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Power User
Posts: 42462

« on: October 24, 2006, 07:54:25 AM »

U.N. Official Says Iran Is Testing New Enrichment Device
Published: October 24, 2006
NY Times
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 ? The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that Iran had begun testing new uranium enrichment equipment that could double the capacity of its small research-and-development facilities.

The action appears to be a signal to the United Nations Security Council that Iran would respond to sanctions by speeding ahead with its nuclear program.

Since February, when Iran publicly celebrated its first production of enriched uranium, progress at its main nuclear complex at Natanz has reportedly been slow. Iran has sporadically operated a single ?cascade? of 164 centrifuges, the devices that spin at high speed and turn ordinary uranium into a fuel usable for nuclear power plants ? or, at higher enrichment levels, nuclear weapons.

Those reports had prompted speculation that Iranian engineers had run into considerable technical difficulties.

But in an interview on Monday, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the I.A.E.A., said that ?based on our most recent inspections, the second centrifuge cascade is in place and ready to go.? He said that no uranium had yet been entered into the new system, but could be as early as next week.

Even with two cascades running, it would take Iran years to enrich enough uranium to produce a single nuclear weapon.

The United States director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, has said repeatedly that he believes Tehran is 4 to 10 years away from developing a weapon, even though its technology base is far more advanced than that of North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test 15 days ago.

Unlike North Korea, Iran has insisted that it does not intend to build a weapon. Nonetheless, Iran ignored an Aug. 31 deadline, set by the Security Council, to stop enriching uranium.

Since then, European nations, China, Russia and the United States have been debating what sanctions, if any, should be imposed. China and Russia have resisted, and in a speech on Monday at Georgetown University?s School of Foreign Service, Dr. ElBaradei made clear that he believes sanctions are unlikely to work.

?Penalizing them is not a solution,? he said. ?At the end of the day, we have to bite the bullet and talk to North Korea and Iran.?

Unlike American officials, he says that he remains unpersuaded that Iran?s ultimate goal is to build a weapon, though I.A.E.A. officials say they believe that Iran wants to have all of the major components of a weapon in hand so that it is clear that it could build one in weeks or months.

?The jury is still out on whether they are developing a nuclear weapon,? Dr. ElBaradei said at Georgetown, after meeting earlier in the day with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

After the meeting, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said there was now ?widespread agreement, although not total agreement,? on elements of an initial sanctions package. He did not speculate about when the sanctions might come to a vote; at the end of the summer, administration officials insisted that the Security Council would act in September.

Mr. McCormack said the Iranians seemed to be moving ahead ?inexorably at this point,? so that at some point ?you will have industrial-scale production.?

?You don?t want that,? he said.

Some European diplomats have expressed concern that, should the Security Council act, the moderates in the Iranian government who have been involved in negotiations over the nuclear program could be shoved aside, and that some combination of military leaders and hard-line mullahs would push the country to speed its nuclear production.
Power User
Posts: 15532

« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2006, 08:00:06 AM »

"the moderates in the Iranian Government" rolleyes
Power User
Posts: 42462

« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2006, 07:17:01 AM »

Living la vida na levo in Tehran
OP-ED: "Iranian Moolah," by Farouz Farzami, Wall Street Journal, 26 October
2006, p. A18.

Sorry, but had to zone out a bit after China. Caught up to my reading last
night, thanks to the extra hour (God, I wish that were every weekend!).

This description reminds me so much of the summer I lived in Leningrad in
1985 (the summer of the great crackdown on vodka, which never bugged me,
because I liked chatting up Russians while standing in line) and spent every
night I could with the blackmarketer "Big Al" and his constant stream of
customers. My big impression from all those nights: the populace had so
effectively opted out of political life and simply made their own
"house-arrest" style economic life na levo ("on the side," or literally, "on
the left" in Russian) that it was like they lived in their own little
universe of close friends, treasured objects, and media content from the
West (everyone in Leningrad seemed to live on American VHS tapes dubbed by a
screaming Finnish guy who did every voice the same--it was mesmerizingly
bad!). Of course, the most treasured objects were forbidden books, which I
brought in numbers with fake dust jackets.

The author of this piece is--natch!--a journalist who is "forbidden to
publish in Iran" (Sound familiar? Everyone I knew in the Russian ex-pat
community in the 1980s was a forbidden author. It was a modest
accomplishment, which is what made it so sad.).

Great story. He talks of coming upon a special stand of imported American
books (authorized by the mullahs, no doubt) in Tehran and notices one about
cocktails. Then he launches in:

I live in a country where alcohol is officially banned, but where the art of
home-made spirits has reached new heights. Sharing my astonishment about the
cocktail book with some friends with better connections to the Islamist
regime, they explained the government had a silent pact with the educated
and affluent in Iran's big cities, who render politics unto Caesar, provided
that Caesar keeps his nose out of their liquor cabinets.

In other words, the well-to-do Iranian drinks and reads and watches what he
wishes. He does as he pleases behind the walls of his private mansions and
villas. In return for his private comforts, the affluent Iranian is happy to
sacrifice freedom of speech, most of his civil rights, and his freedom of
association. The upper-middle class has been bought off by this pact, which
makes a virtue of hypocrisy.

The accommodation runs both ways. A friend who had made a small fortune in
the pharmaceutical business told me that recently the enforcers of Islamist
law appeared on the roof of his condominium in the northwest Tehran suburb
of Sharak-e-Qarb to seize all the satellite dishes. Every household received
an order to attend a hearing of the revolutionary court, where the
magistrate--typically a mullah--will levy fines. The fines help feed the
friends of the courts, while for my wealthy pharmacist friend, erecting
another satellite dish is as easy as refueling his car--and even the
inconvenience of replacing the dish will not be necessary for long.
Technology is more than up to the challenge posed by the morals police. "I
have heard there is a state-of-the-art dish made of invisible fiberglass
that I can install on the window pane of my apartment," my friend told me.
"I'm going for it."

Many Iranians believe the occasional crackdowns are being organized by
corrupt officials who secretly own interests in the new generation of
satellite dishes. The confiscations just create markets for new products.

Sound unbelievable? It isn't. It's exactly what you found in Moscow and
Leningrad back in the 1980s: a huge social network of hypocritical enforcers
and two-faced citizens, and everybody exchanged money in the process. It's
just that no wealth is truly generated, and the people get stupider and more
ambivalent and lazy and disconnected from the future. It's all so sad and
pathetic. I remember crying myself to sleep one night from thinking about
how everyone in the USSR felt like they will just living in some weird
prison and all they could claim for themselves was whatever they could beg,
borrow or steal. It was supremely depressing to see all that talent wasted,
and their profound sense of injustice.

This guy describes the workarounds, but that's not a life, and no one
trapped in that existence pretends it is.

But, of course, this rich guy is trapped by nothing. It's only the lower
classes who really are disconnected from their desires. This rich pharmacist
vacations 2-3 months abroad each year, putting him more in the category of
the KGB general (who, frankly, never had it THAT good).

The saddest part here is that the rich guy expects the revolution will come
only when the masses are disillusioned enough to take matters into their own

Sounds to me like Iran's rich are about as cynical as the mullahs.

Still, the larger point is this: this is not robust authoritarianism. It's
weak. It's flabby. It hypocritical to a fault. It's not going anywhere. It's
not accomplishing anything.

In short, it's ripe.
Power User
Posts: 784

« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2006, 12:49:31 PM »

Has the president made a conscious decision to not act on Iran?

By Michael Ledeen

If the president knows that Iran is waging war on us, he is obliged to respond; the only appropriate question is about the method, not the substance. If he does not know, then he should remove those officials who were obliged to tell him, and get some people who will tell the truth. They are not entitled to withhold information on the grounds that they don?t like the obvious policy implications. He must have that information, and he must be able to get more of it. The people in high positions of the intelligence community have demonstrably acted to limit his full knowledge of the war; the refusal to accept further information from proven sources of reliable information on Iran, all by itself, warrants a significant purge of Intelligence officials. As Bob Woodward suggests in State of Denial, there has been much more of that.

It is more likely that the president knows we are at war with Iran, but has chosen ? wrongly, in my opinion (but then I wasn?t elected either) ? to delay our response. That could be due to any number of reasons, ranging from a belief that he had to give the Europeans every chance to force the Iranians to abandon their nuclear project, to purely domestic calculations that he lacks sufficient political capital to directly challenge the mullahs. But whatever his reasoning, it reinforces the original failure of strategic vision that has characterized the Iraqi and Afghan enterprises from the beginning. Once you see that Iraq and Afghanistan are battlefields in a larger war, you must figure out how to win that war, and not the one that was drawn up on the Power Points before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, based on the false assumption that we would fight a series of limited wars, one country at a time.

At a minimum, the real war is a regional war, and most likely a world war. That becomes obvious as soon as you see that Iran, sometimes in tandem with Syria and with covert help from Saudi Arabia, is waging war on us in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sponsoring terrorist assaults against us and our allies from Lebanon to Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, with their preferred instrument, Hezbollah, as the organizing army. But our national debate, with the exception of rare men like Senator Santorum, is limited to Iraq and Afghanistan alone, and thus our war plan is wrongly limited to Iraq and Afghanistan alone. If we expand our vision to the Middle East, current ?hot topics? dissolve, because they are only urgent in answer to the wrong question. Instead of asking, ?How do we win in Iraq and Afghanistan (and these are foolishly treated as if they were separate issues)?? we must instead ask, ?How do we win the real war, the war against the terror masters??

Iraq and Afghanistan are part of that war, but only a part of it. And we cannot win in Iraq and Afghanistan so long as the terror masters in Tehran and Damascus have a free shot at us and our democratic partners in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Israel, which is the current situation.

The debate over the appropriate number of American troops in Iraq is a typical example of how our failure of strategic vision distorts our ability to win the war. So long as the terror masters? killers can freely cross the borders from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Iran in order to deliver money, weapons, expertise, and manpower, it is hard to imagine that any conceivable number of American soldiers could defeat them.

Lacking a regional strategy, our military is essentially fighting a holding action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there is clearly a premium on avoiding casualties. Some critics have noticed that we have created large bases, complete with astonishing creature comforts including air conditioned tents and Starbucks cafes. The soldiers on those bases are rarely in the field; they wait until they get good intelligence about enemy movements, and then go after them. But that is not the proper way to fight this sort of war, and probably not even the best way to hold down casualties.

The best book I know on counterinsurgency was written by a Frenchman, David Galula, after his experiences in Algeria in the 1950s. He stresses that such a war is won or lost on the basis of popular support and cooperation. If the population supports the insurgents, they will win. Therefore, effective counterinsurgency requires the constant engagement of soldiers with the people, and a durable demonstration that we are there to stay, that once an area has been taken by our forces, it will remain so. That is also the best way to get good intelligence.

But time and again, we have moved into an area, killed lots of terrorists, and created a momentary stability, only to move on. This permits the terrorists to come back in, kill anyone who cooperated or sympathized with us, and compel the survivors to join the insurgency. The monster bases underline the distance between our troops and the people, which is precisely the opposite of a winning strategy. Galula puts the issue nicely: ?As the war lasts, the war itself becomes the central issue, and the ideological advantage of the insurgent decreases considerably. The population?s attitude is dictated not by the intrinsic merits of the contending causes, but by the answer to these two simple questions: Which side is going to win? Which side threatens the most, and which offers the most protection??

But the only way we can demonstrate we are going to win is to defeat the terror masters. Without that, the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan are entitled to doubt our ability to defeat the terrorists. And it is utterly misleading to claim that we will eventually be able to entrust the future of the war to Iraqi and Afghan forces. They cannot win a war by fighting on their own territory alone, any more than we can, no matter how effective they turn out to be.

The hell of it is that we act as if Iran and Syria were imposing regional forces, whereas they are actually very brittle dictatorships. Their tyrants are under constant pressure from their own people, and despite the run-up in oil revenues, both countries are in abysmal economic shape. The Japanese have just withdrawn their participation in a major Iranian oil field, in large part because of the high political risk.

Cheerful reports from captive Western journalists suggest that the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are popular leaders, but first hand accounts from ?migr?s and bloggers tell a very different story, and there are even online photographs attesting to substantial recent protests against the Iranian president. Like Ahmadinejad, Bashir Assad is not only unpopular, but has become an object of ridicule throughout the region, and there is every reason to believe that Western support for democratic revolution could succeed in both countries. Certainly, both Iran and Syria meet every criterion for social, economic and political revolution: the regimes are hated and despised, the people are suffering, and the denial of elementary human rights is a constant prod to revolt.

Revolutions rarely succeed without an outside base of support; just ask George Washington. Yet there is a regrettable tendency for our policymakers to dream that the Iranians will do it all by themselves. This is bad analysis, and worse policy. If, as Secretary Rice tells us, we do believe in spreading democracy in the Middle East, Iran is, and always has been, the best place to start. Nothing would help the prospects for a reasonable solution to the Arab-Israeli crisis so much as the downfall of the Tehran regime and its Siamese twin in Damascus. Indeed, like Iraq and Afghanistan, it is impossible to imagine freedom and security for the Palestinians so long as Khamanei and his ilk rule in Iran, and the Assad family dictatorships reigns in Syria.

But these considerations belong to a strategy to win the real war. As far as I can tell, we are very far from seeing the war plain and devising ways to win it. The first step is to embrace the unpleasant fact that we are at war with Iran, and it is long past time to respond.

? Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute. Ledeen?s wife has worked in the Senate Republican Conference under Rick Santorum.

National Review Online -
Power User
Posts: 784

« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2006, 03:34:13 PM »

Getting Serious About Iran:

A Military Option

Arthur Herman

As the impasse over Iran?s nuclear-weapons program grows inexorably into a crisis, a kind of consensus has taken root in the minds of America?s foreign-policy elite. This is that military action against Iran is a sure formula for disaster. The essence of the position was expressed in a cover story in Time magazine this past September. Entitled ?What War with Iran Would Look Like (And How to Avoid It),? the essay focused on what the editors saw as the certain consequences of armed American intervention in that country: wildly spiking oil prices, increased terrorist attacks, economic panic around the world, and the end to any dream of pro-American democratic governments emerging in the Middle East. And that would be in the case of successful action. In fact, Time predicted, given our overstretched resources and an indubitably fierce Iranian resistance, we would almost certainly lose.

Thus, in the eyes of Time?s experts as of many other observers, military action against Iran is ?unthinkable.? What then can be done in the face of the mullahs? implacable drive to acquire nuclear weapons? Here a variety of responses can be discerned. At one end are those who assure us, in the soothing title of a New York Times op-ed by Barry Posen of MIT, that ?We Can Live with a Nuclear Iran.? (Newsweek?s Fareed Zakaria is similarly sanguine.) Others, like Senator Joseph Biden, insist that we have at least ten years before we have to worry about Iran?s getting a working bomb. According to Ashton Carter, who served as an assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration, we at least have enough time to explore every possible diplomatic avenue before contemplating any direct military response.

Taking a more openly appeasing line, critics of the Bush administration like Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations and Chatham House?s Ali Ansari urge us to enter into extended engagement or ?dialogue? with Iran, with an eye toward persuading the mullahs to end or at least to modify their nuclear program. This is essentially the tack that has been followed by European and European Union diplomats for the past three years, with notably little success.

Finally there is the tougher solution preferred by the Bush administration: economic sanctions imposed by the UN. The problem here is that the more effective such sanctions are designed to be?proposed measures include freezing Iranian assets abroad and suspending all business and financial ties?the more reluctant have been France, Russia, and China (our partners on the Security Council) to go along. Sanctions that do pass muster with these governments, whose aggregate business dealings with Iran far outstrip those of the United States, are precisely the ones with little or no bite. And even watered-down sanctions, as U.S. Ambassador John Bolton admitted in a recent interview, are ?by no means a done deal.?

To a greater or lesser extent, all of these recommendations fly in the face of reality. Despite Iran?s richly developed repertoire of denials, deceptions, and dissimulations, there is ample evidence that it has no intention whatsoever of relinquishing its aim of becoming a nuclear power. Moreover, this aim may be achievable not within a decade (as Senator Biden fancies) but within the next two to three years. In September, the House Intelligence Committee reported that Iran may have already succeeded in enriching uranium; some intelligence analysts believe that it may already have access to fissionable nuclear material, courtesy of North Korea. If that is so, no diplomacy in the world is going to prevent it from acquiring a bomb.

But neither are nuclear weapons the only threat posed by the Islamic Republic. While the international community has been preoccupied with this issue, the regime in Tehran has been taking steady steps to achieve hegemony over one of the world?s most sensitive and economically critical regions, and control over the world?s most precious resource. It is doing so, moreover, entirely through conventional means.

To put it briefly, the Islamic Republic has its hand on the throttle of the world?s economic engine: the stretch of ocean at the mouth of the Persian Gulf known as the Straits of Hormuz, which are only 21 miles wide at their narrowest point. Through this waterway, every day, pass roughly 40 percent of the world?s crude oil, including two-thirds of the oil from Saudi Arabia. By 2025, according to Energy Department estimates, fully 60 percent of the world?s oil exports will be moved through this vital chokepoint.

The Straits border on Iran and Oman, with the two lanes of traffic that are used specifically by oil tankers being theoretically protected by international agreement. Since 9/11, a multinational force comprising ships from the U.S., Japan, six European countries, and Pakistan have patrolled outside the Straits, in Omani waters, to make sure they stay open. But this is largely a token force. Meanwhile, the world?s access to Saudi, Qatari, Kuwaiti, and Iraqi oil and gas, as well as other petroleum products from the United Arab Emirates, depends on free passage through the Hormuz Straits.

The Tehran regime has made no secret of its desire to gain control of the Straits as part of its larger strategy of turning the Gulf into an Iranian lake. Indeed, in a preemptive move, it has begun to threaten a cut-off of tanker traffic if the UN should be foolish enough to impose sanctions in connection with the Islamic Republic?s nuclear program. ?We have the power to halt oil supply,? a senior Iranian official warned the European Union last January, ?down to the last drop.?

In April of this year, as if to drive the point home, Iranian armed forces staged elaborate war games in the Gulf, test-firing a series of new anti-ship missiles capable of devastating any tanker or unwary warship. In the boast of one Iranian admiral, April?s ?Holy Prophet war games? showed what could be expected by anyone daring to violate Iran?s interests in the Gulf. A further demonstration of resolve occurred in August, when Iran fired on and then occupied a Rumanian-owned oil platform ostensibly in a dispute over ownership rights; in truth, the action was intended to show Western companies?including Halliburton, which had won a contract for constructing facilities in the Gulf?exactly which power is in charge there.

A 30-page document said to issue from the Strategic Studies Center of the Iranian Navy (NDAJA), and drawn up in September or October of last year, features a contingency plan for closing the Hormuz Straits through a combination of anti-ship missiles, coastal artillery, and submarine attacks. The plan calls for the use of Chinese-made mines, Chinese-built missile boats, and more than 1,000 explosive-packed suicide motor boats to decimate any U.S. invasion force before it can so much as enter the Gulf. Iran?s missile units, manned by the regime?s Revolutionary Guards, would be under instruction to take out more than 100 targets around the Gulf rim, including Saudi production and export centers.

The authenticity of the NDAJA document has been vouched for by at least two defectors from Iranian intelligence. Of course, it may not be authentic at all. And military contingency plans are just that?contingency plans; the file cabinets of defense ministries around the world are full of them. Nor do all analysts agree that the Straits of Hormuz can be effectively mined in the first place. Nevertheless, even the threat of mines or suicide boats would likely be enough to induce Lloyds of London to suspend insurance of ships passing through the Straits, causing tanker traffic to cease, oil markets to rise precipitously, and Asian and European economies to reel.

Something like this very nearly happened in 1987 during the Iran-Iraq war, when only direct U.S. intervention kept the Straits open and the world?s oil flowing. For the United States is hardly the only country with a stake in keeping the Gulf and Straits free of Iranian control. Every country in Western Europe and Asia, including those that complain most bitterly about American policy in the Middle East, depends on the steady maintenance of the global economic order that runs on Middle Eastern oil.

But?and herein lies a fruitful irony?so does Iran itself. Almost 90 percent of the mullahs? oil assets are located either in or near the Gulf. So is the nuclear reactor that Russia is building for Iran at Bushehr. Virtually every Iranian well or production platform depends on access to the Gulf if Iran?s oil is to reach buyers. Hence, the same Straits by means of which Iran intends to lever itself into a position of global power present the West with its own point of leverage to reduce Iran?s power?and to keep it reduced for at least as long as the country?s political institutions remain unprepared to enter the modern world.

Which brings us back to the military option. That there is plentiful warrant for the exercise of this option?in Iran?s serial defiance of UN resolutions, in its declared genocidal intentions toward Israel, another member of the United Nations, and in the fact of its harboring, supporting, and training of international terrorists?could not be clearer. Unfortunately, though, current debate has become stuck on the issue of possible air strikes against Iran?s nuclear program, and whether such strikes can or cannot halt that program?s further development. Optimists argue they can; pessimists, including those highlighted in Time?s cover story, throw up a myriad of objections.

The most common such objection is that the ayatollahs, having learned the lesson of 25 years ago when Israel took out Saddam Hussein?s nuclear reactor at Osirak, have dispersed the most vital elements of their uranium-enrichment project among perhaps 30 hardened and well-protected sites. According to Time?s military sources, air sorties would thus have to reach roughly 1,500 ?aim points,? contending with sophisticated air-defense systems along the way. As against this, others, including the strategic analyst Edward Luttwak in Commentary (?Three Reasons Not to Bomb Iran?Yet,? May 2006), argue convincingly that it is hardly necessary to hit all or even the majority of Iran?s sites in order to set back its nuclear program by several years.

But, as I have tried to show, the most immediate menace Iran poses is not nuclear but conventional in nature. How might it be dealt with militarily, and is it conceivable that both perils could be dealt with at once? What follows is one possible scenario for military action.

The first step would be to make it clear that the United States will tolerate no action by any state that endangers the international flow of commerce in the Straits of Hormuz. Signaling our determination to back up this statement with force would be a deployment in the Gulf of Oman of minesweepers, a carrier strike group?s guided-missile destroyers, an Aegis-class cruiser, and anti-submarine assets, with the rest of the carrier group remaining in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. Navy could also deploy UAV?s (unmanned air vehicles) and submarines to keep watch above and below against any Iranian missile threat to our flotilla.

