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Iran Democracy Monitor - No. 83
Edited by Ilan Berman
December 5, 2008
AN INTERNET OFFENSIVE
Amid growing worries over potential domestic instability, Iran's clerical army is taking aim at a familiar culprit. The political office of the Pasdaran has denounced the Internet, terming it a tool for "velvet revolution" against the Islamic Republic - and warning of the potential for "Internet Imperialism" fomented by the United States. In response, the Pasdaran's domestic militia, the basij, is planning to set up some 10,000 weblogs at bases throughout the country, with the ultimate goal of some 25,000 websites intended to disseminate "valuable content" on religion and politics as a way of countering the West's ideological influence. (Tehran Rooz, November 23, 2008)
IRAN'S NEW NAVAL BASE
As part of its efforts to strengthen its hand in the international stand-off over its nuclear power, Iran is expanding its naval capabilities in the Persian Gulf. In mid-November, the Pasdaran inaugurated a new naval base along the country's Gulf coast. The new facility, located in the port of Assalouyeh, will be used to control close to 200 miles of coastline on the western end of the Strait of Hormuz, and is expected to significantly strengthen Iran's ability to project force into the Strait in the event of hostilities. (London Telegraph, November 17, 2008)
IF YOU CAN'T BEAT THEM, JOIN THEM
The Iranian regime can breathe a bit easier about the prospects of potential military action against its nuclear program, thanks to the unlikeliest of sources. Iran's longtime regional rival, Saudi Arabia, has proposed a sweeping new security pact between the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Islamic Republic. The arrangement, floated in late November by Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz, the President of the Arab Persian Gulf Program for United Nations Development Organizations (AGFUND), envisions greater regional transparency and cooperation on military and nuclear affairs, but it also proffers a substantial carrot to Tehran: a ban on all GCC countries allowing their territories to be used as part of a foreign military strike.
At least one Middle Eastern state, however, is taking a harder line. "Egypt supports international efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons," Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Abul Gheit, has said in a formal statement conveyed to reporters in Cairo. According to Abul Gheit, the Mubarak government supports the right of each nation to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes - something which Egypt itself has signaled that it wants to do. Cairo, however, appears to be concerned over Iran's true intentions in seeking a nuclear capability, and willing to assist the international community in blocking the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran. (Tehran Fars, November 25, 2008; middle-east-online.com, December 3, 2008)
IRAN'S INEXORABLE MARCH TOWARD THE BOMB
The Islamic Republic is moving closer to achieving a "nuclear breakout" capability, a new report by a prominent Washington think tank has warned. "The November IAEA safeguards report on Iran states that Iran had produced a total of 630 kilograms of enriched uranium hexafluoride... [of which] about 425 kilograms [is] enriched uranium," authors David Albright, Jacqueline Shire and Paul Brannan write in a new study for the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). "ISIS has estimated that about 700-800 kilograms of LEU... would give Iran the capability to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon." Iran, in other words, is roughly halfway to having the raw material for a nuclear weapon. And, according to Albright, Shire and Brannan, if Iran begins to operate a total of 6,000 centrifuges, it would have enough low enriched uranium for one bomb in roughly four months. The result? "Although some media reports in November 2008 concluded prematurely that Iran has reached a nuclear weapons capability, Iran is moving steadily toward this capability and is expected to reach that milestone during 2009 under a wide variety of scenarios." (Institute for Science and International Security, December 2, 2008).