Iranian hand in Najaf game
Since the battle of Najaf suddenly erupted about two weeks ago, with fierce fighting raging between followers of Shi'ite maverick cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the U.S. military, the question often arose as to why this battle was taking place.
Just what is the firebrand Sheik al-Sadr trying to prove? It must seem genuinely insane to try to take on the full brunt of American military with its advanced technology, unlimited hardware and far superior firepower. Not to mention the recreated Iraqi army units fighting beside American forces. So what exactly does Sheik al-Sadr expect to achieve other than the senseless killing, mostly of his young fanatical fighters, who are no match for the better-trained and -led American forces, and who are dying by the score?
To establish the "why" of the fighting in Najaf, one must first try first to ascertain the "who." Who stands to profit from the turmoil? Who could be pulling Sheik al-Sadr's strings and, of course, to what end?
The answer, no matter how you turn this thing around, dissect and analyze it, seems to point in one direction: Iran.
Sheik al-Sadr has traveled twice to Iran in recent months. He maintains close links with Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri, a cleric in the city of Qom and a close confident of Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei. Analysts believe he receives support and most probably financing from Iran.
And just why would the Islamic republic want to direct Sheik al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army to foment strife in Iraq, stirring up trouble for U.S. forces? Sure, they are killing American soldiers, but for every American casualty, there are close to 50 Iraqis.
Also, as one analyst noted, you never want to ignite a fire in your neighbor's house for fear it might spread to yours unless there is a compelling reason.
The reason is the Iran's ayatollahs are sending Washington a message. The message is "make sure that you, Washington, will convince Israel to stay away from our nuclear sites and desires." Otherwise, the fighting currently under way in Najaf can easily expand to other localities and grow in intensity. Lives are, unfortunately, expendable in this part of the world.
Remember Iran's children brigade sent out in front of regular troops to clear minefields during the 8-year Iran-Iraq war. The children were armed with Islamic fervor and promises of a place in paradise. Close to a million people died in that conflict.
This is the kind of adversary the United States military is likely to face in an open confrontation with Iran, if it ever comes to that. And now, with 148,000 American troops serving in Iraq, the U.S. finds itself sharing a 1,215-mile border with the Islamic Republic of Iran a porous border across which thousands of Revolutionary Guards can easily infiltrate and instigate trouble.
There has been much talk lately over the probability of a replay of Israel's 1981 raid on Iraq's Osirak nuclear facility. This time the target would, of course, be Iran's facility, probably the Bushehr plant. Ergo the not-so-veiled threats to the United States carried out by Sheik al-Sadr's boys in Iraq. "We can make trouble for you," the Iranians seem to say. And they can.
In 1979, shortly after the Islamic revolution overthrew the shah and installed a theocracy in place of the Peacock Throne, Iranian students stormed the "nest of spies," the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and held its diplomats and Marine guards hostage for 444 days. There was little, if anything, the U.S. was able to do.
One military rescue was attempted. It ended in disaster with the crash of two U.S. helicopters and the death of the rescuers.
Iranians are well aware of the dangers ahead as they cruise toward the the point where they will have acquired weapons-grade plutonium, enough to fabricate a nuclear bomb.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards Commander Maj. Gen. Yehya Rahim Safawi warned Iran would strike at Israel, making it "painful" if Israel attempted to hit Iran's interests.
"The Islamic Republic will strike with force at the Zionist entity [Israel] if it commits the stupidity of hitting the interests of the Iranian people," Gen. Safawi said, according to the Iranian News Agency, IRNA.
Gen. Safawi accused Israel and the United States of turning the Middle East into a "hot spot for disseminating and spreading evil, and strife and for oppressing Muslims."
"Israel and America are trying to implement their malignant plans under the pretext of curbing weapons of mass destruction and combating terrorism with the fake aim of spreading democracy in the Middle East," he said.
On his part, the deputy commander of the Republican Guard echoed similar warnings. "We will respond firmly and by all means to anyone who dares to attack any region of our country," Brig. Mohammed Zou al-Kader said.
"The psychological war waged against us is aimed at intimidating the officials and stopping Iran from keeping up efforts to acquire nuclear technology for use in peaceful purposes," Brig. Zou al-Kader said.
That is the explanation for the otherwise senseless battle of Najaf. It also explains why Sheik al-Sadr keeps rejecting peace overtures from interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to forsake violence and join in the political debate. And finally, if you think the price of oil is high now skirting $49 a barrel wait until it reaches $100, if the U.S and Iran engage militarily.
