Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - October 11, 2004 [EST]- IRAN LIVE THREAD - "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
Posted on 10/10/2004 10:00:28 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.
Russia opposes referral of Iran to UN Security Council
www.chinaview.cn 2004-10-11 10:44:38
BEIJING, Oct. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Russia says it opposes a US proffer to refer Iran's nuclear case to the UN Security Council.
Visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the remarks in Tehran at a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharazi.
Lavrov said that any unconstructive proposal is premature, and Russia expects the cooperation between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to continue.
Accusing Iran of developing nuclear weapons secretly, Washington is pressing the IAEA to refer Iran's case to the UN Security Council.
The IAEA last month adopted a resolution, urging Iran to suspend all of the activities related to nuclear activities and fully cooperate with the inspectors. The resolution was rejected by Iran, who was angered and termed it as "illegal".
Iran, Russia close to nuclear agreement
www.chinaview.cn 2004-10-11 10:36:06
BEIJING, Oct. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Iran and Russia have announced that an agreement on return of spent nuclear fuel from Iran to Russia has come to the final stage, paving the way for the operation of the plant.
The announcement was made at a joint press conference held in Tehran by Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who arrived here earlier in the day for a two-day visit.
Bushehr plant, Iran's first nuclear power plant, is being built with Russia's help in a Persian Gulf island in the southern province of Bushehr.
The construction of the plant, formerly aided by other western countries such as Germany and Spain, has been delayed for several times since its start in 1974 due to volatile international and domestic situations.
In order to prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons with spent fuel, Russia conditions delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran on an agreement signed between the two sides assuring all spent fuel would be returned to Russia.
The repeated failures in reaching the agreement have delayed the operation of the Bushehr nuclear plant.
Iranian official denies to have welcomed Kerry's nuclear offer
A senior Iranian official Sunday denied a report which said Tehran would welcome Senator John Kerry's proposal for a 'great bargain' to solve dispute over Iran's nuclear program, IRNA reported from Tehran.
"US presidential candidate John Kerry's proposal is part of his electoral campaigning and we are not interested in being drawn into such issues," head of the foreign policy committee at Iran's Supreme National Security Council Hossein Mousavian said.
Reuters news agency had quoted him as having welcomed the proposal, virtually made by vice presidential candidate Senator John Edwards.
Edwards had said that Kerry would be willing to supply Iran with nuclear fuel for power generation if Tehran abandons its own fuel-making capability and if Iran did not accept this offer, it would confirm Iran wanted to make an atom bomb.
In a fax sent to IRNA, Mousavian said, "Reuters news agency has filed a news as if I had welcomed Kerry's proposal.
"But we are rejecting direct negotiations with Washington about Iran's nuclear program because of the United States' antagonistic policies."
Washington accuses Tehran of trying to make atomic bombs, a charge which Iran strongly denies, stressing that its nuclear program is directed at electricity generation.
The United States is also campaigning to report Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
Last month, the Europeans opposed Washington's demand to set an October 31 ultimatum for Tehran to fully suspend uranium enrichment or report Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
Mousavian recounted US animosity towards the Islamic Republic, including Washington's support for the former regime of Saddam Hussein during the 1980-1988 war between the two neighbors.
The official stressed that 'the Islamic Republic of Iran will consider any constructive American proposal for recognizing Iran's legitimate right to peaceful nuclear technology, including fuel cycle'.
"Iran, as a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), must be allowed to pursue its peaceful nuclear program and its legitimate right of having access to peaceful nuclear technology must be respected," Mousavian said.
The official stressed that Tehran was ready to suspend uranium enrichment in order to build confidence, but rejected to halt such activities for good.
"Iran is ready to build trust so that its uranium enrichment activities remain peaceful, but we do not agree to halting uranium enrichment (for good)," he said.
"We do not reject suspension of uranium enrichment for confidence building, provided that Iran's full right to nuclear fuel cycle is recognized," Mousavian added.
