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Topic: Iran (Read 187985 times)
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Reply #350 on:
July 26, 2010, 10:56:38 PM »
The Brothel Named Iran
Pajamas Media/Faster Please/ ^ | July 26, 2010 | Michael Ledeen
I’ll bet you haven’t seen very much news about Iran during the past week or 10 days, have you? And yet there’s lots of news:
–first of all, there is still no end to the bazaar strike, even though the regime has taken very violent action against the strikers. A large part of the beautiful bazaar in Kerman has been torched ( for that matter, regime thugs have taken to setting ablaze large sections of forest land in the region. Nor will the bazaar strikes end soon, since this week marks religious celebrations that traditionally close the bazaars all over the country;
– the major natural gas pipeline between Iran and Turkey was sabotaged. Enormous damage was done, and the authorities have no estimate as to how long it will be until repair work is finished. Meanwhile the two countries announced plans for a brand-new pipeline;
– Saturday – Sunday night there was a serious fire at the old petrochemical plant on Kharq island. That island is very important to Iran, because it is at once the central point from which Iranian crude oil is exported, and one end of the major pipeline that carries crude and refined products to the mainland. So anything that goes wrong there has immediate consequences both for the national economy and for daily life;
– you may recall that a bit over a week ago, amidst the continuing strikes at major bazaars around the country, there was a double suicide terrorist attack against the mosque in Zahedan, killing nearly 30 revolutionary guards. That unhappy city is still in a state of virtual military occupation, of the most brutal variety. Innocent civilians have been gunned down for the crime of walking at night, and plainclothes killers have gone door to door among the homes of bazaar shopkeepers, and killing anyone who answers the bell. Here’s an exceptionally well written report:
The IRI kills the Rigi brothers, a few weeks apart, without proper trial, without even considering the possibility that giving Rigi a death penalty together with a pardon and a life term in prison, will have served the country far better than his death. The IRI is behaving like a savage barbarian; one matching the rogue elements of Jundollah; primitive, uncultured, mercurial!
So Jundollah sends suicide bombers and IRI sends thugs to the streets of Zahedan, the city of kind people, open minded people, mountain and desert people, city of smuggled goodies, city of white Sunni mosques, and dusty parks. The thugs, (the) report says, have been kniving people. These knife thrusters would be of the same ilk that was unleashed on Tehranis in Ashura: they are most likely Ahmadinejad’s products from the “rehabilitation program” that found “convicted criminals” a useful job in the society.
According to local observers, these knife-pushers are the worst of all: they seem to target Balouchis randomly, and beat them up for no reason–further fueling the ethnic resentments and convictions that the Balouch are discriminated against.
– It has been a very hot summer, and the electrical grid in and around Tehran has given up the ghost many times, especially in recent weeks. Not only have citizens suddenly found their lights and air conditioning out-sometimes for half the day or night–but the two big automobile factories have already reduced production by one full shift a day. The president has publicly blamed the problem on foreigners, as is his wont, but his problems are local;
– as the regime increasingly wages war against itself, the comings and goings of seemingly powerful people have become almost impossible to sort out. There have been repeated purges in the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards, and the supreme commander, Gen. Jafari, has now publicly stated that many senior officers had actively sided with the opposition. Why then, the general was asked, had he not punished them properly (with torture and death)? His answer was telling: it’s better to convince them of the error of their ways.
This is a surprising answer, to be sure, but after all it is the same answer that the supreme leader has implicitly given to the much asked question: why have you not properly punished the leaders of the Green Movement, Mousavi and Karroubi? In both cases, the regime is afraid to move decisively against their opponents. Khamenei & Co. are real tough guys when it comes to torturing and killing students, political activists, homosexuals, Bahais, Christians and women. But even when it comes to their favorite targets — the women — they retreat in the face of strong protests, as in the recent case when they suspended the stoning of a poor woman unfairly accused of adultery. Her plight has attracted international attention, and the regime backed off.
Yeah, surprising answers abound in Iran these days, even when nobody asked the question. For example, Ahmadinejad seems to have lost his official theologian.
Hojattoleslam Mohammad Nasser Saghay Biria, President Ahmadinejad’s Advisor on Religious Affairs, has resigned his post in what his close associates are describing as a protest against Ahmadinejad’s alleged un-Islamic views on requirements for women to wear veil and conform to strict Islamic dress code. Ahmadinejad has not yet accepted Saghay’s resignation.
Saghay Biria is a disciple of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi.
That last line should get your attention, because the Ayatollah in question is generally considered to be the leading light in the cult of the 12th Imam, the little boy who had been destined become the leader of Islam, but have to hide from his would-be killers some 900 years ago, and whose return would mark the End of Days. Mesbah Yazdi is said to be Ahmadinejad’s guru, so why is his disciple walking out on the president? Your guess is as good as mine, but whatever it means, it is another signpost along the death spiral of the Islamic Republic.
Rulers of the Islamic Republic are looking more and more like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, and Banafsheh uncovered a document that should cause them considerable embarrassment. It’s a flyer, recruiting virgin women for prostitution in a brothel located in the holiest site of one of the two holiest cities in Iran: the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashad. You might wish to read the whole thing—it includes going rates—but here’s the essence of it:
In order to elevate the spiritual atmosphere, create proper psychological conditions and tranquility of mind, the Province of the Quds’eh-Razavi of Khorassan has created centers for temporary marriage (just next door to the shrine) for those brothers who are on pilgrimage to the shrine of our eighth Imam, Imam Reza, and who are far away from their spouses.
To that end, we call on all our sisters who are virgins, who are between the ages of 12 and 35 to cooperate with us.
It’s a religious thing, you see.
To me, this is a perfect symbol of the Islamic Republic: even the holiest places have been corrupted and turned into brothels and charnel houses. Degradation is the common denominator of Iranian life, and the women, starting at age 12, are its most common victims.
Reply #351 on:
July 27, 2010, 10:22:41 AM »
It certainly seems that it is all political that we are starting to hear NOW rumors of war with Iran before the election with sagged poll numbers.
Better to change the subject when your domestic ideology is not popular before an election, eh?
This is not just cynical. It is just connecting the dots.
Reply #352 on:
August 16, 2010, 11:48:47 AM »
Window to bomb Iran is nearly closed. Once the Iranians start the nuclear power plant they could get 50 bombs. Bombing after the plant is up and running would result in radiation leakage all over the place and an even greater PR and collateral damage disaster. Ballgame is almost over if he is right. Iran went nuc and we did nothing. We are weak and our enemies know it.
****War in the Mideast? Israel may be forced to strike Iran
By DonPublished: August 14, 2010
Posted in: Iran, Nuclear Weapons
Tags: Iran, Israel, Nuclear Weapons
Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolten told Fox News on Friday that Russia will be loading Iran’s Bushehr reactor with nuclear fuel rods on August 21st. This makes the window of opportunity for a military strike on that facility very narrow, for if attacked after the fuel rods are loaded, then radiation could spread in the air and into the Persian Gulf.
News that Russia will load nuclear fuel rods into an Iranian reactor has touched off a countdown to a point of no return, a deadline by which Israel would have to launch an attack on Iran’s Bushehr reactor before it becomes effectively “immune” to any assault, says former Bush administration U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton.
Once the fuel rods are loaded, Bolton told Fox News on Friday afternoon, “it makes it essentially immune from attack by Israel. Because once the rods are in the reactor an attack on the reactor risks spreading radiation in the air, and perhaps into the water of the Persian Gulf.”
In March of this year, Russian President, Vladmir Putin announced that Russia would be fueling the Bushehr facility this summer. Understandably, this was big news in Israel, but the MSM in America predictably shied away from the story.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declared in March that Russia would start the Bushehr reactor this summer. But the announcement from a spokesman for Russia’s state atomic agency to Reuters Friday sent international diplomats scrambling to head off a crisis.
The story immediately became front-page news in Israel, which has laid precise plans to carry out an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities while going along with President Obama’s plans to use international sanctions and diplomatic persuasion to convince Iran’s clerics not to go nuclear.
But as I said, the Israelis will have to take action before the facility is fueled.
Bolton made it clear that it is widely assumed that any Israeli attack on the Bushehr reactor must take place before the reactor is loaded with fuel rods.
“If they’re going to do it that’s the window that they have,” Bolton declared. “Otherwise as I said before, once the rods are in the reactor, if you attack the reactor you’re going to open it up and radiation will escape at least into the atmosphere and possibly into the waters of the Persian Gulf.
“So most people think that neither Israel nor the United States, come to that, would attack the reactor after it’s been fueled.”
Bolton cited the 1981 Israeli attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor outside Baghdad and the September 2007 Israeli attack on a North Korean reactor being built in Syria. Both of those strikes came before fuel rods were loaded into those reactors.
“So if it’s going to happen in Bushehr it has to happen before the fuel rods go in,” Bolton said.
Even though the Iranians claim that Bushehr will be a nuclear energy facility, once it is operational, it will have the ability to produce the materials needed for nuclear weapons.
According to Bolton, once the reactor is operational, it is only a matter of time before it begins producing plutonium that could be used in a nuclear weapon.
“And in the normal operation of this reactor, in just a fairly short period of time, you could get substantial amounts of plutonium to use as nuclear weapons,” Bolton told Fox.
The Obama administration has been trying to use diplomacy and sanctions to keep the Iranians from going nuclear. This means that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s back is against the wall on this one. As John Bolten points out:
Russia, which is operating under a $1 billion contract with Iran, has spent more than a decade building the reactor. If Russia moves forward with its plan to fuel the reactor, it could be seen as a major setback to the Obama administration’s strategy of engaging Russian leaders in order to win their cooperation.
“The U.S. urged them not to send the Iranian’s fuel rods,” Bolton said. “They did that. The Obama administration has urged them not to insert the fuel rods in the reactors, but as they’ve just announced that will begin next week. What that does over time is help Iran get another route to nuclear weapons through the plutonium they could reprocess out of the spent fuel rods.”
The developments mean Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon may face a stark choice: Attack the Bushehr reactor in the next 8 days, or allow it to become operational despite the certainty it would greatly enhance Iran’s ability to create nuclear weapons.
This has been going on for the last decade, in fact in the Bush years no harsh steps were taken either in the mistaken idea that Iran should be allowed to have nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The flaw in this theory is that Iran will not hesitate to use such “peaceful” nuclear energy to produce the materials for atomic weapons.
Bolton said the reactor has been “a hole” in American foreign policy for over a decade.
The failure to demand it be shut down began in the Bush years, he said, and continues with the Obama administration “under what I believe is the mistaken theory that Iran is entitled to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
“I don’t think Iran is entitled to that, or I don’t think we ought to allow it to happen, because they’re manifestly violating any number of obligations under the non-proliferation treaty not to seek nuclear weapons. But this has been a hole in American policy for some number of years, and Iran and Russia are obviously exploiting it,” Bolton said.
Russia’s move would put Iran “in a much better position overall,” he said, adding, “I think this is a very delicate point, as I say, it closes off to the Israelis one possible target for pre-emptive military action.
U.N. sanctions against Iran, he said, “have not had and will not have any material effect on Iran’s push to have deliverable nuclear weapons.”
In this humble contributor’s opinion, the time for half hearted sanctions and toothless diplomacy are over. The only thing that Iran will respect is strength and unfortunately this administration is not up to the task of showing any strength anytime soon.****
Reply #353 on:
August 17, 2010, 01:01:04 PM »
Bolton's opinion made front of Drudge today. We all remember Amhadinajad saying how Israel's time is coming to an end.
I would like to hear Bamster's response,
and not BS like, "let me be clear", or "top priority".
To all my fellow liberal Jews who support Bamster,
"you may get what you asked for". Fools.
I can only hope Bolton is wrong, not privey to more information, there will be a strike, or a miracle like a regime change.
Reply #354 on:
August 20, 2010, 04:18:45 PM »
"President Barack Obama's top adviser on nuclear issues, Gary Samore, told The New York Times that he thinks it would take Iran "roughly a year" to turn low-enriched uranium into weapons-grade material. The assessment was reportedly shared with Israel and could ease concerns over the possibility of an imminent Israeli military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities"
Well this certainly does not address John Bolten's concern about once the reactor is working, then to bomb it would result in release to atmosphere of radiation increasing collateral damage and making it even harder to justify bombing.
In truth the only answer for Israel is to use nucs and wipe out Iran period. Crazy? Yes and No.
Otherwise they will always just be delaying the inevitable or some sort of retaliation.
Reply #355 on:
September 14, 2010, 12:49:26 PM »
The Iranian government has reversed its decision several times on whether to release Sarah Shourd, the U.S. woman being held in Iran on suspicion of espionage. The latest move is a demand for $500,000 bail to release Shourd — a decision that likely has more to do with the intensifying internal struggle within Iran’s political establishment than with U.S.-Iranian relations. In recent months, it has become unclear that Tehran is unified enough to negotiate meaningfully with Washington on key contentious subjects like the balance of power in Iraq after the U.S. withdrawal, Iran’s nuclear program and Afghanistan.
The attorney for 32-year-old Sarah Shourd, one of three U.S. citizens who has been in Iranian custody for more than a year on suspicion of espionage, on Sept. 13 said her family is asking Tehran to drop a demand for $500,000 bail. The demand came after Iranian judicial authorities canceled plans to release her Sept. 11. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s conservative opponents have publicly opposed his government’s move to release Shourd — a gesture on Ahmadinejad’s part to facilitate talks with the United States ahead of his trip to New York later in September.
The Shourd issue is just the latest manifestation of the internal struggle within the Islamic republic’s political establishment. In recent weeks, the Iranian media have been replete with statements from pragmatists opposed to Ahmadinejad and even from his fellow ultraconservatives (who supported him until last year) criticizing several of his foreign policy decisions. These include the decision to appoint special envoys to various regions, his calls for negotiations with the United States and his willingness to compromise on swapping enriched uranium. Clearly, the infighting has reached the point where the president’s opponents are aggressively targeting his efforts to execute foreign policy.
STRATFOR has chronicled the growing intra-conservative rift in Tehran since before the presidential election in June 2009. Although the Ahmadinejad government and its allies within the clerical and security establishment effectively defeated the reformist challenge from the street, the Green Movement, the rifts among the conservatives have only worsened. The old dichotomy between the Ahmadinejad-led ultraconservatives and the pragmatic conservatives led by the regime’s second-most influential cleric, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is inadequate to describe the growing complexity of the struggle.
