Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - September 10, 2004 [EST]- IRAN LIVE THREAD - "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
Posted on 09/09/2004 12:07:15 PM PDT by DoctorZIn
The US media still largely ignores news regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Tony Snow of the Fox News Network has put it, this is probably the most under-reported news story of the year. As a result, most Americans are unaware that the Islamic Republic of Iran is NOT supported by the masses of Iranians today. Modern Iranians are among the most pro-American in the Middle East. In fact they were one of the first countries to have spontaneous candlelight vigils after the 911 tragedy (see photo).
There is a popular revolt against the Iranian regime brewing in Iran today. I began these daily threads June 10th 2003. On that date Iranians once again began taking to the streets to express their desire for a regime change. Today in Iran, most want to replace the regime with a secular democracy.
The regime is working hard to keep the news about the protest movement in Iran from being reported. Unfortunately, the regime has successfully prohibited western news reporters from covering the demonstrations. The voices of discontent within Iran are sometime murdered, more often imprisoned. Still the people continue to take to the streets to demonstrate against the regime.
In support of this revolt, Iranians in America have been broadcasting news stories by satellite into Iran. This 21st century news link has greatly encouraged these protests. The regime has been attempting to jam the signals, and locate the satellite dishes. Still the people violate the law and listen to these broadcasts. Iranians also use the Internet and the regime attempts to block their access to news against the regime. In spite of this, many Iranians inside of Iran read these posts daily to keep informed of the events in their own country.
This daily thread contains nearly all of the English news reports on Iran. It is thorough. If you follow this thread you will witness, I believe, the transformation of a nation. This daily thread provides a central place where those interested in the events in Iran can find the best news and commentary. The news stories and commentary will from time to time include material from the regime itself. But if you read the post you will discover for yourself, the real story of what is occurring in Iran and its effects on the war on terror.
I am not of Iranian heritage. I am an American committed to supporting the efforts of those in Iran seeking to replace their government with a secular democracy. I am in contact with leaders of the Iranian community here in the United States and in Iran itself.
If you read the daily posts you will gain a better understanding of the US war on terrorism, the Middle East and why we need to support a change of regime in Iran. Feel free to ask your questions and post news stories you discover in the weeks to come.
If all goes well Iran will be free soon and I am convinced become a major ally in the war on terrorism. The regime will fall. Iran will be free. It is just a matter of time.
I had to do it just to see what would happen!
OK! I won't!
G-8 Meets in Geneva for Talks on Iranian Nuclear Program
09 Sep 2004, 22:01 UTC
Top nuclear disarmament officials from the Group of Eight industrialized nations are in Geneva for meetings focusing on Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The G-8 session comes as U.S. diplomats seek United Nations' sanctions against Iran, unless it renounces uranium enrichment efforts that Washington says are aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear intentions are peaceful.
U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton is hosting the two-day session with counterparts from Russia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
The United States wants the International Atomic Energy Agency to declare Iran in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The IAEA convenes Monday in Vienna.
An IAEA declaration of Iranian violations could bring the issue before the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions against the Tehran government.
Iran Arrests Second Dissident Who Risked Interview with Canadian Newspaper
Sep 9, 2004, 13:55
46-year-old grabbed outside UN offices
By Michael Petrou
A second Iranian dissident who risked his life to speak with a reporter from the Ottawa Citizen in Iran this spring has been arrested and jailed by security forces of the Islamic regime.
Bina Darabzand was arrested on August 17th outside the offices of the United Nations in Tehran, where he and several other dissidents had gone to ask the international organization to help persecuted Iranian democrats.
Mr. Darabzand, 46, met several times with this reporter in Tehran this April, putting himself at danger on each occasion. He is a cheerful and strongly-built man with a greying moustache and thick wavy hair. He spends hours on the road, driving across Iran from his home on the Black Sea coast to meet with other dissidents.
A middle-aged man among student activists in their 20s, Mr. Darabzand has campaigned for political change in Iran since 1979.
Mr. Darabzand has been arrested several times before. This spring he described the mental torture he suffered while interrogated during a previous arrest.
"At first I wouldn?t tell them anything," he said. "Then they told me what they'd do to my wife. I told them what they wanted to hear."
Among those arrested with Mr. Darabzand is Behrouz Javid Tehrani, a young democratic crusader who also secretly met with this reporter in April.
Mr. Tehrani has been arrested four times since his story was originally published in the Ottawa Citizen.
He is now in solitary confinement in cellblock 209 of Tehran's Evin prison, where he was tortured over a 10-month period in 1999 and 2000, and where Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was murdered last summer.
It is impossible for Mr. Tehrani to get messages to anyone outside the prison from the solitary wing. However, late last week a prisoner in another cellblock reported hearing Mr. Tehrani screaming to protest his lack of cigarettes, which suggests he is still alive.
Mr. Darabzand is reportedly alive as well.
ISLAMIC IRAN, ORTHODOX ARMENIA, STRANGE BEDFELLOWS
By Safa Haeri
Posted Thursday, September 9, 2004
YEREVAN, 9 Sept. (IPS) President Mohammad Khatami described the relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the orthodox Christian Armenia as a benchmark of peaceful co-existence and cooperation between neighbours.
