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  • 11 March 2013
  • Posted By Sina Toossi
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions, US-Iran War

NYT Slams AIPAC Resolutions

Two recent measures introduced in Congress received some pretty harsh criticism from the New York Times this past weekend.  The first resolution, introduced in the Senate by Democratic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, would essentially open a backdoor to war with Iran by pushing Israel to start it. The other bill will sharply ratchet up already tough sanctions imposed on Iran.

In a significant move, the New York Times ran an editorial article slamming the bills as harmful to ongoing negotiations and as making war more likely. “Last week, just as Iran and the major powers made some small progress in talks and agreed to meet again, two measures were introduced in Congress that could harm negotiations,” said the New York Times. “It could also hamper negotiations by playing into Iranian fears that America’s true intention is to promote regime change. “

It remains to be seen if this unique criticism from the New York Times will have any effect on Congress. Especially since, as the editorial notes, these bills are being promoted by AIPAC. Regardless, by taking on Congress’ latest Iran hijinks, the NYT is saying to Congress what NIAC has been saying for years: that ratcheting up sanctions and upping the war rhetoric, our elected officials in Washington are closing off political space for the Obama Administration to conduct serious diplomacy, and thereby making war more likely. The NYT piece ended with a stark message,” The best way to avert military conflict is by negotiating a credible, verifiable agreement. It is a very long shot. But Congress needs to give the talks time to play out and not make diplomatic efforts even harder.”

  • 30 January 2012
  • Posted By Sheyda Monshizadeh-Azar
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

News Roundup 01/30

Iran invites IAEA inspectors to extend visit

Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi told journalists that the three day inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency can be extended “if they desire”. Iranian officials have insisted that Iran’s quest for nuclear energy is for peaceful purposes and “the remarks appear to be part of a show of flexibility and transparency by Tehran”. (Time 01/30)

Panetta: It would take Iran 2-3 years to have deliverable nuke

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appeared on 60 minutes this past weekend and said, “the consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon.”  Panetta has previously made it clear that Iran has not decided to go forward with building a nuclear weapon and that this is the U.S. redline. (The Hill 01/30)

  • 23 January 2012
  • Posted By Sheyda Monshizadeh-Azar
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 01/23

European Union agrees to Iran oil embargo

All 27-member states have agreed to impose a ban on Iranian oil. Full implementation begins on July 1.  In response, an Iranian member of Parliament urged Iran to immediately cut off sales to the EU, in order to disrupt EU oil supply before the planned July date. (Reuters 01/23)

In addition, two other Parliamentarians again warned that Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for oil sanctions. (AP 01/23)

The price of Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 1.2% to $111.14 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the US reference, rose 1.3 per cent to $99.59 a barrel. (Financial Times 01/23)

Iranian bank Tejarat sanctioned 

The Obama administration has imposed sanctions on Iran’s third largest bank, Bank Tejarat.  All of Iran’s largest state-owned banks have now been blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury.  In addition, an affiliate, Belarus-based Trade Capital Bank, was also sanctioned. (Reuters 01/23) 

IAEA confirms visit to Iran, aims to “resolve all outstanding substantive issue” 

“The Agency team is going to Iran in a constructive spirit, and we trust that Iran will work with us in that same spirit,” Yukiya Amano, Director General of the IAEA. Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA told Reuters last week the visit would take place from January 29-31 and that his country was open to discuss “any issues” of interest for the U.N. agency. “The overall objective of the IAEA is to resolve all outstanding substantive issues,” the IAEA statement added. (Reuters 01/23)

Russia hopeful for renewed Iran talks

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that he believes there is a good chance that talks between global powers and Iran could resume, despite a planned EU oil embargo and other sources of tension.  (Reuters 01/23)

Rial Declines Sharply

Iran’s currency, the Rial, has fallen sharply to 23,000 per $1 US dollar — a 15% decline.  Gold prices have also increased significantly. (Enduring America 01/23)

Notable Opinion:

Time magazine’s Tony Karon examines the package that the U.S. is expected to offer Iran should diplomatic talks commence, and finds it unlikely to succeed:

Yahoo diplomatic correspondent Laura Rozen reported last week that insiders were suggesting  that Western powers will measure Iran’s “seriousness” in the coming talks by its willingness to halt enrichment of uranium to 20%, and turn over its existing stockpile of uranium enriched to that level.

It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to see that Iran is highly unlikely to accept a deal under which it gives Western powers something they want but leaves the latest, most damaging sanctions on Iran’s oil exports still in place, instead simply holding off on another round of UN sanctions — which are far less painful, and which the Western powers are unable to persuade Russia and China to substantially tighten.

Click here to read in full.

Other Notable News:

Muhammid Sahimi suggests that a growing rift can be seen developing in the Revolutionary Guard.

