Skip to comments.Iranian Alert -- June 23, 2004 [EST]-- IRAN LIVE THREAD -- "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
Posted on 06/22/2004 9:00:18 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.
BACK TO OLD DEMONS, THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC BID FAREWLL TO DÉTENTE
By Safa Haeri
Posted Tuesday, June 22, 2004
PARIS, 22 June (IPS) By giving free arena to new hard line voices connected to the ruling conservatives, the regime is returning to its former demons of the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, saying goodbye to the era of détente initiated by President Mohammad Khatami, according to Dr. Qasem Sholeh Sadi, a former Member of the Majles now leading the movement of Iranian neo-reformists.
Commenting for the Persian service of Radio France International (RFI) recent declarations by a certain Dr. Hasan Abbasi, an ideologue for the Revolutionary Guards and animator of the so-called Centre For Recruiting Suicide Volunteers threatening some Persian Gulf emirates, Mr. Sholeh Sadi, a respected lawyer and university professor said such statements demonstrates the regimes desire and tendency to renew with a policy of generalised antagonism.
In a meeting with some newly recruits, Dr. Abbasi, who is sitting in the new conservative-dominated Majles as a representative of the Ansar Hezbollah, a pressure group controlled by hard liners warned Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar not to become a base of the enemies of the Islamic Republic or they would face a deluge of Iranian bullets.
The Centre for Recruiting Suicide Volunteers aims at organising Muslim volunteers to fight the Americans and other infidel forces in Iraq and elsewhere in the Muslim world by the mean of suicide operations.
According to Mr. Abbasi, the Centre has already listed thousands of volunteers and aims at recruiting at least 40 millions, ready to go on the battle front the moment Ayatollah Khameneh'i decides.
He said the Centre has designated 29 objectives, including some in the United States. The list of the targets has also been passed on to other (terrorist) organisations around the world and they could be hit by the suicide volunteers who had been trained for the purposes, he indicated.
Attacking also liberal democracy, Mr. Abbasi said, We have to uproot liberal democracy from the face of the world to prepare the ground for the return of Mahdi (Shia Muslims twelfth and last imam who went into hiding more than a thousands years ago at the age of eight).
With the reformists out of the race and President Khatami becoming a virtual yes man of the conservatives in the one hand and clouds getting darker over the head of the Islamic Republic, the regime is facing serious challenges and threats from both outside and inside, Mr. Sholeh Sadi told RFI.
The author of a famous open letter written more than a year to Mr. Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the Islamic Republic questioning both his clerical rank by addressing to him as Hojjatoleslam rather than the usual Ayatollah and his domestic and foreign policies, particularly his stubborn opposition to any dialogue with Washington, Mr. Sholeh Sadi who now is launching the Party of Iranians for Democracy with fellow companions like Dr. Mohammad Mohsen Sazegara, was jailed for forty days on charges of activities against the regime and offences to the leader.
Pointing out to the recent harsh Resolution approved by the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency on the initiative of Britain, France and Germany and the Dublin-sponsored statement by the 25-members European Union deploring Irans lack of clear-cut and full cooperation with the Vienna-based IAEA and the worsening condition of human rights, Mr. Sholeh Sadi warned that by taking wrong decisions and making wrong policies, the hard liners have laid down the bed for foreign menaces. Seemingly, this what they are after, now than they have no more friends nowhere in the world.
Statements by people like Mr. Abbasi is part of the new policies adopted by the conservatives. It is part of the carrot and stick, as seen with the IAEA. In the one hand, and considering that Abbasi and company are connected to the hard liners, they send messages to the world leaders. But at the same time, they can always retreat back, saying the threatening declarations are made by independent people with no official responsibilities, he commented.
Though the new MMs, -- the great majority of them approved by the leader-controlled Council of the Guardians that had barred hundreds of reformist candidates from running for the last Legislative race that took place on February had been told not to become political like the last parliament meddling with national and foreign policies and pay more attention to peoples real problems, such as job and security, but they started work with shouts of down to America and continued with menacing the international nuclear watchdog of getting Iran out of the Non Proliferation Treaty and not signing the Additional Protocol to the NPT, as promised by Tehran last October.
These people are hand picked by the Council of the Guardians and the conservatives and they have to respond to what the ruling hard liners expects them to do, Mr. Sholeh Sadi went on, predicting more difficult times ahead for the Iranian people and in Irans relations with the international community.
However, the more they increase oppressions and crackdowns, the more they antagonise the world outside, the more they get unpopular hat home and the more isolated abroad, hastening their own count down, he concluded.
ENDS SHOLEH SADI COMMENTS 22604
Walking Back the Chalabi Cat
By Daniel Pipes
FrontPageMagazine.com | June 22, 2004
The Iranian government learned recently that American intelligence has deciphered its codes and can read its mail. This is a blow to U.S. interests, for it means losing the ability to access the enemys confidential communications, with all the advantages that offers.
Who is to blame for this development?
Ahmad Chalabi the Iraqi politician whom I have known, worked with, supported, and admired since 1991 has for the past month sat in the hot seat, accused by unnamed intelligence officials of informing the Iranian regime that its codes had been cracked.
Chalabi denies the accusation, saying that he and his organization, the Iraqi National Congress, have not received any classified information from the U.S. government. For what it is worth, the Iranians also deny that Chalabi told them about U.S. code breaking.
Thinking this through logically, I conclude that Chalabi is not responsible for the damage to U.S. interests; rather, the blame falls on his opponents in the Central Intelligence Agency and State Department. Here is my logic, a form of walking back the cat (spook-speak, defined by William Safire as applying what is now known to the actions and events of a previous time).
To begin with, I make three assumptions: First, that the reaction in Washington (which includes possible criminal prosecutions) bespeaks sincerity and confirms that U.S. cryptographers did indeed crack the Iranian codes. Second, that Tehran interprets the U.S. reaction as proof that its codes were cracked. Third, that it is taking the necessary steps to regain secrecy.
One possibility is that Chalabi told the Iranians nothing. In which case, the allegation that he did so originated elsewhere:
· Perhaps State or the CIA made it up. (Plausible: Time magazine has documented how since April, the White House has been attempting to marginalize Chalabi.)
· Or the Iranians floated it to check if their codes were broken. (Plausible: It would explain why they used that same code to tell about the code break.)
Or Chalabi did tell them that Washington had cracked the code. In which case:
· Perhaps he made this up and just happened to be right. (Plausible: Chalabi reportedly took steps in 1995 to trick the Iranians.)
· Or he thought he was providing disinformation but actually was telling the truth. (Unlikely: Too convoluted.)
· Or he knowingly divulged classified information. (Unlikely: Why should the Americans give Chalabi, a British subject known to be in close contact with the Iranian regime, a crown jewel of U.S. state secrets?)
Whichever scenario actually took place, the implication is identical: the brouhaha in D.C., not what Chalabi did or did not say, signaled Tehran that the Americans broke their code.
Thats because anyone can assert that the code was cracked, but why should he be believed? The Iranians surely would not accept Chalabis assertion on its own and go to the huge trouble and expense of changing codes because of his say-so. They would seek confirmation from U.S. intelligence; and this is what the unnamed sources who leaked this story did they supplied that proof. Their fury at Chalabi instructed the Iranians to change codes.
In the end, what Chalabi did or did not do is nearly irrelevant; his detractors in the U.S. government, ironically, bear the onus for having informed the Iranian opponent about a vital piece of intelligence.
Americans might pay heavily for the rank irresponsibility of those in State and the agency who publicly confirmed the code break as part of their turf wars with the Defense Department and, more broadly, their fight with the so-called neoconservatives.
