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UN rescinds Iran’s invite for Syria talks – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

UN rescinds Iran’s invite for Syria talks – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

The announcement came less than 24 hours after UN chief Ban surprised the US and others by inviting Iran to the Syria peace talks [AP]
The UN secretary-general has withdrawn his invitation to Iran to join this week’s Syria peace talks, saying he is “deeply disappointed” by Iran’s statements on Monday.

A spokesman for Ban Ki-moon announced the withdrawal less than 24 hours after Ban surprised the US and others by saying he had invited Syria’s closest regional ally.

The withdrawn invitation came shortly after Iran’s UN ambassador declared the Islamic Republic wouldn’t join the Syria talks if required to accept 2012 Geneva roadmap.

“The statement today in Tehran by the foreign ministry spokesperson fell short by some measure of what the secretary-general expected to hear,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky, adding that the UN has been in close contact with the US and Russians over the weekend.

Nesirky said senior Iranian officials had assured Ban that Iran understood the terms of his invitation.

“The Secretary-General is deeply disappointed by Iranian public statements today that are not at all consistent with that stated commitment,” Nesirky said.

“He continues to urge Iran to join the global consensus behind the Geneva Communiqué.”

The talks are set to begin Wednesday in the Swiss city of Montreux, with delegations from the United States, Russia and close to 40 other countries attending. Face-to-face negotiations between the Syrian government and its opponents, the first since the three-year civil war began, start Friday in Geneva.

‘Return to focus’

But Ban’s announcement on Sunday night that Iran was invited to Montreux angered Syria’s main Western-backed opposition group, which over the weekend had announced it would join the talks after intense international pressure.

The United States said on Monday it was hopeful after the UN withdrew Iran’s invitation and that all parties could refocus their efforts to end the Syrian civil war.

“We are hopeful that, in the wake of today’s announcement, all parties can now return to focus on the task at hand, which is bringing an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and beginning a process toward a long overdue political transition,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Psaki said the purpose of the conference was to implement a 2012 plan to establish a political transition in Syria.

Iran, Russia Ruffle US Feathers With Oil-Swap Deal | Zero Hedge

Iran, Russia Ruffle US Feathers With Oil-Swap Deal | Zero Hedge.

This morning’s apparent U-turn in US-Iran relations – when the US demanded the UN rescind Iran’s invite to the Syrian peace conference having somewhat instigated their invitation in the first place – is a little confusing for some. However, as OilPrice’s Joao Peixe points out, reports are emerging that Iran and Russia are in talks about a potential $1.5 billion oil-for-goods swap that is sure to upset the powers that be in Washington.

 

Submitted by Joao Peixe via OilPrice.com,

Reports are emerging that Iran and Russia are in talks about a potential $1.5 billion oil-for-goods swap that could boost Iranian oil exports, prompting harsh responses from Washington, which says such a deal could trigger new US sanctions.

 

So far, talks are progressing to the point that Russia could purchase up to 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goodsaccording to Reuters.

 

“We are concerned about these reports and Secretary (of State John) Kerry directly expressed this concern with (Russian) Foreign Minister (Sergei) Lavrov…  If the reports are true, such a deal would raise serious concerns as it would be inconsistent with the terms of the P5+1 agreement with Iran and could potentially trigger US sanctions,” Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, told Reuters.

 

Russian purchases of 500,000 bpd of Iranian crude would lift Iran’s oil exports by 50% and infuse the struggling economy with some $1.5 billion a month, some sources say.

 

Since sanctions were slapped on Iran in July 2012, exports have fallen by half and Iran is losing up to $5 billion per moth is revenues.

 

In the meantime, a nuclear agreement reached in November with Iran and world powers is in the process of being finalized, and the news of the potential Russian-Iranian oil swap deal plays to the hands of Iran hawks in Washington who are keen to seen the November agreement collapse.

 

The November agreement is a six-month deal to lift some trade sanctions if Tehran curtailed its nuclear program. Technical talks on the agreement began last week.

Under the terms of the tentative November nuclear agreement, Iran will be allowed to export only 1 million barrels of oil per day.

 

In mid-December, Iranian oil officials indicated that they hoped to resume previous production and export levels and would hold talks with international companies to that end.

 

This announcement sparked an immediate reaction from US Congress, which has threatened oil companies with “severe financial penalties” if they resume business with Iran “prematurely” following the six-month agreement reached in Geneva.

 

There are plenty of figures in Congress—Republican and Democratic alike—who are opposed to the deal. The key “Iran hawk” in US Congress, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, has described the deal as “so far away from what the end game should look like”, which should be to “stop enrichment”.

 

The opposition in this case believes any talk between Tehran and Western oil companies is premature because they are convinced that we won’t see a comprehensive resolution after the six-month period, and that sanctions will be laid on stronger than ever before.

Yet again, it would seem, Iran is another proxy pissing match between the US and Russia… and remember, nothing lasts forever...

 

Pakistan’s government deflates dream of gas-powered cars | World news | theguardian.com

Pakistan’s government deflates dream of gas-powered cars | World news | theguardian.com.

