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  • 19 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
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  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: 19 June 2012

Moscow Talks Concludes

Talks concluded today with the parties agreeing to an “early follow-on technical-level meeting” in Istanbul on July 3rd, to be followed by a meeting at the deputy-level between the EU and Iran (Reuters 6/19). EU representative Catherine Ashton said the P5+1 remains “absolutely unified in seeking a swift diplomatic resolution to international concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program, based on the NPT and the full implementation by Iran of UNSC and IAEA Board of Governors Resolutions” (Consilium Europa 6/19). Iran’s representative, Saeed Jalili, added that the Moscow talks were, “more serious, more realistic and way beyond just expressing the viewpoints and positions” (NYT 6/19). Iran left the talks without any assurances of a delay or alleviation of sanctions (NYT 6/19). Oil prices rose on the news (Bloomberg 6/19).

Yesterday, Iran emphasized on Monday that sanctions relief must be provided if Iran is expected to curb its nuclear activities (Salon 6/18). Using a PowerPoint presentation, Jalili laid out a detailed account of Iran’s five point proposal (The Guardian 6/18). NIAC’s statement on the talks can be found here.

Ahmadinejad Sends Message to the West

On his presidential website, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has posted: “’From the beginning the Islamic Republic has stated that if European countries provided 20 percent enriched fuel for Iran, it would not enrich to this level’” (Reuters 6/18).

U.S. Fed Up with MEK Intransigence on Camp Ashraf

The U.S. urged the Mujehedin-e Khalq (MEK) to abandon the paramilitary base it set up under Saddam Hussein, Camp Ashraf, warning that failure to do so would diminish the likelihood that it would succeed in its lobbying campaign to be removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland emphasized that the paramilitary’s base’s closure “is a key factor in determining whether the organization remains invested in its violent past or is committed to leaving that past behind”  (State Dept. 6/18).  An unnamed US official additional said, “We believe that they are gravely mistaken to think that any conceivable Iraqi government would in fact allow them to remain as a paramilitary organization in Iraq” (Reuters 6/18).

Romney: U.S. cannot survive a nuclear Iran

As conservatives in Congress press for confrontation with Iran, presidential candidate Mitt Romney argued, “We cannot survive a- a course of action which would include a nuclear Iran.”  Romney further stated that an attack on Iran would not require Congressional approval (The Washington Post 6/18).

Escalating Sanctions

Iranian banks Pasargad and Bank Tejerat have applied to the Turkish banking watchdog for licenses to operate in Turkey to avoid sanctions on bank transactions with Iran, demonstrating the strain on Iranian banks as a result of political pressure (Reuters 6/18). Turkey has cut its oil imports from Iran from 210,000 bpd to 140,000 bpd in the first four months of this year (Reuters 6/18).

Germany’s Germanischer Lloyd has stopped verifying safety and environmental standards for Iranian companies, making it more difficult for Iranian ships to call at international ports (Reuters 6/18).

An American citizen was turned away from an Apple store after she spoke Farsi with her uncle (WSBTV Atlanta 6/18). The store manager justified the action by explaining the store’s policy was merely complying with US sanctions against Iran, which make the sale of Apple goods to Iran illegal (WSBTV Atlanta 6/18).

Analysis: “MEK Working Through Senate to Sabotage Iran Diplomacy”

Affiliates of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, are claiming to be behind a major letter from the Senate aimed at curtailing U.S. diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear dispute.

The letter, sent last week by forty-four Senators, calls for President Obama to abandon any further diplomatic efforts with Iran unless stringent preconditions are immediately met.   While many assumed that the prominent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobby was behind the letter, MEK-affiliates are now taking some of the public credit.

The lead author of the letter, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), enjoys ties to the Iranian-American Cultural Association of Missouri, an MEK-affiliate that released a statement supporting the letter. (NIAC 6/19)

  • 18 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
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  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: 18 June 2012

Talks Resume in Moscow

In what Reuters calls a “nervous atmosphere,” talks between the P5+1 and Iran resumed today in Moscow. A western diplomat said, “Ashton is willing to stay in Moscow as long as it takes,” although the climate inside the meetings was “tense and tough,” according to another unnamed Western source (Al-Monitor 6/18Reuters 6/17).

Talks are set to resume Tuesday (Al-Monitor 6/18Reuters 6/17). Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief negotiator, has said Iran’s right to enrichment should be “’recognized and respected,’” while Western concerns for Iran’s nuclear program have remained high (Reuters 6/17). According to an Iranian diplomat, Iranians had three priorities going into this morning’s meetings: to criticize western negotiators for refusing Iranian requests for a preparatory meeting before the Moscow talks, to give a detailed response to all the points in a confidence building proposal put forward by the P5+1 in Baghdad, and to give the P5+1 a more detailed run-through of its five-pont plan (Al-Monitor 6/18).

Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview ahead of talks in Moscow by saying: “’The problem is the following: If we would say only economic sanctions [will be imposed], then the Iranians will say OK, we will wait until it will be over. Now what the Americans and Europeans and Israelis are saying is if you won’t answer the economic challenge, all other options are on the table. It will not end there. Without that, there is no chance that the sanctions will [work]’” (Slate Magazine 6/15). When asked about his opinion of using military action against Iran, Peres emphasized the Iranians must see the threat of US military intervention as credible (Slate Magazine 6/15).

In response to Israeli concerns that the Iranians are merely buying time, an unnamed western official told The Guardian, “’The notion that Iran is playing for time and we’re playing for time is wrong. We have a sense of urgency. We’ve communicated this to the Iranians, and what we’re hoping is that their calculus will be affected by the bite of these sanctions’” (Huffington Post 6/17; The Guardian 6/17).

  • 14 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
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Iran News Roundup: June 14, 2012

US-Russia Strain over Iran’s Role in Syria

Russia and Iran, strong allies of Syria, allege the US has sent weapons and troops into Syria to assist opposition forces (NYT 6/13). The claims were denied and countered by US accusations that Russia supplies Syrian opposition groups with helicopter gunships, an allegation denied by the Russian government (NYT). Secretary Clinton spoke to the deteriorating situation in Syria, saying, “’We believe that the situation is spiraling toward civil war’” (Philadelphia Inquirer 6/14). Alluding presumably to the US, Salehi criticized American policy saying, “’They say they want to prevent massacres but at the same time send weapons — these are double standards’” (NYT 6/13).

Lead -up to Talks

Saeed Jalili, Iranian negotiator to the P5+1 talks has announced Iran would not compromise on its right to enrich uranium in a speech to the Iranian parliament that was broadcast throughout the country (WSJ 6/13). The broadcast suggested a “hardening” of the Iranian stance going into negotiations in Moscow (WSJ). Dr. Charles G. Cogan of Harvard’s Kennedy School criticizes the high levels of distrust between the US and Iran approaching talks in a recent op-ed, saying that, “there is very little chance under present circumstances of the above solution being realized,” and that perhaps an intermediary would be necessary for productive discourse to take place (Huffington Post 6/13).

UK and Iranian foreign ministers met in Kabul for the first time since the storming of the UK embassy in Tehran last year to discuss the upcoming talks in Moscow (Reuters 6/14). The storming of the embassy and the disintegration of relations thereafter was acknowledged during the meeting (Reuters).

Coping with Sanctions

Japanese legislation set to pass the lower Japanese legislative house on Friday would provide government guarantees on insurance for Iranian crude cargoes (Reuters 6/14). Japan has lowered oil imports to comply with US sanctions, but it will be the first country to have endorsed insurance for Iranian crude cargoes, despite EU sanctions (Reuters).

Rostam Ghazemi, Iran’s oil minister, continues to deny sanctions are squeezing the Iranian economy, saying the “oil embargo will ‘not have any negative impact on Iran’”, even as Ghazemi meets with other OPEC leaders in Vienna today to argue for a tightening of OPEC’s production ceiling and higher oil prices (AP 6/14; Bloomberg 6/14).

  • 13 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
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Iran News Roundup: June 13, 2012

IEA: Iran’s Oil Exports Fall 40%

The International Energy Agency reported Iran’s oil exports have fallen approximately 40% since the start of the year, from 2.5 million barrels a day to 1.5 million barrels per day, as a result of sanctions (Chicago Tribune 6/13). Reuters estimates Iran has lost $35 billion in oil revenue this year due to sanctions and falling oil prices (Reuters 6/13).

The International Energy Agency “expects Iran’s exports to fall by another third,” creating “major upside risk for oil prices” (Reuters 6/13).

Iran Stockpiling Excess Oil

The International Energy Agency reports about 17 supertankers and seven Suezmaxes are holding crude “while another estimated 25 million barrels are being kept in onshore tanks,” citing information from unnamed shipping analysts (Bloomberg (6/13). Iranian production has yet to slow to meet lower export levels, causing Iran to stockpile the surplus (Reuters UK 6/13/12). Persian news sources claim that new storage facilities will be constructed to handle the surplus (Bernama 6/13).

