DEATH IS BIG BUSINESS IN NAJAF, BUT IRAQ'S FUTURE DEPENDS ON WHO CONTROLS IT
by Amir Taheri
August 28, 2004
|Iran says it has achieved effective deterrent power|
|www.chinaview.cn 2004-08-29 07:02:35|
TEHRAN, Aug. 28 (Xinhuanet) -- Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Saturday that Iran has achieved an "effective deterrent power" to confront its enemies in the region, the official IRNA news agency reported.
"Today by relying on our defense industry capabilities, we have been able to increase our deterrent capacity against the military expansion of regional enemies," Shamkhani was quoted as saying.
"The Defense Ministry has put its capabilities in the ground, air, sea and missile domains in the three categories of fire, maneuver and precision into a race with its foreign rivals," Shamkhani added.
Iran said earlier this month it carried out a successful test firing of an upgraded version of its Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile.
Military experts said the missile is capable of striking Israel or any other enemy target in the region.
Tensions between Iran and Israel as well as the United States have been accelerated recently.
The United States and Israel, accusing Iran of developing nuclear weapons secretly, threatened to launch a surprising attack upon Iran's atomic power plant in Bushehr.
On Aug. 18, Brigadier General Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, deputy commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, warned that Iran would strike Israel's nuclear reactor at Dimona if Israel's threat were materialized. Enditem
Tehran seeking role in Mid-East
Mr Khatami was responding to questions from reporters about American policies in the region.
He also said that Iran was willing to provide any guarantee to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it was not developing nuclear weapons.
Pressure is building on Iran ahead of a fresh round of discussions on Teheran's nuclear programme at the IAEA.
Speaking in Tehran, President Khatami said despite its many problems with the US, Iran would not let these effect its policies towards Iraq.
Mr Khatami said if the Americans had trusted Iraq's neighbours and countries in the region, instead of continuing their occupation, the problems in Iraq could have been solved.
American officials and some members of the Iraqi interim government have accused Iran of causing trouble in Iraq.
A visit to Tehran by the Iraqi deputy prime minister to try and ease relations between the two neighbours is expected soon.
Mr Khatami also talked about what he described as Iran's natural and legal right to develop peaceful nuclear power.
Speaking positively about the negotiations with the IAEA, Mr Khatami said if the agency recognised Iran's right to enrich uranium and accepted it as a member of the nuclear club, all problems would be solved.
He then called for the IAEA board of governors to take Iran's case off the agenda by next month's meeting. He added that he believed this was unlikely, however.
The US has been lobbying the agency to report Iran to the United Nations Security Council.
Washington believes Tehran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, a charge that Iran denies.
Iraq minister set for Iran visit
Relations have become increasingly tense between the two neighbours.
Earlier this week Iraqi interim Vice-President Ibrahim Jaafari made a surprise visit to Iran.
The official Iranian news agency says Mr Saleh's trip is aimed at preparing for a later visit to Iran by Iraq's interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi.
Shia Iran has been fiercely critical about the use of military force against Shia militiamen in the holy Iraqi city of Najaf.
Earlier, Iraq's defence minister accused Iran of arming insurgents close to the radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr, allegations which Tehran denied.
"There is a real uncertainty within the Allawi government," says Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University.
"It did not manage to control the insurgency in Najaf as it had hoped and possibly expected - as a result there's a slight degree of paranoia that things could get worse again."
Baghdad continues to be concerned about Iran's attempts to increase its influence in Shia areas of Iraq.
But some experts say that Tehran may actually have less influence than it would like over some of Iraq's independently minded Shi'ite clerics.
Paul Rogers says Baghdad's current close ties with Washington make a radical improvement in relations difficult.
"The Iranians would like to see a circumstance in which Iraq was pretty determinedly independent and far less under American influence," he says.
"The Iranians don't want permanent [American] bases in Iraq."
On Friday, Baghdad released an Iranian reporter arrested in Iraq earlier this month in an apparent goodwill gesture ahead of this visit.
But there is still no firm news about an Iranian diplomat abducted in Iraq.
Iranian scribe released after three weeks
Web posted at: 8/28/2004 6:46:38
Source ::: AFP
TEHRAN: The Baghdad bureau chief of Irans state news agency Irna was released by authorities yesterday after being held for nearly three weeks, the agency said.
Mostafa Darban, who was detained by police on August 9 and held by the interior ministry, was turned over to Iranian officials at the Khosravi border crossing between the two neighboring states, Irna said. I do not know why I was arrested, Darban was quoted as saying after his arrival in Iran. I think it was all the result of a misunderstanding. I thank everyone who worked to obtain my freedom.
Two other Irna journalists, Mohammad Khafaji and Mohsen Madani, were arrested at the same time, according to Irna, but the news agency did not say if they were still being detained.
Darbans liberation comes on the eve of a visit to Iran by Iraqs interim vice prime minister, Barham Saleh, as the neighbours try to mend fences after a certain tension in recent weeks.
Irna said on Thursday that Saleh had promised during a meeting with the Iranian charge daffaires that the journalists would be released before his visit. The Iraqi government has never explained the arrests, although Tehran stands accused of meddling in the affairs of the new US-installed government.
