Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Female Entrepreneurs in Middle East and North Africa Defy Expectations

[This is a recent study of female entrepreneurs in Middle East North Africa. It is interesting to see how perceptions could be common beliefs. ]
December 18, 2007— A new World Bank study debunks the impression that women's entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa consists of micro or small scale, low-tech efforts.
"The commonly held perception is that women-owned businesses are small and informal, that they're less sophisticated, and that they're huddled in certain sectors," says Nadereh Chamlou, lead author of The Environment for Women's Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa. "What we are finding defies the perceptions."
Read More.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Introducing Middle East Youth Initiative

From the website: The Middle East Youth Initiative (MEYI) was launched by the Wolfensohn Center for Development at the Brookings Institution and the Dubai School of Government in July 2006. Our objective is to accelerate the international community's ability to better understand and respond to the changing needs of young people in the Middle East. By creating an international alliance of academics, policymakers, youth leaders and leading thinkers from the private sector and civil society, we aim to develop and promote a progressive agenda of youth inclusion…visit: http://shababinclusion.org/
Among MEYI experts there is Professor Djavad Salehi , Professor of Economics at Virginia Tech and one of the experts on Iran’s labor markets and population growth. He writes his own weblog: On the Right Track? Iran Edges Toward Education Reform. Please comment on the entries this is a very unique way of having a conversation about matters that concern all Middle-Easterns.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A New Book on Iran-US Relations

Publishing market has witnessed a surge in the number of books focusing on Iran, however rarely there has been a better informed author and a more comprehensive text than that of Barbara Salvin’s recent book: “Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S., and the Twisted Path to Confrontation.”
I just start to read this book and this is only an introduction. Ms. Salvin covers many recent aspects of Iran-US complex relationships and interviews a wide range of politicians, analysts and officials, including 2 former Iranian presidents. The publisher’s review praises her for portraying Iran “as a country that both adores and fears America and has a deeply rooted sense of its own historical and regional importance.”
Her style in representing different aspects of Iranian society and the history of the troubled relationship between Iran and USA is remarkable. Any reader would enjoy reading this book.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

More Links about the report

LA Times: Prayer rugs, Persian cats and the L.A. Times (Very Good Article)
What did we have to say back at the beginning of the United States' very complicated modern relationship with Iran?
The L.A. Times is expressing relief today that Iran's nuclear weapons program appears to be on the back burner, the mood wasn't always so sanguine. From the British invasion during World War II to the overthrow of the democratically elected Mohammad Mossadegh, the editorial board opined on Iran with confidence in budding American global leadership, suspicion of the Soviets (though interestingly not when the Soviets actually invaded the country), funny spelling and blissful ignorance of the CIA's involvement in the Iranian coup. Here's a selection of Persian editorials past…. Read More.

Washington Post: Time to Talk to Iran
By Robert Kagan
Regardless of what one thinks about the National Intelligence Estimate's conclusion that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003 -- and there is much to question in the report -- its practical effects are indisputable. The Bush administration cannot take military action against Iran during its remaining time in office, or credibly threaten to do so, unless it is in response to an extremely provocative Iranian action. A military strike against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities was always fraught with risk. For the Bush administration, that option is gone. … Read More.

TIME: Was Bush Behind the Iran Report?
Bombing Iran, it seems, is now off the table. There's no other reasonable take on the latest National Intelligence Estimate that concludes Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
But there is also no doubt that the Bush White House was behind this NIE. While the 16 intelligence agencies that make up the "intelligence community" contribute to each National Intelligence Estimate, you can bet that an explosive, 180-degree turn on Iran like this one was greenlighted by the President….
Read More.

New York Times: Intercepting Iran’s Take on America by Thomas Friedman
LA Times: Iran's nonexistent nuclear program

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More Links on the Recent Report

The Washington Post: On Campaign Trail, No Longer On Guard Against Iran?
At campaign headquarters across the nation, one can only imagine foreign policy advisers yesterday were busily ripping out the chapter on Iran from their candidate playbooks. The surprise intelligence community turnabout on Tehran's supposed nuclear threat upended one of the fundamental assumptions about the 2008 presidential election on both sides of the aisle -- namely the belief that Iran perhaps even more than Iraq would be the dominant foreign policy issue of the year…. Read More.

Swiss Info: Swiss react to latest Iran report
Switzerland has acknowledged a new United States intelligence report that plays down the Iran nuclear threat, commenting that it favours a diplomatic solution.The US report said with "high confidence" that it believed Iran had halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, but that the country was continuing to enrich uranium and was keeping its atomic options open.

