Category Archives: Iran

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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White House Dares Democratic Senators Pushing Iran Sanctions To Admit They Want War

From The Huffington Post:

The White House on Thursday challenged a group of senators to admit they are working to push the country toward war with Iran, upping the tension between the administration and Senate advocates of tough new sanctions amid nuclear negotiations.

“If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so,” Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.”

The “certain members” the White House is referring to are led by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who is pushing legislation, backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, that would tighten sanctions on the Iranian regime despite the ongoing negotiations.

Advocates of a peace deal with Iran warn that toughening sanctions now strengthens the hand of hard-liners in Iran who can argue the U.S. is not negotiating in good faith.

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Iran, Russia negotiating big oil-for-goods deal

CREDIT: REUTERS/MORTEZA NIKOUBAZLFrom Reuters:

Iran and Russia are negotiating an oil-for-goods swap that would let Iran lift oil exports substantially, in defiance of the Western sanctions that helped force Tehran in November to agree a preliminary deal to end its nuclear program.

Three Russian and Iranian sources close to the negotiations said final details were in discussion for a barter deal that would see Moscow buy up to 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods.

“Good progress is being made at the moment with strong chances of success,” said a Russian source. “We are discussing the details and the date of signing a deal depends on those details.”

It is not clear whether the deal would be implemented before the details of November’s nuclear agreement in Geneva between Iran and six world powers, including Russia, are finalized.

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Hagel: US military power must back Iran nuclear deal

Chuck Hagel at the regional security summit the Manama Dialogue, Bahrain. 7 Dec 2013From BBC News:

Diplomacy with Iran must be backed by military power, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has said.

Mr Hagel, speaking in Bahrain, said Washington was committed to maintaining a strong force in the Gulf region.

Iran recently agreed to curb some nuclear activities for six months in return for sanctions relief.

Analysts say Washington’s Gulf Arab partners are worried the US will lose focus on the Middle East as it boosts its presence in Asia.

Mr Hagel told the Manama Dialogue – a regional security forum – the US has more than 35,000 military personnel in the region and would not reduce that number.

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Iran quits nuclear talks protesting US blacklist move

From AFP:

Iran has quit nuclear talks with world powers, accusing Washington on Friday of going against the spirit of a landmark agreement reached last month by expanding its sanctions blacklist.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the major powers in the talks, both played down the suspension and said talks were expected to resume soon.

But Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said the US move went against the spirit of the deal struck in Geneva under which the powers undertook to impose no further sanctions for six months in exchange for Iran curbing its controversial nuclear activities.

Tehran was now weighing the “appropriate response”, he said.

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Where is the most polluted place on Earth?

‘The Onion’ Vows To Carry On Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program Until The Job Is Done

From The Onion:

Yesterday, a group of high-ranking world leaders met in Geneva and brokered a six-month deal to limit the nuclear ambitions of the Islamic Republic of Iran. These spineless Western autocrats did so in exchange for the removal of several economic sanctions on Iran, believing they have both the power and authority to dismantle the country’s nuclear program and enforce strict IAEA regulations on uranium enrichment.

Given this incredibly unjust though unsurprising meddling from these cowardly foreign governments, The Onion vows to continue the expansion of Iran’s nuclear weapons program for as long as necessary until the operation has been completed. The dream must live on and will live on. And The Onion will make sure it does.

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Iran nuclear deal agreed at Geneva talks

From The Telegraph:

John Kerry hailed a “dramatic” step to “roll back” Iran’s nuclear ambitions on Sunday when America and Tehran overcame decades of confrontation to achieve their first formal agreement for 34 years.

The US secretary of state said this deal “impedes the progress in a very dramatic way of Iran’s principal enrichment facilities and key parts of its programme”.

The “first step” agreement, lasting for an interim period of six months, “rolls back the nuclear programme from where it is today”, said Mr Kerry.

In return, America will ease sanctions, releasing about $7 billion for Iran.

But Mr Kerry’s interpretation of the deal differed from that of Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister. The two men addressed consecutive press conferences between 4.30 and 5.30am in Geneva, at the end of almost five days of marathon negotiations.

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Al Qaeda affiliate claims credit for double suicide bombings on Iranian embassy in Beirut

Iran to ban morality police from targeting women

Iran to ban morality police from targeting womenFrom The Telegraph:

Iran’s notorious morality police have been barred from arresting women deemed to be immodestly dressed, as President Hassan Rouhani moved to fulfil an election promise to ease up on the country’s strict Islamic dress code

Mr Rouhani, who has displayed a more moderate bent than his hardline predecessor since taking office in June, has moved to rein in the Gashte Ershad (Guidance Patrol), that has been a trademark of the Islamic Republic since its inception in 1979.

