Monday, March 31, 2008

All Roads Lead to Qom

Qom is a holy city in Iran and the largest center for Shia scholarship in the world. It is also a popular destination of pilgrimage. On Sunday, two Shia visitors were in town, coming all the way from Baghdad. They were not only on pilgrimage to the tomb of Hazart Fatemeh Masoumeh, but they also wanted to bring a quick end to the fighting with Mahdi Army. The two representatives of Iraq’s governing Dawa party and Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) were to strike a deal with Moqtada Al Sadr, the spiritual leader of Mahdi Army, currently studying in Qom to reach ijtehad, becoming capable of interpreting religious matters.

The dramatic result of the visit by Ali Al Adeeb, of Dawa party, and Hadi Al Ameri, the head of the Badr Organization, the military wing of ISCI, was the declaration by Moqtada Al Sadr on Sunday that brought an end to the fighting between the warring Shia factions in Basra, Baghdad and other southern Iraqi towns.

Nuri Al Maliki and his government had gambled and lost. Their security forces, consisting mostly of Badr militias, wanted to defeat Mahdi Army in Basra but could not. Their representatives were in Qom to put an end to an embarrassing situation for the government and strike a truce. Basra and Baghdad were mostly quite today.

The episode demonstrated some striking realities in today’s Iraq.

- Badr and Dawa are loosing grounds to Mahdi Army among the Shia faithful. Badr and Dawa are identified with a government in Baghdad widely regarded as weak and corrupt. The extremist ideology that Mahdi Army represents can flourish facing opponents seen as weak and corrupt.
- Iran has become the dominant force in southern Iraq. The Iraqi visitors met in Qom with senior Iranian military officers, including the commander of Qods Force, the foreign Islamic revolutionary arm of IRGC. Both Shia factions are supported by Qods Force and Iran’s pressure must have been critical to Sadr’s declaration.
- US reliance on the present Iraqi government to bring about the transition to security and democracy in Iraq is a miscalculation. The people who control the government are themselves part of the problem, a sectarian Shia faction masqurading as central government. As hard as it is, the formation of a truly democratic government in Baghdad is the only way forward.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

CIA Chief on Iran Nuclear Program

General Michael Hayden
NBC's Meet the Press
30 March 2008

CIA Director General Michael Hayden today suggested that Iran continues to develop its nuclear weapon program. General Hayden spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Below is the transcript of Tim Russert's questions and Hayden’s answers regarding Iran’s nuclear program:

“MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe the Iranians are trying to develop a nuclear program?

GEN. HAYDEN: I--personal...


GEN. HAYDEN: Personal belief? Yes. It's hard for me to explain. And, you know, this is not court of law stuff. This is, this is, you know, in terms of beyond all reasonable doubt, this is, this is Mike Hayden looking at the body of evidence. OK. Why would the Iranians be willing to pay the international tariff they appear willing to pay for what they're doing now if they did not have, at a minimum, at a minimum, if they did not have the desire to keep the option open to, to develop a nuclear weapon and perhaps even more so, that they've already decided to do that? It's very difficult for us to judge intent, and so we have to work back from actions. Why the continuing production of fissile material, and Natanz? They say it's for civilian purposes, and yet the, the planet, the globe, states around the world have offered them fissile material under controls so they can have their, their, their civilian nuclear program. But the Iranians have rejected that. I mean, when you start looking at that, and you get, not just the United States, but you get the U.N. Security Council imposing sanctions on them, why would they go through that if it were not to develop the technology that would allow them to create fissile material not under international control?”

[For the full transcript, see]

The Arab Summit

Syrian President Assad greeting Qatar’s Sheikha Hind bint Hamad
Arab Summit . Damascus . 29-30 March 2008
(Photo: Gulf Times)

The Arab Summit subdued in the absence of the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan today ended two days of meeting in Damascus by warning Israel that Arabs would “review” their peace initiative unless Israel changed its behavior.

The Arab peace initiative of 2002 offers Israel peace and normal relations with all Arab countries in return for withdrawal from all territory captured in the 1967 war.

On Lebanese crisis, the summit declaration broke no new ground, saying the Arab leaders stand by an Arab initiative which endorses army commander Gen. Michel Suleiman as a consensus president.

Iran, represented at the summit by its foreign minister as an observer, objected to the summit's support for the UAE claim to three islands in the Persian Gulf. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said the claim was “vain and baseless” as the islands were an inseparable part of Iranian territory.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


We had reported a news item here put out by Russia’s news agency RIA Novosti on possibility of a US attack on Iran. But the item turned out to be an old post by the same news agency from exactly one year ago. We have removed the report and offer our apologies to all our readers.

Iran Calls for Speedy End to Iraq Fighting

Iran urged Iraqis to end their fighting. Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters in Tehran today that Iran does not regard the recent clashes as being in the interest of the people of Iraq and “calls for a speedy end to the clashes.”

Some analysts in Iran believe that the coordinated and unprovoked attack on Mahdi Army is a precursor to an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The US needed to weaken the Mahdi Army and its retaliatory capabilities.

On Friday, President Bush gave his full support for Iraqi operations against the Mahdi Army, calling it a “clear message” to Iran that it could not have its way in the Middle East.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Surge in Iraqi Violence and Iran

US President George Bush said today that success in Iraq is important to send a “clear message” to Iran's leaders that they cannot “have their way” with other countries in the Middle East.

Yesterday, the president had accused Iran of arming, training and funding the insurgents in Basra involved in the new surge of violence during the past five days.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman today called the accusations “groundless and boring.”

