Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - December 8, 2004 [EST] -- Bush planning to increase pressure on Iran
Posted on 12/08/2004 12:32:24 AM PST by DoctorZIn
Top News Story
Bush administration planning to increase pressure on Iran
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - (KRT) - As 150,000 U.S. troops battle to stabilize Iraq, some officials in the Bush administration are already planning to turn up the heat on another member of the president's axis of evil.
Officials in the White House and the Defense Department are developing plans to increase public criticism of Iran's human rights record, offer stronger backing to exiles and other opponents of Tehran's repressive theocratic government and collect better intelligence on Iran, according to U.S. officials, congressional aides and others.
Iran has embarked on a nuclear program that some specialists fear cannot be prevented from producing an atom bomb; is trying to extend its influence in Iraq and remains a prime sponsor of Hezbollah and other international terrorist groups. U.S. intelligence officials also believe some top lieutenants of Osama bin Laden have sought refuge in Iran.
However, with the U.S. military now stretched thin by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new campaign may be intended not to build support for military action against Iran, but to pressure Iran to change its behavior so military action isn't necessary.
It's far from clear, however, whether a more aggressive U.S. campaign to condemn the Iranian regime and court pro-Western forces would have any effect. The major Iranian opposition group, the Iraq-based Mujahedeen Khalq (MEK), remains on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist groups, but it's provided much of the intelligence about Iran's weapons programs.
The new, more aggressive tack is said to have the backing of secretary of state-designate Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser.
Among the steps under consideration, the officials said, are stronger public condemnations of Iran's human rights practices and treatment of women; increased U.S. broadcasting into the country; and financial backing for pro-Western groups.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized spokesmen and, in some cases, because final decisions haven't been made.
Rice previewed some of the ideas during a White House meeting last week with leaders of major Jewish-American groups, according to one individual who was present and others who were briefed on the session.
"We have to do more to help the human rights community and the dissidents inside Iran," Rice told the group, according to one participant's notes of the meeting, which also focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
An administration official, asked about Rice's reported comments, said they reflected a "heightened attempt" to expose Iran's behavior. "We're trying to make plain for the international community the strategic challenge that Iran poses," he said.
At the same time, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which overseas U.S. international broadcasting, has proposed to the White House a major increase in broadcasting into Iran by Voice of America television, a U.S. official said.
The proposal, which is expected to win approval, would increase daily broadcasts from 30 minutes a day to about three hours, the official said.
"We expect that the White House will be as supportive of this plan as it was for increasing broadcasting to the Arab world," the official said. He couldn't provide cost estimates for the expansion.
The United States already operates a Persian-language radio service, Radio Farda, which broadcasts to Iran 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
More U.S. broadcasting to Muslim audiences was one of the recommendations of the bipartisan Sept. 11 Commission.
The administration was never able to agree on an Iran policy during Bush's first term. The State Department favored engagement and international action, while officials in the Defense Department and Vice President Cheney's office proposed backing the MEK and considering military action against Iran's nuclear facilities.
How to handle Iran is now shaping up as a major foreign policy issue for Bush's second term. But with the bulk of U.S. combat divisions tied down in neighboring Iraq, the president appears to have no good military options against Iran, which is almost four times larger than Iraq and has nearly three times its neighbor's population.
A limited U.S. air strike on Iran's far-flung nuclear facilities would cause worldwide outrage, could endanger U.S. troops in Iraq and would have no assurance of success. European allies favor diplomacy to curb Iran's nuclear program.
However, top Bush administration officials are now hinting that the White House is eager to start withdrawing troops from Iraq by the middle of next year. One rationale, a senior administration official said, is to give the president greater flexibility in dealing with Iran.
Calls for supporting Iranian dissidents have been fueled by an accelerating takeover of the country's institutions by conservative clerics, ending hopes for reforms backed by President Mohammad Khatami, whose term ends next year.
But while many Iranians, particularly the young, are fed up with their rulers and even pro-American, they're also deeply suspicious of foreign meddling in Iranian politics. Iranians who accept U.S. assistance for democratization are likely to be branded agents of the "Great Satan."
Former assistant secretary of state Lorne Craner said that when Congress made $2 million available in a fiscal 2004 appropriations bill for democratization activities in Iran, "We started looking around for what might be doable. ... It wasn't clear we'd be received warmly in Iran."
But Craner, who left government last year, said that could change if the U.S. government showed it was serious. "When you say you're willing, people start showing up," he said.
The omnibus spending bill passed by Congress last month includes a provision, sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., for $3 million to promote democracy in Iran.
Some of the funds could be used to stage a conference in the United States that would bring together Iranian dissidents, human rights advocates and nongovernmental organizations.
That approach echoes the actions of the U.S. government toward Iraq during the 1990s, when it helped forge fractious Iraqi dissidents into the Iraqi National Congress. The INC and its leader, Ahmad Chalabi, helped persuade the Bush administration to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein, but much of the intelligence the INC provided on Iraq's weapons programs and terrorist ties has proved to be wrong.
The Bush administration also is considering adding Iran to a broader U.S.-backed program to promote democracy in the region, known as the Middle East Partnership Initiative.
"We are exploring ways to begin working with groups inside (Iran)," J. Scott Carpenter, the State Department official who runs the program, told the New York Sun newspaper last month.
Carpenter did not return a phone call seeking comment.
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December 07, 2004, 4:04 p.m.
Nuke TalkWhatever happens in Iraq, Iran will not be less visible.
It isnt to disavow our Iraqi venture to ponder what is to be done if it fails. It would not have been disloyal to the Vietnamese enterprise to have asked, in 1973, what we would do if we failed to arrest the Vietcong. We begin by asking: What critical event, or consolidation of events, would tell us that we had failed in Iraq?
The question needs to be asked with reasonable perspectives in mind. The best way to solve the poverty of Brazil, someone commented a dozen years ago, would be to transport five million Swiss to live and work there. One way to solve the Iraq problem is to evacuate Iraqis and import Germans: such-scale solutions, mutatis mutandis, occurred to Adolf Hitler when he pondered the elimination of world Jewry.
No, the road signs will be different, more modest, even ambiguous. But they are there directly ahead. Most prominently, the Iraqi elections. Thought on that subject can be placed on a democratic blackboard more or less as follows:
90 percent of eligible Iraqis vote for non-Baathist parties.
