Monday, May 31, 2010

Israeli Raid Prompts Worldwide Protests

The Mavi marmara, the lead boat of the aid flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip which was stormed by Israeli naval commandos on Monday. Nine passengers were killed in a botched raid the provoked international outrage.

Protesters in The Hague, the Netherlands

Protesters at Champs Elysees in Paris

A protester in front of Israeli consulate in Instanbul

Peace activist protesters in Jerusalem

Iranian protesters in front of UN office in Tehran

Photos: Reuters

UPDATE: UN Security Council unanimously condemned Israeli military operation against international aid flotilla (1 June).

IAEA Report on Iran

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its latest report on Iran's nuclear program, said Iran has already produced at least 5.7 kg (12.5 pounds) of higher (20 percent) enriched uranium using its LEU produced in Natanz [AFP, 31 May].

“On April 7, 2010, Iran withdrew 5.7 kilograms of UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) from the first cascade” in Natanz, the report said. “According to Iran, this UF6 was enriched to 19.7 percent."

The real amount of higher-enriched uranium produced is expected to be more by now, as the 5.7 kg was produced in early April, with 100 grams per day produced on daily basis [AFP, 31 May].

IAEA’s report also raises concern that the Iranian program might have a military component.

"Based on an overall analysis of all the information available, the agency remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities, involving military related organizations,” the reports said. [Some of those activities] “were related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile. There are indications that certain of these activities may have continued beyond 2004."

IAEA will be referring its report to the UN Security Council for consideration. UNSC is expected to approve a fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad criticises Israel over assault on aid convoy

"Supporting the people of Palestine is equal to supporting peace and freedom of every nation."

"[Israel is] fabricated not only with the aim of gaining control over the Middle East but also over the entire world."
- Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has seriously criticized Israel for its illegal attack on the Free Gaza Movement flotilla that was bringing basic food and medical supplies to the people of Gaza which left Cyprus for Gaza yesterday.

The Israeli Army raid on the flotilla took place 90 miles off the Gaza coast was in international waters and resulted in the deaths of 20 and wounding of 50 civilians mostly Turkish nationals.

The flotilla was made up of citizens and boats from Algeria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Greece, Republic of Ireland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Norway, The Netherlands, Palestine, Poland, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

MV Rachel Corrie
Irish owned vessel named after
Rachel Corrie, an American peace
activist killed by an Israeli Army
bulldozer in Gaza in 2003.

The flotilla has been seized by the Israeli Navy and those aboard have been detained.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

China Offers Billion-Euro Loan for Iran

China has offered a loan of one billion euros (1.2 billion dollars) to fund projects in Tehran, Iran’s Fars News Agency reported today.

“The one-billion-euro Chinese funding is materializing,” said Hossein Mohammad Pourzarandi, a senior official at Tehran municipality. “The loan would be used for several construction projects in Tehran, including road networks,” he added [Fars News Agency, 30 May].

In recent years, China has emerged as Iran’s main trading partner, and has increasingly replaced Western firms leaving Iran.

Iran Arming Taliban- US Commander in Afghanistan

General Stanley McCrystal, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan (ISAF), said today that Afghan insurgents are being trained inside Iran and given weapons to fight ISAF.

"The training that we have seen occurs inside Iran with fighters moving inside Iran," Gen. McCrystal said at a news conference in Kabul. "The weapons that we have received come from Iran into Afghanistan" [Reuters, 30 May].

In March, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said there had been a significant shipment of Iranian arms to fighters in Kandahar, where ISAF is preparing for an offensive against the Taliban this summer.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kaman 99 tribute

A video tribute to the large scale air retaliatory strike carried out by the IRIAF on Iraq following their September 22nd 1980 invasion that sparked off the war that would only come to an end eight years later.

Made by this author from stock footage from Press TV and other sources.