On this latter point, note how gleefully elements of the American press exploited the allegations against Chalabi. To take one example of many, the Los Angeles Times on June 10 published A Tough Time for Neocons, which states that neoconservatives are under siege partly because, in a grave threat to their reputation, Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi is enmeshed in an FBI investigation of alleged intelligence leaks that supplied secrets to Iran.
Were the press properly doing its duty, it would stop playing the Washington favorites game and investigate the likely damage Chalabis opponents have done. Were State and CIA managements doing their job, they would be punishing the elements who conveyed a vital secret to the militant Islamic government in Iran.
Daniel Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures (Transaction Publishers).
Mystery surrounds Jean Chretien's possible visit to Iran
AFP - World News (via Yahoo)
Jun 22, 2004
MONTREAL - A possible visit to Iran by former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien in his capacity as adviser to oil company Petrokazakhstan remains wrapped in silence here.
If it takes place this month as scheduled, it will occur ahead of a trial in Tehran of a man accused of the murder of Canadian-Iranian journalist Zahra Kazemi.
"We are aware of his plans to go there" in his personal capacity, said a Canadian Foreign Ministry official.
But his new employer, Calgary-based Petrokazakhstan, declined to confirm or deny the plans.
"I will not comment about Jean Chretien's private life," said Ihor Wasylkiw, the company's vice president for investor relations. "It is not uncommon for our people to go to Iran."
But the planned visit that was first reported by The Globe and Mail last month has drawn criticism from the son of Kazemi, who died in detention in Tehran last year.
"Your failure to ensure justice was served in the case of my mother, Zahra Kazemi, - who was murdered by the Iranian regime while you were prime minister - has apparently paid off: you are now most welcome in Tehran," Stephanen Hachemi wrote in an open letter to Chretien.
An Iranian intelligence agent accused of killing Kazemi goes on trial July 17.
Iran has always dreamt of dominating the Middle East
By John Keegan
The least desired complication to the current situation in Iraq is a dispute with Iran over the Shatt al Arab waterway.
The Shatt al Arab, formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers above Basra, is the most important waterway at the head of the Gulf. It has also traditionally been a source of contention between Iraq and Iran, marking as it does the international frontier between their territories.
During the early 20th century, when the dominant power in the Middle East was European, Iraq was brought to agree that the legal frontier should run along the Thalweg, a German term meaning the line running along the deepest point of the river bed.
Iran, historically the most important local power, never accepted the Thalweg and, with the decline of European influence in the Middle East, exerted pressure on Iraq to redraw the frontier, so that it followed the bank of the Shatt al Arab on the Iraqi side. At the height of his power, the last Shah of Iran was able to force Saddam Hussein in 1975 to agree to the alignment.
Saddam was at the time only vice-president of Iraq, though still the power behind the throne. After his seizure of full power in 1979, he proceeded to undertake military operations against Iran. One of his motives was to deter the Khomeini regime, which had overthrown the Shah, from making trouble among its Shia co-religionists in Iraq's south. Another was to regain the Thalweg in the Shatt al Arab.
The resulting war lasted from 1980 to 1988, caused hundreds of thousands of casualties and resulted in Khomeini conceding defeat. In the aftermath, Iraq reverted to regarding the Thalweg as the international frontier.
By operating patrol craft in the waterway, British Marines have inadvertently fallen into a dispute that does not concern them. They were simply proceeding with a programme to train Iraqi river police and deliver suitable equipment to them.
They have now been arrested by Iranian security forces on grounds not yet specified. It is not even clear what sort of Iranian security troops are responsible - the Iranian regular forces or the religious militia. There is a difference. The regular forces operate by rules understood in the West. The religious militia have motives that baffle Westerners.
If Iran's regular forces are involved, the incident can probably be settled quite swiftly, by a Western admission that a mistake has been made. If the religious militia are responsible, negotiations may be more complex and the timetable protracted.
There are two foreseeable dimensions. One concerns Iranian interest in the welfare of their Shia co-religionists in Basra and its surrounding districts. At a moment when the future of Iraq's national government is being decided, the religious regime in Iran may well be seeking measures to ensure that the political, cultural and religious rights of the Shia in Iraq's southern regions are properly respected.
It is difficult to perceive how the arrest of eight Royal Marines could be used to ensure such an outcome. The thought processes of Islamic fundamentalists are difficult to discern, however, and we may have to accept that we are in for a protracted confrontation on the issue.
The other dimension concerns Iran's nuclear programme. For several decades, nuclear military power was concentrated in America, the old Soviet Union, Britain, France and China. In the past decade, nuclear military power has spread into the southern half of the northern hemisphere.
Israel is known to be a nuclear power, though unacknowledged as such. India and Pakistan have become acknowledged nuclear powers, though thankfully moving towards an accommodation that precludes the use of their nuclear weapons. Iraq sought to become a nuclear power. Its ambition was frustrated by the Israeli raid on the Osirak reactor in 1981 and the subsequent regime of sanctions imposed by the United Nations.
Iran also seeks to become a nuclear power. Though it denies its ambition, that is understandable, given its propinquity to Pakistan, India and Israel. Its ambition is also understandable in political and social terms. Iran, with nearly 60 million people, is one of the largest societies in the Middle East.
Historically, it has been a dominant regional power and today it is one of the region's most advanced. An optimistic Western assessment is that its young people reject its religious government and would welcome liberation from the ayatollahs. A more realistic judgment is that, while Iranian youth seeks liberation, it does so within an Islamic context.
It would be a delusion for Westerners, therefore, to suppose that condemnation by the International Atomic Energy Agency of Iran's programme to proceed with nuclear enrichment - leading to its achieving, by perhaps as early as 2006, a nuclear weapon - is likely to acquire domestic endorsement. The contrary seems more likely.
Iran, historically, is a great power. It is, in actual terms, one of the most advanced societies outside the Western world. National pride will encourage the Iranians to become a nuclear power. Western efforts to prevent it doing so risk being counterproductive.
Current events in the Shatt al Arab are neither here nor there. If the West does not wish Iran to become a nuclear power, it will have to take braver steps than hitherto, as it will also have to do against North Korea.
Iran counts on depleted U.S. forces
By PHILIP GOLD
"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just ...."
And that our enemies can count.
Thomas Jefferson's nervousness remains as apt today as when he first expressed it in 1774. Of more immediate concern is the fact that our enemies -- Iran, especially -- can count.
The relevant arithmetic:
Today, nine of 10 active Army divisions are in Iraq or Afghanistan or back and recovering for the next deployment. The Army reserve and National Guard grow ever more exhausted. The Marines, always overstretched, have taken on additional Iraq duties. In short, the United States has no combat-ready strategic ground reserve.
And while it is true that in an emergency, you go with what you've got, air and sealift shortfalls make it virtually impossible to move those forces in less than several months while still maintaining the current ventures.
This situation was eminently predictable, and for more reasons than the fact that occupation/counter-insurgency missions can be horrendously people-intensive. Ten years ago, the Clinton administration drew bitter mirth from the defense community when it announced that the United States could fight two simultaneous major regional conflicts, presumably in Korea and the Middle East, and win. After several seasons of the two-MRC sitcom, the administration decided to try a sequel: changing MRC to MTW (major theater war) and "simultaneous" to "overlapping time frames."
It mattered not. Any competent sergeant, and most generals, could tell you that our limited capabilities would permit us to fight one war while deterring the other with air and sea power or, failing that, applying the bombs and cruise missiles lavishly. That's still our de facto strategy, especially regarding North Korea, where we're moving troops off the border and withdrawing at least one brigade for Iraq duty.