Arrived on Tuesday for a two days official visit, Mr. Khatami was greeted at Yerevan airport by virtually all members of Armenia's ruling cabinet and paid a warm tribute to Tehran-Yerevan axis, saying the relationship between the Armenian and Iranian peoples can serve as "the best example for all those who want to live side by side and respect each other's sovereignty".
"Armenias long history as well as its talented, diligent and self-confident people has had a great impact on the human civilisations, he added at the end of the first round of meeting with his Armenian host, Robert Kucharian.
Speaking to reporters, he referred to Irans glorious civilization of the past eras and the Armenians pivotal role in its development and said that even today the Iranian Armenians keep on attempting towards Irans independence and progress along with their Muslim compatriots.
"We respect our neighbours and are keen to cooperate with them. We place special focus on Iran-Armenia ties, which can serve as a model for those countries intending to establish relations on the basis of mutual respect.
"We have felt obliged to establish and deepen relations with Armenia since its independence", he said. "Every year that followed 1991 saw a further development of our relations. The agreements signed today give us hope that they will continue to deepen in the future".
"I declare that this relationship is to the benefit of the sides but not to the detriment of anybody else", Khatami added in an apparent bid to allay concerns expressed by other regional states.
The warm reception of the Armenians and the eloquence of Mr. Khatamis statements at meetings with Armenian officials contrasted sharply with the rather cool atmosphere of the visit the Iranian President paid to Baku, Yerevana arch enemy, last month.
Azerbaijan has been the most vocal critic of that somehow strange friendship, with many Azerbaijani politicians openly accusing the Islamic Republic of effectively siding with Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Although Iran has always denied such claims and Khatami stressed that Iran has tried hard to help the two sides finding a peaceful solution to the crisis, confirming during his visit to Baku that Tehran recognises Azerbaijani sovereignty over the disputed region, yet, relations with Azerbaijan remains tense.
What puzzles many observers is that considering cultural, historical and religious bounds that exists between Tehran and Baku, but the fact is that the clerical-ruled Iran is probably the land locked Armenias best friend and major supporter, to the point that very often, Azerbaijan accusing Iran of being Yerevans most important provider of arms.
Analysts say Bakus "slide towards Washington and Tel Aviv, Irans main enemies, mutual claims on parts on the oil-rich Caspian Sea, secret activities of Iranian religious circles aimed at turning this Shia-dominated Muslim, but secular neighbour into an Islamic Republic are some of the topics explaining the conflicting nature of Tehran-Baku relationship.
"We are ready to make every effort to help resolve crises existing in the region, including Nagorno-Karabakh, and to contribute to the establishment of a lasting peace and stability in the region", Khatami said in a speech at the Armenian Parliament.
Iran is widely regarded in Armenia as a vital geopolitical partner and having close ties with the Islamic Republic is among few subjects of consensus in the Armenian political arena. The Armenian opposition underlined this fact when deputies representing it briefly suspended their boycott of parliament sessions to hear Khatami's speech, the Prague-based Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty reported in a dispatch from the Armenian Capital.
The chief executive reiterated the need to promote security and tranquillity in Iran and Caucasus and said that security and stability in the two sensitive regions will guarantee scientific and cultural development, according to the official Iranian news agency IRNA.
For his part, President Kocharian referred to President Khatamis trip to Armenia as the first visit by an Iranian president to the country and said that it is therefore a significant historical event.
"Our region is very sensitive and there is no alternative but to jointly shoulder responsibility for the development and stability of the region", he said, adding that regional countries share ample commonalties, which could help remove existing problems and thwart probable dangers.
The two leaders signed a framework treaty on bilateral cooperation, which they said would further strengthen political and economic links between the two nations.
The president said that most of the inked documents focused on energy and communications and their exchange. "Given that Armenia is located along the North-South Corridor, the closer the communication between the two countries, the better we can serve the entire region and the global economy", he added.
Voicing satisfaction with expansion and deepening of all-out relations between the two countries, he said "I hope to witness further promotion of mutual relations in economic, cultural and political areas".
Kocharian, meanwhile, said that Armenia and Iran should pay particular attention to developing their economic cooperation. He singled out the energy sector where the two nations plan to implement multimillion-dollar joint projects.
The biggest of them is the construction of a pipeline that will ship Iranian natural gas to Armenia and possibly other countries. An agreement on the implementation of the $120 million project was signed by the two governments in Yerevan last May, under which Iran will supply Armenia with a total of 36 billion cubic metres of gas over a 20-year period, expected to start in early 2007.
Armenia's ambassador to Tehran, Gegham Gharibjanian, told RFE/RL this week that work on the Iranian section of the pipeline is already underway and will soon begin on the Armenian side. Energy Minister Armen Movsisian had said earlier that the Armenian government would receive a $30 million (25 million Euros) loan from Iran to finance the construction of the Armenian section.
The construction contract has been awarded to Iranian company Sanir.
The loan should enable Yerevan to finance the 41 kilometres of the 141-kilometre (88-mile) pipeline that cross Armenian territory, Kocharian told journalists after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Khatami.
