Iran


 Iran struck a historic deal Sunday with the United States and five other world powers, agreeing to a temporary freeze of its nuclear program in the most significant agreement between Washington and Tehran in more than three decades of estrangement.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani endorsed the agreement, which commits Iran to curb its nuclear activities for six months in exchange for limited and gradual sanctions relief, including access to $4.2 billion from oil sales. The six-month period will give diplomats time to negotiate a more sweeping agreement.

It builds on the momentum of the public dialogue opened during September’s annual U.N. gathering, which included a 15-minute phone conversation between President Barack Obama and moderate-leaning Rouhani, who was elected in June.

The package includes freezing Iran’s ability to enrich uranium at a maximum 5 percent level, which is well below the threshold for weapons-grade material and is aimed at easing Western concerns that Tehran could one day seek nuclear arms.

Obama hailed the pact’s provisions, which include curbs on Iran’s enrichment and other projects that could be used to make nuclear arms, as key to preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear threat.

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“Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb,” he told reporters in Washington.

For Iran, keeping the enrichment program active was a critical goal. Iran’s leaders view the country’s ability to make nuclear fuel as a source of national pride and an essential part of its insistence at nuclear self-sufficiency.

Giving up too much on the enrichment program would have likely brought a storm of protest by Iranian hard-liners, who were already uneasy over the marathon nuclear talks and Rouhani’s outreach to Washington.

In a nationally broadcast speech, Rouhani said the accord recognizes Iran’s “nuclear rights” even if that precise language was kept from the final document because of Western resistance.

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“No matter what interpretations are given, Iran’s right to enrichment has been recognized,” said Rouhani, who later posed with family members of nuclear scientists killed in slayings in recent years that Iran has blamed on Israel and allies.

Saying “trust is a two-way street,” Rouhani insisted that talks on a comprehensive agreement should start immediately.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who led his country’s delegation, called on both sides to see the agreement as an “opportunity to end an unnecessary crisis and open new horizons.”

But initial reaction in Israel was strongly negative. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the deal, a “historic mistake.”

Speaking to his Cabinet, Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel is not bound by the deal and reserves the right to defend itself. That is a reference to possible military action against Iran.

Netanyahu has said the international community is giving up too much to Iran, which it believes will retain the ability to produce a nuclear weapon and threaten Israel.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who joined the final negotiations along with the foreign ministers of Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, said the pact will make U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Israel, safer reducing the threat of war.

“Agreement in Geneva,” he tweeted. “First step makes world safer. More work now.”

The deal marks a milestone between the two countries, which broke diplomatic ties 34 years ago when Iran’s Islamic revolution climaxed in the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Since then, relations between the two countries had been frigid to hostile.

Although the deal lowered tensions between the two countries, friction points remain — notably Iran’s support of the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. The United States also has said Iran supports terrorism throughout the region and commits widespread human rights violations.

The Geneva negotiations followed secret face-to-face talks between the U.S. and Iran over the past year, The Associated Press has learned. The discussions, held in the Persian Gulf nation of Oman and elsewhere, were kept hidden even from America’s closest allies, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago.

A White House statement said the deal limits Iran’s existing stockpiles of enriched uranium, which can be turned into the fissile core of nuclear arms.

The statement also said the accord curbs the number and capabilities of the centrifuges used to enrich and limits Iran ability to “produce weapons-grade plutonium” from a reactor in the advanced stages of construction.

The statement also said Iran’s nuclear program will be subject to “increased transparency and intrusive monitoring.”

“Taken together, these first step measures will help prevent Iran from using the cover of negotiations to continue advancing its nuclear program as we seek to negotiate a long-term, comprehensive solution that addresses all of the international community’s concerns,” said the statement.

Since it was revealed in 2003, Iran’s enrichment program has grown from a few dozen enriching centrifuges to more than 18,000 installed and more than 10,000 operating. The machines have produced tons of low-enriched uranium, which can be turned into weapons grade material.

Iran also has stockpiled almost 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium in a form that can be converted more quickly to fissile warhead material than the low-enriched uranium. Its supply is nearly enough for one bomb.

In return for Iran’s nuclear curbs, the White House statement promised “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible (sanctions) relief” to Iran, noting that “the key oil, banking, and financial sanctions architecture, remains in place.” And it said any limited sanctions relief will be revoked and new penalties enacted if Iran fails to meet its commitments.

Kerry said the relief offered would give Iran access to $4.2 billion from oil sales. Approximately $1.5 billion more would come from imports of gold and other precious metals, petrochemical exports and Iran’s auto sector, as well as easier access to “humanitarian transactions.”