The IAEA Board of Governors approved a resolution last month, setting a November 25 deadline for a full review of Iran's nuclear program and calling on Tehran to 'immediately' suspend all uranium enrichment activities.
Mousavian reiterated Iran's rejection of the resolution, saying the country would only consider it 'in the framework of political understanding'.
"We do not accept any request for suspension of uranium enrichment in the framework of the IAEA treaties, since uranium enrichment is legitimate according to the agency's laws and the resolution has gone beyond them," he said.
Iran has already dismissed the world nuclear watchdog's demand to freeze uranium enrichment, saying the country does not accept any obligation in this respect.
"Any resolution which seeks to bind us to suspension (of uranium enrichment) is unacceptable and we will not accept such an obligation," Hassan Rowhani, who is secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, has said.
"The Islamic Republic has never accepted the suspension under a resolution, thus the country cannot be obliged on that and Iran can only be asked through negotiations to (continue) the suspension," he said after the IAEA adopted its resolution on Sept 18.
October 10, 2004
Agence France Presse
TEHRAN -- Three members of an obscure Shiite Muslim sect and two policemen have been killed in fresh clashes in northwestern Iran on Sunday, the student news agency ISNA reported Sunday.
The deaths occurred after members of the Ali-Alahi cult -- who were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles -- attacked a police headquarters in the region of Mian-Doab near the city of Mahabad.
The report, quoting provincial police spokesman Shahnam Rezaie, said several other people were injured.
On September 29, police in the area were attacked by the group in an incident that left three members of the cult and one policeman dead. The previous week news reports said two senior local police officials died in clashes in the same area.
The Ali-Allahi (roughly meaning "Ali is God") group has been described here as heretical. Imam Ali is considered by Shiite Muslims to have been the first successor of the Prophet Mohammed and their first imam, or spiritual leader, but the cult sees him as an incarnation of God.
A local official also told AFP the apparent leader of the cult, identified as Said Agha Nazem, was posing as the 12th Shiite Imam, Mahdi, who is known to Shiites as the "hidden Imam" after he disappeared in the year 873 AD.
Shiite Muslims believe Imam Mahdi will one day return to earth and bring with him justice and peace.
In recent months, followers of the Ali-Allahi group have held small protests in Tehran and in the central clerical capital of Qom.
Fresh deadly clashes rocked, today, the Northwestern City of Mian-do-Ab as armed assailants made a surprise attack against the Security HQ. The action has resulted in several deaths and injured among the regime forces, including Colonel Razmjoo, and three of the attackers.
Heavy damages have been made to the installation and military materials by the un-identified commando's rocket propelled grenades and assault guns.
The Islamic regime's officials and its propaganda tools sized by panic are intending to portray the armed opponents as members of a religious cult, more fanatic than themselves, but residents qualify them as freedom fighters targeting the end of Mullahcracy. The official number of today's deaths have been announced as five but other reports are stating about a much higher number.
The today's attack marks a big shift in the deadly clashes which have rocked the region since September 22nd, as, it shows the gradual organization of the armed opposition and its initiative to strike the regime's military forces. Many in the region have, already, rallied the armed opposition and nightly attacks are carried against the regime forces and interests.
Already several militiamen, including two regional commanders, were killed in last month's clashes despite the massive use of the Pasdaran Force's Attack helicopters against the rebels and villagers of the nearby "Seh-Tapeh".
Armed struggle is in constant raise as a majority of Iranians are believing that the Islamic regime will not step down from political power by peaceful means.
AS INTERNATIONAL CONCERN mounts about Iran's nuclear aspirations, a fractious debate is emerging in Washington over what to do if multilateral diplomacy fails to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear program.
Some basic facts are agreed upon: that Iran's nuclear program has become broadly popular in that country and has given further political strength and cohesion to a clerical regime that has also been under growing internal pressure from its population to reform. But here consensus ends.
