Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - December 10, 2004 [EST] -- Tapping the hornets' nest
Posted on 12/10/2004 12:09:38 AM PST by DoctorZIn
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Tapping the hornets' nest
By Michael Rubin
During the U.S. presidential campaign, debate over Iran policy received unprecedented attention. The reasons are multifold. With Iran on the verge of developing both nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile capability, Washington policymakers can no longer ignore the Iranian threat, especially when confidants of Supreme Leader Ali Khomenei lead televised chants of "American will be annihilated," as Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati did last June.
American concern over a nuclear Iran is multifold. The danger is not necessarily that Iran would conduct a nuclear first strike, although former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani threatened to do exactly that on December 14, 2001. Rather, Washington fears that a nuclear Iran would feel itself immune from retaliation and so less obligated to international norms.
An anti-Western ideology remains at the core of the Islamic republic, even as the majority of Iranian citizens long to join the West. The Islamic Republic founded Palestinian Islamic Jihad, bankrolls Hezbollah and supplies other Palestinian factions with weapons. According to the Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat, Iran shelters several hundred Al-Qaida members at Revolutionary Guard facilities near the Caspian town of Chalus and Lavizan, on the outskirts of Tehran. Iranian diplomats know that Washington would consider it a casus belli if Al-Qaida were to plan a terrorist attack from Iranian soil. But if Tehran felt a nuclear deterrent would prevent American or Israeli retaliation, it would have less incentive to rein in its proxy groups.
A nuclear Iran would also have profound impact upon ordinary Iranians. While the Islamic republic uses nationalism to justify its nuclear program, once sympathetic citizens have second thoughts. Students I met in Tehran during the 1999 democracy protests question whether after getting the bomb, the country's ideological guardians might engage in a crackdown "10 times worse than [China's 1989 assault on] Tiananmen Square." And, as the first anniversary of the Bam earthquake approaches, some environmentalists also voice concern about the wisdom of a Russian-built reactor in an earthquake zone.
Despite the growing challenge, U.S. policy remains confused. The Bush administration has yet to reach a consensus on a national security presidential directive for Iran. Bureaucrats continue to stumble over arcane questions about whether Jimmy Carter's non-interference pledges - made under duress during the 1979-1981 hostage crisis - prohibit funding of Iranian opposition radio and television broadcasts. Also unresolved is whether the dichotomy within Iran is between hard-liners and reformers, as the State Department maintains, or between the government and democrats. The result has been muddle. While Bush included the Islamic Republic of Iran in the "axis of evil," outgoing Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage labeled Iran a "democracy."
Before assuming her post, a senior director at the National Security Council criticized U.S. sanctions on Iran and the "rogue regime" label. She suggested Washington engage Tehran, and dismissed opponents as the "Israel Amen" crowd. Her predecessor, upon leaving government service, met with former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezai, an encounter the Iranian press suggested had White House sanction. National Security Council compromises brokered between the state and defense departments were often worse than either's proposal. When faced with a hornet's nest, the choice to destroy it or leave it alone is better than the compromise of lightly tapping it with a stick.
The clock is ticking for Iran. The insincerity of Iranian pledges regarding its nuclear program and its activities in Afghanistan and Iraq undercut proponents of engagement. The Bush administration no longer has the luxury of indecision. The fundamental question facing Bush now is not whether Washington can live with a nuclear Iran, but whether it can live with a nuclear Islamic republic. Some policymakers argue that the White House may have no choice. On November 26, 2004, the State Department, without administration sanction, posted a statement on its Web site labeling as "unwise, the possible use of military force by the United States or Israel to eliminate Iran's nuclear installations."
The statement went on to argue that a strike on Iran's dispersed nuclear facilities would not only fail to eliminate the program, but might spark a nationalist reaction and cause the Iranian leadership to unleash terrorist proxies against U.S. interests in the Middle East and Israel.
Such concerns are valid, but terrorist blackmail should never determine foreign policy. The Islamic republic does not seek nuclear weapons for security. On September 22, 2003, Iran paraded a Shihab-3 missile bearing the slogan, "Israel must be uprooted and erased from history." Proponents of security do not threaten to annihilate neighbors. Any concern about Iranian-backed terror now would only increase if the Islamic republic goes nuclear. Should engagement and diplomacy fail, Bush may have no choice but to order a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Should he do so, then he should also target Iran's apparatus of repression, be it Revolutionary Guard facilities or the guard towers at Evin Prison, where the Islamic republic imprisons its dissidents. Regardless, the second Bush administration cannot afford to replicate the indecision of the first. The challenge is too serious and the stakes too high. Diplomacy can only work when both sides are sincere. Let us hope that the Islamic Republic of Iran is, because time is running out.
Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is editor of Middle East Quarterly. Until April 2004, he was an Iran and Iraq adviser in the Pentagon.
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Iraq's hostile neighbors
Can Iran and Syria undo Iraq's liberation?
Recent stories highlight the threat to Iraqi sovereignty and security emanating from two of its neighbors. As relayed in Wednesday's Washington Post, the leaders of Iraq and Jordan are warning that Iran is trying to influence the Iraqi elections to create an Islamic government. According to Jordan's King Abdullah, in addition to training militias and pouring money into Iraq to create pro-Iranian sentiment, Tehran has allowed the flow of more than 1 million Iranians - who "will be used as part of the polls to influence the outcome [of elections]" - into the country.
A second story from the Post describes how intelligence now suggests the Iraqi insurgency is being directed to a greater degree from Syria than was previously thought. This is in line with the picture painted by Iraqi interim president Ghazi al-Yawer, who asserts "there are people in Syria who...are Saddam remnants who are trying to bring the vicious dictatorship of Saddam back."
Despite the tremendous progress being made due to the perseverance of the Iraqi people and the liberating Coalition, intrigue by Tehran and Damascus menaces the future of Free Iraq. Their meddling must be brought to an end.
Dec 9th 2004 | TEHRAN
From The Economist print edition
In the short run, Iran is getting grimmer. One day the ruling ayatollahs will lose their deadening grip on power. But not soon
THE firing of a bullet into his damned and blasphemous head is an absolute necessityand how cherished would that bullet's emissary be. Those were the gentle words recently directed by one of Iran's leading editors, Hossein Shariatmadari, at an exiled Iranian television presenter, Manouchehr Fouladvand, who has had the cheek to mock aspects of Islam: shades of the fatwa that cast a death sentence on a British writer, Salman Rushdie, cursed for blasphemy in 1989 by the late Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini, Iran's supreme leader. A return, then, to the intolerance of the revolution's early days?
Perhaps not. Though Mr Shariatmadari is the influential boss of a state-owned newspaper group, Keyhan, which faithfully echoes the thoughts of Iran's conservative clerical leaders, his exhortation is unlikely to be acted on. Since the kindlier Muhammad Khatami became president in 1997, his governments have managed to dampen Iran's fundamentalist ardour, especially on social matters. Women who flout the Islamic dress-code, which still requires their heads (and the rest of their bodies) to be covered in public, are more rarely threatened with a flogging. The law providing for adulteresses to be stoned to death, though still on the statute book, is suspended. A blind eye is still turned to the many thousands of Iranians who tune in to satellite television, though that is still technically illegal.
Nonetheless, Iran's liberals and reformers feel increasingly beleaguered, and voices such as Mr Shariatmadari's are louder and more menacing than they were even six months ago. In that period, says one of Tehran's longer-serving foreign diplomats, there has been a dramatic change in mood. Bullying militias are again tryingso far without much successto enforce the old morality. Last month a female MP from the conservative camp suggested that if ten street-walkers were executed, We will have dealt with the problem [of prostitution] once and for all.
More worrying from the liberals' point of view, the reform-minded but disappointingly dithery Mr Khatami has been the lamest of ducks since the ruling clergy and the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Mr Khomeini in 1989, presided over a rigged general election in February when the candicacy of 2,000-plus reformers was blocked. As a result, the new parliament is distinctly more xenophobic and illiberal than its predecessor. Of its 290 members, more than a quarter share the sort of rabid views expressed by Mr Shariatmadari, and they seem to be mocking Mr Khatami with impunity in his last months in office.
The sole remaining liberal daily newspaper of any weight, Shargh, feels obliged to censor itself more rigorously than before for fear of being closed down, as so many of its like-minded counterparts have been. The so-called red lines that fence off sensitive issues from discussion are being drawn more tightly. Freedom of expression is diminishing again.
