Skip to comments.Iranian Alert -- May 18, 2004 [EST]-- IRAN LIVE THREAD -- "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
Posted on 05/17/2004 9:06:39 PM PDT by DoctorZIn
The US media almost entirely ignores news regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Tony Snow of the Fox News Network has put it, this is probably the most under-reported news story of the year. Most Americans are unaware that the Islamic Republic of Iran is NOT supported by the masses of Iranians today. Modern Iranians are among the most pro-American in the Middle East.
There is a popular revolt against the Iranian regime brewing in Iran today. I began these daily threads June 10th 2003. On that date Iranians once again began taking to the streets to express their desire for a regime change. Today in Iran, most want to replace the regime with a secular democracy.
The regime is working hard to keep the news about the protest movement in Iran from being reported. Unfortunately, the regime has successfully prohibited western news reporters from covering the demonstrations. The voices of discontent within Iran are sometime murdered, more often imprisoned. Still the people continue to take to the streets to demonstrate against the regime.
In support of this revolt, Iranians in America have been broadcasting news stories by satellite into Iran. This 21st century news link has greatly encouraged these protests. The regime has been attempting to jam the signals, and locate the satellite dishes. Still the people violate the law and listen to these broadcasts. Iranians also use the Internet and the regime attempts to block their access to news against the regime. In spite of this, many Iranians inside of Iran read these posts daily to keep informed of the events in their own country.
This daily thread contains nearly all of the English news reports on Iran. It is thorough. If you follow this thread you will witness, I believe, the transformation of a nation. This daily thread provides a central place where those interested in the events in Iran can find the best news and commentary. The news stories and commentary will from time to time include material from the regime itself. But if you read the post you will discover for yourself, the real story of what is occurring in Iran and its effects on the war on terror.
I am not of Iranian heritage. I am an American committed to supporting the efforts of those in Iran seeking to replace their government with a secular democracy. I am in contact with leaders of the Iranian community here in the United States and in Iran itself.
If you read the daily posts you will gain a better understanding of the US war on terrorism, the Middle East and why we need to support a change of regime in Iran. Feel free to ask your questions and post news stories you discover in the weeks to come.
If all goes well Iran will be free soon and I am convinced become a major ally in the war on terrorism. The regime will fall. Iran will be free. It is just a matter of time.
Iran: The Mideast's Model Economy?
May 17, 2004
Business Week Online
Stanley Reed & Babak Pirouz
It's one of the strangest paradoxes in the Mideast. One goal of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was to turn Baghdad into a model regional economy. But could it be that Iran, a charter member of George W. Bush's axis of evil, will wind up filling that role?
Running one of Iran's largest Internet service providers is close to a 24-hour job for Abdollah Fateh, who has to hustle to keep customers happy while prying more phone lines from the government. But recently a haggard-looking Fateh, who is Pars Online's managing director, took time out for a meal at Monsoon, a popular Chinese restaurant in Tehran. Fateh, 31, grew up in Boston but moved back to Iran in 1995. Haggard or not, he doesn't regret leaving comfortable America one bit. "I can make a difference here," he says.
Fateh has certainly made a splash. The Pars Online logo is as commonly seen around Tehran as the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's scowling visage. Pars Online's business has grown tenfold in the last three years, to an estimated 120,000 customers. Fateh and his partner, Madjid Emami, are far from the only Iranian entrepreneurs who have found a sweet spot at home. The Tehran Stock Exchange rewarded investors with 130% gains for the year ended in March and continues to climb, while businesses ranging from autos to information technology are booming. "You can double [your business] here every year," says Mojdeh Abedi, a 32-year-old Iranian woman who five years ago abandoned a legal career in Paris to manage a budding food additives business in Tehran.
It's one of the strangest paradoxes in the Mideast. One goal of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was to turn Baghdad into a model regional economy. But could it be that Iran, a charter member of George W. Bush's axis of evil, will wind up filling that role?
It's a distinct possibility. Siamak Namazi, managing director of Tehran-based business consultants Atieh Bahar, ticks off several factors that could lead to a sustained growth spurt in Iran if the country's leaders play their cards right. To start with, Iran has the region's largest market, with a population of 69 million. High oil prices are providing Iran with substantial revenues (chart), and the country has massive gas reserves to tap for industrial projects.
PRAGMATIC CONSERVATIVES. Until now, Iran has been starved for goods, outside capital, and technology, thanks in part to U.S. sanctions. To date, foreign investment has been minimal -- only about $2 billion per year recently. But local entrepreneurs say that big regional groups, which have grown wary of putting money into the U.S., are starting to check out Iran. "We are in the best position in 40 years; the only comparable economy is China. If we could solve our political and social problems we could have double-digit growth," says Saeed Laylaz, an economist and vice-president for marketing at Iran Khodro Diesel, the truck arm of Iran's largest vehicle maker.
The country has racked up growth in the 5% range for four years running, thanks to high oil revenues, abundant rainfall, and a gradual easing of the choking economic restrictions ushered in by the 1979 revolution. Not long ago, Iran was a bona fide basket case struggling to pay its debts. Now its external accounts are under control, with the trade balance in surplus and substantial hard currency reserves of $35 billion. The government is also raising money internally by privatizing shipping, auto, and other assets.
