Thursday, June 30, 2011

Great Prophet 6 Maneuvers (3) - Ghadir Radar

Ghadir radar system operational

From PressTV:

A top Iranian commander says the Ghadir radar system with a range of 1,100 kilometers in radius and a height of 300 kilometers has become operational in the country for the first time.

“The Ghadir radar has been designed and manufactured to discover air targets, radar-evading planes, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and satellites at low orbits,” Commander of the Aerospace Division of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Amir Ali Hajizadeh said on Wednesday, Fars news agency reported.

After the IRGC unveiled underground ballistic missile silos on the first day of the Great Prophet 6 military maneuvers on Monday, the Ghadir radar system also become operational, the commander went on to say.

Iran shows downed US drones to Russia

From Fars News Agency:

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh announced on Tuesday that Iran has allowed a number of Russian experts to see the several US drones the IRGC has shot down over the Persian Gulf in recent years.

"Russian experts asked to see the airplanes and we allowed them to see the shot-down drones as well as the reversely engineered models made by the IRGC," Hajizadeh told reporters.

Referring to the IRGC's defense and combat power in confrontations against US drones in the Persian Gulf, he said that the drones were shot down in free waters and also in those regions under the control of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Earlier this year, a senior Iranian military official had confirmed reports on the shooting down of several enemy drones over the Persian Gulf, and said Iran has targeted a large number of these pilotless planes during the last 7 years.

"We have experienced similar incidents many times in the past and there have even been drones belonging to the occupying Zionist regime (Israel), the United States and Britain which have been shot down in the Persian Gulf during the past 7 years," the senior military official told FNA in January.

Also in January 2007, the Iranian military troops shot down a spy plane of the US army when trying to cross Iran-Iraq borders in the Southwestern city of Dasht-e-Azadegan, Khuzestan province.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Iran Conducting Covert Tests of Ballistic Missiles - British Foreign Secretary

The British Foreign Secretary William Hague today told the House of Commons that Iran has recently conducted covert tests of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads [AP, 29 June]. Hague did not disclose any details and did not say how the British government obtained the information, which could not be independently verified. Iran denies that it intends to build nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.

Dress Rehearsal

By Paul Iddon

Are the UAE and Qatar Emiri Air Forces using the NATO intervention in Libya they are partaking in as a dress rehearsal of sorts for a possible future attack against Iran they may have to undertake if they feel directly threatened?

U.A.E. F-16 Fighting Falcon.
On June 7th 1981 a strike package of Israeli F-16's escorted by F-15's managed to successfully knock out the Iraqi Osirak reactor. While rebuked by the United Nations for carrying out this action the Israelis stated they believed the reactor would be operational in less than a month and soon after that have given the Iraqis a nuclear bomb of their own, a bomb that Saddam Hussein would have either found an early occasion to actually detonate or simply use as blackmail against either Israel or Iran.

While this Operation Opera raid carried out by the Israelis is often cited as the epitome of a preventive strike it is often forgotten that the Iranians themselves had attempted to knock out the Osirak reactor with their air force but had failed in their attempts. Therefore when the Israelis finally carried out their strike there was a collective sigh of relief in Iran that the man who had launched an invasion the year before with a force of 70,000 soldiers that attempted to pillage Iran's southern oil fields had been prevented from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Today it is clear as pointed out by Nader Uskowi that the Persian Gulf is changing, the Saudis have for some time now have been calling for the United States to attack Iran metaphorically comparing such an attack to cutting “off the head of the snake.”

These statements accompany numerous reports in the past two years that claim the Saudi Kingdom had stated they will allow Israeli jets to cross through Saudi air space to strike Iran's nuclear program, this shows the evident paranoia and refusal to accept a nuclear Iran, which is why the Emirate GCC (Gulf Cooperative Council) states are allying their military forces in an alliance against what they perceive as the common foe, a nuclear armed Islamic Republic of Iran.

Historically the United Arab Emirates and Qatar were born after the end of the British protectorate on the Trucial states in 1971, that same year Iran claimed and seized the Three Islands in the Persian Gulf of which the UAE claims as its own, the clear distrust and distaste has led to several of these Emirate states challenging the historical name of the Persian Gulf, instead opting to call it the Arabian Gulf disregarding Iran as having even a significant say in its own backyard. However they do not disregard Iran militarily and fear it becoming a nuclear power that could in turn elbow itself into playing a large role in how they conduct their affairs, by forcing them to appease the Islamic Republic by blackmailing them with the possibility of otherwise having the wrath of a larger regional nuclear power bestowed upon them.

The UAE and Qatari air forces conducting military operations against Colonel Gaddafi's forces in Libya are operating from Sardinia and Crete respectively flying combat sorties alongside NATO air forces across the Mediterranean. This is mildly similar to the kind of operation they'd fly against Iran as with Iran they'd be crossing the Persian Gulf to more than likely prevent the kind of scenario I outlined above by knocking out the Bushehr reactor, which is near the Gulf coast.*

I would also guess such a strike would be carried out with a large amount of fighter bombers, similar to the Package Q strike carried out the United States Air Force in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, which saw a strike package of some 56 F-16's rain bombs on Iraq's nuclear complex in Baghdad. 

If one thing is clear at the end of the day, and that is while the Saudis may invest billions of dollars worth of military hardware into its own military arsenal it still isn't completely capable of effectively defending itself, the other Emirate coastal Gulf states, however, have a substantial deterrent in their growing ability to be capable of in one foul scoop knocking out one of Iran's main nuclear facilities within a matter of minutes, which would substantially set back the countries nuclear ambitions and capabilities and prevent it from further threatening its Gulf neighbours with its nuclear wrath.

