Iran Re-Appoints Pro-Nuclear Cleric as Head of Security Council
May 25, 2004
Iran's top nuclear negotiator has been re-appointed head of the government's Supreme National Security Council. Iranian state media say Hassan Rohani, a mid-level cleric who has publicly defended Iran's nuclear ambitions, was re-appointed to a three-year term as secretary-general by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The ayatollah also appointed Ali Larijani, the former head of the state broadcasting network, as one of his personal representatives to the security council.
Mr. Larijani stepped down last week as head of the state broadcasting network IRIB.
The United States has accused Tehran of secretly using its nuclear research programs to develop weapons. Tehran has steadfastly denied the charges, and last week submitted a report on its nuclear activities to the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA is expected to discuss the report at a meeting in Vienna next month.
Iran has mastered up to 70 percent of nuclear fuel cycle
AFP - World News
May 25, 2004
TEHRAN - Iran has mastered between 60 and 70 percent of the technology needed for the production of nuclear fuel, a former Iranian representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.
Ali Akbar Salehi, quoted Tuesday in Kayhan daily, said the technology had been "developed locally" but it would still take around 10 years until Iran could introduce a "safe fuel to the heart of the Bushehr reactor".
The nuclear reactor, Iran's first, is under construction in the south of Iran with help from Russia.
"We have found the way and we do not have any scientific problems," he was quoted as saying.
"Iran has already mastered the technology to extract uranium from mines, to convert the uranium ... and its enrichment, but we must still seek the capacity to produce the uranium rods for use in the Bushehr power station."
The United States charges Iran is hiding a program to build the bomb and has called for the IAEA, which has been investigating the Iranian program since February 2003, to refer the Islamic Republic to the UN Security Council for possible international sanctions.
Iran submitted a new declaration on its nuclear program to the IAEA earlier this month after a similar document last year failed to live up to Iranian promises to fully disclose its nuclear activities.
The earlier declaration left out such sensitive information as Iran's possession of designs for sophisticated P-2 centrifuges that can enrich uranium to bomb-grade levels.
IAEA inspectors have noted a pattern of radiation contamination in Iran which could indicate attempts to enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons, diplomats in Vienna where the agency is based have told AFP.
Agency inspectors have reported two such concentrations -- at a Kalaye Electric Company workshop in Tehran and at the Natanz pilot fuel enrichment plant 250 kilometres (150 miles) south of the Iranian capital.
Iran, which claims the patterns are caused by equipment imported through an international black market, has voluntarily suspended enrichment activities at Natanz as a sign of goodwill to the international community.
According to Salehi, the Western powers also want Iran to suspend conversion activities at the Isfahan nuclear plant, capable of producing UF6 material used in centrifuges, but Tehran had refused.
Salehi, who now serves as adviser to Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi, revealed that Iranian engineers were building "a 40-megawatt (nuclear) research reactor" and had made good progress.
"At this rate, the reactor will be up and running in six to seven years," he said.
IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei said last week that Iran's cooperation with the agency had been insufficient and he had not drawn any conclusions over the nature of the country's nuclear programme.
Tehran expects the IAEA probe to be completed in June but ElBaradei has said it may take until the end of the year.
Iran still flagging in cooperation on investigating nuclear program
AFP - World News
May 25, 2004
VIENNA - UN atomic agency inspectors are still waiting for Iran to agree to more open conditions for inspections of military sites as the clock ticks towards an agency meeting in June on whether Tehran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, diplomats said.
Senior diplomats close to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said the IAEA was not getting the cooperation it needs in investigating Iran's atomic activities, despite the Islamic Republic's repeated promises to provide access for full and transparent reporting.
Non-proliferation expert Gary Samore told AFP from the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank in London that Iran's "level of cooperation with the IAEA has really deteriorated over the past few months."
"My understanding is that the Iranians have destroyed some facilities and razed them to the ground. The suspicion is that these facilities were involved in nuclear development," he said.
A diplomat close to the IAEA said that while the Iranian nuclear industry "rips down buildings" as part of its work, the Iranians "have not ripped down something the IAEA has inspected." He refused to say if this were true about sites the IAEA wanted now, or in the future, to inspect.
The Iranians had re-painted a workshop and done some construction work at a workshop at the Kalaye Electric Company in Tehran in which the IAEA was interested.
Despite this, IAEA inspectors last year found contamination at the site by highly enriched uranium particles.
At stake is what the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors will decide when it meets at the agency's headquarters in Vienna on June 14.
The United States claims Iran is hiding a program to build the bomb and has called for the IAEA, which has been investigating the Iranian program since February 2003, to refer the Islamic Republic to the UN Security Council for possible international sanctions.
But diplomats said the IAEA will be unable to make a final finding on Iran due both to Tehran's delaying international inspections and because an Iranian declaration on its nuclear program filed last week came too late to be fully evaluated before June 14.
The military sites in question are seven workshops for manufacturing centrifuge components which are owned by military industrial organizations at three locations.
Centrifuges are used to enrich uranium. Highly enriched uranium can be used to make an atomic bomb.
The IAEA visited the workshops at the military sites last January and can return, but Iran has only been willing to give "managed access," according to an IAEA report in February.
The IAEA said in a "note" it wrote in March that "the agency's visit was 'managed' in the sense that inspectors were not permitted to take pictures with IAEA cameras or use their own electronic equipment."
The IAEA "wants to agree on certain arrangements so the inspectors can do their jobs," a diplomat, who asked not to be named, said.
The diplomat said the IAEA inspectors were guided on their last visit by Revolutionary Guard soldiers.
The inspectors need to be able to move freely and to use their own equipment, the diplomat said.
He said the inspectors should be visiting the military sites soon as there appeared to be an agreement for the inspectors to go "without compromising the basic IAEA mission."
Iranian ambassador to the IAEA Pirooz Hosseini said there was no problem with managed access.
"A military site is not a shopping center. It is an important place for any country," he said.
He said the IAEA inspectors were "guided by some escorts and taken to the place they want to see. In the field, cooperation is going on very well."
But another diplomat pointed to this problem of unfettered access as a sign "the Iranians give cooperation reluctantly and only after being persuaded to do so."
Samore said there are suspicions that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been hiding "a parallel program to work on centrifuges and nuclear weapons designs as well."
Famous Iranian female Poet Boycotts IAPAC's Controversial gathering
SMCCDI (Information Service)
May 25, 2004
One of the most famous and courageous contemporary female poets of Iran, the prominent and integer "Simin Behbahani", has been reported as boycotting the IAPAC gathering which has been planned for May 27th at the Washington DC's Ritz Carlton Hotel.
Ms. Behbahani who's visiting, currently, the US was declared as one of the official guests of the self proclaimed "Iranian American Political Action Committee" (IAPAC) gathering which is denounced by many Iranians especially by those residing in the US.
