September 05, 2004
Struggle For The Soul Of Islam Three years after 9/11, an inside look at the ongoing global battle between moderates and hard- liners over the future of a faith--and its relationship with the West.
Four years ago, Mohammed Shakr sent his son away. Shakr (not his real name) lives in Baghdad, where he works as a translator, and he wanted the young man, Omar, to escape the oppression of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. So he sent Omar to a vocational school in the United Arab Emirates, where he studied automotive maintenance. But as the years went by, Shakr, 50, began to be worried about his son. Omar wrote letters to his father, a smoker, lecturing him about Islam's disdain for tobacco. He chided his mother for wearing Western-style clothes to work. Omar finally returned to Baghdad this spring, after the fall of Saddam's regime. When he showed up at the family home, his father's heart sank. Once clean shaven, Omar now wore a long beard, and his dishdasha, the traditional Islamic gown, fell several inches short of the floor. These are trademarks of Islamic fundamentalists.
This was no longer the carefree young man he knew, Shakr thought, the son who loved to dance and go to parties. Now whenever the music channel was on television, Omar got up and left the room. One day he sternly told his father, who works for an American company, that the U.S. was the "enemy'' of Islam. Shakr's concern deepened. Finally he told friends at work, "I have to rescue Omar. I have to bring back my son."
The war that began three years ago in lower Manhattan has never been a conventional one, waged solely against enemy armies in distant lands. It is a fight for the hearts and minds and souls of millions of Muslims like Omar Shakr, whose life choices may have a greater impact on the long-term security of the U.S., its citizens and its allies than battlefield victories or intelligence reforms. That struggle did not become immediate for most Americans until Sept. 11, 2001, but it has burned in the Islamic world for decades. On one side are the proselytizers of radical Islam, many of whom celebrate the hateful vision of Osama bin Laden. The slaughter last week of hundreds of schoolchildren in Russia by a group of Chechen rebels that Russian officials say may have included foreign Islamic militants was the latest reminder of the terrorists' depravity. On the other side are Islamic moderates, those who believe Muslims can coexist peacefully with people of other faiths, or of no faith at all, because they do so every day, all across the world. The confrontation between the opposing forces of Islam amounts to what Princeton scholar Michael Scott Doran calls a "civil war" within one of the world's fastest-growing religions--a war so tumultuous and far-reaching that, as in Mohammed and Omar's case, it pits fathers against sons. The U.S. and its allies have succeeded in killing and apprehending hundreds of al-Qaeda terrorists and disrupting the command structure that bin Laden used to plot the Sept. 11 attacks. But the wider campaign to defuse the appeal of Islamic extremism and win over those who sympathize with al-Qaeda has produced mixed results and has become a central issue of contention in the U.S. presidential campaign. Democratic candidate John Kerry says the Bush Administration's actions in the world since 9/11, particularly the invasion of Iraq, "have resulted in an increase of animosity and anger" and encouraged the recruitment of terrorists. The Administration's defenders argue that the U.S. can best provide an alternative to radical Islam by projecting military power into the heart of the Islamic world and bringing democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq. But Bush told TIME in an interview last month that he views the war on terrorism as a "long-lasting ideological struggle." Appearing on the Today show last week, he seemed to express doubts that the U.S. can extinguish the threat of terrorism. "I don't think we can win it," he said. "But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." A day later, Bush revised his position, saying that while "we may never sit down at a peace table ... we are winning and we will win." Still, his vacillations suggest an acknowledgment of the truth: at the very least, the battle for the future of Islam won't be settled anytime soon, and America's ability to influence it for the better may be limited.
The outcome of this struggle does not depend solely on numbers. The vast majority of the world's more than 1 billion practicing Muslims are peaceful citizens getting on with their lives. But interviews by TIME with religious leaders, Islamic scholars, government analysts and ordinary citizens in dozens of countries around the world reveal that the fervor of those who adhere to radical forms of Islam has intensified since 9/11. While Muslims continue to consume and even celebrate Western pop culture, hostility to the policies of the West, in particular the U.S., appears to be on the rise. It is being propelled in part by anger at the U.S.'s staunch support of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians, contempt for the U.S.'s occupation of Iraq and opposition to crackdowns on militancy carried out by previously permissive governments like those of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In part because of their countries' earlier experiences with European colonialism, some Muslims, from Indonesia to Iraq, perceive the U.S.'s stated desire to bring democracy to the Middle East less as a liberating force than as an unwelcome form of Western meddling.
Though precise figures are impossible to pinpoint, the number of Muslims espousing radical beliefs is growing, according to Western analysts and intelligence agencies. Many Muslims say the global war on terrorism and the U.S. presence in Iraq have fueled perceptions that Islam is under attack. "We are passing through the hardest moments of spreading the moderate voice of our religion," says Sheik Khaled el-Guindi, 42, a moderate imam in Cairo. "Most of the pictures we see are of Iraqi heads stepped on by American Army boots. It is no longer just an occupation, but a humiliation." Says Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a Pakistani cleric and Member of Parliament: "The U.S. and its allies must realize that by occupation, by killing and by dishonoring Muslim women--such as in the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq--they are sowing the seeds of hatred."
