Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Iran Air Force on Full Alert

Iranian Air Force was put on full alert today in the wake of the continued Israeli raids on Gaza. IRIAF Commander Brig. Gen. Hassan Shah-Safi told reporters in Tehran that the ongoing situation in the Middle East has prompted the Iranian military to take necessary measures to ensure readiness in the event of the country becoming the target of an attack.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pro-Gaza Protestors Storm British Compound

More than 70 protestors, believed to be affiliated with the Basiji forces of IRGC, stormed a British Embassy compound in Qolhak, in northern Tehran. The public opinion in Iran, like in many Middle Eastern countries, has solidly turned against Israel and the West in the aftermath of Israeli bombardment of Gaza and the many casualties it has caused.

The protestors have brought down the British flag and have raised the Palestinian flag inside the compound.

The Qolhak compound has in the past been used as the summer residence of the British Ambassador in Tehran. The large property, situated in one of choice locations in the Iranian capital, has been the center of an ownership controversy with the UK. Iranians believe that the British lease on the property has been expired and it needs to be handed back to Iran. Britain considers the property as an integral part of its embassy, protected by international law.

The occupation of the compound is not all that surprising, given the Iranian claim. What is surprising is the pretext of helping the Palestinian cause in occupying the compound. The Iranian public opinion could have much easier accepted the move if it was cast in Iran vs. Britain struggle. Tying the move to the developments in Gaza would be hard to comprehend and might backfire and help the British.

Notwithstanding the move, the Iranians are real angry at the events in Gaza. Even mainstream journalists are using profanities in referring to Israel, and the West, in their reporting of the bombardments. The West is rapidly loosing the public opinion and the media war regarding Gaza.

UPDATE: A media officer at the British embassy in Tehran confirmed reports that diplomatic police had driven the demonstrators out of the compound.

Suicide Bombing in Baluchistan

A suicide bomber, affiliated with the terrorist group Jundallah, killed four policemen and wounded a dozen in an attack on a police post in the town of Saravan, in Iranian Baluchistan, near the Pakistani border.

Suicide bombings are very rare in Iran. Jundallah, an Iranian Baluch militant group, has in the past two years attacked the police and revolutionary guards in the province. The group claimed responsibility for this recent attack and said in a statement that the attack was in retaliation for the authorities' destruction of a Sunni religious school in Zabol.

Last year, Jundallah attacked a bus carrying members of IRGC, killing a score of revolutionary guards. This month, the group killed all 16 of the border guards it had kidnapped in June. Jundallah had demanded the release of 200 of its members imprisoned by Iran in return for the border guards.

Political observers in Tehran believe that Jundallah is encouraged, if not directly supported, by the US to destabilize the Islamic Republic.

Jundallah enjoys its support in the predominantly Sunni minority areas of Sistan and Baluchistan, near eastern borders with Pakistan. Other militant groups, such as PJAK, also operate in Sunni regions of Kurdistan and Khuzestan, near western borders with Iraq. Sunni militant groups in the border regions are regarded as potential armed adversaries in any attempt to destabilize Tehran’s government. Terrorist attacks employed by Jundallah, however, are bound to further isolate these groups in the society, especially in the media and the public opinion.

Iranian MPs tell UN to halt Gaza Onslaught

From PressTV:

The Iranian parliament has urged the United Nations to make efforts to halt the atrocities Israel is committing against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.

Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi conveyed the message of the Iranian lawmakers to Knut Ostby, the new UN Resident Coordinator in Iran, in Tehran on Tuesday.

In their message, the Iranian parliamentarians stated that the Israeli military attack on the Gaza Strip, which has killed over 380 Palestinians and injured about 1,800 others, is a clear act of genocide.

The MPs urged UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to implement the provisions of the UN Security Council and to set up a special tribunal to try the Israeli war criminals who have committed the genocide, IRNA reported.

Ostby expressed regret over the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and described the measures taken by the UN to halt the Israeli invasion.

The UN secretary general has strongly condemned the Israeli attack on the Palestinian people and has urged Israel to stop the onslaught, he explained.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Interior Minister given power over law enforcement

From PressTV:

Commander-in-Chief of Iran's Armed Forces has placed the country's Law Enforcement Agency under the interior minister's supervision.

