Category Archives: Iran

Iran displays Israeli drone allegedly shot down near nuclear facility

The Jerusalem Post/Reuters reports:

‘The Iranian media released footage Monday of the Israeli spy drone it claimed to have shot down Sunday as it was heading for its Natanz nuclear enrichment site. The Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) claimed Monday that it was working to extract intelligence and data from the drone’s remains. According to an Iranian military official, the drone was a Hermes model with a combat radius of 800 kilometers.

IRGC’s Public Relations Department General Ramezan Sharif was quoted by Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency as saying that some of the parts of the downed aircraft are working, “and our experts are studying the information and intelligence of these parts. We are now analyzing the information of this plane. The downed aircraft was of the stealth, radar-evasive type and it intended to penetrate the off-limits nuclear area in Natanz … but was targeted by a ground-to-air missile before it managed to enter the area,” state news agency ISNA said, citing a statement by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.’

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Nabucco: Iran to provide Europe with alternative to Russian gas?

World Bulletin reports:

Iran to provide Europe with alternative to Russian gasAs the Ukraine crisis puts Russia and Europe at odds, leaving Europe with no choice but to search for alternative natural gas resources, Iran looks likely to fulfill Europe’s demand.

Iran’s deputy oil minister Ali Mejidi has indicated that the Nabucco Project, which was presented as an alternative to Russian gas with the potential of fulfilling a large proportion of Europe’s need before being put on hold last year, is now back on track. Speaking to Russian press, Mejidi confirmed that two separate delegations were sent to Europe. “With Nabucco, Iran can provide Europe with gas. We are the best alternative to Russia,” he said.

Mejidi also said that though a number of routes to deliver the gas to Europe were being considered, Turkey was the “right address.” The Nabucco project, which was first presented in 2002, plans to pump gas to Europe via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. The project will also pump 31 billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani and Iraqi natural gas to Europe.

Iran Denies Media Reports on $20 billion Oil Deal with Russia

Tasnim News Agency reports:

putin iran‘Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister for International and Trade Affairs denied the recent media reports on a $20-billion oil deal between Tehran and Moscow. Ali Majedi said reports carried by some foreign media about Russia signing a $20- billion agreement to purchase Iranian oil are incorrect. Moscow and Tehran signed a five-year memorandum of understanding on Monday aimed at boosting bilateral economic cooperation.

Later, the Reuters News Agency claimed that it included an oil-for-goods agreement worth up to $20 billion which would see Moscow buy Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods. Meanwhile the White House has said such a deal would raise “serious concerns” and would be inconsistent with the nuclear talks between world powers and Iran.

US Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen on Thursday said Washington may introduce sanctions against Russian companies due to the recently signed oil deal between Moscow and Tehran. Cohen added that Washington had warned Russia against such a deal under the threat of additional US sanctions.’

Remember when the U.S. shot down Iran Air Flight 655?

Oil-producing Iran looks to solar power

Ali Akbar Dareini reports for the Associated Press:

‘President Hassan Rouhani’s government has quintupled its spending on solar power projects in the last year, taking advantage of Iran’s 300-odd days of sunshine a year that make its vast sun-kissed lands one of the best spots on earth to host solar panels. While being good for the environment, the panels also offer rural Iran steady power amid uncertainty over the country’s contested nuclear program as it negotiates with world powers.

And as the Islamic Republic cuts back on subsidies that once made gasoline cheaper than bottled mineral water, a push toward self-sustaining solar power could help the government save money and bolster its sanctions-battered economy. “A big change is in the making in Iran,” said Saman Mirhadi, a senior official in charge of solar projects. Iran, home to some 77 million people, is a fossil-fuel powerhouse, even in the crude-oil rich Middle East. It is home to both the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves and massive natural gas reserves. However, sanctions have cut into the country’s refining and production capabilities.’

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US considers talks with Iran on Iraq security

From BBC News:

Map ‘Washington is considering direct talks with Iran on the security situation in Iraq, a US official has told the BBC. The move comes as US President Barack Obama weighs up options on action to take in Iraq… While the US and Iran are old adversaries, both have an interest in curbing the growing threat posed by ISIS and both are considering military support to the Iraqi government, says the BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan in Washington.