* If conducted while the plant is operational such an attack would be dangerous for both the Emirate countries and Iran as such a strike against an operational reactor may spew radioactive material across Iran and the neighbouring Emirate states that would have carried out the attack to begin with.

Ahmadinejad Draws “Red Line” Against Judiciary

Iranian President Warns Against Arrests of His Associates

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today broke his silence on recent moves by judicial authorities against members of his cabinet and his close associates and wowed to defend them to the end. The cabinet is the “red line” that the authorities should not cross, he told reporters in Tehran, after chairing a meeting of his cabinet.

“I consider defending the cabinet as my duty. The cabinet is a red line and if they want to touch the cabinet, then defending it is my duty,” Ahmadinejad said [IRNA, 29 June].

“From our point of view these moves and pressures are political, (intended) to put pressure on the government,” said the president. “Our position is one of silence but if they want to continue it and under different pretexts want to accuse our colleagues in the cabinet, then I have a legal, national and ethical duty to defend my colleagues,” he added.

On Thursday, Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh, a close associate of Ahmadinejad, was arrested on “financial charges” after he was forced to resign his post as deputy foreign minister. The Iranian parliament, Majlis, had threatened to impeach the foreign minister if Malekzadeh was not dismissed from his post.

The ultra conservatives in Iran have accused Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff and political confidant, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, and his close associates of working against the interests of the Islamic Republic, labeling them “deviationists.” Ahmadinejad has been under growing pressure to dump Mashaie and denounce and disassociate himself from the group. Influential members of the ruling conservative camp have also publicly threatened Ahmadinejad with impeachment if he does not end his association with the “deviationists.”

Aside from Malekzadeh, the judicial authorities have said in the past few days that they are investigating Ahmadinejad’s vice president, Hamid Baghaie, on charges of abusing power and that his arrest might be imminent. And that’s where Ahmadinejad was apparently drawing the “red line,” warning the authorities to take their hands off the senior members of his government.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Great Prophet 6 Maneuvers (2)

Images from day two of Great Prophet 6
click to enlarge
Shahab-3 (Meteor-3) medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM)

Shahab-3 MRBM launch

Shahab-2 short-range ballistic missile (SRBM)

Shahab-2 SRBMs and launch (2 fired in total)

Zelzal (Earthquake) SRBM fixed position triple launchers with support vehicle

Zelzal SRBM triple launchers and launch

Zelzal SRBM launch

Exhaust plumes from solid-fueled Zelzal SRBMs (9 fired in total)

IRGC/ASF missile crewmen

IRGC/ASF Commander reiterates Iran's missile policy

According to Reuters:

A senior Revolutionary Guard commander says Iran is capable of producing even longer range missiles than the ones it has now but won't make them because Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf are already within its reach.

[IRGC/ASF Brigadier General] Amir Ali Hajizadeh says the Guard's arsenal includes missiles with a range of up to 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers).

Hajizadeh claimed on Tuesday that Iran "possess the technology" but has "no intention of producing" the missiles with the over-2,000-kilometer range.

Previously, IRGC Commander Major General Jafari expressed the same policy for Iran's missile forces, as an element of Iran's defense based on deterrence.

Mohammad Hassanzadeh at Fars News Agency
Mehr News Agency

Monday, June 27, 2011

Great Prophet 6 Maneuvers (1) - Silo Missile Launch

From PressTV:

Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has unveiled underground ballistic missile silos on the first day of the Great Prophet 6 military maneuver.

"The silos are a part of the swift reaction unit of the [IRGC] missile brigade; missiles are stored vertically, ready to be launched against pre-determined targets," Fars News Agency quoted the IRGC spokesman in charge of the drills, General Asghar Qelich-Khani, as saying on Monday.

Qelich-Khani said the country has been using domestically-built missile silos for fifteen years and added that the newer generation silos are operational from a launch control center located far from the launch pads.

The main advantage of missile silos is the reduced launch time as the weapons need not be moved or aligned prior to launch.

On Sunday, Commander of the Aerospace Division of the IRGC Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh short-, medium- and long-range missiles, namely Khalij Fars (Persian Gulf), Sejjil (Baked Clay), Fateh (Conqueror), Qiam (Rising), Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles would be fired during the war games.

Hajizadeh stressed that Great Prophet 6 maneuver has completely defensive objectives and will be staged with the message of peace.

We tend to think of IRGC/ASF missile forces employed as a deterrent force affording potential second-strike capability against aggression by US and/or Israeli military forces. But there are other potential aggressors in the region such as the GCC or its elements. In addition, any aggressor (arguably other than the U.S.) will have its resources exceeded by such multiple means of deployment, providing a more expansive sense of deterrence.

Added to this is the technical advancement offered by silo development and construction, as well as providing another psychological deterrent against externally-applied prompting of Iran out of its self-imposed "Japan option" stance, that is to say going from nuclear weapon capable to a fully operational and deployed nuclear weapon.

And it provides greater leverage in any bargaining or posturing, among powers in the neighborhood.

One thing's for sure: it's unrealistic to assume these people are eventually going to back down or reverse themselves through externally applied coercion or intimidation tactics.

