Flame of the ancient faith still flickers in Iran
17 July 2004
CHAK CHAK: Zoroastrians say the sacred spring at Chak Chak, a shrine perched beneath a towering cliff face in the searing desert of central Iran, has lost none of its miraculous healing powers.
"A 32-year-old Muslim came here as a last resort when he was dying from leukemia. I was not sure we should let a Muslim in but he insisted and spent the night here," said Goshtasb Belivani, a priest of Iran's ancient pre-Islamic religion.
"During the night he was visited by a beautiful woman dressed in green who gave him sherbet to drink," he continued.
For the last three months, since being given the all clear from his doctor, the young man has been a regular visitor to the shrine.
The beautiful woman was the ghost of Nikbanou, a 7th century Persian princess who fled to the mountain refuge, escaping Arab horsemen who thundered across the border and planted the green pennants of Islam in Iranian soil.
Islam spread quickly in a society where the priestly and royal elite had alienated most classes beneath them.
Now there are only 30,000 followers of the ancient religion among the Islamic Republic's 66 million people, down from 60,000 at the time of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Zoroastrians see life as an eternal conflict between their good God Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, the embodiment of evil.
Followers of the prophet Zoroaster, who died in the 6th century BC, say the central tenets of their faith are: "Good thoughts, good words, good deeds."
In early summer, Zoroastrians from across the world meet at the shrine where Nikbanou sought refuge. During the scorching daylight hours they doze on rugs, have picnics and attend prayers in the cool grotto shrine around the flame focal to their worship.
Toward evening, the atmosphere gets far more convivial. Young Zoroastrian men in cowboy hats jive away as one of their friends plays catchy tunes on his Yamaha keyboard.
Girls with free-flowing hair, wearing bright dresses, play catch and giggle while prayers in Avestan, the ancient religious language of the Zoroastrians, are read out over a loud-speaker system.
The Islamic Republic's strict rules on dress and wine are relaxed in the private spaces of the religious minorities.
STAY OR EMIGRATE?
Iran's Shi'ite Muslims are generally tolerant of the ancient religion.
"We get on fine, we use each other's shops and chat every day," said Mohammad Ali Karimi, who teaches Islamic history and religion in a primary school in the nearby city of Yazd, 400km southeast of Tehran.
"But many of them are emigrating or becoming Muslims," he added.
The Towers of Silence, the two outcrops where Yazd's Zoroastrians used to leave their dead for the vultures, are now a picnic spot.
Many Zoroastrians at Chak Chak said whole families would convert to Islam if someone married outside the community so they would not be denied inheritance payments under Iranian law.
Zoroastrians have their own member of parliament and hold high positions in bodies such as the Oil Ministry. They say their communities are more vibrant in Canada and Australia.
In India, where they are known as Parsis, the community is more than 60,000 strong.
"Many reckon they will do better as doctors and engineers abroad. If I had a second chance, I would probably emigrate," said priest Esfandiar Dastour, 73.
Former parliamentarian Khosro Dabestani insisted problems for Zoroastrians were the same as those for most Iranians but many disagreed.
Some said friends and family had been denied jobs teaching in universities because they were Zoroastrians. Another mentioned being booted out of a chess team just before reaching national level.
"One Muslim elder confiscated our land in a village I know saying 'This is an Islamic country, the land belongs to us'," said one woman.
Another woman, Golchehreh, protested about dress codes.
"I am not a Muslim, why should I have to wear these headscarves?," she complained.
But gray-bearded Zoroastrian pilgrim Iraj thought they had all missed the point.
"There are no mosques, churches and synagogues. They are all in your own heart," he said.
"This shrine is a sham. You need to be out there alone with your God under the sun in the wilderness," he said, pointing into the shimmering whiteness of the desert.
Son of slain photojournalist protests outside Iranian Embassy
July 16, 200
OTTAWA (CP) - The son of slain photojournalist Zahra Kazemi joined a small but vocal band of protesters at the Iranian Embassy on Friday to demand justice in her murder case.
Stephan Hachemi and about a dozen other demonstrators railed at the embassy with bullhorns and chants from the sidewalk across the street. The noisy protest followed a diplomatic rebuke earlier this week from the federal government.
