Saturday, January 31, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
Iran has asked Japanese oil wholesalers to pay for their oil purchases in yen instead of dollars, which are currently used for most transactions, industry sources said Saturday.
The request by the National Iranian Oil Co. is believed to be part of Iran's efforts to increase oil transactions denominated in currencies other than the dollar to avoid a possible seizure of its assets by the U.S. government amid tensions over its nuclear development program.
The Iranian state-owned oil company sent letters to Japanese oil wholesalers requesting them to pay in yen, the sources said, adding some companies received such requests through trading houses.
"We have yet to decide how to respond," said an official at one wholesaler. "We cannot find any advantage in switching to yen-based transactions."
Late last year, Iran sounded out Japanese oil firms about switching their payments to the yen or the euro, the sources said.
Tokyo has been reducing its Iranian oil imports amid the nuclear standoff. Still, Japan imported about 28 million kiloliters of crude oil from Iran, which accounted for about 11 percent of Japan's total oil imports, in 2006.
Tehran has refused to halt its uranium enrichment program, despite the threat of U.N. sanctions, saying it only wants to produce electricity. The U.S. accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran has already taken other measures to reduce its dependence on the U.S. currency. Earlier this year, Tehran announced it had started pulling its foreign currency accounts out of European banks to protect its assets from possible sanctions.
|Amir Farshad Ebrahimi|
By Borzou Daragahi / Los Angelese times
July 09, 2009
After eight months, he was dropped off in downtown Tehran, but his freedom was short-lived. Ebrahimi was again arrested, tried and sentenced to prison, shuttling from Tehran's infamous Evin Prison, where demonstrators today are being taken, to other facilities in and around the capital for three years.
Even when he was free again, Ebrahimi was a marked man, prohibited from leaving the country and facing years of scrutiny by security forces.
He had a choice: stay and fight it out with authorities in Iran, or make a run for it.
The hike across the mountainous border with Turkey was long and dangerous. In Ankara, the Turkish capital, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees accepted Ebrahimi's application for asylum. He enrolled at a university, fell in love and moved to Germany, joining the many Iranian dissidents carving out lives abroad.
It was 2007, and Ebrahimi was at a conference of Iranian dissidents in southern Spain when a man claiming to be with the CIA showed him a photocopy of a check made out to Hezbollah and supposedly signed by Khamenei.
Ebrahimi thought the man, who gave his name as David Coberly, was testing him by showing him bogus intelligence. Who would believe that Khamenei, whom Iranians regard as God's representative on Earth, would make a check out to Hezbollah, like a guy paying for new kitchen cabinets?
"Is this a joke?" Ebrahimi recalled asking.
It wasn't a joke, he soon learned, but it was symptomatic of America's misunderstanding of Iran, or maybe its willingness to welcome faulty intelligence in order to make a case against the country.
Ebrahimi had embraced the life of an activist in exile, becoming a valuable asset for Western intelligence agencies and analysts seeking insight on the Islamic Republic. He was in regular contact with Western officials and a circle of neoconservative activists.
He and other Iranian and Western activists enticed Iranian officials to defect to the West. The group played a key role in the defection of Brig. Gen. Ali Reza Asgari, a former deputy defense minister who left via Turkey, taking a trove of secrets about Iran's weaponry and technology with him.
But feeling adrift in the life of an exile, Ebrahimi grew homesick. Last year, he and his parents made plans for a rendezvous in Istanbul, Turkey, hoping it would be a fun-filled holiday.
Once again, he found himself locked up, alone with his thoughts in a windowless gray tomb.
They refused to tell him. But he had his suspicions, confirmed hours later when he overheard an Iranian Consulate official outside the door vowing to take him back to the Islamic Republic for his role in the defection of the military commander.
"I was very afraid," Ebrahimi recalled. "I was scared like I've never been scared before."
Then Ebrahimi realized that Turkish authorities had forgotten to take away his cellphone. Quietly, he began calling people abroad: his wife, well-connected Iranian dissidents in the United States.
"I was personally on the phone for several hours that night trying to gain his release," said Kenneth Timmerman, a neoconservative activist who heads the Washington-based Foundation for Democracy in Iran. "Other people were involved pulling political strings. There was a lot of heavy lifting being done in Washington."
Time was ticking away. Once, as Ebrahimi was being taken to an interrogation room, the Iranian official patted him on the back.
"I'll see you in Tehran," he told Ebrahimi.
Early the next morning, an official who said he was from the consulate of a Western government showed up at the airport and demanded to see Ebrahimi.
The Westerner was firm. He had orders from his capital. Ebrahimi was to be placed on a plane back to Germany.
These days, Ebrahimi spends his time writing his blog and working on a memoir he hopes to sell to Western publishers, stepping out occasionally from his ground-floor apartment for a quick smoke.
Recently, he wrote an open letter to his old friend Mojtaba Khamenei, who is said to be the driving force behind the military-led crackdown on the protest movement.
"We have defended our country, rifle in hands, and have killed to save our country from deterioration," he wrote. "In those days neither you nor I ever imagined standing up against our own people, unlike what seems to be your cup of tea these days."
Ebrahimi described the photograph of Neda Agha-Soltan dying in the street last month near a demonstration in support of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi.
"It reminded me of one of our martyred friends during the war," he wrote. "Don't you see how the nation is being crushed? Don't you see the blood in the streets? How can you watch and not speak a word of protest?"
Friday, January 23, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
An Israeli government spokesman says Hamas has been killing Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip to make the Israeli army look bad. Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said in a BBC interview that it is not clear how many of the children killed in Israel's military offensive on Gaza "were killed by Israeli forces, how many were killed by Hamas forces." Regev made the remarks when asked whether he was personally "proud" with the outcome of the war on Gaza considering the massive number of civilian casualties in the densely-populated area. Tel Aviv launched Operation Cast Lead on December 27 to put an end to rocket attacks against southern Israeli towns. Hamas, the democratically-elected ruler of the coastal region, demands a cessation of the Israeli blockade before its fighters suspend rocket attacks. At least 1,300 Palestinians have been killed and some 6,000 others have been reported wounded. According to Gaza medics, 411 of the dead are children and 98 are women. Regev's response prompted a shocked Gavin Estler, the News Night presenter, to ask him, "You are not serious that Hamas is killing Palestinian children, are you?" The Israeli spokesman responded, "I am a 100 percent very serious and this has been documented and I am sure more information will be coming out. And we have no doubt that Hamas ordinance was responsible for many of the deaths." He added that the Israeli military is convinced that "a large number of civilian casualties were caused by Hamas." Regev said if a "sustained period of quite" follows the military campaign in Gaza, Tel Aviv would consider the operation as "a job well done."