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Thursday
Feb142013

Iran Live Coverage: Revolutionary Guards Issue A Warning to The Leaders

Qassem Sulemani, the head of the Quds Forces of the Revolutionary Guards, cries at a memorial for Guards commander Hassan Shateri, killed on Tuesday in Syria

Wednesday's Iran Live Coverage: Nuclear Talks with the IAEA


2015 GMT:Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Senior cleric Mehdi Taeb, head of the Ammar Base think tank, has offered more explanation of Iran's military role in Syria, encouraging the formation of militias:,/p>

Syria had an army, but this army was incapable of managing war inside cities. Therefore, Iran suggested [to Syria] that they form a Basij in order to manage urban warfare.... The Syrian Basij was formed with 60,000 Hezbollahi and [this] caused the urban warfare to be transferred from the Syrian army [to the Syrian Basij]....

Of course, this adventure caused the Syrian Army to also become involved in some of these matters [urban warfare], and to become familiarized with all [aspects of the conflict].

2010 GMT:Ahmadinejad v. Larijani. More fallout from Sunday's incident in which more than 100 supporters of President Ahmadinejad shouted down and threw prayer tablets and shoes at Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani as he spoke at a Qom mosque....

The head of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, has joined the voices condemning the attack, "The horrible Qom incident was truly an explicit betrayal to the country."

A special Parliamentary commission, investigating the episode, said six men have been arrested.

1930 GMT:Scary Story of the Day (cont.). The Moon over Alabama blog takes apart the Iran Scary Magnet Story, started by the Institute for Science and International Security and transcribed by the Washington Post (see 1550 GMT):

1. The magnets, supposedly vital components for an escalation of advanced centrifuges and thus a leap from a civilian to a military nuclear programme, were not "highly specialised" and were not of "an unusual alloy";
2. The dimensions of the magnets do not match the dimensions of the magnets currently used in Iran's centrifuges;
3. There was no "purchase order" placed with China for the magnets, only a request for a quote.

1550 GMT:Scary Story of the Day. The Washington Post's Joby Warrick, who gave us the scary "Iran-Hezbollan 50,000-Man Militia in Syria" story this week --- taken apart in not just one but two EA analyses --- is back again with a warning of Dangerous Magnets:

Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability.

Purchase orders obtained by nuclear researchers show an attempt by Iranian agents to buy 100,000 of the ring-shaped magnets — which are banned from export to Iran under U.N. resolutions — from China about a year ago, those familiar with the effort said. It is unclear whether the attempt succeeded.

Although Iran ha frequently sought to buy banned items from foreign vendors, this case is considered unusual because of the order’s specificity and sheer size — enough magnets in theory to outfit 50,000 new centrifuges, or nearly five times the number that Iran currently operates.

The revelation of the new orders for nuclear-sensitive parts coincides with Iran’s announcement that it plans to add thousands of more-advanced, second-generation centrifuges that would allow it to ramp up its production of enriched uranium even further, analysts said.

Warrick grabbed the revelation from David Albright's ISIS, the think tank that specialises in Scary Iran Stories. He does not bother to ask if the centrifuges enrich uranium only to 5% --- which Iranian officials stated on Tuesday --- or to 20%, still a level for civilian rather than military use, or for more than 90% and a militarised capacity. He merely says, "The attempt...has fueled Western concerns that Iran is planning a major expansion in its nuclear capacity that would allow it to make atomic weapons quickly if it chooses to do so," and then quotes an unnamed European diplomat:

They are positioning themselves to make a lot of nuclear progress quickly. Each step forward makes the situation potentially more dangerous.

1540 GMT:Tough Talk of the Day. The head of the Basij militia, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, has declared, "In war, the enemy's [aircraft] carriers are worth even less than a tin can."

1457 GMT:Ahmadinejad Watch. Shifting his attention from the regime’s internal battles, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared that “hegemonic powers” are unable to stop Iran’s nuclear programme and “anyone who thinks he can defeat the Iranian nation through pressure should know that he is seriously wrong and that they will take this wish to their grave.”

1445 GMT:Revolutionary Guard Commander Killed - Update. The English-language Khabar Online website suggests that General Hassan Shateri, the Revolutionary Guard commander killed in Syria, “has been assassinated by suspected Israeli agents.”

1436 GMT:Human Rights Watch. Publisher, physician and activist Mehdi Khazali, who has been on hunger strike for 46 days and is in a critical condition, has refused a medical injection to improve his condition.

1427 GMT:Foreign Affairs Watch (Argentina Front). Argentina's foreign minister, Hector Timerman, has stated that Iranian officials will be questioned about allegations of Iran’s involvement in the bombing of a Jewish charities building in Buenos Aires in 1994.

Timerman claimed that the Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, had assured him that Iran “will comply with all points of the agreement” despite the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s assertion that the claim that Iranian officials will be questioned was “a sheer lie.”

Some of the officials wanted by Argentina for questioning include Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and ex-foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, who have all had international arrests warrants out against them since 2006.

1225 GMT: Nuclear Watch.Herman Nackaerts, the Deputy Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has said Wednesday's discussions in Tehran “could not finalise” a document that “once agreed, should facilitate the resolution of outstanding issues regarding possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program".

Nackaerts declined to say whether any progress had been made.

Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh said "basic agreement" had been removed on a framework for inspection of Iran's nuclear facilities and that the details would be confirmed at a future meeting.

Nackaerts said no date had been set for more talks: "We will work hard now to try and resolve the remaining differences, but time is needed to reflect on the way forward."

The IAEA official said that access to a military base, suspected by Western diplomats of hosting a high-explosives container which can be used in a military programme for uranium, had not been agreed: “As on previous occasions, we were not granted access to Parchin."

1211 GMT: Revolutionary Guards Commander Killed in Syria. More on Tuesday's killing of Revolutionary Guard commander Hassan Shateri, also known as Hessam Khoshnevis, in Syria....

A Syrian insurgent commander has said Shateri, in charge of Tehran's reconstruction assistance in Lebanon, was killed during an attack by rebel fighters near Zabadani, a few miles from the Lebanese border.

The Iranian embassy in Lebanon said Khoshnevis was slain by "armed terrorist groups", while the Revolutionary Guards public relations office said a commander was "martyred on his way from Damascus to Beirut by mercenaries".

Lebanon's Al-Safir newspaper said Khoshnevis was in Syria to study reconstruction plans for the northern city of Aleppo.

1200 GMT: The Battle Within. A Valentine's Day card with the Supreme Leader, President Ahmadinejad, and the tension over the June's Presidential election:

1151 GMT: Revolutionary Guards Watch. The Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guards, Ali Saeedi, has said that "political activities" are one of the Guard's "duties".

Saeedi sparked a political controversy inside Iran last month when he said that the Guards had a "duty" to "engineer" June's Presidential election.

0943 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Somalia Front). Iran’s representative to the United Nations has rejected allegations by UN monitors that Tehran has been supplying Islamist insurgents in Somalia with weapons.

The UN is currently backing an embargo on the supply of arms to Somalia.

Iran has also recently been accused of supplying arms to insurgents in Yemen, a claim rejected by Tehran.

0929 GMT: Nuclear Watch (European Front). European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton , the lead nuclear negotiator for the 5+1 Powers, has urged Iran to show flexibility during the high-level talks in Kazakhstan on 26 February.

Ashton told the UN Security Council "We hope that Iran will come to this negotiation with flexibility and that we can make substantial progress."

0922 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Echoing the regime line's dismissing direct talks with the US, Iran’s envoy to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaei, has said the “dual [US] approach" of applying pressure and voicing readiness for talks at the same time "is a nonsensical and futile issue because exerting pressure on Iran will hamper diplomatic efforts".

Meanwhile, Iranian efforts to assuage Western fears about Tehran’s nuclear aspirations continue with Speaker of Parliament, Ali Larijani, intervening in the debate.

Larijanii declared on Tuesday that nuclear “weapons have no place in Iran’s nuclear doctrine. Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has also issued a fatwa, forbidding the creation and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction".

KhabarOnline notes Khamenei’s assertion in February 2012 that “considers the pursuit and possession of nuclear weapons ‘a grave sin’ from every logical, religious and theoretical standpoint.”

0808 GMT: The Battle Within. The hard-line Raja News has attacked conservative MP Ahmad Tavakoli, claiming that he is the "greatest co-operator" with the "enemy" BBC Persian over the past year.

Tavakoli's Alef website has criticised regime censorship of Iranian media, claiming that it is pushing Iranians to rely on BBC Persian for news.

0805 GMT: Ahmadinejad v. Ahmadinejad. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech on Monday for the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution has been criticised by his brother Davood.

Davood aimed at his brother's declaration "Viva Spring", seen as the slogan of the President's right-hand man and possible Presidential candidate Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai: “The fundamental point is that because the Supreme Leader advised against premature electioneering, anyone who is not coordinated and on the same course as him, is not of the people."

0755 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). Senior cleric Mehdi Taeb has declared that Syria is "Iran's 35th and strategic province". He said, "If Syria and Khuzestan [in western Iran] get attacked, we will defend Syria first!"

0649 GMT: Iranian Commander Killed in Syria. Tehran's officials have confirmed that General Hassan Shateri, a senior commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has been killed as he was travelling from Syria to Lebanon.

The Iranian embassy said "terrorist armed groups" were behind his death on the Damascus-Beirut highway, while the Lebanese organisation Hezbollah has blamed the Syrian insurgency.

Shateri was in charge of Iranian-supervised construction projects in Lebanon and, before that, in Afghanistan. Iranian media have not made clear why he was in Syria.

0640 GMT: A Warning from the Revolutionary Guards. After last week's confrontation between President Ahmadinejad and the Larijani brothers --- Speaker of Parliament Ali and head of judiciary Sadegh --- the Revolutionary Guards have issued a warning  that “any action which destroys unity is deserving of decisive rebuttal”:

The spirituality and guidance of the Supreme Leader in various areas, in particular in the field of the preservation of national unity and the interests of the regime and the revolution, are recognized by the Revolutionary Guards as the 'clarifying explanation' for all. Without doubt any kind of action which destroys unity and prepares the basis for deviant movements and controversy in the media of the enemy is playing a role in the plans of the enemy.

Now the question: who is being warned? Ahmadinejad and his inner circle? The Larijanis? Both sides? Everyone except the Supreme Leader?

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