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, agreed on Monday to a request by Iran's Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli to transfer all responsibilities of the country's law enforcement organization to the newly-appointed minister.

"I grant you the position of deputy to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and will shortly communicate your official duties to you," Ayatollah Khamenei said in a letter to Mahsouli on Monday.

The Iranian interior minister had earlier made a request to the Leader asking for executive powers in the country's Law Enforcement Agency.

In his letter to Ayatollah Khamenei, Mahsouli argued that for the Interior Ministry to be able to fully ensure law and order in the country, the Law Enforcement Agency should be under his authority.

The new appointment comes as Iran has recently launched a campaign to crackdown on saboteurs targeting the country's moral values.

Iran’s reaction to Israel’s military strikes against Gaza

From Reuters:
Iran's Supreme Leader issued a religious decree to Muslims around the world on Sunday, ordering them to defend Palestinians in Gaza against Israeli attacks "in any way possible", state television reported.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also declared Monday a day of public mourning in Iran after Israel killed more than 280 Palestinians in two days of air strikes on Gaza.

"All Palestinian combatants and all the Islamic world's pious people are obliged to defend the defenceless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible," Khamenei said.

"Whoever is killed in this legitimate defence, is considered a martyr," he said in a statement.

A religious decree is an official statement by a ranking religious leader that commands Muslims to carry out its message. While there is no religious and legal force behind it, Khamenei is respected by many Iranian and non-Iranian Shi'ites.

Khamenei criticised some Arab governments for their lack of response towards the Israeli raids.

"The even greater catastrophe is the encouraging silence of some Arab governments who claim to be Islamic," he said, also accusing the West of being indifferent to the killing of Palestinians.

Khamenei, Iran's most powerful authority, urged Muslim countries to punish Israeli leaders.

"The officials of this regime ... should be tried and punished for this crime by Islamic governments."

Khamenei's remarks were interpreted by some oil traders as a hint that Iran was calling on oil-producing Arab countries to disrupt energy shipments to Israel.

Tehran denounced Israel's attacks as "unforgivable" on Saturday. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the raids showed Israel's "weakness".

Explosion at armaments plant in Isfahan

Eight people have been killed in an explosion in an armaments plant in Isfahan province in central Iran, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Sunday. The blast occurred late Saturday in a defense industries plant in Zarin Shahr. The cause of the blast is under investigation.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ahmadinejad's 'alternative' Christmas message - Updated

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered a Christmas message broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4. Click here for the full text of the message.

Update: Video of the Channel 4 broadcast:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Russian S-300s on way to guarding Iran's nuclear sites

From Debka File:
Despite the efforts of US and Israeli leaders, Moscow has begun delivering the highly sophisticated medium-range air defense S-300 system to Iran for securing its nuclear and strategic sites against potential attack.

The RIA news agency reported Wednesday night, Dec. 18: "Moscow has earlier met its obligations to supply Tor-M1 (short-range) systems to Iran and is currently implementing its contract to deliver S-300 systems."

DEBKAfile's military sources disclose the S-300 deliveries began two weeks ago.

Their installation, coinciding with the return home of members of Iranian air defense officers from training in Russia, means that air or missile attacks on Iranian sites will henceforth be extremely difficult and carry a high price.

On 9th October, DEBKAfile's Moscow sources reported that Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert failed in the key mission of his trip to persuade Russian leaders to refrain from selling this advanced weapon to Iran and Syria.

On July 9, US Secretary of State Robert Gates said: "Based on what I know, it's highly unlikely that those air defense missiles would be in Iranian hands any time soon." Clearly, Gates was misinformed and his intelligence wrong, since five months on, those missiles are on their way to Iran.

While both the Bush administration and Israeli leaders insisted that a military option remained on the table if Iran persisted in its nuclear weapons program, neither took into account that Tehran was not deterred or standing idle.

This week, the Israeli defense ministry announced that Amos Gilead, a high official, would travel to Moscow Wednesday, Dec. 17 in a final bid to hold the Kremlin's hand. But Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak had missed another boat.

