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  • 25 February 2013
  • Posted By Sina Toossi
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy

Iran and the U.S. meet on the wrestling mat in Tehran

In an atmosphere of heavy sanctions and talk of war, wrestlers from around the world have come to Tehran to participate in the annual Wrestling World Cup. The event, which changes venues every year, has brought together wresting teams from countries not typically known for close ties, such as the U.S., Cuba, Russia, and Iran.

The advent of such kinds of sport exchanges between Iran and the U.S. actually hearkens back to the era of former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. Khatami sought to foster such exchanges based on his advocacy of “people to people contact between the two nations to break the ice.” Perhaps initially a genuine effort to mimic the “ping-pong” diplomacy between the United and China that paved the way for President Nixon to visit Beijing, this initiative took off with the U.S. wrestling team making a landmark trip to Tehran in 1998. Indeed, this recent trip to the Wrestling World Cup by Team USA marked its tenth visit to Iran in the past decade. Since the late 1990s, various athletes from a variety of different sports have travelled between the two countries. A further sports exchange program between Iran and the US launched in 2007 has seen the U.S. send more than 30 athletes to Iran and more than 75 Iranian athletes and coaches visit the United States.

  • 13 August 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 1 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: August 13, 2012

Iran earthquakes: Tehran criticized for response to disaster
Iran Moves to Distribute Aid After Two Earthquakes Kill 307
Iran raises toll from Saturday’s earthquake to 306 dead, over 3,000 injured
Israeli Minister Asks Nations to Say Iran Talks Have Failed
Revised gov’t protocol gives PM unprecedented powers

Nuclear ruse: Posing as toymaker, Chinese merchant allegedly sought U.S. technology for Iran
Oil rises to near $94 on Israel-Iran concerns
Standard Chartered in talks to settle Iran laundering probe
 
Notable Opinion: Why Do Israeli Media Keep Predicting War With Iran?

  • 29 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: June 29, 2012

Shorter Range Missiles in the Persian Gulf

In an apparent escalation in Iran’s  standoff with the West, a Revolutionary Guards commander was quoted as saying Iran expects to equip its ships in the Strait of Hormuz with shorter-range missiles (Reuters 6/29).

Dubai’s ENOC Affected by State Department Clarification

U.S. State Department officials have clarified that financial transactions that facilitate the import of Iranian “condensate”, a production material Dubai’s national oil company depends on, makes the UAE liable under the US sanctions that go into effect on June 28th. As a result, two sources close to the company said Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) had already applied for a waiver to avoid US sanctions (Reuters 6/29).

Iran Offers to Deliver South Korea Oil

Less than a day after Iran threatened “reconsideration of its ties” with South Korea in response to an announcement by the country that it would stop purchases of Iranian oil, Iran has come forward to offer to deliver its oil to South Korea on its own ships (Reuters 6/28; Reuters 6/29).

Continued Signs of Rivalry within OPEC

  • 26 June 2012
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Afghanistan, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Israel, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Clinton and Baker on Iran, Israeli strikes, and diplomacy

In an interview with Charlie Rose at the State Department  last Wednesday, June 20, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Former Secretary of State James Baker discussed the role of diplomacy in resolving US- Iranian tensions [watch the interview here, read the transcript here].

Baker said the U.S. must pursue all non-military means to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon, but if those efforts fail, the U.S. would have to “take them out.”   Clinton insisted that diplomatic options for dealing with Iran had not yet been exhausted, and warned that a foreign attack could unify and legitimize the regime. She said,  there are some hardliners in Iran who ” are saying the best thing that could happen to us is be attacked by somebody, just bring it on, because that would unify us, it would legitimize the regime.” Instead of giving the hardliners this credibility, Clinton said of the diplomatic process that the US should “take this meeting by meeting and pursue it as hard as we can” in order to find a peaceful agreement.