Video H/T: kiarash at IMF
YouTube rendering: redemptionway

IRGC Conducts Missile Exercise

Iran's IRGC began a 10-day missile training exercise today. The IRGC’s missile force commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh told reporters that the annual exercise in the Persian Gulf region were meant to strengthen the defense capabilities of the country. We will cover the IRGC exercise as we receive the reports in the coming days.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ahmadinejad Charged with “Misuse of Power”

Key Majlis Committee to Recommend Punishment

A key parliamentary committee in Iran has charged President Ahmadinejad with “misuse of presidential power.” The Article 90 Commission of Majlis, the committee overseeing the implementation of laws passed by the parliament, said today that Ahmadinejad’s refusal to implement a new law passed by Majlis regarding the formation of a new Ministry of Sports and Youths (MoSY) was illegal and a misuse of executive power. The committee is to recommend to the full Majlis an appropriate punishment against the president, which could include a ban from holding public office from one to five years.

Iran Opposes Raising OPEC Production

Iran’s acting oil minister said today in Tehran that his government will continue to oppose an increase in OPEC's output quota.

“In accordance with the supply and demand situation, Iran will oppose raising OPEC's oil production quota ceiling at the next meeting (on 14 December),” Mohammad Aliabadi said [Mehr News Agency, 26 June.]

The International Energy Agency (IEA), which represents industrialized nations, announced on Thursday that it would release 60 million barrels of oil from its strategic reserves over the next month to force lowering the oil prices. The Brent Crude, a benchmark for Iran’s oil prices, fell sharply as a result of IEA’s move and is expected to go below $100 per barrels when the markets open on Monday.

The Iranian oil minister also accused Saudi Arabia of acting “at America’s request” when it decided unilaterally, outside OPEC, to raise its output levels.

“By lowering oil prices, the US is seeking to affect the next presidential election," Aliabadi said. “And Saudi Arabia was seeking to raise output levels at America's request,” he added.

Iran’s Ministry of Economy Criticizes Currency Devaluation

The Central Bank’s Devaluation of Rial is Opposed by the Government

Iran’s semi-official news agency Fars today reported that the Ministry of Economy (MoE) had opposed the devaluation of the country’s currency, rial, by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). Earlier this month, the CBI devaluated the rial by 11% against the dollar. The officials at MoE have told Fars that they were not consulted prior to CBI’s move and are in strong opposition to the radical devaluation of rial in the midst of government’s subsidy reforms program. They told Fars that they were “shocked” by CBI’s unilateral action. This is the first time in recent memory that the officials of MoE have openly criticized CBI’s monetary policies.

CBI defends its action as an effective tool to slow down the rapidly growing volume of foreign imports into the country and as an attempt to bring the country’s official exchange rate close to the market rates, hence preventing the reemergence of a system of multi-layer FX rates, with deficiencies and corruption that such system would create.

The government is seriously concerned of the rising tide of the inflation in the country during the period that the government subsidies are being phased out. The official devaluation of rial would force the importers of raw materials to pass along the added costs to their consumers, pushing the prices higher across the board.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Presidents' aircraft arrive at Tehran

Aircraft of visiting presidents attending the International Conference on Terrorism (Mehrabad International Airport).
click to enlarge
Pakistan Air Force Gulfstream Aerospace G-IV Gulfstream IV-SP (J-755)
President Asif Ali Zardari, Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Ariana Afghan Airlines Airbus A310-304 (YA-CAV)
President Hamid Karzai, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Sudan Government Ilyushin Il-62M (ST-PRA)
President Omar Al-Bashir, Republic of Sudan

Iraq Government Airbus A300B4-203 (YI-APX)
President Jalal Talabani, Republic of Iraq

Somon Air Boeing 737-8GJ (EY-777)
President Emomalli Rahman, Republic of Tajikistan

Photos: Hassan Mousavi at Fars News Agency

Friday, June 24, 2011

Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan Summit in Tehran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (center) holds a trilateral meeting with his counterparts Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan (2R) and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan (2L) in Tehran. The three heads of state were scheduled to discuss ways to combat terrorism and drug trafficking in the region, especially in the aftermath of the drawdown of the US forces in Afghanistan.

Photo: AFP

New Sanctions on Iran

by Amir Taheri

In a further twist in the 31 year saga of progressive sanctions on Iran, the United States today placed a further third set of sanctions on a group of Iranians including the Iranian Red Crescent (Muslim Red Cross), the Blind Orphans of Tabriz, Mahak Children Cancer Society, and the Iranian Boy's Scouts Organization and all their affiliates in the provinces. These new sanctions further tighten the screws and prevent the nuclearization of Iran. The entities were last sanctioned last October and firstly in January of that year. The White House hopes this time around this new pressure will force these entities to finally stop their tireless efforts in support of the government and building the bomb.

Sanctions have been placed on Iranian Red Crescent as the head of this organization Mrs. Fariba Karshian had organized an event to raise funds for the Japanese quake victims when suddenly and with evil intentions a motorcade of Revolutionary Guards passed by and stopped for a bite to eat across the street. In a statement the State Department said, " this blatant choice of location for the quake victims of Japan was an outright slap across every Japanese face, dead or alive, mutated or not". The State Department requested all foreign countries that will not be affected by the US sanctions to follow suit and not allow any employees of the Red Crescent to deliver their humanitarian supplies to any future victims.

The blind orphans of Tabriz were caught red handed, LITERALLY. On the infamous play day two weeks ago, 13 unlucky orphans (no pun intended) were doing hand paintings when one of the orphans stumbled and spilled a large jug of red paint all over the place and in particular in the color bowls of the children. They continued their paintings not knowing any better when a local newspaper caught a picture of their act. The Department of Defense today said, "We have requested that the Blind Orphans of Tabriz be included in this latest set of sanctions as the likelyhood of these future terrorist growing up and blindly aiding (pun intended) the nuclear drive is high as the photos demonstrate."

