Inter Press Service » Middle East & North Africa News and Views from the Global South Tue, 01 Dec 2015 17:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Opinion: Battling Iran-Backed Extremists in Yemen Wed, 28 Oct 2015 23:24:55 +0000 Kaled Bahah

Kaled Bahah is the Prime Minister and Vice President of Yemen.

By Kaled Bahah
ABU DHABI, Oct 28 2015 (WAM)

In a region racked by strife, Yemen stands out. It is the poorest country in the Middle East and since March, the plight of my people has been worsened by an inhumane war.

The people of Yemen elected President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in February 2012 to preserve the country’s unity, independence and territorial integrity, while leading all Yemenis toward a brighter future. But that future has been stolen by Iranian-backed Houthi militia, who drove our legitimate government from office and have committed countless human-rights abuses, documented by the UN. In response, a broad, international coalition led by Saudi Arabia, and with Yemen’s national army, is working to liberate our country from illegal, foreign-sponsored control.

Although the battle for Yemen’s future has been intense, we have recently made significant progress. In July, the port city of Aden was wrested from Houthi control and is now the temporary base of the legitimate government.

With Aden now secured, we have accelerated the delivery and distribution of essential goods and humanitarian assistance to Yemenis, who had been on the verge of famine before the current conflict. Thanks in large part to the exceptional generosity of our Gulf brothers, Aden’s schools, which were shut down during the Houthi occupation, are open. Electricity has been restored and hospitals are starting to function again.

While much more needs to be done, the arduous road to recovery begins with the restoration of territorial control. Yemen’s national army and coalition forces have advanced to the northern province of Marib on the doorstep of the capital, Sana’a. We will take our capital back, and restore legitimacy to our country and hope to all Yemenis. The Houthis can avoid further bloodshed if they comply with the UN Security Council resolution adopted on April 14th and recognise the legitimate, freely elected government and return all territories that they have illegally seized.

The world is rightly concerned about the toll, especially to civilians, from this war. Any civilian death is a tragedy for which my heart bleeds, and the forces allied with us are taking extraordinary care to avoid civilian casualties and target only military objectives. Yet we have seen terrible evidence, documented by internationally respected NGOs, of Houthis locating their hide-outs and weapons caches in civilian areas and making human shields out of political detainees.

In its practices, the Houthi group enjoys the support of a regional power. My country is keen to have good relations with all countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, provided that principles enshrined in the UN charter, particularly non-interference in internal affairs, are respected and observed. But Tehran must choose, either it continues to sow discord and maintain relations with a seditious movement, the Houthis, or it deals with Yemen’s legitimate authority.

The end of this conflict cannot come soon enough. In their callous disregard for the rule of law, the Houthis have opened up a dangerous power vacuum in parts of the country, which al Qaeda and ISIS [Daesh] the sworn enemies of humanity, are exploiting. As a result, much more than the future of my country is at stake.

Failure in Yemen will reverberate regionally and globally, emboldening and empowering extremists. Victory will send a powerful message beyond our shores that Yemenis are committed to defend their inalienable right to self-determination, to prosper in peace and to project those values throughout the Middle East.


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U.N. Rights Commissioner Blasts Harsh Treatment of Refugees Thu, 22 Oct 2015 21:02:42 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

As the flow of migrants continues to rise – from war-ravaged countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa to Europe – so do the horror stories of the harsh treatment meted out to these refugees.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein New United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Credit:

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein New United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Credit:

The newspapers have dramatized some of the incidents, including food thrown at refugees, confined to cages like animals, and new fences on land borders preventing them from transiting from one country to another.

In Germany, despite its liberal open door policy, there was a call to reopen concentration camps at an anti-immigration rally attended by over 20,000 people, raising fears of hate speech, according to the New York Times.

Hungary is building a fence to ward off refugees. And Slovakia has said it will accept only Christian refugees, triggering a strong condemnation by the United Nations.

But the most severe condemnation has come from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein who singled out the Czech Republic for its brutal treatment of refugees.

Over the last two months, several European countries of transit have been employing restrictive policies against migrants and refugees who are trying to reach European countries further north.

“However, the Czech Republic is unique in routinely subjecting these migrants and refugees to detention for 40 days, and reportedly sometimes even longer — up to 90 days — in conditions which have been described as degrading,” he complained in the latest condemnation on Oct. 22.

According to credible reports from various sources, the violations of the human rights of migrants are neither isolated nor coincidental, but systematic: they appear to be an integral part of a policy by the Czech Government designed to deter migrants and refugees from entering the country or staying there, Zeid said.

“Many of these people are refugees who have suffered horrendously in their countries of origin as well as during their journey to the Czech Republic,” he said, adding: “International law is quite clear that immigration detention must be strictly a measure of last resort.”

And as for children, he said, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child has emphasized that detention of children on the sole basis of their migration status, or that of their parents, is a violation, is never in their best interests, and is not justifiable.

With the oncoming winter weather, the flow of refugees has accelerated in recent days at even more rapid pace.

According to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 643,000 refugees and migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year and at least 3,135 have died enroute.

In a story, datelined Munich, the Times cited a Bavarian newspaper pointing an accusing finger at refugees and reporting over 1,000 criminal acts, 2,000 police interventions and 3,000 injuries over a two week period alone.

“In an age when one cannot pass through airport security with a bottle of water, tens of thousands arrive every day with little or no screening,” the newspaper said.

The EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “We want to stop the flow, but in order to stop it, we must also find a political solution to the situation in the Middle East, stop the war in Syria, see Libya becoming a state again.”

“I don’t want to be very optimistic. I believe this situation will last,” he warned Wednesday.

High Commissioner Zeid referred to credible reports that migrants arriving in the Czech Republic have been routinely strip-searched by the authorities looking to confiscate money in order to pay the 250 CZK (10 US$) per day each person is charged for their involuntary stay in the detention centers.

This payment is demanded by the authorities from all migrants, without clear legal grounds, leaving many of them destitute upon their release.

“The fact that people are being forced to pay for their own detention is particularly reprehensible,” Zeid said.

Zeid also expressed alarm that the detention policy is accompanied by an increasingly xenophobic public discourse, including repeated Islamophobic statements by President Miloš Zeman, and a public petition “Against Immigration” launched by former President Václav Klaus.

While noting that some material conditions in Bìlá-Jezová, including overcrowding, have reportedly improved in the last week, due mainly to the opening of other centres, the High Commissioner pointed out that the basic approach has not changed.

He urged the Government to take immediate steps to ensure respect for the human rights of migrants and refugees.

“These should include establishing alternatives to detention that are grounded in human rights, in line with the Czech Republic’s international human rights obligations, and with the recommendations of the Czech Ombudsperson,” Zeid said.

“The authorities should also take into account the concerns expressed by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, civil society organizations and even several representatives of the Government itself.”

Striking a more positive note, the High Commissioner welcomed the Oct. 13 report by Czech Ombudsperson Anna Šabatová, who spoke of parents being treated in a degrading way in front of their children, who are traumatized by the constant presence of heavily armed personnel.

At the time of her visit, there were 100 children detained in Bìlá-Jezová.

The writer can be contacted at

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Opinion: The Nuclear Deal’s Impact on Iranian Domestic and Foreign Policy Mon, 19 Oct 2015 16:08:02 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford. This is the final of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Oct 19 2015 (IPS)

As in most countries, in Iran too there are hardliners and moderates. All polls show that a large majority of Iranians support the nuclear deal (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France and Germany), while a small but powerful group of hardliners opposes it. The Iranian parliament has finally approved the deal, but after a great deal of controversy and with some reservations.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

Despite the fact that in the 2013 presidential election, in which 72 per cent of eligible voters participated, more than half of the electorate voted for Hassan Rouhani, a centrist and moderate cleric, hardliners have a tight grip over practically all other branches of power in Iran.

Hardliners control the judiciary, and have a majority in the current Majles or Iranian Parliament. They control the Assembly of Experts that has the power to elect the Supreme Leader’s successor, the Guardian Council that acts as a second chamber, the National Broadcasting Organization that has a virtual monopoly of all radio and television broadcasting, and many other organizations.

However, with President Rouhani’s election, the dominance of hardliners over the executive branch came to an end, and elections for parliament and the Assembly of Experts are due on 26 February 2016, and they could alter the internal balance of power. The nuclear agreement has begun to swing public support back to the reformists.

After the initial revolutionary upheaval that isolated Iran from most of the world, and after 36 years of estrangement from the West, this landmark agreement has ushered in a new era of relations between Iran and the West. While most analysts in the West are primarily concerned about its effect on Iran’s foreign relations, for most Iranians its significance lies in what it can do to improve the economic and political situation at home.

The fact of the matter is that Iran has made many concessions, but its nuclear program has received the seal of approval from the Security Council and the West. Even above and beyond the nuclear issue, the JCPOA has opened the prospect of the reintegration of Iran into the global economy and of it playing a much more prominent role in world affairs.

This is precisely what the hardliners fear, because they are worried that Iran’s revolutionary values would be undermined and that Western values would weaken Islamic sentiments. Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards chief warned of “nuclear sedition,” aimed at derailing the Islamic Republic from its revolutionary path.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also warned against “infiltration” attempts by the West and has banned further negotiations with Washington.

The main question is whether Iran still wishes to remain in the past and retain its revolutionary zeal, or whether she feels confident enough to look forward and embrace change. It is quite clear that the majority of Iranians have shown that they are in favor of change and coexistence with the rest of the world, while also retaining their distinct religious and cultural values.

Most Iranians are strongly opposed to regime change in the way that has happened in a number of neighboring countries. They are in favor of evolution and reform, rather than revolution and violence. Nevertheless, they have a number of legitimate demands that cannot be suppressed by force.

President Rouhani pledged repeatedly during his campaign to expand political and social freedoms for all Iranians, including freedom of expression. Although some restrictions have been eased, the pace of change has been far too slow. Iran still has one of the largest numbers of executions per capita in the world, and one of the highest numbers of political prisoners. Iranian women still do not enjoy equality with men.

It is true that the government does not have much control over the judiciary or security organizations, but it cannot use this excuse to shirk its responsibilities towards the Iranian people. It must understand that the maintenance of the status quo is not an option. If change is not to be imposed through violence or from outside, the government with the support of the majority of the population must bring about meaningful change.

The JCPOA has opened new horizons for Iran. In the foreign policy field, it has lifted the shadow of war and has made Tehran the diplomatic and economic capital of the Middle East. Now, it is time for Iranian leaders to begin a new chapter of relations with the world. As Ambassador John Limbert, a former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and a former US hostage during the Iranian hostage crisis, has said: “Both sides, after 34 years, have made a very startling discovery, that diplomacy ­ long-neglected tools of listening, of seeking small areas of agreement, of careful choice of words ­ can actually accomplish more than shouting insults, making threats and the wonderful self-satisfaction of always being right.”