CNG

Motorists in Pakistan are being forced to wait for hours to refuel their cars with compressed natural gas. Photograph: Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images

When Pakistan first started promoting compressed natural gas to the nation’s motorists in the 1990s, the alternative to petrol seemed like a wonder fuel.

Getting motorists to convert their cars to run on cleaner, cheaper gas would cure urban pollution and lower demand for the imported oil that was gobbling the country’s foreign currency reserves.

Car owners loved it and today 80% of all cars in Pakistan run off compressed natural gas (CNG), according to the Natural and Bio Gas Vehicle Association (NGVA), a European lobby group. Only Iran has more gas cars running on the road.

But as the country struggles with a chronic gas shortage, Pakistan’s 20-year CNG experiment seems to have been thrown into reverse gear.

The government has introduced strict rationing. And there have even been discussions about shutting down thousands of gas stations for the whole of thewinter. “CNG is finished in Pakistan,” said Owais Qureshi, the owner of a handful of once lucrative gas stations in Rawalpindi. “I’m not going to invest any more money in it.”

It has been years since he has been legally allowed to sell and install CNG conversion “kits”: essentially large gas cylinders that are placed in the boot of a car to feed the engine. The system allows for cars to still be able to use petrol instead, if required.

Although CNG is popular with an estimated 2.8m motorists in Pakistan, according to the NGVA, the increasingly scarce resource is also in demand from other sectors – including the country’s factories and for domestic use.

“The government has been left with little choice but to put a lid on it because there simply isn’t much gas left,” said Farrukh Saleem, an economist. “It has been a massive policy failure because the government actively promoted CNG knowing full well that natural gas reserves would not last beyond 25 years.”

Successive governments heavily subsided CNG, ran schemes to encourage car conversions and dished out licences to political allies to build gas stations.

But abandoned stations are now a common sight around the country. So too are queues of hundreds of motorists waiting to fill their cars on Wednesdays – the last remaining day of the week in many places on which CNG is legally allowed to be sold.

This weekly ordeal for CNG users is compounded by a chronic lack of electricity, the other aspect of Pakistan’s energy crisis. And because electricity is needed to run the gas compressors used by CNG stations car re-filling grinds to a halt during the many power cuts.

But cash-strapped motorists are usually prepared to queue for many hours for the gas to be turned back on, with many saying they cannot afford the higher price of petrol.

“All over the world countries are promoting CNG but in Pakistan they are killing it off,” said Ghiyas Abdullah Paracha, chairman of All Pakistan CNG Association.

“If we don’t have enough gas we should import LNG [liquid natural gas].”

Pakistan, however, has failed to build the infrastructure needed to import large amounts of gas from overseas. A legal challenge by Pakistan’s activist supreme court killed off one scheme to build a massive LNG terminal in Karachi.

The other lifeline for Pakistan’s CNG supply is a controversial, multi-billion dollar pipeline to import natural gas from Iran. But Pakistan lacks the cash to build its half of the pipeline and the US has warned that completing the project would be in breach of US economic sanctions imposed on Iran.

Even as natural gas is being touted elsewhere in the world as a great alternative to petrol, soon it may be a mere memory in Pakistan.

Paracha fondly recalls the grand opening of the first CNG station in Karachi, which was built with foreign aid money. “It was the start of a revolution,” he said. “Before CNG came you could not see the sky in the cities because the air was so polluted.”

 

Kerry raises doubts over Iran nuclear deal – Americas – Al Jazeera English

Kerry raises doubts over Iran nuclear deal – Americas – Al Jazeera English.

Kerry will brief the full US Senate on Wednesday on the status of talks with Iran [Reuters]
US Secretary of State John Kerry has raised doubts over whether Iran is prepared to conclude a final deal with Western powers on dismantling its disputed nuclear programme, but has urged US lawmakers not to impose new sanctions on the country.

“I came away from our preliminary negotiations with serious questions about whether or not they’re ready and willing to make some of the choices that have to be made,” Kerry told the US House of Representatives foreign affairs committee on Tuesday.

“Has Iran changed its nuclear calculus? I honestly don’t think we can say for sure yet. And we certainly don’t take words at face value,” Kerry said.

The top US diplomat, who helped hammer out an interim six-month deal with the country to freeze parts of its nuclear programme, said “believe me this is not about trust”.

“Given the history we are all rightly sceptical about whether people are ready to make the hard choices to live up to this.”

But he stressed Iran’s seriousness would be put to the test over the six months set out in the interim deal hammered out last month in Geneva.

Iran has denied accusations it is seeking to acquire a nuclear weapon under the guise of its civilian atomic energy programme.

Sanctions debated

Kerry said “we now have the best chance we’ve ever had to test this proposition without losing anything” and he urged lawmakers to hold off imposing new sanctions on Tehran to give negotiators time to work.

“I’m not saying never […] If this doesn’t work we’re coming back and asking you for more. I’m just saying not right now.”

Two US senators – Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Mark Kirk – are finalising a new Iran sanctions measure that they hope to introduce before Congress goes on its year-end recess.