The intensity of such sentiments varies, reflecting the diversity of the Islamic world. Only 18% of the world's Muslims are ethnic Arabs. In Southeast Asian countries with sizable Muslim populations, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, radical Islam does not command a wide following. In both Indonesia and Malaysia, Islamic fundamentalist parties have lost political support in recent elections. But a U.S. State Department report on global terrorism warned last year that Muslim communities in the region are vulnerable to the "radical influences" of extremists because of the substantial financing that Islamic schools and mosques continue to receive from wealthy fundamentalists. And Islamic moderates say the situation in Iraq has put them on the defensive. Says Musdah Mulia, a progressive scholar in Indonesia: "The moderates are finding it more difficult to discuss issues like human rights and democracy when photos of Americans torturing Iraqis keep appearing." In Western Europe as well, experts say, while the number of the region's estimated 12.5 million Muslims who have joined extremist groups has not increased significantly, fundamentalists "have adopted a higher profile, and become more influential," according to Abderrahmane Dahmane, president of France's Council of Muslim Democrats. Most Muslim leaders in France have backed Paris' refusal to give in to demands by Islamic militants holding two French journalists in Iraq that France reverse a law barring Muslim students from wearing head scarves in school. Yet European countries still face a potential surge in radicalism, fueled by the social and economic marginalization of Muslim minorities and growing anti- Americanism. Says Dahmane: "America has created a situation where even modern, democratic and peace-loving Muslims have some ambivalent feelings." Nowhere are the stakes in Islam's future higher than in the crescent of turmoil that runs from the Persian Gulf states to Pakistan and across North Africa. In several nations, moderates are locked in showdowns for political supremacy with fundamentalists aspiring to create an Islamic empire to challenge the West. Will control of Iraq devolve to the moderate Shi'ites and Sunnis or to the fundamentalist insurgents of both sects who have made parts of the country terrorist sanctuaries? Will pro-democracy reformers in Iran wrest power from the country's aging theocrats or be squelched by a new crackdown? Can Pakistan's secular government and Saudi Arabia's ruling family survive the increasingly violent campaign waged by bin Laden--linked extremists to destroy them both? Here's a glimpse at the global war for the future of Islam--and what it may mean for the rest of the world.
BERLIN: German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer warned Monday that Europe was at a crossroads in the fight against terrorism and must engage in the Middle East or risk having conflict exported to its doorstep.
"Will the Mediterranean turn into a sea of cooperation or confrontation between us?" Fischer asked some 220 German ambassadors and officials at the start of a four-day conference focused on the so-called broader Middle East.
"The broader Middle East will be vital to fighting terrorism at its root cause," he said.
In an hour-long speech, Fischer laid out Germany's Middle East policy aims, and emphasized the importance of a U.S. role.
A key to resolving the region's conflicts, he said, was ending the long and bloody conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. "There is no way around a functioning two-state solution with both countries involved."
He renewed Germany's support for a plan developed by Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon to accelerate the withdrawal of troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, provided it includes security guarantees for the Palestinians.
But Fischer, long a mediator in the region, voiced concern about Israel's relations with Iran and criticized Tehran for its controversial nuclear program, which has raised fears that it may be developing atomic weapons. "Iran ... is in a position which could prove tremendously positive. It has created every condition for a democracy. But we are deeply concerned about the erosion of human rights and tensions with Israel."
He added it would be a "nightmare scenario" if Iran had nuclear weapons.
Turning to Afghanistan, the foreign minister acknowledged that diplomats were struggling to meet their obligations to the fragile government in Kabul, and called for more funds. "It is important to stand by our commitments particularly in terms of security and that we remain on the ground in the run up to the election," he said, in reference to vote for president on Oct. 9.
To resolve the conflicts, Fischer said it was vital for the EU and the US to work closely together, regardless of who is in power in Washington after the presidential election there in November.
He also urged the EU to assess favorably the candidature of U.S. ally Turkey to join the bloc.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
August 31, 2004, 7:15 PM (GMT+02:00)
Hamas-Hebron claimed responsibility for the double suicide attack Tuesday, August 31, on two crowded Beersheba buses, which left 15 Israelis dead and up to 100 injured. The twin blasts hit passengers, passing vehicles and pedestrians on the busy main street of this southern Israeli town, the first such attack inside Israel in six months. The suicide bombers may not have come from Hebron; they could equally have reached Beersheba from the Gaza Strip or infiltrated the Israeli Negev from Egyptian Sinai. The same morning, a Palestinian suicide bomber was apprehended at the Erez crossing on his way from the Gaza Strip to Israel with a new type of explosive hidden in his pants.
Palestinian terror is again rampant in the belief that it has the power to defeat Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharons unilateral disengagement plan. Ready until the last to assume responsibility for security in the Gaza Strip after Israels departure, the Egyptian government has finally backed off. This week, Cairo rescinded its key proviso, that Yasser Arafat reform the Palestinian security machine and cleanse it of terrorists.
These uncertainties have allowed the Gaza Strip to undergo, almost unnoticed, a geopolitical transformation that threatens not only to fill the space left by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharons fading plan to evacuate the Gaza Strip, but also to make the Palestinian terror war against Israel far more dangerous. The fallout is beginning to ripple out into further reaches of the Middle East.
This mise-en-scene for Sharons plan was finally shot down last Wednesday, August 25, by the gunmen who ambushed Brig.-Gen. Tareq Abu Rajab, deputy Palestinian General Intelligence chief on his way to his Gaza City office. He survived with chest wounds although two of his bodyguards were killed. Since then, nothing more was heard of this episode.
However, according to an exclusive report reaching DEBKAfile from its military and intelligence sources, this attack set alarm bells jangling in a whole row of military and intelligence situation rooms. The professional watchers in Washington and Jerusalem, to Amman, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Cairo - and finally at Yasser Arafats headquarters in Ramallah, logged the incident as a point of no return. For the attempted murder had nothing to do with the chaos reigning in the Gaza Strip or Palestinian infighting. The hit teams members were Palestinian Hizballah members activated by Lebanese Shiite terrorist commanders who are stationed permanently in the territory. As soon as he identified the killers, Al-Hindi lost no time in obtaining Arafats permission to move the targeted man to an Israeli hospital under heavy guard, safe from a repeat attack.
