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Entries in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (48)


The Latest from Iran (21 May): Friday Rest?

1935 GMT:More Diplomatic Games. The Islamic Republic News Agency reports:

After the joint announcement of Iran, Turkey and Brazil, Iran's permanent ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency announced the country's readiness to submit the letter to the agency. In a meeting with the agency's chief Yukiya Amano on Monday, Iran will hand over the letter.

1920 GMT: Diplomatic Games. Back from a break to find that the US has denied a visa to Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mehdi Akhondzadeh Basti.

Basti was planning to attend the month-long conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at the United Nations.

In a more positive development, the European Union's foreign policy director, Catherine Ashton, claims that Iran has signalled that it is ready to speak to representatives of the "5+1" powers (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China) about uranium enrichment.

NEW Iran Analysis: Four Perspectives on the Uranium-Sanctions Dance
Iran Document: Simin Behbahani’s Poem for the Executed
Iran Videos: Former Diplomat Heidari Reveals the Regime
The Latest from Iran (20 May): Back to Business

1540 GMT: Friday Rest, Indeed. A quiet day on the news front. Press TV now has the packaged summary of Ayatollah Jannati's Friday Prayer (much politer than our assessment at 1235 GMT), focusing on his portrayal of the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement on procedure over uranium enrichment: "This move by Iran is another step towards building trust and leaves no room for Western excuses."

The mothers of the three detained US citizens, arrested for crossing the Iran-Iraq border last summer, have met their children for a second time.

I'm off to chat with the Islamic Student Society at the University of Birmingham about US-Iran relations.

1240 GMT: Detainee Connections? Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times notes Iraq's release of two Iranians --- one arrested seven years ago and one in 2007 by US troops --- and speculates that there is a link to Tehran's permission for the mothers of 3 detained Americans to visit their children.

1235 GMT: Your Friday Prayer Summary. It's Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, at the podium today, and he's taking the audience on a global tour. The G-15 Summit of non-aligned nations, President Ahmadinejad's speech to the United Nations on nuclear non-proliferation, and the Turkish and Brazilian talks lead to Monday's agreement on a procedure over uranium enrichment: it's a buffet of international triumph.

But that's not to say that Jannati stayed away from the domestic scene. Here is a summary: Chastity good. Hijab very good. University students, take notice. Thank you and have a lovely day (if you're chaste and wearing the veil).

1225 GMT: Panahi Bail Hearing Tomorrow. The wife and lawyer of detained film director Jafar Panahi have told media that his case will be heard in Revolutionary Court on Saturday. Lawyer Farideh Gheirat said,  "Based on the promise I got (from the judiciary), I am hopeful that he will be released until the date set for his trial."

Panahi was arrested in early March and has recently gone on hunger strike to protest his treatment in prison.

0920 GMT: Economy Watch. Iran Labor Report surveys layoffs, unpaid wages, and problems for factories in Tabriz, including the threat to close one of the largest industries in the city, Tractors Manufacturing.

0915 GMT: The Afghanistan Protests. Demonstrations continue in Afghanistan over the jailing of Afghans in Iranian jails: the latest was outside the Iranian Consulate in Herat, with chants of "Marg bar Khamenei" (Death to Khamenei).

0910 GMT: Cyber-Wars. Revolutionary Guard commander Ebrahim Jabbari announces, "We have the second biggest cyber army of the world."

0755 GMT: Fashion Warning. Mohammad Hosseini, the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, has warned that women are not appropriately dressed in Iranian films.

0750 GMT: Conspiracy Theory of Day.Hojatoleslam Ruhollah Hosseinian, an Ahmadinejad supporter in Parliament, has "revealed" that, after meeting global financier George Soros, former President Mohammad Khatami anointed Mir Hossein Mousavi for leadership by "putting the green shawl around Mousavi's neck".

0740 GMT: Global Analysis of Day. Ahmadinejad Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai hands down a lesson in politics at home and abroad. He pronounces that "near to nothing is left over" from Israel, which exists only to serve superpowers in the Middle East". In contrast, Iran is a model where "no one has to be jobless", so "in 15 years millions of people in the world will be at our service".

