Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Gambia cut ties with Iran and order diplomats to leave

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

23 November 2010 Last updated at 07:08 ET

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (right) shakes hands with the President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh in Tehran, 2 December 2006 The Gambian and Iranian presidents have enjoyed close ties in recent years

The Gambia has said it is cutting all ties with Iran and ordered all Iranian government representatives to leave within 48 hours.

Officials from the small West African nation gave no reason for the move.

But last month Nigeria said it had intercepted an illegal arms shipment in Lagos from Iran, destined for The Gambia.

Senior Iranian official Alaeddin Borujerdi has said the move was taken under US pressure.

The Nigerian authorities said they had discovered the weapons, including rocket launchers and grenades, in containers labelled as building materials.

The France-based shipping company CMA CGM which transported the shipment said attempts were made to send it to The Gambia before the Nigerian police seized it.

Mr Borujerdi, chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Iran’s parliament, confirmed that a private Iranian company had sent the arms to The Gambia but said this was “in line with international laws”, reports the official Islamic Republic News Agency (Irna).

Nigeria has reported the seizure to the UN Security Council.

Iran is under UN sanctions because of its nuclear programme and is banned from supplying, selling or transferring arms.

‘Embarrassed'”All government of The Gambia projects and programmes, which were [being] implemented in co-operation with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, have been cancelled,” the Gambian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Security officials holds one of the seized weapons in Lagos, Nigeria (27 Oct 2010) The weapons seized by Nigerian security officials in Lagos included rocket launchers and grenades

Correspondents say ties between Tehran and Banjul became closer after Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh came to power in 1994.

When The Gambia hosted the African Union summit in 2006, the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a guest of honour.

The Gambia has been among those developing nations who have defended Iran’s right to nuclear power.

Charlie Zrom, who has published a paper on Iranian foreign policy for the American Enterprise Institute, a think-tank in Washington, says the move is a surprise and will be an embarrassment for Iran.

“Iran has sought partners around the world especially as sanctions have come on the table in the last few years,” he told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.

“West Africa has been a key priority for them and we’ve seen a number of visits both from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and from the defence minister.

“It’s a tool by which Iran tries to prevent measures harmful to it, or it believes harmful to it, being passed at the United Nations.”

Correspondents say the decision to expel all Iranian diplomats will bring an end to several projects funded by Iran, such as the $2bn (£1.2bn) agreement to supply The Gambia with heavy and commercial vehicles.

The two countries, both of which have faced criticism over their human rights records, have had fairly close ties.



UN to question US over rights situation‎

November 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Guards stand at the entrance of a renovated Abu Ghraib prison
The United States is to submit its human rights record to the UN Human Rights Council for the first time after coming under scrutiny over its lackluster rights situation.

The 47-member council is expected to blast the US over the use of torture in its so-called ‘war on terror’ and the country’s failure to dismantle the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

The 30-member US delegation will come to Geneva with a 20-page report that includes the input of civic and social organizations.

For most observers, seeing the US engage the summit is a huge milestone in itself.

The US will also face questions over religious freedom, the death penalty, immigration policy and the treatment of racial minorities.

Separately, Amnesty International USA and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have issued a 400-page report claiming that racial, ethnic and gender disparities persist in the US, Reuters reported.

The US Human Rights Network says, “Discrimination permeates all aspects of life in the US, and extends to all communities of color, and when coupled with discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, disability or other bases, can have a devastating impact.”

Last week Iran‘s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told IRIB that Washington’s unconditional support for Israel, the establishment of “hideous prisons” such as Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo in Cuba, the invasion of other nations and desecration of divine religions “under the pretext of free speech” make the US the supreme violator of human rights.

Among Washington’s long list of human rights violations is the case of an Iranian woman illegally detained and tortured in the US.

Shahrzad Mir-Qolikhan was arrested in the US in December 2007. Her ex-husband, Mahmoud Seif, had allegedly tried to export night-vision goggles to Iran from Austria. She was sentenced to five years in prison by a Florida federal court in his absence.

