Skip to comments.Iranian Alert -- August 23, 2004 [EST]-- IRAN LIVE THREAD -- "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
Posted on 08/22/2004 9:10:31 PM PDT by DoctorZIn
The US media still largely 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. As a result, 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. In fact they were one of the first countries to have spontaneous candlelight vigils after the 911 tragedy (see photo).
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.
Iran plans contruction of more nuclear power plants
Jerusalem Post - By Staff
Aug 22, 2004
Iran has delayed the opening of its first nuclear reactor until 2006, one year later than previously planned, and reported also that it has plans to construct more nuclear power plants.
Iran claims that its nuclear program is strictly for the generation of electricity, and not atomic bombs, but Israel and the United States strongly suspect Iran is illicitly building nuclear weapons, and estimate that they will be ready by 2005.
"We have contracts with Russia to build more nuclear reactors. No number has been specified but definitely our contract with Russia is to build more than one nuclear power plant," Asadollah Sabouri, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran in charge of nuclear power plants, told reporters Sunday.
Sabouri also revealed that at least two European countries had expressed interest in the projects, although he refused to name them.
"They have given us documents expressing their readiness to join the projects. We welcome them. My message to the Europeans is that we have to pass the paperwork stage and go for binding contracts as soon as possible," he said.
Iran's first nuclear reactor is located in Bushehr, and is due to be opened in 2006. According to Sabouri, Iran plans to construct the second reactor in Bushehr also.
Iran's Nuclear Energy Council has decided that the country has to produce 7,000 megawatts of electricity through nuclear power plants by 2021 to meet Iran's increasing electricity demands.
"By 2021, Iran's electricity consumption will reach 56,000 megawatts and we need to have capability to produce 70,000 megawatts of electricity. Some 7,000 megawatts, about 10 percent, will be met through nuclear power plants," Sabouri said.
He said Iran was already studying other sites in Iran for other possible reactors. Most areas in Iran are prone to earthquakes, restricting choices for setting up nuclear power plants.
He said Iran's first nuclear power plant - a West German-designed plant that is being repaired and redesigned by Russia - is expected to be operational by August 2006. The plant had initially been scheduled to open in 2003 but Sabouri said the Russians were repairing damage from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
Sabouri said the Bushehr complex had the capacity of at least four nuclear reactors.
The Bushehr plant was begun by West Germany but was interrupted during the 1979 Islamic revolution. It's worth about US$800 million to Russia, which has been reluctant to abandon the project both for economic reasons and matters of international prestige despite US pressure.
Sabouri said the project's cost would exceed US$1 billion.
He said Russia has to provide Iran with nuclear fuel by the end of 2005, at the latest, otherwise the inauguration of the Bushehr plant would be delayed.
Tehran and Moscow have agreed to return the spent nuclear fuel to Russia.
"There is no ambiguity on returning the spent fuel. The Iranian government has already made the decision to return the spent fuel back to Russia. What we haven't agreed on with Russia is the expenses," Sabouri said.
Oil accounts for 80% of Iran's European exports
IranMania - Report Section
Aug 22, 2004
LONDON - More than 80% of Iran's exports to Europe consist of oil consignments because high tariffs and standards prevent export of other Iranian goods to that continent
According to Petroenergy Information Network (PIN), Ali Ahani, the deputy Foreign Minister for European and American affairs told the second conference on Iran's economic diplomacy that Iran was currently facing a toned down economic diplomacy in state-run and private sectors.
"Experience shows that if state-run bodies used diplomacy to achieve their goals, they will enjoy more bickering power and the country will have more opportunities," he said.
Ahani stated that with regard to private sector's activities, Iranian diplomatic missions in European countries did not enjoy high bickering power and in some instances they even disrupted Iran's economic diplomacy.
The official said long distance, lack of enough knowledge about the Iranian market and high tariffs were major reasons reducing Iran's role in the American markets.
Ahani mentioned laying good grounds for economic cooperation, paving the way for foreign investors and facilitated activities of domestic corporations as major factors for economic advancement of Iran.
Iran Bullies Israels Strategic Friends - with Eye on Washington
Debka File - Special Report
Aug 22, 2004
Hardly a day has gone by this month without some Iranian official making an aggressive statement against the United States and Israel. The most unbridled are reserved for the Jewish state. Thursday, August 19, defense minister Vice Admiral Ali Shamkhani threatened pre-emptive strikes to protect Irans nuclear facilities. We will not sit on our hands waiting for what others will do to us, he said, adding that some Iranian generals believe the doctrine of pre-emption is not limited to Americans.
