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Iran report 02/2012

The monthly Iran Report published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation since 2002 offers an overview of domestic, economic and social developments in Iran and Iranian foreign policy. The conflict over the Iranian nuclear program, the June 2009 election fraud, the persecution of the opposition and the violation of human rights are some of the recurring themes in the Iran report. He evaluates news from various sources, also in order to compensate for the obstacles and restrictions on journalistic work imposed by those in power in Iran. The Iran Report does not produce headlines but illuminates the news, the unsaid behind it.

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Iran Report 02/2012: A summary of current events in Iran
EditorHeinrich Böll Foundation
Place of publicationBerlin
Publication date2. 2012
pages19
ISBN/
Provisioning
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content

Domestic politics

economy

Foreign policy

Domestic politics

Government officials ignore parliament

For the second time in two weeks, the Minister of Economic Affairs and the director of the Central Bank ignored Parliament's invitation to report on the state of the gold and foreign exchange market in a closed session on January 28th. The waiting MPs finally had to adjourn the session. Parliament had expressed concern about the severe turbulence in the gold and foreign exchange market and asked the government for information. But the power struggles between various political groups, which have intensified in recent months with a view to the parliamentary elections in March, have affected the already disturbed relationship between parliament and government more than ever before. The government now hardly cares about laws and resolutions passed by parliament and refuses to report to the legislature on what is going on in the country.

Two weeks before, when parliament invited a meeting “to save the national economy”, invited government representatives refused to attend. The Minister of Economic Affairs had traveled to Latin America with the President, but the director of the Central Bank and state secretaries from various ministries also stayed away from the special session without giving any reason. Vice President Mohammadreza Bahonar, who chaired the meeting, said he did not understand why the government officials did not show, "perhaps they were instructed to do so by a higher authority," he added. “Anyway, we don't see that. If parliament invites government representatives to report, they are obliged to participate. "

At the beginning of January, Ahmadinejad, without naming himself, accused some politicians and parliamentarians of wreaking havoc on the foreign exchange market. "Some bogus politicians ask, on the one hand, why we are not increasing the price of foreign exchange, and on the other hand, they accuse the government of not being able to control the exchange rate and to get the economy under control," said the president. The Minister of Economic Affairs also agreed with this criticism.

The secret service minister Haidar Moslehi told the Mehr agency that his ministry was "on the trail of forces trying to wreak havoc on the gold and foreign exchange market". He will inform the public in good time.

The parliamentary representative of the President, Mohammad Resa Mitajeddini, also said, "There are organized forces who are spreading unrest in the gold and foreign exchange market." In the meantime, the masterminds are known and "we have solid information and knowledge about their machinations to get".


Around half of the applicants were admitted to parliamentary elections

The spokesman for the Guardian Council announced that around half of the people who had registered to participate in the parliamentary elections in March had been admitted. The names would be published in early February.

4,877 applicants had applied for a seat in parliament, around 2,700 of them were admitted, said Abbasali Kadkhodai. After the announcement, there is a period of twenty days to object to the decision of the Guardian Council. Thereafter, the names of the final admitted candidates would be announced.

Kadkhodai also commented on those applicants who were turned down because their allegiance to the Islamic faith was doubted. “We have been asked if someone who prays and fasts regularly can question his allegiance to Islam. We expect all candidates to do their duty to pray and fast, otherwise they would not be called believers. But there are people who, while praying and fasting, disregard other principles of Islam. We have to adhere to these principles. ”Most of the rejected ones could not have been admitted because they had submitted their documents too late (!), Said Kadkhodai.

The parliamentary elections on March 2 will be a test of strength between Ahmadinejad's supporters and the conservatives. As the Fars news agency reported on January 10th, the Ahmadinejad parliamentary group wants to run for the election on March 2nd with 442 candidates. The Conservatives put 1801 applicants. Despite the lower number, the allies of the head of state have more money at their disposal for the election campaign than the conservatives.

The Ahmadinejad wing is referred to by the conservatives and parts of the clergy as a “deviant stream” because it tends to follow a nationalist rather than an Islamic course. The president himself speaks of a “third wave” in order to distinguish himself from conservatives and reformers who have determined political life in Iran for three decades.

The favorites for the election are still the conservatives led by Parliament President Ali Larijani, who have close ties to the clergy and currently hold the majority in parliament.

Observers expect a low turnout after the 2009 presidential election was overshadowed by massive allegations of fraud. The reformers' refusal to vote because they are not free will also deter many from going to the polls.

The number of journalists arrested is increasing

The number of journalists jailed is increasing in the run-up to the parliamentary elections on March 2. There is fear and uncertainty among journalists. According to media reports, journalist Parastu Dokuhaki, her colleague Marsijeh Rasuli and her colleague Sahamaddin Purfani were arrested on December 17th. Her homes were previously searched and her documents were confiscated. The three were close to the reform movement. Journalist Fatemeh Cheradmand and journalist Ehsan Huschmand were arrested on the same day.

Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi said after the cabinet meeting on December 18 that security forces had arrested some journalists who were carrying out certain tasks in connection with the parliamentary elections on behalf of the CIA. The agents had contact with foreign countries via the Internet. Moslehi did not report any details of the arrests, or what specifically the individuals were accused of.

The young journalist Purfani is the son of a former member of the reform movement. For a time, the father was also the responsible state secretary in the Ministry of Education and Islamic Leadership in the cabinet of Mohammad Khatami. The son worked for the newspaper "Etemad Melli", which is close to the reformers, as editor-in-chief for Iran's foreign policy.

Parastu Dokuhaki is a blogger and has been working on women's rights for years. She was arrested in her parents' home. According to the relatives, the officers took away her laptop and her documents. The relatives do not know her whereabouts. Since her father's death a few months ago, Dokuhaki had suffered from severe depression and received medical treatment. In the past three years she was neither politically nor journalistically active. She was an employee of the Schariati Foundation, edited and translated texts. The forty-year-old journalist started working as a journalist at the age of twenty and wrote about women's rights and social problems, including for the now banned magazine "Zanan" (women) and for various renowned reformers' daily newspapers such as "Jase No", "Noruz ”,“ Hambastegi ”and“ Etemad Melli. ”She is one of the most famous bloggers in Iran.

Fatemeh Cheradmand is a freelance journalist specializing in health and social issues. Ehsan Huschmand writes about the problems of ethnic minorities. Both were arrested in their own homes.

Rafsanjani daughter was imprisoned for six months

According to her lawyer, the daughter of the former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been sentenced to six months in prison for “propaganda critical of the government”. According to ISNA news agency, lawyer Gholam Ali Riahi said on January 3, his client, Faeseh Hashemi, was also banned from "doing political, internet and journalistic activities" for a period of five years. The lawyer announced an appeal against the verdict.

The trial took place on December 25th. Hashemi was arrested for participating in a series of protests against the controversial re-election of Ahmadinejad in June 2009. Her father had indirectly supported the opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mussavi in ​​the presidential election, to the annoyance of the country's ultra-conservative leadership.

One year in prison for the President's press advisors

The power struggle between President Ahmadinejad and his conservative adversaries is intensifying. Ahmadinejad's press advisor Ali Akbar Javanfekr was sentenced to one year in prison for insulting revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei, according to reports in the Iranian media on January 16. Javanfekr wrote on his website that the Tehran Revolutionary Court had also banned him from any political activity for a period of five years.

Javanfekr denied the charge of insulting, stating that he submitted to the revolutionary leader and was inclined to him. At the same time, he announced an appeal against the judgment, which “lacked any basis and legal logic”. Javanfekr, who also heads the official IRNA news agency and the government newspaper "Iran", has long been a target of ultra-conservative forces.

In November he was sentenced to one year in prison because the publication of articles and pictures in a special issue of “Iran” violated “Islamic values” and “public morals”. The special issue was dedicated to women and the veil. Ahmadinejad's press advisor also appealed against this ruling.

For months there has also been a campaign by the ultra-conservatives against Ahmadinejad's close advisor and office manager Esfandiar Maschai, whom they reject as too liberal. Many of Mashai's allies have already been arrested on charges of corruption, financial crimes and other charges.
Web developer sentenced to death for pornography

The Iranian Supreme Court upheld a death sentence against an Iranian web developer. The blogger Said Malekpur was found guilty of distributing pornographic websites, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on January 29th. The Supreme Court upheld the death penalty imposed by a revolutionary court.

Malekpur was arrested in October 2008 and confessed on Iranian television that he had designed and distributed pornographic websites. The web portal gerdab.ir, which is connected to the Revolutionary Guard, called Malekpur the head of the largest Persian-speaking pornography network.

Uniforms for working women

The uniformity of clothing for working women, which was planned years ago, has now been completed. "We have designed around a thousand models for forty professions," said Sahra Abbasi, head of the women's affairs office in the Ministry of the Interior. The models and colors are adapted to the respective professions. "We have done without flashy colors that are not appropriate to the dignity of the profession."

As Interior Minister Mostafa Nedjjar announced about a year ago, uniforms in women's clothing should cultivate and spread the “culture of chastity”. One will start with state offices and authorities.

The models are suitable for expressing the national and Islamic culture, said Abbasi. They are tailored to the staff of individual professions such as hospitals, airlines, banks and the like. “We by no means want all women to wear black. There are a variety of models and colors. Regional peculiarities are also taken into account. ”It has not yet been decided whether the uniforms will also be extended to schools and universities.

economy

News on the nuclear conflict

On January 8, Iran announced the commissioning of the new uranium enrichment plant in Fordo. This was also confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The USA, Great Britain, France and Germany described the process as a new escalation stage in the conflict over the Iranian nuclear program.

