Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Eye on Iran: Nokia Siemens Reduces Iran Ties

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Top Stories

WSJ: "The board of Nokia Siemens Networks said it decided to not take on any new business in Iran and will reduce its existing business starting next year, the Wall Street Journal reported. A letter from board members obtained by the Journal cited increasingly tough global sanctions against Iran as the reason for the pullback, saying they 'make it almost impossible for Nokia Siemens Networks to do business with Iranian customers.' ... It follows a similar announcement last week from China's Huawei Technologies Corp., which said it was scaling back its Iran business. Activists, like they did for the Huawei decision, hailed the Nokia Siemens Networks announcement. Mark Wallace, president of United Against Nuclear Iran, said in a statement it's 'particularly significant' that sanctions were cited as the reason for pulling back. 'The sanctions the U.S. and its allies have implemented are clearly working, and Iran is becoming more and more isolated from the world economy,' he said."

WashPost: "The Obama administration is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear arms as a 'vital national security interest' but believes there is still time to change Iranian behavior through economic and political pressure, a former top adviser on the Middle East said Tuesday. Dennis Ross, who stepped down last month as special assistant to President Obama, portrayed Iran as behind schedule on its nuclear program and battered by some of the worst strain seen in the country in three decades. Yet, more pressure is needed to prevent its leaders from acquiring a nuclear capability that would destabilize the region and heighten the risk of war, he said. 'This is not about containment; it's about prevention,' Ross said in his first public address since leaving the White House. 'I believe we still have time and space to achieve that objective.'"

Reuters: "Iran will move its uranium enrichment plants to safer sites if necessary, a Revolutionary Guards commander was quoted on Wednesday as saying, following speculation that Tehran's enemies could attack the facilities. The Iranian media report did not give details, but Iran has carried out preparations to shift higher-grade enrichment to an underground facility near the holy city of Qom, offering the sensitive work better protection against any military attacks... 'If conditions require, we will move our uranium enrichment centers to safer places,' the semi-official Mehr News Agency quoted Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali as saying."

Iran Disclosure Project

Nuclear Program & Sanctions

Fox News: "Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in an exclusive interview with Fox News, said that the stealth drone campaign along the Iran-Afghanistan border will 'absolutely' continue despite the loss of a valuable and sophisticated drone to Iran. The mysterious loss of the RQ-170 Sentinel drone has revealed not only that the U.S. was spying on Iran, but also that the program was being run from Shindad Air Base in western Afghanistan. Panetta would not comment directly on what that drone was doing over Iran, but he said the U.S. military has no plans to halt the drone operation out of western Afghanistan. 'Those operations have to be protected in order to do the job and the mission that they're involved with,' he said. When asked if he would continue those missions as they have been conducted out of Afghanistan, he responded with one word: 'Absolutely.'"

The Hill: "House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said Tuesday night that Iran sanctions legislation the House was about to approve could roil the global oil markets, but that this was worth the risk in order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The Iran Threat Reduction Act, H.R. 1905, would tighten sanctions against Iran, and authorize the administration to sanction the Central Bank of Iran if a required report finds that the bank has supported Iran's terrorist activities. 'This measure would cut Iran entirely off from the world's banking system, dealing an unprecedented blow to Iran's economy,' Berman said. 'This may cause short term difficulties for the world's oil market, and it may rankle some of our allies, but it is necessary, because stopping Iran's nuclear program is of paramount strategic importance, and we're running out of time.' The bill has more than 360 co-sponsors, and thus will easily pass the House later this week."

LAT: "In a new effort to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program, the Obama administration and its European allies are asking Saudi Arabia to help them squeeze Iran's vital oil sector without driving up world energy prices and damaging the global economy. Officials in the United States, France, Britain and other countries have been lobbying the Saudis in recent weeks to produce billions more barrels of oil to provide an alternative source for buyers of Iranian oil. The goal is to keep global prices stable while cutting Iran's ability to sell oil on world markets. The move would come as Western governments add more sanctions to dissuade international customers from buying from Iran, now the world's fourth-largest oil exporter. A Western official said the Saudis have become 'the great hope' for enabling the West to avoid an oil price increase while pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear development program."

AP: "Iran's oil minister said Wednesday that his Saudi counterpart had agreed not to up crude production to replace Iranian oil in case an international embargo on Iranian oil impacts Tehran's ability to sell its petroleum. Rostam Ghasemi spoke outside of an Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting. As those talks broke for lunch a senior member of Ghasemi's delegation said OPEC oil ministers had agreed to keep present production at around 30 million barrels a day. He asked for anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss confidential information with the media. Ghasemi, the minister, said Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi 'rejects' replacing Iranian crude if Tehran faces oil sanctions over its refusal to stop activities that could be used to make nuclear arms."

AFP: "Iran on Wednesday deflated a rumour about it closing the Strait of Hormuz -- one of the world's most strategic transit points for oil -- by saying such a move was 'not on the agenda.' But foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast reiterated Tehran's line hinting that the strait, a narrow stretch along Iran's Gulf shoreline, could be threatened if current rising tensions ever spilled over into war. 'The Islamic republic has repeatedly said that the issue of closing the Strait of Hormuz is not on the agenda, because Iran believes the region must have peace and stability to allow all regional countries to advance and develop,' Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency. However, he accused the United States and Israel of threatening Iran so as to create 'a climate of war... and in such a climate there is the possibility of some reactions.'"

