Commentary > John Hughes
from the October 27, 2004 edition
Intelligence sources say this is reason why conservatives have closed ranks in support of developing nuclear weapons and increasing aid to terrorists.
The reactionary conservatives currently ruling in Teheran have decided to go into laager, and rally around their most extreme hard-liners headed by Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati.
Jannati, who heads the Guardians Council, the shadowy body that ensures all parliamentary legislation conforms to the regimes Islamic values, is the most reactionary and hard line figure among the band of Ayatollahs ruling Iran. He was the driving force behind the wholesale disqualification of reformist candidates that ensured the conservatives would win the last parliamentary elections by default, paving the way for them to assume total control of the country.
Since then however there have been growing mummers of dissent, especially after the newly empowered and emboldened conservatives launched a crackdown against immodest dress and other issues of morality.
According to intelligence sources the conservatives are aware that their tactics have cost them their legitimacy, and that they rule Iran solely by virtue of brute force. As a result, they fear that if the US decides to up the ante in its efforts to overthrow the regime, it cannot bank on the loyalty of Iranian youth, who make up over 50% of the population and are the most disaffected segment of the population.
At a recently held meeting between Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Expediency Council Chief Akbar Hashmi Rafsanjani and Guardians Council Chief Ahmed Jannati, it was decided to press ahead in developing nuclear weapons despite the risk. The most forceful advocate of this policy was Jannati, who argued that only possession of a nuclear bomb can ensure Uncle Sam does not cross the Iraqi border to pay a less than friendly visit.
Rafsanjani, the former president who is considered the regimes diplomatic point man agreed, saying the risk of a US invasion was greater than the risk of US-EU coordinated international action against Teheran over the nuclear issue.
The conservatives also hope to use the nuclear issue to encourage nationalism, in order to regain public legitimacy, and consolidate their somewhat tenuous power over the country.
The conservatives regained control of the Iranian parliament in the February elections, after Jannati masterminded the campaign to disqualify most leading reformists as un-Islamic.
They are now eyeing the presidency, as reform-minded Mohammed Khatami's second term runs out next year. They fear a reformist candidate might win next years presidential elections, and believe that having a nuclear weapon by then could generate enough nationalistic pride to enable their candidate to win.
They also decided to increase aid and support for Hezbollah, and Sunni terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Posted Tuesday, October 26, 2004
PARIS, 26 Oct. (IPS) Sharply divided, the ruling Iranian hard liners are blowing cold and hot on the country's position concerning the controversial nuclear programs, the debate centering on whether to continue cooperation with International community or ending it.
As the ultras are pushing hard, through the press and particularly the Majles, or parliament, for Iran to get out of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) an put an end to dialogue with the European so-called "Big 3", the moderates are suggesting a softer attitude, including talks with Britain, France and Germany.
"In order to prove the world that the Americans are lying in their allegations that Iran has secret plans to develop atomic weapons, we are voluntarily cooperating with IAEA", Hojjatoleslam Hasan Rohani, Tehran's top negotiator on nuclear issues with both the Vienna-based international nuclear watchdog and the European Trio said on Monday.
Talking to reporters after a Majles session Monday, Mr. Rohani said that Iran's cooperation with IAEA was not because of Europe but is aimed at proving that all US accusations against the Islamic Republic were "baseless and unfounded".
"The problem is that the US and some of its supporters are against Iran and the country should move its case ahead despite all obstacles being created by them", Mr. Rohani said, adding however that Iran has succeeded in making many progress regarding its nuclear case despite the fact that Washington has been demanding in all meetings that Iran's case should be referred to the United Nations Security Council for economic sanctions.
Asked what Iran would do in the event its nuclear case is sent to the Security Council, Mr. Rohani, who is also the Secretary of Iran's Supreme Council on National Security said emphatically that such a move, if taken, would be considered a "politically-motivated one", according to the official Iranian news agency IRNA.
"All activities of Iran concerning its nuclear projects have been transparent and legal, therefore, taking our case to the UN Security Council would be useless for those who are after it", he explained asking: "What the council is going to do now that Iran is to continue its cooperation within the framework of the international regulations?"
Observers and analysts told Iran Press service that Tehran is confident that if the issue is referred to the Security Council, Russia or China would veto any resolution that come hard on Iran, as Moscow is building Iran's first 1.000 megawats nuclear electricity plant and Peking has helpd the country's missile projects.
According to official plans, Iran needs to construct at least six more nuclear-powered electricity stations to satisfy its needs of electricity in the future.
However, the policy adopted by the Iranian negotiating team is bitterly criticized by the hard line wing of the ruling conservatives. Mrs. Raf'at Bayat, a lawmaker for the north-eastern province of Zanjan last week sharply attacked Mr. Rohani, pointing out that while the European Trio is all the time increasing its pressures on Iran, Mr. Rohani and his collaborators retreats in defeat, insisting on the continuation of dialogue.
She was referring to both the latest resolution of the IAEA's Board of Directors that called on the Islamic Republic to stop all its uranium enriching activities and a "package" presented latter offering Tehran fuel for its nuclear-powered electricity plants and possible investment by western major nuclear reactors manufacturers in future Iranian atomic projects for civilian use.
