Wednesday, October 31, 2007

IRGC Warns of Prolonged War

IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari today warned US it would find itself in a “quagmire” deeper than Iraq if it attacked the Islamic Republic. Gen. Jafari told a military parade in Tehran that if the US attacks Iran, they will have to withdraw with defeat (IRNA, 31 October).

In the past few days, the Iranian military and political leaders have increasingly been warning of a US military attack on Iran. Foreign ministry spokesman made similar remarks as the IRGC commander during a news conference in Tehran.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Tuesday in Tehran. Lavrov told reporters after the meeting that he encouraged Iranian leaders to undertake more active cooperation with IAEA to clear up questions on Iran’s nuclear program.

Lavrov's visit coincided with talks in Tehran between officials from Iran and the IAEA. The IAEA Chief Mohammad ElBaradei will make an all-important report on Iran’s nuclear program in mid-November. ElBaradei report will weigh heavily on any future UN sanctions against Iran.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

News from Iran

US sanctions against Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC) and its Quds Force and the possibility of a US military attack on Iran dominated the coverage in the local media. Iranian military reports indicated a large number of US Air Force sorties over the Iranian borders and IRGC commanders warned of a decisive strike against US if Iran is attacked. The Iranian political leadership also began warning of a possible US attack on Iran and vowing to fight the invaders. On nuclear issue, Iran said it will answer all IAEA questions to send its nuclear file from UN Security Council back to its nuclear watchdog agency, thus avoiding further UN sanctions. In regional issues, Iran announced its readiness to cooperate with Turkey against PKK, but at the same time expressed hope for a political settlement of the conflict.

Iran-US Relations

· White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said “there is no reason for people to think that the president is about to attack Iran”; Perini said US is pursuing a diplomatic track to resolve the standoff with Iran.
· US Air Force is conducting an increasing number of sorties over Iranian borders; Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said US sorties run counter to international rules and regulations; Hosseini warned that Iran would give a crushing response if its territorial integrity is violated; Hossieni warned of a possible military attack on Iran; Hosseini said Iranian military will give firm response to invaders.
· IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Ali Jafari said IRGC would response with decisiveness if attacked; Gen. Jafari said IRGC will reply to any strike with an even more decisive strike.
· Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said US is trying to create new problems for Iran; he warned US against any military attack on Iran.
· US Vice President Dick Cheney warned foreign companies that continued business with Iran would disrupt their ties to US; Vice President Cheney said “if you do business with Iran, you will have problems doing business in the US.”
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said US decision to cut off financial relations with Iranian banks is meaningless; he said Iran demands 100 percent of its nuclear rights and US is obliged to accept this right.

The Nuclear Issue

· US government designated Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC) as a proliferator of WMD; US named IRGC’s Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism; US sanctioned three major Iranian banks for their involvement in WMD proliferation and support for terrorism; eight individuals were also sanctioned for proliferation activities.
· Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called US imposition of new sanctions against “international principles”; Mottaki said the sanctions are “worthless and defeated”; former IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Yahya Safavi said US unilateral policies against Iran are spearheaded by global oil cartels.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would not succumb to pressure from Washington; Ahmadinejad dismissed new US sanctions as “hollow”; he added the sanctions show the “Americans are not able to harm us.”
· IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran was years away from having the ability to produce a nuclear weapon; ElBaradei said the IAEA had no evidence Iran was actively trying to build a nuclear bomb.
· French Defense Minister Herve Morin said he did not agree with ElBaradei’s characterization of Iran's nuclear program; Morin said “our information is contrary to ElBaradei’s comments”; Morin expressed hope the pressure from international community will persuade Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program.
· Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against US sanctions on Iran; Putin said US President is “running around like a madman with a razor blade, waving it around”; Putin said diplomacy is best way to resolve nuclear standoff with Iran.
· China rejected Israeli calls for sanctions against Iran; Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told visiting Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni that China does not support new sanctions against Iran.
· Iran and IAEA began a final round of talks in Teheran to resolve remaining questions on Iran’s P-1 and P-2 centrifuges; Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Deputy Director Mohammad Saeedi said Iran was prepared to answer remaining questions to close the file on its centrifuge technology.
· Iran’s nuclear negotiating team returned home after meeting with EU officials in Italy; Saeed Jalili and Ali Larijani met EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Rome; Larijani called the meeting “fruitful”; Larijani said “new and constructive” ideas emerged in talks.
· Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said his country will follow US sanctions against Iran; Downer said if Iran’s enrichment program isn't suspended some time fairly soon, a lot of countries will introduce different types of measures and sanctions against Iran.

Leading Domestic Storylines

· Brig. Gen. Ali Fahdavi, Deputy Commander of IRGC Naval Force, said Iran will utilize elements of sacrifice and martyrdom if necessary against invaders; he said IRGC has taken an example from Mohammad Hossein Fahmideh; Fahmideh blew himself under an Iraqi tank when he was 13 during the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq.
· Iran’s reformist party Moshrekat challenged President ahmadinejad’s nuclear policies; the Islamic Iran Participation Front (Mosharekat) warned of escalating crisis with international community if nuclear standoff is not resolved; the government should refrain from its adventurous policies, said Mohsen Mirdamadi, party’s secretary general; Mirdamadi said Tehran has increasingly become isolated since Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005; Ahmadinejad has adopted wrong tactics, which is pushing Iran towards serious confrontation with the world, Mirdamadi added.
· Iranian labor leader Mansour Ossanlou was sentenced to five years in prison; Ossanlou was arrested in August and charged with endangering national security.

Leading Regional Storylines

· Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Tehran for a meeting with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki; the two sides discussed Iran’s nuclear program.
· Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said was ready to cooperate with Turkey against PKK; Ahmadinejad told visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan Iran understands Turkey’s struggle against terrorism; Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki accused US of backing Kurdish separatists waging war against Turkey and Iran; Ahmadinejad said PKK crisis can be ended peacefully.
· Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz said three Iranian islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tumbs are Arab; Sultan said it is not in Iran’s interest to provoke anyone in the region.

White House Denies It Plans to Attack Iran Anytime Soon

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said today that “there is no reason for people to think that the president is about to attack Iran” (AP, 30 October).

Perino made the comment amid rising tensions between US and Iran and clear signs of military preparations to attack Iran.

Russian FM in Tehran

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, will arrive today in Tehran on a previously unannounced visit. Lavraov will meet Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at 7:30pm local time. He is scheduled to leave Tehran for Moscow later tonight.

Lavrov accompanied President Putin during his recent visit to Tehran. His unexpected visit today is believed to be linked to Larijani’s resignation and the future of Iran’s nuclear program.

Ossanlou’s Five-Year Jail Term

The five-year jail term for the Iranian labor leader Mansour Ossanlou was upheld today and Ossanlou was transferred to the general ward of Evin prison.

Mansour Ossanlou, 48, was Iran’s bus drivers’ union leader. He was active in promoting better working conditions and increased wages for Iranian bus drivers. Ossanlou, referred to as Iran’s Lech Walesa, was arrested and jailed last August in Tehran

Monday, October 29, 2007

Iran Oil Revenues Hit All-Time High

Iranian crude oil export revenues in the past six months surpassed $30 billion, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) reported today. The record-revenue trend is expected to continue for the next six months. The calculations are based on Iranian calendar year ending March 20, 2008.

Last year, crude export revenue for the entire Iranian calendar year was at $51 billion.

NIOC also expects to realize more than $70 billion in the next six months in combined revenues from the export of crude oil and oil products. This is by far Iran's most positive cash flow situation ever.

US Upgrading Diego Garcia Facilities

The British paper The Herald reported today that the US is upgrading B1 Spirit stealth bomber hangars on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities.