To some American observers, these facts imply that the United States should grit its teeth and deal directly with a regime that calls America the Great Satan, perhaps even offering to lift US sanctions in exchange for Tehran abandoning its nuclear program. Another faction believes the United States should pursue the Bush administration's current course of multilateral diplomacy to its logical conclusion: Encourage the International Atomic Energy Agency to report Iran in noncompliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to the UN Security Council, thus triggering discussion of a host of various punitive measures, from travel bans and an oil embargo to possible enforced disarmament.
To another group, however, the current facts argue for an entirely different solution: Change the Iranian regime, their thinking goes, and the nuclear issue will take care of itself.
Leading the charge in favor of this idea is neoconservative writer and political operative Michael Ledeen. For years, Ledeen -- currently the Freedom Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and acontributing editor at National Review -- has argued that the chief source of international terrorism in the world is Tehran. In numerous articles and his most recent book, "The War Against the Terror Masters" (2002), Ledeen has insisted not only that overthrowing the regime in Tehran should have come before military intervention in Iraq (though he continues to strongly support that operation), but that it would be relatively easy. "You don't have to fire a shot," he told The New York Sun in November 2002. "The Iranians are dying to bring down the government themselves."
While Ledeen's argument did not prevail then, it is gaining attention now, in particular as European-led diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to curtail its nuclear program have faltered in recent months. Earlier this year, the White House considered a secret policy directive that included a proposal to destabilize the government in Tehran. Preoccupied with the insurgency in post-war Iraq, and facing opposition from the State Department, the Bush administration put further consideration of the plan on hold. But there are signs that it is returning to the fore. In July, Senators Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced the Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2004, which declared that "it should be the policy of the United States to support regime change for the Islamic Republic of Iran and to promote the transition to a democratic government to replace that regime" and would authorize the president to "provide assistance to foreign and domestic pro-democracy groups opposed to the non-democratic Government of Iran." (The bill has been referred to the Foreign Relations Committee for further consideration.)
The regime change idea is generating controversy both inside and outside the Bush administration, not least because it is Ledeen himself who is most vigorously championing it. For inseparable from Ledeen's decades-long fascination with Iran and fervent belief that it is on the verge of democratic revolution is Ledeen's own controversial history with America's Iran policy, his zeal for the covert, and his disdain for sanctioned bureaucratic channels for US foreign policy making.
It was Ledeen who, as a consultant to Alexander Haig, President Reagan's secretary of state, helped broker the initial secret arms-for-hostages deal with Iran in 1985 that became part of the Iran-Contra scandal. More recently, he introduced his partner in that deal, Parisian-based Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, to two Farsi-speaking Pentagon officials, Lawrence A. Franklin and Harold Rhode, interested in discussing the regime change idea. In late August, the meetings drew new attention after it was reported that the FBI was investigating whether Franklin had passed the classified draft national security directive on Iran to officials with the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC. In addition to Ghorbanifar (who is alleged to have long ties to both the Iranian and the Israeli governments), the meeting also included a former senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who reportedly had intelligence on dissident ranks within the Iranian security services.
The regime-change idea is greeted with skepticism by many Iran experts. A high-profile task force at the Council on Foreign Relations, headed by former Carter national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA director Robert Gates, published a report this summer casting doubt on the prospects for a democratic revolution in Iran any time soon, and recommending that Washington therefore pursue a focused dialogue with Tehran on its nuclear program and other regional security issues."
Despite considerable political flux and popular dissatisfaction, Iran is not on the verge of another revolution," the CFR report said. "Direct US efforts to overthrow the Iranian regime are therefore not likely to succeed. The ferment of recent years demonstrates that the Iranian people will eventually change the nature of their government for the better."
But eventually isn't soon enough for Ledeen, who concludes most every article on the issue by imploring "faster, please." Ledeen believes that with a little push, the United States could help revolutionary efforts among Iranian exiles and dissidents along. This won't require military action, he insists, just "money, communications gear and good counsel."
While prospects for success -- at least in the short term -- of any US effort to back regime change in Iran are not widely considered high, some foreign-policy hands concede that it may be worth a try, given the even less attractive (and equally unpredictable) alternatives. Reuel Marc Gerecht, a Farsi-speaking former CIA officer now at the American Enterprise Institute, described them bluntly in a recent interview: "Punt, or strike" -- either let Iran go nuclear (as early as 2006), or strike their nuclear facilities.
