Reformers win in Iran

March 2nd, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Hardliners in Iran have been dealt a humiliating blow after reformist-backed candidates in Friday’s hard-fought elections appeared on course for a sweeping victory in Tehran, with a combination of moderates and independents sympathetic to President Hassan Rouhani leading in provinces.

A coalition of candidates supported by the reformists, dubbed “the list of hope”, is likely to take all of the capital’s 30 parliamentary seats, according to the latest tally released by the interior ministry, in surprising results seen as a strong vote of confidence in Rouhani’s moderate agenda. Mohammad Reza Aref, a committed reformist who has a degree from Stanford University in the US, is at the top of the list.

If someone with a US degree can be elected, that is a very good sign.

Preliminary results for the Assembly of Experts, which is responsible for appointing the next supreme leader, showed Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a key Rouhani ally, leading the race. Elections to the assembly are usually a lacklustre event but have attracted huge attention this time because of the age of the current leader, 76-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

If moderates can dominate the Assembly of Experts, then the next Supreme Leader may be more moderate also – which would be a good thing.

The benefits of Iranian engagement

January 16th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Iran released 10 US sailors on Wednesday (Thursday NZ Time) after holding them overnight, bringing a swift end to an incident that had rattled nerves days ahead of the expected implementation of a landmark nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it had freed the sailors after determining they had entered Iranian territorial waters by mistake. The sailors had been detained aboard two US Navy patrol boats in the Gulf on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT).

“Our technical investigations showed the two US Navy boats entered Iranian territorial waters inadvertently,” the IRGC said in a statement carried by state television. “They were released in international waters after they apologised,” it added.

Some may disagree, but the fact this incident was settled quickly is arguably due to the agreement over the Iranian nuclear programme.

In times past Iran could well have decided to keep the sailors for weeks or months, and even threaten to put them on trial.

But now it has an agreement with the US, it has an incentive not to behave in such a way which would see the agreement fall to pieces. And they would have realised that another hostage situation would make them pariahs again.

So while the agreement is far from perfect, it does have beneficial side effects in providing an incentive for Iran to behave better than in the past.

Saudi – Iran tension

January 5th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Saudi Arabia has severed relations with Iran amid the furor that erupted over the execution by the Saudi authorities of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair told reporters in Riyadh that the Iranian ambassador in Tehran had been given 48 hours to leave the country, citing concerns that Tehran’s Shiite government was undermining the security of the Sunni kingdom.

Saudi Arabian diplomats had already departed Iran after angry mobs trashed and burned the Saudi embassy in Tehran overnight Saturday, in response to the execution of Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr earlier in the day.

Allowing a mob to attack and trash the Saudi Embassy brings back memories of what they did to the US Embassy in 1979.

The Saudi executions were appalling, but allowing diplomatic immunity to be violated will isolate Iran.

Iran’s supreme leader warned on Sunday that there would be divine retribution for Saudi Arabia’s rulers after the execution of a renowned Shiite cleric, sustaining the soaring regional tensions that erupted in the wake of the killing.

There won’t be any divine retribution, just man-made retribution.

Iran carried out 694 executions in the first half of last year, according to an Amnesty International statement in July. Saudi Arabia, with a population nearly a third smaller than Iran’s, carried out 157 in 2015, according to Amnesty and media reports.

Both appallingly high levels.

I don’t believe any state should have the power to execute its own citizens.

Likewise I believe all religions should promote life, and never justify death for alleged sins.

Islam will never get past the fixation extreme elements have on causing death when Islamic Governments execute so many people.

Eight Iranian women football players are male!

October 3rd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

IRAN’S soccer association has been blasted as “unethical” following bombshell reports that eight members of its women’s team are men.

“[Eight players] have been playing with Iran’s female team without completing sex change operations,” Mojtabi Sharifi, an official close to the Iranian league, told a local news website.

Officials have now ordered gender testing of the entire national squad and leading league players, The Telegraph in the UK reported. The eight players have not been named.

The women’s team plays in hijab headscarves, long-sleeved jerseys and tracksuit pants.

So that’s why they play in hijabs!

The Iranian Nuclear Deal

September 12th, 2015 at 4:52 pm by kiwi in america

On July 14th the Obama Administration announced that an agreement (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) had been reached with the Iranians regarding their nuclear programme. It was sold heavily by Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama as a good deal that will constrain Iran’s nuclear ambition and bring ‘peace in our time’. The deal was quickly ratified by the UN Security Council but faced a rockier road in the US Congress.

The US Constitution (Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2) states that all foreign treaties must be ratified by a 2/3rds majority of the Senate. With Republican control of the Senate, that would have been a hard ask. Obama decided to deal with the Iranian agreement the same way as he dealt with his immigration reform, do an end run around Congress where both Houses are controlled by his opponents. Obama announced that the Iranian agreement would be promulgated by Executive Order only. His Administration can also unilaterally refuse to enforce the sanctions without Congressional approval; all else to do with the deal does not have the force of a formal treaty which means that an incoming new President in January 2017 can merely rescind the order and the US side of the deal would collapse.

To overcome the legitimate objection that this hugely important agreement was going to be rammed through bypassing the usual constitutional treaty ratification process and at least give the impression of SOME consultation with the Senate, Obama agreed to submit the JCPOA to a process negotiated with both parties in the Senate. The agreed upon process was passed into law called the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, often called in the US the Corker – Menendez – Cardin law (after the Republican and Democrat senators who sponsored the bill). The Senate would get the chance to review the agreement but the Constitutional approval process was turned on its head stating that the agreement would be deemed to be approved by Congress unless effectively 2/3rds of the Senate vote against it.