The same principle also applies to the domestic situation. Iranian leaders will be surprised to see how much small areas of agreement and small but steady steps towards greater freedoms and democracy can accomplish in putting an end to the alienation between the people and the government, and allow Iran to find its rightful place in the world, and avoid the chaos rampant in many neighboring countries. It is time to use this great opportunity to move forward both at home and abroad, confident in the common sense and patriotism of Iranian people.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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United Arab Emirates and Cuba Forge Closer Ties Tue, 06 Oct 2015 19:10:19 +0000 Patricia Grogg The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shakes hands with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, after raising the UAE flag at the opening of the Emirati embassy in Havana on Oct. 5, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shakes hands with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, after raising the UAE flag at the opening of the Emirati embassy in Havana on Oct. 5, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Oct 6 2015 (IPS)

Cuba and the United Arab Emirates agreed to strengthen diplomatic ties and bilateral cooperation during an official visit to this Caribbean island nation by the UAE minister of foreign affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

During his 24-hour stay, Al Nahyan met on Monday Oct. 5 with Cuban authorities, signed two agreements, and inaugurated his country’s embassy in Havana, which he said was a clear sign of the consolidation of the ties established by the two countries in March 2002.

“I am sure that the next few years will witness the prosperity of our ties,” he added during his official meeting with his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodríguez, with whom he signed an agreement on air services “between and beyond our territories” which will facilitate the expansion of opportunities for international air transport.

In the meeting, Rodríguez reaffirmed his government’s support for Arab peoples in their struggle to maintain their independence and territorial integrity.

According to official sources, the two foreign ministers concurred that the opening of the UAE embassy is an important step forward in bilateral ties and will permit closer follow-up of questions of mutual interest.

Al Nahyan also met with the first vice president of the councils of state and ministers, Miguel Díaz Canel. The two officials confirmed the good state of bilateral ties and the possibilities for cooperation on the economic, trade and financial fronts, Cuba’s prime-time TV newscast reported.

The foreign ministers of Cuba and the United Arab Emirates, Bruno Rodríguez (left) and Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during the Oct. 5, 2015 agreement-signing ceremony in Cuba’s ministry of foreign affairs in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The foreign ministers of Cuba and the United Arab Emirates, Bruno Rodríguez (left) and Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during the Oct. 5, 2015 agreement-signing ceremony in Cuba’s ministry of foreign affairs in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Cuba’s minister of foreign trade and investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, signed a credit agreement with the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, to finance a solar energy farm that will generate 10 MW of electricity.

Al Nahyan first visited Havana on Oct. 1-2, 2009 in response to an official invitation from minister Rodríguez. On that occasion they signed two agreements, one on economic, trade and technical cooperation, and another between the two foreign ministries.

“We have great confidence in Cuba’s leaders and in our capacity to carry out these kinds of projects,” Al Nahyan told the local media on that occasion.

United Arab Emirates, a federation made up of seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain – established diplomatic relations with Cuba in March 2002, in an accord signed in Cairo.

The decision to open an embassy in the Cuban capital was reached in a June 2014 cabinet meeting presided over by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE vice president and prime minister, and the ruler of Dubai.

In late February 2015, Al Maktoum received the letters of credentials for the new ambassador of Cuba in the UAE, Enrique Enríquez, during a ceremony in the Al Mushrif Palace in the Emirati capital.

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nayhan, unveils a plaque commemorating the official opening in Havana of the new UAE embassy, together with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nayhan, unveils a plaque commemorating the official opening in Havana of the new UAE embassy, together with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Later, UAE Assistant Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ahmed al Jarman and Enríquez discussed the state of bilateral relations and agreed to take immediate concrete steps to expand and strengthen ties in different areas.

Enríquez also met with Cubans living in Abu Dhabi with a view to bolstering relations between them and their home country. They agreed on periodic future gatherings.

In May 2014, the UAE and Cuba signed an open skies agreement to allow the airlines of both countries to operate in each other’s territories, as well as opening the door to new plans for flights between the two countries, the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) reported.

The accord formed part of a strategy to boost trade with other countries, said Saif Mohammed al Suwaidi, director general of the GCAA, who headed a delegation of officials and representatives of national airlines during a two-day visit to Cuba.

The UAE signed similar agreements with other Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico, as part of its effort at closer relations with this region, which is of growing interest to the Gulf country.

Talks have also been announced between the UAE and Russia to build a giant airport in Cuba, which would serve as an international airport hub for Latin America, the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper reported in February.

The proposal is being discussed by the Russian government and the Abu Dhabi state investment fund Mubadala, mandated to diversify the emirate’s economy.

In 2013 and 2014, UAE was named the world’s largest official development aid donor in a report released by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 2013, the Gulf nation provided five billion dollars in ODA to other countries.

Last year, according to OECD data, the only Gulf country to have a Ministry of International Cooperation and Development spent 1.34 percent of their gross domestic product in development cooperation.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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U.N. Continues Condemnation of Civilian Casualties in Yemen Thu, 01 Oct 2015 21:37:40 +0000 Thalif Deen yemen_

By Thalif Deen

The Saudi coalition, which continues its air strikes against rebels in strife-torn Yemen, is fast gaining notoriety as “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight” – largely because of its misses than its hits.

Last month, the coalition is reported to have targeted a bomb-making factory – and ended up killing some 36 civilians working at a water-bottling plant in northern Yemen.

And this week, the Saudi coalition unleashed an air attack on a wedding party in Yemen triggering outrage from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

A statement released here said the Secretary-General condemned the air strikes that reportedly struck a wedding party in Wahijah village, outside of the Red Sea port city of Mokha in Yemen, killing as many as 135 people.

“The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims and a swift recovery to those injured,” he said.

Ted Lieu, Democratic Congressman from California, has urged the United States to “cease aiding coalition air strikes in Yemen until the coalition demonstrates they will institute proper safeguards to prevent civilian deaths.”

In an interview with the New York Times, Lieu said it was unclear whether the coalition “was grossly negligent or intentionally targeting civilians.”

“There is clearly no military value in a wedding party,” he said.

The Saudi-led coalition of Arab states, includes Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

Relenting to Saudi objections Wednesday, the Western group of countries, have withdrawn a proposal for an international inquiry into civilian casualties in Yemen – by both the Saudi coalition and the Houthi rebels – during the current session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The proposal for such an inquiry was being strongly supported by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein who submitted a report to the HRC last month detailing the heavy civilian casualties in the conflict in Yemen.

A new resolution may opt for a national commission of inquiry, instead of an international commission.

After the airstrike in the bottling factory, Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the military spokesman for the coalition, reportedly told Reuters the plant had been used by the Houthi rebels to make explosive devices and was not, in fact, a bottling factory.

But all of the individuals interviewed by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the plant was being used to bottle water and was not being used for any military purposes.

In its statement, HRW also said a group of international journalists travelled to the site of the blast two days after it was hit and could not find evidence of any military targets in the area.

“They carefully examined the site and could not find any evidence that the factory was being used for military purposes, and took photo and video evidence of piles of scorched plastic bottles melted together from the heat of the explosion,” HRW said.

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters Wednesday: “Our humanitarian colleagues (in Yemen) inform us that the number of deaths and injuries caused by explosive weapons in Yemen is the world’s highest.”

He said some 4,500 civilians were killed or wounded by explosive weapons in Yemen during the first seven months of 2015.

This is more than in any other country, according to a recently-released report done by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the NGO Action on Armed Violence.

Ninety-five per cent of people killed or injured by explosive weapons in populated areas were civilians. More than half of the reported civilian toll was recorded in Sana’a and surrounding districts.

The United Nations, meanwhile, has repeatedly called on all parties to the conflict to uphold their responsibility to protect civilians.

Asked if the attacks were deliberate or due to shoddy human and military intelligence, Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at the London-based Amnesty International (AI) told IPS these recent attacks are unfortunately not isolated incidents but very much part of an increasingly entrenched pattern in the conduct of Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces over the past six months.

She said AI had addressed this issue its last report and in the document titled ‘Nowhere safe for civilians’

Rovera said coalition strikes, which killed and injured civilians and destroyed civilian property and infrastructure – and investigated by Amnesty International – have been found to be “frequently disproportionate or indiscriminate.”

In some instances, Amnesty International found that strikes appeared to have apparently directly targeted civilians or civilian objects.

She pointed out that international humanitarian law prohibits deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects, and attacks which do not discriminate between civilians/civilian objects and combatants/military objectives, or which cause disproportionate harm to civilians/civilian objects in relation to the anticipated military advantage which may be gained by such attack.

“Such attacks constitute war crimes,” she noted.

The pattern of attacks, which since the beginning of the coalition air bombardment campaign on March 25, 2015 have continued to cause civilian casualties, and the lack of investigations to date into such incidents raise serious concerns about an apparent disregard for civilian life and for fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, not only by those planning and executing the strikes but also by the exiled Yemeni government, at whose behest Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces are acting, Rovera declared.

The Washington-based Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) said the United States, which is providing intelligence and logistical support to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, should condition its support on adherence to international humanitarian law (IHL) and adoption of policies to minimize civilian harm by its allies.

Federico Borello, executive director of CIVIC, said: “The US has developed policies and tactics for preventing civilian harm from its own combat operations. These should be shared as a key element of any ongoing support to the coalition.”

The writer can be contacted at

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Palestine President Abbas Warns of ‘Grave Dangers’ in Jerusalem Thu, 01 Oct 2015 21:14:33 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session.

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

“I come before you today…compelled to sound the alarm about the grave dangers of what is happening in Jerusalem,” said Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas in his remarks to the United Nations General Assembly on Sep. 30.

In his speech, Abbas pointed to the renewed wave of violence at Al-Aqsa Mosque, accusing Israel of “repeated, systematic incursions aimed at imposing a new reality.”

Al-Aqsa, also known as Temple Mount to Jews, is one of the holiest sites for Islam and Judaism.

Located in East Jerusalem, the site has long been the source of religious and political tension since the establishment of the State of Israel.

New clashes have erupted in September.

On Sep. 27, on the eve of Jewish festival of Sukkot, Palestinians reportedly barricaded themselves inside the East Jerusalem mosque to prevent Jews from entering. They threw rocks and fireworks at police while Israeli forces retaliated with rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades.

Confrontations continued into the early hours of Monday morning.

Violence has been fuelled by restrictions on Palestinians from entering the site and suspicion that the Israeli government plans to take over or divide the compound.

Abbas described it as an “illegal scheme” where Israeli forces and Parliament members were allowing Jews to enter while preventing Muslim worshippers from entering and “exercising their religious rights”, violating the status quo.

According to a 50-year old agreement, Jews and people of other religions are allowed to enter the mosque between 7 and 11AM, but may not pray there.

However, Palestinians have reported that far-right Jews have been entering the compound to pray.

