revolution Guards Corp. (IRGC), Khamenei said “Iran has no atomic bomb”; he added that Iran “has no plans to build the deadly weapon.”
· Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei pledged that Iran would not give in to Western pressure over its nuclear program; Khamenei said that Iran would defeat its “drunken and arrogant” opponents.
· President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would not negotiate with anyone over its nuclear program; Ahmadinejad warned the countriy’s “enemies” that “Iran is not about to retreat”; Ahmadinejad also called the country a “nuclear Iran.”
· IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei walked out of an IAEA meeting to protest EU’s harsh language describing his recent agreement with Iran over its nuclear program; ElBaradei’s agreement with Iran established a timetable for Iran to answer all outstanding questions regarding its nuclear program; Iranian officials had praised IAEA for its ‘correct” approach to the nuclear standoff; the Europeans warn that the agreement with Iran will give the country time to continue enriching uranium.
· IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei, addressing the agency’s board of governors, thanked Iran for taking a step in the right direction in agreeing to a timeline to clarify outstanding questions; the IAEA chief added that Iran must go beyond the limited UN plan for transparency and allows wider-ranging inspections; ElBaradei also called on Iran to suspend it uranium enrichment program as demanded by the UN Security Council.
· Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, told the state television network that it is impossible for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities; Larijani said even further UNSC sanctions will not change Iran’s stance.
· The director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) Gholam Reza Aghazadeh said Iran has 15 tons of heavy water reserves in its nuclear facility in Arak; the IAEO chief said the heavy water reserves would be used for a 40 MW research reactor under construction in Arak.

Iran-US Relations

· US military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, said the US military is involved in a proxy war with the Iranians inside Iraq; he accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guards units of training Iraqi militias to fight against the coalition forces and the Iraqi state.
· Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Mohammad Reza Bagheri, accused the US of backing PJAK, an Iranian Kurdish group considered terrorist by Iran; Bagheri said that PJAK has launched military attacks on Iranian military from its base inside Iraq; he called any US support of PJAK “dangerous”; Bagheri warned Iraq that if such attacks continues, Iran might be forced to send its military across border in pursuit of PJAK militants; he added that Iran expects the Iraqi government to do what it can to stop PJAK from using Iraqi territory to launch attacks against Iran.
· Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Mohammad Reza Bagheri, and Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, headed the Iranian delegation in the Baghdad conference on Iraqi security; Qomi ruled out any direct talks with the US representatives to the Baghdad conference.
· The US is establishing a military base in Iraq near the Iranian border.
· Iran’s new commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corp. (IRGC), Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Aziz Jafari, said Iran will respond “harshly” if attacked; Gen. Jafari added that the IRGC was ready for an “elaborate plan to confront any US threats”; the IRGC commander said that Iran has “discovered” all the “weaknesses” of the US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Leading Domestic Storylines

· Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned the Iranian media not to cover issues related to last week’s elections in the Assembly of Experts; the unusual warning came during Khamenei’s meeting with the members of the Assembly of Experts; Leading reformist newspapers had carried large pictures of Hashemi Rafsanjani who was chosen as the new speaker of the assembly; the reformist press called Rafsanjani’s selection a victory for the moderates and a defeat for Ahmadinejad and fundamentalists.
· Former president Hashemi Rafsanjani was chosen to head the assembly of Experts; the powerful body has responsibility over the country's supreme leader; Rafsanjani won over his rival, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, by a vote of 41-34; there are currently 85 voting members in the Assembly; the election for the speaker became necessary after former speaker, ayatollah Meshkini, passed away in July.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad canceled his scheduled appearance on state TV network on 11 September; Ahmadinejad was scheduled to discuss political and foreign policy issues; the president’s office did not offer the reason for the cancellation.

Leading Regional Storylines

· The Israeli jets broke the sound barrier flying over northern Syria before heading back to Israel; Israel's air force may have been testing an air path over Syria for future attack on Iran; the corridor of northern Syria over which the aircraft flew is the closest straight line from the Mediterranean Sea to Iran.
· Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki arrived in Moscow; Mottaki will discuss Iran’s nuclear program and bilateral issues with his Russian counterpart; a timetable for the construction of Bushehr nuclear plant, being built by Russian in the southern Iranian city, would be discussed.

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