Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - December 18, 2004 [EST] - EU leaders call on Iran to keep nuclear engagements
Posted on 12/17/2004 11:10:16 PM PST by DoctorZIn
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EU leaders call on Iran to keep nuclear engagementsBy Safa Haeri
Posted Friday, December 17, 2004
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BRUSSELS, 17 Dec. (IPS) Leaders of the 25- member European Union on Friday called on Iran to keep its nuclear installations shut against closer relations with Europe.
In a statement issued at the end of the EUs Summit in Brussels, the heads of the member states expressed their readiness to intensify political and economic relations with Iran if Tehran, beside continuing suspension of enriching uranium, also take steps in fighting international terrorism and give more importance to the question of human rights.
The EU leaders insisted on the question of human rights as at least two Iranian women faces capital punishment by stoning or execution.
The EU welcomed the last resolution of the Vienna-based International nuclear watchdog and an agreement signed on 15 November in Paris between Tehran and the European Unions three main powers in which Iran agreed to suspend all activities related to uranium enriching.
According to the draft statement, the 25 leaders assured Iran to sign a Trade and Cooperation Agreement on condition the Iran would pay more attention to human rights, fighting international terrorism and also help the Middle East Peace process.
A strong supporter of Arab and Palestinian radical groups like the Lebanese Hezballah or the Palestinian HAMAS and Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Republic also rejects the existence of Israel.
The EU leaders insisted on the question of human rights as Amnesty International and other human rights organisation said that at least two Iranian women, one of them a mentally retarded girl faces capital punishment by stoning or execution.
Along the worsening of human rights conditions, freedom of expression and the press is also experiencing a new wave of crackdown, with the Judiciary renewing with past methods of forcing dissident journalists, scholars and intellectuals to fabricated confessions, as seen by the case of 4 journalists who after being released from prison, they confessed to their mistakes etc.
According to the statement, the EU leaders "confirmed the Union's readiness to explore ways to further develop political and economic cooperation with the Iran, following action by Iran to address other areas of concern," the draft text said, adding that these were "the fight against terrorism, human rights and Iran's approach to the Middle East peace process".
Under an agreement reached in Paris last month between Britain, France and Germany, acting for the European Union, and Iran, Tehran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for trade, technology and security rewards.
While Iran wants the talks with EU are limited in time, the Troika wants Iran to keep the suspension indefinitely.
However, while Iran wants the talks with EU are limited in time in order to resume enriching uranium, the Troika that speaks on behalf of the union wants Iran to keep the suspension indefinitely.
Following the Paris Agreement and the Vienna resolution, Iran and the Troika met in Brussels on 13 December at ministerial level, followed by the formation of three committees on nuclear energy, economy and security and bilateral relations, with Europe assuring Iran access to nuclear technology for civilian purposes in case Iran give credible assurances to the international community that it would not divert the device for making nuclear weapons.
In fact, while Washington and Tel Aviv suspects strongly the ruling Iranian ayatollahs of seeking nuclear powered electrical plants for military purposes, Iran insists that it has no such a plan.
Since all our nuclear industries are locally made, our message to the world is that we are not after nuclear weapons, for if we were, we could have developed it already, one senior Iranian nuclear negotiator told Iran Press Service recently. ENDS IRAN EU 171204
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EU eyes deeper ties with Iran after nuclear deal
* European Union draft asks Iran to address terrorism and human rights
BRUSSELS: EU leaders are ready to intensify their political and economic ties with Iran if Tehran allays concerns over terrorism and human rights, they said in a draft text on Friday at a summit in Brussels.
Hailing a deal last month when Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, a key part of the nuclear fuel cycle, the leaders confirmed their aim to sign a trade and cooperation agreement.
Moreover, they confirmed the Unions readiness to explore ways to further develop political and economic cooperation with the Iran, following action by Iran to address other areas of concern, the draft text said.
Those areas were the fight against terrorism, human rights and Irans approach to the Middle East peace process, it added.
Under an agreement reached in Paris last month between Britain, France and Germany, acting for the European Union, and Iran, Tehran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for trade, technology and security rewards. Talks to give it the rewards it is seeking duly began earlier this week.
Uranium is enriched by centrifuges into fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. But, in a highly refined form, it can also be the explosive core of atomic bombs.
The United States claims Iran is covertly developing nuclear weapons, which Iran strongly denies. Washington would like Iran brought to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, but is giving the EU initiative a chance.
Washington has shown no sign of willingness to overcome 25 years of hostility with the Islamic republic, dating back to the 1979 hostage siege at the US embassy in Tehran, and open a dialogue of its own with Iran.
Influential neo-conservatives such as former Defence Policy Advisory Board chairman Richard Perle advocate regime change in Tehran. Others have talked of the possibility of US military strikes against Iranian nuclear plants.
With the imminent departure of Secretary of State Colin Powell, the US cabinet member seen as most sympathetic to European views, an opening towards Tehran seems remote.
Powell Optimistic on N. Korea, Iran
Friday December 17, 2004 10:46 PM
AP Photo DCGH108
By BARRY SCHWEID
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday he doesn't regret being the public face for the Bush administration's international call to war in Iraq. Now diplomacy is making headway in containing nuclear threats in Iran and North Korea, he said in an Associated Press interview.
The former Army general suggested he will remain in public life somehow.
``I've still got some treadwear left on me,'' he said.
Powell plans to leave office early next year. President Bush has nominated White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to replace him.
