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Iran Holds Air Defense Drills As IAEA Says Iran Blocks Access To Key Nuclear Site

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Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/21/2012 22:59 -0500

As if the market needed another bizarro catalyst to ramp even higher courtesy of an even more pronounced drop in corporate earnings courtesy of soaring energy costs, that is just what it is about to get following news of further deterioration in the Nash equilibrium in Iran, where on one hand we learn that IAEA just pronounced Iran nuclear talks a failure (this is bad), and on the other Press TV reports that the Iran army just started a 4 day air defense exercise in a 190,000 square kilometer area in southern Iran (this is just as bad). The escalation “ball” is now in the Western court. And if Iraq is any indication, after IAEA talks “failure” (no matter how grossly manipulated by the media), the aftermath is usually always one and the same…

From The Guardian:

The UN nuclear agency has declared its latest inspection visit to Iran a failure, with the regime blocking access to a key site suspected of hosting covert nuclear weapon research and no agreement reached on how to resolve other unanswered questions.

The statement from the International Atomic Energy Agency was issued shortly after an Iranian general warned of a pre-emptive strike against any nation that threatens Iran.

“We engaged in a constructive spirit but no agreement was reached,” the statement quoted IAEA chief Yukiya Amano as saying.

The communique said that Iran did not grant requests by the IAEA mission to visit Parchin, a military site thought to be used for explosives testing related to triggering a nuclear weapon. Amano called this decision “disappointing”. No agreement was reached on how to begin “clarification of unresolved issues in connection with Iran’s nuclear programme, particularly those relating to possible military dimensions”, the statement said.

Apparently it is Iran’s fault for seeing right through the IAEA’s track record of being nothing but the catalyst for all out aggression. Here is a reminder why, courtesy of Hans Blix. And with that out of the way, we continue:

The fact that the statement was issued early Wednesday, shortly after midnight and just after the IAEA experts left Tehran, reflected the urgency the agency attached to announcing the failed outcome. The language of the statement clearly if indirectly blamed Tehran for the lack of progress.

We can already see the statements from Clinton, who will do anything to make her transition to head of the World Bank as seamless and as “deserved” as pobssible.

In the meantime, Iran is not playing possum:

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Iran’s Khatam al-Anbia Air Defense Base started the four-day exercises codenamed Tharallah on Monday within an area of 190,000 square kilometers in southern Iran, with the key objective of boosting the country’s air defense near the Persian Gulf and the nation’s Bushehr nuclear power plant.

During the military drills slated in four tactical phases, the Iranian army will test and assess the operation of its surface-to-air and radar equipment, and will collect new data on the procedures.

State-of -the-art radar, artillery and missile systems as well as interceptor fighter aircraft of the Air Force will be used in the military drills.

In the first phase of the drills, the fighter aircraft of the hypothetical enemy launched attacks against local air defense forces as part of an electronic warfare exercise.

Using passive and active sensors and multilevel data collection and communications systems, the air defense forces managed to thwart the mock enemy’s measures promptly and effectively, and safeguard the country’s radar network.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Ground Forces wrapped up another drill codenamed Val Fajr in the central province of Yazd on Monday, to further enhance the combat preparedness of Iranian armed forces.

Why is Iran doing this now?

Iran maintains that the military drills are defensive in nature and meant to convey a message of peace and friendship to regional countries.

Tehran has also sent a public invitation to regional states to conduct joint naval drills with Iranian forces.

Like Israel?

Rhetorical questions aside, we hope our readers stocked up on gasoline. Because things are about to get uglier. And by that we mean more expensive. But courtesy of hedonic adjustments, more expensive means cheaper, at least to the US government.

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U.N. nuclear talks in Tehran: frustrated hopes

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By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA | Mon Feb 6, 2012 12:01pm EST

(Reuters) – After two days of rare and intensive talks in Tehran, senior U.N. nuclear officials may have felt they were finally making headway towards getting Iran to address suspicions that it is bent on developing the ability to make atom bombs.

Then, on the evening before the third and final session of last week’s meetings in the Iranian capital, the visiting U.N. nuclear watchdog delegation was handed an envelope that dealt a blow to any hopes of substantive progress.

