Tuesday, August 02, 2011

EYE ON IRAN 8/01/11

WSJ: "Iran said Sunday that a dispute over $5 billion payment arrears on oil India exports had been resolved, after the Islamic Republic had threatened to interrupt sales to its second-largest crude market. In statements reported by oil ministry's Website Shana, Ahmad Ghalebani, head of Iranian National Oil Co., said 'both sides agreed to clear the debt promptly.'

The comments came after India Oil Minister Jaipal Reddy said Friday that India expects to pay the first tranche of arrears to Iran for crude-oil purchases via Turkey, as the two countries work toward resolving a seven-month-long payment impasse. Iran normally exports about 400,000 barrels of oil to India each day, making it India's second-largest crude supplier and Iran's second-largest oil buyer.

Separately, two people familiar with the matter said India's largest buyer of Iranian crude-Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd.-has already made some payments. MRPL declined to comment. Tehran had threatened to halt supplies to India from August due to the outstanding payments, which have risen to more than $5 billion. The dispute has ramifications not just for the two, but also for crude-oil markets, as a breakdown in their oil trade would have significantly altered regional oil flows." http://t.uani.com/n2Bc35

DPA: "Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, a foreign ministry spokesman said Monday. Ramin Mehmanparast told Mehr news agency that the president would attend the assembly as he has in the previous years. Ahmadinejad's attendance, speech to the UN General Assembly and his remarks to the US media have prompted several heated reactions from Western nations.

He has used the opportunity to deny the sovereignty of the Israeli state, accuse the United States of having orchestrated the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, challenge the legitimacy of the UN Security Council and to deny the existence of gays in Iran." http://t.uani.com/o0UUye

Reuters: "Attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq by Iran-backed militia have fallen sharply thanks to U.S. and Iraqi military operations and political engagement by Baghdad, the top U.S. military officer said on Monday. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not elaborate on the specific steps taken in response to a wave of attacks that made June the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Iraq since 2008. But he told reporters shortly before landing in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul that U.S. and Iraqi operations as well as actions by Iraqi political leaders appear to have been successful at stemming the attacks for now." http://t.uani.com/qW81S8

Nuclear Program & Sanctions

Bloomberg: "Turkey is playing 'no role' in settling the debt India owes to Iran for supplies of crude oil, Iranian Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani said, according to the state-run Mehr news agency. In a sign of a lack of consensus among Iranian officials, Bahmani's statement was contradicted later today by Iran's ambassador to India Mehdi Nabizadeh, who said his country has held talks with Turkey in an effort to solve the payments problem, Mehr reported in a separate article...

Several refiners in India have opened accounts with state- owned Union Bank of India Ltd. to route money through a lender in Turkey, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said on July 29. The people, who declined to be identified because they weren't authorized to speak to the media, didn't disclose the name of the Turkish bank. Bahmani, who rejected accounts of Turkey's involvement, said Iran will manage to clear the debts 'by itself.' He gave no details, in the first Mehr report published today." http://t.uani.com/r6KX7T

Human Rights

AFP: "The trial of three US hikers detained two years ago on espionage charges was completed Sunday and a verdict will be issued 'soon,' Al-Alam television said, quoting Iran's general prosecutor. 'The last session was held today in Bench 15 of the Revolutionary Court,' Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie told the Arabic-language channel. 'The final defence of the accused was heard. The end of the legal examination was announced and the verdict will be issued soon,' said Ejeie, who also acts as spokesman for the judiciary in the Islamic republic.

The session was held behind closed doors without the presence of one of the accused, Sarah Shourd, who is on bail, the channel added. Their lawyer Masoud Shafii told AFP that the verdict on Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal should be issued within a week. 'The court session ended, the judge announced the end of proceedings, I did a complete defence, Josh and Shane did so also and I also defended Sarah. The court will issue its ruling in a week,' Shafii said." http://t.uani.com/o48aQc

AFP: "Amnesty on Friday renewed calls for Iran to release two young US hikers held on spying charges since July 2009, two days ahead of a fresh hearing in their case. 'Iranian authorities have held these men for two years, subjecting them to legal proceedings that fall far short of international fair trial standards,' the London-based organisation said. 'The parody of justice must end here.

