Tag Archive: Iran


Upheaval in the Middle East is spreading and no one knows where it will stop. But everyone is clear about one thing; it will definitely spread into the rich industrialized world. It may stop somewhere in Europe because American continent is still out of reach. The turmoil in the Arab world is going to trigger worst-ever economic crisis for the world. And it is all about oil which, through still flows from Middle East, is getting dearer in the international market with worsening of crisis in North Africa and Arabian Peninsula. The focus of news after Egypt and Tunis is on Libya, Bahrain and Iran and by implication of Saudi Arabia. Libya is one of Africa’s largest holders of crude oil reserves, Algeria and Iran are major suppliers and Bahrain and Yemen both border Saudi Arabia on the peninsula that produces much of the world’s oil. Together, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain and Iran represent about 10 percent of global oil production.

According to a report in The New York Times, oil markets are famously skittish, especially when there is even the possibility of disruptions in the Middle East and North Africa, which account for some 35 percent of the world’s oil production and a greater percentage of the world’s known reserves. That nervousness is likely to spread elsewhere, with so many economies still fragile in the wake of the worldwide economic downturn and with the possibility that higher crude prices could lead to further increases in food prices. The high cost of food has already led to unrest in several countries, even before political revolts began in the Middle East. The increased price of energy is a “burden that can be a detriment to the global economic recovery.

Brent is a global benchmark crude oil that is produced in the North Sea and traded in London. It is typically the benchmark that is used to set the price for most of the oil from the Middle East. Another benchmark crude, West Texas Intermediate, closed at $86.20 a barrel on Friday. Each benchmark has an impact on gasoline prices in the United States, with the East Coast more affected by the Brent prices than other regions. The reserves in the Middle East and North Africa (known as the MENA countries), while long important, have grown even more critical as demand for oil increases. Prices have risen about 30 percent since September, reaching their highest level since September 2008.

Those who track oil prices are especially worried about the renewed turmoil in Iran and the possibility of unrest spreading from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, which could have a major impact on oil’s price and its availability. Richard H. Jones, the energy agency’s deputy executive director and a former American diplomat in the Middle East, said that about 17 million barrels of oil passed through the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz every day. “So if that shuts down, we’re in big trouble,” he said.

But so far, Mr. Jones said, the effects of the regional turmoil have been small. Egyptian production and transportation of natural gas have continued despite an explosion at a pipeline in the Sinai as the demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak were under way. (An Egyptian investigator said four gunmen bombed the pipeline.) Although there have been labor protests among workers at the Suez Canal, so far analysts have said there is no danger of the vital waterway being affected by the country’s political upheaval.

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The wave of popular revolts has not stopped at Suez, it is spreading like bushfire. And the next destination of this fast-spreading upheaval ironically is again the place widely considered as an American base. Bahrain which hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet patrolling the Gulf, is next in line after Tunis and Egypt. According to The Wall Street Journal, this revolt is the first to pit a Shiite Muslim majority against Sunni rulers—heightening the dilemma for the U.S. as it struggles to pursue its interests in the region. The developments came as security forces in Yemen, an important ally in U.S. antiterrorism efforts, fought back protesters for a fifth day. In Iran, the government threatened leaders of Monday’s protests there with execution and made a fresh wave of arrests. The parallel protests against key allies and enemies of the U.S. sharpened the difficulty for the Obama administration, as fast-moving uprisings have unseated regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and triggered opposition rallies in Algeria, Jordan and elsewhere.

The president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both offered encouragement to Iranian protesters and aimed tough words at Tehran on Tuesday, in marked contrast to their relative silence on Iran during the last wave of protests in Iran in 2009. Mr. Obama praised the courage of protesters and said the Iranian regime was “pretending” to celebrate Egypt’s revolt while “gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully” at home.