The B1 stealth bombers were in the news lately after the White House sent an “urgent operational need” request to Congress to fit racks on the long-range aircraft allowing them to carry 15-ton Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) bombs, known as Big Blue, designed to smash underground bunkers buried as much as 200ft beneath the surface through reinforced concrete, as the underground facilities at Natanz uranium enrichment plant in Iran. The new Big Blu bomb is 20ft long, weighs 30,000lb and carries 6000lb of high explosives.

Iran analysts believe that the preparation for a US military attack on Iran is now at an operational planning phase, making the likelihood of the attack very high. The Pentagon is reportedly drawing up plans for a range of attacks on Iran, including bombardment of nuclear facilities, air bases and radar facilities, and IRGC targets.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

US Air Force Sorties over Iran Borders

The Iranian military is reporting a substantial increase in the number of US sorties over the Iranian border in recent days.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said today the US sorties run counter to international rules and regulations (IRNA, 28 October). Hosseini warned that the Iranian military would give a crushing response if the country’s territorial integrity is violated.

Hosseini’s comments are the latest by Iranian officials warning of a possible military attack on Iran in the near future.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Iran Rockets Hits US Base

US military said today that a 107mm rockets made in Iran in March were fired at a US base southeast of Baghdad on 23 October. No one was injured in the attack on Combat Outpost Cashe, but one US vehicle was damaged.

An unfired rocket along with six rocket rails was seized after the attack. In the last four months, this is the 40th Iranian-manufactured rocket seized by US troops.

Meanwhile in Tehran, Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said today that Iranian missiles pose no threat to any country. He said that Iran's missile power is part of “the Islamic world's defense power.” Gen. Najjar did not elaborate what Islamic defense power is.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The New Sanctions List

In the most sweeping action against Iran since the hostage crisis, United States today slapped sanctions against IRGC and its Quds Force, major Iranian banks and eight individuals.

Entities and Individuals Sanctioned for Proliferation Activities:

- The Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC)

- IRGC owned or controlled businesses:
  • Khatam al-Anbya Construction Headquarters
  • Oriental Oil Kish
  • Ghorb Nooh
  • Sahel Consultant Engineering
  • Ghorb-e Karbala
  • Sepasad Engineering Co
  • Omran Sahel
  • Hara Company
  • Gharargahe Sazandegi Ghaem

- IRGC Individuals:

  • General Hosein Salimi, Commander of the Air Force, IRGC
  • Brigadier General Morteza Rezaie, Deputy Commander of the IRGC
  • Vice Admiral Ali Akhbar Ahmadian, Chief of the IRGC Joint Staff
  • Brigadier Gen. Mohammad Hejazi, Commander of Bassij resistance force
  • Brigadier General Qasem Soleimani, Commander of the Qods Force

- Other Individuals:

  • Ahmad Vahid Dastjerdi, Head of the Aerospace Industry Organization (AIO)
  • Reza-Gholi Esmaeli, Head of Trade & International Affairs Dept., AIO
  • Bahmanyar Morteza Bahmanyar, Head of Finance & Budget Department, AIO

- Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL), including all industrial units under its control

- Bank Melli Iran, its branches and its subsidiaries

- Bank Mellat, its branches and its subsidiaries

Entities and Individuals Sanctioned for Support for Terrorism:

- IRGC-Quds Force (IRGC-QF)

- Bank Sadererat, its branches and its subsidiaries

On December 11, 2006, the UN Security Council had sanctioned an additional 12 individuals and 11 entities for their involvement in nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

US Adds Three Banks to Iran Sanctions

The US put three Iranian state-owned banks under sanctions. The banks are: Bank Melli Iran, the country’s largest bank; Bank Mellat; and Bank Saderat. Melli and Mellat were sanctioned for their alleged involvement in Iran’s nuclear program. Saderat was designated “a terrorist financier.”

The US sanctions today included Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC) for its involvement in Iran’s nuclear program and IRGC’s foreign ops directorate, the Quds Force, designated as a terrorist organization.

US Sanctions Against IRGC and Quds Force

The US is expected to announce later today it is designating Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC) as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and IRGC’s elite Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism, The Washington Post reported.

The designations will force foreign companies doing business with IRGC to back out in order to avoid US sanctions. The designations are the most serious and powerful set of measures taken by US against Iran to date.

IRGC controls a vast business empire inside Iran and control all strategic imports into the country. The designation will make it hard for IRGC to continue doing business as usual. The Quds Force is the foreign military operations directorate of IRGC. It carries out covert operations in the Middle East and in Europe.

China: No Fighter Jets for Iran

China denied published reports it will sell two squadrons J-10 fighter jets to Iran. The aircraft are based on Russian and Israeli technology and components provided to China by Israel. The 24 jets would have cost an estimated $1 billion. Reports in Russian and Israeli media said Iran had signed a deal with China.

Israel sold to China its technology for Lavi fighter jets. J-10 has been in development since the late 1980s, utilizing Russian technology. The Chinese used the Lavi design and components to vastly improve the final version of J-10.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Major Power Struggle Underway in Iran

In just one week some major events have occurred in the Iranian capital that might change the face and the politics of the Islamic Republic.

Last Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a message to supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Putin reportedly warned Khamenei of a major US military attack on Iran if the Iranian did not offer an acceptable compromise on uranium enrichment program. A temporary enrichment suspension (coupled with the suspension of all UN sanctions against Iran) could well be the desired compromise. Russia needed something concrete from the Iranians if it was expected to stop a military attack or further economic sanctions against Iran.

Ali Larijani, at the time the chief nuclear negotiator, told reporters on Wednesday that Putin had delivered a message to Khamenei with regards to nuclear standoff which was being analyzed. IRNA, the official news agency, reported on Wednesday that Khamenei was “pondering” Putin’s proposal.

On Thursday, President Ahmainejad said Putin did not utter a word on any nuclear proposal and there were no message or proposal delivered to Khamenei. Gholamhossein Elham, the government’s spokesman, that day reiterated the government position that no suspension, temporary or permanent, of uranium enrichment was acceptable.

On Saturday, Larijani unexpectedly resigned or was put in a position to leave his post. Larijani reportedly favored the double-suspension compromise offered by Putin. Ahmadinejad strongly objected. The future of Iran’s nuclear program and that of the Islamic Republic was on the line. Both sides hardened their positions in what they thought was the best plan of action for the Islamic Republic.

On Monday, Ahmadinejad left Iran on a two-day state visit to Armenia. On Tuesday, the day he was scheduled to deliver a major address to Armenian parliament, he unexpectedly cut short his trip and returned to Tehran. An Armenian presidential spokesman, Robert Kocharyan, said Ahmadinejad was forced to cut short the trip because of political developments in Tehran.

On Tuesday, 183 Majlis deputies signed an open letter to Ahmadinejad voicing their support for Larijani. In the same day, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor and a long-time confidant of Khamenei, criticized Larijani’s departure. The message from the deputies and Velayati was clear: Larijani’s departure and not accepting a compromise has put Iran in danger. Ahmadinjad cut his rip short to be in Tehran.

The events of the past few days clearly show that a major power struggle is underway in Tehran: Ahmadinejad against Khamenei. The disputes are for now centered on the nuclear issue but is going well beyond that. At stake is who would rule Iran in the next decade. Ahmadinejad is not accepting any compromise, relying on what he perceives a solid backing from the public and the revolutionary guards (IRGC). He is going as far as challenging Khamenei, who apparently is erring on the side of caution and accepting a limited compromise on nuclear issue.

The Islamic Republic, during its early days, had witnessed such major power struggle. Bani Sadr challenged Khomeini, hoping for a vast public support. He was forced to flee the country and now lives in exile. Khamenei is much weaker than Khomeini and the outcome of the current power struggle is by no means guaranteed. Iran’s political elite is gathering against Ahmadinejad and might be powerful enough to literally or practically force him out of the office. These are intriguing days for the Islamic Republic and for Iran.