Ottawa recalled its ambassador to Iran to protest the exclusion of Canadian observers from monitoring the Tehran trial of Kazemi's accused killer.
"It's really the public displaying its anger over this case," Hachemi said.
"We want to make sure we make Zahra Kazemi's case an example so they understand they can't act with impunity against somebody - that human rights are important and they have to be respected."
A pastel portrait of the late Iranian-Canadian photojournalist was placed on the sidewalk facing the embassy building.
Kazemi died last year in Iranian custody after she was arrested outside a Tehran prison.
Iranian authorities at first said Kazemi died of a stroke following her arrest for photographing a protest. They eventually charged an intelligence agent with her beating death.
The incident has strained diplomatic relations.
Iran has insisted the trial will be fair and impartial. But Canada says the secrecy of the proceedings violates international standards and has twice recalled its ambassador in less than a year.
9/11 Commission Finds Ties Between al-Qaeda and Iran
Senior U.S. officials have told TIME that the 9/11 Commission's report will cite evidence suggesting that the 9/11 hijackers had previously passed through Iran
By ADAM ZAGORIN AND JOE KLEIN
Friday, Jul. 16, 2004
Next week's much anticipated final report by a bipartisan commission on the origins of the 9/11 attacks will contain new evidence of contacts between al-Qaeda and Iranjust weeks after the Administration has come under fire for overstating its claims of contacts between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
A senior U.S. official told TIME that the Commission has uncovered evidence suggesting that between eight and ten of the 14 "muscle" hijackersthat is, those involved in gaining control of the four 9/11 aircraft and subduing the crew and passengerspassed through Iran in the period from October 2000 to February 2001. Sources also tell TIME that Commission investigators found that Iran had a history of allowing al-Qaeda members to enter and exit Iran across the Afghan border. This practice dated back to October 2000, with Iranian officials issuing specific instructions to their border guardsin some cases not to put stamps in the passports of al-Qaeda personneland otherwise not harass them and to facilitate their travel across the frontier. The report does not, however, offer evidence that Iran was aware of the plans for the 9/11 attacks.
The senior official also told TIME that the report will note that Iranian officials approached the al-Qaeda leadership after the bombing of the USS Cole and proposed a collaborative relationship in future attacks on the U.S., but the offer was turned down by bin Laden because he did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia.
The Iran-al Qaeda contacts were discovered and presented to the Commissioners near the end of the bipartisan panel's more than year-long investigation into the sources and origins of the 9/11 attacks. Much of the new information about Iran came from al-Qaeda detainees interrogated by the U.S. government, including captured Yemeni al-Qaeda operative Waleed Mohammed bin Attash, who organized the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, and from as many as 100 separate electronic intelligence intercepts culled by analysts at the NSA. The findings were sent to the White House for review only this week. But Commission members have been hinting for weeks that their report would have some Iran surprises. As the 9/11 Commission's chairman, Thomas Kean, said in June, "We believe....that there were a lot more active contacts, frankly, with Iran and with Pakistan than there were with Iraq."
These findings follow a Commission staff report, released in June, which suggested that al-Qaeda may have collaborated with Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers, a key American military barracks in Saudi Arabia. Previously, the attack had been attributed only to Hezbollah, with Iranian support. A U.S. indictment of bin Laden filed in 1998 for the bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa said al-Qaeda "forged alliances . . . with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States." But the Commission comes to no firm conclusion on al-Qaeda's involvement in the Khobar disaster.
Since 9/11 the U.S. has held direct talks with Iranand through intermediaries including Britain, Switzerland and Saudi Arabiaconcerning the fate of scores of al-Qaeda that Iran has acknowleded are in the country, including an unspecified number of senior leaders, whom one senior U.S. official called al-Qaeda's "management council". The U.S. as well as the Saudis have unsuccessfully sought the repatriation of this group, which is widely thought to include Saad bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden, as well of other key al-Qaeda figures.
Iran at or near nuclear 'no return'
Washington, DC, Jul. 16 (UPI) -- Iran may have passed the point of "political no return" in the development of nuclear capabilities, a leading scholar told a Washington conference Friday.