50 per cent vote for democratically oriented parties pledging the separation of church and state.
Score B if the non-voters are acquiescent. Score D if the non-voters resist.
An A vote for democracy in Iraq would be a great event; but the exercise today is to consider U.S. action in case it does not work out with the elections. One alternative is to try to think of Iraq as a kind of outpost of U.S. strategic concern, as India was for the British for a hundred years, so that a parent might point to a third son, age 10, and say, Reginald, here, will go to India, and perhaps return after forty years service.
That is only a conceptual alternative, because the world is too fast-paced to proceed to such a drumbeat of historical rhythms, and the American temperament does not accommodate resident colonialism. We can fight hard for Cuba or the Philippines, but we want then to get out, and that inclination grows firmer as the years go by.
If the election in Iraq fails to bring on organic democratic reorientation, we will need to find words to describe the tergiversation. Theyll boil down to: We tried and we failed. This is not an argument against trying. We will be trying through the life of the republic to promote peace and liberty.
But the hard target will not be less visible whatever happens in the Iraqi elections. It is of course the problem of what is happening, or might be happening, in Iran. There are in this world myriad weapons of mass destruction, but one of them is unique, the nuclear weapon. And that weapon is fondled in the apocalyptic imagination of men who seem to have the liberty to proceed. The actual development of a nuclear bomb is by no means masturbatory arms talk. The things exist; and whereas one might feel an itchy confidence that they will never get out of the hands of reliable people in India, Pakistan, and Israel, it is by no means safe to assume that such weaponry, merchandised by profit-seekers and terrorists, will not one day, the curtains dramatically parted, make known its presence in Iran, as it has all but made its presence known in North Korea.
That is a concern that shoves Iraq to one side, because nuclear weapons close off alternatives, and trade in a million deaths.
That challenge has to occupy the American strategic imagination, which must not be hobbled by equivocations traceable to the Iraqi enterprise. It is one thing to endorse and encourage ongoing military efforts in Iraq, another to permit, based on what happens there, an impotent fatalism about the nuclear question, a fatalism already visible in our half-dealings with North Korea and Iran.
U.S.: Iran's WTO prospects grim
Washington, DC, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it was backing Iraq and Afghanistan's bids to join the World Trade Organization, but there's no consensus on Iran.
The general council of the World Trade Organization meets Dec. 13-14 to consider requests by Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran to join. U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said there was broad consensus in the bloc for Iraq and Afghanistan to join.
"There has historically been a lack of consensus on Iran's application for membership," he said.
The World Trade Organization decides issues through consensus only, and Ereli's comments have been U.S. policy for eight years.
The two countries have already clashed this year on Iran's nuclear program, which Washington says is being used to secretly make nuclear weapons.
7 December 2004, Volume 7, Number 43
IRAN SPLITS HAIRS ON SUICIDE BOMBINGS.An Iranian Interior Ministry official said in late November that his government has not encouraged the Iraqi insurgency and will not allow suicide bombers to cross the Iranian border into Iraq. Yet an organization affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) is registering volunteer suicide bombers; state officials have in the past advocated suicide bombings (a.k.a. martyrdom operations); and the country's top religious figures have defended the practice under specific circumstances.
Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Ali Asqar Ahmadi said at a 28 November news conference that no group in Iran has a law regulating suicide bombers, "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 29 November. Ahmadi also said, according to AP and Reuters, that Iranian groups are free to theorize about suicide bombings, but they cannot cross borders to put these theories into practice.
The Headquarters for Tribute to the Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement -- which is affiliated with the IRGC, according to the 28 May "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" -- began enrollment of volunteer suicide bombers in May (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 June 2004). Registration forms for suicide bombers are available all over Tehran, AP reported on 29 November -- and the government does not seem to be trying to halt this phenomenon.
The head of public relations for the Headquarters for Tribute to the Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement, Mohammad Ali Samadi, said on 24 November that his organization will announce the creation of the first company of martyrs on 2 December, the Baztab website reported. Samadi said the move is in sympathy with the people of Al-Fallujah and is being made in response to a message from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The announcement will reportedly take place at Behesht-i Zahra Cemetery, at the same time as the inauguration of a stone tablet commemorating "the biggest martyrdom operation against American occupiers" (see next article). Samadi added that more martyrdom volunteers will be enrolled during the ceremony.
A number of high-ranking individuals have defended the registration of suicide bombers. At a late summer ceremony in the southern Iranian city of Bushehr that was organized by the Headquarters for Tribute to the Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement, parliamentarian Shokrollah Atarzadeh registered as a martyrdom volunteer, "Ya-Lisarat al-Hussein" reported on 15 September. Hussein Shariatmadari, the managing editor of "Kayhan" newspaper and the Supreme Leader's representative at the Kayhan Institute, said Iranians must be ready to use "martyrdom-seeking operations." He said Israel is vulnerable and added, "You don't know that the wish of martyrdom-seekers is to send the Israelis to hell. You don't know what a fury and vengeance burns in the hearts of each and every Muslim when they see you destroy the houses of Muslims over their heads or when you commit genocide." Shariatmadari asked, "Why should they be in peace and security in European cities while the people of Iraq, Palestine, and other Muslim countries have no security?"
Tehran parliamentary representative Mehdi Kuchakzadeh, military officials, and scholars spoke about topics such as "Martyrdom Operations and Military and Security Strategies" and "Martyrdom Operations -- The Last Weapon" at a 2 June meeting in Tehran, the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported on 4 June. Enrollment forms for volunteers were distributed after the meeting.
Support for suicide bombings is not limited to a few parliamentarians. Iran's top official, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has also defended the practice. According to a state radio report, he said during a 1 May 2002 speech that "It is the zenith of honor for a man, a young person, boy or girl, to be prepared to sacrifice his life in order to serve the interests of his nation and his religion. This is the zenith of courage and bravery.... martyrdom-seeking operations demonstrate the pinnacle of a nation's honor." In a 2 May 2003 sermon in Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said that the Iraqi people "have no option but to resort to Intifadah [uprising] and martyrdom-seeking operations. That is the only solution. They are learning from the Palestinian experience."
