North Korea launches a new round of threats against the West after the U.N. imposes tougher sanctions

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JANUARY 28, 2013

The government from North Korea promised “significant steps” towards strengthening its position in the world stage, reported the Asian news agency KCNA. The report suggested that the country’s leadership is poised to carry out a third nuclear test despite the opposition of the international community.

The statement comes after leaders of security and foreign affairs held a meeting that has hosted by North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Kim expressed “determination to take substantial and important government measures”, in view of the “grave situation” on the Korean peninsula.

The statement does not specify when the meeting took place or the nature of the actions that will be carried out, but Pyongyang said last Thursday that its military will perform and conduct more nuclear tests, including one with missiles that will point towards its “sworn enemy, the United States.”

The determination from the Asian country came after a late Tuesday U.N. Security Council meeting where the organization passed a new resolution condemning North Korea for the December release of a long-range missile, which, according Pyongyang, was only intended to put a satellite into space.

The North Korean regime accused the United States of leading the United Nations’ movements against the North and of pushing unprecedented “new sanctions that impede Pyongyang’s efforts to develop its economy. “This has proven once again that the (North) must defend its sovereignty by itself. It has become clear that there can’t be a Korean peninsula that is nuclear free before the world is nuclear free,” said North Korean state television.

The Security Council of the UN punished North Korea with new sanctions while ordering the nation not to conduct new nuclear tests.

The warning from Kim Jong-un on Sunday came a day after Pyongyang said that it plans a new nuclear test in response to the latest sanctions. These new sanctions increased the number of North Korean entities in an international blacklist.

The North Korean regime has also warned it will continue to develop rockets to counter what it sees as U.S. hostility. Washington says Pyongyang threatens their safety and that of the region, and this is the reason for the existence of its nuclear weapons program. The two countries fought in the Korean War (1950-1953). The conflict ended with an armistice, which never became a final peace treaty. The United States has about 28,000 troops in South Korea at the moment as a pre-emptive step to curb the North’s appetite for conquest.

It is estimated that Pyongyang has enough plutonium ready to build four to eight nuclear bombs, according to the U.S. nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker, who visited the nuclear facilities located northwest of Pyongyang in November 2010.

No one in the international community is sure whether North Korean scientists have been able to manufacture nuclear warheads small enough to put in a long-range ballistic missile. The nuclear tests and rocket launches are necessary to perfect the technique. South Korea says the North is all set logistically to conduct a nuclear test within days.

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Iran Playing American-style Politics

Obama finds an unlikely ally in the Iranian leadership

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 5, 2012

As unlikely as it may seem, Iran has chosen a side in the American election. The suspension of part of its uranium enrichment is a very positive move to help Barack Obama clinch the presidency for a second time in a row.

Reports surfaced last week about a possible negotiation between the Iranian and American governments that sought to stop the enrichment of uranium conducted by the government led by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Two days before the election, several media outlets confirmed that the Iranian government halted its uranium enrichment process by as much as 20%.

The Iranian goal is to obtain a moratorium in the sanctions imposed on that country by the West; mainly the United States. However, the move to slow down the production of nuclear material, which the Iranians say the base for energy independence, is also making Barack Obama look good at home. In the United States and abroad, political pundits are assigning credits to Obama while saying that American sanctions have been of paramount importance to curb Iran’s thirst for a nuclear bomb.

Iran has suspended uranium enrichment to 20% in order for the West to lift economic sanctions imposed on the government and several strategic sectors, as confirmed by the Iranian parliamentarian Mohammad Hosein Asfari to pan-Arab Al Arabiya chain.

Asfari, who is the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Policy and National Security, said that the Iranian government is willing to suspend uranium enrichment as a “goodwill gesture” with the intention to open direct negotiations with the United States, scheduled for after Tuesday’s presidential elections, as recorded by the Iranian news agency ISNA.

However, the Iranian parliamentarian said movement has conditioned the talks to the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran. If a positive answer from the West fails to arrive, Tehran will resume the uranium enrichment process, according to Al Arabiya.

The decrease in enrichment of uranium to 20 percent of Iran’s capacity is not enough to develop a nuclear weapon, although the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Fereydoun Abbasi, confirmed this week that the Government is finalizing the installation of centrifuges at the Fordow enrichment plant , in the north of the country.

The Iranian economy is being hit hard by the sanctions, affecting especially in the oil sector, the main item of income for Iran. In this context, the spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Ramin Mehmanparast, has insisted that the government “has nothing to hide” over its nuclear program and proposed to have a live broadcast of the operations as well as to hold talks with the Group 5 +1 — the five permanent members of the Security Council of the UN and Germany.

“The conversations we are encouraging are highly transparent and our proposals are very specific. That is why Iran has advocated to have a live broadcast of the whole dialogue,” said the spokesman to the Iranian news agency Fars. “Our dispute with the other party are neither technical nor legal, but political,” Mehmanparast stressed.

