West, Iran edge closer to confrontation

2012-01-10 22:36

Tehran - Iran's showdown with the West slid closer to dangerous confrontation on Tuesday as international alarm over a new uranium enrichment plant and Tehran's death sentence for a "CIA spy" raised the stakes.

Both sides were digging in, with Iran's defiance hardening and the United States and European Union actively taking steps to fracture the Iranian economy through further sanctions.

The IAEA's confirmation on Monday that Iran had begun enriching uranium in a new, underground bunker southwest of Tehran was seized upon by the United States, Britain, France and Germany as an unacceptable "violation" of UN Security Council resolutions.

But Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, on Tuesday shot back that the stance was "politically motivated".

The underground Fordo plant had been revealed two years ago and documented, he said. The 20% enriched uranium it was to produce would be used for "peaceful and humanitarian" purposes, namely isotopes for cancer treatment, he said.

Both Solatanieh and the IAEA stressed that the UN nuclear watchdog had 24-hour cameras there and inspectors to keep it under watch.

That seemed unlikely to reassure the United States, though, or its chief Middle East ally, Israel, analysts said.

"Israel, which has already warned Iran that it could take military action against installations, is very, very worried by this facility... We are moving into dangerous territory," said Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

But while Iran downplayed the significance of Fordo - and affirmed it was ready to resume nuclear talks with world powers that collapsed a year ago - it continues to send tough signals to its long-time foe, the United States.

American sentenced to death

On Monday, a Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced an American former Marine, Amir Mirzai Hekmati, to death after convicting him of being a CIA spy.

The United States has called for the release of Hekmati, 28, who also holds Iranian nationality through his Iranian family who settled in the United States before his birth.

US officials said the allegation he was sent by the CIA to infiltrate the Iranian intelligence ministry was false, though state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland would not answer a question about whether Hekmati had links to any other US intelligence service.

"I don't think we need to go any further than what we've been saying, which is we consider these charges a complete fabrication," Nuland said.

Iran, which last month put on display what it said was a CIA reconnaissance drone it claimed to have captured through cyberwarfare, has also been stepping up military exercises in a show of strength.

Its elite Revolutionary Guards have said they are about to launch new navy manoeuvres in the Strait of Hormuz, at the entrance of the Gulf.

The navy drills are aimed at showing Iran can close the Strait of Hormuz, as political and military officials have warned, if the Islamic republic's oil exports are blocked or severely curtailed.

The United States has said closing the strait would be a "red line" and it will continue deploying its warships to the Gulf.

Oil prices stayed high on the threats and counter-threats. West Texas Intermediate crude was over $102 a barrel while Brent North Sea crude was over $112 a barrel.

60% of revenue

US President Barack Obama signed into law on New Year's Eve sanctions against Iran's central bank due to come into effect within months.

Under their terms, foreign countries and companies will have to choose between doing business with Iran or the United States, unless Obama grants exemptions.

US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner was in Beijing on Tuesday in an effort to get China to drop its steadfast opposition to new sanctions on Iran and to come on board, at least to some extent.

The European Union, meanwhile, is poised to declare a ban on Iranian oil imports.

A foreign ministers' meeting on the issue scheduled for the end of this month has been brought forward a week, to January 23, an EU official in Brussels told AFP.

Iran depends on oil sales for 60% of its government revenues and last year, it earned around $100bn from petroleum exports. Existing sanctions have complicated payment, though.

Signs of strains on Iran's economy could be seen in the value of its currency, the rial, which has plummeted around a third in the past three months.

On Tuesday, mobile phone text messages containing the word "dollar" were being blocked in Iran. A website that shows the rial's value against world currencies was also inaccessible.

  • Boer - 2012-01-10 23:39

    Sanctions are not going to cripple this Iranian lot. Brute Military force is the answer to these camel jockeys. Iran must be seriously stupid or dreaming to think they can play with US and UN forces.

      Squeegee - 2012-01-11 00:04

      They are playing Russian Roulette with four rounds in the chambers. Expect explotions in Iran soon. Either "accidents" or overt attacks from Israel. The WEst cannot live with a nuclear Iran. All the American Republican candidates except one have made it clear that war against Iran is on the horizon.

