Skip to comments.Iranian Alert -- June 16, 2004 [EST]-- IRAN LIVE THREAD -- "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
Posted on 06/15/2004 9:06:41 PM PDT by DoctorZIn
The US media almost entirely ignores news regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Tony Snow of the Fox News Network has put it, this is probably the most under-reported news story of the year. Most Americans are unaware that the Islamic Republic of Iran is NOT supported by the masses of Iranians today. Modern Iranians are among the most pro-American in the Middle East.
There is a popular revolt against the Iranian regime brewing in Iran today. I began these daily threads June 10th 2003. On that date Iranians once again began taking to the streets to express their desire for a regime change. Today in Iran, most want to replace the regime with a secular democracy.
The regime is working hard to keep the news about the protest movement in Iran from being reported. Unfortunately, the regime has successfully prohibited western news reporters from covering the demonstrations. The voices of discontent within Iran are sometime murdered, more often imprisoned. Still the people continue to take to the streets to demonstrate against the regime.
In support of this revolt, Iranians in America have been broadcasting news stories by satellite into Iran. This 21st century news link has greatly encouraged these protests. The regime has been attempting to jam the signals, and locate the satellite dishes. Still the people violate the law and listen to these broadcasts. Iranians also use the Internet and the regime attempts to block their access to news against the regime. In spite of this, many Iranians inside of Iran read these posts daily to keep informed of the events in their own country.
This daily thread contains nearly all of the English news reports on Iran. It is thorough. If you follow this thread you will witness, I believe, the transformation of a nation. This daily thread provides a central place where those interested in the events in Iran can find the best news and commentary. The news stories and commentary will from time to time include material from the regime itself. But if you read the post you will discover for yourself, the real story of what is occurring in Iran and its effects on the war on terror.
I am not of Iranian heritage. I am an American committed to supporting the efforts of those in Iran seeking to replace their government with a secular democracy. I am in contact with leaders of the Iranian community here in the United States and in Iran itself.
If you read the daily posts you will gain a better understanding of the US war on terrorism, the Middle East and why we need to support a change of regime in Iran. Feel free to ask your questions and post news stories you discover in the weeks to come.
If all goes well Iran will be free soon and I am convinced become a major ally in the war on terrorism. The regime will fall. Iran will be free. It is just a matter of time.
Iran Plays 'Cat and Mouse' with UN Nuke Body
June 15, 2004
The New York Times
VIENNA -- An Iranian exile accused Tehran on Tuesday of playing a ``cat and mouse'' game with U.N. nuclear watchdog while it secretly develops atomic weapons, a charge that was vehemently denied by a senior Iranian official.
The latest allegation comes from Iranian exile Alireza Jafarzadeh, formerly a spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the man who reported in August 2002 that Iran was hiding a massive uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy-water production facility at Arak.
Jafarzadeh said his latest information -- that Iran's leaders have adopted an official policy of feigning cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) while forging ahead with hidden nuclear weapons activities -- comes from the same sources who told him about Natanz and Arak.
``Their (Iran's) cooperation is intended to confuse the IAEA, to divert their attention to buy time while they get closer to their goal -- a weapon,'' Jafarzadeh told Reuters.
``Their strategy is to keep this inspection process going as long as possible, to keep the inspectors busy, and then pull the plug and leave the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),'' he said. ``It's like cat and mouse, a nuclear shell game.''
Jafarzadeh is now president of the Washington-based Strategic Policy Consulting Inc. and is not officially affiliated with the NCRI, whose Washington offices were shut down last year after the United States listed it as a terrorist organization.
Hossein Mousavian, secretary of the foreign policy committee of Iran's Supreme National Security Council said the charge was yet another baseless allegation in a string of false claims.
``During the last 15 months, they (the Iranian exiles) have made many allegations and given the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) such information, but all of it has been proven to be false information, all had no basis (in fact),'' Mousavian told Reuters in a telephone interview.
``More than 670 IAEA inspections prove that we are completely open. We have nothing to hide,'' Mousavian, who is in Vienna for an IAEA board meeting that is expected to pass a resolution rebuking Iran for failing to cooperate fully with the IAEA.
``GUERRILLA WAR STRATEGY''
Washington has long accused oil-rich Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic power program. Tehran denies this, insisting its program is designed solely to produce electricity from nuclear reactors.
Joe Circincione, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Jafarzadeh's allegation was credible.
``It certainly looks like Iran's strategy is a traditional guerrilla war strategy -- draw the enemy in deep,'' he said, adding that the majority of the 35 nations on the IAEA Board of Governors thinks Iran is playing ``cat and mouse'' with the U.N.
On Monday, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei's said Iran's cooperation with the agency had been ``less than satisfactory.'' He also said the IAEA was still trying to determine whether Iran had declared all of its uranium enrichment activities.
ElBaradei has said there is no proof Iran has a weapons program, though he said recently ``the jury is still out.''
The IAEA declined to comment, but a Vienna-based diplomat who follows the IAEA said Jafarzadeh and the NCRI were credible.
