Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Eye on Iran: Iran Politics Steer Nuclear Stance

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"Domestic politics and a June election could make the difference in how Iran addresses its main dilemma of the coming year: whether to compromise on its nuclear program or maintain a policy of defiance. Iran is slated to elect a new president amid deep political divisions and rivalries among conservative factions. The issues at the heart of Iran's standoff with the West-the country's economy, its isolation and security-will likely dominate the campaign. The contest for power will pit candidates seen as loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against those associated with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The main reformist parties said they would boycott the elections. The discord is on daily display in Iranian media, with prominent political figures blaming one another for an economy withering from international sanctions and years of mismanagement, with a plummeting currency and skyrocketing inflation."

Al Jazeera: "Iran has blasted US President Barack Obama for enacting a law aimed at countering Tehran's alleged influence in Latin America, saying it was an overt intervention in the region. 'It is an overt intervention in Latin American affairs... that shows they are not familiar with new world relations,' Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters on Tuesday... On Friday, Obama enacted the law which through a new diplomatic and political strategy to be designed by the State Department is aimed to counter Iran's alleged influence in Latin America. The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act, passed by legislators earlier in 2012, calls for the department to develop a strategy within 180 days to 'address Iran's growing hostile presence and activity' in the region. The text also calls on the Department of Homeland Security to bolster surveillance at US borders with Canada and Mexico to 'prevent operatives from Iran, the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps), its Quds Force, Hezbollah or any other terrorist organisation from entering the United States.'"

Belfast Telegraph: "UK taxpayers have effectively funded executions in Iran through £3.6 million in aid used to fight the flow of drugs into Europe, human rights campaigners said. Iran has historically been the leading recipient of UK anti-drugs assistance, through joint programmes with other countries. But a report by prisoners' rights charity Reprieve found that links between aid and executions were 'not hard to establish'. Reprieve investigator Maya Foa said: 'It's outrageous that Britain, which is supposed to be committed to the abolition of capital punishment, should in fact be funding executions for drug offences in Iran.'"
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Nuclear Program & Sanctions

NYT: "Iranian forces fired what military officers said was a new generation of surface-to-air missiles on Monday during a wide-ranging naval exercise that focused on striking hypothetical unmanned aircraft and vessels in international waters to the south of the country, Iranian news media reported. The missiles were fired on the fourth day of a six-day naval exercise that started Friday, when Iran announced that it had begun the exercises that would test a new version of its Thunder surface-to-air midrange missile. They were meant to demonstrate the country's defense of its territorial waters, the official Islamic Republic News Agency said."

AP: "Iran's navy issued dozens of warnings to foreign planes and warships that approached its forces during a five-day sea maneuver near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a semi-official news agency reported Tuesday. Mehr quoted Adm. Amir Rastgari, spokesman for the exercise, as saying that naval and air defense forces on 30 occasions warned off reconnaissance planes, drones and warships belonging to 'extraregional forces' that approached the drill, using a term that the Islamic Republic commonly employs to refer to the militaries of the U.S. and its allies."

Epoch Times: "In relations with a diplomatically isolated Iran, the People's Republic of China appears to be balancing its need for oil with the importance of its ties to Washington. The Chinese regime drives a hard bargain, taking advantage of its dominant position in a sanctioned Iranian economy, while simultaneously taking a harder line on sanctions related to Iranian nuclear ambitions, even as it finds means for circumventing some U.N. sanctions. A new report titled, 'China-Iran: A Limited Partnership,' charts the shifting bilateral relationship between China and Iran and concludes that China is motivated in its current relationship with Iran primarily by economics, specifically its energy needs. Written by CEBNTRA Technology Inc. under a contract for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), the report was released Dec. 20. USCC is a bipartisan congressional commission that is mandated by law to review the national security implications of trade and economic ties between the United States and communist China."

