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“Crackdown on Students Ahead of National Student Day”

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran released a statement today outlining recent waves of arbitrary arrests of students as “authorities apparently seek to stifle protests expected on 7 December, National Student Day…”.

While authorities in Iran have released little information about students being detained, the site has been able to report on many specific cases between November 16 and 23:

The Campaign has received information of such detentions in Isfahan, Babol, Chaharmahal-o-Bakhtiari, Shiraz, Ilam, Kermanshah, Ghazvin, and in Tehran in Azad University, Tehran University, Amirkabir and Elm-o-Sanaat. […]

According to Amirkabir News, in the past month, over 60 students were arrested, some of whom remain in jail.

Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the Campaign, said:

“In order to silence the student movement, a wholesale crackdown on Iranian students is underway, which not only violates their rights, but also disrupts their studies and the lives of their families.”

Such unwarranted crackdowns are in contravention of Iran’s obligations under the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 1968.

  • 24 November 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 4 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Nuclear file

Iran Prepared to Exchange Uranium on its Soil

AP reports:

“Iran said Tuesday it was ready to exchange its low enriched uranium with a higher enriched material, but only on its own soil, to guarantee the West follows through with promises to give the fuel”

This position is being taken as Iran’s  “official” response to the IAEA-brokered nuclear proposal born of talks among p-5+1 countries in October.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran had sent its response on the proposal to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, saying it wants a simultaneous exchange on Iranian soil.

“Iran’s answer is given. I think the other side has received it,” said Mehmanparast. “The creation of a 100 percent guarantee for delivery of the fuel is important for Iran.”

Another Iranian official, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, confirmed the details, saying that in Iran’s view such an exchange was an “objective guarantee.”

Details on the text of the response are forthcoming.

While the response is not quite what the p-5+1 had hoped to get, this development still marks progress with Iran. The deal helps by putting time back on the nuclear clock. The more proliferation-resistant fuel rods Iran would receive in exchange for giving up its raw stockpile of LEU would lengthen the time Iran would need to develop a nuclear weapons.

Now…before any of us get ahead of ourselves, we should caution: if Iran decides in the coming days to alter its response, waffle back and forth, or vacillate in any way–such as requesting the exchange be made over multiple installments–the West would be absolutely correct to excoriate Iran for going back on its word.  It’s bad enough that this entire process–which was intended to build confidence between the two sides–has done nothing of the sort.  Now is not the time to end diplomatic engagement with Iran when it appears that some compromise deal may actually be struck.  After all, such a deal would form the basis for future cooperation and actual trust-building.

***

It was also reported today that the p-5+1 have prepared a resolution critical of Iran’s nuclear defiance for the next IAEA board meeting, calling for more openness about is nuclear activities particularly in light of the revelation of the Fardo facility near Qom. Notably, Russia and China, who have been resistant in the past to confrontational positions on Iran, stifling calls for more sanctions, join in the criticism. Iran’s response today might give pause to delay those considering moving the resolution, in favor of hammering out a more concrete deal.

The Green Movement Keeps Neda’s Memory Alive

The Green Movement and its supporters are determined to keep Neda Agha-Soltan’s memory alive as a symbol of the ongoing struggle against the current Iranian government.

A Facebook page, “Neda Agha-Soltan for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year” has gained 454 members so far and encourages viewers to write Time Magazine at letters@time.com to build support for Neda to be recognized for her sacrificing her life while demonstrating against the government, and for the wider movement she has come to represent. Further support for Neda as Time’s person of the year has been  expressed by readers of Iranian.com.

In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, U.S. President Barack Obama made reference to Neda in offering to share his prize with others taking up causes for peace around the world :

…this award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity–for the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard even in the face of beatings and bullets…”

The Washington Post Editorial Board even weighed in, declaring Neda their preference for the Peace Prize.

Additionally, the Queen’s College at Oxford University in Britain have decided to establish a graduate scholarship in Neda’s honor–the “Neda Agha-Soltan Graduate Scholarship” for philosophy students of Iranian descent. The scholarship will promote academic freedom for Iranians who have faced censorship and persecution by an oppressive government.