Given the grim alternatives, Gerecht says, "I see no reason . . . why the US government cannot develop clandestine techniques for aiding certain Iranian factions. But you cannot do these things quickly. I think the Bush administration is deeply divided on this issue."
But even some who are sympathetic to the idea of nonviolent regime change in Tehran question whether Ledeen and other supporters of the idea really grasp the "nonviolent" part of the idea -- or the tangled political realities of Iran. If the Unites States starts down this road, will it end up with a bloodless revolution like the one that brought down Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 -- or a mess that looks more like Iraq?
Today, support for regime change in Iran doesn't come only from neoconservatives who believe, like Ledeen and Gerecht, that long-term US security depends on spreading democratic revolution in the Middle East. Current circumstances have produced an interesting convergence of regime-change agendas by groups with widely differing goals, intellectual inspirations, and visions for what a future government of Iran should look like -- not to mention what role the United States should play in any transformation. They also include Iranian exile and opposition groups hostile to the Tehran regime (and often, each other), pro-Israel activists concerned about what a nuclear Iran would mean for Israel, and activists and academics associated with the nonviolent resistance movement credited with helping empower the Serbian opposition to peacefully overthrow the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000.
The convergence is highly imperfect. Mistrust between different factions runs high, including among the various Iranian groups. They range from the monarchists surrounding Reza Pahlavi, son of the former shah, who is now based in Potomac, Md.; Western-educated writers and intellectuals such as Johns Hopkins's Azar Nafisi, author of "Reading Lolita in Tehran"; and the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group that maintains an office in Washington. (While the NCRI enjoys the support of some influential Middle East experts, it was placed on the State Department's list of designated terrorist organizations in August 2003 because of its connection to the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK), or People's Mujaheddin, a highly controversial group that was sponsored for decades by Saddam Hussein and currently has 3,000 members under US guard at Camp Ashraf in Iraq.)
How neoconservative regime-change advocates like Ledeen fit in the mix is partly a story of overlapping agendas, partly a papering over of vast differences -- differences intensified by wariness over the neoconservatives' role in championing the US invasion of Iraq.
Case in point: A potential ally in the struggle for regime change in Iran is the loose network of NGOs, academic experts, and practitioners known variously as the nonviolent resistance network, or the strategic nonviolence movement. Based on the writings of Harvard political scientist Gene Sharp, the movement was instrumental in helping train the Serbian student group Otpor (Resistance) in techniques that enabled them to peacefully overthrow Milosevic. That struggle won the backing of the Clinton administration, and has been cited approvingly by Ledeen and other neoconservatives (despite their usual disdain for all things Clinton). More recently, nonviolent resistance experts have been involved in training democratic opposition groups from Burma to Georgia to Zimbabwe in their techniques.
At the heart of the strategy is the concept that through a sustained series of nonviolent resistance actions, a country's population can persuade the agents of a dictator's repression -- usually the police or army -- that the people have withdrawn their support for the regime. In so doing, the theory goes, they can get the security services to switch sides.
Some in the movement see potential for such a transformation in Iran. "There is plenty of political space in Iran for people to use now," says Jack DuVall, president of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, a Washington-based organization that provides educational materials and training on nonviolent resistance strategies and techniques. "For the last few years, there have been multiple reports of dissatisfaction with the regime even within the Revolutionary Guards. There have even been clerics, ayatollahs, who have strongly criticized the regime. This is not a society in lockstep with the ruling group."
Others question whether the involvement of forces from outside the country would help or hinder the process. "I think if people are looking for any more from the outside, from the Iranian exiles, it's dead on arrival," says an Iranian-American activist recently back from Iran, who asked that his name not be used in order to protect his Iranian contacts. "It's a nonstarter. Because there's no opposition figure who's managed to convince both the Iranian community in the United States, or the people in Iran, that they have the ability to kick out the regime and that they are democrats."
