Skip to comments.Iranian Alert -- July 23, 2004 [EST]-- IRAN LIVE THREAD -- "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
Posted on 07/22/2004 9:20:43 PM PDT by DoctorZIn
The US media still largley 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.
A DOZEN OF PROMINENT IRANIAN POLITICAL PRISONERS OBSERVES HUNGER STRIKE
By Safa Haeri
Posted Wednesday, July 21, 2004
PARIS, 21 July (IPS) Iranian lawyer and human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi confirmed on Wednesday 22 July that a dozen of prominent Iranian political personalities and students, among them Mr. Naser Zarafshan and Heshmatollah Tabarzadi are in hunger strike since two weeks ago
In interviews with foreign-based Radio stations such as the BBC and RFI (Radio France International) monitored by Iran Press Service in Paris, Mrs. Ebadi said the prisoners have started the action 15 days ago, coinciding with the anniversary of the 8 July 1999 students revolt.
Besides Mr. Zarafshan, jailed because of accepting the defence of the families of the victims of the notorious Serial Murders case and Mr. Tabarzadi, a former students leader and General Secretary of the Iranian Democratic Front, other prisoners observing hunger strike are Mostafa and Peyman Piran, Dr Farzad Hamidi, Ahmad Batebi, Said Mansouri, Said Shahvandi, Farhad Dousti, Ommid Abbasali-Nezhad, Reza Mohammadi, Qolamreza Ahmadi, Ali Shariat Panah and Qolamhoseyn Kalvi.
The "Serial Murders" is the case of several leading politicians and intellectuals dissidents, including Mr. Dariush Forouhar, the leader of Iranian People Party and his wife Parvaneh murdered savagely in their residence in Tehran, writers and human rights activists Mohammad Mokhtari, Ja'afar Pouyandeh, Majid Sharif and Pirouz Davani at the hands of senior officers of the Intelligence Ministry on November 1998.
The authorities confiscated the modest residence of the Piran family and threw them out in the street, offering vague explanations. But friends and family sources told IPS that the reason for the inhuman action was Peyman Pirans activities the authorities judges as propaganda against the Islamic Republic and insulting the senior officials.
Mr. Batebi is the young student who was jailed after he was photographed with the bloodstained T-shirt of a fellow student wounded during students rebellion. The picture was printed by newspapers worldwide and displayed on the cover page of the influential British magazine The Economist.
Asked on the aims for the action, Mrs. Ebadi, the first Iranian to win the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize last year cited identification of all the people who ordered the attack on the students on 8 July, solidarity with the Piran family, unconditional release of all political prisoners, including the students, quoting Mr. Zarafshan.
Because of the strict ban imposed by the authorities on the local media in the one hand and the filtering of independent internet sites on the other, few people are aware of the hunger strike action, one source close to the prisoners told IPS.
The Judiciary had earlier on the week shut down two pro-reforms newspapers, namely Jomhouriyyat and Vaqaye-e-Ettefaqiyyeh that could talk about the hunger strike.
A group named The Independent Movement for Democracy in Iran published a letter signed by all the strikers and called on international media and human rights organisations to take proper and necessary measures for the defence of Iranian political prisoners and respect of human rights.
The Office for Consolidating Unity, the largest organisation of Iranian students took similar initiative last week by writing a letter to the General Secretary of the United Nations, after the authorities refused to allow the students commemorating the 8 July uprising.
On that date, Police, backed by members of several pressure groups controlled by the ruling conservatives and special units of the Intelligence Ministry stormed dormitories where some 300 students were protesting peacefully the closure of a popular newspaper.
The nightly raid was so brutal that the students took to the street the day after and for six consecutive days, demonstrated against the regime and its most senior leaders, including Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i who, fearing seriously for the survival of the his regime, ordered the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij militia and special anti-riot units to crush the movement at any cost.
Mr. Zarafshan had obviously lost weight, but he was in a high spirit when I met him in Evin prison on Tuesday, Mrs. Ebadi said, adding that the hunger strikers are determined to continue their action until their get satisfaction, above all the return of the Piran family to their flat.
ENDS HUNGER STRIKE 22704
Blair Urges Iran to Cooperate with IAEA
July 22, 2004
Xinhua News Agency
LONDON -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday urged Iran to comply fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), stressing that Britain will do whatever it can to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.
