Sunday, February 28, 2010

Iran Frees Four Journalists

Four reformist journalists detained after last year's disputed presidential election in Iran were freed on bail on Sunday. Abdolreza Tajik, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, Mohammad Javad Mozafar and Behrang Tonkaboni were freed from Tehran's Evin prison.

Khamenei: IAEA Lacks Independence

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today told a gathering in Tehran of Iranian ambassadors abroad that IAEA lacks independence and is influenced by the US. Khamenie alluded to a recent report by the IAEA director on Iran’s nuclear program as a sign of the agency’s lack of independence.

The IAEA Board of Governors will meet on Monday in Vienna to begin four days of discussion on the Iran report. On three previous occasions, the IAEA had referred Iran’s file to the UN Security Council, resulting in three rounds of UN sanctions against the country. The IEAE Board is expected to once again refer Iran to UNSC for its current nuclear program.

Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated Iran’s resolve to continue with its nuclear program. He accused US, Britain and Israel of spreading “lies” about the Iranian program.

Iran Issuing Bonds for Global Markets

Iranian Minister of Economy and Finance Safdar Hosseini announced Tehran would float bonds in foreign markets worth $1.4 billions to finance the development of the latest phases of the country’s huge South Pars natural gas fields in the Persian Gulf. The new bonds will be issued next week.

Iran has been unable to attract direct foreign investments needed to start construction activities in phases 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the South Pars fields, and is now relying on global markets to borrow the capital to develop the gas fields.

In a related development, the Iranian parliament, Majlis, authorized the government to issue additional foreign bonds worth $7 billions to raise capital for the country’s oil industry in the coming Iranian calendar year that starts 21 March. Majlis also authorized the government to issue bonds worth $2.8 billions for the defense and transportation industries.

Experts believe Iran would not be able to raise more than $11 billions in major global markets in the next year. Its ability to raise the capital in the more expensive secondary markets is also not certain.

The government did not announce issuance of any rial-dominated bonds for the Iranian citizens to directly participate in South Pars development.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Devastating Earthquake in Chile

Devastations in Chile
AP Photo

A devastating earthquake rattled Chile early today, toppling homes and collapsing bridges. The 8.8 magnitude quake killed at least 82 people, but the death toll was rising rapidly. President Michele Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe."

A tsunami set off by the quake is threatening every nation around the Pacific Ocean, including Hawaii.

Update (Sunday 28 February): 2 million people are affected by the devastations as the death toll rises above 300.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Inflation Rate Drops to 11.5%

Iran’s Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani announced in Tehran that the annual rate of inflation in the country for the past 12 months dropped to 11.5 percent, the lowest in four years.

Last year, the inflation hit an all-time high of 25 percent. Bahmani attributed the dramatic drop to the Bank’s monetary policies, especially the tightening of available cash. Last year’s dangerously high rates had been attributed to record high prices for oil, the country's main source of income, and converting the petrodollars into rial and injecting it directly into the economy.

The Central Bank’s ability to cut the inflation in half is a major victory for Iran and Bahmani’s leadership at the Central Bank ("Bank-e Markazi").

Iran Releases Number of Reformist Leaders

Iranian authorities on Thursday released a number of reformist leaders arrested in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election. Among freed detainees are Jahanbakhsh Khanjani of Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s Kargozaran party, Laila Tavasoli and Mohammad Naimpour of Freedom Movement and Reza Khandan, a former high-ranking IRGC officer.

Ebrahim Yazdi, one of the founders of the Islamic Republic and former foreign minister under Ayatollah Khomeini, was also released on a 10-day furlough and was immediately transferred to a Tehran hospital.

There are still tens of reformist leaders, journalists and human rights activists behind bars. But in the past few days, many moderates in the conservative camp have joined reformist leaders calling for the release of all political prisoners.

In a related story, new videos of the attacks by uniformed security officers as well as plainclothes Bajij members on University of Tehran’s dormitories have been released. The images show beatings of university students by government agents during the unrests that followed last June’s election.

Iranian laws prohibit the entry of police and security forces into university campus. Few days after the attack, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicly denied reports of any involvement by the security forces in the attacks. He called the attackers “unknown elements.” IRGC commander, Maj. Gen. Jafari, had also said that no Basij members were involved in the attacks.