Iraqi officials have joined the Americans in accusing Iran of getting involved in the Shiite rebellion and even of arming rebels. Shiites are the majority of the population in both countries. An Iranian diplomat also disappeared on the road between Baghdad and Karbala and has been presumed kidnapped.
Fereydun Jahani went missing on August 4 on the road leading from Baghdad to Karbala, in central Iraq, where Tehran was set to open a consulate. His kidnapping was claimed by the Islamic Army of Iraq, which was reported to have issued threats against him but is not known to have carried them out. Iraqi Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said yesterday that Jahani was in good health, but he did not provide any details.
Iran awards $120,000 to judo champ for not fighting Israeli
Web posted at: 8/29/2004 2:10:6
Source ::: AFP
TEHRAN: Irans official sporting body has awarded $120,000 to its world judo champion Arash Miresmaeili for refusing to fight an Israeli during the Athens Olympics, a newspaper report said yesterday.
Miresmaeilis act was extremely valuable, and therefore we are awarding him the gold medalist award, the head of the Iranian Physical Education Organisation, Mohsen Mehralizadeh, was quoted as saying in the official daily Iran. The sum is the same amount awarded to Hossein Rezazadeh, who won a gold medal in weightlifting.
The paper said the Iranian National Olympics Committee had also given Miresmaeli its gold medalist cash payout of $5,000 for what they also termed as a valuable action. Miresmaeilis move was praised by Irans President Mohammad Khatami, who said the snub was a great act of self-sacrifice and a protest against massacre, terrorism and usurpation.
Miresmaeili, who was bidding to become the first Iranian to win an Olympic judo medal, said he was refusing to fight an Israeli as a gesture of support for the Palestinians. The 23-year-old, twice a winner of the flyweight world title, opted not to take on first round opponent Ehud Vaks of Israel.
But he was later eliminated from the competition when he failed to make the weight for the planned contest in Athens. He was two kilograms (4.4 pounds) overweight. Although he was suspected of intentionally gaining body weight to avoid fighting an Israeli opponent, the International Judo Federation (IJF) said he will not be punished.
The IJF also said that the 23-year-old Iranian, who carried his countrys flag in the opening ceremony, had denied suggesting he would boycott his opening match.
ALLEGED ISRAELI SPY IN PENTAGON WAS IN CONTACT WITH IRANIAN FIXER
By Safa Haeri
Posted Saturday, August 28, 2004
PARIS, 28 Aug. (IPS, with reports from Haaretz and agencies) The man FBI suspects as having spied for Israel has met Manouchehr Qorbanifar, an Iranian arms dealer involved in the Iran-Contra deal scandal of the 1980s.
The American TV network CBS reported Friday that the Federal Bureau of Investigations has been conducting an ongoing investigation into the matter and is convinced the spy has conveyed highly sensitive information to the Israeli government via two representatives of AIPAC.
The CBS report only identified the suspected mole as a senior analyst who works in the bureau of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He was also said to be closely associated with two senior Pentagon officials, Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas J. Feith.
"The FBI has a full-fledged espionage investigation under way and is about to... roll up someone [who] agents believe has been spying, not for an enemy, but for Israel, from within the office of the secretary of defence", CBS reported.
The network said that the mole, whom it described as a "trusted analyst of the Pentagon", had last year passed on "secret White House deliberations on Iran".
But the Web site of The Washington Post on Saturday quoted two sources who identified the alleged Pentagon spy as Larry Franklin, a desk officer in the Defence Department's Near East and South Asia Bureau.
In late 2001, Franklin and another Defence Department official, Harold Rhode, met Qorbanifar in Paris in order to get information on the situation in the Islamic Republic and possible ways of destabilising the regime.
A senior U.S. official, however, said on condition of anonymity that two other Iranians were present at the meeting who the Bush administration had been told had information useful to the U.S. in its then-fledgling global war on terrorism, Haaretz added from Washington.
Questioned about the meeting in August 2003, Mr. Rumsfeld said it was "absolutely not" the case that the meeting with Qorbanifar was intended to be part of any other ongoing, unofficial talks with Iranians.
Alongside with Colonel Oliver North, Robert McFarlane, President Roland Reagans Chief security adviser and Israeli intelligence specialist Amiran Nir, Qorbanifar helped the newly established Islamic Republic that was attacked by Iraq and under sanctions from Washington, to get much needed sophisticated anti aircraft missiles Tow and Hawk in exchange for the money going to the Nicaraguan rebels under what became known as the Irangate scandal.
A person who refused to identify himself told IPS on Saturday that Mr. Qorbanifar was not available until Monday.
Israel immediately denied that it had any agents operating on American soil and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) vehemently rejected its involvment after it was revealed that the FBI has launched a probe into allegations that an official in the Pentagon has been passing intelligence information concerning Iran to Israel via AIPAC, the most influential and powerful of all American Jewisah lobbies in the United States.
"We deny carrying out any intelligence activity. It is a strange story", said the government official, who declined to be identified. "Israel, for many years, has not carried out intelligence activity in the United States".
Iranian and Israeli analysts where also baffled, observing that as far as it is known, not only the Bush Administration lacks a clear cut policy on Iran, but is also shares information with Israel about Iran.