He has ordered the Iranian police to hand over the “modesty project” to the Ministry of Interior, a move interpreted as a relaxation of the restrictive Islamic mores that have long governed personal behaviour, particularly that of women.

Brigadier Ismail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, the head of the Iranian police, said the issue of how women and men dressed was no longer a matter of law enforcement.

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Tide Turns Towards Diplomacy as Key Senators Oppose New Iran Sanctions

From The Huffington Post:

President Obama and the White House have been engaged in a battle in the Senate to block the chamber from passing new sanctions that could derail ongoing negotiations with Iran. The White House has been clear: new sanctions could kill the talks and put the U.S. on a “path to war.”

Groups including NIACFCNLPeace ActionAmericans for Peace NowJ Street, and International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran have  all come out against new Senate sanctions. Groups including AIPAC and Foundation for Defense of Democracies are, as usual, advocating more sanctions. AIPAC even says they will explicitly try to kill a deal.

But it looks like the pro-diplomacy side is winning.

Senators Carl Levin, Christopher Murphy, and Dianne Feinstein have all now come out in opposition to new Iran sanctions, saying they will instead support  the ongoing negotiations with Iran. And today, even Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told the BBC  today he will not support new sanctions for now, saying, “I am skeptical of talks with Iran but willing to give the Obama administration a couple months.”

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Lavrov Reveals Amended Draft Circulated at “Last Moment”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo FilgueirasFrom IPS:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed a crucial detail Thursday about last week’s nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva that explains much more clearly than previous reports why the meeting broke up without agreement.

Lavrov said the United States circulated a draft that had been amended in response to French demands to other members of the six-power P5+1 for approval “literally at the last moment, when we were about to leave Geneva.”

Lavrov’s revelation, which has thus far been ignored by major news outlets, came in a news conference in Cairo Thursday that was largely devoted to Egypt and Syria. Lavrov provided the first real details about the circumstances under which Iran left Geneva without agreeing to the draft presented by the P5+1.

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Gareth Porter: Why Fabius Turned on the Draft Agreement

John Kerry.From Truthout:

[...] We now know that, in addition to at least one phone call from Netanyahu, according to a report in Israel’s Channel 2 on Sunday, Fabius also was called by Meyer Habib, a Jewish member of the French Parliament representing French citizens living in southern Europe, including in Israel, and threatened a Netanyahu attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Habib, who is also deputy of the Jewish umbrella organization in France, is known as a longtime Likud Party activist and friend of Netanyahu who has been considered the Israeli prime minister’s personal representative in Paris,according to Haaretz.

“If you don’t toughen your positions, Netanyahu will attack Iran,” the report quoted Habib as telling the French foreign minister. “I know this. I know him.”

The foreign minister of an independent state normally would bristle at such open diplomatic extortion by threat of force. But the French government has had the most pro-Israel and anti-Iran policy of any European state ever since Nicolas Sarkozy replaced Jacques Chirac as president in 2007. Despite the shift from the Center-Right Union for a Popular Movement government of Sarkozy to the Socialist government of Francois Hollande in 2012, that policy has not shifted at all.

Unlike the United States, where the pro-Israeli influence is exerted through campaign contributions coordinated by AIPAC, in France the presidency has nearly complete control over foreign policy. A small group of officials has shaped policy toward Iran and Israel for the past six years. The people who are now advising Fabius on Iran are, in fact, the same ones who advised Sarkozy’s foreign ministers Bernard Kouchner and Alain Juppe. “There is, in the ministry of foreign affairs, a tightly knit team of advisers on strategic affairs and non-proliferation which has played a major role in shaping the French position on Iran over the years,” a knowledgeable French source told Truthout. The direction the group has taken French policy generally has coincided with that of the neoconservatives in the United States, according to close observers of that policy.

At the center of that tight-knit group is the former French ambassador to the United States during the George W. Bush administration, Jean-David Levitte. He was appointed diplomatic adviser to Sarkozy in 2007. Levitte, who has been called by some the “real foreign minister” of France, has family ties to Israel and Zionism. His uncle, Simon Levitt, was co-founder of the Zionist Youth Movement in France.

This was not the first time that France has played a spoiler role in international negotiations on the Iran nuclear issue. Mohamed ElBaradei, former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recalls in his memoirs how the French delegation came to the October 2009 meeting with Iran in Vienna on a “fuel swap” proposal armed with “scores of amendments to our prepared draft agreement.” In that case as well, it appeared that the French role was to ensure that there would not be any agreement.

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Why Did France Thwart The Iran Nuclear Deal?