Wednesday, February 20, 2008

News from Iran

Iranian leaders launched strongly-worded attacks on Israel in the aftermath of the assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh. IRGC commander predicted the destruction of Israel in the “near future.” Iran has blamed Israel for the assassination. On the nuclear front, Iran denied new allegations regarding the existence of nuclear weapon activities inside the country. Iran announced that it will fire two new rockets into space in near future. The country test-fired its first space rocket in early February. Iran denied that it was building long-range ballistic missiles and insisted that its space program was “absolutely peaceful.” On domestic front, the Guardian Council, country’s highest elections authority, reinstated some of the candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections, but reformist parties said vast number of their candidates remained disqualified to stand elections.

Mughniyeh Assassination

· IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari predicted Hezbollah will destroy Israel soon; “In the near future, we will witness the destruction of Israel, the aggressor, this cancerous microbe Israel, at the able hands of the soldiers of the community of Hezbollah,” Gen. Jafari said; his comments came in a condolence message to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah after assassination in Damascus of top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughnieh.
· Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed Israel for killing Mughnieh; Khamenei hailed Mughniyeh as a “great man”; Khamenie predicted that Mughniyeh’s death would increase resistance against Israel.
· Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki attended Mughniyeh’s funeral in the Shiite suburbs of Beirut; in a speech, Mottaki spoke of Iran's respect for Mughnieh.
· Israel announced it will launch a complain at UN Security Council over the statement by IRGC commander; Israel said Gen. Jafari’s comments were an expression of hope for the destruction of a fellow member state in the UN, as well as a statement which is “anti-Semitic and expressing the worst kind of racism.”
· Iran denied a report published by Saudi daily Al Jazira that Imad Mughniyeh used Iranian passport while traveling to various parts of the world; Iran's embassy in Riyadh described the report “as a propaganda which will be to the benefit of the enemies of both countries.”

Iran Nuclear Program

· IranianVP held talks with IAEA officials on past nuclear activities; Qolam Reza Aghazadeh Aghazadeh met IAEA Deputy Director General Oil Heinonen and answered questions about Iran’s nuclear past; US recently shared “new intelligence” on alleged Iranian nuclear weapons work with IAEA; Washington reportedly gave the IAEA permission to confront Iran with the evidence; Iran denied US allegation regarding the existence of a nuclear weapon program.
· Iran's Ambassador to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh said that IAEA is to release its report on Iran on 22 February; IAEA board will meet on 3 March to examine the report.

Iran Space Program

· Iran plans to fire two new rockets into space; Iranian Space Agency (ISA) Director Ahmad Talebzadeh announced the plans following the successful test of Explorer-1 rocket on 4 February; Talebzadeh said Explorer-2 and Explorer-3 rockets will be sent into orbit “in the near future”; ISA announced that the Explorer-1 is sending data back to earth from an altitude of up to 250 kilometers; the Explorer-4 rocket is planned to carry Iran’s first homemade satellite named Omid (Hope) into orbit; Talebzadeh said that Iran’s space activities are “absolutely peaceful.”
· With the launch of its space rocket in early February, Iran joined the world's top 11 countries possessing space technology to build satellites and launch rockets into space; Iran's rocket test heightened tensions in Middle East; the Israelis suggested there was no reason now to believe the Iranians couldn’t create a long-range ballistic missile and launch a weapon system in their direction.

Major Regional Storylines

· UAE Vice president and the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum arrived in Tehran; Sheikh Mohammed was welcomed by Iran's Vice President Parviz Davoudi at the airport; Sheikh Mohammed held talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; Iran, UAE trade ties was the main topic of discussion between the two leaders.
· Russia’s oil giant Gazprom is to develop oil and gas fields in Iran; Gazprom announced that it will participate in the development of two sectors of the energy-rich Iran’s South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf; Gazprom was also awarded extraction of oil in Iran; Iranian Oil Ministry did not disclose the locations awarded to Gazprom for oil exploration.
· A Shia militia leader was arrested in Baghdad charged with providing Iranian weapons to Iraqi fighters; US military spokesman, Capt. Vic Beck, said the arrested militia leader was in charge of all Shia militia fighters in western Baghdad; the militia leader was suspected of smuggling Iranian weapons to fighters in his area of responsibility.

