Saturday, July 31, 2010

Brazil Offers Asylum for Sakineh Mohammadi

Sakineh Mohammadi

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula today offered to give asylum to Sakineh Mohammadi, an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

"I want to make an appeal to my friend Ahmadinejad, the supreme leader of Iran, and to the government of Iran to allow Brazil to take in the woman”, Lula said [AFP, 31 July].

Mohammadi, a 43-year-old mother of two, was sentenced to death by stoning after being convicted in 2006 of having an extramarital affair. Her sentence sparked an outcry in Western countries, and was temporarily halted earlier this month by the Iranian judiciary chief.

"I have to respect country’s laws, but if my friendship and regard I have for the president of Iran and the Iranian people is worth something, if this woman is causing discomfort, we could take her in Brazil," Lula added.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ramifications of EU Sanctions Against Iran

The international law firm Clyde & Co has outlined the ramifications of the new tough EU sanctions for energy, insurance, transport and financial sectors. Their overview was appeared on Wednesday’s issue of the International Freighting Weekly (ifw). The highlights are as follows:

Insurance: It is prohibited to provide insurance or reinsurance to the government of Iran, any entities incorporated in Iran or subject to its jurisdiction, or to any entities acting on behalf of or controlled by Iranian entities. The sole exception to this ban is the provision of health and travel insurance to individuals.

Energy: The sale, supply or transfer of equipment and technology to Iran for the following key sectors is prohibited: refining, production and exploration of oil and gas, and liquefied natural gas. The provision of technical assistance or training, or financing or financial assistance in respect of the above items or any technical assistance or training is prohibited. Providing finance extends to the granting of any loan or credit to the Iranian oil sector, the acquisition or extension of participation in enterprises engaged in the Iranian oil sector (including the acquisition of participating shares or securities), and the creation of any joint venture in the Iranian oil sector are also prohibited.

Finance: Grants, financial assistance and concessional loans to the government of Iran, with the exception of humanitarian, developmental and agricultural purposes, are prohibited. This includes the Iranian government's participation in international financial institutions. Member states of the EU will exercise enhanced monitoring over activities of specific financial institutions within their jurisdiction, including banks domiciled in Iran (and particularly the Central Bank of Iran) and their EU and non-EU based branches and subsidiaries, and also over financial entities that are not domiciled in Iran but are controlled by entities domiciled in Iran. The opening of new branches, subsidiaries or representative offices of Iranian banks in the EU, and the establishment by them of new joint ventures, ownership interests or correspondent-banking relationships is prohibited.

Capital: It is prohibited to participate in the direct or indirect sale or purchase of public or public-guaranteed bonds issued by the government of Iran, the Central Bank of Iran or any banks domiciled in Iran (including their EU-based branches or subsidiaries), including providing brokering or assistance in respect of the sale or purchase of these bonds.

Fund Transfer: Funds being transferred to or from Iran are subject to new reporting requirements: 

- Transfers of funds for foodstuffs, healthcare or humanitarian purposes may be carried out without prior authorization, but transfers above €10,000 must be notified to the relevant competent authority of the member state.

- Any other transfer under €40,000 may be carried out without prior authorization, but must be notified to the relevant competent authority if above €10,000; 

- All transfers above €40,000 must be authorized prior to the transfer by the relevant competent authority.

- Member States are required to inform other Member States of any rejected authorizations.

Cargo Inspection: All goods from/to a member state to/from Iran are now required to have additional pre-arrival or pre-departure information. All member states are required to inspect all cargo, air and sea, to and from Iran if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo contains items, the sale, supply, transfer or export of which is prohibited under these sanctions. Member states may request inspections on the high seas, with the consent of the flag state. Member states are required to co-operate with inspection requests by other member states. 
Any prohibited items will be seized and disposed of by the member states, and the costs of this disposal are to be met by the exporter/importer, or any other person responsible for the attempted supply, sale or transfer.


- Sea: The provision of bunkering or ship supply services, or servicing of vessels by nationals of member states to Iranian-owned or contracted vessels, including chartered vessels, is prohibited if that national has reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel carries items prohibited under the sanctions, with the exception of services necessary for humanitarian purposes or if the cargo has been inspected, and if necessary, seized and disposed of. 