This contrasts sharply with the vision that Ledeen sketches in his frequent writings on the subject, which emphasize an indispensable and central role for the US government. In a recent e-mail interview, Ledeen suggested that whether the push comes from inside or outside Iran is just a small detail that distracts from the larger goal."
Most successful revolutions have had external support," Ledeen wrote. "That includes the American, French, and Russian revolutions." Besides, he asserts, "Most Iranians believe that American support is crucial for the spread of freedom, and that unless there is American support, efforts to topple the regime are doomed."
Some Iranian opposition activists agree that the United States signaling to Iran in a decisive way that it wants regime change may embolden the internal opposition, as Reagan's labelling the Soviet Union "the Evil Empire" and calling on Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall may have emboldened dissidents to step up resistance to Soviet totalitarianism."
So our Natan Sharansky sitting in Iranian jail has to feel that something serious has changed in US policy," says Shary Ahy, a Virginia-based Iranian-American political scientist who is involved in a new effort to build a coalition of Iranian democratic opposition groups inside and outside the country. "Instead, they've been hearing a lot of double-talk from the US."
While Ahy wants the United States to commit itself to democratic regime change in Iran, he says it is crucial that it clearly state that this does not include any military action. "No one in the Iranian opposition I have talked to wants military action," he says.
This perhaps goes to the heart of the debate over American support for nonviolent regime change -- the fear that it won't really be nonviolent, and that it may in fact open the way for military intervention, either by Iranian opposition groups covertly armed by the United States or its proxies, or the direct involvement of American troops.
After all, several years ago, when the regime-change movement that became the Iraq war was gaining ground, some prominent neoconservatives, including former CIA director James Woolsey (who served as Ledeen's attorney during the Iran-Contra investigations) and Paul Wolfowitz (now deputy defense secretary), insisted that Saddam Hussein could be toppled with just US airpower and Special Forces, with indigenous Iraqi opposition groups, such as Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress and the Kurdish peshmerga, serving as the bulk of the ground troops. If the Bush administration pursues nonviolent regime change, will Iran end up looking more like Serbia or like Iraq -- with nukes? ...
IRAN CONSIDERS BIDS FROM EUROPEANS
|LONDON [MENL] -- Iran has been examining bids from five European companies for the development of a giant oil field.
The OPEC News Agency said Iran has been considering bids from Royal Dutch/Shell, Norsk Hydro, Repsol, Statoil, and Total. The bids were for the development of Iran's Yadavaran oil field.
U.S. companies have been banned from participating in energy projects in Iran that exceed $20 million.
Iran has also been negotiating liquid natural gas marketing deals with companies from China, India and Spain. Iran has offered the winner of any LNG bid a 20 percent share in the Yadavaran development project, the news agency said.
UK trade team to visit mullahs of IranOct 10, 2004, 17:28
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"the apparent leader of the cult, identified as Said Agha Nazem, was posing as the 12th Shiite Imam, Mahdi"
That can get you in trouble.....
Was that taken in Iran or Germany?
I don't think these photographers should be showing the faces of people they catch in 'compromising' situations.
