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1 posted on 08/08/2003 12:01:05 AM PDT by DoctorZIn
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach; Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; ...
Join Us at the Iranian Alert -- August 8, 2003 -- LIVE THREAD PING LIST

Live Thread Ping List | 8.8.2003 | DoctorZin

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2 posted on 08/08/2003 12:05:26 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
The Tehran-Pyongyang axis

Washington Times
8.8.2003

While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was again visiting Tehran this week in an effort to persuade the regime to open its nuclear facilities to unannounced inspection, there were disturbing new accounts of heightened military cooperation between Iran and North Korea. First, the Los Angeles Times reported that North Korean military scientists were recently seen entering Iranian nuclear facilities, and were helping Iran test a nuclear warhead. So many North Koreans are presently in Iran working on nuclear and ballistic missile projects, the story said, that a Caspian Sea resort has been furnished for their use.

Then, just two days ago, a story in the Japanese newspaper Sankei reported that the two countries would likely reach an agreement in mid-October to jointly develop nuclear warheads. Also, under the agreement, North Korea will export Taepodong missile components for assembly in Iran. The story said that a North Korean arms export company was working on the deal, together with Iranian military and aerospace officials. Two months ago, Sankei reported that Iranian nuclear experts visited North Korea in March, April and May, possibly to learn from the communist regime how to be more successful in stonewalling IAEA inspectors.

If the reports turn out to be true, they would constitute just the latest sign of how Iran and North Korea, the two surviving members of the "axis of evil" mentioned by President Bush in last year's State of the Union, are collaborating in the production of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. For upwards of a decade, Pyongyang, which is in desperate need of money, has sold missile technology to Tehran in return for cash. North Korea, in turn (which has no economic activity to speak of aside from its weapons programs) uses the money to lower its production costs and invest in new weapons technologies which menace its neighbors. Iran, for its part, has obtained missiles which can threaten U.S. allies in the Middle East, such as Israel, Jordan and Turkey. Were Iran to acquire the Taepodong-2 missile (with a range of approximately 3,600 miles), it would be able to hit targets in much of Europe.

And if anything, the immediate situation looks even bleaker. Western intelligence estimates suggest that Iran may be just two years away from acquiring a nuclear weapon of its own. Were it to do so, it would obtain the ability to deter any military action against it by the United States in response to its meddling in Iraq and efforts to torpedo the Arab-Israeli peace process. As for North Korea, the Japanese government, in an annual defense report issued Tuesday, calls the DPRK the top security threat it faces.

On the positive side, the Japanese government's new awareness of the North Korean threat has spurred it to come out in favor of speeding up research on anti-missile defenses. Japan's new assertiveness and realism on defense is welcome. Washington should encourage Tokyo to play a larger role in helping protect the Pacific Rim from local predators.

http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20030807-081836-8599r.htm
3 posted on 08/08/2003 12:07:24 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Ayatollah Khomeini's Grandson:'The Iranian Regime Is the World's Worst Dictatorship'

August 06, 2003
Middle East Media Research Institute
MEMRI

The London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that Hussein Khomeini, the grandson of the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, had left his place of residence in Iran's holy Shi'ite city of Qom to relocate to Iraq's holy Shi'ite city of Najaf, which is traditionally the seat of the highest Shi'ite religious authority, as a sign of protest against Iran's regime. [1]Hussein Khomeini, 46, called the Iranian regime "the world's worst dictatorship," and stated that the regime's heads, Supreme Leader 'Ali Khamenei and former president and current Expediency Council head Hashemi Rafsanjani"and everyone who has taken over the regime" since his grandfather's time "was exploiting his [Ayatollah Khomeini's] name, the name of Islam, and the religious regime in order to continue their tyrannical rule." Hussein Khomeini called for the separation of religion and state in Iran and expressed his expectation that the movement opposing the Iranian regime would gather momentum and turn into a popular movement.

