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Iranian Alert - December 22, 2004 [EST] - Iran Continues Atomic Work Breaking Spirit of Accord
Regime Change Iran ^
Posted on 12/21/2004 11:13:30 PM PST by DoctorZIn
Top News Story
Iran Atomic Work Breaks Spirit of Accord - Diplomats
Published: December 21, 2004
Filed at 5:37 p.m. ET
VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran's decision to keep preparing raw uranium for enrichment, a step on the way to making nuclear weapons, breaks the spirit though not the letter of its pledge to freeze all such activity, diplomats said on Tuesday.
Under a deal Iran reached with three EU nations to freeze all enrichment activity as of Nov. 22, preparing ``yellowcake'' uranium for enrichment is strictly prohibited. But the accord allowed Iran to finish some limited uranium conversion work that it had already begun before the suspension took effect.
But Iran will now continue enrichment-related work until February, Western diplomats told Reuters.
Continuing the work that long ``would certainly violate the spirit of the agreement,'' a Western diplomat said. ``Iran has a legal basis for doing it, but it will not inspire much confidence in them,'' another diplomat said.
The State Department said if Iran was committed to suspension it would have sought to end uranium conversion efforts immediately.
``Iran's actions reinforce our view that further pressure on Iran is required -- including the pressure of reporting Iran to the U.N. Security Council -- to bring Iran to make a strategic decision to abandon its pursuit of sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle capabilities,'' said State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper.
Iran's chief delegate to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said separately that Iran would press ahead with its nuclear program.
Western diplomats said this would include work broadly but not explicitly covered by last month's suspension accord.
``The Iranians have decided to continue UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) production until the end of February,'' one diplomat told Reuters.
UF4 is a precursor to uranium hexafluoride (UF6), the gas that is fed into centrifuges which spin at supersonic speeds to purify it for use as fuel in civilian nuclear power plants or in atomic weapons.
Two other diplomats confirmed the report. One said Iran appeared to be exploiting a loophole in the promise it made to France, Britain and Germany to freeze enrichment activity.
``It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone,'' said one Western diplomat. Whenever there is a loophole in an agreement, the Iranians find it and use it to their advantage, he said.
The United States accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy program, and has told the EU it believes Tehran has no intention of honoring its pledge to freeze enrichment work.
One Western diplomat close to the IAEA said the deal between the EU's ``big three'' and Iran actually permitted Tehran to convert an entire batch of 37 tonnes of yellowcake, with which it had been ``testing'' its conversion facility at Isfahan.
When Iran announced its plans to test the Isfahan plant in September, nuclear experts said that 37 tonnes of yellowcake could yield enough uranium for up to five nuclear weapons, if it was later enriched to bomb grade purity.
FIRST DEAL FELL APART
Iran first promised to suspend its enrichment program in exchange for a package of political and economic benefits from the EU big three in October 2003. The deal fell apart after Iran used a loophole in the agreement to continue producing and testing centrifuge components.
Earlier on Tuesday Hossein Mousavian, Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, told the official IRNA news agency that it was natural for Iran to continue with its nuclear program.
``It is natural that the Islamic Republic continues all its nuclear activities. Iran has only suspended the fuel cycle voluntarily, in the framework of its policy to build trust, without any legal obligations,'' he said.
Mousavian also said that Washington wanted talks with Tehran, with which it broke ties 24 years ago, to discuss a number of issues including Iran's nuclear program.
``The United States wants negotiations with Iran and definitely doesn't like having a mediator in between, even if the Europeans want to mediate,'' IRNA quoted him as saying.
Several Western diplomats said the idea of such talks was premature, but that Washington would have to join the negotiations if the EU3 plan to persuade Iran to abandon its enrichment program permanently was to work.
But the United States says Tehran cannot be trusted and refuses to participate in the negotiations, diplomats say.
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posted on 12/21/2004 11:13:35 PM PST
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Join Us At Today's Iranian Alert Thread The Most Underreported Story Of The Year!
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posted on 12/21/2004 11:16:43 PM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
Is Iran just weeks away from being a nuclear power? DoctorZin
Last month I warned that Iran must shut down all of its uranium enrichment centrifuges, including the twenty "experimental" centrifuges. Why? Because Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had demanded
"We must have two bombs ready to go in January or you are not Muslims."
I explained that western intelligence can identify when enrichment centrifuges are running because the produce a unique "noise" or "signature."
Thus, I argued that Iran would never shut these last centrifuges down. Iran needed these last centrifuges to run in order to mask a "hidden" lab of centrifuges needed in order to meet this deadline.
Unfortunately, when the issue came up at the EU3/Iran negotiations, Iran "compromised" by allowing these centrifuges to continue running "empty" but under the supervision of an IAEA video camera. In other words, Iran was able to continue it's secret program.
Now we discover that Iran is willing to violate the spirit of even this agreement with the EU3 by continuing to prepare raw uranium for enrichment. According to today's NY Times
``The Iranians have decided to continue UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) production until the end of February.''It now appears Iran may be just a matter of weeks from declaring itself a nuclear power.
UF4 is a precursor to uranium hexafluoride (UF6), the gas that is fed into centrifuges which spin at supersonic speeds to purify it for use as fuel in civilian nuclear power plants or in atomic weapons. ...
the IAEA said the deal between the EU's ``big three'' and Iran actually permitted Tehran to convert an entire batch of 37 tonnes of yellowcake...
nuclear experts said that 37 tonnes of yellowcake could yield enough uranium for up to five nuclear weapons, if it was later enriched to bomb grade purity. ...
Time is running out, our intelligence services understand this. The only question now is whether or not we will be forced to act or accept the inevitable.
President Bush, faster please.
posted on 12/21/2004 11:18:01 PM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
Iran wasn't serious about stopping its nuclear program? I'm shocked! Shocked and saddened. Deeply saddened.
posted on 12/21/2004 11:19:07 PM PST
(Tancredo and I wanna know what you believe)
Roya Hakakian: Memories of Tehran
Everyone is serenading Kiev these days. "Magical" and "most valorous" were the words on the morning news.
But in my mind, Kiev has never looked more like Tehran my capital in 1978. Theirs is an orange revolution. But though I still can't discern the shade of our revolution, the similarities are striking.
Rock stars converged on Independence Square in Kiev. In my time it was poetry, poetry, poetry. Revolutions are ignited by politics, but the fuel that sustains their fire is hardly just that.
All of Iran's literati and artistic elite got together that year to stage Ten Nights of Poetry at Tehran's Goethe Institute. It rained every night.
But, what rain? Thousands gathered to hear the flaming speeches of their beloved authors! Our revolution, too, reached its climax in December. Yet we roamed the streets, unfazed. (Never had the Celsius been so gravely insulted!) On milder days we boasted that it was a sign that God was on our side.
We had no tent cities, but the streets were home. And by January 1979, the revolution had transcended the headlines. It had become something visceral: a paradoxical feeling of drowning in a sea of hundreds, yet never breathing better.
Caught in those tides, we became the heroes that the quotidian nature of our days had never permitted us to be. With schools, offices and factories shut down, life and time had come to a halt. Then, 6am was the same as 6pm.
Nowhere to be but here. Nothing to do but this. We stood idly like the unemployed, though we'd never been so gainfully occupied.
The rest of the world had not vanished, but it had gone from being a place we previously dreamed of discovering to a place that we now demanded discover our dream.
Nearly everything was more than met the eye. A tree was an observation post; the stoops, the place for the ad hoc organising committee to convene.
Even the garbage strewn on the sidewalks fliers, bandannas, a bloody sock, a tyre on fire were the venerable reminders of something grand in the making. And the unknown person who raised his middle and index fingers in the shape of a V was unknown no more.
All the lessons our parents and our civic and religious leaders had been teaching us all our lives sank in overnight. Strangers on the streets seemed familiar, like long-lost family members.
