Archive for February, 2010

Interview with Karrubi

February 26, 2010

Here’s a partial transcript of an interview in Italy’s Corriere della Sera with Mehdi Karroubi,first published in Italian in 22 February:

Q: The events of these months have often been compared to the Revolution of 1979. You compared the violence of the repression to that of the Shah’s time, but you said that his army had shown more restraint. Do you see other similarities between our times and those?

Karrubi: The Shah’s regime was corrupt at its core, but he didn’t behave like this with the people. What do the armed forces have to do with the election’s results? Why did they treat the people like this on the 22nd of Bahman (11 February)? During the reign of the Shah there were rules; they did not take the people arrested to the mosque to beat them to death even before they appeared in front of the judiciary. These people make arrests without a warrant, beat them and keep them in detention. Not to mention the rest (such as the alleged rape of detainees).

Q: Under what conditions would you be ready to find a compromise with Ahmadinejad and recognise him as the legitimate president of Iran? Do you consider yourself to be a leader of this Green Movement?

Karrubi: I don’t consider myself the leader of the popular Green Movement. I consider myself a member of this movement and of the reformist movement. My actions aim to a return to the will and the ideals of the people, that is to say to the people’s sovereignty. I don’t have a personal conflict, nor a reason to reach an agreement or make peace with Ahmadinejad. We consider Ahmadinejad’s government an established government that has to answer for its actions, but not a lawful or legitimate government. I am nobody: it’s not up to me to find an agreement or a compromise. It is the people who have to decide whether or not they want a compromise with the government. It is the people who are in conflict with the government, and who do not accept its management of the country. The people don’t agree with the strategy that puts us in conflict with the world taken on by Ahmadinejad, and we are a part of this same people.

Q: Before the election could you imagine that the Iranian people would go so far in asking for their rights and that their anger would grow so much?

Karrubi: I did not imagine or foresee that the Iranian regime would go as far as rigging the popular vote as it did. On the other hand, the regime has adopted an obstinate and non conciliatory attitude with the people, which is the cause of the current problems. In the first days, the people said, “Where is my vote?” The people are still the same. So what happened that lead them to adopt the current slogans? The people want healthy elections and to see their votes counted.

Q:What is the worst thing that has been done in the name of the revolution? What were the most joyful moments of the revolution? Why do you still believe in the Islamic Republic?

Karrubi: The Islamic Republic consists of two concepts: republicanism and Islam. The worst thing is the damage done to both those concepts and principles. I’m not saying that nothing is left anymore, but the damage done is very serious, both to Islam and to the concept of “republicanism” which means “the opinion and the vote of the people”.

The Imam said that the final decision is up to the people. He always considered the public opinion and never allowed, even under the worse conditions, ambiguity and lack of clarity during the elections. What was damaged were the promises that we made to the people. The issue is not to make the regime fall, but to reform it.
I still believe in the Islamic Republic, but not in this kind of Islamic Republic! The Islamic Republic that we promised the people had the support and the vote of 98% of the population: it was the Islamic Republic of free elections and not of rigged elections. I believe in modern Islam, an Islam full of kindness and affection, not a violent or fanatic Islam.

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Iran-Syria Alliance Grows Stronger

February 26, 2010

According to a report in today’s Washington Post, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have pledged to create a Middle East “without Zionists” and jointly criticized U.S. policy in the region.

As the West is trying to gain support for targeted sanctions against the Islamic Republic as they continue their uranium enrichment program, Tehran has been trying to get increased support from its allies, which include Bolivia and Venezuela in South America, and Syria in the Middle East region.

In an attempt to weaken the Iran-Syria relationship, Washington announced recently that it will send Ambassador Robert Ford to Damascus after a five-year absence after Washington pulled its representative in protest over the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

The message delivered by the two heads of state during the joint news conference Thursday, however, showed the Iran-Syria alliance grow despite Washington’s efforts. The statement also seemed to show that any real progress toward an Israel-Syria peace agreement was still unlikely.

The U.S wants “to dominate the region, but they feel Iran and Syria are preventing that,” Ahmadinejad said during the joint news conference. “We tell them that instead of interfering in the region’s affairs, to pack their things and leave.” According to the report by the Post, Ahmadinejad went on to speak about Israel’s eventual “demise and annihilation,” saying the region could create a future “without Zionists and without colonialists.”

According to the Post, Assad also criticized what he regarded as the United States’ “new situation of colonialism” in the region. He pointed out the presence of U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and pressure on Syria to split from Iran—a friendship Assad emphasized remained strong despite Syria’s declining economy.

As for Israel, that country’s officials say they still think a deal with Syria is possible, but less so if President Obama fails with Iran.

“The question is, where is Syria going to locate itself?” Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Israeli parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was quoted by the Post as saying. The alliance with Iran, he said, “gives them less reason to be pragmatic.”