Ray Takeyh, professor of National Security Studies at the National Defense University, told a panel discussion held by the Center for American Progress the prospect of negotiation was fading "as every day passes."
He stressed Iran was developing weapons for the purpose of deterrence, particularly against the United States and a politically unpredictable Iraq.
There is now a common nationalist unity in Iran against capitulation to outside intervention, he said, pointing out that even the usually progressive Iranian students demonstrated against the signing of additional protocols put forward by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards Enjoy Resurgence
July 16, 2004
The Financial Times
Nearly four weeks after Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized six British marines and two sailors on the wide river separating southern Iran and Iraq, the Iranians have still not returned the digital navigational equipment that would show whether the boats were in Iraqi or Iranian waters.
British officials at first apologised for the craft straying on to the Iranian side. But once Iran freed the eight men, Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, said they had been snatched from Iraqi waters.
One British official told the FT that the boats - being delivered to Iraqi police - were in shallow water 500m from the border, which is the deepest channel of the river called Shatt al-Arab by Arabs and Arvand Rud by Iranians.
For the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the arrest of the British forces was a propaganda coup - showing their growing influence in a wider rightwing resurgence after Iran's reformists lost their parliamentary majority in February's election.
The Shatt al-Arab incident is not the only example of the IRGC flexing its muscles. In May, it used tanks to close Tehran's new international airport on its first day of operation, apparently on the "security" grounds that management had been transferred to a "foreign" Turkish-led consortium.
"Any kind of confrontation and isolation helps keeps the military faction strong," said Saeed Leylaz, a newspaper columnist and senior manager in a government-owned vehicle manufacturer.
Separate from the regular army, the 125,000-strong IRGC sees itself as the stead fast defender of the Islamic revolution and is answerable not to the government of reformist president Mohammad Khatami but to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader and most powerful figure.
One reformist newspaper estimates that 90 deputies in the 290-strong parliament have a "revolutionary or military background".
The government will remain in reformist hands until at least next June's presidential election when Mr Khatami stands down. The right's growing strength is felt in a shift in the country's atmosphere. The regular early summer crackdown on women wearing "bad hijab" - coats that hug the figure or scarves showing hair - has been sharper than in recent years. A more pressing effect of the rightward trend, say analysts, is in foreign and security policy, where the IRGC and its allies are exploiting tension over Iran's nuclear programme.
After the International Atomic Energy Agency last month passed a critical resolution, Iran has threatened to resume uranium enrichment, which it suspended last year after an agreement with Germany, France and Britain.
The rise of the Iranian right is also complicating the situation in Iraq, where US and some Iraqi officials complain of Iranian "interference" and have recently alleged that Tehran's agents are retraining the militia of Moqtada al-Sadr, the militant Shia cleric.
Other Iraqi politicians dismiss these allegations as the US Central Intelligence Agency disrupting relations between the new Iraqi government and its eastern neighbour.
But Iran's attitude to Mr Sadr is ambiguous. While many Iranian leaders dislike his Arab nationalism, the militant right and some of the conservative media portray him as a Muslim resistance figure fighting US occupation.
Some moderate conservatives argue that the influence of the military right should not be exaggerated, but are showing signs of unease. During the election, Amir Mohebian, a columnist with the conservative Resalat newspaper, expressed in print his own scepticism when the Guardian Council, an Islamic watchdog, barred more than 2,000 reformist candidates.
Analysts also detect a weakening in the position of Hassan Rowhani, head of the Supreme Council of National Security and Iran's main negotiator over last year's nuclear agreement with Europe.
Mr Rowhani has been seen as a likely candidate of the pragmatic conservatives in next June's presidential election.
Just a few days after Mr Rowhani used a rare press conference last month to welcome the sovereign Iraqi government, Ayatollah Khamenei denounced Iraq's new leaders as "lackeys".
Bomb At Any Cost?
July 16, 2004
TEHRAN -- One of Iran's top ruling clerics vowed Friday that the Islamic republic will continue to pursue its controversial nuclear programme "at any cost" and is determined to become fully self-sufficiant.
