Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eye on Iran: U.N. Nuclear Inspectors in Iran, No Sign of Parchin Visit

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"Inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog were in Tehran on Thursday for talks on Iran's disputed nuclear program, but there was no sign they would gain access to the Parchin military complex as requested. The Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) said 'no plans were announced yet for inspectors to visit Iran's nuclear facilities or other sites', without giving a source."

Roll Call:
"After successfully diluting the Iran sanctions provision that senators attached to the defense policy bill, the Obama administration is now seeking several additional, more modest changes to the language in the final bill, including an extension of the amount of time it has to implement the penalties. The White House and Senate Democrats worked hard behind the scenes to strip some of the broader elements of the sanctions package before it was introduced as an amendment to the defense bill (S 3254) last month, a process spearheaded by the chairmen of the Armed Services, Foreign Relations and Banking committees, according to senior congressional aides. Now, according to the administration's revised or 'red-lined' version of the sanctions language, obtained by CQ Roll Call, the White House has proposed that the conference of lawmakers putting together the final defense authorization legislation extend the deadline for enforcing the new sanctions - which would blacklist Iran's energy, shipping and shipbuilding sectors as well as its ports - from 90 to 180 days after the bill is signed into law. The administration is also seeking to limit the targets of some of the new sanctions restrictions to a subset of sanctioned Iranian parties who have been singled out as terrorists, weapons proliferators or human rights abusers under previous sanctions programs. Those who do business with those parties would also risk sanctions."
"Three foreign currency printing companies have decided to discontinue their businesses in Iran, UANI (United Against Nuclear Iran U.S. group), Communications Director Nathan Carleton told Trend. ... The U.S. dollar cost some 24,500 rials in the last week of September and went sky-high to 37,000 rials on October 2 and 40,000 rials on October 3. As a result of such jumps in rates, tensions arose in Tehran, as earlier local Iranian sources indicated police arrested some 30 people who might have been involved in currency manipulations on Iran's free markets."
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Bloomberg: "The U.S. and its partners have hammered out a revised deal to offer Iran, aimed at persuading the Islamic Republic to curtail nuclear activities that might be used to produce an atomic bomb. The amended proposal, agreed to in recent days by the six world powers involved in the negotiations, would be put on the table at the next round of talks with Iran, according to a U.S. official who spoke yesterday on condition of anonymity because Iran hasn't yet seen the plan. The official described it as an updated proposal from the one discussed in Baghdad in May, and not a dramatic new plan or grand bargain to address all of the international community's concerns at once. What the six powers had previously proposed 'is not close enough to being a realistic offer that the other side will take seriously,' said Pickering, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former No. 3 official at the State Department."

WSJ: "OPEC decided to keep its oil-production ceiling unchanged as expected on Wednesday, but failed to agree on a new leader for the group and instead extended the term of its current secretary-general for one year after highly charged discussions... Despite the failure to agree on a new secretary-general, most ministers expressed satisfaction as they left the meeting. 'We all agreed that Badri should stay for another year,' said Samer Kamel, Libya's delegate, referring to the current secretary general, Abdalla Salem el-Badri... Iran, previously seen as Saudi Arabia's chief rival within the group, supported Iraq's candidate for secretary-general after its own candidate failed to secure the recommendation of an OPEC committee, delegates said. Western sanctions on Iran's oil exports have slashed Iran's production over the past year, and it lost its position as OPEC's second-largest producer to Iraq in June... The outcome illustrates a power shift within OPEC, said Jamie Webster, senior manager of the markets and country strategies group at consultancy PFC Energy. 'This is no longer Iran versus the Saudis,' this is about Iraq now, he said. As the two largest oil producers in OPEC, Saudi Arabia and Iraq 'need to come up with a serious accord in terms of how they manage production,' he said."