Khamenei To Lead Friday’s Prayer

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will lead Friday’s Prayer in Tehran on 4 June to commemorate the 21th anniversary of the death of Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

"This week's Friday prayer on 14th of Khordad [4 June] which marks the divine departure of the founder of the Islamic Republic will be led by the guardian of all Muslims [Khamenei] in the shrine of the late Imam Khomeini,” the official IRNA news agency reported.

The 4 June Friday sermon by Khamenei will be his first since his sermon last year, on 19 June 2009, in which he openly defended Ahmadinejad’s re-election a week earlier amid widespread and deadly post-election street unrest, later to be known as the Green Movement, questioning the fairness of the election and the legitimacy of an Ahmadinejad victory.

Iran to Start Construction of Gas Pipeline to Pakistan

Iran and Pakistan on Friday signed a “sovereign guaranteed” Gas Sale and Purchase Agreement (GSPA) to begin the construction of a major gas pipeline linking Asalooyeh, a southern Iranian industrial town on the Persian Gulf and Iranshahr, near the border with Pakistan. The pipeline will carry natural gas from Iran’s huge South Pars field in the Gulf.

“I am extremely pleased that after 17 long years this project is finally starting. It would help us generate energy for our industrial growth,” Pakistani Petroleum Minister Syed Naveed Qamar told reporters after GSPA signing ceremony in Islamabad.

“Iran had assured us that they would complete the project between two-and-half to three years, ahead of schedule,” Qamar added. “As per current project implementation schedule, the first gas flow is targeted by end 2014.”

If India joins the project, as originally planned, the pipeline will carry natural gas to that country through Pakistan and the pipeline will be named Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline. India has not yet signed off on the deal.

Friday, May 28, 2010

IRGC Receives South Pars Gas Contract

Iran’s IRGC has been awarded the rights to develop the latest phases of the giant South Pars natural gas fields in the Persian Gulf. South Pars is Iran’s largest gas field. Together with the adjoining Qatar’s North Field, they are the world’s largest.

The Revolutionary Guards' business arm, Khatam al-Anbiya Base, received the lucrative contract after Royal Dutch Shell and Respol YPF decided not to move forward on South Pars development.

Khatam al-Anbiya is under UN sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program. Shell and Respol withdrawal from South Pars represent the hesitancy of global energy majors to doing business with Iran.

Iran and Russia Resume Diplomatic Contacts

After two days of public denunciation of each other, Iran and Russia have resumed high-level diplomatic contacts to manage the growing tensions in their relations. Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and National Security Advisor Saeed Jalili today had extensive phone conversations with their Russian counterparts [ISNA, 28 May]. Mottaki’s talk with Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minster, was particularly aimed at reducing the tensions between the two countries, which started with the remarks made by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioning Russia’s independence from US foreign policy over Iran.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Growing Tensions in Iran-Russia Relations

In unusually strong criticism of Russia, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today warned his Russian counterpart to be more cautious in dealing with Iran.

“If I were the Russian president, when making decisions about subjects related to the great nation (of Iran), I would act more cautiously, said Ahmadinejad during a live TV broadcast in Tehran [IRIB, 26 May].

Admadinejad added that Russian support for the US over Iran’s nuclear program was “unacceptable” and that Moscow should rethink its decision or face “being viewed as an enemy by Iran.”

Later in the day, Russia’s national security advisor Sergei Prikhodko issued a statement in Kremlin dismissing Ahmadinejad’s criticism, telling him to refrain from “political demagoguery.”

"No one has ever managed to preserve one's authority with political demagoguery. I am convinced, the thousand-year history of Iran itself is evidence of this," Sergei Prikhodko said in the statement issued by the Kremlin.

"The Russian Federation is governed by its own long-term state interests. Our position is Russian: it reflects the interests of all the peoples of greater Russia and so it can be neither pro-American nor pro-Iranian," Prikhodko said [Reuters, 26 May].

Prikhodko also criticized Iran for its failure to allay fears about its nuclear program.

“Any unpredictability, any political extremism, lack of transparency or inconsistency in taking decisions that affect and concern the entire world community is unacceptable to us,” he said.

