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Spotlight on Iran Week Update July 14, 2011

Written by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

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Iranian reservations over Russia’s “step-by-step” program for resumption of nuclear talks 

The “step-by-step” program for the resumption of nuclear talks between Iran and the West, brought up last week by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a visit to Washington, was met with reservations from Iran. According to the Russian proposal, Iran will take steps to address the questions brought up by the IAEA, and be rewarded for each step along the way by the gradual removal of the sanctions imposed on it.

So far Iran has issued no official response to the proposal. However, Majles National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Ala’eddin Boroujerdi said that the proposal would send the talks back to square one, as Iran has already answered all questions about its nuclear program. Majles member Mohammad Karami-Rad also had reservations about the Russian proposal, saying that Iran is unwilling to accept new conditions for the resumption of the talks. 

Tabnak, a website affiliated with the pragmatic conservative bloc, also voiced reservations concerning the Russian proposal. An editorial published by the website said that the Russian proposal fails to entertain the possibility that, once again, Iran’s answers may not satisfy the West. The website warned that, in that case, Russia may join the West in tightening sanctions against Iran, and that the proposal is designed to set the stage for building a global consensus against it.

The website suggested that the Iranian administration, including the Foreign Ministry, the Supreme National Security Council, and the Majles National Security and Foreign Policy Council, hold talks with the Russian administration to obtain more information about the proposal, which would make it possible to safeguard Iran’s national interests.

Revolutionary Guards weekly issues warning to Turkey: if forced to choose, Iran will prefer Syria over Turkey

Sobh-e Sadegh, a weekly published on behalf of the Revolutionary Guards, warned Turkey that, if its current hostile stance towards Syria persists, Iran will be forced to follow its strategic interests and ideology and prefer Syria over Turkey. Turkey must understand Iran’s position, act wisely, and not lead Iran to a point where it has to choose between the two countries.

On the backdrop of the Turkish foreign minister’s visit to Iran last week, the weekly criticized Turkey’s stance on the developments in Syria, to which it referred as a Western plot. The weekly accused Turkey of siding with the U.S. and providing assistance to Syrian dissidents through the Syria-Turkey border.

Meanwhile, the reformist daily E’temad called on the government of Iran to take a more proactive approach to solving the crisis in Syria. An editorial published by the daily said that, considering the popularity Iran enjoys with the government of Syria, it can play a constructive mediating role to resolve the crisis. Iran has to help align the demands of the dissidents with the Syrian government, offering them a way to break out of the dead end and put an end to violence.

Majles Research Center warns about NATO’s new strategy and its consequences for Iran

Last weekend the Majles Research Center published a report warning about the new strategy adopted by NATO in recent years and its consequences for Iran’s national security.

Among other things, the report argues that the deployment of the NATO missile protection system in Turkey poses a serious threat to Iran’s security. The report further warns about the organization’s growing political and economic influence near Iranian borders, its increasing cooperation with Persian Gulf states, and its intensified efforts in cyber warfare.

The Majles Research Center recommends that Iran’s policy-makers step up cooperation with the countries in the region, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan, take action to balance NATO’s growing influence in the region, and take the necessary measures to improve Iran’s preparedness for the cyber threats it is facing.

Preparations begin for launch of monetary reform and drop of zeroes from national currency

Last weekend Iran’s Central Bank launched a new website to assist Iranians through the monetary reform process approved by the government last week, in which four zeroes will be dropped from the national currency (rial).

According to the Central Bank’s announcement, the website aims to provide economists, the media, and the Iranian people with accurate information about the reform, answer questions on the issue, conduct public opinion polls regarding the reform, host discussion forums, and publish opinions and studies about the program. Last weekend Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani estimated that the reform will take at least three years to complete.

The government’s decision reignited the debate between the reform’s supporters and critics. According to supporters of the reform, dropping the zeroes will help curb inflation, as was the case in other countries, like Turkey, that implemented similar measures. Opponents of the program claim, however, that the reform will have no real effect if there is no change in the government’s economic policy, and that curbing inflation is a necessary prerequisite for implementing the currency reform.

The economic daily Donya-ye Eqtesad (World of Economy) warned this week that the authorities may focus their efforts on implementing the national currency reform instead of addressing the major economic problems facing Iran. Top economist Sa’id Laylaz also said that dropping the zeroes will have no significant effect on the Iranian economy under its current conditions. While inflation is rising, the government is increasing its involvement in economy, and the country is facing financial difficulties stemming from the subsidy policy reform, a currency reform has no value, and focusing on its implementation may shift attention from the major problems of the economy, including inflation, halt of economic growth, decline of investments in manufacturing, effects of the economic sanctions, rise of the unemployment rate, “brain drain”, and decrease in petroleum production and exports.

