Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Diplomatic Fallout From Storming the British Embassy

The diplomatic fallout from the storming and ransacking of the British embassy in Tehran continued today:

  • In an extremely rare diplomatic move, Britain ordered the expulsion of the entire diplomatic staff of the Iranian embassy in London and evacuated all of its own diplomats from Iran,
  • Norway announced that it has closed its embassy in Tehran,
  • France, Germany and the Netherlands all recalled their ambassadors from Iran,
  • Italy said it is considering to close its embassy in Tehran.

Britain Orders Closure of Iranian Embassy in London

Iranian Diplomats in Britain Given 48 Hours to Leave the Country

The British Foreign Secretary William Hague today ordered the immediate closure of the Iranian Embassy in London and gave the Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave Britain. The move came a day after the British embassy in Tehran came under attack by a mob that ransacked the embassy and another British diplomatic site in Qolhak, in northern Tehran. Britain has closed its embassy in Tehran and evacuated all its diplomatic staff from Iran.

Harking Back to a Radical Past

By Paul Iddon

The storming of the British embassy in Tehran bears a troubling reminiscence to the infamous storming of the US embassy 32 years ago.

When a small group of radical Islamic students stormed the American embassy in Tehran during the 1979 revolution they started what would become a very turbulent and tense rivalry with the United States that has continued to this very day. It also showed that the new Islamic Republic was ready from the get go to disregard the common international diplomatic standards and instead radicalize a widespread revolution in a bid to suppress the many moderates and secularists that initially had filled the streets in opposition of the Shahs autocratic rule.

In Reading Lolita in Tehran author Azar Nafisi recalls how during the hostage crisis people from rural areas were bused into Tehran to make up the numbers of those gathering around the “nest of spies”. And as she recalls several of them didn't even know where America was, and some were under the impression that they were actually going to America. She goes on to describe how these people were free to reside outside the embassy, hold picnics and hang around and camp by the embassy grounds so long as they chanted “Death to America” and burnt the occasional US flag to keep up such radical momentum.

Just yesterday following the Majlis resolution to expel Britain's ambassador to Tehran following increased British sanctions a mob stormed the British embassy chanting Marg Bar Ingilis (“Death to Britain”). The majority of members of the Maljlis whom had voted in favour of expelling the British ambassador chanted the same slogan the day before, clearly creating a radical atmosphere. The scene at the embassy was reminiscent to the one of the initial storming of the US embassy in 1979. And is clearly a blatant attempt by the regime to incite radical action this comes at a time when the theocracy is showing visible signs of senility in the face of a continually disillusioned populace. Swift and organized radical reactionary action like this incident are essential for the theocracy to maintain a certain degree of control over the public imagination which must have a blurry and overall flawed outlook on the world if they are to see the theocracy as their ultimate governmental representative. Therefore it is necessary for the theocracy to up the ante with regards to such radicalism and fundamentalism in times of widespread disillusionment and discontentment.

Ayatollah Khomeini effectively directed a six year counter-war on Iraq and sent at the very least 300,000 young men (some as young as 13) to die in this poorly planned war of which Iran was ill prepared for, whilst furthermore reassuring those who would go on to be martyred in the suicide waves that God was on their side and that they were guaranteed victory as they were waging a war in the name of Islam. He was finally forced to accept the UN mandated ceasefire when Rafsanjani swallowed his pride and risked his own neck as it were by approaching the Imam and informing him of the raw reality on the ground. Iran had no chance of a tangible victory and to add insult to injury the Iraqi Army was proving to be capable of being able to once again launch substantial incursions into Iranian territory. Khomeini finally gave in and accepted the UN ceasefire agreement with Iraq, likening it to drinking a chalice of poison. In light of the fact that he had waged war in the name of Islam and subsequently lost he must have calculated that in order to retain any credibility he needed something else to point his divinely warranted judgmental finger at in order to ensure the discontentment that followed that fiasco of a war would not manifest itself in its immediate aftermath. So what followed was his issuing of the infamous fatwa against Salman Rushdie, condemning him to death for his book The Satanic Verses. His offering of money for murder was a squalid act and was also his last major political act before passing away later that year. British-Iranian relations had been restored the year beforehand and temporarily suspended by Iran after Khomeini issued the fatwa.

The regime to a very large extent has actually garnered a propaganda coup for itself, not in Iran and among the Iranian people (where as travel writer Rick Steve's pointed out the former US embassy compound sits in the public's eye like an unwanted call to battle) but in the west. Once again the regime has succeeded in getting images on western TV of radical Iranian Islamist' once again violently storming a foreign consulate, these images will once again reinforce the widespread illusion and irrational fear of Iran and Iranians that is prevalent in the west.

This in turn will inevitably prolong the lifespan of this archaic totalitarian regime which has once again purposely plundered and intentionally squandered any hopes of diplomatic rapprochement with the International Community for the foreseeable future.

Editor’s Note: Paul Iddon is one of the authors of Uskowi on Iran. His weekly column 'Broadened Vistas' appears here on Wednesdays.

Report: Explosion in Isfahan Linked to Nuclear Plant

The Times reported today that Iran’s uranium conversion facility in Isfahan was hit by a huge explosion on Monday. The Iranian government has denied that any explosions have occurred in the city.