International pressure is putting a ``heat lamp on Iranian nuclear activity, and the whole world is now concerned about it,'' he said.
North Korea, Powell said, is a problem that time may help to solve.
``The president is committed to finding a political, diplomatic solution. We believe that ultimately North Korea will determine that it is their best interest,'' he said.
Powell said there are no plans to launch a military strike on Iran, which has suspected nuclear weapons facilities, or to take military action in North Korea. Bush linked the two countries with Iraq as an ``axis of evil'' in 2002.
``In the Pentagon, people are always thinking about the unthinkable,'' Powell said of a potential Iranian strike. ``But there are no military plans about to be launched and there's no point in getting everybody excited about this.''
The North Korean government is ``constantly accusing us of having hostile intent,'' Powell said. ``We have no hostile intent. We have no intent of invading. We have no intention of attacking North Korea.''
As for Iraq before the war, Powell said claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons stockpiles were part of ``the best information that the international intelligence community had'' when he used it to lay out a case for war at the United Nations last year. He shrugged off a question about whether his personal credibility suffered when no weapons of mass destruction were found.
``It wasn't a personal thing with me,'' Powell said. ``It was a presentation of the best information we had.''
Powell, widely seen as more of a dove to Bush's Pentagon and White House hawks, said he was ``fully supportive'' of the approach the administration took in the run-up to war.
He characterized the strategy this way: ``Try to solve peacefully. If you can't solve it peacefully and the problem is still there and it does require military action, then get a coalition to undertake that military action.''
Powell acknowledged that the Iraq war has cost the United States popular support around the world. U.S. policies in the Mideast are similarly unpopular, Powell said.
``There's no question that in Europe and in other parts of the world, the Arab world, the Muslim world, there is a negative view toward some of our polices,'' he said.
Those views could change if the United States is proved right by the emergence of a democratic Iraq and by progress on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Powell said.
As for his own future, he said he had not decided what do to next.
``Doors will open and some of them I'll go through, but whether there is a public component to it remains to be seen,'' Powell said. ``I will be in public life in some way. It might be in a non-governmental position.''
One possibility is some role to improve the education of American children.
``I'm interested in any child being left behind, African-American, Hispanic-American, or any white Americans in Appalachia,'' said Powell, who is leaving as the highest-ranking black man in the government.
Why we should be worried about Iran?
By Mark Eichenlaub | December 17, 2004
Asking why America should be concerned about the actions of Iran requires a careful look at events that highlight Irans slow buildup of weapons, their disregard for international treaties as well as their outspoken hostility towards Western interests.
Irans defiance of international treaties and their comments about American interests are detailed on Reuters news service website:
June 2003 - IAEA issues first report on Iran, saying Tehran has failed to comply with its Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations and Tehran's failure to report nuclear materials, facilities and activities is a "matter of serious concern."
Sept. 2003 - IAEA board sets Iran an Oct. 31 deadline to provide an exhaustive declaration of its nuclear activities. IAEA finds more HEU traces at a second site in Iran.
Oct. 2003 - Iran tells France, Britain and Germany it will suspend with enrichment-related activities, but does not.
Iran provides what it says is a full declaration of its nuclear activities but does not include information on work on advanced P2 centrifuges, the machines that enrich uranium.
December 2003 - Iran signs protocol allowing snap inspections of its nuclear facilities.
January 2004 - Iran's deal with the EU's "big three" unravels after reports it has continued enrichment-related activities.
February 2004 - IAEA report says Iran experimented with polonium-210, which can be used to trigger the chain reaction in a nuclear bomb. Iran not explained the experiments.
Iran again agrees to suspend enrichment, but again does not.
June 2004 - IAEA report says Iran imported parts for centrifuges and that it made "enquiries" for 4,000 magnets for P2 centrifuges, enough to equip 2,000 machines.
September 2004 - IAEA report says Iran has announced it will begin preparing a large amount of uranium for enrichment. IAEA board tells Iran to suspend enrichment program immediately.
November 2004 - Iran promises EU three it will suspend its enrichment program and invites IAEA to verify suspension, but then demands 20 centrifuges be exempt from the freeze.
These events alone would be enough to cause concern but once coupled with information gathered from reports by the MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) covering comments made over the summer in an editorial by Iranian officials it can be said that just being concerned might not be enough. MEMRI shows that in the July 6, 2004 edition of Kayhan Iranian officials stated:
"The entire Islamic Middle East is now a volatile and tangled trap, and will be set off by the smallest bit of silliness and will reap many victims of the sinful adventurers Indeed, the White House's 80 years of exclusive rule are likely to become 80 seconds of Hell that will burn to ashes everything that has been built.
"Iran's counter-response is likely to be called 'sudden death' and 'the Angel of Death suddenly revealed.' That very day, those who resist [Iran] will be struck from directions they never expected. The heartbeat of the crisis is undoubtedly [dictated by] the hand of Iran."
MEMRIs report goes on to show that Iran is also involved in the recruitment and training of thousands of volunteers for suicide attacks against Western, European, and U.S. targets in Iraq, resuming long-rang missile projects which would be capable of reaching Europe and the U.S., and announced plans of using missiles to eliminate Anglo-Saxon civilization through the use of missiles and suicide bombers.
Where do we go from here? As of Tuesday it seemed as though multilateral diplomacy may have a chance with Iran. In an AP story White House press secretary Scott McClellan was quoted describing his confidence in the ability of European nations to bring about a peaceful resolution without the assistance of U.S. intervention.
