Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - December 13, 2004 [EST] - Feith to 'Post': US action against Iran can't be ruled out
Posted on 12/13/2004 1:52:05 AM PST by DoctorZIn
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Dec. 12, 2004 3:24 | Updated Dec. 12, 2004 16:06
Feith to 'Post': US action against Iran can't be ruled outBy CAROLINE GLICK
The US hopes that Iran will follow Libya's lead in abandoning its nuclear program, but nobody should rule out the possibility of military action against Teheran's nuclear sites if it does not, US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview.
Feith stated that the US is now concentrating on "a process to try to get the existing international legal mechanisms the nonproliferation treaty [and] the International Atomic Energy Agency to work, to bring the kind of pressure to bear on Iran that would induce the Iranians to follow the path that Libya took in deciding that they were actually better off in abandoning their WMD [weapons of mass destruction] programs."
Feith stressed that the Americans are interested in seeing whether the suspension of uranium-enrichment activities that the Iranians agreed to last month in a deal with France, Germany and Britain "can get turned into a permanent abandonment."
But strikingly, whereas British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw last month ruled out any possibility of military action against Iranian nuclear sites should the diplomatic path lead to failure, Feith said that "I don't think that anybody should be ruling in or ruling out anything while we are conducting diplomacy."
In the wide-ranging interview conducted on Friday, Feith, who will be remaining in his position during US President George W. Bush's second term, told the Post that democratic reform of the Arab world, including in US-allied Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, will be the linchpin of Bush's foreign policy in the next four years.
He was speaking a day before outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell told a conference of Islamic leaders in Morocco that the Arab world had to implement political and economic reform and stop "pointing to the [deadlocked] Middle East peace process as a pretext for delay."
Feith recalled that "the president has said over and over again that he believes that the world will be a better place, there will be a better treatment of people [and] there will be a more secure international environment if there is a development of representative, democratic-type institutions in the Middle East."
The undersecretary said he saw signs that Bush's democratization platform was having an effect on the public discussion now taking place in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan about democracy, dialogue that barely existed before Bush began discussing the issue in 2002.
"The kinds of things that the president has been saying are stimulating talk about reform throughout the Middle East," said Feith. "There is more attention being paid to the subject. People who are aware of what's going on in the world at large cannot fail to see that the countries that have democratic governments and free economies have a greater degree of prosperity, of political stability [and] of peaceful politics as opposed to violent domestic politics, and they are happier. And that kind of observation, in part because the president is stressing it, is getting more and more play throughout the entire region."
As a principal architect of the US war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, Feith is one of the most controversial members of the Bush administration. Disliked in liberal circles in the US and internationally, Feith, a staunch supporter of Israel, began his government career in 1981 as an assistant to Soviet expert Richard Pipes at the US National Security Council in the Reagan administration. In that position, as he does today for the Middle East, Feith advocated the advancement of the cause of democracy and human rights in the former Soviet bloc as a means of bringing about the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
When asked about the failure thus far of the US to win the hearts and minds of the Arab world, where levels of anti-Americanism have risen sharply since September 11, 2001, Feith admitted, "There are a lot of things that need to be done to improve communications. Part of it is how we're organized: how the combatant commands relate back to headquarters here in the Pentagon; how the Pentagon relates to the State Department and the other agencies."
Feith argued that the media's need to grab the attention of viewers motivates news organizations to concentrate on violence at the expense of giving news consumers an accurate portrayal of what life is like in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Comparing the news coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan to the news coverage of Israel, Feith said, "If you live in Israel and you see the way life is there and then you go abroad and see the way Israel is reported on, the way that Israel gets reported on night after night is simply pictures of bombings or military actions. And there are people who have an image that that's all that's going on in the country and people have similar images about Afghanistan or Iraq.
One of the problems is how do you communicate that, while there are things like that going on and they're a big problem, there's also an enormous amount of life going on that is commerce and culture and education and happy ordinary life."
Feith was highly critical of the role that Syria is playing in fueling the insurgency against Iraqi and coalition forces in Iraq. "Their role is unhelpful," he said. "We know that there are various activities important to the insurgents in Iraq that are occurring in Syria. There are people that have safe-havened there. There are people passing through Syria to join the insurgents [and] to supply them. And it's a bad thing."
One of the elements of prewar planning for which Feith has come under a barrage of criticism from US military commanders was his intention to train an exiled Iraqi military force to fight with the US during the March 2003 invasion. Feith continues to defend his recommendation.
"I did think it was important to do what we could to train up Iraqis as a security force in advance of our military operation. We saw lots of benefits of that both with regard to the military operation itself and with regard to the post-major combat period. There were certain obvious benefits that trained Iraqis could bring, as people who know the language, who know the lay of the land who know the local culture, [and] work with our forces and help liberate their own country. And then afterward these would be people that we knew and whose views and whose leadership qualities we knew and who could help identify other Iraqis who could play a useful role in the building of a new Iraq.
"We saw lots of benefits in that effort," he continued. "We were hoping to get thousands of Iraqis trained before the war and as it turns out we were only able to train a few score and that was unfortunate. I think it would have been better if we had had thousands who were trained."
While Feith indicated that the US was doing nothing at present to encourage the Iraqis to end their enmity toward Israel, he dismissed the possibility of the post-Saddam Iraq going to war against it.
"If all goes well, the Iraqis are going to have a country that's going to have a representative government and will be at peace with its neighbors and in the region," said Feith. "And if that happens, the whole Middle East will be better off."
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A Time to Say No
December 09, 2004
Iran va Jahan
Earlier this week an extraordinary scene took place at Tehran University. It was Student Day and the Iranian president, Mohammed Khatami was giving a speech to 1,500 students who had gathered to listen to him in the auditorium.
For many of the young boys and girls present the hypocrisy was intolerable. How could they forget that five years ago in this same university hundreds of students had been beaten up by state-thugs and revolutionary militia at least two were killed in their blood-stained dormitories and another pushed out of a third floor window.
Their sense of let-down was understandable. Thousands of their classmates still languished in prison. Those who have been amnestied continue to bear physical and psychological scars. The tales of torture and incarceration was still fresh in the minds of the students that day.
Suddenly, a clean-shaven male student in leather jacket and blue jeans stood up in front of the reporters and television cameras and addressing the president, shouted: "Shame on you!"
Another student, this time an attractive female student, her fine features covered in make-up and framed by a pretty silk scarf, could no longer stay quiet. Where are your promised freedoms?" she demanded. A ripple of laughter, anxious looks and excitement filled the air.
A visibly-shaken Khatami adjusted his turban and began a pathetic defense of his record, criticising the powerful hardliners who have closed newspapers and jailed dissidents. But the heckling continued. More students cheered and booed the president. Freedom for everyone, they chanted. Observers later put this down to the students frustration with the collapse of Iran's reform movement and Khatamis failure to standup to the conservatives who won the parliamentary elections in February 2004 and who now plan to seize the presidency in May 2005.
Khatami who is concluding his second and final term in office as a virtual lame duck - having once been seen as a force for great change in the Islamic republic, appeared uncertain as he vacillated between threatening to expel the challenging students and using conciliatory language. "There is no Third World country where the students can talk to their president and criticise the government as you do now, he said.
The students were not impressed. In fact, their anger was shared by many Iranians who in the past 25 years have suffered abominably from a vile regime, evil-minded, paranoid and petty, who have relied on a huge security apparatus to spread fear and psychological terror around them.
"I really believe in this system and the revolution and that this system can be developed from within," Khatami told his unruly audience. Violence, mass executions, mob rule, and injustice: the 1979 Khomeini-led Islamic Revolution (which the marginalized President Khatami so fervently hopes to reform) was one of the most convulsive time periods in the history of the Iranian people and the world. Radicals, from left to right, seized control of the government, and thousands of innocent people lost their lives, all in the name of an elusive democracy.
In the name of exporting the revolution, a costly war between Iran and neighboring Iraq left millions of dead and homeless people on both sides. To add to these horrors, the hard line mullahs ordered the massacre of thousands upon thousands of suspected counterrevolutionaries in the summer and autumn of 1988.
Ayatollah Khomeinis death in 1989 ushered President Hashemi Rafsanjanis pragmatic era of reconstruction and controlled liberalization of society. The economic sector expanded. Overnight, the bonyads, an octopus empire operating behind so-called Islamic charities, began to finance a corrupt elite who brokered deals with European businessmen. Nevertheless, the unpopularity of the regime continued to deepen.
In 1997 Khatami rescued the faltering regime in a clever example of political engineering which opened a window of light on a dark landscape. Newspapers flourished and a certain amount of free speech galvanized a new generation of post-revolutionary intellectuals. Artists, writers, film directors found creative ways to fool censorship.
Within two year, in the summer of 1999, Irans students supported by male and female activists, rose in their thousands to demand an end to arbitrary rule and an end to the Cult of the Supreme Leader. It all ended in tears and bloodstained walls.
Indeed Khatamis lack of sympathy for the students was unforgivable. The repression that has followed in recent years has clearly eroded any semblance of liberalism in the Islamic state. Newspaper editors, lawyers, former parliamentarians, writers, students and dissident clergymen found themselves harassed, beaten, tortured and jailed. Stick and carrots did not halt the public anger.
Sensing danger, the hardliners loyal to Supreme Leader Khamenei and encouraged by the ambitious ex-president Rafsanjani, appear to be reasserting themselves. The so-called reformists who once supported Khatamis velvet revolution are in disarray. On the surface there seems to be no organized opposition group inside Iran.
What does exist however, is a simmering defiance that could translate into a broad act of civil disobedience. Thanks to the internet and satellite television and foreign radio broadcasts, the Iranian people no longer live in an isolated world of prayers and state propaganda. The dramatic images of the Ukrainian protests has stirred their imaginations, especially in the student campuses. The will of the people is a frightening and exhilarating force, especially for a regime that finds itself in a corner. For the moment there is a certain political stalemate. Will the Iranian people cross the line?
Anybody watching the photos of young students challenging the lame-duck President Khatami can sense the impatience and frustration in their determined faces and clenched fists. History is filled with stories of tyrants falling down overnight.