- Air: 
Member states are to take all necessary measures to prevent access to airports under their jurisdiction by cargo flights operated by Iranian carriers or originating from Iran, with the exception of mixed cargo and passenger flights. The provision of engineering and maintenance services to Iranian cargo aircraft shall be prohibited if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo aircraft carries items prohibited under the sanctions, with the exception of services necessary for safety or humanitarian purposes, or if the cargo has been inspected, and if necessary, seized and disposed of.

Technical Assistance: It is prohibited to provide technical assistance, training, investment services, brokering services, financing or financial assistance (including grants, loans and export credit insurance) in respect of the provision of nuclear-related technology to Iran.

Export/Import: The sanctions prohibit the sale, transfer or supply to Iran of goods or technology which could contribute to enrichment-related, reprocessing or heavy water-related activities, or to the development of nuclear weapons systems. The export to Iran of dual-use goods and technology is also prohibited. The ban also covers arms and all other related material. The ban will not apply if the items are for food, agricultural, medical or other humanitarian purposes.

Asset Freeze: The assets of those persons listed in Annex I to the Council Decision appended to the sanctions are frozen, as well as the assets of those persons engaged in, directly associated with or providing support for Iran's development of nuclear weapon delivery systems. Entities present on the list of freezing orders now include subsidiaries of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) including Irano Hind Shipping Company, IRISL Benelux NV and South Shipping Line Iran.

Travel and Educational Bans: 
Travel to and from member states by designated persons, listed in Annex I to the Council Decision, is prohibited. This list will updated as and when new persons are designated by the UN and other bodies. 
Member states must also take measures to prevent the specialized teaching or training within their territories or by their nationals of Iranian nationals in disciplines which might contribute to Iran's development of nuclear weapons.

Start Date: The sanctions went into effect on 26 July 2010. The prohibitions do not apply to the execution of any obligation relating to the delivery of goods under contracts concluded prior to that date.

US Sanctions: The United States sanctions regime against Iran remains unchanged: Prohibitions on US persons from exporting, re-exporting, selling or supplying goods and technology to Iran, participating in any transactions including transportation, financing or brokering transactions, and the servicing of accounts of certain Iranian banks. Prohibitions on US persons trading in Iranian oil or refined petroleum products, or supplying goods or technology which would benefit the Iranian oil industry. The enabling act passed on 1 July 2010 amends the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, and prohibits the provision of refined petroleum or support related to the production of refined petroleum to Iran. It includes in its definition of “person” financial institutions, insurers, underwriters, guarantors and any other business organization including foreign subsidiaries, parents or affiliates.

Talks on Iran Nuclear Program to Start

The US State Department said on Wednesday that it hoped to hold high-level meetings in the coming weeks with Iran and the five major world powers to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.

"We hope to have the same kind of meeting in the coming weeks that we had last October," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said [AP, 28 July].

In October, the participants proposed a nuclear fuel swap deal with Iran.

Iran's representative to IAEA said on Monday that Iran is ready to resume talks over its nuclear fuel swap without conditions.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Explosion Damages Oil Tanker at Strait of Hormuz- UPDATE

Japanese Tanker M Star
AP File Photo

The Japanese M Star tanker, which was carrying approximately 2.3 million barrels of crude, was damaged in an explosion near the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. The owners, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, said the explosion could have been a terrorist attack on the tanker.

“We believe it’s highly likely an attack. There is nothing that can explode in that part of the vessel,” Mitsui spokesman Eiko Mizuno said [AP, 28 July].

The incident caused no oil leak and the vessel is heading toward UAE port of Fujairah on its own power.

UPDATE (29 July): The tanker arrived at Fujairah on Wednesday evening. The tanker bore no sign of external attack. Investigation was underway to establish the cause of the incident.

Ali Akbar Safai, the director of shipping at Iran’s Hormuzgan province, told reporters however “a fire was caused by a blast on the deck of this vessel, that was controlled by the forces present in the region and the crew.” [Fars News Agency, 29 July].

Another Iranian shipping official, Mohammad Hakimi, told said “the blast on the Japanese ship happened in Omani waters.” [Mehr News Agency, 28 July].

The head of Iran’s Shipping and Ports Organization, Attollah Sadr, ruled out a terrorist attack. “Because of inflammable gases and vapors in oil tankers, a blast is likely,” he said [Mehr News Agency, 29 July].

