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BorderWatch:Iran
Archive: September 2007
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The Latest
Tensions Escalate in Wake of US Capture of Iranian National
09/24/2007 5:07 PM ET
Sulaymaniya Palace Hotel.
Sulaymaniya Palace Hotel.
The international standoff over the American capture of an Iranian national late last week in Iraq’s Kurdistan region escalated on Monday as Iran closed its borders with the Kurdish region, according to media reports.

Iran has closed its border outlets with the Iraqi Kurdistan region on Monday, after U.S. forces arrested an Iranian citizen on Thursday, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) said, according to VOI.

"Iran closed all its five outlets on the borders with the Kurdistan region," said Jamal Abdullah, a spokesman for the KRG.

A presidential statement on Saturday read that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani sent a message of "discontent" to U.S. Ambassador in Baghdad Ryan Crocker and the Multi-National Forces (MNF) commander in Baghdad General David Petraeus, in which he indicated that Iran threatened to close the borders with Kurdistan if the arrested Iranian citizen was not released, VOI adds.

A Kurdish government source in Sulaimaniya responded to the report that one border crossing between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan have been left open, instead affirming that all border outlets with the region have been closed following the U.S. military forces' arrest of an Iranian last week.

"The Iranian government closed all of its official border crossings (with Iraq's Kurdistan)," Hussein Ahmed, the mayor of the cross-border Qalaat Diza area told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

One unofficial crossing remains open, the mayor added. "There is an unofficial outlet at the Kily border point that has not yet been closed," the mayor said in response to media reports that the Iranian government has left one border crossing with Sulaimaniya open.

In statements to VOI, Sulaimaniya provincial governor Ahmed Majid said earlier today that Iran had closed its three official border crossings in Bashmakh, Shalamcheh and Parviz Khan in Sulaimaniya, in addition to two other border outlets in Arbil.

No Iranian official or unofficial news agencies published any comments by Iranian authorities on the matter. The Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) quoted Iraqi Kurdish sources and foreign agencies in its coverage of the news, while Iran's official news agency (IRNA) did not make any mention of the matter, VOI also reports.

A spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) told VOI earlier today that Iran closed all its five outlets on the borders with the Kurdistan region in protest against U.S. forces' arrest of an Iranian citizen for his suspected involvement with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and for allegedly smuggling weapons into Iraq.

Last week, US forces captured an Iranian businessman in the Sulaimaniya Palace Hotel, in the city of Sulaimaniya. The man was identified by Kurdish officials and Iranian media reports as Aghai Farhadi, a member of a commercial delegation to the Iraqi Kurdish region. US forces maintain that the man, whom they did not identify, is a member of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and accuse the captive of training Iraqi insurgents and providing them with EFPs.

Kurdish officials insist that the man was a member of a regional trade delegation from the neighboring Iranian province of Kermanshah.

quote of day
Iranian Envoy to Iraq Tells CNN US Trying to Put Saddamists Back in Power
09/12/2007 10:40 PM ET
Here's the quote from Michael Ware'e exclusive CNN interview today with the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi:the
"The report given by the United States administration to the Congress, the part of which you refer to here, lacks truth. The report, in truth, resembles a theatrical scenario more than anything. But the problem of terrorism cannot be solved through continuing the occupation or bringing back to power former killers and murderers, a trend which we are regretfully seeing in the U.S. policy. And our recommendation to the United States administration, if it wants to solve the problems and serve Iraq, is to end these policies. Instead of arming forces that act outside the law and the government, the U.S. should arm and help the government, the army and police."
Quotables
Iranian Leader Tells British TV No Proxy War, But Many 'Friends' in Iraq
09/12/2007 7:09 PM ET
TEHERAN, IRAN - AUGUST 28: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks with journalists during a news conference August 28, 2007 in Teheran, Iran.
Getty
TEHERAN, IRAN - AUGUST 28: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks with journalists during a news conference August 28, 2007 in Teheran, Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has apologized for British soldiers killed in Iraq, and said that his country does not want or need a nuclear weapon, in an interview with the UK's Channel 4 News. The entire 25-minute interview can be viewed on Channel 4's site, but here are a few key quotes.

Messages for the British

"We are sorry for your soldiers to be killed."

