Rift grows as Iranians caught fighting for Sadr
Michael Howard in Baghdad
Friday August 13, 2004
Security officials in Baghdad were last night urgently investigating the background of 30 Iranians who were caught fighting for a rebel Shia cleric in Iraq, amid mounting concern over the involvement of the Tehran regime in the uprising.
The Guardian has learned that the most senior members of the Iraqi government were briefed about the capture of the men yesterday, and also told of other evidence that fighters and equipment have been crossing the border from Iran.
The 30 men were captured in the southern city of Kut on Wednesday and officials are trying to establish whether they have any links to Tehran.
"We are checking their identities but if they are found to have links to the Iranians then that would be tantamount to a declaration of war by them," said a senior Iraqi source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The source said members of Iraq's national security committee had yesterday been presented "with revealing information about the extent of Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs", which was being taken seriously at the "highest echelons of government".
There was increasing frustration "at our neighbour's apparent indifference to cross-border security, despite promises of cooperation".
The source said two trucks laden with weapons destined for the fighters of the militant cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, had been stopped at the Iranian border on Wednesday night.
Sabbah Kaddim, a senior adviser at the ministry of the interior, declined to confirm the seizure of the two trucks or the arrest of the Iranians. But he confirmed "there were a number of non-Iraqi elements" captured in Kut.
He added: "There has been a continuous stream of vehicles over the last few weeks trying to ferry arms across the border from Iran.
"We catch some, others must get through. The trouble is knowing who exactly is behind all this."
The violence between US and Iraqi forces and Mr Sadr's supporters has destabilised Shia areas of the capital and several cities across southern Iraq where Iranian influence is at its strongest.
Baghdad knows the unrest poses a critical test of strength for the interim administration of Ayed Allawi, whose success will be judged on the ability to deliver a secure environment in which to hold the country's first post-Saddam elections, scheduled for next January.
Iran denies stirring up violence in Iraq. It says it does not knowingly let fighters cross the long border between the two countries, but accepts that some might cross illegally.
Foreign fighters account for only a fraction of the insurgents in detention in Iraq.
Relations between Iran and Iraq, who fought a ruinous war from 1980-88, have plummeted in recent weeks. Iran yesterday summoned Iraq's top envoy in Tehran over the alleged arrest in Iraq of several reporters from Iran's state news agency and the fate of a kidnapped Iranian diplomat. Iran also denounced the assault by US marines and Iraqi forces in the holy Iraqi city of Najaf as "inhumane and horrible".
Foreign diplomatic observers in Baghdad have been alarmed by the "stoking up of tension" between the two neighbours. One senior diplomat said the Iranians were pursuing their activities in Iraq "more aggressively than three months ago, and they were hardly passive then".
Some foreign diplomats, however, question whether Iran would be able to do anything in Iraq than other than "stir things up a bit".
"Iranians will never be fully trusted by a majority of the Shia in Iraq," said one, suggesting there was not much the Iraqi government could do other than keep relations at a manageable level and allow the "game to play out in Iran, between those who want to help Iraq and those extremists who want to see the whole thing fail".
The differences among hawks and doves on the Iranian side are mirrored in the administration of Mr Allawi, some of whom represent political parties with ties to Tehran.
The Iraqi finance minister, Adel Abdel Mahdi, a senior member of the Supreme Council for Islamic revolution in Iraq, described cooperation between Iran and Iraq as "positive" after he led a large delegation to Tehran last week to attend a conference on reconstruction. Iran was one of the first to recognise the new Iraqi government and has also invited the interim prime minister Mr Allawi for an official visit.
An interior ministry official said yesterday: "We do have problems, but we believe that we can take the problems to the Iranian side and discuss them.
"The invitation was something of a surprise but it perhaps is an acknowledgment that Iran realises that things could get out hand in the south. It is not in their interests for there to be chaos. Many many Iraqi Shia are against what Moqtada al-Sadr are doing, and the sensible elements of the Iranian government know that. We believe we can develop better relations if we are honest with one another."
But one Iraqi diplomat, a former member of the Iraqi opposition who took part in the postwar planning, said: "You know we didn't misread the reaction of the Shia in postwar Iraq, as many analysts have suggested; our big failing was to misread the reaction from our neighbours. They really don't want to give us a chance."
Get tough with the mullahs, for Iranians' sake
International Herald Tribune - By Behzad Naziri
Aug 12, 2004
The West and Tehran
PARIS As pundits and armchair generals in the United States and Europe debate ways to cope with the growing threat of Iran's nuclear program, it's worth thinking about the plight of the 70 million Iranians who are ruled by the mullahs' iron fist.
The death by torture last year of the Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi in a prison cell in Tehran was a stark reminder of the cruelty of life in Iran. It also gave me a sense of déjà vu.
Last week, the United Nations rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Ambeyi Ligabo, called for the dispatch of an international delegation to Iran to investigate Kazemi's death. My experience qualifies me to join that delegation.
Zahra Kazemi, on an assignment to Iran, was arrested in June last year while photographing families of political prisoners who were trying to get some information on their loved ones outside the notorious Evin Prison in northern Tehran.
As a journalist working for the foreign press, Zahra Kazemi was trying to report the flagrant abuses inside the country. She paid dearly for that, with her life. Kazemi died after severe torture while being interrogated in Evin Prison. The Iranian authorities quickly buried her to cover up what they had done.
Under enormous international pressure, a show trial was held to whitewash the crime. As facts in the case started coming out - including testimony by Kazemi's mother about the severity of the torture that resulted in her daughter's death - the court adjourned abruptly. A few days later, the judge acquitted the accused. The official story is now that Zahra Kazemi died of natural causes. Welcome to justice, mullah-style.
I have experienced Iranian justice too. In February 1982, as a stringer in Tehran for Agence France-Presse, I went to Evin Prison to attend a trial. The victim was a 17-year-old supporter of the People's Mujahideen, the main Iranian opposition group.