A key reason for the growing rifts is that Ahmadinejad — despite his reputation as a hard-liner — has increasingly assumed the pragmatist mantle, especially with his calls to the Obama administration to negotiate a settlement with his government. This has turned many of his fellow hard-liners against him, giving the more moderate conservatives like Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani an opening to exploit and thus weaken the president. The situation is serious enough that it has offset the day-to-day balancing act among the various factions that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been engaged in for decades.
The situation is exemplified in the open disagreement between the executive and legislative branches. A special committee within the Guardian Council was formed in late August to mediate between the two sides. The Rafsanjani-led Expediency Council was created in 1989 to settle disputes among various state organs. That an ad hoc special committee was created under the supervision of the Guardian Council (which vets individuals for public office and has oversight over legislation) to mediate this dispute shows the extent of the problems the Iranians are having in mitigating internal disagreements.
Just as the disagreements in Tehran are no longer between two rival camps, they also are not limited to one institution disputing another, as elements from both sides are within each institution. Guardians Council chief Ahmad Jannati, a powerful cleric who played a key role in Ahmadinejad’s ability to secure a second term, criticized the president for trying to prevent security forces from enforcing the female dress code in public. Likewise, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, Chief of the Joint Staff Command of the Armed Forces — to whom Ahmadinejad is close — referred to a call by Ahmadinejad’s most trusted aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, to promote Iranian nationalism over Islamic solidarity as “deviant.” In response, Mashaie threatened to sue the general sitting at the apex of Iran’s military establishment. Perhaps most damaging for Ahmadinejad is that his own ideological mentor, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, also criticized the president’s top aide, warning about a “new sedition” on the part of “value-abiding” forces — a reference to the president and his supporters. Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, has strongly supported his chief of staff (who is also his closest friend and relative), saying he has complete trust in him.
In the midst of all this, the supreme leader is trying to arbitrate between the warring factions but fears that Ahmadinejad could be trying to undermine him. Thus, Khamenei cannot support Ahmadinejad as he did during the post-election crisis of 2009, yet he cannot act against the president because doing so would undermine the stability of Iran’s political system at a critical time for several foreign policy issues — Iraq, the nuclear dispute and Afghanistan, among others.
At this stage, then, the outcome of this increasing factionalization is unclear. What is clear is that the Shourd case is only one small disagreement in the midst of a much larger rift. The battling Iranian factions could reach a compromise on this particular matter, but the accelerating domestic disputes in Tehran make it very difficult for the United States to negotiate with Iran on the host of strategic issues the two are struggling over.
Ahmadinejad feels that if he is able to clinch a deal of sorts with the United States from a position of relative strength, it could help him deal effectively with the domestic challenge to his power. Conversely, his allies are determined to prevent that from happening, as is clear from the statements against negotiating with Washington. At the very least, this public struggle is helping the ultraconservatives, the military and those who are the most opposed to talks with the United States
War with Iran may have already started
Reply #356 on:
September 25, 2010, 10:17:18 AM »
While listening to Savage yesterday he mentioned a computer attack may have already started closing down some of Irans nuclear sites. I looked this up. I never thought of possibly stopping them this way.
***Is a Cyber Attack Targeting Iran's Nuclear Plant?
Published September 23, 2010
The reactor building of Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant is silhouetted in this November 2009 photo released by the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA).
A destructive cyber worm designed to bring down industrial complexes has Iran's new nuclear power plant in its sights. And a nation such as Israel or China -- or even the United States -- could be behind it, experts say.
The "Stuxnet" worm sparked both awe and alarm among digital security experts when first identified in June. Far more advanced than the mainstream malware often used for identity theft, Stuxnet is reportedly able to take over a computing system via nothing more than a USB memory stick, without any user intervention.
"This is the first direct example of weaponized software, highly customized and designed to find a particular target," said Michael Assante, former chief of industrial control systems cyber security research at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory.
Stuxnet targets industrial control systems, such as those that power Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant. And some experts speculate that it was written by a nation explicitly to take out Bushehr. But Sanjay Bavisi, president of the international cybersecurity research group EC-Council, thinks it's too early to be certain.
"It's too soon to rule out the power of the hacking underground" or terrorists, Bavisi told FoxNews.com. "Yes, the first impression is nation-states, organized states, and it points back to the U.S. and Israel," two of the most cyber-savvy countries. "But organized criminals have the power, and hackers for hire are very common too," he said.***
Reply #357 on:
September 25, 2010, 02:01:51 PM »
See the recent posts in the CyberWar thread about Stuxnet.
In a possibly related vein here are some comments yesterday from Stratfor:
Ahmadinejad Reaches Out to Washington
While in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad worked the U.S. media circuit, spreading his views on subjects including the Holocaust, human rights and — of particular interest to STRATFOR — the potential for U.S.-Iranian negotiations.
Rumors are buzzing around Washington over what appears to be a fresh attempt by the Iranian president to establish a backchannel link to the U.S. administration. The latest communiques that we at STRATFOR have received from Iranian officials close to Ahmadinejad have been unusually pleasant in tone, highlighting the various areas where Tehran may be prone to a compromise with Washington. Even in commenting on an unusual bombing that took place Wednesday in the Kurdish-populated northwestern Iranian city of Mahabad, Iranian officials seemed to have focused their blame on Israel as opposed to the United States. Ahmadinejad and his associates appear to be making a concerted effort to create an atmosphere for a more substantial dialogue with the United States on everything from Iraq to the nuclear issue to Afghanistan.
Back in Tehran, Ahmadinejad’s rivals are fuming over what they view as a unilateral attempt by the president to pursue these negotiations. Some of the more hardline figures don’t feel current conditions are conducive to talks while others simply want to control the negotiations themselves and deny Ahmadinejad a claim to fame in the foreign policy sphere.
“Negotiating games aside, there seems to be a legitimate sense of urgency behind Iran’s latest appeal for talks.”
This has always been the United States’ biggest issue in trying to negotiate with the Islamic republic. Since the 1980s, it has been a labyrinthine and often futile process for most U.S. policymakers who have attempted to figure out whom to talk to in Tehran and whether the person they’re talking to actually has the clout to speak for the Iranian establishment. Can the United States be confident, for example, that any message carried by an Ahmadinejad emissary won’t be immediately shut down by the supreme leader? Will one faction be able to follow through with even the preliminary step of a negotiation without another faction scuttling the process? At the same time, Iran is notorious for obfuscating the negotiations to its advantage by dropping conciliatory hints along the way and then catching the United States off guard when it needs to make a more aggressive move.
Negotiating games aside, there seems to be a legitimate sense of urgency behind Iran’s latest appeal for talks. When else will Iran have the United States this militarily and politically constrained across the Islamic world (especially in countries where Iran carries substantial clout)? Meanwhile, with U.S. patience wearing thin in Afghanistan, countries like Russia and China are racing to reassert their influence in their respective peripheries before the window of opportunity closes and the United States recalibrates its threat priorities. These states will do whatever they can to keep that window of opportunity open (for example, by supplying Iran with gasoline at albeit hefty premiums to complicate the U.S. sanctions effort and by keeping open the threat of strategic weapons sales), but their time horizon is still hazy. None of these states want to wake up one day to find the haze cleared and the United States on their doorstep.
But for Iran, the United States is already on its doorstep and the main issue standing between them — Iraq and the broader Sunni-Shia balance in the Persian Gulf — will remain paralyzed until the two can reach some basic level of understanding. The will to reopen the dialogue may be there, but the United States is waiting to see whether Iran will be able to negotiate with one voice.
Last Edit: September 25, 2010, 02:06:17 PM by Crafty_Dog
Reply #358 on:
September 25, 2010, 02:39:48 PM »
Perhaps the Iranians see this as a ideal time to gain advantage from negotiations while dems still control congress. I'm sure China isn't the only nation-state to recognize the current state of US weakness.
Reply #359 on:
September 25, 2010, 06:51:43 PM »
More on the Stux worm!
POTH on Stuxnet
Reply #360 on:
September 26, 2010, 09:23:33 AM »
Iran Fights Malware Attacking ComputersBy DAVID E. SANGER
Published: September 25, 2010
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LinkedinDiggMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink. WASHINGTON — The Iranian government agency that runs the country’s nuclear facilities, including those the West suspects are part of a weapons program, has reported that its engineers are trying to protect their facilities from a sophisticated computer worm that has infected industrial plants across Iran.
Bits: Malicious Software Program Attacks Industry (September 24, 2010) The agency, the Atomic Energy Organization, did not specify whether the worm had already infected any of its nuclear facilities, including Natanz, the underground enrichment site that for several years has been a main target of American and Israeli covert programs.
But the announcement raised suspicions, and new questions, about the origins and target of the worm, Stuxnet, which computer experts say is a far cry from common computer malware that has affected the Internet for years. A worm is a self-replicating malware computer program. A virus is malware that infects its target by attaching itself to programs or documents.
Stuxnet, which was first publicly identified several months ago, is aimed solely at industrial equipment made by Siemens that controls oil pipelines, electric utilities, nuclear facilities and other large industrial sites. While it is not clear that Iran was the main target — the infection has also been reported in Indonesia, Pakistan, India and elsewhere — a disproportionate number of computers inside Iran appear to have been struck, according to reports by computer security monitors.
Given the sophistication of the worm and its aim at specific industrial systems, many experts believe it is most probably the work of a state, rather than independent hackers. The worm is able to attack computers that are disconnected from the Internet, usually to protect them; in those cases an infected USB drive is plugged into a computer. The worm can then spread itself within a computer network, and possibly to other networks.
The semiofficial Mehr news agency in Iran on Saturday quoted Reza Taghipour, a top official of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, as saying that “the effect and damage of this spy worm in government systems is not serious” and that it had been “more or less” halted.
But another Iranian official, Mahmud Liai of the Ministry of Industry and Mines, was quoted as saying that 30,000 computers had been affected, and that the worm was “part of the electronic warfare against Iran.”
ISNA, another Iranian news agency, had reported Friday that officials from Iran’s atomic energy agency had been meeting in recent days to discuss how to remove the Stuxnet worm, which exploits some previously unknown weaknesses in Microsoft’s Windows software. Microsoft has said in recent days that it is fixing those vulnerabilities.
It is extraordinarily difficult to trace the source of any sophisticated computer worm, and nearly impossible to determine for certain its target.
But the Iranians have reason to suspect they are high on the target list: in the past, they have found evidence of sabotage of imported equipment, notably power supplies to run the centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium at Natanz. The New York Times reported in 2009 that President George W. Bush had authorized new efforts, including some that were experimental, to undermine electrical systems, computer systems and other networks that serve Iran’s nuclear program, according to current and former American officials.
The program is among the most secret in the United States government, and it has been accelerated since President Obama took office, according to some American officials. Iran’s enrichment program has run into considerable technical difficulties in the past year, but it is not clear whether that is because of the effects of sanctions against the country, poor design for its centrifuges, which it obtained from Pakistan, or sabotage.
“It is easy to look at what we know about Stuxnet and jump to the conclusion that it is of American origin and Iran is the target, but there is no proof of that,” said James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and one of the country’s leading experts on cyberwar intelligence. “We may not know the real answer for some time.”
Based on what he knows of Stuxnet, Mr. Lewis said, the United States is “one of four or five places that could have done it — the Israelis, the British and the Americans are the prime suspects, then the French and Germans, and you can’t rule out the Russians and the Chinese.”
President Obama has talked extensively about developing better cyberdefenses for the United States, to protect banks, power plants, telecommunications systems and other critical infrastructure. He has said almost nothing about the other side of the cybereffort, billions of dollars spent on offensive capability, much of it based inside the National Security Agency.
The fact that the worm is aimed at Siemens equipment is telling: the company’s control systems are used around the world, but have been spotted in many Iranian facilities, say officials and experts who have toured them. Those include the new Bushehr nuclear power plant, built with Russian help.
But Bushehr is considered by nuclear weapons experts to be virtually no help to Iran in its suspected weapons program; there is more concern about the low-enriched uranium produced at Natanz, which could, with a year or more of additional processing, be converted to bomb fuel.
Did the Russkis plant stuxnet?
Reply #361 on:
September 26, 2010, 07:18:35 PM »
Russia’s decision to ban the transfer of heavy military equipment to Iran falls under Russia’s agreement to the UNSC sanctions against Iran, signed in June. The decree also bans several Iranians involved in Iran’s nuclear activities from transiting Russian territory and prohibits Russian legal entities or individuals from rendering financial services to operations if there are reasons to believe the operations might be related to Iran’s nuclear activities. The ban on nuclear-related personnel and financial services is interesting because Russia built the bulk of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear facility and still has some 200 scientists in Iran running the plant.
Russia’s move is meant to make a statement: Moscow and Washington are coordinating on the Iran issue. Russia wavered on agreeing to the U.S.-designed sanctions for years in order to use its vote as leverage against the United States, as tensions were rising between Moscow and Washington. Iran traditionally was part of the game between the two countries; for example, when Washington pursued military agreements with Georgia, Moscow would do the same with Iran.
But in the past six months, Russia and the United States seemed to have evolved from this tenuous relationship and have come to a temporary agreement on a series of issues. Russia signed onto the Iran sanctions, agreed to allow increasing amounts of U.S. military supplies to transit its territory to Afghanistan, and agreed to upgrade and repair NATO members’ military equipment used in Afghanistan. In turn, Washington has agreed to a series of large modernization deals in Russia and has backed off its bilateral relationships with many former Soviet states (like Georgia and Ukraine), allowing Russia time to consolidate its power in the former Soviet sphere.
Medvedev’s decree comes as Washington is considering opening talks with Tehran. Iran was more able to stand up to the United States while Russia was its primary power patron. Russia’s apparent abandonment of Iran decreases Tehran’s leverage in any future talks with Washington.
But as with most of Russia’s concessions, there is a loophole in the decree. The document specifies that vehicles, vessels or aircraft under the Russian state flag will not transfer military equipment to Iran. This means Russia could deliver the equipment using other states’ territory or transportation methods. Russia also could fulfill its military contracts with Iran through its military industrial joint ventures with its neighbors, such as Kazakhstan and Belarus. In short, Russia has quite a bit of room to maneuver should it need to use Iran as leverage against the United States again.
Wondering if the Russkis planted stuxnet at Bushehr? Word is that the common strand to stuxnet infected areas is that a certain Russian contractor was there , , ,
Reply #362 on:
September 26, 2010, 08:07:19 PM »
Possible scenario. Russia has a cyberwar infrastructure. Of course, another nation-state could have covertly installed the virus in the Russian contractor's equipment.