Our next step would be to declare a halt to all shipments of Iranian oil while guaranteeing the safety of tankers carrying non-Iranian oil and the platforms of other Gulf states. We would then guarantee this guarantee by launching a comprehensive air campaign aimed at destroying Iran?s air-defense system, its air-force bases and communications systems, and finally its missile sites along the Gulf coast. At that point the attack could move to include Iran?s nuclear facilities?not only the ?hard? sites but also infrastructure like bridges and tunnels in order to prevent the shifting of critical materials from one to site to another.

Above all, the air attack would concentrate on Iran?s gasoline refineries. It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran?s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)

The scenario would not end here. With the systematic reduction of Iran?s capacity to respond, an amphibious force of Marines and special-operations forces could seize key Iranian oil assets in the Gulf, the most important of which is a series of 100 offshore wells and platforms built on Iran?s continental shelf. North and South Pars offshore fields, which represent the future of Iran?s oil and natural-gas industry, could also be seized, while Kargh Island at the far western edge of the Persian Gulf, whose terminus pumps the oil from Iran?s most mature and copiously producing fields (Ahwaz, Marun, and Gachsaran, among others), could be rendered virtually useless. By the time the campaign was over, the United States military would be in a position to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch.
Power User
Posts: 784

« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2006, 03:35:32 PM »

An operational fantasy? Not in the least. The United States did all this once before, in the incident I have already alluded to. In 1986-88, as the Iran-Iraq war threatened to spill over into the Gulf and interrupt vital oil traffic, the United States Navy stepped in, organizing convoys and re-flagging ships to protect them against vengeful Iranian attacks. When the Iranians tried to seize the offensive, U.S. vessels sank one Iranian frigate, crippled another, and destroyed several patrol boats. Teams of SEALS also shelled and seized Iranian oil platforms. The entire operation, the largest naval engagement since World War II, not only secured the Gulf; it also compelled Iraq and Iran to wind down their almost decade-long war. Although we made mistakes, including most grievously the accidental shooting-down of a civilian Iranian airliner, killing everyone on board, the world economic order was saved?the most important international obligation the United States faced then and faces today.

But the so-called ?tanker war? did not go far enough. In the ensuing decades, the regime in Tehran has single-mindedly pursued its goal of achieving great-power status through the acquisition of nuclear weapons, control of the Persian Gulf, and the spread of its ideology of global jihad. Any effective counter-strategy today must therefore be predicated not only on seizing the state?s oil assets but on refusing to relinquish them unless and until there is credible evidence of regime change in Tehran or?what is all but inconceivable?a major change of direction by the reigning theocracy. In the meantime, and as punishment for its serial violations of UN resolutions and of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran?s oil resources would be impounded and revenues from their production would be placed in escrow.

Obviously, no plan is foolproof. The tactical risks associated with a comprehensive war strategy of this sort are numerous. But they are outweighed by its key advantages.

First, it would accomplish much more than air strikes alone on Iran?s elusive nuclear sites. Whereas such action might retard the uranium-enrichment program by some years, this one in effect would put Iran?s theocracy out of business by depriving it of the very weapon that the critics of air strikes most fear. It would do so, moreover, with minimal means. This would be a naval and air war, not a land campaign. Requiring no draw-down of U.S. forces in Iraq, it would involve one or two carrier strike groups, an airborne brigade, and a Marine brigade. Since the entire operation would take place offshore, there would be no need to engage the Iranian army. It and the Revolutionary Guards would be left stranded, out of action and out of gas.

In fact, there is little Iran could do in the face of relentless military pressure at its most vulnerable point. Today, not only are key elements of the Iranian military in worse shape than in the 1980?s, but even the oil weapon is less formidable than imagined. Currently Iran exports an estimated 2.5 million barrels of oil a day. Yet according to a recent report in Forbes, quoting the oil-industry analyst Michael Lynch, new sources of oil around the world will have boosted total production by 2 million barrels a day in this year alone, and next year by three million barrels a day. In short, other producers (including Iranian platforms in American hands) can take up some if not all of the slack. The real loser would be Iran itself. Pumping crude oil is its only industry, making up 85 percent of its exports and providing 65 percent of the state budget. With its wells held hostage, the country?s economy could enter free fall.

To be sure, none of these considerations is likely to impress those who object in principle to any decisive action against Iran?s mullahs. To some, the scenario I have proposed will seem just another instance of rampant American imperialism or ?gunboat diplomacy.? To others, a war of this kind will surely appear calculated further to inflame anti-Americanism in the Middle East, arousing the fury of the dreaded ?Arab street.? Still others will point with alarm to the predictably angry reaction of Iran?s two great patrons, Russia and China. And many will worry that decisive U.S. action will boomerang politically, by alienating Iran?s democrats and dissidents and thus jeopardizing the hoped-for eventuality of a pro-Western government emerging in Tehran.

Let me address these concerns in turn. In the colonial era, gunboats were used to intimidate helpless peoples, not countries bent on intimidation themselves and actively underwriting global terrorism. Nor does America?s immediate self-interest, ?imperial? or otherwise, enter the picture; it is Europeans and Asians, not Americans, who rely on Iranian oil and natural gas. By safeguarding that supply, and keeping the Hormuz Straits open to other shippers, we can prevent a world-wide crisis of the sort that might well be triggered by Tehran itself in the face of economic sanctions or air strikes against its nuclear sites. Predictably, those complaining the loudest about American ?imperialism? would be its most direct beneficiaries.

As for anti-Americanism in general, the specter of the Arab street has proved itself to be a chimera. If the forcible removal of an Arab dictator (Saddam Hussein) failed to produce the incendiary reaction predicted by many experts, war on a non-Arab regime is hardly likely to do so. To the contrary, it is by dragging out the crisis, and by appearing weak in the face of Tehran?s blustering and deception, that we help to consolidate the formation of a radical Shiite Crescent in the heart of the Middle East. By finally removing the head of the radical Islamic monster, the military campaign contemplated here would perform a service both for neighboring Sunni regimes and for moderate Shiites in search of political breathing room, even as groups like Hizballah in Lebanon and Moqtada al-Sadr?s militia in Iraq would begin to find themselves politically and militarily orphaned and incapable of concerted action.

Then there are Moscow and Beijing. What these two regimes want out of Iran is a return on their investments there?and, in China?s case, oil. No doubt their first choice would be to have everything stay the way it is; but clearly their second choice is to prevent Iran itself from becoming the dominant player in the region. By ensuring a continuous flow of oil from the Gulf, and leaving untouched Russian and Chinese investments in the development of Iran?s Caspian Sea fields, an aggressive military strategy could actually work to those countries? advantage.

Would U.S. action permanently traumatize Iranian national pride and alienate its democrats for generations to come? This is the worry of analysts like Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, who on these same grounds also opposes air strikes on Iran?s nuclear installations. If anything, however, the current American policy?namely, pursuing economic sanctions?would seem likelier to produce that long-term damaging effect than would a short, sharp war to neutralize and perhaps even to topple a hated regime.

That the regime in Tehran is indeed hated, and also radically unstable, is a point on which both advocates and opponents of American action can agree. In this connection, it is important to bear in mind that Iran is rent by ethnic divisions and rivalries almost as fierce as those that divide Iraq or such former Soviet republics as Georgia and Russia itself. Almost half of Iran?s population is made up of Kurds, Baluchis, Azeris, Arabs, and Turkomans. Unlike the Persians, who are Shiites, most of these minorities are Sunni. Thus, Iran is a country ripe for constitutional overhaul, if not re-federation. Unless the current regime and its backers are willing to change course, decisive military action could open the way for an entirely new Iran.

The key word is ?decisive.? What has cost us prestige in the Middle East and around the world is not our 2003 invasion of Iraq but our lack of a clear record of success in its aftermath. Governments in and around the Persian Gulf region are waiting for someone to deal effectively and summarily with the Iranian menace. Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians, and others?all feel the pinch of an encroaching power. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to stop the Iranian advance.

In 1936, the French army could have halted Hitler?s reoccupation of the Rhineland with a single division of troops, but chose to do nothing. In 1938, Britain and France could have joined forces with the well-armed and highly motivated Czech army to administer a crushing defeat to the German Wehrmacht and probably topple Hitler in the bargain. Instead they handed him the Sudetenland, setting in motion the process that in 1939 led to the most destructive war in world history. Do we intend to dither until suicide bombers blow up a supertanker off the Omani coast, or a mushroom cloud appears over Tel Aviv, before we decide it is finally time to get serious about Iran?

Arthur Herman, a new contributor, has taught history at George Mason University and Georgetown University. He is the author of, among other books, The Idea of Decline in Western History, How the Scots Invented the Modern World, and, most recently, To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World (2004), nominated in 2005 for the Mountbatten Prize in naval history. Mr. Herman thanks Chet Nagle and J.R. Dunn for help and advice in the writing of this essay.
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« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2006, 08:19:59 AM »

U.N. Indecision on Iran Leaves Bush With Tough Choices
October 31, 2006

Where, one wonders, will the desultory, perpetual efforts to avert a crisis with Iran end? With a dramatic calling of the vote at the U.N. Security Council in New York? Around-the-clock negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna? A special envoy from the European Union hammering out a compromise in Tehran?

None of the above, I predict. As the Iranian government announced a doubling of its uranium enrichment program last week, the Security Council bickered over a feeble European draft resolution. It would do no more than prohibit Iranian students from studying nuclear physics abroad, deny visas for Iranians working in the nuclear area, and end foreign assistance for Iran's nuclear program ? oh, except from Russia.

Recent evidence suggests that Tehran is not likely to forgo its dream of nuclear weaponry.

? Hostile statements provoking the West. Perhaps the most notable of these was President Ahmadinejad's warning to Europe, reported by Reuters, not to support Israel: "We have advised the Europeans that ... the [Muslim] nations are like an ocean that is welling up, and if a storm begins, the dimensions will not stay limited to Palestine, and you may get hurt." Yet more outrageously, the chief of the Iranian judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, said America stands "on the threshold of annihilation."

? A mood of messianism in the upper reaches of the government. In addition to the general enthusiasm for mahdaviat (belief in and efforts to prepare for the mahdi, a figure to appear in the end of days), reliable sources report that Mr. Ahmadinejad believes that he is in direct contact with the "Hidden Imam," another key figure of Shiite eschatology.

? The urgent nuclear program. Bolstered by the economic windfall from oil and gas sales, since mid-2005 the regime at almost every turn has taken the most aggressive steps to join the nuclear club, notably by beginning nuclear enrichment in February.

A focused, defiant, and determined Tehran contrasts with the muddled, feckless Russians, Arabs, Europeans, and Americans. Six months ago, a concerted external effort could still have prompted effective pressure from within Iranian society to halt the nuclear program, but that possibility now appears defunct. As the powers have mumbled, shuffled, and procrastinated, Iranians see that their leadership has effectively been permitted to barrel ahead.

Nonetheless, new ideas keep being floated to finesse a war with Iran. A Los Angeles Times columnist, Max Boot, for example, has dismissed an American invasion of Iran as "out of the question" and proffered three alternatives: threatening an economic embargo, rewarding Tehran for suspending its nuclear program, or helping Iranian anti-regime militias invade the country

Admittedly, these no-war, no-nukes scenarios are creative. But they no longer offer a prospect of success, for the situation has become crude and binary: Either the American government deploys force to prevent Tehran from acquiring nukes, or Tehran acquires them.

This key decision ? war or acquiescence ? will take place in Washington, not in New York, Vienna, or Tehran. (Or Tel Aviv.) The critical moment will arrive when the American president decides whether to permit the Islamic Republic of Iran to acquire the bomb. As the timetable of the Iranian nuclear program is murky, that might be either President Bush or his successor.

It will be a remarkable moment. America glories in the full flower of public opinion on taxes, schools, and property zoning. Activists organize voluntary associations, citizens turn up at town hall meetings, associations lobby elected representatives.

But the American apparatus of participation fades away when it comes time to make the fateful decision to go to war. The president is left on his own to make this difficult call, driven by his temperament, inspired by his vision, surrounded only by a close circle of advisers, insulated from the vicissitudes of politics. His decision will be so intensely personal that which way he will go depends mostly on his character and psychology.

Should he allow a malevolently mystical leadership to build a doomsday weapon that it might well deploy? Or should he take out Iran's nuclear infrastructure, despite the resulting economic, military, and diplomatic costs?

Until the American president decides, everything amounts to a mere rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic, acts of futility and of little relevance.

Mr. Pipes ( is director of the Middle East Forum and author of "Miniatures" (Transaction Publishers).

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« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2006, 10:30:06 PM »

Iran offers to arm enemies of Israel with rocket arsenal

By Kay Biouki and Harry De Quetteville
Last Updated: 12:19am GMT 12/11/2006

Iran has offered to arm neighbouring countries in the Middle East with sophisticated missiles for use in battle with the "Zionist regime" of Israel.

The offer was made last week by Yahya Rahim Safavi, the commander-in-chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, as Iran and the US staged rival shows of military might in Gulf waters.

Clerics watch as a nuclear-capable Shahab-3 missile, with a range of 1,200 miles, soars into the Iranian sky in military exercises near Qom
During the "Great Prophet" manoeuvres, Iran's military showcased a range of rockets and missiles, including the Shahab-3, which has a range of 1,200 miles and can carry a nuclear warhead.

It also tested anti-ship missiles with a range of more than 100 miles and shoulder-borne anti-helicopter weapons. The missiles mean shipping across the Gulf is now within Iran's sights, as well as the Strait of Hormuz, through which passes a fifth of the world's oil supply.

The tests were described by Iran's Adml Sardar Fadavi as a "warning to the US", which last week held its own exercises just 20 miles from the Iranian coast.

Speaking on Iranian TV, Maj Gen Safavi said that Iran would be willing to share its arsenal. "We are able to give our missile systems to friendly and neighbouring countries," he declared.

His comments appeared to be directed primarily at Lebanon, where the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia fought a summer war with Israel, raining down missiles on the northern areas of the country. Now Iran has offered to open its armoury to the official Lebanese army, providing air defence systems that could target Israeli warplanes.

"Teheran considers this as its duty to help friendly countries which are exposed to invasion by the Zionist regime," said Iran's ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad Reza Sheibani.

Growing military tension between America and Iran has been accompanied by a rhetorical confrontation. Vice-Adml Patrick Walsh, commander of US naval forces in the Gulf, said that Iran's manoeuvres were a "message of intimidation and fear".

Adml Fadavi, who is the deputy navy chief of the Revolutionary Guard, demanded that "our enemies keep their hostility off the Gulf".

In Teheran, growing pressure over Iran's nuclear programme ? which it insists is for energy but which America suspects is to build atomic weapons ? has left some resigned to a new conflict.

"War is a real possibility," said Ali Homayoon, 55, a clerk. "We would suffer a great deal. Iranians want to see the end of all conflicts and live a normal life."

But Republican losses in last week's midterm US Congressional elections could have a dramatic impact on American military plans for Iran and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Robert Gates, the former CIA director who has taken over as defence secretary from Donald Rumsfeld, has a reputation as a pragmatist.

In a 100-page report for the Council on Foreign Relations, entitled Iran: Time for a New Approach, written in 2004, he argued that isolating Teheran was "manifestly harmful to Washington's interests".

"Political and economic relations with Iran cannot be normalised unless the Iranian government demonstrates a commitment to abandoning its nuclear weapons programmes and its support for terrorist groups," he said. "However, these demands should not be preconditions for dialogue."

Maj Gen Safavi was confident Iran would be ready to repel a US military strike.

"Iran has its own defence and deterrent power," he said. "It is unlikely that America will cause us problems."
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« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2006, 12:43:12 PM »

IRAN SAYS NUKE PROGRAM IS NEAR COMPLETE: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that Iran would soon celebrate completion of its nuclear fuel program and claimed the international community was ready to accept it as a nuclear state. Iran has been locked in a standoff with the West over its nuclear program. The United States and its European allies have been seeking a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Tehran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment.
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« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2006, 09:35:19 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Russia Cooperates, For Now

Russia appeared to make some conciliatory moves toward the United States on Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin directed Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to coordinate with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in drafting a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution on Iran and its nuclear program. Lavrov also implored Iran to answer all of the questions posed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, while criticizing Tehran for failing to address international concerns over its nuclear ambitions. He further expressed Moscow's concern at Iran's refusal to accept the package of incentives offered by Russia, the United States, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

This cooperative tone from the Russian foreign policy contingent is a marked reversal, and seems to be the product of the two meetings last week between Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush. Bush has helped to facilitate Russia's entrance into the World Trade Organization (WTO), and it appears that the bargain is paying off. However, this is Russia -- nothing is that simple.

The most help on Iran that the Bush administration can hope for from Russia is Moscow's abstention from vetoing a sanctions resolution in the UNSC. Russia has submitted amendments to the existing draft, demanding that any imposed sanctions not be punitive and that Iran be allowed to retain its civilian nuclear program. In light of the newfound spirit of cooperation between Moscow and Washington, any final resolution is thus likely to contain language of compromise on those matters.

However, there is only so far Russia will go toward the U.S. position. Moscow will protect its geopolitical interests at all costs, including abandoning the ever-closer prospect of WTO membership if the Kremlin deems that necessary. Russia is aggressively seeking to secure its own interests, whether it be through using energy as an arm of its foreign policy, jockeying for influence in Middle Eastern affairs, or targeting its own former operatives in exile. The Kremlin's goal is to distract Washington as much as possible, in order to prevent the United States from paying too much attention to Russia's internal affairs and its near abroad.

The overarching tensions between the two Cold War adversaries jeopardize any real consensus on Iran or any other issue. While Bush's breakfast diplomacy appears to be paying off so far, Russia's helpful streak will continue only as long as it is advantageous (or at least not detrimental) to Russian political and economic interests.

Certainly, Washington can -- and might -- do more to coerce Moscow's cooperation. Russia's WTO membership could still be jeopardized by Georgia, which has rescinded its signature from their bilateral agreement. Tbilisi could come to compromise on its position, however, with a little incentive from Washington.

Russia and the United States will take measured steps toward each other, always retaining the option to reverse course if their interests evolve to require it. Although Tuesday's statements suggest a degree of compromise between Moscow and Washington, they do not signal a lasting strategic consensus -- merely a tactical, and temporary, bout of cooperation.
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« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2006, 02:11:42 PM »

ROCKETS TO IRAN: Russia has begun deliveries of the Tor-M1 air defence rocket system to Iran, Russian news agencies quoted military industry sources as saying, in the latest sign of a Russian-US rift over Iran. "Deliveries of the Tor-M1 have begun. The first systems have already been delivered to Tehran," ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed, high-ranking source as saying Friday.
Levine Breaking News 11/24/06
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« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2006, 02:47:56 PM »

Russia has begun deliveries of the Tor-M1 air defence rocket system to Iran, Russian news agencies quoted military industry sources as saying, in the latest sign of a Russian-US rift over Iran.

Those bastards!

"En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero
acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que viv?a un hidalgo de los de
lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, roc?n flaco y galgo corredor."
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« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2006, 09:33:15 AM »

Political news aside. This is about an Iranian TV star who is famous there for her faith and loyality to the mullahs. Now it turned out that a porn movie of her is a bestseller in the streets, with about 100.000 copies sold. The Iranians have a love for porn?,1518,451449,00.html
« Last Edit: November 30, 2006, 10:39:43 AM by Quijote » Logged

"En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero
acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que viv?a un hidalgo de los de
lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, roc?n flaco y galgo corredor."
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« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2006, 08:07:12 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Russia's Plans for Iran

The director of Russia's state nuclear fuel exporting firm, Atomstroyexport, announced on Tuesday that his company will begin preparing to transport Russian-fabricated nuclear fuel to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant -- which was also built by the Russians -- in January 2007. He estimated that Bushehr will become operational approximately six months after the fuel arrives in March.

The statement raised heckles throughout the West, where governments -- particularly those of the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom -- are attempting to slow and, if possible, stop Iranian efforts to launch a nuclear program. And since sanctioning Iran for its nuclear amibitions is the only headline item on the U.N. Security Council's to-do list, international diplomacy seems firmly on track for a train wreck.

But the picture is not nearly as clear-cut as it seems, and no player's role is murkier than that of Russia.

Yes, the Russians are constructing the Bushehr facility and making a pretty penny for doing so; yes, they are contractually committed to supplying Bushehr with Russian-fabricated nuclear fuel; and yes, in order to protect these contracts and their political influence in Iran they have threatened to veto any U.N. resolution that enacts strict sanctions against the country, particularly if those sanctions mention the Bushehr project.

But that hardly means they are enthused about the idea of Iran possessing a robust nuclear program. Russia's interests are simply better served by keeping the project in limbo.

An operational Bushehr would drastically reduce Russia's options and influence, both with the West and with Iran. Once Bushehr goes online and the Russians collect their payment, the West will no longer see Russia as an integral player in the international conflict because Moscow's commercial obligations to Tehran will have been fulfilled. Additionally, the West will not look kindly on any Russian steps to help Iran operationalize its nuclear program.

Moreover, buried in the Russian fuel supply contract is a clause that requires all spent nuclear fuel from Bushehr (which contains plutonium) to be repatriated to Russia. There is little to no doubt that Iran's nuclear agenda is not limited to civilian energy purposes. Should Iran divert such material to a weapons program, Russia would know immediately. In that case, not only would Russia have become a major contributor to the Iranian nuclear project, but it also would be shouldered with the responsibility of restraining a soon-to-be nuclear Iran.

However, so long as Bushehr is not yet operational -- or even better, nearly operational -- the picture is starkly different. The West needs Russia to use its influence over Iran to bring the country to the nuclear negotiating table. Iran needs Russia to use its influence at the U.N. Security Council to shield it from sanctions. Should Bushehr become an operational reality, those needs, and the influence that goes with them, will disappear.

Russia likes to insert itself into issues that let it meddle with U.S. interests, and the Middle East makes for a good playing field. The Iranian nuclear controversy allowed Moscow to carve out a place for itself at the table and assume the role of either spoiler or facilitator, depending on Russian interests. After gaining entry into the World Trade Organization in November, Russia began to soften its stance on sanctions and has now come up with a new draft that shows some promise of surviving a Security Council vote. (The draft conveniently leaves the Bushehr project out of the sanctions package.) At the same time, Russia has been careful not to alienate its friends in Tehran; it has repeated its promises of nuclear fuel shipments while assuring the Iranians that it will make sure any Security Council resolution on sanctions is watered down. Even though such weakened sanctions would hold little significance and be almost impossible to enforce, they would allow the United States to signal to Iran that the nuclear issue will not be ignored while the world watches Iraq.

