Monday, January 14, 2013

Eye on Iran: A Trail of Bullet Casings Leads From Africa's Wars Back to Iran

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Top Stories

NYT: "The first clues appeared in Kenya, Uganda and what is now South Sudan. A British arms researcher surveying ammunition used by government forces and civilian militias in 2006 found Kalashnikov rifle cartridges he had not seen before. The ammunition bore no factory code, suggesting that its manufacturer hoped to avoid detection. Within two years other researchers were finding identical cartridges circulating through the ethnic violence in Darfur. Similar ammunition then turned up in 2009 in a stadium in Conakry, Guinea, where soldiers had fired on antigovernment protesters, killing more than 150. For six years, a group of independent arms-trafficking researchers worked to pin down the source of the mystery cartridges. Exchanging information from four continents, they concluded that someone had been quietly funneling rifle and machine-gun ammunition into regions of protracted conflict, and had managed to elude exposure for years. Their only goal was to solve the mystery, not implicate any specific nation. When the investigators' breakthrough came, it carried a surprise. The manufacturer was not one of Africa's usual suspects. It was Iran."

Reuters: "Two European airlines said on Saturday they were halting services to Iran, a sign of the crumbling purchasing power of Iranians as their economy buckles under the weight of Western sanctions. Air France-KLM will suspend its Amsterdam-Tehran service starting April 2013, a spokesman for the carrier said. It currently flies to Iran four times a week. Austrian Airlines, a unit of Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa, is cancelling its services to Iran due to a lack of demand, a spokesman said. The carrier's last flight from Vienna to Tehran will be on January 13. It used to fly to Tehran four times a week, but reduced that to three in November... A spokesman for Lufthansa said the German carrier was continuing to fly to Tehran five times a week. Italian airline Alitalia also flies to Iran, according to its website."

AP: "Elections to pick Iran's next president are still five months away, but that's not too early for some warning shots by the country's leadership. The message to anyone questioning the openness of the June vote: Keep quiet. A high-level campaign - including blunt remarks by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - seeks to muzzle any open dissent over the process to select the successor for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and likely usher in a new president with a far tamer political persona. Public denunciations are nothing new against anyone straying from Iran's official script. But the unusually early pre-emptive salvos appears to reflect worries that the election campaign could offer room for rising criticism and complaints over Iran's myriad challenges, including an economy sputtering under Western-led sanctions, double-digit inflation and a national currency whose value has nosedived."
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Nuclear Program & Sanctions

Reuters: "U.S. regulators are expected to order JPMorgan Chase & Co to correct lapses in how it polices suspect money flows, two people familiar with the situation said, in the latest move by officials to force banks to tighten their anti money-laundering systems... The inquiry on JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank, dates back several months, the sources said. The first public signs that JPMorgan had issues with its transaction monitoring systems emerged in August 2011. At that time JPMorgan agreed to pay $88.3 million to settle Treasury Department allegations that it engaged in prohibited transactions linked to Cuba and Iran."

Bloomberg: "Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani said government officials should take steps to offset economic hardships, Etemaad newspaper reported. Iranians are struggling with inflation and unemployment, Larijani said. 'It isn't in the nation's interest for people to endure more economic pressure,' he said, according to Etemaad... 'Even at a time of sanctions, if we use all the existing skills and aim for local production certainly inflation will lessen and jobs will be created,' he told a rally in the central city of Natanz, according to the Tehran-based newspaper."

AP: "Spanish police have arrested two people and seized equipment made by a Spanish company that was to be illegally shipped to Iran for use in its nuclear program, officials said Friday. Police officers stopped a tractor trailer at a highway toll booth in the northern town of Durango on Wednesday and after an inspection arrested the two people and seized the cargo, an Interior Ministry statement said. It said the police 'dismantled a ring trafficking material for the development of the Iranian nuclear program.'The seized objects included 44 valves made of an alloy 'containing more than 25 percent nickel and 20 percent chromium by weight, which ... makes them particularly suitable for use in the nuclear industry,' the ministry said. It said police also confiscated mounting accessories, export documents to Iran, bank statements and computer information. The ministry identified the Spanish company as Fluval, which was founded in the 1970s and is located in the northern town of Amurrio."

Regional Meddling

Reuters: "Iran is working with southern secessionists in Yemen to expand its influence and destabilize the strategic region around the Straits of Hormuz, the U.S. envoy to Yemen was quoted as saying on Sunday. Yemen's state news agency Saba cited U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein as accusing Iran of supporting south Yemeni leaders trying to revive the formerly independent state of South Yemen, and naming Ali Salem al-Beidh, who runs a pro-independence satellite TV station from Lebanon, as one of them. 'There is evidence that proves Iran's support to some extreme elements of the southern movement (al-Hirak),' Feierstein was quoted by Saba as saying in remarks reported in Arabic."

Human Rights

The Age: "Could Australia soon have its first heavy-metal refugee? A 28-year-old man detained at Manus Island says he fled to Australia after being an underground metal drummer in Iran, where executions are 'as common as eating a piece a cake'. He said he finally fled Iran after 60 heavy-metal fans were arrested at an unauthorised concert, and music teachers were arrested and jailed. Restrictions on music and dancing are commonplace in Iran, where hundreds of young people have been arrested at unauthorised concerts. 'Because heavy metal is completely prohibited and illegal in Iran, and as I mentioned before because of the religion and misjudgments, it's known as Evil Music,' the man - who asked not to be identified - wrote in a lengthy email from Manus Island."

