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10 Feb 2010 19:32No Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Iranian press, and excerpts where the source is in English. The link to the news organization or blog is provided at the top of each item. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the story in perspective.

Huge rally and protests mark Iran revolution

AP Feb. 11, 2010

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians massed Thursday in central Tehran to mark the anniversary of the revolution that created the country's Islamic republic, while a heavy security force fanned out across the city and moved quickly to snuff out opposition counterprotests.

Police clashed with protesters in several sites around Tehran, firing tear gas to disperse them and paintballs to mark them for arrest. Dozens of hard-liners with batons and pepper spray attacked the convoy of a senior opposition leader, Mahdi Karroubi, smashing his car windows and forcing him to turn back as he tried to join the protests, his son Hossein Karroubi told The Associated Press.

The opposition turnout was dwarfed by the huge crowd at the state-run celebrations. Many were bused in to central Azadi, or Freedom, Square to hear an address by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who proclaimed a new success in Iran's uranium enrichment program and dismissed new U.S. sanctions.

And the massive security clampdown appeared to succeed in preventing protesters from converging into a cohesive demonstrations. Large numbers of riot police, members of the Revolutionary Guard and Basij militiamen, some on motorcycles, deployed in back streets near key squares and major avenues in the capital to move against protesters.

Opposition Web sites spoke of groups of protesters in the hundreds, compared to much larger crowds in past demonstrations

One protester told The Associated Press she had tried to join the demonstrations but soon left in disappointment. "There were 300 of us, maximum 500. Against 10,000 people," she told an AP reporter outside Iran. She said there were few clashes.

"It means they won and we lost. They defeated us. They were able to gather so many people," she said. "But this doesn't mean we have been defeated for good. It's a defeat for now, today. We need time to regroup."

Another protester insisted the opposition had come out in significant numbers, but "the problem was that we were not able to gather in one place because they (security forces) were very violent."

"Maybe people got scared," he said. "The idea wasn't to lose or win today ... But what is certain, today was not a good day."

Iran has made first batch of higher-grade uranium, president says

Guardian Feb. 11, 2010

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed today that Iran has produced its first batch of uranium enriched to a higher level, just two days after it said it began the process as part of its controversial nuclear programme.

Ahmadinejad reiterated to hundreds of thousands of cheering Iranians on the anniversary of the 1979 foundation of the Islamic republic that the country was now a "nuclear state", though he insisted Iran had no intention of building nuclear weapons. It was not clear how much of the enriched material had actually been produced.

Iran opposition leaders attacked as regime floods streets

TO | Feb. 11, 2010

Iran's regime sought to thwart another massive opposition protest today by turning out its own supporters in huge numbers, imposing draconian restrictions on the media and making the headline-grabbing announcement that the Islamic Republic was now a "nuclear state".

Determined to prevent the so-called Green Movement from hijacking the biggest day in Iran's calendar, the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, the regime also flooded Tehran with security forces who moved swiftly and violently to break up opposition demonstrations.

The opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammed Khatami - a former president - were attacked. Zahra Eshraghi, the granddaughter of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 revolution, was briefly arrested. She is married to Mr Khatami's brother and her own brother, Hassan, has made clear his hostility to the regime.

Clashes Spread to Northern Neighborhoods of Tehran

P2E | Feb. 11, 2010

Clashes between armed forces and supporters of the Green Movement , which erupted this morning in the western parts of Tehran, have now spread to the northern parts of the city.

Green Road Movement (Jaras): According to Jaras, scattered and violent clashes in Molasadra and other streets around Vanak Square have been reported.

The police are violently attacking protesters, but the sheer number of protesters has forced the police to retreat on many occasions. Scattered gunfire has been heard around the square, and police forces have fired large quantities of tear gas, demonstrating the police forces' fatigue and their inability to disperse the supporters of the Green Movement.

Clashes Continue in Tehran & Other Cities

Rahana | Feb. 11, 2010

clashes which erupted this morning in the western parts of Tehran have now spread to the central & northern parts of the capital including Kargar and Jalal-Al-Ahmad Avenues near the Tehran University dormitory.

