Saturday, August 06, 2005

Week in Review

DoctorZin provides a review of this past week's [7/30-8/06] major news events regarding Iran. (The reports are listed in chronological order, not by importance)

Iran's Nuclear Program. Iran announced they would resume some nuclear enrichment programs and that the EU3 had failed to provide their proposal on time.
  • The Associated Press reported that Europe proposed a nonaggression pact with Iran.
  • BBC News reported that Iran has brought forward its deadline of 1230GMT on Sunday for European states to submit their proposals to resolve the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program. Reuters also reported.
  • BBC News reported that the UK Foreign Office urged Iran not to take unilateral steps that could jeopardize talks with the E3 saying, Should the Iranians persist, we will as a first step consult urgently with our partners on the board of the IAEA.
  • Agence France Presse reported that at least three days would be needed to convene an emergency meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog agency (IAEA) if the crisis over Iran's nuclear program were to escalate.
  • Shaheen Fatemi, Iran va Jahan reported that the Mullahs are back to their old tricks. Wishing to continue its policy of stalling and obfuscation, counting on the European position becoming more accommodating.
  • The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel has adjusted its estimates of when it believes Iran will have nuclear bombs saying that Iran will probably have a nuclear bomb by 2012, but could have the capability as early as 2008.
  • Kenneth R. Timmerman, published a transcript of Ken Timmerman's speech at David Horwitz's Wednesday Morning Club entitled: Iran: The Threat We Cannot Neglect. A must read for those who have not yet read his book.
  • Roozonline reported that while there is only a week left from the inauguration of the new Iranian president, there are plenty of events heralding the advent of policies that were forewarned by political observers and activists.
  • Reuters reported that Iran said on Monday it had extended by one day its deadline for the European Union to submit proposals to solve a diplomatic impasse over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran will deliver a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency informing the UN watchdog about its partial resumption of peaceful nuclear work in Isfahan center.
  • Business Finance News reported that Germany urged Iran not to take any "unilateral steps" on uranium enrichment.
  • Dow Jones Newswires reported that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said, I hope the Iranians understand they need to return to negotiations.
  • Dow Jones Newswires reported that the French PM said Iran should face the UN if it restarts its nuclear work.
  • Russian News Information Agency commenting on the decision of Iranian authorities to break the IAEA seals on the equipment at the Isfahan nuclear facility quoted Russian officials saying, It should be done only by IAEA experts because it's the agency's seals, after all.
  • Iran Focus, an MEK website, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan office said, The Secretary-General urges restraint and patience on the part of the Iranian authorities.
  • The Los Angeles Times reported that Tehran says it will resume uranium conversion, but some observers see a bluff. Mohamed ElBaradei, added he might be willing to back a plan that would allow Iran to carry out conversion at Esfahan and then ship the UF6 to Russia or another country for enrichment.
  • Iranian blogger, Maryam Kashani, Roozonline reported that Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rohani submitted a report revealing revealing much of the activities of the thirty month negotiations between the West and Iran over its nuclear program.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that the Bush administration has justified its softly-softly approach to the Iranian nuclear program on grounds it has firm commitments from the Europeans to get tough should diplomacy fail. Those promises are about to be put to the test now.
  • The NY Sun in an editorial said, the suffering of Akbar Ganji epitomizes why America can't afford to let Iran acquire a nuclear weapon.
  • Roozonline reported on an meeting on Iran's nuclear program where Javad Larijani, tipped to be the next Iranian Foreign Minister, reportedly said, that nuclear weapons would bring more headaches than solutions to Iran and that Iran should not rule them out against the country’s enemies, arguing that since Iran possesses nuclear facilities, it is only natural for it to also have a nuclear defense.
  • Iranian blogger, Mehrdad Sheibani, Roozonline published an interesting compilation of statements by world leaders on Iran's threat the restart parts of its nuclear program.
  • The Financial Times reported that Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator said the decision to resume uranium conversion activity was irreversible.
  • The Washington Times asked, can Eurocrats stop the Iranian Atomic Bomb?
  • The Christian Science Monitor explored why pressing Iran over nukes is a difficult road.
  • Iran Press News reported that Ayatollah Jannati, the Director of the Guardian Council, said: "We have said, from the very beginning of the discussions with the Europeans that they're duplicitous and conmen. It was evident from the outset that these talks with these 3 Europeans would not lead anywhere..."
  • The Washington Post reported that the Bush administration expressed support for a proposal by European negotiators designed to ensure that Iran's nuclear activities will not lead to its development of nuclear weapons.
  • The New York Times reported that European negotiators have prepared a sweeping proposal that raises the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear reactors and fuel, and of achieving a full political and economic relationship with the West.
  • Deutsche Welle reported that European diplomats have asked for an emergency meeting of the UN atomic agency next Tuesday, in order to keep pressure on Iran not to resume sensitive nuclear fuel cycle work.
  • CBS reported that Iran rejected the EU's nuclear plan.
  • The Times UK reported that Europe and Iran are in the midst of a serious diplomatic showdown.
  • Daily Times reported that a UN inspection team is set to leave for Iran to install cameras to monitor a crucial site where Iran wants to resume nuclear fuel work.
  • Dow Jones Newswires reported that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Saturday said Iran was taking a "confrontational course" by rejecting European Union proposals for its nuclear program and forecast the matter will go to the U.N. Security Council unless Tehran backs down.
Akbar Ganji's hunger strike: Nearing the end.
  • Potkin Azarmehr, Iran va Jahan reported that more than a thousand Iranians gathered outside Akbar Ganji's house in Tehran to mark 50 days of his hunger strike.
  • Eli Lake, The NY Sun reported that Ganji's wife made an appeal to the world for help.
  • Roozonline reported that an Iranian Judicial official threatened Shirin Ebadi and Ganji's wife.
  • Iranian blogger, Mansur Ahadi, Roozonline said it appears that because of imprisoned journalist Akbar Ganji’s plight has gradually shifted to the apex of the political decision-making pyramid in Iran. ...his principal charge and sentence in both court trials lies in his “insults of the Leader”.
  • Roozonline reported that all routes to resolving the crisis have been unsuccessfully tried. What remains for Ganji's supporters is prayer.
  • Reporters Without Borders staged a "Free Akbar Ganji" protest outside Iran Air office in Paris. Photos. Iranian/Americans held a demonstration in San Francisco.
  • Roozonline reported that Masoumeh Shafiee, Akbar Ganji's wife, is going through the most difficult times yet saying, They want to kill him. Please help us.
  • Iranian blogger, Sa‘id Farzaneh, Iran Scan reported on the Islamic regime‘s absolute determination to present Ganji‘s saga as no big deal.
  • Iranmania reported that a number of journalists and media personalities held a protest gathering in Tehran and a symbolic hunger strike in support of Ganji
  • The Washington Post reported that eight Nobel laureates appealed to the Iranian government yesterday for Ganji's immediate and unconditional release.
Iran's other under-reported dissidents.
  • Rachel Zabarkes Friedman, The National Review published an interview with student movement activist Ahmad Batebi who is in hiding.
  • Iran Press News reported that student leader/political prisoner Manouchehr Mohammadi who along with his brother Akbar have been on a hunger strike inside Evin prison in Tehran. Photo.
