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Iran News Roundup 01/04

Daylight between Romney and Santorum on war with Iran?

GOP candidate Mitt Romney, responding to Rick Santorum’s rhetoric regarding strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities, said that he does not want to threaten any “specific action right now,” in regards to Iran, but endorses military options (Think Progress 01/03).

Santorum has said he would order airstrikes on Iran if the country was going to acquire nuclear weapons, but reasoned to Glen Beck that this was an effort to prevent war (Think Progress 01/04).

Meanwhile, IPS reports that President Obama believes the U.S. could distance itself from Israeli strikes on Iran (IPS 01/03).

And White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the latest threats made by Iran concerning naval operations in the Persian Gulf indicates that “Tehran is under increasing pressure for its continued failure to live up to its international obligations,” and “is isolated and seeking to divert attention from its domestic problems” (The Hill 01/03).

Nuclear rod will not bring Iran closer to nuclear capability

Experts say that Iran’s recent claim that it has developed and tested it’s first nuclear rod will not bring Iran any closer to having atomic bombs (Reuters 01/04).

Meanwhile, a Russian defense official, responding to a series of tests conducted by Ira near the Strait of Hormuz, said that Iran has no long-range missiles (AFP 01/03).

Iranian political activist’s message leaked

A well-known Iranian political activist, Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, has recorded a video from inside Iran’s infamous Rajayishahr prison dismissing Iran’s repressive measures aimed at silencing dissent and predicts they will ultimately fail (Rferl 01/03).

Iran News Roundup 01/03

Iran proposes new nuclear negotiations

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, has proposed a new round of talks with the P5+1 nations concerning its nuclear program (Guardian 12/31). Salehi said that Iran is prepared to reenter negotiations based upon the “step by step” plan proposed by Russia in July.

A EU foreign policy spokesman said The European Union is open to talks with Iran provided there are no preconditions (Jerusalem Post 12/31).

This comes as Iran announces it has produced its first domestically-made nuclear fuel rod and inserted it into the Tehran Research Reactor, which is used for medical purposes (NY Times 01/01).

President signs new Iran sanctions into law

On Saturday, president Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 (NDAA), which includes a measure targeting Iran’s central bank and financial sector (AFP 01/01).

In the president’s signing statement, he notes that the [Iran sanctions] section “1245 would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiations or discussions with foreign governments. Like section 1244, should any application of these provisions conflict with my constitutional authorities, I will treat the provisions as non-binding.”

Political analysts said that Washington hopes these sanctions will push foreign banks to change their behavior before the U.S. is required to freeze them from the U.S. financial markets (Reuters 01/02).

Reuters provides a detailed list of sanctions on Iran by the European Union, the United States and the United Nations over the last thirty years(Reuters 01/02).

Greece open to Iran sanctions

A Greek official has stated that if the EU decides to impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, Greece will join and not break ranks with its European Union partners (Reuters 01/03).

Meanwhile, Oil prices jumped to over $101 a barrel amid concerns over crude oil disruptions (Bloomberg 01/03).

Upcoming parliamentary elections a challenge for Iran hardliners

The New York Times reports on how a boycott by reformers and dire economic circumstances may undermine Iran’s upcoming parliamentary elections, posing a challenge to Iran’s conservative Islamic establishment (NY Times 01/02).

Iran News Roundup 12/30

Iran seeks renewed diplomacy

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says Iran is prepared to renew talks with the P5+1 group of world powers over its nuclear program (Jerusalem Post 12/30).

Mossad chief: nuclear Iran not an existential threat  

Israeli Intelligence chief Tamir Pardo said that Israel will continue to use covert action to thwart Iran’s nuclear program, but if Iran were to obtain a nuclear weapon, it would not constitute an existential threat to Israel (Haaretz 12/29).

Shirin Ebadi calls on UN Security Council

Nobel Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi urges the United Nations Security Council to take up the issue of human rights in Iran and calls on it to empower the International Criminal Court to prosecute Iranian human rights abusers.  Additionally, Ebadi calls for mid-level officials to be added to the list of officials sanctioned for human rights abuses (Wall Street Journal 12/30).  

