Tuesday, October 23, 2007

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.

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