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  • 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

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

Iran News Roundup 02/07

New sanctions continue to weaken Iran’s middle class

According to the New York Times, sanctions and Iran’s economic decline have primarily impacted the middle class, with many in Iran increasingly unable to afford living expenses or maintain businesses that are losing clients.  “We know they want to pressure us so we rise against our government, but we are not in a position to do that,” said Murad, a waiter at a tea shop.  “The rich don’t suffer, they are protected. The truth is, we’d like to have good relations with the West. What is the point of ‘Death to the U.S.A.’? But what can we do about this?”   This ordeal has also affected Iran’s medical sector, whose diminishing supply of medicine and inability to replace aging radiological equipment have left many Iranian cancer patients unable to afford or even have access to treatment.  (NY Times 02/07)

In a piece for the Boston Review, Natasha Bahrami and Trita Parsi discuss the historical ineffectiveness of sanctions to bring about democratic change and how this message is applicable to Iran.  Parsi and Bahrami cite data collected by the Threat and Imposition of Sanctions (TIES) database, which “identifies 365 cases of partial economic embargoes, 138 implemented by the United States. Surprisingly only four of the U.S.-imposed sanctions, less than 3 percent, are designated as having achieved full acquiescence to U.S. demands.” (Boston Review 02/06)

Ahmadinejad to testify before Parliament over economic concerns

Iranian MP’s called upon President Ahmadinejad to testify before Parliament to discuss “irregularities” in his management of Iran’s weakened economy, including a recent $2.6 billion banking scandal.  Opponents of Ahmadinejad have alleged that he retains close ties to those involved in the embezzlement scheme.  This would mark the first time since the 1979 revolution that Parliament successfully forced testimony from an Iranian president.  (NY Times 02/07)

Iranians detained for links to BBC Persian

Several individuals have been detained in Iran for allegedly gathering news and information for BBC’s Persian service, which is banned by Tehran.  The BBC released a statement saying that none of BBC Persian’s staff are currently operating inside Iran.  The statement went on to say that these recent events “should be of deep concern to all those who believe in a free and independent media.”  These detentions as well as last week’s harassment of BBC Persian staff and family members are part of a greater move by Iran’s government to restrict the flow of information ahead of the March parliamentary elections.   (BBC 02/07)

House Intelligence Committee calls against pre-emptive strike on Iran

Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned today that a unilateral Israeli attack against Iran would have vast consequences for U.S. national security, which could be threatened considerably by any form of Iranian retaliation.  “If Israel does a unilateral strike, this could be a real problem for the security interests of the United States,” said Rogers in an interview on CNN.    (ABC 02/07)

Notable Opinion:

 In an op-ed in Foreign Policy, the State Department’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran, John Limbert, outlines new negotiating steps the U.S. can undertake to accomplish a meaningful diplomatic exchange with Iran:

 “A frustrated Iran is one that will lash out in all directions — at Israel, at the United States, at Britain (as in the recent attack on its embassy in Tehran), and at Saudi Arabia (as in the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States with the help of Mexican drug cartels). Nonetheless, U.S. negotiators should be careful not to overreact to every claim, every statement, and every bit of bluster coming from the harried leaders in Tehran. Iran would like Washington to dance to its tune, and it likes to show its power by provoking America into unwise reactions. In such cases, language matters, and U.S. diplomats should be measured, clear, and cautious. Let the other side rant and rave.”

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

Iranian purchasers have defaulted on payment for about 200,000 tons of rice from India, which supplies about 70% of Iran’s annual supply.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, announced opposition to any intervention in Syria, proclaiming, “We are absolutely not interfering in the internal affairs of Syria, and we consider that the interference of other countries there to be a danger to the security and stability of Syria.”

According to Mesghal, the unofficial exchange rate for the Iranian Rial vs. the US dollar is now 18650:1, a drop in almost 3% in the Iranian currency’s value today.

The price of Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose to a six-month high of more than $117 per barrel.

  • 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)

  • 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.

Iran News Roundup 01/10


Hooman Majd, Vali Nasr, Bret Stephens, and Hillary Mann Leverett discuss the effects of sanctions, the probability of negotiations, and the likelihood of war on Fareed Zakaria GPS.

Chinese foreign minister rejects Iran sanctions as Europe and Japan move forward

China’s vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai, responsible for U.S. relations, repudiated the idea of sanctioning Iranian oil. “The normal trade relations and energy cooperation between China and Iran have nothing to do with the nuclear issue,” he stated.  Cui rejected the argument that normal business dealings with the Iranian government financially supports Iran’s nuclear program. “According to this logic, if the Iranians have enough money to feed their population, then they have the ability to develop nuclear programs,” Cui told reporters. “If that is the case, should we also deny Iran the opportunity to feed its population?” (Washington Post 01/09).

These comments coincide with U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s trip to Asia seeking support from China and Japan for boosting financial pressure on Iran (WSJ 01/09). Meanwhile, Europe and Japan have moved ahead in planning for cuts in Iranian oil imports. Japan has asked Saudi Arabia and the UAE to help it make up any shortfall in case it joins the international embargo on Iranian oil (Reuters 01/10).

Iran begins uranium enrichment at Fordow site

On Monday, Iran confirmed the start of uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow nuclear plant near Qom (Huffington Post 01/09).

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, in a daily press briefing, said enrichment at the Fordow nuclear plant constitutes a “further escalation” of Iranian violations of international obligations (Christian Science Monitor 01/09).

Germany and Britain also criticized Iran’s decision. UK foreign secretary William Hague said that “If Iran has nothing to hide, it should seek every opportunity to reassure the international community of its peaceful intentions.” Germany’s foreign ministry described Iran’s decision as a “further escalation.”  (Financial Times 01/09) 

Iran reiterated, however, that all activities at the Fordow site are under the permanent supervision of the IAEA. Fordow “was declared more than two years ago and since then the agency has continuously monitored all the activities,” said Iran’s delegate to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh. “Every step we have taken so far and will take in the future has been and will be under IAEA containment and surveillance” (Business Week 01/10). Soltanieh also said that Western reactions to the news have “political purposes” (Reuters 01/10). 

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on his tour of Latin America, dismissed allegations that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon (Huffington Post 01/10).

Meanwhile, oil prices have risen to around $113 a barrel as tensions over Iran’s nuclear program increase (Reuters 01/10).

State Department condemns U.S. national’s death sentence

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned Amir Hekmati’s death sentence handed down by Iran’s Revolutionary Court. “Allegations that Amir Mirzaei Hekmati either worked for, or was sent to Iran by the CIA, are simply untrue,” said Nuland said (Think Progress 01/09).

A website has been launched in support of Amir Hekmati by his family.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has called on Iran’s Judiciary to reverse Hekmati’s death sentence.

Santorum claims principle motivation of Iran is martyrdom

GOP candidate Rick Santorum made several contested statements about Iran.  In a contention disputed by most experts, he said that Iran’s leadership is inherently irrational and suicidal, which is encouragement for Iran to use a nuclear weapon (Think Progress 01/09).  Santorum also said that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would not start a war (Thinking Progress 01/10).

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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