Monday, April 30, 2012

Baghdad Talks Will Not Resolve All Issues – Hadad Adel

Gholam Ali Hadad Adel, the presumed next speaker of Majlis and a senior advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei today predicted that the Baghdad Talks on 23 May between Iran and world powers on the country's nuclear program would likely not resolve all issues.

"Iran expects the P5+1 group to put an end to the illogical sanctions in Baghdad, because the inefficiency of sanctions is proven even for Western leaders," Hadad Adel said. "They can show their goodwill through a trust-building effort by lifting the sanctions." [Mehr News Agency, 30 April].

“Although one should not expect for all issues to be resolved in Baghdad, we can assume the atmosphere of the talks will follow in the (positive) footsteps of Istanbul," he added.

Iran has sent signals suggesting it could negotiate over its 20-percent uranium enrichment process, but expects that Western-imposed sanctions to be eased off.

The Move Towards a GCC Union

Following are excerpts from an op-ed piece written by Abdullah Al Shayji in today’s issue of the Gulf News. It comes close to capturing the thinking and the mood in the GCC countries regarding Iran and the need for establishing a collective security response to the Iranian challenge, as I am witnessing during my short stay in the Persian Gulf region. Comments on Mr. Al Shayji’s piece are welcome as always.

"Once again the Arabian Gulf is the scene of a brewing cold war between the two sides of this strategic waterway… (pitting) Iran against the six countries that compromise the GCC.  
While Iran is being more accommodating towards the West (vis-à-vis P5+!), it is more belligerent, confrontational, provocative towards the GCC states, and the UAE in particular. A provocative and unprecedented visit by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the UAE’s Abu Mousa island, which is under Iranian occupation, was condemned with the UAE recalling its ambassador.  
Iran upped the ante, sending naval troops and submitting a bill in Parliament proposing the formation of the “Persian Gulf Province” with Abu Mousa as its capital!  
The UAE held joint military exercises with France, and GCC is holding an unprecedented joint military exercise in Abu Dhabi dubbed “Islands’ Loyalty,” as a clarion message to Iran.  
Strong rumors are making the rounds in GCC capitals about the announcement in the next GCC submit of a proposed union between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain as part of King Abdullah’s proposal last December… about the need to move the organization from its 31-year cooperation phase to that of a union. The proposed name is the “GCC Arabian Union.”  
If that comes to pass, it will be a quantum leap from GCC’s lethargic and dysfunctional role as a collective security organization… in order to deal with the host of challenges and threats.  
More importantly, it is a strong move on the chessboard against Iran. Through that, a new era of Gulf politics is dawning, wherein the GCC states have finally started to think big."

Source: Gulf News. Monday, 30 April 2012.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Arab States Pushing Ahead with Gulf Union – Saudi FM

Persian Gulf Arab States are pushing ahead with plans for a political union that would involve joint foreign and defense policies, the Saudi foreign minister said today.

Prince Saud al-Faisal made the comments two weeks ahead of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) submit meeting in Riyadh. The submit will examine the idea of a political union first floated by Saudi King Abdullah last December.

"Cooperation and coordination between the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council in its current format may not be enough to confront the existing and coming challenges, which require developing Gulf action into an acceptable federal format," Prince Saud said in Riyadh on Saturday.

"The Gulf union, when it is realized, God willing, will yield great benefits for its peoples, such as in foreign policy with the presence of a supreme Gulf committee coordinating foreign policy decisions that reorders group priorities and realizes group interests," the King added.

The GCC was formed in 1980 in the wake of the Shia Revolution in Iran, and the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.

Source: Reuters, 29 April 2012

Deployment of US Stealth Jet Fighters a ‘Plot’ - MP

Kazem Jalali, a member of Iranian Majlis, told ISNA today that the reported basing of US stealth jet fighters in the UAE is “a US-Israel plot to create regional instability.” [ISNA, 29 April].

Jalali made the remarks in response to published reports in the media in the past 24 hours that the US military has deployed an undisclosed number of F-22 Raptors, its most sophisticated stealth jet fighter, to the region and stationed them at Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra Air Base. The deployment was first reported in the journal Aviation Week. The US and UAE officials have not yet commented on the report.

