Posts tagged iran
Iran on the brink
The Iranian government Wednesday, Oct. 3, invoked the emergency measures drawn up for the 2009 protests to deploy large-scale Bassij militia forces in the capital and put down the first angry protests against mounting economic hardship and the plummeting rial.
Debkafile’s Iranian sources report two waves of riots swept through Tehran’s trading centers Wednesday: the stores trading gold coins and foreign currency on Fereowsi, Estanbol and Manoucheri Streets, and the celebrated gold jewelry market in the Tehran Bazaar.
Money changers and gold traders attacked police forces and torched their vehicles, playing cat and mouse with the officers after they arrested some of the money changers and accused them of black market dealings.
This was part of the regime’s effort to curtail the steep plunge of the Iranian currency against the dollar. Wednesday, a dollar went for 40,000 rials compared with 37,500 rials Tuesday and 24,000 only a week ago.
Fearing that the troubles Wednesday presaged a general strike shutting down the bazaar for an indefinite period, the authorities decided to draw the line before the unrest spread to the rest of the capital and other cities.
Two teams are now at work to deal with the crisis before it gets out of hand: One is meeting at the office of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; the second, including Interior Minister Mostafa Mohamnmad-Najjar and Revolutionary commander of the Tehran district, is working on ways to rein in the crisis in the presidential bureau of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Both have received intelligence briefings, according to which there was a real risk of the Tehran merchants’ revolt igniting a popular uprising in Tehran that may well encompass the entire country.
The brutal Bassij militia were accordingly sent into Tehran. They were told to spread out early Thursday and force the merchants to open their shops. They were directed to act firmly but cautiously and avoid loss of life. Iran’s rulers are fully aware the any blood spilt at this stage would quickly inflame the masses. source – DEBKA
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will set out, in his speech at the United Nations on Thursday, an ultimatum for Iran to halt its disputed nuclear drive or risk coming under military attack, an Israeli official said.
Netanyahu faces the world body after U.S. President Barack Obama disappointed some Israelis, in his own address to the annual assembly, by not calling for a deadline to be imposed on Tehran – though he did say time for diplomacy “is not unlimited”.
Israel sees a mortal threat in a nuclear-armed Iran and has long threatened to strike its arch-foe pre-emptively, agitating war-wary world powers as they pursue sanctions and negotiations.
Complicating Netanyahu’s strategy have been his testy relations with Obama as a U.S. election looms, and the reluctance of many Israelis to trigger a conflict with Iran, which denies that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and has pledged wide-ranging retaliation if attacked.
“The prime minister will set a clear red line in his speech that will not contradict Obama’s remarks. Obama said Iran won’t have nuclear weapons. The prime minister will clarify the way in which Iran won’t have nuclear arms,” a senior Israeli official said en route to New York, without elaborating.
Though he has not previously detailed when Israel might be willing to go to war, Netanyahu has said Iran could have enough low-enriched uranium by early 2013 to refine to a high level of fissile purity for a first nuclear device [ID:nL5E8KG2P5].
Israel worries that this final step, if taken, could happen too quickly or quietly to be prevented.
Iran has said it has no plans to enrich uranium beyond the 20 percent purity required to run a reactor producing medical isotopes. That level, however, brings raw uranium exponentially closer to the 90 percent enrichment required for bomb fuel.
Though reputed to have the Middle East’s sole nuclear arsenal, Israel would be hard-put to deliver lasting damage to Iran’s remote facilities using its conventional forces, or to handle a multi-front war.
Netanyahu’s public calls for a U.S. ultimatum have deepened acrimony with Obama, a Democrat accused by his Republican rivals of being soft on the Jewish state’s security. That has stirred American accusations of Israeli meddling in the November presidential elections – something denied by Netanyahu.
“The prime minister will say that Israel and the United States can work together to achieve their common goal,” said the Israeli official on condition of anonymity.
Netanyahu, who heads a broad-based, conservative coalition government, departed for New York on Wednesday saying he would take the U.N. podium for an Israel “united in the goal of preventing Iran from achieving nuclear weaponry”.
But surveys show that most Israelis – apparently swayed by the open dissent of several senior national-security figures – would oppose launching unilateral strikes on Iran, given the risk of alienating Washington and of provoking clashes with Tehran’s Islamist militant allies in Lebanon and Gaza.