President Ahmadinejad in Damascus, Syria

Nasrallah, Assad and Ahmadinejad meet in Damascus

President Ahmadinejad delivered a speech while visiting President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. This is part of what he had to say:

“The news indicates that they (the Israelis) are about to repeat their past mistakes. President Assad and I know it, the Syrian and Iranian people as well as the other people of our region know it, … if The Zionist entity wants to repeat its mistakes once again [go to war] such a move will lead to its inevitable demise. This time all the people of the region, particularly the people of Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Iraq, and all others will stand against this entity” -President Ahmadinejad

According to Professor Joshua Landis @ Syria Comment: "Interestingly, Lebanon and Iraq are singled out as members of the resistance front. Ahmadinejad is promising that Iraq will be among the nations that will respond to Israeli aggression."

During President Ahmadinejad's visit with President Bashar al-Assad, it was formally agreed to waive visa requirements between Iranian and Syrian citizens.

Photo: Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA)

'US Supports Terrorism Against Iran': Rigi

From the YouTube channel 91177info:

Captured ringleader of the Jundallah terrorist group, Abdolmalek Rigi, confesses that the Obama administration had assured him of unlimited military aid and funding for waging an insurgency against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The following is the detailed transcript of Rigi's confession, stated in Farsi, as broadcast on Press TV:

"After Obama was elected, the Americans contacted us and they met me in Pakistan. They met us after clashes with my group around March 17 in (the southeastern city of) Zahedan, and he (the US operative) said that Americans had requested a meeting."

"I said we didn't have any time for a meeting and if we do help them they should promise to give us aid. They said they would cooperate with us and will give me military equipment, arms and machine guns. They also promised to give us a base along the border with Afghanistan next to Iran."

"They asked to meet me and we said where should we meet you and he said in Dubai. We sent someone to Dubai and we told a person to ask a place for myself in Afghanistan from the area near the operations and they complied that they would sort out the problem for us and they will find Mr. Rigi a base and guarantee his own security in Afghanistan or in any of the countries adjacent to Iran so that he can carry on his operations.

"They told me that in Kyrgyzstan they have a base called Manas near Bishkek, and that a high-ranking person was coming to meet me and that if such high-ranking people come to the United Arab Emirates, they may be observed by intelligence people but in a place like Bishkek this high-ranking American person could come and we could reach an agreement on making personal contacts. But after the last major operation we took part in, they said that they wanted to meet with us.

"The Americans said Iran was going its own way and they said our problem at the present is Iran not al-Qaeda and not the Taliban, but the main problem is Iran. We don't have a military plan against Iran. Attacking Iran is very difficult for us (the US). The CIA is very particular about you and is prepared to do anything for you because our government has reached the conclusion that there was nothing Americans could do about Iran and only I could take care of the operations for them.

"One of the CIA officers said that it was too difficult for us to attack Iran militarily, but we plan to give aid and support to all anti-Iran groups that have the capability to wage war and create difficulty for the Iranian (Islamic) system. They reached the conclusion that your organization has the power to create difficulties for the Islamic Republic and they are prepared to give you training and/or any assistance that you would require, in terms of telecommunications security and procedures as well as other support, the Americans said they would be willing to provide it at an extensive level."

Iran's security forces arrested Rigi on Tuesday by bringing down his plane over Iranian airspace, as he was onboard a flight from the United Arab Emirates to Kyrgyzstan.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rigi Capture Operation: Graphic & Video- Part 2

click to enlarge
Graphic depicting Rigi capture operation. Rigi's passenger plane (likely B-737, Kyrgyzstan Airlines QH 454, operated by Eastok Avia), enroute from Dubai (DXB / OMDB) to Bishkek-Manas, Kyrgyzstan (FRU / UAFM), with 113 passengers onboard, is forced to land at Bandar Abbas/TFB.9 (BND / OIKB) by two intercepting IRIAF F-4E Phantom II strike fighters of 91 TFS.

VEVAK commandos stormed the aircraft and apprehended Rigi. From Bandar Abbas/TFB.9, he was placed onboard an IRIAF Dassault Falcon (Mystere) 20E, flown to an undisclosed location (likely Mehrababd/TFB.1) and incarcerated.

