Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - September 16, 2004 [EST]- IRAN LIVE THREAD - "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
Posted on 09/15/2004 9:03:24 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.
Wed Sep 15, 7:18 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New satellite images show Iran's Parchin military complex, southeast of Tehran, may be a site for research, testing and production of nuclear weapons, a nuclear expert said on Wednesday.
David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, a thinktank, released the photos and told Reuters they show that the site "has a potential that would warrant (U.N. inspectors) going there" to determine the exact nature of the operation.
"Based on a review of overhead imagery of this site ... (it) is a logical candidate for a nuclear weapons-related site, particularly one involved in researching and developing high explosive components for an implosion-type nuclear weapon," he added.
| Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 15 September 2004 1637 hrs
TEHRAN : Iran's powerful former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, vowed the Islamic republic would resist international efforts to prevent it from mastering advanced nuclear technology.
"The Europeans and the Americans say with determination that Iran must not master nuclear technology and we respond with determination that we reply with determination that we will not renounce our legitimate right," he was quoted as saying by the student news agency ISNA.
With his presidential campaign faltering, the last thing Sen. John Kerry needs is publicity linking him to a dubious lawsuit filed by one of his top financial backers that seems intended to silence a prominent Iranian pro-democracy organization. But unfortunately for the Democratic presidential nominee, that's what's coming his way.
Back in April, Hassan Nemazee, who has raised more than $100,000 for Mr. Kerry's campaign, filed a $10 million lawsuit in a Texas court charging the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran (SMCCDI) and its coordinator, Aryo Pirouznia, with libeling him by suggesting he is a supporter of the Islamist regime in Iran. At the heart of the legal dispute is Mr. Nemazee's connection with groups such as the American-Iranian Council, an organization which has lobbied for a softer U.S. stance toward Iran. Now, according to Mr. Pirouznia, attorneys for Mr. Nemazee who filed the suit nearly five months ago want to delay depositions in the case until after the election because the publicity will hurt Mr. Kerry.
Veteran investigative journalist Kenneth Timmerman reported in Insight magazine that, in 2001, Mr. Nemazee joined the board of the AIC, which had long advocated a more accommodating U.S. stance toward the brutal dictatorship in Iran. Mr. Nemazee subsequently said he regrets joining the AIC board and resigned after serving on it for 12 months. He insists he is no defender of the current regime.
But Mr. Nemazee has attempted to do the impossible: defend Mr. Kerry's weak position on Iran. Earlier this year, he told Insight that Mr. Kerry was not calling for a resumption of relations with Iran. Mr. Nemazee offered this disingenuous spin several months after Mr. Kerry's Dec. 3 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, in which he attacked the Bush administration for blocking a dialogue with Iran.
Now, Mr. Nemazee's lawyers are demanding that the student group's attorneys provide information on communications between Mr. Pirouznia and Bonafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, another prominent Iranian pro-democracy activist, whose ailing, elderly father has spent much of the past year in jail for having the temerity to criticize the regime. SMCCDI's lawyers believe that if they are forced to provide this information in court, it could jeopardize the lives of student activists in Iran. Mr. Pirouznia says he would rather go to jail than permit this to occur.
Mr. Kerry's current political difficulties will grow much more serious if a supporter of Iranian democracy is hauled off to jail for refusing to endanger the lives of Iranian dissidents by allowing their names to be publicized in court at the insistence of a prominent Kerry financial backer, no less. For more information on this case, please see the Web site regimeinfluence.com.
In a meeting with Iran's Ambassador to Damascus Mohammad-Reza Baqeri, Syrian Minister of Information Ahmad al-Hasan expressed his satisfaction with Iran's cultural week which is to be held there later in September.
In the meeting, the two officials called for mass media mutual cooperation between Iran and Syria to serve the common ideals of the two Muslim countries.
Iran's Embassy in Syria, the Iranian Organization of Islamic Culture and Communications and Iran's cultural attaché to Damascus are to hold Iran's cultural week on September 21-29.
The opening ceremony of Iran's cultural week is to be held on September 21, attending by Iran's Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance Ahmad Masjed Jamei at the site of the Museum of Damascus.
Syria tested chemical arms on civilians in Darfur region: press
BERLIN : Syria tested chemical weapons on civilians in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region in June and killed dozens of people.
The United States, Australia and Canada have presented key EU states with a softened version of an ultimatum over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.
Diplomats said the text was still too strong to win approval at the UN atomic agency's meeting in Vienna.
"We're hoping we've found ground for compromise," a US diplomat said of the amendments to a draft resolution submitted by the three countries to Britain, France andIran-nuclear-IAEA 2ndlead 09-1 Germany.
A Western diplomat close to the talks told AFP the new proposal was "not a major break from previous drafts".
Another diplomat said close US ally Britain was "flummoxed" by the continuing US hard line.
Negotiators from the EU trio, Australia and Canada will reportedly meet today to work out a compromise that would be tough enough for the three hardliners and flexible enough for the Europeans.
The United States, which accuses Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons, wants the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to end a 19-month probe of Tehran's atomic program and bring the Islamic Republic before the UN Security Council.
Tehran, which says its program is purely for the generation of power, denies accusations by Washington it is developing nuclear weapons.
Although the IAEA has uncovered undeclared nuclear activities in Iran, it has found nothing to prove the US allegations that Tehran has an active weapons program.
The United States is pushing for a tough resolution that sets a deadline, possibly as soon as October 31, for Tehran to fully suspend uranium enrichment, the process that makes fuel for civilian reactors but also the explosive material for atomic bombs, according to the text.
"We want the resolution to lay out essential and urgent steps for Iran to take," a US official said.
He said the United States saw the deadline as a "trigger," so that if Iran, which claims its nuclear program is a peaceful civilian one, failed to do what was asked, the IAEA would automatically at its next meeting in November refer Tehran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
Britain, France and Germany, however, stress constructive engagement rather than confrontation with Iran.
Their resolution gives Tehran a November deadline to allay concern that it is secretly developing nuclear weapons, but does not say Iran would automatically be taken before the Security Council should it fail to do so.
Non-aligned states were firmly in support of the European position.
Malaysia's IAEA ambassador Hussein Haniff said they "do not want to see a trigger mechanism because that is pre-emptive, pre-judging a conclusion."
Iran has said it will carry out enrichment under IAEA supervision and in accordance with Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards.
Hossein Mousavian, head of Iran's delegation to the IAEA meeting, said Iran planned to resume enrichment soon, but did not reject the possibility it could extend the suspension beyond the one-year mark in November for "one or two months".
"We have done everything to build confidence, but if the Europeans want us to do something else we can discuss it," he said.