The plant, 150 kilometers south of the capital Tehran, is Iran's second main uranium enrichment plant alongside Natans. Its existence became known after it was publicized by Western intelligence agencies in 2009. It was built in a mountain to protect against possible air raids. In Fordo uranium will now be enriched to 20 percent, said the Iranian representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, on January 9th in Vienna. The plant is "well protected" against air attacks. The enrichment takes place under the supervision of the IAEA.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed the information. It had already become known through diplomats that in the underground complex 348 centrifuges were in operation in two cascades, two more cascades were still being set up. Gil Tudor, spokeswoman for the Atomic Energy Agency, said she could confirm that Iran has started enriching uranium to 20 percent. "All nuclear material in the facility remains under the control and supervision of the authority".

Experts are of the opinion that the 20 percent enriched uranium could be enriched into nuclear weapons-grade material much faster than the uranium, which was previously enriched to 3.5 percent in the Natanz plant. Tehran always firmly rejects any intention to manufacture nuclear weapons. The more highly enriched uranium is intended for the production of medicinal isotope sources for the treatment of cancer patients.

Washington described the higher uranium enrichment as a new "escalation stage" in the nuclear conflict with Tehran. If uranium is enriched in Fordo to 20 percent, this is an "escalation" of the "persistent violations" of Iran's international obligations, said US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on January 9th. Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the start of production as a "provocative act". Iran has no credible reasons why the country needs these amounts of highly enriched uranium. "I'm extremely disappointed," said Hague. Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle made a similar statement.

The nuclear conflict threatens to lead to a military conflict with devastating consequences. Iran recently announced its readiness to resume negotiations without any preconditions and asked the EU for an appointment. And while the Vice President threatened to close the Strait of Hormoz in the event of an oil boycott, Defense Minister Ahmad Wahidi declared on January 9: "We never said that we would close the Strait of Hormoz." The contradictions in Iranian foreign policy reflect the internal power struggle, which has intensified considerably in view of the upcoming parliamentary elections on March 2nd.


Further EU sanctions

On January 23, the EU foreign ministers decided on new, far more severe sanctions than before against Iran in the dispute over the Iranian nuclear program, thus initiating a new phase in the conflict that has been smoldering since 2003. According to the resolution, EU states and companies will in future not be allowed to buy, import or transport oil and petroleum products from Iran, nor will they be allowed to participate in related financing or insurance transactions. For old contracts, however, a period of six months applies. The tightened sanctions are due to come into force on July 1st.

Petrochemical products and associated technologies are also affected by the embargo.Joint ventures in this area are prohibited in the future. The measures are to be reviewed in the coming months. Experts saw the decision as a strong signal and expected significant financial consequences for Iran. However, there are also doubts as to whether the additional sanctions that have now been adopted will prevent Iran from continuing its nuclear program.

There will also be future restrictions for the financial sector: the assets of the Iranian central bank in the EU will be frozen. “Legitimate trade” is the official formulation, but can continue under certain conditions. There are also future restrictions for gold trading. In addition, three other people and eight so-called entities - i.e. companies or authorities - were banned from entering the EU or their assets were frozen in the EU.

Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle justified the planned tougher action against Iran at the beginning of the talks with the country's rigid stance. Nobody likes to impose sanctions, he said on January 23 in Brussels. "But it is necessary." The Iranian leadership still refuses to meet its international obligations. A nuclear armament of Iran would be "not only a threat to the situation in the region, but also for the entire world," stressed Westerwelle. The door to dialogue is still open.

According to the Green Party, the embargo comes too late. "We don't really understand why the signal should only apply from July 1," said the Greens chairman Cem Özdemir on January 23 in Berlin: "I very much regret that the European Union is not making clearer progress." The EU spends 296 billion euros per year on the import of oil, said Özdemir. "The money would certainly be more sensibly invested in our national economy, there in renewable energies."

In contrast, the spokesman for security policy for the Greens parliamentary group Omid Nuripur criticized the sanctions as poorly substantiated and therefore risky. "So far, the people in Iran have been our best allies in the fight against the government," Nuripur told the dpa news agency on January 25th in Berlin. "In order for it to stay that way, the measures must be carefully considered and justified - the EU does not seem to be able to achieve this with its latest decisions."

"The danger of war with Iran is real," said Nuripur. "Anyone who wants to prevent this catastrophic outcome must now exhaust all nonviolent means that can bring the country back to the negotiating table on its nuclear program." The sanctions should not only be linked to the danger of an Iranian nuclear bomb, but must also be linked to the suppression of the People of Iran and the Iranian threat policy in the Persian Gulf are bound. "For this, the punitive measures must particularly affect the shadow economy, which, under the guise of religious foundations, ensures the funding of the circles of power."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague saw the agreement as a sign of European determination. He hoped to be able to influence other countries in their attitude towards Iran, he said. The harshest sanctions package against Iran so far is a reaction to "Iran's continued violations of the resolutions of the UN Security Council and its refusal to start meaningful negotiations on the nuclear program." He again called on the Iranian leadership for "meaningful talks".

US President Barack Obama has welcomed the European Union's oil embargo against Iran. The US would also continue to impose sanctions on Tehran, Obama said in Washington on January 23. For its part, the US has tightened its punitive measures against Iran. The Washington government imposed sanctions on Iran's third largest bank, Tejarat, on January 23. The move should make it more difficult for the government in Tehran to finance its nuclear program, announced the Treasury Department in Washington. Bank Tejarat and its Belarusian branch Trade Capital Bank are said to be cut off from the US financial system in the future. According to the US, the state bank has almost 2,000 branches in Iran as well as representations in France and Tajikistan.