The newspaper also noted that members of Iran 's Revolutionary Guards were now searching for Hussein Khomeini in Iraq because Iranian authorities fear that he could become a symbol of resistance to the Iranian regime. [2]The following are excerpts from Al-Sharq Al-Awsat's report:

From Qom to Najaf

According to the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat report, tensions between Hussein Khomeini and Iran's religious leadership increased in recent years after Hussein Khomeini publicly lent his support to the students and reformists and issued statements that the Fatwas issued by the Judiciary against the Iranian students, intellectuals, and writers opposed to the regime were illegitimate. [3]

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat added that Hussein Khomeini's move to Najaf, which was done without the knowledge of the Iranian authorities, sparked suspicion among Iran's conservatives, who are aware of the extent of Khomeini's influence in the religious seminary in Najaf and among the religious youth, as well as within reformist circles. According to a source close to the reformists, the Iranian authorities fear that Hussein Khomeini will become a new symbol of the religious opposition to the regime in Iran. [4]

According to the paper, from his temporary residence in a region of Iraq, prior to his move to Najaf, Hussein Khomeini stressed that Iran needed "a democratic regime that does not make use of religion as a means of oppressing the people and strangling society." He noted further that it was necessary "to separate the religion from the state," and "to put an end to the tyrannical rule of religion that was reminiscent of the rule of the Church during Europe's Dark Ages," and that "All those who took control of the centers of power of Iran after my grandfather are exploiting his name, the name of Islam, and the religious regime so as to continue their tyrannical rule."

'The World's Worst Dictatorship'

The paper also noted that Hussein Khomeini spoke of the dissatisfaction and the anger pervading the Iranian street, and that he considered the current religious regime in Iran to be "the world's worst dictatorship." According to the paper, Khomeini believes that Iran's escalating protest movement "would in not too long develop into a popular revolution, and soon we would see the great event, i.e. regime change." [5]

Khomeini, who has strong ties to some Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanders and members of the Iranian parliament and the Iranian security apparatuses, emphasized that he was continuing his struggle in order to bring about a change in the situation in Iran. He stated: "Freedom is more important than bread. If the Americans will provide it, let them come – but the Iranian people is capable of determining the fate of the current regime by itself… What we need is international sympathy and understanding for our legitimate needs." [6]

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat was informed that a squad commanded by a member of the intelligence service of the Revolutionary Guards known as "Assadi" had entered Iraqi territory the previous week in search of Hussein Khomeini, in order to assassinate him. An Iranian reformist source told the paper that Revolutionary Guards Deputy Commander Mohammed Baqir Dhu Al-Qadr had, in a meeting with top officials in the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence service, promised to put an end to the Khomeini phenomenon epitomized by Hussein Khomeini, just as his uncle, Ahmad Khomeini, was assassinated when he stopped supporting the regime and publicized his opposition to it. [7]

Najaf Versus Qom : Two Cities Holy to Shi'ites

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat noted that Hussein Khomeini's move to Najaf was considered a "painful blow" to the Iranian regime's years-long attempt to make Qom the capital of the Marja'iya, [8] as well as "a clear provocation to Supreme Leader 'Ali Khamenei." The paper added that since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, the idea of reviving Najaf's religious seminaries, opening new schools and rejuvenating the old ones, as well as the move by leading Qom clerics to Najaf, had attracted the attention of leading Shi'ite authorities who are opposed to the regime in Iran, as well as the attention of figures from the circle of Qom's religious seminary, which under the rule of Supreme Leader Khamenei is not independent. [9]

According to the paper, at the regime's order Iranian security authorities blocked sources of funding to the country's independent ayatollahs as long as they refused to accept Khamenei's authority, to consider him the Supreme Leader, and see him as the representative of the Master of Time. [10]

Four leading ayatollahs refuse to obey Khamenei: Ayatollah Hussein 'Ali Montazeri, Ayatollah Sadiq Ruhani, Ayatollah Yousuf Sani'i, and Ayatollah Muhaqiq Damad. [11]