Israel has a special unit working day and night on the situation in Iran and is believed to be well informed. Besides, some Israeli specialising on Iran are routinely in contact with the White House and Defence Department, an informed source told Iran Press Service on condition of anonymity, adding that while Israel might be involved, AIPAC is certainly not.
AIPAC issued a statement said, "We would not condone or tolerate, for a second, any violation of U.S. law or interests. We are fully cooperating with the governmental authorities and will continue to do so".
Any allegation of criminal conduct by AIPAC or our employees is false and baseless. Neither AIPAC nor any of its employees has violated any laws or rules, nor has AIPAC or its employees ever received information they believed was secret or classified, the organisation stated, adding that it would fully cooperate with the FBI in its investigations.
The New York Times reported the analyst worked for Feith, who created a special intelligence unit before the Iraq war that had sought to build a case that Baghdad had ties to Al-Qaeda - a position that has been criticised by intelligence professionals.
Asked by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz whether the suspect worked under Feith, the number three Pentagon official, and William Luti, a senior official in the Pentagon's policy section, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita declined comment.
"It's a criminal matter and we don't comment on criminal matters", he said.
CBS also reported that FBI investigators are concerned that Israel may have used him in an effort to influence U.S. policy on the war in Iraq, but the Defence Department said Saturday that the mole would not have had any influence on decision-making at that level.
Shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Feith and Luti set up the intelligence unit, which ended up finding a close relationship between Al-Qaeda and Iraq that later became an important element for invading Iraq.
The FBI has notified Rumsfeld about the investigation and has asked AIPAC to provide it with information about the two representatives in the organization who are suspected of involvement in the affair.
In a statement released Friday, the Pentagon said that it was cooperating with the Justice Department in the investigation, and downplayed the possibility that the suspect had sought to sway U.S. policy in the Gulf or Middle East.
"The investigation involves a single individual at the Department of Defence at the desk officer level who was not in a position to have significant influence over U.S. policy", it said.
"Nor could a foreign power be in a position to influence U.S. policy through this individual. To the best of the Department of Defence's knowledge, the investigation does not target any other Department of Defence individuals".
In November of 1985, U.S. naval intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard was arrested at the gates of the Israeli embassy in Washington, on espionage charges. He was tried, convicted and handed a life sentence for spying for Israel.
Israel apologised for the incident and disbanded the intelligence cell of which Pollard was a part, but all its efforts and pressures to have Mr. Pollards sentence reduced were rejected by successive American administrations.
ENDS ISRAEL ESPIONAGE 28804
Europe's Iran Fantasy
Weekly Standard - By Leon de Winter
Sep 9, 2004
Europeans are from Venus, Mullahs are from Mars
ON OCTOBER 22, 2003, the Guardian, a leading British newspaper, carried no fewer than three articles about the remarkable events in Tehran the day before. The foreign ministers of the three leading European Union countries--Britain's Jack Straw, France's Dominique de Villepin, and Germany's Joschka Fischer--had flown to Iran to try to persuade its Shiite leaders to conclude an agreement about Iran's nuclear program.
The first was a news story, under the headline, "E.U. ministers strike Iran deal." The lead began, "Three European foreign ministers claimed a diplomatic coup yesterday, securing an agreement from Iran over its nuclear program which could defuse a brewing crisis with the U.S." Central to the agreement was a commitment "to suspend [Iran's] uranium-enrichment and reprocessing activities"--in other words, to halt production of materials for nuclear weapons.
The second article was by Guardian commentator Ian Black, who wrote: "The agreement marks a significant victory for the European Union's policy of 'conditional engagement' and the use of carrots and sticks, in contrast to threats from the United States against the Islamic republic, part of President George Bush's 'axis of evil.' . . . 'We often find ourselves on the defensive, being told we are appeasers for engaging with regimes like this,' an E.U. diplomat said last night. 'This agreement gives the lie to that argument. Clearly the Iranians did not do this because they feared E.U. military action. They did it because they want a relationship with us and want to keep channels open.'"
The Guardian's third piece about
this triumph of European diplomacy opened as follows: "Iran's agreement to allow unlimited U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities and to suspend its uranium enrichment program marks a tremendous success for European diplomacy. . . . Mr. Straw played down the significance of the achievement. He should not be so modest. . . . Iran will doubtless remain an axis-of-evil rogue state in George Bush's florid lexicon. But Washington must not try to undermine this accord. To date, [Washington's] polarizing, aggressive pressure tactics have mostly made a difficult problem worse. Europe demonstrated yesterday that there is a different, more effective way. And it is not the American way."
These articles were typical of those then appearing in the European press about the success of European soft power. Few commentators could resist the opportunity to malign Bush, even though many realized that Iran had no intention of adhering to the agreement. The warnings and reports by the International Atomic Energy Association, then and since, make it clear: Everything that happened on that fall day in Tehran was fiction and deception. Yet Europe's leading politicians chose to deceive and debase themselves rather than recognize Iran's play-acting for what it was. For them, the illusion of soft power was infinitely preferable to the suggestion that they should be prepared to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power at all costs. The Iranians knew perfectly well that the Europeans would not back up their demands with force--the only language tyrants building nuclear arsenals understand. The mullahs are quite familiar with Europe: The life-loving Europeans of the third millennium would never have sent their children into the minefields of Iraq.