This last proposal, sponsored by the Big 3, received the lukewarm backing of the G 7, or the group of seven major industrial powers, namely Japan, Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy plus Russia.
The Majles, now the flag bearer of the opponents of nuclear cooperation, has menaced with the prospect of not ratifying the Additional Protocol to the NPT if the IAEA and Europe does not recognise the right of Iran to enriching uranium, a step that it is not forbidden under the NPT regulations.
Members of Majles signed a petition on Tuesday condemning the European proposal to suspending uranium enrichment and calling on the government not to heed such "an illegitimate demand".
Some 93 MMs said in their petition that the Europeans have ignored all the steps Iran has taken to build confidence over its nuclear program and attempted to strip Iran of the rights stipulated in the NPT.
"Ignoring all the measures Iran has taken to allay the concerns about national nuclear program, the European states have put forward illegitimate demands of halting uranium enrichment", lawmakers said in their petition, calling on the government not to accept the European proposal adding that since the Europeans did not appreciate the steps Iran took as confidence-building measures, the additional protocol should no longer take effect.
Hard line newspapers controlled by the conservatives have joined the chorus, urging the government of the embattled President Mohammad Khatami to take the country out of the NPT, as did Communist North Korea before.
On Sunday, the Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry that has also its hands in the nuclear negotiations rejected the latest "package" saying it was not "balanced" and did not answer Iranian demands.
According to Mr. Rohani, what Tehran wanted from both IAEA and the Europeans is to close Iran's nuclear case on the basis of legal documents in order to prove to the world that its nuclear programs are only for peaceful purposes.
"Our red line is that we can not accept double standards. We are a signatory of the Non Proliferation Treaty and we want our rights of access to advanced nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes to be officially and publicly accepted by the IAEA. We want the European three major powers to announce it openly", he stressed.
As for the latest report of the IAEA inspectors on Iran's nuclear case, IRNA quoted trhe cleric as having said that based on what has been announced by the UN nuclear watchdog, only two more issues have been left to be explained which were related to the P2s and contamination of Iran's nuclear equipment.
According to Mr. Rohani, the two issues are related to "third countries", which although he did not name, but was clear that it was Pakistan.
"It is possible that part of Iran's nuclear case has not been completed yet because a third state has not extended proper cooperation with the IAEA", Rohani said, adding, "that is the problem of the IAEA and the third country and it has nothing to do with the Islamic Republic".
As further talks between Iran and the EU 3 are expected to be held in Vienna on Wednesday 28 October, ahead of the next meeting of the IAEA'a directors scheduled for 25 November 2004, a meeting that the Americans wants it to be a final call for Iran to stop all its uranium enriching activities before sending the whole issue to the United Nations, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Monday that that there was still scope for negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
"We do need the Iranians to understand the international community does not find it acceptable that they develop nuclear weapons", Mr. Blair said in response to questions by journalists about the amount of pressures the world could put on Iran, one of the world's largest exporter of crude oil.
Asked whether Britain would join the US in launching military action against Iran over the disputes on its nuclear program, the Prime Minister said, "I don't know anyone who is talking about military action in Iran".
On Sunday, the UN's former chief arms inspector Hans Blix criticized the demands being put on Iran to permanently suspend the enrichment of uranium, even though it was entitled to do so under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In an interview with German broadcaster ARD, he urged Western nations to offer Iran concessions, He also warned against air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, saying that no nuclear weapons were being developed at such sites.
ENDS IRAN NUCLEAR 261004
BRUSSELS - A leading energy agency on Tuesday (26 October) warned that Europe, and the rest of the World, will become increasingly dependent on Middle Eastern oil in the next 25 years.
According to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) - an intergovernmental body - "more and more oil will come from fewer and fewer countries, primarily the Middle East members of OPEC".
The group's "World Energy Outlook" presented today in London, shows that World energy demands are likely to rise by 59% up to 2030, with 89% of that amount coming from fossil fuels.
The projections point to serious political and geostrategic challenges ahead for the EU with many of the World's proven reserves lying beneath volatile Middle Eastern countries.
According to a report published earlier this year by oil-giant BP, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia held more than 44% of the World's proven reserves at the end of 2003.
In a statement on Tuesday, the IEA said most of this increased trade will have to come through "vital chokepoints, sharply increasing the possibilities of supply disruption".
Gas use is also expected to double by 2030.
The European Commission estimates Algeria and Russia will make up 59% of European gas imports by 2020 - although down from 97% in 2000, given that increased imports from Libya, Azerbaijan, and Iran, still represent a substantial amount.
The report also highlights the need for vigorous action to "steer the global energy system onto a more sustainable path", according to IEA Director Claude Mandil.
VIENNA, Oct 27 (Reuters) - French, British and German officials are due to meet Iranian negotiators on Wednesday to discuss a European proposal that Tehran scrap its uranium enrichment programme in exchange for nuclear technology.
The two sides met to discuss the offer last week, but that meeting ended only with an agreement to continue talks.
If Iran rejects the European Union offer, diplomats say most European nations will back U.S. demands that Tehran be reported to the U.N. Security Council for possible economic sanctions when the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) governing board meets in November.