All revolutions devour their children. In Iran, because of its ambiguous, somewhat suspect origins, the revolution has gone full circle. Ostensibly it began as a movement to reform an absolute monarchy, gave birth to Islamic fundamentalism, and after several violent mutations ended in creating an even more ruthless tyranny.
What endangers the Islamic theocracy in Iran today is not an improbable US military invasion but the clear disillusionment of the majority of the Iranian people with Khatami and the regime he represents. The incredible expansion of NGOs and public apathy points to widening gap between the Islamic state and the people.
The initial relief, hope and excitement that ushered Khatamis enigmatic presidency has soured, adding to the unbearably painful trauma of ordinary Iranians. A new president will undoubtedly face an even greater challenge on the political, economic and social fault lines. Internationally, Iran faces a chorus of disapproval and criticism for its suspect nuclear agenda, support for terrorism and human rights abuses.
Looking back on Khatamis legacy, we see a man of paradoxes. The man who opposed the tyranny of monarchy became an accessory of an incorrigible religious tyranny; the man who desired Islamic democracy watched helplessly as the die-hard revolutionaries crushed civil liberties and all opposition. His trust in the noble goals of the revolution whilst not acknowledging the evil nature of the system that created him, has doomed his place in history. Based on this paradox, his dream to reform the Islamic republic inevitably has turned to dust. Only a true referendum under international supervision can return power to the people of Iran.
IRAN LAUNCHES MAIN PHASE OF EXERCISE
NICOSIA [MENL] -- Iran has launched the main phase of its largest army exercise ever.
Officials said the main stage of Payrovan-i Vilayat-2004 took place on Wednesday in southwestern Iran near the Iraqi border. They said air and ground units launched a night-time offensive on a mock enemy in a demonstration of Iran's rapid deployment capability.
Iranian ground forces also practiced defense against a chemical weapons attack. Troops were said to have employed protective suits and tested decontamination equipment.
So far, the exercise, which began on Dec. 3, has contained three phases. They included the use of infantry, artillery, and armored units in an offensive backed by fighter-jets and helicopters. At the same time, engineering and bridging units erected bridges for infantry crossing.
Iran's President Supports AnnanDecember 11, 2004
The Washington Times
Tehran, Iran -- Iranian President Mohammad Khatami had reportedly sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressing support for him. The official Islamic Republic News Agency said Iran's permanent ambassador to the U.N., Javad Zarifm delivered the letter to Annan Thursday.
The agency said the letter expressed Khatami's "appreciation to Annan's wisdom and commitment to the objectives and principles of the U.N."
The Iranian president told Annan "attempts taking place against you, which stem from political motives, cannot distort your humanitarian reputation or lead to disparaging our common goals."
Khatami's letter came as calls grew for Annan to resign as the head of the international organization amid reports his eldest son allegedly received bribes in oil-for-food contracts with Iraq before the U.S.-led war on the country.
The Iranian president said he was confident the U.N. chief would continue his mission and that he would "spare no effort to protect the principles and objectives on which the U.N. was established."
Iran Refuses to Give Up Nuclear Research-DiplomatsSun Dec 12, 2004 08:08 AM ET
By Louis Charbonneau
VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran intends to use Monday's talks with France, Britain and Germany to ensure it has the right to go on carrying out research with equipment that could be used to develop nuclear weapons, Western diplomats said.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rohani, will meet foreign ministers of the EU's "big three" in Brussels on Monday for talks on details of a deal that would reward Iran for taking steps to assure the world it is not developing an atom bomb.
"Iran plans to insist on its right to conduct R&D (research and development) and to agree to conduct negotiations only on how it will be inspected and not the fact of the existence of R&D," a diplomat who follows the work of the Vienna-based U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told Reuters.
The United States accuses Iran of using its nuclear energy program as a front to develop the know-how to make weapons, a charge Iran denies. Washington has pushed the U.N. nuclear watchdog to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible economic sanctions but the agency has refused to do so.
The centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium for use as fuel in nuclear power plants or in atomic weapons, are a sensitive issue for the Europeans, who would like Iran to permanently abandon all work that could produce bomb-grade enriched uranium or plutonium useable in a weapon.
But Iran has made clear that it will never give this up.
"Permanent freezing (of uranium enrichment) is not an option for us," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference. "What we've agreed to is temporary suspension for a short period."
Western diplomats close to the EU-Iran negotiations said that Iran's wish-list for the talks was quite extensive. In exchange for freezing its nuclear program Iran wants benefits in the areas of telecommunications, railways and financing.
The Iranians have said they want to see swift progress in the talks with the EU and an end to restrictions on the sale of sensitive technologies to Iran. The timing could be a problem, since the Iranians want the talks to last months and the Europeans expect them to last years.
DE FACTO RECOGNITION
A resolution passed by the IAEA board of governors on Nov. 29 called on Iran to freeze its nuclear program but mentioned no punitive actions if Tehran resumed work on nuclear fuel. It describes the freeze as "voluntary" and "non-legally-binding."
​​​​ The resolution had been watered down from an earlier version, which had implied the possibility that Security Council sanctions could be sought if Iran resumed any activity linked to enrichment and called on Iran to provide "unrestricted access" to U.N. inspectors.
These two parts of the resolution were dropped by the EU trio after Iran agreed to relinquish demands that it be allowed to operate 20 centrifuges for research purposes. Diplomats close to the talks said the Iranians agreed not to use the centrifuges but refused to give up their right to research and development
Recognizing Iran's right to research and development, diplomats in Vienna say, amounts to a de facto recognition that Iran has the right to a future uranium enrichment program.
The EU trio is hampered by the fact that Washington refuses to participate in any offer of incentives to Tehran, which Washington believes is only using the negotiations with the EU to avoid U.N. economic sanctions while it forges ahead with plans to develop the capability to produce a bomb.
Some diplomats say the EU plan is doomed without active participation from Washington, which cut diplomatic ties after its embassy staff in Tehran was taken hostage in 1979. (Additional reporting by Amir Paivar in Tehran)
25 Years Later, a Different Type of Revolution[Excerpt]
Western Culture Is Seeping Into Iranian Society, Despite Lingering Restrictions
By Robin WrightWashington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 12, 2004; Page A20
TEHRAN -- Victoria's Secret has arrived in Tehran. So have the Gap, Diesel, Benetton and Black & Decker. A quarter-century after a mass movement inspired by Islam ended 2,500 years of monarchy, Iran's revolutionary society is moving on.
Yet, still trapped in transition, the Islamic republic is full of telling and sometimes bizarre contradictions.
At demonstrations marking the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy takeover last month, participants handed out cards listing companies to boycott, including Calvin Klein, because they do business with Israel. But all over Tehran, billboards that once would have been reserved for revolutionary slogans and portraits of Iranians killed in the war with Iraq now advertise Calvin Klein.
Victoria's Secret is not a legal franchise. U.S. economic sanctions ban American businesses from doing business with Iran. So Iranian entrepreneurs buy brand-name goods abroad and resell them in their own shops -- often with the brand replacing the shop name on storefront signs. Some shopping sections of Tehran -- and the teenagers who frequent them -- are beginning to look like what one would find at shopping malls in suburban America.
The shop with sexy lingerie is a bit more discreet -- marked only by a trademark pink-and-white-striped Victoria's Secret bag in the window.
"Iran is now doing pretty much the same things as during the shah's era, except for symbols like women's scarves and 'Death to America' -- and most people don't mean that anymore, either," said a prominent banker in Iran, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he does business with the government.
The modest clothing rules for girls and women have relaxed a great deal, too. Especially among the young, coats called roupoushes are now so short they end high on the thigh -- with slits going even higher -- and so tight that they accentuate rather than conceal the most specific attributes of the female anatomy.
"Every year, they go up a couple of inches," a young woman said with a chuckle as she picnicked with friends in a park. To complete the ensemble, tight jeans exposing bare ankles have replaced black stockings and baggy trousers. "Pretty soon you won't be able to tell the difference between you and us," she told a Western reporter.
The transformation of Iran's most cosmopolitan city is reflected even in its traffic. In the early years of the revolution, checkpoints manned by morality squads often popped up at night to ensure that women riding in cars with men were either blood relatives or spouses.
Now, Tehran is flooded with a new breed of law enforcement: traffic cops and meter men. They represent an attempt to control the capital's chaotic streets, where free-for-all rules account for one of the highest accident rates in the world.
Dressed in snappy white broad-brimmed military hats and dark green uniforms with gold emblems on their epaulets, the new traffic police look more like a brigade of generals let loose on Tehran's streets. And sometimes they act like one. Daringly deployed even in the middle of exit and entry ramps to freeways, they don't hesitate to order drivers to pull over for not obeying the dictate displayed on other new billboards, in Farsi and English, throughout the capital: "Fastening the seat belt is mandatory."
After 9 p.m., the generals retreat, leaving motorists to follow Tehran's widely accepted rules of the road. To turn left, get in the right lane -- and vice versa. If you've passed your exit on a busy freeway, just back up. And if you need to make an illegal U-turn, wait until oncoming traffic is roaring toward you.
On Thursday night, Africa Boulevard and other main thoroughfares are jammed with Iran's young trying to meet and impress the opposite sex. The idea is to clog the streets so cars filled with males in their teens and twenties can chat up or get the cell phone numbers of girls in cars going the opposite direction. Sometimes they end up meeting outside Tehran's growing number of pizza parlors.
Taboos on dating in public have largely ceased to matter -- except for parents' restrictions. In the early days of the revolution, the only couples holding hands in public were married. Attendants in theaters checked during movies -- in which women had to be depicted in Islamic dress -- to ensure couples behaved. And well over half of marriages were arranged by families.
Today, the assumption is that people holding hands are not married, Iranians say. A growing number of teenagers of both genders insist they will marry only for love. And no one monitors behavior in theaters, where one of the most popular twin features this month was "Kill Bill" and "Fahrenheit 9/11."
The government still sends mixed and confusing messages. After a decade of warnings about "Westoxication," or poisoning by Western cultural values, music stores can now legally sell CDs that were once available only on the black market. But a recent concert by a popular local Iranian band, Arian, was canceled, and public concerts at the Swiss, French, German and Turkish embassies have been banned or disrupted. After a musical performance by the Turkish ambassador's wife, co-hosted by the wife of Iran's foreign minister, several women who attended were hassled or briefly detained after they left, foreign envoys here say. ...
