Iran in 2012 – 2014

Written by  //  July 3, 2014  //  David Kilgour, David/Terry Jones, Iran  //  3 Comments

Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men. Courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace. And the vices of peace are the vices of old men. Mistrust and caution. It must be so. —Faisal (Alec Guinness) Lawrence of Arabia.
What Iran Wants in 2014
Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
As we showed in 2013, Iran is fully prepared to engage seriously with the international community and to negotiate with our interlocutors in good faith. We hope that our counterparts, too, are ready to take advantage of this window of opportunity.

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif waits to begin talks in ViennaExclusive: Iran eases demands for nuclear capacity at Vienna talks: Western diplomat
(Reuters) – Iran has reduced demands for the size of its future nuclear enrichment program in talks with world powers although Western governments are urging Tehran to compromise further, Western diplomats close to the negotiations said on Thursday.
The diplomats, who spoke to Reuters at the start of a two-week round of negotiations between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, said that despite some movement from Tehran it would not be easy to clinch a deal by their self-imposed deadline for a deal of July 20.
Tehran’s shift relates to the main sticking point in the talks – the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges Iran will maintain if a deal is reached to curb its nuclear program in exchange for a gradual end of sanctions. Ending the decade-long dispute over Iran’s nuclear ambitions is seen as instrumental to defusing tension and averting a new Middle East war.
Javad Zarif: Iran’s Message: We Can Make History (video)
In the next three weeks, we have a unique opportunity to make history: To forge a comprehensive agreement over Iran’s nuclear energy program; and to end an unnecessary crisis that has distracted us from addressing together our common challenges, such as the horrifying events of past few weeks in Iraq.
U.N. urges Iran nuclear talks to include human rights
(Reuters) – Talks between Iran and six world powers aimed at clinching a deal on Iran’s contested nuclear program should include human rights concerns, the U.N. human rights chief said on Thursday.  U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the United Nations was especially worried about executions in Iran, including the planned execution of a woman convicted of murdering her husband at the age of 17.
20 June
Iran rejects ‘excessive demands’ in nuclear talks with six powers
(Reuters) – Iran told six big powers on Friday it would not accept their “excessive demands” after the latest talks on lifting sanctions against Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear work yielded no breakthrough, with a deadline for a deal just a month away. … Diplomats from the six powers told Reuters earlier in the week that the most formidable dispute in the talks was over the number of centrifuges Tehran will be allowed to keep to enrich uranium under any deal. Western officials say that the six powers want this number to be in the low thousands, below the capacity that could allow Iran to quickly accumulate enough material for a nuclear bomb. Iran insists on tens of thousands of centrifuges to churn out fuel for a future network of civilian nuclear power stations, although this would take many years to build.
26 May
Iranian hackers use fake Facebook accounts to spy on U.S., others
(Reuters) – In an unprecedented, three-year cyber espionage campaign, Iranian hackers created false social networking accounts and a bogus news website to spy on military and political leaders in the United States, Israel and other countries, a cyber intelligence firm said on Thursday.
ISight Partners, which uncovered the operation, said the targets include a four-star U.S. Navy admiral, U.S. lawmakers and ambassadors, and personnel from Afghanistan, Britain, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
Iran’s Supreme Leader: Jihad Will Continue Until America is No More
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, all but said on Sunday that negotiations over the country’s illicit nuclear program are over and that the Islamic Republic’s ideals include destroying America.
“Those [Iranians] who want to promote negotiation and surrender to the oppressors and blame the Islamic Republic as a warmonger in reality commit treason,” Khamenei told a meeting of members of parliament, according to the regime’s Fars News Agency.
Khamenei emphasized that without a combative mindset, the regime cannot reach its higher Islamic role against the “oppressors’ front.”
17 May
Jeffrey Simpson: The Iran you won’t hear about from Ottawa
… The group spent 10 days in Iran, visiting Tehran, Qom, Isfahan and Shiraz, meeting with two senior ayatollahs, business people, students, the chamber of commerce, diplomats. Obviously they didn’t meet the Revolutionary Guards or secret police, very nasty parts of the regime, but they did meet a senior adviser to the country’s new President, Hassan Rouhani.
Mr. DeFehr’s impressions are fascinating reading, radically different from the black-and-white reporting in parts of the Western media and the bombastic demonization of the country by Canada’s government. The latter was epitomized by Foreign Minister John Baird’s appalling speech this week to the American Jewish Congress, where he called Iran the “biggest threat to global peace.” (The minister might have noticed that a recent world survey by the Anti-Defamation League found Iranians to be the least anti-Semitic people in the Middle East.)
Some of Mr. DeFehr’s impressions:
The country is serious about a nuclear deal and optimistic about the outcome of negotiations to restrict Iran’s nuclear programs – as is U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The new government is very different from its predecessors. It is moderate and wants better relations with the West. Iranians do not trust Russia. Iran wants to be respected. Pakistan is a serious security threat. “Arabs” are natural adversaries. (Iranians are Persians, after all.)
Iran has immense human capital. Literacy rates are very high – 98 per cent among youth. More than four million students are at postsecondary institutions. Millions of educated Iranians have left the country, and many continue to leave because they dislike theocratic elements of the regime.
Women are subject to certain dress restrictions, which they disregard at home and sometimes interpret creatively in public. Women work in almost all institutions. They drive cars and practise professions. Three women are ayatollahs. Is Iran heaven on earth for women? No. Is it like Saudi Arabia? No.
14 May
Turning History on its Head, Iran’s Supreme Leader Calls Israel a ‘Fabricated’ Nation
(CNSNews.com) – Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday lashed out at the U.S. for supporting Israel – which he labeled a “terrorist” state – and charged that the modern-day state of Israel established in 1948 was a “fake nation” made up of people from Europe and America.
In a series of Twitter messages marking the so-called “Naqba” (“catastrophe”) – the Palestinian view of the anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel 66 years ago – Khamenei repeatedly used the term “fake” to describe Israel:
13 May
Talks between Iran, world powers will address nuclear enrichment
Talks between Iran and six world powers begin today and are aimed at reaching a permanent agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, including the issue of uranium enrichment. Separately, United Nations experts say purchases for Iran’s nuclear program have slowed recently. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (5/13), The Washington Post (tiered subscription model)/The Associated Press (5/12)
30 January
urmiya_lake_310813_14Its Great Lake Shriveled, Iran Confronts Crisis of Water Supply
(NYT) After driving for 15 minutes over the bottom of what was once Iran’s largest lake, a local environmental official stepped out of his truck, pushed his hands deep into his pockets and silently wandered into the great dry plain, as if searching for water he knew he would never find. … According to figures compiled by the local environmental office, only 5 percent of the water remains. …
Experts cite climate change, wasteful irrigation practices and the depletion of groundwater supplies as leading factors in the growing water shortage. In the case of Lake Urmia, they add the completion of a series of dams that choked off a major supply of fresh water flowing from the mountains that tower on either side of the lake. …
In recent decades, the amount of land dedicated to agriculture in the region, the country’s heartland, has tripled, with many farmers growing particularly thirsty crops like grapes and sugar beets,… about 90 percent of all the water that should end up in the lake is sprayed on fields.
20 January
West, Iran activate landmark nuclear deal
(Reuters) – Iran has halted its most sensitive nuclear activity under a preliminary deal with world powers, winning some relief from economic sanctions on Monday in a ground-breaking exchange that could ease the threat of new war in the Middle East.
The United States and European Union both announced they were suspending some trade restrictions against the OPEC oil producer after the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had met its end of the November 24 agreement.
Tehran is expecting to be able to retrieve $4.2 billion in oil revenues frozen overseas and to resume trade in petrochemicals, gold and other precious metals.
10 January
Exclusive: Iran, Russia negotiating big oil-for-goods deal
(Reuters) – Iran and Russia are negotiating an oil-for-goods swap worth $1.5 billion a month that would enable Iran to lift oil exports substantially, undermining Western sanctions that helped persuade Tehran in November to agree to a preliminary deal to curb its nuclear program.
Russian and Iranian sources close to the barter negotiations said final details were in discussion for a deal under which Russia would buy up to 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods.