The unrest against the regime spreads in Iran.
  • SMCCDIreported on the scattered clashes which took place, today, in the northwestern City of Sannandaj located in the Iranian province of Kurdistan.
  • Iran Focus, an MEK website, reported that disenchanted Iranians stated more than 280 anti-government protests, clashes, strikes, and other forms of social unrest throughout Iran over the past month.
  • SMCCDI reported that at least 4 demonstrators and members of the security forces were killed in the violent clashes that rocked, yesterday, the northwestern City of Sannandaj.
  • SMCCDI reported that tens of Saghezi residents have been killed or wounded following bloody aerial attacks.
  • Potkin Azarmehr, Iran va Jahan reported that protests by the Iranian Kurds condemning the brutal murder of Shwane Ghaderi reached the Kurdistan province capital, Sanandaj.
  • The Guardian reported that Iran sent in 100,000 troops to crush border unrest.
  • Iran Focus and SMCCDI both reported that Iranian security forces are using helicopters to fire on demonstrators.
  • SMCCDI reported that a heavy explosion rocked a militia camp located in the northwestern City of Marivan by resulting in tens of wounded among Islamic republic's security forces.
  • SMCCDI reported that for the first time several Iranian militiamen were injured by an IED.
  • Roozonline reported that the head of the Basij militia said sweeping changes will be taking place in Iran.
  • Iran Focus, an MEK website, reported that a prominent women’s rights activist in Iranian Kurdistan was arrested in the Kurdish region.
  • Iran Press Service reported that the bloody unrest continues in at least three Iranian provinces.
  • Reuters reported that Kurdish police dispersed hundreds of Kurds protesting outside U.N. offices in northern Iraq on Saturday over reports of detentions of dozens of Iranian Kurds just across the border.
  • SMCCDI reported that the unrest and clashes continued in several northwestern cities, such as, Mahabad and Bookan.
  • Iran Press News reported on the unrest in the Iranian city of Saqqez. Huge protests there have lead to clashes with the authorities and the number of injured continues to increase and witnesses described the hospitals as having been turned into prisons! A must read.
Increasing violence inside of Iran.
  • BBC News reported that the Judge that sentenced Ganji was shot dead in Tehran today.
  • ScanIranic asked, who assassinated Judge Moghaddas (the judge who sentence Ganji)?
  • Iranian blogger, Windsteed, Iran Hopes reported that police say they are still investigating the assassination of Moghaddasi which took place last Tuesday in Tehran. But speculation is rampant.
  • Iranian bloggers and news sources reported that a group took full responsibility of murder of the judge who was shot a few days ago in Tehran, saying they killed the judge because he has been killing and torturing political prisoners.
  • CNN reported that an explosive device has detonated in a building housing offices for British Airways and oil company BP.
Ahmadinejad becomes President.
  • Daily Times reported that Iran confirmed on Sunday that hardline president-elect Mahmood Ahmadinejad will attend the UN General Assembly in New York in September, dismissing any possible US visa restrictions.
  • Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee reported two opposing statements on the meeting of Iranian Jews in the US and Ahmadinejad.
  • Payvand reported that Mohammad Khatami's tenure as Iran's president will end today, Tuesday August 2, 2005 and Mahmood Ahmadinejad will take office as the new president as of Wednesday.
  • Ray Takeyh, International Herald Tribune said, as Ahmadinejad prepares to assume office, the country's conservatives will finally be consolidating their power but rather than unifying Iran's right wing, Ahmadinejad is likely to fracture it.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received religious approval to take office. He is sworn to be in on Saturday. BBC News reported also. Photo.
  • The Washington Post reported that the International Crisis Group warned that the consolidation by hard-liners marks a new challenge for the rest of the world.
  • The Financial Times reported that the Bush administration is considering denying a visa to Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran's new elected conservative president from addressing the United Nations.
  • Reuters reported that at his inauguration, Ahmadinejad said, Iran won't be intimidated.
  • Reza Bayegan, Iran va Jahan discussed Ahmadinejad's promises to reform the Iranian oil industry with an expert, Dr Parviz Mina.
Iran's Troublemaking.
  • Dan Darling, discussed NBC's report on the capture of truckloads of IED's into Iraq from Iran. I was told that there were over thirty tons of IED's.
  • NBC News reported American soldiers intercepted a large shipment of high explosives, smuggled into northeastern Iraq from Iran only last week. Intelligence officials believe the high-explosives were shipped into Iraq by the Iranian Revolutionary guard or the terrorist group Hezbollah.
  • The New York Times reported that many of the new, more sophisticated roadside bombs used to attack American and government forces in Iraq have been designed in Iran and shipped in from there.
U.S. Policy on Iran.
  • Dafna Linzer, The Washington Post reported on a major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon. Michael Ledeen, Dan Darling and Dr. Corsi have published responses.
  • Middle East Newsline reported Iran's strategic weapons programs were expected to significantly increase the prospect of a nuclear war according to a study, conducted by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar.
  • reported that U.S. Ambassador John Bolton urged all nations "to meet their obligations to stop the flow of terrorist financing and weapons, and particularly on Iran and Syria."
The Iranian Military.
  • Middle East Newsline reported that Iran has asserted that its enhanced Shihab-3 intermediate-range ballistic missile can strike targets at distances of nearly 2,000 kilometers. Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani was quoted as saying, the liquid-fuel Shihab could also be fitted with a nuclear warhead.
  • Iran Press News reported that Iranian Commander Saffari, the head of the Revolutionary Guard's Navy said "If the Americans and Europeans are not judicious and act disrespectfully, overstepping their boundaries, 'the people' wouldn’t for a moment, hesitate to chop off that [overstepping] leg..."
Human Rights/Freedom of the press inside of Iran.
  • Reporters Without Borders released their Iran - 2005 annual report. It said, press freedom shrank daily during 2004 in Iran and that Iran has for years been the Middle East's biggest prison for journalists.
  • IranMania reported that Canada threatened to introduce a UN resolution on Iran's human rights record.
  • Amnesty International released a public statement calling on Iran's new President, Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad, should make human rights a top priority.
  • Reza Pahlavi published a letter to Kofi Annan to act on behalf of Iranian political prisoners.
  • Reporters Without Borders condemned a wave of harassment of Kurdish journalists by local authorities in Iranian Kurdistan.
Iran and the International community.
  • Mosnews reported that Israel has asked Ukraine to demand that Iran return 12 long-range cruise missiles purchased during the tenure of the previous Ukrainian government.
  • Iraqi blogger, Iraq The Model asks are we going to let them win? He argues the US needs to deal with Iran and Syria.
  • Kuwait News Agency reported that Lebanese Hezbollah said the Iranian leadership asserted its continued support for Lebanon, its unity, and resistance.
Must Read reports.
  • Post-Gazette discussed Debkafile's report that al-Qaida is shifting more than 1,000 of its operatives to Europe for terror offensives.
  • Dan Darling, The Weekly Standard detailed the birth of the Kurdish terrorist organization, Ansar al-Islam.
  • Frank Gaffney, Jr, The Washington Times takes a looks at the old games of the Saudis.
  • Fred Pruitt, Rantburg responded to suggestion that the U.S. should "nuke Mecca" if the U.S. suffers a major attack.
The Experts.
Photos and cartoons of the week.
And finally, The Quote of the Week.
You are not going to believe this press conference with Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi, broadcast on Iranian in which reporters ask questions about Iran’s plan to restart their UCF (Uranium Conversion Facility) at Esfehan:

Reporter: What will the scope of the (UCF) activity in Esfahan be at the beginning? Will it have full or partial capacity?

