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Don’t Freak Out, But Iran Is Helping Venezuela Build Drones

English: Yuma, Ariz. (June 19, 2006) - An Unma...

Iran is planning to build drones for the Venezuelan military. Just so you know, it sounds worse than it is.

That’s according to Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, chief of U.S. forces in South America. According to Fraser, who spoke to reporters in Washington on Wednesday, the drones are to be manufactured in Venezuela with Iranian help and will likely be used for “internal defense.” The exact kind of drones isn’t clear. But the robots are probably too small to be armed.

“I would put it in the ScanEagle class of UAV,” Fraser told U.S. News & World Report’s military blog DOTMIL. “It’s not up into the Predator class.”

The ScanEagle is a small, unarmed, catapult-launched U.S. spy drone used by special operations forces. If Iran’s design for the drone’s speed and range are comparable, it’s highly, highly unlikely the flimsy robot could reach Miami from Venezuela to snap some pictures or take some video. Even allowing for the theoretical possibility that an aircraft built to loiter could max out its engine, top speeds and fuel supply for the 1,200-mile trip, it couldn’t go north of Florida, and it definitely couldn’t make it home.

In other words, don’t expect the skies above Sheboygan to fill up with Iranian killing machines under the order of Hugo Chavez. Assuming Venezuela could get them off the ground: Fraser said a fire recently broke out at the drone’s manufacturing plant, delaying its production. But think of it this way: an actual Iranian-Venezuelan drone factory exists, representing an upgrade in industrial cooperation from earlier joint projects like dairy plants and a tractor factory.


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Bibi’s Purim Message to Obama

English: The Book of Esther from the 13th or 1...

Book of Esther Tells of Iran Threat, But Big Gap Remains

By Nathan Guttman

Benjamin Netanyahu’s gift to Barack Obama summed up his message at their White House meeting Monday.

The Israeli Prime Minister gave the President a copy of the Book of Esther, which tells the story of the Jews fighting back against a genocidal plot by the ancient Persians.

Netanyahu sees the nuclear threat posed by modern-day Iran as no less existential to Israel, and the leaders’ two-hour meeting did little to bridge their differences on how to respond to this.

In their face-to-face meeting, according to officials involved, Obama stressed the need to give diplomacy a chance. His position reflected the U.S. stance that the time frame for any possible military action would be many months away.

Netanyahu, who didn’t mention diplomacy, emphasized Israel’s right to defend itself, reflecting a much shorter time line for acting militarily to eliminate the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

The U.S., according to a senior administration official, sees a time frame “more in the ballpark of a year than a month,” before Iran can acquire nuclear weapons; Israeli officials have spoken about a deadline of several months for stopping Iran.

Aides to Netanyahu said the Israeli leader provided Obama with a copy of the Book of Esther as a form of “background reading” on Iran.

The book, which is read during the holiday of Purim starting Wednesday, tells the story of an attempt in ancient Persia, the predecessor of modern day Iran, to kill off all the Jews within its empire. The plot was successfully overturned, ending in the mass killing of those who sought the demise of the Jewish people.

Israeli officials see this as a none-too-subtle hint of Netanyahu’s view of the broader situation. The Israeli prime minister believes that Iran’s ultimate goal is the destruction of the State of Israel and therefore sees special urgency in dealing with this threat.



Robert Levinson missing in Iran: FBI offers $1M

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) today announced a $1 million reward for “information leading directly to the safe location, recovery and return of Robert A. Levinson,” a retired FBI agent who went missing in Iran in 2007 and is suspected of being held captive there.

The FBI confirmed the move to GlobalPost as the group made the announcement to reporters in Washington.

The news comes just days ahead of the five-year anniversay of Levinson’s disappearancefrom Iran’s vacation spot, Kish Island, on March 9, 2007.

The former agent, whom US officials believe is still alive, is set to turn 64 years old this week.

The move is also part of a ratcheted-up public-relations offensive by the US on Levinson’s behalf, the NY Times reported the FBI as saying. The US

reportedly has plans for fresh radio broadcasts about him and billboards carrying his image throughout Afghanistan, Pakistan and other areas in southwest Asia.

The last contact Levinson’s family is believed to have had with their missing relative came in a 2010 video, in which he sits in a temporary prison pleading, “help me get home,” reported The Guardian.