This incident marked four historical firsts:
1. It was the first Hizballah attack on a senior Palestinian military intelligence figure in a Palestinian-controlled area, the gravest aspect of which was the chain of command which produced it. DEBKAfiles sources affirm that the order to kill Rajab did not originate with the local Hizballah base but from higher up at Beirut headquarters, who would not have acted without word from Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanders at the Iranian embassy in Beirut. They in turn would have required authority from Tehran.
2. It signifies that Iran and its surrogate Hizballah have stepped out of their supporting role in the Palestinian war against Israel and are ready to challenge the Palestinian Authority by striking at its main military arm, the General Intelligence Service. Now they are aiming for a leadership role.
Arafat opened the Gazan door in the first place to the Hizballah and through the Lebanese organization, to Tehran, in July 2000, shortly before the failed Camp David conference sponsored by President Clinton and two months before he launched his terror war against Israel. Until now, the Hizballah operatives attached to the Palestinian warfront were trainers, suppliers of arms (including the Karin-A and Santorini arms ships), intelligence and funding for terrorist operations, especially suicide missions. Hizballah is now moving out of its passive mode over to the front line.
3. The military threat from the Gaza Strip has climbed manifold, profoundly altering the circumstances surrounding the birth of Sharon evacuation plan. All of a sudden, Israel is faced with the Iranian-Hizballah menace at perilously close quarters from the west, and not just from Lebanon in the north or from Iranian ballistic missiles in the east.
4. This weeks events are just the beginning. Hizballah and its Tehran sponsor will want to spread their wings to Palestinian West Bank areas too and then to Israeli Arab communities, where they have already planted sleeper cells. The Hizballah process of expansion unfolds over years. Its strong suit is the ability to build up strength clandestinely, invisibly and steadily, until it is ready to operate in the open. By then, it is almost impossible to stop, having established itself as an integral feature of the local scene.
Ensconced now in the Gaza Strip, the Lebanese Shiite group will very soon be upgrading the weapons and military professionalism directed against Israel. The primitive, hit-or-miss Qassam, Nasser and al Quds missiles lobbed at Israeli towns in the south can be expected to make way for longer range, more precise ground-to-ground missiles, which pack a more powerful explosive punch, such as those deployed in southern Lebanon.
Our Middle East sources note that the Egyptians has caught on to the radical change in the Gaza Strips fortunes and begun taking steps. First, they tipped Washington off. Second, they ordered Palestinian security and intelligence chiefs to present themselves in Cairo for urgent consultations on how to contain the Iranian-Hizballah takeover. Third, an Egyptian military delegation is due in Ramallah on September 1 for a conference with the top Palestinian leadership on ways to handle the new situation.
The Israeli prime minister, instead of reassessing his evacuation plan in the light of the new peril, is stepping up the pace of its implementation. He appears to be as unheeding of the dangerous new hands preparing to claw at the southern half of Israel as he is of the criticism leveled against his plan by Israels elected institutions and military chiefs. On Monday, August 30, hours before the Beersheba bus blasts, he slapped down his opponents at a security cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, declaring: The disengagement plan will be implemented. Period.
The impression in government, Knesset, high army command and police as well as his own Likud is that Sharon, by trampling all resistance to his plans in this way, is laying himself open to widespread resentment and criticism of his conduct as less than democratic. The decline in his standing as representative national leader has created a vacuum which the judiciary and legal authorities are exploiting in order to stretch their jurisdiction to areas into which they never before ventured. For the first time, on Monday, the attorney general, whose authority is advisory, interfered in a matter of high national security. In a security cabinet discussion on how to halt the Qassam offensive from the Gaza Strip against southern Israeli towns, Sharon said: It they are shelling us, we should shell them. No, said Menachem Mazuz. Shelling civilians would be a war crime. Sharon retorted: No one is talking about that.
The AG did not suggest a war crimes prosecution of the Palestinians organizations shooting surface missiles at civilian targets in Israeli towns.
Supreme Court justice Aharon Baraks veto on sections of the defense barrier interfering with Palestinian lives has gone unopposed to the point that the court is now determining political and security policies, the province of the executive arm of government. Beersheba, which suffered two suicide bombing attacks on two municipal buses Tuesday, is completely unprotected because of petitions Palestinians have filed with the high court in Jerusalem against building the fence on Mt. Hebron.
Mazuz has gone still further by calling on the Sharon government to take seriously the recommendation of the international court at The Hague to tear the whole fence down as illegal.
Sharons particular style of government and his inconsistencies are responsible for these spillovers of authority among the various branches of government and the pervasive sense in the country that important affairs of state including security are slipping out of control.
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli spy satellite meant to boost the Jewish state's surveillance over arch-enemy Iran met a watery end on Monday as a launch malfunction hurled it out to sea rather than space, officials and defense sources said.
The Defense Ministry blamed a failure in the third stage of the Shavit rocket for the loss of the $50 million Ofek-6 satellite. Witnesses saw a flash of light near the launch site, coastal Palmahim air base. There were no reports of casualties.
Ofek-6 -- the latest in an Israeli line of spy satellites first put into orbit in 1988 -- was destroyed when it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. It was developed by a consortium led by state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries.
The loss of the satellite was seen as a major setback to Israel's attempts to upgrade means of tracking sworn enemies such as Iran, which it accuses of developing nuclear weapons.
Satellites are Israel's first bullwark against ballistic missiles, being designed to spot the incoming threats as they break through the atmosphere after launch and then alert defensive systems such as the Arrow II missile-killer.
"Such incidents are very expensive for all involved," a defense source said about Monday's botched launch. Work on a replacement satellite was expected to take up to two years.
The rocket malfunction could also have ramifications for Israel's offensive capabilities. According to independent analysts, the Shavit closely resembles Israel's ballistic missile Jericho-2, which can carry non-conventional warheads. The ministry named Israel Military Industries, Rafael, Elbit Systems and the Elisra Group, which is 70 percent owned by Koor Industries, as partners in the satellite's development.
