Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Khamenei Warns of Challenges During March Parliamentary Elections

Majlis Elections Amid Rising Tide of Protests and Uprisings in the Region

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today warned the nation of the challenges facing the country during the upcoming parliamentary elections. Khamenei made the remarks during sermons he delivered at Eid Fitr prayer in Tehran, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan which was observed on Wednesday in Iran.

“We have the upcoming Majlis (parliamentary) election in Esfand (March 2012). By its nature, an election creates a sort of challenge for the country,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “But elections are manifestations of people’s participation in (political process) and our religious democracy and the backbone of our country’s stability,” he added [Fars News Agency, 31 August].

“We need to be vigilant that (the elections) do not turn into a challenge for the country’s security and stability,” Khamenei added.

“The people, the officials, the clerics and the political activists should be careful and vigilant against these challenges,” the ayatollah said. “There is a need to be vigilant against the attempts of our enemies to undermine the country's (security and stability).”

During the last nationwide elections in Iran, the 2009 presidential elections, the country witnessed the largest anti-government demonstrations in the history of the Islamic Republic, events that came to be known as the “Green Movement.” The upcoming parliamentary elections will be held amid a rising tide of popular protests, uprisings and regime changes in the region, potentially creating strong “challenges” for the government.

Photo: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivering Eid Fitr prayer sermons. Tehran, 31 August 2011. IRIB photo

Iran Takes Russia to Court

Iran has filed a complaint with the Paris-based International Court of Arbitration against Russia for Moscow’s failure to honor its agreement to deliver S-300 advanced surface-to-air missiles to Iran [Press TV, 31 August].

“The International Court of Arbitration in Paris settles international commercial disputes, and since the Russian company responsible for the S-300 contract is a non-governmental entity, we filed a complaint with this court in order to compensate our losses,” said Mehdi Sanaei, Chairman of Iran-Russia Parliamentary Friendship Committee.

The $800 million S-300 contract was signed in 2005 and Iran made an initial payment of $166.8 million to receive 65 S-300 missile systems by 2007. Russia delayed the delivery until September 2010 when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stated that Moscow would not implement the terms of the agreement, arguing that the delivery of the advanced missile system to Iran was prohibited by the UN Security Council Resolution 1929, the fourth round of UN sanctions resolutions against the country. Iran insists that S-300 system is defensive in nature and consequently not covered by 1929.

Russian officials said they were surprised by Tehran's decision to file the complaint at the international court considering the “traditionally friendly nature of their bilateral relations.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Iran Drops Gazprom From Azar Oil Field Project

The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) said Iran has dropped Russia's Gazprom, one of he world’s largest oil and gas companies, from the Azar oil field development project due to the company's “numerous delays.”

“After several ultimatums and delays by Russia's Gazprom has been dropped from the development plan of the Azar joint oil field," the NIOC said in its statement [Mehr News Agency, 30 August].

The NIOC plans to sign an agreement for the development of Azar field that has a proven 2 billion barrels of oil reserves with a consortium of Iranian companies.

Photo: The Azar oil field, in Iran's western province of Ilam. Mehr Photo

Monday, August 29, 2011

Iran Will Continue Production of 20-Percent Enriched Uranium

The Move Jeopardizes Russia’s “Step-by-Step” Proposal to Resolve Nuclear Impasse

The Director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) Fereydoun Abbasi said in Tehran that Iran will continue producing 20-percent enriched uranium in Fordu nuclear plant. Abbasi’s declaration all but ended any hopes for Russia’s latest attempt to restart nuclear negotiations between Iran and major world powers. As part of its “step-by-step” proposal, Russia was believed to push for the revival of a fuel swap agreement whereby Iran would send its 3.5-percent fuel abroad, namely to Turkey, in exchange for 20-percent enriched uranium.

"Producing 20-percent enriched uranium in Iran continues and will not be stopped," Abbasi said on Monday. "By producing 20-percent uranium, we have surpassed the required amount for the production of fuel for Tehran research reactor,” Abbasi added [IRNA, 29 August].

Abbasi said, however, that since Iran’s future reactors need more 20-percent enriched uranium, Iran plans to resume enrichment in Fordu plant. The critics argue that producing the higher-grade enriched uranium at large quantities for reactors that are not even at pre-construction stages would bring into question the goal of the country’s enrichment program.

Earlier this month, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, had characterized Russia’s “step-by-step” proposal as “good strategy.” The approach called for the international community to ease economic sanctions against Iran for each step Iran took toward meeting demands to curb weapon-related projects. The revival of a fuel swap agreement, which in a limited form was the centerpiece of last year's Tehran Agreement between Iran, Turkey and Brazil, was apparently going to be the first of those steps.

Turkey Harshly Criticizes Syria

Turkish President: We have Lost Our Confidence in Assad

Turkish President Abdullag Gul said today in Ankara that his country has lost confidence in the leadership of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Gul expressed deep frustration with Assad’s violent crackdown on protesters. For months, Turkey had been trying to engage Syria in an effort to ease the crisis there.

“Clearly we have reached a point where anything would be too little too late,” Gul said [Anatolia News Agency/New York Times, 29 August].

“We are really very sad,” Gul added. “Incidents are said to be ‘finished,’ and then another 17 people are dead. How many will it be today? We have lost our confidence.”

“Today in the world there is no place for authoritarian administrations, one-party rule, closed regimes,” Gul said. The president added that such governments could be “replaced by force” if their leaders did not make changes.

The statements were particularly significant coming from Turkey, and it would certainly further isolate Assad and his regime in the Islamic world. On Sunday, the Arab League said it would send its secretary general, Nabil al-Araby, to Damascus to seek a resolution to the crisis.