It's true that democracy took a beating in the February Parliamentary elections, thanks to the disqualification of reformist candidates and other strong-arm tactics. But the business community is pleased that a new group of pragmatic conservatives took power in the Majlis. These conservatives include a number of business types and entrepreneurs who are far more focused on economic issues than the curmudgeonly clerics, and they want to hold on to power by delivering on the economy. "The right wing wants to repair its image by producing visible, tangible changes," says Namazi.
The focus on economics by these politicians comes as a surprise and relief to many Iranians, who feared a curtailment of social liberties. Women in North Tehran, where the elite live and work, are still walking around with their hair poking out from under scarves, and single men say they can take their girlfriends out riding in the moonlight without fear of being pulled over for a grilling by the police. "Unlike what most people expected, there have been no major changes on social issues," says Amir Mohebian, a member of the board of editors of Resalat, the leading conservative newspaper. "Those who won a majority in Parliament are moderate conservatives."
Just look at the platform of the group that did best in the election, known as Abadgaran, or The Coalition for the Development of Islamic Iran. The group's document calls for "respect for privacy" and "empowerment of women," and pledges to reduce "government intervention in the economy." The only firm requirement seems to be that the religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, remain the top authority.
Business leaders think that a conservative majority in Parliament and the likely election of a conservative President next year could end the gridlock between the Majlis and the conservative-dominated Guardian Council, which has blocked so much reformist legislation. The business community also figures that the conservatives will be under pressure to improve standards of living. The government will want to deliver such goodies as more mobile-phone capacity to slash the exorbitant $1,000 per subscription price for service charged on the black market. A mobile deal was recently signed with a group led by Turkcell (TKC ).
Business circles in Tehran are even buzzing with hopes that the victorious conservatives will try to shore up their position by ending the nation's seemingly endless standoff with the U.S. Such a move would be popular, and there is a certain logic to the notion that just as the tough-talking President Richard M. Nixon was able to break the American logjam with China, only Iran's conservatives can safely cut a deal with the Great Satan. But it's hard to say if the two sides can figure out a way to overcome a quarter-century of ill will. The most recent point of contention: Iran's tussle with the U.S. and the international community over its nuclear program. While the deal brokered by Britain, France, and Germany last fall between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency to allow enhanced inspections of Iran's nuclear assets has eased tensions, it hasn't ended the imbroglio.
SHARING U.S. INTERESTS. Despite the nuclear tensions, the optimists point out that the U.S. and Iran share plenty of regional interests. Iran despised both the Taliban in Afghanistan and Iraq's strongman, Saddam Hussein, and applauded the toppling of both. Since then, the Iranian government has encouraged local businesses to supply both countries with goods that range from fuel to cement. While some Iranian factions may be contributing to the turmoil in Iraq, the mainstream wants calm to return to its neighbor in order to hasten the departure of U.S. troops. The Iranians reckon that once the Americans go, a Shiite-led government friendly to the Islamic Republic will come to power. In an interview with BusinessWeek, Iranian Vice-President Mohamed Ali Abtahi poured scorn on the rebel Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Sadr's troublemaking "is providing the Americans with a reason to stay" in Iraq, the vice-president said.
`THE INK NEVER DRIES'. Tehran also has plenty to work on at home. The economy needs more reform. Billions go each year to subsidies on everything from wheat to imported gasoline. Exports of non-oil products are anemic, and trade barriers allow money-losing plants to remain in operation. Government ministries and religious charities called bonyads control an estimated 50% or more of economic activity. Economic policy is still laid down in laboriously negotiated five-year plans. Even when the government turns business units over to private hands -- as in last year's sale of $1.3 billion in state assets -- it often retains big stakes through pension funds or other public arms.
Private investors, while officially welcome, face a daunting series of hurdles. The foreign business community in Tehran is fond of saying that "the ink on the contract never dries." Nowhere is that expression more true than in the crucial oil industry, where Iran has been driving such tough bargains that few international companies want to sign up. Haunted by its colonial experience with the British, Iran bars deals that give foreign companies rights to oil. Oil companies can participate in Iran only under turnkey, fixed-return arrangements called buybacks.
Iran is paying a price for these policies. It has barely found enough investment for the oil industry to stem the long decline in output that began after the 1979 revolution. There have been no major discoveries since the late 1970s, industry sources say. Iran is also losing out to Qatar, which is working the giant natural gas field that the two countries share at a far greater pace than the Iranians. Still, the lure of Iran's fields, which produce close to 4 million barrels a day and have the world's second-largest natural gas reserves, remains. Both Royal Dutch/Shell Group (RD ) and Total (TOT ) are negotiating for massive liquefied-natural gas projects, and Total and BP PLC (BP ) remain interested in an oil field called Bangestan.
The government's pervasive role in the economy also provides numerous opportunities for corruption -- from tax assessors accepting the common gift of gold coins to insiders taking payoffs on big contracts. Entrepreneurs say that, if anything, the demands for baksheesh are becoming more endemic. "There is no way we could smoothly run our business without paying bribes," says Nazila Noebashari, chief executive of Traf Co., a freight-forwarding firm.