9/22 Energy subsidies withdrawn
Reply #363 on:
September 27, 2010, 11:02:40 AM »
Iran's Subsidy Issue Adds to Domestic, International Tensions
The Iranian government withdrew energy subsidies without prior notice of the exact date the subsidies would end, leaving many Iranian consumers taken aback by hefty electricity bills, Reuters reported on Tuesday. According to the report, some households claimed their bills were as much as 1,000 percent higher than the previous month’s. This development follows a government move to hold off on cutting gasoline subsidies for at least one month.
The latest round of sanctions (from the United Nations, United States and European Union) has not led Tehran to capitulate to Western pressure. That said, Iran is ending subsidies on essential goods and services, and Tehran would not be carrying out such an initiative if it was not essential for the country’s economic health, especially given the significant risk of public backlash.
“It appears as though the Islamic republic has reached an impasse with itself.”
The manner in which the subsidies on power supplies were pulled after the delay in ending the subsidies on fuel shows that the regime is concerned about domestic unrest. It was only this past February that the regime was able to contain the eight-month upheaval created by the Green Movement following the controversial re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though Iranian authorities put an end to street agitation, the regime continues to face a much more serious problem: infighting between Ahmadinejad and his opponents spread across the entire Iranian political establishment.
Officials representing both sides can be seen daily using Iran’s various official and semi-official media organs to attack each other. It appears as though the Islamic republic has reached an impasse with itself. What makes this even more significant is that Iran is also at a major crossroads internationally, given the controversy over its nuclear program, the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and other regional matters.
Iran sees an historic opportunity to consolidate its influence in its immediate abroad, from where the United States is trying to withdraw militarily. In Iraq, Washington needs to be able to reach a settlement with Tehran on a balance of power in Baghdad that is acceptable to both sides. In Afghanistan, where the United States is trying to create the conditions for as early an exit as possible, Iran also holds significant influence.
Washington, for its part, wants to be able to reach an understanding with Iran so that it can withdraw from the countries to both the west and east of the Islamic republic. But it wants to be able to do so in such a way that Iranian ambitions for regional dominance are kept in check. As long as Tehran can negotiate from a position of relative strength this is not possible.
This is where both the intra-elite struggle in Tehran and the subsidies issue are of immense potential significance. Both issues are so complex that it is difficult to predict their outcome, but if either issue evolves unfavorably for Tehran, it could undermine the Islamic republic’s bargaining power and give the United States an opening to exploit.
Reply #364 on:
September 30, 2010, 10:34:03 AM »
Quote from: G M on September 26, 2010, 08:07:19 PM
Possible scenario. Russia has a cyberwar infrastructure. Of course, another nation-state could have covertly installed the virus in the Russian contractor's equipment.
Ralph Langner, a German computer security consultant who was the first independent expert to assert that the malware had been “weaponized” and designed to attack the Iranian centrifuge array, argues that the Stuxnet worm could have been brought into the Iranian nuclear complex by Russian contractors.
“It would be an absolute no-brainer to leave an infected USB stick near one of these guys,” he said, “and there would be more than a 50 percent chance of having him pick it up and infect his computer.”
This could work , , ,
Reply #365 on:
October 30, 2010, 10:46:33 AM »
State Dept Tweets B-Day Message to Ahmadinejad, Palin Responds
by Justin Fishel | October 29, 2010
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's top spokesman, P.J. Crowley, sent a birthday message to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad via Twitter Friday, prompting a response by former Governor Sarah Palin who described the post as "mind boggling foreign policy."
Crowley posted two short messages directed at the Iranian president, who turned 54 this week.
"Happy birthday President Ahmadinejad," the first tweet reads. "Celebrate by sending Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer home. What a gift that would be."
Fattal and Bauer were arrested near the Iranian border with Iraq in July of 2009 and have been held in Iran since on charges of espionage." Crowley has called for their return on nearly a daily basis, insisting they are innocent.
The second tweets reads: "Your 54th year was full of lost opportunities. Hope in your 55th year you will open Iran to a different relationship with the world."
Sarah Palin took issue with the message. Shortly after Crowley's post appeared she wrote, "Happy B'day Ahmadinejad wish sent by US Govt. Mind boggling foreign policy: kowtow & coddle enemies; snub allies. Obama Doctrine is nonsense."
Her message continued in a separate tweet: "Americans awaken 2 bizarre natl security thinking of Obama Admn: Ahmadinejad b'day greeting after call 4 Israel's destruction speaks volumes."
Palin is known for delivering her messages over the social media outlets Facebook and Twitter. Crowley said he had no comment when asked about the Twitter exchange during a daily press briefing at the State Department.
The dash for the exits accelerates
Reply #366 on:
November 03, 2010, 11:35:19 AM »
The United States placed Jundallah, a Sunni-Balochi Islamist group active in Iran, on its list of international terrorist entities Nov. 3. In its statement, the U.S. State Department said Jundallah was engaged in a variety of terrorist activities confirmed by the group’s leadership. In recent years, Jundallah has emerged as the most lethal rebel group fighting Iran via its use of suicide attacks targeting Shiite mosques and even the leadership of the country’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Washington’s apparently sudden move to declare Jundallah a terrorist organization, which Tehran previously has accused Washington and its European and Arab allies of backing, represents a huge gesture toward Iran. Washington likely made the move in hopes of reaching an understanding on the balance of power in the Persian Gulf region after U.S. forces exit Iraq. The step follows a number of recent events. These included a preliminary understanding between Iran and the United States regarding a new power-sharing formula in Iraq in the form of a government led by incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Washington seeking Iranian input in the process toward a settlement in Iraq, Iranian cooperation in Afghanistan, and Iran not creating instability in Lebanon.
Declaring Jundallah a terrorist organization is also part of the Obama administration’s efforts to reach an overall bilateral understanding with Tehran. This has become especially urgent given the new Republican control of the U.S. House of Representatives, which will force Obama to show progress on the foreign policy front if he wants to be re-elected. All eyes will now be on Iran for its reaction and/or a reciprocal gesture, particularly on the nuclear issue — for which talks are scheduled for this month — and on the Sunni share of power in the Iraqi government.
Read more: The U.S. Reaches Out to Iran on Jundallah | STRATFOR
Reply #367 on:
November 03, 2010, 11:46:48 AM »
If Obama has a second term, Israel will be designated a terrorist state as an outreach to Iran.
Kiev topless protesters: Drawing attention to women's rights in Iran
Reply #368 on:
November 15, 2010, 11:03:04 AM »
The powerline link will save you from a signup and age check at youtube.
A very worthy cause, I admire these brave protesters and the work that they do.
"A group of feminists called Femen went topless at an event at the Iranian embassy to protest the sentence of death by stoning that Iran meted out to Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani. Few things attract attention like a group of topless women; you can see what happened in this brief, somewhat-explicit video:"
POTH: Stuxnet update
Reply #369 on:
November 19, 2010, 09:54:39 AM »
Tangent: I wonder if the Chinese can do stuff like this to us?
Worm Was Perfect for Sabotaging Centrifuges
By WILLIAM J. BROAD and DAVID E. SANGER
Published: November 18, 2010
Experts dissecting the computer worm suspected of being aimed at Iran’s nuclear program have determined that it was precisely calibrated in a way that could send nuclear centrifuges wildly out of control.
Their conclusion, while not definitive, begins to clear some of the fog around the Stuxnet worm, a malicious program detected earlier this year on computers, primarily in Iran but also India, Indonesia and other countries.
The paternity of the worm is still in dispute, but in recent weeks officials from Israel have broken into wide smiles when asked whether Israel was behind the attack, or knew who was. American officials have suggested it originated abroad.
The new forensic work narrows the range of targets and deciphers the worm’s plan of attack. Computer analysts say Stuxnet does its damage by making quick changes in the rotational speed of motors, shifting them rapidly up and down.
Changing the speed “sabotages the normal operation of the industrial control process,” Eric Chien, a researcher at the computer security company Symantec, wrote in a blog post.
Those fluctuations, nuclear analysts said in response to the report, are a recipe for disaster among the thousands of centrifuges spinning in Iran to enrich uranium, which can fuel reactors or bombs. Rapid changes can cause them to blow apart. Reports issued by international inspectors reveal that Iran has experienced many problems keeping its centrifuges running, with hundreds removed from active service since summer 2009.
“We don’t see direct confirmation” that the attack was meant to slow Iran’s nuclear work, David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said in an interview Thursday. “But it sure is a plausible interpretation of the available facts.”
Intelligence officials have said they believe that a series of covert programs are responsible for at least some of that decline. So when Iran reported earlier this year that it was battling the Stuxnet worm, many experts immediately suspected that it was a state-sponsored cyberattack.
Until last week, analysts had said only that Stuxnet was designed to infect certain kinds of Siemens equipment used in a wide variety of industrial sites around the world.
But a study released Friday by Mr. Chien, Nicolas Falliere and Liam O. Murchu at Symantec, concluded that the program’s real target was to take over frequency converters, a type of power supply that changes its output frequency to control the speed of a motor.
The worm’s code was found to attack converters made by two companies, Fararo Paya in Iran and Vacon in Finland. A separate study conducted by the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that finding, a senior government official said in an interview on Thursday.
Then, on Wednesday, Mr. Albright and a colleague, Andrea Stricker, released a report saying that when the worm ramped up the frequency of the electrical current supplying the centrifuges, they would spin faster and faster. The worm eventually makes the current hit 1,410 Hertz, or cycles per second — just enough, they reported, to send the centrifuges flying apart.
In a spooky flourish, Mr. Albright said in the interview, the worm ends the attack with a command to restore the current to the perfect operating frequency for the centrifuges — which, by that time, would presumably be destroyed.
“It’s striking how close it is to the standard value,” he said.
The computer analysis, his Wednesday report concluded, “makes a legitimate case that Stuxnet could indeed disrupt or destroy” Iranian centrifuge plants.
The latest evidence does not prove Iran was the target, and there have been no confirmed reports of industrial damage linked to Stuxnet. Converters are used to control a number of different machines, including lathes, saws and turbines, and they can be found in gas pipelines and chemical plants. But converters are also essential for nuclear centrifuges.
On Wednesday, the chief of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity center in Virginia, Sean McGurk, told a Senate committee that the worm was a “game changer” because of the skill with which it was composed and the care with which it was geared toward attacking specific types of equipment.
Meanwhile, the search for other clues in the Stuxnet program continues — and so do the theories about its origins.
WSJ: Attempted impeachment
Reply #370 on:
November 22, 2010, 07:36:01 PM »
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced an impeachment move in parliament.
.Iran's parliament revealed it planned to impeach President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but refrained under orders from the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, exposing a deepening division within the Iranian regime.
Lawmakers also launched a new petition to bring a debate on the president's impeachment, conservative newspapers reported Monday.
The reports of impeachment efforts came as a retort to a powerful body of clerics that urged Mr. Khamenei to curb the parliament's authority and give greater clout to the president.
In a report released Sunday and discussed in parliament Monday, four prominent lawmakers laid out the most extensive public criticism of Mr. Ahmadinejad to date.
They accused him and his government of 14 counts of violating the law, including illegally importing gasoline and oil, failing to provide budgetary transparency and withdrawing millions of dollars from Iran's foreign reserve fund.
"The president and his cabinet must be held accountable in front of the parliament," the report stated. "A lack of transparency and the accumulation of legal violations by the government is harming the regime."
The conservative lawmakers say the president is illegally operating beyond the checks and balances of the constitution by ignoring the legislature on economic and foreign policy.
Their ultraconservative foes—led by Mr. Khamenei, who has final say in all state matters—see the president as the main agent of the state. Mr. Ahmadinejad hails from this ultraconservative camp, favoring populist economic policies and taking a more defiant stance abroad, as opposed to mainstream conservatives' more pragmatic approach.
Conservative newspapers reported on Monday that lawmakers have started a motion to collect the 74 signatures needed to openly debate impeachment. Mousa Reza Servati, the head of the parliament's budgetary committee, was quoted as saying 40 lawmakers, including Mr. Servati, have signed the motion.
Grounds for Dismissal | Key charges against Iran President Ahmadinejad
Withdrawing $590 million from the Central Bank's foreign reserve fund.
Trading 76.5 million barrels of crude oil in exchange for gasoline imports in 2008.
Illegally importing gasoline, oil and natural gas at a value of about $9 billion since 2007.
Failing to provide transparency in budget spending and curbing parliamentary oversight.
Failing to provide transparency about the source of money for the president's domestic travels and about the allocation of money in Iran's provinces.
Failing to implement or notify ministries about 31 legislative items passed by the parliament in 2010.
Iran's Islamic Consultative Assembly
.The move to remove the president from office marks the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic that parliament has discussed impeachment of a president. Though the legislature is backed by the Iranian constitution, lawmakers can't drive Mr. Ahmadinejad from office without the supreme leader's agreement.
One issue on which both camps are broadly united is in supporting Iran's right to proceed with its nuclear program against the objections of the international community.
Mr. Ahmadinejad is likely to continue positioning himself on the international stage as the defiant voice of Iran's leadership, as Tehran prepares for a new round of nuclear talks, scheduled tentatively for Dec. 5.
The conservative camp also closed ranks behind Mr. Ahmadinejad after the turbulent 2009 presidential election and its violent aftermath—setting aside differences to support the regime. But a considerable portion of highly influential members of the conservative bloc, such as speaker of the parliament Ali Larijani, appear to have begun to view Mr. Ahmadinejad as a liability.
"The parliament is now openly questioning Ahmadinejad's credibility and his ability to run the country. If the tensions escalate, the conservatives will have no choice but to sack him in order to save the regime's reputation," said Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoeini, a political analyst in Washington and a former parliament member in Iran.
The next few months present a big challenge for Iran's government as it plans to gradually eliminate subsidies for fuel, food and utilities from an economy that is already strained by a string of tough international sanctions over is controversial nuclear program.
Economists have warned the subsidy cuts will drive up inflation, and authorities have tightened security to prevent riots and uprisings in response to the cuts.
Some of Mr. Ahmadinejad's alleged violations included withdrawing $590 million from the Central Bank's foreign reserve fund, trading 76.5 million barrels of crude oil in exchange for importing gasoline in 2008, and illegal imports of gasoline, oil and natural gas since 2007 at a value of about $9 billion.