The paper further reported that Hussein Khomeini spoke out against attempts by Sheikh 'Ali Ha'iri, who is close to the Iranian regime, [12] to impose the authority of Khamenei's control on the people of Najaf. Ha'iri, who is close to Maqtada Al-Sadr in Iraq , recently went to Iraq accompanied by personnel from the intelligence service of Iran 's Revolutionary Guards for this purpose. [13]

According to a source close to Hussein Khomeini, Khomeini considers Ayatollah 'Ali Sistani, Ayatollah Saeed Al-Hakim, and Ayatollah Fayadhi the "true Marja'iya" – that is, the true Shi'ite religious authorities. [14]




[1] The paper noted that while Hussein Khomeini is not a leading cleric, he does have special status and influence in Iranian society.

[2] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 29, 2003, August 4, 2003.

[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 4, 2003. The paper noted that Hussein Khomeini's relationship with Iran's regime had been tense since the death of his grandfather Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, and that this tension had become public following the death of his uncle (and Ayatollah Khomeini's son) Ahmad Khomeini and following the disclosure that Ahmad Khomeini had been assassinated by Iranian intelligence agents. During his last years, Ahmad Khomeini, under the influence of his nephew Hussein, had begun to speak out against the policy of the ruling group in Tehran, i.e. former president and current Expediency Council head Hashemi Rafsanjani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and accuse them of prolonging the war with Iraq in order to strengthen their rule and of removing Ayatollah Hussein 'Ali Montazeri from the position of designated heir of Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 4, 2003.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Marja'iya – the source of Shi'ite religious authority, whose conduct must be imitated.

[9] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 27, 2003.

[10] i.e. the Hidden Imam, the religious leader ofall generations.

[11] Ibid.

[12] The brother-in-law of previous Iranian intelligence minister Mohammad Mohamdi Rish'hari, close to Supreme Leader Khameini and today serving in his office and son-in-law of Iran's Experts Council head Ayatollah 'Ali Mashkini.

[13] Sheikh Al-Baydha'i and Sheikh Al-Ashkuri, of Khamenei's office and his helpers in this. Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

http://www.memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD54803
7 posted on 08/08/2003 12:15:39 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Thanks, Doc.
9 posted on 08/08/2003 12:17:42 AM PDT by Mortimer Snavely (Ban tag lines!)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach; Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; ...
Iranian journalists make symbolic strike

SMCCDI (Information Service)
Aug 8, 2003

Iranian journalists and reporters are in a symbolic strike at the occasion of the official "Journalist Day".

They intend, by this way, to protest against the dictatorship and dangers threatening them.

It's to note that several Iranian journalists and writers have been killed, in the last years, by elements affiliated to the Islamic republic regime and that several of them are languishing in jails.

Iran has been qualified as the "Biggest Jail of Journalists" by the famous right watch Reporters Sans Frontieres.

http://www.daneshjoo.org/generalnews/article/publish/article_1639.shtml

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail me”
13 posted on 08/08/2003 8:16:54 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
U.S. Promises Democracy in Mideast

By Peter Slevin
Aug 8, 2003

Rice proposes a 'generational commitment'

The Bush administration made a broad pledge yesterday to spread democracy and free markets to the Middle East, promising to move beyond the recent focus on Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an ambitious but vaguely defined project to transform a troubled region.

Calling the development of freedom in the Middle East the “security challenge and the moral mission of our time,” national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said the United States and its allies must make a “generational commitment” to Middle Easterners who live under oppressive and often corrupt governments.

In a speech to the National Association of Black Journalists in Dallas, Rice disputed “condescending voices” who say Arab cultures are not ready for freedom. Drawing on her girlhood in racially segregated Birmingham, Ala., she said: “We’ve heard that argument before. And we, more than any, as a people, should be ready to reject it.

“The view was wrong in 1963 in Birmingham,” Rice said, “and it is wrong in 2003 in Baghdad and in the rest of the Middle East.”

