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Author Topic: Iran  (Read 115428 times)
G M
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« Reply #200 on: February 07, 2009, 09:39:42 PM »

The europeans are masters of "feed the crocodile, hoping it'll eat you last".  rolleyes
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #201 on: February 08, 2009, 09:20:11 PM »

By MICHAEL LEDEEN
Last week Iran put its own telecommunications satellite into orbit. U.S. officials in the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon were certainly right to warn that this shows that the mullahs have now mastered the technology needed to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles. But the terror masters in Tehran believe the satellite has an even greater significance -- another step toward the return of the Shiite messiah, or Mahdi, the long-vanished 12th Imam.

 
APMany Iranian leaders believe that the 12th Imam will return in the Last Days, which will be marked by global chaos and conflict, at the end of which Muslim believers will have conquered the infidels and the mullahs will rule the world. According to medieval Shiite texts, a message announcing the Mahdi's return will be carried to the four corners of the world so that none will be able to say he did not know that the Last Days were soon to arrive.

Eerily, the rocket that carried the telecommunications satellite into space was named "Safir" (message) and the satellite itself "Omid" (hope). In short order we can expect to hear Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announcing the imminent return of the Mahdi. He has already described the launch as a "holy event." These believers see the launch of Omid as the fulfillment of the Mahdi prophecy.

They see other portents as well. The ancient Shiite texts forecast that the seas will turn blood red just prior to the return of the Mahdi, and lo and behold some Iranian newspapers are reporting a rapid growth of red seaweed in the Persian Gulf. To this, the believers add the economic convulsion of the West, the defeat of the hated neocons in the recent U.S. elections, the failure of the West to stop the Iranian nuclear program, and what they insist was the heroic victory of Hamas in Gaza. The mullahs are desperately trying to convince their restive citizens, and perhaps even themselves, that they are going to be saved by the ultimate miracle.

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Any serious person looking at Iran today, however, would be more likely to conclude that their doom, not their triumph, is right around the corner. No country has been hit harder by the global economic crisis. Nearly 90% of Iran's national revenues come from oil, which has crashed to $40 a barrel from $140. Suddenly the mullahs are short of cash. And while the mullahs boast of a glorious victory in Gaza, most everyone in the Middle East knows that their proxy, Hamas, was badly battered, and that neither Iran nor its favorite terrorists in Hezbollah risked any of their own to challenge the Israeli Defense Forces.

Moreover, Iran's considerable support for al Qaeda in Iraq was doubly defeated, first on the battlefield and last week at the ballot box. The Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and Iraq was also a blow, as Tehran's mullahs, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had gone all-out to block it.

Even the magical auguries are less than advertised: The satellite launch was carried out by 50-year-old technology, similar to that of the Soviets at the time of Sputnik, and the red seaweed has been around for a very long time and noted by scientists for decades. The Iranian people are unlikely to believe that this regime will lead a victorious global jihad when they are enduring economic misery and enhanced repression. Executions are running at a record rate. The mullahs are so insecure that they have cracked down on Iran's most famous woman, the Nobel Prize-winning human-rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi.

The mullahs know their own people hate them, and the combination of economic failure and the defeat of their proxy forces increases their peril. The appeal to miracles is a sign of desperation, suggesting that this is a particularly good time for the U.S. finally to begin to support the Iranians against their oppressors.

The Obama administration wants to talk to the Iranians, and some reports suggest they have been talking for months. American negotiators should take every opportunity to call for respect for human rights -- on behalf of the labor leaders demanding that salaries be paid, women demanding equal rights, students asserting their freedom to criticize, and even dissident ayatollahs, such as Montazeri and Boroujedi, who have branded the regime as heretical. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would seem an ideal champion for these victims.

Above all, the U.S. must not make the mistake of limiting demands to the nuclear program. A free Iran must be the objective. There is abundant evidence that the overwhelming majority of Iranians want to be part of the Western world and live in peace with their neighbors. If Iran were free and democratic, we would not lose sleep over uranium enrichment at Natanz. We must be the people's voice. We can offer more hope than Mr. Ahmadinejad's broadcasts from outer space.

Mr. Ledeen is a scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. His new book, "Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West" will be published later this year by St. Martin's Press.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #202 on: February 09, 2009, 07:03:56 AM »

Reformist to stand against Ahmadinejad in Iran election

Ian Black in Tehran
The Guardian, Monday 9 February 2009

Muhammad Khatami, Iran's leading reformist, has said he will stand against the hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in this summer's elections, opening up the prospect of significant change that could bring improved relations with the US.

Khatami, 65, ended months of speculation when he told supporters in Tehran yesterday: "I strongly announce my candidacy in the elections. Is it possible to remain indifferent toward the revolution's fate and shy away from running?"

Analysts said the decision would mean a dramatic contest in June, offering voters a candidate who promoted liberalisation at home and accommodation with the west when he served as president for two terms from 1997-2005 during the so-called "Tehran spring".

Ahmadinejad, the incumbent, is blamed for economic mismanagement and for isolating Iran by backing militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and by his strident attacks on Israel.

In an optimistic scenario, if Khatami became president again he could be the leader who, in the words of Barack Obama, would "unclench the fist" and improve Iran's strained relations with the US and the west. That would clearly have to include agreement to defuse the row over the country's nuclear ambitions. Iran says it wants to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes but it is suspected of seeking to build nuclear weapons.

"The differences between Khatami and Ahmadinejad are bigger than between Obama and McCain," said Mustafa Tajzad, a former minister. "The results of the Iranian election will matter for the whole world."

Khatami has condemned his rival's "aggressive and blistering rhetoric", saying it "plays into the hands of the enemy, harming the country and the system."

Analysts and diplomats are divided over his chances of beating Ahmadinejad, so far supported by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who makes all key decisions.

Muhammad Atrianfar, a close ally, told the Guardian he believed Khatami could win. "We feel instinctively that people are reformists now, especially after such bad government by Ahmadinejad. Poor people who used to support him have turned against him."

Unofficial polling shows Khatami would beat the incumbent by a two-to-one margin, but an unusually big turnout - in the face of widespread voter apathy - would be needed to ensure victory.

Some fear Khatami may have harmed his chances by hesitating for so long over whether to throw his hat into the ring, reinforcing his image as a has-been.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009...iran-elections
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #203 on: February 12, 2009, 09:52:30 PM »

Moving GM's post to this thread:

**Tick-tock-tick-tock**

http://hotair.com/archives/2009/02/12/just-a-reminder-obama-doesnt-believe-the-sham-nie-on-iran-either/

Just a reminder: Obama doesn’t believe the sham NIE on Iran either
posted at 5:59 pm on February 12, 2009 by Allahpundit   

Remember that? The one that assured us, preposterously, that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and was instantly celebrated by idiot liberals as proof that there’s no threat and therefore no cause for Chimpy to keep rattling his saber? Never mind that classified portions of the same document acknowledged the possibility of more than a dozen covert nuke sites closed to inspectors, and never mind that actually building a bomb isn’t the critical step in weaponization. Figuring out enrichment — what Iran’s doing right now — is.

And now that Bush is gone and the left has to govern, they’re finally free/forced to admit it.

In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran’s “development of a nuclear weapon” before correcting himself to refer to its “pursuit” of weapons capability.

Obama’s nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. “From all the information I’ve seen,” Panetta said, “I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.”

The language reflects the extent to which senior U.S. officials now discount a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 that was instrumental in derailing U.S. and European efforts to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear program…

U.S. officials said that although no new evidence had surfaced to undercut the findings of the 2007 estimate, there was growing consensus that it provided a misleading picture and that the country was poised to reach crucial bomb-making milestones this year.

Omri Ceren’s entertaining himself by digging through the archives of nutroots blogs for gloating statements at the time about neocon fearmongering having been debunked anew. He gives them more credit than I do by assuming they really were as cretinously gullible as they seemed. I think they knew, or most of them knew, that fanatics fond of by-proxy expansionism aren’t going to risk round after round of economic sanctions just to have their very own little nuclear reactor. And so they used the NIE, in bad faith, for the purpose with which it was intended — as a political tool, to make sure Bush couldn’t take any drastic action to stop the program (which was unlikely anyway). And now, lo and behold, it’s their problem to deal with, except Iran’s that much closer to their goal. Be careful what you wish for, etc.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #204 on: February 20, 2009, 09:09:12 PM »

When Iran successfully orbited its Omid satellite earlier this month, many in the U.S. responded with indifference. David Albright, a noted analyst of nuclear proliferation, downplayed the Iranian space launcher as "not that sophisticated" and the satellite itself as "Sputnik technology, a little metal ball that goes 'beep beep beep.'" Unnamed U.S. officials concurred, stating that "There are no alarm bells ringing because of this launch," calling the event "largely symbolic."

But such equanimity is entirely unwarranted.

Let's first look at the Omid satellite. The Iranians concede its limited capabilities. Its main payload is a simple transmitter/receiver, and it has a short lifetime limited by the capacity of its small internal batteries. At 60 pounds it is minute compared to modern military and civilian satellites. Yet as a first satellite for a novice space-faring nation, it compares well with the rudimentary Sputnik and even more so with the tiny Explorer 1, America's first venture into space. Those modest machines ushered in today's giant military and commercial satellites girdling the earth. When the first Iranian spy satellite starts transmitting high resolution photographs of U.S. installations in the Middle East and elsewhere to Tehran, the true significance of the Omid will become evident.

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But it is the Safir space launch vehicle that calls for even closer scrutiny. The strong synergy between ballistic missiles and space launchers has existed since the early days of the space age when the Soviet Union's first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the R7, was used to orbit Sputnik 1. The U.S.'s first intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Redstone, was used to orbit the Explorer 1. Iran has followed the same route, as is evident from the Safir first stage, which is almost indistinguishable from the Shahab 3 ballistic missile. True, its propulsion technology hails back to the Scud missiles of the 1950s. But in the missile business old is not necessarily obsolete. Witness for example the Soviet R7 rocket that lofted Sputnik 1 half a century ago and is still going strong today as the first stage of the very reliable Soyuz launcher. Similarly, the Safir's rocket technology will continue to be used for ballistic missiles in the foreseeable future.

The real sophistication of the Safir lies in its second stage, with its elegant configuration and lightweight design. Its propulsion is based on the more modern technology of storable liquid propellants that can be kept almost indefinitely inside the missile, making it launch-ready at any moment -- a significant advantage for military missiles. The U.S. used this technology in the past and so do some of Russia's contemporary ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

A cleverly designed clamshell nose fairing (a protective cover), evidently made of composite materials, shields the Omid satellite during the Safir's liftoff. Such fairings are key elements not only in space launchers but also in multiple-warhead ballistic missiles.

The Safir ground support system is also remarkable. The missile is transported by and fired from a Shahab ballistic missile mobile launcher, while a hinged service tower provides access for the ground crews.

Contrary to statements such as David Albright's, the Safir demonstrates a fair amount of sophistication for an initial launcher. The question remains whether this sophistication is indigenous and what features, if any, have been imported from abroad. Some of the Safir's features bear the telltale signs of previous space launching experience, implying outside help. Such help could come from any country that possesses Soviet-era missile and space technology. Yet the Safir is far more advanced than North Korea's space launcher. This fact -- and the magnitude of the entire Iranian space enterprise -- indicates that much of the success is homegrown.

The magnitude of the Safir launch becomes more apparent when we consider it alongside the much less advertised launch of the Sajeel two-stage solid-propellant ballistic missile that preceded it in November 2008. Within the space of four short months the Iranians demonstrated a mastery of three different rocket propulsion technologies (liquid, storable liquid, and large diameter solid), three different thrust vectoring technologies (graphite jet vanes, tungsten jet vanes, gimbaled rocket motors), two systems of stage separation, and an embryonic multiple-warhead nose fairing. All the above are proscribed technologies whose international transfers are controlled by the Missile Technology Control Regime and by the national legislations of its subscribing countries. By rights, none of those technologies should have been available to Iran. This is a significant setback to international nonproliferation efforts and an encouragement to future proliferators.

To argue that the Safir is too puny to be used as an ICBM is to miss the big picture. It is the technology and talent behind the Safir that is cause for trepidation. Taken in context, the Safir demonstrates scientific and engineering proficiency coupled with global-range missile technology in the hands of a radical regime and a nuclear wannabe. Iran's disclosed road map to space includes more capable, heavier and higher orbiting satellites. This will require heftier space launchers, the construction of which would enrich Iran's rocket-team experience and whose building blocks could easily be used for ICBMs in due time.

Trivializing Iran's first space launch as "largely symbolic" demonstrates a lack of appreciation of what it really symbolizes: That Iran is now poised to project power globally. If alarm bells aren't yet ringing for the Obama administration, they should be.

Mr. Rubin, head of Israel's Missile Defense Organization from 1991 to 1999, won the Israel Defense Prize in 1996 and 2003.

 

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G M
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« Reply #205 on: February 23, 2009, 12:11:09 AM »

http://formerspook.blogspot.com

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Advance the Clock

Just five days ago, we noted the apparent inevitability of an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Comparing that possibility to the famous "Doomsday Clock" (made famous by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists), we calculated that, if an Israeli attack is depicted in those terms, then the "strike clock" now reads two minutes until midnight.

And it may be time to advance the hands yet again. Benjamin Netanyahu, the man who will most likely be the next Prime Minister of Israel, has reiterated his determination to halt Tehran's nuclear ambitions. In a TV interview just weeks before the Israeli election, Mr. Netanyahu stated flatly that "Iran will not be armed with a nuclear weapon."

In an interview with Israel's Channel 2 TV, Netanyahu said if elected prime minister his first mission will be to thwart the Iranian nuclear threat. Netanyahu, the current opposition leader and head of the hardline Likud party, called Iran the greatest danger to Israel and to all humanity.

When asked if stopping Iran's nuclear ambitions included a military strike, he replied: "It includes everything that is necessary to make this statement come true."

Mr. Netanyahu's remarks were part of an interview with all three candidates for Prime Minister. Opinion polls show Netanyahu with a lead over Ehud Barak's Labor Party, and and Kadima's Tipi Livni, just nine days before the election.

The interview format was odd, at least by American standards. While the candidates were together in a Channel 2 studio, they did not debate each other. Instead, they responded to questions from You Tube users. Netanyahu was the only candidate asked about the Iranian threat; Mr. Barak (the current Defense Minister) and Ms. Livni, the Foreign Minister, were asked about how they would respond to the Hamas rocket threat.

Netanyahu's comments were the latest indication that the next Israeli government will deal decisively with Iran. Last week, the respected International Institute for Strategic Studies predicted that Tehran will have enough fissile material for at least one nuclear weapon by the end of 2009.

While that doesn't mean that Iran will have a ready-made bomb within twelve months, it is a reminder that Tehran is approaching the point of no return. As their stockpile of enriched uranium continues to grow, the Iranians will be able to create a small nuclear arsenal, even if Israel strikes key nuclear sites. Timing for the attack is also being influenced by Tehran's pending acquisition of the S-300 air defense system. When the S-300 achieves operational capability--probably later this year--Israeli operational planning will become much more complicated.

The third factor is the recent change in the White House, and Israeli perceptions that Barack Obama will be more conciliatory toward Iran. So far, the new president has done little to dissuade that notion. There are unconfirmed reports that the administration is crafting a new letter to the Iranian leadership, and just lask week, Mr. Obama said he wanted a "comprehensive approach" toward Iran, with diplomacy (presumably) taking the lead.

It's little wonder that Israel feels increasingly isolated, and believes it has no choice but to deal with Iran on its own. Mr. Netanyahu's remarks don't guarantee an Israeli attack, but prospects for that option have certainly increased, given the likelihood that Likud will win next week's election.

We'd say President Obama's "comprehensive solution" will soon be overcome by events. The strike clock now reads 90 seconds to midnight--and ticking.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #206 on: February 23, 2009, 01:43:46 AM »

What can Israel do?

Even Bush in his final months is reputed to have denied permission to act.  Do you think they will fly over Iraq without BO's permission?!?  Syria?  Turkey? (there is a relationship there, but not enough for this!)

Other than their nuke capable subs, I can think of no option.

Does this writer suggest that Israel is about to pre-empt Iran with Nukes?!?

Sorry, IMHO more thinking needs to be done here.
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Chad
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« Reply #207 on: February 26, 2009, 02:45:30 PM »

As one commenter posted "may God help us"

http://worldblog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/02/26/1811713.aspx

BUSHEHR, Iran – As we were bused from the airport in the southwestern coastal city of Bushehr toward Iran’s nuclear power plant, the most noticeable feature was the large number of anti-aircraft guns dotted across the landscape to protect the facility from attack. 

It was a rare occasion – after years of delays, Iranian and Russian engineers carried out a series of critical tests at Iran’s first nuclear power plant Wednesday. The Iranian authorities offered a group of journalists a guided tour of the facility to showcase the event.   

 
VIDEO: Iran showcases its nuclear plant to reporter


The facility – which Iran says will be used to generate electricity – was built by the Russians at a cost of about a billion dollars.

The tests on Wednesday were essentially a dry run, without enriched uranium in the rods, just lead, before full-scale operations are due to begin in the coming months.

"We are very proud. Our power plant is on its way to being ready, despite all the pressure from the West not wanting us to advance," said Mohsen Shirzai, an engineer at the plant who was giving us a guided tour.

The tour itself was sanitized and carefully stage managed, but that was not the point.

The Iranians wanted to send a clear message to the international community: They have made a massive leap forward in their plans to develop nuclear technology, their nuclear plant is in its final stages and in a matter of months Iran will be a nuclear energy-powered country, despite efforts by American, Israel and Europe to curb the program.

‘A nuclear Iran’

"The United States should face reality and accept living with a nuclear Iran," said Vice President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

Aghazadeh went on to say that Iran has increased the number of centrifuges enriching uranium to 6,000, up from 5,000 in November. The move was in defiance of the U.N. Security Council demands that Iran halt all enrichment activities because it is a key process in the development of a nuclear bomb – as well as nuclear energy.

Meantime, the Russian influence was plain to see everywhere at the plant. Dozens of Russian engineers were milling around the facility, teaching and working. Most of the signs in the plant were either in Persian or Russian. The Russians even had their own camp within the site with accommodations and shops selling Russian produce, an area that was closed off to Iranian personnel.

During a joint press conference with the Russians and the Iranians inside the facility I asked Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia’s state Rosatom Atomic Corporation, how he could be confident that Iran will not develop a nuclear warhead.

But his Iranian counterpart, Aghazadeh, wouldn’t let Kiriyenko answer, saying that he was in a better position to answer that question. In his response, he unsurprisingly towed the government line that Iran has no intention of producing a nuclear warhead.