DEBKAfile's military and intelligence sources report that after Iran, Moscow will install the S-300 in Syria, focusing on securing the Russian naval bases going up in the Mediterranean port of Tartous. By selling these countries top-line weaponry, Moscow is strengthening its military presence and influence in two Middle East countries of especial interest to the United States and Israel – a tactic Soviet Russian employed in the Cold War.

Iranian Warships in the Gulf of Aden

Iran has reportedly sent a fleet of warships into the Gulf of Aden to protect vessels against pirates off the coast of Somalia.

Fars News Agency is reporting that the Iranian fleet arrived in the Gulf of Aden after traveling some 4,000 maritime miles, and carried out a naval exercise in preparation for a potential clash with the pirates.

Iran said last month it was negotiating with pirates who seized a ship it had chartered but that it was ready to use force to free the vessel.

The Hong-Kong-registered cargo ship Delight, with a 25-strong crew and 36,000 tons of wheat, was attacked in November in the Gulf of Aden as it headed for the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

The attack was the second since August 21, when Iran's Diyanat cargo ship was hijacked after passing the Horn of Africa.

Iranian officials have warned that Iran is mulling over a military option against Somali pirates.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

MiGs for Lebanon

According to the LA Times blog, Russia has offered to donate ten MiG-29 fighter planes to Lebanon .

“But at least one Lebanese official said the deal was impractical. According to a senior Lebanese military official, the Russian offer seems “implausible” and surpasses the capacity of the Lebanese army.

“It is an unnaturally big step for the Lebanese army,” he told the Los Angeles Times on condition of anonymity, adding that Lebanon does not have the proper infrastructure, nor the trained personnel to make use of the fighter jets. Lebanon was totally not expecting the Russians to make this offer.”

Iran flies the MiG-29. Surely, the Islamic Republic would be willing to lend a hand, should the jets be donated.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Nasrallah receives honorary degree from Iranian university

From China View:
Lebanon's Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah received an honorary doctorate from an Iranian university in Isfahan, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Sunday.

Nasrallah was granted the degree "in the field of political science, as a part of the events to mark the university's 300th birthday," the report said.

The degree was received by an envoy in Nasrallah's absence.

Nasrallah thanked Iran, in a statement read at the ceremony, for "25 years of support and aid for the Hezbollah organization and its warriors in southern Lebanon," adding that his group had won "two big triumphs" against "the most equipped armed forces in the region," referring implicitly to Israel.

He also stressed in the statement that "Iran's support was always the main factor in the victories and it always will be."

Iran reports reforms in missile production

From Press TV:
Iran is set to revolutionize its Defense Ministry's missile production division in an effort to boost the country's defensive capabilities.

Head of the Aerospace Organization in the Defense Ministry, Brigadier General Mehdi Farahi, said Monday that the entire structure of the organization along with the company's policies will be renewed.

"The reforms are intended to promote efficiency and help fulfill the requirements of the country's Armed Forces," Brig. Gen. Farahi told Fars News Agency.

The organization has been actively manufacturing rocket artillery systems to help Iran's military self-sufficiency campaign directed at enhancing the country's defense capabilities in the face of war threats.

The newly-developed surface-to-surface Sejjil missile, the long-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile along with Zelzal and Fateh missiles are among the productions of the unit.

The Shahab-3 reportedly has a range of up to 1,250 miles (2000 kilometers) and is capable of carrying a 1,000-760 kilogram warhead.

This is while the solid-fuel, two-stage Sejjil missile with two engines, is capable of reaching a very high altitude and therefore has a longer range than that of the Shahab 3 model.

The report comes as Israeli sources had earlier expressed concern about Iran's progress on indigenous missile production.

A report by Haaretz claimed earlier in December that Iran has recently tripled its missile arsenal, alleging that "the number of Shihab-3 missiles in Iran's possession has gone from roughly 30 at the start of 2008 to more than 100."

Haaretz voiced Israeli concerns that "the Islamic Republic remains tireless in its efforts to step up defensive capabilities against Israel."

This is while Iranian military officials highlight the Islamic Republic's defensive doctrine and say that Iran would only use its domestically-manufactured missiles in the event of an attack on the country.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Growing Iranian-Israeli Tensions

Thousands of Iranians today chanted “Death to Israel” as they demonstrated in Tehran against Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

Today’s demonstrations took place amid growing concern over the possibility of an imminent Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Israeli observers have speculated that such an attack might be launched in the last weeks of the Bush presidency.

