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News | Israel Military Chief: Iran Will Not Pursue the Bomb

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

26 Apr 2012 21:35Comments

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.

GantzPortraitFlags.jpg9:35 p.m. IRDT, 7 Ordibehesht/April 26 In an interview with Haaretz, the relatively liberal Israeli newspaper, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, said, "I do not believe Iran will decide to develop nuclear weapons." When asked whether 2012 is decisive for Iran, Gantz responded, "Clearly, the more the Iranians progress the worse the situation is. This is a critical year but not necessarily 'go, no-go.' The problem doesn't necessarily stop on December 31, 2012. We're in a period when something must happen: Either Iran takes its nuclear program to a civilian footing only or the world, perhaps we too, will have to do something. We're closer to the end of the discussions than the middle."

Gantz added, "Iran is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb. It hasn't yet decided whether to go the extra mile." As long as Iran's nuclear facilities are not bomb-proof, Gantz said, "the program is too vulnerable, in Iran's view. If the supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants, he will advance it to the acquisition of a nuclear bomb, but the decision must first be taken. It will happen if Khamenei judges that he is invulnerable to a response. I believe he would be making an enormous mistake, and I don't think he will want to go the extra mile. I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people. But I agree that such a capability, in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who at particular moments could make different calculations, is dangerous."

Report: 38 percent voter turnout in Majles elections

Reports from Tehran indicate that in a meeting with "the highest officials" -- usually code words for Khamenei -- two members of the Guardian Council, which certifies election results, said that only 38 percent of the eligible voters cast ballots, of which 8 percent were cancelled or blank. In Tehran, only 18 percent of the eligible voters voted. The Interior Ministry has publicly claimed that 64.4 percent of eligible voters voted in the election. In a television interview the day after the election, Election Headquarters Director Seyyed Sowlat Mortazavi apparently "slipped" and said that turnout was "34 and a few tenths of a percent," before "correcting" himself and giving the official 64.4 percent figure.

New proposal by Russia floated

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov of Russia has put forward a plan that would let Iran avoid a European Union ban on the imports of its crude oil, scheduled to come into force in July. Iran's ambassador to Russia, Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi said, "We need to study this proposal and to establish on what basis it has been made." Ryabkov -- a key adviser to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the president-elect -- who leads Russia's delegation to the talks between Iran and the P5+1, said the Russian proposal would be the first in a series of mutual concessions designed to contentions in an agreement between the two sides that would remove suspicions that Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons.

According to the proposal, Iran would stop manufacturing new centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium, and mothball those that have not been put into use yet. "At that stage, as part of the step-by-step approach, the other side could announce that it will refrain from introducing new sanctions," Ryabkov said on April 17 after the latest round of talks in Istanbul. The next round, in Baghdad, is scheduled for May 23.

Meanwhile General Nicolai Yegorovich Makarov, chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces and first deputy minister of defense, said for the first time that a nuclear threat from Iran and North Korea does exist. "The threat is always there, so we closely monitor the nuclear program developments of many countries," General Makarov said in an RT television interview. "The analysis that we conducted together with the Americans confirms that, yes, there is a probability that the threat exists. And we agreed that it is necessary to create a missile defense system."

Attacks on Oil Ministry websites and communication network

On Sunday, hackers attacked the websites run by the Ministry of Oil and disrupted its communication network. Communications between major divisions of the Ministry between Tehran and the oil provinces, such as Khuzestan, were disrupted for extended periods of time. Deputy Minister of Oil for Engineering and Construction Hamdollah Mohammadnejad said that no classified information or data had been stolen or compromised. He added that the cyber attack occurred through one of the main Internet servers of the National Iranian Oil Company. He added that the Ministry of Oil cyberspace team had regained complete control of the systems and claimed that there was "no disruption in the [operation] of the oil industry." Some Internet security experts, however, have opined that the ministry was too slow to react to the attacks.