“The core sanctions architecture … remains firmly in place through these six months, including with respect to oil and financial services,” Kerry said. He said those sanctions will result in more than $25 billion in lost oil revenues over six months.

Those conditions are being highlighted by the U.S. administration in its efforts to demonstrate that Iran is still in pain. The administration has urged Congress to hold off on any new sanctions and give the accord a chance to prove its worth.

But one influential member of Congress was quick to criticize the deal.

Rep. Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed “serious concerns,” saying the United States was “relieving Iran of the sanctions pressure built up over years,” while allowing Tehran to “keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capacity.”

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Obama hailed the deal as putting “substantial limitations” on a nuclear program that the United States and its allies fear could be turned to nuclear weapons use.

“While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal,” Obama said. “For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.”

Iran’s currency, the rial, got a small boost after news of the deal, strengthening to about 29,000 rials against the U.S. dollar, compared with about 29,950 in recent days.

 

By  John Heilprin and Jamey Keaten. Geneva/ AP, Nov.24, 2013

Associated Press writers George Jahn and Deb Riechmann in Geneva, Julie Pace in Washington, Robert H. Reid in Berlin and Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report. 

IF it hadn’t been for the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Mitt Romney probably wouldn’t be giving a speech on foreign policy in the waning weeks of this election season. But Mr. Romney sensed an opening in President Obama’s missteps in Libya, and on Monday he plans to lay out his case that he will be a better steward of America’s national security.

For an American public fixated on the economy, another Romney valedictory on the advantages of not being Barack Obama will be a waste of time. Americans feel more comfortable when they have a sense of the candidate’s vision, because it gives them a clearer road map for the future.

Mr. Romney must articulate his vision of America’s place in the world in a way that makes sense not only to the American people, but to friends and foes alike. There is a case to be made for a contrast with Mr. Obama. But, thus far, no Republican leader has made it.

Mr. Romney needs to persuade people that he’s not simply a George W. Bush retread, eager to go to war in Syria and Iran and answer all the mail with an F-16. He needs to understand that even though Mr. Obama’s so-called pivot to Asia is more rhetorical flourish than actual policy, it responds to a crying need.

Any new vision for American greatness in the world must flow from an understanding of how the country has changed since 2001. We are still one of the richest nations on earth, but Americans are poorer, war-weary and irritated with what appears to be the ingratitude of nations for which we have sacrificed a great deal in blood and treasure. There are substantial wings of both the Democratic and Republican parties that wish to wash their hands of the world’s troubles.

In that environment, Mr. Romney must give a clear explanation of how American power since the end of World War II provided the foundation for the most prosperous and successful era in human history; how our domination of the world’s most trafficked waterways has permitted the flourishing of trade; and how exporting our principles of political and economic freedom has opened and nourished markets that buy American goods, employ American workers and allow Americans to enjoy an unmatched level of security.

More important, Americans must know that it is not for mercantile benefits alone that the United States has exerted its leadership. It is because there is no other power, and no other people, that can — or, if able, would — exert the benign influence that has characterized our role in the world. Whether you like the Iraq war or hate it; like the battle in Afghanistan or not; believe in the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi or revile it — in no case has the United States intervened for malevolent purposes.

Unfortunately, Mr. Romney hasn’t made that claim. Instead, when asked for specifics, he has outlined an Iran policy that doesn’t differ markedly from Mr. Obama’s. When pressed on what he would do differently in Syria, he has trodden so carefully that he has found himself to the left of his party’s internationalist wing. And he has doubled down on the notion that Russia remains a geostrategic threat, without presenting any persuasive evidence that it is.

It’s not that Mr. Romney does not or cannot offer a more compelling vision of American leadership. Having heard him speak privately, and having met him on a few occasions, I believe he has one. Now is the moment to show it.

Mr. Romney must make clear that he has a strategic view of American power that is different from the Obama administration’s narrow and tactical approach. He must tell Americans that he won’t overlook terrorist threats, as the Obama administration did in Benghazi; that he won’t fight to oust a dictator in Libya and ignore the pleas of another revolution in Syria; that he won’t simply denounce Iran’s nuclear program while tacitly legitimizing the country’s theocratic regime and ignoring its opponents; and that he won’t hand out billions of dollars in aid and debt forgiveness to Egypt’s new leaders when the principles of religious and political freedom are being trampled in the streets of Cairo.

Clearly America cannot do everything. But we must always champion our founding beliefs and reject the moral, political and cultural relativism that has flourished under Mr. Obama.