The warning, leveled against Washington, brought to mind Israels 1981 strike against Saddam Husseins nuclear reactor. To hit America, Iran does not need to cover the distance to the United States; American forces are close by, as is Americas ally, Israel.
Two days earlier, the deputy commander of Irans elite Revolutionary Guards corps, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Zolqadr warned that if Israel fired a missile at the Bushehr nuclear power plant, it can say goodbye to its Dimona nuclear facility where it produces and stockpiles nuclear weapons.
In a separate interview, Revolutionary Guards political bureau chief, Yadollah Javani, pointed out that all parts of the Jewish state are within range of Irans advanced Shehab-3 missile.
Irans hardline rulers are not content with words alone.
DEBKAfiles intelligence and military sources uncover determined Iranian steps worldwide to undermine Israels strategic positions by engendering its international isolation, a tactic reminiscent of the excesses of the Arab boycott. Iranian officials are going around capitals on three continents telling governments friendly to Israel to chill their military and other ties.
Our sources report two blatant examples:
When Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan visited Tehran in late June, he was informed in no uncertain terms by spiritual ruler Ali Khamenei and president Mohammed Khatami that if he wants good relations with the Iranian regime with concomitant economic benefits, such as cheap oil and gas, he must end Turkeys military ties with Israel. Erdogan agreed to bar Turkish air space to Israeli warplanes stationed in Turkey or incoming from Israel for use as a corridor for striking Iranian nuclear and military installations.
The Turkish prime minister did not inform either Jerusalem or Washington of this step away from Turkish-Israel military understandings, although it effectively robbed both the US and Israel of Israels key strategic deterrent card against Iran and Syria. Seven months ago, Erdogan stood up to a similar demand from Syrian president Bashar Assad. Since then, his sights have shifted to the detriment of ties with Washington as well as Jerusalem.
Washington regards the relations of mutual support between the two secular democracies of the Middle East embodied first in their 1996 Military Training and Cooperation agreement - as a cornerstone of regional stability. The American-Jewish lobby has often supported contentious Turkish interests. Israel, the United and Turkey have committed to work together against al Qaeda and the Hizballah. Israels strategic ties in the Caucasus and Central Asia are part of overall Israel-Turkish collaboration. Since 1996, Turkey has spent $3bn in Israel, mostly on military products including a $688m contract for Israel to upgrade 170 Turkish M-60A1 tanks with its own Chariot technology. Turkey has long been a favorite resort of the Israeli tourist.
Erdogans high-profile re-orientation away from Ankaras traditional ties with Washington and Jerusalem in pursuit of closer relations with the Arab and Muslim world was abruptly signaled earlier this year by his condemnation of Israels policy towards the Palestinians as state-sponsored terrorism. Turkey then temporarily withdrew its ambassador and consul in punishment for a fictitious claim that Israel was training Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga and engaged in covert operations in northern Iraq. In mid-July, the Turkish prime minister went on holiday hours before Israels deputy prime minister Ehud Olmert arrived for an official visit.
These actions were taken in Jerusalem as snubs, although Turkish officials insisted throughout that the friendly bilateral ties are unchanged. Maybe because so far Ankara has not exactly profited from its pro-Muslim pro-Arab shift and is, moreover, concerned about potential damage to its ties with Washington, the Erdogan government is attempting some damage control.
Therefore, as DEBKAfiles sources have discovered, a high-level Turkish government delegation is due in Jerusalem this week for a fast repair job. It is composed of three top officials in the prime ministers bureau, Omar Shakik, Ajaman Bagish and Shaban Dishli.
Their threefold mission will not be easy.
A. To offset the ill effects of the concession the Turkish prime minister made to Tehran when he pandered to the relentless anti-Israel animosity of the Islamic Republic and removed one of Israels key strategic deterrents. The visiting Turks will labor the line that nothing is amiss with bilateral relations and that military cooperation continues without interruption.
2. To make it appear that Turkey and Israel are engaged in a dialogue to diagnose and clear up any upsets in the relationship. This performance will be staged to allay the suspicions of Turkeys generals who are keen on the military partnership with Israel that their prime minister wants to diminish their influence.
3. To soften the ground in Israel, as a means of appeasing the United States, ahead of Erdogans visit next month to Damascus, where Turkey and Syria will declare the start of military cooperation.
In late July, Irans president Mohammed Khatami visited Baku, capital of Irans northern neighbor on the shores of the Caspian, ostensibly to pay his respects to the new Azeri ruler Elham Aliyev, son of former strongman Heydar Aliyev.