"When it comes to Iran, we are very supportive of the efforts by our European friends to get Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. And we stay in close contact with our European friends on their discussions and the progress that they have made ... That's the way we're approaching this issue," McClellan said.
Can such outspoken defiance and hatred be tamed through diplomacy and treaties? Will the U.N. enforce international treaties with Iran if it continues to break them?
The coming months will be the U.N.s second chance, their test before America and the rest of the world. It will be the U.N.s time to prove its worth or expose its impotence.
Mark Eichenlaub is a freelance writer in Chicago,IL and can be reached by email at email@example.com
DoctorZin: I disagree with much of this analysis, but thought it might be valuable to see another perspective.
How Iran will fight back
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Dec 16, 2004
TEHRAN - The United States and Israel may be contemplating military operations against Iran, as per recent media reports, yet Iran is not wasting any time in preparing its own counter-operations in the event an attack materializes.
A week-long combined air and ground maneuver has just concluded in five of the southern and western provinces of Iran, mesmerizing foreign observers, who have described as "spectacular" the massive display of high-tech, mobile operations, including rapid-deployment forces relying on squadrons of helicopters, air lifts, missiles, as well as hundreds of tanks and tens of thousands of well-coordinated personnel using live munitions. Simultaneously, some 25,000 volunteers have so far signed up at newly established draft centers for "suicide attacks" against any potential intruders in what is commonly termed "asymmetrical warfare".
Behind the strategy vis-à-vis a hypothetical US invasion, Iran is likely to recycle the Iraq war's scenario of overwhelming force, particularly by the US Air Force, aimed at quick victory over and against a much weaker power. Learning from both the 2003 Iraq war and Iran's own precious experiences of the 1980-88 war with Iraq and the 1987-88 confrontation with US forces in the Persian Gulf, Iranians have focused on the merits of a fluid and complex defensive strategy that seeks to take advantage of certain weaknesses in the US military superpower while maximizing the precious few areas where they may have the upper hand, e.g., numerical superiority in ground forces, guerrilla tactics, terrain, etc.
According to a much-publicized article on the "Iran war game" in the US-based Atlantic Monthly, the estimated cost of an assault on Iran is a paltry few tens of millions of dollars. This figure is based on a one-time "surgical strike" combining missile attacks, air-to-surface bombardments, and covert operations, without bothering to factor in Iran's strategy, which aims precisely to "extend the theater of operations" in order to exact heavier and heavier costs on the invading enemy, including by targeting America's military command structure in the Persian Gulf.
After this Iranian version of "follow-on" counter-strategy, the US intention of localized warfare seeking to cripple Iran's command system as a prelude to a systematic assault on key military targets would be thwarted by "taking the war to them", in the words of an Iranian military strategist who emphasized America's soft command structure in the southern tips of the Persian Gulf. (Over the past few months, US jet fighters have repeatedly violated Iran's air space over Khuzestan province, testing Iran's air defense system, according to Iranian military officials.)
Iran's proliferation of a highly sophisticated and mobile ballistic-missile system plays a crucial role in its strategy, again relying on lessons learned from the Iraq wars of 1991 and 2003: in the earlier war over Kuwait, Iraq's missiles played an important role in extending the warfare to Israel, notwithstanding the failure of America's Patriot missiles to deflect most of Iraq's incoming missiles raining in on Israel and, to a lesser extent, on the US forces in Saudi Arabia. Also, per the admission of the top US commander in the Kuwait conflict, General Norman Schwarzkopf, the hunt for Iraq's mobile Scud missiles consumed a bulk of the coalition's air strategy and was as difficult as searching for "needles in a haystack".
Today, in the evolution of Iran's military doctrine, the country relies on increasingly precise long-range missiles, eg, Shahab-3 and Fateh-110, that can "hit targets in Tel Aviv", to echo Iranian Foreign Minister Kemal Kharrazi.
Chronologically speaking, Iran produced the 50-kilometer-range Oghab artillery rocket in 1985, and developed the 120km- and 160km-range Mushak artillery rockets in 1986-87 and 1988 respectively. Iran began assembling Scud-Bs in 1988, and North Korean technical advisers in Iran converted a missile maintenance facility for missile manufacture in 1991. It does not seem, however, that Iran has embarked on Scud production. Instead, Iran has sought to build Shahab-3 and Shahab-4, having ranges of 1,300km with a 1,600-pound warhead, and 200km with a 220-pound warhead, respectively; the Shahab-3 was test-launched in July 1998 and may soon be upgraded to more than 2,000km, thus capable of reaching the middle of Europe.
Thanks to excess revenue from high oil prices, which constitute more than 80% of the government's annual budget, Iran is not experiencing the budget constraints of the early and mid-1990s, when its military expenditure was outdone nearly one to 10 by its Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf who are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council; almost all the Arab states possess one or another kind of advanced missile system, eg, Saudi Arabia's CSS-2/DF, Yemen's SS-21, Scud-B, Iraq's Frog-7.
There are several advantages to a ballistic arsenal as far as Iran is concerned: first, it is relatively cheap and manufactured domestically without much external dependency and the related pressure of "missile export control" exerted by the US. Second, the missiles are mobile and can be concealed from the enemy, and third, there are advantages to fighter jets requiring fixed air bases. Fourth, missiles are presumed effective weapons that can be launched without much advance notice by the recipient targets, particularly the "solid fuel" Fatah-110 missiles that require only a few short minutes for installation prior to being fired. Fifth, missiles are weapons of confusion and a unique strike capability that can torpedo the best military plans, recalling how the Iraqi missile attacks in March 2003 at the US military formations assembled at the Iraq-Kuwait border forced a change of plan on the United States' part, thereby forfeiting the initial plan of sustained aerial strikes before engaging the ground forces, as was the case in the Kuwait war, when the latter entered the theater after some 21 days of heavy air strikes inside Iraq as well as Kuwait.