The Times, basing its report on satellite images of the Isfahan facility seen by its staff, said the images showed “billowing smoke and destruction… (confirming) that a blast that rocked the city of Isfahan on Monday struck the uranium enrichment facility there, despite denials by Tehran.” [The Times, 30 November, reprinted at The Australian, 30 November].

The report of the explosion at Isfahan uranium conversion facility (UCF) came as satellite images emerged of the damage caused by an earlier explosion at IRGC ballistic missile base outside Tehran two weeks ago that killed Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, the head of the Iranian ballistic missile program, and other IRGC personnel.

On Monday, Isfahan residents reported a blast and seeing a cloud of smoke rising on the edge of the city, where the UCF is situated.

If the reports of the explosion at Isfahan UCF are correct, the Israeli intelligence would be seen as the perpetrator. The Times quotes Dan Meridor, the Israeli Intelligence Minister, as saying, “There are countries who impose economic sanctions and there are countries who act in other ways in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

British Embassy Under Attack: New Pictures

Source: Tabnak

Tehran: British Embassy Attacked - UPDATE

Radical "students" stormed British diplomatic sites in Tehran today, bringing down the Union Jack flag, burning an embassy vehicle and throwing documents from windows.
The mob surged past riot police into the British Embassy complex and pelted it with stones and Molotov Cocktail, the Associated Press reported. Demonstrators outside the embassy also burned British flags, chanting “Death to Britain.” The occupiers also tore down picture of Queen Elizabeth II. The police have apparently regained control of the site.
Iran’s official news agency IRNA reported that hundreds of other protesters attacked the British ambassador’s residence in northern Tehran and replaced British flags with the flags of the Islamic Republic.
Yesterday, the Iranian parliament, Majlis, passed a resolution to expel the British ambassador to Tehran and then the members of parliament began chanting “Death to Britain.” The action could have been interpreted by the mob today as a green light to attack the British compounds with impunity.
The semiofficial Mehr news agency said most of the embassy staff had left the compound before the mobs entered, but it also said those who occupied the area had taken six staff as hostages. The report by Mehr has now been taken off its website.
The mob called for the closure of the embassy calling it a “spy den” — the same phrase used after another mob stormed the US embassy in Tehran in 1980 and held 52 hostages for 444 days.
UPDATE: Fars News Agency has confirmed earlier reports that the occupiers of the British compound in north Tehran, Bagh-e Qolhak, had taken six employees of the British embassy hostage. The authorities have freed the hostages and handed them over to the British embassy staff. Fars also reports that the police has now cleared the compound as well as the embassy building in the center of Tehran of all the occupiers.

Iran Oil at $109+

Annual Oil Revenues to Hit $100 Billion- Non-Oil Exports at $43 Billion

The average price of Iranian crudes in November reached $109.58 per barrel, the national Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) announced today. Iran light crude sold at an average of $112.19 a barrel for Asian destinations and $107.95 for the Mediterranean. Iran heavy was sold at an average of $110.39 for Asia and $106.25 for the Mediterranean. The oil revenues in the current Iranian calendar, ending 20 March 2012, is expected to be close to $100 billion, a historic high for the country.

Meanwhile, Iran Customs reported today that the volume of non-oil exports in first eight months of the current Iranian year has hit $28.6 billion. At this rate, the annual non-oil exports will be close to $43 billion mark, also a historic high for the country.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Reports of Huge Explosion in Isfahan – But Government Says No Explosions

There were widespread reports, including emails to this blog, of a powerful explosion that shook Isfahan today. The report was also carried by the semi-official Fars News Agency, but was later taken off its website. Fars had quoted Isfahan’s deputy mayor as confirming the report of the explosion and saying that the officials were investigating the cause.

Later in the day, the deputy governor of Isfahan, Mohammad-Mehdi Ismaili, denied that an explosion has occurred in the city, calling the reports “completely baseless and fabricated.”

Isfahan is home to the country’s sole uranium conversion facility (UCF), converting enriched uranium into uranium rods, and any report of explosion naturally raises concerns and interests these days. We will keep you informed as soon as reliable information become available.

Iran’s New Cultural Commissioner – Mashaie Snubbed

Iran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency reported today that President Ahmadinejad has appointed his minister of culture, Mohammad Hosseini, to concurrently serve as the government’s Cultural Commissioner.

The president’s controversial chief of staff, Esfaniar Rahim Moshaie, headed the Cultural Commission until now. The country’s ruling conservatives regard Mashaie as the leader of the “deviationists.” The derogatory term is used to describe Mashaie and other political allies of the president.

Ahmadinejad has been under intense pressure to remove Mashaie from all positions he held, particularly from the powerful post of the chief of staff. But there were no indications, however, that Ahmadinejad was also removing Mashaie from that post.

Investigation of Banking Scandal Widening

Iran's prosecutor general announced today that 126 people have been under probe and interrogated in connection with the biggest embezzlement case in the country's banking history.

Hojjatoleslam Mohseni-Ejei said that 27 of the 126 individuals investigated in the banking fraud case remain in detention and another 50 have already been indicted. He added that a score of state-owned and private Iranian banks and business entities are also being investigated over the $2.8-billion embezzlement scandal. The fraud reportedly involved the forgery of banking documents to secure loans that were then used to purchase state-owned companies.

Iran Air Refueling at Kent Airport - Dodging Sanctions

Dodging sanctions that prevent Iran Air flights from refueling at London’s Heathrow airport, the airliner has struck a deal with the small and privately owned Manston, Kent airport – a former RAF base in the World War II, to refuel its passenger flights for the journey home.