We were allowed to talk to many prisoners who told us that they had been well treated in the prison. We even saw the prison's pool. But the trial was off-limits, and we were not allowed in. A few days later, I found out that the boy had been executed the same night.
It did not take me long to get a chance to visit Evin again. As I was going to work in Tehran in June 1982, I was detained by Revolutionary Guards. My elder sister Giti, a journalist working for Iranian Television, had been executed in May 1982 on charges of having supported the People's Mujahideen. I ended up in Evin, this time as a prisoner. I was held in Ward 209, the one where Zahra Kazemi spent her last days alive.
The flogging began immediately. While blindfolded, I recognized the voice of my torturer. He was one of the "prisoners" who had earlier told me about how good conditions were in the prison. Little by little I realized that most of the "prisoners" I had met in the previous visit were actually prison guards.
During my first night in solitary confinement, I woke up to the sound of gunfire. It was firing squads executing prisoners in the empty pool I had seen during my first visit.
Like Zahra Kazemi, I was charged with "cooperating with foreign press." I had a trial, too. It took five minutes. No lawyer, no defense. I was luckier than Zahra Kazemi and only sentenced to eight years. I managed to escape in 1985 during a medical test and eventually made it to Paris.
While in exile, I have seen and heard the much-touted "moderate mullah" fantasy over and over. When Mohammad Khatami became president, many in the West thought he was the Cinderella the world was looking for, but his reformist rhetoric has done more to provide cover for Western trade with Tehran than to improve the lives of ordinary Iranians. The moderate fantasy remains just that, a fantasy.
The mullahs have not changed and are not going to change. In a statement June 20, the European Union said it "continues to be gravely concerned at the continued and numerous violations of human rights in Iran."
For more than a decade, Europe has sought to placate the mullahs by ignoring their egregious human rights abuses, their quest for a nuclear arsenal and their undercutting of Middle East peace. Europe even gave Tehran what it demanded the most by blacklisting the only effective opposition to the fundamentalist rulers of Iran, the People's Mujahideen. This policy has proven to be a dismal failure, serving only to solidify the grip of the most anti-Western and extremist wing of the ruling theocracy.
Meanwhile, the United States has sent mixed signals to Tehran, with President George W. Bush expressing concern over the regime's threat and the State Department pushing to engage the mullahs.
It's time to stop seeing Iran through rose-tinted glasses. The rest of the world should respect the Iranian people's desire for regime change and abandon dialogue with Iran's tyrants. The first step is to take the matter to the UN Security Council to adopt some binding measures against the mullahs. Iran's people will do the rest.
Iran ready to 'pay the price' for pursuing nuclear program
AP - World News
Aug 12, 2004
TEHRAN - Iran is ready to "pay the price" for pursuing a peaceful nuclear program, even if that means being brought before the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions, President Mohammad Khatami said Wednesday.
At the same time, Iran successfully test fired a new version of its ballistic Shahab-3 missile, which already was capable of reaching U.S. forces in the Middle East and since has been upgraded in response to Israeli missile development. The Shahab-3 can carry a nuclear warhead.
The commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Rahim Safavi, warned that Iran "will crush" Israel if it attacks the Persian state, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Khatami said Tehran was ready to give guarantees that its nuclear program, including enriching uranium, would not be diverted toward making weapons, as Washington suspects. He said atomic weapons go against the teachings of Islam.
"We have nothing more than a word -- 'yes' -- to peaceful nuclear technology," Khatami said after a Cabinet meeting.
"This is our national interest and prestige. This is our strategy. But if they want to deny us of our basic right (to develop a peaceful nuclear program), we and our nation have to be prepared to pay the price."
Washington strongly suspects Iran is using a civilian nuclear program as a cover for a secret nuclear weapons project. President Bush has labeled Iran part of an "axis of evil" with North Korea and prewar Iraq.
The United States has been lobbying for the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran's nuclear dossier to the Security Council, which could impose sanctions.
Iran has rejected Washington's allegations, saying its nuclear program was geared only toward generating electricity.
Khatami said Iran does not want its case referred to the Security Council, but it will not worry if that happens.
"It's a remote possibility that (our dossier) is referred to the Security Council in September. Even if that happens, nothing will change. The pressure will continue. They (Americans) already condemn us and exert pressures now," a smiling Khatami said.
The IAEA is investigating nearly two decades of secret nuclear activities by Iran that were first revealed in 2003.
On Tuesday, the Bush administration said it was waiting for the agency's full report but was standing by its suspicions.
"Obviously, we think Iran has a weapons program, we think the evidence points to that," said Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman. "What's troubling is that there are not clear, consistent answers that are provided in an open and transparent way . . . as promised."
But Khatami said new IAEA findings proved Tehran's claim that traces of weapons-grade enriched uranium found on some products in Iran were produced elsewhere.
"We didn't produce enriched uranium in Iran. The equipment was contaminated," he said.
The new agency findings were revealed Tuesday by diplomats in Vienna, Austria. The diplomats, who are familiar with Iran's nuclear dossier, told The Associated Press the IAEA has established that at least some enriched particles found in Iran originated in Pakistan.
The origin of hundreds of other samples has not been established. Still, the finding bolsters Tehran's assertion that all such traces were inadvertently imported on "contaminated" equipment it bought on the black market.
Khatami said Islam does not allow Iran to seek nuclear weapons.
"Due to our ideological beliefs, we can't acquire nuclear weapons . . . we can't use nuclear weapons even if they are used against us," he said. "We will give all the necessary guarantees to ensure that Iran doesn't work toward acquiring nuclear weapons."
Khatami said Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rowhani, will embark on a mission to try to defuse tensions over the nuclear program. He did not elaborate.
Earlier this month, Iran confirmed it resumed building nuclear centrifuges. The centrifuges are used to make uranium hexaflouride, which can be enriched to low levels to be used as fuel or to high levels to make weapons.