The US is said to be considering direct discussions with Tehran which could even take place as early as this week. The two countries are due to hold the latest round of talks on Iran’s nuclear programme in Vienna. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said he will consider co-operation if the US takes action in Iraq.

The USS George HW Bush aircraft carrier is already being deployed to the Gulf, accompanied by two more warships. But Washington says no US troops will be deployed on the ground. The US has also announced it is increasing security at its embassy in Baghdad and relocating some staff to safer areas. Meanwhile, there are reports that more than 130 Iranian Revolutionary Guards are in Iraq to provide training and advice.’

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Iran’s plan to double its population

Michael Cook writes for BioEdge:

‘Another challenge to be faced by bioethics in the decades ahead is the downstream consequences of falling birth rates. Once fertility begins to fall, it keeps falling to levels which once seemed (sorry) inconceivable. The replacement birth rate is 2.1 children per woman. But in South Korea, parts of Spain, and Russia it has fallen below 1.3. At that rate, population begins to decline fairly rapidly. A small population could have big political consequences.

This worries the leaders of Iran. The birth rate in Iran has fallen more swiftly than anywhere else in the world – from 6.4 in 1986 to a current low of 1.8. When they look into their crystal ball, they see a weak and depopulated nation. This is why the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently released a 14-point plan to reverse decades of propaganda for small families and double his country’s population to 150 million. His proposals include: increasing the birth rate to more than 2.3; lowering the age of marriage; an Islamic-Iranian lifestyle and opposing undesirable aspects of the Western lifestyle; and providing treatment for both male and female infertility.’

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Former top Iranian terrorist living under CIA protection in U.S., new book claims

Jeff Stein writes for Newsweek:

‘The senior former Iranian intelligence officer who quarterbacked the 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut and killed scores of Americans was recently living under CIA protection in the United States, a book being published Tuesday says. Ali Reza Asgari was given asylum by the George W. Bush administration in 2007 after he defected in Turkey, according to The Good Spy, a biography of Robert Ames, a legendary CIA officer who was among those killed in the embassy bombing. In all, 63 people died, 17 of them Americans, including seven other CIA officers. Ames, who had been the agency’s Beirut station chief, was visiting the embassy as the CIA’s top Middle East analyst.

Asgari, a top commander of Iran’s shadowy Revolutionary Guards force in Lebanon, “remains in the United States, probably living under a CIA agent-protection program,” according to the book’s author, Kai Bird, who a shared Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2006 for his book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. The CIA did not respond to Newsweek’s request for comment over the weekend, but on Monday evening flatly denied it had aided and abetted Asgari’s defection and resettlement.’

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John Bolton: Forget Syria, Pursue Regime Change in Iran

John Glaser writes for Antiwar:

John-BoltonJohn Bolton is confused. After spending years berating the Obama administration for failing to take action in Syria’s bloody civil war, he has come out against such an intervention…kind of.

In a piece in the New York Post, Bolton criticizes the administration for “vacillating for three years on whether to arm ‘moderate’ opposition forces, by failing to uphold his ‘red line’ on chemical weapons and by indulging in rhetoric unaccompanied by action.” At the same time, he is coming out of the closet as against supporting the rebels or bombing Damascus: “Washington’s ability to affect the outcome in Syria is decidedly limited; aiding the rebels mainly increases the chances of an al Qaeda regime in Damascus — hardly preferable to the current bloodshed.”

Bravo! This is what non-interventionists have been saying since the beginning. But then, Bolton’s piece trades restraint in Syria for overthrowing the Iranian regime.

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Iran Enters Next Stage of Nuclear Talks: Interview with Gareth Porter

‘Historian and investigative journalist Gareth Porter discusses how fabricated documents from Israel should not be seen as proof of Iran’s desire to weaponize.’ (The Real News)

Iran to Pakistan: Beware of ‘hands’ sowing rift between us

From the Daily Times:

‘Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei on Monday lambasted the US and ‘some other states’ for their attempts to create rift between Iran and Pakistan. “There are hands at work that intend to cause differences between the two friendly and intimate nations through different methods, including stirring insecurity at the lengthy common borders. We shouldn’t allow the big opportunity existing for the expansion of the relations between the two countries to be lost,” Khamenei told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a meeting. He underlined the need for further development of ties between the two countries and laid special importance on the implementation of joint ventures, like Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. ‘