"I should say this to the good British people... we want peace and friendship for all. We should help. This war should finish."

"British youths should be in their own country, serving their own people."

On Nukes

"Americans and British - if they have it - what is the issue? Why have it?" "We do not need a bomb. We are against a bomb actually.

"There are many reasons that we're against it. In our belief we are against bombs from a political point of view it is not useful."

Messages for Iraq

"We can help solve many problems in Iraq. We can help secure Iraq. We can help the attackers go out; the invaders go out of Iraq. There won't be any need for these conflicts."

"We hope they recognise Iraqi peoples' rights - if they don't recognise Iraqi peoples' rights, then this condition will continue."

On the Possibility of UN Sanctions

"From the beginning we said everything should be solved by the agency."

Iran Factor
Putin to Meet Iranian Leaders, Attend Summit of Caspian Sea Nations
09/12/2007 11:42 AM ET
Here's the report from the official Iranian Fars News Agency:

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Russian President Vladimir Putin will take a trip to Iran on October 16, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said. Mottaki made the remarks in Moscow where he is due to attend a meeting of the two countries' joint economic cooperation commission, and also hold talks with the head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Sergey Kiriyenko.

Upon arrival at Moscow airport Tuesday night, the Iranian foreign minister told reporters that during his visit, the two sides would review Iran-Russia cooperation and explore new avenues for further cooperation between the two countries.

He stressed the two states' high potentials for bolstering economic cooperation, and said that he would meet Kiriyenko to discuss bilateral and regional issues.

Mottaki also said that during his meetings with Russian officials, the two sides would take the required measures to arrange an upcoming visit to Tehran by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He said Putin is due to arrive in Tehran on October 16 to attend a summit of the Caspian Sea littoral states and meet with Iranian officials to discuss bilateral ties.

The Latest
Statement Issued, Onslaught Continues, Larijani Accuses US of Backing Rebels
09/06/2007 12:10 PM ET
Baghdad, IRAQ: A Kurdish fighter patrols an area in the Iraqi part of Qandil Mountains near their headquarters on the Iraqi-Iranian-Turkish borders, 12 June 2007.
Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty
Baghdad, IRAQ: A Kurdish fighter patrols an area in the Iraqi part of Qandil Mountains near their headquarters on the Iraqi-Iranian-Turkish borders, 12 June 2007.

The Iraqi parliament took up the issue of Iranian shelling of Iraqi territory on Wednesday, but found it could do no more than issue a sharply-worded statement condemning the action and an appeal for "the government" to do something to stop it.

The border bombardment continued Thursday, as Iran's national security adviser accused the United States of backing the Kurdish militants who attack his country.

"The people fleeing form the villages affected by the Iranian shelling go through incalculable hardships," legislator Saad al-Barazanji, from the Kurdistan Alliance, told Wednesday's session.

The Kurdish parliamentarian urged the House to intervene to halt the onslaught, but Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani decided they should issue a formal statement.

The Iraqi Council of Representatives condemns the Iranian bombardment of the border areas of Kurdistan region. While it expresses its deep concern regarding that, Iraqi Council of Representatives asks the Iraqi federal government to make all the diplomatic efforts for stopping these offensives and other kinds of aggressions into the Iraqi territories.

Iranian shelling resumed for about two hours Thursday morning, hitting the area around Bamo, in southern Sulaimaniyah on the edge of Diyala.

Iran began an accelerated campaign of artillery bombardment of the northeastern border area of Iraq over three weeks ago, focusing on areas of Sulaimaniyah where Kurdish rebels of the PJAK, the anti-Iranian version of the PKK, are reportedly concentrated.

On Thursday, Ali Larijani, Iran's top national security official, accused Washington of supporting PJAK attacks.

"The United States has become so weak that it is trying to strengthen groups like Pejak and other groups to carry out actions like blowing up oil pipelines in Iran," the official news agency IRNA quoted Larijani as saying.

Even as it accuses Washington of agitating inside Iran, Tehren has continued to deny its own conventional military actions against northern Iraq.

At a ministerial meeting in Tehren Monday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari demanded Iran stop shelling northern Iraq, reporting that the onslaught had displaced hundreds of Kurds and was threatening Iraqi relations with Iran.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Mostafavi shot back by strongly denying the allegation and said that Iran has given proper responses to such allegations so far.