“It would be good if those who are now speaking in the name of the wise people of Iran would remember this,” Prikhodko added.

Ahmadinejad’s tirade against the Russian president and Kremlin’s rapid and public rebuke of Ahmadinejad were unprecedented in modern Russo-Iranian relationship.

Reuters quoted Pyotr Goncharov, a Russian specialist on the region, as saying that Moscow has repeatedly saved Iran from tough sanctions, and Ahmadinejad’s defiance is “out of place.”

"It is simply the latest attempt by the Iranian president to lay the blame for his own problems at someone else's door," Goncharov added.

Today in History

On 26 May 1908, the first major oil strike in the Middle East occurred in Masjid-e Suleiman, Persia (Iran).

Photo: Iranian Historical Photographs Gallery

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Iranian film director Panahi released

Following two months of custody Jafar Panahi has been released from prison in Iran.

The acclaimed Iranian film-maker had been arrested for voicing his support for the opposition.

It has been reported that he was bailed out of prison for $200,000 which has also followed a week long hunger protest.

US Expands Special Operations in Iran – New York Times

A report published by The New York Times today indicates that the US military has expanded special operations in the Mideast region, including inside Iran. The Times reports that the Special Operations troops in Iran are to gather intelligence and conduct reconnaissance for possible future military strike if tensions over the country’s nuclear program escalate.

“The Defense Department can’t be caught flat-footed,” a Pentagon official told the Times, justifying the Special Ops inside Iran.

The directive authorizing specific operations in Iran, the Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order, was signed by CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus last September, the Times reports.

Graduation Day at Military Academy

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei participating in graduation day ceremonies at Imam Hossein Military Academy. Tehran. 24 May 2010

Photos: News Agency

Iran Assails GCC Over Three Islands

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast today assailed Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for issuing a communiqué following its meeting in Jedda backing UAE’s claim to the three Iranian islands of the Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa. The GCC communiqué had said the islands were parts of the Emirates territory. Mehmanparast said that GCC's support of the claim has amounted to a "blatant interference in Iran's internal affairs."

GCC is comprised of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Continued Tensions over Enrichment Program

Iran officially sent the text of Tehran Agreement to IAEA today. The letter from Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi accompanying the text calls the agreement “a major progress toward defusing international tensions” over the country’s uranium enrichment program [IRNA, 24 May]. Tehran’s proposal calls for swapping 1,200 kg of the country’s low-enriched uranium (LEU) for fuel to run a medical research reactor in Tehran.

IAEA will convey the letter to Russia, France and the US, the parties to the original fuel swap deal brokered by IAEA former boss Mohamed ElBaradei last October, for their consideration. The West has voiced doubt about the value of the new proposal since the amount of LEU to be swapped no longer represents the bulk of Iran’s stockpile that has grown significantly since October.

The major powers are expected to additionally call for the immediate suspension of Iran’s uranium enrichment activities, with UNSC imposing new sanctions if Iran refuses to suspend. But the Iranian speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, warned yesterday that Iran would cancel the Tehran Agreement if UNSC approves a new round of sanctions. It seems the parties are back to square one, with tensions surrounding Tehran’s enrichment program as strong as ever.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Iran Threatens to Abandon Tehran Agreement

Iran’s influential Speaker of the Parliament, Ali Larijani, said today in Tehran that Iran will abandon the Tehran Agreement for shipping some of its enriched uranium stockpile abroad if new UN sanctions are imposed against the country [IRNA, 23 May]. On Thursday, the deputy speaker of Majlis had linked the implementation of Tehran Agreement to any new UN sanctions.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Iran to Send Nuclear Agreement to IAEA

Iran will hand an official letter to the IAEA chief on Monday formally announcing the nuclear fuel swap agreement with Brazil and Turkey [IRNA, 21 May].

US Naval buildup in the Persian Gulf

According to an article from Debka the Obama Administration has arranged for a large naval strike force to be sent to the Persian Gulf carrying 6,000 marines and other sea combatants.