Shahrzad has since been mentally and physically tortured and denied visits from her family members including her twin 14-year-old daughters, Melika and Melina. She is allowed only one hour and 25 minutes of telephone time a week.

This is while Florida Department of Corrections clearly states that “a visiting schedule shall be implemented to ensure a minimum of two hours a week for inmates to receive visits.”


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E.U. rules let Iran import, export oil, creating possible split from U.S. policy

October 28, 2010 1 comment

European Union

Image by Henrique Oscar Loeffler via Flickr

By Thomas Erdbrink and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, October 28, 2010; 12:25 AM

TEHRAN – The United States and Europe have worked cooperatively on Iran policy since President Obama took office, but a small crack might have begun to open over sanctions that are beginning to pinch ordinary Iranians.

The European Union issued regulations this week that went well beyond a U.N. Security Council resolution passed in June, outlining tough restrictions on the sale of equipment and technology to the Iranian oil and gas industry, as well as on investment in those sectors. But the regulations – unlike legislation passed by the U.S. Congress – allow for the import and export of oil and gas to the Islamic republic.

“If you want to send a tanker filled with refined petrol to Iran, and you have proved that you are not carrying any other goods that we deem illegal, Europe has no problem,” said a European official who specializes in sanction policies and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “We don’t want any negative effect on the Iranian population or to deprive them of energy, so we do not follow U.S. measures that go beyond United Nations sanctions.”

The E.U. will also permit financial transactions needed to import of oil and gas to Iran. The United States, by contrast, penalizes companies if they sell gasoline to Iran, and has increased pressure on international oil companies and refineries to cancel their contracts with the country.

The practical effect of the European action might be minimal because European oil giants might still refuse to supply Iran with fuel for fear of appearing to thwart U.S. sanctions.

U.S. officials said Wednesday that they were broadly pleased with the European regulations, which they said could devastate Iran’s oil and gas industry. “We are going at the supply, while they are going at the back end,” said a senior administration official who handles the Iran portfolio. “We have had the kind of cooperation and coordination with the Europeans that has been unprecedented.”

The U.S. official said he had never heard any concerns raised by his European interlocutors about the effect of the sanctions on ordinary Iranians. “The regulations turned out to be pretty solid,” he said. “At each stage, when they have faced a choice between going soft or going heavy, they have gone heavy.”

U.S. officials have in the past said that if the increased pressure is hurting ordinary Iranians, they should blame their leaders for the Islamic republic’s increasing isolation.

But E.U. officials said Wednesday that they specifically allowed fuel sales to ease the burden on average Iranians.

According to June statistics, Iran needs to import 4.7 million gallons of refined petroleum each day because of the country’s low refining capacity. After U.S. sanctions were implemented in July, Iranian leaders announced that they had started an emergency plan to increase local production by mixing oil with high-octane products.

At several European airports, planes belonging to Iran’s national carrier, Iran Air, are being refused refueling services by representatives of major oil companies. According to the European Union, there is no legal basis for denying the airline services.

Iran Air has been able to refuel at only three European airports since a Sept. 30 agreement among the State Department and European oil firms Total of France, Statoil of Norway, Eni of Italy and Royal Dutch Shell of Britain and the Netherlands.

They pledged to end their investments in Iran and avoid new activity in the country’s energy sector. In turn, U.S. officials said, the companies would be protected from possible U.S. penalties for doing business with Iran.

“We have complained to the U.S. about the extraterritorial effects of their measures on European companies,” the European official said. “If those companies submit to U.S. wishes, it is their decision, but we are against these policies. This is a major issue for us.”

There have been complaints in the European parliament over U.S. pressure on E.U. companies regarding Iran.

“If Europe accepts U.S. interference through pressure on its businesses, it is giving up independence,” said Marietje Schaake, an influential parliament member who represents a liberal party. “The influence of U.S. interference beyond our own sanctions harms the E.U.’s credibility as a global player.