For the opponents of the agreement, the Corker law erected a very high barrier because of the other Senate procedures and Constitutional checks and balances. In order for the Senate to even pass a Motion of Disapproval, opponents must first muster 60 Senate votes to overcome the Minority Democrats likely filibuster. Republicans would need to be unified and get 6 Democrat Senators to defect to get the 60 Senate votes needed to defeat a filibuster which would send the Motion to President Obama for his signature. Obama has already announced he would veto it and to override a Presidential veto, you need a 2/3rds majority in both Houses of Congress. Whilst a number of high profile Democrat senators announced their opposition to the deal (including likely new Democrat Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York), last week Obama secured the support of the 34th Senator in favour of the deal thus ensuring his veto would be sustained in the Senate. Today (Friday 11 September) the House voted 269 to 162 to reject the deal, a margin of 107 which included 25 Democrat defections. However Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat House Minority Leader, says she has at least 150 Democrats who will vote against a veto override meaning the House would fall short of a veto.

On Tuesday 8 September, Administration officials announced that 41 Democrat Senators had announced support for the deal making it possible for Senate Democrats to block via filibuster the Motion of Disapproval obviating even the need for President Obama’s veto. As of right now, Republicans are toying with a series of amendments to the agreement that encapsulate the most egregious and unpopular aspects to force Senate and House Democrats into a series of embarrassing votes in favour of the worst aspects of the deal. This tactic worked a few months ago with a child trafficking bill that Democrats tried to add abortion funding amendments to and then tried to filibuster the whole law. In the end, the threat of filibuster was withdrawn. But even if the GOP succeed in having the Senate Democrats withdraw their filibuster of the Motion of Disapproval enabling it to pass, Obama will still veto it.

It is important to note that the JCPOA is very unpopular amongst the US voting public. All reputable independent polls conducted by the large polling companies (as opposed to pro deal lobby group polls) point to an almost 2:1 opposition to the deal with a recent Pew poll putting support for the deal at barely 21%. This post examines the reasons for this opposition and why, in my opinion, it is a bad deal.

Iran is not a trustworthy player

Since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 and the ascension to power of the Islamic mullahs, Iran has conducted numerous of acts of aggression against enemies of its Islamic fundamentalist ideals beginning of course with the 444 day captivity of all but six of the staff of the US Embassy in Tehran.

Iran has been an aggressive funder of, and provider of weapons for, Islamic terror groups across the Middle East including Hezbollah in Lebanon (who provoked a war with Israel in 2006, who massacred 241 US Marines in 1982 and assassinated numerous Druze and Christian politicians in Lebanon), Hamas in Gaza (whose indiscriminate shooting of rockets into Israel has led to three Gaza wars with Israel), Houthi rebels in Yemen (recently overthrowing the Yemeni government) and a number of attacks on Israeli or Jewish targets around the globe with the most devastating attacks being in Argentina.

Iran engaged in an 8 year long war with Iraq (then seen more as a US proxy) with overall casualties topping 1 million. After the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Quds forces acted to foment Shia on Sunni sectarian violence in Iraq that was not quelled until the Petraeus led surge of US troops in 2007.

Iran cannot be considered as anything other than an extremist repressive theocracy. There are no free elections, no trade unions, no free press, an extensive and brutal secret police to stamp out opposition, woman are subservient as Islamic laws that treat them as second class citizens are enforced and homosexuals are routinely beaten, hung or thrown from high buildings [correction: Iran has hung over 4,000 gays since 1979 according to gar rights groups – throwing gays from buildings is a hallmark of ISIS].

The whole purpose of the JCPOA arose from the long efforts of the Iranians to build a nuclear weapons capability. The entire sanctions regime that was under review was imposed on Iran because it continued to develop this capability in spite of UN Security Council resolutions and the original opposition of the US and its allies.

Disappearing red lines

The US entered these talks with a number of so-called red or bottom lines. As the negotiations wore on in Geneva, the US progressively caved on each red line:

* The closing down and dismantling of the underground facility at Fordow. Now Fordow can continue to operate with nothing more than ineffectual Russian oversight.

* Inspections were initially going to be “anywhere – anytime”. These have been negotiated away to a farcical regime that gives the Iranians the ability to effectively police themselves.

Toothless inspections regime

The Bush Administration’s sanctions, its action to depose Saddam Hussein in Iraq then the IAEA’s (International Atomic Energy Agency – the UN’s nuclear inspection agency) inspections regime in Libya effectively brought an end to Muammar Gaddafi’s nuclear ambitions. Here was a peaceful precedent as to how to snuff out of a nascent nuclear weapons programme. But for it to work, any inspections regime must have teeth. With regards to inspections, there are three types of nuclear sites in Iran:

1st – Known nuclear sites. Policing of these sites will be more rigorous under the JCPOA. For this reason, the Iranians will migrate the weaponisation programme from these heavily policed sites (that are the most talked about) to secondary sites. These known sites are where the Iranians will very publicly reduce the numbers of centrifuges to give the impression of freezing their nuclear programme.

2nd – Secondary suspicious sites. It is activity at these sites where the scope for Iranian flouting of the JCPOA will first occur. The regime for inspecting these sites is frankly pathetic. The IAEA, the US and allies have long suspected the facility at Parchin to be a nuclear weapons development site. But in a secret side deal between the Iranians and the IAEA (that the Obama Administration refuses to show to Congress), the Iranians are allowed to monitor themselves at Parchin. This side agreement specifically makes Parchin off limits to US inspectors. No wonder Kerry and Obama wanted to keep Congress from seeing it.