Unfortunately, our fleet now numbers less than 300 ships, smallest since the 1930s. This month, the Navy undertakes "Summer Pulse 04," an exercise keeping seven aircraft carrier strike groups out of 12 at sea simultaneously, a feat considered impossible only a few years ago. It's a magnificent effort -- and a magnificent symbol of a Navy now far too small. As for the Air Force, it no longer maintains the frenetic operating tempo of the '90s. But those planes that got so overworked patrolling Iraqi no-fly zones and bombing the Balkans, haven't grown any younger. Adequate numbers of replacement aircraft are still years away.
In sum, with our ground forces occupied and strategically immobile, the Air Force and the Navy have a lot of deterring to do. Sad to say, not even the most technologically advanced aircraft or ship can be in more than one or two places at once.
In mid-June, Arab media reported that Iran had moved four divisions to the Iraqi border, along with the usual missiles. Iran, be it noted, also possesses a nasty array of anti-ship missiles and mines.
Now posit an Iraq in violent disarray this summer, or an Iraq getting ready to explode into a set of anti-American insurrections and civil vendettas and wars. An Iranian cross-border "incursion-in-force" could well intensify the in-country strife -- or trigger it. Perhaps the Iranians take a couple northeastern towns, settle in and dare us to respond. Do we send the already overengaged Army in? Or do we summon the Navy and the Air Force? And if so, how much and from where and for how long? And if we find ourselves having to tie down additional forces after it's over, how do we keep the world, and especially the North Koreans, from noticing?
Would Iran do this? Perhaps. In the Islamic world, the borders that matter aren't always the borders on U.S. maps. In the Islamic world, challenging and hurting America constitute victory. And war can always be used by the ayatollahs to justify more domestic repression in that restive land. Iran has much to gain from a limited cross-border incursion.
And so do the neoconservatives. Some, such as Michael Ledeen, have long argued that "regime change" must include Tehran, Damascus and Riyadh. For them, "Cauldronize the Middle East" is a slogan and a goal, not a fear. Nearly all the neo-cons favor dramatically increased defense spending. Perhaps they're also salivating over possible resumption of the draft. (The Selective Service System must notify the president by March 31, 2005, that it's ready for activation.)
Whether neo-con fantasies represent administration policy is hard to tell; so is the degree of their actual influence. What is clear is that both Iran and the neo-cons have their reasons for welcoming a limited expansion of the war.
After all, as a venerable Beltway proverb has it: Sometimes nothing succeeds like the right kind of failure. And what's true, or at least expedient in Washington, D.C., can also be true in Tehran.
CULTURE OF HATE [Excerpt]
By AMIR TAHERI
June 22, 2004 -- HOURS after Paul Johnson's decapitated body was shown Friday in Riyadh, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz announced that government forces had killed the man responsible for the murder, Abdul-Aziz al-Mouqrin, and two of his accomplices.
"This crime was committed by a handful of deviants," the prince said.
A few deviants? Hardly.
The tragedy that struck Johnson is the product of a culture of hatred, arrogance and cruelty built over decades by the Saudi society.
To be sure, this does not mean that all Saudis think or would, if given the opportunity, behave as the killers did. But there is no escaping the fact that they do bear part of the responsibility, if only by providing the socio-cultural topos in which terrorism thrives.
Until recently, Saudi textbooks taught schoolchildren to regard non-Muslims as sub-humans who did not deserve the same respect due to "true believers," that is to say the followers of the officially approved Hanbali brand of Islam.
For decades, Saudi society has been obsessed with what could only be described as religious exhibitionism.
The nouveaux riches have tried to secure a place in the next world by building mosques, some 4,000 in Riyadh alone, and by contributing to so-called "Islamic causes."
What can only be described as a "religion industry" employs more muftis, preachers, teachers, enforcers, muezzins and theologians than the oil industry that produces 80 percent of the nation's income. Saudi universities churn out more "religious scholars" each year than doctors and engineers.
The state has spent an estimated $100 billion on "Islamic" causes since the mid '70s. No doubt part of the money went to humanitarian causes and the financing of development projects in the poorer Muslim countries. But there is also no doubt that vast sums of money were funneled to radical organizations that believe they have a mission to conquer the world for Islam through terrorism and war.
Today, the Saudi authorities insist that no more government money is going to terrorist groups. This may be true. After all, the Saudi rulers now realize that the ultimate aim of the monster they helped create is to devour them. But what about wealthy Saudi individuals who, either to buy personal protection or because they wish the ruling family to be overthrown, continue to fund the terrorists?
The problem goes beyond textbooks and ready money for terror. The average Saudi citizen is subjected to systematic Islamist brainwashing.
Thanks (again) for the work you do on these threads.
I can only hope the Mullahs are overthrown SOON. They are very close to starting a war that could cause a lot of damage to a nation I hope we can be friends with instead.
As I am sure the Mullahs know, war could unify the Iranians behind the Mullahs. It could even be their only way to cling to power.
In a poll months ago, long before the brush up between Chalabi & the "US", the Iraqi's placed Chalabi as the most mistrusted pol in their nation. Don't know if the visible break up with him was done to inspire confidence in him among the people or if it was the real deal. Be nice to know what everyone's end game was. lol
This just in from a student inside of Iran...
As I am writing this to you, a number of Nurses and Doctors are protesting in front of the Parliament.
They protest against the discriminations that the Islamic Republic impose on the workers and people of Iran."
DoctorZin Note: Here we go again...
France Steps Up Its Investments in Iran
New York Times - By Borzou Daragahi
Jun 23, 2004
TEHRAN -- Undeterred by Iran's pariah status in the United States and by the shortcomings of the country's commercial climate, French companies have been increasing their presence in the country in the last few years.
New Peugeots and Citroëns flood crowded highways and streets. French business people dine in the capital's restaurants and work on Persian Gulf oil platforms. Air France resumed flights to Tehran this month after a seven-year hiatus. And the carmaker Renault is about to make the first large-scale, long-term direct investment in the country by a French company since the 1979 revolution that toppled the pro-American Shah Reza Pahlavi.
"The French are eager to come to Iran," said Bernard Hourcade, a Paris-based Iran scholar who acts as a consultant to French companies considering doing business here. "It is the only major place in the Middle East to invest because the other countries are more or less in a revolutionary or prerevolutionary situation."
Though companies from Germany and the United Arab Emirates have a bigger presence in Iran, France is catching up.
French exports to Iran have nearly doubled in five years, totaling 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) in 2003, according to the economic mission of the French embassy in Tehran. And the number of French-connected companies registered with the embassy - some of which are joint ventures and some representative offices - has risen from a handful several years ago to more than 40.
Among the French exports are luxury goods, for Iran's increasingly affluent middle class. If even a fraction of Iran's 68 million people are "rather prosperous," one Western diplomat said, that could exceed the total population of all the smaller, wealthier gulf kingdoms combined.
The Iranian business of Société Générale, one of a handful of French banks with small offices in Tehran, has grown roughly 20 percent a year in the last five years, according to Jean-Michel Meunier, the bank's Tehran chief.
Alcatel, the French telecommunications giant, recently signed multimillion-dollar contracts to provide high-speed Internet service in Iran as well as communications for offshore oil and gas platforms.
PSA Peugeot Citroën, under a licensing agreement, sells kits for several models, including the Peugeot 206, a sports car that has become a status symbol in Tehran's chic sections.
