Eye on Iran: Iran's President Says New Sanctions Are Toughest Yet

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NYT: "Iran's president acknowledged on Tuesday that new sanctions imposed by Western powers were the most onerous ever but said they would have no impact on the Iranian position in a protracted dispute over its nuclear energy activities. The statement by the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was his first public appraisal of the new European and American sanctions, which are aimed at crippling Iran's oil industry. He spoke as Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps sought to punctuate defiance of Western pressure by test-firing missiles capable of hitting Israeli and American military bases in the Middle East. Clips of the missile launchings were broadcast on state television. 'The sanctions imposed on our country are the most severe and strictest sanctions ever imposed on a country,' Mr. Ahmadinejad said during a meeting with Intelligence Ministry officials in Tehran, reported by Iranian news services. 'But the enemies' assumption that they can put Iran in a weak position through these sanctions is false and is the result of their materialistic calculations.'" http://t.uani.com/Nax95y

Reuters: "Iran's daily oil exports in July could fall below half the average shipped in 2011 before tough new Western sanctions stemmed the flow. Japan and South Korea, among Iran's top oil buyers, have halted all Iranian imports this month due to sanctions imposed by Brussels on Sunday that aim to cut Iran's oil revenues and force Tehran to curb its disputed nuclear program. Exports in July will fall to a maximum of 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd), said an industry source familiar with Iran's monthly shipping plans who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter. Actual exports are likely to be less as top buyer China disputes freight costs with Iran's top tanker company, delaying the loading of cargoes set to flow east. India could also reduce its July loadings as Iran struggles to find tankers of the size Indian refiners require do to port constraints. India is Iran's second largest customer. Iran's exports have declined steadily this year from the 2.2 million bpd average in 2011 as its oil buyers cut imports to comply with U.S. and European Union sanctions." http://t.uani.com/NaIJxU

Reuters: "Iran has threatened to destroy U.S. military bases across the Middle East and target Israel within minutes of being attacked, Iranian media reported on Wednesday, as Revolutionary Guards extended test-firing of ballistic missiles into a third day. Israel has hinted it may attack Iran if diplomacy fails to secure a halt to its disputed nuclear energy program. The United States also has mooted military action as a last-resort option but has frequently nudged the Israelis to give time for intensified economic sanctions to work against Iran. 'These bases are all in range of our missiles, and the occupied lands (Israel) are also good targets for us,' Amir Ali Haji Zadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards aerospace division, was quoted by Fars news agency as saying. Haji Zadeh said 35 U.S. bases were within reach of Iran's ballistic missiles, the most advanced of which commanders have said could hit targets 2,000 km (1,300 miles) away." http://t.uani.com/NatmW4

UANI in the News

JPost: "In a move that could destabilize Beirut's financial position, a US pressure group urged international financial firms on Tuesday to ditch Lebanese debt and securities, saying that Hezbollah is using Lebanon's banks in a large scale money-laundering scheme that is also helping Iran evade banking sanctions. New York-based United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) made public the results of a three-month, confidential investigation into the influence of Iran and Hezbollah on Lebanon's banking system and its sovereign bond market. The group says Lebanon's financial system - including Banque du Liban, the country's central bank - is being used to funnel massive amounts of illicit cash from Hezbollah and its state sponsor, Iran. Lebanon's banks then use the laundered money to buy Lebanese sovereign debt, which has the effect of making the country appear far more financially stable than it actually is, UANI claims." http://t.uani.com/PiXsKL

