Monday, December 10, 2012

Eye on Iran: US Extends Waivers on Iran Oil Sanctions for Big Asian Economies, South Africa

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"The Obama administration on Friday extended waivers of U.S. sanctions it has granted to major Asian petroleum consumers, including China, India and South Korea, for reducing their imports of Iranian oil. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the extensions in a statement. In addition to China, India and South Korea, the waivers will apply to Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan. All nine were originally granted six-month renewable exemptions from the sanctions in June. The exemptions mean that banks and other financial institutions based in those places will not be hit with penalties under U.S. law enacted as a way of pressuring Iran to come clean about its nuclear program. A total of 20 countries and Taiwan have been granted the waivers. The others - Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Japan - will come up for review in March. The administration says the exemptions are a sign that pressure on Iran is increasing. In her statement, Clinton said Iran's oil production fell by a million barrels per day in September and October, compared to the same period in 2011. 'This has reduced Iran's export volumes and oil revenues, which fund not only the nuclear program but its support for terror and destabilizing actions in the region,' she said. 'The message to the Iranian regime from the international community is clear: take concrete actions to satisfy the concerns of the international community through negotiations with the (five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany), or face increasing isolation and pressure.'"

Reuters: "At least seven companies from China, India, South Korea and South Africa continued to have investments in Iran's oil and gas sectors in 2012 even as Tehran came under international scrutiny for its nuclear ambitions, a U.S. government watchdog said on Friday. A new U.S. law signed in August gave the Obama administration the authority to sanction firms that help Iran develop its energy resources, a key source of revenue for the country. For a report to Congress required under that August law, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reviewed publicly available reports and data, and contacted the companies involved to check whether they have stepped back from Iran... Chinese activity included Sinopec's 51 percent stake in Iran's Yadavaran oil field, and China National Petroleum Corp's interest in a project to develop the Azadegan field, the GAO said. South Korea's Daelim Industrial Co is helping develop the South Pars gas fields and is also involved in a liquefied natural gas project at Tombak, the report said. Three Indian companies with stakes in the Farsi Block gas field -- Indian Oil Corp Ltd, ONGC Videsh Ltd and Oil India Ltd -- told the GAO that their exploration service contracts had expired and they had no plans to pursue further work on the project. South Africa's Sasol has been active in a joint venture in Iran but recently stated it is trying to divest, the GAO said. There were another eight companies from China, Malaysia, India, Croatia and Venezuela whose recent involvement in Iran was difficult to confirm, the GAO said. The companies did not all respond to the GAO's questions."

Reuters: "An internal report for the U.S. Congress has concluded that Iran probably is no longer on track, if it ever was, to having an ocean-crossing missile as soon as 2015. The study casts doubt on a view long held by U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran could be able to test-fly by 2015 an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, if it receives 'sufficient foreign assistance.' 'It is increasingly uncertain whether Iran will be able to achieve an ICBM capability by 2015,' said the report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, which works exclusively for lawmakers. Iran does not appear to be receiving as much help as would likely be necessary, notably from China or Russia, to reach that goal, according to the 66-page report dated Thursday. It is also increasingly tough for Tehran to obtain certain critical components and materials because of international sanctions related to its disputed nuclear program."
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Nuclear Program

Chosun Ilbo: "The U.S. and South Korea believe Iranian missile experts secretly entered North Korea recently and are staying near the North's rocket launch pad in Tongchang-ri. 'Identifiable cars have been spotted traveling back and forth from the quarters to the missile launch site,' a government source here said. 'We believe they're carrying Iranian experts.' North Korea apparently invited Iranian missile experts to help with technical problems after the previous rocket launch in April failed. The rocket launches are widely seen as a cover to test long-range ballistic missile technology. UPI said experts from Iran's Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, which developed the Shahab-3 intercontinental ballistic missile, will be present at the North Korean launch. 'The missile connection between North Korea and Iran, which started in the 1980s, appears to be more extensive than expected,' said a government official here."

Reuters: "U.N. nuclear inspectors will press Iran this week for a long-sought green light to visit a key military site, although suspected clean-up work may make it difficult to find evidence of any illicit atomic bomb research there. Thursday's talks in Tehran could provide clues as to whether the Islamic state may now be more willing to start addressing growing international concerns over its disputed atomic activity following U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election last month... But Western diplomats are not optimistic about the chances of a breakthrough in the new discussions in the Iranian capital, after a series of meetings between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this year failed to make headway."


Politico: "Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, has been under fire recently for, among other things, her investments in energy companies doing business in Iran, per a Washington Post story last week. But Rice also has had a stake in Ericsson, the Swedish mobile network equipment maker that has itself been in the spotlight for its growing business dealings in Iran. According to a Reuters report, Ericsson has been helping Iranian mobile telecom operators as part of long-term contracts, including one that involves an expansion project for Mobile Communications Inc. of Iran, the country's largest mobile network provider. Iranian human rights groups say the Iranian mobile phone network is used to track and monitor dissidents and United Against Nuclear Iran has called for Ericsson to end its business relations with MTN Irancell, the country's second-largest mobile network firm."