On January 24, Obama said in his State of the Union address that the US would do everything possible to prevent the Islamic Republic from possessing nuclear weapons. “But a peaceful solution is still possible. And what is even better, Iran beckons to re-join the international community if it changes course and fulfills its obligations. "Obama assured Israel, which feels threatened by the Iranian nuclear program, that it can rely on the solidarity of the United States. This includes the closest military cooperation between the two countries, and Israel is not ruling out an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Two days earlier, at a meeting with German Foreign Minister Westerwelle, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Iran to be "honest and serious" in the negotiations on its controversial nuclear program. "We are all trying to see what is hidden behind Iran's public statements that it is ready to negotiate," said Clinton at a joint press conference with Westerwelle. "Trust will return if you can prove that you are serious about resuming talks with us and our partners." Iran can be reintegrated internationally if it gives up its nuclear program and ensures transparency. Otherwise, Iran must expect increasing international pressure and isolation.

"This is a step in the right direction," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a telephone conversation with Chancellor Angela Merkel about the situation in the Middle East and the EU's sanctions against Iran, Netanyahu welcomed the measures and thanked the German government for their commitment in adopting them, said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert. On January 23, Netanyahu declared that Israel would have to take action on its own if necessary against the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program. In a speech to parliament on the occasion of the upcoming Holocaust Remembrance Day, the head of government said on January 24th in Jerusalem that the lesson from the murder of millions of Jews is not to shrink from fending off existential threats alone, if necessary.

"On this day of international cooperation, I would like to remind everyone of the most important lesson from the Holocaust against our people, that in the final analysis, if there is a threat to our existence, we must not place our fate in the hands of others," said Netanyahu . "When it comes to a question of our fate, our obligation is to rely on ourselves."

Netanyahu announced that it would continue to work on the international isolation of Iran. However, he added: “We must not bury our heads in the sand. The Iranian regime openly calls for our annihilation, plans and acts for the annihilation of Israel. The lessons say the international community needs to be awakened, ”warned Netanyahu.

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for even tougher sanctions. The EU sanctions are a very serious signal and a step in the right direction, but this step will not be enough, Lieberman said on January 24 at a conference on the future of Europe in Vienna, according to the Austrian news agency APA. The foreign minister warned against an increase in power in Iran. Tehran will have brought the majority Shiite Iraq under control within three years and will then devote itself to the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, said Lieberman. Then Iran will control "the entire energy market in the world".

The package of sanctions drove up the price of oil on the same day. The price of Brent North Sea Crude, traded in London, rose by $ 1.17 to $ 111.03 a barrel, while in New York the price of West Texas Intermediate Crude rose by $ 1.04 to $ 99.37 a barrel.

Sharp criticism of the EU sanctions came from Russia, which reacted with "regret and concern" to the EU decision. The EU is following a "deeply flawed line" in the nuclear dispute with Iran, the Foreign Ministry announced in Moscow on January 23. "It is obvious that in this case it is a question of open pressure and a dictation, the desire to punish Iran for its stubbornness."

"These unilateral steps are not helpful," said head of department Sergei Lavrov, according to the Interfax agency in the Black Sea city of Sochi. From the Russian point of view, there is no reason to go beyond the common line agreed in the UN Security Council, said the Foreign Minister. But Russia will continue to work for a dialogue between Iran and the 5 + 1 group.

China had previously rejected new sanctions against Iran. During his talks in Beijing, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner encountered resistance to increasing pressure on Tehran through sanctions against the Iranian central bank, which handles Iran's oil business. After talks with the responsible Vice Prime Minister Wang Qishan the day before, Geithner met Vice President Xi Jinping, who is considered to be China's future head of state and party, in the Chinese capital on January 11.

A meeting with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was also on his program. Although China apparently wants to at least reduce its oil imports from Iran this year, it is angry about the legal action taken by the US to deny foreign banks and companies access to the US financial market if they cooperate on transactions with the Iranian central bank.

China is already cooperating with the US by reducing its oil imports from Iran, but does not support an embargo, Sun Zhe of the Tsinghua Center for Sino-American Relations in Beijing told the Global Times. The newspaper reported, citing trade circles, that due to price disputes, China will reduce its imports from Iran anyway.

A senior representative of the State Department in Beijing rejected the US action and warned against the use of military force against Iran. Unilateral sanctions could not solve the conflict with Tehran either, said Chen Xiaodong, director general for the region, of the "China Daily" newspaper. China's trade and energy cooperation with Iran also has nothing to do with the dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions, said the top diplomat.

IMF: Iran sanctions can make oil up to 30 percent more expensive

According to estimates by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), stopping Iranian oil exports could push up the price by 20 to 30 percent. Financial sanctions, such as those imposed by the USA, are equivalent to the import ban imposed by the European Union on January 23, according to an IMF report to the G20 on January 25. As a result, the world's fifth largest oil producer would be able to export around 1.5 million barrels less per day.