2013

25 November
Tough road lies ahead after landmark Iran nuclear deal
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama has pulled off a historic deal with Iran on curbing its nuclear program but he and other global leaders now have tough work ahead turning an interim accord into a comprehensive agreement.
In a sign of how difficult the coming talks will be, some differences emerged between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart in their public presentation of a key part of the deal – whether or not Iran preserved the right to enrich uranium.
Obama also has to persuade its ally Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the deal as a “historic mistake,” that the accord will reduce and not increase the threat from its arch foe Iran. And he has to sell the accord to skeptics in Congress, including some in his own Democratic Party, who have been pressing for more sanctions on Iran. Special Report: ‘Great Satan’ meets ‘Axis of Evil’ and strikes a deal
24 November
Secret US-Iran talks paved way for nuclear deal
Meetings that ran parallel to official negotiations help achieve most significant Washington-Tehran agreement since 1979
(The Guardian) A historic agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme was made possible by months of unprecedented secret meetings between US and Iranian officials, in further signs of the accelerating detente between two of the world’s most adversarial powers, it emerged on Sunday.
The meetings ran parallel to official negotiations involving five other world powers, and helped pave the way for the interim deal signed in Geneva in the early hours of Sunday morning, in which Iran accepted strict constraints on its nuclear programme for the first time in a decade in exchange for partial relief from sanctions.
The Obama administration asked journalists not to publish details they had uncovered of the secret diplomacy until the Geneva talks were over for fear of derailing them. The Associated Press and a Washington-based news website, Al-Monitor, finally did so on Sunday.
The nuclear agreement, which arguably marks the most significant foreign policy achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency, was struck at 4.30am at a Geneva hotel on day five of the third round of intensive talks. It amounts to the most significant agreement between Washington and Tehran since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
The deal releases just over $4bn in Iranian oil sales revenue from frozen accounts, and suspends restrictions on the country’s trade in gold, petrochemicals, car and plane parts. In return, Iran undertakes to restrict its nuclear activities. Over the next six months Iran has agreed to: …
Israel calls Iran nuclear deal a ‘historic mistake’
(USA Today) The Israeli government called the deal reached with Iran over its nuclear program a “historic mistake,” saying it only slows a nuclear program that will still be capable of producing a bomb.
Speaking to his Cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the agreement endangered Israel, adding the nation is not bound by the international community’s nuclear deal and reserves the right to defend itself.
Kerry on Iran deal: ‘It’s not based on trust’
(Yahoo! News) Hours after Iran reached a deal with the United States and five other nations to temporarily freeze its nuclear program, Secretary of State John Kerry said there were many factors to consider in their historic agreement — but “trust” was not one of them.
“They will have to destroy the higher-enriched uranium they have, which is critical to being able to build a bomb,” Kerry said. “Once they’ve destroyed that, they only have a lower-enriched uranium. They are not allowed under this agreement to build additional enrichment facilities. We will have restrictions on the centrifuges, which are critical for enrichment.”
“We have no illusions,” Kerry told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “You don’t do this on the basis of somebody’s statements to you. You do it on the basis of actions that can be verified. … We are convinced that over the next few months, we will really be able to put to the test what Iran’s intentions are.”
Canada ‘deeply skeptical’ Iran will follow through on nuclear deal
(Globe & Mail) Striking a distinctly harsher tone than its closest allies, Canada is balking at lifting any of its sanctions against Iran until the Islamic regime fully abandons its nuclear weapons’ ambitions.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Sunday he is “deeply skeptical” of a weekend deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program signed with six leading powers – the United States, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France.
23 November
Iran nuclear: Geneva talks ‘reach deal’
(BBC) Iran and six world powers meeting in Geneva say they have reached a deal on Tehran’s nuclear programme.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said they had agreed a “first step” towards a comprehensive solution.
22 November
Iran nuclear talks resume amid differences
Tehran says “serious issues” must be resolved with world powers before any deal that will ease sanctions can be reached.
(Al Jazeera) Although both sides are still optimistic that a deal resulting in Tehran scaling back its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief could be reached, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said his country will continue to “exercise its nuclear rights”, indicating there will be little room for concessions.
But Iranian officials may have to deal with increased sanctions against the country should the talks fail to bear fruit.
12 November
The U.S.-Iran Talks: Ideology and Necessity
(Stratfor) It is important to recognize that despite all of the other actors on the stage, this negotiation is between the United States and Iran. It is also important to understand that while this phase of the discussion is entirely focused on Iran’s nuclear development and sanctions, an eventual settlement would address U.S. and Iranian relations and how those relations affect the region. If the nuclear issue were resolved and the sanctions removed, then matters such as controlling Sunni extremists, investment in Iran and maintaining the regional balance of power would all be on the table. In solving these two outstanding problems, the prospect of a new U.S.-Iranian relationship would have to be taken seriously.  Read more
Iran grants IAEA “managed access” to nuclear sites
The International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran agreed today to “managed access” for an IAEA team to inspect an Iranian uranium mine and a heavy-water atomic plant. The IAEA and Iran said the agreement will “strengthen their cooperation and dialogue aimed at ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.” Reuters (11/11), Yahoo/The Associated Press (11/11)
Dr. Charles Cogan: The French “Never Again”
(HuffPost) The French version is that of 1940, and the sudden and shocking defeat by the Germans that is a permanent fixation in the French subconscious. The French struggle to hold on to its Empire — in sharp contrast to the way the British adapted to the coming end of the colonial era — was in large part a reflection of the French military’s determination, through the hard-fought wars of Indochina and Algeria, to restore the glory of French arms and the era of what the Europeans called the “furie française”.
… the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, put the kibosh on the nuclear talks with the Iranians at Geneva over the past weekend, on the grounds that the position of Iran’s negotiating opposite numbers was not strong enough, especially as regards the heavy-water reactor near Arak, which is due to produce plutonium, an alternate to enriched uranium as a means to produce a nuclear weapon.
How France Scuttled the Iran Deal at the Last Minute
(Foreign Policy Cable) Western and Iranian negotiators were putting the finishing touches on a far-reaching nuclear deal. Then, at virtually the last minute, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius joined in the talks. It didn’t take long for the negotiations to unravel — and for Fabius to publicly declare this round of the talks to be over.
It wasn’t the answer U.S., European or Iranian teams had been expecting. One Western official said Paris hadn’t been particularly involved in the painstaking negotiations that had taken place in the run-up to this weekend’s talks in Geneva.
Yet the French response shouldn’t have been a total surprise. The socialist government of French President François Hollande has adopted a muscular foreign policy that has put it to the right of the Obama administration on Libya, Mali, Syria and now Iran. Along the way, it has also become Israel’s primary European ally and — after the U.S. — arguably its closest friend in the world.
U.S. lawmakers seek tighter Iran sanctions before any deal
(Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers said on Sunday they aimed to tighten sanctions on Iran to prevent Washington giving away too much in a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program that diplomats said was still possible despite the failure of high-level weekend talks.
Their comments reflected widespread Congressional skepticism about a rapprochement between Iran and world powers and coincided with renewed lobbying from Israel against a proposal it sees as leaving open a danger Iran could build a nuclear bomb. Tehran denies harboring any such ambition.
9 November
Iran nuclear deal unlikely, but talks expected to resume within weeks
(Reuters via Globe & Mail) Barring a last-minute breakthrough, talks between Iran and six world powers on curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions were set to end without an agreement on Saturday as a split emerged between France and the other Western powers, diplomats said. … A Western diplomat close to the negotiations said the French were trying to upstage the other powers.
“The Americans, the EU and the Iranians have been working intensively together for months on this proposal, and this is nothing more than an attempt by Fabius to insert himself into relevance late in the negotiations,” the diplomat told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
24 October
Iran has halted uranium enrichment to 20 percent, parliamentarian says
(Reuters via Globe & Mail) Any such move would come as a major surprise, as Western experts believe Iran would want to use its higher-grade enrichment as a bargaining chip to win relief from crippling sanctions. Iranian MPs have in the past made statements about Iran’s nuclear programme that were later denied by the government.
Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, a senior member of Iran’s parliamentary national security commission, also said Tehran had only stopped enriching uranium to levels above the 5 percent needed for civilian power stations because it already had all the 20-percent enriched fuel it needs for a medical research reactor in Tehran..
21 October
Netanyahu’s mission: to head off Iran sanctions relief
(Reuters) – Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday will seek to dim the optimism after nuclear talks with Iran, cautioning that Tehran is strengthening its strategic regional position by calling the shots in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad’s puppet master.
In talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on Wednesday, Netanyahu is expected to argue against easing Western sanctions on Iran, which hinted at recent Geneva talks it was willing to scale back its nuclear program.
9 October
US, Iran make major progress toward nuke deal, Israel TV claims
Nascent secret agreement aims to keep Tehran ‘two to three years’ from nuclear weapons capability; report comes one day after Netanyahu warned against ‘bad deal’
The behind-the-scenes negotiations have moved a long way forward — far more than is widely thought — with Oman among the mediators, Israel’s Channel 2 news said.
6 October
Just who has been killing Iran’s nuclear scientists?
The timing of the latest shot in a covert war invites questions about the role of proxies
(The Independent) What to make of the latest alleged assassination in Iran of a senior officer in the Revolutionary Guards just as Iran and the US move towards negotiations? Is it a last-minute attempt by Israel or the Iranian dissident group the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) to sabotage talks – or at least to show that they are still players in the decades-long struggle between the government in Tehran and its many antagonists? …
Who is doing the killings? A well-sourced and convincing investigation last year by NBC News in the US concluded that “deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service”. It cites two senior Obama administration officials as confirming that the MEK is responsible for the killings but denying any US involvement.
2 October
Iranian cyber warfare commander shot dead in suspected assassination
The head of Iran’s cyber warfare programme has been shot dead, triggering further accusations that outside powers are carrying out targeted assassinations of key figures in the country’s security apparatus.
1 October
U.S. and Iranian Realities
U.S. President Barack Obama called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week in the first such conversation in the 34 years since the establishment of the Islamic Republic. The phone call followed tweets and public statements on both sides indicating a willingness to talk. Though far from an accommodation between the two countries, there are reasons to take this opening seriously — not only because it is occurring at such a high level, but also because there is now a geopolitical logic to these moves. Many things could go wrong, and given that this is the Middle East, the odds of failure are high. But Iran is weak and the United States is avoiding conflict, and there are worse bases for a deal.

Driving Iran’s change: Economic threats, strategic opportunities
(Reuters) – Behind Iran’s overtures to Washington lie pent-up pressures for change – from sanctions and internal dissent to regional turmoil – that are shaping a rare chance to end decades of hostility.
For new President Hassan Rouhani, speed is of the essence.
Sanctions are squeezing Iran’s oil exports, economic misery is palpable, Arab Spring contagion poses a persistent threat and involvement in Syria’s civil war is a drain on hard-pressed resources.
As well as addressing these pressures, Iran may be hoping its softer tone in nuclear talks with the West will bring longer term opportunities, diplomats say.
Ultimately Tehran desires Western recognition of what it sees as its legitimate interests in the wider region – in Syria and Lebanon where Shi’ite Muslim Iran supports the interests of its co-religionists and in its ‘backyard’ the oil-producing Gulf, where Iran seeks to expand its influence.
Meanwhile, ever-helpful Israel’s Netanyahu urges Obama to keep sanctions in place on Iran and to even tighten them if Tehran continues its nuclear advances during a coming round of negotiations with the West.
27 September

Thomas L. Friedman: Mother Nature and the middle class in Iran, Egypt
On July 9, Iran’s former agriculture minister, Issa Kalantari, an adviser to Iran’s new president, Hasan Rouhani, spoke to this reality in the Ghanoon newspaper: “Our main problem that threatens us, that is more dangerous than Israel, America or political fighting, is the issue of living in Iran,” said Kalantari. “It is that the Iranian plateau is becoming uninhabitable. … Groundwater has decreased and a negative water balance is widespread, and no one is thinking about this.”
He continued: “I am deeply worried about the future generations. … If this situation is not reformed, in 30 years Iran will be a ghost town. Even if there is precipitation in the desert, there will be no yield, because the area for groundwater will be dried and water will remain at ground level and evaporate.” (22 September)

Obama Holds Historic Call With Iranian President
(Think Progress) President Barack Obama announced on Friday afternoon that he had spoken directly with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the first such conversation since the Iranian revolution in 1979 and the clearest sign yet of a rapproachment between the United States and Iran.
The conversation between the leaders comes less than twenty-four hours after Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met face-to-face in New York over Iran’s nuclear program.
U.S., Iran voice optimism and caution after rare encounter
(Reuters) – Iran and the United States held their highest-level substantive talks in a generation on Thursday, saying the tone was positive but sounding cautious about resolving the long-running standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met after Zarif held wider talks with the United States and other major powers to address Western suspicions that Iran may be trying to develop atomic weapons.

