Wednesday, April 30, 2008
"We have received today the requested documentation on [nuclear] cargo from the Russian Embassy," Araz Azimov told a news conference in Baku. "We are studying it and will soon announce our decision."
A column of vehicles carrying heat insulators for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which Russian contractor Atomstroyexport is building in the southwest of the Islamic Republic, was stopped at the border between Azerbaijan and Iran in late March.
Atomstroyexport earlier said the cargo destined for Bushehr was not a dual-purpose product or nuclear material, but insulating equipment. "The shipment was registered in line with all accepted international practical regulations."
However, Azerbaijani authorities said they had not received information from Russia over the cargo in a timely and appropriate manner.
Azimov said he met with Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Naser Hamidi Zare on Tuesday and assured him that the delay was caused by technical formalities rather than political issues.
Iran is currently under three sets of UN sanctions over its uranium program. The latest resolution against Iran froze accounts of certain Iranian companies and banks, and introduced inspections for goods leaving and entering the Islamic Republic.
Russia's ambassador to Azerbaijan, Vasily Istratov, confirmed on Wednesday that the shipment would soon be delivered to Iran.
News source: RIA Novosti
UPDATE: The Associated Press is reporting that Azerbaijan has released the shipment of Russian equipment for Bushehr's nuclear powerplant on Thursday. The cargo has passed through the Astara customs checkpoint on the border with Iran, said an official with Azerbaijan's State Customs Committee.
The report identified Iran’s “increasingly hostile role” in Iraq as the reason behind the planning.
“I'm not aware of any ramping up or revision of war plans for Iran,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters traveling in Mexico with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
“The focus of our efforts to combat the supplying of arms, the training of terrorists in Iraq by the Iranians continues to be within the confines of Iraq,” Morrell added.
There have been rising military tensions between Iran and the US in the past few days.
Last Thursday, the Westward Venture, a ship on charter to US Military Sea Command, fired warning shots on two IRGC patrol boats that had approached the ship within 100 yards.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen on Friday expressed concern over Iran’s role in Iraq. He did say that the Pentagon was planning for “potential military courses of actions” against Iran. Adm. Mullen added that a conflict with Iran would be “extremely distressing” but not impossible for US forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and the Air Force. “It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability,” Adm. Mullen said.
[Iraq’s National Security Advisor Mowaffak Al-Rubaie also accused Iran of backing the Mahdi Army in Iraq. A report by McClatchy Newspapers on Monday described in details the role of IRGC-Quds Force Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani in Iraq.]
On Tuesday, USS Abraham Lincoln and its strike group entered the Persian Gulf. The Pentagon had earlier announced the Abraham Lincoln was to replace Harry S. Truman Strike Group, but it decided yesterday to keep both in the Persian Gulf. The combined air capability comprise of some 100 F-18 fighters and scores of electronic warfare aircraft and attack helicopters. The naval force includes the two carriers and nearly 20 destroyers, frigates and support ships. Lots of fire power.
What the Pentagon was saying today might indicate that an attack on Iran is highly unlikely, but an attack on IRGC targets within or near Iraq is possible.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Ahmadinejad told reporters after meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he was optimistic about India’s participation.
IPI pipeline will be 2,200-km (1,615-mile) long, linking Iran’s South Pars gas fields to Pakistan and India. The construction cost is estimated at about $7.5 billion.
India has been under tremendous pressure from the US not to sign off on the project. Indications from Delhi today show that Ahmadinejad may have offered the Indians a pricing structure well below the market price in order to lure them to sign off on the project.
No formal agreements were announced during the visit.
During President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility on 8 April, Iran released 48 photographs showing the country’s advancement in nuclear technology and providing the first significant look inside Natanz. New York Times’ William Broad in an article in today’s paper titled “A Tantalizing Look at Iran’s Nuclear Program” reports that the photos provided a wealth of information to Western analysts.
“They’re remarkable,” said Jeffrey G. Lewis, an arms control specialist at the New America Foundation. “We’re learning things.”
“This is intel to die for,” says Andreas Persbo, an analyst in London at the Verification Research, Training and Information Center. Persbo made the comments on the blog, Arms Control Wonk.
