Sunday, May 31, 2009

Jundallah Claims Responsibility for Bombing

Jundallah (Soldiers of God), the militant Sunni group operating in Iranian Baluchistan, has taken responsibility for the bombing of a prominent Shia mosque in Zahedan, Baluchistan’s provincial capital, Pan-Arab channel Al Arabiya reported today. The terrorist attack last Thursday killed 25 people and injured more than 50 others.

Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Pakistan ambassador to Tehran over Jundallah’s link to the bombing. The group maintains sanctuary inside Pakistani Baluchistan.

Maj. Gen. Hassan Firozabad, chief of joint staff of Iran’s armed forces, had said on Saturday that Iran has located the group’s headquarters inside Pakistan. Gen. Firouzabadi’s claim has not been verified by independent sources. Iran also summarily executed three people in Zahedan on Saturday, linking them to the bombing.

On Friday, gunmen on motorcycles shot at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's campaign office in Zahedan, injuring three people.

Bomb Defused on Plane

Iran’s security forces reported today that they have defused a home-made bomb left on a Kish Airlines plane carrying 131 passengers from Ahvaz to Tehran on Saturday [IRNA, 31 May]. The airliner had to make an emergency landing at Ahvaz international airport minutes after takeoff.

YaariNews, close to former President Mohammad Khatami, said Khatami was planning to come back to Tehran from Ahvaz about the same time, but he changed his schedule and departed earlier. It was not clear whether Khatami was the target.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Election Campaign Heats Up!

Ahmadinejad's Supporters. Economist Photo

Mousavi's Supporters. IRNA Photo

The campaign for the 12 June presidential election in Iran is heating up. The incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is running for re-election. No sitting president in Islamic Republic has ever lost reelection to the second term. Mir Hossein Mousavi, Ahmadinejad’s strongest challenger, wants to break that tradition and defeat Ahmadinejad.

There are 46 million registered voters for the 12 June election. The outcome would most likely depend on the actual turnout. If more than 30 million voters participate in the election, as it increasingly seems likely, then the election will be expected to go to a second round, scheduled for 19 June, for a likely faceoff between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. A low turnout would favor Ahmadinejad who can count on some 10-13 million votes.

Mousavi introduced official campaign color to the Iranian presidential campaigns, picking green worn by his supporters. Ahmadinejd is countering the move by having his supporters wearing Iran’s Tricolors.

There are two other candidates on the ballot: Mehdi Karrubi, a reformist cleric and Mohsen Rezaie, a former IRGC commander. Their chances of entering into the second round look increasingly dim.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bomb Kills 20, Wounds 80 in Zahedan

Bomb Explosion Destroyed Parts of
Shia Mosque in Zahedan, Leaving 20 Dead, 80 Injured
ILNA Photo. 28 May 2009

An explosion at Ali Ibn Abitaleb Mosque in the southeast Iranian city of Zahedan killed at least 20 people and wounded 80. Some of the wounded are in critical condition. The explosion occurred at 1945 local time (1500 GMT) on Thursday evening during the evening prayer. Large parts of the Shia mosque were also destroyed [ILNA].

At 2300 local time, the governor of Sistan and Baluchistan (Zahedan is its provincial capital) told reporters that the police has arrested the people involved in the bombing. He did not identify the attackers, either by name or affiliation.

The majority in the restive Sistan and Baluchistan province belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. Destruction of a prominent Shia mosque in the region’s major city will add to the growing tensions there.

Iran accused US of orchestrating the attack. The US government denied the accusation.

On Friday 29 May, gunmen attacked President Ahmadinejad's reelection campaign offices in Zahedan, wounding three people. Gunmen on motorcycles opened fire at the offices at around 1900 local time (1430 GMT).

Three men were hanged in public in Zahedan on Saturday morning 30 May after being convicted for their involvement in the bombing. The arrests, trials, conviction and execution took place within two working days, raising serious questions about the accuracy and the fairness of the trials.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Iran Deploys Six Warships to Gulf of Aden

An Iranian Warship
Fars News Agency file photo

Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari in a surprising statement delivered to a gathering of defense officials in Tehran today said that Iran has sent six warships into the Gulf of Aden and the international waters surrounding it.