Iran offers 80,000 bpd oil on deferred payment

Islamabad—In a welcoming development Iran has offered to supply 80,000 barrels of crude oil per day (BPD) to Pakistan on deferred payment along with credit line of $ 250 million for laying the portion of pipeline of IP gas project in Pakistan ’s territory.

Dr Asim Hussain told this to the media persons here on Tuesday. He said, Pakistan had asked for $ 500 million credit for materializing the IP project on time, but Iran facing economic sanctions by US has committed to give $ 250 million loan to complete the mega project.

The IP gas line project is scheduled to be operational by December 31, 2014.

The Special Assistant said that his ministry had sought opinion from central bank of Pakistan over the lucrative offer of Iran to provide 80,000 barrels of crude oil on three month deferred payment as the government wants foreign exchange forward cover by State Bank of Pakistan against the import of oil from Iran.

Meanwhile Iraq has also offered Pakistan crude oil supply on deferred payment and to this effect he may go to Iraq by mid of March to negotiate the import of oil.

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News has been dominated by the tragic and horrific stories of violence resulting from the burning of Korans by U.S. soldiers at a NATO air base in Afghanistan. As the military struggles to contain the fallout, a man here in America may be seeking to fan the flames. In the wake of the chaos, Florida-based fundamentalist Terry Jones is, again, threatening to burn Islamic holy books and images.

As you may recall, Jones first gained infamy when he called for copies of the Koran to be burned in response to the proposed Ground Zero mosque. He also attracted a small bit of attention when he announced his intent to run for the U.S. presidency.

Now, the fundamentalist pastor is stepping out, once more, and threatening to burn the holy book and pictures of the Prophet Muhammad if Iran continues its refusal to release Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. The Blaze has extensively covered Nadarkhani’s plight following his arrest on apostasy charges by Iranian authorities back in 2009.

Jones recorded a video that was uploaded to YouTube on Feb. 24. In it, he highlights his plans and makes overt threats to the Iranian regime.


Russia Upgrades Syrian Radars to Warn of U.S., Israeli Attack

Russia has modernized two radars in Syria and Lebanon that could threaten U.S. or Israel’s ability to launch a surprise attack against Syria and Iran, Israeli DEBKAfile portal said on Monday.

The range of the Jabal Al Harrah electronic and surveillance station south of Damascus has been increased to cover all parts of Israel and Jordan, the Gulf of Aqaba and northern Saudi Arabia.

The range of a Russian-equipped Syrian radar stationed on Lebanon’s Mount Sannine has also been extended, and the data-sharing capability of both radars has been improved.

As a result, the radars are now capable of tracking “U.S. and Israeli naval and aerial movements in the Eastern Mediterranean up to and including Cyprus and Greece.”

“Moscow decided to boost its radar tracking and surveillance reach for Iran’s benefit in response to a complaint from Tehran that it could not longer count on Russia for a real-time alert on an incoming U.S. or Israeli military strike, because those resources were stretched to the limit in support of the Assad regime,” DEBKAfile said citing its sources in the U.S. military.

Iran Mulls Payment for Russian Grain With Exotic Fruit, Cash

Iran (Persia) with Black, Caspian and Arabian ...

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Private companies in Russia and Iran are discussing grain shipments to the Middle East country, said Alexander Korbut, vice president of Russia’s Grain Union.

“It is hard to predict the end of these talks,” Korbut said Monday. Iran can pay in rubles to bypass European Union and U.S. currency restrictions and may send exotic fruits to Russia as partial payment, he said.

“I don’t have doubts that Iran can find rubles, once it wants to do that,” Korbut said.

Delivering grain to Iran may take two to three months after the talks end, according to Korbut. The Caspian Sea, the easiest route for the shipments, will be free of ice by then, he said.

Arkady Zlochevsky, the union’s president, said Feb. 22 that Russia might deliver 1 million metric tons of grains to Iran, consisting mostly of wheat. Actual shipments may depend on the size of Iranian cereal stockpiles, Korbut said Monday.


Israel inks $1.6 billion arms deal with Azerbaijan

English: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politician


JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli defense officials on Sunday confirmed $1.6 billion in deals to sell drones as well as anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan, bringing sophisticated Israeli technology to the doorstep of archenemy Iran.