Most troublesome of all have been Mahak Children Cancer Society which after two sets of sanctions have refused to not dabble in nuclear material. Mahak is a non-profit organization that gathers unknowing poor children from across the provinces and offers them death or free cancer treatment using chemotherapy. The White House was this time furious and issued the following statement, " After repeated warnings, Mahak continues to use nuclear radiation to dose their patients. They claim that the children would die without this treatment and we simply ask the question that's on everyones mind, are we sure they will die without chemotherapy??" The White House hopes this time around pressure will build that Mahak will give in and stop its malicious gathering of poor province children.

The Iranian Boy's Scouts Organization is also an entity that has been heavily targeted in the past and again today. The Department of Defense was also influential in this decision. The Defense Secretary asked reporters, "The name says it all..... Scouts!! What are they scouting; camp sites or possibly new nuclear facilities." He continued, "Does anyone really know what these adolescents are doing? When the Iranian government agrees to finally place ankle bracelets on these so called "Boys Scouts" and uploads the data live on the internet than we can talk about reducing these sanctions."

The sanctions prevent any American to work with, provide or transfer funds, contact, walk within 500 meets of, look directly at, enter a plane with any of the individuals, or vacation in a country which also hosts them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

U.S. sanctions Iran Air

U.S. entities are now prohibited from any transactions with Iran Air, which serves 35 international and 25 domestic destinations with a fleet of about 40 aircraft.

The sanctions on Iran Air could increase difficulties in the airline's operations that started last year when airports in many Western countries stopped refueling Iran Air planes because of U.S. sanctions prohibiting the export of refined petroleum products to Iran.

A senior U.S. Treasury official acknowledged the action could reduce flight options for Iran's population.

Treasury said Iran Air and its Iran Air Tours subsidiary were put on the sanctions list because its passenger aircraft have on numerous occasions transported military related electronic parts on behalf of Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics organization. The shipments have also included missiles, rockets and titanium sheets, a dual-use material that can be used in advanced weapons systems, the Treasury said.

[Source: Reuters]

Below are recent photos taken of Iran Air passenger aircraft in Europe making stops at various secondary locations in order to service routes where refueling issues have taken effect.

Iran Air Airbus A300B4-605R
Kent (MSE), England
London to Tehran route
May 15, 2011
(photo: TUGMASTER at

Iran Air Airbus A300B4-605R
Belgrade - Nikola Tesla (BEG), Serbia
Frankfurt to Tehran route
March 28, 2011
(photo: Dejan Milinkovic at

Iran Air Airbus A300B4-605R
Budapest-Ferenc Liszt (BUD), Hungary
Stockholm to Tehran route
March 12, 2011
(photo: Ferenc Hamori at

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Iran signs contract to export fuel to Iraq; delegation comes under terrorist attack in Baghdad

From Reuters:

Gunmen attacked an Iranian oil delegation visiting Baghdad on Wednesday, the Iranian Oil Ministry said.

"The delegation was attacked by terrorists but they are not harmed and have no problems," the ministry's Shana website said.

"The delegation was visiting Iraq to hold talks about exporting fuel to Iraq. They came under gunfire when heading to the Electricity Ministry building."

An Iraqi Interior Ministry source said the convoy was attacked in central Baghdad and two Iraqi guards were wounded.

The head of the Iranian delegation said a contract was signed between the two neighboring countries.

"We signed a contract to export 1.5 million liters of fuel to Iraq," said Alireza Zeyghami, the semi-official Fars news agency reported, without giving further details.

Another Iraqi government source said it was an Iranian technical team visiting Baghdad as part of meetings to discuss border demarcation and investment in joint oilfields.

Iran did not say who was behind the attack and no group has taken responsibility for the attack yet.

Iranian pilgrims to Iraq (of which there have been millions) have come under terrorist attack in the past. That an oil delegation has now come under attack is not quite so surprising given the internal dynamics at work in the country since the U.S. military occupation took effect in 2003.

Presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan to meet with Ahmadinejad in Tehran

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai are slated for state visits to Tehran, to participate in the international conference on terrorism at the invitation of Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. The conference is scheduled for June 25-26, but Zardari is arriving for a two-day visit on Thursday.

Zardari is taking a delegation of ministers that includes Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Minister for Oil and Natural Resources Asim Hussain and Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar.

Iranian media reports that Zardari's talks will cover the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, which is strongly opposed by the US, and that a "decisive step for the execution of the already delayed project" can be expected during his visit. Iran has already completed the construction of 1,000 kilometers of the pipeline out of the 1,100 kilometers portion on Iranian soil.

Iran has also proposed an electricity transmission network be built next to the pipeline, connecting the electricity grid of Iran with that of Pakistan. Additionally, Iran has offered to sell 1,000 megawatts hours of electricity to Pakistan at a subsidized rate.

Source: M K Bhadrakumar at Asia Times Online.

A full reading of Bhadrakumar's article "A summit in Tehran trumps the US" and the potential geopolitical shift it details can be found here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Iraq's foreign minister in Tehran

Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari with Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi

From PressTV:

The Iraqi foreign minister says members of the terrorist Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) must leave Iraq, stressing that Baghdad's stance on the issue is crystal clear.