New video. Quick translation: Rigi went to a US military base in Afghanistan; he traveled to Dubai and boarded a plane to Kyrgyzstan; from there he planned to travel to Europe. While in Iranian airspace, Rigi's plane was forced to land in Iran.

Clinton: China to Back Iran Sanctions

Secretary of States Hillary Clinton said today in Washington that in recent days China has moved closer to US position on imposing further economic sanctions against Iran [AP, 24 February]. Clinton now expects China to back a new set of UN sanctions against Iran.

Clinton said the US has pursued an approach to Iran "that has exposed its refusal to live up to its responsibilities and helped us achieve a new unity with our international partners."

"Iran has left the international community little choice but to impose greater costs and pressure in the face of its provocative steps," Clinton said. "We are now working actively with our partners to prepare and implement new measures to pressure Iran to change its course."

Clinton also said that the US Congress might impose its own set of economic sanctions against Iran, tougher than the UN sanctions. But the US prefers UN sanctions, she said, for their powerful symbolism.

In a related story, Iran today formally filed its response to IAEA proposal made five months ago on enriched uranium swap arrangement. Iran’s response has set additional conditions for simultaneous swap inside the Iranian territory. The six major powers are expected to reject Iran’s conditions. Washington called Iran’s response as “red herring.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rigi Capture Operation: Photos & Video- Updated

Amended 2/24/09 @ 8:45am GMT
click photos to enlarge
Rigi in the custody of VEVAK commandos at an undisclosed air base in Iran. Aircraft appears to be an IRIAF Dassault Falcon (Mystere) 20E.

The wanted terrorist captured, on his way back to Iran.

Rigi's alleged US-supplied Afghanistan document.

Rigi's UAE travel visa document.

Photo of Rigi allegedly at a US military installation before capture.

Pakistan ID Rigi was carrying when captured.

Pakistan ID Rigi was carrying when captured (2)

Video of Rigi's arrest:

Jundallah Chief Arrested

Abdolmalek Rigi
IRNA file photo

The Iranian intelligence agents arrested Abolmalek Rigi, the leader of Iranian Baluchistan’s militant group Jundallah, during a covert operation at an undisclosed location. It is believed that Iranian agents hijacked a plane carrying Rigi from Karachi to Dubai, forced the plane to land in Iran and then arrested Rigi.

Rigi was the master mind of several deadly bombings in Iranian Baluchistan and was believed to be operating out of the neighboring Pakistan. Jundallah (Soldiers of God) is comprised of Sunni militants who oppose the Islamic Republic and vie for an autonomous or independent Baluchistan.

The arrest of the Jundallah’s leader is a major blow to the organization that can cause its demise.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Iran threatens to impound non-complying airlines

Iran has recently warned that airlines will be banned from flying into its airspace, unless they use the name Persian Gulf on their flight monitors.

Iran has been insistent that the name of the Gulf that separates them from their southern neighbours should be referred to correctly as the Persian Gulf, calling it the gulf has been a source of annoyance for Iranian authorities, calling it the Arabian Gulf infuriates them!

Airlines not complying to this will be prevented from entering Iranian airspace.

And if such an offence was repeated, foreign airliners would be grounded and refused permission to leave Iran.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New National Intelligence Estimate on Iran Expected

Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Near East and Central Asia, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that a new national intelligence estimate on Iran’s nuclear program was being developed.

"There is... a new national intelligence estimate being developed by our intelligence community in the United States," he said [AFP, 21 February].

In 2007, the US intelligence community released a surprising national intelligence estimate (NIE) saying Iran had halted its research on developing nuclear weapon capabilities in 2003. The report ended widespread speculations in the media that the US was ready to take military action against Iranian nuclear facilities. Gen. Petraeus did not say if the new NIE would contain references to any ongoing nuclear weapon programs in Iran.

Gen. Petraeus said however that the US is raising the stakes in its bid to halt Iran’s nuclear program by choosing a “pressure track” as opposed to a diplomatic one.

"I think that no one at the end of this time can say that the United States and the rest of the world have not given Iran every opportunity to resolve the issues diplomatically.

