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News | Industry and Trade Minister: Western Sanctions 'Paralyzing' Iran

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

17 Jul 2012 06:15Comments

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.

MehdiGhazanfariPhone.jpg6:25 a.m. IRDT, 27 Tir/July 17 In a clerical seminar in Qom on Sunday, Minister of Industry, Mines, and Trade Mehdi Ghazanfari said, "The West's sanctions imposed on Iran are paralyzing," and that the nezaam (political system) has entered "a serious and dangerous confrontation" with the West. Addressing the clerics, Ghazanfari said,
Right from the beginning of the Revolution, we have experienced various sanctions. But it must be pointed out that the current sanctions are different from those in the past. The past sanctions focused on investment [in Iran by foreign entities], services, and spare parts. The current sanctions, however, are paralyzing because the enemy has put its finger on the vital artery of the national economy [i.e., oil] and has imposed comprehensive sanctions.

They want to hit their target this time, which is why they have imposed sanctions even on the transfer of funds, which is different from sanctioning banks. It is totally unprecedented in the world to sanction the central bank of the nation. But they did this, while the people's servants have not surrendered and continue their service to the people. They may even impose sanctions on logistical affairs, but we should know that this is Satan's plan and, God willing, they will not succeed. They do not have the power for a direct confrontation, because they know that they will be defeated by the people, so through tough sanctions they want to hurt the nezaam and the Islamic Revolution, and force people not to trust the nezaam and its officials.

Regarding the inflation that has run rampant in Iran over the past year and a half, Ghazanfari said,

They [the West] want to make people desperate and angry over the high cost of living and financial problems, and inject distrust and pessimism into the society by emphasizing economic disruption. Given that we are involved in a dangerous and serious confrontation, we must recognize that this [situation] requires prudence and great intelligence. Eighty-five percent of our imports consist of raw materials, goods, and agricultural products that must be imported. We cannot stop such imports because that would be dangerous under the current conditions. The root cause of the high prices and inflation, which is of deep concern to the ulema [the senior clerics], has special complexities that we cannot explain publicly.... Unfortunately, some in the press write against the government unfairly, whereas they should be aware of the current state of affairs of the country.

Admitting that the Islamic Republic has become isolated, Ghazanfari said,

The fact is that, although we have many friends around the world, there is no country that is willing to make sacrifices for us, because what these countries do is for their national interests. I can also give you the good news that we have overcome the heavy and difficult environment of the past few months [an apparent reference to talk of a potential military strike on Iran], but do not ask me for the details.

Emphasizing national unity, he declared, "Internal divisions represent a fatal poison for the national economy; we need to give people hope and motivate them, and be aware that God will give us victory." He did not explain how national unity can be achieved when there is suffocating political and social repression, scores of opposition figures are imprisoned simply for expressing their opinion, and hardly a day goes by without a revelation of financial corruption involving the state.

Ghazanfari's explicit acknowledgment of the effect of the sanctions was published in Persian by Hawzah News, a clerical website. An abbreviated English version that appeared on Khabar Online, which is closely linked to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, quoted Ghazanfari saying that the sanctions are having no effect on the Iranian economy because "it is dynamic."

Iran ready to host talks between Syrian government, opposition

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced on Sunday that Iran is prepared to host negotiations between the Syrian government and its domestic adversaries. "The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to hold a meeting with the Syrian opposition and invite them to Iran, and we are ready to pave the way for negotiations between the opposition and the Syrian government," Salehi told reporters in Tehran. "We believe that the Syrian issue should be resolved through a Syrian-Syrian solution, and nothing, no rule, and no government, should be imposed from outside."

Salehi added, "We have announced that we support all efforts by [U.N. special envoy] Kofi Annan.... So far, Mr. Kofi Annan has impartially and fairly dealt with the issue, and this has caused certain countries in the region [i.e., Saudi Arabia and its allies] to express concern over this fact, which is regrettable. However, the realities are coming to light, and, seemingly, it can be generally said that there are great hopes for a way out of the Syrian crisis. We are in extensive talks with Kofi Annan, who has presented good proposals, including the six-point plan and an additional proposal meant to reinforce it."

