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Despite false claim, Robert G. Joseph's star rises[Excerpt]
Former Bush aide eyed for State job
WASHINGTON -- The man who insisted that President Bush make the claim that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium for nuclear weapons in Africa is poised to assume a top State Department job that would make him the lead US arms negotiator with Iran and North Korea, according to administration officials.
Robert G. Joseph, a special assistant for national security to President Bush until a few months ago, is on the short list to become undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, the nation's senior diplomat in charge of negotiating arms control treaties, said the officials, who spoke on the condition they not be named.
Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice, who was Joseph's boss at the National Security Council, has been a strong supporter of Joseph, the officials said. Joseph did not respond to messages yesterday.
White House and intelligence officials have identified him as the official who included the uranium claim in the president's 2003 State of the Union address, despite strong CIA objections. Joseph has said he believed the CIA's disagreement was over the sourcing of the assertion, not whether the claim was accurate, the White House said about six months after the speech. But the apparent willingness of the administration to consider promoting someone who was involved in one of its biggest embarrassments drew immediate fire from critics.
"He should have been fired or reprimanded," said Joseph Cirincione, a senior arms-proliferation specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "We see instead that he could be given the key position in the Department of State for all treaty and nonproliferation matters."
In addition, some diplomatic observers worried that Joseph's appointment, which would have to be confirmed by the Senate, would mark a further consolidation of US foreign policy under the tight-knit group of national security officials that dominated in the first Bush term and aggressively promoted intelligence linking Iraq to weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda terrorist network, despite cautions in the intelligence community.
Under the leadership of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, the State Department served as a check on the so-called neoconservatives in the Pentagon and the White House who strongly backed the Iraq war. With Rice as secretary and Joseph as her chief arms negotiator, many specialists outside the White House fear that the State Department will no longer provide a counterbalance to administration hawks who long have been suspicious of arms-control agreements and have espoused the doctrine of preemptive war.
"With Rice at the top it means that in terms of the one, two, and three posts at State you will now have two-thirds from the conservative ideology working for the president," said Greg Thielmann, who served as the State Department's top analyst on weapons of mass destruction until the fall of 2003.
Rice and Joseph are allies of the policy makers at the Pentagon most responsible for Bush's Iraq policies and his refusal to negotiate directly with Iran or North Korea. Robert Zoellick, the US trade representative named last week to replace Armitage as deputy secretary of state, is considered a moderate of the Powell and Armitage stripe, as is NATO Ambassador Nicholas Burns, set to be the undersecretary for political affairs.
But with Rice replacing Powell and Joseph replacing John Bolton, the lone State Department hard-liner in the first term who was allied with the administration's neoconservatives and was often at odds with Powell and Armitage, the overall team at State will nonetheless lean more heavily toward the neoconservative agenda, the observers said.
"It doesn't bode well for future negotiations of threat-reduction agreements," said Cirincione. "Bolton and Joseph are dedicated to tearing down the arms control treaties, not building new ones."
Until late last year, Joseph was senior director for proliferation strategy, counterproliferation, and homeland defense on Rice's National Security Council. Previously, he was the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security policy in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, and as deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear forces and arms control policy in the Reagan administration. ...
After years of relative obscurity, Joseph saw his profile rise in 2003 when it was learned that he had overridden concerns expressed by the CIA and other intelligence agencies by insisting that the Jan. 28, 2003, State of the Union address -- widely seen as an effort to build public support for the invasion of Iraq two months later -- include the claim that Iraq sought to purchase uranium oxide in Niger to make nuclear weapons.
The assertion had been taken out of an Oct. 7, 2002, speech by Bush at the insistence of then-CIA Director George Tenet. But after contentious discussions between Joseph and senior CIA officials it was included in the January 2003 speech to Congress with the caveat that the information came from Britain, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee's inquiry into prewar intelligence.
The president stated, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
White House officials have said Tenet did not review the speech, and added that Rice and her then-deputy, Stephen Hadley, did not recall two October 2002 memorandums from Tenet urging that the reference not be made. Rice and Hadley also did not recall a phone call from Tenet re-emphasizing the point while the State of the Union remarks were being put together, the White House said.
Joseph later said he believed the disagreement with the CIA was over whether to cite the British report or US intelligence as the source, White House communications director Dan Bartlett told reporters in July 2003.
Almost a year after the speech, Tenet took public responsibility for the false claim in the State of the Union speech.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson was sent to the African country of Niger by the CIA in 2002 to investigate the claim. In the summer of 2003, Wilson went public with the widespread doubts in the intelligence agencies about the accuracy of the assertion. Soon after, officials acknowledged that the documents upon which much of the claim was based were found to have been forged.
Some analysts maintain that the controversy over the "16 words" has been overblown.
"I am not sure it was such a faux pas," said Max Boot, a leading neoconservative thinker at the Council on Foreign Relations. "The Senate investigation found there was some genuine intelligence of Saddam seeking uranium," even if key documentation was forged. "It was not made up out of whole cloth."
Still, critics say Joseph deserves a share of the blame for hyping the threat of Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction, which have yet to be found.
"That's what they do for people who make mistakes in Iraq -- award them or promote them in the State Department," said Thielmann, who also served in the Bush administration before making a highly publicized break in late 2003.
Bender can be reached at email@example.com.
BUSINESS IS BUSINESS BUT....IS BETTER SAY TO BILL CHENEY "EST MODUS IN REBUS!"