      Paul - 2012-01-11 00:45

      Yes Squeegee another war the republicans cannot win.

      Barry - 2012-01-11 07:23

      Well done Iran for standing up to the USA. The USA have no proof of any thing but as usual cannot stop being a big bully. I really hope the USA population will not support this rubbish.

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 07:55

      UN forces have nothing to do with western imperialism!

      GWS - 2012-01-11 08:46

      Garaziella that is where I see your ignorance. The Taliban has openly declared the UN as legitimate targets and considers them in bed with 'Imperialist' forces. this has been in effect since 2009. Pakistan extremists and Iran are aware of this and all three groups are targetting all UN organisations.

      GWS - 2012-01-11 08:57

      Also remember the US IS the UN as they are the major financial contributors. Without the US the UN would collapse overnight dingleberry.

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 09:47

      @GWS UN forces are used for peace keeping missions and not for savage aggression attacks against other sovereign countries.

      Garth - 2012-01-11 10:05

      Actually GWS, the USA is in dispute with the UN as to how much it owes and how much it should pay. When last did they make a payment to the organisation as a whole, not talking about UN administration on USA soil? The UN is as effective as a fart competing against thunder and as useful as tits on a bull. Only the current moves by the USA, some EU states, some3 Gulf states and Iran to collaborate in the war against piracy in the area(African Horn and Persian Gulf)will bring about peace between Iran and the rest. Let us hope that the pirates put up a good fight and that the effort against them needs be concerted - this shall serve to divert attention from Iran's obstinacy at having nuclear weapons. Give all the nuclear weapons to Superman and let him despatch them to the Sun.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-01-11 13:24

      Funny how the simplest solution is the easiest , don't build nuclear weapons (So much has been to reduce the arsnals) , engage the global community so a solution can be found .This apparently is not a option , if anything Iran is playing teenager in a very dangerous game ergo the sanctions as a measure of international objection to their behaviour and intentions. Juvinile stunts like'standing up to the US' is playground BS .

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 13:50

      What gaurantees does Iran have that she won't be attacked if she gave up her alleged nuclear weapon programme. What gaurantees did Iraq or Libya receive for dismantling their nuclear programmes. The western aggression towards Iran has nothing to do with nuclear weapons. Empire always finds a reason be it spreading democracy, terrorists or drugs, and coming up with false flag operations. Iran is being singled out because of its refusal to be a supplecant of western powers. It has refused to join the Bank of International Settlements, and its resistance to usury and debt bondage. What you're asking Iran to do is to give the keys to the hen house to the wolves, because the wolves have promised that they wouldn't eat all the chickens this time. I do not trust western powers and Iran has every right not to trust them as well.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-01-11 14:08

      allcoveredinNinjas - Just posted Report comment Well thats what being a treaty member of the UN is all about ! Provides guarentees in front of a world body which is about as much as you will ever tangilbly get , they seem to think Nuclear arms provides this guarantee when it does the complete opposite and endangers not only them but futher nations and as such why sanctions are being imposed by a lot more than just the 'western' nations.

      GWS - 2012-01-11 14:18

      Your ignorance knows no boundaries. In Afghanistan the Taliban has openly expressed their opinion that ALL UN organisations are legitimate targets as long as they are in the country. UN Peackeepers in Afghanistan and Iraq are considered the enemy. You need to Google a bit more to copy and paste your answer Graziella.

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 14:58

      Gaurantees in front of the world, you are talking about rogue states here who have disregarded UN resolutions several times. Look at all the resolutions that Israel hasn't complied with since 1967. The US and its side kick the British went to war violating all laws governing war. And you are asking the Iranians to put their trust on this useless institution called the UN. @GW There are no UN forces in Afghanistan or Iraq imbecile but NATO forces! The level of stupidity on these threads is astounding.

      GWS - 2012-01-11 17:35

      Who said anything about UN forces? I can tell you that the UN does have an 'organisation' in Afghanistan called DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) working out of Kabul along the infamous Jalalabad Road. Don't try too hard to be right. You are just going to hurt yourself.