"Iran has dispatched six warships to international waters and the Gulf of Aden region in a historically unprecedented move by the Iranian Navy," Adm. Sayyari told a gathering of defense officials, Fars News Agency reported [FNA, 25 May 2009]. The six ship were not identified.

Deploying six warships to international waters is an unprecedented move for the IRIN. The move, following the launch last week of the advanced surface-to-surface missile Sejil 2, can be viewed as muscle flexing by Iran.

The country’s president today also defiantly said in Tehran that Iran will not participate in P5+1 negotiations over its nuclear program, reversing recent statements by Iran that it was ready to sit at the negotiation table with P5+1.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Iran's Presidents: 1980 - 2009

4 February 1980- 22 June 1981: Abolhassan Banisadr, the first president of Iran following the abolition of monarchy, received 79% of the votes; removed from office by the Supreme Leader, Imam Khomeini, on 22 June 1981; fled the country and went into exile in Paris on 10 July 1981.

15-30 August 1981: Mohammad Ali Rajai, assassinated by a bomb blast planted by MKO in his office after only 14 days serving as president.

2 October 1981- 3 August 1989: Ali Khamenei, became president in a landslide victory with 95% of the votes, re-elected for a second term; succeeded Imam Khomeini as Islamic Republic’s second supreme leader upon Khomeini’s death on 3 June 1989 (serving for more than 2 months as both the president and the supreme leader); Khamenei has been the country’s top leader for nearly 20 years.

3 August 1989- 2 August 1997: Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; dubbed as the "reconstuction" president for his efforts to jump start the economy after eight years of war with Iraq, re-elected to a second term; currently chairman of the Assembly of Expert and the Expediency Council.

2 August 1997 – 3 August 2005: Mohammad Khatami; dubbed as the "reformist" president for his government's support of basic freedoms of Iranian citizens; won a surprising victory in 1997 as the head of a popular movement known as 2 Khordad Movement, re-elected with even larger margin; remains an active and popular ex-president.

3 August 2005- Present: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; the sixth president (because his three predecessors each served two terms in office, his administration is called the "Ninth Government"), running for reelection on 12 June as the main principlist (hardliner) candidate.

20 June 2009: First round of presidential elections; four candidates selected by the Guardian Council, from top left: Mehdi Karrubi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (incumbent), Mohsen Rezaie and Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Terms in Office: The presidential terms are for four years. Each person can not be elected to more than two consecutive terms, but can run again after being out of office for at least one term (Rafsanjani ran and lost to Ahmdinejad in 2005, and Khatami started his campaign this year only to withdraw after Mousavi declared his candidacy).

Selection Process: A governmental body, the Guardian Council, selects candidates deemed to be acceptable to the Islamic Republic. This year, the Council chose four candidates (pictured above). Many highly-qualified candidates, including a former interior minister in Khatami administration, did not even run, being certain that their candidacies would be disapproved by the Guardian Council on political grounds. The selection process by the Guardian Council has continuously tainted the legitimacy of the electoral process in the Islamic Republic.

The Title:
The title of president is misleading for the office. Iran's presidents are equivalent to prime ministers. The "Leader," commonly referred to in English as the Supreme Leader, is not only the head of state but holds executive power over the most crucial branches of the government, including the military and the judiciary. Combined with the fact that the Leaders serve for lifetime, they are equivalent to the shahs of Iran.

Mousavi Campaign Gains Momentum

Mousavi at a campaign rally in Isfahan
24 May 2009. ISNA photo

A female supporter wearing wristband in campaign's green color
Ray. 24 May 2009. ILNA Photo

A campaign rally in Tehran
24 May 2009. ISNA Photo

The campaign of former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi to unseat the siting president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is gaining momentum. The first round of presidential elections will be held on 12 June. Mousavi needs to take the elections to the second round for a one-to-one faceoff with Ahmadinejad and a chance to become the seventh president of the Islamic Republic.

Fath 40 Naval Cannon

Iran’s Defense Ministry today launched a warship cannon production line to produce 40-mm naval canons with the optimal range of 12 km (more than seven miles). The Fath 40 canon is designed as an anti-cruise missile weapon.

"The Fath 40-millimetre naval cannon has the optimal range of 12 kilometers and shoots 300 projectiles per minute and can be used against cruise missiles," Iran's Defense Minister Mohammad Mostafa Najjar said. “This weapon is an anti-aircraft low-altitude weapon and is used on warships.” [Fars News Agency, 24 May 2009].