This is the start of a claimed three month build up in the Persian Gulf which will reach peak level around August where a planned four or five aircraft carriers will make up US military resources in the Gulf.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Sanctions Will Void Nuclear Agreement – Iran Official

The Deputy Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Majlis, said today that Iran will cancel the accord with Turkey and Brazil to transfer 1,200 kg of its LEU to Turkey if the UN Security Council approves the proposed sanctions resolution against Iran. Mohammad Reza Bahonar made his remarks at a gathering of the Islamic Engineers Association in Tehran [Mehr News Agency, 20 May].

Bahonar added that he expects the fourth round of UN sanctions to be approved in the near future and in that case the Tehran Agreement will be considered null and void and Iran will continue its 20 percent uranium enrichment program. This is the first time that a senior Iranian official has linked the implementation of Tehran Agreement to the passage of the proposed sanctions resolution at UNSC. It is not clear yet whether his remarks represents the official policy of Iran.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Proposed sanctions and Iran's military defense

By Mark Pyruz

The latest proposed sanctions resolution circulated by the United States target Iran's defense requirements, enabling further arms restrictions on the Islamic Republic. Excerpts:

8. Decides that all States shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Iran, from or through their territories or by their nationals or individuals subject to their jurisdiction, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories, of any battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register on Conventional arms, or related materiel, including spare parts, or items as determined by the Security Councilor the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1737 (2006) ("the Committee"), decides further that all States shall prevent the provision to Iran by their nationals or from or through their territories of technical training, financial resources or services, advice, other services or assistance related to the supply, sale, transfer, provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of such arms and related materiel, and calls upon all States to exercise vigilance and restraint over the supply, sale, transfer, provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of all other arms and related materiel;

9. Decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology, and that States shall take all necessary measures to prevent the transfer of technology or technical assistance to Iran related to such activities;

It should be pointed out that as was the case in the preceding round of sanctions, how these potential new sanctions are implemented is a main source of concern, as they represent a potential point of contact or flash point for open hostilities between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Last time around, a number of US Navy observers speculated that a literal reading of the sanctions resolution empowered the US to stop Iran related ships. It didn't happen on any significant scale. Whether or not it will happen with this coming round is again, at this point, an unanswered question.

Another concern is the focus on Iran's missile systems. Missiles are the cornerstone of Iran's defense, which is based on deterrence. Take away that means of deterrence from attack, and Iran is pretty much as vulnerable as Iraq was in 2003. Now, there are several types of missiles Iran depends on. There are the anti-Ship variety, some of which Iran assembles from Chinese sources. There are the anti-Aircraft variety, of which Iran has recently purchased the S-300 but Russia is stalling its delivery (under the sanctions, they will be non-deliverable). And most importantly, there are the short range (SRBM) and medium range (MRBM) ballistic missiles, which provide the main deterrent force to Iran's defense. Once again, it's open to interpretation, but the sanctions prohibit construction and test use of "nuclear capable" missiles. There's the potential for the US to consider the Shahab and Sejil type MRBMs "nuclear capable".

Sejil-2 medium range ballistic missile

Also potentially included are Iran's space launch vehicles (SLVs), such as the previous Safir series, but more importantly the upcoming Simorgh type (which some observers accuse Iran of a dual-use technology effort toward an ICBM or more efficient nuclear capable MRBM). Keep in mind, that using the so-called nuclear "alleged studies" as a justification, the US (and Israel) are already seeking classified information regarding Iran's MRBM reentry/warhead design, which would enable their efforts to undermine this element of Iran's defense. This is one of the reasons Iran has pushed back on this particular IAEA request. These elements of the newly proposed sanctions further empower these efforts at compromising vital aspects of Iran's military defenses.

Simorgh space launch vehicle

Again, it's all in the implementation, as Iran isn't going to suspend its missile defense or space launch efforts. As such, these potential new sanctions certainly represent 1) an escalation of confrontation, 2) inescapable confrontational events in the future (such as MRBM test launches and SLV launches) and 3) the potential for points of actual conflict, particularly at sea.