The sick or the wounded never made it to the stretchers. They levitated in the air, their bodies passing over the crowds' hands. Drivers yielded to pedestrians. Children, watching the screaming adults, stopped their petulance.
Mothers distributed sweets among passers-by. Patrons in phone booths cut their conversations short to let others make calls. Even love felt greater on the streets that year.
There was more to a kiss, to an embrace amid the throngs. The soldiers lurked about us with apprehension.
In Kiev, they send the most beautiful female protesters to negotiate with them. We put carnations in the barrels of their rifles. Despite the chaos, the value of aesthetics is never lost on revolutionaries.
As vivid as these words are on my monitor, so are the details of those memories in my mind. Everything but the colour of our revolution. Perhaps it's because history is black.
It absorbs all shades into its oblivion, till the victors paint it as they wish. We were the secular, urban youth who wanted, as do our successors even today, a democratic future. We lost. Our grief turned us against ourselves, even against our own memories.
Now we're remembered as the Don Quixotes who chased a sham. Once, we'd been commended for our vision. Soon we were taunted for not having recognised the "realities". (Warning: The popular wisdom that "the journey is more important than the destination" does not apply to revolutions).
And so our brilliant shade of 25 years ago now conjures only darkness.
Today, from a corner of the world where I never thought I'd live, suburbs of Connecticut, United States, I, an Iranian exile, with an ear fixed to the radio, root for Ukraine, and hope that the glory of their revolution will not fade in time but remain as it is today: orange and vibrant.
posted on 12/21/2004 11:21:53 PM PST
Iran still producing uranium metal
Tuesday, December 21, 2004 Posted: 9:24 PM EST (0224 GMT)
VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- Iran is still converting uranium in a process that can be used to make nuclear weapons as it exploits a loophole in a recent deal it made to freeze such activities, diplomats said Tuesday.
The diplomats told The Associated Press that Tehran is still turning tons of raw uranium into uranium metal and has said it would continue to do so until February. The metal is a precursor of uranium hexafluoride -- a substance that can then be used to produce weapons-grade uranium.
Concerns about Iran grew after revelations in mid-2002 of two secret nuclear facilities -- a uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water production plant near Arak. That led to a subsequent IAEA investigation of what turned out to be nearly two decades of covert nuclear activities, including suspicious "dual use" experiments that can be linked to weapons programs.
Iran agreed last month to stop enriching uranium and all related activities while it negotiates with France, Germany and Britain on the terms of a long-term deal to provide the country with technological help in creating a peaceful nuclear program and other forms of aid.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency agreed to police the agreement and has placed seals on feed points at Iran's enrichment plant at Isfahan, meant to prevent new material from being introduced into the facilities.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior diplomat familiar with Iran's nuclear dossier said those seals remained in place Tuesday, meaning Iran was only converting raw "yellowcake" uranium already in the pipeline into uranium metal.
Introducing new material into the plant is banned under the freeze. But the diplomat said that Tehran's activity was allowed under the terms of the agreement reached between the Europeans and Tehran, which permits Iran to process all of the 37 tons of yellowcake that was already being converted when the deal was struck into a "stable state."
Much of those 37 tons was in the form of a liquid, and the immediate next step would be to turn it into the more "stable state" of uranium metal, said the diplomat.
"All of it was already in the pipeline," he said.
A diplomat from the European Union, which was also party to the deal negotiated by France, Germany and Britain, said Tuesday that the Europeans were reserving judgment on Iran's move but it appeared not to be in violation of the suspension agreement.
But he questioned the timing, noting that the process of converting all material already partially processed could have ended long before February. Extending it sent the wrong signals about Iran's commitment to quickly and fully suspend all enrichment activities, he said.
About three tons of this amount already was fully converted in November into the end product of uranium hexafluoride -- the gas that is enriched into fuel- or weapons-grade uranium. At the time, that move raised doubts about how serious Iran was about reaching a deal on suspension.
Nuclear experts say that when fully processed, the 37 tons of yellowcake can theoretically yield more than 200 pounds of weapons-grade uranium, enough to make five crude nuclear weapons.
The issue of enrichment is extremely sensitive as the international community tries to determine if Iran is using its nuclear program for peaceful purposes only, as Tehran insists, or trying to make weapons.
The United States says Iran is working to produce nuclear weapons -- something Tehran denies, saying it looks to atomic power purely as an energy source.
The United States last week turned down feelers from Tehran on the possibility of direct talks with Iran on differences over the country's nuclear program, and on Tuesday, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Hossein Mousavian, said that "at this point there is no need to get involved" in such direct contacts.
While not obliged to do so, Iran agreed to suspend its enrichment program last year, in an effort to build international trust. But that commitment eroded over the subsequent months -- until the new agreement in November on suspension.
posted on 12/21/2004 11:25:06 PM PST
Wednesday 22nd December, 2004
Iran denies again Iraq accusations
Big News Network.com Tuesday 21st December, 2004
Iran rejected again Tuesday accusations that it is interfering in Iraq's internal affairs, notably the upcoming elections.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Asafi said Iran's policy toward its western neighbor is based on non-interference in its domestic affairs and support for consolidating peace and security in that country.
Asafi accused the U.S. administration of propagating rumors against Iran.
The U.S. officials are used to making accusations in all directions against others without any evidence, he added.
Iraqi officials have repeatedly made accusations against Iran and Syria of supporting insurgents and meddling in Iraq's affairs.
posted on 12/21/2004 11:26:09 PM PST
Iranian archaeologists race the clock
Dam soon to flood ancient Persia's 'Royal Road'By Christian Oliver
Updated: 7:41 p.m. ET Dec. 21, 2004
TEHRAN - Archaeologists are digging against the clock in an Iranian gorge, striving to learn as much as possible about sites around ancient Persia's "Royal Road" before they are submerged by flooding.
Iranian archaeologists said on Tuesday excavations in the Tang-e Bolaghi valley had unearthed a cobbled stretch of the "Royal Road" that linked ancient Persian cities from Persepolis in southern Iran to Sardis, now in western Turkey.
They have pinpointed 129 sites of interest in the gorge along this ancient highway, ranging from prehistoric finds to remains from the era of the Qajar monarchy that fell in 1925.
posted on 12/21/2004 11:28:04 PM PST
Psychological scars run deep a year after Bam earthquake in Iran
Red Crescent workers offer relief to the stricken
By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
GENEVA: Domestic violence and drug addiction mar the Iranian city of Bam as residents suffer psychological problems one year after a massive earthquake killed more than 31,000 of their relatives, friends and neighbors, the Red Cross federation said.
For the first time in its history, the agency deployed a psychological support program immediately after the disaster, and said that it hoped to use the lessons that are still being learnt when it tackles the next crisis.
Some 75,000 people were left homeless by the quake that struck on Dec. 26, 2003, and almost every family in the city of about 120,000 lost a loved one, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said late Monday.
"Twelve months later, signs of the devastation are still evident, not just in the collapsed buildings but in people's minds," said Mohammed Mukhier, head of the international federation's operations in Iran.
Thousands of people have displayed psychological problems ranging from sleeping disorders and an inability to socialize normally to explosive behavior and domestic violence, the agency warned.
There had also been a dramatic increase in drug abuse.
However, Mukhier said the model of integrating psychological support into a relief effort following a disaster had shown positive results.
"Our experience in Iran can be used in response to future disasters elsewhere, and we should take care to provide that support to the victims and to rescue workers," he said in a statement.
A team of Red Crescent aid workers in Bam have interviewed more than 20,000 people following the quake. Out of some 9,300 who were identified as needing psychological support, more than 5,600 have received counseling.
The types of support include group therapy, painting, sewing, computer classes and play therapy for children, the federation explained.
"The aim of the group activities is to get people to talk about their experiences and not to keep them tucked away in an isolated corner in their minds," said Aghdas Coffee, who heads the programme, which is supported by the Red Cross Societies of Iceland, Denmark and Italy.