U.S. Navy fires on boat in Persian Gulf

A United States military fuel supply ship fired on a small boat in the Persian Gulf on Monday. The attack killed one person and injured three on board, according to U.S. officials. The American ship, USNS Rappahannock, fired on a "small, white pleasure craft" ten miles from the Dubai port of Jebel Ali. The boat was not far from Iran's maritime boundaries and had come "too close" to the supply ship, according to the officials. It subsequently turned out that the craft was a fishing boat with four Indians and two Emiratis on board. The naval forces of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps deploy swift, relatively small boats in the Persian Gulf, about which the U.S. Navy has repeatedly expressed concern.

New UAE oil pipeline bypasses Strait of Hormuz

The United Arab Emirates officially opened a 230-mile-long pipeline that will carry oil to its eastern port of Fujairah, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz. Up to 75 percent of Emirate oil will be transported by the new Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline, which can carry 1.8 million barrels per day from fields in the UAE's western desert. The new terminal has eight crude oil storage tanks each with a capacity of one million barrels. The first cargo loaded on Sunday. The bulk of Emirate oil is exported to Asia.

In Tehran, Majles deputy Mohammad Hassan Asferi, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said on Sunday that the UAE's small size and the pipeline's limited oil transfer capacity will lead to its failure. "The Habshan-Fujairah pipeline is only propaganda and political maneuvering guided by the Western countries, especially the United States, which aims to reduce the strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz," Asferi said. "About 20 percent of total world oil production currently crosses the Strait of Hormuz, and finding alternative ways to handle this amount of oil and gas is unimaginable, but the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf try this every once in a while."

Caspian gas field valued at $50 billion

Last December, Iran announced that it had discovered a large field in the Caspian Sea that contains at least 50 trillion cubic feet (1.4 trillion cubic meters) of natural gas. The offshore field, which is 2,300 feet deep, lies entirely within Iran's territorial waters, Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi explained at the time. On Sunday, Ahmad Ghasemi, managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company, said that the in situ reserves of crude oil in the gas field, called Sardar Jangal, are worth over $50 billion. Ahmad Ghasemi added that some three trillion rials (around $150 million) has been invested in exploration operations in the Caspian Sea and that "exploring crude oil [there] has proved sanctions against the country's oil sector to be ineffective." Meanwhile, Minister Ghasemi said that Iran will begin to export natural gas in 2013.

Revolutionary Guard assets frozen in several countries

Mohammad Reza Yazdi, the Revolutionary Guards' deputy commander for legal and parliamentary affairs, said that the assets of Guard-linked companies in several countries have been frozen. He added that the issue has been pursued through the office of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and in some cases the assets have been returned. Yazdi also characterized U.S President Barack Obama's admission that the United States has been waging a cyberspace war against Iran as "shameless."

Southern drought claimed work of "colonialists"

Seyyed Hassan Mousavi, vice president and director of the Organization for Cultural Heritage and Tourism, said, "I am suspicious about the drought in the southern half of our country. Colonialism and the arrogant power use technology to affect the weather [in Iran]. The national weather service must identify the root cause of this, because this drought does not appear normal.... Colonialism has better access to the southern part of Iran, and if we can prove this important point, we can both prevent it and confront them. At the same time, the people of the world will recognize how colonialism brutally treats the Iranian people and Islam."

Apology to Britain for attack on Tehran embassy

Majles deputy Ali Motahari told a group of university students that Iran officially apologized to Britain for the attacks on its embassy in Tehran last year by hardline students. He said, "I believe it was a mistake to attack the embassy. The government was also opposed to it. It is not clear who was behind this as it actually benefited Britain. The Majles passed a resolution [before the attack] demanding that the government expel the British ambassador, but we were forced to apologize to them [after the attack]."

Motahari also implicitly criticized the Ahmadinejad administration over its handling of Iran's nuclear program. "We could have done better and acted in such a way that so many [United Nations Security Council] resolutions were issued against us. We are now trying to return the nuclear dossier to the [International Atomic Energy] Agency, and there is no way but to resist them [the West]."

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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