Iran's top security official, Hassan Rohani, indicated on Monday that Tehran may agree to the first part of the EU trio's deal -- an indefinite freeze on uranium enrichment activities.
Once that suspension is in place, the EU trio has pledged to negotiate a full solution, which could include help with Iran's civilian nuclear technology and a trade deal in return for scrapping nuclear fuel cycle activities for good.
But Hossein Mousavian, one of Iran's top nuclear negotiators, said on Tuesday: "We will not have any new offer at Wednesday's meeting but ... we will discuss the European proposal's ambiguities."
One European diplomat said there was concern Iran may agree to freeze enrichment and then drag out talks to buy time and ease political pressure as it did in a similar 2003 deal.
Iran last year agreed to temporarily halt all activities linked to uranium enrichment, a process that can produce bomb-grade material, and signed up to snap inspections of its nuclear facilities in a bid to counter U.S.-led charges that it has a covert nuclear arms programme.
Tehran says its nuclear programme is aimed at generating electricity to meet booming demand.
Tehran's suspension of enrichment itself has remained in place but it has resumed making and assembling centrifuges, the machines that enrich uranium. It has also said it plans to convert 37 tonnes of raw uranium into the feed material for centrifuges.
The IAEA, at its last board meeting in September, called on Iran to halt all such activities.
Hardline Iranian lawmakers, who control a majority in Iran's parliament, on Tuesday introduced a bill that would oblige the government to resume enrichment and halt snap inspections.
Government officials have said they would have no choice but to obey such a bill if enacted but diplomats said Iran was using it as a bargaining tool ahead of Wednesday's talks.
Meanwhile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) -- the political wing of the exiled group known as the People's Mujahideen Organisation (MKO) -- was angered by a section of the document outlining the EU trio's offer which said the EU would "continue to regard the MKO as a terrorist organisation" if Iran complied with the terms of the offer.
The NCRI said the issue of whether or not the MKO was a terrorist organisation had nothing to do with Iran's willingness to accept the offer and should be left out of the deal.
An NCRI spokesman said the group was planning a protest demonstration in Vienna on Wednesday.
The NCRI sparked the investigation of Iran's nuclear programme when it said in August 2002 that Iran was hiding a massive underground uranium enrichment site at Natanz and a heavy-water production plant at Arak.
Since then, an IAEA investigation has uncovered many previously hidden activities but no "smoking gun". (Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Paul Hughes in Tehran)
Iran may lodge complain against EU big three: MP
Tehran Times Political Desk
TEHRAN (MNA) -- Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Deputy Chairman Mohammad Nabi Rudaki said here on Tuesday that Iran has developed nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes within the framework of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and would make use of it in civilian industries.
If Germany, France, and Britain continue their current policies, Iran will certainly lodge an international complaint against them, he added.
Due to the United States pressure, international organizations, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the IAEA Board of Governors, refuse to admit the truth, despite the IAEA inspectors 1030-page report documenting the peaceful nature of Irans nuclear activities, Rudaki observed.
We address the United Nations, the IAEA, the United States, and the European Union, and call on them to make efforts to prevent the hostile nuclear activities of the Zionist regime and prevent the brutal massacre of innocent women and children in Palestine and Falluja, Iraq, Rudaki said.
Meanwhlie, MP Hamid Reza Hajbabayi of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee said on Tuesday that the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Hassan Rowhani, had not described Irans proposal, which is scheduled to be submitted to the EU on Wednesday, but apparently it guarantees Irans right to enrich uranium.
Hajbabayi told the Mehr News Agency that Iran should declare that its uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel cycle activities are red lines and reject all calls for the permanent suspension of such activities.
Under the current circumstances, the best proposal would be a quid pro quo deal in which the IAEA Board would agree to close Irans nuclear dossier in exchange for Iran temporarily suspending certain nuclear activities, he added.
Noting that any other plan would lead to a deadlock, Hajbabayi said that since the ambiguous points in Irans nuclear dossier have been cleared up, the Islamic Republic of Iran can now clarify its position for the Europeans.
He also stated that it is unlikely that Iranian and European Union officials will be able to reach a consensus on a specific plan at the Wednesday meeting.
Today, negotiators from France, Germany and the United Kingdom are set to resume talks with Iran over that country's nuclear ambitions. If top Iranian officials' remarks over the weekend indicate anything, it is that these talks, like the ones that preceded it, are likely to fail. The good news is that the Europeans are starting to notice.
It shouldn't have surprised anyone, but on Sunday, Hossein Mousavian, Iran's foreign policy chief, all but pre-emptively scratched the centerpiece of European negotiating efforts: a proposal to trade light-water reactors and uranium enriched outside Iran for a promise to suspend all domestic uranium enrichment activities. One of Mr. Mousavian's deputies rejected the proposal in its preliminary form, calling it "unbalanced" and promising to negotiate with unspecified "other countries." Meanwhile, Mr. Mousavian issued threats over the Europeans' vow that they will support sending Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions if matters can't be resolved. If the nuclear question is not answered within a month, they say the date of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting in Vienna to determine Iran's compliance then considering sanctions will be the required step.