Claude Salhani is international editor for United Press International.
PARIS, Aug 24 (AFP) - Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called on France, Britain and Germany to intensify their diplomatic pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme.
After meeting here with French counterpart Michel Barnier Shalom said they had agreed on the urgency of the issue.
"We discussed the need to intensify the diplomatic pressure on Iran to ensure their success. Mr Barnier and I agreed on the urgent need to address the threat posed to the entire international community by Iran's nuclear program," he said
"Israel welcomes the efforts of France, together with Germany and Britain, to deal with this matter," Shalom added, speaking in English.
Both the US and Israel are convinced that, under cover of producing nuclear power, the Islamic republic is secretly developing an atomic bomb, something Tehran strenuously denies.
Under an agreement reached last year with Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed to suspend sensitive uranium enrichment, allow tougher inspections and file a comprehensive declaration of its nuclear activities.
The suspension agreement was aimed at "building confidence" while the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conducted a major probe into Iran's bid to generate electricity through nuclear power -- seen by the United States as a cover for secret weapons development.
Since the agreement, Tehran has backed away from the pledge to suspend all enrichment-related activities, the IAEA has found omissions in Iran's reporting and inspection visits have been delayed.
And on July 31, Iran announced it had resumed making parts for centrifuges used for enriching uranium, dealing a fresh blow to European efforts to limit the scope of its nuclear programme.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said in New Zealand Tuesday that Iran would retaliate if Israel attacked its nuclear facilities.
Shalom was due to leave France on Thursday.
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The Threat from Iran - Weekly News Summary
August 25, 2004
Iran va Jahan
A weekly account of Iran in the International Press
Fourth week of August, 2004
Allawi to warn Iran on interference in Iraq - Iraqi Interior Minister
Al-Jazeera Television, Aug. 16 - Iraq's interior minister, Fallah Naqib, said: "The recent developments are a conspiracy and a war against Iraq by a foreign country. The incidents Iraq is witnessing, including in Najaf, are conducted according to a plan and with the briefing of an administration with high capabilities. We have arrested a number of Libyans, Afghans and Iranians who were suspected of involvement in terrorist acts." In answer to a question on Iran's role in Iraq, he said: "Yes, the Iranians have infiltrated here, very much. Allawi will raise this issue with the government of that country."
Interior minister accuses Tehran of destabilizing Iraq
Fars News Agency (state-run), Aug. 15 - Iraq's interior minister repeated his previous claims on Iran, asserting that there are documents and evidence that show some neighbor states are involved in destabilizing in Iraq. In an exclusive interview with the UAE newspaper Al-Ittihad, Fallah Naqib contended that Iran tops these countries, asserting that Iraq is facing a multi-national war which aims to harass the Iraqi people and gain authority over their fate.
Videotape reveals Iranian interference
Al-Iraqia Television, Aug. 15, Iraq - In a press conference, Va'el Abdul-Latif, minister advisor in provincial affairs, stressed that elements who have named themselves supporters of Muqtada Sadr and intend to cause tension and create crisis in Iraqi cities, as well as many (others), including a number of Iranians and Afghans, have been arrested. He stressed that the government will no longer accept any armed individuals or groups and will counter them. He said, "We have a videotape that is telling of this situation."
The videotape showed a number of those arrested, including a 39-year-old Iranian who claimed to be from Mashad. Large numbers of light and medium weight weapons and ammunition with Farsi brands were also visible in the footage.
We have arrested some Iranians - Shaalan
As-Sharq Al-Awsat, Aug. 14 - Iraqi defense minister Hazem Shaalan: "We have arrested some people who are not Iraqis and cannot speak Arabic. They are Iranian and Afghani and after the interrogations end, we will show them on television."
Non-Arabs among 1200 arrested members of Al-Mahdi
Al-Iraqia Television, August 14 - Hazem Al-Shaalan said: 1200 members of the Al-Mahdi Army have been arrested among whom are individuals who do not speak Arabic.
Sistani to Iran: Leave Iraqi people alone
Al-Etjah ol-Akher, Aug. 14 - Khamenei's representative -who is in charge of the Revolutionary Guards' Qods Garrison and the Information office of Palestine, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iraqi affairs office named Nasr- asked Sistani if there was anything he could provide for him. Sistani told him: "Tell the Iranian authorities and officials that the only thing that we need is for them to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs and leave the Iraqi people alone. We will be happy then!" The Iranian authorities had suggested taking Sistani to Iran for treatment but he did not accept.