Mr. Romney can make the case that when people fight for their freedom, they will find support — sometimes political, sometimes economic and sometimes military — from the American president. When Russians and Chinese demand accountability from their governments, we can stand with them and work with their governments to further common interests. When terrorists target us, we will not simply eliminate them with drones while ignoring the environment that breeds them. And when our allies look to us for support, we will help them fight for themselves.

Criticisms of Mr. Obama’s national security policies have degenerated into a set of clichés about apologies, Israel, Iran and military spending. To be sure, there is more than a germ of truth in many of these accusations. But these are complaints, not alternatives. Worse yet, they betray the same robotic antipathy that animated Bush-haters. “I will not apologize for America” is no more a clarion call than “let’s nation-build at home.”

Mr. Romney must put flesh on the bones of his calls for a renewed American greatness. With a vision for American power, strategically and judiciously applied, we can continue to do great things with fewer resources. The nation’s greatest strength is not its military power or fantastic productivity. It’s the American commitment to our founding principles of political and economic freedom. If Mr. Romney can outline to voters how he will use American power to advance those principles, he will go a long way in persuading them he deserves the job of commander in chief.

* Text by Danielle Pletka is the vice president for foreign and defense studies at the American Enterprise Institute. (NYT/October 7, 2012)

Dozens of Israelis crowded in front of a storefront at a Jerusalem shopping mall yesterday to pick up new gas masks, part of civil defense preparations in case the military strikes Iran and the Islamic Republic or its allies retaliate.

“Our leaders seem to have gotten very hawkish in their speeches and this time it seems they mean what they say,” said Yoram Lands, 68, a professor of business administration, who was picking up new masks for himself and his wife at a distribution center in the mall.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Aug. 1 that time “is running out” for a peaceful solution to Iran’s atomic program. The Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper reported Aug. 10 that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are considering bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities before U.S. elections on Nov. 6. Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said government policy is not to comment on media speculation.

“It seems that Netanyahu and Barak are making a special effort now to prepare the Israeli public for an attack on Iran,” said Shlomo Brom, a former commander of the army’s Strategic Planning Division, who said that any strike could come within the next six months. In the past, rhetoric was directed at pushing the international community to take stronger action against Iran, said Brom, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

New System

While Israeli leaders repeatedly have said that they could strike Iran’s facilities, the words are now being accompanied by civil defense measures, including a new system that uses text messages to alert the public to missile attacks, wider distribution of gas masks and the appointment of a new Home Front Defense minister. The threats also come as nuclear talks between Iran and world powers have stalled and increased sanctions have so far failed to stop Iran’s atomic progress.

Concern that the Israeli moves may herald a possible strike helped weaken the shekel to its lowest value in almost 15 months this week, sent government benchmark bond yields climbing and pushed the Tel Aviv Stock Market (TA-25) to a three-week low on Aug. 13. The Bloomberg Israel-US Equity Index of the most-traded Israeli companies in New York sank the most in three months, making the benchmark gauge the cheapest in two years relative to the Standard & Poor’s 500.

“With the headlines and saber-rattling we’ve had the last week, there is a higher risk premium, so it’s logical you see the currency weaken,” said Jonathan Katz, a Jerusalem-based economist for HSBC Holdings Plc.

Destabilizing Region

U.S. officials, concerned that a conflict could destabilize the region and send oil prices soaring, have been urging caution. Panetta told reporters yesterday that the “window is still open” to resolve the dispute through diplomacy and that he thinks Israel hasn’t made a decision “at this time” to attack Iranian nuclear sites.

“From our point of view, the window is still open to try to work toward a diplomatic solution,” he said during a briefing at the Pentagon outside Washington.

David Rothkopf, a visiting scholar at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it is “extremely unlikely Israel could do anything without a regional ally or the cooperation of the U.S.”

Iranian officials have dismissed the threats of an attack.

“We don’t think any of the officials in this illegitimate regime wants to do something as illogical as this,” Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters at a Tehran press conference yesterday. Iran says its nuclear program aims to produce electricity for a growing population.

Tougher Sanctions

Amid earlier Israeli threats, the U.S. and its European allies passed tougher sanctions against Iran that have been taking a toll on the country’s economy.

Iranian oil production has declined 20 percent this year to 2.86 million barrels a day, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Crude oil futures in New York have advanced 19 percent in the seven days ending Aug. 7 as Iranian exports have fallen, according to an Aug. 10 report of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Commitments of Traders.

Prices of meat, rice and bread have spiraled in Iran as inflation accelerated to 22.4 percent in the 12 months through June 20.

There are concerns that repeated Israeli threats to strike Iran may force Israel’s hand if the West doesn’t take more serious action.

 

Third Threat

The Israelis are “almost in the comic situation of threatening to strike repeatedly — this is the third threat in three months — but nothing ever happens, which in my view is damaging to their credibility,” said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington policy group.