Jan. 10, 2005, 10:58PM
Halliburton unit prepares for Iran work
By DAVID IVANOVICH
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - A foreign subsidiary of Halliburton Co. is poised to help develop a huge natural gas field off Iran.
Despite a Houston grand jury probe into Halliburton's business dealings in the rogue state, the company's Cayman Islands-registered Halliburton Products & Services Ltd. is in line to begin oil-field service work in the South Pars field, believed to be the world's largest natural gas field. Halliburton Products & Services is a subcontractor working for Oriental Kish Co.
"Halliburton and Oriental Kish are the final winners of the tender for drilling South Pars phases 9 and 10," Pars Oil and Gas Co. managing director Akbar Torkan told Iranian state television, Agence France Press reported from Tehran.
An unnamed Pars board member told Agence France Press that the Halliburton subsidiary "had not directly signed the contract but that it had offered its services via Oriental Kish."
Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said Oriental actually won the contract.
"We have not signed a contract for this," she said.
The Pars board member valued the deal at $310 million, Agence France-Press reported.
Halliburton officials believe the value of the contract is "significantly less" than that number, Hall said. She did not provide another estimate.
The South Pars field is believed to hold anywhere from 280 trillion to 500 trillion cubic feet of gas, as well as 17 billion barrels of liquids, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Halliburton Products & Services has worked on other phases of the huge offshore project, Dow Jones reported from Tehran.
Federal law prohibits U.S. companies from trading directly with Iran because of its ties to terrorist organizations. President Bush has branded Iran part of the "Axis of Evil." But foreign subsidiaries are permitted to do business with Iran, as long as the foreign entity is truly independent of the U.S. business.
Halliburton Products & Services has its headquarters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and historically has been selling $30 million to $40 million worth of oil-field services and equipment to customers in Iran annually.
"Halliburton's business is clearly permissible under applicable U.S. laws and regulations," Hall said. "These entities and activities are staffed and managed by non-U.S. personnel."
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., a longtime critic of Houston-based Halliburton, said the reports out of the region make Oriental Kish sound like a front company for it.
"Should this be true, it only justifies more scrutiny of our questionable business activity in this terrorist nation," Lautenberg wrote in a letter to Halliburton Chief Executive Officer Dave Lesar.
Hall said Halliburton has no ownership stake in Oriental Kish. "And we certainly did not form it," she said.
Six months ago, in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Halliburton revealed that a federal grand jury for the Southern District of Texas had subpoenaed documents related to Iran.
Officials in U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby's office declined to comment.
Halliburton has been fielding official questions about Halliburton Products & Services since at least 2001, when the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control made inquiries but took no further action. Then CBS News' 60 Minutes visited Halliburton Products & Services' address in the Caymans and questioned whether any business was actually being conducted there.
That prompted more questions.
Treasury officials referred the matter to the Justice Department, while the Senate Finance Committee launched its own probe.
U.S. urges Iran to dispel concernsBig News Network.com Tuesday 11th January, 2005
The U.S. State Department said Monday the Iranian nuclear program continues to be a cause of concern for the United States.
Clearly Iran's uranium enrichment program is a concern. There are clearly outstanding questions that have not been answered, deputy spokesman Adam Ereli told a briefing in Washington.
His comments followed a statement by a senior Iranian official in Tehran if Iran's needs are not satisfied, it will end the suspension of uranium enrichment.
In late November, Iran signed an agreement with some European nations for suspending its enrichment program in return for assurance that the United States and its allies will not push for U.N. sanctions against Tehran and Europe will expand its trade links with the Islamic Republic.
But Hossein Mousavian, a member of the Iranian nuclear negotiations team, told reporters in Tehran they may resume enrichment if a March meeting with EU for reviewing the progress of the agreement failed to produce results acceptable to Iran.
Ereli said there were grave doubts about Iran's commitment to nonproliferation but instead of dispelling those doubts, Iran steadfastly persist in causing more problems than they solve.
Iranian man wins reprievePosted Jan 10 2005 07:32 PM PST - CBC News
VANCOUVER - A Federal Court judge has granted a stay of the federal Immigration deportation order against a 27-year-old Iranian while officials assess the risk if he were sent back.
Ali-Reza Monemi came to Canada six years ago, claiming refugee status.
On Friday he was told his refugee claim was denied and that he would be deported on Tuesday. Immigration then decided to jail him over the weekend as a flight risk.
His friends and family then began a hunger strike to bring attention to his cause.
On Monday morning, the judge ruled that he should be released into the custody of his family on a $3,000-bond for his last 24 hours in Canada.
Monemi claims that if he goes back to Iran he will be in great physical danger, so he is appealing on humanitarian reasons.
He worries that he still faces three months in prison, a year in exile and 84 lashes for what an Iranian court called "unethical sexual relations" holding hands and talking with a married woman.
- FROM JAN. 7, 2004: Refugee claimant faces lashing in Iran
He and his family are afraid he will face the same treatment as Haleh Sahba, a women's rights activist, deported back to Iran from Vancouver last month. She was detained for 26 hours in an Iranian jail upon arrival.
His lawyer, Peter Larlee, argued that Monemi would be at risk. And that officials have to look at what's happened to other people deported to Iran.
"Failed refugee claimants who are sent back to Iran are treated very harshly," he says. "And we also know that the immigration department is sending people back without proper travel documents.
"And this brings the returnees, the failed refugee claimants, clearly to the attention of Iranian authorities."