All but a handful of Europe's politicians, obsessed by the specter of electoral defeat, refuse to take a stand if doing so could force them to sacrifice lives. Post-historical and post-religious Europe, born in the shadow of the Holocaust, does not see sacrifice as legitimate. Of course, considering that Europe has nurtured some of the world's cruelest ideologies, the dread of scenarios that might require sacrifice is hardly surprising. The problem is that much of the world, especially the Arab Islamic parts of it, is simply not interested in the moral and ethical implications of Europe's bloody past.
Since Auschwitz--the benchmark of ideological and political developments in Europe--the miracle of European prosperity and freedom has not led to the conviction that this prosperity and freedom must be defended, if necessary by force; on the contrary, the miracle has given birth to an attitude of cultural relativism and pacifism. It is as if modern Europe had divested itself of its idealistic and historical context, as if many Europeans saw the miracle of a prosperous and free Europe as an ahistorical, natural, and permanent state of affairs--as if Auschwitz had been wiped from their memory.
But anyone who is ignorant of, or ignores, the fact that tens of millions of Europeans died in the twentieth century in the struggle between good and evil--and it seems most Europeans have simply forgotten this--will fail to appreciate that the continued existence of Europe's system of liberal moral and ethical values is the result of conscious choices by courageous Europeans (and many others).
It may be something worse than amnesia: Today's Europeans may see the history of the twentieth century as scarred only by an abstract process known by the ancient Germanic word "war," a concept that for them represents some monstrous destructive force beyond good and evil that blindly spews out victims, like a flood or a hurricane. Most Europeans no longer regard Auschwitz as the disastrous result of evil ideas and the evil decisions of human beings. Instead, they see it as the consequence of something more like a natural disaster.
Perfectly expressing this concept of war were the huge demonstrations in Europe against the war in Iraq. In these rituals, the term "war" was taken out of its historical, political, and cultural context, and no justification for fighting was deemed acceptable. The high priest of this antihistorical creed is Michael Moore, who, 59 years after the end of the Second World War, in a discussion with TV talk show host Bill O'Reilly, would not state categorically that only a devastating war could have saved Europe from something far worse, namely Nazism. By these lights, war is bad whatever the historical or political circumstances.
Another manifestation of the same kind of thinking is the antihistorical view of the suffering caused by the Allied bombing of Nazi Germany: Germans increasingly see themselves as victims of "the war," as if the conflict were not a consequence of the German people's national obsessions with race and purity. A recent German novel about the Allied bombing enjoyed a succès de scandale because it purposely left out any reference to historical context. Everyone is a victim in war, was the message, and the difference between good and evil disappears when the dogs of war are unleashed. "Ordinary Germans" were victims too.
The European landscape is littered from north to south and east to west with monuments to battles and massacres. Many of them commemorate distant conflicts that now are hard to understand, but some mark the struggle against the most recent European evils: the right-wing totalitarian fascism of Nazi Germany and the left-wing totalitarian fascism of the Soviet Union. Although carved in stone, their lessons have not been learned. For most Europeans, the monuments no longer speak to Western civilization of the essential choice between good and evil. Instead, the memorials to the millions who died, from American soldiers to murdered civilians, stand for a faraway world that today's European, safe in his postmodern cultural relativism, thinks he has long since left behind: a world as distant as the Ice Age, plagued by an abstract phenomenon called "war."
It was only logical, therefore, that the implosion of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, which threatened to generate yet more massacres and monuments, left Europe paralyzed. Europe had to bring an end to the mass killings of Europeans by other Europeans in the Balkans, but it lacked the ability to take the necessary action. For that, Europe needed the detested United States.
Of course the horrors of war are beyond comparison, and it is a mark of civilization to deploy military force only with extreme caution. But most Europeans no longer realize that to avoid taking a path that may in the end lead to violent conflict--to avoid opposing totalitarian ideologies--can result in even greater suffering and more casualties. Today's Europeans seem unable to accept the idea that bowing to tyranny is sometimes worse than going to war to resist it. Indeed, to judge from the way European appeasers have handled the threat of a potential Iranian nuclear bomb, it seems that Europe would rather accept its own demise than sacrifice its sons to the dogs of war, which make no distinction between good and evil.
Last month the Brookings Institution hosted a conference of former American and European politicians and bureaucrats on the danger of the Shiite bomb. Newsweek quoted Madeleine Albright as commenting: "Europeans say they understand the threat but then act as if the real problem is not Iran but the United States."
It is remarkable that current developments in Iran do not dominate our headlines. The media are obsessed by Abu Ghraib, by those "liars" Sharon and Bush, by Halliburton and the neocons. And their obsession extends to conspiracy theories, although they fail to realize that something must be wrong when a radical pacifist like Michael Moore can receive the best film award at Cannes from Quentin Tarantino, a man who has done more than anyone to glamorize violence. In the meantime, a terrifying danger looms on the horizon, set to transform the geopolitical map of the Middle East within two years and so the map of the entire world: the Iranian nuclear bomb.
The mullahs are quite frank about why they want nuclear weapons. On December 14, 2001, the de facto dictator of Iran, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, spelled out his dream in a sermon at Tehran University. "If one day the world of Islam comes to possess the [nuclear] weapons currently in Israel's possession," Rafsanjani said, "on that day this method of global arrogance would come to a dead end." This, he said, is because the use of a nuclear bomb on Israel would entirely demolish the Jewish state, whereas it would only damage the Islamic world. Iran's leaders have made dozens of similar statements.