In Jerusalem, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Iran’s nuclear program will take center stage in his upcoming talks with U.S. and Canadian leaders. Netanyahu is to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa on Friday and with President Barack Obama in Washington on Monday.

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Iran military official: Only burning White House can make up for burning Koran

President Barack Obama speaks at Cairo Univers...

Commander of Iran’s Basij force tell Fars news agency that Muslims worldwide should reject Obama’s apology following the burning of the holy Muslim text in a U.S. base in Afghanistan.

The Muslim world should not accept an apology issued by U.S. President Barack Obama over the burning of Korans in an American base in Afghanistan, a top Iranian military commander said on Saturday, adding that nothing short of “burning the White House can relieve the wound of us.”

According to White House spokesperson Jay Carney, while the apology was “wholly appropriate given the sensitivities” about treatment of the Koran, he said Obama’s primary concern was “the safety of American men and women in Afghanistan, of our military and civilian personnel there.”

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Pat Buchanan: America’s crusade under the banner of ending tyranny in the world is “utterly utopian”

America simply cannot afford to continue “to carry this enormous burden, defending 40 or 50 countries around the world”

“You cannot replicate the Middle West in the Middle East,”

” Getting rid of these bases essentially means dismantling the American Empire to help the US survive beyond 2025.

” 300 nukes in Israel yet Iran is a threat?”

Israel to deploy battery of rocket interceptors; Iran stages land military exercises

English: Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest metropolit...

By Al Arabiya with Agencies

The Israeli military will on Monday deploy a battery of rocket interceptors from its “Iron Dome” system in the Tel Aviv region, a military spokesman said on Sunday, as Iran began land military exercise to upgrade its capabilities to defend the country against possible external threats.

“Iron Dome is being incorporated into the heart of the Israeli military. As part of this process, the system is deployed in different sites and will be in the Gush Dan region (of Tel Aviv) in the coming days,” he said in a statement that clarified the deployment would begin on Monday.

This deployment “is part of the annual training plan for this system,” he added, according to AFP.

The decision to deploy an Iron Dome battery at Tel Aviv comes amid heightened regional tensions and speculation about a possible Israeli attack targeting Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, meanwhile, said it has begun a two-day land military exercise to upgrade its capabilities to defend the country against possible external threats, according to The Associated Press.

Commander of the Guard’s ground forces Mohammad Pakpour said on comments posted on the force’s website that the maneuvers dubbed Valfajr, or Dawn, began Sunday outside the city of Yazd in central Iran.

The Guard is Iran’s most powerful military unit.

The exercises are the latest in a series of maneuvers held amid escalating tensions between Iran and the West over Iran’s nuclear program.

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Thai Muslim Leader: Mossad’s MEK Responsible for Diplomat Attack

Kurt Nimmo
February 20, 2012

As officials in Thailand paraded suspects accused of attacking Israeli diplomats in Bangkok before the corporate media, new details emerged about the attack and the group responsible for them.

Syedsulaiman Husaini, the Shia leader of Thailand, said on Sunday that the inept bomb plot targeting Israeli diplomats was the work of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, also known as MEK. He said Thai officials are not familiar with the terrorist group.

According to Husaini, the attack was a false flag designed to implicate Iran in terror attacks against Israel.

MEK works hand-in-hand with the Israeli Mossad and is responsible for killing Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahamdi Roshan in January. MEK terrorists killed American contrators and U.S. soldiers in the 1970s and is listed as a terrorist group by the State Department.

A sizable contingent of neocons and Republicans enthusiastically support the formerly Marxist group despite the fact it attempted to kidnap the U.S. ambassador to Iran, wounded a USAF Brigadier General in a 1972 assassination attempt, murdered U.S. Air Force officers and employees of Rockwell International in 1976.

“The group of MEK shills includes former top Bush officials and other Republicans (Michael Mukasey, Fran Townsend, Andy Card, Tom Ridge, Rudy Giuliani) as well as prominent Democrats (Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, Bill Richardson, Wesley Clark),” writes Glenn Greenwald.

Earlier this month the establishment media confirmed that Israeli intelligence armed and trained MEK. “U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration is aware of the assassination campaign but has no direct involvement,” NBC News reported on February 9.

