President Ahmadinejad at a public appearance on Friday
See also Iran Letter: Nasrin Sotoudeh from Prison "Why I Went on Hunger Strike" br>
Iran Feature: "Accept that the Regime is in Its Final Days" --- Dr Maleki's Letter to Supreme Leader br>
The Latest from Iran (14 December): An Advance in the Nuclear Talks?
South Korea imports of Iranian crude oil have increased 2.9% in November compared to a month ago despite West’s unilateral embargoes against Iran's oil and financial sectors.
According to the data released by Korea Customs Service, Seoul purchased 814,797 metric tons, equivalent to 5.97 million barrels, of oil from Iran in November...
South Korea halted crude purchases from Iran in August and September after its refiners lost insurance coverage on ships because of the sanctions imposed on Iran. However, Iran responded by using state-owned tankers to carry cargoes, a move that would allow South Korea to receive crude shipments without concerns over insurance guarantees.
Press TV, however, appears to have missed this report on longer-term prospects:
South Korean refiners will cut imports of Iranian crude during the six months to May by about a fifth from a year earlier, to avoid sanctions by Washington, government and industry sources told Reuters on Monday....
"The cut in next year's imports is expected to be by about 20 percent year on year," an industry source who has direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
South Korea gave the assurance on the size of the cuts in talks with the United States following discussions with Korean refiners, the sources said.
Such a cut would imply South Korean imports of about 147,814 bpd over the period to next May, since it imported 184,767 bpd of Iranian crude from December 2011 to May 2012.
1915 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. The head of armed forces, General Hassan Firouzabadi, has grabbed international headlines with the declaration about the deployment of NATO's Patriot anti-aircraft systems on Turkish border with Syria: “Every one of these Patriot missiles is a dark spot on the world map and is aimed at starting a world war."
Firouzabadi continues, “Patriot missiles are a defense line for the Zionists and a result of [the West’s] concerns over Iran’s missiles and Russia’s presence to defend Syria."
1158 GMT: Nuclear Watch. US officials use The Washington Post to put out the line, "New Nuclear Talks with Iran May Be Possible in Coming Weeks".
So are we on the verge of genuine discussions, or is this just another signal by the Americans that they expect unilateral concessions by Tehran if any significant talks are to take place?
1. On the surface, there appears to be little change from the US-European "stop, ship, and shut" demand --- send all 20% enriched uranium abroad and close the enrichment facility at Fordoo --- that ended in stalemate in the last high-level talks Moscow in June. While the article opens, "The six powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) have agreed on a new package of inducements to be offered to Iran if it agrees to freeze key parts of its nuclear program," it adds the telling note, "Iran rejected a similar deal earlier this year".
2. So what has changed? Washington believes that Tehran might concede because of pressure, "US officials said they were modestly hopeful that Tehran’s position had softened under the strain of international sanctions". The article cites an Administration official, "Our assessment is that it is possible that they are ready to make a deal. Certainly, the pressure is on.”
3. There is wiggle room in the description of the talks, "The purpose would be to test Iranian willingness to halt certain nuclear activities as an interim step," in that Tehran's agreement to stop, ship, and shut would not be framed as permanent or even comprehensive in the first instance. However, it is unclear what that limited measure would be.
And significantly, the supposed US reciprocation, "Iran would be offered technical help with its civilian nuclear program and a lifting of a ban on the purchase of aircraft parts," is no different from the "peanuts for diamonds" offer --- as described by foreign Iranian negotiator Hossein Mousavian --- turned down by Tehran in June.
State-owned CPC Corp. purchased 2 million barrels of Iranian crude loaded last month, the Bureau of Energy said Friday. Formosa Petrochemical Corp. bought approximately 2 million barrels of Iranian crude to be loaded by the end of December.
An official assured, however, that Taiwan's imports would not return to the 2011 level: "Due to risk diversification, we will continue to buy Iranian crude but the volume will decrease on a yearly basis in accordance to government's pledge to reduce oil trade with Iran over its nuclear program."
The US granted Taiwan a waiver from financial penalties in June because of its restriction of Iranian imports, and Washington renewed the waiver last week.
0759 GMT: All-Is-Well Alert. Mohsen Jalalpour, the Deputy Head of the Chamber of Commerce, has proclaimed that Iran's non-oil exports rose 32% between March and October: "The non-oil exports this year have compensated for the reduction in oil exports, including petrochemical products and condensates.
Fars' article citing Jalalpour does not give an absolute figure for the rise in income, so it is impossible to assess how much the claimed rise offsets the fall of more than 40% in oil revenue in the same period.
Last year, oil accounted for more than 80% of Iran's export income.
0755 GMT: Sanctions Watch. More from Friday's frank admission by Mohsen Rezaei --- former Revolutionary Guards commander, former Presidential candidate, and currently Secretary of the Expediency Council: "Sanctions have had an impact....The enemy has identified the weak point of the Islamic Republic, and unfortunately people's life is affected by it. Youth unemployment is soaring."
0730 GMT: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with six months to go in his Presidency and amid debates over how much power he holds, is not going without throwing a few punches. In a speech on Friday to officials of Khatam al-Anbia, the engineering branch of the Revolutionary Guards, he put out a far-from-veiled reference to the accumulated wealth of the Guards: "They should sell the real estate and land they possess."
Hojatoleslam Mahmoud Dehqani, the Supreme Leader's Representative to Khatam al-Anbia, defended the organisation. He said that profit was not Khatam al-Anbia's goal: it is "defending the high values of the regime of the Islamic Republic".
Meanwhile, conservative MP Ahmad Karimi Isfahani, was lashing out at the President, saying that principalists should admit that supporting Ahmadinejad was a “mistake": “When Ahmadinejad says he is not a principalist it is correct, and also truthfully principalists have thought correctly and his actions of the last 7 years show that he cannot be a reforming candidate for the presidency.”