Reuters: "Iran's January crude exports to China's Sinopec Corp are set to fall by around a third from December as they haggle over oil supplies for 2012, Chinese industry sources told Reuters on Wednesday. The contract dispute with Chinese buyers is one of several likely to face the world's fifth largest crude exporter: Iran is trying to sell its biggest Asian customers oil at higher prices and on tougher terms, even as it faces the prospect of fewer sales as Western nations mull sanctioning its economic lifeline. 'It's the face-off between the two companies for the term deal. January liftings will be hit. February could also be affected,' said a Chinese refinery official."

WT: "U.S. officials are investigating reports that Iranian and Venezuelan diplomats in Mexico were involved in planned cyberattacks against U.S. targets, including nuclear power plants. Allegations about the cyberplot were aired last week in a documentary on the Spanish-language TV network Univision, which included secretly recorded footage of Iranian and Venezuelan diplomats being briefed on the planned attacks and promising to pass information to their governments. A former computer instructor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico told Univision that he was recruited by a professor there in 2006 to organize a group of student hackers to carry out cyberattacks against the United States, initially at the behest of the Cuban Embassy. In an undercover sting, instructor Juan Carlos Munoz Ledo and several selected students infiltrated the hackers and secretly videotaped the Iranian and Venezuelan diplomats."

Domestic Politics

WashPost: "Faced with Israeli warnings of strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities, officials here routinely answer with bravado and counterthreats. The Shiite Muslim clerics who rule the country laud the might of Iran's armed forces, and military commanders boast that the country could shoot '150,000 missiles to Israel' if one Israeli bomb struck Iranian territory. Instead of sharing that sense of defiance, however, many ordinary Iranians are increasingly worried that war could be catastrophic. In the subway, on the streets and at private gatherings, Iranians are debating the possibility of war and how to protect their families if it should come. As tension rises, many have started taking precautionary measures. Some are stocking up on basic goods. Others are changing their money into foreign currencies, or obtaining visas to move abroad."

Foreign Affairs

FT: "A senior Iranian official has praised Islamist victories in north African elections, describing the establishment of Islamic governments in the region as an irreversible trend. Ali-Akbar Velayati, who is believed to reflect the foreign policy views of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader, said on Tuesday 'the Islamic awakening' in the Middle East was not 'promising' for western powers and Israel. Independent analysts in Iran believe Tehran is relieved by the electoral victories of Islamists in Egypt and Tunisia, even though the continuation of protests in Syria, Iran's closest Arab ally, remains a cause for concern."

Opinion & Analysis

Jamsheed Choksy in Yale Global: "When the Arab Rising began in December 2010, leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran were quick to claim credit, declaring their 1979 revolution as its 'religious and ideological progenitor.' Iran's ayatollahs proposed that fundamentalist Islamic theology should direct change from Morocco to Yemen. Iranian Shiite ayatollahs hoped Sunni Muslims across the Middle East would install governments similar to their own system of velayat-e faqih, or governance by a supreme religious jurist. Fundamentalist Iranian ambitions remain only partially fulfilled. But the ayatollahs are patient, firm in their belief that Sunni Islamists in Arab lands will eventually make common cause with the Shiite revolutionaries of Iran. Iran nurtured ties with Tunisia's Islamic Renaissance Movement since 1988 when its leaders were exiled to Europe. Muslim Brotherhoods in Egypt and Libya, in addition to the Islamic Action Front in Jordan, received clandestine Iranian support for decades. Bahrain's politically-disenfranchised Shiite majority views Iran as its religious mainstay, as do Shiite minorities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. Shiite Houthi rebels along the porous border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia look to Tehran for support. Yet, when regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen fell, citizens did not seem eager to replace autocratic leaders with intolerant Muslim clerics. Indeed opinion polls demonstrate the ayatollahs' esteem has fallen since Arabs witnessed images of Tehran's hypocritical leaders unleashing violence against their own citizens in 2009. So, as the Arab Rising unfolds, some Sunni Islamist groups have begun to portray themselves as moderates who would accommodate democracy. But they also have been careful not to actually renounce their officially-declared fundamentalist stances... Yet their words may not reflect how Sunni Islamists will govern once in power. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini spoke similar conciliatory words until his intolerant supporters gained control of Iran. At the least, those three Arab nations will be governed by Islamists more sympathetic to Tehran's causes and less to Washington's - a major foreign policy shift... The greatest setback to Iran's foreign-policy goals has been the uprising against the Syria's Alawite - a Shiite sect - elite led by dictator Bashar al-Assad... Despite setbacks, Tehran's ayatollahs still nurture hopes of spreading their radical model of Islamic politics. Because the dissatisfaction fueling Arab protest is homebred, they realize that Sunni rulers may not be able to hold the line against fundamentalism."

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons. UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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