No surprise to me about the Iranian people's true leanings. The Iranian Revolution is perhaps the most misunderstood political event of the 20th century. This is not to say anything positive about Khomeni, who hijacked the revolution long after it was won (not only the Bolshevik hijacking of the Russian Revolution). Iranians then and now overwhelmingly desire freedom. This is why the Bush Adminstration is absolutely correct in dealing with Iran differently than Iraq or N. Korea. Iran is on the edge of the second wave of their revolution. Incidentally, I expect that there will be a great reawakening of Zoroastrianism once the oppressive Ayatollah regime is tossed from power.
The Ayatollah doesn't wear the "anyone but Bush" badge for nothing. He knows Kerry would not act if the movement revolted. Kerry would probably take money.
I would imagine that he's a little nervous these days with the poll numbers.
Correct. The people of Iran, as a whole, seek freedom and many are also seeking out Christianity as an alternative to Islam. The people of Iran are dissatisfied with what Islam has produced.
VIENNA (Reuters) - U.S. and European negotiators moved closer to a deal on a resolution on Iran's nuclear program that could trigger a November showdown, Western diplomats close to the talks said Wednesday.
European and U.S. diplomats haggled over the wording of the latest draft, obtained by Reuters, that would set an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to eliminate fears it has a covert atom bomb program.
Tehran, which says its program is purely for the generation of power, denies accusations by Washington it is developing nuclear weapons.
The diplomats were meeting in backroom talks during a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has been probing Iran's nuclear program for two years.
"We're closer to a deal, but we're waiting to see what the EU reaction is to latest proposals by the U.S., Australia and Canada," said a Western diplomat close to the negotiations.
The most contentious of these proposals is a demand for an "automatic trigger" in the wording of the draft that would lead to Iran being reported to the U.N. Security Council and possible economic sanctions if it does not halt its uranium enrichment program by Oct. 31.
France, Britain and Germany object to this.
"The EU three are okay with the demand to suspend enrichment, but they don't want it included in the trigger. And they want to soften the trigger so it's not automatic," a diplomat on the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors said.
Enriched uranium is used in power plants, but if purified to a sufficiently high level it can be used to make nuclear weapons.
Iran says it only plans to make low-enriched uranium for power plants.
But it promised the EU trio last year it would fully suspend enrichment as a confidence building measure, along with all related activities.
​​​​ Although Iran has not carried out enrichment, it has annoyed the Europeans by continuing to build centrifuges designed for that purpose.
NO SMOKING GUN
Hossein Mousavian, head of Iran's delegation to the IAEA meeting, said Iran planned to resume enrichment soon, but did not reject the possibility it could extend the suspension beyond the one-year mark in November for "one or two months."
"We have done everything to build confidence, but if the Europeans want us to do something else we can discuss it," he said.
Although the IAEA has uncovered undeclared nuclear activities in Iran, it has found nothing to prove the U.S. allegations.
European diplomats believe the demand to report Iran to the Security Council immediately would be counterproductive.
But if Tehran goes ahead with its plans to enrich uranium, the EU trio would accept the idea of reporting Iran when the IAEA meets in November, diplomats say.
Mousavian said Iran was not afraid of being reported.
"We are not really afraid of the Security Council, but it would be a setback in our cooperation (with the IAEA)," he said.
But Western diplomats who follow Iran say it is deeply concerned about the prospect which would be a humiliating setback for Iranian reformists seeking to improve relations with the West.
Israel, not Iran, is wild card in explosive Middle East pack
David Hirst in Beirut
Thursday September 16, 2004
When George Bush first identified the two Middle East members of his "axis of evil", Iran clearly ranked as a far more formidable adversary than Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
But President Bush went after the easier target instead. So "did we invade the wrong country?" asks a leading commentator, Charles Krauthammer, speaking for many neo-conservative hawks as the US refocuses on Iran.
From their standpoint, it must surely look as if they did. For the neo-cons, overthrowing Saddam was nothing if not regional in purpose, the opening phase of a grand design to "transform" the entire Middle East.
But such are the region's cross-border dynamics that success was never going to be assured in one country unless it embraced others too.
Yet it is hardly success in Iraq that accounts for the increasingly urgent concerns about Iran; it is more likely the spectre of catastrophic failure. For if the Islamic Republic was always the most dangerous of "rogue states", it is now more dangerous than it was at the outset of the Iraq adventure. It simply has to be subdued.
"If nothing is done", Mr Krauthammer argues, "a fanatical terrorist regime openly dedicated to the destruction of the 'Great Satan' will have both nuclear weapons and the terrorists and missiles to deliver them. All that stands between us and that is either revolution or pre-emptive strike. Both of which are far more likely to succeed with 146,000 American troops and highly sophisticated aircraft standing by just a few miles away in Iraq."
Such talk does not seem to frighten the mullahs. They do worry about the strategic encirclement which the US has thrown around them. Yet, paradoxically, they are emboldened too. For they think that if they are more vulnerable, so - over-extended and floundering - is their adversary.
They are saying it loud and clear: we have strategic assets to match America's, and the cost of any US or Israeli attempt to exploit their military advantages against us will be great and region-wide.
Iran claims it is not developing nuclear weapons. But much of its behaviour, at least that of the once again dominant, hardline clerical establishment, indicates a deliberate attempt to cloak the claim in ambiguity, nourishing the convictions of all those who believe that Iran is developing such weapons. Certainly, at least, it wants to create the impression that it is acquiring the kind of firepower that only weapons of mass destruction can supply.
If the Islamic Republic does not actually have the unconventional means, not yet at least, to lend substance to its militant rhetoric, it does have conventional means that have long been an intrinsic, largely surreptitious, part of its whole "revolutionary" modus operandi.
In fact, through Iraq, the removal of its arch-enemy Saddam and the emancipation and new aspirations of the long-suppressed Shia majority, it has them in new and providential abundance. "Some military commanders in Iran", said the defence minister, Ali Shamkani, "are convinced that preventive operations which the Americans talk about are not their monopoly. We too are present from Khost to Kandahar in Afghanistan, in the Gulf, and we can be in Iraq, where US forces won't be an element of strength, but our hostage."
No wonder that, for the new Iraqi government, the Muqtada al-Sadr rebellion was as much about Iran as it was about Mr Sadr.
And then there is always Lebanon and Hizbullah, that everlasting flashpoint in reserve. Quiescent of late, Hizbullah is ever ready to re-enter the jihadist arena, drawing on the arsenal of rockets with which, according to Israel, Iran has been systematically supplying it.
"This", says the veteran Israeli military analyst Zeev Schiff, "is an Iran-Syria-Hizbullah array", and its use, almost certain in the event of an American or Israeli strike on Iran, could escalate into "all-out war".