The analysts now believe that the Iranians have achieved new levels of technical skill. The case in point is the development of IR-2, a centrifuge that would produce about four times the enrichment.
“That’s a lot,” David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), told The Times.
Of the 48 photographs Iran released, Western analysts gave special scrutiny to one showing Ahmadinejad and his entourage inspecting a disassembled IR-2, its guts arrayed on the table, as the Times put it. Clearly visible are its casing, inner rotor, motor and several other critical parts (pictured above).
ISIS’s Albright said that in one year 1,200 flawlessly running IR-2 centrifuges could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon.
Houston G. Wood III, a centrifuge expert at the University of Virginia tells The New York Times that the episode smelled of “hubris.”
“It was amazing to me that they put the pictures out there,” Wood said. “It’s sort of a cocky thing. I would think they had more to gain by keeping their cards close to their chests.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to arrive in New Delhi today for a short visit expected to be dominated by talks on India’s participation in Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project. Ahmadinejad will be pressuring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to sign off on the $7.5 billion project to transport natural gas from Iran’s South Pars gas field to Pakistan and India.
On Monday, Iran and Pakistan said they ironed out differences on the 2,200-km (1,615-mile) pipeline during a brief stopover by Ahmadinejad in Islamabad.
India has been under tremendous pressure from the US not to sign off on IPI pipeline project. But India is an energy-hungry nation which has to import 70 percent of its energy needs. The IPI pipeline would go a long way in meeting those needs.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Militiamen today took advantage of a heavy sandstorm in Baghdad to fire rockets and mortar rounds at the Green Zone, with at least 10 hitting the fortified area. There were no reports of causalities. With the sandstorm reducing visibility, military helicopters were unable to take off allowing the militiamen to escape after firing the missiles.
Iraqi Army Spokesman Maj. Gen. Qasim Atta today told a news conference in Baghdad that most of the rockets fired recently in the city, much of it coming from Sadr City, were Iranian-made.
“We have found many Iranian-made weapons - Katyusha and Grad rockets, and smart roadside bombs and smart bombs. We have also seized some documents and identified some people,” Gen. Atta said.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohamad Ali Hosseini today denied Iraqi reports that Iran has been supporting the Mahdi Army. Sadr City is the stronghold of Mahdi Army.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
pertaining to Iranian economics, defense and international
politics. Professor Farhri writes at length about the
challenges facing Iran's economy and the Presidency of
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Sean O'Connor analyzes the
introduction of the S-300PT surface-to-air-missile
system for the defense of Iran. The Long War Journal offers a slideshow depicting purported Iranian arms captured in Iraq. And MESH provides an article by Chuck Freilich that basically accepts that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and that steps toward war with Iran are acceptable.
Ahmadinejad and the "System" by Farideh Farhi
Informed Comment: Global Affairs
Iran and the S-300PT by Sean O'Connor
IMINT & Analysis
Iranian Weapons in Iraq
The Long War Journal
Too Late to Dissuade Iran? by Chuck Freilich
Middle East Strategy at Harvard
The moderates and the reformists have been handed their worst parliamentary defeat. The Coalition of Reformist Groups and the National Confidence Party will end up capturing about 16% of the seats in the 8th Majlis. Only one of their candidates, Ali Reza Mahjoub, was elected in Tehran. The government disqualified many of the better-known reformist and moderate candidates to stand for election which partly explained the poor showing of the reformist parties.
The conservative-controlled parliament is not expected to be wholeheartedly supportive of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The more traditional conservatives in ICP bloc are expected to form alliance with the reformists to challenge the government on many issues, including the monetary policies that have given rise to a growing and seemingly out-of-control inflation and the resulting public discontent.
Friday, April 25, 2008
The incident reportedly happened in the Persian Gulf about 50 miles of the Iranian coast. The Westward Venture blew its whistle and fired flares before using the machine guns to fire the warning shots.
There were no reports of damage or casualties.
UPDATE: Crude oil spiked more than $3 in the wake of the news.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said in Washington today that he’s concerned about Iran’s role in Iraq. Adm. Mullen said Iran seems to be “ratcheting things up” in Iraq. He told a Defense Department news conference that it was “clear” that recently made Iranian weapons are flowing into Iraq at a steadily increasing rate. He also accused Iran of supporting insurgents during the recent fighting in Basra.