``While we don't support the NCRI in its methods, their public information about Iran's program has not infrequently proven to have some basis in fact,'' the diplomat said.
Iran to Develop Joint Oil Fields with Iraq
June 11, 2004
Iran does not plan to wait for Iraqi stability until Teheran develops joint oil reserves. Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Hadi Nejad Hosseinian said Iran was prepared to develop oil fields shared with Iraq without Baghdad's permission.
Hosseinian said that despite the establishment of a joint panel, Baghdad has not responded to Iran's appeals for joint energy development. "Iran and Iraq share a few joint oilfields," Hosseinian told the Iranian daily Sobh Eqtesad. "We cannot wait and see what government takes power in Iraq, and if it is about to cooperate with us or not. We are ready to cooperate with the Iraqis through mutual coordination or even joint exploitation once they are prepared."
[On Wednesday, the Iraqi Oil Ministry reported an explosion at a key oil pipeline that feeds an Iraqi power station, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said the blast, attributed to insurgents, forced the ministry to reduce electricity output around the country by 10 percent. They said Iraqi oil exports were not immediately affected.]
The two countries share the oil fields of Azadegan, Dehloran, Kushk-Hosseinieh, NaftShahr and West Paydar. Officials said Iran still intends to pursue joint energy projects with Iraq even if Baghdad awards oil and natural gas contracts to U.S. companies.
"North Korea-Iran Preparing a Joint Nuclear Denotation Experiment"
June 15, 2004
The Dong-a Ilbo
Quoting a military source well-acquainted with news concerning North Korea, the Sankei Shimbun reported on June 15 that six representatives, including an Iranian nuclear physicist, visited North Korea last month to prepare for a joint experiment for a nuclear triggering device.
This paper announced that the Iranian nuclear-related representatives, including a physicist and computer experts who are visiting North Korea will stay for six months and execute a detonation experiment using neutrons while utilizing the related equipments of North Korea.
This paper further added, This experiment is to investigate the fluctuations of highly dense neutrons that cause nuclear disruption and added, Data obtained through this experiment is vital in manufacturing nuclear bombs.
After pointing out that Iran currently does not possess technology to micro-computerize data of the nuclear experiment on its own, the source asserted, (Iran) must have judged that they needed North Koreas cooperation for having advanced in nuclear development.
He also added, North Korea seems to have taken this opportunity as a chance to obtain Irans nuclear experimental data as well.
"North Korea-Iran Preparing a Joint Nuclear Denotation Experiment"
June 15, 2004
The Dong-a Ilbo
US Accuses China of Weapons Trade
June 15, 2004
BBC News UK Edition
A new report from the US Congress has accused China of passing nuclear technology to Iran in exchange for oil. The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission also says China helped North Korea in building its missile arsenal.
The panel says China let its communist ally use its air, rail and seaports to ship missiles and other weapons.
China's foreign ministry has dismissed the report saying "it is not in line with the facts".
"I haven't seen the report you mentioned and don't know the intention of the report, but I think the report and the situation you mentioned just now are completely not in line with the facts," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said.
But the congressional commission's annual report says that China's actions are putting the US in jeopardy.
"China's continued failure to adequately curb its proliferation practices poses significant national security concerns to the United States," the report said.
"China's assistance to weapons of mass destruction-related programmes in countries of concern continues, despite repeated promises to end such activities and the repeated imposition of US sanctions," the commission added.
Ms Zhang, however, insisted that China was taking a strong stand against weapons proliferation and that any companies found to be breaking laws on the export of sensitive material were harshly dealt with.
"China has always attached great importance to the issue and firmly opposes the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," she said.
However, the congressional commission remains sceptical about Beijing's true level of commitment to non-proliferation.
Of particular concern is the trade in so-called "dual use" items, which could be used either in the construction of weapons or for peaceful purposes.
"Chinese transfers have evolved from sales of complete missile systems to exports of largely dual-use nuclear, chemical, and missile components and technologies," the report said.
The way China works with the US to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions is seen as a particular test of commitment, correspondents say.
China hosted the six-party talks aimed at defusing the crisis caused by Pyongyang's nuclear programme.
On Tuesday, Beijing announced that a new round of six-nation talks - involving China, the two Koreas, the US, Japan and Russia - would be held in Beijing on 23-26 June.
"China hopes that the parties concerned will show their utmost sincerity and flexibility for co-operation... so as to make headway in the third round of talks," Ms Zhang said.
IRANS THREATS AGAINST IAEA IS FOR THE DOMESTIC MARKET
By Safa Haeri
Posted Tuesday, June 15, 2004
VIENNA-PARIS 15 June (IPS) Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has warned Britain, France and Germany that Iran cooperation with United Nations nuclear watchdog may be at risk if their criticism of Tehran's nuclear programs persists, newspapers said on Tuesday.
In a letter to the leaders of Europes most powerful nations published on the day the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors started reviewing Irans controversial nuclear activities, Khatami accused the EU trio of working with Tehran's arch-foe Washington to heap pressure on the Islamic Republic.
