Iran The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!
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posted on 10/24/2003 12:15:39 AM PDT
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Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!
posted on 10/24/2003 12:24:44 AM PDT
The Mullahs and the Bomb
October 23, 2003
The New York Times
WASHINGTON -- With much fanfare, and the reluctant endorsement of the Bush administration, Iran has vowed to suspend its controversial effort to produce enriched uranium which can be used as fuel in nuclear weapons and to clear up a host of suspicions about its nuclear program. In exchange, the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany promised new "cooperation" meaning trade in high technology with Tehran. While perhaps getting any concessions out of the mullahs should be seen as a step forward, this particular deal won't prevent Iran from making the bomb. It also risks having the same outcome as the deal North Korea made in 1994 and later violated, and threatens to drive a wedge between the United States and its European allies on Iran policy.
The suspicions about Iran's nuclear aims are well founded. Leaving aside the question whether such an oil-rich country even needs nuclear power plants, America has long questioned why Iran is building a factory to enrich uranium, material for which there is no reasonable need in Iran's civilian power program.
Iran also plans to produce plutonium, another fuel for nuclear weapons, by building a 40-megawatt heavy water reactor at Arak. This type of reactor, too small for electricity and larger than needed for research, is now providing the fuel for atomic weapons programs in India, Israel and Pakistan. And Iran is developing a fleet of long-range missiles, which don't make sense as a way to deliver conventional warheads. The only logical purpose of such missiles is to carry nuclear ones.
International suspicions about these programs led to the current crisis: the International Atomic Energy Agency has given Iran until Oct. 31 to explain how mysterious traces of bomb-grade uranium got into two Iranian nuclear sites. Iran says the traces arrived on contaminated imports; the other explanation is that Iran has been secretly enriching uranium in violation of its inspection agreement with the agency. The agency also wants to know how Iran developed such a high level of enrichment technology without secretly testing it with nuclear material, which is also forbidden. The agency's experts are convinced that the testing occurred.
Under the new deal, Iran is supposed to explain all this. If it doesn't, it risks being condemned as a pariah by the Security Council and the European Union may have to shelve its trade agreement with Iran, which would cost all concerned a lot of money. Thus Britain, France and Germany, as well as Iran, have an interest in seeing Iran comply.
But the problem is, even if Iran does so, there will be little assurance that the deal will really dampen Iran's nuclear hopes. Consider what happened with the pact hammered out by the Clinton administration with North Korea in 1994, which had much in common with the present situation.
North Korea faced worldwide condemnation and a possible war with the United States after violating its inspection agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. By agreeing to suspend its effort to produce plutonium, North Korea avoided censure and got economic benefits from the West, and yet it preserved its nuclear potential intact. North Korea's 8,000 fuel rods containing five bombs' worth of plutonium never left the country. Like a sword poised over the world's head, they remained only months away from being converted into bomb fuel something that the North Koreans say was finally done this summer. The North Korean bomb program only shifted into neutral; now it is back in gear.
Under Tuesday's deal Iran, too, will shift into neutral, while keeping its nuclear potential intact. It won't for the time being operate its newly constructed centrifuges, which are needed to enrich uranium to weapon grade. But the deal won't stop Iran from building more centrifuges to augment the limited number it now has, thus adding to its future ability to enrich uranium. Nor does the agreement bar Iran from completing the factory that produces the uranium gas that goes into the centrifuges. Nor does it prevent the building of the heavy water reactor or, indeed, the resumption of enrichment in the future. Thus the agreement could insulate Iran from international censure without hampering its nuclear progress in any way.
These defects won't be cured by Iran's acceptance of more rigorous inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The inspectors' new rights are still weaker than those that were enjoyed by their counterparts in Iraq and we all know that the Iraqis repeatedly foiled those efforts with delays and obfuscation.
The only real solution is to convince Iran to dismantle all the plants that can make fuel for nuclear weapons. This would remove the threat that Iran could go back into the bomb business on a moment's notice, and the country could still benefit from the electricity generated by its Russian-supplied reactor at Bushehr, which should be sufficient if Iran truly wants only civilian nuclear power.
This goal is what the Europeans hope to achieve in the long run. It would probably satisfy the United States as well. But the current agreement won't take us there, and it may lead to the same sort of bickering between the United States and its vital allies that fractured international action on North Korea and Iraq.
The only chance for a solution to the Iran nuclear problem, short of war, is for a united West to apply relentless economic pressure. That means quickly closing any gap between Europe and the United States. It may be possible to convince Iran that the costs of building nuclear weapons exceed the benefit of having them. Unlike North Korea, Iran has large trade interests that really matter. However, unless the rest of the world is willing to put those interests at risk, it will probably soon have to live with a new nuclear power in the Middle East.
Gary Milhollin is director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control. http://iranvajahan.net/cgi-bin/news.pl?l=en&y=2003&m=10&d=23&a=15
posted on 10/24/2003 12:29:14 AM PDT
Iran's Documents Omit Source of Arms Uranium
October 23, 2003
The Associated Press
VIENNA, Austria -- Iran on Thursday gave the U.N. nuclear agency documents on its past atomic energy activities, but the dossier apparently did not include the origin of traces of weapons-grade uranium found in the country.
"We have submitted a report fully disclosing all our past activities in the nuclear field," Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's representative to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters.
Neither Salehi nor IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei would elaborate on the contents of the documents, which Iran handed over before the Oct. 31 deadline to prove its nuclear program is peaceful.
ElBaradei said he expected the information to answer all outstanding questions about Iran's nuclear activities. "The debate was for Iran to come with full disclosure," he said.
However, Salehi indicated that the origin of traces of highly enriched weapons-grade uranium found in at least two different sites was not in the package.
Diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press this week that Iran would provide the origin of the traces, which ElBaradei has called the most troubling aspect of Iran's nuclear activities.
"How can you give the origin of the species if you have taken it from the intermediaries on the foreign market?" Salehi said.
Iran insists the contamination, found in environmental samples taken by agency experts, was imported on equipment it uses for peaceful nuclear purposes. For months, it has resisted IAEA requests that it name the country of origin for the equipment so that experts can try to match isotope samples.
If the traces found inside Iran do not correspond to samples from whatever country it eventually might name as the exporter of the equipment, then Iran would be hard put to deny assertions by the United States and its allies that it had produced its own highly enriched uranium for a weapons program.
Iran previously had insisted it would continue enriching uranium to nonweapons levels as part of a program it says is aimed only at producing electricity.
The U.N. nuclear agency's board of governors will meet Nov. 20. If it finds that suspicions remain about a possible weapons program, it could find Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. That would mean U.N. Security Council involvement and possible international sanctions.