There is the interpretation that these elements of the proposed sanctions package have a lot less to do with nuclear weapons proliferation, and a lot more to do with pursuing other objectives related to Israeli military threats against Iran. Note that in previous sanctions attached to the Islamic Republic, an arms export ban was instituted in an effort to prevent Iran from contributing to the defense needs of allies such as Lebanon, Hezbollah and Hamas.

UN Draft Resolution on Iran’s Nuclear Program

The draft of a new UN Security Council resolution on Iran’s nuclear program was circulated late on Tuesday. It calls on states “to exercise vigilance” over transactions involving Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran. The draft resolution also requires countries to inspect ships or aircraft into or out of Iran if there are suspicions they are carrying banned material.

The circulation of the draft resolution comes after Iran struck a deal with Brazil and Turkey to send 1,200 kg of its existing LEU to Turkey in a swap for 120 kg of higher enriched uranium fuel for its medical research reactor. The supporters of the UN draft resolution argue that the new sanctions are needed as Iran has continued expanding its current inventory of LEU and will have more LEU on hand even after the swap takes place. They point out that the 1,200 kg LEU which comprised some 80 percent of Iran’s inventory last October, when Iran rejected a similar swap proposal, is now less than half of the country’s inventory. Apparently all five permanent members of UNSC have signed off on the draft resolution.

The critics of the proposed resolution, led by Brazil and Turkey, argue that Iran’s acceptance of the swap arrangement, even if it does not include most of the LEU it currently holds, represents a diplomatic breakthrough to end the nuclear impasse. Iran, the argument goes, has for the first time since Ahmadinejad’s rise to power, has agreed to a compromise involving the country’s nuclear program that can be used as a first step to resolve the impasse peacefully.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Iran: No Retreats; More LEU Remaining Than Being Swapped

President Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim- Moshaie told reporters in Tehran today that the Islamic Republic has not backed down from its previous positions on enriched uranium swap with the West. Rahim- Moshaie said Tehran nuclear agreement with Brazil and Turkey should not be seen as a retreat.

“We have not backed down. We have not retreated form our previous positions on [enriched uranium] swap,” Rahim- Moshaie said [ISNA, 18 May].

“ Tehran agreement explicitly recognizes Iran’s right to maintain complete cycle of uranium enrichment and peaceful nuclear fuel production,” added Rahim- Moshaie. “The West wanted to portray Iran as the party unwilling to accept the [enriched uranium] swap, but the agreement proved otherwise.”

Rahim- Moshaie blasted the left critics of Tehran agreement, saying even after the swap and shipping out LEU to Turkey, the amount of LEU left inside the country will be more than the volume shipped out.

“We have no problem producing 3.5 percent LEU. We will have more LEU than the amount we will ship to Turkey,” Rahim- Moshaie said [ISNA, 18 May].

Iran and France Exchange Prisoners

Ali Vakili Raad Arriving at Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport

In an apparent quid pro quo, France released the killer of former Iranian premier Shahpour Bakhtiar who was an opponent of the Islamic Republic. On Sunday, Tehran released the young French academic Clotile Reiss. She had been charged with espionage. Bakhtiar’s killer, Ali Vakili Raad, was released from a life sentence and sent to Tehran today. Bakhtiar was shah’s last prime minister, his government fell after Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile and named his own revolutionary government.

Photo: Mehr News Agency (Added to the post on 18 May)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nuclear Agreement in Tehran: Text

The following is the text of the ten-point detailed declaration on the nuclear swap deal, put forward by the leaders of Brazil, Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Iran:

1. We reaffirm our commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and in accordance with the related articles of the NPT, recall the right of all state parties, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy (as well as nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment activities) for peaceful purposes without discrimination.

2. We express our strong conviction that we have the opportunity now to begin a forward looking process that will create a positive, constructive, non-confrontational atmosphere leading to an era of interaction and cooperation.