China and Russia May Accept Symbolic Sanctions

February 25, 2010

As the West is continuing to ratchet up pressure on Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program, it has been working to get the support of UN veto-wielding countries Russia and China. Now, there are some signs that those two countries may—at least symbolically—go along with sanctions.

Leaders from the United States, Britain, France and Germany have been debating targeted sanctions, while Russia and China have maintained hesitancy on sanctions. Now, Western nations are stepping up efforts to get Russia and China on board.

“It’s time to start haggling with the Russians and Chinese so we can get a sanctions text to the Security Council in the near future,” one Western diplomat was reported as saying. “We believe we can get their support, though it will come at a price.”
Tehran has already been targeted with three rounds of U.N. sanctions including, travel bans on certain officials and asset freezes aimed at individuals and companies involved in its nuclear and missile programs.
Iran, for its part, has proposed an alternative plan to the UN backed proposal originally offered last October, which Iran did not accept. Western countries, however, do not see Iran’s plan as feasible and have rejected it.

The sanctions debate has heated up as the International Atomic Energy Agency came out last week with a report showing signs that the Islamic Republic may be actively pursuing a nuclear weapons capability—a claim that Tehran denies.

IAEA Says Iran Possibly Working on Nuclear Warhead

February 18, 2010

The International Atomic Energy Agency has announced concern that its information about Iran’s nuclear activities suggests Tehran may be working on a nuclear warhead, according to a classified report obtained by Agence France Presse today.

“The information available to the agency … raises concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” IAEA chief Yukiya Amano wrote in his first report to its board of governors.

This is the first time the IAEA has expressed such concern over Iran’s “current” activities.
According to the AFP, the report went on to confirm claims from Tehran earlier this month that the country had begun enriching uranium at the 20 percent level. Iran had previously been enriching uranium to the 3.5-5 percent level.

“Iran provided the agency with mass spectrometry results which indicate that enrichment levels of up to 19.8 percent (uranium) were obtained,” the AFP quoted the report as saying, adding that the enrichment was carried out at a plant in Natanz between February 9 and 11.

Despite the higher level of enrichment, uranium must be enriched to 90 percent or higher for it to be weapons grade.

After a UN proposed plan that Iran send 75-80 percent of its LEU abroad for further enrichment fell through, Iran announced it would begin enriching uranium to 20 percent, claiming it needed the enriched uranium for a research reactor that makes medical radioisotopes.

“On February 10, when the agency inspectors arrived at PFEP (Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant), they were informed that Iran had already begun to feed the UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) into one cascade the previous evening,” Amano’s report said.

The report also said Iran had moved most of its overall stockpile of low-enriched uranium—1,950 kilograms from an estimated total of 2,065 kilograms—for processing to higher levels.

New Plan for Iran

February 16, 2010

After announcing last week that it was enriching uranium at the 20 percent level, Tehran said major powers have presented Iran with a new offer to supply nuclear fuel in return for Iran’s shipping out of 70-80 percent of its low enriched uranium.
“After the decision by Iran to produce its own uranium enriched to 20 percent, France, Russia and the United States presented a new proposal which we are in the process of considering,” Iranian Atomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying on Monday, without giving details.

“The proposal from these countries will only lead to a halt to the enrichment (to 20 percent) if all the conditions that Iran has made for the exchange of (low enriched) uranium for fuel are respected,” Salehi said, adding, “Various countries have contacted Iran with ideas for the exchange of uranium for fuel and they are currently being considered.”

A UN plan proposed last October advised Iran to send the majority of its LEU to Russia for refinement and then to France for conversion into nuclear fuel rods. Iran would in tern receive the rods for its research reactor.

Iran, however, stipulated that it would only comply if the fuel was exchanged on its own soil and that it would only give up its LEU as it receives the enriched fuel. As a compromise, the IAEA has proposed that the fuel be swapped in Turkey, which has good relations with its Iranian neighbour.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was set to fly to Tehan this week for talks with Iranian officials regarding the matter.

Iran to Produce Unmanned Aircraft Domestically

February 8, 2010

Iran on Monday announced it has launched two production lines of unmanned aircraft, also known as drones. Defense Minister, General Ahmad Vahidi reportedly said the planes will be able to carry out precision surveillance as well as attack tasks.
Also on Monday, Senior Air Force Commander, General Heshmatollah Kasiri, told the official IRNA news agency that Iran would soon deploy a missile air defense system that’s more powerful than the Russian S-300 system. Tehran has sought to buy the S-300 system from Russia for some time, but has not yet received it. In January, Russia’s state arms trader declined to say whether it would go ahead with the sale of the anti-aircraft system and Iranian officials have expressed growing frustration with Russia.
“The only equipment we wanted to import from abroad was the S-300 … which Russia, based upon unacceptable reasons, has not delivered yet,” the official IRNA news agency quoted commander Heshmatollah Kassiri as saying. He added, “In the near future, a new locally-made air defense system will be unveiled by the country’s experts and scientists which is as powerful as the S-300 missile defense system, or even stronger.”