Tuesday, Iran told the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France that it would suspend uranium enrichment and sign a protocol allowing spot checks of its nuclear programs.
There was no indication of when that would happen. Iran has allowed IAEA inspectors to view some sites but for weeks has hesitated at making a full commitment to the IAEA demands.
The agreement giving U.N. inspectors unrestricted access to Iran's nuclear facilities allows the country to maintain its "national dignity," an Iranian government official said Thursday.
Massoumeh Ebtekar, one of Iran's six vice presidents, said on a visit to Vienna that the agreement was "a sign of our sincere commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear technologies." http://www.omaha.com/index.php?u_np=0&u_pg=54&u_sid=895724&PHPSESSID=c10704be1eb1cb3ca19754cc5590a3b5
posted on 10/24/2003 12:30:31 AM PDT
England Won't Intervene in Bombing Trial
October 23, 2003
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Kevin G. Hall
LONDON -- Great Britain decided to reject an Argentine proposal to seek a third country to try Iran's former ambassador for the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, said to be the single worst anti-Semitic act since the end of World War II.
Hadi Soleimanpour, Iran's former ambassador to Argentina, faces extradition proceedings in London after his Aug. 21 arrest in northeastern England on a warrant from Argentina's prosecuting judge, Juan Jose Galeano. Argentina alleges Soleimanpour helped mastermind a suicide bombing that destroyed two Jewish centers, killing 85 and wounding more than 200.
Argentine Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa earlier this month began floating a proposal, supported by Jewish organizations and groups representing the victims' families, that seeks a trial for Soleimanpour in a third country. Bielsa hopes Iran will follow the lead of Libya, which this year offered compensation to families of victims killed in the Libyan bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The proposal, rebuffed outright by Iran, appears to also be a non-starter in England.
"We've made it very clear that this is a judicial process in which we cannot intervene," said an aide to British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Seeking trial in a third country is not an option, given that judicial proceedings are already under way in London's Bow Street Magistrates Court, the aide said, adding, "We are not looking at this as a political or diplomatic issue in any way."
Iran has charged that the arrest of Soleimanpour, ambassador to Argentina and Paraguay during the deadly bombing, was politically motivated, pushed by its enemies Israel and the United States.
The August arrest of Soleimanpour in Durham sparked a diplomatic row between Britain and Iran. Tehran recalled its ambassador for consultations, and the British Embassy in Tehran was fired upon twice, prompting officials to send home nonessential embassy personnel as a precaution.
A British judge was set to determine Thursday whether to go ahead with extradition proceedings against Soleimanpour. But the Home Secretary's Office, the British equivalent of the Justice Department, sought and was granted a second postponement late Wednesday to allow translation and reading of voluminous documentation submitted by Argentina. The new hearing date is Nov. 13, when the Home Secretary's Office must recommend whether to open extradition proceedings or free the ex-Iranian diplomat.
A spokesman for Home Secretary David Blunkett said he refused to discuss the case while proceedings remain open.
The detention of Soleimanpour, who's now free on bail, is highly unusual. An embassy colleague of his was briefly detained last month in Belgium on behalf of Argentina, but was later freed because, as a diplomat, he has immunity from prosecution. Soleimanpour is no longer a diplomat and was in a post-graduate Islamic studies program at Durham University, living in England since February 2002 on a student visa. http://www.sanluisobispo.com/mld/sanluisobispo/news/world/7087098.htm
posted on 10/24/2003 12:31:42 AM PDT
Iran Accord With EU Can Increase Plutonium Output
October 24, 2003
Middle East Online
WASHINGTON -- Iran's agreement with the European Union to suspend uranium enrichment could still ensure that the Islamic republic will achieve weapons capability.
A report by the Washington Institute said Iran could use the accord to accelerate construction of the Bushehr nuclear reactor and produce spent fuel that could be easily reprocessed to extract plutonium. Such a development could lead to the production of nuclear weapons.
Bushehr was expected to be completed by no later than 2006. Analysts said the EU accord could delay Iran's nuclear weapons program by about a year and the report urged the Bush administration to increase U.S. deterrence against Iran.
The agreement this week between Iran and the EU could significantly reduce the risk of Iran producing a nuclear weapon from highly enriched uranium, the report said. This would require strict and rapid implementation of the accord. http://www.menewsline.com/stories/2003/october/10_24_3.html
posted on 10/24/2003 12:32:51 AM PDT
Israelis Allege Saudi-Pakistan Nuclear Pact
October 24, 2003
The Scottish Herald
Israel's senior military intelligence officer claimed yesterday that Saudi Arabia is secretly trying to exchange cheap oil for Pakistani nuclear technology to counter the threat of neighbouring Iran's quest for the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.
Major General Aharon Zeevi, the Israel defence forces' leading spymaster, said a high-ranking Saudi delegation secretly visited Islamabad last weekend to explore the possibility of buying off-the-shelf warheads.
He added that the drive to acquire atomic weapons was fuelled by Iran's advanced nuclear research programme and the fact that US forces no longer had a presence on Saudi soil, leaving the feudal monarchy which rules the desert kingdom feeling vulnerable about its own long-term survival.
Saudi Arabia is predominantly Sunni Muslim, while Iran's population belongs to the rival Shi'ite sect of Islam.
Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia strenuously denied any nuclear pact yesterday, saying that the Israeli claim was no more than "wild speculation". The White House also played down the revelation, saying that it had seen no substantive evidence to support it.
A state department spokesman added: "We are confident that Pakistan clearly understands our concerns regarding proliferation of nuclear technology. We would also note that Saudi Arabia is a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, under which it has agreed not to obtain nuclear firepower."
The US diplomatic reaction directly contradicts a CIA report leaked two months ago which detailed a clandestine visit in 1999 by a Saudi prince to Pakistan's Kahuta uranium enrichment plant and the nearby factory which manufactures Islamabad's Ghauri ballistic missiles.
The complex is so secret that Benazir Bhutto was denied access to it when she was Pakistan's prime minister.
The Saudis opened a nuclear research facility at the remote Al Suleiyel military "city" in the desert in 1975 and co-operated with Saddam Hussein's scientists for a time. Lack of technical expertise and the absence of nuclear power plants to provide the raw materials for a weapons programme eventually forced its closure.
Riyadh is reported to be considering three regional policy options. The first is to acquire its own nuclear weapons, the second is to enter a protective alliance with an existing nuclear power such as Pakistan, and the third is to lead the charge for a nuclear-free Middle East.