3. We believe that the nuclear fuel exchange is instrumental in initiating cooperation in different areas, especially with regard to peaceful nuclear cooperation including nuclear power plant and research reactors construction.

4. Based on this point, the nuclear fuel exchange is a starting point to begin cooperation and a positive constructive move forward among nations. Such a move should lead to positive interaction and cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities replacing and avoiding all kinds of confrontation through refraining from measures, actions and rhetorical statements that would jeopardize Iran's rights and obligations under the NPT.

5. Based on the above, in order to facilitate the nuclear cooperation mentioned above, the Islamic Republic of Iran agrees to deposit 1200 kilograms LEU in Turkey. While in Turkey this LEU will continue to be the property of Iran. Iran and the IAEA may station observers to monitor the safekeeping of the LEU in Turkey.

6. Iran will notify the IAEA in writing through official channels of its agreement with the above within seven days following the date of this declaration. Upon the positive response of the Vienna Group (US, Russia, France and the IAEA) further details of the exchange will be elaborated through a written agreement and proper arrangement between Iran and the Vienna Group that specifically committed themselves to deliver 120 kilograms of fuel needed for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR).

7. When the Vienna Group declares its commitment to this provision, then both parties would commit themselves to the implementation of the agreement mentioned in item 6. The Islamic Republic of Iran expressed its readiness to deposit its LEU (1200 kilograms) within one month. On the basis of the same agreement the Vienna Group should deliver 120 kilograms fuel required for TRR in no later than one year.

8. In case the provisions of this Declaration are not respected, Turkey, upon the request of Iran, will return swiftly and unconditionally Iran's LEU to Iran.

9. We welcome the decision of the Islamic Republic of Iran to continue as in the past their talks with the 5+1 countries in Turkey on the common concerns based on collective commitments according to the common points of their proposals.

10. Turkey and Brazil appreciated Iran's commitment to the NPT and its constructive role in pursuing the realization of nuclear rights of its member states. The Islamic Republic of Iran likewise appreciated the constructive efforts of the friendly countries Turkey and Brazil in creating the conducive environment for realization of Iran's nuclear rights.

Photo: Hamed Malekpour at Fars News Agency

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nuclear Agreement in Tehran

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced today in Tehran that after 18 hours of intense negotiations with Brazil and Turkey, Iran has agreed on the nuclear fuel swap deal, ending a standoff with the West over its uranium enrichment program.

The details of the agreement was not disclosed, but Uskowi on Iran has learned that the deal calls for Iran to ship out most of its current inventory of enriched uranium to Turkey in return for higher-grade uranium fuel used in medical research. A formal announcement is expected on Monday.

Earlier today, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan flew unexpectedly to Tehran to join Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to seal the deal.

The 14th summit of the Group of 15 developing countries will take place on Monday in Tehran. Presidents of Brazil, Algeria and Senegal have already arrived in Tehran to attend the summit. The Turkish Foreign Minister is also en route to Tehran.

The group of 15 countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America established the alliance in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in September 1989. Since then three other countries have joined the group, but the name has remained unchanged. Cuba was the host of the last G15 summit meeting.

Photo: IRNA

Lula Meets Khamenei

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva meeting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Tehran. 16 May 2010. IRNA

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Brazil President in Tehran

President Lula da Silva Arriving in Tehran
Saturday 15 May. IRNA

Brazilian President Lula da Silva arrived in Tehran on Saturday for meetings with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad. Lula will also attend the G15 summit being held in Tehran on Monday. Iran’s uranium enrichment program is at the top of the agenda when the Brazilian president meets with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. Lula is trying to pull off a last-minute compromise between Iran and the West before UN Security Council considers a new round of sanctions against Iran.

Karun-4 Dam to Generate 1,000 MW Power

The Karun-4 hydroelectric dam on the Karun River in southwestern Iran is going through final preparation stages. The project will generate 1,000 MW of electric power. The dam, a concrete double arch type, is 230 meters high and its reservoir will be 29 square kilometers (11 sq miles).

