Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Eye on Iran: World Powers to Meet in Brussels to Map out Iran Plans

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"Officials from six world powers meet in Brussels on Wednesday to plan for a possible new round of talks with Iran, the latest effort to resolve a decade-long stand-off over its nuclear program and avert the threat of a military conflict... 'There certainly is a window to do a deal, but that window is closing, and closing fast. Ultimately it depends on the Iranians meeting their international obligations,' said Ariel Ratner, former Obama administration political appointee on Middle East issues at the State Department. In hopes of a breakthrough, and despite deep skepticism a deal with Tehran can be reached, the powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - are revising their strategy after three inconclusive rounds of negotiations this year. Their plan could be presented to Iran in talks, convened by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, which diplomats say may take place in the coming months in Istanbul. 'The idea of the (Wednesday) meeting is to coordinate on what kind of offer we are going to go forward with to Iran,' said one senior Western official, familiar with the planning."

WSJ: "China's imports of Iranian crude oil are down by about one-fifth so far this year, a drop that puts the country in good position to avoid U.S. sanctions and head off a diplomatic row with Washington. China has repeatedly defended its crude purchases from Iran, telling the U.S. it complies with existing U.N. resolutions. But October data released Wednesday showed Iran crude-oil imports off 23% from a year earlier, to 458,000 barrels a day, continuing a year-long trend. China's third-largest supplier of crude as recently as last year, after Saudi Arabia and Angola, Iran this year has slipped to No. 4-surpassed by Russia-shipping about 426,000 barrels a day in the first 10 months of the year. October's import numbers will be the last used by the U.S. State Department in deciding whether Beijing qualifies for a renewal of its waiver from sanctions, which expires Dec. 25. China won the exemption in late June, after the State Department determined that it had 'significantly reduced' crude imports from Iran in the first half of the year. Renewal requires continued significant reductions. The State Department says no decision has yet been made."

AFP: "Iran has supplied military aid to the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza locked in a conflict with Israel during which it has fired missiles at Tel Aviv for the first time, the parliament speaker said Wednesday. 'We are proud to defend the people of Palestine and Hamas ... and that our assistance to them has been both financial and military,' Ali Larijani said without elaborating, in remarks reported by parliament's website, Iran has never made a secret of its support for Israel's foes Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip but generally eschews mention of sending military aid. The Jewish state has accused Iran of supplying Hamas with its Fajr 5 missile, used to target Tel Aviv since an Israeli offensive on Gaza was launched on November 14. Iran's Revolutionary Guards chief General Mohammad Ali Jafari said on Wednesday that Tehran was only responsible for having shared the missile's 'technology.'"
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Nuclear Program   

Reuters: "Western officials voiced concern on Tuesday about what they described as an unexpected unloading of fuel at Iran's first nuclear energy plant and said Tehran, which has dismissed it as a normal step, must clarify the issue. The U.N. nuclear agency said in a confidential report on Friday that fuel assemblies were transferred last month from the reactor core of the Russian-built Bushehr plant to a spent fuel pond, but it gave no reason for the move... 'This is not a routine matter or something that's quite ordinary,' a senior Western official who declined to be identified said. 'So this is of great concern. We need answers.' Another Western diplomat in Vienna, where the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is based, said he did not know what had happened at Bushehr but that the fuel development raised possible safety-related questions. 'It sounds a safety bell and then it potentially sounds a safeguards bell if it is used in a weird way,' the diplomat said, referring to the fact that plutonium usable for nuclear bombs could in theory be extracted from spent fuel."


AP: "An Iranian citizen has been charged with a plot to export military antennas from the United States in violation of the Arms Export Control Act. An indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Washington on Tuesday charges Amin Ravan and his Iran-based company of conspiracy to defraud the United States, smuggling, and violating the export act. The Justice Department says that Ravan was arrested by authorities in Malaysia last month, and the U.S. is seeking to extradite him to face trial in Washington. The department says that 55 military antennas were exported to Ravan's co-conspirators in Singapore and Hong Kong."


AP: "An Iranian news agency says the head of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard has disclosed his country has given fighters in Gaza the ability to produce longer-range missiles on their own, without direct shipments. The comments by Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency, offer some of the clearest insights on Iran's weapons support for Hamas, whose Iranian-engineered Fajr-5 missiles have struck near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem during weeklong battles with Israel. The report Wednesday quotes Jafari as saying Iran has supplied technology to Gaza for the missiles to be produced 'quickly.' Up to now, Iran denied it directly supplied Hamas with the Fajr-5."

Reuters: "Iran's Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani urged Arab states on Wednesday to follow Iran's example of providing military assistance to the Palestinians... 'We are honored that our help has material and military aspects and these Arab countries that sit and hold meetings should know that the nation of Palestine does not need words or meetings,' Fars news agency reported Larijani as saying. 'Our message is that if Arab countries want to help the nation of Palestine they should give military assistance.'"

