Iran sets up unit to recruit suicide bombers
By JOSEPH NASR
May. 28, 2004 17:42
The Iranian Intelligence services have established a special unit to recruit suicide bombers around the world and "dispatch them to Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon," the pan-Arab newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Friday.
The head of "The Martyrs of the Resurrection of Worldwide Islam," which replaces a unit in the Revolutionary Guards known as the "department for the revolutionary freedom movements," has been assigned the task of registering the names of suicidal volunteers from all over the Arab and Islamic world.
According to al-Sharq al-Awsat, the unit has been set up by Iranian extremists who oppose President Khatami's "liberal" policy, which calls for dialogue with Western countries like the United States and Britain.
In a tape-recorded message obtained by al-Sharq al-Awsat, the unit's commander vows to liberate Iraq and the rest of the Islamic world from foreign occupation.
MANY KILLED IN IRAN QUAKE
A strong earthquake has killed at least 25 people in northern Iran, less than six months after a devastating tremor virtually levelled the city of Bam.
The quake struck about 5pm local time, and was believed to be around 6.1 on the Richter scale.
The epicentre was in the Mazandaran province town of Baladeh, around 70b kilometres north of Tehran, and reportedly caused major damage to at least 80 villages in one of the worst-hit regions.
Around 150 others were believed injured in the rural and mountainous area, according to an official spokesman for the Mazandaran provincial government.
"Most people were killed on the road by landslides caused by the earthquake," said the spokesman.
The quake also affected several settlements in Ghazvine province, killing two and wounding four.
Around 30 homes were reportedly destroyed.
In December a massive quake measuring 6.7 hit the south-eastern Iranian city of Bam, killing an estimated 26,000 people.
Iran lies on a major seismic fault line and quakes are common.
In the past century Iran has suffered around 20 major quakes, leaving more than 140,000 dead.
Bassijis Clash With Police Outside British Embassy in Iran
May 28, 2004, 23:08
Bassijis demonstrators clashed violently with security forces Friday as they again tried to storm the British embassy in Tehran.
Riot police made several baton charges to push back a crowd of 200-300 bassji protestors trying to push their way towards the main gate of the embassy compound. Several demonstrators were hurt, while the crowd threw stones and firecrackers at the embassy.
It was the sixth such demonstration against the British embassy in 11 days in protest at the actions of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, in which Britain is a key component. The demonstrators, mainly young fanatic Islamists, are particularly incensed by reports of the profanation of Shiite holy sites in Iraq by coalition forces.
Iran's Nuclear Program Reaches Critical Juncture
The country's evident pursuit of an atomic bomb tests a new, more aggressive IAEA
Why would Iran, a country that has some of the world's largest reserves of fossil fuels, need an extensive, multibillion-dollar program of nuclear development? Since the prerevolutionary years of the Shah, the determination of this country to build nuclear power plants has aroused wide suspicion.
But now, a series of revelations and new findings during the last year has left little doubt that Iran has been secretly engaged in an extensive program aimed at making and working with material that can be used in nuclear weapons. Indeed, the Iranians have been assembling the nuclear wherewithal with a speed and determination not seen since the heyday of Iraq's infamous nuclear weapons program of the 1980s.
Iran's questoccurring in a region radically transformed by global terrorist networks and suicide tactics, which are fueled by deep-rooted hatreds and intractable grievancestests the will of the international community to block weapons development by non-nuclear nations. And at the center of that test will be a revamped, more aggressive International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna, Austria-based arm of the United Nations that monitors compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It is the IAEA that must determine whether Iran is truly cleaning up its act or whether drastic international action is necessarya job that is stretching its resources and resourcefulness to the limit.
Since the 1991 Gulf War, the agency has been quietly transforming itself, as fast as a bureaucracy of 2200 can, to burnish a reputation tarnished by its failure in the 1980s to detect Saddam Hussein's once-huge secret nuclear weapons program. On a visit to the IAEA in April, this reporter, who worked there as an intern three decades ago, found an organization much more energetic than the sleepy backwater it was in June 1974, even after India's test of a so-called peaceful nuclear explosive just the month before.
Basically, the IAEA operates the world's most elaborate tripwire system: when a country takes steps to obstruct or impede inspections, or has not reported something it should have reported, or is found doing something it claimed it wasn't doing, that trips an alarm. Today, at IAEA headquarters, it's as if sirens were blaring and red lights were flashing all over the building.