Republican Senator John McCain, who said he hoped senators could “get an agreement in the next day or two”, dismissed the idea that introducing new sanctions legislation now would hurt the interim agreement.

“It’s supposed to be a six-month deal,” he said of the legislation, which would aim to punish Iran if it reneged on its part of the deal that it reached last month with members of the so-called P5+1 group of Western powers.

Fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the new sanctions would not take effect until after the six months, and would “basically tie to the UN resolutions”.

Kerry said the world faced a crossroads, “a hinge point in history”: one path could lead to a resolution of concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme, the other could lead to conflict.

He warned that if the US went ahead with new sanctions, it risked angering Washington’s P5+1 partners and could also give Iran an excuse to flout the deal.

 

A Confused World Reacts To The Iran Nuclear Deal | Zero Hedge

A Confused World Reacts To The Iran Nuclear Deal | Zero Hedge.

The following statement was made by British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, on September 30, 1938 in front of #10 Downing Street, London, after his arrival home from the notorious Munich Conference of 1938.

We, the German Fuhrer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for our two countries and for Europe.

 

We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.

 

We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe.

 

My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is “peace for our time.” Go home and get a nice quiet sleep

75 years later, last night appeasement came to Iran:

(L to R) British foreign secretary, German foreign minister, EU foreign policy chief, Iran’s foreign minister, Chinese foreign minister, US secretary of state and Russian and French foreign ministers in Geneva on November 24, 2013.

It remains to be seen if appeasing Iran will lead to yet another anschluss or worse, but for now one thing is certain: nobody really knows what to make of last night’s historic nuclear “deal” with Iran. Because when even the two main participants are unable to agree on what was decided…

Now, THAT’s “win-win” diplomacy —> pic.twitter.com/5zbI5Db6Kh

— Nima Shirazi (@WideAsleepNima) November 24, 2013

… how is everyone else expected to fare any better?

In any case, here is a sampling of the immediate reactions, most of which were as expected. First, Israel:

  • Israel Foreign Minister Lieberman: Iran’s greatest diplomatic victory since the Islamic revolution

Which is a good thing right? Wrong:

What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement, it’s a historic mistake,” Netanyahu said. “It’s not made the world a safer place. Like the agreement with North Korea in 2005, this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place.”

Not surprisingly, Israel hates any deal that diffuses tension in the region and lowers the probability of war. Iran, on the other hand was giddy:

Hassan Rouhani hails nuclear deal as turning point for Iran

 

A smiling Hassan Rouhani stepped on to the spiral staircase of the presidential palace to announce to an anxious nation the first nuclear deal reached with world powers in a decade – a major achievement which capped his first 100 days in office.

Departing from the austere conference hall press events of his predecessors, and opting instead for a White House Rose Garden-style appearance, he declared that the Islamic Republic had won global powers’ recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium.

 

Billing it as a turning point for Iran – both internationally and at home – the centrist president elected on the hope of ending Iran’s isolation and fixing a collapsing economy made the most of the little sanctions relief offered by the Geneva agreement. Putting his own spin on the deal – and along the way directly contradicting American officials’ assertions – Mr Rouhani said the sanctions regime “had been broken” by the agreement, “whether others like it or not”. With the passage of time, he predicted, the cracks “will widen.”

 

In another sign of his media savvy as president, Mr Rouhani produced relatives and children of four scientists killed since 2010, part of a covert war against the nuclear programme. Each family was presented with a roll of honour.

 

Mr Rouhani reserved some of his final words for the supreme leader, declaring his appreciation for the Ayatollah’s guidance and stressing that negotiators had worked within these guidelines.

A delighted Rouhani promptly took to twitter:

“The important part of the agreement is the recognition of #Iran‘s enrichment that has fortunately been described in a four-page document.”

— Dr. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) November 24, 2013

“The important part of the agreement is the recognition of #Iran‘s enrichment that has fortunately been described in a four-page document.”

— Dr. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) November 24, 2013

“Congratulations to all Iranians for the failure of sanctions and acknowledgment of the right to enrich” #IranTalks pic.twitter.com/LXI566DQbM

— Dr. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) November 24, 2013

In memory of Martyrs of Nuclear energy killed by west-backed terrorists 4leading #Iran 2achieving nuclear technology. pic.twitter.com/DYcdCtTPan

— Dr. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) November 24, 2013

Pres. #Rouhani: “With these negotiations the world concluded that no threats can work on Iran.”
#PressConference

— Dr. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) November 24, 2013

Dr. #Rouhani: “The result of these negotiations is that the P5+1 i.e. the world powers recognize Iran’s nuclear rights”
#PressConference

— Dr. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) November 24, 2013

Also not surprising is that unlike last time when the deal was scuttled in the last minute due to a block by France, this time Obama made a few phone calls to his socialist peer:

  • French President Francois Hollande “welcomes the conclusion of the Geneva negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program” in e-mailed statement by his office today.
    “The accord that was reached respects the demands imposed by France on the issues of uranium storage and enrichment, suspension of new facilities, and international control”
  • Agreement “constitutes a step toward the ending of Iran’s nuclear military program, and therefore toward the normalization of our relations with Iran”
  • “France will continue to work to reach a final agreement on this issue. The intermediate accord reached last night represents an  important step in the right direction”: Hollande

The other negotiating parties hailed the deal. From Iran’s PressTV:

China, Germany and Russia have hailed the deal between Iran and the Sextet over Tehran’s nuclear energy program.