The European Union's humanitarian office is the main funder of the initiative, which continues to receive new patients.
In September alone, 129 new patients diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder were registered at one Red Crescent counseling center.
"The problem is compounded by an increase in drug addiction following the earthquake," the federation said, noting that the city lay on the smuggling route through Iran from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Physical restructuring work is also ongoing after the tremor, which measured 6.5 on the Richter scale, destroyed all 131 schools in the city as well as its hospitals and clinics, the federation added.
World community raps Iran on human rights
UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly has criticized the human rights situation in Iran in a relatively close vote that lashed out at restrictions on free speech under Tehran's Islamic regime.
The Assembly, which groups all 191 UN member states, approved the resolution 71-54, with 55 abstentions late Monday. Resolutions adopted by the assembly are not legally binding but do reflect international opinion.
The measure was sponsored by Canada, whose relations with Iran have taken a turn for the worse since Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi died while in custody in Iran last year.
Cosponsored by 33 other nations including Tehran's arch-foes Israel and the United States, the resolution stopped short of condemning Iran outright but said member states had "serious concern" over a long list of rights abuses.
It took aim at the clerical regime for "the worsening situation with regard to freedom of opinion and expression" and the "targeted disqualification" of reformists in Iran's parliamentary elections.
Iran also continues to use "torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," including amputation, flogging and the execution of those under 18 years of age, the assembly said.
It added that reformists, religious dissidents and the political opposition were subject to continuing persecution and said Iran had failed to comply with international standards of justice and due process.
posted on 12/21/2004 11:29:09 PM PST
Iranian pop star Googoosh recently accused the producer and owner of Tapesh a Persian Satellite TV station that never discusses politics of working for the Iranian government.
"Dead Men Walking" members of MKO repatriated to Iran
"Dead Men Walking" members of MKO repatriated to Iran
Dec 21, 2004, 12:36
MKO members who have recently renounced the grouplet in Iraq arrived home in Tehran on Monday. The repatriation was conducted under supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
According to IRNA, the group consisted of MKO veterans who had ideological challenges with their high ranking figures and voiced readiness to come back home.
These members will join their families after medical tests which may last five to seven days, said a security official at Mehrabad International Airport.
Another 600 MKO members are in coordination with ICRC to leave Iraq and repatriate, said Behrouz Soltani an former MKO member.
"We, as well as other MKO members, were under a very severe and intolerable situation in Iraq and were doing a count-down to return home," he said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said on Sunday that repatriation of these people are in line with supporting the civic rights of all Iranians.
The Islamic Republic of Iran lauds the efforts of the ICRC which help prepare grounds for repatriation of others who voice readiness, Asefi said.
Blair confident Iran will honor EU deal
LONDON (IRNA) -- Prime Minister Tony Blair is positive about the success of the Paris Agreement between the European Union and Iran on nuclear, technological and economic cooperation.
"I am confident that Iran will honor its obligations. I hope very much that it will," Blair said on Monday while briefing MPs on the outcome of last week's European Union summit in Brussels. But he also added in reply to a question from opposition Conservative leader Michael Howard that if the agreement is not honored, "we must be prepared to take further action in respect of it."
"The leadership role that we have been able to exercise with France and Germany has been important at least in getting a bigger measure of cooperation than we have had for many years," the UK premier said in praising the joint efforts to reach the agreement.
"What the last two years show is the validity and importance of Europe working together for example, in respect of Iran and, more recently, Ukraine," Blair later added. He said that "it also shows clearly that when Britain decides as a sovereign country to go its own way and disagree with other European countries, as over Iraq, it can do so."
"Those years also show that there are other issues, such as the Middle East peace process, in respect of which we are somewhere between the two," the prime minister told parliament.
posted on 12/22/2004 12:43:57 AM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
Iran refutes UN criticism of its human rights situation
|www.chinaview.cn 2004-12-22 03:40:56
TEHRAN, Dec. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- Iran on Tuesday refuted a UN resolution which criticized its human rights situation, terming it as "politically motivated and unreal," the official IRNA news agency reported.
"The resolution is not documented and is far from realities in Iran. Being drafted from unreliable, distorted and untrue sources,it is invalid," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi was quoted as saying.
"The different views (of some countries on the resolution) show the reality that a large majority of countries are against political misuse of human rights as a tool," Asefi said."The unconstructive approach of the initiators of the resolutionis a completely political move, aimed at raising hues and cries against Iran and abuse bilateral relations," said Asefi.The UN General Assembly on Monday adopted the resolution criticizing restrictions of freedom of expression in Iran by a 71-55 vote with 55 abstentions.
posted on 12/22/2004 12:46:37 AM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
Bush backs Rumsfeld, sees lack of Iran leverage
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
President Bush yesterday defended Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld against congressional critics and conceded the United States cannot force Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
In a year-end press conference, Mr. Bush expressed confidence in Mr. Rumsfeld, who has come under fire for his handling of the war in Iraq.
"I believe he's doing a really fine job," the president said in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. "And I believe that in a new term, members of the Senate and the House will recognize what a good job he's doing."
Mr. Bush said Mr. Rumsfeld will be needed in the second term to help deal with threats such as Iran and North Korea. But the president acknowledged that the United States does not have many tools to end Tehran's nuclear ambitions, now that Washington has imposed sanctions.
"We're relying upon others, because we've sanctioned ourselves out of influence with Iran," he said. "In other words, we don't have much leverage with the Iranians right now."
Several members of Congress, including some Republicans, have accused Mr. Rumsfeld of insensitivity in responding to complaints from troops who lack sufficient armor in Iraq. Others have criticized him for not personally signing condolence letters to the families of fallen soldiers, a practice he has promised to change.
"Sometimes perhaps his demeanor is rough and gruff," Mr. Bush said. "But beneath that rough and gruff, no-nonsense demeanor is a good human being who cares deeply about the military, and deeply about the grief that war causes."
As if to make Mr. Bush's point, Mr. Rumsfeld issued a holiday message of support to the 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
"I thank you for your courage," he said. "I thank you for your commitment. And to your families and loved ones, I extend my deepest appreciation for your sacrifices."
The tone was more conciliatory than the one that critics said he adopted Dec. 8, when he told troops in Kuwait: "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time."
Mr. Rumsfeld had been responding to a complaint from Spc. Thomas Wilson of the Tennessee National Guard that soldiers had to dig through junk piles to reinforce vehicles on the way into Iraq.
Mr. Rumsfeld's response was viewed as callous by many Democrats and journalists. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, announced he had no confidence in Mr. Rumsfeld, a sentiment echoed by fellow Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Trent Lott of Mississippi.
Yesterday, the president hinted that Mr. Rumsfeld would be mending some fences on Capitol Hill.
"I know the secretary understands the Hill," Mr. Bush said. "He has been around in Washington a long period of time and he will continue to reach out to members of the Hill, explaining the decisions he has made."
As for complaints about Mr. Rumsfeld using a machine to affix his signature to condolence letters, Mr. Bush defended the secretary in unusually personal terms.
"I know Secretary Rumsfeld's heart," the president said. "I know how much he cares for the troops. He and his wife go out to Walter Reed and Bethesda all the time to provide comfort and solace," he added, in a reference to medical facilities for injured troops.
Mr. Bush said he has "heard the anguish in his voice and seen his eyes when we talk about the danger in Iraq, and the fact that youngsters are over there in harm's way. And he is a good, decent man. He's a caring fellow."
Turning to the other side of the world, Mr. Bush also called for "continuing the six-party talks with North Korea to convince Kim Jong-il to give up his weapons systems." He added, "The best way to convince him to disarm is to get others to weigh in as well."
Mr. Bush said he expects Iran to listen to other countries in much the same way he expects North Korea to listen to its neighbors who are demanding nuclear disarmament.