No independent verification of Gen. Najjar’s comments was available.

IRGC Officers Killed in Venezuela

Venezuelan Officers Inspecting the Crash Site
Four IRGC Officers Were Repotetedly Killed in the Crash
3 May 2009. Tabnak Photo

Iranian news website Tabnak, quoting Asharq Alawsat, reported today that four IRGC officers were killed in the crash of a Venezuelan military helicopter on May 3rd in Venezuela-Columbia border region. The IRGC officers were in the country to be trained on the use of advanced night vision goggles purchased by IRGC from Venezuela.

The four officers were part of a team of high-ranking Iranian defense officials, headed by Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, which had arrived in Caracas on 30 April 2009. The names or the ranks of the four officers have not been disclosed.

is controlled by former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaie.

AF/PAK Presidents in Tehran

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (top) and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari
being Greeted by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Tehran. 24 May 2009
ILNA Photos

Presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan arrived in Tehran today for a tripartite summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The worsening security situation in AF/PAK tribal areas and drug trafficking in the region were at top of the summit's agenda.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Khatami Backs Mousavi

Khatami Addressing Mousavi Supporters at Azadi Campaign Rally
Tehran. Azadi Stadium. 23 May 2009
ILNA and
IRNA Photos

Iran’s former reformist president Mohammad Khatami today openly threw his support behind former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has emerged as the main rival to President Ahmadinejad in the 12 June presidential elections.

Speaking to thousands of young supporters at a rally in Tehran’s indoor Azadi (Freedom) sports stadium, Khatami urged the cheering crowd to “stand up and do not miss this rare opportunity.”

“All of you, come to the ballot boxes and by writing down the name of Mir Hossein Mousavi, fulfill your duty to the revolution and to Islam and also define your own fate,” Khatami said [IRNA, 23 May].
Many in the crowd dressed in Mousavi’s trademark green color or wearing green scarves or wristbands.

“I know that filtering of thoughts and restriction of freedom has increased ... Interference in electoral matters ahead of the election and at the time of the election has also increased in order to prevent the will of the people from being heard,” Khatami said.

Even as he spoke, ILNA News Agency reported that Iran had blocked access to Facebook ahead of the polls, allegedly to prevent supporters of Mousavi from using the site for his campaign.

“According to certain Internet surfers, the site was banned because supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi were using Facebook to better disseminate the candidate’s positions,” ILNA reported.

Sejil 2 vs. Shahab 3

Sejil 2

Photos: Fars News Agency

The Sejil 2 missile that was successfully launched from Semnan, in northern Iran, on Wednesday is the improved version of Sejil, a new generation of surface-to-surface rockets launched on 12 November 2008. The Sejil is replacing the relatively older surface-to-surface Ashoura missile launched in November 2007.

The Sejil, however, is distinctively different from Shahab-3, a long-range ballistic missile, last test-fired on 10 July 2008. They represent significant advance in Iran’s rocket capabilities.

Fuel: Sejil 2 uses solid fuel as opposed to liquid fuel used on Shahab 3. Solid-propellant rockets can be fueled in advance and moved and stored into underground silos. The liquid-propellant rockets need to be fueled and fired quickly.

Structure: Sejil 2 is a two-stage rocket, allowing it to reach higher altitudes, increasing its range, and to accelerate more efficiently when the first stage drops off.

Speed: Sejil 2 Much faster than Shahab 3.

2000-2500 km range for Sejil 2; 2,000 km for Shahab 3.

Navigation: Sejil 2 uses improved positioning system receivers on the launchers and in the missiles, making them more accurate than Shahab 3.

The Sejil, Shahab as well as Zelzal and Fateh missiles are manufactured in Iran by the Aerospace Organization of the Ministry of Defense.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Obama on Resolving Iran Nuclear Issues

President Obama said in Washington today that by not pursuing nuclear weapons, Iran will take its rightful place in the community of nations.

“Iran is a country of extraordinary history and extraordinary potential… We want them to be a full-fledged member of the international community and be in a position to provide opportunities and prosperity for their people. But ... the way to achieve those goals is not through the pursuit of a nuclear weapon.”