The media have never been allowed to criticise the supreme leader. But now we cannot attack the judiciary or the Council of Guardians either, says one of Shargh's editors, referring to Iran's 12-strong body, the most powerful in the land, composed of six clergy appointed by the supreme leader and six others picked by the head of the judiciary, himself picked by the leader. It is they who blocked reform-minded candidates from standing for parliament and refused to ratify virtually all the more enlightened billsnearly half the totalpassed by the previous parliament.
Not that mass repression is needed to keep the media, or the Iranian people in general, in line. According to a respected human-rights campaigner, between 2,000 and 4,000 Iranians, including about 30 journalists, are behind bars for political reasons. The reason for the overall figure's vagueness is that many of those incarcerated are in unofficial prisons: even their relatives are not told they are there.
In the past few months detentions have swelled of bloggers who have set up internet sites, which the state has taken great trouble to block. A number of well-known campaigners for human rights have been prevented from going abroad or arrested on their return. Human Rights Watch, an independent lobby group, said this week that secret squads operating under the authority of the Iranian judiciary have used torture to force internet journalists and civil-society activists to write self-incriminatory confession letters.
The clampdown seems to be working. Many of the liberal and sophisticated professionals of northern Tehran, downcast by Mr Khatami's failure, seem to have withdrawn into a private life behind the walls of their villas. Many are emigrating, at an estimated rate of 200,000 a year, especially to the United States (where there may be 800,000 Iranians), Canada (perhaps the most popular destination), Britain, France and Australia.
Mr Khamenei seems, on the face of things, more dominant than ever. But power in Iran is by no means monolithic. Even the conservatives divide into various strands, from rigid puritans to cautious pragmatists. Some, for economic and strategic reasons, would like Iran to accommodate with the West, even with the United States. Others, loth to stain the revolution's purity, are prepared to accept Iran's isolation, protecting the country from the westoxification that has, in their view, corrupted so many Muslim countries. Yet others think they can defend the old morality and the political dominance of the clergy while, at the same time, opening the economy to the West; they invoke a Chinese model. Policy may, in the course of the next few years, shift back in a more liberal direction. Or it may not. The future is highly unpredictable.
The one thing everyone knows is that Iran is in a jam. Above all, plainly, there is a crisis of legitimacy. Only half of Iranians bothered to vote in February's election; not much more than a quarter of those in Tehran, which embraces at least 8m people, turned out. Western diplomats reckon that barely 15% of Iranians still support the ruling order. The low turnout reflected not just apathy and fatalism, which are indeed strong. Many sour and embittered Iranians consciously decided not to go to the polls as a gesture of protest.
We've come to a dead end, says Grand Ayatollah Yusef Saanei, one of a dozen clerics to hold this high rank in Iran but whose liberal views, especially on women's rights, have put him out of favour with the ruling clergy.
According to some reports, disaffection with the regime even among the clergy is spreading. A cleric from an influential religious family, also out of favour with the supreme leader, derides the Council of Guardians for mostly taking orders and hints from the powers that bea euphemism for Mr Khamenei. Most striking of all, sociologists and educators report that religious belief and observance, especially among the young, have slumped since the mullahs took power a quarter of a century ago. Instead of fortifying the people's devotion, the system seems to have switched many people off the spiritual side of life, inspiring a shallow materialism instead.
In a population of around 70m, one-third are reckoned to be under 14 and two-thirds under 35. Though the economy grew by about 6% last year, it is not expanding fast enough to keep unemployment down. Around 16% are officially jobless, though the real figure may be higher. At about 17%, inflation is rising faster than wages. Though the necessities of life, such as bread and potatoes, are hugely subsidised, the lot of the urban poor, whose minimum wage is around $12 a month, is dire.
The mullahs have patently failed to revamp an economy that remains distorted by subsidies, closed to competition within Iran or from abroad, locked in the hands either of the state or of state-connected foundations known as bonyads, and increasingly reliant on the high price of oil: Iran has about a tenth of the world's known reserves. Barely a fifth of the economy is in private hands. The conservatives have made it hard for the timid Mr Khatami to sell off state firms or open up to foreigners. The merchants of the bazaar, a longstanding pillar of the mullahs' power, still protect their own cartels. Capital flight continues apace. Only four private banks exist (three of them linked to bonyads or to the state), with just 4% of the banking sector's assets. Corruption in every sphere of business stunts growth and puts off investors. People mutter about the mullahs' wealth and patronage.