But anti-US Iran is also not immune to violent protests where protests started again despite government’s use of “iron hand” to suppress the previous post-election demonstrations of 2009. This time, dozens of protesters were arrested for participating in the banned rally, an opposition Web site reported. A similar demonstration, clashes and arrests were reported in the central Iranian city of Isfahan. The gathering in Tehran appeared to be the most significant anti-government protest here since security forces cracked down on a series of massive demonstrations in 2009. The size of the crowd was difficult to estimate. Some witnesses said they believed it exceeded 200,000. The Associated Press said tens of thousands of people demonstrated. The government which had been admiring Egyptian protests, has declared Iranians’ protests as illegal and threatened with severe punishments for violators.

According to a news report, Bahrain is a tiny, island kingdom in the oil-rich Gulf best known for its banking prowess, along with bars that cater to nationals from alcohol-free Saudi Arabia next door. It pumps little crude itself, but the protests here have brought home to neighboring oil-rich capitals—Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Riyadh—a taste of the turmoil that had largely been limited to much poorer corners of the Arab world. It’s also the first country experiencing the recent unrest in which the often-explosive sectarian divide between Sunni and Shiite Muslims has emerged in a meaningful way. Shiites make up small minorities in other recent hot spots, including Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, but religious tensions haven’t been a driving factor in unrest in those places. A sustained Shiite uprising in Bahrain would alarm Sunni rulers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, all Gulf countries with sizable Shiite minorities. They worry about the unrest spilling across their borders, and the possibility Iran would have more opportunities to meddle in the region. Gulf rulers are often quick to blame Iran for instigating trouble among Shiite populations, though real Iranian influence in those communities has been limited.

Some U.S. officials believe if the current government fell in Yemen, U.S. operations in the country could be hamstrung. Those operations include training commandos and conducting counter-terrorism strikes. Yemen is the home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and officials say a collapse of the weak government could give the group free rein.

Likewise, the Obama administration fears unrest in Bahrain could undercut U.S. interests in a region where a significant chunk of the world’s oil is produced and transported each day. Although it lacks oil, Bahrain’s housing of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet make it a critical port for the Navy vessels deployed to counter Iran and protect the Persian Gulf. If Bahrain’s Sunni-led government were to be forced from power—something protesters haven’t yet made a focus of their demands—some fear a new government might seek closer ties to Iran and force the U.S. Navy to relocate. Another concern is that an uprising in Bahrain could spill into next-door Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, where even minor unrest might roil world-wide oil markets.

Please also read:

Wall Street Journal: Wave of Unrest Rolls into Gulf

The Washington Post: Anti-government protests spread to Iran

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 7,300 times in 2010. That’s about 18 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 142 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 79 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 12th with 141 views. The most popular post that day was Did Iran backstab Pakistan to save India?.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were pkpolitics.com, mail.yahoo.com, mail.live.com, facebook.com, and tribune.com.pk.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for pia, queen of england, hakeem n salik, hakeem salik, and elizabeth ii.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Did Iran backstab Pakistan to save India? December 2010
2 comments

2

Floods are not the only manifestation of His wrath…. August 2010
9 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

3

Beware taxpayers, your blood is being injected to save PIA yet again….. November 2010

4

Queen of England joins Commoners’ Club…. November 2010

5

Finance majors! Keep the hope alive……. September 2010

If this had not come from a reliable source, the readers would treat it as a joke of the century. It sounds incredible that an ambassador of a country being ruled by the world’s shrewdest president was fooled; and that too by a Neocon think tank for their fund-raising. According to the Middle East Channel, the Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. hosted a fundraiser at his residence for a neoconservative D.C. think-tank, which solicited donations of $5,000 for invitations to the event. But the think-tank, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), didn’t bother to tell the Pakistani embassy that the event was a fundraiser or that it was sandwiched in the middle of a two-and-a-half day conference on “Countering the Iranian Threat” put on by the group.