The Total Group, one of the world's largest energy concerns, has long been involved in Iran, a country with 9 percent of the world's oil reserves and as much as 18 percent of its natural gas reserves. This year, it formed a $2 billion venture with the government-owned National Iranian Oil Corporation and Petronas of Malaysia called Pars LNG, which aims to produce eight million metric tons of liquefied natural gas a year, equal to about 15 percent of current world output.
Total executives in Paris would not comment on Middle East operations. A spokeswoman said the company employed 242 people on its Iran projects.
But Total's buyback agreements with Iran, under which it builds plants and then is paid back and sent on its way as its operations produce energy, means it never owns anything long term in Iran. Peugeot employs only 15 people to oversee the assembly of its cars by local employees of the government-owned factories. Alcatel sells and installs equipment. Société Générale's business here is also limited, consisting mostly of setting up transfers and repatriating funds.
Far more ambitious is Renault's plan to begin making its low-budget Logan series cars here in 2006, eventually bringing hundreds of Western experts to Iran. Renault says it will initially spend 300 million euros ($363 million), and some people close to the deal say the company could lay out $700 million over the next several years. The initial outlay alone nearly equals the total foreign investment in Iran by French companies in 2002, the last year for which statistics were available from the French economics mission, up from zero in 1994.
Under the agreement, Renault owns 51 percent of the joint venture, Renault Pars, with the Automotive Industry Development Company, a concern owned by the country's two main, government-controlled carmakers, the Saipa Group and the Iran Khodro Industrial Group.
The car is coming on line just as the Iranians begin halting production of the clunky, fuel-guzzling Paykan, a knockoff of the 1960's British Hillman Hunter that dominates the domestic market.
"The Renault investment will encourage other companies to come," the Western diplomat said, adding that the company would bring along many subcontractors.
Executives for Renault, which is 15 percent owned by the French government, were not made available for comment.
Iran is among several developing countries, including Romania, where Renault is bolstering its presence.
"Four-fifths of the world's population don't yet have access to a car: these markets therefore have the highest potential for growth," Louis Schweitzer, Renault's chief executive, says on the company's Web site. According to Peugeot, Iran has 1 car for every 21 inhabitants, compared with 1 for every 12 in neighboring Turkey, another developing Muslim country.
The country produced 600,000 new cars in the fiscal year that ended March 20, up from 430,000 in the previous year. This year, the country is slated to produce nearly 900,000 cars.
Despite such potential, many Western companies doing business in Iran do so clandestinely, worried they will cross the United States, which has imposed strict sanctions on Iran since 1996. At least one major French company in Iran with significant United States operations has not registered with the French embassy. The front door to its office in Iran says simply, "French company."
While American officials have not said anything publicly about Renault, they did complain about Total's recent deal and said they would look at possible actions under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996.
"We do not encourage investment in Iran's petroleum sector," said Richard A. Boucher, a State Department spokesman, according to an Associated Press report in February. "We have laws that affect our attitudes toward these investments. And we will have to look at those laws appropriately."
State Department officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment. But trade experts said they did not think the act, which allows for the imposition of penalties on foreign companies for certain large investments in Iran, had ever been invoked.
"As to whether the U.S. has actually sanctioned any firms for prohibited investments in Iran, there is not much of a track record,'' said Donald A. Weadon Jr., a Washington lawyer specializing in foreign trade sanctions. "But companies are investigated, and pressure is brought to deter investment."
And, he said, other sanctions and embargos are being imposed.
According to Mr. Hourcade, the consultant, the companies are mostly worried that they will have trouble running their businesses without access to products - like software or spare parts - made by American companies, which are barred from doing business with Iran.
An executive of a multinational with a big United States business said his company decided to open an office here in part to keep an eye on its competitors and not be totally clueless about Iran should Washington lift sanctions.
"So many companies are here, but they're keeping a very low profile and you can't figure out what they're doing here," he said, asking his name and his company's not be used.
Iran's business climate also poses formidable challenges, including a byzantine regulatory system and unorthodox accounting practices that sometimes have left companies wondering whether they will be able to repatriate any profits.
The country has worked hard to draw foreign investment, with officials vowing to remove red tape and saying that foreign investors now can establish a company in Iran and own 100 percent of it.
Still, one person involved in the Renault Pars deal said that problems had already begun. Though the company is nominally French-controlled, he said, the Iranian manufacturers can override Renault's decisions.
Western business leaders here also complain of a lack of demographic and marketing data. Half of the country's cars, for example, are registered in Tehran. But Peugeot - whose business in Iran is its third largest non-European operation, behind China and Brazil - found that many of those living along the cool, rainy Caspian coastline register their cars in the relatively warm, dry capital, to increase resale values.
And though the Peugeot 206 is selling, said Jacques Manlay, the Tehran representative for Peugeot, no one is sure why and to whom. "All I know," he said, "is that it's a car for the young lady in the north of Tehran."
Several "bandits" to be executed in public
SMCCDI (Information Service)
Jun 23, 2004
The Islamic regime's official sources have announced the regime's Judiciary decision to execute publicly seven "bandits" and "murderers" in the next days in several Iranian cities. Four are to be executed in different areas of Ghazvin alone while three of them will be hanged in Tehran and Tabriz.
Based on official announcements, these future victims of the Islamic regime were engaged in "armed robberies" as like as many of the officially sixty (60) other executed since last March 21st. Twenty (20) more executions will follow in the next weeks. These executions, often in public, are intended to increase the existing policy of governmental terror and fear among the Iranian population exasperated by a quarter of a century of religious dictatorship.
In this line, the shaky theocracy has increased its usual repressive measures due to the approach of the anniversary date of the Student Uprising of July 1999 and in order to smash the increasing armed struggle in Iran. Already several public amputation and lashing actions have been carried in the last days in some of the Iranian cities, such as in Ahwaz and Karaj; Fresh troops often composed by foreign mercenaries, from Iraq, Sudan and Lebanon have been deployed and check points are organized in Iranian cities leading often to the blind beaten up of youth and arrest of anyone; Activists and students are summoned or arrested; The control of phone communications and filtering of Internet accesses have been increased; The brutal confiscation of Satellite dishes are made on a daily basis and plans have been made to close the universities dorms and facilities before July 8th.
The Islamic regime hopes by this way to avoid mass hostile demos from taking place.
It's to note that the Islamic regime labels, often, its armed opponents as "bandit", "armed robber", "murderer", "hooligan", "spy" or "drug trafficker". Such policy helps its European and Japanese partners to justify, vis a vis their public opinions, the continuation of their economic relations with an illegitimate and repressive regime.
This just in from a source inside of Iran...
This is unconfirmed, but we are hearing rumors that the Supreme Leader Khamenei is in a coma."
Praise Allah, Allah Akbar!!
And when the people do rise up against their brutal oppressors, the Germans, French and Canadians will be siding with the tyrants... as usual.... 'cause their enlightened... or something.
Mark my voted down as "something".
Report: Iran to free UK sailors
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran plans to release eight members of the British military who were arrested for crossing into its waters because they did not intentionally cross the border, the state-run news agency reports.
"...those in State and the agency...their fight with the so-called neoconservatives."
I would like to know more about that. There are other anomalies having to do with that in our overall Republican Campaign. ...differences that could be resolved?
After having seen bits and pieces over the years from ugly here and there and its use of words like "neoconservatives," "paleoconservatives," etc., I just now ran a Google search and did some reading behind the keyword, "neoconservatives" (without the quotes).
...very fascinating and ominous. I recommend that we all read up on it--especially the more frank, direct and outright ugly stuff from Europe. The European versions are plainly stating what detractors in the USA only speak cryptically and evasively about.
