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Wed, Apr 23, 2014

 
  Caspian Foreign Ministers Meet in Moscow

MOSCOW (Dispatches) – Iran's Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday any non-littoral military presence in the Caspian region is inadmissible.
At a ministerial conference of the five Caspian littoral countries, Zarif described the major prerequisites for guaranteeing peace and stability in the region.
"Maintaining the Caspian Sea as a water area of peace and stability, refraining from the arms race, giving up the use of force and the inadmissibility of non-littoral military presence are the main conditions to ensure peace and stability in the region," he said.
"Security will facilitate economic prosperity," he added.
Zarif also said he was satisfied with the signing of an agreement on security in the region.
"We would like to reach mutual understanding on ways of military construction and cooperation (in the region). Unfortunately, certain non-regional players consider the Caspian Sea as the only source of oil and gas and forget about the environment," he said.
Zarif further said Iran believes it is necessary to take steps that would meet multilateral long-term and joint interests.
The foreign minister said a new status of the Caspian Sea must meet the needs and expectations of people in littoral countries.
“Iran believes that negotiations on the working out of the legal status of the Caspian should be completed as soon as possible,” he stressed.
“It is necessary to work out a comprehensive legal status, based on the international law principles and norms, five-sided consensus and exclusively for the five littoral states, their sovereign rights and jurisdiction in this sea,” Zarif said.
The Caspian littoral countries are made up of Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
Zarif arrived in Russian capital city Monday night at the top of a delegation to attend the meeting of Caspian foreign ministers. During his two-day visit, the Iranian top diplomat was scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the conference.
Upon his arrival at the Vnukovo Airport, Zarif said he would discuss the situation in the Caspian Sea and several other topics related to it. “We are preparing for a summit to be held in the Russian Federation, in the autumn, and we will hold bilateral meetings, and I’m looking forward to meeting my friend and colleague Sergei Lavrov.”
“We have discussed several issues together, and we are in constant consultations on various topics among which are the Iranian nuclear program, the region’s issues more specifically the tragic situation in Syria, in addition to Afghanistan which is an important issue for both of us.”
About developments in the Syrian crisis, Zarif said, “We are discussing the Syrian issue with Russia and we are coordinating our positions, and it became clear to the international community that the principled positions taken by countries such as Iran and Russia have proven its propriety.”
“We also proved that we have taken the most realistic positions, and really hope that others join us, to preserve peace and stability and fight terrorism and extremism in Syria and the Middle East.”

'No Insurmountable Barriers'

Zarif also said ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers face no “insurmountable barriers”.
In an essay for the journal Foreign Affairs, Zarif also said the occupying regime of Israel and its American supporters spearhead an “anti-Iran campaign” in an attempt to portray the Islamic Republic as a global “threat”.
Zarif said the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani seeks to “defeat the international anti-Iranian campaign, spearheaded by Israel and its American benefactors, who seek to ‘securitize’ Iran -- that is, to delegitimize the Islamic Republic by portraying it as a threat to the global order”.
“The main vehicle for this campaign is the ‘crisis’ over Iran’s peaceful nuclear program -- a crisis that, in Iran’s view, is wholly manufactured and therefore reversible,” wrote the Iranian foreign minister.
The administration of President Rouhani engaged in nuclear talks with the P5+1 group – the U.S. , Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – in an effort to foil the smear campaign launched against the country, added Zarif.
The top Iranian diplomat further emphasized that the Islamic Republic “has no interest in nuclear weapons and is convinced that such weapons would not enhance its security”.
“The ongoing negotiations over the nuclear issue face no insurmountable barriers. The only requirements are political will and good faith for the negotiators to ‘get to yes’ and achieve the objective established by the Joint Plan of Action,” stated the Iranian foreign minister.

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Oman Fights Saudi Hegemony With Pipeline