The Iran Air flights are allowed to land at major European airports like Heathrow. But those airports, with links to the US market, refuse to sell jet fuel to Iranian airliners on the US sanctions list.

Source: Daily Mail

Photo: Iran Air flight refueling at Manston, Kent airport. MailOnline, 27 November 2011.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Moments ago this blog had its 2,000,000th visitor. Mark Pyruz, Paul Iddon and Amir Taheri join me in thanking all our readers and commentators for their continued interest and support - it means the world!

IRNA Chairman Indicted on Charges of "Dissemination of Lies"

Ali Akbar Javanfekr

Iran’s Judiciary has formally charged Ali Akbar Javanfekr, President Ahmadinejad’s senior media advisor and the chairman of IRNA, the country’s official news agency, with “dissemination of lies, spreading rumors, and inciting public opinion against the establishment.” [Press TV, 27 November].

Let’s repeat Javanfekr’s current position: chairman of the country’s official news agency IRNA. And the head of the official news agency is charged with dissemination of lies and spreading rumors as defined by the country’s judiciary. Should we then believe government’s own version of events as officially disseminated by its own news agency? I believe this is a first in the world of journalism.

Javanfekr is also charged with inciting the public against the regime. A blue-blooded member of the current establishment, the head of its official news agency, and the senior advisor to the president of the Islamic Republic, is charged with spearheading revolt against the regime. It seems that the circle of trust of the current rulers of Iran is shrinking rapidly.

IRNA has not yet carried the story.

File Photo: Press TV

Majlis Votes to Expel British Ambassador to Tehran

Members of Majlis Shouted “Death to Britain”

The Iranian parliament, Majlis, today voted to expel the British ambassador to Tehran in response to the expanded sanctions against the country recently put in place by UK and other Western powers.

The parliament gave the government two weeks to downgrade the diplomatic relations with the UK to chargé d’affaires level and cut the commercial and economic bilateral relations to a minimum. After the resolution was approved by 171 votes, the members of Majlis began shouting “Death to Britain.” The members opposing the resolution wanted the Majlis to cut all diplomatic relations with the UK, and not just downgrading it.

The British Ambassador to Tehran Dominick Chilcott took up his post last month, probably not having time to unpack yet before being expelled from the country.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Iran Not Seeking Nuclear Arms - Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a TV interview tonight that Iran is ready to hold nuclear talks with P5+1, five permanent members of the UN Security Council – US, UK, France, Russia and China- plus Germany. He added that any negotiations had to be held without preconditions.

Earlier this month, the UN nuclear watchdog agency IAEA had raised concerns that Iran’s work on nuclear weapons may still be ongoing. President Ahmadinejad emphasized during his interview with Jam-e Jam TV network that Iran was not seeking nuclear arms.

Iran Will Hit Missile Shield in Turkey if Attacked - IRGC

A senior IRGC commander, Maj. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the IRGC aerospace command, said in Tehran today that Iran will target NATO missile defense shield in Turkey if it is attacked by Israel or the US.

Gen. Hajizadeh added that Iran believes that the probability of an attack on the country is on the rise, and hitting missile defense shield in Turkey is part of Iran’s new defense strategy to counter the threat. He emphasized that Iran will now respond to threats with threats rather than a defensive position [Mehr News Agency, 26 November].

“Countering threats with threats,” has become a new battle cry in Iran, first espoused by the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei in a speech last week, presumably also referring to a nuclear threat.

As part of the new strategy, the Iranian senior generals are also warning the West that they would widen any future conflicts by establishing anti-Israeli fronts in Lebanon and Palestine; destabilizing the Persian Gulf; and now attacking defensive missile shield in Turkey.

Americans See Iran as Threat to US National Security

A new public opinion poll on Iran conducted by Quinnipiac University has found that the Americans see Iran as a threat to US national security.

  • 88 percent of Americans say Iran is a threat to US national security.
  • 60 percent say sanctions are not an effective tool for stopping Iran’s nuclear program.
  • 55 percent oppose immediate military action against Iran, while 36 percent support it.
  • 50 percent say the US should use force if sanctions fail, while 36 percent oppose a military strike.

“Americans are very concerned about the development of an Iranian nuclear program and don’t think the current policy of economic sanctions is effective,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Voters are not yet to the point that they want the US military to stop it, but 50 per cent say that if the sanctions eventually prove to be ineffective, then they would support the use of force”

 [UPI, 26 November].

If Israel takes action against Iran, 46 per cent say the United States should support the move, 44 per cent favor neutrality and only six per cent say the US should oppose it.

The institute surveyed 2,552 registered voters between 14-20 November.

Source: UPI

Friday, November 25, 2011

Iran Basij Force Stages Large Military Parade in Tehran

Gen. Firouzabadi, Iran's top uniformed officer, reviewing Basij Force elements.
The wall on the left is that of the former US embassy compound in Tehran.

Iran Basij (Militia) Force today staged what it reported to be a 50,000-strong military parade in Tehran in front of the former US Embassy compound. Iran’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi told basijis that the country would respond to any foreign threat with full force. He added that if the US and Israel want to attack Iran, they should be prepared to “pay the price.” [ISNA, 25 November].