Henceforth, any US attack on Iran will likely be met first and foremost by missile counter-attacks engulfing the southern Persian Gulf states playing host to US forces, as well as any other country, e.g., Azerbaijan, Iraq or Turkey, allowing their territory or airspace to be used against Iran. The rationale for this strategy is precisely to pre-warn Iran's neighbors of the dire consequences, with potential debilitating impacts on their economies for a long time, should they become accomplices of foreign invaders of Iran.
Another key element of Iran's strategy is to "increase the arch of crisis" in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where it has considerable influence, to undermine the United States' foothold in the region, hoping to create a counter-domino effect wherein instead of gaining inside Iran, the US would actually lose territory partly as a result of thinning its forces and military "overstretch".
Still another component of Iran's strategy is psychological warfare, an area of considerable attention by the country's military planners nowadays, focusing on the "lessons from Iraq" and how the pre-invasion psychological warfare by the US succeeded in causing a major rift between the top echelons of the Ba'athist army as well as between the regime and the people. The United States' psychological warfare in Iraq also had a political dimension, seeing how the US rallied the United Nations Security Council members and others behind the anti-Iraq measures in the guise of countering Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
Iran's counter-psychological warfare, on the other hand, seeks to take advantage of the "death-fearing" American soldiers who typically lack a strong motivation to fight wars not necessarily in defense of the homeland. A war with Iran would definitely require establishing the draft in the US, without which it could not possibly protect its flanks in Afghanistan and Iraq; imposing the draft would mean enlisting many dissatisfied young soldiers amenable to be influenced by Iran's own psychological warfare focusing on the lack of motivation and "cognitive dissonance" of soldiers ill-doctrinated to President George W Bush's "doctrine of preemption", not to mention a proxy war for the sake of Israel.
This aside, already, Iranians today consider themselves subjected to the machinations of similar psychological warfare, whereby, to give an example, the US cleverly seeks to capitalize on the discontent of the (unemployed) youth by officially shedding crocodile tears, as discerned from a recent interview of the outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell. Systematic disinformation typically plays a key role in psychological warfare, and the US has now tripled its radio programs beamed to Iran and, per recent reports from the US Congress, substantially increased its financial support of the various anti-regime TV and Internet programs, this while openly trumpeting the cause of "human intelligence" in a future scenario of conflict with Iran based in part on covert operations.
Consequently, there is a sense of a national-security siege in Iran these days, in light of a tightening "security belt" by the US benefiting from military bases in Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, as well as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the island-turned-garrison of Diego Garcia. From Iran's vantage point, the US, having won the Cold War, has turned into a "leviathan unhinged" capable of manipulating and subverting the rules of international law and the United Nations with impunity, thus requiring a sophisticated Iranian strategy of deterrence that, in the words of certain Iranian media pundits, would even include the use of nuclear weapons.
But such voices are definitely in a minority in Iran today, and by and large there is an elite consensus against the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, partly out of the conviction that short of creating a "second-strike capability" there would be no nuclear deterrence against an overwhelming US power possessing thousands of "tactical nuclear weapons". Still, looking at nuclear asymmetry between India and Pakistan, the latter's first-strike capability has proved a deterrence against the much superior nuclear India, a precious lesson not lost on Iran.
Consequently, while Iran has fully submitted its nuclear program to international inspection and suspended its uranium-enrichment program per a recent Iran-European Union agreement inked in Paris in November, there is nonetheless a nagging concern that Iran may have undermined its deterrence strategy vis-à-vis the US, which has not endorsed the Paris Agreement, reserving the right to dispatch Iran's nuclear issue to the Security Council while occasionally resorting to tough saber-rattling against Tehran.
At times, notwithstanding a media campaign in the US, particularly by the New York Times, through news articles carrying such provocative titles as "US versus a nuclear Iran", the US continues its hard-power pre-campaign against Iran unabated, in turn fueling the national security concern of those groups of Iranians contemplating "nuclear deterrence" as a national survival strategy.
Concerning the latter, there is a growing sentiment in Iran that no matter how compliant Iran is with the demands of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency , much like Iraq in 2002-03, the US, which has lumped Iran into a self-declared "axis of evil", is cleverly sowing the seeds of its next Middle East war, in part by leveling old accusations of terrorism and Iran's complicity in the 1996 Ghobar bombing in Saudi Arabia, irrespective of the Saudi officials' rejection of such allegations totally overlooked in a recent book on Iran, The Persian Puzzle by Kenneth M Pollack (see Asia Times Online, The Persian puzzle, or the CIA's?, December 3.)
Thus there is an emerging "proto-nuclear deterrence" according to which Iran's mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle would make it "nuclear weapon capable" in a relatively short time, as a sort of pre-weapon "threshold capability" that must be taken into account by Iran's enemies contemplating attacks on its nuclear installations. Such attacks would be met by stiff resistance, born of Iran's historic sense of nationalism and patriotism, as well as by a counter-weaponization based on quick conversation of the nuclear technology. Hence the longer the US, and Israel, keep up the military threat, the more powerful and appealing the Iranian yearning for a "proto-nuclear deterrence" will grow.