The report of the boycott's intention, was made, today, on the waves of the Los Angles based KRSI radio which has made tens of phone interviews, in the last years, with the maverick Behbahani by calling her in Iran. The poet is to make a public announcement in that sense by tomorrow. Such news can be considered as a major blow to IAPAC and its desperate tries to claim legitimacy while its initial founders are known for having intended to promote the Islamic republic regime.
It's to note that the initial trio founders of this entity are Hassan Nemazee, Akbar Ghahary and Faraj Alai-e who are the former board members of the self proclaimed and rejected "American Iranian Council" headed by the infamous "Hooshang Amir Ahmadi". (http://www.american-iranian.org/beta/leadership.php?group=FM and also the US State Dept. Report on IAPAC at: http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2003&m=August&x=20030806180513yksdorbl0.8651087&t=xarchives/xarchitem.html )
The trio is also very active in the promotion of John Kerry who has declared wishing to establish relations with the Mullahcracy if elected in next November as the future US President.
As an outspoken critic of the Islamic regime, Behbahani is one of the symbols of opposition to the Islamic regime and an endorser of the famous 1994 letter entitled "We the Writers..!" She's also the writer of many famous poems which broke, each time, the regime instated taboos.
Her boycott of the May 27th gathering will surely inflict also another serious damage to Shirin Ebadi who's facing a decreasing popularity following the understanding, by many, of her rejectable stands. It's to note that Ebadi along with 3 other official guests, Azar Nafisy, Mahnaz Afkhami and Goli Ameri, are the four other panelists of the IAPAC gathering in WDC.
The three other are believed to be unaware of the impact of their participation in such questionable gathering and the consequences for their credibility and popularity.
It has been reported that some of IAPAC's members are calling the Iranians asking them to participate, while attacking SMCCDI and its Coordinator for having exposed the main founders of their questionable organization.
Russia, Iran Reportedly to Sign Nuclear Deal Soon
Tue May 25, 2004 11:56 AM ET
By Maria Golovnina
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Iran will sign a deal soon with Russia obliging it to return spent fuel from a new nuclear reactor to Moscow, a Russian official said, in a move intended to ease U.S. fears the material could be used to make bombs.
Russia has faced down U.S. opposition to its construction of Iran's $800-million reactor at Bushehr, but it has insisted on the spent fuel deal to alleviate U.S. concerns that Iranian scientists could extract plutonium from spent fuel and potentially use it in warheads.
Alexander Rumyantsev, head of Russia's Atomic Energy Agency, said Tuesday Moscow and Tehran would sign the document during a visit to Iran this summer, ending years of talks.
"During this trip we plan to sign an additional protocol on the return of spent nuclear fuel to Russia for storage and processing," Itar-Tass news agency quoted Rumyantsev as saying.
The document must be signed before the end of the summer for Bushehr's first 1,000-megawatt reactor to go on-stream in 2005. The plant was originally supposed to start up in 2003.
Washington has branded Iran part of an "axis of evil" of states seeking illegal arms and fears Iran would use Bushehr as a cover for the transfer of other sensitive nuclear technology.
Russia says Iran could not produce a nuclear bomb, even using Moscow's nuclear technology.
Iran, which sits on the world's second largest gas reserves after Russia, also denies the U.S. allegations. It says it needs nuclear energy to meet booming demand for electricity and keep oil and gas reserves for export.
SPENT FUEL TO SIBERIA
Iran's former representative to the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, was quoted Tuesday as saying Iran was still some way from mastering the full nuclear fuel cycle.
"Iran has achieved some 60 to 70 percent of the technology needed for a full fuel cycle," Salehi told the hard-line Kayhan evening newspaper.
He said Iran was many years away from producing enough nuclear fuel to feed even one atomic reactor.
"We need at least ten years to feed the Bushehr nuclear plant with the fuel," Salehi said.
Once the protocol on returning spent fuel is signed, Russia will ship fuel to Iran to start up the Bushehr reactor. Spent fuel will be sent back to a storage facility in Siberia after roughly a decade of use.
Western diplomats in Moscow say that decade would enable Iran to acquire the necessary technology to make bombs. Russia says much longer would be required.
An official from a nuclear fuel plant in Siberia was quoted as saying that up to 168 nuclear fuel units would be dispatched to Bushehr after the signing to start up the reactor. A further 43 would be shipped each year thereafter.
Signing of the document has been delayed repeatedly. Industry insiders say disagreement over technical matters and the row with the United States nearly prompted both sides to abandon the project this year.
Rumyantsev told Tass delays were linked to "failure to fulfil certain contract obligations by some Russian and Iranian firms." He did not elaborate.
Body of killed student given to family
SMCCDI (Information Service)
May 25, 2004
The Islamic regime has released the body of Hassan Hassanpoor, an arrested student, to his family. The body shows traces of torture inflicted during the student's abduction by the regime's intelligence circles.
Hassanpoor, a student of Gonabad University, was abducted a week ago and was known for his active opposition to the Islamic regime.
It's to note that the Islamic regime has intensified the surveillance, arrest and abduction of students and activits, such as Mohammad Ahmadi of Karadj district, with the approach of the 1st anniversaries of last June's nightly riots and the Student Uprising. of July 9, 1999.
Ahmadi was abducted on May 9th as he intended to check on the status of Mohamad Ebrahimi, an imprisoned student, admitted to the Rejai-Shahr Prison's nursery.
UN nuke report on Iran seen full of open questions
Reuters - World News
May 25, 2004
VIENNA - A report on Iran by U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, due to be circulated within days, will present many unanswered questions about Tehran's atomic activities, Western diplomats said on Tuesday.
Tehran wants the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to wrap up its inspections by next month, but Western and non-aligned diplomats on the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors said that was wishful thinking.
The inspections are aimed at verifying Tehran's statements that its atomic programme is for peaceful purposes, rather than a front for developing a nuclear bomb as Washington believes.
"It will be very interim," one Western diplomat told Reuters, referring to ElBaradei's report. "It will reflect Iran's lack of cooperation, though perhaps won't use those exact words."
"We expect that it will contain significant revelations about Iran's nuclear programme and illustrate that there are many unanswered questions," another diplomat said, adding it would take many months to answer those questions.
Iran said on Sunday if the investigation was not closed at the IAEA board meeting in June, it would "reflect the laziness of IAEA experts", not the actions of Iran.
In March, Iran cancelled a series of IAEA inspections to retaliate against an IAEA board resolution that condemned Tehran's failure to disclose designs and components for "P2" centrifuges, capable of making bomb-grade uranium.
Iran later let the inspectors return but the delay pushed the IAEA's probe back at least a month.
Diplomats on the board told Reuters Iran had made matters worse by barring inspectors from several military sites.