The new parliament has been especially obstructive, preventing, for instance, a Turkish company (with Zionist links, so it was bruited) from acquiring a mobile-phone franchise to break the current inefficient monopoly. It has also prevented the opening of Tehran's new airport, because it would have been operated by a Turkish-led consortiumso, in the conservatives' view, imperilling national security. Most recently, parliament has threatened to unpick a big deal with Renault, the French car-maker, to produce a new car.
Without oil at its present sky-high price, Iran's economy would be in wretched straits. Oil provides about half the government's revenue and at least 80% of export earnings. But, once again under the influence of the zealots in parliament, the oil cash is being spent on boosting wasteful subsidies rather than on much-needed development and new technology.
Comparisons with neighbouring Turkey are instructive, painfully so to Iranians who look beyond their own borders. Before Iran's revolution, Turkey was behindhand on practically every countforeign direct investment, income per head, GDP growth. Now the reverse is true. More noticeably, Turkey's politics have become far more open, its (still patchy) human-rights record has improved, its media and civil society are much bouncier than in Iran. Turkey has had a female prime minister; since the revolution, Iran has not even had a woman minister. Turkey is moving ahead, and may even join the European Union; Iran is falling behind.
Other regional comparisons further irritate Iranians. The Qataris have far outstripped them in exploiting the huge gasfield they share. Tiny Dubai, across the Gulf, now draws in much more foreign investment: Iranians go there for banking, for trade (and sanctions-busting) and for fun. Farther along the Caspian shore, Azerbaijan, with American know-how, is developing its oilfields far more dynamically; Iran's productivity rate has plummeted.
In the face of such gloomy contrasts, Iran cannot make up its mind whether to co-operate with the perfidious infidel West to save its economic skin and strengthen its security, or to keep its Islamist soul unsullied. That dilemma is at the heart of the present wrangle over nuclear power.
For all its recent sense of failure, Iran still yearns to be acknowledged as a leading power, even the leading power, in the area. In some respects, it is not doing badly. Iraq and Afghanistan, neighbours on either side, havein Iranian eyesbeen humiliated by occupation by the Great Satan. Iraq, its old foe, is a mess. Turkey apart, Iran is a giant that looks steadier on its feet than some of its neighbours. And if ramshackle Pakistan, to the east, can have a nuclear bomb yet remain a crucial ally of the West, why shouldn't Iran have one too?
Publicly, it says it does not want one. But with vast and cheap supplies of gas and oil, few observers think Iran really needs nuclear energy. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, has found no irrefutable evidence that Iran is building a bomb. Last week, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, chirpily told The Economist, We've never even thought about it.
But a mass of circumstantial evidence, along with a tangle of lies, omissions and evasions in the face of the agency's inquiries, has convinced just about every independent analyst that Iran has indeed been trying to buildor at least have the capacity to builda nuclear bomb, in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, under which it promised not to do so. (It has also proclaimed the extension of its Shahab-3 missile's range from 850 to 1,250 miles, within striking distance of Tel Aviv.) Israel, an undeclared nuclear power that has never signed the NPT, and whose right to exist has never been recognised by Iran's ruling mullahs, is particularly exercised by the prospect of an Iranian bomband has hinted it might hit a range of would-be nuclear targets across Iran.
In the end, it is all about national prideand high-stake risks, tortuous and deliberately time-consuming negotiation, fine calculations, deception and bluff.
These are the options:
The leading three European countries (Britain, France and Germany), which have been negotiating since last year, manage to persuade Iran to stop its uranium-enrichment and plutonium-reprocessing programmes that could have a military as well as civilian purpose, and allow intrusive checks by the IAEA, in return for trade agreements and other sweeteners. But the best guess is that the Iranians will still spin things out, while beavering away at getting the wherewithal for a bomb.
A grand bargain (tentatively mooted by John Kerry) with the Americans, who would end a quarter of a century of hostility, lift their economic sanctions now in force, and forge a complete rapprochement. This would also entail Iran co-operating against terrorism, opening up its economy, improving human rights and recognising Israel (the ayatollahs say they would accept a Jewish state once they are satisfied that the Palestinians do, too). Few people think this option will be taken up.