Tensions came to an all-time high when Israel’s defence minister outlawed two Muslim groups from the mosque. The groups, Mourabitat and Mourabitoun, are known to protect and defend the compound.

The ruling on Sep. 9 incited clashes, which have now spread across the West Bank.

In response to the violence, United Nations Middle East Peace Envoy Nickolay Mladenov stated: “I urge all to do their part in ensuring that visitors and worshippers demonstrate restraint and respect for the sanctity of the area.”

During his speech, President Abbas called on the Israeli government to cease force to prevent the political conflict from turning into a religious one.

He continued to describe the current situation with Israel as “unsustainable” and with Palestinian patience “at an end.” He declared that Palestine can no longer be “bound by” the Oslo Agreement for as long as Israel does not commit to agreements.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to President Abbas during his statement to the General Assembly on Oct. 1, accusing him of “spreading lies about Israel’s alleged intentions on the Temple Mount.”

Netanyahu stated that Israel is dedicated to maintaining the status quo at the holy site.

The Israeli Prime Minister also reaffirmed his country’s commitment to a two-state solution, stating: “I am prepared to immediately resume direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority without any pre-conditions whatsoever.”

The Palestinian President gave his speech on the day that Palestine’s flag was raised at the U.N. for the first time.

While marking the historic moment, Abbas said: “The day is not far when we will raise the flag of Palestine in East Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Palestine.”

“Our people need genuine hope and need to see credible efforts for ending this conflict, ending their misery and achieving their rights,” Abbas continued.

As many as 200 Palestinians have been arrested since the latest series of confrontations over Al-Aqsa Mosque began, including the director of the holy site. (END)

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Human Rights Activists Condemn Houthi Militia’s Atrocities Against Women in Yemen Wed, 30 Sep 2015 15:04:16 +0000 Emirates News Agency By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
Geneva, Sep 30 2015 (IPS)

(WAM) — Arab and Yemeni human rights activist monitoring the civil war in Yemen say that women have been subjected to grave human right violations at the hands of the rebel Houthi militia and an allied insurgent group under the command of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The human rights defenders were speaking at a landmark event organised by the Arab Federation for Human Rights (AFHR) on the sidelines of the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Dr. Mona Hejres, a member of the AFHR and head of “Together for Human Rights,” noted in her presentation at the event that that women were active participants in the revolution that drove Saleh out of power and that many had faced human rights crimes including killing, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and use of excessive force during that struggle. She said that today, in rebel-held areas, women suffer greatly at the hands of the Houthi militia and Saleh group, with widespread murders, forced disappearances, kidnappings, deprivation of basic educational and health services, bombardment of residential districts, and other atrocities targeting them in the capital Sana’a, Aden and other cities.

She called upon the international community to live up to its responsibilities in protecting the Yemeni people, especially women, and to back the Arab Coalition’s operations seeking to protect the Yemeni people. She also appealed to the UN Security Council to enforce its resolutions on Yemen and ensure protection, safety and security for its people, and particularly women.

During the event, a number of heads of Yemeni human rights associations and organisations pointed to a recent report by the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations (YCMHRV) as further evidence of the suffering caused by the Houthi militia and Saleh group in Yemen, particularly with regard to women.

Representatives of the AFHR and the YCMHRV also reiterated their rejection of the western countries’ request to establish a fact finding committee, which they said would dilute and ignore what they termed a human tragedy fomented by the rebel militias. Instead, they said, the international community should focus on prosecuting war criminals in the conflict, and to uphold its responsibilities to protect women during armed and military conflicts and disputes.

Maryam bin Tawq, Coordinator at the AFHR, spoke about the importance of establishing the international coalition “Operation Restoring Hope” aimed at protecting the Yemeni people from violations and crimes against humanity being carried out by al-Houthi group and the Saleh Militia. She said that the Euro-Mediterranean Center for Human Rights had found that the rebel militias had committed more than 4,500 human rights violations within the course of just one month of their control of Sana’a. (END)

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Solar Power Slowly Making Inroads into Mideast and Africa Tue, 29 Sep 2015 19:38:05 +0000 a Global Information Network correspondent Mohammed-Park

By a Global Information Network correspondent
DUBAI, Sep 29 2015 (IPS)

To the ordinary eye, it looks like an empty desert but from this spit of endless sand is rising the largest photovoltaic solar project in the Middle East.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, located 30 miles south of Dubai, was launched with 13 megawatts of capacity. It could be producing 3,000 megawatts by 2030.

A similar project is rising in Morocco, future home of what may be the world’s largest concentrated solar power complex. Built in Quarzazate province, it is the kingdom’s answer to costly fossil fuel imports and climate change.

These two projects, along with other solar developments in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, are demonstrating that the Middle East and North Africa will have a Plan B if oil prices continue to fall.

By contrast, sub-Saharan Africa has some of the world’s most abundant and least exploited renewable energy sources, especially solar power.

The need is undeniable. Today in Africa, 621 million people – two-thirds of the population – live without electricity. The problem is most acute in East Africa, where only 23 percent of Kenyans; 10.8 percent of Rwandans; and 14.8 percent of Tanzanians have access to an electricity supply, according to the World Bank.

But a new breed of “solar-preneurs” is emerging, increasing access to power and generating revenues at the same time.

“Solar is a valuable source of distributed energy,” says Sachi DeCou, co-founder of Juabar, a company running a network of solar charging kiosks in Tanzania.

“Here in Africa, populations are quite dispersed. Solar is modular so it can be sized to fit the needs of anywhere, from a light to a business, household to an entire village.”

Jesse Moore, managing director at M-Kopa Solar, which provides “pay-as-you-go” renewable energy for off-grid households in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, agrees.

M-Kopa Solar provides power to more than 140,000 households in East Africa for 0.45 dollar per day, and is adding over 4,000 homes each week. Revenues are nearing 20 million dollars per year, and the company is starting to license its technology in other markets, such as Ghana.

“Solar is a massive opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors alike,” Moore says.

In Rwanda, Henri Nyakarundi developed a mobile solar charging kiosk, operated under a franchise model that offers Rwandans the chance to run income-generating businesses by providing services such as charging of electronics and sales of electronic vouchers.

Opportunities to create solar businesses in Africa are huge, he says, but they only exist at the micro level. The next step is to produce power for the grid through solar, he adds, but this requires large investment and local banks are not yet willing to finance such projects unless you are a big company. (END)

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Iran’s nuclear deal and the regional countries Tue, 29 Sep 2015 15:50:55 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford. This is the ninth of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 29 2015 (IPS)

Although some regional countries initially opposed the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany), once the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed by the two sides in July 2015, practically all regional countries welcomed it. After the initial agreement in Lausanne, U.S. President Barack Obama invited all the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders to a Camp David summit in May and all of them expressed support for the deal.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

After the nuclear agreement was announced, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait both congratulated Iran and the Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi hailed the deal as a historic event which constituted the first step to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction. He called on the international community to put pressure on Israel to get rid of her nuclear weapons. As the head of the Arab League he speaks officially for all the Arab countries.

After the meeting between Obama and the Saudi King Salman at the White House on September 4th, the two sides issued a joint statement. In the statement King Salman expressed his support for the JCPOA “which once fully implemented will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and thereby enhance security in the region.”

For his part, Obama has indicated that the region needs a new approach toward regional security. He said the Sunni Arab states shouldn’t blame Iran for all their problems, and he called on them to engage Iran in a “practical conversation” to reduce sectarian divisions and address shared threats from terrorism.

At the same time, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has talked about the possibilities for cooperation with Iran’s neighbors on common challenges in a spirit of “mutual respect, good neighborliness, and Islamic brotherhood.”

Turkey, which has worked closely with Iran over many years to resolve the nuclear issue (in May 2010, Turkey and Brazil tried to broker a deal between Iran and the West), is also fully supportive of this agreement. This leaves Israel as the only regional country that still opposes the deal.

With the very sensitive nuclear issue taken off the table, it is much easier now to deal with a number of critical regional issues. If the U.S. focuses exclusively on the agreement and does not test opportunities for collaboration with Iran on other issues, it may miss a historic opportunity to reshape relations with the Islamic Republic, as well as to usher in a new political and security order in the Middle East as a whole.

Iran of course poses a number of challenges to U.S. interests in the region, and in many arenas American and Iranian interests seem to be fundamentally at odds. Chief among these disagreements are Iran’s policies towards Israel, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Dubbed the “axis of resistance,” the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hamas-Hezbollah grouping was supposed to highlight Iran’s commitment to the Palestinian cause. Iran is accused of supporting the Shi’a militias in Iraq to the detriment of the Sunni minority. Iran supports and arms the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, and is also accused of supporting the Houthis in Yemen.

However, as the result of changed circumstances in the region none of these problems is insurmountable. As far as Hamas is concerned, after the civil war in Syria and the expulsion of Palestinians from that country, Hamas turned initially towards Turkey and towards the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Since the coup in Egypt, Hamas has turned more towards Qatar and has even mended relations with Saudi Arabia. Therefore, hardly any links exist at the moment between Hamas and Iran.

Hezbollah forces are fighting in Syria to support Assad’s government against ISIS, the al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups. This is a cause that the West shares. With the flood of refugees towards Europe, many European leaders have realized that no matter how much they loathe Assad, he is preferable to the terrorists that pose a deadly threat to the region and even to the West.

In a joint press conference in London, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that although Assad had to go, nevertheless, it might be necessary to talk to him as part of a deal over a transitional period. Neither Iran nor Russia has said that Assad should rule Syria forever, but they argue that first the terrorists should be defeated, and then Assad’s fate should be decided by the Syrian people in a supervised election.

As far as Yemen is concerned, U.S. officials have admitted that Iran does not play any direct role in that conflict. In an interview with The New York Times in July, Obama said that Tehran had even tried to dissuade the Houthis from capturing Sana’a back in 2014. According to a report released on September 19 by Yemen’s Civil Coalition, over 6,000 Yemenis have so far lost their lives, and a total of 14,000 people have been injured, most of them civilians. The latest deadly stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, killing at least 717 and injuring over 800 with a few hundred people still missing, has added to Saudi woes. The combination of these tragedies, as well as growing domestic discontent, might persuade the Saudi rulers to turn towards diplomacy and regional cooperation.

Turkey has recently softened her position towards Assad, and by placing its airports at the disposal of U.S. aircraft fighting ISIS, Turkey has shown that it takes the terrorist threat seriously. Recently, there have been some moves by the Russian President Vladimir Putin to form a security belt, including Russia, Iran, Egypt and Syria against ISIS. The response from the U.S. to Putin’s proposal has not been hostile. In the wake of their meetings in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the U.S. and Russian presidents might reach an agreement over how to jointly tackle the menace of terrorism.