U.S. and Europe Are at Odds, Again, This Time Over IranBy STEVEN R. WEISMAN
Published: December 12, 2004
ASHINGTON, Dec. 11 - Despite a renewed American effort to repair relations with Europe, a disagreement between the Bush administration and European leaders over how best to persuade Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program has deepened in recent weeks, diplomats on both sides say.
The diplomats said the disagreement focused on what Europeans maintained was the crucial next step in their drive to persuade Iran to move beyond its recently agreed voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment activities to the point of abandoning them outright.
Envoys from Britain, France and Germany gained Iran's agreement to suspend a vital part of its nuclear program last month. The accord was later endorsed by the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear monitoring agency.
Both the European and Iranian officials who negotiated the accord said it was voluntary and temporary. Permanent cessation is subject to further talks on economic and political benefits for Iran.
But in recent interviews, European diplomats said that to gain a permanent cessation, the Bush administration must participate in talks with Iran and signal a willingness to be a part of an eventual final accord involving economic incentives and a discussion of security guarantees for Iran.
"We have a deal with Iran that is not perfect," said a European diplomat. "We have to develop it into a permanent suspension. But we will succeed only if we can provide a lot of carrots. We will not obtain a comprehensive deal on Iran without the United States."
A diplomat from a different European country said the "biggest carrot" that could be offered Iran would be a discussion about an eventual normalization of relations with the United States, including possible guarantees that Iran would not be attacked or subverted.
"It would be very helpful if the United States also embraced this view," the diplomat said of the need for American involvement. But he said that when some Europeans recently raised this issue with Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser and secretary of state designate, they failed to convince her.
A senior American official said the administration was "deeply worried" about the entire European approach because it could lull the United States into a false sense of security.
Any such deal, he said, could easily be subverted or circumvented, much as North Korea did after it agreed in 1994 to freeze its production of weapons-grade fuel at one reactor, only to renege on the accord and embark on what the United States charges is a plan to produce weapons-grade fuel at another, clandestine location.
Another senior administration official said there was also no confidence in the administration in the ability of the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor Iran's compliance even with the accord hammered out by the Europeans.
The official said that the Europeans had agreed to excessive limits on the agency's ability to inspect Iran's facilities and that there was the added problem that Iran might pursue weapons programs at facilities that Western experts had been unable to locate or identify.
European diplomats, responding to these criticisms, said that while their deal with Iran was flawed, it represented the best hope for reaching an accord that would be accepted by the rest of the world, particularly Russia and China, two powerful players with economic ties to Iran.
To get American involvement in the next phase of negotiations, European envoys said they told Iran that if it failed to comply with its agreement, they would join with the United States in referring the Iranian issue to the United Nations Security Council for possible further actions, including economic punishments.
To some American officials, the European attitude may be well intentioned but also naïve and based on a fundamental misreading of Iran's intentions. What is needed, they contend, is a unified willingness to demand action and to threaten sanctions against Iran.
Bush administration officials add that while bombing Iranian nuclear sites or taking other sorts of military action are not being contemplated now, they are not ruled out for the future, despite the formidable logistical and political difficulties that would arise.
The European-American differences on the issue show few signs of being resolved soon, despite a trip this week by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to three European-American meetings and a planned trip to Europe by President Bush after his inauguration in January.
"The Europeans are barking up the wrong tree if they think the U.S. can bring the Iranians to the table to get an agreement on this," said Patrick Clawson, deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy and an Iran specialist.
"What is needed," he added, "is for the entire international community - the Europeans, the Chinese, the Russians and the United States - to tell the Iranians to make a deal on this or face the consequences. Right now, what the Iranians say they want from the United States goes far beyond what the administration would be willing to offer."
The Europeans have begun discussion of an array of economic benefits that would accrue to Iran if it headed toward a full cessation of its suspicious nuclear activities.
Among them, according to the Europeans, would be a reaffirmation of Iran's right to have a peaceful nuclear energy program, including access to nuclear fuel on international markets in return for an agreement to return the fuel once it is used; Iranian access to Western high technology, and discussing the establishment of the Middle East, presumably including Israel, as a zone free of all nuclear weapons.
American officials say, however, they are suspicious of any partial deals that do not encompass an end to Iran's support of insurgents in Iraq and to groups that carry out attacks on Israeli citizens, including Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and militant factions within the Palestine Liberation Organization.
But European diplomats say they are prepared to enter into a discussion of these matters, and also of Iran's repressive practices at home, in what they are describing as "phase two" of their talks with Iran.
"Of course, the earlier the United States gets into the talks, the better," said a senior European diplomat, adding that the main incentive to Iran is to end the Western threat of economic and political isolation.
On Sunday, 12 December, 2004, Sir David Frost interviewed Farah Pahlavi, former Empress of IranPlease note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.
Farah Pahlavi, former Empress of Iran
DAVID FROST: It's now 25 years since the Shah of Iran was deposed in one of the most dramatic overthrows of power of the 20th century.
Before he was forced to relinquish the Peacock throne I interviewed him at Persepolis the ancient symbol of Persian kingship and I asked him what was the common bond that united the Iranian people
With months the Islamic revolution headed by Ayatollah Khomema changed everything and the Shah and his family were forced to flee Iran, never to return, never yet to return anyway.
I interviewed the Shah again in exile in Panama in January 1980 and he died six months later in Egypt.
At his side throughout the whole of the last 21 years of his life was his Empress, Farah Pahlavi. Ma'am, welcome. Very good to have you here.
FARAH PAHLAVI: Good morning, thank you for inviting me.
DAVID FROST: And seeing your husband, your late husband there. When you met him, how long was it between ... was it love at first sight?
FARAH PAHLAVI: Well I must say that of course I always loved the King as a citizen, the loyal citizen to her King. But after many meetings of course this love turned from a person to his king to a love of a woman to a man.
DAVID FROST: And I suppose perhaps one of the happiest moments of your whole time together was when you were able to give birth to your first child who was a son, the son and heir that he so hoped for. That must have been a moment of ecstasy?
FARAH PAHLAVI: Yes, it was. It was a wonderful moment, not only for us but also for all our compatriots. And also so many moments of other happiness with my other children. And whatever happened positive for our country.
DAVID FROST: And when we were talking in that clip, I think probably looking back on it now, the Shah probably overestimated the power that the King had over the people and probably underestimated the power that the Mullahs had?
FARAH PAHLAVI: Well not being where we are now today, of course we think back and in spite of what has happened in Iran and the revolution and the 25 years, now we're looking back and with hindsight of course we could have seen the problems better, we maybe could have managed, the problems better
... And also it was a mistake from our part and also in the government and I guess the mistake of the people in the streets and many of the opposition that thought that Khomeni who had promised them paradise, will give them paradise. But unfortunately he opened the door to hell.
DAVID FROST: And at the same time, I mean, I suppose the two things people quoted a lot about that time were of course the activities of SAVAK and of corruption and so on.
But do you think the real problem, because this is something I ask prime ministers about, how do you keep in touch with what people are thinking and so on? And the answer is that they try, but with an absolute monarch, presumably people apart from you, tell a Shah what they think he wants to hear?
FARAH PAHLAVI: It's possible that around every power there are people who want to only give the good news. But we have to consider Iran in the context of that period. We had our big neighbour, the Soviet Union, who always dreamt to reach the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. We had religious fanatics and seeing the result now, we see that we didn't see some of the dissatisfactions.
But, having said that, when you look back in the last 25 years I can not stop myself comparing what was the situation of the Iranians 25 years ago and what was the situation of Iran, and also in the Middle East, and what would have happened if the revolution didn't happen. And I think really that with all the shortcomings we had, like any other country or any other regime, we didn't need such a horrible revolution.
DAVID FROST: Did you feel betrayed in that last year, year and a half, when you had been ousted from Iran and the United States' President Carter and others didn't really give you the support that you thought you'd earned?
FARAH PAHLAVI: Well Sir David, you know it was a very difficult time. And sometimes unbearable. But we had to survive, I had to survive for my husband, for my children, for my own dignity.
And you know, for foreign politics and power you can understand they are after what they think is their national interest. And after all a government had changed. But we at the same time received many letters and many supporting words from simple people, and that kept us going on. And I can consider that life is a struggle for all of us, no matter in what position we are relative to opposition.
DAVID FROST: Talking of struggle and so on, when I was doing the interview with the Shah in exile the Khomeni regime were announcing to the world that you as a family, and the Shah, had left Iran with 176 billion dollars. I presume that was not true?
FARAH PAHLAVI: Of course it's not true. It's all the propaganda of the regime and also all the opposition. The King was a patriot. He loved his country above all, and its people. And I must assure you now people realise that that was all propaganda and I hope today the same people who wrote or said about this supposedly billions, think of the corruption which exists today in Iran.
DAVID FROST: And finally, would you like George Bush, President Bush, would you like him to do in Iran what he's done in Iraq, and go in and have a regime change?
FARAH PAHLAVI: This is the most undesirable thing to happen. Iranians I think which are really desperate for change, desperate for freedom and democracy.
And I am sure with the help of the Iranians inside and outside of Iran, and with the help and the moral help of the freedom-loving people of the world, Iranian people will reach democracy and freedom.
To watch the video of Breakfast with David Frost, click here
To listen to Sir David Frost's interview with Empress Farah Pahlavi, click here
Let me give you a bump.
Iran tries 'infiltrators' of nuclear facilities on espionage charges
Iran is cracking down on nuclear espionage.
Iranian authorities have arrested more than a dozen people accused of relaying information on Teheran's nuclear program to opposition groups, officials said. Some of the information has been used by the International Atomic Energy Agency as a basis for its inspections over the past two years.
So far, four Iranians have gone on trial in Teheran on charges of espionage. The defendants were said to have been former employees or those with access to Iran's nuclear program.
"These individuals, who infiltrated nuclear facilities and managed to win the confidence of the officials, were spying for foreign countries," Ali Mobacheri, the head of Tehran's revolutionary courts, told the government newspaper Iran. "They are in prison and their trial is under way."
Authorities did not identify the defendants or provide details of the charges. Officials said they doubted whether the trial would be open to the media.
The suspects were believed linked to the Mujahadeen Khalq. Officials said the defendants were accused of spying for Iraq in the 1990s.