Britain, Germany and France have drafted a tough resolution, which sharply rebukes Tehran for lax cooperation with the IAEA and failing to its commitments undertaken with the three nations.
On 21 October, Hojjatoleslam Hasan Rohani, the secretary of the Supreme Council on National Security and Irans main negotiator with the IAEA had agreed with the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain not only sign the Additional Protocol to the Non Proliferation Treaty permitting international nuclear visiting Iranian atomic sites and projects at will and without any restrictions but would also suspend enriching uranium to build confidence.
"Continuation of such a behaviour under the pressure of America will seriously harm mutual trust and Iran's cooperation with the international community on Iran's use of peaceful nuclear technology", the embattled and powerless Khatami warned in the letter, extracts of which were carried in the reformist Sharq newspaper.
Analysts said Mr. Khatami wrote the letter under pressures from the ruling hardline conservatives opposed to Irans officially soft-line towards the European Union.
"Continued unfriendly behaviour and ignorance of undertakings, will push Iran to consider its different options", he said in the letter, reflecting a more aggressive tone from Tehran in response to what it says are unfair and politically motivated accusations about its atomic ambitions.
The letter came after the Speaker of the new Iranian Parliament, or Majles, dominated by the conservatives, had told the Big 3 not to dictate their will on Iran, warning them that the Majles might not ratify Irans signing of the Additional Protocol to the NPT and suspension of enriching uranium, a demand echoed by some radical newspapers known to be mouthpieces of Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the Islamic Republic who has the ultimate words on every major issue.
Once again, the European have demonstrated their perfidy by abusing Iran to go closer to the Americans. Time has arrived to stop going down the well with the rotten rope of the Europeans, wrote the daily Jomhoori Eslami, that belongs to Mr. Khameneh'i, echoing Keyhan, another radical daily, insisting that Iran should emulate North Korea leaving the NPT.
"If the Majles feels that the Additional Protocol serves the interests of the nation, it will ratify it. If not, it will reject it and the government has to abide by the decision", Dr. Qolamali Haddad-Adel, the Speaker, said in a session broadcast live on state radio, adding, "Iran's Majles does not take orders from foreigners".
"Ratification of the protocol depends on the IAEA's behaviour and the three European countries' fulfilment of their undertakings", he went on, advising Paris, London and Berlin not to yield to pressures from the Zionists and the Americans.
In an unusual strong terms, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian General Director of the IAEA, had accused Monday Iran of not cooperating fully with his inspectors and must come clean about the full extent of its nuclear program.
Seeking a new mandate as IAEA boss, ElBaradei must come clean of the Iranian case before the next meeting of the Board of Governors or he might loose his battle, one Iranian journalist covering the IAEAs handling the Iranian nuclear programs told Iran Press Service.
On Monday, Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Kamal Kharrazi had escalated the verbal battle with the IAEA, saying that Iran would not accept any restrictions to its uranium enriching programs and called on the IAEA to accept Iran as a member of the Atomic Club.
However, Iranian analysts believe that knowing that they have no friend to support them in international instances, the tough stand adopted with the IAEA and the Europeans is addressed mostly to the local market, unless Tehran really got out of the NPT.
Every time the crisis reached a red light, the Islamic Republic stepped back, for the simple reason that if they put into action their menaces, their nuclear case would be sent to the United Nations Security Council that might impose harsh economic sanctions, something they do their best to avoid, one Iranian journalist covering the Vienna meetings told Iran press Service.
In his view, Khatamis letter aims at softening the last draft resolution presented Monday to the Governor. However, I dont think his menaces or the warnings by the new Speaker would change anything if not bringing closer Europeans and Americans, he added.
ENDS IRAN IAEA 15604
Drudge has a link to a story about Iran massing troops on the Iraq border. Maybe a couple of well placed TLAM-N's would solve this problem in short order.
Iran able to defend its territory
Jun 14, 2004
Iran strongly filed protest to Qatar after the tiny sheikhdom's naval guards attacked Iranian fishermen in the Persian Gulf, killing one and injuring several others.
Foreign Ministry summoned Qatar's Ambassador to Tehran, Saleh al-quwari, to convey Tehran's 'strong protest' to the attack Friday morning.
Deputy Interior Minister for security affairs, Ali Asghar Ahmadi described the attack as 'unacceptable, improper and outside international norms'.
"The Islamic Republic is determined to defend the rights of its citizens and the related officials are carefully investigating the cause of this incident," he gave lip service.
Iran, Ahmadi said, is able to defend the country's territorial integrity and its citizens' rights under any condition.
He stressed that the boats were fishing in Iran's waters near the Iranian island of Lavan when they were attacked, rejecting Doha's claims that they had drifted into Qatar's maritime territory.
"Qatar's troops first talked to two captains of the boats and ordered them to leave the area, but while the boats were leaving, the troops opened fire at them under the assumption that the fishermen were fleeing," he said.
Tehran is still smarting from a similar attack by an emirati military vessel on an Iranian fishing boat almost a week ago.