“It's not just weapons,” Mullen said of Iranian support. “They continue to train Iraqis in Iran to come back and fight Americans in the coalition,” he added. “I just don't see any evidence of them backing off. And Basra highlighted a lot of that.”
Mullen also said that US intelligence is seeing similar Iranian aid for militants and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
During a separate interview with Al Jazeera today, Adm. Mullen said the US would maintain a presence in the Persian Gulf in an attempt to deter Iran from taking any military action. Mullen was quick to say that he preferred "a peaceful outcome" and not to use military force.
“I think it's important to ratchet up the pressure as much as we can on Iran … internationally, financially, diplomatically … without taking the combat option off the table,” Mullen told Al Jazeera.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said the Iranian firms had been informed that they could take part provided that did not contravene UN resolutions which includes a ban on arms exports.
UN resolution: “Unfortunately... they displayed equipment that clearly contravenes the UN resolution such as missiles and missile systems,” Najib told reporters.
“We were left in a situation that we did not have any option - since Malaysia is committed to respecting and adhering to the UN resolution - but to terminate their participation,” he said.
According to the New Straits Times, the Iranian pavilion at the Defence Services Asia exhibition was closed on the second day of the four-day trade show which ends Thursday.
The newspaper said US embassy officials had approached the organisers and the Malaysian defence and foreign ministries to voice their concern and threatened to pull out of the show if action was not taken.
The US is one of the largest exhibitors with 26 American companies taking part. A US embassy spokeswoman said it does not comment on diplomatic actions. Najib, who is also defence minister, said: “We received some complaints but we took this action not on the basis of the complaints but because of our position.”
Source: Daily Times and New Straits Times.
The Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution and Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei decreed on Wednesday the appointment of Hojjatoleslam Jamaleddin Mirmohammadi as head of the Ideological-Political Organization of the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics. The decree urges Mirmohammadi to concentrate on upgrading spiritual qualifications of the ministry personnel.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
“An agreement was reached during the meetings in Tehran on a process that aims to clarify the so-called alleged studies during the month of May,” an IAEA spokeswoman said.
The alleged studies include charts on process of converting enriched uranium into uranium metal; a document on casting of uranium metal into the shape of a nuclear warhead; schematics of a Shahab-3 missile re-entry vehicle with apparent capability of carrying a nuclear warhead; and plans on remote explosive testing, another core element in any nuclear weapon program.
Iran had in the past dismissed the alleged studies as “baseless” and the intelligence behind them as “fake.”
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Danesh-Jafari made his harsh criticism during his farewell address at the ministry, a highly unusual step for a civil servant or a politician in Iran.
Danesh-Jafari identified the growing, and seemingly out-of-control, money supply and the resulting inflation rate as the major economic challenge facing Iran.
Danesh-Jafari said last year Iran oil exports brought in $61 billion. The petro-dollars were converted into rials to meet the government’s budget expenditures, with the money supply reaching levels that naturally produces high inflation. Danesh-Jafari voiced concern that government officials did not understand the relation between the money supply and the inflation and insisted in printing ever more rials.
“Do not worry about the money supply,” the officials told Danesh-Jafari.
The problem is that the money supply is on the rise at a whooping 35-40% annually. When the additional money is not used to create goods, but to purchase what goods are available, then the price of those goods go up. Danesh-Jafari had a tough time as the country’s minister of economy to convince officials of this simple casual relation.
Danesh-Jafari also criticized Ahmadinejad for creating hostile relations between the government and the Majlis, the Expediency Council, the IRIB (Radio/TV), the newspapers, his rivals in the last presidential election, his potential rival in the future Majlis, and with certain individuals. He paints an administration with a limited knowledge of the economy and an administration with a siege mentality.
[For the complete Persian text of Danesh-Jafari farewell address, see Fars News Agency: http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8702030748 ].
“I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran,” Senator Clinton told ABC News.
“In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them,” Clinton continued.
She presumably wants to become president for the next 10 years (she might have a constitutional amendment in mind) and she is willing to say that she would launch a nuclear war in the region to get elected.
Clinton’s remarks were the greatest insult to the people of Iran whose collective lives she is willing to sacrifice to win big in Pennsylvania. I believe this type of war-mongering populism should not have a place in the Democratic Party and in this country.