In 2002, Iranian journalist Abbas Abdi was charged with relaying classified information to a foreign power. Abdi was found not guilty but remained in prison.
In August 2004, Iran's Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said several suspected spies transmitted information on Iran's nuclear program to foreigners. Yunesi also cited the Mujahadeen as playing a major role in the espionage.
On Nov. 17, the Mujahadeen's political wing, the National Council for Resistance in Iran, announced that Iran was operating a secret nuclear facility in northern Teheran. U.S. officials later confirmed the veracity of the information by the council, which in 2002 also disclosed a uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz and a heavy water facility in Arak.
U.S. officials said the intelligence community has felt the Iranian crackdown. Information on Iran's nuclear weapons program has become more difficult to obtain over the past year as the Islamic republic has restricted the movement of many Iranians linked to the nation's nuclear program.
...appeared uncertain as he vacillated between threatening to expel the challenging students and using conciliatory language. "There is no Third World country where the students can talk to their president and criticise the government as you do now," he said... Khatamis lack of sympathy for the students was unforgivable. The repression that has followed in recent years has clearly eroded any semblance of liberalism in the Islamic state. Newspaper editors, lawyers, former parliamentarians, writers, students and dissident clergymen found themselves harassed, beaten, tortured and jailed. Stick and carrots did not halt the public anger.My favorite Iranian quote of recent years remains, "Death to the Mullahs! The Mullahs must be killed!" Out of the mouth of babes comes their death sentences.
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Will Iran Be Next?Soldiers, spies, and diplomats conduct a classic Pentagon war gamewith sobering results
by James Fallows
hroughout this summer and fall, barely mentioned in America's presidential campaign, Iran moved steadily closer to a showdown with the United States (and other countries) over its nuclear plans.
In June the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran had not been forthcoming about the extent of its nuclear programs. In July, Iran indicated that it would not ratify a protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty giving inspectors greater liberty within its borders. In August the Iranian Defense Minister warned that if Iran suspected a foreign powerspecifically the United States or Israelof preparing to strike its emerging nuclear facilities, it might launch a pre-emptive strike of its own, of which one target could be the U.S. forces next door in Iraq. In September, Iran announced that it was preparing thirty-seven tons of uranium for enrichment, supposedly for power plants, and it took an even tougher line against the IAEA. In October it announced that it had missiles capable of hitting targets 1,250 miles awayas far as southeastern Europe to the west and India to the east. Also, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman rejected a proposal by Senator John Kerry that if the United States promised to supply all the nuclear fuel Iran needed for peaceful power-generating purposes, Iran would stop developing enrichment facilities (which could also help it build weapons). Meanwhile, the government of Israel kept sending subtle and not-so-subtle warnings that if Iran went too far with its plans, Israel would act first to protect itself, as it had in 1981 by bombing the Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak.
Preoccupied as they were with Iraq (and with refighting Vietnam), the presidential candidates did not spend much time on Iran. But after the election the winner will have no choice. The decisions that a President will have to make about Iran are like those that involve Iraqbut harder. A regime at odds with the United States, and suspected of encouraging Islamic terrorists, is believed to be developing very destructive weapons. In Iran's case, however, the governmental hostility to the United States is longer-standing (the United States implicitly backed Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s), the ties to terrorist groups are clearer, and the evidence of an ongoing nuclear-weapons program is stronger. Iran is bigger, more powerful, and richer than Iraq, and it enjoys more international legitimacy than Iraq ever did under Saddam Hussein. The motives and goals of Iran's mullah government have been even harder for U.S. intelligence agencies to understand and predict than Saddam Hussein's were. And Iran is deeply involved in America's ongoing predicament in Iraq. Shiites in Iran maintain close cultural and financial contacts with Iraqi Shiite communities on the other side of the nearly 1,000-mile border between the countries. So far Iraq's Shiites have generally been less resistant to the U.S. occupation than its Sunnis. Most American experts believe that if it wanted to, Iran could incite Iraqi Shiites to join the insurgency in far greater numbers.
s a preview of the problems Iran will pose for the next American President, and of the ways in which that President might respond, The Atlantic conducted a war game this fall, simulating preparations for a U.S. assault on Iran.
"War game" is a catchall term used by the military to cover a wide range of exercises. Some games run for weeks and involve real troops maneuvering across oceans or terrain against others playing the role of the enemy force. Some are computerized simulations of aerial, maritime, or land warfare. Others are purely talking-and-thinking processes, in which a group of people in a room try to work out the best solution to a hypothetical crisis. Sometimes participants are told to stay "in role"to say and do only what a Secretary of State or an Army brigade commander or an enemy strategist would most likely say and do in a given situation. Other times they are told to express their own personal views. What the exercises have in common is the attempt to simulate many aspects of conflictoperational, strategic, diplomatic, emotional, and psychologicalwithout the cost, carnage, and irreversibility of real war. The point of a war game is to learn from simulated mistakes in order to avoid making them if conflict actually occurs.
Our exercise was stripped down to the essentials. It took place in one room, it ran for three hours, and it dealt strictly with how an American President might respond, militarily or otherwise, to Iran's rapid progress toward developing nuclear weapons. It wasn't meant to explore every twist or repercussion of past U.S. actions and future U.S. approaches to Iran. Reports of that nature are proliferating more rapidly than weapons.
Rather, we were looking for what Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel, has called the "clarifying effect" of intense immersion in simulated decision-making. Such simulations are Gardiner's specialty. For more than two decades he has conducted war games at the National War College and many other military institutions. Starting in 1989, two years before the Gulf War and fourteen years before Operation Iraqi Freedom, he created and ran at least fifty exercises involving an attack on Iraq. The light-force strategy that General Tommy Franks used to take Baghdad last year first surfaced in a war game Gardiner designed in the 1980s. In 2002, as the real invasion of Iraq drew near, Gardiner worked as a private citizen to develop nonclassified simulations of the situation that would follow the fall of Baghdad. These had little effect on U.S. policy, but proved to be prescient about the main challenges in restoring order to Iraq.
Gardiner told me that the war games he has run as a military instructor frequently accomplish as much as several standard lectures or panel discussions do in helping participants think through the implications of their decisions and beliefs. For our purposes he designed an exercise to force attention on the three or four main issues the next President will have to face about Iran, without purporting to answer all the questions the exercise raised.
The scenario he set was an imagined meeting of the "Principals Committee"that is, the most senior national-security officials of the next Administration. The meeting would occur as soon as either Administration was ready to deal with Iran, but after a November meeting of the IAEA. In the real world the IAEA is in fact meeting in November, and has set a deadline for Iran to satisfy its demands by the time of the meeting. For the purposes of the simulation Iran is assumed to have defied the deadline. That is a safe bet in the real world as well.
And so our group of principals gathered, to provide their best judgment to the President. Each of them had direct experience in making similar decisions. In the role of CIA director was David Kay, who after the Gulf War went to Iraq as the chief nuclear-weapons inspector for the IAEA and the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), and went back in June of 2003 to lead the search for weapons of mass destruction. Kay resigned that post in January of this year, after concluding that there had been no weapons stockpiles at the time of the war.
Playing Secretary of State were Kenneth Pollack, of the Brookings Institution, and Reuel Marc Gerecht, of the American Enterprise Institute. Although neither is active in partisan politics (nor is anyone else who served on the panel), the views they expressed about Iran in our discussion were fairly distinct, with Gerecht playing a more Republican role in the discussions, and Pollack a more Democratic one. (This was the war game's one attempt to allow for different outcomes in the election.)
Both Pollack and Gerecht are veterans of the CIA. Pollack was a CIA Iran-Iraq analyst for seven years, and later served as the National Security Council's director for Persian Gulf affairs during the last two years of the Clinton Administration. In 2002 his book The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq was highly influential in warning about the long-term weapons threat posed by Saddam Hussein. (Last January, in this magazine, Pollack examined how pre-war intelligence had gone wrong.) His book about U.S.-Iranian tensions, The Persian Puzzle, has just been published. Gerecht worked for nine years in the CIA's Directorate of Operations, where he recruited agents in the Middle East. In 1997, under the pseudonym Edward Shirley, he published Know Thine Enemy: A Spy's Journey Into Revolutionary Iran, which described a clandestine trip. He has written frequently about Iran, Afghanistan, and the craft of intelligence for this and other publications.
The simulated White House chief of staff was Kenneth Bacon, the chief Pentagon spokesman during much of the Clinton Administration, who is now the head of Refugees International. Before the invasion Bacon was closely involved in preparing for postwar humanitarian needs in Iraq.
Finally, the Secretary of Defense was Michael Mazarr, a professor of national-security strategy at the National War College, who has written about preventing nuclear proliferation in Iran, among other countries, and has collaborated with Gardiner on previous war games.
This war game was loose about requiring players to stay "in role." Sometimes the participants expressed their institutions' views; other times they stepped out of role and spoke for themselves. Gardiner usually sat at the conference table with the five others and served as National Security Adviser, pushing his panel to resolve their disagreements and decide on recommendations for the President. Occasionally he stepped into other roles at a briefing podium. For instance, as the general in charge of Central Command (centcom)the equivalent of Tommy Franks before the Iraq War and John Abizaid nowhe explained detailed military plans.
Over the years Gardiner has concluded that role-playing exercises usually work best if the participants feel they are onstage, being observed; this makes them take everything more seriously and try harder to perform. So the exercise was videotaped, and several people were invited to watch and comment on it. One was Graham Allison, of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a leading scholar of presidential decision-making, who served as a Pentagon official in the first Clinton Administration, specializing in nuclear-arms control. His Essence of Decision, a study of how the Kennedy Administration handled the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, is the classic work in its field; his latest book, which includes a discussion of Iran, is Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe. Two other observers were active-duty officers: Marine Corps Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, who has specialized in counterinsurgency and whose book about dealing with Iran (and many other challenges), The Sling and the Stone, was published this summer; and Army Major Donald Vandergriff, whose most recent book, about reforming the internal culture of the Army, is The Path to Victory (2002). The fourth observer was Herbert Striner, formerly of the Brookings Institution, who as a young analyst at an Army think-tank, Operations Research Organization, led a team devising limited-war plans for Iranback in the 1950s. Striner's team developed scenarios for one other regional war as well: in French Indochina, later known as Vietnam.
romptly at nine o'clock one Friday morning in September, Gardiner called his group of advisers to order. In his role as National Security Adviser he said that over the next three hours they needed to agree on options and recommendations to send to the President in the face of Iran's latest refusal to meet demands and the latest evidence of its progress toward nuclear weaponry. Gardiner had already decided what questions not to ask. One was whether the United States could tolerate Iran's emergence as a nuclear power. That is, should Iran be likened to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, in whose possession nuclear weapons would pose an unacceptable threat, or to Pakistan, India, or even North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions the United States regrets but has decided to live with for now? If that discussion were to begin, it would leave time for nothing else.