Google keyword: neoconservatives
The Eurolegal Services site displays the movement that uses the word in all of that oldest movement's ugliness.
Notice also the use of the word by leftist anti-defense groups.
This just in from a source inside of Iran...
This is unconfirmed, but we are hearing rumors that the Supreme Leader Khomenei is in a coma."
UK Govt Cannot Confirm Iran Has Released Crewmen
Wed Jun 23, 2004 07:19 AM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - The British government said on Wednesday it was unable to confirm media reports that Tehran had released eight British naval crewmen who were arrested on Monday after straying into Iranian territorial waters.
"I cannot confirm that," a foreign office spokesman said. "We have not been told that they have been released, however we have been told that they will be released."
Free Iran bump
Air France Flights Welcomed in Iran
Jun 23, 2004, 09:38
Air France that resumed last week nonstop commercial flights between Paris and Tehran after a seven-year halt is facing rapturous welcome from Iranians who are willing to fly to the French capital.
"70% of Tehran-Paris flights have been reserved for the coming three months. Air France predicts to carry around 40,000 passengers between Tehran and Paris in ten months," Air France chief Jean-Cyril Spinetta told reporters during a visit to mark the resumption of Air France flights between Paris and Tehran.
The French airline struck Tehran off its list of destinations in 1997 because of the poor profitability of the route. But growing foreign investment opportunities in Iran have seen increased demand for seats in recent years. Air France offers three direct flights a week, the first of which landed at Tehran's Mehrabad International Airport on June 15. Spinetta said: "Iran and France have seen their exchanges grow in recent years.
France is the third largest trade partner of Iran, just behind Germany and the United Arab Emirates." "That is why we decided to resume our flights," he said. French-Dutch airline Air France-KLM is ready to tie up with Alitalia after the struggling Italian carrier restructures, the French official added. "We are open to the proposition but that will not be possible until Alitalia draws up a restructuring plan," Spinetta told reporters.
"Alitalia needs to focus on breaking even," he stressed. Alitalia is in deep financial crisis and faces the possibility of bankruptcy unless drastic measures are taken, according to its auditor Deloitte and Touche. Air France acquired KLM last month in a deal that creates the biggest European carrier and the number one worldwide in terms of sales.
At the time the deal was originally announced in October 2003, Alitalia expressed interest in merging with the other two airlines. The thrice-weekly flight is the first non-stop service between France and Iran by a non-Iranian carrier since Air France called off its flights in 1997. Iran Air already flies non-stop between Paris and Tehran.
Instead, the greedy will keep the people repressed and count their thirty pieces of silver and lick their chops.
The thing that has me worried is the rumors about Al Qaeda being sheltered in Iran. They could well make a move to take over the country.
Very interesting, all hell will break loose if the hardliners clamp down for control. The push will cause the extremeists to come out, the hard liners will try to be more hardline to "prove their worth", that will cause them to shift to supporting radical Islam. If Iran has the bomb, it may lead to the sterilization of large parts of the Middle East in the soon expected exchange.
This could escalate the time table a bit.
"Just who would be poised to take his place?"
He Is A Ba$tard Mullah!
Blindfolded British naval personnel seized by Iran on the Shatt al-Arab waterway. Iran said it was interrogating and could prosecute eight members of Britain's Royal Navy who strayed into Iranian waters on the border with Iraq (news - web sites), as the incident threatened to spiral into a major crisis.(AFP/Al-Alam TV)
Why yes, he is!
Troubled Waters: How an Eight-Man British Flotilla Steered Itself Into a Diplomatic Crisis
June 23, 2004
Owen Bowcott, Ian Traynor and Richard Norton-Taylor
A blustery north wind was whipping sand up from the surrounding desert. The dust clouds severely limited visibility as the flotilla of three small, British craft nosed its way up the Shatt al-Arab channel.
The eight men crewing the boats - six Royal Marines and two Royal Navy sailors - had left the Ministry of Defence's base at Umm Qasr on the Persian Gulf at dawn. They were due to rendezvous late on Monday morning with other British vessels heading down from the Iraqi river port of Basra.
The north-bound flotilla consisted of a combat support boat (CSB) and two Boston whalers. The smaller CSB was being delivered to the newly formed Iraqi riverine patrol service, whose duties include preventing oil being smuggled across the international border.
On the right hand side of the broad waterway, formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the shoreline is Iranian. To the left, fringed by reeds, the near shore is Iraqi.
No one in the MoD's headquarters in Whitehall could yesterday say precisely where or when the three boats veered off course or were captured.
But at lunchtime on Monday, the patrol sent south to escort them back to Basra radioed to alert its commanding officer that the eight men had not arrived.
These can be dangerous waters. The Shatt al-Arab, one of the the most strategically sensitive channels in the Middle East, has been the focus of conflict for centuries. Ottoman Turks and Persian Shias fought successive wars to establish control of the lucrative trade route.
In 1980, festering disputes over navigation rights gave Saddam Hussein the pretext for launching a war against Iran which lasted eight years, claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and failed to resolve the row over the frontier. Crippled oil refineries and abandoned jetties still line the banks.
Under the terms of what is known as the 1975 Algiers agreement, the international border is deemed to run along the centre of the main deepwater channel. The problem is that the navigable channel does not always flow down the centre of the river but sometimes meanders from side to side. It also migrates over time.
Whether the British craft lost their way in the sandstorm and crossed deep into Iranian waters or were intercepted by Iranian naval forces in disputed territory was not clear yesterday. Confirmation that the men had been seized only emerged late on Monday when Iran's al-Alam television said: "The Iranian navy has confiscated three British boats that entered Iranian territorial waters."
The broadcast sparked frantic diplomatic manoeuvres between London and Tehran as the Foreign Office attempted to defuse the situation quietly before it developed into a public row. It failed.
Yesterday the state-run station showed pictures of the marines and sailors wear ing blindfolds and said equipment found on their boats suggested that they were from special forces. They had been interrogated, it added.
"Their weapons, instruments, large equipment, machine guns and submachine guns, and the flag of their special naval unit indicate that they are not regular sailors," the news report stated. "Their mission is still unclear." The British naval personnel, it maintained, were a kilometre beyond the marine border and had apologised for losing their way.
A spokesman for Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Massoud Jazaeri, said Tehran was determined to defend its territory. "Anyone from any nationality entering our waters will face the same response," he said.
In London yesterday, the MoD denied that the men were members of a special forces unit and insisted they had only been carrying personal weapons. "We don't know where they were taken," a spokesman said. "The weather was pretty awful at the time with 25-30 knot winds picking up a lot of dust. They were difficult conditions."
Richard Schofield, a lecturer in political geography at King's College London, has studied the Shatt al-Arab boundary dispute. He said weather forecasting sources told him visibility was reduced to 50 metres at times on Monday.
"There have been one or two incidents over the waterway involving the Iranians and the occupying authorities recently," he explained. "I suspect the incident occurred close to the entrance of the waterway near the Persian Gulf."
Previous international border disputes had been sparked by local commanders, he added, rather than being the product of policy changes in the capital.
This episode could also have been the initiative of overzealous border guards, but there was speculation that hardline factions of the government in Tehran were keen to exploit the political row.
There have been demonstrations outside the British embassy in Tehran recently to protest about the US and UK invasion of Iraq.
Senior members of the governing coalition provisional authority in Baghdad have accused Iran of attempting to destabilise the military occupation but most commentators point out that Iran, sandwiched between turmoil in Afghanistan and Iraq, has a vested interest in securing good relations with reliable neighbours.