Tonight, PBS will air A Death in Tehran at 9 pm ET in which “frontline investigates the controversial Iranian election and the death of one young protester seen around the world,” detailing the extent of the Iranian government’s violent post-election crackdown and the persistence of its opposition. Such recognition for the young woman whose life was taken violently before the eyes of the world help to keep Neda Agha-Soltan from “being just another casualty of oppression.”

Flux In Iran affecting its handle on foreign policy, nuclear issues?

In an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, Iran expert Ray Takeyh suggested that the Iranian government is preoccupied with internal divisions both among its officials and with a state-society divide that has subsequently impeded its foreign policy.

Takeyh:

I don’t believe at this point that the Islamic Republic has a foreign policy if you classify foreign policy as when a country identifies its interests abroad and tries to achieve them, or as when a country seeks to export its revolution, or as when a country seeks to project its power. The Iranian foreign policy is currently derived almost entirely from domestic political considerations, which are evolving in unpredictable ways.

Further, he suggests Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using the nuclear negotiations to mitigate international attention on Iran’s domestic turmoil and human rights violations.

Analysts have speculated that changes in the Iran’s political structure, with its increasing shift in power towards its military complex, has been an important factor.  Since June 12, the IRGC has monopolized telecommunications in Iran, violently cracked down on protests and dissidents, and established a new intelligence body led by the former head of the Basij, in effect nullifying the old intelligence ministry.

Recent reports also suggest that Iran has not significantly increased its uranium enrichment since September. Motives for the slower production are unclear. From the outside, it is unclear whether adjustments are being made due to shifting concerns in light of both domestic unrest as well as what appears to be a changing political structure, not to mention the ongoing negotiations with P-5+1 countries.

Reuters:

While Iran‘s stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) has likely risen by 200-300 kg from 1,500 kg reported by U.N. monitors in August, the number of operating centrifuge machines at its Natanz enrichment plant has remained at about 4,600, they said.

Iran‘s potential enrichment capacity was much higher. It had installed at least 8,700 centrifuges in all by late September, diplomats said. A fresh figure was not yet available.

But it was unclear why almost half the centrifuges were not yet enriching, remaining idle or undergoing vacuum tests.

Diplomats and analysts said possible reasons ranged from technical glitches to politically motivated restraint, to avoid closing the door to diplomacy with world powers and provoking harsher international sanctions or even Israeli military action.

“The situation is now pretty much as it was in September,” said a senior diplomat in Vienna, where the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is based. Officials at Iran‘s IAEA mission were unavailable for comment.

The IAEA’s report on its visit to Iran’s Qom facility is also due next week, but Mohamed ElBaradei has previously suggested the facility is no more than “a hole in a mountain,” built as a backup facility in case of military strikes from an external source.

“The foreign policy apparatus in Iran has frozen”

“‘The foreign policy apparatus in Iran has frozen,” IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei has told the New York Times. ElBaradei’s comments come in light of Iran’s apparent unwillingness or even inability to accept the deal that their own diplomats negotiated with the P5+1 and the IAEA.

While the talks were successful in getting the IAEA access to Iran’s nuclear facility under construction in Qom, Iran’s government rejected the deal (verbally) on the grounds that they were not willing to trust Russia or France with the majority of their low-enriched uranium stockpile.

ElBaradei came up with a clever response, which was to find a third party country that both sides could trust that would hold the uranium – with Turkey appearing to be the most likely candidate.

However, instead of responding favorably to this deal, Iran simply responded with their own counter-proposal. It certainly plays into the narrative presented by CFR Iran expert Ray Takeyh on Friday:

In the coming months, Iran will no doubt seek to prolong negotiations by accepting and then rejecting agreed-upon compacts and offering countless counter-proposals. The United States and its allies must decide how to approach an Iranian diplomatic stratagem born out of cynical desire to clamp down on peaceful dissent with relative impunity.

International scrutiny remains trained on Iran’s nuclear program, but outside that glare, the structure and orientation of the Revolutionary Guards are changing dramatically. The regime in Tehran is establishing the infrastructure for repression. The leadership of the Guards and the paramilitary Basij force have been integrated and are much more focused on vanquishing imaginary plots by a (nonexistent) fifth column.

Takeyh then argues — as we have been — that human rights should should be elevated in the talks with Iran. Takeyh then takes it a step further:

Western officials would be smart to disabuse Iran of the notion that its nuclear infractions are the only source of disagreement. Iran’s hard-liners need to know that should they launch their much-advertised crackdown, the price for such conduct may be termination of any dialogue with the West.

