February 22, 2018

Iran Watch – February 9th, 2009

[spoiler title=”Iran: A young man sentenced to a barbaric punishment of having his eyes blinded by Sulfuric acid”]February 5, 2009

NCRI website

NCRI – The Iranian regime’s Supreme Court approved a barbaric sentence of blinding the eyes of a young man by pouring Sulfuric acid in his eyes. Mullahs’ judiciary in Tehran had earlier sentenced the 27-year-old man by the name of Majid to have his eyes blinded by pouring 10 drops of Sulfuric acid in them. The sentence was issued based on mullahs’ inhuman and barbaric laws under the name of religious law.
For the past 30 years, the Iranian people had to face with the mullahs’ religious tyranny which has only brought misery and hardship to them and their most basic rights have been violated in the most brutal manner. Keeping silence on the ruling religious fascism’s cruelty in the past 30 years has emboldened the regime in its bid to suppress the Iranian people.
The Iranian Resistance calls on all human rights organizations in particular the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to condemn such medieval practices and reiterates that the referral of the regime’s human rights dossier to the UN Security Council for adoption of binding measures is more crucial today than any other time.
Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
February 4, 2009 [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”The European Union Does the Right Thing. – Will the U.S. Follow Suit and Take the People’s Mojahedin Off the Terror Blacklist?”] February 5, 2009
Fox Forum
By Alireza Jafarzadeh
Foreign Affairs Analyst/Foxnews.com Contributor
Bowing to the definitive rulings of seven European high courts and finally adhering to Europe’s long-held claim to the rule of law, on Monday January 26, 2009, the 27-member European Union removed Iran’s main opposition, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK), from its terror blacklist. The EU decision sent shockwaves through Tehran’s leadership, which had invested much of its diplomatic and economic leverage over the past seven years in preventing the de-listing of the PMOI. It marked a timely and significant EU policy-correction toward the ayatollahs’ regime. And most importantly, it can serve as an impetus for the ongoing Iran policy review within President Obama’s administration.

In 2002, in continuation of its ill-advised policy of “constructive engagement,” the European Union succumbed to Tehran’s main demand for political suppression of the PMOI and blacklisted the group. It was a futile bid to mollify the ayatollahs, reflective of the EU’s insatiable appetite for lucrative trade with Tehran. But the EU did much harm to the international campaign against terrorism and extremism when it turned the terror blacklist into a political plaything. Agence France Presse reported in October 2004 that the EU’s so-called big three, France, Britain, and Germany, had promised Tehran that they would continue to regard the PMOI “as a terrorist organization” if Tehran agreed to continue its nuclear talks with the EU-3. Well, the EU continued blacklisting the PMOI, while Tehran pushed forward its nuclear drive at full speed, using the talks as diplomatic cover. According to The Wall Street Journal of May 8, 2008: “Iranian officials have urged suppression of the MEK [PMOI] in negotiations with Western governments over Tehran’s nuclear program and other issues.”

It is now clear, the EU had pursued a counter-productive policy by losing the only leverage it had over Tehran by blacklisting Iran’s main opposition, and as a result, restrained much of the opposition’s potential-to the benefit of the Iranian regime. Therefore it was the ruling clerics in Tehran that obtained leverage over the EU by getting their main opposition blacklisted by the Europeans. In the absence of any leverage over Tehran, with very concession provided by the EU, Tehran got greedier and accelerated its nuclear weapons program. [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Iran’s Satellite Stirs Nuclear Concerns”]

On Tuesday [February 3] with great domestic fanfare, Iran put its first satellite, called Omid, into orbit. But to leaders and analysts in the west, the satellite launch represents a forward step in Iran’s apparent quest to be both nuclear capable and able to deliver a warhead on target.

Just days ago, Iran joined the nations who have a presence in space. The satellite Iran put in orbit has heightened concerns in Washington and elsewhere about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

In October, 1957, the then-Soviet Union launched its first satellite, Sputnik. Overnight, the West was forced to face the reality that if Moscow could put a satellite in orbit, it could also put a nuclear warhead on target.