Barak in February said that Israel would need to act militarily within months, before Iran reaches a “zone of immunity” where its underground enrichment facilities would be invulnerable to Israeli air strikes.

Polls show that the Israeli public’s opposition to a strike has been declining. Some 46 percent of Israelis are against an attack on Iran without U.S. support, according to a poll by the Dialog Institute reported on Channel 10 on Aug. 12. That compares with 58 percent opposed to such a move in a survey by Dialog published March 8 in Haaretz. Both surveys questioned 500 Israeli adults.

U.S. presidential elections may influence an Israeli decision.

Israelis “believe there’s a closing window of opportunity and they also believe politically it’s far more complex if they wait until after November to strike,” said David Makovsky, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

‘They’re Concerned’

“I think they’re concerned that if they attack during a lame-duck period they have a lot more uncertainty about American reaction,” he said.

An attack would also come as one of Iran’s closest allies, Syria, is busy battling domestic insurgents who control parts of the country’s cities and countryside. That also has weakened Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, an Iranian ally that depends on Syria for arms and support.

“This is the best window Israel is going to get,” said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv. “If a strike doesn’t happen in the next six months and Iran doesn’t back down, then the Israeli threat will lose its credibility.”

By Calev Ben-David on August 14, 2012

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Words to Think:
if Israel attack Iran, Iran’s nuclear facilities would be damage but at what cost to Israel and will it stop Iran from developing Nukes in the future? It would be a very long war and Israel and US has to occupy Iran. I don’t think US will send their men and women to fight in a ground war in Iran. It already cost US a lot of dead and maimed soldiers when they occupy Iraq which is smaller than Iran. Iran is a lot bigger.I think  Israel should just learn how to live with Nuclear Iran, anyway they have their own NUkes which would serve as deterent. 

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The Israelis Never attact IRAN and this is why…

What the father of nuclear weapon of Pakistan was doing in IRAN from 2005 to 2009??
What the 15 North Korean Missile scientists was doing in IRAN from 2005 to 2010??
Maby IRAN already have the nukes and the missiles to deliver in Tel Aviv And Haifa?? Are the Iranians Waiting the Israelis to make the stupit move first ??
If the Israelis attact first the Iranians have every right to attact Israel in Return. and all the worlds nation will be with them.
The Iranians so far never attacted any nation or threatened. Only the Israelis have bad record for that.. The Iranians said that they will attact Israel if the Israelis attacted them first.
If i was Israeli I will be more  nervous of an Iranian surprise
dont forget that they took over and controlled the spy US plane

The mystery of an Iranian nuclear scientist who Iran says was kidnapped and tortured last year by American agents deepened Tuesday, as Iran publicized what it called a videotaped statement from him that proved its claim. That videotape was contradicted by a second videotape posted on the Internet in which a man who identified himself as the same scientist said he was studying happily in the United States.

The rival videos that claimed to show the scientist, Shahram Amiri, 32, emerged on the eve of an expected United Nations Security Council vote on a new set of American-backed economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Iran has accused the United States of extracting information about its program from Mr. Amiri.


In preparing for the vote, the Obama administration has been offering classified intelligence briefings to members of the Security Council. In these sessions, American officials have used new evidence to revise previous conclusions about whether Iran has suspended efforts to design nuclear warheads, according to foreign diplomats and some American officials.


It is not clear whether information from Mr. Amiri contributed to these revised assessments.


The United States government has never acknowledged Mr. Amiri’s existence, much less admitted to having any role in his disappearance. But one United States official, declining to speak on the record about an intelligence matter, said the very fact that the video released by Iran showed someone talking over an Internet connection would suggest that he was not being held under duress.


“The United States doesn’t force people to defect or hold them here if they do,” the official said. “That’s ridiculous. It’s ultimately their decision.”
The official added: “Does anyone really believe that someone supposedly held captive has Internet access and the ability to make and send videos? That doesn’t make any sense.”

Mr. Amiri, whom Iran has described as one of the country’s top nuclear scientists, vanished during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia a year ago. He worked at Iran’s Malek Ashtar University, an institution linked to the country’s powerfulRevolutionary Guards.


ABC News reported on March 30 that Mr. Amiri had defected to the United States, citing current and former C.I.A. officials.


But Iranian authorities said Tuesday that the video it publicized was the first document that proved Mr. Amiri had been abducted. The Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador in Tehran to press a formal complaint, the ISNA student news agency reported.


The Swiss handle American interests in Tehran because Iran and the United States severed diplomatic ties after the 1979 revolution.
“In the meeting with the Swiss envoy, Iran emphasized that America is responsible for the life and well-being of Mr. Amiri,” the ISNA report said. “It stressed that his abduction was against international laws and human rights.”