 

After more than four days of intense negotiations, Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany sealed an interim deal in Geneva on Sunday morning to pave the way for the full resolution of the West’s decade-old dispute with Iran over its nuclear energy program.

 

According to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the deal allows Iran to continue its activities at Arak, Fordow and Natanz facilities. The agreement also stipulates that no additional sanctions will be imposed on Tehran because of its nuclear energy program.

 

China on Sunday welcomed the deal, saying the agreement with Tehran would “help safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East”.

 

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also hailed the agreement and said the nuclear deal marks “a turning point.”

 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also praised the deal and stressed it would benefit all sides. “Nobody lost, everyone ends up winning,” he said.

Kerry’s own spin may not have actually mentioned “peace in our time” just yet, but it was vigorous regardless:

  • “We believe very strongly that because the Iranian nuclear program is actually set backwards and is actually locked into place in critical places, that that is better for Israel than if you were just continuing to go down the road and they rush towards a nuclear weapon”
  • “The basic architecture of the sanctions is staying in place. There is very little relief. We are convinced over the next few months, we will really be able to put to the test what Iran’s intentions are,” Kerry told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.
  • “When you’re dealing with nuclear weapons, it’s not an issue of trust,” Kerry said. “Verification is the key.”

And the punchline:

  • Kerry: If Iran’s nuclear program is really only for peaceful purposes, then “prove it”

Just how does one prove they are not doing something they are not doing? Anyway, all of this is merely more theatrics. As the AP reports, the deal was prepared secretly months in advance following secret talks between the US and Iran:

The United States and Iran secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over the past year, in a high-stakes diplomatic gamble by the Obama administration that paved the way for the historic deal sealed early Sunday in Geneva aimed at slowing Tehran’s nuclear program, The Associated Press has learned.

 

The discussions were kept hidden even from America’s closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West.

 

But the secrecy of the talks may also explain some of the tensions between the U.S. and France, which earlier this month balked at a proposed deal, and with Israel, which is furious about the agreement and has angrily denounced the diplomatic outreach to Tehran.

 

The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials.

 

The last four clandestine meetings, held since Iran’s reform-minded President Hassan Rouhani was inaugurated in August, produced much of the agreement later formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva among the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran, said three senior administration officials. All spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss by name the highly sensitive diplomatic effort.

 

The AP was tipped to the first U.S.-Iranian meeting in March shortly after it occurred, but the White House and State Department disputed elements of the account and the AP could not confirm the meeting. The AP learned of further indications of secret diplomacy in the fall and pressed the White House and other officials further. As the Geneva talks appeared to be reaching their conclusion, senior administration officials confirmed to the AP the details of the extensive outreach.

Politics aside, Bloomberg reports on the actual elements of the deal:

Iran will get as much as $7 billion in relief from economic sanctions over six months under the first-step agreement reached today in Geneva, the Obama administration said.

 

In return for Iran limiting its nuclear program, the interim agreement provides for the release of $4.2 billion in frozen oil assets and will let Iran continue exporting oil at current levels, rather than forcing continued reductions by buyers, as would be required under current law, according to a White House statement.

 

The accord also will “suspend certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran’s auto sector and Iran’s petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran approximately $1.5 billion in revenue,” the administration said.

 

Israeli officials and some U.S. lawmakers have said sanctions should be tightened, not eased, to keep pressure on Iran. Rejecting those pleas, the U.S. and the five other countries negotiating with Iran have agreed to “not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems,” according to the White House statement.

 

The no-new-sanctions pledge will be tested when the U.S. Senate returns for legislative business on Dec. 9 after a Thanksgiving break. A group of 14 senators from both parties issued a statement last week pledging to “pass bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation as soon as possible.”

 

Critics of an interim accord in Congress and in Israel have predicted Iran would reap $20 billion or more in relief. U.S. officials have rejected such estimates and have said the accord won’t lift the most punishing sanctions — those on oil sales and banking. The Obama administration estimated in its statement that Iran will continue to lose $4 billion a month in crude it otherwise would have exported.

Finally, while the cynics may say this was merely yet another attempt to redirect attention from the Obamacare debacle especially since Iran’s nuclear power plants have been controlled by US-Israel made computer virus Stuxnet for years, we will one-up their cynicism and this was all merely an advertising photo op for Nike:

Close up: pic.twitter.com/pGKuPJPdYq

— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) November 24, 2013

 

Iran sets ‘red lines’ for nuclear negotiators in Geneva – World – CBC News

Iran sets ‘red lines’ for nuclear negotiators in Geneva – World – CBC News.