New York Times: Iran Hails U.S. Report That It Ended Bid for Nuclear Arms

International Herald Tribune: Europeans struggle to maintain push for sanctions on Iran despite US report
PARIS: With the American case for tougher sanctions against Iran looking weaker than ever, European diplomats are in a bind.
Analysts say the Europeans may now have a hard time maintaining support for a swift new U.N. resolution that would further restrict their countries' trade with Iran
… Read More.

The American Spectator: Has Bush Been Vindicated On Iran?

Guardian: World's Reaction

Guardian Unlimited
A report by US intelligence agencies has contradicted Washington's claims that Iran is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, concluding instead that such work stopped four years ago.
Reaction to the surprise findings has been varied:
Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki:
"It's natural that we welcome it when those countries who in the past have questions and ambiguities about this case ... now amend their views realistically."
The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini
"Remarks by Bush and other US administration officials, who have continuously talked about the danger of Iran's nuclear programme, are baseless and unreliable."
Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak
"It's apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear programme for a time. But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that programme."
Gordon Brown's official spokesman
"In overall terms, the government believes that the report confirms we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. It also shows that the sanctions programme and international pressure has had some effect. It also shows the intent is there and the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious issue."
Harry Reid, the Democrat Senate majority leader
"I hope this administration reads this report carefully and appropriately adjusts its rhetoric and policy vis-a-vis Iran."
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin (speaking to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator)
"We expect that your programmes in the nuclear sphere will be open, transparent and be conducted under control of the authoritative international organisation."
The French foreign ministry's spokesman
"It appears that Iran is not respecting its international obligations. We must keep up the pressure on Iran ... we will continue to work on the introduction of restrictive measures in the framework of the United Nations."

Monday, December 03, 2007

NY Times: U.S. Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work

New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains on hold, contradicting an assessment two years ago that Tehran was working inexorably toward building a bomb.
The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to be major factor in the tense international negotiations aimed at getting Iran to halt its nuclear energy program. Concerns about Iran were raised sharply after President Bush had suggested in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to “World War III,” and Vice President Dick Cheney promised “serious consequences” if the government in Tehran did not abandon its nuclear program.
The finding also come in the middle of a presidential campaign during which a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear program has been discussed. The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran’s ultimate intentions about gaining a nuclear weapon remain unclear, but that Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.”
“Some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways might — if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible — prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program,” the estimate states.
The new report comes out just over five years after a deeply flawed N.I.E. concluded that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons programs and was determined to restart its nuclear program. The report led to congressional authorization for a military invasion of Iraq, although most of the N.I.E.’s conclusions turned out to be wrong. The estimate does say that Iran’s ultimate goal is still to develop the capability to produce a nuclear weapon.
The national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, quickly issued a statement describing the N.I.E. as containing positive news rather than reflecting intelligence mistakes. “It confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons,” Mr. Hadley said. “It tells us that we have made progress in trying to ensure that this does not happen. But the intelligence also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem.”
“The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically — without the use of force — as the administration has been trying to do,” Mr. Hadley said.
Last month, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the international Atomic Energy Agency, had reported that Iran was operating 3,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges, capable of producing fissile material for nuclear weapons.
But his report said that I.A.E.A. inspectors in Iran had been unable to determine whether the Iranian program sought only to generate electricity or also to build weapons.
The N.I.E. concludes that if Iran were to end the freeze of its weapons program, it would still be at least two years before Tehran would have enough highly enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb. But it says it is still “very unlikely” Iran could produce enough of the material by then.
Instead, today’s report concludes it is more likely Iran could have a bomb by the early part to the middle of the next decade. The report states that the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research judges Iran is unlikely to achieve this goal before 2013, “because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.”
The new assessment upends a judgment made about Iran’s nuclear capabilities in 2005. At the time, intelligence agencies assessed with “high confidence” that Iran is determined to have nuclear weapons and concluded that Iran had a secret nuclear weapons program.
Since then, officials said they have obtained new information leading them to conclude that international pressure, including tough economic sanctions, had been successful in bringing about a halt to Iran’s secret program.
“We felt that we needed to scrub all the assessments and sources to make sure we weren’t misleading ourselves,” said one senior intelligence official during a telephone interview, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In a separate statement accompanying the N.I.E., Deputy Director of National Intelligence Donald M. Kerr said that given the new conclusions, it was important to release the report publicly “to ensure that an accurate presentation is available.”