The obstacles are enormous -- which makes it all the more remarkable that the private sector is gradually gaining traction. Banking licenses have been issued to private firms, corporate taxes have been cut to 25%, and trade has been liberalized. "They are reforming slowly, on a microlevel," says Fareed Mohamedi, chief economist of Washington-based consultants PFC Energy and a longtime student of the Iranian economy. "What they need now is the dropping of sanctions so that all sorts of investors can move in without feeling a cloud hanging over them."
Among the encouraging tales is the saga of Parviz Aghili, a veteran of the U.S. banking industry who struggled for years to persuade the Iranian authorities to grant him a license for a privately owned bank. Aghili finally got the green light in late 2001, and now he seems almost overwhelmed by the demand for his Karafarin Bank's services. The bank's assets have soared to $400 million, and it has received the imprimatur of a $10 million World Bank loan. Following an initial public offering last year, the company's share price has more than tripled. You would think that Aghili would be ecstatic, but instead he's worried that his new investors will eventually be disappointed. "These people expect high returns," he explains.
Aghili wants the government to lock in reforms before oil prices drop, depriving the government of the cash flow that subsidizes the economy. One primary reform would be to dismantle the trade barriers that largely block out foreign competition. Restrictions on auto imports, for instance, has led to tremendous growth in the Iranian auto industry, which this year will produce about one million passenger cars, compared with 12,000 in 1989. "There is no doubt about it; we have been working in a closed market for years," says Ahmad Ghalehbani, president of Saipa Corp., Iran's second-largest vehicle producer, whose plants outside Tehran will churn out 265,000 Kia, Citroën (PEUGY ), and Nissan (NSANY ) vehicles this year.
Companies like Saipa are making a game effort at improving productivity, as its workers will tell you. "Not long ago, 37 people produced 10 cars a day. Now we do it with 16 people," complains Mehdi Kushesh Safa, a 26-year-old assembly line employee. Yet business leaders worry that they won't be able to stay in operation as pressures from the global economy grow.
The government's strategy appears to rely on an ever-so-gradual opening to the outside world. According to Ghalehbani, tariffs on autos will ease from 220% last year to 140% this year to 100% next. In the same vein, it now looks like foreign banks may be able to open branches in Iran, perhaps in 2006. But the Tehran regime is unlikely to risk increasing unemployment, which is officially 15% and probably higher.
BUDDING CAPITALISTS. The pace may be slow, but the ship appears headed in the right direction. Policymakers keep pushing the privatization of state companies to improve efficiency and limit the scope of baksheesh. "Our studies show that economic corruption has had a [negative] impact on investment in Iran," says Davood Danesh-Jafari, an economics professor and recently elected parliamentarian. "By reducing the government's role in the economy, there will be less opportunity for corruption."
The drive to privatize provides ample fodder for the stock exchange, as IPOs like auto maker Saipa come to market. The galleries of the Tehran Stock Exchange are packed with investors every day. Some, like 42-year-old Shahab Mousavi, an engineer, have quit their jobs to trade full-time. "I am very satisfied," he says. "Sometimes I make 100%, sometimes 200%. What I like is that I can cash in anytime I want."
Hussein Abdoh Tabrizi, Secretary General of the exchange, thinks it's important to encourage these budding capitalists by providing trading floors in other cities so that the public can get a feel for investing. He is trying to find a way to allow foreign investors to participate -- perhaps through separate share classes.
And Tabrizi is working to stamp out insider trading and other imperfections. He concedes that the privatizations are incomplete, since government or religious entities often hang on to stakes. "But as long as we can separate government managers from these assets, it doesn't matter," he says. If you take the long view, he's probably right.
By Stanley Reed, with Babak Pirouz, in Tehran
Putin Hosts the Iranian Foreign Minister
May 18, 2004
The Associated Press
The Moscow Times
President Vladimir Putin and visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi met Monday to discuss international issues including Iraq and bilateral cooperation, which is dominated by the Russian contract to build a nuclear power plant in Iran.
Putin accepted an invitation to visit Tehran later this year, in a trip that will coincide with a summit there of the five Caspian states -- Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, Interfax reported.
Kharrazi congratulated Putin on his March re-election and said that friendly Russian-Iranian relations are "a result of the political will shown by the leaders of our two countries."
Putin told Kharrazi that "Iran is an old and stable partner" and focused on bilateral relations in his public comments, saying trade volume between the countries has risen by more than 70 percent since 2002.
Trade volume was $1.37 billion last year, with Russian exports including machinery and rolled steel accounting for about 95 percent, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Meeting earlier in the day with Igor Ivanov, secretary of the Security Council, Kharrazi hailed the importance of relations with Moscow and said he would like to discuss both global politics and bilateral ties.
Kharrazi's talks in Moscow came two days after Putin met with U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for discussions that included nuclear nonproliferation and efforts to bring stability to Iraq amid U.S. plans to cede control to a caretaker government.
In a statement released late Sunday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said the agenda for Kharrazi's meetings included "a detailed discussion of Iraq" where Russian and Iranian positions coincide on "the situation there and paths to settlement with the help of the world community, including Iraq's neighbors."