There are reports of scattered clashes on Mola-Sadra Ave, near Vanak square. In Kargar Ave government forces were extremely violent, but had to retreat as they were outnumbered by the protesters. Eyewitnesses have seen anti-riot guards on motorcycles and in full gear, who were moving towards the central parts of Tehran.

There are reports of sporadic clashes around Setad square and side streets in downtown Shiraz. Similar reports have been received from Isfahan, Ahvaz & Abadan.

Word has been circulating the protesters will try to gather again at 4 pm in the main squares of Tehran. Meanwhile government forces have taken position in most part of the city violently preventing any attempt by protesters to assemble.

Clashes Spread Through the Streets of Tehran

Rahana | Feb. 11, 2010

Protesters have clashed with security forces on Ashrafi-Esfahani highway, Sadeghieh sq, northwest corner of Azadi square and several other Tehran streets. Security forces have used tear gas and bullets to stop the protesters from reaching Azadi sq.
The protesters, whose numbers increase by the minute are fighting back and chanting anti-regime slogans.
There are also reports of ongoing clashes on Vesal Street and around Vanak square. An unknown number of protesters have reportedly been arrested around Vanak square and taken to a nearby building on Brazil Street.
The security forces are trying to stop the growing crowd from gathering at Enghelab & &Tir squares.

Pakistan PM greets Iran president on national day

APP | Feb. 11, 2020

Islamabad, 10 February: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani has sent a message of greetings to Iranian President Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad on their national day falling on 11 February.

In his message, the prime minister said: "On the auspicious occasion of the national day of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it gives me great pleasure to convey, on behalf of the government and people of Pakistan as well as on my own behalf our warmest felicitations and best wishes to Your Excellency, government and the fraternal people of the Islamic
Republic of Iran."

Pakistan and Iran are bound together in the eternal bonds of history, culture and religion, he said, and added: "It is my hope and determination to further strengthen these bonds through close and continued cooperation in diverse fields of the coming years."

"I take this opportunity to convey my sincere and best wishes for Your Excellency's personal well being and for the continued progress of the brotherly country of Iran," he added.

Cut-Offs Hamper Iran Communications, Social Sites

RFE/RL Feb. 11, 2010

Internet, mobile phone, e-mail, and SMS services in Iran have reportedly been disrupted, apparently in an attempt by authorities to prevent opposition activists from communicating and organizing protests.

Iran has been marking the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with a huge rally of government supporters in Tehran and smaller opposition counterprotests in the capital and elsewhere.

The son of opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi said it was very difficult to reach anyone in the capital by mobile phone.

Because of that, Mohammad Taghi Karrubi told RFE/RL's Radio Farda, he had no news from opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi and his wife.

"Unfortunately, communication networks are not operating properly today and it's very difficult to reach anyone, so so far we don't know from what part of the city Mr. [Musavi] and Mrs. Zahra Rahnavard have joined the demonstrations - or whether they have had an opportunity to do so," Karrubi said. "Unfortunately, we don't have any information about it because mobile phones are off. We have tried to call them but all our efforts to reach them were unsuccessful."

People set flag on fire and chant slogans against the regime during Ahmadinejad's Speech

P2E | Feb. 11, 2010

Around 12:20pm, while Ahmadinejad was giving speech in Azadi Square, people set the Islamic Republic's flag on fire and chanted anti-government slogans like "Death to Dictator." Oppressive forces quickly intervened and prevented the protest from growing. Two young women were arrested.

Iran: Crackdown's Torrent of Abuses

Payvand | Feb. 11, 2010

The scope of the Iranian government's crackdown on dissent since the disputed June 2009 elections is even broader and the abuses more flagrant than previously reported, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today that documents numerous instances of abuse. The government should immediately release all those still being held for peacefully expressing dissent and make certain that those responsible for human rights abuses are held accountable, Human Rights Watch said.

