Wednesday, February 27, 2008

News from Iran

Iternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued its latest report on Iran’s nuclear program and it dominated the coverage in Iranian media. The Iranian leaders declared “victory” over the report. The IAEA did clear up a number of ambiguities in the program’s past, but it added a major new problem for Iran: IAEA said a possible military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program is of “serious concern” and as a result it could not say if the program was peaceful. The US said the report strengthened the case for further UN sanctions against Iran. Indeed the representatives of the six major powers gathered in Washington and agreed to pass a new UN resolution against Iran. On domestic front, the disqualifications of reformist candidate to stand for elections for the new parliament dominated the media coverage. Although the elections watchdog group reinstated the eligibility of some candidates, the reformist parties bitterly complained that more then half their candidates remain disqualified.

The IAEA Report

· IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program acknowledged Tehran had cleared up several concerns and ambiguities in program’s past; the report also said a possible military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program was of “serious concern”; IAEA said as a result it was not in a position to determine the nature of Iran’s nuclear program; the report called weaponization “the one major unsolved issue” relevant to the nature of Iran's nuclear program.
· Iranian government declared “victory” over the report; the government said Iran had answered all questions posed by IAEA satisfactorily; Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the nuclear program was one of the examples of high achievement since the Islamic revolution; Khamemei added that personal role of President Ahmadinejad and “his resistance in the nuclear case” was crucial in Iran’s “victory”; “I do not know how to thank people who have stood over the nuclear issue,” Khamenei added.
· Iran called the evidence presented through IAEA on the country’s weaponization program “baseless” and “fabricated”; the weaponization program, called the Green Salt Project, allegedly was a program to produce uranium metal, detonators, and warheads which together form the structure of a nuclear weapon program; Iranian President Mamoud Ahmadinejad said the alleged evidence could have been fabricated by “any fifth-grader with access to a computer.”
· US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for a quick UN action to penalize Iran for refusing to roll back its nuclear program; Rice said the new IAEA report strengthened the case for further UN sanctions against Iran.
· France said the IAEA report raises questions about the nature of Iran’s nuclear activities;French foreign ministry spokesman said “important uncertainties” remain, in particular on activities that could have a “military nuclear dimension.”
· Senior diplomats from the six major powers gathered in Washington and agreed on a two-track strategy on Iran nuclear issue; they will pass a new round of sanctions at UN Security Council while offering Tehran new incentives if it halted its uranium enrichment activities; US predicted a favorable vote on new UN sanctions against Iran following the meeting in Washington.
· Iranian ambassador to UN said Iran would continue to defy UN Security Council resolutions to halt its uranium enrichment program; he said the documents cited as possible evidence of Iran's effort to develop nuclear weapons were “forgeries.”
· The US Treasury Department is considering sanctions against Bank Markazi, Iran's central bank, The Wall Street Journal reported; such sanctions, particularly if supported by US allies in Europe and Asia, could have a severe impact on Iranian trade and its banking transactions.

Major Regional Storylines

· France, UAE and Qatar took part in large-scale war games in the Persian Gulf; France had recently announced that it would establish a permanent military base in UAE; France deployed 1,500 personnel, two frigates and eight Mirage fighter jets to the joint maneuvers; 2,500 Emirate and 1,300 Qatari troops also took part in maneuvers; the exercise took place in UAE territory and international waters near the Strait of Hormuz; the maneuvers which started on 25 February was scheduled to last until 5 March.
· Iran set March 2 as the date for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's landmark visit to Iraq; Ahmadinejad is to hold talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani during his two-day visit; Ahmadinejad’s visit would be the first by an Iranian leader since the Islamic revolution and the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq.
· Tehran mayor visited Baghdad; Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf met with his counterpart in Baghdad, Sabir al-Isawi; he also held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; Qalibaf announced Iran’s readiness to participate in the reconstruction of Baghdad; al-Maliki said Tehran’s participation in reconstruction project in Baghdad will be appreciated.
· US military said it was holding 14 Iranians in Iraq; Major Brad Leighton, spokesman for the US military in Iraq, did not disclose the dates and times of their capture; US military freed nine Iranian prisoners last November.
· Iran’s foreign ministry warned that neither Turkey or the PKK are allowed to use Iranian territory to engage in armed conflict; Iraqi government demanded an immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from Iraqi Kurdistan; Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey’s only target is the rebel group PKK; he added the cross-border operation is a result of Turkey's right of self-defense.

Major Domestic Storylines

· Chairman of Assembly of Experts Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani thanked the Guardian Council for approving the “competency” of a group of candidates who had been rejected to stand in upcoming parliamentary elections; Guardian Council has approved 4,500 candidates out of 7,597 hopefuls; Guardians Council, which has the final say in the vetting process, has said it reinstated more than 1,000 candidates rejected earlier by the Interior Ministry; Iran’s main reformist parties said nearly half their candidates have been rejected; Participation Party said its candidates could only compete in 111 out of the 290 seats; National Confidence Party said it compete in 160 seats; the two reformist parties have fielded overlapping candidate lists with 80% of the candidates shared between the two groups.
· A huge explosion shook the Iranian of Tabriz; provincial authorities said the explosion was as a result of “detonation” of explosives and munitions; the explosion took place at an IRGC base outside Tabriz.