32 stand trial in $2.6bn Iranian banking scam

Thirty-two people suspected of involvement in a multi-billion dollar banking fraud with alleged links to the government of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have gone on trial in Tehran, the Iranian state news agency reported.

The record embezzlement case revolves around forged documents allegedly used by the directors of the Amir Mansour Arya Investment Company to secure loans totalling $2.6 billion (BD980m) to buy state-owned companies under the government’s privatisation scheme.

Seven banks have been implicated in the scandal which began in 2007 but only came to light last September.

The defendants and their lawyers appeared yesterday at one of Tehran’s revolutionary courts, which was open to the Press, Irna reported.

“The activities of the Amir Mansour development company is an example of an organised gang that has undermined the economic security of the society,” said Tehran prosecutor-general Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, reading out the 200-page indictment.

The main defendant was named by the Iranian Student News Agency as Mah Afarin Amir Khosravi who faces the charge of “corruption on earth”, that carries the death penalty.

“The Khosravis had modest life styles but a few years ago they decided to get loans,” the news agency quoted Dolatabadi as saying. “In order to speed up the process, they established relations with some executive and political people and started giving bribes.”

Ahmadinejad has rejected accusations from his hardline rivals that Khosravi had links to the head of his presidential office, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie.

The prosecution alleges the gang undermined the economic security of society through paying large bribes to bank and government officials to secure illicit loans and wealth.

The names of other defendants were not published but during proceedings Dolatabadi indicated that Khosravi’s four sons were central to the fraud. Accusations have also been levelled against Mahmoud Reza Khavari, the former head of Bank Melli, who fled to Canada after the fraud was uncovered.

India’s dilemma: How to pay for Iranian oil

By Vijay Prashad

An explosion on Aurangzeb Road in New Delhi damaged an Israeli embassy car, and injured its occupants.Tal Yehoshua Koren, the wife of the defense attache at the Israeli embassy was seriously wounded. She is in critical care. She was on her way to pick up her children from their school. It is unusual for a diplomatic vehicle to be attacked on the streets of New Delhi. The Delhi police went into action. The international media wanted to know who had done the attack minutes after it was reported.

The police was wary. Let us conduct our investigation, they said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went before his parliament and accused Iran of a terrorist act. “The elements behind these attacks were Iran and its protege, Hezbollah.” Iran, he said, is “the largest terror exporter in the world” and Israel “would act with a strong hand.” This was all the confirmation that

BBC needed. It began to report the attack as an Iranian act against an Israeli diplomat on Indian soil.

Why would Iran conduct an attack on an Israeli diplomat in India, particularly as India is in the midst of trying to negotiate a delicate arrangement with Tehran to pay for Iranian oil? The question mystifies.

Iran is responsible for 12% of India’s imported oil (see my India pivots, and pivots again, Asia Times, February 9, 2012). Over the past two years India has struggled to find a mechanism to pay Iran for this oil. Sanctions by the United States and the European Union as well as by the United Nations Security Council against Iran have complicated the market for Iranian oil. Until 2010, India used the facilities offered by the Asian Clearing Union (ACU), founded in 1974 as an outgrowth of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

To help countries economize on their foreign exchange reserves, the ACU allowed them to conduct bilateral barter and make payments using the Asian Monetary Units (currency units indexed to the US dollar and the euro that allowed countries to hold surpluses and deficits outside their formal foreign exchange reserves). In December 2010, under pressure from the US Treasury, the Indian government withdrew from the ACU facility (a Reserve Bank of India circular from December 27 noted that “all eligible current account transactions including trade transactions with Iran should be settled in any permitted currency outside the ACU mechanism”).

The Indian government then turned between February to April 2011 to a complex mechanism using the Hamburg-based Europaisch-Iranische Handels Bank (EIH) via the German Central Bank and the State Bank of India. The procedure did not violate UN security council or European Union sanctions. With the end use for payments certificate provided by the State Bank of India, the US Treasury should have ben satisfied – the money was going toward payments for crude and not to facilitate Iran’s nuclear program.