Gardiner also chose to avoid posing directly the main question the game was supposed to illuminate: whether and when the United States should seriously consider military action against Iran. If he started with that question, Gardiner said, any experienced group of officials would tell him to first be sure he had exhausted the diplomatic options. So in order to force discussion about what, exactly, a military "solution" would mean, Gardiner structured the game to determine how the panel assessed evidence of the threat from Iran; whether it was willing to recommend steps that would keep the option of military action open, and what that action might look like; and how it would make the case for a potential military strike to an audience in the United States and around the world.
Before the game began, Gardiner emphasized one other point about his approach, the importance of which would become clear when the discussions were over. He had taken pains to make the material he would present as accurate, realistic, and true to standard national-security practice as possible. None of it was classified, but all of it reflected the most plausible current nonclassified information he could obtain. The detailed plans for an assault on Iran had also been carefully devised. They reflected the present state of Pentagon thinking about the importance of technology, information networks, and Special Forces operations. Afterward participants who had sat through real briefings of this sort said that Gardiner's version was authentic.
His commitment to realism extended to presenting all his information in a series of PowerPoint slides, on which U.S. military planners are so dependent that it is hard to imagine how Dwight Eisenhower pulled off D-Day without them. PowerPoint's imperfections as a deliberative tool are well known. Its formulaic outline structure can overemphasize some ideas or options and conceal others, and the amateurish graphic presentation of data often impedes understanding. But any simulation of a modern military exercise would be unconvincing without it. Gardiner's presentation used PowerPoint for its explanatory function and as a spine for discussion, its best use; several of the slides have been reproduced for this article.
In his first trip to the podium Gardiner introduced himself as the director of central intelligence. (That was David Kay's role too, but during this phase he just sat and listened.) His assignment was to explain what U.S. intelligence knew and didn't know about Iran's progress toward nuclear weapons, and what it thought about possible impediments to that progressnotably Israel's potential to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran's nuclear sites.
"As DCI, I've got to talk about uncertainty," Gardiner beganthe way future intelligence officers presumably will after the Iraq-WMD experience, when George Tenet, as CIA director, claimed that the case for Iraq's having weapons was a "slam-dunk." "It's an important part of this problem. The [intelligence] community believes that Iran could have a nuclear weapon in three years." He let that sink in and then added ominously, "Unless they have something we don't know about, or unless someone has given them or sold them something we don't know about"or unless, on top of these "known unknowns," some "unknown unknowns" were speeding the pace of Iran's program.
One response to imperfect data about an adversary is to assume the worst and prepare for it, so that any other outcome is a happy surprise. That was the recommendation of Reuel Gerecht, playing the conservative Secretary of State. "We should assume Iran will move as fast as possible," he said several times. "It would be negligent of any American strategic planners to assume a slower pace." But that was not necessarily what the DCI was driving at in underscoring the limits of outside knowledge about Iran. Mainly he meant to emphasize a complication the United States would face in making its decisions. Given Iran's clear intent to build a bomb, and given the progress it has already made, sometime in the next two or three years it will cross a series of "red lines," after which the program will be much harder for outsiders to stop. Gardiner illustrated with a slide (figure 1).
Iran will cross one of the red lines when it produces enough enriched uranium for a bomb, and another when it has weapons in enough places that it would be impossible to remove them in one strike. "Here's the intelligence dilemma," Gardiner said. "We are facing a future in which this is probably Iran's primary national priority. And we have these red lines in front of us, and we"meaning the intelligence agencies"won't be able to tell you when they cross them." Hazy knowledge about Iran's nuclear progress doesn't dictate assuming the worst, Gardiner said. But it does mean that time is not on America's side. At some point, relatively soon, Iran will have an arsenal that no outsiders can destroy, and America will not know in advance when that point has arrived.
Then the threat assessment moved to two wild-card factors: Iran's current involvement in Iraq, and Israel's potential involvement with Iran. Both complicate and constrain the options open to the United States, Gardiner said. Iran's influence on the Shiite areas of Iraq is broad, deep, and obviously based on a vastly greater knowledge of the people and customs than the United States can bring to bear. So far Iran has seemed to share America's interest in calming the Shiite areas, rather than have them erupt on its border. But if it needs a way to make trouble for the United States, one is at hand.
As for Israel, no one can be sure what it will do if threatened. Yet from the U.S. perspective, it looks as if a successful pre-emptive raid might be impossibleor at least so risky as to give the most determined Israeli planners pause. Partly this is because of the same lack of knowledge that handicaps the United States. When Menachem Begin dispatched Israeli fighter planes to destroy Iraq's Osirak plant, he knew there was only one target, and that if it was eliminated, Iraq's nuclear program would be set back for many years. In our scenario as in real life, the Americans thought Ariel Sharon and his successors could not be sure how many important targets were in Iran, or exactly where all of them were, or whether Israel could destroy enough of them to make the raid worth the international outrage and the likely counterattack. Plus, operationally it would be hard.
But for the purposes of our scenario, Israel kept up its threats to take unilateral action. It was time again for PowerPoint. Figure 2 shows the known targets that might be involved in some way in Iran's nuclear program. And figure 3 shows the route Israeli warplanes would have to take to get to them. Osirak, near Baghdad, was by comparison practically next door, and the Israeli planes made the round trip without refueling. To get to Iran, Israeli planes would have to fly over Saudi Arabia and Jordan, probably a casus belli in itself given current political conditions; or over Turkey, also a problem; or over American-controlled Iraq, which would require (and signal) U.S. approval of the mission.
With this the DCI left the podiumand Sam Gardiner, now sitting at the table as National Security Adviser, asked what initial assessments the principals made of the Iranian threat.
n one point there was concord. Despite Gardiner's emphasis on the tentative nature of the intelligence, the principals said it was sufficient to demonstrate the gravity of the threat. David Kay, a real-life nuclear inspector who was now the DCI at the table, said that comparisons with Iraq were importantand underscored how difficult the Iranian problem would be. "It needs to be emphasized," he said, "that the bases for conclusions about Iran are different, and we think stronger than they were with regard to Iraq." He explained that international inspectors withdrew from Iraq in 1998, so outsiders had suspicions rather than hard knowledge about what was happening. In Iran inspectors had been present throughout, and had seen evidence of the "clandestine and very difficult-to-penetrate nature of the program," which "leaves no doubt that it is designed for a nuclear-weapons program." What is worse, he said, "this is a lot more dangerous than the Iraqi program, in that the Iranians have proven, demonstrated connections with very vicious international terrorist regimes who have shown their willingness to use any weapons they acquire" against the United States and its allies. Others spoke in the same vein.
The real debate concerned Israel. The less America worried about reaction from Europe and the Muslim world, the more likely it was to encourage or condone Israeli action, in the hope that Israel could solve the problem on its own. The more it worried about long-term relations with the Arab world, the more determined it would be to discourage the Israelis from acting.
Most of the principals thought the Israelis were bluffing, and that their real goal was to put pressure on the United States to act. "It's hard to fault them for making this threat," said Pollack, as the Democratic Secretary of State, "because in the absence of Israeli pressure how seriously would the United States be considering this option? Based on my discussions with the Israelis, I think they know they don't have the technical expertise to deal with this problem. I think they know they just don't have the planes to get theresetting aside every other problem."
"They might be able to get therethe problem would be getting home," retorted Gerecht, who had the most positive view on the usefulness of an Israeli strike.
Bacon, as White House chief of staff, said, "Unless they can take out every single Iranian missile, they know they will get a relatively swift counterattack, perhaps with chemical weapons. So the threat they want to eliminate won't be eliminated." Both he and Pollack recommended that the Administration ask the Israelis to pipe down.
"There are two things we've got to remember with regard to the Israelis," Kay said. "First of all, if we tell them anything, they are certain to play it back through their network that we are 'bringing pressure to bear' on them. That has been a traditional Israeli response. It's the nature of a free democracy that they will do that. The second thing we've got to be careful of and might talk to the Israelis about: our intelligence estimate that we have three years to operate could change if the Iranians thought the Israelis might pre-empt sooner. We'd like to have that full three years, if not more. So when we're talking with the Israelis, toning down their rhetoric can be described as a means of dealing with the threat."
Woven in and out of this discussion was a parallel consideration of Iraq: whether, and how, Iran might undermine America's interests there or target its troops. Pollack said this was of great concern. "We have an enormous commitment to Iraq, and we can't afford to allow Iraq to fail," he said. "One of the interesting things that I'm going to ask the CentCom commander when we hear his presentation is, Can he maintain even the current level of security in Iraq, which of course is absolutely dismal, and still have the troops available for anything in Iran?" As it happened, the question never came up in just this form in the stage of the game that featured a simulated centcom commander. But Pollack's concern about the strain on U.S. military resources was shared by the other panelists. "The second side of the problem," Pollack continued, "is that one of the things we have going for us in Iraq, if I can use that term, is that the Iranians really have not made a major effort to thwart us If they wanted to make our lives rough in Iraq, they could make Iraq hell." Provoking Iran in any way, therefore, could mean even fewer troops to handle Iraqand even worse problems for them to deal with.
Kay agreed. "They may decide that a bloody defeat for the United States, even if it means chaos in Iraq, is something they actually would prefer. Iranians are a terribly strategic political culture They might well accelerate their destabilization operation, in the belief that their best reply to us is to ensure that we have to go to helicopters and evacuate the Green Zone."