Ninety percent of Azerbaijans eight million inhabitants are Azeris; they are all Shiite Muslims. Roughly the same number of ethnic Azeris dwells on the Iranian side of the border. Defined as an Azerbaijani Turkic people, they share the same language. They have also raised up a strong breakaway movement fighting for their regions annexation to Azerbaijan.
That was one item on Khatamis agenda in Baku; another was the disputed exploitation rights of Caspian resources including oil. Khatami carefully skirted the American and Israeli military presence in the Caspian state. The two sides agreed to discuss Azerbaijani-Iranian military relations at a later date.
However, last week, two weeks after the Khatami visit, DEBKAfiles sources report a senior delegation of Iranian intelligence officers turned up in Baku. They put before president Aliyev and his military and intelligence chiefs a list of demand presented in the same hectoring tone as Irans approach to the Turkish prime minister: if Azerbaijan wants good relations with Iran, then
A. The Israeli Mossad station in Baku must be shut down forthwith and its agents ordered out of the country.
B. The Azeris must dismantle the electronic listening stations the Israelis set up along the Caspian and the Iranian border.
C. Visits by groups of Israeli military and intelligence officers must stop.
The Iranian officers claimed to have confidential information that these visits had been stepped up of late as part of what Tehran sees as Israeli preparations to strike Irans nuclear installations.
President Aliyev said he was surprised to hear this and would need to check the information out before making decisions.
DEBKAfiles intelligence experts see three main themes dominating Irans campaign against Israel:
One, genuine anxiety over possible Israeli plans to strike its nuclear installations and/or military infrastructure. This fear has heightened the belligerence of threats issuing from Tehran.
Two, a concerted, focused effort to break up Israels military alliances in the Middle East and Central Asia so as to weaken the Jewish state strategically and diplomatically. The immediate rationale is that divesting Israel of its military links with key countries like Turkey and Azerbaijan will minimize the Jewish states resources for military or covert action against Iran.
Three, Tehran believes it can make short shrift of Israels military links in the region before tackling the major issue of the US military presence in the same countries. Once Israeli military officers and experts are out, Iran will press for the Americans to go too.
The Sharon government looks as though it is too weighed down by the political obstacles constantly bedeviling the prime ministers disengagement and evacuation plans to properly address the Iranian offensive, even though it has already begun hurting Israels foreign strategic relations.
IRAN DEFEATED REFORMISTS ARE DIVIDED OVER WHAT TO DO NEXT
By Majid Mohammadi
Posted Sunday, August 22, 2004
By Majid Mohammadi
BEIRUT 22 Aug. Iran's reformers are in crisis. The organizational framework for the reformist movement, the Second of Khordad Front, is considered by many Iranians to be passive, ideologically divided, and far too accommodating to the Islamic Republic's authoritarian establishment. The front has decreased its public demonstrations and its platform for an Islamic democratic state is purposefully vague. With its declining fate may disappear the last chance for non-violent reform from within Iran.
Iran's reformists have four strategies open to them. The first is to join the overseas opposition, which believes the Islamic regime cannot be reformed and must to be overthrown. In the opposition's view, the only constitutional difference between the monarchy and the clerical regime is the nonhereditary aspect of the latter's rule, while other characteristics, such as being above the law, endure. The present regime violates human rights, denies sovereignty to the people as well as freedom of speech, expression and conscience.
Supporters of this strategy observe that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenehi, began as a weak leader politically and temperamentally, and ended up combining Islamic guardianship with personal rule. In a regime where powerful, non-elected political and religious institutions have always had the upper say, there is little margin for elected bodies. The bad experience of Iran's sixth Majles and the weakened presidency of Mohammed Khatami confirm this impasse.
The religious establishment has behaved like a political caste and imposed a strict code of public conduct. Now that the unpredictability of the political process is over and the hard-liners in the regime have re-imposed themselves, the reform movement has nothing to offer. That leaves no choice but to get rid of the authoritarian regime. However, on the downside, adherents to this strategy have not provided a non-violent plan for implementing it.
The second strategy involves returning to civil society and organizing and mobilizing the disenfranchised. This idea derives from criticism blaming the reformists' organizational shortcomings for their passivity toward the brutal actions of the regime. People who propose this approach argue that the reformist movement had no clear strategy in its various incarnations.
There are discouraging features in this scenario. The Iranian public has not shown much interest in participating in civil associations to organise its interests and build institutions. The government can stop any group from forming by not issuing it a license, and can ban any group by resorting to the judiciary. The public has repeatedly asked the state to give society some leeway, to no avail. Civil society institutions cannot articulate, negotiate, implement or enforce their claims. In contrast, the establishment of about 25,000 NGOs during the reformist period suggests this pessimism may be overstated.
