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Khatami Site Blocked in Iran; US Rebuffs Bibi's Demand for Military Threat

08 Nov 2010 15:18No Comments

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THE LEAD

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In New Wave of Attacks against Reformists Iran Blocks Access to Khatami's Website

Al Arabiya | Nov 7

As part of its campaign against reformists, the Iranian government blocked on Friday access to the website of former president and leading opposition figure Mohamed Khatami.

Representatives of the ministries of education, culture and Islamic guidance, justice, and telecommunications met with media experts and members of parliament under the chairmanship of Iran's general prosecutor and decided to block the website of Mohamed Khatami, seen by the regime as one of the main causes of political instability in the country.

The decision, which means the website cannot be accessed from inside Iran, is based on article 23 of the electronic publishing penal code, according to a note on the website.

The government did not issue a prior warning to the website's administrators whether verbal or written and did not provide an explanation for blocking the website, according to the report.

See also (except in Iran): Official website of Mohammad Khatami

US Rejects Israel's Call for Iran

Al Jazeera | Nov 8

The US has rejected comments by Israel's prime minister calling for a military threat against Iran to ensure it does not obtain nuclear weapons.

"We know that they are concerned about the impact of the sanctions. The sanctions are biting more deeply than they anticipated and we are working very hard at this," Robert Gates, US defence secretary, said on Monday.

"So I would disagree that only a credible military threat can get Iran to take the actions it needs to end its nuclear weapons programme," he said during a visit to Australia for security talks.

"We are prepared to do what is necessary but at this point we continue to believe that the political-economic approach that we taking is in fact having an impact in Iran."

Benyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, told US Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday that only a "credible" military threat can deter Iran from building a nuclear weapon, Israeli political sources said.

Netanyahu, beginning a five-day US visit, argued that economic sanctions have failed to persuade Iran to stop its nuclear programme.

However, Biden said after the talks that the sanctions "have a bite" and were having a "measurable impact", though he expressed frustration that Tehran had brushed aside overtures by President Barack Obama's administration.

"The only way to ensure that Iran will not go nuclear is to create a credible threat of military action against it if it doesn't cease its race for a nuclear weapon," one of the sources quoted Netanyahu as telling Biden.

In remarks to the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in New Orleans, Biden said: "We continue to seek a peaceful resolution and hope Iranian leaders will reconsider their current destructive and debilitating course".

"But let me be very clear about this: We are also absolutely committed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

OTHER NEWS

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US Senator Sees 'Confrontation' with China, War with Iran

AFP | Nov 7

The United States faces a possible war with Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions and a "period of confrontation" with China over its currency, a top US lawmaker warned Saturday.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said his fellow conservatives, fresh from their historic elections romp this week, support "bold" action to deal with Iran.

If President Barack Obama "decides to be tough with Iran beyond sanctions, I think he is going to feel a lot of Republican support for the idea that we cannot let Iran develop a nuclear weapon," he told the Halifax International Security Forum.

"The last thing America wants is another military conflict, but the last thing the world needs is a nuclear-armed Iran... Containment is off the table."

The South Carolina Republican saw the United States going to war with the Islamic republic "not to just neutralize their nuclear program, but to sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard, in other words neuter that regime."

US Democratic Senator Mark Udall, who joined Graham during a panel discussion at the forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, urged continued sanctions against Iran. But he also noted that "every option is on the table," a thinly veiled reference to possible military action.

Iran Ready to Hold Talks with 5+1 in Turkey

Tehran Times | Nov 8

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced on Sunday that Iran has agreed to hold talks with 5+1 group (five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) in Turkey.

"The agreement on the venue for the talks with 5+1 group is nearly finalized," Mottaki told reporters in a joint press conference with Singaporean counterpart George Yeo in Tehran.

"We have informed our Turkish friends that we agree to hold talks in this country," Mottaki explained.

The Singaporean foreign affairs minister also said the planned negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 group can produce positive results only if the other side recognizes Iran's legal right to nuclear activities.

Iran and 5+1 group have expressed their readiness to resume talks in mid-November after a break of about one year.