“We didn’t know at all that they have done this fund-raising,” a spokesperson for the Pakistani embassy, told the Middle East Channel. “And neither did they share with us that they would be doing this conference. Very frankly, we didn’t know about this conference.”

Though the dinner appeared in the paper and online conference programs, FDD president Cliff May insisted that the two were unrelated: “The dinner was separate from the conference but it coincided with the conference. Why? Because many friends of FDD were in town for the conference,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Middle East Channel. May conceded that his staff may have failed to notify the Pakistani embassy that the group was in the middle of hosting the conference.

At the “Washington Forum, “as the conference was called, fellows and scholars from FDD advocated for escalating measures against the Islamic Republic of Iran, ranging from “ratcheting up” sanctions and pressure to U.S. support for regime change and even military strikes against Iran.  The location of the fundraiser — billed on the program as only “dinner at the residence of one of Washington‘s noteworthy Ambassadors” — was a closely guarded secret on the first full day of the event. FDD’s communications director, Judy Mayka, told the Middle East Channel on Wednesday night before the dinner that even she didn’t know where it would be held.

As the conference’s second full day drew to a close, Middle East Channel reports, May confirmed that the dinner had been at the Pakistani ambassador’s residence and said that between forty and fifty people were at the dinner. But the embassy spokesperson, emphasized that Iran was not an issue during the dinner. May disputed that the event was a fundraiser, telling the Middle East Channel that “friends and supporters” were invited, and that there was no “quid-pro-quo” relationship between a $5,000 donation and an invitation. “I invited FDD donors at or above the $5,000 level to the event,” May wrote in a follow-up interview by e-mail. “Others friends of FDD were invited — at my discretion. Several FDD staff members were invited as well.”

But the online conference schedule, which didn’t name the ambassador in question, left little room for equivocation:

7:00 pm

Dinner at the residence of one

of Washington’s noteworthy Ambassadors

(Closed to Media)

(Minimum $5,000 gift required. Contribute here, or for more information on becoming a donor, please contact [e-mail of FDD staffer removed])

The paper version of the schedule handed out to conference participants only said: “Dinner at the residence of one of Washington’s ambassadors — Will leave from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. See staff for more details.”

The Pakistani press attache, Nadeem Hotiana, said the dinner “was in honor of (FDD), but the participants were donors.” He added that no donations were collected on the premises.

May described Haqqani as an “old personal friend,” a relationship corroborated by Shuja Nawaz, the director of the Atlantic Council‘s South Asia Center. “I think the ambassador had a personal relationship with this group for quite some time,” Nawaz said, “but I don’t know if this would reflect official policy. It could well be that this is an unofficial action on his part.”

Indeed, while Iran and Pakistan more or less waged a proxy war in Afghanistan in the 1990s — when Iran supported the Northern Alliance until the Pakistani-supported Taliban took power nationally — the countries enjoy good relations. “I would characterize their relations as cordial — not warm at all times, but for the most part cooperative on issues like building a pipeline through Pakistan,” said Alireza Nader of the RAND Corporation.

Nawaz of the Atlantic council said the issues between the countries revolve around Jundullah, a Baluchi rebel group on the border that says it fights for Iran’s Sunni minority that Iran alleges seeks refuge in Pakistan, and Iran’s collaboration with Pakistan’s archrival India to build a road from Afghanistan to a port town in Iran that bypasses Pakistan.

“But they’ve always maintained good relations on the surface,” said Columbia University professor and Iran expert Gary Sick. “They try to maintain good, business like relations. Each side will allow a certain amount of trouble from the other because they know they need each other.”

Which makes it curious that a group hosting a conference very much focused on isolating Iran and pushing escalating measures against the Islamic Republic would take refuge in an embassy of a country — Pakistan — so opposed to such policies. Perhaps that’s why both May and the embassy spokesperson, tried to explain away the events. May said the funding links on the conference program — listed under the dinner, with a minimum to attend — was merely a “reminder” for donors to give more, “routine among think tanks.”