Shi'a Islam's top scholars have spoken out on the issue, too. In April, 2002 the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's representative in Tehran, Abu Jihad, met in Qom with Grand Ayatollahs Mohammad Fazel-Movahedi-Lankarani, Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, Mohammad-Taqi Bahjat, Yusef Sanei, and Abdol-Karim Musavi-Ardabili, as well as Ayatollah Ali Akbar Meshkini-Qomi. Abu Jihad asked these religious scholars about the permissibility of "martyrdom operations," state radio reported on 12 April. In the words of state radio, "the grand ayatollahs reiterated the views that they had already expressed, saying that martyrdom operations were permitted in occupied Palestine." Fazel-Lankarani said, "The Palestinians have no choice but to carry out martyrdom operations."
In some circumstances, such as defending the homeland against foreign attackers, any form of defense might be considered acceptable. Indeed, the summer meeting in Bushehr was organized around the possibility of an attack against the nuclear facility in that city. Moreover, "martyrdom" can be interpreted as a willingness to give one's life in defense of the country.
Yet the registration of suicide bombers to go to Iraq, or the advocacy of suicide bombings in Israel, has nothing to do with defending Iranian territory. Official Iranian claims that it does not back suicide bombers and terrorism, therefore, are patently false. (Bill Samii)
7 December 2004, Volume 7, Number 43
DEFENSE MINISTRY FUNDING INFUSION MAY GO FOR ADVANCED WEAPONS, WMD.Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Ali Shamkhani told reporters on 23 November that the defense budget will be augmented with funds from the country's foreign exchange reserve, Fars News Agency reported.
An anonymous brigadier general in the Defense Ministry said that $2 billion was withdrawn from the foreign exchange reserve in March and an additional $2.5 billion was withdrawn from the reserve in October in order to finance a project to equip missiles with nuclear, biological, and chemical warheads, "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 25 November. These alleged activities are taking place in the Aerospace Industries Organization, which is part of the Defense Ministry.
"Iran continued to vigorously pursue indigenous programs to produce nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons," according to the Central Intelligence Agency's "Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions -- 1 July through 31 December 2003," which was released on 23 November (http://www.cia.gov/cia/reports/721_reports/july_dec2003.htm). "Iran is also working to improve delivery systems as well as ACW. To this end, Iran continued to seek foreign materials, training, equipment, and know-how."
The CIA report notes the U.S. conviction that, in violation of its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments, Iran is pursuing a clandestine nuclear-weapons program. It is working to produce nerve agents and may have stockpiled blister, blood, and choking agents, report says. It "probably" maintains an offensive biological warfare program and "probably" can produce small quantities of biological warfare agents. The report also notes that the Iranian ballistic missile inventory is "among the largest in the Middle East."
Much of the foreign know-how, according to the CIA report, comes from China, Europe, North Korea, and Russia. Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan's nuclear proliferation network provided Iran with "significant assistance." "The A.Q. Khan network provided Iran with designs for Pakistan's older centrifuges, as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models and components."
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Masud Khan denied this allegation, according to Radio Farda (http://www.radiofarda.org/iran_article/2004/11/e658ccc3-2337-470c-8ece-dec63768badf.html). Referring to a "New York Times" article about the CIA report, Khan said, "The writer of the report has spun a strange web based on flimsy evidence, hearsay and snippets of conversations," AP reported on 27 November. "The CIA report does not mention any 'designs for weapons or bomb-making components.' Weapons and bomb-making are the writer's own creative insertions."
A 27 November article in "The Los Angeles Times" may cast doubt on the CIA report. The daily cites current and former U.S. intelligence community personnel who say the U.S. does not have many reliable sources on illicit arms activities in Iran. One former official said Tehran strictly controls secrecy about its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs. Iranians who travel to and from the West are viewed as a valuable source of information. Iranians in Iraq are viewed as potential informants, furthermore. U.S. technical means for gathering information on Iran were undermined, according to "The Los Angeles Times," when Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi allegedly leaked to Tehran that the U.S. has broken an Iranian communications code. (Bill Samii)
7 December 2004, Volume 7, Number 43
WHAT IS AL-QAEDA MANAGEMENT DOING IN IRAN?By Sharon Chadha
"No Al-Qaeda leaders are in Iran," Iranian Deputy Interior Minister Ali Asqar Ahmadi said at a 28 September news conference in Tehran. "Iran has never permitted the transit of terrorists to Iraq or any other country from its own territory," he added.
Although Tehran has repeatedly issued such denials, two separate Iranian officials confirmed in 2003 and early 2004 that Iranian authorities are holding Al-Qaeda members in custody, and that they will be brought to trial as they constitute a threat to Iran's national security, ONASA news agency reported on 15 February 2004. But to date, no such trial is known to have taken place.
Reports nonetheless persist that hundreds of Al-Qaeda operatives, along with some 18 senior leaders -- including Saif Adel, Al-Qaeda's military commander, and Osama Bin Laden's son, Saad -- are living in Iran. Spain's top counterterrorism judge has dubbed this Al-Qaeda's "board of managers," according to the 1 August "Los Angeles Times." A French counterterrorism official says that these leaders have "controlled freedom of movement" inside Iran, AFP reported on 15 July, and the London-based Arabic daily "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reports that some are even living in villas near the Caspian Sea coast town of Chalus, AFP reported on 28 June.
Other accounts of their activities are far more disturbing. U.S. communications intercepts indicate that the 12 May 2003 attacks on the expatriate compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, were orchestrated from Iran, according to the 1 August "Los Angeles Times," and though others may be involved, European government officials reportedly point to Adel as the primary suspect.
Moreover, French government officials are reported to suspect that the Al-Qaeda leadership based in Iran played a role in the suicide bombings that targeted Western and Jewish interests in Casablanca, Morocco, that occurred four days after the Riyadh attacks and resulted in the death of 33 civilians as well as 12 suicide bombers.
Al-Qaeda members in Iran are also said to have funded the Istanbul bombings in November 2003, in which two synagogues, the British Consulate, and a London-based bank were bombed and 63 people were killed, according to court testimony provided by Adnan Ersoz, one of 69 charged in connection with these incidents, AFP reported on 13 September.
Spanish investigators believe that even the 11 March commuter train bombings in Madrid were at least partially planned from the Al-Qaeda base in Iran. Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, named by Spanish police as a primary suspect, is suspected of having operated from Iran, as is another suspect, Amer Azizi, who is believed to have spent time in Iran before returning to Spain to carry out the attacks, according to Spanish communications intercepts cited in the "Los Angeles Times."