NY Times Editorial urges President to waive oil sanctions

A New York Times editorial strongly supports applying maximum pressure on Iran, but warns “penalizing foreign companies for engaging in otherwise lawful commerce with Iran is not the right way to go about it and could backfire.”  The Times states President Obama should “limit the damage by making full use of a waiver, which allows him to block the penalties if they would threaten national security or cause oil prices to soar.” (NY Times 12/29).  

Paul: sanctions lead to war

Presidential hopeful Ron Paul told voters in Iowa that Western sanctions against Iran are “acts of war,” which are likely to lead to an actual war (ABC 12/30).

Notable opinion: 

In an op-ed for The National Interest, Paul Piller discusses how the tactics of pressure and sanctions against Iran have made a diplomatic solution impossible:

We seem to have lost sight of what all those sanctions and pressure were supposed to achieve in the first place. They have come to be treated as if they were ends in themselves. That myopia, combined with reactive pigheadedness on the part of the Iranians, has produced a destructive spiral.

This is a tragedy in the making. It is being made largely because too many people in this country have lost sight both of U.S. interests and of the fundamental bargaining principle that if we want to solve a problem that involves someone else with whom we have differences, we should make it easier, not harder, for the other side to say yes.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

The website of former Iranian president Rafsanjani has been shut down, reports the Associated Press.

Lawyers representing Iran’s Central Bank are preparing to file a motion in a New York federal court seeking to release nearly $2 billion of frozen assets, according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • 29 December 2011
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • MEK, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 12/29

Italy supports oil sanctions

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said that the Italian government supports an oil embargo on Iran, provided certain exceptions are made for the Italian company Eni (Wall Street Journal 12/29).

Russian ambassador warns against Iran conflict

Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations said that a potential conflict between Iran and Western countries poses the “greatest danger” in the next year.

“Our consistent stand, our effort, is going to be targeted at doing whatever we can in order to prevent this scenario of regional catastrophe being carried out in 2012,” he said (RT 12/29).

MEK agrees to transfer 400 residents out of Ashraf

The leadership of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) has agreed to allow 400 of the more than 3,000 residents of Camp Ashraf to be transferred to a former U.S. Army base, where the United Nations will process the residents’ applications for refugee status. (McClatchy Newspapers 12/28).

Amir Hekmati’s mother speaks out

The mother of Amir Hekmati, the Iranian-American held in Iran on charges of espionage, said that her son is under duress and urged Iranian authorities to treat him fairly (Detroit Free Press 12/29).

Investigation casts doubt on lawsuit claiming Iran aided 9/11

An investigation reveals that the recent “findings of fact” by a District judge in Manhattan concluding Iran assisted al-Qaeda in the planning of the 9/11 attacks was based on testimony from anti-Islam activists and  individuals deemed “serial fabricators” by U.S. intelligence officials. The testimony went unchallenged because the Iranian government did not defend itself in court (Truthout 12/29).

Stuxnet computer virus may have four “cousins”

Reuters reports that the Stuxnet computer worm that damaged Iran’s nuclear program in 2010 was likely one of five cyber weapons developed at the same time (Reuters 12/28).  

Notable opinion: 

In an article for CNN, NIAC President Trita Parsi discusses how recent tensions surrounding the Strait of Hormuz is part of the escalating rhetoric between the U.S. and Iran, which could spiral out of control and lead to war:

Such is the logic of pressure politics – pressure begets pressure and along the way, both sides increasingly lose sight of their original endgames. As this conflict-dynamic takes over, the psychological cost of restraint rises, while further escalatory steps appear increasingly logical and justified. At some point – and we may already be there – the governments will no longer control the dynamics. Rather, the conflict dynamic will control the governments.