3rd – Unknown sites. The Iranians will cheat the most at small unknown sites. The inspections regime makes finding suspicious activity at these sites all but impossible. If suspicion arises, the IAEA must first provide evidence to a P5 + EU committee which must approve of inspections (this will take months and the Russians and Chinese will delay and object) and only if the committee agrees, THEN the Iranians will be given 24 days warning of a formal inspection; enough time to clean up any nuclear material despite claims of technology to find even cleaned up sites. According to former IAEA inspector Ari Knownen, the chance of catching Iranian breaches of the JCPOA at these sites is zero.

JCPOA merely attempts to freeze capability not dismantle it

The Agreement makes no genuine attempt at dismantling Iran’s nuclear bomb development. It temporarily forces Iran to give up only SOME of its infrastructure for 10 years only to give it back after 10 years. The best example of this is the Arak Heavy Water facility. Heavy water only has ONE use – inside a nuclear bomb. Furthermore, there is no evidence of any extensive civilian nuclear power infrastructure (the claimed purpose of the nuclear programme).

Has the Iranian regime been required to halt research and development of the faster centrifuges that will enable it to break out to a bomb more rapidly than is the case right now? Answer: No. The deal specifically legitimizes ongoing R&D under certain eroding limitations. Iran can commence testing on the fast IR-8 single centrifuge machines as soon as the deal goes into effect and can commence testing on an additional thirty IR 6 and IR 8 centrifuges in 8½ years’ time enabling it to race to the bomb even faster.

Snap back provisions weak and ineffectual

Assuming that the IAEA IS able to detect Iranian breaches of the JCPOA what then? The entire sanctions infrastructure will have been shredded with almost no ability to effectively re-implement them for any Iranian bad behaviour. The so-called snap back provisions are far from that. It took many years to set in motion the sanctions. Whilst the US Congress could quickly re-impose restrictions on the flow of funds through US banks, without buy-in from the EU countries and Russia and China (two countries who opposed sanctions in the first place and sought ways to circumvent them), there would not be nearly the same deleterious effect on the Iranian economy from what the JCPOA proposes would happen in the unlikely event that Iranian subterfuge is caught by the severely weakened inspections regime that Obama’s people caved on.

‘Signing bonus’ of $100 billion in sanctions relief + bonuses Iran never asked for

The agreement gradually lifts the sanctions that had progressively become quite draconian and had severely constrained Iranian economic activity. Indeed the sanctions can be credited for bringing Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. The JCPOA provides for a massive $100 billion shot in the arm to the regime in the form of front end sanctions relief – a so-called signing bonus. The Iranians would like to have the west believe that this money will be spent on domestic improvements and infrastructure. A short examination of Iranian foreign policy tells us that plenty of this money will be spent by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (the elite fanatical well trained and armed special force that is Iran’s primary method of exporting terror) to further arm Iran’s Shi’ite proxies in Lebanon, the West Bank, Yemen and Gaza. Where else does Hezbollah get its huge arsenal of rockets to fire into Israel and Hamas to build its terror tunnels and its own arsenal of Israel bound rockets? The IRG will also continue to prop up the Assad regime in Syria and its own vicious civil war with ISIS.

The JCPOA will effectively fund a new round of Iranian sponsored terror in the Middle East further corrupting any hope of a proper democracy in Lebanon, any peace in Syria and significantly increasing the likelihood of Hamas and/or Hezbollah provoking another war with Israel.

Obama was so desperate to do the deal that Iran got other bonuses it didn’t even initially ask for.  First, it got the P5 to lift the ban on conventional weapons. This means that the signing bonus money can be spent on perfecting medium to long range conventional missiles that can threaten not just Israel but Europe (and beyond) as well. And you can plan on any accelerated development of Iranian missile delivery of conventional warheads to have cross over applicability to its parallel pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Second, Iran got a guarantee from sabotage of its nuclear programme. It’s not sufficient that the US gave away its “anywhere anytime” inspections goal, the agreement requires the P5 to protect the arrangement from external manipulation. Quite what that will mean in reality is hard to specify because the agreement is silent on how this obligation would be fulfilled. Will for instance the US be now required to prevent Israel from sabotaging Iranian nuclear facilities (like the joint US-Israeli Suxtnet virus that set back Iran’s programme several years)? How far would the US go in this matter? All the way to militarily preventing an Israeli strike?

But don’t the P5 and a lot of US and Israeli former military and intelligence staff support the JCPOA?

Britain will do whatever Obama asks. Germany wants to appear to be all in for peace meanwhile France and China are chomping at the bit to do business with Iran (indeed both countries have been at the forefront of sanctions circumvention) and as for Russia, they want to increase their trade and influence in the region and care nothing for the fate of Israel.

A war of words has erupted in the US between different groups of retired military and intelligence officers. In terms of the sheer number and quality, the signatories of those opposed to the deal far outweigh the numbers and previous rank/experience of those who support the deal.

The same is even truer in Israel. The left leaning western media are anxious to appease Iran (as they were to appease Hitler in hailing Chamberlain’s Munich Agreement as a breakthrough) and have found a small handful of retired Israeli intelligence officers who support the deal. Israeli politics is fiercely partisan with vocal proponents of the left and right and their supporting newspapers and other media. Unique in this country of constant, loud even brutal partisan political confrontation is the unanimity among the major Israeli political parties especially now from the left leaning Zionist Union coalition led by Isaac Hertzog (who initially supported the negotiations and campaigned against Netanyahu’s bold attempt to sway the US Congress by his personal appearance). Hertzog’s view of the deal is now the same as the right leaning Likud Party, its high profile PM Netanyahu and its coalition partners. Similarly, all recent opinion polls in Israel put public opposition to the deal at around 80%.