The region is nervous about Iran - Rumsfeld
US Department of State Website, August 12 - Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld: "The region was nervous about Iran and has been for a couple of decades. You've got a very small handful of clerics running that country. They're developing nuclear capabilities in defiance of the IAEA. They are on the terrorist list. They are active with Hezbollah and funneling terrorist activities down through Damascus and into Lebanon and into Israel. They are unhelpful, distinctly unhelpful in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it's not surprising that countries in the region worry about their behavior. I suspect an awful lot of the Iranian people worry about the behavior of the government as well. And I think that it's an interesting problem, unlike all North Korea which has been more of a closed society, the Iranian people have a very good sense of what's going on in the rest of the world. And they can't help but see that they are being by their government denied the full benefits of interaction with the rest of the world."
Mullahs fear a democratic neighbor
VOA TV, Farsi edition, Aug. 18 - Moqtada Sadr is Kazem Al-Hosseini Al-Haeri's lackey in Iraq. He is a cleric who lives in Iran and is close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, leader of the Islamic Republic.
Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim Shaalan says Iran-made weapons have been discovered in the hands of criminals who have obtained them via the Iranian border. Adnan Al-Zarouqi, governor of Najaf, says it is clear that Iran supports Al-Sadr's group. Ahmad Al-Rahim, member of the research institute the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington says the clerical regime in Iran intends to halt the shift toward democracy in Iraq and take measures to deviate it. Mr. Rahim says these measures include strengthening Moqtada Sadr, Iran's ideological ally, and the Hezbollah terrorist group. Hezbollah is the product of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and is now present in Iraq, where it recruits. Iran wants to create an unstable and unbalanced situation in Iraq. It doesn't want to have a democracy as its neighbor. It fears that if the Iranian people see it, they might demand democratic reforms even more powerfully.
Kidnapped Iranian diplomat was RGC member
Le Monde, Aug. 17 - Al-Arabia television aired a footage showing the Iranian regime's kidnapped diplomat as a member of the Revolutionary Guards Corps. The video given to the television network showed an international identification card of the regime's abducted diplomat in Iraq as a member of the Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Tehran aims to prolong its own rule by sponsoring Sadr
Asharq Al-Awsat daily, Aug. 17 - Moqtada Sadr became bold after visiting Iran. The rule of clerics (in Iran) faces a lethal crisis and they are trying to find a way out, similar to the Iran-Iraq war which prolonged the lives of both regimes.
Iran's rulers found what they sought for creating unrest and chaos in Iraq under the acceptable yet deceitful slogan of freeing Iraq from US Forces, in Moqtada Sadr.
Presently, the Iranian government's only asset is in increasing its presence, that means preventing construction in Iraq and destabilizing its security.
Mullah says Iraqis better die
Baghdad daily, Aug. 16, Iraq - The Iranian government is the origin of war and problems in Iraq. Today, fascism has appeared in Iraq in the attire of religion. Meshkini, who heads Iran's Assembly of Experts, openly declared on Friday that "the Americans must leave Iraq even if half of the Iraqis are killed. Iraq with a population of 10 million is much better than Iraq under the rule of US with a population of 20 million."
Opportunity across border
USA Today, Aug. 16 - U.S. officials say that for most of the year, they have been watching with alarm a buildup of Iranian spies and militants in Iraq. "We are aware that the Iranians have been engaged in some activities in southern Iraq," White House spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday...
"There's been a more aggressive Iranian pursuit of all options in Iraq," says Judith Yaphe, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University in Washington and a former analyst for the CIA who monitors developments in Iraq and Iran. "They are helping a number of elements within Iraq," including al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, she says.
Iran has retained ties to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, an anti-Saddam group that was based in Iran until Saddam's ouster. Iran also has links to the Dawa or Islamic Call party, another important Iraqi Shiite group, and to Ahmad Chalabi...
Iran has established clinics and schools in Iraq as part of a campaign of economic aid that competes with U.S. assistance...
Inside the Zarqawi network
Weekly Standard, Aug. 16, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Jonathan Schanzer, Soref Fellow - A memo acquired by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy from Iraqi intelligence sources. provides a first glimpse into the configuration of Zarqawi's Iraqi network, which may be more dangerous than previously imagined. The memo, "Structure of Tawhid and Jihad Islamic Group," details several days of recent interrogations of one of Zarqawi's captured lieutenants. Umar Baziyani, Zarqawi's number four, a member of the Tawhid legislative council, and the "emir" of Baghdad, was captured by U.S. forces in late May 2004. The account of his confessions details the hierarchal structure of Zarqawi's group, its ties to Syria and Iran.....