Asefi: What do you care?

Female reporter: I’ll repeat my colleague’s question...

Asefi: Go ahead, please...

Female reporter:... regarding the UCF in Esfahan. Will its activity start at full or partial capacity, in order to show that the suspension...

Asefi: He asked, and I already said it is of no interest to you.

Female reporter: Please tell us, it might interest us.

Asefi: No. I know it is of no interest to you.

Saturday's Daily Briefing on Iran

DoctorZin reports, 8.6.2005:

Iran Won't be Intimidated, New President Says

Parisa Hafezi, Reuters:
Iran's new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday the Islamic Republic, facing intense pressure from the West over its nuclear ambitions, would not be intimidated.

Taking the oath of office in parliament following his stunning June election win, the former Tehran mayor said his priority would be to tackle unemployment and his foreign policy would seek to reduce international threats. READ MORE
Is Iran's nuclear weapons program designed to eliminate Iran's threats?

Here are a few other news items you may have missed.
  • The Times UK reported that Europe and Iran are in the midst of a serious diplomatic showdown.
  • Kuwait News Agency reported that Lebanese Hezbollah said the Iranian leadership asserted its continued support for Lebanon, its unity, and resistance.
  • Daily Times reported that a UN inspection team is set to leave for Iran to install cameras to monitor a crucial site where Iran wants to resume nuclear fuel work.
  • Iran Press Service reported that the bloody unrest continues in at least three Iranian provinces.
  • Reuters reported that Kurdish police dispersed hundreds of Kurds protesting outside U.N. offices in northern Iraq on Saturday over reports of detentions of dozens of Iranian Kurds just across the border.
  • SMCCDI reported that the unrest and clashes continued in several northwestern cities, such as, Mahabad and Bookan.
  • The New York Times reported that many of the new, more sophisticated roadside bombs used to attack American and government forces in Iraq have been designed in Iran and shipped in from there.
  • Dow Jones Newswires reported that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Saturday said Iran was taking a "confrontational course" by rejecting European Union proposals for its nuclear program and forecast the matter will go to the U.N. Security Council unless Tehran backs down.
  • Reporters Without Borders condemned a wave of harassment of Kurdish journalists by local authorities in Iranian Kurdistan.
  • Reza Bayegan, Iran va Jahan discussed Ahmadinejad's promises to reform the Iranian oil industry with an expert, Dr Parviz Mina.
  • And finally, Iran Press News reported on the unrest in the Iranian city of Saqqez. Huge protests there have lead to clashes with the authorities and the number of injured continues to increase and witnesses described the hospitals as having been turned into prisons! A must read.

Showdown looms as Europeans give Iran a stark choice

Richard Beeston, The Times UK:
EUROPE and Iran were last night headed for a serious diplomatic showdown, after Tehran vowed that it would resume work on its controversial nuclear programme, appearing to snub a long-awaited compromise from Britain, France and Germany.

Ambassadors from the three countries presented the Iranian Foreign Ministry with a 34-page proposal yesterday, called the Framework for a Long-term Agreement. The document proposed incentives to Iran, which would be allowed to develop a civilian nuclear programme if it accepted binding commitments not to develop atomic warheads. It proposed a meeting at the end of the month in Paris to discuss the offer.

But the newly installed government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that it would reply formally tomorrow to the proposal, and hinted heavily that it had already decided to reject it. READ MORE

Hossein Moussavian, Iran’s nuclear negotiator, said: “My personal view as one of the negotiating team, is that this proposal cannot be accepted by Iran.” He described the offer as a “clear violation” of previous agreements between Iran and the European Union. “They negate Iran’s inalienable right,” he said.

At the heart of the dispute is Iran’s attempts to build a nuclear fuel cycle, in particular to convert, enrich and reprocess uranium, the element used both as nuclear fuel and, in its highly-enriched form, as the core of an atomic bomb.

After nine months of tortuous diplomatic contacts, the three EU countries thought they had found a well-balanced compromise. The EU is prepared to help Iran to build light water reactors and guarantee supplies of nuclear fuel to run them. But in return Tehran would have to abandon attempts to build a “fuel cycle” and in particular close down its heavy water reactor at Arak, south of Tehran.

To sweeten the offer, the Iranians were also promised other political and economic incentives, including joint co-operation on regional security, terrorism and fighting drug smuggling, a new trade agreement with the EU and help in joining the World Trade Organisation. The package could help Iran’s new government to tackle huge social and economic problems.

This is the fork in the road for Iran,” a British diplomat said. “We have presented Iran with two stark choices. The first is the right choice, the second is the wrong choice. If Iran chooses the second it can mean only one thing — that it desires nuclear weapons.”

Nevertheless, the issue has become a matter of national pride in Iran, which has been trying to acquire nuclear technology since the days on the Shah in the 1970s.

Yesterday it again insisted that it had the right under international law to pursue its own civilian nuclear ambitions under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But the consequences of going it alone could be very serious. America is already pressing the international community to take action against Iran, which it is convinced is building nuclear weapons. There are also fears that Israel might take military action against Iranian nuclear sites if the Iranians are close to acquiring a bomb. At the very least the matter is likely to provoke a serious international crisis that could end up in the United Nations Security Council where Iran could face punitive sanctions.

By way of demonstrating the possible dangers, Britain, France and Germany yesterday also requested an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Tuesday to debate what action to take if Iran does resume work on its uranium conversion plan at Isfahan.

Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French Foreign Minister, said the world will face a “major international crisis” if Iran does not accept the proposals and “heed the voice of reason”.

If Iran resumes conversion, he warned: “Then it is certain that the international community will ask the Security Council to intervene.”

Iran asserts support for Lebanese resistance -- Hezbollah

Kuwait News Agency:
Lebanese Hezbollah said on Saturday that the Iranian leadership asserted to Hezbollah's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, continued support for Lebanon, its unity, and resistance.

Upon the arrival of Nasrallah here from Iran, a press release issued by Hezbollah said that he discussed with the Iranian officials the Lebanese-Iranian relationships and means of reinforcing them at the public and official levels. READ MORE

It added that Hezbollah's delegation sought Iran's great appreciation for the Lebanese efforts and accomplishments, especially during the elections and the formation of a new government.

The two sides also discussed the latest developments in the region and their impacts on Lebanon, in addition to "the US-Zionist project that aims at controlling the region".

The press release noted that Hezbollah's delegation met with the Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Chairman of the Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in addition ministers and other high-ranking officials in the Iranian government.