Iran restarted its effort after Britain, Germany and France failed to close Iran's dossier at the IAEA in June. Iran has called on the three to back its right to "dual use" nuclear technology that has both peaceful and weapons applications.
The three European nations have held out the prospect of supplying Iran with such technology only if suspicions about its program are eliminated.
The Shahab-3, which Iran last successfully tested in 2002 before providing it to the elite Revolutionary Guards, is the country's longest-range ballistic missile, with a range of about 810 miles.
A Defense Ministry statement reported by the official Islamic Republic News Agency said the test was successful.
"The previously assigned aims were achieved in this test," the statement said.
Iran's development of the missile prompted Israel and the United States to jointly develop the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system, one of the few systems capable of intercepting and destroying missiles at high altitudes.
Safavi was quoted by IRNA as saying, "If Israel is mad enough to attack Iran's national interests, we will come down on them like a hammer and will crush their bones."
It was unclear what prompted Safavi to make his remarks. Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor in a 1981 airstrike to prevent it from making atomic bombs.
Iran Military Warns of New Vietnam in Iraq
Agence France Presse, Reuters, Arab News
TEHRAN, 13 August 2004 Iran yesterday condemned the US atrocities in Iraq where American troops backed by Iraqi soldiers were locked in a deadly showdown with Shi'i cleric Moqtada Sadrs militia. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi expressed Irans extreme concern and disgust over the atrocities being carried out by US forces in neighboring Iraq, news agencies reported.
He condemned what he called the total lack of morality on the part of the occupation forces and the duplicity of those who speak of democracy but were holding up any genuine return of sovereignty to the Iraqis. International organizations must react without delay to the events in Najaf and stop the massacre of the innocent, he said.
Irans Revolutionary Guards militia, the predominantly Shi'i countrys ideological backbone, called for Iraqis to close ranks in their resistance to the Americans and warned of a new Vietnam for the United States. The Iraqi people must unite in their resistance to the occupiers and put aside their difference, it said in a statement.
The day is not far when the occupiers will suffer the same humiliation as in Vietnam, said the Revolutionary Guards, which the United States has accused of interference in Iraq since the downfall of Saddam Hussein.
The Guards condemned the US violations of some of the holiest sites in Shi'i Islam, notably around the Imam Ali shrine that has been turned into a Mehdi Army stronghold. They called on Iranians to stage massive demonstrations after weekly Friday prayers to underline their hatred for the occupiers and their solidarity with the oppressed people of Iraq.
Foreign Ministry summoned Iraqs top envoy in Tehran to protest the arrest of four journalists from Irans official IRNA news agency and kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat.
The IRNA journalists arrests on Monday by Iraqi police exacerbated tensions between the two neighbors who fought a bitter 1980-1988 war in which hundreds of thousands were killed.
Tehran has been angered by comments from some Iraqi and US officials that it is stirring up violence among the Shi'i population in Iraq. Iran says four Iranian business officials working to improve trade ties with Iraq have also been arrested in the past month by US troops who handed them over to Iraqi police. And an Iran consul to Karbala was kidnapped last week by a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq.
IRNA said a Foreign Ministry official told Iraqs Charge dAffaires to Iran Khalil Salman Al-Sabihi that the journalists arrests were illegal and unacceptable. He asked for a prompt investigation by Iraqi officials, the immediate release of the detainees, and clarification of the situation of the missing diplomat in Iraq, the agency said.
A separate IRNA report, citing Irans Charge dAffaires in Baghdad Hassan Kazemi Qomi, said IRNAs Baghdad Bureau Chief Mostafa Darban and three local staff were being held at Iraqs Interior Ministry. US troops last year arrested two Iranian state television reporters in Iraq and held them for four months.
Iran has denied the allegations spearheaded by Defense Minister Hazem Al-Shaalan, who has called Tehran the No. 1 enemy and accused it of aiding rebel militia holding out in Najaf.
On Tuesday, IRNA said Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi had officially invited to Tehran Iraqs interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who has expressed his willingness to visit the Islamic republic. IRNA said Kharrazi had discussed Shaalans accusations with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari, describing them as surprising and unacceptable and emphasizing that the interim Iraqi government needs everyones cooperation and support, including Irans.
According to IRNA, Kharrazi was assured by Zebari that the accusations were not the official stance of the Iraqi government. The two also discussed the fate of Jahani, IRNA said.
Zebari reported on the continued efforts of Iraqs government. Iraq will inform Iran as soon as it receives any news on the matter, Kharrazi was quoted as saying.
Iran Tests Latest Shahab Missile [Excerpt]
August 11, 2004
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran says it has carried out a successful field test of the latest version of its Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile, which defense experts say can reach Israel or U.S. bases in the Gulf.
Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani said last week Iran was working to improve the range and accuracy of the Shahab-3 in response to Israel's moves to boost its anti-missile capability.
The Defence Ministry, in a brief statement carried on the official news agency IRNA, said the test of the new Shahab-3 "was carried out successfully ... The pre-determined targets were hit in the testing," it said.
Iran says its missile program is purely for deterrent purposes.
Tehran also denies U.S. and Israeli accusations that it is seeking to develop nuclear warheads which could be delivered by the Shahab-3.
In Washington, the State Department said Iran's attempts to improve its missile capability were a threat to the region and U.S. interests.
"We will continue to take steps to address Iran's missile efforts, and to work closely with other like-minded countries in doing so," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.
Based on the North Korean Nodong-1 and modified with Russian technology, the Shahab-3 is thought to have a range of 810 miles (1,300 km), which would allow it to strike anywhere in Israel.
Shahab means meteor in Persian.
Amid media speculation that Israel may try to halt Iran's nuclear program by carrying out air strikes on some atomic facilities in Iran, Iranian officials have said Tehran would retaliate promptly and strongly to any such attack.