The Arab League has called on Syria to “end the spilling of blood and follow the way of reason before it is too late.” The UN has said that the Syrian security forces have killed 2,200 protesters during the five-month popular uprising against the 42-year rule of Assads.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Iran Warns NATO against Syria Intervention

Iran warned NATO on Sunday against intervention in Syria, saying if NATO enters Syria, it would be bogged down in a “quagmire.”

Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi reiterated its support for Syria, but added that Syrian President Bashar Assad should answer the “legitimate demands” of his people.

Salehi said a political vacuum in Syria would lead to an unprecedented regional crisis, and blamed protests and killings on “outside agitators” [ISNA, 28 August].

Iran's Oil Export Revenues Near Record

Iran’s oil exports in the first five months of the current Iranian calendar year of 1390 has passed $40 billion, Mehr News Agency reported today. At the current pace, the annual oil export revenues could pass the $82 billion mark, highest since the 2008 record revenues of $88 billion.

Meanwhile, despite recent fluctuations in oil prices, the price of the basket of eight Iranian heavy and light crude remains above $100 a barrel. Iran’s oil export this year is averaging 2,250,000 bpd.

Iran’s Annual Oil Revenues:

2011: $82 billion (estimated)

2010: $72 billion

2009: $56 billion

2008: $88 billion

2007: $66 billion

2006: $58 billion

Source: OPEC/Mehr News Agency

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Iran Launches Production of Carbon Fiber

Iran's Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi (center) during the launch of the production line of carbon fiber. 27 August 2011. IRNA

Carbon fiber production line. 27 August 2011. IRNA

Iran has launched production of carbon fiber, a strategic material used in defense systems as well as civil engineering. The material is under UN embargo because of its potential use in the country’s nuclear program [IRNA, 27 August].

Iran's Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi told reporters during the inauguration ceremony of the country’s carbon fiber production line that all stages of the production and launch of the material were domestically run in spite of UN sanctions on the transfer of technology to Iran.

Vahidi said that carbon fiber is used in production of nozzle heat shields, lightweight composite bodies of motors in solid-fuel missiles, wings and body of various types of fighter jets and civilian planes, as well as the body of light weapons.

“UN sanctions had caused a bottleneck in Iran's production of advanced and smart defense systems," Gen. Vahidi said. He added that Iran “has mastered the entire process of carbon fiber production.”

Carbon fiber has high flexibility, high strength, low weight and high tolerance for heat. Its production is extremely complex. Iran uses carbon fiber for more advanced centrifuges, which spin uranium gas to produce enriched uranium.

Iran’s Oil Exports to China Up by 46%

Iran has increased its oil exports to China by 46 percent in 2011. In the first seven months of the year, China has imported some 16 million tons of Iranian crude, which equates to some 13% of Chinese oil imports. After Saudi Arabia and Angola, Iran is the third largest exporter of oil to China [IRNA, 27 August].

Today’s announcement of the dramatic rise in Iranian oil exports to China coincided with the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Iran and the People’s Republic of China. In August 1971, the Shah’s government recognized Beijing as the sole government of China.

Iran's Non-Oil Exports Rising

Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade Mehdi Ghazanfari said on Friday that the country’s export of non-oil products has reached nearly $25 billion annually. The ministry’s statistics show an average of 17% annual growth in non-oil exports in the past six years (Ahmadinejad’s administration). The volume of non-oil exports has hit $30 billion a year.

China, Iraq, the UAE, and India are the top four destinations for Iranian exports; while UAE, Germany, China, Turkey, South Korea, and Switzerland are the biggest importers to Iran.

File Photo: Press TV

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ali has passed...

by Amir Taheri

I was reminded how valuable life is and how difficult it can be for some of us. There is a group of people that often times gets forgotten. Between the the political wars, economic hardships, and well just history, there exists individuals who took up arms when life as we knew it was in peril. These individuals put their own lives at the time on hold and risked their futures for the protection of their families, neighbors and people like myself who were born in Iran and lived through the long war years in the 80's. My focus for this week is to shine a light on these individuals and in particular one person who I will call Ali.

This Monday Ali, finally give in to his injuries sustained over 20 years ago in the war against Iraq. Ali was part of about 80,000 Iranians who was hit with chemical weapons such as mustard gas but survived the initial hit. 20,000 soldiers died on the spot, but Ali was part of the some 80,000 who luckily/unluckily survived. Surviving for him meant spending each of his remaining 20 years in hospitals. He underwent yearly surgeries removing parts of different organs that would give up over time. Apart from having every thinkable problem and ailment from breathing, to stomach, to liver, Ali also had mental and psychotic episodes. When better he would spent his days crying about the things he had done while his brain had shut down on him. He would hit his children, scream non-stop and once threw out his conservative chador wearing wife onto the street naked.

Ali comes from a lower income conservative family who like so many others at that time, went to the front lines because he felt that his country needed him. After being hit, he was quickly sent home, retired by the army, and spent his initial months as a permanent resident in the ICU of the hospital. Being retired in his teens was not what one would hope for at that age. So young and a body that was slowly giving up on him. He managed though to marry, and have 2 children. Not much of a father, not because he didn't want to be one or choose the option, but because it was taken away from him.

He spent his final days in Tehran away from his family and friends in a hospital for cancer patients. He had finally had a problem that the doctors could no longer hack at or remove. His body was flown to his hometown and Ali was buried in the war martyrs section of the cemetery with his colleagues in arms both old and newly passed. His wife will continue to receive his retirement check as long as she lives and will serves as a reminder of the hardships she and her husband underwent. If their daughter also stays unwed then she will also continue to be reminded of her fathers sacrifice with his retirement check. Much comfort for having never had a real father. Ali's funeral was today, even though he was already buried on arrival from the airport, his family gathered to remember him.

