News recap for the week of 12/19/11

Iran TV shows suspected US spy ‘confessing’

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press – 11 hours ago

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s state TV broadcast video of a young man Sunday it claimed was a CIA spy who sought to infiltrate Iran’s secret services.

The TV identified the man, apparently in his late 20s, as Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, an American-Iranian who received special training and served at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading to Iran for his alleged intelligence mission.

“Their (US intelligence) plan was to initially burn some valuable information, to give it free so that (Iran’s) Intelligence Ministry would see the good things and then would contact me,” said in a part of the confession that was broadcast.

The voice of an unnamed announcer on the video said U.S. intelligence was certain that Iran’s secret services would not ignore the data. Therefore, they provided a mix of correct and false information to mislead Iran’s intelligence but tempt it at the same time.

“Iran’s intelligence apparatus overcame the thirst and detected the deception, identified the intelligence corridors (Hekmati’s alleged link to U,.S. intelligence) … and contained the infiltration mission,” it said.

The TV showed a card with writing in English identifying the bearer as an “army contractor.” It also showed several photos of the man identified as Hekmati, some of them in military uniform, together with U.S. army officers.

There was no immediate comment from Washington.

See original article at Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/iran-tv-shows-suspected-us-spy-confessing-to-alleged-mission-to-infiltrate-iran-secret-service/2011/12/18/gIQAG9mg2O_story.html

Did Iran hijack the ‘beast’? US experts cautious about bold claims. (Video)

To hijack the lost US drone, Iran would have to have overcome major technical hurdles. None are impossible, but US experts question Iran’s capabilities in such high-end cyberwarfare.

By Mark Clayton, Staff writer / December 16, 2011

This photo released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards claims to show US RQ-170 Sentinel drone which Tehran says its forces downed earlier this week.

See original article & video at Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2011/1216/Did-Iran-hijack-the-beast-US-experts-cautious-about-bold-claims.-Video

IEA Says More Sanctions on Iran May Push Crude Prices Higher

By Nayla Razzouk – Dec 13, 2011 2:46 AM PT

Tougher international sanctions on Iran may lead to higher global crude prices and a decrease in output capacity for OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, the International Energy Agency said.

A proposed European Union ban on purchases of almost 600,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude would “likely” force refiners in the Mediterranean region to pay more for oil from other suppliers, the agency said in a report released today. Iran’s production capacity will decline by 890,000 barrels a day to less than 3 million barrels a day by 2016 if the EU also blocks sales, as it is considering, of oil-related equipment and services to the Persian state, the IEA said.

The EU added 180 Iranian officials and companies to a blacklist earlier this month to intensify pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, after the U.S. imposed stiffer penalties in November. The bloc is still discussing a possible halt to purchases of crude from Iran, the world’s third-largest oil exporter. The Gulf nation denies it is seeking technology to build nuclear weapons.

“Given already very low European crude inventories, a spate of precautionary buying and escalating tensions surrounding the Iranian issue could sustain prompt prices at levels higher than otherwise, amid the growing concerns about the euro zone and weaker global economic activity for 2012,” the IEA said.

See original article at Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-13/iea-says-more-sanctions-on-iran-may-push-crude-prices-higher-1-.html

Iran, Saudi Officials Hold Rare Talks

BY ELLEN KNICKMEYER

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—Iran’s intelligence chief visited Riyadh for talks with senior Saudi officials on security and political issues, a rare high-level session amid growing tensions between two Persian Gulf powers that have competed for influence in the region.

Saudi officials have intensified accusations against Iran in recent weeks, charging Tehran with inciting political unrest and a potential nuclear-arms race in the Middle East.

The meeting in the Saudi capital “helped us exchange ideas and policies about mutual security and politics and also clear some misunderstandings,” said Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast.

See original article at Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203518404577096031404782816.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

IRAN, SYRIA INK FAIR TRADE AGREEMENT

TEHRAN – Iran and Syria have signed a free trade agreement in a bid to boost bilateral trade especially in industry, mining and agriculture, the deputy industry, mine and trade minister stated on Sunday.
The deal was signed after the Iranian parliament passed a bill last Tuesday for free trade with Syria. The bill provided for free trade between Iran and Syria within the next five years.
Speaking to the Mehr News Agency, Hamid Safdel added that the deal would pave the way for the two sides to increase annual trade to $5 billion.
Currently, Safdel said, engineering services is Iran’s main exports to Syria, which amounted to $2.2 billion in the last Iranian calendar year which ended on March 20, 2011.
The two countries’ trade value (excluding technical and engineering services exports) stood at $336 million last year, the IRNA news agency reported.
Iranian firms are currently carrying out different construction projects in Syria such as cement factory, hydroelectric power plants, glass factory, and silos.
Senior Iranian lawmaker Allaedin Boroujerdi said last Tuesday that the free trade pact was “a firm response” to the United States and its allies which are “investing billions of dollars to change the political structure of the Syrian government.”