Mark Pyruz said...

Interesting that Iran has (publicly anyway) denied Turkey use of Iranian "territory", with which to pursue Turkey's war into northern Iraq. It should be noted that during the Iran-Iraq War, the IRIAF made use of Turkish airspace, for purposes of geographical advantage, in order to help defeat Iraqi air defenses in strikes against Iraq. Circumstantial evidence also suggests that during the 2nd Lebanon War, Iran made use of Turkish airspace for flights providing war supplies to Hezbollah.

Anonymous said...

European firm thrives in Iran despite sanctions

By Fredrik Dahl

Wed, 27 Feb 2008

TEHRAN (Reuters) - British executive Robert Mills says his express delivery firm is enjoying explosive growth in Iran, despite tightening international sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its disputed nuclear plans.

With a longstanding U.S. embargo barring two key rivals from entering the world's fourth-largest crude producer, DHL Express claims a share of at least 60 percent of what Mills called one of the region's fastest-growing markets for the sector.

"Business is good, business is improving year-on-year," enthused the 40-year-old country manager of DHL, a unit of mail and logistics group Deutsche Post.

"After China and Russia in the 80s and 90s it is one of the biggest untapped markets left in terms of consumers."

A service provider which has no major dealings with Iranian banks, which are increasingly shunned by their Western counterparts, DHL's experience is not representative of the environment facing foreign companies in Iran.

But its position in transport does illustrate how Iran's windfall gains from high oil prices are, to some extent, cushioning the sanctions' impact on the country.

For Mills, financial and other punitive measures imposed by the United Nations and the United States since late 2006 over Tehran's nuclear programme have not slowed business: "I can't feel them, I can't see them," he said.

A country of 70 million, Iran is the second-largest producer in the 13-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Imports have soared this decade, rising by 14 percent to nearly $50 billion in the 2006-07 Iranian year.

Mills said the tonnage handled by DHL jumped by 50 percent in two years and the company has doubled its turnover in Iran since 2005 on the back of rising imports of everything from telecommunications equipment to car spare parts.

"We have had quite an explosion of growth ... Iran is a big importing country."

Iran, whose economy grew 6.7 percent year-on-year in the six months to September according to central bank figures, expects to earn $63 billion from oil sales in the 2007-08 fiscal year.

"Because of the high oil price it is easier to get around the direct financial sanctions," said senior director Richard Fox of international credit ratings institute Fitch in London.

Full story Here


Anonymous said...

Qatar PM in Iran to boost ties

Wed, 27 Feb 2008

TEHRAN (AFP) - Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani held talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad here Wednesday on a visit aimed at boosting strong energy links with the Islamic republic.

"Qatar wants a comprehensive boost in its relations with Iran, and in regards to energy it pays special importance," Thani told the official news agency IRNA.

Ahmadinejad told Thani that Tehran "sees no restriction in expanding ties" with fellow OPEC member Qatar, with which it shares one of the world's biggest natural gas fields in the Gulf.

Thani's trip comes 10 days after Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum, the prime minister of fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member UAE, visited Tehran.


Anonymous said...

UN voices concern over Afghans in Iran border province

by Stuart Williams

Wed, 27 Feb 2008

TEHRAN (AFP) - The UN refugee agency on Wednesday expressed concern about tens of thousands of Afghan refugees who risk expulsion from an Iranian frontier province.

Iran last year declared the province of Sistan Baluchestan bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan a "no go area" for foreigners, meaning refugees must quit the area whether they are legally registered or not.

Visiting UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Erika Feller said 53,000 Afghan refugees risked being expelled from the country as illegals for failing to come forward for a new registration there.

"These are people who for one reason or another may end up 'illegal' as they were not able to comply with the registration requirement," she told reporters.

The head of the interior ministry's bureau for alien and foreign immigrant affairs, Taghi Ghaemi, confirmed that all Afghans in Sistan Baluchestan who had failed to register would be seen as illegal and expelled.


Anonymous said...

Iran agents 'sabotaging' anti-Qaeda groups: Iraq intel chief

Wed, 27 Feb 2008

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iranian secret service agents are working to "sabotage" the operations of groups fighting Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Baghdad's intelligence chief said on Wednesday.

Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani issued the statement shortly before a landmark visit to Baghdad on Sunday by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"We have information confirming that Iranian secret services have sent agents to sabotage the Sahwa experience in Iraq," the statement said, referring to mostly Sunni groups fighting Al-Qaeda in Iraq alongside the US military.

Shahwani "stressed the need for the Iraqi people to be vigilant in facing these activities."

He also urged Iraqis "to consolidate the security gains that have been achieved in Iraq and that all citizens are benefitting from."