For his part, the spokesperson chalked up the mix-up to chance: “We Pakistanis and we Muslims are very courteous people,” he said, explaining why so few questions were asked. “It was just a coincidence that this happened like this because the Ambassador has his personal friends.”

Indo-Iran relations are warming up again. These cooled off when India, in order to win American favors, did not stand by Iran and abstained from voting in the UN General Assembly on a Canada-sponsored resolution against its human right violations. This was seen as Indian retaliation for Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei equating Kashmir with Afghanistan and Gaza in Palestine. Tehran and New Delhi are due to start a new round of negotiations on the latter’s investment in major Iranian oil and gas projects. According to Fars News Agency has reported that an Indian delegation is scheduled to visit Iran next week to discuss investments in Iran’s giant South Pars Gas Field and supply of certain expensive oil equipment, like drilling platforms and towers, in meetings with Iranian officials.

Also, the Iranian and Indian officials are slated to talk about New Delhi’s return to the peace pipeline project currently under construction on both the Iranian Pakistani territories. India has stayed out of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline (also known as the Peace Pipeline) project because of its failure to strike a deal on transition fees with Pakistan. The 2700-kilometer long pipeline was to supply gas for Pakistan and India which are suffering a lack of energy sources, but India later evaded talks. Last year Iran and Pakistan declared they would finalize the agreement bilaterally if India continued to be absent in meetings. According to the project proposal, the pipeline will begin from Iran’s Assalouyeh Energy Zone in the south and stretch over 1,100 km through Iran. In Pakistan, it will pass through Baluchistan and Sindh but officials say the route may be changed if China agrees to the project.

It is expected to cost $7.4 billion. But the intangible costs are much more than that. Kashmir Watch has narrated how Iran backstabbed Pakistan when it abstained from voting asking for imposing sanctions on India for human rights violation in Kashmir thus saving India at the cost of Kashmiris. The story goes like this:

On a winter morning, with the Elbruz Mountains overlooking Tehran airport still under snow, braving cold winds, a special Indian military plane touched down. On board was an ailing Dinesh Singh, then External Affairs Minister, along with three others. Barely able to walk, Singh had been dragged out of a hospital bed to deliver an urgent letter from Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao to Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Incidentally, this was the last such tour in the 50-year diplomatic career of Singh.

Having mortgaged its gold reserves two years ago, India was on the economic brink and Russia still licking its wounds after the break-up of the Soviet Union. The Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), supported by influential Western nations, was pushing a resolution at the UN Commission Human Rights (UNCHR), later rechristened as Human Rights Council, to condemn India for human right violations in Kashmir. The resolution, with UNCHR approval, was to be referred to the UN Security Council for initiating economic sanctions and other punitive measures against India. As in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in the OIC, too, decisions are by consensus.  Once there is no consensus in the OIC, the resolution was bound to fall through.

The Iranians had no clue to the Indian Minister’s mission. Casting aside protocol, Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati was at the airport when Singh alighted. Velayati asked what on earth could be of such momentous importance for Singh to risk a perilous journey in his precarious condition. In reply, Dinesh Singh smilingly handed over a demarche.

In the course of the day, he went through his “Kashmir brief” diligently in meetings with his Iranian interlocutors, namely, Velayati, President Rafsanjani and Iranian Majlis Speaker Nateq-Nouri. By evening, Singh returned to his hospital bed in Delhi, but with an assurance from President Rafsanjani to Prime Minister Rao “that Iran will do all it can do to ensure that no harm comes to India.”

What Iran gained by obliging India is an abiding mystery? Only after 72 anxious hours did Delhi learn that Iran had killed the OIC move to table the resolution. This marked a new chapter in India-Iran relations with wider consequences. Iran distanced itself from Pakistan in the matter of Afghanistan; and, India joined hands with Iran to promote the Northern Alliance, which was inimical to Pakistani interests.  Pakistan was shocked by what it termed as “backstabbing”.