Two men sentenced to be hanged in IranMon. 10 Jan 2005
Tehran, Jan. 10 - An Iranian man is to be hanged in Tehran on January 19, charged with murder.
The man only identified by his first name Ali-Reza was originally sentenced to be publicly hanged by Judge Javad Esmaeili for the murder of five members of a family some two years ago.
His sentence was subsequently upheld by Irans Supreme Court.
Irans Judiciary recently announced that Ali-Reza would be hanged inside the notorious Evin prison rather than in public.
In a separate incident a young man who stands accused of murdering a colleague at work in October 2001 will be publicly hanged within the next month.
Gholam-Reza was handed down the sentence by Judge Esmaeili which was subsequently approved by the Supreme Court.
Iran: Lawmakers Considering Proposal To Introduce National Dress
Iranian deputies are considering designs for a national dress. The idea was first proposed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a way of countering the influence of Western fashion. Supporters -- including Khamenei -- point out other countries have a national dress and that it reinforces pride. Detractors say the idea is not likely to catch on among young people -- and may simply be a way for officials to tighten enforcement of existing Islamic dress codes for women.
Many Iranian women have expressed skepticism at the proposal
Prague, 10 January 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Ayatollah Khamenei made the suggestion for a national dress last year in a speech warning against what he called a "cultural invasion" from the West.
He said other countries around the world have their own national dress and are proud of it, so why not Iran.
Traditional costumes already exist among ethnic minorities, but this latest proposal would be for a national dress for all Iranians.
It's not clear what the designs would look like, but the head of the parliament's cultural commission says they would redefine Iranian identity while respecting religious and cultural identities. He said people would not be forced to wear the clothes but the designs would be appealing.
"They mostly do this with an eye toward women."The proposal is already encountering skepticism. Thirty-five year old Shirin from Tehran says she believes a new national address would not be accepted.
"In my opinion, each individual should decide for himself what to wear and what not to wear. A national dress that is imposed [from above] is not going to be welcome. It would be better if they would let people decide. If everyone puts on something adequate, it would be much better than the authorities enforcing and adopting [a dress code]," Shirin says.
Saeed Paivandi is a sociology professor in Paris and an Iran expert. He sees the proposal as more than an attempt to counter Western influences. He says conservatives may be moving toward imposing tighter controls on personal freedoms.
"I think this is an astonishing bill because it is similar to steps taken in the first decade following the  Iranian revolution. There was a tendency then by the state and government to shape people's behavior and actions and to retain tight control in the name of revolution or ideology. I think the first social meaning of this move is a kind of interference in personal matters and an attempt to limit the most basic freedoms of citizens recognized all over the world," Paivandi says.
Iranians already face restrictions on the way they dress. Women must keep their hair covered and wear loose-fitting clothing that covers their body. Men generally have fewer prohibitions, but are not allowed to wear short pants, for example.
But enforcing these measures has been increasingly difficult -- especially among young people. In recent years, women and girls are wearing shorter and tighter coats and smaller headscarves.
The trend is causing concern among the country's conservatives and hard-liners.
Paivandi says he thinks the measures are aimed primarily at women.
"They mostly do this with an eye toward women. There has been a real breakthrough among Iranian women from their widespread presence in universities and other spheres, and it has led to more active participation of women in the workforce and education and this has created new social opportunities for women," Paivandi says.
He adds though that previous attempts to control how people dress have generally failed.
"In the past there were similar attempts regarding women. For example, [officials] said the chador was a 'superior hijab' in order to make people wear it, without making wearing the chador compulsory. But despite the widespread campaign, today we see that women did not follow the model. [Instead] they created their own behavioral models. I think there is enough past experiences to tell us that this latest attempt will not be successful either," Paivandi says.
The parliament's cultural commission looks set to press ahead. Mohammad Taghi Rahmani, a commission member, was recently quoted as saying if we pass the bill then people who walk around in "short-sleeved shirts and skimpy skirts" will face legal action. He warned that the government should not be negligent otherwise he said "girls in the villages would learn from the violators."
Jan. 10, 2005 22:13 | Updated Jan. 10, 2005 22:41
Egypt experiments 'unrelated to nukes'By JANINE ZACHARIA
The US does not believe Egypt is secretly developing nuclear weapons despite a finding by the International Atomic Agency that Egypt has been conducting experiments the UN nuclear watchdog group says could be a sign of a hidden nuclear weapons programs.
"From what we've seen, it doesn't seem it's a weapons program but that doesn't mean there isn't more there," a senior US administration official told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. "We don't know of it. We don't have any reason to think there is [a program]."
The official said the US had not raised the issue with the Egyptians since AP quoted a diplomat last week saying the Egyptians "tried to produce various components of uranium" without declaring it to the IAEA in accordance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Egypt denies it has a nuclear weapons program and says it conducts small-scale nuclear programs for medical and research purposes. Last week's news item came a few months after an earlier report that the IAEA had discovered plutonium particles near an Egyptian nuclear facility.
The senior US official said the US was letting the IAEA handle the matter. "We've let the [IAEA] run through its normal procedure. They haven't come up with anything super troubling," he said. "Particularly with all the sensitivity on Iran, we're just letting the [IAEA] play it out."
The US and Israel both say Iran is developing a secret nuclear weapons program, but the IAEA has yet to declare such a program is in the works. The issue has therefore not been referred to the UN Security Council as the US had hoped. Last week Iran gave the IAEA permission to take environmental samples from a suspect military site where the US and others believe Iran is conducting covert nuclear tests.