Photos: Bajij Force military parade. Tehran, 25 November 2011. ISNA, Fars New Agency

Iran and Russia Sign Transport Agreement

Iran and Russia have signed an agreement to develop a north-south transport corridor linking Russia to the Persian Gulf. Details of the agreement were not made public, but IRNA reported that it includes road, rail, air and marine transportation.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sliding Currency

The Iranian currency rial continued its downward spiral and today was traded at 13,600 rials per dollar, a record low. The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) intervened during the day to keep the value of the currency close to its official exchange rate, but failed in its attempt.

Last June, the CBI devaluated the rial by 11%, setting the official exchange rate at 11,710 rials per dollar. The move was an attempt to close the gap between the official and market rates. In less than six months, the rial’s market value has lost another 16%. In fact during the six years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the rial has lost 45% of its value against dollar.

France to Boycott Iran Oil

France will unilaterally stop importing oil from Iran as part of an effort to isolate Tehran because of its nuclear program.

“The interruption of Iranian oil purchases is among the measures proposed by France to its partners. We will apply this at a national level,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said on Thursday [Reuters, 24 November].

It was unclear whether France would act immediately or wait for a common EU position.

Last year, Iran supplied 3 percent of French oil imports, or 1.8 million tons, according to data from French petroleum industry body UFIP. This year, France is importing a modest 55,000 barrels per day of Iranian crude, Reuters reported.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

IRGC Names R&D Chief - Will Soon Unveil New Ballistic Missile

IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said today in Tehran that a “basiji general” has replaced Maj. Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghadam who was killed on 12 November in an explosion during the test of a ballistic missile. The new general, whose name was not disclosed, will head the IRGC’s Self Reliance Jihad (R&D) Center at Amir-al-Mo’menin base where the explosion occurred.

Gen. Jafari also said the product that the late Tehrani Moghadam was working on; presumably a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear-type warhead will soon be introduced publicly.

Israel Cannot Be Defended Against Iranian Missiles - Safavi

Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, the former IRGC commander and the senior military advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei, said today in Tehran that the missile shields deployed in the region are “inadequate” to protect the Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities against the incoming Iranian missiles.

“These missile shields which they have deployed in Turkey, occupied Palestine, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cannot hit all our missiles,” Gen. Safavi said.

“They may hit some of our missiles, but the number of our missiles is so large that they will not be able to target all our missiles,” Safavi added [ISNA, 23 November].

Referring to Israel's threats against Iran, Gen. Safavi said Israelis are well aware that if they begin a war, they will be attacked from Iran, southern Lebanon and by Hamas.

Ahmadinejad Denounces European Move Against Iran Central Bank

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today denounced European countries for expanding sanctions against Iran, singling out the move against the Central Bank of Iran (CBI).

“We have had no relations with America for the past 32 years so we had no relationship with them yesterday and won't have tomorrow, but we are surprised by these European puppets, who immediately repeat whatever their master says like impotent servants,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech to a large crowd gathered in the city of Pakdasht and broadcast live on state television.

“They have said 'we should cut relations with the central bank and block the money of the Iranian people',” Ahmadinejad added. “Any expropriation of the Iranian people's foreign exchange reserves is considered major theft and the Iranian people will treat those who do this as thieves” [IRIB, 23 November].

Britain, France and the Netherlands have banned all transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. The US has designated Iran as an area of “primary money laundering concern,” a step designed to dissuade non-US banks from dealing with the country. Britain and Canada have also banned all its financial institutions from doing business with Iran.

Moment of Truth

By Paul Iddon

The fog of distortion and misinformation regarding the Islamic Republics nuclear program is finally beginning to clear.

IR-40 heavy water facility at Arak.
Reading news bulletins (and indeed this blog) over the past few years one finds oneself very much familiar with two recurring stories, one being of gradual developments in Iran's nuclear program which always concludes by reminding the reader that primarily the US and Israel accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons whilst Iran continually asserts that its nuclear program is a wholly civil one. The second story is one that has taken many forms for a good four years now, the predominate ones being of the Israeli Air Force launching large scale exercises in preparation for a strike against Iran, whilst various Israeli political and military figures asserting that a nuclear Iran will not be tolerated and that they are prepared and will take military action against it.

With last weeks highly anticipated yet nervously awaited IAEA report that speaks of “credible” evidence that Iran is designing a nuclear weapon one feels that these ongoing threats and conflicting assertions of the true nature of the Iran's nuclear program may be reaching a gradual crescendo.

The Russian Foreign Ministers recent warnings regarding the increasing likelihood of an Israeli strike aren't in any way unprecedented, one remembers Russia warning the west back in 2007 that an attack on Iran would be considered an attack on Russia. Also Israel seeing the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon as an existential threat certainly isn't anything new or unprecedented neither. As I've made evident before when I pointed out that the current Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu warned of a nuclear armed Iran manifesting itself within at least five years, he made this warning back in 1995...

Granted Iran's nuclear program was essentially halted in 2003, given that (and granting presumption that Iran has in fact been developing nuclear weapons all this time) Netanyahu's prediction was at the very least three years off.