Referring to his diplomatic overtures toward Tehran, Obama warned the Islamic Republic against using talks as an excuse to proceed with the development and deployment of nuclear weapons, and effectively put an end-of-the-year deadline for resolving the nuclear issues.

“We're not going to create a situation in which talks become an excuse for inaction, while Iran proceeds with developing and deploying a nuclear weapon,” the president said. “My expectation would be that if we can begin discussions soon, shortly after the Iranian elections [in June], we should have a fairly good sense by the end of the year as to whether they are moving in the right direction and whether the parties involved are making progress and that there's a good faith effort to resolve differences.”

“I firmly believe it is in Iran’s interest not to develop nuclear weapons, because it would trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and be profoundly destabilizing in all sorts of ways,” said President Obama.

“Iran can achieve its interests of security and international respect and prosperity for its people through other means, and I am prepared to make what I believe will be a persuasive argument, that there should be a different course taken.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Presidential Debates

From top left: Ahmadinejad, Mousavi, Rezaie and Karrubi
AFP Photo / Press TV logo

Iran’s presidential candidates will debate each other in six one-and-half hour televised programs starting 2 June, ISNA reported today.

2 June: Karoubi-Rezai
3 June: Ahmadinejad-Mousavi
4 June: Mousavi-Rezai
6 June: Ahmadinejad-Karoubi
7 June: Karoubi-Mousavi
8 June: Ahmadinejad-Rezai

Air time: 1800-1930 GMT (1300-1430 EST) on IRTV3

Iran Nuke "Calamitous" - Mullen

Admiral Mike Mullen at Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington. 21 May 2009. Flickr Photo

Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, said today that the consequences of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon would be “calamitous” and major powers must act together to prevent it.

“I'm one who believes that Iran getting a nuclear weapon is calamitous for the region and for the world," Adm. Mullen told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“It then, in my view, generates neighbors who feel exposed, deficient and then develop or buy the capability themselves,” he said. “The downside, potentially, is absolutely disastrous.”

“Major leaders, internationally, have got to come together to arrest this growth or the long-term downside for the people in the world is really, really tragic and drastic,” Mullen concluded.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sejil-2 Video

Sejil-2 . 20 May 2009
Press TV Video


Sejil-2 Test Fired. 20 May 2009
Fars News Agency Photos

Today Iran test-fired its longest-range solid-propellant missile, Sejil-2. The new missile has a 2000-2500 km range. Tehran had test-fired shorter-range Sejil-1 missile last November.

Solid-propellant rockets can be fueled in advance and moved into silos, making them more potent than liquid-propellant rockets which need to be fueled and fired quickly.

Iran Chooses Acceptable Candidates for President

From top left: Karrubi, Ahmadinejad, Rezaie and Mousavi

Iran announced today that four current and former officials have been approved from a long list of candidates to run for president in the 12 June elections.
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the sitting president
  • Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a former premier
  • Mehdi Karrubi, a former speaker of Majlis
  • Mohsen Rezaie, a former IRGC commander

The irony of the announcement could not be overlooked: the Islamic Republic is empowering its citizens to choose the head of their government, but the very same government first must approve who can run for presidency! Another sad day for the proponents of democracy in Iran.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Netanyahu in Washington

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Washington Today. He will be meeting President Obama at the White House on Monday. In an interview with Newsweek, to be published on 25 May, Obama said he cannot tell Israel not to fear Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"I understand very clearly that Israel considers Iran an existential threat, and given some of the statements that have been made by President Ahmadinejad, you can understand why," Obama told Newsweek.

"Their calculation of costs and benefits are going to be more acute," Obama added. "They're right there in range and I don't think it's my place to determine for the Israelis what their security needs are."

In the Newsweek interview, Obama said he wanted to offer Iran an opportunity to align itself with international norms and international rules.

"We are going to reach out to them and try to shift off of a pattern over the last 30 years that hasn't produced results in the region," he said.

Obama added if the overtures to the Islamic Republic failed, "The fact that we have tried will strengthen our position in mobilizing the international community, and Iran will have isolated itself."

In a related development, Strategy Page reported today that MIG-29s have been observed flying over Israel.

“Israeli F-16 pilots were training against one or more MiG-29s, borrowed from an unnamed country, and operated by Israeli pilots.”