I do not want to start a discussion of blame, but it is important to note that many of the countries that accuse Iran today of all imaginable crimes, were the suppliers of these weapons; the United States, France, West Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. When the same United Nations Security Council that has passed resolution after resolution against Iran and its "supposed potential" nuclear program failed to even issue a report blaming Iraq's use of chemical weapons against Iranians like Ali, forget sanctioning Iraq or the selling countries. These same countries who have added sanctions on Iran and call for human rights abuses to be investigated have never once looked into their own actions or firms that sold these weapons. Europe who calls for efforts to remove the death penalty in Iran, yet not once has apologized for its own actions that brought so many deaths either by chemical weapons or conventional ones sold to Iraq.

Ali was not the first and will not be the last in a long line of courageous Iranians who still endure hardships daily and will be passing away almost daily. I don't know the others out there, I only know Ali and his hardships. But as an Iranian, and a human being, my heart goes out to all other Ali's out there or anyone else who with one simple quick decision to defend those he loves has his future taken away from him. I ask you to remember Ali and others like him. When in the future headline are blazing, don't forget people like Ali who were more than a headline to their families and friends. In years prior, people like Ali were for me just another name of a sad life until he become the Ali I knew.

Editor’s Note: Amir Taheri is one of the authors of Uskowi on Iran. His weekly columns appear here on Fridays.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Iran - Libya analogy

By Paul Iddon

The parallel between the fall of the Colonel Gaddafi to a possible future confrontation between the Iranian regime and large parts of its own disenfranchised population.

Shortly after the Egyptian people stood together in their thousands in solidarity in Tahrir Square in Cairo, where they showed their unity and opposition to the Mubarak regime instigating its downfall something quite different happened in neighbouring Libya. The aged, senile dictator Muammar Gaddafi had ordered his air force to strafe Benghazi, the main hub of opposition to his rule. Two Libyan pilots clearly showing a lot of guts and initiative diverted their French made Mirage F-1 jets and flew to Malta in a dramatic defection, which they undertook to avoid slaughtering their fellow countrymen. Gaddafi had made it clear that he would go to any lengths to preserve his rule, even if it meant going to war against a large proportion of his countries population.

That was by all means a civil war, and given Libya's longstanding regional and tribal divisions when Gaddafi's tinpot rule finally capitulates we may not see a fully united Libya, (or even a stable one). This is another thing that distinguishes this situation from the one in Iran (I can't see even the Revolutionary Guards Air Corps strafing protesters with their 'Frogfoot' attack planes as a means of crushing democratic insurrection anytime soon). Furthermore unlike Tripoli (which remained relatively calm until the rebels arrival earlier this week) Tehran is the centre of not only the present regime, but also a hefty amount of the countries many youthful democrats.
Also Iran unlike the regions tinpot dictatorships didn't immediately dispatch tanks and other forms of lethal force to crush the people when they amassed in opposition to the regimes authoritarian rule, but instead employed brute baton wielding Basij thugs as a forms of crushing said insurrection, these tactics were eerily reminiscent to Israel's earlier attempts to subvert the Palestinian masses during the onset of what is now known historically as the First Intifada.

The regime clearly has no intention of signing its death warrant in the same manner that the last Shah did, the manner in question being the use of live ammunition as a means of suppressing the masses democratic aspirations.

The Iranian system and society is gradually metamorphosing into a secular democracy, demographically this is the countries destiny, and the present powers that be know their time is limited and are acting accordingly. But they're still treating citizens in a condescendingly childlike manner which reeks of utter contempt for principals such as individual freedom and freedom of expression. They treat their people with such contempt while adopting a zero tolerance policy towards criticism or public scrutiny towards their authoritarian rule. And furthermore subjecting those who don't conform to rape and torture is a very violent and paranoid way of conducting internal affairs. And now this rapidly declining and deteriorating regime is doing its utmost to assemble a nuclear weapon in which to use to intimidate its neighbours and elbow its way into broader regional affairs in its characteristically thuggish self-pitiful and self-indulgent righteous manner.

Even in an educated country like Iran steeped as it is in thousands of years of civilization will be further held back development wise by a regime whose domestic policies include the suppression of many the talents of its females. A regime that sneers at the educated and intellectuals of the country who are neither forced into exile or imprisoned for having the audacity to speak out against their policies; which have made one of the oldest and most advanced civilizations of the past a backward social pariah in the 21st century. One which is slowly declining to a state of beggary. It can be safely bet that the clerical rulers will utilize such conditions to lay the blame on western imperialism, Zionism and the Crusaders (or as I like to refer to them all as; the usual suspects).

And as with all totalitarian systems, when the states industry and economy grinds to a halt the loyal thugs that make up the paramilitary forces, the ones that have been indoctrinated ideologically wise will fight until the bitter end, even if it means shattering their own state and its people in the process.

The regime at present is gradually building itself up to reach the point where Gaddafi is now, where most of the people it presides over are liabilities, as their willingness to pursue democratic change is a direct threat to the regimes firm grip on the status quo. Therefore conflict between the fascistic elements of the regime and the aspiring and maturing Iranian democrats is only inevitable. And civilization and the idea of international human rights and justice will themselves be only abstract and wishful ideas in an international community that should rightfully be ashamed of itself if it lets such a grotesque outcome transpire in Persia.

P.S. In the 2010 Democracy Index carried out by The Economist both Iran and Libya were listed as authoritarian regimes. Both of which scored exactly 1.94 out of 10.00 (Norway got the highest with 9.80 and North Korea scored the lowest with 1.08).