26 September
Rouhani Condemns Nazi ‘Crime’ as Iran’s New Face Seeks Thaw
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s latest break with predecessors, condemning the killing of Jews in the Holocaust, extends a makeover of the Islamic republic’s diplomacy that’s driving a currency revival back at home.
“As to the massacre of Jews by Nazis, we condemn it completely,” Rouhani told reporters at a breakfast meeting in New York. “We never want to sit side by side with Nazis. The Nazis committed a crime against the Jewish people.” The president made similar comments in a CNN interview. At the UN on Sept. 24, he referred to the Torah, a core of the Jewish faith, and also said that it’s “imperative that we remove any and all reasonable concerns” about Iran’s nuclear work.

25 September
Iranian leader says he is open to meeting Obama at a later date
(WaPost) A much-anticipated greeting between President Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani did not take place here because American officials seemed to have no firm strategy for what would come next, the new Iranian leader said Wednesday. “We need a plan” to establish better relations after more than 30 years of estrangement, Rouhani said. “In principle, we were not opposed to meeting at all.”

Obama: Progress on Iran is possible but challenging
The possibility of Iran and the U.S. achieving detente at this week’s United Nations General Assembly meeting has the world watching closely. Reuters (9/24), Inter Press Service (9/24), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (9/23), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (9/23)

Iran President Rouhani’s English-language message to the American people
(CNN) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday delivered his first English-language TV message to the American people in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“I would like to say to American people: I bring peace and friendship from Iranians to Americans,” he said.
Rouhani is in many ways the “it” man of this U.N. General Assembly, where Western leaders are trying to gauge whether his diplomatic overtures will translate into concrete policy changes
Weapons of Mass Oppression
An OpenCanada series on why the Iranian regime’s human rights record should worry us as much as their nuclear program.
The Iranian regime is often in the headlines but for its nuclear program rather than its systematic repression of the Iranian people. The “red line” debate has been about the enrichment of uranium, not the impoverishment of human rights.
This online series puts the spotlight on the state of human rights in Iran – on the beatings, rapes, wrongful arrests and imprisonments, and executions. The goal of this discussion is fivefold: to raise awareness of the human rights situation in Iran; to examine the most pressing policy dilemmas the international community and the Iranian people face in responding to this situation; to scrutinize the actions that have been taken so far, including Canada’s; and to identify the best ways to help the Iranian people.
OpenCanada has brought together a diverse group of experts on Iran that includes current and former policymakers, academics, and civil society leaders to take part in this conversation (May 2013)

See also:
Israel
National Geographic: interactive maps
Wednesday-Night.com: Iran news
The Economist: Iran
Reuters:Iran
The Guardian: Iran
Financial Times: Iran
U.S. Energy Information Agency Iran country profile and analysis

Iran oil exports: where do they go?
(The Guardian) Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz through which 20% of global oil supplies pass through. Which countries does Iran export to and how much of their crude oil supply does it make up? Get the data (Feb 2012)

Iran’s Crippled Currency
By and
(Project Syndicate) Escalating economic woes, aggravated by increasingly stringent international sanctions that prohibit transactions with Iran’s central bank and oil companies, are fueling unrest in Iran, as the value of the country’s currency, the rial, plummets. In just 18 months, the rial’s exchange rate against the dollar has fallen by two-thirds. (October 2012)