  • 20 August 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 4 Comments
  • US-Iran War

NIE to Shed Light on Iran’s Nuclear Debate

David Sanger has another story on the front page of the The New York Times today urgently alerting us that Iran is [still] at least a year away from being able to build a nuclear weapon.  If you’re like me, you’ve lost track of how many times Sanger has reported this one year timeline. But that is not the correct timeline for how long it would take Iran to build a nuclear weapon — it is the timeline for how long it would take Iran to enrich the uranium necessary for a weapon. These are not the same thing.

If Iran were to commit to building a nuclear weapon and kicked out international inspectors, it would take Iran 2-5 years to build “something that can actually create a detonation, an explosion that would be considered a nuclear weapon,” according to the Congressional testimony of General James Cartwright on April 14, 2010.  Gen. Cartwright clarified that it would take at least three years for Iran to develop a deliverable nuclear weapon.

All this is not to say Sanger’s article isn’t worth reading. In particular, this very important news is tucked away near the bottom:

The current draft of the [forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate on Iran] also describes considerable division in Iran about whether the goal of the nuclear program should be to walk right up to the threshold of building an actual bomb — which would mean having highly enriched uranium on hand, along with a workable weapons design — or simply to keep enough low-enriched uranium on hand to preserve Tehran’s options for building a weapon later.

Such a debate is telling, since it indicates that the motivation — even for the hardliners — is to acquire a nuclear capability for its value as a deterrence.

The experts know that Iran is ruled by ruthless, repressive, and rational men interested in preserving their own rule. This is well worth remembering as the debate over whether to go to war with Iran heats up in Washington. Netanyahu will continue saying Iran is an existential threat ruled by a “messianic apocalyptic cult” hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons, and neoconservatives will continue to repeat this line.

It’s not a credible argument, though. Netanyahu’s own Defense Minister has publicly said Iran is not an existential threat, and the motivations of those who are trying to convince the United States to start another war are obvious enough.  As Trita Parsi and Robert Wright have pointed out, advocates for war with Iran are now trying to frame this debate as a matter of “who should bomb Iran, not about whether Iran should be bombed.”

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2010/08/13/trita_parsi_jeffrey_goldberg/
  • 27 December 2009
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Updated: Security Forces Kill Iran Protestors

Today’s Ashura protests have turned deadly. The AP is reporting:

Security forces tried but failed to disperse protesters on a central Tehran street with tear gas, charges by baton-wielding officers and warning shots fired into the air. They then opened fire directly at protesters, killing at least three people, said witnesses and the pro-reform Web site Rah-e-Sabz. A fourth protester was shot dead on a nearby street, they said.

Witnesses said one of the victims was an elderly man who had a gunshot wound to the forehead. He was seen being carried away by opposition supporters with blood covering his face.

More than two dozen opposition supporters were injured, some of them seriously, with limbs broken from beatings, according to witnesses. There were also violent confrontations in at least three other major cities: Isfahan and Najafabad in central Iran and Shiraz in the south.

The AP has updated the story to say one of the victims is the nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi.

The close aide to Mousavi says the nephew, Ali Mousavi, died of wounds in a hospital on Sunday.

The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears of reprisals from the government.

A reformist Web site, Parlemannews.ir, also says Mousavi’s nephew was killed.

The New York Times is reporting further:

In the evening, about 50 vigilantes armed with chains, batons and pepper spray disrupted a speech by Mr. Khatami at Jamaran Mosque in Tehran, the home mosque of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

Thousands of opposition supporters converged on the neighborhood, witnesses said, and government forces fired tear gas and threatened to shoot if the protesters did not leave.

“As the number of protesters increased, the government forces quickly brought in more forces and waged a very savage attack on people,” said a witness, interviewed by telephone. “I saw a 23-year-old woman stabbed.”

Tehran Bureau adds the Basij interrupted Khatami’s speech after he began drawing parallels between the opposition movement and the martyrdom of Imam Hossein. The NYT’s The Lede has the video.

Update: There are reports from opposition websites that another four protestors were killed in Tabriz.

Student Day Protests Met With Violence

Today protesters demonstrated against the Iranian government on what marks National Student Day, which commemorates the death of three students protesting the Shah in 1953.  The Green Movement took to the streets en masse once again and faced a violent response from authorities. There have been reports of police and the Basij striking protesters with batons, the use of stun guns and tear gas on the crowds, and as yet unconfirmed reports of gunfire used for dispersal heard in police clashes. Telecommunications have been severely diminished in the country as authorities have cut down internet services and network signals in Iran as well as banned international news coverage of the demonstrations taking place today. Raw footage of the events can be seen via YouTube.

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.

Nuclear deal drafted Wednesday, signatures due Friday

An agreement calling for Iran to send its domestically-produced low-enriched uranium abroad for further enrichment and then have it returned for medical use (what is being called by some the “elegant solution”) was accepted by negotiators in Wednesday’s negotiations in Vienna. Friday is the current deadline for delegations from France, Russia, the US, and Iran to sign it.

Mohamed ElBaradei called the development “a balanced approach to the problem.”