The Shatt al-Arab incident has also been connected to the ongoing row between Iran and the west over its nuclear ambitions. Over the past fortnight Tehran has stepped up its bitter criticism of Britain and Europe.
As the co-author of a UN censure of Iran, attacking Tehran's half-hearted responses to a UN nuclear investigation, Britain has been under rhetorical fire from the Iranian regime.
Last Friday a board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency ended in Vienna with the consensus adoption of a resolution strongly critical of Iran's failure to cooperate fully with the UN inspectors, who for the last year have been trying to get to the bottom of a 20-year-old covert nuclear programme.
Tehran reacted furiously to the resolution and for the first time in the long-running row directed the thrust of the criticism not at the Americans but at the European powers of Britain, France and Germany who are engaged in a policy of "critical dialogue" with Iran and who last October believed they had made a breakthrough that could defuse the nuclear row. The Iranians accuse the British and the other two from the EU troika of reneging on the their side of the bargain which amounted to a pledge from Iran to freeze uranium enrichment activities in return for European technology and trade.
While the Europeans claimed that the October agreement was a rare diplomatic triumph for the EU - showing that car rots could produce better results than US-wielded sticks - the Iranians have not frozen all of their enrichment-related activities, according to UN inspectors, and are now threatening to abandon the "voluntary suspension" after Britain, France, and Germany drafted last week's censure.
Even if the outcome to the Shatt al-Arab dispute is swift, it will be the second time this year that Britain has been diplomatically humiliated by nonaligned countries over its presence in Iraq.
In March, the Mexican authorities detained and expelled 13 British soldiers on a caving expedition. The row was said to have been fuelled by claims that Britain helped the US spy on Mexico 's UN mission in the run-up to the Iraq war.
MoD silent on names
The Ministry of Defence last night refused to comment on the names of the eight soldiers, their units, or their bases. The decision was taken at the highest level, defence sources said, referring to ministers and the chiefs of staff.
The MoD did not comment on pictures on Iranian television where two of the captured sailors gave their names as Sergeant Thomas Harkins of the Royal Marines and Chief Petty Officer Robert Webster.
Scottish television last night said some of the marines belonged to the Fleet Standby Rifle Troop based at HMS Naval Base Clyde at Faslane, and some were from Arbroath, home of 45 Commando of the Royal Marines.The MoD has said that the men were training a new Iraqi river patrol service. It admitted that some news organisations had been given the names, but refused to comment further.
TV Hell of Navy Captives
June 23, 2004
Daily Record, Scotland
Troops from Scots commando units were paraded by their captors on Iranian TV last night. The eight servicemen seized after allegedly straying into Iranian waters were first shown blindfolded.
Then two of the men had their blindfolds removed by the hardline Iranian Revolutionary Guards before they were forced to apologise for illegally crossing the border.
Last night, defence chiefs continued to insist the men,who were arrested on Monday, were from a Navy training unit.
But military experts claimed the group was made up of six Marines from 45 Commando of the Royal Marines based at Arbroath and the Fleet Standby Rifle Troop from HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane and two sailors from 539 Assault Squadron RM based at Plymouth.
Last night, officials in Tehran said they would release the men if it could be proved they strayed into their territory by mistake.
A senior Iranian military official said: 'If they don't have any bad intentions, they will be released soon.'
On the Iranian television broadcast, one of the servicemen, who identified himself as Chief Petty Officer Robert Webster, appeared to be reading from a statement.
The other, identified as Sergeant Thomas Hawkins, told Iran's official Al-Aram television station: 'The team wrongly entered Iranian waters and we apologise for this mistake because it was a big mistake.'
It was hoped the gesture would speed up the captives' release.
Military insiders said last night a distinctive US issue rifle which was found on the captured men was a 'giveaway' they are were ordinary troops.
The US-issue M-16 machine gun is used only by reconnaissance units. The weapon was paraded on Iranian television yesterday.
One insider said: 'It is very probable that they were on a CTR a close target recce when they were picked up. It is a deep embarrassment that an American weapon was pictured.' At least some of those who were captured are from Faslane, where they are used to guard the submarine base.
Others are commandos from Arbroath.
The insider added: 'They were there at the start of the Iraq war and are the ones who took the Al Faw peninsula.'
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said last night: 'These guys are from a Navy training team and have been out there doing their jobs for months.'
When questioned about the weapons the men were carrying, the spokesman added: 'These men were travelling in three boats.
'The boats were unarmed but the men were carrying their own personal weapons, as is standard practice.'
Last night, Ministry of Defence officials suggested the American weapon could have been 'edited in' to the footage shown onTV.
At one point, the Iranians were threatening to prosecute the men. Unnamed Iranian military sources were quoted as saying they would face charges of 'illegally entering Iran's waters.'
Later, the official line appeared to soften, with the state news agency saying they would be handed over to British officials late last night or early today.
However, the men's public humiliation at the hands of the Revolutionary Guards infuriated the British Government.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was outraged and intervened yesterday amid concern the incident could spiral out of control. He phoned Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharazzi to demand an explanation for the TV ordeal and urge an amicable end to the affair.
He also summoned Iran's ambassador in London to the Foreign Office.
Downing Street warned Tehran they expected the men to be treated in accordance with international law.
Tony Blair's spokesman said: 'We will continue to underline to the Iranian government we expect the people involved to be treated under the relevant international criteria.
'We will be reminding Iran of its obligations under international law.'
The TV pictures of the prisoners, dressed in fatigues, could be in breach of the Geneva Convention.Themen appeared healthy and were not shackled.
The broadcast said they had 'confessed' to straying about half a mile into Iranian waters.
They were seized on the Shatt-alArab waterway, the middle of which marks the Iran-Iraq border.
The Ministry of Defence said the troops were on a routine mission to deliver the three patrol boats to the Iraqis.
A spokesman added: 'It's quite feasible that they went astray despite their satellite positioning equipment.
'I'm told it was very windy and dusty.
'The loss of visibility would have made navigating challenging.' The Iranians refused any access to the men and British diplomats did not even know where they were being held.
A Revolutionary Guards official told the Fars news agency the soldiers had been carrying sophisticated maps and arms.
He said: 'They were fully armed. 'Besides personal arms, they were equipped with advanced rifles and night-vision systems.'
Piles of weapons and other items of equipment were shown on TV to back the claims, with the report suggesting the boats contained cameras 'for spying'.
There are suspicions that the new government in Tehran are using the incident to warn the Iraqi administration to keep clear of their borders.
Solving the Problem of Kurds is Too Complex for Most Iraqis
June 23, 2004
With the end of the 14-months period of occupation, Iraq is likely to be faced, once again, with some of the problems it has had ever since it was put on the map as a nation-state in 1921. The most complex of these concerns the Kurds whose leaders are playing a game of bluff and counter bluff in the hope of exacting maximum advantage in a period of uncertainty.
Both Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, the two most prominent leaders of the Iraqi Kurds, have dropped hints that they might decide to "part ways" if their demand for a Kurdish veto on some key national decisions is not included in the new constitution. This may be a bluff, but the threat of Kurdish secession has already met with two different reactions from Iraq's non-Kurdish leadership élite.
Some Iraqi Arab leaders are horrified at the thought of the Kurdish problem dominating the nation's agenda once again. They are prepared to do all they reasonably can to satisfy Kurdish demands within a multi-ethnic pluralist system. Others, however, manifest some frustration against the Kurds.
Many Iraqis, and some policymakers in Washington, see the Kurdish secession as the worst case scenario for Iraq. Barzani and Talabani know this and try to exploit such fears. A closer look at the reality of the situation, however, would show that there is little chance for a breakaway Kurdish state in northern Iraq. There are several reasons for this.