"That puts us in a solid foundation now to go on what is termed the pressure track. That's the course on which we are embarked now," Petraeus said.

Iran Builds Peugeot 207i

Iran's state-owned car manufacturer Iran Khodro unveils the Peugeot 207i, a locally built version of the French automobile firm's 207 model for the home market. Tehran. AFP photo.

'The Anti-Proliferation Brigade'

click to enlarge
Note: Mordechai Vanunu (Hebrew: מרדכי ואנונו‎, born in Marrakech, Morocco, on 14 October 1954) is an Israeli former nuclear technician who, citing his opposition to weapons of mass destruction, revealed details of Israel's nuclear weapons program to the British press in 1986. He was subsequently lured to Italy by a Mossad spy, where he was drugged and kidnapped by Israeli intelligence operatives. He was transported to Israel and ultimately convicted in a secret trial. Vanunu spent 18 years in an Israeli prison, including more than 11 years in solitary confinement. Regarded by peace activists as a hero for taking a stand against weapons proliferation, Vanunu has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize multiple times. (text: Wikipedia)

Iran’s Electoral Laws Under Review

Rafsanjani, center, flanked by Ali Larijani (r) and Sadeq Larijani
Expediency Council Reviewing Iran's Electoral Laws
Tehran. 21 February

Iran’s Expediency Council convened an all-important meeting today to revamp the country’s electoral laws. The meeting, chaired by Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, with Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani and Judiciary Chief Sadeq Larijani serving as deputy chairmen, will have to make recommendations on the role of the Guardian Council in vetting candidates for office, including the candidates running for president and parliament. The meeting was convened under the direction of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election last June.

As is, the Guardian Council can deny candidacy to anyone it deems not qualified to run for office. Last year, only four candidates, including Mousavi and Karubi, were qualified to run for presidency.

The Expediency Council and its chairman are believed to favor the formation of a “National Electoral Commission” to oversee the election process. The critics on the right are already accusing Rafsanjani of trying to dismantle the Guardian Council and get away with the vetting process.

“The game, in one word, is to eliminate the Guardian Council from the vetting process,” said Hossein Shariatmadari, the influential editor of ultra-conservative daily Kayhan.

Any proposal to create a National Electoral Commission is against Islamic Republic constitution, Shariatmadari argued in an editorial that appeared in today’s edition of his newspaper.

The creation of the electoral commission and elimination of the vetting process will be a significant reform toward democratization of Iranian politics.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gallup: Iran Viewed Least Favorably by Americans

Iran ranked last as the country viewed least favorably by Americans, while Canada ranked first in Gallup’s World Affairs survey [AP, 19 February].

10 percent of Americans viewed Iran favorably, as opposed to 90 percent favorable rate for Canada. Next-to-last was North Korean (14%) followed by Palestinian Authority (20%), Yemen (21%) and Iraq and Pakistan (23%).

Britain was viewed favorably by 87 percent, followed by Germany (80%), Japan (77%), Israel (67%), India (66%), France (63%) and Egypt (58%).

Russia scored 42 percent and China was at 40 percent.

Friday, February 19, 2010

IRIS Jamaran Launch

The IRIS Jamaran was formally launched today with a ceremony attended by senior IRI military commanders and Commander-in-Chief Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

The Mowdge Class vessel has a displacement of ~1,420 tons and is classified by Iran as a destroyer (US equivalent: frigate). It is reportedly capable of a top speed of 30 knots with a crew of ~120, and is equipped with a stern mounted helipad.

click photos to enlarge
IRIS Jamaran (Hull No. 76). Original design based on Alvand Class Vosper Mk V frigate, upgraded with rearranged weapon stations to accommodate helipad.

Helipad with IRIN Agusta AB-212ASW helicopter.

Bow mounted Fajr-27 (Oto-Melara type) 76 mm cannon.

Fath-40 cannon mounted on the stern, two (x2) Noor (C-802) AShM mounted midship and triple (x2) 12.75 torpedo tubes. Large radar is visible similar in appearance to an improved version of AWS-1 originally fitted to Alvand class.

