Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Who;s Spying on Ahmadinejad? Plus...

Ilan Berman, American Foreign Policy Council: Iran Democracy Monitor No. 6
The palace intrigue surrounding Iran's radical new president has just gotten a bit deeper. Listening devices have reportedly been found in a number of key regional and federal offices that have close contact with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his cabinet. The Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Culture and Islamic Guidance are said to be among those bugged. The discovery of some of the listening devices has launched a frantic search for other possible eavesdropping equipment, and for the potential perpetrators. Regime officials reportedly believe the headquarters of the surveillance operations to be located on Somayyeh Street in Tehran - a thoroughfare that houses Mohammad Reza Khatami's Mosharekat Front, the Beheshti judicial complex, a secret prison belonging to the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS), and the famous Marmar hotel, where regime officials frequently meet with informants and political collaborators. (Tehran Ya Lesarat ol-Hoseyn, March 22, 2006) READ MORE


In an apparent effort to forestall ethnic unrest, Iran has deployed detachments of its Basij domestic militia on the Islamic Republic's border with Iraqi Kurdistan. "Iran is forming special forces, mainly of the Basij, on its borders with the Kurdistan Region." a source has told one Iraqi weekly. "There were about 500 applicants in Sardasht area in the last month. The applicants who had conducted their military service will receive one month training in Tehran; otherwise, they will receive six months training."

Tehran, however, also appears to have more long-term plans in mind. "After the training [Iran] will open centres for these Basijis in Alutan, Qasmarash and Kili," the source has disclosed. "The Basij's main responsibility is to block the infiltration of opposition groups into the country." (Sulaymaniyah Chawder, March 27, 2006)


As the international crisis over its nuclear program deepens, Iranian officials are stepping up their efforts to minimize their government's potential economic vulnerabilities. In recent days, Iran's Planning and Management Organization has announced that the regime's policy of imposed quotas on gasoline production - which Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had pledged to lift two months ago - will continue for at least another half-year. The move appears to be designed to dilute the potential effects of United Nations economic sanctions, if and when such measures are imposed. Iran, which consumes some 62 million liters of gasoline daily, still subsidizes domestic gasoline prices and is heavily dependent on foreign sources of refined petroleum. (Tehran Rooz, April 1, 2006)


Has the government of Ilham Aliyev in Baku signed on to the Bush administration's efforts to contain Iran? Azeri sources are reporting that a preliminary agreement on Azerbaijan's participation was reached in late March, during security talks in Washington between Azeri and American officials. So far, the Azeri government has stopped short of confirming its decision to cooperate with the U.S., but, in a sign of potential congruence, Azerbaijan's Deputy Foreign Minister, Araz Azimov, has confirmed that Baku has informed Washington of its concerns about Iranian activities in the Caspian and along the shared 130-kilometer border between the two countries.

Baku may find such a policy stance difficult to sustain, however. In a move that is sure to expand Tehran's political leverage over the Caucasus state, Azeri Industry and Energy Minister Natig Aliyev has confirmed that his country could once again start importing natural gas from Iran as early as next year, should Russian natural gas prices continue to rise. (Baku AzerNews, March 30, 2006; Baku AzerTag, March 31, 2006; Baku Ayna, March 31, 2006)