Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - December 17, 2004 [EST] - Analysis: Rafsanjani Plots Iran Comeback
Posted on 12/16/2004 11:04:26 PM PST by DoctorZIn
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Analysis: Rafsanjani Plots Iran ComebackThu Dec 16, 2004 11:35 AM ET
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Fears that Islamic hard-liners could exacerbate Iran's nuclear standoff with the West, scare foreign investors and worsen social tensions may pave the way for a comeback by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Humiliated by reformists in parliamentary polls in 2000 when he failed to gain a seat, the mid-ranking cleric has set his sights on presidential elections in mid-2005.
But Rafsanjani, 70, who has yet to declare he will run, must overcome stern opposition from reformists and hard-liners alike, as well as deep public skepticism if he is to return to the job he held from 1989 to 1997.
"The worse things go internationally and domestically for Iran over the next few months, the more that plays into Rafsanjani's hands,"said a senior political analyst in Tehran.
"What he and his backers are saying is that he is the man for a crisis," said the analyst, who declined to be named.
Conservatives are poised to take back the presidency in elections set for May or June as President Mohammad Khatami's eight-year reform experiment peters out amid public disillusionment with his failure to deliver promised improvements in political, economic and social freedoms.
But increasingly vociferous and confident hard-liners, who reversed the reformist majority in parliament in February polls, may be giving Iran's clerical establishment cause for concern.
Driven by strong Islamic beliefs, anti-Western sentiment and emphasis on social justice, the new deputies have questioned major foreign investment projects, backed clampdowns on social freedoms and criticized officials for negotiating with the European Union over Iran's atomic program.
"The question facing the Iranian regime is whether the interest of the state lies in having a radical president who would fall in line with radical forces in the parliament," Amir Ali Nourbakhsh, a director at business consultants Atieh Bahar Consulting, wrote in a recent opinion piece.
The alternative, he says, may be "a more pragmatic president who could continue the current detente with the international community, that even the conservative leaders of the Islamic Republic finds necessary for the preservation of the regime."
As head of a top policy body known as the Expediency Council, Rafsanjani recently outmaneuvered parliamentarians' efforts to stifle economic reform by pushing through a constitutional amendment opening up vast sectors of the state-dominated economy to privatization.
Unlike hard-liners, Rafsanjani is also seen as a pragmatist on social issues who, when president, started the process toward more relaxed dress codes for women and increased cultural activities which later flourished under Khatami.
Supporters say the man who brokered U.S. arms shipments to Iran in the 1980s has the experience and guile to handle the international pressures facing Tehran.
But Rafsanjani would have to win over a public deeply mistrustful of the former president, who, despite his denials, is perceived as having used political influence to amass a business fortune for himself and relatives.
NUCLEAR ISSUE KEY
Just by announcing his candidacy "the problems surrounding Iran's nuclear case and the foreign threats it faces, especially from America, will be lessened," said Mohammad Reza Turani, an official at the Experts Assembly, a top decision-making body.
For the senior political analyst, "the key to Rafsanjani's campaign is the nuclear case. If the nuclear issue is going badly, and pressure from the West is high, that favors him."
The nuclear timetable appears to be in Rafsanjani's favor.
Tensions which have lulled while Iran discusses a long-term nuclear solution with the EU are pre-programmed to flare up again in about three months, with Iran warning it will resume sensitive atomic work like uranium enrichment soon after.
"Given the radical political slant of parliament and the Islamic state's genetic inclination toward 'good cop, bad cop' policies, the likelihood that Iran's next president would be a moderate is not all that minute," says Nourbakhsh.
Backers say more than 20 small political parties have endorsed Rafsanjani's candidacy. But opposition toward a man who arouses divided feelings in Iran is also strong.
Deputies this month reluctantly dropped a proposed bill that would have made the maximum age for presidential candidates 70, a move clearly aimed at Rafsanjani who turns 71 next year.
Several more hardline conservatives are ready to challenge Rafsanjani, including Ali Akbar Valayati and Ali Larijani, both top advisers to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Reformists, though struggling to find a candidate of their own, are reluctant to back a man they see as partly responsible for Khatami's failure to push through reforms.
DoctorZin Note: Rafsanjani reinvents himself as a moderate? The main stream media is incredible. The Europeans have invented a new reason not to deal with Iran.
Seabrook Station is shown in October.
Rich Beauchesne/File photo
Threat to nuke plant revealed
PORTSMOUTH - Officials at both the state Bureau of Emergency Management and Seabrook Station say they are aware of intelligence information about an alleged Iranian plot to crash commercial airliners into the N.H. nuclear power plant. However, spokesmen for both organizations discounted those reports.