"It is not acceptable that Iran has a nuclear weapons capability, and that is why we are working with our other partners to make sure that it doesn't," Blair told his monthly news conference at 10 Downing Street.
"We will do whatever we can and whatever is necessary to ensure that Iran obeys the very clear statements that have been made by the atomic energy authority," Blair told reporters.
The UN nuclear watchdog agency has passed a resolution drafted by Britain, Germany and France, saying that Iran did not fully cooperate in the investigation into its nuclear program.
The United States accused Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapons program, an allegation that Iran has strongly denied.
More Evidence of an Iran-Al Qaeda Connection [Excerpt]
July 21, 2004
Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
Just eight months before the September 11 terror attacks, top conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh received a four-week visa to Iran and then flew to Tehranan apparent stop-off point on his way to meet with Al Qaeda chiefs in Afghanistan, according to law-enforcement documents obtained by NEWSWEEK.
German government documents showing the previously undisclosed trip by bin al-Shibh, a captured Al Qaeda operative who played a crucial coordinating role in the 9/11 plot, is the latest evidence that the World Trade Center conspirators frequently used Iran as a safe transit point in their travels to and from Afghanistan.
The final report of the 9-11 Commission, which is due out tomorrow, contains significant new information about a possible Iran connection to the plot, including a U.S. intelligence analysis indicating that Iranian border inspectors were instructed not to stamp the passports of Al Qaeda members entering and exiting their country. Although the information has been known to the U.S. intelligence community for some time, President Bush told reporters this week that the U.S. government was digging into the facts to determine if there was a possible Iranian connection to the September 11 attacks.
The presidents comments were touched off by news reports, by NEWSWEEK and other news organizations, that the 9/11 panel will reveal this week that as many as 10 of the so-called muscle hijackers traveled through Iran between the fall of 2000 and February 2001. U.S. intelligence officials emphasize they have no evidence that the Iranian government had advance knowledge of the 9/11 plot and, in recent days, an Iranian government spokesman has called "ridiculous" reports that there was any Iranian involvement with Al Qaeda. Still, the trip by bin al-Shibh adds to the picture and, according to some U.S. investigators, raises new questions about whether some Iranian security officials may have been actively assisting Al Qaeda operatives while they were traveling through their country.
The bin al-Shibh evidence is contained in the thousands of pages of documents compiled by Germany's BKA, or Federal Criminal Office, in the course of its investigation into the so-called Hamburg cell, one of whose members, Muhammad Atta, became the ringleader of the 9/11 hijackers. Bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni national, was Attas roommate in Hamburg and, when he was unable to obtain a visa to enter the United States, became a key coordinator of the plot, relaying instructions between 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Atta, according to the 9/11 commission. Another member of the Hamburg cell, Mounir el-Motassadeq, was convicted by a German court last year of being an accomplice in the attacks and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The German documents show that, just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, German investigators first sought information from the Iranian Embassy in Berlin about bin al-Shibh's travels to their country. The Iranians appear to have cooperated, turning over a copy of a two-page visa application form filled out in bin al-Shibhs handwriting and an attachment showing his passport photograph. The document shows that on Dec. 20, 2000during a crucial stage of the 9/11 plotbin al-Shibh applied for a four-week tourist visa to Iran, marking a box stating that his reasons for visiting the country were tourist or pilgrimage. One question on the form was, "If you are passing through Iran in transit have you obtained entry visa for your next country of stay? Bin al-Shibh wrote an X in the box for nein. He also stated on the form that he planned to take $2,000 with him on his trip.
A German law-enforcement report on the matter concludes that bin al-Shibhs visa request was approved and that on Jan. 31, 2001, he flew to Iran, landing at Tehran International Report. The report states he likely flew from Amsterdam since banking documents show he withdrew money from there just a few days earlier. The report concludes however that the Germans were unable to learn any more from the Iranians about bin al-Shibhs activities in Iran and whether he engaged in an illegal border crossing to Afghanistanalthough such a trip was highly likely.