  • 25 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: June 25, 2012

Escalation, Counter-Escalation, and Repeat

The editor-in-chief of the hardline Iranian newspaper, Kayhan, argues that Iran can restrict oil tankers’ access to the Strait of Hormuz based on a “’right of retaliation’” under the 1958 Convention on the Territorial Sea after the implementation of an EU oil embargo. The paper’s editor, who is appointed by Iran’s supreme leader, wrote that Iran “‘can prevent the passage of oil tankers or ships with military or commercial loads that aren’t considered harmless for its security, order and peace’” (Bloomberg 6/24).

In response to concerns that Iran might block Hormuz, four U.S. minesweepers have arrived in the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters to ensure the “‘continued, safe flow of maritime traffic in international waterways,’” said the U.S. Navy (Reuters 6/25).

In order to avoid continued escalation, analysts are calling for more “creative” diplomacy, and warning that without a diplomatic solution, Iran will escalate tensions in response to the U.S. and E.U oil sanctions. (AFP 6/24).

  • 21 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: June 21, 2012

Clinton Hints China May Receive Sanctions Waiver

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has said that China appears to be complying with US sanctions on Iranian oil, and decreasing Iranian imports  (Reuters 6/20). Clinton said Iran was “very much with us in the international arena [on Iran]”, and that China was moving in a similar direction to India, Japan, and South Korea, all of whom have already received waivers (RealClearPolitics 6/20).

Israel “Relieved” Following Talks in Moscow

Ephraim Kam, a fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies in Israel, said, “’My feeling is there’s a kind of relief on part of the Government of Israel’” over the P5+1’s unwillingness to compromise (WSJ 6/20).

Iranian Economic Woes Cause Rial to Falter

Omid Karimian, a member of the Iranian parliament’s economic committee, said recent fluctuations in the value of the Iranian rial “‘are testimonies to the lack of solidity of our economy,’” in a statement to the Tehran-based newspaper, Shargh (Bloomberg 6/21). The dollar was worth 18,300 rials yesterday, up 270 rials from the day before, although Iran’s central bank only realizes an “official” exchange rate of 12,260 rials per dollar (Bloomberg 6/21).

ISIS Suspicious of Further Activity at Parchin

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) published new satellite images, which it says depicts further removal of earth and clean up at the Iranian Parchin military site, which ISIS claimed had been “sanitized” last month (Reuters 6/20). The International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano said gaining access to the Parchin military complex “remains a ‘matter of priority’” (Bloomberg 6/21).

However, Robert Kelley, a nuclear engineer and former IAEA director of inspections, disputes ISIS’s claims, stating Iran’s alleged sanitation activities have occurred “outside and adjacent to the site in question” and that traces of uranium could be found by the IAEA even if the area was “sanitized” (Arms Control Wonk 6/15; SIPRI 5/23).

Notable Opinion: “The Perils of Tough Talk”

Shibley Telhami of The American Interest explains Democratic and Republican framing of Iran’s threat to the U.S. is important in an election year:

Part of the problem for this Administration and the next is a proposition that has been adopted by large majorities of both Democrats and Republicans: that Iran’s nuclear program is essentially the greatest strategic threat the United States faces today. Because both parties have concluded that it is too risky for the United States to live with an Iran that has nuclear weapons capability, Washington finds itself on a slippery slope toward war, barring a major diplomatic breakthrough that takes the issue off the front burner if not off the agenda altogether.

There is of course a big difference between a stated willingness to use force against Iran if all other options fail and an actual decision to wage war. That difference opens up space for conflicting judgments about, for example, what constitutes a final failure of diplomatic options, or how much time there is before various levels of attack degrade in effectiveness. Into this space, too, politics will inevitably stride.