State Emergency Management spokesman Jim Van Dongen acknowledged that his boss, Bruce Cheney, the agencys director, is aware of the issue, but he added that the agency has not received any information directly from the federal Department of Homeland Security.
"There is always that general possibility (of a terrorist attack on the Seabrook reactor)," said Van Dongen, "but we havent received any information that its going to happen tomorrow."
Al Griffith, spokesman for Seabrook Station, said hes not sure why this issue is resurfacing now, nearly two years after he first responded to media inquiries about threats against nuclear power plants.
"This was part of the information that was shared between appropriate law enforcement agencies," said Griffith. "What happens is that whenever we get this type of information we make a determination in conjunction with law enforcement. In this case we felt the information did not warrant any further action on our part."
The New York Sun newspaper reported on Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., beginning in February 2003, has held a series of secret meetings in Paris with a former high-ranking official in the government of the former shah of Iran. According to Weldon, his source has correctly predicted a number of internal developments in Iran, ranging from the current regimes atomic weapons programs to its support for international terrorist groups, including al-Qaida, the newspaper reported in an article by Eli Lake.
Based on two informants inside the ruling mullahs inner circle, Weldons source, whom he code-named "Ali," relayed allegations to the Pennsylvania lawmaker that an Iranian-backed terrorist cell is seeking to hijack Canadian airliners and crash them into an American reactor. The target of the operation was only identified by Ali as "SEA," leading Weldon to believe it was the Seabrook reactor.
Ali reportedly told the congressman that the attack was first planned for between Nov. 23 and Dec. 3, 2003, but was postponed to take place after this years presidential election.
On Aug. 22, 2003, the Toronto Star reported the arrest of 19 people in Canada for immigration violations, who were also suspected of being connected with a terrorist conspiracy. According to the newspaper account, one of the men in the alleged terrorist cell was taking flight lessons and had flown an airplane directly over an Ontario nuclear power plant.
Griffith, the Seabrook Station spokesman, said that even if the information is correct - aside from the many security measures enacted around airports and nuclear power plants since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - recent studies have shown that every one of the nations active nuclear power plants could withstand a direct attack using commercial jetliners.
"(The Electric Power Research Institute) conducted testing on nuclear containment structures and concluded they would be able to withstand a 9-11 type of attack," said the Seabrook Station spokesman. "The issue is a radiation release, and we are confident the integrity of our reactor could survive that kind of attack."
Griffith explained that the New Hampshire plant has three barriers to a radiological release. The first is its double-dome containment structure, which is unique even within the industry.
The reactor itself is made of solid steel and located underground, and the radioactive fuel pellets are contained in steel rods.
Griffin also cited the plants internal culture.
"We remain vigilant, prepared and safe," the nuclear plant spokesman said. "There is also now a level of involvement in information sharing with law enforcement that did not exist before 9-11."
Iran: Tehran Cracks Down On Independent Internet Journalists
In recent months, several Iranian online journalists and web technicians have been arrested. Observers say it's part of a government crackdown on the Internet. Four of the journalists have now "confessed," saying they were brainwashed by "foreigners and counterrevolutionaries" into writing articles critical of Iran's Islamic Republic. Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch, however, say the confessions were extracted under extreme pressure from Iran's hard-line judiciary.
Prague, 17 December 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The wave of arrests began early last fall.
Shahram Rafizadeh, cultural editor of the daily "Etemad," was arrested on 7 September. A day later, Hanif Mazrui, who wrote for several reformist newspapers and is the son of a former member of parliament, was also arrested.
In all, seven Internet journalists were thrown behind bars. All had written articles critical of the establishment.
Recently, some of them have been freed on bail. Four published letters expressing repentance and appeared at the trial of former parliamentarian Rajab Ali Mazrui, the president of the Association of Iranian Journalists. They said they had been treated well in prison.
Mazrui is being prosecuted for writing an open letter to President Mohammad Khatami about the alleged mistreatment of his son, who was recently released. In the letter, Mazrui said his son was kept for 59 days in solitary confinement and was beaten up during interrogations.
Massoud Behnud is a prominent exiled journalist who has also seen jail time in Iran. He says that the journalists' "confessions" suggest torture is being used in the prisons of the Islamic Republic.
"The more Iran's judiciary advances in this issue, the more they turn the doubts of the Iranian people and the world into certainty that in Iran's prisons there is pressure and torture. Even if we ignore all the facts, evidence, and comments made by ex-prisoners and if we believe the comments made by Iran's judicial officials that there is no torture in the prisons, just the fact that they kept four young journalists for more than two months in solitary confinement and then they had them express opinions that were just like their interrogators' opinions -- this alone shows that there is torture in Iran's prisons," Behnud said.