To start with, Iraqi Kurds do not constitute a single ethnic entity let alone a "nation" in the accepted sense of the term. Iraqi Kurds speak two different, though mutually intelligible, languages, each of which is divided into several sub-dialects, with distinct literal and cultural traditions. They are also divided into half a dozen religious communities, including different brands of Sunni and Shiite Islam, Zoroastrianism, and a number of heterodox creeds. Some of the people generally labelled "Kurdish" are, in fact ethnic Lurs and Elamites with their distinct languages, cultures and histories. At the same time the predominantly Kurdish area is also home to some non-Kurdish communities, including ethnic Arabs, Turcomans, Assyrians and Armenians.
To make matters more complicated, at least a third of Iraqi Kurds live outside the area that might one day become an independent Kurdish state. (There are more than a million Kurds in greater Baghdad, for example). The creation of a breakaway Kurdish state in Iraq could trigger a process of ethnic cleansing, population exchanges, and displacements that could plunge the whole region into years of conflict.
A Kurdish mini-state in north-eastern Iraq might not even be viable. It would be landlocked and will have few natural resources. Almost all of Iraq's major oilfields fall outside the area under discussion. Also, the area's water resources would be vulnerable to manipulation from Turkey and Iran where the principal rivers originate.
But what about a Greater Kurdistan, encompassing all who describe themselves as Kurds? Such a state, including Kurds in Syria, Turkey, Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as Iraq, would have a population of 30 million in an area the size of France. To create this Greater Kurdistan one would have to reorganise a good part of the Middle East and re-draw the borders of six states, including the two largest in the region: Turkey and Iran. Even then the Greater Kurdistan would still be a weak landlocked state with few natural resources, and surrounded by powers that, if not hostile, would not go out of their ways to help it get along.
Such a Greater Kurdistan would face numerous internal problems also. To start with it will have to decide which of the four alphabets in use for writing the various Kurdish languages should be adopted as the national one. If the view of the majority is to prevail the alphabet chosen should be Turkish because almost half of all Kurds live in Turkey. At the same time, however, the bulk of Kurdish historic, literary, political, religious and other significant texts are written in the Persian alphabet, itself an expanded version of the Arabic. And where would be the capital of the Greater Kurdistan?
If history, myth and, to some extent, the number of inhabitants, are the yardsticks the Iranian cities of Sanandaj and Mahabad would be strong candidates. And, yet, the city with the largest number of Kurdish inhabitants is Istanbul, Turkey's cultural and business capital which is home to more than 1.6 million ethnic Kurds. In a Greater Kurdistan the intellectual élite would come from Iran and the business élite from Turkey. Would they then allow Iraqi Kurds to provide the political élite? That is hardly likely.
The experience of the 3.5 million Iraqi Kurds who have lived a life of full autonomy, thanks to US-led protection since 1991, is a mixed one. The area was divided into two halves, one led by Barzani the other by Talabani, showing that even limited unity was hard to achieve in a corner of Iraq let alone throughout the vast region where the Kurds live. The two mini-states respectively led by Barzani and Talabani developed a complex pattern of shifting alliances in which, at times, one allied itself with Saddam Hussain against the other. The two mini-states even became involved in numerous battles, including a full-scale war that was stopped thanks to US pressure.
Barzani and Talabani should stop bluffing about "walking away". Other Iraqis, meanwhile, should realise that a shrunken Iraq, that is to say minus its Kurds, would be a vulnerable mini-state in a dangerous neighbourhood. The preservation of Iraq's unity is in the interests of both Kurds and Arabs.
The Kurds, wherever they live, must be able to speak their languages, develop their culture, practice their religions and generally run their own affairs as they deem fit. These are inalienable human rights, and the newly-liberated Iraq may be the only place, at least for the time being, where the Kurds can exercise those rights.
In other words this is not the time for the Kurds to think of leaving Iraq nor for other Iraqis to deny the legitimate rights of their Kurdish brethren.
Amir Taheri, Iranian author and journalist, is based in Europe. www.benadorassociates.com
Stop the Mullahs Before it's Too Late
June 23, 2004
The Iran of the ayatollahs has just executed a formidable power play in the Shatt-al-Arab -- the waterway shared by Iraq and Iran at the sea-mouth of -- Mesopotamia) by taking British forces into custody.
According to British officials, the three small Royal Navy boats and their crew of eight sailors were on a routine mission and may or may not have strayed into Iranian waters. According to a British intelligence source, confirmed by both Iraqi and American sources -- the boats were (or were probably) laying sensing devices on the bed of the Shatt-al-Arab for the express purpose of detecting Iranian-launched terrorist hits on Basra's extensive oil-exporting facilities.
And according to Michael Ledeen, the U.S. journalist with the best sources within Iran, there was every reason to be laying such sensing devices. For the ayatollahs, like the leaders of the Sunni Islamist terror networks whose nexus is Saudi Arabia, would very much like, under the present circumstances, to drive the price of oil to $60 per barrel. The Iranian Islamists have even better motives than the Saudi Islamist "underground" (and the overground Saudi princes who fund and encourage them). For the Iranians would be left selling the oil for $60 a barrel -- after Iraqi and Saudi exports had been wiped out by the direct and indirect effects of terrorism.
This would create economic chaos in the West, while supplying both the money and distraction the Iranians need to complete their nuclear weapons program. That it is close to success is indicated by every particle of information reaching the West -- and indeed more noise on the subject is being made currently by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency than by the Bush administration, which would rather not have it as an election issue. The Iranians have been caught red-handed with at least two large undeclared nuclear research facilities, and have stonewalled IAEA inspectors in the Saddamite manner. They also occasionally gloat that they will soon be members of the "nuclear club," and ought to be accepted.
On the other hand, almost everyone believed Saddam Hussein's Iraq was harbouring large quantities of weapons of mass destruction. So we can't be entirely certain of anything until the weapons are actually used -- which is the moment when the chorus from the left changes its tune from, "Why are you trying to do something about it?" to "Why didn't you do something in time?" The failure to find the kind of "smoking guns" in Iraq, which would meet the news criteria of The New York Times or CNN, has made every kind of assertion about mortal threats from rogue states politically unwise. It's "the boy who cried wolf." (And the reader will remember how that story ends.)
Given the existence of a real wolf now --and the Iranian wolf is bigger and smarter than the Iraqi one the United States dealt with -- we are in a fix. President Bush proved himself bold over Iraq, willing to act with most of the world against him. But is he big enough to sacrifice his presidency to confront Iran while there is still time? A president is lucky to get away with one war per term in office; Mr. Bush has already had two, and needs three.
Alternatively, I'm fairly certain the Israelis, this time, aren't up to the job they performed in 1981, taking out Saddam's nuclear reactor at Osirak in time, to a chorus of world outrage. It is too large for them -- the Iranian nuclear program is dispersed over too many sites, and most of them are out of range of the IAF's strike aircraft, which would anyway have to overfly too many hostile or unco-operative countries. And yet the very survival of Israel must be brought into question, once the ayatollahs have The Bomb.
We needn't waste time considering whether the United Nations or the European Union might have a plan. Even Britain is up to its ears in high-tech contracts with the Iranian regime, of the sort that tend to make the supplier docile.
Once armed with nukes, and even without actually using them, Iran's ability to project power throughout the region -- both diplomatically and through Hezbollah -- is much enhanced. The mullahs' chance of surviving domestic challenges to their power will be likewise enhanced. Saddam's domestic power, recall, came from the common belief that he was armed with hideous weapons.