Northern Iran rattled by strong earthquakeAFP: 1/10/2005
TEHRAN, Jan 10 (AFP) - An earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale shook northern Iran late Monday, the state news agency IRNA reported without saying whether there had been casualties.
The quake struck at 10:16 pm (1846 GMT), with its epicenter in the Golestan province in the northeast of the country.
"Inhabitants were frightened and emerged onto the streets of the main cities of the region," IRNA said.
An earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale devastated the southeastern Iranian city of Bam in December 2003, killing more than 30,000 people.
Politics & Policies: The Iran dossierBy Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
Published January 10, 2005
WASHINGTON -- As soon as President George W. Bush brushes the confetti off his lapels and returns to the Oval Office from his second inaugural parade on Jan. 20, he will find a series of "presidential papers" on Iran, requiring his immediate attention, waiting for him.
Well-informed Washington insiders say the nation's top think tanks have been scurrying over the last several weeks to put the finishing touches on comprehensive policy papers, or presidential directives that would help the Bush administration formulate a policy on Iran for the next four years.
The abridged version of these exhaustive papers will be along the line of "What the heck do we do with Iran?"
Indeed, just a few days after his second inauguration, the president will be driven back up Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill where he will deliver his State of the Union address to the nation. Iran, most likely, will deserve a mention of note. It was in his 2002 State of the Union speech that Bush placed Iran, along with North Korea and Iraq, in his now infamous Axis of Evil.
Now, three years later, it remains unclear what course U.S. policy regarding Iran is likely to follow, but according to more than one analyst, the second Bush administration will delve into the Iran dossier with renewed vigor.
The Iran dossier comprises three aspects: first, the Islamic Republic's pursuit of nuclear weapons technology; second, the United States' accusation that Iran supports terrorism; and third, Iran's involvement in Iraq. These are all points that the president will have to address.
"U.S. policy will have to shift to the policy of supporting democratic opposition to bring about regime change," Alireza Jafarzadeh, president of Strategic Policy Consulting, told United Press International. Barring a change of regime in Iran, Washington should get used to the idea of a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic, as all indications are that Iran is set to follow its desire to join the nuclear club.
However, warns Jafarzadeh, the world cannot afford to allow Iran "to acquire the nuclear bomb as well as erect a sister Islamic Republic in Iraq while suppressing its own population."
It was Jafarzadeh who in August of 2002 revealed Iran's Natanz and Arak nuclear sites to the international community. At the time he was the spokesperson in Washington for Iran's National Council of Resistance of Iran, a group otherwise known as the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, or MEK. The United States had designated the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.
Iran's pursuit of its nuclear weapons program is sure to continue despite periodic disclaimers to the contrary by officials in Tehran. Well-controlled and carefully orchestrated visits by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are not about to reveal anything, either, as the Iranians have learned to disperse and camouflage their work.
From Tehran's perspective, it makes sense for Iran to push ahead. Iran has always viewed itself as a regional sphere of influence, hoping to sway the region's policies. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution when the Shiite clergy toppled the imperial rule of Shah Reza Pahlavi, Iran's theocratic regime has been trying -- one should add without too much success -- to export its revolution to neighboring countries. Outside of Lebanon, where the Revolutionary Guards found sympathetic ears in the country's largely under-privileged Shiite community, repeated calls from Iran's mullahs to the people of the Middle East to topple their "corrupt leaders" has gone unheeded.
However, now for the first time since 1979, Iran is seeing new opportunities open up in neighboring Iraq, a country with a majority Shiite population. Faced with this dilemma, the United States has three options.
First, the United States can avoid confrontation and continue to engage Iran in dialogue, hoping that Iran will see logic in diplomacy. This is the European Union's favorite policy. "This option produced a 2004 accord with Iran to freeze some of its nuclear programs that might allow for weapons development," Raymond Tanter, a visiting professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, told UPI.
The problem with this option is that it failed to produce concrete results in the past because Iran did not respect prior agreements. "This route is bound to fail," said Tanter, who served on the National Security Council staff and as representative of the secretary of Defense to arms control talks in the Reagan administration.
Iran's nuclear aspiration is also worrying other countries in the immediate neighborhood such as Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, each with an important Shiite minority. Furthermore, the speed with which the United States managed to topple Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad is yet further incentive for Tehran to arm itself with nuclear deterrence.
The second option, Tanter believes, is for Israel or the United States to conduct military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities. "But because Iran has hidden, hardened, dispersed, and placed its nuclear facilities in populated areas, military strikes are unlikely to be effective and may lead to escalation and expansion of combat," said Tanter.
This leaves the third option -- and the most logical one -- that of regime change. This option fits in with the hard approach preferred by the neo-cons in the Bush administration. Both Tanter and Jafarzadeh believe the Bush administration will opt for beginning a "process of changing the regime in Tehran" sometime soon after the second inauguration.
There is one minor snag however, and that is the lack of an organized opposition able to help bring about regime change. One of the main opposition groups, the MEK, remains on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. To collude with those opposition forces requires the United States to remove restrictions against Iranian opposition groups, argues Tanter.
Because the MEK and its associate political umbrella organization, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, have "been instrumental in exposing some of Tehran's key nuclear secrets, President Bush is likely to favor lifting the terrorist designation on the MEK in 2005," says Tanter.
"The removal of the MEK's terror designation would be a litmus test for the new administration to adopt a tougher approach toward the Iranian regime," said Jafarzadeh.
