Wednesday, November 28, 2007

News from Iran

The Annapolis Conference dominated the media coverage in Iran. The country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had urged Arab countries to boycott the conference. This week he said Palestinians would see the conference as a “hoax.” He predicted Annapolis to be a “total defeat” for US and Israeli designs to fool Palestinian people. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Bashar Assad of Syria to dissuade them from going to Annapolis. He later angrily criticized participants of Annapolis Conference. Iran’s isolation in the region has never been so overwhelmingly apparent. It could only muster the support of Hamas and Hezbollah, two terrorist organizations heavily financed by Iran, to oppose Annapolis. The Iranian leaders must be surprised to find Iran so isolated in the Arab world, including Syria, on an issue of such importance to them, an issue for which they spent so much political capital.

Annapolis Conference

· Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Arab countries to boycott Annapolis conference; a day before the conference, Khamenie said Annapolis was doomed to failure; Iran’s leader predicted “total defeat” for US and Israel in their new initiative to resolve Palestinian conflic.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Saudi king and said he wished “Saudi Arabia was not listed among the attending states at the Annapolis conference;” Ahmadinejad warned Arab countries against “the plots and tricks by the Zionist enemy;” referring to conference attendees, Ahmadinejad said “Who among them is the representative of the people of Palestine? What gives them the right to go there?” Ahmadinejad added he was “sorry” that some Arab leaders decided to attend Annapolis; he said Annapolis will have no benefits for Palestinians.
· Hamas opened “anti-Annapolis” conference in Gaza; Islamic Jihad, Popular Resistance Committees and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command joint the conference; an Islamic Jihad leader Mohammed Al Hendi said Annapolis conference will promote a false illusion of a Palestinian statehood on 10 percent of the real Palestinian land.
· Hamas and Hezbollah announced they would boycott Annapolis Conference.
· Hamas warned of more attacks on Israel after Annapolis Conference; Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said the period after Annapolis will witness an increase of resistance against Israel.

Iran Nuclear Program

· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ruled out giving “the slightest concession” in Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West; if they manage to take even a small concession from us, they will later seek other concessions by making threats, Ahmadinejad added.
· Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said he will meet EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in late November; Jalili-Solana meeting was scheduled to break down nuclear impasse; Solana needed to report back to UN Security Council by end November.
· Iran’s Ambassador to Morocco Vahid Ahmadi said causing concerns over Iran's nuclear program are aimed at misleading public opinions about Israeli threats; he added threats to impose additional economic sanctions on Iran as well as attack on the country are unfounded and irrational.
· Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) reported Iran has produced its own fuel pellets and fuel rods for the heavy water reactor in Arak; Fuel Manufacturing Plant in Isfahan is producing the pellets and the rods; the 40-megawatt heavy water nuclear reactor is under construction and it is expected to become operational in mid-2008; Arak is a plutonium-based reactor.
· Russia was poised to ship nuclear fuel to Iran for its Bushehr nuclear reactor; IAEA inspectors arrived in Russia to check the uranium fuel it has produced for Iran's first nuclear power plant; during his trip to Iran last October, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised that Russia would complete the Bushehr plant.

US-Iran Relations

· US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said at a gathering at Whitman Air Force base in Missouri that military action against Iran remains an option if Iran continues to pursue its nuclear program; Whitman is the home to B-2 stealth bombers which would be used on any bombardment of Iran.
· US Navy and UK Royal Navy announced their nuclear attack submarines had staged an anti-submarine warfare exercise in early October in the Arabian Sea; the maneuvers, dubbed Exercise “Sandstone, were to practice detecting, tracking and engaging Iranian submarines.
· Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini denounced US officials' anti-Iran propaganda in Iraq; Hosseini was reacting to published reports on US officials and military commanders implicating Iran of being involved in recent blast in Baghdad bazaar; Iran rejected those charges.
· US and Iran agreed to hold their 4th round of talks on Iraqi security in the coming weeks.

Leading Domestic Storylines

· Iran’s influential daily Jomhouri Islami in its lead editorial described state of Iranian politics as “chaotic;” Jomhouri Islami accused President Ahmadinejad of behaving illegally towards government’s critics; It is unbecoming a law-abiding country to allow a person in whatever capacity to act as plaintiff, judge and executor, the editorial said; spreading propaganda and auctioning the reputations of adversaries has displaced the rule of law in our nation, the paper added; Jomhouri Islami is believed to having close ties to the country’s supreme leader.
· An Iranian court acquitted former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian of spying and treason charges; Mousavian was convicted of a lesser charge of propagating against the ruling system; Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had called Moussavian a spy and all critics of his nuclear policy “traitors.”
· Iran’s highest court ordered a new investigation into the death of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi; Kazemi died while detained in Evin prison in Tehran in July 2003; A presidential commission inquiry revealed Kazemi died from a “fractured skull caused by a physical attack;” Iran’s judiciary originally disputed commission’s findings.
· Iranian military reported it has manufactured a new ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles); the new missile, called Ashura, would be capable of reaching US bases in the Middle East as well as Israel.
· Iranian military reported it has manufactured a Ghadir-class submarine which will be delivered to the navy on 28 November; the light submarine will be capable of rapid maneuvers in high speed and is fitted with the latest electronics and communications gears; the navy is planning to conduct war games next February in the Straits of Hormuz, the entrance to the Persian Gulf.
· An Iranian fighter jet today crashed into Chabahar Bay in the Gulf of Oman; two crew members were reported killed in the crash.
· Iranian security forces arrested 11 members of Kurdish separatist group PJAK; PJAK has been behind a string of deadly attacks in northwestern Iran in recent months.

Regional Storylines

· Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Tehran will not support any particular Lebanese presidential candidates; Hosseini said Iran pushes consensus among various Lebanese personalities, parties and ethnic groups.
· Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey has rejected US call to scrap energy cooperation deal with Iran.

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