Kessler reported from Washington.


Why is Saudi Arabia stockpiling US weapons?

October 24, 2010 Leave a comment

By Caryle Murphy
Created October 23, 2010 08:36
Saudi Arabia and US cement partnership with massive arms deal.
Caryle Murphy
Saudi Arabia arms deal [1]
In last weeks arms deal, one of the biggest single U.S. arms deals ever, Saudi Arabia will acquire 84 F-15 fighter jets like the one pictured here. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – The bountiful package of high-end fighter jets, helicopters, radar and missiles that Washington has agreed to sell Saudi Arabia is the strongest signal yet that the two countries have recovered from the their post-9/11 meltdown in bilateral relations.

The arms deal, which President Barack Obama’s administration officially unveiled this week to Congress, could potentially bring the U.S. defense industry $60 billion over a decade or more, making it one of the single largest U.S. weapons sales ever.

If Congress does not block the sale – which administration officials said they do not expect – it will further cement the U.S.-Saudi security relationship for years to come. The kingdom will be dependent on U.S. training and maintenance for its new weapons.

The package on the table, which has been under negotiation since the Bush administration, authorizes Saudi Arabia to buy 84 new F-15 fighter jets and three types of helicopters: 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks and 36 Little Birds.

The deal also includes an upgrade for 70 other F-15s already in the Saudi Air Force, as well as Saudi purchases of HARM anti-radar missiles, precision-guided JDAM bombs and Hellfire missiles.

Such a deal could not have happened eight years ago, said Anwar Eshki, chairman of the Jeddah-based Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, because after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, “The United States suspected or believed that Saudi Arabia helped or didn’t block those events.”

However, Saudi Arabia’s subsequent stand against terrorism “enhanced the relationship again,” Eshki said.

Announcing the arms package, U.S. officials stressed that it will add jobs to the ailing U.S. economy and, by signaling U.S. commitment to Saudi Arabia’s security, help deter potential Iranian aggression.

But the transfer of such state-of-the-art weaponry to Saudi Arabia is unlikely to enhance stability in the volatile Middle East or do much to keep Saudi Arabia safe from the dangers it faces, analysts said.

“The real problems in the Middle East are about domestic politics, not about international relations,” said F. Gregory Gause III, an expert in Saudi Arabia and professor of political science at the University of Vermont.

Those dangers include a paralyzed political process and potential security vacuum in Iraq, and deteriorating economic and security conditions in poverty-stricken Yemen, where a robust Al Qaeda affiliate has found safe haven.

Its long border with Yemen means that Saudi Arabia could potentially face an influx of Yemeni refugees fleeing civil strife, or a resurgence of the 2009 border conflict with Yemeni rebels that left more than 100 Saudi soldiers dead.

In addition, a continued deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict raises the eventual possibility of violent outbreaks by frustrated Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, or another military confrontation between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

“I just got back four days ago from the West Bank,” said Washington-based Mark Perry, an independent military and foreign policy analyst. “It’s dark and gloomy and volatile and it’s very worrisome … The potential for violence is incredible, especially in East Jerusalem and Hebron.”

All these situations degrade the security environment of Saudi Arabia, but are unlikely to be impacted by the proposed arms deal.

“I don’t think that these weapons are going to protect Saudi Arabia from the real threats it faces in the region,” said Gause.


Moreover, the arms package is “not even that useful in balancing Iran militarily” because Iran is capitalizing on its political relationships with Hezbollah, Hamas and Iraq’s leadership, Gause added. “That’s how they’re spreading their influence in the region.”

However, “if there is one strategic reason to be in favor of this arms sale, it’s our leverage in a proliferation situation,” said Gause.

“If the Iranians do obtain a nuclear capability, Saudi Arabia will face a choice: Do we get one or not?” he explained. The proposed arms deal may make the Saudis more “comfortable with the American security guarantee” and thus give the United States “some leverage, some credibility” when attempting to dissuade Riyadh from going down the same nuclear route as Iran, he added.