Afghan Wikileaks on Iran

By Nader Uskowi

The Wikileaks Afghan war logs contains more than 90,000 entries. This blogger has so far read just over 1,000 logs, hence the risk of generalizing their quality based on this limited sample. But a basic characteristic is already evident throughout these reports: these logs are less intel reports and more a collection of stories, unsubstantiated or not, and rumors, as told by questionable local sources to the reporting officers and passed on as intel collected on the ground. It is certainly hoped that the intel as described in these logs were not, and are not, the basis of US actions in Afghanistan.

My particular interest were the logs dealing with Iran’s actions in Afghanistan. Few surprises so far, but some interesting items:

- Some 100 Taliban commanders, along with 15 Chechens, entered Afghanistan from Iran in 2009. They were tasked to conduct attacks, including suicide bombings, in Kabul.

- Existence in Birjand, Iran, of a training base where Iranians train Taliban and HIG (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s) fighters. From same location, the reports say, the Iranians send to Afghanistan explosive devices and vehicles ready to be used in suicide car bombings.

- A 2005 report that the Iranians had delivered 10 million afghanis (more than $200,000) to four HIG fighters. The monies were hidden inside a Toyota station wagon for transfer into Afghanistan.

- A 2005 report widely quoted in the media that the Iranians were offering anti-government fighters 100,000 afghanis ($22,000) for any Afghan soldier killed and 200,000 afghanis ($44,000) for any government officials killed. [The report referred to “rupee” which is the Pakistani currency, but also popularly used in reference to the afghani, Afghanistan’s currency. If it meant the Pakistani currency, then the rewards would have been much less, at some $1,700 and $3,400 respectively].

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ahmadinejad Warns of US Attack

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the state-owned Press TV on Monday he has “precise” information the US is planning to attack two countries in the region, presumably Iran being one of them.

"They [US] plan to attack at least two countries in the region within the next three months," Ahmadinejad said [Press TV, 26 July].

"First of all, they want to hamper Iran's progress and development since they are opposed to our growth, and secondly they want to save the Zionist regime because it has reached a dead-end and the Zionists believe they can be saved through a military confrontation," Ahmadinejad added.

Ahmadinejad warned President Obama not to follow the policies of President Bush. He also warned Russia to avoid playing into the hands of Washington.

Ahmadinejad added that Iran is ready to resume talks on its nuclear program with the West.

Iran Defense Minister Warns Israel

Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi has warned Israel that “any injudicious action” will lead to the annihilation of Israel [Press TV, 26 July].

“Any injudicious action of Israel will trigger the countdown of its destruction,” Gen. Vahidi told reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet session on Monday.

Gen. Vahidi’s comments were the latest by senior Iranian leaders in recent days implying an expectation of military attack on Iran over its nuclear program. Yesterday’s remarks by former CIA and NSA director and the retired Air Force four-star general Michael Haden that he now believed that a military option against Iran might not be the worst of possible outcomes fueled further speculations in Tehran.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

EU Sanctions to Start; Iran to Restart Talks

The Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said today Iran is ready to re-start immediately talks with the Western powers over a nuclear fuel swap agreement. He made this remarks at the sideline of a meeting with his Turkish and Brazilian counterparts in Istanbul.

Meanwhile, the EU will start its tough new sanctions against the Iranian oil and gas industry on Monday. The EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton will also seek to revive talks with Iran over the nuclear program. The two-track approach is to convince Iran to stop further uranium enrichment and to ship most of its current inventory abroad.

In Washington, former CIA director General Michael Haden said today in an interview on CNN that the sanctions have not succeeded in stopping Iran from pursuing capabilities right below the nuclear weapon, and that he now believes military action against Iran "may not be the worst of possible outcomes," [CNN, “The State of Union”, 25 July]. While in office, Hayden had played down the “kinetic option.”

Saturday, July 24, 2010

US Attack on Iran Unlikely- IRGC

IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari has dismissed the likelihood of a US attack against Iran.

"The US will not dare attack Iran, as it is well aware of the nation's determination and Iran's military capabilities," Gen. Jafari said on Saturday [IRNA, 24July].

Jafari also discounted the impact of the UN, US and EU sanctions, saying the sanctions actually boost the country’s “national confidence.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Yuan for Euro and Dollar

Reuters is reporting that Iranian oil and banking officials are in talks with their Chinese counterparts to replace dollar and euro with yuan for payment for its crude oil. It was clear if the switch would be only for the sale of oil to China, or it could extend to worldwide sale of Iranian crude.

Last week, Iran floated the idea of switching to UAE dirham. The UAE officials quickly rejected the idea. Iran is desperately seeking an international currency to replace euro and dollar for its oil transactions to blunt the impact ot he new US and EU financial sanctions against the country.