DUBAI (Dispatches) -- Oman’s plan to build a $1 billion natural-gas pipeline from Iran is the latest sign that Saudi Arabia is failing to bind its smaller Persian Gulf neighbors into a tighter bloc united in hostility to the Islamic Republic.
The accord was signed during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Oman last month, and marks the first such deal between Iran and a Persian Gulf Cooperation Council state in more than a decade. Oman is in good standing with the U.S. too: a $2.1 billion purchase of air-defense systems from Raytheon Inc. was announced during a visit by Secretary of State John Kerry last year.
Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves and population exceed the combined total of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council’s other five members, yet it has struggled to impose policy on its smaller neighbors. Some are uncomfortable with Saudi opposition to changes in the region including the U.S.-Iranian thaw and the rise of political Islam.
Oman faces Iran across the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important trade route for crude shipments.
A nation of 4 million with an $82 billion economy, it has opted out of the race among neighbors to build the tallest building, most luxurious resort or biggest mall. The capital, Muscat, is relatively free of skyscrapers and the shops in its souks, unlike in most Persian Gulf cities, are run by locals. Oman’s leader, Qaboos, was born in 1940 and there’s no heir apparent, since he has no brothers or children.
The PGCC has failed to make much progress with a proposed customs union and shared currency. After the Arab uprisings of 2011, though, Saudi Arabia promoted a more ambitious plan, urging its fellow monarchies to integrate their economic, foreign and security policies on the model of the European Union.
The prospect of détente between the U.S. and Iran, with an interim nuclear deal already in place and a permanent one under negotiation, has put Saudi Arabia, a longtime U.S. ally, on edge. President Barack Obama traveled to the kingdom last month to reassure King Abdullah that negotiations over Iran's nuclear program won’t undercut Saudi interests.
Gas from Iran may arrive as early as 2017, Oman’s Oil Minister Muhammad al-Rumhy said this month. Oman will pay for the pipeline, which will extend from the Iranian province of Hormuzgan to Sohar in Oman, and some of the gas may be re-exported to neighboring countries, his Iranian counterpart Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said in March. Oman already imports natural gas from Qatar.
If those predictions are fulfilled, the pipeline will be the first functioning one between Iran and the PGCC. An earlier project to bring Iranian gas to the United Arab Emirates broke down because Crescent Petroleum Co. and Iran couldn’t agree on prices, and the pipeline they built remains unused more than 10 years after the deal was signed.
The U.S., which imposes penalties for trade with Iran, hasn’t commented on Oman’s plan.
“The U.S. will understand Oman’s position,” said Abdullah Baabood, director of the Persian Gulf Studies Program at Qatar University. “It needs the gas and it’s not getting enough from its neighbors.”
While there are fewer sanctions on Iranian gas than oil, under the broadest interpretation “the building of a natural gas pipeline is sanctionable,” said Ramsey Jurdi, a compliance attorney at the Dubai office of law firm Chadbourne & Parke. “Oman at a national level might be doing what businesses are doing, which is to be first to market when sanctions are lifted.”
That may happen even before construction of the pipeline starts. After the latest round of talks in Vienna this month, Iran and world powers said they’re still on track for a final accord by July. Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif said in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine that the pace of talks “augurs well” for a deal by then.
Oman is well placed to benefit from Iran’s reintegration into the global economy, which would only strengthen the two nations’ historic ties. In 1973, before Iran’s revolution, the Shah sent troops and cash to help Qaboos quell an uprising in the province of Dhofar.
Unlike the Saudis, the Omanis don’t see Iran as a threat, which is one reason why Oman has shied away from Saudi Arabia’s plans for a Persian Gulf Union, according to Coline Schep, a London-based Middle East analyst at Control Risks.
When Nizar Bin Obeid Madani, Saudi Arabia’s state minister for foreign affairs, told a regional conference in December about the importance of Persian Gulf union, Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah asked for the microphone. He said Oman wants no part in it, according to Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, a UAE-based writer on Persian Gulf relations who witnessed the exchange.
Oman isn’t the only PGCC country that hasn’t adopted Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy. Qatar has refused to toe the Saudi line on another regional issue, supporting political Islamists including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after the 2011 revolts. Last month, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Doha, accusing Qatar of undermining regional security.
“Oman plays it a little more carefully than Qatar has done,” Schep said by telephone.


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India Doubles Iranian Oil Imports

NEW DELHI (Dispatches) -- India more than doubled its crude oil imports from Iran last month from a year ago as sanctions have eased on Tehran, official data show on Tuesday.
The figures indicated that India imported 387,000 barrels per day bpd) of oil from Iran in March.
The statistics also showed that crude shipments from Iran in the first quarter of 2014 rose about 43% from the same period last year.
India imported around 358,000 bpd of Iranian crude in the first quarter of this year.
India’s imports from Iran also registered a two-fold rise in January, surging to 412,000 bpd, up from around 189,000 bpd in December.
Iran’s January oil shipments to the Indian customer increased by 31% year on year.
India is among Asia’s major importers of energy, and relies on the Islamic Republic to meet a portion of its energy requirements.
Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister Mansour Moazzami said recently that Iran had raised its crude oil exports to 1.2 million bpd, up from 700,000 last year, as U.S.-led sanctions have relatively eased against Tehran due to a nuclear accord signed late last year.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said recently that Iran’s crude oil exports in February soared to 1.65 million barrels per day (bpd), the highest since the West imposed sanctions on Tehran in June 2012.
In its monthly report released on April 11, the IEA said Iran’s February oil exports were up 240,000 bpd month-on-month, a development stemming from Iran’s nuclear deal with six world powers.
Since 2012, the U.S. and Europe have sought to hamstring Iran's economy by limiting the amount of oil it can export.