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20 September
Rouhani’s Message
(National Interest) The op ed from President Hassan Rouhani in the Washington Post should be read carefully on at least four levels.
The first is as one measure of the overall earnestness and seriousness with which the current leadership of Iran is approaching relations with the United States and with the rest of the outside world. Can you find an unreasonable phrase anywhere in the piece? I can’t.
The second is as a contrast with what we had become accustomed to hearing under the eight-year tenure of Rouhani’s predecessor. The contrast is so sharp one would never guess, if we did not already know it was so, that such pronouncements were coming from successive presidents of the same country, separated not by a coup or revolution but instead by a peaceful election. Rouhani’s piece in the Post adds to the numerous other indications over the past several weeks that his election marks a profound change in attitude and approach in Tehran.
19 September
Hopes are high for Iran’s ‘diplomatic sheikh’ on eve of UN visit
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has preached a message of moderation and cooperation – a sharp departure from his predecessor, known for his anti-West tirades.
Iran’s Rouhani dismisses nuclear weapons fears
(BBC) Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani has said that his country will never build nuclear weapons
18 August
Iran and the US: Time to Talk
An interview with Hooman Majd, an Iranian-American journalist and expert on Iranian affairs and US foreign policy
4 August
Rohani Taps U.S.-Educated Minister to End Iran Sanctions
(Bloomberg) Zarif, 53, a fluent English speaker who earned his doctorate at the University of Denver, is a former ambassador to the United Nations who has been involved in several secret negotiations between the U.S. and Iran over the past 20 years.
The new president named several former ministers in his cabinet, which he announced at the end of his inauguration ceremony. Apart from Zarif, Rohani named Bijan Namdar Zanganeh to head the oil ministry and Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh as the minister of industry, mines and trade. Rohani’s chief of staff will be Mohammad Nahavandian, the former head of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines, who earned a PhD in economics from George Washington University in 1994.
“Rohani has picked technocratic, non-ideological people,” said Alireza Nader, a senior analyst in the Arlington, Virginia, office of the Rand Corp., a research group. “They have been in crisis situations before.”
24 July
Marc Gopin: The Promise and Peril of Gestures of Peace
[On July 23] …  the same Foreign Ministry spokesperson contradicted his own statement that America had been invited to the inauguration. …
One thing is certain and interesting. The Foreign Ministry was keenly interested in opening up Iran to the whole world, but was apparently slapped down when it comes to the U.S. That means that there is great struggle going on in the inner circles about the next stages of managing the possible warming of Western relations.
Struggle in a foreign ministry is good. It suggests that there are winds of change. It suggests also that, although this withdrawal of a good gesture is a debacle for Iran’s image, it means that a very clever American policy would make it harder for reactionary forces at work here (in both countries!) by increasing the pressure and power of positive gestures. This will weigh in on a fluid situation, and add great weight to those in the Iranian Foreign Ministry who are pressing for a new page in American Iranian relations.
18 July
OP-ED: Iran in the Era of Moderation and Reform
By Sahar Namazikhah, [Iranian journalist based in Washington, D.C. She was previously editor of several daily newspapers in Tehran. She is currently director of Iran Programmes at George Mason University’s Center for Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution. Sauvé Scholar 2005-2006]
(IPS) Can he fulfill his promises to the people and run his government without a “reconciliation” of the two other main branches of the state – the judiciary system and Parliament?
Both are controlled by conservatives – clear opponents of Rouhani’s camp. Article 110 of the Iranian Constitution indicates that the power and authority of the Supreme Leader surpasses the president’s. The complex structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t allow the president alone to push through domestic and international reform.
That said, three weeks after the election, Khamenei met judiciary officials and mandated them to assist Rouhani.
This mandate will give the new president a strong boost in fulfilling his campaign promises.
Rouhani’s victory has been described as an alliance between Iran’s moderates and reformists.
The reformists are defined as those political leaders who sought significant change in the political system.
The moderates are defined as those who focused more on the economic strength of the country than on radical political change.
The two political leaders, former moderate president of Iran Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989 – 1997) and former reformist president Mohammad Khatami (1997–2005), heeded the message of the populace in building a coalition of moderation-reform to support Rouhani.
So far, the wisdom of this alliance has been effective in shaping Rouhani’s victory.
He is wisely forming a spectrum made up of both reformists (from Khatami’s cabinet) and moderates (from Rafsanjani’s team) for his administration.
1 July
Iran: a small window of hope
(Open Democracy) In order to show that Iran’s polity is indeed breaking away from ideological extremism and repression at home, and hostility and belligerence on the international scene, the new President needs to move beyond the style and mannerism he has displayed thus far. He needs to bring about some substantial changes and reforms on domestic, regional and international levels. If Rowhani genuinely wants to make some progressive changes, the big challenge for him is to maintain a delicate balance between the demands of the reformers and progressives (to whose votes he owes his victory) and the structural constraints of a non-democratic regime that has granted limited power to the elected bodies, including the presidency. This is in contrast to the absolute and lifelong rule by the Supreme Leader enshrined in the constitution; who through a close alliance with the IRGC can manipulate the process and outcome of elections. Together, they have tried to maintain a stranglehold on Iran’s political and economic institutions.
19 June
Saeed RahnemaElection Illusions and Realities in Iran
(OpenCanada) A salient message released in Iran – one of many numerous satirical dispatches released during last week’s presidential elections – said, “In other countries people go to the poll booths to elect their favourite candidate; in Iran we line up to vote in order to prevent a particular candidate from winning.” This indeed reflects the attitude and reaction of Iranians to an ‘engineered’ electoral process.
Reflecting on past instances of strategic voting by the Iranian people, where individuals choose from a list of candidates hand-picked by the establishment, I wrote that, “The key questions on the minds of the Iranians who want to vote strategically are: which candidate will be in a better position to possibly weaken the Supreme Leader? Which will be less detrimental in terms of economic mismanagement? And more importantly, which candidate will be less dangerous than the others in terms of brazen violations of human rights and civil liberties?”.
17 June
Iranian president-elect Hassan Rouhani pledges path of moderation
Former nuclear negotiator says Iran must show greater transparency, and says he opposes foreign intervention in Syria
(The Guardian) Iran’s president does not have authority to set major policies such as the direction of the nuclear programme or relations with the west. All such decisions rest with the ruling clerics and the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which have so far appeared to embrace Rouhani.
He can, however, use his margin of victory and his influential connections, including the former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to try to sway policies. He will serve as Iran’s main international envoy and is almost certain to present a different tone than his combative predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who formally gives up power in August.
Note: An Iranian friend recommended a thoughtful piece by Hooman Majd in the NYT:
“Rowhani’s views on America mirror those of many ordinary Iranian citizens: He wants to reduce the mutual hostility, and has indicated that he would even favor a normalization of relations, as long as Iran’s national interests are not compromised. In his first post-election press conference, he did not shy from his campaign promise to improve relations with the outside world. “We don’t want further tension,” Rowhani declared, adding that Iranians would “be happy to build trust and repair relations with the United States.”
16 June
Suzanne Maloney: Why Rouhani Won — And Why Khamenei Let Him
(Foreign Affairs) In hindsight, it is easy to understand why the Iranian public backed Hassan Rouhani. Less apparent is why Ayatollah Ali Khamenei let the result stand. One explanation is that he wanted to avoid a repeat of 2009. Another — and one that better explains his permissive attitude toward Rouhani’s edgy campaign — is that the Ayatollah is ready to empower a conciliator who can repair Iran’s frayed relations with the world and walk it back from economic disaster.
The election of Rouhani, a centrist cleric who has been close to Iran’s apex of power since the 1979 revolution, is an improbably auspicious end to the Ahmadinejad era. Rouhani is a blunt pragmatist with plenty of experience maneuvering within Iran’s theocratic system. He is far too sensible to indulge in a power grab à la Ahmadinejad. And, as a cleric, he assuages the fears of the Islamic Republic’s religious class. He embraced reformist rhetoric during the campaign, but will not deviate too far from the system’s principles, the foremost of which is the primacy of the Supreme Leader. Meanwhile, Rouhani’s focus on the economic costs of Ahmadinejad’s mismanagement resonates with the regime’s traditionalists as well as with a population battered by a decade of intensifying hardship and repression. All in all, the new president might benefit from a broader base of support than any in Iran’s post-revolutionary history, which will be an important asset as he seeks to navigate the country out of isolation and economic crisis.
15 June
Hassan RouhaniHassan Rouhani wins Iran presidential election
(BBC) Reformist-backed cleric Hassan Rouhani has won Iran’s presidential election, securing just over 50% of the vote and so avoiding the need for a run-off.
Crowds gathered in Tehran to hail Mr Rouhani, who said he had achieved a “victory of moderation over extremism”. Some 72.2% of the 50 million eligible Iranian voters cast ballots to choose the successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The US said it was “ready to engage directly” with Iran over its disputed nuclear programme. Profile: Hassan Rouhani
14 June
Iran votes for new president, Khamenei slams U.S. doubts
(Reuters) – Millions of Iranians voted to choose a new president on Friday, urged by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to turn out in force to discredit suggestions by arch foe the United States that the election would be a sham.
Iran’s candidates use forbidden media
Iran’s state candidates use the social media space that is increasingly cracked down upon by the government.
(Al Jazeera)Traditionally, Iran’s clerics communicate to the public via Friday prayers and staid television talk shows.
But Friday’s presidential poll in Iran has been preceded by a flurry of social media activity by some candidates, among them, Hassan Rouhani, the only cleric in the race.
Iranians go to polls after spirited end to presidential campaign
(The Guardian) Public interest in Friday’s election surges after Hassan Rouhani attracts backing from reformers and opposition figures
10 June
Ali Reza Eshraghi Iran: Presidential elections without buzz
(CNN) — “Why does it seem that the elections are only being held on Facebook? Why is there no commotion on the streets yet? Where are the people?” This is a question that a journalist based in Tehran posted on his Facebook account eight days before election day.
Iranian public opinion is deafeningly silent, a silence that even the media close to the regime has complained about.
5 June
Iran: The real cost of sanctions
(Al Jazeera) We look at the impact of increased sanctions against the Islamic Republic and ask who it really affects.
29 May
An Election Foretold As expected, Iran’s regime has engineered the presidential race
(The New Republic) In January, the same day Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered a speech forbidding officials from discussing the fairness of Iranian elections, his representative in the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) said the military unit had “a responsibility to engineer a rational and logical elections.” Now, with the presidential election less than three weeks away, Khamenei and his Praetorian allies in the IRGC have done just that. Of the nearly seven hundred would-be candidates, only eight were approved last week by the Guardian Council.
28 May
Kaveh Sharooz: How Canada Can Lead On Iran
(Ottawa Citizen) This summer, while most Iran watchers will be following that country’s undemocratic presidential election, my family will be busy marking the 25th anniversary of the execution of my uncle and thousands of former Iranian political prisoners like him. Ever since 1988 when the execution occurred, my family has marked these grim anniversaries with growing despair. But this year we are cautiously optimistic that Canada’s parliamentarians will seize a unique opportunity and give us hope for justice.
24 May
Iran’s Democracy of Small Differences
Why, Despite Everything, Iranians Are Still Excited to Vote
(Foreign Affairs) Ever since two of the highest-profile candidates, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, were barred from competing, commentators have assumed that the Iranian public will approach the election with apathy, maybe even hostility. But just because the vote is not entirely free and fair does not mean that Iranians will treat it as unimportant.
It is true that Iran’s ability to put on a show of competing political ideologies — which was always one of the purposes of presidential elections, as well as one of the keys to the longevity of the Islamic regime — has recently been compromised. …
Still, Iranians are well aware, and Westerners would be wise to remind themselves, that broad ideological debate about the direction of the Islamic regime is only one aspect of Iranian presidential contests. Yes, the eight remaining candidates are all, to varying degrees, Khamenei loyalists. But there is still a diversity of political opinion among them, and still much at stake in terms of Iran’s domestic and foreign policy.
The economy, for example, is an area where presidents in the Islamic Republic have always had a great influence (and territory the supreme leader tends to avoid). It is also the issue that is the top priority, as it is in the West, for most Iranian voters.
22 May
After Ahmadinejad
By Mehdi Khalaji, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
(Project Syndicate) With nothing to lose, Ahmadinejad could decide to destabilize the Islamic Republic if he considers it necessary for his survival. Indeed, now that the Guardian Council has disqualified Mashai from the presidential race, Ahmadinejad’s resentment will probably manifest itself in behavior before and after the election, such as releasing information on high-level corruption. He might also oppose Khamenei directly, portraying himself as a patriotic anti-clerical figure. But such an approach would be dangerous; indeed, it could cost Ahmadinejad his life.
After the election, the kind of factional disputes that have long paralyzed policymaking in Iran will likely persist. But stalemate over Iran’s nuclear policy could have serious consequences. Indeed, the lack of a strong, unified government capable of shaping a consensus could make it impossible even for Khamenei to change course, leaving Iran no choice but to persist in its diplomatic standoff with the West.
Foreign Policy reports A governing body of the Iranian government issued its list of approved presidential candidates and excluded two leading contenders — Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei — a decision that all but guarantees that the next Iranian president will be drawn from a conservative slate of candidates considered close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
21 May
India leads Asian cuts in Iran oil imports ahead of waiver review
(Economic Times) India has slashed Iranian oil imports by almost a fifth since December, the sharpest cut among Asian buyers, in a move that should increase its chances of winning a new US waiver next month on sanctions targeting oil trade with Iran. … Overall, December to April Iranian oil imports by China, India and South Korea were nearly unchanged at 833,000 barrels per day (bpd), compared with the previous six-month period, according to customs and trade data and a loading programme obtained by Reuters.
18 May
Iran dispatches warship to shadow Gulf exercises
Iran has dispatched one of its newest warships to shadow the world’s biggest mine-hunting exercise that has been taking place over the last few days in the Gulf.
(The Telegraph UK) The frigate Jamaran cruised to within a mile of the western vessels, placing her “almost on top of” the fleet conducting exercises to secure shipping, naval sources said.
Commanders stressed they did not view the frigate as a threat and said day to day relations with the Iranian navy were cordial, but its presence underlined the sensitivity of the exercise in one of the world’s most strategically important waterways. [See also: World's biggest anti-mine naval exercise after Iranian threats to close Gulf -- A fleet of 34 ships will on Monday begin the world's biggest anti-mine exercise in an international naval show of force after Iranian threats to close the Gulf.]
Iran says heading disarmament committee is appropriate
Iran has defended its right to lead the United Nations Conference on Disarmament for four weeks as part of the rotating nature of the chairman position. The U.S. and Canada are protesting Iran’s leadership of the conference and will sit out discussions during that period. Reuters (5/14), Times Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia)/The Canadian Press/The Associated Press (5/14)
12 May
Rafsanjani’s last-minute entry transforms Iranian race
(Reuters) -  The outcome of next month’s contest will signal the extent of Khamenei’s control at the summit of power in the Islamic Republic. It will also show whether he feels the need to reach out to opposition groups and whether the reformists are capable of making a comeback. Proponents of greater social and political freedoms have been suppressed or sidelined: Mousavi, his wife and Karoubi have been under house arrest for over two years.
(Al Jazeera) … Rafsanjani, 78, is expected to draw support from reformists because he backed the opposition movement whose protesters were crushed after the last disputed election in 2009.”He [Rafsanjani] wields enormous political clout in this country,” Al Jazeera’s Soraya Lennie, reporting from Tehran, said.  “He is a pragmatist. He sometimes flip-flops between the conservative camp and reformist camp, depending on who he is supporting. “He favours economic reforms, revitalising Iran’s economy and fixing it after the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. But he also favours better relations with the US, with Arab countries and the rest of the world.”
10 May
Canada supporting social media, broadcast of conference, aimed at Iran
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird reached out directly to Iranians as the first speaker at a two-day conference (May 10-11) beaming social media, video and audio to Iran and Iranians around the world.
“I say to the Supreme Leader: rather than waste your precious resources trying to scramble this video feed or trying to shut down the people’s website or trying to subject your people to the oppressive veil of tyranny open up,” said Minister Baird in the opening remarks at the Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran conference.
The conference is hosted by the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
Ottawa backs using social media to boost Iran’s dissidents
(Globe & Mail) The Harper government is launching an effort to reach Iranians through the Internet and social media nine months after cutting diplomatic ties to Tehran.
It’s Ottawa’s first substantial foray into digital “direct diplomacy,” with a bid to bypass Iran’s government and offer a platform to dissidents and human rights activists. The initiative was launched during the run-up to the country’s June 14 presidential elections.
6 May
Iran presidency candidates to step forward, finally
(Reuters) – Few Iranian presidential elections have been so unpredictable but the next few days will at least narrow down who will stand in the ballot on June 14, for which candidate registration starts on Tuesday and ends on Saturday.
What is certain is that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has held ultimate power as Supreme Leader for 24 years, wants to avoid both the mass protests by reformists that greeted the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, and also more of the public feuding between the outgoing president’s allies and fellow hardliners which has marked Ahmadinejad’s second term.
27 March
Iranian People Caught in Crossfire of Dueling Messages
(IPS) – Since Barack Obama became president of the United States, messages marking the Iranian New Year – Norouz – celebrated at the onset of spring have become yearly affairs. So have responses given by Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from the city of Mashhad where he makes a yearly pilgrimage to visit the shrine of Shi’i Islam’s eighth imam, Imam Reza. …
Highlighting a clear disconnect between what Obama says to different audiences, Ayatollah Khamenei went to the heart of the problem President Obama has in convincing the Iranian people that he has their interest in mind when talking to them. Khamenei reminded his Iranian audience that “in his official addresses, the American president speaks about Iran’s economic problems as if he is speaking about his victories.”
13 March
Iran Oil Exports Seen Rising by IEA Even as Sanctions Widen
(Bloomberg) The U.S. and allies are restricting Iran’s oil exports, the country’s largest source of revenue, to pressure the government in Tehran to stop enriching uranium. … Iran bought secondhand tankers to take oil to China, the IEA said, citing industry reports. The country is also ordering vessels to turn off transponders signaling ships’ locations, destinations and depths in the water, complicating the compilation of exports data, according to the agency.
12 March
Iran HR chief condemns UN human rights report (with video)
Iran says a recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, is politically motivated and totally unacceptable.
The Secretary-General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights Mohammad-Javad Larijani on Tuesday criticized the report for using “a totally unacceptable methodology,” describing it as “baseless.”
The Iranian human rights chief noted that Ahmad Shaheed’s report reeks of ignorant concerning Iran’s cultural heritage, and has been compiled in collaboration with terrorist groups.
10 March
Poll Finds Mounting Hostility Among Arabs towards Iran
(IPS) – A poll released Tuesday shows a stark decline in favourability among Arab and Muslim citizens regarding the Iranian government and its policies.
Some who follow the issue are warning that tensions between Shia- and Sunni-led governments could ultimately be driving these shifts in attitude. …
In an IPS article published almost two years ago, in July 2011, journalist Barbara Slavin noted that favourability ratings toward Iran in the region were already in steep decline. In an extreme case, the Egyptian attitude fell from an 89 percent rating to just 36 percent. …
But analysts who responded to the poll cautioned against reading the results too optimistically and confusing anti-Iranian and anti-Shia sentiment. …
Hisham Melham, head of the Washington bureau of Al Arabiya News Channel, also expressed concern over growing sectarianism in the region, going so far as to say that the Sunni-Shia divide is the worst it has ever been in the region.
10 March
Iran’s Salehi Says West Shows Good Faith on Nuclear Talks
(Bloomberg) Prospects for resolving the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program have improved following signs of “good faith” from Western powers, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said.
For the first time during any of the international nuclear talks, “we witnessed signals that the other side is acting in good faith,” Salehi told a news conference in Tehran today, referring to discussions last month in Almaty, Kazakhstan. “We hope they continue to do so.”
Foreign Policy, meanwhile, takes comfort in the FT report  Iran crisis is more stable than it seems – Both sides in the nuclear programme dispute prefer to maintain the status quo,  citing Nader Mousavizadeh who writes  “The long-running crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme has met its moment of truth. This is the year when war or peace will break out – or so at least a remarkable global consensus seems to suggest.
Far more likely, however, is a 2013 defined by another period of sustained stalemate, one driven by an unspoken preference on the part of all the key participants for a pragmatic equilibrium that excludes both war and peace. The see-saw of threats and talks, escalation and negotiation continues, inevitably leading to warnings of showdowns.
This is mostly all theatre. The reality is that for each of the principal parties, the status quo – Iran isolated diplomatically, crippled economically, boxed in militarily – is preferable to the available alternatives.”
5 March
Iran hits back at UN rapporteur over human rights claims
(The Guardian) Ahmed Shaheed’s latest report charges the Islamic republic with cases of torture, executions, illegal arrests of journalists, forced confessions and denial of basic rights to religious, ethnic and sexual minorities.
The former foreign affairs minister of the Maldives is extremely critical of the Iranian government for its failure to protect citizens’ rights under the country’s constitution and international obligations as well as fostering a “culture of impunity” for perpetrators.
He also expressed concern about “the potentially negative humanitarian effect of general economic sanctions” on Iran and called on the countries behind the punitive measures to make sure that “humanitarian exemptions are effectively serving their intended purpose”.
13 February
Iran’s bid to buy banned magnets stokes fears about major expansion of nuclear capacity
(WaPost) Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability.
11 February
UN Security Council looms for Iran as IAEA tries again
(Global Post) Iran faces possible referral to the UN Security Council in early March unless Tehran and the UN atomic agency defy expectations in talks Wednesday and reach a deal on enhanced inspections.
Iran has consistently rejected as unfounded what the International Atomic Energy Agency calls “overall, credible” evidence that until 2003 and possibly since, it conducted nuclear weapons research.
IAEA-Iran talks held in run-up to new sanctions
Negotiations are slated to begin today between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency ahead of scheduled sanctions that would shackle the country’s oil revenues abroad. The United Nations agency aims to gain broader access to suspected Iranian nuclear facilities. The Christian Science Monitor (1/16), Bloomberg (1/15)