"Even if some officials are taking it easy on gaining the technology, the people will not give up," Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said in a Friday prayer sermon in Tehran.
"We are resolute. It is worth achieving it at any cost," said Jannati, who head the powerful Guardians Council -- a body that screens all of the Islamic republic's laws and candidates for public office.
"Nuclear technology is the issue of the day, and neither our officials nor our people will give up this scientific growth," he said.
Jannati also reasserted Iran's desire to be independent in its bid to generate nuclear power, including in fully mastering the sensitive nuclear fuel cycle.
"We are now begging Western nuclear know-how by importing what we lack in this field. Once we achieve the technology, we will no longer be in a position where we have to ask," he said.
Iran is currently top of the agenda for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is probing allegations the country is using power generation as a cover for a secret weapons drive.
Tehran insists its programme is solely aimed at meeting the future energy needs of a burgeoning population and freeing up its oil and gas resources for export.
BREAKING NEWS!!!! -- DoctorZin
US sets sights on toppling Iran regime
July 17, 2004
Michael Binyon and Bronwen Maddox
Re-elected Bush would act to foment revolt, says senior official
THE US will mount a concerted attempt to overturn the regime in Iran if President Bush is elected for a second term.
It would work strenuously to foment a revolt against the ruling theocracy by Irans hugely dissatisfied population, a senior official has told The Times.
The United States would not use military force, as in Iraq, but if Bush is re-elected there will be much more intervention in the internal affairs of Iran, declared the official, who is determined that there should be no let-up in the Administrations War on Terror.
To what extent the official, known to be hawkish, was speaking for the White House was unclear, but his remarks are nevertheless likely to cause alarm in Europe. He hinted at a possible military strike against Irans nuclear facilities, saying that there was a window of opportunity for destroying Irans main nuclear complex at Bushehr next year that would close if Russia delivered crucial fuel rods. To destroy Bushehr after the delivery would cause huge environmental damage. The rods would allow the Iranians to obtain enough plutonium for many dozens of nuclear weapons, he said.
The official also stepped up the pressure on Britain, France and Germany to take a tougher line on Iran, voicing the disdain within the Administration for the Europeans attempt to defuse the Iranian nuclear threat through diplomacy. Britain had joined the effort in order to demonstrate its European credentials, he said. France and Germany had teamed up with Britain because they realised that the pair of them could no longer run Europe alone.
Washington believes that the trio has been embarrassed by Irans failure to hold good to a deal it struck with the Iranian regime last October. Iran pledged to give UN inspectors the freedom to make snap inspections, and also to suspend uranium enrichment.
Since then, some members of the Administration have begun referring in private to Britain, France and Germany as the Tehran three, and to Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, as Jack of Tehran.
If the Europeans fail to get Iran to back down at a meeting this month, the US wants to close the gap between the rival diplomatic approaches and refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council.
Russia is due to deliver the first shipment of nuclear fuel to Iran early next year for insertion into the reactor at Bushehr before the end of the year.
Despite that, the official believes that it is not impossible to get Russia to see it our way and back a UN resolution that would raise the international saliency of Irans nuclear ambitions. He is convinced that Iran is afraid of a conveyor belt that would lead inexorably to sanctions and even military action.
Iran is one of the three members of President Bushs axis of evil and has further angered Washington with its covert interference in Iraq since the end of last years war to topple Saddam Hussein.
The official dismissed suggestions that Washington would hesitate to seek regime change in Iran, given the problems it has encountered in Iraq, and Colin Powell, a restraining influence as Secretary of State, will not be serving a second term. It is less clear how the Administration could foment a revolution without uniting Iranians against the Great Satan.
The official claimed that more than its dislike of the mullahs, the Iranian population was dissatisfied with an economy that did not have jobs for the young: 60 per cent of the population is under 24.
There is little organised opposition inside the country and financing it directly or through front organisations would probably play into the hands of the mullahs anyway.
At present the US relies on about a dozen Farsi satellite television and radio channels in the San Fernando Valley, California. They beam pirate broadcasts to the estimated seven million Iranians with illegal satellite dishes.