The Saudi armed forces have an estimated 60 Chinese-made CSS-2 ballistic missiles capable of striking either Iran or Israel which could be adapted to carry atomic payloads.
Israel, which has never confirmed or denied its own nuclear arsenal, has upwards of 200 warheads produced at the Dimona complex in the Negev desert and the means to deliver them by aircraft, Jericho missiles or on cruise missiles launched from its three German-built diesel-electric submarines.
The United States suspects Iran, which George W Bush grouped with North Korea and Iraq in an "axis of evil", is using its civilian nuclear power programme as cover for developing an atomic weapon.
Iran yesterday acknowledged having been "discreet" about its nuclear programme in the past, but said it had no more secrets after giving the United Nations what it called a full declaration of all its nuclear activities.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iran delivered the declaration yesterday, eight days ahead of an IAEA deadline for Iran to prove it has no secret atomic weapons programme.
Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, said the secretive nature of some of Iran's activities was a natural response to sanctions.
"The important thing to note is that Iran had to do some of its activities very discreetly because of the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran for the past 25 years," Salehi said, adding that they were "legal activities".
Submission of the report meets a key demand of the IAEA, which set the October 31 deadline. The IAEA is particularly keen to have details about the origin of uranium enrichment centrifuge parts, which Iran says it bought on the black market and blames for contaminating two Iranian sites where the IAEA found traces of bomb-grade uranium. http://www.theherald.co.uk/news/3226.html
posted on 10/24/2003 12:34:45 AM PDT
The Souvenirs of an Empress
October 23, 2003
POINT DE VUE
FARAH PUBLISHES HER MEMOIRS: The Souvenirs of an Empress
The book came out for her 65th birthday, the 14th October 2003. Twenty-four years after the start of her exile, away from Iran where she was crowned empress, Farah has finally decided to speak, to open her heart and the gates of her memories.
The manuscript of her memoirs, Farah had written many years ago. Hundreds of typed pages, read and reread, locked in her drawer. Her secret history, everything she had wanted to say during her twenty years of reign and twenty years in exile.
How many times did her intimate circle, her publisher friends beg her to write her story? At least to give her answer to History. The history of the last twenty years of the 20th century that had so unjustly treated her husband, the Shah of Iran, his family, the Pahlavis and her, the Shahbanou, literally meaning the Lady of the King.
Farah Diba: The only woman ever to be crowned in all the history of Iran. A symbol of the emancipation of Iranian womanhood which the most reactionary mullahs headed by Ayatollah Khomeini, would never forgive the Shah.
It was all in vain. Every time she had rejected the most tempting of offers. The wall of hate that had surrounded the Shah and the imperial family was too high to allow a truthful clarification of certain events or a simple explanation of the tragic errors, the betrayals and weaknesses that had led to the Islamic revolution.
What was the point of returning to that terrible year of 1979 that had transformed one of the planets most powerful men into a broken figure, treated abysmally like a fugitive by the governments of the world? A man who had been her husband for 20 years and who was to pass away almost alone in Cairo, Sunday, 27th July 1980.
While at the same time, in Europe and the USA, intellectuals led by Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre were joining the camp of Khomeinis supporters. Returning to all of this would have served nothing. It was perhaps, to early to do so. Besides nobody wanted to hear anymore.
Farah knew this well. And in addition there were the last chapters, the hardest to write: the death of her beloved mother, Madame Farideh Diba, in Paris in December 1999.
And the most heart-breaking chapter of all on her youngest daughter, Leila, who passed away on the 10th June 2001 at the age of 31.
The first person represented a world of memories, a sheltered life and happy childhood, despite the premature disappearance of her father when she was barely nine years old.
Her mother had been the last link to Farahs childhood in Iran and the house on Sezavar Avenue where she still recalls all the brilliant sounds and nice smells.
Downstairs, there was a private salon, she recalled one day. I slept in the same room as my parents and when they went out at night, the following morning I would discover bonbons and chocolates and sweets under my pillow. On the first floor, there was my fathers office, the large dining and reception rooms
Beyond the pretty garden that surrounded the house was a noisy and rich universe, colourful and forbidden to the future empress whom her cousin, Reza Ghotbi, would discover after climbing over the wall.
Being her only child, the great lady, Farideh Diba had been determined to raise Farah as an independent and modern woman. It was she who had encouraged her to study architecture in France and who had supported her during the early years of apprenticeship as Queen.
True, the years had left their marks and Farideh Diba had become a fragile woman. That did not matter for she was always there for her, until December 1999.
Leila, on the other hand, symbolised all the hopes of the future. A child who became a woman, tragically hiding her inner pain behind an angelic face and tiny silhouette. She had inside her a certain grace, but also suffering, a passionate love for her father who she lost at the age of ten. Throughout her short life she regretted not having seen him on his deathbed for one last time.
I absolutely wanted to enter his room for one last time, Leila had reasoned. It was her old valet who had stopped her by saying: No Princess, it is better this way.
He must have thought that the scene would be too hard to take in for a child of my age. I followed his advice and came to regret it for many years.
Leila, too beautiful, too fragile, who had tormented herself by refusing to eat. It would take two years before the Empress could accept her death.
After all this, how could Farah write? She had to wait for time to treat her wounds. The wounds are always there, but less painful than they were. On the contrary by telling her story it was a way to heal.
So many things happened during those two years. Since the world woke up to the fact that it was not immune to the destructive follies of man.
Since the awful day when two planes collided into the twin towers of the World Trade Center causing the brutal deaths of thousands of innocent people.
Men and women, who, like every day had gone to work, without realising that they would never again see their families, or their homes or everything that had made up their lives.
This great shock, Farah had experienced like everyone else in the world. But it had also taught her one thing: that life hangs on the end of a string.
That tragedy can strike at a moments notice, she has known for many years.
She who lives under constant police protection. She who is still sentenced to death in her own country.
She who has not seen the country of her birth, since the first day of exile, the 16th January 1979 and who has watched powerlessly the progressive collapse of one of the Muslim worlds prosperous countries.
We have about $30 billion dollars of external debt, she says indignantly. We are threatened by overpopulation. In 1979 we were 35 million and today 65 million. Women are considered as second class citizens. They are insulted and sometimes stoned to death. The society is ravaged by corruption at all levels and opponents of the regime are murdered inside and outside the country.
Today, the majority of the Iranian population is less than 25 years old. They have not lived under the reign of the Shah. They have only known war with Iraq, arbitrary justice and religious extremism and terror.
It is for this young generation of Iranians who aspires to freedom that Farah has decided to talk. So that one day, perhaps, thousands of young girls can, like herself some forty years ago, choose their careers and have a normal life.