Military In History

Top picture: The Shah of Iran inspecting an F-4D Phantom at McDonnell plant in St. Louise on 13 June 1968.

IIAF had ordered 16 F-4Ds in late 1967; the first of which arrived on 8 September 1968. Approximately 225 F-4Ds, RF-4Es and F-4Es were subsequently delivered to Iran during the 60s and 70s. More than 65 Phantoms are still in service at IRIAF.


Bottom picture: An IIAF F-4D Phantom II

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ahmadinejad’s Advisor on Religious Affairs Resigns

Hojattoeslam Nasser Saghay Biria
Aftab News File Photo

Hojattoleslam Mohammad Nasser Saghay Biria, President Ahmadinejad’s Advisor on Religious Affairs, has resigned his post in what his close associates are describing as a protest against Ahmadinejad’s alleged un-Islamic views on requirements for women to wear veil and conform to strict Islamic dress code. Ahmadinejad has not yet accepted Saghay’s resignation.

Saghay Biria is a disciple of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi. Last week, a day before resigning his post, Saghay had an extensive meeting in Qom with Mesbah. Ahmadinejad himself is known as one of Mesbah’s followers. Saghay’s resignation and the reasoning behind it would create questions about Mesbah’s role as a religious guide to the Iranian president.

Meanwhile, Jahan News reported this week that Esfandiar Rahim Moshaie, the president’s chief of staff, has said that Ahmadinejad feels that the influential editor of ultra-conservative daily Kayhan, Hossein Shaitmadari, is his enemy and within a year would be calling him un-Islamic and Kafar.

“From Shaiatmadari’s point of view, I am not even a Muslim. He believes I am a spy, a monafegh and a part of the Green coup,” said Ahmadinejad, as quoted by Moshaie [Aftab News, 22 July].

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Iran To Start Research On Nuclear Fusion Reactor

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said today that during a ceremony on Saturday, it will start research on construction of an experimental nuclear fusion reactor. No nation has yet succeeded in building nuclear fusion reactors. These reactors are to use technology that is cleaner than existing nuclear power plants, making construction of such reactors a major achievement for AEOI [IRNA, 21 July].

Iran Speaker Hails Relations with North Korea

Iran’s Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said Iran and North Korea are both revolutionary and independent nations trying to resist the world's "greedy" powers, Iranian news agencies reported today.

Larijani hailed staunch bilateral ties between Iran and North Korea and thanked North Korea for its "contributions" to Iran [ISNA, 21 July].

Larijani made the comments during a meeting with his North Korean counterpart on the sidelines of an Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference in Geneva today. The North Korean parliament speaker invited Larijani to visit Pyongyang.

North Korea has become a close ally of Iran in a world with increasingly fewer allies for the country.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

5.8 Magnitude Quake Shakes Southern Iran

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Iran today. No casualties were reported. The quake shook southern provinces of Fars, Hormuzgan and the Kish Island in the Persian Gulf. The USGS placed the epicenter of the moderate quake 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of the city of Jahrom. Iran sits astride several major fault lines and is prone to frequent quakes. In December 2003, a 6.3 magnitude quake hit the southern historical city of Bam, killing 31,000.

Iranian solutions to the Afghanistan situation

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has called for a regional solution to the situation in Afghanistan stating that western forces were only adding insecurity and the increased trafficking of opium:

"The solution to Afghanistan should not be sought in military confrontation and any action in Afghanistan should be based on realities."

-- Mottaki

In a speech he outlined five solutions to the conflict in question:

(i) The Afghan Constitution is the greatest achievement of the country and hence needs to set the criterion for any measures to be taken in the country. Besides that, the process of government formation and the reinforcement of civil institutions should be supported by the international community.

(ii) The presence and increase of foreign forces will not help the situation in Afghanistan. Afghan people and government need to be trusted and a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces should be set as well.

(iii) A double standard policy on fighting terrorism has to be avoided.

(iv) Security and development are two inseparable factors; hence the reconstruction of Afghanistan and its infrastructures should become the focus of more attention. In doing so, Iran continues to contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan and welcomes other countries' participation as well.

(v) Regional cooperation needs to be supported as the proper approach to the issue. Iran for its part continues to hold regional meetings on Afghanistan and expects other non-regional countries to support the move. Iran believes that increased regional cooperation in transportation, energy and other sectors will contribute to development in Afghanistan.