Last year Washington also set up a Persian-language Voice of America programme that is broacast into Iraq. The internet offers another channel for US propaganda, but efforts to impose stiff sanctions or fund anti-Government exile groups have been frustrated by a Republican split over the relative merits of confrontation or engagement.
Despite the US threats one of Irans top ruling clerics vowed yesterday that the Islamic republic would continue to pursue its controversial nuclear programme. We are resolute. It is worth achieving it at any cost, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the Guardians Council, said.
For Immediate Release FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Audrey Mullen, 202-861-5677
July 16, 2004
Council on Foreign Relations provides Aid and Comfort to the Enemy
Washington, DC (July 16, 2004) Incredibly, those in the foreign policy establishment primarily responsible twenty-five years ago for Americas abandonment of democratic elements in Iran to the tyranny of violent, extremist mullahs, are now calling for engagement with the very terror masters of Tehran that they helped empower.
Clearly, decades after the calamitous and unprincipled policies of the Carter Administration opened the way to the bloody subjugation of Iranian liberty, Zbignew Brzezinski, Robert Gates and the Council on Foreign Relations have learned nothing in the intervening years from Irans bloody oppression and the rise of radical Islamism that has killed thousands of Americans.
The CFR dismisses as futile the sacrifices and aspirations of pro-democratic Iranians, and advocates direct dialogue with Tehran on matters of mutual concern. Such a course is inimical to a foreign policy that promotes global stability, advances the prospects of democratic self-determination for the Iranian people, and provides for the defense of the strategic interests of the U.S. and the western democracies.
The CFRs New Approach is in fact the same old accommodationism that lost Iran as Americas ally in the 1970s, and gives aid and comfort to the enemies of liberty, democracy, and modernity. By legitimizing the reign of the IRIs medieval mullahcracy, the elitists of the CFR abandon those fighting for freedom and universal human rights. The lawless despots of Tehran are aggressively developing a nuclear weapons capacity to attack or blackmail the west against the wishes of the Iranian people. Nuclear weapons in the hands of this regime will inevitably prolong its illegitimate grasp on power.
The IRI has less than 10 % of popular support within the country, by its own polling. Dialogue can only embolden the mullahs, damage the good will that exists between most Iranians and America, and set back the cause of liberty. As was graphically seen in their acts of solidarity following the attacks of 9/11, the Iranian people look to the U.S. for models of democratic institutions, and moral support for self-liberation.
A global freedom movement is emerging in rejection of the Islamic Republic of Iran and in support of the legacy of the Iranian Students Uprising of 1999. Any rapprochement with the terror masters of Tehran will damage and undermine this movement, and is not in the long-term interest of peace.
Commentary on the position of the Iranian democratic resistance movement, and its utter rejection of the presumptuous pro-IRI advocacy of the CFR will be provided by representative spokespersons immediately outside the location of the Council on Foreign Relations Press Briefing, Monday July 19, 2004, the Washington Club, 15 Dupont Circle NW, Washington DC. For information, please call Audrey Mullen, 202-861-5677.
The Iran Factor
July 16, 2004
In its report due next week, the September 11 commission will disclose new evidence suggesting Iranian government officials may have helped facilitate the terror attacks by providing Al Qaeda members with safe passage and clean passports as they traveled from Osama bin Ladens training camps in Afghanistan through Iran, NEWSWEEK has learned.
Citing a recently discovered December 2001 memo buried in the files of the National Security Agency, the commission report states that Iranian border inspectors were instructed not to place stamps in the passports of Al Qaeda fighters from Saudi Arabia who were traveling from bin Ladens camps through Iran, according to U.S. officials and commission sources familiar with the report.
The commission report does not address which Al Qaeda members specifically benefited from the clean passport policy. It also emphasizes that the panel has found no evidence suggesting that Iranian government officials had advance knowledge of bin Ladens plans to attack the World Trade Towers and Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001.
But, citing the NSA memo, the report discloses for the first time that eight to ten of the so-called muscle hijackers on September 11 are believed to have traveled through Iran between October 2000 and February 2001the same period of time that Iranian border guards were facilitating the movement of extremist jihadis entering and exiting the Afghan training camps.