External bridge detail: Above mounted fire control radar (for 76 mm gun) and one (x2) forward mounted GAM-BO1 type 20mm cannon.

Bridge console of the IRIS Jamaran.

Video: IRIS Jamaran Launch

Khamenei Denies Iran Seeks Nuclear Weapon

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons. Khamenei made his comments in front of military commanders gathered for the launch of a new domestically built destroyer.

"Recently some Western and US officials have been repeating some outdated and nonsensical comments that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons," Khamenei said. "Iran's response to these nonsensical comments will not be an emotional one, since our religious beliefs are against the use of such weapons.

"We in no way believe in an atomic weapon and do not seek one," Ayatollah Khamenei added.

IAEA Report on Iran

In the most blunt language to date, IAEA said on Thursday Iran was pursuing nuclear weapon capabilities and it feared Iran might be working now to develop a nuclear-armed missile. The statements came in the latest report released by IAEA on Iran’s nuclear program.

IAEA report also confirmed Iran’s claim that it has produced its first small batch of 20-percent enriched uranium. The report added that Iran has set aside the vast bulk of its low enriched uranium for reprocessing to the higher-enriched uranium. Iran has said its purpose to produce higher enriched uranium were to produce fuel for Tehran reactor.

The report said Iran has added 250 kg of LEU to its stockpile since November, to a total of 2,060 kg. Adding that Iran has earmarked 1,950 kg of its LEU for reprocessing to 20-percent purity. Experts say this quantity of 20-percent uranium far exceeds the fuel needs for Tehran research reactor.

IAEA also reports on problems facing Natanz LEU processing unit. Its number of active centrifuges has dropped to 3,772 from nearly 4,000 in the past few months. Experts believe the drop might be the result of mechanical problems with the old-design centrifuges.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Russia warns the US not to attack Iran

Following comments made by General Nikolai Makarov yesterday about a possible US attack on Iran, Russia is warning the US not to attack stating it's concerned over the consequences of such actions.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Russias top military commander: US could strike Iran

Russia's top military commander General Nikolai Makarov states that after finishing it's missions in Iraq and Afghanistan the United States may attack Iran.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nasrallah threatens retaliation in future war with Israel

Hezbollah march

Hezbollah's Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah has stated that if Lebanon comes under attack from Israel that Hezbollah will hit back at Israel's infrastructure, such as their oil refineries and in particular Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

Rafik al-Hariri international airport in Beirut under
fire by the Israeli Air Force back in the 2006 war

"If you hit our ports, we will bomb your ports, and if you hit our oil refineries, we will bomb your oil refineries," Nasrallah was quoted as saying.

This comes only days after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stated that Damascus would stand by Beirut should Israel launch another war on Lebanon in which Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded by stating that Syria should clinch a peace deal with Israel or find itself in a "full-fledged war" with Tel Aviv in which the Assad "family will lose power" on top of a military defeat!

Hezbollah was formed and trained after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon back in 1982 by Iran's Islamic Guards and have last fought against Israel in a six week war back in 2006 after the abduction of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah.

Netanyahu assured Iran will not yet receive S-300's

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that he had received assurances from the Kremlin that Iran will not get the long anticipated S-300 portable missile defence systems in the near future, according to a report by the Israeli daily Haaretz.

"On this issue Russia is taking into consideration the needs for stability in the region," Netanyahu claimed after his meeting with the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Iran has long stated they require these missiles to defend against Israeli or American missile strikes or aircraft sorties and upon the late delivery (the missiles were ordered in 2007) states future dealings with Moscow may have to be reconsidered if they don't live up to their contract.

Monday, February 15, 2010

US, Russia and France Deny Iran’s Claim of New Enrichment Proposals

Ali Akbar Salehi, the director of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said on Monday in Tehran that AEOI has received new proposals from the United States, Russia and France on a nuclear fuel swap.

"After Iran's decision to domestically produce 20-percent-enriched uranium, we received some proposals from Russia, America and France," Salehi said. "We are currently studying them along with other proposals from different countries" [ILNA, 15 February].

But hours after Salehi’s announcement, the White House as well as the Russian and French governments denied they had sent Iran new proposals. Salehi’s claim adds to an already confused picture of an Iranian leadership in disarray over the country’s uranium enrichment policies.