US Compromise Proposal Positive – Iran Official

The Los Angeles Times quoting an unnamed official at Iran’s foreign ministry reported today that Iranian officials consider the new U.S. position of allowing the country to continue enriching uranium at low-level purity as positive, but remain skeptical that such a deal will actually be presented in Baghdad on 23 May. US will apparently propose the compromise deal at the upcoming Baghdad nuclear conference allowing Iran to enrich uranium up to 5 percent purity in return for Iran’s agreement to forego any work on nuclear weapons and sign the additional protocol with the IAEA, allowing its inspectors to conduct unannounced inspections of the country’s nuclear facilities. 

The foreign ministry official speaking on condition of anonymity told the LA Times that if the deal were offered "it would be a good start."

"One thing I can tell you for sure is that Iran will never, ever close down the Fordo nuclear site," the official said, referring to the enrichment plant near the city of Qom. "But other issues such as 20% enrichment is open to negotiation. I can say Obama's proposal is good provided it is unanimously echoed (by P5+1)."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Nuclear Deal to Be Negotiated in Baghdad

Recent reports by the media, including Friday’s Los Angeles Times, suggest the broad outlines of a nuclear deal between Iran and the West to be negotiated during the upcoming Baghdad talks on 23 May. The West will accept uranium enrichment by Iran up to 5 percent purity and Iran would accept unrestricted inspections of its nuclear sites and strict oversight of its nuclear program by IAEA, commonly known as the additional protocol. The sanctions against Iran will begin to be lifted if Iran accepts the compromise and stars its implementation.

Meanwhile, Iran announced today that it will resume talks with the the IAEA on 13-14 May. Iran's ambassador to IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh told the IRNA Tehran's decision "shows the peaceful nature of all of its nuclear activities, while showing that claims against Iran are baseless."

Possibility of War is ‘Very, Very Weak’ - Iran

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said on Friday that the "possibility of war is very, very weak." Ramin Mehmanparast made the remarks during a visit to Warsaw.

"At the moment, Iran has the greatest defense capability in its history. Whoever wants to attack our country, will meet with our very firm response," Mehmanparast said. "This is why our adversary completely understands that should it attack our country, it will itself become the subject of a great tragedy," he added. "This is why the possibility of war is very, very weak."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sadr Visits Kurdistan – Mediating Crisis with Baghdad

Iraqi Shiite leader Mogtada Al Sadr arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan today to mediate a growing crisis between Kurdish President Massoud Barzani and Iraqi Premier Nouri Al Maliki. Barzani has accused Maliki of moving toward dictatorship and has strongly hinted that Kurdistan would declare independence from Iraq if the minorities were continued to be excluded from participating in political and security decision-making process.

“I met Nuri al-Maliki in Tehran, and I came to listen to the opinion of the Kurdish leaders and their views,” Sadr told reporters at Erbil airport, after arriving on a private plane from Tehran.

“Everyone should look out for the public interest and the unity of the Iraqi people, and I hope that everyone will be responsible,” Sadr said.
“Minorities are an important part of Iraq, and we have to bring them to participate in building Iraq, politically, economically and in security,” he added.

Sadr, who spends most of his time on religious studies in Iran, will meet Barzani today.

Source: AFP, 26 April 2012

Campaigning for Majlis Runoff Elections Begins

The week-long campaigning period for the second round of Iran’s parliamentary elections began today. 130 candidates will run for the remaining 65 Majlis seats in the runoff elections on 4 May. In the first round, no candidates could receive 50 percent of the votes in these 65 districts, prompting the runoffs between the top two vote getters in each district. Conservative candidates allied to Iran’s supreme leaders dominated the first round of elections and they are expected to sweep the remaining seats on 4 May.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Iran, West Interested in Russia’s Proposal to Resolve Nuclear Dispute – Russian DFM

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in Moscow today that Iran and Western nations have shown renewed interest in Russia’s “step-by-step” plan to resolve their dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. Under the proposal, Iran would take concrete steps to ease international concerns about its intentions and reassure the UN and the West that its nuclear program does not have a military dimension, and in return be rewarded with the gradual easing of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council and Western states.

Ryabkov announced that the Russian proposal was discussed at the talks in Istanbul on 14 April between Iran and P5+1. A new round of talks is to be held on 23 May in Baghdad.

