Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Eye on Iran: Iran, Hezbollah Learning from String of Failed Attacks, Seeking Western Targets

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Top Stories

AP: "Iran's elite Quds Force and Hezbollah militants are learning from a series of botched terror attacks over the past two years and pose a growing threat to the U.S. and other Western targets as well as Israel, a prominent counterterrorism expert says. Operating both independently and together, the militant groups are escalating their activities around the world, fueling worries in the U.S. that they increasingly have the ability and the willingness to attack the U.S., according to a report by Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies. His report points to two attacks last year - one successful and one foiled by U.S. authorities - as indications that the militants are adapting and are determined to take revenge on the West for efforts to disrupt Tehran's nuclear program and other perceived offenses. The report's conclusions expand on comments late last year from U.S. terrorism officials who told Congress that the Quds Force and Hezbollah, which often coordinate efforts, have become 'a significant source of concern' for the U.S."

Reuters: "Trade in Turkish gold bars to Iran via Dubai is drying up as a growing number of banks and dealers refuse to buy the bullion to avoid the risks associated with Turkey's gold-for-gas trade with Iran. U.S. officials say they are concerned the trade between the two countries provides a financial lifeline to the Iran, which is largely frozen out of the global banking system by Western sanctions. The U.S. State Department said in December that diplomats were in talks with Ankara over the flow of gold to Iran after the Senate approved expanded sanctions on trade with Iran's energy and shipping sectors, which would also restrict trade in precious metals. That increasing U.S. pressure has already started to create troublesome repercussions for exporters of Turkish gold. Many dealers in Dubai's crowded and boisterous gold souk now refuse to take gold bars produced in Turkey. Some ask for a deep discount, saying their clients such as banks and other traders had suspended dealing with Turkish bullion over the past couple of months."

Bloomberg: "The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. was ordered by a judge to turn over funds belonging to Iran-based entities to the families of 17 U.S. Air Force service members killed in a 1996 attack in Saudi Arabia. U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan ordered the transfer today. The assets at issue total about $357,000 and Bank of Tokyo said it doesn't oppose releasing them, according to the filing. The families sought the judgment against Iran after a federal court in Washington ruled Iran provided support for the attacks and entered judgment against Iran for damages of $336,658,063, according to today's ruling. The case is Estate of Michael Heiser, 11-cv-1601, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan)."
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Nuclear Program

Reuters: "The U.N. atomic watchdog made clear on Tuesday it had seen no sign of any explosion at one of Iran's most sensitive nuclear plants, backing up Tehran's denial of media reports that such an incident had taken place last week. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in an unusual move, made a brief statement after some Israeli and Western media at the weekend reported there had been significant damage at the underground Fordow uranium enrichment facility... 'We understand that Iran has denied that there has been an incident at Fordow. This is consistent with our observations,' IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said in an emailed statement in response to a question."


Reuters: "The eight Indian crew members on board the MV Amina had no inkling they were trapped on the frontline of the West's economic war against Iran. All experienced seamen, they joined the Iranian-flagged cargo ship last year. Within months, they were caught up in a fight to prevent the ship fleeing to international waters to escape port arrest in Sri Lanka. Having disobeyed the captain's orders to weigh anchor, their courage turned to fear. 'The captain taunted us that if you fall in the water I will give a report that says that you tried to commit suicide,' said 42-year-old Jesuraj, a foreman of the ship, speaking to Reuters after he and the others eventually made their way home. 'We had a lifeboat on standby and were ready to escape if required. We slept with our life jackets with the hope that if the ship did leave for Iran we would jump off and try to get the attention of some fishing boat.'"

Human Rights

Fox News: "On the day he was confirmed as Secretary of State, John Kerry went farther than his predecessor had in condemning Iran for imprisoning an American citizen, a Christian pastor who was sentenced this week to eight years in prison for evangelizing in the Islamic Republic. Kerry, the longtime Democratic senator from Massachusetts, made the statement in response to a written query from fellow Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who asked if Kerry, as secretary of state, would join the National Security Council's call for Saeed Abedini's release. 'We remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of Mr. Abedini's trial,' Kerry told Rubio. 'I, along with the U.S. government, condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini's human rights and release him.'"

RFE/RL: "Mohammad-Hossein Aghasi, the Tehran-based lawyer for the family of the former FBI agent who went missing in Iran in 2007, Robert Levinson, says Tehran should question another American allegedly involved in the case. Mosaddegh Katouzian conducts an exclusive interview with Aghasi for RFE/RL's Radio Farda."