RT report on Hilary Clinton's recent Iran comments

An interesting Russia Today segement in which Wayne Madsen assesses the comments made by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton when she stated that Iran is becoming a military dictatorship.

Naqdi destroyer docks in Qatari port

The destroy Naqdi of the Iranian navy has docked in a Qatari port in what has been described as a step towards the improvement of bilateral defense ties between the two countries.

Being neighbours Iran and Qatar have common sea borders and this docking of an Iranian naval warship in Doha has been seen by the Iranian government as a symbolic step towards the improvement of bilateral defense ties between the two countries.

Iran begins oil drilling in the Caspian Sea

Iran has begun drilling it's exploratory well in the Caspian Sea in the search for oil.

“The Amir-Kabir semi-submersible drilling rig has started exploration drillings in the Caspian Sea. It will drill the country's first exploratory well at a depth of 1,550 meters under the seabed."

North Drilling Company Managing Director Hedayatollah Khademi told the Mehr News Agency on Saturday.

Iran's explorations so far have led to the discover of 46 oil fields in the Caspian Sea.

Human Rights Council Review of Iran

Mohammad Javad Larijani, Secretary General of the High Council for Human Rights of the Islamic Republic of Iran, delivers his speech during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. (recommended)

Iran’s New ICBM Surprises Experts- DefenseNews

In a feature article in this week’s DefenseNews, Barbara Opall-Rome, Israel Bureau Chief at the leading defense news weekly, discusses Iran’s Feb. 3 unveiling of Simorgh. She writes that US and Israeli experts expected improvements to existing boosters rather than a super-sized design that might evolve into an ICBM.

The following are excerpts from the article, including references to this blogger’s assessment of Simorgh’s capabilities and its launch.

Simorgh’s total thrust of 143 tons comes from the four 32-ton thrust engines that make up the first stage and a 15-ton thrust control engine as a second stage. Although Iran has acknowledged a lift capacity of just 100 kilograms, Nader Uskowi, a Washington-based consultant and blogger on Iran, said optimization of its current design should allow Iran to put a 700-kilogram payroll into low Earth orbit.

Simorgh came as a surprise to Israeli and U.S. experts.

“Most analysts expected development of a three-stage Ashura as the next logical step in Iran’s missile development program,” Uskowi said.

Initial Israeli assessments have identified four separate Shehab 3B rocket motors as the Simorgh’s clustered first stage motor. The four verniers used for steering could have come from Russian BM25.

The article appeared on February 15, 2010 edition of DefenseNews.

Interview: Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran's Nuclear Program

AlJazeera interview of Ali Akbar Salehi, head of head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization and Iranian representative in the International Atomic Energy Agency. (highly recommended)

US: Iran Drifting Toward Military Dictatorship

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today that the US feared Iran was drifting toward a military dictatorship, with IRGC seizing key political, military and economic positions in the country.

“That is how we see it,” Clinton said. “We see that the government in Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament, is being supplanted and that Iran is moving towards a military dictatorship” [NYTimes, 15 February].

Last week, the US imposed new sanctions against the commander of IRGC’s sprawling construction conglomerate, Khatam-ol Anbia, and four of its subsidiaries.

The Obama administration is working on a series of broader UN sanctions that would take aim at IRGC, publicly singling out the Revolutionary Guards’ vast array of companies, banks and the wide web of assets owned or controlled by IRGC.

Clinton’s blunt remarks in linking IRGC to the growing fear of Iran’s drift toward a military dictatorship were remarkable. In the past couple of years, a number of Iran analysts have also raised concern about the growing control of IRGC over the country’s political and economic institutions, a dangerous concentration of power in the hands of the armed forces.

UPDATE (Monday 15 February): As Secretary Clinton was leaving Doha, she voiced concern over the inability of the civilian leadership in Tehran to make their minds on the uranium enrichment policy.

"The civilian leadership is either preoccupied with its internal political situation or is ceding ground to the Revolutionary Guard," Clinton said.

She added that it appears the IRGC is in charge of Iran's nuclear program and any change in nuclear policy depends on whether the civilian leadership could reassert itself.