Reuters: "South Korean refiners will cut imports of Iranian crude during the six months to May by about a fifth from a year earlier, to avoid sanctions by Washington, government and industry sources told Reuters on Monday. Last week the United States granted 180-day waivers on Iran sanctions to China, India, South Korea and some other countries after they cut oil purchases from the Islamic Republic. 'The cut in next year's imports is expected to be by about 20 percent year on year,' an industry source who has direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. South Korea, the world's fifth largest importer of crude, and one of Iran's biggest oil customers, gave the assurance on the size of the cuts in talks with the United States following discussions with Korean refiners, the sources said. Such a cut would imply South Korean imports of about 147,814 barrels per day (bpd) over the period to next May, since the country imported 184,767 bpd of Iranian crude from December 2011 to May 2012."

Bloomberg: "HSBC Holdings Plc and Standard Chartered Plc may settle U.S. charges involving money-laundering violations and dollar-clearing transactions on behalf of Iranian clients as soon as next week, two people familiar with the negotiations said. The agencies involved in the settlements include the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Federal Reserve, the Justice Department and the New York District Attorney's office, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because negotiations are still under way. HSBC announced last month that it had added an $800 million provision to an existing $700 million reserve to cover the costs of a potential settlement, and warned investors that the final payment could 'significantly' exceed the $1.5 billion total. A Senate committee said in July that failures in London- based HSBC's money-laundering controls allowed terrorists and drug cartels access to the U.S. financial system."

FT: "A planned visit to Tehran by Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's president, to seal a $1.5bn gas pipeline deal to alleviate the country's critical energy shortage was unexpectedly cancelled at the weekend amid mounting US objections to the contract. Iran has offered Pakistan hundreds of millions of dollars to finance the long-delayed gas pipeline, according to both governments. An increasingly desperate Pakistan, however, is struggling to overcome strong opposition to the project from its US ally, which has applied economic sanctions against Tehran over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons programme."

FT: "When Nasser, an Afghan labourer, illegally crossed the border to Iran to work last summer, he hoped to support his family and pay off his debts. But Nasser quickly realised that he had miscalculated, as Iran's economy had changed a lot compared with a year ago when he returned to his home village near Mazar-e Sharif, northern Afghanistan, to get married. Iran's national currency, the rial, has fallen more than 35 per cent this year because of international sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme. The consequent rise in consumer prices - which is officially put at about 25 per cent but is believed to be far higher - has made Iran's job market far less profitable for Afghans."

AP: "A conservative Iranian news website says the number of manufacturing companies in the country facing financial crisis has increased four-fold over the past four years to nearly 1,600. The Monday report by reflects the impact of Western sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program. The website says the report has been drawn up by a government department but didn't elaborate."

Syrian Uprising

NYT: "When Syria's agricultural minister, Subhi Ahmad al-Abdullah, arrived in the Iranian capital for a visit last week, everybody involved stuck to a well-worn script... The unrest in Syria did not go unmentioned in the meetings, which were widely reported by Iranian state media. Iran's vice president, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, said Iran was confident of victory for the Syrian government forces, who, he said, were engaged in 'sporadic fights with terrorists sent by regional countries.' The upbeat ceremonies surrounding Mr. Abdullah's visit illustrate how Iranian leaders perceive the bloody conflict that has engulfed their main ally in the Arabic world. While former Iranian diplomats, academics and analysts increasingly warn that President Bashar al-Assad's government is on the brink of collapse, the country's highest leaders insist the conflict is manageable and ultimately will be resolved to Iran's advantage."

Ya Libnan: "Kuwaiti daily Al-Seyassah reported on Thursday that its sources in Iraq say that Syrian President Bashar Assad's inner circle is engaged in 'intensive debate' between those who advocate using chemical weapons as a last resort and those who warn of the dangers of such a step. The debate comes amid growing Western fears that a desperate Assad could turn to chemical weapons as rebels close in on Damascus... Mamlouk, Qudsiya and Zaitoun have proposed that special units of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, rather than the Syrian Army, be asked to carry out security leaders' orders to use chemical weapons, the source said."

Regional Meddling

Reuters: "Yemen's security chief has told Iran to stop training and funding Shi'ite Muslim rebels who, along with al Qaeda-backed Islamists and southern separatists, are staging one of three insurgencies threatening to pull the chaotic country apart... Ahmadi accused Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels who operate in northern Yemen near the border with Saudi Arabia - the world's top oil exporter which is competing with Shi'ite Iran for regional influence. 'Iran seized a chance to broaden the conflict to play a certain role,' he said. 'We have no hostility to Iran; all we ask is that they don't interfere.'"

Reuters: "A second visit by Iranian warships to Sudan in little over a month risks widening divisions inside the African country's government and upsetting its Gulf Arab donors. Two Iranian navy ships also visited in October, days after Sudan accused Israel of bombing a weapons factory in the capital Khartoum. Israel declined to comment on the alleged attack but has accused Sudan of smuggling weapons to the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Iranian-allied Palestinian movement Hamas. Sudanese officials described the docking of Iran's 23th fleet - destroyer Jamaran and logistics ship Bushehr - for three days in Port Sudan on Saturday as a routine refueling stop."