“Camp Ashraf is to be shut down, and members of the [MKO] group have been given until the end of the current year (2011) to leave Iraqi soil,” Hoshyar Zebari said during a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi in Tehran on Tuesday, the Fars news agency reported.

He went on to say that Baghdad has proposed that a trilateral committee be established to discuss the situation of the terrorist organization.

Tehran and Baghdad also plan to hold talks with the Red Cross to discuss the future of the MKO members residing at the camp, he added.

Zebari also said the Iraqi government has suggested on several occasions that arrangements be made to facilitate the repatriation of the MKO members who want to return to Iran.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the visiting Iraqi official underscored that the US military's presence in Iraq will not be extended unless Baghdad deems it necessary.

He stressed that the Iraqi people do not approve of the US military presence in their country, touching upon a security pact between Baghdad and Washington which requires that the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq by the end of 2011.

“The extension of US troops' presence in Iraq is not an issue, unless the Iraqi government wants them to stay,” he said.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has seen diplomatic gains in the region as of late, with Defense Minister Vahidi meeting with Afghanistan's top leadership, to the east, and Foreign Minister Salehi reaching agreement with his Iraqi counterpart over the MKO terrorist issue, to the west. What's more, it was announced today that Iran's First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi is scheduled to visit Iraq on July 6 to attend a meeting of the Tehran-Baghdad High Commission of Economic Cooperation.

Photo: Hamed Jafarnejad at Fars News Agency

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Iran's defense minister in Afghanistan - pictorial

click to enlarge
Iran's Defense Minister IRGC Brig. Gen. Vahidi (center) arrives in Kabul; his IRIG Dassault Falcon 50 visible in the background. Vahidi's delegation includes three other IRGC generals (one not shown).

Afghanistan's Defense Minister Wardak with Iran's Defense Minister Vahidi.

Afghanistan's security delegation (left) seated across Iran's. Both nations are Islamic Republics.

Vahidi seated next to Afghanistan's Second Vice President Abdulkarim Khalili. Khalili is an ethnic Hazara Shiite.

Vahidi with First Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim.

Photos: Vahid Reza Alaei at Fars News Agency

Iran's defense minister arrives in Afghanistan

Defense Minister IRGC Brig. Gen. Vahidi
From PressTV:

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier-General Ahmad Vahidi says the Islamic Republic seeks the restoration of stability and security in Afghanistan.

“[The development of] sustained stability and security is Iran's strategic policy toward the brother and friend nation of Afghanistan,” Vahidi told reporters upon his arrival in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Saturday, IRNA reported.

He pointed out that Tehran is ready to expand relations with Kabul in various areas, including campaign against drugs and terrorism as well as defense cooperation.

Vahidi went on to say that the security of neighboring Afghanistan is of high significance to Iran, adding that the Islamic Republic will spare no effort to help the restoration of lasting security in its eastern neighbor.

The Iranian minister is in on an official visit to Afghanistan at the invitation of his Afghan counterpart Abdul Rahim Wardak.

Vahidi is expected to meet with Afghanistan's top political and military officials, including President Hamid Karzai, Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and his Afghan counterpart to discuss issues of bilateral interests as well as the latest regional and international developments.

This is the first visit of an Iranian defense minister to Afghanistan since the 1979 victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

This is an extraordinary visit by Defense Minister Vahidi, a Revolutionary Guard brigadier general, while Afghanistan is currently under a NATO/ISAF military occupation. Vahidi himself has been on an Interpol "red notice" since November 2007 over a controversial investigation into a bombing attack that took place in Argentina in 1994. In addition, the United States has listed Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a "terrorist organization;" from time to time accusing it of providing limited aid to the Taliban insurgency.

The visit takes place at a time when President Karzai has announced during a speech at the presidential palace that his government and the U.S. have begun preliminary negotiations with the Taliban aimed at ending the conflict.

Iran Agriculture Grows by 33%

Iran's minister of agriculture, Sadeq Khalilian, told reporters in Tehran that the volume of the country’s agricultural products increased by more than 33 percent in the last Iranian calendar year (ending 20 March 2011). As a result, Khalilian added, the country’s import of agricultural products declined by 30 percent in the same period. It is estimated that the country’s production has reached a record 107 million tons per year, and the government has set the goal of reaching 200 million tons per year within the next four years.

Iran Currency Sliding – ctd

The Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Mahmoud Bahmani said in Tehran that despite CBI’s massive injection of dollar into the foreign exchange markets, the value of the country’s currency, rial, was still trading at nearly 5% below the new official rate. Last week, CBI devaluated the value of rial by more than 11%, to 11,700 rials per dollar, in order to bring the official exchange rate closer to the rates traded in the FX markets. But the slide in rial’s value continued and on Wednesday hit a record low of 12,500, loosing nearly another 7% in value for the just-devaluated currency. The CBI intervention was meant to bring the value of rial close to the official rate, but Bahmani said the result has been “disappointing.”

Iran's defense minister invited to Afghanistan

From IRNA:

Minister of Defense and Logistics of Armed Forces will pay a visit to Afghanistan upon an invitation of his Afghan counterpart.

Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, upon an official invitation of Field Marshal Abdulrahim Vardak, Afghanistan Defense Minister, will pay a visit to Kabul heading a high ranking defense delegation next week.

General Vahidi is to meet with Afghanistan high ranking political and defense officials and discuss bilateral, regional and international issues.

It will be the first ever visit of an Iranian defense minister to Afghanistan after the victory of Islamic revolution in Iran.

Also it would be the first ever visit of an Iranian defense minister to Afghanistan since 92 years ago.