UN team heading to Iran with monitoring equipment

Daily Times:
A UN inspection team is set to leave for Iran to install cameras “by the middle of next week” to monitor a crucial site where Iran wants to resume nuclear fuel work in defiance of the international community, a spokeswoman said Saturday.

A safeguards team is traveling in the next couple of days to deliver and install remote camera equipment and an inspection system will be in place in the middle of next week” at the uranium conversion facility in Isfahan, Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, told AFP.

The IAEA, which has been monitoring Iran’s suspension since November of fuel cycle work as Tehran negotiates with the European Union on its nuclear programme, has placed metal seals on machines at Isfahan.

Another diplomat close to the IAEA said the agency meanwhile is waiting for a response from the Iranians about what they plan to do at Isfahan once the monitoring system is in place. The agency sent a letter to Iran on Saturday outlining the IAEA’s plans, the diplomat said but refused to provide details. READ MORE

The diplomat said the IAEA now had “about four” inspectors in Iran, visiting various sites, and that the team being sent with the camera equipment were technicians. The diplomat refused to provide more details for security reasons.

The IAEA doesn’t need to send more inspectors. The job at Isfahan can be done by one or two inspectors. It really depends on what the Iranians want to do,” the diplomat said. Iran said on Saturday the European Union’s proposals for incentives in return for a suspension of Iranian nuclear fuel work were unacceptable.

The Europeans’ submitted proposals regarding the nuclear case are not acceptable for Iran,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi as saying. The proposals are unnacceptable because Iran’s right to enrich uranium is not included,” he said.

Asefi said Iran would give a full answer to the EU’s proposals on Saturday or Sunday.

The EU on Friday offered Iran a package of incentives for it to give up nuclear fuel work, but also called an urgent meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog that could refer Tehran to the UN Security Council for sanctions. The EU - represented by Britain, France and Germany - has been trying to find a compromise for two years between arch foes Iran and the United States.

Washington accuses Iran of trying to covertly build a nuclear bomb, but Tehran denies the charge and says it has the right to convert and enrich uranium for power generation.

I should say the Europeans have not honoured their commitments,” Asefi said. “We have repeatedly said that any proposal should include Iran’s right to enrichment.”

Unrests Continues in Iran's Minority-Dominated Provinces

Iran Press Service:
Bloody unrests continue in at least three Iranian provinces, with Kurdish sources accusing the clerical-led authorities of having killed “tens” of people in Iranian Kurdish dominated areas.

Against Tehran and local officials claiming that order has been restored in the northwestern Kurdish towns of Mahabad, Baneh and Saqqez, where there are widespread riots, Kurds says Revolutionary Guards supported by anti-riot units, plainclothes men and Law Enforcement Forces used heavy weapons in crushing the riots.

Kurdish dissident groups say the Iranian government has deployed large numbers of troops in Kurdish cities in an effort to quell three weeks of civil unrest that has left up to 20 people dead and more than 300 wounded, according to reports from dissident groups. READ MORE

They said as many as 100,000 state security forces, backed up by helicopter gunships had moved into the region to crack down on pro-Kurdish demonstrations.

Kurdsat, an Iraqi-Kurdish satellite channel based in Sulaimaniyah, reported yesterday that police had detained as many as 1,200 people after the incident.

Further unrest was feared yesterday in Bokan and Sinne, where up to 6,000 Special Forces soldiers were said to have gathered. Opposition leaders appealed for calm and called for the international community to put pressure on the Iranian authorities to halt the crackdown.

In a statement, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, outlawed in Iran and is based in northern Iraq, urged "international organisations, human-rights supporters and the international community to make efforts to stop the bloodshed of the Iranian Kurdish people by the Islamic republic regime of Iran".

On 16 June, Iranian Intelligence Minister Hojjatoleslam Ali Younesi accused the US and Britain were seeking to instigate ethnic and religious tensions in the Middle East and in Iran.

The unrest began in the town of Mahabad, in early July, following the shooting of Shivan Qaderi, a Kurdish opposition activist, also known as Seyed Kamal Astam, or Astom, and two other Kurdish men, by Iranian forces on 9 July, in circumstances where they may not have posed an immediate threat. The security forces then reportedly tied Shivan Qaderi’s body to a Toyata jeep and dragged him in the streets.

The local Iranian authorities are reported to have confirmed that a person of this name, “who was on the run and wanted by the judiciary”, was indeed shot and killed by security forces at this time, allegedly while trying to evade arrest, according to the London-based Amnesty International.

The photos of Mr. Qaderi on the internet depicted signs suggesting torture, including the dead man’s bloodied face and bruised and swollen back. But Governor Samadi said photos posted online were different from those taken before authorities handed over the body to Qadri’s family.

Qadri was considered a key figure in organizing celebrations after the election of Massoud Barzani as the first president of Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region last month. The celebrations prompted clashes with police in several Kurdish towns in western Iran.

During the days following Shivan Qaderi’s death, several thousand Mahabad residents, mainly youths, took to the streets to protest the killings. Since then, demonstrations have erupted in the mainly Kurdish neighbouring towns of Sanandaj, Mahabad, Sardasht, Piranshahr, Oshnavieh, Baneh, Sinne, Bokan and Saqqez. The Iranian state-owned media has reported and confirmed the unrest of the past 3 weeks, but have described the situation as due to “hooligan and criminal elements, Amnesty added.

Kurdish activist Jalal Qhavami said Qadri was a Kurdish nationalist who led almost all anti-regime protests in Mahabad, which prompted police to seek his arrest.

Ghavami said Iranian opposition Kurdish groups including the DPIK Party and Pejvak have called on Kurds in western Iran to begin a civil disobedience movement.

Barzani is a Sunni Muslim Iraqi Kurd and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Mustafa Barzani, Massoud’s father, was commander-in-chief of the republic of Kurdistan in Iran, headed by Qazi Muhammad in Mahabad in 1945. Iran’s armed forces recaptured Mahabad and dismantled the self-proclaimed republic in 1946.

In a letter dated 22 July 2005 the organization wrote to Iran’s Interior Minister, Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari, seeking clarification of the circumstances surrounding the killing of Shivan Qaderi , and the arrest of scores of people in Mahabad and the surrounding areas in the days following his death and expressed concern that the killing may have been deliberate and that those detained may not have access to independent lawyers of their choice or their families and that they may be at risk of torture or ill-treatment.

The Kurds are one of Iran’s many ethnic minority groups, and number around 10% of the population. They mainly live in the province of Kurdistan and neighbouring provinces bordering Turkey and Iraq. A UN report released last week said authorities were denying basic amenities to Iran's ethnic and religious minorities and in some cases seizing land.

Among those arrested during the disturbance are prominent Kurdish human rights defenders and activists, including (female) Dr. Roya Tolou’i, a women’ rights activist, arrested at her home in Sanandaj on 2 August.

According to her husband, who has not been allowed access to her, she is detained on charges of “disturbing the peace” and “acting against national security”. Azad Zamani, a member of the Association for the Defence of Children's Rights (ADCR, or Kanoun-e Defa’ az Hoqouq-e Koudekan), was also arrested in Sinne.