THE IAEA'S KEY FINDINGS about Iran are in reports released in March 2004 and November 2003, with the next important one due this month. In November, the IAEA concluded that Iran's nuclear program consists of practically everything needed to fuel a reactor or in effect to produce materials for bombs, "including uranium mining and milling, conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication, and heavy water production."
Further, the November report said, following up on allegations first made by Iranian dissidents the year before, "Iran has now acknowledged that it has been developing, for 18 years, a uranium centrifuge enrichment program, and, for 12 years, a laser enrichment program."
In short, the director general told the IAEA board, summarizing the agency's findings, "It is clear that Iran has failed in a number of instances over an extended period of time to meet its obligations [under the NPT]."
The IAEA reports are remarkably detailed, blunt, and damaging, considering that they emanate from an organization that has been fighting a reputation for bureaucratic torpor for decades [see box, "Can They Agree?"]. The most disturbing of the revelations are those concerning Iran's enrichment capabilities. Its assets, at Natanz, include a centrifuge pilot plant capable of churning out about 12 kilograms of bomb-grade material a yearnot quite enough for a simple bombas well as a large, commercial-scale plant still under construction. The larger plant, to be situated in a hardened bunker 20 meters underground, could produce as much as half a ton to a ton of weapons-grade material a year [see photo, "Spin Cycle"]. Iran is also known to have operated a more technologically sophisticated laser-enrichment pilot plant a few years ago, producing small amounts of lightly enriched uranium.
Ironically, had Iran declared all those activities to the IAEA and allowed inspectors to inspect the materials, nothing it did would have been illegal under the terms of the NPT, which guarantees members the right to pursue all plausible peaceful nuclear activities. So why did it keep so many of its activities secret, getting itself into hot water now? "Because it's a nuclear weapons program," says Robert Einhornthe U.S. State Department's top proliferation specialist in the Clinton administrationwith an air of stating the obvious.
In their defense, Iranian officials [see photo, "Power Trio"] argue that they have conducted some nuclear activities secretly because they are under economic embargo and subject to preemptive strikes from hostile countries like Israel and the United States. They often have responded petulantly to the IAEA's intrusive queries, asking why such a fuss is being made over tiny quantities of suspect materials, none actually ready for use in a nuclear weapon. They insist that they just want to be able to fuel a 1000-megawatt power reactor being built with Russian assistance at Bushehr.
But none of that really explains satisfactorily why they felt everything had to be done in secret and in clear violation of treaty commitments. "The pattern and scope of [Iran's] violations have been quite unique in the agency's experience," a senior safeguards manager at the IAEA told IEEE Spectrum.
THE CRITICAL ELEMENTS of Iran's nuclear program include not just the enrichment plants at Natanz but also plans to start building this month a 3040MW natural-uranium-fueled, heavy-water research reactor, with all associated equipment. The reactor could produce weapons-grade plutonium, although Iranian officials insist it will be used only to produce isotopes for medical andindustrial purposes.
Last October, when the foreign ministers of England, France, and Germany paid an emergency visit to Tehran, the Iranian leadership agreed to suspend construction of the commercial-scale enrichment plant, which would have had 50 000 centrifuges. If Iran used just a fraction of that capacity to produce weapons-grade uranium, it could get enough fissile material for several atomic bombs per year, points out David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, in Washington, D.C.
The IAEA says Iran did not agree last October to change plans for the heavy-water reactor, which Iran says is needed to replace a reactor going out of service. When complete, the plant could be fueled and operated without any foreign assistance or supplies, and, if optimized for production of weapons-grade plutonium, it could produce enough material for roughly one atomic bomb per year.
In the meantime, IAEA inspectors have found some evidence that could suggest actual weapons-related work, but it is tenuous. More seriously, it has found traces of uranium enriched to higher levels34 and 56 percent uranium-235than is consistent with Iran's latest declarations. Those levels are considerably higher than the 2 or 3 percent enrichment typical of power-reactor fuel. Iran's leadership, queried on the subject, claims that the traces came into the country as contamination on used nuclear processing equipment supplied by the underground Pakistani network masterminded by A.Q. Khan [see box, "Unprecedented Collusion"]. Khan, now exposed and defanged, stole European centrifuge technology, made it the basis of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, and then sold it worldwide, apparently for profit.