David Sanger wrote about concerns regarding the timing of uranium shipments:

NYT: “If Iran actually sends the low-enriched uranium to Russia in a single shipment, as the draft document states, it would have too little fuel on hand to build a nuclear weapon for roughly a year, according to the agency’s experts. If the fuel leaves Iran in batches, the experts warn, Iran would have the ability to replace it almost as quickly as it leaves the country.”

Julian Borger of the UK’s Guardian also wrote an article on the nuclear deal and a blog post based on discussions with a diplomat involved in the negotiations which addresses the timing of shipments. He writes:

“The fuel would be sent by the end of the year, and sent out in bulk, not in small parcels.”

He has also recently added new information on the possible deal:

Update: some more details. 1200 kg of Iranian LEU (just under three quarters of the present stockpile) would be shipped by the end of the year. The four signatories of the deal would be Iran, Russia, France and the IAEA, not the US (as stated in earlier reports). France’s role in fuel fabrication would be presented as optional, as a way of soothing Iranian sensitivities over past uranium deals with France that went sour.

The draft is a significant step forward in talks and a good reason for hawks to reign in sanctions rhetoric, much less talk of the military option for a while longer. Incidentally, and on a completely unrelated note…don’ t miss AEI’s event: “Should Israel Attack Iran?” this Friday.

  • 30 September 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 0 Comments
  • UN, Uncategorized

“IAEA: Iran broke law by not revealing nuclear facility”

In a statement made to CNN-IBN, Mohamed El Baradei said of the recently revealed nuclear facility in Iran near Qom:

“Iran was supposed to inform us on the day it was decided to construct the facility. They have not done that. They are saying that this was meant to be a back-up facility in case we were attacked and so they could not tell us earlier on.”

“Nonetheless, they have been on the wrong side of the law, you know in so far as informing the agency about the construction and as you have seen it, it has created concern in the international community.”

The size of the facility appears to be inconsistent with the contention that it is for an exclusively civilian nuclear program. It is thought to be capable of housing 3,000 centrifuges according to the IAEA (4300 according to ACW)–potentially enough for manufacturing material for weapons use, but insufficient to power a reactor.

El Baradei, however, also stated:

“Whether they have done some weaponization studies as was claimed is still an outstanding issue. But I have not seen any credible evidence to suggest that Iran has an ongoing nuclear program today.”

In March 2007, Iran unilaterally withdrew from obligations under their subsidiary agreement to their NPT safeguards. The IAEA contested Iran’s withdrawal as illegal, but also said this:

Given the fact that Article 42 [of Iran’s Safeguards Agreement] is broadly phrased and that the old version of Code 3.1 had been accepted as complying with the requirements of this Article for some 22 years prior to the Board’s decision in 1992 to modify it as indicated above, it is difficult to conclude that providing information in accordance with the earlier formulation in itself constitutes non-compliance with, or a breach of, the [NPT-related] Safeguards Agreement as such.

In any case, the existence of an undeclared nuclear facility near Qom is the opposite of what Iran has needed to do for some time: build confidence in its negotiating partners that it is not seeking a weapon.

  • 29 September 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth, Uncategorized

Students at Tehran’s Sharif University Protest Science Minister’s Visit

Today at Tehran’s Sharif University, students protested the visit of Science Minister Kamran Daneshjou, (whom we’ve reported on extensively, and who was appointed with the new Ahmadinejad cabinet). (see video in earlier post). It is the second demonstration at a major university in two days, showing the persistence and resolve of the green movement in the face of government intimidation.  Student Advarnews is cited as a source for reports of the protests in the New York times.  Previous demonstrations include one on Sunday against Parliament member Gholam Ali Hadad Adel’s speech and another on Monday which forced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to cancel a scheduled appearance.

Radio Liberty reports chants of “Death to the Dictator” and “Political Prisoners Must Be Released” heard among the hundreds at the anti-government demonstration.

Students also expressed support for Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, Ayatollah Yusef Sanei, and opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Moussavi who have spoken out against the government’s postelection clampdown on Iranian civil society protest.

The New York Times reports:

“Student leaders do not have a formal presence,” said Ali Afshari, a former student leader who is currently in Washington and is still in touch with students in Iran. “They have all been summoned and threatened. But the frustration is very widespread and the government can only shut down the universities if it wants to stop the protests.”

The protest movement, which has produced some of the nation’s worst unrest in 30 years, emerged as a response to a widespread belief that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had falsified election results in his favor. Universities have often been the site of protests, partly because of a student pro-democracy network, the Office for Consolidating Unity, and a law that bans police officers from entering the campus.

The Office for Consolidating Unity, which once had offices on nearly every campus but has been decimated by government pressure since Mr. Ahmadinejad took power in 2004, issued a statement on Tuesday saying the protest movement was a result of years of frustration with the government and that the students would remain part of it. The statement urged students to refrain from violence and pursue their demands in a “peaceful and civil” manner.

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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