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Summit Leaves Iran, North Korea Questions Unanswered
Arms Control Today
Despite what they described as open, very frank discussions about Irans and North Koreas nuclear programs, U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded their Sept. 26-27 talks at Camp David without any concrete decisions on how to address the crises.
At a joint press conference Sept. 27, Bush said the United States and Russia share a goal
to make sure Iran doesnt have a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapons program. Putin maintained that Russia has no desire and no plans to contribute in any way to the creation of weapons of mass destruction, either in Iran or in any other spot, region in the world. He noted that Russias decision to help Iran build a nuclear reactor at Bushehr is in full compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and agreed with Bush that both countries will continue to urge Iran to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency requirements.
The United States has criticized Russias assistance to Iran in constructing the $800 million reactor and providing nuclear fuel for the plant. Russia has maintained that it will require Iran to return any spent fuel, although the two countries have yet to sign an agreement enforcing this pledge. (See ACT, January/February 2003.) Concern over Irans nuclear energy program escalated in September after international investigators detected traces of highly enriched uranium in two facilities. (See Concern Heats Up Over Irans Alleged Nuclear Program, p. 20.)
Both presidents agreed that North Korea must cease its nuclear weapons program. At the press briefing, Bush reiterated his call for North Korea to completely, verifiably, and irreversibly end its nuclear programs. Putin, however, also pressed the United States to offer Pyongyang guarantees in this sphere of security, drawing attention to U.S. reluctance to provide such explicit guarantees. (See U.S. Shows More Flexibility in North Korea Talks) On the Iraq front, Bush failed to secure military or financial support from Putin for Iraqs reconstruction.
Also during the summit, both sides discussed implementation of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which entered into force in May 2003. (See ACT, June 2003.) The Bilateral Implementation Commission, which is scheduled to meet twice yearly, has yet to convene. The commissions first meeting may be scheduled later this fall, in late October or early November. http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2003_10/Summit.asp
Irans parallel security agencies: the wrong target?
THE DAILY STAR
In recent months the role of parallel intelligence services in Iran has captured the attention of both the media and the political community in the country. Recent abuses by security forces, in particular the roundup of student activists and the killing of Canadian-Iranian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi, have focused attention on a purportedly destabilizing feature of the Iranian intelligence-security setup. Some commentators contend that so-called parallel intelligence services and rogue elements within the conventional intelligence community pose a serious threat to the prospects of a peaceful transition of power in Iran. This is, at best, an over-simplified view of the complex nexus between the intelligence community and political elites in Iran.
Ascertaining the facts about the so-called parallel intelligence organizations requires a proper understanding of the Iranian intelligence community in its entirety. The chief intelligence organization in Iran is the Intelligence and National Security Ministry (VEVAK), which was formed in 1984. Its core personnel included Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps intelligence officers. The Revolutionary Guards performed primary intelligence functions prior to the formation of VEVAK, and today continue to maintain their own separate intelligence organization.
The difference between VEVAK and the pre-revolutionary SAVAK is not only reflected in the formers status as a ministry (whereas SAVAK was an organization), but also the two institutions sharply different world-views, institutional culture and methodology. SAVAK mimicked the US intelligence culture, marked as it is by semi-secrecy and a propensity to occasionally court public exposure. SAVAK sometimes took the publicity to extremes, as exemplified by the regular television appearances of the head of its Third Directorate, the notorious Parviz Sabeti.
VEVAK, on the other hand, has been ultra-secretive and, by most accounts, ultra-effective since its inception. Its dismantling of an extensive CIA network in the Iranian military and private sector in 1988 and 1989 are among its successes, and counts as one of the greatest losses of intelligence assets ever suffered by the CIA. VEVAK is also credited with crippling the Mujahideen Khalq (MKO) organization through a sustained campaign of penetration, subversion and psychological warfare. The MKO, once purported to represent the only serious opposition to the Islamic Republic, has now been reduced to an isolated cult that finds itself under American authority in Iraq.
The operational secrecy of VEVAK is tempered by a curious propensity for scholarly discourse and self-criticism. It was VEVAK that was behind the production of a two-volume work on the rise and fall of the Pahlavi dynasty, which offered a security-intelligence approach to analyzing the emergence and decline of political elites in pre-revolutionary Iran. The work drew on the confessions and analyses of General Hossein Fardust, a leading figure in the Pahlavi regimes security apparatus, who remained in Iran after the revolution. This work, stripped of its propaganda content, was a unique contribution to the study of Irans modern political history.