Ofek -- Hebrew for "horizon" -- orbits 190 to 430 miles above Earth, over a pre-set flight path. It weighs 660 pounds and has a life span of about five years.
The setback came days after Arrow II failed to shoot down a dummy missile in a test-firing off the California coast.
Israeli officials blamed a technical glitch on the failure of the Arrow missile to hit its target, but said the world's first missile-killer had passed the main reason for the test which was to identify the incoming threat and its warhead.
DEBKAfile Special Report and Military Analysis
September 7, 2004, 12:07 AM (GMT+02:00)
Ofek-6 did not join Ofek-5 up above.
Israels 6th Ofek (Horizon) plummeted to a watery death in the Mediterranean Sea when it was test-fired Monday, September 6, from Palmahim. Malfunction of the third stage of the Israeli-designed Shavit booster was blamed for the loss of the $50m Ofek-6, the latest in the series of spy satellites developed by a consortium led by Israel Aircraft Industries. The first was launched in 1988. Number 5 has been orbiting 300 to 700 kilometers above earth every 90 minutes for two years out of a life span of five.
Satellites are the first layer of Israels shield against ballistic missiles, designed to spot incoming threats and alert defensive systems such as the Arrow II missile-killer. They are launched by the same Shavit rocket system as the Ofek. The latest malfunction occurred ten days after Arrow II failed to shoot down a dummy missile designed to perform similarly to the Iranian Shehab-3 intermediate missile in a test-firing off the California coast. The missiles 1300-km range covers all of Israel as well as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
These two failures are a grave setback to Israels deterrent ability at a dangerous juncture. In the next two-three years, Israel will need all its resources to face Irans advancing nuclear threat and burgeoning terrorist offensive. Ofek-6 was intended to give Israel an edge in this contest in three fields:
1. The use of two advanced surveillance satellites instead of one to simultaneously track the two fronts, nuclear and terrorist, Tehran has opened against Israel. One is a nuclear threat, from sites scattered across the Islamic republic; the second derives from proliferating terrorist bases spread out from Iran, Iraq and Syria to Lebanon (app. 879,730 square miles).
Together, the two satellites would have doubled the chances of spotting hostile movements.
The inadequacy of a single satellite in orbit became manifest in the past year when Iran clandestinely fanned its 15 known nuclear installations out across the country, over an area of 636,000 square miles. DEBKAfile's military sources reveal some of their locations for the first time.
They are located in the south, at Fasa, Bushehr and Dakhovin, at the tip of the Shatt al-Arb waterway;
In central Iran, at Natanz, Saghand, Tabas, which is close to the Afghan border, Chalus and Neka on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea;
In the north, at Bonab and Tabriz.
The most remote sites have been sunk below ground in enormous bunkers, some of them decoys to deceive watchers in the sky.
Ofek-5, however efficient it may cannot alone cover this vast spread in time of war. On August 11, it joined the packs of American and Russian satellites tracking the Shehab-3 test firing. The Iranian missiles new navigating system, smaller fins and improved warhead for entry to the earths atmosphere, designed for greater aerodynamic flexibility and longer range, was not an unmixed success. However, Ofek-5 without a partner was found to be incapable of gathering all the data Israeli intelligence needed to fully appreciate the intentions of Irans military leaders. This lack of a second satellite will be felt even more acutely when the Shehab-5, whose range is believed to be 2,500 km, comes to be tested soon.
2. There are intelligence reports that as part of its nuclear weapons program, Iran is also building a range of military satellites for launching by Shehab-5. Israel cannot afford to have a lone satellite cruising in the sky in 2005 or 2006 once the Iranians have placed theirs in orbit. From the military standpoint, Israeli is bound to assert space and missile - as well as nuclear - superiority over its enemies.
And another factor to be considered is this. Not only does Israel keep track of Irans weapons trials, Tehran is watching Israel just as closely.
Although their intelligence technology and access to US and Israeli testing sites are limited, the Iranians do not miss a single report on the deficiencies of the Arrow II and Ofek-6 and must have taken detailed stock of the holes in Israels defensive and intelligence shields.
3. Israel is obliged to guarantee its intelligence gathering ability in real time independently of US intelligence. The intelligence ties between Washington and Israel are extremely close but neither party is under any illusion that sharing is or can be total. For instance, the United States made a point of keeping Israel in the dark during its March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
In his war book, American Soldier, the Iraq and Afghanistan war commander, General Tommy Franks, admits frankly that he always found ways of indicating to his Arab and Muslim hosts on whose side he stood in the Israel-Arab conflict.
Mutual trust between the Americans and Israelis is certainly not enhanced by the almost daily revelations in the American media of fresh aspects of the alleged Israeli mole case casting Israeli diplomats and members of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC in a dubious light. Officials in Jerusalem are certain that someone in US intelligence, past or present, is deliberately pumping these revelations to the press to keep the affair and the atmosphere of mutual suspicion alive.
Israeli defense and aviation industry chiefs are doing their best to play down the consecutive failures of the Arrow II and the Ofek-6 as mere technical glitches that will soon be cleared up. But they cannot hide the fact that Iran is racing forward at top speed with its development of a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver, while Israel is held back with only one eye in the sky and concern about the Arrows ability to intercept an incoming Iranian Shehab.
Both these deficiencies are within the power of Israels defense and aviation establishment to correct if they pull their socks up.
Excellent. Thanks for the good research.
" Roughly ten days after the reopening of the Statue of Liberty was announced (8/02/04), this video produced by the IRGC aired on Iranian TV (8/12/04)."
Those who think the Mullahs of Iran can be negotiated with must view this. Send this to your friends.