Major Domestic Storylines

· Iran reinstates 251 candidates for 14 March parliamentary elections; Iran's Interior Ministry had banned more than 2,200 candidates to stand for elections; Iran's highest elections oversight body, the Guardian Council, had already reinstated nearly 600 of those candidates; the authorities can disqualify candidates who “are not deemed as showing sufficient loyalty to Iran's Islamic system”; reformists strongly criticized the mass disqualifications of their candidates; the reformists blamed the government for sheer number of disqualifications to keep them out of power; many of reformists’ top candidates remained disqualified.
· Iranian Oil Bourse (IOB) started trading, sans dollar contracts; Iranian Oil Minister Qolam Hossein Nozari said oil and petrochemical products will be traded at IOB in rials and a host of other currencies including Russian rubles, but no US dollars; the first day of trading saw sales of 100 tons polyethylene; trading in crude oil will come at a later stage with no specific date set yet.
· Iran imported gas from Azerbaijan; Iran begun importing one million cubic meters of natural gas per day from Azerbaijan; the imports was to help compensate for gas shortages caused by a cut in deliveries from Turkmenistan; the new gas imports from Azerbaijan started late January; Iran imported 23 million cubic meters per day from Turkmenistan until last December.
· Production at giant Azadegan oilfield in Iran began ahead of schedule; Azadegan, in Iran’s Khuzestan province, is the world's largest oilfield discovered in the past 30 years, with 33 billion barrels of proven reserves; National Iranian South Oilfields Managing Director Seifollah Jashnsaz said during the first phase of development plan, 150,000 bpd of crude oil would be produced.
· Oil price hikes boosted Iran’s hard currency reserves to $76 billion in 2007; Bank Markazi, Iran’s central bank, made the announcement in Tehran; price of oil futures reached $100 per barrel for the first time ever.


Mark Pyruz said...

Nader, I'm interested in learning more about the Iranian Oil Bourse. For decades now, the United States has exerted economic constraints on the Islamic Republic of Iran, and lately these efforts have intensified. Now Iran appears with an initiative of its own, relating to the US Dollar and the oil trade.

If you have any additional details (or sources) to provide, please refer to them. I'm especially interested in the structure of the IOB, participating traders, realistic goals, etc. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Witness: "Hijab problem" sparks police standoff in Tehran

By Fredrik Dahl

Sat, 23 Feb 2008

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Wearing a brightly colored headscarf and high-heeled boots, the woman refused to be bundled into the police van without a fight.

Protesting loudly and even trying to escape, her standoff with Iranian police cracking down on women violating the Islamic dress code lasted several minutes.

....The dark-haired woman, who appeared to be in her 30s, argued in a high-pitched voice with a burly, bearded male police officer towering over her in his green uniform.

When his female colleague put a hand on the woman's shoulder to lead her into the van, she angrily pushed it away and shouted. Then suddenly she turned and tried to run away.

She did not get far. The two female officers grabbed her and shoved her into the police vehicle. The door was slammed shut and the van disappeared into Tehran's evening rush hour.

"Not good," a fellow shopper told me in halting English, shaking his head in disapproval at the police action.

Full story Here


Nader Uskowi said...

Mark Pyruz, I am also trying to get some info on IOB. I have a feeling that it’s still a work in progress, as I got two different answers from to experts on types of questions you’ve posed. Let’s inform each other if we could get some definite answers.

Nader Uskowi said...

Mark Konrad, thanks for the post. I had read the piece yesterday and thought it was a powerful story. Thanks for sharing it with us all.

Anonymous said...

Mark P and Nader,

I'm sure Nader can provide more details soon but this site has some general information on the Kish Free Zone Organization. This is the English language site. There are some related links at the bottom of the page.



P.S. Here's the website of the National Iranian Oil Company. It contains some interesting information as well.

P.P.S. -- Nader,

Thank You for your informative website. I take no position on Iranian tradition, in this instance the Hijab code. It's interesting that some women defend it, others prefer more "liberal" Western style dress. We have Iranian friends, a married couple, who are fairly ambivalent on the Hijab issue and feel that it will diminish in importance and disappear with time. At the moment the Iranians are under political and economic pressure and due to that the government is going out of its way to officially emphasize nationalism and tradition. That might explain the increased enforcement of the dress code.


Anonymous said...

Iran reinforces Iraq border after Turkish attack

Sunday, 24 Feb 2008

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said on Sunday it had reinforced its border security after Turkey launched an offensive in north Iraq against Kurdish rebels, a move an analyst said was likely aimed at stopping rebels hiding in Iran.

