Eye on Iran: Iran’s Supreme Leader Embraced Concept of Nuclear Arms, Archival Document Suggests

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WashPost: “In a speech three months ago, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei repeated his religious edict against nuclear weapons, insisting that his country would never build them. But a newly published document suggests that Khamenei hasn’t always viewed the bomb as a ‘great sin.’ According to an internal U.N. document, Khamenei embraced the concept of an Iranian nuclear bomb during a meeting of the country’s top leadership more than two decades ago, saying nuclear weapons were essential for preserving Iran’s Islamic Revolution. The 2009 document, prepared for the International Atomic Energy Agency, is a collection of statements made by Iranian leaders about nuclear weapons, as gleaned from the nuclear watchdog’s intelligence sources. It cites an April 1984 meeting in which Khamenei allegedly endorsed a decision by then-leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to launch a secret nuclear weapons program. ‘According to Ayatollah Khamenei, this was the only way to secure the very essence of the Islamic Revolution from the schemes of its enemies … and to prepare it for the emergence of Imam Mahdi,’ states the IAEA document, which was obtained by the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington-based nonprofit group that analyzes nuclear weapons programs. In Shiite Islam, ‘Imam Mahdi’ is the prophesied 12th Imam who will purge the world of evil in humanity’s last days.”http://t.uani.com/I7Oqw0 

WashPost: “President Obama will issue an executive order Monday that will allow U.S. officials for the first time to impose sanctions against foreign nationals found to have used new technologies, from cellphone tracking to Internet monitoring, to help carry out grave human rights abuses. Social media and cellphone technology have been widely credited with helping democracy advocates organize against autocratic governments and better expose rights violations, most notably over the past year and a half in the Middle East and North Africa. But authoritarian governments, particularly in Syria and Iran, have shown that their security services can also harness technology to help crack down on dissent – by conducting surveillance, blocking access to the Internet or tracking the movements of opposition figures. Obama’s executive order, which he will announce during a Monday speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, is an acknowledgment of those dangers and of the need to adapt American national security policy to a world being remade rapidly by technology, according to senior administration officials familiar with the plans. Although the order is designed to target companies and individuals assisting the governments of Iran and Syria, they said, future executive orders could name others aiding other countries through technology in crackdowns on dissent.”http://t.uani.com/I37Sr5

Reuters: “Iran’s trading partners are looking for ways to avoid being hit by U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil transactions that take effect mid-year, with Turkey looking for other suppliers, India exploring options and smaller Asian countries arguing their imports from Tehran are tiny. Turkey, the fifth-largest buyer of Iranian oil, has committed to reduce its crude from Tehran by 10 percent and the country’s only refiner, Tupras, a unit of Koc Holding , has pledged to cut imports by 20 percent… Twelve other countries could eventually be subject to U.S. sanctions by the end of June. A number of Asian countries, including South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, are on Washington’s watch list.”http://t.uani.com/Iiqzb9

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AP: “Iran has disconnected its oil ministry and its main crude export terminal from the Internet to avoid being attacked by computer malware, a semiofficial news agency reported on Monday. Mehr said an export terminal in Kharg Island and other oil facilities came under attack from malware and hackers but continued their work as usual.”http://t.uani.com/IyZH5S

AP: “Iran claimed Sunday that it had recovered data from an American spy drone that went down in Iran last year including that it was used to spy on Osama bin Laden’s house weeks before he was killed by U.S. forces. Iran also said it was building a copy of the surveillance aircraft. This type of drone has been used in Afghanistan for years and was used to keep watch on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan but U.S. officials have said little about the history of the particular drone now in Iran’s possession. Iran has also been known to exaggerate its military or technological prowess. Tehran says it brought down the RQ-170 Sentinel, a top-secret surveillance drone with stealth technology, and has flaunted the capture as a victory for Iran and a defeat for the United States. The U.S. says the drone malfunctioned and downplayed any suggestion that Iran could mine the aircraft for sensitive information because of measures taken to limit the intelligence value of drones operating over hostile territory.” http://t.uani.com/J3FIcO