The 19-page report, "The Islamic Republic at 31: Post-Election Abuses Show Serious Human Rights Crisis," documents widespread human rights abuses, including extra-judicial killings; rapes and torture; violations of the rights to freedom of assembly and expression; and thousands of arbitrary arrests and detentions during the nine months since the election on June 12, 2009. Fresh details of abuse are coming to light even as the government organizes celebrations to mark the 31st anniversary of the revolution that paved the way for the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

"The Iranian government's effort to use anniversary celebrations to deflect attention from its human rights violations isn't going to work," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, "Instead, it should use the occasion to finally hold the abusers accountable."

The report is based on extensive phone interviews and email correspondence with protesters, journalists, human rights defenders, and the families of detained political figures. It says that the government is carrying on its campaign of intimidation, arrests, and convictions of individuals for peacefully exercising
their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. It has neither ended its crackdown nor held those responsible to account.

One former detainee at Kahrizak detention center outside Tehran spoke to Human Rights Watch by phone about his experience:

On June 26, prison guards one more time set up fake executions, cursing and randomly beating people who asked for water or to use the toilet. I said, "Execute me if you want and get it over with." I received a kick to my stomach and when I fell to the ground more kicks in the stomach, until I started throwing up blood. Another man said, "Take this faggot and make him pregnant, so he won't be a smartass again." That man grabbed me violently and pulled me to another location. He tied my hands and feet and pulled down my underwear and [...] while he was raping me he said, ".... You can't even defend your own ass, how do you want to start a velvet revolution?" I threw up
blood and passed out.

The demonstrations that took place during the weeks after the disputed election were the biggest in the country since those that preceded the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 and the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Riot police and Basij paramilitary forces confronted the demonstrators with batons, clubs, and in some cases live ammunition, making no distinction between the overwhelming majority of peaceful demonstrators and the few engaging in acts of vandalism. State violence was not limited to the sites of demonstrations: plainclothes and Basij paramilitary forces attacked student dormitories and staged nighttime raids in residential areas. In June alone, at least 40 individuals died as a
direct result of the governmental crackdowns.

Authorities also arrested thousands of ordinary protesters and scores of well-0known political figures and activists critical of the government. The worst abuses against ordinary protesters took place at police stations and detention centers, most notoriously at the Kahrizak detention center. At least three detainees died due to injuries sustained there, as a parliamentary inquiry has acknowledged. Former prisoners held in police detention centers have alleged that authorities sexually assaulted and raped them while in detention.

Authorities also abused detainees in Evin, a large prison complex where Human Rights Watch has previously documented systematic abuses. Prominent political figures and activists held in Evin gave confessions that appeared to have been coerced and that the government used against them in mass trials of over 100 defendants in August.

Despite widespread campaigns of arrests and intimidation, critics of the government have continued to use important national and religious holidays as occasions to demonstrate peacefully their opposition to the government and its policies. Most recently, in late December, demonstrators gathered in major cities throughout the country to mark the religious holiday of Ashura, which coincided with mourning rituals for the highest-ranking clerical critic of the government, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. Police and Basij paramilitary forces attacked demonstrators in Tehran and Qom, wounding many and killing at least eight.

Authorities also arrested scores of additional activists and protesters, and threatened to try some on charges that carry the death penalty.

"The government's campaigns of intimidation have not worked to silence its critics," said Stork, "It's time for them to end their repressive tactics and guarantee citizens the right to express dissent."

The scope of the Iranian government's crackdown on dissent since the disputed June 2009 elections is even broader and the abuses more flagrant than previously reported, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today that documents numerous instances of abuse. The government should immediately release all those still being held for peacefully expressing dissent and make certain that those responsible for human rights abuses are held accountable, Human Rights Watch said.

The 19-page report, "The Islamic Republic at 31: Post-Election Abuses Show Serious Human Rights Crisis," documents widespread human rights abuses, including extra-judicial killings; rapes and torture; violations of the rights to freedom of assembly and expression; and thousands of arbitrary arrests and detentions during the nine months since the election on June 12, 2009. Fresh details of abuse are coming to light even as the government organizes celebrations to mark the 31st anniversary of the revolution that paved the way for the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

"The Iranian government's effort to use anniversary celebrations to deflect attention from its human rights violations isn't going to work," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, "Instead, it should use the occasion to finally hold the abusers accountable."