A third strategy is for the reformists to repeat what happened between 1997-2003 and accept limited power. The argument in favor of this is that participation in the system would diminish the cultural and social damage of the clerical regime's authoritarian policies. However there are counterarguments. The reformists have no influence over the hard-liners, and the people who voted for Khatami in 1997 will not again accept an insider who makes positive gestures internationally, but fails to fulfil expectations domestically. Even prominent groups inside the Second of Khordad Front are suspicious of this kind of political action.
Finally, the fourth strategy is to prepare for a "velvet revolution," like what happened in Georgia or Czechoslovakia. This requires that reformers be active in civil society institutions and prepared to take over power when the authoritarian regime collapses. This strategy does not require holding positions of power, campaigning during the elections or joining the opposition; it only requires creating a network of reformers, organizing the disenfranchised, having a voice in public and being a minority in Parliament. The forces seeking to take over power in this way must keep their distance from the government and its corruption in order to gain the trust of the majority.
How do the reformist strands respond to each of these strategies? The student movement tends to favour returning to civil society. Reformists in the government lean toward accepting limited power. The silent majority favours a velvet revolution. And only a small group of reformers believes in joining the opposition, though most are aware of the impasse in reform and the autocratic nature of the Islamic regime and its constitution.
Time no longer favours reform-minded Iranians. The authoritarian camp has been able to obstruct reformist legislation, close more than 100 independent newspapers and magazines and repress political activists; it has the resources to halt the drive toward transparent and accountable government, without a popular mandate. It has also successfully broken the coalition of students, women and intellectuals that allowed the reformists to win executive and legislative powers in 1997, 2000 and 2001. The fact that different strategies exist is itself a sign of the growing separation between reformist groups. The window of opportunity for reform in Iran is indeed closing. ENDS IRAN REFORMISTS 22804
Editors note: Mr. Majid Mohammadi, an independent writer based in New York, has authored books and articles on Iran and Islam (firstname.lastname@example.org).
He wrote this commentary for the Beiruts The Daily Star that published it on its 21 August issue
Some editing, phonetisation of names and highlights are by IPS
Iraqi Government Delegation Visits Sistani in London
August 22, 2004
BAGHDAD -- Representatives of Iraq's interim government have visited Iraq's top Shiite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in London where he is recovering after medical treatment, a statement said Sunday.
The top-level delegation met the cleric on Sunday afternoon to express its respects and "deep appreciation for his on-going role for peace and security in Iraq," it said.
"We very much hope that he will return safely to Iraq when his doctors allow, considering his presence there is important for our entire nation," said senior official Zuhair Abdul Ghani Humadi from the council of ministers secretariat.
The 73-year-old cleric left a London hospital on Thursday after treatment for a heart condition, but it is not clear how long he would remain in Britain.
His sudden departure from his base in the central Iraqi city of Najaf coincided with fierce fighting there between militiamen loyal to renegade Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and US-led forces.
Fighting Erupts in Najaf
August 23, 2004
BAGHDAD -- Gunfire and explosions shook Najaf yesterday as fighting broke out between supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and US forces. Talks for the handover of the Imam Ali Mosque to Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani were stalled.
The clashes erupted when Sadrs Mehdi Army militiamen attacked US troops with mortar rounds, and the military fought back, witnesses said. Calm returned to the city after about half an hour.
Early yesterday, US warplanes bombed the Old City, the center of the more than two weeks of fighting, and the sounds of shelling could be heard in the streets.
US forces appeared to have sealed off the Old City, restoring a cordon that had been loosened in recent days. Tanks were seen in the streets some 800 meters from the Imam Ali Mosque. At least three people were killed and 18 injured in Saturday nights fighting, said Tawfiq Mohammed of Najaf General Hospital.
Sadr aide Ali Sumeisim said the talks for the mosque handover had hit a snag over a request by Sadrs side that Sistani send a delegation to take an inventory of precious items in the mosque thought to include jewelry, relics and carpets to head off any claim that Sadrs men had stolen anything from the shrine.
We were told by people in Sayyed Sistanis office that they cannot form the committee in the current circumstances. We told them that Sayyed Sistani has representatives in Najaf ... and we believe a committee can be formed, Sumeisim told reporters.
Sadrs aides had earlier said that his militia would continue to guard the mosque after any handover, defying calls from interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to disband and vacate the mosque. A Sistani spokesman in London told Al Arabiya television no specific time has been set for a handover of the mosques keys.
In other violence, an Indonesian and two Iraqis were killed, while a Filipino was wounded, when their convoy was ambushed in the northern city of Mosul. Another two Iraqis were later killed in another shooting, they said.