Mr. Netanyahu is a man known to make some very questionable allusions. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006 he stated numerous times that the only historical example that could be drawn with regards Israel's so called disproportionate responses to Hezbollah rocket fire was the German V2 rocketing of London in the Second World War. As Netanyahu stated Churchill responded by firebombing Dresden, whilst he does assert that Israel tries to make some distinction between civil and military targets it was a rather odd and somewhat crass statement to make. And I'm sure some of the more astute historical conscious observers will also note that the bombing Dresden corresponded closely with the bombing of Hamburg and will recall that while Hamburg was indeed an industrious port city it was also home to a large number of working class families who never supported the Nazi Party and whom were the predominate ones who perished in those horrific bombings. Almost reminiscent to that was how the Israeli pummeling of Lebanon in 2006 empowered Hezbollah and pretty much destroyed any chance of the Cedar Revolution the year before evolving, manifesting itself, and gradually unifying the Lebanese people together on secular lines, rather than having them continually divided on sectarian lines.

All Hezbollah had to do during the summer war in 2006 was to survive, by kidnapping the two Israeli soldiers as they got exactly the kind of reaction they were gunning towards. And furthermore as even a fleeting observer will note Hezbollah since then has grown to be a force to be reckoned with in Lebanon, and has furthermore tripled its conventional military strength through increased arms replenishment's from Iran and Syria.

One finds the present tense atmosphere alongside with the Israeli threats to launch a preemptive strike to be very worrying and unsettling, when one considers once the missiles and jets start flying over the gulf the outcome will most likely see Iran bombarded until its ability to project conventional military force is destroyed, this in turn will see a lot of its infrastructure bombed in a manner similar to the coalitions Desert Storm operation against Iraq in 1991.

I've droned on before about how I think this outcome would be a catastrophe in particular for the Iranian people, as the Iranian regime would avenge their woes and brutally exert their violence on those within its own borders, doing away with them under the pretext that they are fifth columnists or foreign influenced enemies of the Islamic Republic.

Granting the premeditation that Iran is designing and developing nuclear weapons in which to meaningfully project fear and the means to extort its loathed gulf neighbours for its own strategic means, one has to ponder if launching a preemptive military bombardment to prevent it from doing so would play into the regimes hand. As if Iran were attacked in such a fashion it may ensure the regimes survival as well as its hegemony over the Iranian masses for up to another decade and also lay about the conditions of abjection in which the theocracy will thrive under, and cripple (and break the proverbial back of) the aspiring Iranian democrats who are at present struggling to liberalize the government and bring the Iranian state and her people into a more meaningful, productive and influential relationship with the rest of the world.

So to conclude the conundrum I've outlined isn't a pleasant one. Whilst I'm not advocating doing nothing in the face of a nuclear armed Iranian theocracy I'm merely pointing out it is sadly the masses of the Iranian people that will have to bare the brunt of the suffering that will come from such a military confrontation, the theocracy will ride it out, sleeping soundly at night knowing that they've not only stuck a finger to the west (you can be sure any war with Iran will see oil wells burning in Saudi Arabia) and secured their wealth and leadership positions but will have for the second time in less than 40 years plundered the Iranian peoples hopes for a future of hope and opportunity, and instead replaced it with a totalitarian theocratic future, where them and their brainwashed minions force their solipsistic outlook on the general populace, and forcefully ban any non-consensual form of internal debate or self-evaluation and criticism and instead blame the woes that come from the states impoverishment on foreign entities, ensuring that Iran for the foreseeable future will be a pariah state, its people forcibly closed off from the rest of the world, where they are violently subverted and forced to live their lives in a manner that the ruling zealots see fit.

EU to Expand Sanctions Against Iran

The European Union joined the US, Britain and Canada in expanding sanctions against Iran. The EU agreed in principle to sanction some 200 Iranian companies, organizations and individuals for the role in development of the country’s nuclear program. The decision needs to be formally approved by EU foreign ministers during their meeting on 1 December. European companies will be banned from doing business with the listed firms and organizations, while individuals will be subject to asset freezes and visa bans.

The EU action comes a day after the US named Iran as an area of “primary money laundering concern,” a step designed to dissuade non-US banks from dealing with the country. Britain and Canada have also banned all its financial institutions from doing business with Iran.

The expanded sanctions do not target Iran’s oil exports, the country’s driving force of economic activities and growth and its main source of hard currency. The banking sanctions, however, are expected to raise the cost of financial transactions for the country substantially and disrupt the normal flow of commerce, at a time when Iran is facing serious economic and political issues internally.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

US Expands Sanctions Against Iran Banking Sector

The US government on Monday declared the entire banking sector of Iran, including the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) as a threat to other governments and institutions by designating Iran as an area of “primary money laundering concern.” The designation will require monitoring by US banks to make sure that they and their foreign affiliates are avoiding all contact with Iranian financial institutions. Britain and Canada joined the US in this action.

Pressure has been mounting on Iran since the IAEA revealed in its report last week the “possible military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear activities, citing evidence indicating that Iran has carried out activities “relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”

“Any and every financial transaction with Iran poses grave risk of supporting those activities, so financial institutions around the world should think hard about the risks of doing business with Iran,” said US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in a joint press conference with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The US also imposed sanctions on Iran's petrochemical industry, prohibiting US companies from providing goods, services and technology to support Iran's production of petrochemicals.

The sanctions would not directly target trade in Iranian oil. They could, however, make it increasingly difficult for oil companies and traders to obtain bank financing to trade Iranian crude.

Monday, November 21, 2011

UN Votes on Iran Human Rights Abuses

UN General Assembly today condemned the human rights abuses in Iran. 86 countries voted in favor of the annual resolution, proposed by Canada, with 32 against and 59 abstained. The resolution comes three days after the General Assembly condemned an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington.