***


'China Can Rely on Iran for Energy Needs'


TEHRAN (Press TV) -- Iran says it is ready to meet Chinese need for energy and welcomes Chinese investment in its development projects.
The remarks were made by Iran's Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayyeb-Nia in a meeting with Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei in Beijing. The two ministers underscored the importance of enhancing bilateral ties in various fields, especially in the economic area. Tayyeb-Nia further stressed that the development projects between the two countries should come on stream as soon as possible.


Iraq to Get Iranian Gas in Four Months

TEHRAN (Tasnim) — Iran will start supplying natural gas to Iraq within the next four months, Iran’s Gas Engineering and Development Company announced on Tuesday.
Work on the construction of Iranian part of a gas pipeline to Iraq has witnessed a 75% progress and the pipeline will become operational within the next four months, Alireza Gharibi, managing director of the company, announced. Some 80km of the 100-km-long gas pipeline to Iraq has been completed, he said.



****

West's Miscalculations About Iran

By: Seyed Muhammad Marandi*

Even though it was a major exporter of crude oil and held some of the world's largest natural gas reserves, Iran made a compelling case over half-a-century ago that it needed, almost immediately, to produce an additional 20,000 megawatts of electricity by constructing 23 nuclear power plants. At the same time, Iran's government made the case that the country needed to acquire the capacity to enrich uranium in order to fabricate the reactor fuel for such an ambitious program.
Western governments eagerly endorsed these arguments, praising Iran's then Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi's ambition to rapidly modernize Iran while overlooking the reality that he was presiding over a ruthless dictatorship and diverting much needed capital to purchase massive amounts of weapons from the U.S. and other Western countries. And so, during the 1960s and 1970s, billions of dollars were invested in establishing an Iranian nuclear program and training thousands of Iranian nuclear experts in the West - until Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution replaced the monarchy with an Islamic Republic.
After charging enormous sums of money to build the infrastructure for a comprehensive nuclear industry in Iran, Western companies pulled out of the country, leaving large numbers of highly qualified experts and scholars wondering about their fate. Iran's new political leaders recognized the importance of an advanced nuclear program to progress in fields such as medicine, agriculture, industry and energy; attempts were made to find foreign partners to complete the projects, but with little success. Progress in Iran's nuclear development only resumed after Iranians learned to rely on themselves and their own scientists to move the program forward.
The U.S., which had enthusiastically supported Iran's nuclear program under the Western-backed shah, had now become Tehran's leading antagonist, relentlessly threatening countries to refrain from cooperating with Iran. Not only were friendly countries coerced into steering clear of Iran's nuclear program, they were even warned not to invest in Iran's oil and gas industry.

