Monday, September 30, 2013

Iran Should Dismantle Its ‘Military Nuclear Program’ - Netanyahu

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today held talks at the White House, days after Obama’s historic call to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani raised hopes of a breakthrough in U.S.-Iran relations after more than 30 years of estrangement.

Obama assured Netanyahu that he would enter talks with Iran with clear eyes and demand verifiable concessions by the Iranians over their nuclear program. (AFP, 30 September)

Netanyahu warned that sanctions must be maintained against Tehran and even strengthened if necessary, and said the only outcome of diplomacy Israel would accept would be a dismantling of Iran's “military nuclear program.”

Netanyahu warned that Iran was “committed to Israel's destruction” and that its words and actions should be judged with that in mind.
“The bottom line is that Iran fully dismantles its military nuclear program,” Netanyahu said. “In fact, if Iran continues to advance its nuclear program during negotiations, the sanctions should be strengthened.
“What's the bottom line? The bottom line ... is that Iran fully dismantles its military nuclear program,” Netanyahu said. (AFP, 30 September)

Netanyahu will address UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
Photo credit: President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Oval Office of the White House, 30 September 2013. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

IRGC vs Rouhani or Khamenei vs Rouhani--Iran (updated 10/6/2013)

General Jafari Cautions Rouhani

By: Jabbar Fazeli, MD

The election of president Rouhani brought with it high expectations that he would change Iran and its political standoff with the west. His efforts, so far, have given the west reason to pause, and many are starting to think that he indeed has the authority to open a new chapter in Iran-West relations.

Sadly, back home the realities of the Islamic Republic are still as unchanged as ever.

Rouhani walked a tightrope since his election president; In his address to the IRGC leadership this month, he tried to shower them with praise and even welcomed their involvement in economic activities (some of you may have seen photos of various IRGC construction projects here). Somewhere is his speech he managed to tell the IRGC to "stay out of politics". He used quotes from the leader of the 1979 revolution, Khomeini, and the first Shia Imam Ali to make that point (1,2). 

Rouhani even convinced the supreme leader of Iran, Khamenei, to give the same advise to the IRGC. The best Khamenei could do was to say that the IRGC "should not get involved in everything" (3). Khamenei did go on to say that those who engage in diplomacy should be mindful of whom they are dealing with. Gen. Jafari used similar language today.

The commander of the IRGC, Gen. Jafari could be seen taking notes as Khamenei hinted that the IRGC should not get involved in politics, yet he did just that with in his criticism of Rouhani today. Jafari characterized accepting a phone call from president Obama a "tactical mistake".

The question is if Gen. Jafari is defying the command of his supreme leader to stay out of politics, or is he saying what Khamenei doesn't want to say himself? In think the later is more likely.

Khamenei may have blessed diplomacy to the lift the crippling sanctions, but he appears to want Rouhani to simply be a better messenger than Ahmadinejad, not a powerful president who could change Iranian foreign policy.

It must now be evident to Rouhani's that his hardest battles are not in the west. In his recent trip to NY, he was treated with respect and hope by everyone, including president Obama, only to return home to face the hard-liners' wrath, not to mention their shoes. 

Rouhani's greatest challenge was, and will always be, in Tehran, and his greatest challenger is not Gen. Jafari--it is the supreme leader himself.

UPDATE 10/6/2013
As suspected, the supreme leader Khamenei echoed IRGC Gen. Jafari remarks and indirectly criticized Rouhani for talking to President Obama.
Unlike his predecessor, Khamenei never uses straight talk, and so he said that "some of what occurred in NY was inappropriate".
His view was a front page headline in Khamanei's other surrogate/mouth piece "Kayhan". Most other media chose to go with the headline "I have confidence in the diplomacy of government"

(1) Rouhani's Speech to IRGC (no English subtitles) 
(2) A small portion of Rouhani's speech to IRGC (with English subtitles)
(3) Khamenei Speech to IRGC (no English subtitles) 

IRGC Commander Warns Rouhani on Historic Phone Call with Obama

IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari today criticized and warned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for his historic phone call with President Obama.