According to Ahmadi, the Qatari troops confiscated the boat and took the body of the slain fisherman with several arrested Iranians away with them.
Foreign Ministry demanded an explanation from the Qatari government Saturday night, as well as immediate repatriation of the Iranians.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Iran also urged Doha to immediately identify and punish those responsible for the attack and ensure that such attacks do not happen anymore.
The Qatari Ambassador expressed regret over the attack, while saying he was not aware of it.
Al-quwari gave assurances that he would immediately convey the protest message to his government and inform Iran of its response.
Iran's mushrooming threat
The Washington Times
Posted on 06/15/2004 11:24:22 PM PDT by F14 Pilot
When it comes to displaying a calculated contempt for the United States, Europe and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over nuclear weapons development, the mullahcrats in Tehran are in a class with the Pyongyang Stalinists.
As the IAEA meets in Vienna to consider a European-drafted resolution pointing to Iran's continued refusal to come clean about its nuclear program, representatives of the Islamist regime continue to threaten the agency. The speaker of the Iranian parliament yesterday warned that members may not ratify Iran's signature to an additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) something insisted on by the IAEA after it discovered that Tehran was attempting to develop atomic weapons in violation of its obligations as a signer of the NPT.
The speaker, Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel, suggested that by pressing Iran to tell the truth, the Europeans were doing the bidding of nefarious "Zionists." Late last month, the head of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards warned that that the regime was prepared to launch suicide attacks or missile strikes against "29 sensitive sites in the U.S. and in the West."
Fighting Iran in a Regional Mideast War
Written by Herbert London
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
If it wasnt clear before, it is crystal clear now that the war in Iraq is a regional war. At stake are the tyrannies that hold sway over the Middle East. At the epicenter of this tyrannical world is Iran, a nation feverishly panting for nuclear weapons and simultaneously funding and supporting terrorist organizations of every stripe. Iran is terror central. The mullahs in this peculiar nation realize that a stable Iraq on its border that will make strides economically challenges willy-nilly the very existence of the present Iranian government.
That, of course, explains why the Iranian leaders send arms and money to Muqtada al-Sadr and why the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been sent across the border to attack American troops. The mullahs are intent on reducing U.S. influence in the region as its own broadcasts proclaim.
The pursuit of nuclear weapons is merely an extension of this general policy since WMD serve as a counterweight to American conventional weapons superiority. With nuclear weapons in their possession, the mullahs assume probably rightly that punitive strikes by the U.S. would be restrained and U.S. forces would be hostage to nuclear terror. In this scenario, Irans terror masterminds can go about their bombings and assassinations with impunity.
Should Iran undermine the U.S. position in Iraq, it would serve as a checkmate in the regional chess game. Nearby nations might seek pragmatic agreement with Iran in order to forestall terrorist groups, and U.S. prestige would be dealt a major blow. Moreover, the war on terror would be far more difficult to control than it is at the moment.
What then can the United States do? First and foremost we must deploy our forces in Iraq in a decisive way. Deals with the terrorists cannot be brokered. We must display the full lethality of our fighting force not only to secure Iraq but to send a message to Iran.
Second, the United States must insist on transparent nuclear weapons inspections by the I.A.E.A., the organization discharged with this responsibility. The dispersal of weapons sites in Iran is an ipso facto suggestion that weapons grade plutonium is probably being concealed. Despite tense relations with western European capitals, this U.S. administration should point out at every opportunity how dangerous nuclear weapons in the hands of the radical Islamists would be.
Third, Im convinced that Secretary of State Colin Powell should tell the Iranian leadership that we are more capable of disrupting the Iranian government than the Iranian government is capable of disrupting Iraq. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. It is time for tough talk since diplomatic speech does not appear to be working.
Fourth, the U.S. should be prepared to deploy non-military sub rosa means to undermine the Iranian government and embolden the many liberal groups in the country eager for regime change. The State Department gives lip service to this notion, but neither State nor the CIA seem to have a clear strategy to bring about this result.
As I see it, Iran is the wild card in the region. Unrestrained, it will cast an ominous shadow over Syria, support Hamas in the Palestinian territory, send troops into Afghanistan, and foment terror in Turkey. Some of these conditions already exist and others could be moving in an ominous direction.
Iraq is the first step in forestalling Iran. We must realize that and realize as well that this is a regional war in a high stakes effort. To fight half-heartedly wont send the appropriate message. There is much more at stake here than some barren desert land.
The future of mankind is contained in this cradle of civilization. History has anointed the United States as global protector. We cannot shun this responsibility. In fact, as I see it, there isnt any alternative other than defeating Iranian extremists and radical Islamists so that we can win the war on terror.
About the author: Herbert London is president of the Hudson Institute and John M. Olin Professor of Humanities, and author of the recently published book "Decade of Denial," from Lexington Books. He can be reached through http://www.benadorassociates.com.
Iran gives mixed signals on nuclear intent
By GEORGE JAHN
The Associated Press
6/16/2004, 8:59 a.m. ET
VIENNA, Austria (AP) Iran's president said his country had no "moral" obligation to stop enriching uranium even as support grew for a resolution reprimanding but not punishing the country for blocking a U.N. probe of its nuclear activities.