Sarah Leah Whitson is Middle East director for Human Rights Watch. In a statement, Whitson said Iranian authorities are foolish if they think anyone would believe the journalists' letters of repentance are authentic. She says Tehran is quickly losing its already meager credibility on human rights.
Journalist Fereshteh Ghazi reportedly had to be hospitalized soon after her release due to poor physical and mental conditions.Including nonjournalists such as technicians, some 20 people have reportedly been arrested since September in connection with independent or reformist websites, many of which have been blocked.
Reza Moini handles Iran for media rights group Reporters Without Borders in Paris. "We have reliable information that there has been torture, the prisoners had been under lots of mental and psychological pressure and they had been beaten up and because of that we have asked two UN working commissions to go to Iran and prepare reports in this regard," Moini said.
Moini, however, notes that intimidation has continued even after journalists' release. "Since the day after they were released, they have been harassed [by the authorities] and have been under pressure. They've received phone calls and they have been summoned. They are under pressure in three matters. First, they should not accept the services of a lawyer. Secondly, they should expand their confessions and accuse other people and thirdly, since Mr. Mazrui has published that open letter, they should take actions to criticize and condemn it," Moini said.
Iran's judiciary has charged the journalists with "propaganda against the regime, acting against national security, and disturbing public opinion." Similar charges have been brought in the past against reporters and activists arrested for their critical view of the establishment.
Including nonjournalists such as technicians, some 20 people have reportedly been arrested since September in connection with independent or reformist websites, many of which have been blocked.
Experts say it's no surprise that authorities are targeting cyberspace. After a previous crackdown on the independent and pro-reform press, the Internet had become the only free media platform in Iran.
In October, some 20 European news websites expressed their concern at the recent imprisonment of Iranian online journalists. "At the time when the Internet has become one of the main sources of news, protecting online journalists and publications is the key to defending press freedom," the European online media said in their joint statement.
Moini from Reporters Without Borders believes that despite its latest crackdown, Iran's regime won't succeed in curtailing freedom of expression in cyberspace. "I give you the example of the People's Republic of China, which is much stronger than the Islamic Republic of Iran in financial terms and in terms of its ability and possibilities and which has been cracking down [on the Internet] for years. Today, the result is that it has not been able to restrict the Internet. I think, on the century, we are living [in a world] where the Internet is a tool for living -- the Islamic Republic cannot [restrict] it," Moini said.
There are currently nearly 5 million Internet users in Iran, compared to 250,000 just four years ago.
Allawi Front Runner to Lead Iraq After ElectionBy REUTERS
Published: December 17, 2004
Filed at 9:27 a.m. ET
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi may return to power with American blessing after next month's election, even if he does not score a major victory at the ballot box.
Iraqi officials say it is too early to predict who will be the country's next prime minister, but privately suggest that Allawi, a secular Shi'ite heading a list that includes several ministers from the U.S.-backed government, is considered the front runner if he wins a seat in the new National Assembly.
Allawi's return could mean more use of force to try to crush Sunni Muslim rebels and an economic policy that seeks production sharing deals with foreign firms to develop Iraq's oil fields.
``There is simply no one else on whom the assembly could reach consensus. Kurds would rather deal with Allawi than an Islamist Shi'ite, so would Sunnis. We also realize an Islamist Shi'ite prime minister is a red line for the Americans,'' said a senior official from a leading Shi'ite party.
``The Americans, the Kurds, and Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani have red lines and Allawi is positioned to take advantage.''
A Shi'ite election list drawn up under the auspices of Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shi'ite cleric, is expected to win most seats in the Jan. 30 election.
Candidates on Sistani's list include Islamist, secular and some independent candidates, but not Allawi. Its leaders have said they will seek consensus in the 275-member assembly, which will appoint a new government and have one year to draft a permanent constitution.
Under the postwar election system, Iraq will be treated as a single electoral district. The electorate will vote for lists of candidates and names high on the lists will have the best chances of winning seats in the assembly.
While some admire Allawi as a U.S.-backed strongman who could bring stability, violence has continued and Iraq has been hit by a fuel and electricity crisis during his term.
A U.S. official, who declined to be named, said he did not know of a deal to bring Allawi back, but said it was clear any Iraqi prime minister would have to be palatable to Washington.
Western diplomats in Baghdad say Allawi is Washington's favorite. But U.S. officials have been careful not to make their choice public for fear of tainting both Allawi, who worked with American intelligence during years in exile, and Iraq's much-touted transition to democracy.