It is clear that the mullahs do not want a full-scale showdown; in parading their assets they seek to deter, rather than provoke. In fact they have always wanted better relations with the US, provided they get something in return, and that they, not their reformist rivals, control the process. If anything, the urgency now lies on the other side; hence the urgings of pundits like Mr Krauthammer to "strike before Iran's nukes get hot".
But perhaps the real wild card lies less in the Iranian "rogue state" than it does in what amounts to the Israeli one. Israel has repeatedly warned that it may sooner or later take direct action to stop an Iranian nuclear bomb "going critical".
As Amos Perlmutter, Michael Handel and Uri Bar-Joseph recount in their book Two Minutes over Baghdad, the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, was once part of a three-man inner circle that kept even the very sympathetic administration of President Ronald Reagan completely in the dark as they planned and carried out the daring 1981 airstrike on Iraq's Osirak nuclear plant.
That exploit had little visible fallout. But a repeat performance against Iran today would be universally perceived as American in spirit, even if exclusively Israeli in execution, and the whole Middle Eastern mess which America came to Iraq to clean up would instantly cross a new threshold in scale, virulence and unpredictability.
Iran's Parchin complex covering approximately 15 square miles and located about 19 miles southeast of Tehran is known as a center for the production of conventional ammunition and explosives. A State Department official has confirmed the United States suspects nuclear activity at some of its facilities. The suspicions focus on possible testing of high explosives.
"Parchin is the center of Iran's munitions industry and home to Iran's oldest ammunitions factory, founded before World War II," said John Pike, directory of GlobalSecurity.org, an organization that seeks to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons.
"It would be the logical place for Iran to conduct weaponization work on an atomic bomb and the logical place for us to look for such work," he said.
Images of Parchin, obtained exclusively by ABC News, show a building within the facility's high-explosive test area that could permit the testing of especially large explosions, including those relevant to the development of a nuclear weapon.
"While the imagery is not definitive, it raises enough questions that Iran should allow IAEA inspection of the site to alleviate concerns," said Corey Hinderstein, deputy director of the Institute for Science and International Security a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution that seeks to inform the public about science and policy issues affecting international security.
An affiliation between Parchin and Iran's nuclear program had not been previously suspected, and the site has not been inspected by IAEA experts. A recent report by the atomic agency did not mention the location, but ABC News has learned the IAEA asked Iran privately to visit the facility more than a month ago. U.S. and U.N. sources say Iran has ignored the request.
High explosives are used in the detonation of a nuclear weapon. In an implosion-type device, for example, a shell of chemical high explosives surrounds the nuclear material either uranium or plutonium and is compressed through multiple, precisely timed detonations.
To ensure that the nuclear material is compressed effectively, high-speed cameras and other sensors are used to record exactly the timing of the detonations and how the nuclear material reacts to the triggers.
On the basis of image analysis alone, it is difficult to distinguish between the testing of conventional high explosives and those necessary for the development of a nuclear weapon.
"Neither the design of the facility nor the nature of the tests is unique to nuclear weapons," said Jay C. Davis, former head of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at the U.S. Department of Defense. "This is always a problem in trying to detect nuclear activity, and one that only on-site inspection can establish."
Davis added that environmental sampling done by IAEA inspectors could detect the presence of byproducts used in the testing of high explosives for a nuclear weapon.
"A surrogate material, such as depleted uranium, for example, could be used in such testing and would be detectable via sampling," he said.
The IAEA, the United Nations' nuclear arm, has been meeting this week at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, to discuss Iran's nuclear program. The United States has proposed a strongly worded resolution that would call on Iran to provide full disclosure of its nuclear activities to the IAEA, or face action by the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions.
At today's meeting of IAEA's governing board, both the United States and the European Union sought a commitment from Iran to stop enrichment. But Hossein Mousavian, Iran's chief envoy to the meeting, suggested his country would not yield to threats of Security Council action.
The Iranian government did not respond to ABC News' questions about Parchin.
For more information, visit www.isis-online.org and www.globalsecurity.org.
NAZARETH Israels Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has accused Iran and Syria of systematic support to the Palestinian resistance factions and the Hezbollah party of Lebanon, saying that such backing is in the form of arms supplies which are transported to these groups via Damascus.
Addressing the accredited diplomatic corps members in Tel Aviv, he said: It was unreasonable that the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad announced his readiness to resume peace talks with Israel on the one hand, while Damascus continued its support to the Palestinian terrorist organisations in order to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel.
He also accused Teheran of backing the terrorist factions, saying that Iranian vessels continued unloading consignments of missiles and arms in Latakia and Damascus airport to terrorist organisations which work against Israel, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.
Shalom, who was talking at a reception held to mark the anniversary of Rosh Hashana or the Hebrew New Year, called for the need to set up a wide-scale international alliance against terrorism as practised by Syria and Iran, in order to put an end to the menace.
The Constitution declares the "official religion of Iran is Islam, and the doctrine followed is that of Ja'fari (Twelver) Shi'ism." The Government restricts freedom of religion.
There was no substantive change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report. Members of the country's religious minorities--including Sunni and Sufi Muslims, Baha'is, Jews, and Christians--reported imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based on their religious beliefs. Government actions created a threatening atmosphere for some religious minorities, especially Baha'is, Jews, and evangelical Christians.
The U.S. Government makes clear its objections to the Government's treatment of religious minorities through public statements, through support for relevant U.N. and nongovernmental organization (NGO) efforts, as well as through diplomatic initiatives among all states concerned about religious freedom in the country. Since 1999, the Secretary of State has designated Iran as a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act for its particularly severe violations of religious freedom.
In December 2003, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 58/195 on the human rights situation in the country that expressed serious concern about the continued discrimination against religious minorities by the Government.
Section I. Religious Demography
The country has a total area of approximately 631,660 square miles, and its population is approximately 69 million. The population is approximately 99 percent Muslim, of which approximately 89 percent are Shi'a and 10 percent are Sunni, mostly Turkomen, Arabs, Baluchs, and Kurds living in the southwest, southeast, and northwest. Sufi Brotherhoods are popular, but there are no reliable figures available regarding the size of the Sufi population.
Baha'is, Jews, Christians, Mandaeans, and Zoroastrians constitute less than 1 percent of the population combined. The largest non-Muslim minority is the Baha'i community, which has an estimated 300,000 to 350,000 adherents throughout the country. Estimates on the size of the Jewish community vary from 20,000 to 30,000. This figure represents a substantial reduction from the estimated 75,000 to 80,000 Jews who resided in the country prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution. According to U.N. figures, there are approximately 300,000 Christians, the majority of whom are ethnic Armenians and Assyro-Chaldeans. There also are Protestant denominations, including evangelical churches. The U.N. Special Representative reported that Christians are emigrating at an estimated rate of 15,000 to 20,000 per year. The Mandaeans, a community whose religion draws on pre-Christian gnostic beliefs, number approximately 5,000 to 10,000 persons, with members residing primarily in Khuzestan in the southwest.