....Iranian forces have also often clashed in Iraqi border areas with rebels from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an offshoot of the PKK and which analysts say has bases in northeastern Iraq from where they operate against Iran.

"Necessary measures have already been taken to reinforce our borders," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told a weekly news conference.

Iran, which brands PJAK a "terrorist" group, was probably concerned that Kurdish rebels might seek haven in or near Iranian territory as a result of the Turkish action, one analyst said, adding this was more likely than concern about a refugee influx.

"Regarding the PKK and other terrorist factions active in the region, we stress that the best way to face regional terrorists is for security cooperation between the regional countries," Hosseini said.

But Iran, which has been seeking to improve ties with the Iraq, urged Turkey to heed Iraqi government concerns in its bid to put a halt to Kurdish rebel actions.

"Regarding the attack of the Turkish forces into Iraq, we believe the opinion of the Iraqi government must be valued although we also believe the terrorists must stop their terrorist operations there," the spokesman said.

Hosseini repeated Iran's position that the presence in the region of "foreign forces", a term usually used to refer to the United States and its allies, was creating instability.


Anonymous said...

Not really news from Iran itself, but it is news from Afghanistan involving Iran.

Iran Raises the Heat in Afghanistan


Fri, 22 Feb 2008

....Afghanistan is in a tough spot. The country is reliant on the U.S. and NATO for its security and, at the same time, shares its longest land border with Iran. Afghanistan has long pleaded with the U.S. and Iran not to carry out their longstanding strategic rivalry on its soil. And for several years that request has been largely honored. Iran, a long-time supporter of the Northern Alliance, was instrumental in bringing about the fall of the Taliban. Iran has also helped more than any other neighbor with the reconstruction of the country. Since 2002, Tehran has pumped millions of dollars into Afghanistan's western provinces to build roads, electrical grids, schools and health clinics. On top of this, Iranian agents are dumping bags of cash in the laps of tribal leaders in Afghanistan's west, a State Department official tells TIME, "clearly intended to purchase influence and remind them: The Americans may be here for 10 or 20 years, but we will be here forever."

In the past six months, however, Iran's actions have taken a more sinister turn. U.S. and NATO troops have intercepted shipments of Iranian-made arms in Afghanistan ***, including mortars, plastic explosives and explosively formed penetrators that have been used to deadly effect against armored vehicles in Iraq. U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan William Wood said on January 31, "There is no question that elements of insurgency have received weapons from Iran." The discovery of the first caches of Iranian-made weapons in Afghanistan in April, says a State Department official, "sent shock waves through the system." Iran was doing more than just bringing western Afghanistan into its sphere of influence.

[I do wish reporters would take the time to insist on proof that these arms and EFPs that U.S. military officials claim to have captured were definitely manufactured in Iran and definitely shipped directly from Iran. Iranian weapons are openly available on the world arms market. There were steady reports over the last couple years that "sophisticated" EFPs were supposedly being manufactured in Iran and shipped into Iraq. First off EFPs are not particularly "sophisticated" and second of all several EFP fabrication shops were discovered INSIDE Iraq. Those discoveries were kept rather quiet in the press of course. They were contradictions to the Establishment Media demonisation campaign against Iran and must have proved rather awkward.]


Anonymous said...


The American neocons are having a collective heart attack at this announcement.

Tehran signs pact to help rebuild Baghdad

25 Feb 2008

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Tehran on Monday signed an agreement with Baghdad to help execute projects in the infrastructure and services sectors in the Iraqi capital.

"The municipality of Tehran must stand by Iraqis in these hard conditions," said Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, after signing a pact with Saber al-Isawi, director of Baghdad municipality.

Qalibaf said the municipality of Tehran aims to help its Baghdad counterpart in building roads and water projects and also constructing cultural and entertainment centres.

Isawi said the two municipalities have agreed to set up a company that would execute the projects.

The company would have offices in Baghdad and Tehran to coordinate the implementation of the projects, he added.

The agreement between Tehran and Baghdad comes ahead of the two-day visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Iraq which begins on March 2.


Anonymous said...