In fact, the military threat against Iran has proved poison for the Iranian economy, chasing away foreign investment and causing considerable capital flight, an intolerable situation prompting some Iranian economists even to call for filing complaints against the US in international tribunals seeking financial remedies. This is a little far-fetched, no doubt, and the Iranians would have to set a new legal precedent to win their cause in the eyes of international law. Iran cannot possibly allow the poor investment climate caused by the military threats to continue indefinitely, and reciprocating with an extended deterrence strategy that raises the risk value of US allies in the region is meant to offset this rather unhappy situation.
Ironically, to open a parenthesis here, some friends of Israel in the US, such as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, an avid supporter of "torturing the terrorists", has recently inked a column on a pro-Israel website calling for the revision of international law allowing an Israeli, and US, military assault against Iran. Dershowitz has clearly taken flight of the rule of law, making a mockery of the esteemed institution that is considered a beacon on the hill in the United States; the same Ivy League university is home to the hate discourse of "clashing civilizations", another ornament for its cherished history. Even Harvard's Kennedy School dean, Joseph Nye, a relative dove, has replicated the US obsession with power by churning out books and articles on "soft power" that reifies every facet of American life, including its neutral culture or entertainment industry, into an appendage or "complement" of US "hard power", as if power reification of what Jurgen Habermas calls "lifeworld" (Lebenswelt) is the conditio sine qua non of Pax Americana.
The ruse of power, however, is that it is often blind to the opposite momentum that it generates, as has been the case of the Cuban people's half a century of heroics vis-à-vis a ruthless regime of economic blockade, Algerian nationalists fighting against French colonialism in the 1950s and 1960s, and, at present, the Iranian people finding themselves in the unenviable situation of contemplating how to survive against the coming avalanche of a US power led entirely by hawkish politicians donning the costumes of multilateralism on Iran's nuclear program. Yet few inside Iran actually believe that this is more than pseudo-multilateralism geared to satisfy the United States' unilateralist militarism down the road. One hopes that the road will not wind down any time soon, but just in case, the "Third World" Iranians are doing what they can to prepare for the nightmare scenario.
The whole situation calls for prudent crisis management and security confidence-building by both sides, and, hopefully, the ugly experience of repeated warfare in the oil-rich region can itself act as a deterrent.
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and "Iran's Foreign Policy Since 9/11", Brown's Journal of World Affairs, co-authored with former deputy foreign minister Abbas Maleki, No 2, 2003. He teaches political science at Tehran University.
Russia vows to complete Iran nuclear plant by 2006MOSCOW (AFP) Dec 17, 2004
Russia said Friday that it would complete Iran's first nuclear power plant in early 2006 at the latest following talks here with the Islamic state's economics and finance minister.
Interfax quoted Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev as saying that Moscow was also in talks over launching the construction of a second Iranian nuclear reactor after the first is completed at the controversial Bushehr plant.
"The physical launch of the (first) energy block should happen at the end of 2005 or the start of 2006, with it going on line in 2006," Interfax quoted Rumyantsev as saying.
The Iranian economy and finance minister, Sadfar Hosseini, replied that he was interested in Russia also completing a second plant at Bushehr, but he gave no timeframe for when that project could be completed.
He said that Iran was also in talks with other European states over future nuclear projects, Interfax quoted him as saying, without providing further details.
Russia is building Iran's first nuclear power plant despite Western concerns that the project could be used to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran agreed this month to suspend uranium enrichment in order to defuse international concern about its nuclear program.
Moscow insists that it has the right to push ahead with the Bushehr project, now estimated to cost some 800 million dollars (600 million euros), but demands that Iran return all spent fuel back to Russia before the plant can be launched.
The nuclear waste could theoretically be reprocessed into nuclear weapons grade material with Iranian centrifuges, and no formal agreement on the nuclear waste return agreement has yet been reached.
Iran produces most of power equipments domestically
TEHRAN, Dec. 17 (MNA) Iran supplies most of its need for power equipments inside the country, said deputy energy minister Hamid Chitchian.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Middle East International Energy Fair, the official stated that, during the past decade, the national energy sector had comprised 82% of the total volume of exports. Generally, energy plays a very significant role in our national and international economic diplomacy.
During the last three years, energy accounted for 22.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP) while consuming only 12.9% of the total amount of investments. So far, we have signed deals to export out power equipment to Syria, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Oman, Turkmenistan and Yemen, Chitchian informed, pointing out that Iran will also sell electricity to Russia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Armenia and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Iran is to connect its power network to those of all these seven countries.
The Iranian official also underscored the recent developments in the national energy industries performed by domestic experts. For instance, we are now capable of making immensely powerful gas turbines.
The international fair, which opened Tuesday in Kish Free Zone to exhibit modern energy developments offered by 150 Iranian and foreign countries, will end Friday.
Iran terms Iraqi DM's accusation as "baseless, unwise"
www.chinaview.cn 2004-12-17 19:03:24
TEHRAN, Dec. 17 (Xinhuanet) -- Iran on Friday termed as "baseless"and "unwise" the recent accusation by Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan over Tehran's alleged interference into Iraq's internal affairs, the official IRNA news agency reported.
"Shaalan's remarks are baseless and unwise. He is trying to pin the blame for Iraq's internal problems on others and is also seeking to distort the image of Iraq's neighbors through such repetitive remarks," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefiwas quoted as saying in a statement.