During his recent visit to New York to take part in the U.N. General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that ties with the U.S. had improved, but there was still a “long road to travel” before they could normalize their relations. Nevertheless, what we are seeing on the ground looks quite different. If the new rapprochement between Iran and the West is not to fizzle out, there is a need to broaden the scope of cooperation over regional issues.

Recent developments have shown that there is an increasing possibility for new geopolitical alignments throughout the region. The growing menace of terrorism, Iran and the U.S.’s tacit cooperation in Iraq, Saudi Arabia’s growing problems in Yemen, Turkey’s shift to greater cooperation with the U.S, and now Russia’s greater involvement in the fight against ISIS show that all these countries have some shared interests in fighting terrorism, and establishing security and stability in the region through cooperation.

The status quo in the Middle East cannot survive much longer. The winds of change are blowing throughout the entire region, and there is a possibility of new beginnings. This opportunity should not be missed.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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Report Condemns Atrocities of Houthi Rebels in Yemen Mon, 28 Sep 2015 16:49:06 +0000 Emirates News Agency By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
ABU DHABI, Sep 28 2015 (IPS)

(WAM) – A new report from a human rights group operating in Yemen says that human rights violations have reached unprecedented levels, with more than 3,000 people murdered by the insurgent Houthi militia and its allies in Yemen.

The report by the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations (YCMHRV), prepared from
reports by the organisation’s field monitors in Yemen, outlines a series of atrocities committed over the
past year in Sana’a, the capital, Aden, Taiz, Lahej, Hodiedah, Addali’e, Abyan, Dhamar and Shabwa,
governorates (see full report in report.

The report tied the Houthi militia and an allied group operating under the command of former Yemeni
president Ali Abdullah Saleh with unconstitutional overthrow of the legitimate government that has
resulted in human rights violations that have afflicted men, women, children, property and the

The findings show that between September 2014 and August 2015, 3,074 people were murdered, about
20 percent of whom were women and children, and 7,347 civilians were wounded due to random
shelling, at least 25 percent of whom were women and children. A total of 5,894 people were arbitrarily
detained during the monitoring period – 4,640 of them were released and 1,254 people remain in

The report also focuses on arbitrary detention, forcible disappearances and hostage taking violations,
which the monitors said have been carried out regularly by the rebel militia against politicians,
journalists, and human rights and political activists. It said detainees are frequently mistreated and
deprived of basic needs such as food, water and proper hygiene and sanitation. Monitors also reported
that some detainees are used as human shields at military sites that have been targeted by the Coalition

“This is a clear violation of both national and international legislation,” said the report. “The de facto
forces, the Houthis, failed to observe their commitment towards human rights and humanitarian law,
being the power in control that practices the state’s functions. Rather, the Houthis-Saleh showed total
recklessness towards human rights and human suffering.”

The report concludes with recommendations, calling on the Houthi-Saleh militia, Yemeni government
and the international community to implement relevant UN Security Council resolutions. It also calls on
the international community to support the newly established National Commission to investigate
alleged human rights Violations with all needed technical assistance. (END)

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Israel’s Opposition to the Nuclear Treaty with Iran Sat, 26 Sep 2015 21:12:45 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford. This is the eighth of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 26 2015 (IPS)

Relations between Iran and Israel go back almost to the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948. Iran was the second Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel as a sovereign state, following Turkey, and the two countries had very close diplomatic and even military cooperation for many decades.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

After the 1953 coup, which restored the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to power, relations improved further, and Israel and the CIA played a significant role in establishing the dreaded SAVAK, Iran’s intelligence organization, and training its personnel. Also, after the Six-Day War in 1967, Iran supplied Israel with a significant portion of its oil needs.

However, after the 1979 revolution, Iran severed all diplomatic and commercial ties with Israel. The Islamic government does not recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a state, but despite hostile revolutionary rhetoric against Israel, relations between the two countries have not always been too acrimonious. Indeed, during the Iran-Iraq war, in order to prevent Saddam Hussein’s victory, Israel joined the mission to Iran under U.S. President Ronald Reagan and even provided Iran with some weapons in what later on came to be known as the Iran-Contra Affair.

Iranian funding of groups like Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which Israel regards as terrorist organizations, and Israeli support for terrorist groups such as the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization, the Jundullah, a militant terrorist organization based in Baluchestan that has carried out a number of deadly attacks against Iran, as well as Israeli covert operations in Iran, including assassinations and explosions, have intensified animosity between the two countries and have led to a number of tit-for-tat attacks on each other’s citizens.

The turning point from cold peace toward hostility occurred in the early 1990s, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the defeat of Iraq in Desert Storm. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Israel was regarded as a U.S. bulwark against pro-Soviet Arab governments.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Israel could no longer continue to play that role. The removal of Saddam Hussein also removed a formidable enemy. Therefore, Israel directed all its attacks against a new enemy, namely Iran.

So, it is not a mere coincidence that Israel’s intense opposition to Iran’s nuclear program coincided with the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the removal of the threat from Iraq. Although Iran’s nuclear program had developed under the late Shah with active Israeli, South African and U.S. participation, after the revolution, when Iran tried to revive her program, Israel became its most vociferous opponent. Under the Iranian reformist government of President Mohammad Khatami there were some moves for a rapprochement with the West, including the recognition of Israel, but the George W. Bush Administration rebuffed those offers.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been continuously warning that Iran is on the verge of manufacturing a nuclear weapon and posing an “existential threat” to Israel. As early as 1992, he predicted that Iran would be able to produce a nuclear weapon within three to five years. In 1993, he claimed that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999.This has been his constant refrain ever since the early 1990s and right up to the present time.

The interesting point is that the current and some former heads of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad have contradicted Netanyahu’s claims. They maintain that there has been no indication that Iran is moving towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons or poses an existential threat to Israel.

It is important to remember that Netanyahu has not only tried to incite war against Iran, he even made the same false claims prior to the Iraq war in 2003.

Therefore, the propaganda against the Iraqi and Iranian alleged nuclear weapons have had less to do with the existence of such weapons and more to do with the perception that those two countries were hostile to Israel and had to be attacked in order to bring about a regime change.

It should be stressed that Netanyahu’s views in no way represent the views of the majority of American Jews who are on the whole liberal and peace loving. Indeed, poll after poll has shown that the support for the nuclear deal with Iran is stronger among American Jews than among the population at large.

Netanyahu’s attempts to kill the deal with Iran have been futile and counterproductive. His intrusion into American domestic politics, and his cynical use of the U.S. Congress to undercut a major foreign policy achievement, have been acts of gross discourtesy to the president and to the American people, and a violation of diplomatic protocol.

The real reason for Israeli opposition to Iran’s nuclear program has been the fear of becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the U.S. administration as far as the Middle East is concerned. Iran’s alleged nuclear bomb also been used as an excuse to divert attention from Israel’s own nuclear arsenal and illegal expansion into occupied Palestinian territories.

Instead of continuing with this campaign of vilification and inciting a military attack on Iran, it would be wiser for Israel to try to reach a settlement with the Palestinians and pave the way for peaceful coexistence with regional countries, including Iran. The emergence of terrorist organizations that pose a serious threat to the entire world should bring Iran and Israel closer to fight that dangerous menace. The two countries should tone down their ugly rhetoric and violent activities against each other, and realize that dialogue and compromise always produce better results than war and bloodshed.

Meanwhile, it is time to focus on Israel’s nuclear weapons and establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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Iran’s commitments under the Nuclear Treaty are just short of total surrender Fri, 25 Sep 2015 14:12:24 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 25 2015 (IPS)

Speaking about the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that was reached between Iran, the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States­ plus Germany) and the European Union, Joseph Cirincione, a leading nuclear expert and president of Ploughshares Fund, said:

“We have just achieved what may be the biggest diplomatic triumph in a generation. We have reached an agreement that not only stops Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, but it prevents a new war in the Middle East. It has profound implications for the security of America, for the security of Israel, for the security of the world. It sets a new gold standard for nuclear agreements. Every state that wants even a token enrichment capability now will have to agree to the same intrusive verification measures Iran has just agreed to…”

Contrary to the extensive propaganda about it being good for Iran and bad for the United States, the deal – also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – has achieved something that no one thought was possible. Speaking at the American University shortly after the agreement was signed, President Barack Obama said:

“After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb. It contains the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program.”

After 13 years of intensive talks and a fast-developing nuclear enrichment program, Iran has agreed to the most intrusive, restrictive and comprehensive set of demands to which any member state of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has ever been subjected. In reality, as some Iranian commentators have argued, Iran has relinquished most of her rights as an NPT member, short of total surrender.

In order to understand the magnitude of what Iran has given up and what she is required to do in return for the lifting of the sanctions, one has to look at some of the main provisions of the JCPOA. All the following actions must be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as complete before the implementation day, which comes 90 days after the unanimous approval on 20 July of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 endorsing the JCPOA, assuming that Iran provides the IAEA with the required information.

The Security Council requested that the IAEA undertake verification and monitoring of Iran’s compliance, and it reaffirmed that Iran should cooperate fully with the agency to resolve all outstanding issues. Upon receipt of a positive report from the IAEA, the Council would terminate the sanctions set out in resolutions adopted between 2006 and 2015.

Iran must disassemble, remove and store under IAEA seal more than 13,000 excess centrifuges, including excess advanced centrifuge machines.

Out of more than 15,651.4 kg of uranium enriched to 3.6[DSJ1] , and 337.2 kg to 20 percent, Iran must reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to no more than 300 kg.

Iran had built its Fordow uranium enrichment facility deep in the mountains in order to have a more secure site for enrichment in case Israel or America bombed its main facility at Natanz. However, according to the agreement, Iran must convert the Fordow site to a research & development facility with no fissile material.

Iran had built a heavy water plant in Arak to have a different route to nuclear fuel, but she must remove and disable the core of the Arak heavy-water reactor.

Although Iran had not officially signed the Additional Protocol, an expanded set of requirements for information and access adopted in 1997 to assist the IAEA in its verification work, she must allow and make the necessary arrangements for additional IAEA access and monitoring in keeping with its requirements.

Key restrictions that will last significantly more than a decade include:

Iran may retain no more than 5,060 of the 19,000 centrifuges that Iran had installed.

She is not allowed to install more advanced centrifuges than she has already developed, and is allowed to carry out only limited research & development on advanced centrifuges for the next 15 years.

She is allowed only limited development of advanced centrifuges so that enrichment capacity remains the same.

Testing of centrifuges with uranium may carried out only at Natanz.

IAEA access to the site must be provided within 24 hours.

No new heavy-water reactors, no reprocessing or R & D allowed.

Iran makes a commitment not to process spent fuel.

There will be continuous surveillance of centrifuge production areas.

There will even be continuous surveillance of uranium mines and mills. Thus, the IAEA will have access to all Iranian activities from the mining of uranium to the construction of mills and centrifuges.