Editor’s Note: Paul Iddon is one of the authors of Uskowi on Iran. His weekly columns appear here on Wednesdays.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Iran Defense Projects

click photos to enlarge
Qader (Capable) AShM with claimed range of 200 km.

Valfajr torpedo with claimed 220 kg warhead

Bonyan marine engine with claimed 850 horsepower


Monday, August 22, 2011

Iran Begins Transferring Centrifuges to Fardu Underground Bunkers

Iran has started moving its uranium enrichment centrifuges from Natanz to the newlybuilt underground bunkers at Fardu, near the holy city of Qom. The Director of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani made the announcement in Tehran.

"Transferring Natanz centrifuges to Fordu is under way with full observance of standards," Abbasi-Davani said [IRIB, 22 August].

Tehran announced in June that it was planning to triple its capacity to enrich uranium to 20 percent grade purity. The Fardu facilities are designed to house the high-grade centrifuges. Iran says it needs the higher-grade fuel for its medical research reactor. The West believes Iran’s current state of medical research does not require all the fuel and the country is preparing enough fuel for an eventual enrichment to 90 percent purity used in nuclear weapons.

Libyan Revolution Triumphed

Revolutionaries Sweep Tripoli

Opposition’s Transitional National Council (TNC) Takes Over

U.S. and 30 Other Nations Recognize TNC as New Libyan Government

Gadhafi Whereabouts Unknown

Victory Celebrations in Benghazi. 22 August 2011. Nicole Tung/NYT

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Libya On Verge of Liberation

42-Year Gadhafi Dictatorship Crumbling

Opposition Fighters Take Over Central Green Square in Capital Tripoli

Libyans celebrating their hard-fought victory over Gadhafi. 21 August 2011. Gianluigi Guercia/AFP

Russia in Negotiations to Build Second Nuclear Reactor in Iran

Russia has put forward “proposals” to build new nuclear power plants in Iran after the completion of the Bushehr project. Director of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereydoon Abbasi Davani today made the announcement in Tehran.

“We have held negotiations with the Russians regarding the construction of new nuclear power plants. They have put forward some proposals,” Abbasi Davani said. “The exchange of ideas and proposals will continue until a clear result is reached,” he added [Resalat, 21 August].

Russia has built Iran’s only nuclear power plant in Bushehr against the backdrop of years of delays, making the new announcement by Iran all the more surprising. The facility is expected to be finally linked to the national grid soon. The Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was in Moscow earlier this week, but it was not immediately clear if he was involved in the negotiations with the Russian officials on building new reactors in Iran.

In 2007 Iran sought international bids to build a second nulear power plant in Darkhoin in southwest province of Kuzestan, near the Iraqi border. But there has been no development on the project since then.

Erdogan and Ahmadinejad Discuss Syria

Turkish media is reporting today that Prime Minister Erdogan spoke to President Ahmadinejad on the phone today to discuss the worsening situation in Syria. Turkey has arrived at critical crossroads with Syria after months of dialogue with Assad apparently have not produced any results, and the Turkish government is expected to eventually withdraw its support from his regime. Such move leaves Iran as the only regional power still supporting the Syrian government. But there are signs that the Iranian support is also evaporating. This week, Tehran replaced its ambassador to Damascus who had close ties to Assad and other members of the ruling family in the country.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Iran Sentences Two Americans to Eight Years in Prison

Long Sentences After Indications the Two Would Be Freed in Ramadan

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal arrested more than two years ago while hiking along the Iraq-Iran border have been sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage and illegally entering Iran [IRIB, 20 August].

Earlier this month, Iran’s foreign minister had suggested that the two Americans would be sentenced to time served and would be freed during the holy month of Ramadan, cruelly raising hopes of their parents and friends and relatives in the US.

Bauer and Fattal deny the charges and say they were only hiking in a scenic and largely peaceful Kurdish region of Iraq, then mistakenly crossed into Iran when they stepped off a dirt road near a waterfall. They were detained in July 2009 along with a third American, Sarah Shourd, who was released in September 2010 on $500,000 bail and returned home.

The Iranian attorney of the two Americans, Masoud Shafiei, said he has not been notified of the verdict but he will definitely appeal the sentence if true.

“I've not been notified of any verdict in the case of my clients,” Shafiei told The Associated Press. "This is a strong verdict inconsistent with the charges."

The US said today it was trying to confirm an Iranian TV report that two were jailed for eight years and reiterated its call for their release.

“We have repeatedly called for the release of Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, who have now been held in Iran's Evin prison for two years. Shane and Josh have been imprisoned too long, and it is time to reunite them with their families,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Iran's Auto Industry, created out of a need

by Amir Taheri

It employs over 500,000 people in production. It has grown to being between the 15th to 20th largest of its industries in the world. This years total production will be an all time high of 1.5 million. Iran's auto industry as described, has achieved much but still has much to aim for. It is similar to the French in many ways. It has had government protection that has smoothened its way to success by pushing out cheap foreign competitions that would be the death of it. It has also had French industrial support for the better part of 20 years. In comparison the British auto industry with almost no government protection is now either out of business or been sold off to foreign competitions.