Point of pride
Signs of progress here at Busher are an enormous source of pride for Iranians. But coupled with Iran launching a satellite into space and reports that it has accumulated large quantities of enriched uranium – they are major causes for concern in the United States and Israel.

Does Iran really have enough uranium to make a nuclear weapon?

One thing is clear – if it doesn't today, it can speed up the process substantially, now that they have mastered these other complicated procedures.
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G M
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« Reply #208 on: February 26, 2009, 07:56:26 PM »

Israel can find a way, or what's left of Israel can exercise the "Sampson option".
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G M
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« Reply #209 on: February 26, 2009, 09:39:11 PM »

The Iran-Israel nuclear endgame is now much closer
Feb. 26, 2009
EDWIN BLACK , THE JERUSALEM POST
In recent days, four key developments have clicked in to edge Iran and Israel much closer to a military denouement with profound consequences for American oil that the nation is not prepared to meet.

What has happened?

First, Iran has proven it can successfully launch a satellite into outer space as it did on February 2. Teheran claimed, to the incredulity of Western governments, that the satellite was to monitor earthquakes and enhance communications. Few believe that, especially since America's own space program continuously launches unpublished military satellite missions. Teheran plans three more satellites this year, creating an easily weaponized space net that worries American military planners.
Second, the International Atomic Energy Agency last week admitted that it had underestimated Iran's nuclear stockpile by about one-third. The watchdog group now confirms Iran possesses 2,227 lbs. of nuclear material, sufficient to create at least one nuclear bomb. That stockpile includes 1,010 kilograms of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride, or approximately 700 kilograms containing the vital uranium 235 isotope, the stuff needed to weaponize.
Third, Iran has ramped up its enrichment program with thousands of new homegrown, highly advanced centrifuges. As The Cutting Edge News reported in April 2008, Iran wants 6,000 centrifuges to speed the enrichment of weapons-grade material. The number of working centrifuges now exceeds 5,400, including 164 new ones believed to be the faster and more efficient IR-2 and IR-3 models made in Iran. These new Iranian centrifuges are at least as sophisticated as its recently imported P-2 models.
American policymakers are now convinced that Iran, despite all protests and charades, is in a mad dash to create a deliverable nuclear weapon. The Obama administration has almost openly abandoned the assertions of the CIA's much-questioned 2008 National Intelligence Estimate that concluded Iran was not pursuing nuclear weaponry for the simple reason that its atomic program and military programs were housed in separate buildings.

Fourth, Binyamin Netanyahu has just become prime minister of Israel. He is determined to take action before - not after - Iran achieves its nuclear potential. This creates a volatile, hair-trigger situation that could explode at any moment. Hence, the endgame is now vastly closer than it was in mid-January, when many believed Israel might take action during the lame-duck interregnum.
Israeli countermeasures to date have included a massive international covert program of equipment sabotage, assassination of key nuclear personnel and a vibrant diplomatic offensive. But all these efforts combined amount to nothing more than delaying tactics, as Iran is irrevocably determined to achieve a nuclear weapon as fast as possible. Many believe such a weapon will be used to fulfill its prediction that Israel will soon be wiped off the map.

THE CONSEQUENCES for this confrontation are apocalyptic because Iran's full partner in this enterprise is Russia. The Russian company Atomstroiexport has provided most if not all of the nuclear material for the 1,000 megawatt Bushehr reactor, along with thousands of technicians to service and operate it.

Following its invasion of Georgia, Moscow forged ahead with final delivery plans for the S-300 advanced air defense system which can track scores of IAF airborne intruders simultaneously, whether low-level drones or high-altitude missiles, and shoot them down. But the S-300, the linchpin of Iran's defense against Israel, will not be fully operational for several months, creating a narrow window for Israel to act. Indeed, Russia has just announced a pause in missile deliveries for the system in fear that it will accelerate an Israeli response.

Iran, of course, has repeatedly threatened to counter any such attack by closing the Strait of Hormuz, as well as launching missiles against the Ras Tanura Gulf oil terminal and bombarding the indispensable Saudi oil facility at Abqaiq which is responsible for some 65 percent of Saudi production. Any one of these military options, let alone all three, would immediately shut off 40% of all seaborne oil, 18% of global oil, and some 20% of America's daily consumption.

America's oil vulnerability has been back-burnered due to the economic crisis and the plunge in gasoline prices. However, the price of gasoline will not mitigate an interruption of oil flow. The price of oil does not impact its ability to flow through blocked or destroyed facilities. Indeed, an interruption would not restore prices to those of last summer - which Russian and Saudi oil officials say is needed - but probably zoom the pump cost to $20 per gallon.

American oil vulnerability in recent months has escalated precisely because of oil's precipitous drop to $35 to $40 a barrel. At that price, America's number one supplier, Canada, which supplies some 2 million out of 20 million barrels of oil a day, cannot afford to produce. Canadian oil sand petroleum is not viable below $70 a barrel. Much of Canada's supply has already been cancelled or indefinitely postponed. America's strategic petroleum reserve can only keep that country moving for approximately 57 days.

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION, like the Bush administration before it, has developed no plan or contingency legislation for an oil interruption, such as a surge in retrofitting America's 250 million gas guzzling cars and trucks - each with a 10-year life - or a stimulus of the alternate fuel production needed to rapidly get off oil. Ironically, Iran has undertaken such a crash program converting some 20% of its gasoline fleet yearly to compressed natural gas (CNG) as a countermeasure to Western nuclear sanctions against the Teheran regime that could completely block the flow of gasoline to Iran. Iran has no refining capability.

The question of when and how this endgame will play out is not known by anyone. Israeli leaders wish to avoid military preemption at all costs if possible. But many feel the military moment must come; and when that moment does come, it will be swift, highly technologic and in the twinkling of an eye. But as one informed official quipped, "Those who know, don't talk. Those who talk, don't know."

The writer is The New York Times best-selling investigative author of IBM and the Holocaust, Internal Combustion and the just released The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops - or the Day Before (Dialog Press).

www.edwinblack.com

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1235410719930&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #210 on: February 26, 2009, 10:19:33 PM »

Again, what military options does Israel really have here?

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G M
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« Reply #211 on: February 26, 2009, 10:39:30 PM »

It's my opinion that Israel has SpecOps forces that are or can rapidly be deployed for direct action missions. I'm betting the IAF can evade/avoid detection enroute to hitting Iran.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #212 on: February 26, 2009, 11:01:56 PM »

Agree the Israeli are awesome, but the logistics of hitting Iran are a b*tch.

Distance makes fuel a serious issue, even flying over Iraq.  Do you think His Glibness will let them fly over Iraq?!?

Syria? 

Or?

And WHERE to hit?  With WHAT?   The sites are quite numerous, many locations not known, and most of them are hardened, and as Stratfor knows, plenty of them are now protected by Russian AA.

The only technically feasible option which occurs to me is missile launches from Israeli subs-- and that opens the gates to hell itself.
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G M
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« Reply #213 on: February 26, 2009, 11:23:22 PM »

Agree the Israeli are awesome, but the logistics of hitting Iran are a b*tch.

**It's difficult, to be sure, but not impossible.**

Distance makes fuel a serious issue, even flying over Iraq.  Do you think His Glibness will let them fly over Iraq?!?

**What is he going to do? Scramble fighters to shoot down the IAF?**

Syria? 

**The IAF recently defeated Syria's air defenses and cratered certain buildings, didn't they?**

Or?

And WHERE to hit?  With WHAT?   The sites are quite numerous, many locations not known, and most of them are hardened, and as Stratfor knows, plenty of them are now protected by Russian AA.

**I don't think Israel can wipe out the nuclear program, however they can delay/expose it.**

The only technically feasible option which occurs to me is missile launches from Israeli subs-- and that opens the gates to hell itself.

I don't think Israel will go nuclear first.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #214 on: February 27, 2009, 09:32:51 AM »

Assuming for the moment that BO wouldn't shoot down Israeli jets, given what we have just seen in giving $900 to Hamas, it seems pretty likely to give him a chance to do what he wants-- rupture the alliance with Israel.

Of course the Israelis just handled Syria, but the point here is about using them as a flight plath, an even longer one that over Iraq, and one with substantial risk of being spotted and Iran notified.

And if sounds like we both agree that such raids are not likely to achieve lasting consequence , , ,
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« Reply #215 on: March 02, 2009, 04:59:48 PM »

y JOHN R. BOLTON
As Iran prepares to fire up its Bushehr nuclear reactor -- and as the International Atomic Energy Agency governing board meets this week, again confronted with further progress by Tehran's nuclear program -- it is worth asking how the Obama administration is responding.

Well, the State Department recently named Dennis Ross, a seasoned Middle East negotiator, as a "special adviser" to the Gulf region -- a bureaucratic but important prerequisite for direct talks with Iran. Unfortunately, a new envoy and a new diplomatic tone cannot disguise the ongoing substantive collapse of U.S. policy and resolve in the teeth of the Islamic Republic's growing challenge.

Tehran welcomes direct negotiations with Washington. Why not, given the enormous benefits its nuclear programs have accrued during five and a half years of negotiations with Europe? Why not, with America at the table, buy even more time to marry its impending nuclear weapons with its satellite-launching ballistic missile capability?

We have yet to see any evidence that Barack Obama (any more than George W. Bush) knows how to stop Iran. Consider these four blunt threats to our interests that direct talks may only facilitate, not reduce.

First, diplomacy has not and will not reduce Iran's nuclear program. Ironically, European leaders are belatedly feeling hollow in the pits of their diplomatic stomachs, now that their failed diplomacy has left us with almost no alternatives to a nuclear Iran. Imagine their dismay that President Obama is now "opening" to Iran, thus eviscerating their tentative efforts to "close" the diplomatic cover under which Iran has almost achieved the worst-case outcome, deliverable nuclear weapons.

The West's collective failure to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions has persuaded Iran that it faces minimal risks in greater adventurism on other fronts as well. Mr. Obama's discovery of "carrots and sticks," after a half decade of European failure to make that mantra a successful policy, will lead Tehran's mullahs to one inescapable conclusion: They have won the nuclear race, absent imminent regime change or military action.

Second, dealing with Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria as though they are unrelated to Iran's broader threat is exactly backwards. Mr. Obama is again following Europe's mistaken view that ending the Arab-Israeli conflict will help to resolve other regional problems. But concentrating on Gaza only increases Hamas's leverage, just as negotiating with Syria only enhances its (and thereby Iran's) bargaining power.

We should deal instead with diseases, not symptoms. Changing Tehran's Holocaust-denying regime could end its nuclear program, as well as eliminate its continuing financing of and weapons supplies for Hamas and Hezbollah, reduce its malign hold over Syria, and strengthen Lebanon's fragile democracy. Taming Iran is not a magical cure-all, but surely addressing the central threat is more sensible than haphazardly dealing with the symptoms separately.

Third, Iran opposes a freer, more stable Iraq, and U.S. diplomacy will not change that. Given the recent political and military progress in stabilizing Iraq, Tehran holds a weak hand. Accordingly, legitimizing Iran as a factor in Iraqi affairs via diplomacy is patently illogical and would only strengthen Iran at the very moment Mr. Obama has announced the reduction of America's presence and clout in Iraq.

Iran's theocracy knows God's law without the help of mere voters, and it has no taste for the democracy to which Iraqis are growing increasingly accustomed. It is telling that Iran's Baghdad ambassador is a commander of the Revolutionary Army's elite Quds force.

Lastly, Iran has no incentive to "help" in Afghanistan, especially on narcotics, despite a domestic narcotics problem. Tehran's approach to Afghanistan is more subtle and complex. Whatever the desire to reduce its own drug problem, why should Iran not welcome increased sales to the decadent West and a weaker Kabul government? Moreover, if Iran cannot have its own puppets in control, it will welcome a corrupt, divided and incompetent Afghan government, rather than help us achieve the opposite result. As with Iraq, weak and divided neighbors on its borders are assets not liabilities for Tehran -- and ample reason not to assist us in changing these realities.

Hordes of U.S. officials with vague and overlapping mandates -- special envoys, ambassadors, cabinet officials, and, of course, the vice president -- are racing to be in the first photo-op with Iran. But what should focus our attention is the substantive risk that Tehran will use its opportunity to employ diplomacy to undermine U.S. interests.

Iran has already made clear how it will proceed. By recently withholding visas for the U.S. women's badminton team, Iran symbolically dashed administration hopes to update "ping pong" diplomacy. Perhaps in Iran they still play badminton with a clenched fist rather than an open hand.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
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« Reply #216 on: March 04, 2009, 04:11:24 PM »

As a Presidential candidate, Barack Obama called a nuclear Iran "a grave threat" and said "the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." But he also called for direct, high-level talks in the hopes that the mullahs could be persuaded to abandon their nuclear dreams.

 
APWe've never held out much hope for those talks, which would inevitably be complicated and protracted. Mr. Obama is already trying to lure Russian help on Iran by offering to trade away hard-earned missile defense sites in Eastern Europe. Russia's President claims to be unimpressed. And now it turns out that the rate at which Iran's nuclear programs are advancing may render even negotiations moot.

That's a fair conclusion from the latest report by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency. Among other disclosures, the IAEA found that Iran has produced more than 1,000 kilograms of low enriched uranium (LEU), enough for a single bomb's worth of uranium after further enrichment. The IAEA also found that Iran had underreported its stock of LEU by about 200 kilograms, which took the agency by surprise partly because it only checks Iran's stockpile once a year. This is the basis for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Michael Mullen's weekend acknowledgment that the U.S. believes Iran has enough fissile material to make a bomb.

Iran now possesses 5,600 centrifuges in which it can enrich uranium -- a 34-fold increase from 2006 -- and plans to add 45,000 more over five years. That will give Tehran an ability to make atomic bombs on an industrial scale. Iran has also announced that it plans to begin operating its Russian-built reactor at Bushehr sometime this spring. That reactor's purposes are ostensibly civilian, but it will eventually produce large quantities of spent fuel that can covertly be processed into weapons-usable plutonium.

That's not all. The IAEA says its inspectors have been denied access to a heavy water reactor in Arak, and that Iran has put a roof over the site "rendering impossible the continued use of satellite imagery to monitor further construction inside the reactor building." Most proliferation experts agree that the Arak reactor, scheduled for completion in 2011, can have no purpose other than to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

True to form, Iran continues to deny the IAEA access to other parts of its nuclear programs, including R&D facilities and uranium mines. "Regrettably," says the report, "as a result of the continued lack of cooperation by Iran in connection with the remaining issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme, the Agency has not made any substantive progress on these issues."

Further Reading
Click here to read the IAEA report.
The report contains much more of this. It is the latest in a long line of reports that should have sounded alarms but instead have accustomed the world to conclude that a nuclear Iran is something we'll just have to live with. Well, not the entire world: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned last week that "time is slipping through our fingers" when it comes to stopping Tehran. "What is needed," he added, "is a two-pronged course of action which includes ironclad, strenuous sanctions . . . and a readiness to consider options in the event that these sanctions do not succeed."

Nobody -- Mr. Obama least of all -- can doubt what Mr. Barak means by "options." Nor should the Administration doubt that an Israeli strike, however necessary and justified, could put the U.S. in the middle of a broader Middle East war. If Mr. Obama wants to avoid a security crisis in the first year of his watch, he will have to get serious about Iran now.
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« Reply #217 on: March 04, 2009, 04:56:01 PM »

Putin just bitch-slapped our trainee president. Iran will get it's nuke, Russia will force us to abandon eastern europe and we will get nothing in return.
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« Reply #218 on: March 04, 2009, 08:39:55 PM »

second post of the day

Iran can develop a nuclear weapon within a year and has access to enough fissile material to produce up to 50 nuclear weapons, a panel of current and former U.S. officials advising the Obama administration said Wednesday.

By James Rosen
FOXNews.com
Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Iran can develop a nuclear weapon within a year and has ready access to enough fissile material to produce up to 50 nuclear weapons, according to a panel of current and former U.S. officials advising the Obama administration.

William Schneider, Jr., chairman of the Defense Science Board and a former under secretary of state in the Reagan administration, offered those estimates Wednesday during a news conference announcing the release of a new "Presidential Task Force" report on Iran by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The report, entitled "Preventing a Cascade of Instability: U.S. Engagement to Check Iranian Nuclear Progress," was signed by a team of policymakers, former officials and Iran scholars that included Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind..
Also signing on to the early draft form were two individuals expected to play significant roles in the development of the Obama administration's foreign policy: former Ambassador Dennis Ross, named last month by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a special envoy on the Iran issue, and Robert Einhorn, a former assistant secretary of state who is expected to accept a senior position dealing with non-proliferation issues.

The "cascade" refers to a set of 164 high-speed centrifuges used to enrich uranium to the high levels necessary to produce a nuclear weapon. The United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently reported that Iran has enough low enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon, and currently has 5,600 centrifuges operating at its pilot enrichment facility in Natanz. Iran has declared its intention to add another 45,000 centrifuges over the next five years.

But Schneider said Iran has already "perfected the industrial aspects of enriching uranium," and can easily develop a nuclear weapon long before 2014.

"The ability to go from low enriched uranium to highly enriched uranium, especially if [the Iranians] expand the number of centrifuges, would be a relatively brief period of time, perhaps a year or so, before they'd be able to produce a nuclear weapon," Schneider said at the news conference. "So it's not a long-distance kind of problem."

Moreover, Schneider warned that the fundamentalist Islamic regime in Tehran -- which has threatened to wipe Israel off the map and equipped and funded regional terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah -- has access to significant amounts of the raw fissile material that would be the core ingredient in such a nuclear arsenal.

These indigenous natural resources include "yellowcake," the raw uranium ore that is converted to gas and then fed into the cascades of centrifuges. "Iran has enough yellowcake in the country to perhaps produce enough highly enriched uranium, if they go to that length, to produce perhaps fifty nuclear weapons," Schneider said.

Neither of the other two panel members who appeared alongside Schneider at the news conference -- Eugene Habiger, a retried four-star general and former commander in chief of the U.S. Strategic Command, and Nancy Soderberg, a former ambassador to the U.N. and National Security Council staffer during the Clinton administration -- disputed Schneider's claims.
The Washington Instiyute's nine-page report also warned that Israel "may feel compelled" to take military action to try to destroy or retard the Iranian nuclear program if Russia sells the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran.

"Israeli leaders seem convinced that at least for now, they have a military option," the report states.