Despite the energy projects, the volume of Armenian-Iranian trade has steadily declined in recent years and made up only 3.5 percent of Armenia's external commercial exchange last year.
Khatami and his delegation left Yerevan on Thursday, heading for Minsk and then to neighbouring Tajikistan. ENDS IRAN ARMENIA 9904
S. Korea to Provide Iran with 100,000 Broadband Internet Lines
Sep 9, 2004
Iran and South Korea have signed a 40 million dollar deal for the provision of 100,000 broadband Internet lines to the Islamic republic.
The accord, signed here in the presence of the telecommunications ministers of the two countries, involves the Iranian companies Asia-Tak and Arsh, and Korea Telecom.
Iranian press reports said Thursday that the lines will be provided to some 20 Iranian cities, with Asia-Tak designated as the private access provider.
Iran began to offer ADSL Internet access earlier this year, but lines are still limited in number and geographical placement. The Islamic republic has an estimated three million Internet users.
Iran, Armenia Sign Seven Cooperation Agreements
YEREVAN (IRNA) -- Iranian and Armenian economic delegations here Wednesday signed seven agreements on energy cooperation.
The agreements were signed at the presence of President Mohammad Khatami of Iran and President Robert Kocharian of Armenia.
The first contract, signed by the two countries' presidents, envisions mutual cooperation and relations as well as the prospects of cooperation in various fields.
The Iranian and Armenian ministers of energy signed a document on energy cooperation.
The other contracts are related to mutual cooperation in the fields of power supply, construction of a wind farm in Armenia, procedure for customs agreement, financing the laying of a 40 kilometer gas pipeline and the third power transmission line in Armenia.
Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI) and Armenian Sabir Co., are scheduled to finance laying of the gas pipeline in Armenia.
An executive document on partly construction of a gas pipeline, a contract on mutual cultural exchange in the 2004-2007 period and the protocol of the fifth Iran-Armenia Joint Economic Commission are among the agreements inked by the two countries.
In the protocol on the fifth Iran-Armenia Joint Economic Commission, the two sides agreed to cooperate in fields of transportation, energy, communication, agriculture and border trade.
The Republic of Armenia is situated in south-west Transcaucasia, on the north-eastern border of Turkey. Its other borders are with Iran to the south, Azerbaijan to the east and Georgia to the north.
The Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, an Azerbaijani territory, is situated to the south, separated from the remainder of Azerbaijan by Armenian territory.
Located in an area of 29,800 sq km, Armenia is the smallest republic in the former Soviet Union.
Khatami called the interaction between Iran and Armenia as an interaction between two histories and two nations that have played an effective role in the formation of human civilization. The Iranian president said the security and stability of the two countries are interrelated and for this reason "We should broaden our ties more than ever before."
"I hope to witness further promotion of mutual relations in economic, cultural and political areas," he added.
Regional countries share ample commonalties which could help resolve existing problems and thwart probable threats, the president noted.
The Armenian president, for his part, termed the two countries relations as very close and said all opportunities should be seized for broadening of mutual ties.
The Islamic Republic of Iran plays a very significant and unique role in the region, he said, adding that Yerevan welcomes expansion of cooperation with Tehran.
Majlis Speaker Warns Students About Political Manipulation
TEHRAN (IRNA) -- Majlis Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel here Wednesday warned the students about political manipulation during involvement in political activities.
Speaking at the Sixth National Islamic Students Congress, he added that the students should be careful about the political activists operating out-of-campus and not let them disrespect or abuse them.
The speaker referred to abuse of students as the main reason for their disappointment in politics and said, "When the students realize that others have used them to gain power they lose their interest in politics. "As it was witnessed several years ago, some political movements infiltrated the universities and attempted to incite the scholars against the ruling system. But fortunately the plot failed."
Haddad Adel called on students to participate in political activities to dismiss the idea that their involvement in politics is the same as opposing the ruling system. -IAEA should act according to legal regulations
Haddad Adel called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to act in accordance with legal regulations and its charter on Iran's nuclear dossier and avoid politically motivated actions.
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the 6th national congress of Islamic society of students, Haddad Adel said Iran believes the recent report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei includes positive points but there are also considerations about certain issues in the report.
Asked about the recent remarks of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Iran's lack of commitment to its promises, he said, "We do not regard Jack Straw's remarks as positive. "He was better to raise the question why European states did not fulfill their commitments towards Iran." Pointing to the stances of Europe and the United States on Iran's nuclear case, the speaker added "We expect the Europe to keep its independence and not to follow the U.S. policy blindly."
In response to a question on the possible referring of Iran's nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council, he said there is no reason for such an action because Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful and transparent and Iran has been committed to the IAEA's regulations.
Time Passage Melts Global Suspicion
Tehran , sept 9 - Iran's former representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) described the reffering of Iran's nuclear dossierr to the UN Security Council as an illegal act.
Reffering Iran's nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council happens in case of breaching intrnational regulations and should be implemented according to the UN body's article. But IAEA and Iran should only resolve some minimal technical rifts, Ali Akbar Salehi told IRIB.
Islamic Republic of Iran is a subordinate to the international agreements and IAEA protocol, he said.