'Evening Newspaper', Croat and Bosniak daily newspaper from Mostar
American Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily on BiH Terrorist Organization
Saudi and Iranian governments are working together on supporting the anti-Russian operations in Chechnya and they are building bases for future operation in the North Cyprus, which is under the Turkish control. During 2004 this organization has operationally and financially spread and opened new offices in BiH and Sandzak, in Southern Serbia. Defense and Foreign Affairs Daily mentioned a secret Vahhabi terrorist organization called Kvadrat (Square), which was established in 1995 in BiH. The members of that organization are practicing the original Islam ideology and recruiting children who stayed without parents during the war in BiH to go and fight in Chechnya. They are teaching those children the Vahhabi ideology and terrorist guerilla war tactics. The clear participation of the Iranian Intelligence Service- VEVAK in the Kvadrat youths training supported by Saudis funding shows that Iran and Saudi Arabia are working close together in the Islamic mission. Bosnian sources claim that Kvadrat is an organization connected to Al Qaeda. This organization operates in the triangle between Zenica, Tuzla, and Sarajevo in BiH. It is believed that certain Pezo Adnan is the operational leader of the group and he receives orders from Vienna. He lives in Zenica and his nickname is Acit. Acit was a member of El Mujaheed terrorist unit in BiH. Kvadrat has started training orphan children in 2001 at the Jablanica Lake in a small place called Podi. One of their main activities in 2004 was to provide fighters to go and help their Islamist brothers in Chechnya. One of those fighters is Kenan Bijedic who was arrested in Turkey on his way to Chechnya. This analysis also claims that this organization receives financial help from an innocent organization called Saudi High Committee for Orphan Children located in Sarajevo. SFOR troops searched their offices several times. Al Haramain also finances Kvadrat organization. Al Haramain is on the US list of people and organizations connected with terrorism. Bosnian Muslim Mohamed Porca controls Kvadrat organization from Vienna. He is also connected with other Islamic organizations in Austria and Germany and he also collects funding for this organization. Kvadrat organization opened its offices in BiH and Southern Serbia as well. The opening of Kvadrat offices in Serbia shows that they are directly financed from the drug trafficking business going from Afghanistan, through Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey, to Albania and then through Kosovo and Raska (Serbia) to BiH and further to Western Europe. The main radical activists in Kvadrat are: Samir Softic, Samir Susa, Nisvet Kolisic, Emir Dzafic (born in 1975, President of Kvadrat in Visoko). Page 13 BB (Summary)
RAWFORD, Tex., Oct. 10 - Under pressure to explain anew his decision to invade Iraq in light of a damaging report from the C.I.A.'s top weapons inspector, President Bush appears to be quietly redefining one of the signature philosophies of his administration - his doctrine of pre-emptive military action.
Traditionally, pre-empting an enemy is all about urgency, striking before the enemy strikes. In the prelude to the invasion in March of last year, Mr. Bush and his aides stopping short of saying Saddam Hussein posed an "imminent" threat. Still, they used urgent-sounding language at every turn to explain why they could not afford to wait for inspectors to complete their work, or for the United Nations Security Council to come to a consensus on authorizing military action. "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud," he said in a speech delivered Oct. 7, 2002.
But the C.I.A. report released last week, written by Charles A. Duelfer, described the evidence as anything but clear and the peril as far from urgent. Mr. Hussein's military power began waning after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the report concluded. While Mr. Hussein most probably wanted to rebuild his illicit weapons, there is no evidence he had started by the time Mr. Bush was delivering that speech.
So over the last five days, with some subtle changes of language and a new previously undiscussed justification for the war, Mr. Bush appears to have expanded the conditions for a pre-emptive military strike. He no longer talks about urgency. Instead, for the first time, he has begun to argue that a military invasion is justified if an opponent is seeking to avoid United Nations sanctions - "gaming the system" in his words.
"We did not find the stockpiles we thought were there," Mr. Bush told supporters in Waterloo, Iowa, on Saturday. "But I want you to remember what the Duelfer report said. It said that Saddam Hussein was gaming the oil-for-food program to get rid of sanctions. And why? Because he had the capability and knowledge to rebuild his weapon programs. And the great danger we face in the world today is that a terrorist organization could end up with weapons of mass destruction."
Then, returning to the line he has used in his debates with Senator John Kerry, and one that always elicits applause, he added: "Knowing what I know today, I would have made the same decision. The world is safer with Saddam in a prison cell."
Taken at face value, Mr. Bush appears to be saying that under his new standard, a country merely has to be thinking about developing illicit weapons at some time. "He's saying intent is enough," said Joseph Nye, a Harvard professor who under the Clinton administration headed the National Intelligence Council, the group that assesses for the president when countries have trespassed that hard-to-define line.