Baziyani explained to his interrogators that the Zarqawi network received a great deal of assistance from Iran. One Tawhid and Jihad militant, Othman, was reportedly responsible for transferring former Ansar al Islam fighters and other jihadis back and forth from Iran to Baghdad once the U.S. occupation was underway. In other words, Iran has been involved in supplying fighters to tangle with U.S. soldiers. This should come as no surprise, given the 9/11 Commission's recent report that Iran was a transit state for 9/11 plotters.
Looking back, Sunni-Shia enmity has never been a concern for Iran when it comes to providing logistics to al Qaeda, or even supporting Sunni groups such as Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza. Iran, it is also worth noting, provided assistance to the Sunni and Kurdish Ansar al Islam on the eve of the 2003 U..S. invasion. Tehran allowed Ansar fighters to cross the border to escape the U.S. assault. According to several Ansar prisoners, Iran allowed fighters to remain there, and then later helped them back into Iraq to join the insurgency.
Jonathan Schanzer is a Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of the forthcoming Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror.
Rift grows as Iranians caught fighting for Sadr
Guardian, August 13, Baghdad - 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...
Relations between Iran and Iraq, who fought a ruinous war from 1980-88, have plummeted in recent weeks...
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"....
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."
Iran is not behaving in a responsible manner - Powell
US Department of State Website, August 13 - Secretary of State Colleen Powell: "We would hope that as Japan examines its relationship with Iran, it would take into account, in any business transaction or any proposals that come along, the fact that Iran is not behaving in a responsible manner. The IAEA has found serious deficiencies in their program. The European Foreign Ministers 3, the three foreign ministers, entered into agreements with Iran, which Iran is not complying with. And it seems clear to us that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, and it is essentially saying to the international community, "No matter what you think, we're going to go ahead and build centrifuges and preserve the option of going further." I would hope that the Japanese Government and Japanese businesses would take this into account as they make judgments as to whether this is the place that one should be making investments in or doing this kind of energy business with."
US, Canada see eye-to-eye on Iranian nuclear program, human rights concerns
Agence France Presse, Aug. 13, Washington - The United States and Canada share concerns about the extent of Iran's nuclear programs and Tehran's poor human rights record, US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew said Friday.
Washington and Ottawa will both look for tough action on Iran from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) when it meets next month in Vienna and will press Tehran to resolve lingering questions about the death in custody in Iran of a Canadian-Iranian photographer last year, they said.
"We are very preoccupied by the nuclear proliferation and we are not pleased at all with the way the Iranians are conducting this particular question of nuclear proliferation," Pettigrew told reporters after meeting Powell at the State Department.
"This is something on which we need to cooperate and make sure that Iran respects international obligations and absolutely limits that," he said.
Pettigrew on Friday called Kazemi's death an "assassination" and termed the Iranian investigation into the matter "a farce."
"We have no cooperation from the Iranian government," he said, noting the requests for Kazemi's body to be returned to Canada had not been met.
"We have realized that the whole justice system has been treating this as a farce, unfortunately," Pettigrew said, adding that he intended to raise the issue next month when the United Nations General Assembly convenes.
Iran a nuclear threat, U.S. Says
The Washington Post, Aug. 18, by Dafna Linzer - Iran told British, French and German officials last month that it could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear bomb within a year, Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton said yesterday in arguing the case for international pressure on the Islamic Republic.
In a speech at the Hudson Institute, Bolton characterized Iran as a grave danger. He said the U.S. strategy would be to isolate rather than "engage" with the country, a tactic European allies are still hoping will work...
"They've told the EU three [Britain, France and Germany] that they could produce, they could enrich enough uranium for a nuclear weapon within a year and they could produce nuclear weapons within the range of our own assessment, which is a way of threatening the Europeans to get them to back down," Bolton said of Iran....
"This regime has to be isolated in its bad behavior, not quote-unquote engaged," Bolton said.
Lugar: Get very tough with Iran
United Press International, Aug. 15, Washington - The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged the United States Sunday to get "very tough" to prevent Iran from making a nuclear bomb.
"We're going to have to get very tough" said Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., when asked how to prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons...
In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Lugar said: "The Iranians are moving toward weaponization of the uranium experiment that they have. And they've been clearly doing this. I suspect to begin with economic sanctions on Iran... but not ruling out at the end of the day military sanctions against Iran."