"Considering the sensitivity of the situation, we need to know all the details in order to know whether the shipment falls under UN sanctions," said Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Khazar Ibragim.
"Azerbaijani border guards stopped the cargo at the Azerbaijan-Iranian border" said Atomstroiexport spokeswoman Irina Yesipova. "This situation is unlikely to seriously affect the commissioning schedule, although a slight risk still persists," she said.
The press service of Azerbaijan's State Customs Committee said it had no information that the cargo had been seized.
The Baku-based Trend news agency meanwhile quoted the customs service as saying that the equipment did not have special permission from the Azerbaijan government to be transited through Azerbaijan.
Russia delivered its final and eighth fuel shipment to Bushehr on January 28. Russia has supplied a total of 82 metric tons of low-enriched uranium to the light-water nuclear power plant. Iran hopes its first nuclear power plant will be launched in October.
Monday, April 21, 2008
The influential publisher and editor of Keyhan Hossein Shariatmadari in an editorial on Monday warned Iranian officials against falling into the trap set for them by the US and Israelis to commit themselves to negotiations over “alleged studies.” The term is used by IAEA in reference to research allegedly undertaken in Iran to build nuclear weapons.
IAEA’s Olli Heinonen arrived in Tehran today and has just concluded the first day of talks with Iran’s nuclear officials on the very “alleged studies.” The talks will continue on Tuesday. Shariatmadari criticized the government for holding the talks.
“What is deploring and surprising is that our officials [in charge of the nuclear program] would agree to Heinonen’s visit,’ said Shariatmadari in his editorial.
Shariatmadari sees Heinonen’s visit as an affront to Iran’s independence. He argues that the country’s foreign policy should be wise and should be based on its national interests, and, probably above all, it should take Iran’s honor and glory into account. It’s Iran’s honor and glory that can be compromised by Heinonen’s visit.
Los Angeles is home to the largest number of Iranian expatriates. Galaxy’s midfielder David Beckham is a popular player in Iran.
The Iranian and US national teams played in the 1998 World Cup in France, with Iran beating its rival 2-1.
A spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said Heinonen’s visit intended to advance cooperation between Iran and IAEA.
Iran has dismissed the alleged studies as baseless and has labeled the intelligence used to back them as fake.
The alleged studies include charts on process of converting enriched uranium into uranium metal; a document on casting of uranium metal into the shape of a nuclear warhead; schematics of a Shahab-3 missile re-entry vehicle with apparent capability of carrying a nuclear warhead; and plans on remote explosive testing, another core element in any nuclear weapon program.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
The 2008 National Military Day at Tehran showcased various elements of armor from Iran's Army, including the Zulfigar, the Mobarez, T-72 and T-55. The Zulfigar is an Iranian produced MBT. The Mobarez is an Iranian MBT based upon upgraded British Chieftan tanks. The T-72 (in the photo, sans ERA tiles) and T-55 (Safir-74 and T-72Z) are Russian (Soviet) derived tanks, upgraded by Iran.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
The research documents under question include charts on uranium conversion process. During the process the highly-enriched uranium (HEU) is converted into uranium metal, the core of any uranium-based nuclear weapon. IAEA investigators also would like to study a document on casting of uranium metal into the shape of a nuclear warhead. The documents also include schematics of a Shahab-3 missile re-entry vehicle that appears to have the capability of carrying a nuclear warhead. Lastly, IAEA investigators are interested in documents on remote explosive testing, another core element in any nuclear weapon program. The plans show underground detonations facilities and a separate firing facility 10 km (six miles) away.
Iran has dismissed the alleged studies as “baseless” and has labeled the intelligence used to back them as fake.
In February, Heinonen presented the documents and intelligence reports during a closed-door briefing to IAEA board members, including the Iranian ambassador, at its Vienna headquarters.
ISNA reported from Tehran on Friday that Heinonen talks in Tehran on Monday would focus on the procedures for IAEA examination of the “alleged studies.”
Heinonen and his team will meet with Iran's Deputy National Security Chief Javad Vaeedi, Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh, and the Deputy Head of Iran Atomic Energy Organization Mohammad Saeedi.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
“All aircraft appeared immaculate and in refurbished condition,” Pyruz observed.