Last week Israel's senior commentator Zeev Schiff wrote in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: "There is an impression that Iran has no fears of any United Nations Security Council action. If its audacity succeeds, Iran will gain another period of unhindered nuclear development. Even though the Iranians have been caught out in the lies they have been weaving for 18 years, it is possible the ayatollahs' regime in Tehran believes that time is on their side."
What happened in Tehran on October 21, 2003, was not proof of the viability of soft power, but the opposite--proof of its impotence. The Guardian and the rest of the European media were fooling themselves and us, blinded by their hatred of Bush's hard power. "Washington sought to persuade Western allies to take a tougher line on Iran," Haaretz wrote last week, concluding dryly, "But Britain, Germany, and France say they prefer to try and persuade Tehran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency." They never learn.
Leon de Winter is a Dutch novelist and columnist for Elsevier magazine, Holland's premier political weekly. He is also a contributor to German publications like Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, and Die Welt, as well as an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute.
Iran nuke program near point of no return
WorldNet Daily - From Geostrategy-Direct
Aug 28, 2004
U.S.: 'If we permit . . . deception to go on much longer, it will be too late'
JERUSALEM Israeli military intelligence has concluded Iran is preparing to accelerate uranium enrichment in violation of Tehran's pledge to the European Union, reports Geostrategy-Direct, the global intelligence information service.
The assessment anticipates an Iranian effort to complete the acquisition of nuclear expertise and technology and produce fissile material.
In an Aug. 17 briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser said Iran would spend the next few months acquiring the expertise and technology to produce fissile material and weapons assembly.
Kuperwasser said the Iranian effort would be completed in 2005 and Teheran would then be prepared for accelerated uranium enrichment.
Kuperwasser said Iran plans to acquire enough enriched uranium to assemble its first nuclear weapons in 2007. Iran intends to produce enough nuclear material and expertise to ensure the continuation of Tehran's weapons program in case of a halt in foreign assistance.
Iran has procured about 1,000 gas centrifuges and has been preparing to operate up to 5,000 such systems. The International Atomic Energy Agency has determined that Teheran has already enriched uranium to a level of 54 percent.
"If we permit Iran's deception to go on much longer, it will be too late," U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton told the Hudson Institute on Aug. 17. "Iran will have nuclear weapons."
Bolton said Tehran has told Britain, France and Germany that Iran could enrich enough uranium for a nuclear weapon within a year. The undersecretary did not elaborate, but the U.S. intelligence community believes Iran could assemble a nuclear arsenal by 2007.
In July, Israel's intelligence community told the Cabinet that Iran encountered a three-year delay in nuclear weapons development. The Israeli intelligence assessment asserted that Iran would acquire indigenous nuclear weapons capability in 2007 and produce its first atomic bombs in 2008.
The delay in Iran's nuclear program was attributed to a series of IAEA inspections in 2004. The inspections halted uranium enrichment and forced the Iranians to transfer facilities to closed military bases.
Sunday 29th August, 2004
Five U.S. War Planes Reportedly Enter Iran Air Space
|Five U.S. war planes have trespassed Iranian air space and may have been testing its air defenses, Iran's official news agency said Friday.
The five planes entered Iranian air space late Aug. 19 from the southwestern Shalamcheh border and flew over the city of Khorramshahr, the official Islamic republic news agency said, citing reports earlier this week in the Tehran press.
The daily Seday-e Edalat reported the fighter jets flew at high speed and altitude, then headed to the Arvand river. They flew at a height of 10 kilometers (more than 30,000 feet) and maneuvered over Khorramshahr for a while.
While the objective behind the fighters' violation of the Iranian air space is not known yet, some military specialists believe such moves are aimed at assessing the sensitivity of the Islamic Republic's anti-aircraft defense system, Seday-e Edalat said.
EHRAN, Aug. 28 - President Mohammad Khatami, in a rare news conference, said Saturday that Iran would not give up its right to have a nuclear program and that it was willing to guarantee it was seeking nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
"We have suggested that the Middle East should be cleaned of all kinds of nuclear weapons," he said.
"On the other hand, we want to be able to master nuclear technology," he added, to enable Iran to manufacture uranium as fuel for its nuclear plants. "We want it and no one can deprive us of having it."
In return, Mr. Khatami said that Iran was willing to "provide any guarantee" to prove that its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes.
"We do not welcome tension," he said. "We do not welcome our case to be sent United Nations Security Council."
"We will do our best to resolve our differences through negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international community," he added, referring to the United Nations international monitoring agency for nuclear programs.
Iran has allowed tougher inspections of its nuclear sites since October, but this is the first time the government has said publicly that it would provide a guarantee to ease international concerns.
The United Nations nuclear agency is expected to release its report about Iran's nuclear activities during the first week of September.
The United States has accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and has urged the United Nations agency to send Iran's case to the Security Council, which could impose sanctions.
The agency concluded in its report in June that Iran had secretly begun its uranium enrichment program in the mid-1980's. That finding has raised concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
President Khatami brushed off claims by John R. Bolton, the American under secretary for arms control, who said Iran had informed three European Union countries - Germany, Britain and France - that it could produce weapons-grade uranium within a year.