Meanwhile, heavy fighting in Basra and other southern Iraqi cities continued today. The Mahdi Army has reportedly seized the control of town of Nasiriyah, northwest of Basra. Nasiriyah’s governor was a member of SCIRI. The seizure of the town would be a major defeat for Hakim’s SCIRI, Al Maliki’s Dawa party, and the government forces.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Iranian Media Survey

A survey sponsored by and conducted by has identified best media in Iran during the Iranian year ending 20 March.

- Bokhara Monthly (best cultural journal)
- World of Football, (best sports)
- Sharhvand Emrooz (best political/social newspaper)
- Hamshahri Javan (best paper for young readers)
- Ham Mihan (most popular national newspaper)

- Istgah, Balatarin Blagfa, Akasi and Fars News (best Websites)

- Keyboard Azad, Bamdadi, Malakout, Web Do, and Didehban Mohit Zist (best blogs)

Dialogue with Iran Urged

Five former US secretaries of state today urged the next president to open a dialogue with Iran. Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, Warren Christopher, James Baker and Henry Kissinger made their advice at a round-table discussion on US foreign policy sponsored by the University of Georgia. They also called on the administration to shut down the Guantanamo prison camp.

On Iran, the former secretaries of state said it was important to maintain contact with both adversaries and allies.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Iran Requests Full Membership at Shanghai Pact

Iran has asked for full membership at Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The SCO is a security organization founded in 2001. Russia, Tajikistan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan are full members. Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia have observer status.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said in Tajikistan on Monday that Iran had submitted an official request for full membership to the SCO Secretariat. Tajikistan supported Iran's application [IRNA, 24 March]. Full membership in the SCO would help Iran end its international isolation.

Central Asian analyst see Iran’s nuclear program as the main obstacle to its membership. Moscow and Beijing want Iran to settle the standoff with West over its nuclear program before considering its full membership at SCO.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mahdi Army on the Attack Again

The Mahdi Army’s seven-month-long ceasefire has come to an end. Today they fired more rockets into the Green Zone and fighting has erupted between government and US forces and Mahdi Army militias around Baghdad.

The US military blames elements of Mahdi Army linked to Iran. The Iraqi authorities closed the major Chalamcheh border crossing between Iraq and Iran yesterday for security reasons.

Mahdi Army militias have apparently received orders that the cease fire was over and they needed to fight the US. Iran-led initiative to have Mahdi Army declaring unilateral ceasefire last summer has apparently come to an end.

US commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus said yesterday the rockets that hit the Green Zone on Sunday had been provided by Iran.

On Cheney’s Visit to Israel

US Vice-President Dick Cheney Meeting with
IDF chief Yadlin (left), Israeli Defense Minister Barak,
and Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Yadlin
Tel Aviv . 23 March 2008
(AP Photo)

US Vice-President Dick Cheney met in Tel Aviv on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. This was the second meeting between the two during Cheney’s visit to Israel. Jerusalem Post reported today that diplomatic officials in Israel speculate that the focus of the meetings was Iran’s nuclear program.

One diplomatic source told Jerusalem Post that Iran was the “central issue” in Cheney-Olmert talks.

Fueling the speculations that Cheney’s trip to Israel was mainly linked to Iran’s nuclear program and the ways to stop it, the vice president held talks on Sunday in Tel Aviv with Israeli defense minister, the commander of Israeli military, and Israel’s military intelligence chief.

The Prime Minister's Office, which generally puts out a statement after Olmert meets with a world figure of Cheney's stature, was mum about the content of the meetings, said Jerusalem Post.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Iran Behind Baghdad Attacks - Petraeus

US commander in Iraq Gen David Petraeus told BBC today that Iran was behind Sunday’s barrage of mortars and rockets fired at Baghdad’s Green Zone. Gen Patraeus said he thought Iran trained, equipped and funded the insurgents involved in the attacks.

Gen Petraeus singled out Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and its Quds Force as the perpetrators of the violence in Baghdad.

The latest comments by Gen Petraeus add to increasing signs of a looming conflict involving Iran.

· President Bush said on Wednesday that Iran could be hiding a nuclear weapon program and suggested Iran’s goal in building the weapon is to destroy Israel.
· Vice President Dick Cheney toured the region this week and said Iran must not be allowed to build a nuclear weapon. Cheney warned Arab leaders of destabilizing role of Iran in the region.
· Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said yesterday that Iran’s nuclear program is putting the stability of the entire Middle East, and the entire world, in jeopardy. Barak told visiting Cheney that the military option must be kept open in dealing with Iran.
· Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Tel Aviv on Friday that a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is disastrous.
· French president Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday that Europe’s security was at stake while Iran was increasing the range of its missiles.

Developments in the region also pointed to an imminent conflict involving Iran’s surrogates.

· Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak today reportedly put the Israeli military on guard against Hezbollah’s “open war” against Israel. Hezbollah had threatened such attack to retaliate against Mughaniyeh killing. But if Israel attacks Iranian nuclear installations, Hezbollah would indeed launch a war against Israel.
· Hezbollah has built up its rocket arsenal, surpassing its pre-2006 Lebanese War capabilities.
· The militant groups stationed in Syria, along with Syrian army divisions, are reportedly deployed in Baqaa amid rising tensions over a war with Israel.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Iran Jeopardizing World’s Stability - Israel

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the visiting US Vice-President Dick Cheney during their dinner meeting tonight at Barak’s Tel Aviv home that Iran’s nuclear proliferation is “putting the stability of the entire Middle East, and the entire world, in jeopardy.” Israel is increasingly suggesting that the military option in dealing with Iran must be kept open. Israeli media reported today that Barak told his American guest that they “must keep all options open” on Iran.

Iran, Turkey Attack PKK and PJAK

Iranian and Turkish artillery yesterday shelled areas in northern Iraq used by Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Iran’s Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK). The Iraqi Kurdistan officials report that Iran shelled three border towns in northern Iraq where PJAK members are believed to be operating.