The fighters displayed were:
- Six F-14A Tomcats
- Two F-4E Phantom II’s and one RF-4E
- One MiG-29A and one MiG-29UB
- Two Mirage F-1BQ’s and one F-1EQ
- Three Saeghah 80
- Two Azararaksh and one two-seater F-5
- One Illushyn Il-76 AWACS
In spite of the sanctions, Pyruz observes, Iran has a capability to field a fighter defense, consisting of a variety of Western, Russian and Chinese aircraft.
Iran military analyst Mark Pyruz described the activities as “a more serious parade for a more serious period in the country’s timeline.”
Uskowi on Iran will carry a detailed review by Pyruz of Iran’s military development as observed in today’s parade in a few days.
The links for YouTube video of today’s parade appear below.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
“We have just passed the Security Council resolution. So there is a balance here between the two pathways: the incentive and the disincentive pathway,” said US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack.
Envoys from Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, Germany and the EU participated in Shanghai meeting.
The controversial change has since evoked strong negative reactions across Iran and among the Iranian expatriate communities. In 2004, the National Geographic Society used Arabian Gulf in its World Atlas. Following huge protests by Iranians, it was changed back to Persian Gulf in later editions.
The picture of the crash at Mehrabad shows that the Su-24 was involved in a crash landing. The landing gears were either not retracted or collapsed at the impact. The angles of the vertical stabilizer are indeed suggestive of a Su-24.
The aircrew, the pilot and a weapons system operator, successfully ejected seconds before the impact.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The Iranian Army will also show its latest homemade weapon systems during a major parade in Tehran on that day.
The announcement was made today in Tehran by Maj. Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, the deputy commander of Iranian armed forces.
(Fars News Agency)
“As President [Ahmadinejad] has announced, we have extraordinary incentives to defend our country’s borders, and in case of any action on Israeli part, we are ready to eliminate it off the face of the world.”
The original Persian text read: “haman tour keh rais jomhour elam kard, ma angizeh fogholadeh-i baraye defa az marzhayeh keshvareman darim keh dar sourat hargouneh taharok az soyeh israel, amadeh-im ou ra az sahneh guity hazf konim” [Fars News Agency, in Persian, 15 April 2008].
Gen. Ashtiani made the comments today during a press conference in Tehran.
It is astounding not only that the general should make such comments, but also that he would directly attribute his authority to Ahmadinejad, who himself has been under tremendous pressure for his Israel-will-be-wiped-off-the-map comment.
Monday, April 14, 2008
An Iranian military Sukhoi jet fighter today crashed at Mehrabad airport in Tehran at around 7pm local time.
The pilot and co-pilot could parachute out of the plane and were unharmed.
Reports from Tehran indicate that fire broke out at parts of Mehrabad airport after the crash.
The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) operates Su-24MKs with a crew of two, the pilot and weapons system operator. The jet that crashed today could well be an IRIAF’s Su-24MK.
Islamic Revolution Guards Corp Air Force (IRGC-AF) also operates Sukhoi fighters. IRGC-AF version, however, is the single-seat Su25’s. If today’s jet belonged to IRGC-AF, as suggested by one of our commentators, then it must have been a two-seat trainer version of the same aircraft, Su-25T.
Note on photo: The photo above shows two of IRIAF Su-24MKs. I uploaded the new picture after our informed commentator, Mark Pyruz, rightly pointed to the fact that the picture circulated by Fars News Agency was not a Sukhoi.
Last October, a Caspian Summit also held in Tehran could not agree on how to divide the Caspian Sea and its rich oil and gas resources among the five bordering countries.
Kazakhstan, along with Russia and Azerbaijan, had been a staunch advocate of the median line legal regime, whereby the Caspian is divided based on the length of coastal lines of each country. Under such arrangement, Iran’s share would be reduced to just 13.6%.
In 1921, Iran signed a treaty with the Soviet Union dividing the Caspian in half between the two countries. The collapse of the Soviet Union and its replacement on Caspian shores with four independent states of Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan did not legally annul the treaty. Under the international law, Iran would still own 50% of Caspian resources, and the Soviet’s share should have been divided among the four states replacing it.
