Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Eye on Iran: Special Report: How Foreign Firms Tried to Sell Spy Gear to Iran

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"Now a Reuters investigation has uncovered new evidence of how willing some foreign companies were to assist Iran's state security network, and the regime's keenness to access as much information as possible. Documents seen by Reuters show that a partner of China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd offered to sell a Huawei-developed 'Lawful Interception Solution' to MobinNet, Iran's first nationwide wireless broadband provider, just as MobinNet was preparing to launch in 2010. The system's capabilities included 'supporting the special requirements from security agencies to monitor in real time the communication traffic between subscribers,' according to a proposal by Huawei's Chinese partner seen by Reuters... The proposal to MobinNet for the Huawei lawful-intercept system states that it includes technology from a German company called Utimaco Safeware AG. Utimaco says Huawei is one of its worldwide resellers but that neither MobinNet directly - nor Huawei on behalf of MobinNet - purchased or licensed its products... The other Iranian telecom isn't named but Malte Pollmann, Utimaco's chief executive officer, confirmed that in 2006, Nokia's German unit had purchased Utimaco software for MTN Irancell, Iran's second-largest mobile phone operator which has a major contract with Huawei. He said the product hadn't been maintained for several years and that Utimaco believes it no longer is being used. MTN Irancell is 49 percent owned by South Africa's MTN Group, Africa's largest telecom carrier. It declined to comment about the Utimaco product. Interviews and internal MTN documents reviewed by Reuters show that prior to MTN's launch, Iranian intelligence authorities took a keen interest in the capabilities of its lawful-intercept system, and pushed to make it more intrusive... The terms of MTN Irancell's license agreement stipulated that Iran's security agency could record and monitor subscribers' communications, including voice, data, fax, text messaging and voicemail, the internal MTN documents show. 'At least 1 percent of all subscribers' could be targeted, and authorities wanted access to their location - 'within 10 to 20 meters' - as well as billing information, according to the documents."

WSJ: "The recent battle between Israel and Islamist forces in the Gaza Strip revealed not only the Palestinian militants' new arsenal, but also shed light on the potentially greater military capabilities of another nemesis of the Jewish state: Hezbollah, the Shiite political and militant group in Lebanon... Iran's role in helping fund and arm militant movements fighting Israel also became more crystallized during the recent conflict. Iranian and Palestinian military officials last week publicly acknowledged for the first time that Tehran provided Hamas and Islamic Jihad with Fajr-5 rockets, which have a range of about 50 miles. The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, Mohamad Ali Jaffari, said last month that Iran has exported the missiles' manufacturing technology into Gaza."

AP: "The White House and its allies are weighing military options to secure Syria's chemical and biological weapons, after U.S. intelligence reports show the Syrian regime may be readying those weapons and may be desperate enough to use them, U.S. officials said Monday... U.S. intelligence officials also intercepted one communication within the last six months they believe was between Iran's infamous Quds Force, urging Syrian regime members to use its supplies of toxic Sarin gas against rebels and the civilians supporting them in the besieged city of Homs, a former U.S. official said."
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Nuclear Program

Reuters: "A nuclear-armed Iran would cause a regional arms race and make Tehran more isolated and vulnerable, according to a former Iranian negotiator who argues that the Islamic state is not seeking to build nuclear bombs... Former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian, now a visiting scholar at Princeton University in the United States, said Iran recognizes that if it were to become a nuclear weapons state Russia and China would join the United States and 'implement devastating sanctions that would paralyze the Iranian economy.' ... 'Based on Iranian assessments, the possession of nuclear weapons would provide only a short-term regional advantage that would turn into a longer-term vulnerability,' Mousavian wrote in the National Interest, a foreign policy journal. 'It would trigger a regional nuclear arms race, bringing Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia into the fold sooner or later,' Mousavian, added."

Reuters: "Iran has obtained data from a U.S. intelligence drone that shows it was spying on the country's military sites and oil terminals, Iranian media reported its armed forces as saying on Wednesday. Iran announced on Tuesday that it had captured a ScanEagle drone belonging to the United States, but Washington said there was no evidence to support the assertion... 'We have fully extracted the drone's information,' Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said in a statement on Wednesday, according to Iran's English-language Press TV. The drone was gathering military information and spying on the transfer of oil from Iran's petroleum terminals, the IRGC statement said, according to Press TV. Iran's main export terminal is at Kharg Island."


Reuters: "Doctors in Iran are trying to fend off a creeping health care crisis caused by medicine shortages, due in part to Western economic sanctions but exacerbated by government mismanagement and abuse of the system. Government hospitals and pharmacies report a widespread lack of drugs to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, blood disorders and other serious conditions. Iranian media highlighted the shortages earlier this month through the case of a teenager who died of hemophilia after his family failed to find his medicine... Health officials have accused the government of compounding the shortages by failing to provide billions of dollars of vital funds earmarked for drugs and medical supplies."