But he cautioned that diplomatic pressure on Iran should be given time to work and noted major differences between the situation with Tehran and the lengthy disputes with Saddam Hussein over Iraq's weapons programs.
"It's much different between the situation in Iraq and Iran because of this: Diplomacy had failed for 13 years in Iraq. As you might remember, and I'm sure you do, all the U.N. resolutions that were passed out of the United Nations totally ignored by Saddam Hussein," Mr. Bush said.
"Diplomacy must be the first choice and always the first choice ... and we'll continue to press on diplomacy," he said.
As for Iraq, the president warned of increased violence ahead of elections next year. He and other U.S. officials have warned Iran and others against fomenting the insurgency in Iraq.
"The terrorists will attempt to delay the elections, to intimidate people in their country, to disrupt the democratic process," he said. "I'm confident the terrorists will fail, the elections will go forward, and Iraq will be a democracy."
Mr. Bush, however, acknowledged that Iraq's army, some units of which have fled the battlefield under fire, is not ready to defend the country against terrorists who continue to bomb military and civilian targets alike.
"They've got some generals in place and they've got foot soldiers in place, but the whole command structure necessary to have a viable military is not in place," he said. "No question about it, the bombers are having an effect."
Another potential obstacle to Iraqi reconstruction comes from Syria, Mr. Bush said.
"I spent some time talking to our generals about whether or not there are former Saddam loyalists in Syria," he said. "We ought to be working with the Syrian government to prevent them from either sending money and/or support of any kind."
He made clear that Syria will be punished if it does not cooperate.
"We have tools at our disposal, a variety of tools, ranging from diplomatic tools to economic pressure nothing is taken off the table," he said. "I expect these countries to honor the political process in Iraq without meddling."
Mr. Bush suggested democratic success in Iraq would bode well for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
He accused Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died last month, of being a duplicitous manipulator "who on some days would say we're for peace and some days would say now is the time to attack."
posted on 12/22/2004 12:49:05 AM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
We Support Democracy in Iran By Foad Pashaie and Pooya Dayanim
FrontPageMagazine.com | December 21, 2004
Today the authors and the organizations they represent will lend our collective credibility and political weight to an appeal that calls for a national referendum in Iran under international supervision to draft a new constitution and adopt a new system of government that is in compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all its associated covenants by adding our signatures to this appeal.
The appeal for a national referendum has won support from almost all strands of the political spectrum. The signatories to the appeal include intellectuals, clerics, students, liberals, republicans, those who seek reform of the current Islamic Republic, and supporters of a constitutional monarchy. The referendum was drafted in vague terms on purpose to win the support of the various groups. The appeal has also been signed by some controversial figures, including a founding member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Several genuine leaders of the monarchist, nationalist, and student movements have boycotted this call for a national referendum. They correctly point out that several of the signatories to the appeal are individuals who supported the Islamic Republic early in its inception or continued to support the regime as so-called "reformers," who wanted to reform the system under Khatami to save it. They see this idea of a referendum as another trick by the regime's propaganda machine to buy themselves time, just like they did when Khatami was elected president in 1997. They do not want the opposition or opposition figures to be tainted by signing onto the same appeal that bears the signatures of these figures.
To us, however, the terms of the call for the referendum are clear. The referendum calls for a new constitution and a new system of government. We view and interpret this language to mean one thing and one thing only: an end to the Islamic Republic of Iran. This interpretation is shared by the overwhelming number of the other signatories to this national appeal. It is under this interpretation that we are signing this appeal and lend our weight and credibility to it.
We will not allow this national movement to attempt to peacefully change the regime to be hijacked by the regime itself. Nor should the call for a national referendum be boycotted because of the signatures of several controversial characters. The people of Iran, once they are free, will decide what to with these figures. To change the regime in Iran, we have to allow those who initially supported the Islamic Republic (there were many) who have now been disillusioned by the regime to also participate in an attempt to bring about its demise.
We are not naive and are under no illusion that the Islamic Regime will accept the referendum or its results. However, we believe, that it is appropriate to support peaceful means of political expression such as a call for a national referendum.
Our support of a referendum is to spur and continue a debate on the future of Iran. Our support for a referendum will not divert us from other actions that must be taken in the months that lie ahead such as a call for the Iranian people to boycott the upcoming sham presidential elections in Iran in May of 2005 to show the whole world the illegitimacy of the Islamic Regime.
We also wish to make it clear that if the will of the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people to have a different system of government is not honored, we will support (as we have in the past) other means of political expression such as: peaceful civil disobedience; marches and protests; and strikes by students, laborers and other social groups.
We, along with the rest of the pro-democracy movement, support President Bush's vision of a democratic Middle East. In return, we wish to have the president's support for a free and democratic Iran. The president, however, has been quite quiet as of late. What we want from the Bush administration and Congress are not words but action. The Bush administration must engage Iran's pro-democracy movement and support those who are fighting for a free and democratic Iran. A genuine support of the Iran pro-democracy movement in all its permutations (students, political prisoners, journalists, religious freedom and human rights supporters, women's rights activists, etc.) is the only legitimate Iran policy that can be adopted by this administration.
Foad Pashaie is the Secretary General of the Constitutionalist Party of Iran, the largest political party outside of Iran. Pooya Dayanim is the President of the US-based Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee (IJPAC). The views expressed in this article are solely those of its authors and not necessarily of the respective institutions that they represent.
posted on 12/22/2004 12:51:53 AM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
Why Iranians Loved the Shah (and Still Do) By Reza Bayegan
FrontPageMagazine.com | December 22, 2004
I picked up the telephone to talk to a friend right after a French television station aired an hour-long program about the Shah (entitled Le Shah dIran: un homme à abattre, by Reynold Ismar, broadcast December 5 on France 5). I asked her how she liked the program and she broke down crying and could not choke out any speech. Watching the program was not easy for me, either. I sat on the edge of the sofa glued to the television, swallowing my tears and watching a chronological account of the beginning and end of a man who was the king of my country for 38 years.
Why do I, my friend, and many other Iranians feel so passionately about the Shah? We were not part of his so-called inner circle to be missing the royal glamour with which we were once surrounded. Speaking for myself, I do not give a hoot for royal glamour. Neither are we pining for the cushy jobs we had while the Shah was in power. I and many of my peers were high school students when the Shah left the country and were not yet of employment age. Our parents had to work hard to make ends meet. No, the affection we have for the Shah has nothing to do with material considerations; it has everything to do with the love we have for our homeland.
The Shah was not a president, a mere ruler or head of state. He was a living manifestation of the continuity of our civilization. And what is that supposed to mean you might say? And you will be right in your skepticism. One hears a great deal of cant rattled off about our ancient Iranian civilization stretching from Greece and Egypt across Central Asia, to India and so forth. This kind of talk is only tiresome claptrap. A great deal of it is self-aggrandizement of people who hide behind the laurels of their forefathers. It can be meaningful only if the present achievements succeed in making a logical connection to the traditions and cultural heritage of the past. And a glance at the current state of affairs in our country obviously shows that this connection is non-existent.
So what after all do I mean when I say that the Shah was the manifestation of the continuity of our civilization? I mean he was the living representation and the custodian of an identity that was balanced on three pillars: religious faith, national heritage, and political tradition. He was the personification and upholder of that trinity that provided Iranians with their unique sense of selfhood setting them apart from other cultures and civilizations. The Shah was absolutely right when in a 1979 discussion with Sir David Frost, in answer to the celebrated interviewers question about what in his opinion was the common bond uniting the Iranian people, he answered The crown, the king.