The Indian delegation to the UNCHR led by Leader of the Opposition Atal Behari Vajpayee comprised minister of state for external affairs Salman Khurshid and Farooq Abdullah. Basking in this diplomatic victory, Vajpayee and Abdullah were unaware that, three days ago, Dinesh Singh had laid the ground for it in Tehran; and Rao never tried to steal the credit from Vajpayee and Abdullah.

Much later, it came to be known that when the Pakistani ambassador sought to move the OIC resolution, his Iranian counterpart in Geneva, under orders from Teheran, backed out. He argued that as a close friend of both India and Pakistan, Iran was ready to sort out their problems and there was no need to raise these in an international forum.  That was the last time Pakistan tried to get a resolution on the Kashmir issue tabled in a UN forum.

Now, the wheel has come full circle. Iranian officials say their gesture was not reciprocated, and accuse India of “backstabbing” by voting against Iran at the IAEA. The vote had already sealed the fate of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. Tehran which had earlier committed to provide gas below 3 dollars per British Thermal Unit (BTU) now wants a commercial price of 9 dollars.

These officials link India’s growing proximity to US, aspirations for global economic and political power, early conclusion of civilian nuclear agreements with Western powers leading it to distance itself from Tehran. The pipeline was to begin gas supply in 2012. The 7.5-billion-dollar, 2,700-kilometre pipeline has been under discussion for almost two decades. The pipeline is to begin from Iran’s Assalouyeh energy zone in the south and run over 1,100 kms through Iran. In Pakistan it is to pass through Balochistan and Sindh before linking up Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Iran was angered when India abstained on the Canada-sponsored resolution, and subsequently summoned Iran’s Charge De Affairs Reza Alaei and issued a demarche for Khamenei impinging on the country’s territorial integrity. The Iranian leader’s appeal to the world’s Muslim elite to back the “struggle” in Jammu and  Kashmir, equating it with the “nations” of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan had New Delhi bristling. In its official reaction, the Ministry of External Affairs said: “Our decision on the vote was made after due deliberation.”

India disapproved of Khamenei’s message to Hajj pilgrims that “today the major duties of the elite of the Islamic Ummah are to provide help  to the Palestinian nation and the besieged people of Gaza, to sympathize and provide assistance to the nations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Kashmir, to engage in struggle and resistance against the aggressions of the United States and the Zionist regime.”

Since July this year, on three occasions Iran has spoken of support to the “struggle” in Kashmir and bracketed the situation in the state with that in Gaza and Afghanistan, sources said. “We have conveyed to the Iranian authorities our deep disappointment and regret that they have chosen to disregard our sensitivities and question our territorial sovereignty”.

Though the government has often denied that deterioration of relations was due to its hobnobbing with the US and Israel,  analysts believe the chill arises from a series of developments, including India opting out of the tri-nation gas pipeline and President Obama seeking India’s support against Iran’s nuclear armament. In 2008, Tehran had protested at India deploying for the first time ever a warship in the Persian Gulf region, which operated in coordination with the western navies under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

More recently, on September 18, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast had slammed the killing of 15 Muslim protesters in Kashmir who were outraged by the threat to defile the Holy Qur’an in the US. He had said that countering such reactions could be interpreted as supporting acts of sacrilege. These comments evoked a strong diplomatic protest from New Delhi as it had not only banned the Iranian TV channel showing provocative and “unverified” visuals but also summoned Iranian envoy to lodge a protest.  India pointed out that law and order in Jammu and Kashmir was an internal matter and Iran had no right to interfere or comment on these issues.

 

Please also read:

TAPI gas pipeline project already in the pipeline….

Parcel bomb plot which was hatched in Saudi Arabia and executed in Yemen, is still shrouded in mystery, however, Britain has taken an advantage of it and as an aftermath of the recent mail bomb plot, has tightened screening of air cargo passing through the country and ordered re-screening of parcels originating from some cities in India, Pakistan, Iran and some other countries.

