Oil prices rose Nov. 6 to $95 a barrel, a more than seven-week peak, on heightened concerns about Iran's nuclear program and rumors of impending Israeli military strikes on the Islamic Republic. The tensions come as the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report finding that Iran is capable of developing a nuclear weapon, although stopping short of saying it intends to do so. (Reuters, WP, Nov. 7) Days earlier, Israel successfully tested a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The Jericho 3 missile, fired from Palmahim air force base, was seen by tens of thousands of Israelis. Many called the emergency services and radio stations in panic, believing it was an incoming missile. Defense minister Ehud Barak said: "This is an impressive technological achievement and an important step in Israel's progress in the missile and space field." (Irish Times, Nov. 3)
The US Justice Department on Oct. 11 announced charges against two men allegedly working for "factions of the Iranian government" with plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, and to attack Saudi embassies. The indictment, unsealed in federal court in Manhattan, identified the two as Manssor Arbabsiar, an Iranian-American car dealer in Corpus Christi, Tex., and Gholam Shakuri, described as Arbabsiar's cousin. Attorney General Eric Holder said Arbabsiar, who was arrested on Sept. 29 in New York, was working for Iran's Revolutionary Guard and had confessed to the plot. Shakuri, who is based in Iran, remains at large, Holder said. He allegedly is a member of the Quds Force, a special unit of the Revolutionary Guard. Holder said the case started when Arbabsiar made contact with an undercover DEA informant in Mexico and asked for assistance from Los Zetas drug cartel to assassinate the ambassador by blowing up a restaurant that he frequented. Arbabsiar allegedly wired $100,000 to the informant as a down payment on a $1.5 million assassination fee. (InSight Crime, Oct. 12; Associated Press of Pakistan, Oct. 11)
As Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant went online last week, the government announced that $50 million has been allocated to resettle the 4,000 residents of the nearby villages of Heleylah and Bandargah. The relocation was ordered by Iran's tomic Energy Organization despite assurances that the plant is safe. A Russian engineer who worked on the plant, Alexander Bolgarov, meanwhile told the Associated Press of corner-cutting and ongoing technical problems at the site, including poor welding, accumulations of sludge in the reactor core, and malfunctioning turbines and emergency pumps. However, Bolgarov disputed reports that Bushehr's computerized control system had been infected last year by Stuxnet, the computer worm, which attacked other Iranian nuclear facilities.
On May 24, a massive explosion and fire at a newly inaugurated oil refinery in Abadan led to the deaths and injuries of an unknown number of workers. The explosion, caused by technical problems, occurred during a facility inauguration ceremony that had prompted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to boast of Iran's growing capacity to refine oil. According to Hamid Reza Katouzian, head of the Energy Commission of the Majles, Iran's parliament, "experts had forewarned that the Abadan refinery was not ready to be inaugurated." The explosion underscored once again the lack of safe working conditions in Iran's oil and petrochemical industry. In addition, recent labor strikes have challenged the industry's reliance on temporary contracts for its labor force. In March, 1,800 contract workers at the Tabriz Petrochemical Complex demanded that they be hired directly in order to receive the benefits and job security provisions to which permanent employees are entitled. In April, 1,500 striking workers at the Imam Khomeini Port Petrochemical Complex in Khuzestan made similar demands.
Baghdad has ordered the expulsion of Mujahedeen Khalq (or People's Mujahadeen Organization), armed wing of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), following an April 8 raid on Camp Ashraf, the group's stronghold. The NCRI said 34 people were killed when Iraqi security forces attacked the camp 65 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has has given the estimated 4,500 members of Mujahedeen Khalq and their families until the end of 2011 to leave Iraq. "This organization must be removed from Iraqi territory by all means, including political and diplomatic, with the cooperation of the United Nations and international organizations," Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said. (World Tribune, NCRI, April 14)
Workers at two major industrial enterprises in Iran's southern province of Khuzestan are on strike, according to a report on Radio Farda, Persian-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The report says some 1,500 employees of the Imam Port Petrochemical Complex have been staging gatherings in front of the company headquarters since April 9 to demand their work contracts be concluded directly with the plant's management rather than with contractors. The Free Union of Workers in Iran told Radio Farda that 1,000 workers at the Pars Paper Mill in southwestern Iran similarly launched a strike on April 9, protesting the dismissal of 60 workers who were on temporary contracts with the factory. (RFE/RL, April 12)
Call for Active Opposition to the Nuclear Policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Fukushima completed the warning that was issued by Chernobyl. After Chernobyl, any trust in the ability of technology and the technicians to control the radioactive giant was lost. Fukushima further destroyed any trust in the ability to forecast earthquakes and other factors that turn nuclear power stations into ticking time bombs.
Iranian opposition websites say more than 200 people were arrested March 1 while attempting to protest in Tehran, with another 40 detained in Isfahan. Opposition groups had called for rallies over the reported imprisonment of their leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. The two men had been placed under house arrest several weeks ago as authorities cracked down on protests staged in solidarity with the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. Their families say that on Feb. 28 they were taken to prison, although the government denies this. (BBC News, March 2)