“The president took a firm and appropriate position during his stay (in New York),” Gen. Jafari said in an interview with the Tasnim News. (, 30 September)

“But just as he refused to meet Obama, he should also have refused to speak with him on the telephone and should have waited for concrete action by the United States,” Jafari added.

“If we see errors being made by officials, the revolutionary forces will issue the necessary warnings,” said Jafari.

The warning was a brazen interference in political affairs of the country. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had warned senior IRGC officers in a recent meeting to stay out of politics.

File photo: IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari

IRGC Shahed-129 and IRIA Yasir UAVs

IRGC-AF Shahed-129 UCAV
Recent public unveiling of Shahed-129 UCAV variant

IRGC-AF Shahed-129 appears similar in size to U.S. MQ-1 Predator

Shahed-129 UCAV appears with a variety of AGMs, these examples fitted on hard points

Shahed-129 sensor ball detail, providing UCAV as a multi-sensor platform

Shahed-129 retractable undercarriage detail

Side view of Shahed-129 with further examples of air-to-ground weaponry. Propeller and spinner appear similar to Parastou-14.

Video still of armed IRGC-AF UCAV in flight

Aircraft type: Shahed-129 UCAV
Operator: IRGC-AF
Operational radius: 1700 km (claimed)
Endurance: 24 hr (claimed)
Service ceiling: 24,000 ft (claimed)
Armament: 8 AGMs or GBUs

Potential deployments: anti-drug operations on Iran eastern border, counter-terror operations in northwest and southeast Iran; potentially exported to allied military forces in Syria, southern Lebanon and (less likely) west Palestine.


IRIA ground force recently publicized delivery of Yasir UAV

IRIA Yasir UAV on wheeled catapult launcher ramp

Side view of Yasir UAV. Note inward canting tail surfaces inspired by AAI RQ-7 Shadow.

IRIAA captains, possibly Yasir UAV operator/trainers

Aircraft type: Yasir UAV
Operator: IRIA Ground Force
Operational radius: 200 km (claimed)
Endurance: 8 hr (claimed)
Service Ceiling: 15,000 ft (claimed)

Application: Tactical reconnaissance UAV for army ground forces


Photos: Armin Karami at FARS News Agency, Meghdad Madadi
Video Stills: IRINN
Videos: IRIB News, IRINN

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Netanyahu Arrives in New York!

By Shlomo Cohen / Israel Hayom
Via Viktoria Lymar / IranEdge

Resolution of Nuclear Issue First Step In Removing Mistrust Between Iran and U.S. - Zarif

In an exclusive interview today on ABC’s “This Week,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said resolution of the nuclear issue “will be a first step, a necessary first step, towards removing the tensions and doubts and misgivings that (Iran and the United States) have had about each other for the last 30-some years.”

“There has been 34 years of the building up of this mutual distrust,” Zarif told ‘This Week’ host George Stephanopoulos.

“We need to move in that direction of removing some of that mistrust, true mutual steps that each side needs to take in order to convince the other side that its intentions are positive and for a better future for all of us.” (ABC News, 29 September)

Zarif added that Iran was prepared to start negotiating on its nuclear program. He said while Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons, its right to enrich uranium is non-negotiable.

“We know that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon,” Zarif said. “Having an Iran that does not have nuclear weapons is not just your goal. It’s first and foremost our goal.”

“We do not need military grade uranium. That is a certainty and we will not move in that direction,” Zarif said. 

“We are not seeking nuclear weapons, so we’re not six months, six years, sixty years away from nuclear weapons,” Zarif added, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims that Iran is month away from building its capability to build nuclear weapons.

Zarif also told Stephanopoulos that Holocaust was a “heinous crime” and “genocide.” He emphasized, “Holocaust is not a myth.” 