[Source: PressTV 20/07/2010]

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bazaar Strike Ends

Merchants at the Tehran Bazaar ended their 12-day strike and opened their shops on Sunday. The strike began after the government increased the income tax paid by the merchants by 70%. In an agreement reached between the two sides, the tax increase was cut to 15%. Some merchants initially resisted against the agreement, but all the shops in the Grand Bazaar are now open.

Baluchistan Deputies Resign

Three Majlis deputies representing Iran’s Baluchistan have resigned in protest to what they called Tehran’s inability or unwillingness to maintain security in their province. On Thursday, two suicide bombings in quick succession killed at least 27 people at Zahedan’s Grand Mosque. Zahedan is the capital of Baluchistan.

The three deputies who have resigned were Hossein Ali Shahriari, Abbas Ali Noura and Peyman Forouzesh.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Funeral Procession in Zahedan

The funeral procession of the victims of the suicide bombings.

Zahedan, Saturday 17 July 2010.

Photos by Fars News Agency’s Ali Azimzadeh

Friday, July 16, 2010

Zahedan Tragedy in Pictures

The photos of the bombing scene by IRNA.

The photos of the two suicide bombers published by Jundallah on its website: Abdelbasset Rigi and Mohammad Rigi.

Old Times

Students of Aryamehr University, now Sharif, watching soccer game, circa 1968. Among them are some of this blogger’s (Nader Uskowi) old friends and Alborz classmates. Photo:

Blasts in Baluchistan Kill 27, Many Injured- UPDATE

Two powerful explosions, believed to be suicide bombings, killed at least 27 people and injured 275 more in Zahedan, the capital of Iran’s Baluchistan. The Sunni Baluch militant group Jundallah took responsibility for the blasts.

The first bomb went off at the city’s Grand Mosque at 920pm local time on Thursday. The second blast went off at the same place within minutes of the first blast.

Jundallah, whose leader was executed in Tehran last month, said the blasts targeted IRGC officers gathered at the mosque to celebrate the birthday of Shia’s revered Imam Hussein. No independent report on IRGC casualty was available.

UPDATE: The two powerful explosions at Zahedan’s Grand Mosque were the result of suicide bombings. Jundallah, which took the responsibility for the bombings, has identified the two suicide bombers believed to be among the dead as Mohammad Rigi and Mojahed Abdelbaset. Jundallah referred to Rigi and Abdelbaset as teenagers, without disclosing their age. There was no information about any possible family ties between Mohammad Rigi and Junadalla’s former leader Abdelrahman Rigi who was executed in Tehran last month.

The blasts left 27 dead, and more than 300 injured. 11 of the injuries have been described as critical and life threatening. 137 of the injured have already been released from hospitals.

The suicide bombings happened when pilgrims had filled the Grand Mosque to capacity in observation of the birthday of Imam Hussein and the Pasdar (“IRGC”) Day. There are reports of casualties among IRGC officers who were in attendance to observe the Pasdar Day.

UPDATE: In the aftermath of the deadly suicide bombings in Zahedan, the city’s representative in Majlis, the Iranian parliament, resigned his post in protest to what he called the government’s inability and unwillingness to protect his constituents. Dr. Hussein Ali Shahriari, the Zahedan deputy and the chairman of Majlis public health committee, said in his resignation letter that he had warned the security officials many times that a terrorist attack was inevitable, with Rigis wanting to prove their continued existence, but no heightened security measures were taken, resulting in the tragedy that left 27 people killed and hundreds injured.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dirham for Euro

Reports from Tehran indicate that the government is seriously considering switching payment for its crude oil from the euro to the UAE dirham. The Iranians believe that the swich would blunt the impact of EU’s financial sanctions against Iran.

No Swap Deal with Iran - US

The White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that the US had made no deals with Iran in freeing Shahram Amiri. The Iranian scientist turned up earlier on Tuesday at Iranian Interest Section in Washington, accusing the US of kidnapping and imprisoning him for the past 14 months.

Amiri's walking in Iran’s official representative office in Washington gave rise to speculations that he was being swapped for the three American hikers held in Iran. Gibbs was denying such swap in his talks with the reporters today.

Strikes Spread in Tehran Bazaar- UPDATE

Reports from Tehran indicate that the strikes by bazaari merchants that started last week have spread significantly, shutting down many parts of Tehran bazaar. The merchants were protesting a dramatic 70% increase in their income tax. The strikes started in the Fabrics Bazaar on Tuesday of last week and soon spread to Gold Bazaar and others.