Reuters: "Essar Oil has more than halved oil imports from Iran in November and aims to reduce purchases further, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said, strengthening New Delhi's hopes of a continued waiver from U.S. sanctions. Privately-owned Essar was Iran's top Indian client in April to October, temporarily replacing state-run Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd, according to data available to Reuters, taking more than its term deal's average quantities... In November, Essar imported about 265,000 tonnes or about 64,500 barrels per day (bpd) crude from Iran, a decline of about 55 percent from the previous month and about a third of its imports a year ago, the source said. In October, the refiner imported 144,800 bpd and about 180,800 bpd in November last year, the source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, added."

FT: "Last March, Iran's Kanoon Towlid Iran textile factory let go almost half of its 130 workers amid a grim economic outlook. Suddenly the company has seen a silver lining as the drop in the rial, along with new restrictions on imports and an official drive for self-sufficiency, boost the prospects of some Iranian manufacturers... Domestic producers in textile, furniture, petrochemical, agriculture, food and mining sectors, all of which can secure a large proportion of raw materials locally and import technologies from regional and Asian countries, are seeing their fortunes improve as sanctions take hold and President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad has been forced to reverse a number of economic policies... However, there are challenges. The dramatic fall of the rial, which has dropped by more than 50 per cent this year, has aggravated producers' liquidity problems, making imports of technology and raw materials - both hit by banking sanctions - more difficult and expensive... Despite the improvements, domestic manufacturers and exporters face a number of challenges, including uncertainty because of currency fluctuations, annual inflation of at least 25 per cent, and a sharp fall in production of some big industries, notably car production. In addition, a bloated bureaucracy, abrupt changes to laws and corruption that allows businessmen with political connections to sabotage private businesses all add to concerns that the new opportunity may be wasted."

Human Rights

NYT: "An imprisoned human rights lawyer serving a sentence for 'acting against national security' ended a 49-day hunger strike on Tuesday after judicial authorities acceded to her demand to lift a travel ban imposed on her 12-year-old daughter, her husband said. The lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, 49, who until her imprisonment in 2010 was one of the last lawyers taking on high-profile human rights and political cases in Iran, decided in October to go on the hunger strike out of fear of increasing limitations imposed on her family. She fell into fragile health during the hunger strike, in which she would drink only water mixed with salts and sugar. Her weight dropped to 95 pounds. It was the second time that Ms. Sotoudeh felt compelled to quit eating. She declared her first hunger strike in 2010, after her family was forbidden to visit or make phone calls. In that case, the authorities capitulated after four weeks, allowing her husband and two children to visit weekly."

Opinion & Analysis

David Feith in WSJ: "Is promoting genocide a human-rights violation? You might think that's an easy question. But it isn't at Human Rights Watch, where a bitter debate is raging over how to describe Iran's calls for the destruction of Israel. The infighting reveals a peculiar standard regarding dictatorships and human rights and especially the Jewish state. Human Rights Watch is the George Soros-funded operation that has outsize influence in governments, newsrooms and classrooms world-wide. Some at the nonprofit want to denounce Iran's regime for inciting genocide. 'Sitting still while Iran claims a justification to kill all Jews and annihilate Israel... is a position unworthy of our great organization,' Sid Sheinberg, the group's vice chairman, wrote to colleagues in a recent email. But Executive Director Kenneth Roth, who runs the nonprofit, strenuously disagrees. Asked in 2010 about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement that Israel 'must be wiped off the map,' Mr. Roth suggested that the Iranian president has been misunderstood. 'There was a real question as to whether he actually said that,' Mr. Roth told The New Republic, because the Persian language lacks an idiom for wiping off the map. Then again, Mr. Ahmadinejad's own English-language website translated his words that way, and the main alternative translation-'eliminated from the pages of history'-is no more benign. Nor is Mr. Ahmadinejad an outlier in the regime. Iran's top military officer declared earlier this year that 'the Iranian nation is standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel.' Mr. Roth's main claim is legalistic: Iran's rhetoric doesn't qualify as 'incitement'-which is illegal under the United Nations Genocide Convention of 1948-but amounts merely to 'advocacy,' which is legal. 'The theory' to which Human Rights Watch subscribes, he has written in internal emails, 'is that in the case of advocacy, however hateful, there is time to dissuade-to rebut speech with speech-whereas in the case of incitement, the action being urged is so imminently connected to the speech in question that there is no time to dissuade. Incitement must be suppressed because it is tantamount to action.' Mr. Roth added in another email: 'Many of [Iran's] statements are certainly reprehensible, but they are not incitement to genocide. No one has acted on them.' Really? What about the officials, soldiers and scientists behind Iran's nuclear program? Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was a senior nuclear scientist until his death in a car explosion this year. His widow afterward boasted: 'Mostafa's ultimate goal was the annihilation of Israel.' Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group founded by the Tehran regime, is also unabashed about its motivations. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has said: 'If all the Jews gathered in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.... It is an open war until the elimination of Israel and until the death of the last Jew on earth.' Then there's Hamas, the Tehran-backed Palestinian terror group whose founding charter declares that 'Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.' If building nuclear weapons and deploying Hezbollah and Hamas aren't 'action' in Mr. Roth's view, what is?"

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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