That bin al-Shibh used the trip to cross the border and visit with Al Qaeda chiefs in Afghanistan is highly likely given his indispensable role in the unfolding 9/11 plot, U.S. investigators say. In laying out bin al-Shibhs role in an interim staff report last month, the 9/11 commission noted that bin al-Shibh first visited Al Qaedas Kandahar training camp in Afghanistan in late 1999about the same time as Atta and two other 9/11 plotters from the Hamburg cell, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah. At that time, bin al-Shibh pledged bayat, or allegiance, to Osama bin Laden in a private meeting. It was during this trip that the men from Hamburg first discussed the 9/11 plot and that bin al-Shibh, along with Atta and Shehhi, later met with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Karachi to discuss details including how to read airline schedules.
Bin al-Shibh remained in continuous contact with Mohammed and, according to the commission's report, was the 9/11 masterminds main link to Atta in the United States. Bin al-Shibh also served as a financial conduit, wiring $10,000 to the hijackers from Germany, as well as another $14,000 in early August 2001 to Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen who was at the time taking flight lessons in Oklahoma. Bin al-Shibh, who was captured more than two years ago, has told U.S. interrogators that he understood that Moussaoui was supposed to be part of the 9/11 plot, but Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has insisted instead that Moussaoui was supposed to participate in a planned second wave of attacks on the West Coast.
Commission sources acknowledge they have been unable to resolve key questions about what precisely the 9/11 plotters did while they transited through Iran and, in particular, whether they were receiving active assistance from Iranian security officials, who appear to have maintained relations with Al Qaeda. But investigators say there is mounting evidence about Al Qaeda-Iranian relationships that appear to have been overlooked by a Bush administration that was far more focused on finding connections between bin Ladens organization and the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Indeed, during the trial of another alleged Hamburg cell member, Abdelghani Mzoudi, prosecutors produced a last-minute witness, Hamid Reza Zakeri, who said he was a former officer of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security. Zakeri testified there was a meeting at an airbase near Tehran on May 4, 2001, between top Iranian leadersincluding supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and ex-president Hashemi Rafsanjaniand one of Osama bin Laden's elder sons, Saad, at which plans for 9/11 were discussed.
Zakeri also reportedly claimed he had earlier helped arrange security for a January 2001 meeting between Saad bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's principal deputy. He also claimed that he met with a CIA officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, in July 2001 and passed on a warning to the United States about the forthcoming 9/11 attacks.
U.S. and German authorities have never been able to corroborate Zakeri's claims about the involvement of top Iranian officials, and some officials have questioned his credibility. German government efforts to use Zakeri as a witness against Mzoudi proved ineffective; the defendant, unlike the previously convicted Motassadeq, was acquitted of charges of being an accomplice to the 9/11 hijackers.
I wonder if this has anything to do with your earlier e-mail.
Another US Senator rallies the cause of Iran's Freedom
SMCCDI (Information Service)
Jul 22, 2004
Another principled US Senator, Rick Santorum (R-PA), has rallied the cause of Iranian Freedom by introducing a legislation which promotes the change of the Mullahcracy to a secular and democratic form of regime. The Honorable Santorum is the Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and this ruling party's third-ranking leadership position in the US Senate.
The "Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2004" authorizes the President to provide $10 million in assistance to qualified foreign and domestic pro-democracy groups opposed to the non-democratic government of Iran. As an example of the type of assistance authorized, grants to pro-democracy radio and television broadcasting organizations as a way of directly reaching the people of Iran are specifically encouraged.
"This legislation expresses the sense of the Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support regime change in Iran and that the U.S. government should promote the transition to a new democratic Iranian government. In recent years, we have seen the people of Iran seek greater freedoms and liberties. While efforts to engage the current government of Iran have produced few benefits, this legislation recognizes the people of Iran, who have voted for increased freedoms and have demonstrated on behalf of democratic principles." is stating Mr. Santorum.
It's to note that in order to be eligible for funding, a pro-democracy group must renounce the use of terrorism; pledge to adhere to nonproliferation regimes; pledge to destroy all prohibited stores of weapons of mass destruction; and support the adoption of a democratic form of government in Iran. In addition, groups authorized to receive funding should be dedicated to democratic ideals; show a commitment to human rights; demonstrate a commitment to equality of opportunity; and support freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. As a reassurance to those with concerns of U.S. military involvement in Iran, this legislation does not authorize or otherwise approve of the use of the Armed Forces of the United States.