Photos: Mehr News Agency

Friday, May 14, 2010

Turkish Premier Cancels Visit to Tehran

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan today told reporters in Ankara that his visit to Tehran is cancelled. Edrogan was to join Brazilian President Lulu da Silva in Tehran this weekend in a last ditch effort to mediate between Iran and the West before the imposition of new UN sanctions against the country. Edrogan told reporters that he had expected Iran to issue an official letter announcing its readiness to cooperate with Turkey in ending the impasse. Such letter never materialized and Edrogam cancelled his visit to Tehran.

Iran Defense Minister in Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Vahidi disembarks from an IRIAF Dassault Falcon 50EX

Iran Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi arrived in Dushanbe, for talks with Tajikistan Defense Minister General Shir-Ali Kheirollahev. Signing is planned of a memorandum of understanding on defense.

"Iran and Tajikistan have shared histories, shared languages and shared cultures, based on which we enjoy very good comprehensive relations in defense, political, economic and cultural fields" stated Defense Minister Vahidi, upon his arrival.

Photo: Vahid Reza Alaei at Fars News Agency

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Brazil President To Visit Tehran: Compromise on Nuclear Program?

By Nader Uskowi

Brazilian President Lula da Silva will arrive in Tehran on Saturday on a state visit. Lula is scheduled to meet Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad. He will also give the keynote speech at G15 summit held this year in Tehran.

The Iranian media is playing up the economic and commercial importance of the visit. IRNA is reporting that Lula and Ahmadinejad and their ministers will sign 17 agreements on bilateral economic and commercial cooperation. There are no mentions as of yet of any political issues on the agenda when the Brazilian president meets Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad.

Notwithstanding the coverage in the Iranian media, it is certain that the most critical topic of discussion between President Lula and Ayatollah Khamenei would be Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Brazil currently holds one of non-permanent seats at the UN Security Council that is expected to pass a new round of sanctions against Iran over its enrichment program. The Brazilian president will be trying to pull off an eleventh-hour compromise by Iran so the country can avoid further sanctions.

It looks, however, that any serious compromise to avoid sanction would invariably require Iran to ship out most of its current stockpile of enriched uranium, albeit to a more friendly country like Turkey or Brazil (the Turkish president will also be arriving in Tehran during the weekend and will meet Ayatollah Khamenei.) It is doubtful, however, that the Iranian leader could politically take the risks involved in such compromise. The Iranian public has been for long fed the official line of no shipping out of the country’s enriched uranium; it does not expect it, and probably would not accept it.

The leadership has put itself in an unenviable situation. Accept the compromise and be seen by the public as surrendering to foreign powers, or stay the course and invite the fourth round of sanctions, voted in by countries like China and Russia, supposedly Iran’s main allies among the major powers. But Khamenei does not seem to be in the mood for even an appearance of surrender.

Iran & India: IPI Gas Pipeline Revisited

India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will be visiting Tehran on Saturday to attend the G15 summit. During his stay, Krishna is expected to re-start negotiations with Iran over the proposed $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline. The proposed pipeline would be 2,200-km (1,615-mile) long, linking Iran’s South Pars gas fields to Pakistan and India.

Iran has already secured the final agreement with Pakistan to launch the Iran-Pakistan segment of IPI pipeline. The two countries have also invited India to join the project. Negotiations with India broke down last year apparently after differences over proposed transit fees by Pakistan. But observers believed at the time that India was not ready politically to commit itself to a major agreement in energy sector with Iran.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

UN Resolutions “Not Worth Penny” – Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressing a large crowd in western Iranian city of Yasuj said today any new UN sanction resolution against Iran is “not worth a penny.” He added that Tehran would give no ground to pressure.

“You should know that your resolutions are not worth a penny,” Ahmadinejad said. “If you think that by making fuss and propaganda you can force us to withdraw, you are wrong. The Iranian nation will not withdraw even one inch from its stance.”