In response to remarks by a U.S. senator [Graham] who has called for a major attack on Iran, Mottaki said, "Don't take his remarks seriously, he might have been joking."

The minister suggested that such remarks are a result of confusion in the U.S. foreign policy as the country is entangled in a complicated situation. He added the recent congressional election in which Obama loyalists lost has added to the complication and put country in an "unstable" situation.

Nuclear Weapons 'Anti-Islam'

Straits Times | Nov 8

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has reiterated that that nuclear weapons are against Islam.

His stand was conveyed to Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo at a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki in Teheran on Sunday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Mr Yeo "welcomed" the Ayatollah's statement, and also noted Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali Asghar Soltanieh's recent statement at an IAEA conference that developing nuclear weapons was against Iran's own national interest.

Nuclear Fuel Swap Talks Is a Commercial Issue: Envoy

Tehran Times | Nov 7

Iran's ambassador to Italy, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, has said fuel swap talks between Iran and the Vienna group (the IAEA, the U.S., France and Russia) is basically a trade issue, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

On May 17, 2010, Iran, Turkey, and Brazil issued a declaration, according to which Iran was to ship 1200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey to be exchanged for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched nuclear fuel to power the Tehran research reactor, which produces radioisotopes for cancer treatment. However, the Vienna group has not yet announced its position toward the Tehran declaration.

Talking to ANSA, Hosseini said fuel talks are different from talks between Iran and the 5+1 group (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany), which is of a political nature.

Hosseini also said Iran will not discuss its legitimate right to nuclear technology recognized under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

However, he expressed hope that the common points mentioned in packages proposed by both sides will lay the groundwork for breaking the deadlock in negotiations between Iran and the major powers.

Iran's Leaders Face Rumblings as Prices Rise and Sanctions Bite

Canadian Press | Nov 7

The most potent challenge to Iran's ruling system may not be international sanctions or the homegrown political opposition, but something as simple as a shopping list.

When Sanaz, a 47-year-old Tehran mother, goes to market these days, she digs deeper into her purse for the basics: bread prices up more than fivefold, cooking oil more than double, cuts of lamb about triple from last year.

"How much can we stand?" said Sanaz, who gave only her first name because of security fears. "People are very angry and very worried."

Iran had planned the unpopular subsidy cuts before the latest U.N. and American sanctions. Ahmadinejad and his allies insist the country's oil-based economy could no longer afford the largesse.

It allows gasoline to be sold at 3,700 rials (37 cents) per gallon, or 1,000 rials (10 cents) per litre; the price is expected to rise soon by 400 per cent. Subsidies kept the price of traditional flatbread to as low as 1,000 rials (10 cents) before it rose sharply in the past few months.

The twin blow with the tighter sanctions, however, has amplified the sense that Iran's economy is moving into uncharted territory.

Take, for example, Sina Maleki's electronics shop in central Tehran. The coveted Apple iPhone, shipped to Iran through intermediary companies in Dubai, is no longer arriving. The alternative is perhaps a knockoff phone from China.

The same is true for spare car parts from Europe and even top-quality cookies from Britain.

"Consumer choices are increasingly being restricted," said Maleki.

And what goods do enter Iran are costing more.

The president of Iran's chamber of commerce, Mohammad Nahavandian, said import prices for most goods have risen by 15 to 30 per cent. The reasons include companies, particularly Asian firms, bumping up prices because they know Iran is now a desperate market and insurance is difficult if not impossible to obtain on shipments to Iran.

Iran's Middle Class to Be Hard Hit as Subsidy Program Is Overhauled

Washington Post | Nov 6

Last year, Tehran's writers, doctors and small-business owners formed the backbone of a grass-roots opposition movement against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Now these middle-class urbanites feel they're being singled out by a government plan that will soon cut off state subsidies and boost the prices of a wide array of everyday products.

Members of Iran's middle class are already bearing the brunt of U.S. and European sanctions intended to curtail the country's nuclear weapons program. But in the coming weeks they expect to be hit again, when the cost of gasoline, bread, electricity and other staples are set to increase to market levels, with some prices possibly rising as much as tenfold. While the rural poor will be partly compensated by direct cash handouts from the state, many in Iran's cities will have to fend for themselves.

