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Roundup | Decentered Atom Activities Knot Israeli Plans; Iran Oil Flow Slows

29 Mar 2012 06:54Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

10 Farvardin/March 29 Update: Following a legal complaint filed by a group of Iranian women martial artists against the Reuters news service for depicting them in a video story as "assassins" (see below), Reuters reports that its press accreditation has been suspended by the Iranian government. According to Reuters, the agency corrected the story after the complaint was filed:

The story's headline, "Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran's assassins", was corrected to read "Three thousand women Ninjas train in Iran".

Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance subsequently contacted the Reuters Tehran bureau chief about the video and its publication, as a result of which Reuters' 11 personnel were told to hand back their press cards.

"We acknowledge this error occurred and regard it as a very serious matter. It was promptly corrected the same day it came to our attention," said editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler.

***
AhmjadCentrifuges.jpgThe wide dispersal and uncertain location of Iran's facilities for making uranium-enrichment centrifuges poses a significant obstacle to any potential Israeli military strike, according to a report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service. The Bloomberg news service states that the report relies largely on interviews with "current and former U.S. government officials familiar with the issue who weren't identified." According to Bloomberg,
The possibility of dispersed facilities complicates any assessment of a potential raid's success, making it "unclear what the ultimate effect of a strike would be on the likelihood of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons," the report found.

A U.S. official said in April 2011 that there "could be lots of workshops' in Iran," the authors said. Last month, a former U.S. government official with "direct experience" in the issue told the researchers that "Iran's centrifuge production is widely distributed and that the number of workshops has probably multiplied 'many times' since 2005 because of an increase in Iranian contractors and subcontractors working on the program."

"An attack that left Iran's conversion and centrifuge production facilities intact would considerably reduce" the time Iran would need to resume its nuclear work, said the congressional researchers led by Jim Zanotti, a Middle Eastern affairs specialist. [...]

The IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] wrote in a November 2007 report that the agency's knowledge of Iran's program was "diminishing" because of restricted access to centrifuge workshops, even though Iranian answers about its past centrifuge programs were "consistent" with inspectors' findings.

According to Arms Control Association analyst Peter Crail, any military strike would probably prompt Iran to bar IAEA inspectors and increase the odds that it would initiate weapons-grade uranium enrichment. "At some point they [would] reconstitute the program," Crail added. "It's really just a question of can they do it within a year or two or is it going to take them a little bit longer."

***

The Wall Street Journal reports that Iranian oil exports have dropped substantially this month, contributing to a jump in prices that has reached 6.66% this year to date in the New York crude oil futures market. Further expected contraction in Iranian sales as a result of U.S. sanctions and an E.U. purchasing boycott, both scheduled to go into effect at the end of June, are likely to drive global oil prices even higher. At the same time, those higher prices mean that the Islamic Republic can expect to reap almost as much in oil revenues this year as it did in 2011. The Journal reports,

By the end of March, with three months until a European Union embargo on Iranian oil takes effect, Iran's exports are expected to fall by about 300,000 barrels a day from last month, to 1.9 million barrels daily, a nearly 14% drop[....]

Rhetorical sparring between Iran and the West has already helped to push oil prices higher this year. Mounting fears of Iranian disruptions have sent the price U.S. motorists pay at gasoline pumps closer to $4 a gallon. Oil prices were down 1.79% in New York on Wednesday, closing at $105.41 a barrel, after rising for three days of trading. [...]

Some observers worry that oil prices could rise further if Iranian oil comes off the market faster than it can be replaced by other sources, and as the Saudi cushion of spare supply shrinks. "The pain is yet to come, in my view," said Trevor Houser, a partner in Rhodium Group, a private oil-market analyst. [...]

Global oil prices might climb between $5 and $14 per barrel, leaving oil consumers paying between $14.7 billion and $36 billion more, because of concerns that global spare capacity is shrinking, Mr. Houser says.

The question of Iranian oil is increasingly being deployed in debates over domestic American issues. In his opening statement at Wednesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iran, the ranking Republican member, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, declared, "I have repeatedly urged the Obama administration to lessen our own need for foreign oil imports by permitting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. Although the United States imports no oil directly from Iran, the more non-Iranian oil on the global oil market, the more there is for others seeking alternatives to Iran's crude."

***
AbedzadehHandsOnHead.jpegAhmad Reza Abedzadeh, the famed former goaltender for Iran's national soccer team, was prevented from leaving the country as he and his wife were about to board a flight to Los Angeles to visit their son. It emerged that Abedzadeh had been prosecuted following a complaint of libel filed by his surgeon, a Dr. Madadi, in 1994. After the court summons was delivered to an incorrect address, Abedzadeh was sentenced in absentia to 54 lashes. The soccer star's passport has been confiscated for the time being.

Apparently, Madadi performed an operation on Abedzadeh following an injury he suffered in 1993. After the surgery, Abedzadeh went to Germany, where physicians told him that the procedure by Madadi had damaged his legs, causing one to be slightly shorter. He was told that Madadi would have been prosecuted in Germany had he performed the operation there. Abedzadeh repeated the story to a newspaper in 1994, and Madadi subsequently filed the defamation complaint.

Reaction from the Iranian media has been mixed. Opposition outlets have emphasized the sentence of 54 lashes and ban on foreign travel. Tabnak, a news website affiliated with prominent Ahmadinejad critic and former presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei, asks if the matter could not have been better managed, while supporters of the government accuse Abedzadeh of expecting to be above the law. The fact that the case was filed 18 years ago is being treated as relatively insignificant, though many are asking how the judicial authorities could not find a man who is regularly contacted by journalists three or four times a day.

***
FemaleNinjasPressTV.jpgIn another defamation case, the Islamic Republic's state-controlled Press TV reports that a group of Iranian women martial artists studying ninjutsu have filed suit against the Reuters news agency for referring to them as "assassins" in training. According to Press TV,
The athletes say the Reuters journalist asked them what they would do if their country came under attack. Reuters used the girl's patriotic response as an excuse to call them assassins.

"The lady from Reuters asked me only one question which had a very obvious answer. I believe that anyone anywhere in the world would defend his country if it were attacked...but she twisted our words to make us look bad and described us as assassins in the headline of her story," Khatereh Jalilzadeh told Press TV.

"We are taking legal action because the ladies that train in Ninjutsu first and foremost enjoy it as a sport. It's about working out and staying fit. Reuters has blatantly lied about us," she added.

Another female ninja said the Reuters' report can definitely be a problem.

"It can harm our chances to travel to other countries to take part in global tournaments and international championships because Reuters is considered by many to be a reliable source," Raheleh Davoudzadeh said.

"At this point, there is not much they can do to undo the damage.... That is why we are taking legal action.... We want the whole world to know that Reuters has lied about us," the Iranian ninja added.

For the broadcast version of Press TV's coverage of the case, see here.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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