The report said Iranian officials also submitted other documents to the Swiss ambassador that they said proved their claim of Mr. Amiri’s abduction, and also that of a former Iranian deputy defense minister, Alireza Asgari, who disappeared during a trip to Turkey in 2007.


In the Iranian video of Mr. Amiri, which was broadcast on state-run television, an announcer identified a young man, in a blurry video wearing a T-shirt and talking in Persian through a computer phone hookup, as Mr. Amiri. He said he had been kidnapped in a joint operation involving the C.I.A. and the Saudi intelligence service in Medina on June 3, 2009. He said that he was taken to a house in Saudi Arabia, that he was injected with a shot, and that when he awoke he was on a plane heading to the United States.


He said he recorded the video on April 5 in Tucson, Ariz. The announcer said that he could not disclose how the video was obtained. The second video, which was released shortly afterward on YouTube, showed a young man, slightly more overweight than the man in the first video, wearing a suit in a well-decorated room, who also identified himself as Mr. Amiri. He said in Persian that he was free and safe in the United States and was working on his Ph.D. He also demanded an end to what he called faux videos about himself, saying he had no interest in politics or experience in nuclear weapons programs.
“My purpose in today’s conversation is to put an end to all the rumors that have been leveled at me over the past year,” he said. “I am Iranian, and I have not taken any steps against my homeland.”


The rival videos emerged as Iranian officials in Tehran denied some speculation that they would be willing to swap three American hikers, who have been in jail there since last summer, for Mr. Amiri.


Ramin Mehmanparast, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in Iranian government news accounts that it was not Iran’s practice to “exchange people whose cases are still with the judiciary,” referring to the cases of the three hikers, who are accused of entering Iran illegally and spying.
“The two cases are not comparable,” Mr. Mehmanparast said. “Iran will use legal channels to secure the release of Mr. Amiri.”
David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington.


By NAZILA FATHI (NYT), June 8, 2010

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My friends Farhad and Mahnaz are the quintessential Iranian couple. They are both engineers with a shared passion for hiking and movies and have been smitten with each other for six years — but Farhad and Mahnaz can’t afford to get married because even a one-bedroom apartment is beyond their reach, despite their both having decent middle-class jobs.

This reality has preyed on their relationship, compelling them to consider leaving Iran. And they blame the government for their situation.

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“We aren’t lazy, and we aren’t aiming for anything so high,” says Mahnaz.

These days, the phrase “marriage crisis” pops up in election debates, newspapers and blogs and is considered by government officials and ordinary Iranians alike to be one of the nation’s most serious problems. It refers to the rising number of young people of marrying age who cannot afford to marry or are choosing not to tie the knot.

By official estimates, there are currently 13 million to 15 million Iranians of marrying age; to keep that figure steady, Iran should be registering about 1.65 million marriages each year. The real figure is closer to half that. (See pictures of “The Long Shadow of Ayatullah Khomeini.”)neda_agha_soltan_05


Why does this matter? Because Iran’s government cannot afford to further alienate the young people that comprise more than 35% of its population. The young are already seething over their government’s radical stance in the world and its trashing of the economy, and their anger easily expresses itself politically.


As they decide how to vote in Friday’s presidential election, young people like Farhad and Mahnaz are likely to base their decision in part on who they think will address the problem closest to their heart. (Read “North Korea Wipes Out Iran [EM] from the World Cup.”)

Iran used to be a society in which people married young. In a Muslim culture that viewed premarital sex and dating as taboo, this was pretty much a social imperative. My mother married at 28, and in the 1970s that meant she had brushed up against spinsterhood. But today, Iranian women are attending university in unprecedented numbers — they account for over 60% of students on Iranian campuses — and typically enter the workforce after graduating. This has turned their focus away from the home sphere, made marriage a less urgent priority and changed women’s expectations of both marriage and prospective husbands. (See pictures of “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Iranian Paradox.”)

With young people pursuing more liberal lifestyles and shunning the traditional mores of their parents’ generation, the marrying age is steadily climbing. This terrifies Iran’s religious government, which still peddles the virtue of chastity and views young people’s shifting attitudes toward sexuality as a direct threat to the Islamic Revolution’s core values. “The sexual bomb we face is more dangerous than the bombs and missiles of the enemy,” said Mohammad Javad Hajj Ali Akbari, head of Iran’s National Youth Organization, late last year.

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Unfortunately for the government, the mismanagement of Iran’s economy — with its high inflation, unemployment rates and soaring real estate prices — has deepened the marriage crisis, and with it the resentment among young Iranians. (See pictures of the global financial crisis.)