During the Khatami administration, the Iranian government agreed to divide the Caspian according to the “spirit” of the 1921 treaty, thereby giving the five states, including Iran, an equal 20% share of the Caspian.
The Ahmadinejad’s administration is thought to favor an agreement based on the median line legal regime advocated by Russia; with Iran getting 13.6% share.
The talks tomorrow in Tehran are intended to prepare the groundwork for the final agreement among the five countries. The final legal status of the Caspian is scheduled to be formally signed during the next summit in Baku in October 2008.
Iran earned over $7 billion in month of March from the sale of crude oil, a monthly record. Iran has the world’s second largest reserves of crude oil after Saudi Arabia.
PJAK, the Iranian Kurdish militant organization operating in Iraqi Kurdish region, yesterday warned the Iranian government that it would start a bombing campaign against targets as far away as Tehran if Iran did not stop its military campaign against the group. PJAK is outlawed in Iran and is classified as a terrorist organization.
“We have the ability to confront Iran inside Tehran,” a member of PJAK political bureau told AFP. “Iran should be aware that we have a long arm that can strike at significant places inside Iran, especially in the northwest reaching Tehran.”
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Few hours earlier in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had said that Iran was to present a new proposal on its nuclear program to the five permanent members of UN Security Council plus Germany (5+1 Group). He had strongly hinted that the proposal would contain compromises by Iran to break the current nuclear standoff with the West.
The unexpected cancellation of talks with IAEA, hours after Mottaki’s seemingly positive remarks, points to renewed internal divisions inside the Islamic Republic on handling the country’s nuclear program.
During a news conference with the visiting Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto Romulo, Mottaki strongly hinted that Iran’s proposal would narrow the gap with the West on the nuclear issue.
Latest reports from Iran indicate that as of Sunday morning local time the death toll in the mosque blast has risen to 12, with 202 wounded. The local officials have announced plans for mass funeral on Tuesday.
The Iranian officials have not yet announced the cause of the explosion.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Bombs are rarity in Iran. No one has yet taken responsibility for the blast. Hojatoleslam Anjavinejad is a cleric popular with young religious crowds and his sermons typically contain attacks on Wahabis, the fundamentalist Sunni sect with largest following in Saudi Arabia.
At the time of the blast, Anjavinejad was addressing the youths affiliated with Rahpouyan Vesal-e Shiraz organization. An eyewitness report put the number of people in attendance at around 800. The blast happened at 9pm local time on Saturday.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
The President’s warning was the bluntest remarks yet coming out of Washington linking Iran to Shia extremist groups in Iraq. Earlier in the week General David Patreous, commander of US military in Iraq, told Congress that Iran was funding, training, arming and directing what he labeled as “special groups” in Iraq. Gen. Patreaus characterized the special groups as the “greatest long-term threat” to the viability of a democratic Iraq.
The President today called Iran one of the two “greatest threats to the US in this century, together with Al Qaida.” Inside Iraq, the US is rapidly shifting its focus from Al Qaida to special groups backed by Iran as its number-one enemy.
The White House has not yet provided the public with the intelligence supporting its contention that Iran has been directly involved in the current fighting in Iraq.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The US military had in the past accused Iran of funding, training and arming Shia militias in Iraq. What was new in Peteaus testimony today was the assertion that Iran is also “directing” the so-called special groups’ actions in Iraq.
Any assertion of tactical command role played by Iran in armed clashes, like what happened in Basra last week, could have immense consequences on US relations with Iran. It would renew concern that such assertions could be precursor to a military attack on Iran, even though the mathematics involving the availability of US troops to open a new front against Iran is highly questionable.
Petreaus’s assertion that the Iraqi leaders, notwithstanding their close ties to Iran, are also recognizing the threat posed by Iran was also very significant. This was a hint that Iran could be supporting the Mahdi Army and other Shia extremist special groups at the expense of the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad. If correct, we should expect renewed fighting inside Iraq and the widening of conflict beyond the borders with Iran.
Ahmadinejad also said that later today he would announce “newer achievements in Iran’s nuclear program.” It is expected that the new development would be the installation at Natanz of 300 advanced IR-2 centrifuges, capable of enriching uranium up to three times faster than the current P-1 type machines.