Mr. Qavami, a journalist and a member of the editorial board of the journal “Payam-e Mardom”, was arrested at his workplace after agents of Iran’s security forces initially raided his residence. Mahmoud Salehi, the spokesman for the Organisational Committee to Establish Trade Unions, was arrested in the early hours of 4 August, and the security forces have also closed down two Kurdish newspapers.

According to officials that blames the unrest on the Turkish-Kurdish rebel from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), at least six people, including four Iranian soldiers, were killed near Turkish borders.

"Four soldiers were killed and five others wounded in an ambush near the northwestern town of Oshnoviyeh”, said provincial deputy governor Abbas Khorshidi, adding that "unknown gunmen opened fire on several patrols" in a separate incident.

"It was terrorists from the PKK who carried out the ambush", ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani said, adding that the Iranian soldiers who died were "martyred". The spokesman gave no further details of the attack and did not elaborate on why the PKK was held responsible rather than Iran-oriented Kurdish rebel groups such as the DPIK and the Marxist organization Komaleh.

Branded a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, the PKK has fought Ankara since 1984 and recently stepped up violence in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast after calling off a five-year unilateral ceasefire in June last year.

Tehran and Ankara are linked by an accord calling on Iran to fight the PKK and for Turkey to fight the Mojahedeen Khalq Organisation, an armed Iranian opposition group based in Iraq.

Images of Astom's swollen and bloodied body circulated on the Internet, fueling rumours that he had been tortured and exacerbating discontent among the Kurdish population.

Officials denied the allegations of torture.

"If regional security is upset and there is disorder, we will act very strongly against troublemakers", Mr. Khorshidi warned.

Mahabad is located in northwestern Iran's West Azerbaijan province, and was established in 1946 as the first and only Kurdish state in history. However, the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad was defeated later the same year.

Iranian authorities are particularly wary of ethnic strife or potential revenge attacks, and not only in Kurdish areas. Some seven percent of Iran's population is Kurdish.

Besides the Kurds-dominated areas, the oil-rich province of Khouzistan bordering Iraq and Sistan and Balouchistan bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan where Muslim-Sunnis are in majority are also in turmoil, mostly on cultural matters than ambitions of independence.

In Khuzestan, bloody riots last April between Arab speaking population with security forces left many people killed and hundreds arrested saw new clashes in recent days.

There too, officials in Tehran blamed “foreign inspired agitators” for the unrests, a reference to supporters of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

According to the government, troubles in this south-western region of Iran situated on the borders with Iraq started last week after the distribution of a letter, attributed to Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the former Vice-president for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs calling for a “total persianisation” of the Province that is dominated by Iranians of Arab ethnic speaking an Arabic dialect of their own. As a result, people turned their wrath on government, attacked banks, public buildings and properties, set fire on buses and burned tires in the streets of major cities and localities.

But a spokesman for the London-based Democratic Popular Front of Ahvazi Arabs had told the “Aljazira” Television of the Persian Gulf Emirate of Qatar that security forces had opened fire on the people participating at a peaceful demonstration called by the Front to protest “80 years of Iranian occupation” of the Province”.

But a spokesman for the London-based Democratic Popular Front of Ahvazi Arabs had told the “Aljazira” Television of the Persian Gulf Emirate of Qatar that security forces had opened fire on the people participating at a peaceful demonstration called by the Front to protest “80 years of Iranian occupation” of the Province”.

The statement provoked the anger of the Iranian government that immediately ordered the “temporary” closure of the Television’s offices in Tehran.

In the eastern province where the Sunnis are discriminated, their mosques often burned out and schools in local dialects shut, the unrests are usually blamed on the smugglers.

Iraqi Kurds protest, saying Iran has detained Kurds

Kurdish police dispersed hundreds of Kurds protesting outside U.N. offices in northern Iraq on Saturday over reports of detentions of dozens of Iranian Kurds just across the border.

"We support our brothers in Iran and demand that all the detainees are released," one demonstrator, Asso Mustafa, said in Sulaimaniya, adding he had friends among those detained. READ MORE

Protesters said authorities in Iran had arrested dozens of Kurds over the last 10 days, including public figures well-known as Kurdish rights campaigners, after they had staged protests in favour of Kurdish rights in Iran.

Tensions boiled over in Iran's Kurdish territories last month with rioting in the town of Mahabad. Shortly afterwards, three Iranian policemen were killed in a gun battle with Kurdish separatists.

Iranian officials denied the unrest is ethnically motivated but Kurdish leaders disagree saying their people have been denied basic rights by Tehran.

A recent U.N. report on living standards in Iran has also suggested Iran was denying its ethnic and religious minorities basic amenities.

Iranian officials were not immediately able to comment on the alleged detentions, which were sparking protests in Iraq.

Close family and cultural ties link Kurds on each side of the border.

The demonstrators in Sulaimaniya, which lies close to the Iran, said the protests and arrests took place in the Iranian town of Mahabad and the city of Sanandaj.

They said officials of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls the western side of Iraqi Kurdistan, had tried to stop the Sulaimaniya protests.

PUK is headed by Iraq's President Jalal Talabani.

"We had been trying to get permission to protest for over a week but the Interior Ministry warned us not to," said protester Rafik Fuad.

There were no reports of injuries.

Unrest and clashes continue in northwestern Iran

SMCCDI (Information Service):
Unrest and clashes continued, today, in several northwestern cities, such as, Mahabad and Bookan.

Hundreds of demonstrators defied the Islamic regime forces by getting into streets, shouting slogans and setting tires ablaze.

Bookanis gathered in front of the City Hall despite official warnings and burned pictures of the regime's supreme leader. Stones and home made incendiary devices responded to the regime use of clubs and tear gas. READ MORE

A temporary security post was attacked by tens of Mahabadis in the Esteghlal square by resulting in heavy shooting and use of tear gas by militiamen. Tens of demonstrators and members of the regime forces were wounded during the action.

The situation in most cities of the region is tense and there are scenes of scattered protest actions and clashes.

More unrest is expected on Sunday despite the arrival of supplementary forces in the region and check points installed in the roads.
There has been a call for a general strike throughout the Kurdish area of Iran tomorrow!

Some Bombs Used in Iraq Are Made in Iran

Eric Schmitt, The New York Times:
Many of the new, more sophisticated roadside bombs used to attack American and government forces in Iraq have been designed in Iran and shipped in from there, United States military and intelligence officials said Friday, raising the prospect of increased foreign help for Iraqi insurgents.

American commanders say the deadlier bombs could become more common as insurgent bomb makers learn the techniques to make the weapons themselves in Iraq.

But just as troubling is that the spread of the new weapons seems to suggest a new and unusual area of cooperation between Iranian Shiites and Iraqi Sunnis to drive American forces out - a possibility that the commanders said they could make little sense of given the increasing violence between the sects in Iraq.