US journalist Micah Garen was released by his kidnappers and was at the office of Sadr in Nassiriyah, Al-Jazeera TV said.
The US military said four Marines assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force have been killed in separate incidents in volatile Anbar province.
Additional input from agencies
Warlord Accuses Rival of Breaking Spirit of Ceasefire
August 23, 2004
The Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan -- A powerful regional Afghan commander accused his rival of violating the spirit of a cease-fire Monday, sneaking 2,500 unarmed soldiers into the western city of Herat, then smuggling thousands of weapons in from neighboring Iran.
Amanullah, a local Pashtun warlord who goes by only one name, said Herat Gov. Ismail Khan had brought the men and weapons in as part of preparations for possible renewed fighting.
"Some 6,000 weapons and ammunition were smuggled in from Iran and brought to Herat city on vegetable trucks," Amanullah told The Associated Press by satellite phone. He called on the central government to stop the smuggling, and condemned Iran for alleged complicity.
Naseer Ahmad Alawi, a spokesman for Khan, rejected the charges as "unfair and untrue." Alawi said some men may have entered the city for a ceremony honoring a senior government official killed earlier this year.
He said national police patrol the border with Iran, making smuggling impossible. Khan has long ties to Iran, having lived there in exile during part of the Taliban regime.
Dozens were killed in fighting which broke out earlier this month in Herat between militiamen loyal to the two men. The fighting alarmed Kabul and the United Nations and underscored the need to improve security ahead of landmark elections. Afghan and American officials negotiated a truce, and U.S. warplanes flew over the area to make sure both sides understood that they must stick to it.
There have been no violations of the truce, but speculation abounds that the two sides are using the lull to regroup.
President Hamid Karzai has rushed hundreds of troops from the Afghan National Army to an air base in Herat to act as a buffer force between the two sides.
Both Amanullah and Khan swear allegiance to Karzai's government, but both often act in their own interests. Neither has agreed to disarm their troops as part of a slow-going nationwide program to demobilize tens of thousands of private soldiers.
The fighting in Herat prompted U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to call for an increase in international forces in Afghanistan ahead of the Oct. 9 election.
Tehran's Terror. . . [Excerpt]
August 23, 2004
New York Post Online
Despite the 9/11 commission's findings of extensive Iranian-al Qaeda collabo ration, intelligence officials continue to suffer from failures of imagination on Iran insisting that because Sunni and Shia Islamists cannot cooperate, the links between al Qaeda and Iran, along with its proxy Hezbollah, are insubstantial.
First, whatever the theological and political implications of the Sunni-Shia divide, a nearly 1,300-year-old quarrel over who was the rightful successor to Mohammed, Shia Iran's open-handed generosity toward numerous Sunni terrorist groups over the past two decades is well-established.
One of the first takers, back in the late '80s, was the secular Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which became a bridge between Iran and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Sunni Islamist groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
Islamic Jihad became Iran's proxy in the Palestinian arena, receiving most of its funding from Tehran. Hamas has its own fund-raising base and consequently more independence, but has received money and training from Iran since 1992. In mid-1998, after his release from Israeli prison, Hamas leader Sheikh Yassin traveled to Iran and met with Supreme Leader Ali Khameinei. As Israeli counter-terror measures have degraded the Palestinian terror networks, Hezbollah is filling the leadership vacuum and taking operational control of the Palestinian Intifada.
Iranian support for terrorism is not limited to the Palestinians. In the early '90s, during Sudan's terrorist open house, Iran and Hezbollah ran camps where Sunni groups like Algeria's Armed Islamic Group, Egypt's al-Jihad and al Qaeda honed their deadly craft. Whatever differences exist between Sunni and Shia radicals, they are dwarfed by their shared hatred of the United States and Israel.
Others, granting in the words of a former National Security Council official that al Qaeda-Iran cooperation "cannot be ruled out as wholly implausible," downplay the importance of the al Qaeda-Iran relationship. Even the 9/11 commission report misses when it describes the early Iran-al Qaeda relationship as an "informal agreement to cooperate in providing support even if only for training."
This training, particularly in the all-important skills of agent-handling, bomb construction and hijacking tactics, was not low-level cooperation it was critical to al Qaeda's development. Al Qaeda's first major successful operation, the 1998 truck bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, had all the hallmarks of a Hezbollah operation. The 9/11 hijackers may have learned tradecraft from Hezbollah, which carried out a string of hijackings in the '80s. Whether or not the Iranian government was aware of the planning for the 9/11 attacks is moot.