The Government estimates the Zoroastrian community at 35,000 adherents. Zoroastrian groups, however, cite a larger figure of approximately 60,000. Zoroastrians mainly are ethnic Persians and are concentrated in the cities of Tehran, Kerman, and Yazd. Zoroastrianism was the official religion of the pre-Islamic Sassanid Empire and thus played a central role in the country's history.
Section II. Status of Religious Freedom
The Government restricts freedom of religion. The Constitution declares the "official religion of Iran is Islam and the doctrine followed is that of Ja'fari (Twelver) Shi'ism." All laws and regulations must be consistent with the official interpretation of the Shari'a (Islamic law). The Constitution states that "within the limits of the law," Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians are the only recognized religious minorities who are guaranteed freedom to practice their religion; however, members of minority religious groups have reported imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based on their religious beliefs. Adherents of religions not recognized by the Constitution do not enjoy the freedom to practice their beliefs. This restriction seriously affects adherents of the Baha'i Faith, which the Government regards as a heretical Islamic group with a political orientation that is antagonistic to the country's Islamic revolution. However, Baha'is view themselves as an independent religion with origins in the Shi'a Islamic tradition. Government officials have stated that, as individuals, all Bahai's are entitled to their beliefs and are protected under the articles of the Constitution as citizens; however, the Government has continued to prohibit Baha'is from teaching and practicing their faith.
The Government rules by a religious jurisconsult. The Supreme Leader, chosen by a group of 83 Islamic scholars, oversees the State's decision-making process. All acts of the Majlis (legislative body, or Parliament) must be reviewed for conformity with Islamic law and the Constitution by the Council of Guardians, which is composed of six clerics appointed by the Supreme Leader, as well as six Muslim jurists (legal scholars) nominated by the Head of the Judiciary and elected by the Majlis.
The Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance (Ershad) and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security monitor religious activity closely. Adherents of recognized religious minorities are not required to register individually with the Government; however, their communal, religious, and cultural events and organizations, including schools, are monitored closely. Registration of Baha'is is a police function. The Government has pressured evangelical Christian groups to compile and submit membership lists for their congregations, but evangelicals have resisted this demand. Non-Muslim owners of grocery shops are required to indicate their religious affiliation on the fronts of their shops.
Restrictions on Religious Freedom
By law and practice, religious minorities are not allowed to be elected to a representative body or to hold senior government or military positions; however, 5 of a total 270 seats in the Majlis are reserved for religious minorities. Three of these seats are reserved for members of the Christian faith, one for a member of the Jewish faith, and one for a member of the Zoroastrian faith. While members of the Sunni Muslim minority do not have reserved seats in the Majlis, they are allowed to serve in the body. Members of religious minorities, including Sunni Muslims, are allowed to vote. All religious minorities suffer varying degrees of officially sanctioned discrimination, particularly in the areas of employment, education, and housing. The Government does not protect the right of citizens to change or renounce their religious faith. Apostasy, specifically conversion from Islam, can be punishable by death; however, there were no reported cases of the death penalty being applied for apostasy during the period covered by this report.
Members of religious minorities, excluding Sunni Muslims, are prevented from serving in the judiciary and security services and from becoming public school principals. Applicants for public sector employment are screened for their adherence to and knowledge of Islam. Government workers who do not observe Islam's principles and rules are subject to penalties. The Constitution states that the country's army must be Islamic and must recruit individuals who are committed to the objectives of the Islamic revolution; however, in practice no religious minorities are exempt from military service.
University applicants are required to pass an examination in Islamic theology, which limits the access of most religious minorities to higher education, although all public school students, including non-Muslims, must study Islam. During the period covered by this report, for the first time Baha'i students were allowed to participate in the nationwide college entrance examination that determines who may attend state-run universities, although none actually had received admission to a university at the end of the period covered by this report. The Government generally allows recognized religious minorities to conduct religious education for their adherents. This includes separate and privately funded Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian schools; however, official Baha'i schools are not allowed. The Ministry of Education, which imposes certain curriculum requirements, supervises these schools. With few exceptions, the directors of such private schools must be Muslim. Attendance at the schools is not mandatory for recognized religious minorities. The Ministry of Education must approve all textbooks used in coursework, including religious texts. Recognized religious minorities may provide religious instruction in non-Persian languages, but such texts require approval by the authorities for use. This approval requirement sometimes imposes significant translation expenses on minority communities.
The legal system also discriminates against religious minorities who receive lower awards than Muslims in injury and death lawsuits and incur heavier punishments. In 2002 the Sixth Majlis approved a bill that would make the amount of "blood money" (diyeh) paid by a perpetrator for killing or wounding a Christian, Jew, or Zoroastrian man the same as it would be for killing or wounding a Muslim; the bill ultimately was passed by the Guardian Council. All women and Baha'i men were excluded from the equalization provisions of the bill. According to law, Baha'i blood is considered "Mobah," meaning it can be spilled with impunity.
Sunni Muslims are the largest religious minority in the country, claiming a membership of approximately 10 million (10 percent of the population) consisting mostly of Turkomen, Arabs, Baluchs, and Kurds living in the southwest, southeast, and northwest. The Constitution provides Sunni Muslims a large degree of religious freedom, although it forbids a Sunni Muslim from becoming President. Sunni Muslims claim that the Government discriminates against them; however, it is difficult to distinguish whether the cause for discrimination is religious or ethnic, since most Sunnis are also ethnic minorities. Sunnis cite the lack of a Sunni mosque in Tehran, despite the presence of over 1 million Sunnis there, as a prominent example of this discrimination. Sunnis also have cited as proof of discrimination the lack of Sunni representation in appointed offices in provinces where Sunnis form a majority, such as Kurdistan province, as well as the reported inability of Sunnis to obtain senior governmental positions. Sunnis have also charged that the state broadcasting company Voice and Vision airs programming insulting to Sunnis.
In April Sunni Majlis representatives sent a letter to Supreme Leader Khamene'i decrying the lack of Sunni presence in the executive and judiciary branch of government, especially in higher-ranking positions in embassies, universities, and other institutions. They called on Khamene'i to issue a decree halting anti-Sunni propaganda in the mass media, books, and publications; the measure would include the state-run media. The Sunni representatives also requested adherence to the constitutional articles ensuring equal treatment of all ethnic groups.