Amman-based Mouin Rabbani, an independent writer and analyst specializing in Palestinian affairs, said he sees the arms deal as a way of “solidifying the strategic alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia” with the “underlying message” that “Iran won’t be able to attack Saudi Arabia without eliciting an American response.”

But Rabbani does not see the arms deal itself fulfilling Saudi defense needs. “I think with all due respect that the people who try to understand the arms purchase on the basis of Saudi military needs fundamentally misunderstand” the situation, he said. “Any military objective is entirely secondary. What this is really about is … to buy regime security …. Military acquisitions are an important [way of] petrodollar recycling.”

Jeddah-based analyst Eshki said that Saudis are struck by the fact that, unlike in the past, Israel is not objecting to the proposed arms package.

Perhaps, he said, this is “because Israel has two enemies – a wise enemy and a lunatic enemy.”
Since the arms are being sold to Saudi Arabia and not Iran, he added, the Israelis “can accept” the deal.





Iran, Venezuela leaders seek ‘new world order

October 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez AP – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, shakes hands with his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez, …
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press Writer Wed Oct 20, 5:46 pm ET

TEHRAN, Iran – The leaders of Iran and Venezuela hailed what they called their strong strategic relationship on Wednesday, saying they are united in efforts to establish a “new world order” that will eliminate Western dominance over global affairs.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and visiting Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, watched as officials from both countries signed 11 agreements promoting cooperation in areas including oil, natural gas, textiles, trade and public housing.

Among the agreements, Venezuela’s state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA said the South American country was forming a joint shipping venture with Iran to aid in delivering Venezuelan crude oil to Europe and Asia. It said in a statement that the agreement for a joint venture also would help supply Iran “due to its limited refining capacity.”

Both presidents denounced U.S. “imperialism” and said their opponents will not be able to impede cooperation between Iran and Venezuela.

Iran’s state TV quoted both Ahmadinejad and Chavez as calling their relationship a “strategic alliance” that would eliminate the current global order.

“Iran and Venezuela are united to establish a new world order based on humanity and justice,” Ahmadinejad said, repeating his predictions that those who today seek “world domination are on the verge of collapse.”

Chavez said this is a time of “great threats” that make its necessary to swiftly “consolidate strategic alliances in political, economic, technological, energy and social areas,” according to the state-run Venezuelan News Agency.

Details of the latest accords were not released, and Chavez said some agreements went beyond those put on paper. He said a Venezuelan delegation will soon travel to Iran to follow up on the agreements.

Iran has become the closest Middle East ally to Chavez’s government as the left-leaning leader has sought to build international alliances to counter what he sees as U.S. economic and political dominance.

“Imperialism has entered a decisive phase of decline and … is headed, like elephants, to its graveyard,” Chavez said, according to the Venezuelan state news agency.

Chavez has staunchly defended Iran’s nuclear energy program, siding with Tehran by insisting it is for peaceful uses and not for nuclear bombs.

U.S. officials have worried Iran may be using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop atomic weapons. Four rounds of U.N. sanctions, as well as broader severe U.S. and European Union sanctions have not persuaded Tehran to halt the program.

Chavez also has plans to develop a nuclear energy program in Venezuela and last week signed an agreement for Russia to help build a reactor.

Without mentioning the countries’ nuclear ambitions, Chavez said his government demands respect for Iran’s sovereignty and that “those who think they are most powerful and want to impose their will on the world respect Iran.”

Chavez’s trip to Iran was his ninth as president. Before coming to Tehran, he made stops in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Later Wednesday, Chavez arrived in Syria, and is due to travel next to Libya and Portugal.

Iran and Venezuela both belong to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. In recent years, the two oil-producing countries have also set up joint ventures to produce cars, tractors and bicycles in the South American country.


Associated Press Writer Ian James in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.