Foreign Affairs

Gulf Daily News: "Bahrain's uprising was 'hijacked' by Iran which continues to pose a threat to regional security, according to a new study. The study explores how the Bahraini movement, which initially had true democratic demands, was taken over by extremists linked to Hizbollah and Iran in a bid to interfere in the GCC's internal affairs. Bahrain-based journalist Yenus Rahman published the report, Bahrain: A Soft Target for Iran, in the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies (CEJISS). The study states that the legitimate demands were 'eclipsed when the remnants of old opposition and insurgent groups, with histories of destabilising Bahrain, and alleged ties to Hizbollah' took centre stage. This changed the uprising, which Mr Rahman, said was 'hijacked.'"

Globe & Mail: "The Harper government is committed to working with the U.S. government as it ratchets up efforts to counter perceived threats from Iran in the Americas. Legislation signed by President Barack Obama last week gives the U.S. State Department six months to develop an assessment of the threat posed to the United States by Iran's growing presence in the hemisphere, as well as a plan to combat it. Among other things, the law requires the State Department and Homeland Security to work with Canada and Mexico 'to address resources, technology and infrastructure to create a secure United States border and strengthen the ability of the United States and its allies' to prevent Iranian-backed terrorists from entering the country... Ottawa is not expecting any new border impediments to result from the new U.S. law, but is working with the United States on a program dubbed 'Beyond the Border' to counter international threats."

WashPost: "John Sheardown, an unflappable Canadian diplomat in Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis who helped shelter six American 'house guests' until they were secretly shuttled out of the country, died Dec. 30 at a hospital in Ottawa. He was 88. He had Alzheimer's disease, said his wife, Zena Sheardown. In the events that became known as the 'Canadian Caper,' Mr. Sheardown was serving officially as the top immigration official at the Canadian Embassy in Tehran. Recounting the 1979 ordeal, historian Robert Wright wrote that the portly, ruddy-faced Mr. Sheardown 'exuded the sort of quiet but unyielding resolve that made him a natural leader in a crisis.'"

Human Rights

BBC: "The jailed daughter of the former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been moved to solitary confinement, the BBC has learned. A spokesman for Iran's judiciary said Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani was moved as punishment for her behaviour in jail. Ms Rafsanjani began a six-month prison sentence in September after being found guilty earlier this year of spreading anti-state propaganda'. The former MP is the most politically active of Mr Rafsanjani's children."

Domestic Politics

AFP: "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has again spoken out against the use of pressure to impose Islamic values on people, especially university candidates, media reported on Monday. 'You cannot impose things by issuing decrees and directives -- a choice imposed by force has no value whatsoever,' Ahmadinejad said in a speech on Sunday. 'In some universities, female students are forced to wear the chador (covering the whole body, leaving only the face exposed), but the way they are forced to wear it... it is better not worn since it becomes worthless,' he said. He also criticised criteria on the selection of university candidates, citing the case of a student denied university admittance in the 1980s because he had shaved. Being unshaven in Iran is a sign that you are a good Muslim."

Opinion & Analysis

Nir Boms & Shayan Arya in WashTimes: "At the end of her 49-day hunger strike, Iranian activist Nasrin Sotoudeh smuggled a letter from her Evin prison cell letting the world know about the 36 other female political prisoners incarcerated with her in Evin. This number is a new high. However, those women are not alone. Thirteen of them have immediate family members either in prison or under judicial pursuit. Ms. Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer, was convicted in 2010 of 'spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security.' Her crime was representing clients such as Iranian journalist Isa Saharkhiz and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. While imprisoned, Ms. Sotoudeh began a hunger strike, which afforded a rare glimpse into the fate of female activists in Iran. However, this glimpse is not enough to convey the trauma of daily imprisonment of Iranian women in the land of ayatollahs. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's Islamist Revolution, began his political activism in the early 1960s during the time of the late Shah of Iran's 'White Revolution.' The White Revolution was a modernization process encompassing a number of reforms, including granting women the right to vote in 1963 (almost a decade before Switzerland). Khomeini and the Islamic establishment vehemently opposed the voting reform on the basis that Shariah law does not allow women to vote. This was and has been a point of contention between the two camps ever since. Under the late shah, Iranian women had equal rights to vote, get an education and work in the public sphere and the seemingly mundane right to choose how to dress. They also benefited from laws that protected them from abuses of their freedom. Women were not allowed to be married before the age of 18, they were permitted to divorce their husbands, and they could be granted custody of their children. Polygamy was banned, with very few exceptions, and in all cases, the permission and consent of the first wife had to be obtained. Before the Revolution, Iran had nearly 100 female judges. Included among them was Shirin Ebadi, who later received the Nobel Peace Prize. There also was a Ministry of Women's Affairs dedicated to the empowerment of women and protecting their legal rights. Immediately following the 1979 Revolution, the newly established theocracy moved to repeal the liberalized laws. The Ministry of Women's Affairs was abolished. Women were banned from becoming judges and discouraged from becoming lawyers. Judge Ebadi and her female colleagues were sent home. The marriage age for girls was lowered to 9, in accordance with Shariah law. Only after years of protest from Iranian women's rights activists and international organizations was it raised to 13. Polygamy is now permitted and is, in fact, encouraged by the government. Women also have lost their right to divorce their husbands. Female activists are regularly harassed and jailed. Following the 2009 wave of protests, in which many women served as leaders, universities became further segregated by sex... Old habits die hard with the mullahs. The Islamic regime will continue its relentless assault on women's rights unabated just as it continues its advancement toward nuclear domination in the Middle East and the world. We must stand firm and fight oppression in Iran on all fronts."