News from Iran

The unexpected resignation of Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, and its implications on the on-going negotiations with IAEA and the EU dominated the coverage in Iranian media. The pro-reform press saw the resignation as a sign of disarray in Ahmadinejad’s administration over the nuclear policy. Even some conservatives voiced shock and displeasure at reported forced resignation of Larijani.

The Iranian government announced its nuclear policies will not change and it will not accept any proposals to suspend uranium enrichment. That’s precisely what EU had in mind. A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said EU will reintroduce its 2006 proposal offering economic incentives for Iran in lieu of suspension of uranium enrichment.

President Bush warned of World war III if Iran goes nuclear, a remark called “warlike rhetoric” by Iranian government. Iran’s IRGC warned of firing 11,000 missiles into US targets in the region if the US launched a military attack on Iran.

Iran Nuclear Program

· Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani resigned; the resignation came days before an all-important meeting scheduled between Larijan and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana; Solana was to report back to EU on Iran’s adherence to UNSC resolutions; Deputy Foreign Minister Saeed Jalili replaced Larijani.
· Iran’s government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said Iranian nuclear policies will not change as a result of replacement of individuals; Elham said the policies are defined and announced by the supreme leader and president; Elham said Iran would reject any proposals requiring suspension of uranium enrichment program.
· Iran’s new chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, accompanied by former negotiator, Ali Larijani, met in Rome with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana; Solana described the talks as “constructive”; Solana’s spokeswoman said EU foreign policy chief will once again offer Iran EU’s 2006 proposal on nuclear program; EU offer included economic incentives for Iran in lieu of suspension of uranium enrichment by Iran.
· Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert made a surprise visit to Moscow to discuss Iran’s nuclear program; Olmert is pushing for more sanctions and military confrontation with Iran; Israeli president Shimon Peres said Iran was seeking to develop nuclear weapons for the purpose of “war and death.”
· British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said a new round of sanctions should be imposed on Iran; Brown added he believed sanctions worked.
· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Russia and Iran agreed at highest levels to complete work at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor; Hosseini told reporters, however, Iran could not announce the “good news” as promised on definitive timetable for completion of Bushehr.

US-Iran Relations

· President George Bush warned of World War III if Iran goes nuclear; President Bush said world leaders must prevent the Islamic Republic from getting nuclear weapons if they are interested in avoiding World War III; Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said World War III warning endangers international peace; the spokesman called President Bush’s remark “'warlike rhetoric.”
· Vice President Dick Cheney said Iran is a growing obstacle to peace in the Middle East; Cheney said US will not allow it to obtain a nuclear weapon; he added US and the international community will not stand by as a “terror-supporting” Iran fulfils its ambitions.
· Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC) Brig. Gen. Mahmoud Chaharbaghi, commander of IRGC missile force, said Iran will fire 11,000 rockets into US military bases in the first minute of a US attack on Iran; Gen. Chaharbaghi said IRGC has identified US targets and can respond immediately to a US attack.
· US Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there is more than enough US reserve to respond militarily in Iran; Adm. Mullen said the military will do what the national leadership wanted to do.
· US said no missile defense system needed in Europe if Iran drops nuclear program; Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried indicated Washington would change its approach to developing the missile shield opposed by Russia if Iran were to suspend uranium enrichment.

Major Domestic Storylines

· Iran’s President Ahmadinejad unexpectedly cut short his two-day trip to Armenia by one day and returned to Tehran on 23 October; Armenian government spokesman said Ahmadinejad’s early return was due to internal developments in Tehran; Ahmadinejad's advisor Samareh Hashemi denied the visit had been cut short.
· Students at Amir Kabir University in Tehran demonstrated to protest jail terms for student leaders; three student activists received sentences of up to three years for publishing articles deemed insulting to Islam.
· The Sunday Times reported British Special Forces (SAS) have crossed into Iran several times in recent months; SAS was reported to engage IRGC’s Quds Force inside Shalamcheh border with Iraq.
· Former British Premier Tony Blair called Iran the state of “extremist Islamic ideology”; Blair accused Iran of backing and financing terror in pursuit of destabilizing countries in the region; the former PM warned against any retreat in the face of a situation similar to “rising fascism” in 1920s; “there is a tendency to believe they are as they are because we have provoked them and if we left them alone they would leave us alone,” Blair said; Blair warned extremist Islamists have no intention of leaving the West alone.

Major Regional Storylines

· Iran urged dialogue between Turkey and Iraq over Kurds; foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Iran prefers negotiated and political settlement to problems of northern Iraq; Hosseini said any solution that creates tension will only worsen the situation in northern Iraq.
· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini rejected British accusations of Iranian involvement in shipment of arms to the Taliban.
· Afghan foreign minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said there was no evidence Iran was supplying weapons to Taliban; US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan McNeill, said a convoy of explosives intercepted in Afghanistan had arrived from Iran; Gen. McNiell added Iranian military must have been aware of the arms shipment.
· Iranian President Ahmadinejad called on Arab countries not to take part in Annapolis peace conference; Ahmadinejad is the conference is an “Israeli trap” (3); he added US and Israel would take advantage of countries attending Annapolis.
· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Iran, Russia and Kazakhstan offered different plans at Caspian Summit for establishing a regional security force for Caspian Sea; Hosseini said Iran’s plan deal with confidence building and stability in Caspian; Russia offered the establishment of CASFOR regional force.
· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Iran’s treaties with former Soviet Union did not explicitly divide Caspian Sea equally between the two countries; Hossieni said negotiations for Caspian’s legal status will continue among the five Caspian neighbors.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cheney Warns Iran

Vice President Dick Cheney said today Iran is a growing obstacle to peace in the Middle East and the US will not allow it to obtain a nuclear weapon.

“Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions,” Cheney said. “We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

Chaeny’s harsh words came just a few days after President Bush warned of World War III if Iran goes nuclear.

IRGC Brig. Gen. Mahmoud Chaharbaghi, commander of IRGC missile force, had said a day earlier that Iran will fire 11,000 rockets into US military bases if attacked.

Iran analysts believe the US has given Iran a stern warning of an impending military attack if it did not halt its nuclear program. Russian President Vladimir Putin is thought to be the messenger, delivering the warning directly to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei during his last week’s visit to Tehran. Chaharbaghi’s warning was seen as a direct reply to the threat of a military attack.

The sacking of Ali Larijani as the country’s chief nuclear negotiator and replacing him by a hardliner bureaucrat with close ties to President Ahmadinejad was also seen as a clear sign of hardening of Iran’s position on the nuclear issue.

In related developments, Iran’s Tabnak news website reported today of a noticeable increase in the number of flights by US fighter planes and radar aircraft at Shalamcheh border area near Abadan.

The British Special Forces, SAS, were also reported to cross into Iran at Shalamcheh, engaging IRGC’s Quds Force in the area. The Sunday Times identified the location of SAS operations as Maysan and Basra border areas.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Iran Inches Closer to Confrontation with the West

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani resigned today and was swiftly replaced by Saeed Jalili. The change is seen by Iran analyst as a clear victory for President Ahmadinejad and the extremists.

Jalili was an academician and a foreign service officer before joining the office of the supreme leader Ayatollah Kahemenie as the director general in 2001. He holds a doctorate degree in political science. Dr. Jalili was said to be Ahmadinejad’s first choice as foreign minister, but Ahmadinejad settled for Manouchehr Mottaki. Jalili became Motakki’s deputy for European and American affairs in 2005.

Jalili is a veteran of Iran-Iraq war and an IRGC alumnus. His selection clearly indicates Khamenie’s tilt toward Ahmadinejad and a nuclear policy favored by the extremists.

In a related development, IRGC Brig. Gen. Mahmoud Chaharbaghi, the commander of IRGC missile force, said today that Iran will fore 11,000 rockets at US and allied targets within the first minute of a US attack on Iran.