A Web site affiliated with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan also reported that Turkish artillery units shelled the Nihel and Rekan border area and Spendar and Betkar in the Barwary Bala area.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cheney’s Tour and the Buzz on Attacking Iran

US Vice-President Dick Cheney’s 10-day tour of the Persian Gulf, Turkey and Afghanistan is renewing concerns of a US and/or Israeli military attack on Iran.

During his tour, Cheney has been presenting a case against Iran that could be used by the US administration either to launch an attack on Iran, or to encourage Israel to initiate the military action. Cheney’s message:

· Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
· A nuclear Iran would destabilize the region.
· The 2007 NIE does say that Iran had an active nuclear weapon program that was stopped in 2003.
· Iran could have since re-started its nuclear weaponization program.
· Iran has certainly continued its enrichment program, which is the key to any weaponization project.

President Bush also said on Wednesday that Iran could be hiding a secret nuclear weapon program. The president suggested that Iran’s goal in building the nuclear weapon is to destroy Israel.

Vice-President Cheney’s 10-day tour of the region and his Iran warnings, combined with the comments made by President Bush at the White House and simultaneous comments by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Europe’s security was at stake due to Iranian threat, have raised concerns among Iran analysts that a military attack on Iran during the last months of Bush administration is still possible, and increasingly probable.

Israel, and not the US, could initiate the attack. Israel would have better justifications for demolishing the Iranian nuclear facilities. US could provide intelligence and logistic support and could encourage Israel to undertake the military action.

The US presidential elections could also be a factor in the administration’s decision to support an attack on Iran. The conservatives could view a military attack later this year on Iranian nuclear facilities as a guarantee to stop Obama’s presidency.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Warning against Military Attack on Iran

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Tel Aviv yesterday that a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would have a “disastrous” effect. Speaking at a press conference with his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, Lavrov added that any attempts by non-peaceful means to resolve Iran’s nuclear issue would undermine all that has been done to bring clarity into the Iranian nuclear program [AFP, 20 March].

Lavrov’s warning comes amid new concerns over a military attack on Iran. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in Cherbourg today that Europe's security was “at stake” while Iran was increasing the range of its missiles.

President Bush said in Washington that Iran has “declared they want a nuclear weapon to destroy people” and that the Islamic Republic could be hiding a secret nuclear weapon program. Bush made the remarks during an interview on Wednesday with Radio Farda, a US government-run radio service that broadcasts into Iran in Farsi.

The White House Spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in Washington yesterday that President Bush’s reference to Iran’s desire to destroy people was “shorthand” to show Iran’s desire to wipe Israel off the map.

On Iran’s nuclear weapon program, Bush said Iran had hidden programs in the past and they may be hiding one now.

Meanwhile, US Vice-President Dick Cheney arrived in Saudi Arabia today. Cheney is on an unprecedented 10-day tour of the region. He is renewing Washington's warning against Iran's growing influence in the region.

Record Oil Revenues

Iran’s Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said in Tehran that the country’s oil export revenues for the Iranian solar year 1386 (21 March 2007 – 20 March 2008) reached a record $70 billion.

Iran is producing 4.21 million barrels of crude oil per day, a new record since the 1979 Revolution. It exports about 2.5 million barrels per day.

The average price of Iran’s heavy crude also hit a new record in February at $88.51 per barrel.

With the expected rise in oil prices during the new year (March 08 - March 09), Iran’s annual oil revenue is expected to reach close to $100 billion.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

News from Iran

The parliamentary elections in Iran dominated media coverage. The hard-liners, or the “principlists,” won a majority of seats decided in the first round. But principlists were divided in two competing factions. Radical Pro-Ahmadinejad United Front of Priniplists (UFP) won 35% of the seats while the traditional conservatives, Inclusive Coalition of Principlists (ICP), also won 35%. The reformists and independents won 30%. Editorials in reformist newspapers expressed belief that the new parliament, with a majority critical of Ahmadinejad’s polices, would challenge the president on major policy issues. On nuclear front, Iran rejected any talks with world powers over its nuclear program.

Leading Domestic Storylines

· First round of elections for Iran’s parliament were held on 14 March; results for 190 seats (out of 290 seats) were decided during first round; 58% of eligible Iranians cast their votes; remaining seats are to be decided in second round of voting next month.
· Election results indicated “principlists” (fundamentalists) won 70% of seats decided in first round; reformists and independents captured 30%; principlists were divided into two groups, United Front of Priniplists (UFP) and Inclusive Coalition of Principlists (ICP); pro-Ahmadinejad UFP was expected to receive 35% of seats; the conservative ICP, which includes many critics of Ahmadinezhad, is also expected to control 35% of seats.
· The government was being accused by both the reformists and the conservative opponents of Ahmadinejad of committing irregularities at polling stations and in vote counting; election workers and observers were the same people in many voting places; representatives of opposition candidates were banned from observing the process; opponents complained of “numerous violations” by the pro-government UFP on the elections day and during the vote-counting process.
· The critics of the government had already held it responsible for the disqualification of numerous reformist and moderate candidates for the 14 March elections; they had warned against the government’s tendency to increasingly act as if it were an absolute monarchy.
· Iran slams “opportunist” EU election stance; Tehran accused EU and other Western critics of “unacceptable behavior and political manipulation” after calling Iran elections “unfair”; EU said disqualifying candidates in pre-vote vetting meant election “was neither fair nor free.”
· US claimed Iran election results “cooked”; State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said Iranians were not able to vote for “full range” of candidates; Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini called Western criticism of Iran election “unacceptable behavior and political manipulation.”
· Iranian security forces destroyed “terrorist cells” on Iraqi border; “all members of two terrorist cells were killed and many arms have been seized,” said Iraj Hassanzadeh, spokesman for Iranian Kurdistan province; Iran has been fighting Kurdish separatist rebels of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK)); Iranian military also shelled three Iraqi border villages, apparently aimed at PJAK bases in the area.
· Iran warned Dutch lawmaker's anti-Quran film would “breed violence”; Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari said Geert Wilders’s film should be banned for “just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.”
· The Iranian government banned pictures of foreign film stars, including those of Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon; nine cinemas and lifestyle magazines were banned for publishing images of “corrupt” foreign stars.