Punish Tehran for nuclear cheating
Daily Telegraph, Aug. 19 - In 2001, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who now heads the Expediency Council, said that if the Islamic world achieved nuclear parity with Israel, it would be able to annihilate that state while sustaining only damages from any counter-strikes....
The government has evidently calculated that American preoccupation with Iraq and the presidential election has created a window of opportunity for the pursuit of its nuclear ambitions with impunity...
Iran has long sought nuclear status as a means of achieving regional hegemony. But it also remains a power determined to export Islamic revolution worldwide, with the goal of destroying the liberal democracies. As John Bolton, American Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, reminded us yesterday, the sooner the issue of its nuclear programme is referred to the Security Council, the better.
If it persists in cheating, Teheran must be further isolated and, if necessary, punished by sanctions. Beyond that, America and its allies should leave the clerics in no doubt that they will not tolerate their possession of nuclear weapons. In such hands, they would pose a far greater threat than Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
Iran delivered missiles to Hizbullah in Lebanon via Syria
Middle East Media Research Institute, Aug. 19 - The Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa recently reported that Iran has delivered missiles to Hizbullah in Lebanon via Syria, and that Iran and Syria are cooperating closely in missile development and deployment. The following are excerpts of the article:
"Two cargo aircraft landed on the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2004, at one of the Syrian military airfields in north Damascus. There to greet the planes were Iranian Ambassador to Syria Riza Baqiri and Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mas'ud Idris."
Al-Siyassa also reported that "several Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers had arrived the previous day from their headquarters at a Hizbullah military camp near the town of Qasrbana in al-Buqa' in order to unload a significant number of surface-to-surface missiles."
According to information received from the Syrian opposition in London on Saturday, Aug. 14, the missiles "are of the most recent and improved Iranian model, with a 250- to 350-kilometer range, with which it is possible to hit any target in Israel." The sources also reported to Al-Siyassa that the two deliveries comprised 220 missiles "that Iran had not so far supplied to any foreign entity...
"Over Thursday and Friday [Aug. 12-13], the missiles were transported in civilian Syrian and Lebanese trucks to three Hizbullah military bases" in the regions of Jenta and Yahfufa near the Syrian border, as well as to southern Ba'albek.
The Syrian opposition said that according to information they claim to have received from a senior source in the Syrian military in Damascus, "the alert level of the Syrian missile corps, deployed mostly in the North and East of the country [i.e., Syria], has been raised to high after commanders in military intelligence and in the Ba'th party in Damascus received information about the possibility that the Israeli Air Force would attack the nuclear reactors in Iran via Jordanian, Iraqi, and Turkish skies."
It was also stated that in the event of such an Israeli attack, "Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon overseeing the deployment and maintenance of thousands of missiles of various ranges would fire these missiles at cities in the Hebrew state, which could expand the aerial attacks on the nuclear, chemical, and biological installations and uranium-enrichment plants in Iran, such that the attack would also include Syria and Lebanon."
Mullahs may get uranium from S. Africa
Ha'aretz, Aug. 18 - Iran and South Africa signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday on bilateral cooperation. The deal paves the way for the two countries to expand trade ties, and may include South Africa selling uranium to Tehran.
The memorandum was signed by South African Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and his Iranian counterpart Rear-Admiral Ali Shamkhani. This was the first such visit by a South African defense minister to Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
US and Europe cannot afford nuclear Iran
The New York Times, Aug. 14 - Unlike Iraq's long-dormant nuclear weapons program, Iran's program seems to be moving steadily forward, and it has drawn sharp criticism from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Tehran has defiantly proclaimed its intention to produce enriched uranium, which can be used in bombs as well as electrical-power reactors. ...Though Iran seems to be staying just within the limits of what is allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it is positioning itself so it could withdraw from the treaty and make bombs once it has completed building the new equipment and has amassed enough natural uranium to begin enrichment.
The three European allies, while harboring few illusions about Iran's intentions, believe that tough-minded negotiations still have a chance of producing positive results. Until they conclude otherwise, they are unlikely to support any American request to impose coercive sanctions...
Neither Europe nor America can afford to wake up one day to discover that Iran is quitting the nonproliferation treaty and building weapons.
Revolutionary Guards General set to become Iran's censor in chief
Iran Focus website, Aug. 18, Tehran - A new budget amendment adopted by the dominant ultra-conservative faction in the Iranian parliament is set to concentrate enormous powers over the mass media in the hand of a former general of the Revolutionary Guards who now heads the Voice and Vision of the Islamic Republic, the state-owned broadcasting monopoly in Iran.