In the end, however, Russia knows the limits of its influence over Iran; Moscow can best manage its position by leaving the Iranians -- and Bushehr -- hanging.

The only remaining question is: How long can Russia milk this?

The answer is: Longer than one might think. The original deal to build Bushehr dates back to 1995. The project was scheduled to be completed in 1999, and even the Russians have quietly admitted that the reactor core has been ready since late 2004. But because Russia has always based its decisions on politics rather than on reality, the reactor's unveiling might still be a long time coming.

1220 GMT -- UNITED NATIONS -- Russia canceled talks on Iranian nuclear sanctions late Dec. 12 because the United States raised the issue of a jailed Belarusian politician during a closed-door U.N. Security Council session on Cote d'Ivoire and Lebanon, Russian diplomats said.

« Last Edit: December 13, 2006, 08:09:16 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2006, 09:15:16 AM »

The following piece by a Syrian was written for what I understand to be a major Indian newspaper.  Interesting.


A bitter struggle for power in Iran
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS - Much is being written in the international media about the twin elections in Iran, which take place on Friday. Some, like veteran Iranian journalist Amir Taheri, are expecting the "first major political defeat" for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

One election will be for municipalities, the other for the Council of Experts (COE). This congressional body of 86 ayatollahs selects the supreme leader of Iran and supervises his activities. Members have to be experts in Islamic jurisprudence so they can debate 
Islamic law, and see that the grand ayatollah does not violate the Holy Koran.

The COE can hire and fire the supreme leader, a post held since 1989 by the strong and all-powerful Ayatollah Ali al-Khamenei. It is currently headed by the old and ailing Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, who has re-nominated himself for office but stands a very slim chance of succeeding since he is supported neither by Ahmadinejad nor by Khamenei.

For this reason, Ahmadinejad has his eyes set on winning elections for the COE, which are by direct votes for an eight-year term. Khamenei, who is 66 and also in frail health, is likely to be ousted - if Ahmadinejad gets his way - before the new council's term expires in 2014.

By all accounts, the president does not like the overpowering influence that Khamenei has on Iranian politics. Some expect that if the president's list wins the elections, they would ask Khamenei to step down on the grounds of ill health.

The man earmarked to replace Khamenei by the president is Ahmadinejad's ideological mentor, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghli Misbah Yazdi. Born in 1934, the radical cleric studied in Qom and was educated in Islam by none other than Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic in 1979. He graduated with honors from the religious seminary in 1960 and worked as editor-in-chief of a anti-Shah journal called "Revenge".

He was also a member of the board of directors at an influential religious school in Iran. In recent years, he has headed the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute and is a current member of the outgoing COE. During the 1990s he rose to fame for seriously challenging the reformist president Mohammad Khatami, arguing that contact with the West is un-Islamic and claiming that the reformists were straying from the pure revolutionary ideals of Khomeini.

He encouraged disobedience to Khatami through his writings and sermons on Fridays, prompting the former president to describe him as a "theotrician of violence". Yazdi's day in the sun came when his student Ahmadinejad was voted to power in August 2005. To him, Western culture means "misleading ideas" and it resembles injecting Iran "with the AIDS virus".

If this man becomes the new leader of Iran, all talk about curbing Ahmadinejad's powers and re-engaging Iran in dialogue with the West will come to an abrupt end. But luckily for opponents of the Iranian president, his ambitions face strong obstacles from within Iranian politics. These have been created by the Khamenei-backed Guardian Council.

This body is made up of 12 officials (six being clerics appointed directly by the supreme leader) and has ultimate executive, judiciary and electoral authority. The remaining six members are lawyers appointed by a judicial authority, which in turn is approved or vetoed by Khamenei.

Although Khamenei originally supported Ahmadinejad's rise to power in 2005, the two men have parted on a variety of issues and the president sees Khamenei as an obstacle to his powers at the presidency. He wants - but cannot so long as Khamenei is in power - to clip the wings of the supreme leader. Khamenei, a smart man by all accounts who also served as president in the 1980s, realizes the threat coming from Ahmadinejad. That is why he ordered his supporters - all 12 members of the Guardian Council - to veto most of the 493 candidates running for elections on Friday who are declared supporters of the president.

Among those vetoed are Yazdi's son. They also banned any woman from standing for office at the CEO. All reformists running for office were also rejected because they are trying to pass an amendment in the Iranian constitution allowing non-clerics into the CEO - something that Khamenei curtly refuses as well.

Other candidates turned down include pro-business and modernizing clerics supportive of former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who challenged Ahmadinejad for the presidency in 2005. The very fact that Khamenei and the Guardian Council allowed Rafsanjani to run for the CEO, given his animosity toward the wild policies of Ahmadinejad, is also an indicator that they want to make life more difficult for the president.

Victory for Rafsanjani, however, is doubtful, since both Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are opposed to him, and it is rumored that he is in favor of reaching a deal with the United States on Iran's nuclear program. In short, Khamenei has engineered elections that guarantee continuity of his post as the grand master of Iranian elections. Iranian observers are saying that out of the 86 seats contested at the CEO, only 17 new members will be voted into office. The remaining 69 clerics will all be pro-Khamenei.

For the above reasons, along with a recent Iranian poll affiliated with the Rafsanjani-led Expediency Council, show that the future is not promising for Ahmadinejad. Khamenei, however, has not come out to challenge Ahmadinejad - at least not yet - and insists on being a godfather to all Iranians. He has even called on all able citizens to vote, saying that it is a national and religious duty.

Despite that, Iranian observers claim that voter turnout will be no more than 49%. The poll showed that out of the Iranians surveyed, 90% said that their support for the president had diminished over the past 16 months. This was made clear by student demonstrators on December 11 at the Amir Kabir University of Iran, when young men burned pictures of Ahmadinejad and raised slogans that read "death to the dictator".

Unable to crack down on the rioters, for fear of losing support in the upcoming elections, Ahmadinejad did not arrest or harass them. On the contrary, he released a statement saying that he was pleased by the demonstrations. They reminded him of his student days under the Shah in the 1970s when students were prohibited from expressing their views.

If he fails to control the COE, however, Ahmadinejad plans to take the municipality elections through a list of candidates headed by his sister, Parvan Ahmadinejad. Her list is called "The Enchanting Scent for Services", and it is campaigning on the same youth-related issues that Ahmadinejad touted when he was voted in in 2005. The ambitious president, however, will not be satisfied unless he wins the COE.

One might ask, how is it that this president, who surprised the world with his victory in 2005, finds himself in a difficult position today, unable to impose his will on Iranian society? Is the Ahmadinejad myth a fabrication created by the US? Is the superman president really human - and weak - after all? Perhaps the Americans concentrated on Ahmadinejad more than they should have, because the real powerbroker in Iran is Khamenei - not Ahmadinejad.

It is Khamenei who supports Hezbollah and Khamenei, rather than the president, who is stubborn when it comes to Iran's nuclear issue. Ahmadinejad is simply a figure of state who has limited domestic authority and by no means is a dictator like Saddam Hussein. He achieved victory not because of his revolutionary views, nor for his support and conviction in the Islamic Revolution, but rather because of his promises to grassroots Iranians. By rhetoric, action, dress and origin, he mirrored their plight and realities.

But Ahmadinejad promised more than he could deliver, forgetting during election time that he was not the ultimate ruler and would have to share power with the Majlis (parliament), the Guardian Council, the COE - and Khamenei.

Young Iranians, born after the revolution of 1979, had not experienced the autocracy of the Shah and were (and still are) unimpressed by the revolutionary rhetoric of the 1980s. They wanted a president who could provide jobs for the university-educated Iranians who were unemployed. They wanted a leader who could combat the 16% unemployment rate ( 21.2% among women and 34% in the 15-19 age group.)

Currently, 800,000 Iranian youth enter the job market every year and Ahmadinejad would have to double job creation efforts to meet this staggering number. This would require huge investment and an economic growth rate of more than 6% per year. Iran's economy is now down to 1.9%, after growth of 4.8% for 2004-2005.

One slogan devised under Ahmadinejad read: "$550 for every Iranian citizen", Ahmadinejad also won because he was Khamenei's man since the supreme leader did not want to deal with a political strongman like Rafsanjani. It was believed that Ahmadinejad would follow Khamenei's orders and not defy him.

Rafsanjani, however, would have worked with Khamenei as an equal. The supreme leader wanted someone he could manipulate. For the exact same reasons, he is now working against Ahmadinejad, who apparently no longer wants to be manipulated or overpowered.

Rather than criticize Ahmadinejad, the US could bide its time and see how Friday's polls play out. Change can be achieved - through evolution of the Iranian regime and its own system of checks-and-balances - rather than revolution, or war.

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.

(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
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« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2006, 03:54:44 PM »

Iran “Votes”
About this week's elections.

By Michael Ledeen

The first step toward understanding the Iranian “elections” is that they weren’t. Elections, that is, at least in our common understanding of the term, namely the people vote and the counters count those votes and so we find out what the people want. That’s not what happens in Iran, where both the candidates and the results are determined well in advance of the casting of ballots. Yes, people get mobilized and go to the polls and mark their ballots and put them in the ballot box. But then Groucho comes into play: “I’ve got ballots. And if you don’t like them, I’ve got other ballots.” So, as usual, candidates (featuring, as usual, the unfortunate Mehdi Karubi, the eternal loser who nonetheless remains at the top of the mullah’s power mountain) complain that ballot boxes disappeared, and new ones magically appeared, and numbers change, and counters are replaced. It’s all part of the ritual.

Which is not to say they weren’t significant. They certainly were. And, as most every news outlet has noticed, they brought bad news to the country’s madcap president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian electoral ritual doesn’t tell us what the people want; it tells us what the tyrants have decided. This time, the decision had to do with the very intense power struggle going on inside the regime, catalyzed by the recent evidence of the worsening health of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In considerable pain from his cancer, for which he consumes a considerable quantity of opium syrup, Khamenei recently was forced to spend 2-3 days in a Tehran hospital after complaining of a loss of feeling in his feet and breaking out in a cold sweat. His doctors told him several months ago that he was unlikely to survive much past the end of March, and he seems to be more or less on schedule.

Western media, always looking for the next big celebrity, have been fascinated with Ahmadinejad, an outspoken and charismatic leader with a kind of wacky charm, especially when he launches into his Vision Thing: seeing funny blue lights surrounding him at the General Assembly when he spoke there, having prophetic visions of the elimination of the United States from the face of the earth (“Today, it is the United States, Britain, and the Zionist regime which are doomed to disappear as they have moved far away from the teachings of God”), and proclaiming his expert opinion on the errors of thousands of scholars who have documented a Holocaust-that-never-was-but-soon-Allah-willing-will-be.

Fair enough, if I were a big-time editor I’d give him plenty of attention (although I’d point out his curious taste in fashion; the guy dresses like an Israeli! Open collar, never a hint of a tie, never a hat or even a turban...). However I’d be at pains to point out that the position of president of the Islamic Republic doesn’t bestow much in the way of executive power. It’s always gone to a person who can play a largely deceptive role in world affairs. Prior to the current holder, we had Khatami-the-reformer-who-never-reformed-anything, a man who gave politically correct speeches calling for a dialogue among civilizations and whispering soft words to Western intellectuals and diplomats at the same time he ruthlessly purged anything free anywhere in the country, and presided over the murders of students, professors, and other dissidents. That was a period when Iran sought to lull the West into the arms of Morpheus, distracting attention from the real horrors of the regime and its preparations for war against us, including the nuclear program.

With Ahmadinejad, the mullahs bared their fangs to us. Convinced they were winning in Iraq, foreseeing the destruction of Israel, the domination of Lebanon, a jihadist reconquista in Afghanistan and the expansion of their domain into the Horn of Africa, they gave us the face of the unrepentant conqueror. He’s played his role well, and he will continue to play it. Just yesterday he proclaimed that Iran has become “a nuclear power,” leaving us to wonder exactly what that means. Is it the bomb? Or is it a technical advance that will lead to a bomb? Whatever it means, it’s an act of defiance, a reassertion of Iran’s will to prosecute the twenty-seven year old war they have waged against us ever since Khomeini’s seizure of power.

The war policy is not in dispute among the rulers of Iran, whether they call themselves reformers or hard-liners. Nor is the decision to use the iron fist of the regime against any and all advocates of freedom for the Iranian people. What is decidedly at the center of the current fighting within the regime — a fight that has already produced spectacular assassinations, masqueraded as airplane crashes, of a significant number of military commanders, including the commander of the ground forces of the powerful Revolutionary Guards — is the Really Big Question, indeed the only question that really matters: Who will succeed Khamenei?

We don’t yet know the answer, but recent events make it pretty clear that it won’t be Ahmadinejad. Khamenei and his cohorts staged a neat political melodrama in two acts to deliver this message. The recent protest on the campus of Amir Kamir University in Tehran was no surprise; Iran is constantly riven by public demonstrations against the regime. The news was not the demonstration, but the amount of attention it received. Why this one and not the scores of others? The answer, I think, is that this protest was covered by the official Iranian media, which made it safe for foreign correspondents to report it. And why did the official media cover it? Because it was the first move in a campaign — culminating in the “election results” — to demystify Ahmadinejad and his messianic allies, one of whom had declared himself a candidate to succeed Khamenei. So Act One was the protest and Act Two was the “election.” Maybe there will be a third act, maybe not.

At the same time, Act One served another function: it helped the thugs in Tehran identify the current student activists. “The Amir Kabir Newsletter,” as reported by the intrepid passionaria of the Iranian-American community, Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, says that the student demonstrators have gone into hiding, most notably the student who bravely held up the sign “Fascist president, you don’t belong at the polytechnic.” Thoughtlessly, various foreign newspapers published his photograph.

This is a dangerous game for the regime to play, and the repression at Amir Kabir provoked, of all people, Italian Youth and Sports Minister Giovanna Melandri, to call for a demonstration in Rome, supporting the Iranian students. Another demonstration is scheduled for tonight, sponsored by a truly bipartisan group of young people, including Jewish organizations already enraged by the Holocaust Conference.

Alas, there is not a peep from our leaders. Silence from the White House. Silence from the State Department. As Russell Berman rightly intones at Telos, it’s just like before the (1979) revolution — with the difference Western liberals and the left sided with the democratic student movement “before the revolution.” Where are they today?

Faster, Please.

 — Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.

National Review Online -
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« Reply #16 on: December 22, 2006, 09:04:00 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Iran's Sudden Opportunity In Turkmenistan

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov unexpectedly died of a heart attack on Thursday. The death of the autocratic and eccentric Niyazov -- also known by his grandiose self-bestowed name "Turkmenbashi" or "father of all Turkmen" -- provides Iran with a unique opportunity to secure its northern border and gain a stronger foothold in energy-rich Turkmenistan. But it also creates a new source of tension between Moscow and Tehran that could ultimately impact Iran's agenda for Iraq.

The fall of the Soviet Union and the birth of Turkmenistan in 1991 forced Iran to pay closer attention to its northern border. Iran, lodged between Iraq and Afghanistan, was still recovering from the war it fought against Iraq in the 1980s and the guerrilla war it helped fund against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Turkmenistan and Iran share a 621-mile border, but are split by an ethnic, historical and ideological divide that leaves the two countries with little in common, unlike the Persian linkages Iran has with nearby Tajikistan.

Iran pursued a cooperative relationship with Turkmenistan, based primarily around energy assets. Though Iran is home to the world's second-largest natural gas reserves, it had not yet developed into a major natural gas exporter, primarily due to constraints involving financing, lack of indigenous technology and political isolation. Building a strong energy relationship with Turkmenistan -- the world's fifth-largest supplier of natural gas -- would allow Tehran to use Turkmen gas to supply its domestic market in the north of the country, a cheaper option than having to transport natural gas from its closest domestic source in Iran's south. A Turkmen supply of natural gas in the north of Iran allows for a greater amount of Iranian gas to be shipped off to other export destinations for a greater profit.

To meet this objective, Iran and Turkmenistan ended up building a pipeline from Korpedzhe in Turkmenistan to Kurt-Kui in northern Iran in 1997. But this was only a small step toward Iran's grander vision to become a major energy player in Central Asia. The $190 million pipeline is about 124 miles long and has a limited capacity of 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year, though to date it has only supplied about half the intended amount due to the complications involved in dealing with the Turkmenbashi.

Iran's real goal was the development of a 1,420mm-diameter pipeline that would begin in Turkmenistan and run 870 miles along a route through northern Iran to Turkey, into the European market. The pipeline was projected to supply 28 bcm per year and would cost between $1.6 billion and $2.5 billion. It was a grand plan that caught the eye of Royal Dutch/Shell, Snamprogetti and Gaz de France; but in the end, the lack of international financing (due to U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran in 1996) and general wariness by U.S. investors to deal closely with the Turkmenbashi killed the project, leaving Russian state-owned energy major Gazprom to tighten its grip on Turkmenistan's energy assets.

The death of the Turkmenbashi revives the tug-of-war between Russia and Iran over Turkmenistan. The Turkmenbashi provided the Iranians with a buffer zone that kept the Russians at a safe distance. With Turkmenistan now up for grabs, the Russians will be swooping in to make the country a wholly owned subsidiary of Moscow, posing a threat to Iranian interests in Central Asia.

Iran has been following a careful-yet-aggressive strategy to broaden its influence in the region, primarily through its gains in Iraq and its development into a nuclear power. Iran's bid for the regional power-broker position inevitably involves expanding its influence in Central Asia through political and economic ties. This was heretofore done via a variety of energy and infrastructure projects, including hydroelectric investments and the building of the Anzab tunnel in Tajikistan. Iran's interest in Turkmenistan remains centered around energy relations, which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed to strengthen.

Iran does not want to see a further consolidation of Russian influence across its northern border that could end up unraveling the relationship Tehran built with the Turkmenbashi. Rolling Iranian military forces across the border into Turkmenistan to fill the power-vacuum might prove a tempting option for Iran to secure its energy interests and firmly insert itself in the Central Asian arena. Yet the Iranian military lacks the bandwidth for such an operation, and probably cannot afford to take the risk of increasing the vulnerability of its western border while the Iraq situation remains far from settled. Moreover, Iran has not been able to make any substantial inroads among the Turkmen political elite that it could use to manipulate the power struggle in its favor.

In the end, Iran knows that Russia is best positioned to influence the course of events in Turkmenistan. This unsettling reality will put a strain on Tehran's relationship with Moscow, on which Iran has relied heavily to run interference in the U.N. Security Council. The development of Turkmenistan into a point of contention between Russia and Iran weakens one of Tehran's key levers in countering the United States. Iran's main focus has been on reinforcing U.S. weakness in Iraq to consolidate its own hold over Baghdad. With the death of the Turkmenbashi, the inevitable strengthening of Russia in Turkmenistan creates a new distraction that Iran will need to deal with in its struggle for cash and resources in Central Asia. Soon enough, Russia will acquire the ability to redirect Turkmenistan's natural gas supplies to the north and cut off Iran's strongest energy link to Central Asia.

This new challenge gives the Iranians a lot to contemplate in planning out next steps for Turkmenistan. This is an issue of priorities for Tehran. The Turkmenbashi's death presents an enormous opportunity for Iran to expand its presence in Central Asia; but provoking a conflict in Turkmenistan runs the risk of jeopardizing Iran's plans for Iraq. The last thing Iran wants is to be placed in a position where it simultaneously has to fend off Russia and the United States on two fronts. Grabbing hold of a post-Turkmenbashi Turkmenistan makes for an alluring expedition for Iran to reaffirm its position as the regional kingmaker, but we suspect the Iranians will end up resisting the temptation.
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« Reply #17 on: December 28, 2006, 08:56:25 AM »


Persian . . . or Iranian?
December 28, 2006; Page A14

Holiday parties always seem to bring out the semi-inebriated men who find their way to my corner. There is, as expected, an opening line, which hardly ever leads to a conversation. But if it ever does, and if that conversation shows signs of vitality, even a dim glimmering of erudition, a rhetorical question is sure to follow. They lean into me and murmur: "Did you say you were Persian or Parisian?" They count on the tie, the long-stemmed wine glass, or the exalted titles on their name tags to make flirtation pass as ethnographical inquiry.

The "compliment" is clearly a profound insult: When an Iranian proves to be sophisticated, she no longer qualifies as Iranian. She is exchanged into a creature whose cultural currency is tangible for the Westerner. If unfamiliarity with Iran is less shallow than "My college classmate's father was the personal pilot for the Shah" (Royal Pilot number 1,654 and counting), or "Our local Eyeraynian serves great tandoori," then the real biases begin to emerge. The unveiled and urbane Iranian jars the Western mind. For the Anglophone, Iran's history begins in 1979, and the model for an authentic Iranian male is bearded, preferably turbaned and robed; and the female is submissive and veiled. Fist-throwing, frenzied behavior is a plus. The rest are simply the have-beens: exiles who are at best irrelevant, if not thoroughly out of touch. Non-Shiites need not apply.

But the Westerner is not entirely to blame. The country's presidential machinery is dedicated to convincing the world of just that. The main task of every ideology is to create identity, which is what Tehran's taskmaster-in-chief is attempting. With the symbolic Palestinian scarf around his neck in the land where public support for the Palestinian cause has been consistently diminishing, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's existential mission is to recast the ethos of being Iranian. In truth, he is peddling a pan-Islamism, by regional extension a pan-Arabism, for which neither Iranians nor Arabs have an appetite. As uranium is enriched, the Iranian identity is plundered. Mr. Ahmadinejad's numerous spectacles, most recently the Holocaust conference, are meant to bring a sense of transcultural and transethnic unity through a common political purpose. On the domestic scene, this is an old act -- a familiar blunder to annihilate Iranian nationalism, or to force it to become subordinate to the Muslim, with Arab undertones.