President Francois Hollande believes comments by Iran’s supreme leader about Israel are “unacceptable” and complicate talks between world powers and the Islamic regime over its nuclear program, a spokeswoman says.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told reporters that Hollande’s cabinet discussed the Iran nuclear dossier just hours before negotiations between Iran and six world powers were set to resume in Geneva. She said, however, that France still hopes for a deal and its position has not changed in the talks.

Hollande was referring to comments attributed earlier to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking to a gathering of the Basij force, which is controlled by Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard. In them, the Iranian leader referred to Israel — “the Zionist regime” — as “the rabid dog of the region.”

Khamenei said Wednesday Iran would not step back “one iota” from its nuclear rights on as talks over the country’s disputed nuclear program are set to resume in Geneva.

Speaking to tens of thousands of Basij militiamen in Tehran, Khamenei said his officials had his full support, but that Iran’s rights to a nuclear program must be safeguarded.

“We do insist that we will not step back one iota from the rights of the Iranian nation,” he added.

The Basij militiamen chanted “Death to America, death to Israel” in response, one of the main rallying cries for supporters of the Islamic Republic.

Khamenei, the most powerful figure in Iran, added: “We do not intervene in the details of these talks. There are certain red lines and limits. These have to be observed. They are instructed to abide by those limits.”

Talks resume today

The Iranian leader also criticized France. Hollande assured Israel on Sunday that France would continue to oppose an easing of economic sanctions against Iran until it was convinced Tehran had given up any pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Delegates from the European Union and the United States gathered in Geneva on Wednesday for a further round of talks on Iran’s nuclear program with the hope that a preliminary deal can be reached in what have been politically charged talks.

The EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and U.S. delegates including Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman left the Intercontinental Hotel and arrived minutes later at the European Mission building where discussions were expected to continue.

Seeking to end a long stand-off and head off the risk of a wider Middle East war, the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany came close to winning concessions from Iran on its nuclear work in return for some sanctions relief at negotiations earlier this month.

Top policymakers from the six have since said that an interim accord on confidence-building steps could finally be within reach. But diplomats caution that differences remain and could still prevent an agreement.

Russia is hopeful that a preliminary deal will emerge this week, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

‘Death to America’

“We hope the efforts that are being made will be crowned with success at the meeting that opens today in Geneva,” he  told a news conference on Wednesday.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran would not step back from its nuclear rights and he had set “red lines” for his negotiators in Geneva. But Tehran wanted friendly ties with all countries, including the United States.

“We want to have friendly relations with all nations, even the United States,” he told an audience of Basij militiamen.

“Death to America,” the militiamen chanted in response, repeating one of the main rallying cries for supporters of the Islamic Republic.

The last meeting stumbled over Iran’s insistence that its “right” to enrich uranium be recognized, and disagreement over its work on a heavy-water reactor near Arak, which could yield plutonium for atomic bombs once it becomes operational.

No new components

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has since indicated a way around the first sticking point, saying Tehran has the right to refine uranium but is not insisting others recognize that right.

A UN report last week showed Iran had stopped expanding its enrichment of uranium and had not added major new components at Arak since August, when moderate Hassan Rouhani replaced hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president.

Nuclear analyst Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group think-tank said the “body language” showed that the sides were ready for a deal, pointing to Iran slowing its nuclear push and Washington refraining, so far, from imposing more sanctions.

“(They) have demonstrated that they are looking to transform stumbling blocks into stepping stones,” Vaez said.

Zarif, Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator, said on the eve of the meeting there was “every possibility” of a successful conclusion provided there was good faith and the political will among all involved to resolve problems.

Tougher line urged

U.S. President Barack Obama sounded a more cautious note on Tuesday, saying it was unclear whether the world powers and Iran will be able to reach an agreement soon.

American lawmakers urged the Obama administration on Tuesday to take a tougher line with Iran.

The talks are expected to resume with a meeting between Zarif and Europe’s Ashton, who co-ordinates contacts with Iran on behalf of the powers.

Western governments suspect Iran has enriched uranium with the covert aim of developing the means to fuel nuclear weapons, which Tehran denies. Refined uranium can fuel nuclear power plants — Iran’s stated goal — but also provide the core of a nuclear bomb, if enriched further.

After years of confrontation, a shift towards meaningful diplomacy between Iran and the world powers began after the June election of Rouhani on a platform to relieve the Islamic Republic’s increasing international isolation and get sanctions strangling its oil-dependent economy lifted.

20% fissile purity

Rouhani wants to move quickly: Western sanctions have reduced Iran’s daily oil export revenue by 60 per cent since 2011 and caused its currency to collapse.

But diplomats say Iran has so far refused to meet all of the powers’ demands. They include suspending enrichment of uranium to 20 per cent fissile purity — a significant advance toward the threshold for bomb fuel — as well as limiting its enrichment capacity and mothballing the Arak reactor project.

The Iranian assets that would be unfrozen as part of any deal this week would amount to less than $10 billion, U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice told CNN.

Western diplomats have kept much of the details of the proposed deal under wraps but said Iran would not win relief from the most painful sanctions on oil trade and banking that many believe finally forced into serious negotiations.