"We've been and continue to be disappointed by Iran's cooperation with the IAEA," one diplomat said.
Another problem has been Pakistan's refusal to let the IAEA take samples of its highly-enriched uranium to verify Tehran's explanation for traces of bomb-grade uranium found in Iran. Tehran says the traces came from contaminated Pakistani machinery.
On Friday, Iran gave the IAEA a more than 1,000-page declaration of its past and present nuclear programmes, which Iran said is complete and truthful. It could take the IAEA up to a year to verify this declaration, diplomats said.
An October 2003 declaration that Tehran said was full and accurate omitted details about potentially weapons-related nuclear research, including work on the P2 centrifuges.
The IAEA began looking closely at Iran after an exiled Iranian opposition group said in August 2002 that Tehran was hiding a uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and other facilities from the U.N. Iran later declared these sites to the IAEA.
This just in from a student inside of Iran...
I have read almost all of the Persian News Webpages since yesterday and all of thm (Gooya.com, Mihan.net, Iran-emrooz.de, rouydad and ..etc) and they all talk about sending hundreds of terrorists to Iraq before June 30th deadline.
That is gonna be a serious topic here in Opposition Media which most of them are Internet Media.
The regime wants to stir the crisis up in Iraq. I am concerned that all evil forces in the region are united to stand against the US & President Bush before November election."
The Trail to Tehran
May 26, 2004
In the aftermath of last week's raid by Iraqi's police and US forces on the elegant Baghdad mansion currently inhabited by Ahmad Chalabi (it actually belongs to his sister), his angry spokesman cited as evidence of the intruders' barbarity the fact that they seized "even his holy Koran - his personal holy Koran was taken as a document".
If reports that US intelligence has at last woken up to Chalabi's Iranian connection are true, then taking his Koran may have been more than personal spite, since, according to a former close associate, the Pentagon's erstwhile favorite Iraqi owns one bearing an affectionate inscription from the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini himself, evidence of how deep and long standing a relationship he has had with the Islamic Republic. "Ahmad helped Iran very much during the war [the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s]," recalls this former associate and friend. "Khomeini was very pleased, and he sent him a copy of the Holy Koran inscribed 'To My Son Ahmed.'"
Another former colleague who, like so many, has subsequently fallen out with Chalabi, explains that, "It was during the Iraq/Iran war that Ahmad discovered the value of information as a commodity, that it was something you could trade, buy and sell, and he has used that ever since."
Chalabi has vehemently rejected allegations that he was operating on behalf of Tehran as "a lie a fib and silly". He has accused the CIA director George Tenet of conducting a smear campaign against him. During that war, Chalabi was resident in Amman, busily trading the Petra bank into a bankruptcy that eventually almost collapsed the Jordanian economy. But he was also endearing himself to US officials in Amman with the quality of his intelligence on the war. "I could get an answer on any question about what was going on in 10 minutes out of Ahmad," recalls one former US ambassador with affection.
By the end of 1991, Chalabi was deep in business with the CIA, following up on an opportunity he had scented early on. "The United States is prepared to allocate substantial sums for the Iraqi opposition," he confided to an opposition activist soon after the 1991 war. "We should go for that money." The Langley spooks liked what they saw in him - his efficiency, his readiness to tell interlocutors what they wanted to hear, not to mention the source of his cash. The presumption that Chalabi's activities were funded by money embezzled from the Petra bank ensured that few initially suspected his true sponsor: the CIA. (Chalabi has always maintained that the charges brought against him in relation to the Petra bank affair were politically motivated.) His new handlers showed no sign of being bothered about his links to Iran, not even after he moved to the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan in 1992 and recruited a Shia Kurd named Arras Karim Habib to organise his security and intelligence.
"Arras was brought up in Iran. He was always an Iranian agent," insists a fellow veteran of those days in the mountains, "a double agent really, for both the Iranians and the Americans, but always for the Iranians first." "The CIA knew that Arras was an Iranian agent from the early 90s," says Bob Baer, a longtime covert operator who, for a period in the mid 1990s, was the senior CIA official posted to northern Iraq. "They were really pissed about it, pissed about Chalabi's dealing with the Iranians in general, like the time he forged a letter from the National Security Council saying that the NSC had authorised the assassination of Saddam Hussein and left it on his desk for the Iranians to find." Meanwhile, Baer discovered that while the CIA was paying Chalabi an extortionate rent, the Iranian intelligence contingent in the mountain town of Salahaddin, where the INC was based, were enjoying their quarters gratis, courtesy of Chalabi.
The CIA may have thought that at least Chalabi was serving his two masters to the same end: opposition to the regime of Saddam Hussein. But an obscure episode in the hunt for Saddam's banned weapons during those years points to the Iranians' use of Chalabi in something far more serious: the manipulation of US foreign policy through the production of fake intelligence. It was an operation that may ultimately have helped bring about the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Early in the winter of 1994, Chalabi had a visitor from Baghdad named Khidir Hamza, who announced himself as a senior member of Saddam's nuclear weapons team with much to reveal about the ongoing bomb programme being pursued by the dictator under the noses of the UN inspection teams. Chalabi in turn handed him to one of the resident spooks, who contacted Langley to see if they were interested in sponsoring this defector. After quizzing Hamza over the shortwave radio, a CIA nuclear expert at headquarters concluded that Hamza had nothing to offer and declined to assist his passage to the US.
It was a wise decision. As veterans of the Iraqi bomb program have subsequently revealed, Hamza grossly exagerrated his nuclear bombmaking credentials while downplaying the role his Ba'athist connections had played in advancing his scientific career. Imad Khadduri, the Iraqi nuclear physicist in charge of all documentation for the bomb project later scathingly reported that Hamza had a "deep inner fear of radiation" which "prevented him from ever entering the reactor hall or touching any scientific gadgets, probably due to his continual fear of an electric jolt that he experienced as a child". This paranoia, a significant drawback for a nuclear weapons builder, meant that his work was confined to theoretical research, well away from any actual experimentation. "He did not," says Khadduri, "even remotely, get involved in any scientific research, except for journalistic articles, dealing with the fission bomb, its components or its effects."
Cultivating a relationship with Hussein Kamal, Saddam's loutish cousin who was for a period all powerful as head of the weapons programmes and much else beside, Hamza nevertheless served briefly as head of the bomb design team in 1987, before being relegated to a makework job before being sacked, according to Khadduri, for filching air conditioners from the office. He then sank into obscurity before surfacing in Kurdistan in 1994.
Even though the nuclear experts in Langley rejected him as an intelligence source, documents provided by him found their way to the International Atomic Energy Agency's teams investigating the Iraqi bomb programme. Early in 1995, an IAEA "Action Team" descended on the offices of the Iraqi nuclear programme in Baghdad. They had with them a 20-page document that apparently originated from inside "Group 4," the Iraqi government department that had been responsible for designing Saddam's nuclear bomb. The stationery, page numbering, and stamps all appeared authentic, according to one senior member of the Iraqi bomb team.