Yet it still has much to improve upon including offering more options but today Iran's auto industry is also producing indigenous products, parts, and options as good as most of its competitors world-wide are offering. Iran's first home made car was the Samand. A car spiced and altered from the original Peugeot 405, now has served as the basis for its own Iranian creations. Iran Khodro the maker of the Samand and at times Iran's largest car producer, is the major driving force for innovation and new products in Iran. Producing for years the gas guzzling Paykan, based on the old British 1967 Hillman Hunter, now has ended and I have heard rumors that the whole line has been sold to Sudan, for further production. More recently, Iran Khodro, has been expanding production across Iran as part of a multi-aimed goal of both expansion and decentralized production. Whereas in the past, quantity had been the number one priority, in recent years, major efforts of improving quality have been undertaken to compete both in Iran better and also in the competitive international market.

The mid 90's was when for Iranian decision makers the realization came that Iran needed to have a strong auto industry. Starting around 1991, Iran for the first time after the revolution opened its market partially to foreign imports. It was a disaster. Coming after the end of the Iran-Iraq war, and the heavy reconstruction that the country was going through, demand for everything new was growing. It was in these years that Iran, experienced its first post-revolution debt crisis. Imports grew faster than oil and non-oil exports could keep up creating a hard currency shortage. Raking up billions in dollars of debt, something had to change. The largest burden on imports was foreign auto imports. It was now that Iran had to take a new direction, Iran simply could not afford the baby boomers buying now foreign cars. Imagine an import bill for importing 500,000 cars at an average price of $15,000, translating to $7.5 billion. This when $20 billion was the peak of all of Iran's imports. Imports were banned apart from the occasional personal automobile brought back from time living abroad. This was the time, as already mentioned, that year after year, quantity was the focus of Iran's major auto producers, Iran Khodro and Saipa. Joint venture deals were signed with French and Korean car companies to meet demand and share technology.

Fast-forward to today where Iran Khodro and Saipa, the two largest players are not only producing each around 750,000 cars, buses, and trucks in Iran but also have started plants in Egypt, Syria, Russia, Venezuela, and Senegal. Smartly each of these joint ventures have been produced on altered local names, and opened the market of neighboring countries for further exports. Since each of these countries operates in its own trade groups, these cars can be further exported to neighboring Asian, African, or European markets with minimal import taxes. The Samand is heavily popular in Senegal and Venezuela for its quality versus its price. One other important thing that third world countries require to become buyers of foreign cars is a constant supply of of spare parts. Easy maintenance has also made these cars popular in these countries. Both of the major players have big plans to expand in these countries with further improvements in quality and price.

Apart from producing cars based on foreign models, the new wave of innovation and changes have become more indigenous. After the original Samand came the Soren, that has more modern features and things that one finds in a new model in foreign countries, including navigation, rear entertainment systems, and laser guidance. A newer model has started being produced called the Runna. This again is an even more up to date automobile not too different than any product made by the big players. It is based on the Peugeot 206 Sedan. The 206 Sedan was an Iranian invention created with an investment of $250 million yet maintained the Peugeot name. Sold also in Europe by Peugeot, Iran Khodro called foul and started the Runna program to take their investment and translate into a return for Iran Khodro. Recently, the new Dena has also been introduced which if quickly mass produced can be a large revenue generator for this company. Having features similar to BMW, and sporting all the comforts of luxury cars on the market this car can start the next phase in Iran's auto industry. In the next 5 years, there are plans for a further 7 models. An SUV and pick-up truck are also to be introduced soon. Saipa, the other major competitor has introduced the Tiba, its first Iranian creation and will replace the Pride Kia. This car also has modern features and curves.

Foreign cars have also made a come back in recent years but not without a 90% import duty. This has meant that one either sees higher end German cars or less expansive Korean cars. One only has to walk past Jewelry shops, or other high earning businesses to see Mercedes SLKs or BMW 5 and 6 series parked outside their businesses. The Koreans also with their improved quality have taken a large market share and look to take even a higher percentage once import duties come down. After the Korean imports, Japanese autos are next in line with the major player being Toyota and Lexus, also part of the Toyota family. Modern joint ventures also provide for Mazda, Suzuki's, and Citroen productions.

Further quality needs to be improved and variety of local cars produced increased for a successful auto industry. A suggestions that I could also make is reduce the duty on luxury cars without removing the heavy duty on cars competing with Iranian productions. This way the huge market of consumers already buying Japanese and Korean cars but currently paying as much as if they were buying a Mercedes, BMW, or Lexus can instead receive value for their money by switching to buying luxury cars. This will also further motivate local companies to provide luxury quality standards in their productions. Created out of a need, and providing hundreds of thousands employment, Iran's auto industry can expect a bright future ahead but needs to keep its foot on the gas peddle (pardon the pun) to join the top 10 auto producing countries.

Editor’s Note: Amir Taheri is one of the authors of Uskowi on Iran. His weekly columns appear here on Fridays.

First Shipment of Crude Is Sold at Kish Oil Bourse

Iran’s Bourse Organization announced today that the first shipment of 500,000 barrels of Iranian heavy crude was sold on Thursday at Kish Oil Bourse, a commodity exchange set up in the Persian Gulf island of Kish to trade in Iranian crude. The shipment was sold at USD 105.49 per barrel, with no premium added. [Mehr News Agency, 19 August].

The Kish Bourse began its operation last July. Three shipments of crude could not be sold in previous sessions. Today’s successful sale marks the actual start of the oil exchange. The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) is planning to offer shipments of 500,000 barrels of light or heavy crude on daily basis at the facility.