Unlike the improvised explosive devices devised from Iraq's vast stockpiles of missiles, artillery shells and other arms, the new weapons are specially designed to destroy armored vehicles, military bomb experts say. The bombs feature shaped charges, which penetrate armor by focusing explosive power in a single direction and by firing a metal projectile embedded in the device into the target at high speed. The design is crude but effective if the vehicle's armor plating is struck at the correct angle, the experts said.

Since they first began appearing about two months ago, some of these devices have been seized, including one large shipment that was captured last week in northeast Iraq coming from Iran. But one senior military officer said "tens" of the devices had been smuggled in and used against allied forces, killing or wounding several Americans throughout Iraq in the past several weeks.

"These are among the most sophisticated and most lethal devices we've seen," said the senior officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate intelligence reports describing the bombs. "It's very serious."

Pentagon and intelligence officials say that some shipments of the new explosives have contained both components and fully manufactured devices, and may have been spirited into Iraq along the porous Iranian border by the Iranian-backed, anti-Israeli terrorist group Hezbollah, or by Iran's Revolutionary Guard. American commanders say these bombs closely matched those that Hezbollah has used against Israel.

"The devices we're seeing now have been machined," said a military official who has access to classified reporting on the insurgents' bomb-making abilities. "There is evidence of some sophistication."

American officials say they have no evidence that the Iranian government is involved. But Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the new United States ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, complained publicly this week about the Tehran government's harmful meddling in Iraqi affairs.

"There is movement across its borders of people and matériel used in violent acts against Iraq," Mr. Khalilzad said Monday.

But some Middle East specialists discount any involvement by the Iranian government or Hezbollah, saying it would be counter to their interests to support Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgents, who have stepped up their attacks against Iraqi Shiites. These specialists suggest that the arms shipments are more likely the work of criminals, arms traffickers or splinter insurgent groups. READ MORE

"Iran's protégés are in control in Iraq right now, yet these weapons are going to people fighting Iran's protégés," said Kenneth Katzman, a Persian Gulf expert at the Congressional Research Service and a former Middle East analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. "That makes little sense to me."

One of Iran's top priorities is to get the United States out of Iraq, which means keeping up the violence there. At the same time, that clearly works against their other goal, which is to get religious Shiites in power and keep them in power. Right now, popular support for the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, which is friendly toward Iran, is waning because it cannot deal effectively with the Sunni-based insurgency.

And while American military intelligence officers believe Iranian intelligence has a large presence in Iraq, they say it hasn't been working to destabilize the country.

American commanders say they first saw the use of the new explosives in the predominantly Shiite area of southern Iraq, including Basra, but their use by insurgents steadily migrated into Sunni-majority areas north and west of Baghdad. It was unclear how the transfers were taking place.

The seizure of the recent arms shipment from Iran was first reported on Thursday night by NBC News and CBS News.

The influx of the new explosives comes as allied commanders are stepping up efforts to stop the infiltration of fighters, weapons and equipment along Iraq's porous borders with Iran and Syria. Ten days ago, for instance, Iraqi border enforcement agents seized a major shipment of weapons, apparently small arms, that officials suspect may have come from Iran, Maj. Gen. J. B. Dutton of the British Marines, commander of allied forces in southern Iraq, told reporters on Friday in a conference call from Basra.

More troubling are the broad array of roadside bombs that range from the improvised explosives made from modified 155-millimeter artillery shells and other materials to antitank mines like those that military officials say caused the blast on Wednesday that killed 14 marines and an Iraqi civilian in western Iraq.

American troops and the insurgents have been engaged for months in an expanding test of tactics and technology, with the guerrillas building bigger and more clever devices and the Americans trying to counter them at each turn.

"The terrorists are trying to adapt to that level of protection that our forces have; they have been motivated to try to find a way to get advantage," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said at a news conference on Thursday. "And occasionally, we're seeing I.E.D.'s that are sufficiently lethal as to challenge some of the level of protection."

Military officials say they are thwarting about 40 percent of the roadside bombs before they detonate, employing a range of countermeasures from jamming devices that disrupt the frequency of the explosives' triggers, to heightened patrols. Last week, the military successfully cleared 115 roadside bombs, General Alston said. But such bombs remain the No. 1 killer of American troops in Iraq.

"It's not just about the armor that you carry," he said. "It's about your tactics, and it's about how you evolve and develop those and try to defend yourself before those things detonate as well."

Edward Wong in Baghdad and David S. Cloud contributed reporting for this article.
For those who question whether the Iranian government is involved in supply these weapons, they need to ask themselves how sophisticated explosive devices like these, produced specifically for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), could find there way into Iraq without the blessing of the Iranian government. The IRGC are Iran's elite military branch that swear loyalty to the Supreme Leader and take directions from him. Remember that Iran is a tightly run and that several hundred thousand military troops are currently positioned on the western border of Iran, next to Iraq.

These same people find it hard to believe that the Shia Iranians would send explosives into Iran that would be used to kill their Shia brethren. One has to assume the Iranian government cares about their Iraqi Shia brethren. The regime has little concern for its own population. These same people argue that Iran will have won once the Shia leadership in Iraq come to power. But they forget that Iran is threatened not just by U.S. presence in Iraq but also by a democratic Iraq, especially one lead by democratic/non-Islamist Shia. This is the last thing they want in Iraq. With the Iranian people dissatisfied with their government, the regime cannot afford to have a competing model of Shia civil government right next door. The burden of proof lies with the regime to prove that the government was not involved, not on the U.S. to prove they were.

Schroeder: Iran Rejection Of EU Nuke Plan 'Confrontational'

Dow Jones Newswires:
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Saturday said Iran was taking a " confrontational course" by rejecting European Union proposals for its nuclear program and forecast the matter will go to the U.N. Security Council unless Tehran backs down, according to excerpts from a television interview. READ MORE

In remarks released by broadcaster ARD, Schroeder said it was up to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, to decide the next step.

"I'm very worried about the confrontational course which Iran appears to be taking," Schroeder was quoted as saying in the interview, which was recorded on Saturday for broadcast Sunday. "One has to expect that it (the IAEA) will put it before the Security Council, if Iran doesn't come round."

While economic sanctions couldn't be excluded, Schroeder reportedly said: "I believe nobody is currently thinking about a military conflict."

Iran Won't be Intimidated, New President Says

Parisa Hafezi, Reuters:
Iran's new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday the Islamic Republic, facing intense pressure from the West over its nuclear ambitions, would not be intimidated.

Taking the oath of office in parliament following his stunning June election win, the former Tehran mayor said his priority would be to tackle unemployment and his foreign policy would seek to reduce international threats. READ MORE

"We are logical and respect international rules, but will not give in to those who want to violate our rights," he said in a brief address. "The Iranian nation cannot be intimidated."

The European Union on Friday offered Iran a package of incentives to scrap nuclear fuel work while saying it would be sent to the U.N. Security Council if it did not.

Iran, which denies U.S. accusations that its nuclear energy programme is a smokescreen for making atomic bombs, said on Saturday the EU proposal was unacceptable. It says it will remove U.N. seals on some nuclear equipment this week.

Ahmadinejad, 48, who replaced reformist cleric Mohammad Khatami, is a religious conservative who diplomats expect will adopt a tougher approach in the nuclear negotiations.