Even after all those initial restrictions, the NPT will remain in force banning the pursuit of nuclear weapons. This restriction has no time limit and will remain in force for as long as Iran remains a member of the NPT. Leaving the NPT would of course constitute a grave violation of the rules, and strong action would be taken against Iran.

In order to sabotage the talks, some critics of the nuclear deal, supported by fabricated documents, had raised the issue of Iran’s alleged military experimentations (the so-called previous military dimension, or PMD). Nevertheless, Iran must provide the IAEA with all the information necessary to complete its PMD investigation by October 15.

Another excuse that the opponents of the deal have used to undermine it was the issue of “the breakout period.” There is no provision in the NPT for any such limitation. The member states will be able to have any amount of enrichment to any level of purity, so long as they do not manufacture a nuclear weapon. However, an exception is made in the case of Iran regarding how long it would take her to have enough enriched uranium sufficient for a single bomb.

This is despite the fact that Iran does not possess any reprocessing facilities and that even if she enriches uranium to the more than 90 percent purity needed for a bomb, she still has to weaponise[DSJ2] it, test it and find the necessary means of delivery, none of which Iran possesses at the moment and which would be easily detected by the IAEA. Nevertheless, the agreement has required that Iran should have a breakout period of at least one year.

In addition to all the nuclear-related restrictions, the Security Council still prohibits Iran from importing or exporting weapons for five years and missile parts for eight years. In other words, the fuss was not only about Iran’s nuclear program, but her military capabilities as well.

As the result of this agreement, the P5+1 have re-written the rules and have gone completely beyond the requirements of the NPT and even the Additional Protocol. Nevertheless, all Republican and some Democratic senators in the U.S. still oppose it and are trying to legislate amendments that would undermine its implementation, despite the fact that this international agreement has been endorsed by more than 100 U.S. former ambassadors, 60 former top national leaders, 75 nuclear non-proliferation experts and another 29 top U.S. nuclear scientists, as well as by all the other five leading countries of the world.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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U.S., Russian Arms Supplies to Iraq, Syria a Blessing to Rebel Groups Thu, 24 Sep 2015 20:54:25 +0000 Thalif Deen Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Thalif Deen

The United States and Russia are escalating arms sales to two of their major allies in the Middle East – Iraq and Syria – despite fears that some of these weapons may ultimately wind up, ironically, in the hands of armed rebel groups battling government forces.

The proposed U.S. sales to Iraq include 175 additional Abrams battle tanks and about 1,000 Humvee armoured vehicles, along with fighter jets, attack helicopters and laser-guided missiles – all worth over 15 billion dollars.

The Russians, meanwhile, have recently bolstered the beleaguered regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with jet fighters, helicopter gunships and transport helicopters – along with six T-90 battle tanks, 15 howitzers and 35 armoured personnel carriers, according to published reports.

But the ultimate beneficiaries may be rebel groups, including the Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaeda and the Nusra Front, who may inherit these weapons – either capturing them in battle or confiscating them from regular armed forces, who are known to abandon weapons and flee the battle field, as in several previous occasions.

The Wall Street Journal says some U.S. lawmakers, conscious of the risks, are conditioning any approval of arms sales to Iraq on “assurances the weapons won’t fall into enemy hands.”

Since both U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be at the United Nations to address the high level annual debate, the two leaders are expected to hold bilateral talks – specifically on the future of Syria.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the Syria’s five-year old military crisis can be resolved only politically – not with weapons.

The United States has protested the infusion of new arms to the Assad regime but Russia maintains it is only honouring existing military contracts with Syria, a longstanding military ally going back to the days of President Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president.

According to U.S. intelligence sources, Russia is also continuing a military buildup in the port city of Latakia establishing new barracks that could accommodate up to 2,000 people, presumably Russians advisers.

Patrick Wilcken, Researcher, Arms Control, Security Trade and Human Rights on the Global Thematic Issues Programme at Amnesty International, told IPS the majority of weapons with rebel groups have been gained from “battlefield capture” — particularly, though not exclusively, of Iraqi military stocks, especially during IS’s advances in 2014, taking military bases/ stores from Falluja, Mosul, Tikrit and Ramadi – and also in Syria, from bases in Raqqa City and Tabaqa Airbase;

While it is virtually impossible to trace chains of custody of arms and ammunition in use by IS and other armed groups in Iraq and Syria, he said, it is possible to make a few general statements from evidence available (images, video and limited amounts of physical evidence collected by Conflict Armament Research (CAR).

Wilcken said the bulk of the weapons currently in circulation in Syria and Iraq are of Soviet/Warsaw Pact design/production, e.g. AK assault rifle variants, which have been produced around the world. It reflects the fact that both the Syrian and Iraqi militaries have a long history of Russian/Soviet supply.

But many of the weapons are over 20 or 30 years old, some dating back to the weapons build-up during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), or even earlier.

He said some NATO-standard (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) weapons had begun to appear, as the Iraqi army under the U.S. had begun to convert over to NATO-standard small arms.

When the Islamic State captured a treasure trove of U.S. weapons from fleeing Iraqi soldiers last October, one of the rebel leaders was quoted as saying rather sarcastically: “We hope the Americans would honour their agreements and service our helicopters.”

As fighter planes continued attacking IS targets, some of the U.S. airstrikes were, paradoxically, aimed at U.S.-made helicopters, Humvees, armoured personnel carriers and anti-aircraft artillery guns originally supplied to the Iraqi armed forces and currently deployed by the rebel group.

Not surprisingly, they are all under U.S. warranties for maintenance, repair and servicing.

AI’s Wilcken also told IPS the black market has thrived in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, and continues to thrive; there is some evidence of Syrian army corruption and supply of armed groups; recently manufactured Russian ammunition, for instance, has found its way into IS stocks, either through sale or capture.

“A lot of weapons interchange has come about through army defections and mergers of armed groups.”

And there appears to be a remarkable level of consistency in the armouries of all the main armed groups (i.e. mainly former Soviet stock with a smattering of NATO standard U.S. equipment) while early (2012-13) supplies of the so-called moderate armed groups in Syria came from Gulf states and Turkey and quickly proliferated to IS and others through battle field capture, affiliations or corruption, he noted.

In summary, he said “regional arms proliferation has a long pedigree – at least on the Iraqi side – and any future supplier states need to exercise extreme caution to prevent further regional proliferation and its catastrophic consequences.”

Meanwhile, according to the Washington-based Defence News, U.S arms sales to Iraq last year also included 681 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and 40 truck-mounted launchers, Sentinel radars, three Hawk anti-aircraft batteries with 216 Hawk missiles, 50 Stryker infantry carriers, 12 helicopters, and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of maintenance and logistical support for thousands of U.S.-made military vehicles.

Additionally, Washington also struck arms deals for the sale of Hellfire missiles, M1A1 Abrams battle tanks, machine guns, sniper rifles, grenades and ammunition – all worth billions of dollars.

How much of this will wind up with rebel forces is anybody’s guess.

The writer can be contacted at

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The Rubicons That Have Been Crossed Fri, 18 Sep 2015 13:41:54 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 18 2015 (IPS)

In their attempts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and Israel have resorted over time to a number of unorthodox, illegal and in some cases criminal methods to achieve their aims. They have included the following:

1. Constant vilification of the Iranian nuclear program despite evidence to the contrary.

Since the resumption of the Iranian nuclear program after the Islamic revolution, Western leaders have openly accused Iran of pursuing a military program, despite the lack of any evidence. The claims regarding Iran’s military intentions have been repeated non-stop, along with allegations that Iran was a few years away from manufacturing a bomb.

Here are just two early examples. An April 24, in a 1984 article entitled “‘Ayatollah’ Bomb in Production for Iran,” United Press International warned that Iran was moving “very quickly” towards a nuclear weapon and could have one as early as 1986. In April 1987, the Washington Post published an article with the title “Atomic Ayatollahs: Just What the Mideast Needs – an Iranian Bomb,” in which reporter David Segal wrote of the imminent threat of such a weapon.

This pattern of reporting by Western and Israeli press has continued unabated, despite the fact that they have been proved to be wrong time and again.

2. Assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists.

There have been at least four documented cases in which Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated on the streets of Tehran. Israeli agencies have been implicated in those assassinations. A number of suspects who had been arrested testified that they were members of the terrorist organization, the Mojahedin-e Khalq, who had been recruited by Mossad, taken to Israel and trained in the use of those explosive devices.

A month after the January 2012 assassination of Ahmadi Roshan, an Iranian nuclear scientist and university professor, NBC News reported: “Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret services, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran’s leaders… U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Barack Obama administration is aware of the assassination campaign but has no direct involvement.”

This seems to be a continuation of the plan to assassinate Iraqi nuclear scientists prior to and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In his best-selling book By Way of Deception, Victor Ostrovsky, a former Mossad officer, revealed that Israel had targeted and had killed Iraqi nuclear scientists.

3. Acts of sabotage against Iranian nuclear and military installations.

On 12 November 2011, there was a massive explosion at an Iranian military base that killed Major General Hassan Moghaddam and 16 soldiers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, as well as causing extensive damage to the base. As usual, Israel did not confirm or deny responsibility for the explosion, but Israeli media pointed to the possible involvement of Mossad. The Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported that “some assessments” indicated that the blast was “the result of a military operation based on intelligence information.”

According to Annex III of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on “civil nuclear cooperation,” otherwise known as the framework agreement on the Iran nuclear program, the signatories commit to “co-operation through training and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to protect against, and respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage, as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and physical protection systems”.

However, it seems that far from condemning Israeli acts of sabotage against Iranian installations, some U.S. officials are even worried that the deal might prevent Israel from continuing these illegal activities. This provision of the deal doesn’t mention any countries by name, but U.S. Senator Marco Rubio wondered if this was included in the deal because of Iranian concerns related to a specific US ally.

“If Israel decides it doesn’t like this deal and it wants to sabotage an Iranian nuke program or facility, does this deal that we have just signed obligate us to help Iran defend itself against Israeli sabotage or for that matter the sabotage of any other country in the world?” Rubio asked at a congressional hearing on the agreement. U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz replied that “all of our options and those of our allies and friends would remain in place” after the deal goes into effect.

4. Cyber terrorism

In 2010, Iran announced that uranium enrichment at Natanz had been disrupted and as many as 1,000 centrifuges had been damaged. It was subsequently reported that the destruction was due to cyber terrorism. In June 2010, anti-virus experts discovered a sophisticated computer worm dubbed “Stuxnet,” which had spread to Iranian centrifuges at the Natanz plant and had damaged many of them. The New York Times subsequently reported that Stuxnet was part of a U.S. and Israeli intelligence operation called “Operation Olympic Games,” initiated by President George W. Bush and expanded under President Barack Obama.