"The classical definition for pre-emption was 'imminent threat,' " Mr. Nye said. Then, with the development of the president's "National Security Policy of the United States," that moved to something less than imminent, because, as Mr. Bush argued, it is often hard to know when a country is about to attack. Now, said Mr. Nye, "the Duelfer report pushed him into a box where capability is not the standard, but merely intention."
Of course, discerning changes of policy in the heat of a political campaign is always risky. Candidates will often push a policy or a doctrine to the breaking point to differentiate themselves from their opponents. So as the campaign has come down to its last three weeks, Mr. Bush has torqued his stump speech to make it clear that in a post-Sept. 11 world, he will strike quickly, while Mr. Kerry hesitates, negotiates or creates a "global test" for action.
The "global test" phrase comes from a statement by Mr. Kerry in the first presidential debate that Mr. Bush now regularly throws back at him. "Now he says he wants a global test before we take action to defend our security," Mr. Bush said on Saturday in Chanhassen, Minn., waiting for the crowd to yell "Boo!"
When the audience obliged, he added that "The problem is that the senator can never pass his own test," going on to list military action that Mr. Kerry has opposed, including in the Persian Gulf war.
In fact, Mr. Kerry has not done much to define when he would take pre-emptive action. He has said he would reserve the right, and criticized Mr. Bush for making pre-emption a doctrine. In the second debate on Friday, Mr. Kerry made it clear that Iraq did not meet his test: "Gut-check time," he said. "Was this really going to war as a last resort?"
But when the subject turned to Iran, Mr. Kerry tried to sound more hard-line than Mr. Bush, who he said had ignored nuclear developments in both Iran and North Korea. "If we have to get tough with Iran, believe me, we will get tough," he said, without describing how close he would let the country get to a nuclear weapon before acting. Mr. Bush, in an interview with The New York Times in August, declined to draw that line, either.
The result is that America's allies - and perhaps its voters - are more confused than ever about what will drive Washington to war. To listen to Mr. Bush in the last few days, a country that merely desires to obtain the world's worst weapons is a potential target - but he has clearly avoided threatening Iran and North Korea, the two nations racing fastest toward such weapons. To listen to Mr. Kerry, Iraq's intentions to rebuild its arsenal some day clearly did not meet the Kerry test: Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, he said the other day, "may well be the last two people on the planet who won't face the truth about Iraq."
It may be that the election must pass before Washington sends a clear signal. "If I had a piece of advice for America's allies," a senior foreign policy adviser to Mr. Bush said a few weeks ago, "it's this: Turn your television sets off until this is all over."
IT is a rather surprising by product of the War on Terror: For the first time, a consensus seems to be emerging among Islamic authorities worldwide that Muslims in the West should participate in democratic politics.
Before taking credit for this, President Bush might note that these authorities tend to favor votes for his opponent. But Sen. John Kerry's pleasure in that must be tempered by the awareness that those authorities favor him only because they are quite sure he will permit the undoing of Bush's work in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The emerging consensus could become a turning point for Islamic theology. It drives a hole in the cardinal concept of "association and exoneration" (al-wala'a wa al-bara'a), which means that Muslims should steer clear of non-Muslims, and associate only with fellow believers.
The consensus also challenges the classical Islamic division of the world into two parts: the House of Faith (Dar al-Iman), meaning Muslim countries, and "The House of War" (Dar al-Harb Dar), meaning countries ruled by the "infidel." The emerging view, it seems, would allow for a third category of countries to be recognized as the "House of Truce" (Dar al-Sulh), of which the United States would be one.
By declaring participation in Western elections "licit" (yajuz), Islamic theology is abandoning two traditional positions:
* Muslims, although allowed to spend time in non-Muslim lands for trade and/or missionary activity, should not settle in countries ruled by non-Muslims. Muslims owe no loyalty to a non-Muslim authority which is, by definition, an expression of "un-belief" (kufr). A Muslim is not allowed to pay taxes to an "infidel" government or fight in its army.
* Islam, while encouraging consultation and consensus, rejects lawmaking by mortals, and is opposed to any election in principle.