President Mohammad Khatami stopped short of saying Iran will resume enrichment or stop all cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
The Rule of The Turban
June 16, 2004
Paul Wolfowitz eulogized the fallen Shiite leader as an Iraqi Abraham Lincoln. But his group seems more intent on making Iraq conform to the principles of the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Last September, Paul Wolfowitz was the special guest at a memorial service in Arlington, Va., for an influential Shiite cleric killed in a car bombing in Najaf, Iraq. The deputy defense secretary hailed Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim as a "true Iraqi patriot," and he quoted from the Gettysburg Address as he likened the slain leader to the Union soldiers who had died to preserve their country. It was a eulogy that al-Hakim undoubtedly would have found jarring. His Islamist political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and its 15,000-man militia had been funded by Iran, a member of President Bush's "axis of evil." And al-Hakim himself had long been wary of perceived American imperialism in the Middle East, even as his party, known as SCIRI (pronounced "SEA-ree"), cooperated with the Coalition Provisional Authority on the transfer to Iraqi sovereignty -- the likely reason he was targeted for assassination.
As symbolism goes, the memorial service served to highlight the tangled politics in post-Saddam Iraq, where idealized notions of "friend" and "foe" have dissolved into a murkier reality. Once, Pentagon war planners like Wolfowitz envisioned the toppling of Saddam Hussein with clarity, predicting that the long-suppressed Shiite majority in Iraq would greet Americans as liberators and that democracy would naturally flower. But clarity has been washed away by images of charred American bodies swinging from bridges and naked Iraqi prisoners on dog leashes. Yet to emerge is a clear outline of a new Iraq, which has been tugged in opposite directions by official enemies -- Iran and the United States -- that happen to have shared a common interest in Saddam's removal.
As the largest mainstream Shiite party, SCIRI is an important player in Iraq's future, but one with an ambivalent history with the United States. It was one of the opposition groups that the United States counted on to help bring down Saddam. Yet SCIRI is also a vehicle in which Iran has invested heavily in a bid for influence in post-Saddam Iraq. And so despite Wolfowitz's hailing of the slain Ayatollah al-Hakim as a kind of Shiite Abraham Lincoln, it is far from clear that his Islamist party, which supports an Iraqi government run according to Islamic principles, will help build the kind of secular democracy that the United States said it hoped to leave behind in Iraq. It is likely that the new Iraqi constitution will be influenced in some manner by Islamic principles, but it's anybody's guess whether a sovereign Iraq -- assuming it stays united -- will look more like a secular Turkey, a cleric-run Iran or something in between. There are too many competing motives and agendas to predict any outcome with certainty, no matter what face U.S. policymakers put on it.
The blurring of Iranian, American and Iraqi interests came into sharp relief last month when Iraqi and American forces raided the Baghdad home and offices of Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi on suspicion that the one-time Pentagon favorite had betrayed U.S. secrets to Iran. It was a confusing turn of events, made even more perplexing by the fact that Chalabi, a Shiite, had worked openly with Iranians for many years, most prominently through his contacts with SCIRI, which was known to be an arm of Iranian intelligence. In fact, SCIRI was active in Chalabi's INC from 1992 through 1996 and was named in the 1998 Iraqi Liberation Act, signed into law by President Clinton, as one of the opposition groups that the United States should work with to topple Saddam.
It was thus no secret that Chalabi had a relationship with Iranian intelligence. But the salient question quickly became: Which American official was so stupid as to tell the INC leader that the United States had broken Iran's secret communications code, information that U.S. intelligence said Chalabi then passed on to Iran? Chalabi had long been an informal conduit between the United States and Iran, which have not had formal diplomatic relations since American hostages were seized in the 1979 Islamic revolution. Through SCIRI, the United States kept a back door to Tehran propped open. Had that game now gone awry?
SCIRI was founded in 1980, at the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war, by Iraqi Shiite clerics who sought a haven from oppression by Saddam with fellow Shiites in neighboring Iran. But the relationship was controversial from the beginning, according to Imam Mustafa al-Qazwini, an Iraqi-born Shiite in Los Angeles whose father was a founder of SCIRI.
A handsome 42-year-old with a neatly trimmed, graying beard, al-Qazwini wears a black turban, symbolizing his family's descent from the prophet Mohammed. A naturalized U.S. citizen, he speaks fluent, colloquial English. We met earlier this month at a Washington conference of the Universal Muslim Association of America, an organization of politically active American Shiite Muslims.
His father, Ayatollah Mortada al-Qazwini, broke with SCIRI's al-Hakim soon after the group's founding amid a dispute about its alliance with Iran, al-Qazwini told me. His father believed that Iraqi Shiites would be better served by leaders who remained independent of foreign governments -- Iranian or American. In the mid-1980s, the Qazwini clan left Iran for the United States and its open political system. The elder al-Qazwini returned to Iraq last year, settling in Karbala, and, in the model of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, remains aloof from politics in the belief that clergy should not play a direct role in governance, his son told me.