If the European countries press Iran for a deadline, then they indicate their own unreliability, the former Iranian representative said who was replaced by Moussavian.
Time passage, melts clouds of suspicion over Iran's peaceful nuclear activities, Salehi said adding that through Iran, IAEA collaboration and complying with the international agreements, the propagation process with not get anywhere.
Italy Appeals to Iran for Hostages
Rome, Sept 9 - Italy's Minister of Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini here on Wednesday asked his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharrazi for Tehran's intervening to secure the release of two Italian women taken hostage in Iraq.
According to a communique issued by Italy's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a copy of which was faxed to Iran's Rome bureau, Dr. Kharrazi during the phone talk while condemning the kidnapping of the Italian women, expressed certainty that Tehran would spare no effort to secure their fast release, employing all its potentials for the purpose.
Frattini had also earlier contacted some of his counterparts in Persian Gulf region, as well as the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, seeking their serious assistance in solving the problem.
Italian humanitarian aid workers Simona Pari and Simona Torretta were kidnapped on Tuesday while working at the office of an international humanitarian aid agency's office along with two Iraqi aid workers cooperating with them.
An Iraqi group called 'Ansar uz-Zawaheri' accepted responsibility for the act in an internet message on an Arabic site on Wednesday.
In related news, children in the care of two Italian women kidnapped in Iraq are to demonstrate in Baghdad against their abduction, their employers said on Wednesday.
"About 200 children looked after by Simona Pari and Simona Torretta will demonstrate on Thursday with their mothers to demand they be set free," said Fawbio Alberti, president of the charity, 'a bridge to Baghdad.'
The children have all attended the saifhulu (happy Summer) program, the Summer school run by the two Italian volunteers.
Iran, S. Korea Sign $40b Telecommunications Cooperation Agreement
Tehran Times Industry Desk
TEHRAN (MNA) Iran and South Korea on Tuesday signed a 40 billion dollar telecommunications and internet cooperation contract, news reports said on Wednesday.
The agreement was signed between the managing directors of Arsh Investment Group and ASIATECH, one of the major Iranian Internet service providers and South Korea's G, Korean Telecom. The contract was also endorsed by Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ahmad Mo'tamedi, Iranian Charge daffaires in South Korea Masud Shafei as well as other officials attending the meeting and S. Korean Minister of Communications Chin Tae-Che.
According to Mehr News correspondent, South Korea's biggest fixed-line telephone and broadband Internet company would help ASIATECH to build high-speed Internet infrastructure in Iran. With the contract in effect, ASIATECH would be able to set up 100,000 broadband Internet lines in the country's 20 major cities, including its capital Tehran, by 2005. Currently, Iran has about 3.1 million Internet users out of its 67 million populations.
Meanwhile, the two sides, in their 6th Iran-South Korea Joint Committee Meeting, which opened in Busan of South Korean on Wednesday, agreed on exchanging communication expertise.
G-8 Officials to Discuss Iran Nuke Tension
By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS
Associated Press Writer
Sept. 9, 2004
GENEVA (AP) -- With pressure building to curb Iran's nuclear program, disarmament officials from major nations began meetings Thursday that the United States says will focus on Tehran in the campaign to stop the spread of atomic weapons.
The Group of Eight session came as threats mount to haul Iran before the U.N. Security Council unless it renounces uranium enrichment, which the United States and other countries say will lead to nuclear weapons.
The discussions will give the officials a chance to sort out differences over the approach to next week's meeting of the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, which could trigger action by the Security Council.
U.S. Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton was hosting the Geneva session with his counterparts from Russia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
The United States wants the IAEA to declare Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, a move that could lead to action by the 15-nation Security Council, which could impose sanctions. European countries have urged less precipitate action.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has demanded that Iran renounce uranium enrichment, which the United States regards as a step toward the development of nuclear weapons.
Highly enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear weapons. Iran insists it only is interested in nuclear power, which can be created with lower levels of enrichment.
The Geneva gathering is a follow-up to an agreement reached at the G-8 summit meeting in Sea Island, Ga., in June. U.S. officials said the meetings were being held about once a month in different locations.
The summit countries agreed to address proliferation problems and expand export controls worldwide, working "together to address the threat posed by" North Korea and Iran.
Developments on the Korean peninsula also make that region a prime topic for discussion at the Geneva meeting. The United States has been trying to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
But North Korea has said that recent South Korean disclosures could lead to a "nuclear arms race" in Northeast Asia.
South Korea said last week that it conducted a secret uranium-enrichment experiment in 2000, and said Thursday that it extracted a tiny amount of plutonium in a nuclear experiment in 1982.
The U.S. ally acknowledged "differences" with the IAEA over its activities. The U.N. agency is charged with verifying compliance with the nonproliferation treaty, which permits only peaceful uses of the atom.
The problem is that the IRI's priorities do not suite the needs of the nation or the security of the world
September 9, 2004
The question of the Islamic Republic of Iran's apparent eighteen-year covert activity to acquire the full cycle of nuclear capability, albeit for "peaceful applications", is the most talked about urgent foreign policy dilemma on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the past few months, leading up to the upcoming September 13th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board meeting, a slew of increasingly dogmatic statements have been issued by the functionaries of the Tehran regime.