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Syria: Iran and Assad have won, say top Tehran foreign policy figures

Simon Tisdall reports for The Guardian:

Photograph: Uncredited/APIran and its close ally President Bashar al-Assad have won the war inSyria, and the US-orchestrated campaign in support of the opposition’s attempt to topple the Syrian regime has failed, senior Iranian officials have told the Guardian. In a series of interviews in Tehran, top figures who shape Iranian foreign policy said the west’s strategy in Syria had merely encouraged radicals, caused chaos and ultimately backfired, with government forces now on the front foot. We have won in Syria,” said Alaeddin Borujerdi, chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee and an influential government insider. “The regime will stay. The Americans have lost it.”

Terrorism perpetrated by al-Qaida-linked jihadist groups and individuals armed and funded by Sunni Muslim Arab countries was now the main threat facing the Syrian people, Borujerdi said. Many foreign fighters who had travelled to Syria from Britain and other European countries could soon return. “We are worried about the future security of Europe,” he said. “We won the game in Syria easily,” said Amir Mohebbian, a conservative strategist and government adviser. “The US does not understand Syria. The Americans wanted to replace Assad, but what was the alternative? All they have done is encourage radical groups and made the borders less safe. “We accept the need for change in Syria – but gradually. Otherwise, there is chaos,” Mohebbian added.’

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Iran President Rouhani urges equal rights for women

From BBC News:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (second right) at a forum to mark Women's Day in Iran, 20 April 2014Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has urged equal opportunities and rights for men and women, and condemned sexual discrimination. In a speech marking Women’s Day, Mr Rouhani criticised “those who consider women’s presence society as a threat” and said Iran still had “a long way to go” to ensure gender equality. Mr Rouhani, a religious moderate, was elected to office in June 2013. Foreign activist groups argue that Iran’s laws discriminate against women.

Speaking on Sunday at the National Forum on Women Shaping Economy and Culture in Tehran, Mr Rouhani said: “We will not accept the culture of sexual discrimination.”  “Women must enjoy equal opportunity, equal protection and equal social rights,” he said in comments that were broadcast live on television. “According to the Islamic rules, man is not the stronger sex and woman is not the weaker one,” he said.

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Tehran – the secret party town

From The Guardian’s Tehran Bureau:

Tehran after darkThe streets of Tehran turn deceptively quiet after midnight, but one anomalous corner in the affluent part of the city offers a rare glimpse of what goes on between four walls. In contrast to the deserted sidewalks and shopfronts lining Tehran’s boulevards, the block around the late-night grocery store Super Jordan buzzes with activity. Traffic is denser here, as drivers line up behind Porsches and Mercedes Benzes whose owners swerve in and out of lanes, either because they are drunk or because they can. While a strictly enforced law compels other shopkeepers to close by midnight, Super Jordan stays open through the wee hours, monopolizing late-night refreshment sales. It is rumored that the owner has exquisite connections to the municipal government; in any case, shoppers in various stages of inebriation complete their purchases without police intervention.

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The Iranian Threat That Never Was: Another Manufactured Crisis

Sheldon Richman writes for CounterPunch:

If you take politicians and the mainstream media seriously, you believe that Iran wants a nuclear weapon and has relentlessly engaged in covert efforts to build one. Even if you are aware that Iran signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, you may believe that those who run the Islamic Republic have cleverly found ways to construct a nuclear-weapons industry almost undetected. Therefore, you may conclude, Democratic and Republican administrations have been justified in pressuring Iran to come clean and give up its “nuclear program.” But you would be wrong.

Anyone naturally skeptical about such foreign-policy alarms has by now found solid alternative reporting that debunks the official narrative about the alleged Iranian threat. Much of that reporting has come from Gareth Porter, the journalist and historian associated with Inter Press Service. Porter has done us the favor of collecting the fruits of his dogged investigative journalism into a single comprehensive and accessible volume, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

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CNN continues to point at Iranians in disappearance of Malaysia Airlines 370

Iraq and Iran trigger global spike in executions

From BBC News:

A nooseA sharp rise in the number of people put to death in Iraq and Iran caused a global spike in executions in 2013, Amnesty International says. The human rights group annual review of the death penalty found a jump of almost 15% compared with 2012. China is thought to execute the most people, although the exact number of executions there is kept secret.