Radio Free Liberty also talked to a number of reformists who argue any deal that ignores human rights will be fundamentally flawed and likely viewed with suspicion.

Reformist journalist Serajedin Mirdamadi, who campaigned for opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi ahead of the contentious June election, tells Radio Farda that a deal with Tehran that is solely focused on the nuclear issue will not be a lasting one.

  • 5 November 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Nuclear file, UN

Iranian Nuclear Official: No Reason to Reject Nuclear Deal

ILNA interviewed an Iranian nuclear official recently who criticized the Iranian leadership for not accepting the proposed nuclear deal offered by the P-5+1. The official, Ahmad Qarib of the Iranian Atomic energy Organization, said Iran does not currently have the capacity in its nuclear infrastructure to use all of its enriched uranium, and that therefore they have nothing to lose from signing on to the deal.

In an interview with the Iranian news agency ILNA, Ahmad Qarib, Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Scientific Committee member and former director of the organization’s research institute, criticized Iran’s rejection of the Vienna draft proposal under which Iran would transfer 75% of its stock of enriched uranium (its total stock is estimated at 1,600 kg) for further enrichment in a third country, so that Iran will have a supply of fuel for its Tehran nuclear reactor.

Qarib stated that because Iran does not have an infrastructure of nuclear plants that would require such a stock of enriched uranium for operation, the country really has no reason to reject the Vienna proposal. He also pointed out that the Tehran facility is not expected to operate efficiently for longer than another 10 years.

Qarib explained: “Iran has no reactor besides the Tehran research reactor and the Bushehr plant [which is not yet operational]. All this fuss [by Iran] over fuel for them comes at a time when the Bushehr [plant] is not yet finished; and even if it is completed, Russia will supply the fuel that it requires. In effect, right now we don’t need all of the 1,600 kg of uranium that we now have…”

He added that “in the era of the Mir Hossein Mousavi [government, 1981-1989], Iran purchased 680 tons of uranium, and so far has used only 12 tons of that, as fuel for the research reactor in Tehran. Over 660 tons remain – and our enrichment process [at the Natanz facility] is ongoing.”

He continued, “So it is not clear why this issue has become so complex, [when] the Tehran research reactor will be operating [efficiently] for no more than another decade [and then will have to be shut down]; [in any event,] it does not need all that fuel.”

Still waiting…

Despite Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s remarks about a turn towards “cooperation” with the West about its nuclear program, Iran seems to have once again managed to stall the process.  Reports have been varied in their interpretation of Iran’s response to the nuclear deal drafted two weeks ago with the IAEA.

The IAEA reported that Iran gave an “initial response.” The New York Times reported Iran refused the deal, “according to diplomats in Europe and American officials briefed on Iran’s response.”

A senior European official characterized the Iranian response as “basically a refusal.” The Iranians, he said, want to keep all of their lightly enriched uranium in the country until receiving fuel bought from the West for the reactor in Tehran.

“The key issue is that Iran does not agree to export its lightly enriched uranium,” the official said. “That’s not a minor detail. That’s the whole point of the deal.”

AFP reported that Iran’s state IRNA news agency said Iran wants more talks on procuring nuclear fuel for its Tehran reactor before it would give a final reply on the nuclear deal at hand.

Regardless, this is the second week after the deal was drafted. One deadline has passed, which we must keep in mind was only a couple of days after the deal was proposed. Today the Iranian government seems to have managed not to ink a deal while keeping talks afloat.  (Literally.  Iran’s response to the IAEA was reportedly not even written down…)  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier that she wants to “let the process play out.”

Clinton:

“We are working to determine exactly what they are willing to do, whether this was an initial response that is an end response or whether it’s the beginning of getting to where we expect them to end up,” Agence France-Presse quoted her as saying.

Analysts and officials did not expect this process of negotiating with Iran to be quick and easy, and so far it has been frustrating. Expectations have fluctuated during these ongoing talks about what sort of progress can/will be made on the nuclear issue.  Iranian officials are going to have to start showing what compromise they are willing to make, not on their rights to a civilian nuclear program, but yes, compromise in the form of security assurances and some form of confidence building. Engaging the international community with this nuclear deal would not diminish Iran’s prestige or its standing in the world; but the Iranian government is certainly under mounting pressure whether it chooses to acknowledge it or not.  Further, both sides cannot endlessly withhold some compromise with the other side in these negotiations because of mistrust.