What the Bush team will learn, however, is that there are no simple answers to the Iranian predicament. Bringing about regime change through the support of democratic forces in the country, while desirable, may prove to be harder than expected.
Finally, a word of caution: paraphrasing the secretary of defense, it is true that you underwrite revolutions and foment regime changes with the opposition you have, not the opposition you want. Lessons should be learned, however, from the Ahmad Chalabi affair in Iraq and what happened when too much trust was placed in him and his organization. In dealing with the Mujahedin-e-Khalq one should recommend caution.
(Comments may be sent to Claude@upi.com.)
Saudi says Iran is a friend of Persian Gulf states
Monday, January 10, 2005 - ©2004 IranMania.com
LONDON, Jan 10 (IranMania) - Saudi Arabia`s Defense Minister Prince Sultan said that Iran is a close friend of other Persian Gulf states, Iran's State News Agency (IRNA) reported.
Addressing a cultural ceremony, Prince Sultan said that Iran was not to inflict any damage on member states of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC), adding it also does not follow any hostile policy towards regional countries.
Meanwhile, Prince Sultan said that member states of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council are able to defend themselves against any enmity.
Tehran Eyes Deeper Economic Ties With Cuba[Excerpt] January 10, 2005
Dow Jones Newswires
HAVANA -- Iran , already a close political ally of Cuba, aims to deepen its economic ties with the Caribbean nation through new hydraulic and electrical projects, an Iranian diplomat said Monday.
Dozens of ministers, legislators and business leaders from both countries will meet in Havana next week for a joint economic conference to finalize details on the plans, said Rezaie Mehdi, the third secretary of the Iranian Embassy in Havana.
"Trade has until this moment been in favor of Cuba," Mehdi told The Associated Press. "But this is a turning point. We expect to expand our economic relations, particularly in exporting our technology."
Trade between the two nations has averaged between $20 million and $30 million a year over the last three years, Mehdi said. Cuba has been the main beneficiary, with Iran importing at least $15 million worth of Cuban pharmaceuticals and biotechnological products per year.
But Iran is now pushing for Cuba to take advantage of an additional $26 million credit it offered over a year ago for Iranian goods and technological services.
After renegotiating terms of the credit -such as creating five-year, instead of two-year, payment plans -projects including the construction of dams, hydroelectric power facilities and a pipeline to transport water in drought-prone eastern Cuba are in the works, Mehdi said.
"The equipment and all the goods (for the pipeline) have been shipped -they are on their way to Cuba," he said.
Iran plans to also increase current exports of shoes, textiles, petrochemical products, leather, notebooks and packaged snacks.
Cuba and Iran have had close diplomatic ties since 1982. Cuba was among the first countries to recognize the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran , and both nations have tense relations with the U.S.
"We have always enjoyed the support of Cuba, and always supported them," Mehdi said. ...
Analysis / Hezbollah's terror factory in the PA
By Amos Harel
The conventional view of the Hezbollah in Israeli eyes is of a professional, focused, secret organization; terrorist professionals conducting a well-planned campaign against the IDF - so successful that it forced the army out of south Lebanon in May 2000.
There's quite a lot of exaggeration in this description when it comes to Lebanon. When it comes to the main terrorist arena in which Hezbollah now operates against Israel - the territories - it is simply untrue.
Senior defense officials monitoring Hezbollah activity, which include sending money and instructions to Palestinians in the territories during the last two years, describe a very different picture. The Shi'ite organization runs a conveyor-belt operation in the territories. Its goal is to create as many small terrorist cells as possible, and Hezbollah is happy with even the smallest attacks.
It's the "launch and forget" method. If a network's efforts don't work, Hezbollah moves on to another network. Hezbollah is not even providing specific tactical instructions to its West Bank and Gazan operatives. It makes do with general instructions.
Palestinians, despite the temptation of the high pay offered by the Lebanese group, are well aware of the ramifications of the system. A Fatah activist from the Tul Karm area who was arrested by the Shin Bet security service said that he regarded his contact with Hezbollah as deadly - a short-lived, fatal framework that would lead him to doom. Hezbollah, he told his interrogators, pushes people to ever more operations, even at the cost of their lives. And the chances of getting out of the "contract" safely are nil.
The hard data shows a steep rise in Hezbollah involvement in Palestinian terrorism. In 2002, the Shin Bet identified seven Palestinian groups operated by the Hezbollah. In 2003, there were 14, and in 2004, there were 51 such groups. Only some of those groups were neutralized.
The lion's share of last year's Hezbollah-connected armed cells were Fatah-affiliated - 38, mostly in the West Bank. Six cells were associated with Islamic Jihad, three with Hamas and at least four with the Popular Front, a secular Marxist organization having nothing in common with the fundamentalist Hezbollah.
Hezbollah's takeover of the armed Fatah cells in the West Bank is nearly absolute, with nearly every Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade unit on its payroll. Last year, 68 attacks were initiated by Hezbollah, some 20 percent of the attacks over the Green Line. Twenty-four Israelis - soldiers and civilians - were killed in these attacks.
Hezbollah is devoting significant resources to the war against Israel. Most of these resources come from Iran. Hezbollah sent an estimated $9 million into the territories in 2004 out of an overall budget of $100 million. Since a terrorist attack costs an average of NIS 5,000, clearly some of that $9 million ended up in the pockets of the cells in the territories. The current bonus paid for a dead or wounded Israeli is NIS 4,000.
Hezbollah has a reputation for abandoning its wounded in the field. In many cases, Hezbollah promised financial help to families if attackers were killed or arrested, promises that were not kept.