So a main focus of IAEA inspection efforts during the past two months has been to determine whether the various enrichment levels of the uranium particles found in a number of places in Iran are consistent with the enrichment levels usual in Pakistan's program. To reach a conclusion, the agency needs to know more about Pakistan's activities and acquire environmental samples in Pakistan, which prompted an unusual in-person request by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to President George W. Bush in mid-March. ElBaradei wants the United States to lean harder on its shaky ally in the battle against terrorism to provide the needed information.
Bizarrely, if the IAEA is able to conclude that the enriched uranium particles indeed originated in black-market deals between Pakistan and Iran, that will be the good news. The bad news will be if it turns out that Iran enriched the uranium itself, contrary to its latest supposedly complete and honest declarations, in which it claims not to have actually done any enrichment. If the IAEA becomes convinced that Iran produced the material itself, the agency will have little choice but to go to the U.N. Security Council for action, the logical consequences being new international sanctions against Iran, defiance on the part of Iran's leadership, and then Iran's withdrawal from the NPT. Freed from those treaty obligations, Iran would surely present a problem considerably worse than the one the IAEA and its lead member states are struggling with today.
THE IAEA'S ABILITY TO COPE with the demands now being put on it was decisively affected by the first Gulf War, which led to the revelationutterly contrary to the agency's expectationsof Iraq's huge secret nuclear weapons program. The impact on the agency, says one of its senior legal specialists, was "like a religious experience that makes you change faith."
The most important single effect was the agency's formulation of the so-called additional protocol. Drawing on language in the basic IAEA safeguards implementation document but stretching it to the limit, the additional protocol gives inspectors the right to conduct "short-notice" inspections of any site in a member state that they consider suspect. It also allows them to take environmental samples anywhere they goswabs put in carefully labeled and coded sealed plastic bagsthat are then analyzed in a state-of-the-art clean-room laboratory set up in 1995 at Seibersdorf, Austria, about a half hour from agency headquarters. Using such devices as electron scanning microscopes and mass spectrometers, researchers can evaluate the little wipes, zero in on areas, and even lift tiny particles for the closest scrutiny.
Iranian Nobelist Nixes Appearance At PAC Dinner
New York Sun - By Eli Lake
May 28, 2004
Iranian Nobel Peace-prize winning lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, canceled her appearence last night before the Iranian American Political Action Committee dinner, where she was scheduled to win an award for advocacy work in the Islamic republic.
Her last minute cancellation left members of the newly formed PAC scratching their heads.
"we really don't know why she did not show up" Robert Babayi, a trustee for the organization, told the New York Sun yesterday. "We are as disappointed as anyone".
One volunteer for the group told the Sun that she believed Ms. Ebadi canceled because the organization raises money for candidates for Congress and she has to return to Iran, which would look down on any possible association with the American government.
A Washington-based engineer, Nasser Rahimi, said he would like to think a national campaign from democracy activists was one reason why she did not attend.
"She has been talking so much about the political prisoners at Guantanamo bay. But she never says anything about the political prisoners in her home country of Iran," he told the Sun. "She is representing the Mullahs."
One of Mr. Rahimi's associates, Ali Mohri, at one point tried to cross into the reception area of the hotel. Mr. Babayi quickly called over security guards and had him escorted away. "I have a problem with what IAPAC represents. They are basically trying to open up doors to the Mullahs. I can't believe Ms. Ebadi would speak with them."
IAPAC takes no position on America's relationship with Iran and raises money for both Democrats and Republicans.
One of the Pac's founders, Hassan Nemazee, is a close adviser to Senator Kerry's presidential campaign and has sued Iranian democracy activist Aryo Pirouznia for defamation of character, after he published on the Web stories alleging Mr. Nemazee of having links to the Iranian regime.
"I asked my attorney to contact Aryo Pirouznia to say we have nothing to do with the Islamic republic. I asked him to stop," he told the Sun yesterday. "But he did not."
IRANS NEW MAJLES STARTS WORK WITH SHOUTS OF DEATH TO THE US
Posted Friday, May 28, 2004
TEHRAN, 28 May (IPS) The new Iranian Majles, or Parliament, dominated by the conservatives and independent deputies was officially inaugurated on Thursday with shouts of death to America, making the usually austere ceremonies the first ever highly politicised one.