0625 GMT: Brotherhood, Defence, and Hikers' Moms. A glance at Press TV's "Iran" section this morning is instructive: none of the lead stories are about internal matters. Instead, there is the platform of a meeting with the Speaker of Kuwait's Parliament for President Ahmadinejad to declare,
"The age of threat is over and (the) future belongs to brotherly talks."

The commander of Iran's ground forces, General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan responds to the age of non-threat with the announcement that Iran will deploy remote-controlled weapons on its border areas: ""So if any enemy enters these areas it will face either soldiers or weaponry that act as soldiers and will target them."

Elsewhere, it is Iranian goodwill that dominates, with features on Thursday's hotel visit by the mothers of three detained US citizens with their children, arrested for crossing the Iraq-Iran border last summer.

0555 GMT: So to the end of a week with both the artificial drama of the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement on uranium enrichment and the US-led response of a sanctions resolution introduced to the United Nations Security Council and the escalating drama of a Government, struggling to maintain legitimacy, stepping up intimidation and detentions.

We've posted a separate entry with four incisive and very different perspectives on the uranium dispute.

And now to watch for developments on the domestic front....

Iran's Uranium: Washington "Can't Afford to Look Ridiculous", Makes Ridiculous Move (Emery)

EA's Chris Emery analyses:

The US response reminds me of the scene in The Godfather where the Don’s advisor asks the studio boss to drop his objection to using Jonny Fontaine in his next film. The studio boss admits that, although Jonny would be perfect for the role, he is committed to ruining Fontaine's career. Fontaine had made him look ridiculous, and the studio boss explains, "A man in my position can’t afford to look ridiculous."

NEW Iran’s Uranium: Why Can’t the US Take Yes for an Answer? (Parsi)
Iran’s Uranium: US Shows a Middle Finger to Tehran…and Turkey and Brazil and… (Gary Sick)

The Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement was a good deal, but the US perceived that it would make them look ridiculous. Not just because it undercuts American diplomacy with China and Russia but because the deal resonates of a change in the international system ---- a change that is also a challenge. The US saw the IBT  deal not just as one unlikely to work; they saw it as a threat.

Technically, the deal does not address some concerns stated by the US: it does not include cessation of enrichment and leaves about 600-700 kilogrammes of low-enriched uranium inside Iran. Symbolically, however, this was Tehran saying that it wants a way out. At some point down the line, Iran could have found some handy technical reason for temporarily ending enrichment and decided that it was "cost-effective" to send most of its LEU abroad or to buy in medical isotopes.

But now, through its response, the US has reinforced the cyclical politics of confrontation and capitulation that have driven the crisis in US-Iranian relations for 30 years. Washington needs to recognise that breaking this dynamic is the only starting point for the eventual satisfaction of all its technical and geo-political security concerns.

The sanctions route through the United Nations is actually the worst-case scenario because, although there was not enough in the IBT agreement to get the Chinese and Russians off the hook, there is enough for them to substantially water down sanctions. The outcome will achieve nothing except to anger China, Russia, and all the non-permanent members of the Security Council while bolstering President Ahmadinejad at home and to some extent abroad.

LATEST Iran Urgent: The Deal on Uranium Enrichment (and US Response)

UPDATE 18 MAY, 1445 GMT: Ahh, so here's the apparent response of the Obama Administration, or at least Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: reduce the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement to "a number of unanswered questions" and push forward with the high-profile sanctions drive in the United Nations. Clinton's statement, just made to a Senate committee:

“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China. We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today. And let me say, Mr. Chairman, I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”

Iran Document: Text of Iran-Brazil-Turkey Agreement on Uranium Enrichment

UPDATE 1745 GMT: The US Government has now made its formal response to the Tehran agreement. It's little more than a "hold the line" statement, issued by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. It gives no clue as to whether Washington was supportive of the Brazilian-Turkish mediation; instead it sets the next challenge: let's see the proposal go to the International Atomic Energy Agency and, possibly, let's see Iran suspend its unilateral push for 20-percent uranium:

We acknowledge the efforts that have been made by Turkey and Brazil. The proposal announced in Tehran must now be conveyed clearly and authoritatively to the IAEA before it can be considered by the international community. Given Iran’s repeated failure to live up to its own commitments, and the need to address fundamental issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and international community continue to have serious concerns. While it would be a positive step for Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium off of its soil as it agreed to do last October, Iran said today that it would continue its 20% enrichment, which is a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions and which the Iranian government originally justified by pointing to the need for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Furthermore, the Joint Declaration issued in Tehran is vague about Iran’s willingness to meet with the P5+1 countries to address international concerns about its nuclear program, as it also agreed to do last October.