"We do not consider Mr. Bolton as fair and do not accept his claims," Mr. Khatami said. "If the United States really had any proof or documents against Iran, it would have made more noise rather than just claims. This shows that they do not have real proof."
Relations have become tense between Iran and neighboring Iraq as well. The Iraqi defense minister has accused Iran of arming militia forces close to Moktada al-Sadr, the Iraqi cleric whose militia has battled American and Iraqi forces in Najaf.
Ibrahim Jafari, deputy president of Iraq, made a surprise visit to Iran on Tuesday, and the deputy prime minister of Iraq, Barham Saleh, came to Iran on Saturday. The trip was aimed at preparing for a visit by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Iran's official news agency, IRNA, reported.
Mr. Khatami denied accusations that Iran was stirring chaos in Iraq, and said that his country wanted stability and security in Iraq.
He further warned the United States, saying that America must know it should not repeat "the unsuccessful experience" of invading Iraq and attack Iran, contending that the result would be even worse in the case of Iran.
Iran bans display of lingerie in showroom
29 August 2004
TEHERAN - Window shoppers in Iran will no longer have the pleasure of looking at womens lingerie or buying a variety of pets, according to new police rules reported yesterday and criticised by President Mohammad Khatami.
According to the student news agency Isna, shops have been barred from displaying lingerie in their windows - with the display ban also applying to unveiled mannequins with noticeable curves.
In addition, men have also been banned from employment as salesmen in womens underwear stores - with offending shop owners facing the loss of their licences.
In other measures reported by Isna, commercial centers and restaurants have also been told not to keep or sell dogs, and monkeys - animals. The measures are contained in a new manual for police, Isna said. Another rule includes women being banned from taking driving lessons with male instructors unless they are accompanied by an immediate male relative.
Israelis Fear Fallout from Pentagon Spy Probe
Sun Aug 29, 2004 08:27 AM ET
By Matthew Tostevin
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's image in the United States may be tarnished and relations with its main ally suffer even if suspicions a Pentagon analyst gave secrets to the Jewish state prove false, Israeli officials said Sunday.
Israel has strenuously denied spying after U.S. government sources said the FBI was investigating whether an analyst fed classified documents dealing with bitter foe Iran via a powerful pro-Israel lobby group.
But Israelis voiced fears that just a hint of scandal may hurt links that have rarely been so close or so vital.
"Even if this is nonsense, it could still harm relations because of the damage in public opinion," said a senior Foreign Ministry official. "It will be very difficult to correct it."
Timing could be critical as Israel counts on Washington for backing over a unilateral plan to break from conflict with the Palestinians, to trump growing pressure over its West Bank barrier and to address fears that Iran could build an atom bomb.
Israeli officials insist that Israel has not spied on the United States since being caught red-handed two decades ago in a scandal involving U.S. Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard -- jailed for life in a case that is still an irritant in relations.
The powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee also denied serving as a conduit for documents from the analyst connected to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's office.
Official intelligence cooperation tends to be close, though, with both countries sharing fears of Islamic militancy and whether Iran will develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies trying to build bombs to rival Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal.
SUSPICIONS OVER IRAN SPECIALIST
The Washington Post said the investigation focused on an Iran specialist at the Defense Intelligence Agency who had once served in Israel. It was unclear whether the case would result in espionage charges or lesser charges, the report said.
Some Israeli officials suggested the leak of the Pentagon probe, just before the Republican party convention in New York, looked like a pre-election attempt to soil Jewish, pro-Israel "neo-conservatives" in President Bush's camp who championed war in Iraq.
"What should be asked is who had a vested interest ... And that's where this gets serious -- the effect it could have on the relations of the Jewish community in the United States," said Uzi Arad, a former official of spy agency Mossad.
Any dip in ties could be damaging for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has highlighted his warm relations with Bush and visited the White House nine times since taking office.
Unprecedented assurances from Bush that Israel could expect to keep some occupied West Bank land forever are vital for Sharon as he tries to implement his plan for "disengagement" from conflict with the Palestinians.
In another apparent break with long-standing policy to help Sharon get his initiative past right-wingers, the White House recently signaled a softer stance on limited expansion of some Jewish settlements -- drawing Palestinian ire.
Israel also needs U.S. help to defeat an international campaign against a barrier it is building inside the West Bank in the name of keeping out suicide bombers. Palestinians call the structure a land grab and the International Court of Justice has ruled it is illegal and should be torn down.
"If the (espionage accusation) turns out to be substantive it is at a time that Israel really can't afford ... Israel's lifeline right now is its relations with the United States," said historian Michael Oren, a fellow of the Shalem Center.
"Even if the charges are proven groundless, it still leaves Israel in the defendant's box," he said.
Iran Hosts Iraqi Official, Eyes Better Relations
Sun Aug 29, 2004 09:32 AM ET
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iraqi deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said Sunday he brought a message of friendship to Iran, which has been angered by charges it is stirring up tension in Iraq, the official IRNA news agency said.
Shi'ite Muslim Iran has cautiously welcomed Iraq's interim government as a step toward full democracy and sovereignty. But Tehran has been irked by accusations it was involved in the recent Shi'ite uprising centered on Najaf.