She offered few details of a project whose prospects have been greeted with widespread skepticism, particularly in the Middle East itself, where the depth of the administration’s spoken commitment to Arab democracy remains unproved. Historically, U.S. presidents have accepted the stability of autocratic rule.

The White House says that pattern must be broken. Beyond Baghdad, where the administration is spending $4 billion a month to establish security and a new government, officials are designing a mixture of approaches that range from grants and private arm-twisting to public criticism in troublesome cases, such as Syria and Iran.

‘SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM’

The goal years from now is a region of increasingly open societies, economic prosperity and representative government. But undemocratic rule remains the norm in a tense area where the United States has extensive oil interests and political relationships that it considers critical to the anti-terror war and Arab-Israeli peacemaking.

“It is a region,” Rice said , “where hopelessness provides a fertile ground for ideologies that convince promising youths to aspire not to a university education, a career or family, but to blowing themselves up, taking as many innocent lives with them as possible. We need to address the source of the problem.”

A central difficulty will be spurring change among allies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia that have long been criticized for their human rights records. To make significant progress, the United States must also establish credibility from a low starting point, said independent analysts who predict Arabs will watch carefully to see how much money and political capital the administration invests in such ambitions.

“How much are we going to lean on Egypt to introduce democratic reforms?” said David R. Smock, a U.S. Institute for Peace director. “So much of the Arab world is looking to see whether we really believe in democracy, or whether we’re making strategic partnerships.”

Unlike the Palestinian Authority — in which the White House is intervening deeply in management issues — and other points on the globe from Burma to Venezuela, the administration has not yet called for elections or set specific democracy-minded targets in much of the Middle East. Nor has it often established terms for improved relations.

“The difficulty they face is, since their strategy is incremental change, the initial changes are not going to be very impressive,” said Patrick L. Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “They’re going to have to find ways of convincing Middle Eastern governments that they’re serious about this.”

Rice, in her Dallas remarks and an op-ed article in yesterday’s Washington Post, said the administration intends to work intently with Middle Eastern figures who “seek progress” on tolerance and prosperity. She said “patience and perseverance” will be required, and the long-range U.S. commitment would not be primarily military, but diplomatic, economic and cultural.

In Iraq, the Bush administration used force to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party government and is undertaking the United States’ most ambitious nation-building exercise since the 1940s. To entice and cajole others, Bush in May proposed creating a Middle East free-trade area in the coming decade. The State Department is reviewing $1 billion in annual aid to Egypt, and U.S. officials are telling their Arab counterparts that change will weaken radical Islamic movements.

The administration secured $145 million this year for democracy, education and economic initiatives in the Middle East. Many of the proposed projects are small. Plans include campaign seminars in Qatar and Jordan for women throughout the region. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and a group of U.S. judges plan to attend a workshop in Bahrain next month.

SUPPORT FOR MICRO-ENTERPRISES

Officials have begun briefing Congress on a proposal to spend $20 million this year and $30 million next year on a Middle East financial corporation. The State Department is supporting a proposal by Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-Del.) to spend $15 million on a foundation to support civil society initiatives, such as strengthening an independent press.

A separate micro-enterprise project for women is on the drawing board and publishers are being sought to produce children’s books in Arabic. The administration is talking quietly with allies in Europe and elsewhere, hoping for significant support.

“We will work with our partners to ensure that small and mid-sized businesses have access to capital and support efforts in the region to develop essential laws on property rights and good business practices,” Bush said May 9. “By replacing corruption and self-dealing with free markets and fair laws, the people of the Middle East will grow in prosperity and freedom.”

Winning support in the Arab world poses a significant challenge, particularly given growing levels of anger toward a Bush administration widely seen in the region as arrogant and culturally tone-deaf. U.S. forces mounted invasions to overthrow Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. In the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Arabs are closing watching assertive new American efforts and questioning whether Bush will exert sufficient pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Smock described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “the touchstone” for Arabs and Muslims who will “look to see if we really are on the same side or not, and whether we stand for justice and liberation or not.”

