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 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.