To heighten the importance of a resolution to the "crisis" Israel has let it be known that she will not stand idle while a fundamentalist regime with the publicly stated goal of "annihilating" the Jewish state becomes a nuclear power, more so since it also has a ballistic missile delivery system to actuate its doomsday threat.
As it has become the custom of the IAEA, few weeks prior to every board meetings the details of its upcoming "confidential" reports are usually dribbled out by multiple unnamed sources with differing agendas. Based on those tidbits, one can surmise that last year's deal between the big three EU foreign ministers who traveled to Tehran and the Islamic regime has come to naught.
The crux of the Sa'dabad memorandum was for Tehran to immediately freeze and eventually forgo indigenous production activity of refining fissile material in lieu of Western equipment and technical assistance in the application of the civilian nuclear technology.
With the discovery of Islamic regime's ongoing domestic manufacturing of an advanced centrifuge than was admitted to, thanks to an opposition group's sleuthing and not the IAEA nor any Western intelligence agency's findings, the last nail was put into the coffin of the memorandum.
That is where things stand now; Tehran is bickering on the wording of the signed memorandum and is reinterpreting the definition of "is" and the troika is reminding Tehran of what it could gain by abiding it.
If the regime's past actions offer any clues to its future behavior, it is almost a certainty that in face of a united and resolute opposition, to buy time, it will back down. Just as it did after vehemently denying that it "will ever sign the additional protocol" to NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) it did so with a whimper. Therefore, the question is not whether the fundamentalist Islamic regime can be compelled to signs this, that or the other memorandum, treaty or amendment, the germane query is to what end.
If the aim were to change or modify regime's behavior through the signing of such legal instruments, clearly it has been an exercise in futility. And if delaying the imposition of a fundamental change to the equation is the goal, it might soon be a penny short and a day late.
The fundamentalist regime's lobbyists and some others try to formulate the equation in a way that any plausible answer except their desired one seems moot. They claim that the majority of Iranians of all political persuasions crave a nuclear armed Iran, if for no other reason than for nationalistic pride, therefore, any regime in Iran would pursue this national mandate.
This assertion is made in light of the fact that conducting any unauthorized public opinion survey is a punishable crime in the Islamic Republic, a former regime loyalist and a hostage taker is currently languishing in jail for precisely such "crime", ergo, any substantiating survey is tainted by the virtue of being a regime approved and messaged data.
It is further opined that any and all attempts to curb the "research for peaceful purposes" activities of the Islamic regime would force it to pull out of the NPT and do as the North Koreans did. This too is disingenuous for myriad of reasons, least of which being that the Islamic Republic needs every dime of its export earnings to pay for its rent-a-supporters who have long lost the ideological zeal to defend it without pay.
Some also erroneously claim that to alleviate the current black and brownouts nuclear powered electric generation would be the cheapest method. Aside from the serious flaw in the cost analysis of nuclear vs. traditional methods, what they fail to take into account, as the survivors of the Bam earthquake of nine months ago can testify to it from th eir ramshackle tents, Iran is an earthquake prone country.
The idea of building such potentially catastrophic facilities should it leak after one of the many earthquakes, is just playing Russian Roulette with lives of not only the current generation of inhabitants of Iran and neighboring countries, but also forfeiting the future use of the effected areas and all their natural resources for years to come. Iran is blessed with abundance of oil, gas, wind, sun and fantastic brains to use them equitably for power generation.
The problem is that the current fundamentalist regime's priorities do not suite the needs of the nation or the security of the world. It is high time to forget the foolhardy dream of this regime being reformable in any of its many skins, be it hard line, pragmatic, pragmatic conservative, pragmatic fanatic or the dreamiest of them all, reformist. All the rest have been tried and failed miserably; it is time, high time, to try the best.
For the price of a few cruise missiles many indigenous democratic movements in Iran can be helped in their noble endeavor. This regime is loathed by the Iranians and by their capable hands it will be discarded. Outside help would expedite this eventuality much sooner than the often missing-the-boat inept Western intelligence agencies can ever fathom.
Diary of a Writer in Iran by Reza Aslan
[Reza Aslan studied religion at Santa Clara University, Harvard, and UC-Santa Barbara. He is the author of No God But God: Re-Examining the Meaning and Message of Islam, to be published in Spring 2005.]
Subject: Entry 1
Posted Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2004
"In the name of God the most merciful, the most benevolent," the pilot announces as we touch down at Iran's Mehrabad Airport. It's nearly 3 a.m.a damp and sultry summer morning in central Tehran. Yet even at this hour, the airport is clogged with people.
I have few memories of Iran; I was 7 years old when I left, and the trauma of the experience seems to have erased all the images of my childhood in this country. But I have never forgotten this airport. It has been 25 years, and I can still recall the bleak whitewashed walls, the immaculate marble floor, the stench of sweat and cigarette smoke wafting over my head.
