Ahmadinejad visits Armenia – On Friday, December 23, President Ahmadinejad travelled to Armenia along with a top-level delegation and met with his Armenian counterpart. The two emphasized the right of each country to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and the importance of resolving Iran’s nuclear issues through diplomacy. They further discussed the need to expand trade between the two countries and increase cooperation in the economic, energy, communication, industry and investment spheres.
Conference of Iranian diplomats on “Islamic Awakening” – On December 25, the general conference of Iranian delegations overseas convened. This year’s conference focused on the Islamic Awakening (the Iranian term for Arab Spring). Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the official opening ceremony of the ten-day conference to convene in the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Tehran would be attended by the President.
Security committee to free Iranian in Syria established – Ambassador to Syria, Mohammad Ra’uf Sheybani, has said that a security committee has been set up to free the five Iranian hostages. He said that two objectives seem behind the kidnapping: to exert pressure on the Iranian government to change its stance towards the Syrian developments and to generate a negative impact on Iranian economic investments in Syria. Deputy Foreign Minister for Middle East and Africa Affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said that according to the latest news the seven Iranian electrical engineers and technicians abducted in the western Syrian city of Homs are in good health. Amir-Abdollahian said, “What the abductors did was actually designed to help the enemies of the Syrian people.”
Iran asks China to stop filtering Iranian radio that broadcasts in China – Senior Iranian officials contacted Chinese government cultural officials and requested that they act to remove cease blocking the radio frequency of Voice of Iran broadcasts in China. The Iranians submitted a report detailing radio activity in order to persuade the Chinese government to allow the radio to operate.
Iran renews offer to IAEA to visit Iranian facilities – Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh said Iran’s permanent envoy to the IAEA said that Iran had renewed its invitation for an IAEA team to travel to Tehran to discuss issues related its nuclear program and that preliminary arrangements for the visit would be made in the first week of January. “Any time after that, after the composition of the team is finalized, they are welcome to come. Therefore I assume that perhaps in January this visit will be made.”
Large-scale Iranian navy drill in Strait of Hormuz begins –
On Saturday morning, the Iranian navy began its large-scale drill. The maneuver, known as Velayat-90, is being carried out over two thousand square kilometers east of the Strait of Hormuz to the Gulf of Aden and is scheduled to last ten days, during which the navy’s weapons, achievements and tactics will be displayed. Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said that the exercises will demonstrate Iran’s military prowess and defense capabilities in international waters, convey a message of peace and friendship to the regional countries, and test the newest military equipment among other objectives. He said that the newest missile systems and torpedoes will be employed in the maneuvers, adding that the most recent tactics used in subsurface battles will also be demonstrated in the maneuvers. Sayyari also said that Iranian destroyers, missile-launching vessels, logistic vessels, drones and coastal missiles will also be tested.
Admiral Musavi, the spokesman for the exercise, said that on the second day of the “great Naval exercise Velayat-90 we witnessed the deployment of shore-to-sea missile sites and mobile supporting equipments, as well as the deployment of the remaining marine Navy brigades and mobile health and medical units as well as the dispatch of subsurface units from the port toward predetermined exercise regions. Predetermined aerial units and vessels joined to carry out operations, and the light-weight SRM6 aircraft was used after flying a long distance from the first to the third zone of the exercises.”
Iran defeats mock enemy in e-war – Press TV reported that during the second day of the maneuvers, Iranian military tested its most modern domestically manufactured electronic warfare gear and “defeated mock enemy.” Different classes of frigates and submarines sophisticated and technologically advanced ground-to-sea missile systems, advanced equipment used for communication and the exchange of intelligence were successfully tested and utilized along with modern electro-optical systems. Counterattacks against possible dive bombers, exchange of logistics and deep sea patrol were also carried out.
“Global energy security is linked to Iran’s energy security” – Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, Majlis Member, said that those who think they can challenge Iran’s energy security should realize global energy security is linked to Iran’s energy security.” (video) He added that the drill is an indication to the West of Iran’s commitment to security factors, especially “when it comes to the Strait of Hormuz.” Hasan Malek-Mohammadi, another lawmaker, described the military exercise as “important and vital… Iran is under constant threat and has to prepare to defend itself. It has to show what it takes to protect its territorial integrity and energy security.”Iran has repeatedly clarified that its military might is merely based on the nation’s defense doctrine of deterrence, posing no threats to other countries.” Another Majlis Member, Mehrdad Lahuti, said that “Iran does not seek war or conflict. It is because of the recent developments and a move by certain powers that Iran, which is a regional power, has been forced to respond with military maneuvers.”
Defense Minister: if Israel wants to commit a suicide it can attack Iran – Ahmad Vahidi said, “The Zionist regime is completely isolated and under no circumstances can it attack Iran unless it wants to commit a suicide. If it does, it will be hit with deadly strikes from Iran which will make it unstable.” Referring to the programs and plans of the Defense Ministry for upgrading Iran’s defense capabilities, he emphasized that “Iran is in a unique position in all areas, including manufacture of unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, as well as defense and assault airplanes. Iran has also made great progress in electronic warfare technology, aviation industries and missile technology.” He pointed out that capture of the advanced U.S. aircraft is a great achievement for Iranian scientists.
IRGC division commander in Tehran ousted – The ouster of Hossein Hamedani from command of the IRGC division in Tehran brought the number of changes in the IRGC echelons to four over the past six months. Hamedani was ordered out of his command last Wednesday by IRGC commander Ali Jafari. Hamedani’s name appears on a list of international sanctions against human rights violators. All senior commanders who were reassigned over the past six months (acting Chairman of the Supreme Leader representative in the IRGC, Division Commander Sayed Elshada in Tehran, and Head of the Political wing) were directly or indirectly linked to the suppression of post-election protests. Analysts believe that the generic changes are linked to the upcoming Majlis elections and IRGC efforts to have several of its commanders elected to the Majlis.