Reuters: “An influential Iranian cleric praised recent nuclear talks between Iran and world powers on Friday, the latest in a series of positive statements from senior figures that analysts said could signal Tehran is softening its stance. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, secretary of the powerful Guardian Council, said the talks showed ‘success and progress’ but added Tehran would break off the negotiations if Western countries carried on imposing sanctions while negotiating… Addressing Friday prayers, Jannati said the talks showed ‘success and progress’, adding: ‘They (western countries) are ready to accept that enrichment is Iran’s right,’ state media reported.” http://t.uani.com/I3cvoY

AFP: “The United Nations has added two Iranians and a company to its sanctions blacklist over their involvement in arms smuggling through Nigeria, officials said Friday. All were linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, said which the United States said is ‘the group that directs Iranian support for terrorism and extremism worldwide.’ An alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard member is on trial in Nigeria over an attempt to bring in rockets, explosives and grenades falsely declared as building materials. The arms were seized in October 2010 in Lagos port. The individuals were named by the UN sanctions committee as Azim Aghajani and Ali Akbar Tabatabaei, both members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force. The blacklisted company was named as Behineh Trading Co. The committee said it was ‘one of the two Iranian companies that played key roles in Iran’s illicit transfer of arms to West Africa.’” http://t.uani.com/JiR15i

AFP: “Wealthy Iranians are fueling an unprecedented luxury car boom despite sanctions hurting their economy, paying up to $360,000 for high-end autos, according to showroom employees and reports Sunday. ‘Buyers are paying upfront for these cars, which generally cost two to three times more than abroad,’ one car salesman in Tehran told AFP on condition of anonymity. A newspaper citing official customs data, Hafte-Sobh, reported that ‘some 563 different Porsche models were sold in the last Iranian year (to March 2012),’ worth a total $50 million before a hefty 100-percent import tax… Maserati, the growling musclebrand owned by Italy’s Fiat, is also looking to get a slice of the action by opening its own Tehran showroom within weeks, reports say. The ostentatious splurge by Iran’s elite starkly contrasts with the straits experienced by ordinary Iranians.”http://t.uani.com/JkdAEf

CBS: “For years, the U.S. and Europe have been trying everything short of going to war to get Iran to drop its nuclear program. That includes unprecedented sanctions. CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason looks into how those sanctions are working. The oil trade funds about half of the Iranian government’s budget. But under sanctions, Iran’s oil business has suddenly sprung a leak. The International Energy Agency predicts that by this summer, Iran’s exports could be down by as much as 30 percent.”http://t.uani.com/I7Odca

Human Rights

CNN: “A prominent Iranian literary translator imprisoned since January on unknown charges is now on a hunger strike, and relatives say he sounds weak and fragile, a source close to his family said Sunday. Mohammad Soleimani Nia is refusing solid food and is only drinking salted and sugared water as a way to protest his imprisonment without charge, the source said. Soleimani Nia was detained in early January for unknown reasons and was being held in solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin prison, notorious for its harsh conditions, the source said.” http://t.uani.com/JHm73c

Foreign Affairs

AFP: “Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki arrived in Tehran on Sunday for two days of meetings with Iranian leaders and senior officials on various bilateral issues, Iran’s IRNA state news agency reported. The visit notably comes ahead of an important May 23 meeting to be hosted in Baghdad between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers on Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme. Maliki’s schedule of meetings including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad underlined the current good relations between their Shiite-dominated administrations — a far cry from the hostility and war that reigned between their countries in the 1980s when Baghdad was run by Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-led government.” http://t.uani.com/HZnn1e

Bloomberg: “Iran plans to produce 850,000 barrels a day from fields it shares with Iraq and Qatar by 2015, the director of combined planning at National Iranian Oil Co. said, according to the Oil Ministry website Shana.  While Iran is producing about the same amount of oil as Iraq from their shared onshore fields, it lags behind Qatar in producing from the oil layer of the shared offshore South Pars natural-gas field, Abdol-Majid Delparish was cited as saying by the website. Neither Iran nor Iraq produces gas from their shared onshore fields, Delparish said. Iran produces 230 million cubic meters of gas a day from South Pars, while Qatar produces 430 million, he said.”http://t.uani.com/I35BMK