"However, Israelis see the option fading over the next one to two years, not only because of Iran's nuclear progress and dispersion of its program but also because of improved Iranian air defenses, especially the expected delivery of the S-300. ... Israel therefore may feel compelled to act before the option disappears."

Schneider, who along with Habiger and Soderberg conferred with high-level officials from Israel, Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain during a trip to the Middle East last December, reported that the Israeli military still believes it can hold the Iranian nuclear apparatus "at risk," but will no longer hold that view if Tehran acquires more sophisticated air defense technology from Moscow.
"It is the transfer of the S-300 that is likely to be a trigger for Israeli action," Schneider said. "The time frame is getting compressed and we need to act quickly if we are going to be successful [in resolving the issue peacefully]."

"Time is not on our side," agreed Habiger. "We've been mucking about on this issue for years now."

Habiger and Soderberg said it remains possible for the U.S., by working with Russia, China and Arab allies in the Persian Gulf, to persuade Iran not to obtain a nuclear weapon.

"They are a rational actor," Soderberg said of the Iranian regime. "They are deterrable." If the costs of pursuing the nuclear program are made sufficiently high, the panel said -- particularly through the imposition of sanctions on Iran's oil and gas sector -- Tehran's "cost-benefit analysis" could be changed.

Iran's defense minister visited Moscow last month to press for the Russian state-controlled arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, to sell Iran the S-300 system. Russian officials, at least publicly, were non-committal.
However, Iran signed a $700 million contract with Russia in 2005 to purchase 29 low-to-medium altitude surface-to-air missiles, which were delivered the following year and became operational in early 2007.
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« Reply #219 on: March 07, 2009, 12:22:02 PM »


   
Sex, drugs and Islam
By Spengler

Political Islam returned to the world stage with Ruhollah Khomeini's 1979 revolution in Iran, which became the most aggressive patron of Muslim radicals outside its borders, including Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Until very recently, an oil-price windfall gave the Iranian state ample resources to pursue its agenda at home and abroad. How, then, should we explain an eruption of social pathologies in Iran such as drug addiction and prostitution, on a scale much worse than anything observed in the West? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it appears that Islamic theocracy promotes rather than represses social decay.

Iran is dying. The collapse of Iran's birth rate during the past 20 years is the fastest recorded in any country, ever. Demographers have sought in vain to explain Iran's population implosion through family planning policies, or through social factors such as the rise of female literacy.

But quantifiable factors do not explain the sudden collapse of fertility. It seems that a spiritual decay has overcome Iran, despite best efforts of a totalitarian theocracy. Popular morale has deteriorated much faster than in the "decadent" West against which the Khomeini revolution was directed.

"Iran is dying for a fight," I wrote in 2007 (Please see Why Iran is dying for a fight, November 13, 2007.) in the literal sense that its decline is so visible that some of its leaders think that they have nothing to lose.

Their efforts to isolate Iran from the cultural degradation of the American "great Satan" have produced social pathologies worse than those in any Western country. With oil at barely one-fifth of its 2008 peak price, they will run out of money some time in late 2009 or early 2010. Game theory would predict that Iran's leaders will gamble on a strategic long shot. That is not a comforting thought for Iran's neighbors.

Two indicators of Iranian morale are worth citing.

First, prostitution has become a career of choice among educated Iranian women. On February 3, the Austrian daily Der Standard published the results of two investigations conducted by the Tehran police, suppressed by the Iranian media. [1]

"More than 90% of Tehran's prostitutes have passed the university entrance exam, according to the results of one study, and more than 30% of them are registered at a university or studying," reports Der Standard. "The study was assigned to the Tehran Police Department and the Ministry of Health, and when the results were tabulated in early January no local newspaper dared to so much as mention them."

The Austrian newspaper added, "Eighty percent of the Tehran sex workers maintained that they pursue this career voluntarily and temporarily. The educated ones are waiting for better jobs. Those with university qualifications intend to study later, and the ones who already are registered at university mention the high tuition [fees] as their motive for prostitution ... they are content with their occupation and do not consider it a sin according to Islamic law."

There is an extensive trade in poor Iranian women who are trafficked to the Gulf states in huge numbers, as well as to Europe and Japan. "A nation is never really beaten until it sells its women," I wrote in a 2006 study of Iranian prostitution, Jihads and whores.

Prostitution as a response to poverty and abuse is one thing, but the results of this new study reflect something quite different. The educated women of Tehran choose prostitution in pursuit of upward mobility, as a way of sharing in the oil-based potlatch that made Tehran the world's hottest real estate market during 2006 and 2007.

A country is beaten when it sells its women, but it is damned when its women sell themselves. The popular image of the Iranian sex trade portrays tearful teenagers abused and cast out by impoverished parents. Such victims doubtless abound, but the majority of Tehran's prostitutes are educated women seeking affluence.

Only in the former Soviet Union after the collapse of communism in 1990 did educated women choose prostitution on a comparable scale, but under very different circumstances. Russians went hungry during the early 1990s as the Soviet economy dissolved and the currency collapsed. Today's Iranians suffer from shortages, but the data suggest that Tehran's prostitutes are not so much pushed into the trade by poverty as pulled into it by wealth.

A year ago I observed that prices for Tehran luxury apartments exceeded those in Paris, as Iran's kleptocracy distributed the oil windfall to tens of thousands of hangers-on of the revolution. $35 billion went missing from state oil funds, opposition newspapers charged at the time. Corruption evidently has made whores of Tehran's educated women. (Please see Worst of times for Iran, June 24, 2008.)

Second, according to a recent report from the US Council on Foreign Relations, "Iran serves as the major transport hub for opiates produced by [Afghanistan], and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime estimates that Iran has as many as 1.7 million opiate addicts." That is, 5% of Iran's adult, non-elderly population of 35 million is addicted to opiates. That is an astonishing number, unseen since the peak of Chinese addiction during the 19th century. The closest American equivalent (from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health) found that 119,000 Americans reported using heroin within the prior month, or less than one-tenth of 1% of the non-elderly adult population.

Nineteenth-century China had comparable rates of opium addiction, after the British won two wars for the right to push the drug down China's throat. Post-communist Russia had comparable rates of prostitution, when people actually went hungry. Iran's startling rates of opium addiction and prostitution reflect popular demoralization, the implosion of an ancient culture in its encounter with the modern world. These pathologies arose not from poverty but wealth, or rather a sudden concentration of wealth in the hands of the political class. No other country in modern history has evinced this kind of demoralization.

For the majority of young Iranians, there is no way up, only a way out; 36% of Iran's youth aged 15 to 29 years want to emigrate, according to yet another unpublicized Iranian study, this time by the country's Education Ministry, Der Standard adds. Only 32% find the existing social norms acceptable, while 63% complain about unemployment, the social order or lack of money.

As I reported in the cited essay, the potlatch for the political class is balanced by widespread shortages for ordinary Iranians. This winter, widespread natural gas shortages left tens of thousands of households without heat.

The declining morale of the Iranian population helps make sense of its galloping demographic decline. Academic demographers have tried to explain collapsing fertility as a function of rising female literacy. The problem is that the Iranian regime lies about literacy data, and has admitted as much recently.

In a recent paper entitled "Education and the World's Most Raid Fertility Decline in Iran [2], American and Iranian demographers observe:
A first analysis of the Iran 2006 census results shows a sensationally low fertility level of 1.9 for the whole country and only 1.5 for the Tehran area (which has about 8 million people) ... A decline in the TFR [total fertility rate] of more than 5.0 in roughly two decades is a world record in fertility decline. This is even more surprising to many observers when one considers that it happened in one of the most Islamic societies. It forces the analyst to reconsider many of the usual stereotypes about religious fertility differentials.
The census points to a continued fall in fertility, even from today's extremely low levels, the paper maintains.

Most remarkable is the collapse of rural fertility in tandem with urban fertility, the paper adds:
The similarity of the transition in both urban and rural areas is one the main features of the fertility transition in Iran. There was a considerable gap between the fertility in rural and urban areas, but the TFR in both rural and urban areas continued to decline by the mid-1990s, and the gap has narrowed substantially. In 1980, the TFR in rural areas was 8.4 while that of urban areas was 5.6. In other words, there was a gap of 2.8 children between rural and urban areas. In 2006, the TFR in rural and urban areas was 2.1 and 1.8, respectively (a difference of only 0.3 children).
What the professors hoped to demonstrate is that as rural literacy levels in Iran caught up with urban literacy levels, the corresponding urban and rural fertility rates also converged. That is a perfectly reasonable conjecture whose only flaw is that the data on which it is founded were faked by the Iranian regime.

The Iranian government's official data claim literacy percentage levels in the high 90s for urban women and in the high 80s for rural women. That cannot be true, for Iran's Literacy Movement Organization admitted last year (according to an Agence-France Presse report of May 8, 2008) that 9,450,000 Iranians are illiterate of a population of 71 million (or an adult population of about 52 million). This suggests far higher rates of illiteracy than in the official data.

A better explanation of Iran's population implosion is that the country has undergone an existential crisis comparable to encounters of Amazon or Inuit tribes with modernity. Traditional society demands submission to the collective. Once the external constraints are removed, its members can shift from the most extreme forms of modesty to the other extreme of sexual license. Khomeini's revolution attempted to retard the disintegration of Persian society, but it appears to have accelerated the process.

Modernity implies choice, and the efforts of the Iranian mullahs to prolong the strictures of traditional society appear to have backfired. The cause of Iran's collapsing fertility is not literacy as such, but extreme pessimism about the future and an endemic materialism that leads educated Iranian women to turn their own sexuality into a salable commodity.

Theocracy subjects religion to a political test; it is hard for Iranians to repudiate the regime and remain pious, for religious piety and support for political Islam are inseparable, as a recent academic study documented from survey data [3].

As in the decline of communism, what follows on the breakdown of a state ideology is likely to be nihilism. Iran is a dying country, and it is very difficult to have a rational dialogue with a nation all of whose available choices terminate in oblivion.

[1] Der Standard, Die Wahrheit hinter der islamischen Fassade
.

[2] Education and the World's Most Raid Fertility Decline in Iran
.

[3] Religiosity and Islamic Rule in Iran, by Gunes Murat Tezcur and Tagh Azadarmaki.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KB24Ak02.html
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #220 on: March 08, 2009, 08:52:18 PM »

I'm confused.  What is the Iranian birth rate?
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« Reply #221 on: March 09, 2009, 08:18:42 AM »


Yadlin: 'Iran crossed nuclear tech threshold'

Mar. 8, 2009
Herb Keinon , THE JERUSALEM POST
In a chilling indication that Iran's arms program is advancing steadily, Israel acknowledged for the first time that Teheran had mastered the technology to make a nuclear bomb on the same day that the Iranians announced they had successfully tested a new air-to-surface missile.

Iran has "crossed the technological threshold," and its attainment of nuclear military capability is now a matter of "incorporating the goal of producing an atomic bomb into its strategy," OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the cabinet on Sunday.

"Iran is continuing to amass hundreds of kilograms of low-enriched uranium, and it hopes to exploit the dialogue with the West and Washington to advance toward the production of an atomic bomb," he said.

Yadlin said the Islamic republic hoped to use the expected dialogue with the Obama administration to buy time to procure the amount of high-enriched uranium needed to build a bomb.

"Iran's plan for the continuation of its nuclear program while simultaneously holding talks with the new administration in Washington is being received with caution in the Middle East," the intelligence chief said. "The moderates are worried that this approach will come at their expense and will be used by the radical axis to continue to carry out terror activities and rearm. In contrast, those in the radical axis are saying that despite the change in the Americans' stance, they will continue to act against them."

Yadlin's assessment brought him into line with a similar assessment made last week by Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said Teheran had enough fissile material to build a bomb now.

But in an indication of just how subjective the question of Iran's progress toward a bomb has become, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates took issue with Mullen, saying the Iranians were not "close to a weapon at this point."

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency also said last week that it had been mistaken in earlier reports and now had evidence that Iran had enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.

Yadlin's rather dramatic statement was not made in public, but was part of the security briefing he gave at Sunday's cabinet meeting. One government official said that the point of releasing the information now seemed to be to impress upon the international community the urgency of the matter.

"He wanted to ring the alarm bells, to make it clear that everyone understood that Iran was continuing with its enrichment," the official said.

The official pointed out that Yadlin had used the phrase "mastered the technology" in regards to Iran, not that it had reached a "point of no return."

Israel made a decision a few years ago not to talk anymore about a "point of no return," since that implied that Iran could not be stopped - an impression the Iranians were keen on making, but which Israel did not want to play into, the official said.

Even though the Iranians have apparently mastered the technology for creating a nuclear weapon, it has still not done so and is probably still a couple of years away from that, he said. Consequently, Teheran could still be stopped.

The Iranians were clearly overcoming certain technological issues, and it was a matter of time before they would be able to enrich the uranium needed for a weapon, the official said.

"The idea behind Yadlin's statement was to shake people up, to show that the Iranians were still making progress," the official speculated.

Two weeks ago, Iran's nuclear chief, Vice President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, announced that 6,000 centrifuges were now operating at the enrichment facility in Natanz. He said Teheran hoped to install more than 50,000 centrifuges there over the next five years.

With the amount of centrifuges it is using in the enrichment process, Iran could add about 100 kg. of uranium to its stockpile each month, or even more, considering that it is setting up additional ready-to-go centrifuges every day.

Even 100 kg. would give it an estimated low-enriched uranium stockpile of just over 1,100 kg. - the minimum experts believe is required to yield the 25 kg. of highly enriched weapons-grade uranium needed to build a bomb. But unless the Iranians have a nuclear facility that is completely hidden from the world's view, the international community would know when Teheran began to create the high-grade uranium needed for a nuclear weapon, because it would have to kick the IAEA inspectors out of the country to do so.

Reuters, meanwhile, quoted Iran's Fars News Agency on Sunday as saying the Islamic republic had test-fired a new air-to-surface missile, in the country's latest display of military power. According to the report, the missile - produced domestically and with a range of 110 km. - was designed for use by military aircraft against naval targets.

"Now these jet fighters have acquired a new capability in confronting threats," Reuters quoted the semi-official news agency as saying.

The missile has a far shorter range than the surface-to-surface Shihab and is believed to be meant to disrupt sea traffic in the strategic Straits of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world's oil must travel.
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« Reply #222 on: March 09, 2009, 08:28:15 AM »

It might be possible to turn the Arab world against Iran, in the near future they may be begging Nato to disarm Iran. 


Morocco severs relations with Iran

RABAT, Morocco – Morocco cut off diplomatic relations with Iran on Friday, accusing Tehran in a rare public spat of trying to spread Shia Islam in this Sunni Arab kingdom.

The tensions were compounded by recent Iranian comments toward Sunni-led Bahrain that have raised hackles in the Arab world, Morocco's Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry accused largely Shiite Iran's Embassy in Rabat of trying to "alter the religious fundamentals of the kingdom" and threaten Morocco's religious unity.

The ministry, in a statement, called Iran's actions "intolerable interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom."

Iranian officials could not immediately be reached for comment after Morocco's Friday night announcement.

The Moroccan press has repeatedly accused the Iranian Embassy of proselytism in recent years. The Iranian ambassador denied the charges as recently as last week.

There are officially no Shiite Muslims in this North African kingdom, which is more than 99 percent Sunni, with the remainder of the population Jewish or Christian.

King Mohamed VI is the "commander of the believers" in the country, and the Foreign Ministry's statement equated attacking Moroccan religious unity to challenging the monarch.

Many Arab states have grown frustrated with Iran's hard-line leadership in recent years.

Morocco's move could be "a sign that Arab states are prepared to take a much tougher stand against Iran," Anthony Cordesman, a Middle-East analyst at the Washington-based Center for International and Strategic Studies, said by telephone. Or at least states "not directly threatened by it."

While small Mideast states are trying to soothe their relations with Iran because of the country's traction around the Persian Gulf, Morocco on the Atlantic coast is far from the tensions.

"It's almost as if we're seeing a polarization of the Arab world," Cordesman said.

Moderate states and U.S. allies like Morocco, Egypt or Saudi Arabia are increasingly irked by Iran's hard-line leadership, and worried by the political clout Tehran is gaining through the successes of the Shia or even Sunni groups it backs in Iraq, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Morocco's king entertains strong ties with other Arab sovereigns, including Bahrain's sultan, whose legitimacy was recently questioned by Iran.

Morocco offered its "full support for the unity and territorial integrity of the brotherly Kingdom of Bahrain," according to a Foreign Ministry statement last week. "Morocco is astonished by the odd treatment the kingdom has been subject to by Iranian authorities," the ministry said after a prominent Iranian figure made comments last month perceived as a threat to Bahrain's sovereignty.

The Gulf kingdom of Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni elite, but its Shiite majority has close ties to Iran, which holds longtime claims to the island.

Bahrain's foreign minister was in Iran last week trying to ease the tensions.

Morocco's relations with Tehran were previously cut in the early 1980s, shortly after Shiite clerics took power in the Iranian Revolution and Morocco hosted the exiled shah. Iran retaliated by supporting the Polisario independence movement in the Western Sahara, which Morocco annexed in 1975.

___

Associated Press Writer Hassan Alaoui contributed to this report.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090306/ap_on_re_af/af_morocco_iran_4

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #223 on: March 20, 2009, 03:16:14 PM »

Report: Iran financed Syrian nuke plans
Tip from defector said to lead to Israeli strike on suspected reactor in '07
The Associated Press
updated 12:29 p.m. PT, Thurs., March. 19, 2009
GENEVA - A top-ranked Iranian defector told the United States that Iran was financing North Korean moves to make Syria into a nuclear weapons power, leading to the Israeli air strike that destroyed a suspected secret reactor, a report said Thursday.

The article in the daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung goes into detail about an Iranian connection and fills in gaps about Israel's Sept. 6, 2007, raid that knocked out Syria's nearly completed Al Kabir reactor in the country's eastern desert.

Ali Reza Asghari, a retired general in Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards and a former deputy defense minister, "changed sides" in February 2007 and provided considerable information to the West on Iran's own nuclear program, said the article, written by Hans Ruehle, former chief of the planning staff of the German Defense Ministry.

"The biggest surprise, however, was his assertion that Iran was financing a secret nuclear project of Syria and North Korea," he said. "No one in the American intelligence scene had heard anything of it. And the Israelis who were immediately informed also were completely unaware."

Ruehle, who did not identify the sources of his information, publishes and comments on security and nuclear proliferation in different European newspapers and broadcasts and has held prominent roles in German and NATO institutions.