A poll published by the liberal Haaretz newspaper on Thursday found that 50 percent of Israelis feared for the survival of their country, should there be a conflict.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in his speech to the General Assembly on Wednesday, said Iran was under threat of military action from “uncivilized Zionists,” a clear reference to Israel. Earlier this week, Ahmadinejad said that Israel would eventually be “eliminated.”
Haaretz also ran excerpts from a leaked Foreign Ministry report that sanctions had caused greater damage to Iran’s economy than anticipated by Israel.
The findings, confirmed to Reuters by an Israeli official, could undermine any attempt by Netanyahu to argue that the military alternative must be considered imminently.
Israeli opposition leader Shaul Mofaz criticized Netanyahu for sparring with Obama and voiced confidence in U.S. resolve.
“I am convinced that the United States, the president of the United States, is determined to prevent Iran going nuclear,” Mofaz told Israel’s Army Radio.
Even within Netanyahu’s coalition there have been misgivings about the pitch of disagreement with the United States.
Danny Ayalon, deputy to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, described Obama’s Iran remarks at the United Nations as “important, albeit measured”.
Speaking on Israel Radio, Ayalon said the Netanyahu government and Obama administration were in discreet contacts and approaching agreement on setting limits for Iran. source – Yahoo News
Signs of the times
“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” 1 Thessalonians 5:3
Flashing the peace sign, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the UN on Monday that Iran is unconcerned by Israeli threats of attack but prepared to defend itself, adding that Israel has ‘no roots’ in the history of the Middle East and would be ‘eliminated’.
The Iranian president made the remarks as he attended the first full day of the annual UN General Assembly in New York. Israeli delegates walked out of the conference as he began to speak.
Ahmadinejad also said it was not too late for dialogue with the United States to resolve differences.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted Israel could strike Iran’s nuclear sites and has criticized U.S. President Obama’s position that sanctions and diplomacy should be given more time to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Iran denies that it is seeking nuclear arms and says its atomic work is peaceful, aimed at generating electricity.
‘Fundamentally we do not take seriously the threats of the Zionists. … We have all the defensive means at our disposal and we are ready to defend ourselves,’ Ahmadinejad told reporters in New York, where he is due to attend the UN General Assembly.
He refused to speak of the state of Israel by name and instead referred only to the ‘Zionists’, and when asked about author Salman Rushdie he made no attempt to distance himself from recent renewed threats on the author’s life emanating from an Iranian semi-official religious foundation.
He said: ‘If he is in the U.S., you should not broadcast it for his own safety.’
Rushdie, an Indian-born British novelist who has nothing to do with the video, was condemned to death in 1989 by Khomeini, Iran’s late leader, over his novel The Satanic Verses, saying its depiction of the Prophet Mohammad was blasphemous.
NTEB RADIO: Psalm 83 And The Rage Of Islam
(Reuters) - Iran could launch a pre-emptive strike on Israel if it was sure the Jewish state were preparing to attack it, a senior commander of its elite Revolutionary Guards was quoted as saying on Sunday.
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, made the comments to Iran’s state-run Arabic language Al-Alam television, according to a report on the network’s website.
“Iran will not start any war but it could launch a pre-emptive attack if it was sure that the enemies are putting the final touches to attack it,” Al-Alam said, paraphrasing the military commander.
Hajizadeh said any attack on Iranian soil could trigger “World War Three”.
“We cannot imagine the Zionist regime starting a war without America’s support. Therefore, in case of a war, we will get into a war with both of them and we will certainly get into a conflict with American bases,” he said
“In that case, unpredictable and unmanageable things would happen and it could turn into a World War Three.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made increasing hints that Israel could strike Iran’s nuclear sites and has criticized U.S. President Barack Obama’s position that sanctions and diplomacy should be given more time to stop Iran getting the atomic bomb.
Tehran denied it is seeking weapons capability and says its atomic work is peaceful, aimed at generating electricity. source – Reuters
Iranian military leaders unveiled a new missile defense system Friday that is built to destroy “aggressive” U.S. aircraft, according to reports.
The system, dubbed Ra’d, “has been built in a bid to confront U.S. aircraft and can hit targets 50km in distance and 75,000 feet in altitude,” Iranian General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the nation’s Aerospace Force Brigadier, told Iran’s Fars News Agency Friday.