Asefi noted that Iraqi officials have previously stated that Shaalan's remarks depicted no official position.
"He is surely not in a position to talk on the behalf of the Arab world since such remarks would only distort the image of the Arab world," Asefi said.
Asefi also stressed that Tehran had always been calling for a safe and stable Iraq and had always moved in that direction."Peace and security in Iraq would benefit the Iraqi people andall regional states," the spokesman said.
The Iraqi Defense Minister said Wednesday that Iran was interfering in Iraq's internal affairs, describing Iran as Iraq's "most dangerous enemy" and a "source of terrorism".
Iranian government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh has refuted Shaalan's allegation, saying it was for domestic consumption.
Iran has been keeping a close eye on the developments in its western neighbor since the downfall of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
However, it has been repeatedly accused by the United States andsome Iraqi officers of interfering into the internal affairs of the war-torn country with its influence upon the Iraqi Shiite Muslims.
Iran cleric warns of possible fraud in Iraq pollREUTERS
6:33 a.m. December 17, 2004
TEHRAN A leading hardline cleric in Shi'ite Muslim Iran warned on Friday of possible vote-rigging in next month's Iraqi elections in the latest of a series of barbed exchanges between the two neighbours.
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, speaking after U.S. President George W. Bush this week told Iran and Syria not to meddle in the forthcoming Iraqi vote, proposed that Iraqi clerics should supervise the Jan. 30 vote to ensure it is fair.
"The possibility of fraud is very high in the Iraqi election. Iraqi clerics' comprehensive and strong supervision will protect people's votes," Jannati told worshippers at Friday prayers at Tehran University, without elaborating.
Iraq's interim government, whose Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and other key ministers are secular Shi'ites, has accused Iran of backing insurgents in Iraq set on wrecking the poll.
Defence Minister Hazim al-Shaalan has sharply criticised Hussain al-Shahristani, a senior figure in a Shi'ite bloc expected to do well in the election, for links with Iran.
Iran fears that the rise of a secular Iraq could threaten Iran's Shi'ite clerical establishment by displaying a model for Shi'ites to emulate in pressing for change in the Islamic state.
Washington has told Iran to keep out of Iraqi politics amid concerns, shared by some U.S. Arab allies, that Tehran wants to encourage the creation of a fellow Islamic republic in Iraq.
Iran has repeatedly denied any such interference. It welcomed the fall of Saddam Hussein, but wants to ensure a future Iraqi government is at least not hostile to Iran and not friendly with its arch-foe, the United States.
In remarks broadcast live on state radio, Jannati said Iran welcomed Iraq's January election as a step towards full sovereignty and an end to occupation by foreign forces.
"If you (Iraqis) want to have a sovereign country, you should vote," said Jannati, who heads Iran's hardline Guardian Council a powerful, unelected supervisory body.
"Choose the ones who care about Iraq, otherwise dictators will rule your country."
Next month's polls are widely expected to seal the increased influence that Iraq's long-oppressed 60-percent Shi'ite majority has enjoyed since last year's U.S.-led invasion.
Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has issued a religious edict demanding Shi'ites vote.
TEXAS MUSLIMS HOST AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI TRIBUTE
- INTERNET FUELS CONTROVERSY OVER CONFERENCE ATTENDED BY "MAINSTREAM" MUSLIM LEADERS
Dec 17, 2004 3:31 pm US/Central
By Todd Bensman and Robert Riggs
IRVING, TX. -- A North Texas Muslim organization last week staged a "Tribute" conference honoring the life and works of the "Great Islamic Visionary" Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The late Iranian leader's legacy includes the 1979 American hostage crisis, the first large-scale terrorist bombings against Americans, and a strict Islamist government accused by President George Bush of making up part of an international "Axis of Evil."
Last Saturday's all-day conference in Irving was sponsored by the Metroplex Organization of Muslims in North Texas (MOMIN) and was attended by a number of prominent North Texas Muslim leaders and activists who were invited to speak. The conference has ignited an Internet controversy in the week since word of it - until now ignored by media organizations -spread across the country on web logs and through email.
In an exclusive interview with CBS-11 on Friday, MOMIN Imam Shamshad Haider defended the conference and said Ayatollah Khomeini was a great, if widely misunderstood, scholar and poet who deserved tribute and appreciation.
"You cannot discuss in a very simple tone and denounce someone for one aspect of his personality. We want to understand the whole person of Ayatollah Khomeini, not just one slogan of, for example, 'Great Satan,' or one of his political speeches, no." Haider said. "In fact, politics was only a portion of his personality. He was an ascetic poet , and he was a jurisprudent, and also he was a great inspiration for those who want to find healing for their spiritual sicknesses and use religion for their reformation.
"As they say in Persian, every flower has a front side and a back side," Haider told CBS-11. "There are lots of aspects of his personality that have been totally ignored."
Others sought for comment about the conference said they strongly believed otherwise and found the conference offensive and frightening in a post-9-11 period marked by disclosures that openly militant groups for years raised funds and curried support for overseas terrorism from U.S. soil - largely unmolested by law enforcement and ignored by American media outlets.
Former FBI deputy director Buck Revell, who lives in Rowlett, said Khomeini, was a figure "clearly identified with the most violent form of Islam" and "openly propagandized the absolute responsibility of Islamic people to carry on global conflict.