US to Target Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps with New Sanctions

VOA | Feb. 10, 2010

The United States is targeting affiliates of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps with new sanctions designed to curtail the activities of individuals and companies involved in Iran's nuclear and missile program.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Wednesday it is freezing the assets of Revolutionary Guard General Rostam Qasemi and four subsidiaries of a construction company he oversees for the military.

Iran rewards Basij militia with political clout

AP | Feb. 10, 2010

During an Iranian government meeting late last month, a top adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad brought a proposal to expand the political voice of a
group more known for its street muscle: the civilian militia corps called the Basij.

The motion passed easily, according to pro-government Web sites.

The Revolutionary Guard has always been a centerpiece of Iran's Islamic establishment. But the latest door opened to its militia wing suggests a deepening policy role by Iran's most hard-line groups as opposition forces grow bolder in their demands and the West considers tighter sanctions over its nuclear impasse with Tehran.

What's perhaps less noticed -- but with even deeper significance -- is the evolving role of the huge Basij force from loosely organized Islamic vigilantes to a more cohesive force with increasing channels to Iran's leadership and security apparatus.

"It's clear that the Revolutionary Guard has been increasingly inserted in Iran's decision-making equation during the crisis," said Patrick Clawson, deputy director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Expanding the role of the Basij is a natural extension of this."

The Basij's big brother, the Revolutionary Guard, has long been a pillar of Iran's regime as a force separate from the ordinary armed forces. The Guard now has a hand in every critical area including missile development, oil resources, dam building, road construction, telecommunications and nuclear technology.

It also has absorbed the paramilitary Basij as a full-fledged part of its command structure -- giving the militia greater funding and a stronger presence in Iran's internal politics.

The chief of the Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, often accuses dissidents of waging a "soft revolution" against the Islamic system and says forces such as the Basij are needed more than ever to quash internal threats.

On Monday, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed to deliver a "punch in the mouth" to opposition groups if they follow through with calls for marches on Thursday during state-run celebrations of the Islamic Revolution.

He said the Basij would be deployed to provide "order and security."

It was the latest nod by the ruling clerics that the Basij is moving deeper into the fold.

At the late January Cabinet meeting, one of Ahmadinejad's top advisers, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, made a speech praising the Basij before the vote to give the group an open invitation to get involved with decisions and policies in every ministry, according to Rajanews.com, a pro-Ahmadinejad Web site.

Basij leaders also are reportedly asking for another budget increase for the next Iranian year that starts in late March. Last year, the Basij funding was boosted a staggering 200 percent to more than $500 million, according to Sobh-e Sadegh, a publication controlled by the Revolutionary Guard.

No one in the embattled government wants to risk ruffling groups such as the Basij, which has remained among the strongest supporters of Ahmadinejad.

"They can serve almost as Ahmadinejad's private army," said William O. Beeman, a University of Minnesota professor who has written on Iranian affairs.

The higher political profile for the Basij also appears to fit into efforts to expand hard-line oversight in schools and universities. The Basij have been increasingly active in recruitment as the political tensions grow.

"If they acquire more power as a body, they will be able to recruit more forces who will see this as an instant route toward social mobility and power," said Beeman.

Iran court cuts jail term for U.S.-Iranian scholar

Reuters | Feb. 10, 2010

An Iranian appeal court has reduced to five years the jail sentence for an Iranian-American scholar detained after last year's disputed election, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported on Wednesday.

In October, official media said Kian Tajbakhsh was sentenced to more than 12 years in jail.

"The appeal court sentenced my client to five years in jail," said lawyer Houshang Azhari, Fars reported. "It was a very good reduction (of the sentence)," he said.

Iranian Intifada starts early from the Southern city of Lar

Elaph | Feb. 9, 2010

An Iranian opposition source confirmed that the popular manifestations and demonstrations against the system that the Iranians are planning on organizing next Thursday for the commemoration day of the Iranian revolution in 1979, have had an early start from the city of Lar in the South, which has been witnessing growing disturbances for the past two days as the demonstrators attacked the premises of the security guards in addition to governmental buildings and banks, at a time where the sit-in of the parents of the Evin prison detainees is expanding.