The European vow to refer matters to the Security Council is the new element here. For months, the United States has been urging the IAEA to take such a route. But the Europeans have resisted, holding onto the notion that negotiations and concession-making could still work on Iran. The Iranian position this week proves that the game is up, and the Europeans are starting to acknowledge it, too.
As we've pointed out many times, Iran's track record on compliance is abysmal. A year ago, the IAEA itself issued a 30-page report detailing nearly 20 years of deception on the part of Tehran. But the IAEA and the Europeans have been slow to condem. Meanwhile, the mullahcrats use each moment to their advantage in their covert acquisition and development of nuclear technologies. Even the overt activities are moving forward. Agence France Presse reported Monday that a hardline faction of Iranian MPs are pushing legislation that would force the government to enrich uranium despite the international entreaties against so doing.
We're not expecting this week to be the last for concession-making when it comes to Iran. Nor are we holding our breath for a strong Security Council response to Iran's provocations. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has yet to weigh in, and we presume that China and Russia both of which maintain cordial relations with Iran and are heavily dependent on Iran for petroleum will play obstructionist roles if the Security Council were to consider sanctions. But it is heartening to see that the Europeans are beginning to realize that they have been had. Now, with the clock ticking on the Iranian bomb, we urge them to double their efforts to show Tehran its nuclear ambitions won't be tolerated by the international community.
THE UNTOLD STORY OF HOW BUSH IS WINNING THE WAR ON TERROR
By Richard Miniter
Part three: Bin Laden's Iran alliance.
Osama Bin Laden fled Afghanistan following the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001. He briefly retreated into the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir in January 2002.
By June 2002, bin Laden had reportedly moved south into Baluchistan, a mountainous, autonomous tribal region in western Pakistan. It was a sensible place for him to hide. The Baluch are a nation without a country; their ancestral homeland straddles Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. It is likely that his confederates have family and friends among the Baluch. A number of high-ranking al Qaeda operatives are ethnic Baluch, including Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Yousef's uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the operational planner of the September 11 attacks.
The Baluch have a long history of harboring terrorists. Saddam Hussein financed Baluch terrorists against Pakistan as far back as 1969, Iraq expert Laurie Mylroie told me.
In July 2002, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf announced that he was sending commandos into the tribal areas of Pakistan to flush out bin Laden. If Pakistani troops were quick and thorough, bin Laden would find himself surroundedand perhaps even betrayed for the $25 million price on his head. Relying on the goodwill of Baluch cutthroats, he must have known, was not a viable long-term strategy.
Seemingly desperate, bin Laden recorded an extraordinary audiotape and sent it via courier to Ali Khomenei, the grand ayatollah of Iran's Supreme Council. On that tape, according to a former Iranian intelligence officer I interviewed in Europe, bin Laden asked for Iran's help. In exchange for safe harbor and funding, he pledged to put al Qaeda at the service of Iran to combat American forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, where al Qaeda leaders believed American intervention was inevitable. Bin Laden reportedly pledged, "If I die, my followers will be told to follow you [Khomenei]."
Apparently the taped appeal worked. Murtaza Rezai, the director for Ayatollah Khomenei's personal intelligence directorate, began secret negotiations with bin Laden. Under the agreement between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and al Qaeda, several convoys transported bin Laden's four wives, as well as his eldest son and heir apparent, Saad bin Laden, into Iran. Saad reportedly remains there today.
Then, on July 26, 2002, bin Laden himself crossed into Iran from the Afghanistan border near Zabol, traveling north to the Iranian city of Mashad.
Over the next year, bin Laden holed up in a series of safe houses controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard between Qazvin and Karaj, two cities along a highway west of Teheran. He moved frequently to avoid detection or betrayal. He was not alone. Two intelligence sources told me bin Laden was "guarded by the Revo-lu-tionary Guard."
Bin Laden also traveled with al Qaeda's number two man, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was wounded and required medical treatment, my sources said. For a time, bin Laden moved freely with and crossed into Afghanistan at will, usually through an Iranian border checkpoint near Zabol?.
Why would Iran, a predominantly Shi'ite Muslim land, work with a predominantly Sunni Muslim terror organization like bin Laden's? The short answer is personal connections, shared goals, and a common enemy. Ayman al-Zawahiri, a bona fide Sunni extremist, has received financial support from Iran since 1988. Bin Laden himself is believed to have met with Iranian intelligence officials at Islamic conferences in Khartoum, Sudan, in the early 1990s. Both bin Laden and the mullahs share an Islamist worldview that calls for the armed overthrow of Arab dictatorships and the restoration of a single caliph who will rule according to Shari'a law.
Finally, they share enemies, including many Arab leaders, the United States, and the rest of the Western world.
Whether the Sunni-Shi'ite divide is as wide among radical Islamists as some analysts say, few can dispute that Iran's increasing isolation and the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has provided Teheran with a strong incentive to seek out new allies.
Bin Laden is not the only senior al Qaeda member who has reportedly sought sanctuary. Saad bin Laden is believed to be hiding in the western city of Kermanshah, hard on the Iraq border. Saif al-Adel, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's successor as commander of al Qaeda's military wing, is also said to be there...