Weekly Standard: “An alarming news report from Iran’s Press TV, a propoganda arm of the Iranian government, showing American professors gathering in Tehran to discuss the Occupy Wall Street Movement. The professors interviewed on Press TV include Alex Vitale of Brooklyn College, Heather Gautney of Fordham University, and John Hammond of City University of New York.” http://t.uani.com/IftPAC

Opinion & Analysis

Economist: “With the European Union set to halt all oil imports from Iran from July 1st, and Iranian officials scrambling to find new buyers to make up the shortfall in foreign-currency receipts, many believe that unless Iran backs down on the nuclear issue, today’s hardships may be only a foretaste of worse to come. In Tabriz, a big city in the north-west of the country dominated by the Turkish-speaking Azeri minority, residents say sanctions already threaten the future of their two biggest infrastructure projects. The first is a long-delayed metro network. Already six years behind schedule, and with less than half of the planned 17km of track for Line 1 laid so far, government planners say it will be at least two years before any trains start moving. Also under a cloud is a twin-tower, 40-storey office and shopping complex which, if ever finished, will be one of the Iran’s largest commercial buildings. For the time being it remains an impressively large hole in the ground. On the outskirts of Tabriz, high above a valley thick with blooming walnut and apricot trees, the road passes through a cluster of half-completed apartment towers, part of an effort by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to fulfil his campaign pledge to put Iran’s oil money on the tables of the disadvantaged. This project, too, is stalled, and without another injection of government financing it could become one more casualty of the sanctions. For the crowd of unemployed men in their 20s who spend their days making conversation in Tabriz’s Khaqani Garden, life is at least a little easier than in the capital. One out-of-work civil-engineering graduate said he had already made the move to Tehran and back, priced out by scarce job opportunities and the rising cost of accommodation. ‘I’m concentrating on practising English to boost my chances of leaving the country,’ he said. Not everyone in Iran is pleading poverty. In the wealthy north of the capital, Tehran, many flout the regime’s favoured dreary, functional look. Opening soon on swanky Mirdamad Boulevard, a new Maserati dealership offers flashy motors for a mere $500,000 in cash, including customs duties of 100% or more. Other luxury car dealerships say sales have slowed in recent years, but should pick up if the currency stabilises.” http://t.uani.com/Jl9cos

Reuel Marc Gerecht in The Weekly Standard: “Since we don’t know what Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, said at the recent confab in Istanbul, we can’t be sure that Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu was right to dismiss the powwow as a ‘freebie’ for Tehran. Also, the Islamic Republic is a theocracy: The most senior officials need to report face-to-face to their master. Jalili, an ill-tempered, narrow-minded, one-legged veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, lost face after a disastrous meeting in Geneva in October 2009, when he tentatively agreed to a nuclear-fuel swap, only to see the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, bat the deal down from Tehran. So no matter how well rehearsed, Jalili would need time for his boss to digest what was demanded and offered. In any case, as long as the Iranians were polite, we were going to have two meetings. And so there is another get-together scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad. The odds are high, however, that the next session will lead to no diplomatic yellow-brick road. Round two could be a success, and lead to a round three, if Khamenei agreed to do five things: (1) Stop all uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity, which is near bomb-grade; (2) ship abroad the entire stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium; (3) close the Fordow enrichment facility, which is buried under a mountain near the clerical city of Qom; (4) allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency immediate and unfettered access to any suspected nuclear site; and (5) permit the IAEA to install devices on centrifuges for monitoring uranium-enrichment levels. Khamenei is, to say the least, unlikely to agree to this. It’s worth stressing that it is a serious mistake to allow Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards, who oversee terrorist operations and the nuclear program, any domestic enrichment capacity. This was the position of the Obama administration and our Western European allies. Now that consensus has apparently collapsed because Iranian agreement seems impossible. Khamenei’s determination to keep advancing uranium enrichment despite increasingly severe sanctions has paid off. Tehran has enough low-grade, 3.5 percent enriched uranium stockpiled to produce at least one, soon two, nuclear weapons. It also has a 163-pound stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium. As Oli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the IAEA, has pointed out, mastering 3.5 percent enrichment is 70 percent of the way to mastering the fuel cycle for an atomic weapon. Twenty percent enrichment is 90 percent of the process.”http://t.uani.com/JnxX8f