VEVAKs attempts to balance operational and institutional secrecy with a measure of ethical transparency was best exemplified by its admission in January 1999 that rogue elements within its ranks had carried out the serial murders of dissidents in 1998. The mothballing of the subsequent investigation into the case was the fault of the judiciary, which consistently frustrated attempts to uncover the truth about the rogue networks.
There is much confusion over the ideological loyalty of Irans intelligence services. Most analysts contend that the VEVAK is a conservative bastion and that the overall security establishment is characterized by overlapping priorities, rivalries and the penetration of rogue elements. Both contentions are wrong.
The Rand Corporation recently produced a well-researched report into security decision-making in Iran. The report rightly argued that the decision-making process was marked by consensus within complexity, which had fostered robust oversight mechanisms. The papers conclusion was that the oversight culture prevented the consistent initiation of rogue operations by security officials. Indeed, the 1998 serial murders were an aberration swiftly addressed by the Intelligence Ministry. There was no precedent for such murders before and no extra-judicial killings have occurred since.
The issue of parallel intelligence organizations is a different proposition altogether. Certainly there are a multitude of organizations with security functions, including the security directorates of the law enforcement agencies and the judiciary. The security directorates of the law enforcement agencies perform routine security tasks and cannot really be considered intelligence organizations. The case of the judiciary, however, is different.
The Islamic Republics judiciary counts as one of the few in the world in the world that employs a sizeable number of highly trained and experienced security personnel. On closer inspection, their numbers are not numerous enough to justify the accusation by reformists that the judiciary is running a full-fledged and independent intelligence apparatus. Although it is true that in recent years a sizeable number of personnel discharged from VEVAK on disciplinary grounds were absorbed by the judiciarys security outfit, the latter does not have the resources to function as a versatile intelligence agency and engage in more subtle intelligence work, like penetrating target organizations and operating an extensive network of informants. Rather, the judiciarys security network specializes in overt surveillance (designed to intimidate the target, rather than gather intelligence), heavy-handed arrests and tough interrogations.
Some reformists seem to think that tackling the so-called parallel intelligence organizations should form one of the central components of their strategy. A case in point is the leading reformist Mohsen Mirdamadi, who made the claim in the July 19 edition of the daily Yas-e-Now that the intelligence apparatus of a parallel organization in Tehran, which he did not identify, had three times more personnel that VEVAK did nationwide. Such absurd comments merely help undermine the credibility of the reform movement. Iran is refreshingly unique in the Middle East for having military and security establishments that have generally avoided political intrigues.
The Islamic Republics impressive security-intelligence setup does not pose a threat to the peaceful transition of power in Iran. It is interesting that many of Irans leading reformers, including the chief reformist strategist Saeed Hajjarian, started their careers in the Islamic Republics intelligence services.
The key to transforming Irans political landscape lies not in trying to expose nonexistent parallel intelligence services, but in tackling the institutions that legitimate clerical hegemony. These are essentially the judiciary, the Council of Guardians and the Assembly of Experts. Reformist leaders and their active grassroots network ignore this fact at their peril.
Mahan Abedin is a London-based financial consultant and analyst of Iranian politics. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/03_10_03_e.asp
To: F14 Pilot
Putin is so lame here.
Russia is aiding Iran. It's "insistence" that Iran return the spent rods is diplomatic paperhanging.
As for Putin pressuring Bush to give Chia Jong guarantees in this sphere of security, how about guaranteed smackdown?
Bush looked in this apparatchik's eyes and saw his soul? Uh, no.
Thanks to Putin, Iran has the most dangerous missile force in the region.
Putin thinks he has the oil Bush needs, translating into bargaining position.
While Congress stalls Bush's $87 billion request as it gives Putin all the Nunn-Lugar millions of taxpayer dollars.
Enough of the new tone. How much crap will you eat for oil, Mr. President? Putin needs discipline.
posted on 10/04/2003 5:36:25 PM PDT
(Hitlery: das Butch von Buchenvald)
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