File Photo: Kish Oil Bourse / Mehr

Iran Resumes Gas Delivery to Turkey

Iran resumed pumping natural gas to Turkey on Thursday (0956 GMT). A section of Iran-Turkey pipeline was damaged by a major explosion on 11 August in Turkey's eastern province of Agri, near the Iranian border. The Kurdish militant groups PKK, and its Iranian offshoot PJAK, were thought to be behind the blast, although no one has yet taken responsibility for the attack.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Khamenei Speaks on State of Economy

Despite Successes, Development Goals Yet to Be Achieved

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met on Wednesday evening with the country’s senior economic, banking and IT managers and made candid comments on the state of the country’s economy. Khamenei told his audience that Iran has achieved considerable successes in the fields of industrial production, services, agriculture, and knowledge-based economy. He also reminded his audience that after five years from the start of the 20-year economic development master plan, the country has not been able to achieve some of the most important of its stated goals.

“Some of the stated goals of the (20-year master plan), those of annual economic growth rate of 8 percent, lowering the unemployment rate, lowering the inflation rate and increasing investments have not been achieved,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “We need to do that much more during the current five-year plan to achieve those goals,” he added [IRIB, 18 August].

Hours after Ayatollah Khamenei made the comments, the Statistics Center of Iran (SCI) announced that the annual inflation rate in the country has risen to nearly 20 percent, a development that is expected to cause serious concerns among Iranian economists and government officials.

Khamenei also encouraged the senior managers to vigorously fight corruption at government institutions. He warned his audience that left unchecked, the corruption can spread like a “contagious disease” throughout the country.

On the rapidly growing level of imports into the country, Khamenei discounted the justification that the imports would force domestic producers to become more competitive. He called such theories as “unfounded” and called for protection of domestic production, especially in agriculture.

Khamenei said the economic sanctions imposed on the country by its enemies will not produce their desired results and the nation will achieve its goals of building a hopeful and bright future in spite of those sanctions.

Photo: Ayatollah Khamenei addressing the countries senior economic managers. Tehran. 17 August 2011. IRIB

Iran's Official Inflation Rate: 19.6%

Statistics Center of Iran (SCI), the government’s statistics and census organization, reported today that the annual inflation rate in Iran for the period ending in Iranian calendar month of Tir (21 July) hit 19.6 percent [Fars News Agency, 18 August]. On Monday, the Central Bank of Iran had reported that the annual inflation rate had risen to 16.3 percent.

SCI Director General Mousalreza Servati told Fars News that the country’s fifth development plan, the current five-year economic plan, has authorized SCI as the sole authority for official statistics and the Central Bank should not have published its inflation report on Monday. The 19.6 percent rate is then the official rate of inflation in the country.

The inflation rate announced by SCI today is in sharp contrast with the latest IMF economic report on Iran, published earlier this month, that had put the rate at 12.4 percent. The huge difference in inflation rates is expected to undermine the accuracy of the entire IMF report.

SCI also announced that it will soon publish the GDP growth rate for 1389, the latest Iranian calendar year, but said it expected it to be around the same rate as the previous year, 1388. The problem is the government has not yet published 1388 growth rate, but the governor of the Central Bank has previously talked about a 3.5 percent growth rate for that year.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

France: Iran Must Implement All UN Resolutions

Accepting Russia’s “Step-by-Step” Proposal Not Enough

Hours after Iran and Russia agreed on the new Russian “step-by-step” proposal as the first step to restart nuclear talks between Iran and the six major powers, France said Iran also must implement all six UN Security Council resolutions calling for the halt to its uranium enrichment program.

"We have constantly affirmed that Iran must implement the six Security Council resolutions concerning its nuclear program," French Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Christine Fages said in answer to questions on the Russian proposal [AFP, 17 August].

France maintains that the Iranian program, especially the rapid acceleration of enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, has no credible civilian use and could be part of a nuclear weapon production program. France has also questioned Iran’s missile program, regarding it as part of the country’s nuclear weaponization drive.

Iran has consistently denied any intentions to build the bomb, but has forcefully argued that enriching uranium for civilian use is its alienable right and it will not stop it and it has also argued that its missile program is defensive in nature.

Iran Ready to Resume Nuclear Negotiations - FM

Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said today that Iran is ready to resume negotiations with world’s major powers over its nuclear program and that a recent Russian proposal will be helpful for the process.

Salehi made the remarks at a news conference in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

The US, Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany have been pushing Iran to meet UN Security Council demands to stop enriching uranium to prevent any Iranian nuclear weapons capability. Iran denies that it intends to build nuclear weapons but considers peaceful nuclear program, including the uranium enrichment, as its rights.

The Russian new proposal calls for a "step-by-step" approach under which the international community would gradually ease sanctions against the country for each step Iran takes to distance itself from a nuclear weaponization program.

Photo: Foreign Ministers Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran (l.) and Sergey Lavrov of Russia. 17 August 2011. AP/ Misha Japaridze

Corrie Street

By Paul Iddon

The naming of a street in Tehran after the American political activist killed in Gaza has both highly positive and highly negative aspects to it.

Rachel Corrie Street, Ramallah

A street in Tehran has been named posthumously after Rachel Corrie, the American activist who was killed while protesting the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2003 during the latter stages of the Second Intifada. The decision to name the street after her was just earlier this week.

I wrote a column shortly beforehand entitled 'Neda & Rachel' where I pointed out that apologists for the present Iranian regime have often cited Rachel Corrie as a way to try and divert arguments away from the brutality that the Iranian regime has exercised against its own people and furthermore argued along the lines that, a regime that oppresses its own people and ignores their heartfelt grievances whilst at the same time backing the most fanatical, fascistic and violent forms of Palestinian militancy has therefore relinquished any form of credibility when it states that it cares about the ordinary people of Palestine.

I wrote this article to reiterate that very point as I think it is an important one. However I also want to add I don't disapprove of a street being named after Rachel Corrie. As an activist she did go the extra mile in trying to show the world what it was like to live day by day in a dangerous place such as Gaza, and she done this by meeting the normal Palestinian people and listening to them and trying to understand the grievances they were burdened with. This in itself was an incredible feat for such a young woman who is well deserving of a tribute such as that of having a street or location named in her honour.