In contrast, other assessments came from the industry: The French oil giant Total does not expect the EU embargo to have a greater impact on Iranian sales or the oil market in general. The oil will be sold elsewhere, said CEO Christophe de Margerie of the Reuters news agency on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The Islamic Republic could also offer discounts to speed up sales. Total says it is already adhering to the embargo and has stopped its purchases. Previously, the French had bought around 80,000 barrels a day.

Iran's response to EU sanctions

Immediately after the EU decision was announced, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Rahim Mehmanparast said: "The threat, pressure and unjust sanctions are doomed to fail." The sanctions would not prevent Iran from exercising "its fundamental rights" in relation to the nuclear program Mehmanparast said on Iranian television.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Arakchi said the oil embargo would hinder an agreement on the nuclear dispute. "The more it (the EU) moves towards sanctions, the more hurdles there will be in resolving the nuclear dispute," Arakchi told the state news agency IRNA on January 23. "Some countries see sanctions as a way to resolve the nuclear dispute Arakchi stressed that Iran would not make any concessions, but the door to “benevolent negotiations” was still open.

MP Heschmattollah Fallahipischeh threatened to close the Strait of Hormos in retaliation. According to a report by the semi-official Mehr news agency, he said closing the strait was increasingly an option.

Former intelligence chief and current member of the influential council of experts, Ali Fallahian, called for an immediate halt to oil deliveries to Europe. Since then the Europeans would not have enough time to switch to other sources, this would trigger a price shock, he told the Fars news agency on January 23. The Vice-President of Parliament's Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy Mohammad Kossari reiterated the threat that Iran would block the Strait of Hormos if oil exports were obstructed. This will "definitely happen," he told the Fars agency.

On January 24, Iran summoned the ambassador of Denmark, which currently holds the EU Council Presidency, to protest the oil embargo. As the state news agency IRNA reported, the Foreign Ministry in Tehran protested against the Union's “illogical decision”. At the same time, the Islamic Republic tried to downplay the importance of the punitive measures. The "ineffective sanctions" are not a threat, but on the contrary have brought the country a lot of advantages, said secret service minister Haidar Moslehi of the official news agency IRNA. Because of the debt crisis, the EU is more dependent on oil than Iran on purchasing the raw material.

A spokesman for the oil ministry stressed that Iran had enough time to prepare for the embargo and that it would find alternative customers.

Iran's President Ahmadinejad said he was confident that Iran would not feel the consequences of the European oil embargo. "It is the West that Iran needs, and the Iranian nation will not lose anything through the sanctions," said Ahmadinejad on January 26th in his first public appearance since the EU resolutions in the city of Kerman. The days when Iran did 90 percent of its trade with Europe are a thing of the past. Today's ten percent did not matter.

Ahmadinejad announced his government's readiness to resume talks on Iran's controversial nuclear program. But his country will not give up its right to enrich uranium, said the president. “Why should we shy away from discussions? It can be seen that those who resort to coercion and who are against negotiating always make excuses and instead blame us. "

A point in time for a possible continuation of the talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany has not yet been set. The last round of negotiations ended in January 2011 in Istanbul with no result.

On January 26, the Iranian parliament called for an immediate halt to oil deliveries to the European Union. The parliament's energy committee is preparing a corresponding draft law, reported the Fars news agency. According to this, the government should stop oil deliveries to the EU now, although the EU countries can process contracts that are running until July 1st.

However, the Iranian parliament has often made drastic political decisions in the past, which the government mostly ignored. Last year, for example, parliament asked the government to revise its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. In the end, however, there was only one debate.

On January 24th, a member of the energy committee threatened with the new draft law, "The draft is intended to ensure that none of the EU countries involved in the embargo receives even a drop of Iranian oil," said Nasser Sudani . The EU has started a "game" that will only bring it disadvantages. In addition, according to Sudani, oil prices would increase "and the EU would then have to pay more for its energy needs".

A meeting on January 29 to vote on an immediate stop to oil exports to Europe was adjourned. The semi-official news agency IRNA reported, citing Iranian MP Ali Adiani Rad, that parliamentarians would have to get the opinion of experts before voting on a corresponding draft law.

While the government in Tehran tried to downplay the impact of the sanctions, Conservative MP Ahmad Tawakoli, who is critical of the government, expressed fears that the EU sanctions could trigger a serious economic crisis in Iran."There are no more investments in the market - and that is not a temporary, but a long-term dilemma," Tawakoli told Mehr news agency on January 24th.

"The current situation on the market and constantly increasing exchange rates for foreign currencies and gold are bringing the country to the brink of bankruptcy," the conservative politician continued. He is one of the sharpest critics of President Ahmadinejad and ran for office himself in 1993.

"The central bank's strategy and the government's silence have only added to the instability of the market," said Tawakoli. He called on parliament to intervene to prevent inflation from rising further.