Administration officials expect bin Laden will most likely be captured in Pakistan. Yet policymakers would be wise to turn their attention to Iran's documented links to global terrorist networks, including bin Laden's. With vast oil revenues, a long history of supporting terrorists, and a fathomless desire to achieve its ideological aims at the expense of American lives, it certainly deserves its place on President Bush's "Axis of Evil."
G-8 meets to discuss Iran strategy
By Valerie Lincy
Updated October 15, 2004
In an apparent policy reversal, the Bush administration sat down with senior officials from all G-8 countries in Washington on October 15 to discuss how to get Iran to renounce its nuclear ambitions. The discussions focused on convincing Iran to suspend its effort to enrich uranium.
Britain, France and Germany have reportedly fashioned a new set of inducements, including the promise to resume talks on trade, to allow Iran to import nuclear fuel, and to lift certain economic penalties on Iran that would allow it to import much-needed civilian airline parts. The willingness of the Bush administration to even consider incentives for Iran appears to mark a shift in policy, as U.S. officials had previously demanded that Iran should first renounce its nuclear ambitions before being rewarded. To avoid giving the impression that policy had changed, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher was careful to label all incentives as part of a package proposed by the Europeans, and he reiterated the U.S. position that Iran should still be referred to the U.N. Security Council based on past violations of its international obligations.
Alongside these diplomatic developments, Iran appears to have moved forward with plans to convert 37 metric tons of uranium into uranium hexafluoride (UF6), a gas that can then be passed through centrifuge machines to make nuclear weapon fuel. On Octobert 6, Iran announced that it had processed a few tons of yellowcake into UF6, with the IAEA looking on. If all 37 tons of yellowcake are processed, the resulting material could produce enough fuel for several nuclear weapons. This move flies in the face of demands made by a unanimous IAEA in a strongly worded resolution on Irans nuclear activities passed on September 18.
After contentious back-room negotiation, the governing board of the IAEA called on Iran to suspend all enrichment related activities, to renounce its plans to build a heavy water research reactor, and to provide the IAEA with access to and information on nuclear equipment and sites. Given Irans incomplete adherence to past pledges to freeze uranium enrichment activities, the resolution has specifically defined such activities as including the manufacture or import of centrifuge components, the assembly and testing of centrifuges, and the production of feed material, including through tests or production at the UCF. The UCF is Irans commercial-scale uranium conversion facility at Isfahan, where Iran produced some 35 kg of UF6 earlier this year. UF6 can be enriched in centrifuges to a form suitable for either reactor fuel or nuclear weapons.
Should Iran fail to fulfill the requirements of the resolution by the governing boards next meeting on November 25, the IAEA will decide whether further steps are appropriate, which could mean sending Irans nuclear file to the U.N. Security Council. The resolution also calls on IAEA Director-General Mohamed Elbardei to report on both the implementation of the most recent resolution and on the IAEAs findings in Iran since September 2002, including Irans adherence to past resolutions, its cooperation with the Agency, and the timeliness and accuracy of its declarations to the Agency. Both reports will be prepared in advance of the November board meeting.
The United States, Europe and the non-aligned movement agreed on the wording of the resolution after struggling to find common ground on how best to contain Irans nuclear program. Still hoping for a negotiated solution, Britain, France and Germany supported censuring Iran but hoped to avoid involving the U.N. Security Council. The United States pushed for more immediate action, calling for the inclusion of a clear trigger mechanism that would automatically send Irans file to the U.N. Security Council should Iran fail to suspend work on nuclear technology that would enable it to produce fuel for nuclear weapons. Members of the non-aligned movement insisted on including language that supported Irans right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful use.
Despite the compromise forged over the resolution, the United States firmly believes that Irans civilian nuclear program masks a bomb effort. On September 2, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the United States still believes that the Iranians are not fessing up to everything. They still have a program that, in our judgment, is a nuclear program designed to develop, ultimately, a nuclear weapon. Europe has been hesitant to embrace the U.S. strategyfearful that this might convince Iran to stop all cooperation with the IAEA. However, Irans actions in recent months have failed to provide much assurance of peaceful intentions. In a letter to the IAEA in late June, Iran announced that it would resume manufacturing, assembling and testing centrifuges as of June 29. This move came after Irans October 2003 agreement with Britain, France and Germany to suspend uranium enrichment activities, and its further promise to suspend most manufacturing and assembling of centrifuges as of April 2004. Also in June, Iran informed the IAEA that it had already produced some 35 kg of UF6 at its conversion facility and that it would convert a further 37 metric tons of uranium concentrate into UF6 at the facility in August or September, a threat Iran now appears to be carrying out. As a result of these actions, and the damning evidence amassed by the IAEA since it began its investigation in Iran in February 2003, the Europeans appear to have edged closer to the U.S. position.
Nevertheless, the most recent IAEA report on Iran, circulated on September 1, fails to provide the smoking gun that would automatically send Irans nuclear file to the U.N. Security Council. Instead, the report reiterates a number of unanswered questions that the Agency continues to investigatefrom the timeframe of plutonium separation experiments, to the history of Irans centrifuge programs, to the origin of enriched uranium contamination found at several sites in Iran. And the report concludes that on a number of other key issues, including Irans laser enrichment effort and its past uranium conversion experiments, Irans stories have largely checked out.