For the past quarter of a century deprived of its Shah, that keystone of its national identity, Iran has been writhing in the throes of degeneration and backwardness. It has by no means lived up to its creative potential and true national aspirations. A look at the low morale of the dispirited Iranians living in their homeland (or abroad) shows the extent of this decay. The ever-climbing rates of suicide, drug addiction, prostitution, and family violence demonstrate how the moral foundation of our country has been disturbed and its central assumptions been thrown out of whack. If watching old movies of the Shah makes Iranians break down in tears, it is because of a huge emptiness in their national soul that yearns for fulfillment and repair. For the same reason, Reza Pahlavis website is visited by thousands of Iranians everyday, and Shahbanou is greeted by throngs of her compatriots wherever she goes.
The people of a nation can go from day to day, double or triple the size of their population, even materially prosper, and nevertheless remain dispossessed of something essential in their collective soul. To continue as a living civilization however requires something quite different. The Shah was a symbol and a proof of that stubborn Iranian spirit that had stood up to all foreign invasions and resisted all the trespass to its cultural integrity. It had survived the Greeks, Mongols, Arabs, Turks and the Communists because it held on to a spiritual core of national values, which was more powerful than any of those formidable foes.
What the mullahs represented was also an important part of this core. Shia Islam at its best like its Zoroastrian predecessor was a strong pillar that held up our national identity and provided us with a unique set of spiritual, moral and mythological values. These values like the monarchy itself are not measurable in utilitarian terms or by mathematical charts. Nevertheless their worth to the well-being of our culture has been inestimable. Anyone who denies this is either intellectually or emotionally out of tune with the Iranian situation.
The Shah himself was aware of that delicate structure that rested on religious faith, national heritage and a political tradition. Although he was following a secular programme for modernization and development of the country, not only had he nothing against the thoughtful branch of the Shia Islam, he did his best to support and promote it. Thanks to the Shahs special attention the city of Mashhad, the burial site of the 9th century Shia saint Imam Reza gained high prominence as a magnificent pilgrim city and a reputable center of religious learning. The peaceful spiritual leaders in Qom were far freer in the time of the Shah than during the dictatorship of Ruhollah Khomeini who started the repressive custom of keeping his fellow ayatollahs under house arrest. Even Khomeini himself as the leading exponent of the most backward fanatical branch of violent shiaism had nothing worse to fear from the Shah than an exile into a holy city in the countrys neighborhood.
One should never make the mistake of thinking that the eventual downfall of the Shah proves that he was wrong in allowing so much power and resources to the countrys major religious faith. Apart from being a sincere believer himself, his astute mind provided him with a long- term vision and a far reaching insight into the delicately forged balance that kept the country together, territorially, emotionally and spiritually.
Contrastingly, the mullahs who opposed him could not see further than the tip of their noses. They could only think of short term gain, seizing the reigns of power and holding on to it as long as they could manage it. They failed to see, or could not care less about the long term interests of the religious faith they claimed they were trying to safeguard. They could not see that the heartlessness and emotional sterilization they were instigating against the Shah could eventually pave the way for their own departure. If a nation with 2,500 years of monarchy could bring itself to get rid of such a highly significant national symbol as the Shah, it could also manage to jettison a foreign religion with much less seniority. A parent who mistreats his spouse in front of the children could not expect to gain their love but should understand that he is eroding the sense of respect, family honor and fidelity that will one day come to haunt him. As the saying goes what goes around comes around. And the time for the end of Islamic faith at least in its present form has come around in Iran for quite some time. It is not a secret to anyone that the mullahs are derided and despised by the majority of Iranians. They hold political power by intimidation and repression and not because they are entrusted to do so by the free will of the population.
What kind of Shia Islam can be expected to emerge after the dust of the present dictatorship has settled in Iran is not an easy question to answer. Whether the religion of the majority of Iranians will be able to recreate itself and be born anew sometime in the future depends on many different factors. In its intelligent progressive form it will have a better chance of survival through the restoration of that political system which itself draws its strength from traditional values i.e. the constitutional monarchy. What is certain is that after their inevitable liberation from the present dictatorship, Iranians will never accept to give religion the overwhelming sway it once exercised in their political life. The concept of Shia Islam as the official religion of the country is finished. For that matter, the Iranian monarchy also in its old overarching form has for ever come to an end.
Today we Iranians are sitting amongst the ruins of twenty-five years of national turmoil. To prevail as a civilization we have to pick up the pieces and recreate our national trinity of God, the Shah and country for the democratic age of the twenty-first century. To think however that we can dissolve this trinity, reduce its number or concoct something else altogether instead is to repeat the folly of the Islamic revolutionaries.
A secular republic with no imaginative roots in our national consciousness for Iranians will be like a loveless marital contract full of clauses and sub-clauses but ultimately bereft of any binding emotional attachment or heartfelt yearning. We cannot build the future of our nation in a spiritual vacuum, forgoing its true sources of cultural inspiration and vitality.
What is certain is that multi billion dollar investments are not the only thing we require for rebuilding our country. We need to make an attempt to identify and heal our festering emotional wounds. We need to scrutinize the truth beyond the clouds of falsehood propagated in the past twenty-five years by political opportunists and religious terrorists. A good place to start is to consider clearly and free of fanaticism the place of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the history of our modern civilization. Such an understanding is essential for our moral recovery. It will enable us to come to terms with our past and proceed in the direction of creating a just, fair and humane society.
The Shah stood at the political helm of our country for nearly four decades, giving us his youth and old age. He bestowed on us all the intellectual and emotional energy his life could muster. The least we can do for him is to give him the recognition he deserves.
posted on 12/22/2004 12:55:59 AM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
Doctorin Note: Mr. Parsi is a co-founder and current President of the National Iranian American Council (www.niacouncil.org)and promotes normalizing relations with Iran. I thought we should keep up on his efforts.
An Iranian-Israeli alliance will be hard to reviveBy Trita Parsi
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
There is a romantic suggestiveness to the relations between Persians and Jews that has survived the hostility between Iran and Israel. As comfortable as it may be to remember the heyday of Israeli-Iranian ties as such, there has never been anything romantic about the real political cooperation they enjoyed before the Iranian revolution. Today, the same forces that once brought the two together are fueling a rivalry between them that perplexes those trapped in the romantic memories of yesteryear.
The essence of the Iranian-Israeli entente in the 1960's and 1970's was not the inevitability of a non-Arab alliance against the Arab masses per se, but a congruence of interests formed by the configuration of power in the region. Iran and Israel shared interests because they shared common threats - the Soviet Union and militant Arab states. In the power balance of the region at the time, an Iranian-Israeli entente made sense regardless of the non-Arab makeup of the two countries.
But the balance thrived in a logic of its own in which the very basis of the alliance was threatened if either country managed to improve relations with its neighbors. Since Arab-Israeli hostilities ran deeper than Arab-Persian grievances, Israel needed Iran more than vice versa. Correspondingly, any political or diplomatic development that undermined the basis of this relationship was more likely to benefit Iran than Israel.
Indeed, Iran - whose relative power was surging in the 1970's and which aspired to play a dominant role in the affairs of the region and beyond - was bound to betray the alliance since its rapid growth defied the very equilibrium the entente was founded on. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi aptly understood that he could neither obtain nor maintain Iran's position as the pre-eminent power of the Persian Gulf through arms and oil alone. Iran needed to be seen as a legitimate power in the eyes of the Arabs as well, which meant it could not forever treat the Arabs as enemies and balance them through Iranian military might. Not only was a more conciliatory policy necessary, therefore, but befriending the Arabs also guaranteed Iran's long-term security most efficiently.
Improved Iranian-Arab relations, however, could not be achieved while Iran maintained close ties to Israel. Only weeks after signing the Algiers Accord with Iraq in spring 1975, the shah described the need for a new approach to regional affairs to Egyptian journalist Mohammed Hassanein Heikal: "We followed the principle 'my enemy's enemy is my friend,' and our relations with Israel began to develop. But now the situation has changed ... I think occasionally of a new equilibrium in the region ... Perhaps [it] can be integrated into an Islamic framework."