U.S. intelligence had detected North Korean ship deliveries of construction supplies to Syria that started in 2002, and American satellites spotted the construction as early as 2003, but regarded the work as nothing unusual, in part because the Syrians had banned radio and telephones from the site and handled communications solely by messengers — "medieval but effective," Ruehle said.

Ship intercepted
Intensive investigation followed by U.S. and Israeli intelligence services until Israel sent a 12-man commando unit in two helicopters to the site in August 2007 to take photographs and soil samples, he said.

"The analysis was conclusive that it was a North Korean-type reactor," a gas graphite model, Ruehle said.

Other sources have suggested that the reactor might have been large enough to make about one nuclear weapon's worth of plutonium a year.

Just before the Israeli commando raid, a North Korean ship was intercepted en route to Syria with nuclear fuel rods, underscoring the need for fast action, he said.

"On the morning of Sept. 6, 2007, seven Israeli F-15 fighter bombers took off to the north. They flew along the Mediterranean coast, brushed past Turkey and pressed on into Syria. Fifty kilometers from their target they fired 22 rockets at the three identified objects inside the Kibar complex.

"The Syrians were completely surprised. By the time their air defense systems were ready, the Israeli planes were well out of range. The mission was successful, the reactor destroyed," Ruehle said.

No comment from Israel
Israel estimates that Iran had paid North Korea between $1 billion and $2 billion for the project, Ruehle said.

Israel has refused from the beginning to comment on, confirm or deny the strike, but after a delay of several months Washington presented intelligence purporting to show the target was a reactor being built with North Korean help.

Iranian officials were not available for comment because of a national holiday. In general, Iran has been silent about the Syrian facility bombed by Israel. Syrian officials could not be reached for comment. But Syria has denied the facility was a nuclear plant, saying it was an unused military building. It has also denied any nuclear cooperation with North Korea or Iran.

The International Atomic Energy Agency earlier this year said U.N. inspectors had found processed uranium traces in samples taken from the site.

Syria has suggested the traces came from Israel ordnance used to hit the site, but the IAEA said the composition of the uranium made that unlikely. Israel has denied it was the source of the uranium.

Syria has told diplomats that it built a missile facility over the ruins of the site.
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« Reply #224 on: March 21, 2009, 01:36:22 AM »

By JOHN BOLTON

While President Obama's unanticipated Nowruz holiday greeting to Iran generated considerable press attention, his video wasn't really this week's big news related to the Islamic Republic. Far more important was that a senior defector -- Iran's former Deputy Minister of Defense Ali Reza Asghari -- disclosed Tehran's financing of Syria's nuclear weapons program. That program's centerpiece was a North Korean nuclear reactor in Syria. Israel destroyed it in September 2007.

At this point, it is impossible to ignore Iran's active efforts to expand, improve and conceal its nuclear weapons program in Syria while it pretends to "negotiate" with Britain, France and Germany (the "EU-3"). No amount of video messages will change this reality. The question is whether this new information about Iran will sink in, or if Washington will continue to turn a blind eye toward Iran's nuclear deceptions.

That the Pyongyang-Damascus-Tehran nuclear axis went undetected and unacknowledged for so long is an intelligence failure of the highest magnitude. It represents a plain unwillingness to allow hard truths to overcome well-entrenched policy views disguised as intelligence findings.

Key elements of our intelligence community (IC) fought against the idea of a Syrian nuclear program for years. In mid-2003, I had a bitter struggle with several IC agencies -- news of which was leaked to the press -- concerning my testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the Syrian program. Then Sen. Joe Biden made the Syria testimony an issue in my 2005 confirmation battle to become ambassador to the United Nations, alleging that I had tried to hype concern about Syria's nuclear intentions. (In fact, my testimony, in both its classified and unclassified versions, was far more anodyne than the facts warranted.)

Key IC agencies made two arguments in 2003 against the possibility of a clandestine Syrian nuclear weapons program. First, they argued that Syria lacked the scientific and technological capabilities to sustain such a program. Second, they said that Syria did not have the necessary economic resources to fund a program.

These assertions were not based on highly classified intelligence. Instead, they were personal views that some IC members developed based on public information. The intelligence that did exist -- which I thought warranted close observation of Syria, at a minimum -- the IC discounted as inconsistent with its fixed opinions. In short, theirs was not an intelligence conclusion, but a policy view presented under the guise of intelligence.

How wrong they were.

As for Syria's technical expertise, North Korea obviously had the scientific and technological ability to construct the reactor, which was essentially a clone of the North's own at Yongbyon. Moreover, it is entirely possible that Syria's nuclear program -- undertaken with Pyongyang's assistance -- is even more extensive. We will certainly never know from Syria directly, since Damascus continues to deny it has any nuclear program whatever. It's also stonewalling investigation efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As for Syria's ability to finance a nuclear program, Iran could easily supply whatever Syria might need -- even in a time of fluctuating oil prices. Moreover, given Iran's hegemony over Syria, it is impossible to believe Syria would ever undertake extensive nuclear cooperation with North Korea without Iran's acquiescence. Iran was likely an active partner in a three-way joint venture on the reactor, supplying key financial support and its own share of scientific knowledge. Cooperation on ballistic missile programs between Pyongyang and Tehran is longstanding and well-advanced, and thereby forms a basis of trust for nuclear cooperation. Moreover, both Iran and North Korea share a common incentive: to conceal illicit nuclear weapons programs from international scrutiny. What better way to hide such programs than to conduct them in a third country where no one is looking?

Uncovering the North Korean reactor in Syria was a grave inconvenience for the Bush administration. It enormously complicated both the failing six-party talks on North Korea and the EU-3's diplomatic efforts with Iran, which Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice so actively supported.

Mr. Asghari's revelations about Iranian financing of Syria's nuclear program -- if borne out -- will have precisely the same negative impact on Obama administration policies, since they track Mr. Bush's so closely. In fact, the two administrations' approaches differ only to the extent that Mr. Obama is poised to pursue policies, like face-to-face negotiations with Iran, that the second term Bush State Department wanted to do, but faced too much internal dissonance to implement.

The Nowruz video reflects the dominant view within the Obama administration that its "open hand" will be reciprocated. It's likely Iran will respond affirmatively to the near-plaintive administration request to "engage."

And why not? Such dialogue allows Iran to conceal its true intentions and activities under the camouflage of negotiations, just as it has done for the past six years with the EU-3. What's more, Iran will see it as confirmation of U.S. weakness and evidence that its policies are succeeding.

There is very little time for Mr. Obama to change course before he is committed to negotiations. He could start by following Iran's money trail.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

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« Reply #225 on: March 21, 2009, 08:35:55 AM »

Just kind of reiterates what is already obvious.
BO has already made it completely clear he will not stop Iran's nuclear program.
He has already made the determination it would be too costly to do so.
When Iran gets a working bomb (and Missles) he has already telegraphed the message more or less we can't or really won't stop you but if you ever use a nuc we will respond with a devastating blow (more or less).
Israel will have to go it alone.  But the world is already poised against them.  Perhaps the US can stop them too.  I don't know.
But there is certainly no evidence BO will allow them to take military action against Iran like perhaps W would have.
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« Reply #226 on: March 21, 2009, 10:26:22 AM »


  MSNBC.com


Iran’s Khamenei dismisses Obama overture
Khamenei: ‘We haven't seen any change’ in U.S. policy toward government
The Associated Press
updated 7:50 a.m. CT, Sat., March. 21, 2009
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed overtures from President Barack Obama on Saturday, saying Tehran does not see any change in U.S. policy under its new administration.

Khamenei was responding to a video message Obama released Friday in which he reached out to Iran on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian new year, and expressed hopes for an improvement in nearly 30 years of strained relations.

Khamenei holds the last word on major policy decisions, and how Iran ultimately responds to any concrete U.S. effort to engage the country will depend largely on his say.

Khamenei demands changes
In his most direct assessment of Obama and prospects for better ties, Khamenei said there will be no change between the two countries unless the American president puts an end to U.S. hostility toward Iran and brings "real changes" in foreign policy.

"They chant the slogan of change but no change is seen in practice. We haven't seen any change," Khamenei said in a speech before a crowd of tens of thousands in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad.

In his video message, Obama said the United States wants to engage Iran, but he also warned that a right place for Iran in the international community "cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization."

Khamenei asked how Obama could congratulate Iranians on the new year and accuse the country of supporting terrorism and seeking nuclear weapons in the same message.

Khamenei said there has been no change even in Obama's language compared to that of his predecessor.

"He (Obama) insulted the Islamic Republic of Iran from the first day. If you are right that change has come, where is that change? What is the sign of that change? Make it clear for us what has changed."

Still, Khamenei left the door open to better ties with America, saying "should you change, our behavior will change too."

Severed ties
Diplomatic ties between the United States and Iran were cut after the U.S. Embassy hostage-taking after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which toppled the pro-U.S. shah and brought to power a government of Islamic clerics.

The United States cooperated with Iran in late 2001 and 2002 in the Afghanistan conflict, but the promising contacts fizzled — and were extinguished completely when Bush branded Tehran part of the "Axis of Evil."

Khamenei enumerated a long list of Iranian grievances against the United States over the past 30 years and said the United States was still interfering in Iranian affairs.

He mentioned U.S. sanctions against Iran, U.S. support for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during his 1980-88 war against Iran and the downing of an Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf in 1988.

He also accused the United States of provoking ethnic tension in Iran and said Washington's accusations that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons are a sign of U.S. hostility. Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, like energy production, not for building weapons.

"Have you released Iranian assets? Have you lifted oppressive sanctions? Have you given up mudslinging and making accusations against the great Iranian nation and its officials? Have you given up your unconditional support for the Zionist regime? Even the language remains unchanged," Khamenei said.


Khamenei, wearing a black turban and dark robes, said America was hated around the world for its arrogance, as the crowd chanted "Death to America."

Toward engagement?
Obama has signaled a willingness to speak directly with Iran about its nuclear program and hostility toward Israel, a key U.S. ally. At his inauguration last month, the president said his administration would reach out to rival states, declaring "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."



"They say we have stretched a hand toward Iran. ... If a hand is stretched covered with a velvet glove but it is cast iron inside, that makes no sense," he said.

Khamenei said sanctions only served to make Iran self-reliant. Iran frequently boasts of achievements in various technological fields, including uranium enrichment, space technology, missiles and passenger and fighter plane production, despite sanctions.

"Sanctions benefited us. We have to thank the Americans in this sector. If sanctions had not been imposed, we would have not reached the point of progress and technology we are in now," he said.


© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29810371/



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« Reply #227 on: March 26, 2009, 12:00:59 PM »

Iran: Accepting an Invitation to Talk
STRATFOR Today » March 26, 2009 | 1536 GMT

AFP/Getty Images
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on March 21, 2009 in Mashhad, IranIran confirmed March 26 that it will accept a U.S. invitation to participate in a U.N. conference at The Hague on March 31 regarding the future of Afghanistan. The conference, originally proposed by the United States, will be attended by delegates from more than 80 countries. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said that Iran still has yet to decide who it will send to the meeting on behalf of Tehran.

The acceptance of the U.S. invitation follows a televised address by U.S. President Barack Obama on the occasion of the Persian New Year, in which he offered a new “diplomatic beginning” with the Islamic Republic. The United States is not only publicly recognizing the staying power of the clerical regime, but is also acknowledging an Iranian sphere of influence that spreads to Southwest Asia in Afghanistan. While Iran is pleased to be in this diplomatic spotlight, it must also tread carefully. The Iranians made it clear in their response to Obama that the mere offering of talks is insufficient. Iran has geopolitical interests in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan, and Iran is motivated to develop its nuclear program, all of which clash with U.S. interests. If the United States is unwilling to shift its position on any of these issues, then Iran will not exhibit much eagerness to go beyond the talks and actually deal.

Still, Iran is not about to pass up an opportunity to show the world that it carries significant influence beyond the borders of the Islamic Republic. The United States and its NATO allies could use Iran’s assistance in Afghanistan, specifically in regard to the wealth of intelligence the Iranians have on Taliban and al Qaeda movements in the country. There is also potential for discussions over a supplemental supply route for coalition forces in southern Afghanistan that could run through Iran. Although Iran is willing to play the diplomatic game, tangible cooperation will come at a high price, particularly as the United States is building a strategy to engage “moderate” Taliban. On a tactical level, the Iranians might offer support to certain Taliban factions in Afghanistan with an aim of keeping U.S. and NATO forces tied down on its eastern frontier. But on a strategic level, the Iranians do not want to see their Taliban rivals back in power in any shape or form. This is just one of many core disputes that will complicate any new “diplomatic beginning” between Washington and Tehran.
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« Reply #228 on: March 27, 2009, 07:49:57 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Iran Recalibrates Its Strategy For Iraq
March 25, 2009
Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani met for two hours Wednesday with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s foremost Shiite religious leader, in An Najaf, a holy city in southern Iraq. Earlier this month, Iranian Assembly of Experts Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani led a 105-person delegation to Iraq, where he too met with al-Sistani, Iraq’s three other grand ayatollahs, its president, prime minister and other politicians.

Larijani and Rafsanjani are two of Iran’s most powerful political figures. Both are part of the pragmatic conservative camp and are bitter rivals of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is seeking re-election in June. Larijani and Rafsanjani both view Ahmadinejad as a reckless leader, and they often coordinate with each other and with their allies to cast him in a negative light. And though al-Sistani welcomed Larijani and Rafsanjani to An Najaf, STRATFOR is told that he refused to host Ahmadinejad, whose radical views apparently do not sit well with the influential ayatollah in Iraq.

The Iranian visits to An Najaf go far beyond the petty political rivalries of Tehran. Regardless of whether a hard-liner like Ahmadinejad or a reformist like Mir Hossein Mousavi wins the election in June, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will still be the primary figure calling the shots as he mediates between the rival factions. In fact, the national election Iran really has to worry about is the one taking place next door in Iraq come December.

Iran’s primary goal is to consolidate Shiite influence in Iraq and use its foothold there for projecting Persian influence in the wider region. Iran’s “Plan A” for making this happen was to carve out a federal Shiite zone in Iraq’s oil-rich south. This would give Tehran a firmer grip on Iraq’s Shiite political factions, while also creating a tie to revenues from the oil fields. The main vehicle for the plan was the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), an allied Iraqi faction led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, which has devoted significant resources to pushing the idea of an autonomous zone in the south among Shiite voters.

So far, Iran’s Plan A has not progressed as hoped.

The ISCI took a beating in January’s provincial elections, while the more independent Shiite parties that prefer to keep their distance from Iran, like Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Hizb al-Dawah, Muqtada al-Sadr’s radical Shiite movement and the Fadhila Party, saw their popularity soar. In reviewing what went wrong, the ISCI recognized that its close affiliation with Iran, use of religious symbols in campaigning, false claims of al-Sistani’s backing and the push for the creation of a Shiite federal zone in southern Iraq all cost the party support. Ultimately, most Iraqi Shia favored more autonomous candidates, like al-Maliki, who have refused to tether themselves to Tehran when they have other, overarching political, security and economic interests to look after.

Those election results were a setback for Tehran and a sign of trouble to come for Iran’s ability to manage Iraqi Shiite politics. With the United States drawing down its military presence in Iraq and the Turks starting to get more involved in the Middle Eastern region, the time for Iran to consolidate its power in Iraq is now. The Iranians had known this would be no easy task, but they are realizing just how tough it will be now that the plan for an autonomous Shiite zone in Iraq seems unlikely to pan out soon. The best Iran can do between now and the Iraq’s election in December is to shore up support among the various Iraqi Shiite parties, stick to its usual tactics of playing Shiite rivalries against each other and use its commercial, intelligence and religious links to diversify its support base.

To get rid of obstacles like al-Maliki, the Iranians have a contingency plan that would call on their political allies, along with select Kurdish and Sunni groups, to try to unseat the prime minister through a soft coup. (Of course, it would still take a good deal of political maneuvering to get a no-confidence vote passed in Parliament.) Just as importantly, the Iranians must win the support of the Shiite clerical establishment in Iraq if they want their political allies to fare better in December polls. This explains the recent visits by powerbrokers like Rafsanjani and Larijani to An Najaf.

Iraq’s elections are still many months away, but the Iranians appear to be wasting no time in recalibrating their political strategy for Iraq. The fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 created an opening for Iranian expansion into the Arab world, but the United States — backed by the Arab powers and the Turks — remains the gatekeeper in Baghdad. Even as the United States winds down its war in Iraq, the Iranians will not be able to escape Washington’s shadow in their efforts to influence policy in Iraq. That is not to say the Iranians haven’t retained considerable influence to the west. But if Iran already is being forced to turn to Plan B, even as the United States is drawing down its military presence, any lingering ambitions to turn Iraq into an Iranian satellite are likely headed for disappointment.
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« Reply #229 on: March 28, 2009, 08:03:17 AM »

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1237727552931

The wonks' way--Obama must not ignore the implacable nature of Islamist extremism.
Jerusalem Post ^ | 3-27-09

Posted on Friday, March 27, 2009 7:21:13 AM by SJackson

If you follow the trail of arms from Iran - through Somalia, Sudan and Egypt to the Gaza Strip - you come to a fork in the road. One direction leads to the conclusion that Teheran's smuggling of weapons to Hamas for its fight against Israel is but a facet of the greater Islamist confrontation with Western civilization; the other to the determination that there is no war of civilizations, and that Iran and Hamas are ripe for inclusion in the international community.

YESTERDAY, CBS News reported that in January, Israeli aircraft bombed an Iranian arms convoy in Sudan bound for Hamas during Operation Cast Lead. The attack took place northwest of Port Sudan. All the casualties were Sudanese, Eritreans and Ethiopians and all the trucks were destroyed. They were presumably thought to be carrying rockets that would extend Hamas's range to Tel Aviv, making the mission worth the risk.

• The arms start off in Iran, which sees itself at war with Israel on every continent, using all available means and proxies. Teheran orchestrated the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Argentina in 1992, and the Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center in 1994. Iranian instructors taught Hizbullah the art of truck-bombing, which claimed hundreds of Israeli lives in Lebanon.

The mullahs began courting Hamas in 1990, once they had determined that destroying Israel trumped any theological differences with the Sunni jihadists.

Today, Iran is heavily invested in Hamas - financially, diplomatically, militarily and politically.

• The weapons move to Somalia, a failed state and humanitarian basket case controlled by warlords who seek to surmount clan differences with radical Islam. Youthful Shabab extremists are their shock troops. The goal is a world caliphate, but for now they'd settle for Wahhabi control of Somalia. A moderate Islamist president sitting in Mogadishu is too weak to exert power; Muslim pirates rule the coastal waters.