... And its War With The U.S. [Excerpt]
August 23, 2004
New York Post Online
Sometime next month, three European foreign ministers are expected to fly to Tehran for what is tipped in diplomatic circles as a "last chance" attempt at persuading the Islamic Republic to stop its quest for nuclear weapons.
This will be the second time in 10 months that the three "wise men of the West" will be traveling east to "save the future peace of the Middle East," as British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who is of the party, likes to put it.
What Straw and his German and French colleagues are trying to do is not new. A similar move was made almost 25 years ago when Germany's then-Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher persuaded his European colleagues to adopt a policy of "critical dialogue" with the Khomeinist regime in Tehran.
In time, Genscher's policy proved to be a total failure. And many now believe that Straw's version of it will also end in disaster.
The reason for those failures is simple: The Khomeinist revolutionary clique that has seized control of the Iranian state is determined to use its power to reshape the Middle East in accordance with its own radical strategy. The rest of the world, including the Europeans, has the choice of either accepting Tehran's agenda or resisting it by all means, including force if and when necessary.
The reason why a nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to the Western democracies and their regional allies is that the Khomeinist revolution defines itself in opposition to a vision of the world that it regards as an American imposition. If Iran had no quarrel with that vision, its acquiring nuclear weapons would not have been of greater concern than India and Pakistan "going nuclear."
With or without nuclear weapons, the Islamic Republic, in its present shape, represents a clear and present threat to the kind of Middle East that President Bush says he wants to shape.
At a meeting in Tehran this month, the Islamic Republic's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei took questions from some 150 "Islamic guidance" officials operating around the world.
According to those present, the ayatollah responded with well-rehearsed answers, often consisting of one-line slogans.
One question made him hesitate: Is the Islamic Republic at war against the United States? According to leaks, the ayatollah tried to get around the question by claiming that it was the United States that was at war against "our Islamic Revolution."
Leaving aside semantic subtleties, it is fair to say that the U.S. has been at war with the Khomeinist regime ever since the mullahs seized power in 1979.
Much of this war has been of the cold type. But its history also includes lukewarm and hot episodes.
The opening shots were fired in February 1979 when Khomeinist gunmen invaded 27 "listening posts" set up by the United States in Iran to monitor Soviet missile tests in accordance with the SALT II accords. The posts had been created with the consent of the USSR and as Iran's contribution to global arms reduction programs. Within weeks, all 27 posts were closed and their American personnel, briefly held hostage, expelled from the newly created Islamic Republic.
In October 1979, the Khomeinist regime and the United States appeared to be heading for an understanding when Mehdi Bazargan, the ayatollah's first prime minister, met President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Bzrezinski, in Rabat. Carter had addressed a flattering letter to Khomeini, praising the ayatollah as "a man of God." In a show of good will, Carter lifted the ban he had imposed during the revolutionary turmoil on arms exports to Iran.
A few days after the Bazargan-Bzrezinski meeting, however, Khomeinist militants raided the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took its diplomats hostage. The drama lasted 444 days. In April 1980, Carter ordered a military operation to free the hostages.
This was the first time since 1941 that U.S. forces were involved in hostile action in Iran. The operation ended in disaster, leaving behind the charred bodies of eight U.S. troops in the Iranian desert.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Over the years, the mullahs developed a sophisticated strategy for waging low-intensity war against the United States.
The Hezbollah movement was created to make life difficult for U.S. allies in the region, notably Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
For its part, the United States played a key role in encouraging Saddam Hussein to attack Iran in September 1980. Washington's financial and intelligence support also contributed to Saddam's ability to fight for eight years. Washington also waged economic war against Tehran by freezing some $24 billion in Iranian assets and denying the Islamic Republic access to global capital markets, World Bank loans and new technology.
By 1987, the Islamic Republic had organized the killing of hundreds of Americans, including 241 Marines in Beirut, while Iranian agents seized 27 American hostages in Lebanon at different times. They also kidnapped and hanged an American colonel working for the United Nations in Lebanon. Also kidnapped and murdered in Tehran was the head of the CIA in Beirut.
In 1987, the Islamic Republic and the United States fought a hot episode of their war in the Persian Gulf. A U.S. task force, sent to protect Kuwaiti oil tankers against Iranian attacks, engaged the Iranian navy in the biggest battle it had seen since 1941. The battle ended after more than half of the Iranian navy had been reduced to fuming flotsam.
The war between the United States and the Islamic Republic was then fought in other theaters, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. But the biggest proxy battles were fought between the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah and Israel. The mullahs believe that they won because they forced Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon.