Having sealed Iran's hegemonic position in the Persian Gulf in strategic terms through the Algiers Accord, the shah began distancing himself from the Jewish state in order to win Arab acceptance. Iran was at its peak. It had befriended Egypt, neutralized Iraq, quadrupled its oil income and taken advantage of Israel's closeness to the U.S. to establish an unsurpassed position in the Middle East. Iran outgrew much of its need for Israel.
In spite of the Iraq-Iran war, Iran's Islamist leaders added an ideological motivation to the strategic reorientation away from the Iranian-Israeli alliance. Israeli strategists, guided by David Ben Gurion's "periphery doctrine" that propagated alliances with non-Arab states of the Middle East periphery in order to weaken the Arab states of the vicinity, struggled with the loss of Iran. Common threats to Iran and Israel still existed, they reasoned. Throughout the 1980's, Israel unsuccessfully sought to establish ties with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Iran, failing to realize the strategic reasoning behind the policies of the regime. However, while Iran rejected cooperation with Israel, the shared threats prompted it to refrain from translating its anti-Israel rhetoric into operational policy.
However, the end of the cold war also ended the Iranian-Israeli cold peace. The distribution of relative power shifted toward Iran and Israel and formed a new bipolar structure in the region. The defeat of Iraq in the Gulf war of 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union improved the security environments of Iran and Israel - but also left both states unchecked. Without Iraq balancing Iran, Iran would now become a threat, Israeli hawks argued.
By late 1992, prior to Iran's sponsorship of Palestinian extremists, Israeli Labor party officials began to publicly depict Iran as an existential threat. They argued that Iranian rhetoric reflected intentions and, having been freed from the chains of Iraq, Iran was acquiring the capacity to turn intentions into policy. While the threat depiction resembled prophecy more than reality, it underlined that the Arab-Israeli peace process had turned the periphery doctrine on its head: To convince a skeptical Israeli public that peace could be made with the Arab vicinity, it was necessary to bolster the threat portrayal of the Iranian periphery.
At the time, Iran was keener on peace making with Washington than seeing to Israel's destruction. Much like the shah, the mullahs were seeking a key role in Persian Gulf affairs. But now, the legitimacy Iran needed didn't come from the Arabs, but from America. Tehran believed that its behind-the-scenes cooperation with America in the 1991 Gulf war would be rewarded through Iran's inclusion in the postwar regional security arrangement. But when U.S. President George H.W. Bush's administration declared that Saddam Hussein was saved in order to balance Iran, Tehran concluded that it could only compel the U.S. to accept an Iranian role in the region by undermining American policies.
The American-Israeli push during the 1990's (when President Bill Clinton was in power) to create a new Middle East order based on Iran's isolation prompted Tehran to turn its anti-Israel rhetoric into policy. It began supporting violent Palestinian groups in order to undermine the American-Israeli endeavor by hitting its weakest link - the peace process. Yet while Iran's obstructionism played a minor role in undoing the Oslo process, the latter's collapse removed a strategic threat and enabled Tehran to contemplate moderation in its Israel policy. For instance, President Mohammad Khatami re-adopted Iran's pre-Madrid policy in which Tehran accepted any Israel-Arab arrangement acceptable to the Palestinians.
Currently, if a U.S.-Iran accord can be achieved that grants Iran a key role in Persian Gulf security matters, its interference in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will lose strategic utility. However, Israeli pressure for a hawkish American policy toward Iran - driven by fears that Washington might betray Israeli concerns through a rapprochement with Tehran - only strengthens the strategic value of continued involvement in the conflict from the Iranian side.
Today, Washington again believes it has to choose between addressing the Iranian conundrum or the Palestinian conflict. But American re-engagement in the peace process, while continuing the policy of isolating Iran, will repeat Clinton's miscalculation of 1994 and produce the same failure.
Whatever Washington chooses, with Iran and Israel being the two most powerful nations in the region with aspirations for primacy, a Persian-Jewish alliance against a declining Arab world will be hard to revive, regardless of the identity of the Iranian government or the fond memories of the romantics.
Trita Parsi, a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University SAIS in Washington, is writing his dissertation on Israeli-Iranian relations. This commentary first appeared in bitterlemons-international, an online newsletter
posted on 12/22/2004 1:03:12 AM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
Special Analysis: A Window Into al-Qaeda
by Dan Darling at December 21, 2004 09:09 AM
Back during the Cold War, the rule with intelligence was, "If it's sensational, don't believe it." Of course, back then we were fighting something resembling a rational enemy, whereas these days it seems like we're reliving the plots of far too many bad novels. I've got half a mind to recommend that they open up US intelligence to all of these comic book geeks who keep track of every detail of their favorite characters online. They, at least, could remember all of these damned names.
- Former senior US intelligence official in conversation to me, circa July 2004
As some of you already know, last weekend I was at a counter-terrorism conference in New York City at the behest of my patrons, who were nice enough to fly me out there and for the purposes of me posting on the Internet would prefer to remain anonymous, if for nothing else than so they can plausibly deny everything they say ;) I've also been finishing finals and watching the extended edition of The Return of the King, so I apologize in advance for the number of Tolkien references that are likely to be used here.
The conference's attendees included a wide variety of law enforcement, intelligence, military or former military, and think tank types from pretty much across the ideological spectrum and I learned a great deal both from the presentations and in conversation. None of the information that was shared at the conference was classified or anything like that, and I have my own doubts (and in some cases extreme disagreement) about some of what was said. Still, I figure that this may all be valuable to you, perhaps because it runs against some of what I have argued.
Al-Qaeda Command and Control
- Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri are still #1, Abu Faraj al-Libi has taken over from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the global operations chief, and Saif al-Adel is the grand strategist. All of the top four have a limited command and control due to a variety of constraints so a lot of the impetus for the attacks have been shifted to lesser lieutenants, but they're still at the top of the pyramid and the US most wanted list.
- There's been a solid string of captured couriers with audio casettes or letters from bin Laden to his subordinates and senior lieutenants since roughly August 2002, nearly all of which have been intercepted coming out of the Afghan-Pakistan border region. Recent information recovered from Fallujah has led US intelligence to believe that bin Laden is also in touch with Zarqawi through electronic means, though I have no idea as to exactly how.
- Claims that Zarqawi was at one point a rival to bin Laden are based on more than just Shadi Abdallah's interrogations in Germany but are instead one possible view of a variety of data, including how Zarqawi interacted with senior al-Qaeda members post-Afghanistan and electronic surveillance of both him and his top lieutenants in al-Tawhid wal Jihad. Another possible view of this intel is the official position of the US government, i.e. that he's a senior al-Qaeda associate in the mold of somebody like Hambali. Pretty much an academic debate now, as the most recent intel indicates that his group has folded directly into those of the al-Qaeda fighters who were already in Iraq.
- Abu Khabab, al-Qaeda's top WMD expert, has only chemical rather than biological warfare expertise. We are very fortunate on this point, though he and every body who went through Darunta camp (which he has attempted to create a successor camp to on at least 2 occasions) with him should probably be rounded up on general principle.
- There's still a lot of disagreement in the international intel community as far as how much control the al-Qaeda leadership actually has over the 40 or so groups that operate under its aegis, whether the al-Qaeda leadership = the militant Islamist internationale leadership, whether al-Qaeda is more a movement or ideology or brand name than it is an organization these days, etc. The US, Russia, and India, usually favor the broad definitions of al-Qaeda, while the Europeans tend to try to be nuanced in this regard, though France and Italy are shifting more and more away from that direction.
- The Shura Majlis has been expanded to encompass leaders of the Algerian GSPC, Islamic Army of Aden in Yemen, and a number of other affiliate organizations in an effort to shore up the group's global cadres using local or regional groups. I myself am kind of interested as far as why the GSPC was tapped ahead of the Chechens or JI, but this is apparently far more of a racial thing than anything else.