Joining Senator Santorum as an original cosponsor of the "Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2004" is the influential Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). The Honorable Cornyn is an ardent defenders of Iran's secularist forces and especially the Iranian students.
Imprisoned students and activists' hunger strike gains support
SMCCDI (Information Service)
Jul 22, 2004
The hunger strike of several imprisoned Iranian students and activists, such as, Ahmad Batebi, Behrooz Javid Tehrani, Peyman Piran, Omid Abassgholi-Nejad, Akbar Mohammadi, Farzad Hamidi, the dissident lawyer Nasser Zarafshan and Hamid Massooli who's sentenced to death, is gaining momentum and worldwide support by many Iranians and world's freedom lovers. The strikers are protesting against the persistent rights abuses and are requesting the immediate release of all political prisoners and the organization of free elections in Iran.
Some of them who are held at the section 1 of the Evin political jail, located in North Tehran, have been admitted, on the 18th day of their action, to the prisons medical facility due to their grave health conditions.
The Islamic regime is trying to break this collective will and the protesters have received numerous threats in effort to drive a halt to their strike. Several of them have been summoned to torturing interrogations and the Supreme Judge of the Islamic Judicial Court has been reported as telling them that "If all you die I wouldn't care."
Several alarmed European MPs, such as, Andre Berry, Paolo Kazaka and Helmut Markoff have expressed their public support and expressed concerns on the fate of the strikers and the persistent rights abuses in Iran. Mr. Berry has written a public letter for the attention of the German FM by asking him to intervene due to his close relationship with the ruling mullahs.
Even the docile "Office of Consolidation Unity" (OCU), which is known as a pro-regime reformist student body, is now addressing the issue by writing a public letter in which it praises the strikers while slamming the Islamic regime.
It's to note that the postponement, by the Mullhacracy, of the planned visit of the UN Human Rights team has been made in an effort to avoid any contact between the strikers and the foreign observation team.
Movement welcomes the Santorum-Cornyn legislation during VOA TV program
SMCCDI (Information Service)
Jul 22, 2004
The SMCCDI Coordinator expressed, today, the Movement's gratitude toward the US Senators "Rick Santorum" (R-PA) and "John Cornyn" (R-TX) for the introduction of the "Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2004" during an interview with the Persian Service of "Voice of America Satellite TV".
Aryo B. Pirouznia, who was responding to the VOA anchor Avi Davidi, welcomed the new legislation and expressed the support of these principled American legislators who are seeking the US help of Iran's secular forces. He hopped for the rapid adoption of the Santorum-Cornyn text and a decisive US policy in order to support morally the Iranians for self determination. http://www.daneshjoo.org/smccdinews/article/publish/article_4259.shtml
Other part of the interview was focused on the content of the reply letter of the Honorable John Cornyn to the Movement and the actions of this ardent defender of Iranian students and activists who are seeking freedom and democracy in their country. http://www.daneshjoo.org/smccdinews/article/publish/article_4257.shtml
The program (VOA's "News & Views" of 7/22/04) will be re-aired tomorrow morning, Iran local time, and can be seen at the following link till 12:00 PM US EST by visiting: http://www.voanews.com/real/voa/nenaf/fars/fars1700v.ram . The interview can be seen from the minute 15':40'' of the program with the commentary of the well respected Setareh Derakhshesh. It will be transferred after 12:00 PM US EST to the VOA TV website's archives section.
...I wonder if this has anything to do with your earlier e-mail....
I am still trying to get a handle on this story. I will keep you posted.
If Iran Is The `Real Threat,' What Must We Do About It?
Tampa Tribune - By Charles Krauthammer
Jul 23, 2004
WASHINGTON - Did we invade the wrong country? One of the lessons now being drawn from the 9/11 report is that Iran was the real threat. It had links to al-Qaida, allowed some of the 9/11 hijackers to transit through and is today harboring al- Qaida leaders. The Iraq war critics have a new line of attack: We should have done Iran instead of Iraq.
Well, of course Iran is a threat and a danger. But how exactly would the critics have ``done'' Iran? Iran is a serious country with a serious army. Compared with Iraq, an invasion of Iran would have been infinitely more costly. Can you imagine these critics, who were shouting ``quagmire'' and ``defeat'' when the low-level guerrilla war in Iraq intensified in April, actually supporting war with Iran?