The effort began by Ayatollah Khomeini. He made no secret of his contempt for the non-Muslim dimensions of Iranian life. He injected Persian with so many Arabic words that it confounded the ordinary listener, something for which he compensated by repetitiveness. He did all but officially ban Nowrooz, the traditional Iranian new year with its roots in the pre-Islamic era, and refrained from delivering a traditional Nowrooz message in March 1979 (weeks after the victory of the revolution). But as popular as he was in those early days, the public's backlash against his stance on Nowrooz was so powerful that he, who rarely relented, eventually caved in. Since then, and especially as a result of the arduous Iran-Iraq war, patriotism has been on the rise. Pre-Islamic holidays are being celebrated with unprecedented fanfare. The Persian lexicon has turned into a bastion of nationalism. Numerous Persian synonyms have been invented to replace the most commonly used foreign words, primarily Arabic ones. To everyone's wonder, the new words have caught on.

Yet even the ayatollah was borrowing a page from history. The battle to define the Iranian identity, Muslim versus Persian, is an old one. Since the Arab conquest of the 7th century, Iranians have struggled to maintain their heritage through language and tradition. Though the nation fully embraced Islam, the religion of the conquerors, they made it uniquely their own by Persianizing it, which, to a great extent, marks the historical beginnings of Shiism. A leading Iranian philosopher argues that failure and loss have branded the Iranian psyche. The loss here refers to the loss of the Sassanian Persian army against the Arab Muslim army in the year 636 at Qadesiyyah -- a battle which Saddam Hussein often invoked as he unleashed his army into the Iranian territory.

The tension is also a tension between simplicity and complexity. The ruling elite wants to summarize Iran in a formula -- that of another outpost of Islamic fundamentalism, whereas Iranians have always been elusive. The best definition that a typical Iranian would most likely offer of herself is as a poem, which can only compound the enigma. But the poem serves, as poems often do, as an invitation to being recognized as complex, a notion that the Westerner allows and can easily grasp about his European counterparts. The Westerner knows not to reduce its own politics to a few eccentric leaders -- the U.S. to Jerry Falwell, the Netherlands to the late Pim Fortuyn, or France to Jean-Marie Le Pen. To reduce Iran to Mr. Ahmadinejad would be just as grave an aberration. In tangible terms, it means to scratch the nuclear surface to let the light of the other Iran shine through. It means to report the Holocaust conference along with the student demonstrations against Mr. Ahmadinejad within the same week, or the new grass-roots initiative by women to ban stoning, or the astonishing statistics released by Tehran's Office of Cultural Affairs showing a dramatic drop in the number of Iranians who pray daily.

Today, the Westerner can no longer afford to be a bystander to this historical tension. Be it policy makers or ordinary citizens, the decision on Iran will be, on some level, a vote in this ancient referendum. To choose one side or the other is a declaration of the Westerner's position on a pressing political issue; but it is also his proof of recovery from the colonial mindset. To have transcended colonial thinking is not to embrace the displays of fanaticism as manifestations of authenticity. It is to recognize all global citizens as equals, and as such as deserving of the indisputable rights enjoyed in the West.

Whatever happens to Iraq and the dream of creating a democracy in the Middle East, Iran is already going through pains of transition. Iranians are turning to the notion of civil society and moderation, not simply as political necessities, but also as ways to define themselves as distinct, and thus to pay contemporary tribute to a past that has, despite the centuries, remained a formative force in their present.

Ms. Hakakian, author of "Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran" (Crown, 2004), is writing a book about the assassination of Iranian Kurdish leaders.
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« Reply #18 on: December 28, 2006, 10:00:16 AM »

Second post of the morning on Iran:

By Kenneth R. Timmerman | December 27, 2006

The nuclear crisis boiling away under the surface for the past three years with Iran has finally erupted. Over the next three to six months, expect things to get much worse, with a very real possibility of a war that could spread far beyond the confines of the Persian Gulf. How we got here was entirely predictable – and avoidable. So is the path to a violent future.

We got to this point because the White House essentially caved in to intense pressure from the CIA and the foreign policy establishment, and refused to do the one thing that could have headed off this crisis: that is, to support the rights of the Iranian people and their struggle for freedom against this clerical tyranny. And now, it is almost – almost – too late.

The immediate trigger for the crisis occurred on Saturday, just two days before Christmas, when the UN Security Council finally quit dithering and passed a binding resolution to impose sanctions on Iran because of its illegal nuclear program.

While far from perfect (remember: this is the UN), UNSC Resolution 1737 bans nuclear and missile-related trade with Iran, and includes a short list of Iranian government entities and individuals whose assets could be subject to seizure and who could be banned from international travel.

(The United States had wanted both to be mandatory measures in this resolution, but gave in to a Russian demand to again give Iran more leash).

The UN Security Council passed a similar, binding resolution on July 31 giving Iran one month to suspend its nuclear programs in a verifiable manner, or else…It’s taken all this time since that the earlier deadline expired for China and Russia to exhaust their formidable bag of diplomatic tricks. Now even they have come to acknowledge the obvious, that Iran is using the IAEA as a foil for acquiring all the technologies it needs to make the bomb.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded typically to the news from TurtleBay in New York. “This resolution will not harm Iran and those who backed it will soon regret their superficial act,” he said on Christmas Eve.

“Iranians are neither worried nor uncomfortable with the resolution...we will celebrate our atomic achievements in February,” he added.

In earlier statements, he has claimed Iran would have a big nuclear “surprise” to unveil to the world by the end of the Persian year, which ends on March 20. So unless he is just blowing smoke (and I will explain shortly why I don’t believe that he is), then we will be facing very bleak choices in very short order.

Remember, just a few weeks ago, Ahmadinejad announced to the world that Iran had completed its uranium enrichment experiments and was now preparing to install 3,000 production centrifuges at its now-declared enrichment plant in Natanz, in central Iran.

His announcement fell exactly within the timeline that Israeli nuclear experts have derived from Iran’s public declarations to the IAEA, and the on-site inspections by IAEA experts in Iran.

As I wrote after interviews in Israel this past June, the Israelis projected that Iran would complete work on two 164-centrifuge experimental enrichment cascades within six months, and that installation of the 3,000 centrifuge pilot plant would take another nine months. From then, it would take Iran twelve months more to make its first bomb’s-worth of nuclear fuel.

So far, Iran is right on schedule. This will give it nuclear weapons capability by September 2008 – just in time for the U.S. presidential elections. (And remember: this timeline is not speculative. It is based on information, not intelligence.)

Once the UN Security Council resolution was passed, Ahmadinejad’s top nuclear advisor, Ali Larijani, said the regime now planned to accelerate the installation of the production centrifuges.


“From Sunday morning [December 24] , we will begin activities at Natanz – the site of 3,000-centrifuge machines – and we will drive it with full speed. It will be our immediate response to the resolution,” Iran’s Kayhan paper quoted him as saying.

How is this possible? Well, for one thing, it is likely that Iran has been producing centrifuges in factories and workshops it has not declared to the IAEA. Worse, it may be operating a clandestine enrichment facility buried deep underground already, as many in Israel and U.S. intelligence have long believed.

The Israelis told me this summer this was their “worst-worst case” scenario. But a senior Israeli intelligence official I saw recently said the likelihood of that “worst-worst case” now appeared to be far greater than he or others had previously believed. “There can be no doubt they have a clandestine program,” he said.

And because it’s clandestine, we don’t know the size or shape of it, and therefore can’t make estimates of Iran’s nuclear timeline based on speculation and fear. But now the Israelis, the Americans and the British are beginning to understand – finally – that what they don’t know about Iran could be fatal.

After all, they are facing a president in Iran who has said that the Holocaust never really occurred under Hitler, but that he intended to carry it out himself, by accomplishing Ayatollah Khomeini’s goal of “wiping Israel off the map.”

On December 21 – just two days before the UN Security Council resolution – British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave the bleakest assessment of his entire tenure at 10 Downing Street of the threat posed to the West by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Speaking in Dubai, he gave an unusually blunt speech that warned of a monumental struggle between Islamic moderates and Islamic extremists, and that labeled Iran as “the main obstacle” to hopes for peace.

For the first time, a key world leader actually uttered parts of the laundry list of Iranian regime misdeeds that people like myself and Michael Ledeen and Iranian dissidents such as Rouzbeh Farahanipour and Reza Pahlavi have been warning about for years.

Blair said there were "elements of the government of Iran, openly supporting terrorism in Iraq to stop a fledgling democratic process; trying to turn out a democratic government in Lebanon; floutting the international community's desire for peace in Palestine - at the same time as denying the Holocaust and trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability.”

Blair expressed surprise that despite these overt deeds, “a large part of world opinion is frankly almost indifferent. It would be bizarre if it weren't deadly serious.”

"We must recognize the strategic challenge the government of Iran poses," Blair added. "Not its people, possibly not all its ruling elements, but those presently in charge of its policy."

While all of this is developing, the United States and Britain have begun a quiet buildup of their naval forces in the Persian Gulf, with the goal of keeping the Strait of Hormuz open to international shipping.

The spark point of open military confrontation could occur in many different ways.

The Iranians, for example, might choose to get directly involved should the U.S. military aid the Iraqi government in a crackdown on the Iranian-backed Mahdi Army and the Badr brigade, two Shiite militias fueling the sectarian violence in Iraq. (A clear sign that Iran is contemplating just such a move was revealed on Christmas day, when the U.S. Acknowledged it was holding four Iranians captured during a raid on the Headquarters of Abdulaziz al-Hakim in Baghdad just three weeks after he met with President Bush in the Oval Office).

Should Iran send troops, or escalate its current level of military involvement in Iraq, the U.S. might choose to take the war into Iran, say by attacking Revolutionary Guards bases near the Iraqi border that were involved in aiding the Iraqi Shi'ite militias.

Should the United States bomb a Rev. Guards base here or there, the Iranians might choose to respond by launching “swarming” attacks against U.S. warships in the Persian gulf, or by attacking a foreign-flagged oil tanker carrying Iraqi or Kuwaiti oil, or by increasing rocket and missile supplies to Hezbollah in Lebanon to spark another diversionary war against Israel.

There are scores of ways this could happen. But where it gets us is to a direct military confrontation with Iran – an Iran which could be a nuclear power, and certainly will be a suspected nuclear power, in a matter of months, if not weeks.

And there is no easy way of walking this back. Even the insane Baker-Hamilton proposal of a direct dialogue with Iran will not get them to abandon their nuclear program, which this regime in Tehran has clearly identified as a strategic asset it is willing to make great sacrifices to develop and protect.

So fasten your seat belts. We are in for a rough ride.
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« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2007, 03:41:59 PM »

January 03, 2007, 7:00 a.m.

Iran Sobered Us Up on New Year’s
A message of nuclear proportions.

By Joel C. Rosenberg

The new year may not be so happy if Iranian leaders have their way. The Islamic messiah known as the “Twelfth Imam” or the “mahdi” may come to earth in 2007 and could be revealed to the world as early as the spring equinox, reports an official Iranian government news website. The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) website says the world is now in its “last days.” It claims that the mahdi will first appear in Mecca, and then Medina. He will conquer all of Arabia, Syria, Iraq, destroy Israel, and then set up a “global government” based in Iraq, interestingly enough, not Iran. Such Islamic eschatology is driving the Iranian regime and helps explains why Iran has no interest in helping the United States and European Union create peace in Iraq or the region, much less in ending its bid for nuclear weapons, the Iraq Study Group Report notwithstanding.

Anticipation of the imminent arrival or “illumination” of the Islamic messiah has been steadily intensifying inside Iran since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad emerged as president of the country in June of 2005. An Iranian television series called The World Towards Illumination has been running since last November to help answer the many questions Iranians have about the end of the world as we know it. The series explains the signs of the last days and what to expect when the Islamic messiah arrives. The program also says that Jesus is coming back to earth soon as a Shiite Muslim leader and it denounces “born again Christians” for supporting “the illegal Zionist state of Israel.” An Israeli news site was the first to pick up the story and its significance to Israeli national security, noting that the mahdi will soon “form an army to defeat Islam’s enemies in a series of apocalyptic battles” and “will overcome his archvillain in Jerusalem.”

Some intelligence analysts are growing concerned by Ahmadinejad’s announced plans “to hold the big celebration of Iran’s full nuclearization in the current year.” Iran’s calendar year ends on March 20, which is the usual date of the spring equinox. Is Ahmadinejad signaling that Iran will have nuclear weapons by then? Is he suggesting that a messianic war to annihilate Israel could come in 2007, perhaps as early as this spring or summer? It is not yet clear, though Ahmadinejad today vowed to “humiliate” the U.S. and Israel soon.

The Iranian TV series is important in that it offers some intriguing clues as to how Iranian Shiites believe their prophecies will play out.

After [the Twelfth Imam’s] uprising from Mecca all of Arabia will be submit to him and then other parts of the world as he marches upon Iraq and established his seat of global government in the city of Kufa. Then the Imam will send 10 thousand of his forces to the east and west to uproot the oppressors. At this time God will facilitate things for him and lands will come under his control one after the other....He will appear as a handsome young man, clad in neat clothes and exuding the fragrance of paradise. His face will glow with love and kindness for the human beings....He has a radiant forehead, black piercing eyes and a broad chest. He very much resembles his ancestor Prophet Mohammad. Heavenly light and justice accompany him. He will overcome enemies and oppressors with the help of God, and as per the promise of the Almighty the Mahdi will eradicate all corruption and injustice from the face of the earth and establish the global government of peace, justice and equity.

The TV series notes that:

in our discussion of the world in the last days of the earth we had said in our previous editions of this programme that no source has pointed to the exact date when the Savior will appear and only God knows about the exact timing of the reappearance of Imam Mahdi....There are various versions of the exact day of his reappearance. Some say it would be Friday and the date will be Ashura or the 10th of Moharram, the heart-rending martyrdom anniversary of his illustrious ancestor, Imam Husain. Others say the date will be the 25th of the month of Zil-Qa’dah and may coincide with the Spring Equinox or Nowrooz as the Iranians call. A saying attributed to the Prophet’s 6th infallible heir, Imam Ja’far Sadeq (PBUH) says the Mahdi will appear on the Spring Equinox and God will make him defeat Dajjal the Impostor or the anti-Christ as the Christians say, who will be hanged near the dump of Kufa.”

Before the Islamic messiah appears to the world, IRIB reports, “a pious person...a venerable God-fearing individual from Iran” meets with the mahdi. This individual will pledge allegiance to the mahdi as he “fights oppression and corruption and enters Iraq to lift the siege of Kufa and holy Najaf and to defeat the forces of [Islam’s enemies] in Iraq.” It is not clear whether the program is referring to President Ahmadinejad or someone to come.

Shiite Islamic scholars also say Jesus is coming back to Earth soon. He will not, however, come as the Son of God or even as a leader but will serve as a deputy to the mahdi to destroy the infidels, such scholars say. “We read in the book Tazkarat ol-Olia, ‘the Mahdi will come with Jesus son of Mary accompanying him,’” the series explains. “This indicates that these two great men are complement each other. Imam Mahdi will be the leader while Prophet Jesus will act as his lieutenant in the struggle against oppression and establishment of justice in the world.”

“The apocalypse is a deep belief among humans regarding the end of the world,” notes the Iranian documentary.

  • ne of the characteristics of the West in the current era is obsession with the end of time. Experts say discussions about the savior and the “end of time,” have not been so prevalent before as they are now in the west....They believe the Messiah [is Jesus and that He] will reappear and will establish his global rule with its center in [Jerusalem], with the help of born again Christians. This sect’s religious leaders in the 1990’s strongly propagated their beliefs in the US and European societies. In the past two years dozens of books have been published in this field....These extremist Christians believe that certain events must be carried out by the Protestants in the world so as to prepare the grounds for the Messiah’s reappearance. The followers of this school believe they have a religious duty to accelerate these events, for example planting the illegal Zionist state of Israel for the Jews of the world, in Palestine.[/i]

    Too many Western analysts are missing the central importance of Shiite eschatology in Iranian foreign policy. They mistakenly believe that Iran’s current leadership can be somehow cajoled into making peace with the West. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his cadre of loyal mullahs are not being driven by the same goals and aspirations as are the diplomats in Washington, Brussels, or at the United Nations. The president of Iran and his team fervently believe the Islamic messiah is coming soon. They are convinced that their divine mission is to create the conditions for the mahdi’s return. As a result, they are committed to instigating more anti-American violence in Iraq, not less. They are determined to obtain nuclear weapons at all costs, not negotiate away their atomic research and development program. What’s more, they are deeply committed to building political and military alliances with anti-Western powers, not finding accommodation with the West.

    Bottom line: The leaders of Iran are preparing for an apocalyptic war with the U.S. and Israel. It’s not a question of “if” but “when.” The sooner the White House and our new congressional leaders realize this and take decisive action to stop this nuclear nightmare, the better.

    — Joel C. Rosenberg is the New York Times best-selling author of The Last Jihad, The Ezekiel Option, and other political thrillers. His latest book, Epicenter: Why The Current Rumblings In The Middle East Will Change Your Future, is nonfiction.

    National Review Online -
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« Reply #20 on: January 06, 2007, 09:28:38 AM »


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Geopolitical Diary: A Leadership Change In Tehran?

Rumors are circulating that Iran's 67-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is entering the final stage in his fight against cancer. Though there is an incentive among Western intelligence agencies and Iranian opposition groups to promulgate these rumors -- to give the impression that all is not well in the Islamic Republic -- there appears to be some truth to the reports. Sources inside Hezbollah indicate that the supreme leader's death is not imminent, but there is a real possibility that he could become incapacitated within the year. The online political blog Pajamas Media reported on Thursday that Khamenei already has died, though the reliability of this information remains uncertain at the time of this writing.

The possibility of Khamenei no longer running the show in Tehran seriously complicates the future of the Iranian regime, particularly as the country is navigating an extraordinarily critical passage in its history. Years of careful strategizing have placed the Iranians in a prime position, where the country is well on its way to establishing itself as the regional kingmaker. Not only is Iran within arm's reach of a full-fledged nuclear program, it has seized the opportunity to work toward bringing Iraq's government and oil assets under its domain and to use Iraq as a launchpad to augment Shiite influence in the region. Meanwhile, the United States is in a quandary over how to bring some sense of stability to Iraq. Its most attractive option, a surge of U.S. troops, is unlikely to be successful and will meet stiff opposition in U.S. defense and political circles.

Though the pieces have largely fallen into place for Iran, the coming year could bring some unpleasant developments that could end up destabilizing the mullahs' foreign policy agenda. Khamenei succeeded the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, when he died in 1989. Khamenei has since been highly revered across the Shiite world and has played a key role in moderating between hard-liners and pragmatists in the Iranian government. His death will have a shattering effect on the Iranian public, who idolize their leader and would largely view his loss as a catastrophe.

To make things even more interesting, sources in Beirut, Lebanon, report that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's days in power could also be numbered -- he could depart the political scene within the year. After his radical conservative faction suffered a bruising defeat in the December 2006 municipal and Assembly of Experts elections, the boisterous president's spotlight has waned. His original purpose, to exhibit a radical and unpredictable face for the Iranian regime, has largely been achieved in the 18 months he has been in office.

The man expected to restore order in Tehran, should these two monumental developments take place in 2007, is none other than former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who recently became the chairman of the 85-member Assembly of Experts. Rafsanjani, known for his pragmatic leanings and his track record in corrupt business practices, was Ahmadinejad's main opponent in the June 2005 presidential election. It is unclear at this point whether Ahmadinejad or Khamenei would be the first to go, but the president's fate will likely be determined by the health of Khamenei. The removal of Ahmadinejad, which could take the form of a forced resignation, expulsion by the supreme leader or a deadly accident, is not expected to take place before June. Should Khamenei survive through the summer of 2007, it is quite possible that Rafsanjani would replace Ahmadinejad as president. It might be no coincidence that Rafsanjani, in a recent talk with journalists, described a new highway currently under construction in Tehran, as the "highway of Shahid (martyr) Ahmadinejad."

The restoration of Rafsanjani to the presidency would be welcomed by officials in Washington, who see the former Iranian leader as someone whom they can engage in serious negotiations. If Khamenei's time is running out, he will want to ensure that an able figure like Rafsanjani is well positioned to ease Iran out of any potential crisis while maintaining the core foreign policy objectives of consolidating Iranian influence in the region and crossing the nuclear finish line without suffering regime-threatening consequences.

With such changes up in the air, U.S. President George W. Bush will have to play his cards carefully in adjusting his Iraq policy. Iran is anxiously awaiting Bush's next move in Iraq, but the United States will likely hold off on any major moves toward negotiating with Iran until it gets a better idea of how the Iranian leadership will shape up in the coming year.
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« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2007, 03:44:16 PM »

"Word that Adm. William Fallon will move laterally from our Pacific Command to take charge of Central Command -- responsible for the Middle East -- while two ground wars rage in the region baffled the media. Why put a swabbie in charge of grunt operations? There's a one-word answer: Iran. Assigning a Navy aviator and combat veteran to oversee our military operations in the Persian Gulf makes perfect sense when seen as a preparatory step for striking Iran's nuclear-weapons facilities -- if that becomes necessary" -- former Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, writing in the New York Post.

, , , ,

IRAN: Iran could block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for imposition of international sanctions, Basij commander Gen. Majid Mir Ahmadi said. Ahmadi said the move would be specifically directed against U.S. allies in the region, adding that Iran's strategy for the Persian Gulf is "security for everyone or for nobody."
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« Reply #22 on: January 16, 2007, 11:32:54 AM »

RUSSIA/IRAN: Russia has completed transfers of the Tor-M1 anti-aircraft missile system to Iran, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said. The Tor-M1 is a high-accuracy missile designed to intercept cruise missiles as well as both manned and unmanned aircraft. Despite U.N. sanctions on Iran, Russia insists that the contract was in line with international law and that the system is for defensive purposes only.
« Reply #23 on: January 16, 2007, 01:35:02 PM »

AP Exclusive: Military gear bound for Iran, China traced to Pentagon surplus sales

The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The U.S. military has sold forbidden equipment at least a half-dozen times to middlemen for countries — including Iran and China — who exploited security flaws in the Defense Department's surplus auctions. The sales include fighter jet parts and missile components.

In one case, federal investigators said, the contraband made it to Iran, a country President George W. Bush branded part of an "axis of evil."

In that instance, a Pakistani arms broker convicted of exporting U.S. missile parts to Iran resumed business after his release from prison. He purchased Chinook helicopter engine parts for Iran from a U.S. company that had bought them in a Pentagon surplus sale. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, speaking on condition of anonymity, say those parts made it to Iran.

The surplus sales can operate like a supermarket for arms dealers.