XXXXX DRUDGE REPORT XXXXX TUE SEPT 07, 2004 10:50:08 ET XXXXX
|Posted on Tue, Sep. 07, 2004|
Coercive diplomacy best option in Iran
DANIEL SNEIDER: COERCIVE DIPLOMACY BEST OPTION IN IRAN
When it comes to national security, the elephant in the room is Iran. Beneath the din of pumped-up political rhetoric about the war on terrorism, the Islamic regime in Iran is resuming its march toward nuclear weapons.
Last October, Iran reached an agreement with Britain, France and Germany to accept more intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency. It also suspended uranium enrichment in return for assistance to its civilian nuclear energy program.
But in June, the Iranians announced they were resuming production of centrifuges for enrichment. While continuing to deny they are seeking weapons, Iranian officials recently declared they would never give up their "legitimate right" to such programs.
A broad consensus has emerged in Iran in recent months to preserve the nuclear option, one that stretches from anti-regime emigres to hard-line Islamists, say close observers. Regime officials believe the U.S. is too bogged down in Iraq to threaten them.
More militant elements, such as the Revolutionary Guard (which has effective control of the nuclear facilities), have concluded that unless Iran has nuclear weapons, it will suffer the fate of Iraq. They see North Korea as the model tofollow.
"They are hell-bent on getting the bomb," said Abbas Milani, an Iran scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. "They see all these negotiations as delaying tactics."
Year or two away
Most experts believe that Iran is still a year or two away from even the beginnings of a bomb. The IAEA's inspections have slowed the Iranian program, though there may still be secret facilities. The latest IAEA report offers a mixed picture of Iranian compliance; important questions are still unanswered.
The diplomatic option is not yet exhausted. The Europeans are offering a "grand bargain" -- shutting down the weapons-related programs in exchange for broader economic ties, security assurances and other incentives. They would support civilian nuclear energy, including completion of the Russian-built Bushehr power plant, provided that Iran returns all the spent fuel to Russia.
Doubts about allies
There are serious doubts, though, about the will of our allies to join us in applying coercive pressure on Iran. That would begin with reporting Iranian violations to the United Nations Security Council, setting the stage for imposing economic sanctions.
President Bush has backed the European negotiations. Senior officials have signaled they could live with the Russian reactor.
But the administration is also fractured. The leak of secret documents on Iran by Pentagon officials reflects those battles. Hard-liners led by John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control, argue that Iran must be isolated, not engaged. Bolton calls for the Bushehr reactor to be halted, and is pressing to move now to the United Nations.
Those circles advocate giving money and guns to Iranian opposition groups. Most Iranian experts believe such an attempt to impose regime change from the outside will fail. And any Iranian government, for reasons of national pride and aspirations for great power status, may want to possess nuclear weapons.
A military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities should remain a last resort. Iran has probably deeply buried and dispersed its facilities. It would require not only air strikes but also special forces on the ground, said Jay Davis, a former senior nuclear planner and defense official. "We'd lose people and it's an act of war, but we certainly can do it," he told me.
But it would come at a great cost. Iran can retaliate, from terrorism to aiding anti-American forces in Iraq. An attack would strengthen hard-line Islamist elements within Iran and weaken pro-Western moderates.
"That is what the Revolutionary Guards are dying to happen," said Milani, who is a critic of the Islamic regime. "It would be a shot in the arm for this regime -- even more than $50-a-barrel oil."
For now, coercive diplomacy is the only real option. We cannot hesitate to escalate pressure, beginning with economic sanctions and by making it clear that a military strike is a real, if last, option. This is a time for cool heads and firm hands.
TEHRAN: The spokesman for Iran's reformist cabinet said yesterday the Islamic republic was willing to show greater transparency over its nuclear programme in order to ease suspicions of bomb-making.
"We are ready to accept all kinds of surveillance to remove the fears of the international community," said Abodollah Ramazanzadeh, asserting Iran's commitment to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its additional protocol.
Iran is a signatory to the NPT and in December 2003 signed the additional protocol, which allows tougher inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Iranian parliament, now controlled by conservatives, has yet to ratify that protocol.
Ramazanzadeh also reiterated Iran's refusal to abandon its work on the nuclear fuel cycle, which although permitted under the NPT is feared as providing Iran with a nuclear weapons option later on.
"We have accepted to voluntarily suspend uranium enrichment, but it is illogical to ask us to renounce enrichment," he said at his weekly press conference.
VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran has agreed in principle to renew a freeze of some sensitive nuclear activities in a move apparently aimed at easing pressure ahead of a U.N. nuclear watchdog meeting next week, diplomats said Tuesday.
Details of the deal were not immediately clear and have yet to be finalized. However, two diplomats said it would include halting production, testing and assembly of centrifuges.
Iran pledged last year to suspend all enrichment-related activities but has since resumed building centrifuges and last week said it intended to process 37 tons of raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride, the feed material for centrifuges.
Centrifuges enrich uranium for use in power stations or -- if enriched further -- nuclear bombs.
``Iran said this weekend that they would come back to the suspension. (IAEA chief Mohamed) ElBaradei is trying to work out the details with the Iranians,'' a Western diplomat on the IAEA board told Reuters.
Washington says Iran's uranium enrichment program is aimed at making material for nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying it is only interested in generating electricity.
Negotiations between Iran and ElBaradei took place at the weekend. The European Union's 'big three' -- France, Britain and Germany -- who negotiated the original suspension, followed proceedings closely, diplomats said.
Iran's ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna would neither confirm nor deny that talks had taken place. Officials in Tehran were not immediately available for comment.
All the diplomats contacted by Reuters said it was unclear whether uranium hexafluoride production would be included in the suspension.
``It would include a suspension of centrifuge production, assembly and testing. It's unclear what the status of (uranium hexafluoride) would be,'' the Western diplomat said.