The subsidy overhaul lays bare a deep rift between the Islamic Republic's leaders and the influential middle class over what kind of country Iran should be, three decades after the 1979 revolution.

"For our leaders we represent all that has gone wrong with the revolution, so they punish us" said Mehdi, a copper trader, as he steered his 2008 Toyota Corolla through Tehran's chaotic traffic on the way to his office.

Mehdi's father was a well-known revolutionary and a war hero who died on the frontlines of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980. "I am proud of the revolution he supported," Mehdi, 30, said. "But not of what has happened to it now."

"The subsidy plan will lead to the middle classes becoming more dependent on the state. They will be poorer and lose influence" said Abbas Abdi, a political analyst critical of the government. "The government will be pleased with this."

Iran Petchem Exports up 50%

Tehran Times | Nov 8

Iran exported some $5.6 billion worth of petrochemicals in the first seven months of the current Iranian calendar year (ended October 22).

The amount shows 50 percent increase in comparison to the same period [in the] previous year, SHANA News Network reported.

Liquid propane, polyethylene, and methanol were the main exported items.

During the mentioned period some $2.79 billion worth of gas condensates have also been exported.

The managing director of Iran Petrochemical Commercial Company said in October that Iran will soon export its first petrochemical shipment to Brazil.

Reza Hamzehlou added that, "Iran has defined new target markets such as Africa and South America in order to diversify the destination market for its petrochemical products."

Iran's Non-Oil Export Hits USD 17.7Bn

Press TV | Nov 7

Iran's non-oil exports in the first seven months of the current Iranian calendar year (starting March 21, 2010) has reached USD 17.447 billion, a senior Iranian official says.

Head of Iran's Customs Administration Ardeshir Mohammadi said that the figure shows a 26 percent increase in comparison with the same period last year.

Mohammadi added that the value of non-oil exports with the exception of gas condensates in the first seven months of the current Iranian year was USD 14.652 billion which showed a 31 percent rise.

Commenting on the volume of export during the first seven months of the current year, the official said that 26.968 million tons of different goods estimated to be worth USD 34.486 billion was imported.

He added that a 10-billion-dollar rise in the volume of Iran's trade transactions with other countries "shows that the US-engineered UN sanctions against Iran have been ineffective."

Young Rappers Arrested in Iran

CNN | Nov 7

Police in Tehran have arrested several members of underground Iranian rap groups, the semi-offical ILNA news agency reported.

Tehran Police Chief Hussain Sajedinia told ILNA that several young boys and girls were discovered using vacant homes to record and videotape illegal rap music for various websites and satellite networks.

Police raided the homes, arrested the young musicians and confiscated "western style musical instruments" and several bottles of liquor, according to ILNA.

The report did not specify when the raids took place, how many rappers were arrested, or how old they were.

"These groups use the most trashy, juvenile and street-like words and phrases that have no place in proper grammar," the police chief told ILNA. "More importantly, they have no regard for the law, principles, proper behavior and language."

Police were searching for a girl and several other of the young rappers after identifying them in material found during the search of the vacant homes, ILNA reported.

"A court order has been issued for the arrest of all of the accused and police in Tehran will make their utmost effort to arrest these people," Sajedinia told ILNA.

In Iran, rap and rock music is not a serious crime but is considered un-Islamic. Ignoring the laws against playing rap and rock music can lead to accusations of Satan worship and sentences of flogging or a night in jail.

"Those who have been arrested are among those who have veered away from proper behavior, who have distanced themselves from all of life's hardships and are in search of comforts that have no limits," he said.

Oslo: Iran 'Preparing Muslims for Action'

NRK (via Islam in Europe) | Nov 6

Iran finances mosques and sends imams to Norway. Here they preach hatred against the West. The aim is to prepare Norwegian Muslim ideological [sic] to carry out terror attacks, if they'll be ordered to do so one day, a source told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

Saudi Arabia is not the only one who finances the building of mosques in Norway. In the battle to win the hearts of European Muslims with a very conservative extremist version of Islam, Iran also finances mosques and sends imams here. Norwegian Muslims are being prepared for action.