This book, Farah owes as well to her two grand daughters, Noor and Iman, Rezas daughters. Both were born in exile and will soon reach an age when they will be able to learn who were their grandparents. Already they are asking many questions.
And finally, why hide the past? To write about ones life is also to relive it. To remember. Even if the memories are painful, they allow to briefly recall the voice, the face, of a dear person who will not come back. She relives the memory of a landscape, a sound, a scent. Everything that makes this land of Iran which she lost over twenty years ago.
Farah Pahlavi, Memoires, Editions XO, Paris, 2003
POINT DE VUE - N0 2881 8-14 October 2003
(English Translation By Cyrus Kadivar)
Key Dates of Empress Farahs life
14 October 1938: Farah Diba is born
21 December 1959: Marriage to HIM Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran
31 October 1960: Birth of HRH Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi
12 March 1963: Birth of HRH Princess Farahnaz Pahlavi
28 April 1966: Birth of HRH Ali Reza Pahlavi
26 October 1967: Farah becomes the first Iranian empress to be crowned.
27 March 1970: Birth of HRH Princess Leila Pahlavi
16 January 1979: Shah and Empress Farah leave for exile
27 July 1980: Death of HIM Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi in Cairo, Egypt
31 October 1980: Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi declares himself prepared to assume his duties as his late fathers successor in a ceremony held at Kubbeh Palace in Cairo.
11 June 1986: Crown Prince Reza marries Yasamine Etemad in exile
23 April 1992: Birth of HRH Princess Noor, eldest daughter of Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi
10 June 2001: Death of HRH Princess Leila Pahlavi in London
14 October 2003: Empress Farah Pahlavi clebrates her 65th birthday with the publication of her long awaited memoirs http://iranvajahan.net/cgi-bin/news.pl?l=en&y=2003&m=10&d=23&a=16
posted on 10/24/2003 12:38:01 AM PDT
Iran shows new willingness to deal with US
Progress on nuclear issues and negotiations on Al Qaeda members may signal a major thaw in relations.
By Faye Bowers | 10.24.2003
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
WASHINGTON It may not be the fall of the Berlin Wall. Still, a significant change is afoot. The decades-long gap between the super Islamic Republic of Iran and superpower US may finally be narrowing.
Iran's decision to bare its nuclear activities for international inspectors - and its attendance at the Iraq donors' meeting in Madrid this week - may signal its willingness to deal more openly with the US.
That, experts and government officials say, is extremely important. Iran has something the US desperately wants, beyond Iran's compliance on the nuclear front: Several high-level Al Qaeda members are in Iran. The US and some of its allies have been quietly negotiating behind the scenes for their release. But so far, Iran has not been willing to give them up.
"With the Iranians having worked through the nuclear issue, the temperature may drop sufficiently to where this issue can become resolvable," says Adel al-Jubeir, foreign-affairs adviser to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah.
It's not clear if talks will take place between the Iranian delegation to Madrid and US officials, or if Iran will make a contribution toward rebuilding Iraq. But Iran Thursday followed through on its agreement with Germany, France, and Britain by delivering documents on the creation of its nuclear program to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Experts say the time for repairing the relationship has not been better in decades. "The Iranians may be signaling a willingness to put everything on the table," says Judith Yaphe, an expert on the Middle East at the National Defense University in Washington. "Everything is negotiable."
The US and Iran haven't exactly been on friendly terms since the 1979 Islamic revolution, when 52 Americans were taken hostage inside the US Embassy in Tehran and held for 444 days. But talks and exchanges at various levels have occurred over the past few years, as a reform movement in Iran has gained momentum.
Still, President Bush labeled Iran a member of the "axis of evil" in his January 2002 State of the Union address. And after last May's terrorist attacks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the US broke off talks with Iran on all levels. US officials, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, accused Iran of harboring Al Qaeda members who were participants in those attacks.
"There's no question that there are Al Qaeda in Iran," Mr. Rumsfeld said at a May 20 Pentagon briefing. "Countries that are harboring those terrorist networks and providing a haven for them are behaving as terrorists by so doing."
Iranian officials, for their part, hedge about an Al Qaeda presence. First, they publicly denied that any Al Qaeda members were inside Iran. Then they admitted several were there, and they indicated a willingness to hand them over - not to the US, but to their countries of origin. So far, however, they have not.
According to European, Saudi, and US government sources, several high-level members of Al Qaeda are either in Iran or moving freely across the Afghan-Iran border. Those include Osama bin Laden's No. 2, Zayman al-Zawahiri; Mr. bin Laden's son, Saad bin Laden; the No. 3 in charge of military operations, Said al-Adel; and Abu Gheith, Al Qaeda's spokesman. Up to a dozen "serious Al Qaeda members" are there, and a total of some 50 foot soldiers, as well as family members, swelling the total figure to about 300.
Al Qaeda as a bargaining chip
A different tone was set, however, when Germany, France, and Britain recently negotiated Iran's agreement to comply with an IAEA deadline of Oct. 31. A European government official with knowledge of those meetings says the Al Qaeda issue is on the table, too.
The reason Iran hasn't moved on this issue, the European official says, is that "the Al Qaeda members provide Iran with a bargaining chip."
Iran, this official goes on to say, wants three things from the US in return for handing over the Al Qaeda members to their countries of origin:
Removal from the US "axis of evil" list.
US clampdown on Mujahideen e-Khalq, a movement that wants to overthrow the Iranian government. It has had offices in the US, despite being named on the State Department's list of terror organizations, and it continues to operate freely in Iraq.
Freedom to pursue a peaceful, nuclear power program.
"Just think if, say, the French or the US offered to put the Mujahideen e-Khalq under our protection," says Dr. Yaphe. "What a trade-off for Iran."
Saudi Arabia has also been negotiating with Iran for the return of Saudi members of Al Qaeda. Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, traveled to Iran this past summer. Another Saudi delegation spent two weeks there later, but the Saudi nationals were not returned.
"The majority of them [in Iran] aren't Saudis," says Mr. Jubeir, the foreign- affairs adviser. "Most of the names I have seen tend to be from the Egyptian wing of Al Qaeda."