  • Paul - 2012-01-11 06:36

    If you want to know the final outcome for Iran just read Ezekiel 38, where they are called Persia, and Jeremiah 49, which refers to them as Elam. Basically, Iran will be crushed for their hostility and hatred toward Israel.

      Barry - 2012-01-11 07:26

      Religion has brought death and destruction all through history. Crusades and Jihads are not the way to bring peace.

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 10:28

      The ancient Hebrews were exceedingly proud of their holocausts having murdered whole nations to the last man and male children, and taking their women as sex slaves.

      Sinjoku - 2012-01-11 16:21

      @ Graziella: Where do you get your facts from Graziella, Seriously.... where... Yesterday you pointed out that you ALWAYS read both sides of the reporting worlds stories.... So i ask again have you got ANY hands on / Field expieriance regarding your sensational accusations,claims & posts. I fear you might be reading DIS-Information rather than information. You have a way producing a rather warped view of facts and reality... Seriously not interested in getting into a "My IQ score beats yours scenario" but damn do you actually read some of the stuff you pushing here? Take your rules regarding "western journalism and remeber that the same should apply to the journalism you obtain from the opp side. You cant apply the rule " I only believe half of what I read" to the 1 side and not the other. Not everything reported by Western Journalists is Anti Middle East. INFACT they tend to rather be against the the west as it sells newspapers due to their readers loving a good scandal, having said that... A fight is only a fight if boths sides want it. Friction requires a minimum of 2 particles not 1.

  • Graziella - 2012-01-11 07:31

    War is good for business, but it's also good for a wide spectrum of political, state and multilateral institutions capable (practically and morally) of exploiting the sentiments that war arouses in the least-evolved among us. It is made even more surreal and hypocritical by the fact that the chief cheer leaders for sanctioning/bombing/irradiating Iran are all countries who most definitely have nuclear weapons and a recent history of invading other countries illegally. It boggles the mind. Thanks in no small measure to a ‘global' news media with an inexhaustible capacity to serve as cheerleaders for war.

      Jaba - 2012-01-11 08:14

      Graziella you copy past BS is getting boring.

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 11:40

      Any time you see a comment headed Graziella, scroll right on by! That should fix your boredom.

      Vegi - 2012-01-11 13:01

      Jaba, you cannot handle intelligence. To cover you low IQ levels anyone who is more intelligent than you is copying and pasting. You don't need to be ashamed of yourself. You are not responsible for the inferior quality of your brain. It happens in all species. It is called variety. Imagine if we were all endowed with superior intellect.

      Sinjoku - 2012-01-11 16:07

      @ the nub always posting nub comments.... What you gonna say if they do actually create nuclear arms and then use them? What you gonna troll then? You are all pro them having the power of atomic weapons or better known WMD's.... But would you be happy knowing they are in range of you and have them there?

  • braamc - 2012-01-11 08:15

    The US must stay out, time China steps in

      Jaba - 2012-01-11 09:39

      True, but China doesn’t have to bomb Iran, all they have to do is cut diplomatic ties. However, this will only happen if the United Sates asks China to take over being the worlds watchdog... which will not be happening in the next 10 years. It is in the west interests as much as China & Russia that the mad man from Iran doesn’t go nuclear. At first the Russians thought it was just a good business deal until they realised that the final goal is to use nuclear weapons (which is why the Russians have stopped supplying the Iranians in the last 2 years.)

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 10:03

      China is a country with no previous expansionist adventures in their near history. Will you be happy when Chinese Aircraft Carriers sit off the Anglo-Saxon coastline.

      Juan - 2012-01-11 10:18

      Chinese aircraft carriers? They have one, and not expected to enter into service for at least a couple of years

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 11:17

      @Juan Are you pretending to be dumb or what, its called hypothetical speaking, a figure of speech. You and your friends seem to be struggling when it comes to deciphering print. You lack the ability to take in primary information and interpret contextually. You suffer from intellectual immaturity!