"The imams here come from Iran. They interpret the Koran for us and teach people the religious rules. They also give guidance in social situations," says Ali Reza Moaddeli.

He's a board member in the Norwegian Imam Ali Center in Oslo, a mosque with about 200 members. The mosque is closely linked to the Iranian theocracy and several times a year gets imams which are chosen and sent here by Iran's theocracy.

The imams live in a room in the mosque while they're in Norway. They belong to the Ahl-ul Beyt mission organization, a Shia-Muslim institution headed by Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It was this organization which bought the mosque's premises in Tveita in Oslo in 2005.

Three sources told NRK of the close links between several mosque in Oslo and Iran, and what messages are conveyed to Norwegian Muslims. None of the sources wanted to be named, two due to fears for their safety, one because he didn't want to spoil his relations with the Iranian regime.

"Imam Ali Center has imams from Iran who promote attitudes we don't want in Norway. An imam in this mosque that I spoke with, said that the Iranian opposition was infected by Zionists. He used an example that when women dispute man's right to beat their wives, it's Jews infiltration," one of the sources told NRK.

See also: "Copenhagen: City Council Approves Plans for Grand Mosque" (Berlingske Tidende and Kristeligt Dagblad via Islam in Europe)

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Mashad Student Activist Ali Gholizadeh Arrested

ICHRI | Nov 5

Ali Gholizadeh, a student activist, was arrested by authorities last Friday in his father's home. The news of his arrest was confirmed by his mother in an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Gholizadeh is a member of Daftar Tahkim-e Vahdat student organization and has been deprived from continuing his education. "Today at noon, two men came and said that they were Intelligence forces, and want to take Ali for a few questions. They said they would return him before night. It is nighttime now, and there is no news from my child," the student activist's mother told the Campaign.

"They didn't touch any of his things. Two cars were parked outside our home. They were five men. Two of them entered the house, and one of them was standing in front of the entrance. I said 'but my son hasn't done anything, ask your questions right here.' They said they would return him before nightfall," said Gholizadeh's mother.

Ali Gholizadeh is a resident of Mashad and a former Secretary of Shahroud Islamic Association and a current member of the General Council of Daftar Tahkim-e Vahdat student organization. Last year, he was deprived from continuing his graduate studies through a ruling from the Ministry of Intelligence. Previously, he had been arrested by Mashad Intelligence Office on 8 August 2008, and spent time inside the Intelligence Office Detention Center. His family has no information about his detention location. "We will stay up till morning for Ali's return," his mother told the Campaign.

See also: "Ali Gholizadeh Transferred to the Information Force's Detention Center" (RAHANA)

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Baha'i Citizen of Semnan, Rufiyaa Baidaghi Detained

RAHANA | Nov 7

[A] Baha'i citizen of Semnan, Rufiyaa Baidaghi, has been arrested by the Security Forces.

According to [a] RAHANA reporter, on Saturday, November 7th, Security Forces proceeded to arrest Rufiyaa Baidaghi. She is the daughter of Mr. Goodarz Baidaghi who had been arrested on February and only recently released.

It should be mentioned that there are currently six Baha'i citizens incarcerated in Semnan and a number of others are awaiting court rulings.

14 Year Sentence for Civil Rights Activist

RAHANA | Nov 7

Social activist Ahmad Bab, a citizen of Marivan, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison by Branch One of the City's Revolutionary Court.

According to the Human Rights Committee, Bab said in regards to his charges: "Under no circumstance do I accept the charges brought forth by the courts." The ruling cites Penal Codes 499, 500 and 501 of the Islamic Law.

This social activist adds: "For example, one of the charges attributed to my case is my leaving the country which I deny."

Ahmad Bab has previously published reports of his illegal interrogations and torture. In these reports he describes: "I was in solitary confinement for 5 months and 5 days, I endured 320 lashes, pulling of 3 teeth and 'show hangings.'"