Responding to a question that the website of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei still refers to the “myth of massacre of Jews and Holocaust,” Zarif said the problem was with the poor English translation of the original Farsi statement.

Photo credit: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at ABC’s ‘This Week.’ Sunday, 29 September 2013. (ABC News)

2.1 Million Syrian Refugees - A Nation in Exile

The number of Syrian Refugees has now passed the 2.1 million mark – UNHCR
A nation in exile!

Image credit: UNHCR

Saturday, September 28, 2013

U.S. and Iran Agree to Speed Nuclear Talks – To End Impasse

The United States and Iran agreed on Friday on speeding the nuclear talks to end a decade-old impasse on Iranian nuclear program. The agreement came during a historic 15-minute phone conversation between President Obama and President Rouhani, as the Iranian leader was headed to the airport to leave New York after his weeklong visit.

The phone conversation was indeed historic. It was the first direct contact between the U.S. and Iranian leaders since the shah of Iran and former president Jimmy Carter met in Tehran in December 1977. But the 15-minute conversation was more than symbolic; it was a substantive discussion of the impasse, and ways to accelerate talks and defuse tensions.

Afterward, the two expressed optimism at the prospect of a rapprochement between the two countries that would also transform the Middle East.

“Resolving this issue, obviously, could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect,” Obama told reporters at the White House after his phone call to Rouhani. “It would also help facilitate a better relationship between Iran and the international community, as well as others in the region.” (The New York Times, 28 September)
“With political will, there is a way to rapidly solve the matter,” tweeted Rouhani soon after the phone conversation on the way to the airport. “We’re hopeful about what we will see… in coming weeks and months.”
In comments to reporters after his arrival at Tehran airport today, Rouhani elaborated on the call with Mr. Obama.
“Yesterday as we were getting ready to head to the airport, the White House called and expressed willingness to set up a phone call between the American president and me,” Rouhani said.

“A call was made to our ambassador’s cellphone,” Rouhani added. “The conversation mostly focused on the nuclear issue.” (Fars News Agency, 27 September)
Rouhani was met by protesters after his arrival in Tehran. They chanted slogans against the expected rapprochement between Iran and the United States, and threw eggs and a shoe at the president. For a report on that incident, please click here. 
The state-run TV, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, had not mentioned the phone call with Mr. Obama as of midnight Friday, and the original messages on Mr. Rouhani’s Twitter account were deleted and replaced with more anodyne comments. But Mr. Rouhani’s office announced the call in a statement carried by the Iranian state news agency and independent newspapers in Tehran. In the photos above, Sharq and Etemad newspapers announce the phone conversation during the last minutes of Rouhani’s stay in New York.
Top photo credit: Saturday front page of Etemad with the headline on Obama-Rouhani phone conversation. (Etemad/Radio Farda)

Bottom photo: Front page of Sharq after Rouhani-Obama historic call. (Sharq/Twitter, 28 September)

Protests as Rouhani Returns to Tehran

Hardline protesters hurled eggs and a shoe at President Hassan Rouhani of Iran as he returned to Tehran on Saturday. Supporters cheered him for reach out to the Americans.

The New York Times reported today that Rouhani was standing in his car, waving through the sunroof as he passed supporters at the airport, when protesters threw eggs and a shoe at his car while others blocked the road by praying on the pavement.
“Our people are awake and hate America,” shouted the protesters.

“Long live Rouhani, man of change,” the president’s supporters shouted back.
Security guards then pulled Rouhani back inside the car as it sped off. One protester was almost run over after he threw himself in front of the president’s car.
Top photo: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was protected by bodyguards as he left the airport in Tehran on Saturday. (Atta Kenare/AFP-Getty Images/NYTimes)

Bottom photo: Shoe-throwing protester at Rouhani’s arrival in Tehran. (@ranarahimpour/Twitter)