Elsewhere, at least 778 executions are known to have been carried out in 2013, compared with 682 in 2012. At least 369 people were killed in Iran while Iraq saw a stark rise in its executions, with 169 being killed. “The virtual killing sprees we saw in countries like Iran and Iraq were shameful,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general.

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Netanyahu orders IDF to prepare for possible strike on Iran during 2014

Barak Ravid reports of Haaretz:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have ordered the army to continue preparing for a possible military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities at a cost of at least 10 billion shekels ($2.89 billion) this year, despite the talks between Iran and the West, according to recent statements by senior military officers. Three Knesset members who were present at Knesset joint committee hearings on Israel Defense Forces plans that were held in January and February say they learned during the hearings that 10 billion shekels to 12 billion shekels of the defense budget would be allocated this year for preparations for a strike on Iran, approximately the same amount that was allocated in 2013.

Some MKs asked the army’s deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, and planning directorate official Brig. Gen. Agai Yehezkel whether they felt there was justification for investing so much money in those preparations, said the MKs present at the meetings, who asked that their names be withheld because of the sensitivity of the issue. They said some lawmakers also asked whether the interim agreement reached between Iran and the six powers in November 2013, and the ongoing negotiations for a full nuclear accord, had caused any change in the IDF’s preparations. The IDF representatives said the army had received a clear directive from government officials from the political echelon – meaning Netanyahu and Ya’alon – to continue readying for a possible independent strike by Israel on the Iranian nuclear sites, regardless of the talks now happening between Iran and the West, the three MKs said.

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Senator John McCain at AIPAC: ‘This regime in Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terror’

AIPAC Is Losing Influence Over U.S. Foreign Policy: Interview with Phyllis Bennis

Hamid Dabashi: Saudi Arabia and Iran Share A Common Goal in Syria

Correcting the Mainstream Distortions of Iran’s 1979 Revolution: Interview with Hamid Dabashi

‘Military action likely’ if Iran talks fail, US spokeswoman says

From The Jerusalem Post:

A resolution to the nuclear dispute with Tehran, should current diplomatic efforts fail, “is likely to involve military action,” US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

“I’m not predicting that we would take military action right away,” Harf said. “It’s more of a broad statement that, look, if we can’t get this done diplomatically in six months or a year or at any time, we will – we are committed to resolving it. And that involves less durable and, quite frankly, riskier actions.

[...] Asked by The Jerusalem Post which the administration considered more likely if diplomacy does not achieve a comprehensive solution in a time frame agreed upon by world powers – war or additional sanctions – Harf responded: “I’m not saying in six months we’re going to go to war if we don’t get a deal done. Broadly speaking, the alternative to resolving this diplomatically is resolving it through other means.

“There are only a few scenarios that come out of this: Either we resolve it diplomatically or we resolve it a different way,” Harf continued.

“It’s just common sense that that different way could involve – is likely to involve military action.”

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Iran, Iraq Plan Challenge to Saudi Control Over Oil Market

From Antiwar:

Comments by Iraqi Deputy PM for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani have fueled new speculation about an imminent challenge to Saudi Arabia’s stranglehold on OPEC and by extension the global oil market.

Shahristani revealed that Iraq is planning to triple its capacity for crude oil production by the end of the decade, and is working with its neighbor Iran to boost export capacity as much as possible, as quickly as possible.

The goal is for the two nations to have so much excess capacity that they can compete with Saudi Arabia as a source for “flex production,” key to controlling the global price.

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U.S. Warns Against Business With Iran

From The New York Times:

The Obama administration intensified efforts on Thursday to counter what officials called a misimpression that the six-month nuclear agreement withIran had opened the door to new economic opportunities with the country, emphasizing that nearly all sanctions remained in force and warning businesses not to engage in any deals still pending after the accord’s July 20 expiration.

As if to punctuate the administration’s assertion that little had changed, the Treasury Department announced what it described as a landmark $152 million settlement with Clearstream Banking, a Luxembourg-based banking subsidiary of Germany’s Deutsche Börse securities exchange, for having allowed Iran to bypass sanctions through the use of the company’s access to the American banking system.