Iran says it needs the new centrifuges to accelerate the production of nuclear fuel needed to run electricity-generating nuclear reactors. The problem with the argument is the fact that Iran does not have a single nuclear reactor in operation today. The Russians are completing the construction of the country’s first reactor at Bushehr. But the fuel needed for that reactor has already been supplied to Iran by the Russians. The construction and completion of any new nuclear reactor would take years, if not decades. Hence the argument that Iran would need so much enriched uranium today for the reactors to be built in distant future simply does not hold.
With 6,000 P-1 centrifuges installed and the advanced IR-2 machines being added to the inventory, Iran should be able to produce considerable amounts of enriched uranium in the coming months.
Iran can reprocess the enriched uranium at Natanz to produce highly-enriched uranium that can in turn be processed to produce uranium metal, the core of uranium-based nuclear weapons. IAEA has confronted Iran with questions on that very process. The agency has provided Iran with the intelligence showing that it was in possession of technical drawings for reprocessing highly-enriched uranium into uranium metal and of high explosion tests required in a nuclear weaponization program. Iran has so far refused to discuss the details with IAEA, only calling the reports “baseless.”
Today’s announcement of doubling the country’s uranium enrichment capabilities and adding the most advanced centrifuges to the inventory can only increase suspicions that Iran is getting ready to produce nuclear weapons.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Press TV reported that Iranian Ambassador to the UN Mohammad Khazaei had provided the UN with historical and legal documents proving Iran’s sovereignty over the islands.
Press TV, also covering Elham’s press conference, quoted the government spokesman as saying that, “We welcome any talks that would prove Iran's undisputed sovereignty over the Persian Gulf islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa” [Press TV, 5 April].
Press TV added that in the letter submitted to the UN by the Iranian ambassador, Iran has called for “talks between Iranian and the UAE officials to clear all misunderstanding over the 1971 agreement.”
Is the Iranian government inviting UN-sponsored talks between Iran and UAE on the dispute over the three islands? If the reports are correct, this would be a major departure in Iranian policy regarding the three islands. Iran’s policy so far has been that the three islands are inseparable part of Iran and their ownership is not open to discussion or negotiations.
As reviewed in April 1 post here, the shah renounced Iran’s claims over Bahrain when the island became part of the Federation of Arab Emirates (FAE). In return, the FAE (which included today’s UAE) accepted Iran’s sovereignty over the three islands. In 1971, Bahrain reneged on its membership at FAE and the newly-formed UAE reneged on recognition of Iran’s sovereignty over the islands. Shah was checkmated. He approved Bahrain’s independence, but did not get the UAE recognition of Iran’s sovereignty over the islands. He occupied them.
Facing the claim by UAE over the three islands, any agreement by the shah’s government to recognize Bahrain in return for the three islands could now be challenged by Tehran. The Bahrain and the Trucial States, the predecessor of UAE, did not negotiate with the shah in good faith and the results of those negotiations could now be considered null and void.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
The Sunday Times reports that the commander of US forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is expected to tell Congress this week that Iranian forces were involved in the battle for Basra.
Last Saturday, Iran arranged negotiations in Qom between Moqtada Al Sadr and the representatives of the ruling Dawa Party and Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. Sadr issued a declaration after the meeting in Qom which led to the current ceasefire between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi security forces.
“Iran does not trade its rights in return for incentives,” government spokesman Qolam Hossein Elham said. “The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn't need incentives from Europe to obtain its rights.”
Iran has repeatedly said its right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was “non-negotiable.”
Iran reportedly has installed more than 300 of its new generation of centrifuges, IR-2, at Natanz. The new centrifuges can enrich uranium three times faster than the older P-1 machines, 3,000 of which are currently in operation at Natanz.
Friday, April 4, 2008
IR-2 centrifuges are the homemade version of the advanced P-2 centrifuges whose design Iran had obtained from Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan. The P-2 can enrich uranium gas up to three times faster than the P-1, the present workhorse of Iran’s enrichment program (there are 3,000 P-1 centrifuges currently in operation at Natanz).
Until now, Iran had difficulty to import special steel rotors needed to build the P-2’s. It appears that Iran has successfully replaced the steel rotors with rotor tubes made of carbon fiber. The resulting machine is now called IR-2.