 The future

I see four important likely outcomes (assuming the Motion either fails to pass or, if passed, is vetoed and the veto is sustained):

1 – Almost all Republican candidates vying for their party’s nomination for the 2016 US Presidential elections have committed to rescind the Agreement by Executive Order. Because the agreement was not enacted by the normal treaty process but by Executive Order, it lacks the formal status of a treaty, and if rescinded by the same process, it would thus no longer be binding on the US. Only Donald Trump seems to be advocating for some modification to the JCPOA as opposed to the outright rescission proposed by the next highest polling candidates.

2 – Conventional war with Israel is more likely given that the sanctions thaw and signing bonus will have the effect of significantly ramping up Iranian arming of its anti-Israel proxies; an outcome ironically admitted to by key Obama Administration officials such as Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

3 – A nuclear arms race will commence in earnest in the world’s most dangerous region. The Saudis may have been temporarily placated by the promise of more US arms and military aid but as the prominent Sunni Arab nation, it will not stand by idly and allow Shi’ite Iran to ramp up its regional hegemony with a nuclear bomb. Egypt, as the next largest Arab nation, will likely follow suit as may the Kuwaitis.

4 – Israel will not allow Iran to go nuclear. Because this deal makes that possibility MORE not less likely, so the likelihood of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is now more likely especially if a Republican President is elected in 2016. Remember that Israel has its high profile prior form on this matter. In June 1986, the Israeli Air force destroyed Iraq’s fledgling nuclear bomb development programme at Osirak. They did the same to Syria’s similar attempt (assisted by North Korea) at Al Kibar in September 2007. Unlike many in the west who brush off the steady stream of annihilation rhetoric from Iran’s leaders as domestic political puffery, the Israelis remember similar dismissal of long published Nazi Jewish extermination goals and have vowed “never again”. Netanyahu has reiterated the threat of an Israeli military strike in the event that Iran ‘breaks out’ on more than one occasion. On matters like this, it would pay to take the Israelis at their word!

Few recall Obama’s campaign promise in 2007 to negotiate with Iran without conditions; a policy that, at the time, placed him to the left of even his Democrat rivals. With his showcase domestic reform (Obamacare) faltering and proving to be both costly and unpopular, with his presiding over the most devastating electoral losses for his party at the national and state level in over 70 years, after a raft of shambolic foreign policy catastrophes (Syria – need I say any more), Obama was hungry for a legacy building showpiece achievement. John Kerry’s appeasing instincts were on display soon after he returned from active duty in Vietnam so he made the perfect negotiator for Obama. After Obama ignored his Syrian red line over chemical weapons, stood by idly as the Russians took the Crimea and allowed militia incursions into Ukraine and ramped up the rhetoric against Israel, the Mullahs in Tehran knew they were dealing with a weak, pacifist dilettante anxious to sign any big agreement with them. The US gave away pretty much all its previous bottom lines and prostrated itself before the savvy Iranian negotiators in Geneva and have effectively given Iran a green light to obtain nuclear weapons AND arm their global terrorism activities for a generation. And for this I’m sure Obama and Kerry will be awarded a Nobel Peace prize such is the inverted world we now live in!

The Iran deal

July 15th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Iran and six major world powers reached a nuclear deal on Tuesday, capping more than a decade of negotiations with an agreement that could transform the Middle East.

US President Barack Obama hailed a step towards a “more hopeful world” and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said it proved that “constructive engagement works”. But Israel pledged to do what it could to halt what it called an “historic surrender”.

I’m a supporter of the deal. It has teeth in it which allows sanctions to resume quickly if Iran doesn’t abide by it.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told reporters that the deal was about more than just the nuclear issue:

“The big prize here is that, as Iran comes out of the isolation of the last decades and is much more engaged with Western countries, Iranians hopefully begin to travel in larger numbers again, Western companies are able to invest and trade with Iran, there is an opportunity for an opening now.”

The Iranian Government does many bad things, especially its support of some Middle Eastern terror groups. But this gives an opportunity for Iran to rejoin the international community. The opportunity may end up being wasted, but it is worth pursuing.

The deal:

– ENRICHMENT: Iran will reduce the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges it has from almost 20,000 to 6104, and reduce the number of those in use from some 10,000 to about half that. Those limits will be in place for 10 years, then gradually relaxed over the next three. Iran also commits to using only its current models, rather than more advanced centrifuges it had wanted to install. Centrifuges spin uranium to concentrate it into levels that can range from reactor fuel to the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.

– STOCKPILE: Iran has already rid itself of stockpiled uranium that was enriched to one step from weapons-grade material. It is now committed to reducing its remaining stockpile – less-enriched uranium that is harder to use for nuclear arms – from about five tons to 300 kilograms (less than 700 pounds) for 15 years. US officials say that at this level it would take Iran at least a year to enrich enough uranium for a nuclear weapon.

– UNDERGROUND SITE: Iran committed to convert its Fordo enrichment site – dug deep into a mountainside and thought impervious to air attack – into a research center. The site will still house centrifuges but they will make medical isotopes instead of enriching uranium, and there will be less than a tenth as many of them as there originally were.

– TRANSPARENCY: Iran will give more access to its nuclear program to the UN nuclear agency. If that agency identifies a suspicious site, an arbitration panel with a Western majority will decide whether Iran has to give the agency access within 24 days. All sites, including military ones, may be inspected if the agency has solid evidence of undeclared nuclear activity.

– REACTORS AND REPROCESSING: Iran must redesign its nearly built reactor at Arak so it can’t produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

– SANCTIONS: All US and European Union nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after experts have verified that Iran is hewing to its commitments. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its obligations, those sanctions are supposed to snap back into place. An arms embargo will stand for five years and restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile programmes for eight. Iran will get some access to currently restricted sensitive technologies.