Meanwhile the government has unexpectedly declared a two-day holiday in the capital without giving any reasons for its action. Observers speculate the reason for the unscheduled holiday was an attempt to downplay the effects of a massive strike in Tehran Bazaar.

UPDATE: Tehran Bazaar remained closed on Wednesday, a day after the government-imposed holiday in the city ended. Reports from Tehran indicate that the shops between Sabzemeydan and the bazaar itself are all closed. The government had increased the tax on Bazaar merchants by 70%. Later under pressure from the bazaaris, the minister of commerce announced that taxes would only increase by 15% over last year’s. Today’s continued strikes indicate that the lower figure has not ended the controversy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Amiri Turns UP in Washington

Shahram Amiri, an Iranian scientist who vanished more than a year ago during a pilgrimage to Mecca, turned up in Washington today saying he had been kidnapped by the United States and was held against his will.

Iran’s state-owned Press TV quoted Amiri as saying that his “kidnapping was a disgraceful act by the US" [Press TV, 13 JULY].

In March, ABC News reported that Amiri had defected and was helping the CIA with information on Iran’s nuclear program.

Amiri walked in the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, DC. Amiri had previously made a number of videos, some posted on YouTube, accusing the US of kidnapping him and holding him imprisoned. It was not clear how a kidnapped and imprisoned Iranian could walk freely into his country’s official representative office in Washington or make those videotapes and post them on YouTube.

Press TV said Amiri was escorted to the Iranian Interest Section by armed US agents. The assertion immediately gave rise to speculations that Amiri was being swapped for the three American hikers in Iranian custody. The speculation grew stronger later in the day when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contrasted Amiri’s situation with that of the three Americans. Clinton added, however, that Amiri has been in the US “of his own free will” and is free to go.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Medvedev calls for negotiations with Iran

Following the new UN Security Council Sanctions on Iran the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has stated negotiations should be renewed as soon as possible stating:

"This is what we see as the main aim of the UN Security Council resolution. If diplomacy loses this chance, then this will be a collective failure of all the international community"

Currently and US and the European Union have imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, Medvedev has also stated:

"Iran is nearing the possession of the potential which in principle could be used for the creation of a nuclear weapon."

Iran continues to assert however that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pirates attack Iranian ship

A 158,000-ton Iranian Sousangerd ship carrying crude oil to Spain has escaped an attack by ten Somali pirates who attempted to hijack the ship in the Bab al-Mandeb strait in the Gulf of Aden according to a National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) official [Press TV 11/07/2010].

This was the fourth attempt by Somali pirates to hijack an Iranian ship in the region this year, the previous three of which were also unsuccessful.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hezbollah criticizes CNN for firing senior editor

Hezbollah's spokesman Ibrahim Moussawi has criticized CNN for firing senior editor Octavia Nasr after she expressed remorse following the death of Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah in on her Twitter page where she stated:

"Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot..."

Moussawi stated:

"This measure reveals the double standard in the West regarding matters in the region and unmasks the United States, which pretends to protect freedom of speech."

After nearly two decades working for CNN she was fired under the pretext that her credibility had been lost.

A UK envoy has also angered Israel over stating that Fadlallah was a "decent" man and her "favorite politician".

An Israeli spokesmen has stated that Ayatollah Fadlallah was "unworthy of praise."

Fadlallah who was a strong supporter of the Islamic Revolution and also for the founding of Hezbollah in 1982 as a result of the Israeli invasion and occupation of the South of Lebanon, Hezbollah fought an 18 year war with Israel until a cease fire was reached in 2000 and then fought another short war in 2006 after an attack on Israeli soldiers in a Lebanese territory occupied by Israel called the Shebba Farms.

These two 'incidents' follow Helen Thomas' early retirement as a result of criticizing Israel's attack on an aid flotilla full of peace activists in which she stated in the heat of the moment that the Jews should get out of occupied Palestine.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Obama: No Israeli Attack on Iran

President Barack Obama said in an Israeli TV interview broadcast on Thursday it is highly unlikely Israel would surprise Washington with an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Obama became the most senior US official making similar declarations recently to ease concerns over a possible Israeli attack amid widespread reports and rumors that Israel was planning for an attack in very near future.