The United States will continue to work with our international partners, and through the United Nations Security Council, to make it clear to the Iranian government that it must demonstrate through deeds –-- and not simply words –-- its willingness to live up to international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions. Iran must take the steps necessary to assure the international community that its nuclear program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes, including by complying with U.N. Security Council resolutions and cooperating fully with the IAEA. We remain committed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program, as part of the P5+1 dual track approach, and will be consulting closely with our partners on these developments going forward.

The European Union and Britain have put out similar statements.

UPDATE 1245 GMT: A group of Iranian political activists have declared that today’s uranium agreement, from a “political and economic” stance, is in the interest of the Iranian nation.

Mohammad Bastehnegar, Ezzatollah Sahabi, Taghii Rahmani, Hosein Rafii, Reza Raistoosi, Hossein ShahHosseini, Azam Taleghani, Reza Alijani, and Nezameddin Ghahari asserted that the agreement could end economic sanctions against Iran and lead to “transparency” in Iran’s relationship with the world.

The statement calls for collaboration of both conservative and reformist political activists in supporting this government initiative.

UPDATE 1110 GMT: Trita Parsi gets to the heart of why this arrangement was struck when last October's very similar deal, which reached top-table discussions in Geneva between Iran, the US, and other powers, collapsed. He notes talks between Brazil's Lula and the Supreme Leader: "This is no longer Ahmadinejad's nuclear deal, this is Khamenei's nuclear deal."

UPDATE 1015 GMT: Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has offered more details of the proposed uranium swap at a press conference. From Press TV:
Iran will ask the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] to station its personnel in Turkey to monitor the safe-keeping of the dispatched LEU [Tehran's 1200 kilogrammes low-enriched uranium]....The top diplomat underlined Iran will inform the IAEA of its decision "through official channels" within no more than seven days from the Monday meeting.
"Upon the positive response of the Vienna Group --- which includes Russia, France, the United States and the IAEA --- further details of the exchange will be elaborated through a written agreement and proper arrangement between Iran and the Vienna group that specifically committed themselves to deliver 120 cages of fuel needed for the Tehran research reactor (TRR)," noted Mottaki.

If the Vienna Group accepts Iran's terms and conditions, Mottaki said, both parties will "commit themselves to the implementation" of the deal, which requires Iran to deposit its LEU in Turkey within one month, and in return, the Vienna group will deliver 120 kg of fuel required for the Tehran reactor in no later than one year.

UPDATE 0755 GMT: How big is this story for Iranian state media? Islamic Republic News Agency, noting that "Ahmadinejad raised his hands in victory", devotes 6 of its top 9 stories to the agreement. (Fars, on the other hand, has not stepped into line: its top story is on British Foreign Secretary William Hague speaking about the assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai.)

UPDATE 0645 GMT: The Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement is for a swap of uranium outside Iran, and just as signficant, it involves the 1200 kilogrammes of Tehran's stock that the US and "Western" countries were seeking last autumn.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Monday that the Tehran government has agreed to a draft proposal whereby Iran will send some 1200 kg of its 3.5 percent enriched uranium over to Turkey in exchange for a total of 120 kg 20 percent....

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will officially receive a letter with regards to the swap deal "within a week".

According to a Press TV correspondent, the swap will take place nearly a month after receiving official approval from the Vienna Group, which consists of representatives from Iran, France, Russia and the US and the IAEA.

Now watch carefully for the reaction from Washington. If it is favourable, even cautiously favourable, we've got a major breakthrough.

The dominant story in both Iranian and non-Iranian media today is likely to be the announcement between Iran, Brazil, and Turkey of an agreed procedure for a deal on enrichment of Iran's uranium.

No details will be available until later today, so significant questions remain. It is not clear whether Tehran has given any way to the essential demand of the US and other members of the "5+1" (UK, France, Germany, Russia, China) for a swap of uranium outside Iran. Politically, Washington's position --- has it privately supported the Brazilian and Turkish discussions? --- is murky.