The transparency requirement is the key part to me, with the ability for sanctions to resume.

This is not a perfect deal, but I think it is a lot better than the alternative.

Iran elected to executive board of the UN’s Entity for Empowerment of Women.

April 17th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tim Blair reports:

The UN recently decided that Israel was the number one violator of women’s rights in the world today. And then the UN appointed the Islamic Republic of Iran to the executive board of the UN’s Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

The US pointed out:

“In Iran, women are legally barred from holding some government positions, there are no laws against domestic violence, and adultery is punishable by stoning, making it wholly inappropriate that Iran assume a leadership role on women’s rights and welfare at the U.N,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, in criticizing the decision to make Iran a member of the women’s rights body.

This is why I take very few pronouncements from the UN seriously.

The deal with Iran

April 3rd, 2015 at 2:21 pm by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Iran agreed in principle to accept significant restrictions on its nuclear facilities for at least a decade and submit to international inspections under a framework deal announced Thursday after months of contentious negotiations with the United States and other world powers.

In return, international sanctions that have battered Iran’s economy would be lifted in phases if it meets its commitments, meaning it could take a year or less for relief from the penalties to kick in.

The framework agreement, a milestone in negotiations that began 12 years ago, is not a final deal. But it creates parameters for three more months of negotiations over technical details and some matters that remain unresolved. Any one of those issues could doom a comprehensive agreement. Among them is the pace at which sanctions will be suspended.


While it is not without risks, I think this a good thing.

Most people accept it is highly undesirable for the Government of Iran to have nuclear weapons. It would set off a regional arms race, and considering how often the Iranian Government has said it wants to wipe out Israel, why give them the means to do so (even if unlikely they would).

So how to stop them developing nuclear weapons? Basically through negotiations or through warfare. My preference is negotiations. Having the US (or Israel) bomb Iranian facilities would radicalise the Iranian population (which is very different to their theocratic overlords) and probably just encourage them more to develop such weapons (as no one bombs you once you have some).

So negotiations are the better alternative. The current President of Iran is more moderate than his predecessor, and there is a strange “enemy of my enemy is my ally” thing happening in Iraq and Syria with the Islamic State.  If Iran can transition from a rogue state, to a slightly more mainstream state, that is a good thing – and a risk worth taking.

The devil will be in the details, and they have shunted those off for three more months.

The agreement includes almost all the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear facilities, laboratories, mines and mills that the United States had sought in recent months, although it initially aimed for even tougher restrictions.

But Iran would get several benefits that may make the deal more palatable to politicians and the public in Tehran. It would not have to close any of its three nuclear facilities, though it would be left with only one that would enrich uranium — at levels low enough to create fuel for power plants but not high enough to create weapons-grade uranium.

The limitations would produce a one-year “breakout” period, meaning it would take Iran a full year to build up enough material to build one nuclear warhead, compared with current estimates of two to three months, officials said.

Many sanctions initially would be suspended, rather than lifted permanently as Iran sought, so they could be “snapped back” into place if Iran was discovered to be cheating, the officials said.

Iran’s apparent acceptance of so many conditions sought by the United States could give the Obama administration a tool to fend off critics in Congress who want to impose new sanctions to wring more concessions from the Iranians. The White House fears such steps could scuttle the talks and prompt Tehran to resume its nuclear program at full tilt.

It does look like Iran have made significant concessions. Again, this is a deal worth pursuing. The alternative of military action against Iran is a very unpleasant and unpredictable option.

Bourdain on Iran

January 7th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Alexander Bisley interviews Anthony Bourdain (US chef, and CNN show host) about his trip to Iran and Lebanon. An extract:

“What makes Iran special is the sheer difficulty of experiencing it as an American– and of understanding the complexities, the history, the context, the contradictions–and the ever changing political realities. It is a beautiful country, with an ancient and very rich culture that seems often to be at odds with its religious leadership. The people you meet in the street are overwhelmingly welcoming.

“Nowhere else I’ve been has the disconnect been so extreme between what one sees and feels from the people and what one sees and hears from the government.

This was my experience also. If they could get rid of their theocracy, they’s be one of the best countries on  Earth.

“Iran is deeply conflicted, exhilarating, heartbreaking. One of the exhilarations is Iranians’ eagerness to communicate, to express themselves, to show the world more about themselves than what we see on the news. An eagerness to be proud, to have fun is something you feel palpably in Tehran. The hospitality from strangers is extraordinary.

“I asked one host what he thought Americans would think of the episode. “They will start coming,” he laughed. I think simply seeing a few ordinary Iranians, doing ordinary things, is a departure from the usual footage of angry ayatollahs.  That alone will shock many. Shamefully, many, many people labour under the most simplistic of misimpressions: Iranians are not Arabs. Iran is not a desert. Not everyone is a fundamentalist. Iran even looks much different than how it does in films.

I’ve holidayed in Iran, and can’t wait to go back. It is a fabulous country.

Kiwiblog in Iran

September 22nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar


This is what you get if you try accessing Kiwiblog in Iran! I guess I’m blocked 🙂

So Iran are now the good guys?

June 14th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Iran has reportedly sent its Revolutionary Guard forces to fight al-Qaeda-inspired militants who are sweeping across Iraq.

The Wall Street Journal and the Times reported that two battalions of the Quds Forces, the elite overseas branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, that have long operated in Iraq, have come to the aid of the Shia-dominated Government.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Government last night remained in paralysis, unable to form a coherent response after militants blitzed and captured entire chunks of the nation’s Sunni heartland this week, including major cities, towns, military and police bases as Iraqi forces melted away or fled.