Though neither side may have intended to drive this towards open war, but rather to merely deter the other side or compel it to change its policies, pressure politics in the absence of real diplomacy has a logic of its own. This formula simply drives us towards confrontation, whether we intend it or not.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

The U.S. has agreed to sell F-15 fighter jets valued at nearly $30 billion to Saudi Arabia, reports The New York Times.

  • 28 December 2011
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, MEK, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 12/28

Tensions increase in the Persian Gulf

Iran’s naval commander claimed today that Iran “has total control over” the Strait of Hormuz and that it would be “very easy” for Iran to close it.  The remarks come just one day after Iranian vice president Mohammad Reza-Rahimi threatened that Iran would close the strait if the West imposes sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.

The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet replied that it would not “tolerate” any disruption of in the vital oil choke-point and that it is “always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation.”  (NY Times 12/28)

Oil prices rose 2% yesterday due in part to the escalating rhetoric.

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, noted that the situation is more dangerous than it might otherwise be because ‎”We are in a situation where there is essentially no communication between the Iranian government and the U.S. government.” (CNN 12/27)

Opposition leader dismisses upcoming elections

Opposition leader Mehdi Karoubi, who is currently under house arrest, dismissed Iran’s upcoming parliamentary election in March, reportedly saying “[Iranian] officials do not believe in the people’s vote and they are preparing themselves for a rubber-stamp election.” (Reuters 12/26)

Human rights watch

Iran’s prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, an Iranian American accused of spying.  (Guardian 12/27)Iran is denying requests for consular access to Hekmati. (State Department 12/28)

The Iranian Revolutionary Court has sentenced Ibrahim Yazdi to eight years jail. The 80 year-old Iranian former foreign minister suffers from cancer and heart ailments. (AP 12/28)

The daughter of Iranian former president Akbar Rafsanjani is standing trial on charges of making anti-regime propaganda. She was previously arrested for taking part in protests after the 2009 presidential elections. (AFP 12/26)

Iran’s censorship of satellite television

The Wall Street Journal reports on Iran’s systematic jamming of satellite signals in order to control news and information. According to some estimates, 45% to 60% of Iranians watch satellite television, surpassing the numbers who have access to the Internet. (Wall Street Journal 12/27)

Romney attacks Paul over Iran

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney criticized Ron Paul’s stance on Iran, arguing that “the greatest threat that Israel faces and frankly the greatest threat the world faces is a nuclear Iran.” (LA Times 12/28) The intensified attacks come as Paul has taken a lead in Iowa polls before next week’s caucus there. (Fivethirtyeight 12/28)

MEK resettlement to Camp Liberty

The United Nations and the Iraqi government have agreed to relocate Camp Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty. Secretary of Clinton welcomed the agreement and urged the MEK to work with the UN to facilitate the resettlement. The MEK has not indicated whether it will cooperate. (Washington Post 12/26)

Notable opinion: 

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Bennett Ramberg expresses concern that an Israeli or U.S. attack on Iran could result in both countries targeting the others’ nuclear facilities and releasing huge amounts of radiation.

“Anyone who is thinking of attacking Iran should be prepared for powerful blows and iron fists.” So declared Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Nov. 10, speaking in response to reports that Israel may strike Iran’s nuclear plants. But the risk of tit-for-tat attacks raises a specter few seem to recognize: the first radiological war in history.

General Masoud Jazayeri, deputy commander of Iran’s armed forces, indicated what “blows” and “fists” could mean when he warned last month that Dimona — the center of Israel’s never-acknowledged nuclear arms program — was “the most accessible target.”