Both positions have been undermined by events. Almost 300 million Muslims, a quarter of the world total, now live in countries under "infidel" rule, including an estimated 6 million to 9 million in the United States.
The first fatwa (religious edict) allowing Muslims to vote in non-Islamic countries was issued at Aligarh, India, in 1947. Since then, Muslims, 16 percent of India's population, have played am active part in all elections.
For American Muslims, taking part in elections was declared "licit" at the 1999 Islamic Summit in Detroit, Mich. A year later the European Islamic Council for Fatwa and Research issued a similar fatwa.
As the debate has heated up in recent months, more and more fatwas have been issued. Some theologians have gone so far as to declare that taking part in elections is not only "licit" but an "obligation" (wajib) for Muslims in non-Islamic lands.
The theologians who say taking part in elections is "licit" include the Egyptian Ali Jad al-Haq, the Lebanese Muhammad-Hussein Falallah, the Iraqi Abdul-Karim Zaydan and the Saudi Muhammad-Saleh al-Munjed.
Their argument is that, though Muslims owe no loyalty to non-Islamic states, they must be free to decide when their participation in elections serves the interests of Islam. "What matters is whether or not any action is good for Islam," says al-Munjed. "No vote should be cast unless the voter is certain that it will benefit the faith and his Muslim brethren."
Theologians insisting that voting is an "obligation" include Yussuf al-Qaradawi (an Egyptian based in Qatar), the Lebanese Faisal al-Mawlawi and the Iranian Makarem Shirazi. Their argument is that Muslims living in non-Muslims lands should regard themselves as missionaries whose task is to convert the citizenry to Islam and, in time, establish an Islamic state. Thus if taking part in elections is a means of achieving those goals, it is incumbent on Muslims to do so.
"Wherever they are, Muslims should work towards the day when humanity is united in the only true faith, which is Islam," says Qaradawi. "If taking part in elections is one way of achieving that, it is an obligation."
Some theologians claim that the Koran, which contains all possible and imaginable knowledge of the past, the present and the future, has anticipated and answered the question.
Salah al-Din Sultan, who has devoted a book to the subject, quotes verses from two of the Koran's most famous Surahs, The Cow (al-Baqarah) and The Banquet (al-Ma'edah), to show that voting should be regarded as a form of "bearing witness" (shihadah) to what a believer regards as right. A similar view is expressed by the Iranian Ayatollah Muhammad Yazdi. He sees elections as a method of "commanding the Good and combating evil," an Islamic duty.
Both recall a fatwa by Al-Izz bin-Abdul-Salam that makes it incumbent on Muslims to "snatch away every bit of power they can" from the "infidel."
British Muslims have used that fatwa to inflict defeat on candidates from Tony Blair's Labor Party in a number of recent local and by-elections. The idea is that, facing the possibility of losing the next general election as a result of Muslim votes for the opposition, Blair would be forced to abandon his alliance with the United States in the War on Terror.
One problem remains, however. It concerns the attitude of Muslims towards laws that contravene Islamic jurisprudence (shariah). Most theologians, whether they regard voting as merely "licit" or an "obligation," agree on one thing: Muslim voters should not vote for legislation that contravenes the Shariah and, if such is passed, have a duty to disregard or, when necessary, actively oppose it. "The believers should do what is good for Islam," says Shirazi. "There could be no ambiguity [about that]."
The debate has generated much excitement among American Muslims, who are reportedly registering to vote in record numbers. According to the latest polls by John Zogby, almost 60 percent of them intend to vote for Kerry.
Arab newspapers are full of editorials urging American Muslims to "throw Bush out of the White House" as a prelude to "kicking the United States out of Iraq and Afghanistan."
"We may not be able to throw the American army out of Afghanistan and Iraq," says Hassan Nasr-Allah, leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah (Party of God). "But we can throw George W. Bush out of the White House."
Muslim support for Kerry is not inspired by any love for the senator but by the perception that he would withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan , thus allowing the establishment of Islamic regimes in Baghdad and Kabul.
... The difference is that Bush is aggressive, and Kerry is not."
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