Mahdieh Golroo Denied Medical Attention, Health Problems Continue

ICHRI | Nov 5

Marzieh Golroo, sister of prisoner of conscience Mahdieh Golroo, spoke with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran about her sister's prison condition. Mahdieh Golroo, who is a member of the Right to Education Council, has been in prison since 3 November of last year and her requests for medical leave have been repeatedly denied for 11 months by prison authorities. Despite poor health, Golroo remains in very good mental condition, says her sister.

Mahdieh Golroo's prison sentence was upeld for another two years. Regarding her sister's state Marzieh Golroo said, "My sister continues to suffer from an intestinal illness. She got this disease during her first days in prison after eating bad food and because of lack of suitable health facilities. She is always sick and when I went to visit her this Saturday she was too weak. They won't give prisoners permission to go to the clinic easily. I don't know the reason for this. Is the reason a lack of physicians at the infirmary, or do they just want to abuse the prisoners? But, thank God, she is mentally well and remains strong and determined."

Mahdieh Golroo's husband, Vahid Lalipoor, was summoned to appear in court last week to clarify the status of his case file. Lalipoor, who has no prior political activities, was arrested with his wife on the night of 3 November 2009 at their home, and was released nearly four months later in late March 2010.

Regarding her expectations from human rights organizations Golroo said, "Prisoners must be given their minimum rights, which include food and facilities, in-person visitation, and prison leave. According to the law, it's every prisoner's right to have in-person visitations and prison leave. Mahdieh has not had a prison leave ever since she was arrested, while this is the minimum demand and right of every prisoner. Anytime a person gets sick in prison, even for a simple cold, apparently they must wait for a few weeks to go to the clinic. I do not know whether this is just for political prisoners or for all prisoners. But, when I saw Mahdieh this Saturday, I told her that she must insist on going to the clinic, because she was not been feeling well at all. Apparently, her other problems are lack of suitable food and warm water."

Mahdieh Golroo has been charged with "propagating against the regime," "assembly and collusion to disturb public order," and "having contacts with Mojahedin," none of which she has accepted.

Baha'i Citizen Begins His 3 Year Prison Sentence

RAHANA | Nov 7

Siamak Ighani, a Baha'i resident of Semnan, was transferred to the City's prison to begin his 3 year prison term.

According to RAHANA News Agency, Siamak Ighani who had previously been sentenced to 3 years in prison charged with "Teaching the Baha'i Faith and Propaganda Against the Regime," was transferred to Semnan prison on Saturday November 6th to begin his incarceration.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Are We on the Brink of a Confrontation?

Jihad el-Khazen (Asharq Alawsat via Al Arabiya) | Nov 7

The Obama administration must no doubt be frustrated: Even after all the sanctions that were imposed, it seems that Iran still has enough surplus money to send 500 to 700 thousand Euros in cash to Afghanistan once or twice a year, and enough money to establish Islamic banks in many countries, from Malaysia to Iraq, in order to bypass the restrictions imposed on the external transactions of 16 Iranian banks.

Since Israeli pressures affect the United States much, much more than they affect Europe, and since they will only increase in the aftermath of the midterm election results, Gary Samore, who is Barack Obama's coordinator for countering unconventional weapons, was reflecting the administration's stance when he said during a scientific conference in Washington last week: If Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, it would have an utterly catastrophic effect in the region. Other states will seek their own nuclear weapons. Also, an attack by Israel could set off a regional war. Therefore, stopping the Iranian nuclear program is the "No. 1 job."

Here, I do not underestimate the dangers of the Iranian regime's extremism at all and its impact on the countries of the region. However, I want Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon for the same reasons that the U.S. official is warning against such a scenario. If Iran indeed acquires this weapon, the other countries in the region will seek their own nuclear weapons, at which point the United States and major countries will intervene to strip the Middle East of all weapons of mass destruction, instead of leaving Israel alone with a nuclear arsenal in the hands of a fascist government that occupies, murders and destroys every day.

Since I cannot predict the future, I will only say that the current situation cannot last for very long. Iran will not be able to live with the sanctions, and the United States cannot wait forever for Iran to change its position.