Opinion & Analysis

Doyle McManus in LAT: "Here's a prediction I don't think I'll have to apologize for at the end of the year: Some time in the coming months, probably this spring, there will be another crisis over Iran's nuclear program. It's become an annual event on the diplomatic calendar: The United States and its allies press Iran to stop enriching uranium, Iran says no, Israel warns that its patience is running out, and the United States persuades Israel to stay its hand. That's how the crisis has unfolded over the last two years. But there are several reasons to believe that 2013's crisis will be different, and that Tehran will either agree to limit its nuclear program, or Israel and the United States will move toward military action. For one thing, President Obama's reelection gives him a freer hand to make a deal or to consider military action if a deal can't be reached. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about to get reelected too, and he will head an even more hawkish government. And one more element has changed: Over the past year, Obama has hardened his warnings that the United States will not allow Iran to go nuclear, even if that requires military action. 'A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,' he told the U.N. General Assembly in September. 'The United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.' The president still has doubters in both the United States and Israel. When Obama hardened his position against Iran, they note, it was an election year, and he needed to sound tough to stave off Israeli military action and placate pro-Israel voters. Now that he's been reelected, his true antiwar beliefs will resurface, they predict. As proof, they say, there's his nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense - a Republican who has been one of his party's most vocal skeptics about the wisdom of military action against Iran... But that was the old Hagel, before he was nominated for secretary of Defense. Last week, as he prepared for his confirmation hearings, Hagel took pains to reassure senators that he is falling fully in line with Obama's tougher position on Iran. 'He strongly supports the president's position on Iran,' one official told me after speaking with Hagel at the Pentagon. 'He agrees that military action should be on the table.' In a conversation with Dennis Ross, Obama's former advisor on Iran, Hagel went a step further into the hawkish camp. 'He was very clear that he believes we can't live with an Iran that has nuclear-weapons capability,' Ross told me. Is that the Washington equivalent of a deathbed conversion - a sudden change of view on the eve of confirmation hearings? Maybe. But it's also a sign that Obama isn't softening his stance on Iran for his second term, and that embracing Obama's view was a price of Hagel's nomination... But anyone who expected Chuck Hagel to become a strong force for restraint in Obama's second term may be disappointed. Instead, we are likely to have an antiwar president and an antiwar secretary of Defense, both bent on convincing Iran that they are willing to go to war."

Conrad Black in the National Post: "The odds are that Iran will acquire a nuclear military capacity in the next year or 18 months. The subject has been bandied about for so long that the implications of such a step are now widely accepted with resignation - much as with North Korea, when it joined the nuclear club. And the United States is duly distributing anti-missile defense around the Persian Gulf. Barack Obama never formally took the military option 'off the table.' Nevertheless - if the United States, especially with John Kerry and Chuck Hagel in the State Department and the Pentagon - lifts a finger to prevent Iran from crossing this threshold, it would be the greatest Middle Eastern backflip since Anwar Sadat flew to Jerusalem. It would also be a welcome sight. North Korea is essentially a puppet of China's, which the People's Republic unleashes on the West for its own amusement from time to time, but which it can contain. Iran, as the noted behaviourist Monty Python would say, is something completely different. All that is good that can be said about the Iranian nuclear initiative is that it exposes the nuclear disarmament regime as the fraud that it is... Iran is of more concern because its leaders have spoken almost ceaselessly of destroying the Jewish state, and they have often claimed a wish to die for the cause of militant Islam. They certainly have no shortage of followers ready to make such a sacrifice. But - as is indicated by the conduct of the Hamas leaders when Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon had the Israeli Defense Forces kill the head of Hamas after each terrorist outrage in Israel, and of Osama bin Laden, hiding like an animal behind high walls against American retribution - militant Islamist leaders tend to be more careful with their lives than their rhetoric might suggest. Those truly determined and eager to die, especially if they are in positions of power, have no difficulty doing so. Iran's leaders have not done so yet, nor come close to doing so. But there will be terrible consequences if Iran obtains these horrible weapons, even if they do not use them. Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will feel obliged to do the same, and a general movement will then spread to replace the present furtively expanding club of sensible nuclear hypocrites, arming themselves to deter aggression but not initiate it, with a vast nuclear club of unlimited membership. Like a neighbourhood that leaps from gradually slipping gun control to being universally armed to the teeth, the world will bristle with nuclear weaponry like hand guns and switchblades on Saturday night in an American slum. This will continue to deter most countries, though most do not need to be deterred, but it will make nuclear exchanges inevitable, eventually, and deterrence will then have to regress to early Cold War massive retaliation, which will only accelerate and spread the arms race. It is not quite too late to institute and enforce a policy of insistence on denial of nuclear weapons to countries that do not plausibly renounce first use, but the chances are eroding every day, through the irresolution and misjudgments of the U.S. government. If Iran becomes a nuclear military power, the consequences are easily foreseeable, are as described, and they will be terrifying."

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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