European carrots and American sticks
Much of the diplomatic maneuvering at the IAEA over the past year and a half has been guided by hard-line pressure from the United States on the one hand, and by a commitment to constructive engagement with Iran by Britain, France and Germany on the other. Following the first disclosures by the IAEA that Iran had concealed nuclear work, U.S. President George W. Bush announced, in June 2003, that the international community must come together to make it very clear to Iran that we will not tolerate the construction of a nuclear weapon in Iran. And the international community did come together in October 2003, when foreign ministers from Britain, France and Germany traveled to Tehran and successfully extracted a series of concessions. Under the deal, Iran agreed to sign the IAEAs Additional Protocol and to suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities in exchange for future access to technology. Despite some skepticism, the Bush administration endorsed the agreement.
Iran, however, did not entirely keep its word. Though it allowed the IAEA to seal centrifuges and material at Natanz, its main enrichment site, it continued to manufacture and assemble centrifuges at a series of workshops. When this activity was criticized, Iran waited until February 2004, just before the release of the IAEAs latest quarterly report, to concede a halt to these activities. But the manufacturing and assembling of centrifuges was only partially suspended in April, and in the same month Iran announced its intention to begin testing the UF6 production line at its conversion plant. This move came despite the IAEAs request that Iran reconsider its decision to test UF6 production, which the Agency said would technically amount to the production of feed material for enrichment processes.
In addition, Irans recent attitude towards its negotiating partners has not been encouraging. During a meeting with officials from Britain, France and Germany in early August, Iran reportedly issued a series of demands as a condition for continuing to cooperate. The demands apparently included access to nuclear technology, the removal of sales restrictions on Iran imposed by the nuclear supplier nations, assurances that the Europeans would support Iran in the U.N. Security Council, sales of conventional weapons, a commitment to push for a non-nuclear Middle East and a commitment to provide Iran with security assurances against a nuclear attack. The breadth of Irans requests, along with its apparent unwillingness to continue confidence-building measures like the enrichment freeze, have made the Europeans more skeptical of Irans intentions.
Grounds for suspicion
Iran has long been suspected of maintaining a covert nuclear weapon effort. Doubts about the peaceful nature of its program became more widespread in August 2002, when an exiled Iranian opposition group revealed the existence of two nuclear sites in Iran: a centrifuge enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water production plant at Arak. And suspicions about Irans intentions came to a head in November 2003, when the IAEA reported that Iran had successfully produced both enriched uranium and plutoniumfissile materials that can be used to fuel a nuclear weapon. An accumulation of circumstantial evidence that Iran could be trying to make a nuclear device has only added to concerns about Irans intentions.
The Director-General of the IAEA Mohamed ElBaradei traveled to Iran in February 2003 to investigate allegations that Iran had a bomb program. The IAEA has since published six reports that document the history of Irans secret nuclear work. The revelations in these reports have fueled arguments made by the United States and others that Iran is using its nuclear energy program as a smokescreen behind which to make a bomb.
One of the IAEAs most worrisome findings has been the traces of enriched uranium discovered at several locations in Iran. In its August 2003 report, the agency first revealed that it had found highly enriched uranium particles on chemical traps at the pilot enrichment plant at Natanz. According to later reports, these particles were enriched to about 54% U-235. Iran claimed that the contamination came from centrifuge components purchased from foreign intermediaries. Then, results from testing in August 2003 at the Kalaye Electric Company, a centrifuge workshop in Tehran, revealed traces of uranium enriched to 36% U-235. According to the IAEAs February 2004 report, environmental samples showing uranium enriched to 36% U-235 have come almost entirely from one room in the Kalaye Electric Company workshop, which seems to be predominantly contaminated with that material. The concentration of the contamination in one location, and in more than trace amounts has led the IAEA to question Irans story that the high enriched uranium particles came in on imported equipment. Nevertheless, Iran has stuck by its story and has insisted that it only enriched uranium up to 1.2% U-235 using centrifuges. And in its September 2004 report, the IAEA termed Irans claim plausible, though the agency has promised to continue looking into the matter. According to a report in Janes Defense Weekly quoting sources close to the IAEA, the 54% enriched uranium probably came from equipment Iran imported through the nuclear smuggling network run by A.Q. Khan and the 36% enriched uranium was from Russian equipment that had been supplied to China, then passed on to Pakistan, after which Khan sold the equipment to Iran.
Beyond deducing the origin of the enriched uranium contamination, the IAEA has had a difficult time understanding Irans past laser and centrifuge enrichment activities. In its November 2003 report, the most comprehensive and damning exposition of Irans secret nuclear work, the IAEA revealed that Iran had run a centrifuge enrichment program for 18 years and a laser enrichment program for 12 yearsall without telling the agency. The November report also revealed that Iran received 50kg of uranium metal from a foreign supplier, along with relevant equipment, and had enriched some 30kg of the material in secret laser experiments. Though Iran initially claimed not to have enriched uranium using lasers at all, and then not to have done so much beyond 3%, inspectors eventually discovered that, in fact, the average level of enrichment achieved in these laser experiments was between 8-9% and as high as 15%.