The renewed talks of war and the recent harsh verbal attacks on Israel by the Iranian president and today’s anti-Israeli demonstrations in Tehran have raised tensions between the two countries to a level not seen in a long time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Iran triples its arsenal of Shahab-3 missiles

Janes Defence News is reporting that Iran is accelerating missile production in preparation for possible conflict.

Iran more than tripled its arsenal of Shahab-3 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) in 2008, Western intelligence sources have said, in a sign that the country is preparing for a prolonged conflict.

"At the beginning of 2008 [Iran] had about 30 operational missiles compared with more than 100 missiles today," an intelligence source told Jane's.

With the Israelis and US strengthening Israeli missile defenses, it is only natural that to maintain deterence the Iranians would build up their forces as fast as possible. Also, from the perspective of Iran, it is essential that in the event of war it be able to inflict some form of damage to counter that inflicted by more powerful aggressors. Thus a crash system to build more Shahabs makes sense, from a defensive posture.

Iran on contract for S-300 SAM system

Aviation Week is reporting on their blog that Iran is on contract for delivery of the S-300 (SA-20) SAM system.

“The Iranians are on contract for SA-20,” says a senior, U.S. government official. The U.S. and Israel now face a “huge set of challenges in the future that we’ve never had [before]. We’ve been lulled into a false sense of security because our operations over the last 20 years involved complete air dominance and we’ve been free to operate in all domains,” he adds.

Other senior officials independently confirm that Iran will get the Russian SA-20 strategic SAM system, irrespective of Kremlin protestations to the contrary. Tehran’s deployment of such a system would mark a step-up in capability, and considerably improve the country’s ability to defend its controversial nuclear facilities where the West remains concerned that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.

The proliferation of so-called double-digit surface-to-air missile systems – such as the Almaz Antey SA-20 (S-300PMU1/S-300PMU2) – poses an increasing threat to non-stealthy aircraft, and will force changes in tactics and operational planning. The SA-20 has an engagement envelope of up to 150 kilometers; and Iran may be signed up for the S-300PMU-2 variant of the system.

Russia could use Byelorussia as the route for a sale, allowing it to deny any direct involvement, says a U.S. official. It would likely take the Iranian armed forces some time, as much as 22 months, to become proficient in the operation of the SA-20, however, any deal would almost certainly cover training support of the system in the interim. Analysts suggest ships delivering the missiles and the training, support and assembly areas could become targets.

Janes Defence News reported earlier in the year that Byelorussia was exporting the S-300 to Iran. Russia recently defended its sales of defensive weapons to Iran.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Reading List – December 9, 2008

-Iran's Basij Force -- The Mainstay Of Domestic Security
By Hossein Aryan
Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty

-Has Iran Achieved a Nuclear Weapons Breakout Capability?
Not Yet, But Soon.

By David Albright, Jacqueline Shire, and Paul Brannan
Institute for Science and International Security

-Iran’s Breakout Incapability
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Asia Times Online

-Student Day in Iran
By Farideh Farhi
Informed Comment: Global Affairs

Unity 87 (pictorial)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Iran Tests New Missile

The Fars News Agency photo reportedly shows Nasr-1 missile at test launch
Gulf of Oman
6 December 2008

Iran has test-launched a new missile during its naval war games in the Gulf of Oman. Nasr-1 (Victory-1) missile was launched on Saturday from a warship and reportedly hit its surface target at a distance of 30 km (19 miles).

The Iranian Navy has deployed over 60 ships and other military hardware during the Ettehad-87 (Unity-08) naval exercises.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ahmadinejad’s Government Might Face No-Confidence Vote

The Majlis deputies have introduced no-confidence bills on four cabinet members: Eskandari, Minister of Agriculture; Ali-Ahmadi, Minister of Education; Lankarani, Minister of Health; Soleymani, Minister of Communications and Information Technology.

Reports from Tehran indicate that enough deputies have signed the no-confidence petitions. The speaker of Majlis on Wednesday was forced to announce that he would put the no-confidence bills on the chamber’s agenda.