These intercepts indicate that Azizi met with then-Al-Qaeda-affiliate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist believed to be behind various assassinations, car bombings, and beheadings in Iraq. It is widely reported that he too has used Iran as his base of operations, where he was able to extend his reach as far as Europe, and where he remains the primary suspect in terror plots involving chemical and biological weapons attacks on targets in Europe that were foiled in 2002 and 2003, according to law enforcement authorities in London and Paris cited by the "Los Angeles Times" article.
U.S. government officials are said to believe that al-Zarqawi had more contact with the Iranian government than he ever did with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, according to "Newsweek" of 25 October. Although some U.S. analysts remain skeptical of the notion that al-Zarqawi could have established a close relationship with the Shi'ite regime, given his alleged hostility toward Shi'ites in general, Jordanian intelligence have corroborated the existence of such links, the weekly reported.
That al-Zarqawi was indeed allowed to operate from Iran was confirmed by a commander of the elite Al-Quds unit of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), General Qasem Suleimani, who reportedly said that the IRGC provided assistance and refuge to al-Zarqawi in order to prevent the establishment of a pro-U.S. regime in Iraq, according to "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" on 11 August. The general's remarks contrast with the official position of the Iranian government, which is that it has "no affinity" with Al-Qaeda and has from time to time arrested and extradited various Al-Qaeda suspects to their home countries.
In August, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry foiled a series of assassinations allegedly being planned by Al-Qaeda's Adel along with a high-ranking leader of the IRGC, "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 19 August. The plot, which was revealed in recorded telephone calls, targeted U.S. military, CIA, and FBI personnel in the former Soviet Republics that neighbor Iran. According to the Arabic daily's source, the plot was apparently conceived in order to force a confrontation with both the United States and Iran's northerly neighbors -- Armenia, Azerbaijan and its Nakhichevan exclave, and Turkmenistan -- and it furthermore shows the deep divisions between the hard-line and reformist factions in determining Iranian foreign policy.
Many Iran experts are not surprised that the IRGC might provide assistance and refuge to Al-Qaeda members at the same time that other elements of the Iranian government, such as the Intelligence Ministry, are arresting and extraditing Al-Qaeda suspects. Many experts believe the IRGC operates beyond the control of elected politicians in Tehran and answers only to the hard core of the unelected clerical elite. As a top French law enforcement official told the "Los Angeles Times," "Iranians play a double game. It is a classic Iranian style of ambiguity, deception, manipulation. Everything they can do to trouble the Americans, without going too far, they do it. They have arrested important Al-Qaeda people, but they have permitted other important Al-Qaeda people to operate."
(Sharon Chadha is an independent analyst of Persian Gulf affairs)
Iraq, Jordan See Threat To Election From IranLeaders Warn Against Forming Religious State [Excerpt]
By Robin Wright and Peter BakerWashington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 8, 2004; Page A01
The leaders of Iraq and Jordan warned yesterday that Iran is trying to influence the Iraqi elections scheduled for Jan. 30 to create an Islamic government that would dramatically shift the geopolitical balance between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in the Middle East.
Iraqi President Ghazi Yawar charged that Iran is coaching candidates and political parties sympathetic to Tehran and pouring "huge amounts of money" into the campaign to produce a Shiite-dominated government similar to Iran's.
Jordanian King Abdullah said that more than 1 million Iranians have crossed the 910-mile border into Iraq, many to vote in the election -- with the encouragement of the Iranian government. "I'm sure there's a lot of people, a lot of Iranians in there that will be used as part of the polls to influence the outcome," he said in an interview.
The king also charged that Iranians are paying salaries and providing welfare to unemployed Iraqis to build pro-Iranian public sentiment. Some Iranians, he added, have been trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and are members of militias that could fuel trouble in Iraq after the election.
"It is in Iran's vested interest to have an Islamic republic of Iraq . . . and therefore the involvement you're getting by the Iranians is to achieve a government that is very pro-Iran," Abdullah said.
If pro-Iran parties or politicians dominate the new Iraqi government, he said, a new "crescent" of dominant Shiite movements or governments stretching from Iran into Iraq, Syria and Lebanon could emerge, alter the traditional balance of power between the two main Islamic sects and pose new challenges to U.S. interests and allies.
"If Iraq goes Islamic republic, then, yes, we've opened ourselves to a whole set of new problems that will not be limited to the borders of Iraq. I'm looking at the glass half-full, and let's hope that's not the case. But strategic planners around the world have got to be aware that is a possibility," Abdullah added.
Iran and Iraq have Shiite majorities. But modern Iraq, formed after World War I, has been ruled by its Sunni minority. Syria is ruled by the minority Allawites, an offshoot of Shiism. Shiites are the largest of 17 recognized sects in Lebanon, and Hezbollah is a major Shiite political party, with the only active militia.
Abdullah, a prominent Sunni leader, said the creation of a new Shiite crescent would particularly destabilize Gulf countries with Shiite populations. "Even Saudi Arabia is not immune from this. It would be a major problem. And then that would propel the possibility of a Shiite-Sunni conflict even more, as you're taking it out of the borders of Iraq," the king said.
Iran has bonds with Iraq through their Shiite populations. Thousands of Iranians make pilgrimages to the holiest Shiite cities of Najaf and Karbala. Iraq's most prominent Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, is Iranian-born and speaks Arabic with a Persian accent. Yet Iran and Iraq fought a brutal eight-year war with more than a million casualties.
Iran has faced charges in the past of meddling in Iraq, but with the election approaching, Iraqi, U.S. and Arab officials have begun to make specific accusations and issue warnings about the potential impact.
"Unfortunately, time is proving, and the situation is proving, beyond any doubt that Iran has very obvious interference in our business -- a lot of money, a lot of intelligence activities and almost interfering daily in business and many [provincial] governates, especially in the southeast side of Iraq," Yawar said in an interview with Washington Post editors and reporters.
The interim Iraqi president, a Sunni leader from a tribe with Sunnis and Shiites, said Iraq's first democratic government must reject pressure to inject religion into politics. "We cannot have a sectarian or religious government," he said. "We really will not accept a religious state in Iraq. We haven't seen a model that succeeded."
