Wednesday, June 01, 2011



AP: "Iran's parliament voted on Wednesday in favor of taking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to court over what lawmakers say is a violation of the country's constitution stemming from the president's move last month to declare himself caretaker oil minister. The vote in the conservative-dominated assembly is its latest action against Ahmadinejad since the president in April publicly challenged Iran's highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei... The confrontations appear to be part of a power struggle ahead of parliamentary elections next year and the vote for Ahmadinejad's successor in mid-2013. It's unclear whether Wednesday's vote in the 290-member parliament will actually be followed by charges or a a lawsuit against Ahmadinejad, but it clearly pits the majority of the lawmakers against the president. The legislators voted 165-1 to refer Ahmadinejad to the country's judiciary after a parliament committee report concluded his action in taking over the oil ministry was an 'obvious violation of the constitution.' Remaining lawmakers were either absent or abstained from the vote. Lawmakers were upset after Ahmadinejad last month restructured the Cabinet by combining eight ministries into four without seeking the lawmakers' approval. The president has the power to dismiss ministers and put caretakers in place for up to three months without parliament's approval. But when Ahmadinejad declared himself caretaker oil minister, the lawmakers said it was an illegal move, some even alleging the president sought personal control of Iran's most moneymaking body. Iran also holds the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' rotating presidency this year."

JPost: "Leading US congressmen are urging the the US Treasury Department to consider sanctions against the world's third-largest container shipping company - France's CMA CGM - for possible violations of sanctions on Iran that entail significant instances of weapons smuggling, according to letters obtained by The Jerusalem Post. In March, the CMA CGM operated container ship MV Victoria was seized by the Israel Navy in the Mediterranean and escorted to Ashdod Port. More than 50 tons of weapons from Iran were aboard. They included anti-ship missiles, 3,000 mortar shells and almost 70,000 rounds of ammunition for machine guns... In December, Rep. Peter King (R-New York) wrote to Philippe Souli�, CEO of the shipping company. King said he was 'deeply concerned' about the French firm's trade relationship with the regime in Iran. King is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee."

BBC: "Bolivia has apologised to neighbouring Argentina for inviting Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi for a visit. General Vahidi is wanted by Argentina for allegedly masterminding the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca wrote to his Argentine counterpart, saying Mr Vahidi would be leaving immediately. Iran has long denied any involvement in the bombing. On Tuesday, Gen Vahidi attended a military ceremony in the city of Santa Cruz, in the presence of Bolivian President Evo Morales. The Argentine authorities reacted immediately to news of Gen Vahidi's visit, notifying Bolivian officials that they had sought his arrest since 2007. Guillermo Borger, head of the Amia, the Jewish association whose building was destroyed in 1994, called Gen Vahidi's presence a 'provocation.'"

Nuclear Program & Sanctions

Reuters: "Iran is not planning to import petrol and diesel in its current financial year as it has stepped up domestic gas usage, a senior official at NIOC said on Tuesday. 'Iran is not planning to import petrol and diesel in its current financial year as it has stepped up gas usage,' Seyed Mohsen Ghamsari, executive director for international affairs at NIOC, told reporters here. He said Iran's current gas output is 650 million cubic metres a day. Iran, the world's fifth-biggest crude oil exporter, had long depended on imported gasoline for 30-40 percent of its consumption. But after Western sanctions were tightened last year to make it harder for Iran to find gasoline suppliers -- targeting Tehran's chronic lack of refining capacity -- the Islamic Republic made an emergency push to increase its own gasoline production, including converting petrochemical plants to make the fuel."

Reuters: "An Iranian national pleaded guilty in Chicago on Tuesday to federal charges of trying to illegally export missile parts and radio test sets from the United States to Iran. Under the terms of his plea deal, Davoud Baniameri, 38, who lived in Los Angeles, faces up to four years in prison for violating the Arms Export Control Act and the U.S. embargo against Iran by conspiring to arrange such shipments. Baniameri initially arranged for three radio test sets to be shipped to Iran through the Persian Gulf state of Dubai at the behest of an Iranian citizen in Iran, Syed Majid Mousavi, who first contacted him in October 2008, according to court records in the case. Responding to a subsequent Mousavi request the following August, Baniameri sought to buy 10 connector adapters for anti-tank guided-missile systems that he would export to Iran through Dubai, the court documents said."

WSJ: "A parliamentary hearing on U.S. allegations of Israeli commercial ties with Iran was shuttered without explanation, amplifying a firestorm that has embarrassed the government and one of the country's largest business conglomerates. The chairman of the Knesset's economic affairs committee opened the hearing by noting the announcement by the U.S. State Department last week that included sanctions against Israel's The Ofer Group for conducting business with Iran. The legislator also cited subsequent media claims of additional Israeli business activity with Iran amid lax public oversight. Those publications 'injure very deeply our ability to lobby foreigners to block Tehran's nuclear program,' said committee chair Carmel Shama, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party. Mr. Shama was followed by Knesset Member Nachman Shai of the parliamentary opposition who called on the government to open an investigation into the matter. Within 15 minutes, Mr. Shama dismissed the meeting saying only that he had received notification that the hearing could not be held in public. He said that a note came neither from a politician or a business concern. A spokesperson for the committee, Lior Rotem suggested that national security considerations were behind the self-imposed gag order."