If not war, what then? We know the central foreign policy principle of Bush critics: multilateralism. Kerry and the Democrats have said it a hundred times: The source of our troubles is Bush's insistence on ``going it alone.'' They promise to ``rejoin the community of nations'' and ``work with our allies.''
Well, that happens to be exactly what we have been doing on Iran. And the policy is an abject failure. The Bush administration, having decided that invading one axis-of-evil country was about as much as either the military or the country can bear, has gone multilateral on Iran, precisely what the Democrats advocate. Washington delegated the issue to a committee of three - the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany - that has been meeting with the Iranians to get them to shut down their nuclear program.
The result? They have been led by the nose. Iran is caught red-handed with illegally enriched uranium, and the Tehran Three prevail upon the Bush administration to do nothing while they persuade the mullahs to act nice. Therefore, we do not go to the U.N. Security Council to declare Iran in violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty. We do not impose sanctions. We do not begin squeezing Iran to give up its nuclear program.
Instead, we give Iran more time to swoon before the persuasive powers of ``Jack of Tehran'' - British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw - until finally, humiliatingly, Iran announces that it will resume enriching uranium and that nothing will prevent it from becoming a member of the ``nuclear club.''
The result has not been harmless. Time is of the essence, and the runaround that the Tehran Three have gotten from the mullahs has meant that we have lost at least nine months in doing anything to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
The fact is that the war critics have nothing to offer on the most urgent issue of our time - rogue states in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Iran instead of Iraq? The Iraq critics would have done nothing about either country. There would today be two major Islamic countries sitting on an ocean of oil, supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction - instead of one.
Two years ago there were five countries supporting terror and pursuing WMDs - two junior-leaguers, Libya and Syria, and the axis-of-evil varsity: Iraq, Iran and North Korea. The Bush administration has just eliminated two: Iraq, by direct military means, and Libya, by example and intimidation.
Syria is weak and deterred by Israel. North Korea, having gone nuclear, is untouchable. That leaves Iran. What to do? There are only two things that will stop the Iranian nuclear program: revolution from below or an attack on its nuclear facilities.
The country should be ripe for revolution. The regime is detested. But the mullahs are very good at police- state tactics. The long-awaited revolution is not happening.
Which makes the question of pre-emptive attack all the more urgent. Iran will go nuclear during the next presidential term. Some Americans wishfully think that the Israelis will do the dirty work for us, as in 1981, when they destroyed Saddam's nuclear reactor. But for Israel, attacking Iran is a far more difficult proposition. It is farther away. Moreover, detection and anti-aircraft technology are far more advanced than 20 years ago.
There may be no deus ex machina. If nothing is done, a fanatical terrorist regime openly dedicated to the destruction of the ``Great Satan'' will have both nuclear weapons and the terrorists and missiles to deliver them. All that stands between us and that is either revolution or pre-emptive strike.
Both of which, by the way, are far more likely to succeed with 146,000 American troops and highly sophisticated aircraft standing by just a few miles away - in Iraq.
Charles Krauthammer's column is syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group.
CIA Points to Continuing Iran Tie to Al Qaeda
July 23, 2004
The Washington Times
A senior CIA official has revealed that al Qaeda operatives in Iran probably had advance knowledge of recent terrorist attacks, a sign that the cooperation between Tehran and al Qaeda is continuing since September 11.
"There have been al Qaeda people who have stayed for some time in Iran ... and because they have been in touch with colleagues outside of Iran at times when operations have occurred, it's hard to imagine that they were unwitting of those operations," the senior official said.
"And it's not hard to make the leap that they may have had at least some operational knowledge. It's harder to make the leap that they were directing operations like that."
The senior official spoke to reporters on the findings of the September 11 commission. The commission's report provides new details of Iranian government support for al Qaeda, including travel assistance to several of the hijackers involved in the 2001 airline attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
U.S. intelligence officials have said that a senior al Qaeda operations official, Sayf al-Adl, has been in Iran since 2002. He has been linked to the terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia in May, and to the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa.