“We have identified our targets and with a close surveillance of targets, we can respond immediately,” Gen. Chaharbaghi added.

Today Iran has moved closer to a military confrontation with the US and the West over its nuclear program and as a result of consolidation of power in the hands of Islamist extremists.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Amnesty International Condemns Wave of Executions

Amnesty International today expressed alarm at the new wave of executions in Iran. Since the beginning of 2007, Iran has executed 250 people.

On Wednesday alone, nine people were executed in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, including a woman and a child offender. On the same day three others were executed in Shiraz.

Last week, two Kurdish rebels were hanged in Sanandaj.

Iran 21st in GDP

Iran will rank 21st among 181 countries in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), overtaking the Netherlands and Thailand in 2007, the IMF reported on Thursday in its World Economic Outlook.

The report predicted that Iran’s inflation rate will reach 19% in 2007.

The rapid growth in GDP and inflation rates are both the outcome of the country’s rising oil revenues.

Blair on Extremist Islamic Ideology and Iran

Former British premier Tony Blair today defined “extremist Islamic ideology” as the primary danger to civilization, with Iran as its central state.

“The [extremist Islamic] ideology now has a state, Iran- that is prepared to back and finance terror in the pursuit of destabilizing countries whose people wish to live in peace,” Blair said during a speech in New York (Guardian, 18 October).

The former PM warned against any retreat in the face of a situation similar to rising fascism in 1920s.

“There is a tendency even now, even in some of our own circles, to believe that they are as they are because we have provoked them and if we left them alone they would leave us alone. I fear this is mistaken. They have no intention of leaving us alone," Blair said.

Tony Blair’s statement is one of the most comprehensive definitions of Islamic fundamentalist ideology and Iran’s role as its central state. It carries a number of important political implications as well.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Olmert in Moscow

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arrived in Moscow today for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We know how concerned you are about the situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program. I am ready to share the results of my visit,” Putin told Olmert just prior to start of their meeting (AP, 18 October). Putin was in Tehran on Tuesday.

I’ll be “glad to hear from you about the results of your trip to Iran,” Olmert responded.

The Kremlin has not yet issued any details of the meeting underway in Moscow.

In a related development, Israel’s presidential office released a sharply-worded statement by Shimon Peres, “Many times in history it was too late to prevent horrors and bloodshed, for instance with Stalin and Hitler. We are nearing a similar turn of events with Ahmadinejad” (UPI, 18 october).

Earlier, Peres had warned that Iran was “seeking to develop nuclear weapons for the purpose of war and death” (Ha'aretz, 18 October).

Putin [Had / Did Not Have] a Message for Khamenei!

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said yesterday that Russian President Putin delivered a “special message” on nuclear issue to Iran’s leader Ayatollah Khamenei during their meeting on Tuesday (IRNA, 17 October).

“We will ponder your words and proposal,” Khamenei was quoted by Iran’s official news agency as responding.

Today, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad disputed the reports and said Putin did not offer any message or proposal on nuclear standoff (IRNA, 18 October). “Putin did not say a word,” he added.

It seems that disharmony and disorder runs deep and at the highest political echelons of the Islamic Republic.

NATO General Accuses Iran for Sending Bombs to Afghanistan

US Army Gen. Dan McNeill, NATO commander in Afghanistan, said today the Iranian military was involved in a shipment of sophisticated explosive devices that NATO troops intercepted in western Afghanistan last month.

The convoy was reportedly intercepted on 5 September. “This weapons convoy clearly, geographically, originated in Iran,” Gen. McNeill said (AP, 18 October).

Peres Warns Against Iran Nuclear Threat

Israeli President Shimon Peres today called on the world to be aware of the Iranian threat as there is proof that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons (Ha'aretz, 18 October).

“Many intelligence agencies throughout the world have proof that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons for the purpose of war and death,” Peres said.

The waning came a day after President Bush warned of the risk of World War III if Iran goes nuclear.

In a related development, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to fly to Moscow today to discuss Iran's nuclear program with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Olmert reportedly will stress the need to keep up pressure on Iran to stop enriching uranium. Putin has said that he is not convinced that Iran is building nuclear weapons

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bush: Risk of World War III if Iran Goes Nuclear

In the harshest language ever used by a US president on Iran’s nuclear risk, President Bush said today that the world leaders must prevent the Islamic Republic from getting nuclear weapons if they are interested in avoiding World War III.

News from Iran

The news surrounding the summit of the heads of states of Caspian Sea region in Tehran and the coverage of the summit meeting dominated the coverage in Iranian media. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to Tehran began with a report on a plot to assassinate him while attending the Caspian summit. The summit ended without approving a treaty on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. At stake was how the Caspian and its rich oil and gas resources should be divided among the five neighboring counties. On other regional news, Iran’s supreme leader called on all Muslim countries to boycott the US-sponsored Middle East peace conference scheduled for late November in Annapolis. On nuclear front, Iran expressed satisfaction in its talks with IAEA on the remaining questions over its nuclear program.

The Caspian Summit

· The heads of states of Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan met in Tehran to resolve legal and operational issues of the Caspian Sea; Iran and Soviet Union had signed a treaty in 1921 dividing the sea equally between the two countries.
· The collapse of Soviet Union in 1991 created four new independent countries neighboring the Caspian along with Iran; the summit could not agree on how to divide the Caspian and its rich oil and gas reserves; Iran has given up its 50% share under the 1921 treaty and has settled for a 20% equal shares for all the five countries; Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan are pushing for a division based on the length of each country’s coastlines, giving Iran a mere 13% share.
· A meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, was scheduled for October 2008 to finalize a treaty dividing the Caspian Sea.
· Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev said there is no more difference with Iran on Caspian Sea legal status which could not be resolved.
· Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed Caspian-Black Sea link; Putin called for digging a canal linking the Caspian and Black seas.
· Azerbaijani president Aliyev said Iranian and Russian oil and gas pipelines can be linked via Azerbaijan.
· Presidents from the Caspian Sea states meeting in Tehran declared they would never allow any country to use their soils as base to launch military attacks against Iran.

US-Iran Relations

· US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said only a united international front can stop Iran’s ambitions; Gates said he has yet to find the “illusive” Iranian moderate to work with; Gates said US will seek robust, far-reaching and strongly enforced economic sanction against Iran; he reiterated US position of keeping all options on the table.
· US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said President Bush must seek congressional approval before taking military action against Iran; Pelosi said President Bush has not requested congressional authority for military action in Iran; Pelosi also said she won't bring up a resolution labeling Iran's IRGC as a terrorist organization; US Senate has passed such resolution.
· Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked all Muslim countries to boycott an American-sponsored Middle East peace conference scheduled for 26 November in Annapolis, MD; Khamenei said that the aim of the meeting is to rescue “the Zionist regime.”

The Nuclear Issue

· Presidents from the Caspian Sea states meeting in Tehran supported Iran's right to research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful aims; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised the Caspian declaration as “very strong.”
· US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran is “lying” about its nuclear program; German Chancellor Merkel said new round of UN sanctions against Iran is necessary if IAEA talks with Iran fail.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran will show resistance in nuclear dispute with the West; Ahmadinejad said Iran will not withdraw one iota from its nuclear rights.
· Iran’s nuclear negotiator Javad Vaedi said Iran and IAEA are satisfied with their talks over Iranian centrifuges; Iran is meeting with IAEA to answer remaining questions about its nuclear program; An all-important IAEA chief’s report on Iran is due on 22 November.
· A meeting in Berlin of world powers on Iranian nuclear standoff was postponed; China objected to the meeting at a time when Dalai Lama was visiting US Congress in Washington.
· Russian President Vladimir Putin said Bushehr nuclear power plant will go into operation following talks in Tehran; Putin said Russia will pursue its commitment to treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons; Russian contractors have repeatedly set back the completion date for Bushehr.