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-01-11 13:04

      Where has the US expanded , any where in the world? China has Tibet and Taiwan , the soviets expanded aggressively into afgan and eastern europe when it still had power. You can't say they're expantionist , imperialists when there is no evidence ,adjectives do not constitute fact. If anything the power hungry despots spead across the middle east and North Africa retain their power through anti-americanism/antiisemitism as a galvanising force and the presentation of a'enemy',a fairly old trick that works really well in conjuction with common religious dogma.

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 13:39

      By most accounts, America is a global empire. And because the apartheid's education system abstained from educating you about the concept of empire, I will offer some insights. An empire is different from a single state. An empire has a motherland, and hinterlands which serve the motherland. That service usually benefits the motherland often to the detriment of the hinterlands. Empires dont have to be run by a ruler who officially crowns himself 'emperor'. An Empire also has military bases all over the place. The rules of Empire have never changed: if wealth is not handed over on demand, then brute force will be employed to take it. The British empire didn't hesitate to bomb other countries in conquest. The Project for the New American Century, or PNAC, is a Washington-based think tank created in 1997. Above all else, PNAC desires and demands one thing: The establishment of a global American empire to bend the will of all nations. There is only one thing one has to understand – Empire is a Criminal Concept by Definition.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-01-11 13:54

      All of a sudden this changes and that changes to fit the hypothesis ,its all conspiracy BS . Bring these definitions , i'd love to see it coz : empire ['?mpa??] n 1. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) an aggregate of peoples and territories, often of great extent, under the rule of a single person, oligarchy, or sovereign state 2. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) any monarchy that for reasons of history, prestige, etc., has an emperor rather than a king as head of state

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 15:05

      There's nothing conspiratorial about US foreign policy, what do you think they have been fighting wars for since the end of WW11, to promote democracy? You must have drunk too much of the kool aid indeed

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-01-11 16:18

      Really? Do you want to go through them and i'll gladly debunk all the theories. By no means has US foreign policy been 100% successful or even right at most times but the over-villification , lies and just rubbish being spewed is laughable.

  • Gustav - 2012-01-11 08:59

    Soos gewoonlik meng Amerika hom in by goed wat niks met hom te doen het nie. Wat het Iran se Uraan aanleg met hulle te doen? Absoluut niks. Amerika het derduisende kernwapens maaar hulle wil voorskryf wat om te doen. Die waarheid is dat hulle beheer oor Iran se olie wil he. Zimbabwe het baie erger goed as Iran gedoen. Waar was Amerika toe? Net omdat Zim nie olie het nie worry hulle nie.

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 09:39

      Niks! Jy is heeltemaal korek.

  • rowen.loretz - 2012-01-11 09:39

    hmmm....interesting article ...interesting comments. I think the ^&*( will hit the fan soon. I don't know what will happen, but if Israel/USA attack Iran we could possibly see the start of WW3. Israel/USA/Europe/South Korea will team up and take on China/Russia/North Korea/Iran ect ect. Why do we have all these warmongers around. Who is really controlling these military machines. It is a disgrace that human greed has led to this. Seriously...we are gonna wipe out , not just ourselves , but every living creature on earth except maybe the cockroaches. I can't understand why our human nature and ego's are stronger than our logic and reason. The politicians and people at the helm of governments should be expelled and sent to mars where they can shoot the hell out of each other. This is not just our planet , but every living creatures planet...humans can be such idiots!

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 09:59

      This is a result of countries who believe that "god wants them to lead", they believe that the world is their playground, they believe in Empire and conquest, they believe that world resources belong to them and aren't willing to pay a fair price for them.

      Blade - 2012-01-11 10:08

      I doubt China will fight against their biggest commercial customer. China will be on the side of the USA.

      Juan - 2012-01-11 10:21

      The NATO countries form at least 80% of their market. Good point

      Blade - 2012-01-11 10:54

      @Graziella countries tha believe that God wants them to lead? You must be referring to Iran, Iraq, N Korea, Afghanistan, Paleastine...Who else?

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 11:10

      Mit Rommney and the other psychopaths in the US political class believe and have made pronounciations in this regard.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-01-11 13:39

      Really ,compared to Religious States who's dogma explicitly states its role is to institute its religion globally through violence 'if neccessary', yet somehow this has no imperial intentions ? How is this better than trying to institute democracy globally ?

