By Sourav Roy
"Our production lines are running very smoothly and we are capable of producing an endless number of ballistic missiles," announced Brigadier General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in a recent interview with the Iranian national news agency Fars. "We have made phenomenal progress in air defence capabilities and the current slew of sanctions means nothing more than a soft encouragement for us to acquire 'self-sufficiency'," he added.
Salami's comments clearly resonate with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's claims in February that Iran's enemies remained unsuccessful in their attempts to devise an interception system capable of breaching Iran's "impenetrable" missile shield. Iranian political and military top brass have repeatedly claimed flamboyant military accomplishments and technological advancements, only to maintain silence later on.
The Islamic Republic of Iran's interest in a stable Middle East is arguably greater than that of the United States - after all, this is Iran's neighborhood. For Iran to grow and prosper, it needs secure borders and stable neighbours. A poor and unstable Afghanistan, for example, inhibits trade, and, potentially, increases the flow of refugees and narcotics into the northeastern part of Iran.
Arguably, stability in Iraq may be even more critical to Iran than stability in Afghanistan. The Iran-Iraq war caused enormous suffering to the people of Iran; Iranians will not forget it in the decades ahead. They will also not forget that their suffering was largely because of American and European support for Saddam Hussain - including western support for his acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, which he regularly used against Iranian and Iraqi civilians. There was no condemnation from western governments or even the western media for these cruel and barbaric acts. Iranians believe that western leaders are just as guilty for these crimes against humanity as Saddam Hussain himself.
By Afro-Middle East Centre
After the passage of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1929 in June 2010, with its fourth round of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, many analysts have increased their scepticism regarding the efficacy and effectiveness of the entire sanctions regime against Iran. The scepticism is partly based on the fact that, despite three previous rounds of sanctions since 2006, the country's nuclear programme has continued unabated. Such costs as are being forced on Iran through the various levels of sanctions, not only through the UNSC but also through American-led sanctions under the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) and the recent Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA), are of little more than nuisance value to the aspiring regional hegemon, and have been costs that it has been able to bear. For this reason many American think tanks and policy gurus linked to and to the left of the United States Democratic Party have put forward the idea of what has been termed a 'US-Iran Grand Bargain'. Within such a bargain, the US would engage with Iran through comprehensive talks without preconditions, with the ultimate goal of resolving bilateral differences, normalising bilateral relations and legitimising an Iranian role in the region. However, despite a strong body of opinion in the US that supports such a move, there are numerous factors militatingagainst what somehave termed a 'utopian' and 'unrealistic' proposal. The alternative that has been proposed instead of such dialogue, however, has been military action. This proposal has come mainly from role-players in the US and in Israel.
By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett
Last week, the Obama Administration formally charged the Islamic Republic of working with al-Qa'ida. The charge was presented as part of the Treasury Department's announcement that it was designating six alleged al-Qa'ida operatives for terrorism-related financial sanctions. The six are being designated, according to Treasury, because of their involvement in transiting money and operatives for al-Qa'ida to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The announcement claims that part of this scheme was a "secret deal" between the Iranian government and al-Qa'ida, whereby Tehran allowed the terrorist group to use Iranian territory in the course of moving money and personnel.
For the most part, major media outlets uncritically transmitted the Obama Administration's charge, without much manifestation of serious effort to verify it, find out more about the sourcing upon which it was based, or place it in any sort of detailed and nuanced historical context. Stories by Joby Warrick in the Washington Post and Helene Cooper the New York Times exemplify this kind of "reporting."
By AlJazeera Centre for Studies
Recently, the protest movement in Iran has gained fresh momentum, seizing two opportunities: the hightened tension that accompanied the funeral of the Shi'a cleric Hussain Muntadhiri, who is widely considered to be the spiritual father of the call to reform wilayat al-faqeeh or "rule of the clergy" principle from an absolute to a constitutional limited rule; and Ashura, a shi'a religious festival which masses can celebrate in public congregations without the need for a permit -something which the government has consistently refused to grant the opposition. The protests are another episode in a spiral movement that has continued since President Ahmadi- Nejad's re-election.