“Today’s action should serve as a clear alert to firms operating in the securities industry that they need to be vigilant with respect to dealings with sanctioned parties,” Adam J. Szubin, director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which helps to police compliance with American sanctions, said in a statement announcing the settlement.

The administration has been facing increased criticism from supporters of strong sanctions against Iran who contend that the six-month deal — which went into force on Monday [January 20th]  and was devised to allow time to negotiate a permanent accord — had given the Iranians far more in economic benefits than what its provisions had specified or intended.

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Israel’s nuclear weapons: the open secret

Nuclear Deal Aside, West Still Hostile Toward Iran

From Antiwar:

The very same week the interim nuclear deal with Iran went into effect, a diplomatic fiasco surrounding the Syrian peace talks underscored how little Western officials think has changed, and that Iran still occupies the position of “hostile power” for them.

Early last week, the focus was on getting partial ceasefires to slow the Syrian Civil War, and Iranian involvement would’ve been a major boost to that effort. The UN did the “reasonable” thing and invited Iran.

What followed was a total rethink of the talks and 24 solid hours of threats, before Iran was summarily disinvited and the US started insisting the whole point of the Syria talks was regime change and condemning the idea of partial ceasefires as a “distraction.”

Iran remains irked at being invited and uninvited like that, Russia is also angry since the whole point of the talks seems to be changing, and the UN is trying to insist none of this is their fault, and that they just assumed Iran was ready to impose a regime change ousting a close ally and replacing them with a pro-US government.

Senator Corker Proposes Putting Off Iran Sanctions Vote Until Summer

Joshua Roberts / ReutersFrom Buzzfeed:

Sen. Bob Corker has proposed the idea of scheduling a vote on Iran sanctions six months from now, after the interim nuclear agreement has run its course, instead of voting on sanctions right now.

Corker said Thursday that he had suggested the idea to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid during a closed-door briefing for senators by lead Iran negotiator Wendy Sherman on the implementation agreement with Iran that is due to kick in on Jan. 20, the text of which was released to Congress today. The Senate is mulling a new sanctions bill introduced by Sens. Mark Kirk and Bob Menendez that is currently stalled pending a vote scheduled by Reid.

“One of the things I posed to the leader was look, why don’t we schedule a vote for July the 21st, that’s six months after the implementation date and if they haven’t reached an agreement that we believe is satisfactory, let’s implement on that day,” Corker, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters after the briefing.

“When you think about it, we could almost have more leverage in some ways for a vote prescheduled right now for July the 21st,” Corker said. “Scheduling a Senate vote the day after in some ways can put even more pressure on the situation.”

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White House Says Iran Implementation Agreement Being Kept Secret Because Of The EU

From Buzzfeed:

The text of an agreement reached Sunday to implement the interim nuclear deal with Iran is not available to the public because the European Union is not releasing it, the White House says.

“The EU is not making the document public,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said on Sunday.

Asked why the document was not being released, EU foreign policy spokesman Michael Mann said that he will “have to ask about that.” Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, was closely involved in the talks in Geneva that brought around the interim nuclear deal.

World powers reached an agreement this weekend to implement the interim deal reached with Iran in November to curtail its nuclear program in return for some sanctions relief; the terms of the deal are now scheduled to begin on Jan. 20. According to Reuters, Iran will receive the first $550 million in now-unblocked funds on Feb. 1.

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White House promises ‘action’ if nuclear talks fail with Iran

Editor’s Note: Obama’s comments are likely aimed at pre-empting Senate attempts to impose sanctions and kill the Iran talks rather than being an actual threat to attack Iran if the talks fail.

US President Barack Obama gestures during news conferenceFrom The Jerusalem Post:

US President Barack Obama said on Monday it would not be right for Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran now, saying, “Now is the time for us to allow the diplomats and technical experts to do their work.”

Raising the issue in comments to reporters, Obama said that if Tehran abides by the agreement, “then I have no doubt that it can open up extraordinary opportunities for Iran and their people.”

But if they refuse, he said, then “we are in position to reverse any interim agreement and put in place additional pressure to make sure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.”

Meanwhile, US administration officials lauded the conclusion of technical talks with Iran this weekend, in which international powers agreed after a month of deliberations on how best to implement an interim deal pausing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

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