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.
· 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.