The new system is evidence that Iran’s military capabilities are becoming more sophisticated as it gets closer to building nuclear weapons capabilities, foreign policy experts told the Free Beacon.
“This means the clock is ticking down” on a preemptive strike on Iran by the U.S. or Israel, said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq. “With the more progress they make with their missiles, they may take the option off the table for us.”
While Iran’s nuclear ambitions have received widespread coverage in the Western press, its growing military capabilities on other fronts have not drawn as much attention.
“Iranian engineers are talented and those who don’t work on the nuclear program are very good at reverse engineering” Russian weaponry and other systems, Rubin said. The Ra’d system was built in Iran, Fars reported, just like a recently announced cruise missile that is reportedly capable of reaching any Israeli city.
Iran’s Air Defense Unit released to Fars specific information regarding the new missile defense sytsem’s capabilities:
The highly-advanced home-made Ra’d (Thunder) air defense system is equipped with ‘Taer’ (Bird) missiles, which can trace and hit targets 50km in distance and 75,000f in altitude.
The announcement was made amid an Iranian military parade Friday. The Mehr news agency also reported on the new system. Iranian Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted by Fars as saying the defense system is being “mass-produced”:
“The Ra’d air-defense system, which is more advanced than the Buckeye system has recently been developed and is now being mass-produced,” Jafari told reporters in a press conference on Sunday.
The defense system could complicate a possible Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites, Rubin said. “It forces Israel to rush out any decision” it might make regarding a strike, Rubin said.
While Western officials usually view Iran’s military bluster with skepticism, Rubin said that the increased announcements could be a sign that Iran is serious about responding to Western threats.
“Whether they’re exaggerated or not, the Israelis know the direction the Iranians are going and will be forced to play their hands,” he explained. “You can only hold off so long.” source – Free Beacon
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration will remove from the U.S. terrorism list an Iranian militant group formerly allied with Saddam Hussein, officials said Friday, describing a move that will infuriate Tehran and end years of high-profile campaigning by the group.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will notify Congress of her intent later Friday, the officials said. A court order had given her until Oct. 1 to make a decision about the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak about the matter.
Clinton’s decision comes just days after the last big batch of the Iranian exiles reluctantly left their decades-old paramilitary base in northeastern Iraq, relocating for now to a refugee camp outside Baghdad. The U.S. had insisted that the MEK’s 3,000 members comply with an Iraqi demand to leave Camp Ashraf as a condition of the MEK’s removal from the list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Derided by its critics as a cult, the group has journeyed through multiple countries and the shifting alliances of the Middle East over its four-decade history. The MEK helped Islamic clerics overthrow Iran’s shah before carrying out a series of bombings and assassinations against the Iranian government. It fought in the 1980s alongside Saddam’s forces in the Iran-Iraq war, but disarmed after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. It has since suffered violent recriminations from Iraq’s new Shiite-dominated government.
The decision to remove the MEK list rested on two factors: whether it still had the capacity and intent to commit acts of terror. Several American military officials and defense contractors were killed by the MEK in the 1970s, U.S. officials maintain, and its attacks have killed hundreds of Iranians. But the group contended it swore off violence more than a decade ago and now only seeks a peaceful overthrow of Iran’s theocratic government.
The MEK assembled a high-profile roster of champions even as it remained on the U.S. blacklist. Luminaries who‘ve advocated for the MEK’s removal from the list include former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former FBI Director Louis Freeh, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and James Jones, President Barack Obama’s first national security adviser.
That led the Treasury Department earlier this year to examine whether the officials were providing illegal material support to designated terrorists; that civil inquiry probably would be nullified now. Removal from the list also should make it easier for the MEK to raise money and recruit in the United States.
The organization is far from Iran’s mainstream opposition, however.
The group has an ideology mixing Marxism, secularism, an obsession with martyrdom and near adoration of its leaders. A 2009 report by the security think tank RAND accuses it of fraudulent recruiting as well as “authoritarian control, confiscation of assets, sexual control (including mandatory divorce and celibacy), emotional isolation, forced labor, sleep deprivation, physical abuse and limited exit options.”
MEK supporters say this is Iranian propaganda, pointing to several former members who’ve freely left the group.