“Cargo originating from some cities in India, Qatar, Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Thailand, the Maldives, Sudan and Libya will have to be re-screened after arriving in Britain before being loaded onto onward flights,” Britain’s Transport Secretary Philip Hammond told DNA News. Currently such flights do not need to be screened in the UK.

After a meeting with industry representatives here, Hammond said they also discussed a proposed system of grading countries sending air cargo to the UK, according to perceived risk. Countries that have screening measures matching those of the UK and the European Union could have easier access to the UK than those that do not, he indicated.

When investigators pulled some Chicago-bound packages off cargo planes in England and the United Arab Emirates last week, they found two bombs wired to cell phones and hidden in the toner cartridges of computer printers. They were sent from Yemen. Following the uncovering of the plot being blamed on al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the UK banned all air cargo from Somalia and Yemen.

There is always a silver lining in every dark cloud. It so happens that the dark cloud is for someone and the silver lining is for someone else. It is a strange world where miseries of someone mean opportunity to others. Crisis of a nation means potential for big business for greedy business people. A blog post on these pages discussed how blood-sucking international donors were trying to turn Pakistan’s catastrophic floods into a business opportunity. Pakistan’s arch-rival, who has been trying to bleed Pakistan economically, has finally seen some sliver lining in the dark clouds.  Businessweek has reported that basmati-rice shipments from India may surge by about 22 percent after record floods in neighboring Pakistan destroyed crops, cutting supplies, according to India’s biggest rice exporter.

The country’s overseas sales may advance by about 500,000 metric tons in the year from Oct. 1 from this year’s projected total of 2.3 million tons, KRBL Ltd. Chairman Anil Mittal said from New Delhi today. A ban on shipments from India imposed in 2008 on varieties other than Basmati may be lifted, he said. The deadliest floods in Pakistan’s history destroyed crops and damaged infrastructure, and that nation’s rice exporters’ group has forecast exports may plunge as much as 35 percent. India’s ban on non-Basmati-rice exports may be ended next month amid a shortage of storage space, Mittal said in an interview.

“We expect rice prices to rise for the next two years in the export markets where India competes with Pakistan,” Nikita Khilani and Arijit Das, analysts at Kolkata-based VCK Share & Stock Broking Services Ltd., said in a note today. “India will capture at least 20 percent of Pakistan’s export market” this year, they said. “KRBL will be among the chief beneficiaries of this scenario.” KRBL stock, which has more than doubled in the past year, surged as much as 20 percent to 36.45 rupees today in Mumbai, advancing for a sixth straight day. That’s the highest price since at least 2005. The stock may reach 40 rupees, VCK said. Mittal declined to comment on the shares’ jump. Kohinoor Foods Ltd., KRBL’s rival, rose 15 percent to 62.5 rupees, the most since December 2007, while LT Foods Ltd. jumped 20 percent to 77.7 rupees, a one-year high.

KRBL’s Basmati shipments may gain in value by 20 percent in the year ending March 31 from 9.1 billion rupees ($194 million) in the last fiscal year, Mittal said. After late sowing, the new crop is expected to arrive in the market in mid-October, with Indian sellers getting export orders in November, he said.

“We expect prices to remain strong,” Mittal said, without providing forecasts for the fragrant, long-grain variety. “Over the last three years, new markets in Iraq and Iran have been developed for Indian Basmati.” India, the second-biggest producer of rice, implemented the trade ban in April 2008 to increase domestic supplies as global rice prices surged to an all-time high. The restrictions remain in place after a drought in 2009 pared production by 10 percent in the year ended June 30. The government may allow shipments of non-Basmati rice from October as the country may harvest 98 million to 100 million tons of all rice grades in the year to June, Mittal said. “If export is not allowed, there will be the problem of storage.”