"I think the relationship between the US and Israel is sufficiently strong that neither of us try to surprise each other," Obama said, when asked if he was concerned Israel could catch the US off guard with an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities [AFP, 8 July].

MP Calls for Retaliation Against Britain, Germany and UAE - UPDATE

Iran’s Majlis has passed a measure reserving the country’s right to take retaliatory actions against Britain, Germany and UAE for refusing to refuel Iranian passenger jets.

"Majlis has passed a law and the National Security Commission approved the resolution that Iran reserves the right to take retaliatory measures against those countries that work in the framework of the [new sanctions]," said Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission [ISNA, Press TV, 8 July].

"Iran reserves the right to take retaliatory actions in cases that its planes or ships face any problem," Falahatpisheh added.

"We should definitely retaliate against the United Arab Emirates, Britain and Germany whose planes need transit fuel from Iran."

UPDATE: Reuters is quoting German officials that two Iranian passenger planes took off from Hamburg airport on Thursday without refueling.

Israeli Attack on Iran Not on Table - McCain

US Sen. John McCain, on a visit to Israel, told reporters in Jerusalem that an Israeli attack on Iran is not on the table at the moment. He made his remarks after a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel's military chief of staff, General Gabi Ashkenazi.

"I don't believe we are at the point of making that kind of decision, nor is the Israeli government, given the state that Iran is in now as far as the development of their nuclear weapons is concerned," McCain said in response to a question on whether he would support an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities [Washington Post, 8 July].

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sanction May Slow Enrichment, But Will Not Stop It - Iran

Iran’s director of atomic energy organization said today in Bushehr that the new UN and US sanctions would not stop the country’s enrichment program, but it may slow it down.

"One can't say sanctions are ineffective," said IAEO Director Ali Akbar Salehi. "If sanctions are aimed at preventing Iran's nuclear activities, we say they may slow down the work, but will not stop the activities. This is a certainty.

"On the issue of enrichment, we may face problems with some equipment such as measuring instruments," Salehi added.

"If we face a problem over this equipment, we will manufacture it" [ISNA, 7 June].

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

EU Bans Iran Air Boeing Planes

The European Union today banned most of Iran Air’s jets from European airports. The EU said a just-completed safety audit of Iran Air assets puts the airliner’s Boeing 727’s, 747’s and Airbus 320s on its blacklist. Iran air’s Boeing jets were purchased in 1970s. The airline had planned to replace older planes with Russian-built TU-204 jets starting next year. Iran Air said today that it would fly its Airbus jets on European flights. Those jets meet EU safety guidelines.

On US Sanctions

By Nader Uskowi

Yesterday’s lack of clarity over a possible ban on refueling Iranian passenger planes in some European and Middle Eastern airports could be the result of uncertainties over the extent of the new US sanctions against Iran. Did a ban on selling gasoline to Iran include the ban on selling jet fuel to Iran Air? Notwithstanding that uncertainty, one thing is becoming clear: the US sanctions will have major effect on gasoline sale to Iran.

Almost all major refineries capable of producing and exporting gasoline are stopping their sale to Iran. Reports from Iran indicate dramatic drop in availability of gasoline in the wholesale market, as much as half the volume of last month. The most likely outcome of such shortage will be as a dramatic rise in gasoline prices. The government-controlled rate is expected to hit 900 tomans per liter ($3 per gallon), with unrestricted prices not unthinkable hitting 1,500 tomans ($5 per gallon). These prices will produce inflationary pressures and above all will create public dismay. Until recently people were paying a fraction of these prices to fill up their cars.

The new US sanctions are also creating problems for the country’s banking system, a serious situation that we will continue monitoring.

I am not arguing that the new US sanctions in themselves will be game changers. Countries can and do adjust to harsh economic conditions. It is argued, however, that the Iranian government needs to take these realities into account in making its final decision on the country’s nuclear program. I believe its resilience to maintain the program intact, even under heavy international pressure, has indeed been shown. The leadership should now base its decision solely on the national interests of Iran. If it is in the country’s interests to end its current economic woes, a compromise in enrichment program is indeed in order. Leaders are expected to make difficult and unpopular decisions and the Iranian leaders need to abandon populist policies and start making very difficult decisions.

Khamenei Stops Government Takeover of Azad University

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has nullified a recent ruling by High Council for Education that would have transferred the control of Azad ("Free") University of Iran, the country’s largest, to the government. The move is a major victory for Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, the founding chairman of the university’s board of trustees, and a defeat for Ahmadinejad’s attempt to take over the university.