“We are working in order for the six powers to have a consolidated position, and our ideas are given weighty consideration in this regard,” Ryabkov said [Reuters, 25 April].

Barzani Hints at Secession

Political Crisis in Iraq

Kurdish President Massoud Barzani today demanded that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and the country’s Shia leaders agree on sharing power with their political opponents by September or else the Kurds would consider breaking away from the Iraqi central government.

This is the second time in as many months that Barzani is strongly hinting at declaring independence for Iraqi Kurdistan because of what he terms as “dictatorship and authoritarian rule” by Maliki.

“What threatens the unity of Iraq is dictatorship and authoritarian rule,” Barzani said in an interview with AP. “If Iraq heads toward a democratic state, then there will be no trouble. But if Iraq heads toward a dictatorial state, then we will not be able to live with dictatorship” [AP, 25 April].

Barzani called the political crisis in the country “very dangerous” and said the impasse must be broken by September, when voters in the Kurdish region may consider a referendum for a state independent of Iraq.

“They have to decide if they are willing to accept to live under a dictatorial regime or not,” Barzani said. “They have to make that decision. It is their natural right.”

The Disappeared

 By Paul Iddon

What the Argentine Dirty War and the massacre of Iranian prisoners of conscience in 1988 warn us about dictatorial caprice and paranoia.

Argentine memorial of the
'desaparecidos' -- disappeared.
The 30th anniversary of the Falklands War went by a few weeks ago. Amidst the present ongoing dispute regarding the rightful ownership of those small sparsely populated islands public interest in that question and on that war briefly flared as a result of the historically significant anniversary.

One however cannot aptly and properly reflect upon that period without appreciating the gravity of the Dirty War and the affect it had on Argentina. When one does appreciate this it puts a lot of things into perspective, particularly the manner in which the General Galteri dictatorship felt it needed to in a sense dignify itself by invading the islands under the pretext of reasserting national pride, which had been lost as the nerve racked country had tangibly “lost” some 30,000 of its citizens who were subsequently dubbed as “the disappeared.” The actual invasions of the islands and the subsequent war (which was later described very brilliantly by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges as being the equivalent of “a fight between two bald men over a comb”) was the juntas attempt of 'saving face' in the midst of its terrorizing of Argentine society and plunging the country into an economic recession.

The legacy of that horrific period in recent South American history has its origins in the subversion of democracy in Chile and the imposition of the ghastly military regime of Augusto Pinochet by the same U.S. Secretary of State who had helped Richard Nixon win the 1968 U.S. Presidential Election -- by sabotaging the Johnson Administrations peace agreement and thus prolonging the ongoing war in Vietnam -- and was by Gerald Ford's side when the Shah of Iran effectively stabbed the Iraqi Kurds in the back after prepping them up against the Baathist government there. I am of course talking about Henry Kissinger whose Cold War overture to China -- which was a bid by the U.S. to capitalize on the then recent Sino-Soviet split -- is an episode in 20th century history which Flynt Leverett constantly trumpets as the perfect model for U.S. Rapprochement with the Iranian regime in the present post Cold War world.

Reminiscent of the Argentine juntas cruelty during those years was the Iranian regimes massacre and crime against humanity which it executed in and around the time of Operation Mersad – a PMOI incursion into Iran near the end of the depleting Iran-Iraq War -- in 1988.

It's still unknown by international human rights organizations exactly how many were killed in this massacre which saw the Khomeini's then successor Montazari being forced to resign after writing letters condemning these heinous crimes. Montazari perfectly summed up the gravely horrendous injustice these mass executions represented when he stated very aptly that these actions violated “Islam by executing repenters and minor offenders who in a proper court of law would have received a mere reprimand.”

Even though he had been put forth by the Council of Experts Montazari was forced to resign. Criticism and self-evaluation was clearly not something that the regime took kindly to (and still doesn't). That is in a sense the point in time when the Islamic Republic ceased being anything that represented the masses of Iranians whom had fought in earnest to topple the Shahs autocratic regime. Having a free hand under the cover of that long war to crush dissent the regime felt the need to abolish all political opposition to its tight-knit ruling elite. Khomeini who had sacrificed hundreds of thousands of young men and boys with a clumsy and inept strategy then turned his hand to authorizing a religious decree to murder more Iranians.