Read the full article at The American Interest

  • 12 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: June 12, 2012

China Not Exempted from Sanctions

The Obama Administration announced yesterday that seven more countries that import Iranian oil, including India and Turkey, would be exempt from the oil sanctions going into effect in less than a month. (NYT 6/11/12Washington Post 6/11/12) Notably absent from the list of exempt nations is China, currently the largest importer of Iranian oil. (Bloomberg 6/12/12)

Meanwhile, one of the largest Chinese importers of oil, Sinopec, has reportedly turned down an offer to purchase discounted Iranian crude and will cut imports by up to a fifth this year, signaling a willingness to cooperate with the US sanctions regime. (Reuters 6/12/12)

“Moscow is a green light”

A call Monday night between Catherine Ashton and Dr. Saeed Jahlili seems to have confirmed negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran will continue in Moscow next week. (Al Monitor 6/11/12) Iranian negotiators agreed this morning ahead of talks to “discuss a proposal to curb production of high-grade uranium”. (The Moscow Times 6/12/12) This development follows statements by Iranian negotiators on Wednesday which raised the possibility of cancelling or delaying the Moscow talks. (NYT 6/6/12)

  • 15 February 2012
  • Posted By Jacob Martin
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 02/14

Injured Iranian held responsible for Thailand bombings

 A man believed to be Iranian had both legs blown off after attempting to throw a bomb at Thai police in Bangkok.  Two other nearby explosions, which resulted in several people being injured, accompanied this attack.  These explosions occurred a day after bombing attacks against Israeli diplomatic staff in India and Georgia. Although the bombing targets remain unclear, Israeli officials have accused Iran’s complicity in these attacks and believe that this is part of a greater campaign being perpetrated by Iran and Hezbollah amidst rising tensions. Responding to this incident, Israeli defense minster Ehud Barak released a statement, saying that this “proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to perpetrate terror.”  (BBC 02/14)

In addition, University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole notes that Indian investigators do not believe Iran was involved in the embassy bombing, instead assuming culpability on “Indian Mujahidin,” a pro-Palestinian Sunni group responsible for staging a very similar attack against Taiwanese tourists in 2010.  Cole says that this sort of operation is unlikely to have been undertaken by Iran, since India is a crucial trading partner and one of the few remaining nations that continue Iranian oil purchases.  (Juan Cole 02/14)

Meanwhile, former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel warns that the “spy versus spy” game played by Israel against Iran and Hezbollah has the potential to cause disaster if it is not contained.  Riedel cites the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the 1982 IDF invasion of Lebanon as examples of crisis brought about by terrorist attacks and efforts of retaliation.  (Al-Monitor 02/13)

 Iran to install domestically produced fuel rods in nuclear reactor

Iranian officials have announced that tomorrow they will insert their first-domestically produced fuel rods into a nuclear research reactor in Tehran, marking significant advances in Iran’s nuclear program.  President Ahmadinejad, who previously indicated an “important” announcement would be made regarding Iran’s nuclear program, is expected to be in attendance at this event.  “Because Western countries were unwilling to help us, we began enriching uranium to 20% to make nuclear fuel rods,” stated Ali Bagheri, deputy chief of Iran’s national security council.  (RIA Novosti 02/14)

U.S. groups call upon China to support Iran sanctions

 Various American advocacy groups aiming to further isolate Iran are planning to use Vice President Xi Jinping’s upcoming U.S. trip to criticize China’s continued purchases of Iranian oil as well as call upon the next Chinese leader to work more closely with Obama on the prevention of Iranian enrichment.  One such group, the Partnership for a Secure America, submitted a letter to Jinping, urging him “to make clear that China will significantly reduce its imports of oil from Iran, uphold the applicable resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, and use its economic influence with Tehran, coupled with robust diplomacy, to help resolve this issue peacefully.”  China is currently the largest single importer of Iranian oil.   (NY Times 02/13)

Tensions emerging between Iran and Azerbaijan

Azeri officials have contested Iranian claims that Azerbaijan has been assisting Israeli Mossad’s activities against Iran by allowing MEK members to travel through Azerbaijan and onto Israel to receive training related to the recent assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.  An Azeri foreign ministry spokesman said the Iranian complaint was likely in response to Azeri diplomatic protests over last month’s alleged Iranian plot to kill Israelis in Azerbaijan.  Azerbaijan maintains friendly ties with the U.S. and Israel, while it long has had shaky relations with Iran over the ethnic Azeri minority in northern Iran.  (BBC 02/13)