On websites and blogs, the primary outlet for Iran's opposition, Iranians urged the parliament not to give in to Mr. Khamenei's orders and, as one blogger wrote, "act independently for the good of the public."
On Saturday, the Guardian Council, the appointed body of ultraconservative clerics that oversees legislation and acts as a mediator between the government and the parliament, said a "mediating committee" that included council members recommended that Mr. Khamenei curb the powers of the parliament in favor of giving the president a wider hand.
The remarks infuriated parliament members, who said they had made no such recommendation, leading to a heated open debate on the parliament floor on Monday.
Mr. Ahmadinejad has had an uneasy relationship with parliament since his election in 2006, but the differences escalated in his second term, when lawmakers refused to approve eight of his cabinet nominees.
Mr. Khamenei intervened, asking parliament members to compromise. In the end only three cabinet choices were refused.
The parliament also fought Mr. Ahmadinejad for a year over his economic plan and the cutting of subsidies. Mr. Ahmadinejad finally wrote a letter to Mr. Khamenei complaining of the parliament acting as an obstacle for his administration. The committee consists of four lawmakers, three representatives from the administration, three independent lawyers and three members of Guardian Council. The final report is to be sent to Khamenei for review.
Write to Farnaz Fassihi at
Reply #371 on:
December 16, 2010, 08:21:20 AM »
Reply #372 on:
December 22, 2010, 08:57:47 AM »
The Implications of Iranian Assertiveness Toward Pakistan
The Middle East and South Asia have no shortage of conflicts and on any given day there are developments on multiple issues. Monday, however, was different: Another fault line appeared to emerge. Iranian leaders used some very stern language in demanding that Pakistan act against the Sunni Baluchi Islamist militant group Jundallah, which recently staged suicide attacks against Shiite religious gatherings in the Iranian port city of Chahbahar.
The Islamic republic’s senior-most military leader, Chief of the Joint Staff Command of Iran’s Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, threatened that Tehran would take unilateral action if Islamabad failed to prevent cross-border terrorism. Separately, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, and demanded that Pakistani security forces apprehend “known terrorists” and hand them over to Iranian authorities. This is not the first time that Jundallah has become a source of tension between the two neighbors. However, this time, the Iranian response was different: The apex leadership of Iran threatened to take matters into its own hands.
It’s even more interesting that the latest Jundallah attack was not that significant, especially compared to the attack from a little more than a year ago when as many as half a dozen senior generals from the ground forces of Iran’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, were killed in a Jundallah attack in the border town of Pishin. At the time, however, Iran was much more mild in terms of pressing Pakistan to take action against Jundallah. Over the years, there has also been significant cooperation between Tehran and Islamabad leading to arrests of the group’s leaders and main operatives, including its founders.
“Tehran is likely concerned about how the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan will impact its own security and sees a situation in which it can enhance its influence in its southeastern neighbor.”
Why is Iran now escalating matters with Pakistan? The answer likely has to do with the Iranian government feeling confident in other foreign policy areas. It has been successful in having a Shiite-dominated government of its preference installed in Iraq. Also, for the first time, it appears to be negotiating from a position of relative strength on the nuclear issue.
Iran is also a major regional stakeholder in Afghanistan and a competitor of Pakistan there. It is therefore likely that Iran is now flexing its muscles on its eastern flank to showcase its regional rise. The Iranians have also been watching the fairly rapid destabilization that has taken place in Pakistan in recent years and sense both a threat and an opportunity. Tehran is likely concerned about how the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan will impact its own security and sees a situation in which it can enhance its influence in its southeastern neighbor.
It is too early to say anything about how Iran will go about projecting power across its frontier with Pakistan. However, there are geopolitical implications from this new Iranian assertiveness. The most serious one is obviously for Pakistan, which already has to deal with U.S. forces engaging in cross-border action along the country’s northwestern border with Afghanistan. Islamabad can’t afford pressures from Tehran on the southwestern extension of that border (an area where Pakistan is dealing with its own Baluchi rebellion). Any such move on the part of Iran could encourage India to increase pressure on its border with Pakistan. After all, India is a much bigger target of Pakistani-based militants than Iran, but has thus far not been able to get Pakistan to yield to its demands on cracking down on anti-India militants. New Delhi would love to take advantage of this new dynamic developing between Islamabad and Tehran.
At the very least, Monday’s Iranian statements reinforce perceptions that Pakistan is a state infested by Islamist militants of various stripes that threaten pretty much every country that shares a border with it (including Pakistan’s closest ally, China). Certainly, Pakistan doesn’t want to see problems on a third border and will try to address Iranian concerns. But the Pakistani situation is such that it is unlikely that Islamabad will be able to placate Tehran.
In terms of ramifications, Monday’s developments are actually not limited to only those countries that have a border with Pakistan. Iranian demands on Pakistan have likely set off alarm bells in Saudi Arabia, which is already terrified of Iran’s rise in the Persian Gulf region and the Levant. Pakistan constitutes a major Saudi sphere of influence and Riyadh is not about to let Tehran play in the South Asia country. Pakistan has been a Saudi-Iranian proxy battleground since the 1980s and the latest Iranian statements could intensify the Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict in the country.
Increased sectarian conflict in Pakistan will only exacerbate the jihadist insurgency in the country, thereby further eroding internal stability. Such a situation is extremely problematic for the United States, which is already trying to contain a rising Iran and has a complex love-hate relationship with Pakistan. There is also the problem that the success of America’s Afghan strategy is contingent upon Washington establishing a balance of power between Iran and Pakistan in Afghanistan.
The clusterfcuk continues , , ,
Reply #373 on:
December 23, 2010, 08:13:29 PM »
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Thu, December 23, 2010 -- 5:20 PM ET
U.S. Approves Business With Blacklisted Nations
A little-known office of the Treasury Department has
permitted American companies to do billions of dollars in
business with Iran and other countries blacklisted as state
sponsors of terrorism.
Stratfor: Iran's challenge
Reply #374 on:
December 28, 2010, 11:59:03 PM »
Tuesday, December 28, 2010 STRATFOR.COM Diary Archives
Iran's Challenge: Keeping Domestic Stability While Managing International Pressures
Iranian Deputy Minister of Economy Mohammad Reza Farzin said on Monday that fuel consumption across the country had dropped since the government began implementing its plan to cut subsidies. Speaking to AFP, Farzin explained that after nine days, gasoline consumption dropped from 13.2 million to 12.1 million gallons a day. “We are spending $100 billion in subsidies every year from a gross domestic product of $400 billion. We have realized that low energy prices cannot deliver social welfare. It can’t reduce poverty. We are determined to use the resources for managing prices more efficiently,” the deputy economy minister stated.
It is not surprising that for decades, Iran has dedicated nearly a quarter of its gross domestic product to subsidize essentials. For any Tehran-based government to be able to maintain central rule over the large mountainous country, it must establish a complex political and security system. Thus, mass unrest has been contained through a massive security apparatus and with an extensive subsidy program.
What renders the subsidy program even more critical is that Iran is a chronically poor country with a significantly non-homogenous population, and the country has been under international sanctions for more than three decades. This would explain the high cost of maintaining domestic social placidity. Policymakers of the Persian Shiite polity, however, have long been divided over the merits of thwarting internal chaos at such a high cost.
“The challenge for Iran is two-fold: decreasing foreign dependency on gasoline imports … while containing a social backlash that could come from slashing subsidies.”
Cutting subsidies has been on the policy agenda of successive governments in the Islamic republic for at least two decades. Iran has been dependent upon imports to meet 40 percent of its domestic gasoline consumption needs. But it was not until last week that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration embarked upon the first-ever serious effort to address a key vulnerability in the Iranian system.
Gasoline acquired at international market rates has been available to the Iranian public for as low as 38 cents per gallon. The challenge for Iran is two-fold: how to decrease dependency on gasoline imports, especially in the wake of the latest round of sanctions, which have made it more difficult to import fuel, while containing a social backlash that could come from slashing subsidies. Ahmadinejad’s government deals with this situation by increasing the price of gasoline to curb domestic consumption while providing monthly cash handouts as a way to avoid the domestic backlash.
The hope is that this complex economic reform package will allow the state to deal with the growing challenges of securing much-needed fuel imports, sustain social placidity and free up resources that can be allocated to other areas. The past 10 days is not enough to gauge the effectiveness of the strategy, and the lack of transparency raises questions about the authenticity of the data made available by Iranian authorities. For now, the key is that Iran has embarked upon a measure that is a major break with its past behavior.
WSJ: Christians arrested
Reply #375 on:
January 07, 2011, 05:53:42 AM »
BY FARNAZ FASSIHI IN BEIRUT AND MATT BRADLEY IN CAIRO
Iranian authorities have arrested dozens of Christians in the two weeks since Christmas, the latest challenge to the Mideast's small but vibrant Christian communities. The arrests around the country appear focused on individuals who have converted from Islam or sought to convert others from Islam—actions considered sins under Islamic law and punishable by death in Iran.
Tehran's governor, Morteza Tamadon, confirmed there have been detentions and said more arrests were on the way, state media reported. Mr. Tamadon suggested the roundup hadn't targeted the mainstream Armenian Christians or Catholics, which make up most of the small Christian population in Iran. ...
Iran: Hikers on trial
Reply #376 on:
February 07, 2011, 02:35:55 PM »
I previously mentioned friendship with the family of one of the hikers going on 'trial' this week in Iran. Even Ahmadinejad seemed to admit they were nothing more than hikers upon confrontation while in America and promised to push for 'leniency'. My first reaction was something like what on earth were they thinking; they deserve what they get. That was 18 MONTHS ago. They DON'T deserve this. Young American adults living in Damascas, traveling in Iraq - during a war - and probably looking over a hillside saying wow, that is Iran - right there. Not dressed, trained or equipped for 'espionage'. It was a COMPLIMENT to the regime for them to underestimate the savagery of the regime. They have been held in isolation for a significant part of their young adult lives strictly as pawns for other prisoners of which they have absolutely no knowledge or control. Please pray for release and don't fall for the humanitarian, worldwide photo opp if they are lucky enough to be released. This has been a humanitarian nightmare for the captured and for their families.
Big wars start over small issues. There should be large consequences to the regime if they do further harm to innocent Americans.
Reply #377 on:
February 07, 2011, 02:45:06 PM »
Don't go stupid places and do stupid things with stupid people.
I find it hard to muster up much sympathy for these individuals. No, they weren't spies, yes the mullahs are our enemies. We have much bigger and better reasons than them to wage war on Iran, but nothing but hugs will be forthcoming from this president.
Reply #378 on:
February 15, 2011, 09:48:42 AM »
By FARNAZ FASSIHI
Iranian police used tear gas and electric prods to crack down on the country's biggest antigovernment protests in at least a year, as demonstrators buoyed by activism across the Middle East returned to the country's streets by the tens of thousands Monday.
The day of planned antigovernment rallies began largely peacefully, according to witnesses, with protesters marching silently or sitting and chanting. But as demonstrators' ranks swelled, police and antiriot forces lined the streets, ordered shops to shut down and responded at times with force, according to witnesses and opposition websites, in a repeat of the official crackdown that helped snuff out months of spirited opposition rallies a year ago.
By day's end, online videos showed garbage bins on fire, protesters throwing rocks at the police and crowds clashing with motorcycle-mounted members of the pro-regime Basij militia.
Thousands of Iranians gathered in several locations across Tehran Monday, heeding calls in recent days by opposition leaders to demonstrate in solidarity with Egyptian and Tunisian protesters. Farnaz Fassihi has details.
Monday's protests come as calls for regime change have led to the popular ousters of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. They mark a broadening from Iranian rallies that drew hundreds of thousands through 2009 and early 2010.
Those rallies targeted what opposition leaders said was a flawed presidential election that they say unfairly returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. Monday's protests, by comparison, demanded that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the core of power in the Islamic Republic, step down.
"Mubarak! Ben Ali! It's now the turn for Seyed Ali!" people chanted, according to witnesses and videos, referring to the country's spiritual head.
In Tehran's Enghelab Avenue, the main route for the rally, a crowd of young men and women on Monday evening stomped on a giant banner depicting Mr. Khamenei and set it on fire, a sign of deepest disrespect in the Muslim world. Videos of the scene showed crowds cheering in response.
Iran's government and its opposition alike have sought to identify themselves with the mood of change sweeping the Middle East. Iranian officials sought to paint this year's Arab revolts as Islamic uprisings like the Iranian revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi more than 30 years ago.
Iran's opposition protesters, meanwhile, have renewed their challenge to the government, emboldened by rallies led by a similar cadre of educated, tech-savvy youth seeking better economic opportunity and more political freedoms.
Those who saw the rallies in Tehran placed the number of protesters in the capital in the tens of thousands. Witnesses in the cities of Mashad, Isfahan and Tabriz saw crowds they estimated at thousands of demonstrators each, with blog reports and other online dispatches placing overall participation in such cities at over 10,000 each.
Iranian officials have all but banned reporting on anti-regime protests, making it difficult to estimate not only the size of crowds, but the number of casualties, fatalities and arrests.
Iran's protests coincided with a visit Monday by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who briefly addressed the unrest sweeping the Mideast at a joint press conference with Mr. Ahmadinejad. "We see that sometimes when the leaders and heads of countries do not pay attention to the nations' demands, the people themselves take action," Mr. Gul said. He didn't mention Iran.
Iranian officials didn't comment on Monday's protests. The Fars News Agency, affiliated with the country's Revolutionary Guards, reported that a "group of thugs" commissioned by the U.S. and Israel had taken to the streets to cause riots. Fars News said protestors had shot and killed one person and injured several others.
Iran's government "over the last three weeks has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt, and now, when given the opportunity to afford their people the same rights…once again illustrate their true nature," Mrs. Clinton told reporters in Washington. "We wish the opposition and the brave people in the streets across cities in Iran the same opportunity that they saw their Egyptian counterparts seize in the last week."
To support Iranian protestors, the State Department began using social media, particularly Twitter—sending its messages, for the first time, in Farsi—in calling on Iran's government to allow protestors to freely assemble and communicate.
Separately, an online collective known as "Anonymous" said it had launched so-called denial of service attacks on a number of high-profile Iranian government sites. In a DOS attack, computers flood a server to prevent it from displaying a web page.