Today, many analysts say they believe Iran appears to be focused both on nuclear weapons and missile capability. The motivation, they say, is self-protection, which is usually called “deterrence.”

“They want a nuclear weapon to defend their territory, defend their government. They live in a very tough neighborhood. They are surrounded by nuclear states – Russia, China, Pakistan, India. And, too, Israel and the United States,” The Ploughshares Fund, President Joseph Cirincione explains.

But at the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs framed Iran’s space launch as potentially aggressive. “This action does not convince us that Iran is acting responsibly to advance stability or security in the region,” he said.

Israel has been able since the early 1980’s to reach at least part of Iran with its Jericho II missiles. And many analysts say a longer range version is being developed. Diplomatic experts say, to Iran’s leaders that is a justification to become nuclear capable. But reaching deterrence with Israel or any state is, perhaps, still years away according to nuclear analyst David Albright, founder of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.

“Iran has a formidable challenge to be able to put a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile,” Albright said. “If the missile is going to be small, then it has an even greater challenge, because the nuclear warhead has to be small. And it can be very difficult, particularly for a country like Iran to actually make a warhead small enough to fit on a small missile.”

Iran continues to complete its nuclear reactor at Bushehr with Russian assistance.

The Bushehr facility is visible. But much of Iran’s nuclear program is hidden behind a wall of denials, though there are some structures in Natanz and Arak that have been identified by experts as strongly resembling nuclear facilities.

Though the International Atomic Energy Agency is not allowed to conduct on-site verifications, western powers suspect Iran is planning to use enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons.

Senior defense analyst Anthony Cordesman outlines what is known: “Iran officially denies that it is seeking nuclear weapons.”

“It is also moving forward with centrifuges which can be used to produce nuclear weapons materials.”

“It is moving forward with a heavy water reactor, which is a way of producing plutonium that cannot be controlled.”

The United Nations, with strong U.S. and European Union backing, have imposed three rounds of sanctions. But Iran has refused to comply with demands to halt its nuclear program. Joseph Cirincione is one of a number of analysts who see three options: “One is military attack. Most experts agree that would damage the program. But, it might actually accelerate it, and it would certainly start a third war in the Middle East. The second is sanctions. Try to convince Iran that unless it stops the program, its economy will grind to a halt. There is no evidence that will succeed. The third is engagement, to actually negotiate with Iran, and use some of the pressure of sanctions, but also, provide the incentives. We have not tried that yet. While the Europeans have been engaged in talks, it is really the United States that is the key.”

But Cirincione and others say that the upcoming elections in Iran, and the desire by its leaders to continue to portray the United States as the enemy, will likely prevent or dampen any official response for now to President Barack Obama’s recent overtures.

View Source Here[/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Iran-bound cargo seized in Greece, official says”] AP
February 6, 2009

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – The cargo of a ship bound for Iran was seized near Athens because it violated an international embargo, a Greek government official said Friday, and a Greek newspaper reported that the vessel was carrying steel that can be used to make missile components.

On Monday, Iran launched an Omid satellite, a move that touched off concerns among experts in Europe, the United States and Israel about the potential of links between its satellite program and its work with missiles and nuclear technology.

The ship, the Susanna, was traveling from Slovenia to Iran when it was stopped in December carrying four containers loaded with cargo “banned under international law,” and they were removed during a customs inspection at Elefsis, west of Athens, the official said on condition of anonymity because his department was not directly involved in the search.
The official did not identify the cargo or the ship’s owner. He also did not say why the seizure – which was reported by Israeli media on Friday – has not been publicly announced by the Greek government. On Sunday, Greece’s Elfetherotypia newspaper said the cargo taken by inspectors was steel that can be used to make missile components, but the government official refused to comment on the report. Greece’s Fraud agency conducted the search and seized the cargo, but its officials were not available for comment Friday. [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”British Council Halts Iran Work After ‘Intimidation'”] Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) — The British Council, a cultural body, suspended operations in Iran after “intimidation” of its local staff, as a senior Iranian official accused the West of trying to foment unrest in the Islamic republic.