Ahmadinejad’s remarks, directed at the six major powers who were meeting to hash out their differences over a UN Security Council resolution, were the latest indication that the Iranian government was now expecting a new round of sanctions over the country’s uranium enrichment program. The Iranian president had launched a political offensive in the past two weeks to prevent the new UN resolution. He was the only head of state attending UN’s NPT conference in New York, and had visited a number of heads of states that currently hold the non-permanent seats at UNSC.

Velayat-89 Military Maneuvers (8)

click photos to enlarge
Commander-in-Chief of the Army Major General Salehi (right) tours a Noor SSM mobile launcher site.

Noor (C-802) SSM mobile launcher in action

IRIS Alborz (72), Alvand class (Vosper Mk 5 type) frigate
firing a Noor (C-802) AShM

IRIS Jamaran (76), Mowj class frigate

IRIS Kharg (431), Kharg class replenishment ship
serving as forward observation vessel

Helmsman on the bridge of the IRIS Kharg

Regional foreign military delegations: Iran's Minister of Defense Brigadier General Vahidi flanked by an Iraq Navy Rear Admiral (Liwa) and Commodore (Amid). Qatari and Omani military personnel are visible in the background.

Minister of Defense Brigadier General Vahidi shakes hands
with an Oman Navy Captain (Aqid)

-Hossein Zohrevand, Hossein Mosavi-Faraz, Hamid Reza Niko-Maram at Fars News Agency
-Yunos Khani at Mehr News Agency
-Rooholla Vahdati at Iranian Students News Agency

Velayat-89 Military Maneuvers (7)

Iran Army tactical operations in southern regions of Sistan and Balouchestan province:

click photos to enlarge
BMP-2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV)

D-30 2A18 122 mm howitzer in action

Fadjr-5 (Dawn-5) 333 mm MRLS in action

IRIAA Elicotteri Meridionali CH-47C Chinook (219)

Photos: Islamic Republic News Agency

Monday, May 10, 2010

Velayat-89 Military Maneuvers (6)

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China Cat class fast attack craft (FAC) armed with HM 23 sixteen round 122 mm rocket launcher (MRLS), forward firing ZU-23 cannon and rear mounted DHsK 12.7 mm heavy machine gun.

High-speed patrol boat (HSPB) armed with 11 barrel 107 mm rocket launcher (MRLS) and forward firing DShK 12.7 mm HMG.

Foreground: Marines firing RPG-7. Background: IRIS Kharg (431), Kharg class (modified Olwen class design) replenishment ship.

Marine Lieutenant Commander (Nakhoda Sevom)
firing an Iranian 9 mm UZI

Marine Petty Officer 3rd Class (Mahnavi Dovom)
firing a PKM general purpose machine gun

Marine Chief Petty Officer (Nav Ostovar) assembling
a PKM 7.62 x 54 mm ammunition belt

Marine platoon embarked on HSPBs

Four Iranian-built Ghadir class midget submarines

Hossein Zohrevand at Fars News Agency
Jamal Salehi at Islamic Republic News Agency

Velayat-89 Military Maneuvers (5)

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IRIS Jamaran (76), Mowj class frigate

Noor (C-802) AShM launchers (x4), port side IRIS Jamaran

Triple torpedo launcher (similar to Mk 32 SVTT type),
starboard side IRIS Jamaran

Lightweight torpedo launch exercise, starboard side IRIS Jamaran. (Iranian media reports a new Iranian-built "anti-submarine" fire-and-forget torpedo being test-fired for the first time.)

Ghadir class midget submarine

Frontal view of the Ghadir

Kaman class missile boat equipped with SM-1 Standard SAM launchers and stern mounted fire control radar.

Iran TV Video coverage:

Photo/Video credits:
Hossein Zohrevand at Fars News Agency
Younes Khani at Mehr News Agency
Islamic Republic News Agency
Videos: Aminco @ IMF