The last time I was in this airport was February 1979a few days after the fall of the shah, Iran's weak-willed and incompetent monarch. I have a clear picture in my mind of being awakened by my father early one morning and told to grab my things. A taxi waited for us outside. I understood that we were going on a trip, but I had no idea where to or for how long. I'm certain we had discussed it. After all, we were already packed. Arrangements had been made. We must have had tickets. Surely we weren't planning on simply showing up at the airport and fleeing the country in the midst of a revolution? Yet I have no memory of any of these things.
This is what I remember.
Arriving at this very same airport before dawn. A crush of people pushing through customs, desperate to escape Iran before the borders closed. Watching the customs officer rip open our suitcases one by one, helping himself to our valuables. When my father protested, the officer fingered my mother's pearls and barked, "Would you prefer to stay with them?"
I remember linking arms and shoving our way through the frantic crowd, trying to board the last plane to London before it left. "Don't lose your sister," my mother cried out to me, her voice breathless, her face as white as the walls. It was a command she'd given me thousands of times before. But this time, there was an urgency to her voice that terrified me. I felt as though she were warning me that if I let go of my sister, she, like our valuables, would be left behind. I gripped my sister's hand tightly and dragged her toward the gate, kicking at the crowd around me as if protecting her from a pack of wild animals.
Twenty-five years later, I stand calmly at passport control, trying not to act suspicious as I wait my turn to be called forward for inspection. Having spent the post-revolutionary years as an exile in the United Statesland of "the Great Satan"and having skirted my duty to fight for the Islamic Republic during its eight long, devastating, and ultimately pointless years of war with Iraq, I have been dreading the moment when I have to stand before an official to explain myself. I hand over my passport and smile innocently. He requests my birth certificate. I don't have one.
"Why are you here?" he asks.
"Visiting family," I say.
I have no answer for him. I don't remember anyone who we left behind. I don't remember the home I lived in, the city I was born in, the relatives who raised me. I barely remember the language. At this moment I remember this airport and nothing more.
Actually that's not entirely true. On the day the shah left Iran and the Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile, triumphant and ready to force his will upon the anti-imperialist, democratic revolution that ended 2,500 years of monarchy, I remember going downtown with my sister to join in the raucous celebrations taking place throughout the city. We carried with us two pitchers of Tang and a bag of Dixie cups that we filled and passed out to the hundreds of thousands of people marching and dancing in the streets. It was an apocalyptic moment. Everywhere I looked there were posters and placards of the brooding old ayatollahthe man they were calling the messiah.
I want to tell the passport official that I have nothing to declare but these two memories, unlinked by any narrative. Two episodes in a child's life that could have happened back to back or could not have happened at all.
The official is annoyed, but he allows me to pass through. There are a few hundred people clamoring behind me, and he is no mood to waste time on me. I gather my luggage and step out into the muggy morning air. The sun has yet to peek over the massive Alborz Mountains, but already the city is bursting with life. I can smell corn roasting over open flames. Across the street, old men sit in a cafe drinking tea and smoking flavored tobacco. Everywhere there are families embracing. A walnut seller bumps into me; he bows and apologizes profusely, and suddenly I am flooded with memories I did not know I had.
I will be in Tehran for a month interviewing friends and family, clerics and politicians about the Iran I have only read about in newspapers and booksthe Iran I myself have been studying and writing about for more than a decade. I'm here to find out what happened to Iran's electrifying reformist movement. How, after 10 years in power, did they allow themselves to be unseated in the parliament by the tremendously unpopular hard-line clerical conservatives? Is the dream of transforming the Islamic Republic into an Islamic democracy still alive, or has it faded away like the recollections of a child? If the latter, then is it possible to revive the dream the way a memory can suddenly return simply through a scent, a sound, an accidental bump on the shoulder?
DIARY of a Writer in IRAN by Reza Aslan
Subject: Entry 2
Posted Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2004
Most tours of Tehran begin in one of two placesthe stately Imperial Palaces, where Muhammad Reza Shah spent his final years as king of Iran, or the massive mausoleum where Ayatollah Khomeini, the architect of the Islamic Republic, is entombed.
The ayatollah's mausoleum sits just outside of Tehran, near the massive Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery, where hundreds of the shah's political enemies and tens of thousands of soldiers from the Iran-Iraq war lie buried. I arrive early on a stiflingly hot morning, deposit my shoes at the door, and enter reverently through the entrance marked for men. Though the mausoleum is the size of a city block, the tomb itself is a simple structure. Yet it is precisely its simplicity that draws your attention.
Inside the complex, the floor is littered with scraps of paper on which supplicants have written their entreaties to God. The sick and elderly clutch desperately at the metal grate encircling the tomb. The mausoleum is built so that those who kneel in prayer are obliged to face Khomeini's tomb as they do so.
Suddenly, it dawns on me. This is not the tomb of a political leader but the shrine of an imamthe semidivine "saints" of Shiism who can intercede on behalf of God, heal the sick, and grant forgiveness of sins. There are 12 Shiite imams, beginning with Imam Ali in the seventh century and ending with the "Hidden Imam," who went into occultation in the ninth century; it is said that he will return at the end of time as the messianic restorer known as the Mahdi.