The council halted all activities in Tehran until its Iranian employees are “able to conduct their work without fear of intimidation,” Deputy Director Rob Lynes said in a statement today. Many of the council’s local workers were summoned to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s office in December and told to resign, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The U.S. and Western nations are using non-governmental organizations to undermine governments whose policies they oppose, state-run Press TV news agency cited Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as saying. The British Council is a charity funded by the U.K. Foreign Office.

Iran has grown more wary of Western support for opposition movements since then-President George W. Bush in 2002 declared the Persian Gulf state to be part of an “axis of evil” that also included Iraq and North Korea. His successor, President Barack Obama, is seeking to establish direct dialogue between the U.S. and Iran while maintaining demands that the country heed Western concerns over its nuclear activities and alleged support for extremist groups in the Middle East.

Iran, which is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought theocratic leaders to power, will defeat any efforts to undermine the republic because the Basiji paramilitary force is playing an active role in the country and enjoys the people’s support, Haddad Adel said yesterday, according to Press TV.

Islamic Revolution

The Basiji militia, which comprises young volunteers who promote the values of the Islamic revolution, is a national network affiliated with mosques. Ahmadinejad will try to secure a second term in a presidential election scheduled for June 12.

U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband denounced the “unacceptable” pressure put on British Council staff members by the Iranian government.

“It is a matter of great regret that a country with Iran’s culture should reject attempts to break down barriers and build cultural dialogue,” Miliband said in a statement posted on the Foreign Office’s Web site today. He added that the work of the British Council was “completely non-political” and focused on improving ties between the U.K. and Iran.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi and officials at the presidency weren’t available for comment today, which is the start of the weekend in Iran.

Moscow Offices Shut

Russia last year forced the British Council to close all offices outside Moscow after the main successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB called in local staff for questioning. President Dmitry Medvedev later said the body was engaged in espionage. Russia also tightened controls over non-government organizations financed by the West after U.S.-backed opposition leaders came to power in neighboring Georgia and Ukraine in 2003 and 2004 following popular protests.

British members of the council haven’t worked in Iran for two years after the government in Tehran stopped granting them visas, the BBC cited Martin Davidson, the group’s London-based chief executive officer, as saying.

The council says about 13,000 Iranians in Tehran participated last year in programs that include learning English and research.

The British Council promotes cultural exchanges, such as U.K. theater performances and educational opportunities for foreign nationals to study at U.K. universities.

To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Meyer in Dubai at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net; Ladane Nasseri in Tehran at lnasseri@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net; Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net.

View Source Here [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Iran Denies Visas for U.S. Women’s Badminton Team”] By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, February 5, 2009

TEHRAN, Feb. 4 — Iran did not issue visas for a group of U.S. female badminton players it had invited to compete in the country in events starting Friday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday, citing the “time-consuming process” of handling such applications.

“They will not participate in the competition,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said during his weekly news conference.

The Iranian Badminton Federation, a part of Iran’s Physical Education Organization, which is headed by Vice President Mohammad Aliabadi, had invited the eight players, along with four coaches and managers, to participate in a tournament during celebrations to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

“We are disappointed and hope the Americans will forgive us,” said Zahra Tayyebin, head of the Badminton Federation’s public relations office. “They should know that the Badminton Federation did all the necessary follow-ups for the visas.”

Thirteen other foreign teams, including squads from Malaysia, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, will take part in the tournament.

The Obama administration said it was mystified by the visa refusal, especially because the president and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have expressed a willingness to engage with Tehran. The badminton team’s visit would have been the first cultural exchange under the new administration, but it was arranged as part of a concerted effort by the Bush administration since 2006 to promote cultural, medical and athletic contacts between two countries that have not had diplomatic relations for three decades.