"Right Item, Right Time, Right Place, Right Price, Every Time. Best Value Solutions for America's Warfighters," the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service says on its Web site, calling itself "the place to obtain original U.S. Government surplus property."

Federal investigators are increasingly anxious that Iran is within easy reach of a top priority on its shopping list: parts for the precious fleet of F-14 "Tomcat" fighter jets the United States let Iran buy in the 1970s when it was an ally.

In one case, convicted middlemen for Iran bought Tomcat parts from the Defense Department's surplus division. Customs agents confiscated them and returned them to the Pentagon, which sold them again — customs evidence tags still attached — to another buyer, a suspected broker for Iran.

That incident appalled even an expert on weaknesses in Pentagon surplus security controls.

"That would be evidence of a significant breakdown, in my view, in controls and processes," said Greg Kutz, the Government Accountability Office's head of special investigations. "It shouldn't happen the first time, let alone the second time."

A Defense Department official, Fred Baillie, said his agency followed procedures.

"The fact that those individuals chose to violate the law and the fact that the customs people caught them really indicates that the process is working," said Baillie, the Defense Logistics Agency's executive director of distribution. "Customs is supposed to check all exports to make sure that all the appropriate certifications and licenses had been granted."

The Pentagon recently retired its Tomcats and is shipping tens of thousands of spare parts to its surplus office — the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service — where they could be sold in public auctions. Iran is the only other country flying F-14s.

"It stands to reason Iran will be even more aggressive in seeking F-14 parts," said Stephen Bogni, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's arms export investigations. Iran can only produce about 15 percent of the parts itself, he said.

Sensitive military surplus items are supposed to be demilitarized or "de-milled" — rendered useless for military purposes — or, if auctioned, sold only to buyers who promise to obey U.S. arms embargoes, export controls and other laws.

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, found it alarmingly easy to acquire sensitive surplus. Last year, its agents bought $1.1 million (€850,000) worth — including rocket launchers, body armor and surveillance antennas — by driving onto a base and posing as defense contractors.

"They helped us load our van," Kutz said. Investigators used a fake identity to access a surplus Web site operated by a Pentagon contractor and bought still more, including a dozen microcircuits used on F-14 fighters.

The undercover buyers received phone calls from the Defense Department asking why they had no Social Security number or credit history, but they deflected the questions by presenting a phony utility bill and claiming to be an identity theft victim.

The Pentagon's public surplus sales took in $57 million (€44 million) in fiscal 2005. The agency also moves extra supplies around within the government and gives surplus military gear such as weapons, armored personnel carriers and aircraft to state and local law enforcement.

Investigators have found the Pentagon's inventory and sales controls rife with errors. They say the sales are closely watched by friends and foes of the United States.

Among cases in which U.S. military technology made its way from surplus auctions to brokers for Iran, China and others:

_Items seized in December 2000 at a Bakersfield, California, warehouse that belonged to Multicore, described by U.S. prosecutors as a front company for Iran. Among the weaponry it acquired were fighter jet and missile components, including F-14 parts from Pentagon surplus sales, customs agents said. The surplus purchases were returned after two Multicore officers were sentenced to prison for weapons export violations. London-based Multicore is now out of business, but customs continues to investigate whether U.S. companies sold military equipment to it illegally.

In 2005, customs agents came upon the same surplus F-14 parts with the evidence labels still attached while investigating a different company suspected of serving as an Iranian front. They seized the items again. They declined to provide details because the investigation is ongoing.

_Arif Ali Durrani, a Pakistani, was convicted last year in California in the illegal export of weapons components to the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Belgium in 2004 and 2005 and sentenced to just over 12 years in prison. Customs investigators say the items included Chinook helicopter engine parts for Iran that he bought from a U.S. company that acquired them from a Pentagon surplus sale, and that those parts made it to Iran via Malaysia. Durrani is appealing his conviction.

An accomplice, former Naval intelligence officer George Budenz, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in July to a year in prison. Durrani's prison term is his second; he was convicted in 1987 of illegally exporting U.S. missile parts to Iran.

_State Metal Industries, a Camden, New Jersey, company convicted in June of violating export laws over a shipment of AIM-7 Sparrow missile guidance parts it bought from Pentagon surplus in 2003 and sold to an entity partly owned by the Chinese government. The company pleaded guilty to an export violation, was fined $250,000 (€193,185) and placed on probation for three years. Customs and Border Protection inspectors seized the parts — nearly 200 pieces of the guidance system for the Sparrow missile system — while inspecting cargo at a New Jersey port.

"Our mistake was selling it for export," said William Robertson, State Metal's attorney. He said the company knew the material was going to China but didn't know the Chinese government partially owned the buyer.

_In October, Ronald Wiseman, a longtime Pentagon surplus employee in the Middle East, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing surplus military Humvees and selling them to a customer in Saudi Arabia from 1999 to 2002. An accomplice, fellow surplus employee Gayden Woodson, will be sentenced this month.

The Humvees were equipped for combat zones and some were not recovered, Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Ingersoll said.

_A California company, All Ports, shipped hundreds of containers of U.S. military technology to China between 1994 and 1999, much of it acquired in Pentagon surplus sales, court documents show. Customs agents discovered the sales in May 1999 when All Ports tried to ship to China components for guided missiles, bombs, the B-1 bomber and underwater mines. The company and its owners were convicted in 2000; an appeals court upheld the conviction in 2002.

Rep. Christopher Shays called the cases "a huge breakdown, an absolute, huge breakdown."

"The military should not sell or give away any sensitive military equipment. If we no longer need it, it needs to be destroyed — totally destroyed," said Shays, until this month the chairman of a House panel on national security. "The Department of Defense should not be supplying sensitive military equipment to our adversaries, our enemies, terrorists."

It is no secret to defense experts that valuable technology can be found amid surplus scrap.

On a visit to a Defense Department surplus site about five years ago, defense consultant Randall Sweeney literally stumbled upon some that clearly should not have been up for sale.

"I was walking through a pile of supposedly de-milled electrical items and found a heat-seeking missile warhead intact," Sweeney said, declining to identify the surplus location for security reasons. "I carried it over and showed them. I said, 'This shouldn't be in here.'"

Sweeney, president of Defense and Aerospace International in West Palm Beach, Florida, sees human error as a big problem. Surplus items are numbered, and an error of a single digit can make sensitive technology improperly available, he said. Knowledgeable buyers could easily spot a valuable item, he added: "I'm not the only sophisticated eye in the world."

Baillie said the Pentagon is working to tighten security. Steps include setting up property centers to better identify surplus parts and employing people skilled at spotting sensitive items. If there is uncertainty about whether an item is safe, he said, it is destroyed.

Of the 76,000 parts for the F-14, 60 percent are "general hardware" such as nuts and bolts and can be sold to the public without restriction, Baillie said. About 10,000 are unique to Tomcats and will be destroyed, he said.

An additional 23,000 parts are valuable for military and commercial use and are being studied to see whether it's safe to sell them, Baillie said.

Asked why the Pentagon would sell any F-14 parts, given their value to Iran, Baillie said: "Our first priority truly is national security, and we take that very seriously. However, we have to balance that with our other requirement to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money."

Kutz, the government investigator, said surplus F-14 parts shouldn't be sold. He believes Iran already has Tomcat parts from Pentagon surplus sales: "The key now is, going forward, to shut that down and not let it happen again."
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« Reply #24 on: January 16, 2007, 04:03:02 PM »

Tuesday, January 16, 2007
What the AP Didn't Tell You

The AP has published a long, investigative piece on flaws in the Defense Department's system for selling surplus hardware and components. According to the wire service, these flaws have resulted in the sale of forbidden equipment to middlemen representing nations like Iran and China. In some cases, U.S. customs inspectors intervened and blocked the shipments. But in one instance, banned items actually made their way to Iran, through a Pakistani middleman.

Obviously, the sale of sensitive military components to potential foes is a cause for concern. But there's a lot the AP doesn't report in its story, or simply buries inside the article. For example, those illegal items that wound up in Iran? Parts for a Chinook transport helicopter, built more than 30 years ago. Not exactly state-of-the-art technology. And, the illegal transfer won't tip the balance of power in the Middle East--it will just allow some aging choppers to fly a little bit longer, carry a few more troops, or transport more cargo.

The AP also expresses concern that Iran might obtain parts for its fleet of U.S.-built, F-14 Tomcat fighters. Our Navy recently retired the 70s-era fighter, meaning that thousands of Tomcat components are now up for resale by the government. According to AP reporter Sharon Theimer, F-14 components have almost been sold--twice--to Iranian middlemen, and Tehran's efforts to acquire those parts are expected to intensify.

But once again, the AP dodges the obvious question: what would Iran gain (in terms of military capabilities) from limited numbers of F-14 parts? Not very much. Recent estimates indicate that no more than 6-8 of Iran's 60 original Tomcats are still flyable, and many of those lack functioning radars and other sub-systems needed for combat. Refurbishing Iran's F-14s would probably take our entire stock of surplus Tomcat components, and even then, it's doubtful that Tehran could achieve a satisfactory mission-capability rate (say, 80% of their jets flyable on a daily basis). The effects of time have also eroded Iran's ability to fix their F-14s, particularly at the depot level, where more complex overhauls are conducted. Without skilled mechanics, parts are largely worthless.

The same holds true for flying skills, and there has been a similar erosion in the tactical proficiency of Iran's F-14 crews over the past decade. As the cadre of U.S.-taught pilots and RIOs retired (or were purged), they were replaced by less-skilled crewmen, trained in country. The ability of these crews to prosecute a successful intercept against a U.S. or Israeli adversary is marginal, at best.

And, as far as the actual technology, there's not much the Chinese or Iranians could glean from F-14 components that they don't already know. After the Iranian Revolution, there were reports of a Tomcat (and Phoenix long-range air-to-air missile) making its way to the former Soviet Union, where it became the foundation for the MiG-31 Foxhound, equipped with the Flashdance radar and the AA-9 AAM. If the Iranians were trying to steal AMRAAM parts (or the black boxes for a more advanced radar), I'd be more concerned.

Clearly, we need to tighten our export and resale procedures for military surplus. But is this the crisis the AP makes it out to be? Hardly.

And one more thing: could someone tell me if the Associated Press was similarly outraged when the Clinton Administration approved the sale of satellite and ballistic missile technology to China in the mid-1990s? That little deal, engineered by Hughes and Loral, helped the PRC gain MIRV technology for its ICBMs. Now that was a scandal. And, more importantly, the next generation of Chinese road-mobile ballistic missiles--which benefitted from that transfer--are a far greater threat to our national security that a few Chinooks and F-14s in Iran.

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« Reply #25 on: January 22, 2007, 03:02:10 PM »

from the January 19, 2007 edition -
Iranians' love affair with America
The US mustn't squander the vast majority of Iranian hearts and minds that it has already won.
By Ali G. Scotten
'What do Americans think about us?" asked an old lady on the bus. That was the question most often asked of me during my three-month stay in Iran last year. Messages to the American people were also common. "Tell the Americans that we're not crazy, scary people," she continued. Her comment came after she and others had been dancing in the aisle (with curtains drawn so the police wouldn't see) while the rest of us – along with the driver – clapped as we raced down the highway. So maybe they are crazy. But in a good way.

Many Westerners are afraid to come to the Middle East nowadays, and understandably so. But it's at times like these when face-to-face contact is most crucial. As I traveled alone through the Iranian countryside conducting anthropological research, I took note of local opinions about US-Iran relations. I was heartened by what I heard.

While I'd often visited Iran as a child, the current political situation in the region made me apprehensive about taking the trip. Tensions were rising – as they still are today – over Iran's pursuit of nuclear enrichment, and there were reports in the American media of possible military action against Iranian targets.

Beyond mere hospitality, authentic affection for America

However, I was soon put at ease. After speaking with numerous Iranians from all walks of life – lower and upper class, religious and secular, Westernized and traditional, government- affiliated and civilian – I became convinced that this vilified member of the "Axis of Evil" is actually one of the most welcoming places for Americans to travel in the Middle East. Indeed, all Iranians with whom I spoke shared a positive opinion of Ameri- cans.

Iranians don't hate America. On the contrary, many of them envy Americans to an unrealistic degree and think of the US as a paradise, a land where no problems exist.

One encounters this sentiment in even the most unexpected places. For instance, when I ran into problems renewing my visa, an austere senior official at the immigration ministry offered to help. "Because you're American, I'll do this for you," he said. This was not unusual. Generally friendly to foreigners, Iranians were especially friendly to me once they discovered I was American. It was as if they were trying to prove a point. "Go home and tell the Americans we like them," the official continued. "You know, I have family in Chicago. Can you help me go see them?" On the way out, a soldier in the lobby was excited to see my passport, handling it as one would a priceless object. "How can I come study in America?" he wanted to know.

Paralleling Iranians' favorable opinions of Americans as a people, however, is their unified opposition to any US government intervention in their country. This directly contradicts what Vice President Cheney and others believe – that if the US were to attack, the population would rise up to help the Americans fight the Iranian regime. Judging from my experience, this couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, US intervention seems to be the only issue that will unite most Iranians with the Islamic regime.

We can blame the Bush administration's poor grasp of daily realities in Iran on an almost three-decade-long freeze of contact between the American and Iranian governments. As a result of this isolation, so-called experts who have never been to Iran (or at least not since the Islamic Revolution of 1979) advise US government officials on the opinions of the Iranian populace. The comment by one influential US scholar comparing Iran to a concentration camp in which people would rather be bombed than live another day under such conditions, is a glaring example of misinformation.

At a private party in a trendy suburb of Tehran, I sat down with a group of young professionals as they relaxed after a busy workweek. Iran is not like a concentration camp, they assured me. Yes, they're repressed by government restrictions, but they find ways to get around them. And the situation is certainly not to the point of rising up against the regime.

In fact, politics was the last thing on their minds – that is, until I brought up the possibility of US intervention. "As much as I despise this regime, I love my country more," said Reza, a 20-something. "If America were to attack Iran, I would be the first to lay down my life. Ask anyone and you'll hear the same."

Moderates today, insurgents tomorrow?

And indeed I did. Whether they were the village teenagers in southern Iran who took me to eat chicken kabob and drink smuggled Turkish beer in the forest, or Hamid, the opium smuggler in Bam who moonlighted as a taxi driver, the reactions were the same: Though unhappy with the Iranian regime, they would join forces with the mullahs to deter an outside attack. Listening to them speak, I couldn't help but think that these young moderates could well become the future insurgents in an expanded regional conflict.

This may be avoided if we actually listen to the voices coming out of Iran. Iranians are overwhelmingly in favor of normalizing relations with the US, but oppose any intervention in their nation's internal affairs. Forces seem to be aligning in favor of direct dialogue between the two estranged governments.

Pragmatic voices are wresting control from both neoconservatives in the US and their fundamentalist counterparts in Iran. Let's hope they win out. Opening up relations with Iran is not appeasement; it's necessary because it allows home-grown demo cratic forces to work on their own terms.

Counterintuitive as it may seem, overt US calls for regime change and direct support of dissidents and NGOs have a negative effect on Iranian civil society because they result in government crackdowns and increase popular anger aimed at the American government.

Build relations upon shared ideals

In the dispute over nuclear enrichment, the stakes are growing higher each day. If Iraq is the beginning of the end for security and goodwill toward America, then an attack on Iran would be the nail in the coffin. The tragic cost of American misjudgment regarding the Middle East was made painfully clear in Iraq, when US soldiers were greeted with roadside bombs instead of flowers. Let's not repeat that mistake.

We should take Iranian nationalism seriously when even Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, vows, "We will defend our country to the last drop of our blood. We will not let an alien soldier set foot on the land of Iran."

We cannot afford to squander the vast majority of Iranian hearts and minds that we have already won. We must instead convince the Iranian people – through displaying the courage to open dialogue with the ruling regime – that we are committed to furthering our shared ideals of universal life, liberty, and justice.

• Ali G. Scotten is a PhD student in anthropology at the University of Chicago and a former Fulbright scholar.
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« Reply #26 on: January 24, 2007, 07:49:06 PM »

Iran: Israel, US will soon die

Ahmadinejad: Be assured that the US and Israel will soon end lives
Yaakov Lappin

Israel and the United States will soon be destroyed, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday during a meeting with Syria's foreign minister, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) website said in a report.

"Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad… assured that the United States and the Zionist regime of Israel will soon come to the end of their lives," the Iranian president was quoted as saying.

"Sparking discord among Muslims, especially between the Shiites and Sunnis, is a plot hatched by the Zionists and the US for dominating regional nations and looting their resources," Ahmadinejad added, according to the report.

The Iranian president also directly tied events in Lebanon to a wider plan aimed at Israel's destruction. He called on "regional countries" to "support the Islamic resistance of the Lebanese people and strive to enhance solidarity and unity among the different Palestinian groups in a bid to pave the ground for the undermining of the Zionist regime whose demise is, of course, imminent."

Ahmadinejad has threatened the State of Israel with annihilation several times in recent months, and has recently added the US and Britain to the list of countries he says will be destroyed.

Syria's Foreign Minister, Wailed Mualem, accused the US of attempting to carry out a "massacre of Muslims" and of sowing "discord among Islamic faiths in the region."

Mualem called on "regional states to pave the ground for the establishment of peace and tranquillity… while preventing further genocide of the Muslims," the IRIB website said.


(Romney is running for the Republican nomination for President and Gingrich, as head of the House of Representatives, was third in line for the President in the mid 1990s-- although these people are right of center, they are not considered extremists by most people--Marc)

The Israeli people are facing the threat of a nuclear Holocaust, former US Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich warned the Herzliya Conference held by the Institute for Policy and Strategy at IDC Herzliya on Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, he said, the United States could lose a few million people or a number of cities to a terrorist attack with weapons of mass destruction.

Gingrich, who addressed the conference via satellite from the United States, said he thought Israel's existence was under threat again for the first time in 40 years.

"Israel is in the greatest danger it has been in since 1967. Prior to '67, many wondered if Israel would survive. After '67, Israel seemed military dominant, despite the '73 war. I would say we are (now) back to question of survival," Gingrich said.

He added that the United States could "lose two or three cities to nuclear weapons, or more than a million to biological weapons."

Gingrich added that in such a scenario, "freedom as we know it will disappear, and we will become a much grimmer, much more militarized, dictatorial society."

"Three nuclear weapons are a second Holocaust," Gingrich declared, adding: "People are greatly underestimating how dangerous the world is becoming. I'll repeat it, three nuclear weapons are a second Holocaust. Our enemies are quite explicit in their desire to destroy us. They say it publicly? We are sleepwalking through this process as though it's only a problem of communication," Gingrich said.

The former House speaker expressed concern that the Israeli and American political establishments were not fully equipped to take stock of the current threat level.

"Our enemies are fully as determined as Nazi Germany, and more determined that the Soviets. Our enemies will kill us the first chance they get. There is no rational ability to deny that fact. It's very clear that the problems are larger and more immediate than the political systems in Israel or the US are currently capable of dealing with," said Gingrich.

'Time to come to grips with threat'

"We don't have right language, goals, structure, or operating speed, to defeat our enemies. My hope is that being this candid and direct, I could open a dialogue that will force people to come to grips with how serious this is, how real it is, how much we are threatened. If that fails, at least we will be intellectually prepared for the correct results once we have lost one or more cities," Gingrich added.

He also said "citizens who do not wake up every morning and think about the possible catastrophic civilian casualties are deluding themselves."

"If we knew that tomorrow morning we would lose Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, what we would to stop it? If we knew we would tomorrow lose Boston, San Francisco, or Atlanta, what would we do? Today, those threats are probably one, two, five years away? Although you can't be certain when our enemies will break out," he warned.

Earlier, Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, said that Islamic jihadism was "the nightmare of this century."

"The war in Lebanon demonstrated that Israel is facing a jihadist threat that runs through Tehran, to Damascus, to Gaza. Hizbullah are not fighting for the coming into being of a Palestinian state, but for the going out of being of the Israeli state," he said.

Romney emphasized that Iran could not be compared to the former Soviet threat, because the Islamic Republic was following a suicidal path. "For all of the Soviets' deep flaws, they were never suicidal. Soviet commitment to national survival was never in question. That assumption cannot be made to an irrational regime (Iran) that celebrates martyrdom," he said.

The former governor called for the utilization of the widespread opposition held by the Iranian people to their own regime, in order to facilitate regime change, while also adding that "the military option remains on the table."

"Iran must be stopped. Iran can be stopped," Romney declared, receiving applause.
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« Reply #27 on: January 26, 2007, 08:10:05 PM »

Newt Gingrich is the only one saying, "we have to ask ourselves can we live with a nuclear Iran or not?" If we agree that we can't we have no option other than military.
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« Reply #28 on: January 30, 2007, 10:53:18 AM »

Europe Resists U.S. Push to Curb Iran Ties
NY Times

Published: January 30, 2007
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran.

Administration officials say a new American drive to reduce exports to Iran and cut off its financial transactions is intended to further isolate Iran commercially amid the first signs that global pressure has hurt Iran’s oil production and its economy. There are also reports of rising political dissent in Iran.

In December, Iran’s refusal to give up its nuclear program led the United Nations Security Council to impose economic sanctions. Iran’s rebuff is based on its contention that its nuclear program is civilian in nature, while the United States and other countries believe Iran plans to make weapons.

At issue now is how the resolution is to be carried out, with Europeans resisting American appeals for quick action, citing technical and political problems related to the heavy European economic ties to Iran and its oil industry.

“We are telling the Europeans that they need to go way beyond what they’ve done to maximize pressure on Iran,” said a senior administration official. “The European response on the economic side has been pretty weak.” The American demands and European responses were provided by 10 different officials, including both supporters and critics of the American approach.

One irony of the latest pressure, European and American officials say, is that on their own, many European banks have begun to cut back their transactions with Iran, partly because of a Treasury Department ban on using dollars in deals involving two leading Iranian banks.

American pressure on European governments, as opposed to banks, has been less successful, administration and European officials say.

The main targets are Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain, all with extensive business dealings with Iran, particularly in energy. Administration officials say, however, that Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the current head of the European Union, has been responsive.

Europe has more commercial and economic ties with Iran than does the United States, which severed relations with Iran after the revolution and seizure of hostages in 1979.

The administration says that European governments provided $18 billion in government loan guarantees for Iran in 2005. The numbers have gone down in the last year, but not by much, American and European officials say.

