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Iran is scrutinising its relationship with Asian customers as it struggles to generate hard currency, prevent economic collapse and head off competition from Iraq.

Iran
Issue 931 - 14 September 2012

Iran leads region’s paralympic medal haul

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The region’s 129 paralympians came back from the London 2012 Paralympic Games with 31 medals, 24 of those won by Iran, which came 11th in the medal table. It was Iran’s best medal haul to date.

Iran
Issue 931 - 14 September 2012

Oman Air launches Tehran service

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Oman Air’s maiden flight to Iran landed in Tehran on 1 September. The daily service from Muscat will operate on Embraer E175 regional jets, which have 71 seats, including 11 in business class.

Iran | Oman
Free

Tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme remain high. Efforts to reach a diplomatic solution seem to have flagged after P5+1 talks in Moscowin June ended in disappointment (GSN 928/6).A 30 August report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) raised particular concerns that Iran has increased enrichment capacity at the underground Fordow plant near Qom, and that, since February 2012, there has been a flurry of activity intended to sanitise Parchin, a military complex 30km fromTehran which theIAEA has been trying to access.The IAEA also reported a growing stockpile of enriched uranium.

Iran
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Standard Chartered has agreed to pay a $340m fine to the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), for facilitating transactions of Iranian clients. On 6 August, DFS superintendent of financial services Benjamin Lawsky called the UK multinational banking and financial services company a “rogue institution”.

Iran
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The Gulf nations were not expected to top the Olympics medal table – and, apart from an impressive 12-medal haul from Iran (putting it 17th on the overall medals table), the region’s athletes did not bring home much metal. Qatar ranked 75th in the table, with two bronzes, and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain tied 79th with one bronze apiece. But the medals won in London have increased the historical tally of Olympic medals from the region by almost a third – to 70 from just 53.

Iran | Kuwait | Saudi Arabia | Bahrain | Qatar
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As non-military alternatives fail one by one, the chances of a military clash between Iran and western powers is growing. Though there is little to fear before the US election in November, the climate is ripe for conspiracy theories, the most recent of which – the tale of former US Navy adviser Gwenyth Todd – appeared in the normally shrewd Washington Post on 21 August.

Iran
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With potential competitors increasingly wary of doing business with Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has arguably seen its influence grow in recent years, despite being targeted by sanctions. But there are signs that the punishment may finally be starting to hurt.

Iran
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At the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation summit, which began in Mecca on 14 August, King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz made a concerted effort to be seen extending an olive branch to his nation’s great rival Iran.

Iran | Saudi Arabia | Iraq | Syria
Issue 930 - 31 August 2012

The growing influence of the IRGC

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Established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979, shortly after the Islamic revolution, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has an estimated 120,000 personnel fulfilling functions related to internal security, defence and regime survival.

Iran
Free

When devastating earthquakes hit Iran’s north-east on 11 August, questions were raised about the impact of sanctions on the rescue of survivors. “Helicopters had to suspend rescue operations during the night as Iran — under international sanctions over its nuclear programme — is barred from purchasing night-vision material,” the New York Times wrote on 12 August.

Iran
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Iraq’s Kurds have long hoped for a foreign sponsor to underwrite their independence, and Turkey has emerged as the latest potential saviour. Geopolitical and energy designs are the backdrop to an increasingly tight relationship with Ankara – and an increasingly difficult one with Iran

Iran | Iraq
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For several days, the Paris-based Voltaire Network/Réseau Voltaire has been running stories that say recently appointed General Intelligence Directorate (GID) head Prince Bandar Bin Sultan was the target of a bomb attack in Riyadh on 26 July, and has died from his injuries. The Saudi embassy in London told GSN it could not comment on the story, which has been spreading online.

Iran | Saudi Arabia | Qatar | Syria
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The authorities in Bahrain have long sought definitive proof that Iran and its Gulf proxy network, Hizbollah Al-Hejaz, are actively undertaking militant actions inside Bahrain. Based on contacts within Bahrain’s security services, GSN has periodically reported the thin gruel of evidence that has built up over time, largely consisting of 1990s-era arms caches unearthed by new building activity or occasional evidence of Bahrainis travelling to Iran, Lebanon and Iraq to receive training or money from Tehran’s intelligence services.

Iran | Bahrain
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The one-upmanship between US and Iranian naval forces has intensified, forcing both sides to look closely at their operational and tactical thinking. Since Iran reorganised its naval forces in 2007, its thinking on a naval war with the US has become increasingly sophisticated. The axiom of the new thinking (as expressed by Iranian leaders and in professional service magazines produced by the armed forces) is that symmetric force-on-force encounters between large US and Iranian vessels would be a losing game.

Iran