The United States cut ties with Tehran during the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, in which a group of radical students held 52 Americans captive for 444 days after storming the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

“This is a very unfortunate situation,” State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood said Wednesday.

“You know, as the secretary and others have said, when the Iranians unclench that fist, there will be a hand waiting to greet them,” Wood added. “We are very interested in trying to improve relations between the American people and the Iranian people, and this is not a good step forward in terms of trying to promote people-to-people exchanges.”

On Monday, the U.S. State Department had said it hoped to reciprocate the Iranian Badminton Federation’s invitation by inviting Iran’s national team to the United States in July.

Since January 2007, more than 75 Iranian athletes have taken part in wrestling, weightlifting, water polo and table tennis competitions in the United States, while 32 American athletes, including 20 wrestlers, have visited Iran, the Ettemaad newspaper, which is critical of the government, wrote Wednesday.

A total of 250 Iranian artists, athletes and doctors have visited the United States since the program started, according to the State Department.

Staff writer Glenn Kessler in Washington contributed to this report.

View Source Here[/spoiler] [spoiler title=”US cmdr: Iran still supporting extremists in Iraq”] February 4, 2009

BAGHDAD (AP) – The No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq says Iran is still providing weapons, training and funding to Shiite extremists in Iraq – an allegation the Iranians have consistently denied.
Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin says the number of weapons found on the battlefield has decreased thanks to better Iraqi control of the borders and U.S.-Iraqi military operations.
He says “those activities have paid great dividends.”
But he says American forces have found recently made rockets and mortars in Iraq and “that leads us to believe that support activity is still ongoing.”
He also told reporters Wednesday that some extremists who fled to Iran have returned and been captured.
Tehran denies that it supports violence in Iraq, saying it wants its neighbor to be stable. [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”How Europe’s Companies Are Feeding Iran’s Bomb”] By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL | From today’s Wall Street Journal Europe.


While the U.S. has ratcheted up its efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms, the Islamic Republic is reaping a windfall from European companies. These firms’ deals aid a regime that is bent on developing nuclear weapons and which financially supports the terror organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.

The Austrian oil giant OMV is itching to implement a €22 billion agreement signed in April 2007 to produce liquefied natural gas from Iran’s South Pars gas field; at last May’s annual shareholder meeting, Chief Executive Officer Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer said OMV was only waiting for “political change in the U.S.A.” Raiffeisen Zentralbank, Austria’s third-largest bank, is active in Iran and, according to a story by the Journal’s Glenn Simpson last February, has absorbed the transactions of key European banks that shut down their operations in Iran. And in late January Paolo Scaroni, CEO of Italian energy corporation Eni SpA, told the Associated Press that his firm will continue to fulfill its contractual obligations in Iran and feels no external pressure to sever ties with Iran’s energy sector.

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Yet because of the sheer volume of its trade with Iran, Germany, the economic engine of Europe, is uniquely positioned to pressure Tehran. Still, the obvious danger of a nuclear-armed Iran has not stopped Germany from rewarding the country with a roughly €4 billion trade relationship in 2008, thereby remaining Iran’s most important European trade partner. In the period of January to November 2008, German exports to Iran grew by 10.5% over the same period in 2007. That booming trade last year included 39 “dual-use” contracts with Iran, according to Germany’s export-control office. Dual-use equipment and technology can be used for both military and civilian purposes.

One example of Germany’s dysfunctional Iran policy is the energy and engineering giant Siemens. The company acknowledged last week at its annual stockholder meeting in Munich, which I attended, that it conducted €438 million in trade with Iran in 2008, and that its 290 Iran-based employees will remain active in the gas, oil, infrastructure and communications sectors.

Concerned stockholders and representatives from the political organization Stop the Bomb, a broad-based coalition in Germany and Austria seeking to prevent Iran from building a nuclear-weapons program, peppered Siemens CEO Peter Löscher with questions about the corporation’s dealings with the Iranian regime. A Stop the Bomb spokesman questioned Siemens’s willingness to conduct business with a country known for its human- and labor-rights violations, ranging from the violent oppression of women to the murder of gays to the repression of religious and ethnic minority groups. The spokesman referred to Siemens’s Nazi-era history as an employer of forced labor from the Auschwitz extermination camp and asked how, in light of the corporation’s Nazi history, the company could support an “anti-Semitic and terrorist regime” that threatens to wipe Israel off the map.