The amendment to the government's Fourth Development Plan, expected to be endorsed by the watchdog Guardian Council, will give exclusive control over Iran's internet network and access to satellite and cable television programs to the VVIR.
The amendment was opposed by a small minority of Majlis deputies, who wanted the control over access to the internet and satellite television to be given to several ministries, including the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
The Majlis decision turns Revolutionary Guards Brig. Gen. Ezzatollah Zarghami, who already heads the powerful radio and television monopoly, into the Censor in Chief of information in the Islamic Republic. Zarghami's agency is one of numerous state institutions that are not under government control, but report directly to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The move is also in line with Khamenei's efforts, in the past few months, to extend the control of the Revolutionary Guards over key government and state institutions.
Zarghami is one of Khamenei's most trusted confidants and has for long been involved in the suppression of dissidents at home and terrorist activities abroad. He has close ties with Maj. Gen. Rahim Safavi, the Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander in Chief, his deputy, Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr, and the Corps' counter-intelligence chief Morteza Reza'i.
In the 1990s, Zarghami, Saeed Emami, then deputy Intelligence Minister, and Brig. Gen. Ali Agha Mohammadi were responsible for the grisly murder of several dissidents in Iran and waged a propaganda campaign to discredit the opposition. Zarghami's new powers come in the midst of escalating clampdown on newspapers and publishers in Iran.
Iran says it is producing nuclear defense equipment - EXCERPT
Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said U.S. sanctions had forced Iran to seek self-sufficiency to meet all its defense requirements, the government-owned Persian daily Iran reported.
"Iran has produced nuclear defense equipment," Iran quoted Shamkhani as saying.
"If our nuclear power plants are targeted, there will be radioactive releases. You need special equipment to control it. Also, some countries in our neighborhood have achieved nuclear technology. We have to be prepared if there is an accident there," Shamkhani was quoted as saying.
The minister did not elaborate on the type of equipment Iran was producing.
Defense Ministry officials, contacted by The Associated Press Tuesday, refused comment.
India and Iran's western neighbor, Pakistan, have nuclear weapons. Israel is also believed to possess hundreds of nuclear warheads.
Shamkhani said U.S. sanctions have benefited Iran, rather than harming it.
"One of the reasons for our success is various sanctions imposed on us. When we felt all technological doors are closed to us, we had no option but to seek self-sufficiency and produce our needs ourselves," he said.
Iran threatened last week to destroy Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor should the Jewish state attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
In late July Israeli military Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon issued a tacit warning about Iran's nuclear weapons program.
"In the past few days, the past two weeks, Iran in essence broke the rules of the game of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspections and started operating this project again," he said in an interview with Israeli state-run television.
"We have to pay serious attention to Iran's intention to arm itself with nuclear capabilities. This should not only concern Israel, but all the countries of the free world," Yaalon added.
The first option could be described as democratic. Last week we saw it in action in the National Conference in Baghdad. This type of politics is based on competition among ideas, policies and programs. It involves political parties and other groupings of like-minded individuals. It is messy, often chaotic and always vulnerable to the imponderable.
Democratic politics is concerned with the possible rather than the ideal. It aims at compromise rather than confrontation. No one emerges from it fully satisfied for one often ends up with a second choice that coincides with the second choices of others.
This type of politics is not immune to demagogues, double-dealers, spin-doctors and even kleptocrats. On the whole, however, because it does not depend on individuals, democratic politics is better equipped to absorb errors and correct its trajectory.
Democratic politics was seldom on offer to any Arab people for an adequate length of time. The claim that the Arabs supposedly do not like, or do not deserve, democratic politics, therefore, remains a matter of conjecture. Iraq will show whether or not this is the case.
The second type of politics is the traditional form of despotism based on a perversion of nationalistic ideals. This Nosferatu-like despotism, the mortally wounded monster that refuses to die, is represented by the remnants of the Saddamite regime. They have made their presence felt through terrorist attacks, assassination and para-military action against the U.S.-led coalition forces and the Iraqi interim government.
Unlike democratic politics, which has little history in Iraq, despotism, in various forms and with brief interludes, dominated Iraq between the military coup d'etat of 1958 and the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Despotism in Iraq today is still symbolized by Saddam Hussein in his prison cell. In other words, and leaving aside rhetoric, the nostalgics of despotism offer nothing but a restoration of Saddam Hussein to power.
The third option is militia politics, as represented by Muqtada al-Sadr. This type of politics has already been tested in several Muslim countries notably Lebanon and Afghanistan, where it led to bloody civil wars. It is no accident that Sadr takes the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah movement as the model for his ramshackle organization.