"Under his regime, they engaged in terrorism, including acts in the United States and elsewhere outside the Middle East," Revell said. "The bottom line is what they are promoting is jihad against the West, our values, our traditions, our culture, our law...and replacing it with an Islamic republic, Islamic globalization. That's what Khomeini wanted. He said every Muslim has an obligation to fight to impose Islam on the world."
Revell, who in his former FBI role oversaw terrorist bombing investigations during the 1980s, said Iran's various terrorism campaigns against the U.S., its interests and allies have occurred because "we've ignored it. We've had our head in the sand.
"Even today, the vast majority of the news media refuse to listen to what these people are saying, to look at what they are doing and to look at what they support and advocate," he said. "I mean, it's out there, but our media won't look at it."
Khomeini took power in a popular 1979 coup against the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran and installed a strict Islamic theocracy based on an evolving interpretation of the Koran by politically powerful religious mullahs. The Islamist regime he brought to power has been accused of sponsoring the first large-scale suicide bombing attacks against Americans in Lebanon during the early 1980s, acts that killed and wounded hundreds of Marines, and for the 1996 attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. That attack, which killed 19 American servicemen and wounded hundreds of others, came as a result of a "fatwa," or order, from Khomeini before he died in 1989.
Last week's conference in Irving also came at a time of heightened tensions between the American administration and Iran's mullahs over that country's secret nuclear weapons development program, as well as alleged open support for insurgents who are attacking American troops in Iraq. The Pentagon this week called Iran the principal destabilizing force in Iraq. Iran remains on the U.S. state department's list of terrorist states, and diplomatic relations have been suspended since Khomeini took power.
MOMIN leaders said the pro-Khomeini conference was not the first.
"No one needs to be scared or afraid of anything," he said. "A person needs to basically always support justice and understand what the reality is, not go by one slogan or one political action of a person, but rather try to see what it is that is so special about him."
Asked if he understood that many Americans resented Khomeini for the 1979 hostage crisis at the American embassy and support for attacks that have killed Americans, Haider said Khomeini was not responsible.
"Ayatollah Khomeini became the voice of the oppressed people, and he did not sanction...the takeover of the embassy," Haider said. "The people did it. Emotions were very high, and he could not tell the people to come back because people saw the connection of the U.S. embassy with the Shah."
The conference was advertised, in part, with brochures entitled "A Tribute to Great Islamic Visionary" celebrating the 16th anniversary of Khomeini's death. Under a heading "Selected sayings of Holy Prophet" is a line that reads: "Alah has made Islam to prevail over all other religions."
Among the guest speakers at last week's conference was a Washington D.C. Imam, Mohammad Asi, who is known for his radical views and firebrand anti-American speeches. Asi's own web site calls his speeches "revolutionary and thought-provoking," so much so that he was expelled from the Islamic Center of Washington D.C. and now preaches on the sidewalk outside.
"Hear this man... because once you have, you will be changed forever," Asi's web site says.
CBS-11 has learned that Asi issued a strongly worded anti-American, anti-Jewish speech during the Irving conference in which he said American imperialism and pro-Israel Zionism are "diabolical, aggressive, bloodthirsty ideologies that are trying to take over the world and destroy Islam."
But Asi was not the only one who spoke in that vein. A 10-year-old boy opened the conference praising Khomeini for reviving "pure" Islamic thinking and saving the religion from being conquered by the West. The boy called President Bush "the greatest enemy of the Muslim Ummah," CBS-11 has learned.
Asked why Asi was invited to impart a message many consider extreme, Imam Haider, originally from Pakistan, said, "We don't know all of his political views...This country allows freedom of speech. Many of us didn't have that freedom back home."
Other speakers included Yusuf Kavakci of the Richardson Mosque, a prominent North Texas Imam widely viewed as an Islamic moderate. Kavakci did not return numerous telephone and email messages Thursday and Friday. CBS-11 has been told that Kavakci urged Muslim unity between various Islamic factions.
At least two other featured speakers sought to distance themselves from the event.
Another North Texas Muslim leader who spoke at the conference was Iyas Maleh, chairman of the Dallas/Fort Worth branch of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR. The North Texas branch of CAIR is listed on an event program as a scheduled speaker, although no individual is named. Maleh spoke, discussing a church movement calling for financial divestiture from companies that do business with Israel.
But on Friday, Maleh said that he did not attend the event as a CAIR representative but rather as a pro-Palestinian activist. He said no one from CAIR showed up to fill the advertised speaking slot; the pamphlet's listing, he said, was the result of a miscommunication.
Maleh said he did not learn the event was a tribute to Khomeini featuring Asi until after he arrived.
"When I was introduced to speak it was as a Muslim activist who would speak about Palestine. I made sure when I spoke that I'm not speaking on behalf of CAIR," he said. "I don't know anything about Khomeini. there's nothing I can contribute on his life."
Maleh also said he did not see any problem participating after learning of the event's true nature because such events could benefit from a moderate voice such as his.
"If I don't do that, we are just isolating people and it's not the right thing to do," he said about boycotting conferences featuring militant speakers and messages. "That's how you come to agreement with Christians and Jews."
Also featured as a speaker was Mohammed Elibiary, president of the Dallas-based Freedom and Justice Foundation. The foundation has been credited with voter registration drives and other advocacy activities benefitting Muslims.
But Elibiary said that he too did not know the event was a tribute to Ayatollah Khomeini until after he arrived. He said he arrived at the event before hearing the first speakers, which would include the 10-year-old boy who denounced President Bush, and also before Asi spoke. "I didn't attend the whole thing," he said.