The Baha'i Faith originated in the country during the 1840s as a reformist movement within Shi'a Islam. The Government considers Baha'is to be apostates because of their claim to a valid religious revelation subsequent to that of Mohammed, despite the fact that Baha'is do not consider themselves to be Muslim. Additionally, the Baha'i Faith is defined by the Government as a political "sect," linked to the Pahlavi regime and hence counterrevolutionary. A 2001 Ministry of Justice report demonstrates that government policy continued to aim for the eventual elimination of the Baha'is as a community. It stated in part that Baha'is would be permitted to enroll in schools only if they did not identify themselves as Baha'is, and that Baha'is preferably should be enrolled in schools with a strong and imposing religious ideology. The report also stated that Baha'is must be expelled from universities, either in the admission process or during the course of their studies, once their identity becomes known.
Baha'is may not teach or practice their faith or maintain links with coreligionists abroad. The fact that the Baha'i world headquarters (established by the founder of the Baha'i Faith in the 19th century, in what was then Ottoman‑controlled Palestine) is situated in what is now the state of Israel exposes Baha'is to government charges of "espionage on behalf of Zionism." These charges are more acute when Bahai's are caught communicating with or sending monetary contributions to the Baha'i headquarters.
Baha'is are banned from government employment. In addition Baha'is are regularly denied compensation for injury or criminal victimization.
The Government allows recognized religious minorities to establish community centers and certain cultural, social, athletic, or charitable associations that they finance themselves. However, the Government prohibits the Baha'i community from official assembly and from maintaining administrative institutions by actively closing such Baha'i institutions. Since the Baha'i Faith has no clergy, the denial of the right to form such institutions and elect officers threatens its existence in the country.
Broad restrictions on Baha'is undermine their ability to function as a community. Baha'is repeatedly have been offered relief from mistreatment in exchange for recanting their faith. Baha'i cemeteries, holy places, historical sites, administrative centers, and other assets were seized shortly after the 1979 Revolution. No properties have been returned, and many have been destroyed.
Baha'is are not allowed to bury and honor their dead in keeping with their religious tradition. In 2002 the Government offered the Tehran Baha'i community a plot of land for use as a cemetery; however, the land was in the desert and had no access to water, making it impossible to perform Baha'i mourning rituals. In addition the Government stipulated that no markers be put on individual graves and that no mortuary facilities be built on the site, making it impossible to perform a ceremonial burial in the Baha'i tradition.
Baha'i group meetings and religious education, which often take place in private homes and offices, are curtailed severely. Public and private universities continue to deny admittance to Baha'i students.
Over the past several years, the Government has taken a few positive steps in recognizing the rights of Baha'is as well as of other religious minorities. For example, in recent years the Government has eased some restrictions, permitting Baha'is to obtain food-ration booklets and send their children to public elementary and secondary schools. In 1999 President Khatami publicly stated that persons should not be persecuted because of their religious beliefs. He vowed to defend the civil rights of all citizens, regardless of their beliefs or religion. Subsequently, the Expediency Council approved the "Right of Citizenship" bill, affirming the social and political rights of all citizens and their equality before the law. In 2000 the country began allowing couples to be registered as husband and wife without being required to state their religious affiliation. The measure effectively permits the registration of Baha'i marriages. Previously, Baha'i marriages were not recognized by the Government, leaving Baha'i women open to charges of prostitution. Children of Baha'i marriages had not been recognized as legitimate and therefore were denied inheritance rights.
While Jews are a recognized religious minority, allegations of official discrimination are frequent. The Government's anti‑Israel policies, along with a perception among radical Muslims that all Jewish citizens support Zionism and the State of Israel, create a hostile atmosphere for the small community. For example, during the period covered by this report many newspapers celebrated the one-hundredth anniversary of the publishing of the anti-Semitic "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Jewish leaders reportedly are reluctant to draw attention to official mistreatment of their community due to fear of government reprisal.
In principle, but with some exceptions, there is little restriction of or interference with the Jewish religious practice; however, education of Jewish children has become more difficult in recent years. The Government reportedly allows Hebrew instruction, recognizing that it is necessary for Jewish religious practice. However, it strongly discourages the distribution of Hebrew texts, in practice making it difficult to teach the language. Moreover, the Government has required that several Jewish schools remain open on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, in conformity with the schedule of other schools in the school system. Since working or attending school on the Sabbath violates Jewish law, this requirement has made it impossible for observant Jews both to attend school and adhere to a fundamental tenet of their religion.
Jewish citizens are permitted to obtain passports and to travel outside the country, but they often are denied the multiple-exit permits normally issued to other citizens. With the exception of certain business travelers, the authorities require Jewish persons to obtain clearance and pay additional fees before each trip abroad. The Government appears concerned about the emigration of Jewish citizens and permission generally is not granted for all members of a Jewish family to travel outside the country at the same time. According to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees' (UNHCR) background paper on the country, the Mandaeans are regarded as Christians and are included among the country's three recognized religious minorities. However, Mandaeans regard themselves not as Christians but as adherents of a religion that predates Christianity in both belief and practice. Mandaeans enjoyed official support as a distinct religion prior to the Revolution, but their legal status as a religion since then has been the subject of debate in the Majlis and has not been clarified. The small community faces discrimination similar to that faced by the country's other religious minorities. There were reports that members of the Mandaean community experience societal discrimination and pressure to convert to Islam, and they often are denied access to higher education. Mandaean refugees have reported specific religious freedom violations and concerns such as being forced to observe Islamic fasting rituals and to pray in Islamic fashion, both in direct violation of Mandaean teaching.
Sufi organizations outside the country remain concerned about government repression of Sufi religious practices, including the constant harassment and intimidation of prominent Sufi leaders by the intelligence and security services.
The Government enforces gender segregation in most public spaces and prohibits women from interacting openly with unmarried men or men not related to them; however, as a practical matter these prohibitions have loosened in recent years. Women must ride in a reserved section on public buses and enter public buildings, universities, and airports through separate entrances. Violators of these restrictions face punishments such as flogging or monetary fines. Women are prohibited from attending male sporting events, although this restriction does not appear to be enforced universally. Women are not free to choose what they wear in public, although enforcement of rules for conservative Islamic dress has eased in recent years. Women are subject to harassment by the authorities if their dress or behavior is considered inappropriate and are sentenced to flogging or imprisonment for such violations. The law prohibits the publication of pictures of uncovered women in the print media, including pictures of foreign women. There are penalties, including flogging and monetary fines, for failure to observe norms of Islamic dress at work.
The law provides for segregation of the sexes in medical care. Only female physicians can treat women; however, women reportedly often receive inferior care because of the imbalance between the number of trained and licensed male and female physicians and specialists.