Another diplomat said he was unsure if centrifuge assembly would be included.
``I understand a deal like that is imminent though I don't know the content -- the duration, the extent, timing of the suspension,'' one Western diplomat close to the IAEA said.
One Western diplomat said Iran was clearly trying to improve its diplomatic position ahead of a Sept. 13 meeting of the IAEA's Board of Governors and lessen the shock of last week's announcement that it intends to produce large amounts of uranium hexafluoride.
``I don't know how much an Iranian promise is worth any more,'' he said, alluding to past concealment of activities.
The board can refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose economic sanctions.
One nuclear expert said the uranium hexafluoride Iran intends to produce would hypothetically be enough for roughly five nuclear weapons.
Tehran's announcement provoked the wrath of Washington, Iran's harshest critic.
``Iran's announcements are further strong evidence of the compelling need to take Iran's nuclear program to the Security Council,'' U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said then.
Diplomats at the United Nations, however, say Washington has little support for such a move now.
The three EU powers, frustrated by Iran's lack of transparency, are planning to propose a board resolution but have so far been unable to agree on how critical it should be, one diplomat said.
``There is no consensus on a resolution. The Brits want a tough resolution and the Germans would prefer to avoid that. The French are undecided,'' he said.
The European Union, the United States and the IAEA condemned Iran in June after it said it intended to resume assembling and testing centrifuges as well as making centrifuge components.
The IAEA's sixth report in its two-year investigation into Iran's nuclear program said many questions remained unanswered, including the origin of enriched-uranium particles found in Iran and work on advanced P-2 centrifuges.
IRAN said today it was ready to show off a test of its improved Shahab-3 medium range missile, which is capable of hitting Israel, to "observers" in order to prove it is a success.
"The ministry is ready to organise a new test of the Shahab-3 missile in the presence of observers," Defence Minister Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani said in a statement carried by the official news agency IRNA.
"The recent test that was carried out was a success."
The minister appeared to be reacting to recent foreign press reports that questioned whether an August 11 test had been a failure, noting that the missile had apparently been remotely detonated in mid-flight.
The Israeli daily Haaretz, however, recently has written that the upgraded version of the Shahab-3 had a range of 2000km, whereas the previous version was believed to have a range of 1300km to 1700km.
The Shahab-3 missile was deployed among the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in July last year. Although the missile has been paraded with the banner "Israel should be wiped off the map", Iran says it is purely defensive.
In Persian, "Shahab" means "meteor" or "shooting star".
Last week in France, charismatic finance minister Nicolas Sarkozy resigned from the government in order to challenge for the leadership of President Chirac's UMP party, despairing of what is seen in France as a do-nothing regime that is fiddling while the country burns. The economy is mired in low growth and high unemployment; government spending at 54 per cent of GDP can go no higher.
There is universal agreement that France needs decisive action to reverse economic decline; there are rancorous arguments about not just how the economy should be run and society organised but whether the constitution of the Fifth Republic works any more. The socialist opposition wants to limit the President's current powers to allow more pluralism. With two-and-half years to run until the next presidential elections, France is descending into acrimony and division.
In Germany, Gerhard Schröder is presiding over the wreckage of the SPD, once the standard bearer of European social democracy. September sees four key state elections, including the vital election in North Rhine Westphalia, the SPD's historic heartland. Sixteen per cent behind in the polls there, its loss would be a disaster, not just for what it signals about Schröder's standing but because it will mean control that of the German upper house will pass to the conservative CDU and make him a titular Chancellor, governing only within the parameters of what his opponents will permit. His capacity to continue will be undermined. If he went, an SPD successor would be forced to abandon recasting Germany's unemployment benefit system so that it stops offering what amounts to a generous pension for life and, instead, becomes a means of moving the unemployed from one job to another. This is a vital prerequisite to restoring German economic health, but it is the direct cause of Schröder's crisis. His party can't and won't accept the need for reform and neither does an important swath of public opinion.
Germany is still two countries and East Germans regard any reform of the welfare system as directed against them because more than twice as many East Germans are on unemployment benefit as in the West. They are right. Thus it is no surprise that the 'Monday' demonstrations against the reforms are centred in the great East German cities of Leipzig and Dresden or that the demonstrators echo the fight against communism with their chant of 'We the people'. The protests are a focus for all the resentments of reunification and for the continued feeling among East Germans that they hold a second-class status. Germany and Schröder are in a corner; reform of the welfare state is an imperative, but the reform programme threatens the cohesion of the state.
As in France, the structures of the German political system are now being put in play. Twisting and turning for any kind of electoral advantage, Schröder last week said he was prepared to reverse Germany's 54-year-long ban on the referendum, the populist tool used by Hitler to establish the Nazi regime. Germany could then hold a referendum on the EU constitution. This is a key plank of the postwar constitution being knocked away. For the paradox of referendums is that they are fundamentally anti-democratic, confusing democracy with populism and placing power in the hands of those who can manipulate public opinion for their own ends. Germany's history is testimony to the consequences.
The proximate cause of both France and Germany's political crisis is that they are not generating enough jobs and growth even though both are high productivity economies. Employment in advanced economies today comes from the service and knowledge sectors rather than traditional manufacturing, under assault from low-wage countries in an era of globalisation. Thus German and France need more investment in their universities; in research and development; and in links between universities and business. They also need to change the structures in their labour markets, from wage bargaining to rules on working hours, that inhibit employment growth in the growing parts of their economy while designing welfare systems that support and encourage workers to move from areas of decline into areas of growth. And they need more demand.
These are, at bottom, technical issues; both economies, given their inherent strengths - Germany is the world's number one exporter in 2004 - would respond quickly to any decent reform package. The issue is putting one together given the implacable opposition by organised labour in both countries to even the tiniest concession, even as both national conversations are dominated by talk of irreversible decline and the need for change - an echo of Britain in the 1970s. The immobilism and sense of decay infects consumer confidence; in both countries consumers are building up their savings, weakening demand growth and deferring still further the chances of an economic recovery.