Under an initial deal the OPEC producer is likely to regain access to precious metals markets and trade in petrochemicals, an important source of export income, and could see the release of some of its oil revenues frozen in oversees accounts.

West wary of critics

If an agreement is struck in the coming days, it is intended to be the first step on the road towards a broader settlement that would avert the threat a new Middle East war.

In crafting a deal, Western governments are wary of critics across the Middle East, especially in Israel and Saudi Arabia, who view Iran as a deadly threat, and of hawks in the U.S. Congress who want stiffer sanctions and terms for Tehran.

Obama warned Congress on Tuesday that Iran would make progress towards nuclear arms status if there were no deal to halt or roll back its nuclear program and urged lawmakers to hold off on tightening sanctions while talks continue.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Washington, Israel’s main ally, to avoid making a “historical mistake” when negotiators appeared close to a deal this month. Israel wants Iran to scrap its entire nuclear energy infrastructure.

Israel, widely assumed to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, has warned it may bomb Iranian nuclear facilities if it deems diplomacy futile in reining in Tehran before it attains nuclear “breakout” capability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With files from The Associated Press

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Saudi denies contact with Israel on Iran – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Saudi denies contact with Israel on Iran – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

A recent IAEA report found that Iran had slowed down its nuclear programme [EPA]
Saudi Arabia has ruled out any contact with Israel, with which it has no diplomatic ties, after a British newspaper reported that the two countries could coordinate efforts against Iran.

The kingdom “has no relations or contacts with Israel of any kind or at any level,” said a foreign ministry spokesman, quoted by state news agency SPA on Monday.

Under the headline “Two old foes unite against Tehran,” Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper said Israel and Saudi Arabia were working together on “contingency plans for a possible attack on Iran if its nuclear programme is not significantly curbed.”

“As part of the growing cooperation, Riyadh is understood already to have given the go-ahead for Israeli planes to use its airspace in the event of an attack on Iran,” it said.

The Saudi spokesman said the report was “completely unfounded”.

The Israeli and Saudi governments are convinced that the international talks to place limits on Tehran’s military nuclear development will do little to slow its development of a nuclear warhead.

Widely believed to have a formidable nuclear arsenal itself, Israel has refused to rule out bombing Iran’s facilities, as it reportedly did with an Iraqi reactor in 1981 and a Syrian facility in 2007.

 

The Growing Rift With Saudi Arabia Threatens To Severely Damage The Petrodollar

The Growing Rift With Saudi Arabia Threatens To Severely Damage The Petrodollar. (source)

The number one American export is U.S. dollars.  It is paper currency that is backed up by absolutely nothing, but the rest of the world has been using it to trade with one another and so there is tremendous global demand for our dollars.  The linchpin of this system is the petrodollar.  For decades, if you have wanted to buy oil virtually anywhere in the world you have had to do so with U.S. dollars.  But if one of the biggest oil exporters on the planet, such as Saudi Arabia, decided to start accepting other currencies as payment for oil, the petrodollar monopoly would disintegrate very rapidly.  For years, everyone assumed that nothing like that would happen any time soon, but now Saudi officials are warning of a “major shift” in relations with the United States.  In fact, the Saudis are so upset at the Obama administration that “all options” are reportedly “on the table”.  If it gets to the point where the Saudis decide to make a major move away from the petrodollar monopoly, it will be absolutely catastrophic for the U.S. economy.

The biggest reason why having good relations with Saudi Arabia is so important to the United States is because the petrodollar monopoly will not work without them.  For decades, Washington D.C. has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the Saudis happy.  But now the Saudis are becoming increasingly frustrated that the U.S. military is not being usedto fight their wars for them.  The following is from a recent Daily Mail report

Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.

Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.

Saudi Arabia desperately wants the U.S. military to intervene in the Syrian civil war on the side of the “rebels”.  This has not happened yet, and the Saudis are very upset about that.

Of course the Saudis could always go and fight their own war, but that is not the way that the Saudis do things.

So since the Saudis are not getting their way, they are threatening to punish the U.S. for their inaction.  According to Reuters, the Saudis are saying that “all options are on the table now”…

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank’s net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds.

“All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact,” the Saudi source said.

Sadly, most Americans have absolutely no idea how important all of this is.  If the Saudis break the petrodollar monopoly, it would severely damage the U.S. economy.  For those that do not fully understand the importance of the petrodollar, the following is a good summary of how the petrodollar works from an article by Christopher Doran

In a nutshell, any country that wants to purchase oil from an oil producing country has to do so in U.S. dollars. This is a long standing agreement within all oil exporting nations, aka OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The UK for example, cannot simply buy oil from Saudi Arabia by exchanging British pounds. Instead, the UK must exchange its pounds for U.S. dollars. The major exception at present is, of course, Iran.

This means that every country in the world that imports oil—which is the vast majority of the world’s nations—has to have immense quantities of dollars in reserve. These dollars of course are not hidden under the proverbial national mattress. They are invested. And because they are U.S. dollars, they are invested in U.S. Treasury bills and other interest bearing securities that can be easily converted to purchase dollar-priced commodities like oil. This is what has allowed the U.S. to run up trillions of dollars of debt: the rest of the world simply buys up that debt in the form of U.S. interest bearing securities.