New wave of changes in the universities?

Last week, Minister of Science, Research, and Technology Kamran Daneshjoo replaced the chancellor of Tehran's Al-Zahra University, which is devoted to female students. He chose Ensieh Khazali, a daughter of the reactionary cleric Abolghasem Khazali, to replace Mahboubeh Mobasheri. Mobasheri had been appointed to her post after the previous chancellor, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, wife of former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, resigned from the post. The couple has been under house arrest for over 14 months. On Wednesday, Daneshjoo appointed Mohammad Mehdi Tehranchi as the new chancellor of Shahid Beheshti University, also in Tehran, replacing Ahmad Shabani. Observers believe that a second wave of changes in the leadership of the Iranian universities has begun, following a slew of changes that took place in the aftermath of the June 2009 presidential elections.

Drastic reduction in purchasing power

Elyas Naderan, a member of the Majles Economic Commission, criticized the Ahmadinejad administration for its implementation of the plans to eliminate subsidies on basic food stuff and energy. "The law passed by the Majles was supposed to be implemented over a five-year period. The price of energy was supposed to be increased, and the resulting income distributed among the people," said Naderan in the paliament's session on Tuesday. He added, "When the prices of everything have on average increased by 20 percent, the purchasing power of each family has reduced by 40 percent. Thus, the entire cash handout that it receives does not have much purchasing power. The law has been violated in many respects, which is why we have had the increases in the prices. The law for the gradual increase of the [energy] price has not been implemented and, in reaction to [the people's anger about] increases in the price of electricity and gasoline, the government has retreated."

New hardline Internet television channel

The hardline website 598 has reported that the supporters of the reactionary cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi have launched an online television cheannel. Mesbah Yazdi is the spiritual leader of the hardline political group Jebheh Paydari Enghlelab-e Eslami (JPEE, Durable Front of the Islamic Revolution) that competed with the supporters of Khamenei in the Majles elections of March 2. The channel is called Shabake Paydari (Paydari Network), and can be watched at shabakepaydari.com.The first program, broadcast on April 21, was a speech by Mesbah Yazdi. For now, the channel will have four hours of programming every day. While it is publily claimed that the channel was founded by "a group of seminary and university students," it is widely believed that the JPEE is its founder.

On Tuesday, Bibak News, a website that supports Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, quoted an unnamed official of the new channel threatening that in the coming days it will broadcast "explicit" and "different" programs that will make revelations about corruption and corrupt officials, and "will make angry the enemies of and the opposition to the Islamic Republic and the honorable people of Iran."

Meanwhile a group of students at Imam Sadegh University in Tehran, which is controlled by Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, the influential conservative cleric and chairman of the Assembly of Experts, wrote an open letter to Mesbah Yazdi in which they criticized his followers for regarding him as "the deputy to the Supreme Leader." The letter criticized the JPEE, and warned that it may move in the same direction that the "perverted group" -- code word for Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and close confidant, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, and his circle - has been moving. The letter complained about the fissures between the JPEE and the Jebheh Mottahed Osoolgaraayaan (JMO, or United Front of the Principlists), accusing the JPEE of having "immoral policies" and lying. "In its private gatherings, why does the JPEE treat you as if you are the deputy to the Supreme Leader, and members of the JPEE view you as their own spiritual leader, are absolutely obedient to you, and are allies of the 'perverted group'?" Mesbah Yazdi used to be an ardent supporter of Ahmadinejad, and many senior members of the JPEE served in his cabinet.

At the same time, cleric Morteza Agha Tehrani of the JPEE said that three out of the four websites the group runs have been blocked. He claimed that the JPEE tried to form a coalition with the JMO for the recent Majles elections, but the JMO refused.

Revolutionary Guards killed in PJAK attacks

In an attack by fighters of the terrorist Party of Free Life for Kurdistan, known as PJAK, in Paveh in Iranian Kurdistan four soldiers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were killed, and at least another four were injured.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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