"It was a 'progress report,'" he recalls, "about 20 pages, on the work in Group 4 departments on the results of their continued work after 1991. It referred to results of experiments on the casting of the hemispheres [ie the bomb core of enriched uranium] with some crude diagrams." As evidence that Iraq was successfully pursuing a nuclear bomb in defiance of sanctions and the inspectors, it was damning. However, after a thorough investigation, the IAEA concluded that the document, as one official recently confirmed to me by email, was "determined not to be authentic." The official later told me on the phone that the document originated with Khidir Hamza, a point confirmed by an Action Team veteran.
The IAEA had an excellent source to confirm that the document was forged - none other than Hamza's old boss, Hussein Kamal. In August, 1995, Kamal, until then considered to be the second most powerful man in Iraq, defected to Jordan. Soon after his arrival, the former Iraqi weapons supremo spoke freely to senior UN inspection officials. In one session, the IAEA's Professor Maurizio Zifferero showed Kamal the document. Kamal, according to the transcript, immediately recognised it as a forgery, a view in which the official concurred, adding that "Dr Khidir Abdul Abbas Hamza is related to this document".
"He is a professional liar," said Kamal. "He worked with us, but he was useless and was always looking for promotions. He consulted with me but could not deliver anything."
Kamal suggested that the document might have been faked by Egyptian intelligence, but the Iraqi scientists had found clues pointing in another direction. Some of the technical descriptions used terms that would only be used by an Iranian. "Most notable," says Khadduri, "was the use of the term 'dome' - 'Qubba' in Iranian, instead of 'hemisphere' - 'Nisuf Kura' in Arabic." In other words, the document had to have been originally written in Farsi by an Iranian scientist and then translated into Arabic.
The Iranians, it seemed, were supplying fake information designed to show that Saddam was pursuing his efforts to build weapons of mass destruction, and therefore the onerous UN economic sanctions, despite their civilian toll, should be kept in place.
There is no evidence that Hamza, who eventually found his way to the United States and a lucrative career as "Saddam's Bombmaker," ever visited Iran. But, while roosting at Chalabi's headquarters in northern Iraq, he had been in close proximity to many Iranian agents, including of course (according to the CIA) Arras Karem Habib.
In subsequent years, of course Chalabi produced a stream of defectors attesting to Saddam's iniquitous weapons initiatives. Though their stories turned out to be utterly fallacious, they had a superficial credibility, the product, as one former UN inspector told me, of "very skillful coaching".
Chalabi was not shy about his Iranian intelligence connections. "When I met him in December 1997 he said he had tremendous connections with Iranian intelligence," recalls Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector. "He said that some of his best intelligence came from the Iranians and offered to set up a meeting for me with the head of Iranian intelligence." Had Ritter made the trip (the CIA refused him permission), he would have been dealing with Chalabi's chums in Iranian Revolutionary Guard intelligence, a faction which regarded Saddam with a venomous hatred spawned both by the bloody war of the 1980s and the Iraqi dictator's continuing support of the terrorist Mojaheddin Khalq group.
The CIA knew, as Bob Baer makes clear, that Chalabi had close Iranian connections. They knew that before the war he had meetings with Iranian intelligence officials, including the Revolutionary Guard intelligence official responsible for Iraq, General Sirdar Jaffari. But whatever their distaste for their former protege, they were unable to counter his influence and favour with the neo-conservatives clustered in the Pentagon and Vice-President Cheney's office who were beguiled by Chalabi.
Only in recent weeks has Chalabi's increasingly disruptive performance in Baghdad, denouncing the efforts of UN envoy Lakhdar Ibrahim to craft a post June 30 settlement, goaded the administration into abandoning their friend, permitting the raid on his house and the leaking of reports that he has been funneling American secrets to Tehran. After serving, or using, two masters for so long, Chalabi is now linked only with Iran, a position which may serve him well in garnering support among the Iraqi Shia masses.
Baer, who served in the CIA outpost in the mid 1990s, says that "a lot of people in the CIA believe that the Iranians used Chalabi, and or Arras, to manipulate us into a war. Maybe they just thought they were steering us to keep up the pressure on Saddam, keeping him under sanctions and no fly zones, never dreaming that he would actually get the US to go to war and put the US army right on the Iranian border. It's the law of unintended consequences."
· Andrew Cockburn is co-author with Patrick Cockburn of Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession, published by Verso Books.
Three Liberal Opposition Members Sentenced by Iran Regime
May 26, 2004
TEHERAN -- Three liberal opposition members have been sentenced to suspended prison terms for "propaganda" against Iran by calling for a boycott of February polls, the state news agency Irna reported yesterday.
A fourth defendant, Ali Mohammad Jahanghiri from Andimeshk in southwest Iran, was sentenced to six months in prison, but the verdict was commuted to a fine of three million rials ($352).
The three others - Hassan Asghari, Shapour Rashno and Ezzatollah Jafari - were each sentenced to 91-day suspended terms.
On April 18, Iranian police arrested the four opposition members and detained them for six days.
Cruising for Love Along the Backstreets of Tehran
May 26, 2004
The Guardian (From the Motoring Magazines)
Intersection (June) reported on the flourishing car cruise culture among teenagers in Iran. In a country where 70% of the population is under 30 but mixing with the opposite sex in public is forbidden, the only way for young Iranians to meet each other is by driving.
In the backstreets of Tehran, convoys of cars gather at night. "As they pass each other, cars slow up even more as those inside strain to glimpse the passengers in those opposite." If they like each other "a telephone number, scribbled on a scrap of paper, will be tossed from open window to open window, enabling the game to continue by text and mobile phone".
To win over the girl, the right car is essential, Asad, a young Iranian, told the magazine. "Girls go for the sporty look, like a customised Nissan," he said. However, 17-year-old Goli disagreed: "Cars aren't that important. As long as it isn't a Peykan or a Pride," referring to two Iranian cars. "It's the personality that counts. As long as they aren't impoverished, of course."
Iraq May Survive, but the Dream Is Dead
May 26, 2004
The New York Times
It was high time President Bush spoke to the nation of the war in Iraq. A year or so ago, it was our war, and we claimed it proudly. To be sure, there was a minority that never bought into the expedition and genuinely believed that it would come to grief. But most of us recognized that a culture of terror had taken root in the Arab world. We struck, first at Afghanistan and then at the Iraqi regime, out of a broader determination to purge Arab radicalism.
No wonder President Bush, in the most intensely felt passage of Monday night's speech, returned to Sept. 11 and its terrors. "In the last 32 months, history has placed great demands on our country," he said. "We did not seek this war on terror. But this is the world as we find it." Instinctively, an embattled leader fell back on a time of relative national consensus.
