Friday, January 25, 2013

Eye on Iran: Kerry: 'Do What We Must' to Stop Iran on Nukes

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AP: "Sen. John Kerry, President Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of state, said Thursday that the United States will 'do what we must' to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon even as he signaled that diplomacy remains a viable option with Tehran. Testifying at his confirmation hearing, and with Senate approval a foregone conclusion, Kerry addressed a range of concerns raised by members of the Foreign Relations Committee, from his past outreach to Syrian President Bashar Assad to GOP concerns about the nomination of Republican former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary. 'The president has made it definitive - we will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,' Kerry said in his opening statement. 'I repeat here today: Our policy is not containment. It is prevention, and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance.'"

Reuters: "South Korean prosecutors have detained and charged a Korean American with the illegal transfer of a staggering 1.09 trillion won ($1.02 billion) in Iranian money frozen in South Korea under international sanctions, the lawyers said on Friday. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said a 73-year-old man, identified only by his family name, Chung, was suspected of making fraudulent transfers in 2011 from the Iranian central bank's won-denominated account at a South Korean bank by using fake invoices for payment. Prosecutors marveled at the scale of the withdrawals, indicating they believed there had to be more than one person involved. The prosecutors' office said those involved took advantage of a banking procedure that was now more tightly supervised... The prosecutors' office and the Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) confirmed media reports that identified the state-owned lender as the financial institution that held the Iranian central bank account. IBK had received a payment order from the Iranian central bank, the bank and prosecutors said. It believed the order to be authentic because Chung had attached authorization from the Bank of Korea and a government agency that tracks exports of goods to countries under international sanctions, the prosecution said."

Reuters: "The U.N. nuclear watchdog signaled on Friday it would keep trying to secure Iran's cooperation with a long-stalled investigation, but a senior Iranian lawmaker suggested Tehran would only cooperate it if it won sanctions relief in return. The comments by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who chairs parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, add to Western suspicions that Iran may be using its talks with the U.N. agency as a bargaining chip to win concessions from world powers. 'Lifting sanctions against Iran is a national right of ours ... If we are supposed to have more cooperation with the Agency, Westerners should know that this is a two-way road,' parliamentary news agency Icana quoted him as saying. The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency has been trying for a year to negotiate a framework agreement with Iran that would enable the Vienna-based IAEA to resume its investigation into suspected nuclear weapons research by the Islamic Republic."
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Nuclear Program

BBC: "Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has warned that a crisis involving a nuclear Iran is in the 'foreseeable future'. The Nobel Peace laureate, 89, was speaking about prospects in the Middle East at the World Economic Forum. He said nuclear proliferation in the region triggered by an armed Iran would increase the chances of an atomic war - 'a turning point in human history'... 'There has emerged in the region, the current and most urgent issue of nuclear proliferation. For 15 years, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have declared that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, but it has been approaching,' he said."

NYT: "Iran's political and military elite boasted last month that their forces shot down an American intelligence-gathering drone, a remotely piloted Navy vehicle called ScanEagle that they swiftly put on display for the Iranian news media. Navy officials responded that no drones had been shot down by enemy fire, although the Pentagon acknowledged that it had lost a small number of ScanEagles, likely to engine malfunction, over Afghanistan and in the Persian Gulf region. The drone that the Iranians showcased appeared cobbled together after a crash - thus earning the nickname 'FrankenEagle' across the Navy. Regardless, the loss was hardly an intelligence coup for Iran, since ScanEagle carries only off-the-shelf video equipment with less computing power than can be found in a smartphone... Navy officers say that adding another layer of surveillance aircraft to the American fleet also has a deterrent effect on Iran. 'The fact that we are physically present with more and more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets - the Iranians know we are out there watching,' said one officer familiar with ScanEagle deployments. 'We are flying in international airspace and over international waters. But these assets give us ground truth on what everybody is doing in the gulf.'"


Reuters: "South Korea's Samsung Total Petrochemicals Co has revived a contract to buy Iranian oil after a year's hiatus, as thin margins in plastics make the cheap fuel from Iran hard to resist, people familiar with the deal said on Friday... The deal is a rare example of a buyer returning to the market for Iranian oil despite the obstacles arising from sanctions and efforts by Western powers to stem the flow... The deal may save Samsung Total as much as $6.7 million in costs, according to Reuters calculations. 'The deal can be easily understood if you look at Samsung Total's financial situation,' according to a government source in Seoul with direct knowledge of the matter. The company is a joint venture between South Korea's Samsung Group and French energy giant Total."