An incident Tuesday inside Iran does not bode well for any imminent improvement in the border tensions.

Seven Iranian policemen were killed in an overnight clash with "bandits" in Kermanshah province near the Iraqi border, ISNA news agency reported Wednesday.

It said police had not yet identified the gunmen, but quoted one official as saying they were "definitely related to anti-revolutionary groups."

Iran Factor
Will North Korea Take Its Long-Time Alliance with Iran to New Level?
09/06/2007 08:25 AM ET
The Iranian foreign minister says his country and North Korea are working to "pave the way for a visit to Tehran by (North) Korean Leader Kim Jong Il."

That nugget can be found in this dispatch from the official Iranian Fars news agency:

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- North Korea's Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun said relations with Iran set a top priority for Pyongyang, and stressed that his country would spare no effort to enhance ties with the Islamic Republic. Chun made the remarks in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki here on Wednesday on the sidelines of the two-day ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on 'Human Rights and Cultural Diversity' in Tehran, a statement released by the Foreign Ministry's Information and Press Bureau reported.

During the meeting, Mottaki appreciated his counterpart for attending the Tehran meeting, and named North Korea as the conventional friend of the Islamic Republic.

He welcomed efforts made by the other side to pave the way for a visit to Tehran by Korean Leader Kim Jong Il to further expand the two countries' mutual relations and cooperation.

The minister further noted the abundant proper grounds for the two countries' economic and trade cooperation, and called for the two nations' joint activity in such grounds as auto-manufacturing, mining and house construction industries as well as scientific and research projects and technical and engineering services.

Stressing Iran's resolve to bolster cooperation with North Korea in the said areas, he viewed prospects of the two countries' relations as clear.

For his part, the Korean foreign minister appreciated Iran's hospitality and voiced pleasure with the successful holding of the NAM meeting by Tehran.

He noted Iran's outstanding status in the Non-Aligned Movement, and expressed the hope that the visit to Tehran by the Korean delegation would prepare the grounds for the further expansion of mutual ties.

Pak Ui Chun underlined that his country's officials view Iran with much respect, and said, "We have prioritized relations with Iran and we will spare no effort to enhance these ties."

He further called for exchange of political, economic, cultural and sports delegations by the two countries, and extended an invitation to Mottaki to pay a visit to North Korea.

The Latest
Does the Leadership Change Foretell a New Direction for the IRGC?
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 09/03/2007 1:59 PM ET
Newly appointed head of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards force, General Mohammad Ali Jaafari, speaks during a press conference in Tehran, 03 September 2007.
AFP/Getty
Newly appointed head of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards force, General Mohammad Ali Jaafari, speaks during a press conference in Tehran, 03 September 2007.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei unexpectedly appointed a new commander for the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) this weekend, promoting Mohammad Ali Jafari to replace Yahya Rahim Safavi.

"Regarding your valuable experience and shining background at different times, and varied responsibilities in the Guards, I appoint you (Jafari) ... as the commander-in-chief of this revolutionary service organization," Khamenei said.

Leadership changes are nothing unusual in Iran, though the IRGC, which is a separate apparatus from the traditional military, usually remains unaffected by personnel overhauls. Safavi had shown remarkable longevity, serving ten years as commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guard.

Safavi gave his long appointment as the reason for the sudden change, telling the Iranian television channel, IRTV1, "Appointments made by His Eminence are usually for no longer than 10 years... Such movements are natural."

Khamenei gave no reason for the order, though it comes soon after the US announced it would be designating the Revolutionary Guard a "terrorist organization" for its meddling in Lebanon and Iraq, a move that could lead to a crackdown on the organization's financial holdings.

However, anyone looking at the changeover as a certain indication that Iran intends a new direction in its IRGC operations will be likely disappointed.

Jafari commanded IRGC ground forces for 13 years, after establishing his reputation as an renowned field commander during the Iran-Iraq war. Jafari takes over leadership of the Revolutionary Guards after serving two years as Safavi's second-in-command at the IRGC's Strategic Center.

Promoting an underling with no reputation for unconventional views--Jafari is even rumored to be a favorite of the Ayatollah--indicates a plan for policy continuity, rather than any signal for change.

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