Opposition to change may seem irrational, but that in turn is rooted in history. The German left is profoundly attached to the German welfare state not just because it represents social democracy but because it is a shield against a repeat of the 1930s. In France the idea of capitalism is compromised by its collaboration with the right and defeat in war. To surrender social advance, even in the name of reform and necessity, is to give into forces that historically have brought France low. For both countries the European Union offers a different, brighter history. But instead of buttressing the EU, Chirac and Schröder - as soft option politicians - find it easier to blame it to help them out of their political weakness. In so doing they lock themselves more tightly into thenational discourses that are the source of their problems.
It could all turn ugly; an unratified European Constitution, stagnating economies, new dark nationalist politics and a fragmenting European Union.
To imagine that Britain will be immune from this is absurd; what happens in mainland Europe will directly impact upon us as it has throughout our history. What is needed is an understanding that if European states don't hang together they will hang separately - and that because the European Union is the best we have, we'd better make it work.
Instead national leaders, Blair included, strenuously avoid the language of working together. These are unsteady times for Europe - without a recovery of purpose and leadership the future could look sticky indeed.
Richard Armitage on the tricky choices the Bush Administration and its allies face as they try to halt the spread of nuclear weapons
Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage is an experienced troubleshooter. A Vietnam veteran with previous stints at the State Dept. and the Pentagon under his belt, Armitage has been involved in everything from handling Philippines' efforts to boot U.S. troops out of the country to the collapse of the former Soviet Union. He has had no end of troubles to shoot in the Bush Administration. An Asia hand, Armitage helped negotiate the extrication of pilots downed in China early in President Bush's term. He has played a role in everything from Iraq to Iran to North Korea.
Armitage sat down with BusinessWeek Chief Diplomatic Correspondent Stan Crock on Sept. 1 to discuss some of the issues at the top of his in-box, including the challenges in Iraq, North Korea, and Iran. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow in two parts. Here is Part 1:
Q: In Najaf and Fallujah, the options seemed to be between what's portrayed as a military defeat that lets [Muqtada] Al-Sadr's militia melt away and what would be a political disaster: If you went in and holy sites got damaged. The trade-off was made to avert political blowback. A similar calculation was made in Fallujah. But when is the military going to say we're killing ourselves here by letting these guys loose?
A: Let me differentiate between Najaf and Fallujah. Najaf, I think, by all accounts, is a stunning victory for the Allawi government. The reason I say that is Grand Ayatollah [Ali] al-Sistani came down on the side of the government. And unlike when he was last negotiating with young Sadr, in April, this time he was successful.
He was successful because military pressure had been applied, and both Iraqi forces and coalition forces right outside the compound wall were sitting there immediately after. It's an overall victory.
Al Jazeera went right into Najaf and started photographing and speaking to Iraqi National Guard soldiers in full uniform and full kit. That's the first time Al Jazeera has shown sort of a different face to this conflict.
Q: What about Fallujah?
A: Sooner or later, Fallujah has to be dealt with. And the Prime Minister knows that. I have no doubt that when his security forces are numerous enough, well-trained enough, and most important of all, well-led, that he will handle that situation.
Q: Is there any reason to believe that North Korea or Iran would actually give up their nuclear capabilities?
A: Well, they haven't exhibited it yet.... Iran, I think, is a tougher nut, actually, than North Korea. I served in Iran years ago.... And I found Iranians, generally, to be both charming and hegemonistic and very ethnocentric.
The dream of being a player on a large stage is in the breast of most Iranians. So I think they will be a lot more difficult, regarding the elimination of their weapons program.
Q: What is China prepared to do if North Korea remains intransigent?
A: You'll be seeing them send some real tough messages to North Korea, and at the end of the day, North Korea can't make it without China.
There's a lot going on in North Korea right now. You've read about the cell-phone stoppage -- people aren't allowed to use cell phones anymore. There have been arrests recently. It appears that the handling of the railroad disaster was bungled. North Korea is a pretty dynamic situation.
Q: What odds would you give that --
A: You can't do this to me because I took my son yesterday -- he's 21 -- to Charlestown, W. Va., and we played the slots. We lost. [Laughter] So don't talk to me about odds and gambling.
Q: You can answer it or not. What odds would you give successful negotiations in these two instances -- getting Iran and North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons programs?
A: I'm not going to answer the odds question, but I'll try to answer your question more generally. In the mid-1980s, late '80s, and earliest part of the '90s, the question for Asian hands was what's going to happen to North Korea? Does it implode, explode, or just devolve?
All of us were wrong. I think North Korea will evolve, and I think [the nuclear-weapons issue] will be resolved peacefully, in terms of the international community. I don't know what will happen internally in Korea, among the North Koreans themselves. Clearly, factions in North Korea are unhappy with the present direction of their country.
Q: What about Iran?
A: Iran is much more difficult. There are some things internal to Iran that one has to look at. Demographics are one. The Persians are almost a minority in their own country now -- they're like 52% or something. There are many more Azeris in Tabriz than there are in Azerbaijan, just for the record. So that has an effect over time of changing things.
They've developed no new infrastructure since the revolution. That impedes them as a society from moving forward.
Regarding U.S. policy to Iran, we're content to let the EU-3 ministers take the lead. They are the ones who came out thinking they had an agreement with the Iranians and had the Iranians pull the rug out from under them. We'll look forward to the September International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting and then the November meeting.
Q: Are sanctions an option?
A: There's not much enthusiasm in the Security Council for sanctions. We've seen attitudes in Europe starting to harden against the Iranians because of the ministers who had approached Iran with very good intentions and had the rug pulled out from under them.