At the time that the worm was reportedly infecting the Iranian machines, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cameras installed in Natanz recorded the sudden dismantling and removal of approximately 900–1,000 centrifuges. These were quickly replaced, however, and Iran resumed uranium enrichment. The West regards cyber terrorism as an act of war, yet it is willing to cooperate with Israel in cyber terrorism against Iran. This will open Pandora’s box.

5. Spying on allies during the nuclear negotiations

U.S. officials have accused Israel of spying on nuclear negotiations with Iran and of “cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.”

Subsequently, it was revealed that hotels that served as venues for the talks including the Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, the Intercontinental in Geneva, the Palais Coburg in Vienna, the Hotel President Wilson in Geneva, the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich and Royal Plaza Montreux had been targeted by an Israeli spy virus in order to eavesdrop on all the conversations.

It is clear that Israel did not even trust her closest ally, the U.S., whose officials normally informed her of all the details of the negotiations.

6. Plans to attack Iran

Apart from the repeated threats to attack Iran’s nuclear installations, Ehud Barak, Israel’s former defense minister and former prime minister, has revealed that at least on three occasions Israeli forces were ordered to get ready for an attack on Iranian nuclear installations. Israeli Channel 2 Television aired a recording of Barak revealing the details of those planned attacks. To this one should add repeated Israeli incitements for the U.S. to attack Iran, and U.S. officials constant refrain of “all options are on the table”.

7. Racist comments

It has become commonplace for U.S. and Israeli politicians to demonize Iran and Iranians and to refer to them in racist language. The Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman declared in Congressional testimony in 2013 that Iranian leaders couldn’t be trusted because “We know that deception is part of the DNA.” Tom Donilon, a former National Security Advisor to the Obama administration, also said in 2011 that Iran had “a record of deceit and deception.”

In order to see how ugly and insulting such remarks are, it is enough to replace “Iranians” with “Jews” or “Americans” to see how offensive they sound. Many Republican senators and presidential candidates have even used much more disgusting language referring to Iranians. It is sad to note that even President Obama in his meeting with Jewish leaders felt it necessary to say: “And I keep on emphasizing we don’t trust Iran. Iran is antagonistic to the U.S. It is anti-Semitic. It has denied the Holocaust. It has called for the destruction of Israel.”

These are just a few examples of the many red lines and Rubicons that have been crossed with total impunity. Instead of condemning those illegal and criminal activities by Israel, American officials have collaborated with them in these outrageous acts.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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UAE Government Stresses its Abiding Support for Syrian Refugees Thu, 17 Sep 2015 13:31:22 +0000 Omar Salim By Omar Salim
ABU DHABI, Sep 17 2015 (IPS)

In response to suggestions that the Gulf states are doing littleor nothing to help Syrians fleeing their civil war, the Government of the United Arab Emirates has announced that it has take a broad range of supportive actions to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian population and to care for Syrian refugees in Syria and abroad, reports WAM.

Calling the Syrian refugee crisis a political and security crisis, a tragedy of enormous proportions and a key priority for his government, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, noted that the UAE Government has welcomed and extended residency permits to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, from all segments of society and various religious sects, since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

This has brought the number of Syrian residents in the UAE to almost a quarter million, he said.

In addition, the minister noted, the UAE Government has during this time allowed thousands more Syrian nationals with expired visas or travel documents to adjust their status, enabling them to remain in the UAE.

Government figures show that the number of new and registered Syrian students enrolled in UAE schools since the beginning of the crisis has surpassed 17,000, while more than 6,000 Syrian nationals have established businesses in the country, indications that, according to the minister, “Syrian families are living a natural and normal life in the UAE’s secure and welcoming environment.”

The UAE government has also pointed out that it is among the leading financial contributors to efforts to help the Syrian people during the civil war. Thus far, the UAE has provided about 1.1 billion dollars, about half of that in humanitarian aid that has directly benefited Syrian refugees and another 420 million dollars to combat Daesh terrorism in Syria and Iraq and to provide humanitarian support and relief to displaced people.

These efforts include the UAE-funded Mrajib Al Fhood camp in Jordan, which provides high-quality care, shelter and education for 6,437 Syrian refugees and has been expanded to accommodate up to 10,000. Additionally, the UAE-Jordanian field hospital in Al Mafraq offers a wide range of professional medical services to Syrian refugees and has provided nearly a half-million treatments.

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Opinion: Iran and Nuclear Weapons, a Dangerous Delusion Mon, 14 Sep 2015 16:12:41 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 14 2015 (IPS)

Despite all the propaganda about the Iranian leaders’ rush to acquire nuclear weapons, ever since the start of the country’s nuclear programme, Iranian leaders have been adamant that they only wish to make peaceful use of the nuclear energy to which they are entitled as a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

This was true under the former government of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who started Iran’s nuclear programme, and it has continued to be true under the Islamic Republic.

Shortly after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was agreed on Jul. 14, 2015, a number of documents belonging to the U.S. Department of Defence were declassified. Among them was a confidential cable dated Jun. 24, 1974, in which the then ruler of Iran Mohammad Reza Shah is quoted as saying:

“I am ready to repeat what I have proposed several times, that is, to declare our zone – a geographic zone whose borders could clearly be delimited – non-nuclear. Because, honestly, I believe that this nuclear armaments race is ridiculous. What would one do with them? Use them against the great powers? One could never have parity. Use them to kill each other? A country which would procure this means to attack would not wait long before being crushed by another country which also would be in the avant-garde. But if there is not enough vision, if in this region each little country tries to arm itself with armaments that are precarious, even elementary, but nuclear, then perhaps the national interests of any country at all would demand that it do the same. But I would find that completely ridiculous.”

So, contrary to some claims that the Shah was after a bomb, it is clear that he had a very rational attitude towards nuclear weapons.

The Shah once said that Iran too would develop nuclear weapons if other countries in the region did so, but his remarks were partially in response to the 1974 Indian test of a nuclear weapon and Pakistan’s efforts to do the same. He also knew that Israel already possessed nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, he repeatedly insisted that he was not looking for nuclear weapons. At the same time, he was adamant that Iran should not be treated as a second-class citizen in the region. The Shah’s common-sense attitude has been borne out by facts.

Nuclear weapons can have a deterrent effect only if the country that possesses them has the capability to respond in kind and sustain and survive the initial attacks. They can only work to serve as a deterrent in the context of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) between superpowers, but even that is a very foolish proposition, because it works until it fails, and if it fails once deliberately or by accident it would be the end of civilisation as we know it.

Pakistan has been a nuclear power for many decades, yet shortly after the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage went to see President Pervez Musharraf and allegedly threatened him that the United States would bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age if he did not cooperate against the Taliban, and Musharraf had no option but to comply.

Israel has long possessed nuclear weapons, but this has not stopped it fighting a number of wars against weaker neighbours which do not possess them. It would be a dangerous delusion for a country such as Israel to believe that its possession of nuclear weapons would ensure its safety, instead of resolving its differences with its Arab neighbours and reaching a fair agreement with millions of dispossessed and stateless Palestinians. The only use for nuclear weapons is that of suicide.

This is a lesson that even post-revolutionary Iranian leaders have learned. During the past few decades, Iranian leaders have turned towards the West many times to resolve their nuclear issue only to be rebuffed.

The most audacious offer was the one that was made by President Mohammad Khatami’s government to the U.S. Administration under George W. Bush in May 2003. Iran offered a “grand bargain”, including strict limits on enrichment. The Bush administration ignored the offer, and instead included Iran in the ‘Axis of Evil’.

The current Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005. He reached an agreement with the European “Troika” (United Kingdom, France and Germany) for a very limited enrichment programme in Iran, and he even suspended enrichment for two years as a confidence-building measure, but President Bush rejected the deal.

In a letter published by TIME on May 9, 2006, Rouhani wrote: “A nuclear weaponized Iran destabilizes the region, prompts a regional arms race, and wastes the scarce resources in the region. And taking account of U.S. nuclear arsenal and its policy of ensuring a strategic edge for Israel, an Iranian bomb will accord Iran no security dividends. There are also some Islamic and developmental reasons why Iran as an Islamic and developing state must not develop and use weapons of mass destruction.”

He went on to say: “Three years of robust inspection of Iranian nuclear and non-nuclear facilities by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors led [IAEA Director-General] Dr. El-Baradi to conclude and certify that to date there are no indications of any diversion of nuclear material and activities toward making a bomb.”

In the same letter, he said that Iran would ratify the NPT’s Additional Protocol and would accept an IAEA verifiable cap on the enrichment limit of reactor grade uranium. Stressing Iran’s intention to produce nuclear fuel domestically for both historic and long-term economic reasons, he pointed out that Iran’s offer “to welcome other countries to partner with Iran in a consortium provides additional assurance about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.”

He could not have been clearer about Iran’s intention to be open in its nuclear intentions, to cooperate with the IAEA and even partner with the West in pursuit of peaceful nuclear energy.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been equally emphatic about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. Delivering the inaugural address at the 16th Non-Aligned Summit in Tehran on Aug. 30, 2012, he said:

“Nuclear weapons neither ensure security, nor do they consolidate political power, rather they are a threat to both security and political power. The events that took place in the 1990s showed that the possession of such weapons could not even safeguard a regime like the former Soviet Union. And today we see certain countries which are exposed to waves of deadly insecurity despite possessing atomic bombs.

The Islamic Republic of Iran considers the use of nuclear, chemical and similar weapons as a great and unforgivable sin. We proposed the idea of ‘Middle East free of nuclear weapons’ and we are committed to it. This does not mean forgoing our right to peaceful use of nuclear power and production of nuclear fuel. On the basis of international laws, peaceful use of nuclear energy is a right of every country.”

He even issued a fatwa stressing that the production, storage and use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction were religiously forbidden (haram).

Even when he was president, Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, whose inflammatory rhetoric made him a bête noire of the West and who was accused of wanting to gain access to nuclear weapons, said: “The period and era of using nuclear weapons is over… Nuclear bombs are not anymore helpful and those who are stockpiling nuclear weapons, politically they are backward, and they are mentally retarded.”

He stated that if Iran wanted to manufacture a nuclear bomb, it would not be afraid of saying so, but he rightly asked what use would a single Iranian bomb be against Israel’s hundreds and the West’s thousands of nuclear weapons.

From all the statements by Iranian leaders and 12 years of intrusive inspection of Iranian nuclear installations by the IAEA, it is clear that, contrary to the incessant propaganda about Iran’s “nuclear ambitions”, there is no shred of evidence that Iran has ever been trying to manufacture nuclear weapons.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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UAE Continues Relief to Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Sat, 12 Sep 2015 21:19:21 +0000 Emirates News Agency

Att.Editors: The following item is from the Emirates News Agency (WAM)

By Emirates News Agency (WAM)
ABU DHABI, Sep 12 2015 (IPS)

(WAM) – Under the directives of the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), efforts are underway to provide relief to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. A strategic humanitarian plan has been put in place by the country which includes shelter to refugees closer to Lebanon in order to facilitate their return home when the crisis is over.