Russian customs seize Iran-bound radioactive metal

By NATALIYA VASILYEVA, Associated Press – 2 days ago

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s customs agency announced Friday it has seized pieces of radioactive metal from the luggage of an Iranian passenger bound for Tehran from one of Moscow’s main airports.

It was not immediately clear if the substance could be any use to Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA confirmed that material had been seized from the luggage of an Iranian passenger in Moscow about a month ago, but denied it was radioactive.

Russia’s Federal Customs Service said in a statement that agents found 18 pieces of metal, packed in steel pencil cases, at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after a radiation alert went off. It said the gauges showed that radiation levels were 20 times higher than normal.

Spokeswoman Kseniya Grebenkina told The Associated Press the luggage was seized some time ago, but did not specify when. The Iranian wasn’t detained, she said, and it was not clear whether he was still in Russia or not. She did not give his name. The pieces contained Sodium-22, she said, a radioactive isotope of sodium that could be produced in a particle accelerator.

Kelly Classic, a health physicist at the United States’ renowned Mayo Clinic, said: “You can’t make a nuclear bomb or dirty bomb with it.”

“You’d certainly wonder where it came from and why,” Classic told The Associated Press. “It’s prudent to be a little leery considering where the person’s going.”

Classic said the isotope can be used in devices that determine the thickness of metals.

Another expert, Michael Unterweger, group leader for the radioactivity group at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, said it can be used as a calibration source for radiation instrumentation.

See original article from the AP: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i7a3f5ZT-NbEcUyHxKc1y595WOFA?docId=550c37cdc6974645b7e11dad5191577b

Iraq’s Shiites in no mood to embrace Iran

By , Published: December 14

NAJAF, Iraq — When a senior Iranian cleric announced last month that he was planning to move to this holy Shiite city to open an office, the furor that erupted offered a glimpse into the future of a complicated relationship.

As American troops leave Iraq, Iran certainly ranks high among the beneficiaries of their nearly nine-year presence. As a Shiite power that suffered enormously during an eight-year war with a Sunni-dominated Iraq in the 1980s, Iran now can generally count on closer ties with a friendly Shiite government next door.

But the biggest winners of all have been Iraqi Shiites, whose ascent to power reversed nearly 1,400 years of sometimes brutal Sunni domination. And although Iraqi Shiites broadly welcome the departure of the Americans, they seem in no mood to substitute one form of foreign domination for another — and least of all, they say, from Iran.

See original article at the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraqs-shiites-in-no-mood-to-embrace-iran/2011/12/14/gIQANYRUuO_story.html

US ups Iran sanctions, could target central bank

Published December 13, 2011

| Associated Press

WASHINGTON –  The Obama administration hit two senior Iranian military officials with travel and financial sanctions Tuesday and moved closer to a compromise with Congress over tough new sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank that Washington worries could have unintended consequences.

Citing their roles in alleged human rights abuses, the Treasury Department added the chairman of Iran’s joint chiefs of staff, the country’s most senior military officer, and the deputy commander of the hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to a U.S. blacklist. The move freezes any assets they may have in the U.S., although it is unlikely they have any such assets, and bars Americans from doing business with them. The State Department also barred the two men from entering the United States.

Iran’s endgame is long overdue

Joel Brinkley, © 2011 Joel Brinkley

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The world is closing in on Iran, but not aggressively enough. It’s time for Europe to deal the final blow.

The Iranian attack on the British Embassy in Tehran was close to an act of war – as was the plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Given the collection of recent provocations from this rogue state, the West’s extremely slow-motion campaign to end Iran’s nuclear-weapons program needs to be pushed to its denouement.

In recent days, the United States and Europe have been imposing ever more penalties and sanctions – closing embassies, isolating Iranian officials. But to all of it, Iran’s leaders simply shrug. “We will not budge an iota from the path we are committed to,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed.

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About rahavardenglish

Rahavard Journal of Persian Studies is a prominent print publication, circulated by subscription, to influential Iranians and those interested in Iran-related issues around the globe. It was first published in 1982, and has since been one of the Iranian diaspora's most reputable publications. Editor in Chief: Sholeh Shams-Shahbaz Contact us at english@rahavard.com
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