Divorce crisis in Iran: strange reasons for divorce

The divorce rate among Iranian couples is climbing in recent years, and some of the stranger reasons that drove Iranians to the divorce courts this past year were reported this week by the Fararu website. The cases covered by the website include a woman who found out that her husband of five years had been concealing the fact that his right leg was shorter than his left, a man claiming that his wife’s behavior changed after she began working as a taxi driver and that she even started beating him, a woman seeking divorce as she was no longer willing to have lunch with her mother-in-law every day, a woman who wanted to divorce her husband as he was spending all his time watching soccer matches, and a man seeking simultaneous divorce from his three wives: two could not conceive, and the third gave birth to a blind baby and suffered a severe illness.

The institution of marriage in the Islamic republic is facing a severe crisis in recent years, reflected in a considerable rise in the age of marriage and significant increase in the divorce rate.

Iranian reservations over Russia’s “step-by-step” program for resumption of nuclear talks

The “step-by-step” program for the resumption of nuclear talks between Iran and the West, brought up last week by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a visit to Washington, was met with reservations from Iran. According to the Russian proposal, Iran will address step by step the questions brought up by the IAEA, and be rewarded along the way by the gradual removal of the sanctions imposed on it. According to the proposal, Iran will first be required to address “easy” questions, followed by ones that are more “difficult”.

So far Iran has issued no official response to the proposal. At his weekly press conference, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that Iran has yet to receive the Russian proposal, and that it will examine it once the proposal has been received (Mehr, July 19). However, Majles National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Ala’eddin Boroujerdi said that the Russian proposal would send the talks back to square one, as Iran has already answered all questions about its nuclear program. He had praise for Russia’s positive approach and its attempt to remove the obstacles supposedly placed by the West with regard to the nuclear program, but argued that the proposal does not constitute a proper solution. He suggested that Western countries go back to the answers already provided by Iran to questions on its nuclear program to “refresh their memory” about the fact that its nuclear program is designed for peaceful needs (Press TV, July 16).

 

Majles member Mohammad Karami-Rad also had reservations about the Russian proposal, saying that Iran is unwilling to accept new conditions for the resumption of the talks. He said that Russia is trying to ease the way for the advancement of Western interests by resuming the nuclear negotiations with Iran (Press TV, July 16).

Tabnak, a website affiliated with the pragmatic conservative bloc, also voiced reservations concerning the Russian proposal. An editorial published by the website said that the Russian proposal fails to entertain the possibility that, once again, Iran’s answers may not satisfy the West. The website warned that, in that case, Russia may join the West in tightening sanctions against Iran, and that the proposal is designed to set the stage for building a global consensus against it. The website warned that if, for instance, Iran answers 8 of 10 questions to the satisfaction of the West, it is not unlikely that the two remaining questions will be used to impose additional sanctions against it.

It is not clear, the article said, whether the Russian proposal is also designed with Iran’s interests in mind, or is it aimed to play a part in the global power struggle or Russia’s domestic political power struggles. As long as the precise details of the proposal have not been made clear, it cannot be given serious consideration.

The website suggested that the Iranian administration, including the Foreign Ministry, the Supreme National Security Council, and the Majles National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, hold talks with the Russian administration to obtain more information about the proposal, which would make it possible to safeguard Iran’s national interests (Tabnak, July 16).

The conservative daily Mellat-e Ma claimed that the Russian proposal was made when it became clear that the international sanctions against Iran failed, and also in light of the developments in the Arab world, which turned the Iranian nuclear program into an issue of secondary importance on the international agenda. According to the daily, Iran’s determination to continue with its nuclear program and its resistance to the international sanctions are cause for concern in the West, particularly in the U.S. The West is therefore trying to pose repeated questions on the nuclear program by bringing up the Russian proposal.

The daily warned that the Russian proposal may reawaken the international PR atmosphere against Iran, and reposition the Iranian nuclear program on the international agenda. Iran’s diplomacy with regard to this issue must therefore be cautious, ensuring that if talks are held on the Russian proposal, they are based on recognition of Iran’s rights and national interests (www.mellatonline.ir, July 18).

Revolutionary Guards weekly issues warning to Turkey: if forced to choose, Iran will prefer Syria over Turkey

Sobh-e Sadegh, a weekly published on behalf of the Revolutionary Guards, warned Turkey that, if its current hostile stance towards Syria persists, Iran will be forced to prefer Syria over Turkey.