Nonetheless, pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel from the US mounted. “Treasury is concerned about recent reports that the German government authorized the use of EIH as a conduit for India’s oil payments to Iran,” the US government noted. “Treasury will continue to engage with both German and Indian authorities about this situation and will continue to work with all the allies to isolate EIH.” On April 4, 2011, the US Treasury got its way. Germany broke the India-Iran link.

India then conjured up an arrangement with Turkey’s Halkbank. Turkey, with deep economic ties with Iran, has abided by the 2010 security council restrictions but has refused the deeper US and European Union sanctions regime. The Turkish government owns a 75% stake in Halkbank, and has allowed it to be the conduit for countries like India to pay for Iranian oil. Mehmet Ozkan, who teaches international relations at the International University of Sarajevo, told me that Turkey is trying to develop an “independent line,” following the UN sanctions but keeping itself apart from the harsher US and European Union sanctions.

Over the past year, US Treasury officials have visited Turkey to try and cut Turkey’s links to Iran. Obama’s December 31 tighter sanctions made it illegal for American firms to do business with those firms that dealt with Iran’s Central Bank. Halkbank is relatively immune from the US financial system, and it is the main financial intermediary for the Turkish refiner Tupras. Nonetheless, as E Ahmet Tonak who teaches political economy at Istanbul Bilgi University told me, Halkbank had to accede to the strong US pressure, particularly after a US Treasury team visited Turkey in the past few weeks.

Indian and Iranian officials have been in dialogue over the past two weeks to circumvent the embargo of Iran’s financial system. India does not have the flexibility of China, whose economic power gives it genuine independence. China pays for Iranian oil with the yuan, which it is trying to put forward as an international trading currency. India does not have that freedom.

In early February, the Indians and Iranians created a payments mechanism: India would pay 45% of its oil bill with rupees which would be held in the Kolkata-based UCO bank and paid out to two Iranian private banks, Bank Parsian and Karafarin Bank. The rest of the oil bill will be sorted out in time.

India hopes to use these rupees to boost exports from India to Iran. Currently trade between India and Iran is uneven, with only US$ 2.74 billion as Indian exports in a total trade bill of $13.6 billion. To boost the Indian exports, the government plans to send a delegation to Iran in the next few months. “A huge delegation will be going,” said Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar. Anup Pujari, Director-General Foreign Trade (DGFT), Union Ministry of Commerce, pledged to a gathering in Mangalore that this delegation was going to strike a deal.

The exporters should continue booking business with their Iranian counterparts. India wishes to export wheat and rice, tea, pharmaceuticals, iron and steel. The US has said that it would not sanction “food, medicine, medical devices. So from our perspective,” US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, “this kind of trade would not be sanctioned.” Or at least one should say, it will not be sanctioned for now. There was also talk that India could barter wheat for oil, but the country’s Food Minister K V Thomas has not yet seen a formal proposal.

The stumbling block this week was over the payment mechanism. By Indian law, if Iran receives payment in rupees inside India it will have to pay a 40% withholding tax. The Indian government is under pressure from the refiners in India to forgive this tax. “Most likely the National Iranian Oil Company would not want to pay this high tax,” said B Mukherjee, a director of the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation. “We clearly do not want to pay the tax as it will make our imports costlier. I might as well buy oil from somewhere else if this 40% stake is saddled on me.”

In a major speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on February 6,India’s Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai noted, “Iran is our near neighbor, our only surface access to Central Asia and Afghanistan, and constitutes a declining but still a significant share of our oil imports. For us, there are also broader and long-term geostrategic concerns that are no different from what we face elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. Our relationship with Iran is neither inconsistent with our non-proliferation objectives, nor is it in contradiction with the relationships that we have with our friends in West Asia or with the United States and Europe.”

The US sees these trade relations as deeply troubling. The US is eager to make the Iranian sanctions a test of friendship with its allies. US State Department spokesperson Nuland said last week, “We are working with countries around the world, including India, that maintain strong oil relationships with Iran, encouraging all of them to reduce their dependence on Iranian crude.”

The India-Iran deal is near completion. How the attack on the Israeli embassy car in New Delhi will impact on this is anyone’s guess. Parochial political agendas once more threaten to interrupt a very important quest, which is to create trust and interdependence across the Asian continent and defuse any tensions that might lead to war. The sanctions regime is a fool’s paradise, undermining the fuel paradise that Iran and India have sought to construct.