Iran’s constitution (Article 136) requires the government to ask for a vote of confidence for the entire cabinet if more than half its original ministers were to be replaced. Already half of the ministers have been either replaced by Ahmadinejad or ousted as a result of no-confidence votes in the Majlis. A no-confidence vote for any of the four ministers would tip the balance.

Relations between Ahmadinejad’s government and the current Majlis have reached a low point and political observers believe that Ahmadinejad might loose a confidence vote for his cabinet if he is forced to ask for one. Such development would be a major blow to Ahmadinejad’s authority, forcing him to form a new cabinet acceptable to the increasingly hostile Majlis.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Iran Plans to Send Animals into Space

From Fars News Agency:
Iran's Aerospace Research Institute said the country plans to launch further exploratory rockets into space with live animals aboard, paving the way for manned space flights.

Mohammad Ebrahimi, deputy head of Iran's Aerospace Research Institute, said Tuesday Iran plans to send Kavoshgar (Explorer) 3 and 4 rockets into space in the near future.

The Kavoshgar 2 was successfully launched on Wednesday. The rocket consisted of a carrier, space-lab and restoration system.

Ebrahimi said the rocket analyzed air pressure and wind speed, and conducted astronomical tests at altitudes of 50 to 200 km (30 to 125 miles).

The Kavoshgar 2 is a two-stage solid fuel rocket capable of carrying a small payload and reentering the lower atmosphere with a high degree of accuracy.

The Iranian scientist said future rockets would be designed to carry live animals. Such an ability would pave the way for Iran to send men into space, he added.

IRIAF Phantoms in action during Unity 87

According to Fars News Agency dispatches, Iranian F-4E Phantom II fighter jets accomplished their missions successfully in the second stage of Unity 87 drills, destroying target vessels with AGMs (air-to-ground missiles) and bombs.

The main stage of 'Unity 87' wargames will take place on Thursday.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Unity 87 Naval Maneuver

From Press TV:
The Islamic Republic has successfully completed the first stage of a six-day naval maneuver in the sea of Oman, says a top admiral.

Iran's Deputy Naval Chief Qasem Rostamabadi said Tuesday that the 'Unity 87' maneuvers --which kicked off Sunday--will also include multi-phased operations in the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf.

"The maneuver is aimed at testing a number of domestically-built naval equipments and military hardware in a bid to enhance the country's deterrent might," he said.

Admiral Rostamabadi said the Iranian navy forces successfully launched a number of psychological and tactical operations against hypothetical enemy units in the first stage of 'Unity 87' over the past two days.

He added that the second stage of the naval maneuver would begin on Wednesday Dec.3.

The Iranian navy has so far developed a number of 'exclusive' military equipment such as stealth micro submarines, vessels, and lightweight aircraft, in an effort to maintain the sovereignty and integrity of the country's coastal waters.

About 60 warships are participating in the maneuver, covering 50,000-square miles of Iranian territorial waters. Iran’s air force is also a participant.

Reading List - December 2, 2008

-'Joint experts' statement on Iran' recommends sweeping changes to US policy
The Daily Star

-Build New or Buy Old
Geoffrey Forden
Arms Contol Wonk

-Designing Iran’s ICBM from the Ground Up
Geoffrey Forden
Arms Contol Wonk

-Once again, Iran launches a space rocket…
Geoffrey Forden
Arms Contol Wonk

-Kavosh at its Peak
Geoffrey Forden
Arms Contol Wonk

Monday, December 1, 2008

Kazakhstan-Caspian Oil Pipeline

Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR and Kazakhstan's state monopoly KazMunaiGaz have signed an agreement to transfer Kazak oil across the Caspian Sea for entry into the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline and subsequent re-export to world markets.

The Kazakhstan-Caspian Transportation System (KCTS), as the new pipeline would be called, is to enable Kazakhstan to finally double its oil export capacity, a goal that has for long eluded it. KCTS is expected to handle 500,000 bpd by 2012, rising to 750,000 bpd later.

KCTS would also be a response to Russia’s unwillingness or inability to implement long-discussed Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) line. The CPC line takes oil from the Tengiz deposit in northwest Kazakhstan across southern Russia to the port of Novorossiisk on the Black Sea.