Morning Report: May 9, 2006

Blair rejects Iran strike, dismisses speculation on Straw's sacking. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has rejected the idea that the replacement of former Foreign Minister Jack Straw was connected with a difference of views on Iran. The Scotsman: 'There has been widespread media speculation that differences over how to deal with Iran's nuclear programme were behind Blair's decision to axe Foreign Minister Jack Straw last week in a major government reshuffle. Blair replaced Straw with former Environment Minister Margaret Beckett. "The idea I moved Jack because of Iran ... because the Americans objected to him ... (is) rubbish," Blair said. "Any notion that it is linked to a decision about invading Iran -- which incidentally we are not going to do -- any notion that it is linked to such a decision is utterly absurd."' Via Regime Change Iran. (Scotsman via RCI)

Rice on Ahmadinejad letter: Ho-hum. Voice of America: 'U.S. officials say an unusual letter to President Bush from his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not present any breakthrough in the current dispute over Iran's nuclear program. The response came as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prepared to discuss the nuclear issue in New York with her counterparts from the other permanent U.N. Security Council member countries. ... However administration officials are dismissing comments from Tehran that the message is a significant overture in the frozen relationship, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying there is nothing in the letter to suggest the parties are on any different course than they were before it arrived. Secretary Rice made the comments in a session with the Associated Press in New York as she prepared to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue over dinner with her colleagues from the other veto-wielding Security Council member countries. She told the AP the Ahmadinejad letter was 17 or 18 pages long and covered history, philosophy and religion, but was not a diplomatic opening or anything of the sort, and did not address the nuclear issue in a concrete way.' Debka: 'DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources are first to reveal contents of - not one but two - letters Iran’s Ahmadinejad has sent to President Bush. Neither of the letters Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mailed Sunday, May 7, to George W. Bush represents an olive branch – just the reverse: Their writer takes a high moral tone and emphasizes the importance of Islam to mankind and the world. Neither does the Iranian president deign to offer concessions to ease international concerns and the standoff on Iran’s nuclear program. DEBKAfile’s sources in Tehran obtained access to the first drafts of two separate communications – only one of which Iranian proposes to release to the media. The private Note trots out the Islamic Republic’s reiteration of its right to develop nuclear energy for purely peaceful purposes and Iran’s greatness as the cradle of human civilization. The Note intended for release is longer and couched in phrases designed for propaganda effect. Ahmadinejad complains that Iran is anxious for progress in the sciences but is constantly persecuted by the forces of “world arrogance” ' and blah blah blah. The Israeli analysis adds that the stunt is meant to recall Ayatolla Khomeini's 1979 letter to Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, urging him to adopt Islamic principles for his country. (VOA, Debka)

China says it won't veto UNSC action on Iran. Jerusalem Post: 'The Chinese ambassador to the United Nations announced late Monday night that Beijing would not veto a UN Security Council decision to impose punitive measures against Iran, Army Radio reported. The announcement may represent some progress in the attempt made by the Western permanent UNSC member states - the United States, Great Britain and France - in trying to adopt a resolution that would force Iran, under the threat of sanctions, to comply with international demands to halt its nuclear development program and permit supervision of its nuclear sites. (JPost)