Russia strongly opposed the U.S.-led war against Iraq, and has repeatedly called for a stronger UN role in the nation. It has proposed convening an international conference on Iraq under UN oversight.
Russia's $800 million contract to build a nuclear reactor in Iran's southern port of Bushehr has drawn years of protests from the United States, which has voiced concern that the project could help the country build nuclear weapons.
Moscow and Tehran have dismissed the U.S. concerns, but Russia has said it will not ship nuclear fuel to Iran until the two countries sign an agreement under which all spent fuel would be returned to Russia -- a measure aimed to prevent it from being used for weapons.
Signing of the agreement has been delayed repeatedly by what both countries say are technical details.
Tehran has faced growing international pressure to open up its nuclear program to closer international scrutiny. In December, it signed an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, allowing the UN watchdog full access to Iranian nuclear facilities to ensure they aren't being used to develop weapons.
In Sunday's statement, Yakovenko said that ratification of the protocol by Iran's parliament, as well as clarity on remaining IAEA questions about Iran's nuclear program, would improve conditions for Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation.
Russia Pledges to Finish Iran Reactor
Monday, May 17, 2004. Page 3.
Reuters BERLIN -- Russia will finish a nuclear reactor in Iran despite technical complications, unresolved commercial issues and strong objections from the United States, a senior official said Friday.
Sergei Antipov, deputy head of the Federal Nuclear Power Agency, said strict UN controls will ensure no fuel can be diverted to build a nuclear bomb.
The United States accuses Iran of trying to build such a bomb under the cover of what Tehran insists is a peaceful nuclear energy program based around the planned $800 million Russian-built reactor at Bushehr.
Antipov said Moscow will supply fuel for the reactor only on the condition that spent fuel be returned, although he said the commercial terms for this have not yet been agreed with Iran.
"Definitely, that is our demand. Otherwise we won't supply it," Antipov said in an interview during a visit to Germany. "The only question that's being discussed is price."
He said the Iranians are arguing that Moscow should sell the fuel more cheaply if it is going to take it back at the end of the reactor cycle. "It's a commercial issue, not a defense or technical question," he said.
Antipov also said construction at Bushehr, whose launch is scheduled for 2006, is being slowed down by technical factors. "There are some technical complications connected to the fact construction of this station started many years ago and a lot of equipment was supplied by Germany. Now, to activate that equipment -- a lot of it is past its expiry date -- it needs to be rechecked and retested," he said. "All the delays are connected with purely technical engineering questions."
Iran was found to have made omissions from what it had said last October was a full declaration of its nuclear activities, and the head of the UN nuclear watchdog said earlier this month that the world would not wait forever for it to "come clean."
Antipov said the watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, maintained strict controls on Iran's nuclear activities at all stages.
"Material must not be outside control for a second. It's an absolutely closed fuel cycle. At no point can fuel be diverted or extracted for nuclear weapons," he said.
He said objections to Russia's involvement in building Bushehr were based on commercial motives, not security concerns.
"All the accusations against Russia in my personal opinion arise from our unscrupulous rivals in this field. If Russia is forced to give up the construction of the reactor in Iran, I assure you that in a very short time this reactor or reactors will be built by other countries," Antipov said.
Int'l pressure put back Iran's nuclear program by 12 months
By Aluf Benn
Iran's nuclear program has been delayed by at least a year because of international pressure for more transparency in its nuclear affairs. However, new intelligence assessments suggest that if Iran successfully continues the program, by the begining of next year it will be able to operate centrifuges to enrich uranium and from there, it would take a year and a half to two years to make enough fissionable material for an Hiroshima-sized bomb.
Previous assessments said Iran could have fissionable material by the middle of this year, but revelations about its program, starting in mid-2002, and pressure for tougher inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency caused delays in the project.
Iran was forced to separate its military nuclear program from the civilian one - they two had previously been managed together. The Iranians also devoted much effort to hiding a site where the nuclear device's mechanism is suspected of being built.
On June 15, the governing board of the IAEA is to meet for another round of discussions about Iran's nuclear program. Ahead of the meeting, the Iranians are conducting intense diplomatic activity, hoping to bring its case at the IAEA to a close and get off the IAEA agenda. The Iranians are supposed to hand in a new report this week on their nuclear activity after their previous reports were deemed partial, concealing important information about their development plans.
Earlier this year, Iran was revealed to be one of the customers of the "father of the Pakistani bomb," Abdul al Qadr Khan and in March, it was discovered that Iran possessed advanced centrifuges that could be used to produce enriched uranium.
The U.S. wants to see the Iranian case transferred from the IAEA to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions, but that is unlikely. Instead, the IAEA board will most likely decide to continue tight inspections and the main question is whether the Iranian case will indeed be gradually closed down if new suspicions arise.
The Problem In Iraq And The Middle East Is Iran
posted May 17, 2004
"We will fight this line all the way to Richmond even if it takes all summer." U.S. Grant
During the Civil War, regiments and battalions stitched their battle histories on their colors: Antietam, Chickamauga, Cold Harbor, Gettysburg.