But he says the Saudis are continuing to talk with Iranians about this issue: "Our position is they should be handed over to their countries of origin, and I believe eventually they will be handed over." http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1024/p02s01-usfp.html
posted on 10/24/2003 12:45:02 AM PDT
Iran's European Bargain
October 24, 2003
The Washington Post
Given an OCT. 31 deadline for meeting a series of demands from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran faced a choice between concessions on its nuclear programs or a likely referral to the U.N. Security Council, where most governments might have felt compelled to support U.S. demands for sanctions. From Tehran's point of view, the agreement it announced Tuesday with Britain, France and Germany offered a clever way out of this bind. In exchange for promises to meet IAEA concerns, Iran virtually assured that its thinly disguised drive to develop nuclear weapons will not be considered by the Security Council soon and that the United States will not be able to enlist European governments for any other action. In exchange, the Europeans could claim credit for Iran's agreement to fully disclose the nuclear programs it was recently caught hiding, accept tougher inspections and temporarily refrain from producing enriched uranium. If those pledges are kept, the odds that Iran can be stopped from producing nuclear weapons in the next several years might improve. Yet there is a considerable risk that the agreement will merely allow an aspiring nuclear power to escape from what looked like a tight corner.
The first concern raised by the agreement involves timing. Iran submitted its promised disclosure statement to the IAEA yesterday, but officials said it did not cover the most important question, which is the origin of traces of bomb-grade uranium discovered by a recent inspection. There is no timetable for resolving such unanswered questions or implementing more aggressive inspections. Nor is it clear how long Iran will refrain from uranium enrichment or how the moratorium will be verified -- one top official said at the announcement in Tehran that it could be "for one day or one year." Timing is vital because Iran's strategy, since its secret nuclear programs were uncovered earlier this year, has been to stall, even as those programs go forward. Some senior Iranian officials have suggested publicly that full cooperation with the IAEA could be delayed for several years -- a period that most experts believe would be more than enough for Iran to complete its capacity to build bombs.
A deeper problem with the European accord could prove to be the holes it leaves for continued Iranian development. Once it answers the IAEA's questions, Tehran will be free under the terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to resume its construction of large facilities for the enrichment of uranium and even to begin enrichment. The accord also imposes no restraint on the continuing construction of a large nuclear power plant, which when completed will provide a potential source of plutonium. The United States has sought for years to stop construction of the plant, which oil-rich Iran hardly needs for electricity; only that freeze, and an Iranian commitment to dismantle its facilities for uranium enrichment, would seriously impede nuclear weapons development. Since the IAEA cannot impose such restrictions, they ought to be the focus of any accord between Iran and Western governments. Yet the European ministers limited themselves to backing up the international inspectors -- who may or may not have needed their help, given the deadline and threat of a referral to the Security Council.
It's hard to judge to what degree the European initiative was motivated by a desire to preempt the Bush administration and undermine its tougher approach to Iran, though the gloating comments from the French and Germans suggest that was an important factor. What ought to be clear is that there is little chance of really preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons -- as opposed to getting it to make promises to the IAEA -- unless Europe, the United States and Russia effectively combine in seeking verifiable action going well beyond what so far has been promised. The three European governments said this week's accord "will open the way to a dialogue on a basis for longer-term cooperation." Let's hope that dialogue will be aimed solely at containing the nuclear threat from Iran, and not at countering the United States. http://iranvajahan.net/cgi-bin/news.pl?l=en&y=2003&m=10&d=24&a=3
Secretary Powell: "I Don't Trust Them"
October 24, 2003
PARIS -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has welcomed Iran's declaration on its nuclear activities to the United Nations, but cautioned that Iran had to prove to the international community that it deserved trust.
Iran on Thursday delivered its declaration to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), eight days ahead of a deadline by the agency for the country to prove it has no secret atomic weapons as Washington alleges.
''Iran has today taken a positive measure,'' Powell told the French daily Le Figaro in an interview published on Friday. ''Let's see what the IAEA thinks of it,'' he added.
Asked whether Powell trusted Iranian leaders who had pledged to the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany to accept tougher IAEA inspections and to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, Powell was reserved.
''It's not a question of confidence. They have tried to hide their weapons programme from the IAEA and the international community,'' he said. ''In light of this past behaviour, I suppose you can say that I don't trust them.''
Powell said it was important to make sure Iran respected its obligations.
''We are not seeking conflict with Iran. We want Iran to stop its terrorist activities, eliminate its weapons of mass destruction programmes and join the civilised world,'' he said.
Iran's ambassador to the IAEA on Thursday declined to give any details about the declaration.
But he said the secretive nature of some of Iran's activities -- which has fuelled U.S. concerns that Iran is covertly developing an atomic weapon -- was a natural response to sanctions unfairly imposed on the state. http://famulus.msnbc.com/FamulusIntl/reuters10-24-012349.asp?reg=MIDEAST
"Withdrawal From the NPT is Our Demand" and "Death to America"
October 24, 2003
TEHRAN -- Around 1,000 hardline Iranian students called on the country's leaders on Friday to pull out of what they termed a ''humiliating'' deal to allow tighter inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities.
The students, who gathered in a central Tehran square after attending a Friday prayers sermon nearby, said the decision to sign the Additional Protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was an insult to Iran's independence.
''Joining the protocol is humiliating for us. Why are we signing it from a weak position?'' said one of the speakers at the brief rally as the audience chanted ''Withdrawal from the NPT is our demand'' and ''Death to America.''
Under pressure to dispel international fears it may be building atomic bombs, Iran agreed on Tuesday to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors and suspend uranium enrichment in a deal brokered by Britain, France and Germany.
In a first step, Iran handed over a report to the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Thursday that it said contained full details of its past and present nuclear activities.
Hardline commentators in Iran have criticised the agreement as a capitulation to the West.
''There's no doubt that Iran should have nuclear arms to defend its independence,'' one male student in his mid-20s told Reuters at Friday's protest.
But government officials have said the deal was approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last word on all state affairs. http://famulus.msnbc.com/FamulusIntl/reuters10-24-040505.asp?reg=MIDEAST
Kharazi Pledges Iraqi Oil Export, Crude Swap Package
October 24, 2003
Dow Jones Newswires
Sally Jones and Selina Williams
MADRID -- Iran said Friday Iraq can export oil through Iranian terminals or enter into a crude oil swap agreement of up to 350,000 barrels a day.
Tehran also stands ready to supply electricity and gas to Iraq and is willing to participate in oil and gas projects in the country, Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi has said.
Speaking at a donor's conference for Iraq in Madrid, Kharazi said, "given the significance of energy supply in humanitarian as well as rehabilitation efforts, we stand ready to supply our electricity and gas to Iraq and to facilitate its oil exports through our oil terminals or enter into a swap arrangement that can amount to 350,000 b/d."
Iran will also offer economic cooperation in areas such as development aid, investment, trade, tourism and project financing, the official added. He said that Tehran is also willing to invest in Iraq's financial sector.
As part of the Iranian package to Iraq, Tehran is guaranteeing a facility of up to $300 million in buyers and suppliers credits to Baghdad, along with project financing for various sectors dictated by Iraq, Kharazi told the conference.