The MIG-29 Folcrum interceptors are the most modern aircraft deployed by IRIAF to protect Iran’s airspace.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Karrubi Criticizes Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust Stand

Presidential candidate Mehdi Karrubi, in harshest language leveled against the sitting president, today criticized Ahmadinejad for his stand on the Holocaust.

“Ahmadinejad has done Israel the greatest service by speaking of the Holocaust because now the world has risen to support Israel,” Karrubi said [Etemad-e Melli, 16 May 2009]. “Why do we speak of the Holocaust, do we want to defend Hitler,” asked Karrubi.

Karrubi has been outspoken in his views that Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust has reinforced Iran’s isolation on international stage.

Ahmadinejad to Host Summit with AF-PAK Presidents

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan will arrive in Tehran on Tuesday 19 May for a tripartite summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Presidential Office in Tehran did not reveal the summit agenda.

The Tehran talks are expected to focus on the rising Taliban insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic considers the Taliban an arch-enemy.

The AF-PAK presidents met with President Obama at the White House last week. The Tehran Summit is another sign that the Obama administration is actively encouraging US allies to engage Iran diplomatically and politically to help defeat the Taliban insurgency in the region, and to break the deadlock in US-Iran relations.

UPDATE: Pakistani President Zardari has cancelled his visit to Iran to attend the tripartite Tehran summit. The Pakistani insurgency has created unease in the government circles in Islamabad.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Khamenei in Kurdistan

Ayatollah Khamenei Reviewing Artesh and IRGC Troops
Kurdistan. 13 May 2009. IRNA Photo

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei today attended a joint Artesh/IRGC military ceremony in Sanadaj, Kurdistan. Khamenei has been touring Kurdistan in the past two days.

The militant Kurdish group PJAK has recently increased its anti-government campaign in the Kurdish northwestern areas of Iran, causing dozen deaths among law enforcement officers and personnel.

Basij-PJAK Clashes in Northwestern Iran

Mourners in the northwestern Iranian city of Urumieh
Three Basijis were killed in clashes with PJAK
Press TV Photo . 13 May 2009

Iran's Basiji Forces have killed five PJAK militants near the borders with Turkey and Iraq. The clashes in the northwestern area of Arbilan, in West Azerbaijan province, also resulted in the death of three Basiji soldiers. [Kayhan, 13 May].

Last Friday, the outlawed Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) forces attacked a police station in the town of Ravansar, in northern part of western Kermanshah province and that clash led to the killing of 10 rebels and 10 Iranian police.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vali Nasr in Iran

Vali Nasr
Photo published by Tabnak . 12 May 2009

Iran’s news website Tabnak is reporting that Vali Nasr, an Iran expert and an assistant to Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is visiting Tehran. Tabnak is linking Nasr’s visit to Iran to Roxana Saberi’s release from prison [Tabnak, 12 May 2009].

No independent confirmation of Nasr’s visit to Iran or his role in Saberi’s freedom were available.

's report also indicates that Nasr's visit was arranged by Majlis speaker Ali Larijani and former Majlis speaker Haddad Adel, hinting that they obtained Ayatollah Khamenei's approval for the visit. The article also claims that President Ahmadinejad was kept in dark and was not told about the visit until after Nasr arrived in Tehran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki confirmed Vali Nasr's visit to Tehran. Responding to a reporter's question on Nasr's visit, Mottaki said in Tehran that "Iranians anywhere in the world can visit their country." [Aftab Yazd, 14 May 2009].
UPDATE II: ISNA reports that US Department of State has denied reports that Nasr has visited Iran [14 May 2009].

Khamenei on Presidential Choice

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today came close to endorsing Ahmadinejad in the 12 June presidential elections. Speaking in Kurdistan province, Khamenei spoke in coded language, implicit in support for Ahmadinejad.

“The nation knows and has witnessed the fact that if it’s elected president is full of energy and has the determination; he can instigate great service [to the nation].”
[IRNA, in Persian, 12 May 2009]

Khamenei also spoke against lavish lifestyle and corruption widely associated with Mehdi Karrubi, one of Ahmadinejad’s main rivals; calling on people to elect a simple man.