The group, which has attacked a number of corporate and other websites in apparent retaliation for moves against the document-leaking organization WikiLeaks, targeted the websites of Iran's state news broadcaster and the website of President Ahmadinejad, among others. It is unclear how successful the attacks were, but those two sites weren't accessible late Monday.
This year's uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have inspired populations across the Middle East, showing how rulers once thought invulnerable could be toppled in a wave of popular discontent. Iran's regime has so far provided a counterexample, as it has shown less reluctance to take a violent line against its people. Opposition groups and human-rights organizations say more than 100 people were killed and more than 5,000 jailed in Iran's demonstrations of late 2009 and early 2010.
Opposition leaders in Iran started with relatively modest goals after the 2009 election, including nullifying the election results, which they said were rigged. Iranian officials said the results reflected the will of the people.
Now, analysts say, revolts in Egypt and Tunisia have galvanized Iranian protesters around the goal of regime change. "It's very clear that we are now way beyond a post-election crisis," said Hamid Dabashi, professor of Iranian studies at Columbia University. "People are going after the regime."
Monday's protests began peacefully in the early afternoon as men and women streamed on foot along pre-designated routes in multiple cities such as Tehran, Isfahan, Mashad and Shiraz. Drivers honked in support. Shopkeepers waved the victory sign.
In response, the government deployed heavy security. Cellphone and text-messaging service was down along the protest routes, Iranians reported.
As the afternoon waned, crowd swelled and began chanting against Mr. Khamenei, according to eyewitnesses and reports posted on the Internet. Security forces attacked people with electric prods and tear gas. Protesters ran and hid, and then regrouped defiantly a few feet away.
One witness described a scene in which a flower-decorated car in a bridal convoy became stuck in the protests. With security forces in pursuit of demonstrators, a bride in full regalia stepped out of the car and helped shove protesters inside to protect them, this person said.
Witnesses said the plain-clothes Basij militia were dispatched on motorbikes and vans later in the evening. They took position in side streets and beat protesters with sticks and batons, witnesses said.
Various observers reported several injuries and arrests. Their accounts weren't possible to verify.
"I saw a young woman thrown to the sidewalk, her head split open and she was bleeding, but the guy kept kicking her," a young man from Tehran said via Internet chat.
A young female activist said by telephone from the city of Isfahan that plain-clothes Basij militia had attacked a group of young men and women and dragged them into a parking lot on Revolution Avenue. They locked the gate and began beating them with wooden sticks and electric batons as the protesters fell to the ground and screamed, the activist said.
"Everyone was terrified and we felt helpless. All we could do was shout 'Death to the Dictator,' but the police chased us," said the activist.
Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi had called the protest and vowed to participate. But they were put under house arrest all day, according to opposition web sites. When Mr. Mousavi and his wife attempted to leave the house, security forces stopped them, and blocked their street with multiple police cars, according to the website.
As darkness fell on Tehran, the city was rocked again by the chants from residents on rooftops across the capital: "God is great," and "Death to the dictator," according to witnesses. The Facebook page of the protest, 25 Bahman, said it would soon announce further plans for demonstrations in the following days.
—Jay Solomon in Washington and Cassell Bryan-Low in London contributed to this article.
Write to Farnaz Fassihi at
Reply #379 on:
February 15, 2011, 10:06:11 AM »
I hope they win.
Reply #380 on:
February 15, 2011, 10:19:55 AM »
I wonder if Baraq will support them this time around , , ,
Reply #381 on:
February 15, 2011, 10:26:59 AM »
Of course not. Iran is an enemy to US. Why would Obama speak against the mullahs? It's only a democratic movement when it hurts America.
Reply #382 on:
February 16, 2011, 06:45:17 AM »
By FARNAZ FASSIHI
The Iranian government threatened opposition leaders with execution and made a fresh wave of arrests, a day after the largest protests in a year prompted clashes in which at least two people were killed and dozens injured.
Tehran and other Iranian cities quieted down on Tuesday as the opposition regrouped and assessed the impact of the rallies that brought tens of thousands of people into the streets across the country.
A hard-line group of conservative members of the Iranian parliament, on the podium, called for the execution of opposition leaders on Tuesday, a day after protests across the country.
The protesters, buoyed by activism across the Middle East, were confronted forcefully by police and antiriot forces, which used guns, tear gas and electric prods to disperse them. The demonstrators had called for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down.
Two college students in their 20s, Sanah Jaleh and Mohamad Mokharti, were killed by gunshots, said the government and opposition. Dozens of people were injured and 1,500 people have been arrested in connection with the demonstrations, the government and protestors said.
Iranian government warns against U.S. meddling as it tries to quell opposition protests in support of Egypt. Video courtesy of Reuters and photo courtesy of AP.
Mr. Mokharti's last Facebook message on Monday morning, hours before he joined the protests, was "Happy Valentine's Day," next to the green ribbon that symbolizes the opposition.
Antigovernment activists said they planned to attend a funeral procession on Wednesday morning for Mr. Jaleh, who was a student activist as part of the pro-democracy Islamic Student Union and part of the minority Sunni Kurd community, his friends said on the student website Daneshjoo.
The funeral, which will take place in front of Tehran University, could become the next flashpoint between pro-government forces and the opposition. "We will not allow them to kill us and then shamelessly take advantage of our martyrs," said a student activist from Tehran.
Mr. Jaleh's friends said he was shot dead Monday by a member of Basij, a volunteer plainclothes militia. In his honor, students waved green banners at the campus of Tehran University, videos show.
Paradoxically, the government cast Mr. Jaleh as a Basij militiaman. The opposition tried to discredit that claim by circulating on websites and blogs a picture of Mr. Jaleh with the late reformist Islamic cleric Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a spiritual guide for opposition Green Movement.
In the U.S., President Barack Obama spoke on Tuesday in support of the protesters in Iran and condemned the violence.
"I find it ironic that you've got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully," Mr. Obama said at a White House news conference.
But Mr. Obama, whose administration has pushed for economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, said the U.S. "cannot ultimately dictate what happens inside of Iran."
It was too early to say whether the protests will gain momentum, analysts said. But Iran's leaders—who claimed they had quashed the movement that brought hundreds of thousands to the streets in 2009 and early 2010 to protest what they said was a flawed election that unfairly returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office—seemed shaken by the rallies on Monday.
Mr. Ahmadinejad on Tuesday blamed the protests a day earlier on "enemies" of the government.
Ali Larijani, speaker of the parliament, on Tuesday accused the U.S. for fomenting the protests and said the legislative body must quickly form a panel "to investigate the antirevolutionary movement" brewing in Iran. The session turned rowdy when a group of hard-line conservatives began pumping their fists in the air and shouting that prominent opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi "must be executed."
The two men have been under house arrest since Friday and were unable to attend the demonstrations, but had called for supporters to take to the streets Monday in solidarity with the movements in Egypt and Tunisia that had deposed their own leaders.
Mousavi adviser Ardeshir Amir Arjemand said the opposition wasn't surprised at the government's reaction to Monday's protests. "Their violence and brutal crackdowns against the public are not up for dispute, these officials have to be held accountable," he said, according to the website Kalame.
Write to Farnaz Fassihi at
Reply #383 on:
February 25, 2011, 04:30:36 PM »
Anne Jolis writing in the Journal's Political Diary e-newsletter, Feb. 23:
News of the mass protests—and government and military defections—that are threatening to topple the regime of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya has dominated headlines for days. But over the weekend, another defection from yet another Middle Eastern dictatorship went relatively unnoticed. Ahmad Maleki, head of Iran's consular office in Milan, resigned his post on Sunday to protest Tehran's "barbaric actions against the Iranian nation," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, adding that he now plans to join Iran's pro- democracy Green Movement.
Egypt's and Tunisia's uprisings have breathed new life into the Iranian resistance. . . . After a year of lying low, tens of thousands of Green Movement protesters marched through Iran's streets on Sunday and last Monday. Whereas in 2009 they called for fresh elections, they are now calling to overthrow their government and to end the country's "religious dictatorship."
Tehran has responded with swarms of armed guards, firing into the crowds and beating protesters with steel batons and chains, witnesses tell The Wall Street Journal. Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been under house arrest for more than a week. . . . Mr. Maleki, who previously served Tehran in Portugal and Kenya, tells RFE/RL that there are "many others in the [Iranian Foreign Ministry] who are unhappy with the government." Mr. Maleki is the fourth Iranian diplomat to resign in the past year, after Iranian envoys stepped down in Norway, Finland and Brussels.
Breaking: Iran Has Several Military Bases in Libya
Reply #384 on:
February 28, 2011, 07:11:32 AM »
Breaking: Iran Has Several Military Bases in Libya
According to an inside source, the military collaborations between Iran's Revolutionary Guards and the Gaddafi government date back to 2006.
February 27, 2011 - by 'Reza Kahlili'
In an interview today on the Al Arabyia news network, an informed source within the Revolutionary Guards Corps revealed that Iran has several military bases in Libya.
The source, who requested anonymity due to his sensitive position within the Guards, elaborated further that the Iranian military bases are located mostly along Libya’s borders with the African countries of Chad and Niger. From there, he said, the Guards actively smuggle arms and supply logistical assistance to rebellious groups in the African countries.
According to this source, Guards enter Libya under the guise of oil company employees. Most of these companies are under the control of the Revolutionary Guards.
The source, who is a colonel in the Guards, added that Gaddafi and his government are quite aware of these activities and have even signed joint contracts with those Iranian oil companies so that the the Guards can enter Libya without any trouble.
The colonel stated that with the current unrest in Libya, over 500 Guards have been unable to evacuate and are under orders to destroy all documents.
According to this source, the military collaborations between the Revolutionary Guards and the Gaddafi government date back to 2006.
It is important to note that Nigerian officials recently confiscated an Iranian arms shipment destined for Gambia. The weapons included mortars, rockets, and shells for anti-aircraft guns and were hidden in containers marked building materials. Nigerian officials have accused a suspected member of the Guards and a Nigerian of illegally importing arms and have set the trial for later this year.
Also read: “Endgame in Libya? Gaddafi’s ‘nurse’ to leave Tripoli”
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for an ex-CIA spy who requires anonymity for safety reasons. A Time to Betray, his book about his double life as a CIA agent in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was published by Simon & Schuster on April 6.
Reply #385 on:
March 18, 2011, 12:44:40 AM »
Iran Contemplates Its Next Move
On a day when there was no shortage of significant geopolitical events from Libya to Japan to Bahrain, STRATFOR continued to forecast the importance of Iran’s historic opportunity to remake the balance of power in the Persian Gulf region.
As daylight broke in Bahrain on Wednesday morning, Bahraini security forces, reinforced by the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council Joint Peninsula Shield Force mission, cleared protesters from Manama’s Pearl Roundabout. Forces used the usual volleys of tear gas on the crowds, but this time they also used live ammunition, leaving at least four demonstrators dead as black smoke hovered over the tent city at the square, which had gone up in flames. The crackdown included the Bahrain Financial Harbor and the Salmaniya Hospital, and also left two Bahraini security force members dead. By 4 p.m., when a curfew went into effect, Wednesday was the most violent day since the uprising in this small island nation began in mid-February.
“The more threatening the Iranians make themselves appear, particularly in Iraq, the more likely the United States is to reconsider its withdrawal plans and focus more heavily on militarily blocking Iran from further upsetting the regional balance of power.”
The fact that Saudi troops were involved only added to the anger felt by all sectors of the opposition. While the al-Khalifa (the Sunni minority) regime may have indeed requested the help, the protesters (predominately composed of Bahrain’s Shiite majority) did not, and view this as a foreign invasion. From the hard-line Shiite Coalition for a Republic, to the more moderate, Shiite mainstream opposition coalition led by Al Wefaq, the opposition was unified in condemnation of the security force methods. If ever there was an opportunity for the two Shiite camps in Bahrain to patch things up, this was it. But it became clear that a split remained when an Al Wefaq official released a statement that attempted to disassociate the movement from the demonstrations by denying it had called for further protests, and then urged its followers to stay home for their safety.
The major driver behind the GCC deployment was to counter Iran’s rising influence in the Persian Gulf. Tehran sees an opportunity to build on its successes in Iraq and shift the balance of power in eastern Arabia to favor the Shia. Iran’s best-case scenario in Bahrain is for the complete overthrow of the Sunni monarchy, and it’s focused primarily on that possibility. But that is not to say Iranians are not meddling elsewhere at the same time.
Saudi Arabia’s Shiite-dominated Eastern province is right across the causeway from Bahrain. The Eastern province also happens to be where the bulk of the Saudi kingdom’s oil fields are located, adding even more significance to the fact that there is a simmering protest movement there. It hasn’t led to much so far; last Friday’s “Day of Rage” was a rather modest affair compared to some of the other Friday prayer protests we’ve seen in the Arab world in recent months. But it has the Saudi regime on edge nonetheless, and no doubt played a factor in Riyadh’s decision to send troops to Bahrain.?
Iran does not have as much room to maneuver operationally in Saudi Arabia as it does in Bahrain, but that doesn’t mean Tehran hasn’t been trying. Indeed, one of the big reasons that Bahrain is such a critical proxy battleground is because of the potential for contagion to spread to the Arabian Peninsula should a revolution occur there. A few hundred protesters marching in Qatif and al-Hasa, the Saudis fear, could quickly transform into a few thousand. That is a scenario that the Saudi royals want to avoid at all costs, and so are resorting to extraordinary measures to clamp down in Bahrain, where key Shiite opposition figures (some of whom are known for their close ties to Tehran) are reportedly being arrested.
Iranians are much more comfortable in Iraq. Babylon is Persia’s true historic rival, and the competition between these two states long predates the emergence of Islam. The 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War was the most recent engagement between the two, and drove home (once again) in Tehran just how large a strategic threat Iraq is for Iran. As a result, the Iranians spent years trying to build up their contacts among the Iraqi Shia, who were living under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Developing political, business, religious and militant links with the Iraqi majority was all part of an Iranian strategy that was built around waiting to seize the opportunity to rid Iraq of Sunni domination and establish a Shiite stronghold in the heart of the Arab world. That opportunity presented itself in 2003, when the United States toppled Saddam. Eight years later, the Iranians are ready and waiting to fill a vacuum left by the United States once it completes its scheduled withdrawal by summer’s end.