Elliot Abrams in The Weekly Standard: “As the United States and other members of the P5+1 commence negotiations with Iran, it is worth recalling the classic analysis of Iran’s negotiating style sent in from the U.S. embassy in Tehran on August 13, 1979. The author of the cable, political counselor Victor Tomseth, and the man who authorized it, charge d’affaires Bruce Laingen, became hostages when the embassy was seized on November 4, 1979. The cable is an analysis of the ‘underlying cultural and psychological qualities’ that explain the difficulties the embassy had been having in negotiations with the new regime. In one famous line, the cable claims that ‘Perhaps the single dominant aspect of the Persian psyche is an overriding egoism … that leaves little room for understanding points of view other than one’s own.’ There is also a ‘pervasive unease about the nature of the world in which … nothing is permanent and … hostile forces abound.’ Persians therefore see themselves as ‘obviously justified in using almost any means available to exploit such opportunities’ to protect themselves. Tomseth then adds that Persians have a poor understanding of causality, ‘an aversion to accepting responsibility for one’s actions,’ and resist ‘the idea that Iranian behavior has consequences’ on American policy. From these analyses, explained at greater length, the cable draws lessons. First, ‘one should never assume that his side of the issue will be recognized, let alone that it will be conceded to have merits. … A negotiator must force recognition of his position upon his Persian opposite number.’  Second, the Iranian negotiator will not seek cooperation or a long-term relationship of trust; instead, he ‘will assume that his opposite number is his adversary’ and will ‘seek to maximize the benefits to himself that are immediately available.’ Third, ‘linkages will be neither readily comprehended nor accepted.’ Fourth, and especially relevant now, ‘one should insist on performance as the sine qua non at each stage of the negotiations. Statements of intention count for almost nothing.’ Fifth, ‘cultivation of good will for good will’s sake is a waste of effort.’ And finally, ‘one should be prepared for the threat of breakdown in negotiations at any given moment and not be cowed by this possibility.’ With these warnings in mind, reading accounts of the first round of negotiations held in Istanbul on April 14 cannot be reassuring.” http://t.uani.com/JkbeVU

ISIS: “Can we believe Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, when he says he opposes the construction of nuclear weapons on religious grounds? Information obtained by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) suggests the need to approach the statement with skepticism.  IAEA verification can nonetheless overcome this skepticism if Iran cooperates with the inspectors in answering concerns about past and possibly on-going work on nuclear weapons and military nuclear fuel cycle. In an internal 2009 IAEA document, most of which was published by ISIS, is a section titled ‘Statements made by Iranian officials.’  It states: ‘The Agency [IAEA] was informed that in April 1984 the then President of Iran, H.E. Ayatollah Khamenei declared, during a meeting of top-echelon political and security officials at the Presidential Palace in Tehran, that the spiritual leader Imam Khomeini had decided to reactivate the nuclear programme. According to Ayatollah Khamenei this was the only way to secure the very essence of the Islamic Revolution from the schemes of its enemies, especially the United States and Israel, and to prepare it for the emergence of Imam Mehdi. Ayatollah Khamenei further declared during the meeting, that a nuclear arsenal would serve Iran as a deterrent in the hands of God’s soldiers.’ The November 2011 IAEA safeguards report describes the growth of an Iranian nuclear weapons program that reached its peak in 2002 and 2003, at which point it was abruptly halted. The IAEA also presented in this report information from member states that some aspects of this program continued or restarted after 2003 and may be on-going. The evidence would imply that Khamenei supported that program since he controls national security decisions. Khamenei’s pledge against nuclear weapons is welcome. However, it is not prudent to take his recent commitment at face value. He must prove it.” http://t.uani.com/IitjW0

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