The Islamic Republic celebrated the 29th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. President Ahmadinejad vowed not to retreat on nuclear issues and ridiculed UN Security Council resolutions against Iran’s nuclear program. Iran announced start up of its own modified centrifuge, reportedly enriching uranium three times faster than the current models. Iran also announced plans for the launch of two more space rockets before putting a homemade satellite into orbit next summer. The upcoming parliamentary elections were also covered extensively by the local media. The commander of Revolutionary Guards broke with tradition and urged Iranians to support the radical fundamentalists in the elections. Reformists and moderates reacted with anger and concern and a grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic called on the armed forces to stay clear from politics.
Iran’s Nuclear Program
· Iran started up its own modified centrifuge at Natanz uranium enrichment plant; the new unit, named IR-2, was reported to be up to three times faster than P-1 centrifuge already in operation at Natanz; IR-2 machines were reported to be a homemade version of the advanced P-2 centrifuge; Iran replaced hard-to-manufacture steel rotors needed to build P-2s with rotor tubes made of carbon fiber; development of IR-2 indicated that Iran was at a much higher stage of nuclear development than previously thought.
· “The world should know that the Iranian nation will not retreat one iota from its nuclear rights,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a rally in Tehran marking the anniversary of the 1979 revolution; Ahmadinejad dismissed UN Security Council sanctions as “bits of paper.”
· France said it regrets Iranian statements on nuclear issue; French Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Pascale Andreani said President Ahmadinejad shows no sign of openness toward a negotiated solution on Iran’s nuclear program.
· Disagreements between IAEA Chief Mohammad ElBaradei and his staff could delay releasing the report on Iran; ElBaradei was reportedly ready to issue a positive report on Iran; there was a concern among IAEA staff that most of big issues are going to be declared as resolved when “they're anything but,” IAEA sources said; some Western powers have said they might not back a third sanctions resolution against Iran if IAEA gives a positive assessment of Iran’s nuclear program.
· Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Iran is still moving forward on nuclear weapon; “Why does Iran need enriched uranium at a time when they are supplied by Russians the nuclear fuel for their civilian reactor?” asked Olmert; Israel said it would cooperate with its friends in order to deter the Iranians from continuing their nuclear program.
· No date for US-Iran talks on Iraq were announced; Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said the meeting will be held in Baghdad; US and Iran are to discuss security situation in Iraq during the talks; Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the meeting will take place by mid-February.
· Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused US of ignoring the interests and safety of millions Palestinians living in Gaza; Ayatollah Khamenei added US objective is to cause division between the people of Gaza and their elected government.
Leading Domestic Storylines
· Iran celebrated Revolution Day; President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a huge rally marking the anniversary of the 1979 revolution that Iran would not back down “one iota” in its nuclear dispute with US; he said the Iranian nation has broken the back of “Global Arrogance” and called on the nation to “remain steadfast”; Ahmadinejad asked the crowd: “Are you ready to retreat from your nuclear rights one step or one iota?” ; the demonstrators chanted: “No, nuclear energy is our obvious right.”
· Iran reported ready to launch 2 more space rockets before placing its first domestically built satellite into orbit this summer; President Ahmadinejad said the first rocket launch on 4 February was a success; Ahmadinejad added that Iran possesses “all fundamental pieces needed to launch a satellite into space”; Ahmadinejad offered details about launch of Kavoshgar-1 [Explorer-1]; he said equipment placed on the head of Explorer-1 collected information on determining the path, pressure, wind, temperature and geographical situation and sent them back to earth.
· Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC) Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari called on Iranians to support “principlist” candidates in the 14 March parliamentary elections; Chief of the Supreme Commander's Staff Maj. Gen. Hasan Firouzabadi also condemned the reformists for seeking a rapprochement with the West; the commander of Basij Force, Iran’s military reserve force, said Basijis should have a “maximum presence” in the elections; Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene had earlier criticized unnamed Iranian politicians whom he said were being supported by President Bush; Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Khomeini, spoke out against Iranian military interference in political process; Khomeini said his late grandfather had wanted the military to stay out of politics; “those who claim to be loyal to Imam Khomeini should be very sensitive to this order,” said Hassan Khomeini; reformists and moderates have voiced alarm at IRGC’s interference.