Major Regional Storylines

· Iran’s president Ahmadinejad said the existence of Israel is an insult to human dignity; Ahmadinejad said Europe, Canada or the US could give a part of their own land so that Jews in Israel can establish their country; he said Palestinians should not pay the price because Europeans committed crimes against Jews in World War II
· Israeli air strike on Syria on 6 September targeted a partly constructed nuclear reactor site; New York Times reported Israel carried out the raid to demonstrate its determination to snuff out even a nascent nuclear project in the region; it would have been years before the Syrians could have used the reactor.
· Turkey warned against incursion into northern Iraq; Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said would send military into Iraq to pursue Turkey’s Kurdish rebels from Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) holed up in Iraq; the Iraqi government called on Turkey to respect Iraq’s sovereignty.

Major Domestic Storylines

· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini urged global protests over Koran burning by US soldiers in Afghanistan; Hosseini asked Islamic governments not to stand idly by in the face of this offence; he expressed hatred for “shameful action by US occupiers.”
· Russian Special Services warned of a plot to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin while attending a summit of Caspian region heads of states in Tehran; suicide bombers and kidnappers were training to kill or capture Putin on his visit, report said; Putin arrived in Tehran despite reports of possible assassination attempts on his life; he invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to travel to Moscow for talks.
· Commander of Iran’s army, Maj. Gen. Salehi, said enemy aggression will receive crushing response (3); he said enemy does not dare to take any military action against Iran; Iran’s president Ahmadinejad also highlighted power of Iranian army (3); Ahmadinejad said the US does not dare to invade Iran; IRGC Brig. Gen. Ali Fazli said Iran’s military power is more advanced than before.
· A Japanese student was kidnapped in Iranian Baluchistan; Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Motaki said officials have identified whereabouts of abductees; Mottaki added Iran will make efforts to resolve the issue.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Caspian Summit: Iran Backs Down

Caspian Sea

The Caspian summit ended in Tehran earlier today. The Kazak president voiced pleasure with preliminary agreements at expert level on the thorny issue of the division of the Caspian Sea and its rich oil and gas resources among the five bordering countries.

Kazakhstan, along with Russia and Azerbaijan, had been a staunch advocate of the median line legal regime, whereby the Caspian is divided based on the length of coastal lines of each country. Under such arrangement, Iran’s share would be reduced to just 13.6%.

In 1921, Iran signed a treaty with the Soviet Union dividing the Caspian in half between the two countries. The collapse of the Soviet Union and its replacement on Caspian shores with four independent states of Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan did not legally annul the treaty. Under the international law, Iran would still own 50% of Caspian, and the Soviet’s share should have been divided among the four states replacing it.

During the Khatami administration, the Iranian government agreed to divide the Caspian according to the “spirit” of the 1921 treaty, thereby giving the five states, including Iran, an equal 20% share of the Caspian. The “letter” of treaty, however, had guaranteed the 50% share. The opposition has since accused the government of relinquishing Iran’s rights similar to capitulations at Gulistan and Turkmenchay in 1800’s when Persia renounced its rule over the present-day Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan and handed them to Tsarist Russia.

The Ahmadinejad’s administration is apparently ready to go a step further and accept Russia’s median line formula which would give Iran a mere 13% share of the Caspian. This issue will have the potential of becoming the single most important factor of de-legitimizing the Islamic Republic’s rule in Iran.

The final legal status of the Caspian was scheduled to be formally agreed upon during the next summit in Baku in October 2008.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Caspian Summit: What’s At Stake?

A Caspian Sea summit between the leaders of Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan will take place tomorrow in Tehran. At stake is how to divide the Caspian Sea and its oil and natural gas resources among the five. Caspian Sea is believed to contain the world's third-largest energy reserves.

In 1921, Iran and Soviet Union signed a treaty dividing the Caspian Sea between them. Seventy years later, the Soviet Union collapsed and now five independent states bordered the Caspian. Three alternatives emerged as how to divide the sea.

  • Iran: 50%; four former Soviet republics: 50% - Iran and Soviet Union had signed a treaty in 1921 dividing the sea in half. The collapse of USSR was unrelated to Iran and could not possibly have any effects on Iran’s share. The four independent republics need to divide their own share among themselves. This view is strongly favored by Iran’s opposition groups and a number of political and academic figures in Iran.

  • 20% each: five equal parts for each independent state bordering the Caspian. The governments of the Islamic Republic and Turkmenistan favor this alternative. The Iranian government argues that according to the “spirit” of 1921 treaty, the Caspian and its resources should be divided equally among bordering states. The Iranian opposition regards the government’s position as treason similar to Gulistan and Turkmenchay treaties of 1813 and 1828 with Russia when Persia renounced its rule over present-day Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, comprising 18 Cities of Caucasus.
  • The Median Line: Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan want the Caspian divided along the so-called media line, a division based on coastal sovereignty. Such division would leave Iran with a 13.6% share. Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have signed their own bilateral deals dividing 64% of the sea among them. Iran does not recognize the agreements, but those countries have used the deal to start developing oil and gas resources in northern Caspian.

Iran analysts do not expect any resolution of the legal status of the Caspian Sea during Tuesday’s summit meeting. The leaders of the five countries are expected to pass a declaration agreed upon on 20 June by their foreign ministers in Tehran. The declaration will not resolve the sea demarcation issue.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Putin’s Trip to Iran Begins with a Plot

Two days prior to the arrival in Tehran of Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Russian Special Services have been warned of a plot to assassinate Putin while attending a summit of Caspian region heads of states in the Iranian capital.

Russia’s Interfax said security services had been told that suicide bombers and kidnappers were training to kill or capture Putin on his visit.

“A reliable source in one of the Russian special services, has received information from several sources outside Russia, that during the president of Russia's visit to Tehran an assassination attempt is being plotted,” the report said.

Iran's Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as totally baseless.

Putin flew to Germany today for consultations with Chancellor Angela Merkel before his planned trip to Tehran on Tuesday.

On Friday, Putin met the US Secretaries of State and Defense in Kremlin. Putin’s trip to Tehran will be watched closely in the West. The western leaders have urged the Russian president to take a hard line with the Iranians on the nuclear issue.

Captured Israeli Soldiers Transferred to Iran

Pan Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat reported today that the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in 2006 have been transferred to Iran and could be freed in a German-brokered prisoner swap.

Asharq Al Awsat quoted officials in Ayatollah Khamenei’s office as saying that IRGC’s Quds Force has transferred the two Israeli soldiers from Lebanon to Iran.

“The operation to transfer the two Israeli soldiers to a country outside Lebanon and then to Iran was executed by a special unit belonging to the Quds Force,” the source told the paper.

The two soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, were captured by Hezbollah in July last year, triggering Israel's large-scale offensive against the group in Lebanon during a 34-day war.

No explanations were given as how the IRGC’s Quds Force had the possession of the two Israeli soldiers. Asharq Al Awsat quoted the Iranian official as saying that IRGC Brig. Gen. Ghassem Suleimani, the commander of Quds Force, personally oversaw the transfer.

The unidentified Iranian official also claims that the soldiers are part of an exchange involving Germany's decision last week to free an agent of the Quds Force convicted and jailed for life in Germany for assassination in 1992 of Iranian Kurdish leaders. Kazem Darabi, the convicted killer, will be freed as early as December and will be sent back to Iran.

Human Rights Activist Arrested in Tehran

Emadeddin Baghi

Emadeddin Baghi, a prominent human rights activist and the head of a prisoner rights’ group, was attested today in Tehran.

IRNA quoted unnamed officials as saying Baghi was “doing his activities against national security under the cover of defending prisoners' rights.”