- Bin Laden's pre-election videotape was an odd beast and continues to raise all kinds of questions as to why he broke cover when he did after more than 2 years of maintaining a deliberate level of ambiguity in many of his statements as to whether he was dead or alive.
Al-Qaeda Training Facilities and Infrastructure
- Is now organized along regional node form, with most of the training infrastructure being run out of Georgia, Pakistan, Somalia, and Mindanao in the southern Philippines.
- Georgia infrastructure has been heavily eroded since the fall of the Shevardnadze government, though isolated pockets of al-Qaeda activity remain due to corruption or lack of central government control. Most of the senior Chechen Islamist leadership (Basayev's Killer Korps) is now on the run due to the Russians launching Operation Vengeance, a concerted effort to eliminate all of the key enablers of what happened in Beslan, a la Israel's response to Black September.
- Areas of the Northwest Frontier Province, Baluchistan, and Azad Kashmir have become de facto havens for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Hizb-e-Islami. There's a lot of internal Pakistani politicking that severely hampers the fight against al-Qaeda. The US consensus is that Musharraf is doing everything he can against the international terrorists, but is being far more reserved about acting against local or regional groups like the Taliban or Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). LeT has been basically subcontracted by al-Qaeda to run its infrastructure, propaganda, and recruiting efforts in South Asia while the central leadership remains underground. It's the whole attempt to distinguish between good/bad jihadi groups that is going to bite Musharraf in the ass sooner or later, but for now that's likely to be the Pakistani policy for the immediate future. Binori Town is still more or less al-Qaeda's officer training school and the insurgency in southern Thailand is the work of some of the most recent alumni. The main reason that al-Qaeda hasn't been more successful to date at subverting the Pakistani state or killing Musharraf is due to a mixture of incompetence, factional rivalries, and corruption among the local jihadi groups and political parties that al-Qaeda leaders such as al-Zawahiri seek to enlist as their foot soldiers.
- Somalia continues to be a complete hell-hole and as such is an ideal al-Qaeda haven. Ethiopian and US troops based in Djibouti have conducted military operations there since 9/11, but there is very little solid intel about al-Qaeda's activities except that they're there and are reasonably well established. Al-Ittihad al-Islamiyyah also isn't the only al-Qaeda affiliate active in Somalia, though it is one of the best organized. The group also has a whole network of regional, tribal, and marital alliances with a number of the local strongmen to help protect them in the event of a US invasion.
- In Philippine Mindanao, the Arroyo government is restrained due to domestic political constraints from acting against the MILF training camps that form the bulk of JI's training infrastructure. MILF relies on JI for both ideological and strategic reasons and membership in the two organizations often overlaps between one another, Abu Sayyaf, and even the kidnapping cartels Abu Sofia and the Pentagon Gang. The Philippines are becoming a regional problem - as long as those camps remain open to JI, they will always be able to rebuild its terrorist infrastructure no matter how much other regional governments do to restrain them.
- Attempts to reconstitute al-Qaeda bases in the Sahel region of North Africa are regarded as having been thwarted by the US-backed success of regional governments against the GSPC. Most African governments are only too thrilled to have America offer to train their armies for them and it has paid off in spades from our perspective. More worrisome is the rise of al-Qaeda activity among several of the ethnic groups in northern Nigeria, which the US has so far been unable to counter.
Al-Qaeda in General
- Al-Qaeda recruiting in Europe in particular has sky-rocketed since first 3/11 and then the Filippino withdrawl from Iraq, even more so than actually during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The main reason for this is that the group is now seen as having evicted at least two "Crusader states" from Iraq and as such is perceived among its "soft" sympathizers to have the momentum with it. Increasingly pessimistic Western commentary on the situation has also led many of these same "soft" supporters to believe that very soon the organization can defeat the US inside Iraq, thereby leading to the nucleus for the eventual restoration of the Caliphate in the Middle East. Second generation Muslim immigrants without any exposure to Islamist violence in the Middle East are far more likely to hold to extremely romanticized notions about al-Qaeda and Islamist terrorism in general, as they have no real clue about what these guys do in the process of setting up their little utopia.
- The core of the 3/11 cell was made up of seasoned al-Qaeda leaders like Amer Azizi, Serhane bin Abdelmajid Fakhet, Jamal Zougam, Adnan Waki, and the grand boss of the whole plot Rabei Osman Sayyid Ahmed, but most of the cannon fodder were recruited from among the European immigrant community and told only what they needed to know to carry out the attack. This kind of local autonomy and organization meant that there was no chatter or forewarning from outside of Spain prior to attacks, which is one of the reasons why the Spanish initially suspected ETA as the culprit. A number of the Moroccan 3/11 plotters, Zougam among them, were also involved in the Casablanca bombings and had to flee from Morocco into Europe when King Mohammed decided to clean house.
- Spain may have given al-Qaeda their first victory, but Garzon, Spain's top anti-terrorism judge, is an apolitical kind of guy [Hispalibertas.com says: political] and hasn't let up on the fight against the organization. This apparently led to a plan by the remnants of the cell that carried out 3/11 to off him and destroy all the information he had on the group by staging a massive bombing of the national courthouse. I hope he has somebody starting his car every morning.
- The better al-Qaeda is perceived to be doing abroad, the more unrest Europe is likely to experience among its own Muslim populations at home. This unrest can be seen in such things as the assassination campaign that was intended to be initiated with the killing of Theo Van Gogh. For a variety of reasons, a majority of the estimated 1,000 members of the cell that were involved in the assassination campaign have yet to be arrested or even questioned by the Dutch authorities, in many cases due to political reasons that to be quite honest struck many of us at the conference as some kind of insane worship of Political Correctness above all else. Then again, there were upwards of 100 unindicted co-conspirators in the first World Trade Center bombing, and many of them are still active in our society at various levels.
- Al-Qaeda activity in the Carribean and Latin America appears, at least for right now, to be limited to Trinidad and Tobago, Margarita Island, and the Tri-Border Area and mostly financial rather than operational in nature. As it now stands, reports of the al-Qaeda/Mara Salvatrucha alliance are being discounted by US intelligence because of who the sources are.
- One of the things we're very fortunate about is that al-Qaeda is not quite as unified as media coverage or the group's own propaganda would lead one to believe - they can be divided. This is going to be quite important in the future as there is now a new branch to the organization - the al-Douri branch, led by none other than former Iraqi vice Revolutionary Command Council chairman Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.
- Al-Qaeda does have at least some kind of weaponized chemical capacity for cyanide and maybe mustard or sarin gas. All of the Darunta camp alumni were taught how to create at least the first of these, which is what Zarqawi was planning on using in Jordan (whether or not the method of dispersal was feasible or not is a matter of debate within the intelligence community - a lot of people are of the opinion that the blast used to destroy the Jordanian targets would have taken the cyanide along with it). Abu Khabab has worked on VX in the past, but he doesn't seem to have gotten very far. Among the poisons in the group's arsenal are ricin, arsine, phosgene, botulinum, and alfatoxin. The next round of al-Qaeda attacks on the US are likely to include at least some kind of chemical element to them.
- Al-Qaeda's alliance with al-Douri's Baathists has enabled them to enlist former Baathist scientists to their cause for the purposes assisting them in refining their chemical weapons capacity. Recent discoveries in Fallujah have indicated that the al-Qaeda/al-Tawhid insurgent forces as well as the Iraqi Jaish Mohammed (which, while composed largely of Baathists, has a number of Saudi al-Qaeda members acting as senior leaders of the organization), the latter of which has been the most ambitious in seeking to develop an offensive chemical weapons capacity.
- Adnan al-Shukrijumah remains the most dangerous and immediate threat to the US in the near future. He has also sought to accquire radioactive material from Canada at Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's behest (KSM was apparently the driver behind the whole radiological weapon idea) but has shifted back towards a more conventional means of attack, perhaps involving truck bombs. There are also a small number of American nationals believed to be currently serving in al-Qaeda.