Like militia politics everywhere, the Iraqi version lacks a coherent program and is entirely built around a charismatic leader (in this case, the young mullah) and a sense of ethnic and/or sectarian identity.
Nobody quite knows what it is exactly that Sadr wants, so changeable are his moods and positions. The only certain fact is that he does not want to go to prison because of alleged involvement in murdering Abdul-Majid Khoei, a fellow-Shiite cleric, in April 2003. And nobody knows what a regime headed by Sadr might look like: Would it be a theocracy based on "Walayat al-Faqih" (The Custodianship of the Jurisconsult)?
The fourth option is, strictly speaking, neither Iraqi nor a choice. It is represented by the non-Iraqi terrorist groups operating in a few locales in and near Baghdad. These groups have as their symbol the Jordanian terror-master Abu-Masaab al-Zarqawi. But the non-Iraqi terrorists have a clear problem: forcing the Shiites to abandon their faith, and pressing the Sunnis into a perverted version of their beliefs.
The only one of the four options that gives the people of Iraq the last word is the democratic option.
If the Iraqis opt for a return to despotism they will have Saddam back. If, on the other hand, they lean towards militia politics, they will end up with Sadr. Choosing pan-Arab Islamism would give them Zarqawi as "emir al-momeneen" (Commander of the Faithful).
Not surprisingly, Sadr, Saddam and Zarqawi are united in their efforts to deny the Iraqis the chance to choose for themselves. This is why they will do everything in their power to disrupt the political process and prevent next January's elections from taking place. They fear elections because they know that a majority of Iraqis do not wish to submit to dictatorial rule of any kind.
The four choices now available in Iraq cannot leave the rest of us indifferent. Other Arabs and Muslims, and beyond them the rest of mankind as well, have an interest in the Iraqis' choice.
Arab media and governments are already divided on the issues. Some are sincerely working for the first option: to give Iraq a chance to choose its future. Others are putting some chips on militia politics a la Sadr, while still others encourage the Tikriti remnants and/or the Zarqawi gang in a number of underhand ways.
Politics is always about choice; it is about taking sides by supporting one option against another. Some sections of the Arab media, and some politicians, are desperate to avoid openly taking sides in Iraq while indirectly encouraging Sadrism, Tikritism or Zarqawism. They lack the courage to admit that they do not want the Iraqis to have elections, but they do everything to blacken the democratic option in the name of nationalism and/or religion.
What is the real issue in Iraq today? It is to create a new government whose legitimacy is based on free elections. Opponents of the democratic option, however, constantly try to shift the focus to other issues.
|William Pfaff: Neocons have Iran in their sights|
William Pfaff IHT/TMSI
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Iraq cleric calls for march on Najaf
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the living head of Shia Islam in Iraq, has called on Iraqis to march on the "burning city" of Najaf, where fighting is creeping ever closer to its holiest shrine.
Ayatollah Sistani arrived in Basra today after three weeks in London recovering from heart treatment. He said he would return to Najaf, his adopted home, tomorrow.
The ayatollah's return came as US and Iraqi forces closed in on miltants loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr besieged in Najaf's Imam Ali mosque.
American Rear Admiral Greg Slavonic, asked if the US military would suspend operations following Ayatollah Sistani's return, said: "The Iraqi leadership is leading this effort. We will follow whatever course of action the Iraqi leadership decides."
Some 500 Iraqi troops and 2,000 US marines have been deployed to the area around the shrine.
Ayatollah Sistani's aides said the cleric had plans to end the siege but gave no details.
His departure for London coincided with the outbreak of the three-week revolt by Sadr, a young cleric who has challenged the collegiate leadership of the Najaf clergy led by Ayatollah Sistani.
|August 26, 2004||No.772|
Progressive Columnist: Iran's Nuclear Build-Up Endangers its Neighbors More than it Endangers Israel
The London Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat published an op-ed by its former editor, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, claiming that Israel is merely used as a pretext for Iran's nuclear build-up, and that in fact this build-up principally endangers the neighboring Arab countries. The following are excerpts from the article:(1)
'All of the Countries in the Region Use Israel as a Pretext'
"[Following this statement] the Iraqi government generated a commotion by claiming that its power is always [directed] against Israel and will always be so. Saudi Arabia was obliged to distance itself from the [diplomat's] statement. A mere few months after this episode, the entire world witnessed the Iraqi forces invading the city of Al-Khafji in Saudi Arabia after having completely taken over her sister country and ally, Kuwait.