According to one Vienna-based diplomat briefed on the discussions, it contained a procedural “new work plan” at odds with the nature of the discussions until then, in which the U.N. experts had tried to focus on concrete steps required by Iran.

In the view of Western officials, the Iranian move was further proof of the kind of stalling tactics Tehran has often used during the decade-long dispute over its nuclear program.

“It is delay. It is talks about talks,” a senior Western envoy said about the Iranian negotiating strategy.

The team from the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, headed by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts, was forced to use much of the last day of the January 29-31 meeting to push back against the Iranian initiative.

“The agency had to spend a great deal of time getting over Iranian obfuscation,” said another diplomat. “It wasted a lot of time, at least a day.”

Neither Iran nor the IAEA have commented on the Iranian proposal or given details about it.

But it evoked memories among Western diplomats of an ultimately doomed plan agreed between the IAEA and Tehran in 2007 to resolve “outstanding issues” that failed to allay international doubts about Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

By putting forward a new such proposal, they suspect, Iran was trying once again to drag talks out while pressing ahead with nuclear work Western powers fear is aimed at acquiring the means and technologies needed to build atomic bombs.

“The Iranians kept trying to push that ‘work plan’ and the agency was not going to go there. They had some very frank engagement,” the senior envoy said.

Iran’s mission to the IAEA was not reachable for comment. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has described the meeting with the IAEA as “very good,” without elaborating.

A second round of talks has been slated for later this month but Western diplomats hold out little hope that the February 21-22 meeting in Tehran will fare much better than the previous round.

One diplomat said the January negotiations ended with a draft “discussion paper” listing the main points the IAEA wants Iran to answer, especially allegations about possible military dimensions to its uranium enrichment program.

The talks coincide with soaring tension in the long-running row, with the United States and European Union adopting sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports and the Islamic Republic threatening retaliation by closing the main Gulf oil shipping lane.

IRAN UNDER PRESSURE

The outcome of the IAEA’s meetings in Tehran will be scrutinized in Washington, European capitals and Israel for signs of whether Iran’s leadership may finally be prepared to give ground after a decade of pursuing shadowy nuclear development goals, or whether it remains as defiant as ever.

Many fear a downward spiral towards military conflict and rocketing oil prices if diplomacy and sanctions fail to change the Islamic state’s nuclear course.

The Vienna-based IAEA, tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear arms in the world, is pressing Iran to be transparent.

It wants Iran to explain intelligence findings, detailed in an IAEA report in November, about research and development work pointing to nuclear weapons aims, and grant access to sites, documents and people relevant for its investigation.

Iran has indicated readiness for the first time to answer the agency’s questions but also repeatedly dismissed the allegations as baseless and forged.

It says its drive to stockpile enriched uranium is entirely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity using a future network of nuclear power plants.

The deadlock over the IAEA’s suspicion that Iran is looking into “weaponizing” its nuclear activity dates back over three years.

Nackaerts and his team specifically asked last week for access to the Parchin military site near Tehran, without receiving a clear answer from the Iranian side, diplomats said.

The secretive U.N. agency would not comment on the visit beyond a formal statement in which Director General Yukiya Amano said: “The agency is committed to intensifying dialogue. It remains essential to make progress on substantive issues.”

The IAEA said it explained to Iran its “concerns and identified its priorities, which focus on the clarification of possible military dimensions.”

“The IAEA also discussed with Iran the topics and initial steps to be taken, as well as associated modalities,” it said.

Western diplomats said the statement made clear that there had been little progress on substance, but also raised pressure on Iran to deliver tangible results in the next meeting.

Tehran is in the “game of gaining time,” one of them said.

But at least it would be clear who was to blame if the talks failed, he added: “It is going to be Iran’s responsibility.”

The IAEA may also hope that the Iranian side next time will send senior officials such as Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, to the talks.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, was the main counterpart in the January meeting. While he is a senior nuclear official, the U.N. agency frequently sees him in Vienna.

“There was nothing achieved on this visit and in fact the agency could not get Iran to engage on possible military dimensions questions at all,” the senior Western envoy said.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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