I remember when Khomeini first returned to Iran, people whispered furtively that the Mahdi had finally arrived. This was an intolerably heretical statement, though Khomeini never bothered to disabuse people of the notion. Indeed, he eagerly consented to the title "Imam" while he was alive and relished the messianic symbolism of the term. Now, in death, that symbolism seems to be fixed for all time. I am visibly ill at ease when, as I collect my shoes to leave, an old man touches my shoulder and cheerfully says, "May the Imam deliver your prayers!"
Directly across town, at the foot of the Alborz Mountains, lies the walled compound of the shah's palace. I walk through the colossal grounds with an enthusiastic young guide, marveling at the priceless silk carpets and the vulgar surplus of Louis XIV furniture crammed into every room. Everywhere I look there are symbols of ancient Iranthe sun, the lionreminders of Iran's regal past.
Pundits in the West like to say there are two Irans: the Iran of the Reformers, represented by the elected parliament and its champion of reform, President Muhammad Khatami, and the Iran of the Conservatives, led by the unelected Council of Guardians and the all-powerful Supreme Leader Ali Khameini (Khomeini's hand-picked successor). Certainly, the virtual standstill in the government and the collapse of Iran's economy is a direct result of the unremitting and unbalanced contest between these two broad political bases. But the "two Irans" theory is an oversimplified and meaningless bifurcation that conceals the incredible diversity of political and religious thought in this country.
If one truly wishes to speak of two Irans, it would not be with regard to dueling political or religious ideologies but to dueling symbolisms. Unlike the rest of the Muslim world, Iran has never struggled to reconcile its Islamic and nationalist identities. On the contrary, Iran has been a continuous entity for nearly 2,500 years. Half of that time has been as an empire founded upon the ancient Zoroastrian ideal of the "just ruler"the divinely sanctioned shah, or king, whose omnipotent rule reflects the authority of the gods. The other half has been as an Islamic, and distinctly Shiite, community anchored in the principle of the "righteous martyr," who willingly sacrifices himself in the fight against oppression and tyranny.
Like an exquisite Persian rug, these seemingly divergent symbolsthe crown and the turbanhad been perfectly interwoven for centuries to form a uniquely Iranian Islamic identity. But in the 1960s, these two ideals became the weapons with which Khomeini the cleric and Muhammad Reza, the shah, fought for the future of Iran. While the shah turned his back to Islam and wrapped himself in the ostentatious pageantry of Iran's ancient past, the cleric appealed to traditional Shiite sentiments.
I have a distinct memory of the day my best friend would no longer play chess with me because of its imperialist symbolism. "Why does the king have to be the most important piece on the board?" he said, when I begged him to change his mind. "Why must the pawns always be sacrificed to protect him?"
The battle between the turban and the crown ultimately tore the tightly woven fabric of Iranian society apart. Almost overnight, 1,500 years of co-existing symbolism were transformed into an utterly Islamic theocracy. But while Khomeini may have won the battle of symbols, it is still unclear who will win the war over Iran.
Hardly anyone visits the ayatollah's mausoleum anymore. Almost everyone I see is traveling from distant cities. They have stopped here for a stretch, some cool air, and a quick picnic before continuing to Tehran. Yet the shah's palace is bursting with young Iranians, clicking pictures and pointing excitedly at the tawdry furnishings. By the looks on their faces, it seemed obvious that it is not excess and corruption they see, but wealth and power. When they read the placards contemptuously announcing where Charles de Gaulle sat or President Carter ate, they do not recall a time in which foreign infidels were wined and dined while normal Iranians were starved and brutalized. Instead, they seemed to imagine a distant era when Iran had a place of power and prestige in the world.
Outside the palace, not far from a lonely pair of bronze boots standingall that is left of the shah's statuenext to the ticket counter where five apathetic young men are paid by the government to do a job that one person could do if there weren't a staggering 20 percent unemployment rate in Iran, a torn and battered banner declares, "Victory to the Revolution!"
ASHINGTON, Sept. 8 - The Bush administration's campaign to persuade Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons programs is running into resistance among some allies and disputes over the seriousness of a new Iranian offer to suspend part of its activities, administration officials said Wednesday.
The officials said Iran made the offer during negotiations with the three European nations - Britain, France and Germany - that are trying to get Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and avoid punitive action sought by the United States.
The informal Iranian offer has not been made public, but officials who say they have seen details describe it as involving a suspension of some of Iran's nuclear programs in return for normal relations with the West and an end to threats of sanctions.
The United States has demanded that Tehran give up all its uranium enrichment activities, saying they are needed only to produce weapons, not electricity. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said he had seen reports of the Iranian offer, but was more interested in action. A senior official said Thursday that the offer, while inadequate, was a sign that American pressure is working.
"It was very telling that in the past 24 to 48 hours, the Iranians have started to try to deal again," said a senior administration official. "That indicates a great concern on their part.''
Other officials said, however, that the Iranian offer may have the effect of forestalling the action that the United States seeks next week at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. The agency has deplored Iran's lack of willingness to answer questions about its nuclear program but has taken no action.
The Bush administration wants the agency's 35-member board of governors to refer Iran's lack of cooperation to the United Nations Security Council, where sanctions and other forms of pressure might be considered.