· 370 prominent Iranian political and social figures warned against government’s foreign policy on division of Caspian Sea; they expressed “great concern” over published reports that Ahmadinejad’s government was ready to agree to a 13% share of Caspian based on Iran’s length of shorelines; Iran and the former Soviet Union signed a treaty in 1921 and an agreement in 1940 to have common sovereignty of the sea and equal rights for both countries; the signatories called for the Soviet Union’s share to be divided among the successor states that emerged in 1991.
Leading Regional Storylines
· Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to visit Iraq in March; the visit would the first by an Iranian leader in years.
· Iran paraded captured British boat; the British boat captured by Iranians in 2004 was paraded through the streets of Teheran as the country celebrated the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution; the boat was manned by Iranian sailors as it weaved its way through crowds of thousands of Iranians.
· Chinese parts for Iranian F-14s; published reports indicate that China was supplying Iran with parts for its US-made F-14 fighter jets.
· A large number of internet users were affected in Iran and throughout the region after four sections of submarine internet cable were cut in the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean; submarine cable operators deployed ships to bring the cables up to fix the fault; it has been unprecedented for so many undersea internet cables to be damaged at the same time and in the same area.
Very interesting analysis: The US troop Surge, a year later. Here's an excerpt:
....And then there is Iran.
As the U.S. begins reversing the expansion of troop strength — back to the pre-surge levels of about 130,000 — Iran has quietly placed itself in the control room of Iraq's future. Tehran has major military and political tools available to it until U.S. forces eventually leave and has sunk deep roots inside the country's fertile Shiite political power structure.
While the Americans say they have seen a decline in Iranian funding and arming of rogue members al-Sadr's Shiite militia, six key Shiite figures from across the political spectrum have told The Associated Press that Iran is pressing ahead in several directions.
Iran is gaming its future in Iraq on three fronts, the most public of which has been face-to-face meetings between U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi Qomi. Another session could be held in March.
While Crocker has insisted the talks have not veered from topics surrounding Iraqi security, the Iraqi officials, some of whom sat in on the meetings, say their scope has expanded.
The result, the officials said, was Iran's pledge to stop backing the Mahdi Army in return for the Bush administration lowering its rhetoric about Iran's nuclear program. The Iraqis who spoke about the talks said they believed the release of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate in December was a quid pro quo to Tehran for it having turned its back on the Mahdi Army.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
The NIE, in an about-face, said Iran had halted its secret attempts to build nuclear weapons in 2003, contrary to White House claims that Iran was using a civilian nuclear energy program as cover to build nuclear weapons.
Since then, Washington's pronouncements have softened significantly.
On the second front, Iran has shunned the Mahdi Army, but has continued sending arms, fighters and money into Iraq. The leaders of these groups of fighters take orders from Iran and are known as the Ettelaat, shorthand for Iranian intelligence.
The Iraqi officials who spoke to the AP said that after al-Sadr announced a freeze on his militia in August, the Iranians sent in seven Ettelaat commanders — Iraqis loyal to Iran who had been training and handling elite Mahdi Army groups in Iran. These at the time had broken with the mainstream militia over the freeze.
The commanders were said to have slowly infiltrated with more than 1,000 men armed and trained by Iran, with orders to continue harassing the Americans with roadside bombings, mortar and rocket attacks — a one-year high of 12 on the Army's 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division in January alone, the military said.
The Ettelaat force in Iraq is recruiting more fighters from among disaffected Mahdi Army foot soldiers and commanders of the so-called "special groups," not only to keep American forces off balance but also as a sleeper brigade that would open all-out warfare should the United States attack Iran, a real fear in Tehran, the Iraqi officials said.
Not really news, but here are a couple of interesting PhotoBlogs from Tehran:
Tehran 24 (Be sure to click "Categories" and "Recent Posts" at lower RH side of the page)
Tehran Photo Blog
Mark, thanks so much for PhotoBlog links and for sharing with us the piece on US troop surge.
Cheers, my pleasure, I'm happy you enjoyed them. And Thank You. Your blog is very interesting and informative. I will be visiting regularly in the future. Iran keshvar e jalebi Hast.