The question of Iraq's political orientation -- secular or religious -- will come to a head when Iraq begins writing a new constitution next spring. Jordan's king said he had started to raise a "red flag" about the dangers of mixing church and state.
Abdullah said the United States had communicated its concern to Iran through third parties, although he predicted a showdown. "There's going to be some sort of clash at one point or another," he said. "We hope it's just a clash of words and politics and not a clash of civilizations or peoples on the ground. We will know a bit better how it will play out after the [Iraqi] election."
In Baghdad, interim Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih warned neighboring governments that Iraq is losing patience with them for not doing more to stop the insurgency, which undermines the prospects for peaceful elections.
"There is evidence indicating that some groups in some neighboring countries are playing a direct role in the killing of the Iraqi people, and such a thing is not acceptable to us," Salih said. "We have reached a stage in which, if we do not see a real response from those countries, then we are obliged to take a decisive stance." ...
The Jordanian monarch said sitting out the election would only hurt Sunnis. "My advice to the Sunnis in Iraq, and that I will make public, is to get engaged, get into the system and do the best that you can come January 30," he said. "If you don't and you lose out, then you only have yourselves to blame."
The Iraqi president said there is no point in delaying elections, as Sunni leaders have urged. "Extending the election date will just prolong our agony," he said. He predicted Sunnis will ultimately participate, adding that many of the same leaders agitating against the Jan. 30 date have begun preparing their own campaigns.
Yawar said he is putting together a balanced, "all-Iraqi list" of candidates that would cross sectarian lines, in apparent contrast to the Shiite-dominated candidate slate.
A civil engineer educated at George Washington University, he expressed hope that U.S. troops could begin withdrawing from Iraq by the end of 2005 if Iraqi authorities train enough of their own troops.
"When we have our security forces qualified and capable of taking the job, then we will start seeing the beginning of decreasing forces, and that's in hopefully a year's time," he said. But he would not indicate when he hoped the last U.S. soldiers would leave. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters this week he expected the U.S. military to withdraw within four years.
Iraq on one side Afghanistan on the other side, and now we are increasing pressure. Damn Dubya is good.
And President Bush is not talking about Iran very much. That would tell me Iran is going to be "spanked" pretty soon. Iran received several warnings. They still flagrantly defy them.
That's not how I have seen Dubya work in the past. He spent a lot of time building up to the Iraq war. SOP for Dubya has been tell/convince America what we are going to do, tell congress to get on board, tell the UN to get on board, and then do it.
Iranian Journalists Escape from the Islamic RepublicDate December 7, 2004
The Marze Porgohar Party (MPG) is pleased to announce that three of our members have successfully escaped from the Islamic Republic of Iran, following a new wave of press closures marked by a crackdown on journalists and web loggers aimed at restricting the flow of information and terrorizing the young leaders of the pro-democracy movement in the country.
Mr. Babak Namdar, the MPGs Director of Foreign Policy is now with our three members, in Turkey, discussing the situation in Iran and the future of these activists for the continuation of their democratic endeavors outside the country. The MPG has also initiated the process of requesting political asylum for them, from the United States.
Miss. Maryam Bahmanpour, 29 years of age and has attended Daneshsaraye Tarbiatmoalem University. She has also been a MPG member since 1998. Miss Bahmanpour is an active journalist and pro-democracy activist since 1996, participated in the historical 1999 student uprising in Tehran and has been the subject of frequent visits and interrogations by the Islamic Republics Intelligence Ministry, having served time in solitary confinement for her activities. Maryam has written for publications such as Roozayeh Gozaresheh Rooz, Arya, Aftabeh Emrooz, Zaman, Gozaresh and Gharneh 21, most of which being shut down by the repressive regime. She states that I had to flee the Islamic Republic to continue my political activies and seeing the leadership of Roozbeh Farahanipour during the student uprising only gave me more reasons to continue my political activities abroad.
Mr. Mohsen Barghandan is 25 years of age and has attended Science University of the Pesian Gulf. He has been a MPG member since 1999. Mr. Barghandan is an activist journalist since 1997 is from Bushehr, the site of the now well known and controversial nuclear reactor, and has therefore, had intimate knowledge of the project, in addition to his exceptional insight into the infamous assassinations of leading political figures in 1998. Having refused collaboration with the Ministry of Intelligence and being subjected to increasing pressures during his interrogations, he finally decided to say farewell to his beloved land. Mohsen has worked for publications such as Nazimeh Jonoub, Avayeh Baharestan, Nasireh Bushehr and Mahnameyeh Gozaresh. Mr. Braghandan states that The people have distanced themselves from religion and have show their hatred towards the Islamic Republic and the Shah; as a result I can forsee only a secular republic as the future form of government in Iran.
Mr. Payam Taheri is 28 years of age and has been a MPG member since 2000. Mr. Taheri is a musician and news photographer, politically active since 1995. He participated in the pro-democracy July 1999 student uprising, evading arrest but was eventually dismissed from Garmsar College. He states that The Islamic Republic is basically an Arab government occupying Iran. If I want to preserve Iranian heritage, history, and culture I have to work towards overthrowing this government and establishing a nationalistic, independent Iranian government, and I can only do this from abroad.
The MPG party, founded in 1998 by young writers, journalists and student activists, closely sympathizes with the plight of all the victims of repression and shall be publicizing the experiences of the three young journalists and activists who will themselves reflect upon the hardships of the Iranian people in their long struggle towards a free, secular republic which will eventually triumph over the tyranny of the current medieval theocracy.
Iran attempts distraction
By Ze'ev Schiff
After the board of directors at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently announced that the board welcomed Iran's decision to freeze all activities connected with uranium enrichment, a news item appeared in Tehran quoting official sources who claimed that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had joined forces to develop a military nuclear program.
The Iranian sources claimed that the two countries signed a cooperation agreement in 2003 in which Pakistan committed to assist Saudi Arabia in developing nuclear weapons and rockets. The news item quoted Prof. Abu Mohammad Asgarkhani of the University of Tehran, who said that Iran's ambition to obtain nuclear weapons stemmed from that agreement between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
What prompted Iran to issue this piece of news? While the world is preoccupied with Iranian nuclear activity, with the pressures that European countries are putting on Iran, with the American demands to transfer the issue to the United Nations Security Council - Iran says: "You're only looking at us, but here are two friends of the United States who are working together through an accord to develop a nuclear program."