Web site boss detained over Khomeini grandson attack

Monday, 25 Feb 2008

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A court detained the head of a banned conservative-run Web site which had accused a grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of betraying the legacy of the founder of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The official IRNA news agency said the Nosazi (Renovation) Web site had attacked Hassan Khomeini for opposing the decision by hard-line vetting bodies to strike leading moderates from the list of candidates for March 14 parliamentary elections.

[ is obviously offline - the hyperlink provided is the last cache available for that site - 23 August 2007. MK]

Tehran General Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi banned the Web site on February 14 for "poisoning the election atmosphere" after complaints by politicians and ordinary Iranians.

The Web site's managing director was summoned to court by a public prosecutor and ordered remanded in custody after a hearing into the case.

"Hossein Nobakhtian was arrested and transferred to Tehran's Evin prison on Monday morning," IRNA said.

In one article, the Nosazi Web site said Khomeini was failing to follow his late grandfather's path and accused him of backing "wealthy moderate politicians".

"We wish we also had a BMW car...and breathed the posh northern Tehran weather...and had the pleasure of only observing oppressed people's pain like you do," it said in an article addressed to Khomeini.

A respected figure in Iran, Hassan Khomeini told a gathering of reformists earlier this month that the large number of disqualifications was "a regrettable move."

"People can not be prevented from deciding about their future," he said.


Nader Uskowi said...

The internal squabbling among the political factions within the Islamic Republic has reached a level that I have rarely seen during its 29-year history.

The radical fundamentalists, the types of Ahmadinejad, supported by Jafari and IRGC brass, will not be deterred so easily.

What we are witnessing is a power grab. Ahmadinejad and IRGC are determined to keep the Majlis under their control in upcoming elections, and to keep the presidency next year.

We will see much harsher blows thrown at each other in the coming months.

Anonymous said...

As polls loom, Iran takes its battles into the blogosphere

By Anna Fifield in Tehran

18 Feb 2008

For Mohammad-Ali Abtahi, blogging has become an outlet for the frustration of being in opposition. Every day tens of thousands of reform-minded Iranians log on to his website, one of the few places where they can keep up with the news of political change.

"Everywhere we go, we are all talking about the number of candidates rejected," Mr Abtahi wrote in a recent posting, referring to the mass disqualifications of reformists hoping to run in next month's parliamentary elections. "Since the new government started, it has been a principle to omit the managers of different beliefs," wrote the 48-year-old cleric, who wears a black turban signalling direct descent from the prophet Mohammed.

Iran's reformists, who enjoyed eight years in the political sun under former president Mohammad Khatami, saw almost 2,000 of their candidates barred this month from running in the March 14 parliamentary poll. Although 500 have since been allowed to stand, the sheer number of disqualifications underlined the authorities' determination to keep reformists, who had been expected to be a sizeable minority in the next parliament, out of power.

Almost unheard in the traditional media, the dilemmas of the opposition -- to run or not to run, to vote or not to vote -- are being played out on the internet. "Reformists are suffering from not having enough media coverage so for political events, blogs become even more important," Mr Abtahi, who was vice-president under Mr Khatami, told the FT in his office in Tehran.

Indeed, blogging of all types has taken off in Iran. Reformists, hardliners, clerics, film buffs, architects -- and even President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad -- record their thoughts online. Although the populist president blogs only once every month or two, he recently wrote that this does not mean he has reneged on his promise to spend 15 minutes a week writing for his site.

"As a matter of fact, I have spent more than the allocated time on the blog," he wrote recently at [his personal blog] "The magnitude of the reception and acclamation from the viewers was beyond expectations. So I had to decide how to spend the limited time that I have allocated for the blog; should I write new notes or respect those viewers who kindly and generously have shared their thoughts and opinions with me and sent messages and read their numerous received messages?"

The blogging craze can be put down to several factors. Iran is a young society with limited free speech but plentiful free time thanks to a high unemployment rate. [Purposeful, sarcastic editorial comment by Anna Fifield of the UK 'Financial Times.'] It is also relatively well wired compared to the rest of the region, with about 15m internet connections in a country of 70m. There are now about 800,000 blogs in Iran, making it second only to China in the ranks of top blogging countries.

....For reformists, who started to lose appeal long before Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s election in 2005 and have become all the more marginalised under his government, the internet is crucial in this election campaign. There are only a couple of hundred political bloggers in Iran, but reformists such as Mr Abtahi -- who writes at -- make up the vast majority. They have been using blogs as forums for discussing their tactics to try to win the best showing possible in the parliament.

Full story Here

See also