• The next port of call: Sudan. Once Osama bin Laden's headquarters, Sudan is notorious for its genocide against non-Arabs in Darfur. The country has close ties with Iran, whose Revolutionary Guards are training its reconstituted army.

On March 4, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Since then al-Bashir has been to Cairo - twice - to strategize with President Hosni Mubarak. And he means to attend next week's Arab League Summit in Qatar. Beyond the backing he has in the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the African Union, Bashir's support is being spearheaded by Iran, Hamas, Hizbullah, Syria and Islamic Jihad. Iran's parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, called the arrest warrant an "insult directed at Muslims."

• Next port of call - Egypt. Every bullet shipped to Gaza by Iran traverses Egypt, either overland or via the Port of Damietta in a journey coordinated by Hamas in Damascus and Iran's Revolutionary Guard. By the time the shipments arrive at the smugglers' tunnels connecting the Sinai to Gaza, innumerable hands have facilitated them, and innumerable eyes looked the other way.

AMERICAN policy wonks who argue that Iran and Hamas are ripe for inclusion in the international community see taking that direction as "pragmatic." They've unearthed Hamas's "moderate" wing - and it's "open to compromise."

Not, granted, on the core issues of terrorism, honoring previous Palestinian commitments and Israel's right to exist. But Hamas would agree to a lengthy cease-fire. And it might allow Mahmoud Abbas to front for them. Further, say the wonks, with Hamas standing over his shoulder - who knows, Abbas might negotiate a peace deal! It would be brought to a Palestinian referendum, and Hamas would abide by the results.

But none of this will happen, the wonks warn, if the West remains hung up on what Hamas says it will do to Israel.

Similarly, when the US sits down Tuesday at The Hague, with Iran, to discuss Afghanistan, the wonks will likely argue that Teheran's attendance signals its underlying pragmatism - and that this pragmatism could be torpedoed by obsessing over Iranian threats to destroy Israel.

If the new Obama administration takes the easy road counseled by these wonks, willfully ignoring the implacable nature of Islamist extremism, it will have embarked on a journey of disastrous self-delusion.
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« Reply #230 on: April 09, 2009, 09:14:33 AM »

There's good news, and some really bad news, about Iran's efforts to evade U.S. sanctions and infiltrate the U.S. financial system.

The good news is that Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's indictment this week of the Chinese firm LIMMT and its principal Li Fang Wei exposed some of Iran's illicit transactions. The bad news is that Tehran wasn't seeking U.S. currency simply as a safe haven in a turbulent market. The mullahs wanted dollars to buy critical ingredients in the production of long-range missiles and atomic warheads. And Mr. Morgenthau says they got them.

The veteran prosecutor tells us that the illegal arms trade at the heart of his 118-count indictment has provided Iran with the capability to field a new generation of missiles by the end of this year, accurate at a range of 1,300 miles. He reports that his investigation also shows that Iran has acquired technology for atomic weapons that could be ready soon after that.

Background
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
Tehran's Strip Club — 01/12/09
We told you in January about Tehran's use of British banks to conduct "stripping" transactions. Barred from the United States, Iranian banks paid U.K. firms like Lloyds TSB Group to transfer money to correspondent banks in New York while concealing that Iran was the true source of the funds. Lloyds employees had stopped the practice in 2004, though it was not discovered by U.S. law enforcers until 2007. In January, Lloyds agreed to a $350 million fine and promised to cooperate with Mr. Morgenthau's office and the U.S. Justice Department in exchange for a deferred prosecution agreement. The bank could otherwise be charged for violating the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act, under which the U.S. has sanctioned Iran.

The big remaining question has been what Tehran was doing with the money it was converting into dollars in U.S. banks. As Mr. Morgenthau continued his investigation, gaining cooperation from banks in the U.S. and around the world, the discovery of the alleged LIMMT transactions showed another pathway into the U.S. banking system apart from the stripping transactions.

And Mr. Morgenthau says his investigation confirmed suspicions that Iran was shopping for missile parts -- such as high-strength aluminum alloys and tungsten copper plates. Many of the items were manufactured in China, none in the U.S. The indictment says LIMMT, which has been under U.S. Treasury sanctions since 2006 for its role in the spread of WMD, set up a series of front companies to sell weapons to subsidiaries of the Iranian Ministry of Defense, with payments routed through U.S. banks.

Given the aggressive U.S. sanctions and the fact that no Americans appear to have been involved in the purchases, one might wonder why the rogues alleged to be on each end of this transaction were determined to do business via U.S. financial institutions. The answer is that while some transactions were conducted in euros, the dollar is still the currency of choice for global arms dealers.

LIMMT might have asked banks in London or Hong Kong to clear a transaction in dollars, but such requests are rare and would have attracted attention. That left New York, where American banks helped spot the allegedly illegal arms trade. In fact, some transactions between LIMMT and the Iranian military were also blocked by overseas banks with no obligation to do so. Seeing that LIMMT was listed on an alert from Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, these unnamed good Samaritans blocked some payments that originated in Iran.

Of course, the cooperation from banks around the world is merely the silver lining in this case. Thanks to Mr. Morgenthau's aggressive prosecution, we see again the lengths Tehran is going to acquire weapons to threaten the world.

 
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« Reply #231 on: April 13, 2009, 11:36:00 AM »

By MICHAEL RUBIN
On Apr. 9, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, announced that the Islamic Republic had installed 7,000 centrifuges in its Natanz uranium enrichment facility. The announcement came one day after the U.S. State Department announced it would engage Iran directly in multilateral nuclear talks.

Proponents of engagement with Tehran say dialogue provides the only way forward. Iran's progress over the past eight years, they say, is a testament to the failure of Bush administration strategy. President Barack Obama, for example, in his Mar. 21 address to the Iranian government and people, declared that diplomacy "will not be advanced by threats. We seek engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect."

Thus our president fulfills a pattern in which new administrations place blame for the failure of diplomacy on predecessors rather than on adversaries. The Islamic Republic is not a passive actor, however. Quite the opposite: While President Obama plays checkers, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei plays chess. The enrichment milestone is a testament both to Tehran's pro-active strategy and to Washington's refusal to recognize it.

Iran's nuclear program dates back to 1989, when the Russian government agreed to complete the reactor at Bushehr. It was a year of optimism in the West: The Iran-Iraq War ended the summer before and, with the death of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini, leadership passed to Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, both considered moderates.

At the beginning of the year, George H.W. Bush offered an olive branch to Tehran, declaring in his inaugural address, "Good will begets good will. Good faith can be a spiral that endlessly moves on." The mood grew more euphoric in Europe. In 1992, the German government, ever eager for new business opportunities and arguing that trade could moderate the Islamic Republic, launched its own engagement initiative.

It didn't work. While U.S. and European policy makers draw distinctions between reformers and hard-liners in the Islamic Republic, the difference between the two is style, not substance. Both remain committed to Iran's nuclear program. Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, for example, called for a Dialogue of Civilizations. The European Union (EU) took the bait and, between 2000 and 2005, nearly tripled trade with Iran.

It was a ruse. Iranian officials were as insincere as European diplomats were greedy, gullible or both. Iranian officials now acknowledge that Tehran invested the benefits reaped into its nuclear program.

On June 14, 2008, for example, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, Mr. Khatami's spokesman, debated advisers to current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the University of Gila in northern Iran. Mr. Ramezanzadeh criticized Mr. Ahmadinejad for his defiant rhetoric, and counseled him to accept the Khatami approach: "We should prove to the entire world that we want power plants for electricity. Afterwards, we can proceed with other activities," Mr. Ramezanzadeh said. The purpose of dialogue, he argued further, was not to compromise, but to build confidence and avoid sanctions. "We had an overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building, and a covert policy, which was continuation of the activities," he said.

The strategy was successful. While today U.S. and European officials laud Mr. Khatami as a peacemaker, it was on his watch that Iran built and operated covertly its Natanz nuclear enrichment plant and, at least until 2003, a nuclear weapons program as well.

Iran's responsiveness to diplomacy is a mirage. After two years of talks following exposure of its Natanz facility, Tehran finally acquiesced to a temporary enrichment suspension, a move which Secretary of State Colin Powell called "a little bit of progress," and the EU hailed.

But, just last Sunday, Hassan Rowhani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator at the time, acknowledged his government's insincerity. The Iranian leadership agreed to suspension, he explained in an interview with the government-run news Web site, Aftab News, "to counter global consensus against Iran," adding, "We did not accept suspension in construction of centrifuges and continued the effort. . . . We needed a greater number." What diplomats considered progress, Iranian engineers understood to be an opportunity to expand their program.

In his March 24 press conference, Mr. Obama said, "I'm a big believer in persistence." Making the same mistake repeatedly, however, is neither wise nor realism; it is arrogant, naïve and dangerous.

When Mr. Obama declared on April 5 that "All countries can access peaceful nuclear energy," the state-run daily newspaper Resalat responded with a front page headline, "The United States capitulates to the nuclear goals of Iran." With Washington embracing dialogue without accountability and Tehran embracing diplomacy without sincerity, it appears the Iranian government is right.

Mr. Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
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« Reply #232 on: April 13, 2009, 12:18:17 PM »

Marvin Kalb was on cable yesterday and he came out and said war is not an option to talks with Iran.
BO is clear that is his position also though he doesn't say it.
Unless of course he is giving Iran a head fake as to not tip them off and will bomb their nuc sites but I certainly find that hard to believe.

So Iran will become the ninth nuclear power?

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« Reply #233 on: April 13, 2009, 05:30:07 PM »

http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/2009/04/hezbollahs-mush.php

April 13, 2009
Hezbollah's Mushroom Cloud

Christopher Hitchens recently went to a rally in the suburbs south of Beirut and found Hezbollah ratcheting up its belligerence. “A huge poster of a nuclear mushroom cloud surmounts the scene,” he wrote in the May issue of Vanity Fair, “with the inscription OH ZIONISTS, IF YOU WANT THIS TYPE OF WAR THEN SO BE IT!” Last week James Kirchick reported seeing the same thing at the same rally in City Journal. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time Hezbollah has threatened nuclear war.

Hezbollah isn’t broadcasting this to the world. If Hitchens and Kirchick hadn’t written about it, few would know the mushroom-cloud banner even exists. It’s not so much a threat as it is a revelation of Hezbollah’s dark psyche. But perhaps Hezbollah’s not shouting “nuclear war” for all to hear means its threats are more dangerous than public taunts from the Iranian government. Empty threats and hyperbole are rife in the Middle East. Death threats are rarely carried out anywhere. Most assassins don’t announce their intentions. They kill their victims without warning. Whatever Hezbollah’s mushroom-cloud banner means, we know this much: intimations of nuclear war with Israel are now coming from Lebanon as well as Iran. The worst case scenario — a mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv — might be slightly more likely than some of us thought.

Every foreign policy-maker and analyst must be wondering whether Israel will bomb Iranian nuclear facilities this year or next. Most don’t know the answer. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself might not know the answer. It’s risky. Hezbollah didn’t open a second front against Israel during the Gaza war a few months ago, but it’s unlikely they’ll sit still in South Lebanon if their patron and armorer in Tehran is attacked. Iran’s Al Quds Force may retaliate against the United States in Iraq. A military strike against Iran could easily trigger a regional conflagration.

There’s a theory floating around the Middle East that I’ve heard from Israelis and Arabs alike, and some find it slightly reassuring: Iran doesn’t want to use nuclear weapons against Israel. Rather, Iran wants nuclear weapons so it can transform itself into a true regional superpower. Arab regimes fear this, which is why Saudi Arabia and Egypt have threatened to develop or purchase their own nuclear arsenals to counter the “Persian bomb.” No Arab state got into an arms race with Israel to counter the “Zionist bomb,” but they’re obviously worried about what might happen to them if Tehran weaponizes uranium. The Iranians don’t want to be neutralized by an arms race, so they’re threatening the Israelis and hoping the Arabs will relax or acquiesce. I don’t know if the theory is true, but Hezbollah’s recent mushroom-cloud banner doesn’t quite fit. Hezbollah didn’t put that on stage to calm nerves in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. They used it to thrill a crowd of furious Shia Arabs in Lebanon.

An Iranian bomb would be a problem for Israelis, Arabs, and the rest of us even if Tehran has no intention of using it. The last thing an energy-dependent planet needs is extremist regimes with vast oil reserves threatening to obliterate each other as India and Pakistan sometimes do. And the second-to-last thing Israel needs is a nuclear umbrella protecting Hamas and Hezbollah. President Barack Obama said a nuclear Iran would be a “game changer” last year. He’s right.

The worst case scenario — the incineration of Tel Aviv and a nuclear retaliation against Tehran — isn’t likely. I don’t expect it will ever actually happen. I’m sure enough — at least 90 percent sure — that I feel safe making the prediction in public. I’m a writer, though, not a policy maker. And I don’t live in Israel. I’m safe and can afford to be wrong. I won’t be killed, nor will I be blamed for getting anyone else killed. The Israeli government won’t make the same risk calculations I make. If I’m wrong, they’re dead, and so is their country.

I can’t tell whether or not Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike. But let’s assume, for the sake of discussion, that it’s 90 percent likely Iran’s threats of annihilation are just bluster. And let me ask this: How would you feel if your doctor diagnosed you with an illness and said there’s a ten percent chance it will kill you? Would you find 90 percent odds of survival acceptable? Would you sleep peacefully and do nothing and hope for the best? I travel to dangerous places. It’s part of my job. But those odds, for me, are prohibitive. Those odds are almost as bad as the odds in Russian Roulette, and you couldn’t pay me enough to play that game even once.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 13, 2009 11:29 AM
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« Reply #234 on: April 14, 2009, 10:35:49 AM »

The house organ of the O. admistration writes:
=================================

U.S. May Drop Key Condition for Talks With Iran
DAVID E. SANGER
Published: April 13, 2009
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration and its European allies are preparing proposals that would shift strategy toward Iran by dropping a longstanding American insistence that Tehran rapidly shut down nuclear facilities during the early phases of negotiations over its atomic program, according to officials involved in the discussions.

The proposals, exchanged in confidential strategy sessions with European allies, would press Tehran to open up its nuclear program gradually to wide-ranging inspection. But the proposals would also allow Iran to continue enriching uranium for some period during the talks. That would be a sharp break from the approach taken by the Bush administration, which had demanded that Iran halt its enrichment activities, at least briefly to initiate negotiations.

The proposals under consideration would go somewhat beyond President Obama’s promise, during the presidential campaign, to open negotiations with Iran “without preconditions.” Officials involved in the discussion said they were being fashioned to draw Iran into nuclear talks that it had so far shunned.

A review of Iran policy that Mr. Obama ordered after taking office is still under way, and aides say it is not clear how long he would be willing to allow Iran to continue its fuel production, and at what pace. But European officials said there was general agreement that Iran would not accept the kind of immediate shutdown of its facilities that the Bush administration had demanded.

“We have all agreed that is simply not going to work — experience tells us the Iranians are not going to buy it,” said a senior European official involved in the strategy sessions with the Obama administration. “So we are going to start with some interim steps, to build a little trust.”

Administration officials declined to discuss details of their confidential deliberations, but said that any new American policy would ultimately require Iran to cease enrichment, as demanded by several United Nations Security Council resolutions.

“Our goal remains exactly what it has been in the U.N. resolutions: suspension,” one senior administration official said. Another official cautioned that “we are still at the brainstorming level” and said the terms of an opening proposal to Iran were still being debated.

If the United States and its allies allow Iran to continue enriching uranium for a number of months, or longer, the approach is bound to meet objections, from both conservatives in the United States and from the new Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

If Mr. Obama signed off on the new negotiating approach, the United States and its European allies would use new negotiating sessions with Iran to press for interim steps toward suspension of its nuclear activities, starting with allowing international inspectors into sites from which they have been barred for several years.

First among them is a large manufacturing site in downtown Tehran, a former clock factory, where Iran is producing many of the next-generation centrifuges that it is installing in the underground plant at Natanz. “The facility is very large,” one United Nations inspector said last week, “and we have not been inside since last summer.”

Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors would be a critical part of the strategy, said in an interview in his office in Vienna last week that the Obama administration had not consulted him on the details of a new strategy. But he was blistering about the approach that the Bush administration had taken.

“It was a ridiculous approach,” he insisted. “They thought that if you threatened enough and pounded the table and sent Cheney off to act like Darth Vader the Iranians would just stop,” Dr. ElBaradei said, shaking his head. “If the goal was to make sure that Iran would not have the knowledge and the capability to manufacture nuclear fuel, we had a policy that was a total failure.”

Now, he contended, Mr. Obama has little choice but to accept the reality that Iran has “built 5,500 centrifuges,” nearly enough to make two weapons’ worth of uranium each year. “You have to design an approach that is sensitive to Iran’s pride,” said Dr. ElBaradei, who has long argued in favor of allowing Iran to continue with a small, face-saving capacity to enrich nuclear fuel, under strict inspection.

By contrast, in warning against a more flexible American approach, a senior Israeli with access to the intelligence on Iran said during a recent visit to Washington that Mr. Obama had only until the fall or the end of the year to “completely end” the production of uranium in Iran. The official made it clear that after that point, Israel might revive its efforts to take out the Natanz plant by force.

A year ago, Israeli officials secretly came to the Bush administration seeking the bunker-destroying bombs, refueling capability and overflight rights over Iraq that it would need to execute such an attack. President George W. Bush deflected the proposal. An Obama administration official said “they have not been back with that request,” but added that “we don’t think their threats are just huffing and puffing.”

Israeli officials and some American intelligence officials say they suspect that Iran has other hidden facilities that could be used to enrich uranium, a suspicion explored in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. But while that classified estimate referred to 10 or 15 suspect sites, officials say no solid evidence has emerged of hidden activity.

“Frankly,” said one administration official, “what’s most valuable to us now is having real freedom for the inspectors to pursue their suspicions around the country.

“We know what’s happening at Natanz,” said the official, noting that every few weeks inspectors are in and out of the plant. “It’s the rest of the country we’re most worried about.”

Matthew Bunn, a nuclear expert at the Belfer Center at Harvard University, said in a interview on Monday that the Obama administration had some latitude in defining what constitutes “suspension” of nuclear work.

One possibility, he said, was “what you call warm shutdown,” in which the centrifuges keep spinning, but not producing new enriched uranium, akin to leaving a car running, but in park.

That would allow both sides to claim victory: the Iranians could claim they had resisted American efforts to shut down the program, while the Americans and Europeans could declare that they had halted the stockpiling of material that could be used to produce weapons.