However, instead of actually having trials for the various prisoners accused of treasonous action and/or membership with the PMOI Khomeini opted to make it a theological issue, painting thousands political prisoners of all different affiliations with the same brush he proclaimed them apostates of Islam (Salman Rushdie would give him the mother of all diversions the next year after his publishing of The Satanic Verses prompted Khomeini to capitalize on the resentment expressed by many inflamed Muslims who viewed the book as blasphemous. This affair was a political coup for Khomeini as it meant he could continue to instil radicalism within Iran and slyly divert attention away from the fact he had lost the six year counter offensive against Iraq).

That bloodbath also saw the hard liners do their utmost to squeeze out the moderates, the most prominent being Montazari who arguably could have substantially reformed the system and actually maintained a tangible legitimate Islamic Republic rather than the 'in name only' Islamic Republic that exists today.

That massacre was described as “an act of violence unprecedented in Iranian history - unprecedented in form, content, and intensity.” The exact number killed is still unknown, families whose loved ones were executed were prohibited from holding funerals for a year and were forbidden to show any signs of mourning in public. It was a warning of sorts for how cruel and capricious the regime can be and how when its unmentionable policies and actions are challenged (even verbally) it is readily willing to resort to sadistic violence within the blink of an eye.

The negation of elementary and fundamental human rights amongst people in Iran and the wider region isn't something that should be relativized, or excused as the internal conduct of the theocracies ignoble “justice system”. The Dirty War in Argentina is thankfully now part of history, this however doesn't mean the sense of loss and pain in those whom lost loved ones during that dark time does not still painfully linger on to this day. 

One of the most severe instances of violence to occur in Argentina following the Dirty War took the form of two heinous terrorist attacks against Israeli diplomatic institutions within the country, Iran in cahoots with Hezbollah are the prime suspects in these two respective attacks, a named high ranking member in the Iranian government is thought to have been a culprit in the latter one. Those attacks left approximately a hundred Argentine civilians dead.

These episodes from history are a grim reminder of why the abolishment of human rights in civilized countries like Iran must not be relativized, exculpating the oppressors, the human rights violators, torturers and the killers by explaining away such horrendous crimes against humanity is certainly no way for an International Community with a mere semblance of civility to conduct itself.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Press TV: US Minesweeping Exercises in Persian Gulf

Iran’s state-owned Press TV reported today that the U.S. Navy warships are carrying out minesweeping exercises across the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Press TV also reports that the U.S. Navy has deployed four new minesweepers to the region, capable of detecting and destroying mines through their special radio control equipment.

Iran Oil Installations ‘Working Well’ - Officials

Iran’s Oil Ministry said today that the country’s oil installations are working well despite a major cyberattack on the computer systems of the Oil Ministry and its affiliates. The attack forced the authorities to disconnect the country’s main oil export terminals in the Persian Gulf from the Internet to contain the damage.

Deputy Oil Minister Hamdollah Mohammadnejad said in Tehran that all field units and exports of crude are working, the official news agency IRNA reported [IRNA, 24 April].

The virus attack began in earnest on Sunday afternoon. The officials said at the time that it had not affected the ministry’s computer system used in selling crude oil. ISNA reported that the virus called “wiper” had successfully erased information on hard disks at the Oil Ministry’s headquarters in Tehran.

The New York Times reported that the Web sites of several oil related institutions, like the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), which handles oil sales in the country, were down on Sunday and Monday.

Mehr News Agency also reported that access to the internal communications systems of most prominent oil and gas companies had been intentionally cut. Other affected organizations include the National Iranian Oil Processing and Distribution Company, National Iranian Gas Company, Iranian Offshore Oil Company, Pars Oil and Gas, and many other companies functioning under the NIOC, Mehr reported.

Monday, April 23, 2012

US-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement

The US and Afghanistan have reached a ten-year strategic partnership beyond the planned 2014 withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan. The draft agreement was initialed today in Kabul by the US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Afghan National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta. The New York Times today quoted Crocker as saying that America is devoted to helping Afghanistan to become a “unified, democratic, stable, and secure state.” Spanta said the agreement “provides a strong foundation for the security of Afghanistan, the region and the world.”

The document will become official when it is signed by Presidents Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai. CNN reported today that President Obama wants the document to be signed before the NATO conference scheduled for 20 May in Chicago.