Simon Tisdall in The Guardian: "The spectre of military confrontation with Iran, igniting a wider Middle East conflict, looms large as 2013 begins. If you feel you have been here before, you have. According to recent reports from Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu was ready to attack Tehran's suspect nuclear facilities as long ago as 2010, but was blocked by his two top army and intelligence chiefs. What makes 2013 especially dangerous is that potential war-triggers are more numerous and more finely balanced than two years ago. Iran's nuclear weapons-related and associated missile programmes are more advanced, or so the western powers believe. In Israel, meanwhile, the two recalcitrant army and intelligence chiefs have been replaced. January will see Netanyahu standing in elections for a second term as prime minister. If successful, he can be expected to ratchet up the pressure on Tehran again. The rightwing Likud leader will interpret his expected victory as a mandate for action. For Netanyahu, Iran has become an obsession. In Iran, the controversial two-term presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is coming to an end and it is far from clear who may succeed him. It can be assumed that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader and an anti-western, conservative hardliner, will try to pick his own man for the job. But the opposition, though fractured, will have its own ideas. It is entirely possible the June 2013 presidential election will provoke a repeat of the street battles and civil unrest that, for a moment in the summer of 2009, appeared to be close to toppling the revolutionary regime. Many Iranians and outside observers believe the Green movement's candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, won that election but was the victim of massive fraud. The example of the Arab spring revolts may now inspire even greater internal resistance. This in turn could lead the regime to blame foreign meddling, as it has in the past, and lash out abroad. For their part, the Americans will try to avoid direct military confrontation if they can, although Washington, like Tehran, has rightwing factions that would dearly love a showdown. The Pentagon has severe misgivings about a shooting war. This is not to say the shadowy covert war targeting Iran with cyber attacks, assassinations and destabilisation operations will stop. It will not. Barack Obama does not want to be drawn into another conflict in the Muslim world, having striven so hard to extricate the US from Iraq and Afghanistan. A new round of western diplomatic contacts with Iran is under way. The US has been holding secret bilateral discussions and Obama signalled publicly in a presidential debate that he was prepared to negotiate face to face. The outlines of a deal are already on the table. Iran would cease production of 20%-enriched uranium (the biggest proliferation threat) in return for an easing of sanctions. It would be allowed to continue making low-enriched uranium for civil reactors in exchange for accepting more intrusive monitoring. The UN's nuclear agency, the IAEA, says it believes inspections could resume in January. But Israel will demand definitive progress, if not a breakthrough, before June, the month by which it estimates Iran's production of highly enriched uranium will give it the capability to build an atomic bomb. This is a 'red line', Israel says. One big problem in any talks process, as always, is who in Tehran is qualified to speak authoritatively for a regime that has many power centres. No Iranian politician will want to be seen ceding ground to the west at a time of uncertain domestic political transition, for fear of being accused of selling out."

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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