"I'm not predicting what will happen but I think the trend with this greater and greater military lock on leadership decisions should be disturbing to Iranians as well as those of us on the outside," she said.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Clinton Warns Iran of Greater Costs for Enrichment Policy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today in Doha that Iran faces greater costs for taking "provocative steps" regarding its new measures to forego a deal with IAEA and to produce highly enriched uranium.

"Iran leaves the international community little choice but to impose greater costs for its provocative steps.

"Together, we are encouraging Iran to reconsider its dangerous policy decisions," Clinton said [AFP, 14 February].

Russia to Send Iran S-300 Missile System – Senior Official

Vladimir Nazarov, deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, said today in Moscow that a contract signed by Russia to send Iran the advanced surface-to-air S-300 missile system had to be honored.

“A contract was signed which we must fulfill, but deliveries have not started yet. This transaction is not subject to any international sanctions as it only involves the delivery of purely defensive weapons,” Nazarov said [Interfax News Agency, 14 February].

Tehran has threatened legal action if Moscow failed to honor the 800 million dollar contract, which covers five batteries of S-300PMU1 missiles.

The SA-20 Gargoyle, as the system is also known, is a mobile system designed to shoot down aircraft and cruise missiles.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Iranian Ambassador states Iran will never bow to threats

Iranian Ambassador to the UN Mohammad Khazaee said today that Iran will never bow to unmerited threats from a few western countries.

Regardless of the opposition protests Khazaee states that the mass turnout to the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Republic proves the prevailing state of unity in the country.

“The presence of millions of Iranians in the rallies was a clear manifestation of political power across the international scene," he was quoted as stating.

He also stated that the western officials should not cling to the misguided and wide spread belief that the Iranian government is disliked and is being weakened by the opposition and that instead should open their eyes to see the much larger support in Iran for the states policies.

“The Islamic Republic has now become a powerful and strategic country, where people enjoy a strong sense of unity and solidarity,” said Khazaee. “It is a fact that Western powers must learn to deal with.”

He also stated that millions of Iranians took to the street last Thursday to celebrate the overthrowing of the ruthless US-backed Pahlavi monarchy back in 1979.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tehran Protest Image Wins Top Award

Pietro Masturzo, an Italian freelance journalist, on Friday won the World Press Photo of the Year 2009 award with this picture of women shouting in protest from a rooftop in Tehran on 24 June after Iran's disputed presidential election. Reuters

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tehran's Rally

Top: Huge pro-government crowd at Azadi Square
Middle: Ahmadinejad arriving at the rally
Bottom: Rafsanjani at the rally
Tehran. 11 February 2010. Mehr photos

Video from Tehran

BBC video shows large pro-government crowds stationed near the podium, cheering during President Ahmadinejad's keynote speech. While in the second half of the video, large number of Green movement supporters are shown, away from the podium, chanting their own slogans, including a demand for a national referendum to settle the country's political impasse.

Iran revolution marked amid pressure on nuke evolution

A Russia Today report on the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear comments and the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

Iranians Rally to Mark Anniversary of Revolution

Azadi Square Rally
Tehran. 11 February 2010. Mehr photo

Marking the 31st anniversary of the revolution, huge number of Iranians flocked to Azadi Square in central Tehran today. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered the keynote speech, which included his announcement that Iran has indeed produced a small batch of 20-percent enriched uranium.

There were also sporadic clashes between the security forces and opposition supporters on Thursday. Some opposition websites were reporting that the police fired shots in the air to disperse a group of Green movement supporters in central Tehran. Also there were reports that opposition leaders Mohammad Khatami, the former president, and Mehdi Karrubi were attacked by Basij elements when they attended the rally.

Iran Makes First Batch of 20-Percent Uranium

President Ahmadinejad Addressing Tehran's Rally
Marking the Anniversary of Revolution. 11 February 2010. ISNA

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Thursday that Iran has produced its first batch of 20-percent enriched uranium just two days after beginning the process.

Ahmadinejad made the announcement in front of hundreds of thousands of cheering Iranians gathered in Tehran’s Azadi Square to mark the 31st anniversary of the revolution.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Iran Revolution at 31

Iran celebrations of the 31st anniversary of its revolution start with fireworks on Wednesday night, continuing with massive demonstrations on Thursday. ISNA photo shows firework over Milad Tower in Tehran.