Al-Qazwini said that he and his father have rebuffed overtures from the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency over the years because they did not want to align themselves with any foreign governments. "I always feel, if you can work freely from these governments you should," al-Qazwini said. "Generally Iraqis don't like the idea of dependence. Once someone is seen as collaborating with a foreign government, they might not be as trusted." That has been a problem to varying degrees for both Chalabi and SCIRI in Iraq, he added.
Still, SCIRI, now led by Ayatollah al-Hakim's younger brother, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, retains significant clout as the best organized Shiite party, in part because of the support it had from Iran. SCIRI is believed to have taken from Iran an amount similar to the more than $30 million Chalabi's INC accepted in U.S. funding before being abruptly cut off last month. And despite its quasi-official relationship with the United States, SCIRI mostly kept the Great Satan at arm's length. Until 2002, most contacts with the United States were made informally through Chalabi and Kurdish representatives, according to SCIRI's U.S.-based representative, Karim Khutar al-Musawi, who told me about the group over coffee recently in Washington's Mayflower Hotel.
Aside from acting as a kind of liaison between the United States and Iran, in the mid-'90s SCIRI agents also worked openly with Chalabi in northern Iraq on operations to undermine Saddam. Chalabi was then working for the CIA, whose small team in northern Iraq was headed by former CIA operative Bob Baer. "SCIRI was never under any sort of Western supervision or control. They did exactly what they wanted. And they reported to Tehran," Baer told me.
As an American agent, Baer was keen to learn all he could about Iran. Chalabi invited him to meet his contacts in Tehran, but Baer had to decline. "I would have been happy to, but that was a firing offense. The State Department would have gone nuts," he said. But there was no restriction on meeting with SCIRI, which, after all, was part of the American-backed Iraqi National Congress. So, Baer said, he talked often with SCIRI agents in northern Iraq, where the Americans and Iranians shared a common enemy in Saddam Hussein.
A master manipulator, Chalabi frequently played Iranian and American intelligence off each other, Baer said. The most serious stunt occurred in February 1995, when Chalabi was gathering support for an uprising against Saddam. The Americans were noncommittal and, among other moves, the INC leader went fishing for Iranian support. He forged a letter from America's National Security Council that appeared to direct him to assassinate Saddam, then left it on his desk for Iranian intelligence agents to read, hoping the disinformation would convince the Iranians that the United States was serious about toppling Saddam, Baer said. "He was being very practical about this. He needed the Iranians to think the plan would go through so they would let loose with the Badr Brigades," the armed wing of SCIRI.
Chalabi's uprising, and a parallel coup planned by Sunni Iraqi military officers inside Iraq, collapsed amid betrayals by the Kurds and continued ambivalence from Washington. The debacle caused both the CIA and SCIRI to part ways with Chalabi in 1996. But by 2002, when it looked as if President Bush was serious about toppling Saddam, SCIRI began sniffing around again. Its representative, al-Musawi, set up shop in Washington. And in August 2002, SCIRI logged its first formal contact with the United States when Ayatollah al-Hakim's younger brother, Abdul, traveled to Washington as its representative for a pre-war round of meetings with Bush administration officials.
Al-Hakim and other Iraqi opposition figures met with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and (via satellite hookup) Vice President Dick Cheney, al-Musawi said. Also at the 2002 meetings were Chalabi, Iyad Allawi -- the recently named interim prime minister of Iraq, who has longtime ties to the CIA -- and two Kurdish representatives, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani.
"This was the first official contact for SCIRI, because before we did not automatically believe in the American direction -- whether they meant it or not," al-Musawi said, referring to the United States' historical ambivalence toward removing Saddam, most prominently its failure to support Kurds and Shiites in their revolt after the Persian Gulf War, which Saddam brutally suppressed.
Graham Fuller, former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA and an expert on Islam, said that the United States must deal with SCIRI, despite America's preference that Iraq have a strictly secular government. Although SCIRI wants Iraq's government to be run according to Islamic principles, that probably does not mean an Iranian-style theocracy, Fuller said. SCIRI's al-Musawi confirmed that view, explaining that the party wants a "kind of separation of church and state" in which clergy would not become politicians or government officials.
Added Fuller of SCIRI: "They are uncomfortable with American goals in the region, and they would see the American policy as hostile, rightly or wrongly, to any Islamic state, however you interpret that ... They're wary of American imperialism in general. But that doesn't mean they weren't willing to cooperate in furthering the greater goal of removing Saddam."
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim became SCIRI's representative on the United States' handpicked Iraqi Governing Council after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. But when his brother was killed in the car bombing at the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf last August, al-Hakim blamed the United States for creating instability and demanded an end to the occupation. Such positions are part of SCIRI's balancing act, Fuller said. "As the majority, the Shiites are the beneficiary of [any] democracy, so they're willing to cut the United States a lot of slack as long as the U.S. is bringing about the goal of democracy. But once they get to democracy, they want the United States to please leave," he said.