"Israel strongly criticized Argentina on Tuesday, summoning its ambassador to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to explain Argentina's agreement with Iran to establish a joint commission to investigate the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, an attack for which Tehran is widely blamed. The Foreign Ministry's deputy director general for Latin America 'conveyed Israel's astonishment and disappointment at the Argentine government's decision to collaborate with Iran,' according to a statement from the ministry. It added that Israel had 'protested the unacceptable attitude of the Argentine government toward Israel since the beginning of contacts between Buenos Aires and Tehran,' saying that Argentina had not responded to Israel's requests to be kept informed of the diplomatic moves with Iran, nor of how Argentina envisaged bringing the perpetrators to justice."

Domestic Politics

AP: "In a year when Iran will elect a new president and could face make-or-break decisions about its nuclear program, the country's most prominent political family appears poised to extend its influence, which would strengthen the rule of hard-line clerics as they struggle with other power centers. Larijani brothers now sit atop two of Iran's three branches of government, the parliament and the judiciary, which they have used to attempt to foil populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Now speculation is rife that the best known of five Larijani brothers, parliament speaker Ali Larijani, will make a second bid for the presidency when Ahmadinejad completes his final term in June. The rise of the brothers, staunch defenders of Islamic rule who have the confidence of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and their tensions with the more nationalist Ahmadinejad have underscored the competing strains of conservatism in Iran's increasingly fractious politics."

RFE/RL: "Iran's Guardians Council has approved changes to the country's election law that significantly diminish the government's authority over elections. A Guardians Council spokesman said the new law stipulates that elections will be run by a new central election board made up of representatives from the three branches of power, as well as seven 'national, political, social, and cultural' figures. Previously, the Interior Ministry was tasked with organizing and overseeing all elections. Now it will play a much smaller role.The changes, which come as the Islamic republic prepares for a June 14 presidential vote, appear to be a preemptive move to prevent President Mahmud Ahmadinejad from using his office to manipulate the vote. 'A major part of the changes were made because of the concerns of the conservative critics of the Iranian president who are worried that Ahmadinejad and his team could try to interfere in the election and influence the results,' says Iranian journalist Roozbeh Mirebrahimi. 'They have therefore limited to a great extent the authority of the [Interior Ministry] to prevent such a possibility.'"

Opinion & Analysis

Claudia Rosett in Forbes: "Although sanctions have forced Iran to cut back dramatically on its shipping traffic, some Iranian-linked vessels continue to slip through the net. For a brazen example, take the case of an Iranian-flagged oil tanker named the Tour 2, currently off Cyprus, which earlier this month paid a call at the Syrian port of Tartous. The Tour 2 is not on the U.S. sanctions list, though if sanctions are to be the U.S. tool of choice for dealing with Syria and Iran, the Tour 2 comes with a record that should transfix any dedicated sanctions enforcer. Over the past year, it has made at least three circuits between U.S.-sanctioned Iran and U.S.-sanctioned Syria, calling at Syria last March, July and just this month. These trips appear to be part of Iran's effort to bolster Syria's regime against the uprising in which more than 60,000 people so far have died. While Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has abetted the Assad regime in the killing, Iranian-controlled tankers have helped the Syrian regime defy U.S. and European Union embargoes on its oil sales by sending ships to pick up Syrian crude, for onward sale that benefits Iran's embattled ally, President Bashar Assad. The Tour 2 has been one of these ships. The Tour 2 has also put on a rich display of what Treasury has described in similar Iran-linked cases as 'deceptive practices.' While it is not unusual for ships to change names and flags, the Tour 2 has gone noticeably beyond the norm. Since 2011, this tanker has sailed under three slightly varied names, and four different flags, including Malta, Bolivia, Sierra Leone and Togo, before reverting just a few weeks ago, by at least one account, to its original flag - Iran. It has also had at least three shell company owners in three different countries over the past year, at least two of those visibly linked to Iran. Fortunately, the ship itself can be tracked by way of its IMO number, the unique hull number issued to every major vessel under rules of the International Maritime Organization. This makes it easier to keep an eye on the actual tanker, despite the razzle-dazzle of changing flags and owners. For the Tour 2, the IMO number is 9364112, and the following account of its pedigree is based on ship-tracking data from two highly-respected ship-tracking services, Lloyd's List Intelligence and Equasis; as well as records of various corporate and shipping registries, public findings of the U.S. Treasury, documents of the United Nations and stories that have riffled through the international press."

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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