The Shin Bet, Military Intelligence and the Mossad, are still collecting data on Hezbollah's involvement, trying to create a flow chart showing the new terrorist channels.
As has been proven to be the case in the past, a key figure is Imad Fayez Mugniyah, Hezbollah's deputy secretary general in charge of its international section, who is also wanted by the U.S. He has been invested much effort in the Israeli arena, putting activists under his direct command to work on creating Palestinian cells. Among the activists known to Israel are Kais Obeid, an Israeli Arab from Taibe who was directly involved in kidnapping Elhanan Tannenbaum. Obeid is not the most senior of the cell operators; his colleagues are Lebanese.
Hezbollah's command in Beirut wants to forge unity between the various groups in the West Bank, unifying bomb makers, suicide bombers and those who dispatch attacks into one organization. But it has apparently stopped trying to send a senior bomb expert into the territories. Instead, it uses couriers who carry instructions on computer disks. That's no way to create a successor to Ihiye Ayash, but if the goal is quantity of attacks and not quality, its apparently enough for Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah, under instructions from Iran, has targeted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, even to harm him physically, to prevent any accommodation between Israel and the PA.
Protests rock governors office in western IranMon. 10 Jan 2005
Tehran, Jan. 10 Angry residents from the town of Baneh in Kurdistan province (Western Iran) attacked the governors office with stones and sticks at the start of the New Year after hearing of the murder of an individual by State Security Forces (SSF).
Eyewitnesses reported seeing shattered glass from the windows of the governors office scattered nearby.
Protests erupted after news of the circumstances of the death of Ibrahim Hassanzadeh spread among locals. Agents of the SSF reportedly stopped Hassanzadeh on the bridge leading to the Bouin village and then shot him at point blank on January 01.
Upon hearing the news on the same day residents stormed the governors office demanding repercussions for those involved in the murder. Locals said that authorities brought in a number of Special Forces agents to fight off the crowd via helicopters from the nearby city of Sanandaj.
On January 04 a member of Irans Majlis (parliament) admitted to the systematic use of excess force by security forces against citizens.
Fakhroldin Heydari, the Majlis deputy from Baneh revealed that two individuals in his constituency were shot and killed by aggressive security forces in the past month and a number of others were badly wounded.
How Do You Say Hate in Persian?By Hilary Krieger
Jerusalem Post | January 11, 2005
Though the new Iranian TV program Zahra's Blue Eyes does feature plenty of gory operations and heart-wrenching moments, it's no ER.
Also titled For You, Palestine, the dramatic series "reveals" how Israeli doctors are harvesting organs from Palestinian children and focuses on the campaign of fictional prime-ministerial candidate Yitzhak Cohen, who is particularly interested in seizing young Zahra's arresting eyes.
To this end, Israelis pose as United Nations employees who come to a Palestinian school and check children in order to "prevent the spreading of an eye disease" but really want to inspect the class for students with the best eyes. In the end, Zahra is left blind by the Israeli doctors.
Along the way, the text manages to incorporate a speech by Cohen declaring: "We are the best of the races in the world. Our land should extend from the Euphrates to the Nile." In another scene, an adult explains to the children that the land they see from their school bus is "the land of Palestine, our land... but the Zionists took it by force."
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has translated the clips from the first two episodes, which aired on Sahar-1 TV on December 13 and 20, and posted them on its Web site. MEMRI staff didn't know how long the series, which was produced in Farsi and dubbed into Arabic, would continue.
"The major film companies are under the Zionists' influence," said writer-director and former education ministry employee Ali Derakhshni in an interview about his program also translated by MEMRI. "Fortunately, the Iranian Islamic Republic and our Islamic regime have made many films and series like Zahra's Blue Eyes, which is a film about children."
Critics of the series agree that there have been plenty of productions like this one to come from Iran, but describe the series in less positive terms.
"This is an example of the classical anti-Semitism that we are now seeing in the Middle East. Considering that Iran's official policy is to wipe Israel off the face of the map, we are not surprised at this kind of incitement of its population," Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman, currently on a visit to Israel, told The Jerusalem Post.
He added that there are "definite parallels" between the program's content and the Nazis' proclivity for conducting medical experiments on Jews.
Menashe Amir, an Israeli expert on Iran who is of Persian origin, said that the rate of anti-Semitic propaganda coming out of Iran has been steadily growing.
"The Iran of today is imitating the Arab world of 20 or 30 years ago, which was imitating Hitler in World War II in using propaganda and mass media in encouraging hatred against Jews," he said.
Karimi-Rad said reports were untrue
Iran has denied fresh claims that it is stoning women to death and executing criminals under 18 years of age.
IRAN DENIES STONING CLAIMS
Critics of the regime also say women are killed with the brutal method for having adulterous affairs.
But judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimi-Rad said: "In the Islamic republic, we do not see such things being carried out.
"Bringing up the issues of stoning and the execution of under-18s comes from outside the country and is aimed at distorting the image of the Islamic republic."
He did not rule out the possibility that such sentences were being issued by certain courts.
But he said they were invariably quashed on appeal or by the Supreme Court, which has to approve all executions, and stressed "no such verdicts have been carried out".
Human rights activists and diplomats have said that while Iran appears to have respected a moratorium on stoning, there have been cases of minors being executed.
In a resolution last month, the United Nations condemned Iran's record on public executions, floggings, arbitrary sentences, torture and discrimination against women.