Australia also wants to impose sanctions

After the USA and the EU, Australia also wants to impose new sanctions on Iran. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said on January 24th after a meeting with his British colleague William Hague in London that his country would take “exactly the same” punitive measures as the EU states against Tehran. The Iranian people, their government and the “entire political leadership” must realize that “their behavior is globally unacceptable”.

Ashton's terms to resume talks with Tehran

The EU's Foreign Affairs Representative, Catherine Ashton, announced the content of her reply to the chairman of the Iranian Security Council, Said Djalili. In it, Ashton Djalili's proposal to resume negotiations on the controversial Iranian nuclear program of January 19, called for "meaningful talks" and warned against repeating the unsuccessful talks like the one in Istanbul about a year ago. “Our goal is first of all to strive for mutual trust and to facilitate a constructive dialogue in order to gradually resolve the issues at hand. On this basis, we are convinced that the practical and concrete proposals we have put forward in the past are still valid and suitable for gradually paving the way for us to ultimately lead to mutual agreement at all levels and the full implementation of the decisions of the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency through Iran. "

The practical and concrete proposals probably refer to the package of proposals from the 5 + 1 group that was presented to Tehran in June 2006. It recognizes Iran's right to peaceful use of atomic energy. The country is offered certain incentives, such as support for the construction of a light water reactor, the expansion of non-military air traffic and support for Iran joining the World Trade Organization (WTO). In return, Iran should refrain from enriching uranium and producing nuclear fuel.

On January 19, Djalili wrote to Catherine Ashton, declaring Iran's readiness to resume negotiations without any preconditions and asking the EU foreign affairs representative to propose the time and place of the talks as soon as possible.

On January 26, German Chancellor Angela Merkel again called on Iran to hold talks about its nuclear program. "Sanctions are the result of not negotiating, of non-progress, of non-transparency in connection with the nuclear program," said Merkel at her New Year's reception for the Diplomatic Corps. "But when Iran comes to the negotiating table, if there is transparency, then we are ready (meaning negotiations, editor's note)." Germany is very concerned about the nuclear program.

After the imposition of an oil embargo on Iran, Germany and the European Union as a whole counted on other important buyers of Iranian oil to participate in the measures against Tehran. An EU diplomat told the German press agency in Brussels on January 24 that efforts are currently being made to persuade Japan and South Korea to stop using Iranian oil. This would mean that Iran would not only lose 20 percent of its oil exports. Together with Japan and South Korea, the loss would be around 40 to 50 percent.

There are also contacts with Iran's other two most important oil customers, China and India. The aim is for them to be “at least neutral” with regard to their future oil imports from Iran. The EU is trying to convince both countries that they will not buy up the amount of oil released by the EU embargo.

The EU is “more than confident” that it will be able to offset the loss of Iranian oil - which made up around 5.7 percent of total EU oil imports in 2010 - with other suppliers. Talks with other countries, including Saudi Arabia, have been going on since December.

The oil embargo will also make itself felt at petrol stations

According to ADAC, motorists in Germany will also feel the effects of the European Union's oil embargo. "If such an important oil supplier fails, it will not go without affecting the oil price and fuel prices," ADAC spokesman Andreas Hölzel told the AFP news agency on January 24th. However, since the embargo is not due to take effect until summer, the consequences are probably not immediately apparent at petrol stations.

Several factors are decisive for the price development in connection with the oil embargo, emphasized the spokesman for the automobile club. On the one hand, we have to wait and see how far the failure of Iranian oil will be offset by other oil-producing countries. Saudi Arabia promised to increase its oil production. After the uprising against Muammer al Ghaddafi last year, Libya may also join the group of oil exporters earlier than expected. At the beginning of 2011, the production of Libyan oil was stopped.

At the same time, it remains to be seen how the nuclear dispute with Iran will develop after the embargo. “If Iran closes the Strait of Hormos, other countries will also be affected.” On the other hand, Iran would “cut into its own flesh,” said Hölzel. The sea route between the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea transports 20 percent of the oil marketed worldwide.

After all, “the psyche” and nervousness in the markets also played a role. "We saw that last year in Libya, relatively a small supplier, that prices have gone up a lot," said Hölzel.

Trade between the EU and Iran

Iran is noticeably involved in all of the European Union's oil imports, but not decisively. In the first three months of 2011, the 27 EU member states imported a total of 896 million barrels of crude oil. Of this, 4.4 percent came from Iran.

Throughout 2010, Iran supplied around 5.7 percent of a total of around 3.8 billion barrels. In some EU countries, however, the proportion is considerably higher. Greece is 25 percent, Italy 13 and Spain about 10 percent dependent on Iranian oil. For Iran, the EU, together with China, is the largest trading partner. 90 percent of the exports from Iran to the EU countries are oil.

The largest oil supplier to the EU in 2010 was Russia (29.7 percent), followed by Norway (13.1 percent). In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia was the EU's largest oil supplier with a supply share of 6 percent. Libya played an important role in 2010 with 10.7 percent; in the first months of 2011 before the start of the civil war it was a good 9 percent. Other important suppliers to the EU in 2010 were Kazakhstan (6), Nigeria (4.4), Azerbaijan (3.9) and Iraq (3.2 percent).