"If Israel behaves like a lunatic and attacks the Iranian nation's interests, we will come down on their heads like a mallet and break their bones," the ISNA students news agency quoted Revolutionary Guards Commander Yahya Rahim Safavi as saying on Wednesday.
Israel successfully tested its Arrow II anti-missile project in the United States last month. It was the seventh time the Arrow II had worked but the first time it had destroyed a Scud missile -- similar to the Shahab-3 -- in flight.
"The Israelis have recently tried to increase their missile capability and we will also try to upgrade our Shahab-3 missile in every respect," the ISNA students news agency quoted Shamkhani as saying last week.
He said the improvements to the Shahab-3 "will not be limited to the missile's range and will include all its specifications." ...
Defense Expert: Iran May Buy N. Korean Arms
August 12, 2004
The Media Line
Iran is a likely candidate to buy a long-range missile currently being developed by North Korea so that it can reach Israel, according to Joe Bermudez, a senior analyst at Janes Information Group.
Bermudez, a guest on The International News Hour, explained that North Korea was developing a ballistic missile estimated to have a range of 1,500-2,500 miles. If such a missile does exist, North Korea could attack any military base in Eastern Asia or Hawaii, he said.
The Iranians have a desire to possess a ballistic missile that could strike at Israel from within the center of Iran instead of moving it to the border like they can with the Shihab-III that they presently own, he said.
Because the Iranians have been planning on developing an advanced version of the Shihab-III, Bermudez continued, it would be advantageous for them to skip the development stage and acquire the North Korean missile.
Iran Stuns Europe With Nuclear Demands
August 12, 2004
The Jerusalem Post
Iranian officials, under pressure to freeze their nuclear program, have stunned European diplomats at crisis talks in Paris this month by demanding advanced nuclear technology, conventional weapons, and a security guarantee against a nuclear attack by Israel.
The diplomats from Britain, France, and Germany were meeting the Iranians in an attempt to defuse the escalating crisis over Teheran's nuclear program.
The Europeans were said to have been stunned by the move and, according to London's Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, the Iranians' demands had "gone down very badly" and had sharply raised the stakes.
The Iranians produced their letter as the European diplomats sought to convince them to honor an earlier agreement to suspend work on their controversial uranium enrichment program, which could be used to produce material for nuclear power stations but also to make nuclear weapons.
According to the report, the Iranian officials refused point-blank to comply, saying they had every right under international law to pursue "peaceful" nuclear technology.
They then shocked the Europeans by turning the tables with their own set of demands, which were contained in the letter.
First, they demanded that the European trio support Iran's quest for "advanced [nuclear] technology, including those with dual use."
Second, they demanded that the Europeans "remove impediments" to Iran acquiring such technology, and remain committed to this position even if faced with "legal [or] political... limitations," a reference to possible US pressure or future international sanctions against Iran.
Third, and considered even more astonishing, they demanded that the Europeans meet their conventional weapons needs and "provide security assurances" against a nuclear attack on Iran.
This is thought to refer to Israel's nuclear capabilities and its long-range delivery systems.
The European trio are reported to be still considering their response, but British officials were quoted as saying the Iranian letter was "extremely surprising, given the delicate state of the process."
It is considered likely that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who is playing a leading role in Europe's "constructive dialogue" with Teheran, will now have to decide whether to move to a more confrontational policy.
The Europeans, whose engagement with Iran aims to draw the Islamic republic back into the international mainstream, were seeking to avoid a full-scale confrontation between the United States and Iran over Iran's nuclear program.
Washington is insisting that the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which meets next month, refers the Iranian nuclear issue to the UN Security Council, where Iran would face possible sanctions.
While the IAEA board is unlikely to give Iran a clean bill of health, a crucial report by IAEA director-general Mohamed ElBaradei is expected actually to boost the Iranian position and frustrate Washington's preference for following the security council route.
In his report to the IAEA board of governors, ElBaradei is expected to clear Iran of producing highly enriched uranium and declare that particles of this substance found by his inspectors at Iranian sites had, in fact, originated in material that was imported from Pakistan's rogue nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan.
Why Iran is Giving The West The Willies [Excerpt]
August 13, 2004
What should the West do about Iran's nuclear program? That issue will be one of the hot foreign policy questions of September, when the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency meet to discuss the best way to make sure Tehran does not build the bomb.
The Iranians are talking tough: On July 31 they announced they would resume building the centrifuges that can enrich uranium to weapons-grade strength. Iran says it's for peaceful purposes, but the Europeans, who thought they had brokered a deal to stop Iran's march to nuclear power status, are outraged.
So are the Americans. And the Israelis. In early August, President George W. Bush and his National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said they would demand U.N.-imposed sanctions if Iran persists. Israel has set up a committee headed by the director of Mossad to monitor Iran's nuclear program, which Jerusalem thinks could yield a bomb by 2007, two years ahead of current estimates. Some Knesset members say Israel might eventually need to consider a surgical strike, like the one that took out Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. Even the Arabs are uneasy. "Iranian hegemony in the Middle East is feared in many quarters," says Ephraim Kam, a Tel Aviv University strategic expert.
But Iran isn't necessarily worried about any threats. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, Iranian leaders feared Tehran would be the next candidate for regime change. But the Pentagon is so tied down in Iraq that the odds of a military operation to oust the mullahs are near zero. The U.S. "is not going to be in a position to leverage or threaten anyone," says Jon Wolfsthal, an arms-proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. U.N. sanctions might be vetoed by China or Russia, two of Iran's nuclear suppliers. And Iran has probably scattered its nuclear sites across its vast and mountainous terrain to thwart any Israeli attack.
Finally, Iran is not a collapsed state like North Korea, whose only bargaining chip is its nuclear menace. Iran's oil production is a vital part of the world energy picture, and it has extensive commercial relations with Europe. Europe's governments may denounce Tehran for its nuclear ambitions, but at the same time Renault and Volkswagen have signed large deals with local companies. Amir Mohebian, an editor of Resalat, a conservative Tehran daily, believes that neither Europe nor the U.S. wants to cut off dialogue with the Iranian government. "The Iranians feel they're on a roll," says Steven Everts, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform in London. ...
