BBC, March 20
US President Barack Obama has told the Iranian people that a deal to transform the relationship between the two countries could be within reach.
“We have the best opportunity in decades to pursue a different future between our countries,” he said in a video message for Persian New Year.
Six world powers are negotiating a deal aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear activity, with a March deadline near.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an apparent response to Mr Obama’s video it was time for the US and other negotiating countries – China, France, Germany, Russia and UK – to move forward with an agreement.
“Iranians have already made their choice: Engage with dignity. It’s high time for the US and its allies to choose: pressure or agreement,” Mr Zarif wrote in a message posted on his official Twitter account.
Exclusive: As the Obama administration is rushing to complete a nuclear agreement with Iran and reduce regional tensions, the Israeli media is reporting on a deal with Saudi Arabia to let Israeli warplanes transit Saudi airspace en route to bombing Iran, reports Robert Parry.
Consortium News, By Robert Parry, February 25
According to an Israeli media report, Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israeli warplanes fly over Saudi territory to save fuel while attacking Iranian nuclear sites, the latest indication of how the two former enemies have developed a behind-the-scenes alliance that is reshaping geopolitics in the Middle East.
“The Saudi authorities are completely coordinated with Israel on all matters related to Iran,” a European official in Brussels told Israel’s Channel 2 in a report broadcast on Tuesday and described in other Israeli media outlets.
Riyadh’s only condition was that Israel make some progress in peace talks with the Palestinians, a stipulation that may be mostly cosmetic so the Saudis can save face with other Arab states without really interfering with an Israeli flyover to strike Iran.
Disclosure of this Israeli-Saudi military cooperation comes as the United States and five other world powers rush to finish an agreement with Iran to curtail but not eliminate its nuclear program, which Iran says is only for civilian purposes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to appear before the U.S. Congress on March 3 to undercut President Barack Obama’s negotiations.
The reported Saudi permission for Israeli warplanes to take a shorter route to bomb Iran also suggests that Netanyahu may be laying the groundwork for his own plans to attack the Iranian nuclear sites if the international negotiations are successful. Netanyahu has denounced a possible deal as an “existential threat” to Israel.
Al-Akhbar English/Reuters, February 18
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed on Wednesday that his country would resist global sanctions imposed over its nuclear program, saying that Iran might respond to international pressure by cutting back gas exports.
“The enemy is using the lever of sanctions to the hilt and their goal is to stop our people’s progress,” Khamenei said in a public speech in Tehran, according to IRNA news agency.
“I believe that if we allow them to dictate to us on the nuclear issue, they will still keep the sanctions in place because what they are against is the very foundation of our revolution.”
AP -The University of Massachusetts at Amherst has banned Iranian nationals from admission to certain graduate programs that school officials say aligns its policy with U.S. sanctions against Iran. Effective Feb. 1, the university will not admit students from Iran to certain programs in engineering and natural sciences.
The National Iranian American Council says UMass’ interpretation of the law is flawed and may violate federal and state protections against discrimination.
Congress enacted legislation in August 2012 that denies visas for Iranian citizens to study in the U.S. if they plan to participate in coursework for a career in the energy or nuclear fields in Iran. But a U.S. State Department official federal law does not prohibit qualified Iranian nationals seeking an education in science and engineering. Each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
AP, December 19
The State Department is delaying the release of a volume from its U.S. foreign relations history that deals with the CIA-backed overthrow of an Iranian prime minister in the 1950s out of concern that publication could undermine nuclear diplomacy with the Islamic republic.
The decision was made at a September meeting of the department’s advisory committee on historical diplomatic documentation and recorded in minutes released this week. The foreign relations records aren’t supposed to be suppressed for longer than three decades.
Stephen Randolph, the department’s historian, informed the gathering that the volume on U.S. policy in Iran would be withheld “because of ongoing negotiations with Iran.” Richard Immerman, a Temple University professor who chairs the committee, expressed frustration with the decision. The delay was first reported by online publication Secrecy News.
Reuters, By Stephanie Nebehay, October 31
Geneva – Iran defended itself on Friday against Western accusations of repression and a sharp rise in executions, including that of a woman hanged for murdering a man she accused of trying to rape her.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary general of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, part of its judiciary, lashed out at what he called attempts to “impose your lifestyle under the banner of human rights”, including gay rights.
The exchange took place during a more than three hour-long review in the U.N. Human Rights Council of Tehran’s record.
Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged on Saturday in Tehran’s Evin prison for the killing. The dead man’s relatives had refused to grant her a reprieve within a 10-day deadline set by sharia law, in force since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“We were not successful to solicit forgiveness from the hearts of victims … We are very sorry that two nationals lost lives, but capital punishment or ‘qisas’ is a unique particularity of our system. I think it is worth it for Western countries to look into it,” Larijani said.
“The idea that only good things in western community — the ‘West and the rest’ — this is a very destructive idea of human rights,” he said.