Preparations for Moscow Talks

Former IAEA deputy director general Pierre Goldschmidt has proposed offering Iran a “grace period” to disclose details of any past nuclear weaponization activities to the IAEA to lay the groundwork for enhanced cooperation with the IAEA (Al-Monitor 6/13). “Without such a grace period, it is unlikely that Iran would fully cooperate with the IAEA or voluntarily declare any past violations,” Goldschmidt wrote.

  • 12 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
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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)

  • 11 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
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  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Round Up: June 11, 2012

Recap from Last Week:

After IAEA inspectors and Iranian negotiators failed to reach an agreement in Vienna last week, doubts have surfaced that suggest that talks between the P5+1 and Iran scheduled for next week might fall through. (ABC News 6/10/12) An Iranian negotiator stated Sunday that the talks could stall as a result of “faulty preparation”. This comment comes only days after representative from the P5+1 insisted that further preparatory talks weren’t necessary in response to an Iranian complaint that an agenda had not been finalized for the upcoming talks. (The Guardian 6/7/12) The P5+1 is apparently united in its goal of halting Iran’s enrichment at 20%.  Ahmadinejad said the parties must explain what concessions they will provide in exchange for such an Iranian concession. (ABC News 6/10/12)

IAEA Inspections:

US-Iranian relations were over the weekend further agitated when reports by the UN nuclear watchdog surfaced claiming that Iran had demolished buildings at the Parchin military base in an alleged attempt to cover up nuclear testing. (Boston Globe 6/11/12) Iranian officials have denied the reports, calling the allegations “irrelevant and unwise”. The IAEA claims that satellite images reveal “a cleanup of the site, saying the photos depicted water streaming out of one building, the razing of several other buildings and removal of earth at the facility.” (The Times of Israel, 6/11/12; Boston Globe 6/11/12) Iran maintains that Parchin is a “conventional military base”. Additionally, despite failed talks last week, Ali Asghar Soltanieh said that Iran would “not block assess of the IAEA inspectors to Parchin, ‘if both Iran and the agency reach an agreement on the modality of a visit”. (Boston Globe 6/11/12)

IPS published an article suggesting that the “sanitized” site is merely part of a ploy by Iran to gain more bargaining power in Moscow. The article claims, “the activities shown in those satellite images show activities appear to be aimed at prompting the IAEA, the United States and Israel to give greater urgency and importance to a request for an IAEA inspection visit to Parchin in the context of negotiations between Iran and the IAEA”. (IPS 6/8/12)

  • 8 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
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  • NIAC round-up

Iran New Round-Up: June 8, 2012

IAEA and Iran fail to reach a deal ahead of political talks in Moscow, Where U.S. May “Go Big”

The United Nations nuclear watchdog has been working to broker an action plan to provide access to restricted sites, namely the Parchin facility, where there are suspicions Iran conducted conventional high-explosive tests ten years ago that may have had nuclear applications.  After an inconclusive eight hour meeting today, no agreement was set and there is no date set for future talks.  These results have cast a shadow on prospects for the P5+1 talks in Moscow later this month. (CNBC, 6/8/12)  There was skepticism an agreement could be struck at the technical level with the IAEA before political talks in Moscow scheduled for June 18 between the P5+1 and Iran. (NYT, 6/8/12)

A recent leak of letters between the P5+1 AND Iran ahead of talks in Moscow suggests continued differences and a common reluctance to compromise. One letter shows an Iranian interest in assembling a meeting of experts ahead of the talks to solidify an agenda, to which EU leaders responded no further preliminary talks were necessary, because their goals for the talks hadn’t changed. (Washington Post, 6/8/12)

Meanwhile, is a growing number of experts  suggest an incremental deal with Iran would not be successful, instead suggesting a “Go big” strategy is the only real option. Israeli fears and lack of confidence are contributing to the potential instability that an temporary solution would not encourage a reconvening nations anytime soon. (Al-Monitor, 6/7/12)

Notable Opinions

– Consequences of an Israeli strike: Colin Kahl, the former top Middle East policymaker at the Pentagon, and his colleagues summarize their recent CNAS report in Foreign Policy, Red Red Lines“:

Given the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the option of using force should remain on the table. But the high risks and uncertain rewards mean it should be employed only if: (1) all nonmilitary options have been exhausted; (2) Iran has made a clear move toward weaponization; (3) there is a reasonable expectation that a strike would significantly set back Iran’s program; and (4) a sufficiently large international coalition is available first to help manage the destabilizing consequences of the strike and then to contain Iran and hinder it from rebuilding its nuclear program.

Today, a unilateral Israeli strike would not satisfy any of these criteria.

Read the full article at Foreign Policy.

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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