Today the Democrats stitch their battle history on their protest colors: Vietnam, My Lai, Iraq, Abu Graib. Quagmire is the Democrat battle cry while U.S. forces, Volunteers all, face the worst radical Islam has to offer.
Here's a spot of hope for all who are battered by the incessant nattering of our loyal and fair media. Soon we will see a United Nations Security Council Resolution recognizing the Sovereignty of a New Iraqi government, a group of diverse people charged by their own sense of duty bringing Democracy to Iraq. The U.N. and U.S. work hand in hand ensuring elections in January 2005. The U.N. Resolution delivers a Multinational Force to aid in the security and nation building for the Iraqi people. The list of possible contributors is long and from countries--Islamic, African, Western and Eastern.
Not enough hope, well, there's more. The Matrix in Palestine has reversed. Now, it is Yasir Arafat who is viewed as an obstacle for peace by the Quartet---U.N., U.S., European Union and Russia---along with wait for it----Prominent Members of the Arab League. Arab leaders take a dim view of chemical attacks and terror mongering in their countries. Enough state sponsored terrorism and even that old Bull Ariel Sharon looks good to the Arabs. Sharon and Mr. Bush advance the only workable plan with Israel unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
State sponsored terror? What's that got to do with al-Qaeda? Iran shelters Osama bin Laden's son for starters. Iran also controls Hezbollah, the new Savak from the time of the Shah, seated in the cockpit of the Bekaa. Through Hezbollah Iran exerts it influence on other nations. The Kobar Towers bombing killing Americans in Saudi Arabia is one example. The recent yet little reported attack on the former UN Building in Damascus is another sending the twin symbolic (key word as most terror is symbolic)signal of hold fast fils Assad and no UN in Iraq. Through Hezbollah, Iran stirs the terror pot in Gaza and the West Bank by their terror agents Hamas.
Notice lately how the Israeli Defense Force repeatedly, accurately knocks the political head, hence public face off Hamas, with little or no world outrage. The leaders of many nations, even if their publics are not there yet, are sick and sickened by the spiral of violence from Palestine fanned by Iran in the name of radical Islam. Iranian Hegemony is the true enemy in the Middle East. Think of Iran as an insular live wire stripped of its Eastern and Western insulators, and then the true meaning of ridding the world of Saddam and the Taliban focuses. Iran singes with heat unfelt since the Soviets were their northern neighbor.
Iran armed with Hezbollah enforces it's will of a seeming never ending cycle of violence aimed at complete Radical Islam domination of the Middle East. As a country needs an absolutely impregnable umbrella with which to operate openly, the Mullahs work feverously for Nuclear Weapons, since Iran has no illusions of the fealty of their youth trained and armed in an Islamic Army. Fear of a reversal of the 1979 Revolution is real at the highest realms.
Fortunately the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meets next month in Vienna. Fortunately, France, Germany and Britain have wised to the ways of the Mullahs of Tehran having learned first hand their double dealing style of negation. An IAEA vote to sanction Iran for their nuclear ambitions is in the works. With this vote, the debate moves to the UN Security Council more fully in the eyes of the world for sanctions and a declaration of actions. This is good news for Americans calmly and rationally shaking their heads (a little bit of shared sacrifice for you liberals out there) in disbelief at the gas pump. Just think of what price we would at the pump and otherwise if Iran is allowed a Radical Islam Atomic Bomb. The other good news, oil prices should trend downward after June 30th. A four to eight dollar cushion is built in for instability reasons. The Saudis will soon turn the spigot on their end. We'll be back toward $30.00 to $33.00 a barrel by Labor Day.
Back to Iraq and our presence there. The U.S. is strategically placed between Syria (recent reports from North Korea display their complicity in chemical weapons) and Iran the two leading state sponsors of terror. Support from each flows finding its way to renegade Baathists, al-Sadr and al-Qeada's foreign fighters. The situation in Fallajah where a former Baathist General temporarily holds sway with U. S. approval forces Shiite Leaders to take a stand against al-Sadr lest they watch the country degenerate into civil war. The Kurds are the U.S. hole card exerting pressure on the other two factions. Al-Sadr is on short time.
Americans must steel ourselves to the security situation in Iraq. More desperate, organized violence is to come, but we are facing nearly the last die hard elements now. The world is coming to Iraq to help which changes the media outlook and world opinion. The situation in Iraq today can only be characterized as a quagmire by the uninformed.
For those searching for an honorable way to support our Tennessee Volunteers in Iraq, Tim Chavez, columnist at the Tennessean, has written extensively on how we can support our troops and their mission in Iraq.
I have a question for Mr. Stuart James. If you support or have a campaign position with the Kerry Campaign, should you not indicate your position in the body of your weekly piece? I believe full disclosure is another Democrat Rallying Cry. I'm voting for Mr. Bush.
David W. Moon
Argentine authorities ask Iran if Menem was bribed after Jewish center attack
May 17th 2004
BUENOS AIRES, May 17 (AFP) - Argentine judicial authorities have asked for Iran's cooperation as they probe whether former president Carlos Menem's government was bribed not to incriminate Tehran after a bloody 1994 attack on a Jewish community center here.