We'll continue to push from the outside, and we'll be the tough cop, I would say, so that others can be the good cop -- whatever works. But at the end of the day, we're all policemen. If we're all policemen, something has to give, and we'll be looking to see if we can't move to sanctions, unless there's a change of behavior. ...
Tomorrow: Part 2 of this interview with Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage
On the anniversary of September 11, a curious paradox about the United States is evident: the sharp contrast between its policies' brilliant success in the Middle East and its strategies' abject failure there.
To put it another way, broader US goals and interests in the region have done remarkably well over the last half-century while its clever plans have ended in disaster.
Whenever I contemplate the very different life I would have had by working in the US government, I recall that the opportunity I passed up would have let me participate in half-a-dozen disasters:
In every case there was a conception that was wrong and a plan that did not work.
One factor here was ignorance about a system in the Arab world and Iran where problems stem not from misunderstandings or insufficient Western concessions, but rather on the needs of ruthless dictators and lying ideologies.
But does this astonishingly bad record regarding well-intentioned schemes mean US policy has been a failure? Not at all. The US has been an awesome success story in the region.
To list a few points: It defeated the USSR and that country's allies, helped prevent the whole region's radicalization, preserved stability where needed, kept the Arab-Israeli conflict from spinning out of control, forced even those who hated it to respect its interests, kept oil flowing, stopped an Iranian or Iraqi conquest of the Gulf, avoided a genocidal destruction of Israel, and played a role in avoiding revolutionary Islamist takeovers.
The US did not do all this alone; but it played an important role on all these fronts and others. In truth, in 50 years of policy the US has done rather well.
Other forces in the region opposed to US policies have been repeatedly contained or defeated. They failed to bend the US to their will through either force or persuasion.
A key cause of this outcome was that they endlessly complained about America but offered it no attractive alternative. Whatever the periodic frictions between Israel and the US, Israel was on America's side at each critical juncture. The Arabs, with a few exceptions, were not.
For example, Arab regimes could, during the Cold War, have offered the US real and energetic support against the USSR in exchange for things they wanted, like the US standing aside while Israel was wiped off the map. Instead, they remained neutral or supported Moscow, giving Washington no real incentive to change its approach.
The same applies to US peacemaking efforts on the Arab-Israeli conflict, where Arab leaders remained either intransigent or passive.
What if the Arab world had united to press Yasser Arafat into a deal in 2000? What if Arafat or the Arab states collectively had rallied to the US's side in the aftermath of September 11 in a war against terror instead of criticizing every American move?
Suppose they had agreed on getting rid of Saddam in 2003 in exchange for a specific list of goals?
Europe has at times again with exceptions made a parallel error of its own in dealing with US power. For instance, what would have happened if just before the 2003 Iraq war the Europeans had credibly offered to implement and maintain a tough policy against Baghdad in exchange for the US not launching an all-out attack? Suppose the Europeans had lined up behind America in demanding that Arafat and Arab states accept peace in 2000 or suffer material consequences?
America may be about to elect a presidential candidate running on a claim that he can get Europe to cooperate with the US in the Middle East by listening to its advice. But what is going to happen after a few months, when he discovers that the Europeans will do nothing real to help him in Iraq, to pressure those blocking Arab-Israeli peace through terrorism and extremism, or to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons?
In short, people in Washington who do not understand the Middle East and people in Europe or the Middle East who do not understand America have not done very well. Yet the US has repeatedly triumphed in the region even when its specific plans have fallen apart.
Being wrong and winning is better than being even more wrong, and losing.
The writer is director of the GLORIA Center and co-author of the newly published Hating America: A History.
The SMCCDI Coordinator, Aryo B. Pirouznia, criticized Senator John Kerry for his controversial and rejectable stands on the Islamic republic regime and his recent proposal of Nuclear deal with the illegitimate and shaky theocracy. These comments were made, tonight, during a VOA Satellite TV program which was, as well, broadcasted worldwide on short wave radio and Internet from WDC.
In parts of the interview and responding live to VOA well respected anchor's Setareh Derakhshesh, on the correlation of the upcoming US Presidential elections and the Islamic regime's Nuclear activities, Pirouznia, while describing this controversial deal proposal, stated: "It's sad to see that Mr. Kerry is intending, now, to propose such deal to such tyrannical and terrorist regime that he has qualified in the past as a kind of democracy. Such consecutive irresponsible statements are only helping the Islamic regime to claim a false legitimacy while killing more Iranians and buying time for pushing ahead in its dangerous plans."
"Of course and by witnessing increasing criticisms, Senator J. Edwards is, now trying to correct parts of Senator Kerry's deal proposal by declaring that the current Iranian and N. Korean regimes are potential dangers. Such contradictory statement can only be qualified as what many Americans are naming as Kerry campaign's Flip Flop behavior".
"By difference and contrary to some desperate and demagogic propaganda, we do have President George Bush who's running for his re-election while supporting morally the Iranian Nation for reaching freedom and democracy by putting an end to the rule of the Islamic regime. He has declared clearly and at several occasions that each problem has its own solution and that he's not wishing to carry any military attack against Iran's installation."
"That's why a majority of Iranians and especially many Iranian-Americans do believe correctly that voting for Bush, is voting for the freedom of Iran and its future accountable regime" the SMCCDI Coordinator emphasized.
The VOA's "News & Views" program of 9/06/04 will be re-aired tomorrow morning, Iran's local time, and can be seen at the following link till 12:00 PM US EST by visiting: http://www.voanews.com/real/voa/nenaf/fars/fars1700v.ram . The part, in reference to the Islamic regime's nuclear activities starts at minute 11':30" and the interview with SMCCDI from the minute 14':42''. It will be transferred after 12:00 PM to the VOA website's archives section.