Daily Star: "An anti-Iranian U.S. activist group is piling pressure on U.S. and European banks to dump their holding of Lebanese sovereign debt, describing Lebanon's banking sector as a front for Iranian money laundering in cooperation with Hezbollah. 'As a result of the actions and omissions of BDL [Lebanon's Central Bank] and the LBS [Lebanese banking system], Lebanon has become a sovereign money laundering jurisdiction that receives massive inflows of illicit deposits ... from Hezbollah's terror and criminal activities, and the illicit symbiotic relationships among Iran, Syria and Hezbollah,' said a press release issued Tuesday by the New York-based group United against Nuclear Iran. The press release was quoting a May 28 letter by UANI CEO Mark D. Wallace to Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh. UANI argued that despite Lebanon's 'great risk of sovereign default' due to its high debt to GDP ratio, Lebanese sovereign bonds showed 'irrational strength' that corresponds with increased pressure against Iran... However, the secretary-general of the Association of Banks in Lebanon told The Daily Star Tuesday that the U.S. Treasury and American financial authorities did not produce any evidence that the Lebanese banking sector was involved with money laundering activities or terrorist funding." http://t.uani.com/LVU3Ki

Nuclear Program  & Sanctions

WSJ:"The European Union said it will hold further talks with Iran on the country's nuclear program, following a one-day technical-level meeting between the international community and Tehran in Istanbul. No date has been set yet for the talks, which will be between Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri, and his EU counterpart, Helga Schmid, the EU said Wednesday. An EU official said they expect a time to be agreed in the coming days. At Tuesday's Istanbul talks, the two sides shared details of their proposals for resolving the nuclear standoff, 'and the experts explored positions on a number of technical subjects,' EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement. The Istanbul meeting, which ran into Wednesday's early hours, had been called after high-level talks in Moscow last month between Iran and the P5+1-the U.S., the U.K., France, China, Russia and Germany-failed to produce a breakthrough. At the time, Western officials said insufficient progress had been made for setting up a fourth round of top-level negotiations between Ms. Ashton and Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili. That didn't change after Tuesday's negotiations." http://t.uani.com/MY7fQD

NYT: "The hulking tanker Neptune was floating aimlessly this week in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf, a fresh coat of black paint barely concealing its true identity as an Iranian ship loaded with hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil that no one is willing to buy. The ship's real name was Iran Astaneh, and it was part of a fleet of about 65 Iranian tankers serving as floating storage facilities for Iranian oil, each one given a nautical makeover to conceal its origin and make a buyer easier to find. The Neptune had been floating there for a month, and local fishermen said there were two even larger tankers anchored nearby. Iran, faced with increasingly stringent economic sanctions imposed by the international community to force it to abandon any ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, has been reluctant to reduce its oil production, fearing that doing so could damage its wells. But Iran has insufficient space to store the crude it cannot sell. So while it furiously works to build storage capacity on shore, it has turned to mothballing at sea." http://t.uani.com/LVNwzf

Reuters: "Japan will not import any Iranian crude in July as buyers held back to avoid any risk of running foul of EU sanctions targeting insurance, which have severely disrupted the OPEC member's supplies, industry and government sources said on Wednesday. Japan will join South Korea among top Asian buyers in halting all Iranian imports this month due to sanctions imposed by Brussels on Sunday that aim to cut Iran's oil revenues and force Tehran to curb its nuclear program. The measure will cost Iran dearly in July, as Japan and South Korea imported a combined 256,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iran's crude in May, worth over $750 million at current oil prices. 'We're aware there will be no imports in July,' said a Japanese government official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. China, Iran's top oil buyer, is also likely to see reduced imports in July as it bickers with Iran's top shipping company over freight costs." http://t.uani.com/LR6nQk

WSJ: "After months of talks with the US and European Union about the impact of sanctions targeted at Tehran on shipments of oil to South Korea from Iran, Seoul halted those imports on July 1. Sorry, we should say that oil imports from Iran 'came to a halt.' The difference is important for the South Korean government, which is now engaged in an awkward dance as it considers its options to cover the shortfall. Unlike its equally energy hungry neighbor Japan, South Korea can't afford state guarantees on shipments of oil from Iran to replace the now-banned European insurance cover on Korean shipments of oil from Iran. With few options to cheaply substitute Iranian crude, one possibility is a resumption of crude imports from Iran, but on Iranian ships. Tehran has reportedly offered its own ships to several countries for oil imports." http://t.uani.com/MY0Wwm