A U.S. official who supports the president’s emerging policy singled out the stakes in Iraq. “If you don’t get Iraq right,” the official said, “nothing else matters much.”

http://www.daneshjoo.org/generalnews/article/publish/article_1635.shtml
14 posted on 08/08/2003 8:18:24 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: All
UK declares concerns on Human Rights situation in Iran

SMCCDI (Information Service)
Aug 8, 2003

In response to an appeal made by hundreds of Iranian intellectuals and activists, such as Dr. Hossein Bagher Zadeh, the British Foreign office says in a letter that "We have ...made it clear to the Iranian Government that we expect them to respect the human rights of all demonstrators, including any that are accused of restoring to violence."

Baroness Symons the Minister of State at the Foreign Office who has signed the letter goes on further to say: "I am acutely aware of the difficult issues in our relationship with Iran and share [the signatories'] concerns about human rights and freedom of expression. Through a policy of critical engagement we put forward our views and concerns about human rights abuses regularly and at the highest levels, as Jack Straw did most recently while in Tehran on 29-30 June."

http://www.daneshjoo.org/generalnews/article/publish/article_1640.shtml
16 posted on 08/08/2003 8:21:09 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Iran Holding al-Qaida Men 'as Bargaining Chip with US'

August 08, 2003
The Guardian
Dan De Luce

Iran is using the senior members of the al-Qaida network it has detained as a bargaining chip in its war of nerves with the US, and will only allow their extradition in return for substantial concessions, sources in the political establishment said yesterday.

"Iran holds the golden key on the al-Qaida issue, and the US knows it," a source familiar with the senior leadership told the Guardian. "They need us."

Iranian officials privately acknowledge that Tehran is holding important members of the network - thought to include Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian who is believed to be the head of al-Qaida's military operations; Suleiman Abu Ghaith, its Kuwaiti-born spokesman; and Saad bin Laden, the son of the its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Reports in Saudi-owned newspapers have alleged that the network's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, may also be in Iranian custody. The government has officially confirmed it is holding some senior figures, but has declined to name them.

With Iran under intense US-led pressure over its nuclear programme, its role in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, al-Qaida members held in custody could provide invaluable leverage in negotiations with Washington.

Fleeing the attack on Afghanistan, hundreds of al-Qaida members crossed the border into Iran. Although some 500 have been extradited, some figures are reported to have received protection from Iran's revolutionary guard.

Whenever the extradition of al-Qaida members has been suggested by European diplomats, Tehran has protested that an exiled Iranian resistance group, the People's Mojahedin of Iraq, has received lenient treatment in the west .

Iranian sources and European diplomats say resolving the fate of this group is inextricably linked with any handover of al-Qaida suspects.

Iran has demanded the US take a firmer line against the People's Mojahedin, which has bases in Iraq and has staged attacks against Tehran. US-led forces have disarmed the group in Iraq and are questioning its officers in an attempt to glean intelligence about Iran.

French authorities recently staged a raid on the group's headquarters in Paris - a move praised by Iranian sources, who said it was part of an understanding under which Tehran would eventually allow the extradition of Algerian nationals linked to bombings in France.

"The US should take note of France's policy on this issue," one source said. French officials have denied a quid pro quo with Tehran.

Iran remains resentful at being named by President George Bush's as part of the "axis of evil", and some within its establishment remain opposed to handing over prisoners at any time.

"Iranian radical conservatives believe that we should cooperate with al-Qaida and turn them into another Hamas," said Saeed Leylaz, a political analyst at Sharif University. "The main policy of these radicals is to militarise the situation in Iran to survive, so they need America's hostility - and unfortunately the US adds fuel to their fire."

Tehran also has reason to fear the network if Iran is seen to be cooperating with the US, Iranian sources say. Saudi Arabia, too, fears al-Qaida's wrath.

Iran has developed close cooperation on security with Riyadh, and there is speculation that Tehran may eventually extradite al-Qaida members to Saudi Arabia.

If Iran is really holding some of al-Qaida's most powerful figures, it would be a serious setback for the organisation, three of whose military commanders have been captured or killed in the past two years.