[…]

Were a military attack [by Israel] to strike [Bushehr] at full power after months of operation, the release of radioactivity could be greater than at Chernobyl. Prevailing north, northwest winds would carry radioactive debris along the Gulf across sparsely populated regions. Given the size of the Bushehr plant, the lessons of Chernobyl and Fukushima tell us that Iran’s cleanup burden, energy loss and medical and population-relocation costs could approach hundreds of billions of dollars over decades.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

The Washington Post reports on the Obama Administration’s rapidly growing drone program, which is blurring long-standing lines between military and intelligence actions. (Washington Post 12/27)

Iran News Roundup 12/22

Iran’s currency troubles

The Financial Times reports that Iran’s currency has dropped almost 10 percent in recent days, a record low against the U.S. dollar.  While sanctions and economic mismanagement are likely culprits, some Iranian media have accused Ahamdinejad’s government of “engineering a deliberate devaluation to boost the rial value of its oil income in the final months of the fiscal year” to attempt to reduce the budget deficit, which some say could be as high as 7% of GDP (Financial Times 12/21).

Do GOP voters prefer diplomacy over war?

In an op-ed, Scott Clement writes that, although Republican voters see Iran as a threat, more than six in 10 pick “economic and diplomatic efforts” as the best Iran policy rather than military options (Washington Post 12/21).

Ambassador Rice discusses Iran’s nuclear program and diplomacy 

U.S. Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice expressed concern about Iran’s nuclear program during a U.N. Security Council briefing, specifically about the possibility of secret underground enrichment facilities in Iran. In her assessment, the Security Council “must redouble its efforts to implement the sanctions already imposed,” barring weapons and nuclear-related business with Iran in order to buy “more time to resolve this crisis through diplomatic means” (Think Progress 12/21).

Rice also noted, “[S]anctions are only a means to an end. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that Iran enters into full compliance with all its international nuclear obligations and takes the steps necessary to resolve outstanding questions” (State Department 12/21).

Iran News Roundup 12/21

Iran’s currency tumbles

On Tuesday, Iran’s currency plummeted in value to its lowest level ever against the dollar (NY Times 12/20).

The Washington Post reports that the sudden drop followed the announcement by Iranian officials that Iran had cut trade ties with the UAE because of “anti-Iranian positions.” After Tuesday’s plunge, Iranian Vice President Rahimi backtracked on these statements, saying that the UAE had simply been “warned” not to go along with sanctions proposed by the U.S (Washington Post 12/20).

DOD walks back Panetta’s recent comments on Iran

 Yesterday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that Iran could have a nuclear weapon as soon as next year. Pentagon officials clarified that this assertion is based on a highly aggressive timeline and actions that Iran has not yet taken (NY Times 12/20).

Camp Ashraf closure delayed

Iraqi’s prime minister Malaki said today that he has granted a six-month extension to the December 31st deadline (Salon 12/21).

American officials had expressed fears that MEK leadership may order the massacre of camp residents, rather than allow a peaceful disbandment of Camp Ashraf.  The Christian Science Monitor interviewed recent MEK defectors who say that further dramatic acts may occur as the deadline quickly approaches. Shahram Heydari, who left Camp Ashraf two months ago, said that “It’s clear to me, [MEK leadership] wants people to get killed, and send it to the media,” in order to keep the camp open.  Although several high-ranking U.S. officials have been paid by the MEK to make its case to get the MEK off the US terror list, family members of those inside the camp have held protests asking for the release of their children, whom they say are imprisoned in the camp (Christian Science Monitor 12/20).

Iran News Roundup 12/20

Panetta: U.S. will not allow Iran to have a bomb

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who has come under fire from neoconservatives for warning against the unintended consequences of Israeli military action against Iran, told CBS on Monday “the United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon” and shares Israel’s common concern. “There are no options off the table.”

“If they proceed and we get intelligence that they [Iran] are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it.” When asked whether Iran will have a nuclear weapon in 2012, Panetta answered by saying that “it will probably be about a year before they [Iran]’ would be able to startdeveloping a nuclear weapon.

Scott Pelley of CBS clarified at the end of the report,”Panetta also told CBS News that while Iran needs a year or less to assemble a weapon, he has no indication yet that the Iranians have made the decision to go ahead” (CBS 12/29).

Former Mossad Chief: Military attack will embolden Iran

Former Mossad chief Mier Dagan has stated that “the immediate alternative of an attack [on Iran] may lead the Iranians into a reality in which they are [pushed over the edge] and try to obtain nuclear capabilities as quickly as possible instead of trading rather carefully while taking the international community’s demands into consideration” (Think Progress 12/19).