In 2010 the EU imported goods worth 14.3 billion euros from Iran, 52 percent more than in the previous year. This is almost exclusively crude oil (13 billion euros), which rose sharply in price.

EU exports to Iran rose from 10.4 to 11.3 billion euros. These are mainly machines. In the EU, Iran ranks 22nd as an importer and 25th as an exporting country (source: dpa)

Obama: Sanctions are having an impact

US President Barack Obama defended his administration's policy towards Iran in a campaign speech. His government had managed to unite the world community for punitive measures against Iran. The sanctions are already having an effect, and the Iranian economy is “in a mess,” said Obama. The Tehran regime had to suspend part of its nuclear program. "We clearly state that we will not tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranian regime." The US government had managed to win China and Russia over to the sanctions measures, even though these countries had refused to take these measures until recently to wear with. Even the Iranians themselves have to admit that sanctions have thrown their economy out of joint.

When he took over the government, Iran was united and the world community was divided, said the president. Now it is the other way around. Today the world community is unanimously demanding that Iran give up its politics and take a different course. Iran has not yet taken the path that will bring it back into the world community, nor is the country sticking to its nuclear program, said Obama.

Obama delivered his speech on January 20, a few days before the European Union adopted tougher sanctions against Iran.

Iran will not build atomic bombs in 2012

According to an American study, Iran is unlikely to build nuclear weapons this year. The reason for this is a lack of capacity to enrich uranium for military purposes, according to a report published on January 26 by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). In addition, the sanctions and the fear of an Israeli attack on the country's nuclear facilities had a deterrent effect.

"As long as Iran's options for enriching uranium are as limited as they are today, it is unlikely to advance a decision on the construction of atomic bombs," the ISIS researchers write. The position of the Islamic Republic is unlikely to change this year because of the Western sanctions. Despite the Iranian nuclear program, there was no evidence that the leadership in Tehran had decided to build nuclear weapons.

The ISIS study was created with financial help from the state-sponsored, non-partisan Peace Institute. ISIS advised the governments of the USA and other countries on the nuclear dispute with Iran. Its founder, David Albright, is a recognized expert. The investigation contrasts with the vehement rhetoric of the US and its allies, which recently tightened their sanctions against Iran.

According to representatives of the US government, Iran has not yet made a decision on the construction of nuclear weapons. Most of the Iranian nuclear program serves peaceful purposes, but the country is keeping all options open, the Reuters news agency learned from this group of people, according to a report on January 26th. Israeli and conservative experts have contradicted this assessment in the past, stating that Iranian efforts have progressed so far that a bomb can be built within a year.

Rial back to record low

According to the Iranian media, the Iranian national currency fell by a further six percent on January 18 to a new record low against the dollar. The dollar was sold for 18,000 rials on the black market, up from 16,950 rials the day before. Money changers were arrested in several streets of the capital, reported the semi-official Fars news agency. According to the media, President Ahmadinejad had previously refused to take a step to raise bank interest rates.

On January 25, the government in Tehran was forced to raise interest rates in order to contain the sanctions-related economic crisis. The president has adjusted the interest rates to the official inflation rate of 21 percent, said central bank governor Mahmud Bahmani the state television Irib.

The Iranian currency has lost half of its value since the beginning of the year. The inflation rate is officially 21 percent; Experts estimate it at almost 50 percent.

Ahmadinejad had resisted the adjustment from 12 to 21 percent demanded by the central bank, but had to agree to the increase due to the dramatic situation on the Iranian markets.

On January 26, the Iranian central bank was forced to set a fixed exchange rate between the local currency and the US dollar. The bank announced that starting January 28, all transfers and approved imports, student scholarships abroad and domestic tourists will be subject to a rate of 12,260 rials for one dollar.

In the days before that, a system of two parallel exchange rates had developed in Iran. The bank exchange rate was 11,300 rials for one dollar. There was also an exchange rate in the exchange offices, which fluctuated and climbed to more than 18,000 rials for one dollar.

After the government tried to control the parallel market in the exchange offices and to enforce an exchange rate of 14,000 rials, a black market of at times more than 22,000 rials arose. The central bank threatened to close the exchange offices if they exceed the officially fixed rate by more than five percent.

Russia and Iran no longer conduct their bilateral trade in dollars

Resa Sadjadi, Iran's ambassador to Russia, announced at a press conference in Moscow on January 20 that Iran and Russia will no longer conduct bilateral trade in dollars, but in their own currencies, rubles and rials: the dollar has no economic value Support more.

Russia's trade with Iran has increased steadily since Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005.

Sadjadi criticized the presence of American warships in the Persian Gulf as a provocation and preparation for a possible war of aggression. "The USA certainly does not go fishing with an aircraft carrier," he said, according to Iter-Tass. The West is looking for a pretext for a military solution in the nuclear dispute with its country. Many politicians in Europe would also see a war against Iran as an opportunity to divert attention from the crisis on their continent.