A SCIRI member, Adel Abdul Mahdi, will serve as Iraq's finance minister in the interim government that takes power in Iraq June 30. Mahdi recently declared that the majority Shiites would not stand for limited Kurdish self-rule in the north, setting the stage for a showdown with the Kurds, who have said they will secede from the central government without some guarantee of autonomy.
Shiites, meanwhile, believe that radical Sunni Muslims -- both Iraqis and those newly arrived from other countries -- are targeting their leaders for assassination with suicide bombings in an attempt to drive a wedge between the two sects. What's more, "Al-Qaida is trying to make a war between the Sunni and Shia, to destroy the American project in Iraq and break up the country so the Wahhabis can have influence" with Sunnis, asserted al-Musawi, referring to the strict fundamentalist brand of Islam that is the official state religion in Saudi Arabia.
In that regard Iran, like the United States, also faces uncertainty about its interests in post-Saddam Iraq. A Wahhabi foothold in its next-door neighbor would be an unwelcome development for Iranian Shiites, whom Wahhabis loathe as infidels.
Saddam had kept both Sunni and Shiite religious fervor in check through his authoritarian rule. But now there is no guarantee it can be contained. Looming behind this internal political struggle between religious factions are the two major powers of the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The degree to which Iraq might become a chessboard on which they move their pawns remains uncertain.
There are already indications that Wahhabi Islam is taking root in Iraq, worried Shiites say. Al-Qazwini, the Shiite imam from Los Angeles, said that on a recent visit to Baghdad he discovered that the Um al-Tubul mosque had been renamed after 13th century Islamic theologian Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya, an intellectual founder of Saudi Arabia. "There are big signs for the Ibn Taymiyya mosque now. You can see them from the highway," al-Qazwini said.
Fuller thinks it makes sense, with all the countervailing forces in the region, for the United States to deal with all major players, even those that have ties to Iran.
"The United States has slowly come around," he said. "The first Bush administration didn't want to touch the Shia. They were afraid the Shia would take over in Iraq" with an Iranian-style theocracy. But, he added, "I think now the U.S. has learned something about the Shia and their more complex nature. The Shia do not love us, but they are grateful that we threw out Saddam. Now they want us to complete the job and leave."
It remains unclear which legacy will have the most lasting imprint in the new Iraq -- that of Abraham Lincoln or that of the turbaned clerics in Tehran.
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About the writer
Mary Jacoby is Salon's Washington correspondent.
Concealed Fault Caused Bam Quake
June 15, 2004
The devastating earthquake at Bam, Iran, in 2003 was caused by the rupture of a rare, hidden fault that is invisible at the surface, experts say. This fault runs directly under the city of Bam and, combined with the density of settlement, may have been responsible for the high death toll.
Data shows the main shock on this fault was followed by a smaller one 10 seconds later at a fault 5km away.
Details have been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The magnitude 6.5 earthquake destroyed the town in the southeast of the country on 26 December last year, killing 26,000 people.
A fault is a fracture in the Earth along which blocks of crust on either side have moved relative to one another.
When fractures do not always rupture all the way to the surface they are known as blind faults. These features are usually associated with thrust faults, which are formed by compressive stresses.
Blind thrust faults are buried under the uppermost layers of crust, but they cause the surface layers to fold over them as they deform, forming a hill at the surface.
After the Bam earthquake, seismologists focussed their attention on several known faults in the area with clearly visible surface traces that allowed scientists to identify their location.
The researchers used a technique called Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar interferometry (Insar) to map the deformation of the Earth's surface in images from the European Space Agency's Envisat satellite.
They discovered that the main rupture in the earthquake occurred on a fault to the west of those known from their obvious exterior features.
This previously unknown fault was not associated with any surface features. What is more, this blind fracture turned out to be a "strike-slip" fault, in which the blocks of crust move sideways relative to one another.
"This is - as far as I know - the first well-documented case of a blind strike-slip fault," Dr Eric Fielding, of the US space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told BBC News Online.
"The fault was right in the middle of the city. It was the combination of the large population so close to the fault that really caused the devastation at Bam.
"Even very recent buildings - less than 10 years old - were brought down by this earthquake because the shaking was so strong."
The results of the mapping suggest that a second shock occurred at a separate fault 5km east of the main structure about 10 seconds after the main quake in Bam.
June 16, 2004
U.S. intelligence has long suspected that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, notwithstanding Tehran's claims that it's merely researching nuclear power. With the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting this week, the question of the Iran's intentions returns to the fore.
In Vienna, the I.A.E.A. is still working out the details of a resolution to censure Iran for its lack of full cooperation. Iran responded to the criticism by threatening to reconsider its agreements altogether, and possibly to pursue unspecified "other alternatives" to compliance. Which presumably means non-compliance.
In Sunday's New York Times Magazine, James Traub detailed the difficulty of forcing a country to comply with non-proliferation agreements. He points to failures of intelligence (such as the international community's total ignorance of Iran's Natanz uranium plant -- until 2002 when it was up and running ) and cites the problems of enforcement (as when North Korea simply pulled out of its safeguard agreements after its weapons program was discovered).