If both those options come to naught, it is possible that Iran will be referred to the UN Security Council for its breaches of the NPT and could then face worldwide sanctions. As things stand, China and Russia are likely to block such a resolution, but it is conceivable that Russia could change its mind, and China abstain.
If the blockage continues, either Israel or the United States might bomb Iran's nuclear sites, just as Israel knocked out Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. It would be harder, as Iran's sites are scattered, and some are deep underground. A concerted attack would probably set back Iran's nuclear schemes by several years or morebut not end them. And it would risk bloody retaliation against Israel and America.
As things stand, Iran will probably attain the capacity to make a bomb and, after an Indian-style period of strategic ambiguity, break out of the NPT. It would be unlikely ever to use this weapon. But it would be safer, perhaps, from the sort of attack launched on it by Saddam Hussein 24 years ago.
The American administration's hope that sanctions and other pressures will eventually force a change of regime in Tehran looks, in the foreseeable future, forlorn. And an Israeli or American attack might well have the adverse effect of rallying Iranians to their rather unpopular regime.
Otherwise, only three things could jolt Iran out of its present torpor of stagnation and depression. One is the presidential election due in May. Another, further down the road, is a dramatic slump in the oil price. The third is the possibility of a Gorbachev figure emerging from within the clerical establishment to open up the deadening political and economic system. At present none of these three possibilities looks likely, at least not in the short run.
The presidential candidate, so far undeclared, who has aroused most debateand cautious hope among some of those seeking changeis Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who now heads the Expediency Council, an influential mediating body. He is generally dubbed a pragmatic conservative. Some businessmen think he would help open the economy; others demur, considering him the epitome of the rich mullah with fingers in every pie but no real yen for the market.
He is undoubtedly a cunning fellow with a penchant for intrigue at home and abroadAmericans have not forgotten how he humiliated them during the Iran-contra affair. He is also unpopular among the people at large, scoring dismally in the general election earlier this year. But the ruling mullahs have their ways of promotingand blockingcandidates. The presidency, as Mr Khatami has shown, can anyway be emasculated. But if Mr Rafsanjani got it, he might make a difference.
Is there a Gorbachev elsewhere among the mullahs? It is an unlikely prospect, but the inner workings of Iran's clerical establishment are mysterious and supremely opaque. Mr Khamenei's standing, such as it is, has falleneven, it is said, among the clergy. The opposition, at present, is numb. Only if the price of oil, say, halved, and the economy really dived would the anger and frustration well up again and bring people out on the street. And so long as that does not happen, the Iranians are miserably stuck with what they've got.
UN concern over Iran's N-technologyBy Roula Khalaf in London
Published: December 9 2004 22:01 | Last updated: December 9 2004 22:01
The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog has suggested that Iran's nuclear technology represents an effective deterrent that should be dealt with through a security dialogue as well as inspections.
Nuclear inspectors have found no evidence so far of an Iranian weapons programme. But Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned in an interview with the Financial Times that acquiring nuclear expertise, even for peaceful purposes, gave countries the core element of a deterrent.
The fundamental issue is that countries look at know-how as a deterrent. Once you get into areas of deterrence, you get into security and insecurity, he said. If you have nuclear material, the weapon part is not far away.
Mr ElBaradei's comments come before next week's first round of talks between Tehran and three European governments Britain, France and Germany on nuclear, economic and security co-operation. The so-called EU3 persuaded Iran last month to suspend its uranium enrichment in return for the dialogue.
But the talks are threatened by a key difference between the two sides: Iran considers the suspension of enrichment, which it says is for peaceful use, as a temporary measure. The EU3 are looking for a permanent freeze.
In nearly two years of inspections, the IAEA has uncovered a sophisticated Iranian programme to master the fuel cycle. So far, it has not found evidence to support US suspicions that Iran has a weapons programme.
Mr ElBaradei, however, argued that the Iran controversy was part of a broader problem in nuclear non-proliferation: countries that master the technology needed for a peaceful enrichment programme and comply with the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty can develop a nuclear deterrent.
I hope that in discussions [between Tehran and the EU3] everyone puts their cards on the table. This is not just a technical issue, it's a security issue.
Experts say persuading Iran permanently to give up its pursuit of a fuel cycle would require a normalisation of relations with the US which the Europeans cannot deliver.