2012

11 December
Dr. Charles Cogan: The Iranian Nuclear Negotiations: What’s Been the Blockage
(HuffPost) While acknowledging the Iranian penchant for deception, and recognizing that Iran is continuing along a downward path toward totalitarianism, with a Revolutionary Guard and Bassij militia presence spreading out into villages throughout the country, we should take a look at the nuclear negotiations from a more neutral angle — the goal being to see if there is a way towards a “grand bargain” and thereby ward off a military attack on Iran that would be utterly lacking in legitimacy. For where is the legitimacy in attacking another state for the sole reason that it possesses a certain kind of weapon? (Israel is a special case, as it has been threatened with extinction by the outrageous rhetoric of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, endorsed, it should be noted, by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.)
7 December
David Jones
Iran Nukes: Other Countries Have Nuclear Weapons, Why Can’t Iran?
The obvious answer: Of course it can. Just consider:
The world lived when the United States was the sole nuclear power;
The world survived when the Soviets and Chinese obtained nuclear capability and various Doomsayers’ “clocks” predicted imminent Armageddon.
vs.
David Kilgour
Iran nukes: The world cannot accept an Iran with nuclear weapons
… as proved to be the case for India’s nuclear weapons, some nuclear technologies can be used for both peaceful energy generation and to develop nuclear weapons. A nuclear-armed Iran would also encourage other Middle Eastern governments to develop such weapons of their own.
17 October
Morning Brief: Report shows Iran’s oil industry struggling under sanctions
(Foreign Policy) New data released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggest that the U.S. and EU sanctions against Iran have substantially impacted the country’s oil industry, on which it is heavily reliant. Over the last three months, the country’s exports have been slashed by nearly a third and in September, oil deliveries dropped to a new low of 860,000 barrels per day. The IEA report noted that restrictions on tanker insurance, in particular, have been crippling for Iran.
Sanctions have also taken a toll on the Iranian rial, which lost 40 percent of its value this month alone. And as the New York Times reports, the restrictions may also prevent Iran’s central bank from printing its way out of the crisis because Europe’s bank note industry, which has historically served Iran, is barred from doing business there.
The situation in Iran will likely worsen as a result of a new round of sanctions, approved by EU foreign ministers on Monday, which target Iran’s banking, energy, and shipping sectors. But as the Washington Post reports, Turkey, which was exempted from the latest round of U.S. sanctions, will likely continue to keep Iran afloat in the coming months.
3 October
Riot police swarm anti-Ahmadinejad protesters in fury over currency
(CNN) — Iranian riot police swarmed a major bazaar Wednesday in Tehran as demonstrators launched protests against firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, blaming him for plummeting currency that’s leaving families across the country struggling.
1 October
The MEK Is Bad News, But Delisting Them Was A Good Decision
(HuffPost) Like many people who’ve researched how the MEK actually works, I don’t believe that they’re freedom fighters in exile as they claim to be. Nor do I believe their values are democratic, as they claim they are.
I believe the MEK is a militant cult of personality, whose leaders, Maryam and Massoud Rajavi, figured out in the 1980′s that they could survive by doing mercenary work on behalf of governments that hate Iran. Saddam Hussein was their first patron, and he granted them land in Iraq to build a walled, military compound, Camp Ashraf, where until a few months ago, more than 3,000 members lived.
29 September
Iran Condemns US for Taking Group Off Terror List
(AP via NYT) — Iran condemned on Saturday the Obama administration for taking an Iranian militant group formerly allied with Saddam Hussein off the U.S. terrorism list, saying it shows Washington’s “double standards.”
The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which began as a guerrilla movement fighting Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, helped overthrow the monarch in 1979 then quickly fell out with the Islamic Republic’s first leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It fought in the 1980s alongside Saddam’s forces in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war but disarmed after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The State Department delisted the group on Friday, meaning that any assets the MEK has in the United States are unblocked and Americans can do business with the organization.
28 September
Charles Cogan: American President: Out on a Limb
(HuffPost) assuming that negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program will resume after the American presidential elections, as most observers think they will, we will have to see if the policy of stiffing the Iranians — who abhor foreign pressure, in view of their both glorious and inglorious past — will continue not to work; or whether U.S. concessions, which have not been forthcoming so far, will dent the ideological obduracy of he Iranian position.
27 September

How Many Civilians Would Be Killed in an Attack on Iran’s Nuclear Sites?