Al Jazeera, By Azadeh Moaveni, September 16
Despite already having demonstrated its centrality to the campaign to push the Islamic State (ISIL) out of Iraq, Iran was pointedly excluded from Monday’s conference in Paris to forge a military coalition against the extremist group. And Tehran was far from happy, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashing out against the Obama administration’s new war plans.
Khamenei decried the Paris conclave as a dangerous effort by the United States and Arab countries hostile to Iran to use the challenge of ISIL as an opportunity to promote an anti-Tehran agenda in Syria and throughout the region. “Iran sees this as an effort by Saudi Arabia and its allies, and the United States, to exert leverage and pressure on Iranian interests, to degrade or weaken Iranian influence in Syria,” said Reza Marashi, research director at the National Iranian American Council.
Khamenei called Secretary of State John Kerry a liar for saying in Paris that Iran had not been invited to join the coalition, listing numerous moments at which the U.S. had solicited Iranian involvement. “The West assembled a coalition of 40-50 countries against Syria and couldn’t do a damn thing,” Khamenei said, referring to Washington’s previous efforts to rally allies to oust Syria’s Assad regime, which remains a key ally of Iran.
PressTV, June 29
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has reaffirmed the importance of strengthening cooperation among regional countries to combat terrorists, stressing that the era of violence and terrorism has passed.
“I hope that terrorists would realize the firm determination of regional Muslim governments in fighting terrorism and know that our era is not one of killing and terrorism,” President Rouhani said in a telephone conversation with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Sunday.
He added that Iran and Qatar can make constructive efforts to restore peace and stability to the region in cooperation with each other.
Al Jazeera, April 18
Washington – President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law a bill barring entrance to the U.S. for any foreign diplomat seen as a threat to American security or who has engaged in “terrorist activity” — a measure that effectively bans Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Washington said earlier this week that it would not issue a visa to Iran’s pick for U.N. envoy, Hamid Aboutalebi, because he is suspected of involvement in the 1979 hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
“Acts of espionage and terrorism against the United States and our allies are unquestionably problems of the utmost gravity,” Obama said in signing the measure, an amendment to current U.S. legislation. “I share the Congress’ concern that individuals who have engaged in such activity may use the cover of diplomacy to gain access to our nation.”
The new law, S.2195, bars the entrance onto U.S. soil of “any representative to the United Nations who the president determines has been engaged in terrorist activity against the United States or its allies and may pose a threat to United States national security interests.” Obama, however, added in a statement that the measure should be taken as an “advisory,” because it could potentially interfere with his “constitutional discretion” to receive or reject ambassadors.
Kuwait is hosting the Heads of Arab states for their annual summit for the first time since joining Arab League.
Qatar is being pressured to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical movements through the region. Along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Mirates, Egypt is trying to isolate Qatar. Yet it is unlikely that attempts to reconcile Qatar will be on the agenda. With Syrian/Iraqi ties running deep, it is to be expected that the latest Qatar/Iran relationship will be scrutinised.
Syria, however is center stage, a year ago their seat was given to the opposition. But the Government is winning the fight. Yet Ahmadn Jarba head of the main opposition bloc will address leaders at the opening session. Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon continue to support Assad’s Alawite minority. Even whilst Lebanon shoots down a stray Syrian jet.
Israel considers that on the Palestinian issue, Arab leaders are expected to call for $100 million in monthly aid for the Palestinian Authority and to reject recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, fresh from talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington last week, is to brief his Arab counterparts.
NYT – Iran is building a nonworking mock-up of an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that United States officials say may be intended to be blown up for propaganda value.
Intelligence analysts studying satellite photos of Iranian military installations first noticed the vessel rising from the Gachin shipyard, near Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf, last summer. The ship has the same distinctive shape and style of the Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers, as well as the Nimitz’s number 68 neatly painted in white near the bow. Mock aircraft can be seen on the flight deck.
What country has a lower birthrate than London or Paris? Answer after the break. Read More
Reuters, By Parisa Hafezi & Louis Charbonneau, February 17
Vienna – The United States and long-time arch-foe Iran agree on at least one thing ahead of Tuesday’s negotiations on a long-term nuclear deal – reaching an agreement will be very difficult, if not impossible.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the man who has the final say on all matters of state in the Islamic Republic, declared again on Monday that talks between Tehran and six world powers “will not lead anywhere.
Hours later a senior U.S. administration official also played down expectations, telling reporters in the Austrian capital that it will be a “complicated, difficult and lengthy process” and “probably as likely that we won’t get an agreement as it is that we will.
Alternatively, The Guardian: Mohammad Javad Zarif: Iran has political will to reach final agreement
The Sunni of Anbar
The grim strategic situation facing Iraqi Sunnis today parallels that of ten years ago when they were beset by powerful enemies in al Qaeda but also US troops and Shia militias. The solution, albeit a short-lived one, came by allying with US troops in the Anbar Awakening. Of course, this option is no longer available as the US will never send ground troops back into Iraq. Three options remain.