Whether Iran intended to help Barack Obama or not — since Obama has shown to be more tolerant towards Iran than Romney has promised to be — the move has helped the US president’s public image during a time when Mitt Romney seemed to be surging in the polls all over the United States. Sizeable differences in traditionally democratic states have turned into short leads and some disputed states have even turned for Romney in the last few weeks. Meanwhile, Obama and his pundits hope that the Iranian bump shows tomorrow at the voting booths.

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Iran Cuts Oil Supply to UK and France

Reuters
February 19, 2012

 Iran has stopped selling crude to British and French companies, the oil ministry said on Sunday, in a retaliatory measure against fresh EU sanctions on the Islamic state’s lifeblood, oil.

“Exporting crude to British and French companies has been stopped … we will sell our oil to new customers,” spokesman Alireza Nikzad was quoted as saying by the ministry of petroleum website.

The European Union in January decided to stop importing crude from Iran from July 1 over its disputed nuclear program, which the West says is aimed at building bombs. Iran denies this.

Iran’s oil minister said on February 4 that the Islamic state would cut its oil exports to “some” European countries.

The European Commission said last week that the bloc would not be short of oil if Iran stopped crude exports, as they have enough in stock to meet their needs for around 120 days.

Industry sources told Reuters on February 16 that Iran’s top oil buyers in Europe were making substantial cuts in supply months in advance of European Union sanctions, reducing flows to the continent in March by more than a third – or over 300,000 barrels daily.

France’s Total has already stopped buying Iran’s crude, which is subject to fresh EU embargoes. Market sources said Royal Dutch Shell has scaled back sharply.

Among European nations, debt-ridden Greece is most exposed to Iranian oil disruption.

Motor Oil Hellas of Greece was thought to have cut out Iranian crude altogether and compatriot Hellenic Petroleum along with Spain’s Cepsa and Repsol were curbing imports from Iran.

Iran was supplying more than 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) to the EU plus Turkey in 2011, industry sources said.

By the start of this year imports had sunk to about 650,000 bpd as some customers cut back in anticipation of an EU ban.

Saudi Arabia says it is prepared to supply extra oil either by topping up existing term contracts or by making rare spot market sales. Iran has criticized Riyadh for the offer.

Iran said the cut will have no impact on its crude sales, warning that any sanctions on its oil will raise international crude prices.

Brent crude oil prices were up $1 a barrel to $118.35 shortly after Iran’s state media announced last week that Tehran had cut oil exports to six European states. The report was denied shortly afterwards by Iranian officials.

“We have our own customers … The replacements for these companies have been considered by Iran,” Nikzad said.

EU’s new sanctions includes a range of extra restrictions on Iran that went well beyond U.N. sanctions agreed last month and included a ban on dealing with Iranian banks and insurance companies and steps to prevent investment in Tehran’s lucrative oil and gas sector, including refining.

The mounting sanctions are aimed at putting financial pressure on the world’s fifth largest crude oil exporter, which has little refining capacity and has to import about 40 percent of its gasoline needs for its domestic consumption.

U.S. wants to ‘close down the Central Bank of Iran’ over nuclear concerns

AFP
January 13, 2012

The latest round of American sanctions are aimed at shutting down Iran’s central bank, a senior U.S. official said Thursday, spelling out that intention directly for the first time.

“We do need to close down the Central Bank of Iran (CBI),” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity, while adding that the United States is moving quickly to implement the sanctions, signed into law last month.

The sanctions, broadly aimed at forcing Tehran to shift course on its nuclear program, targeted Iran’s crucial oil sector and required foreign firms to make a choice between doing business with Iran or the United States.

Foreign central banks that deal with the Iranian central bank on oil transactions could also face similar restrictions under the new law, which has sparked fears of damage to U.S. ties with nations like Russia and China.

“If a correspondent bank of a U.S. bank wants to do business with us and they’re doing business with CBI or other designated Iranian banks… then they’re going to get in trouble with us,” the US official said.

The measures were contained in a mammoth $662-billion defence bill, which President Barak Obama signed on December 31 at a time of rising tension with Tehran, which has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz — through which more than a third of the world’s tanker-borne oil passes.

The United States has warned it will “not tolerate” such an interruption.

There are fears that increased sanctions on Iran’s central bank could force the global price of oil to suddenly soar, and actually give Tehran a financial windfall on its existing oil sales.

Rising oil prices could also crimp the fragile economic recovery in the United States and inflict pain on American voters in gas stations — at a time when Obama is running for reelection next year.

Canada imposes new sanctions against Syria

Associated Press
December 23, 2011

Canada says it is imposing new sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, saying the leader’s “disgusting” brand of violence must stop.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Friday that Canada is freezing Syrian government assets and prohibiting most trade with the country.

Canada’s announcement comes after twin suicide car bomb blasts ripped through an upscale Damascus district Friday, killing at least 40 people. Baird called the violence “disgusting.”

The United Nations says more than 5,000 Syrians have been killed by Assad forces during protests against his rule.

The blasts came a day after an advance team of Arab League observers arrived in the country.

Canada this month asked its citizens in Syria to leave.