But Mr ElBaradei insisted the diplomatic track and inspections remained the best option. The US has been advocating a tougher approach and wants Tehran referred to the UN for possible sanctions. As long as the process is working I don't want to see it scuppered. I don't see any alternative to it, he said.
The IAEA investigation has now moved on to inspectors looking into intelligence claims of nuclear experiments at military facilities which could indicate an undeclared weapons programme. Inspectors are following the trail of enrichment-related equipment and material procured by Iran and have asked to visit the Parchin military complex south of Tehran a request that has not yet been granted.
Mr ElBaradei sought, however, to reassure Tehran that he would not act as an instrument of harassment in his investigations. But he expected co-operation from Tehran. Iran tried to cheat the system. Now they would have second thoughts . . . because we've called their bluff, he said.
Powell urges close eye on Iranian nuclear activities
PARIS (AFP) Dec 09, 2004
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that the international community must keep a close eye on Iran's nuclear activities to ensure it does not violate a hard-won deal to suspend uranium enrichment.
He told French television that while the United States accepted the accord struck by Iran and the European Union, it would not drop its guard.
"We are concerned it is only a suspension and a suspension can be revoked," he said on France 3 television in an interview from Brussels.
"And so we believe Iran has been moving toward the development of a nuclear weapon, and that concerns us."
Under the deal, hammered out last month after lengthy talks between Tehran and Europe's so-called "big three" of Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment -- a key stage in the nuclear fuel cycle -- and allow inspections of its atomic sites.
In return, Iran was promised wide-ranging rewards by the European trio who would like the freeze to become permanent.
At the same time, the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, also agreed not to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
Iran claims its nuclear programme is a peaceful, civilian effort and denies Washington's allegations that it is secretly developing nuclear weapons.
Powell recalled that Iran had previously agreed to suspend enrichment only to resume the process.
"Now we have a new agreement with the European Union," he said. "That's all well and good. But we should never take our eye off this problem."
In separate remarks in Brussels on the sidelines of a NATO meeting, Powell said he hoped international pressure would oblige Iran to make its suspension permanent.
"I hope... the spotlight and heat lamp that have been put on Iran will make it difficult for them to move forward with this programme.
"Hopefully theyll come to the realisation that the international community will do everything to keep such a programme from achieving a level of success, meaning the development of a nuclear weapon," he told a news conference.
Uranium enrichment is a process used to make fuel for nuclear reactors but also, in a highly enriched form, the explosive core of atomic bombs.
Iran has pledged to maintain its suspension while the negotiations with the EU are in progress.
More talks are scheduled on Monday, diplomatic sources in Brussels said.
Powell IV Christian Malard of France 3 TelevisionFriday, 10 December 2004, 2:10 pm
Press Release: US State DepartmentInterview With Christian Malard of France 3 Television
Secretary Colin L. Powell
December 9, 2004
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for talking to me again
SECRETARY POWELL: My pleasure, Christian.
QUESTION: Great pleasure to see you again. Mr. Secretary, the situation is far from being stabilized in Iraq. I know that yesterday, some American soldiers told Secretary Rumsfeld that they were demobilized, demoralized by the situation. At the same time, we do know that such countries as Iran, neighboring country, and some terrorist groups don't want to hear about any stabilization of Iraq. So, in this context, do you think the January elections are going to happening in a reliable way?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, we still are planning for the January 30th election. More importantly, the Iraqis want that election on the 30th of January. The one who determines the date is their election commission, and they're determined to move forward. And we are organizing international observers. We are putting more troops in to make sure that situation is more stable than it is now.
There are people who don't want to see an election. They're terrorists, they're murderers, they're thugs. They want to go back to the days of Saddam Hussein. And we can't let that happen. The Iraqi people don't want that. They want the same thing that the people of Ukraine have fought for, the people of Georgia have fought for, the people of Afghanistan have fought for: to select their own leaders. And so there may be concerns about security - and these are legitimate concerns because we are fighting a very difficult insurgency - But we are going to do everything we can to make sure the security conditions permit these elections to take place on the 30th of January.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I know one of the big bones of contention between President Chirac and President Bush has been Iraq. The first four years of the relationship between them has been awful. How do you see the future, as someone who knows both of them, of course? Can it get worse, knowing that President Chirac doesn't want to get involved in Iraq financially or militarily?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well I wouldn't say the relationship is as bad as you describe it. Certainly there was a major disagreement over Iraq and nobody can paper that over. But our two presidents cooperated with respect to what we did in Afghanistan. We've cooperated with our efforts in Haiti. We have cooperated in the situation in Cote d'Ivoire. We have cooperated in many areas. We have worked to expand the NATO alliance to twenty-six nations, and we've worked closely with the European Union's relationship with NATO. So there are many bilateral things that take place between the United States and France that suggest we recognize France as a partner, an ally and as an important trading partner of the United States.