Other places where the United States and the mullahs have fought on opposite sides include Trans-Caucasus and Tajikistan.
For 25 years, the Islamic Republic has helped prop up various anti-American regimes, including North Korea, Syria, Sudan and Cuba, with cheap oil, cash gifts and general political and economic support.
Today, this strange war is being fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In Afghanistan, Tehran is supporting Ismail Khan, the "emir" of Herat, while the United States has put its chips on President Hamid Karzai. In recent months, the mullahs have helped the Hazara Shiites create a 10,000-man army within a day's march to Kabul.
To make life more difficult for the U.S.-led coalition, Tehran is also helping the Pushtun fundamentalist leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has just concluded an alliance with the remnants of the Taliban.
Khatami Says Iraqi Government Risks Losing Support
August 23, 2004
TEHRAN -- Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said on Monday Iraq's interim government risked losing popular support because of its backing for military operations against Shi'ite Muslim rebels in the holy city of Najaf.
Shi'ite Iran has given lukewarm backing to Iraq's interim government while expressing growing concern about the fighting in Najaf where U.S. forces have engaged in fierce battles with supporters of rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Speaking to reporters, Khatami said the fighting was unjustified since Sadr's Mehdi Army militia had shown it was willing to reach a negotiated settlement.
"It seems there is a desire to crack down on Najaf and scare all Iraqis," the official IRNA news agency quoted Khatami as saying. "It was Falluja yesterday, today it is Najaf and if the trend continues it will spread to all Iraqis," he said.
"The Iraqi interim government faces a great test and if it fails to resolve the problems it will not be held in high regard by the Iraqi people," he said.
Some Iranian politicians have said Iran should actively support Sadr.
"Moqtada al-Sadr is an anti-occupiers figure and Iran should support him," Mahmoud Mohammadi, deputy head of parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, was quoted as saying in local newspapers on Monday.
"Iran should have a more active presence in Iraq and shouldn't be scared by the interpretation that its active presence might be regarded as interference," he said.
Several U.S. and Iraqi officials have accused Iran of stirring up trouble in Iraq, a charge Iran's government denies.
Asked whether Iran supported Sadr, Khatami said: "We have never officially supported any particular group in Iraq.
"We want peace and stability to prevail in Iraq. The Islamic Republic of Iran has not carried out any provocative interference in Iraq."
Iran's influential former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in a speech on Monday, accused U.S. forces in Iraq of "trying to crack down on a popular movement which started in the mosques."
Rafsanjani Expresses Admiration For Resistant "Youngsters" of Najaf
August 23, 2004
BBC Monitoring Middle East
The chairman of the Expediency Council, speaking at a ceremony marking World Mosques' Week, has said: The government and the system must do more to improve the state of mosques. But it would be better for the people to run mosques.
Mr Hashemi-Rafsanjani added: Tens of thousands of mosques and mosque savants [clerics] and millions of mosque lovers throughout the country can turn mosques into active bases of learning and education. And it is in this way that mosques can play the top role in the realization of the country's 20-year prospects.
The chairman of the Expediency Council pointed out that the Americans have realized how important mosques are and this is why they are attacking the holy city of Al-Najaf.
He added: Saddam's regime, with a vast army of several million, a jaysh al-sha'bi [people's army in Arabic], collapsed in the face of a comprehensive attack. But the holy city of Al-Najaf is still standing with the resistance of a number of youngsters.
The chairman of the Expediency Council added: If America turns all the towns into ruins, these people will turn up elsewhere and these deeds will leave a great disgrace in history for Washington.
Source: Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1, Tehran, in Persian 0930 gmt 23 Aug 04
Text of report by Iranian TV on 23 August
White House Watch: Al-Qaida and Iran Had Close Ties [Excerpt]
August 23, 2004
Dow Jones Newswires
WASHINGTON -- From the early days of al-Qaida up to the present, the Iranian government has maintained close ties to the terror organization even though it remains unclear whether Tehran helped or even knew about the Sept. 11 attacks before they occurred, according to the commission that investigated the attacks.
The commission said numerous questions remain about Tehran's involvement in the attacks in Washington and New York City, but it did establish a clear pattern of actions by Tehran in which Iran provided al-Qaida operatives with training and with assistance in evading Western security forces.
The information is somewhat ironic given the U.S. also accuses Iran of operating programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.
Before the war in Iraq, President George W. Bush justified the invasion by warning Saddam Hussein's hostility toward the U.S., his weapons programs, and his ties to al-Qaida and other terrorists groups all converged to make Iraq an imminent threat.