Reuters: "Kenya is cancelling an agreement to import 4 million tonnes of Iranian crude oil per year because of international sanctions against Iran, its top energy official said on Wednesday. The news earlier this week that Kenya would turn to Iran for up to 80,000 barrels of oil per day surprised Western powers. Kenya is a key strategic ally in the U.S.-led fight against militant Islam in east Africa. The deal, signed last month, came at a time that Western powers are increasing pressure on Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme." http://t.uani.com/LR6KdD

Reuters: "Tanzania is looking into U.S. accusations it has reflagged oil tankers from Iran and would strip the vessels of the east African country's flag if that proved to be the case, the foreign minister said on Thursday. Howard Berman, the ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, has accused Tanzania of reflagging at least six and possibly as many at 10 tankers, saying it was helping Iran evade U.S. and European Union sanctions aimed at pressuring Tehran to curb its nuclear programme. He said Tanzania could face U.S. sanctions for the practice. 'If it is confirmed that the ships flying Tanzania's flag are indeed from Iran, we will take steps to deliberately obliterate the registration,' Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Membe told reporters." http://t.uani.com/MXWMon

Reuters: "The United States said on Wednesday it was reviewing a U.N. agency's dealings with sanctioned countries such as Iran after documents showed the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) had supplied IT equipment to the Islamic Republic. The Geneva-based WIPO, a 185-member body that includes Iran, sent IT equipment to Iranian authorities, according to correspondence between WIPO and the Iranian agency dealing with intellectual property, dated August 2010 and provided to Reuters by a source close to WIPO... 'We have made several inquiries to the WIPO Secretariat and requested any related documentation. We have received several project documents and are in the process of reviewing them,' said David Kennedy, spokesman for the U.S. Mission in Geneva." http://t.uani.com/L2o4gs
 
WSJ: "A private Iranian company Wednesday offered to take over a French refinery to avoid its shut down, according to a person familiar with the matter, potentially placing authorities in Paris in a dilemma over their economic agenda and desire to pressure Tehran over its nuclear program. That the refinery bid is even possible underscores the complexity of the web of trade restrictions imposed on Iran. But it could face numerous operational challenges that illustrate the difficulty closely held Iranian companies have doing international business amid a sanctions regime, a legal expert said. An official at Iranian oil and gas contractor Tadbir Energy Development Group confirmed that the company had sent a letter outlining its intention to bid for the Petit-Couronne refinery, which serves the Paris area and refines about 10% of France's fuel requirements. 'We sent a letter...to buy Petit-Couronne,' the official said." http://t.uani.com/LzG1Qa

Reuters: "The Swiss government said on Thursday it would widen sanctions against Iran but would not implement a European Union ban on trading Iranian oil because of 'foreign policy reasons'. An EU ban on the importation, purchase or shipping of Iranian oil was rolled out on 1 July in an effort to pressure the Islamic Republic over its disputed nuclear programme. The new Swiss sanctions, which come into force on Friday, will affect supplies for the petrochemical industry, telecommunications equipment as well as the purchase and sale of precious metals and diamonds, the non-EU country said in a statement." http://t.uani.com/KVDiix

Human Rights

CNN: "A prominent Iranian literary translator is missing, just weeks after being released from Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, a source close to him said Monday. The individual said Mohammad Soleimani Nia, 40, hasn't been seen since he responded to a call from authorities last Wednesday to retrieve personal belongings that had been confiscated. He was to pick up items, including his driver's license, computer and passport at an office near Evin Prison." http://t.uani.com/M7iV2M

Foreign Affairs

AP: "Iran's state TV charged Wednesday that the BBC hacked its website to change the results of a poll about Iran's nuclear program. The BBC denied the allegation... The British broadcaster's Farsi language service reported that the poll showed 63 percent of those who took part favored halting uranium enrichment in exchange for an end to Western economic sanctions. The TV report Wednesday said the actual figure was 24 percent, and the rest favored retaliation against the West with measures like closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a key to exporting oil from the Gulf. In a statement, the BBC said the claims were 'both ludicrous and completely false, and the BBC Persian Service stands by its reporting.'" http://t.uani.com/OtMYFQ