With a need to sustain the momentum that it has built in the Bahrain conflict, which was branded in part as an instance of U.S. interference, Iran is looking for other proxy battlegrounds to raise Shiite ire. Iraq is one arena in the Persian Gulf region where Iran has considerable room to maneuver. On Wednesday, for example, an estimated 2,000 followers of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr held demonstrations in Basra and Baghdad in solidarity with the Bahraini Shia, who were seen as being attacked by “Wahhabis,” as they view them, from Iran’s key rival, Saudi Arabia.
But there is still a cost-benefit analysis that Iran would have to make in deciding to meddle in Iraq on a significant level. The United States is not oriented to maintain a sufficient blocking force against Iran, and does not have the force structure in the region to effectively counter-balance the Iranians at a time when the Sunni Arab regimes are feeling under siege. The more threatening the Iranians make themselves out to be, particularly in Iraq, the more likely the United States is to reconsider its withdrawal plans and focus more heavily on militarily blocking Iran from further upsetting the regional balance of power. Tehran is thus left juggling between not doing enough (and therefore not sending the intended message to Washington and Riyadh that it is a powerful force in the region), and doing too much (which would risk forcing the Americans to stay in Iraq for longer than they had planned).
Iran admits cyber-attacks
Reply #386 on:
March 18, 2011, 03:57:29 AM »
WSJ: Baraq barks in support of Iranian democracy
Reply #387 on:
March 21, 2011, 12:09:04 PM »
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama offered his strongest support to date for Iran's political opposition and youth, a sign of how the U.S. is seeking to use the democratic surge sweeping the Middle East to intensify pressure on Tehran's leadership.
Mr. Obama has addressed the Iranian people annually on the Persian New Year, known as Nowruz. His 2009 address was notable in that he called for political dialogue between the U.S. and Iran's clerical rulers, and referred to their country as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the first time an American president has used this moniker.
Mr. Obama's Nowruz speech this year, however, didn't renew his call for engagement with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government and, instead, sharply criticized Tehran's human-rights abuses. Mr. Obama also for the first time personally mentioned the names of dissidents detained in Iranian prisons—seen as increasing the pressure on Tehran not to harm them.
"So far, the Iranian government has responded by demonstrating that it cares more about preserving its own power than respecting the rights of the Iranian people," Mr. Obama said in a video message that was beamed into Iran and translated into Farsi. "These choices do not demonstrate strength, they show fear."
Mr. Obama threw his support behind Iran's protestors and youth population, noting that they will control the future of their country.
The U.S. president was widely criticized in 2009 for not backing more directly the Iranian opposition movement that emerged after disputed presidential elections, drawing hundreds of thousands Iranian protesters onto the streets. Critics said the Obama administration was more focused on securing a diplomatic track to end Iran's nuclear program than to promote democratic change inside Iran.
This year, Mr. Obama offered much stronger rhetorical support, especially for the 60% of Iran's population that was born after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. "Your talent, your hopes and your choices will shape the future of Iran, and help light the world," Mr. Obama said. "And though times may seem dark, I want you to know that I am with you," he added.
"I think the White House appears no longer interested in sending conciliatory overtures to a regime that is unwilling or incapable of reciprocating them," said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.
U.S. officials believe the spread of political unrest in the Mideast that has led to the overthrow of the governments in Tunisia and Egypt in recent months provides both opportunities and risks for the West in its conflict with Iran.
The administration has supported the democratic uprisings, up to a point. After the abrupt toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, it has sought to push for change incrementally and from within existing regimes. With violence flaring in Yemen and Bahrain, the limits of that approach are becoming starker.
Iran's leadership has sought to define the protest movements as targeting pro-American governments and as a sign of Washington's waning influence in the region. Tehran has particularly provided moral support for opposition parties in Bahrain—largely Shiite organizations that are challenging the country's Sunni monarch, a close ally of Washington. And the U.S. has worried that Iran could take advantage of political instability as a means to spread its influence, as well the agendas of its chief allies: Syria and the Islamist militias and political parties, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
Still, Iranian protesters have responded to the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and taken to the streets in recent weeks to renew their campaign against Mr. Ahmadinejad's government. In recent days, significant protests have emerged against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's rule, the first significant unrest in that country in decades.
U.S. officials have sought to highlight Iran's human-rights record as political unrest continues to grip the Middle East.
The U.S. Treasury Department for the first time last month imposed sanctions on Iranian officials solely for their alleged role in human-rights abuses and for playing a role in the crackdown on political dissidents. The Obama administration also is pushing to gain backing from the United Nations' Human Rights Council in Geneva to censure Iran for its political crackdown and establish the first U.N. human-rights investigator for the Islamic Republic in a decade.
Watch this to understand
Reply #388 on:
March 28, 2011, 02:04:17 PM »
This video - translated and subtitled by Reza Kahlili - is an abbreviated version of a documentary produced by allies of the Iranian Islamic regime in response to recent crisis in the Middle East. Its intention is to show how these violent chaotic events indicate the imminent arrival of the Mahdi - the Shiite Islamic messiah - and the unification of the world under Islam.
WSJ: Gerecht & Dubowitz: Iranian oil-free zone
Reply #389 on:
May 30, 2011, 06:33:45 PM »
By REUEL MARC GERECHT AND MARK DUBOWITZ
If we buy oil from despotic states, are we somehow complicit in their crimes? Even after the Arab Spring has highlighted tyranny in the Middle East, Americans and Europeans still generally remove oil and natural gas from their moral calculations.
But what if we could do a lot of good by sanctioning Iranian oil? Is it possible, moreover, for Europeans to continue to buy Iranian crude but give the Iranian regime less money? And could China and India, major oil customers of Tehran who couldn't care less about the regime's behavior, purchase as much crude as they want and still hurt the mullahs' ability to translate oil wealth into nefarious actions?
The answer to all three questions is "yes." All buyers need is more incentive to shop ruthlessly whenever they buy from Tehran. Washington could provide it by declaring the United States an Iranian-oil-free zone. Any company that exports an oil-based product to America—gasoline, plastics, petrochemicals, synthetic fibers—would have to certify that no Iranian oil was involved in its manufacture.
In 2010, the U.S. imported approximately 5% of its finished (fully-refined) and unfinished daily gasoline consumption from Europe. Since Iranian oil is now freely blended into European stocks, the U.S. is certainly consuming Iranian crude. And Iran's petrochemical exports to China amount to roughly $2 billion, so imagine how much of that comes to the U.S. via Chinese-manufactured plastics.
Making the U.S. an Iranian-oil-free zone would make it a hassle to trade in and use Iranian crude, which would strongly encourage any importer to demand a discount from Tehran. The pressure on Iran to lower its price everywhere could become acute.
VThe U.S. is Europe's largest export market for gasoline, so Washington could give foreign refineries a six-month grace period to adjust their supplies, making it unlikely there would be any increase in the price of gasoline exported to the U.S. No refinery in Europe is dependent on Iranian crude: Even in a tight market, alternative oil supplies could quickly replace Iranian supplies for those refineries that prefer to avoid Iranian oil.
Even for countries that might try to cheat the system, like Venezuela, the incentive would be strong to take advantage of this American sanction and force a lower Iranian price. Moving oil from Iran to Venezuela isn't free—ideological fraternity would probably come at a price.
It's difficult to assess exactly, but it's reasonable to posit that aggressive oil traders would force Tehran to discount its oil by at least 10%. Currently, gasoline traders willing to defy U.S. sanctions on refined petroleum demand premiums of about 30% for the sale of petrol to the Islamic Republic.
Given the state of the Iranian economy—oil production is declining, investments in natural-gas production and distribution are lagging, state subsidies are still exploding, and unemployment and inflation are both rising—a small reduction in oil revenue could have a cascading effect.
It would be easy for European Union countries to adapt to a U.S. Iranian-oil free zone. Under current practices, all foreign oil coming into the EU is so designated by origin for customs purposes. When petroleum is in port, it is tagged as a "T1" (non-EU) good. The discharge of this oil is managed by a handful of highly reputable survey companies that must certify how much oil was unloaded, whether any was lost in shipment, and who now owns the crude. The oil is then processed, refined, and distilled, becoming "T2" (EU) petroleum.
Because of the nature of the refining business, refiners know exactly whose oil is entering into the system and what its properties are (heavy or light, sweet or sour) owing to the desired final product (gasoline, diesel, heating oil, petrochemicals, etc). Iranian crude could be clearly marked as it enters a refinery, placing the legal onus on the refinery and the end-user to certify that Iranian oil has not entered a stream that becomes, for example, Shell gasoline destined for the American market.
In India and China, where legal checks are poorer, it will be more demanding to monitor imports and exports. Still, American pressure could force certification. The objective wouldn't be to create a leak-proof system globally, but a mechanism that would encourage oil traders to demand discounts from Tehran.
On the American side, Congress can easily close a legal loophole that allows for the importation of refined petroleum and other petroleum-based products made from Iranian oil. (The direct importation of Iranian crude has long been illegal.) European refineries might at first bridle at the hassle of separating Iranian petroleum from everyone else's, but they would soon comply given the importance of the American market. Oil traders everywhere would realize their new advantage over Tehran.
Sanctions are too often ineffective because they run counter to our pecuniary motivations, but an Iranian-oil-free zone wouldn't be. It would bring cheaper Iranian oil to those who want it, and it would punish the Iranian regime—perhaps more so than any existing sanctions effort—for its transgressions. That's a win-win for everyone.
Mr. Gerecht, a former CIA officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the author of "The Wave: Man, God and the Ballot Box in the Middle East" (Hoover, 2011). Mr. Dubowitz is executive director of the foundation and heads its Iran Energy Project.
POTH: IAEA figures out Iran going nuke
Reply #390 on:
May 31, 2011, 06:43:17 AM »
The International Atomic Energy Agency last week presented a report to its board that laid out new information on what it calls “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program, clarifying the central issue in the long clash between Tehran and the West over nuclear technology.
The nine-page report raised questions about whether Iran has sought to investigate seven different kinds of technology ranging from atomic triggers and detonators to uranium fuel. Together, the technologies could make a type of atom bomb known as an implosion device, which is what senior staff members of the I.A.E.A. have warned that Iran is able to build.
Weapons based on implosion are considered advanced models compared with the bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima. In these devices, the detonation of a sphere of conventional explosives creates a blast wave that compresses a central ball of bomb fuel into a supercritical mass, starting the chain reaction that ends in a nuclear explosion.
Implosion designs, compact and efficient by nature, are considered necessary for making nuclear warheads small and powerful enough to fit atop a missile.
Iran has dismissed charges that it is pursuing such technologies as lies based on fabricated documents or real ones taken out of context. It insists that its atomic program is meant exclusively for such peaceful objectives as producing medical isotopes and electric power. The result has been a tense standoff.
Last week’s report said the director general of the I.A.E.A., Yukiya Amano, recently wrote to Iranian officials to reiterate the agency’s concerns about the arms evidence and request “prompt access” to a wide range of Iranian facilities and individuals.
The report said Mr. Amano “urges Iran to respond positively” in order to establish “the exclusively peaceful nature” of its program.
Official doubts about Tehran’s ambitions emerged publicly in 2002 and have resulted in four rounds of United Nations sanctions. To date, the penalties have failed to stop Iran from enriching uranium, which can fuel both reactors and atom bombs.
In 2009, senior staff members of the I.A.E.A. concluded in a confidential analysis that “Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device” based on highly enriched uranium.
The new report includes some of the technical evidence behind that charge. It describes the sources of the information as “many member states” as well as its own efforts. Nuclear experts assume that much intelligence comes from Israel, the United States and Western Europe, though the I.A.E.A. in total has 151 member states.
The report cites concerns about undisclosed nuclear activities “past or current,” implying that the agency believes the Iranian arms program may still be moving ahead despite reports of its onetime suspension.
The seven categories of technology all bear on what can be interpreted as warhead design: how to turn uranium into bomb fuel, make conventional explosives that can trigger a nuclear blast, generate neutrons to spur a chain reaction and design nose cones for missiles.
Two diplomats familiar with the evidence, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity under the usual protocol, emphasized that no single one of the technologies stood out as indicating bomb work. Some, they conceded, have peaceful uses.
But the totality of the evidence, they said, suggested that Iran has worked hard on multiple fronts to advance the design of nuclear arms.
“It’s the whole variety of information,” one of the diplomats said. “You have to look at the whole thing.”
Reply #391 on:
June 06, 2011, 03:04:03 PM »
Certainly, it is just a matter of time. The US has already decided against anything other than diplomacy.
***Researcher: Iran can produce nuke within 2 months
Airstrikes can no longer stop nuclear program, US can do nothing short of military occupation, says report
The Iranian regime is closer than ever before to creating a nuclear bomb, according to RAND Corporation researcher Gregory S. Jones.
At its current rate of uranium enrichment, Tehran could have enough for its first bomb within eight weeks, Jones said in a report published this week.***
Reply #392 on:
June 06, 2011, 03:07:25 PM »
Id bet Iran has at least one functional NorK nuke already.
Iran providing weapons that are killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan
Reply #393 on:
July 05, 2011, 04:29:07 PM »
"Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has transferred lethal new munitions to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months, according to senior U.S. officials"
And the consequence for prosecuting two covert wars against a United States led by President Obama is ..... nothing??
Iran Funnels New Weapons to Iraq and Afghanistan
By JAY SOLOMON
TEHRAN—Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has transferred lethal new munitions to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months, according to senior U.S. officials, in a bid to accelerate the U.S. withdrawals from these countries.
The Revolutionary Guard has smuggled rocket-assisted exploding projectiles to its militia allies in Iraq, weapons that have already resulted in the deaths of American troops, defense officials said. They said Iranians have also given long-range rockets to the Taliban in Afghanistan, increasing the insurgents' ability to hit U.S. and other coalition positions from a safer distance.
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Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Such arms shipments would escalate the shadow competition for influence playing out between Tehran and Washington across the Middle East and North Africa, fueled by U.S. preparations to draw down forces from two wars and the political rebellions that are sweeping the region.
The U.S. is wrestling with the aftermath of uprisings against longtime Arab allies from Tunisia to Bahrain, and trying to leave behind stable, friendly governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran appears to be trying to gain political ground amid the turmoil and to make the U.S. withdrawals as quick and painful as possible.
"I think we are likely to see these Iranian-backed groups continue to maintain high attack levels" as the exit date nears, Maj. Gen. James Buchanan, the U.S. military's top spokesman in Iraq, said in an interview. "But they are not going to deter us from doing everything we can to help the Iraqi security forces."
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A security check in Baghdad on June 6, a day when attacks the U.S. links to Iranian arms killed six Americans.