But gone is the hubris. Let's face it: Iraq is not going to be America's showcase in the Arab-Muslim world. The president's insistence that he had sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, "not to make them American" is now painfully beside the point. The unspoken message of the speech was that no great American project is being hatched in Iraq. If some of the war's planners had thought that Iraq would be an ideal base for American primacy in the Persian Gulf, a beacon from which to spread democracy and reason throughout the Arab world, that notion has clearly been set aside.
We are strangers in Iraq, and we didn't know the place. We had struggled against radical Shiism in Iran and Lebanon in recent decades, but we expected a fairly secular society in Iraq (I myself wrote in that vein at the time). Yet it turned out that the radical faith among the Sunnis as well as the Shiites rose to fill the void left by the collapse of the old despotism.
In the decade that preceded the Iraq expedition, we had had our fill with the Arab anger in the streets of Ramallah and Cairo and Amman. We had wearied of the willful anti-Americanism. Now we find that anger, at even greater intensity, in the streets of Falluja. Iraqis had been muzzled for more than three decades. Suddenly they found themselves, dangerously and radically, free. Meanwhile, behind concrete walls and concertina wire, American soldiers and administrators hunkered down in an increasingly hostile land.
Back in the time of our triumph that of swift movement and of pulling down the dictator's statues we had let the victory speak for itself. There was no need to even threaten the Syrians, the Iranians and the Libyans with a fate similar to the one that befell the Iraqi despotism. Some of that deterrent power no doubt still holds. But our enemies have taken our measure; they have taken stock of our national discord over the war. We shall not chase the Syrian dictator to a spider hole, nor will we sack the Iranian theocracy.
Once the administration talked of a "Greater Middle East" where the "deficits" of freedom, knowledge and women's empowerment would be tackled, where our power would be used to erode the entrenched despotisms in the Arab-Muslim world. As of Monday night, we have grown more sober about the ways of the Arabs.
It seems that we have returned to our accommodation with the established order of power in the Arab world. The young Jordanian monarch, Abdullah II, has even stepped forward to offer the age-old Arab recipe for the mayhem in Iraq's streets: a man on horseback, an Iraqi "with a military background who has experience of being a tough guy who could hold Iraq together for the next year." No foreign sword, however swift and mighty, could cut through the Gordian knot of a tangled Arab history.
In their fashion, Iraqis had come to see their recent history as a passage from the rule of the tyrant to the rule of the foreigners. We had occupied the ruler's palaces and the ruler's prisons. It was logistics and necessity, of course but that sort of shift in their world acquitted the Iraqi people, absolved them of the burden of their own history, left them on the sidelines as foreign soldiers and technicians and pollsters and advocates of "civic society" took control of their country.
And now, in a familiar twist, President Bush proposes with the approval of a sovereign Iraqi government, of course the demolition of the Abu Ghraib prison. We would cleanse their shame and ours. Iraqis had not stormed their own Bastille, as it were; their liberty remains an American gift. And no surprise, they shall see through the deed, and discount it. If and when our bulldozers go to work at Abu Ghraib, it will be just another episode in which the Iraqis are spectators to their own history.
Back in our time of confidence, we had (rightly in my view) despaired of the United Nations and its machinery and its diplomatic-speak. But we now seek a way out, and an Algerian-born envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, is the instrument of our deliverance. So we are all multilateralists now, and the envoy of a world organization entangled in its own scandal in Iraq the oil-for-food program it administered and is now investigating will show us the way.
Iraq is treacherous territory, but Mr. Brahimi gives us a promise of precision. The Iraqis shall have a president, two vice presidents, a prime minister and 26 ministers who will run the country. We take our victories where we can. In Falluja, the purveyors of terrorism nowadays they go by the honored name of mujahedeen are applying the whip in public to vendors of wine and liquor and pornographic videos. (A measure of justice, it could be said, has finally come to Falluja.) But there is the consolation lamely offered by our president: Iraq today has an observer who attends the meetings of the World Trade Organization!
Imperial expeditions in distant, difficult lands are never easy. And an Arab-Islamic world loaded with deadly means of destruction was destined to test our souls and our patience. This is not "Bush's War." It is by accident or design, it doesn't matter now our biggest undertaking in the foreign world since Vietnam. We as a nation pay dearly every day. We fight under the gaze of multitudes in the Arab world who wish us ill, who believe that we are getting our comeuppance.
The gains already accomplished in Iraq, and the gains yet to be secured, are increasingly abstract and hard to pin down. The costs are visible to us, and heartbreaking. The subdued, somber tone with which the war is now described is the beginning of wisdom. In its modern history, Iraq has not been kind or gentle to its people. Perhaps it was folly to think that it was under any obligation to be kinder to strangers.
Fouad Ajami, professor of Middle Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins University, is author of "Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation's Odyssey."
The Fattest Terrorist
May 26, 2004
National Review Online
The senior Shiite clerics in Najaf have savagely denounced Moqtada al Sadr, along with those who are fighting alongside him. You can find extensive excerpts on the website www.healingiraq.com, but here are some high points from the document:
"...the movement of Sayyid Muqtada Al-Sadr ... is losing legitimacy...The movement of Sayyid Muqtada...has encouraged the occupiers to cross the red lines. And as aside from that, the American occupiers while storming into Iraq and marching towards Baghdad through Najaf and Karbala did not commit the stupidities and insolence with regard to the sanctities in the two holy cities they have committed now.
"It is clear that the organization of Sayyid Muqtada and whoever follows the Sadrist movement were the first to violate the sanctity of the yard of Haydari Shareef (Imam Ali's shrine in Najaf) when they fired shots inside it at Sayyid Abdul Majeed Al-Kho'ei and killed Sayyid Yasiri within it and wounded Sayyid Majeed and killed Sayyid Hayder Al-Kelidar afterwards. And they are the very same who ignited the fuse of the bloody fight, whose victims among gathered believers were sacrificed over control of the shrine of Imam Hussein (peace be upon him)...
"The organization of Sayyid Muqtada is now carrying out intimidation of the general public and arrests of citizens, not only those whom they call collaborators with the occupation, the police, owners of stores selling foodstuffs to occupiers and others, but also students of religious sciences opposed to them and some of the members of the Badr organization [SCIRI], in addition to raiding offices of the Da'wa party in Kufa...
"The firing of shots at the great dome of the shrine of Imam Ali (peace be upon him) [in Najaf], according to some specialists was most likely from the weapons of Sayyid Muqtada's followers and not from the weapons of others...