Yet another concern for the IAEA has been unraveling Irans uranium conversion experiments and the nuclear material it secretly imported in order to conduct them. In 1991, Iran illicitly imported from China nearly 2,000kg of uranium compounds, including 1,000kg of UF6. The agencys November 2003 report catalogued the history of Irans extensive conversion experiments, in which Iran used uranium that had been either exempted from IAEA safeguards, illicitly imported, or previously declared as process loss. Beginning in 1981, Iran successfully produced a variety of uranium compounds in these laboratory-scale experiments, including UF6, uranium tetrafluoride (UF4), uranium dioxide (UO2) and uranium metal. These experiments allowed Iran to refine its expertise, and to apply what it learned towards work in larger facilities, especially the uranium conversion plant it has begun operating at Isfahan.
So like Iraq before it, Iran has used evasion and deception techniques in order to delay or inhibit inspectors work. For instance, when IAEA inspectors were allowed to take environmental samples from the workshop at Kalaye in August 2003after asking to do so for several monthsthey reported that there had been considerable modification of the premises since their visit earlier that year. And after receiving what was considered by the IAEA to be a full accounting of Irans nuclear program in October 2003, the agency discovered that Iran had failed to include any information about its work with the more advanced P-2 centrifuge. In early 2004, Iran admitted to a small-scale P-2 program. However, in its June 2004 report the IAEA concluded that based on Irans procurement attempts, its P-2 program was far more extensive than Iran admitted. In addition, Iran postponed a visit by the IAEA aimed at verifying Irans pledge not manufacture or assemble centrifuges. The visitinitially planned for mid-Marchdid not take place until mid-April, and even then inspectors were either delayed or prevented from visiting several centrifuge workshops.
Suspicion of Irans intentions has been further fueled by speculation that it has a secret weaponization program aimed at developing a workable nuclear device. The IAEA has documented Irans past production of Polonium-210, which could be used as a neutron initiator in a bomb. Then there are the reports that Iran has been shopping for deuterium gas (which can boost the power of a nuclear explosion), for equipment used in nuclear testing, for dual-use machine tools, and for high voltage switches that can be used to trigger a nuclear explosion. More recently, according to an analysis of satellite imagery by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), Iran may be using the Parchin military complex, about 30 km southeast of Tehran, for nuclear weapon testing. The site is officially dedicated to research, development and production of ammunition, rockets and high explosives. Iraq too had used high explosive testing sites, at both Al Atheer and Al Qaqaa, to work on nuclear weaponization.
Every IAEA report has also criticized Irans cooperation with the Agency. The August 2003 report concluded that while Iran had shown an increased degree of cooperation information and access were at times slow in coming and incremental. And in its November 2003 report, the IAEA said that Iran had failed in a number of instances over an extended period of time to meet its obligations under its Safeguards Agreement. Despite the critical conclusions of every report, the IAEAs resolutions have merely criticized Irans bad behavior. Each of the four resolutions on Iran so far has been the subject of much diplomatic wrangling, which has resulted in watered down language and a clear reluctance to censure Iran for violating its international obligations.
Imports of nuclear-, chemical- and missile-related equipment have been indispensable to Irans suspected weapon programs. China, Russia, North Korea and Pakistan have been Irans main suppliers recently, but help has come from other countries as well. Although the United States has adopted an embargo on high-technology exports to Iran, other major exporting countries have not. Iran is still seeking, and in many cases finding, what it needs from foreign suppliers.
The nuclear smuggling network run by Pakistani scientists A. Q. Khan is believed to be the main supplier to Irans centrifuge enrichment program. Speculation as to exactly what equipment and material Iran received has been the subject of numerous media reports since Libya renounced mass destruction weapons and the Khan network was revealed as Libyas primary supplier. The IAEA has already confirmed that the enrichment and conversion programs in Iran and Libya relied on the same technology obtained from the same foreign sources. And Irans P-2 centrifuge design is the same as the one found by the Agency in Libya. The P-1 centrifuges Iran has installed at Natanz are of an early European design, similar to the machines that have been under the control of the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in Pakistan. Finally, if Iran indeed received the same package of nuclear goods as did Libya, then it is possible that Iran might have the same Chinese-origin bomb design.
China has also provided key assistance to Irans nuclear program. Chinese entities have helped Iran prospect for uranium, have sold UF6 ready for enrichment and have provided Iran with blueprints, equipment test reports and equipment design information for its uranium conversion plant at Isfahan.
For at least the last decade, Chinese organizations have also sold Iran the ingredients and equipment needed to make poison gas. According to a CIA report covering the first half of 2003, Iran has continued to seek production technology, training, and expertise from Chinese entities. In 1996, the press reported that China was sending entire factories for making poison gas to Iran, including special glass-lined vessels for mixing precursor chemicals and hundreds of tons of chemicals useful for making nerve agents. In 1997, a Chinese company was caught sending Iran special alloy piping useful for chemical weapon manufacture through Hong Kong. During approximately the same period, Iran was also getting dual-use chemical imports from firms in India.
These transfers have made China the greatest contributor to Irans chemical weapon capability. In response to Chinas sales, the U.S. government has levied sanctions against at least 19 Chinese firms during the past decade some of the firms being sanctioned more than once.