Iran Boycotts IAEA Forum on Middle East

Iran today boycotted an IAEA meeting on banning nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Israel and Arab countries, including Syria and Lebanon, participated in the two-day forum on 21-2 November.

“That both Israel and the Arab states summoned the political will to attend the IAEA session, and thus to allow it finally to take place, was a positive development," said Mark Fitzpatrick, a director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies [Reuters, 21 November].

The talks focused on the experiences of regions which have set up Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZ), including Africa and Latin America, and how the Middle East can learn from them.

Israel, the region's only nuclear power, and its only country not to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has said it would sign the NPT and renounce nuclear weapons only as part of a broader Middle East peace deal with Arab states and Iran that guaranteed its security.

Syrian Ambassador Bassam Al-Sabbagh told the meeting that Israel's nuclear capabilities pose a “grave and continuous threat” to the region.

Iran said it would not take part in the meeting after the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors passed a resolution on Friday rebuking it for its atomic activities.

British Banks Cease Transactions with Iran

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said today that all UK financial institutions cease business relationships and transactions with all Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran effective 3 p.m. GMT (10 a.m. EST) Monday. The ban extends to all branches and subsidiaries of Iranian banks, AP reported.

This is the first time the British government has cut an entire country's banking sector off from the UK's financial sector. Britain said it took the action in response to IAEA’s report on possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program.

“Iran's nuclear activities pose a significant risk to the national interests of the UK and countries across the region,” Osborne said. “This measure will protect the U.K. financial sector from being unknowingly used by Iranian banks for proliferation related transactions,” he added. [AP, 21 November].

Tahrir Square II

Thousands of people have occupied Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the Egyptian Spring, demanding the military give up power as promised nine months ago. “We want to bring down the Field Marshal,” protesters are chanting.

The police backed by army units have brutally attacked the protestors. More than 30 people have been killed, and 1,500 injured, in the past 3 days.

Photo: Tahrir Square, 20 November 2011. World News Photo/ Huff Post

UAE Pipeline to Bypass Strait of Hormuz

The Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline (ADCOP) project, a 480-km pipeline with a capacity of up to 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd), is nearly complete, with first oil to flow in December, Reuters reported today.

ADCOP will bypass the Strait of Hormuz and carries Abu Dhabi’s Murban crude to the oil terminal in Fujairah on the Gulf of Oman.

“There's a hurry to get this (pipeline) operational as the noises about an attack on Iran gets louder," an official told Reuters.

The four-mile wide Strait of Hormuz, situated between Iran and Oman, is the most important oil transit channel in the world, with some 15.5 million barrels or about a third of all sea-borne oil passing through, including crude from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait as well as UAE, and LNG from Qatar.

China’s Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corporation is the contractor for the pipeline. There are also plans to build a large oil refinery in Fujairah, with a goal of completion in mid-2016.

Ahmadinejad’s Advisor Sentenced - UPDATES

President Ahmadinejad’s media advisor, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, was sentenced to a year in prison on charges of publishing materials “contrary to Islamic norms.” Mr. Javanfekr was also banned from journalism activities for three years [IRNA, 20 November].

 Javanfekr becomes the latest of Ahmadinejad’s political supporters to be targeted by the hardliners who control most of the country’s institutions, including the judiciary.

An important parliamentary elections is scheduled for next March, and the presidential elections will follow in 2013. Ahmadinejad is ineligible to run for a third terms, and the judiciary’s attacks on his supporters are seen as the latest signs of a hardening power struggle in the country on the control of Majlis and the presidency after Ahmadinejad.

UPDATE: Late Monday (21 November) – The Judiciary police surrounded the offices of Iran newspaper in Tehran, where Javanfekr has his office. IRNA reported that 40 journalists were arrested while trying to prevent the police from entering the building to arrest Javanfekr. There are also reports of injuries. The Governor of Tehran has come to the newspaper building to visit the injured and has criticized the police for its highhanded tactics in storming the building (IRNA)

UPDATE: IRNA reported that 30 of the 40 journalists arrested have been freed. Iran's publisher was among those arrested and later freed by the police.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Brother Tells Story of Gen. Tehrani Moghadam, Killed In Explosion of Ballistic Missile

The state-owned Iran newspaper in a rare-of-a-kind interview with Brig. Gen. Mohammad Tehrani Moghadam, the brother of the late Maj. Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghadam, who died last week in an explosion at the IRGC ballistic missile base under his command, provides details of what happened on that ill-fated day and tells us the story of his brother’s role in building the foundations of Iran’s missile program. Gen. Moghdam, the brother, is the former deputy director of IRGC intelligence agency [a fact that he disclosed during the interview] and is currently the director of IRGC’s ‘Sobh-e Qarib’ cultural foundation. To read the entire text in Farsi, please click here. The following are the excerpts from the interview. [Texts in parenthesis are mine].

1. Gen. Tehrani Moghdam was present at the testing site of a new ballistic missile when it exploded, killing him and 16 other IRGC officers and personnel. The test that was being conducted was the very last in a series of tests of the long-range delivery system. Gen. Moghadam the brother tells Iran newspaper that the “ballistic missile project (which his brother was working on) would soon reach its final phase.” [The claim corroborates a statement by Iran’s military chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Firouzabadi that the explosion that killed Gen. Tehrani Moghadam occurred during a final-stage testing of a weapon system that could strike Israel.]