"The strike on the home and office of his Excellence Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani happened within the security perimeter whose every span was controlled by the organization of Sayyid Muqtada, and the office of Marji' Ali [Sistani] was in the immediate proximity to the center of the security perimeter of Sayyid Muqtada's organization [office], well guarded, and especially so in the vicinity of both of their offices, and so how can it be conceived that this stringent security perimeter was breached by an unknown organization, which carried out a protracted strike on the home of the Sayyid Marji' [Sistani] and then retreated without the cognizance of the organization of Sayyid Muqtada...."
In other words, Moqtada is an illegitimate religious leader, his movement is a bunch of thugs, he tried to have Sistani killed (and I can tell you that the ayatollahs in Tehran are desperate for this to happen), and then lied about it, and he, not the Coalition forces, fired on the holy sites in Najaf.
This is decidedly not coming from "our side," it's coming from leading Shiite clerics, and it adds up to a thunderous rebuke of Moqtada. The only thing they might have added is the impressive obesity of the man. I mean, how does one explain that a religious leader of the poor and downtrodden is one of the fattest guys in the Middle East? He's certainly not calorie challenged.
Someone ought to tell the mullahs in Tehran that their money's going for food, and not for guns to kill the infidels and crusaders. My guess is that they're looking for a new horse in Iraq.
Iran Min to Visit Madrid After Wedding Dispute Resolved
May 26, 2004
The Associated Press
MADRID -- Iran 's foreign minister was expected in Madrid Tuesday after diplomats resolved a spat over Spain's royal wedding, which was attended by the widow and son of the late shah, Spanish officials said.
The visit had been scheduled for Monday but the Iranians postponed it to protest the fact that the shah's widow and son were invited to Saturday's wedding of Crown Prince Felipe and former TV anchorwoman Letizia Ortiz.
But Spain, exercising what a foreign ministry official termed "high diplomacy," persuaded the Iranians to reschedule the visit.
Iranian foreign minister Kamal Karrazi was to meet with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.
Spain explained that Queen Sofia of Spain is an old friend of the shah's widow, Farah Pahlavi, and that her being invited was a personal affair that didn't mean Spain recognized the shah's son claim to be Iran 's legitimate ruler.
"The Iranians understood this perfectly," the official said.
The newspaper El Pais said the Iranians were particularly miffed because the invitation was addressed to the family of "the shah of Persia."
Pahlavi was accompanied by her son, Reza, who lives in the U.S. and leads opposition to the Islamic regime that ousted his father, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, in 1979. The shah died in exile in 1980.
The Chalabi Fiasco
May 26, 2004
The Wall Street journal
Review & Outlook
The more we dig into last week's Baghdad raid against Ahmed Chalabi, the more curious it seems. Clearly there's much more going on here than a fight over one man's credibility.
If nothing else, this has to be the strangest "spy" case in U.S. history. On the day of last week's raid, a spokesman for U.S. regent L. Paul Bremer denied that Mr. Chalabi was even the target. But the papers and TV shows have since been filled with accusations that Mr. Chalabi provided classified information to Iran. None of his accusers is ever on the record, and no one has explained how Mr. Chalabi would have access to such U.S. secrets. But someone in the U.S. government clearly wants to damage him.
For someone so accused, Mr. Chalabi is hardly backing down. He appeared on any TV network that would have him last weekend, denying the charges and offering to visit Capitol Hill and face his accusers under oath. Meanwhile, Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers told Congress last week that Mr. Chalabi's political group, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), "has provided intelligence to our intelligence unit there in Baghdad that has saved soldiers' lives."
That's not just General Myers's opinion. Back in March, the Pentagon requested feedback on the effectiveness of cooperation from five Iraq political organizations. The written report from the chief intelligence officer of one front-line U.S. division declared that the INC "proved to be head and shoulders above the information provided by the other four organizations."
According to this report -- which is classified but was made available to us -- the INC has provided "imminent threat warning" and "reconnaissance surveillance capability that U.S. forces cannot match in an urban environment." For example, Saddam Hussein was captured last December with documents containing eight names. The INC was directly responsible for the capture of four on that list, and thanks to its lead a fifth was captured within a month.
The intelligence assessment calls the INC a "true force multiplier" and says that the U.S. division's "ability to accomplish our mission would have been significantly hampered" without its support. "In the final analysis, the INC has been directly responsible for saving the lives of numerous soldiers as a result of early warning and providing surveillance of known enemy elements," the report says.
Does this sound like the work of "con men" opposed to U.S. interests in Iraq? Without security clearance ourselves, we can't determine the real truth. But at a minimum, the above suggests that our troops in Iraq have a different view of Mr. Chalabi and the INC than the leakers in Washington or at the Coalition Provisional Authority. The charge of spying for Iran is serious enough that Mr. Chalabi, Iraqis and the U.S. have a substantial stake in getting to the truth. As Mr. Chalabi suggests, ideally that would be in public, before Congress.
Mr. Chalabi has long maintained good relations with Iran, in particular to gain access to northern Iraq during Saddam's rule. But this is hardly news to U.S. officials, who financed the INC's Tehran office. In any event, the last thing Iran's mullahs want is the emergence of a secular, stable, Shiite-led free government of the kind Mr. Chalabi has long favored.
So what's really going on here? We think Mr. Chalabi is a pawn in a much larger battle that is strategic, ideological and personal. On the first, he has long battled the CIA over the best way to topple Saddam. The Agency argued for, and tried to arrange, a coup that would leave most of the Baathist regime in place, and it predicted after the first Gulf War that Saddam would fall within two months.
Mr. Chalabi correctly argued that Saddam's control was too tight and that only a U.S. invasion would succeed. He was wrong himself in overestimating how much Shiites would help in rebelling against Saddam, and clearly some of the INC's intelligence was mistaken. But then so was the CIA's; twice it told President Bush that Saddam had been killed and after both attempts Mr. Chalabi was correctly saying he was still alive. The man who told Mr. Bush that it was a "slam dunk" that Saddam had WMD wasn't Mr. Chalabi; that source was CIA Director George Tenet.
The ideological battle concerns Iraq's future governance. As a secular Shiite, Mr. Chalabi has sought to make an alliance with Grand Ayatollah Sistani and other moderate Shiite leaders. This puts him at odds with Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special envoy to Iraq, as well as with the neighboring Arab leaders who are wary of control by the Shiite majority.
Jordan's King Abdullah, a longtime Chalabi enemy who is close to Mr. Brahimi, has already called for another Sunni strongman to run Iraq. Mr. Bremer and the Bush Administration have handed control over the June 30 transition to Iraqi sovereignty to Mr. Brahimi, and one of his demands is that Mr. Chalabi be frozen out.
As for the personal, Mr. Chalabi is a blunt man who can seem arrogant even to his friends. Unlike some others on the Iraqi Governing Council, he has frequently been critical of Mr. Bremer and has fought him over many issues, especially elections and the probe into the U.N. Oil for Food scandal.