The Foreign Ministry passed on a request from federal judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral to see if an Iranian witness' claims were true that he paid a bribe to Menem, two-terms president from 1989-99.
The attack on the Jewish Argentine Mutual Association center, which has never been solved, killed 85 and injured 300.
The judge took over the case in December.
Police and a stolen car dealer alleged to be linked to the blast have spent two and a half years testifying in an ongoing inquiry in which 220,000 pages of testimony have been given.
Official entities here blamed pro-Iranian fundamentalist groups for the attack, but victims' families say the case has more far-reaching implications, both at home and abroad.
This just in from a student inside of Iran...
"As we are approaching June, students of different universities in Tehran were WARNED yesterday to keep their mouths shut in June & July.
We have been warned to take responsiblities of any action we would take in June and July this year.
The regime also threatened us through Basij militia branches at Universities to stay quiet."
Journals of a Disqualified Citizen
May 18, 2004
Iran va Jahan
The following was the latest entry found in the journals of "A disqualified Citizen":
It is 3 May, and what better a way to start the day than by reading a long letter written by Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He has called it "A Letter for Tomorrow" meaning that today's electorate and the current population of Iran lack the qualifications to fathom the depth of meaning stashed way in its luminous pages. It will have to wait for the people of tomorrow to catch up with the President's intellectual depth and realize that his apparent failures were veritable triumphs in disguise.
This letter has no relevance whatsoever for life as it is lived in the Iran of today. It points to an unspecified time in 'tomorrow', when its real significance will shine forth and replenish the earth with its blessings of 'religious democracy', 'dialogue of civilizations' and 'civil society'. Accordingly Khatami was elected by the people of yesterday to serve the people of tomorrow, and as far as the people of today are concerned, well, they don't need a president. They have a supreme leader, the Guardian Council, the Assembly of Experts, the Expediency Council, an Islamic army of thugs (armed with knives and clubs) and Evin and many other correctional facilities to provide them with leadership and ensure law and order.
In his letter Khatami writes:
"Initiating and embracing the slogan of reform should be welcomed from all sides, but it should be demanded from those who propose these reforms to express their intentions clearly and leave no room for misunderstanding amongst the population."
Are we supposed not to remember that this worthy invitation to clarity is coming from a man whose greatest knack is to speak vaguely and ambiguously? The President of the Republic has conveniently forgotten that thousands of Iranians are imprisoned for exactly what he urges them to do: Expressing their political views clearly and unequivocally. If by speaking clearly the President means not leaving any doubt about the probity and morality of their character, one should remind him that Mr. Aghajari and Batebi et al. are not in jail for promoting loose behaviour. In any case 'unethical conduct' in Iran is a phrase with a wide range of applications. If the President himself one day forgets to speak from both side of his mouth, no doubt he will end up in the same cell with a multitude of other Iranians who lack the magical talent of Mohammad Khatami for having their cake, or should I say 'baghlava' and eating it too.
WASHINGTON WAR WOBBLES:
NO TIME FOR DOUBT
By AMIR TAHERI
May 18, 2004 -- HAD enough of bad news from Iraq? Here is some good news:
The nationwide anti-American insurrection promised by media headlines just a week ago has not happened.
Muqtada al-Sadr, the self-styled warring mullah, is desperately shopping around for a way out of the tangle he has created for himself. He has proposed to dissolve his so-called Army of the Mahdi and says he is even ready to go into exile to prevent further bloodshed. All he is asking for is for the Shiite grand ayatollahs to intervene to get him off the hook of an arrest warrant on a charge of murder. The grand ayatollahs, however, insist that he should eat humble pie.
Fallujah, where Arab nationalism was supposed to be reborn in a sea of American blood, is calm, with the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps in control.
Attacks on the newly created Iraqi police force have dropped by 50 percent in the past four weeks.
In the past three months, the newly created Iraqi currency, the dinar, has increased by almost 15 percent against the U.S. dollar and the two most traded local currencies, the Kuwaiti dinar and the Iranian rial.
Thanks to rising oil prices, Iraq is now earning $75 million to $80 million a day, an all-time record. The effect is already felt in greater economic activity, including private reconstruction schemes.
The Iraqi national soccer squad, having defeated its Iranian and Saudi counterparts, has won a place in the final of the summer Olympics in Athens, for the first time in almost a quarter of a century.
And, of course, "the Arab street," which was once again supposed to explode in the wake of the Abu Ghraib atrocities, has failed to do so.
Talk to almost any Iraqi who is not nostalgic for Saddam Hussein and you shall hear the same analysis: The country has absorbed the shock of the Sadrist insurrection, Fallujah and the Abu Ghraib scandal.
And yet many Iraqis express concern about the short-term future of their country, that is to say, the way things will work out in the next few months.
One reason for this is a growing fear that Washington may not be prepared to stay the course in the crucial period of transition due to begin at the end of June. President Bush's recent assurances that the United States is determined to honor his promise of bringing democracy to Iraq have been qualified by less committed pronouncements from other members of the administration, not to speak of the growing "let's get the hell out" chorus, led by people like Sen. Edward Kennedy.