Unlike the past, this time the Iranians did not accuse Israel - falsely - as the cause for their nuclear development, but rather two large Muslim countries. Thus the message is that the U.S. is employing a double standard and wants to harm Iran's efforts to develop energy.
The nuclear connections between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have been publicized in the past, mainly regarding the funding that Saudi Arabia has transferred to Pakistan to help its nuclear development. Even though there have been suspicions, the Iranian publication heightens such notions, to the point of stating that Saudi Arabia will obtain nuclear weapons.
Whatever the case, if the Iranians intended to divert international attention from their nuclear program, they failed. Although the international agenda includes other serious problems, in all matters concerning the proliferation of nuclear weapons, Iran heads the list, alongside North Korea. The latest development in this area is the agreement between Iran and the European Union announced November 14, whereby Iran committed to a total halt to uranium enrichment.
It is important to stress that the agreement notes that Iran has no obligation under international agreements not to enrich uranium for civilian purposes. The accord with the Europeans likewise notes that Iran's agreement is voluntary. Still, had it not been for Iran's being caught during the past 18 years trying to deceive the international community, and the threat to transfer the issue to the Security Council, Iran would not have volunteered to cease the enrichment activities.
The key question is whether this agreement can be seen as the end of Iran's military nuclear program. The answer is not necessarily unequivocal, and more than just Israel and the U.S. think so. Leading European countries are also uncertain whether Iran is conducting a secret military nuclear program as well.
If anything has been achieved by the Iranian-European accord, it is the delay it causes in the Iranian nuclear program. Those who claim that activity against Iran does not have to involve military measures or sanctions have gained the upper hand. They believe there is time to employ delay strategy, because Iran has not yet reached the critical moment.
Is it possible to estimate how long this delay strategy can continue? The various intelligence services disagree on this point. The Israelis believe that the accord - along with other delaying factors - will postpone Iran's ability to produce ingredients independently for a nuclear bomb by six months to a year. Both Israel and the U.S. are convinced that Iran has a secret infrastructure for nuclear development and aims to lull the world into complacency. The Europeans admit that the accord relates only to facilities that Iran admitted operating and not to secret facilities and that everything depends on Iran observing the agreement.
Subtle Signs of Change
[Excerpt]By Jim HoaglandWednesday, December 8, 2004; Page A31
It is too small and random an event to be described as a turning point, but too significant in context to be ignored: When Saudi security forces shot it out with a small terrorist gang in Jeddah on Monday to protect the lives of U.S. diplomats, they made an important statement about the course of change in the Middle East. ...
In this interlude between George W. Bush's reelection and his second inauguration, the appointments list is a better guide to the next term's priorities than any speech or policy paper. It has been filled in recent days with key leaders from the Middle East and Central Asia, not from Europe or the Orient.
At the top of the list were President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and Ghazi Yawar, the interim president of Iraq. To listen to their accounts, American help has begun to turn the tide against al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist networks of the region, and opened the way to vital elections in Iraq in January.
You have every right to be skeptical about their accounts. Their fates are on the line. It is not in their interest to express doubts or dangers to scribes. My own skepticism about Musharraf's promises to the Bush administration has been stated here often and directly.
But when you hand a Pakistani general a club with which to belabor India's leadership and he declines to swing it, you know some things have changed. He turned away my question about India's intentions by noting that New Delhi is working with Pakistan toward peace and "is looking in a more westerly direction" in foreign policy.
Musharraf also candidly acknowledged that Pakistan has recently complained to Iran about nuclear weapons blueprints passed to Tehran by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan and his accomplices. At least in terms of improving his credibility, Musharraf seems to be not only surviving in a difficult job but actually growing into it.
That does not mean the United States can for a moment relax the pressure on Musharraf to keep his army focused on fighting al Qaeda and its extremist Pakistani allies (some of whom are commanders in the Pakistani security services) and to make sure that U.S. aid is spent honestly and wisely, including -- despite the objections of fundamentalists at home -- funding education for girls and women.
The United States must pursue that dual approach of stressing security and supporting social modernization throughout the region. The past unquestioning friendship for dictators and intolerant autocrats failed to protect U.S. interests over the long run. Abandoning the fight against Saddam Hussein's loyalists in Iraq or the Taliban remnants in Afghanistan and Pakistan now would produce even more immediate disasters.
Change is also surfacing in Saudi Arabia, which had also been the target of a mix of U.S. strictures on security and velvety pressure on other matters, such as Saudi membership in the World Trade Organization and showing greater religious, gender and political reform in the kingdom.
At least nine people died in the firefight in the U.S. consulate compound in Jeddah. But the Saudi forces' repulse of the terrorist attack without U.S. fatalities may represent a step forward in the commitment and capabilities of the local security units. In the past, local forces have not shown much willingness to fight terrorists to protect foreigners.
Such progress is necessary, but not sufficient. The shocks still reverberating through the region from al Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq have produced an extraordinary fluidity: The nature of Arab nationalism and the structure of regional security are up for grabs. The United States can be neither absent from the struggle nor overbearing in channeling change that is now both irresistible and unpredictable.
The United States will not prevail over global terrorism that originates in the Middle East unless moderate Muslim political, religious and civic leaders take command in that struggle. Morocco steps up to the challenge this weekend by hosting an international forum in which Arab civil rights organizations and entrepreneurs will press their governments to modernize.
Positive change dances to a two-step rhythm in the global tinderbox. President Bush must now show that he can master the tempo he has called for the most important endeavor of his presidency.
Iranian Democrats Establish a United Front
BY ELI LAKE - Staff Reporter of the Sun
December 7, 2004
WASHINGTON - After years of bitter internal divisions and a series of crackdowns from the Islamic republic, the Iranian democratic opposition in the last two weeks has organized a united front to push for a referendum on the powers of the supreme leader.
In an interview with The New York Sun, a founder of the new front, which comprises the major student groups as well as leading lawyers and activists inside the country, said organizers this week began fanning out across the country to collect the names of fellow citizens for a petition supporting changes to the constitution to allow a referendum.
"We think this is a good step that all the opposition groups are united in one direction, the direction of the referendum," Mohsen Sazegra said in a telephone interview from London. "As far as I know, this is a unique event. All groups from monarchists to republicans, from left to right are now behind us and they support the referendum movement."
