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.