Human Rights

Reuters: "Two rights groups urged the Iranian judiciary on Thursday to quash death sentences against five members of Iran's Arab minority and halt their executions on grounds of torture and unfair legal proceedings. London-based Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York, said in a statement the five had been sentenced last year on terrorism-related charges because of their links to a banned cultural institute that promoted their Arab heritage. Their death sentences were upheld last week and they were transferred from Karoun prison in Ahvaz, capital of the southwestern province of Khuzestan. Their families no longer know where they are being held, the statement added."

Fox News: "Iranian jailers turned away the family of an American pastor on trial Iran for his Christian family, telling them Saeed Abedini is not in the infamous Tehran prison where he's been held for several months. The development was the latest disappointment in a turbulent week for supporters of Abedini, who is accused of undermining national security by establishing a network of home-based churches in his native country. On Monday, at the outset of his trial, state-run media said Abedini had been granted bail, but family members said officials refused to accept the payment or free him. 'The fact that his whereabouts are unknown to his family and attorney is cause for concern,' said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of American Center for Law and Justice, the organization representing Abedini's U.S.-based family."

Guardian: "Iran has been conducting a smear campaign designed to intimidate Iranian journalists living in exile, including apparent death threats. Cyber-activists linked to the Islamic republic have fabricated news, duplicated Facebook accounts and spread false allegations of sexual misconduct by exiled journalists, while harassment of family members back in Iran has been stepped up by security officials. Staff at the BBC's Persian service in London are among dozens of Iranian journalists who have been subjected to what appears to be an operation sponsored by the authorities and aimed at discrediting reporters in the eyes of the public in Iran. It is not the first time the Iranian authorities have resorted to such tactics, but Sadeq Saba, head of BBC Persian, said the number of incidents and level of harassment has increased in the last few weeks."

Domestic Politics

WashPost: "A heated debate about who will be allowed to run in Iran's presidential election has erupted five months before the vote, stoking concerns about a repeat of the protests that followed the contested 2009 poll. At the heart of the controversy is whether the vote will be what critics of Iran's electoral system call 'free' - that is, cast with a ballot that includes candidates from all of Iran's various political factions and not just so-called principalists, the conservatives who are loyal to the Shiite Muslim clerical establishment that rules Iran. The loudest calls for an open field of participants are coming from two former presidents and the outgoing one, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They are trying to ensure that their political allies are not barred from running by the Guardian Council, the powerful committee of clerics and jurists that vets the eligibility of potential candidates. Half of the 12-member council is appointed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and half by parliament from among nominees who are also beholden to the supreme leader."

Opinion & Analysis

UANI Advisory Board Member Matthias Küntzel in the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs: "In December 1998, an Israeli delegation led by then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to the Clinton White House and 'inquired about the US government's possible support for an Israeli military operation against Iranian facilities,' as Jack Caravelli, a witness of the meeting, reports. President Bill Clinton refused. At the same time, he drew a clear red line: A state that perpetrates terrorist attacks may not obtain nuclear technology. In March 2012, yet another Israeli delegation led by Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the White House and asked whether the US government would be willing to support a military strike on Iran. President Barack Obama refused. At the same time, he drew his own clear red line: A state that perpetrates terrorist attacks might gain the ability to build an atomic bomb but it must not produce it. While in 1998 Netanyahu was satisfied with the result of his mission to Washington, fourteen years later he was not. Tehran should have neither a bomb nor bombmaking capability, he explained at the White House, and he pressed the president to draw a red line at Iran's acquisition of nuclear capability. But President Obama was adamant. According to government officials, such policy 'would be too ambiguous and open to different interpretations.' This controversy has received scant coverage in the media, which preferred to speculate about the personal relations between Netanyahu and Obama. During Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, this disagreement remained beneath the surface. Now, however, the Iran crisis will once again bring it to the fore-including the American-Israeli strategic discord."