What’s that old saying – my enemy’s enemy is my friend. So true.

The new reality is the biggest threat to Iraq’s stability since the United States’ withdrawal at the end of 2011, and it has pushed the nation closer to a precipice that would partition it into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish zones.

That may not be the worst outcome – three separate countries. Can the Shia and Sunni sects live together now? Kurds are already autonomous. But actual separate countries could also be destabilising as Turkey would not want a Kurdistan as neigbours.

Iran appointed to UN Commission on the Status of Women

April 29th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Times reports:

Iran won seats on five subcommittees of the U.N. Economic and Social Council earlier this week, including one to the Commission on the Status of Women — a body tasked with pressing for women’s rights around the world.

The Government of Iran has an appalling record when it comes to women’s rights. A few of their achievements:

  • female government workers forced to observe Islamic dress code
  • women barred from becoming judges until recently
  • beaches and sports are sex-segregated
  • legal age of marriage for girls was reduced to 9 (later raised to 13)
  • exposure of any part of the body other than hands and face – is subject to punishment of up to 70 lashes or 60 days imprisonment
  •  a law proposed by the last government would ban unmarried women under the age of 40 leave the country without the permission of their fathers or brothers

The Iran deal

November 25th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Iran and six major powers agreed early Sunday on a historic deal that freezes key parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief on some economic sanctions.

The agreement, sealed at a 3 a.m. signing ceremony in Geneva’s Palace of Nations, requires Iran to halt or scale back parts of its nuclear infrastructure, the first such pause in more than a decade.

This is a very good thing. A failure to get a deal would have probably meant that sooner or later either the US or Israel would strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, and that would cause even greater regional instability.

This isn’t a deal to solve all issues between the US and Iran, or even the nuclear issue. But it is a good step in the right direction.

It is also a victory for the sanctions. They hurt Iran enough, that they were willing to do a deal.

The deal, intended as a first step toward a more comprehensive nuclear pact to be completed in six months, freezes or reverses progress at all of Iran’s major nuclear facilities, according to Western officials familiar with the details. It halts the installation of new centrifuges used to enrich uranium and caps the amount and type of enriched uranium that Iran is allowed to produce.

Iran also agreed to halt work on key components of a heavy-water reactor that could someday provide Iran with a source of plutonium. In addition, Iran accepted a dramatic increase in oversight, including daily monitoring by international nuclear inspectors, the officials said.

The last part may be the most important.

The concessions not only halt Iran’s nuclear advances but also make it virtually impossible for Tehran to build a nuclear weapon without being detected, the officials said. In return, Iran will receive modest relief of trade sanctions and access to some of its frozen currency accounts overseas, concessions said to be valued at less than $7 billion over the six-month term of the deal. The sanctions would be reinstated if Iran violates the agreement’s terms.

Again, this is a good deal and a win-win. The new Iranian President gets sanctions relaxed and makes it harder for the hardliners to undermine him. And Obama gets a foreign policy victory when he really needs some good news.


How the world has changed

September 28th, 2013 at 1:38 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Breaking a third-of-a-century diplomatic freeze, President Barack Obama and new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have spoken by telephone and agreed to work toward resolving their deep dispute over Tehran’s nuclear efforts.

Rouhani, who earlier in the day called the United States a “great” nation, reached out to arrange the 15-minute call. The last direct conversation between the leaders of the two countries was in 1979 before the Iranian Revolution toppled the pro-US shah and brought Islamic militants to power.

Obama said the long break “underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history.”

“While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward, and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution,” Obama told reporters at the White House. Iran’s nuclear program has been a major concern not only to the United States but to other Middle Eastern nations especially Israel and to the world at large.

Rouhani, at a news conference in New York, linked the US and Iran as “great nations,” a remarkable reversal from the anti-American rhetoric of his predecessors, and he expressed hope that at the very least the two governments could stop the escalation of tensions.

It’s only a phone call, but it is a very encouraging sign that Iran sees benefits in rejoining the mainstream.

What is remarkable is not just the phone call between the two Presidents, but the fact that news of it broke on Twitter – from the Iranian President. We do live in a very different world to 1979!

Encouraging steps

September 20th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s new President, has pledged he would “never” develop nuclear weapons as part of a series of overtures to the West ahead of his first address to the United Nations next week.

Rouhani, who was elected this year on a promise to end Iran’s international isolation, said he had the “full authority” from the country’s ruling ayatollahs to cut a deal on the nuclear issue.

In his first interview with United States television, Rouhani told NBC News that he was involved in a “positive and constructive” exchange of letters with Barack Obama, who wrote to congratulate him on his election.

He also ordered the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer, and several other political prisoners as part of a pattern of conciliatory gestures.

The White House offered no immediate public reaction to Rouhani’s comments but Western diplomats and US officials urged caution before accepting a new direction from Tehran.

Caution is correct, but I think the election of Rouhani does reflect that many in Iran want Iran to become less of a pariah state.

A small but symbolic tweet

September 6th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar


This tweet was from the President of the Islamic Republic Republic of Iran.

The Washington Post reports:

The tweet called special attention to Iran’s Jews – there are thought to be perhaps 25,000 living largely in peace – but it’s the reference to “all Jews” that seems especially significant. Given the long-standing enmity between Iran and Israel, and the years of official Iranian rhetoric condemning Israel in often anti-Semitic language, this is quite a shift.