American officials say that European governments may have facilitated illicit business and that European governments must do more to stop such transactions. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. has said the United States has shared with Europeans the names of at least 30 front companies involved in terrorism or weapons programs.

“They’ve told us they don’t have the tools,” said a senior American official. “Our answer is: get them.”

“We want to squeeze the Iranians,” said a European official. “But there are varying degrees of political will in Europe about turning the thumbscrews. It’s not straightforward for the European Union to do what the United States wants.”

Another European official said: “We are going to be very cautious about what the Treasury Department wants us to do. We can see that banks are slowing their business with Iran. But because there are huge European business interests involved, we have to be very careful.”

European officials argue that beyond the political and business interests in Europe are legal problems, because European governments lack the tools used by the Treasury Department under various American statutes to freeze assets or block transactions based on secret intelligence information.

A week ago, on Jan. 22, European foreign ministers met in Brussels and adopted a measure that might lead to laws similar to the economic sanctions, laws and presidential directives used in the United States, various officials say. But it is not clear how far those laws will reach once they are adopted.

The American effort to press Iran economically is of a piece with its other forms of pressure on Iran, including the arrest of Iranian operatives in Iraq and sending American naval vessels to the Persian Gulf.

American officials refuse to rule out military action. On Monday, President Bush said in an interview with National Public Radio that the United States would “respond firmly” if Iran engages in violence in Iraq, but that he did not mean “that we’re going to invade Iran.”

Several European officials said in interviews that they believe that the United States and Saudi Arabia have an unwritten deal to keep oil production up, and prices down, to further squeeze Iran, which is dependent on oil for its economic solvency. No official has confirmed that such a deal exists.


(Page 2 of 2)

The Bush administration has called on Europe to do more economically as part of a two-year-old trans-Atlantic agreement in which the United States agreed to support European efforts to negotiate a resolution of the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.

Typically, American officials say, European companies that do business with Iran get loans from European banks and then get European government guarantees for the loans on the ground that such transactions are risky in nature.

According to a document used in the discussions between Europe and the United States, which cites the International Union of Credit and Investment Insurers, the largest providers of such credits in Europe in 2005 were Italy, at $6.2 billion; Germany, at $5.4 billion; France, at $1.4 billion; and Spain and Austria, at $1 billion each.

In addition to buying oil from Iran, European countries export machinery, industrial equipment and commodities, which they say have no military application. Europeans also say that courts have overturned past efforts to stop business dealings based on secret information.

At least five Iranian banks have branches in Europe that have engaged in transactions with European banks, American and European officials say.

The five include Bank Saderat, cited last year by the United States as being involved in financing terrorism by Hezbollah and others, and Bank Sepah, cited this month as involved in ballistic missile programs.

A directory of the American Bankers Association lists Bank Sepah as having $10 billion in assets and equity of $1 billion in 2004. It has branches in Frankfurt, Paris, London and Rome. The United States Embassy in Rome has called it the preferred bank of Iran’s ballistic missile program, with a record of transactions involving Italian and other banks.

Bank Saderat had assets of $18 billion and equity of $1 billion in 2004, according to the American Bankers directory. Three other Iranian banks — Bank Mellat, Bank Melli and Bank Tejarat — have not been cited as involved in any illicit activities, but many European officials say they expect the Treasury Department to move against them eventually.

European officials say that the European Commission will meet in mid-February and approve a measure paving the way for freezing assets and blocking bank transactions for the 10 Iranian companies and 12 individuals cited in an appendix of Security Council Resolution 1737, adopted in December.
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« Reply #29 on: January 30, 2007, 02:27:25 PM »

First my comment on the above (Europe balking on Iran sanctions): If these are our best allies, why would they expect anything other than go-it-alone strategies from America - on anything???

I don't know enough to have a complete opinion, but I visualize a timely strike on Iran's nuclear facilities (and North Korea for that matter) comparable to Israel's attack on Iraq's Ozirak facility in June, 1981.  Like the Iraq war, I haven't done thorough analysis or planning for the aftermath.

Victor Davis Hanson wrote a couple of columns on Iran last month, one in particular arguing against military intervention, at least for now. "Neither immediate military intervention nor dialogue with Iran is the answer."

December 28, 2006
Iran's Ahmadinejad Far Weaker Than He Lets On
By Victor Davis Hanson

The Iraq Study Group, prominent U.S. Senators and realist diplomats all want America to hold formal talks with the government of Iran. They think Tehran might help the United States disengage from Iraq and the general Middle East mess with dignity. That would be a grave error for a variety of reasons - the most important being that Iran is far shakier than we are.

The world of publicity-hungry Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not expanding, but shrinking. Despite his supposedly populist credentials, his support at home and abroad will only further weaken as long as the United States continues its steady, calm and quiet pressure on him.

In Iran's city council elections last week, moderate conservative and reformist candidates defeated Ahmadinejad's vehemently anti-American slate of allies. At a recent public meeting, angry Iranian students - tired of theocratic lunacy and repression - shouted down their president.

By supporting terrorists in Iraq and Lebanon, enriching uranium and insanely threatening to destroy a nuclear Israel, Ahmadinejad is only alienating Iranians, who wonder where their once vast oil revenues went and how they can possibly pay for all these wild adventures.

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad has invested little in the source of his wealth - the oil infrastructure of Iran. Soon, even the country's once-sure oil revenues will start to decline. And that could be sooner than he thinks if the United Nations were to expand its recent economic sanctions in response to Ahmadinejad's flagrant violation of nuclear non-proliferation accords.

So, as Iranians worry that their nation is becoming an international pariah and perhaps heading down the path of bankruptcy in the process, now is not the time for America to give in by offering direct talks with Ahmadinejad. That propaganda victory would only help him reclaim the legitimacy and stature that he is losing with his own people at home.

Better models to follow instead are our past long-term policies toward Muammar el-Qaddafi's Libya and the Soviet Union of the 1980s. As long as Libya sponsored terrorism and attacked Westerners, we kept clear, and boycotted the regime. Only in 2003, when the Libyans unilaterally gave up a substantial program of weapons of mass destruction, agreed not to violate nuclear proliferation accords and renounced terrorism did we agree to normalize relations.

In other words, "talking with" or "engaging" Libya did not bring about this remarkable change in attitude within the Libyan government. In contrast, tough American principles, economic coercion, ostracism and patience finally did.

The United States always maintained open channels with the Soviet Union. After all - unlike with Iran or Libya - we had little choice when thousands of nukes were pointed at us and Red Army troops were massed on the West German border.

But Ronald Reagan nevertheless embraced a radical shift in U.S. policy by actively appealing to Russian dissidents. He used the bully pulpit to expose the barbarity of the "evil empire" in the world court of ideas. All the while, Reagan further enhanced America's military advantage over the Soviets to speed the regime's collapse.

After the fall, courageous Russian dissidents from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to Natan Sharansky did not applaud Jimmy Carter, who had smugly pronounced the end of his own "inordinate fear" of such a murderous ideology. Instead, they preferred Reagan, who had challenged Soviet Premier Michael Gorbachev "to tear down" the Berlin Wall. America came out ahead when we were on the side of people yearning for change rather than coddling the regime trying to stop it.

The larger Middle East that surrounds Iran is in the throes of a messy, violent three-stage transition: from dictatorship to radicalism and chaos to constitutional government. Thugs and terrorists like Ahmadinejad ("We did not have a revolution in order to have democracy") want it to stop and return to the old world before Sept. 11.

In similar fashion, there are also terrible aftershocks in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the old authoritarian rules of Saddam and the Taliban are over. So perhaps is the Syrian colonization of Lebanon. Yasser Arafat is gone in the Middle East, and his successors are fighting each other more than they are Israel.

In all this chaos - which will take years to settle - the United States needs to stick to its principles. Neither immediate military intervention nor dialogue with Iran is the answer. Instead, we must just keep up the pressure on the trash-talking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is far weaker than he lets on.
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« Reply #30 on: January 30, 2007, 04:07:07 PM »

Hi Doug,

***In all this chaos - which will take years to settle - the United States needs to stick to its principles. Neither immediate military intervention nor dialogue with Iran is the answer. Instead, we must just keep up the pressure on the trash-talking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is far weaker than he lets on***

The only problem with this is that Iran's leadership is moving ahead with nuclear weapons.  They didn't build neafly nucler explosion proof bunkers for any other reason.

I am not so sure that recent criticsims of Ahmadenjad was that procuring nuclear weapons is crazy but only that telegraphing their intent to the world along with pubically announcing his supreme desire to destroy the Jews of Israel is crazy.  the wiseer policy would have been to quietly go about your intentions.

I still see absolutely no option other than the military one.  Once Iran's leadership gets the nucs the game is completely changed and even more dangerous in my arm chair, middle class opinion.   Exactly why do any of these people think waiting till Iran has the military capability to cause a second holocaust (3 nucs will suffice - as Gingrich points out - look at the map of Israel and one can easily see this) is *less* dangerous than taking action before to prevent precisely this?

Yes I know we risk losing Pakistan, and Sunni Arab countries but we are talking existential threat to Israel.   I still think Israel will either have to go it alone or before Hillary replaces Bush.  Once the Dems win the Whitehouse forget about it.  It will be Jimmy Carter all over again - unless it is a Dem like Joe Leiberman - one of the bravest most decent politicians I can think of.   I would vote for him in heartbeat if he ran.

They have already secured anitaircraft missles from Russia who along with China are probably delighted at our being bogged down with the radical Muslims.   I wonder what was behind the Israelis' letting it go public that they are conducting practice military exercises with Jet pilots to bomb Iran's nuc facilities with the idea they could soften the bunkers with one kiloton nuclear devices before unleashing a second wave of conventioinal bombs. Was it simply a leak of secret info. by a political dissident or bribes official.
Was this release of information supposed to be some sort of threat that it means business. Or was it really a measure designed to camoflouge the real military options such as the use of cruise missles, not jets.   I can't believe the Israeli military would be that stupid to telegraph their means.

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« Reply #31 on: January 30, 2007, 04:14:46 PM »

Hi Doug,

***In all this chaos - which will take years to settle - the United States needs to stick to its principles. Neither immediate military intervention nor dialogue with Iran is the answer. Instead, we must just keep up the pressure on the trash-talking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is far weaker than he lets on***

The only problem with this is that Iran's leadership is moving ahead with nuclear weapons.  They didn't build neafly nucler explosion proof bunkers for any other reason.

I am not so sure that recent criticsims of Ahmadenjad was that procuring nuclear weapons is crazy but only that telegraphing their intent to the world along with pubically announcing his supreme desire to destroy the Jews of Israel is crazy.  the wiseer policy would have been to quietly go about your intentions.

I still see absolutely no option other than the military one.  Once Iran's leadership gets the nucs the game is completely changed and even more dangerous in my arm chair, middle class opinion.   Exactly why do any of these people think waiting till Iran has the military capability to cause a second holocaust (3 nucs will suffice - as Gingrich points out - look at the map of Israel and one can easily see this) is *less* dangerous than taking action before to prevent precisely this?

Yes I know we risk losing Pakistan, and Sunni Arab countries but we are talking existential threat to Israel.   I still think Israel will either have to go it alone or before Hillary replaces Bush.  Once the Dems win the Whitehouse forget about it.  It will be Jimmy Carter all over again - unless it is a Dem like Joe Leiberman - one of the bravest most decent politicians I can think of.   I would vote for him in heartbeat if he ran.

They have already secured anitaircraft missles from Russia who along with China are probably delighted at our being bogged down with the radical Muslims.   I wonder what was behind the Israelis' letting it go public that they are conducting practice military exercises with Jet pilots to bomb Iran's nuc facilities with the idea they could soften the bunkers with one kiloton nuclear devices before unleashing a second wave of conventioinal bombs. Was it simply a leak of secret info. by a political dissident or bribes official.
Was this release of information supposed to be some sort of threat that it means business. Or was it really a measure designed to camoflouge the real military options such as the use of cruise missles, not jets.   I can't believe the Israeli military would be that stupid to telegraph their means.
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Posts: 7826

« Reply #32 on: January 30, 2007, 04:16:53 PM »

Hi Doug,

***In all this chaos - which will take years to settle - the United States needs to stick to its principles. Neither immediate military intervention nor dialogue with Iran is the answer. Instead, we must just keep up the pressure on the trash-talking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is far weaker than he lets on***

The only problem with this is that Iran's leadership is moving ahead with nuclear weapons.  They didn't build neafly nucler explosion proof bunkers for any other reason.

I am not so sure that recent criticsims of Ahmadenjad was that procuring nuclear weapons is crazy but only that telegraphing their intent to the world along with pubically announcing his supreme desire to destroy the Jews of Israel is crazy.  the wiseer policy would have been to quietly go about your intentions.

I still see absolutely no option other than the military one.  Once Iran's leadership gets the nucs the game is completely changed and even more dangerous in my arm chair, middle class opinion.   Exactly why do any of these people think waiting till Iran has the military capability to cause a second holocaust (3 nucs will suffice - as Gingrich points out - look at the map of Israel and one can easily see this) is *less* dangerous than taking action before to prevent precisely this?

Yes I know we risk losing Pakistan, and Sunni Arab countries but we are talking existential threat to Israel.   I still think Israel will either have to go it alone or before Hillary replaces Bush.  Once the Dems win the Whitehouse forget about it.  It will be Jimmy Carter all over again - unless it is a Dem like Joe Leiberman - one of the bravest most decent politicians I can think of.   I would vote for him in heartbeat if he ran.

They have already secured anitaircraft missles from Russia who along with China are probably delighted at our being bogged down with the radical Muslims.   I wonder what was behind the Israelis' letting it go public that they are conducting practice military exercises with Jet pilots to bomb Iran's nuc facilities with the idea they could soften the bunkers with one kiloton nuclear devices before unleashing a second wave of conventioinal bombs. Was it simply a leak of secret info. by a political dissident or bribes official.
Was this release of information supposed to be some sort of threat that it means business. Or was it really a measure designed to camoflouge the real military options such as the use of cruise missles, not jets.   I can't believe the Israeli military would be that stupid to telegraph their means.
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Posts: 42462

« Reply #33 on: January 30, 2007, 04:25:50 PM »

Well, at this moment it's OK with me that I'm not the President.  These are murky and dangerous waters indeed!

With the freedom of contemplation available only to those whose thoughts are of no consequence, I wonder sometimes about a notion I read that the real problem was that Iran had the money to proceed because of oil and that therefore we should take the militarily simple step of destroying their oil refineries.

China, a major/the main buyer from Iran, would not be happy and that needs careful thought.  Something to offset perhaps?

Anyway, picture the pressures within Iran in the absence of oil money-- and how the absence of money might bring the nuke program to a halt.

Just a thought , , ,

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« Reply #34 on: January 30, 2007, 05:56:37 PM »

About ElBaradei co-winner of a Nobel Peace prize and head of the IAEA whose officials suggest Iran's goal may not be to develop the nuclear weapons just have all the components and the capability to be able to do so in weeks or months -  what the heck is that logic?  Sounds a lot like they are denying the obvious for reasons of which I cannot be clear from this armchair.

***picture the pressures within Iran in the absence of oil money-- and how the absence of money might bring the nuke program to a halt***

It seems like one short term option - but has not worked till now.

The head of US intelligence thinks Iran is 4 to ten yrs away.   Others say less.  And who knows how much is speculation, how much is political, etc.  So far it seems Iran will continue to have alternate sources of money like China and Russia who seem quite happy to keep  the US bogged down with this.   Some (at least) in the military consider China, not Al Qaeda, no longer Russia  our biggest military threat.  While Clinton was cruising the world stage with handshakes, photo ops, exporting peace and love we were (probably still are) having military/space secrets stolen by Chinese, allowing Muslim radicals groups to grow, and expecting that if we just chat nice with the world they will love us.

Only time will tell.


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« Reply #35 on: January 31, 2007, 02:28:22 PM »

This WSJ piece from a couple of weeks ago is about the greater Middle East, but I thought I would attach it here as it applies to the Iran question.  I don't get the idea that the author is fond of Bush, the surge or the war, but argues that we have accidently stumbled into an outcome where the struggles each side faces causes them to require alliance and cooperation of the US.  I offer his view FWIW.

Two Alliances
President Bush has managed to divide and conquer the Middle East.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

It was the hugely ambitious project of the Bush administration to transform the entire Middle East by remaking Iraq into an irresistible model of prosperous democracy. Having failed in that worthy purpose, another, more prosaic result has inadvertently been achieved: divide and rule, the classic formula for imperial power on the cheap. The ancient antipathy between Sunni and Shiite has become a dynamic conflict, not just within Iraq but across the Middle East, and key protagonists on each side seek the support of American power. Once the Bush administration realizes what it has wrought, it will cease to scramble for more troops that can be sent to Iraq, because it has become pointless to patrol and outpost a civil war, while a mere quarter or less of the troops already there are quite enough to control the outcome. And that is just the start of what can now be achieved across the region with very little force, and some competent diplomacy.

On Dec. 4, 2006, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of Iraq's largest political party, went to the White House to plead his case with President Bush. The son of an ayatollah, and himself a lifelong militant cleric, Mr. Hakim is hardly a natural partner for the U.S.--while living in Iran for 23 years he must have declaimed "death to America" on many an occasion. But as the chief leader of Iraq's Arab Shiite population, he has no choice. Each day brings deadly Sunni attacks, and just as the Sunnis are strengthened by volunteers and money from outside Iraq, the Shiites, too, need all the help they can get, especially American military training for the Shiite-dominated army and police. For President Bush, the visiting Mr. Hakim brought welcome promises of cooperation against his aggressive Shiite rival Moqtada al-Sadr as well as the Sunni insurgents. It no longer even seems strange that the best ally of the U.S. in Iraq is Mr. Hakim's party, the Sciri: the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, whose very title evokes the Iranian model of radically anti-Western theocracy.

Just as the Sunni threat to majority rule in Iraq is forcing Sciri to cooperate with the U.S., the prospect of a Shiite-dominated Iraq is forcing Sunni Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Jordan, to seek American help against the rising power of the Shiites. Some Sunnis viewed Iran with suspicion even when it was still under the conservative rule of the shah, in part because its very existence as the only Shiite state could inspire unrest among the oppressed Shiite populations of Arabia. More recently, the nearby Sunni Arab states have been increasingly worried by the military alliance between Iran, Syria and the Hezbollah of Lebanon. But now that a Shiite-ruled Iraq could add territorial contiguity to the alliance, forming a "Shiite crescent" extending all the way from Pakistan to the Mediterranean, it is not only the Sunnis of nearby Arabia that feel very seriously threatened. The entire order of Muslim orthodoxy is challenged by the expansion of heterodox Shiite rule.

Although it was the U.S. that was responsible for ending Sunni supremacy in Iraq along with Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, it remains the only possible patron for the Sunni Arab states resisting the Shiite alliance. Americans have no interest in the secular-sectarian quarrel, but there is a very real convergence of interests with the Sunni Arab states because Iran is the main enemy for both.

At this moment, it is in Lebanon that the new Sunni-U.S. alliance has become active. With continuing mass demonstrations and threatening speeches, the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is trying to force the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora to give way to a new coalition which he can dominate. Syria and Iran are supporting Mr. Nasrallah, while the U.S. is backing Mr. Siniora. He has the support of the Druze and of most Christians as well, but it is also very much as a Sunni leader that Mr. Siniora is firmly resisting so far. That has gained him the financial backing of Saudi Arabia, which is funding Sunni counterdemonstrations and has even tried to co-opt Hezbollah, among other things. It was in their Arab identity that Hezbollah claimed heroic status because they were not routed by the Israelis in the recent fighting, but evidently many Sunni Arabs in and out of Lebanon view them instead as Shiite sectarians, far too obedient to non-Arab Iran. That suits the U.S., for Iran and Hezbollah are its enemies, too.

The Sunni-U.S. alignment in Lebanon, which interestingly coexists with the U.S.-Shiite alliance in Iraq, may yet achieve results of strategic importance if Syria is successfully detached from its alliance with Iran. Originally it was a necessary alliance for both countries because Saddam's Iraq was waging war on Iran, and periodically tried to overthrow the Assad regime of Syria. Now that Iraq is no longer a threat to either country, Iran still needs Syria as a bridge to Hezbollah, but for Syria the alliance is strategically obsolete, as well as inconsistent with the country's Arab identity. True, Syria is ruled primarily by members of the Alawite sect that is usually classified as a Shiite offshoot. But that extremely heterodox faith (it has Christmas and the transmigration of souls) is far different from the Shiism of Iraq, Lebanon or Iran--where it would be persecuted; and besides, at least 70% of Syrians are Sunnis. That may explain why the Syrian regime has not used its full influence to overthrow Mr. Siniora: His stand against the Shiite Hezbollah resonates with his fellow Sunnis of Syria. But another reason may be the promise of substantial aid and investment from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates for Syria's needy economy, if the regime diminishes its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, or better, ends it altogether. The U.S., for its part, is no longer actively driving Syria into the arms of the Iranians by threatening a march on Damascus, while even the unofficial suggestions of negotiations by the Iraq Study Group made an impression, judging by some conciliatory Syrian statements.

The U.S.-Sunni alliance, which is a plain fact in Lebanon, is still only tentative over Syria; but it would be greatly energized if Iran were successfully deprived of its only Arab ally. At the same time, the U.S.-Shiite alliance in Iraq has been strengthened in the wake of Mr. Hakim's visit. The Sunni insurgency is undiminished, but at least other Shiite groups are jointly weakening the only actively anti-American Shiite faction headed by Mr. Sadr.

When the Bush administration came into office, only Egypt and Jordan were functioning allies of the U.S. Iran and Iraq were already declared enemies, Syria was hostile, and even its supposed friends in the Arabian peninsula were so disinclined to help that none did anything to oppose al Qaeda. Some actively helped it, while others knowingly allowed private funds to reach the terrorists whose declared aim was to kill Americans.

The Iraq war has indeed brought into existence a New Middle East, in which Arab Sunnis can no longer gleefully disregard American interests because they need help against the looming threat of Shiite supremacy, while in Iraq at the core of the Arab world, the Shia are allied with the U.S. What past imperial statesmen strove to achieve with much cunning and cynicism, the Bush administration has brought about accidentally. But the result is exactly the same.

Mr. Luttwak, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the author of "Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace" (Belknap, 2002).
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« Reply #36 on: February 01, 2007, 08:14:43 AM »

Iran, U.S.: Working Toward a Solution?