Even so, its autonomous cells are still able to operate, experts say. The group is suspected of a role in the bombing on Tuesday of a US-managed hotel in Jakarta, which killed 16 people.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,1014346,00.html
17 posted on 08/08/2003 8:22:07 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach; Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; ...
Secret US-Iran Talks?

August 08, 2003
Neftegaz.RU
neftegaz.ru

It was reported that Iranian President Mohammad Khatami sent a letter to US Secretary of State, Collin Powell and asked for secret direct talks in Geneva.

However, the foreign minister was quick to deny that the President has never written such a letter.

He went on claiming that Iran does not need clandestine relations to any country but can defend its interest in an open, transparent way.

http://www.neftegaz.ru/english/lenta/show.php?id=38539

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19 posted on 08/08/2003 8:24:37 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach; Pan_Yans Wife; fat city; freedom44; Tamsey; Grampa Dave; PhiKapMom; ...
Judiciary to Release only Repentant Students

August 07, 2003
Iran Weekly Press Digest
Iran WPD

In the wake of an amnesty proposal for detained students, the Iranian judiciary only released those repentant of their participation in political unrests, the Tehran press reported Thursday.

Tehran prosecutor's office said in a statement that nine students detained in connection with the unrests of June and July will be released.

The total number of the detained students is said to be around 90. hence just ten per cent of them became subject of Tuesday’s amnesty call by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Students throughout the country had staged in June and July protest demonstrations during which they called for the resignation of state leaders and a referendum to amend the political status quo of the country.

The remaining detained students will reportedly go on trial later this week with Tehran university officials already looking for lawyers to represent them in court.

The news agency Kar had reported Wednesday that seven students were thrown out from Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti in connection with recent political unrests.

http://www.iranwpd.com/

"If you want on or off this Iran ping list, Freepmail me”
20 posted on 08/08/2003 8:26:38 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
Bush administration paralyzed over Iran

By Jim Lobe
AsiaTimes Online 8.8.2003

WASHINGTON - Does the administration of US President George W Bush still consider al-Qaeda and its associates the main target in its almost three-year-old "war on terrorism", or has its military victory in Iraq whetted its appetite for bigger game?

That is in effect the question that the powers-that-be in Iran appear to be posing to Washington at a critical moment in the war's evolution. The administration appears deadlocked over an answer.

According to a series of leaks by US officials, Iran has offered to hand over, if not directly to Washington then to friendly allies, three senior al-Qaeda leaders and might provide another three top terrorist suspects that Washington believes are being held by Tehran.

But its price - for the US military to shut down permanently the operations of an Iraq-based Iranian rebel group that is on the State Department's official terrorism list - might be too high for some hardliners, centered in the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office, who led the charge for war in Iraq.

Members of this group see the rebels, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), or People's Mujahedin, as potentially helpful to their ambitions to achieve "regime change" in Iran, charter member of Bush's "axis of evil" and a nation that is believed to have accelerated its nuclear-weapons program in recent months.

The question of what to do about the reported Iranian offer is one of the issues being discussed this week in successive visits to Bush's Texas ranch by Secretary of State Colin Powell (who returned from there Wednesday night), Cheney, and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld.

Iran has confirmed that it is holding three al-Qaeda leaders, including Seif al-Adel, considered the network's No 3 and chief of military operations who already has a US$25 million bounty on his head; its spokesman, Suleiman Abu Gheith; and Saad bin Laden, Osama bin Laden's third-oldest son.

In addition, Washington believes Tehran also has custody of three other much-sought-after targets: Abu Hafs, a senior al-Qaeda operative known as "the Mauritanian"; Abu Musab Zarqawi, who has been depicted by the administration as a key link between al-Qaeda and former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein; and possibly Mohammed al Masri, an al-Qaeda associate active in East Africa, according to a recent report by a special investigative team of the Knight Ridder newspaper chain.