More views were heardGerecht commented, for example, on the impossibility of knowing the real intentions of the Iranian governmentbefore Gardiner called a halt to this first phase of the exercise. He asked for a vote on one specific recommendation to the President: Should the United States encourage or discourage Israel in its threat to strike? The Secretary of Defense, the DCI, the White House chief of staff, and Secretary of State Pollack urged strong pressure on Israel to back off. "The threat of Israeli military action both harms us and harms our ability to get others to take courses of action that might indeed affect the Iranians," Kay said. "Every time a European hears that the Israelis are planning an Osirak-type action, it makes it harder to get their cooperation." Secretary of State Gerecht thought a successful attack was probably beyond Israel's technical capability, but that the United States should not publicly criticize or disagree with its best ally in the Middle East.
am Gardiner took the podium again. Now he was four-star General Gardiner, commander of CentCom. The President wanted to understand the options he actually had for a military approach to Iran. The general and his staff had prepared plans for three escalating levels of involvement: a punitive raid against key Revolutionary Guard units, to retaliate for Iranian actions elsewhere, most likely in Iraq; a pre-emptive air strike on possible nuclear facilities; and a "regime change" operation, involving the forcible removal of the mullahs' government in Tehran. Either of the first two could be done on its own, but the third would require the first two as preparatory steps. In the real world the second optiona pre-emptive air strike against Iranian nuclear sitesis the one most often discussed. Gardiner said that in his briefing as war-game leader he would present versions of all three plans based as closely as possible on current military thinking. He would then ask the principals to recommend not that an attack be launched but that the President authorize the preparatory steps to make all three possible.
The first option was straightforward and, according to Gardiner, low-risk. The United States knew where the Revolutionary Guard units were, and it knew how to attack them. "We will use Stealth airplanes, U.S.-based B-2 bombers, and cruise missiles to attack," Gardiner said. "We could do this in one night." These strikes on military units would not in themselves do anything about Iran's nuclear program. Gardiner mentioned them because they would be a necessary first step in laying the groundwork for the ultimate scenario of forced regime change, and because they would offer the United States a "measured" retaliatory option if Iran were proved to be encouraging disorder in Iraq.
The pre-emptive air strike was the same one that had been deemed too demanding for the Israelis. The general's staff had identified 300 "aim points" in Iran. Some 125 of them were sites thought to be involved in producing nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. The rest were part of Iran's air-defense or command system. "I call this a low-risk option also," Gardiner said, speaking for CentCom. "I'm not doing that as political riskthat's your job. I mean it's a low-risk military option." Gardiner said this plan would start with an attack on air-defense sites and would take five days in all.
Then there was option No. 3. Gardiner called this plan "moderate risk," but said the best judgment of the military was that it would succeed. To explain it he spent thirty minutes presenting the very sorts of slides most likely to impress civilians: those with sweeping arrows indicating the rapid movement of men across terrain. (When the exercise was over, I told David Kay that an observer who had not often seen such charts remarked on how "cool" they looked. "Yes, and the longer you've been around, the more you learn to be skeptical of the 'cool' factor in PowerPoint," Kay said. "I don't think the President had seen many charts like that before," he added, referring to President Bush as he reviewed war plans for Iraq.)
The overall plan of attack was this: a "deception" effort from the south, to distract Iranian troops; a main-force assault across the long border with Iraq; airborne and Special Forces attacks from Afghanistan and Azerbaijan; and cruise missiles from ships at sea. Gardiner presented more-detailed possibilities for the deployment. A relatively light assault, like the one on Afghanistan, is depicted in figure 4. A "heavier" assault would involve more troops and machines attacking across two main fronts (figure 5).
In all their variety, these and other regime-change plans he described had two factors in common. One is that they minimized "stability" effortseverything that would happen after the capital fell. "We want to take out of this operation what has caused us problems in Iraq," Gardiner of CentCom said, referring to the postwar morass. "The idea is to give the President an option that he can execute that will involve about twenty days of buildup that will probably not be seen by the world. Thirty days of operation to regime change and taking down the nuclear system, and little or no stability operations. Our objective is to be on the outskirts of Tehran in about two weeks. The notion is we will not have a Battle of Tehran; we don't want to do that. We want to have a battle around the city. We want to bring our combat power to the vicinity of Tehran and use Special Operations to take the targets inside the capital. We have no intention of getting bogged down in stability operations in Iran afterwards. Go in quickly, change the regime, find a replacement, and get out quickly after having destroyedrendered inoperativethe nuclear facilities." How could the military dare suggest such a plan, after the disastrous consequences of ignoring "stability" responsibilities in Iraq? Even now, Gardiner said after the war game, the military sees post-conflict operations as peripheral to its duties. If these jobs need to be done, someone else must take responsibility for them.
The other common factor was the need for troops, machinery, and weapons to be nearby and ready to move. Positioning troops would not be that big a problem. When one unit was replacing another in Iraq, for a while both units would be in place, and the attack could happen then. But getting enough machinery into place was more complicated, because airfields in nearby Georgia and Azerbaijan are too small to handle a large flow of military cargo planes (figure 6).
As centcom commander, Gardiner cautioned that any of the measures against Iran would carry strategic risks. The two major dangers were that Iran would use its influence to inflame anti-American violence in Iraq, and that it would use its leverage to jack up oil prices, hurting America's economy and the world's. In this sense option No. 2the pre-emptive air raidwould pose as much risk as the full assault, he said. In either case the Iranian regime would conclude that America was bent on its destruction, and it would have no reason to hold back on any tool of retaliation it could find. "The region is like a mobile," he said. "Once an element is set in motion, it is impossible to say where the whole thing will come to rest." But the President had asked for a full range of military options, and unless his closest advisers were willing to go to him empty-handed, they needed to approve the steps that would keep all the possibilities alive. That meant authorizing the Department of Defense to begin expanding airfields, mainly in Azerbaijan, and to dedicate $700 million to that purpose. (As it happens, this is the same amount Tommy Franks requested in July of 2002, to keep open the possibility of war in Iraq.) "This is not about executing the plan," Gardiner of centcom said. "We're preparing options for the President; the whole issue of execution is separate. We need some money to build facilities."
ardiner remained at the podium to answer questions as the CentCom commander, and the discussion began. The panelists skipped immediately to the regime-change option, and about it there was unanimity: the plan had been modeled carefully on the real assault on Iraq, and all five advisers were appalled by it.
"You need to take this back to Tampa," David Kay said, to open the discussion. Tampa, of course, is the headquarters for CentCom units operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Or put it someplace else I'd suggest, but we're in public." What was remarkable about the briefing, he said, was all the charts that were not there. "What were the countermoves?" he asked. "The military countermovesnot the political ones you offloaded to my Secretaries of State but the obvious military countermoves that the Iranians have? A very easy military counter is to raise the cost of your military operation inside Iraq. Are you prepared to do that?"
The deeper problem, Kay said, lay with the request for money to "keep options open." "That, quite frankly, is a bunch of bullshit," he said. "Approval of the further planning process forecloses a number of options immediately. I would love to see a strategic communications plan that would allow us to continue diplomatic and other options immediately with our European allies when this leaks; inevitably this will leak."
The next twenty minutes of discussion was to the same effect. Who, exactly, would succeed the mullahs in command? How on earth would U.S. troops get out as quickly as they had come in? "Speaking as the President's chief of staff, I think you are doing the President an enormous disservice," Kenneth Bacon said. "One, it will leak. Two, it will be politically and diplomatically disastrous when it leaks I think your invasion plan is a dangerous plan even to have on the table in the position of being leaked I would throw it in Tampa Bay and hope the sharks would eat it."
"This is a paranoid regime," Kenneth Pollack said of Iran. "Even if the development of the Caucasus airfields even if it weren't about them, they would assume it was about them. So that in and of itself will likely provoke a response. The Iranians are not inert targets! If they started to think we were moving in the direction of a military move against them, they would start fighting us right away."
Michael Mazarr, as Secretary of Defense, said he did not want the authority that was on offer to his department. "Tell the President my personal judgment would be the only circumstances in which we could possibly consider launching any significant operation in Iran would be the most extreme provocation, the most imminent threat," he said.
Even the hardest-liner, Reuel Gerecht, was critical. "I would agree that our problems with the Islamic republic will not be over until the regime is changed," he said. If the United States could launch a genuine surprise attacksuddenly, from aircraft carriers, rather than after a months-long buildup of surrounding airfieldshe would look at it favorably. But on practical grounds, he said, "I would vote against the regime-change options displayed here."
Further unhappy back-and-forth ensued, with the CentCom commander defending the importance of keeping all options open, and the principals warning of trouble when news of the plan got out. When Gardiner called an end to this segment, there was little objection to the most modest of the military proposalsbeing ready, if need be, for a punitive strike on the Revolutionary Guards. The participants touched only briefly on the Osirak-style strike during the war game, but afterward most of them expressed doubt about its feasibility. The United States simply knew too little about which nuclear projects were under way and where they could be destroyed with confidence. If it launched an attack and removed some unknown proportion of the facilities, the United States might retard Iran's progress by an unknown number of months or yearsat the cost of inviting all-out Iranian retaliation. "Pre-emption is only a tactic that puts off the nuclear development," Gardiner said after the exercise. "It cannot make it go away. Since our intelligence is so limited, we won't even know what we achieved after an attack. If we set it back a year, what do we do a year later? A pre-emptive strike would carry low military risk but high strategic risk."
During the war game the regime-change plan got five nays. But it was clear to all that several other big issues lay on the table, unresolved. How could the President effectively negotiate with the Iranians if his own advisers concluded that he had no good military option to use as a threat? How could the world's most powerful and sophisticated military lack the ability to take an opponent by surprise? How could leaders of that military imagine, after Iraq, that they could ever again propose a "quick in-and-out" battle plan? Why was it so hard to develop plans that allowed for the possibility that an adversary would be clever and ruthless? Why was it so hard for the United States to predict the actions and vulnerabilities of a regime it had opposed for twenty-five years?
t noon the war game ended. As a simulation it had produced recommendations that the President send a go-slow signal to the Israelis and that he not authorize any work on airfields in Central Asia. His advisers recommended that he not even be shown Centcom's plans for invading Iran.