An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Jan. 28 that Tehran had received messages from U.S. officials aimed at resolving the ongoing crisis between Washington and Tehran. Though Washington has kept quiet on the issue, the Iranians are likely following a strategy to lock the United States down in back-channel negotiations over Iraq.


Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini said at a weekly press conference in Tehran on Jan. 28 that Iran is pondering a message received from certain U.S. officials and politicians. Hosseini was intentionally vague on the details of the letter, only saying that the contents "will be divulged in due time," and that the names of the U.S. officials who had sent the message could not yet be revealed. The United States has not officially commented on the issue, although a spokesman from the U.S. National Security Council told Stratfor that the White House has nothing that would confirm that U.S. officials have sent a message to Iran.

Stratfor has discussed at length the logic behind U.S. President George W. Bush's troop surge strategy for Iraq. The United States is moving forward with a plan to bolster its negotiating position in relation to Iran. This plan involves reversing the expectations that the United States is left with no option but to admit defeat and withdraw its forces, and keeping the Iranians second-guessing about any U.S. and Israeli plans to take military action against Iran.

In the public sphere, the Bush administration will maintain a hard-line stance against Iran and make clear that U.S. forces will counter the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force's operations in Iraq by conducting raids and arresting Iranian officials involved in aggravating the Iraq insurgency. The troop surge has already been effective to some extent in bringing rebel Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr to the negotiating table. In spite of considerable restraint from Russia and China, the United States will also make a push in the U.N. Security Council to enforce sanctions against Iran for its insistence on pressing forward with uranium enrichment.

Behind the scenes, however, the United States is likely revitalizing back-channel talks with Tehran to work toward a diplomatic resolution on Iraq. The Bush administration typically communicates with Iran via unofficial channels to maintain plausible deniability and to check Iranian moves to exploit Washington's call for talks. With Iran facing potential troubles of its own should Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pass away, Washington is hoping this two-pronged approach will hasten negotiations and allow Bush to claim progress in Iraq by November.

By publicizing the alleged letter from U.S. officials, Iran is ensuring that Washington follows through with any commitments it makes in back-channel talks on Iraq. U.S. diplomatic agencies have been quiet on the issue thus far, raising the slight possibility that Hosseini's statement is part of an Iranian disinformation campaign. While the United States is in the midst of trying to strengthen its hand in Iraq by taking a tougher stance against Tehran, the Iranian government can inject distrust and uncertainty among the Sunni Arab states that fear Tehran and Washington could strike a deal on Iraq that would leave the Shia in a prime position to project influence into the heart of the Sunni Arab world.
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« Reply #37 on: February 01, 2007, 10:36:14 AM »

Second post of the morning:

The Washington Times

'Global war curriculum' seen in Iran's schools

By Gareth Harding
Published January 30, 2007

1:20 p.m.
BRUSSELS -- The Iranian education system is preparing its students for a global war against the West in the name of Islam, according to an independent study of 115 textbooks and teachers guides released today.
With Tehran accused of seeking to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal and the United States dispatching a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf, the report by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace highlights the uphill task Washington faces trying to persuade Iranian youth to distance themselves from the hard-line Islamist regime.
The study, which claims to be the first of its kind, catalogs how pupils as young as 9 are conditioned to take part in a global jihad against such "infidel oppressors" as Israel and the United States.
"Hate indoctrination is a professed goal of Iranian textbooks," said the report's author, Arnon Groiss, a Princeton- and Harvard-educated journalist who also has written critical studies of the Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian, Saudi and Egyptian education systems.
According to Mr. Groiss, Iranian pupils learn from an early age that the Islamic republic is in mortal combat with Western powers bent on its destruction.
One 11th-grade textbook, quoting former spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, refers to the United States and its allies as "the World Devourers" and says that if they "wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all of them."
Students are drilled for battle from age 12, when they are obliged to take defense-readiness classes, according to the study by the Israel-based nongovernmental organization. Some also are drafted into the Revolutionary Guard and other elite combat units, where they are taught how to handle shoulder-propelled rocket launchers, the study says.
Through stories, poems, wills and exercises, martyrdom is glorified as a means of defending the Islamic republic and attaining eternal happiness, the report says. A Grade 10 textbook on "defense readiness" boasts that during the eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, half a million students were sent to the front and "36,000 martyrs ... were offered to the Islamic Revolution."
Describing Iran's school system as a "global war curriculum," Mr. Groiss said the emphasis on military training from such a young age instilled a "siege mentality" among many students.
"It is a form of child abuse to install such notions in children's minds," he told journalists at a briefing in the European Parliament in Brussels.
Israel, which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly has said should be "wiped off the map," is not recognized in atlases and is portrayed as a danger to Islamic states.
"Another problem [faced by Muslim countries] is the regime that occupies Jerusalem, which has been created in this area ... for America and other aggressive powers, with the aim of taking over the Muslim lands," says a geography textbook for Grade 11 students that is quoted in the study.
Anti-Semitism is also rife, according to the report, which analyzed textbooks published before Mr. Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005. In one cartoon for third-graders, the inhabitants of a clean and tidy town discover a trail of garbage left by a ghoulish creature with the Star of David on his right arm. The contaminator is chased out of town and the mess cleaned up after him.
The United States, which is commonly referred to as the "Great Satan" and the "Arch-Oppressor Worldwide," fares little better.
"America is known as an imperialist country, which embarks on military intervention wherever it sees that its interests are in danger," says a sociology textbook for Grade 11 students, according to the study.
"It does not refrain from massacring people, from burying alive the soldiers of the opposite side and from using mass destruction weapons."
Speaking at the release of the report today, the vice chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee, Geoffrey Van Orden, said: "Young people are being indoctrinated in hatred and intolerance to other religions and cultures. This is not only very disturbing in terms of the education and upbringing of those young people, but in terms of international stability."
The Iranian Embassy in Brussels was asked to respond to the claims in the report but failed to comment.
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« Reply #38 on: February 02, 2007, 08:42:01 AM »

Between State and Revolution
February 2, 2007; Page A19

"Mizanan, ya na?" (Will they hit or not?) In Tehran these days, this question is the talk of the town. The "they" is seldom spelled out. Yet everyone knows that it refers to the United States.

The question is wreaking havoc on Iran's fragile economy by fomenting an atmosphere of uncertainty even before the sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council start to bite. Many in Tehran expect the Security Council to decree even tougher sanctions in March when the ultimatum for the Islamic Republic to halt its uranium enrichment program will end.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
The Khomeinist leadership is divided over the reality of the threat, and over ways of dealing with it. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims that the U.S. is in no position to do much damage, and counts on the new Democratic majority in Washington -- he calls them "the wise people" -- to restrain George W. Bush.

The bulk of the Khomeinist leadership, including the "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei, however, take the threat seriously and are preparing public opinion for a climb-down by the Islamic Republic. The American naval build-up in the Persian Gulf, the new U.S. offensive against Iran's agents and armed clients in Iraq, Tehran's failure to seize power in Beirut through its Hezbollah proxy, and plummeting oil prices are all cited by Ayatollah Khamenei's entourage as reasons why a climb-down might be necessary.

Sometime in the next few weeks, Iran is likely to offer a "compromise formula" under which it would suspend its enrichment program, as demanded by the Security Council, in exchange for a suspension of sanctions. This will be accompanied by noises from Tehran about readiness to help the U.S. in Iraq, plus possible concessions in Lebanon and over the Palestine-Israel issue.

The expected climb-down is sure to bring back the Baker-Hamilton "realists" with fresh calls for offering the mullahs a seat at the high table. It would also prompt the guilt-ridden "idealists," who blame the U.S. for whatever goes wrong in the world, to urge "Bush the warmonger" to engage the Islamic Republic in a constructive dialogue, whatever that might mean. The French and the Russians would applaud the mullahs and urge the Americans to be "reasonable."

So, what should the Bush administration do when, and if, the mullahs unveil their compromise formula? First is to see the mullahs' move as deja vu all over again. Each time the mullahs are in trouble they become the essence of sweet reasonableness. They deploy their traditional tactics of taqiyah (obfuscation), kitman (dissimulation) and ehtiat (caution) to confuse the "infidels" and divide their ranks. The Iranian leadership did this in the early days of the Khomeinist revolution in 1979 by persuading the clueless Jimmy Carter that the ayatollah was the only force capable of preventing Iran from falling into communist hands. In 1984 and '85, they seduced the Reagan administration with an offer of releasing the American hostages in Beirut in exchange for the secret U.S. arms deliveries Iran needed to stop the Iraqi advance. In 1987 they stopped their attacks on Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf after an American task force sunk the Revolutionary Guard's navy in a 10-hour battle.

In 1988, fear of an even bigger U.S. military attack persuaded Ayatollah Khomeini to "drink the cup of poison" by agreeing to end his eight-year war with Iraq. In 1998, the mullahs offered a "grand bargain" to the Clinton administration as a means of averting U.S. retaliation for the Iranian-sponsored killing of 19 American soldiers in an attack in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

The second point to bear in mind is that a suspension of uranium enrichment will cost the Islamic Republic nothing. Iran does not have any nuclear power plants, and thus does not need enriched uranium anyway. Even if the country does not have secret parallel nuclear facilities, it could always resume weapons-making activities once it is no longer under pressure.

Successive U.S. administrations have assumed that the problem with the Khomeinist regime lies in its behavior, which they hoped to modify through traditional carrot-and-stick diplomacy. The problem with the regime, however, is its nature, its totalitarian ambitions and messianic claims. Being an enemy of the U.S., indeed of all democracies, is in its political DNA. A scorpion stings because it is programmed by nature to do so. A regime that is the enemy of its own people cannot be a friend of others.

The threat that Khomeinism poses to stability in the Middle East and, beyond it, to international peace, will not be removed until Iran once again becomes a normal nation-state with the interests and ambitions of normal nation-states.

For more than a quarter of a century, Iran has suffered from an affliction faced by most countries that experience revolution. The conflict between state and revolution makes the development and practice of moderate domestic and foreign policies difficult, if not impossible. Leading a revolution is like riding a bicycle: One keeps going for as long as one continues to pedal, regardless of the destination. To stop pedaling means to fall.

As a nation-state, Iran may be a rival and competitor for other nations. But it would not be an existential threat. As a revolution, however, Iran can, indeed must, be such a threat not only to its neighbors but also to a world that it regards as "the handiwork of Jews and Crusaders."

The Khomeinist revolution has not succeeded in destroying the plurimillennial idea of Iran as a nation-state. But each time the Khomeinist revolution found itself on the defensive, the Western powers, including the U.S., helped it restore its legitimacy and regain its breath. The same illusions that produced the détente, which arguably prolonged the life of the Soviet Union, have also helped the Khomeinist revolution survive long after its sell-by date.

Today, Iran is once again facing the schizophrenia imposed on it through the conflict between state and revolution. A majority of Iranians, including many in the ruling elite, wish Iran to re-emerge as a nation-state.

The U.S. has no interest in helping the Khomeinist revolution escape the consequences of its misdeeds. This does not mean that there should be no diplomatic contact with Tehran or that pressure should be exerted for the sake of it. Nor does it mean that military action, "to hit or not to hit," is the only question worth pondering with regard to the Islamic Republic.

No one should be duped by a tactical retreat in Tehran or a temporary modification of the regime's behavior. What is needed is a change in the nature of the regime. The chances of setting such change in motion have never been as good, and the current showdown should be used to communicate a clear message: As a nation-state, Iran can and will be a friend. As a revolution, it would always remain a foe.

Mr. Taheri is author of "L'Irak: Le Dessous Des Cartes" (Editions Complexe, 2002).
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« Reply #39 on: February 02, 2007, 10:19:34 AM »

Second post of the morning:

Looks like Iran is seeking to counter Israel via the Hamas/Palestinians as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon.


PALESTINIAN NATIONAL AUTHORITY: Fatah security forces apprehended seven Iranian weapons experts at the Islamic University in Gaza City. This is the first report of Iranians aiding Palestinians inside the Palestinian territories. An eighth Iranian committed suicide during the raid. The captured Iranians are said to be intelligence and chemical specialists, and one is a senior military officer, sources close to Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said.
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« Reply #40 on: February 12, 2007, 07:22:22 AM »

1248 GMT -- EUROPEAN UNION, IRAN -- EU foreign ministers approved Feb. 12 the implementation of U.N. sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. In accordance with the agreement, all 27 EU member states will ban the sales of materials and technology that could be used in Iran's nuclear and missile program. In addition, the European Union will freeze the assets of 10 Iranian companies and individuals. The U.N. Security Council agreed in December to impose the sanctions and gave Iran two months to return to the negotiating table.
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« Reply #41 on: February 13, 2007, 12:37:30 AM »


Iran's Provocations
Helping to kill GIs with impunity.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

U.S. military officials finally laid out detailed evidence on Sunday that Iranian-supplied weapons are killing American soldiers in Iraq. The issue now is the lesson the Bush Administration and the American political establishment draw about dealing with Iran.

Our guess is that a large part of Washington will pretend the evidence doesn't exist, or suggest the intelligence isn't proven, or claim that it's all the Bush Administration's fault for "bullying" Iran. This was the impulse behind the Baker-Hamilton Commission's recommendation late last year that the U.S. "engage" Tehran to help us find some honorable diplomatic or political solution in Iraq.

But the evidence about Iranian-style munitions shows how wishful such thinking is. The Iranians don't want a political solution that would allow a U.S.-backed moderate Shiite government to rule in Baghdad. Their goal is to make us bleed in order to drive us home and so allow their radical Shiite allies to hold sway and Iran to become the dominant regional power. They also figure that the bloodier the defeat they can impose, the less likely the U.S. will be to ever consider promoting regime change in Tehran or Damascus.

Pentagon sources have been saying for several years that Iranian-style munitions have been appearing in Iraq, and arms smugglers have been caught coming across the Iranian border. What's new is that the Iranian-marked weapons have actually been put on display and an estimate of their toll made public: more than 170 Americans killed in action and more than 600 wounded.

The main culprit is a specially made roadside bomb the Army calls an EFP, or "explosively formed penetrator." Unlike the jerry-rigged Iraqi shells that Sunni extremists have used to inflict the vast majority of casualties against U.S. forces, the EFP is shaped to penetrate armor and hence effective against harder targets than Humvees. The U.S. Stryker brigade now in Baghdad has been finding them in the city with increasing regularity. In the past this type of roadside bomb has been used against Israeli tanks by Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.
According to the Defense Department, Iranian officials detained recently by U.S. forces in Iraq possessed documents suggesting they might have been involved in this arms trade. One of them was Moshin Chizari, a very senior Revolutionary Guards commander arrested but later released because of his "diplomatic" status in December. "Iran is a significant contributor to attacks on coalition forces, and also supports violence against the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people," said a Defense official in Baghdad.

"Significant" is an important word here. Sunni extremists affiliated with al Qaeda and Saddam's Baath Party remain by far the largest threat to American forces in Iraq. And we don't believe that the news about Iran should cause anyone to lose sight of the primary U.S. mission in the coming months: securing Baghdad against Sunni terror, so that Iraqi Shiites won't turn to militias for protection.

Still, it would be nice if the Bush Administration and Members of Congress would send Tehran the message that it will not be allowed to kill Americans with impunity. President Bush has been speaking out about this of late, but the main concern on Capitol Hill seems to be deterring Mr. Bush rather than telling Iran to stop killing GIs. Won't any of the Democratic Presidential candidates speak out and say that, no matter what they think of Iraq, Iranian help for killing Americans is a hostile act?

Hitting Revolutionary Guards targets, or Iranian weapons factories if they can be located, also shouldn't be out of the question when the lives of American soldiers are at stake. If General David Petraeus, the new and hardly reckless Iraq theater commander, thinks such pressure on Iran is crucial to securing his Baghdad mission, he deserves to get the go-ahead.

The larger lesson here concerns the nature of the Iranian regime and its nuclear ambitions. Iran's provocations in Iraq have been deadly enough, but they might be far more aggressive if the mullahs no longer fear the ability of the U.S. to hit back. As a nuclear power, they may well become even more reckless in attacking the interests of the U.S. and its regional allies. Then we'll see what a real bully looks like.


IRAN/EU: An internal EU document says Iran has the ability to create material for nuclear weapons, and there is little that can be done to stop it. The document says the nuclear program has been delayed by technical limitations, not diplomatic pressure, and that economic sanctions alone will not resolve the situation.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2007, 10:31:04 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #42 on: February 16, 2007, 08:00:55 PM »

Iran: A Second Attack in Zahedan
February 16, 2007 22 09  GMT

A strong explosion occurred during the evening of Feb. 16 in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan, in Sistan-Balochistan province. According to the Iranian Baztab News agency, the explosion was caused by a noise bomb that was placed in front of a police car. Iranian security forces reportedly are engaged in a shootout with several militants.

From the initial details of the blast, this appears to be a planned ambush of Iranian security forces. By placing the noise bomb in front of the police car, the perpetrators were able to draw the police to the area of the attack, where they could then fire on the officers. There are no details as of yet on the number of attackers or security forces involved.

This is the second attack in Zahedan in the past two days. On Feb. 14, a Baloch militant group called Jundallah claimed responsibility for a bus bombing that killed 11 elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps members and wounded 31 others. In response to that attack, Iranian police detained 65 suspects and aired the confession of one of them during a two-minute broadcast on Iran's state-run Hamoun television. The suspect, Nasrollah Shamsi Zehi, said he escaped to Pakistan after robbing a bank in Zahedan. He was then trained by Jundallah for two months and told he would receive $1,200 for each mission. According to a Baztab report citing an unnamed Iranian security source, the detainees have no connections inside Iran. Instead, they were trained by intelligence agencies and were tasked with assassinating regional Sunni leaders in order to foment a provincial or national crisis.

The Zahedan attacks fall in line with U.S. efforts to supply and train Iran's ethnic minorities to destabilize the Iranian regime.
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« Reply #43 on: February 19, 2007, 11:00:30 AM »

1247 GMT -- IRAN -- Deliveries of uranium fuel for Iran's Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant could be delayed because of late payments, which could derail the launch schedule, a Russian Federal Nuclear Power Agency spokesman said Feb. 19. Russia had agreed to begin shipping fuel by March for a September launch, with electricity generation to start by November. The Iranians reportedly have cited technical reasons for the payment delays.
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« Reply #44 on: February 20, 2007, 05:59:25 PM »


Europe and the Mullahs
How the EU subsidizes trade with Iran.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

On the record, Europe claims to be as concerned as America about a nuclear-armed Iran. The record also shows, however, that Europe's biggest countries do a booming business with the Islamic Republic. And so far for the Continentals, manna trumps security.

The European Union--led by Germany, France and Italy--has long been Iran's largest trading partner. Its share of Iran's total imports is about 35%. Even more notable: Its trade with Tehran has expanded since Iran's secret nuclear program was exposed. Between 2003 and 2005, Europe's exports rose 29% to €12.9 billion; machinery, transport equipment and chemicals make up the bulk of the sales. Imports from Iran, predominantly oil, increased 62% to €11.4 billion in that period.

In the absence of an official embargo against Tehran, private EU companies have sought commercial opportunities in Iran. But the real story here is that these businesses are subsidized by European taxpayers. Government-backed export guarantees have fueled the expansion in trade. That, in turn, has boosted Iran's economy and--indirectly by filling government coffers with revenues--its nuclear program. The German record stands out. In its 2004 annual report on export guarantees, Berlin's Economics Ministry dedicated a special section to Iran that captures its giddy excitement about business with Tehran.

"Federal Government export credit guarantees played a crucial role for German exports to Iran; the volume of coverage of Iranian buyers rose by a factor of almost 3.5 to some €2.3 billion compared to the previous year," the report said. "The Federal Government thus insured something like 65% of total German exports to the country. Iran lies second in the league of countries with the highest coverage in 2004, hot on the heels of China."
Iran tops Germany's list of countries with the largest outstanding export guarantees, totaling €5.5 billion. France's export guarantees to Iran amount to about €1 billion. Italy's come to €4.5 billion, accounting for 20% of Rome's overall guarantee portfolio. Little Austria had, at the end of 2005, €800 million of its exports to Iran covered by guarantees.

The Europeans aren't simply facilitating business between private companies. The vast majority of Iranian industry is state-controlled, while even private companies have been known to act as fronts for the country's nuclear program. EU taxpayers underwrite trade and investment that would otherwise be deterred by the risks of doing business with a rogue regime.

It's also hard not to see a connection between Europe's commercial interests and its lenient diplomacy. The U.N.'s December sanctions resolution orders countries to freeze the assets of only 10 specific companies and 12 individuals with ties to Iran's nuclear program. Europe's governments continue to resist U.S. calls for financial sanctions, and the German Chamber of Commerce recently estimated that tougher economic sanctions would cost 10,000 German jobs.
As if on cue, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier last week detected in Tehran a "new ambition" to resume talks. The last time the Europeans promoted such diplomatic negotiations, Iran won two more years to get closer to its goal of becoming a nuclear power. In 2004, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily, then-Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told Iranians to consider Europe a "protective shield" against U.S. pressure. The EU continues to provide a shield for its business interests in Iran, and thus a lifeline to a regime that is unpopular at home and sponsors terror abroad.

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« Reply #45 on: February 23, 2007, 08:30:43 AM »

What to do about Iran's nuke program is a vexing question.  This op-ed piece from today's NY Times by a seemingly qualified academic addresses that question.  I've inserted some questions and comments into the pice.

What Scares Iran’s Mullahs?
Published: February 23, 2007
Stanford, Calif.

IRAN has once again defied the United Nations by proceeding with enrichment activities, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported yesterday. And yet, simultaneously, Iranian officials have been sending a very different message — one that has gone largely unremarked but merits close attention.

MD:  Why does the piece not mention that not only has Iran "proceeded", but has actually accelerated the process?

After a meeting with the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the leader’s chief foreign policy adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, declared last week that suspending uranium enrichment is not a red line for the regime — in other words, the mullahs might be ready to agree to some kind of a suspension. Another powerful insider, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said much the same thing in a different setting, while a third high-ranking official acknowledged that the Islamic Republic is seriously considering a proposal by President Vladimir Putin of Russia to suspend enrichment at least long enough to start serious negotiations with the United Nations.