By now it seems clear that the Iranian authorities have no legal basis for continuing to hold these US nationals, so they must be released and allowed to leave the country.' Shane Bauer, 28, and Josh Fattal, 29, were arrested with Sarah Shourd, 32, on the unmarked Iran-Iraq border on July 31, 2009. Tehran has accused the three of 'spying and illegally entering the country.'" http://t.uani.com/mTy6hx

CNN: "A woman blinded in an acid attack seven years ago said Sunday she stopped the 'eye for an eye' punishment for her attacker because 'such revenge is not worth it.' A physician was to drop acid -- under legal supervision -- into the eyes of Majid Movahedi on Sunday, according to Fars News Agency, to punish him for throwing acid in Bahrami's face. The act disfigured her face and blinded her. 'I never intended to allow Majid to be blinded,' Ameneh Bahrami told CNN. '... Each of us, individually, must try and treat others with respect and kindness in order to have a better society.' Bahrami stopped the punishment minutes before it was carried out, she said, adding that Movahedi already had been given anesthetic." http://t.uani.com/q4W5qq

Domestic Politics

Bloomberg: "The Revolutionary Guards commander who has been nominated by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be the new oil minister is a suitable choice, given his 'strategic' outlook on the energy industry, Press TV reported, citing the head of the parliament's energy committee.

Rostam Qasemi is a 'practical person' and 'his views on oil and gas are strategic,' said Hamid-Reza Katouzian, who heads the committee, according to the state-run news channel's website. 'He is aware of problems in the oil and gas sectors and has solutions for them.' Qasemi heads the Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, the engineering arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He said last week that he will put development of oil and gas fields shared by Iran with other nations at the top of his agenda if he receives a confidence vote from the parliament." http://t.uani.com/qKySOn

Opinion & Analysis

Thomas Joscelyn in The Weekly Standard: "In a stunning development on Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department accused the Iranian government of sponsoring al Qaeda. Treasury designated six al Qaeda terrorists and reported that they are working for a network headquartered in Iran. This al Qaeda network is 'headed by Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, a prominent Iran-based al Qaeda facilitator, operating under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Iranian government.' ...

This is not the first time the Treasury Department has designated al Qaeda operatives operating in Iran. In January 2009, treasury designated four al Qaeda terrorists, including one of Osama bin Laden's sons, who were living in Iran. Thursday's designation, however, explicitly accuses the Iranian government of having an 'agreement' with al Qaeda that allows terrorists to use Iranian soil to move money and recruits into Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil is described as 'an Iran-based senior al Qaeda facilitator currently living and operating in Iran under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Iranian government.' ...

Rahman was a longtime confidante of bin Laden. He 'joined Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan as a teenager in the 1980s,' the State Department reported. 'Since then, he has gained considerable stature in al Qaeda as an explosives expert and Islamic scholar.' Rahman 'became acquainted with [Abu Musab al Zarqawi],' the deceased leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, in the western city of Herat in the late 1990s. He then retreated with Osama bin Laden to the Tora Bora Mountains in late 2001 before moving on to Iran.

The U.S. government has repeatedly recognized the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda - even though it is widely assumed the two are incapable of collusion. For example, the 9/11 Commission found that the 'relationship between al Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations.' The Commission found that Iran and its chief terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, trained al Qaeda operatives as they plotted the 1998 embassy bombings.

And in more recent years, according to the Treasury Department, there has been no barrier to cooperating on operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. The six terrorists designated on Thursday have moved funds and jihadists to each of these countries, using Iranian soil as a transit hub. The Treasury Department says that these activities are part of a formerly 'secret deal' between Iran and al Qaeda. The reality is that there is plenty of publicly-available evidence showing that Iran and al Qaeda have been cooperating since the early 1990s." http://t.uani.com/odWu9a

David Ignatius in WashPost: "Of all the leftover business for the Obama administration as U.S. troops prepare to leave Iraq at the end of the year, nothing is more symbolic of the continuing threats there -- and throughout the region -- than the case of a Lebanese Hezbollah operative named Ali Mussa Daqduq.