"I am carrying a message of friendship from the Iraqi government and nation for the Iranian government and nation," IRNA quoted Salih as saying during a meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi.
Salih's visit is aimed at paving the way for Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to travel to Iran.
Iran, which fought a bloody 1980-1988 war with Iraq, has also been angered by the kidnapping earlier this month of one of its diplomats in Iraq.
"We are neighbors and have a lot of issues to talk about. The case of the kidnapped Iranian consul is one of the main issues," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference Sunday.
Asefi said no specific date had yet been set for Allawi's Iran visit.
New attacks on Internet freedom deplored
Reporters Without Borders strongly criticised the Iranian authorities today for blocking access to three pro-reformist Internet websites and arresting some of their contributors. It also denounced continuing harassment by the judiciary of the staff of the website Naqshineh and the shutting down of three cybercafés in the southern city of Bushehr.
"This is a new step in the cowing of the Iranian media," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "After closing down many daily newspapers and filtering out blogs (websites where people comment on the news), they are now directly targeting website staff and contributors."
Three websites blocked
Access to the news websites Baamdad (www.baamdad.com), Emrooz (www.emrooz.ws) and Rouydad (www.rouydad.info) has been blocked since 21 August.
The Teheran prosecutor's office has also summoned and arrested half a dozen people working for Internet service providers (ISPs) or as webmasters for the targeted sites.
The three websites are close to the country's main reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, whose secretary-general, Mohammad Reza Khatami, has protested to the deputy head of the judicial affairs section of the prosecutor's office about pressure by morality police on ISPs to block websites deemed "undesirable."
Summoning of boss of Naqshineh website
Hamid Motaghi, head of the news website in the southern city of Qom, Naqshineh (www.naqshineh.com), which has been blocked since March, was summoned to appear on 21 August before the 14th division of the city court. He was allowed to go free a few hours later after posting bail of 100 million rials (9,500 euros). He said he was being harassed and threatened by court officials, who he accused of being under the orders of the country's Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Naqshineh is being prosecuted for articles it carried about the parliamentary elections in February. A student at the Qom Koranic school, Mojtaba Lotfi, who has written articles for the site, was given a prison sentence of three years and 10 months on 14 August for posting "lies" on the Internet.
Three cybercafés shut down
Three Internet cafés in the city of Bushehr were closed on 25 August by the morality police, who are close to the intelligence services. The manager of one of them, who tried to resist, was beaten up by police.
Egyptian officials postpone visit to Israel and PA
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Agencies
Egypt's intelligence chief, General Omar Suleiman, and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit have postponed their visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The two officials are now due in the West Bank city of Ramallah next Sunday to meet with PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and discuss Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Sunday that a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is a necessary condition for progress in the stalled Middle East peace process.
Speaking during a visit to the Jordanian capital Amman, Fischer said a "genuine breakthrough" was possible if the unilateral Israeli withdrawal goes ahead.
He also said the region needs a "fair compromise" on the basis of "two independent states".
While in Jordan the German foreign minister held talks with his Jordanian counterpart Marwan Muasher and King Abdullah II on the situation in Iraq and the Middle East.
The German minister is due in Israel on Monday.
Labeling Europe and Middle East countries "direct neighbors", Fischer insisted on a European Union role alongside the United States in working out any settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
"I don't believe this can be done alone by the United States, because we are direct neighbors ... and developments there will affect our security," Fischer told a joint press conference with Muasher.
"The EU sticks to the road map [peace plan] and the relevant Security Council resolutions and we think the region needs a fair compromise solution based on two states," he said.
He said the Europeans were "ready to engage themselves in a constructive way" in efforts aimed at moving forward the Palestinian- Israeli peace negotiations provided that the Gaza withdrawal was "done in the proper way".
Fischer said the Gaza pullout should lead to the evacuation of the rest of occupied Palestinian territories.
Fischer also warned Sunday that an Iranian nuclear arms buildup would be a "nightmare." He said that saying Europe is looking to head off any dangerous confrontation with Tehran.
Fischer said an Iranian nuclear challenge only adds to Middle East problems that include bringing security and stability to postwar Iraq, resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict and introducing democratic reforms. The United States accuses Iran of using a nuclear energy program to hide nuclear weapons production, an accusation the Iranians deny and that has concerned Europe.
"It would be a nightmare for the region ... if there'd be the beginning of an arms race - a nuclear arms race - in the region," Fischer told reporters. "We are in intensive talks with Iran, and we hope the leadership in Tehran would not miscalculate the situation."
Fischer also indicated Germany, France and Britain were near an understanding with Tehran on supplying Iran with nuclear energy technology - a prospect the European have held out if their suspicions about a nuclear weapons program are alleviated.
"We think we have reached an agreement, and we are ready to fulfill our part step by step and word by word," Fischer said. The Iranians accused the Europeans of backing out on a previous commitment.
Fischer did not elaborate, but said: "We are really very serious to find a way out of a very dangerous, possible confrontation."
Washington has been lobbying for the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran's nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions on Iran.
Fischer, who arrived from neighboring Syria on Saturday, was also scheduled to hold talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II. The German minister is on a regional tour that will include Israel, the Palestinian territories and Egypt. He already has visited Lebanon.