However, in spite of the heightened tension surrounding the issue, he made no direct reference to it during his speech.

"Seeking justice, peace and the removal of threats are three main elements of our foreign policy," he said.

The former Revolutionary Guard, who upset political veteran and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to win June's election, swore his oath of office on the Koran before embracing Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi.


His arrival in office brings to a close Khatami's largely unsuccessful eight-year experiment in reforms. Religious conservatives now enjoy a monpoly on power, dominating parliament and controlling key bodies such as the armed forces, judiciary and broadcast media.

The president in Iran appoints ministers who manage the day-to-day business of government. However, the government's power is checked by several of unelected bodies answerable to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful figure in Iran who is appointed for life.

Elected with strong support among the devout poor who feel Iran's massive oil wealth has passed them by, Ahmadinejad devoted most of his speech to the need to tackle poverty.

"People's main concerns are unemployment, welfare and the gap between income and expenditure," he said, but gave no details of policies he would adopt.

Deeply loyal to the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Ahmadinejad has been plagued by rumours about his past activities since his election win.

The United States says he was a leader in the student movement behind the storming of its embassy in Tehran after the revolution and is trying to determine whether he was a hostage-taker himself, which he and those who took part deny.

Ahmadinejad also faces massive economic challenges in a country where growth is slipping and oilfields, the country's lifeblood, are losing capacity.

His victory has unsettled the investment community. He has vowed to clean out corruption in the oil industry and give preference in investment deals to local over foreign firms.

Analysts say investors should take a "wait and see" approach, arguing that Ahmadinejad took a pragmatic line as mayor of Tehran and could well do so again as president.

Ahmadinejad has two weeks to nominate his cabinet ministers to parliament for approval.
Is Iran's nuclear weapons program designed to eliminate Iran's threats?

Crackdown on Kurdish Press Following Clashes in Kurdistan

Reporters Without Borders:
Reporters Without Borders today condemned a wave of harassment of Kurdish journalists by local authorities in Iranian Kurdistan, which has been hit by clashes in recent weeks, and the closure of the daily Achti and the weekly Asou at the behest of the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance.

"We condemn this crackdown on the Kurdish press because Iranian Kurdistan has more need than ever of its journalists in these times of great tension," the press freedom organisation said. READ MORE

"We call on the authorities to stop the harassment of Kurdish journalists and to lift the suspension of Achti and Asou."

Asou, which is published in both Kurdish and Farsi, was closed by judicial officials in Sanandaj (the capital of Kurdistan) on 3 August, probably because of its editorial line and its coverage of the events shaking the region.

The closure of Achti followed, probably for the same reasons. Published in Tehran in Kurdish, it had recently received permission to change from a weekly to a daily. The source of the orders for the closure of both newspapers was the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance.

Several journalists are known to have been arrested but, given the many arrests that have taken place in the region, many more are probably being held. Roya Tolou, the editor of the newspaper Resan, was detained by police in Sanandaj on 2 August. Ejlal Ghavami, a journalist with the weekly Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan, was also arrested the same day.

Other journalists have been summoned to appear before local authorities for reasons that are unknown but probably related to reports published in the past few weeks.

Mohammad Sadegh Kabovand, Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan's editor, was asked to appear before a court in Sanandaj yesterday. He did appear but without his lawyer, who is none other than Abdolfattah Soltani, who was arrested on the orders of Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi on 30 July.

This is not the first time Kabovand has been harassed by local judicial officials. He was arrested and taken before a court in Sanandaj on 15 June 2004 for "spreading separatist ideas and publishing false reports" and the court ordered the closure of his newspaper two weeks later.

Iran's New Oil Disorder

Reza Bayegan, Iran va Jahan:

"An Interview with Dr Parviz Mina"

Iran's president elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has promised to make sweeping changes in the management of Iran's state-run oil industry. During his presidential campaign he lambasted the management of this sector and claimed that Iranian oil wealth was controlled by a single powerful family. READ MORE

"I will cut the hands of the mafias of power and factions who have a grasp on our oil; I stake my life on this... People must see their share of oil money in their daily lives," he said during the election race. Taking him at his word, we should therefore expect major changes in the offing for the management of an industry which makes Iran the fourth leading exporter of oil in the world.

The relationship with international oil companies is also bound to alter. Mr. Ahmadinejad has remarked that “The atmosphere ruling over our deals, production and exports is not clear. We should clarify it.” Iranian oil being of such a monumental importance for the country's economic and political future, the new president's comments cannot be treated lightly. Moreover, Mr. Ahmadinejad would not have made those comments without the backing of the supreme leader, of whom he is a zealous follower, and who has the last word on important issues.

In order to understand the implications of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks for the future of the oil industry in Iran, I needed to talk to a person who was thoroughly familiar with the Iranian oil sector. I reckoned that the best person who could enlighten me on this topic was Dr. Parviz Mina, the international petroleum consultant, a former member of the Board of Directors and Managing Director of International Affairs of the National Iranian Oil Company.

I had been introduced to him before and had met him on several occasions at various Iranian events in Paris. He is a straight arrow, well deserving his high reputation for excellence and integrity.

I called him and asked for an interview. He graciously accepted. The following is the result thereof:

R.B: The newly elected president in Iran has promised sweeping changes in the Iranian oil sector. He says he will eradicate the mafias of power who have kept the oil industry in their grasp. What do you think is the implication of these statements for the future of the oil industry in Iran?

Dr. Mina: If Ahmadinejad sincerely believes that the Iranian oil industry is plagued with mafia type corruption, he has no alternative other than to get rid of the entire management. This means that those with years of experience will be replaced by novices who are unable to make expert decisions. After the 1979 Revolution, three echelons of management in the National Iranian Oil Company including directors and heads of divisions and departments were removed. This move had severe consequences for the country's oil industry. If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would embark on another purge and get rid of what he calls ‘mafias of power' he will deprive the oil sector of people who, irrespective of their ethical standing have gained invaluable experience over the past two decades. This cannot be but disastrous for the Iranian oil industry. The dilemma he faces is that defenestrating an experienced, albeit corrupt management, who are the people he is going to replace them with? Where is he going to come up with a new team? What kind of capability could such a new management offer to deal with highly complex issues? There can be no getting away from the fact that the oil industry requires expert knowledge in all its various domains. It would take a long time for the new cadre to learn the skills and gain the requisite knowledge and experience. In the meanwhile, one can only expect that chaos would prevail and the power of effective decision-making be severely curtailed. Corruption has become endemic in the Islamic regime and if it is to be cured, it has to be eradicated from the very top level of the clerical establishment that governs Iran.

The present cadre has seen to it that the agreements with international oil companies lack any semblance of transparency. How is the new team going to deal with these recondite, shady deals? The anarchy that would ensue can only create further uncertainty and frighten away international investors. If such a scenario comes to pass, we can expect a period of very costly stagnation.

R.B: The new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made a promise to distribute the oil revenue amongst the population and make people feel its benefits in their daily lives. How in your opinion will he be able to do such a thing? What would the impact be of such a move on the overall national economy?