"If Washington could get its hands on even half these guys, it would be the biggest advance since the fall of Afghanistan in the fight against al-Qaeda," said one administration official who declined to be identified. "If we could get them all, that would be a huge breakthrough."

The State Department has been pushing the administration to engage Iran more directly in pursuit of the best deal possible and was reportedly authorized to hold one meeting with the Iranians two weeks ago.

Washington and Tehran broke off bilateral relations during the US Embassy hostage crisis in 1980, but quiet meetings were held over the past year, until they were broken off in mid-May after administration hardliners charged that a series of terrorist attacks carried out against US and other foreign targets in Saudi Arabia on May 12 were organized from Iranian territory, presumably with the approval of elements of its government.

But the same hardliners reportedly oppose a deal with Tehran, which they depict not only as a sponsor of terrorism determined to acquire nuclear weapons, but also an exhausted dictatorship teetering on the verge of collapse that could be easily overthrown in a popular insurrection, with covert US help or even military intervention.

The hawks are backed by the Likud government in Israel, which has been urging Washington to go after Iran since even before the war in Iraq. As soon as Iraq is dealt with, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the New York Post last November, he "will push for Iran to be at the top of the 'to do' list".

Pentagon hardliners, who exert the greatest control over the occupation authority in Iraq, last month authorized the rebirth of the arm of Saddam Hussein's intelligence service - the Mukhabarat - that worked on Iran, according to the Pentagon-backed Iraqi National Congress (INC), which is helping in the effort.

That was the same unit that worked closely with the MEK under Saddam Hussein.

The MEK, which began in the late 1960s as a left-wing Islamist movement against the Shah but broke violently with the leaders of the Islamic Republic after the 1978-79 revolution, was given its own bases, tanks and other heavy weapons by the Iraqi leader during the Iran-Iraq War, all of which it retained during his regime to use in raids against Iran, but also to help Saddam put down unrest, particularly after the 1991 Gulf War.

US forces bombed the group's bases in the initial phases of the Iraq campaign this year, but negotiated a ceasefire and eventually a surrender as Washington expanded its control over Iraq. Yet the group has been permitted to retain most of its weapons, remain together, and, despite its listing by the State Department as a terrorist group and Tehran's demands that it be completely dismantled, continue radio broadcasting into Iran.

Although the MEK, which displays many of the characteristics of a cult in its hero-worship of its "first couple", Maryam and Massoud Rajavi, appears to have intelligence assets inside Iran - the group was the first to alert Washington to the existence of a previously unknown nuclear facility this year - most Iran specialists believe it has no popular following there whatsoever, and is mostly despised because of its alliance with Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war.

"It's hard to see how they could ever be seen as a political asset to the United States in Iran," one administration official who favors a deal said recently. "The [MEK] is precisely the kind of common enemy against which both the reformists and the conservatives - and even the students - are likely to rally against."

A deal would also reconfirm to an increasingly skeptical Islamic world that al-Qaeda was indeed the primary target of Bush's "war on terror" and not simply a pretext for a major intervention in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf to ensure US and Israeli domination of the entire region, say analysts here.

"Our priority should be al-Qaeda, and if we can engage the Iranians tactically to get some high-ranking al-Qaeda operatives, we should," Flynt Leverett, the top Mideast expert on the National Security Council under both presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush until his departure this year, told the New York Times on Saturday.

The same analysts argue that disbanding the MEK would help demonstrate that Washington is not applying a double standard to different terrorist groups, depending on their usefulness. But the Pentagon reportedly remains resistant to stronger action against the group.

"There is no question that we have not disbanded them, and there is an ongoing debate about them between the office of the Secretary of Defense and the State Department," Vince Cannistraro, a former counter-terrorism director in the Central Intelligence Agency, told USA Today this week.

It appears that some officials believe the MEK could yet serve some purpose.

(Inter Press Service)

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EH09Ak01.html
21 posted on 08/08/2003 8:46:22 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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To: DoctorZIn
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55 posted on 08/09/2003 12:03:42 AM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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