The more reactionary opponents and critics of the present regime in Tehran will probably jump on this story and demand to know why there hasn't been a street named after Neda Soltan, the innocent woman who was callously murdered by one of the many Basij thugs rampantly harassing peaceful demonstrators on the streets of Tehran after the June 2009 elections. I think this is a cheap and inflammatory question, and the answer is very obvious when you look at it from the present leaderships perspective.
Think about it, if you were part of a decaying senile fanatical dictatorial regime like that of Khameini's I sincerely doubt you'd prohibit a street being named after the woman your brutal and suppressive paramilitary forces murdered, who in death went on to symbolize the oppressed (her name, the Persian for 'voice' has been a symbolic and unifying outcome of her death for many Iranians) and also those forced on pain of imprisonment (where official policies include rape and torture) to continually remain passive and deferential to this regime in the face of mounting oppression.

The day when we will have a Neda Street is the day the present regime will be where it belongs, the history books, I for one am looking forward to that day, and I know it is bound to come sooner or later, and when it does those who knew and admired Rachel Corrie for her courage and wish to further her cause can be genuinely proud of having a street named in honour of her in a country steeped in over 3,000 years of culture, civilization and literature.

Rachel Corrie certainly can't be ventriloquised by me, but I can and will say this;
From her standpoint as someone who took a decisive stand for the human rights of Palestinians that were neglected at the hands of the Israelis I would wager a person from an identical or similar objective standpoint wouldn't accept the blatant abolition, destruction and disregard of human rights in Iran simply because the present regime there also denounces the policies (as well as the mere existence) of the State of Israel.

But that's just my two cents...

Editor’s Note: Paul Iddon is one of the authors of Uskowi on Iran. His weekly columns appear here on Wednesdays.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Iran Supports Russia’s “Step-by-Step” Approach to Nuclear Impasse

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili today characterized Russia’s latest proposal to revive negotiations between Iran and major powers and resolve disputes over the country’s nuclear program as positive and a “good strategy.” Jalili made the comments after meeting with Russia's Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev on Monday. Patrushev heads a high-ranking delegation visiting Iran and today met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Russia’s “step-by-step” proposal calls for the international community to make limited concessions to Iran by easing economic sanctions for each step Iran takes toward meeting demands to curb weapon-related projects.

Photo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, meets with Russia's Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev at the Presidential Palace in Tehran. Tuesday 16 August 2011. AP

Monday, August 15, 2011

Russian Security Council Chief in Tehran

A senior Russian delegation headed by Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev arrived in Tehran today and is holding talks with senior Iranian officials on ways to resolve issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.

Russia has proposed a “step-by-step” approach for the UN and the West to make limited concessions by easing economic sanctions for each step Iran takes toward meeting demands to curb any nuclear weapon-related projects.

Photo: Russia's Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev (front right) meeting his Iranian counterpart Saeed Jalili. Tehran. 15 August. IRNA/Reuters

Iran's Inflation Rate Hits 16.3%

Subsidy Reform Program Contributing to Rapid Rise in Prices

The Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Mahoud Bahmani said today that Iran's annual inflation rate for the period ending in Iranian calendar month of Tir (21 June 2011) hit 16.3 percent. The inflation rate in Tir increased by 0.9 percent compared to the previous month [Mehr News Agency, 15 August].

Earlier this month, IMF had praised Iran’s successes in containing inflation in the aftermath of government subsidy removals, keeping it at around 12.4 percent. But today’s announcement by the CBI governor questions IMF’s assertion as too hastily made.

Iran’s economic reform program that started in late 2010 will remove $60 billion in government subsidies a year, or 15 percent of the country’s GDP. The government, however, is paying out nearly $30 billion a year in cash to the great majority of the citizens to cope with the rapidly rising prices that have followed subsidy removals. Even though the subsidy removals would significantly increase the efficiency and competitiveness of the economy, the monthly cash payments are becoming a major cause of inflation.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Transforming Chabahar into Petrochemical Production and Transportation Hub

Also Competing with Gwadar for Chinese and Indian Markets

Ports of Chabahar and Gwadar are shown at the bottom left-hand corner of the map.

Iran announced on Sunday the plans to transform the southeastern port city of Chabahar into the hub of the country’s petro-chemical production and export. The National Iranian Petrochemical Company (NIPC) will build plants for production of 15 million tons of petrochemicals in the Free Trade Zone of Chabahar. Iran currently exports some $14 billion worth of petrochemicals a year from its Persian Gulf ports.

20 million cubic meters of natural gas per day and 3.6 million tons of ethane per year are required as the feedstock for the production, and will be transferred to Chabahar via 28-inch pipelines linking Iran’s South Pars gas field in Assaluyeh to Chabahar. [SHANA, 14 August].

Chabahar is strategically located on the Gulf of Oman next to the Pakistani port of Gwadar at the entrance of the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Chabahar and Gwadar are located in the greater Baluchistan region that encompasses Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan, Pakistan’s Baluchistan and Afghanistan’s Nimrooz and southern Helmand provinces.

With vast mineral resources found throughout Afghanistan, with estimated worth of three trillion dollars, Chabahar and Gwadar can serve as seaports linking landlocked Afghanistan to India and China that are expected to be the main consumers of Afghan minerals that incudes copper, iron, gold and lithium among others.