This arrangement works out very well for the United States because we can wildly print money and run up gigantic amounts of debt and the rest of the world gobbles it all up.

In 2012, the United States ran a trade deficit of about $540,000,000,000 with the rest of the planet.  In other words, about half a trillion more dollars left the country than came into the country.  These dollars represent the number one “product” that the U.S. exports.  We make dollars and exchange them for the things that we need.  Major exporting countries (such as Saudi Arabia) take many of those dollars and “invest” them in our debt at ultra-low interest rates.  It is this system that makes our massively inflated standard of living possible.

When this system ends, the era of cheap imports and super low interest rates will be over and the “adjustment” to our standard of living will be excruciatingly painful.

And without a doubt, the day is rapidly approaching when the petrodollar monopoly will end.

Today, Russia is the number one exporter of oil in the world.

China is now the number one importer of oil in the world, and at this point they are actually importing more oil from Saudi Arabia than the United States is.

So why should Russia, China and virtually everyone else continue to be forced to use U.S. dollars to trade oil?

That is a very good question.

In fact, China has been making a whole lot of noise recently about the fact that it is time to start becoming less dependent on the U.S. dollar.  The following comes from a recent CNBC article authored by Michael Pento

Our addictions to debt and cheap money have finally caused our major international creditors to call for an end to dollar hegemony and to push for a “de-Americanized” world.

China, the largest U.S. creditor with $1.28 trillion in Treasury bonds, recently put out a commentary through the state-run Xinhua news agency stating that, “Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated.”

For much more on all of this, please see my previous article entitled “9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar“.

But you very rarely hear anything about this on the evening news, and most Americans do not understand these things at all.  The fact that the U.S. produces the de facto reserve currency of the planet is an absolutely massive advantage for us.  According to John Mauldin, this advantage allows us to consume far more wealth than we actually produce…

What that means in practical terms is that the United States can purchase more with its currency than it produces and sells. In theory those accounts should balance. But the world’s reserve currency, for all intent and purposes, becomes a product. The world needs dollars in order to conduct its trade. Today, if someone in Peru wants to buy something from Thailand, they first convert their local currency into US dollars and then purchase the product with those dollars. Those dollars eventually wind up at the Central Bank of Thailand, which includes them in its reserve balance. When someone in Thailand wants to purchase an imported product, their bank accesses those dollars, which may go anywhere in the world that will take the US dollar, which is to say pretty much anywhere.

And as Mauldin went on to explain in that same article, a significant amount of the money that we ship out to the rest of the globe ends up getting reinvested in U.S. government debt…

That privilege allows US citizens to purchase goods and services at prices somewhat lower than those people in the rest of the world must pay. We can produce electronic fiat dollars, and the rest of the world accepts them because they need them to in order to trade with each other. And they do so because they trust the dollar more than they do any other currency that is readily available. You can take those dollars and come to the United States and purchase all manner of goods, including real estate and stocks. Just this week a Chinese company spent $600 million to buy a building in New York City. Such transactions happen all the time.

And there is one other item those dollars are used to pay for: US Treasury bonds. We buy oil and all manner of goods with our electronic dollars, and those dollars typically end up on the reserve balance sheets of other central banks, which buy our government bonds. It’s hard to quantify the exact amount, but these transactions significantly lower the cost of borrowing for the US government. On a $16 trillion debt, every basis point (1/10 of 1%) means a saving of $16 billion annually. So 5 basis points would be $80 billion a year. There are credible estimates that the savings are well in excess of $100 billion a year. Thus, as the debt grows, the savings also grow! That also means the total debt compounds at a lower rate.

Unfortunately, this system only works if the rest of the planet has faith in it, and right now the United States is systematically destroying the faith that the rest of the world has in our financial system.

One way that this is being done is by our reckless accumulation of debt.  The U.S. national debt is now 37 times larger than it was 40 years ago, and we are on pace to accumulate more new debt under the 8 years of the Obama administration than we did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.  The rest of the world is watching this and they are beginning to wonder if we are going to be able to pay them back the money that we owe them.

Quantitative easing is another factor that is severely damaging worldwide faith in the U.S. financial system.  The rest of the globe is watching as the Federal Reserve wildly prints up money and monetizes our debt.  They are beginning to wonder why they should continue to loan us gobs of money at super low interest rates when we are beginning to resemble the Weimar Republic.

The long-term damage that we are doing to the “U.S. brand” far, far outweighs any short-term benefits of quantitative easing.

And as Richard Koo has brilliantly demonstrated, quantitative easing is going to cause long-term interest rates to eventually rise much higher than they normally should have.

What all of this means is that the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve are systematically destroying the financial system that has enabled us to enjoy such a high standard of living for the past several decades.

Yes, the U.S. economy is not doing well at the moment, but we haven’t seen anything yet.  When the monopoly of the petrodollar is broken, it is going to be absolutely devastating.