The installation of IR-2 centrifuges at Natanz indicates that Iran is entering an advanced stage of nuclear development. The new machines will be on display on 8 April, a date Iran has marked as National Nuclear Technology Day. President Ahmadinejad is expected to announce “significant achievement” in the country’s nuclear program.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Today, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in Tehran that the president’s remarks were aimed at destabilizing the region. He did not elaborate why the US wants to see the region destabilized.
Iran has already test-fired Shahab-3, a ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers capable of reaching Israel and southern Europe. There have been reports that Iran is also developing a new ballistic missile, code-named Kousar, with a range of 4,000 or 5,000 kilometers (2,500 to 3,300 miles).
US plans to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in Czech Republic to counter Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in Beijing today that Wednesday’s AP report was “totally groundless.”
The news story was published after two senior diplomats who closely follow the IAEA investigation of Iran's nuclear program told AP that China gave information about Iran to the nuclear agency.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Diplomats told The Daily Telegraph that the documents triggered China’s change of heart and it decided to provide IAEA with the intelligence related to Iran’s nuclear program. This could be a significant development.
CIA Director Michael Hayden said this week that he believed that Iran is still developing a nuclear bomb.
Meanwhile, Israel has issued gas masks to its citizens in anticipation of possible military confrontation with Iran.
Update: AP was the original source of the news story on China’s providing UN with Iran’s nuclear secrets. Two senior diplomats associated with IAEA investigation of Iran's nuclear program told AP that China gave information about Iran to IAEA.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
“The continued attempts by Iran to build settlements and conduct war-games in the territorial waters, air space, economic zones and coral reefs of the occupied islands are all acts that constitute a gross violation of the UAE sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said a communiqué issued at the end of the summit.
The communiqué urged Iran to end “acts of provocation” and summit to a negotiated settlement.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said the UAE claim over the islands was “vain and baseless” as the islands were an inseparable part of Iranian territory.
The History – In 1968, the British announced that they would formally end the protectorate status of the seven emirates of the Trucial Sheikhdoms (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras al-Khaimah, Ajman, Fujairah and Umm al-Quwain) as well as that of Bahrain and Qatar.
Iran had territorial claim over Bahrain and at the time of the British announcement considered Bahrain one of its provinces (the 14th Province). The Iranian government wanted the British to hand over Bahrain to Iran now that they were ending its protectorate status. Iran was challenging Bahrain’s legal rights to independence.
Bahrain joined Qatar and the seven Trucial Sheikdoms, all the nine still under British protection, to form the Federation of Arab Emirates. The FAE was to become an independent state in 1971, the departure date for the British.
Meanwhile, the British put pressure on Shah of Iran to renounce Iran’s claim over Bahrain. In late 1968, the Iranian and British representatives began to hold secret meetings in Switzerland to find a compromise.
The British proposed that Iran occupy the three islands Abu Moussa, Greater and Lesser Tunbs which had long been claimed by Iran. The Federation of Arab Emirates, with Bahrain and the Trucial Sheikdoms as members, would then accept Iran’s sovereignty over the islands. The shah agreed.
The two sides also agreed to use the good offices of UN Secretary General (U Thant) to facilitate the agreements. UN would later send a “fact-finding” mission to Bahrain and its representative would “determine” that the Bahrainis preferred independence over ties with Iran. This was a face-saving move intended for the shah, who had accepted the lesser prize of the three islands.
In 1971, however, Bahrain (along with Qatar) abandoned the Federation of Arab Emirates and in August of that year declared its independence. The Trucial Sheikdoms became the United Arab Emirates. The UAE, without Bahrain, now questioned shah’s agreement with the British and did not recognize Iranian sovereignty over the islands.
Shah was checkmated. Bahrain was now independent and the UAE was not recognizing Iran’s historical claims over the islands.
Observations - Any agreement by the shah’s government to recognize Bahrain in return for the three islands could be challenged by the sitting government in Tehran. The Bahrain and UAE sides, and their legal protector at the time – the British, did not negotiate in good faith and the results of those negotiations now can be considered null and void.
The question of Bahrain and the three islands were interwoven from the beginning and should be part of a comprehensive settlement with Iran.