Turkey to continue import of Iranian oil

Turkey has announced that it will not reduce imports of Iranian oil despite the U.S. and the EU’s robust sanctions, which have made financial transactions with Iran increasingly difficult.  Recently Turkish delegates met with Saudi officials in Riyadh to discuss the possibility of importing additional Saudi oil as a substitute for Iranian oil, but ended up ruling against the decision.  Many industry analysts believed the Riyadh talks were simply a ploy to attempt to negotiate lower prices for Iranian oil.   Turkey imports about 200,000 barrels per day of oil from Iran, consisting of 30% of daily domestic consumption.  (Reuters 02/14)

U.S. Navy: Iran prepares suicide bomb boats in Gulf

Amidst escalating tensions, Iran has built up its naval forces in the Gulf, including small submarines and fast-attack craft intended to swarm and overwhelm superior U.S. naval forces.  According to Vice Admiral Mark Fox,  “some of the small boats have been outfitted with a large warhead that could be used a suicide explosive device.”  This tactic is of particular concern to Washington, and is reminiscent of Al-Qaeda’s suicide boat attack in 2000 against the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen that resulted in the death of 17 sailors.  (Reuters 02/13)

Authorities crackdown as Iranians protest detention of opposition

Supporters of Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi organized several protests throughout Tehran to mark the anniversary of the two former politician’s arrest and call for their immediate release. Mousavi and Karoubi were arrested following an event showing support for the “Arab Spring” protests.   (BBC 02/14)

Among those advocating for their release is Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate, who released a statement saying, “I support the call [of political prisoners] and invite all freedom-loving people across the globe to do all they can for the release of prisoners of conscience in Iran.”  (ICHRI 01/ 26)

EA Worldview has reported that security forces have turned out in great numbers, and have already arrested several protestors.  Also, Iranian security forces turned off virtual private networks (VPNs), making Twitter and other social networking sites impossible to access using typical methods.  (EA Worldview 02/14)

Notable Opinon:

 In a recent piece for Foreign Policy, Harvard professor Stephen M. Walt reviews the tensions between U.S./Israel and Iran from an outsider’s perspective, and questions American and Israeli fears over Iran’s intentions and capabilities:

 “If a sensible Martian came down to Earth and looked at the saber rattling about Iran, I suspect he/she/it would be completely flummoxed. For our Martian visitor would observe two very capable states — the United States and Israel — threatening to attack a country that hardly seems worth the effort. The U.S. and Israel together spend more than $700 billion each year on their national security establishments; Iran spends about $10 billion. The U.S. and Israel have the most advanced military hardware in the world; Iran’s weapons are mostly outdated and lack spare parts. The U.S. and Israeli militaries are well-educated and very well trained; not true of Iran. The United States has thousands of nuclear weapons and Israel has several hundred, while Iran has a vast arsenal of … zero. Iran does have a nuclear enrichment program (which is the reason for all the war talk), but the most recent National Intelligence Estimates have concluded that Iran does not presently have an active nuclear weapons program. The United States has several dozen military bases in Iran’s immediate vicinity; Iran has exactly none in the Western hemisphere. The United States has powerful allies in every corner of the world; Iran’s friends include a handful of minor non-state actors like Hezbollah or minor-league potentates like Bashar al Assad (who’s not looking like an asset these days) or Hugo Chávez.”

To read the full article click here.

Additional Notable News:

China has sent an assistant foreign minister, Ma Zhaoxu, to Iran to attend two days of talks related to Iran’s nuclear program.

Khabar Online reports that a Special Currency Control Committee has decided to replace the US dollar with the Turkish lira, Japanese yen, Chinese yuan, South Korean won, Indian rupee, Russian ruble, and Euro for importers.