Tehran Protests Arrests in Iraq
August 13, 2004
The Washington Times
From Combined Dispatches
TEHRAN -- Iran's government summoned the top Iraqi envoy in Tehran to protest the arrest in Baghdad of several reporters for Iran's state news agency and the kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat.
Shi'ite-Muslim Iran also denounced an assault by U.S. Marines in the holy Iraqi city of Najaf and announced nationwide demonstrations today to protest the raids.
The arrests and abduction are the latest in a series of events souring relations between the neighbors amid accusations Iran has been aiding Iraqi insurgents fighting U.S.-led forces.
An Iranian Foreign Ministry official yesterday confirmed a report that Iraq's charge d'affaires to Tehran, Khalil Salman al-Sabihi, was called to a meeting Wednesday by an Iranian official, who demanded the "quick release" of the reporters.
Later yesterday, the managing director of Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Abdollah Nasseri Taheri, sent a letter to Iraq's culture minister demanding that his journalists be freed immediately.
Iran says Iraqi police on Monday arrested Mostafa Darban, the Baghdad bureau chief for IRNA, and three Iraqi staffers without explaining why.
Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Sabah Kadhim said he was unaware that any IRNA staff members had been detained.
In a report late Wednesday, IRNA said the Foreign Ministry official also demanded details about the fate of Iranian diplomat Faridoun Jihani, who was kidnapped July 4 while traveling from Baghdad to the southern Iraqi city of Karbala.
On Wednesday, Iranian President Mohammed Khatami said Mr. Jihani might be released in the coming days.
An Iraqi armed group, called the Army of Islam, said it had kidnapped Mr. Jihani and that he had been engaged in raising sectarian differences in Iraq.
Tensions have been heightening in recent weeks between Iraq and Iran, which fought a 1980-1988 war that is thought to have killed 1 million people from both sides.
Last month, Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan said Iran was Iraq's "first enemy" because it purportedly was playing a role in arming Iraqi Shi'ite militants battling U.S.-led coalition forces, including in Najaf, where fierce fighting continued between American troops and fighters loyal to firebrand Shi'ite cleric Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr.
Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani rejected Mr. Shaalan's remarks as propaganda, while Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi distanced his government from the remarks.
On Tuesday, deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the United States was concerned about accusations of Iranian involvement in the unrest in Najaf, home to the third-holiest shrine of the world's nearly 120 million Shi'ite Muslims.
Yesterday, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman termed the U.S. military operations in Najaf "inhumane and horrible."
The Iran-Iraq War, Again
August 12, 2004
National Review Online
Listen to the Iraqis. (And, faster please.)
I can't say this any better than the wonderful Iraqi who blogs as hammorabi.blogspot.com, so I'll just let him speak for himself, and for a substantial number of informed Iraqis:
The news from some areas in Iraq indicates that at least thousands of Iranian crossed the border inside Iraq for support to MS [Moqtadah al Sadr] militia and as clandestine agents. The Iraqis now knew very well what the Iranian thugs trying to do inside Iraq. Today alone and only in one point the Iraqi Police arrested at least 40 Iranian sneaked into Iraq with out documents in one coach. All are young and probably armed with money and documents which will be kept secret for investigation.
The Iranians have succeeded to infiltrate the south and planning for the worst. The weakness of Iyad Alawi towards Sadr encouraged them to get more involvement.
The Middle East region now is biased towards Iran. With weak Iraq Iran considers itself now the regional super-power! For the balance of the Middle East it needs a strong Iraq to balance Iran. The Iranian by Muqtada Sadr and his thugs succeeded to transfer the war from their land to inside Iraq.
There are news of about 1000 Iranian crossed with guns to area of Salman Bak and were confronted by the IP and US troops and most of them killed! (Unconfirmed report from local residents in the area)...
Iraq needs a strong army and police to balance Iran and to take out its arrogance which is increased since Iraq become weaker due to the idiotic f***ing policies of the f***ing whore Saddam. This arrogance as superpower of ME will be soon augmented by a nuclear weapons.
Ibrahem Jafari calls for the foreign troops to leave Najaf is fool statement! This man who was appointed as (something for nothing) may be able to tell us, how he will solve the issue? His idiotic statement to Alarabyiah few days ago from London about Sadr was so foolish. He said that the government should not attack Sadr because he is a know person and his father was a known person and his family is a very well known family!! What bull***t! Killers; if they are well known should not be arrested!! Good for the Dawa party which supported Iran in its war against Iraq not only now [in fact it's funded by Iran M.L.] but during the 8 years war with Khomeini! We don't know what this man is doing in London for long time though he was appointed to be the Vice President!
The Iranian leader of Qouds Revolutionary Guards Kasem Solaimani told in a lecture for the students of strategic defence studies in Tehran few days ago that Zarqawi and his leaders needs no permission to enter Iran from wherever they like to enter! In reply to one student about why Iran help Zarqawi yet he may be involved in killing the Shiite; Solaimani said the national security of Iran is served by what Zarqawi is doing now in Iraq. He added that a secular regime in Iraq friend of and supported by the US is more dangerous for Iran than the previous Baath regime!
Zarqawi was few months ago in Mehran city in one of its military camps of the RG, then he crossed the border to Baquoba!
Some of the members of Sadr militia have been trained in the same camp under the supervision of Ammad Moghanyiah a Lebanese [some Lebanese! The operational chief of Hezbollah, arguably the world's most dangerous man M.L.] escaped from Lebanon while ago and submitted into several plastic surgery changes in his face. This man played a major link between Sadr militia and Qaeda leaders especially Aimn Dhawahiri! He visited Iraq and he assessed the ground for expanding the operations of Sadr militias and how to help its link with Falluja and Zarqawi groups. He also succeeded to get some Arab like Lebanese to enter into Najaf area.