The commission inquiry revealed that captured al Qaeda leaders Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh disclosed to interrogators that at least eight of the September 11 hijackers "transited Iran" on the way to Afghanistan, "taking advantage of the Iranian practice of not stamping Saudi passports," the nearly 600-page report stated.
Both terrorists said that ease of travel was the only reason the hijackers went to Iran and they denied any ties between al Qaeda and Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terrorist group.
"In sum, there is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers," the report said.
The report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States also said senior Hezbollah terrorists knew about the al Qaeda members' travels to Iran.
The report said no evidence was found that Iran or Hezbollah were aware of the planning of the September 11 attacks.
"At the time of their travel through Iran, the al Qaeda operatives themselves were probably not aware of the specific details of their future operation," the report said. "After 9/11, Iran and Hezbollah wished to conceal any past evidence of cooperation with Sunni terrorists associated with al Qaeda."
The commission concluded that "we believe this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government."
The senior CIA official confirmed that the al Qaeda hijackers had traveled through Iran but said details of Tehran's backing for the travel are not clear.
"I don't think we know that this was a deliberate Iranian policy, that is, a sanctioned policy at the highest levels of the Iranian government," the senior official said.
U.S. intelligence officials have said Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and the Qods Division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a unit of hard-line Islamist shock troops, are deeply involved in supporting terrorists, including al Qaeda.
The report also disclosed that "intelligence indicates the persistence of contacts between Iranian security officials and senior al Qaeda figures after [Osama] bin Laden's return to Afghanistan [in 1997]."
The commission report also said that captured al Qaeda terrorist Waleed bin Attash, known as Khallad, disclosed that Iran's government "made a concerted effort to strengthen relations with al Qaeda" after the October 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole in Aden harbor, Yemen.
According to the report, bin Laden rebuffed the offer from the Shi'ite regime in Iran because of fears that the cooperation would alienate Sunni supporters in Saudi Arabia.
"Khallad and other detainees have described the willingness of Iranian officials to facilitate the travel of al Qaeda members through Iran, on their way to and from Afghanistan," the report said.
Iranian border inspectors helped the terrorists by not placing travel stamps on passports, which allowed Saudi members to return to Saudi Arabia and not have their passports confiscated by Saudi authorities.
The report noted there is "evidence suggesting that eight to 10 of the 14 Saudi 'muscle' operatives traveled into or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001."
Intelligence information showed that senior al Qaeda leaders in Sudan during the 1990s "maintained contacts with Iran and the Iranian-supported worldwide terrorist organization Hezbollah," the report said.
Military Urges Offensive Against Hizbullah
July 22, 2004
Middle East Newsline
TEL AVIV -- Israel's military has been urging the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to order a major offensive against Hizbullah.
Military sources said the General Staff has concluded that Hizbullah has embarked on a campaign of sustained tactical strikes against military and civilian targets inside Israel. The sources said the military leadership has warned the government that Israel's deterrence was being eroded against Hizbullah as well as Iran and Syria.
"We're talking about maybe 500 Hizbullah operatives in southern Lebanon," an Israeli military source said. "But they operate with impunity and we are allowing this."
The sources said the General Staff wants Cabinet approval for a widescale mission in southern Lebanon that would drive Hizbullah operatives and Iranian forces from the area. They said such an operation would also track and destroy the estimated 12,000 missiles and rockets in the area.
"What is very important to understand is that a threat is emerging with Iran, Hizbullah and Syria that represents an explosive that could go off," Maj. Gen. Benny Ganz, head of Israel's Northern Command, said.
On Tuesday, Hizbullah snipers killed two Israeli soldiers who were working on an antenna in their post along the Israeli border. Israeli artillery and helicopters retaliated by attacking a nearby Hizbullah outpost in Lebanon and a Hizbullah operative was said to have been killed.
"The Hizbullah terrorist organization continues to create provocations backed by Syria and Lebanon, by means of belligerent attacks from Lebanese territory, which is a flagrant violation of Israel's sovereignty," an Israeli military statement said. "This activity comes in addition to Hizbullah's relentless attempts to incite and aid Palestinian terrorist organizations to carry out terror attacks inside Israel."
Hours after the fighting in southern Lebanon, Israeli fighter-jets flew over Beirut on late Tuesday. The flights caused sonic booms over the Lebanese capital.