After eight years of fiercely anti-Israeli rhetoric from former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his government, which often veered well into anti-Semitism, it’s difficult to separate discussion of Jews in Iranian political discourse from discussion of Israel. That’s obviously not a particularly helpful habit. But the point is that this tweet, purportedly from Iran’s president, seemed to be offering a very small gesture of goodwill at least partially toward Israelis, who can usually expect nothing but hateful rhetoric from Iranian rulers. It’s not exactly a unilateral declaration of peace – tomorrow, Iran will probably still support Hezbollah – but it’s yet another hint of Rouhani’s efforts to dramatically soften Iranian foreign policy and rhetoric.

The former President talked often of wiping out Israel and denied the Holocaust occurred. This one sends Rosh Hashanah greetings to all Jews. It is just symbolic, but a very welcome change of tone.

A spokesperson has tried to deny the account is the President’s, and it may be run by someone on his behalf, but it is thought he approves any messages on it.

Good news from Iran

June 16th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Moderate cleric Hassan Rohani won Iran’s presidential election today, the interior ministry said, scoring a surprising landslide victory over conservative hardliners without the need of a second round run-off.

Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar announced on state television that Rohani secured just over 50 percent of the ballot based on a 72 percent turnout of 50 million eligible voters. “Mr Hassan Rohani … got the absolute majority of votes and was elected as president,” Najjar said.

The outcome will not soon transform Iran’s long tense relations with the West, call into question its disputed pursuit of nuclear power or lessen its support of Syria’s president in the civil war there – matters of national security that remain the domain of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

This doesn’t mean a radical change of policy. The Supreme Leader remains in charge. But it does mean a President who is not as offensive as his predecessor.

Though an establishment figure, Rohani is a former chief nuclear negotiator known for his nuanced, conciliatory approach. He has pledged to promote a policy of “constructive interaction with the world” and to enact a domestic “civil rights charter”.

Rohani’s wide margin revealed a broad reservoir of pro-reform sentiment with many voters, undaunted by restrictions on candidate choice and campaign rallies, seizing the chance to repudiate the dominant hardline elite over Iran’s economic woes, international isolation and crackdowns on social freedoms.

The fact he won on the first ballot is a good sign of strength for the reform movement. Over 36 million Iranians voted and he got 50.7% of the vote, with the next two candidates getting 16.6% and 11.4% respectively.

The idiots in charge of Iran

February 14th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Asher Moses reports:

Iran has been caught out in another Photoshop blunder in an effort to prove its purported stealth fighter jet is the real deal.

An Iranian state news agency released a new picture of the radar-dodging jet flying above snow-covered mountains.

But the picture was immediately suspected to be fake, with the lighting on the plane and its position similar to its appearance in pictures on the ground in Tehran at the unveiling earlier this month.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described it as “among the most advanced fighter jets in the world”, capable of hitting ground and air targets by stealth, but experts dismissed it as a “laughable fake” which looks like a toy or mock-up model.

Now the new picture has also been laughed off, after it was revealed by The Atlantic Wire that the background image of the mountain was taken from the stock image

It scares me that such morons can be in charge of a country. I mean seriously it just wouldn’t happen in most countries. I could just imagine what would happen in say NZ if the PM suggested we just photoshop an image of a plane into a picture and claim it is a stealth fighter. There would be hundreds of people pointing out why it is the stupidest idea ever.

In 2008, news wire Agence France-Presse had to retract an official image of an Iran missile launch following revelations it was doctored to include an extra missile. The photo had appeared on the front pages of many media outlets including and the front page of The Los Angeles Times.

In November last year Iran showed off a new drone design, but it was later revealed that the photographs it released were ripped off from a Japanese university and doctored.

Iran last month claimed to have successfully sent a monkey into space in a Pishgam rocket. That announcement was also accused of being faked as photographs of the monkey before and after showed two clearly different animals. Iran is sticking to its guns.

They’ve done it so often now, it is really becoming a bad joke. The Iranian Government seems to be the equivalent of the kid with the small penis who keeps stuffing tissue paper into his underpants to make his package look bigger.

Iran’s obsession with space

February 8th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Asher Moses at SMH reports:

Fresh from controversy over a suspicious space-faring monkey, Iran is now under fire over a suspect stealth fighter jet breakthrough that one Australian defence analyst said “looks like it might make a noise and vibrate if you put 20 cents in”.

Unveiling the Qaher F313 (Dominant F313) earlier this month, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad described it as “among the most advanced fighter jets in the world” with features including the ability to evade detection by radar and hit both ground and air targets.

Aviation experts have questioned whether the jet shown can even fly as it was too small to accommodate a real pilot and the controls and wiring looked too simple.

It also lacked the bolts and rivets found on all aircraft and offered wonky aerodynamics.

“It looks like the Iranians dumped some rudimentary flight controls and an ejection seat into a shell moulded in what they thought were stealthy angles,” wrote Foreign Policy magazine.

Andrew Davies, senior defence analyst and director of research at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the jet was a “laughable fake”.

“It looks like it might make a noise and vibrate if you put 20 cents in,” he told Fairfax Media.

The monkey that changed appearance was laughable enough, but this takes the cake. You wonder if those in charge are morons, or just think everyone else is? Fourth formers could do better fakes!

“I can see (almost) how North Korea gets away with transparent nonsense due to isolation, but Iran has a population that’s much more switched on and connected, at least in the cities.

Hopefully it will lead to greater unrest amongst the population. People don’t like a Government that lies and turns their country into a laughing stock.

Poor Iranian gamers

August 31st, 2012 at 11:13 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

 They’ve vanquished elves, trolls, and all manner of magical monsters. But one select group of online gamers is facing an even more formidable foe: The US sanctions regime.