Chief of Staff of Iranian Armed Forces: Iran ready to expand cooperation with Iraq in the fields of defense and security – Major General Hassan Firouzabadi said (in two separate messages to Iraqi Chief of Staff and Iraqi Acting Defense Ministry to congratulate the Iraqi nation on the withdrawal of U.S. troops) that Iran is ready to establish, boost and expand all types of military, defense and security cooperation with Iraq.
Three killed in internal security forces helicopter crash – A helicopter of internal security forces that was conducting an operation in the city of Khash, in the Sistan and Baluchestan province, crashed. The helicopter got tangled in electrical wires when trying to land at the IRGC base in the city and crashed, killing three crew members.
Chairman of Majlis Economic Reform Committee: “Threats of sanctions against oil and Central Bank are toothless” – In an in-depth interview with khabaronline.ir website, Hojatoleslam Gholamreza Mesbahi Moghadam, said:
In addition to the USD 27 billion in the national development fund, the Central Bank’s foreign currency reserve includes over USD 100 billion, some of which was converted into gold when risk of sanctions increased.
The Central Bank is gradually channeling foreign currency into the market in a controlled manner to avoid wasting the sources, causing a sharp rise in the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar.
Increased Iranian dependency on oil.
The government used oil profits to provide the required budget to implement the subsidy reform law.
The threats of sanctions against Iranian oil and the Central Bank are toothless and designed to provide momentary hope to the boycotters.
Italy is the largest buyer of Iranian oil in Europe. Here, too, there is a very small risk to Iran’s trade balance. Even if Italy does not buy oil from Iran, this will not affect Iran’s trade.
Iran renews contract to sell oil to Turkish refinery – Iranian media is reporting that despite efforts by some Western nations to boycott Iranian oil exports to Europe, the National Iranian Oil Company renewed the contract to sell oil to the Tupras oil refinery in Turkey. Iran is stressing that should sanctions be imposed on oil sales to Europe, Turkey will be one of the possible targets for Iranian oil exports. During the first nine months of 2011, Iran’s oil exports to Turkey increased to 1.3 million tons.
President orders Central Bank to reexamine foreign currency policies – Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance, Shamseddin Hosseini, addressed the sharp increases and numerous fluctuations in the value of the U.S. dollar in recent months, adding that the Central Bank is responsible for managing Iran’s foreign currency policies. According to Hosseini, the reason for the recent rise in the foreign currency value on the market is tremendous demand, and emphasized that President Ahmadinejad ordered the Central Bank Governor to reconsider the bank’s foreign currency policies.
Priest and group of Christians arrested in Ahvaz before Christmas – Iranian security forces attacked a home church in Ahvaz on Friday morning, arresting the priest, Farhad Sabokruh, and his wife as well as the entire congregation of the church. The prisoners were sent on two buses to an unknown location. According to the report, security forces immediately confiscated all cellular phones from the prisoners as well as computer equipment that was found in one of the rooms. The report later claimed that all prisoners were questioned for hours and then released, with the exception of the priest, his wife and two other church employees. There is no information about their condition. Similar incidents occurred last year before Christmas in an attempt to increase pressure on Christian converts in Iran.
Student activist arrested – Student activist from Tabriz University, Mehrdad Karami, was arrested by security forces on the way to university. His arrest was accompanied by serious violence against him.
Mother of human rights activist sentenced to 23 months in prison – Parvin Mokhtare, mother of imprisoned human rights activist Kouhiar Gudarzi was sentenced to 23 months in prison due to an interview she gave to the media about her son. Parvin was arrested five months ago in Keraman and denied the use of defense.
Executions continue – Two death row prisoners were executed Saturday in Lakan Prison in Rasht. One prisoner was a 26-year old whose brother was publicly executed two weeks ago. In addition, seven death row prisoners were executed in the central prison in Orumieh. They were transferred there the previous night to solitary confinement. On Saturday morning, the prisoners were executed by hanging in the prison yard.
Man accused of illicit romantic relationship publicly lashed – A lashing sentence imposed on a man accused of an illicit romantic relationship was carried out in public in the city of Masjed Soleiman in the Khosastan province. The public was informed that the public lashing would take place through notices.
Blogger accused of terrorism and insulting prophet of Islam sentenced to death – Blogger Mohammad Reza Pourshajari, who was tried by the Revolutionary Court in Karaj presided over by Judge Gholam Sarabi, was sentenced to death. According to the blogger’s son, the trial lasted ten minutes, during which his father was denied the right to counsel. Pourshajari was convicted of terrorism and insulting the prophets of Islam, both crimes that carry the death sentence.
Head of Parliamentary Elections Headquarters: 245 men and 9 women have registered on the first day of registration for the 9th Majlis elections – Seyed Solat Mortazavi, said that 245 men and 9 women registered on the first day. He added that registration will continue through Friday, December 30, 2011 and will not be extended. Majlis elections will be held on March 2, 2012. The official ceremony marking the opening took place in the Ministry of Interior conference hall and was attended by the Minister of the Interior, Mostafa Mohammad Najar. University lecturer from Kurdistan province, Dr. Bahram Azadbakht was the first candidate to register.
Efforts are underway to establish special universities and hospitals for women – The rise in number of female students and their keenness to pursue studies has forced the Ministry of Science authorities to think about the establishment of special universities for women.