"Today Iran is saying the same thing, that its nuclear arsenal and its improved missiles are directed [only] against Israel. [This statement] plays on our emotions so that we will think that anyone who waves the banner of confrontation with Israel will be forgiven all his sins, deeds, and intentions, without any careful scrutiny of his public promises.
"Iran is of course in a state of conflict with Israel as a result of its solidarity with the Palestinian problem, its support for Hizbullah [in its fight] against the former Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and what is left of it today, [and] its support for Syria for the same reason.
"But apart from the verbal campaign against Israel [broadcast] by the official Iranian media, not a single event has been witnessed which would back [Iran's] statements to the effect that its weapons development is in order to defend itself against Israel. Not a single event has been witnessed of confrontation - not even by mistake - between the two countries by land, air, or sea, despite Iran's arsenal of missiles and massive artillery.
"All of the countries in the region make use of Israel as a pretext, and there is a grain of truth in [their claims]. Yet the truth is that the annals of the wars and conflicts [in the region] do not back up the claims of self-defense against Israeli attack or confrontation with Israel.
"What interests us is not what has been said but rather what has happened and is happening. Regrettably, all of Iran's confrontations have been with Saudi Arabia - [in the form of] air and land battles, with The [United Arab] Emirates, and most recently with Qatar - when [Iran] detained a [Qatari] gunship. Iran's conflicts have extended also to Taliban-era Afghanistan before the events of 9/11 as well as clashes with Azerbaijan, and of course with Iraq."
'The Only Possibility is that the Artillery is that it is the Neighboring Countries that are the Intended Target'
"There is no evidence supporting Iran's claims that the development of the missiles is directed against the Zionists. Moreover, the fact that Iran always fights against Israel through proxies, that is to say by way of support for factions hostile [to Israel] contradicts Iran's claim.
"It is inconceivable that this artillery would be transferred to such proxy warriors, [Therefore] the only possibility is that [the artillery] is that it is the neighboring countries that are the intended target.
"The quiet arms race that Iran has been pursuing with great zeal does not frighten Israel. Rather, [it frightens] the small neighboring countries that are obliged to buy arms for self-defense, all of which only increases the distrust on both sides and gladdens the arms dealers and the distant countries."
TEHRAN, Aug 25 (AFP) - Leading crude oil producer Iran has spent in five months its budget allocation of 1.5 billion dollars to import refined petrol (gasoline), and is to ask parliament for a further 1.1 billion, a senior oil official was quoted as saying Wednesday.
The head of the state-owned National Iranion Oil Company's international affairs department, Hojjatollah Ghanimifard, told the official IRNA news agency that rising international oil prices were to blame.
A tonne of petrol that cost some 210 dollars in January last year now costs some 460 dollars, he said.
Ghanimifard said the extra cash would be expected to last until the end of the current Iranian year on March 20, 2005.
Earlier this month the oil ministry's Shana news agency said Iran faced a faces a growing shortfall in supplies of vehicle fuel, with consumption of heavily-subsidised petrol reaching 70 million liters a day.
Average consumption has reached 66 million liters, compared with a daily output by Iran's refineries of some 39 million liters, obliging the Islamic Republic to import the rest.
Despite a 23 percent price hike for the current Iranian year, pump prices are still only 800 rials (less than 10 US cents) a liter for standard, lead-free petrol and 1,100 rials for super.
This is close to 2.5 times less than the real price, with the difference being made up by subsidies totalling 3.5 billion dollars a year.
This not only makes for heedless consumption in a country with inadequate public transportation and a large number of old and uneconomical cars, but massive smuggling of fuel to neighboring countries.
The government is unwilling to raise the price again but is considering other steps along with appeals to cut down on fuel use, though it has benefitted from increased revenue from crude exports recently.
Tens injured and arrested in Guenaveh clashes
SMCCDI (Information Service)
Aug 25, 2004
Violent clashes lead to several injured and arrested in Guenaveh as the angry residents retaliated to the brutal attack of the regime's militiamen against their peaceful protest gathering.
The offices of the governor and several public buildings were burnt and the custom's depots were looted. Several militiamen were injured and their patrol cars heavily damaged by incendiary devices.
The situation of the city is very tense and the regime, in an effort to calm the situation, has qualified its initial decision to transfer a hospital from the city as a "rumor spread by the enemies of the State".
More and more Iranians are resorting to violence in reaction to the repressive Islamic regime despite knowing the heavy price to pay if caught opposing the unpopular theocracy.