MEK sends mixed signals 

In a statement, MEK leadership said Camp Ashraf residents “in principle” agree to a United Nations plan to move residents from Camp Ashraf on “condition that the United Nations, United States and European Union support and endorse the proposal and that the Iraqi government guarantee the residents’ security and well-being” (Reuters 12/20).

IPS reports that, although the MEK seems willing to agree to conditions, U.S. officials are still hearing disturbing “talk about martyrdom and dying” from MEK leaders in negotiations. “Experts on the MEK accuse its leaders of holding its own members hostage to efforts to get the organization removed from the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations” (IPS 12/19).

Meanwhile, according to a Washington Post report, the MEK peddled the story of Iraqi Transportation Minister Hadi al-Amiri’s visit to the White House in an attempt to undermine the Iraqi government as it battles the potential closure of Camp Ashraf (Washinton Post 12/20)

Japan warns U.S. of “danger” of central bank sanctions

Japan’s Foreign Minister met with Secretary Clinton and discussed central bank sanctions mandated by Congress, saying, “During our frank discussion on Iran, specifically in relation to the National Defense Authorization Act, which targets the Central Bank of Iran, I conveyed my view that there is a danger of causing damage to the entire global economy if the imports of Iranian crude oil stop” (State Department 12/19).

Meanwhile, oil rose for a second day amidst declining U.S. crude stockpiles and speculation over further sanctions against Iran (Business Week 12/20)Francisco Blanch, Bank of America Corp.’s head, said that further sanctions on Iran may surge oil prices by $40 a barrel.

Iran reportedly cuts ties with UAE as concerns mount over national currency 

Tehran bureau chief for the Washington Post Thomas Erdbrink says Iran is cutting all ties with UAE in anticipation of sanctions by the Persian Gulf kingdoms.

In a statement, Iranian president Ahmadinejad said his administration is doing everything it can to save the Iranian national currency from plunging further out of control (Taiwan News 12/20).

Iran News Roundup 12/19

Talks accelerate on a potential embargo on Iran

In what could be a precursor to an embargo on Iran, a “coalition of like-minded countries” including U.S., EU, Arab, and Asian states will meet in Rome tomorrow for talks on how to maintain stable global energy markets in the midst of increased Iran sanctions (Wall Street Journal 12/19).

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran has prepared for “the worst case scenario” and has a “road map” circumvent Western sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank and oil exports(AFP 12/16).

U.S. drone saga continues

U.S. cyber-warfare experts have questioned Iran’s ability to hijack the spy drone by overwhelming the drone’s GPS signal (Christian Science Monitor 12/16).  Additionally, U.S. officials say the drone actually crashed, further refuting Iran’s claims (Wall Street Journal 12/16).  On Saturday, Iran’s foreign minister said that Iran deliberately delayed its announcement that it had captured the American surveillance drone to test U.S. reaction (Huffington Post 12/17).

Iran News Roundup 12/16

GOP candidates get fact checked for Iran claims at debate

Michelle Bachmann made the claim that the IAEA report proves that “Iran is within just months of being able to obtain that [nuclear] weapon.”  Fact checks from CNNThe Washington Post, and the New York Times said Bachmann got it wrong.

Mitt Romney accused President Obama of having said “pretty please” in order to have the American recently fallen drone returned and Rick Perry said the Obama should have used military  destroy of retrieve the drone.  But the New York Times says:

In fact, American military officials considered an operation to retrieve the drone but rejected it as too dangerous, since it would require a sizeable force traveling more than 200 miles into the country and likely facing a large Iranian protection force.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum repeated his very un-covert calls for “covert activities” against Iran. “We need to plan a strike against their facilities and say to them that if you do not open up those facilities and close them down, we will close them down for you.” (New American 12/16).

Sign the Petition

 

7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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