Amir Hekmati is a determined 31-year-old civil servant from Tehran’s Narmak neighborhood. He earns the equivalent of $500 a month and has saved assiduously. He’s also managed to secure a loan from the ministry where he works and a small sum from his parents, but even with that he can’t muster enough to buy a studio apartment in an outlying district of the city. Two women he admired turned down his marriage proposals on the grounds that he did not already have his own place. “If women would just agree to be girlfriends and date, we wouldn’t be forced to pursue marriage in the first place,” he complained.

Hekmati’s experience is typical of young Iranians, who are finding themselves increasingly priced out of the marriage market. During the tenure of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, real estate prices have soared across the country, but especially in Tehran, where they have risen as much as 150%. Economists have blamed the spike on Ahmadinejad’s disastrous economic policies.

The President flooded the economy with capital through a loan scheme, cut interest rates 2% and embarked on huge state construction projects that drove up the price of building materials. Those changes prompted many investors to move out of the stock market and the banking system and into real estate, which was considered a safer bet. Apartment prices in the capital more than doubled between 2006 and 2008. (See pictures of health care in Iran.)

The real estate boom was a disaster for middle-income Iranians, particularly young men seeking marriage partners. And many of those who have married and moved in with in-laws are finding that inflation is eating away at their savings, meaning it will take years, rather than months, to get their own place. The resulting strains are breaking up existing marriages — this past winter, local media reported that a leading cause of Iran’s high divorce rate is the husband’s inability to establish an independent household. Many others are concluding that marriage is best avoided altogether. (See the Top 10 Ahmadinejad-isms.)

Ahmadinejad’s government response to the crisis included a plan, unveiled in November 2008 by the National Youth Organization, called “semi-independent marriage.” It proposed that young people who cannot afford to marry and move into their own place legally marry but continue living apart in their parents’ homes. The announcement prompted swift outrage. Online news sites ran stories in which women angrily denounced the scheme, arguing that it afforded men a legal and pious route to easy sex while offering women nothing by way of security or social respect. The government hastily dropped the plan.

As Iranians head to the polls on Friday, Ahmadinejad faces the prospect that the very same broad discontent with the economy that propelled him to victory in 2005 could now help unseat him. Samira, a 27-year-old who works in advertising, recently became engaged and is among the millions of young Iranians who are eyeing the candidates through the lens of their own marital concerns. “Ahmadinejad promised he would bring housing prices down, but that didn’t happen at all,” she says.

If left to their own salaries, she explains, she and her fiancé will never be able to afford their own place. That’s a key reason they’re voting for Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the leading reformist candidate, who has made the economy the center of his platform. Like many young Iranians, they hope a new President will make marriage a possibility once more.


* Text By Azadeh Moaveni; NYT , Jun. 09, 2009

Israeli leaders spent last week talking tough about Iran and threatening possible military action. The United States and the other major powers need to address Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but with more assertive diplomacy — including greater financial pressures — not more threats or war planning.

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who is bedeviled by a corruption scandal that could drive him from office, led the charge. “The Iranian threat must be stopped by all possible means,” he said in Washington, a day before meeting President Bush at the White House.

Then Israel’s transportation minister, Shaul Mofaz, who is jockeying to replace Mr. Olmert as head of the ruling Kadima Party if the prime minister is forced to resign, declared that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites looks “unavoidable.”

We don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors in Washington — or what Mr. Olmert heard from Mr. Bush. But saber-rattling is not a strategy. And an attack on Iran by either country would be disastrous.

Unlike in 1981, when Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, there is no single target. A sustained bombing campaign would end up killing many civilians and still might not cripple Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran also has many frightening ways to retaliate. And even Arab states who fear Iran shudder at the thought of America, or its ally Israel, bombing another Muslim country and the backlash that that could provoke.

Mr. Olmert may be trying to divert attention from his political troubles. Still, there is no denying a growing and understandable sense of urgency in Israel, which Iran’s president has threatened with elimination. A recent report by United Nations inspectors on Iran’s nuclear progress, and worrisome links to military programs, has only fanned those fears.

Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, is scheduled to visit Tehran later this month to discuss, in more detail, an incentives package first offered in 2006 by the United States and other major powers. It is likely to fall far short — both in incentives and punishments — of what is needed to get Tehran’s attention.

There is no indication it will contain tougher sanctions — including a broader ban on doing business with Iranian banks and bans on arms sales and new investments. It also needs a stronger commitment from Washington to lift sanctions and to fully engage Iran if it abandons its nuclear efforts. The United States is the only major power not sending a diplomat with Mr. Solana.