Russias main contribution to Irans nuclear program is the 1,000 MW light-water power reactor it has been building at Bushehr. The reactor, which was originally scheduled to come on stream in 2003, has experienced repeated delays. Russian and Iranian officials have recently projected that the reactor will now begin full operation in October 2006. In addition to the reactor, Russian entities have provided training in reactor operation and are alleged to have supplied laser equipment for uranium enrichment, know-how for heavy water reactors, and help with heavy water and nuclear-grade graphite production. According to the CIA, Russian entities have also sold Iran dual-use biological and chemical items.
China, Russia and North Korea have also supplied Irans missile program. Irans 1,300 kilometer Shahab-3 missile is essentially an imported North Korean Nodong missile enhanced by Russian technology. And it is widely assumed that if Iran fields the Shahab-4 missile, it will be a copy of Russias SS-4 missile. Both the Nodong and the SS-4 can carry a nuclear warhead.
North Korea, in addition to selling the Nodong missile, has furnished Iran a fleet of SCUD-B and SCUD-C short-range missiles, plus the factories to make them. Both the SCUD-B and SCUD-C have a diameter sufficient to accommodate a compact nuclear warhead.
From China, Iran has imported the 150 kilometer CSS-8 ballistic missile and a series of land-, sea-, and air-launched short-range cruise missiles. Many of these latter are anti-ship weapons. In May 2003, the United States imposed sanctions on the North China Industries Corporation for helping Irans Shahid Hemmat Industrial group acquire missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.
The people's hand was wounded
The people's foot
The people's back was wounded
So their sky would rain stars.
When their sky rained stars
The people's body was wounded
The earth filled with bloodied stars
Cows ploughed the star-filled earth
The people's heart became a star
The people's star-heart broke.
There are two Iraqs.
The one we more often see and read about is a dangerous place, full of exploding cars, kidnapped foreigners and deadly ambushes. There, reconstruction is proceeding at a snail's pace, frustration boils over, and tensions--political, ethnic, religious--crackle in the air like static electricity before a storm.
The other Iraq is a once prosperous and promising country of 24 million, slowly recovering from the physical and moral devastation of totalitarianism. It's a country whose people are slowly beginning to stand on their own feet, grasp the opportunities undreamed of only two years ago, and dream of catching up on three decades of lost time. Recently, Annie Sweeney of the Chicago Sun-Times had a chance to travel off the beaten media track and visit this exotic country. Her impressions bear quoting at length:
On a Saturday afternoon in Iraq, between Baghdad and Camp Anaconda, the countryside looks a little like Wisconsin. There are farmers tilling fields and women walking on roads. Freight trains and major highways.In truth, of course, there is only one Iraq. Even if we don't often see it reflected in the news coverage, that Iraq of violence and Iraq of recovery coexist within the same borders. We know that there is nothing mutually exclusive about tragedy and hope, horror and promise, frustration and exuberance. This is true in our own lives, and so it is true in lives of whole nations. ...
This wasn't exactly what I expected when I left for the war-ravaged country the first week of September. And initially, it made me feel lousy.
Here in Chicago I tend to cover breaking crime stories where the action is intense--grieving victims, burned-out buildings, angry neighbors.
I expected this type of human drama in Iraq, and apparently others did, too. When I came back after three weeks, all everybody wanted to know was how scared I was.
Iraq was hot and smelly. It was dirty and dusty. Mortars sometimes boomed in the distance.
But I can't describe it as scary. I didn't see the hard-core stuff, and a lot of soldiers who live and work there don't, either.
That's not to say the kidnappings, bombings and airstrikes from U.S. planes aren't wreaking havoc on both Iraqis and American troops.
It's just there's another side--a side where the ebb and flow of the day-to-day is so normal, it's almost jarring.
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian officials like to portray U.S. presidential elections as a choice between bad and worse but there is little doubt they would prefer Democratic challenger John Kerry to win next week.
Since President Bush took office the Islamic state has been dubbed an "axis of evil" member, seen U.S. forces mass on its borders in Iraq and Afghanistan and faced concerted U.S. accusations that it has a covert atomic arms program.
Kerry is unlikely to ease the pressure on Iran, which will remain a key U.S. foreign policy challenge whoever wins the Nov. 2 vote.
But the Massachusetts senator's emphasis on a multilateral foreign policy approach and hints he would negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program appeal to the country's bazaar-rooted instincts to bargain its way out of a crisis.
"Logically speaking, everything points to Iran supporting Kerry," said Tehran-based political analyst Mahmoud Alinejad.
"If Bush is re-elected it will be on a platform of a radical strategy to democratize the Middle East, if necessary by force. At least what Kerry has hinted at provides the possibility for Iran to get out of this deadlock, to buy some more time."
Conservative strategist Amir Mohebian, who advises some of Iran's top policymakers, agreed.
"We prefer Kerry because he favors diplomatic methods rather than pressure. Iran is better off if he wins," he told Reuters.
Washington broke ties with Iran in 1980 after an angry mob seized the U.S. embassy and held 52 hostages for 444 days.
Iran has tended in the past to favor the pragmatic, business-oriented style of Republicans over Democrats who were perceived as more pro-Israel and tougher on human rights.