The three hours of this exercise were obviously not enough time for the panel of advisers to decide on all aspects of a new policy toward Iran. But the intended purpose of the exercise was to highlight the real options a real President might consider. What did it reveal? Gardiner called for a wrap-up from participants and observers immediately after the event. From their comments, plus interviews with the participants in the following week, three big themes emerged: the exercise demonstrated something about Iraq, something about the way governments make decisions, and something about Iran.
Iraq was a foreground topic throughout the game, since it was where a threatened Iran might most easily retaliate. It was even more powerful in its background role. Every aspect of discussion about Iran was colored by knowledge of how similar decisions had played out in Iraq. What the United States knew and didn't know about secret weapons projects. What could go wrong with its military plans. How much difficulty it might face in even a medium-size country. "Compared with Iraq, Iran has three times the population, four times the land area, and five times the problems," Kenneth Pollack said during the war game. A similar calculation could be heard in almost every discussion among the principals, including those who had strongly supported the war in Iraq. This was most obvious in the dismissal of the full-scale regime-change planwhich, Gardiner emphasized, was a reflection of real-life military thinking, not a straw man. "I have been working on these options for almost eighteen months," he said later. "I tried them in class with my military students. They were the best I could do. I was looking for a concept that would limit our involvement in stability operations. We just don't have the forces to do that in Iran. The two lesser concepts"punitive raids on the Revolutionary Guard and pre-emptive air strikes"were really quite good from a military perspective." And of course the sweeping third concept, in the very similar form of Tommy Franks's plan, had been approved by a real President without the cautionary example of Iraq to learn from.
Exactly what learning from Iraq will mean is important but impossible to say. "Iraq" could become shorthand for a comprehensive disasterone of intention, execution, and effect. "Usually we don't make the same mistakes immediately," Graham Allison said. "We make different mistakes." In an attempt to avoid "another Iraq," in Iran or elsewhere, a different Administration would no doubt make new mistakes. If George Bush is re-elected, the lessons of Iraq in his second term will depend crucially on who is there to heed them. All second-term Presidents have the same problem, "which is that the top guys are tired out and leaveor tired out and stay," Kay said. "You get the second-best and the second-brightest, it's really true." "There will be new people, and even the old ones will behave differently," Gardiner said. "The CIA will not make unequivocal statements. There will be more effort by everyone to question plans." But Kay said that the signal traits of the George W. Bush Administrationa small group of key decision-makers, no fundamental challenge of prevailing viewswould most likely persist. "I have come to the conclusion that it is a function of the way the President thinks, operates, declares his policy ahead of time," Kay said. "It is inherent in the nature of George Bush, and therefore inherent in the system."
What went wrong in Iraq, according to our participants, can in almost all cases be traced back to the way the Administration made decisions. "Most people with detailed knowledge of Iraq, from the CIA to the State Department to the Brits, thought it was a crazy quilt held together in an artificial state," Allison said. Because no such people were involved in the decision to go to war, the Administration expected a much easier reception than it metwith ruinous consequences. There was no strong institutional system for reconciling differences between the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA, and other institutions, and the person who theoretically might have done this, Condoleezza Rice, was weak. "If you don't have a deliberate process in which the National Security Adviser is playing a strong role, clarifying contrary views, and hammering out points of difference, you have the situation you did," Allison said. "There was no analytic memo that all the parties looked at that said, 'Here's how we see the shape of this problem; here is the logic that leads to targeting Iraq rather than North Korea.'"
"Process" sounds dull, and even worse is "government decision-making," but these topics provoked the most impassioned comments from panelists and observers when they were interviewed after the war game. All were alarmed about the way governments now make life-and-death decisions; this was, after Iraq, the second big message of the exercise.
"Companies deciding which kind of toothpaste to market have much more rigorous, established decision-making processes to refer to than the most senior officials of the U.S. government deciding whether or not to go to war," Michael Mazarr said. "On average, the national-security apparatus of the United States makes decisions far less rigorously than it ought to, and is capable of. The Bush Administration is more instinctual, more small-group-driven, less concerned about being sure they have covered every assumption, than other recent Administrations, particularly that of George H. W. Bush. But the problem is bigger than one Administration or set of decision-makers."
Gardiner pointed out how rare it is for political leaders to ask, "And what comes after that? And then?" Thomas Hammes, the Marine expert in counterinsurgency, said that presentations by military planners feed this weakness in their civilian superiors, by assuming that the adversary will cooperate. "We never 'red-celled' the enemy in this exercise" (that is, let him have the first move), Hammes said after the Iran war game. "What if they try to pre-empt us? What if we threaten them, and the next day we find mines in Baltimore Harbor and the Golden Gate, with a warning that there will be more? Do we want to start this game?" Such a failure of imaginationwhich Hammes said is common in military-run war gameshas a profound effect, because it leads to war plans like the ones from Gardiner's CentCom, or from Tommy Franks, which in turn lull Presidents into false confidence. "There is no such thing as a quick, clean war," he said. "War will always take you in directions different from what you intended. The only guy in recent history who started a war and got what he intended was Bismarck," who achieved the unification of Germany after several European wars.
Gardiner pointed out that none of the principals had even bothered to ask whether Congress would play a part in the decision to go to war. "This game was consistent with a pattern I have been seeing in games for the past ten years," he said. "It is not the fault of the military, but they have learned to move faster than democracy was meant to move."
nd what did the exercise show about Iran? In the week after the war game I interviewed the partici- pants about the views they had expressed "in role" and about their personal recommendations for the next President's approach. From these conversations, and from the participants' other writings and statements about Iran, the following themes emerged.
About Iran's intentions there is no disagreement. Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, and unless its policy is changed by the incentives it is offered or the warnings it receives, it will succeed.
About America's military options there is almost as clear a view. In circumstances of all-out war the United States could mount an invasion of Iran if it had to. If sufficiently provokedby evidence that Iran was involved in a terrorist incident, for example, or that it was fomenting violence in Iraqthe United States could probably be effective with a punitive bomb-and-missile attack on Revolutionary Guard units.
But for the purposes most likely to interest the next American Presidentthat is, as a tool to slow or stop Iran's progress toward nuclear weaponrythe available military options are likely to fail in the long term. A full-scale "regime change" operation has both obvious and hidden risks. The obvious ones are that the United States lacks enough manpower and equipment to take on Iran while still tied down in Iraq, and that domestic and international objections would be enormous. The most important hidden problem, exposed in the war-game discussions, was that a full assault would require such drawn-out preparations that the Iranian government would know months in advance what was coming. Its leaders would have every incentive to strike pre-emptively in their own defense. Unlike Saddam Hussein's Iraq, a threatened Iran would have many ways to harm America and its interests. Apart from cross-border disruptions in Iraq, it might form an outright alliance with al-Qaeda to support major new attacks within the United States. It could work with other oil producers to punish America economically. It could, as Hammes warned, apply the logic of "asymmetric," or "fourth-generation," warfare, in which a superficially weak adversary avoids a direct challenge to U.S. military power and instead strikes the most vulnerable points in American civilian society, as al-Qaeda did on 9/11. If it thought that the U.S. goal was to install a wholly new regime rather than to change the current regime's behavior, it would have no incentive for restraint.
What about a pre-emptive strike of our own, like the Osirak raid? The problem is that Iran's nuclear program is now much more advanced than Iraq's was at the time of the raid. Already the U.S. government has no way of knowing exactly how many sites Iran has, or how many it would be able to destroy, or how much time it would buy in doing so. Worse, it would have no way of predicting the long-term strategic impact of such a strike. A strike might delay by three years Iran's attainment of its goalbut at the cost of further embittering the regime and its people. Iran's intentions when it did get the bomb would be all the more hostile.
Here the United States faces what the military refers to as a "branches and sequels" decisionthat is, an assessment of best and second-best outcomes. It would prefer that Iran never obtain nuclear weapons. But if Iran does, America would like Iran to see itself more or less as India doesas a regional power whose nuclear status symbolizes its strength relative to regional rivals, but whose very attainment of this position makes it more committed to defending the status quo. The United States would prefer, of course, that Iran not reach a new level of power with a vendetta against America. One of our panelists thought that a strike would help the United States, simply by buying time. The rest disagreed. Iran would rebuild after a strike, and from that point on it would be much more reluctant to be talked or bargained out of pursuing its goalsand it would have far more reason, once armed, to use nuclear weapons to America's detriment.
Most of our panelists felt that the case against a U.S. strike was all the more powerful against an Israeli strike. With its much smaller air force and much more limited freedom to use airspace, Israel would probably do even less "helpful" damage to Iranian sites. The hostile reactionagainst both Israel and the United Stateswould be potentially more lethal to both Israel and its strongest backer.
A realistic awareness of these constraints will put the next President in an awkward position. In the end, according to our panelists, he should understand that he cannot prudently order an attack on Iran. But his chances of negotiating his way out of the situation will be greater if the Iranians don't know that. He will have to brandish the threat of a possible attack while offering the incentive of economic and diplomatic favors should Iran abandon its plans. "If you say there is no acceptable military option, then you end any possibility that there will be a non-nuclear Iran," David Kay said after the war game. "If the Iranians believe they will not suffer any harm, they will go right ahead." Hammes agreed: "The threat is always an important part of the negotiating process. But you want to fool the enemy, not fool yourself. You can't delude yourself into thinking you can do something you can't." Is it therefore irresponsible to say in public, as our participants did and we do here, that the United States has no military solution to the Iran problem? Hammes said no. Iran could not be sure that an American President, seeing what he considered to be clear provocation, would not strike. "You can never assume that just because a government knows something is unviable, it won't go ahead and do it. The Iraqis knew it was not viable to invade Iran, but they still did it. History shows that countries make very serious mistakes."
So this is how the war game turned out: with a finding that the next American President must, through bluff and patience, change the actions of a government whose motives he does not understand well, and over which his influence is limited. "After all this effort, I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers," Sam Gardiner said of his exercise. "You have no military solution for the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work."
James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, has written three recent cover stories on U.S. foreign policy and Iraq: "Bush's Lost Year" (October), "Blind Into Baghdad" (January/February), and "The Fifty-first State?" (November 2002).
Will Iran Be Next?
Soldiers, spies, and diplomats conduct a classic Pentagon war gamewith sobering results
by James Fallows
TEHERAN AFP- An Iranian woman arrested in a judicial crackdown on reformist journalists was freed on bail but needed hospital treatment due to her detention, her husband told AFP on Saturday.