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain disagree on holding direct talks with Iran (Mr. Obama would; Mr. McCain would not). But last week, both endorsed enhanced sanctions, including limiting gasoline exports to Iran. That is an idea well worth exploring. Iran relies on a half-dozen companies for 40 percent of its gasoline imports. The United Nations Security Council is unlikely to authorize a squeeze, but quiet American and European appeals might persuade some companies to slow deliveries, and it would grab Tehran’s attention.

On his trip to Europe this week, President Bush is expected to press the Europeans to further reduce Iran-related export credits and cut ties with Iran’s financial institutions. He also must make clear that America will do its part on incentives. We wish he had the will and the skill to propose a grand bargain — and to send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to deliver it. Unfortunately, there’s no sign of that. At a minimum, he should send a senior official with Mr. Solana to Tehran.

If sanctions and incentives cannot be made to work, the voices arguing for military action will only get louder. No matter what aides may be telling Mr. Bush and Mr. Olmert — or what they may be telling each other — an attack on Iran would be a disaster.

 

* Editorial NYT, June 10, 2008

 

AS FAR as George Bush is concerned, “Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous” if it gets sufficient knowledge to build a nuclear bomb. But his words this week were barely audible above the clamour detonated by a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the collective judgement of all 16 of America’s intelligence agencies, that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons programme in the autumn of 2003.
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To Iran’s irrepressible president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the report was a “great victory”—an own thumb-in-the-eye for the Great Satan.

At the very least, the spooks’ reassessment of Iran’s ongoing nuclear work seems likely to put a brake on already slow diplomatic efforts through the United Nations Security Council to pressure Iran into suspending its enrichment of uranium and its efforts to produce plutonium. Although a new resolution promising stiffer sanctions on Iran may still be circulated soon, both Russia and China say that the new NIE version of events means at a minimum a bit of a rethink.

Yet it’s a funny thing. Although the new judgement on Iran’s weapons work contradicts a 2005 NIE view that Iran was tinkering on regardless, the intelligence folk have not changed their prediction that Iran could have a nuclear weapon by around 2015. So does Iran have such military ambitions? And if so, why the presumed four-year pause?

When intelligence types talk of Iran’s weapons programme, what they mean is work to design a nuclear warhead, master the mechanics to make it go bang and covertly produce the highly-enriched uranium or plutonium for its explosive core. In 2002 much of Iran’s hitherto-secret uranium work, including its centrifuge-enrichment plant at Natanz, was exposed by an opposition group. Iran then came under mounting pressure to suspend such work and let in inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The intense scrutiny, the intelligence analysts think, caused Iran to halt its other nefarious activities too.

Yet, as a leaked speech by a senior Iranian nuclear official later made clear, Iran was not abandoning enrichment, only ducking and weaving to get the world off its back. Uranium and plutonium work, it insists, are legal under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—for peaceful purposes. The enrichment go-slow ended abruptly in 2006, however, with the election of Mr Ahmadinejad. Iran now has 3,000 centrifuge machines up and running at Natanz.

Does that matter if all the other work has stopped? Producing enough plutonium or highly enriched uranium (power reactors use the low-enriched sort, but this can be enriched to weapons grade by running it through the centrifuges a few more times) is the chief obstacle to building a bomb. Halting the obviously illegal work, while pressing ahead with enrichment in plain sight would still leave Iran with a weapons option, argued George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think-tank, back in 2005. The new NIE assessment comes to a similar conclusion.

Iran claims never to have had any intent to build weapons. The NIE disagrees. America is even more firmly convinced on the evidence it has obtained—some of it quite recently—that until 2003 Iran’s government was trying to build a nuclear weapon. It was “probably worse than we thought”, says Stephen Hadley, Mr Bush’s national security adviser.

It always was implausible that a country without a single working nuclear-power reactor would spend so heavily on, and be so secretive about, uranium enrichment. The IAEA still wants to know more about unexplained traces of highly enriched uranium found by inspectors and a document Iran had for years, but claims never to have made use of, showing how to shape uranium metal into hemispheres, a technique useful only for weapons. Inspectors also want Iran to account for drawings dated 2003 from a laptop provided to America by a defector the following year that show design work on a missile cone that could accommodate a nuclear warhead. Iran dismisses such evidence as “baseless”.

The latest NIE assessment expresses “moderate confidence” that Iran’s weapons pause continues. Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, this week begged to differ. He acknowledged that the odds on an eventual American military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities have lengthened, but said Israel would not lower its guard “because of an intelligence report from the other side of the world, even if it is from our greatest friend.” Intriguingly, while the director-general of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, expressed himself pleased with the NIE reassessment, the New York Times quoted a senior official close to the agency as expressing more scepticism about what Iran is really up to.