To sum up, the West is in no position to act boldly against the ayatollahs. But they, for their part, are now acting boldly against us.
UK Expressed Concern Over the Use of Blindfolds
June 23, 2004
The eight crew members of three UK patrol boats seized by Iran near the border with Iraq are to be released, an Iranian armed forces spokesman says. Ali Reza Afshar said "the order for the release of the vessels and their military crew was issued" after UK forces said they had "made a mistake".
However, negotiations continued into the night delaying the release, promised for Wednesday.
The men were detained on Monday in the southern Shatt al-Arab waterway.
The UK Ministry of Defence said the men were training the Iraqi river patrol service, and may have mistakenly strayed over the maritime border.
They appeared on Iranian TV wearing blindfolds and admitting entering Iranian waters illegally.
The Iranian spokesman said the army command was satisfied that the arms and equipment carried in the three British launches had been for use on patrols.
"Considering statements by the British sailors that the boats carrying them mistakenly entered Iran's territorial waters, the armed forces decided to release the boats and their occupants," he told Iranian state radio.
Later, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi was quoted on Wednesday as saying the British crew "will be freed today" [Wednesday].
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said it had received confirmation from the Iranian government that the eight servicemen were being released.
A delegation of UK diplomats has already arrived to meet the men.
However, negotiations were said to be continuing on the route the men would take to get back to their base in Iraq from the remote area of south-western Iran where they were being held.
Iranian officials also said later that the boats and some equipment would be kept behind.
The BBC's Jim Muir reports from Tehran that with talks on the procedures for release continuing well into the night, it is possible the men will not be released until Thursday.
An adviser to President Mohammad Khatami had said the eight men could be freed if there was an official apology from the UK government.
The UK embassy earlier expressed concern that they were shown on television wearing blindfolds, making apologies for entering Iranian territorial waters.
The servicemen are thought to come from two Scotland-based units - Arbroath-based 45 Commando and the Fleet Standby Rifle Troop from Faslane on the Clyde - and from the 539 Assault Squadron in Plymouth, south-west England.
The arrests came at a time of strained relations between the UK and Iran.
Iranian hardliners have staged a series of angry demonstrations outside the British embassy in Tehran in recent weeks to protest at the occupation of Iraq.
Britain has also been strongly criticised too for its role in helping draft a tough resolution on Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna last week.
Iranian Gambit [Excerpt]
June 23, 2004
New York Post
The seizure of eight British servicemen by Iran's Revolutionary Guards isn't about a border violation. It's meant to test the Coalition in Iraq, punish Britain for criticizing Tehran's nuclear quest and recharge domestic support for Iran's hardliners.
Those eight hostages are pawns in a great strategic game for stakes far beyond the minor scale of the incident itself. Iran's hardliners are gambling. If the West with London in the lead this time fails to call their bluff, our weakness will virtually guarantee future conflict in the Persian Gulf.
Grabbing those British sailors and marines from three patrol boats they were delivering to Iraqi border guards wasn't an Iranian reaction to poor navigation. The seizure appears to have been planned and blessed by hardline leaders. It's a repertoire play, an attempt by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps now a sprawling empire of repression to recreate its greatest success on the world stage, the seizure of American embassy personnel a quarter-century ago.
Even if the hostages have been released by the time you read this, the provocation offers us insight into today's divided Iran.
Three powerful cards are in play. The hardliners hope they're all aces.
First, the Revolutionary Guards have seen their popularity and influence wane especially with Iran's youth. Iranians have tried religious rule, and it hasn't worked; they want to return to a semblance of civilization. We play up the strength of the hardliners, but they feel under siege at home.
By snatching the Brits from the waters of the Shatt-al-Arab, the Revolutionary Guards and their allies are trying to excite Iranian nationalism, to resurrect the passions of the past. It's a desperate measure behind a mask of bravado.
It's unlikely that Iran's government leaders or the formal policy apparatus in Tehran knew about the plan to take British hostages they wouldn't have believed it was worth the risk. The hardliners presented Iran's more rational elements with a fait accompli now backing down will be portrayed as a betrayal of the country's sovereignty and pride.
If the situation is swiftly resolved, it will mean that more-moderate voices won in Tehran. If it drags on, it will tell us that the hardliners' gamble succeeded, at least domestically. Doubtless, tempers are flaring in Iran's chambers of government, a bitter struggle they'll never reveal to the world.
Second, this is a test of the Coalition's will to respond to provocations. It's a strategic probe disguised as a tactical incident. The Iranian intelligence services intertwined with the Revolutionary Guards scrutinize developments in Iraq, Europe and the United States (while supporting international terrorists and Iraqi insurgents). And they've drawn dangerous conclusions. [Excerpt]
Iranian Gambit [Excerpt]
June 23, 2004
New York Post
Seems there's been no more talk of this. Maybe just a rumor after all.
I've been trying to figure out if it would be good, to be rid of Khamenei, or bad, because Rafsanjani would take over?
I am still waiting for further confirmation. If it is true, I would expect a news block out until Rafsanjani and friends have their plans in order.
Schedule of Demonstrations Against The Mafia Islamist Regime of Iran in Europe, U.S. and Canada -- July 10th (18 Tir) Schedule!
Place: The Western Side of the Capitol Building
Time: Thursday, July 8, 2004 from 11 a.m.
Organized by The Committee for Tir 18 Demonstrations
Place: The Federal Building at 11000 Wilshire Blvd. (Westwood area)
Time: Wednesday, July 7, 2004 from 5 to 8 p.m.
Organized by The Committee for Tir 18 Demonstrations
Toronto, July 8, (18 Tir) Thursday from 6 PM to 9 PM Mel Lastman Square, (hear of North York, north of Toronto) come out and commemorate this event. There will be speaker from Amnesty International, Member of Parliament of Canada, live music, by Sattar, and special speaker, Parviz Sayyad
Place: Halle Platz Konik Strasse
Time: Saturday, July 10, 2004 - from 3 to 5 p.m.
Organized by The Constitutional Party of Iran
Place: from Banhoff toward the City Court
Time: Saturday, July 10, 2004 from 2 p.m.
Organized by the Constitutional Party of Iran, Kassel, Monster and Furzin divisions
Place: Bismark Platz (town center)
Time: Saturday, July 10, 2004 - from 3 to 5 p.m.
Organized by The Constitutional Party of Iran
Place: The Western side of the Central Train Station (Hopt Banhoff)
Time: Thursday, July 8, 2004 - at 12:00 noon
Organized by: The Constitutional Party of Iran, The Iranian Womens Cultural Center, Khashm Organization, The Political-Cultural Center for Free Iranians in Hamburg
Place: Stachus square
Time: Thursday, July 8, 2004 from 5 to 6 p.m.
Organized by: The Constitutional Party of Iran, Irans Freedom Forces, Iranian Freedom Movement, Munichs democrats.
Place: In front of the Occupied Iranian Embassy (in Kensington)
Time: Thursday, July 8, 2004 from 12 noon to 4 p.m.
Organized by: The Constitutional Party of Iran, and The National Unity Front of Iran
Place: In front of the City Hall (Mayors office)
Time: Thursday, July 8, 2004 from 4 to 6 p.m.
Organized by The Constitutional Party of Iran
Place: The Center of City of Stockholm Sergels Torg
Time: Thursday, July 8, 2004 from 4 to 7 p.m.
Organized by: The Constitutional Party of Iran, and Swedens Liberals
Khamenei being in a coma is actually not that great of news. If that happens his replacement would likely be far more radical.