MD: One hopes that this is the case, but we must also realize that the past several years are littered with analogous hints-- which turned out to be stalls for Iran's continuation and now acceleration of its nuke program.

There have also been indications that the Iranians are willing to accept a compromise plan presented by Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. That plan calls for the suspension of all major enrichment activities but allows the regime to save face by keeping a handful of centrifuges in operation.

MD: "Indications"?  Again, we've seen this before, many times.

The mullahs are keen on damage control on another front as well. After his meeting with Ayatollah Khamenei, Mr. Velayati announced that the Holocaust is a fact of history and chastised those who question its reality. Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, also declared the Holocaust a “historical matter” to be discussed by scholars (and not, he implied, by ignorant politicians). In short, there is a new willingness among the Iranian political elite to avoid the rhetoric of confrontation and to negotiate.

MD:  Yet they are accelerating their nuclear program.

There are three ways to analyze this turn. Advocates of an American invasion of Iran say that last month’s strengthening of the American armada in the Persian Gulf has frightened the Iranian regime. What diplomacy could not do for years, a few destroyers did in less than a month. These advocates encourage more of the same, hoping either that the mullahs will accept defeat in the face of an imminent attack, or that a Gulf of Tonkin incident will lead to a full attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

MD:  One might also add that President Bush's surge shows a President willing to buck the tide of the current panic "stampede of the weak horses"  in the US Congress.  Also, it is not a few destroyers, if I have it correctly it is an additional aircraft carrier group and the elevation of an Admiral to head the US military for the region.  One might expect an academic of the credentials of the author of this piece to know, and mention these things.

A second camp attacks the build-up of the armada as dangerous saber-rattling at best, and at worst as camouflage for already settled plans to attack Iran’s nuclear sites. Such an attack, they say, might provide a much-needed feather for President Bush’s empty cap at a time when his Middle East policy has manifestly failed. According to this camp, what changed the minds of Iranian officials was only the United Nations resolution threatening economic sanctions, and the possibility of other resolutions and more serious sanctions.

Both camps are partly right and yet dangerously wrong. There is a third way of looking at the facts.

The mullahs have historically shown an unfailing ability to smell out and, when pragmatic, succumb to credible power in their foes. Indeed, the presence of the American ships has helped encourage them to negotiate. But no less clear is the fact that the mullahs’ attitude change began in late December, when the United Nations Security Council finally passed a resolution against the regime in Tehran.

MD:  Here the author elevates the "indications" and hints of the Iranian government to the "fact" rolleyes of a "attitude change".  Again, the fact reported yesterday is that Iran has accelerated its program.

The passage of the resolution hastened the demise of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s confrontational approach to the West. And the falling price of oil, leading to declining revenues for the regime, magnified the resolution’s economic impact. Top leaders of the Islamic Republic, from Ayatollah Khamenei to Mr. Rafsanjani, have made it clear that they consider sanctions a serious threat — more serious, according to Mr. Rafsanjani, than the possibility of an invasion.

MD:  This may well be.

In other words, what the unilateral and increasingly quixotic American embargo could not do in more than a decade, a limited United Nations resolution has accomplished in less than a month. And the resolution succeeded because few things frighten the mullahs more than the prospect of confronting a united front made up of the European Union, Russia, China and the United States. The resolution was a manifestation of just such a united front.

MD What an *sshole.  Quixotic?  angry  Maybe only the US had the testicles to take a principles stand and not allow those more interested in doing business with Iran than stopping apocalyptic religious nuts from getting nukes.  Maybe jack diddly would have been done but for the sustained insistence of the US/Bush Administration that the world/UN take its head out of its collective *ss and do something about this.  Look at how hard the US had to work to get the EU, Russia (especially Russia who just sold Iran an anti-aircraft missile system on top of its continuin nuclear plant support !  angry ) and China (who gets a lot of oil from Iran) to back even the half-hearted economic embargo that was passed.  And notice that the author softens the workd "embargo" into a "resolution".

While the combination of credible force, reduced oil prices and a United Nations resolution has worked to create the most favorable conditions yet for a negotiated solution to the nuclear crisis, any unilateral American attack on Iran is sure to backfire. It will break the international coalition against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear adventurism; it will allow China, Russia and even some countries in Europe to legitimately side with the mullahs; it will lead to higher oil prices and an increase in Iranian government revenues; and finally, it will help revive the waning power of the warmongers in Tehran.

MD:  Only if it fails-- which well it might.  The Bush Administration has not inspired confidence in its ability to pull such an attack.

Those convinced that only the combination of credible might and diplomatic pressure will work worry rightly that the Bush administration, frustrated by its failures in Iraq and goaded by hawks in Washington, will do to Iran what it did to Iraq. In confronting Saddam Hussein and the threat of his weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration insisted that amassing an armada in the Persian Gulf was necessary to frighten Mr. Hussein into submission. But once the armada was in place, they used it to carry out a long-ago planned invasion of Iraq.

MD:  WTF?  Hillary, Edwards, Kerry et al voted to enable the President to go to war hoping that this would suffice to make SH back down but he didn't.  Apparently encouraged by the French and the Russians telling him that they would tie us up in the UN, he decided to pretend that he had WMD because of his fear of Iran and because of the regional prestige that the belief he had them brought.  The whole point is that SH was not frightened into coughing up weapons that he had previously admitted possessing-- and, at that point WHAT DO YOU DO?

Today, many worry that the plans for an invasion of Iran, too, were made long ago, and that the armada is there to make possible either another Gulf of Tonkin resolution or an Iranian act of provocation against American forces, which could then serve as an excuse for an attack on Iran.

MD:  Well, to be precise the plans were made-- as they should have been-- but what the author means is that the DECISION has been made.  Again, one cannot bluff about these things.  One does need to go in knowing what one will do if the saber wrattling does not work.

War and peace with Iran are both possible today. With prudence, backed by power but guided by the wisdom to recognize the new signals coming from Tehran, the United States can today achieve a principled solution to the nuclear crisis. Congress, vigilant American citizens and a resolute policy from America’s European allies can ensure that this principled peace is given a chance.

MD:  I agree that both war and peace are possible.  I hope that this time the "indications" coming from some players on the Iranian side are not yet another smokescreen.  I agree that attacking Iran is very difficult and that if not well done by a tired and overstretched military (and yes, President Bush deserves firm criticism for his failures in this regard) that things will get worse-- but this author does not confront the key question.  Without the perceived will to use the power, the US will not be able to get Iran to back off its long and determined plan to acquire nuclear bombs, build missiles that can carry them to Europe and someday the US.   Indeed, with his "Gulf of Tonkin" rhetoric the author adds to our domestic clamor that persuades the Iranian government of exactly the contrary.

Abbas Milani is the director of Iranian studies at Stanford and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

MD:  Good thing he's not responsible for making real decisions.
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« Reply #46 on: February 25, 2007, 11:30:12 PM »

US funds terror groups to sow chaos in Iran

By William Lowther in Washington DC and Colin Freeman, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:30am GMT 25/02/2007

America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme.

In a move that reflects Washington's growing concern with the failure of diplomatic initiatives, CIA officials are understood to be helping opposition militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran's border regions.

The operations are controversial because they involve dealing with movements that resort to terrorist methods in pursuit of their grievances against the Iranian regime.

In the past year there has been a wave of unrest in ethnic minority border areas of Iran, with bombing and assassination campaigns against soldiers and government officials.

Such incidents have been carried out by the Kurds in the west, the Azeris in the north-west, the Ahwazi Arabs in the south-west, and the Baluchis in the south-east. Non-Persians make up nearly 40 per cent of Iran's 69 million population, with around 16 million Azeris, seven million Kurds, five million Ahwazis and one million Baluchis. Most Baluchis live over the border in Pakistan.

Funding for their separatist causes comes directly from the CIA's classified budget but is now "no great secret", according to one former high-ranking CIA official in Washington who spoke anonymously to The Sunday Telegraph.

His claims were backed by Fred Burton, a former US state department counter-terrorism agent, who said: "The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line with US efforts to supply and train Iran's ethnic minorities to destabilise the Iranian regime."

Although Washington officially denies involvement in such activity, Teheran has long claimed to detect the hand of both America and Britain in attacks by guerrilla groups on its internal security forces. Last Monday, Iran publicly hanged a man, Nasrollah Shanbe Zehi, for his involvement in a bomb attack that killed 11 Revolutionary Guards in the city of Zahedan in Sistan-Baluchistan. An unnamed local official told the semi-official Fars news agency that weapons used in the attack were British and US-made.

Yesterday, Iranian forces also claimed to have killed 17 rebels described as "mercenary elements" in clashes near the Turkish border, which is a stronghold of the Pejak, a Kurdish militant party linked to Turkey's outlawed PKK Kurdistan Workers' Party.

John Pike, the head of the influential Global Security think tank in Washington, said: "The activities of the ethnic groups have hotted up over the last two years and it would be a scandal if that was not at least in part the result of CIA activity."

Such a policy is fraught with risk, however. Many of the groups share little common cause with Washington other than their opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose regime they accuse of stepping up repression of minority rights and culture.

The Baluchistan-based Brigade of God group, which last year kidnapped and killed eight Iranian soldiers, is a volatile Sunni organisation that many fear could easily turn against Washington after taking its money.

A row has also broken out in Washington over whether to "unleash" the military wing of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iraq-based Iranian opposition group with a long and bloody history of armed opposition to the Iranian regime.

The group is currently listed by the US state department as terrorist organisation, but Mr Pike said: "A faction in the Defence Department wants to unleash them. They could never overthrow the current Iranian regime but they might cause a lot of damage."

At present, none of the opposition groups are much more than irritants to Teheran, but US analysts believe that they could become emboldened if the regime was attacked by America or Israel. Such a prospect began to look more likely last week, as the UN Security Council deadline passed for Iran to stop its uranium enrichment programme, and a second American aircraft carrier joined the build up of US naval power off Iran's southern coastal waters.

The US has also moved six heavy bombers from a British base on the Pacific island of Diego Garcia to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which could allow them to carry out strikes on Iran without seeking permission from Downing Street.

While Tony Blair reiterated last week that Britain still wanted a diplomatic solution to the crisis, US Vice-President Dick Cheney yesterday insisted that military force was a real possibility.

"It would be a serious mistake if a nation like Iran were to become a nuclear power," Mr Cheney warned during a visit to Australia. "All options are still on the table."

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany will meet in London tomorrow to discuss further punitive measures against Iran. Sanctions barring the transfer of nuclear technology and know-how were imposed in December. Additional penalties might include a travel ban on senior Iranian officials and restrictions on non-nuclear business.

Additional reporting by Gethin Chamberlain.;jsessionid=U4M3S53A12BBHQFIQMGSFFOAVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/02/25/wiran25.xml
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« Reply #47 on: March 01, 2007, 12:34:36 PM »

March 01, 2007
Machiavelli and the Mullahs

By David J. Rusin
Machiavelli could offer President Bush what he needs most at this pivotal juncture: a philosophical blueprint for confronting the Iranian nuclear threat and successfully prosecuting the broader war against radical Islam.

A leading figure of the Renaissance, Niccolo Machiavelli served as a diplomat and militia commander for the short-lived Florentine Republic of the early sixteenth century. His seminal experiences in office, coupled with a remarkably deep reading of history, led Machiavelli to the pioneering political philosophy which he would outline in The Prince and elaborate upon in Discourses on Livy. Like all great books, The Prince transcends the time for which it was composed. Though intended as a manual to aid Lorenzo di Medici in navigating the tumult of Renaissance Italy, Machiavelli's masterpiece offers ageless advice to those charged with defending their societies during periods of heightened peril.

Machiavelli is regarded as a patriarch of realist political theory. His concern was not the moral perfectibility of man and his institutions, but rather their survival in an uncertain and often violent world.

He warned,
"The way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live, that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation."
Realism should certainly not be mistaken for fatalism - regardless of how the phony realists of the Baker-Hamilton commission might labor to conflate the two. Machiavelli argued that, through prudent actions, a leader can shape the outcome of events to his advantage and snuff out dangers before they metastasize.

Five hundred years later, America and its allies face a brutal enemy. Terrorist organizations and their homegrown affiliates, seamlessly melding political grievances with Koranic decrees, plot to bring death to the infidels of Dar al-Harb. The atrocities visited upon such disparate locales as Manhattan, Madrid, and Mumbai warn that the savagery of the terrorists is limited only by their ability to inflict mass casualties. These limitations on the global jihad may soon evaporate, however, as the march of technology threatens to enable terrorists and, more ominously, Islamist governments with the means to precipitate carnage on unspeakable scales.

At the confluence of radical Islam, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction lies Tehran. The Islamic Republic is the first modern theocracy in the Muslim world, and its founding presaged an era of escalated conflict between Islam and the West. Iran also distinguishes itself as the most prolific state sponsor of terrorism, with Hezbollah and Hamas among its many acolytes. The mullahs are currently plying their terrorist trade in Iraq, where sectarian violence is being fueled by Iranian money and materiel. Shiite Iran has also provided support to the Sunni jihadists of Al Qaeda. Not only did a majority of the Saudi "muscle" hijackers pass through Iran prior to September 11, but the nation also welcomed prominent Al Qaeda figures fleeing Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. Security chief Saif al-Adel and Osama Bin Laden's son Saad head the list of Al Qaeda luminaries believed to enjoy refuge there.

Now imagine this regime armed with nuclear weapons. In just a few short years, imagination may no longer be necessary. Unmoved by half-hearted Security Council resolutions and never-ending dialogue with Europe, Iran continues to plow ahead with its uranium enrichment program. Tehran naturally seeks to assure a credulous international community that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful in nature. However, such claims ring hollow in light of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's persistent boasts that Israel will soon be "wiped off the map."

While its centrifuges still have quite a bit of spinning left to do, Tehran already possesses the delivery systems it needs to carry out threats against the Jewish state and project power throughout the Middle East. Iran's Shahab 3 missile can strike both Israel and Saudi Arabia, while future upgrades will extend its range to all of Europe and perhaps even the eastern United States. Moreover, the Washington Times recently noted that Tehran has augmented its arsenal by purchasing 18 North Korean-made derivatives of an old Soviet submarine-launched missile - a missile which was specifically designed to carry nuclear warheads.

In short, Iran's key role in the rise of radical Islam, its decades-long support for terror, and the genocidal taunts of its millenarian president lead to an inescapable conclusion: the Islamic Republic must not get the bomb. A nuclear-armed Tehran would jeopardize American security, menace its neighbors, and present an existential threat to Israel. In his 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush vowed that
"The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."
Likewise, Machiavelli urged leaders to act in advance to ward off gathering perils:
"If they wait until they are near at hand, the medicine will not be in time, for by then the malady will have become incurable."
The time to stamp out the Iranian nuclear malady is now.

President Bush's approach to Tehran must be guided by three Machiavellian principles:

1. Self-reliance;

2. The importance of being feared; and

3. The need to take the initiative once conflict is inevitable.
The first of these is the central tenet of The Prince: that a leader must act decisively in pursuit of his objectives, rather than relying on others to accomplish them.

"Only those methods of defense which depend upon one's own resourcefulness are good, certain, and enduring," Machiavelli wrote. In contrast,

"the arms of another will fall from your hand, will weigh you down, or restrain you."

Self-reliance is critical because those who do not share your objectives are unlikely to sacrifice on your behalf.

Machiavelli's admonition went unheeded in December 2001, when high-ranking Al Qaeda figures were holed up in Tora Bora. Rather than flooding the zone with U.S. troops, President Bush unwisely placed his faith in local Afghan fighters. "The arms of another" did indeed fall from the president's hand, as the capricious warlords allowed terrorist leaders - and perhaps bin Laden himself - to escape. The Tora Bora debacle may be contrasted with Ethiopia's successful American-backed campaign against Somalia's Islamic Courts Union in December 2006. Because Ethiopia rightly feared that the Somali Islamists would threaten its sovereignty, the nation could be trusted to carry out an important American objective in the Horn of Africa.

Outside of the apprehensive but weak Sunni Arab states, motivated allies are few and far between when it comes to staring down Iran. Relying on the United Nations or European Union will virtually guarantee that the Islamic Republic obtains nuclear weapons. Veto-wielding Security Council members China, France, and Russia are deeply invested in the mullahcracy based on trade and energy interests, and will likely block any serious countermeasures.

As for the Europeans, their fortitude is highlighted by Jacques Chirac, who recently mused to the New York Times that Iran's
"having one or perhaps a second bomb a little later, well, that's not very dangerous."
By now President Bush should understand that if the United States does not take the lead in defusing the Iranian nuclear threat, then nobody will.

Second, the president must recall Machiavelli's principle that there is "greater security in being feared than in being loved." Indeed, the fear of force can be just as persuasive as force itself. Did this fear not factor into Muammar Qaddafi's pledge to dismantle his weapons programs in the wake of Saddam Hussein's overthrow? Likewise, were Hussein and bin Laden not emboldened by the limp-wristed American response to terror during the 1990s? Love, in contrast, plays little role in international affairs. Alliances, after all, are founded not on affection, but on mutual interests and respect. And as far as the jihadists and their enablers are concerned, they will love us when we bow to Mecca five times a day - and not a moment sooner.

Islamists may or may not fear death, but they certainly fear the loss of power. States are vital to the Islamist enterprise because they provide resource bases which cannot be assembled through other means. It is for this reason that the Taliban will seek to reclaim Afghanistan for many years to come. There is also the ego factor, magnified by the Muslim preoccupation with shame and honor. Islamists are still fretting over their ejection from the Iberian Peninsula more than five centuries ago, and the collapse of the last caliphate following the First World War. How would they feel about losing Iran, the tactical and symbolic centerpiece of their modern project?

President Bush must therefore convince Tehran's more circumspect power brokers that continued intransigence on the part of Ahmadinejad and his backers will leave their regime in the cross hairs. This is one of those times when actions speak louder than words. Since the greatest threat to an autocracy originates from its own people, the U.S. should redouble efforts to mobilize and fund liberal opposition groups, while retooling Radio Farda into an effective voice for freedom. It is equally important that the U.S. signal renewed resolve in Iraq, as years of indecision have eroded American prestige. The pending troop surge and the recent arrests of Iranian operatives in Baghdad and Irbil are small steps in the right direction. Dismantling the Mahdi army, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iran, would be a bigger one. Combined with an already promising campaign of financial pressure on the regime, such measures may yet convince the mullahs to reconsider their nuclear course.

Finally, the president should heed Machiavelli's observation that some conflicts are inevitable, and that a leader must seize the initiative once the tipping point has been reached. Machiavelli praised the Romans, who, upon
"foreseeing difficulties, always remedied them. And they never allowed them to persist in order to avoid a war, for they knew that wars cannot be avoided and can only be deferred to the advantage of others."
Machiavelli attributed this to their repudiation of
"the sort of advice that is always on the lips of our present-day wise men: that is, to enjoy the benefits of time. Instead, they were pleased to use their strength and prudence."
Apparently the beltway bien pensants counsel passivity and appeasement in every age.

Delaying war is immoral if doing so ensures greater suffering and peril down the line. History is replete with examples. Britain and France failed to confront Hitler's provocations when he was still building his forces, only to face a significantly strengthened Nazi war machine a few years later. In contrast, seeing that war was imminent in 1967, Israel launched a swift and decisive strike against Egypt. The current Israeli leadership is not so wise. Their reluctance to crush Hezbollah in the summer war of 2006 is merely a ticket to a future conflict which will bring additional death and destruction to both sides of the Blue Line. Finally, even considering the many difficulties encountered in Iraq over the past few years, the dangers posed by Saddam Hussein in a post-9/11 world more than justified his removal in 2003.

A nuclear-armed Iran would invigorate the most radical elements of the Shiite theocracy and set the stage for an inevitable clash with America and its allies. Therefore, if other options fail to thwart Tehran's nuclear ambitions, then the U.S. must be prepared to accomplish this by force. It should not be a difficult choice: tangle with Iran before it acquires nuclear weapons, or do so afterward. While a preemptive strike would come with a significant downside - it would likely rally Iranians to their much-despised government and trigger retaliatory attacks by its terror assets in the West - Machiavelli noted that a nation
"will always have to choose between risks. . . . Prudence lies in knowing how to distinguish between degrees of danger and in choosing the least danger as the best."
The day is fast approaching when the use of force against Tehran's nuclear infrastructure may be the lesser of two remaining evils.

President Bush's ability to mold the above precepts into a viable Iran policy will ultimately determine whether his successors must face a nuclear-armed and highly emboldened Islamic Republic. Recent tactical shifts by the White House are cause for optimism in this respect. Furthermore, as demonstrated by events from Tora Bora to Mogadishu, Machiavellian philosophy is equally pertinent to the wider struggle against radical Islam. In fact, a careful reading of Machiavelli offers trenchant insights regarding the occupation of foreign lands, the role of ancient institutions in fueling rebellion, and the dangers posed by enemies who do not fear death - issues of particular significance to present and future fronts in the Long War.

The Prince concludes with an exhortation to Lorenzo di Medici, encouraging him to rise to the challenges of his time and beat back the "barbarian insolence and cruelty" which threatened his state and his people. If Machiavelli were around in 2007, one suspects that he would summarize current circumstances in much the same way.

David J. Rusin holds a Ph.D. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Pennsylvania. His interests include foreign affairs and security policy. He may be contacted at
Page Printed from: at March 01, 2007 - 01:32:06 PM EST
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Posts: 42462

« Reply #48 on: March 02, 2007, 11:12:19 PM »

I wish this piece had addressed what the differences are, if any, when the Prince needs to get elected and needs to get authorized by Congress.  Anyway, here is this surprising tidbit from Stratfor.  We shall see if the French and the Russians et al live up to it.

IRAN: Russia, France, the United Kingdom, China, Germany and the United States are "completely in agreement" on a new U.N. Security Council resolution regarding Iran's nuclear program, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said. The resolution is an extension of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1737, which imposed nuclear technology sanctions against Iran for not suspending its uranium enrichment program. Under the current framework, measures for the resolution's enforcement exclude military action.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2007, 01:58:03 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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Posts: 42462

« Reply #49 on: March 07, 2007, 12:35:42 PM »

IRAN: Iran has equipped its oil fields in the southern Persian Gulf with air defense systems, the Tehran-based Baztab news agency reported. The action has prompted the militaries of Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to go on full alert. According to Baztab, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said energy flow in the region will be obstructed if the West launches an offensive again Iran.
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