TEHRAN FEARS POSSIBLE TOUGH MEASURES FROM BUSH
By Safa Haeri
Posted Friday, July 23, 2004
PARIS 23 July (IPS) Is Washington really planning a tough action against the Islamic Republic?
The question haunts many Iranian political analysts inside and outside, with most of them giving a positive answer.
Deducting from what comes out from Washington these last weeks and days, I seriously would say that the Bush Administration is considering serious measures against Iran, one prominent analyst told Iran Press Service on condition of anonymity.
He was referring to the latest report released on Thursday 22 July by the bi-partisan, independent 9/11 Commission pointing to contacts between Iranian security officials and senior al-Qaeda operatives.
According to the 19 months long investigations, the Islamic Republic allowed eight to 10 of the Sept. 11 hijackers to pass through its territory on their way from Afghanistan and other countries without stamping their passports.
"We believe this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government", the commissioners said, adding however that no evidence had been found that the Iranian government was aware that the terrorist network was planning the attacks on New York and Washington.
The internet newspaper Baztab that belong to Mr. Mohsen Rezai, the former Commander of the Revolutionary Guards has warned that the report might serve (the Americans) as a pretext for preparing a military action against the Islamic Republic.
The report also says that there are signs indicating that the Iranian supported Lebanese Hezbollah organisation had a role in the bombings in 1996 at the Khobar Towers housing complex in Dharan, Saudi Arabia.
Following the operation, American press, quoting unidentified intelligence community sources, cited a high-ranking Revolutionary Guards officer as the coordinator of the Khobar attack.
President George W. Bush on Monday said Washington was probing the possibility that Tehran had offered assistance to some of the terrorists who conducted the 11 September attacks against the United States.
The United States is investigating possible ties between Iran and al-Qaeda, and wants to know if the Iranian government played a role in the attacks, President Bush said, adding, "We will look to see if the Iranians were involved".
However, he made it clear that there was no definite proof yet that this had occurred, and he didn't mention any possible consequences for Iran.
Shooting back, former Iranian president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Friday 23 July that the United States created al-Qaeda to destabilise the Islamic Republic and Americans should blame their government for failing to uncover the plot and protect Americans instead of pointing fingers at others.
"Every day, thousands of people come and go. ... Such people usually carry false passports. Moreover, many can illegally cross the border. It has been always like this", Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, considered as the regimes number two man after Ayatollah Ali Khamenehi said, referring to the report.
Not only the report says it was not certain that the hijackers passed through the country, but also even if it's true that they have passed through Iran, can you really incriminate Iran with this bit of information? he asked worshippers bussed to the traditional Friday Prayer in Tehran amidst chants of "Death to America!"
In fact, the Commission's report points also to "deep institutional failings" and missed opportunities to thwart the hijacking by al-Qaeda of four American airliners crushed on the World Trade Center twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, killing more than 3,000 people.
While rejecting all links with the al-Qaeda, Tehran has admitted the arrest of up to 450 operatives of al-Qaeda that had fled Afghanistan immediately after the massive military intervention of American forces.
However, the Islamic Republic is suspected to shelter some senior al-Qaeda leaders, including Sad Ben Laden, the elder son of Osama Ben Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda and Saif al Adl, the Organisations intelligence boss.
Commission Chairman Thomas Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, said of Iran and al-Qaeda, "We know of a relationship. We don't know how deep that relationship is and whether it exists to this day".
The Shiia Muslim Iran was at odd with the staunchly anti-Shiate Taleban who had killed nine Iranian diplomats and a journalist when they stormed the northern city of Mazar Sharif on August 1998.
As well as its concerns about Irans support of terrorism, Washington also accuses the Iranian ruling ayatollahs to be in the process of creating a nuclear arsenal aimed at destroying Israel.
Tehran rejects the charges and insists that the atomic project it has under construction, including facilities for enriching uranium, is for civilian uses, mostly producing electricity.
But both the Americans and the Israelis do not accept the explanations, claiming that the nuclear-powered plant that is under construction in the Persian Gulf port of Bushehr with Russian help is a cover for developing an atomic bomb.
ENDS IRAN QAEDA 23704
Well, it might be more believeable without that whole "Death to America" stuff. Talk about poking a tiger in the eye.