AP: "President Hugo Chavez mocked U.S. concerns about Venezuela's ties with Iran on Tuesday, joking that while his adversaries worry about Iranian-made missiles lining his country's coast his government is actually erecting windmills there. The socialist leader at first said missiles could be launched at Washington and other U.S. cities, then held up a photograph of windmills along the South American country's coast, saying 'here they are.' 'They are pointing directly at Washington,' Chavez joked during a meeting with top government officials that was broadcast on state television."


Reuters: "$513 million takeover of South Korea's Daewoo Electronics Co Ltd has collapsed, leaving its creditors-turned-shareholders to tap reserve bidder Swedish electronics firm Electrolux AB. Officials from major shareholders Korea Asset Management Corp and Woori Bank told Reuters they had decided to drop the deal to sell the unlisted electronics maker to Iran's Entekhab Industrial Group. A source who declined to be named said Entekhab made a request to cut the price by about 60 billion won ($55.4 million), but the request was not accepted. The move is the latest setback to the sale process, which creditors had hoped to wrap up after a series of failures. The unlisted Iranian appliance maker was named preferred bidder for Daewoo last year, beating rival Electrolux, but it has repeatedly failed to satisfy creditor demands for a detailed funding plan, resulting in several months of delays to the final agreement."

Human Rights

AP: "Government media said the daughter of a prominent Iranian dissident died of a heart attack while attending her father's funeral Wednesday, but opposition websites said she died in a scuffle with security forces. Haleh Sahabi, 54 and a prominent activist and rights campaigner herself, collapsed and died Wednesday at the funeral of her father. He died on Tuesday. The official IRNA news agency said Haleh Sahabi, 54 and a prominent activist and rights campaigner herself, died of 'cardiac arrest' during the funeral. It said the activist was already suffering from high blood pressure and blood sugar. Opposition websites, however, said she fell to the ground and died during a scuffle with security forces."

Foreign Affairs

Bloomberg: "Diners at Shayan in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital, are assured by a sign near the cash register that they can enjoy the restaurant's Persian food without worrying about Iranians profiting. The establishment is Saudi- owned, it says. Saudi fulmination against Iranian interference in the Persian Gulf finds its mirror image in Tehran. There, buses bring doctors and schoolgirls to join protests outside the Saudi embassy, as clerics, ministers and state-run media denounce the deployment of Saudi troops to Bahrain. The Gulf, home to three-fifths of the world's oil reserves, has largely escaped the violence that accompanied uprisings in Egypt, Libya and other countries this year. The main exception, though, carries the risk of a wider conflict. Bahrain's Saudi- backed rulers are using force to suppress an opposition that mostly shares Iran's Shiite faith -- exacerbating the rivalry between the region's two most powerful and oil-rich countries."

Reuters: "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged Egypt on Wednesday to rebuild diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic, saying the emergence of a new 'great power' would force 'Zionists' to leave the region. At a meeting with Egyptian academics, clerics and media representatives in Tehran, Ahmadinejad pushed his plan to rebuild links with Cairo after the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February. 'I proudly announce that we are ready to give all our experiences to the Egyptian nation ... if there is an investment opportunity in Egypt we are proudly willing to do that,' state broadcaster IRIB quoted Ahmadinejad as saying."

Opinion & Analysis

Alireza Nader & Joya Laha in RAND: "Iran's support for the Taliban belies its close cultural and historical ties to Afghanistan and its legacy of support for the Afghan central government led by President Hamid Karzai. Indeed, Iran's national interests in Afghanistan often coincide with U.S. objectives of defeating the Taliban and establishing a viable Afghan government. Nevertheless, hostile relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States, currently framed by Iran's pursuit of a potential nuclear weapon capability, have prevented closer cooperation in Afghanistan. Iran's strategy of balancing U.S. and allied (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan) power in the region and deterring a U.S. attack on its nuclear facilities have instead facilitated measured Iranian support for the Taliban. Much of Iran's behavior in Afghanistan is shaped by its traditional and historical ties to Afghanistan. Iran has historically supported Tajik and Shi'a Hazara groups that now dominate the Afghan government and are battling the Taliban for control of the country. However, Iran's national security concerns, especially its perception of the threat posed by the United States and regional allies, such as Saudi Arabia, have led it to provide measured military assistance to Taliban insurgents. Tensions over Iran's nuclear program and the possibility of U.S. and Israeli strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities have further raised Afghanistan's importance in Iran's national security calculations. Hence, Iran's policies toward Afghanistan range from overt, peaceful cooperation with the national government in Kabul to covert support to Taliban insurgents. Iran's aid to the Taliban could also stem from Iranian perceptions that the United States is attempting to infringe on its territorial integrity through support for anti-Iranian Baluchi insurgents. The Baluchi insurgency, along with traditional sources of tension between Iran and Afghanistan, such as water disputes, narcotics trafficking, and the question of Afghan refugees, have motivated the Iranian government, especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, to provide military assistance to the Taliban; it does so despite Iran's significant economic development activities and strong support for the Karzai government."