The seriousness of the talks, however, is indicated not only by their 17-hour duration on Sunday but also by the level of involvement. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's postponement on Friday of his trip to Iran did not, in the end, mean that Turkey had withdrawn altogether. Rather, this seems to have been a case of wait-and-see: Turkish "ministers" were involved throughout Sunday: once it was clear that an agreement was possible, Erdogan reversed his position and flew to Tehran, joining Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The core issue is how Iran's 3.5-percent uranium will be exchanged for 20-percent uranium, needed for the Tehran Research Reactor producing medical isotopes.

Iran Analysis: Washington and the Tehran Nuclear Deal (Parsi)

Trita Parsi, writing for Foreign Policy, evaluates Monday's Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement on procedure for an uranium enrichment deal and Washington's reaction. His analysis complements that of Gary Sick and EA's Ms Zahra:

The Brazilian-Turkish diplomatic breakthrough with Iran has taken Washington by surprise. Clearly, the geopolitical center of gravity has shifted-five years of EU-led negotiations led nowhere while the new emerging powers Brazil and Turkey only needed a few months to produce a breakthrough. Now, the West needs to pull off some political acrobatics to avoid being on the diplomatic defensive.

Before Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's trip to Iran this past weekend, few among the permanent members of the UN Security Council were optimistic about his chances of success. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was charitable when he put Lula's odds at 30 percent. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly called her Brazilian counterpart to discourage Brazil from undertaking the diplomatic mission. And few in Washington seemed to have been prepared for a diplomatic breakthrough.

Iran Analysis: The Contest at Home Over (and Beyond) the Uranium Agreement (Zahra)
Iran Analysis: Assessing the Tehran Nuclear Deal (Gary Sick)
The Latest from Iran (18 May): Getting Beyond the Uranium Agreement

But against all odds, Turkey and Brazil seem to have succeeded in resolving the most critical obstacle in the Iranian nuclear stand-off: the issue of trust. Both through the modalities of the new deal as well as by virtue of who they are, Turkey and Brazil have succeeded in filling the trust gap.

For the Iranians --- beyond their political paralysis of last year --- the issue of trust was the primary flaw of the October 2009 proposal. As the Iranians saw it, the deal would have required that Iran place disproportionate trust in the Western powers by agreeing to give up its low-enriched uranium stockpile in one shipment, only to receive fuel rods for Iran's research reactor nine to twelve months later. This would have required a significant leap of faith on their behalf.

Iran's relations with most permanent Security Council states (P5) are fraught with tension and mistrust. This includes its relations with Russia. The European power's past support for Saddam Hussein --- including providing him with high-tech weaponry and components for chemical weapons --- has not been forgotten in Tehran, particularly not by those in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's circles.

Iran's relations with Turkey and Brazil are different, however. Though tensions and rivalry with Turkey have historic roots, relations have improved significantly under the Erdogan government. Though some skepticism remains, Iran has nevertheless noted Turkey's increased independence from --- and at times, defiance of --- the United States. In particular, Turkey's position on the Iraq war as well as its campaign to prevent a new round of UN Security Council sanctions on Iran must have impressed Tehran.

Moreover, unlike with the P5 states, Iran does not only have some trust in Turkey, it also senses that it has some leverage over its Western neighbor. In 2009, Iranian-Turkish trade stood at around $11 billion, with Iran providing a significant portion of Turkey's gas needs. The combination of trust and leverage seems to have been critical in getting the Iranians to agree to put their stockpiles in Turkish territory.

In Brazil, Iran has found an unlikely but much needed ally. Brazil is a rising global power, with a legitimate claim for a permanent seat in the Security Council. It's a state with a long history of sympathizing and identifying with the Iranian position on nuclear matters. If the reprocessing takes place in Brazil, as opposed to Russia, it would be a political victory for Iran to have it occur in an emerging power who for long has endorsed Iran's right to enrichment and who itself achieved recognition of its enrichment right in spite of international pressure.

While Iran has been suspicious of European and American maneuvers and proposals, out of a fear that the ultimate objective of the West is to eliminate Iran's enrichment program, that suspicion is unlikely to arise in a Brazilian-sponsored deal due to Brazil's own nuclear program and self-interest in ensuring that Iran's nuclear rights aren't inhibited and turned into a legally binding precedent.