Israel Must Make Peace with the PA before the Takeover of Iran-Backed Hamas

Shaul Arieli (Haaretz) | Nov 7

One of the threats posed by the transformation of Iran into a nuclear state is how this may affect the makeup of the Palestinian leadership, possibly leading to the cancellation of the recognition of Israel and the agreements with it by the Arab and Muslim world, and their return to armed struggle.

Iran sees its nuclearization as a means of strengthening its regional position and ensuring the survivability of its regime. To this end it is working to create outposts of support by Islamist organizations worldwide. Since the Oslo Accords and more so since the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon, Iran has had a hand in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through its support for Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestine Liberation Organization still see themselves as part of the regional alliance of pro-Western Arab states against the Iranian-Syrian axis. In contrast, Hamas, whose top priority is the Islamic project in Gaza, sees the position of its patron Iran as a critical element in securing this project.

For Hamas, Iran has the Islamic strategic depth to ensure its survivability in the struggle against Israel and the pro-Western Arab states, led by Egypt. Hamas is displaying politeness toward Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but in practice it is broadening its dependence on non-Arab Islamic elements, led by Iran and Turkey, in order to create a counterweight to the plans to topple it.

The Arab League is currently giving backing and recognition to the PLO and refuses to actively assist Hamas. But nuclear arms will strengthen Iran's regional influence and enable it to compel additional neighbors to give political backing to Hamas. This change could enhance the religious dimension of the conflict and help Hamas take over the PLO or create a "new PLO."

Abbas wants to achieve a final status agreement with Israel on the basis of the decisions of the Arab League and the United Nations before Iranian hegemony puts Hamas in the driver's seat.

Netanyahu's policy is diplomatically blind to the threats posed by these trends to the chance for regional stability. It is based on a conception that fails to link Israel's deeds and failings to its chances of bringing about stability and normalization with the Arab world. It prefers to see deterrent military superiority as a sufficient condition for stability and security, and does not seek to add the necessary conditions of political agreements that have international legitimacy, economic cooperation and the like.

Chinese Whispers

Gareth Smyth (Executive) | Nov 2

With Russia, we remember centuries of territorial disputes, with the British their past control of our oil, and with the Americans we remember them supporting the Shah," says a leading business journalist in Tehran. "There is no memory of China in our contemporary history, and therefore little emotion."

On the other hand, Iranians are wary of cheap Chinese goods that have -- as in so many countries -- flooded the market, bankrupting domestic textile and shoe manufacturers. And there are rumbles too over the quality of Chinese technology in building the Tehran metro.

As a result, mixed feelings over China abound in Tehran as Iran's relationship with Beijing becomes crucial both to its economy and its international policy. As the latest wave of United States-led sanctions squeeze Iran's trading partners, including South Korea, many Iranian analysts are nervous about overdependence. This is political as well as economic; China now stands as Tehran's main supporter in the United Nations Security Council, after Moscow's decision in September not to supply the S-300 missile defense system signaled its disquiet with Iran.

In economic terms, the summer's United States and European Union sanctions have increased China's importance to Iran both as a supplier of gasoline and a buyer of crude. Sadegh Zibakalam, politics professor at Tehran University, warned in September of the dangers.

"It would be most unpleasant if the Americans make trouble for the Chinese," he wrote. "China has for some time decreased its investments in and oil purchases from, Iran.... The claim that the sanctions have not worked and have forced us to blossom is all entertainment and propaganda."

China has considerable investments in Iran's energy reserves, including an agreement in principle to buy 10 million tons per year of liquefied natural gas (LNG) over 25 years from the largely untapped South Pars field. Sinopec, the Chinese oil group, has agreed rights to exploit the Yadavaran oil field in the southwestern Provence of Khuzestan, with reserves reported at 15 billion barrels.

But much Chinese investment is far from nailed down. Work at Yadavaran is overdue.

There have also been reports in Iran that China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has slowed down work on a master plan for the South Azadegan oilfield, despite Iran pressing it for a final agreement on a 70 percent stake. Under US pressure, Japan's Inpex announced last month it would be relinquishing its 10 percent share in Azadegan.

Iran, Saudi Arabia No Champions of Women

Chronicle Herald Editorial | Nov 7

Once again, much-publicized efforts to reform the UN appear nothing more than rhetoric.