Iranian players of “World of Warcraft,”; the massively popular online multiplayer franchise, have found themselves frozen out by Blizzard Activision Inc., the American company behind the game. Iranian role playing enthusiasts have spent much of the past week peppering Blizzard’s message board with complaints about how they weren’t able to log on to the service only to be told recently that US law was to blame.

“United States trade restrictions and economic sanction laws prohibit Blizzard from doing business with residents of certain nations, including Iran,” the company said in an email sent to players last week and forwarded to The Associated Press late on Tuesday.

Now that’s a step too far. I’m all for sanctions which hurt the Government, but blocking poor Iranian gamers from WoW is just unfair.

Mind you, if there are enough of them, maybe this could be the spark that lights the revolution. They role the regime, so they can carry on with WoW!

Will Obama attack Iran?

July 30th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An Israeli newspaper is reporting the Obama administration’s top security official has briefed Israel on US plans for a possible attack on Iran, seeking to reassure it that Washington is prepared to act militarily should diplomacy and sanctions fail to pressure Tehran to abandon its nuclear enrichment programme.

But a senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential talks, said the article in the Haaretz daily was incorrect.

Allowing Iran to gain nuclear weapons is unthinkable, especially as their President has vowed to destroy Israel so many times. Likewise, an attack on Iran is almost unthinkable, as it would destabilise the region, undermine the pro-democratic forces in Iran, and entrench the current leadership.

I do wonder about how it would play domestically in the US though. Would an attack by Obama in election year help in the polls by making him look willing to take the hard decisions? Romney could not attack him, if Obama does strike to remove Iran’s nuclear capability.

What it means to be the good guys

January 12th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

ABC reports:

For the second time in as many weeks, the U.S. military has rescued distressed Iranian sailors, despite the extremely high tensions between the two nations.

According to the Navy’s account, at about 3 a.m. local time an American Coast Guard patrol boat in the north Persian Gulf was hailed by flares and flashlights from an Iranian cargo ship whose engine room was flooding. Six Iranians were rescued from the ship, fed halal meals in accordance with Islamic law, and later taken to shore.

I suspect if the situation was reverse the rescued sailors would be accused of being spies, put in jail, given a mock trial, and sentenced to die.

Last week, the U.S. Navy rescued more than a dozen Iranian sailors who had been held hostage by pirates in the Arabian Sea for weeks. American sailors on a “visit, board, search and seizure team” were able to free the sailors and take 15 suspected pirates into custody without incident on Jan. 5, the Navy said.

Not bad for the Great Satan.

Both rescues come in the midst of an especially tense time between the U.S. and Iran. Most recently, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Monday Iran has been enriching uranium in a highly-protected underground bunker as part of the nation’s nuclear program — a move the U.S. State Department said was a “further escalation of their ongoing violations with regard to their nuclear obligations.”

Over the weekend, an Iranian court handed down a death sentence to an American former Marine accused of spying for the CIA in Tehran. Both the U.S. government and the 28-year-old’s family have repeatedly called the Iranian allegations “fabrications.”

One day Iran will be free.

Two Wings of a Nightingale

June 15th, 2011 at 8:07 pm by David Farrar

Have just returned from the Iranian Embassy, which hosted a function for Jill Worrall, the author of Two Wings of a Nightingale – a travel book about Iran.

I mentioned the function and the book on The Panel prior to the function and was amused that it seems half the people at the reception heard me mention it. Shows how strong Radio NZ is in Wellington.

Readers may recall I visited Iran in 2009, hence my invite to the launch. Like Jill, I found it a wonderful country, nothing like what one might expect. The people are wonderfully friendly and hospitable, and the sights are magnificent. If it is shame that so few New Zealanders travel to Iran (under 100 a year probably).

I’m definitely going to return one day, and recommend those curious abaout it read Jill’s book.

Next time I visit, I plan to stay for at least two weeks. There is so much to see.

Hypocrisy alert

March 16th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Reuters reports:

Bahrain has declared a state of emergency following weeks of unrest on the island kingdom, state television announced on Tuesday, saying the measure would come into force immediately and last three months.

An order by the king “authorised the commander of Bahrain’s defence forces to take all necessary measures to protect the safety of the country and its citizens,” said a statement read out on television.

Meanwhile, Iran called the arrival of Saudi troops in Bahrain unacceptable and urged the kingdom to respond to pro-democracy demonstrators peacefully.

For fuck’s sake – I don’t know whether to cry or laugh.

Campbell on Artists v Journalists & Bloggers

January 31st, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Gordon Campbell writes at Scoop on the Government’s response to the jailing of Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi. He quotes the letter from Chris Finlayson which says:

We also raise the human rights situation in Iran in statements at the United Nations, including cosponsoring the UNGA 3rd Committee Resolution on Iran’s Human Rights. We will continue to express our concern at restrictions on the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Iran, including the imprisonment of journalists, bloggers, and filmmakers such as Mr Panahi.

Now Gordon may be quite right to criticise the Government for relying on statements at the UN to improve human rights in Iran. But here’s what Gordon says in his critique of the Govt’s response:

Finlayson apparently believes Panahi’s case is not exceptional, nor his treatment particularly egregious. In fact, we appear to have an Arts Minister unable to tell the difference between an artist of Panahi’s stature, and journalists and bloggers.

Oh goodness – what an insight into the Wellington cultural mindset. Governments shouldn’t do anything beyond the normal statements at the UN to protest against jailing of journalists and bloggers, but when the detainee is an “artist of stature”, then they must move mountains.

Is this attitude linked to the leave Roman Polanski alone movement, because he is also an “artist”.

Personally as a blogger, I’m rather glad Chris doesn’t see bloggers and journalists as less deserving of freedom from detention, than artists of stature.