"I didn't think anyone was going to associate me with anything anti-American," he said. "The theme was Muslim unity, not Khomeini. I didn't know it was a Khomeini event."
Elibiary said that he did not know that Asi was a fellow speaker and called him "an extremist."
During his interview with CBS-11, Imam Haider recited a poem written by Khomeini as an example of how the deceased leader's attributes have been widely overlooked.
"He was a very good poet. He said that 'I have been to the mosque, and have been to the church, and the synogogue, and the temple, and wherever I went I found you, oh Lord...You were the light of my heart...'"
Asked why Khomeini did not show this softer, poetic side during the hostage crisis, Haider responded that Iranians in those days associated the U.S. with the Shah's repressive regime.
To comment on this story, email: Todd Bensman or Robert Riggs
Iranian nuclear ambitions worry Gulf Arab statesBy Roula Khalaf
Published: December 18 2004 02:00 | Last updated: December 18 2004 02:00
In public, Arabgovernments have little to say about international concerns over Iran's nuclear programme.
Even Arab members of the International Atomic Energy Agency board try to keep out of discussions on Iran, rarely expressing an opinion.
When pressed to react, Arab officials bring up Israel's undeclared nuclear arsenal and ask why no one is interested in disarming the Jewish state.
Behind the public silence, however, lurks anxiety in the Sunni-dominated Gulf over Shia Iran's widening regional power.
The concerns have been heightened by the removal of Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Tehran's long-time foe. The rise of the Shias of Iraq, likely to dominate the first elected parliament next year, has given Iran vast influence over its neighbour and shifted the balance of power in the Gulf.
"Countries in the Gulf are very concerned about an Iran weapons programme. No one expresses views but Iran is a country with an ideology to project," says a western diplomat involved in nuclear discussions. "It's not so much today but if Iran has a weapon in 10 years they would be sitting under the sword of Damocles."
The easing of Iran's revolutionary fervour has allowed better relations with Arab Gulf states in recent years. Countries with Shia populations - Shias are a majority in Bahrain and a minority in Saudi Arabia - have overcome their suspicions about Iranian meddling in their domestic affairs.
But the change of regime in Iraq and the discovery by UN inspectors of a sophisticated Iranian programme to develop nuclear technology are reviving old fears.
Until recently Iranian expansionism was checked by the US policy of dual containment of Iran and Iraq, which kept both countries weakened.
"The Gulf countries naturally see Iran as the big power, much more powerful than any Gulf state including Saudi Arabia, and as a country that needs to be balanced," says Gary Samore, non-proliferation expert at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies. "There's a complaint now in the Gulf - that the US has upset the natural balance because Saddam was seen as at least checking Iran's aspirations."
King Abdullah of Jordan expressed some of the anxiety last week when he accused Iran of trying to influence Iraq's elections next month in favour of Shia religious parties. He warned that an Islamic regime in Iraq would destabilise Gulf countries with Shia minorities.
"If Iraq goes Islamic Republic, then yes, we've opened ourselves to a whole set of new problems that will not be limited to the borders of Iraq," he said.
According to Mr Samore, some Gulf states are even looking to the US to maintain military bases in Iraq to counter Iran's long-term influence, though such a prospect is opposed by Arab public opinion.
The US has military bases in Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain, and provides Saudi Arabia with a security umbrella, even though American forces were removed from the kingdom last year.
The Saudi regime appears to recognise the need for stronger self-reliance and has called for tighter security arrangements in the Gulf Co-operation Council, which groups Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Meanwhile, Iran has an alternative to the Saudi proposal: at an IISS conference in Bahrain this month, it proposed a new regional assembly and a nuclear-free zone for the Gulf. The quid pro quo, however, was that the rest of the Gulf should rid itself of ties to external powers.
Partners for Democracy in the Middle East?
AEI Newsletter Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2004 ARTICLES January 2005 Newsletter Publication Date: January 1, 2005
The events of September 11, 2001, forever altered U.S. strategic thinking on the Middle East. In January 2002, President George W. Bush declared that Western nations can no longer excuse or accommodate Middle Eastern regimes that oppress their people in the name of stability. In The Islamic Paradox: Shiite Clerics, Sunni Fundamentalists, and the Coming of Arab Democracy, AEI's Reuel Marc Gerecht examines the prospects for ending anti-American Islamic extremism and promoting democracy in the greater Middle East.
Gerecht argues that while the United States has too often favored "pro-American dictators" for fear that free elections might empower Muslim fundamentalists, the suffering of the people living under such dictators has bred anti-Americanism. The United States must align itself with the "growing Muslim belief that political legitimacy can only come from the ballot box" and realize that the critical players for a democratic transformation in the Middle East will be Shiite clerics and Sunni fundamentalists.
Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq's preeminent Shiite cleric, has declared that sovereignty rests with Iraqis participating in democratic elections. According to Gerecht, Sistani's call for democracy is more likely to be supported than calls for revolution in the greater Sunni world. As one Sunni elder from Samarra declared, "Religion is for God, but government ought to be for all the people." Sunni fundamentalists in Egypt have supported greater public participation in government, and even the ruling clerics of Iran's theocracy have been unable to stem the rise of democratic culture and pro-Americanism among the Iranian population.
Gerecht concludes that having fundamentalists compete for votes and the responsibilities of governance--far from something to fear--will change the political landscape of the Middle East and that Muslim democracies will prove essential to ending the conflict and competition between the West and Islam.
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