The source ensured that the citizens of the Southern Iranian city of Lar in the Fars governorate, which is inhabited by half a million persons, launched their Intifada against the authorities some days ago. [The Intifada] has expanded in the past two days in such a way that the Guards Militias and the Basij were unable to confront them since the [demonstrators] staged objection marches for kilometers and rallied afterwards in front of the city [Mosque] all while shouting anti-regime slogans such as "we all stand together" and "concerned officials you must step down" and "death to the compromisers.

U.S. Sanctions Four Iranian Firms

WSJ | Feb. 10, 2010

The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday froze the assets of an individual and four companies affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard General Rostam Qasemi was among those sanctioned. He is also the commander of Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, the engineering arm of the IRGC that helps fund IRGC operations. The parties sanctioned are considered supporters of IRGC, which has been designated a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction by the U.S.

"As the IRGC consolidates control over broad swaths of the Iranian economy, displacing ordinary Iranian businessmen in favor of a select group of insiders, it is hiding behind companies like Khatam al-Anbiya and its affiliates to maintain vital ties to the outside world," Treasury's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
Stuart Levey said.

The companies sanctioned include: Fater Engineering Instituten Imensazen Consultant Engineers Institute, Makin Institute and Rahab Institute. These firms are owned or controlled by Khatam, or have acted on behalf of Khatam. Khatam al-Anbiya is owned or controlled by the IRGC and is involved in the construction of streets, highways, tunnels, pipelines, among other infrastructure projects.

"The profits from these activities are available to support the full range of the IRGC's illicit activities, including (weapons of mass destruction)proliferation and support for terrorism," the Treasury said.

Tehran Has Little Reason to Fear Sanctions

Spiegel | Feb. 10, 2010

Iranian President Ahmadinejad has little reason to fear the impact of Western sanctions. Instead he is pushing ahead with uranium enrichment efforts.

The West is sharpening the tone of its threats against Iran, but Tehran so far remains unimpressed and has even begun enriching uranium to 20 percent. Any new sanctions imposed against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime are likely to be just as ineffective as existing ones. Western tensions with Iran are escalating once again, but will the West take action this time?

The United States, France, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, are all demanding that the "pressure" on Iran be ratcheted up. It's time for new sanctions, they say, to force Iran to come around in the dispute over its nuclear program. If forced, they say they are even prepared to take action independently of the United Nations Security Council, where China has been hard-nosed in its refusal to agree to further punitive measures against the regime in Tehran.

The threats, though, have left Iran cold. Indeed, Tehran hasn't even bothered to respond. Instead the country is starting to enrich its own uranium.

Iranian indifference to the possibility of sanctions has long been a pattern. Last year, the international community set a deadline for Iran to come to the table for serious negotiations over its nuclear program. But the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad allowed every ultimatum to expire, and each time he came away without so much as a scratch.

The Iranians' tactics are always the same. First, they give the impression they are going to make concessions. But then they just continue as before. Without a military option, which the West has repeatedly ruled out, Iran feels safe. And the Islamic Republic is likewise not at all concerned about economic sanctions -- a sentiment, say Iran observers, that is not only justified, but backed by decades of experience.

Khomeini's grandson takes on state broadcaster

Etemad

Seyyed Hasan Khomeini could not bear the approach taken by the Voice and Vision any longer with regards to the late founder of the Islamic Revolution and drafted a strongly worded letter to the head of this organization and warned him against broadcasting selective remarks made by late Imam Khomeini. Of course, the grandson of late Imam Khomeini had warned Zarghami that if he does not stop this biased approach, he will publish the text of his letter for the public, in order to make them aware about the negligence being made on the late Imam. This news was provided by Sheikh Ghodratollah Alikhani, a member of the Line of Imam Faction, to its news centre. Although the selective approach adopted by the state broadcasting - which must belong to the Iranian nation - is nothing new in the history of the Islamic system and Revolution. However, its approach during the upcoming 31st anniversary of t he Islamic Republic by broadcasting unpublished speeches and pictures from its archive, caused the guardianship of the shrine of Imam, to draft a letter addressed to the head of this network. Based on this, the state broadcasting once again became the centre of news and the complaints this time reached the followers of the Imam.