“Elect someone who feels the pain of the nation, feels the pain of the people, comes from and is close to the [ordinary] people, has a simple life, and he and his family and close relatives are free of corruption and lavish lifestyle.”

In a surprising part of the speech, Khamenei referred to enemy conspiracies to stop the upcoming presidential election, and the last Majil elections. He gave no details and did not say how the enmies were planning to halt the electoral process.

“The enemies started a growing campaign almost a year ago to stop the [presidential] election in Iran, but certainly they will not succeed. They’ve used the same tactics to stop the Majlis elections, but God’s will and the nation’s determination stopped their [conspiracy].”

Election logo courtesy of Press TV.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New US Commander in Afghanistan

Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal
New Comander of US and NATO Forces in Afghanistan

The Pentagon named a former commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to head the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal will replace Gen. David McKiernan, who was relieved of command just 11 months after he took charge in Afghanistan. McCrystal will be promoted to the rank of four-star general.

The unexpected change of command clearly signifies the nature of the unconventional war being waged in Afghanistan. The Taliban forces have gained strength recently, and the Pentagon must have wanted an unconventional warfare tactician as commander to check Taliban’s advances.

Iran Shifts from Russia to China on S-300

HQ-9 SAM System
Aftab News File Photo

Iran’s Aftab News reported today that Iran has given up its hope to purchase the potent S-300 SAM system from Russia and will instead purchase HongQi-9/FD-2000 system from China. The HQ-9 is a Chinese version of Russian S-300.

Uskowi on Iran had first posted the news on Saturday 9 May.

UPDATE: Roxana Saberi Freed

Roxana Saberi was freed from prison in Tehran. She is expected to leave Iran shortly.

UPDATE: Roxana Saberi left Tehran tonight for Vienna, Austria, on her way to the US, the NPR reported [14 May 2009.]

Roxana Saberi to Be Freed Today

Roxana Saberi, the jailed US journalist, will be freed today after an Iranian appellate court suspended her prison term and allowed her to leave the country.

Uskowi on Iran extends its warmest congratulations to Roxana, her family and the journalists around the world.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

US Links End to Iran Nuke to Creation of State of Palestine

Gen James Jones appearing today at ABC’s “This Week”

The Obama administration today clearly linked ending Iranian nuclear program and its threat against Israel to the creation of a Palestinian state. US National Security Advisor James Jones said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians could diminish the existential threat posed by Iran.

"We understand Israel's preoccupation with Iran as an existential threat. We agree with that. And by the same token, there are a lot of things that you can do to diminish that existential threat by working hard towards achieving a two-state solution. This is a very strategic issue. It's extremely important. And we're looking forward to having a good, constructive dialogue with our Israeli friends when they visit Washington in the next seven or eight days," Jones said [ABC, 10 May 2009]. [Israeli Premier Bibi Netanyahu will be visiting Washington next week.]

General Jones first acknowledges Iranian nuclear program as “an existential threat” against Israel, and then states the administration’s view that the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel would create favorable conditions to “diminish” the threat. The Obama administration is apparently holding the acceptance of the two-state solution by Israel as a precondition to move against Iran’s nuclear program.

Roxana Saberi at Appellate Court

Roxana Saberi

Roxana Saberi had a brief hearing today at an appellate court in Tehran. Her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, said he expects the court will make its decision in a few days.

The American journalist whose father is Iranian was convicted last month in a revolutionary court of spying for the US and sentenced to eight years in prison. The conviction and the sentence were widely criticized as baseless and unfair, prompting President Ahmadinejad to call for a fair hearing.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Iran’s Future President: The Leading Candidates

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent. His defeat would be the rejection of the Islamic Republic's policies and behavior in the past four years.

Mir-Hussein Mousavi, a former Prime Minister known as a pragmatic politician. His government participated in the Algiers talks that led to the release of US hostages in 1981. Also known to have negotiated an end to terrorist operations in France in 1980s in exchange for a reduction of French support for Saddam during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war.

Ayatollah Mehdi Karrubi, a former speaker of Majlis. Karrubi is running as an outsider and the leader of the loyal opposition. He has put forward a liberal platform that includes equal distribution among all Iranian citizens the shares of the country’s oil and gas industry.