In 2003, Baghi was sentenced to three years in prison on similar charges. He served two years and one year was suspended. Now the suspended term reportedly will go into effect.

Baghi has been a vocal critic of the Islamic Republic’s treatment of political and all other prisoners.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rice: Iran “Lying” About Nuclear Program

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today accused Iran of “lying” about the goal of the country’s nuclear program. The comments were State Department’s harshest on the subject.

“There is an Iranian history of obfuscation and, indeed, lying to the IAEA,” Dr. Rice said.

The US is trying to win Russian support for new UN sanctions against Iran. Russian president Putin has in recent days expressed doubts if Iran is actually pursuing a nuclear weapon program. Putin will visit Tehran next week to attend a summit of the heads of states of the Caspian region.

Dr. Rice’s comments and her harsh tone come at a critical time for Iran’s nuclear program.

Turkmenistan Gas Pipeline Replacing Iran Pipeline

TAPI Gas Pipeline

India will join the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline (TAPI). Asian Development Bank, the project sponsor, will present a comprehensive agreement on TAPI to the four countries for signing next month, The Indian Express reported today.

TAPI will replace Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) proposed pipeline. India boycotted a critical meeting in Tehran earlier this month to sign the IPI agreement. India’s decision to choose TAPI over IPI will be a major defeat for the Iranians.

The officials from Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India will meet on November 28-29 in Islamabad to formalize the agreements on TAPI.

Over the next 30 years, Turkmenistan will provide 34.26 trillion cubic feet of gas from its Dowlatabad fields to meet Pakistan's need of 16.95 TCF, and India and Afghanistan's joint demand of 17.31 TCF.

Iranian-born Doris Lessing Wins Nobel Prize for Literature

Doris Lessing

British writer Doris Lessing has been awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature. Lessing was born Doris May Tayler in Kermanshah, Iran on October 22, 1919.

The Swedish Academy described Lessing as "the epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny."

Lessing’s father, Alfred Tayler, had moved with his wife, Emily Maude, to Kermanshah to take up a job as a clerk for the Imperial Bank of Persia. In 1925, the family moved to the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

She married Gottfried Lessing in Salisbury where both were young Communists and members of the Left Book Club. She moved to London in 1949 and published her first novel, The Grass is Singing, and began her career as a professional writer. The novel chronicled the relationship between a white farmer’s wife and her black servant. Lessing left the Communist movement in 1954. Because of her outspoken views, the governments of both Southern Rhodesia and South Africa declared her a “prohibited alien” in 1956.

Her other novels include The Good Terrorist and Love Again. Her latest novel is The Cleft, published in July.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

News from Iran

Reports of the annual Quds (Jerusalem) Day demonstrations against Israel and the state of US-Iran relations dominated the coverage in Iranian media. President Ahmadinejad said if the Holocaust really happened, the Western countries were responsible and should be making up for it and should provide land for “all the Zionists.” Ahmadinejad called for moving the Israelis to Alaska and Canada. On US-Iran relations, Ahmadinejad said no talks with Washington until US changes its positions against the Islamic Republic.

On military front, Iran announced development of a new 2000-pound optically-guided “smart” bomb, called Ghadr. The Iranian air force inaugurated a new air base near the border with Afghanistan. The air force commander said the base was needed to counter the threats posed by US forces in Afghanistan. On nuclear issue, Iran reiterated its position that it will not suspend its uranium enrichment. France called for tougher sanctions to force Iran to suspend its enrichment program.

Quds (Jerusalem) Day

· Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said if the Holocaust really happened, the Western countries have been responsible for it; he called on the West to make up for it; Ahmadinejad said Israelis should be expelled to Alaska and Canada; he said there are plenty of lands available for “the Zionists” in Alaska and Canada.
· President Ahmadinejad vowed Iran would continue resistance until “all of Palestine is liberated from Israel's hands.”
· Tens of thousands of Iranians marched in solidarity with Palestinians in cities across Iran; the crowd chanted "Death to Israel" in annual Quds (Jerusalem) Day.

US-Iran Relations

· President George Bush said US is not gearing up to attack Iran; President Bush said he remains committed to resolve the nuclear standoff diplomatically; he said Iran needs to suspend its nuclear program; Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said President Bush’s condition for suspension of enrichment is not acceptable.
· Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said no talks with US until Washington changes its policies toward Iran; he said Iran is worried about US “warmongers” and their atomic bombs.
· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Iran is prepared to hold talks with US based on mutual rights and without preconditions; Hosseini said President Bush’s remarks of not gearing up to attack Iran was clearer than before; he added talks conditional on suspension of enrichment is unacceptable.
· US military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, said Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, was a member of IRGC’s Quds Force; Gen. Petraeus said US military can not move against Ambassador Qumi due to his diplomatic immunity; Gen. Petraeus accused Quds Force of “lethal activities” inside Iraq.
· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said American officials hinder freedom of Iranian national Mahmoud Farhadi arrested in Suleymaniya and five Iranian consular officials in Erbil; Hosseini said the efforts made so far have got nowhere due to American procrastination; he insisted Farhadi was a businessman and was not smuggling roadside bombs into Iraq; US military accuses Farhadi of smuggling bombs and membership in IRGC’s Quds Force.
· Iraqi national security adviser Muaffak Al Rubaie said attack on Iran will be a “fatal mistake”; Al Rubaie also accused Iran of meddling into Iraq’s internal affairs; "Our neighbors are playing a very negative role," he said of Iran.
· French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Iran does everything in Iraq to promote conflicts between religious sects; Kouchner said Iran gives assistance to both Shia and Sunni militias; he added Iraq has become a “dream sphere of influence” for Iran.

Iran Nuclear Program

· International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) delegation arrived in Tehran for talks over Iran’s nuclear program; the talks covered outstanding questions related to P1 and P2 centrifuges used in uranium enrichment.
· IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei warned Iran must soon provide key details on its nuclear research capabilities and its nuclear weaponization capacity; ElBaradei added nobody would be able to support Iran if it does not come clean on all outstanding questions.
· French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for tougher sanctions against Iran; "Between resignation and war, there is a responsible attitude: increasing sanctions to bring Iran to reason,” said Sarkozy; Britain backed France on Iran sanctions; EU was to debate on 15 October whether to impose its own set of new sanctions against Iran; French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner proposed exploring “new European measures” in parallel to negotiations on a new UNSC resolution.
· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini ruled out any suspension of uranium enrichment activities; Hosseini said talks of nuclear freeze are “outdated.”
· Iran’s President Ahmadinejad said President Bush’s call for an end to Iranian enrichment program is a mistake; “This strategy is useless,” said Ahmadinejad; he added Iran considers it meaningless to talk about nuclear rights of Iranian nation”; Ahmadinejad said Iran has overcome difficult hurdles on its nuclear path and no power can stop it now.

Major Domestic Storylines

· Iranian military announced it has developed a new 2,000-pound optically guided smart bomb called Ghadr; the precision ordnance is a new version of Ghased, also a 2,000-pound smart bomb developed earlier this year; in August, Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) test-fired Ghased from its F-4 and F-5 fighter jets; production line for 200-pound bombs was inaugurated in August.
· IRIAF inaugurated a new air force base in Birjand, near Iran’s eastern border with Afghanistan; IRIAF Commander Brig. Gen. Ahmad Mighani said inauguration of the airbase was aimed at responding to a possible attack on Iran from US forces in Afghanistan; IRIAF operated 12 bases mostly in Western regions of Iran.
· Student protestors demonstrated against a visit to University of Tehran by Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; Keyhan estimated number of protestors at 600; protestors chanted anti-Ahmadinejad slogans; students carried placards calling for release from prison of their fellow students.