Some members of the 5 + 1 group (the UN veto powers USA, Russia, China, France and Great Britain as well as Germany) acted dishonestly, said the diplomat.

Baztab: Iran's economy on the verge of ruin

The website "Tabnak", which is close to the moderate conservatives, wrote on January 18 that after the turbulence in the Iranian currency market for over a month, the Iranian economy was on the "threshold of ruin even without the foreign sanctions due to the lack of management by the government ". "The strong fluctuations in the market paired with police state measures, the chaos in financial and monetary policy, the strong depreciation of the national currency and the use of dollars instead of rials in domestic trade are some indications that point to the decline of the Iranian economy", writes tobacco.

Wholesale markets such as the market for iron, household appliances or gold have come to a complete standstill, not least because entrepreneurs lack future prospects. Therefore, bulk purchases and sales are dispensed with and if, in exceptional cases, a trade is made, it will not be settled on a credit basis, but with cash, continues Tabnak. Many traders sell their imported goods at the current dollar price regardless of the domestic market.

The central bank's attempts to control the market have failed. Instead, police-state measures would now be carried out. Police officers and security guards in plain clothes cavort on the foreign exchange market, which has meanwhile been transformed from a free market into a black market. Citizens see no other way of getting into possession of foreign currency than to bow to the mechanisms of the black market and buy foreign currency with the heavily devalued national currency and thus accept losses of up to 50 percent.

In this situation, the president left the cold winter weather and traveled to warm areas of Latin America with his wife and some members of his cabinet. After his return, he vetoed the decision of the “Council for Money and Credit” to adjust the interest rate to the inflation rate, without submitting any other plan that would help put the reins on the disorganized economy .

The seventy percent rise in the dollar within a few months is a one-time event that will certainly have an inflationary effect in the next few months. This will not only make life more difficult for the middle and lower classes of society, but will also have a sensitive impact on productive activities.

It is true that the current crisis is primarily due to foreign economic sanctions. “However, it seems that the Iranian economy does not need new sanctions to reach the brink of ruin.The licentiousness, the lack of cooperation between the responsible authorities, the contradicting measures and the refusal to use methods with the help of which one could get the economy back under control are apparently enough to drive the Iranian economy into ruin ”, writes tobacco.

Foreign policy

US chief of staff discussed Iran with Israel

US Chief of Staff Martin Dempsey met with representatives of the Israeli government on January 20 about strategies for dealing with the controversial Iranian nuclear program. Both sides kept a low profile about the content of the conversations. However, Dempsey was expected to urge Israel to refrain from a premature attack on Iran. Washington is currently campaigning for tightening international sanctions against Tehran. According to its own statements, Israel also prefers diplomatic ways of solving the crisis, but has never ruled out the option of a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

On January 18, Israel tried to calm the situation in view of international concerns about a possible surprise attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. "We haven't made a decision yet," Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli Army Radio. "The whole thing is still a long way off," he added a day before the US Chief of Staff Dempsey visits.

Barak reacted differently to the question of whether he meant months or weeks by “the matter is still a long way off”. “I don't want to make any assessment here. But it is definitely not urgent, and I don't want to give the impression that it could happen tomorrow. ”In Israel, the pros and cons of a military strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities have been discussed for months. It remained unclear how far the decision-making process had progressed.

According to media reports, the US has warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration not to attack Iran before the US presidential election. Barak denied that Israel is keeping the US in the dark about its intentions. "I don't think our relationship with the US is such that they have no idea what we're talking about," said the minister.

US aircraft carrier passed Strait of Hormos

An American aircraft carrier has passed the Strait of Hormos amid mounting tensions with Iran. The US Navy said it was a routine maneuver. The "USS Abraham Lincoln" reached the Persian Gulf on January 22nd without incident to carry out planned maritime security exercises, it said.

US warships frequently operate in the region. During a similar maneuver by the aircraft carrier "USS John Stennis" at the end of December, Iran warned the United States of the warship's return. On January 22nd, however, the government in Tehran signaled that it viewed the maneuvers as normal. Over the past few weeks, Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormos.

Meanwhile, Great Britain has also announced an increase in its military presence in the Persian Gulf in the event of an Iranian blockade of the Strait of Hormos on January 24th. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said that two British warships had already entered the Gulf on January 22nd, alongside the US aircraft carrier "Abraham Lincoln". "And of course Great Britain has the capacity to increase the contingent there should this be deemed necessary at some point."

Tehran warns Gulf states to deliver additional oil

In the run-up to the EU's planned oil embargo against Iran, Tehran warned the Gulf states with clear words against replacement deliveries. Should the Arab oil producers compensate for the delivery shortfalls caused by the embargo, this could lead to unforeseeable consequences, said the Iranian ambassador to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC, Mohammad Ali Chatibi, after a newspaper report from January 15.

"If they do that, we would see this as an unfriendly act, and they should know that the consequences of it would be unpredictable," warned Chatibi in the Iranian newspaper "Schargh", without giving further details. The Gulf States should decide "wisely" and not embark on any adventure, he said.