It also vehemently rejects the Iranian accusation that members have worked with Israel to assassinate several Iranian nuclear scientists. U.S. officials say there is no evidence to suggest recent terrorist activity by the group.
U.S. officials said Clinton’s letter to Congress would not amount to a final designation. That will probably come in a couple of weeks as officials unfreeze assets held by the group in the United States and other legal work that might allow it to open a U.S. office.
Camp Ashraf is not yet fully closed. An estimated 200 exiles remain there to try to sell off the property that was left behind in the move, but Iraq’s government wants them to leave quickly.
The hostility of Baghdad’s Shiite leaders reflect its desire to build stronger ties with Iran, but also the deep hatred for the group in Iraq because of its purported role in helping Saddam crush Shiite and Kurdish revolts in the 1990s.
When the MEK handed over its hundreds of tanks and artillery pieces to U.S. forces, the Bush administration agreed to protect the group and posted soldiers and a general at the camp for years. The army and the MEK even worked on joint patrols and other emergency plans.
But for Iraqi authorities the camp remained a no-go zone. In effect, the MEK attempted to defend a sovereign zone inside the post-Saddam Iraq, which U.S. officials say contributed to violence.
An Iraqi raid last year left 34 exiles dead.
The MEK has shown footage of the atrocities and gained U.S. support. But it said it needed the administration to act because the terrorist label helped Iraqi authorities justify mistreatment of its members and made it harder for residents to find permanent homes in other nations.
Most of its members are now in Camp Liberty, a former U.S. base designed as a compromise way-station for the United Nations to speed them out of Iraq peacefully. Several governments are weighing whether to accept them. Washington could allow the immigration of some, but none that were actively involved in terrorist attacks from the 1970s-1990s, officials have said.
After suffering a crackdown under Iran’s monarchy, the MEK helped Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrow U.S.-backed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979.
It then quickly fell out with Khomeini, and thousands of its followers were killed, imprisoned or forced into exile. It launched its campaign of assassinations and bombings against Iran’s government in retaliation. The U.S. declared it a terrorist organization in 1997 at a time when Washington sought warmer relations with Tehran under the reformist presidency of Mohammad Khatami.
Yet the group also has provided the Americans with intelligence on Iran and convinced many governments that it has abandoned terrorism. In 2002, it revealed Iran’s secret work on uranium enrichment near the city of Natanz – intelligence that many speculated came from Israel’s Mossad.
It claims to have a strong network of sympathizers and informants inside Iran. But would-be reformers have distanced themselves from the movement. The Green Movement that protested after the 2009 fraud-riddled re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has publicly shunned the MEK.
Still, the group presses on with its goal of replacing the Iranian regime with a democratic, secular government. It says its parliament in exile includes Kurds, Baluchis, Armenians, Jews and Zoroastrians.
Because the MEK cannot operate legally in the U.S., it has lobbied its cause through several front organizations. Maryam Rajavi is the ostensible head of the whole movement from the France headquarters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Her husband, Massoud, was the MEK’s leader before he disappeared in Baghdad nine years ago. He is presumed dead.
The terror designation “was illegitimate from the onset,” said Shahin Gobadi, a Paris-based spokesman for the group. He called it an impediment to change in Iran, an unfair punishment of the MEK and the justification for Iraqi mistreatment of its members. source – AP
“My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121
An armada of US and British naval power is massing in the Persian Gulf in the belief that Israel is considering a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s covert nuclear weapons programme. Battleships, aircraft carriers, minesweepers and submarines from 25 nations are converging on the strategically important Strait of Hormuz in an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war.
Western leaders are convinced that Iran will retaliate to any attack by attempting to mine or blockade the shipping lane through which passes around 18 million barrels of oil every day, approximately 35 per cent of the world’s petroleum traded by sea.
A blockade would have a catastrophic effect on the fragile economies of Britain, Europe the United States and Japan, all of which rely heavily on oil and gas supplies from the Gulf.
The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most congested international waterways. It is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point and is bordered by the Iranian coast to the north and the United Arab Emirates to the south.
In preparation for any pre-emptive or retaliatory action by Iran, warships from more than 25 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will today begin an annual 12-day exercise.