Bushehr Plant to Become Operational Soon

February 8, 2010

Tehran announced Monday that its first nuclear power plant in the southern city of Bushehr will become fully operational after completing one final test. Russia took over construction of the plant in 1995, and was set to complete the project in 2007. Now, however, Iran says the plant is close to being operational.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told Fars News, “There remains just one test named ‘Warm Water Test’ before we can launch the power plant …. We will inject fuel to the heart of the reactor after that (final test),” adding that the plant had completed several extensive tests including the Metal Core Test.
Last month, Russian nuclear reactor builder Atomstroyexport announced it had successfully tested the second circuit equipment of the Bushehr plant—a significant step in completing the plant.
The announcement follows Ahmadinejad’s weekend call for Iran to begin enriching its own uranium up to the 20 percent level, essentially ending the need for Iran to sent shipments of its LEU abroad to Russia and France for reprocessing.
To be able to increase enrichment levels, Iran’s atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi has announced the country plans on building 10 new uranium enrichment facilities during the next Iranian year.

Iran Tests Radar-Evading Aircraft

February 8, 2010

On Sunday, a senior Iranian air force official announced Iran had successfully tested a radar-evading aircraft.
Citing Aziz Nasirzadeh, the Fars News Agency reported that the prototype of a radar-evading aircraft named Swordfish had been test-flown.
“The prototype of this aircraft … completed all radar evading characteristics considered by us,” he said. After analyzing data from the tests, and after completing some additional tests, Nasirzadeh said Iran was prepared to take the prototype into production.
The previous day, Iran announced it had officially started production of two new missiles.

Tehran Annouces Slow in Internet Connections

February 8, 2010

Ahead of anticipated protests on February 11 (Revolution Day), Tehran on Sunday announced a slow Internet connection and a disruption in cell phone textmessaging. Tehran attributed the slow connection to technical problems. Connections have reportedly been slow since last week and some email accounts go in and out daily.
Communications Minister Reza Taghipour attributed the cause of the reduced Internet speed to damage of part of the fiber-optic network, adding that the breakage was set to be repaired by next week. Taghipour said the undersea optic fiber, which runs across the Persian Gulf between Iran and the United Arab Emirates had been damaged as a result of shipping traffic and anchoring. Last year, Internet connections across the Middle East went down reportedly due to similar reasons.
The communications minister also acknowledged a disruption in text messaging, blaming in on software issues.
Since the disputed June 12 presidential elections, in which President Ahmadinejad was named the winner, Iran’s opposition has used the Internet and text messaging services to organize rallies and spread news and pictures in support of their cause.

Iran Says It Agrees to UN Proposal

February 4, 2010

President Ahmadinejad on Tuesday said that it had “no problem” sending its Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) abroad to be reprocessed to the 20 percent level and then sent back to Iran to be used for research purposes.
The United Nations offered this proposal in October of 2009. It proposed Iran send 75 to 80 percent of its LEU to Russia for reprocessing and then to France, for conversion into a nuclear fuel rod for use in a research reactor.
Iran initially denied this offer for several reasons:
1) It maintained that nuclear enrichment for peaceful purposes was the nation’s right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
2) It believes it can’t trust Western powers who Iran believes are trying to foment their overthrow.
3) Can’t trust Russia because the Russians took over development of the Bushehr nuclear plant in 1997 and said it would be completed in 2007—yet still the plan is not completely complete.

Iran made a counter offer at the time that it would send portions of its LEU for reprocessing only if the country reprocessing would send Iran enriched uranium at the same time. But that option wasn’t viable for the Western nations because the point was to keep large quantities of the LEU out of the hands of the Iranians so as to make sure Iran couldn’t secretly develop a nuclear weapon.
Now, Iran has said it might be willing to accept. There are several reasons:
1) The West is talking about increasing sanctions while Iran is suffering from double-digit unemployment and inflation. Also, the sanctions largely target the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps who are increasingly controlling more and more sectors of the country.
2) Russia seems more open to the possibility of sanctions.
3) Domestic protests continue.
4) There is a clear break up within the Iranian leadership between notable figures. For example, while Ayatollah Jannati says the regime should execute more opposition members in an effort to stifle the protests, former PM and presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi says he sees in the regime the same roots of dictatorship as in the Shah’s regime.

Regardless of what it says, however, Iran has chosen a critical time to say it will agree to the plan. On February 11, thousands of opposition protesters are expected to come out during the traditional Revolution Day—the anniversary of the 1979 revolution. Many believe Iran has made this announcement to try to keep the opposition quiet. Interestingly, while the conservative faction in the Iranian leadership has denied it would ever give up its right to enrich uranium, the opposition faction is also putting pressure on the regime to not give up Iran’s right to enrich—but doing so largely so that the Iranian regime will not be able to successfully negotiate with the U.S. and therefore solidity its control.
The U.S. has said it is waiting for Tehran to submit a formal offer of the deal to the IAEA.