In this case, a newly created United Nations agency that supposedly will be devoted to championing women's rights worldwide seems almost certain to have two of the world's most regressive regimes -- in terms of how they treat women -- named to that body's executive council.

UN Women, the entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women, was created in July to replace four other UN organizations now dealing with ending discrimination against women globally. The new agency will become operational in January.

Unfortunately, however, it appears that Iran and Saudi Arabia will both be named to UN Women's executive board. Both nations have been nominated, thus far uncontested, to serve three-year terms.

Iran's constitution defines a woman's worth as half that of a man. Women's legal rights are much less than those of men, and by law they are banned from many leadership positions, such as judgeships.

Iran also now faces worldwide revulsion and protests for its barbaric sentencing of 43-year-old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani to death for adultery. Ashtiani, whose case is under review, was originally to be stoned, though reportedly the regime now plans to hang the woman.

Earlier this fall, the World Economic Forum's 2010 Global Gender Gap Report was released. Of the 134 countries surveyed, Iran placed 123rd and Saudi Arabia 129th. Each country's ranking had fallen from where it stood in 2006.

On Nov. 10, the UN Economic and Social Council -- of which Canada and the U.S. are among the 54 members -- will formally elect the UN Women's board.

Will either Canada or the U.S. protest Iran's or Saudi Arabia's inclusion as guiding forces on a body whose stated goals stand in opposition to their nations' practices?

We would hope so. Sadly, however, neither opposed Iran's election to the UN Commission on the Status of Women last spring.

Books Stuck in Iran's Censorship Quagmire

Omid Nikfarjam (IWPR) | Nov 5

Figures from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance show that the country has some 7,000 publishing firms. Take just two of these companies - one of them says it has about 70 novels and short story collections currently pending approval from the censors. The other says it has had between 50 and 70 books awaiting review at any one time for the past two years.

Supposing that just 1,000 publishers each deliver five books a year to the ministry's book department, that comes to 5,000 a year, plus the many inevitably left over from previous years. Writers and translators routinely wait for one, two or even three years for a decision on the suitability of their books.

The censors' work has always been shrouded in secrecy, but the word in the publishing industry is that there are never more than 20 of them.

To make matters worse, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was first elected president in 2005, the first thing his then culture minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi did was to revoke all the licenses issued under the previous president, Mohammad Khatami.

That created a massive backlog of applications. Censors had to go through already published works as well as the never-ending flow of new ones, checking line by line to see whether they were compatible with the "core Islamic values" the new administration wanted to assert. This is while, under Ahmadinejad, hard-liners in government have frequently questioned whether literature has any use or point at all.

Q&A: Can Powers Revive Stalled Atom Fuel Deal with Iran?

Fredrik Dahl (Reuters) | Nov 8

WHAT WAS THE IDEA BEHIND THE FUEL SWAP PLAN?

Under the initial agreement brokered by the U.N. nuclear watchdog between Iran, the United States, France and Russia last year, Iran would send 1,200 kg of its LEU abroad -- roughly the amount needed for a bomb if refined much more.

The material would first be enriched to 20 percent fissile purity by Russia and then turned into fuel assemblies by France before its return to Iran for use in a medical research reactor, which is running out of fuel provided by Argentina in the 1990s.

For the West, which suspects Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, the proposal offered a way to restore a degree of trust in souring relations with Tehran and help in the search for a diplomatic solution to the eight-year nuclear dispute.

At the time, 1,200 kg of LEU represented about 75 percent of Iran's stockpile so it would also have ensured that it did not have enough left for a weapon, at least temporarily.

For Iran, it would have provided fuel for a reactor it says helps in treating hundreds of thousands of cancer patients.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would also have been able to hail it as a foreign policy success, with Iran striking a deal with the powers without backing down over its enrichment work.

SO WHY DID THE DEAL COLLAPSE?

Analysts and diplomats believe it fell victim to Iran's internal power rivalries. Ahmadinejad's opponents, keen to deny him a diplomatic victory, said it would have forced Iran to part with the bulk of a strategic asset and a strong bargaining chip.