So what ever happened to the Bush doctrine, anyway? And, doctrine or no doctrine, will the Western world really wait until Iran has the atomic bomb before doing anything?
It brings back a very unpleasant memory. Back in the mid-Eighties a Lebanese Christian leader stuck his head out of a trench and said "the Western world should either support us, or change its name."
Remember that one. It'll be back in vogue quite soon.
Iranian TV: Jewish American Detained For Illegal Entry
August 13, 2004
The Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran -- Security forces have detained a Jewish American man for illegally entering Iran from Pakistan, state television reported Friday.
The broadcast did not identify the man. It said he was arrested Tuesday in Sistan-Baluchestan, a province in southeastern Iran that borders Pakistan. The television gave no further details.
An Iranian police officer told The Associated Press that the American's motives for crossing the border illegally were not yet known. The American was being interrogated, the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
American citizens are allowed to enter Iran provided they obtain a visa beforehand.
Thousands of Iranians Protest U.S. Actions in Iraq
August 13, 2004
TEHRAN -- Thousands of Iranians marched through the streets of Tehran on Friday to protest U.S. military actions in Iraq after a senior hardline cleric praised the resistance of Shi'ite Muslim rebels in Najaf.
Chanting "Death to America" and burning U.S. flags, the protesters flooded streets in central Tehran carrying banners proclaiming: "Death to the occupiers" and "American democracy = massacre of innocent people." Similar state-sponsored rallies were planned across the country.
Shi'ite Muslim Iran has consistently called for U.S.-led forces to leave Iraq and expressed outrage at the presence of multinational forces in holy Shi'ite cities Najaf and Kerbala.
"They (Americans) want to fully eliminate Islamic groups from the Iraqi scene and give power to a laic group who are U.S. agents," Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told worshippers at Friday Prayers in Tehran before the protest march started.
"I must appreciate those who are resisting around the holy shrine (of Imam Ali in Najaf) against the bloodthirsty wolves," he said.
Jannati, who heads a powerful hardline constitutional watchdog, criticized Iraq's interim government for "giving the green light" to the U.S. military to carry out raids against Shi'ite fighters in Najaf.
But he made no direct reference to rebel Iraqi cleric Moqtada al Sadr whose supporters have been fighting U.S. and Iraqi forces in Najaf for more than a week.
"AMERICANS ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS"
A statement read by the protesters expressed "hatred for the occupiers' presence in Iraq and our support for the innocent Iraqi nation."
"Iran condemns the international community's silence on the crimes being committed by occupying forces in Iraq," it said.
One protester, Mohammad, 53, said it was the duty of Muslims to confront the U.S. military in Iraq.
"America attacked Iraq and looted the country and now the Iraqis want to defend their rights," he said. "The Americans call them terrorists, but the Iraqi people are not terrorists, they (the Americans) are the real terrorists."
Scores of riot police surrounded the nearby British embassy where many of the marchers were expected to congregate later.
In the absence of a U.S. embassy in Iran since Washington broke diplomatic ties in 1980, the British mission has borne the brunt of protests against U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.
Jannati mocked accusations by some U.S. and Iraqi officials that Tehran has been arming Shi'ite rebels in Iraq.
"This is just another pretext against Iran. Could it be any more amusing than this?" he said.
Relations between the two neighbors, who fought a bitter 1980-1988 war, have been strained by the charges of Iranian meddling and by the arrest of several Iranian journalists and businessmen and the kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat in Iraq in recent weeks.
"Mister Brzezinski Forecasts Clear Skies in Iran!"
August 13, 2004
Dr. Hossein Bagher Zadeh
The 90-page report, entitled "Iran: Time for a new approach", which has recently been published by the Council on Foreign Relations, is one of the most complete and far reaching analysis on US-Iran relations in the past few years.
Following an analysis of Iran's conditions under the Islamic Republic, the authors conclude that time has come "for a revised strategic approach to Iran". In this new approach, the report recommends selective policies towards Iranbased on US interests.
Analyzing "Iran's Domestic Dilemmas", the report first looks upon the country's recent evolution with regard to political and power structure, the impact of the reform movement, its failure and setbacks, as well as the relative uniformity that has come to characterize the main pillars of governance ever since last February's elections. In addition, the report takes into consideration "Iran's Nuclear Programs" and international concerns over Iran's policies on terrorism and WMD proliferation. However, despite the fact that the report recognizes the gravity of Human Rights abuses as well as the increased recent repression of political and press freedoms, it never the less draws the conclusion that, "those forces that are committed to preserving Iran's current system remain firmly in control and currently represent the country's only authoritative interlocutors." "Most important", the report says, "the Islamic Republic appears to be solidly entrenched and the country is not on the brink of revolutionary upheaval."
Based on these findings, the reports concludes that US efforts aimed at regime change in Iran will prove unsuccessful and that such a change supported by US or foreign intervention will not necessarily serve US interests with regard to that country. On the other hand, the report predicts that, considering student demonstrations over the past recent years, the "Iranian people themselves will eventually change the nature of their government for the better." Until then however, the CFR Task Force concludes that "the durability of the Islamic Republic and the urgency of the concerns surrounding its policies mandate the United States to deal with the current regime rather than wait for it to fall."
The above analysis and conclusions are then followed by a set of recommendations by the CFR Task Force with regard to a new US policy toward Iran. Specific proposals are put forward on how to deal with Iran on such selective issues as terrorism, the Middle East peace, and Iran's nuclear programs.
All in all, the reports' recommendations consist of nothing more than what the EU has already been pursuing, with ups and downs, over the past decade in its dialogue with Iran. Here, the Task Force shuns from explaining why the recommended "new approach" should prove successful for the US where a much similar policy has brought very little to the EU.