In June, 15 U.S. servicemen died in Iraq, the highest monthly casualty figure there in more than two years. The U.S. has attributed all the attacks to Shiite militias it says are are trained by the Revolutionary Guards, rather than al Qaeda or other Sunni groups that were the most lethal forces inside Iraq a few years ago.
In Afghanistan, the Pentagon has in recent months traced to Iran the Taliban's acquisition of rockets that give its fighters roughly double the range to attack North Atlantic Treaty Organization and U.S. targets. U.S. officials said the rockets' markings, and the location of their discovery, give them a "high degree" of confidence that they came from the Revolutionary Guard's overseas unit, the Qods Force.
U.S. defense officials are also increasingly concerned that Iran's stepped-up military activities in the Persian Gulf could inadvertently trigger a clash. A number of near misses involving Iranian and allied ships and planes in those waters in recent months have caused Navy officials to call for improved communication in the Gulf.
Iran's assertive foreign policy comes amid a growing power struggle between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Many of the president's closest aides have been detained on alleged corruption charges in recent weeks, raising questions as to whether Mr. Ahmadinejad will serve out his term.U.S. and European officials also say Iran has grown increasingly aggressive in trying to influence the political rebellions across the Middle East and North Africa. Tehran is alleged to have dispatched military advisers to Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad put down a popular uprising.
In recent months, according to U.S. officials, Iran has also increased its intelligence and propaganda activities in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, countries where pro-U.S. leaders have either fallen or come under intense pressure.
Iranian officials denied in interviews and briefings this week that the Revolutionary Guard played any role in arming militants in Iraq and Afghanistan. They charged the U.S. with concocting these stories to justify maintaining an American military presence in the region.
WSJ: Senate pushes Baraq to grow a pair and sanction Iran's central bank
Reply #394 on:
August 08, 2011, 12:42:36 AM »
WASHINGTON—More than 90 U.S. senators signed a letter to President Barack Obama pressing him to sanction Iran's central bank, with some threatening legislation to force the move, an outcome that would represent a stark escalation in tensions between the two countries.
Such a measure, if effectively implemented, could potentially freeze Iran out of the global financial system and make it nearly impossible for Tehran to clear billions of dollars in oil sales every month, said current and former U.S. officials.
Many American officials view the blacklisting of Bank Markazi as the "nuclear option" in Washington's financial war against Tehran. Some Iranian leaders have said they would view such a move by the Obama administration as an act of war.
The letter was co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) in a sign of the bipartisan support for tougher financial measures against Iran. The U.S. fears Iran is developing nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
Read the senators' letter to Obama
."In our view, the United States should embark on a comprehensive strategy to pressure Iran's financial system by imposing sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran," said the letter that was viewed by The Wall Street Journal and will be delivered to the White House on Tuesday. "If our allies are willing to join, we believe this step can be even more effective."
A senior U.S. official said the Obama administration is studying all measures to increase pressure on Iran, including potential moves against Bank Markazi.
"We are working really hard on the Iran challenge and have made unprecedented progress in mobilizing international pressure and sanctions," the official said.
Last year, Congress passed legislation barring from the U.S. financial system any foreign firm doing business with sanctioned Iranian banks, Iran's energy sector, or the businesses of Tehran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The law also has a provision allowing the White House to sanction Bank Markazi, a step that President Obama has so far decided not to take.
In an interview, Mr. Kirk said he would introduce a law by year's end to enforce sanctions on Bank Markazi if the White House doesn't move independently.
"The administration will face a choice of whether it wants to lead this effort or be forced to act," Mr. Kirk said.
Mr. Schumer said the White House needed to utilize current legislation.
"It's time for the administration to use the tools Congress has provided and choke off the money spigot," he said in a statement.
Both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations have discussed the merits of targeting Iran's central bank going back at least four years, according to current and former U.S. officials.
The U.S. and European governments believe Bank Markazi has facilitated trade for sanctioned Iranian banks and businesses by masking the names of the parties involved in international transactions.
U.S. officials also worry Iran's central bank has provided funds to organizations designated as terrorist groups by Washington, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
Iranian officials have said in recent interviews that they view all U.S. and United Nations sanctions as illegal and that their country is entitled to conduct international trade.
Current and former U.S. officials who have taken part in the sanctions debate said that targeting Bank Markazi presents significant hurdles.
In recent years, American allies in Europe and Asia have worried that any blacklisting of Iran's central bank will inhibit their ability to purchase Iranian oil and potentially lead to higher global energy prices. Iran is the third-largest oil exporter among the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Nations including China, South Korea and India have experienced trouble purchasing Iranian oil.
New Delhi alone has been unable to pay Iran $5 billion for oil purchases, according to Indian officials.
U.S. officials have worried that unilateral Americans sanctions against Bank Markazi might not be respected by even some American allies. This could place Washington into the difficult position of either backing down or theoretically trying to ban important foreign companies and governments from using the U.S. financial system.
An American official involved in the discussions said any U.S. decision would require months of prior discussions with countries such as South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia in order to get their buy-in.
Congress and the Obama administration have tussled over the issue of Bank Markazi for a number of months. Senators placed holds on the confirmation of two key U.S. officials—Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Under Secretary of Treasury David Cohen—seeking assurances the White House would take steps to sanction the bank.
Mr. Kirk said in the interview these holds were eventually lifted because both Messrs. Burns and Cohen offered assurances the issue was being seriously studied. "They cited an August to September point of action," Mr. Kirk said, acknowledging there were no promises made.
Officials at the State Department and Treasury Department said they couldn't comment on private conversations held with members of Congress.
Write to Jay Solomon at
Russia yanks Iran's chain
Reply #395 on:
August 30, 2011, 02:55:25 PM »
Yet another deadline has passed this week for the completion of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is staffed with Russian nuclear scientists. The Iranians continue to claim that everything is according to schedule and testing is proceeding. However, it’s much more likely that Russia will continue to string Iran along in this project, along with many others.
Over the past several days, Iran has been extremely vocal in expressing its displeasure against Russia. First, Iran announced that it was filing a lawsuit against Russia after the latter backed out of a deal to deliver the S-300 strategic air defense system to Iran. Then, Iran announced that it was kicking Russian energy firm Gazprom out of a major energy deal to develop the Azar oil field project near the Iraqi border.
So why all the bad air between Iran and Russia?
The first thing to understand about the Russian-Iranian relationship is that there’s very little love lost between these two allies. Iran doesn’t have many allies on its friends list to begin with, and it has to rely primarily on Russia for foreign backing. When it comes to political backing and the U.N. Security Council, help with sanctions must be military assistance, among other things. Russia, on the other hand, views Iran primarily as a bargaining chip with which to prod the United States. Russia is pursuing a broader agenda that’s focused on the main idea of consolidating Russian influence in the former Soviet periphery, amping up the Iran threat every now and then is a great way for Russia to add to Washington’s problems while capturing Washington’s attention on the issues that the Kremlin cares about, whether that entails lessening the U.S. military footprint in central Europe or bargaining for much-needed Western investment in Russia.
The problem that Russia is facing is that a lot of the usual cards it uses in trying to deal with Iran are actually losing their punch. Russia is preparing for a growing confrontation with the United States in the coming months as it seeks to further a new security arrangement in Europe that would be friendly to Russian interests. Russia would like to rebuild its Iran leverage in preparation for these negotiations.
Russia isn’t necessarily ready to overly provoke the West through something like the sale of the S-300s to Iran, but it has been ramping up or at least trying to ramp up nuclear negotiations with Iran, while dropping hints to Western intelligence that the Iranian nuclear program may be further along than they thought, all in a way to try to position Russia as a mediator in this wider dispute.
But the Iranians are understandably very distrustful of the Russians. The delays in the Bushehr nuclear power plant and the S-300 sales have become major embarrassments for the Iranians. Typically, Iran wouldn’t make such a public show of its displeasure with Russia, but right now it can afford to. The reason is because Iran is in a relatively strong position. The United States has its hands quite full in trying to manage domestic pressure over the economy and trying to bring closure to the war in Afghanistan and in trying to develop a coherent policy for the Arab world that is in great unease.
Meanwhile, Iran is in a very favorable position in Iraq, where the United States is struggling to maintain an effective blocking force against the Iranians. If Russia wants to regain its leverage with Iran to use in its dealings with the West, it may have to devise some new angles to entice Tehran while maintaining some plausible deniability with the West. This is why we are keeping an especially close eye on potential third party suppliers — countries such as Belarus, Kazakhstan and Venezuela — who could potentially facilitate deals between Russia and Iran while keeping the more controversial deals under the radar.
Reply #396 on:
September 02, 2011, 09:29:19 PM »
VIENNA (AP) — The U.N. nuclear agency said Friday it is "increasingly concerned" about a stream of intelligence suggesting that Iran continues to work secretly on developing a nuclear payload for a missile and other components of a nuclear weapons program.
In its report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said "many member states" are providing evidence for that assessment, describing the information it is receiving as credible, "extensive and comprehensive."
The restricted 9-page report was made available Friday to The Associated Press, shortly after being shared internally with the 35 IAEA member nations and the U.N. Security Council. It also said Tehran has fulfilled a pledged made earlier this year and started installing equipment to enrich uranium at a new location — an underground bunker that is better protected from air attack than its present enrichment facilities.
Enrichment can produce both nuclear fuel and fissile warhead material, and Tehran — which says it wants only to produce fuel with the technology — is under four sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze enrichment, which it says it needs for fuel only.
It also denies secretly experimenting with a nuclear weapons program and has blocked a four-year attempt by the IAEA to follow up on intelligence that it secretly designed blueprints linked to a nuclear payload on a missile, experimented with exploding a nuclear charge, and conducted work on other components of a weapons program.
In a 2007 estimate, the U.S. intelligence community said that while Iran had worked on a weapons program such activities appeared to have ceased in 2003. But diplomats say a later intelligence summary avoided such specifics, and recent IAEA reports on the topic have expressed growing unease that such activities may be continuing.
The phrase "increasingly concerned" has not appeared in previous reports discussing Iran's alleged nuclear weapons work and reflects the frustration felt by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano over the lack of progress in his investigations.
His report said that choice of language is due to the "possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities" linked to weapons work. In particular, said the report, the agency continues to receive new information about "activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile."
Acquired from "many" member states, the information possessed by the IAEA is "extensive and comprehensive ... (and) broadly consistent and credible," said the report.
Other findings of the report, prepared for a session of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors starting Sept. 12 included:
— Confirmation of reports by diplomats to the AP that Iran has started setting up uranium enriching centrifuges at Fordow, a fortified facility dug into a mountain near the holy city of Qom. Iran intends to use Fordow to triple its 20-percent enrichment of uranium — a concern because that level is easier to turn into weapons grade uranium quickly than its main stockpile of low enriched uranium at 3.5 percent.
— Further accumulation of both low-enriched and higher enriched or 20 percent uranium. The report said Iran had now accumulated more than four tons of low enriched uranium and over 70 kilograms — more than 150 pounds — of higher enriched material. Those two stockpiles give it enough enriched uranium to make up to six nuclear warheads, should it choose to do so.
The report praised Iran for its decision earlier this month to allow IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts to tour a facility where it is developing more efficient centrifuges, saying Iran "provided extensive information" on its development of such machines.
It, however was generally critical of Iran's record of secrecy and lack of cooperation, noting that without increased openness on the part of the Islamic Republic the IAEA is unable to "conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."
Stratfor: Internal Rifts
Reply #397 on:
September 16, 2011, 12:28:50 AM »
Thursday, September 15, 2011 STRATFOR.COM Diary Archives
Internal Rifts Hamper Iran's Strong Negotiating Position
Iran’s judiciary said Wednesday that it was still reviewing the bail offer of two American hikers convicted of spying. The official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the statement as saying that only the judiciary can provide information about the case. This statement from the judiciary essentially goes against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s previous claim that the pair would be released in a couple of days.
Clearly, this is the latest episode in the ongoing intra-elite power struggle within the Iranian political establishment. This latest development, however, has direct and critical implications for the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy. It comes at a time when the Ahmadinejad government has made positive gestures toward the United States and Western allies.
“Ahmadinejad and his allies are arguing that the time for negotiations is at hand, while his opponents are demanding a tougher stance, fearing that any compromise could undermine the Iranian position. “
In addition to the efforts to release the two U.S. citizens, Tehran has initiated a fresh attempt to restart stalled nuclear talks. In Iraq, Iran’s highest foreign-policy priority, Tehran has convinced its key Iraqi Shia proxy, the radical leader Muqtada al-Sadr, to say that his militiamen will halt all attacks against U.S. forces so that they can withdraw from the country by the end-of-the-year deadline.
Iran is not acting from a position of weakness. On the contrary, these moves stem from Iran’s confidence about its position, not just in Iraq, but in the wider region. It is unlikely that the United States will leave behind a force sufficient (both quantitatively and qualitatively) to allay Arab concerns over conventional Persian military forces.
Israel is preoccupied with far more pressing issues in its immediate surroundings, including an Egypt in flux, the Palestinian National Authority’s efforts toward unilateral statehood, unrest in Syria and an increasingly hostile Turkey. Finally, Europe is totally distracted by growing financial crises.
In other words, Iran feels that the current circumstances are conducive to negotiating with the United States from a position of relative strength. Thus far, the Americans are not entertaining Iranian gestures. Washington’s envoy to the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog dismissed Tehran’s offers as insufficient, labeling them a “charm offensive.” The American response is understandable as U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration does not wish to negotiate from a position of relative weakness.
More important, however, are the mixed signals from Tehran over the fate of the hikers and how they raise the question of whether Iran is in a position to negotiate as a single entity. The struggle between rival conservative factions and the various centers of power in Tehran that has been going on ever since Ahmadinejad came to power in the summer of 2005 has begun to undermine Tehran’s ability to conduct foreign policy.
The situation has become so convoluted that Ahmadinejad, for the longest time seen as a radical, has assumed a pragmatic position. The move has aligned forces to his right and left against him. Each of these forces has its respective motivations, but they share a common goal. They want to prevent Ahmadinejad from becoming the head of state of the Islamic Republic that reaches an accommodation with the United States.
Hence the effort to publicly embarrass the Iranian president days before he is due in New York for this year’s session of the United Nations General Assembly, where he and his top associates may try to further dialogue with the West. The way several key Iranian leaders have openly admonished Ahmadinejad on the hiker issue shows that there is a massive debate under way in Tehran over foreign policy toward the United States. Ahmadinejad and his allies are arguing that the time for negotiations is at hand, while his opponents are demanding a tougher stance, fearing that any compromise could undermine the Iranian position.