“The hard part of these negotiations is how to convince everyone that there are no covert sites,” Mr. Bunn said.
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« Reply #235 on: April 19, 2009, 08:16:31 PM »

http://www.memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD231709
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« Reply #236 on: May 29, 2009, 08:38:44 PM »

By JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that it is imperative that the world prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. She pledged that the Obama administration's engagement with Iran to achieve that end would be carried out "with eyes wide open and under no illusions."

Mrs. Clinton is right. Iran's illicit nuclear activities represent a uniquely dangerous and transformational threat to the United States and the rest of the world -- a threat that demands a response of open-eyed realism.

A realistic response requires that we first recognize that the danger posed by the Islamic Republic's nuclear activities cannot be divorced from its broader foreign policy ambitions and patterns of behavior -- in particular, its longstanding use of terrorist proxies to destabilize and weaken its Arab neighbors and Israel, to carve out spheres of Iranian influence in the Mideast, and to tilt the region toward extremism.

The Iranians have supported Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, and Shiite militias in Iraq. They have sponsored terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of innocent Muslims throughout the region. They have also exploited the plight of the Palestinians in a cynical attempt to put a wedge between moderate Arab governments and their people.

Consider how the balance of power and the prospects for peace in the Middle East would change if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons -- and its extremist proxies could attack moderate Arab regimes, Israel and us under the protection of Tehran's nuclear umbrella, which they would use to deter conventional military retaliation in response to their aggression.

Engaging Iran with open-eyed realism also requires that we take seriously the violent words of the Iranian regime, and its acts of domestic repression. I know there are some who dismiss Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calls for Israel to be wiped off the map as little more than political rhetoric. Others urge us not to hear Iran's rulers when they lead crowds in chanting "Death to America." Still others argue that the Iranian regime's mistreatment of its own citizens should not interfere in our diplomacy. If we ever accept that counsel, it would be at our grave peril.

As the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov once said, "A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors." There is no better proof of this than Iran today.

I am not opposed to pursuing direct engagement with the Iranians. It is certainly the preferred way to end Iran's nuclear program. But engagement is a tactic, not a strategy. What we need is a multipronged strategy that employs all of the elements of our national power. Such a strategy would include a clear and credible set of benchmarks by which we can judge Iran's response to our outreach, a timeline by which to expect results, and a set of carrots and sticks that both sides understand. We must make clear to the Iranians and the region that engagement will not be a process without end, but rather a means to a clearly identified set of ends.

And we must build a consensus domestically and internationally. Just as steps forward by the Iranians will justify continued and rewarding engagement, a lack of progress will be met with what Mrs. Clinton characterized before the House Foreign Affairs Committee as "crippling" sanctions.

With the goal of giving President Barack Obama the authority to impose precisely such sanctions, a bipartisan coalition of senators, organized by Sens. Evan Bayh, Jon Kyl and me, recently introduced legislation that would empower the president to sanction companies that are involved in brokering, shipping or insuring the sale of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran.

During last year's campaign, Mr. Obama expressed interest in using Iran's dependence on imported gasoline as leverage in our nuclear standoff. However, under current law, his authority to do so is uncertain. Our legislation would eliminate this ambiguity and enable the president to tell companies involved in this trade that they must choose between doing business with Iran or doing business with America.

I am especially proud of the breadth of the coalition that introduced this bill. It includes some of the most liberal and most conservative members of the U.S. Senate, and it should send an unambiguous message of unity, strength and resolve from America to Iran and the rest of the world.

We should likewise seek to build greater unity among our friends abroad. In the Middle East today, there is an unprecedented convergence of concerns about Iran among Arabs and Israelis alike. The question is whether we can seize this moment to help usher into place a new strategic architecture for the Middle East -- keeping in mind that some of the strongest alliances in history have been forged among old antagonists when confronted by a new, common threat.

Iran's easiest path to a nuclear weapon is clear: It is by dividing the rest of us, Europeans from Americans, the Russians and Chinese from the West. It is by pitting Arabs against Arabs in Lebanon, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority and the Gulf, and by stirring up hatred between Muslims and Jews. It is by dividing the Iranian people from the American people when we are otherwise natural allies. It is by dividing us here at home -- Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals.

The best way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons is equally clear: It is by recognizing that whatever differences divide us on other matters, our shared interest in stopping the Iranian government from getting nuclear weapons is far greater. This is why we must urgently unite to prevent that dangerous result.

Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut. This article is adapted from a speech he delivered at the American Enterprise Institute.

 
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« Reply #237 on: June 09, 2009, 08:32:24 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Iran's Political System Approaching Impasse
June 8, 2009

The last debate in Iran’s first-ever televised series of presidential candidate debates will take place on Monday. The debates among candidates seeking election on June 12 have been marked by vicious attacks from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — not only against his main challenger, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, but also against several other key figures within the Iranian political establishment. They include Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the regime’s second most influential leader (after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei). The president has made several serious charges against his opponents, laying bare the extent of the rifts within the state.

Ahmadinejad claimed to have evidence that Rafsanjani (a former two-term president who currently heads Iran’s two most powerful institutions) and his family accumulated their wealth illegally, and that Rafsanjani had conspired with an Arab state to undermine Ahmadinejad’s government. He went so far as to accuse Mousavi’s wife (an intellectual and dean of a university), who has been at the forefront of her husband’s campaign, of securing her academic credentials through inappropriate or illegal means. The situation is serious enough that Khamenei, who had supported Ahmadinejad in his bid for a second term, criticized the president, saying, “One doesn’t like to see a nominee, for the sake of proving himself, seeking to negate somebody else. I have no problem with debate, dialogue and criticism, but these debates must take place within a religious framework.”

From Khamenei’s point of view, the polarization of state and society in the run-up to the election makes it all the more difficult to manage the rival factions, as he has done for the past two decades.

Undoubtedly, this is shaping up to be the most important presidential election in Iran’s history, especially because it is a bellwether of what is happening at a higher level: a potential unraveling of the political system that has been in place since Iran’s 1979 revolution. As we have noted previously, the cohesiveness of the Iranian state has been deteriorating, with a rift between the president’s ultra-conservative camp and the pragmatic conservative camp led by Rafsanjani. The United States’ offer of rapprochement has made the situation even more urgent, as Tehran needs to arrive at an internal consensus on the direction of foreign policy and seek economic rehabilitation.

Ahmadinejad’s policies have been exacerbated divisions that have long existed, especially since the 1989 death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Until fairly recently, his successor, Khamenei, kept this internal dissent contained by balancing between different factions that have controlled various state institutions. During Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the internal struggle has shifted: Where it once was a matter of the policy preferences of rival camps within a conservative-dominated political establishment, it has become a situation in which the nature of the Islamic republic’s political system is in question.

Because he is the first Iranian president who is not also a cleric, Ahmadinejad sought to strengthen his position by claiming that his policies were guided by the highly revered and hidden 12th imam of the Shia, the Mahdi. This claim has unnerved the clerics: It undermines their privileged position, not only in the Iranian political system but also in religious terms. The implication of this is that if laypeople have access to the messiah, there is no need for them to rely on clerics — who historically have had tremendous influence among the masses.

Meanwhile, the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is emerging as a powerful player in Iran, currently second only to the clerics. But as the clerical community becomes marred by internal disagreements and the aging ayatollahs who founded the republic anticipate the day when they will be succeeded by a second generation, the IRGC is very likely to emerge as the most powerful force within the state. The ayatollahs have used their religious position to control the ideological force; if they should become weaker, the non-clerical politicians and technocrats will have a tough time dealing with the IRGC.

The first step in the trajectory of Iran will become evident with the outcome of the June 12 election. But regardless of who wins, the Islamic republic is reaching a point where the political system, facing a great deal of stress and strain, is likely to evolve into something else. It is too early to predict the exact outcome of this struggle, but what is clear is that the clerics are under pressure from many sides.
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« Reply #238 on: June 14, 2009, 03:33:25 PM »

Summary
Iranian police broke up demonstrations in Tehran on June 13 when supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi took to the streets to protest the results of Iran’s presidential election. Rumors are still circulating about the election and whether powerful political figures like Expediency Council chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani will make a move in support of Mousavi. That said, the ruling clerics seem to have made it clear that they support Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the winner. Ahmadinejad can now be expected to use his new mandate to purge Tehran of opposition under the guise of an anti-corruption campaign.

Analysis
It is now after 4:30 a.m. local time in Iran, and police have broken up a throng of some 20,000 demonstrators protesting the final results of the Iranian elections, which gave Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a clear victory over his reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi. The final results showed Ahmadinejad with 62.63 percent of the vote and Mousavi with 33.75 percent.

The number of pro-Mousavi supporters in Tehran grew from a few hundred to several thousand by word of mouth after businesses closed and students got out of class the evening of June 13 to gather around the Interior Ministry building where the votes were counted, in an attempt to demonstrate that Mousavi represented more than 33 percent of the electorate. In some spots, protesters clashed with police. Protesters with whom STRATFOR has communicated said they had been roughed up and have returned home.

Judging both from history and from pictures and anecdotes of protesters on the streets of Tehran, Iran’s security apparatus appears more than capable of breaking up these demonstrations should they continue through the next day. SMS messaging and Facebook have been shut down intermittently in Iran to prevent the protests from gaining momentum. Considering that most of Mousavi’s supporters are among Iran’s urban liberal upper class — who would use SMS messaging and Facebook — these security measures have been moderately effective in keeping protesters from organizing mass demonstrations.

There are a number of claims that the vote was rigged, but it does not appear that such claims can or will be verified. Some level of electoral engineering was likely to have taken place, but the final vote breakdown gives Ahmadinejad a wide enough margin to prevent the opposition from making a strong case that the election was rigged.

Mousavi has been reluctant to lead the protests himself in an open challenge against the state. As a member of the Expediency Council, Mousavi has to look out for his own political future and cannot be seen as the one instigating unrest in the streets. Instead, he is appealing both publicly and privately to clerics and other powerful members of the establishment, including Expediency Council chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Majlis speaker Ali Larijani, to back up his claims of voter fraud. Unless Mousavi gets support from someone in the ruling elite, his protest is likely to fizzle out.

Rumors began circulating several hours ago that Rafsanjani would speak out against the election results and that he had even resigned from his posts in the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts. If true, Rafsanjani’s backing would have revitalized and added some much-needed legitimacy to Mousavi’s campaign, and could have led to a major breach within the ruling elite. STRATFOR sources say Rafsanjani did hold a three-hour meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after the election results were announced, but the reports of his resignation and other dubious rumors of the Election Commission admitting vote fraud do not appear credible. STRATFOR will continue keeping a close watch to see if Rafsanjani makes a move against the establishment over the vote, but for now we see that as a slim possibility. Larijani, meanwhile, is looking out for his political future and his close relationship with the Supreme Leader. He is unlikely to back Mousavi in his protest, despite his opposition to Ahmadinejad.

Khamenei, Interior Minister Sadiq Mahsouli and Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi have all proclaimed that the elections were conducted freely and fairly, making clear that any move to dispute the results would represent a direct challenge to the state. The resounding silence from powerful figures like Rafsanjani and Larijani is a strong indication that the election results and claims of fraud are not compelling enough to cause a split within the ruling elite.

Even if the final tally of votes was fudged to give Ahmadinejad an edge, this election has shed light on an underlying reality that is difficult for most Western analysts and media agencies to accept. Mousavi derives most of his support from urban professional classes who responded positively to “Obamaesque” calls for change and felt that their time had come to take Iran in a different direction. The fact remains, however, that the clerical regime still carries broad support, and Ahmadinejad — despite being lambasted by his political rivals for mishandling the economy and foreign relations — has strong support among the rural, poorer and mostly deeply religious population. Ahmadinejad campaigned heavily for this election and made sure during the campaign to visit rural provinces, where some 24 million Iranians, or 34 percent of the total population, make their living. He also put a lot of money into his campaign to buy popular support. Mousavi, on the other hand, returned into the political limelight only about four months ahead of the election and struggled to connect with Iran’s lower classes, who fail to identify with the working elite or with an Ahmadinejad rival and Mousavi supporter like Rafsanjani, who is widely known and criticized for his corruptive practices.

Ahmadinejad faces opposition even among the ruling elite, but he is already laying the groundwork to unseat his opponents under the veil of an anti-corruption drive. With his renewed mandate, the Iranian president will work through the system to gradually weaken his rivals and stack the various organs of the state with more loyalists. The state is cracking down on dissenters, and unconfirmed rumors are circulating that Mousavi and his fellow reformist candidate and cleric Mehdi Karroubi and reformist supporter and cleric Gholamhossein Karbaschi have been placed under house arrest.

STRATFOR will continue keeping an eye on the streets for more demonstrations and potential moves from Rafsanjani. The situation may be tense over the next few days as Mousavi carries on his campaign to protest the results. But for now the state has spoken, and Iran looks content enough to live with the status quo.
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« Reply #239 on: June 15, 2009, 10:15:06 AM »

The Iranian Circus III
Posted By Michael Ledeen On June 13, 2009 @ 6:57 pm In Uncategorized | 44 Comments

Iran doesn’t have elections, it has circuses, and this was proven once again on Friday, when the regime announced that Ahmadinezhad had been retained–call him “landslide Mahmoud” please–as president of the Islamic Republic.  So much for the remarks of various pundits claiming that Iran was some sort of “democracy.”  There isn’t a single educated Iranian who thinks that the official numbers represent anything more than a brazen insult to the opponents of the regime.  Supreme Leader Khamenei rubbed it in when he called the outcome “divine,” but the subtlety was no doubt lost on American commentators, who were mostly concerned that the ugly circus might be good for neocons, or for Israel (yes, much the same thing, I know).  Maybe Roger Cohen still believes in [1] Iranian democracy (albeit “incomplete”), but that in itself tells you how silly the idea was.

Ever since the proclamation of Ahmadinezhad’s “triumph,” the streets of the cities have been boiling with anti-regime demonstrations, with the predictable violent crackdown from the security forces.  There is hardly a city anywhere in the country where demonstrations are not taking place, and you can gauge the seriousness of the situation by the regime’s response:

Mousavi and Karrubi, the two “reformist” candidates in Friday’s “elections” are under house arrest, along with dozens of their followers;
“Reformist” journalists and activists have been rounded up and jailed;
Cell phones (including, after a day’s delay, international cell phones) have been blocked, access to internet has been filtered, facebook is unreachable, and you can’t tweet (can the silencing of Western reporters be far behind?);
In Tehran, student dormitories are surrounded by security forces.
Stalin would be proud.  But even his Soviet Union eventually succumbed to the dissidents, and while the regime has most all of the guns, the chains, the clubs, the tear gas cannisters, and the torture chambers, there are tens of millions of Iranians who hate the regime.  The question is whether they are prepared to face down the Basij, the police, and the Revolutionary Guards.  It is usually a matter of numbers in these cases:  if a million people gather in front of the Supreme Leader’s palace and demand freedom, while half that number make the same demand in front of the government buildings in Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz and Mashad, they might win.

Until quite recently, the Iranians did not believe they could do such a thing on their own.  They believed they needed outside support, above all American support, in order to succeed.  They thought that Bushitlercheney would provide that support, and they were bitterly disappointed.  But nobody believes that Obama will help them,  and they must know that they are on their own.

Any hope they might have had in the Obama White House was quickly dismissed in the administration’s two statements on the matter.  The first came from the president himself, anticipating a Mousavi victory (it is too soon to speculate on the source of this happy thought), and of course, in his narcissistic way, taking personal credit for it:

“We are excited to see what appears to be a robust debate taking place in Iran and obviously, after the speech that I made in Cairo, we tried to send a clear message that we think there’s a possibility of change and, ultimately, the election is for the Iranians to decide but just as what has been true in Lebanon, what can be true in Iran as well, is that you’re seeing people looking at new possiblities, and whoever ends up winning the election in Iran, the fact that there’s been a robust debate hopefully will help advance our ability to engage them in new ways.”

I’ve reread the Cairo Sermon, and I can’t find a single word calling for freedom for the Iranian people.  Au contraire, Obama’s words about Iran were penitent, apologizing for the American role, back in 1953, in removing what the president called an elected government (Mossadeq, that is.  Except that he was appointed by the shah, not elected at all).  But then, history is not his strong suit.

Once it became clear that Ahmadinezhad was staying, the White House, while expressing skepticism about the accuracy of the vote count, nonetheless insisted that it might be good news after all:

The dominant view among Obama administration officials is that the regime will look so bad as a result of whipping up Iranian hopes for democracy and then squelching them that the regime may feel compelled to show some conciliatory response to Obama’s gestures of engagement.

I suppose that might be true if the regime were interested in winning a few points in the next Gallup poll, but these guys are currently fighting for survival.  Everybody now knows that most Iranians hate the regime, and a lot of them are not quietly going home and getting ready to soldier on for the next four years of brutal repression, seeing their oil revenues sent to Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda, and to the nuclear weapons program rather than to their own increasingly miserable circumstances.  They are making a stand, at least for the moment.

There are many videos on YouTube, and [2] this description from Marie Colvin, a first-class reporter at the (London) Times gives you an idea of the earliest demonstrations in Tehran:

In the Iranian capital’s most serious unrest for 10 years, thousands of liberals who claimed the election had been rigged vented their fury in running battles with police.

They fought officers armed with batons and stun grenades, set fire to police vehicles and threw stones at government buildings.

I saw police in camouflage uniforms and black flak jackets respond by firing the grenades from motorcycles into a crowd that chanted “Down with the dictator” and denounced what it called a stolen election.

In a stand-off near the interior ministry, which oversaw the count, opposition supporters formed barricades of burning tyres, sending plumes of smoke over the city. Helmeted police chased protesters who became detached from the main group and beat them with truncheons.

The first wave of repression failed.  By all accounts, as of Saturday/Sunday night the demonstrations had grown.  There were demonstrations all over Tehran, from the “good neighborhoods” to the slums, as in every other major city.

If ever there were a time for an American president to speak out in behalf of freedom, this is it.  And [3] Steve Hayes called upon Obama to do it:

Obama could tap into the enthusiasm and frustration of the protesters with a few well-chosen words about democracy, the rule of law, the will of the people, consent of the governed and legitimacy. He could choose a compelling story or two from inside Iran to make his points most dramatically, perhaps an anecdote about sacrifices some Iranians made to vote or an example of post-election intimidation.

Not bloody likely.  As Allah knows, anything said by Obama on behalf of freedom in Iran would sabotage his utopian vision of negotiating a Grand Bargain with the mullahs, and he’s not a favorite to do that simply because seventy million people are being crushed by an evil regime that vows Death to America, and moves closer to building an arsenal of atomic bombs every day.