But there are disagreements, and Iraq was a major disagreement, let there be no doubt. President Bush hopes to mend these breaches that have opened in our relationship with France and some other countries, frankly, and that is why he is planning to come to Europe early in his next term. In fact he will be in Europe on the 22nd of February. He is coming to attend NATO meetings the morning of the 22nd of February and to meet with the European Union the afternoon of the 22nd. And I hope that as part of those meetings, they will have an opportunity to discuss issues, not only with President Chirac, but with the other NATO heads of governments.
QUESTION: So the Chirac-Bush relationship 2005 should get better?
SECRETARY POWELL: I would certainly hope so. I think it is not as bad as people say it is, but we are always looking for ways to improve the relationship. I've had good relations with the three foreign ministers of France that I've served with, even though we have had serious discussions and disagreements. I never forget that the United States and France have been allies for so, so long 227 years or thereabouts. I never forget that. Have we had disagreements? Always. There's always some little problem. But do we always come back because we have shared values, we have, you know, a common destiny? The answer is yes we have shared values, yes we have a common destiny to move into the future, and that will always bring us back together.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, coming back to the Palestinian elections. If Prime Minister Sharon doesn't come up with a proposal for substantial withdrawal from the occupied territories to the so-called moderate Palestinian leaders, Mahmoud Abbas, don't you think that these people might be overwhelmed sooner than later by terrorist groups, Hammas, Jihad, and radical Palestinians?
SECRETARY POWELL: Terrorism isn't in the interest of the Palestinian people. The Intifadah is no longer in the interest of the Palestinian people. Regardless of what Mr. Sharon does. It has not brought the Palestinian people this kind of activity one step closer to having a state of their own.
Now there is a disengagement withdrawal proposal on the table. Prime Minister Sharon has said he's going to withdrawal from those twenty-one settlements in Gaza, four settlements in the West Bank, all consistent with the Road Map. Meaning there will be other withdrawals, meaning that he wants to move down this Road Map with responsible Palestinian leaders to that point where a Palestinian state is created. That's what President Bush is supporting. That's the vision that President Bush and the Arab League have put before the world.
What we now need is a good election on the 9th of January in the Palestinian communities for a new president. And that new president then will have new authority in the post-Arafat period to work with Prime Minister Sharon and with the Quartet.
So I think we have a new opportunity here. There will be disengagement. There will be the closure of settlements. This is something that people have wanted for decades. I hope that the Palestinians, with their new leader, their new president, will understand that this is a terrific opportunity. The international community stands ready to help both the Palestinians and the Israelis. Egypt is playing an important role. The Arab nations are playing an important role.
QUESTION: Iran, Mr. Secretary, Do you trust the Ayatollah saying "we freeze our nuclear program"? And don't you think we have a risk to see Iran as a next target if they don't cooperate- next target by Israel and by United States and some other countries?
SECRETARY POWELL: We shouldn't be talking about targets. The president and the international community are determined to get a diplomatic political solution. We are pleased that the EU-3 was able to get an agreement with Iran to suspend.
But we are concerned that it is only a suspension, and a suspension can be revoked. And so we believe that Iran has been moving toward the development of a nuclear weapon, and that concerns us. The United States, for four years, has been pointing out this problem to the world. And For the first two years, everybody thought we were just being the United States, screaming. But we were able to establish that the Iran had been doing things that were inconsistent with their obligations to the IAEA and to the agreements they had entered into. They agreed with a suspension proposal that the EU gave to them in the fall of 2002. And then they came out of that suspension by the middle of 2003, 2003-2004 I should say.
Now we have a new agreement with the European Union. That's all well and good. But we should never take our eye off this problem. We would have referred it. The United States would have preferred to refer it to the Security Council earlier, but that's not the judgment of the community. This is a case where the United States is working with our European friends, working with the international community, not acting in a unilateral manner. And this is the way we do most of our business.