AFP: "Mitsubishi UFJ, Japan's biggest bank, must pay US authorities a fine totaling some $8.6 million for flouting US sanctions on Iran, Sudan, Myanmar and Cuba, the US Treasury Department said. Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubish-UFJ (BTMU) circumvented the sanctions between April 2006 and March 2007, Treasury said in a statement. 'BTMU's Tokyo operations engaged in practices designed to conceal the involvement of countries or persons subject to U.S. sanctions in transactions that BTMU processed through financial institutions in the United States,' the US government authority said in its statement. Washington said the bank's 'egregious' conduct 'displayed reckless disregard for US sanctions.'"

Foreign Affairs

AP: "Iran is now capable of manufacturing its own copies of an advanced CIA spy drone captured last year, a senior Iranian lawmaker said Wednesday. Avaz Heidarpour, a member of the parliament's national security committee, said experts have reverse-engineered the RQ-170 Sentinel drone, and Iran now is capable of launching a production line for the unmanned aircraft."

Human Rights

AFP: "The European Parliament roundly condemned Iran as it awarded its prestigious Sakharov prize Wednesday to lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film-maker Jafar Panahi, who are both detained back home. 'The European Parliament is honouring these two people who are standing up for a better Iran,' said parliament president Martin Schulz, calling for their immediate and unconditional release. Iran 'should know this institution stands on the side of those repressed by this regime,' he said. 'The Iranian people have earned the right to a regime that respects human rights and that is different to this regime'. Neither Panahi, currently under house arrest, nor Sotoudeh, who was thrown behind bars in August 2010, were able to collect the 50,000-euro ($65,000) prize, whose past winners include Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan. Sotoudeh, a 47-year-old mother of two, is a leading rights campaigner known for representing opposition activists and juveniles facing the death penalty."

Jewish Journal: "In the wake of the gruesome murder of a 57-year-old Jewish woman living in the Iranian city of Isfahan nearly three weeks ago, a group of Iranian-Jewish activists in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., have banded together in an informal group hoping to raise public awareness of the murder and to help bring the murderers to justice. This new group, known as the Jewbareh Committee - named for the ancient Jewish ghetto in Isfahan where the victim, Toobah Nehdaran, was murdered - released a statement last week calling upon Iranians and the international community to push for a real investigation of the case... Currently, an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Jews still live in Iran, most of them based in Tehran. Frank Nikbakht, an Iranian-Jewish activist who heads the L.A.-based Committee for Minority Rights in Iran, said that despite discriminatory laws and constant threats to their lives, Jews remain in Iran for a variety of reasons."

Domestic Politics

Bloomberg: "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's loss of favor with the country's ruling elite may turn into a gain for Ali Larijani. The parliament leader, one of five brothers who have all served in public office, is increasing his influence ahead of elections in June amid the most turbulent time in Iranian politics since Ahmadinejad faced down street protests in 2009. While Larijani hasn't yet declared whether he will run for the presidency, the heart of his family's power is unwavering allegiance to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei... 'They've done well positioning themselves very closely to the Supreme Leader and by being very good at knowing where the wind blows,' said Gala Riani, head analyst for the Middle East at London-based consultants Control Risks. Ali Larijani is a 'main critic of Ahmadinejad and at the same time he ensures that parliament conducts its business in accordance with the wishes of the Supreme Leader,' she said."

RFE/RL: "Those looking for another avenue to watch Persian cat videos or cute antics by Iranian toddlers have been left disappointed after the launch of Iran's new and much-hyped video-sharing website went awry. On its homepage, Mehr says its purpose is to bring together Persian-speaking users and to promote Iranian culture. But just days after its launch, the website that officials hope will become a rival to Google's popular YouTube has been marred by poor download speeds and technical glitches."