Iranian politicians raised new conditions for the swap, saying it must take place on Iranian soil and simultaneously.

This was unacceptable for the West as it would fail to remove potential bomb-material from Iran, which says its nuclear program is a peaceful drive to generate electricity.

Iran, Turkey and Brazil resurrected parts of the original plan in May in a bid to avert a tightening of sanctions on Tehran. Under this proposal, Iran would also send out 1.2 tonnes of LEU, this time to Turkey, in return for reactor fuel.

But the United States, Russia and France -- known as the Vienna Group -- voiced deep concerns about Iran's new offer.

Their main worries included Iran's growing LEU stockpile and its decision in February to escalate enrichment to 20 percent itself, a key step toward weapon-grade material.

DOCUMENTS & DECLARATIONS

Republican Iran Saber Rattling Is Bad for National Security and Harmful for Iranian Human Rights Defenders

Statement by NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi (National Iranian American Council) | Nov 7

NIAC deplores Senator Lindsey Graham's dangerous rhetoric calling for the US to "neuter" Iran through military action

NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi released the following statement addressing Senator Lindsey Graham's saber rattling on Iran:

Now is not the time for political games that undercut US interests and hurt Iranians fighting for the rule of law, it is time to get serious. Lindsey Graham's reckless willingness to engage in hypotheticals about military action against Iran is dangerous and irresponsible.

Graham's confrontational war rhetoric sets back America's opportunities to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully and prevent a third costly and destabilizing US war in the Middle East. His approach endangers human rights defenders in Iran, undermines Iranian democracy activists, and places American troops in the region at greater risk.

The Obama Administration should stand against such counterproductive, confrontational rhetoric and instead make the serious investment in engagement necessary for success.

A return to the failed approach of the Bush Administration, which prioritized saber rattling and war rhetoric over serious efforts to resolve our problems with the Iranian government, would be a disastrous mistake. The Obama Administration must push back against efforts such as those of Senator Graham that risk dragging us back to the Bush approach.

Instead of allowing the US to remain on a trajectory for yet a third war in the Middle East, the President must commit seriously to active, sustained diplomacy that can resolve our concerns regarding Iran's nuclear program, address the human rights crisis in Iran, and provide space for those in Iran fighting for the rule of law.

Human Rights in Iran and Egypt: Iran Update

Report from Baha'i International Community (Baha'i World News Service) | Oct 28

Summary of latest news

* International reaction: Governments, organizations and influential individuals around the world are continuing to condemn the harsh prison sentences given to the seven Iranian Baha'i leaders. In a report issued on 14 October, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon expressed strong concern over Iran's ongoing human rights violations, including its persecution of Iranian Baha'is. Britain's most prominent heads of religion have also called for the release of the seven Baha'i leaders. A statement describing the sentencing of the seven as a "gross violation of the fundamental human right to freedom of religion" - was signed by, among others, the Archbishop of Canterbury - who is the head of the worldwide Anglican communion; the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster; the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth; and the Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Great Britain. The governments of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States of America, as well as the European Union and the President of the European Parliament, earlier condemned the sentences received by the seven.

* No formal announcement on reduction of prison sentence: Lawyers representing the imprisoned seven Baha'i leaders were informed orally on 15 September that the 20-year jail terms they had each received had subsequently been reduced to ten years on appeal. Iranian authorities have so far made no formal announcement on either the initial or reduced sentences. 20 year jail terms were initially reportedly handed down to the seven after they faced charges of propaganda activities against the Islamic order and the establishment of an illegal administration, among other allegations, all of which were categorically denied.

* Arrests and convictions: Since August 2004, some 329 Baha'is have been arrested in Iran. There are about 43 Iranian Baha'is currently in prison because of their religion. To date, the cases of some 271 Baha'is are still active with authorities. These include individuals in prison, those who have been released pending trial, those who have appealed their verdicts, those awaiting notification to begin serving prison sentences, and a few who are serving periods of internal exile. Thousands more have been deprived of education, questioned, threatened, denied their pensions, or debarred from earning a livelihood.

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