All of this is to suggest that there are many people, in the U.N. and U.S. government, who were only too happy to see Mr. Chalabi humiliated in that raid and then trashed afterward. The idea that this could have taken place without Mr. Bremer's blessing is impossible to credit. Mr. Bremer has pleaded lack of resources to explain why no one from Saddam's circle has yet been tried for a crime, but somehow an Iraqi judge found the time and money to investigate Mr. Chalabi.
The mystery is how any of this serves U.S. interests. Iraqis have now witnessed America turn quickly against, and even ransack the home of, one of its longtime allies. This will not make more of them eager to take our side.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, critics of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy are using the raid and the leaks as an excuse for demanding a purge of anyone who ever supported Mr. Chalabi. A Monday piece in the New York Times, based on more anonymous leaks, noted that "intelligence officials" are investigating "a handful of officials in Washington and Iraq who dealt regularly with Mr. Chalabi." Are they Iranian agents too?
We still believe Mr. Bush can succeed in Iraq. But the Chalabi fiasco is emblematic of the mistakes this White House has made in not deciding among its warring camps on Iraq policy, and in failing to exert any discipline on its factions at the CIA and the State Department that oppose Mr. Bush's policy. We don't know what role Iraqis will decide Mr. Chalabi should play in their future government -- perhaps it will be none. But we do know that the way for America to succeed in Iraq is not to make war on its friends.
Iran Operates 100 Military Contracts in Libya
May 26, 2004
Middle East Newsline
WASHINGTON -- The United States has found an extensive Iranian military presence in Libya. Western intelligence sources said a British-U.S. team that inspected Libyan facilities in late 2003 found evidence of nearly 100 military-related Iranian contracts in Libya. The sources said they include the development of missiles as well as conventional and nonconventional weapons.
"Iran has used Libya as a laboratory for Teheran's defense industry," an intelligence source said. "The United States found evidence of Iranian involvement in virtually every major Libyan weapons program."
Many of the Iranian projects in Libya focused on medium- and intermediate-range missile development, the sources said. They said a British-U.S. team that inspected Libyan facilities in October and December 2003 found an Iranian-built plant for the production of fuel for Libyan liquid-fuel missiles based on the Scud.
Russia, Iran set collision course
By Sergei Blagov
MOSCOW - Despite differences between Russia and the United States over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, Moscow is still moving toward forging a "partnership" with Iran, which has been labeled by US President George W Bush as part of an "axis of evil".
This month Russian President Vladimir Putin met with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi in Moscow and accepted an invitation to visit Tehran this year. Putin assured the Iranian chief diplomat that Iran remained Russia's "old and stable partner".
When US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton traveled to Moscow shortly afterward, he urged Russia not to supply nuclear fuel to Iran's Bushehr reactor until Tehran addressed international concerns that Iran might develop a nuclear-weapons program. Bolton told journalists in Moscow that "tactical" differences between the US and Russia remained over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
In response, after a meeting with Bolton, the head of Russia's Nuclear Power Agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, reiterated that Russia abided by international agreements banning the proliferation of nuclear technology.
Russia has long been under fire for its help in building the Bushehr nuclear plant on Iran's Persian Gulf coast. The US has insisted that the Russian technology could be used to develop nuclear weapons, but Moscow and Tehran argue that the plant will only be used for civilian purposes. Moscow has brushed off repeated US demands that it cancel Bushehr's 1,000-megawatt light-water nuclear-reactor project.
Russia has said it would freeze construction on the US$1 billion Bushehr plant and would not begin delivering fuel for the reactor until Iran signed an agreement that would oblige it to return all of the spent fuel to Russia for reprocessing and storage. This agreement was reported as close to being signed last September, but so far an agreement has failed to materialize fully.
This month Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced in Moscow that the issue of the return of the spent fuel to Russia had been solved. However, he conceded that "commercial" differences with Iran over the issue remained.
Last October, Russia announced a delay for the launch of the Bushehr nuclear reactor until 2005 and urged Tehran to improve disclosure of its nuclear plans. However, there has been no talk in Moscow about dropping the Bushehr project. Last week, Russia's Nuclear Power Agency reportedly indicated it would finish a nuclear reactor in Iran regardless.
For years, the Kremlin has resisted US pressure and declined to limit ties with Iran. In March 2001, Putin and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami signed a cooperation treaty. Subsequently, in October of that year, Moscow and Tehran signed framework agreements for $300 million to $400 million a year of Russian military supplies to Iran, including spare parts for Russian-made weapons, new fighter jets and possibly air-defense, ground-to-ground and anti-ship systems.
Apart from attempts to discourage Russia from fueling Iran's nuclear ambitions, the US has pursued its efforts to persuade Russia to join the US-backed non-proliferation initiative. The hawkish Bolton regularly visits Russia for non-proliferation talks. However, last week Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak announced after a meeting with Bolton that no agreement had been reached on Russia joining the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).
Moscow has so far refrained from a clear commitment to join the PSI. Russia is the only Group of Eight member that is yet to join the PSI, which was announced by Bush last May.
Apart from the Bushehr project, Russia has other interests in Iran. Last Thursday, top railway executives of Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan met in Moscow and agreed to build a Kazvin-Resht-Astara rail link connecting the three nations. Gennady Fadeyev, head of the state-run Russian Railways Co (RZD), pledged to build a $100 million, 340-kilometer link connecting Russia to the Persian Gulf via Azerbaijan and Iran. Fadeyev claimed that the link could funnel up to 20 million tons of freight to India and Pakistan.
Russia and Iran have long discussed the restoration of a rail link between the two countries as a viable alternative to Red Sea routes. This alternative transport link from Asia to Europe - from Mumbai to the Caspian port of Olya in the Astrakhan region via Bandar Abbas in Iran - is expected to bring Russia billions of dollars in revenues.
Russia, India and Iran signed an agreement on the development of this so-called North-South Corridor in September 2000. Russia estimates that the link could become a rival of the Suez Canal. Russia estimates that annual trade turnover through the corridor could reach $10 billion per year, with Russia and Iran becoming the main beneficiaries.
Meanwhile, Moscow's "partnership" with Tehran could prove double-edged, notably after Iran clinched a controversial gas deal with Russia's sole ally in the volatile Trans-Caucasus region, Armenia. In mid-May, Iran's minister of oil, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, traveled to Armenia and signed an agreement on the construction of a 114km Iran-Armenia gas pipeline that would cost $120 million. Iran reportedly agreed to supply 1.27 trillion cubic feet (36 billion cubic meters) to Armenia from 2007-27.