Mr. Sazegra is a founder of what in Farsi is called Tahkimeh Vahdat, which is translated into "strongest unity." The organization includes many of the reformists who had tried to work within the system with President Khatemi, as well as supporters of the son of the deposed Shah, Reza Pahlevi.
Perhaps most important though, the new unified front includes the Islamic student organizations active in the country's universities. These groups originally supported the 1979 Islamic revolution but in recent years have demanded more political freedoms for the Iranian people. Indeed, activists led by one such leader, Abdollah Momeni, shouted down Mr. Khatemi yesterday in one of their boldest acts of defiance before the international press in recent months. In the middle of a speech at Tehran University, the onetime reformist president was heckled with taunts of "Shame on you," and "Where are your promised freedoms?" according to a dispatch from the BBC and wire services. Mr. Khatemi, who was reported to be visibly flustered, responded by saying, "My period is going to be over soon but I do not owe anyone," the Reuters news agency quoted him as saying. "Those power-seeking fanatics who ignored the people's demands and resisted reforms...the ones who destroyed Iran's image in the world, they owe me."
The confrontation between a group of students and Mr. Khatemi could go a long way in dispelling the notion in the West that Iran's democratic opposition has been demoralized after hard-line clerics prohibited most reformers from running for the elected assembly and have recently intensified efforts to arrest anti-regime bloggers and shut down critical newspapers.
For years, Iran's opposition movement was driven underground and was said to lack a unifying leadership. Often, Western reporters would not print the names of the anti-regime rebels because of a fear of repercussions from the state, which has jailed and in some cases tortured and killed leaders of demonstrations in the country. Furthermore, there was little agreement among the Iranian opposition on the regime's repression.
For many activists in the country, Mr. Khatemi's reformers represented an opportunity to change the system from within. But Iran's Guardian Council last February put an end to the reform movement when hundreds of legislators associated with Mr. Khatemi were barred from standing for election. In the months before the Iranian hard-liners rigged the election to the Majlis, Mr. Khatemi's allies in that body pushed for a referendum on the powers of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
While Mr. Khatemi has been recognized abroad as the head of government of the Islamic republic, the real power there still resides in the unelected hands of Ayatollah Khamenei and other like-minded clerics who control the military and intelligence services and vet those individuals deemed suitable to stand for elected office. If the democratic opposition succeeds in getting its referendum and the regime recognizes the results, it would, for all intents and purposes, end the Islamic theocracy that has ruled over the country since the 1979 revolution.
Mr. Sazegra told the Sun yesterday that Tahkimeh Vahdat sought to gather handwritten signatures for the referendum petition inside the country to post on their new Web site, www.60000000.com, a site that hopes to eventually get 60,000,000 supporters for the referendum.
"We have received in the last two days already 350 e-mails containing the names of whole families, in some cases with 50 names each. This shows that the referendum is supported by the youth and their parents." In the last two weeks, the Web site says 19,000 people have registered their support for the national vote. So concerned have the mullahs been about the Web site, that they have blocked access to it inside the country, borrowing a tactic from communist China.
"It's fine that they want to block the Web site. We are just going to get the people to participate through the email," he said. Mr. Sazegra said his organization planned to present the names of Iranians who sought the referendum to the United Nations and other international bodies. "We want to show the international community that this is the will of the Iranian people."
Mr. Sazegra arrived in London in March for surgery on his ailing heart, a condition worsened when he was in an Iranian jail and led a 79-day hunger strike. He told the Sun he intended to return to Iran in the coming months, where the regime says he must spend another year in jail for his opposition activities. "If they send me to jail again, I will start another hunger strike."
Unlike many in Iran's exile opposition, Mr. Sazegra was originally a close ally of Ayatollah Khomenei. He was an early member of the Revolutionary Guard, the elite military force that has facilitated terrorist activities against America and Israel.
"In those days, we thought we were afraid of foreign attacks. I thought if we could have a militia to organize the people in an army then we could protect the country. I thought it was a good idea in those days. After three months after establishing it, I found out that I was not suitable for military action and went into radio and television. The revolutionary guard became something else. Now the revolutionary guard commanders intervene in politics," he said.
Tahkimeh Vahdat also includes the lawyer for the families victimized by the chain murders of the 1990s, Nasser Zarafshan, who has been in prison since 2002; a former president of Tehran University, Mohammed Maliki; as well as a human rights lawyer who was arrested for attending an opposition conference in Berlin in 2001, Mehrangiz Kar. Ms. Kar is now a professor at Harvard University. From the ranks of student activists inside the country, the organization includes Ali Afshari, Reza Delbary, and Akbar Atri. The new group is also significant because it has enlisted support from Iran's expatriate community in Europe and America.
Mr. Sazegra said that he was interested in enlisting support from Western democracies, including America, the country he fought against in 1979 when he was a member of the Revolutionary Guard.
"We need America to defend the democratic rights of the Iranian people. We want this right to vote in a referendum, we don't want the current constitution, we want to change it," he said. "We need practical help to defend Iranian people. If the Americans can use international policy and sanctions, not against the Iranian people, but against the officials of the regime, this would be good. The people of Iran would like to see the bank accounts frozen for the regime officials. If they publish the bank accounts, the Iranian people will be very happy."
Mr. Sazegra also said he would like to see the State Department publicly call for the release of journalists and bloggers arrested in the last month.
Democracy for Iran[Excerpt]
December 08, 2004
The Wall Street Journal
Review & Outlook
We keep reading that there are "no good options" for diminishing the threat of Iran's nuclear program. And certainly preemptive military strikes are an imperfect solution at best, though the option has to be kept on the table. But that still doesn't explain why the Bush Administration has been so reluctant to support Iranians who want to overthrow the bomb-building mullahs.
Opposition to the Islamic Republic remains alive and well in Iran , despite the best efforts of Supreme Leader Ali Khameini and his loyal ayatollahs to kill it. On Monday the ineffectual Mohammed Khatami, the outgoing "reformist" president, was heckled repeatedly while speaking at Tehran University. "What happened to your promised freedoms," the students asked, accusing him of "extreme weakness toward the opponents of democracy." ...