Monday, February 8, 2010

10-Day Dawn Ceremonies: Iran Air Force

Ceremonies in Tehran at Mehrabad/TFB.1

click on all photos to enlarge
Air Force parade group before a HESA Saegeh display mock up

Formation drill and line up (1)

Formation drill and line up (2)

Iran Air Force parade group equipped with
G3-A3 (HK G3A6) main battle rifles

Air Force Sarhand (Colonel) leading the parade group

IRIAF Brigadier General Abdolrahim Mousavi greets
a handicapped veteran from the Imposed War

Mother of an IRIAF pilot martyred during the Imposed War

IRIAF Brig. Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi saluted by an Army Special Forces "Under" General (Sartip dovom). Behind them is IRIAF Brig. Gen. Hassan Shah-Safi (Commander of the Air Force).

Ceremonies at Shahid Babaei AFB, Isfahan TFB.8

Air Force band parades down the tarmac, with F-14s
and pilots standing at attention in the background

Air Force and Army Generals salute an
unidentified elite army unit

Front detail of an F-14A parked at Isfahan/TFB.8

No less than six F-14A Tomcats are visible in this shot

Air Force pilots and military personnel
before a lineup of F-14 interceptors

Air Force Ceremony, Tehran

Air Force pilots and officers salute
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei

Air Force Commander Brig. Gen. Hassan Shah-Safi
salutes the Supreme Leader

Photos by Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) and Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

Law Enforcement Crowd Control Management Preparations for 22 Bahman

By Mark Pyruz

IRIPF/SF motorized antiriot policemen

According to the Los Angeles Times, a source inside Iran claims the Islamic Republic of Iran Police Force (IRIPF, or Iranian acronym: NAJA) is preparing for the potentiality of as many as 3 million protesters taking to the streets of Tehran this Thursday. The occasion is 22 Bahman: the 31st anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic.

In addition, the same source told the LAT that the government will be mobilizing 500,000 supporters to rally at the event, where President Ahmadinejad is scheduled to deliver a public speech, with invited members of the foreign press included in the audience. (Remarkable, given the scope of projected protests.)

Figures for IRIPF deployment have not been cited, but the LAT provides a figure for Basij volunteers at ~12,000, with many elements of this force being mobilized from various provinces around the country. Accordingly, it can be projected that the number of IRIPF policemen (cadre and conscript-soldiers) could actually be as high as triple that amount or more, with significant numbers of reinforcements being drawn from local, regional and border protection police forces.

IRIPF Mercedes-Benz C200 police car with cadre policemen

It would be surprising to see the less-lethal antiriot policy be lifted in favor of lethal force. However, given the number of cases of violence inflicted upon IRIPF police officers during the Ashura protests, there may or may not be a number of firearms distributed to key personnel, for purposes of self-defense. It can be assumed that IRIPF police officers would be in favor of such, but Iranian government policy so far- initiated after the June 2009 protests- means to prevent or minimize police-inflicted fatalities wherever possible. Perhaps there will be a greater distribution of less-lethal forms of ammunition provided for use in police officer firearms. We'll see how this plays out this coming Thursday.

It will be interesting to see if the IRIPF makes any changes to the tactics employed by its motorized reconnaissance units, which appeared vulnerable under certain conditions during Ashura, as well as if there'll be more effective use of Islamic Republic of Iran Police Aviation (IRIPA) resources, in terms of sustained, coordinated crowd control management.

IRIPA Agusta AB-206A Jet Ranger (Photo: Saeed Ezadi @

Also, yet to be deployed in meaningful numbers, is the prospect of uniformed IRGC forces actively participating in crowd control operations, as a full or partial military unit(s). Perhaps they will continue on in a reserve force role, to be fully activated upon emergency.

Lastly, it is safe to assume that additional preparations are being made to accommodate large numbers of arrests, at various jail and correctional facilities.

Given IRIPF's crowd control management estimate of potentially 3 million protesters massing for 22 Bahman, this coming Thursday may see the IRIPF's greatest challenge to date.