The Iran-Armenia pipeline could also be extended through Georgia to Ukraine and on to the European Union. The Iran-Armenia-Georgia-Ukraine-Europe gas pipeline, with a 550km underwater section from the Georgian port of Supsa to the Crimean town of Feodosia, has been estimated to cost $5 billion. The planned gas supply would amount to 2.12 trillion cubic feet (60 billion cubic meters) per annum, including 353 billion cubic feet (10 billion cubic meters) for Ukraine.
Russia has been wary that the extended pipeline could be used to funnel Iranian gas to European markets. It could also allow Turkmenistan to circumvent Russia's gas-pipeline network. However, Armenia is yet to make a decision on the extended pipeline.
Armenia is traditionally Russia's closest partner in the Caucasus. Sandwiched among hostile Azerbaijan and Turkey and volatile Georgia, Armenia has little option but to remain a supporter of Russia's geopolitical moves in the Caucasus. However, some divergent interests have emerged recently, notably Armenia's aspirations to limit its dependence on Russian energy supplies by building a gas pipeline from Iran to Europe. Therefore, Russia's "partnership" with Iran could have its limits after all, and not because of the United States.
Why does Sadr wear a "space saver" tire on his head?
No Way Out
May 26, 2004
National Review Online
Wake-up Call: Iran is at War with Us
Meet Hassan Abbasi, a well-known Iranian political scientist, longtime top official of the Revolutionary Guards, and currently "theoretician" in the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (how does one get a job description like that, I wonder) and the head of the National Security and Strategic Research Center. Abbasi holds special responsibility for North American affairs.
Apparently morale is very low in the ranks of the Basij, the group of fanatical thugs that do the regime's dirty work in the streets, things like beating up women whose scarves show too much hair, rounding up student protesters, and so forth. Friends of mine in Iran tell me that Basiji are becoming convinced that the regime's days are numbered, and they are understandably discouraged.
There is plenty of evidence that Iranians are utterly contemptuous of the regime, and are not afraid to demonstrate it. When the When the New York Times's Nicholas Kristof went to Iran a few weeks ago, he was astonished to meet Iranians in all walks of life who attacked the regime and told him he could use their names. And on May 18, the well-known university professor, Hashem Agajari, told an Iranian judge that he would not appeal his death sentence (for blasphemy, having said that the people should not be "apes to follow blindly whatever the mullahs say"). "Free me unconditionally or carry out the sentence," he said. As iran-press-service.com dryly remarked, Agajari had been banned for ten years from professional activities, "but (the court) did not say if the bans would take effect before or after the application of the death sentence."
Meanwhile, an outspoken journalist, Ensafali Hedayat, went on a hunger strike to protest his 18-month prison sentence for "insulting regime leaders and writing propaganda against the Islamic Republic."
Such demonstrations of contempt have strained the nerves of the regime's leaders, especially the judges. On May 25th, for example, Judge Mohseni-Ezhei attacked yet another journalist, Isa Saharkhiz, by "throwing two glass bowls at his head and then biting him on the lower abdomen."
So, last Sunday, Abbasi set out to restore the Basiji's enthusiasm for the Islamic Revolution. Speaking at the Technical College of Tehran, he made some amazing statements. "The infidels Western countries and America are the sworn enemies of God and Muslems and any action taken to terrorize them or frighten them is considered holy and a source of pride." Abbasi went on, "Lebanese Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas have all been trained by these hands," that is, Iranian hands.
Thus far, the usual jihadist rhetoric, although the specific confirmation of Iran's intimate links to three of the world's most lethal terrorist organizations was a bit unusual. But then he went on with a megalomanical vision that bears some attention. "We intend to withdraw $53 billion of Iranian and Arab investments from the U.S.A. and thus cause instability [in] its economy, we take pride that our actions have brought 1/9 of the budget deficit in America's economy this year and we shall keep up with our economic actions." The claim to have caused nearly ten percent of the American deficit probably refers to the rise in oil prices. But this was only the beginning of his promise to bring America to its knees.
"We have identified some 29 weak points for attacks in the U.S. and in the West, we intend to explode some 6,000 American atomic warheads, we have shared our intelligence with other guerilla groups and we shall utilize them as well. We have set up a department to cover England and we have had discussions regarding them[;] we have contacted the Mexicans and the Argentineans and will work with anyone who has an axe to grind with America."
Let's not quibble over the details, since I doubt Abbasi would be inclined to reveal chapter and verse about specific Iranian operations. His list of potential South American allies omits Venezuela, which actively cooperates with the terror masters, and the figure of 6,000 warheads targeted by Iranian-backed saboteurs is beyond the pale, even for a mullah. But when an official as authoritative as Abbasi tells the regime's loyalists in a closed meeting that Iran is sabotaging our economy and organizing terrorist attacks on our territory, you can take that to the bank.
Iranian operations inside the United States are of course an old story enemies of the revolution were killed here in the early 1980s and Iranians may even have been involved in the September 11 attacks. According to CNSNews.com, documents from the U.S. District Court in south Florida cite a government informer (and former Colombian drug smuggler) that his erstwhile partner in the drug business, an Iranian named Mehrzad Arbane, told the informer he had also smuggled people into the United States.
This sort of link between jihadis and conventional drug smuggling has long existed and available public evidence suggests it is getting even stronger. Little attention has been given to Spanish investigators' discovery that the terrorists who bombed Madrid on 3/11 had financed their operations by smuggling drugs into Spain. And a leading Italian judge recently announced that the "camorra," the infamous Neapolitan criminal organization, had worked hand-in-glove with Middle Eastern terrorists.
We can't wage war against terrorism without fighting the narcotraffickers as well. It's often impossible to say where the one ends and the other begins. And here again, the mullahs play an important role. Iran is a major conduit for Afghan poppy seeds and opium, and can easily place its terror agents within the drug caravans heading south and west. That long pipeline eventually arrives at America's borders, where, as Abbasi announced last Sunday, Iran is passionately courting our southern neighbors.
Perhaps Secretary of State Powell, who remains aloof from the life-and-death struggle for freedom in Iran, and his loyal deputy, Richard Armitage (who proclaims the Islamic Republic "a democracy") might study the remarks from Abbasi, and ask themselves if it is in our interest to have this hateful regime continue to attack us, even as they speed toward acquisition of atomic bombs.
You'd have thought this president, who has spoken so often and so well about his support for freedom in Iran, would have long since insisted that his administration develop a coherent policy to support the Iranian people's desire to rid themselves of these murderous mullahs. It hasn't happened. Moreover, President Bush eloquently and spontaneously condemns the mullahs in private conversations as well as in public speeches, yet he seems oddly detached from his State Department's slow mating dance with the black widows in Tehran.
Sooner or later we will be forced to fight back against the mullahs, because their war against us is driven by fanatical hatred of everything we stand for and the knowledge that their regime is doomed if we succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no escape from this war, whatever the appeasers in Foggy Bottom may think. We can win or lose, but we can't get out of it.