No, it’s up to the Iranians.  Can the green revolution succeed in the face of “the dictatorship of lies”?  Unlikely, to be sure.  But life is full of surprises.  The end of the mullahcracy is not impossible.

UPDATE:  Khamenei scheduled to meet with Mousavi late Sunday night.  Karrubi issues statement calling for continuing protests.

Lots of arrests, perhaps a thousand or so in Tehran alone.  According to Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, the infamous section 209 of Evin Prison (solitary confinement, torture cells) has been emptied to make room for new arrivals.

Foreign reporters beaten and detained.  One Belgian reporter, two others (unidentified as yet).

Reports that some of the thugs doing the “crowd control” are foreigners, who speak Arabic, not Farsi.  These seem to be Hezbollah people, from both Lebanon and Syria.

Rumors that Venezuelan security personnel are also participating, although this is unconfirmed.

It does seem that some Revolutionary Guards have refused to participate in the crackdown;  some have reportedly gone over to the protestors.  This of course is a key indicator, but it will be extremely difficult to get accurate information.

UPDATE II:  Sunday night, my time.  Just got this from a fine source:

They have entered the universities and are beating the students. There are reports of deaths around town. Protests all over Europe in front of the embassies, today in DC and LA.
Students are being beaten, pepper sprayed, and gassed.
things are bad. No hope that this administration at least acknowledge the people? They are beaten and killed in the streets. Journalists are being expelled.
ME:  Still silence from the White House and Foggy Bottom.  This is the most cowardly, immoral non-reaction I can remember.  I resigned from my job at the State Dept back in 81 when I thought we were appeasing the Soviets’ repression of Poland, but this is much worse.
Article printed from Faster, Please!: http://pajamasmedia.com/michaelledeen

URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/michaelledeen/2009/06/13/the-iranian-circus-iii/

URLs in this post:
[1] Iranian democracy: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/11/opinion/11iht-edcohen.html?ref=opinion
[2] this description: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6493970.ece
[3] Steve Hayes called upon Obama: http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/06/mr_president_another_speech_pl.asp
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« Reply #240 on: June 15, 2009, 11:03:25 AM »

Obama's probable response to the crisis:

1. Blame Bush.

2. Issue another apology.

3. Go golfing.
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« Reply #241 on: June 15, 2009, 11:26:06 AM »

Mousavi and Karrubi, the two “reformist” candidates in Friday’s “elections” www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/06/mr_president_another_speech_pl.asp



hahahahahahha, reformists eh? the only difference between them and amadinijad is that they want muslims to be able to kill inifdels while wearing blue jeans.  Neither of them were willing to recognize Israels right to exist, nor were they willing to halt the nuke program.  Its all a media gong show created to by them time and give obama hope that he can fix the situation with sunshine, hugs and puppy dogs.
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« Reply #242 on: June 16, 2009, 07:34:51 AM »

Middle East

Jun 16, 2009

 


Hedgehogs and flamingos in Tehran
By Spengler

In Wonderland, Alice played croquet with hedgehogs and flamingos. In the Middle East, United States President Barack Obama is attempting the same thing, but with rats and cobras. Not only do they move at inconvenient times, but they bite the players. Iran's presidential election on Friday underscores the Wonderland character of American policy in the region.

America's proposed engagement of Iran has run up against the reality of the region, namely that Iran cannot "moderate" its support for its fractious Shi'ite allies from Beirut to Pakistan's northwest frontier. It also shows how misguided Obama was to assume that progress on the Palestinian issue would help America solve more urgent strategic problems, such as Iran's potential acquisition of nuclear weapons.

By assigning 64% of the popular vote to incumbent President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in last weekend's elections, Iran's reigning mullahs, if there was indeed rigging, made a statement - but to whom? The trumpet which dare not sound an uncertain note was a call to Tehran's Shi'ite constituency, as well as to a fifth of Pakistani Muslims. Religious establishments by their nature are conservative, and they engage in radical acts only in need.

Tehran is tugged forward by the puppies of war: Hezbollah in Lebanon and its co-sectarians in Pakistan. With a population of 170 million, Pakistan has 20 million men of military age, as many as Iran and Turkey combined; by 2035 it will have half again as many. It also has nuclear weapons. And it is in danger of disintegration.

Against a young, aggressive and unstable Pakistan, Iran seems a moribund competitor. Iran's fertility decline is the fastest that demographers ever have observed. As I reported on this site last February (Sex, drugs and Islam, February 24, 2009), Iranian fertility by some accounts has fallen below the level of 1.9 births per female registered in the 2006 census to only 1.6, barely above Germany's.

Collapsing fertility is accompanied by social pathologies, including rates of drug addiction and prostitution an order of magnitude greater than in any Western country. Of the 15 countries that show the biggest drop in population growth since 1980, eight are in the Middle East, and the head of the United Nations population division calls the collapse of Islamic population growth "amazing". Pakistan is the great exception, and that makes it the fulcrum of the Muslim world.

Ahmadinejad's invective may be aimed at Jerusalem, but his eye is fixed on Islamabad. That explains the decisions of his masters in Tehran's religious establishment who may have rigged, or at least exaggerated, his election victory. Pakistan's ongoing civil war has a critical sectarian component which the Shi'ites never sought: the Taliban claim legitimacy as the Muslim leadership of the country on the strength of their militancy against the country's Shi'ite minority. Were the Taliban to succeed in crushing Pakistan's Shi'ites, Iran's credibility as a Shi'ite power would fade, along with its ability to project influence in the region.

As Middle East analyst Daniel Pipes asks, "Why did [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei select Ahmadinejad to "win" the election? Why did he not chose a president-puppet who would present a smile to the world, including Obama, handle the economy competently, not rile the population, and whose selection would not inspire riots that might destabilize the regime? Has Khamenei fallen under the spell of Ahmadinejad or does he have some clever ploy up his sleeve? Whatever the answer is, it baffles me."

The issue is less baffling when raw numbers are taken into account. The issues on which Iran's supposed moderation might be relevant, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, are less pressing for Tehran than the problems on its eastern border. Of the world's 200 million Shi'ite Muslims, about 30% reside in Iran. Another 10% live in neighboring Iraq, and comprise about two-thirds of the country's population. Yet another 30% of the Shi'ite live in the Indian sub-continent, about equally divided between India and Pakistan. Pakistani Shi'ites make up only about one-fifth of the country's population. Their numbers are just large enough to make the Sunnis ill at ease with their presence.

                           Shi'ite                         Sunni

 

TOTAL                   219,667,367            1,238,699,792

Iran                        61,924,500                  6,880,500

Pakistan                  33,160,712               127,668,738

India                       30,900,000               123,600,000

Iraq                        18,158,400                  9,777,600

Turkey                    14,550,000                 58,200,000


Shi'ite leaders of the region believe that they stand on the verge of an irreversible breakdown of Islamic civilization, a thesis which Iraqi leader Ali W Allawi argued forcefully in a recent book, The Crisis of Islamic Civilization. Allawi wrote, "The much heralded Islamic 'awakening' of recent times will not be a prelude to the rebirth of an Islamic civilization; it will be another episode in its decline. The revolt of Islam becomes instead the final act of the end of a civilization." I reviewed Allawi's book on this site in (Predicting the death of Islam May 5, 2009).

Iran's aspirations for a restored Islamic civilization cannot exclude Pakistan's 30 million Shi'ites. The Taliban's insurgency inside Pakistan is directed against the Shi'ites more than any other target, and to make matters worse, Pakistani intelligence is agitating among Iran's own Sunni minority.

On June 12, the day before Iran's election, a Taliban suicide bomber killed Mufti Sarfraz Naeemi in Lahore, the leader of the pro-government Barelvi Muslim current in Pakistan. As Pakistan's Daily Times wrote June 14, "The reason for this murder was not far too seek. Mufti Naeemi, arguably the most influential of the Ahle Sunnat-Barelvi school of thought in Pakistan, had recently presided over an all-Barelvi conference in Islamabad condemning the Taliban practice of suicide-bombing, and presenting to the nation, as it were, a choice between the extremist Deobandi Taliban and the moderate Ahle Sunnat clerical confederation."

The Deobandi wing of Sunni Islam preaches violence against Pakistan's Shi'ite minority, whose position would be fragile were the Taliban to take power. Although Deobandi Islam is a minority current among Pakistani Sunnis, "The conduct of covert jihad by the state has thrown the Barelvis into obscurity and a lack of street power over the years," the Daily Times wrote. "Their mosques, once in a majority in the country, were either grabbed by the more powerful Deobandis with trained jihadi cadres who could be violent, or simply outnumbered by the more resourceful Deobandi-linked ones."

The threat to Iran from the Pakistani Taliban extends to Iran's eastern provinces. A May 28 bomb destroyed a mosque in the Kordestan city of Zahedan, on the Pakistani border. Iran called in Pakistan's ambassador to protest alleged official support for the terrorists of the Pakistan-based Jundallah Sunni group which planted the bomb. Tehran also has circulated murky allegations that Israel's secret service was behind the mosque bombing.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi wrote on June 3 in Asia Times Online, "Where Iran has Hezbollah, Israel has Jundallah, given Israel's apparent efforts to destabilize Iran by playing an 'ethnic card' against it. This, by some reports, it is doing by nurturing the Sunni Islamist group Jundallah to parallel Tehran's support for Lebanon's formidable Shi'ite group, Hezbollah." (Please see Hezbollah spices up Israel-Iran mix.)

In addition to Israel, Xinhua reported May 30, "Iran also blamed the United States, Britain and some other Western countries behind these attacks, accusing them of destabilizing the Islamic Republic, a charge denied by Washington and London."

It is hard to guess who might be funding Jundallah. Pakistan's secret service as well as the Saudis have a motive to do so. Washington's interest is to strengthen the coalition against the Pashtun-speaking Taliban, which means keeping several ethnic minorities allied against the Taliban with the Punjabi core of Pakistan's armed forces. These include the Dari-speaking Kabuli Pashtuns, the Tajiks and the mainly Shi'ite Hazara, a Turkic tribe whom the Iranians tend to deprecate. That is where Washington looks for help from Teheran.

If Tehran were playing a two-sided chess game with Washington, a moderate face like that of Hossein Mousavi would have served Iranian interests better than Ahmadinejad, as Pipes suggests. But Tehran also has to send signals to the sidelines of the chess match. With the situation on its eastern border deteriorating and a serious threat emerging to the Shi'ites of Pakistan, Iran has to make its militancy clear to all the players in the region. Washington's ill-considered attempts at coalition building are more a distraction than anything else.

Because Tehran's credibility is continuously under test, it cannot hold its puppies of war on a tight leash. Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon will continue to nip at the Israelis and spoil the appearance of a prospective settlement. The louder Iran has to bark, the less credible its bite. Iran's handling of last weekend's presidential election results exposes the weakness of the country's strategic position. That makes an Israeli strike against its alleged nuclear weapons facilities all the more likely - not because Tehran has shown greater militancy, but because it has committed the one sin that never is pardoned in the Middle East - vulnerability.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman, associate editor of First Things (www.firstthings.com).

(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
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« Reply #243 on: June 16, 2009, 08:20:39 AM »

second post

 Feb 24, 2009 
 
 
 
 Sex, drugs and Islam
By Spengler

Political Islam returned to the world stage with Ruhollah Khomeini's 1979 revolution in Iran, which became the most aggressive patron of Muslim radicals outside its borders, including Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Until very recently, an oil-price windfall gave the Iranian state ample resources to pursue its agenda at home and abroad. How, then, should we explain an eruption of social pathologies in Iran such as drug addiction and prostitution, on a scale much worse than anything observed in the West? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it appears that Islamic theocracy promotes rather than represses social decay.

Iran is dying. The collapse of Iran's birth rate during the past 20 years is the fastest recorded in any country, ever. Demographers
have sought in vain to explain Iran's population implosion through family planning policies, or through social factors such as the rise of female literacy.

But quantifiable factors do not explain the sudden collapse of fertility. It seems that a spiritual decay has overcome Iran, despite best efforts of a totalitarian theocracy. Popular morale has deteriorated much faster than in the "decadent" West against which the Khomeini revolution was directed.

"Iran is dying for a fight," I wrote in 2007 (Please see Why Iran is dying for a fight, November 13, 2007.) in the literal sense that its decline is so visible that some of its leaders think that they have nothing to lose.

Their efforts to isolate Iran from the cultural degradation of the American "great Satan" have produced social pathologies worse than those in any Western country. With oil at barely one-fifth of its 2008 peak price, they will run out of money some time in late 2009 or early 2010. Game theory would predict that Iran's leaders will gamble on a strategic long shot. That is not a comforting thought for Iran's neighbors.

Two indicators of Iranian morale are worth citing.

First, prostitution has become a career of choice among educated Iranian women. On February 3, the Austrian daily Der Standard published the results of two investigations conducted by the Tehran police, suppressed by the Iranian media. [1]

"More than 90% of Tehran's prostitutes have passed the university entrance exam, according to the results of one study, and more than 30% of them are registered at a university or studying," reports Der Standard. "The study was assigned to the Tehran Police Department and the Ministry of Health, and when the results were tabulated in early January no local newspaper dared to so much as mention them."

The Austrian newspaper added, "Eighty percent of the Tehran sex workers maintained that they pursue this career voluntarily and temporarily. The educated ones are waiting for better jobs. Those with university qualifications intend to study later, and the ones who already are registered at university mention the high tuition [fees] as their motive for prostitution ... they are content with their occupation and do not consider it a sin according to Islamic law."

There is an extensive trade in poor Iranian women who are trafficked to the Gulf states in huge numbers, as well as to Europe and Japan. "A nation is never really beaten until it sells its women," I wrote in a 2006 study of Iranian prostitution, Jihads and whores.

Prostitution as a response to poverty and abuse is one thing, but the results of this new study reflect something quite different. The educated women of Tehran choose prostitution in pursuit of upward mobility, as a way of sharing in the oil-based potlatch that made Tehran the world's hottest real estate market during 2006 and 2007.

A country is beaten when it sells its women, but it is damned when its women sell themselves. The popular image of the Iranian sex trade portrays tearful teenagers abused and cast out by impoverished parents. Such victims doubtless abound, but the majority of Tehran's prostitutes are educated women seeking affluence.

Only in the former Soviet Union after the collapse of communism in 1990 did educated women choose prostitution on a comparable scale, but under very different circumstances. Russians went hungry during the early 1990s as the Soviet economy dissolved and the currency collapsed. Today's Iranians suffer from shortages, but the data suggest that Tehran's prostitutes are not so much pushed into the trade by poverty as pulled into it by wealth.

A year ago I observed that prices for Tehran luxury apartments exceeded those in Paris, as Iran's kleptocracy distributed the oil windfall to tens of thousands of hangers-on of the revolution. $35 billion went missing from state oil funds, opposition newspapers charged at the time. Corruption evidently has made whores of Tehran's educated women. (Please see Worst of times for Iran, June 24, 2008.)

Second, according to a recent report from the US Council on Foreign Relations, "Iran serves as the major transport hub for opiates produced by [Afghanistan], and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime estimates that Iran has as many as 1.7 million opiate addicts." That is, 5% of Iran's adult, non-elderly population of 35 million is addicted to opiates. That is an astonishing number, unseen since the peak of Chinese addiction during the 19th century. The closest American equivalent (from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health) found that 119,000 Americans reported using heroin within the prior month, or less than one-tenth of 1% of the non-elderly adult population.

Nineteenth-century China had comparable rates of opium addiction, after the British won two wars for the right to push the drug down China's throat. Post-communist Russia had comparable rates of prostitution, when people actually went hungry. Iran's startling rates of opium addiction and prostitution reflect popular demoralization, the implosion of an ancient culture in its encounter with the modern world. These pathologies arose not from poverty but wealth, or rather a sudden concentration of wealth in the hands of the political class. No other country in modern history has evinced this kind of demoralization.

For the majority of young Iranians, there is no way up, only a way out; 36% of Iran's youth aged 15 to 29 years want to emigrate, according to yet another unpublicized Iranian study, this time by the country's Education Ministry, Der Standard adds. Only 32% find the existing social norms acceptable, while 63% complain about unemployment, the social order or lack of money.

As I reported in the cited essay, the potlatch for the political class is balanced by widespread shortages for ordinary Iranians. This winter, widespread natural gas shortages left tens of thousands of households without heat.

The declining morale of the Iranian population helps make sense of its galloping demographic decline. Academic demographers have tried to explain collapsing fertility as a function of rising female literacy. The problem is that the Iranian regime lies about literacy data, and has admitted as much recently.

In a recent paper entitled "Education and the World's Most Raid Fertility Decline in Iran [2], American and Iranian demographers observe:
A first analysis of the Iran 2006 census results shows a sensationally low fertility level of 1.9 for the whole country and only 1.5 for the Tehran area (which has about 8 million people) ... A decline in the TFR [total fertility rate] of more than 5.0 in roughly two decades is a world record in fertility decline. This is even more surprising to many observers when one considers that it happened in one of the most Islamic societies. It forces the analyst to reconsider many of the usual stereotypes about religious fertility differentials.
The census points to a continued fall in fertility, even from today's extremely low levels, the paper maintains.

Most remarkable is the collapse of rural fertility in tandem with urban fertility, the paper adds:
The similarity of the transition in both urban and rural areas is one the main features of the fertility transition in Iran. There was a considerable gap between the fertility in rural and urban areas, but the TFR in both rural and urban areas continued to decline by the mid-1990s, and the gap has narrowed substantially. In 1980, the TFR in rural areas was 8.4 while that of urban areas was 5.6. In other words, there was a gap of 2.8 children between rural and urban areas. In 2006, the TFR in rural and urban areas was 2.1 and 1.8, respectively (a difference of only 0.3 children).
What the professors hoped to demonstrate is that as rural literacy levels in Iran caught up with urban literacy levels, the corresponding urban and rural fertility rates also converged. That is a perfectly reasonable conjecture whose only flaw is that the data on which it is founded were faked by the Iranian regime.

The Iranian government's official data claim literacy percentage levels in the high 90s for urban women and in the high 80s for rural women. That cannot be true, for Iran's Literacy Movement Organization admitted last year (according to an Agence-France Presse report of May 8, 2008) that 9,450,000 Iranians are illiterate of a population of 71 million (or an adult population of about 52 million). This suggests far higher rates of illiteracy than in the official data.