No one in Iran is — and few in the West are — talking about the potential death toll, but it could rival the catastrophes of Bhopal and Chernobyl
(TIME) For Iranians these days, life under economic sanctions is a crescendo of hardships. With the Iranian currency at an all-time low against the dollar, shortages of essential medicines and quadrupling prices of basic goods like shampoo and bread, a sense of crisis pervades daily life. Now Iranians are worrying about one more thing: imminent death from an American or Israeli military strike.
While Iranians are increasingly fretful of an imminent attack, they remain broadly unaware of just how devastating the human impact could be. Even a conservative strike on a handful of Iran’s nuclear facilities, a recent report predicts, could kill or injure 5,000 to 80,000 people. The Ayatollah’s Nuclear Gamble, a report written by an Iranian-American scientist with expertise in industrial nuclear-waste management, notes that a number of Iran’s sites are located directly atop or near major civilian centers. One key site that would almost certainly be targeted in a bombing campaign, the uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan, houses 371 metric tons of uranium hexafluoride and is located on the city’s doorstep; toxic plumes released from a strike would reach the city center within an hour, killing or injuring as many as 70,000 and exposing over 300,000 to radioactive material. These plumes would “destroy their lungs, blind them, severely burn their skin and damage other tissues and vital organs.” The report’s predictions for long-term toxicity and fatalities are equally stark. “The numbers are alarming,” says Khosrow Semnani, the report’s author, “we’re talking about a catastrophe in the same class as Bhopal and Chernobyl.”
24 September
Iran’s Ahmadinejad discounts Israel threats, says nation will be “eliminated” Reuters (9/24)
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says expects Israel to launch war
(Reuters) – Israel will eventually go beyond threats and will attack Iran, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards was quoted as saying on Saturday.
As speculation mounts that Israel could launch air strikes on Iran before U.S. elections in November, Mohammad Ali Jafari told a news conference that the Jewish state would be destroyed if it took such a step.
Iran, Israel in nuclear allegations tit-for-tat
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoon Abbasi, admits in an article published Thursday that the country — which has defied demands by the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect sites linked to its nuclear program — supplied false information about enrichment efforts in order to frustrate foreign spies. Iran said at a meeting of the United Nations agency that Israel’s undeclared atomic arsenal is the greatest threat to the Middle East, while Israel said Iran’s nuclear ambitions represent the biggest threat. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (9/20), ABC News/The Associated Press (9/20), Reuters (9/20)
15 September
Armada of international naval power massing in the Gulf as Israel prepares an Iran strike
(The Telegraph UK) An armada of US and British naval power is massing in the Persian Gulf in the belief that Israel is considering a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons programme.
Cruisers, aircraft carriers and minesweepers from 25 nations are converging on the strategically important Strait of Hormuz in an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war.
Western leaders are convinced that Iran will retaliate to any attack by attempting to mine or blockade the shipping lane through which passes around 18 million barrels of oil every day, approximately 35 per cent of the world’s oil traded by sea.
A blockade would have a catastrophic effect on the fragile economies of Britain, Europe the United States and Japan, all of which rely heavily on oil and gas supplies from the Gulf.
The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most congested international waterways. It is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point and is bordered by the Iranian coast to the north and the Oman to the south.
World powers back IAEA rebuke of Iran
The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, have proposed that the world body’s atomic energy watchdog vote this week to rebuke Iran over its controversial nuclear program. Israel has asked the U.S. to pledge an attack on Iran if certain conditions aren’t met, and Israeli officials said U.S. President Barack Obama refused to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an upcoming gathering of the UN General Assembly. Reuters (9/12), Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model) (9/11), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (9/11)
Our favorite new conspiracy theorycoincidentally reiterated on 9/11?
Iran’s president accuses enemies of destroying rain clouds, creating drought
(Reuters via Globe & Mail) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused his country’s enemies of enacting a sinister plan to create a drought by somehow destroying the rain clouds before they reach Iran, several Iranian websites reported on Tuesday.
Obama Avoids Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Meeting (the information is somewhat conflicting)
(Reuters) – In a highly unusual rebuff to a close ally, the White House said on Tuesday that President Barack Obama would not meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a U.S. visit later this month, as tensions escalated over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.
The apparent snub, coupled with Netanyahu’s sharpened demands for a tougher U.S. line against Iran, threatened to plunge U.S.-Israeli relations into crisis and add pressure on Obama in the final stretch of a tight presidential election campaign.
An Israeli official said the White House had refused Netanyahu’s request to meet Obama when the Israeli leader visits the United States to attend the U.N. General Assembly, telling the Israelis “the president’s schedule will not permit that.”
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor denied Netanyahu’s request had been spurned, insisting instead that the two leaders were attending the General Assembly on different days and would not be in New York at the same time.
War and Bluff: Iran, Israel and the United States
(Stratfor) The Israeli and American positions are intimately connected, but the precise nature of the connection is less clear. Israel publicly casts itself as eager to strike Iran but restrained by the United States, though unable to guarantee it will respect American wishes if Israel sees an existential threat emanating from Iran. The United States publicly decries Iran as a threat to Israel and to other countries in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, but expresses reservations about military action out of fears that Iran would respond to a strike by destabilizing the region and because it does not believe the Iranian nuclear program is as advanced as the Israelis say it is.
From the Iranian point of view, a nuclear program has been extremely valuable. Having one has brought Iran prestige in the Islamic world and has given it a level of useful global political credibility. As with North Korea, having a nuclear program has allowed Iran to sit as an equal with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, creating a psychological atmosphere in which Iran’s willingness merely to talk to the Americans, British, French, Russians, Chinese and Germans represented a concession. Though it has positioned the Iranians extremely well politically, the nuclear program also has triggered sanctions that have caused Iran substantial pain. But Iran has prepared for sanctions for years, building a range of corporate, banking and security mechanisms to evade their most devastating impact. Having countries like Russia and China unwilling to see Iran crushed has helped. Iran can survive sanctions.  Read more: War and Bluff: Iran, Israel and the United States | Stratfor
8 September
Liat Collins: Hiss and tell
(Jerusalem Post) The unbearably hard decision whether to attack – let alone details of how and when – falls primarily on Netanyahu, after he has heard (in confidence) the facts (and fears) presented by those with the relevant information and experience. Ultimately, he is the one who has to determine whether the possible nightmare scenario the day after an Israeli strike is worse than the possible future consequences of Iran achieving full nuclear capability, given that it already arms so many of the terrorist organizations in the region.
Netanyahu, too, must decide when and where to talk about the Iranian situation. Threatening to strike without taking any action also reduces deterrence, not only in Tehran, but again among its terrorist friends.
7 September
Who will succeed Ahmadinejad in Iran’s presidential election next year?
Iran has set the date for the election that will mark the end of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial mandate
(The Guardian) It might not be long until Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s presidential term comes to an end but he doesn’t seem to believe it will finally happen. During a recent interview on state television in which a journalist mentioned that his presidency would finish within a year, the president interjected, laughing: “How do you know?”
Under Iranian law Ahmadinejad cannot run for a third term, and on Friday officials announced the next election would be held on 14 June 2013. The last was in 2009 when Ahmadinejad took office for a second term amid allegations of fraud and unrest.
5 September
Kristen Silverberg and Dr August Hanning, guest contributors: Iran is using oil to find gaps in international sanctions
In January and in July the European Union implemented an important new sanctions regime prohibiting the importation of oil from Iran. These sanctions are significant, and provide a real opportunity to increase pressure on Iran to make meaningful concessions on its nuclear program. However, past experience with Iran has demonstrated that government’s skill at evading international sanctions. To make these sanctions meaningful, the international community needs to continue to work to close off any avenue that would allow Iran to support its nuclear program through oil revenues.
To counter the European oil ban, Iran is already setting up private companies through which it aims to sell its oil. This move, although anticipated, confronts the EU with a new challenge to secure enforcement of the oil sanction. If Iranian oil is routed through several layers of private oil traders, it will generate complex paper work making it very hard if not impossible for European customers to trace the oil back to Iran.
4 September
Charles Cogan: Can 120 (Non-Aligned) Countries be Wrong?
(HuffPost) … as if to demonstrate the problem of the legitimacy of a preventive attack against Iran, the [Non-Aligned] Movement’s 120 members, meeting in Tehran on August 30, unanimously supported Iran’s nuclear energy program and criticized American-sponsored attempts to use sanctions against Iran.
Much as it is tempting to deride the Non-Aligned Movement as an anachronism, we should ponder the symbolic implications of this expression of disapproval of a preventive attack on Iran by representatives of 120 of the world’s countries, meeting in Tehran in the presence of the United Nations Secretary-General.
30 August
Iran is speeding nuclear enrichment efforts, IAEA says
Over the past several months, Iran has increased by about a third its holdings of 20% enriched uranium and doubled the centrifuges at an underground laboratory, according to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Observers said the findings could put Israel in a position to either act on its threat to cripple the Iranian nuclear program militarily, or concede it cannot do so unilaterally. Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model) (8/30), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (8/30)
Outspoken Ban addresses Iranian human rights, nuclear program
Iran came in for criticism Wednesday by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for recent remarks about Israel and ongoing human rights abuses. Ban is in Iran for a visit to the Nonaligned Movement. The UN chief also urged Iran to prove that the aims of its controversial nuclear program are, as its leaders assert, peaceful. Separately, the International Atomic Energy Agency created an “Iran Task Force” to monitor the Iranian atomic program. Reuters (8/29), Bloomberg Businessweek/The Associated Press (8/29), Time.com/The Associated Press (8/29)
UN’s Ban is urged to visit Iran political prisoners

