‘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.’
‘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.’
- Iraqi, Syrian governments begin joint airstrikes against ISIL
- Iran warns against military intervention in Iraq
- Iran says envisages Iraq role with U.S. if Washington tackles regional militants
- Hezbollah sets up operations room to cope with Iraq fallout
- Turkey May Reassess Ties to Jihadis After Iraq Turmoil
- Iraq crisis: Iran and US join fight against Sunni jihadis of Isis
- Patrick Cockburn: Iran to Step in to Prevent Collapse of Iraqi State
- US seeing signs Iran engaged in Iraq strife, official says
- Iranian General In Charge of Defense of Baghdad as al-Qaeda Nears
‘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.’
‘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.’
John 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.
‘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)
- Placating Congress the Key to Any Iran Deal
- Vienna Talks With Iran Seek ‘Grand Compromise’
- Iran Leader Says Won’t Bow to Force in Nuke Talks
- Israeli Ex-Atomic Chief: Iran 10 Years Away from Nuclear Weapons
- Iran’s nuclear strategy comes under questioning by President Rouhani’s critics
- Iran Nuclear Talks: What do Rouhani’s Hard-line Critics Want?
- Former US officials detect shift in Israel on Iran nuclear deal
- Zarif says most Iranians support nuclear deal with West
- Iranian diplomat: Israel sole obstacle to nuclear weapons-free Mideast
- Five Ways the Myth That Iran Was Developing Nuclear Weapons Was Hyped
- IAEA: Iran ahead of schedule in complying with nuclear deal
- Iran has cut higher-enriched uranium stock ‘by half’
- Former Iran official describes alleged US sabotage of nuke program
- Petraeus: Prospect Of Final Nuclear Deal With Iran Is ‘Now Maybe Better Than 50/50’
- Iranian negotiators reject hardline criticism of nuclear talks
- Can We Trust What Israeli Leaders Say on Iran?
‘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. ‘
‘Iran 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.’
Iranian 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.
The 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.
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.
- Sanctions Are Eased; Iran Sees Little Relief
- White House Refuses To Grant Visa To New Iranian Ambassador To The UN
- Gareth Porter: The Iranian Nuclear Weapons Programme That Wasn’t
- Tehran protesters demand that Iran retain its nuclear program
- Jimmy Carter says Iran should not be bombed even if they acquire a nuclear weapon
- IAEA Praises Iran Cooperation, But US Still Sour on Deal
- US Plays Up Iran ‘Breakout Capability’ at Nuclear Talks
- European parliament angers Iran with human rights resolution
- Spike in Iran executions seen politically motivated
- Cheney endorses Israeli strike on Iran at GOP gathering
- Has Iran Really Pursued Nukes? Interview with Gareth Porter
- Gen. Dempsey: Keeping the Military Option in Mind on Iran
- Washington Post Gets Iran Nukes Wrong — Again
- Current Iran “Crisis” Began With Overthrow of Democratically Elected Government in 1953
A 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.
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.
- Israel can operate in Iran if it needs to, IDF chief says
- New Israeli Budget Includes Billions for Attacking Iran
- Report: Obama Will Ask Israel to Stop Assassinating Iranian Scientists
- Iran denies shipping arms to Gaza
- Photo provided by Israel that reads “Made in Iran” is not of a rocket but a bag of cement
- Official: Iran has studied Israeli strike tactics
- Netanyahu: Iran engaged in ‘subversive activities’ in Latin America, world
- Iranian TV airs simulated bombing of Tel Aviv, US aircraft carrier
- AIPAC and Friends Explain Themselves
- Crisis over Crimea steals thunder from AIPAC conference
- Kerry at AIPAC: US Will Never Fail Israel
- Netanyahu: ‘I think it’s time to recognize a Jewish State. We’ve only been there 4000 years.’ (Video)
- Israel must make tough choices for peace, Obama says
- Mark Regev: ‘Israeli’s want peace more than anyone else’
- AIPAC divisions more pronounced than ever
- Israel Lobby AIPAC Down, But Not Out – Yet
- Zionist Movement: How AIPAC is severing its historical roots, and weakening its influence
- AIPAC Policy Conference 2014 (Video)
- Is Elliott Abrams Hoping to Succeed Abe Foxman at the ADL?
- ‘NY Times’ and ‘LA Times’ run op-eds by an AIPAC board member without telling readers
- The Illusion of AIPAC’s Invincibility
- Business boycott: Israelis feeling the pinch
- Sourcewatch: American Israel Public Affairs Committee
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.”
- Kerry Threatens to Attack Iran If Deal Violated
- Iran’s IRGC commander dismisses U.S. military threat
- JINSA Split on Iran Deal, Urges U.S. Support If Israelis Attack
- U.S. official: Iran considers Saudi Arabia, not Israel, its enemy
- Iran Ambassador Cancels Potentially Historic Event, State Department Blamed
- Top Israel Lobby Group Loses Battle on Iran, But War Not Over
- Iran’s top clergy back Rouhani’s nuclear approach
- Netanyahu: Iran’s stance on centrifuges means there can be no permanent accord
- Interim nuclear deal allows Iran to continue centrifuge research
- Iranian official on nuke deal: ‘We did not agree to dismantle anything’
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.
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.
- The truth about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal
- Documentary: Israel, Vanunu and the Bomb
- Avner Cohen: Israel and the Bomb
- Israel has 80 nuclear warheads, can make 115 to 190 more, report says
- Jimmy Carter: Israel ‘has 150 nuclear weapons’
- Khan Job: Bush Spiked Probe of Pakistan’s Dr. Strangelove, BBC reported in 2001
- Why is the U.S. okay with Israel having nuclear weapons but not Iran?
- Netanyahu: Iran has spent $160 billion on nuclear weapons drive
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Pentagon: Deal Won’t Change Iran-Centric Military Posture
- Hagel: US to maintain 35,000 troops in Gulf region
- John Bolton: The Only Option in Iran Is War
- Rep. Sherman Favors More Civilian Airline Crashes in Iran
- Eyes on Iran, Navy in Gulf Stays at Ready
- US Military Official: Iran Moves Fighters Off Disputed Island