``American officials frankly tell us they favor Allawi,'' one senior diplomat said. ``But his return is unlikely to help stem the violence. He has obviously not talked enough with the Sunnis, who are outside the election anyway.''
Among other names being touted in Baghdad are former nuclear scientist Hussein al-Shahristani and Finance Minister Adel Abdul Mehdi, who are in the top ten on Sistani's list.
But Mehdi's colleagues say his membership in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shi'ite party founded in Iran in 1982, limits his chances, especially given Washington's increasingly hardline tone toward Tehran, which it considers part of an ``axis of evil.''
Sistani likes Shahristani. But the former exile remains a relative unknown in Washington and Iraq's defense minister, allied to Allawi, this week accused him of being an Iranian agent. Other politicians dismissed that charge as ridiculous.
In regard to Reuters analysis by Paul Hughes, "Rafsanjani Plots Iran Comeback," wouldn't that be a sweet solution for the british and its propaganda arm, the reuters/bbc/ap axis, to help replace the embarrassing altra-fanatic islamists who have hijacked Iran so overtly from the previous hijackers, the pseudo-reformist islamists, during last year's parliamentary SELECTIONS, and put the...You call him "pragmatist," we'll call him "terrorist mobster," back in control, and call the mullah, "the President" to give it a semblance of legitimacy, and go back to work pilfering the assets of the Iranians. As hard as the europeans try, it has started to look untenable to justify becoming trade partners with these terrorist thugs who can't even be reasoned with to apprehend the wisdom of pretension to democratic atmospherics that the West needs so badly to make economic ties with Mafioso regimes. Yes, reuters, time for a new strategy; bring on the "pragmatists," and lets screw Iran for another eight years.
November 01, 2002
TEHRAN -- Donald Rumsfeld will take to hell his idea of regime change in Iran, charged former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani Friday, after the US defense secretary predicted an early overthrow of the Islamic regime by its own people.
"This minister (Rumsfeld) will take to hell his dream of seeing regime change" in Iran, Rafsanjani told thousands of faithful during Friday prayers in Tehran.
The crowd responded with "death to America, death to Israel!".
Rafsanjani, head of the powerful conservative-dominated Expediency Council, which arbitrates disputes over legislation, accused US leaders of wanting to undermine the 1979 Islamic revolution.
"But they have not yet understood the nature of our revolution and the links that unite the people to the clergy," he said.
Rafsanjani, a senior cleric, also issued a warning to the "very small minority inside the country whose eyes are turned towards the United States," saying they could only express themselves because of the "leniency" of the regime.
He added that the US administration was "duped" by the strength of this minority.
Rumsfeld said on a radio talkshow Wednesday he believed the regime in Iran would tumble from within, in response to a question asking whether Washington planned to move on to Iran after toppling President Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq.
"I suspect that during my lifetime we're going to see a change in that situation over there and that the young people and the women and the people who believe in freedom will overthrow that cleric government and it will fall in some way of its own weight," Rumsfeld, 70, added.
The defense secretary called Iran "an interesting place" controlled by "a very small clique of clerics," and insisted the "women and the young people don't agree with how it's being run."
His statement appeared to signal that the administration saw no need to resort to overt or covert military measures to topple the regime in Tehran, which US President George W. Bush said in a speech in January formed part of an "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea.
Iranian officials have been expressing heightened concern that their country will be sandwiched between US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, if Washington decides to overthrow Saddam by force.
Defense Minister Rear-Admiral Ali Shamkhani aired these worries on Wednesday, when he warned Iranians to be prepared for the possibility of a US attack.
"The US government wants to reorganize the region and as a consequence Iran could constitute a target," Shamkhani said. "If the Americans are in both Afghanistan and Iraq, this represents a significant challenge."
Just in: Beware dangerous radiation emanating from infidel women. Film at ten.
Here is that article you found nw_az! Thanks for the mail.
Iran arrests 'spy' faking nuclear company
Iran's Intelligence Ministry has announced the arrest of a "spy"
accused of setting up a fake nuclear company as part of a
international plot to damage the Islamic republic's reputation.
"Asghar C, who has a past of spying for foreigners, was seeking
centrifuges with a fictitious contract and under the name of a
company," the Intelligence Ministry said.
The ministry says that by pretending to manufacture centrifuges
machines that can enrich uranium to make both fuel for a
reactor or the explosive core of a nuclear device - "this
was trying to damage Iran's international commitments."
It says the man "was arrested and handed over to the courts."
"plot to damage the Islamic republic's reputation"
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