Legally, the testimony of a woman is worth only half that of a man in court. A married woman must obtain the written consent of her husband before she may travel outside the country. The law provides for stoning for adultery; however, in 2002 the Government suspended this practice.
All women, regardless of their age, must have the permission of their father or a living male relative to marry. The law allows for the practice of Siqeh, or temporary marriage, a Shi'a custom in which a woman or a girl may become the wife of a married or single Muslim male after a simple and brief religious ceremony. The woman has to consent to Siqeh, which is a civil contract between two parties, and each party stipulates the condition under which he or she enters into the agreement. The bond is not recorded on identification documents, and according to Islamic law, men may have as many Siqeh wives as they wish. Such wives usually are not granted rights associated with traditional marriage.
Women have the right to divorce, and regulations promulgated in 1984 substantially broadened the grounds on which a woman may seek a divorce. However, a husband is not required to cite a reason for divorcing his wife. In 1986 the Government issued a 12‑point "contract" to serve as a model for marriage and divorce, which limits the privileges accorded to men by custom and traditional interpretations of Islamic law. The model contract also recognized a divorced woman's right to a share in the property that couples acquire during their marriage and to increased alimony rights. Women who remarry are forced to give up custody of children from earlier marriages to the child's father. The law allows for the granting of custody of minor children to the mother in certain divorce cases in which the father is proven unfit to care for the child.
Abuses of Religious Freedom
In February authorities initiated the destruction of the tomb of Quddus, a Baha'i holy site. Local Baha'is attempted to prevent the destruction through legal channels, but the tomb was destroyed in the interim. The Baha'is were not allowed permission to enter the site and retrieve the remains of this revered Baha'i figure. On June 27, the house of the father of the faith's founder, Mirza Buzarg-e-Nuri, was destroyed without notice. The house was confiscated before by the Government and was of great religious significance because the founder of the Baha'i faith, Baha'u'llah, had lived there.
According to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, since 1979 more than 200 Baha'is have been killed, 15 have disappeared and are presumed dead, and more than 10,000 Baha'is have been dismissed from government and university jobs. The Government continued to imprison and detain Baha'is based on their religious beliefs.
During the period covered by this report, one Baha'i was serving a prison sentence for practicing his faith. He was convicted of apostasy for being a Baha'i in 1996, but his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by President Khatami in 1999. His property and assets reportedly were confiscated because his family members were Baha'is. In May 2003, a Baha'i prisoner was released following a visit by the U.N. Human Rights Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In February two Baha'is held for practicing their faith were released after serving their full 15-year sentences.
The Government harasses the Baha'i community by arresting Baha'is arbitrarily, charging them, and then releasing them, often without dropping the charges against them. Those with charges still pending against them reportedly fear rearrest at any time.
According to Baha'i sources in the United States, since 2002 23 Baha'is from 18 different localities were arbitrarily arrested and detained for a short time because of their Baha'i faith. None of these persons was in prison at the end of the period covered by this report.
Government action against Baha'i education continued during the period covered by this report. The property rights of Bahai's are generally disregarded, and they suffer frequent government harassment and persecution. Since 1979 the Government has confiscated large numbers of private and business properties belonging to Baha'is. According to Baha'i sources, an Islamic Revolutionary Court rejected the appeal of a Baha'i to return his confiscated property on the grounds that he held Baha'i classes in his home and had a library of over 900 Baha'i books. Numerous Baha'i homes reportedly have been seized and handed over to an agency of Supreme Leader Khamene'i. Sources indicate that property was confiscated in Rafsanjan, Kerman, Marv-Dasht, and Yazd. Several Baha'i farmers in the southern part of the country were arrested, and one who was jailed for several days was only freed after paying a "fine." Authorities reportedly also confiscated Baha'i properties in Kata, forced several families to leave their homes and farmlands, imprisoned some farmers, and did not permit others to harvest their crops. In one instance, a Baha'i woman from Isfahan, who legally had traveled abroad, returned to find that her home had been confiscated. The Government also has seized private homes in which Baha'i youth classes were held despite the owners having proper ownership documents. The Baha'i community claims the Government's seizure of Baha'i personal property and its denial of Baha'i access to education and employment are eroding the economic base of the community.
It has become somewhat easier for Baha'is to obtain passports in the last 2 to 3 years. In addition some Iranian embassies abroad do not require applicants to state a religious affiliation. In such cases, it is easier for Baha'is to renew passports.
The Government vigilantly enforces its prohibition on proselytizing activities by evangelical Christians by closing their churches and arresting Christian converts. Members of evangelical congregations have been required to carry membership cards, photocopies of which must be provided to the authorities. Worshippers are subject to identity checks by authorities posted outside congregation centers. The Government has restricted meetings for evangelical services to Sundays, and church officials have been ordered to inform the Ministry of Information and Islamic Guidance before admitting new members to their congregations.
Conversion of a Muslim to a non-Muslim religion is considered apostasy under Iranian law and is punishable by the death penalty, although it is unclear that this punishment has been enforced in recent years. Similarly, non-Muslims may not proselytize Muslims without putting their own lives at risk. Evangelical church leaders are subject to pressure from authorities to sign pledges that they will not evangelize Muslims or allow Muslims to attend church services.
In previous years, the Government harassed churchgoers in Tehran, in particular worshippers at the capital's Assembly of God congregation. This harassment has included conspicuous monitoring outside Christian premises by Revolutionary Guards to discourage Muslims or converts from entering church premises, as well as demands for the presentation of the identity papers of worshippers inside. In May there were reports of the arrest of evangelical Christians in the northern part of the country, including a Christian pastor and his family in Mazandaran Province. The pastor's family and two other church leaders who had been arrested earlier were reportedly released on May 30. Although the pastor reportedly was a convert from the Baha'i Faith, a number of those arrested in raids on house churches were converts from Islam. The pastor and another Christian leader were released from custody in early July.
In 2000, 10 of 13 Jews arrested in 1999 were convicted on charges of illegal contact with Israel, conspiracy to form an illegal organization, and recruiting agents. Along with 2 Muslim defendants, the 10 Jews received prison sentences ranging from 4 to 13 years. An appeals court subsequently overturned the convictions for forming an illegal organization and recruiting agents, but it upheld the convictions for illegal contacts with Israel with reduced sentences. One of the 10 was released in February 2001 and another in January 2002, both upon completion of their prison terms. Three additional prisoners were released before the end of their sentences in October 2002. In April 2003, it was announced that the last five were to be released. It is not clear if the eight who were released before the completion of their sentences were fully pardoned or were released provisionally. During and shortly after the trial, Jewish businesses in Tehran and Shiraz were targets of vandalism and boycotts, and Jewish persons reportedly have suffered personal harassment and intimidation. There were no reports of vandalism or similar harassment during the period covered by this report.