Mr. Löscher replied to the 9,500 stockholders in Olympic Hall that, “For Siemens, compliance and ethics have the highest priority, including where human-rights issues are involved.” Yet, after further questions from the Stop the Bomb spokesman, he acknowledged that Siemens and its joint partner, Nokia, had delivered state-of-the-art communications surveillance technology to Iran last spring.

Information-technology experts say that the companies’ “monitoring centers” are used to track mobile and land-line telephone conversations, and that their “intelligence platform” systems allow the Iranian secret service to track financial transactions and airplane movements. The technologies could also be used to monitor persecuted minority and dissident groups in Iran.

Siemens, the largest German trade partner of Iran, represents a window onto an opulent economic partnership between the two countries. German firms such as Mercedes-Benz, whose Web site lists an Iranian general distributor, and insurance giant Munich Re have also remained indifferent to the growing calls to isolate Iran economically. Yesterday, a Munich Re spokesman confirmed to me that the company insures goods in transit to Iran. This was the first such public disclosure by the firm.

And the deals just keep on coming. The Hannoversche Allgemeine newspaper, for example, reported in late January that the German engineering firm Aerzen secured a contract totaling €21 million to supply process gas blowers and screw-type compressors to a steel factory in Esfahan, Iran.

All of this is taking place while Iran is moving at an astonishing pace to process high-grade uranium for its atomic bomb. Iran’s launch of its first domestically produced satellite on Tuesday prompted an alarmed French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier to underscore the link between Iran’s military nuclear capability and its compatibility with the satellite technology.

Trade and security experts assert that Iran cannot easily replace high-tech German engineering technology with that from competitor nations such as China and Russia. The hollow pleas by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who favors a policy of moral pressure to convince corporations to be “sensitive” about cutting new deals with the regime in Tehran, did not prevent her administration from approving over 2,800 commercial deals with Iran in 2008.

Transparency is badly needed in this area. The German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA) refuses to disclose the nature of these agreements. Economics Minister Michael Glos, who oversees BAFA and is considered an advocate of trade with Iran, should reveal the names of the firms commencing trade with a country that sponsors terror organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. The German firms are hiding behind a wall of nondisclosure to avoid being blacklisted on the U.S market.

The Merkel administration heavily subsidizes investments in Iran by providing German firms with €250 million in credit guarantees. A day before the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, the German business daily Handelsblatt reported that Berlin intended to discontinue all credit guarantees supporting trade with Iran. After the report was picked up by the major media, Mrs. Merkel’s spokesman quietly denied that the government had canceled the credit guarantees. This suggests that Berlin cynically leaked the story to Handelsblatt to polish its international image and repair strained relations with Israel, a country whose security Chancellor Merkel has deemed “nonnegotiable” for Germany.

There are other signs that Germany’s political elites consider Iran just another trading partner. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is scheduled to visit Iran in late February, just after 10 days of celebrations in the country honoring Ayatollah Khomeini and the radical Islamic state he ushered in 30 years ago. Mr. Schröder, who plans to attend the dedication of a foundation for supporting scientific research and has opposed the imposition of sanctions on the Iranian regime, surely will not use the opportunity to criticize Germany’s booming trade relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In short, while Berlin claims it wants to discourage Iran from building a nuclear bomb, it has so far done little to actually stop the bomb. German legislation prohibiting trade with Iran, coupled with an immediate cessation of credit guarantees, would decisively setback, if not stop, Iran’s nuclear weapons program and set an invaluable example for other EU countries to adapt for their own companies.

Mr. Weinthal is the Jerusalem Post’s correspondent in Berlin.

View Source Here [/spoiler]