The military has been preparing a range of contingencies for a major operation against Hizbullah, the sources said. They said the options include attacks on Lebanese civilian and military targets as well as installations within Syria.
"There is one address to Hizbullah -- and that is Syria," Israeli Health Minister Danny Naveh said.
The key challenge in any operation against Hizbullah would be to expel the Iranian presence in southern Lebanon. The sources said the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps's Unit 1800 has been responsible for the training and equipping of Hizbullah in southern Lebanon. They said the unit has been maintaining and operating Hizbullah's huge missile and rocket arsenal, which can strike targets north of Tel Aviv.
[On Wednesday, Israel's Cabinet was briefed by Israeli military intelligence on the leading military threats to the Jewish state. The threats were said o be Iran's nuclear weapons program and the missile arsenal of Hizbullah nd Syria.]
The sources said the Sharon government, including Defense Minister Shaul ofaz, has been uncertain in determining a response to Hizbullah attacks. hey said Sharon has been concerned that a massive response would arouse the anger of the United States, which has sought a commitment from Israel against embarking on any military mission that could spark a Middle East crisis.
"We're hoping that Syria will intervene," an Israeli official said. "We don't need another military front."
The 9/11 Vision - Better, but not there yet
National Review - By Michael Ledeen
Jul 23, 2004
Well, it's better than the Intelligence Committee thing, anyway. You can actually read this one, sometimes with pleasure, which is a rarity for documents of the genre. And it's got lots of information, some of which is a mystery.
To start with, this commission is explicit about Iran's ongoing intimate relationship with al Qaeda. We know and the report confirms that Iran was up to its neck in the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996 in Saudi Arabia, and the report cryptically adds "there are also signs that al Qaeda played some role, as yet unknown." But the relationship goes back a good five years, as Sudan brokered an agreement whereby Iran would train al Qaeda terrorists for operations against Israel and the United States. This training took place first in Iran, and, in the fall of 1993, in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
For those of us who have long argued that Iran, and Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah, provided much of the operational inspiration for Osama, it is gratifying to find forthright statements like "Bin Ladin reportedly showed particular interest in learning how to use truck bombs such as the one that had killed 241 U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983. The relationship between al Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations...al Qaeda contacts with Iran continued for many years."
The unsealed indictment of Osama bin Laden in the fall of 1998 charged that al Qaeda had allied itself with Iran, Sudan, and Hezbollah, and as we learn for the first time from the report that there was an "understanding" between al Qaeda and Iraq, promising that al Qaeda would not attack Iraq and that the two sides would cooperate on various things, including weapons development. Richard Clarke suspected that chemical-weapons projects in Sudan were the result of that agreement.
Recent leaks had already announced the commission's conclusion that many of the 9/11 terrorists had received favored treatment from Iranian border guards by granting them safe passage and declining to stamp their passports but the leaks were incomplete. In October 2000, we are told, a senior Hezbollah terrorist went to Saudi Arabia and "planned to assist individuals in Saudi Arabia in traveling to Iran during November.... In mid-November, we believe, three of the future muscle hijackers...traveled in a group from Saudi Arabia to Beirut and then onward to Iran. An associate of a senior Hizbollah operative was on the same flight...the travel of this group was important enough to merit the attention of senior figures in Hizbollah." And it goes on and on: "Later in November, two future muscle hijackers...flew into Iran from Bahrain. In February 2001, Khalid al Mihdhar may have taken a flight from Syria to Iran, and then traveled further within Iran to a point near the Afghan border."
And there is another bombshell, quietly buried on page 149: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's family lived in Iran for a while in the mid-90s, and KSM himself spent time there as well.
All of this might lead a normal person to conclude the obvious: that Iran was helpful to the 9/11 conspiracy. But no, not really. First of all, the Hezbollah attention to the travelers might have been coincidental; they might have been tracking a different group. And despite the considerable evidence, the commission resorts to the usual CIA CYA language in such matters: "We have found no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack."
I remember, back in the Eighties, an Arab terrorist flew from Damascus to Istanbul, and went directly to the synagogue there, where he killed many people. When some of us suggested we might find some appropriately mean thing to do to the Syrians, CIA was quick to say that there was no hard evidence linking the Syrian regime to the terrorist attack. By which they meant that we did not have either a tape recording of a conversation in which old man Assad authorized the attack, or a signed affidavit from the Syrian government admitting guilt.