Photos courtesy of and Fars News Agency

Iran to Purchase Chinese S-300

Iranian news agency ISNA is quoting Russian news sources that Iran is likely to purchase Chinese FD-2000 air defense missile system. The FD-2000, also known by its original Chinese designation as HQ-9, closely resembles, some say copies, the S-300, Russia’s potent anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense system.

Reference: For an overview and analysis of HQ-9 system, see: “The HQ-9 SAM System: A Site Analysis,” at IMINT & Analysis, 27 October 2007.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gallery of Also-Rans!

Pictures of some of the candidates in the 12 June presidential elections not expected to reach even the first round. Hats off to their sense of humor in volunteering to govern Iran!

The platform of the candidate with necktie is to have the cabinet ministers wearing neckties. The gentleman holding the flag and wearing the slogan “Servant of Iranian People,” on his dress has run in almost all past elections. Pictured are two other hopefuls.

Photos courtesy of Mehr News Agency, Fars News Agency and ISNA. The election logo courtesy of Press TV.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Peres: All Options Open

Israeli President Shimon Peres said today other options remained open if US diplomatic engagement with Iran failed to halt its nuclear program.

"Engagement is an attempt to achieve a goal. If this attempt will succeed, OK, but we don't have to cross out any other options," Peres said [Reuters, 6 May 2009].

Kerry: No Regime Change in Iran

The US no longer seeks “regime change” in Iran, said John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“We are not in ‘regime change’ mode,” Kerry said. “Our efforts must be reciprocated by the other side: Just as we abandon calls for regime change in Tehran and recognize a legitimate Iranian role in the region, Iran’s leaders must moderate their behavior and that of their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas,” Kerry added [AFP, 6 May 2009]

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Peres Supports Obama on Iran

Israeli President Shimon Peres told reporters today at the White House that if Obama wants to engage Iran, the Israelis are willing to back him.

The White House released a statement noting that Peres and Obama discussed issues related to Iran's nuclear program.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Iran Elections Poll

Iran's Press TV is reporting that according to a nationwide opinion poll, President Ahmadinejad is the leading candidate in the June 12 presidential elections. Ahmadinejad would have received 53.6% of the vote if the elections were held today, the poll indicates. Ahmadinejad needs a simple majority in the first round of the elections to win his second term.

Mir-Hossein Mousavi would finish second with 21.9%, with Ayatolah Karrubi trailing at 3.8% and Mohsen Rezaie at 1.7%. Press TV did not disclose the name of the polling agency.

On the expected turnout, an important factor in Iranian elections, the poll shows that 50.1% of Tehran’s residents and 57.2% of the population in other cities will go to polls.

A larg turnout, around 60%, generally favors reformist candidates and lower turnouts would help the principlist camp.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Israel Conducts Air Drill above Gibraltar

IDF F-16
AP File Photo

The IDF F-16 warplanes have conducted a drill above the Strait of Gibraltar, the French weekly L'Express reported today. The exercise was held some 3,800 km (2,361 miles) from Israel, and included mid-air refueling drill.

The magnitude of 2,361 miles distance from Israel mimics the distance required if Israel was to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Rezaei: Saving Iran from “Path of Destruction”

Mohsen Rezaei Entering the Presidential Race
Tehran . 3 May 2009 . Press TV Photo

Presidential candidate and former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaei accused Iran’s sitting president of leading the country into “the path of destruction.” [Press TV, 3 May].

“The truth is that our nation has two very different paths at hand. If President Ahmadinejad gets his way, we will fall off the cliff … we will be defeated," Rezaei said.

Rezei made the comments during a press conference in Tehran on Sunday after officially announcing his bid in the upcoming presidential elections.

Rezaei commanded the IRGC during the war with Iraq. But his popularity among the current IRGC officers and troops is questionable. He is also the executive secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, a body headed by Ayatollah Rafsanjani charged with building consensus among the warring political factions within the Islamic Republic.

Rezaei vowed to stay on the electoral scene to “the bitter end,” challenging Ahmadinejad from within the principlist (conservative) camp in the June 12 elections.

In his press conference, Rezaei also cast doubts on viability of the platform offered by the reformist candidates.

"I reviewed the literature of the Reformists, but unfortunately I could not find any plan for the reform of the past. They created a contrast between religion and freedom, but this contrast has not served the interests of the people," he noted.