On Iraq, Fischer said Germany still had a different perspective from that of the United States: "The U.S. is our close friend and ... most important ally, but I think we have a different view."
Fischer said Germany remained opposed to sending troops to Iraq, but that its contribution to rebuilding the war-ravaged country included humanitarian aid, debt relief and training Iraqi police.
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad / Getty Images
Sept. 6 issue - Six months ago, Abu Sajjad was rolling in cash. His cloth shop is right in front of the Imam Ali shrine, a great location to attract pilgrims visiting this holiest of Shiite sanctuaries. The faithful who flocked into Najaf from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan bought hundreds of yards of fabric to take home as souvenirs. Now Abu Sajjad looks at his storefront, riddled with bullets and shrapnel, and shakes his head. "Why did this happen?" he asks. The area surrounding the shrine is a burned-out shell. Entire buildings look like they've been sliced in half. Broken telephone poles lean awkwardly across narrow streets, and tangled electrical wires droop down like old tinsel. Mosaics on the outer walls of the gold-domed shrine have been stripped away by shrapnel and stained with black soot. And still the young toughs loyal to rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are nearby, manning a barricade behind a shot-up ambulance.
"We prayed for God to come and strike down these gangsters," says Abu Sajjad. But neither the U.S. Marines nor troops of the U.S.-approved Iraqi government finished the job. And many Iraqis are asking: Why? How is it that al-Sadr could lead two insurrections in five months and still be alive, much less negotiating a new truce through Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani? Who is backing the round-faced young mullah? Who is protecting him? The most common answerat once the simplest and the most complicatedis "Iran."
"Everyone is telling us that Iran is everywhere," says a senior Western diplomat in Baghdad. "It has become an obsession with Iraqis." And with Washington, too. U.S. intelligence and defense officials tell NEWSWEEK they have ample information pointing to Iranian support for al-Sadr. "He's clearly their guy," says one. But hedging their bets, "the Iranians are putting their chips down on red and black, even and odds," says another official in Washington. "At some point a winner will emerge on the political scene, and they just want to be sure they have leverage."
Iran and Iraq, in fact, have a ferocious, intimate enmity that dates back thousands of years. Especially in the holy precincts of the Shiite shrines, Persian and Arab populations have warred and mingled, embraced and intrigued against each other for generations, creating webs of relationships that challenge American comprehension. To give one striking example, Moqtada al-Sadr, the symbol of resistance and suspected collaborator with Iran, is of Arab blood. Ayatollah Sistani, who's seen by the Americans as their great white-bearded hope, and whose return to Najaf restored calm after three weeks of fighting, is of Iranian origin.
The Iranian leadership publicly cheers on the Iraqi rebels, even as it sometimes supports peacemaking efforts. At Friday prayers in Teheran last week, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani likened the resistance in Najaf to the Russians' stand against the Nazis at Stalingrad. Such statements infuriate Washington's allies in Iraq, who see Iran as their natural strategic rival. "Iran is intervening to slaughter democracy in Iraq," Defense Minister Hazim Shaalan said recently. "It controls border points and sends spies and saboteurs to Iraq and infiltrated the new Iraqi government, including my ministry."
Some U.S. officials argue that Iran was always a bigger threat than Iraq. Former terrorism adviser Richard Clarke notes that Iran "funded and directed" Hizbullah organizations that blew up 242 American Marines in Beirut in 1983, and 19 U.S. military personnel at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996. "Al Qaeda regularly used Iranian territory for transit and sanctuary prior to September 11," as Clarke wrote and the 9/11 Commission confirmed, and many of Al Qaeda's top leaders "moved across the border into Iran after U.S. forces finally invaded Afghanistan." Iran's nuclear program, meanwhile, continues on-again-off-again progress toward development of atomic weapons.
Faced with such challenges, Washington appears unable to decide whether confrontation or accommodation is the best response. Clarke says the Clinton administration looked at the possibility of all-out war against Iran after Khobar, but finally decided against it and sought ways to use covert action or limited military strikes instead. The Bush administration may have reached the same conclusion. Yet the presence of U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq has made them vulnerable to an Iranian-backed guerrilla war of attrition in a way they never were before.
The situation grows more convoluted every day. Even without Iranian meddling, the ill-prepared U.S. occupation has helped radicalize many young Shiites and push them toward leaders like al-Sadr. "Iraqi Shiites wouldn't naturally gravitate toward Iran," says Seyed Abbas al Modarrisi, a leading cleric in Karbala who spent nearly two decades exiled in Iran. "We're Arabs. They are Persians. And there are cultural differences. But many Shiites have lost faith in the Americans."
The fact that Iran's own government is badly divided might be some consolation to Washington, but it's also a source of confusion. Who can the Bush administration or Allawi's government talk to? Moderate reformist President Mohammed Khatami is almost completely marginalized. Rafsanjani and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's two main power brokers, don't always see eye to eye, while rich religious foundations and factions of the Iranian security services often have their own agendas. Some of the unrest in Iraq is traced to a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards known as the Quds Brigade. Its supposed leaders, Mohammed Agha Mohammadi and Mohammad Reza Naghdi, are both of Iraqi origin and could be looking to set up an independent power base.