In the real world, it's very rare, verging on impossible, to have such "intelligence" or "evidence." The commission piled up an impressive quantity of it I should think quite enough to justify Iran's status as charter member in the Axis of Evil, and more than enough to compel deputy secretary of State Armitage to change his tune on the "democratic" nature of the mullahcracy.
So what's the mystery? The mystery is where did the information come from about Iran training al Qaeda terrorists over a long period of time? I don't think that CIA believes that. Yet CIA is presumably the source. Ah, well, as the commission says, "this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government." Don't hold your breath.
The weakest part of the report concerns what needs to be done to destroy the terror masters. The whole section is written as if the state sponsors were somehow beside the point; the commission focus is entirely on the terrorist groups. This is an odd position, given all the evidence of the deep involvement of countries like Iran, Syria, and Iraq.
It's downhill from there. In a rambling discussion of our many intelligence failures over the years, the commission pretends to criticize Congress, but then only discusses sins of omission insufficient oversight. Yes, the report mentions the scandals in the 70s, and if you read very carefully you will find clever language that credits Attorney General Levi with drafting guidelines for the FBI that avoided even greater damage (talk about damning with faint praise). But the report fails to make the basic point that Congress had defanged the FBI and CIA. And there is no explicit recommendation that the old strictures be abolished, maybe because many of them have, thanks to the Patriot Act, but that is really not good enough.
The commission has actually come up with an oversight scheme that would almost certainly make things even worse than they have been. They want new oversight committees, with "bipartisan staff" (presumably selected by the Archangel Michael, because nobody in Washington is capable of such an act), bigger budgets, and unlimited tenure. This is a guarantee of corruption. Elected officials with open-ended terms will invariably end up in the pockets of the intelligence community. The best hope for honest congressional criticism is short tenure and revolving staff.
Worse still, the report calls for even more money for intelligence, and an entirely new layer of bureaucracy, the effect of which would be far greater centralization of the whole process.
I think this gets the problem backwards. We need a smaller intelligence community, not a bigger one, because bigger means more homogenized. The Senate Intelligence Committee report complained about "group think," which is the inevitable outcome of a big community that has to agree on final language for finished intelligence. It would be far better, in my opinion, to let real specialists tell the policymakers what they think, and sign their names to their conclusions. That way, if an analyst successfully solved a problem, he could be rewarded. As things stand now and the matter is even worse if the commission's recommendations are adopted no one can be rewarded for original thinking, and bad analysis gets blamed on the whole organization.
In short, we should strive for competitive intelligence. Keep the boxes small, let them present their analyses and recommendations, and make the policymakers sort it out. The commission goes through the ritual pieties of keeping policy and analysis separate, but most of such talk is misleading, since every grownup knows that certain conclusions say, that Iran supported the 9/11 operation lead inevitably to certain policies say, that "selective dialogue with Iran" is a joke.
Everyone in Washington is making policy all the time. Live with it.
Other really big problems above all, the need for a new generation of spies capable of penetrating the terror network are finessed by calling for future leaders to solve the problems within the proposed context. But, as Reuel Gerecht has long taught us, no bureaucratic fix can possibly undo the terrible damage wrought by more than 30 years of restrictions and the consequent culture of risk avoidance and long-distance spy craft.
Oh, and by the way as Angleton would be the first to observe there's hardly a word in here about counterintelligence. If you're going to centralize things even more, it makes it easier for our enemies to penetrate the structure and get...damn near everything. So the commission's scheme cries out for better counterintelligence. If intelligence is going to be across-the-government, well, then, I'm afraid counterintelligence will have to be expanded and improved as well.
At the end of the day, we need officials who are good enough to make the hard decisions, authorize risky actions, listen carefully to dissonance among the analysts and disagreement about proposed operations, and manage the whole thing while protecting civil liberties to the utmost. It won't be easy. If and when our guys get to that point, the structural changes they need to actuate are actually quite simple: They need a big-time purge, what the business world called "restructuring," leading to a smaller, leaner intelligence community where individuals are encouraged to think independently and act courageously.
It's leadership, stupid.
Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. Ledeen is Resident Scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.