Foreign Affairs

AFP: "Hundreds of angry demonstrators tried to storm the Iranian consulate in the western Afghan city of Herat on Sunday in protest at the alleged killing of Afghan immigrants by Iranian security forces. The 200-strong crowd threw rocks and broke consulate windows before security forces drove them back by firing warning shots into the air, an AFP correspondent at the scene said. The crowd claimed 13 Afghans who had crossed the border into Iran were seized and later shot dead by Iranian security forces about three months ago. 'Over the past several months we have been demanding the Iranians return the bodies of our relatives but they are not returning them,' one protester told AFP. Protesters shouted slogans against Iran and its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and said they would 'support the United States if it invades Iran.'"

Human Rights

Deutsche Welle: "Human rights organizations are outraged by ever-increasing executions of dissidents, bloggers and activists in Iran. In the world's most execution-prone country, even misdemeanors draw the death penalty. The human rights situation in Iran has deteriorated over the last few months, according to a UN report. Indeed, news about the hanging of ten individuals at the end of October in a Teheran prison due to charges of drug trafficking drew criticism from around the world. The hangings were in violation of international law, which dictates that the death penalty be limited to only the 'most serious felonies.' That was clearly not the case in Teheran. There are also serious doubts regarding the fairness of the trial against the accused, says the report by the UN Commission on Human Right (UNCHR). London-based human rights organization Amnesty International called the executions a 'state killing-spree,' noting that 344 people have been executed in Iran since March. UN special correspondent Ahmad Shaheed confirmed Amnesty's numbers in his latest Iran report from the end of October. More than 300 executions have taken place since the beginning of 2012, he says. That number was 670 in 2011, ranking Iran as the country with the most executions per capita in the world."

Domestic Politics

AFP: "Iran has launched its own video-sharing website to compete against Google's popular YouTube whose content is deemed inappropriate by the Islamic regime, the state television reported on Sunday. The website ( called 'Mehr', meaning affection in Farsi, aims to attract Persian-speaking users and also promote Iranian culture, according to its About Us page. 'From now on, people can upload their short films on the website and access (IRIB) produced material,' said IRIB deputy chief Lotfollah Siahkali. A Facebook page dedicated to Mehr is providing links to some of its content, including music clips produced in Iran. Iran has consistently censored YouTube since mid-2009, in the wake of the disputed elections that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. It has also been trying to stop its population accessing a number of foreign websites authorities see as undermining the Islamic regime, including popular social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, as well as the online pages of many Western media outlets, blogs, and pornographic hubs."

Opinion & Analysis

UANI Advisory Board Member Graham Allison & Shai Feldman in The National Interest: "The Obama administration and the Netanyahu government were largely on the same page during the Gaza crisis, and the two country's leaders seemed to be able to set aside their mutual animosity and distrust, working together to defuse the crisis. But much greater turbulence in their relations can be expected by the middle of next year when the issues associated with Iran's nuclear project will likely reach another crescendo. Around that time, a number of important developments will converge. First, Iran will have made further progress with its nuclear program, reducing the time that would be required to convert its 'nuclear weapon capability' into actual weapons. On current trajectories, by next summer, Iran could have enough 20 percent enriched uranium to reenrich into material for one bomb in three months. Since Israel will understandably feel more immediately threatened by such developments, its leaders will react more nervously than their American counterparts. Meanwhile, the Obama administration will likely make an effort to resolve the issue diplomatically by engaging Iran for the first time in direct negotiations. Leading a war-weary nation, Obama will undoubtedly attempt to launch a heroic effort to resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran through diplomacy. At a minimum, the talks will be necessary to demonstrate that the United States has made every effort to avoid war. Unconfirmed reports have recently surfaced that the two governments have already agreed to hold such talks. But it remains unclear whether the Iranian interlocutors in these pre-discussions were authorized by their Supreme Leader to set a negotiations agenda. With sanctions having increasingly devastating effects on the Iranian economy, Ali Khamenei may be more willing to negotiate in the hope of easing them before they spur disaffection and protests that could threaten his regime. Given these two trajectories, the Obama administration can be expected to continue pressuring Israel to refrain from attacking Iran's nuclear installations as long as the diplomatic option holds some hope of success. But Netanyahu has already expressed his fear that Iran will just use negotiations to buy time, until its nuclear program is too far advanced to be stopped even by the United States. Israel also worries that Washington's eagerness to cut a deal may result in an agreement that would include acceptance of some Iranian uranium-enrichment activities-a possibility that Netanyahu regards as extremely dangerous. Such turbulence will be compounded by the January 22 elections in Israel. The announced alliance between Netanyahu's Likud and the even more right-wing party of foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has already indicated that its campaign for the January elections will focus on the promise to end Iran's nuclear program. If the alliance wins as anticipated, its leaders will likely feel that they have a public mandate to do whatever it takes to meet this objective... With this expected convergence of divergences, what could be done to avoid a U.S.-Israeli rupture over the Iran issue?"

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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