The Regional Storylines

· Iran said it spares no efforts to help Afghans; Iran's Deputy Ambassador to UN Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi said Iran has consistently provided help to Kabul for its reconstruction and economic development; Danesh-Yazdi said impacts of Iran's assistance to Afghanistan were evident in the daily lives of Afghan people.
· Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is to attend this month's Arab summit hosted by Syria; Arab Summit is expected to be dominated by political crisis in Lebanon; standoff between Hezbollah-led opposition and pro-government parties prevented election of Lebanese president; Iran insists it wants to see a solution in Lebanon acceptable to all religious and ethnic groups.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit in Senegal; Ahmadunejad delivered speech on Islamic solidarity at OIC summit; summit condemned Danish media insulting Islam.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for joint action with Iraq, Turkey against PKK; speaking at OIC summit in Dakar, Ahmadinejad said three countries needed to work together if the PKK separatists were to be defeated.

Iran’s International Relations

· Iran dismissed bilateral talks with US; Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said bilateral talks with the US are not on “Tehran's working agenda.”
· President Bush extended US sanctions against Iran for another year; Bush sent a notice to Congress alleging that Iran “remains a threat to the US”; Iran sanctions were first imposed by President Clinton in 1995.
· Deployment of US missiles in Middle East is doomed, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said; Hosseini said such plan will “trigger an arms race”, he added US missile base in Turkey is “military and security threat” to the region.
· Qatar warned of frenzied oil prices in case of US attack on Iran; Qatar's Energy Minister Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah warned crude oil prices could reach $300 per barrel or more if US were to attack Iran.
· Iran is to set up a television network in Bolivia; in February, Iran opened an embassy in La Paz; Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) would install three TV channels in Bolivia.
· Iran praised Scotland's anti-war stance; Iranian Ambassador to Britain Rasoul Movahedian said Iran and Scotland shared “similar views” on many issues such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
· Pakistan Navy Mission comprising submarine Hurmat, Mine Counter Vessel Muhafiz, Missile Boat Jurrat, and Coastal Tanker Gawadar arrived on a goodwill-training cruise to Iran.

Iran’s Nuclear Program

· Iran rejected any talks with world powers over its nuclear program; “the issue of nuclear talks with 5+1 countries is over,” government spokesman Qolam Hossein Elham said; Elham confirmed remarks by President Ahmadinejad that Iran was strongly against any talks between EU foreign policy chief Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili; “IAEA is the only legal body for this issue,” Elham added.
· Iran ready to talk on nuclear issue; Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Tehran has never said it was not ready to talk over its nuclear activities.

Happy New Year, Happy Norouz!

Today is the first day of spring and the beginning of the Iranian New Year. Norouz is celebrated not only in Iran, but also in Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

May the Norouz bring happiness and peace to people around the globe; and as the saying in Persian goes, May your everyday be Norouz!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Swiss Sign Billion-Dollar Gas Deal with Iran

Swiss energy trading company EGL said today it signed a multi-billion dollar contract to buy natural gas from Iran over the next 25 years.

Iran’s state-owned National Iranian Gas Export Company will supply EGL with up to 5.5 billion cubic meters of gas a year, which the Swiss company will then sell on to European customers.

Gasoline at $1.62/gallon

Regular Gas @ $1.62/Gallon
Photo: Fars News Agency

Iranian government decided to provide the country's motorists with non-rationed gasoline at $1.62 per gallon. The sale of non-rationed gas started today.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Iran Elections Results

The first round of elections for the 8th Majlis were held on 14 March. All 290 seats in the Iranian parliament were up for election. The results for 190 seats (66% of the total) were decided during the first round. The remaining seats will be decided in the second round of voting next month.

The results indicate that the principlist have won 71% of the seats decided in the first round, with reformists and independents winning 29% of the seats.

The principlists themselves were divided into two groups:
- The United Front of Priniplists (UFP)
- The Inclusive Coalition of Principlists (ICP)

The United Front of Priniplists represented the extremists within the Islamic Republic. This group strongly supports Ahmadinejad administration. The UFP candidates did well in Tehran, winning more than half of the seats decided in the first round. They did not do as well in provinces, winning some 25% of the seats.

The Inclusive Coalition of Principlists (ICP) represented more traditional and less extremist wing of the principlist movement. They are regarded as the critics of Ahmadinejad’s government. They did well in the provinces, winning 40% of the seats decided in the first round; and nearly half of the seats in Tehran.

Ahmadinejad supporters at UFP will be held to a minority role in the next parliament, controlling less than 30% of the seats.

The reformists were divided into two groups:
- The Coalition of Reformist Groups (CRG)
- The National Confidence Party (NCP)

The Coalition of Reformist Groups represented the main reformist movement in Iran. A great majority of their candidates were disqualified by the government (the Interior Ministry and the Guardian Council), including their better known candidates.

The National Confidence Party of Mehdi Karoubi is also regarded as part of the reformist movement, although their platform calls for more limited reforms than CRG’s. Many of their candidates were also disqualified by the government.

