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.
· 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.