To improve transport links between the two countries, Kharazi outlined Iran's plans to link its road and rail system to Iraq's.
"Provision of port facilities to provide Iraq with more access to the Persian Gulf and other trade and transit corridors all fall into this context," Kharazi said.
Oil industry sources say Iran's offer for crude exports or a swap would help Baghdad boost its crude exports. Since March and the war, Iraq's attempts to increase its crude exports have been thwarted by widespread sabotage of the country's crude facilities especially in the north of the country where Iraq's crude pipeline to Turkey is located.
Iran has made no secret of its willingness to help Iraq's post-war efforts. Iranian sources reiterated Friday Tehran's belief that its neighbor's common heritage of Shiism is a firm leverage for economic ties.
Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh also told Dow Jones Newswires recently that Iran could offer Iraq much-needed assistance in revamping its oil sector.
"After the (Iran/Iraq) war we have developed very good experience in revamping and restructuring our oil facilities onshore and offshore," he said.
Zangeneh has also said that there are a number of other areas where the two sides could benefit from working more closely together, such as exchanging electricity and gas.
-By Sally Jones and Selina Williams; 44-207-842-9347 firstname.lastname@example.org http://iranvajahan.net/cgi-bin/news.pl?l=en&y=2003&m=10&d=24&a=6
October 24, 2003
New York Post
Don't break out the champagne and caviar yet. The European Union's recent deal with Iran's mullahs over their "peaceful nuclear energy program" is unlikely to be the last we hear of Tehran's nuclear transgressions.
Sure: The agreement appears to be a step in the right direction. But the E.U. deal may, in fact, bolster Tehran's strategy of keeping the international community at bay (and isolating Washington) while clandestinely racing toward the nuclear weapons finish line. (Israel claims Iran is but a year away from having nukes.)
Further, by cutting a deal with the E.U., Tehran keeps the thermonuclear tiff from being thrashed out in the U.N. Security Council, which might easily have levied sanctions on Iran, severely damaging the prospects of its pending trade deal with the European Union. In this light, Iranian concessions don't seem so concessional after all.
The problem is that this deal reeks of the 1994 compact with North Korea, known as the Agreed Framework. In that deal, Pyongyang agreed to end its nuclear weapons program in exchange for heavy oil and civilian nuclear energy assistance. (Sound familiar?) But within four years, North Korea began cheating. (It took us another four years to figure that out.)
If we're not careful, we'll end up facing the same situation in Iran we face in North Korea today.
Be nervous about Iran for a couple of reasons:
Countries do what is in their own best interest, and nukes bring a lot of prestige and political clout.
And a nuclear weapon is a great equalizer in international politics: It'll be a lot harder to muscle Tehran into abandoning its support for terror groups such as al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas when it sits astride the bomb.
With the world's third-largest oil reserves, Iran has plenty of cheap energy; it has no peaceful need for nuclear plants. Nor are a peaceful nuclear-energy program and one for nuclear weapons mutually exclusive. The fuel produced by a civilian program can be turned into the fissile material used in nuclear weapons.
And don't put too much faith in the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. IAEA couldn't find Saddam's nuclear program until after the first Gulf War - despite having looked for it for 10 years. There's no reason to think they'd have better luck unearthing a furtive Iranian nuke program.
Worse, the Iranian nuclear program poses a security dilemma for other Middle East states. Why? Whenever one country makes itself more secure by improving its military posture, its neighbors feel less secure - and try to do something about it. So begins an arms race. It's like keeping up with the Joneses, only with nuclear weapons.
This brings us to Saudi Arabia. The newest rumor is that the Saudis are cooperating with Pakistan on a nuclear-weapons program. Inconceivable, some argue: Riyadh already has the ultimate weapon, the United States, as its protector. But it's not that simple:
* Saudi-U.S. relations are now quite strained. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were Saudis, and the kingdom has been a major financier of terrorism and hate-mongering Islamists. Washington has been pressuring Riyadh pretty hard on the terrorism front.
If you were a Saudi prince, you might well think that it would be a good idea to get those Americans off your back once and for all by providing for your own defense.
* From across the Persian Gulf, (Sunni Arab) Saudi Arabia regards (Shi'a Persian) Iran with suspicion. Keenly aware of Iran's desire to dominate the gulf, the Saudis may well wonder: With Saddam gone, who will keep the mullahs in check? Again, the princes might see having a nuke or two in their back pocket as a good idea.
Let's move on to Israel. Is Tel Aviv nervous about all of this? You bet - and rightly so. Iran's national policy calls for the destruction of the two Great Satans: the United States and Israel. And Israel is well within range of Iran's nuclear-capable Shahab-3 missile.
Can Israel do something about it? Sure. After all, it crippled Saddam's nuclear program with a strike on the Osirak reactor in 1983. But Iraq is a lot closer than Iran, and Israeli fighters would have to fly over Iraq or Saudi Arabia to get to Iran. Though not impossible, it would be a far riskier mission than the Osirak strike.
And what about the United States? American interests can't be subjugated to the whims of the European Union. Washington must remain skeptical of Iran's intentions to uphold its end of the E.U.-brokered deal until it is verified that this was, indeed, a breakthrough for nuclear nonproliferation and not for Iran's nuclear weapons program.
Until we can be sure of that, it's best to keep the champagne and caviar on ice.
Peter Brookes is a senior fellow for National Security Affairs for the Heritage Foundation. http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/8903.htm
Turkey Wants to Renegotiate Iran Gas Contract
October 24, 2003
ANKARA -- Turkey has determined that it is paying too much for the gas it imports from Iran and wants to renegotiate its agreement with Tehran, an energy ministry official saiy.
While Turkish authorities want to review the 1996 contract "as soon as possible," the government has no intention of suspending gas deliveries from Iran, the official told Agence France-Presse, asking not to be named.
"The gas is too costly for us, which has to be corrected," he said. Technical talks on payment arrangements are already underway with Russia, another key provider of gas to Turkey.
"After Russia we are going to look at the (gas) agreement with Iran," he said.
Gas deliveries via a pipeline running from the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz to Ankara began in Dec 2001. The 25-year contract is worth 20 bln usd and the volume of delivered gas is to increase gradually to 10 bln cubic metres a year in 2007. http://www.iii.co.uk/shares/?type=news&articleid=4778878&action=article
Slap Iran With Stiff Inspections
October 24, 2003
The Los Angeles Times
Senator Richard G. Lugar
Iran's steady march toward the bomb took an apparent detour this week when Tehran announced that it would submit to new nuclear inspections and temporarily suspend its uranium enrichment program, which would have the capacity to produce nuclear weapons material. This step is welcome, but it should not lead us to a false sense of security about the Iranian proliferation threat or unwarranted confidence in current nonproliferation measures under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, which Iran signed in 1970.