On the backdrop of the Turkish foreign minister’s visit to Iran last week, the weekly criticized Turkey’s stance on the developments in Syria, to which it referred as a Western plot against the Syrian government. The weekly accused Turkey of siding with the U.S. and providing assistance to Syrian dissidents through the Syria-Turkey border. The weekly argued that Turkey’s position results from its erroneous assessment that Bashar Assad’s regime is likely to fall, in which case it may improve its regional position.

The Revolutionary Guards periodical pointed out a significant difference between Syria and the other Arab countries where riots broke out this year. Unlike Arab countries whose popular protests were internal and resulted from a long-standing policy of oppression exercised by the regimes against the people, the riots in Syria broke out as a result of foreign involvement stemming from the anger felt by the U.S., Western countries, and some Arab countries towards Syria for its support of the resistance front. These countries assumed that, by toppling the Bashar Assad regime, supported by the Syrian public, they could compensate themselves for some of the losses suffered as a result of the riots in the Arab world.

From Iran’s point of view, the Syrian government is able to overcome the challenge it is facing and resolve its problems only once foreign involvement in its internal affairs stops. The world is well aware of the relations between Iran and Syria, and Iran should not conceal them. The developments in Syria are directly tied to Iran’s interests, the weekly argued.

If Turkey’s current hostile stance towards the events in Syria persists, Iran will be forced to choose between Turkey and Syria, Sobh-e Sadegh said. In that case, Iran will likely follow its strategic interests and ideology and prefer Syria over Turkey. Turkey must understand Iran’s position, act wisely, and not lead Iran to a point where it has to choose between the two countries (Sobh-e Sadegh, July 18).

Last week Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi addressed the differences of opinion between Iran and Turkey over the crisis in Syria, saying that the three countries need to work together to resolve it. Speaking at a joint press conference with the Turkish foreign minister, Salehi said that Syria, Turkey, and Iran are one family, and that if one of them has a problem, the entire family must work together to find a solution (Tehran Times, July 12). In an interview to Fars News Agency, Salehi had praise for the measures taken by President Assad and the Syrian government to fulfill the demands of the Syrian people. He condemned the foreign intervention in Syria’s domestic affairs, while also calling on the government of Syria to address the demands of its people (Fars, July 17).

Meanwhile, the reformist daily E’temad called on the government of Iran to increase its involvement in solving the crisis in Syria. An editorial published by the daily said that Iran has to take a more proactive approach to the Syrian issue. Considering the popularity Iran enjoys with the government of Syria, it can play a constructive mediating role to resolve the crisis. Iranian diplomats should condemn the violence employed by both sides, which can make a political solution impossible. In addition, the Iranian government must strongly condemn the Western involvement in Syria’s affairs, which not only won’t help resolve the crisis, but exacerbate it further. Iran has to help align the demands of the dissidents with the Syrian government, offering them a way to break out of the dead end and put an end to violence (E’temad, July 18).

Majles Research Center warns about NATO’s new strategy and its consequences for Iran

Last weekend the Majles Research Center published a report warning about the new strategy adopted by NATO in recent years and its consequences for Iran’s national security. The report goes into considerable detail about the various components of “NATO’s new strategy” and its effect on the security of the Islamic republic. In addition, the report includes recommendations aimed to help Iran better contend with NATO’s growing involvement near its borders.

The report covers six main aspects of NATO’s new strategy and its consequences for Iran:

1. The organization’s strategy on long-range missiles and nuclear weapons. The authors of the report note that NATO considers Iran’s nuclear program a threat to be addressed, arguing that the deployment of NATO’s missile protection system in Turkey and near Iran’s borders must be considered a serious threat to its security. The report discusses the increasing cooperation between NATO, the Persian Gulf states, and Russia to keep Iran in check with its nuclear program, a trend which, according to the authors, poses a challenge to Tehran.

2. The report discusses NATO’s growing presence on the political and economic scenes, which has consequences of its own for Iran’s security. The authors of the report specifically mention NATO’s presence in Afghanistan, arguing that the training of Afghan forces by NATO may entrench the organization’s influence near the borders of Iran even after the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan, scheduled for 2014. The Majles Research Center suggests taking diplomatic measures and stepping up Iran’s cooperation with the countries in the region, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan, where NATO forces are stationed, to balance the organization’s growing influence. The authors of the report also suggest using PR and public diplomacy to expose “the true objectives” of the organization’s presence in the region.

3. The report warns about NATO’s efforts to expand its cooperation with the neighbors of Iran. According to the assessment of the Majles Research Center, the internal instability in pro-Western Arab countries may further deepen their relations with NATO, and Iran has to take action to prevent NATO from attaining its political objectives in the region.