And as I wrote about the other day, when the next great economic crisis strikes it is going to pull back the curtain and reveal the rot and decay that have been eating away at the social fabric of America for a very long time.

Just check out what happened in Detroit recently.  The new police chief was almost carjacked while he was sitting in a clearly marked police vehicle…

Just four months on the job, Detroit’s new police chief got an early taste of the city’s hardscrabble streets.

While in his patrol car at an intersection on Jefferson two weeks ago, Police Chief James Craig was nearly carjacked, police spokeswoman Kelly Miner confirmed today.

Craig said he was in a marked police car with mounted lights when a man quickly tried to approach the side of his car. Craig, who became police chief in June, retold the story Monday during a program designed to crack down on carjackings.

Isn’t that crazy?

These days, the criminals are not even afraid to go after the police while they are sitting in their own vehicles.

And this is just the beginning.  Things are going to get much, much worse than this.

So let us hope that this period of relative stability that we are enjoying right now will last for as long as possible.

The times ahead are going to be extremely challenging, and I hope that you are getting ready for them.

 

Iran hints for more nuclear concessions – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Iran hints for more nuclear concessions – Middle East – Al Jazeera English. (source)

Diplomats offer to scale back uranium enrichment; next round of talks with world powers planned for early November.

Details have remained largely secret, which the Iranian foreign minister said showed “seriousness” [Reuters]
The latest round of talks between Iran and world powers have concluded in Geneva, with Iran indicating a willingness to scale back uranium enrichment, as well as allowing for snap inspections of its nuclear sites as part of a new proposal to end a decade-long standoff with world powers.

Full details of Iran’s proposals, presented during two days of negotiations in Geneva with six world powers, have not been made public.

Normally, the less negotiators leak news, the more it shows the seriousness of the negotiations and the possibility of reaching an agreement.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister

But, in a clear sign of hope, the two sides agreed to hold follow-up negotiations on November 7 and 8 in Geneva, a Western diplomat told Reuters news agency as the current two-day talks drew to a close.

“We hope that this is a beginning of a new phase in our relations,” Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told reporters on Wednesday.

After a six-month hiatus, Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany began negotiations in earnest on Tuesday to end a long impasse.

Both sides sought to dampen expectations of any rapid deal at the meeting, the first since President Hassan Rouhani was elected in June pledging to scrap the politics of confrontation to ease Iran’s international isolation.

After the first day of talks in Geneva, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi suggested Tehran was prepared to address long-standing calls for the UN nuclear watchdog to have wider and more intrusive inspection powers.

He also told the official IRNA news agency that measures related to its uranium enrichment were part of the Iranian proposal, but hinted the Islamic Republic was not inclined to make its concessions quickly.

Diplomats said other proposals Iranian envoys had made regarding eventual “confidence-building” steps included halting 20 percent enrichment and possibly converting at least some of existing 20 percent stockpiles to uranium oxide suitable for processing into reactor fuel.

“Neither of these issues are within the first step [of the Iranian proposal] but form part of our last steps,” Araqchi said without elaborating, in comments reported on Wednesday.

‘We need to keep talking’

Iran did not intend to renounce all enrichment “under any circumstances”, the Russian state news agency RIA quoted an unidentified Iranian delegation source as saying.

Western officials have repeatedly said that Iran must suspend enriching uranium to 20 percent fissile purity, their main worry, before sanctions are eased.

“Are we there yet? No, but we need to keep talking,” a Western diplomat said as talks resumed on Wednesday.

But Iran, diplomats said, has made much more concrete proposals than in the past, to the point that Tehran’s negotiators were concerned about details being aired in public before they had had a chance to sell them back in Tehran.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, praised the talks as “substantive and forward-looking” in a statement she read on Wednesday evening. The White House also spoke positively about the meeting, saying Iran showed “a level of seriousness and substance that we have not seen before.”

Zarif said in a post on Facebook that secrecy was working in the negotiators’ favour.

“Normally, the less negotiators leak news, the more it shows the seriousness of the negotiations and the possibility of reaching an agreement,” he said.

 

Iran’s Cyber Warfare Commander Assassinated | Zero Hedge

Iran’s Cyber Warfare Commander Assassinated | Zero Hedge.

Mere days after the US and Iran showed very tentative signs of some diplomatic progress being possible (and hours afterNetanyahu’s “Rouhani’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing” comments)The Telegraph reports that Mojtaba Ahmadi, who served as commander of the Cyber War Headquarters for Iran, was found dead (with two bullets to the heart) in a wooded area north-west of Tehran. This follows the assassination of five Iranian nuclear scientists and the country’s ballistic missile program head since 2007 – all blamed on Israel’s Mossad. An eyewitness said two people on a motorbike had been involved and “the extent of the injuries indicated he had been assassinated from close range.” Western officials (the ‘essential’ ones) said the information was still being assessed.

Via The Telegraph,

Mojtaba Ahmadi, who served as commander of the Cyber War Headquarters, was found dead in a wooded area near the town of Karaj, north-west of the capital, Tehran

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