Iranian media are reporting that the President’s media advisor, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, will receive a six-month prison sentence for “insulting the Supreme Leader” on his personal blog.

Today, the U.S. Department of Treasury issued guidance concerning the implementation of sanctions relating to Iran’s Central Bank and other Iran-affiliated institutions.


  • 27 January 2012
  • Posted By Jacob Martin
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

News Roundup 01/27

NYTimes: Israel doubtful that military strike would result in Iranian retaliation

The New York times reports that Israeli academics and intelligence officials are skeptical of the ferocity of Iranian retaliation tactics in the case of an Israeli strike and believe that possible measures, such as shutting down the Strait of Hormuz, would cause Iran to harm itself.  This belief is based on an analysis of Iran’s interests and previous actions, as well as the many over exaggerated threats presented in the past by Iraq and Hezbollah.  “A war is no picnic,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio in November. But if Israel feels itself forced into action, the retaliation would be bearable, he said. “There will not be 100,000 dead or 10,000 dead or 1,000 dead. The state of Israel will not be destroyed.” (NY Times 01/27)

Oil industry see Iran sanctions benefitting China, hurting West

Despite sanctions, Iran will continue to sell oil at a similar volume, although the majority of exported oil will go to China.  Being one of Iran’s only remaining customers, the Chinese will be able to bargain for a significantly reduced price on oil.  The West is relying heavily on an increased output from Saudi Arabia to avoid a spike in oil prices, which would hurt an already deteriorating global economy.  (Chicago Tribune 01/27)

U.S.-Israel joint missile defense drill now slated for October 2012

The largest-ever joint missile defense drill between the U.S. and Israel has been rescheduled for this Fall after news leaked that it had been suspended.  The drill, in which several thousand U.S. military personnel will be stationed in Israel, has been perceived as a signal to the region of the U.S. and Israel’s unity and resolve regarding Iran.  Auster Challenge’s abrupt cancellation two weeks ago fueled suspicions of a rift between the two countries in their approach to Iran, though U.S. and Israeli officials insisted it was due only to technical issues.  (Business Insider 01/27) 

  • 26 January 2012
  • Posted By Jacob Martin
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 01/26

Iran unlikely to begin building nuclear weapon in 2012

 According to a report drafted by the Institute for Science and International Security, Iran is unlikely to take steps toward building a nuclear weapon in 2012 due to their inability to produce a sufficient amount of weapons-grade uranium.  According to the report, “Iran’s essential challenge remains developing a secure capability to make enough weapons-grade uranium, likely for at least several nuclear weapons.”  The effectiveness of airstrikes was also disputed by the report, which said strikes would be “unlikely to destroy Iran’s main capability,” and would allow Iran to rapidly rebuild their capabilities.  (Reuters 01/26)

IMF warns Iran sanctions could increase price of oil 20-30%

 The IMF has stated that Western financial sanctions on Iranian oil could result in a 20-30% hike in global pricing.  According to an IMF statement to the G20, “ A blockade of the Strait of Hormuz would constitute, and be perceived by markets to presage, sharply heightened global geopolitical tension involving a much larger and unprecedented disruption.”  The IMF says this shock could be significantly greater if Iran goes ahead with its threat to blockade the Straits of Hormuz.  (BBC 01/26)

U.S. Joint Chief Chairman: Talk of Military Options on Iran “Premature”

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview with National Journal, discussed his recent trip to Israel and his current thinking regarding Iran.  “I do think the path we’re on—the economic sanctions and the diplomatic pressure—does seem to me to be having an effect,” he said. “I just think that its premature to be deciding that the economic and diplomatic approach is inadequate.”

He also warned, “A conflict with Iran would be really destabilizing, and I’m not just talking from the security perspective.  It would be economically destabilizing.”  Dempsey explained the U.S. position on Iran as, “We are determined to prevent them from acquiring that weapon, but that doesn’t mean dropping bombs necessarily.  I personally believe that we should be in the business of deterring as the first priority.”  (National Journal 01/26)

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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