Daqduq has been one of Iran's top covert operatives in Iraq, according to U.S. officials. He was captured in March 2007 by U.S. forces in Basra who had evidence he had plotted (with Iranian help) a kidnapping in Karbala that January that resulted in the deaths of five American soldiers. U.S. satellite photos showed the Iranians had even built a mockup of the Karbala facility inside Iran to practice the kidnapping. Daqduq is now a prisoner at Camp Cropper, a U.S. detention facility near the Baghdad airport...

Herein lies the Daqduq conundrum, which has been the subject of weekly interagency meetings this summer: The White House is leaning against releasing a prisoner who has American blood on his hands. But how should he be prosecuted?... I'm no legal expert, but I do know that Daqduq represents the sharp end of the spear that Iran is pointing at Iraq and other Arab nations. He was part of Hezbollah's special operations unit, created in the mid-1980s by the late Imad Mughniyah and directed by him until he was assassinated in 2008.

The senior surviving member of this elite group of Hezbollah fighters is said to be Mustafa Badr al-Din, who, according to news reports, was indicted by the U.N. Special Tribunal for Lebanon for the 2005 murder of Rafiq al-Hariri. A dossier on Daqduq -- suggesting the scope of Iranian activities in Iraq -- was presented in July 2007 by Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, then U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. In 2005, Hezbollah sent Daqduq to Iran to help train Iraqi extremists for the Quds Force, the covert-action arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. He made four trips into Iraq in 2006.

Back in Tehran, Daqduq was told to organize 'Special Groups' of Shiite extremists that would operate like Hezbollah fighters... These Hezbollah cadres, backed with Iranian money and intelligence support, have in recent years fanned out across the region. As Arabic-speaking Lebanese, they can work with Shiite activists from Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia, as well as Iraq. Iran's leverage in Iraq will be especially important if its ally, Bashar al-Assad, is toppled in Syria.

At a time when Iranian-made weapons are killing a rising number of U.S. troops who remain in Iraq, U.S. senior military commanders have warned the White House that releasing Daqduq would send what one calls 'a horrible message.' The Obama administration seems to agree -- and is weighing how to try this Hezbollah operative. I favor a trial, but not in the heart of Manhattan. The al-Qaeda threat may be waning but not that posed by Hezbollah." http://t.uani.com/r4AFp6

Reza Kahlili in WT: "While America focuses on its internal problems and its involvement in three wars and the world focuses on the global economy, Iran is progressing on three dangerous fronts: nuclear weapons, armed missiles and naval capability. Despite four sets of United Nations sanctions and pressure by the United States and Europe, Iran has chosen not only to continue its nuclear program but to expand it. Iran's leaders, dominated by fanatical mullahs, announced in mid-July that the installment of faster centrifuges had begun and that they will soon triple the production of enriched uranium to 20 percent at the Fardo nuclear facility deep in the mountain near the city of Qom.

It is estimated that Iran will have enough highly enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb within two months and currently has enough low-enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs. Iran is also perfecting its missile-delivery systems. Recently, the Revolutionary Guards held war games in which they launched several long-range ballistic missiles from missile silos. They also successfully tested two long-range ballistic missiles, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, into the Indian Ocean.

The guards' ballistic missiles have a range of 1,200 miles, covering all U.S. bases in the Middle East and all of Israel, and now they possess missiles from North Korea with a range of 2,000 miles, which covers most of Western Europe. The Iranian navy has also been busy expanding its operation on the orders of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has emphasized the navy's strategic importance in protecting the Islamic republic's interests and confronting its enemies...

The Revolutionary Guards have successfully test-launched long-range ballistic missiles from a ship before, so the statement that they are arming some of the vessels with such missiles should worry the United States. An Iranian navy ship or any commercial vessel operated by the Iranians could easily launch a missile from outside the Gulf of Mexico and essentially cover most of the United States. Much more alarming is the fact that once in possession of a nuclear bomb, Iran could successfully carry out its promise to bring America to its knees by a successful electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on America." http://t.uani.com/nYqnqZ

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