Quite amazing if this is actually pulled off. IRGC Brigadier General Vahidi has been on an Interpol "red notice" since November 2007 over a highly curious investigation into a bombing attack that took place in Argentina in 1994. That this trip could possibly take place to Afghanistan while under a NATO military occupation would prove nothing short of remarkable.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rasad satellite launch - pictorial

click photos to enlarge

Photos: Vahid Reza Alaei at Fars News Agency

Rasad satellite launch - video

According to PressTV:

The Islamic Republic of Iran successfully launches its second satellite christened Rassad (Observation) into the earth's orbit.

The satellite, which is the country's first such imaging device, was launched by the Safir-e-Rassad satellite carrier on Wednesday thanks to Iranian aerospace scientists and experts' endeavor, IRNA reported.

Despite its 15.3-kilogram weight, which puts it under the category of the micro-satellites, Rassad has all features of a big satellite.

It has undergone all the stages required for its designing, manufacturing, assembly, test and preparation for launch inside the country.

It will orbit the earth at an altitude of 260 kilometers 15 times every 24 hours.

Its mission is to take images of the earth's surface and relay them to the earth-based stations together with telemetric information.

The satellite is equipped with solar panels and uses solar energy to work.

Iran launched its first domestically-produced satellite Omid (Hope) in 2009, which made it the ninth country to develop satellite launch capability.

Tehran also plans to launch the country's first manned mission to space by 2019.
Another impressive feat made all the more so as the Islamic Republic of Iran is under multiple sets of economic and technological sanctions.

Additional specifications: Most main subsystems of a larger satellite are featured on the Rasad , such as a power management system, solar pannels, attitude control, optical equipments, GPS, data and onboard commands management, onboard transmitter and receiver, ranging transmitter and temprature systems. Claimed maximum imaging resolution is 150m.

Iranian TV reports the next launch to be the Fajr satellite in autumn, with 100m resolution and 50 kg weight, and orbit maneuvering capability; followed by the Navid-e-Elmo-Sanat satellite this coming winter. Also, the Kavoshgar-5 rocket lifting a 285 kg capsule will be launched to 120 km altitude this summer, with a recycling cargo weight of 250 kg. (h/t M-ATF @ IMF)

Artistic rendering of the Rasad Satellite

Video: PressTV
YouTube uploading: maydayfire
Image: M-ATV @ IMF

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Iran Launches Satellite into Orbit

Iran launched a homemade satellite into earth orbit on Wednesday. The satellite, called Rasad, was launched successfully by a Safir rocket. This is Iran’s second successful launch of a satellite into orbit. The first, Omid, was launched in 2009. Iran has expressed a goal of putting a man in orbit within 10 years.

Rasad weights 15.3 kilogram (34 pounds) and has been designed to orbit the earth 15 times a day at the height of 260 kilometers (160 miles).

Photo: The launch of Rasad / Al-Alam TV

Ahmadinejad at SCO Summit

Top Photo: Kazakah President Nursultan Nazarbayev leading his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) being held in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

Bottom Photo: The heads of state and government of SCO members, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (front row) joined by the leaders and representatives of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India at the 10th Summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

In his address today to heads of state at SCO Summit, President Ahmadinejad attacked Western countries as “enslavers, colonialists and invaders” and in effect called for an anti-West alliance to counter the US influence in the region.

Formal speeches by heads of state aside, the discussions on the sidelines of the summit are expected to be dominated by the future of Afghanistan after the US and NATO pullout. And the big elephant in the room would be the newly found vast mineral resources in Afghanistan and the start of the sequel to the Great Game and rivalries among the regional powers and between them and the West.

Photos: IRNA

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SCO Summit in Kazakhstan

Afghanistan Looms over SCO Summit

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in Kazakhstan to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit that opens in Astana on Wednesday. The organization groups China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Iran, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan also take part as observers.

Afghanistan's future after the planned pullout by US and NATO forces is expected to dominate the discussions during the summit. The country's future security and its newly-found vast mineral resources is turning Afghanistan into a center of rivalry between regional powers, namely Iran, Pakistan and India and the heavyweights, China, US and Russia. It appears that the sequel to the Great Game is beginning to be played out in the country.

Iran Calls for IAEA Investigation of Stuxnet Attack

In an address to a government-sponsored nuclear disarmament conference in Tehran on Monday, Ali Bagheri, the deputy director of Iran’s national security council, called on IAEA to open an investigation on the Stuxnet attack on the country’s nuclear facilities and the people behind the attack. Bagheri called the attackers “nuclear terrorists.” [Xinhua, 14 June].

Bagheri’s request was in effect the highest-level official announcement that the Stuxnet worm had infected the computers at Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had previously denied reports that Stuxnet had affected the nuclear computer systems. The computer worm is specifically written to attack Windows-based SCADA systems which are used to control and monitor industrial processes, including those used in nuclear facilities.

Monday, June 13, 2011

AEOI Rejects IAEA Report

The Director of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereydoun Abbasi today said in Tehran that IAEA’s recent allegations of possible military dimensions to the country’s nuclear program are “lies” and are designed to “hamper Iran’s scientific and technological progress.” [IRNA, 13 June].

IAEA Director Yukiya Amano said in his repot last week to the agency’s governing board that new information received by the agency indicates that components of the Iranian program may be related to work on nuclear weapons. Iran maintains its program is only for civilian applications.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Iran Currency Sliding

The Iranian currency rial continued its slide against dollar today, hitting a record low of 12,220 rials per dollar. Last Wednesday, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) officially devaluated the currency by 11% to 11,710 rials per dollar. But the move did not stop rial’s fall in free markets, and just during the last three days the currency has lost another 4% in value.