In 2002, the group Families of Iranian Jewish Prisoners (FIJP) published the names of 12 Jews who disappeared while attempting to escape from the country in the 1990s. The families continued to report anecdotal evidence that some of the men were in prisons. The Government never has provided any information regarding their whereabouts and claims that it has not charged any of them with crimes. FIJP believes that the Government has dealt with these cases differently than it has with other similar cases because the persons involved are Jewish. The families of the missing individuals reported that government officials claimed they lacked the authority to discover whether the missing individuals were being detained.
Numerous Sunni clerics have been killed in recent years, some allegedly by government agents. While the exact reason for their murders are unknown, most Sunni Muslims in the country belong to ethnic minorities who historically have suffered abuse by the central Government.
There were no reports of government harassment of the Zoroastrian community during the period covered by this report; however, the community remains unable to convene a Spiritual Assembly to manage its religious affairs for fear of official retaliation, and there were reports of discrimination in employment and education. In June Zoroastrians were able to make, apparently without government interference, their annual pilgrimage to one of the holiest sites in their faith, the temple of Chak-Chak (near the city of Yazd).
The Government carefully monitors the statements and views of the country's senior Shi'a religious leaders. It has restricted the movement of several Shi'a religious leaders who have been under house arrest for years, including Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was released from 5 years of house arrest in January 2003.
The Special Clerical Court (SCC) system, established in 1987 to investigate offenses and crimes committed by clerics and which the Supreme Leader oversees directly, is not provided for in the Constitution and operates outside the domain of the judiciary. In particular critics alleged that the clerical courts were used to prosecute certain clerics for expressing controversial ideas and for participating in activities outside the area of religion, including journalism.
Laws based on religion have been used to stifle freedom of expression. Independent newspapers and magazines have been closed, and leading publishers and journalists were imprisoned on vague charges of "insulting Islam" or "calling into question the Islamic foundation of the Republic." In 2002, academic Hashem Aghajari was sentenced to death for blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed, based on a speech in which he challenged Muslims not to follow blindly the clergy, provoking an international and domestic outcry. In February 2003, his death sentence was revoked by the Supreme Court, but the case was sent back to the lower court for retrial. He was retried in July 2003 on charges that did not include apostasy and was sentenced to 5 years, 2 of which were suspended, and 5 years of additional "deprivation of social right" (meaning that he cannot teach or write books or articles). His time served was counted towards his 3-year sentence, with the remainder of the time being converted by the court to a fine.
Forced Religious Conversions
There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States. However, a child born to a Muslim father automatically is considered a Muslim.
Abuses by Terrorist Organizations
There were no reported abuses targeted at specific religions by terrorist organizations during the period covered by this report.
Section III. Societal Attitudes
The continuous presence of the country's pre‑Islamic, non‑Muslim communities, such as Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians, has accustomed the population to the participation of non-Muslims in society; however, government actions continued to create a threatening atmosphere for some religious minorities.
The Jewish community has been reduced to less than one-half of its prerevolutionary size. Some of this emigration is connected with the larger, general waves of departures following the establishment of the Islamic Republic, but some also stems from continued perceived anti-Semitism on the part of the Government and within society.
The Government's anti-Israel policies and the trial of the 13 Jews in 2000, along with the perception among some of the country's radicalized elements that Jews support Zionism and the State of Israel, created a threatening atmosphere for the Jewish community (see Section II). Many Jews have sought to limit their contact with or support for the State of Israel out of fear of reprisal. Recent anti-American and anti-Israeli demonstrations have included the denunciation of "Jews," as opposed to the past practice of denouncing only "Israel" and "Zionism," adding to the threatening atmosphere for the community.
Sunni Muslims encounter religious discrimination at the local, provincial, and national levels, and there were reports of discrimination against practitioners of the Sufi tradition during the period covered by this report. Sufis were also targeted by the Country's intelligence and security services.
In June 2003, an interfaith delegation of U.S. Christians, Jews, and Muslims traveled to the country to meet with religious, political, and cultural leaders.
Section IV. U.S. Government Policy
The United States has no diplomatic relations with the country, and thus it cannot raise directly the restrictions that the Government places on religious freedom and other abuses the Government commits against adherents of minority religions. The U.S. Government makes its position clear in public statements and reports, support for relevant U.N. and NGO efforts, and diplomatic initiatives to press for an end to government abuses.
From 1982 to 2001, the U.S. Government co-sponsored a resolution each year regarding the human rights situation in the country offered by the European Union at the annual meeting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). It passed every year until 2002, when the United States did not have a seat on the commission, and the resolution failed passage by one vote. The U.S. has supported a similar resolution offered each year during the U.N. General Assembly until the fall of 2002, when no resolution was tabled. The U.S. Government strongly supported the work of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Iran and called on the Government to grant him admission and allow him to conduct his research during the period of his mandate, which expired with the defeat of the resolution at the UNCHR in 2002. There also was no resolution on the country at the UNCHR in the spring of 2003. In 2003 the Canadian Government introduced a resolution censuring the country's human rights policies, which was passed by the U.N. General Assembly. The U.S. remains supportive of efforts to raise the human rights situation whenever appropriate within international organizations.
On numerous occasions, the U.S. State Department spokesman has addressed the situation of the Baha'i and Jewish communities in the country. The U.S. Government has encouraged other governments to make similar statements and has urged them to raise the issue of religious freedom in discussions with the Government.
Since 1999, the Secretary of State has designated Iran as a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.
Released on September 15, 2004
The Parchin military complex, located about 30 kilometers southeast of Tehran, is a huge site dedicated to the research, development, and production of ammunition, rockets, and high explosives. The site is owned by Iran's military industry and has hundreds of buildings and test sites.
Within this larger complex, there is an isolated, separately secured site which may be involved in developing nuclear weapons. ABC News learned that US experts have assessed that this site may be involved in the research, testing, and possibly production of nuclear weapons. According to the Agence France-Presse (AFP), the IAEA has known about this site for some time and it has independently assessed its potential for nuclear weapons work. As a result of its analysis, the IAEA recently asked Iran about visiting this location. But Iran has so far not agreed, added the AFP report.
Based on a review of overhead imagery of this site, called location 1 in this report, this site is a logical candidate for a nuclear weapons-related site, particularly one involved in researching and developing high explosive components for an implosion-type nuclear weapon. But the evidence that this site is conducting nuclear weapons work is ambiguous. Some facilities seem more suited to armaments research or rocket motor testing. Despite the ambiguity about the purpose of this site, the available evidence appears sufficient to warrant a request for a visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of this site.