Dr. Mina: The fact of the matter is that the oil revenue which has exceeded 500 billion dollars since the revolution has not been properly invested in infrastructure, economic and industrial development, betterment of social welfare and the well-being of the Iranian population. One can expect the new president making a move in the direction of increasing the subsidies particularly on petroleum products. The inevitable effect of introducing such a policy would be the skyrocketing of consumption. Together with a decrease in international investment that I mentioned earlier and a reduction in production capacity, this increased internal consumption would only erode the volume of export and thus the national oil revenue. According to the statements by the current oil minister, the Iranian production capacity is diminishing by 7 to 8 percent a year while internal consumption is increasing by 6 to 7 percent a year. If the country's ability to export oil is impaired, that can only translate into a lowering of the standard of living for Iranians.

Belligerence on the issue of enriching uranium can also create difficulties. If Europeans are not able to secure the concessions they seek from the Islamic Republic on the nuclear programme, the dispute would be referred to the United Nations Security Council and the possibility of sanctions would loom larger on the horizon. Sanctions more than in any other sector would hurt the Iranian oil industry which relies heavily on Europe and the United States for its technology.

The purge of the management that we discussed earlier would rob the oil industry from its experienced decision-makers and seasoned negotiators on the one hand, and sanctions would debilitate the industry and contribute to economic decline and great financial loss on the other. In other words, Ahmadinejad's plan, if implemented can only lead to a more equitable distribution of poverty and economic decline.

R.B: Since the 1979 revolution two massive bureaucracies, one in the Ministry of Oil and the other in the National Iranian Oil Company have been growing side by side creating massive duplication and contributing to a lack of transparency and accountability. Do you believe that Ahmadinejad could tackle this problem?

Dr. Mina: Before the revolution there was no Ministry of Oil. The National Iranian Oil Company as the sole agent of the government ran the entire industry. The Islamic Republic created the Ministry of Oil and put the NIOC under its tutelage. For fifteen years the NIOC was left without even a managing director. The Minister of Oil appointed seven deputies in charge of supervising the activities of various managers in the National Oil Company. In reality all the major decisions were made by these deputies who, by the way had no expertise. Their only credential was commitment to the Islamic regime and a connection to one of the country's centers of power. Accordingly, all the prerogative and authority was gradually taken away from the NIOC and given to the Ministry of Oil.

Ahmadinejad has said that he wants to put a stop to duplication and introduce measures that ensure transparency. This would prove as difficult as putting the genie back into the bottle. Bijan Zanganeh, from the time he has been appointed as Islamic Republic's oil minister has created close to one hundred affiliated and subsidiary companies. All the projects are divided between these companies. As an example previously all the exploration, drilling and production efforts were concentrated under one director in the NIOC, now there are ten to twelve companies each making decisions and having a finger in the pie. Before the revolution we had in total 54,000 employees working for the Iranian oil industry, 34,000 were rank and file and 20,000 professional staff. Today this number has reached the colossal figure of over 180,000. What is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad planning to do with this monstrosity?

R.B: This seems like total anarchy. Were there no regulatory provisions to prevent such an outcome?

Dr. Mina: This is just it. The haphazard decision-making was due to having neither a statute for NIOC, nor a petroleum law to govern the behaviour of the players and setting clear instructions regarding various interactions. In 1957 after the nationalization of oil, the first Petroleum Act was put together and was passed by the parliament. In 1974 a new law came into effect and took into consideration the latest developments in the industry and the relationship with international partners. Since the beginning of the revolution, the country's Petroleum Act as well as NIOC statute has been discarded. The Islamic Republic has also failed to create a statute or Petroleum Act of its own to replace the old one. Decisions are made on the spur of the moment, without any consistency or regard for a long term national interest.

R.B: Mr. Kamal Daneshyar the chairman of the parliament's energy commission, anticipating "total change" in the structure of the oil sector and "fundamental" changes in contracts has also criticized the "buy-back" system, under which Iran gives payment in kind to oil companies that develop its oilfields, as "costly and damaging to oil reserves". Could you please elaborate on what the buy-back system first of all is, and then tell us whether it makes economic sense for Iran to engage in this mode of contract?

Dr. Mina: The buy-back system is an arbitrary scheme which was designed after the revolution to circumvent constitutional constraints on foreign investment as well as parliamentary limitations on external debts. The Islamic regime more preoccupied with empty slogans than genuine national interest put this system into place in order to supposedly disallow any foreign equity and ownership. Well, this was much revolutionary ado about nothing. In 1974 NIOC drafted a new and innovative petroleum law which was approved by the council of ministers and enacted by the parliament. This new law envisaged that exploration and production agreement with foreign oil companies could only be concluded on the basis of “Risk Service Contract” under which the contractor had no right to the reserves discovered or to the production from the field developed. The model agreement was so structured that it did not contain any of the disadvantages inherent in the buy-back system and thus safeguarded Iran's long term interests. Although the foreign company was acting as a contractor working for the NIOC, it was obligated to conduct exploration operation entirely at its own risk. If the exploration was successful and oil was discovered, then the company was obligated to development the oil field on behalf and under the supervision and control of NIOC. Once commercial production was commenced, the contract would have expired and NIOC would have taken over the entire operation. NIOC was in charge of the production, and for a certain stipulated duration not exceeding fifteen years would sell 50 percent of the production to the aforesaid company with a discount so that the company would be able to recover its original investment and gain a reasonable return on investment. This system provided the most beneficial means for Iranians to harness the capacity of their oil fields.

After the Islamic regime took over, the real objective was the overthrow of the old system in all its aspects. Change was instituted for the sake of change. Based on this vengeful policy the buy-back system came into existence. Under the buy-back agreements despite the fact that the international oil companies are not exposed to any exploration risks and the buy-back contacts are completely risk free involving development work in a relatively simple environment, yet they are guaranteed a predetermined fixed remuneration equivalent to 18 to 20 percent rate of return on their capital investment.

The duration of the buy-back contract is very short thus aligning the interests of the contractor and NIOC is difficult. While the buy-back contract is a fixed rate of return contract, it does not encourage or reward the contractor to improve project return for the benefit of both the contractor and NIOC. After the contractor has recovered all its costs and remuneration, it has no interest in problems that may confront NIOC in the later life of the project. Transfer of technology and management skill is not encouraged under this type of contract.

Furthermore, prior to the Revolution, oil contracts were required to be approved by parliament. The cabinet and parliament were kept abreast of the details of the deals. Any Iranian citizen was legally entitled to have access to the text of these contracts. Today, Iranian members of parliament are complaining bitterly about being kept entirely in the dark about the terms of these contracts.

All these problems are direct results of throwing out the oil law and resorting to arbitrary decision-making. It should be added that the existence of clear rules and regulations not only is to the benefit of the oil producing country, but also is reassuring for the international investor. It puts an end to uncertainty and creates an atmosphere of reliability and trust.

R.B: Dr. Mina thank you very much for this interview.

* For a Chronicle of Iran's struggle towards political emancipation visit Reza Bayegan's Blog: Ekbatan Observer