Major Regional Storylines

· Iran reopened its border with Iraqi Kurdistan; the border was closed in protest of arrest of an Iranian national, Mahmoud Farhadi; US military accused Farhadi of smuggling deadly roadside bombs into Iraq; Farhadi was still in US custody.
· British Prime Minister Gordon Brown agreed to support any possible US air strikes and Special Forces raids against IRGC bases; Britain's Special Air Service Regiment was tasked to take part in any Special Forces raids inside Iran; the Royal Navy was also expected to combat Iranian retaliation in the Persian Gulf.
· Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said Iran insists on its sovereignty over three islands of Abu Moussa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs; “The ownership of islands is not a negotiable issue,” Mohammad Ali Hosseini said; The Kuwaiti foreign minister speaking at UN General Assembly said the islands belong to UAE and not to Iran; Hosseini rejected Kuwaiti declaration.
· Iran’s Majlis Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Alel said Israel is not in a “position to have the illusion of attacking Iran”; Haddad Adel was asked whether recent Israeli air strike on Syria was a message for Iran.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Iran Develops New Smart Bomb

The Iranian military has developed a new 2,000-pound optically guided smart bomb called Ghadr. The precision ordnance is a new version of Ghased, also a 2,000-pound smart bomb developed earlier this year.

Last August, Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) test-fired Ghased from its F-4 and F-5 fighter jets. The production line for 2000-pound bombs was also started in August.

[Please note Ghadr is the name of the new smart bomb, while Ghadr-1 is the name of an equally new ballistic misile with a range of 2,500 kilometer.]

In a related development, IRIAF inaugurated a new air base in Birjand, near Iran’s eastern border with Afghanistan.

“Inauguration of the airbase was aimed at responding to a possible strike swiftly and strongly if a strike or attack is launched against the country,” said Brig. Gen. Ahmad Mighani, IRIAF commander. Gen. Mighani was referring to a possible air attack by US Air Force on Iran from Afghanistan.

IRIAF currently has 12 bases mostly in Western regions of Iran.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Demonstrations against Ahmadinejad at University of Tehran

Students Protesting Against Ahmadinejad
University of Tehran . 8 October
Photo: Amir Kabir Newsletter

During a visit to University of Tehran today, President Ahmadinejad was greeted by student protestors calling him a “dictator.” Ahmadinejad was giving a speech at the university.

Amir Kabir Newsletter put the number of students protesting against Ahmadinejad’s visit at 500. Ahmadinejad ignored chants of “Death to the dictator” and gave his speech on the merits of science and the pitfalls of Western-style democracy.

Ahmadinejad faced a similar outburst during a speech last December when students at Amir Kabir University called him a dictator and burned his picture. A number of student activists are still detained at Evin prison. The protestors at Tehran University today were carrying placards asking for the release of student detainees.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

US Accuse Iran Envoy of Quds Membership

The US military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus said today Hassan Kazemi Qomi, Iran’s ambassador in Baghdad, is a member of IRGC’s Quds Force. Gen. Petraeus added that Qomi’s diplomatic immunity prevents US to take any action against him.

The US military arrested an Iranian national, Mahmoud Farhadi, in Iraqi Kurdistan nearly three weeks ago. The military accuses Farhadi of being a high-ranking officer in the Quds Force. Gen. Petreaus did not reveal if the information on Qomi’s membership in the Quds Force was provided by Farhadi.

Gen. Petraeus accused the Quds Force of “malign, lethal involvement and activities” in Iraq.

Britain to Back US Air Strike on Iran

The Sunday Telegraph reported today that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has agreed to support US air strikes and Special Forces raids against IRGC bases.

According to the report, Britain's Special Air Service Regiment will take part in Special Forces raids inside Iran. The Royal Navy will also combat Iranian retaliation in the Persian Gulf.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that US and Britain will wait for a big militant attack sponsored by Iran or another stunt similar to the kidnapping of British sailors in March before launching air strikes and raids against IRGC.

Bush Says No Attacks on Iran

President Bush told Al Arabiya TV on Saturday that US is not gearing up to attack Iran. Bush said he remains committed to resolve the nuclear standoff diplomatically.

President Bush said however that Iran needs to suspend its nuclear program. Iran today again ruled out any possibility of suspension of uranium enrichment. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said President Bush’s condition for suspension of enrichment is not acceptable.

Iran Insists On Sovereignty Over Three Islands

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said today that Iran insists on its sovereignty over the three islands of Abu Moussa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs.

“The islands’ ownership is not a negotiable issue or an issue to be bargained,” Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.

The GCC countries have declared the three islands an integral part of UAE. The Kuwaiti foreign minister speaking at UN General Assembly reiterated this position and said the islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Moussa belong to the UAE and not to Iran.

Iran Reopens Border with Kurdistan

Iran reopened today its border with Iraqi Kurdistan. The border was close 17 days ago in protest of the arrest of Mahmoud Farhadi. US military arrested Farhadi and accused him of being a highly-ranked officer of Quds Force and in charge of smuggling deadly roadside bombs into Iraq. Iran denies this and maintains that Farhadi is a provincial trade official. Farhadi is still in detention.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Ahmadinejad Attacks Israel

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressing a large crowd in Tehran gathered to celebrate the Quds (Jerusalem) Day said if the Holocaust really happened, the Western countries have been responsible for it. He added that the West should be making up for it. Ahmadinejad said “there are plenty of lands in the West, especially in Canada and Alaska that can be dedicated to the Zionists. Give them this land and get rid of this problem.” (Fars News Agency, 5 October).

Ahmadinejad increasingly has been raising questions and doubts on the Holocaust coupled with renewed calls for “expulsion” of Israel from the Middle East. His latest talks on availability of land in Alaska and Canada are among his harshest comments on elimination of the Israeli state.

These are critical days for Iran and the Iranian people. Ahmadinejad’s irresponsible and hateful comments on the Holocaust and on the existence of the state of Israel run against the interests of the country and the people of Iran. Ahmadinejad’s behavior is pushing Iran closer to brink of a disaster.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Iran’s Nuclear Impasse: An Update

EU will debate on 15 October whether to impose its own set of new sanctions against Iran over the country’s nuclear program. France and Britain are pushing for heavier sanctions held up at UN Security Council until November. Germany and Italy have voiced reservations about such action prior to November when IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei is scheduled to deliver an all-important report on Iran’s nuclear research and weaponization.

Meanwhile today the Iranian president announced in Tehran that Iran has overcome difficulties in its nuclear path and no one could now stop it. Reports from Tehran also indicate that Iran has indeed installed 18 cascades, the equivalent of just under 3,000 centrifuge machines. This is the threshold of enriching uranium at industrial scale.

Yesterday, IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei warned Iran that it must soon provide key details on its nuclear research capabilities and its nuclear weaponization capacity. ElBaradei said that he has told the Iranians that, “This is your litmus test. You committed yourself to come clean. If you don't, nobody will be able to come to your support.” (AFP, 3 September). Elbaradei must present his report to IAEA board on 22 November.

Iran has agreed to answer questions regarding the Green Salt project. As already reported in this blog, the US has provided IAEA information contained in a laptop computer about a secret Iranian nuclear program, dubbed “Green Salt”. The laptop was obtained by the US intelligence and the information in it reportedly covers underground nuclear testing, development of missiles with nuclear warhead and production of highly enriched uranium used in an atomic bomb. The segment on “nuclear weapanization” program in Elbaradei’s report would deal with questions surrounding the Green Salt project

If the Iranians fail to adhere to the timetable and do not release the information to IAEA by 22 November, ElBaradei said, the whole process will “backfire in their face.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Iran Analogies

For an excellent piece of reasoning by analogy on US-Iran relations, please see a new posting by William deB. Mills:

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

News from Iran

The winds of war continued to dominate the media coverage in Iran. Many stories on the subject originally reported in Western media were covered by the local media. The worsening relations between Iran and US, especially after the US Congress designated the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, also received prominent coverage. The arrest of an Iranian national claimed by US military to be an IRGC general officer prompted Iran to close its border with Iraqi Kurdistan in protest. On domestic front, the largest student organization in Iran criticized President Ahmadinejad for his remarks at Columbia University calling Iran one of the freest country in the world. The students pointed out the dismal human rights records of the Islamic Republic.