- The surveillance data found on Khan's computer was extremely sophisticated to the point where there are some suspicions that at least some of this had to have come about through the aid of a foreign intelligence agency. Iran is at the top of that list of suspects, as VEVAK operatives operating under diplomatic cover have been busted on multiple occasions in NYC as early as January, but this is purely speculative.
- Everyone at the conference seemed extremely confident that we had thwarted a pre-election terrorist plot of some kind. No clue what, when, or how and Shukrijumah unfortunately remains in circulation.
- Pre-war intelligence debate is still in the spin phase between neocons and their opponents; we won't know the truth for years about what intel was accurate, etc. The administration seems to have won the political battle on Capitol Hill with respect to the SSIC report, which cleared them of most egregious charges. Unfortunately, these charges are still being repeated uncritically by a press corps that feels they were used and abused by the administration to push the war, but at the same time lost the public relations fight. A lot of people were fed up with all of the politics, since the end-result has been to make the average individual who pays attention to this stuff extremely cynical or else view any and all news out of Iraq through a strictly partisan lens. It's unfortunate, because foreign policy positions are not (or shouldn't be) nearly as much of a right/left issue.
- As a result of the ongoing intrigue in DC, the average American who pays attention to this stuff is more or less in the same position as an intelligence analyst, but without the benefits. There's a lot of contradictory information floating around, most of it being leaked deliberately by people with an agenda to manipulate public perceptions. None of this would have been stopped had Kerry been elected, the sides would have just flipped. It's agenda rather than partisan-based, or so I am given to understand. I was told that the folks doing the leaking are taking the majority of Americans for fools as they seek to accomplish their agenda - perhaps they've never heard of the blogosphere.
- Nobody wanted to talk about what they knew about Zarqawi pre-war, except to confirm that he was in Baghdad and staying at the Olympic Hospital. That gem, like a number of other points of information, comes from the Jordanians rather than Chalabi, so all those blaming the INC for all the pre-war Iraq/al-Qaeda stuff are barking up the wrong tree. The INC's big selling point on that was apparently Salman Pak, though I'd be interested if anybody could confirm that much to me.
- The whole issue of foreign fighters, as I think I've noted before, is a lot more complex than most of the punditocracy likes to point out. These guys don't volunteer themselves upon capture and while there are linguistic differences in the Arabic that one can discern, it isn't as easy as it sounds to sort these guys out from the rest of the cannon fodder. Foreign fighters are also more likely to fight to the death than not, and identification of the enemy dead as Iraqi or foreigner is not exactly a top US priority at the moment. To further complicate the matter, there are also a sizeable number of native Iraqis serving in al-Qaeda and related groups and there are little if any differences between the Iraqi and Iranian Kurdish members of Ansar al-Islam. No doubt an anthropologist could better discern the differences between Iraqi and foreign elements of the insurgency, but as I said, body identification is not a top priority for the US at the moment, especially given the number of dead European nationals that such an accounting would turn up as well as for interrogation purposes (i.e. other countries tend to complain if their nationals are imprisoned or killed). As a result, those classified as foreign fighters are in many cases those who can be demonstrably shown to be non-Iraqi, such as possessing foreign identification, a passport, or in some cases such simple things as good dental work.
- The al-Qaeda alliance with the Baathists started up around February and it wasn't just al-Qaeda that made up the foreign fighters. LeT sent jihadis for example, as did the Jordanian and Yemeni branches of the Baathist parties. A lot of the tougher foreign fighters we're dealing with now are those that survived OIF and managed to retreat to the Sunni Triangle and blend in with the locals to continue the fight another day.
- Baathist attitudes towards al-Qaeda seem to have varied post-war, but in general the former military and Saddam Fedayeen were nicer to them than were the mid and higher-level Baathist Party members or the Mukhabarat members. The former saw them as another arrow in their quiver while the latter regarded them as a snake clasped to their chests. The latter's fears increased dramatically after Saddam's capture when sizeable numbers of Baathists started embracing Salafism en masse, with Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri even going as far as to convert to Wahhabism from his former Sufism. This led to an inter-Baathist schism that is still being resolved.
- After the fall of Saddam, a major split developed among the Baathists over who got to be #1 now that their glorious leader was in chains. One group, led by Colonel Hani Abdul Latif al-Tilfah al-Tikriti and commanding the backing of the Special Security Organization, the Tikriti and Majidi tribesmen, and a good chunk of the former Mukhabarat, the other is made up of al-Douri and commands the loyalty of the Special Republican Guard and the Saddam Fedayeen. The split had more to do with power than anything else and is now at a somewhat interesting point, with al-Douri having recently traveled from Mosul to Syria (where the al-Tikriti faction got to hang out in return for recognizing Bashar al-Assad as the biggest, baddest, Baathist around) to reconcile the two Baathist factions under one banner in an effort to derail plans for the new Iraqi elections in January.
- Al-Douri is related to Abu Wael, hence his prior ties to Ansar al-Islam and by extension al-Qaeda. Since both Baathist factions now recognize al-Assad as #1 under the terms of the reconciliation, Iranian aid to Iraqi insurgent groups is apparently being viewed by the Iranians through the context of their pre-existing alliance with Syria against Israel rather than their own hostility towards the Iraqi Baathists. The CIA wants Allawi to negotiate with the al-Tikriti faction as a means of drawing them into the political process and splitting them away from augmenting the already potent al-Douri/Zarqawi alliance.
- MEK isn't the INC, no matter what one thinks of them. They have their own agenda, but also some useful intel. The US and France defanged and detained them in an effort to convince Iran to cough up Saif al-Adel and Co, but that failed in large part due to the Iranian failure to provide any kind of acceptable confirmation that the individuals in question were anything other than under house arrest or that the people in the Iranian government who were offering such a claim would be able to wrest the al-Qaeda leaders away from their hosts in Qods Force.
- Nobody seriously doubts that the al-Qaeda Shura Majlis has reconstituted itself in eastern Iran under the protection of Qods Force, the issue is whether Qods Force is pursuing official Iranian policy or acting out on its own. If the latter, then weakening the central government would be the absolute worst thing for the US to do as it would strengthen the hands of Qods Force. The belief of the pro-engagement types is that engagement with Iran will strengthen the hands of the central government and encourage them to crack down on groups like Qods Force. The argument goes that the new generation of the hardliners, the same ones that are rapidly rising to positions of ascendance in the Iranian hierarchy, are going to be the least likely to compromise on such issues as aiding a group that is kin to the Sipah-e-Sahaba or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
- On a similar note, some members of al-Qaeda, especially those of South Asian and Saudi origin, tend to be extremely distrustful of the Iranians and Shi'ites in general, whereas the Egyptian members are the most supportive of the alliance and ecumenical in their outlook because of their own assistance from and to the Iranians against their own government back in the 1980s.
- Richard Clarke and Mike Scheuer seem to have dramatically different views of both Iraq/al-Qaeda and Iran/al-Qaeda despite the fact that the two men interacted on a regular basis as (purportedly) apolitical officials. I read through both Against All Enemies and Through Our Enemy's Eyes during the course of the conference and on the basis of those two books, one can get the distinct impression that the Iraq/al-Qaeda relationship is of the utmost importance and the Iran/al-Qaeda relationship only tenuous in nature or vice versa. If there's a way to harmonize how these two men who interacted on a regular basis came to such radically different conclusions on such a regular basis (Scheuer's faux denial notwithstanding), I myself cannot fathom it.
Anyways, hope you guys have found this of value, I may update later today if time allows.
posted on 12/22/2004 1:11:42 AM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
Doc, thank you for taking the time to share your insights with us. Time IS running out. I take the leaders of Iran very seriously. I wish the rest of the world did as well.
posted on 12/22/2004 7:47:26 AM PST
To: Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; McGavin999; Hinoki Cypress; ...
posted on 12/22/2004 2:12:30 PM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
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