Dina Temple-Raston in NPR: "Intelligence officials say no one in al-Qaida worries them more right now than a man named Saif al-Adel. A former colonel in the Egyptian army, al-Adel served in its special forces before joining the terrorist group. Soon after he became a member, U.S. officials say, he was put in charge of the group's intelligence training. He ran a six-month course for promising operatives to teach them how to track people, gather information and lose someone who might be trailing them. 'He's not an amateur when it comes to terrorism,' says Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. 'At almost every pivotal point in al-Qaida's history, he's been the go-to guy - the hands-on guy who assisted in making the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa happen; while he was in his exile in Iran, he was instrumental in mounting a series of potentially catastrophic attacks, had they continued, in Saudi Arabia. So he's a key player and he's also an extraordinarily accomplished fighter, and someone therefore who is extremely dangerous.' Al-Adel was in Iran because he was among of a handful of al-Qaida operatives who fled there from Afghanistan right after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. Some of the arrivals in Tehran were allowed to come and go - they were on a kind of Iranian catch-and-release program. Others, like Saif al-Adel, were put under more stringent house arrest, with little hope of being released. And that's where al-Adel's story takes another interesting turn. In 2008, an Iranian diplomat was kidnapped in Pakistan. According to U.S. officials familiar with the case, al-Qaida had a hand in the abduction. His disappearance was followed by two years of negotiation and then a trade. The Iranian diplomat was swapped for key al-Qaida members, including al-Adel. U.S. intelligence picked up on the group in North Waziristan late last year - they reunited with al-Qaida and took up key leadership roles."

Reza Kahlili in Fox News: "According to reports from Iran, two missile warheads with nuclear capability have been delivered to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Based on reports received by the Green Experts of Iran, the range of the missiles, produced by the Ministry of Defense Industries, has also been boosted and can now travel a distance of 2,000 miles. Simultaneously, a joint military-industrial project with Iran, Pakistan, China and the Ukraine has begun to produce nuclear warheads, including the first manufactured nuclear-capable warheads. These are now in the possession of the Revolutionary Guards. The Ukrainians provided the design for the warheads, while the Chinese and Pakistanis delivered the technology, machining and tooling. The Iranian Ministry of Defense coordinated the interface with all three. Recently, the U.S. warned the Pakistani government that further cooperation with the Iranian nuclear industries would result in various members of the Pakistani political and military ranks being added to the list of the internationally sanctioned. The U.S. has previously sanctioned several companies from China and the Ukraine for providing material aid to the weapons of mass destruction program in Iran. Also, reports from last October revealed that the Obama administration concluded that Chinese firms were helping Iran with the improvement of its missile technology and the development of nuclear weapons, and asked China to stop such activity. Reports from the Iranian Green experts indicate that the technical and laboratory departments of the Amir Kabir and Shaheed Beheshti Universities in Iran also participated in this collaborative effort. According to the agreement between the Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Defense, eight more nuclear warheads will be produced and delivered to the IRGC within the next ten months. A number of the missiles have also been developed in cooperation between the defense industries and the Esfahan Industrial University... For years I have worked very hard to bring awareness to Western leaders that the Iranian regime is determined to acquire a nuclear bomb. This is a messianic regime that truly believes it is their duty to Allah to destroy Israel and America. They believe it is their calling to bring about and to create the needed circumstances for the reappearance of the last Islamic Messiah. Negotiations and sanctions won't work; Appeasement won't work."

Scott Peterson in CSM: "As Arab uprisings sweep the Middle East, few images will likely unsettle Iran's leadership more than that of their flag being burned by Syrian protesters angry with the Islamic Republic's deep ties with Syria's dynastic regime. Activists shouted 'freedom' as they torched the flag in a protest broadcast online. It was just one of the many demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad's government that have shaken Syria for months and led to at least 1,000 deaths. Of all the regional revolts, Syria's presents the biggest dilemma for Iran. Syria is the linchpin that connects Iran to the powerful Shiite Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah, along with Palestinian militant group Hamas, form the so-called 'Axis of Resistance' against Israel and Western aims throughout the Middle East. But if Mr. Assad is forced from power, that axis - and Iran's 'soft power' reach in the region - could be in jeopardy. 'If the Syrian regime [falls], that will be a major blow to Iran's foreign policy, in terms of ideological aspirations, projecting its power in the eastern Mediterranean, [and] trying to participate - whether substantially or symbolically - in the Arab-Israeli conflict,' says Jubin Goodarzi, a Mideast specialist at Webster University in Geneva, Switzerland. Iran has portrayed the Arab Spring as an 'explosion of sacred anger' and an 'Islamic awakening' since it brought down pro-Western dictators in Tunisia and Egypt. But the unrest is a double-edged sword for Iran: Two years ago it put down its own pro-democracy Green Movement and now seems unable to sell its message to a region swept up in change that has little to do with religion or anti-Western hatred and much to do with freedom. And for Arab revolutionaries, that brutal 2009 crackdown further diminishes Iran's legitimacy in the new Middle East."

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