Ray Takeyh in IHT: "As diplomacy once more reclaims its place in U.S.-Iran relations, a peculiar psychological barrier continues to bedevil prospects of a settlement. The great powers are busy imposing sanctions on Iran that they will amend only if Tehran dismantles key aspects of its nuclear program. In the meantime, Iran is hesitant to make concessions, aware that the expansion of its nuclear capability enhances its bargaining power. In the search of negotiating advantage, neither side is willing to part with what they consider to be their leverage. The best means of breaking this vicious cycle is not to search for a grand deal, but a limited one that breaches the wall of mistrust and potentially sets the stage for further-reaching arms control measures. The basic U.S. strategy has rested on the notion that increased economic penalties can produce a reliable interlocutor prone to negotiating a viable agreement. The intriguing aspect of this policy is that it is burdened by its own partial success. The American sanctions policy has triumphed beyond the anticipation of its many detractors, as Washington has convinced a large segment of the international community to abjure Iranian commerce. And yet, ironically, the more the sanctions policy succeeds, the more reluctant the great powers become to exchange any of their gains for a modest compromise. The Islamic Republic has been bedeviled by its own accomplishments. It is the conviction of the clerical state that America is not interested in its atomic program, but is cynically using Iran's nuclear ambitions to foster regime change. By steadily increasing the size and scope of its nuclear infrastructure, Tehran believes that it is in a better position to extract concessions from the international community. The clerics are trapped in their own achievement: The more their nuclear program advances, the less inclined they are to concede its core features. The danger of such unimpeded proliferation is that as Iran's program crosses successive technological thresholds, a constituency is emerging within the regime that argues that an Iran with a bomb maybe in a better position to renegotiate its re-entry into the global economy. The Iranian and American narratives do occasionally coincide on one issue: Iran's production of 20 percent enriched uranium. The United States has long identified Iran's higher-grade enrichment as its most dangerous and destabilizing activity. On various occasions, the Islamic Republic has seemingly been open to an agreement that addresses its high-grade enrichment program. The Iranians' claim has always been that they were compelled to move to higher levels of enrichment because the international community had failed to provide them with sufficient fuel for the operation of Tehran's medical research reactor. Whatever the merits of Iran's assertions, it does establish the precedent for ceasing 20 percent enriched uranium production for a measure of sanctions relief. The critics of an agreement that focuses solely on 20 percent enriched uranium will correctly stress that cessation of such efforts would not significantly curb Iran's nuclear trajectory. They will also argue, reasonably, that an agreement will not undo Iran's mastery of complex nuclear technologies. But the principal aim of such a bargain would be to nudge the two sides away from their existing narratives. An accord - however modest and tentative - may convince the Western powers that Iran can indeed be an arms-control interlocutor."

Houshang Asadi in WSJ: "Only a few newspaper headlines become iconic, a story in their own right. The headline 'Shah Raft'-'The Shah Has Left' in Persian-is one of those. It was printed on the front page of Iran's two main daily newspapers, Kayhan and Ettelaat, on Jan. 16, 1979, after Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi left Tehran for good. 'Shah Raft' captured the victory of the revolution. It encapsulated history in the making. It ran in bold Persian letters, in size 84 font, across the top of the page. Over a million copies were printed. In Iranian journalism circles, the headline has sparked years of debate: Who wrote it? Who picked it? How did it come about? This month marks 34 years since 'Shah Raft' hit the press... The two managing editors who oversaw the news that day eventually coordinated for another historic headline: 'Imam Amad' ('The Imam Has Come') for the return of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founding father of the revolution, from Paris. But the Islamic Revolution, which vowed to root out brutal dictatorship and usher in an era of justice and freedom, did not honor its promises. A systematic attack on Kayhan began almost immediately after the shah's departure, with demonstrations outside our office and threats made against us. Within three months, nearly all of Kayhan's news staff, among the best in the country, were fired. Rahman, the editor-in-chief, died while being tortured in prison. Another editor, Gholamhussein Salehyar, was banned from journalism and died alone at home, in isolation. And the rest? Most of us who reported, wrote and documented 'Shah Raft' and 'Imam Amad' became unemployed, exiled and nomadic. When a notorious interrogator was appointed top editor at Kayhan a few years after the revolution, we journalists became ice-cream sellers and shopkeepers. Many of us left the country. I wish we had known when we printed 'Shah Raft' that an evil force was lurking behind our newsroom door, ready to crush the promise of change. Thirty-four years ago, neither I nor Rahman nor Gholam, nor anyone in the newsroom that evening, could have foreseen what is happening in Iran today. We expected freedom and got a religious dictatorship instead. I can still see Rahman's hands drafting the iconic headline. I can still hear Gholam's voice shouting orders to the newsroom. I live for the day when the editors of Iranian newspapers coordinate on another big, bold headline: 'The Dictatorship Is Gone. Freedom Has Come. At Last.'"

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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