Such recommendations are of course nothing new in the context of US-Iran relations. Americans have, in the past, undertaken various efforts in order to engage the Islamic Republic into a dialogue. However, all these efforts have either encountered Iranian rejection from the very beginning or been sabotaged in the middle of the road by elements within the Iranian power structure. Otherwise, even under the current Bush Administration, it is probable that Americans would have long since engaged Iran, had they seen the slightest North Korean-style signal of willingness emanating from the Iranian side. Here again, the Task Force shuns from explaining why all these efforts at engaging the Islamic Republic have failed in the past and why, under present circumstances, the recommended "new approach", if adopted, should meet good Iranian intentions.
Above all, the very basis of the Task Force's expediency is the analysis that, "despite considerable political flux and popular dissatisfaction, Iran is not on the verge of another revolution." Forecasting revolution is of course not an exact science and the Task Force's view has no more credibility than that of those who predict another bloody revolution in Iran in the near future!
In addition, the Task Force's steering "intellectual leadership" does not enjoy a credible track record in matters of [revolution] forecasting: Zbigniew Brzezinski was President Carter's National Security Advisor at a time when the latter qualified Iran as the Middle East's "Island of Stability", exactly a year before the 1979 Islamic Revolution; while, Robert M. Gates was, from 1991 to 1993, the Head of Central Intelligence, an Agency whose track record over the past couple of decades in evaluating world matters, even those within its very core business, is less than brilliant.
It is really tempting to ask the Task Force which revolution in the world have they predicted before so that they can, using this track record, they can foresee its absence in the Islamic Republic of Iran? The 1979 Iranian case, along with its presage of "stability" coming on the eve of revolutionary upheavals, put aside, recent history has witnessed several countries going through fundamental changes that have substituted modern and mainly democratic regimes to outdated totalitarian ones. Had the Council on Foreign Relations forecasted any of those radical changes? Even a year or two prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall or the subsequent disintegration of the Soviet Empire, had any of the writers of the CFR report been able to predict any of those events? What prior such forecast there exist to give them a credible basis on which topredict, so authoritatively, the improbability of a fundamental change [in Iran]?
The writers of the CFR report should realize that there is no determinism that the removal of the ruling religious despotism in Iran would necessarily take the form of yet "another revolution" (as in 1979), nor that anyone could predict the absence of such a transformation altogether. In reality, the causes that determined the fall of the Shah in 1979 or that of many other dictatorial regimes from Eastern Europe to Africa to Latin America are present in todays Islamic Republic with an order of magnitude several times over: from worsening internal political, social, and economic conditions to international isolation, and to the global reach and penetration of information and communication technologies. And, if these factors proved imminently fatal to other regimes with no "putative opposition" and "firmly in control", how could it be argued that in the case of an anachronistic, anti-democratic, anti-world peace regime with such a record on terrorism and not a single political ally in the world, and in the context of a vastly more open, more democratic, more globally integrated, and more informed world, these factors will prove to be less fatal?
The Council on Foreign Relation's Report is an unsuccessful attempt to justify a change in the US Administration's policy toward the Islamic Republic of Iran.In the months preceding the November 2004 Presidential elections, little
change is expected to take place in US policy with regard to Iran. In fact, the Islamic Republic is indulging in a dangerous gambit in making the best of this period for intensifying its nuclear program. This high-risk behavior would,
if anything, reinforce current antagonistic US policy toward the Islamic Republic rather than drifting it toward appeasing Iran as advocated by the Councils Task Force. Today, there is increasing signals presaging probable political and economic sanctions and possible US/Israeli military strikes on Irans nuclear facilities. Recent statements by key figures of the Islamic Republic can only re-emphasize the need for a more hostile, rather than softened, approach towards the regime: while, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the "Supreme Leader", threatens with worldwide strikes at US interests, alluding to nothing less than terrorism on a global scale, the Head of the Revolutionary Guard's Public Relations, Seyyed Masood Jazaeeri, brandishes the prospect of wiping out Israel from the face of the world, an objective that would not be envisageable without the use of nuclear weapons. In such a context, the Council's report on
Iran appears even more unrealistic and its recommendations more unfeasible than
it may seem at first lecture.
Finally, any policy, oblivious to blatant Human Rights abuse in Iran, which would not make resumption of diplomatic and economic relations with the Islamic
Republic conditional to fundamental democratic changes and conspicuous progress in Human Rights, will achieve no other results than stabilizing the current regime, reinforcing its policy of terror, and exacerbating fault lines, tensions, and instability on both regional and global scales.
Hossein Bagher Zadeh is an Iranian writer/translator, political activist and human rights campaigner based in UK. He has a B.A. degree in Islamic Theology from Ferdowsi University (Mashahd, Iran) and PhD in Mathematics from London University. A founder member of the Iranian Human Rights Working Group, he acted as its Chair since the group's inception in 1994 to 2002.He is the Spokesperson for Charter2003 (www.charter2003.org) a non-partisan initiative for establishment of democracy and human rights in Iran and supported by a number of groupings and hundreds of Iranian intellectuals, political activists and human rights campaigners across all the political spectrum.
Bagher Zadeh writes for a number of Persian publications on human rights and political developments in Iran. His weekly column appears in the netzine IranEmrooz (www.iran-emrooz.de), and syndicated across a number of Persian publications in Europe and North America. He is a regular guest on Persian radiobroadcasts, including BBC, VOA, France International and Radio Farda (RadioLiberty) commenting on a broad range of issues, and in particular human rights, in Iran.
On Tuesday 24th August 1999, he published an article in the mass circulation daily Nesaht in Tehran entitled: "Is State Violence Permissible?" in which he argued against capital punishment in Iran.The article led to a huge outcryby the politico-religious establishment in Iran, culminating in the closure of the paper, imprisonment of its publisher and chief editor, and calls for execution of Mr. Bagher Zadeh with a bounty of Iranian Rials 100m (equivalent to $33,000 at the then official exchange rate) put on his head.