CRG and NCP endorsed very similar list of candidates for the elections. Together they won 33% of the seats decided in the provinces but their candidates in Tehran did not win a seat in the first round and need to compete for the remaining seats in Tehran during next month’s second round of voting. They have won 29% of all seats (Tehran and provinces) decided in the first round.

The government seems to have been successful in limiting the reformists and the moderates to some 30% of the seats in the 8th Majlis, which is still a remarkable number considering most of the reformist candidates were not allowed to run in the elections. The principlists will control some 70% of the seat. But their ranks are divided. Pro-Ahmadinejad UFP is expected to get less than 30% of the seats, with some 40% of the seats going to ICP.

Friday, March 14, 2008

58% Turnout for Majlis Elections

Iranians voted today to elect deputies for the 8th Majlis.

The interior ministry is reporting that the votes cast today surpassed the figures for 7th Majlis at 8:30pm Iran time. The polls closed at 11:00pm. The turnout for 7th Majlis was reported at 23.7 million.

43 million Iranians were eligible to vote today. Deputy Interior Minister Alireza Afshar had said in Tehran on 10 December that Iranians over 18 years of age (the minimum age for voting) were numbered 43 million out of a population of nearly 70 million.

Based on the figures reported by the interior ministry, it is estimated that some 25 million people have voted in the elections today, indicating a 58% turnout. No independent reports on the turnout were available.

Majlis Elections

A Polling Place in Tehran
Friday 14 March 2008
(Photo: ISNA)

The elections for the 8th Majlis is under way in Iran. Reports indicate a very large turnout at polling places. The polls will be kept open for two additional hours in Tehran.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

News from Iran

The campaign for 14 March parliamentary elections in Iran got under way. Reformist parties endorsed unified candidate lists, while rival conservative factions presented two separate endorsement lists. The division among the conservatives would ensure the presence in new Majlis of reformists and some conservatives highly critical of Ahmadinejad’s administration. On regional front, Iran actively pursued a break in the impasse over Lebanese presidential elections. Iranian foreign minister held talks with his Saudi, Syria, Qatari and Omani counterparts to broker a deal. Iran did not want the Lebanese impasse affect the upcoming Arab Summit to be held in late March in Damascus. Iran and Syria were hoping to use the summit to push an anti-Israeli agenda.

Iran Nuclear Program

· Iran ready to hold talks with 5+1 on nuclear issues; Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said Iran was ready to hold talks with Group of 5+1 and Europeans over Iran’s nuclear program.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said no more negotiation outside IAEA; “Iran will not negotiate the nuclear issue with any country outside the IAEA anymore,” Ahmadinejad said in Tehran.
· Iran's Under-Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Javad Vaidi said Iran will continue with its nuclear activities; ”We will say ‘no’ to the ‘no’ which obstructs Iran's progress in nuclear field,” Vaidi said.
· Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili said Iran will ask for compensations from EU-3 for damages caused by Iran’s suspension of uranium enrichment activities between 2003 and 2005; “those who made us stop uranium enrichment based on false accusations will have to pay for compensations as a result,” Vaidi said.
· Iran's Oil Minister Qolam Hossein Nozari said latest UN sanctions against Iran would not affect country’s oil sector; Nozari said Iran's oil industry is mature enough to be impacted by UN sanctions.
· Iranian Foreign Ministry's Institute for Political and International Studies held an international conference in Tehran on Iran’s nuclear program; forty scholars from 30 countries were in attendance.

Leading Domestic Storylines

· Iranians are to go polls on 14 March to elect a new parliament, the 8th Majlis; Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged voters to register their defiance of “enemies,” referring to US and the West; Khamenei added the West wants to “dishearten” people and “dissuade” them from taking part in elections.
· Reformist and moderate parties presented unified endorsement list for Tehran and some provinces; conservative factions endorsed two different lists of candidates, with only eight common names among them.
· Tehran residents staged rallies to protest “insults” to Prophet Mohammad in European press; protestors also condemned Israel's attacks against Palestinians in Gaza; they chanted anti-US and anti-Israel slogans in a ceremony at Tehran’s Palestine Square.
· Iran is to boost its crude oil production to 4.27 million bpd; production increase is to start in late March.

US-Iran Relations

· Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said no bilateral talks with US were on Tehran's agenda; Hosseini said Washington has intensified its hostile policy towards Iran.
· US negotiators did not show up at Iran-US talks on Iraqi security in Baghdad; Iranian delegation led by Reza Amiri Moqadam had arrived in Baghdad as scheduled; US-Iran talks on Iraq’s security were to be held at request of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Iran’s delegation left Baghdad after US refused to take part in meeting.
· Iraqi government spokesman said US is responsible for postponement of fourth round of Iran-US talks on Iraqi security; failure of US to attend a scheduled meeting with Iranians was “the reason for postponement,” explained Iraqi government spokesman.
· Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and the country’s chief nuclear negotiator, Said Jalili, said he will not hold talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iraq-Iran Relations

· Iran and Iraq set to establish border region free trade zones (FTZ); investors would be free from paying tax for 30 years in FTZ’s; Iran set no limitation for foreign entities established in FTZ’s.
· Iran, Iraq trade and tourism increased in 2007; non-oil trade between Iraq and Iran reached about $2 billion; travel between the two countries, especially for religious pilgrims, increased considerably.