The war games are the largest ever undertaken in the region. They will practise tactics in how to breach an Iranian blockade of the strait and the force will also undertake counter-mining drills.
The multi-national naval force in the Gulf includes three US Nimitz class carrier groups, each of which has more aircraft than the entire complement of the Iranian air force.
The carriers are supported by at least 12 battleships, including ballistic missile cruisers, frigates, destroyers and assault ships carrying thousand of US Marines and special forces.
The British component consists of four British minesweepers and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay, a logistics vessel. HMS Diamond, a brand-new £1billion Type 45 destroyer, one of the most powerful ships in the British fleet, will also be operating in the region.
In addition, commanders will also simulate destroying Iranian combat jets, ships and coastal missile batteries.
In the event of war, the main threat to the multi-national force will come from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps navy, which is expected to adopt an “access-denial” strategy in the wake of an attack, by directly targeting US warships, attacking merchant shipping and mining vital maritime chokepoints in the Persian Gulf.
Defence sources say that although Iran’s capability may not be technologically sophisticated, it could deliver a series of lethal blows against British and US ships using mini-subs, fast attack boats, mines and shore-based anti-ship missile batteries.
Next month, Iran will stage massive military manoeuvres of its own, to show that it is prepared to defend its nuclear installations against the threat of aerial bombardment.
The exercise is being showcased as the biggest air defence war game in the Islamic Republic’s history, and will be its most visible response yet to the prospect of an Israeli military strike.
Using surface-to-air missiles, unmanned drones and state-of-the-art radar, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and air force will combine to test the defences of 3,600 sensitive locations throughout the country, including oil refineries and uranium enrichment facilities.
Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili, commander of the Khatam al-Anbiya air defence base, told a conference this month that the manoeuvres would “identify vulnerabilities, try out new tactics and practise old ones”.
At the same time as the Western manoeuvres in the Gulf, the British Response Task Forces Group — which includes the carrier HMS Illustrious, equipped with Apache attack helicopters, along with the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle – will be conducting a naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean. The task force could easily be diverted to the Gulf region via the Suez Canal within a week of being ordered to do so.
The main naval exercise comes as President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, today to discuss the Iranian crisis.
Many within the Obama administration believe that Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities before the US presidential elections, an act which would signal the failure of one of Washington’s key foreign policy objectives.
Both Downing Street and Washington hope that the show of force will demonstrate to Iran that Nato and the West will not allow President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian leader, to develop a nuclear armoury or close Hormuz.
Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, reportedly met the Israeli prime minister and Ehud Barak, his defence secretary, two weeks ago in an attempt to avert military action against Iran.
But just last week Mr Netanyahu signalled that time for a negotiated settlement was running out when he said: “The world tells Israel ‘Wait, there’s still time.’ And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’
“Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”
The crisis hinges on Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme, which Israel believes is designed to build an atomic weapon. Tehran has long argued that the programme is for civil use only and says it has no plans to an build a nuclear bomb, but that claim has been disputed by the West, with even the head of MI6 stating that the Islamic Republic is on course to develop atomic weapons by 2014.
The Strait of Hormuz has long been disputed territory, with the Iranians claiming control of the region and the entire Persian Gulf.
Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps recently boasted that “any plots of enemies” would be foiled and a heavy price exacted, adding: “We determine the rules of military conflict in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.”
But Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, warned that Iranian attempts to exercise control over the Strait of Hormuz could be met with force.
He said: “The Iranians need to understand that the United States and the international community are going to hold them directly responsible for any disruption of shipping in that region — by Iran or, for that matter, by its surrogates.”
Mr Panetta said that the United States was “fully prepared for all contingencies” and added: “We’ve invested in capabilities to ensure that the Iranian attempt to close down shipping in the Gulf is something that we are going to be able to defeat if they make that decision.”
That announcement was supported by Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, who added: “We are determined to work as part of the international community effort to ensure freedom of passage in the international waters of the Strait of Hormuz.”
One defence source told The Sunday Telegraph last night: “If it came to war, there would be carnage. The Iranian casualties would be huge but they would be able to inflict severe blows against the US and British.
“The Iranian Republican Guard are well versed in asymmetrical warfare and would use swarm attacks to sink or seriously damage ships. This is a conflict nobody wants, but the rhetoric from Israel is unrelenting.” source – Telegraph UK