The Nuclear Issue


The nuclear issue later became an excuse for the U.S., eventually joined by the EU, to impose "crippling sanctions" on Iran, in order to inflict severe pain on ordinary Iranians. Among other things, these sanctions led to a critical shortage of imported medicines in Iran. As a result, large numbers of children and cancer patients have died. This outcome calls to mind then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright's response to a question about the more than half-a-million Iraqi children who had died because of U.S.-instigated sanctions: "We think the price was worth it."
By now, the U.S. and its European allies have accrued abundant experience imposing suffering on ordinary Iranians. Before the revolution, they imposed and maintained a brutal monarchy in Iran. After the revolution, the U.S. gave refuge to the shah and his henchmen (which led to the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran) and confiscated Iranian assets.
During the 1980s, Washington supported then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's ruthless aggression against Iran. Not only did it assist the Iraqi dictator in producing chemical weapons and provide him with satellite photos so that his army could use them with greater precision against Iranian civilians as well as combatants, it even blocked the UN Security Council from identifying, condemning, or taking action against the perpetrator of these incredible crimes against humanity.
Following Saddam's massacre of 5,000 Iraqi Kurds in Halabja in 1988, the U.S. government - though aware of the facts - nonetheless attempted to attribute this atrocity to Iran. Thousands of Iranians continue to suffer and die today because of such barbarism - yet, despite all this, the Islamic republic has always refused to use or even to produce chemical or biological weapons.
Over the years, the West's acts of sustained violence against the Iranian people have steadily grown - downing a civilian airliner, destroying naval ships and oil installations, support for groups conducting terrorist strikes inside Iran, and carrying out cyber-attacks.
Despite these grievances, successive administrations in Iran have repeatedly indicated that, if the U.S. moves to recognize and respect the Islamic Republic as a sovereign and independent country, rapprochement would still be possible. Iranian officials have frequently stated that respecting Iran's rights, including its right to peaceful nuclear energy within the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is a prerequisite for normalized relations and would significantly decrease regional tensions.
To force Iranian capitulation, Western countries have, among other things, excluded Iran, with the world's second-largest proven reserves of natural gas, from the EU market, thus consolidating a Russian near-monopoly.
Many Iranians are convinced that their country's offers for reconciliation have been rejected by Washington and its Western partners because of Iran's opposition to apartheid in Palestine and the enormous influence of the Zionist lobby in the U.S. In turn, the Islamic Republic's determination to be a truly independent country motivates Western powers to seek to delegitimize it.
During former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration, Western governments and media outlets relentlessly attempted to depict the former president as a major threat to regional and global peace (paradoxically, when it suited the Western narrative, he was also portrayed as powerless). Following the 2009 Iranian presidential election, Western "experts" and policymakers cited unrest in Tehran (encouraged by Western-affiliated media outlets) to justify their refusal to come to terms with Ahmadinejad's victory and attempted to depict him and the Islamic Republic as illegitimate.
With the election of President Hassan Rouhani, the anti-Iranian lobby and Western propaganda machine faced a different situation. The new president was elected under the same electoral process used during the previous election and with a very high turnout. Hence, it became clear that Iranians continue to trust the polling procedures and ignored claims of illegitimacy and fraud.
Demonizing the new president has also become more difficult because of the sharp contrast between Rouhani's approach and rhetoric and that of Ahmadinejad's. The new president has been careful not to make statements that could be willfully mistranslated by Western media - a regular feature of their coverage of the former president.

'Heroic Flexibility'


Rouhani also took a more conciliatory approach towards the West, in order to provide an opportunity for the U.S. government to reconsider what Iranians believe to be is its historically emotional and irrational attitude towards the Islamic Republic.

To this end, the new Iranian administration initiated an approach that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called "heroic flexibility", to examine whether the Western members of the so called P5+1 (U.S., Russia, China, UK, France plus Germany) are serious about a mutually acceptable negotiated settlement. The initial result of this approach was the Joint Plan of Action concluded with regard to the nuclear issue in November 2013.
Despite the existence of an already intrusive IAEA inspection regime that has never revealed anything more than a peaceful civilian nuclear program, the Iranian government agreed to even further transparency going far beyond its international obligations. These and other goodwill gestures came at a price, as some Iranians began to raise questions about the degree of flexibility being shown.
Nevertheless, U.S. President Barack Obama and other senior U.S. officials continue to threaten Iran with military strikes and to refrain from explicitly acknowledging Iran's full nuclear rights. This has increased suspicions among Iranians that the U.S. still clings to a destructive, zero-sum worldview and that it believes it can somehow force Rouhani to sign away Iran's sovereign rights. This is a potentially dangerous misunderstanding of the Iranian president's position and could lead to disastrous Western miscalculations.
Regardless of their moral implications, Western policies in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, and Syria in recent years have already had devastating consequences for the U.S.' global strategic position. In this regard, the cases of Iran and Ukraine are particularly interesting examples of how the continuation of such policies by the U.S. and its partners can inflict even more damage on their standing and influence around the world.
To force Iranian capitulation, Western countries have, among other things, excluded Iran, with the world's second-largest proven reserves of natural gas, from the EU market, thus consolidating a Russian near-monopoly. And now that they wish to impose a Kiev-based coup regime on southern and eastern Ukraine, they have almost no cards to play. Ironically, crippling sanctions have started to cripple the tormentor.

Courtesy: Al Jazeera


*Seyed Muhammad Marandi is professor of North American Studies and dean of the Faculty of World Studies at the University of Tehran.