The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany agreed in Berlin on a new UN resolution against Iran’s nuclear program. The Iranian government denounced the action and vowed to continue its uranium enrichment activities. Ever since the publication of a new NIE by the US government, Iran had called on the UN to drop its case against its nuclear program. The agreement on the new UN sanctions by the world’s major powers was unexpected in Iran. On the regional front, Iran claimed its strong ties with the Arabs foiled President Bush’s agenda to create an anti-Iran coalition in the Persian Gulf during his recent tour of the region. On domestic front, the Iranian authorities announced that a large number of candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections will be disqualified to participate in the elections. The moderates and the reformists feared that many of their candidates will be among those who were being disqualified.
Iran’s Nuclear Program
· Six powers agreed on new UN resolution against Iran; five permanent UN Security Council members, United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, plus Germany (P5+1) approved the text of a new resolution on Iran's nuclear program; France and Britain will present a draft resolution to UNSC for final approval.
· U.S. State Department Spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said P5+1 has reaffirmed a commitment to a two-track strategy; Gallegos described the strategy as offering Iran a dialogue that would give it economic benefits if it stops enriching uranium or risk further UN sanctions; he said Iran is becoming increasingly isolated.
· French President Nicolas Sarkozy said French policy of being tough on Iran would encourage Iran to give guarantees that its nuclear program is not aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons; Sarkozy has called for a dual policy of “being tough” and of “dialogue.”
· Iran’s government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said Iran would continue uranium enrichment; Elham said Iran is moving within its “legitimate and legal rights” and will continue its nuclear program.
· Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said the West “will not succeed in its efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program”; Hosseini said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons.
· Iran’s Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and the country’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said Iran will not give up its rights; Jalili emphasized Iran's “firm resolve” to continue cooperation with IAEA.
· Former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said Israel may have to take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb; Bolton said further UN sanctions against Iran will be ineffective in stopping Iran's nuclear program.
· Russia delivered another consignment of nuclear fuel for Iran's 1,000-megawatt Bushehr nuclear power station; Iran’s first nuclear power station would be operationalized in summer of 2008.
Major Regional Storylines
· Iran accused US of “manufacturing” an Iranian threat in the Persian Gulf; Iran’s Speaker of Parliament Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel said Iran’s strong Arab ties has foiled President Bush’s attempts during his recent visit to the region to form an anti-Iran coalition.
· President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel “does not have the courage” to launch a military strike against Iran; he told Al Jazeera TV that Iran will make Israel “regret” the attack; Ahmadinejad added Israel is doomed to “rapid collapse.”
· Israel tested a new ballistic missile at a military base near Tel Aviv; the missile test came days after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that “all options are open” in halting Iran’s nuclear program.
· The successful launch of a “sophisticated spy satellite” by India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle could bolster Israel’s ability to “spy on Iran”; Israel launched the satellite code –named “Tescar” to establish a new point of view in space.
· IAEA awaited explanation from Kyrgyzstan on a radioactive seizure; Uzbekistan border guards detected Cesium-137 in a Kyrgyz freight train bound for Iran; Cs-137, used in medical devices and gauges, is a by-product of nuclear fission processes in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons testing.
· President Ahmadinejad accused Israel of committing crime in Gaza; Ahmadinejad called Arab leaders, including Egyptian President Hosni Mobarak, Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar Al Asad to “discuss and denounce” Israeli raids in Gaza.
· The U.S. military in Iraq is seeing an upswing in the number of roadside bomb attacks using deadly armor-piercing munitions; Defense Secretary Robert Gates said number of attacks involving explosively formed penetrators (EFP) in the first two weeks of January was about equal to EFP attacks during all of December; late last year, US military officials in Iraq said the number of EFP attacks had fallen off; Washington accuses Tehran of arming, training and funding Shia militias in Iraq.
Leading Domestic Storylines
· More than 390 out of a total of 1,400 candidates in Tehran constituency have been rejected by authorities to run in Iran's upcoming parliamentary elections; about 40 per cent of the 7,200 people who have registered to run throughout the country “have a record” with the intelligence ministry or the judiciary, an indication they would not be allowed to run in elections to be held on 14 March; the remaining candidates will be “vetted” by the Guardian Council before the elections; reformist candidates feared they will not be allowed to run in the elections; former President Khatami expressed his concerns at a meeting with members of the Reformist Coalition; Khatami said there is “a narrow-minded effort to deprive many devoted, experienced and enlightened individuals from the elections”; a former vice-president, Mohammad Reza Aref, warned against the “consequences of narrow mindedness, factional perspectives and personal preferences” determining the vetting process; Hasan Rowhani, the former chief nuclear negotiator and the current head of the Centre for Strategic Studies, warned of the “danger of popular vote turning into mere formality.”
· Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reversed a decision by President Ahmadinejad and ordered him to put into effect a law supplying natural gas to remote villages; Khamenei’s move was a major rebuke to the president; Khamenei order covered spending $1 billion from Iran’s Currency Reserve Fund to supply natural gas to villages.
· World’s Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said there was an outbreak of bird flue in Iran; Mojtaba Norouzi, head of Iran’s Veterinary Department, confirmed the outbreak of deadly H5N1 bird flue among some domestic and wild birds of Iran.