Iran took these measures under prodding from France, Britain and Germany and because it faced an Oct. 31 deadline set by the International Atomic Energy Agency to agree to them after Tehran's clandestine drive to acquire nuclear bomb material had been exposed by an Iranian opposition group and confirmed by the IAEA. Iran was secretly building a uranium enrichment facility, as well as a heavy-water plant, which could be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. Inspectors found weapons-grade uranium at two Iranian sites.
All are violations of Iran's NPT commitments, under which it pledged to forgo nuclear weapons. Tehran has admitted to secretly importing uranium from China in the 1990s and has been caught repeatedly lying about its nuclear activities to the IAEA, the U.N. watchdog agency.
Iran denies it is working to build a bomb and claims that the enrichment facilities, which can make either fuel for nuclear power reactors or material for weapons, are for a large nuclear electricity system. Given that Iran, rich in oil and gas, has only a single, still-unfinished Russian-built reactor and little of its own uranium ore, these claims are not credible. Secretary of State Colin Powell said recently that the IAEA "has found conclusively" that Iran is trying to produce material that can be used in nuclear weapons.
In short, Iran has been caught red-handed trying to build nuclear weapons through several methods over a sustained period in violation of its treaty obligations. Given the clarity of this case, one might have expected the international community to act immediately and unequivocally to stop the proliferation.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen. The IAEA dithered for months while trying to coax Iran back into the nonproliferation treaty. The additional protocol to the treaty that Iran this week agreed to sign would provide for enhanced inspections. However, it is far from clear that these inspections will be enough to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability because they rely on Tehran telling the truth. Inspectors still must rely on Tehran's account of where the nuclear sites are and its cooperation in gaining access to them.
In such extreme cases, history has taught us to be skeptical about assurances of future compliance. Further, the games played by Iraq and North Korea demonstrate the limitations of the NPT's verification measures when dealing with a determined and egregious violator. Given Iran's pattern of deception, denial and delay, the international community should be prepared to take more effective action.
This depends less on the legal mechanisms of the NPT than it does on the will of the international community. When confronted with a case as blatant as Iran, the U.S. and like-minded allies must use the U.N. Security Council to demand that the violator cease all illegal weapons activities, dismantle weapons-related facilities and submit to "super inspections," even tougher than those imposed on Iraq. Elements should include unfettered freedom for inspectors, unsupervised interviews of nuclear scientists and engineers (out of the country with their families, if necessary) and unrestrained aerial surveillance.
Iran would object that such intrusive inspections impinge on its sovereignty, but this is the price Tehran should pay to convince outsiders that, for once, it is keeping its word under the treaty. By demanding that Iran prove that it is living up to the NPT, the Security Council would strengthen the treaty.
Some will object that such strong action may force Iran's ruling mullahs to quit the treaty. But keeping Iran in it should not be an end in itself. The NPT is useful only to the extent that its provisions are enforced to prevent states from acquiring nuclear weapons.
If the international community were persuaded to work together, it would have substantial leverage over Iran. An Iranian withdrawal from the NPT would halt the Russian reactor deal and cooperation with other nuclear suppliers, expose Iran's naked nuclear ambitions for all to see and stiffen international resolve for tough economic sanctions.
In the short run, our European allies will be inclined to give Tehran the benefit of the doubt, partly to avoid a confrontation and partly to preserve commercial opportunities in Iran. But the U.S. should begin laying the groundwork now for a decisive international response to any additional violations.
Failure to act, if Iran is caught violating its international obligations, would threaten the entire nuclear nonproliferation regime, destroy the international community's credibility and reduce the chances that severe proliferation threats can be dealt with through nonmilitary means.
(Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.) http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2003&m=October&x=20031024074648nosnhojb0.3802301&t=usinfo/wf-latest.html
Top Indian Nuclear Expert Helped Iran Develop Nuke Plant
October 23, 2003
New Dehli -- A leading Indian nuclear scientist is believed to have helped Iran build its nuclear power plant, a report said Thursday.
The Hindustan Times said Dr Y.S.R. Prasad took up an assignment in Iran after he retired in July 2000 as head of the Nuclear Corporation of India.
The revelations come as Tehran begins to yield to international demands to prove it is not developing nuclear weapons and to make a complete declaration of all its past nuclear activities.
Iran had promised Tuesday to provide the information following talks in Tehran with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany.
The Hindustan Times, quoting from a classified government document, said Prasad, who spent years working on India's atomic energy programmes, did not seek government permission to go to Iran.
It said that while the scientist did not break any rules, the government was now seeking to make it compulsory for India's nuclear experts to seek government approval for foreign assignments.
It quoted government sources as saying that while New Delhi and Tehran do have a strategic partnership, they do not collaborate in nuclear programmes.
India stunned the world in 1998 by conducting five nuclear tests and declaring itself a nuclear power. Rival neighbour Pakistan conducted its own tests within days.
Meanwhile, a director of an Indian company accused of exporting chemicals to Iraq for its missiles programmes has been denied bail in a New Delhi court, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Hans Raj Shiv was arrested on Tuesday at Delhi's international airport when he arrived from a trip abroad.
He and his company NEC Engineers, are charged with aiding Saddam Hussein's attempts to rearm Iraq by supplying prohibited materials. http://www.spacewar.com/2003/031023051623.vbyeqa4o.html
Iran's Parliament to Allow Closer Scrutiny of Nuclear Program
October 24, 2003
Iran's vice-president says parliament will soon ratify and implement a legal agreement to allow tougher international scrutiny of Tehran's nuclear program.
Iranian Vice-President Masume Ebtekar said in an interview that there is a general consensus among all the political factions in the parliament to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"This is a clear indication of the sincerity of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran on this issue," she said. "It's clearly indicative of the fact that Iran is very strong on its right to pursue peaceful nuclear technologies for the benefit of the Iranian nation. The additional protocol will be signed. The date is up to the government and the parliament but it's expected to be quite soon."
The protocol will give IAEA inspectors expanded access to nuclear sites in Iran. The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency then has to decide whether Iran's nuclear program is peaceful, as Tehran claims.
Iran's readiness to sign the protocol followed a meeting earlier this week with the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany. The three countries offered Tehran the prospect of sharing modern nuclear technology.
As part of the deal, Iran also suspended its uranium enrichment program.