So where does diplomacy go from here? The NIE suggests that the weapons pause may indicate more of a cost-benefit approach to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and that some cleverer combination of scrutiny and pressure, combined with juicier offers to take account of Iran’s security, prestige and other goals might prompt its regime to steer clear of further weapons work—though it could reverse course at any time. Yet that has been the basic diplomatic strategy all along: get Iran to halt enrichment and negotiate inducements, including co-operation on other advanced, but less dangerous, nuclear technologies, to make the suspension permanent. Mr Ahmadinejad firmly rules this out. Ironically, this week’s NIE will make it harder to muster the diplomatic wherewithal to press him to change his merry tune.

* From The Economist print edition (Dec.6, 2007)

THE consequences were not so serious, it would be tempting to mock the fiascos and flip-flops of America’s intelligence services. Before 2003 they said that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and was seeking nuclear ones. They were wrong. In 2005 they said that Iran had a secret nuclear programme and was determined to get a bomb. Now they say they were wrong about that too
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This week’s national intelligence assessment says with “high confidence” that although Iran was indeed working on a bomb until the autumn of 2003 it then stopped. By the middle of this year it had probably (“moderate confidence”) not started again.
And unless it got fuel for a bomb from abroad it would take at least until late 2009 (“moderate confidence”) but more likely between 2010 and 2015 to make it at home.

What is the baffled layman to make of this? First that intelligence is neither art nor science but a system of best guesses based on incomplete evidence. If new evidence suggests that the previous guesses were wrong, it is a good thing that spies are willing to say so. Some of the outraged hawks who want America to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities accuse the spies of sexing down their latest Iran dossier in order to make amends for having sexed up the one that led America into a war in Iraq. But that would imply a truly impressive conspiracy between the 16 agencies that signed the report. Of course, the spies’ new assessment may be wrong, as their previous ones proved to be. But it is most unlikely to be a tissue of lies.

For that very reason, however, relieved doves who think the spectre of a nuclear Iran or of an American attack has now disappeared had better read the report again. Its final sentence says (“high confidence”) that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it chooses. As to what “eventually” means, the assessment has not changed: it was always late 2009 at the earliest but more probably the middle of the next decade. As to whether Iran will do so, the spies say (“moderate-to-high confidence”) that “at a minimum” it is keeping the option open.

That is troubling, because Iran can continue to work towards a bomb without resuming the secret programme America now thinks it stopped in 2003. That programme was about “weaponisation”: the fiddly business of making a device that can set off a chain reaction in nuclear fuel. But creating such a warhead is the easier part of building a bomb. Harder by far is making the fuel. And, as the report notes, making the fuel is precisely what Iran continues to do in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions at its uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz. For now, it is true, Iran is enriching the uranium at below weapons grade. It says it is doing so only in order to power reactors to produce electricity. But it has no such reactors. And to get the uranium to weapons grade it has only to run the stuff often enough through Natanz’s centrifuges.

In short, nothing in the new assessment makes the story Iran tells about Natanz any less fishy or the dangers posed by its dash to enrich uranium any less troubling. But it has utterly changed the politics of the issue. The case for American pre-emption now becomes almost impossible to sell either at home or abroad. That is probably a good thing, given that a military attack was always likelier to restore Iran’s determination to build a bomb than destroy its ability to get one. Unfortunately, the report may also make it harder for America and Europe to maintain, let alone sharpen, the sanctions the world has imposed in order to make Iran stop work at Natanz.

Talk if necessary, but keep up the sanctions
Since the spies say Iran stopped its bomb-making in 2003 because of world pressure, relaxing it now would be perverse. But to keep the world on side, America may have to show new flexibility. For example, while tightening sanctions, it could offer to talk to Iran about all aspects of their troubled relations, even before work at Natanz stopped. Iran might refuse. But that would at least make it clear which side was the spoiler.

* Dec 6th 2007. From The Economist print edition

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The movie, which depicts the brave stand of 300 Spartans against a marauding army of hundreds of thousands of Persians at Thermopylae in 480 BC. “Is about as violent as ‘Apocalypto’ and twice as stupid,”

The Iranians, who presumably don’t screen many Mel Gibson movies, were nonetheless even more offended. The movie is aimed at “humiliating” Iranians, who are descendants of the ancient Persians.

300 is “part of a comprehensive U.S. psychological warfare aimed at Iranian Culture” And this was the headline in the Ayan No newspaper: HOLLYWOOD DECLARES WAR ON IRANIANS.

Source: Summarized of Newsweek, March 2007