During the past 13 years and after the public's trust in the reformist to steer the government was seen, the Voice and Vision selected a different approach against the government, the Majlis and the reformist city and village council. This went on to an extent that for instance the news regarding Seyyed Mohammad Khatami's foreign visits to the Western countries like France were broadcast repeatedly. The broadcast of the sixth Majlis were all about political quarrels and ignoring people's needs and the first city council was also busy bickering among themselves. This approach continued during the reformist government and towards its end with Zarghami's entering the broadcast organization, the path was followed more aggressively. After the appointment of the ninth government and in opinion of "the reformist and neutral media experts", pro-government programmes became ten-fold, which was even called "inverted broadcasting" by some critics.

Iran's president to hold news conference on 16 February

ILNA | Feb. 9, 2010

President Ahmadinejad will attend a press conference next Tuesday [16 February] and answer foreign and domestic press.

Iran says nuclear fuel deal "still on the table"

Reuters | Feb. 10, 2010

Iran believes a nuclear fuel exchange with the West is still possible, state television said on Wednesday, a day after the Islamic Republic's expansion of uranium enrichment drew a U.S. warning of more sanctions soon.

"The deal is still on the table," Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said on English-language Press TV.

But he appeared to reiterate Iran's demand for a simultaneous fuel swap on its soil -- a likely non-starter for Western powers who want Tehran to send most of its low-enriched uranium abroad before it gets higher-grade material in return.

Salehi said Iran's uranium could be sealed and under the "custody" of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the country, until it receives the fuel it needs for a medical research reactor.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the international community was moving "fairly quickly" toward imposing broader sanctions on Iran, after Tehran said it had started making uranium enriched to 20 percent.

Salehi said Iran would halt production of 20 percent fuel if it received it from abroad.

But he made clear Tehran was not backing down on its demand for a simultaneous exchange, a condition unlikely to be accepted by the major powers involved in efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the long-running dispute.

"The uranium can be under the custody of the agency (IAEA) in Iran and it could be sealed ... until the time we receive the 20 percent enriched fuel from outside," Salehi said.

"If they come forward and supply the fuel then we will stop this process of 20 percent enrichment," he added.

Press TV, Iran's English-language satellite television, quoted Salehi as saying Iran had decided to produce higher-grade uranium because Western nations refused to supply the fuel Iran needs for its medical reactor.

It said the reactor produces isotopes "crucial for life saving medical care to more than 850,000 Iranian patients."

Centrifuges would need to be recalibrated for 20 percent production -- preparatory work that would normally take a month or two. A diplomat close to the IAEA said inspectors had noticed no such preparations before Monday.

Although a bomb requires about 90 percent purity, getting to 20 percent is a big step because low-level enrichment is the most time-consuming and difficult stage of the process.

Possible targets for any new sanctions include Iran's central bank, the Revolutionary Guards, who Western powers say are key to Iran's nuclear program, shipping firms and its energy sector, Western diplomats say.

The threat of Al-Qa'idah is a gift to Iran

An-Nahar | Feb. 9, 2010

Israel's anger will probably flare up while Iran will feel calm and confident in the aftermath of Hillary Clinton's statement that the Iranian threat is "real" but Al-Qa'idah's threat is bigger...The conclusion reached by the Secretary of State is not a slip of the tongue or a side answer to a non-important question during a regular TV interview. This conclusion is the result of a political and cultural minded effort of the American elite as Washington asked itself -in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks - the big question: Which is more dangerous for the West and for democracy, [is it] the stringent Shi'i system of the ayatollahs in Tehran and its revolutionary extensions in some countries, or [is it] the Sunni fundamentalism inciting jihad and accusing [people] of infidelity, especially represented by Al-Qa'idah and its supporting sources, be it religious or political ones?