4. The report discusses the U.S.’ pursuit of protecting its strategic energy interests through NATO’s military presence in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. This presence, designed to serve U.S. interests, also poses a threat to Iran, which strives to have the security of the Persian Gulf be based on the countries of the region, without foreign involvement.

5. The report warns about the increasing cooperation between NATO and Persian Gulf states in such diverse fields as intelligence and technology exchange and military training. Iran has to further develop its ties with these countries and try to increase the cost of NATO’s presence in the region.

6. Another field addressed in the report is NATO’s growing cyber efforts. The report indicates that NATO’s cyber activities are on the rise, as are its efforts in cyber defense. The Majles Research Center suggests taking the necessary measures to increase Iran’s cyber presence and improve its ability to defend itself against such threats (Majles website, July 15).

Preparations begin for launch of monetary reform and drop of zeroes from national currency

Last weekend Iran’s Central Bank launched a new website to assist Iranians through the monetary reform process approved by the government last week, in which four zeroes will be dropped from the national currency (rial).

According to the Central Bank’s announcement, the website (reform.cbi.ir) aims to provide economists, the media, and the Iranian people with accurate information about the reform, answer questions on the issue, conduct public opinion polls regarding the reform, host discussion forums, and publish opinions and studies about the program. This week the Central Bank launched a public opinion poll among the website users, one of whose objectives was to suggest a name for the new currency. Of the four suggested options (“toman”, “rial”, “parsi”, and “darik”), “parsi” currently ranks number one among the website users polled so far.

According to a special announcement released by the Central Bank, in the past two years its experts examined the various aspects of the reform and submitted their conclusions to the government ahead of the session where the reform was approved. One of the issues brought up during the government session was the need to provide the public with the necessary information about the reform, whose implementation is the responsibility of the Central Bank deputy governor for economic affairs. The deputy governor heads a special think tank that has held weekly meetings these past several months to discuss the various aspects pertaining to the implementation of the plan (Central Bank website, www.cbi.ir, July 13).

Last week the government made a final decision to drop four zeroes from the national currency. The decision still requires the approval of the Majles. Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani estimated that the reform will take at least three years to complete (Fars, July 11).

The plan to drop zeroes from the local currency was brought up several years ago as part of the efforts to deal with the inflation crisis, which severely devalued the Iranian currency and forced the Central Bank to print 50,000 and 100,000-rial banknotes. In August 2008 the government established a special committee to investigate the consequences of a monetary reform where three or four zeroes would be dropped from the local currency.

According to supporters of the reform, dropping the zeroes will help curb inflation, as was the case in other countries, like Turkey, that implemented similar measures. Opponents of the program claim, however, that the reform will have no real effect if there is no change in the government’s economic policy, and that curbing inflation is a necessary prerequisite for implementing the currency reform.

The economic daily Donya-ye Eqtesad (World of Economy) warned this week that the authorities may focus their efforts on implementing the national currency reform at the expense of the major economic problems facing Iran. An editorial published by the daily said that the plan to drop four zeroes form the local currency must not be allowed to become the top economic priority, as it won’t provide a solution to the major problems facing the economy as a result of the subsidy policy reform and the economic sanctions imposed on Iran. By giving too much attention to the monetary reform, the government, Majles members, media, and economic experts may find themselves neglecting the key challenges facing the Iranian economy, further escalating the inflation crisis, the daily said (Donya-ye Eqtesad, July 16).

Top economist Sa’id Laylaz also said that dropping the zeroes will have no significant effect on the Iranian economy under its current conditions. The objectives of the reform can be attained only after inflation has been curbed and economic liberalization has been achieved. While Iran’s inflation is rising, the government is increasing its involvement in economy, and the country is facing financial difficulties stemming from the subsidy policy reform, a currency reform has no value. Focusing on the implementation of the reform, which requires considerable resources and will likely have no significant effect, may shift attention from the real problems of the Iranian economy, including inflation, halt of economic growth, decline of investments in manufacturing, effects of the economic sanctions, rise of the unemployment rate, “brain drain”, and decrease in petroleum production and exports (Sharq, July 14).

Divorce crisis in Iran: strange reasons for divorce

The divorce rate among Iranian couples is climbing in recent years, and some of the stranger reasons that drove Iranians to the divorce courts this past year were reported this week by the Fararu website.

SOURCE: The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center opened in 2001. It is part of the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC) , an NGO dedicated to the memory of the fallen of the Israeli Intelligence Community and it is located near Gelilot , north of Tel Aviv. It is headed by (Col. Ret.) Dr. Reuven Erlich .

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