According to reports issued by the UAE news agency WAM, since the crisis began in 2011, the Gulf countries received more than 100,000 Syrian refugees. Earlier 140,000 refugees were accomodated in the region.

The UAE was one of the first countries to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis, providing more than USD530 million in direct aid, mainly through the Syria Recovery Trust Fund.

Since January 2015, the UAE provided an additional USD44 million as part of a new aid commitment of USD100 million, reported WAM.

The UAE is also working towards peace and stability in Syria, by supporting the Global Coalition Against Daesh and as a co-leader for the Coalition Working Groups on Stabilisation and Strategic Communications in the region.

Commenting on the UAE humanitarian assistance to the Syrian refugees, Hamad Saeed Sultan Al Shamsi, Ambassador of UAE to Lebanon, said “The UAE government, its humanitarian institutions and organisations through direct initiatives and its offices have continued their support for the displaced Syrians in Lebanon.”

Ambassador Al Shamsi added that the UAE Embassy in Lebanon, in cooperation with the UN and other international organisations including Dar Al Fatwa, Orphanage House and municipalities, have provided humanitarian and relief assistance to the Syrian refugees with included medical treatment, date food packages, drinking water and food supplements for children, blankets and mattresses, and, during Iftar and Eid ul Fitr, distributed clothes, gifts and sacrificial meat. He also pointed out that the UAE Embassy in Beirut purchases goods from the local markets to support the Lebanese economy.

Millions of Syrians fled their homes as the conflict in their country escalated. By the summer of 2014, more than 11 million people — nearly half the population of Syria — had either been internally displaced or fled the country altogether. More than four million sought refuge in neighbouring countries, where they were sheltered in refugee camps, such as the UAE-funded Mrajeeb Al Fhood refugee camp in Jordan, that is home now to more than 4,000 Syrian refugees, and other refugee camps in Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. (WAM) (END/2015)

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The Recent Stages of Iran’s Nuclear Programme Sat, 12 Sep 2015 17:09:00 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 12 2015 (IPS)

When negotiations between Iran and the European “Troika” broke down, the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami was discredited in the eyes of the Iranian electorate which had seen the futility of negotiating with the West.

Despite Iran’s support for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and its help in persuading the Northern Alliance leaders in Afghanistan to join talks in Bonn, Iran was rewarded with U.S. President George Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ speech.

Right-wing candidate Mahmud Ahmadinezhad won the 2005 presidential election, with the massive support of hardliners, including the paramilitary Basij forces and some sections of the Revolution Guards. His new government was dubbed “the government of the barracks” because it included many former and serving Revolution Guards officers and veterans of the Iran-Iraq war.

Having seen the futility of negotiations with the West, Ahmadinezhad resumed Iran’s nuclear programme. During a large, carefully staged and nationally televised celebration in Mashhad on Apr. 11, 2006, Ahmadinezhad announced that Iran had enriched uranium to 3.6 percent and proudly declared: “The nuclear fuel cycle at the laboratory level has been completed, and uranium with the desired enrichment for nuclear power plants was achieved … Iran has joined the nuclear countries of the world.”

After a great deal of pressure by the West, on Feb. 4, 2006, the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council if it did not stop enrichment within a month. In response, Iran ended snap U.N. nuclear checks the following day.

In subsequent months and years, the Security Council passed eight resolutions demanding that Iran suspend all enrichment-related activities, and imposed some of the harshest sanctions ever imposed on a country. Iran declared all those resolutions illegal, maintaining that it had not violated any provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Instead of complying with those resolutions, Iran intensified its enrichment activities.

When Ahmadinezhad came to power, Iran had suspended all its nuclear activities. By the time he left office in 2013, Iran had installed more than 15,000 centrifuges, more than 9,000 of them being fed with UF6, as well as installing over 1,000 more advanced IR-2 centrifuges, despite all the sanctions that had been imposed.

After the West refused to provide Iran with uranium fuel of 20 percent purity required for the Tehran research reactor that is used for producing medical isotopes, Iran proceeded to produce enough uranium fuel of this purity. Altogether, Iran produced 15,651.4 kg of uranium enriched to 3.6, and 337.2 kg to 20 percent, some of which was used to produce fuel for the Tehran research reactor.

In 2004, the U.S. government came into possession of a laptop that contained a large number of documents purporting to be from an Iranian research program on nuclear weapons. It allegedly contained studies on high explosives testing for a nuclear detonation, and a uranium conversion system, all of which were purportedly done from 2001 through 2003.

From the start, there was uncertainty about how the documents had been obtained from Iran, if indeed they had originated in that country. While the material gave rise to a great deal of publicity in the media, the U.S. intelligence community remained sceptical about the document.

Without allowing either the IAEA or Iran to have access to the laptop, the United States called on IAEA Director-General Mohamed El Baradei to issue a report on the basis of the alleged document.

El Baradei passed the material to a team of experts who soon concluded that the material was fraudulent and in an interview with The Hindu on Oct. 1, 2009, El Baradei declared: “The IAEA is not making any judgment at all whether Iran even had weaponisation studies before because there is a major question of authenticity of the documents.”

A second alleged clandestine nuclear research project involved a “process flow chart” for a bench-scale system for conversion of uranium ore for enrichment. However, when Iranian officials were shown the flow chart, they immediately spotted multiple technical errors and these were so clear that the head of the IAEA Safeguards Department, Olli Heinonen, acknowledged in his 2008 briefing that the diagram had “technical inconsistencies.”

It has now been established, almost without a shadow of doubt, that both documents were forgeries, allegedly the work of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service.

Meanwhile, as some Israeli leaders and their supporters in the United States were pushing for an invasion of Iran on the excuse of its nuclear programme, the U.S Intelligence Community (a federation of 17 separate intelligence agencies) assessed in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had ended all “nuclear weapon design and weaponisation work” in 2003.

Yet, instead of welcoming that positive report, the then Israeli Minister of Defence Ehud Barak said that it was a kick to the gut, and many neo-conservatives in the United States also dismissed its findings.

On May 17, 2010, in talks held in Tehran, the leaders of Iran, Turkey and Brazil announced a major breakthrough in Iran’s nuclear dispute with the West. In a joint declaration, they reported that Iran had agreed to send 1240 kg of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Turkey for safe keeping under IAEA supervision as part of a swap for nuclear fuel for a research reactor in Tehran, thus preventing any possibility of using it for any eventual bomb.

However, with indecent haste, a day after that important agreement, the then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced that a new package of sanctions against Iran had been approved by the major powers and would be sent to the U.N. Security Council later in the day, resulting in Resolution 1929 which imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran.

The move angered both Turkey and Brazil which thought that they had acted in keeping with U.S. President Barack Obama’s wishes to take most of Iran’s enriched uranium out of the country. In her statement to the U.N. Security Council meeting, the Brazilian envoy said: “As Brazil repeatedly stated, the Tehran Declaration adopted 17 May is a unique opportunity that should not be missed. It was approved by the highest levels of the Iranian leadership and endorsed by its Parliament.”

In an interview with the Brazilian press, El Baradei supported the Tehran Declaration and said that the deal “should be perceived as a first good confidence-building measure, a first effort by Iran to stretch its hand and say [they] are ready to negotiate”.

He also argued that “if you remove around half of the material that Iran has to Turkey, that is clearly a confidence-building measure regarding concerns about Iran’s future intentions. The material that will remain in Iran is under IAEA safeguards and seals. There is absolutely no imminent threat that Iran is going to develop the bomb tomorrow with the material that they have in Iran.”

In July 2009, Yukiya Amano was elected Director-General of the IAEA to succeed El Baradei. In November 2010, the Guardian published a diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks originating a year earlier in Vienna by the then U.S. envoy to the IAEA Board of Governors Geoffrey Pyatt.

According to that cable, Amano said that he was “solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons programme.” Amano published the alleged contents of the laptop, which have been seized upon by the opponents of Iran’s nuclear programme as evidence of Iran’s military intentions.

Finally, in the June 2013 presidential election, tired by their isolation in the world and suffering under the weight of sanctions, Iranians elected Hassan Rouhani who had vowed to resolve the nuclear dispute with the West as their next president. Rouhani had been the chief nuclear negotiator under President Khatami who reached the nuclear deal with the European “Troika”.

Rouhani chose the former Iranian envoy to the United Nations, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had also been involved in earlier negotiations, as Iran’s foreign minister and head of the Iranian negotiating team. After two years of talks with the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States; plus Germany), the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was eventually reached.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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In and Behind the Trenches Against ISIS Wed, 09 Sep 2015 20:41:07 +0000 Karlos Zurutuza A PKK fighter holds his position in Nouafel, an Arab village west of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

A PKK fighter holds his position in Nouafel, an Arab village west of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

By Karlos Zurutuza
KIRKUK, Iraq, Sep 9 2015 (IPS)

Reminders of the last occupants of camp K1 in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk are only visible on the murals at the main gate leading into the compound: Iraqi soldiers saluting the flag, pointing their weapons or being cheered on by grateful families.

But Iraq’s 12th Infantry Division fled, leaving everything behind, after the arrival of fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in June 2014.

"We have a very good relationship with the PKK and we’re fighting together not only for the Kurds, but also because ISIS is the enemy of mankind as a whole." -- Peshmerga Colonel Jamal Masim Jafar
Today, the military garrison hosts a joint Kurdish force of Peshmerga units – Kurdish army soldiers – and guerillas from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The PKK and the Peshmerga fought each other back in the 1990s, but a powerful common enemy – ISIS – brought them together last summer.

A visit to the trenches where the united front is still holding back the Jihadi militants offers a glimpse into the region’s complex ethnic and ideological dynamics, as well insight into the relationship between armed groups and the local population.

After a brief introduction, Heval Rebar – Kurdish for ‘Comrade Rebar’ – offers to accompany this IPS reporter on a drive south alongside an earthen wall.

A chain of checkpoints gives us access to military posts or villages recovered from ISIS, some of which have been completely destroyed by air strikes led by the U.S. and its allies.

Peshmerga Colonel Jamal Masim Jafar welcomes IPS from inside a bunker standing close to a 15-meter-high promontory, which has its replica every thousand meters along the wall.

Jafar talks of “constant” fighting: “We get sniper fire from two houses and a tower the enemy has raised but they also hit us with an improvised device made of gas canisters,” explains the official, adding that the last fire exchange was “just an hour ago”.

Despite the hardships, he appears satisfied with his PKK counterparts.

“We have a very good relationship with the PKK and we’re fighting together not only for the Kurds, but also because ISIS is the enemy of mankind as a whole,” he stresses.

Sitting to his right, Comrade Rebar nods.