Location 1 has high explosive testing facilities that could be useful to a nuclear weapons effort. At one area, there are buildings that that are suited to conduct high explosive testing. Such buildings would have flash x-rays and fast cameras for recording the explosion, and some of the buildings appear suited for such use. Arguing against the area being solely dedicated to high explosive work is another building that appears to have a pad oriented for testing small rocket motors and not high explosives.
Nearby, but further isolated, there may be a high explosive testing bunker where explosives are detonated outside and assessed from inside the bunker. Such a bunker, which is partly buried, would allow the study of large explosions for a variety of purposes, including the development of nuclear weapons. This bunker, if that is what it is, has increased suspicion that the site may be involved in researching nuclear weapons.
According to US officials, referenced in media accounts, the concern is that this bunker could be where Iran would test a full-scale mock-up of a nuclear explosive using natural or depleted uranium as a surrogate of a highly enriched uranium core. Such tests can provide key confirmation that a nuclear weapon will work adequately once HEU is substituted for the surrogate material. Iraq had constructed a high explosive testing bunker at Al Atheer prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War partly for such a purpose. The bunker at location 1 has some characteristics, such as being partly buried, similar to the Al Atheer bunker. However, the imagery of the bunker at location 1 is not sufficient to draw detailed comparisons.
At the main part of location 1, there are two igloo-shaped structures, that appear designed to contain hazardous operations. Although their purpose cannot be discerned from the image, these closed structures may be involved in tests involving shrapnel.
The purpose of other buildings at the site is not apparent from the image. However, facilities involved in nuclear weapons research, development, testing, and manufacture can have few defining characteristics.
A construction site located about 1.2 kilometers from the above site also warrants attention. The construction involves the excavation of a hilly area. This excavation may be intended to use the hill to physically support a future structure. It may have also involved tunneling into the side of the hill. The actual purpose of this site is difficult to discern. If tunneling is occurring, the site could have a range of purposes, none of which can be singled out from the imagery as more likely than the others. If no tunneling is occurring, the site could be for some type of armaments testing.
Some analysts have suggested that this site does involve tunneling associated with an underground full-scale nuclear weapon test. In such a scenario, the tunnel would go into the hill and likely down well underground. However, this construction site is close to many buildings at Parchin. As mentioned above, it is only about 1.2 kilometers from the site suspected of being involved in nuclear weapons work. It is about 2.5 kilometers north of another site at Parchin and about one kilometer west of another facility. Thus, this construction site appears too close to other facilities to be an underground nuclear weapon test site. Nonetheless, suspicions of such a purpose may continue, and thus an IAEA visit could alleviate those suspicions.
VIENNA (Reuters) - A senior U.S. official said on Thursday that satellite photographs of a suspected nuclear industrial site in Iran demonstrated its intention to develop atomic weapons, an allegation Tehran dismissed as "a new lie."
A prominent international expert said on Wednesday that new satellite images showed the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran may be a site for research, testing and production of nuclear weapons. Iran denies having an atomic bomb program.
"This clearly shows the intention to develop weapons," a senior U.S. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
He also accused the U.N. nuclear watchdog of suppressing information on Parchin in its latest report on Iran -- a charge denied by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
A top Iranian official said the accusation that Tehran was hiding an atomic site from U.N. inspectors was a carefully timed lie intended to influence a resolution on its nuclear program being discussed this week in Vienna by the IAEA governors.
"This is a new lie, like the last 13 lies based on news reports that have been proved to be lies," Hossein Mousavian, Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA board meeting told Reuters.
Washington and Tehran have been at daggers drawn since the 1979 Islamic revolution and the present U.S. government says Iran's leadership is "evil" and set on developing nuclear arms.
David Albright, an American former weapons inspector who heads the Institute for Science and International Security think tank, made the allegation about Parchin on Wednesday. He also said the IAEA had asked to inspect Parchin but had been ignored.
Mousavian said: "They have not asked to see the site."
Asked if there had been a request on Parchin, IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky would say only that it was "discussing with the Iranian authorities ... dual-use equipment and materials."
He dismissed as "baseless" the suggestion by the U.S. official that the IAEA had concealed information on Parchin. EVIDENCE DEBATE
The agency's chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, said this week he was not convinced Iran's activities were entirely peaceful but that there was no hard evidence to prove the U.S. belief Tehran was using its nuclear power program as a front to build weapons.
Western intelligence agencies have recognized Parchin as a potential chemical, explosives and munitions production site since the 1990s. In November 2003, a Tehran parliamentarian complained publicly about spending on atomic technology and identified Parchin as a site for such activity.
Mousavian said the latest accusation was aimed at influencing talks on a draft resolution that could set the stage for a November showdown at the IAEA, which could in turn lead to Iran's case going to the sanctions-wielding U.N. Security Council, as Washington has demanded for more than a year.
France, Britain and Germany are in a sixth round of talks with IAEA board hard-liners -- the United States, Australia and Canada -- to find a compromise on the wording of a text on Iran. The Europeans favor more negotiations with Tehran.
Negotiators from the six states were close to an agreement in private talks on Thursday and indicated they might have a final text of a resolution that could be adopted on Friday.
The most contentious of the U.S.-backed proposals is for an "automatic trigger" leading to Iran being reported to the Security Council for possible economic sanctions if it does not stop its uranium enrichment program by Oct. 31.
(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Tehran and Francois Murphy in Vienna)
The Movement's Coordinator, Aryo B. Pirouznia, will participate in the "Views" program of the popular and Los Angeles based Persian speaking "Radio Voice of Iran" (KRSI), on Friday September 17, 2004.
This live Q&A program, hosted by the well respected KRSI's Ms. Pari Saffari, will start from 02:30 AM of Friday in Iran's local time (06:00 PM US EST = 23:00 GMT of Thursday Sep. 16th). It will be broadcasted via satellite worldwide and will be relayed in main N. American and some European cities by KRSI's affiliated local radio stations.
It will be also audible via KRSI's Internet website located at: http://www.krsi.net/us-en/livewebcast.asp
The discussion will be mainly focused on Senator John Kerry's campaign, President George W. Bush's support of Iranian opponents and the prospects of the future US Presidential elections in reference to Iran and its Freedom Movement. Other related topics, such as, Mr. Kerry's Iranian connection Vs. the Movement and its Coordinator, and the desperate tries of the Islamic regime's lobbyists and apologists who are intenting to boost the Kerry campaign will be debated as well.
The recorded program will become available, after the discussion, on the KRSI's archives located at: http://www.krsi.net/archive/archive.asp?archive=10
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