QUESTION: Just a question, Mr. Secretary. Ukraine's situation reminded some of us recently of getting back to the time of the Cold War. Don't you think that with the situation inside this country, we might see sooner President Putin and President Bush being at odds with each other because President Putin doesn't accept what he calls the interference of the occidental world in his zone of influence, and especially from the United States?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don't think we're headed to the Cold War, and I think that commentators who say we're going back to the days of the Soviet Union and the Cold War are misreading the situation.
We have a situation here where the Ukrainian people want a free, fair, open election. It doesn't have anything to do with anyone's zone of influence or sphere of influence. These are old terms that are not relevant. Ukrainian people want to vote for their own leaders in a free, fair, open election. They did not get a free, fair and open election in this past re-run. And so now, the Ukrainians have figured out a way to have another election, to modify their election laws and their constitution.
What we should be doing the United States, the European Union and the Russians is supporting the Ukrainian people in their desire for a free, fair election.
And this is not a matter of taking Ukraine away from Russia or taking Ukraine away from the West. Ukraine wants to have good relations with both Russia and the West. So there's no need for us to compete. We all should be satisfied with a Ukraine that has a leadership that is freely and fairly elected and a political system that rests on the foundation of democracy.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you have a great knowledge of the world, not many people have your knowledge of what's going on. My question is the following one: what are the events you have been the most struck by in 2004? And what are your wishes for 2005?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, what I have seen in 2004, I might say the four years that I have been secretary of state, is a desire on the part of so many people to live in freedom and to live under a political system that rests on a foundation of democracy and free elections. We've seen that in Afghanistan, where a terrible regime was eliminated, the Taliban, and now we see a freely elected president in office. We see the same thing in Iraq. In more and more places in the world, people want to live in freedom, they want democracy. And they're expecting the industrialized world, the European world and the American world, to join together and help them in any way that we can. And that's what we are committed to do.
And I hope that in 2005, any breaches that remain between Europe and the United States are closed. And we can work together to help the broader Middle East nations and North African nations reform and modernize themselves with our help. So we can consolidate democracy in Iraq and defeat these terrorists. I hope that 2005 will be a year of continued democratic growth and freedom throughout the world.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. I wish you all the best. God bless you. And we are going to miss you.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Christian.
Released on December 9, 2004
Women's activist charged with leaving Iran illegally
Global BC, Broadcast News
Thursday, December 09, 2004
CREDIT: Global BC Haleh Sahba was arrested in Iran after she was deported from Canada Tuesday. Sahba told immigration officials she feared persecution in her country due to her work as a women's rights activist.
An Iranian woman deported from Vancouver was arrested within minutes of her return to Tehran, but was released after spending many hours in detention.
Haleh Sahba, 30, now faces charges of leaving Iran illegally.
Sahba lived in the Vancouver area for three years after fleeing her home country, where she had been jailed for defending women's rights.
She told Immigration Canada that she feared for her life if she was forced to return to Iran, but was refused refugee status and deported on Tuesday.
Sahba's family has now sent letters to every MLA in the province asking for their support to win her return to Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Well they sold her down the river. Mighty nice of them. She is toast.
Nice going Canada .. you just sealed her fate
If millions of Muslim voices would stand up and demand this, it would happen.
But if Muslims remain silent, it won't.
In the end, it is up to Muslims.
Hahaha! Muslims have no problem with this their Koran instructs them to do this. You dont really think you can depend on Muslims to do something?
How nice of the Canadians especially after one of their own citizens got murdered by the Iranian government.
Say what you want, but our future friends are the Muslims in Iran, not the Christians in France, Germany and Spain.
In fact, polls show that Muslims in Iran are *far* more favorable of the US than Christians in most of Europe.
From above article:
"A poll conducted by a state-owned company in Tehran in February revealed that 70 per cent of Iranians had a favourable view of the US (which is thus more popular in Iran than in Britain, let alone in France and Germany). "
Time's awasting. The Iranians need to do something very loud and clear.
"Say what you want, but our future friends are the Muslims in Iran, not the Christians in France, Germany and Spain"
Iran use to be such a good ally to Israel under the Shah.
This thread is now closed.
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