SHILLING FOR THE MULLAHS[Excerpt]
By KENNETH R. TIMMERMAN January 11, 2005 -- LEFT-WING billionaire and Bush-hater George Soros was not content to spend millions to thwart a Bush victory in last November's presidential election. Now his Open Society Institute in New York is joining forces with pro-Tehran lobbying group to promote the interests and the viewpoint of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In tandem with the American-Iranian Council, an industry-supported group that favors opening trade and diplomatic ties with Iran, the Open Society Institute will host Iran's ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday at the Open Society Institute's offices in New York.
The talk by Ambassador Javad Zarif is benignly titled, "The View from Tehran," and can be expected to present the regime's outlook on Iran, Iraq and the War on Terror.
But don't expect a spewing of raw anti-American hate. A propaganda blast e-mailed to me recently from an insider in Tehran shows that Tehran's clerics have understood how to wage the air wars in the best Himmlerian tradition arguably, better than Soros himself.
On Jan. 3, Iranian government spokesman Abdollah Ramenzanzadeh told reporters that Tehran had "not yet decided on a third party" to mediate "negotiations" with the United States. In itself, that was an interesting statement. There are no ongoing negotiations between the United States and Iran. However, whenever the regime has felt under pressure from a vigorous U.S. policy, it has dangled the prospect of such negotiations in an attempt to discredit and to weaken the American side.
The analysis being circulated by the Iranian foreign ministry goes on to suggest that Secretary of State Colin Powell has determined that "a future Iraqi government dominated by the Shi'a and influenced by Iran will not be a threat to the United States or its interests," and that "Washington and Tehran have reached an understanding on how Iraq needs to be stabilized."
Without any basis in fact, the analysis further states that the United States has concluded that "at its current state of development, the clerical regime's nuclear program does not constitute an immediate threat, and it can always contain Iran through the European Union."
While anyone who has finished their morning coffee would dismiss such statements as wishful-thinking, they represent the policy line preferred by Tehran clerics. And they believe that a sleepy press, coupled to willing allies such as Soros, will help them to pull the wool over the public's eyes.
What Tehran wants is abundantly clear. Iran's ruling clerics want to continue mucking around in Iraq and to complete their nuclear weapons development, without the United States intervening.
Ambassador Zarif can be expected to ooze conciliation mixed with threats, should the Crawford cowboy in the White House decide to jump the gun on Iran's ongoing nuclear-weapons development. He will also comfort the traditional wisdom that the United States needs Iran's help to "balance Sunni Arabs and keep the Middle East focused on regional squabbles in order to prevent them from unifying against the United States," as the foreign-ministry analysis so deftly puts it.
By sponsoring the Iranian ambassador and a lobbying group that has never hesitated to take issue with U.S. sanctions and U.S. pressure on the regime in Tehran, Soros is once again showing his true colors. He is anti-American, anti-freedom and pro-tyranny, for America and for America's friends overseas.
Soros spent millions of dollars to bring about campaign-finance "reform" in the United States. The reforms Soros championed reduced the powers of political parties, while opening a Pandora's box of unregulated political contributions to so-called 527 organizations funded by red millionaires, Hollywood moguls and special interests. ...
Soros' prescription for America's future was bad for America. His prescription for the future of America's relations with Iran is bad for the world. Strengthening Tehran's mullahs means a nuclear-armed Iran.
Smell the coffee.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer for Insight magazine.
US and Iraq All Set for Strike against Syria. Israel Is Braced for Hizballah Second Front
DEBKAfile Special Military Report Updating DEBKA-Net-Weekly 188
January 11, 2005, 2:44 PM (GMT+02:00)
US warns Syria to keep its newly-purcahsed Kornet AT-14 anti-tank missile out of Iraq
Last Sunday, January 2, US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage performed his last major mission before stepping down in favor of Robert B. Zoellick, whom incoming secretary Condoleezza Rice has picked as her deputy. (Zoellick, currently trade representative in charge US world trade, served as deputy to secretary of state James Baker in the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations.
This mission took Armitage to Damascus with nine American demands.
DEBKA-Net-Weeklys Washington sources published those demands for the first time in its last weeks issue:
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1. Start repealing Syrias 40-years old emergency laws.
2. Free all political prisoners from jail.
3. Abolish media censorship.
4. Initiate democratic reform.
5. Speed up economic development
6. Cut down relations with Iran.
7. Announce publicly that the disputed Shebaa Farms at the base of Mt. Hermon are former Syrian territory. This would cut the ground from under the Lebanese terrorist Hizballahs claim that the land is Lebanese and must be liberated from Israeli occupation.
DEBKAfiles counter-terror sources report that the Iran-sponsored Hizballahs attack on an Israeli convoy patrolling the disputed Shebaa Farms sector, killing an Israeli officer, on Palestinian election-day, Sunday, January 9, was addressed as much to President George W. Bush as to the new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as a foretaste of what it has in store.
8. Hand over to US or Iraqi authorities 55 top officials and military officers of the former Saddam regime, who are confirmed by intelligence to be established in Syria and running the guerrilla war in Iraq out of their homes and offices.
(An address, telephone number and cell phone number were listed beside each name).
But the punchline was in the last demand.
9. Syria had better make sure that none of the Kornet AT-14 anti-tank missiles which it recently purchased in large quantities from East Europe turn up in Iraq. US intelligence has recorded their serial numbers to identify their source. DEBKAfiles military sources add: Because he cannot afford to buy advanced fighter planes and tanks, Assad purchased massive quantities of the third generation Kornet AT-14 anti-tank weapons.