Again, we must bear in mind these talks only began at the start of October, certainly not enough to call it a day on unprecedented negotiations. NSN sums this up neatly in their piece: “Diplomacy a Process, Not a One-Shot Deal”

Even if this nuclear deal had already been accepted by Iran, that would only be a part of a broader set of arrangements that need to be made in the long term–agreements for robust transparency and monitoring, for one thing–not the end game. The process should not be derailed by the difficulties of achieving progress on this first step of what will be an ongoing, long-term commitment for all parties to the negotiations.

  • 29 October 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 13 Comments
  • Congress, Sanctions

Senate Cmte. Passes Sanctions, Despite State Dept. Opposition

Washington, DC – The Senate Banking Committee passed a broad set of Iran sanctions today, despite one Senator saying that the act was opposed by U.S. Department of State. The unanimous vote, 23-0 in favor, papered over differences that emerged in the hearing.  Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) raised repeated objections to the bill.  “This is a tacit vote of no confidence [against the Obama administration],” Corker said.  During an exchange with a colleague after the vote, Corker revealed the “State Department actually did not want to see this happen.”

Democratic supporters of the bill strongly disagreed with the notion that they were undermining President Obama.  Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) contended that the legislation “is about strengthening the administration’s hand at the end of the day, not weakening it.”  Senator Dodd agreed with Menendez, though he confessed, “I’ve never met yet an administration of any stripe or color that welcomed Congressional intervention of any kind.”

This bill follows the House Foreign Affairs Committee sanctions bill passed yesterday. Like the House bill, this one expands unilateral, extraterritorial sanctions and targets companies exporting refined petroleum to Iran or helping to develop Iran’s oil refining industry.  Other provisions would make American companies liable if their foreign subsidiaries do business in Iran, and would codify the embargo on goods shipped to and from Iran, including pistachios, Persian carpets, and caviar.

The bill, introduced by the Chair of the committee, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), would make it so the President can no longer lift the embargo on Iran without Congressional approval.

  • 27 October 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth

Student Protests Continue at Azad University

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPV0m3hExII”]

Nearly 2000 students of Tehran’s Azad University protested the Iraninan “coup government” and its treatment of student activists. Students gathered and chanted slogans for the green movement including “Death to the dictator,” “Coup government, resign, resign!”, and “Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein!”

The protests persist in the face of threats and pressure from security forces. Basij and security forces are also reportedly trying to intimidate protesters by filming them.

  • 22 October 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Legislative Agenda, Nuclear file, Persian Gulf, Sanctions

Can Emirati oil crowd Iran out of China?

The United Arab Emirates, “in a step coordinated with Washington,” recently agreed to increase oil exports to China from the current 50,000 barrels per day to 150,000-200,000, the Wall Street Journal  reported Tuesday. The move is viewed as an Obama administration strategy to reduce Beijing’s reliance on Iran to meet its growing energy needs. It appears to be a move designed to contain Iran’s sphere of influence in the long run by offering China an alternative source of energy, therby reducing Iran’s leverage and influence.

(WSJ): “A senior Emirati official said Abu Dhabi plans to make a significant additional increase “within the next three years.”

Saudi Arabia, long at odds with Tehran, also appears prepared to offer China more oil to make up for any losses it incurs as part of an international effort to punish Iran, according to people familiar with Saudi thinking.

The kingdom buys considerable weapons, natural resources and consumer products from China, and is weighing how to leverage those purchases to persuade Beijing to distance itself from Tehran.

The U.S. strategy is as much about realigning diplomatic alliances as shifting the oil supply, U.S. officials said.

Flynt Leverett, director of the New America Foundation’s Iran Project, expressed his view that China would be unlikely to substitute Saudi Arabia for Iran to meet its oil needs in a recent discussion on China-Iran relations at Johns Hopkins University’s Nitze School.

The U.S. is seeking China’s support for possible new sanctions on Iran should negotiations fail. Saudi Arabi and the United Arab Emirates could be instrumental to influencing China’s policy. China has given little indication that it is likely to go along with more sanctions, though. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recently hailed cooperation with Iran.

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 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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