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August 8, 2008

Iran News Summary: August 7, 2008

The following daily news summary is provided courtesty of our coaltion partners at the Open Society Institute . . .

Israel mulls military option for Iran nukes, AP, August 7, 2008

Israel is building up its strike capabilities amid growing anxiety over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and appears confident that a military attack would cripple Tehran’s atomic program, even if it can’t destroy it. Such talk could be more threat than reality. However, Iran’s refusal to accept Western conditions is worrying Israel as is the perception that Washington now prefers diplomacy over confrontation with Tehran. The Jewish state has purchased 90 F-16I fighter planes that can carry enough fuel to reach Iran, and will receive 11 more by the end of next year. It has bought two new Dolphin submarines from Germany reportedly capable of firing nuclear-armed warheads — in addition to the three it already has. And this summer it carried out air maneuvers in the Mediterranean that touched off an international debate over whether they were a “dress rehearsal” for an imminent attack, a stern warning to Iran or a just a way to get allies to step up the pressure on Tehran to stop building nukes.

Rice threatens sanctions on Iran over nuclear program, AFP, August 7, 2008

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice threatened Iran with more sanctions Thursday after it failed to give an adequate response to the latest bid by Western powers to induce it to freeze uranium enrichment. “Iran has a way out if they ever wish, but we will seriously pursue sanctions if they don’t,” Rice told Yahoo! News and the magazine Politico. “You have to hope that there are reasonable people in Iran who see this as not the way to run a country.” Tehran’s latest response to a demand for the enrichment freeze in exchange for trade and technology incentives “is not a really serious answer,” she said in her first comments since six world powers discussed the matter in a Wednesday conference call. In the interviews, Rice said that the United States does not view Iran as “a permanent enemy,” and has “been pretty tough with them already” by backing three sets of United Nations sanctions. “They should have felt like time is running out quite a long time ago,” Rice said. “When you are having trouble getting banks to come in, getting investment, when export credits are going down from around the world, when you have inflation roaring, time is running out,” she said.

U.S., Russia send mixed message on Iran, Los Angeles Times, August 7, 2008

The United States and Britain said major powers agreed Wednesday to consider more U.N. sanctions against Iran after Tehran failed to freeze its nuclear activities, but Russia said there was no firm deal. A British spokesman said the six major powers had agreed that “we have no choice but to pursue further sanctions.” The State Department said the six were considering “possible outlines of another sanctions resolution.” But Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said there was no definite agreement.

Iran rejects US charge of aiding Iraqi insurgents, Monsters and Critics, August 6, 2008

Iran on Wednesday rejected charges made by the United States that it supported the insurgent war against US forces in Iraq. The Iranian mission to the UN issued a statement rejecting the charge by US Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff that its government contributed to the insurgent war and undermined peace efforts by the Bagdhad regime. Wolff was making an annual report to the UN Security Council on the status of the US-led multinational force operating in Iraq. In addition to Iran, he also accused Syria of allowing insurgents to transit into Iraq through its borders. ‘During the recent operations in Basra, Sadr City and Maysan, Iraqi troops uncovered convincing evidence that Iranian lethal aid has continued to flow into Iraq,’ he said. Wolff said insurgents retreated to Iran as a sanctuary, which contradicted Tehran’s statements that it did not harbour them.

2 US aircraft carriers headed for Gulf, Jerusalem Post, August 7, 2008

Two additional United States naval aircraft carriers are heading to the Gulf and the Red Sea, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper Kuwait Times. Kuwait began finalizing its “emergency war plan” on being told the vessels were bound for the region. The US Navy would neither confirm nor deny that carriers were en route. US Fifth Fleet Combined Maritime Command located in Bahrain said it could not comment due to what a spokesman termed “force-protection policy.” While the Kuwaiti daily did not name the ships it believed were heading for the Middle East, The Media Line’s defense analyst said they could be the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Ronald Reagan.

GCC chief slams Iran for attacking Arab monarchies, AFP, August 7, 2008

A senior Gulf official on Thursday slammed an Iranian deputy minister for questioning the legitimacy of pro-Western Arab monarchies in the region, saying such remarks can only fuel tensions. He was responding to a statement by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi in which he predicted the downfall of Arab monarchies in the Gulf. “Soon another crisis will grip the Persian Gulf area, and that is the legitimacy crisis of the monarchies and traditional systems in the region,” Mohammadi was quoted by the semi-official Mehr news agency as saying. “The next crisis predicted to cover mainly the Persian Gulf is the crisis of legitimacy of the monarchies and traditional systems, which considering current circumstances cannot go on living,” said Mohammadi, who is in charge of research and education affairs.

IAEA official arrives in Iran for talks, International Herald Tribune, August 7, 2008

Iranian state TV says a top official from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog has arrived in Tehran for talks over the country’s disputed nuclear program. Thursday’s report says the deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Olli Heinonen, will be in Iran for two days. It’s unclear whether he’ll discuss Iran’s response to an incentives package offered by six world powers, in exchange for a promise from Tehran to curb uranium enrichment. The U.S. called the response unacceptable, and the group agreed to pursue another round of sanctions against Iran. The Vienna-based IAEA has been monitoring Iran’s existing nuclear program, and investigating whether Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran claims its uranium enrichment is for peaceful purposes only, to generate electricity.

Iran yr/yr inflation at 26.1 pct in July-media, Reuters, August 7, 2008

Iran’s annual inflation was 26.1 percent in the year to July, newspapers said on Thursday, a slight dip from the 26.4 percent reported for the year to June. Rising prices and the government’s economic management are likely to be a major battleground in next year’s election when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to run for a new term. The president has faced mounting criticism from political opponents and the public for his economic policies. Economists say he has spent petrodollars too liberally, which has pushed up cash supply and prices. The president has said inflation is a global issue and has also blamed Iran’s enemies for deepening the problem. But he has pushed to keep interest rates below inflation, which economists say restricts the central bank’s efforts to curb price rises.

Kurdish militants claim 51 Iranian deaths, Middle East Times, August 6, 2008

The Free Life Party of Kurdistan said in a statement Wednesday that its Eastern Defense Forces killed 51 Iranian military personnel in the month of July. A statement released by the publications division of the Free Life Party of Kurdistan, or PJAK, said its military wing during July killed 30 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and destroyed several military vehicles and a headquarters belonging to the Guards. Iranian military units shelled several PJAK villages in Iraqi Kurdistan at least seven times during July, the statement said. PJAK spotters reported U.S. military “spy airplanes” in the region during the shellings.

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