The government’s High Council for Education had approved new by-laws and a new board of trustees for the university. Those moves became nullified by Khamenei's order. The government had also encouraged student demonstrations against Rafsanjani and his control of the university and the influential extreme right daily Kayhan had strongly pushed for the government takeover.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Airports Ban Refueling by Iranian Planes - UPDATE

Iran’s air transport officials are reporting that since last week airports in Britain, Germany, UAE and Kuwait have refused to refuel Iranian passenger planes.

"Since last week, after the passing of the unilateral law by America and the sanctions against Iran, airports in England, Germany, the UAE have refused to give fuel to Iranian planes," said Mehdi Aliyari, secretary of Iranian Airlines Union [ISNA, 5 July].

IRNA had earlier reported the ban on refueling in Kuwait. Iran Air and Mahan Air are the two airlines with extensive regional and European flights which have been hit hard by the move.

UPDATE: The government spokesmen for Britain, Germany and UAE have denied the reports published by Iranian news agencies ISNA and IRNA that their airports have banned refueling Iranian passenger planes.

UPDATE II: Despite denial by government sources in Europe and the UAE, the Iranian news agencies are still keeping the news of refueling ban on their top pages.

UPDATE III. The oil companies, like the BP in Britain, are the ones who are refusing to refuel Iranian planes. A BP spokesman was quoted by the Times of London as saying: "We fully comply with any international sanctions imposed in countries where we operate."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fadlallah Dies in Beirut

Lebanon’s Shia leader Ayatollah Mohammaed Hussein Fadlallah died in a Beirut hospital on Sunday. He was admitted on Friday for internal bleeding. Fadlallah was 75 years old.

Sheik Fadlallah was a staunch and early supporter of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution and led the corresponding Islamic movement in Lebanon. Later in life, as an ayatollah, he distanced himself from Khomeini’s Velayat-e Faghih, the absolute rule of top Shia religious leader as the country’s supreme leader, as in Iran.

Fadlallah’s early teachings had a profound effect on the creation of Hezbollah in 1982, although he later denied being the pro-Iranian militant group’s spiritual leader. He became one of the founders of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s governing Dawa Party, and was believed to be Maliki’s religious guide.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Iran Commemorates Anniversary of Attack on Airliner

Commemorative Iranian postage stamp

Iran is remembering victims of Iran Air A300 Airbus shot down by the US over the Persian Gulf on 3 July 1988, just a month before the end of Iran-Iraq war. 290 Iranians lost their lives during the attack by USS Vincennes on the civilian airliner.

The airliner was shot down shortly after it took off from Bandar Abbas for Dubai. Washington said the Vincennes mistook the airliner for a hostile Iranian fighter jet. Iran maintains it was a deliberate attack by a sophisticated warship on a civilian aircraft. The annual commemoration of the event has become an occasion for outpouring of anger at the US.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Obama Signs Iran Sanctions

President Obama in the East Room at the White House
Washington. 1 July 2010. AFP Photo

President Barak Obama today signed into law new US sanctions on Iran. At the signing ceremony in the East Room at the White House, the president said the sanctions would strike at the heart of Iran’s ability to develop its nuclear program.

"Consistent with the Security Council mandate, this legislation strengthens existing sanctions, authorizes new ones and supports our multilateral diplomatic strategy to address Iran’s nuclear programs," Obama said. "It makes it harder for the Iranian government to purchase refined petroleum and the goods, services and materials to modernize Iran’s oil and natural gas sector. It makes it harder for the Revolutionary Guards and banks that support Iran’s nuclear programs and terrorism to engage in international finance. It says to companies seeking procurement contracts with the United States government -- if you want to do business with us, you first have to certify that you’re not doing prohibited business with Iran.” [Reuters, 1 July]

Prison Guards Convicted of Murder

An Islamic Revolutionary court in Tehran sentenced two people, presumably a prison guard and an interrogator, to death on Wednesday for the murder of three pro-Green protesters taken into custody at the Kahrizak detention centre during last year’s disputed presidential election.

The official Iranian news agency IRNA said the jailed protesters had died as a result of "intentional assault and battery.” IRNA did not identify the two people convicted of murders. Nine more people were ordered to pay fines and blood money and receive lashes for the abuse of prisoners. One person was cleared.

Scores of people have filed complaints of their mistreatment at Kahrizak. The prison was closed last July.