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Report: Turkey Seizes Iran Arms Convoy; Guard General to Head OPEC

05 Aug 2011 02:30Comments

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Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

TruckConvoyJJ.jpg2:30 a.m., 14 Mordad/August 5 According to a report in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Turkish authorities, for the second time this year, have intercepted a shipment of Iranian arms bound for Syria. Diplomatic sources told the paper that the ultimate intended recipient of the weapons was probably the Lebanese Hezbollah. Today's Zaman in Turkey picks up the story:
The Turkish authorities stopped a convoy of trucks carrying weapons and ammunition in the southeastern province of Kilis. There was no information on when the interception took place.

In April, it emerged that Turkey had seized a cache of weapons Iran was attempting to export in breach of a UN arms embargo. Turkish authorities later informed a UN Security Council panel about the interception.

The report to the council's Iran sanctions committee, which oversees compliance with the four rounds of punitive steps the 15-nation body has imposed on Iran over its nuclear program, said a March 21 inspection turned up the weapons, which were listed as "auto spare parts" on the plane's documents. The plane was bound for Aleppo, Syria, and was given permission to pass through Turkish airspace provided it made a "technical stop" at Diyarbakır airport, the report said.

The report also said a search of the Iranian "YasAir Cargo Airlines" Ilyushin-76 revealed a number of "prohibited military items" -- 60 Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles, 14 BKC/Bixi machine guns, nearly 8,000 rounds of BKC/AK-47 ammunition, 560 60-mm mortar shells and 1,288 120-mm mortar shells. "The above-mentioned items were seized and have been stored in a military warehouse in Diyarbakır," said the report, which was sent to the Iran sanctions committee on March 29.

GhasemiMajlesFars.jpgThe Majles's approval Wednesday of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Brigadier General Rostam Ghasemi to serve as Iran's new minister of oil may have significant international repercussions, as the Guardian explains:
A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander targeted by international sanctions has taken over the presidency of OPEC. [...]

Rostam Ghasemi, head of the Khatam ol-Anbiya military and industrial base, was one of four ministers nominated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to join his cabinet last week and approved by Iran's conservative-dominated parliament.

Ghasemi is currently subject to US, EU, and Australian sanctions and his assets have been blacklisted by the US Treasury and Western powers. [...]

The appointment of Ghasemi as Iran's oil minister automatically makes him the head of OPEC which has a crucial role in determining oil prices.

As its second-largest crude oil exporter, Iran took [over] the presidency of OPEC after 36 years last October and Ghasemi's position will give the Revolutionary Guards a unique opportunity to influence an international organisation.

While Ghasemi immediately assumes the OPEC presidency, it is as yet uncertain how fully he will be able to play the role. As Reuters observes,

It was not immediately clear if the EU sanctions would prevent him from travelling to OPEC headquarters in Vienna. Iran's nuclear energy chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani was able to attend a nuclear safety meeting in the Austrian capital in June, despite being under U.N. sanctions.

Qasemi's most important task will be to stem declining output from Iran's mature oil fields and develop gas resources suffering from sanctions restricting foreign investment.

This past May, Ahmadinejad sacked Massoud Mirkazemi, the previous oil minister, and declared his intention to appoint himself as the ministry's interim chief, which would have made him OPEC president. The move prompted an outcry among Iranian legislators and was soon thwarted by Iran's Guardian Council, which ruled that it would be a constitutional violation.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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