There are about 90,000 members of the Sahwa, or "Awakening" forces across Iraq, according to the US military which pays them about 300 dollars a month. The bulk of the fighters are Sunni Arabs, but a good 20 percent of them are Shiite.


Nader Uskowi said...

Mark P, I believe Turkey does have Iran’s backing in their latest operations. And I do not believe the “temporary” incursion into Iraqi territory is all that temporary. Aside from KKK, the whole idea of an independent Kurdistan is not agreeable for the Turks.

Nader Uskowi said...

Mark K, thanks much for sharing these pieces with us. I’ve been traveling and unavailable in the past couple of days and thanks to you we had interesting material added to the site.

Anonymous said...

My pleasure Nader. I search Yahoo! news for Iran stories almost daily and if you don't mind I'll post interesting items in your News From Iran "Comments" section.

Another good site that I check often and I'm sure you're familiar with is the News page at

I hope you had a good time traveling. I wish I could get away for some traveling myself right now. I haven't been on an international flight in over a year. From what I'm hearing from friends flying in and out of the USA has become truly unpleasant and inconvenient. I'm considering going by car or train to Canada first and flying internationally from there in the future.




Nader Uskowi said...

Mark, your entries have helped raise the quality of this blog, and are appreciated.

Travelling intenationally is hectic, but not that bad!

Anonymous said...

Iran military strike unlikely to succeed: British MPs

Sat 01 Mar 2008

LONDON (AFP) - A military strike against Iran would be unlikely to succeed and would only inflame tensions in the Middle East, an influential group of British MPs warned on Sunday.

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee also recommended that British ministers urge their American counterparts to begin direct negotiations with Iran and consider offering it a security guarantee if it provides "credible and verifiable" assurances it will not manufacture nuclear weapons.

"A military strike would be unlikely to succeed and could provoke an extremely violent backlash across the region," the committee said in its "Global Security: Iran" report.

"We recommend that the government urges Washington to consider offering a credible security guarantee to Iran if the Iranian government in turn will offer an equally credible and verifiable guarantee that it will not enter into a nuclear weapons programme and improves its cooperation with the international community in other areas."

The committee also called for ministers to push for Washington to "engage directly with Iran on its nuclear programme, as the absence of such engagement has deprived the international community of a significant diplomatic tool."

Iran is at loggerheads with the West over its nuclear programme -- the United States and the European Union in particular believe the Islamic Republic is trying to manufacture nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran vehemently denies, insisting the programme is for peaceful purposes.

Full story Here


Anonymous said...

A friend in Europe sent this along. This is a loose translation of the original below it:

Iran, Out for a Walk With the Dog: Elderly Man Sentenced to Thirty Lashes

Four Footed Friends are impure animals according to Islam. The exception being the four examples belonging to the President which are "Servants of the State."

19 Feb 2008

Tehran - (AKI) - An Iranian Islamic judge has sentenced a man to four months in prison and thirty lashes for walking his dog.

The seventy year old man was surprised by a police patrol as he walked his dog on a leash in Shahr Rey, a suburb of Tehran. The police handcuffed the man then whisked him off for "disturbing the public order."

The conviction has somewhat panicked other dog owners. Although the Islamic religion considers dogs to be impure animals the authorities seem prepared to look the other way if dogs are kept as pets -- provided they are kept indoors. However, despite the repeated warnings from police some dog owners continue to bring their pets outdoors.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acquired four German dogs [possibly meaning German Shepherds] for his personal protection at the price of 110,000 euros each [???]. The presidential dogs have obtained a fatwa, a religious exemption, that legalizes their presence as "Servants of the State."

* * * * * * * *

Iran, esce a passeggio con il cane: anziano condannato a 30 frustate

Giro di vita sugli amici a quattro zampe considerati dall'Islam degli animali impuri. Fanno eccezione i 4 esemplari del presidente Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in quanto "servitori dello Stato"

Teheran, 19 feb. - (Aki - Adnkronos International, Italian News Agency) - Quattro mesi di carcere e 30 frustate è la pena inflitta da un giudice islamico iraniano a un settantenne che era sceso in strada con il proprio cane. E' successo a Shahr Rey, un sobborgo di Teheran, dovel'uomo è stato sorpreso da una pattuglia della polizia con il cane al guinzaglio. Per l'anziano sono scattate immediatamente le manette con l'accusa "turbamento dell'ordine pubblico".

La condanna, esemplare, sembra voler gettare nel panico i proprietari di animali domestici, che malgrado i ripetuti avvertimenti della polizia continuano a sfidare le autorità uscendo da casa con i loro cani. Per l'Islam, il cane è un animale impuro, anche se il presidente Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ne ha acquistati recentemente quattro di razza tedesca, per la sua difesa, al prezzo di 110mila euro l'uno. I cani presidenziali hanno però ottenuto una fatwa, editto religioso, che legalizza la loro presenza in quanto "servitori dello Stato".