Opinion & Analysis

Yassamin Issapour in WSJ: "Europe and the U.S. may be in grim economic straits, but the Islamic Republic of Iran is doing just fine-at least if Iran's leaders are to be believed. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has insisted relentlessly that his country's economy is healthy, while Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has christened the current Iranian calendar year as the 'Year of Domestic Production and Support for Iranian Capital and Labor.' The truth, of course, is very different. Iran's economy faces rising inflation and a significant depreciation of the rial due to tightening international sanctions. Against this backdrop, it is only natural for Iran's leaders to seek to reassure distressed citizens. But after the failure of negotiations over its nuclear program in mid-June, Iran is now weathering a new round of U.S. and EU sanctions, which kicked in July 1. Nobody knows for sure to what extent this pressure will be effective against Iran, a country tremendously rich in natural resources. With the planet's third largest oil reserves and second largest natural gas reserves, Iran's economic fortunes should be bright. Regime officials are positioning their country as a major energy hub for the Middle East, inking new deals in recent months with Syria, Iraq and Pakistan. But it is already apparent that sanctions have had a real effect on Iran's economic health. Statistics issued by Iran's central bank show inflation at 21%, but with the cost of staple goods rising by leaps and bounds, the actual experience of inflation is bound to be graver. The price of bread increased by 40% in the month of June alone, causing a nationwide outcry. The price of chicken and vegetables increased by 3.7% and 10% in a period of just two weeks last month. Iranian households now have to pay on average half of their monthly salaries just to keep food on the table. These trends also come at a political cost for the regime. Members of Iran's embattled working class could well breathe new life into Iran's moribund opposition. This force, colloquially known as the 'Green Movement,' coalesced in mid-2009 but was successfully beaten back in ensuing months by regime forces. Back then, the Green Movement lacked the support of Iran's working class, which is mostly comprised of government employees who strongly support the regime as their source of livelihood. But today, government policies are leaving Iran's workers behind. In its most recent appraisal of state salaries, the Iranian government chose to raise wages for state employees by 15%, significantly less than the national rate of inflation." http://t.uani.com/M7ic1p

Amir Taheri in the NYPost: "'The Missiles of the Prophet': That's the code-name chosen by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its latest naval exercises, which started Monday in the Strait of Hormuz. The show of force is designed to coincide with the start in Istanbul of a new set of talks on Iran's nuclear program, where Tehran faces the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. The rendezvous was fixed last month, after Iran and the 'sextet' failed to find any 'substantive common ground' in high-level talks in Moscow. Rather than admit failure, the two sides agreed to have 'technical experts' meet in Istanbul. But what are these talks about? Tehran claims that the aim is to 'agree on the technical modalities' of further talks, perhaps at a higher level, to 'dispel misunderstandings' about Iran's nuclear ambitions. Once these 'technical' talks are over, a date can be set for another meeting at the political level, perhaps in September. It must be clear to anyone who has followed all this that Iran is acting in accordance with a famous Persian proverb: Leading the horse to water and bringing it back thirsty. That is, Tehran will only make time-consuming gestures toward letting the 'horse' drink - but will never actually agree to stop the core of its nuclear program, which consists of enriching as much uranium as it can at higher and higher levels. Three years ago, Iran had a few kilograms of low-grade enriched uranium. Today, it has several tons of uranium enriched to about 20 percent. The regime has also embarked on a vast program of building 'protected sites' for its nuclear program, deep in mountains and designed to withstand air attacks. One site, at Fordo, is already operational; completion of five more is expected within the next two years. As always, Tehran wants to buy time. And everyone knows it - well, everyone except (perhaps) Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign-policy czarina and leader of the 'sextet.' Tehran's calculation is that the talks would make it politically difficult for Israel to contemplate military action against Iranian nuclear sites. After all, the mantra of 'give negotiations a chance' has many supporters, even within the Israeli leadership." http://t.uani.com/Pj8uQf