After the mandatory cup of tea, Jafar invites us to the promontory, which overlooks Al Noor, one of the many villages built by Saddam Hussein – Iraq’s ousted ruler – to host Arab settlers on Kurdish land.

Al Noor remains under ISIS control, but last week Kurdish forces launched a major offensive southwest of Kirkuk, taking back nine villages like this one plus a 24-square-km swathe of land.

“These gains are only possible thanks to international aid, both supplies and air strikes,” Jafar notes while he walks towards one of the armed pick-up trucks.

“We have just installed machine guns on the back of the vehicles. They are French and we got them recently. We are also getting night vision goggles, which are essential in this environment and MILAN guided missiles from Germany. Regarding air cover, we get it every time we need it,” explained the Kurdish officer.

He said he had spent seven years with American troops in Iraq, and that he would welcome western foreign troops in the region.

Female PKK fighters are also present in the combat line against ISIS in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

Female PKK fighters are also present in the combat line against ISIS in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

No man’s land

Coordination between Kurdish factions is more than evident but that has not been the trend in this part of Iraq over the last decade.

Historically claimed by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, oil-rich Kirkuk is among the so-called “disputed territories” by Baghdad and the north-western Kurdish city of Erbil, very much one of Iraq’s thorniest issues even years before the emergence and advance of ISIS.

Ethnic and sectarian clashes have been rife in this part of the country, with the local population being constantly targeted from every side.

Our next stop on our way south is Nouafel, an Arab village next to the wall where PKK fighters keep their positions. From their makeshift headquarters in one of the houses, Comrade Selim prefers not to disclose the exact number of his fighters deployed here.

“We have enough to fight ISIS,” he tells IPS, settling the question with a smile. From the little hill where they hold their positions, another fighter, Comrade Farashin uses a pair of binoculars to monitor Wastaniya – the closest village under ISIS control.

Relying on light assault, snipers and a couple of machine guns, the PKK guerrillas don’t look as heavily armed as their Peshmerga counterparts. However, Comrade Aso’s testimony stands as proof that the PKK fighters are far from neglected:

“In the spring we received a course in urban warfare for two months conducted by two Italian instructors. I learned many things they had not taught me during my training in Qandil [the Kurdish mountain stronghold],” recalls this fighter, a young man in his early 20s hailing from the nearby town of Tuz Khormato, a predominantly Turkmen district located 170 km north of Baghdad.

“They were very professional,” he added. “They never let us take their picture and we were never told which organisation they were working for.”

Peshmerga Colonel Jamal Masim Jafar says he’s satisfied with the support his forces are receiving from the PKK. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

Peshmerga Colonel Jamal Masim Jafar says he’s satisfied with the support his forces are receiving from the PKK. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

What makes this combat post particularly interesting is not only the fact the village remained under ISIS control for seven months, but also that the majority of the local villagers have not left the area.

At the request of Comrade Rebar, a dozen locals agree to meet this IPS reporter in a house just a few metres away from the one occupied by the guerrillas.

At first glance, the relationship between civilians and fighters looks cordial. Greetings are exchanged and some of the fighters try a few words in Arabic to break the ice. Meanwhile, our host, Arkan Ali Bader, serves Arabic coffee, which everyone drinks from the same cup.

The sound of incoming fire from the other side hardly provokes any visible emotion among the villagers. That’s been part of their daily life for over a year. However, Ali Bader says he regrets that his land, and that of most of the villagers, lies today in “no man’s land” – between the Kurds and ISIS.

Also dressed in the traditional lose garments, Juma Hussein Toma claims that during the seven months the village was under Jihadi control, life for ordinary people did not undergo significant changes.

“When ISIS came they announced through the mosque’s loudspeakers that they had freed our village from infidels, and that it was the victory of the revolution, but no one here suffered threats of any kind,” explains Toma.

“There are a few who left because they had no work here, but not because of the war,” adds the peasant.

“ISIS killed a few [people] in Al Noor because they had been members of the Awakening Councils [a US-backed Iraqi militia that fought against Al Qaeda] but none of us was hurt,” stressed Mohamed al Ubeid.

Locals in Nouafel said they were happy about the arrival of the PKK fighters. However, such statements were made in the presence of those very fighters, making it impossible to ascertain whether or not they were coerced.

After the expected polite farewell, a PKK fighter points to the deep ditch surrounding their headquarters in the village.

“We had to dig it because we do not trust the villagers,” he admits, just before returning to his guard shift by the earthen wall.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Opinion: The Early History of Iran’s Nuclear Programme Wed, 09 Sep 2015 19:08:04 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.This is the third of a series of 10 articles in which Jahanpour looks at various aspects and implications of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme reached in July 2015 between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China and Germany, plus the European Union.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Sep 9 2015 (IPS)

Iran has had a nuclear programme since 1959 when the United States gave a small reactor to Tehran University as part of the “Atoms for Peace” programme during Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s reign.  When the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was introduced in 1968 and entered into force in 1970, Iran was one of the first signatories of that Treaty.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

The Shah had made extensive plans for using nuclear energy in order to free Iran’s oil deposits for export and also in order for use in petrochemical industries to receive more revenue. The Shah had planned to build 22 nuclear reactors to generate 23 million megawatts of electric power.  By 1977, the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) had more than 1,500 highly paid employees, with a budget of 1.3 billion dollars, making it the second biggest public economic institution in the country.

In 1975, the Gerald Ford administration in the United States expressed support for the Shah’s plan to develop a full-fledged nuclear power programme, including the construction of 23 nuclear power reactors.

President Gerald Ford has been reported as having “signed a directive in 1976 offering Tehran the chance to buy and operate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. The deal was for a complete ‘nuclear fuel cycle’.”“Iran has had a nuclear programme since 1959 when the United States gave a small reactor to Tehran University as part of the “Atoms for Peace” programme during Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s reign”

The Shah donated 20 million dollars to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to train Iranian nuclear experts, many of whom are still working for Iran’s Nuclear Energy Organisation, including the current head of the organisation and one of the chief negotiators, Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi.  In 1975, Iran also paid 1.18 billion dollars to buy 10 percent of Eurodif, a French company that produces enriched uranium. In return, Iran was supposed to receive enriched uranium for its reactors, a pledge that the French government reneged on after the Iranian revolution.

In 1975, Germany’s Kraftwerk Union AG started the construction of two reactors in Bushehr at an estimated cost of 3-6 billion dollars. Kraftwerk Union stopped work on the Bushehr reactors after the start of the Iranian revolution, with one reactor 50 percent complete, and the other 85 percent complete. The United States also cut off the supply of highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel for the Tehran nuclear reactor.

After the revolution, the Islamic Republic initially stopped all work on the nuclear programme. However, in 1981, Iranian officials concluded that after having spent billions of dollars on their programme it would be foolish to dismantle it. So, they turned to the companies that had
signed agreements with Iran to complete their work. Nevertheless, as the result of political pressure by the U.S. government, all of them declined. Iran also turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for help to no avail.

In the late 1980s, a consortium of companies from Argentina, Germany and Spain submitted a proposal to Iran to complete the Bushehr-1 reactor, but pressure by the United States stopped the deal. In 1990, U.S. pressure also stopped Spain’s National Institute of Industry and Nuclear Equipment from completing the Bushehr project.  Later on, Iran set up a bilateral cooperation on fuel cycle-related issues with China but, under pressure from the West, China also discontinued its assistance.

Therefore, it was no secret to the West that Iran was trying to revive its nuclear programme.

Having failed to achieve results through formal and open channels, Iranian officials turned to clandestine sources, and using their own domestic capabilities.  A major mistake was to receive assistance from A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme.  In 1992, Iran invited IAEA inspectors to visit all the sites and facilities they asked. Director General Hans Blix reported that all activities observed were consistent with the peaceful use of atomic energy.

On Feb. 9, 2003, Iran’s programme and efforts to build sophisticated facilities at Natanz were revealed allegedly by Iranian dissident group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political wing of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO), for years regarded as a terrorist organisation by the West. It has been strongly suggested that MKO had received its information from Israeli intelligence sources.

President Mohammad Khatami announced the existence of the Natanz (and other) facilities on Iranian television and invited the IAEA to visit them. Then, in late February 2003, Dr. Mohammad El-Baradei, the head of IAEA, accompanied by a team of inspectors, visited Iran.  In November 2003, the IAEA reported that Iran had systematically failed to meet its obligations under its NPT safeguards agreement to report its activities to the IAEA, although it also reported no evidence of links to a nuclear weapons programme.

It should be noted that at that time Iran was only bound by the provisions of the NPT, which required the country to inform the IAEA of its nuclear activities only 180 days before introducing any nuclear material into the facility.  So, according to Iranian officials, building the Natanz facility and not declaring it was not illegal, but the West regarded it as an act of concealment and violation of the NPT’s Additional Protocol, which Iran had not signed. In any event, the scale of Iran’s nuclear activities surprised the West, and it was taken for granted that Iran was developing nuclear weapons.

In May 2003, in a bold move, the Khatami government in Iran sent a proposal to the U.S. government through Swiss diplomatic channels for a “Grand Bargain”, offering full transparency, as well as withdrawal of support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and resumption of diplomatic relations, but the offer went unanswered.

In October 2003, the United Kingdom, France and Germany undertook a diplomatic initiative to resolve the problem. The foreign ministers of the three countries and Iran issued a statement known as the Tehran Declaration, according to which Iran agreed to cooperate with the IAEA and to implement the Additional Protocol as a voluntary confidence-building measure. Iran even suspended enrichment for two years during the course of the negotiations.  On Mar. 23, 2005, Iran submitted to the EU Troika” a plan of “objective guarantees” with the following elements:

(1) Spent reactor fuels would not be reprocessed by Iran.

(2) Iran would forego plutonium production through a heavy water reactor.

(3) Only low-enriched uranium would be produced.

(4) A limit would be imposed on the enrichment level.

(5) A limit would be imposed on the amount of enrichment, restricting it to what was needed for Iran’s reactors.

(6) All the low-enriched uranium would be converted immediately to fuel rods for use in reactors (fuel rods cannot be further enriched).

(7) The number of centrifuges in Natanz would be limited, at least at the beginning.

(8) The IAEA would have permanent on-site presence at all the facilities for uranium conversion and enrichment.

In early August 2005, the EU Troika” submitted the “Framework for a Long-Term Agreement” to Iran, recognising Iran’s right to develop infrastructure for peaceful use of nuclear energy, and promised collaboration with Iran. However, as the result of extreme U.S. pressure, the EU Troika was unable to respond to Iran’s call for nuclear collaboration, and subsequently Iran withdrew its offer and resumed enrichment.

The rebuff by the West to President Khatami’s outstretched hand resulted in the weakening of the Reformist Movement and the election of hardline candidate Mahmud Ahmadinezhad as the next president of Iran in June 2005. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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