Those same hijackers, most of whom probably had no knowledge of the Sept. 11 mission themselves, began entering the United States in April 2001 with no stamps on their passports indicating their recent travel to Afghanistan and Iran-red flags that might have prompted heightened scrutiny from U.S. border inspectors.
The new discovery about Irans assistance to Al Qaeda is among the most surprising new findings contained in a mammoth, 500 page report on the September 11 attacks that is due to be released by the commission next Thursday. Officials familiar with the findings say it provides far stronger evidence of the Iranian government links to bin Ladens organization than was found of connections between Saddam Husseins regime and Al Qaeda--a major bone of contention between the 9/11 panel and members of the Bush administration.
Former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke said the 9/11 report confirms a judgment that U.S. counterterrorism officials had reached soon after the attacks. At the time, the Bush administration was seeking evidence pointing to Iraqi involvement in the attacks. See if Saddam did this, Bush instructed Clarke on the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, according to Clarkes book, Against All Enemies. See if hes linked in any way.
In fact, Clarke said, while there was no evidence of Iraqi complicity, "there were lots of reasons to believe that [Al Qaeda] was being facilitated by elements of the Iranian security services. We told the president that specifically. The best evidence we had of state support [for Al Qaeda] was Iran."
Bush did identify Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, as part of the "axis of evil" in his January 2002 State of the Union speech. Iran had also long been identified by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism because of its close relationship with Hizbullah, a Shiite Muslim terror group with a major presence in Lebanon. But the president chose not to threaten military action against the Iranian regime, like he did with Iraq, in part because of a concern about possibly alienating "democratic forces within the country who might be in a position to modify Iranian behavior, according to Clarke.
Bush administration officials emphasized today that the 9/11 report also included contradictory information that undercut the idea of a strong relationship between Iran and Al Qaeda-and even cast some doubt on the conclusion that the Iranians were providing special favors for bin Ladens organization.
In interviews with U.S. interrogators, two high-level Al Qaeda detainees--September 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh--confirmed that some of the 9/11 hijackers had transited through Iran on their way to and from the Afghan training camps, the report says, according to knowledgable sources. But the two Al Qaeda captives insisted the hijackers did so mainly to take advantage of a general Iranian practice of not stamping "Saudi passports"indicating that the Iranian policy may have been cast more broadly than just Al Qaeda members.
One White House official called the report confusing on this point. However, another U.S. official said the general understanding of the U.S. intelligence community is that Iran was specifically seeking to assist extremist jihadi or Afghan Arabs traveling to and from the Afghan camps.
Another major captured Al Qaeda operative, Tawfiq bin Attash, also known as "Khallad," is cited in the report as telling interrogators that Iranian security services had reached out to bin Laden after the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 and proposed a strengthening of their relationship. But bin Laden, according to the 9/11 report, rejected the overture for fear of alienating his Sunni Muslim base in Saudi Arabia.
The new evidence about Iran cited in the 9/11 report builds on findings contained in an interim staff report which challenged the long-held idea among many U.S. intelligence analysts that bin Ladens Sunni Muslim populated terrorist group would shy away from collaboration with Shiite Muslim terror groups like Hizbullah that are associated with Iran.
In fact, the interim report found that in the mid-1990s, Bin Ladens representatives and Iranian officials had discussed putting aside Shia-Sunni divisions to cooperate against the common enemy. A small group of al Qaeda operatives subsequently traveled to Iran and Hizbullah camps in Lebanon for training in explosives, intelligence and security. Bin Laden reportedly showed particular interest in Hizbullahs truck bombing tactics in Lebanon in 1983 that had killed 241 U.S. Marines.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the panel found what it called strong but indirect evidence that bin Ladens organization played a role in the 1996 bombing of a U.S. Air Force housing complex at Khobar Towers in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, an attack that killed 19 Americans injured 372 others. That attack had been previously blamed by U.S. officials on a Saudi Shia Hizbullah group that was receiving direct assistance from Iran.
But the 9/11 panel noted that there were reports in the months before the attack that bin Laden was seeking to facilitate a shipment of explosives to Saudi Arabia. On the day of the attack, the interim staff report said, Bin Laden was congratulated by other members of the Islamic Army.