  • Zifnab - 2012-01-11 10:18

    Although it is wrong for the only country in the world ever to use a nuclear weapon in aggression against another country (the US) to call for other countries to have no nuclear weapons, I'd rather trust the US with nuclear weapons than some of the Islamic extremist countries. I have no wish to go to paradise in a glorious blaze of Islamic religious wrath.

      Blade - 2012-01-11 10:19

      Even for 40 virgins? Hahaha..

      Juan - 2012-01-11 10:27

      Yes and for al we know it could be male virgins. What a dissapointment....

  • ludlowdj - 2012-01-11 10:51

    I love all the "the US will kick butt comments" which just go to prove that this is more of an emotional situation than a strategic one. In terms of international Law passed by the UN, Iran is entitled to close the portions of the shipping lane which pass through Iran's territorial waters to both military and commercial shipping if it poses a threat to Iran, which America has confirmed it is. The UN cannot therefor deploy troops in defense of the US without invalidating is neutrality status. China has also told the US to think carefully before taking any action, this is of course a perfect opportunity for china and by default all the BRIC nations including Russia to take side with Iran as a way of ensuring their own oil supplies going forward. The US is also facing increasing internal pressure due to the passing of the latest senate act which effectively declares US soil to be a battlefield and therefor under military control. The US is therefor no longer a valid claimant to the title "defender of the free world" and is most definitely no longer a democracy under any interpretation. Western countries and individual would do well to forget the tradition roles played by these countries and rather focus on the trends and movements being made within so called free societies to limit and control there populations. The West is no longer the good guy in the continuing battle between East and West.

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 11:21

      That is what happens when schoolboys argue over the fate of the world as though it were a stolen baseball card. Read somewhere else that Geitner has been summoned to Beijing to receive instruction. It's vastly amusing to see the USA impotent to do anything about China. Reduced to dissing them and looking weak and silly. What a comedown for the American colossus, now unable to order the Chinese to genuflect and bow and scrape.

      Blade - 2012-01-11 11:26

      @Graziella all the Us has to do is stop trading with China. Wow you cannot think very far can you?

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 12:03

      They would need to pay their trillion dollar debt first. China is the biggest foreign holder of US government bonds. China is developing its own middle class from a population of over a billion people, bigger than any US market. Truly plumbing new depths of ignorance and such should stick to threads about Julias Malema.

      Garth - 2012-01-11 12:16

      What you seem to forget ludlowdj, is that the strait is not considered `Iran's territorial waters' and never has been. That Iran's territorial waters cover a portion of the strait is undeniable. But so do the territorial waters of Oman. It is considered a `world' shipping lane and therefore Iranian criminal actions in the strait have always been denounced by the other nations that depend on this waterway. That they could legitimately close half of the strait is true, but what purpose would that serve? If they do close the strait again, the USA will kick their butts again.

      Blade - 2012-01-11 12:43

      @Graziella China accounts for around 25% of the US foreign debt and are the biggest foreign holder as you say. What you fail to understand though is that the US have also invested trillions of dollars in joint ventures with the Chinese government and therefore are not only debtors to China but business partners as well. You of course wouldnt know that a business looks after its partners and debtors very well because if they decide to renege, then that business is finished....Like I said you cannot think very far.

      Graziella - 2012-01-11 13:08

      China is weaning itself of the US consumer who is broke and in debt, and is dumping US dollar like a hot potatoe, having raised wages for its citizens by 20%.

      Blade - 2012-01-11 13:48

      So they now earn 1.20 yuan per day? Up from 1? Impressive!

  • allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-01-11 14:07

    Well thats what being a treaty member of the UN is all about ! Provides guarentees in front of a world body which is about as much as you will ever tangilbly get , they seem to think Nuclear arms provides this guarantee when it does the complete opposite and endangers not only them but futher nations and as such why sanctions are being imposed by a lot more than just the 'western' nations.

  • allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-01-11 16:54

    193 countries signed to the UN but Iran is special (just like a self obsessed little teenager), so why don't so many other countries try make nuclear bombs? I think its clear that Iran has the issue here not the rest of the world.

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