Regional Storylines

· Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers discussed Lebanon; Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal met at Cairo airport to resolve crisis over Lebanese presidency; Iran has voiced support for a coalition government; Saudis support Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s government; Prince Saud al-Faisal later met with US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch; Weich flew in from Amman to discuss Lebanese crisis.
· Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki flew to Damascus airport for a meeting with foreign ministers of Syria, Qatar and Oman, four foreign ministers had gathered at Damascus airport to discuss crisis Lebanese crisis.
· Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Reza Sheybani conferred with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora; Sheybani and Siniora discussed Iran’s cooperation in rebuilding of Lebanon.
· Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said resistance was only way to “defeat Zionists and their masters”; Ahmadinejad spoke at a ceremony in Tehran honoring Secretary General of Islamic Jihad Ramadhan Abdullah; “the collapse of the fabricated Zionist regime has begun,” Ahmadinejad added.
· Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent congratulatory message to Dmitry Medvedev on his victory in Russia's presidential elections; Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Tehran does not predict any change in Moscow's policies under Medvedev.
· Indonesian president arrived in Tehran; President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono headed a high ranking delegation; Yudhoyono held talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior Iranian officials.
· Iran and Sudan signed defense cooperation agreement; agreement was signed in Tehran by Iran's Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar and his Sudanese counterpart General Abdulrahim Mohammad Hussein; Gen. Najjar said Iran supports sovereignty of Sudan and “condemns interferences” in its domestic affairs.
· Tehran ready to sign Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline; Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Talaei visited Mumbai to push final agreement with India; Talaei said Iran is proposing an acceptable price and transition fees to get Indian and Pakistani agreements.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

US Middle East Commander Resigns

Admiral William "Fox" Fallon
The voice against military attack on Iran
(AFP Photo)

Admiral William “Fox” Fallon, the Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM), the unified combatant command whose area of responsibility includes the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, resigned abruptly today.

Admiral Fallon had expressed differences with the White House over Iran policy. Last week, Esquire magazine published a lead article on Fallon that portrayed him as opposed to President Bush’s policy on Iran.

“A lone voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear program,” said Esquire in describing Fallon.

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in Washington today that Fallon’s differences with the White House were not extreme, but the misrepresentation had become “too great.” [AFP, 11 March]

At the time of his appointment as CENTCOM commander, some analysts had speculated that the pick of a Navy admiral to be responsible for an area that included the predominantly ground and air wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was a sign of a possible naval attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and the IRGC installation on and near the Persian Gulf.

But Adm. Fallon was apparently reluctant to undertake a military action against Iran. And the White House must have been reluctant to give an impression that a military attack during the remainder of the Bush administration was not being considered. The White House wanted to keep the options open, post-NIE and post-Esquire.

Monday, March 10, 2008

British FM to Visit Tehran

Iranian newspapers and news agencies, quoting foreign sources, are reporting that the British Foreign Minister David Miliband is to visit Tehran soon to offer a new incentive package on behalf of the EU-3 to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue.

The reports indicate that Miliband will hold talks with President Ahmadinejad, Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki and other senior officials responsible for the country’s nuclear program.

On Thursday, President Ahmadinejad had flatly rejected any negotiations over the nuclear program with any countries or agencies other than the IAEA. Miliband’s visit would contradict that policy.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Iran’s Pasteurized Elections

The 14 March parliamentary elections in Iran have indeed been processed in such a way as to destroy “harmful” elements, aka reformist and moderate candidates.

  • The conservative-dominated Executive Committees of the Interior Ministry and the Guardian Council have disqualified the majority of reformist and moderate candidates.
  • After the massive disqualifications, reformist and moderate candidates are now limited to contest less than half of the 290 seats in Majlis.
  • This week’s severe restrictions over elections campaign advertising will further dim the prospects of the reformists and moderates who do not enjoy the backing of government's broadcasting stations.

The worsening economy and the absolute inability of Ahmadinejad’s administration to reign in the growing inflation and to boost the standards of living for the middle and lower classes favors the reformists and their fewer candidates. Ahmadinejad’s performance, or lack of, has also created dissatisfaction and squabbling among the conservatives themselves.

  • The conservatives could not endorse a unified list of candidates either in Tehran or in provinces.
  • The split among the conservatives will increase the chances for those reformist and moderate candidates who have been endorsed by both major reformist parties: The Participation Front and the National Trust Party.
  • The elections results for the seats that are allowed to be contested by the candidates of unified reform list would show the relative strength of the reformist vs. conservative camps in today’s Iran.
  • The key to victory for the reformists in the contested seats will be the voters’ turnout. If the turnout will be at or exceeds 60%, the reformist will pick up seats. If the people would not even bother to vote in this caricature of an election, then the conservatives would sweep the 8th Majlis.

The upcoming parliamentary contest in Iran seems to have all the characteristics of a fabricated exercise intended to prove the existence of free elections in the country. But even this limited exercise might come back and haunt the government. The loss of government’s legitimacy in massive disqualification process as well as the rift among the conservatives will add to the mounting problems facing Ahmadinejad’s administration.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Iran, Gulf Ministers in Damascus

Foreign Minister of Iran, Qatar, Oman and Syria held an extraordinary meeting at Damascus airport today amid signs of trouble for the upcoming Arab League summit scheduled to be held in the Syrian capital at the end of March.

On Tuesday, a number of Arab foreign ministers gathered in Cairo to hammer out differences. There were concerns over Syrian reluctance to invite the sitting Lebanese government to the summit. Lebanon, which has been without a president since November, could be represented at the meeting by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a staunch critic of Syria. The Syrian foreign minister announced after the meeting in Cairo that Lebanon will be officially invited to attend.

Saudi Arabia leads a large group of Arab countries who object to Syrian role in Lebanon and the country’s close relationship with Iran. Syria wanted the Saudis to attend to avoid a fiasco where the Saudis and a number of Persian Gulf countries would boycott the summit.

Oman and Qatar are the only Gulf states which maintain relatively close ties to Syria. Their presence in Damascus today along with the foreign ministers of Iran and Syria is an attempt to devise a coordinated policy to salvage the Damascus Summit.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Egypt, Jordan Warn Iran Threat

Jordan’s King Abdullah warned today that the failure of the peace process in the Midle East will increase Iran's influence in the region. Yesterday, Egyptian President Hosni Mobarak was quoted as saying that Iran is a real threat to the region.