In fact, the Turkish-Brazilian-Iranian agreement explicitly endorses Iran's right to enrichment, a position the US has refused to officially accept.

Beyond economic interests, international prestige and the opportunity for Brazil and Turkey to become indispensible global actors, it should not be forgotten than both states have viewed war and confrontation as the likely alternative to their diplomacy. In particular, there has been a fear that the current Security Council draft resolution, while not providing an explicit justification for military action, would nevertheless provide regional states outside of the Security Council with a legal basis to take military action against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Washington's reaction has thus far been muted. Though details of the agreement remain unknown, two potential points of objection have emerged.

First, the amount of low-enriched uranium (LEU) that will be shipped to Turkey, 1200 kilograms, constituted approximately 75 percent of Iran's entire stockpile back in October. Though that percentage has shrunk, it will still leave Iran with less LEU than it would need for a bomb. Still, even though Washington insisted that the deal from October remains on the table and that it is non-negotiable, it may be the US itself that ends up seeking to renegotiate the terms. Second, Iran has expanded its enrichment activities and is currently enriching uranium to 19.75 percent. The US insists that this activity must be suspended.

In spite of these potential sticking points, it is important to note that both Brazilian and Turkish decision-makers have intimate knowledge of the American position. America's red lines are crystal clear to both. And even though both have shown significant independence from the US, it is unlikely that they would announce a deal with Iran that wouldn't meet America's requirements.

Rather, the Obama administration's problem with domestic actors may be a greater challenge. Both the House and the Senate have prepared broad sanctions bills, which they intend to send to the President in the next few days. Even if the deal meets American security requirements, Congress may still push forward its extraterritorial sanctions bill, citing other concerns with Iranian behavior.

With the November elections only months away, President Obama may face some stiff opposition from Congress, even over a deal that meets America's red lines on the nuclear issue.

Iran Analysis: The Contest at Home Over (and Beyond) the Uranium Agreement (Zahra)

Our newest correspondent, Ms Zahra, assesses the impact of yesterday's Iran-Brazil-Turkey uranium agreement on Iran's internal situation:

President Ahmadinejad has already declared himself as victorious, which is true, because he managed to convince his opponents within the Iranian system that an agreement --- even one allowing uranium to leave Tehran for a swap --- should be reached. Surely he will now present himself as the big saviour of Iran from more sanctions.

All of this occurring on a high-profile platform in Tehran is a bonus to mobilise the Ahmadinejad supporters. The photograph says it all:

However, there are also political talking points for the opposition. They can argue that Ahmadinejad has given in to superpowers, especially the US, and has had to accept their conditions, This is not a shining example of national sovereignty. Even worse, the Islamic Republic may become more vulnerable vis-a-vis Israel.

Ahmadinejad's critics can also claim that the agreement could have been signed six months ago. An unnecessary waste of time has led to more sanctions. Far from appearing strong in this crisis, the President has been weak and has failed to withstand foreign pressures.

But here's the internal dimension beyond the nuclear. If this agreement is still valid within a week, it will have far from the domestic impact that Ahmadinejad desires. Iranians are more concerned about high prices, lack of fuel and gas, unemployment, and the overall security atmosphere.

After one or two weeks of big noise --- ta da! --- the situation will be the same or even worse. The subsidy reduction plan is ill-prepared, hundreds of protesters are still imprisoned, investment is at its lowest level in years, shaky oil prices and a squeeze on oil exports may worsen the budget deficit, which will not be covered with revenues of the privatisation of state companies often diverting to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and its interests.

As for future developments, there are again two possible scenarios:

The Government will hope that the aversion of crisis and an impression of Iran's strengthened position in international affairs, accompanied by peace and harmony, will bolster public opinion. Human rights? That's just an internal issue.

The opposition will contest that the nuclear deal has only masked the country's real problems. Now that this problem is solved, Western states can put more pressure on Tehran over human rights, possible by setting this as a requirement for extended trade. This time around, big companies will find it difficult to reinvest because of activists accusing them of cooperation with murderers and abusers.

And it will note: if this Government will retreat under pressure in the secondary arena of the international, what might happen if it again faces that pressure on the primary stage of the domestic?
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