The answer to that question was that Salafi Sunni militancy was the most dangerous. Thus came the international war against terrorism represented by Al-Qa'idah and its sisters along with the Invasion of Afghanistan, the liquidation of the "Taliban" and the pursuit of their "outgrowths" in Pakistan, Indonesia, Somalia and lately in Yemen. The reconfirmation of the same answer specifically at this moment where the world's eyes are turning into the fierce confrontation between the West and Iran, means that the main threat remains unchanged, that the enemy is still the same and that the secondary enemies, no matter how dangerous they are, must not blur out the main target...Therefore, the door of diplomacy with Iran has not been closed. The direct blow, or the [blow] that is to be dealt through Israel and that some are expecting is not yet present on the agenda despite all the fuss that is made about it.

The Good News is Really Bad

Aawsat

It may look like some of the western statements concerning Iran are good for Tehran however this is not the case. This is because after Ahmadinejad announced that his country is set to begin producing nuclear fuel enriched at higher levels, France said that they are not certain of the possibility of imposing international sanctions on Iran due to Chinese non-cooperation, while the US Secretary of Defense said that "the only path that is left to us at this point, it seems to me, is the pressure track, but it will require all of the international community to work together."

These are statements that seem at first glance to be an Iranian victory with regards to its dealings with the West, especially since Iran - according to the German Foreign Minister - has "repeatedly bluffed and played tricks. It has played for time" and this is in order to prevent any attempt to unify the international community against Tehran.

Malaysia replaces UN envoy after Iran nuclear vote

AP | Feb. 10, 2010

Malaysia said Wednesday it will appoint a new envoy to the U.N. atomic agency in Vienna, but denied he was being penalized for voting against a resolution censuring Iran over its nuclear program.

Mohamad Arshad Hussain's two-year contract as ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency will not be renewed when it expires next month, Deputy Foreign Minister A. Kohilan Pillay said.

Mohamad Arshad was also elected chairman of the IAEA's board of governors in September.

Pillay denied the decision was based on Mohamad Arshad's controversial vote at an IAEA meeting Nov. 27, saying it was part of government efforts to cultivate "new talents" for diplomatic posts.

Malaysia together with Cuba and Venezuela voted against a resolution demanding Iran freeze uranium enrichment. The IAEA passed the resolution.

The Foreign Ministry recalled Mohamad Arshad after the vote, ordering him to return to Malaysia "for consultation" because "the voting was not in accordance with the procedures of the government." He has since returned to Vienna.

Ministry officials have declined to say how Mohamad Arshad should have voted.

Iran ready for gas export to Switzerland

Press TV | Feb. 10, 2010

A senior Iranian oil official says Iran is ready to provide Switzerland with about one million cubic metres of natural gas per day.

"Already Iran is ready to start to its gas exports to this European country based on the contract," the managing director of National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC), Seyfollah Jashnsaz, told Mehr news agency.

The National Iranian Gas Export Company and Switzerland's Elektrizitaetsgesellschaft Laufenburg signed a 25-year deal in March 2008 for the delivery of over 5 billion cubic metres of gas per year.

The deal was aimed at reducing Bern's dependency on Russian gas.

Jashnsaz added that Switzerland and Turkey are in talks to pave the way for the delivery of Iranian gas.

"There is a possibility for exports of one million cubic metres of natural gas per day to Switzerland," the official said.

In the first phase, Iran will export 1.5 billion cubic metres per year to Switzerland. The amount would be increased to an annual 4 billion cubic metres by 2012, Jashnsaz said

China's CNPC Gets Nod For Iran South Pars Gas Project

Reuters | Feb. 10, 2010

China's CNPC has clinched a deal to develop Phase 11 of Iran's South Pars gas project, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing an unidentified industry executive.

CNPC will start drillings in the gas field as early as March, the report said.

The company won Iranian government for the project, valued at $4.7 billion, at the end of 2009, the report said.

"The real work will start as soon as after the Chinese New Year holiday," said the official, according to Reuters.

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