Just in case any are found in Iraq, General Casey, commander of US forces in Iraq has already received orders from the commander-in-chief in the White House to pursue military action inside Syria according to his best military judgment.
Number 9 therefore incorporates a tangible threat. The American general has the authority to launch military action against Syria as he sees fit and without delay if Damascus continues to meddle in Iraqs affairs.
The Syrian ruler protested to Armitage that he is doing everything he can to hold back the flow of guerrilla fighters and weapons into Iraq. As proof, he ordered Syrias chief of staff General Ali Habib to establish a forward command center on the Syrian-Iraq border to oversee efforts to control border traffic on the spot.
The fact is that General Habib is one of the few Syrian officers which the Americans have trusted. He commanded the Syrian units dispatched to Saudi Arabia in the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq and made friends with the US commanders and officials conducting the war, including vice president Dick Cheney and the then head of joint chiefs of staff, Colin Powell. However, even Habibs old American buddies do not rule out the possibility that he was posted to the border not to restrain the traffic but to take command of Syrian units posted there and prepare them for the contingency of an American military offensive.
Assad and General Habib are both aware, according to our sources, of the near carte blanche handed down to General Casey to pursue military action against Syria as and when indicated by US military requirements in Iraq.
In this regard, DEBKAfiles military sources note four important points:
1. It will not take place before President Bush is sworn in for his second term on January 20 or Iraqs general election ten days later.
2. The Americans will not start out with a large-scale, orderly military offensive, but rather short in-and-out forays; small US and Iraqi special forces units will cross the border and raid bases housing Iraqi guerrillas or buses carrying them to the border. If these brief raids are ineffective, the Americans will upscale the action.
3. The Allawi government will formally request the United States to consign joint Iraqi-US forces for action against Syrian targets, so placing the US operation under the Baghdad governments aegis. In other words, Iraq will be at war with Syria without issuing a formal declaration.
4. It is fully appreciated in Washington, Baghdad and Jerusalem that intense American military warfare against Syria could provoke a Hizballah backlash against Israel. Damascus may well activate the Lebanese Shiite group to open a second front on Israels northern border. The Syrian ruler is expected will tolerate a certain level of American low-intensity, low-profile action. But, because of his reluctance to strike back directly at American or Iraqi targets, he will field the Hizballah and not just for cross-border attacks but to galvanize the terrorist cells it controls and funds in the West Bank and Gaza Strip into a stepped-up offensive against Israeli targets. These Palestinian cells have proliferated over the years, particularly in the Fatah and its branches, encouraged by Yasser Arafats cooperative pact with the Hizballah which remains in force after his death.
Therefore, the key Middle East happening in the coming weeks will be US military strikes against Syria. The election of Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian Authority chairman, his invitation to the White House, the formation of the Sharon-Peres government coalition - albeit on very shaky legs, and the talk of imminent Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations, will prove to be no more than sideshows of the main event.
EU to resume trade talks with Iran11/01/2005
The EU said Tuesday it will resume trade talks with Iran this week after Tehran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, but the bloc vowed to keep up pressure in areas of concern including the Islamic state's nuclear plans.
Talks on a trade and cooperation agreement, suspended 18 months ago, will resume Wednesday, but in parallel EU negotiators will restart political talks on key issues including human rights and weapons of mass destruction.
"The resumption ... is a clear signal of our wish to work with Iran," said EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
But while underlining hopes for the talks, she made it clear that the 25-member bloc's relations with Tehran are "an important element of a wider package" which is linked to continuing adherence to commitments it has made.
"Iran can look forward to a richer relationship with the European Union, as long as the international community can be confident that Iran's nuclear programme is not being developed for military purposes," she said.
The Iran-EU trade talks, which were launched in December 2002, were suspended in mid-2003 amid mounting tensions notably over Tehran's refusal to allow snap inspections of its nuclear facilities.
The resumption follows the confirmation of Iran's suspension of its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities by the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
But tension remains notably because Tehran has agreed to maintain the suspension of its uranium enrichment activities only as long as the EU trade talks continue.
Iran maintains that its nuclear program is strictly civilian and peaceful and that it is not developing atomic weapons.
But the United States wants the IAEA to take Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions for what Washington says is a covert nuclear weapons program.
The EU commission underlined that the trade talks, which are expected to involve negotiating sessions roughly every two months, are aimed at agreeing a "first generation" trade accord with the Tehran government.
This would not give Iran any preferential access to EU markets, but would confirm its trade relations on the basis of those applying to all other World Trade Organization (WTO) members, EU officials said.
They underline that trade links with Europe are important for Iran: the EU represents 30 percent of its trade with the rest of the world, and 40 percent of its imports.
The trade talks will start Wednesday, and will be followed Thursday by the resumption of political talks notably including discussion on four key areas of concern for the EU.
These are human rights, regional security in the Middle East, support for terrorism and proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), officials said.
And officials made it clear that, while there is no direct link between the two trade negotiations and the political talks, problems in key areas of concern could lead to a new suspension of dialogue.
This could include any review of the IAEA's position. "If there was a substantial change in the assessment of the IAEA, we would have to consider what the implications would be for the negotiations," said one official.
The EU is also not forecasting how long the talks on a trade accord will last, saying it is an "open-ended process." "It will take as long as it takes to get a good agreement," said the official.
"But it is not a good idea to set artificial timelines," he added.