According to Ahmad Beigloo, journalist Fereshteh Ghazi was kept in solitary confinement for 38 days and had to be checked into hospital as she was not in a good physical or mental shape.
The woman was arrested over her articles on womens rights published on Internet sites. She was released on bail of 500 million rials (about 57,000 dollars).
In recent months, Irans hardline judiciary has arrested a number of pro-reform journalists accused of publishing propaganda against the regime, acting against national security, disturbing public opinion and insulting religious sanctities.
Four jailed reformist journalists, three of them recently released, have written letters of repentance, saying they were brainwashed by foreigners and counter-revolutionaries.
Two weeks ago the European Union lodged a formal protest with Iranian authorities over the arrest and harassment of journalists, staff of non-governmental organizations and members of religious minorities.
[Excerpt]Kerry Opponent Taking Aim at New Target: Iran
- Swift Boat author wants to prepare the public for what he sees as a likely war with the nation.
WASHINGTON Jerome R. Corsi, a leader of the Swift Boat Vets and POWs for Truth campaign against former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John F. Kerry, is hard at work on his next political project: preparing American public opinion for what he sees as a likely war with Iran.
"The world cannot tolerate the potential that these mad mullahs would have a deliverable nuclear weapon, even one, secretly developed," Corsi said in a recent interview. "They might just launch on Tel Aviv. The moment the world intelligence community becomes convinced that could happen, either the U.S. alone or the U.S. plus Israel or Israel alone will seriously contemplate a preemptive strike, and I'd be in favor of it."
Corsi's credits include a doctorate in political science from Harvard University and more than 10 books. He was not a Swift Boat veteran himself, but rose to fame as coauthor of the bestselling book "Unfit for Command Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry." The group was accused of distorting the facts of Kerry's Vietnam War record, but their campaign was nevertheless seen as damaging to Kerry's candidacy.
The group also raised millions of dollars for television ads attacking Kerry, although the Bush campaign insisted that the group was not acting on the president's behalf.
Corsi, who believes a U.S.-Iran war could occur as soon as March, said his Iran campaign is an independent mission, with no backing from either the White House or from the Swift Boat veterans group. His forthcoming book on Iran's nuclear program, due out in 2005, is funded by an advance from publisher Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative website WorldNetDaily.com.
Corsi said he had not discussed his views on Iran with Bush administration officials, though he said he would not rule out doing so.
Corsi plans a tour to promote his Iran book and can expect a large audience on talk-radio shows and other media.
"We'll devise a strategy to bring the manuscript to the media; we'll have websites to be developed," Corsi said. "I see a similar movement building to the one built around the Swift Boats. I think there's a similar large reservoir of sentiment among the nearly 900,000 Iranians living in America that a regime change in Iran is necessary to bring freedom to Iran."
Corsi is an advisor to the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, run by Texas-based Iranian exile Aryo Pirouznia.
It is unclear whether Corsi's credibility on the Iran issue will be affected by revelations that he had posted anti-Muslim slurs on another conservative website, called freerepublic.com. Corsi said he had since repudiated and apologized for those comments.
Corsi is perhaps the most colorful of the many conservatives who are beginning to thunder against Iran. At the moment, U.S. officials and analysts say the Bush administration does not appear to be encouraging them. From a diplomatic point of view, it may be convenient for the administration to have outside groups rallying U.S. public sentiment against Iran.
The administration faces a dilemma: It cannot threaten strikes against Tehran for what U.S. officials say is Iran's refusal to end its nuclear programs without endangering Washington's already difficult relationship with the European nations doing the diplomatic heavy-lifting.
At the same time, policymakers worry that Tehran has little incentive to compromise without a credible U.S. military threat. ...
Foxes in Iran's HenhouseBy VALI NASR and ALI GHEISSARI
Published: December 13, 2004
S the Bush administration looks at its options in dealing with Iran's nuclear threat, it should consider some little-noticed but significant recent changes in that country's leadership. The assumption in Washington has long been that Iran is ruled totally by a clerical clique headed by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Behind the facade of theocracy, however, the balance of power between religious elite and the military in the Islamic Republic has been changing.
The clerical regime's version of a praetorian guard, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has been growing in prominence in recent years, and may be poised to gain control of main levers of power. This has broad implications for Iranian politics, and for the future of American policy on Iran.
The Revolutionary Guards were formed in May 1979 by young rebels loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini; their job was to combat the well-organized leftist militias that had challenged clerical control of the revolution. The guards evolved into a full-fledged military force during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980's, and were involved in many of the key campaigns. They also played a direct role in the organization and training of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Badr Brigade in Iraq.
While the guards had a lower profile in the 1990's, the victory of the reformist Mohammad Khatami in the presidential election of 1997 led the conservative clerical leadership to give them new support. In exchange for the guards cracking down on advocates of reform, the government gave them generous financing for troop training and new heavy-weapons systems - including giving them oversight of missile and nuclear research programs - as well as increases in salaries and benefits. The guard corps expanded its intelligence service, paramilitary ranks and even its air and naval capacity. It now has close to 150,000 soldiers, making up about a third of the nation's military.
Today the guards are commanded by a group of ideological conservatives, notably Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, who has even criticized the government for its willingness to negotiate with Europe over the country's nuclear activities. These commanders share strong personal bonds forged in the Iran-Iraq war, during which many were involved in ferocious campaigns that involved chemical attacks. They hold common views on Iran's regional dominant role, the nature of the country's external threats, and protecting the values of the revolution.
Since 1997 the guards' leadership has become much more prominent in foreign policy, strategic decision-making and even economic policy. Its commanders more or less control the state police as well as national radio and television; a former senior officer was recently named the country's vice president; they dominate the Ministries of Defense and Intelligence; and they are responsible for the personal security of the clerical leadership. Former members make up more than a third of the conservative Parliament that was elected earlier this year.
In addition, through its arrangements of contracts for public and private companies, the Revolutionary Guards have expanded their reach into the economy. More important, they have established a monopoly over the black market trade in embargoed goods - consumer electronics, Western clothing, construction materials - bringing in perhaps billions of dollars a year. The revenue has not only allowed the corps to exercise considerable domestic power through patronage, but has also removed budgetary constraints and government control over its spending on weapons and aid to foreign terrorist groups.
The full power of Revolutionary Guards was on display last year at the official opening of the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran. After the ceremonies led by President Khatami, Revolutionary Guard forces stormed the airport and shut it down. While the reason for the show of force was a desire to get the contract for the management of the airport, more than anything it clearly established the extent of the group's power in Iran.
Now, guard commanders are showing readiness to assume large civilian roles, somewhat as Pakistani generals did before taking power from the country's civilian leaders in the 1990's: promising order, stability and prosperity. Some senior commanders are now sporting stylishly trimmed beards, flaunt newly acquired graduate degrees, and prefer to be called "doctor" rather than "general." At least one, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, is being mentioned as a contender for next May's presidential election.
Most important for America, the guards hold the key to nuclear dispute. They control both the Shahab missile program and vital parts of the nuclear technology effort. The guard corps' current commanders were greatly affected by Iraq's use of chemical weapons in the 1980's and Scud missile attacks against Iranian civilians. This experience drives their insistence that Iran needs a deterrent that will prevent any future attack on its soil. The greater presence of American troops in the Persian Gulf area only intensifies their concerns.
Yet the guard leaders oppose strengthening Iran's regular military forces. This is for two reasons: they know that their conventional forces would never be strong enough to combat a determined America, and they fear that a strengthened regular army might challenge the corps' current status and drive for power. Thus they see nuclear weapons as the sole means of ensuring their survival and projecting their power in the region.
What does all this mean for Washington? First, if America is going to change Iran's nuclear goals, it must influence decision making not only among the clerical leaders but also in Revolutionary Guards. This is why simply using a big stick - possible economics sanctions and military threats - won't work; that approach would only lead the guards to dig in their heels, and would strengthen their political position by allowing them to play to nationalist sentiments.
The situation calls for a more nuanced policy, one that will complement the fitful negotiations on nuclear policy led by our European allies. The objective should be first to slow down Revolutionary Guards' monopolization of power and, second, to strain their alliance with the religious leadership. A key will be gaining more international support for democracy in Iran, strengthening reformist forces and nongovernmental groups that continue to resist authoritarianism and can drive a wedge between the guards and the mullahs.
On the other hand, we must get the European countries with extensive commercial ties with Iran to use sticks as well as carrots. They must put pressure on the Revolutionary Guards' considerable business interests in a way that will enlarge fissures between the guards, the clerical elite and the various social groups that are tied to them through patronage.
Iran may be America's most intractable problem of the post-cold-war era. But in foreign policy it is always easier to deal with a divided opponent than a united one. America and the West must not only recognize the growing political divisions in Iran, but also exploit them.
Vali Nasr is a professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. Ali Gheissari is a professor of history at the University of San Diego.
WTO Starts Entry Talks with Iraq, U.S. Blocks IranMon Dec 13, 2004 05:04 AM ET
GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed Monday to begin accession talks with Iraq and Afghanistan, but the United States again blocked any such negotiations with Iran, diplomats said.
The go-ahead for Iraq and Afghanistan was given with no dissenting voice among the trade body's 148 member states, but on Iran, Washington said it was studying the request -- the same answer it has given for the past three years, they added.
"They have approved Iraq and Afghanistan, but, as it has always been, there was no consensus on Iran," one diplomat said. Although the WTO door is open for Kabul and Baghdad, entering the Geneva-based organization can be a lengthy process, with Russia and Saudi Arabia still in talks after a decade.
The decision puts the U.S.-installed administration in Baghdad on a level with more than two dozen other nations who want to join or are in the process of doing so.
But actual negotiations with Iraq, which has the world's second largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia, are unlikely to start before elections there, which are due to be held in late January.
The decisions on Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran came as no surprise. Developing countries, which strongly support Iran's case, had indicated they would not demand that all three be approved together.
Washington has extensive sanctions in force against Iran, which it accuses of wanting to develop a nuclear weapons program and of supporting terrorist groups.
Being part of the WTO guarantees a country's goods receive equal treatment in the markets of other member states, and many new members -- China being a recent example -- have reaped huge economic benefit from belonging to the club.
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