"Things are going well in Najaf," says an adviser to Grand Ayatollah Ali-Muhammad Sistani, the primus inter pares of Iraqi Shiite clerical leaders. "It is in Washington that things do not seem to be going well." The Shiite leadership in Najaf is worried that America and its allies might persuade themselves that a soft version of the Ba'athist regime is the only realistic course.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Ayatollah Sadreddin Qapanchi in a mosque sermon in Najaf the other day. "The people of Iraq are ready to exercise the [right of] self-determination," he said. "All they ask is to be given a chance to choose their government. Iraq should not be thrown to those who seek power through violence."
Even Ayatollah Kazem Ha'eri-Yazdi, Muqtada Sadr's spiritual mentor, has come out against the latter's forlorn bid for power. In a recent message, Haeri-Yazdi warned that the U.S.-led Coalition should not renege on its promise of allowing the people of Iraq to choose a new system of government through free and fair elections.
The second reason Iraqis worry about the months ahead is what one member of the Governing Council describes as "an attack of lethargy" at the Coalition Provisional Authority. He claims that Paul Bremer, the American head of the CPA, seems to have lost his initial dedication to the cause of building a democratic Iraq.
"We don't know what happened to Bremer during a visit to Washington a couple of months ago," he says. "Maybe they told him he would get a big job in a second Bush administration. And that may be the reason he is just biding his time until the end of June, when his mission in Baghdad ends."
That view is confirmed by other members of the Governing Council and some Iraqi ministers. They say Bremer, who had distinguished himself with speedy decision-making, is now sitting on a large number of issues that require urgent arbitration. "His heart is no longer in it," laments a senior Iraqi politician.
Worse still, many Iraqis now feel that a majority of Americans may no longer have their heart in it either.
For a country emerging from half a century of brutal dictatorship and four major wars in a generation, things in Iraq are going better than anyone might have expected. Iraq is not about to disintegrate. Nor is it on the verge of civil war. Despite becoming the focus of anti-American energies in the past year, it is one of the few places in the Middle East where the United States still enjoys goodwill.
Notwithstanding the forebodings of doom coming from "experts" who know nothing of Iraq, the newly liberated nation could, as President Bush has promised, become a model of democratization for other Arabs. Iraq will be won or lost not in Baghdad or Najaf or Fallujah, but in Washington.
WASHINGTON WAR WOBBLES:
NO TIME FOR DOUBT
By AMIR TAHERI
European Secular Democracies Are Supporting
An Islamic Republic Theocracy. = $ $ $ $ $
By Alireza Sabouri
By the eighteenth century, Europe was finally able to end religious fundamentalism and the nightmare of theocracy as a form of government. Today, Europeans look back at its worst moments with disdain, regret and the bitter sweet realization of Europe's backwardness and missed opportunities during that dark era. The gift of secularism brought to Europe the notion of separation of religion and government, and started a generally continuous path of progress and modernity for the continent as a whole.
It is therefore ironic, and otherwise tragic, that in the twenty-first century, secular European democracies are helping to support and perpetuate an Islamic theocracy in Iran. From a European economic point of view, it is actually a clever, although shameful, tactic whereby European nations bestow an illusion of global legitimacy to preserve the hated mullahs in exchange for exploitation of Iranian oil, natural gas, gold, copper and other vast riches and resources rightfully belonging to the people of Iran.
In the absence of the separation of religion from government and legitimate democracy, the political landscape of the Islamic Republic is characterized not by political parties or movements that fight over ideas and alternative policies, but by "insiders" and "outsiders." The rewarding mechanism is based on common background, family connections, social class, and even geographical location. Insiders are a restricted oligarchy, which consists of a perhaps fifty to sixty families who hold all the wealth and power, as well as all the strings over the future of over seventy million oppressed Iranians.
The typical insider has a modest education, grew up in certain neighborhoods of Tehran, and has good connections with the all-powerful bazaaris â the shop-owners of Tehran's bazaar â if not at least one of them. Conspiring with the mullahs, these bazaaris provided the financial backing needed for Khomeini's terror revolution. They were rewarded by the regime they helped install, by being allowed to amass incredible fortunes. The true story of the 1979 revolution was all about the redistribution of wealth among these insiders to determine who would occupy the most prestigious governmental posts. These posts, incidentally, made for the best sources of perks and income, thanks to the rampant corruption which has defined this so-called republic since February 11, 1979. Presently, bazaaris represent the backbone of support for the theocratic regime in Tehran. Secular and democratic-minded outsiders, don't stand a chance of ever becoming part of the restricted oligarchy of mullahs-and-sons that share the real power.
Today, religious fundamentalism, of the kind suffered by Iranians for over twenty-five years, would not be tolerated in any European country. Any nation attempting the theocratic or religious "experiment" would immediately become an outcast, and would be economically black-listed by the other European nations. It is likely that the same treatment would be reserved for European nations attempting to implement religious fundamentalist policies.