2. Gen. Tehrani Moghadam was the father of Iran’s missile systems. He adopted and produced the solid-fuel rocket engines for Iranian Scud missiles circa 1987 during the war with Iraq. “The Lebanese Hezbollah loved Haj. Hassan [Gen. Tehrani Moghdam] for the rockets he supplied them. Whenever the Zionists acted wickedly, they (the Hezbollah) would shower them with those rockets.” [This assertion is one of the few official confirmation of Iran providing solid-fuel rockets to the Hezbollah].

3. Because of what the late general did, the Hezbollah would target the heart of Tel Aviv with their missiles if the Zionists undertook [military] action against the Islamic Republic.

4. With innovational approach, Gen. Tehrani Moghadam built the foundation of Iran’s ballistic missile force. Iran is one of the few countries that deploy ballistic missiles. “As our Leader [Ayatollah Khamenei] has said in his recent speech, We now will answer threat with threat.”

5. Gen. Tehrani Moghadam lost his life during the development of the country’s ballistic missiles. We can soon reach this historic military achievement of deploying ballistic missiles.

6. The general had other important achievement, but what was discussed above are the extent to which they can be discussed in an open forum.

7. Gen. Moghadam had launched many missile attacks against the monafeghin [MEK - Mujahedeen Khalq] bases [in Iraq]. The MEK had planned his assassination, along with Lt. Gen. Sayad Shirazi. They killed Shirazi, but they could not get to Gen. Tehrani Moghadam. He had also joined his brother (the interviewee) in the fight against the anti-revolution [Sarbedaran Group] in Amol jungles [during the first years of the Islamic revolution]. Years later, Gen. Moghadam the brother served as Ayatollah Khamenei’s personal security detail [a fact disclosed by him during the interview].

8. President Ahmadinejad was one of the strongest supporters of Gen. Tehrani Moghadam’s ballistic missile project. Ahmadinejad had once sent a delegation of governmental space program to visit the installations under the command of Gen. Tehrani Moghadam, which ended in a close relationship between the civilian space program and the IRGC self-reliance [ballistic missile] command. As a result of the collaboration, the IRGC [ballistic missile] unit under the command of Gen. Tehrani Moghadam helped the Space Agency launch satellites into the orbit. [The story corroborates reports at the time of the launch of Omid satellite in February 2009, and Rasad satellite in June 2011, that the missiles used were of highly advanced type, developed and under the control of IRGC].

Source: Iran Newspaper, 19 November 2011

'Nader and Simin, A Separation' wins BBC world cinema award

'A Separation' trailer

The Iranian drama film 'A Separation' which is written and directed by Asghar Farhadi and starring Leila Hatami, Peyman Moaadi, Shahab Hosseini, Sareh Bayat and Sarina Farhadi has won this years BBC Four World Cinema Awards.

This is also the first Iranian film to win the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival.

UN General Assembly Denounces Assassination Plot against Saudi Ambassador

The UN General Assembly on Friday passed a resolution denouncing the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. The resolution does not directly accuse Iran of being responsible, but it urges the Islamic Republic to comply with international laws by cooperating with inquiries and deliver the suspects in the terror plot to the courts. The resolution also asks Iran to respect its international obligations in protecting the diplomats.

Iran denounced the resolution that was submitted to the General Assembly by Saudi Arabia.

“The text (of this resolution) has been prepared by a country that has a long record of animosity toward my country. It is based on unsubstantiated claims and we strongly reject it,” said Mohammad Khazai, Iran’s ambassador to the UN [IRNA, 18 November].

The General Assembly passed the resolution by a vote of 106 in favor, and 9 against. 40 countries did not participate in voting.

The nine countries voting against the resolution were North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Zambia, Armenia and Iran. It is worth noting that none of the Arab and Islamic countries other than Iran cast their vote against the resolution.

Friday, November 18, 2011

IAEA Adopts Resolution on Iran

“Deep and Increasing Concern” over Iran Nuclear Program - Russia and China Prevent Tougher Document

IAEA’s Board of Governors adopted a resolution on Iran today, expressing “deep and increasing concern” that Iran could be developing a nuclear weapon, urging Iran to answer questions about a possible nuclear weapons program. Iran rejected the resolution, calling it “unprofessional, unbalanced, illegal and politicized.”

The 35-nation governing body of IAEA approved the resolution overwhelmingly, with 32 countries voting for and 2 against. The members of the Group 5+1, the permanent members of the UNSC plus Germany, all voted for the resolution. Cuba and Ecuador voted against, while Indonesia abstained.

A more strongly worded document, backed by the US, Britain, France and Germany, failed to win support from Russia and China. The resolution adopted today did not give Iran a deadline for addressing the concerns raised by the IAEA and did not refer the issue to the UN Security Council, as preferred by the West but opposed by Russia and China.

The West bluntly accuses Iran of deceiving the world and working secretly on making nuclear arms. Iran continues to insist its nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes. It says the allegations that today’s IAEA resolution was based on are themselves based on fabricated US, Israeli, British and French intelligence fed to the IAEA.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

IAEA proposes high-level mission to Iran

"Our technical experts have spent years painstakingly and objectively analysing a huge quantity of information from a wide variety of independent sources, including from a number of member states, from the agency's own efforts and from information provided by Iran itself. The agency finds the information to be, overall, credible."

"It is consistent in terms of technical content, individuals and organisations involved, and timeframes. The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."

-- IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano

The IAEA Director-General has proposed sending a high-level mission to Iran following fears with what he states is the "credible" information the IAEA has accumulated that suggests there is a military dimension to Iran's nuclear program, and that it has carried out and may continue to carry out activities relating to the development of a nuclear bomb.

He also hinted there may also be undeclared nuclear materials and activities going on relating to Iran's nuclear program and therefore hopes a date for a visit will be agreed upon soon.

Iran Currency Hits Record Low

The Iranian currency rial on Wednesday hit a record low against US dollar and other major currencies. The exchange rate ended the day at 13,400 rials per dollar, a 24 percent devaluation in twelve months (rial was exchanged at the rate of 10,850 per dollar in November 2010).

Iran Denounces Saudi Draft Resolution at UN

Iran denounced a draft resolution submitted by Saudi Arabia to the UN General Assembly over allegations of an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Iran called the draft “unacceptable” and warned of “adverse consequences” of such move.

The draft resolution asks the 193-member General Assembly to deplore the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, but does not directly accuse Iran of being responsible. However, it urges the Islamic Republic to comply with international laws by cooperating with inquiries.

“Such an action (approval of the resolution) would significantly undermine the role, authority and integrity of the General Assembly,” said Mohammad Khazaei, the Iranian ambassador to the UN, in a letter sent to Assembly president [IRNA, 16 November].

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Iran Oil at $114

The price of Iran Light Crude reached $114 per barrel last week, while Iran Heavy was traded at $111 per barrel. The average price of Iran crude oil basket traded in world market was at $113.66 per barrel, National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) announced today [Fars News Agency, 16 November].

Military Base Explosions Linked to Test of A New Weapon System

The Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi said in Tehran today that the explosions that killed the commander of IRGC missile forces and 16 other Guards last week occurred during the testing of a weapon system that could strike Israel. However, he denied published reports that Israel or the US was behind the blasts.

“This recent incident and blast has no link to Zionist regime or America but the outcome of the research, of which the incident happened as a consequence, could be a strong smack to the mouth (of Israel) and its occupying regime,” Gen. Firouzabadi said [ISNA, 16 November].

Firouzabadi did not elaborate what kind of a weapon was being tested when the explosions occurred. There were reports at the time of the explosions that a new warhead for long-range ballistic missiles, possibly Shahab-3, or a new ballistic missile was being tested at IRGC ballistic missile base in west Tehran. Gen. Firouzabadi’s comments coupled with the fact that the architect of Iran’s missile systems, the late Maj. Gen. Tehrani Moghadam, was present at the site of the incident strongly support those reports.

The official Iranian explanation of the incident remains that the blasts happened at a depot when ammunition were being moved. Gen. Firouzabadi’s comments refute the official line.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Iran Denies Nuclear Cooperation with N. Korea

Iran today dismissed a report by South Korea’s semi-official news agency Yonhap about Iran’s nuclear cooperation with North Korea.

“Iran's nuclear technology is entirely domestically developed, thus no foreign experts are needed,” the Iranian embassy in Seoul said in a statement released today [IRNA,15 November] .

Yonhap has quoted a diplomatic source as saying that North Korean nuclear experts have been collaborating with their Iranian counterparts inside Iran.

“Hundreds of North Korean nuclear and missile experts have been collaborating with their Iranian counterparts in more than 10 locations across the Islamic state, including Natanz and Qom, a diplomatic source said Sunday,” [Yonhap News Agency, 13 November].

“The North Korean experts are from the country's so-called Room (Bureau) 99, which is directly supervised by the North's ruling Workers' Party Munitions Industry Department,” said Yonhap, quoting its unnamed source.

“The revelation lends credence to long-held suspicions that North Korea was helping Iran with a secret nuclear and missile program" [Yonhap, 13 November].

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mossad Behind IRGC Base Explosions – TIME

The Time magazine, quoting an unnamed western security official, said today that Saturday’s explosions at the IRGC base in west Tehran were the work of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence and special operations agency.

Mossad does not comment on its operations, and the claim could not be independently verified. The Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak, however, has said that he hopes that Iran would witness similar explosions in future.

The IRGC insists that the explosions were caused by an accident when its personnel were moving ammunitions inside a depot. The IRGC, however, does not explain why one of its most senior generals, commanding the country’s missile forces, and other senior officers were present at an ammunition depot. The base where the explosions occurred is reported to house IRGC’s ballistic missile installations.

Funeral for IRGC Officers and Personnel Held in Tehran

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other high-ranking officials of the Islamic Republic attended the funeral for Maj. Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghadam and 16 other IRGC personnel who were killed on Saturday’s explosion at their base in west Tehran.

Gen. Tehrani Moghdam was hailed in a eulogy at the funeral as the “architect” of the military’s missile forces.

“Martyr Tehrani Moqaddam was the main architect of the IRGC’s canon and missile power and the founder of the deterrent power of our country,” said IRGC Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami [IRIB, 14 November].

Gen. Tehrani Moghadam taught at the prestigious Imam Hossein University (IHU). He was the commanding general of IRGC Amir-al-Mo’menin base, believed to be IRGC’s ballistic missile base, which was hit by two explosions on Saturday.

The IRGC has ruled out possibility of any attack or sabotage and has said the explosions occurred when its personnel were moving ammunition inside the base. No independent verification of the cause of the incident was available.

Photo: Ayatollah Khamenei at the funeral ceremonies. The coffin in front is that of Gen. Tehrani Moghadam. Fars News Agency Photo