Alireza Jafarzadeh - the Iranian exile who previously reported the existence of the Natanz facility - told Reuters that Iran is simply playing a "cat-and-mouse" game with inspectors:
"Their cooperation is intended to confuse the I.A.E.A., to divert their attention to buy time while they get closer to their goal -- a weapon Their strategy is to keep this inspection process going as long as possible, to keep the inspectors busy, and then pull the plug and leave the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.''
Meanwhile, a Saudi paper reports Iran is massing troops on its border with Iraq. And as Geoffrey Kemp, a former White House specialist on the Middle East told the Baltimore Sun, Iran's proximity to the chaos in Iraq gives it some considerable leverage:
"The reality is that Iran has lots of ways to make life very unpleasant for us in Iraq. The Iranian card in Iraq serves as a counterpoint to our enormous pressure on them over the nuclear issue."
For its part, the U.S. restated its goal of making Iran adhere to its agreements:
"We and others have made clear all along that Iran has obligations under its international agreements, Iran has requirements from the (I.A.E.A.) board and Iran has commitments that Iran has made itself that we and others expect Iran to live up to," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told the Associated Press.
Now, if somebody could just figure out how ...
Khatami Threatens Uranium Enrichment if Draft Passes
June 16, 2004
TEHRAN -- Iran threatened on Wednesday to resume uranium enrichment if the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approves a draft resolution rebuking it for inadequate cooperation with U.N. inspectors.
"I am not saying we will do something particular, but if this resolution passes, Iran will have no moral commitment to suspend uranium enrichment," President Mohammad Khatami, in his toughest warning yet to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
But Khatami, aware that Washington wants Iran referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions, balanced his tough line with assurances that Iran's nuclear aims are peaceful and that Tehran has no intention of kicking out U.N. inspectors.
The United States accused Iran of trying to intimidate the IAEA. "What we're seeing here is a full court press of intimidation by the government of Iran and its delegation here," U.S. ambassador Kenneth Brill told reporters in Vienna, using a basketball metaphor.
Britain, France and Germany have drafted a resolution that "deplores" Iran's poor cooperation with U.N. inspectors, and the IAEA board of governors are discussing it in Vienna this week. The resolution has incensed Tehran.
In Brussels, the European Union urged Iran to comply fully with the IAEA. "Full compliance and cooperation with the IAEA are crucial" if Iran is to develop deeper ties with European and other partners, EU Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin said in a statement.
In Vienna, several diplomats of IAEA board member countries said the majority of the board back the draft resolution and it is unlikely that the text will be changed very much.
The draft will probably be submitted to the board for formal debate later on Wednesday, and the board could take a formal position on the text as early as Thursday, they said.
"Despite the threats from Iran, the Europeans are standing firm. This is typical brinkmanship on the part of Iran," a Western diplomat from an influential IAEA board member said.
Iran says it wants to produce low-grade enriched uranium to use as fuel in nuclear power reactors. But Washington and many European states fear Iran could use enrichment technology to produce highly-enriched, bomb-grade uranium.
Khatami said such fears were baseless.
"We have never intended to enrich uranium more than 3.5 percent and have no intention of using nuclear technology for military use," he said.
Hossein Mousavian, who heads Iran's delegation at the IAEA meeting, blamed Washington for the pressure being heaped on Tehran, saying the Americans "have put a lot of pressure in order to politicize the Iranian issue."
Iran, under pressure to come clean about its nuclear activities, worked out a deal with the European trio last October to voluntarily suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for peaceful nuclear technology.
To the Europeans' annoyance, Iran has never completely stopped enrichment related activities.
Iran says the resolution under discussion in Vienna has blown technical shortcomings out of proportion and is driven by Washington's political agenda against the Islamic Republic.
"The IAEA resolution is very bad ... (it) violates our country's rights," Khatami said. "If it passes, in the future we will have more problems with cooperating with the agency."
"Iran's nuclear row is political, and there is a political will behind it to stop us accessing peaceful nuclear technology," he said.
Diplomats in Vienna say Washington wanted a tougher resolution which would set a deadline for Iran to clear up remaining ambiguities about its nuclear program. Failure to do so would see Iran reported to the U.N. Security Council.
But Khatami ruled out following the calls of some hard-liners in the Islamic Republic for Iran to withdraw from the NPT, which would remove its nuclear program from the scrutiny of U.N. inspectors. "We are a member of the NPT and we will continue to be so," he said.
He also said that "for the moment" Iran had no intention of suspending its voluntary implementation of the NPT's Additional Protocol, signed by Iran last December, which allows inspectors to conduct more intrusive, short-notice visits to nuclear sites.
The draft IAEA resolution urges Iran's parliament to ratify the protocol on snap inspections as soon as possible.
But the parliament, dominated by anti-Western Islamic conservatives, has warned it may throw out the protocol if international pressure on Iran's nuclear program persists.
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said on Wednesday that its ratification could not be expected any time soon.
(Additional reporting by Mark Trevelyan, Louis Charbonneau, John Chalmers)