On Saturday, the Federation of Industries, a trade group representing the Iranian industry, issued strong warnings against currency devaluation. In an open letter to President Ahmadinejad, the group said the 11% fall in rial’s value is causing the prices for raw material which are heavily imported to rise at least at the same rate, causing a corresponding rise in the prices of finished consumer goods.

Ahmadinejad’s Presidency at Impasse

Two Years After Winning Controversial Election, Iranian President on the Verge of Becoming Irrelevant

By Nader Uskowi

On 12 June 2009, this blog headlined, Iranians Voting in Droves. Minutes after the polls closed, Ahmadinejad was declared the winner by a landslide. Mousavi’s supporters suspected massive fraud and took to streets by hundreds of thousands in what became known as the Green Movement. The supreme leader threw his support behind the embattled president, joined by the clerical and military establishment, and the Greens were defeated. Looking back at those hot summer months of 2009, Ahmadinejad’s government, fresh from winning the popular election, and actively supported by Khamenei, senior clerics and the IRGC leadership, seemed invincible. But in a span of two short years, the most powerful of his supporters, the clerical establishment and the IRGC leadership, have turned against him. Ironically, the ultra conservative circles in the Islamic Republic are completing what the Greens failed to do: isolating Ahmadinejad and making him and his government irrelevant.

Ahmadinejad is a fighter and writing him off completely might not be a prudent move on part of his new enemies. But the odds are stacked against him. His supporters, headed by his political confidant and chief of staff, are branded as “deviationists” and the calls for their imprisonment and trial on charges of working against the interests of the Islamic Republic and the Shia faith are becoming louder by the day. Ahmadinejad is given a choice: break away from Mashaie & Co. and continue as president for the remaining two years, a presidency as irrelevant as the last two years of Khatami's. Or be impeached from office and probably arrested along with Mashaie and the rest of the gang. Not an easy choice, and not an enviable position to be in, but that’s how brutal the politics in the Islamic Republic have become.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Iran Police (NAJA) sanctioned by the U.S. departments of State and Treasury

Per Reuters:

The United States said on Thursday it had sanctioned Iran's national police force and police chief and two other security forces for serious rights violations since Iran's disputed 2009 presidential election.

The sanctions, announced by the U.S. departments of State and Treasury, apply to Iran's Law Enforcement Forces and its commander Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam, and to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Basij Resistance Force.

The sanctions would freeze any of the targets' assets under U.S. jurisdiction and bar U.S. persons and institutions from dealing with them. They also make Moghadam and potentially all members of the groups ineligible for U.S. visas.

Many in the Western media and apparently in the USG were under the mistaken impression that the IRGC were the primary force conducting crowd dispersal operations following the 2009 presidential election in Iran. In fact, a number of counterfeit IRGC and Artesh documents arose, betraying this misconception. Perhaps now the USG and media will be better informed of the fact that it is Iran's law enforcement agency that is the primary force responsible for dispersing unlawful assemblies on the streets of Tehran and other Iranian municipalities.

Also, it should be pointed out that Iran's police force is actually being penalized for effecting the Iranian government's policy of less-lethal force, even during periods of rioting and where law enforcement officers' lives are in danger, which stands in contrast to situations where U.S. law enforcement policies specify lethal force be employed.

That said, it's unclear to what extent these sanctions affect NAJA, if at all beyond that of mere posturing.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rial Devaluated by 11%; Inflation Rising; Stagnant Growth Rate

The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) on Wednesday devaluated the national currency rial by nearly 11% against the dollar. CBI announced the rise in official exchange rate from 10,590 rials to 11,710 rials per US dollar. The unexpected move might signal CBI’s attempt to enforce a single exchange rate against the dollar. In exchange markets, the dollar is trading at higher value than the official rate.

Meanwhile, the statistics released by CBI showed a 26% rise in prices last month compared to the same period last year. The sharp rise in inflation rate in the month of Ordibehesht (ending 21 May) pushed the annual inflation rate to 17% [Donya-e Eqtesad, 9 June].

In other economic news, the World Bank today concurred with IMF on Iran's economic growth rate of one percent in 2010 and forecast a zero percent GDP growth for 2011. The World Bank also predicted a 3% growth for 2012.

World Powers Express Concerns over Iran Nuclear Intentions

The US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China issued a joint statement today expressing “deepened concerns” over Iran’s “consistent failure” to comply with UN resolutions about possible military dimensions to its nuclear program. The statement was issued a day after Iran said it would triple production of 20-percent uranium and shift the production from Natanz to the underground bunker of Fardu.

“Iran’s consistent failure to comply with its obligations under six UN Security Council resolutions and to meet the requirements of 10 IAEA board of governors resolutions has deepened concerns raised by the international community with Iran's nuclear intentions," the joint statement by the six world powers said.

“We call on Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA,” the statement continued. “Outstanding issues need to be resolved in order to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program” [Reuters, 9 June].