Ironically, India financed the expansion of Chabahar into a commercial port in direct competition to Chinese financed Gwadar long before the Afghan mineral wealth became the hot topic in the emerging new great game involving the two Asian economic giants and other world powers. It is now possible and quite probable that both ports will be in play for transporting Afghan minerals. Chabahar serving as the prefer port for minerals extracted in northern and western Afghanistan, including the iron ore deposits in Bamiyan, copper deposits in Herat, and lithium and rare earth deposits in Nimrooz and southern Helmand. Gwadar can serve as the preferred port for the gold deposits in Pakistani Baluchistan, and other vast mineral deposits in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Explosion on Iran-Turkey Pipeline

An explosion on Iran-Turkey pipeline halted the flow of Iranian gas to Turkey on Friday. The explosion occurred in in the eastern Turkish province of Agri.

“Repairs have been started on the Turkey-Iran pipeline. The repairs and restarting of gas flows will take one week," a Turkish Energy Ministry official said in Ankara [Reuters, 12 August].

Turkey was buying additional gas from Azerbaijan and Russia to cover the shortfall caused by the explosion. Last Friday, another explosion on the pipeline on the Iranian side of the border caused a major fire and briefly halted the gas flow.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its Iranian offshoot, PJAK, are thought to be behind both attacks.

"World Bank" issues new "Iran report", world reacts

by Amir Taheri


The World bank today after reporting the latest 2011 economic report on Iran was quickly branded traitors, murders and rapist, for issuing their latest report on the Iranian economy based on their observations and having sent experts to evaluate the country. For obvious reasons, this news blog has agreed with other reputable news sources on this issue and will as of now refer to the World Bank as the "Mass murdering baby eating egoistic lying sons of baboons Bank". The mass murdering baby eating egoistic lying sons of baboons Bank today expanded as well on their new report for Vietnam and stated that currency reforms are progressing well. They expect an appreciation of 5% this year.

The non-partisan group "We are seeking the overthrow and removal of the Iranian government by all means necessary" or WASTOAROTIGBAMN issued their response saying, " By reporting their latest numbers on Iran the World Bank (Mass murdering baby eating egoistic lying sons of baboons Bank) has extended the survival of Iran's government as people need to think that the performance of this regime is horrible. We simply want to know, would it have killed them if they had printed the report we provided them last week?" After calling the Mass murdering baby eating egoistic lying sons of baboons Bank, blood sucking rapist, they quickly offered the Bank a way out and praise if they retracted their report. On that note this newspaper is also willing to go back to referring to this entity as the "World Bank", if these conditions are met.

The lead German economist Frank Schmidt of Deutsche Bank today said, "we must not look at the cosmetic appearance of Iran's economy as an indicator of the shape of things. If you remove from your view these new factories that were built in the last years you have nothing, right?? No doubt about it! We economist understand that behind these new fancy buildings, cars, and facilities there is nothing but dirt and rocks under them, so, we call upon the media to point this out to citizens of the world that they might not be fooled by Iran's supposed "development".

Also, the spokesman for the Movement of Iranian Liberation and Fraternity (MILF) which aims to bring about a stronger Persian culture to Iran and removal of all foreign influence in Iran, Thomas Liddelheimer, expanded on their plans. "I feel a strong connection to my people in Iran and that is why I have been gathering people every Friday for the last 32 years to protest Iran's government". I strongly feel that the pressure of our gatherings will be felt by Iran's leaders and then one day they can't handle it anymore. Mr. Liddelheimer, birth name is Ali Moradi but changed it in order for it to be easier for his colleagues and the media to pronounce.

While we asked questions at the protest movement, many locals decided to join the march as they felt that this cause was important. We spoke to a few who had decided to join the protests. One such person, Bob Brown, mentioned how he personally thought it was ridiculous that the Iranian government was forbidding families to only having one child and he felt that by coming out today he could do his part to change these laws. Marlene Johnson, mentioned that the fighting in Dafur was extreme and how many more Iranian women had to die under a crushing and outdated cast system before the world acted!

Israeli nuclear weapons scientist group calling itself the "Middle East Without a Bomb - apart from Israel" was disheartened at the latest news from the Mass murdering baby eating egoistic lying sons of baboons Bank. "After what we went through in the past, we cannot believe that this Bank would now treat us this way!" The nuclear weapons scientist further explained that Iran's economy is in shambles and they will continue to do their part to destroy it. The Israeli group could not make the protests of Mr. Liddelheimer as they had wished due to their prior obligations being involved with project XSTONE. This project is now in its climax and aims to produce a new multi-megaton and newer generation of thermal nuclear weapon.

Back at the White House, spokeswoman Jackie Dunken explained on Iran's recent work on by-passing the sanctions placed on it. In particular sanctions on cow farms. Five years ago, the United States and Europe in a joint effort banned Iran from all further cow farming, milking, meat packing and all other related work involving the slow moving four legged creatures. In a statement at the time they explained, "Allowing Iran to harvest the excrement and flatulence of cows is allowing Iran to move one step closer to terrorizing the world with gas bombs, and we as responsible free world leaders cannot stand by this gap in the international trade rules". Iran argues that millions of its people need the milk and meat produced from this animal. Spokeswoman Dunken continued with a list of front companies created by Iran to continue its nefarious acts. "These new companies are a sign that Iran is intending to misuse cow production for its own sinister needs, if Iran has nothing to hide than stop further cow farming, allow the international community to enter and after a few years of strong oversight we will promise you to either allow a small amount of controlled cow farming or we will promise to sell you the cows and milk you need". The onus is now on Iran to decide, but I feel that they have already taken the wrong path with these new front companies".

Editor’s Note: Amir Taheri is one of the authors of Uskowi on Iran. His weekly columns appear here on Fridays.