Since the invasion, Bush has conceded there were no weapons stockpiles and the commission has reported that while there were periodic contacts between Saddam's regime and Osama bin Laden, nothing came of the effort.
It is a different story with Iran.
Perhaps the most damning evidence to emerge from the commission's report is the fact Iran provided direct assistance to some of the hijackers involved in the plot which helped them travel in 2000 and 2001 without risking attracting attention in either Saudi Arabia or in the West.
However, by the time this occurred, the links between Iran and al-Qaida were already well established and nearly a decade old.
The beginning of the relationship was marked by a meeting in The Sudan in late 1991 or early 1992 during which al-Qaida and Iranian operatives forged an agreement to cooperate and to set aside the hostility that existed between Sunni-based al-Qaida and the Shiite theocracy in Iran, the report states. The deal was cut by then Sudanese leader Hassan al Turbi, who had hosted what amounted to a terrorist international meeting in Khartoum.
"Not long after, senior al-Qaida operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives. In 1993, another such delegation went to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon for further training in explosives as well as intelligence and security," the report said.
The Bekaa Valley is a stronghold of Hezbollah, a terror group sponsored by Iran.
Of particular interest to bin Laden, the report states, was learning how Hezbollah built truck bombs. In 1998, al-Qaida itself used two such bombs to destroy the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, but the report states there are strong suspicious this wasn't the first truck bombing al-Qaida was involved with after being shown the ropes by Iran operatives connected to Hezbollah.
In 1996, an enormous truck bomb exploded outside U.S. Air Force barracks in the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia killing 19 Americans and wounding 372.
"The operation was carried out principally, perhaps exclusively, by Saudi Hezbollah, an organization that had received support from the government of Iran. While the evidence of Iranian involvement is strong, there are also signs that al-Qaida played some role, as yet unknown," the report said.
Certainly it is plausible that al-Qaida had the expertise at this point to either carry off or help carry off such an attack. In November, 1995, a car bomb exploded outside a joint U.S.-Saudi training facility in Riyadh. The Saudis arrested four suspects who claimed they were "inspired" by bin Laden, according to the report, but the Saudis executed the suspects before U.S. officials could question them.
Following the embassy bombings, the next big strike orchestrated by al-Qaida occurred in 2000 when suicide operatives used an explosives laden dinghy to blow a huge hole in the side of the USS Cole.
If there was any doubts about the Iranian government's inherent hostility toward the U.S., this was ended when Tehran reacted by mounting a concerted effort to develop stronger ties to bin Laden.
However, Iran "was rebuffed because bin Laden didn't want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia," the report stated.
Nevertheless, Iranian officials were willing to help al-Qaida members travel to and from neighboring Afghanistan secretly by, among other things, refusing to stamp the passports of al-Qaida operatives as they passed through Iran.
"We now have evidence suggesting 8 to 10 of the 14 Saudi 'muscle' operatives traveled into or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001," the report states.
Just how important this assistance was can be determined by the fact that Khalid Sheik Mohammed instructed the hijackers that served as the pilots in the plots all to get new passports in Saudi Arabia before they applied for U.S. visas.
By saying they had lost their old passports, the hijackers wiped their travel histories clean because the new documents contained no border control stamps, such as entry into Pakistan. Saudis traveling to Pakistan would have immediately aroused suspicion because of the assumption they had used that country as a way station en route to Afghanistan, al-Qaida's home turf.
What isn't clear is whether Tehran was aware of the developing plot to destroy the World Trade Center and attack the Pentagon. The report notes that the "muscle" hijackers themselves hadn't been told at this point what they would be doing.
Nevertheless, the "muscle" hijackers likely did know they were being trained for a terror attack of some kind within the U.S.
In October 2000, a senior member of Hezbollah traveled to Saudi Arabia "to coordinate activities there," the report states, and, a month later, three of the future hijackers flew from there to Iran via Beirut. The three hijackers were escorted at least part of the way by a member of Hezbollah.
"The travel of this group was important enough to merit the attention of senior figures in Hezbollah," the report states.
Ramzi Binalshibh, a key 9/11 plotter, denied al-Qaida was conferring with Hezbollah figures and said the only reason al-Qaida operatives went to Iran was that it was a transit point to Afghanistan, the report states. The report gave no indication of how credible Binalshibh's information was.
What is clear is that after Sept. 11th, Hezbollah went to some lengths to conceal past evidence of its assistance to al-Qaida, and a senior Hezbollah official disclaimed any involvement with the plot, the report stated.
Nevertheless, the commission was less than convinced by these denials and said Iran's involvement in Sept. 11 is an unclosed chapter in history.
"We believe this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government," the report said.
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