The Jordanian monarch made the comment during an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), the Washington-based radio network. He warned of Iran’s growing influence in Gaza and Lebanon.

“The failure of the peace process will get them [Iran] to increase their ambitions in the region,” said Abdullah. “My fear is that the failure of the peace process will increase the aggression of the extremists in our region… It will bring us into a very dark future; all of us, Americans, Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs.”

The Egyptian president made his remarks on Thursday during a meeting in Cairo with the leaders of the American Jewish Committee. Mubarak said Iran was a threat because of its support of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Iran Expels Swedish Diplomat over Ardalan

Parvin Ardalan

Iran expelled a Swedish diplomat in retaliation to granting of 2007 Olaf Palme Award to Parvin Ardalan, a leader of Iran’s growing women’s movement.

Ardalan leads the One Million Signature Campaign, demanding equal rights for men and women. The campaign has made the women’s movement for civil rights and liberties a central part of the struggle for democracy in Iran. Ardalan was also the founding editor of Iran’s first online newsletter on women’s rights, Zanestan. She was sentenced to three years in prison in April 2007, a sentence which is under appeal.

Ardalan was awarded the prize on 13 February by Olaf Palme Memorial Fund. She was to receive the award in a ceremony held in Stockholm on Thursday. Ardalan was prevented on Wednesday by the authorities to leave Tehran. She was pulled out of a plane ready to depart Tehran’s airport for Stockholm.

Past winner of Olaf Palme prize include Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, former Czech president Vaclev Havel, Sudanese human rights lawyer Mossaad Aohamed Ali, former UN secretary general Kufi annan and the human rights group Amnesty International.

Islamic Republic’s displeasure at Sweden’s recognition of Ardalan’s work and the country’s outspokenness on human rights issues in Iran led to the expulsion to the expulsion of the Swedish diplomat.

Journalist Asked to Testify on Iran Plot

The New York Times reporter James Risen has been asked to testify as part of a US government’s investigation into leaked confidential information regarding an alleged plan by the CIA and Mossad to sabotage Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Risen included the information in his book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.” The book was published in 2006.

One of the ideas discussed by CIA and Mossad was to smuggle electromagnetic devices into Iran to sabotage electricity lines leading to the country's nuclear facilities. The plot would have caused extreme damage to powerful short circuits in Iran’s electric grid, leading to failures of the super computers of Iran's nuclear sites.

Yet another plot involved penetrating the heart of Iran's nuclear facilities, collect information about it and eventually disrupt it. The plan was code-named Operation Merlin. The operation would have involved supplying false information to the Iranians on nuclear weaponization program.

Risen is not the first journalist to have been subpoenaed to give evidence before a grand jury and reveal his sources. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said some 65 journalists have been summoned for such investigations since 2001. Some agreed, cooperated and testified. Most refused and did not reveal their sources.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Iran, Saudi FM's Meet in Cairo

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki flew to Cairo today to meet with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal. The meeting took place at the VIP lounge at Cairo airport. Reuters reports that the situation in Lebanon and Gaza were the main topics of discussion.

Prince Faisal later held talks in the same VIP lounge with US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch who had flown from Amman on a visit to Egypt.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

No Iran Resolutions at IAEA

The US and the Europeans scrapped plans to introduce a new resolution against Iran at the meeting of IAEA board of governors this week.

Russia was reported yesterday as opposing such move and had halted the Iran vote at UN Security Council until the West dropped their plan to introduce a separate resolution at IAEA.

Individuals and Companies Sanctioned by UN

The following individuals and companies have been named in UNSC resolution 1803 that tightened UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program yesterday.

Individuals listed in resolution 1803

1. Amir Moayyed Alai (involved in managing the assembly and engineering of centrifuges)
2. Mohammad Fedai Ashiani (involved in the production of ammonium uranyl carbonate and management of the Natanz enrichment complex)
3. Abbas Rezaee Ashtiani (a senior official at the AEOI Office of Exploration and Mining Affairs)
4. Haleh Bakhtiar (involved in the production of magnesium at a concentration of 99.9%)
5. Morteza Behzad (involved in making centrifuge components)
6. Dr. Mohammad Eslami (Head of Defence Industries Training and Research Institute)
7. Seyyed Hussein Hosseini (AEOI official involved in the heavy water research reactor project at Arak)
8. M. Javad Karimi Sabet (Head of Novin Energy Company, which is designated under resolution 1747 (2007))
9. Hamid-Reza Mohajerani (involved in production management at the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) at Esfahan)
10. Brigadier-General Mohammad Reza Naqdi (former Deputy Chief of Armed Forces General Staff for Logistics and Industrial Research/Head of State Anti-Smuggling Headquarters, engaged in efforts to get round the sanctions imposed by resolutions 1737 (2006) and 1747 (2007))
11. Houshang Nobari (involved in the management of the Natanz enrichment complex)
12. Abbas Rashidi (involved in enrichment work at Natanz)
13. Ghasem Soleymani (Director of Uranium Mining Operations at the Saghand Uranium Mine)