The United States has accused Iran of operating a secret program to develop nuclear weapons. The 35-nation board of the IAEA voted last month to give Iran until the end of October to fully disclose all details of its nuclear program. Iran delivered what it says is all of that information earlier this week.
But some western diplomats remain skeptical, and in the past U.S. officials have accused Iran of being inconsistent in the information it has provided about its nuclear program.
The Iranian vice-president, Ms. Ebtekar, said the United States has what she called an "historic misunderstanding of the Islamic revolution in Iran." The Europeans, she said, are easier to deal with.
"I think that the Europeans don't have the aggressive approach that, unfortunately, the Americans have pursued, and for that reason they've been able to negotiate and work very closely with Iran; and we've had excellent relationships with most European countries on an economic level, on a diplomatic level and at the cultural level," said Masume Ebtekar.
The IAEA board of governors meets at the end of November to decide whether Iran has answered all outstanding questions on its nuclear program. If not, the matter could go to the Security Council. http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=EBE8812E-3FCD-47DB-907459B9201F75F1&title=Iran%27s%20Parliament%20to%20Allow%20Closer%20Scrutiny%20of%20Nuclear%20Program&catOID=45C9C78D-88AD-11D4-A57200A0
To: DoctorZIn; All
Al Qaeda's New Base
The Weekly Standard ^ | 11/03/03 | Jeffrey Bell
Osama bin Laden's men are operating in Eastern Iran. What are we doing about it?
AT A TIME when even nuances of Iraq reconstruction policy become flashpoints for bureaucratic infighting, causing competing leaks to spring from almost every precinct of the administration's foreign policy apparatus, the most consequential policy struggle of all is playing out in virtual silence. That is the debate over what to do about the fact that, for the first time since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, major elements of al Qaeda seem to have acquired a new home. The address is eastern Iran.
This fact, and the nature of the debate surrounding it, was revealed in a thoroughly reported front-page article by Douglas Farah and Dana Priest in the October 14 Washington Post. According to a consensus of American, European, and Arab intelligence officials, the article said, the "upper echelon" of al Qaeda--including a favored older son of Osama bin Laden and the group's de facto secretary of war and secretary of the treasury--"is managing the terrorist organization from Iran."
The intelligence agencies, said the Post, have known about the relocation at least since May, when it was learned that the May 12 Riyadh suicide bombing that killed 35 people, including eight Americans, was conceived, planned, and ordered by high al Qaeda officials in eastern Iran. Around the same time, Saad bin Laden, Osama's son and heir apparent, operating from Iran, was linked to the May 16 bombings that left 45 dead in faraway Casablanca, Morocco.
This information vindicates George W. Bush's analysis of the war on terrorism. At each major decision point since 9/11, the president has pressed for an aggressive, comprehensive view of the enemy and of the moves needed to bring him down. He views the enemy as implacable, protean, and resourceful, bringing together diverse, seemingly contradictory elements that cross national and sectarian barriers to be united by one thing: hatred of the United States and a desire to weaken decisively our role in the world. Interestingly, the Post reports that the architect of the supposedly shocking link between the Shiite and Sunni wings of Islamism was Hezbollah strongman Imad Mugniyah, a Lebanese national responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans going back to the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.
Above all, the linkup between Iran and al Qaeda supports what could be seen as the core premise of Bush war strategy: the pivotal role of anti-American rogue states--the "axis of evil"--in making it possible for the enemy to accomplish the mass murder of Americans and anyone who stands in the way of bringing this about. Surely it is no accident, in the analysis of the Bush White House, that a surge in al Qaeda activity and visibility coincides with its high command obtaining a new, more secure base. And what better host could al Qaeda have than a well-armed, well-financed Islamist government racing to obtain the nuclear weapons al Qaeda has never made any secret of wanting to use against America and its friends?
What to do? As with other major decision points since 9/11, the current debate is between the aggressive, comprehensive war strategy of the president and some of his top aides, and the cautious, incremental view of many of the military, intelligence, and diplomatic officials responsible for carrying it out. These officials tend to see most issues raised by the war as discrete and separable. Their views have a veneer of expertise and sophistication. Sunnis are not Shiites, they point out. Arabs are not Persians. Governments are not terrorist movements. Islamists don't like secularists. All very true, and yet Islamist warriors are today infiltrating into Iraq to fight side-by-side with Baath restorationists.
So, elements of the U.S. government, and of other governments, do not want to hold Iran accountable for allowing al Qaeda to establish a new global headquarters within its borders. So, the Saudis pursue diplomatic channels demanding extradition of the al Qaeda commanders, while our State Department delivers protests to Iran's utterly powerless president, Mohammad Khatami. Needless to say, these efforts get nowhere, and the excuse given is that the Jerusalem Force, the branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps tasked with sheltering the al Qaeda high command, is said to be somewhat independent of the rest of the Iranian government. Meanwhile, the State Department is described by the Post as "eager to renew talks with Iran on a variety of issues."
Amazingly, this polite, bureaucratic approach is supported by many of the same people who said, more than two years ago, that we needed a polite, bureaucratic approach in Afghanistan. The argument always had elements of truth: Al Qaeda was somewhat independent of the Taliban, after all. In the end, of course, these interesting but diversionary arguments were swept aside when President Bush ordered a full-scale air bombardment on the Taliban units defending Kabul. But while the U.S. military and State Department agonized over how soon and how thoroughly to bomb the forward positions of the Taliban's army, and how challenging it was going to be for the Northern Alliance to represent Pashtun tribal interests in the event of a swift military victory, precious days were wasted and al Qaeda commanders found plenty of time to escape.
Today, as always, the most effective ally of what could be called "micro" thinking is sheer bureaucratic inertia and risk-averseness. How, it is being asked, can we even think about what is happening in eastern Iran when we have our hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan?
It would be foolish, of course, to minimize either the difficulties, or the paramount importance, of bringing peace and self-government to post-invasion Iraq and Afghanistan. But it would be at least equally foolish to minimize the danger to these efforts posed by a reconstituted and revitalized al Qaeda, newly headquartered in the Islamist rogue state that sits between Iraq and Afghanistan.
So, a central premise of the Bush war strategy is once again front and center. The president has repeatedly argued that the nexus between Islamist terror and potentially nuclear-armed rogue states poses the gravest of all dangers to the American people and their safety. If his past performance is any guide, the president will soon turn up diplomatic, political, and--if necessary--military pressure on the Iranian mullahs to break this nexus. One hopes this will happen soon, because what we've learned about al Qaeda's presence in eastern Iran suggests time is in short supply.
Jeffrey Bell is a principal of Capital City Partners, a Washington consulting firm. http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/284nnvdo.asp
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