The outcome of this debate may soon become apparent. Release of the hikers will indicate that Ahmadinejad has the power to cut a deal with Washington. Conversely, if the hikers are not released, it will indicate that Ahmadinejad’s position has been severely weakened, that the Iranian state is not a singular coherent entity and that negotiations with Iran are not possible.
Stratfor: Hitchhiker's guide to the Iranian galaxy
Reply #398 on:
September 21, 2011, 05:55:12 PM »
Dispatch: Freed Hikers and Iran's Power Struggle
September 21, 2011 | 1941 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:
Analyst Reva Bhalla discusses what the hikers’ release reveals about the ongoing power struggle in Iran and whether this struggle could impede Iran’s goals in Iraq and the wider region.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Intelligence Guidance: U.S.-Taliban Talks, Iran’s Power Struggle, Greek Austerity
Internal Rifts Hamper Iran’s Strong Negotiating Position
Long-Term Consequences of Iran’s Intra-Elite Struggle
It was announced on Wednesday that after having spent 782 days in an Iranian prison, the two remaining American hikers were released on a $1 million bail. The delay over the hiker release exposed the depth of the Iranian power struggle, but the release may be one small sign that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad still carries a great deal of authority when it comes to driving Iran’s foreign policy.
The Iranian power struggle is often exaggerated by mostly Western commentators who often describe the constant bickering between the Iranian president and his rivals as a sign of the regime is cracking under pressure, and that it’s only a matter of time before pro-democracy protesters are able to overwhelm a weakening clerical regime.
At STRATFOR we see things a bit differently. There’s no denying that there is a serious power struggle in Iran, and signs of that can be seen every day. Most recently, when the Iranian judiciary, controlled by the president’s biggest rivals, basically embarrassed Ahmadinejad in delaying the hikers’ release after Ahmadinejad publicly announced that they would be released. But it’s important to understand the core dynamics underlying this power struggle. A rising political faction so far led by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad charges the corrupted clerical elite of betraying the revolution and for ignoring the demands of the poor. The most striking aspect of this power struggle is not that a firebrand leader is getting ganged up on by the country’s most senior clerics, but the fact that such a leader would not be attacking the clerical establishment in the first place, if that establishment wasn’t already seen as weakening and undergoing a crisis in legitimacy. Ahmadinejad after all is just a politician in the end. The far more important thing to understand is the faction that he represents and the growing delegitimization of the country’s corrupted clerical elite.
This is a long-term process though. The clerical establishment still has a great deal of institutional strength and they’ve used that strength to constrain Ahmadinejad quite well. However, with time the discrediting of the clerical elite is likely to create an opening for the military, as opposed to pro-democracy groups, to fill a vacuum within the regime. That’s why it’s extremely important to watch the evolution of the IRGC [Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps], already a major military and economic force in the state, and now an increasingly influential voice in Iranian politics.
The more immediate question that we’re asking ourselves is whether this Iranian power struggle is going to distract Iran from meeting its core geopolitical imperatives in Iraq. Clearly a power vacuum is opening in Iraq with the withdrawal of U.S. forces and this represents a historical opportunity for the Iranians. The next step for the Iran is not only to consolidate influence in Iraq but to shape a realignment of Arab interests in the region that, at least in the short-term, favor Iranian interests.
A big part of this effort will entail driving the United States toward an accommodation with Iran while Iran still feels like it has the upper hand. This is something that Ahmadinejad has actually tried to do but has been held back by his rivals as they have been trying to deny the president a major foreign policy coup. There is no guarantee of success for Iran in this wider initiative, as this is going to take a great deal of focus and strategy in the coming months. Given that we can also expect the level of internal turmoil in Iran to increase in the coming months, we’re going to have to watch very closely to see if Iran can contain its problems at home while it keeps its eye on the bigger prize in Iraq and the wider region.
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Iran at a crossroads
Reply #399 on:
September 27, 2011, 05:27:10 AM »
Geopolitical Journey: Iran at a Crossroads
September 27, 2011
STRATFORBy Kamran Bokhari
Geopolitically, a trip to Iran could not come at a better time. Iran is an emerging power seeking to exploit the vacuum created by the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq, which is scheduled to conclude in a little more than three months. Tehran also plays a major role along its eastern border, where Washington is seeking a political settlement with the Taliban to facilitate a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Islamic republic simultaneously is trying to steer popular unrest in the Arab world in its favor. That unrest in turn has significant implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an issue in which Iran has successfully inserted itself over the years. The question of the U.S.-Iranian relationship also looms — does accommodation or confrontation lie ahead? At the same time, the Iranian state — a unique hybrid of Shiite theocracy and Western republicanism — is experiencing intense domestic power struggles.
This is the geopolitical context in which I arrived at Imam Khomeini International airport late Sept. 16. Along with several hundred foreign guests, I had been invited to attend a Sept. 17-18 event dubbed the “Islamic Awakening” conference, organized by the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Given the state of Iranian-Western ties and my position as a senior analyst with a leading U.S.-based private intelligence company, the invitation came as surprise.
With some justification, Tehran views foreign visitors as potential spies working to undermine Iranian national security. The case of the American hikers jailed in Iran (two of whom were released the day of my return to Canada) provided a sobering example of tourism devolving into accusations of espionage.
Fortunately for me, STRATFOR had not been placed on the list of some 60 Western organizations (mostly American and British think tanks and civil society groups) banned as seditious in early 2010 following the failed Green Movement uprising. Still, the Iranian regime is well aware of our views on Iranian geopolitics.
In addition to my concerns about how Iranian authorities would view me, I also worried about how attending a state-sponsored event designed to further Iranian geopolitical interests where many speakers heavily criticized the United States and Israel would look in the West. In the end, I set my trepidations aside and opted for the trip.
Geopolitical Observations in Tehran
STRATFOR CEO and founder George Friedman has written of geopolitical journeys, of how people from diverse national backgrounds visiting other countries see places in very different ways. In my case, my Pakistani heritage, American upbringing, Muslim religious identity and Canadian nationality allowed me to navigate a milieu of both locals and some 700 delegates of various Arab and Muslim backgrounds. But the key was in the way STRATFOR trains its analysts to avoid the pitfall that many succumb to — the blurring of what is really happening with what we may want to see happen.
The foreigner arriving in Iran immediately notices that despite 30 years of increasingly severe sanctions, the infrastructure and systems in the Islamic republic appear fairly solid. As a developing country and an international pariah, one would expect infrastructure along the lines of North Korea or Cuba. But Iran’s construction, transportation and communications infrastructure shares more in common with apartheid-era South Africa, and was largely developed indigenously.
Also notable was the absence of any visible evidence of a police state. Considering the state’s enormous security establishment and the recent unrest surrounding the Green Movement, I expected to see droves of elite security forces. I especially expected this in the northern districts of the capital, where the more Westernized segment of society lives and where I spent a good bit of time walking and sitting in cafes.
Granted, I didn’t stay for long and was only able to see a few areas of the city to be able to tell, but the only public display of opposition to the regime was “Death to Khamenei” graffiti scribbled in small letters on a few phone booths on Vali-e-Asr Avenue in the Saadabad area. I saw no sign of Basij or Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel patrolling the streets, only the kind of police presence one will find in many countries.
This normal security arrangement gave support to STRATFOR’s view from the very beginning that the unrest in 2009 was not something the regime couldn’t contain. As we wrote then and I was able to see firsthand last week, Iran has enough people who — contrary to conventional wisdom — support the regime, or at the very least do not seek its downfall even if they disagree with its policies.
I saw another sign of support for the Islamic republic a day after the conference ended, when the organizers arranged a tour of the mausoleum of the republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. We visited the large complex off a main highway on the southern end of town on a weekday; even so, numerous people had come to the shrine to pay their respects — several with tears in their eyes as they prayed at the tomb.
Obviously, the intensity of religious feelings varies in Iran, but a significant stratum of the public remains deeply religious and still believes in the national narrative of the revolutionary republic. This fact does not get enough attention in the Western media and discourse, clouding foreigners’ understanding of Iran and leading to misperceptions of an autocratic clergy clinging to power only by virtue of a massive security apparatus.
In the same vein, I had expected to see stricter enforcement of religious attire on women in public after the suppression of the Green Movement. Instead, I saw a light-handed approach on the issue. Women obeyed the requirement to cover everything but their hands and faces in a variety of ways. Some women wore the traditional black chador. Others wore long shirts and pants and scarves covering their heads. Still others were dressed in Western attire save a scarf over their head, which was covering very little of their hair.
The dress code has become a political issue in Iran, especially in recent months in the context of the struggle between conservative factions. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has encountered growing opposition from both pragmatic and ultraconservative forces, has come under criticism from clerics and others for alleged moral laxity when it comes to female dress codes. Even so, the supreme leader has not moved to challenge Ahmadinejad on this point.
Ahmadinejad and the Clerical-Political Divide
In sharp contrast with his first term, Ahmadinejad — the most ambitious and assertive president since the founding of the Islamic republic in 1979 — has been trying to position himself as the pragmatist in his second term while his opponents come out looking like hard-liners. In recent months his statements have become less religiously informed, though they have retained their nationalist and radical anti-Western tone.
For example, his speech at the conclusion of the second day of the conference on the theme of the event, Islamic Awakening, was articulated in non-religious language. This stood in sharp contrast to almost every other speaker. Ahmadinejad spoke of recent Arab unrest in terms of a struggle for freedom, justice and emancipation for oppressed peoples, while his criticism of the United States and Israel was couched in terms of how the two countries’ policies were detrimental to global peace as opposed to the raw ideological vitriol that we have seen in the not too distant past.
But while Iran’s intra-elite political struggles complicate domestic and foreign policymaking, they are not about to bring down the Islamic republic — at least not anytime soon. In the longer term, the issue at the heart of all disputes — that of shared governance by clerics and politicians — does pose a significant challenge to the regime. This tension has existed throughout the nearly 32-year history of the Islamic republic, and it will continue to be an issue into the foreseeable future as Iran focuses heavily on the foreign policy front.
Iran’s Regional Ambitions
In fact, the conference was all about Iran’s foreign policy ambitions to assume intellectual and geopolitical leadership of the unrest in the Arab world. Iran is well aware that it is in competition with Turkey over leadership for the Middle East and that Ankara is in a far better position than Iran economically, diplomatically and religiously as a Sunni power. Nevertheless, Iran is trying to position itself as the champion of the Arab masses who have risen up in opposition to autocratic regimes. The Iranian view is that Turkey cannot lead the region while remaining aligned with Washington and that Saudi Arabia’s lack of enthusiasm for the uprisings works in Tehran’s favor.
The sheer number of Iranian officials who are bilingual (fluent in Persian and Arabic) highlights the efforts of Tehran to overcome the ethno-linguistic geopolitical constraints it faces as a Persian country trying to operate in a region where most Muslim countries are Arab. While its radical anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli position has allowed it to circumvent the ethnic factor and attract support in the Arab and Muslim worlds, its Shiite sectarian character has allowed its opponents in Riyadh and elsewhere to restrict Iranian regional influence. In fact, Saudi Arabia remains a major bulwark against Iranian attempts expand its influence across the Persian Gulf and into Arabian Peninsula, as has been clear by the success that the Saudis have had in containing the largely Shiite uprising in Bahrain against the country’s Sunni monarchy.
Even so, Iran has developed some close relations across the sectarian divide, something obvious from the foreign participants invited to the conference. Thus in addition to the many Shiite leaders from Lebanon and Iraq and other parts of the Islamic world, the guest list included deputy Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook; Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) chief Ramadan Abdullah Shallah; a number of Egyptian religious, political, intellectual and business notables; the chief adviser to Sudanese President Omar al Bashir as well as the leader of the country’s main opposition party, Sadiq al-Mahdi; a number of Sunni Islamist leaders from Pakistan and Afghanistan, including former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani whom I had the opportunity of speaking with only two days before he was assassinated in Kabul; and the head of Malaysia’s main Islamist group, PAS, which runs governments in a few states — just to name a few.
Tehran has had much less success in breaching the ideological chasm, something evidenced by the dearth of secular political actors at the conference. Its very name, Islamic Awakening, was hardly welcoming to secularists. It also did not accurately reflect the nature of the popular agitation in the Arab countries, which is not being led by forces that seek revival of religion. The Middle East could be described as experiencing a political awakening, but not a religious awakening given that Islamist forces are latecomers to the cause.
A number of my hosts asked me what I thought of the conference, prompting me to address this conceptual discrepancy. I told them that the name Islamic Awakening only made sense if one was referring the Islamic world, but that even this interpretation was flawed as the current unrest has been limited to Arab countries.
While speaker after speaker pressed for unity among Muslim countries and groups in the cause of revival and the need to support the Arab masses in their struggle against autocracy, one unmistakable tension was clear. This had to do with Syria, the only state in the Arab world allied with Iran. A number of speakers and members of the audience tried to criticize the Syrian regime’s efforts to crush popular dissent, but the discomfort this caused was plain. Syria has proven embarrassing for Iran and even groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and PIJ, which are having a hard time reconciling their support for the Arab unrest on one hand and supporting the Syrian regime against its dissidents on the other.
The Road Ahead
Attending this conference allowed me to meet and observe many top Iranian civil and military officials and the heads of Arab and other Muslim non-state actors with varying degree of relationships with Tehran. Analyzing them from a distance one tends to dismiss their ideology and statements as rhetoric and propaganda. Some of what they say is rhetoric, but beneath the rhetoric are also convictions.
We in the West often expect Iran to succumb to international pressure, seek rehabilitation in the international community and one day become friendly with the West. We often talk of a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement, but at a strategic level, the Iranian leadership has other plans.
While Iran would like normalized relations with Washington and the West, it is much more interested in maintaining its independence in foreign policy matters, not unlike China’s experience since establishing relations with the United States. As one Iranian official told me at the conference, when Iran re-establishes ties with the United States, it doesn’t want to behave like Saudi Arabia or to mimic Turkey under the Justice and Development Party.
Whether or not Iran will achieve its goals and to what extent remains unclear. The combination of geography, demography and resources means Iran will remain at the center of an intense geopolitical struggle, and I hope for further opportunities to observe these developments firsthand.
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