Companies listed in resolution 1803

1. Abzar Boresh Kaveh Co. (BK Co.) (involved in the production of centrifuge components)
2. Barzagani Tejarat Tavanmad Saccal companies (subsidiary of Saccal System companies) (this company tried to purchase sensitive goods for an entity listed in resolution 1737 (2006))
3. Electro Sanam Company (E. S. Co./E. X. Co.) (AIO front-company, involved in the ballistic missile programme)
4. Ettehad Technical Group (AIO front-company, involved in the ballistic missile programme)
5. Industrial Factories of Precision (IFP) Machinery (aka Instrumentation Factories Plant) (used by AIO for some acquisition attempts)
6. Jabber Ibn Hayan (AEOI laboratory involved in fuel-cycle activities)
7. Joza Industrial Co. (AIO front-company, involved in the ballistic missile programme)
8. Khorasan Metallurgy Industries (subsidiary of the Ammunition Industries Group (AMIG) which depends on DIO. Involved in the production of centrifuges components)
9. Niru Battery Manufacturing Company (subsidiary of the DIO. Its role is to manufacture power units for the Iranian military including missile systems)
10. Pishgam (Pioneer) Energy Industries (has participated in construction of the Uranium Conversion Facility at Esfahan)
11. Safety Equipment Procurement (SEP) (AIO front-company, involved in the ballistic missile programme)
12. TAMAS Company (involved in enrichment-related activities. TAMAS is the overarching body, under which four subsidiaries have been established, including one for uranium extraction to concentration and another in charge of uranium processing, enrichment and waste)

Monday, March 3, 2008

New Sanctions

The new UN Security Council resolution moderately expanded sanctions previously imposed on Iran. The highlights:

· Bans all trade and supply of so-called dual-use items, materials and technologies that can be adapted for military as well as civilian use.
· Authorize inspections of cargo to and from Iran that is suspected of carrying prohibited equipment.
· Authorize monitoring of two major Iranian banks, Bank Melli and Bank Saderat.
· Extends travel bans and asset freezes against persons and companies involved in the nuclear program. It adds 13 names to the existing list of five individuals and 12 companies subject to travel and asset restrictions.

The resolution adopted by the council invoked Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows the UN council to seek economic sanctions without relying on the use of force to implement a resolution.

New UN Sanctions Against Iran

The United Nations Security Council passed a new resolution against Iran. The vote was 14-0, with Indonesia abstaining.

Iran's UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazee told the council just before the vote that Iran “would not comply” with the new resolution.

Russia and China, considered Iran’s allies at the UN, voted for the resolution and against Iran.

Iran had expected that South Africa, Libya, and Vietnam, non-permanent members of the Security Council, to oppose the resolution. They all voted in favor of it.

The new UN resolution reiterates previous demands that Iran stops its uranium enrichment program. But Tehran refuses to do so.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also reported in February that Iran may have run a nuclear “weaponization” project. Iran had refused to clarify questions about reports suggesting it may have been exploring ways to weaponize nuclear materials, calling them “baseless” and “fabricated.”

“I urge Iran to be as active and as cooperative as possible in working with the agency to clarify this matter of serious concern,” IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei told the agency’s 35-member board of governors at the start of its meeting today. “This is necessary to enable the agency to make a determination about the nature and scope of all of Iran's past nuclear activities,” ElBaradei added.

A Year Old!

I first posted on this blog on Saturday 3 March 2007. Uskowi on Iran is now a year old. We’ve posted 365 times during this past year. This is post #366 (it was a leap year after all!)

My goal was to chronicle major events in Iran, this great country, and to offer some insight into those events, and to invite comments by our readers. This blog has major shortcomings in all the three areas.

Uskowi on Iran has nevertheless received heartening support from the blogger community. has consistently included our posts among “The Best of the Blogosphere” selections. The Iran Daily Voices, the principle site monitoring top blogs and top posts on Iran has ranked Uskowi on Iran among the top ten Iran blogs. has often carried our posts in their blog selection during their coverage of major events in Iran. And so has the And I am indebted to all my co-bloggers who have linked their blogs to Uskowi on Iran.

Let me also take this opportunity to express my thanks and appreciation to those readers and co-bloggers who have contributed much by posting their comments and relevant news items on this blog. They have truly enriched Uskowi on Iran.

Iranian-American Convicted by Revolutionary Court

Radio Farda correspondent Parnaz Azima was convicted by Tehran's 13th Revolutionary Court of “spreading anti-state propaganda” and sentenced to one year in prison, Radio Farda reported today. The Iranian-American journalist was not in Iran during the court's ruling on Saturday.

Radio Farda is the US-funded Persian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty wih its headquarters in Prague.

Azima traveled to Tehran last year on a personal visit but was kept in Iran after the Iranian authorities seized her passport. Azima was later charged. She had her passport returned in September and was allowed to leave Iran after posting bail.

Ahmadinejad Leaves Iraq

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left Iraq after a historic two-day visit. He was given a red-carpet farewell attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

President Ahmadinejad was expected earlier to go on a pilgrimage to the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf during his second day in Iraq.

Ahmadinejad held talks in Baghdad with Iraq's Supreme Islamic Council Abdul Aziz Hakim and the two held a joint news conference.

In a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki yesterday, Ahmadinejad said that his visit to Iraq and talks with Iraqi officials has opened “a new chapter” in Iran-Iraq relations. Al-Maliki called Iran’s role in Iraq “helpful.”

Ahmadinejad took a jab at the US during his press conference with al-Maliki. “Iraqi people do not like America,” Ahmadinejad said. “As soon as foreigners (the Americans) put their foot in the region, the terrorists came here too,” Ahmadinejad added.

US President George Bush had earlier accused Iran of playing a destabilizing role in Iraq. Bush had called on Iran to “quit sending in sophisticated equipment that's killing our citizens.”

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Ahmadinejad Arrives in Baghdad

President Ahmadinejad Welcomed in Baghdad
by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
Sunday 2 March (IRNA Photo)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Baghdad today on a two-day official visit. The historic visit is the first by an Iranian leader to Iraq since the two countries fought a devastating eight-year war in 1980’s.

Ahmadinejad's visit takes place at the official invitation of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.