A better explanation of Iran's population implosion is that the country has undergone an existential crisis comparable to encounters of Amazon or Inuit tribes with modernity. Traditional society demands submission to the collective. Once the external constraints are removed, its members can shift from the most extreme forms of modesty to the other extreme of sexual license. Khomeini's revolution attempted to retard the disintegration of Persian society, but it appears to have accelerated the process.

Modernity implies choice, and the efforts of the Iranian mullahs to prolong the strictures of traditional society appear to have backfired. The cause of Iran's collapsing fertility is not literacy as such, but extreme pessimism about the future and an endemic materialism that leads educated Iranian women to turn their own sexuality into a salable commodity.

Theocracy subjects religion to a political test; it is hard for Iranians to repudiate the regime and remain pious, for religious piety and support for political Islam are inseparable, as a recent academic study documented from survey data [3].

As in the decline of communism, what follows on the breakdown of a state ideology is likely to be nihilism. Iran is a dying country, and it is very difficult to have a rational dialogue with a nation all of whose available choices terminate in oblivion.

[1] Der Standard, Die Wahrheit hinter der islamischen Fassade
.

[2] Education and the World's Most Raid Fertility Decline in Iran
.

[3] Religiosity and Islamic Rule in Iran, by Gunes Murat Tezcur and Tagh Azadarmaki.

(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.) 
   
 
 

 
 

 

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Body-by-Guinness
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« Reply #244 on: June 16, 2009, 01:21:06 PM »

Haven't checked out all, but the following are links showing some of the violence Iran's rulers are visiting on their populace. Where is Jimmy Carter high moral standards now that the shoe is on a different foot?

Protesters brutalized by Basij
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBp2p3MGJqw

Shootings at Basij Compound
http://iranelection.posterous.com/footage-of-shootings-at-basij-compound-in-teh

Unconscience
video shootings at basij compound

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXYvpJg_3OM

Girl shot by Basij militia

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inEpnZIYVAQ

people shot at rally in Tehran

http://twitpic.com/7h9wf

http://img23.imageshack.us/img23/1228/i3919381431.jpg

Video man beaten to death by Police

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHr1UXbqnoQ

video wounded students in dorms

http://www.flickr.com/photos/imanjafari/3624477353/in/photostream/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSECAvBTanQ&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.michaeltotten.com%2Farchives%2F2009%2F06%2Finsurrection-da.php&feature=player_embedded

Riot police use motorcycles to plow crowd
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSECAvBTanQ

plain clothes police using knives
http://img36.imageshack.us/img36/1438/o8sy78.jpg
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« Reply #245 on: June 17, 2009, 12:20:59 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Islamic Republic Destabilizing From Within?
June 16, 2009
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Tehran on Monday to protest results of the June 12 election, which returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office. State broadcasters reported that seven people were killed in shooting that erupted after the Basij militia opened fire on protesters, who hurled rocks at a Basij compound near the main protest. The protests have now spread beyond Tehran to several other cities.

Clearly, the situation on the streets has escalated exponentially since the initial weekend protests in Tehran, when the number of demonstrators was much lower. Violent clashes between security forces and protesters are likely to lead to greater unrest in the days ahead; such events tend to feed off one another and build in intensity. The last time Iran experienced so great a level of unrest was during the 1979 revolution, which brought the current regime to power. Consequently, questions are being raised about the stability of the Islamic Republic.

These questions are not being raised only by outside observers. In fact, we are told that the most powerful figures within the clerical establishment — including the second most powerful cleric, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani — have warned Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the situation could metastasize and lead to the collapse of the regime unless election results are annulled and a fresh vote ordered. Rafsanjani is joined by many other powerful conservatives, who are working behind the scenes to steer the country away from what appears to be an increasingly explosive situation.

Rafsanjani and those who agree with him are obviously concerned about the almost unprecedented unrest on the streets and the possibility that it could destabilize the regime from within. But the radical advice of these conservatives to the Supreme Leader is being driven by the threat to their own political interests that comes not from the public, but from Ahmadinejad and his allies — who would like to use their election win to set the stage for an eventual purge of Rafsanjani and those like him. In other words, Ahmadinejad’s enemies within the system would like to use the current crisis to launch a preemptive strike and neutralize the threat they face from his re-election.

Khamenei, who has long acted as the ultimate arbiter between factions in Tehran, is therefore in the biggest quandary of his political career. He does not want to see the Islamic Republic collapse on his watch. But he has little room to maneuver: He can neither contain the unrest in the streets without a brutal crackdown that could radicalize both the opposition and key government factions, nor can he move easily toward a fresh vote. Ahmadinejad and his allies will not back down after winning what was, ostensibly, a landslide election in their favor.

While many compelling arguments have been made about the improbability of Ahmadinejad winning the election by several million votes, there is insufficient empirical evidence to support the claim of fraud. Foul play on such a large scale would not be possible without the involvement of a very large number of people. Furthermore, requests for the kind of data that could corroborate such fraud have been ignored.

Iran’s powerful Guardians Council, which must certify the election results, has begun a probe into the matter, and therefore it is quite possible that in the next several days such evidence may emerge. But what is stunning is how, thus far, there have been no leaks to the press on the details of the alleged vote tampering. So long as there is no clear evidence of wrongdoing, Ahmadinejad’s opponents cannot make a convincing case against his government.

At this stage, it is difficult to predict the trajectory of events — but this election has clearly resulted in a breach within the Islamic Republic that could prove difficult to mend, regardless of the outcome of the clash between the president and his opponents. Until Friday’s vote, Iran had proven quite resilient — weathering a devastating eight-year war, decades of international sanctions, multiple rebel groups, and a long confrontation with the United States. In the last four days, the regime has found that the greatest threat to its existence comes from within.
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« Reply #246 on: June 17, 2009, 07:45:57 AM »

JONAH GOLDBERG:
Obama's choice is not to choose on Iran
The president has an opportunity to stand up for democracy.
Jonah Goldberg
June 16, 2009




Do it, President Obama, please. Take the side of democracy.

Declare yourself and your nation on the side of hope and change where it is more than a slogan and better than a rationalization for ever-bigger government. Stop measuring the success of your diplomacy with Iran by the degree to which the grinning, hate-filled stooge of a clerical junta will "temper" his rhetoric about the pressing need to destroy Israel and slow his ineluctable pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Instead, choose a higher standard. Look to history. Look to the aspirations of the students risking their lives and livelihoods to protest a sham election. Stop fawning over the mythological Muslim street only when it hates America, and look to the real Iranian street at the moment of its greatest need, when its heart may be open to loving America.

You often invoke President Kennedy's pledge to put a man on the moon to justify your domestic agenda. You and your supporters invite comparisons to Camelot. Well, what of John F. Kennedy's most solemn vow? "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

No, we should not bomb Iran, or invade it. Those prices are too steep; those burdens are too heavy. But maybe you could lift a finger for democracy?

During the campaign you mocked those who belittled your rhetoric as "just words." Well, what you've offered so far is less than just words. You've put a fresh coat of whitewash on Iran's sham "democracy." On Monday, you proclaimed yourself "troubled" by the events in Iran, before hinting that you'd negotiate with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad no matter what an investigation into his "landslide" victory found. Then there was your pre-election mumbling about "robust debate [that] hopefully will advance our ability to engage them in new ways."

Of course, debate in Iran has been robust only if you are grading on a curve. Ahmadinejad's main opponent, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, was an accidental reform candidate. The mullahs had disqualified about 400 others, leaving in the race only four presumed hacks deemed to be pliant enough not to rock the boat. Mousavi's popular support and the robustness of the debate he ignited were an unintended consequence of a rigged election, not the intention of a democratic regime. Going into the election, you chose to celebrate the process, to placate a theocratic politburo.

Reportedly, you are biding your time, waiting to see what happens, as if it is a great mystery. Your campaign lived and breathed YouTube. Check it now, check it often. You and your team promised "soft power" and "smart power." Well, let's see some of that. Because by not clearly picking a side, it appears you have chosen the wrong side.

Do you fear antagonizing the powers-that-be in Iran? That ship has sailed. Though I am sure they're grateful for your eagerness not to roil the seas around them. Is it because you think "leader of the free world" is just another of those Cold War relics best mothballed in favor of a more cosmopolitan and universal awe at your own story?

"Enough about those people bleeding in the street. What do you think of me?" Is that how it is to be?

During the Bush years, what was best about liberalism had bled away. One of the worst things about the Republican Party has always been its Kissingerian realpolitik, the "it's just business" approach to world affairs that amounted to a willful blindness to our ideals beyond our own borders. The Democratic Party may not have always gotten the policies right, but it had a firm grasp of the principle.

In the 1990s, liberals championed "nation building," and conservatives chuckled at the naivete of it. Then came Iraq, and Republicans out of necessity embraced what liberals once believed out of conviction. The result? Liberals ran from their principles, found their inner Kissingers and embraced a cold realism whose chill emanated from the corpse of their ideals.

Labor unions, such as the AFL-CIO, once battled tyranny abroad on the grounds that workers everywhere need democracy. Today, the president turns a blind eye to the independent labor movement in Iran, and the unions and Democrats spend their time trying to figure out how to eliminate the secret ballot in the American workplace.

So far, "hope and change" has meant spending trillions we do not have on expanded government we do not need. Meanwhile, the huddled masses of Iranians yearning to breathe free think hope and change means something more. But the new American colossus stands all but silent, her beacon dimmed, her luster tarnished.

Please, Mr. President, prove me wrong.

jgoldberg@latimescolumnists.com
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Karsk
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« Reply #247 on: June 17, 2009, 04:23:31 PM »

Follow #iranelection on twitter.com  to listen in on the direct tidbits of communication that is coming out of Iran.  In a half hour there were 21K plus comments coming in.  There is a "cyberwar" going on as well.  The Iranian government is trying to block communications to social media.  There are claims that they have succeeded.  But the above number of "twitters" seems to say otherwise.  People outside of Iran are setting up proxy servers to allow Iranians to get to twitter.com anonymously.  They are also using bitorrent to send huge numbers of videos and photos.   There are also Denial of service attacks that are being sent to Iranian government network sites.  Denial of service attacks pummel the site with requests until it crashes.  This means that the government computer techs will have their hands full just being functional themselves. 

Social media is powerful because its much easier to send out information than it is to stifle it in this media.  Information can be conveyed instantaneously and it can cerate unification of large numbers of people where in the past uprisings could be dispelled by preventing communications outside of the affected area.

For a good read on this topic try:  "Here Comes Everybody" by Clay Sharkey.


Karsk
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G M
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« Reply #248 on: June 18, 2009, 10:25:22 AM »

http://www.nypost.com/php/pfriendly/print.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nypost.com%2Fseven%2F06182009%2Fpostopinion%2Fopedcolumnists%2Fgreen_light_for_a_crackdown_174811.htm

GREEN LIGHT FOR A CRACKDOWN
By RALPH PETERS

June 18, 2009 --
SILENCE is complicity. Our president's refusal to take a forthright moral stand on the side of the Iranian freedom marchers is read in Tehran as a blank check for the current regime.

The fundamentalist junta has begun arresting opposition figures, with regime mouthpieces raising the prospect of the death penalty. Inevitably, there are claims that dissidents have been "hoarding weapons and explosives."

Foreign media reps are under house arrest. Cellphone frequencies are jammed. Students are killed and the killings disavowed.

And our president is "troubled," but doesn't believe we should "meddle" in Iran's internal affairs. (Meddling in Israel's domestic affairs is just fine, though.)

We just turned our backs on freedom.

Again.

Of all our foreign-policy failures in my lifetime, our current shunning of those demanding free elections and expanded civil rights in Iran reminds me most of Hungary in 1956.

For years, we encouraged the Hungarians to rise up against oppression. When they did, we watched from the sidelines as Russian tanks drove over them.

For decades, Washington policymakers from both parties have prodded Iranians to throw off their shackles. Last Friday, millions of Iranians stood up. And we're standing down.

That isn't diplomacy. It's treachery.

Despite absurd claims that Obama's Islam-smooching Cairo speech triggered the calls for freedom in Tehran's streets, these politics are local. But if those partisan claims of the "Cairo Effect" were true, wouldn't our president be obliged to stand beside those he incited?

Too bad for the Iranians, but their outburst of popular anger toward Iran's oppressive government doesn't fit the administration's script -- which is written around negotiations with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

To Obama, his dogmatic commitment to negotiations is infinitely more important than a few million protesters chanting the Farsi equivalent of "We Shall Overcome."

This is madness. There is no chance -- zero, null, nada -- that negotiations with the junta of mullahs will lead to the termination (or even a serious interruption) of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our president's faith in his powers of persuasion is beginning to look pathological. Is his program of negotiations with apocalypse-minded, woman-hating, Jew-killing fanatics so sacrosanct that he can't acknowledge human cries for freedom?

Is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright a better role model than Martin Luther King? It's a damned shame that our first minority president wasn't a veteran of our civil-rights struggle, rather than its privileged beneficiary.

An ugly pattern's emerging in our president's beliefs:

He's infallible. This is rich, given all the criticism of the Bush administration's unwillingness to admit mistakes. We now have a president with Jimmy Carter's naivete, Richard Nixon's distaste for laws, Lyndon Johnson's commitment to the wrong war, and Bill Clinton's moral fecklessness.

Democracy isn't important. Our president seems infected by yesteryear's Third-World-leftist view that dictatorships are essential to post-colonial development -- especially for Muslims.

Look where Obama has gone and who he supports: the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, his groveling speech in Egypt, his embrace of Hamas, his hands-off approach to the gory regime in Sudan -- and now his dismay at the protests in Iran.

Strict Islam is true Islam. This is bewildering, given Obama's childhood exposure to the tolerant Islam practiced in most of Indonesia. The defining remark of his presidency thus far was his Cairo demand for the right of Muslim women to wear Islamic dress in the West -- while remaining silent about their right to reject the hijab, burqa or chador in the Middle East.

History's a blank canvas -- except for America's sins. Of course, we've had presidents who presented the past in the colors they preferred -- but we've never had one who just made it all up.

Obama's ignorance of history is on naked display -- no sense of the brutality of Iran's Islamist regime, of the years of mass imprisonments, diabolical torture, prison rapes, wholesale executions and secret graves that made the shah's reign seem idyllic. Our president seems to regard the Iranian protesters as spoiled brats.

Facts? Who cares? In his Cairo sermon -- a speech that will live in infamy -- our president compared the plight of the Palestinians, the aggressors in 1948, with the Holocaust. He didn't mention the million Jews dispossessed and driven from Muslim lands since 1948, nor the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Christians from the West Bank.

Now our president's attempt to vote "present" yet again green-lights the Iranian regime's determination to face down the demonstrators -- and the mullahs understand it as such.

If we see greater violence in Tehran, the blood of those freedom marchers will be on our president's hands.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #249 on: June 19, 2009, 09:25:25 AM »

Summary
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke to the Iranian people during Friday prayers June 19, siding with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and ordering protesters to end their demonstrations. Khamenei has decided that using force to suppress the uprising is worth the risk, even if it leads to greater infighting among the power brokers of the system. It remains unclear if Ahmadinejad’s opponents will stage a showdown, but the protests have grown enough in size and energy to take on a life of their own.

Analysis

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a rare but critical Friday sermon prayer June 19 in which he addressed the continuing public unrest in the wake of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory in the June 12 presidential election, as well as the schism among the country’s political leadership. As expected, he took a clear position in favor of the president, rejecting accusations of electoral fraud and framing the conflict in terms of foreign powers exploiting the Islamic republic’s internal troubles. More importantly, he warned both the protesters and their leaders to halt the demonstrations and that they would be responsible for any bloodshed.

Khamenei has clearly opted for the forcible suppression of the uprising. STRATFOR had pointed out in a previous report that the country’s elite ideological military force, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has taken command of domestic law enforcement in Tehran. Consequently, from today forward, we can expect to see security forces crush protests. That the two main defeated challengers of Ahamdinejad, former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and former speaker of parliament Mehdi Karroubi did not attend the prayer session shows that they are not about to accept the verdict.

At the same time, Mousavi and Karroubi cannot be perceived as openly defying the supreme leader and they have an interest in the preservation of the cleric-led political system. Furthermore, their supporters on the streets are far more radical than they are because Mousavi and Karroubi are part and parcel of the system (something which Khamenei pointed out when he said that that all four candidates in the recent presidential election belonged to Iran’s Islamic establishment). Therefore, they will have a hard time balancing between the need to sustain their opposition to the results of the election and controlling the protesters on the streets, especially during a major security crackdown. Regardless of whether the opposition leaders choose to take charge of the demonstrations, the protests have swelled enough in size and energy to take on a life of their own.

Khamenei’s speech also telegraphed to Ahmadinejad’s opponents that he is fully behind the president. He said, “Differences of opinion do exist between officials which is natural. But it does not mean there is a rift in the system. Ever since the last presidential election there existed differences of opinion between Ahmadinejad and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (the second most powerful cleric in the state). Of course my outlook is closer to that of Ahmadinejad in domestic and foreign policy.” Khamenei also spoke of the difference between him and Rafsanjani, but also praised him as being “close” to the revolution.

This puts Rafsanjani and his pragmatic conservative allies — including the powerful speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani and former IRGC chief and presidential candidate, Mohsen Rezaie — in a difficult spot. On one hand, they cannot accept Ahmadinejad because he is a threat to their political interests. On the other, they cannot openly defy Khamenei as that could lead to the unraveling of the regime. This would explain why Larijani, along with Judiciary Chief Shahroudi and Tehran’s mayor Mohammed Baqer Ghalibaf — who are all key pragmatic conservatives who oppose the president — attended the sermon along with the president and his cabinet. Rezaie did not attend the sermon, but wrote a letter to Khamenei, signaling that he wanted to resolve the issues amicably under the leadership of Khamenei.

Rafsanjani is therefore likely to face great difficulties in his efforts to build a consensus among the clerics against the president because now it is no longer simply about Ahmadinejad. Instead, his moves will be seen as facing off against the supreme leader. As the head of the Assembly of Experts, the most powerful institution in the country, which has the power to remove the supreme leader, he can make a move against Khamenei. That has never been done in the history of the Islamic republic. Therefore, it is unclear whether Rafsanjani is ready to escalate matters to such a level. The split amongst the political leadership is also manifesting itself in the country’s security apparatus with reports of arrests of several IRGC commanders who do not agree with Ahmadinejad.

The stage is now set for a major confrontation, but it is unclear who will emerge victorious. Regardless of which political faction wins, Khamenei has decided that it is worth the risk to bring in the IRGC. Though the Iranian state security apparatus is adept at extinguishing protests, it is still a risky gamble that will further fuel the fire of discontent.
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