NYT: "Anonymous, the loose coalition of hackers waging war on Israeli Web sites, is the least of Israel's cyber problems. Its campaign against Israel is a minor annoyance compared with a wave of cyber attacks that have hit the country over the last year from Iran and Gaza... In July, security researchers at Kaspersky Lab and Seculert, two computer security firms, discovered that a strain of malware had infected Israeli companies. Many of those companies handle critical infrastructure, like the country's energy and water supplies, computer and telecom networks. The malware, which the researchers named 'Mahdi' after a command in its code, appears to have originated in Iran. Elements of the code were written in Farsi, dates in the malware's code were formatted according to the Persian calendar, and the domains used in the attacks were registered to Islamic Azad University in Tehran. The term 'Mahdi' may have also been a clue; for Shiites, Mahdi is a messianic figure."

Human Rights

Reporters Without Borders: "Reporters Without Borders has learned that Alireza Roshan, a journalist who wrote book reviews for the newspaper Shargh, was arrested on 17 November after being summoned to the prosecutor's office that is attached to Tehran's Evin prison. He is to serve the one-year sentence he received from a Tehran revolutionary court following his arrest with other members of the Majzooban Nor website during a police raid on 8 September 2011. After being convicted on a charge of activities against state security, he was released provisionally on 3 October 2011 pending the outcome of an appeal. His sentence was eventually confirmed by a Tehran appeal court."

Domestic Politics

Reuters: "Iran's parliament called off plans to grill President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said they must not act in the interests of Iran's enemies. Ahmadinejad's opponents in the 290-seat assembly dominated by conservatives wanted to question him about an economic crisis that they blame as much on his mismanagement as on Western sanctions over Iran's nuclear program. Economic woes have forced up prices of goods, diminished the value of the Iranian currency and exacerbated divisions within Iran's factionalized political system. 'Up to this point, the plan to question the president has been positive because of the sense of responsibility of parliament and the readiness of government officials,' said Khamenei, the 73-year-old cleric who holds ultimate power. 'But if this issue goes any further, it will be what the enemies want and so I ask the honorable representatives not to continue with it,' the Mehr news agency reported him saying."

The Atlantic: "Concern is growing over the health of Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi after opposition sources reported that both men were hospitalized for several hours and underwent medical tests on November 19. Musavi; his wife, university professor and women's rights activist Rahra Rahnavard; and Karrubi were put under house arrest in February 2010 after their call for a demonstration in support of the Arab Spring uprisings brought a significant number of opposition members into the streets. Musavi has reportedly been suffering in recent weeks from chest pains and extreme fluctuation of his blood pressure. In August, he  underwent an angiography for a heart condition that he is said to have developed in detention. Sahamnews, the website of fellow opposition cleric Mehdi Karrubi, reports that Karrubi has recently lost a substantial amount of weight and suffers from loss of appetite, nausea, and dizziness. Last year, he allegedly suffered from respiratory complications. Family members and aides believe that the health of the men has deteriorated as the result of their detention."

Opinion & Analysis

Chicago Tribune Editorial Board: "For about a week, the Israeli military and the militant leaders of Hamas have been in a simmering war, Israeli warplanes pounding targets in the Gaza Strip and Hamas launching longer-range Fajr 5 rockets, courtesy of its patron Iran, toward Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. On Tuesday, the two sides appeared close to a truce, though no one knows if it would hold. So far, this conflict has played out along familiar lines. But imagine that the puppeteer controlling Hamas was not a nuclear wannabe Iran but a nuclear-armed Tehran. Imagine if the threat of an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza carried the huge and added risk of an Iranian nuclear retaliation on Tel Aviv. Imagine how different the ongoing cease-fire negotiations would be and how much more emboldened Hamas - and its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon - would be against Israel. Think the Middle East is a complicated and dangerous neighborhood now? On the day that Iran declares to the world that it has bulled through Western red lines and is capable of building its first nuclear bomb, the Middle East will become immensely more dangerous and unstable. That day might be months - not years - off. In the past few days, we've learned that Iran has completed the installation of centrifuges at its underground nuclear fortress. That means Tehran now has the capability to double its production of medium-enriched uranium in the next months, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Tehran could accumulate a bomb's worth of uranium by mid-2013. A nuclear Iran would cement the fanatical mullahs in power and threaten U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia. It could set off a regional nuclear arms race. Iran, with nuclear weapons to back its bluster, would be more than a dire threat to Israel. It would embolden militants and terrorists sponsored by Iran... American and EU officials are reported to be considering the imposition of 'a de facto trade embargo' on Iran by early 2013, according to The Wall Street Journal. Such a move would block all export and import transactions through Iran's banking system. Current sanctions cover only oil-related transactions through Iran's central bank. Result: Iran wouldn't be able to pay its bills or collect its debts through the global banking system. That would be devastating. It can't be launched too soon. Such an embargo is likely the last chance to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions short of a military showdown. The stakes have been made clearer in the past week. The next Iranian missiles that fall on Tel Aviv may not be Fajr 5s."

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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