This despite the fact that the new MMs (Members of the Majles) had, during their campaigning, wowed they would abstain from engaging in futile political recriminations paying more and due attention to addressing peoples real demands, clear reference to the last reformists-controlled Majles the conservatives would often accuse of being too politically-motivated and wasting too much of its time in debating matters not the peoples bread.
This had been highlighted by Ayatollah Ali Khamenehi, the leader of the Islamic Republic in his lengthy inaugural message to the new Majles, accusing the outgoing reformist MMs of having played into the hand of the Americans out of ignorance.
The event was marred from the outset after some angry MMs shouted against Hojjatoleslam Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari, the Interior Minister, who, in a speech, reminded that many of the new deputies have occupied their seats thanks to the Council of the Guardians that had disqualified hundreds of reformist candidates.
Conservatives won Iran's controversial general elections in February after thousands of reformist candidates were disqualified from standing by the leader controlled Council of the Guardians.
From a total of 290 seats in the new parliament, about 190 belong to the conservatives. The reformists, who dominated the previous chamber, have only about 50 seats.
To cool down the atmosphere, some deputies proposed anti-American slogans be shouted loudly. His suggestion was immediately welcomed with a big death to America from the audience.
This is the first time that the inauguration ceremonies of a Majles under the 25 years of the Islamic Republic regime becomes overtly political at a time that the new deputies had been told and even warned to stay away from politics, one Iranian analyst noted.
For his part, Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, the lamed and powerless President whom the Guardians had done everything to stop the reforms he had promised the nation upon his first election in May 1997 hoped that he would work with the new parliament in a friendly atmosphere.
Reflecting on the outgoing Majles, Mohammad Qoochani, the Editor of the pro-reform daily Sharq wrote on Thursday taking into account all considerations, the sixth Majles was by far the most democratic in the 25 year life of the Islamic Republic.
But other dissidents like the Paris-based Ali Keshtgar said though the reformists are to blame for their defeat, yet one has to agree that the reform movement lacked bold leadership at the top. Unfortunately, Mr. Khatami was not the man for the job, he told the Persian service of BBC.
The conservative deputies who now dominate again the Majles had earlier nominated Mr. Qolamali Haddad Adel as the new Speaker.
It is the first time that a non-turbaned personality becomes Speaker since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Due to the importance of the position in Iran's power structure, the ruling clergy never trusted anybody outside their own ranks to assume it.
An academic, -- he is a professor of literature and philosophy at Tehran University -- and leader of the minority conservative faction in the outgoing Mr. Haddad-Adel is also an in-law of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, whos son is married to the daughter of Mr. Haddad Adel.
He famously said that the main objective of the conservatives now was to turn Iran into an "Islamic Japan".
"Whether or not they have a particular program for [the economy], at least I'm not aware [of one]," Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of political science at Tehran University told Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty, "but certainly, they have been arguing, and they have been advocating so much for economic reforms and improving the standard of living, [about] doing something about the huge number of unemployed that Iran is having at the moment and controlling the prices."
But times are changing and now there is a new generation of conservatives who are as dedicated to the Islamic system of government as the official custodians of religion themselves, commented Mr. Sadeq Saba of the BBC.
The selection of a non-cleric as head of the legislature is also an attempt to give a new image to the Islamic republic, where people often complain that clerics are keeping all-important positions of power for themselves, he added.
Mr Haddad-Adel has tried to give the conservatives a moderate image since their controversial victory in April, but the opening ceremonies strengthened the fear of some analysts forecasting harder time for the dissidents in particular and the population in general.
In a recent interview, Haddad Adel said the new parliament will focus on people's day-to-day problems. In an interview published on his party's website, he said: "People are suffering from costly life expenses, high rents, unemployment, drug addiction, and traffic problems, particularly in Tehran."
Undeliberately though, the new MMs took off the mask, showing the people, the press, the intellectuals, the scholars and above all the dissidents what might expect them if they cross the many red lines set by the ruling minority establishment, pointed out another commentator.
Analysts say it is not coincidence that at the same time, Radio and Television get a new boss known for his total allegiance to the leader while the military from the Revolutionary Guards are playing a more prominent role in the political life of the nation.
They were referring to the appointment of Mr. Ezzatollah Zarqami, a former Guards commander and the fact that there are more than 30 former officers seating in the new parliament.
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