P.S. If possible, perhaps you could provide links to the sources of your reports in the future. Even if the original source is in Farsi language that can be helpful. Thanks and Cheers again, Mark.
"If the facts are at odds with the policy objectives of some people who are keen to impose further sanctions on Iran, that's too bad," the [IAEA] official added.
- Pressure grows on IAEA over Iran report
It would be interesting to read a list of the Chinese parts supplied to IRIAF F-14A Tomcats. It is known that much of the avionics fit has been upgraded. Any Chinese parts offered for the Tomcat airframe, variable wing assembly or powerplant?
A few known Iranian fabrications for the F-14 include tires, solid-state electronic substitutions for select items of the AWG-9 radar system, as well as experimental applications of HAWK missiles and external bomb loads.
Mark: Really enjoyed the Tehran photoblogs. Thanks.
Mark Konrad, I post “News from Iran” on weekly basis (normally on Wednesdays) as the highlights of news for the period. As such I use many sources, but I will try to find a way to report the sources as well without breaking the flow, probably at the end of the posts. In other posts I do reference sources whenever applicable.
Mark Pyruz, an important question. I am under impression that most of the Chinese parts are actually manufactured inside China for F-14’s and some are original US parts obtained by China. Apparently Iran has been receiving these parts from China for many years.
For our new contributors: Mark Pyruz has always posted challenging questions and insightful comments on this site. His contribution has been as important as mine. His depth of knowledge on Iran is simply amazing!
Hass, I think IAEA-Iran issue is getting very complicated. If the published reports are true that some members of the technical staff believe ElBaradei is trying to make a political statement (albeit a positive statement), that would not bode well for him. His reports should represent the consensus of his technical staff. I am very curious to follow the developments there.
My pleasure of course. I'm happy you liked them. Here's a directory to a few more sites. Links are at the RH side of the page:
Photoblogs - Iran
Be sure to visit the "Comments" at the PhotoBlogs. The names of the people leaving comments are hyperlinked to their websites. There are at least a hundred photo and commentary bloggers based in Iran, maybe a lot more than that. Also visit the Links provided at each site if you can manage it. Those will lead you to a bunch of interesting sites, many of them rather obscure but quite interesting.
For something a bit different, but interesting:
Iranian Madness - Impressions of a European in Iran - An Italian guy living in Iran. Commentary in Italian and English.
Mazidi (in Farsi language - links are in Arabic text and run along the RH side of the page. The scrollbar is at the LH side of the page.)
Mark Konrad, I post "News from Iran" on weekly basis (normally on Wednesdays) as the highlights of news for the period. As such I use many sources, but I will try to find a way to report the sources as well without breaking the flow, probably at the end of the posts. In other posts I do reference sources whenever applicable.
Iran bans 5 Web sites for news comments
By NASSER KARIMI
Associated Press Writer
14 Feb 2008
TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian authorities banned five Web sites that comment on current events for "poisoning" public opinion ahead of the crucial mid-March parliamentary elections, the state radio reported on Thursday.
The move came two days after Iran's hard-line constitutional watchdog reinstated more than 280 candidates, including 70 reformists, for the polls. Reformists have complained the reversal was insufficient to ensure a fair election.
In the past, the authorities have occasionally closed down some of the hundreds of private Web sites that comment on Iranian news and politics. But this was the first time they closed down five at once a reflection of growing tension ahead of the March vote.
Even though the sites closed are thought to be either hardline or conservative, the move could also reflect an eagerness by the authorities to silence disparate voices to push through as critique-less a polling as possible.
The radio said Tehran General Prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, ordered the ban because the Web sites were "poisoning the electoral sphere." It did not name any of the sites, but a report by Web site of state broadcasting company identified one of them as Nosazi, which in Farsi means Reconstruction. [The Nosazi site is still available from the USA on 14 Feb at 09:30 Pacific Time.] The site is considered hard-line and reflective of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's stance.
Earlier in February, Nosazi criticized Hassan Khomeini, a grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for his opposition to barring pro-democracy candidates from the election.
Story continues Here
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