Opinion & Analysis

UANI CEO Amb. Mark Wallace in RealClearWorld: "The recent demonstrations and protests in Iran over the increasingly perilous state of its economy are the latest and most powerful sign that the economic war is having a tangible impact. There is no doubt that punitive financial and economic sanctions have contributed greatly to the collapse of Iran's currency, the rial. Iran now suffers from hyperinflation and the rial has fallen by 80 percent in the past year. As history has shown, durable hyperinflation such as this can result in public unrest and, occasionally, regime change. The conventional wisdom of the past was that sanctions against Iran would have little impact because of Iran's vast oil wealth. That was, in retrospect, flawed thinking. In the past year, Iran's acceleration of its nuclear program and defiance of the IAEA, its sponsorship of terrorism and its destabilizing behavior in countries like Syria finally prompted the international community to act. The loss of Iranian oil has had little effect on the market so far, as countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Libya have made up for the loss. The sanctions now in place are beginning to have a dramatic impact, as Iran's currency is collapsing. As a result of hyperinflation, we have seen Iran's currency exchange market become paralyzed. Licensed exchange bureaus refused in recent days to do business at the officially imposed rate of 28,500 rials to the dollar, while black market dealers were offering the dollar at a rate of 35,500 rials, sparking protests and a violent crackdown. Significantly, the ire of the protesters was primarily directed at the regime for its mismanagement, and for actions that led to sanctions in the first place. If history is any guide, the leaders of Iran have reason to worry, as there is a correlation between hyperinflation and regime change. In Indonesia, hyperinflation and the collapse of the rupiah from 2,700 to the dollar to nearly 16,000 over the course of a year was one of the principal sources of discontent, which brought people out to the streets to overthrow the Suharto regime. In the case of Yugoslavia, hyperinflation was the motivating force that led Slobodan Milosevic to start a war to divert attention from the monetary crisis facing the country -- a war that led to his ultimate defeat. Regardless of the precipitating event, hyperinflation can signal the death knell of a regime. We often forget that a 'Persian Spring' preceded the Arab Spring, and that Iran has not only restive minorities, but a restive middle class frustrated with a corrupt theocratic regime, culminating in protests over the 2009 election. If the regime faces increased and durable hyperinflation, Iran's demographics suggest that the mullahs' brutal hold on power could face serious challenges. At this critical stage, it is time for U.S. and EU policymakers to do all they can to build upon and ensure the durability of Iran's hyperinflation. The best way to do so is by implementing a total economic blockade that would pit the vast purchasing power of the world's two largest economies against that of Iran. Such an economic blockade would bar any business, firm or entity that does work in Iran from receiving U.S. and EU government contracts, accessing U.S. and EU capital markets, entering into commercial partnerships in the U.S. and EU or otherwise doing business in the U.S. and EU. The result would be an immense economic barrier to entry into Iran's marketplace, and would place unprecedented pressure on the rial."

David Albright & Robert Avagyan in ISIS: "The latest commercial satellite imagery from the alleged Parchin high explosive test site in Iran shows a steady pace of what appears to be the "reconstruction" phase of the site which between April and July 2012 had undergone considerable alterations.  Such alterations included building demolitions and earth displacement.  Figures 1 through 4 provide a reverse timeline of imagery starting from the latest changes to before major alterations began in late spring 2012. The latest imagery from December 9, 2012 shows what appears to be a new, almost completed security perimeter around the site. In the previous imagery from November 7, ISIS had identified the construction of a cement terrace or wall that has now become part of the western side of the new security perimeter which resembles the predecessor fence that was demolished in late spring of 2012. Notable are further changes to the two major buildings at the site which appear to have been covered with white or gray roofing. Previously the roofing had been covered with blue paint or completely new roofing had been installed. Additionally, a section of unknown material that seemed attached to the entrance of the suspected explosive chamber building in the November 7, 2012 imagery is no longer present in the latest image. A new site layout is taking shape and the presence of dirt piles and a considerable number of earth moving vehicles and cars suggest that construction is continuing at a steady pace. It is not clear when or if IAEA inspectors will be granted access to the site. The IAEA has stated that in light of these continuing activities at Parchin, 'When the Agency gains access to the location, its ability to conduct effective verification will have been seriously undermined.' It nonetheless reiterates its 'request that Iran, without further delay, provide both access to that location and substantive answers to the Agency's detailed questions regarding the Parchin site and the foreign expert' (identified by ISIS as former Soviet scientist V.V. Danilenko)." 

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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