Millions of Iranians boycott the governmental support of fanatism in Iraq
SMCCDI (Information Service)
Aug 13, 2004
Millions of Iranians boycotted, today, the state sponsored rallies against the war in Najaf. Most of them ignored the repeated calls of the regime's leaders and the Office of Islamic Propagation by staying home or making short travels using their Friday most to enjoy than sharing the concerns of the shaky theocracy.
The Islamic regime was only able to bring into the streets of center Tehran and main Iranian cities just few groups of few thousands of professional demonstrators which were composed mainly of Bassij and foreign Islamist. Already, last week the regime passed under silence its fiasco of being able to stage another "popular" demo against the Coalition members following its ignored calls .
Most Iranians' talks are on how the Coalition forces and especially US troops are crushing the Al-Mahdi and Badr Brigade's troops, in Iraq, and how they're eliminating de facto some problems for the Iranian Nation in order to reach its Freedom. A vaste majority of them are wishing, publicly, to see Moghtada Al-Sadr and his Mullahs' sponsored zealots to be totally eliminated in order for Iraq, Iran and the Middle East to see better days.
Nuclear red flag on Iran
Washington Times - By Kenneth R. Timmerman
Aug 13, 2004
Over the past 18 months, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has toyed with the international community in ways that ought to sound ominously familiar.
Challenged in February 2003 to allow inspectors to visit previously undisclosed nuclear sites, Iran stiffed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). When it finally allowed inspectors to tour some sites, they discovered evidence Iran was engaged in a massive, undercover effort to enrich uranium, possibly for weapons purposes.
A showdown between the Vienna-based nuclear agency and Iran appeared imminent last November, when IAEA Secretary General Mohammad El Baradei was scheduled to deliver his findings on Iran's clandestine nuclear activities to the IAEA board of governors. In theory, Mr. El Baradei had only to say Iran was "in violation" of its commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the board would refer Iran's case to the United Nations Security Council for enforcement action.
But Mr. El Baradei never uttered those words, perhaps fearing the Security Council, once seized of Iran's case, would refuse to act, just as it had when faced with Saddam Hussein's constant flaunting of the international community since 1998.
As a sign of "good will," the Iranian regime agreed to halt its enrichment activities, at least in theory. In exchange, the IAEA, with U.S. approval, delegated the European powers France, Britain and Germany to find a solution that would allow Iran to keep its civilian nuclear power plant while shutting down the clandestine weapons-grade fuel program.
By June, it became clear the Iranian government had just been stalling for time. When the IAEA accused the Iranians of "foot-dragging" and not shutting down its enrichment sites, Iranian Foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi told reporters in Tehran that Iran was determined to become "a member of the nuclear club. This is an irreversible path."
Iran's much-beloved (in the West) "moderate" President Mohammad Khatami piled on, announcing July 15 Iran intended to continue building uranium enrichment centrifuges. "We are not committed any longer to the promise to expand the suspension to include building centrifuges because they [Britain, Germany and France] failed to keep their promise of closing Iran's dossier," he said.
What he meant, of course, was the Europeans had been unable to get the U.S. to agree to the convenient fiction Iran was enriching uranium because it needed a sure supply of fuel for its one, not-yet completed, nuclear power station at Busheir. In fact, as part of the original reactor deal, the Russians had agreed to supply fuel for 10 years at cost of $30 million a modest sum compared to the billions Iran now is spending to build the infrastructure to master the entire nuclear fuel cycle.
So far, neither President Bush nor Sen. John Kerry has chosen to address this imminent nuclear showdown. White House advisors tell me the president hopes he can keep the crisis from boiling over until after the elections, when presumably he will have a freer hand to deal forcefully with a nuclear-ready Iran. Mr. Kerry has avoided the issue because he has promised top Iranian-American fund-raisers close to the regime in Tehran that if elected he will "open a dialogue" with Iran. He has repeated that offer in public speeches, including an address to the Council on Foreign Relations last December.
The president's advisers are undoubtedly right to argue the best time politically to deal with the impending Iran nuclear crisis is after November. But the longer we allow the Iranians to continue building and enriching and burying and deploying missiles capable of launching a nuclear warhead on Israel and other U.S. allies in the region, the more perilous the eventual confrontation will become.
The mullahs in Tehran are no fools. They are working furiously to assemble enough nuclear capability by Nov. 3 to dramatically increase the price of any U.S. (or Israeli) military pre-emptive strike. Their plan is to become "nuclear-ready" that is, to have bombs and missiles built, just waiting for the final turn of the screw that seals in the fissile cores as fast as humanly possible. This is a crash program, and we are responding like a desert tortoise.
Mr. Kerry has made clear his preference to refer all security challenges to the United Nations for action. But in the case of Iran, deferring to the U.N. will be even more divisive than when the villain was Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Not only will France threaten to veto Security Council action on Iran, but Russia and China could well join them. The French, as with Saddam, will act to preserve a presumed commercial advantage with the Tehran regime. The Russians and Chinese will seek to cover up the record of their own actions as key suppliers and enablers of Iran's nuclear weapons effort.
There are many things the president can do between now and November short of military action or turning to a feckless U.N. that could have significant deterrent impact on the Tehran regime. Among them, the U.S. should:
Rapidly, and massively fund opposition radio and television networks for Farsi language broadcasts into Iran.
Help produce TV programs for training young Iranians in civil disobedience, and offer the programs free to opposition television networks and air them on Voice of America.
Help groups outside Iran that seek to provide support for Iranian activists working inside Iran.
If nuclear weapons alone were the problem, the United States would have security issues with Great Britain. Clearly our problem in Iran stems from the radical, expansionist nature of the clerical regime, not the legitimate security needs of the Iranian nation. It is in America's best interests to respond to the calls for help from the Iranian people, so they can change that regime before it is too late. As the mullahs race toward nuclear madness, there is not a moment to lose.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is senior senior writer for Insight Magazine (www.insightmag.com) and author of "The French Betrayal of America."