On the other side, Germany and France argue that more pressure will make Iran less willing to consider curbs on its nuclear programs, which most experts regard as close to giving it the ability to make nuclear weapons.
Later this week, during a meeting in Geneva of top nuclear proliferation specialists from the major industrial countries, John R. Bolton, under secretary of state for nonproliferation affairs, will be trying to build a consensus to increase pressure on Iran.
The United States has tried and failed five times to get the votes to refer the matter to the Security Council, and Mr. Powell said last week that it would try again.
"We've been trying for the past five meetings to achieve that result," Mr. Bolton said in an interview before leaving for Geneva, referring to the effort to bring the matter before the Security Council. "We're going to try again in the sixth meeting. Whether or not that's possible, we've been unambiguous that we would make that push."
But European diplomats, asking not to be identified because the sensitive talks are continuing, expressed doubts that the referral would succeed. Some suggested instead that the United States give Iran one more chance to comply with the demands, with the clear understanding that failure will lead to sending the matter to the Security Council in November.
To some diplomats, the November meeting is critical because it would come after the American presidential election. Many experts say Iran is waiting to see the outcome of the race before deciding whether to negotiate with the Bush administration, even though Senator John F. Kerry has also taken a tough stance on the issue.
Administration officials said they had not yet been able to achieve a consensus on the board of governors. Normally the board takes action by consensus or not at all, which means that a strong dissenting minority can prevent it from acting.
Failing to get a consensus could signal a change of strategy for the administration, administration officials said. If there is no consensus, the administration may try to get a simple majority of the agency's board to send the issue to the Security Council. As a last resort, the administration may have to put the matter off until November.
"We're working it really hard right now," said a senior American official. "We may have to wait until next time, but we're really pushing hard to get this now." The official said that Mr. Powell had been on the telephone in the past week to press the issue.
If there is a yes-or-no vote, according to diplomats from countries involved in the talks, the United States might be able to get the votes of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, perhaps Japan and perhaps Spain and the Netherlands. The American strategy appears to be to line up enough votes that wavering countries might go along.
With intelligence sources saying Iran could be months away from nuclear weapons capability, the United States wants Iran reported to the U.N. Security Council immediately, charging Tehran uses its civilian atomic energy program as a front to develop the bomb. Tehran vehemently denies the charge.
France, Britain and Germany want to avoid isolating Iran and have taken a go-slow approach, negotiating with Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities.
"Iran continues to use existing differences between the U.S. and Europe to their advantage and tries to drag out talks with the EU to buy time," Alireza Jafarzadeh, an Iranian exile who has reported accurately on Iran's nuclear program in the past, told Reuters.
"They feel they have bought at least 10 months," Jafarzadeh said. He said he was citing sources in Iran familiar with the results of a recent high-level meeting on Iran's nuclear program attended by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Jafarzadeh said officials at the meeting also decided to allocate an additional $2 billion from Iran's central bank reserves to supplement some $14 billion already spent on what he called Iran's "secret nuclear weapons program."
The EU trio has expressed disappointment at Iran's failure to keep promises it made in October to suspend all activities related to the enrichment of uranium, a process of purifying it for use as fuel for atomic power plants or in weapons. But the three remain committed to a process of engagement with Tehran.
However an intelligence official said a failure to act now as Washington would like, could be decisive for the development of an Iranian nuclear weapons capability.
"The Europeans express helplessness, despair and lack of strategy, which is exactly what (the Iranians) want to hear," a senior non-U.S. intelligence official said.
"This is their golden opportunity, between now and the coming of a new (U.S.) administration."
"PLAYING FOR TIME"
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been investigating Iran's nuclear program ever since Jafarzadeh announced in August 2002 on behalf of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled opposition group, that Iran was hiding several massive nuclear sites from the IAEA.
Although the EU trio are reaching the point where they too might support a referral of Iran's nuclear program to the Security Council, which could impose economic sanctions, diplomats in Vienna say they will give Iran one more chance to end its enrichment activities before the November IAEA meeting.
On Tuesday, diplomats said Iran had agreed with the Europeans in principle to renew its suspension of centrifuge production, assembly and testing. But U.S. and other officials dismissed this as a ploy to escape a Security Council referral.
"Iran is playing for time," a Western diplomat told Reuters.
The IAEA Board of Governors meets next week to discuss Iran's nuclear program, parts of which it hid from the U.N. nuclear watchdog for nearly two decades. Vienna diplomats say the EU three oppose a U.N. Security Council report next week.
Diplomats and intelligence officials say this may give Iran just enough time to reach the point where it has all the technology and expertise it needs to develop an atom bomb at a time of its choosing.
"It is a matter of several months, up to a year, most probably less than a year (for nuclear capability)," the intelligence official said. "By that time we think they will have enough feed material for the centrifuges so they won't be dependent on foreign input."
Iran recently announced it would convert 37 tons of raw "yellowcake" uranium into uranium hexafluoride, the feed material for centrifuges. Experts say this is enough for a bomb.
The official said the IAEA was making a mistake by being so cautious about what the agency has called a lack of any evidence proving Tehran has a covert military atomic program.
"If the IAEA would wait forever to see a smoking gun ... it will be too late," the official said.
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