Iran to Triple Production of 20-percent Uranium

The Director of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereidoun Abbasi told the country semi-official Fars News Agency on Wednesday that Iran is transferring its uranium enrichment activities from Natanz to Fardu and intends to triple the production of 20 percent enriched uranium. The West reacted with concern and the White House called on Iran to rethink its strategy. Western diplomats and officials were quoted by news agencies today that Iran would not require that volume of 20-percent enriched uranium for civilian use at its Tehran research reactor. The Iranian announcement came after the IAEA chief on Tuesday expressed concerns over intelligence reports received by his agency that indicated possible work by Iran on components of a nuclear weapon as late as last year. On Wednesday, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the existence of a nuclear weapon program.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ahmadinejad Criticizes IAEA Director for Alleging Possible Nuke Program in Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today criticized IAEA Director Yukiya Amano for his recent allegations that some aspects of Iran’s nuclear activities could be linked to a nuclear weapon program.

“We think the IAEA director moves in a direction that harms the agency's credibility. Politically-motivated stances don't suit the IAEA chief,” Ahmadinejad told reporters in Tehran. "It has no legal value, no effect other than discrediting the agency," he added [IRNA, 7 June].

On Monday, Amano had told reporters that his agency had received new information indicating a “possible military dimension” related to the Iranian nuclear program. The information was apparently received by the IAEA board last month. Amano had criticized Iran for not cooperating with his agency on the intelligence received. The AP reported on Monday that the new information suggests Iran worked on components of a nuclear weapon as late as 2010.

Iran has dismissed the information, saying it is based on "fabricated documents." The IAEA's board of governors convened Monday in Vienna for a weeklong meeting. The board was expected to discuss Iran’s nuclear program during its meeting.

The schizophrenic policy advocacy of the new Rand Research Brief

By Mark Pyruz

The Rand Research Brief "A New U.S. Policy Paradigm Toward Iran" offers the following recommendations:

The United States should consider a new approach to Iran that integrates elements of engagement and containment:

• Continue strengthening international sanctions and other financial pressures targeted on the nuclear issue, but avoid unilateral measures that are not likely to generate broad international support.

• Pursue bilateral dialogues related to areas of common interest, such as instability in Iraq and Afghanistan, narcotics trafficking, natural disaster relief, refugees, and other humanitarian crises.

• Issue unambiguous statements about U.S. interests and intentions in the region, particularly regarding Iraq.

• Engage in efforts to build a multilateral regional security framework that is simultaneously inclusive of Iran and sensitive to the needs of U.S. friends and allies in the region.

While the policy advocacy of limited cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran is encouraging, one wonders why such advocacy is not also inclusive of Iran's nuclear program, such as adopting or building upon one of Iran's numerous compromise offers such as the one outlined in the Tehran Declaration of 2010. It is plainly obvious by now that a "carrot and stick" approach will not induce the Iranians to forego their rights to nuclear technology.

With regards to U.S. interests in Iraq, the Iranians have left no doubt that they are expecting the current SOFA agreement to be observed and U.S. military forces to withdraw from the country. Six members of the U.S. military were killed by a rocket attack two days ago in Iraq, which was something of a warning shot to any continued occupation of the country. In addition, U.S. policy in other parts of the region appears to be in damage control mode in the midst of the "Arab Spring." How the U.S. is supposed to "issue unambiguous about [American] interests and intentions in the region" has been greatly complicated by such fluid and dynamic situations in the region.

Elsewhere in the brief, it is curious to see Iran's conventional and asymmetric military forces seen not as they are--as elements of deterrence--but instead as a means of power projection. For the Islamic Republic of Iran this is actually the domain of soft power, not hard power.

Overall, though, the brief could serve as the basis of a more positive approach if only the first recommendation encompassed genuine engagement and compromise on the nuclear dispute; phasing out the economic war being directed toward Iran in the form of sanctions, cooperating on construction of Iran's nuclear power infrastructure (as mandated by the NPT) and making detente or even rapprochement the ultimate goal in relations between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran Sends Submarines to Red Sea

The semi-official Fars News Agency reported today that Iran has sent submarines to the Red Sea in the first such deployment by the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) in distant waters.

The report quoted an unnamed senior government official as saying the submarines accompanied Iranian warships on an anti-piracy route in the Gulf of Aden before they moved into the Red Sea earlier this month.

“The submarines, dispatched in Ordibehesht (last month), have entered the Red Sea after a mission in the Gulf of Aden to collect data on the sea bed in the high seas and to identify other warships,” Fars quoted the unnamed source. “They are accompanying an Iranian navy fleet,” [Fars News Agency, 7 June].

No other details on the number or capabilities of the submarines were available. IRIN has several types of submarines, including the 500-ton Nahang as well as older Kilo-class older Russian subs. Last year, Iran inaugurated of a new “semi-heavy” submarine, named Qaem, capable of operating in the high seas. IRIN also operates midget submarines of 120-ton Ghadir class.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The ‘Deviationists’ Accused of Smuggling Cigarettes into Iran – Fars News

The semi-official Fars News Agency on Sunday quoted an unnamed “senior official” accusing the Deviationists of controlling the trade in contraband cigarettes in the country.

“Some 45% of the cigarettes sold in the market are contrabands that are smuggled into the country illegally from Iraq and Pakistan… The Deviationist Group has formed companies in (those) countries to facilitate the illegal entry of the contrabands into Iran” [Fars News Agency, 6 June].

The Fars story, titled, ‘The Footprints of the Deviationists in Smuggling Zionist Contraband Cigarettes into the Country,’ is probably the first step by the conservatives to bring criminal charges against their political opponents, the group close to President Ahmadinejad and led by Mashaie. The reference to “Zionist Cigarettes” was also the first for the country’s semi-official news agency and the voice of conservatives in classifying tobacco based on the ideology of the cigarettes.