Iranian opposition groups are urging United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to meet with political prisoners and advocate for improved human rights during his visit to the Iran-hosted Non-Aligned Movement summit this week. “In the name of humanity and the United Nations charter, [we] appeal to you to intervene for ending the deteriorating conditions of human rights, state-sponsored violence and prejudice in Iran,” reads a letter signed by hundreds of intellectuals. The Guardian (London) (8/28), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (8/28), The Wall Street Journal (8/28)
The Geography of Iranian Power by Robert D. Kaplan*
(Stratfor) The most important facts about Iran go unstated because they are so obvious. Any glance at a map would tell us what they are. And these facts explain how regime change or evolution in Tehran — when, not if, it comes — will dramatically alter geopolitics from the Mediterranean to the Indian subcontinent and beyond.
Virtually all of the Greater Middle East’s oil and natural gas lies either in the Persian Gulf or the Caspian Sea regions. Just as shipping lanes radiate from the Persian Gulf, pipelines will increasingly radiate from the Caspian region to the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, China and the Indian Ocean. The only country that straddles both energy-producing areas is Iran, stretching as it does from the Caspian to the Persian Gulf. In a raw materials’ sense, Iran is the Greater Middle East’s universal joint.
*excerpt from Robert D. Kaplan’s new book, The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate
5 July
MJ Rosenberg: Iran Offers Comprehensive Deal

(HuffPost)  According to Barbara Slavin, the veteran Middle East reporter, the Iranian government has issued a 10-page paper suggesting the resolution of its conflict over its nuclear program through comprehensive negotiations with the west.
A ten page document given Tuesday (July 3) to Iran experts by Iran’s mission to the United Nations also calls for lifting all sanctions against Iran and a framework for “comprehensive and targeted dialogue for long term cooperation” that goes beyond the nuclear issue. It includes elements of a bigger bargain normalizing Iran’s status in the international community. … The United States should say “yes” and include in the list of issues to be discussed Iran’s role in supporting the Syrian government’s war on its own people, its threats against Israel and support for Hezbollah and other issues that have divided us from Iran since the Iranian revolution.
In other words, Iran wants recognition of its right to enrich uranium; here is what we want.
One thing we cannot do is to continue to refuse to discuss the lifting of sanctions as we have thus far. Why in God’s name would Iran seriously negotiate when we say that the one thing they seek is off the table? It wouldn’t.
The name of the game is diplomacy. The alternative is likely to be a war which will kill thousands of people, endanger U.S. vital interests in the region including our military and civilian personnel throughout the Muslim world, threaten the long-term survival of the State of Israel and irreparably damage American interests throughout the Middle East starting with the crashing of the world economy.
21 June
Dr. Charles Cogan: The Warfare State: Considering a Military Attack in a Fourth Muslim Country
(HuffPost) Very few bona fide experts on the Middle East believe that Iran is suicidal, as it would be if it sought to employ nuclear weapons against Israel. Prof. Kenneth Waltz, in an article entitled, “Why Iran Should Get the Bomb,” in the July-August 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, observed that, “History shows that when countries acquire the bomb, they feel increasingly vulnerable and become acutely aware that their nuclear weapons make them a potential target in the eyes of major powers. This awareness discourages nuclear states from bold and aggressive action.”
18 June
Iran, world powers fail to bridge nuclear impasse
(AFP) Iran and world powers on Monday locked horns in hours of tense talks in Moscow seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Tehran’s nuclear programme with no breakthrough in sight.
… Chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili was meeting with envoys from six world powers including Tehran’s arch-foe the United States as well as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for two days of talks.
But the Iranian diplomat said that based on the morning’s talks “it is possible” that the second day would not even be required, without elaborating.
Jalili had gone into the talks in uncompromising mood, telling Iranian state television: “These negotiations are a big test to see if the West is in favour of Iran’s progress or against.”
16 June
Pinched and Griping in Iran
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
(NYT) with apologies to the many wonderful Iranians who showered me with hospitality, I favor sanctions because I don’t see any other way to pressure the regime on the nuclear issue or ease its grip on power. My takeaway is that sanctions are working pretty well.
This success makes talk of a military strike on Iranian nuclear sites unwise as well as irresponsible. Aside from the human toll, war would create a nationalist backlash that would cement this regime in place for years to come — just when economic sanctions are increasingly posing a challenge to its survival. No one can predict the timing, but Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen have shown that unpopular regimes that cannot last, don’t.
12 June
Julian Borger: Iran nuclear talks — Moscow meeting salvaged but real progress remains elusive
(The Guardian) Trita Parsi and Reza Marashi argue in a Huffington Post today that Europe should postpone its oil embargo, due to take effect on July 1, by six months, in return for a freeze on the production of 20%-enriched uranium. That would give all parties breathing space until after the November US presidential elections. If Barack Obama is reelected, he would have a freer hand to do deals.European governments are however nervous about offering more and more concessions as a response to Iranian inscrutability.
9 June
Nuclear talks fail between UN and Iran
The UN nuclear watchdog and Iran failed at talks Friday to unblock a probe into suspected atom bomb research by the Islamic state, a setback dimming any chances for success in higher-level negotiations between Tehran and major powers later this month.
Using unusually pointed language, the International Atomic Energy Agency said no progress had been made in the meeting aimed at sealing a deal on resuming the IAEA’s long-stalled investigation. It described the outcome as “disappointing.”
5 June
Iran’s calculus of terror includes Syrian response
By PAYAM AKHAVAN and SHIRIN EBADI
(Globe & Mail) Having crushed their own popular uprising in 2009 and facing increasing isolation, Tehran’s authoritarian rulers are well aware that their fate is tied to what happens in Damascus. The issue is not merely the loss of regional influence, including a vital supply route for Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The Syrian example is shaping Iran’s own calculus of terror as it prepares to deal with renewed democratic threats to its power. The prevention of future atrocities requires a change in this cost-benefit calculus. Ensuring that the nuclear issue does not eclipse human rights and holding Iranian officials individually responsible is an essential part of the equation.
17 May
Western diplomats are still getting it wrong on Iran
If the west wants a negotiated agreement over Iran’s nuclear activities, it must play straight and offer real reciprocity
(The Guardian) The outcome of talks between Iran and the P5+1 (France, Germany, Russia, UK, US and China) in Istanbul back in April gave hope to those who believe that war is no solution to the dispute with Iran. But, a month later, it’s already unclear whether the west intends to honour promises made in Istanbul.
7 March
World powers agree to restart nuclear talks with Iran
(Foreign Policy) For the first time in more than a year, the world powers dealing with Iran’s nuclear program have agreed to resume talks with Tehran. The announcement from EU Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton, who spoke on behalf of the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, came in response to an Iranian offer made last month to resume talks.
6 March
How Iran might respond to Israeli attack
(BBC) Iran has made it clear that if it is attacked either by Israel or the United States it will respond in kind. But just what could Iran do to strike back?
What would be the consequences, both in the region and inside Iran itself?
Indeed, could the potential consequences of an Israeli strike be so serious as to make military action the least preferable option in terms of constraining Iran’s nuclear programme?
4 March
Iran elections: Ahmadinejad reduced to lame duck
(CSM) Forces loyal to conservative cleric Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have taken over 75 percent of the seats in parliamentary elections, leaving rival President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad weakened.
Israel delivers ultimatum to Barack Obama on Iran’s nuclear plans
At Monday’s meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama the Israeli prime minister will deliver a stark warning, reports Adrian Blomfield in Jerusalem
(The Telegraph, UK) According to sources close to the Israeli security establishment, military planners have concluded that never before has the timing for a unilateral military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities been so auspicious.
3 March
Iran vote: Khamenei loyalists appear to do well
Good results for Ayatollah Khamenei’s candidates in Iran’s parliamentary vote could strengthen the supreme leader’s hand before a presidential vote next year.
(CSM) Iran’s Islamic clerical leadership is eager to restore the damage to its legitimacy caused by the violent crushing of eight months of street protests after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected in a 2009 vote his opponents said was rigged.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who endorsed the 2009 result, has since turned sharply against Ahmadinejad. Some early results from Friday’s vote suggested the divisive president’s supporters were losing ground in the 290-seat parliament. More from Al Jazeera In the absence of the reformists, whose leaders have remained under de-facto house arrest for protests, the election was seen by many as a contest among the increasingly fractured conservatives, divided along the lines of their support for the supreme leader or Ahmadinejad.
Iran excludes IAEA tours of nuclear sites
The ongoing visit in Iran by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are being confined to talks in the capital, Tehran, and will not include tours of the country’s controversial nuclear facilities, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said today. The Iranian military said it would hold drills aimed at boosting the protection of sites in the southern part of the country amid speculation that Israel was on the verge of launching airstrikes. The Christian Science Monitor (2/21), BBC (2/20)
19 February
Iran announces it has stopped selling crude oil to UK and France
(Guardian) Tehran takes step four months ahead of EU import ban amid heightening political tensions over country’s enriching of uranium (FT) Iran struggles to find new oil customers Iran is rushing to find a new customer to buy a quarter of its normal oil exports as European and Asian companies stop importing from Tehran
17 February
Is Iran rational enough for MAD?
(Christian Science Monitor) From the 1940s until 1990, the threat of ‘mutual assured destruction’ terrorized the superpowers into avoiding nuclear war. Would MAD work if Iran gets the Bomb?
16 February
‘The Iran Conflict Is Intensifying Step by Step’
(Spiegel) Is anyone at the controls in Iran? It is a question that many in the West are asking following this week’s flurry of announcements, denials and conciliatory advances centering on the country’s nuclear program. Perhaps even more vexing, however, is the fact that Tehran is also thought to be behind a series of decidedly amateurish attacks targeting Israeli diplomatic personnel in Georgia, India and Thailand.
Which Iran is Obama dealing with?
(CSM) Events in recent days reveal two views of Iranian leaders: as either pragmatic to the pressure of sanctions or irrationally bent on terror and Israel’s demise. So far, Obama is playing to Iranian rationality, reflected by the Iranian people.
10 February
Canadian Senators Call for the Immediate Release of Iranian Political Prisoners
(Persian2English) 25 conservative members of Canada’s senate have condemned the Iranian regime’s appalling abuse of human rights and called for the immediate release of all of Iran’s unlawfully held political prisoners.
More than 25 Iranian political prisoners were each highlighted in more than 20 speeches delivered on Tuesday. The positive initiative was led by Ontario Senator Linda Frum in an effort to shed a more personal light on the deplorable human rights situation in Iran. Liberal Senators are eager to join the dialogue and will be speaking to the issue as early as today.
17 January
Iranian Journalist Parastoo Dokouhaki Arrested
(Radio Free Europe) … well-known Iranian journalist, blogger and researcher, has been reportedly jailed. Security forces arrested Dokouhaki at her house in Tehran over the weekend and took away some of her belongings.
Iran, the U.S. and the Strait of Hormuz Crisis
By George Friedman
(Stratfor) The United States reportedly sent a letter to Iran via multiple intermediaries last week warning Tehran that any attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz constituted a red line for Washington. The same week, a chemist associated with Iran’s nuclear program was killed in Tehran. In Ankara, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani met with Turkish officials and has been floating hints of flexibility in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
This week, a routine rotation of U.S. aircraft carriers is taking place in the Middle East, with the potential for three carrier strike groups to be on station in the U.S. Fifth Fleet’s area of operations and a fourth carrier strike group based in Japan about a week’s transit from the region. Next week, Gen. Michael Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will travel to Israel to meet with senior Israeli officials. And Iran is scheduling another set of war games in the Persian Gulf for February that will focus on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ irregular tactics for closing the Strait of Hormuz.
15 January
Haggai Carmon: The Short Life Expectancy of Iranian Nuclear Scientists: Assassinations with a Message
(HuffPost) On November 17, 2011 Major General Hassan Moghadam, the head of Iran’s ballistic missile program, was killed in a huge explosion at a missile base of the Revolutionary Guards. … it is too much of a coincidence to label that huge explosion that killed 17 as a mishap in handling explosives, as the official Iranian narrative wants us to believe. It appears that the life expectancy amongst Iranian nuclear scientists and military personnel in sensitive positions is being shortened. This marks the second explosion at a Revolutionary Guard base in one year, and the sixth fatal accident in the past four years. All coincidences?
11 January
David Frum: Who is Killing Iran’s Bomb-Makers?
(Daily Beast) Since 1979, Iran has committed or sponsored acts of terrorism on the soil of a long list of European, Middle Eastern, and Western Hemisphere nations. There are many countries to whom Iran owes a blood debt, many countries that would regard an Iranian bomb as a deadly threat.
While the computer viruses that have hobbled Iranian nuclear facilities do seem the work of a technologically advanced nation state, there are many potential authors of the rougher attacks. Who knows? It could for once even be the work of those favored villains of the movies: Russian mercenaries in the pay of shadowy oil sheikhs.
Iran Says Nuclear Scientist’s Murder Shows Foreign-Backed Terror Campaign
(Bloomberg) The Iranian government said in a letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that a civilian nuclear scientist who was killed by a bomb yesterday was the latest victim of a foreign terror campaign.
10 January
Iran keeps issuing threats, US keeps saving Iranian sailors
(CSM) As Iran has been promoting its naval prowess and ability to shut the Straits of Hormuz, US naval assets have been busy rescuing Iranian sailors.
8 January
Iran crosses another nuclear red line. Fordo soon on stream
(Debka File) Tehran media trumpeted the news Sunday, Jan. 8 that Iran’s deep underground uranium enrichment site at Fordo near Qom goes stream soon, thereby crossing another line in its faceoff with the West on its weapons program.
Behind the Deepening Crisis with Iran: the Real Story Versus the Cover Story
(Foreign Policy Journal) The real issue is the fact that Iran has upgraded its medium range conventionally-armed missiles with GPS technology, making its missiles much more accurate. This means Iran can now target Israel’s own nuclear, bio and chemical weapons stockpiles, located inside Israel, as well as the Dimona nuclear reactor.
In short, Iran has achieved a conventional deterrent to Israel. … Iran does not need nukes to deter Israel. It can do so with its GPS-guided medium range missiles. A few direct hits by Iran could cause a toxic plume, killing thousands of Israelis. A worst case might signal the end of the Jewish state.
6 January
Seoul and Tokyo seek to ease Iran oil ties
(FT) The US says countries that reduce their imports from Iran can receive a waiver from possible sanctions for dealing with Tehran’s central bank Iran plans more war games in strait as sanctions bite
(Reuters) – Iran announced plans on Friday for new military exercises in the world’s most important oil shipping lane, the latest in weeks of bellicose gestures towards the West as new sanctions threaten Tehran’s oil exports.
Who’s Afraid of the Ayatollahs?
Absolute folly of going to war with Iran
… An impeccable array of U.S. and Israeli security officials have spoken openly of the absolute folly of going to war with Iran and have warned against exaggerating either the threat or Iran’s intentions. Those voices include the top military leaders and intelligence officials in both the United States and Israel.
After a decade of war and trillion dollar deficits, the United States should be well aware that such adventures can do us real harm. An important set of experienced voices continue to call for a return to negotiations. Iran says it is willing. We risk greatly and unnecessarily if we ignore the chance.
4 January
Iran’s currency crash a blow to Ahmadinejad
(CSM) The Iranian currency – the rial – has been essential in shoring up a view of Iran as strong and independent in recent years. Now it’s collapsing on President Ahmadinejad’s watch.
In a country such as Iran, with a rich history of empire and a powerful literary tradition, national pride has remained strong even in the wake of growing discontent with the country’s Islamic regime and mounting global isolation. A stable currency in recent years, in the face of economic sanctions, has shored up that pride.
Iran jails former President Rafsanjani’s daughter
Iranian authorities imprisoned the daughter of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on charges of propagandizing against the Islamic Republic.
(BBC) The daughter of the former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been sentenced to six months in prison for “making propaganda against the ruling system”. Faezah Rafsanjani has given interviews in recent months in which she defended her father’s position – and this appears to be her offence. Akbar Rafsanjani has refused to condemn Iran’s two most prominent pro-reform leaders.
1 January
Iran navy tests surface-to-air missile near Strait of Hormuz
(CTV) Iran’s navy claimed to have successfully test-fired a medium-range missile from a vessel in the Sea of Oman on Sunday, just one day after its scientists said they had made a major breakthrough in the country’s nuclear program.
Iranian TV said the missile test was conducted near the Strait of Hormuz, where ships transport 20 per cent of the world’s oil supply. Iran’s navy claimed that the surface-to-air missile, called the Mehrab, was designed to slip through radar undetected.
The test was part of a 10-day naval exercise, which has brought fears that Iran would disrupt oil tankers passing through the strait.