In parliamentary elections in February, the Khameini crew abandoned all pretense of running a real democracy by disqualifying scores of sitting deputies allied with Mr. Khatami. About 100 newspapers have been closed in recent years. And in the presidential vote set for next year the hardliners look set to recapture the office. Rumor has it that Mr. Rafsanjani -- once hailed by Foggy Bottom and the Council on Foreign Relations as a "pragmatist," but who has said openly that Iran must have the atomic bomb to threaten Israel -- is interested in having his old job back.
And it's not just students who are unhappy at the prospect. The New York Sun reported yesterday that a new group called Tahkimeh Vahdat, or "strongest unity," has been formed to unite all shades of opinion in the Iranian opposition behind having a simple referendum on the powers of the Supreme Leader. The group's leader is a former ally of the late Ayatollah Khomeini and it is reported to include many other distinguished individuals both inside and outside Iran .
One of the most frustrating arguments against supporting Iran's democratic opposition is that the nuclear program is a matter of Persian national pride, and that any government would seek the bomb. But it should be obvious that a democratic Iran would be much less of a threat than the current regime, which is the prime sponsor of Hezbollah and perhaps now al Qaeda as well.
The national pride argument probably isn't true in any case. The New York Times reported on Monday on an Iranian analyst who has survey data to suggest many Iranians see the nuclear program for what it is -- a means to help the current regime consolidate its power. "The clerics want to get hold of the bomb to rule for another 50 years," a man named Reza is quoted as saying.
It is becoming increasingly notable that a Bush Administration committed to democracy everywhere else in the Middle East, and now in Ukraine, has little to say about the subject regarding Iran . This is not just a matter of consistency but of national security, and time is not on our side. A word from the White House in support of the new referendum movement would be a good place to start. It is hardly beyond imagining that scenes like those in Kiev might be repeated on the streets of Tehran.
December 08, 2004, 8:26 a.m.
The Power of FreedomWhat Soviet dissidents, Scoop Jackson, and Reagan understood.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a three-part series of excerpts from The Case for Democracy by Natan Sharansky with Ron Dermer. They are taken from the books introduction.
How was one Soviet dissident able to see what legions of analysts and policymakers in the West were blind to? Did Amalrik have access to more information than they did? Was he smarter than all the Sovietologists put together? Of course not. Amalrik was neither better informed nor more intelligent than those who had failed to predict the demise of the USSR. But unlike them, he understood the awesome power of freedom.
Dissidents understood the power of freedom because it had already transformed our own lives. It liberated us the day we stopped living in a world where truth and falsehood were, like everything else, the property of the State. And for the most part, this liberation did not stop when we were sentenced to prison. Having already removed the shackles that imprisoned our minds, our physical confinement could not dull the sense of freedom that coursed through our veins.
We perceived the Soviet Union as a wooden house riddled with termites. From the outside, it might appear strong and sturdy. But inside it was rotting. The Soviets had enough nuclear missiles to destroy the world ten times over. Over 30 percent of the earths surface was under communist rule and the Soviets possessed enormous natural resources. Its people were highly educated, and its children second to none in mathematic and scientific achievement. But forced to devote an increasing share of its energies to controlling its own people, the USSR was decaying from within. The peoples behind the Iron Curtain yearned to be free, to speak their minds, to publish their thoughts, and most of all, to think for themselves. While a few dissidents had the courage to express those yearnings openly, most were simply afraid. We dissidents were certain, however, that freedom would be seized by the masses at the first opportunity because we understood that fear and a deep desire for liberty are not mutually exclusive.
Fortunately there were a few leaders in the West who could look beyond the facade of Soviet power to see the fundamental weakness of a state that denied its citizens freedom. Western policies of accommodation, regardless of their intent, were effectively propping up the Soviets tiring arms. Had that accommodation continued, the USSR might have survived for decades longer. By adopting a policy of confrontation instead, an enervated Soviet regime was further burdened. Amalriks analysis of Soviet weakness was correct because he understood the inherent instability of totalitarian rule. But the timing of his prediction proved accurate only because people both inside and outside the Soviet Union who understood the power of freedom were determined to harness that power.
For me, and for many other dissidents, the two men leading the forces of confrontation in America were Senator Henry Jackson and President Ronald Reagan. One a Democrat, the other a Republican, their shared conviction that the individuals desire for freedom was an unstoppable force convinced them of the possibility of a democratic transformation inside the Soviet Union. Crucially, they also believed that the free world had a critical role to play in accelerating this transformation. Their efforts to press for democratic reform did not stem solely from humanitarian considerations. Like Sakharov, these men understood that the spread of human rights and democracy among their enemies was essential to their own nations security.
Had Reagan and Jackson listened to their critics, who called them dangerous warmongers, I am convinced that hundreds of millions of people would still be living under totalitarian rule. Instead, they ignored the critics and doggedly pursued an activist policy that linked the Soviet Unions international standing to the regimes treatment of its own people.
The logic of linkage was simple. The Soviets needed things from the West legitimacy, economic benefits, technology, etc. To get them, leaders like Reagan and Jackson demanded that the Soviets change their behavior toward their own people. For all it simplicity, this was nothing less than a revolution in diplomatic thinking. Whereas statesmen before them had tried to link their countries foreign policies to a rival regimes international conduct, Jackson and Reagan would link Americas policies to the Soviets domestic conduct.
In pursing this linkage, Jackson, Reagan, and those who supported them found the Achilles heel of their enemies. Beset on the inside by dissidents demanding the regime live up to its international commitments and pressed on the outside by leaders willing to link their diplomacy to internal Soviet changes, Soviet leaders were forced to lower their arms. The spark of freedom that was unleashed spread like a brushfire to burn down an empire. As a dumbfounded West watched in awe, the people of the East taught them a lesson in the power of freedom.
Dazzled by success, policymakers in the West quickly forgot what had provided the basis for it. Astonishingly, the lessons of the Wests spectacular victory in which an empire crumbled without a shot fired or a missile launched were neglected. More than fifteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the free world continues to underestimate the universal appeal of its own ideas. Rather than place its faith in the power of freedom to rapidly transform authoritarian states, it is eager once again to achieve peaceful coexistence and détente with dictatorial regimes.
Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and political prisoner, is author of the memoir Fear No Evil and currently serves as the Israeli minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs. Ron Dermer is a political consultant and former columnist for the Jerusalem Post.
DoctorZin Note: The following are photos of a pro-Democracy Iranian students lambast Khatami during speech yesterday in Tehran.
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