The Winds of War

· New Yorker reported US war planning against Iran is intensifying; Bush administration was reported to target IRGC as main target for US air attack on Iran; rationale for bombing Iran has shifted from Iran's nuclear program to Iran's role in Iraq.
· French daily Le Canard Enchaine reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Iran that war is imminent; the paper quoted French intelligence officials as saying that the first raids on Iranian nuclear sites will be made by Israeli aircraft protected and guided by US radar airplanes; the report said that Russia is supplying Iran with modern S-300 Antey and TOR M1 anti-aircraft missiles, batteries of M82 Moskit anti-ship missiles, helicopters, and small patrol boats to disrupt navigation on Persian Gulf.
· US Air Force was reported to set up a task force to plan an air attack on Iran; Project Checkmate was reported to consist of top air force officers tasked to perfect the plan of attack.
· Reports circulating in Washington indicated Israeli raid on Syrian targets on 6 September destroyed advanced weapon facilities in Syria; former US ambassador to UN John Bolton also said the raid targeted either a joint nuclear or missile facility with North Korea; surprising element of the air strike was the ability of Israeli Air Force jets to enter deep into Syria without setting off Russian-built radar systems in place in the country; analysts regard the Israeli air attack as a test of similar Russian-built surface-to-air missile air defense system in place in Iran.
· Kuwaiti daily, Al Watan, reported US jets circled above the Israeli fighters and gave them aerial cover during Israeli air strike on Syria on 6 September; the paper said Russian experts are trying to understand how the Israeli jets managed to enter so deep into Syrian territory without setting off Russian-built radar systems that were in place in the country; the strike in Syria could also be a test of air path to Iran.

Iran-US Relations

· US Senate by a vote of 76-22 approved the Kyl-Liberman amendment designating the IRGS as a foreign terrorist organization; the House of Representatives had earlier approved a similar measure designating IRGC as terrorists; US government is soon expected to designate IRGC or its Quds Force as a terrorist organization.
· Iran's Parliament – Majlis - labeled the US Military and the CIA as terrorist organizations in retaliation to the US Senate resolution designating IRGC a terrorist organization.
· Friday Prayer Imam Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati condemned the US Congress for designating the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization; “Shame on you, you disgraced lot. May you be damned!” said Jannati, addressing the US.
· Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said main problem facing Iraq is deployment of US forces in the country; Mottaki also said Iraq’s security and stability is in national interest of Iran.
· Iran’s executive secretary of Supreme National Security Council Ali Larijani said Iran will help US stabilize Iraq if Washington sets out a timetable for a withdrawal of its troops.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has extended an invitation to US.President George W. Bush to speak at an Iranian university if US leader ever traveled to the Islamic Republic.

The Nuclear Issue

· World's major powers agreed to delay until November any new UN resolutions against Iran over its nuclear program; US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany will wait for two reports by IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana before putting to vote the resolution for a third round of UN sanction; postponing the vote until November was the result of Russian and Chinese insistence to give IAEA more time to do its work in Iran.
· Representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany called for Iran to suspend nuclear activities.
· Mujahedeen Khalgh Organization (MKO) claimed that Iran is constructing a secret, new underground nuclear facility near Natanz; MKO announced the news in Paris; Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani denied the accusation that there is a secret nuclear site in Iran; MKO said construction of new site began in late 2006 and it is to be completed in early 2008.

Leading Domestic Storylines

· Iranian military fired artillery shells on Kurdish militants’ positions inside Iraqi Kurdistan; IRGC Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, military advisor to the supreme leader, said PJAK bases are some 10 kilometers inside Iraqi territory.
· The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq asked Iran to stop shelling Iraq’s Kurdish border areas; the regional government reaffirmed its commitment to neighborly relations on the basis of mutual respect and common interests.
· The Office for Fostering Unity, Iran’s largest student organization, has criticized President Ahmadinejad’s assertions during his Columbia speech that Iran was one of the freest nations on earth; in an open letter to Ahmadinejad, student leaders blasted his administration for human rights violations and large number of student activists detained at Evin prison.

Leading Regional Storylines

· The railroad linking Iran and Iraq was approaching completion; the first phase linked the Iranian port city of Khorramshahr with the border town of Shalamcheh; the segment linking Shalamcheh to Iraqi city of Basra were expected to finish within six months.
· Shalamcheh, the border crossing linking Iran and Iraq, was named the "friendship border"; cities of Khorramshahr in Iran and Basra in Iraq were designated as "brother cities"; Iranian officials said the moves will foster human and cultural links between the two nations.
· India did not attend the official meeting held in Tehran on construction of Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline; US pressure on India not to invest in Iranian oil and gas sector was seen by observers as the reason behind India’s absence.
· Iran and Pakistan announced they will sign a gas pipeline agreement without India; Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline was to be built by the three countries, but India did not attend a crucial meeting held in Tehran on pipeline construction; US had strong objections to the pipeline exporting Iranian natural gas to south Asia.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Students Respond to Ahmadinejad

The Office for Fostering Unity, Iran’s largest student organization, has responded to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s assertions during his Columbia speech that Iran was one of the freest nations on earth. AdvarNews carried the response on Sunday.

Open letter from members of the Office for Fostering Unity's Central Committee to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Dear Mr. Ahmadinejad:


As representatives of the largest opposition student organization, we send you greetings. We do so because we are bound by a vow we made to ourselves obliging us not to wish anyone ill - even if that person is the very head of state who spoke at Columbia University about the unequalled freedoms in Iran, the exemplary reception afforded to critics and dissidents and boasted of the freedoms afforded its women.

It was only a few days ago, when agents of his information ministry held us for one month in the solitary cells of Evin ward number 209; where our very thoughts were interrogated. In the two years, since he started presiding over the cabinet, officials of his science ministry have banned or suspended no less than 43 student organizations. They have brought disciplinary action against more than 550 students for expression their opinions. Over the past two years, more than seventy members of this association have been arrested, dissident students have been singled out and have been disqualified form continuing their educations. Prominent professors have been fired for having dissenting opinions. The women of his country are denied access to an education by virtue of their gender.

Even if the price of unchecked generosity to South American countries is poverty and unemployment for his own people and budget deficit for Iran's universities. Even if the price of his ill-considered words about the holocaust and his actions in the international arena are sanctions and opportunities denied to his own people.

We begin with hello. We have said repeatedly that we seek only honor for Iran and Iranian alike. To this end, we pursue democracy in Iran and peace on earth. Mr Ahmadinejad, at Columbia University you called Iran one of the freest nations on earth. You asked the critics to come to our country and promised them hospitality. You should perhaps note that the three incarcerated Amir Kabir University students are being held for protesting against your presence at their university and that charges involving spurious publications were a pretext for taking your detractors to the slaughterhouse. Many believe that you are deploying all your might to quash dissidents; that women, teachers, workers, and journalists have received appalling punishments for having committed the crime of being critical in the slightest.

We have heard that you intend to come to the university. Indeed, are there any answers to all our questions, criticisms and objections? Why not permit just one member of this organization's central committee to be present in that hallowed hall where only hand-selected guests are allowed - so that he may pose his question the head of the freest country on earth!

We await your response tomorrow. Without a doubt, everyone is keen to observe to response of the man who invites probing scholars to his country. Bear in mind that the future will write of his dealings with students in his own country.

[Signed] Office for Fostering Unity Central Committee

8 Mehr 1386 [30 September 2007]