3 Comments on "Iran in 2012 – 2014"

  1. From an Iranian friend May 26, 2013 at 2:04 am · Reply

    Re: Iran’s Democracy of Small Differences
    Indeed the Iran`s situation is not too complicated now as Khameni`s loyalists are just one step away from having almost every power source (The judiciary, the parliament and now the presidency) in their own hands. But I am not quite sure if the majority, or at least a considerable number of people would vote this time. I agree that the national media can push the people by its every means to vote, but the fact that Rafsanjani and Mashayi (the most popular candidates on – of course- two completely opposite sides) are disqualified would hugely discourage the voters.
    Anyway, Iranian elections have always had a bit of surprise. We may still have some degree of surprise this time, though I am not sure what would that surprise be this time.

  2. Observations from an Iranian friend June 24, 2013 at 9:29 pm · Reply

    - Mr. Rouhani won the election with less than 51% of votes (slightly higher than 50% requirement threshold). Considering previous election (2009) it seems far easy for the supreme leader to change the results and do the election in the second round and re-elect his candidate.
    – We should remember that the political system in Iran is not homogenous; the result of recent election has shown how segregated the political system of Iran is. I agree that president does not have a complete control over nuclear file, but we have the almost acceptable experience of previous president (Mr. Khatami) in handling the nuclear file and sanctions. In other words, I would like to see the election of Mr. Rouhani, the former nuclear negotiator, as a signal from Supreme leader to change the game and to change the discourse especially in nuclear file.
    [The] West missed its chance once before to find a solution when Mr. Rouhani was the head negotiator and we had the “tragedy” of Ahmadinejad. Ironically, this time is a second chance with exactly the same negotiator, which I hope it would result in different outcomes both for the West and Iranians.

  3. From an Iranian friend June 25, 2013 at 12:09 am · Reply

    1- the president is believed to have no say on the nuclear program (and hence it’s always Kahamenei who calls the shots). This idea was shared, until very recently, by many Iranians as well. The presidential debates showed the opposite. Some candidates were already Khamenei’s advisers and known to be close to him for years. They criticized severely the nuclear negotiations especially on the Iranian side. There were talks that they had tried to contact European leaders (some visits with Sarkozy were mentioned) to add some moderation to the talks; and they were furious that the government (Ahmadinejad) turned them down in a variety of ways to continue his own “insane” talks. I conclude that the president has much more power in this sense compared to what we believed like a month ago.

    2- “Mishandling” of Iran can be of grave consequences. The current situation is also a result of frequent mistreatment. There are two very interesting reads on this :
    First is Jack Straw’s memoirs (Last man standing) where he writes of similar stories: he says that he was so close to reach a historic agreement with Iran when multiple unfortunate events happened (he blames Bush administration in this case). There is another book by Trita Parsi “A Single Roll of Dice”. It’s a wonderful story of a peace that was almost at hand.

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