However, unlike Europeans, Iranians are sitting on top of a country with the greatest per capita concentration of natural resources and riches which constitute the only hope for British and European prevention of the economic collapse they experienced in the 1970's. Consequently, the well being of over seventy million Iranians has been subjugated to the economic interests of a fuel-hungry British dominated Europe. So, instead of applying economic, diplomatic, and political pressure upon the so-called Islamic Republic and its "billionaire mullahs" in order to help Iranians bring about a true secular democratic alternative, EU nations have opted to maintain the status quo, thereby exploiting the situation to their own economic advantage.
The political justification used by the Europeans to condone their dealings with the mullahs relied on the illusion that the mullahs would have been able to reform the theocratic regime. That illusion has been shattered by the extremely low turnout for the national elections on February 20, 2004. This nation-wide boycott of the sham elections and the Islamic regime in its entirety was the result of an organized campaign that began back in August 2003, by Iranian secular democratic activists known as the "third force." The successful outcome of this maneuver has been to expose the smoke-and-mirrors tactic devised by the mullahs and their European counterparts to deceive western media into reporting that the mullahs were moving ever closer to a legitimate democracy.
The boycott has also undermined the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic in the eyes of the world, rather than just the hardliners or the pseudo-reformists working within the regime. Those who were once blind now realize that reformists and hardliners are just slightly different political manifestations of the same group of insiders that contributed to the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1978-79 and nowadays help the clerical regime navigate through perilous waters. Of greatest significance is the fact that the boycott in February 2004 was a clear message from Iranians to the hated mullahs and their European sponsors to stop using the reformist farce because the days of the Islamic Republic are numbered.
Today, eighty percent of the population in Iran is under the age of thirty five. We the younger generation of Iranians, were either small children or not yet born when our great nation was pulled into a chaotic nightmare by the greed and shortsightedness of many. Fortunately for us however, European powers are now left without any justification for continuing their support for the theocratic Islamic regime. Forget about real democracy and an open dialogue with the theocratic Islamic Republic. Our numbers are growing, as are our collective experiences and wisdom. Today we stand together in unity to bring about a referendum for selection of a secular democratic alternative to the Islamic Republic. Tomorrow, when the light of progress and modernity shines upon Iran once again, we shall teach our children about those who stood with the Iranian people, and those who stood against us.
UN watchdog unable to complete Iran nuclear probe by June: diplomats
by Michael Adler
VIENNA, May 18 (AFP) - The UN atomic agency will not be able to complete an investigation into Iran's alleged secret nuclear weapons program by mid-June due to delays by Tehran in allowing international inspections and disclosing its nuclear activities, diplomats said.
"This is ironic since the Iranians are the ones who want the file on them to be closed," a diplomat close to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and who asked not to be named told AFP Tuesday.
During a visit by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to Tehran in April, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi had said Tehran expected the IAEA investigation to be completed in June ahead of a meeting of the IAEA board.
But an earlier delay to a crucial round on inspections in March "threw us out of sequence," an official close to the IAEA said, adding key results would not now be available for the board of governors meeting in Vienna June 14.
"It takes a long time time to get analysis of environmental samples (swipes to find traces of radioactive particles) so there is no way to get results in June in order to wrap this thing up," a Western diplomat said.
The Iranians have "succeeded in slowing down the (investigation) machine," a second Western diplomat said.
ElBaradei has said he hopes the IAEA can finish its investigation by the end of the year, but he warned in a CNN interview Saturday that Iran's cooperation so far had been insufficient.
"The jury is still out," he said about whether Iran's nuclear program is peaceful as Tehran has insisted.
Iran delayed inspections after the IAEA board in March condemned the country for failing to report key activities, particularly its acquiring of blueprints for sophisticated centrifuges to enrich uranium, which can be used in both civilian reactors and to make atomic bombs.
Iran had also failed in a report filed in October to fully disclose, as it had promised, its nuclear activities.
One diplomat said that while the international community may tolerate a lack of resolution on Iran's nuclear program until the US presidential elections in November, the issue "cannot go on forever. We are not going to debate on this for the next three years."
Diplomats were wary of speculating about whether Washington was backing off from pushing for the IAEA to take Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear program due to the Iraq conflict.
Washington, which charges Iran is hiding attempts to make nuclear weapons, did not lobby for this at the last IAEA meeing in March and is not expected to insist on it in June.
Iran is close to the majority Shiite community in Iraq, which is crucial to securing peace there.
A diplomat said one thing sure was that "the Iranians are more confident because they know they're needed in Iraq."
IAEA inspectors now say they can see a pattern of radiation contamination in Iran which could indicate attempts to enrich uranium to bomb-grade level, diplomats said.
But the agency is waiting for another, more complete report from Iran on its nuclear program, which will take "half a year to a year" to evaluate, the official close to the IAEA said.
IAEA inspectors have so far reported two concentrations of particles of highly enriched uranium -- at a Kalaye Electric Company workshop in Tehran and at the Natanz pilot fuel enrichment plant 250 kilometres (150 miles) south of the capital.
Diplomats have confirmed other sites have been found, although details have not been made available.
"IAEA inspectors now say they can see a pattern of radiation contamination in Iran which could indicate attempts to enrich uranium to bomb-grade level, diplomats said."
What does That mean? ..."a pattern of radiation contamination" WHERE?
Iran nukes, pong
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